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April 06, 2010

Alice Eats: Val's Wild Tomato

135 East Allen Street, Winooski 861-9453

008 There are things I have to check off my list at the  Champlain Valley Fair each year. I always have to bring home at least one caramel apple (no nuts, please), hit the Elk's Club for a fried chicken dinner and grab some Pork Boners at Fat Daddy's.

These tiny pieces of pork shank previously seemed to be something that existed only within the whimsical confines of a place where carnies run free. No longer. Just down the road from me in Winooski, I can now get fried chunks of pork shank whenever I want, at Val's Wild Tomato.

At Val's, in the former gas station once occupied by New England Wings, they call the meaty bites Pork Wings. I find this disappointingly tasteful. I'm not disappointed at all with how darn tasty the things are, though. Whereas Pork Boners are slathered beyond recognition with barbecue sauce, Pig Wings are rubbed with garlic and lightly spiced before being tenderized in a deep fryer bath. Get the Buffalo sauce on the side for dipping. Like all of Val's sauces and dressings, it's homemade and has all the zip of the usual hot sauce, without the weird chemical taste.

The specialty sandwich menu is filled with unlikely-sounding sandwich combinations, most of which include homemade sriracha or wasabi mayo. I chose one of the stranger ones, The Norse Dwarf.

The centerpiece of the overstuffed sandwich, served on Red Hen bread, is a thick wad of chunky chicken salad. Add crispy bacon, dried cranberries, fresh spinach and cucumbers and slather on sriracha mayo, and you've got one weird, delicious lunch. The combination, it turns out, works seamlessly, as if every deli has always served a Norse Dwarf.

My sole complaint about Val's was a marked lack of organization. I was told that my meal would be ready for pick-up (there is no seating) in 15 to 20 minutes. I arrived 20 minutes later with most of my food being prepared. The Tadpole that I ordered, a collection of chicken fingers, fried mozzarella sticks and hand-cut fries languished on the counter getting soggy. Some crisping in my oven at home fixed this, but I'll be more excited to return once the Val's team becomes more organized.

Alice, this is a bad report. Not a local or cool ingredient you mentioned except red hen bread. The rest of it comes from shady sources, feed lots, and very far away I'm sure. Where does it all come from Alice? Please focus on local, focus on great food, focus on vermont!

I know their eggs, bread, and bacon are all local (Val told me the farm name for the eggs, but I don't recall), but I didn't ask about anything else. It's definitely fresh & tasty though!

Shady sources? You know this because how Ally? Being in the food distribution business I can tell you that all of our supplier's are HACCP approved and sign a hold harmless agreement to ensures the mom and pops don't get put out of business. My company source's when possible from the northeast including Vermont. If you had a clue about food distribution and the American way of eating you wouldn't be so harsh on this particular entrepreneur. As far as local products you obviously haven't gone into Val's Deli. Should you decide to take your nose out of the air you will find she supports Vermont as much as she possibly can for being a small start up in the restaurant world. I have enjoyed lunch here and the products she puts out is of high quality tasty and creative.She is more LOCAL than Subway and Quiznos. Alice I would say this is far from a bad report in fact you are a very creative writer and I enjoy hearing your feedback on area establishments.

Thanks for the honest review Alice! So sorry about the wait - it's been a crazy time having lost my only full timer, training new folks, and having two people out with the flu! There are definitely a few rushes during the week we aren't able to handle as well as I would like. I am working to remedy this as soon as possible! We're excited that the ugly gas pumps are finally gone and we look forward to making a more inviting exterior and a more organized interior!
As for "Ally," well, I can't think of anything polite to say to your uncalled for slanderous response (to both me & Alice), but I will list my local ingredients including Cabot Cheddar, cottage cheese, pepper jack, sour cream & yogurt; Red Hen Bread, Koffee Kup bread, Eddies Energy Bars, Madhouse Munchies, Green Mountain Mustard, Deano's Jalepenos, McKenzie franks, Fresh Coffee Now, local produce when available, Ben & Jerry's, Chessters, Vermont Organic Applesauce, Vermont Spring Water, Vermont maple syrup, and I'm always on the lookout for more awesome Vermont foods. All the companies who supply my goods employ lots of Vermonters to manage, sell, stock, pack, & distribute their products!

You go, Val!

I ate at there earlier this week after reading this review. I have to side with the negative comments. The food was bland and the help was worse. Not memorable in any way.

Sorry you had a bad experience, Susan. We're trying very hard to get all the new staff up to speed. If you have criticism I would be happy to receive it at val@valswildtomato.com or you can always call me at the deli 861-WILD. Blanket nastiness is difficult to respond to constructively.

I got take-out from Val's on Friday after reading (and editing) Alice's review. It was a little pricier than I expected, but the food was good. The sandwiches were stuffed. Chocolate chip cookies were fantastic! Staff was very helpful.

I'll definitely be back. Nice to have another option in Winooski. I bet business will pick up when CCV moves in.

Thanks for responding here, Val.

I've eaten Val's sandwiches a bunch of times, and treated others to them, too, because they are just that good. Best I've ever had! (Though we do miss Beth, the former full-timer...)

Such controversy! I've been stopping into Val's since opening. They've definitely had some troubles between opening and losing their other full-time employee, but they've perservered. The food is great. The new employees are learning quickly and becoming more comfortable. It's great to see such valiant local, and sustainable efforts coming from such a small place too -- we all know how hard (and expensive) it is to commit to that. They're working out the kinks, and I think, in the end, Val's is gonna be juuuust fine.

I’d love to be able to grow so many tomatoes that I could make pasta sauce to freeze to use over the winter. I’ve got about 10 plants growing at the moment but am resisting the urge to sow more seeds as I really don’t have the space. Hope you avoid blight this year!

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