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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog

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October 2013

October 29, 2013

After 20 Years, Trattoria Delia Owners Open a Wine Bar

SottoFor most of Trattoria Delia’s 20-year existence, its Italian-centric wine list has earned awards from the Wine Spectator. Yet would-be guests at the cozy Burlington spot may not always get to taste those wines, because the resto's popularity often means waiting for a table.

Tomorrow, Tratt owners Tom and Lori Delia will change that when they open Sotto Enoteca, a wine bar connected to the restaurant via a back hallway, and with an entrance a few feet north on Saint Paul Street.

"I've been working the concept in my mind for awhile," says Tom Delia. And when Mane Attraction vacated the space at 150 Saint Paul, he and Lori decided to lease it. "You have to challenge yourself and try new things."

Part wine bar and part overflow lounge, Sotto (“under” in Italian) will be open roughly in tandem with Trattoria's Tuesday through Sunday dinner hours, and will offer at least 17 Italian wines by the glass, including a Barolo and a Valpolicella Ripasso.

"We also wanted to represent some international varietals that are done well in Italy," says Delia, and so the glass list also includes some Italian-made Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a Merlot-Cabernet blend. Guests who snag one of the 25 seats (six of them at the bar) can sip them alongside a handful of dishes from Trattoria’s menu. Those include the house-cured duck confit, snails with Sambuca, fried calamari and a selection of salumi and cheese plates.

Those who prefer other beverages can have their glass filled with beers such as Heady Topper, Fantôme Saison and brews from Hill Farmstead Brewery and Grassroots Brewing. And there's still more to drink: Manager Matthew Marrier has put togther a craft cocktail list that includes a re-creation of Ernest Hemingway's favorite daiquri (which the writer supposedly drank with grapefruit juice) and an "eggnog-esque" classic flip made with oatmeal stout, Amaro and a whole egg. It's called Breakfast In Bed.

"The whole concept is a place for our customers to wait, but also to be a kind of neighborhood wine bar, the place away from home where people can talk and grab a light bite," says Delia.

Welcome to the ’hood, Sotto.


Alice Eats: Vergennes Laundry

247 Main Street, Vergennes, 870-7157

IMG_6531Run, run, run as fast as you can;
You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerdead Man.

Actually, maybe you can. Gingerdead Men are not as fast on their feet as living Gingerbread Men, and these adorable corpses are available at the Vergennes Laundry through Thursday.

IMG_6541As you can see from the hanging skeleton, the Vergennes bakery is not your average patisserie. Yes, co-owners Julianne Jones and Didier Murat infuse their food and decor with a touch of humor and whimsy (check out the mounted deer head just feet away from the ultra-modern lamp — the bright, white space looks like France by way of Mars). But it's the deadly serious care in creating classics that has commanded raves from the New York Times Magazine and Food and Wine.

Think of the hot chocolate (right) made from steamed milk that slowly melts three handmade crème fraîche truffles. Serious stuff.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Vergennes Laundry" »

October 25, 2013

Grazing: Two-Handed Sandwiches (Including a Veggie Muffuletta) in Quechee

Where can one find venison stew meat, Austrian wine, yams, short ribs, white bread, tomme and Rodenbach all in one place — as well as report a deer?

That'd be Singletons' General Store, whose kaleidoscopic retailing ways used to be limited to Proctorsville (where customers can also purchase alpaca, whiskey and ammo) but since this summer, has been showering Quechee with its eclectic goodness from a second location.

Singletons_1Singleton's is sort of like a general store on steroids, one which aims to serve the indefinable and shifting interests of Vermonters by stocking items sought by both rod-toting fishermen or weekenders hoping to construct the perfect beer cocktail (bitters, Fever Tree mixers and syrups are sold in abundance here). Besides serving as a big game reporting station, Singleton's has a cooler full of smoked meat, an ambitious wine section, an entire department of women's outdoor clothing, and is an excellent lunch spot to boot — though the only place to eat is on an outside bench, or in your car.

Recently, I went home with some paper-thin duck breast prosciutto, a few links of the store's famous bratwurst, and a tray of award-winning mac-and-cheese topped with house-smoked cheddar and ham. This week, I loaded up on sandwiches from a handwritten list of specials that the staff semi-derisively calls 'Fancy Shmancy' sandwiches — versions laced with arugula, prosciutto, tapenade and other non-red-blooded fare.

