My longing to visit the lavender fields in Quebec was made possible during a recent outing with “Les Dames de Vermont”, a group of wonderful foodie women friends — Deborah Shapiro, Allison Hooper, Cathy Donnelly, Marion Burros, and Linda Ramsdell. We take turns planning food-related adventures and this one was inspired by the NEK/Burlington contingent, who put together an ambitious agenda with a number of interesting food-related stops– enroute to see the lavender fields in the Eastern Township of Stanstead, near Fitch Bay and Lake Magog.
OLD-FASHIONED DONUTS AT RED SKY TRADING CO.
Passing through Glover on our way to Newport, VT, we stopped at Linda’s favorite haunt, Red Sky Trading Co, a sweet find with enticing edibles and kitschy collectibles, that has some of the best freshly-made handcut, old fashioned donuts you’ll find anywhere!
A PREVIEW OF THE NORTHEAST KINGDOM TASTING CENTER
From Glover, we went on to Newport to see the “Promise Land” (read the Seven Days article Thirty six hours in Newport, a City Waiting to Happen) where Deborah’s close friend Eleanor Leger, co-owner of Eden Ice Cider Company, greeted us and gave a tour of the remarkable, soon-to-be completed Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center –an amazing space that will showcase the region’s tight-knit farm-to-table culture and several food businesses. Centrally located on Main Street, the former department store, has been artfully transformed into a culinary destination housing the Brown Dog Bistro, a bakery, butcher shop, and Eden Cider retail shop, with the cider-making operation operating out of the cavernous basement. The center, scheduled to open at the end of July, is in direct alignment with the “Newport. Fresh by Nature” program. This formerly economically-depressed area is being transformed in large part due to the economic growth stimulated by visionary and entrepreneur Bill Stenger, president and CEO of Jay Peak, who has been utilizing the federal EB-5 program to attract $600 million of development projects into the area.
BLEU LAVANDE- THE LAVENDER FIELDS OF QUEBEC
Once over the border, we traveled onto Stanstead to visit Bleu Lavande, the largest lavender farm in Canada and second largest in North America. We took the tour, walked through the lavender fields, saw the distillery where the lavender oil is extracted, had a late lunch in the bistro (nothing special), drank some lavender beer (very tasty) and picked up dried lavender and sundries in their boutique.Beware its not as easy as they might suggest to get dried lavender across the border… It was a beautiful day and the sight of the lavender fields stretching on for acres was an incredible site, well worth the trip!
LUXURIOUS RIPPLECOVE HOTEL AT AYER’S CLIFF
By this time we were ready for some refreshment and traveled on to Ayer’s Cliff where we stopped at the very lovely and stately Ripplecove Hotel on Lake Magog. Originally built in 1945 by Archie and Elizabeth Stafford, it served as a summer destination for their family and guests. In the 60s, Ripplecove was turned into a luxury resort open year round. In 1985, Debra and Jeffrey Stafford bought the property and renovated it into a Four Diamond Resort with ten luxurious rooms, a spa, and conference rooms while maintaining the historic significance of the hotel. We sat at the patio overlooking the lake and enjoyed a nice bottle of rose and a cheeseboard with delightful cheeses from the region.
BACK IN VERMONT
We ventured back to the Lakeview Inn, owned by Cathy and Scott Donnelly, where we started earlier that morning. Some continued on to dine at Claire’s Restaurant in Hardwick while I headed home to feed the horses–after a very satisfying day of culinary adventure with friends.