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November 2013

November 27, 2013

Flooded Intervale Farm Finds a New Home

F-tamarackfarm-mtVermont farmers will be in our thoughts tomorrow as we tuck into our Thanksgiving meals. And just in time for the holiday, Amanda Andrews and Mike Betit of Burlington's Tamarack Hollow Farm have something to be thankful for — they're moving to higher ground.

In a story last summer about the pitfalls of farming on the Burlington floodplain, Andrews articulately outlined the “urban farm adventure" on which she and her husband embarked after moving their farm from Wheelock in 2010. As of August, Tamarack Hollow had lost more than $100,000 this year alone to the flooding that crippled the growth of both plants and animals from the start.

Andrews was at her limit, even considering a career change. “What does seven years’ farming experience get you in the real world?” she wondered at the time. “You look through the job postings, and what you’d be qualified for is pretty slim.”

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Midweek Swig: Lincoln Peak Marquette 2012

MarquetteThis week: Lincoln Peak Vineyard Marquette 2012

Cost: $14.99 at Norwich Wine & Spirits

Strength: 13.9 percent a.b.v.

The pour: A dark, inky violet with an almost opaque core. It ain't leggy — instead, it clings to the sides of the glass in sheets. Warming aromatics of blackberries and currants tangle with hints of mint and cinnamon.

The taste: Juicy! The wine has pronounced, quenching acidity that tempers the stewed cherry and cranberry flavors. It's tart, sprightly and lighter-bodied than the color (and even the bottle) suggests, with quiet tannins and a simmering finish.

Drink it with: I picked this up to see if it might work on the Thanksgiving table. Though it would slightly overwhelm turkey, the wine would stand up well to the richer dishes on the table — a potato gratin, creamed spinach, harder cheeses served at the end of the meal. It might even work with the bird if the latter were slathered in a dark pomegranate gravy. Yet this Marquette's true moment will come later in the season — when we're gorging on mac-and-cheese, sausage and braised meats.

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November 26, 2013

Alice Eats: Yeah Baby’s BBQ-N-Grill

IMG_6927387 Brooklyn St., Morrisville, 888-2333

A new barbecue spot always motivates me to hit the road, even if it's a snowy one. On my way to Yeah Baby's BBQ-N-Grill on Sunday, I passed hunters in camouflage on their way home after a morning of tracking. The month-old restaurant isn't far from Mo' Vegas' main drag. The crowd and the music on the stereo confirmed that I had stepped into somewhere far from Burlington; I was in the "country."

The place, formerly Sabrina's Café & Bakery, has a lived-in diner feel that suits its new tenant. Local artwork of motorcycle riders decorates the walls, but the centerpiece of the room is a display of sauces — four varieties — all made by the restaurant's owner and pitmaster, Ted Hoadley.

IMG_6926More on those later. On that cold afternoon, we needed to warm up to lunch. The special pea soup called to me, even though I assumed at the diner-style eatery, it would be out of a can.

How wrong I was. The thick, carrot-speckled potage was not only homemade with love, it was done with a dose of smoke. According to our server, Hoadley smoked the ham himself, and it imbued the whole bowl with a seductive waft of the pit. It compared favorably with versions I've had at my favorite Québec sugar shack. If Hoadley wants to expand beyond his sauce line, the next product should be some pea soup. I'd buy it.

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November 22, 2013

Grazing: Why Hatin' on Beaujolais Nouveau Is So Wrong

DrouhinLast night, I dropped in on what was probably one of Vermont's only Beaujolais Nouveau release parties. And though I planned to write about some raw-milk cheeses today, a bee has landed in my bonnet: The snark that many wine industry people (writers, retailers, distributors, etc.) reserve for this wine.

If you're unfamiliar with BN, it's a very young, Gamay-based wine that ferments only for only a few weeks before it's bottled. Released each year on the third Thursday of November, it's the first taste of the year's harvest; bars and wine shops in Paris and elsewhere will pop open bottles at midnight to jumpstart a wine-centric party. Yesterday, I received a late invite to a release party that the New England Culinary Institute was throwing at Chef's Table In Montpelier. 

Balloons marked the entrance and, on the inside, NECI students (some clad in berets) roamed the cozy red rooms pouring Joseph Drouhin's Beaujolais Nouveau and serving up French morsels such as coq au vin. About two dozen people sipped and discussed the wine —  some had never tried Beaujolais of any stripe before. They chatted about everything from its flavors (lots of red fruit, of course, but grippier than in past years), to the year's weather in France, to beer (this being Vermont). It was a mellow, low-key celebration of wine and food and fall and all things French.

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November 20, 2013

Midweek Swig: Woodchuck Cellar Series Smoked Apple Cider

Woodchuck_smoked_ciderWith a constant flow of newly released beers, ciders, wines, spirits and even kombuchas from the state's artisans, we thought we'd review one each Wednesday. Welcome to the Midweek Swig.

Our inaugural drink: Woodchuck Cellar Series Smoked Apple Cider, released at the end of October.

Cost: $4.39 for a 22-ounce bottle at Beverage King, West Lebanon, N.H.

Strength: 6.9 percent a.b.v.

The pour: A gorgeous coppery color with no head to speak of. It smells like a blend of bacon, apple jelly and lemons, with the barest hints of ... asphalt?

The taste: At first, the unusual meaty flavor wallops your palate, but soon treads a middle road between smoke and citrus, tinged with vanilla. The carbonation is faint but rough, and the texture is rich and round. It tastes like November, somehow.

