SHELBURNE, Vt. - Sitting in the gilt and marble dining room of the elegant Inn at Shelburne Farms, one forgets that this historic estate is a farm. More precisely, it's a veritable fount of Vermont's best-known foods.
Nestled in its 1,400 scenic acres are a milking herd, a bakery, herb and produce gardens, a cheddar cheese factory, and a maple syrup operation, most of which are evident in the inn's upscale menu. It was just a matter of time before this conservation-minded nonprofit would produce an inspired cookbook.
"Cooking With Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories From Vermont" is a showcase of the Green Mountain State's culinary strengths. Organized by main ingredient (milk and cheese, wild mushrooms, etc.), the more than 100 recipes range from the simple (fiddlehead and fresh herb tart) to the more involved (sage and garlic pan-roasted quail), with emphasis on what's local and in season. Melissa Pasanen, a food writer, and Rick Gencarelli, the inn's chef who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, collaborated on tasty interpretations of such wild edibles as dandelion greens, ramps, and venison, yet included a generous helping of apple and maple comfort foods.
Salting the chapters are profiles of farmers, hunters, and foragers who share Shelburne Farms' land-conservation ethic, along with color photographs and tips on such practicalities as storing root-cellar vegetables and selecting apple varieties.
We learn that the aristocratic Webb family who built the summer estate in 1886 as a model farm must have eaten fairly well (Lila Vanderbilt Webb herself had the 1896 Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook). But celery root soup with blue cheese? Almond-maple brittle crumbled over roasted apple and plum parfaits? Even they couldn't have had it this good.
"Cooking With Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories From Vermont" by Melissa Pasanen with Rick Gencarelli (Viking, 288 pp., $34.95). Order at shelburnefarms.org or call 802-985-0333.