You'll go Mad over Central Vermont
By Cindy Bailen
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Appearing in Brookline Tab on TownOnline.com
Vermont is a wildly popular destination for leaf-peepers
and downhill skiers. But the Green Mountain state is at its most
lush and green - and perhaps most delectable - at this time of year.
My husband and I took our seven-year-old on a short trip north recently
and found a verdant beauty in the Mad River Valley of central Vermont.
While we found plenty to keep us busy, some of the
best moments were spent doing not much of anything - except for
gazing at bucolic landscapes dotted with Woody Jackson-style cows
(actually, Holsteins) or sitting on a flat rock, dangling our feet
in the refreshing current of the Mad River.
We lodged at the Wilder Farm Inn in Waitsfield. Owners
Luke and Linda Iannuzzi searched for years for the perfect B&B
and found it here. They made us feel like family, and their sweet
nine year-old daughter Jordan led a walking tour of the three-acre
The inn is on the national historic registry of buildings,
and its eight guestrooms are large and beautifully decorated with
antiques, many of them family pieces refurbished by Luke. Each room
has a private bath, fragranced with organic lavender soap.
Though comfortable featherbeds tempted us to sleep
late, we pulled ourselves out of bed for fabulous breakfasts served
beside a stone fireplace. There were scrambled eggs with spinach,
mushrooms and Vermont cheddar, flaky cream biscuits with jam, and
a glorious picture window view of wildflowers. The next morning,
Luke brought out a gorgeous puff pastry tart made with fresh native
peaches and blueberries, and French toast with cinnamon sugar and
maple syrup. A guest refrigerator was always stocked with spring
water, iced tea, and iced coffee. Our son especially loved the plate
of warm homemade cookies that appeared as if by magic in the dining
room every afternoon.
We brought bicycles and explored a great bike trail
just across the street from the inn, which runs alongside the Mad
River (so called because it runs north). We wore swimsuits on our
bike rides, since the Mad River offers plenty of swimming holes
in which to cool off.
Although there were dozens of area restaurants to
choose from, we ate dinner at American Flatbread at Lareau Farm
on Route 100 in Waitsfield, which is open only on Friday and Saturday
The wait for a table can be long, but it gave us a
chance to admire an art show in the barn, sip maple lemonade, and
play soccer and Frisbee in a nearby field. Their Evolution salad
was deliciously tender and locally grown. The pizza, baked in the
same enormous wood-fired oven that is used during the week to make
the American Flatbread pizzas sold in gourmet shops, was very tasty.
After dinner, we went out for a maple creemee (like a soft-serve)
at Country Creemees at Village Square in Waitsfield.
The Mad River Green Farmers Market on Saturday morning
was the social event of the weekend. We found about 50 vendors offering
fresh organic food, handmade crafts, activities for children, and
even free five-minute Reiki massages. The Valley Rotary was there
selling rubber duckies for their Great Mad River Race. Every Labor
Day, about 2,500 ducks attempt to make it across the river, and
race proceeds support local charities.
Borgi Von Trapp, whose mother was one of the original
Von Trapp singers, has managed the Farmers Market for 11 years.
"It fills a need for the community," she says. "It's
very magical, actually. It's a happy place."
Vermont is famous for its agricultural products. To
our family, that meant a chance to sample some fun foods. On the
Ben & Jerry's factory tour in nearby Waterbury, we learned how
ice cream is made and tried out some new flavors. An energetic young
guide showed us a video in the "Cow Over the Moon" Theatre,
and then let us observe the production floor, where ice cream is
manufactured Mondays through Fridays. The day we visited, staffers
were scooping two free flavors, Primary Berry Graham and Dublin
Mudslide. For a chuckle, we took a walk through the flavor graveyard,
where headstones described the fate of some of our old favorites.
You wouldn't want to leave Vermont without trying
some maple syrup. Morse Farm Sugar Works, about three miles north
of Montpelier, is open all year to visitors, with free tastings.
Owner Burr Morse is a seventh-generation Vermonter. He taught us
how to recognize a sugar maple among the other maples on our back
yard (the bark is much rougher), and he revealed that you can actually
tap your own maple trees in early spring. Since it takes 40 gallons
of sap to make one gallon of syrup, you'll probably prefer to leave
this to the professionals.
Montpelier is also worth a visit. It is an immaculate
small city with vistas everywhere you look. Montpelier's granite
State House is one of the oldest still in use. The statue on top
of the building's golden dome, which represents Agriculture or the
Roman goddess Ceres, depending on whom you ask, is not made of granite
at all, but carved from wood.
Skillfully restored to its 1860s grandeur, the State
House has its original black and white marble floor in the lobby.
Hanging beside a grand staircase, a portrait of former governor
and presidential candidate Howard Dean in a canoe captures the state's
Rock of Ages, the world's largest granite quarry,
gives informative tours. Vermont has two types of native granite,
Bethel White and Barre Gray, popular for architectural use and curbstones.
Standing on the (fenced) edge of the gigantic quarry will leave
you breathless. Rock of Ages created the new World War II Memorial
in Washington, D.C., with its two 700-ton arches. Don't worry about
the granite supply running out anytime soon-Todd Paton, manager
of the Visitors Center and director of Tourism at Rock of Ages,
reassured us that Vermont has enough granite to last for the next
If you go...
Wilder Farm Inn
1460 Main Street, P.O. Box 1509, Waitsfield, VT 05673
Rock of Ages
Graniteville Road, Graniteville, VT 05654
Morse Farm Sugar Works
Main Street, Montpelier, VT 05602
Ben & Jerry's
Route 100, Waterbury, VT 05676
46 Lareau Road, Waitsfield, VT 05673 802-496-8856