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March 2012

March 30, 2012

Obama Ba-Rocks Vermont (VIDEO)

DSC02189President Barack Obama didn't milk a dairy cow or take a dip in the Connecticut River hot springs on his swing through Vermont on Friday. But he did give thousands of screaming fans at a Burlington fundraising rally a show well worth the $44 price of admission.

On his first trip to Vermont as president, Obama sought to rekindle the magic of the 2008 campaign that catapulted him to the White House. He headlined a $7500-a-plate ($10,000 for a couple) luncheon at the Sheraton hotel, then zipped by motorcade across the street to University of Vermont's Patrick Gym, where a standing-room-only crowd of more than 4000 greeted him with defeaning cheers.

"It is good to be in Vermont," Obama said to the adoring masses, many of them decked out in red-white-and-blue Obama attire. "Out of all 50 states, Vermont has gone the longest without a presidential visit. The last time a president stopped by was President Clinton in 1995. So we decided today we're hitting the reset button."

Obama also offered condelences to the family of murder victim Melissa Jenkins, whose memorial service was scheduled for later Friday afternoon.

"This is a woman who, by all accounts, devoted her life to her community and helping to shape young minds and I know that Vermont is heartbroken," the president said.

Obama was on friendly soil in Vermont. A Castleton State College poll in February found that 56 percent of Vermonters approved of the job Obama is doing. Nationally, Obama's job approval rating hovers around 47 percent, depending on the poll.

(Video clips from speech after the jump)

Continue reading "Obama Ba-Rocks Vermont (VIDEO)" »

Grazing: Those Lovely Lovely Oh's

Lovely_ohsThese last few weeks have been crazy at our food desk. We're nearing the end of production on 7Nights, our annual dining guide, which lists hundreds of restaurants around the state. To add to the madness, we're also in the thick of planning Vermont Restaurant Week, an annual culinary shindig which kicks off in late April with 80+ restaurants, not to mention a week's worth of events, each one of which needs TLC.

It's inspiring to think of all the pork belly and tachin I'll be lapping up in a few weeks. But for now, what I need in my late afternoon life is chocolate. And not just the everpresent Doves Promises in my top drawer. I need something bigger, bolder and denser with alkaloids.

While waiting on a sandwich recently, my glazed eyes fell upon boxes of Lovely Oh's, made by Waitsfield's Liz Lovely. They resembled chunky chocolate UFOs. I snapped some up, and they didn't disappoint: Once you bite through the armor of dark chocolate, your teeth meet a crunchy chocolate biscuit and the slightest hint of earthy peanut butter. Lovely Oh's are kind of like a wholesome combination of Promises, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats and Famous Chocolate Wafers. Best of all, they're dark, through and through (no matter how desperate for chocolate I become, I can't stomach milk or white).

And they're vegan! WTF? Amazing.

I've never met you, Liz Lovely, but your Peanut Butter Lovely Oh's are a thing of beauty. They have seen me through many a dark, ink-stained hour. 

Lovely_ohs

Last Call for the Vermont Brew Bracket: Double Sunshine IPA vs. Heady Topper

Beerbracket-logoIt's time for last call in the Vermont Brew Bracket.

The Final Pour was largely free of drama, as both winners jumped out to big early leads and held on the entire time. In yet another upset for the tiny Mad River Valley brewery, Lawson's Finest Liquids and its Double Sunshine IPA defeated Long Trail Ale by 171 votes. In the other semi-final, the Alchemist Heady Topper continued its reign, taking down Switchback Ale with nearly three-quarters of the votes and a 400-vote margin.

So it all comes down to this. All the larger, more mainstream brews (and that's relative in Vermont) are out, two craft favorites from small breweries are in. Heady Topper is likely the favorite; the Alchemist's post-Irene recovery has been nothing short of amazing even without the pub, and those 16-ounce cans are everywhere these days. But it's hard to bet against Lawson's Double Sunshine IPA. It might be hard to find on store shelves, but it's the beer that knocked out three flagships (Magic Hat #9, Trout River Rainbow Red and Long Trail Ale) on its way to the championship round.

One thing's for sure: with these beers, you can't really lose.

Voting for the championship round closes on Monday at 5 p.m. Click here to cast your ballot.

Movies You Missed 32: Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

Cormans-worldThis week in movies you missed: Celebrate the start of drive-in season (the Sunset is open!) with a documentary about the king of good old bad B-movies.

What You Missed

He gave Jack Nicholson his first screen roles. He gave Ron Howard his first directing gig. He helped Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Jonathan Demme get their starts. He produced nearly 400 movies, starting in 1954, and is still working. But if you're young or unversed in film history, you may never have heard of Roger Corman.

So long and colorful is this soft-spoken mogul's career as the "King of the Bs" that someone already made a documentary about him, way back in 1978. But that was before VHS technology ended the golden age of the grindhouse and drive-in, before movies like Corman's started going straight to DVD, before he was finally honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and before he found himself making films like Dinoshark for SyFy.

