BENNINGTON -- Garlic ice cream? Garlic cupcakes? Garlic peanuts? Unexpected flavors will tempt the crowds this weekend when the annual Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival returns to Camelot Village on Route 9 west just outside of downtown.
Along with music, kids entertainment, drinks and food, more than 100 vendors will sell their garlic, garlic-related products, herbs and crafts at the festival. Many of these foods and items will be made especially for the festival and hard to find elsewhere, so garlic lovers and local food enthusiasts alike can stock up now for the winter.
Here's a quick preview of some of the rare and unusual garlic goodies to look for at this year's Garlic Fest.
Garlic peanuts, spices, sauces and pottery from Bald Mountain Garlic Farm
In nearby Salem, N.Y., owner Bob Nopper at Bald Mountain Garlic Farm grows between 5,000 and 9,000 heads of garlic every year, selling some of it fresh and also using his harvest to make specialty garlic food products based on his own recipes. His recipe for garlic peanuts, one of his most popular foods, was inspired by another garlic lover he met at a similar festival, he said.
"Years ago at a festival in Greenwich, N.Y., there was a young girl who had smashed garlic cloves mixed in with peanuts and sautéed all together, and I thought that was interesting," he said.
When he started making his own roasted garlic peanuts, Nopper said, he decided to use chips of garlic as well as pure garlic powder, both from his own farm.
Nopper also makes a chipotle flavor of his roasted garlic peanuts, a range of hot sauces that contain garlic, rosemary and chipotle garlic salts and -- one of his favorites -- a garlic ginger dipping sauce.
Nopper also creates handmade pottery in his studio in Hebron, N.Y., with a garlic twist, of course. He specializes in handmade, fired stoneware garlic presses, garlic keepers (for countertop storage) and garlic roasters -- all of which he decorates with a sculpted garlic head.
The Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival is one of his biggest events of the year, he said, and he has come for at least six years straight. He does not run a retail store or work with any local resellers, so the festival gives a rare chance to purchase Nopper's unique garlic foods and pottery.
Garlic-chocolate cupcakes from Fancy Pants Cakes
With her garlic-chocolate cupcakes, Jenica McEvoy of Fancy Pants Cakes in Bennington is another Garlic Fest mainstay. McEvoy will bake more than 500 cupcakes for this year's festival, each with garlic puree mixed into both the cupcake itself and its frosting -- a recipe she invented specifically for Garlic Fest.
McEvoy also makes a mild version of her cupcakes for the garlic-timid, which she describes as merely having a garlic aftertaste, while the full-flavored recipe is stronger.
"Sometimes people want as much garlic as they can get," she said. "If it's your first garlic item of the day, you might think it's pretty strong. You definitely taste it."
Garlic-maple barbecue sauce from Vermont Tiny Kitchen
Attending her first Garlic Fest this year, Susan Grimshaw of Vermont Tiny Kitchen is excited to introduce the crowd to her Screaming Maple Barbecue sauce -- which naturally contains garlic.
"It requires no molasses, brown sugar, white sugar or corn syrup," she said, "just a very small amount of local Vermont maple syrup."
While the syrup adds both flavor and sweetness, garlic is one of the keys to her sauce's complex flavor.
Grimshaw is also known at the local farmers market for her bread and butter pickles (another garlic specialty) as well as her low-sugar jams, which she will also have for sale at the festival.
Garlic ice cream from Bart's
One of the most unusual (and most talked-about) garlic foods of the festival is the garlic ice cream by Bart's Homemade of Greenfield. A specialty flavor concocted specifically for, and only available at the festival, it has a sweet cream base without any other flavoring and chopped garlic chunks blended in.
While foods like Nopper's peanuts or Grimshaw's barbecue sauce might have broad appeal, its makers say this one may have a select fan base.
"It's very popular at the festival, but it wouldn't be something that we sell any other time of the year," said Barbara Fingold, co-owner of Bart's. "It's the kind of thing that most people wouldn't want to eat a 4-ounce regular serving of."
Some people love it so much they come looking for more.
"We sometimes have garlic festival people come down and buy whole tubs that are left over at the end of the weekend, if they're big fans of garlic," she said.