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August 2012

August 31, 2012

Grazing: The Waning Summer of Rosé

RoseIt’s less than 12 hours until August turns a corner. For me, it signals a sad close to a season that begins in early June and wends its way through three glorious, salmon-colored months: the season of sipping rosé, almost to the exclusion of other colors.

When I went to pick up another bottle of the pink stuff this week, the usually teeming display of rosé had disappeared; the remaining bottles had been relegated to a mid-shelf rosé ghetto. With heavy heart, I grabbed a bottle of pale Blaufrankisch and resolved not to let the moment die. So that you might consider joining the crusade, here are some wines you can (and should) keep drinking until the rain starts lashing your window — or until they become stranded behind an autumn display of Syrah or Cabernet Franc.

What makes rosé so ridiculously perfect, besides being the anathema to sticky, hot days, is that it pairs like a glove with almost any kind of food. It's cheap, too, or at least can be found for a song. Sparkling rosé can help you wash down anything from fries to oysters to acorns and seeds (why not indoctrinate squirrels, too?). 'Still' rosé loves on BBQ pork, salads, tarts, burgers, or even any iteration of tomatoes you’ve dreamt up in the last few, red-stained weeks. The wisps of acid in a dry rosé deftly meet those in food, punch for punch; their inevitable fruitiness makes for satisfying patio pounding.

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August 28, 2012

Alice Eats: The Inn at Shelburne Farms

2012-08-19 01.06.461611 Harbor Road, Shelburne, 985-8498

We all need a taste of luxury now and then. Usually, in those cases, we assume that those meals will be stressful on the wallet. But smart diners know that even at the finest restaurants, meals earlier in the day can cost a fraction of rich dinner prices. To give both me and my billfold a treat, I indulged in brunch at the Inn at Shelburne Farms.

We were led through the grand entrance to a table for two just below a painting of the original homeowner, Lila Vanderbilt Webb. It had taken me weeks to get a reservation, and the joint was indeed jumping. Our server warned us from the beginning that the kitchen was backed up and it would take 15 to 20 minutes for our food to arrive.

2012-08-19 01.21.13That ended up being more like 30 or 45 minutes, but good conversation in opulent surroundings is really the goal at Shelburne Farms. I wasn't in a hurry.

And the food was worth it. The veal and pork terrine was tender and smoky — perfect for a Sunday picnic in Provence. It was bathed in tarragon Hollandaise that had just a whisper of anise flavor. Eggs were poached perfectly and lent an extra layer of creaminess to the plate, which also included microgreens and an herb crostini. It was a delicious plate, but for $13, the portion was more like an appetizer than a hearty breakfast.

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August 24, 2012

Grazing: A Fact-finding Mission to SoLo Farm & Table

Solo_eggplantIn the September 2012 issue of Bon Appetit, Andrew Knowlton anointed his "50 Best New Restaurant Nominees." One Vermont restaurant landed on the list: SoLo Farm & Table in South Londonderry.

Miles and mountain ranges mean that no one in our office had yet visited SoLo, despite heady rumors that have floated north. BA's nomination was a call to action. This week, with the gravest of intentions, I drove down, wandered into the restaurant's warren of rooms, and unfurled my napkin.

It's easy to get caught up in the Burlington restaurant scene and forget that southern Vermont is a magnet for urban chefs and eaters who co-create an eclectic, polished dining culture. So it is with SoLo, opened last summer by chef Wesley Genovart and his wife, Chloe — who both have some formidable NYC restaurant chops, including stints at Per Se and the running of the much-feted East Village restaurant Degustation. (For Chloe — originally from Vermont — SoLo is a sort of homecoming). 

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August 17, 2012

Grazing: Mr. Hendricks, Meet the Cosmo

Gin_cosmoAny serious cocktail lover might order one in a low voice — such is the stigma that can accompany the Cosmopolitan. Somehow this simple blend of Absolut Citron, fresh or Roses lime juice, cranberry and a splash of Cointreau became, in the late 1990s, the cocktail equivalent of a Carly Rae Jepsen song.

But the bartenders that bastardized the Cosmo into sticky, sweet ubiquity are long ago and far away from from the bar at L'Amante in Burlington, where classics rule in both food and drink. With a chef who's a bona fide wine expert and a staff that know their Grillo from their Garganega, this is certainly a place to indulge a love of vino. The cocktail list, by contrast, is short and simple.

Ask bartender Ian DeLorme about wine and he will joyously pour you something new to try. Yet he also keeps classic drinks up his sleeve, including a tart, fresh-juice Cosmopolitan he first blended at his mother's request for a not-too-sweet version. 

This summer, DeLorme has been making a Cosmo using floral Hendricks gin, shaking up a generous pour of the stuff with fresh lime and lemon juices, splashes of Cointreau and cranberry juice, and floating St. Germain on top. The resulting drink has tiny bits of ice and hints of roses, a pool of citrusy herbaceousness that you want to dive into and emerge, buzzed, on the opposite rim.

