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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog


February 7, 2014

Grazing: Fortifying With Chicken Tikka Masala From City Market

Some office lunchtime smells can be gnarly — leftover shrimp scampi, for instance — while others are contagious. Barbecued meat, fries and curries all fall into this latter category. One whiff can alter your own lunch plans. Earlier today, when the spicy aromas from a coworker's chicken tikka masala wafted through the office, my lunchtime fate was sealed.

"Where'd you get that?" I asked. Not from an Indian place, it turned out, but from City Market, which my coworker praised for serving up consistently delicious grab-and-go meals.

I'd have to agree. City Market is like the sleeper of the Burlington lunch category, the place where I turn when I'm in a rush but totally indecisive. When I get there, I know there will be sandwiches and feta boreks and empanadas and peanut noodles and sometimes even tagine to choose from. An army of talented cooks of all backgrounds works behind the scenes there — and a secondary army of talented producers delivers ready-made meals each day.

It's easy to take the place for granted. After I procured my own $7.99 tikka masala today — and tucked into cardamom-scented rice, tender pieces of meat and a creamy, coriander-flecked, slow-burn sauce — I thought about how many times City Market had saved what I thought might be a "sad lunch" day. The only thing I needed to add was my own off-the-cuff raita, with cukes and yogurt from — you guessed it.

January 10, 2014

Grazing Atop Killington


For skiers, slopeside food options have long been the culinary equivalent of a barren tundra: curly fries, hot dogs and nachos. Then again, as Killington Resort president and general manager Mike Solimano quips, "People say they want health food, but they keep buying cheeseburgers and fries."

ChowderLast night, 150 or so people who took the K-1 Gondola at sunset up to the resort's new peak lodge — a years-long project that opened just before Christmas — listened intently to Solimano as they also munched on the chowder, sliders, shrimp cocktail and mac-and-cheese boats that make up the new frontier of Killington lunch fare.

The challenges of building a six-sided lodge at 4000-plus feet aside, Killington's food and beverage staff worked to include as much local food as possible in the new menu.

Instead of cheese fries, the skiers lounging on leather couches or gazing out the lodge's floor-to-ceiling windows can tuck instead into bowls of creamy seafood chowder topped with smoked bacon (pictured); zesty chipotle-apple turkey chili; specials such as roasted swordfish and sautéed scallops; and, yup, cheesburgers, albeit made with locally raised meat and topped with Vermont cheddar. Or, they can belly up to the bar for a pint of Shed Mountain Ale or a hot cocktail of ginger brandy, orange slices and cinnamon.

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January 3, 2014

Grazing: Blood Orange-Cranberry-Lemongrass Mocktail

Alas, the time for copious holiday drinking has passed. Cleansing teas, fresh juices and water have taken the place of bracing Manhattans and boozy egg nog — at least for the first few resolution-rich days of the new year. 

Yet staying healthy doesn't have to be boring. Mocktails, or alcohol-free cocktails, are refreshing, easy to make and user-friendly for drinkers, pregnant women and 12-steppers alike. 

This week I repurposed some leftover holiday cranberries to make a cranberry-lemongrass simple syrup, then blended it with fresh-squeezed blood orange juice and sparkling water for a juicy, tart-sweet, non-alcoholic tippler. Yeah, it has some sugar — but I needed to come down from the holidays easy. Recipe below.

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December 6, 2013

Grazing: Open-Faced Grilled Cheese Sandwich With Robie Farm Toma & Cider Jelly


The raw milk cheeses of Robie Farm are intense. In fact, the entire place is kind of intense, in its own bucolic way: a 140-year-old dairy farm on a windswept plain in Piermont, N.H. (just across from Bradford, Vt.).

The family ages and hand-turns their cheeses on white-ash-tree planks, and then sells them inside a rustic, generally unmanned farm store that's also stocked with raw milk, eggs and frozen cuts of pork and veal (including swoonworthy bacon). The dairy case holds tangy, powerful cheeses with names such as Piermont, Swaledale and Echo Hill Gervais, an herbed, spreadable, pungent and scumptious cheese made in collaboration with neighboring Bunten Farm.

Sometimes you'll run into chatty cheesemaker Mark Robie inside the shop; otherwise, you leave your cash or check on the honor system, which is still pretty common across the Upper Valley.

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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 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 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 1, 2013

Grazing: Gooseberries, Meet White Whiskey

A pile of them had been hanging out on our desks for a week or more, tiny pleated husks filled with ... fruit? I wasn't sure. Alice told me these were gooseberries grown by her mother; I was a gooseberry virgin. I peeled the papery husk away and bit the sunshine-colored fruit: It was gently sweet but with tart and apricoty undertones. The flavor was hard to describe, but I thought immediately of turning it into some kind of drink.

The quickest way to imbibe cape gooseberries (also known as Peruvian ground cherries) would be to make a simple syrup, which I did with the fistful I took home from the office. Serendipity had also recently delivered a bottle of Vermont's first white whiskey —  an unaged whiskey straight from the still, sans barrel aging — made by Vermont Spirits in Quechee. It's called Black Snake, it's distilled from Vermont corn, and it's clear, roundand warming — almost as if it has an invisible vein of cinnamon — and slightly sweet. Imagine a softer blanco tequila, a much more flavorful vodka, a spirit whose flavor is as unusual as gooseberries and whose versatility is kind of thrilling.

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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 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.

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