Despite their nouveau natures, each sandwiches' heft befits a hungry hunter: An oily number 33 (on rosemary-studded foccacia) is so stuffed with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and blood-red tomatoes that one half will sate. The number 29, a sort of veggie Muffuletta of smoked Gouda, wilted spinach, caramelized onions, and chunky tapenade, is aggressively pressed between two slices of ridged ciabatta so that its ingredients melt together into a savory, salty, gooey mess.

Traditionalists who want to stick to tried-and-true sandwiches can pick from 28 other versions, from a Reuben to liverwurst, Swiss cheese and banana peppers on rye toast. Just approach gingerly: These are two-handed sandwiches.


October 24, 2013

Ben & Jerry's Releases "Scotchy Scotch Scotch"

ScotchyScotchHR8.18M“'Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch' is a delicious ice cream and I hope Ben and Jerry consider my other suggestions,” says Ron Burgundy.  “Malt liquor marshmallow, well liquor bourbon, peanut butter, and cheap white wine sherbet.”

Yep, that Ron Burgundy, the jazz-flute-playing newsman who's "kind of a big deal" as played by Will Ferrell in the film Anchorman. In anticipation of the long-awaited December 20 debut of the sequel, Anchorman 2:  The Legend Continues, Ben & Jerry's is releasing a flavor based on Ron Burgundy's three favorite things.

The flavor is currently available in scoop shops and will debut in stores in upcoming weeks. So what can customers expect?

Not a wallop of whisky, that's for sure. The ice cream is decidedly more family friendly, with a butterscotch base and butterscotch swirls. The base taste is strikingly similar to the yellow-wrapped hard candies your fifth-grade teacher gave you when you completed all your chores. Or maybe that was just me.

The creamy ice cream gets some of that flavor via crushed butterscotch candies just like the ones I remember. The taste is satisfying, but the texture is unsettling, like having large grains of sand in your dessert.

Continue reading "Ben & Jerry's Releases "Scotchy Scotch Scotch"" »

October 22, 2013

The Alchemist Cannery Starts Growler Fills

Food-alchemist-JWBThis gloomy Tuesday brought bright news for lovers of Alchemist beers. Starting just a few hours ago, the cannery in Waterbury Center began growler fills, launching a brand-new German-made system with 15 barrels (or about 900 fills) of Donovan's Red — an Irish-style red ale that used to pour at the pub when it was still down the road in Waterbury.

"This has been an exciting day for us," writes co-owner Jen Kimmich on the cannery's website. "John [pictured, from a Seven Days file photo] and the entire brew staff are psyched to brew and release some of our old favorites from the pub."

First-time customers will need to fork over $15 each for the sleek stainless-steel growlers that were designed especially for the Alchemist, where the brewers make every effort to keep any sunlight from hitting their beers. Each 64-ounce fill is $12, and the staff request that people clean the vessels before returning for a refill — they won't be fillin' no dirty growlers, and no growlers but their own.

In the coming lineup are a series of "randomly" released beers — about one per month — that will be announced via the Alchemist's Facebook page and Twitter feed on the day of release. The beers "will lean heavily toward hop-forward styles," writes Kimmich.

And in case you're wondering, yes, there's a limit: One growler fill per person, per visit. Read all about it here.

Alice Eats: ArtsRiot Kitchen

IMG_6462400 Pine Street, Burlington, 540-0406

I have a long list of culinary necessities that, once fulfilled, will finally make me completely comfortable living in Burlington. We're probably still a ways from my dreams of Korean barbecue and Polish comfort food, but with the recent openings of Bento and ArtsRiot Kitchen, I can now check off two of my more important needs: inexpensive, to-go Japanese bentos and groceries and regional Chinese food.

When I spoke to ArtsRiot co-owner Felix Wai last week about an upcoming slew of culinary events at the restaurant and gallery space, he wanted to make sure that people know that the high-ceilinged café is open regularly for meals, not just pop-ups. To those who haven't figured it out yet, here's what you've been missing.

