Combo Platter: Shelburne Steakhouse open; August First bread bike
by Alice Levitt and Suzanne Podhaizer
For various reasons — contractors, licensing issues — many restaurants open weeks or even months after their owners' hope they will. Not Shelburne Steakhouse. Owners JoAnne Paquette and Eric Fritzeen had scheduled a "sneak preview" for this Friday, with dinner and a concert by Radio Flyer. However, the twosome were just too eager: "Monday, this was a construction zone," says Paquette. "I got up in the morning and said to Eric, 'I'm done being a construction site. We're opening!'" Tuesday night, 40 people visited the dining room. On Wednesday, word of mouth brought in 130 guests.
What were they eating? Homegrown veggies, for one thing. The staff uses Intervale compost to nurture plants right at the restaurant. They're used on the salad bar and in meat-free entrées such as eggplant baked with Shelburne-Farms-cheddar bechamel and spinach. Beef options range from bacon 'n' bleu-crusted filet mignon to slow-roasted ribs. On the New-England-caught seafood side, eaters find crab-stuffed lobster tails and bouillabaisse. There are also lamb, duck and pork dishes, all prepared by Levi Carter, formerly of A Single Pebble and Clover House.
The opening was not without its flaps.
Monday, the restaurant's freezer died. Paquette took it as a sign, and decided that nothing will be frozen, save a couple of kids' dishes. Tuesday, the beer cooler also met an untimely end. That will be replaced.
For now, Paquette says that the restaurant is still in its preview phase. She plans to host an official grand opening at the end of the month. Until then, beefeaters (and not) can enjoy dinner, hang out in front of the 65-inch flat screen TV in the bar and go wild on the dance floor. Music is currently scheduled for weekend evenings, and Paquette will soon add live "happy hour" tunes to the mix.
Mark Bove, known as the "sauce boy," is hot to get his garlicky frozen meatballs beyond Vermont grocery stores. On June 30th, he posted this plea to The Bove's Blog: "Talk to a store manager, fill out a product request form, and then give friendly reminders every so often. We’re working on our end with distributors, but now we need you to work from your end. This strategy worked for our frozen lasagna, so we’re trying it again."
According to Bove, "I'm up all night on Facebook and Twitter-ing." Hannaford and Shaw's stores already carry Bove's sauces, frozen lasagna and meatballs throughout the state. However, those same chains are less eager to offer the meatballs outside of Vermont. Bove blames the economy, which makes purchasers less eager to stock untested regional products.
Bove believes that his online endeavor is making headway. He says he's been getting several phone calls and e-mails each day from fans reporting back on their efforts. Bove hopes that before long, "tough" meatball buyers at Hannaford and Shaw's will capitulate under the weight of requests.
Though his meatballs have yet to conquer the northeast, Bove's lasagna already has, and he's celebrating National Lasagna Month with a new video. Tuesday, the Italian eatery's website will feature a short film featuring Bove cooking up one of his company's casseroles. "It came out freakin' awesome," he brags.
If you live in Burlington and hear somebody jingling a bicycle bell outside your window, make sure to look outside. It could be the kid next door, or it could be August First's new bike-based bread delivery service. "We got a permit through the city to be an official peddler," explains co-owner Jodi Whalen. "We're gonna ride it into people's neighborhoods and sell bread like an ice cream truck sells ice cream."
Loaded with all of the bakery's loaves — including an olive-studded version and freshly baked baguettes — the bike will be deployed in late afternoon and early evening. Items will cost the same as they do at the brick and mortar location on South Champlain Street.
In other August First news, the café has expanded its breakfast menu. Jalapeño-cheddar, sourdough, baguette and 7-grain rolls can be toasted and slathered with cream cheese, peanut butter, jelly or butter, or turned into breakfast sandwiches. "We do homemade hollandaise on the egg and cheese," says Whalen.
Eat meat? You can get yours with Vermont Smoke and Cure bacon, ham or sausage. There's also salmon salad with cream cheese, tomatoes, onions and capers. Vegetarians can top the egg and cheese with black bean salsa and chipotle hollandaise.
Not the type to call something good enough, Whalen says the changes will keep coming. August First recently hired Matt Hastings, who was head chef at American Flatbread for five years. As he ramps up, there will more specials coming from the bakery's kitchen. "We envision local meatloaf and more," Whalen explains. "We'll let him have some fun."