Drink it with: Kielbasa, a smoked-cheddar grilled-cheese sandwich, chili or just on its own.

Backstory: This limited-release cider was made with pomace that was smoked with maple and applewood chips inside Vermont Smoke & Cure's smokehouse. It's the second release of Woodchuck's Cellar Series line.

Verdict: "Cider with a twist" is a growing category, and it's heartening that this grew out of a collaboration of two Vermont companies. However, its novelty may not appeal much beyond adventurous drinkers and lovers of rauchbier.

November 19, 2013

Alice Eats: The Guilty Plate Diner

IMG_6904164 Porters Point Road, Colchester, 343-6789

When is a diner not really a diner? If you ask purists, an eatery doesn't truly qualify unless it's in a classic diner car. Strike one for Colchester's new Guilty Plate Diner, then. Rather than a vintage dining car, this restaurant is situated in the former quarters of a vintage, er, video store.

But a look of the photo at right shows that the Alvanos family, who currently own Burlington's Pine Street Deli and once also ran the Parkway Diner in South Burlington, know a thing or two about the great American diner. The checkered floors, counter and ’57 Chevy booths capture the classic feel, while photos of farm animals give it a more modern Vermont edge.

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November 15, 2013

Grazing: Little Sweets at Maglianero

Anyone who still has room in their belly at the end of a meal at Burlington's Hen of the Wood knows that the pastries from pastry chef Andrew LeStourgeon are swoonworthy. The pull of his molten brownie topped with scorched pine merengue is so strong that I've gorged on it twice.

Which is why today was a happy day, especially for 7Dayzers who work a few steps away from Maglianero. HOTW's pastry arm, Little Sweets, made its first delivery of petite croissants, doughnuts, buns, muffins, cookies and scones to the café this morning, including crunchy-on-the-outside glazed chocolate donuts ($2 each), chewy, intensely flavored coconut macaroons ($2 each) and caramelized caneles de Bourdeaux ($3.25 each). Most of them were gone by mid-afternoon.

"I really wanted our pastries to be more in line with what we're doing with the coffee," says Corey Goldsmith, Maglianero's manager, who seems passionate that first-rate pastry should be an integral part of the Maglianero experience. "I wanted to work with people who are really dedicated to their craft." 

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November 13, 2013

Hong Kong Loves Barr Hill Gin, the Podcast 'Under My Host' Loves Vermont

1236495_654453764567311_54579434_nIn insular Vermont, sometimes it's easy to think of the beer, cider, wine and spirits produced here as our own private pleasures — until news trickles in from the world-at-large that others are taking notice as well.

Such as the beverage trade in Hong Kong, where Hardwick-produced Barr Hill Gin was anointed "Gin of the Year" at this year's Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Competition (where it also picked up a gold medal). Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross, who happens to be in Hong Kong on a food and agriculture trade mission, accepted the award on behalf of Caledonia Spirits, which produces the gin using local honey.

A few weeks before that, Cori Paige of the artisanal drinking podcast "Under My Host" chatted about bees and gin with a very mellow Todd Hardie and his distiller, Ryan Christiansen, on her September 25 program. In November, she placed another call to Vermont for a Veterans' Day-themed show on that included 14th Star Brewing founder Steve Gagner, an Army vet. You can find both shows here.

November 8, 2013

Grazing: The Best Bakery You May Have Never Been To


When choosing a coffee shop or café to work in, a few things need to be taken into account: coffee selection, noise levels, ambience, clientele (will you run into friends while on deadline?), the availability of Wi-fi, and whether there are baked things on hand that will unnecessarily tempt you.

I live in the Upper Valley and love to work at Tuckerbox in White River Junction, but risk getting embroiled in conversation instead of actually doing work. In Hanover, N.H., tables can be hard to come by because of camped-out Dartmouth students. Then there's the pale yellow house along Route 4 in Quechee, Trap Door Bakehouse & Café, which has serene ambience, Wi-fi and a killer view from the back patio (over a river gorge) — but threatens to turn me into a rounder version of myself because it's impossible to not eat the pastries.

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November 7, 2013

Jean-Luc Matecat Becomes Executive Chef of the Inn at Weathersfield

157One of southern Vermont's most fêted culinary inns launches a nationwide search for a new chef. One of northern Vermont's most talented chefs is on the lookout for new opportunity. When they collide, love ensues.

Come November 22, Jean-Luc Matecat — who has been chef at the North Hero House, Amuse at the Essex and Winooski's Mule Bar — will move more than a hundred miles south to take over the kitchen recently vacated by longtime chef Jason Tostrup, who has joined Okemo Mountain Resort.

"It was a big decision, because I really didn't want to leave Burlington," says Matecat, but he suggests it was too sweet  an opportunity to ignore.

When Tostrup announced he was leaving the Inn where he had cooked for eight and a half years, owners Marilee and Richard Spanjian cast a wide net for a new chef, and received 80 applications from as far away as Europe and Thailand. (The Inn at Weathersfield has picked up accolades from Food & Wine, Saveur and Bon Appetit magazines, as well as Fodor's Travel Guides.)

After whittling down the pool, five chefs traveled to the Inn to cook for a search committee that included the Spanjians and former owner Jane Sandelman. Matecat showed up with some elk shank from an animal that his grandfather had shot at a private New Hampshire preserve — which he braised and served over cavatelli.

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