Ian's Gin Cosmo

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add the first five ingredients:
4 ounces Hendricks gin 
Juice from half a fresh-squeezed lemon 
Juice from half a fresh-squeezed lime
1 ounce Cointreau
Splash of cranberry juice
A very light splash of St. Germain

"Shake hard," DeLorme advises, then strain into a martini glass. Float some St. Germain on top, garnish with a wedge of lime, and serve.


August 14, 2012

Alice Eats: Pearl Street Diner

IMG_453485 Pearl St., Burlington, 862-3220

DoughBoy's Coffee Shop may have been the ultimate old Burlington diner. With a clientele split mostly between seniors and college students, it was a kind of spiritual cousin to Bove's Restaurant across the street. When it closed last summer, it left some big shoes to fill.

But Pearl Street Diner's owners, Pam Scanlon and Michael Niederer of Radio Deli, aren't trying to recreate DoughBoy's. Their tack is a little smarter. Along with diner classics, they're also serving up more creative fare with local ingredients.

One need only look at the condiments on the counter to get an idea of the aesthetic. Beside the ketchup, salt and cinnamon sugar, there's also Sriracha.

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August 13, 2012

Grazing: Whip It Good

ShrimpThe northward migration of a chef from Austin, Texas, to the Green Mountains is a rare but wonderful thing. When such a person moves between two wildly different places, they can bring a mashup of styles, ideas and dishes that is nothing but good news for the diners around them.

Chef Cody Vasek grew up on a farm in Bellville, Texas, and developed his culinary chops at hotels in Austin and Houston, where his farm-centric early life gave him a natural affiinity for field-to-fork cuisine. Like many a chef hungry for new experiences, Vasek eventually drifted north and worked his way through several of Jean Georges Vongerichten's kitchens (JoJo, Vong, Mercer Kitche, Spice Market and Jean Georges among them) before he pushed even further north, to the 45th parallel to become the executive chef at Stowe Mountain Lodge. (If there is an invisible hotel kithen circuit, Stowe Mountain must be a major yet frenetic node — as far as I can tell, it's a magnet for talented chefs who don't stay long.)

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August 8, 2012

Community Rallies Around Destroyed Hot Tamale

HT Co. Fish TacoThings haven't been easy for Moana Dixon lately. Her mother, Hot Tamale's founder and executive chef Cheryl Kaheleilani  was in the hospital on Friday night, but Dixon kept the Johnson Mexican take-out eatery open late to cook for a number of orders, including a party of more than 10 people getting food for a regular customer's birthday.

"I was cooking chips," remembers Dixon. "I had a whole bunch of orders — we make everything fresh — I dropped in a batch  of chips and I turned away from the stove and thought, "Shoot! I have to turn it off really quickly.' Someone asked me a question and I got distracted and stepped away from the stove."

The grease fire quickly moved across the deck of the rental house at which Dixon and McCabe also live. Before long, Dixon heard the propane tank out back hissing. She grabbed her dog and purse from upstairs and fled just before the house became engulfed in flames. "I thought, 'Holy shit, that's a fire,'" she says. Indeed, firefighters from eight different departments battled the blaze for close to seven hours. The house next door also caught on fire.

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August 7, 2012

Alice Eats: Burger Barn

IMG_45144968 Route 15, Jeffersonville, 730-3441

There are few simple pleasures better than a great burger. But the enjoyment can be even more intense when the burger is anything but simple.

If you haven't already, meet Burger Barn.

When I first wrote about the green and cow-spotted burger shack in 2010, the menu was already large, including 15 different cheese choices — they've since added red Leicester, for a grand total of 16.

But the bill of fare has continued to grow. There are now 35 different burgers, ranging from a classic patty with just lettuce, tomato and red onion, to the Bleu Royale, topped with bacon, caramelized onions and cave-aged Roquefort.

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August 4, 2012

Grazing: Surviving Tales of the Cocktail

TotcIt's not every night that you can walk into a museum and feel fake snow brushing your face. Or, a few seconds later, watch cocktail demigod Dale DeGroff flame an orange peel in front of you, drop it into a glass of sherry and Absolut, and push it forward. Or, a few steps away, realize that the guy presiding over a table of Cosmos is Toby Cecchini, the bartender who created the drink at New York's Odeon in the late 1980s. 

Such is the surreal quality of Tales of the Cocktail, a fête that has drawn thousands of mixologists, brand ambassadors, journalists and thirsty drinkers to New Orleans every steamy July for the past 10 years to sample new spirits, exchange ideas, schmooze and party. It's a heady, wild ride, from the moment you arrive in NOLA until that last, wistful cab ride to the airport — and you can't anticipate its scale, pace and ability to squash you like the lightweight you are. Especially if you're a "Virgin." (More on that in a moment).

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