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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog

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November 2012

November 30, 2012

Grazing: Washing Down Cupcakes With Wine (at My Little Cupcake)

As a dedicated wine drinker, I can be reluctant to admit that beer pairs stunningly well with food. Yet it can be the naked truth, and one encountered in the unlikeliest of places — such as at my little cupcake in Burlington.

For the past few weeks, the bakers at my little cupcake have been hosting a Friday night fête called 3 Sweet Treats, offering guests the chance to pair three petite desserts with wines chosen by Brad Kelley of the Burlington Wine Shop — for a 10-spot.

You can also drop in at the College Street bakery whenever it's open (till 8 p.m. during the week, 10 p.m. on weekends) to approximate the experience; on the counter is a standing beer and wine menu, including a "free mini cupcake or cake pop" with each drink.

The alcohol menu is static — the choices include Prosecco, red wine, local beer and even ChocoVine — but the paired treats rotate based on what's been baked that day. On the dreary afternoon I visited, I sampled three pairings that sounded promising: Prosecco with a sesame-ginger cupcake; Cabernet Sauvignon with a red-velvet cupcake; and a bottle of Harpoon Octoberfest with a salted-caramel cupcake. 

Continue reading "Grazing: Washing Down Cupcakes With Wine (at My Little Cupcake)" »

New Eats in the South End?

SondikIf you obsessively follow local restaurant openings and closings, as we do, an ad such as this might set your heart aflutter:

Lake Champlain Chocolates is seeking a creative executive chef to participate in the development of a new rustic-Americana south end eatery...

Turns out, the ever-expanding chocolate company is planning to open an eatery inside the former Sondik Supply building at 716 Pine St., which the company purchased a year ago. But the details are still under wraps. "We have no time frame, but we're looking at integrating food and chocolate. That would be a no-brainer," says LCC director of retail operations Gary Coffey.

Continue reading "New Eats in the South End?" »

November 27, 2012

Battle Lines Drawn in Skinny Pancake Livable Wage Controversy

Skinny pancake logo 2Skinny Pancake owner Benjamin Adler says that if he paid a "livable wage" to employees working at his airport restaurants, he'd have to charge $20 for a sandwich. "No restaurant pays their dishwasher $17.71 an hour," he tells Seven Days. "It's not sustainable."

Adler was reacting Tuesday to an avalanche of outrage prompted by a Burlington Free Press article, which reported that Burlington's mayor and board of finance had approved the Skinny Pancake's request for an unusual exemption from the city's livable wage ordinance. Burlington's ordinance requires that city employees and contractors receiving taxpayer funds pay workers a "livable" wage — presently $13.94 an hour, or $17.71 an hour if health insurance is not provided — unless they received a hardship exemption.

Adler lobbied for a hardship exemption and city officials approved one because Skinny Pancake says it would lose money on the airport venture otherwise. One reason for the special treatment: The Skinny Pancake and its sister restaurant, the Chubby Muffin, source almost all of their meat, cheese and vegetables from Vermont farmers and food producers. Adler estimates his restaurants spend $400,000 a year purchasing Vermont-grown foods — and will spend an additional $250,000 buying local food for the airport cafes.

Click here to read the rest of this story on Off Message, the Seven Days news and politics blog.

Alice Eats: McGillicuddy's Irish Ale House

IMG_495728 Walnut Street, Williston, 857-5909

It happens sometimes in my line of work: I go to a place with every expectation that I'm going to hate it. The greatest reward is when I'm wrong.

Such was the case with McGillicuddy's Irish Ale House. A pair of damning 7 Nights comments warned me of cold, out-of-the-freezer food. But this was far from what I found last night.

And, honestly, the place could be forgiven for less-than-stellar fare. In some ways, it's trying to be something closer to a miniature, slightly higher-end Buffalo Wild Wings than a fine-dining establishment.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: McGillicuddy's Irish Ale House" »

November 26, 2012

I Want a Hippopotamus for Breakfast

Sweet startIf people tend to call me quirky, or wacky, I think I can blame my mom. I have clear memories of the Thanksgiving when she insisted on making blue mashed potatoes. And she's famous at the Seven Days offices for her brownie pops, made to look like whatever cute animal captures her fancy — or the season.

If everyone has a rabbit-shaped dessert, with pastel pink candy corn for ears, at their desks, it means Mom made a treat for Easter... or Monday. She was also the seamstress responsible for my Cookie Monster skirt at last spring's Sweet Start Smackdown.

Last week, she presented me with what may be her greatest creation yet: Hippo bread.


Continue reading "I Want a Hippopotamus for Breakfast" »

November 23, 2012

Grazing: Mashed Potato Pancakes with Pickled Red Onion, Smoked Salmon & Dill

Turkey hash, turkey chili, turkey sandwiches. When it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers, the bird dominates.

While I definitely have plenty of turkey left, more challenging to repurpose is the surfeit of uneaten mashed potatoes. Reheated mashed potatoes are no fun; potato pancakes, however, are. Rolling mashed potatoes into sticky balls with your hands, then smashing them into discs and frying them to a crispy nut- brown, is a tactile way to spend a post-Thanksgiving brunch.