All those developments are chronicled in Alex Stapleton's Corman's World, which also includes clips from Corman's oeuvre (and their wonderfully salacious trailers) and interviews with the many Hollywood luminaries who got their start with him.

Why You Missed It

Widest U.S. release: two theaters.

Should You Keep Missing It?

Not if the sight of a 1970s MPAA symbol shivering at the end of a trailer fills you with nostalgia, and not if you wish you could have seen X or The Wild Angels or Death Race 2000 at a drive-in.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed 32: Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel" »

March 28, 2012

Shumlin Running For Democratic Governors Association Chairman — And Maybe For Reelection?

ShumWhile Gov. Peter Shumlin hasn’t yet announced whether he’s running for reelection, he apparently has his eye on a D.C. post that would require him to win a second term as governor.

Shumlin told Politico on Wednesday he is seeking to succeed Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, the Washington-based political organization charged with electing Dems to statehouses across the country.

Shumlin aide Alex MacLean confirmed later in the day that the guv is formally in the running — at least, for chairman.

“The governor would be honored to be elected chairman of an organization that works to elect Democratic governors who are growing jobs and working on economic prosperity across the country,” she said.

Asked whether that means Shumlin is, in fact, seeking reelection as governor, MacLean’s cellphone — she was driving home to the Northeast Kingdom — crackled and went dead.

Continue reading "Shumlin Running For Democratic Governors Association Chairman — And Maybe For Reelection?" »

Tax Storm Still Brewing for Vermont Tech Businesses

Local-cloudtaxVermont's tech "geekosystem," as Union Street Media founder and president Ted Adler termed it today, are still rallying to knock down a controversial tax on cloud computing.

I wrote about the debate — which pits the tax department against the state's up-and-coming software and technology industry — for Seven Days in mid-February. It's a complicated issue, as matters of tax law typically are, but the debate boils downs to this: Business leaders are balking at a new interpretation of Vermont tax law that applies a sales and use tax to software in the "cloud." That could include everything from doing your taxes with online software to logging on to an email service.

In 2010, the tax department issued a "technical bulletin" to clarify its interpretation of how cloud computing should be taxed. The department reasoned that software in the cloud wasn't all that different from software that customers used to buy at a store or download to a hard drive — and so they applied the same 6 percent sales tax to these products.

Tech industry advocates take issue on a few fronts. They think the tax could put Vermont at a competitive disadvantage with other states and would hurt small businesses, who increasingly use cloud computing in some form or another. They also take issue with the tax department's approach. The technical bulletin went into effect without any legislative oversight or public discussion. And it also applied to backward-looking audits, so some companies found themselves being penalized for not filing their taxes correctly for the past four years — despite the fact that the interpretation wasn't clarified by the department until 2010. 

These were the complaints that business leaders aired today at a press conference at Dealer.com's Burlington complex.

Continue reading "Tax Storm Still Brewing for Vermont Tech Businesses" »

Team Kale Hits A Speed Bump

Bhphoto_kale_CentralImage-334x200"Eat More Kale" t-shirt artist Bo-Muller Moore is having a roller coaster of a week. On Sunday night, he was thrilled to discover that the Kickstarter campaign to raise money to fund a documentary film about his legal tangle with fast-food giant Chick-fil-A had raised roughly $86,000, exceeding the original goal by $11,000.

Two days later, Muller-Moore learned his quest to register a trademark had hit a sobering speed bump: In a preliminary ruling, an attorney with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office determined that there's a "likelihood of confusion" between Muller-More's "Eat More Kale" slogan and Chick-fil-A's "Eat mor Chikin" marketing campaign.

"It makes me sick to my stomach," says Muller-Moore of the news, though he quickly recovered his signature chutzpah. "There's still a lot of fighting to be done."

Muller-Moore received a cease-and-desist letter from Chick-fil-A this fall, a few months after he filed to register his own "Eat More Kale" trademark. The company also asked him to turn over his website, the second time in six years that Chick-fil-A had tried to shut him down. Since Gov. Peter Shumlin prominently stepped in to support Muller-Moore and formed the advisory Team Kale, Muller-Moore's case has garnered widespread attention. He received thousands of orders for his t-shirts and tons of national press.  Donations for the documentary he's making with Burlington filmmaker James Lantz, A Defiant Dude, poured in from across the world.

Continue reading "Team Kale Hits A Speed Bump " »

The Vermont Brew Bracket: Introducing the Final Pour

Beerbracket-logoAfter an ugly third round, the Final Pour is set in the Vermont Brew Bracket.

In the marquee matchup, unstoppable force Woodchuck Amber Cider faced off against immovable object the Alchemist Heady Topper, and the double IPA squeaked out a late win in what can only be described as a bar fight. Once again, Woodchuck tapped its sizable social media following for support — we counted eight Facebook posts and 16 tweets — and held a slim lead for much of the voting period, but Heady Topper made a late run to victory last night. Lesson learned: Hell hath no fury like a bunch of beer geeks scorned.

