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August 06, 2010

Combo Platter: Pastry & Politics, Deck Dining, Easy Being Green

Mike_cosmic Pastry & Politics

Many Franklin County residents know Mike McCarthy as co-owner of Cosmic Bakery & Café in St. Albans. Fans of his coffee, sandwiches and cupcakes have been surprised in recent weeks to see him stop at their doors without a baked good in sight. The 26-year-old is seeking supporters in his bid for a seat in the Vermont State Senate.

McCarthy says that his role in the food industry makes him uniquely qualified to address farm-to-table issues should he become a rep for Franklin County and Alburgh. If he's elected, the Democrat says he hopes to show "the connection between the agricultural and food service to building a new autonomy in Vermont."

McCarthy kicked off his campaign with an apple pie party, at which he gave away slices at the bakery and announced his intention to run. "Lots of people made contributions to the campaign that day," he says. Many of those unable to give dough have found themselves surrounded by it — as they volunteer to makes calls from McCarthy's campaign headquarters within the bakery. "There’s great food and atmosphere and there’s always coffee to make sure we’re fueled," says McCarthy. "There have been a lot of late nights of strategizing and getting volunteers organized."

As a young candidate, McCarthy believes he is in a perfect position to get his peers interested in politics and registered to vote. At 6:30 p.m. on August 16, Cosmic Bakery will host a "Yearbook Party" for McCarthy's junior supporters. There, recent high school graduates from Franklin County will gather over pastries and photos of their classmates to friends who might join the campaign.

Deck Dining

North hero Want to sip a margarita while surrounded by water? Steamship Pier Bar & Grill is the place. The outdoor dining destination opened last month on the property of the North Hero House Inn & Restaurant in ... you guessed it.

North Hero House owner Walter Blasberg says he had long wanted to open an eatery on the 140-by-40-foot pier, but couldn't come to an agreement with the health department on how to accomplish it. This year, Blasberg found a solution in the form of a mobile food cart with "four glimmering stainless steel flattops." On them, his cooks prepare burgers from both beef and ahi tuna, a range of shish kabobs and, most notably, lobster rolls. The last dish is made from meaty, butter-poached chunks of claws and knuckles, served on a buttered and toasted bun, then topped with sun-dried-tomato aioli. "Even people from Maine say it's the best lobster roll they’ve ever had," brags Blasberg.

When diners arrive by boat, they can pull right up to the dock and even go swimming while they wait. When the weather is not as inviting, a heated tent with clear sides keeps everyone comfortable enough to stay for a milk shake or brownie sundae, before departing by land or by sea.

Michaels Easy Being Green

Lots of restaurants have jumped on the localvore bandwagon for taste or promotional reasons, but, according to Michael Kloeti of Michael's on the Hill, it's just common sense. His restaurant became the second in the state to be certified "green" by the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership.

A native of Switzerland, Kloeti says that in his homeland, environmentally responsible living is more the norm than it is in the States. "Here it’s done extremely individually," he says. "As a community we have to grow so everybody feels the need to do it."

To be certified, Michael's had to meet all eight criteria set forth by the VBEP. Those include implementing means to increase energy efficiency, recycling and designating an environmental team on staff — most of which the restaurant already did. "If you do believe in it, most of it is already in place," Kloeti says. The team also had to develop a written Environmental Management Plan detailing future plans for staying healthy for the planet.

Though Kloeti uses little oil in the kitchen, he sends his excess to Pete's Greens, where it is burned to power a greenhouse. He says that he prefers to use local products not just for the excellent quality but also the lower carbon footprint. For a restaurant to buy meat that's been packed and repacked makes for far more waste than for a private citizen, by bulk alone, Kloeti explains. Same with having supplies flown or trucked in.

Kloeti hopes other area restaurants will follow his lead and become certified. The whole process took him only two months and was free. He believes many of his peers already have the belief system and habits in place. "The moment you get together, that's when you can make a change," he urges.

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