Growing up in Vermont, most places I considered “vegan” were stereotypical hippie joints – local co-ops bathed in patchouli oil, incense, and Birkenstock footprints. And, while many places in the Green Mountain State still resemble those icons, the vegan scene in Vermont is changing.
On a recent trip home, we pulled our car into a non-descript parking lot in Essex. The property is shared with a nursery/greenhouse. A small sign over a beautiful deck read “Sweet Alchemy Bakery and Cafe.”
From the outside on this chilly Winter day, so far the experience was quintessential Vermont – from the rolling frozen hills in the distance, to the barn-esque design of Sweet Alchemy. Once inside, the warm, sweet smells of a talented baker completed the experience.
Their menu, while expansive, still seemed to lean toward a healthier side of vaganism, far from the deep fryers that dot the Pacific Northwest, dipping fake chicken and oreos into grease.
The baked goods case had some great looking things, from maple-glazed pumpkin rolls to muffins, and scones. It was a good sign of a healthy business that many items were sold out by the time we showed up for lunch.
The hard part was choosing a menu item that would both warm me up, and give me some sustenance. I had been traveling quite a bit, and frankly, wanted to pig out a little.
I ended up choosing the BFG (BF Goodrich!?) burger, and talked my mom into sharing her “Mac N Trees.” It was a tough choice, given a menu with entries like “Super tuber tacos,” “Real Deal Enchiladas,” and “Savory herb waffles.”
The burger was really good, and a solid choice for lunch. Once it was presented, I realized this was certainly one of those healthy vegan places. Not that it was a bad thing – at all. But it did make me realize that the super fatty places I have come to expect have changed veganism away from its earlier healthy days. So, it must be true that as veganism expands across the mainstream, it somehow also becomes generally unhealthier.
The burger was full of housemade goodness, serving it on toasted bread slices was a little odd (pretzel bun, anyone?) and contributed to a little dryness. The thick-cut fresh tomatoes helped out a lot in this area.
My mom (a local Vermonter) has been going to Sweet Alchemy for quite a while. One trip in particular, she sent me this synopsis:
“My friends had the Creamed Butternut Soup. They said it was delicious!! Chet said it was the best soup he’s ever had! They are not vegan but are willing to venture out and tempt their palate. I had a delicious Banana Walnut Muffin with an Iced Americano. Everything is vegan. Amazing flavors!!!”
Back to this trip, I plunged my fork into a bowl of hearty Mac and Trees…and it was amazing! The crumbled nuts sprinkled on top balanced it so well. The healthy yet hearty “cheese” was phenomenal, and of course the broccoli (trees) rounded it all out.
The facility was super nice, with a huge outdoor seating area, that huge deck, and big, bright windows surrounded by old books. There was a nice coffee bar off to the side. I could envision myself watching a Vermont blizzard blow, reading a book and enjoying some of that coffee.
I will be going back to Sweet Alchemy every time I go back home. You should check it out too!
Sweet Alchemy is located at Lang Farm on Rt.15 in Essex, VT.