With the fifth annual Naked Table Lunch in downtown Woodstock rounding out August's final weekend, Vermont got a head start on the harvest festival season -- as befits the northernmost New England state. Thanks to its widespread support of artisanal farms and "cottage" food producers, Vermont is a delicious destination at any time of year, but fall brings particular bounty.
No wonder locals, neighboring New Englanders and even Tri-State residents look forward to it.
-- Lena Katz
Rather than a dress code instruction, the name Naked Table refers to the actual tables built and then utilized for their first meal at this popular 2-day fundraiser started by notable furniture designer Charlie Shackleton, and catered by Woodstock Farmers Market. Going one step beyond farm-to-table, this two-day event allows people to build their own solid maple tables in the Shackleton-Thomas workshop—assisted in the difficult stages by skilled furniture makers. <br><br> Photo Credit: Naked Table
The main purpose of Naked Table is to raise funds for Sustainable Woodstock, and the luncheon is not only made from locally sourced ingredients, but in the case of dessert, homemade. This display is typical of something you’ll see at a Vermont harvest. The pies pictured were made by members of the Prosper Homemakers Club. During the Walden Fall Foliage Festival, locals prepare a chili lunch with homemade cookies. And at the Apple Pie Festival hosted by Dummerston Congregational Church, there are homemade doughnuts and ice cream to augment the 1500 pies. <br><br> Photo Credit: Naked Table
Vermont locals treat cheese tasting the same way that California oenophiles approach wine tasting. They’re incredibly informed and opinionated, and they smell/examine/taste the cheeses in a studious, deliberate manner—but with blissful appreciation when something’s good. No occasion meal in Vermont is complete without a plate of local cheeses. And for visitors looking to really experience Vermont’s cheesemaking scene, go beyond the restaurants and markets, and travel the Vermont Cheese Trail, stopping by the family-run farms and artisan facilities where it’s made. <br><br> Photo Credit: Stowe Mountain Lodge
Thistle Hill is one of Vermont’s most respected artisan cheese producers. Formerly an organic dairy farm, the family-run Woodstock property now produces just one kind of cheese—an aged raw milk organic Tarentaise. Made in a custom copper vat from Switzerland from the milk of pasture-grazed Jersey cows, the cheese has won national awards and graced cheese carts in gourmet restaurants coast to coast. <br><br> Photo Credit: Thistle Hill
Three generations of Vermonters have made pilgramages every summer and fall to Sherburne Farms—first for U-Pick blueberries, and two months later to the orchards for apples. Though owner Emily Gruber has no online presence or even a storefront, her produce is photo-shoot ready...and most of it sells out either at the farm or through her only retail partner, the Woodstock Farmers Market down the road. <br><br> Photo Credit: Sherburne Farms
If some Vermont farms are strictly about production, Billings Farm is all about looks and visitor experience—and that's fine, because aside from being a working farm, it's a museum and educational facility promoting conservation and sustainable land use. Though there are special annual fall events like the Pumpkin & Apple Celebration, wagon rides happen weekly in the autumn, not just on event days. <Br><BR> Photo Credit: Billings Farm
With its glorious foliage, burgeoning wine trade and harvest festivities galore, Vermont enjoys an extended autumn season that draws travelers from the north and south. If you’re visiting some of the local wineries or heading out to see the golden leaves, follow the locals’ lead and pack a gourmet picnic of “al fresco eats” found in abundance at the deli. <br><br> Photo Credit: Woodstock Farmers Market
The fine dining restaurants around Vermont don’t stray from the state’s locavore mantra. At Red Rooster in the newly renovated Woodstock Inn, the menu of seasonal specials is nearly as extensive as the regular menu. You’ll always find some fresh seafood from the coast, and some country-comfort items like this fantastic breakfast-for-dinner appetizer, a sweet corn griddle cake with a fried egg and maple sausage. <br><br> Photo Credit: Woodstock Inn
Take an evening to enjoy an elegant meal inside—but then, head back outside, because harvest season fun takes over Vermont till the end of October, and the party moves from town to town. From family friendly “pumpkin’ chuckin” in Cambridge to the adult-geared Killington Brewfest—serving craft beer aficionados since 1995—there are festivities on the calendar every weekend. And the “weekend” typically lasts four days. <br><br> Photo Credit: Killington Brewfest