It has been a happy week. Sawyer and I celebrated our anniversary a couple days late by going out to dinner on Wednesday evening (we decided on the Inn at Shelburne Farms for our date, what a treat!). I apologize for my lack of a posting on Wednesday; I had enjoyed just enough wine with dinner that once I arrived home, I was contentedly asleep 30 minutes thereafter. I subsequently have posted two posts today to make up for my lack of a post on Wednesday, this one and a new FAQ. page. I hope you enjoy them both!
Shelburne Farms is one of those national historic landmarks that people specifically travel to Vermont to visit (Vermont hosts three nationally recognized historical landmarks!). There is a commonplace stereotype when it comes to the family farm. We generally picture farmers as uneducated, dirty, Old MacDonald-types complete with overalls. We perceive farming as the very definition of agrarian, a rustic and backwater lifestyle. As someone with grandparents who were farmers, these stereotypes are widely erroneous. My family history aside, Shelburne Farms is far from the Old MacDonald stereotype. The property, a 3,800 acre farm, was amassed and settled by Dr. William Seward and Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt Webb, and was built to become the model agricultural estate of the period. These two prominent figures hired landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. for grounds concepts and architect Robert H. Robertson for the designing of the four most prominent buildings on the property. By the early 1900s, Shelburne Farms was renowned for its innovative agricultural practices, hackney horse breeding, and the opulent family residence (then called the Shelburne House, now referred to as the Inn at Shelburne Farms). While the heyday of grand farming operations dwindled around 1910, family descendants reinvigorated the property by turning the Farms into a nonprofit organization providing education about sustainability as well as bolstering the relationship that children and adults alike have with the natural and agricultural world.
The history of Shelburne Farms is absolutely awe-inspiring in and of itself, but people come from faraway places to enjoy the opulent rooms at the Inn that feature original furniture pieces, portraits, and artwork, the exquisite farm-to-table food prepared in the kitchens at the Inn and grown on the grounds of the farm, to stroll through the Market Garden where the seasonal fruits and vegetables are grown for the restaurant and food cart, the many hiking trails winding throughout the acres of land, and of course memorable weddings at the Coach Barn or in the garden overlooking Lake Champlain and nestled quietly behind the Inn. If all of those aspects of this place weren’t magical enough, Shelburne Farms has dedicated itself to the cultivation of conservation ethics to create a sustainable future.
As my first Localvore post, I thought I’d explain a little bit about what I mean when I say “localvore”. Locavore (n.), defined by the Oxford Dictionaries is, a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food. What I’m trying to incorporate by including the L in localvore is a love for local places that are not limited to the production of food. In my Localvore section, I will look at local bookshops, local art galleries, local hiking trails, etc., alongside those popular restaurant destinations that serve up a great locally-produced dish. Shelburne Farms does all of that and more. Not only does it provide a beautiful backdrop for hiking, vacationing in one of the Inn’s rooms or in one of the cottages spread throughout the grounds, and educational classes on conservation, agriculture, and sustainability, it also provides eclectic farm-to-table food at the Inn (for elaborate breakfast and dinner options) and the Farm Cart (a less formal lunch experience).
As someone enjoying a special occasion dinner at the Inn at Shelburne Farms, I couldn’t hand out enough praise for this local hotspot. Sawyer and I had a lovely table on the brick lain terrace with a view of the gardens and the sunset over Lake Champlain. We were greeted by our dedicated server, Maureen (who happens to also be a good friend of mine), and a flute of sparkling rosé. After twenty or so pleasant minutes had passed, Maureen brought us a bottle of pinot gris that I had paired with the Maple Wind Farm chicken I was about to order as my entree and to Sawyer’s appetizer, the Market Garden-grown mushroom tortellini. As someone who often feels crowded in restaurants, the tables were spaced perfectly, with consideration to other tables on the terrace; I wasn’t fearful of eavesdroppers and I didn’t feel like I myself was forced into conversations happening at different tables. Sawyer and I enjoyed our entrees (he ordered Due of Shelburne Farms Beef – he should’ve ordered a glass of red wine but opted out of one)
with a flickering candle provided after sunset. To complete our meal, Sawyer had a cappuccino and Maureen granted me a gracious glass of rosé. At the end of our experience, we walked alongside the garden back to the gravel path to our car. It seemed to me like a magical night of old-world decadence. I would recommend it to anyone as a place to go to celebrate a special occasion.
The Inn at Shelburne Farms was only the venue for the occasion, but – as far as venues go – I couldn’t have been more pleased. Everything from presentation to service to food was superb, I wouldn’t have changed anything about it (except perhaps buying Sawyer that glass of red wine for his beef – but that’s just doting on him). I understand, after my experience, why people travel far and wide to visit this beautiful place. I consider myself lucky to live close enough that I can visit the grounds for a walk or stop by for an evening drink whenever I feel the draw. This Farm, while still a farm hard at work, does not embody the dated Old MacDonald sentiments whatsoever. Well done, Shelburne Farms, and thank you!