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Omnivore Food Blog By Suzanne Podhaizer

Restaurant Stuff

October 16, 2008

Small "All Fired Up" Update

As you may already know, it seems that the more-than-100-year-old building that housed All Fired Up Tavern in Barre was a total loss, and has been torn down.

As far as I've seen, the best guess as to the cause of the fire is that it started in or around one of the wood-fired pizza ovens, but that hasn't yet been confirmed by the fire department.

I'll let you know if I learn more.

Here's a Times Argus article with lots of details about the process of fighting the fire.

October 15, 2008

"All Fired Up Tavern" on Fire, literally

I was dismayed to learn that All Fired Up Tavern in Barre, which got a snazzy face-lift and an updated menu just one year ago, caught on fire this morning. Apparently, firefighters throughout the region are working together to battle the blaze. The good news, if that is possible, is that so far, they believe nobody has been hurt.

So far, October has been a crazy restaurant month, what with Smokejacks closing, a marijuana bust at Chez Claudine, and now this.

Now, here's something strange to chew on...Many of the local restaurants that have caught fire in the recent past have had a flame-related word in the name, or a picture of fire in their logo. Case in point:

All Fired Up Tavern
The Rotisserie (fire in the logo)
Five Spice Cafe (fire-breathing dragon in the logo)


October 01, 2008

RIP Smokejacks

When I arrived at the office this morning, I was greeted by my phone's blinking message light and a pair of emails informing me that Smokejacks (on the corner of Church and Main in Burlington), had closed, presumably for good, last night.

Political columnist Shay Totten saw some of the crew "drowning their sorrows" at the OP, and Seven Days staffer Colby Roberts reported that there's a big "for rent" sign on the restaurant's window. On Facebook, at least one employee has changed her status to indicate that she is now unemployed.

I'm working on getting the scoop, but for now, thought I should let people know.

I've got a personal connection to Smokejacks because it was where my husband and I had our first dinner date (pan-seared tuna with cucumber "noodles" and a pepper cracker, duck, a smoked pork chop, and lots of fun). Needless to say, the closing makes me pretty sad. I don't know what went wrong, but it's one of the few times in recent memory that Burlington has lost a real restaurant institution; one that was localvore before there was a word for it.

I hadn't eaten there since the new owner took over, so I can't say what the food has been like for the past few months, but my experiences at Smokejacks over the last few years were a (mostly positive) mixed bag. I occasionally tried something that seemed a bit too busy or was oversalted, but I also had some wonderful, unforgettable food. It was the first place a tried Humboldt Fog cheese, and that experience was a revelation. I will certainly miss the homemade sodas -- particularly the litchi and ginger varieties -- and the great brunch food, as well as the flavorful entrees.

I was also planning to use a fictionalized version of the restaurant in my culinary murder mystery novel...but that's another story.

As soon as I find out more, I'll let you know.

May 27, 2008


For reasons that I may get into at another time, I spent the last week driving to, sojourning in, and then returning from Alabama. The trip was unexpected and wasn't a vacation, so I did not go with a list of worthy restaurants to visit, nor did I pack a delightful array of healthy snacks for the trip. (I did, on the other hand, eat my first Burger King burger in 11 years and dined at The Red Lobster for the first time).

But while I was in Alabama, I did have the chance to visit the Roadfood website in search of a quality BBQ joint that happened to coincide with our long drive home. I found exactly what I was looking for in Bluff City, TN. Ridgewood Barbecue, which is on a beautiful, winding country road off of the beaten track, has been lauded by local barbecue enthusiasts and visitors alike. And the required detour was only a few minutes long.

And boy was it worth it. Dan and I shared a barbecued pork platter, which came with crispy golden French fries, rolls and a generous serving of sweet 'n' creamy slaw. But it was the heap of hickory-smoked pork, sprinkled with dark brown crispy bits from the outside of the pork as well as tender inside pieces, that really blew me away. It was undoubtedly the best barbecue I've ever eaten. I don't know how long they smoke the stuff, but whatever they do is just perfect. And I had a Mr. Pibbs soda, which was described as being "like root beer," but actually tasted like Dr. Pepper.

So, if you're ever driving through Tennessee, I strongly advise you to seek Ridgewood out. And if you do, please order the pork.  You won't regret it.

December 20, 2007

Happy Birthday to Kismet (It's a Party!)

The lovely ladies at Kismet are throwing a party tomorrow, beginning at 5 p.m., to celebrate their 1 year anniversary. In addition to Alanna and Crystal's tapas-style treats and yummy drinks, there will be a bunch of cool food producers handing out samples of their products.

The full text  of their press release is below...

