People talk plenty about food and drink in the Northeast Kingdom. Greensboro’s Hill Farmstead Brewery has been lauded as the world’s best brewery since Shaun Hill started making beer on the family farm in 2010. Nearby Jasper Hill Farm’s cheeses continue to rack up accolades. And Caledonia Spirits‘ award-winning, bartender-favorite Barr Hill gin is made in Hardwick.
Those are just the famous ones, but the NEK’s three counties — 1.3 million acres in Caledonia, Orleans and Essex — are home to dozens of other food and beverage artisans. In St. Johnsbury, Dunc’s Mill has been distilling fine rums since 1998; in Groton, Artesano meadery mills honey into wine. In West Charleston, Albert and Eleanor Leger craft Eden Ice Cider ambrosia. And farms growing everything from catnip to beef cattle dot the rugged, rolling countryside, many claiming generations of family history.
Despite this amazing abundance, the restaurant scene remains sleepy, and, aside from a few select restaurants — such as West Glover’s Parker Pie Company and Waterford’s Rabbit Hill Inn — it’s largely unknown to those who live outside the area. But in recent years, whispers of a culinary awakening have been swirling through the area like its slow-to-dissipate morning fog. In Newport, for example, the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center is a busy hive of artisanal activity, while in Barton, a farm-to-table diner welcomes locals and visitors with comely charm.
The Northeast Kingdom makes good use of our abundant natural resources and working farmlands. Specialty foods produced in this region include prize-winning cheeses, a wide variety of farm-raised meats and poultry, savory relishes and mustards, maple syrup, sweet sauces, and sassy dressings. Farm stands and farmers markets provide an abundance of fresh produces. Look for them along roadsides and in town centers during the summer and fall seasons or at select indoor locations in the winter. Pick-it-yourself farms, offering the fresh delights of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, corn, pumpkins, and more can also be found throughout the region.
You can also find many of local offerings to include hand-crafted goods and specialty foods, at one of the many country stores found throughout the region. Our country stores have traditionally supplied local residents with much more than the mere physical necessities of life. It is in these buildings, many over a century old, that neighbors and old friends meet to catch up on events, transact business and solve the world’s problems. No shopping trip in the Kingdom is complete without a visiting a country market where you can be sure of finding just that thing you were looking for – or that item you never knew you needed!
Throughout the region, you will find specialty stores, craft shops, antique dealers and art galleries catering to a wide variety of interests. The entire Kingdom is studded with shops and cottage industries run by artisans, second-hand dealers, farmers and craftspeople who take pride in making things the old-fashioned way.