In one fell swoop, this dish scratches more than one of my itches. It introduces Uyghur seasonings to Vermont, with spicy, cumin-scented beef from Boyden Farm. I'm more accustomed to the sandwich being served on an ancient style of rice bread, which is how they offer the sandwich at my beloved Maison du Nord in Montréal. But this wheat bun looked nearly the same and offered a similar combination of chew and crunch.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: ArtsRiot Kitchen" »

October 16, 2013

Slow Food Vermont Awards its First 'Snails of Approval'

SnailOfApproval2Slow Food Vermont's membership drive just ended with tiny Vermont among the top four chapters in Slow Food USA to attract the most new members. But that's not the organization's only big news. Local restaurants are going slow with a new designation and a series of dinners.

Last year, just before the biennial international food conference Terra Madre, in Turin, Italy, Slow Food Vermont announced it would introduce the "Snail of Approval" to award to Vermont restaurants. The first two have finally been chosen.

The symbol at right is used worldwide to denote restaurants that adhere to Slow Food's ethic of "quality, authenticity and sustainability." The first two restaurants in Vermont to gain the honor are Mary's Restaurant at The Inn at Baldwin Creek and Hen of the Wood—Waterbury.

According to Mara Welton, Slow Food Vermont leader and Slow Food USA regional governor for New England, the restaurants were selected using an extremely exacting process. "That’s the point," says Welton. "We’re not just handing these out willy-nilly. We spent an enormous amount of time vetting."

Continue reading "Slow Food Vermont Awards its First 'Snails of Approval'" »

October 15, 2013

Alice Eats: Guild Fine Meats

IMG_6453111 St. Paul St., Burlington, 497-1645

It's called the Bad Idea, but that's a misnomer. It's actually a very, very good idea.

I've met my share of breakfast sandwiches and burgers served on doughnuts. Usually they're overkill that require a nap for dessert. Guild Fine Meats' Bad Idea is different. Like everything from the Farmhouse Group, the offerings at the brand-new deli and butcher shop have a sheen of sophistication and great taste.

After visiting the Guild Commissary for this week's feature, I was eager to try as much as I could this weekend.

The soon-to-be-legendary sandwich starts with a very special doughnut. Neither doughnuts nor maple are ordinarily my thing, but pastry chef Samantha Noakes has combined the two to create one of my new favorite desserts. She told me it was loosely modeled on the pastries from Krispy Kreme, and Noakes captured the airy, cloudlike quality of those doughnuts. But these are far more subtle, with just enough sweetness.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Guild Fine Meats" »

October 11, 2013

Grazing: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

My tomatillos came late this year. As they grew — way too slowly — I would lightly pinch their puffed-out husks to see how far the fruit had filled out. Usually, I met air pockets with a tiny orb lurking inside. Then, all of a sudden, in mid-September the fruit began breaking out of their papery husks and turning all kinds of dusky, beautiful colors.

I do one thing and one thing only with tomatillos, and it's make green salsa. Citrusy, tart, addictive green salsa that I slather on quesadillas, over broiled fish, or spoon onto an avalanche of tortilla chips with which I then stuff my face.

This year, for the first time, I decided to broil the little guys and watch them blister, then combine them with similarly blackened onions and jalapeño peppers, as well as liberal doses of cilantro and lime. The house filled with almost sweet, burnt aromas, and my efforts yielded a salsa with earthier, more savory flavors — one which I promptly loaded onto a chicken tostada topped with queso fresco and quick-pickled red onions.

Continue reading "Grazing: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa" »

October 9, 2013

Juice Bar and Cycling Studio to Open on College Street

The Dream TeamFor a while now, 126 College Street has been a dining and drinking mecca, with an Italian restaurant (L'Amante) on one side and a wine bar (Vin Wine Bar & Shop) on the other.

Come December, they'll be joined by a different brand of drinking experience: A juice bar and indoor cycling studio will open in the space between them.

The colorful Juicebox Raw Juicery will dominate the front of the 2500-square-foot space, and the Cyclepath studio will occupy the back. Both businesses will be run by Sarah Larkin and wife-and-husband team Kara and Ian Bouchett.

"These two ideas came into our heads simultaneously, and we looked at a lot of different ways to do them,' says Ian Bouchett, whose family owns Home Port on Church Street. The multifaceted plan for the space springs in part from Kara Bouchett's background as both a nutritonist and a cycling instructor. "We've been home juicers for a long time, and she's developed a lot of recipes with vibrant flavors and colors."

Continue reading "Juice Bar and Cycling Studio to Open on College Street" »

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