Hildene was the Manchester, Vermont home of Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln to survive into the 20th century. I was happy to have been hosted to experience it!
I have a fascination with all things Lincoln: I am from the "Land of Lincoln" (Illinois). I was married in Washington County, Kentucky, where Abraham's father and step-mother -- Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks -- were married. My father was head of a team of restorers who prepared one of Robert Todd Lincoln's desks for its new owner. There's a man in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania who re-enacts Abraham Lincoln who made me faint one time -- I thought he was a real ghost!
I also have an interest in railroad history -- a love I shared with my dad and his dad. Robert Todd Lincoln was eventually the president of the Pullman Company.
I also have an interest in labor unions, another love I shared with my dad and grandfather. Robert Todd Lincoln was general counsel during the Pullman strike. Incorporated into that field is that of civil rights, which the Pullman strike was intricately part of. My father and grandfather were instrumental in integrating the Teamsters' Union in Northern Indiana.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic -- which plays as you ascend the stairs on the player organ inside the house at Hildene -- was played at my father's funeral.
I'm an attorney and so was Robert Todd Lincoln. The infamous legal case of Plessy v. Ferguson was in 1896 (while Lincoln was still general counsel of Pullman), declaring the doctrine of "separate but equal" for public accommodations, most especially trains.
So, it's against that rich background that I tasted the goat cheeses of Hildene. During Mary Lincoln "Peggy" Beckwith's residence -- granddaughter of Robert Todd Lincoln and last descendant to live in the house -- she allowed lots of random animals inside the home and loved gardening. Though she had been dead for many decades by 2009, in her spirit, Hildene built a solar-powered barn on the beautiful estate to house goats and make cheese. There’s an on-site “cave” for aging. They sell the cheeses at their gift store. Imagine what a conversation piece it is to bring them home!
The chevre is their more rare cheese, being seasonal. It's much, much richer than most chevres I've tasted, thick -- but still mild and not "goaty".
The wax-covered Havarti is not like those boring Havartis you buy in the grocery store that need dill to taste like anything. To my palette, it's nutty like an Emmenthaler, but with a distinguishable goat flavor. I would definitely suggest drinking with it a nice red wine!
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