Day three in Vermont started with a stop at the Vermont Gift Barn. I’d found a flier for it at the Vermont Visitor Center when I first arrived and it looked cool, so I checked it out. They had some cool pottery, otherwise it was nothing special, just another gift store.
It was a really overcast day, but it wasn’t raining yet, so I headed down to the Lake Champlain waterfront. While there I was mistaken for a local and asked for directions. Unfortunately, I had no idea where the mall was, so I was not helpful. I walked along the boardwalk and was pleasantly surprised to find it had a number of bench swings. It was pretty humid outside, but windy and not hot, so that was nice. There was a bunch of construction at the end of the boardwalk, so I turned around and found an open swing and sat and read my book.
Originally, I only gave myself forty-five minutes on the parking meter to check out the lake front. When I got back to the car I thought about putting more money in because I was enjoying sitting by the water, but luckily I didn’t. It started raining as soon as I pulled away.
Next up was the Lake Champlain Chocolates Factory Store. They have a free tour, which I did. You sit in a raised sectioned off part of the store and have a windowed view into the factory. Then a guide talks through the process of making the specialty chocolates, pointing to the different areas through the window. We also got to watch a short video to learn about how chocolate is made. Lake Champlain Chocolates is a chocolatier, which means they don’t make the chocolate themselves, but add stuff to the chocolate they get from Europe to make it fancy. The rest of their ingredients are all fair trade and local though.
Everyone at the factory seemed to be having a great time. There were lots of smiles and laughter. I kind of felt like a creep watching and taking pictures through the window. It was like I was at a human zoo. Though I’m sure I’d only actually enjoy it for about four hours a day, if I ever decide to work a factory job, I’d like to work there.
Here are some cool things I learned about chocolate: The cocoa plant can only grow in 20° north or south of the equator. A cocoa pod is the size of an American football. It takes about one pod to make a bar of chocolate. Cocoa seeds are fermented into cocoa beans, which are then roasted to make the shells fall off. They use the shells to make cocoa mulch. A hydronic? press separates the fats (cocoa butter) from the solid part (unsweetened cocoa powder). Cocoa butter is what makes chocolate smooth and melt in your mouth. It’s also quite popular in the health/beauty industry so it’s a hot commodity.
As part of the tour I got to try three different kinds of chocolate and a truffle:
Organic White Chocolate*: just cocoa butter and dairy, it was super sweet.
34% Milk Chocolate: better than Hershey’s, less sweet than the white.
54% Dark Chocolate: more bitter than the milk, pretty smooth.
Spiced Pumpkin Truffle: Nice spice to it, very creamy and melty, moose-like filling. So good!
They also had two chocolates available for tasting in the store:
Granola 5 Star Bar: melty chocolate and crunchy granola. I liked it.
Peppermint Crunch 54% Dark Chocolate: Fantastic. Minty. Melty. Chocolatey. Loved it!
With my belly slightly aching from a little too much chocolate it was time for another factory tour! The Magic Hat Brewery was only a ten minute drive down the road. I’d always wanted to do a brewery tour, but have never gotten around to it. At Magic Hat you get to try four of the eight beers they have on tap, so I recommend going with a friend so you can share and try all of them!
The beers I tried:
Electric Peel, a grapefruit pale ale: Not my favorite, probably couldn’t have finished a 12 oz glass of it. Really sweet, though not terribly grapefruity.
Magic Hat Ale, red ale – first they ever brewed: I liked it, could’ve finished a full glass, not really sure how to describe the flavor, sorry.
Single Chair, a pilsner golden ale: Not much flavor or carbonation, I couldn’t have done a full glass.
Wilhelm Scream Pumpkin Ale: Darker, nice fall flavors, could’ve maybe done a full glass, it sort of sat on my tongue after I swallowed which I wasn’t a fan of.
The tour itself was a bit of a let down. We saw a short video, which was a little too artsy and a little too uninformative. That, or all the beer lingo just went right over my head. Then the factory room itself was super loud so the guide went in to the next room and asked if we had any questions. Compared to the Lake Champlain Chocolates tour, I didn’t learn as much and it wasn’t as exciting. Oh, well. It was still cool, and hey, free beer.