Monday, February 01, 2010

The Chuckiest Cheese of All...

The cosmos are aligned in a ridiculous way yet again. February 2nd is known as Groundhog Day to most of the country, but for Vermonters the humble woodchuck reigns supreme. Now, I know I promised that this week I'd write about raclette. I just didn't know then that I'd be weaving together a tale of Franco-Woodchuck heritage as rich as the day is long. Read on cheese legend-lovers, and learn how France's penchant for melting cheese and Vermont's most mystical beast have collided in a cheesy coincidence for the ages!


That Vermonters are known (somewhat derogatorily, mostly poke-funnily) as Woodchucks was news to me. A customer of mine who hails from the Green Mountain State introduced me to the term, and has since regaled me with stories of growing up in small town Vermont, a place laden with 'chucks.' The Woodchuck is a sturdy breed; a kind of rough and tumble hearty Vermonter, resourceful, and graced with a sense of backwoods humor. (see picture to left)
And nowhere is the Woodchuck more readily appreciated than in the town of West Pawlet, home of the annual Woodchuck Festival.


Held the Saturday after Groundhog Day each year, the Woodchuck Fest is one part arts and crafts, one part feats of strength, and one part cabin fever antidote. The organizer of this year's festival noted that the highlights are watching firefighters running around in the snow trying to complete an obstacle course, a log toss, musical stylings by the aptly named 'Woodchucks' Revenge' and a menu boasting Vermont delicacies like chuckburgers, prairie dogs, and woodchuck beef stew. Mmmmmm....

West Pawlet may be home to Vermont's chuckiest shindig, but it's sure as heck got more than one claim to fame. Consider Bardwell Farm, located in the friendly confines of the aforementioned municipality, named a cheese after their town that just happens to be a paean to melting. When Saxelby Cheesemongers got into a bit of racletting a couple of weeks back, it was Pawlet that made us swoon. A raw cows' milk cheese with flavor tuned like a fiddle... its salty, tangy, and nutty counterparts all harmoniously combining into one delicious bite o' cheese.

Now, owing to Vermont's proximity to the French part of Canada, and seeing as the French were in that neck of the woods trapping all sorts of furry critters back in the day, it seems that there may be a bit of French influence lurking in the Woodchuck genome. It would at the very least explain the state's obsession with cheese! Perhaps raclette, a quintessential French winter meal, made with Pawlet, a very chucky cheese indeed, is the perfect gastronomic manifestation of the Franco-Woodchuck alliance!

So even if you're just a chuck in spirit, stop by Saxelby Cheesemongers and grab a chunk of Pawlet for a perfect Woodchuck raclette. We'll even rent you our raclette machine! Starting tomorrow, for $25, you can bring that baby to your next party and melt Pawlet till your heart's content. Nothing cures the winter blues like a meal of melted 'chuckie' cheese.

Till next week... eat cheese and be merry!

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