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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog

Farms and Agriculture

February 6, 2014

Pushing 'Good Food' at Vermont Law School

LoquiturIt's no secret that food sells, especially when it comes to magazines. Yet the striking blueberry pie that appears on the cover of Vermont Law School's Loquitur — as well as the picture of dean Marc Mihaly sautéeing a veggie omelette — promise something different than recipes within. 

The entire Winter 2013 issue of Loquitur, VLS' alumni magazine, is devoted to food — "Good Food," as the cover promises — as well as the people who work to grow, make and protect it.

“We focused this issue of Loquitur on food for several reasons," writes Peter Glenshaw, VLS' director of communications, in an email. "Our faculty and alumni are actively engaged in this sector, and with the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law, we are now seeing a new generation of students express a deep interest in the topic."

Besides the usual alumni news, this Loquitur highlights VLS graduates who have become farmers or food producers; a piece about how the legal needs of the farmers and producers might create a new crop of law-related jobs (written by Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved); and a profile of VLS' one-year-old Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, which is developing food-ag curriculum for students and advocacy and policy guidance for farmers and food producers.

"Food offers a good platform to convey the importance of legal education and the power that law has on something we do every day — eat!" adds Glenshaw.

Continue reading "Pushing 'Good Food' at Vermont Law School" »

January 31, 2014

7 Questions For: Richard McCarthy, Executive Director of Slow Food USA

Richard McCarthy_Headshot_MediaThis weekend, the brand-new executive director of Slow Food USA, Richard McCarthy, will tour some of Burlington's culinary hotspots — the Farmers Market, the Intervale South End Kitchen and Hen of the Wood among them.

Why is he here? This year, Slow Food Vermont was one of the top four U.S. chapters in terms of new membership; McCarthy's visit is a reward of sorts.

"I have been so proud of our chapter for the past five years, coming up with good, clean and fair programming for all in Vermont," writes Mara Welton, co-owner of the Intervale's Half Pint Farm and the leader of Slow Food Vermont. "I'm in awe when I reflect on the growth of our chapter, the awareness of Slow Food increasing, and all of our events having such an amazing response. It will be really wonderful to share that with the man himself."

Slow Food USA is a branch of Slow Food International, an organization founded in Italy in 1989 with the goal of preserving local food traditions — or, in Slow Food's words, "to counter the rise of fast food and fast life."

Millions of people worldwide now count themselves as Slow Food members, even as the organization has gone through growing pains with regards to its mission.

McCarthy joined Slow Food in 2001, a few years after working with neighbors and growers to create New Orleans' Crescent City Farmers Market in 1995.

On the eve of his visit, McCarthy took some time to answer a few questions.

Continue reading "7 Questions For: Richard McCarthy, Executive Director of Slow Food USA" »

January 29, 2014

Sandor Katz to Teach Fermentation at Sterling College

SandorWhen Sandor Katz, author of the James Beard Foundation Award-winning The Art of Fermentation, spoke at Sterling College last spring, he attracted a standing-room-only crowd. Now he's returning to the institution, this time as a teacher.

Katz, also known as Sandorkraut, will be at Sterling from July 7 through 18 to teach "Fermentation with Sandor Katz."

According to Christian Feuerstein, Sterling's director of communications, "He is going to be available to [help students] learn fermentation one on one." Topics covered will include vegetable fermentation; making tonic beverages; culturing molds; and fermenting oils, legumes, grains and nuts. Of course, the New York Times-bestselling author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved will include his namesake sauerkraut among the foods in which he shares his expertise.

Continue reading "Sandor Katz to Teach Fermentation at Sterling College" »

January 20, 2014

How to Help Maple Wind Farm After Last Week's Fire

The destroyed barn Richmond last summer

Before most of us were awake on Monday, January 13, Beth Whiting and Bruce Hennessey of Maple Wind Farm had already received some very bad news. Just an hour and a half after the fire department arrived, their historic barn was declared a total loss.

Though the pair's home farm is in Huntington, an expansion in the summer of 2013 meant adding a Richmond property, including the barn that was destroyed.

