Route 100 road trip – Waterbury Vermont

Ben and Jerrys Ice Cream - Vermont

Ben & Jerry's - A favorite stop on Route 100 in Vermont

On a recent trip to Burlington, Vermont I decided to indulge in some local treats; ice cream, cheese, chocolates and homemade donuts and cider.  The prime spot for all this, the Waterbury section of Vermont’s Route 100, is a historic tree lined route that stretches for 216 miles through the state.

I know this area well so I had a plan and a pecking order.  First up was the Ben & Jerry’s factory, right next door is the Cabot Cheese Store, sharing the same building space is Lake Champlain Chocolates while about 200 feet down the road would bring me to Cold Hollow Cider Mill.

Some people might call this junk food, but, I look at it this way; anything made with tons of butter, cream and chocolate is not junk food.

Ben & Jerry’s
Exiting Interstate 89 I turned North onto Route 100 and made a beeline for Ben & Jerry’s.  Before touring the factory I walked up the hill from the parking lot to the Flavor Graveyard.  I wanted to pay homage to some dearly departed friends, Chocolate Chocolate Chip and Dastardly Mash.  The pretty cemetery, surrounded by a white picket fence, was filled with people searching out their favorites that had passed on.  Each grave has a tombstone with the flavor’s name, the day it was first produced and the day it “died”.

I paused a moment by Fresh Georgia Peach and White Russian, both great in their time.  As I walked down the hill I thought, “I hope I never see Cherry Garcia up here.”

During the factory tour our guide told us how over 350,000 people a year, from around the world, visit here each year.  In the Cow Over the Moon theater we watched a video telling how Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (yes, there really is a Ben and a Jerry) met in seventh grade and how they took a $5.00 business correspondence course learning how to start their own business. Since ice cream was their favorite food they decided making ice cream was for them.

The young entrepreneurs started concocting recipes in huge vats in the basements of their parents’ homes.  Once they taste tested their recipes on family members and got the thumbs up sign they opened their first ice cream parlor in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont.  That was in 1978, and the rest of the story is history.

After watching how the ice cream is packaged and shipped, we ended the tour enjoying samples of several old and some new flavors. In my next life I want to work as a taste tester for Ben & Jerry’s.

Cabot Cheese
My next stop was another Vermont institution, the Cabot Cheese Store.  The Cabot Cheese Cooperative was started in 1919 by one hundred Vermont dairy farmers who pooled their life savings, totaling $3,700 dollars, to purchase a creamery building in the village of Cabot, in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

Pasture along Route 100 in Vermont

Pasture along Route 100 in Vermont

Today that plant slices and packages over 2 million pounds of butter and cheese a day.  All this is not including the gallons of yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream produced there.  It goes to show you what Yankee ingenuity can do.

Everywhere I turned there were mounds of fresh cheese to sample: Pepperjack, Five Peppercorn, Monterey Jack, Garlic Cheddar and Smoky Bacon Cheddar and their signature cheese, extra sharp Cheddar.  People were buying them by the wheel.

Lake Champlain Chocolates
All I had to do for my next epicurean delight was step across the hall to Lake Champlain Chocolates.  This was started in 1983 by a restaurant entrepreneur, Jim Lampman, who always gave gifts of expensive chocolates to his staff.  One day his chef confessed to him that the chocolates he gave tasted terrible.  Lampman challenged him to make better ones.  What the chef came up with were truffles made with dark Belgian chocolate, Vermont butter and cream.  From those few truffles a chocolate factory was born.

This shop, with its to-die-for-handcrafted chocolates, is a chocoholic’s dream come true.  The truffles come in many flavors: Cappuccino, Vanilla Malt, Raspberry and Champagne, to name a few.

Their Signature bars are a solid piece of Belgian chocolate.  These Five Star chocolate bars have been named the ultimate chocolate bar by Vogue magazine and are a star feature in Steve Almond’s book Candy Freak. While walking around choosing some chocolates for the road, I helped myself generously to the samples.

Last Stop – The Cider Mill

Cold Hollow Cider Mill

Cold Hollow Cider Mill

My last stop was Cold Hollow Cider Mill to quench my thirst (from all the ice cream, cheese and chocolate) with some freshly pressed apple cider.  The mill, housed in a red clapboard converted dairy barn, has been family owned, on Route 100, since 1974.  They’re famous for their hand pressed cider, honey, and their cider doughnuts – of which 400 dozen a day are made in peak season – foliage.

As I entered the store huge trays of doughnuts were being taken from the oven.  The aroma was delicious.  My first order of business was to get a dozen to go and three to eat while I shopped.  Tasting one I could see why Gourmet magazine named them one of the top four doughnuts in the country.

This place is pure kitsch, loaded with knick-knacks, pottery, woolen items, magnets, Christmas ornaments, you name it.  There are specialty foods such as their own cider mustards, jellies, honey, apple and maple butter, homemade cookies and pies and Vermont made maple syrup.

Near the honey display, suspended from the ceiling I was transfixed by a glass beehive where the bees flew out through a glass tube to retrieve pollen, flew back and immediately start making honey in the hive.

The mill presses 75-million pounds of apples each year in making their cider. During spring and summer the pressing is done three times a week.  But, come peak season – mid-September to December – it’s done every day.

Taste Your Way through Vermont
Now, let’s recap: I had ice cream and cheese made with Vermont cream and milk, chocolates written up in Vogue and doughnuts voted fourth best in the country by Gourmet magazine – is this junk food?  Not in my book and I didn’t feel one ounce of guilt for indulging myself.

With my appetite sated and my car loaded with treats, I headed to Burlington, a city with many epicurean delights.  But, that’s another story.

More Information
Official Website – State of Vermont Tourism
Waterbury, Vermont
More on Vermont from Striped Pot

Photo Credit: Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing

Frances FolsomGuest writer Frances J. Folsom lives and writes in beautiful New England. She has written for many print magazines and has contributed to a range of travel guides. Frances can be reached by e-mail or through her personal blog. She lives in Cambridge Massachusetts.

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