Some of you have reminded us that cider is not beer. We're aware! But we think cider is a spiritual cousin of beer: Cider serves as a substitute for beer for many gluten-free drinkers, and you can find Woodchuck alongside Vermont beers in beverage stores and on tap. That's why we decided to include a cider in our initial 32 selections.

As for the other results...

Continue reading "The Vermont Brew Bracket: Introducing the Final Pour" »

Pulling the Plug: St. Mike's Goes Offline for Tech Fast

TextingTracking down students and faculty "fasting" from technology this week at Saint Michael's College is easier said than done.

Email? Nope. Cellphones? They're out, too. In a neo-Luddite's take on Lent, the school is encouraging students, faculty and staff to unplug for a few days. This week's "Disconnect to Reconnect" event kicked off Monday night with a screening of "Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier" and continues this week with a panel discussion and three-day technology fast. 

That means 72 hours away from computers, cellphones and video games — think truly wireless.

Anthropology professor Adrie Kusserow is not fasting right now, and did respond to an email request for an interview. She has enforced a similar ban on technology with her students for several years. She goes so far as to collect students' cellphones, which she hoards in a basket until the end of the experiment. Now, she and a group of other professors are taking the experiment campus-wide during a series of events designed to help students reflect on the impacts — good and bad — that digital media has on their lives.

"The degree of technological saturation is changing our consciousness in so many ways," says Kusserow. "Our family lives, our spiritual lives, our relationship to nature, our conceptions of time."

Continue reading "Pulling the Plug: St. Mike's Goes Offline for Tech Fast" »

March 27, 2012

Alice Eats: The Jack & Grill

IMG_376418 Severance Green, Colchester, 876-7770

Since the Dragonfly Café opened in the fall of 2009, 18 Severance Green has been a revolving door for restaurants. From the Dragonfly to Sophie's American Bistro and now the Jack & Grill, a new eatery has opened in the space nearly every year. If the Jack & Grill makes some changes, though, it may have a fighting chance.

When I was first seated at one of the dining room's comfy booths, I was nonplussed to look across the room at a large poster of Jack Skellington, hero of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Then my dining companion pointed out Jack Black. Indeed, it turned out, we were sitting in a "Jack" theme restaurant.

IMG_3765As for the "Grill" end of things, I'd have to find it on the menu. The large bill of fare was a pleasant surprise. Though there was nothing too exotic, it offered many appealing, low-priced options. Ahi tuna steak with lemon caper sauce sounded good. So did the smoked pig wing appetizer.

However, I couldn't resist the special soup. At $2.99 for a cup, the price was certainly right, and I can't say no to a Greek lemon-chicken soup.

Called avgolemono in Greece, the stuff is usually filled with eggs, too, making it slightly creamy. This version was more of a classic chicken soup with rice — and a lot of lemon. It scratched my sour itch like few other restaurant dishes, sweetened up just slightly by meltingly tender onions and celery.

IMG_3767I was excited to get my grill on with a pork ribeye. Advertised on the menu with the words "Jack's favorite. You'll never have better pork," I definitely got my hopes up.

There was nothing wrong with the chop (that is, after all, what a ribeye is — a marbled rib chop, as opposed to a lean loin chop), but it wasn't the best pork I ever had. The outside had even grill marks and a nice char, and the inside showed just a hint of pink. However, the meat was barely seasoned and dressed only with a bit of melted butter on top.

The scoop of creamy smashed potatoes, if a bit mealy in texture, was flavorful, but it was only lukewarm. I love me some baby asparagus, but the sparse spears I received were woody at the ends. As I ate it, I heard a server tell another customer not to order it. Wish I'd gotten the same warning.

IMG_3768The chicken pot pie seemed like a great deal at $9.99, though I didn't quite believe its description as "hot and healthy." The price turned out to be high for the size of the dish — just slightly larger than my cup of soup.

In its defense, the bowl was filled to the brim, which made a bit of a mess when breaking into the buttery balloon of puff pastry on top.

The stew therein was lacking in personality but nicely salted. Big chunks of chicken made the small portion feel deceptively hearty, but it was the smattering of apparently canned peas, carrots and mushrooms was disappointing.

IMG_3769My dining partner enjoyed the dish, but still felt the need to hit the free, self-serve popcorn machine more than once to supplement his meal.

I was more concerned with saving room for the Lovin' Spoonful Pudding Cake. I had the right idea. The chilled dessert was part pudding, part ganache and all heaven, stacked between layers of intensely chocolaty cake. And it was drizzled with more chocolate.

A good end, then, to an uneven meal. With some pricing changes and a little more attention to detail, the Jack & Grill will no doubt succeed at Severance Green. I'll be rooting for it — and the popcorn.

 Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to alice@sevendaysvt.com.

 

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