Potato pancakes — or latkes, if you prefer — are also harbingers of Hanukkah, when they're eaten as part of the celebration. Topping them with smoked salmon (or trout), sour cream, pickled red onions and dill sprigs makes for a fresh, briny, filling lunch. And with a glass of 'leftover' Prosecco, they pave the way for yet another food-induced nap.

Note: If you're an experienced latke maker, know that mashed-potato pancakes take longer to cook. They'll also shrink more during frying and become misshapen. If you used copious amounts of butter and cream in your mashed potatoes (as I did), you won't need any extra moisture. If it seems like they want to fall apart, though, add a beaten egg as a binder. And since this is a very feel-your-way-through-it kind of snack, ingredient amounts are loose and approximate.

Mashed Potato Pancakes with Pickled Red Onions, Smoked Salmon & Dill

1 red onion
Rice vinegar
Dash of salt
A bowl of leftover mashed potatoes
More salt & pepper
Cooking oil
Sour cream
Smoked salmon or trout
A few sprigs of dill

First, quick-pickle some red onion: Peel, halve and then slice a red onion into very thin slivers; pile the onion into a bowl, cover with red wine (or cider or rice vinegar) and throw a dash of salt and half a handful of sugar in and stir until sugar dissolves. Let sit for an hour.

Put a sauté pan on medium heat and pour in enough oil to cover the bottom (I used canola). While the oil heats, shape mashed potatoes into golf-ball-size orbs, then flatten between your palms and drop into the hot oil. While they cook, sprinkle the tops liberally with salt and pepper.

Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Keep cooked pancakes in a warm oven while you finish the rest.

When finished, smear each cake with sour cream, then layer on a few curls of pickled onion, a flap of salmon and a sprig of dill. Finish with coarse sea salt and pepper, if desired, and serve.


November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving From Vermont Whey Fed Pigs!

When I visited the pigs at at von Trapp Farmstead for my story in this week's paper about Vermont Whey Fed Pigs, I enjoyed the spectacle of seeing exactly how the Duroc, Old Spot and Tamworth mixed-breeds grow to their 225-pound hanging weight at slaughter.

And to celebrate the fact that we'll be feasting on turkey and not hog this Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share a pair of cute piggy videos.

One of the oinkers' favorites is pizza from Red Hen Baking Co.

Below, here's how the magic happens, as their caretaker, Ignacio Villa, spins their food through the air to them.

Here, a mama, whose piglets were born just days before, enthusiastically recharges with whey left over from the production of the Farmstead's organic Oma cheese. Rolls from Red Hen bob in the liquid. Hopefully, your Thanksgiving dinner has a little more variety, but these pigs are sure to be enjoying their own holiday feast this week!


To Brine or Not to Brine? Molly Stevens Weighs In


On the radio yesterday, a local deejay gushed about the beauty of Butterball turkeys — namely, that the bird's breast has already been injected with liquid that bastes the bird as it roasts, rendering brining unnecessary.

I heard this while I was on my way to Norwich's Hogwash Farm to pick up the lanky, organic 10-pound bird that now rests in my refrigerator. Brining is a messy, laborious task; but after last year's pasture-raised bird (from another farm) emerged from my oven kinda dry, I wondered, is this the year I finally wade into saline waters?

Proponents of brining — or soaking the turkey overnight in a salt bath — swear that it helps achieve penultimate moistness. I decided to ask Molly Stevens, the local cookbook author whose most recent work — All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art — tackles this very question, and won a James Beard award to boot.

Continue reading "To Brine or Not to Brine? Molly Stevens Weighs In" »

November 20, 2012

Alice Eats: Honey Thai Restaurant

Honeythai2033 Essex Road, Williston, 879-0251

This week, I wrote about Guild & Company in South Burlington and the transporting effect of its dining room. On Saturday, I visited another restaurant with a vibe all its own. Unlike Guild, though, Honey Thai Restaurant in Williston isn't so much big-city destination as Mad Hatter's Tea Party — in Thailand.

The sign at right should give you an idea of the design of the dining rooms. The front is unassuming enough, with dark colors and ethnic touches. But the huge back room, most recently home to Douzo Japanese Steakhouse, Sushi Bar, Martini Bar and Thai Cuisine, is all bright colors and shining blue Christmas lights. Imagine a great birthday party at an Asian karaoke bar —sans arrests for public drunkenness — and you've got the idea.

The front dining room was mostly full when we arrived, but our friendly server quickly took our order.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Honey Thai Restaurant" »

November 19, 2012

Misery Loves Co. Opens in Winooski

The blurry shot above mirrors the buzzy energy inside Misery Loves Co. late this morning, less than an hour after it opened inside the ex-Don Pedro's Taqueria space in Winooski. 

Gone are the wild parrot hues of the previous tenants; they've been replaced by cool, white walls and tile, a pale, zigzag wood floor, and vintage pendant lamps. By 11:30 a.m., all of the nine or so tables were filled, oversize sandwiches were flying off the grill and the only memory of the former tenants was a small tray of hot sauces. 

Continue reading "Misery Loves Co. Opens in Winooski" »

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