The damage amounts to about $200,000, including refrigerators, washing tools, office space and 10,000 pounds of frozen vegetables.

Reached by phone this afternoon, Whiting was surprisingly upbeat. No people or animals were harmed in the fire and the farmers were able to sell their wares at the Burlington Farmers Market last weekend. Whiting says that although some poultry processing equipment was damaged in the fire, the farm remains on track to pass USDA inspection this winter. She calls the ability to rebuild to their own specifications a "silver lining."

Selling their own products will help cover some costs, but friends are helping out, too. David Zuckerman and Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg are supplying organic pork and vegetables for a fundraiser at Hinesburgh Public House on January 28. The dinner, served from 5 to 9 p.m., will consist of three courses, all for $25. Ben & Jerry's is donating dessert.

Continue reading "How to Help Maple Wind Farm After Last Week's Fire" »

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.”

Continue reading "Flooded Intervale Farm Finds a New Home" »

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.

Continue reading "Grazing: The Best Bakery You May Have Never Been To" »

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'" »

September 27, 2013

Grazing: The Sparkling Cider Boom, and Why the CIDER Act Matters


It doesn't take a brain surgeon, or even a food writer, to know that we're in the midst of a hard-cider boom. In Vermont alone, the field has grown from a scant handful of producers a few years ago to more than a dozen today, and the number is growing. A few new companies are set to launch, and established ones — such as Citizen Cider and Eden Ice Cider — keep introducing new, creative products (such as Citizen Cider's Dry-Hopped Cider, shown above).

What's less known is that some of these ciders are taxed at a higher rate than beer and sometimes even wine  — that is, when their ciders reach a certain level of alcohol or carbonation. When cider's abv (alcohol by volume) hits 7 percent or higher, cider is taxed as wine; and when its carbonation levels rise above a certain level, it can be slapped with a Champagne-like “luxury” tax of $3.30 per gallon. (Since alcohol levels stem from the sugar levels of a particular year's harvest, keeping those levels low can entail extra work).

Earlier this year, New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) designed the CIDER Act, a bill that aims to “modernize the definition for hard apple and pear cider,” as Schumer’s office puts it, and increase the permitted alcohol and carbonation levels in cider without the attendant rise in tax.

Continue reading "Grazing: The Sparkling Cider Boom, and Why the CIDER Act Matters" »

September 20, 2013

Grazing: Fried Green Tomatoes

They're the stragglers. The slow pokes. The tomatoes that couldn't bother to turn red and sweet before fall arrives. Yet rather than cave to the unripe fruit of our short growing season, you can triumph over climate and subjugate these hard, tart orbs into something crisp and delicious: Fried green tomatoes.

Yes, a movie was named for this tried-and-true Southern specialty, and with good reason: Green tomatoes are firmer and eminently more fry-able than ripe ones, and their tartness softens slightly during frying — yet but still retains enough tang for a satisfying salty-tart-crunch. They take less than 15 minutes to make, and when you bite into one, you'll be amazed by the alchemy that frying performs on their hard little bodies.

Continue reading "Grazing: Fried Green Tomatoes" »

September 14, 2013

From Bhutan to Burlington: New Americans Harvest Rice in the Intervale

Contributing writer Kevin J. Kelley wrote this post.

Paddies — and the rice they produce — are ubiquitous in warm, wet parts of the world. But apart from small crops produced by a few artisanal pioneers, rice remains a rarity in Vermont.

Bhutan 009That could change, though, as suggested by the scene in Burlington's Intervale on Saturday. About 30 immigrants from Bhutan were bending and squatting in drained paddies as they chopped rice plants with machetes and threshed the grain by beating bunches of it against boards. It was the first rice harvest of New Farms for New Americans, a program sponsored by the Association of Africans Living in Vermont.

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan may be a long way — culturally as well as geographically — from the People's Republic of Burlington, but rice cultivation here is actually a lot like it is there, says Laxmi Dahal, a smiling 60-year-old father of six adult children. His son-in-law, Yam Mishra, offered an even more positive appraisal. He declares Burlington "a perfect place for growing rice."

Continue reading "From Bhutan to Burlington: New Americans Harvest Rice in the Intervale" »

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