"After one full year and nearly 8000 meals served, Kismet of 207 Barre street, Montpelier, Vermont, will roll out the red carpet and throw their very own Birthday Bash. Kismet Owners, Alanna Dorf and Crystal Maderia, plan to transform the tiny breakfast/brunch space, for one evening, to mark the first anniversary of their new restaurant and successful catering business.

“ This party gives us an opportunity to connect with our restaurant customers, neighbors, and catering clients alike. Many people still don’t know we’re here and many have tried either our restaurant menu or have experienced our catering, but few have sampled both”, Says Crystal Maderia. “We have a great thing happening here,” says Alanna Dorf, in regards to their local foods menu and personal relationships with their customers and employees, “and it’s exciting every time a person comes in and says ’wow!, I’ve never been here before.’ We made it through our first year, and it’s time to celebrate with our regulars while opening our doors to people who have been wanting to check out what we’re all about.”

Restaurant regulars and catering clients will enjoy samplings of Kismet favorites, like their dandelion lattes, hot chocolate, and even a variety of their house made butters to take home, as well as an eclectic assortment of creative tapas that Kismet will feature on their catering menu. In addition, guests will be able to meet with and sample products from other local food producers featured on the kismet menu. Nutty Stef’s Granola, La Strada Bakery, Red Hen Bakery, Awake Coffee, Jasper Hill cheese company, Butterworks Farm, Winding Brook Farm, Vermont Foods Distributors, Patchwork Farm and Bakery, and local farmers will be joining the kismet staff in celebrating the business’s first year.

“We never really had a ‘Grand Opening’,” say’s Crystal, “maybe because our opening has been more gradual- like a slow unfolding…As we get more comfortable, more used to this whole endeavor, we open up more and more while at the same time learning how to maintain our own personal bounderies and the well-being of the business. The mark of our first year is really big for us. We both have given so much to this business, and the business has given to us both in such an intimate way. We are ready to celebrate that, and can do so with a confidence we didn’t have a year ago.”

“December 21 marks the shortest and darkest day of the year” remarks Alanna in regards to their one year anniversary and the date of their open house celebration, “and is a perfect example of what we do here. We are constantly trying to make more out of less, make things brighter, to find balance and to stay connected to what is happening in the world around us”. The red carpet will be rolled out on December 21, and doors will open at 5:00 pm.

December 14, 2007

Skinny Pancake DOES Have Vegan Crêpe Batter!

Img_3426After reading my Skinny Pancake "Taste Test," crêperie owner Benjy Adler got in touch to let me know that the SP has a vegan crêpe batter that isn't currently listed on the menu, but is available nonetheless.

How do they make something that is typically based on eggs, butter and milk vegan? By substituting chickpea flour and olive oil for the animal products. You can order the ethical option without an increase in price. Although there's no design-your-own-crêpe option on the menu, folks with dietary restrictions can swap fillings to meet their needs.  "We try to be very accommodating," Benjy explains.

Benjy also let me know that the SP recently introduced a buckwheat batter, which is not only traditional, but is also safe for folks with celiac (also spelled coeliac) disease.

December 01, 2007

Favorite Restaurant Dishes (thanks BFP)

Last week, the Burlington Free Press ran an article about their food writers' favorite restaurant dishes. Not "I love chicken pot pie" but "I love the chicken pot pie at Restaurant X."

I thought the piece was pretty interesting, although I disagree with Candace Page's claim regarding the primacy of restaurants' veggie dishes over those made with meat: "While a chef can certainly ruin a good pork chop, there's not much he or she can do take make it the Ultimate Memorable Pork Chop," Page suggests.

I have access to vegetables just as luscious and fresh as those used in restaurants (I buy 'em from the exact same farmers). Same goes for butter, cream, artisan cheese, etc. I even have a French mandoline for slicing potatoes and root veggies paper thin. Unless a vegetable dish is made with demi-glace, truffles or some other premium ingredient that I can't get my hands on, I usually feel that I could turn out something similar, given the time and the inclination.

But the best pieces of meat and seafood generally go to restaurants, and aren't always available to consumers. Thus, in a restaurant, those are the things I lust after, to the dismay of my vegetarian readers. Of course, this only applies at restaurants that bother to source the best ingredients...most places serve fairly run-of-the-mill meat. At The French Laundry, I ate several such dishes, one which included meat that had been braising for days. At Barbara Lynch's restaurants in Boston; B&G Oysters,  the Butcher Shop and No. 9 Park, I ate (respectively) baby scallops with miniature Brussels sprouts and pancetta in pear butter, house-cured salami and escolar sashimi that I'll never forget.

Despite this difference in opinion, though, I found that several of my favorite local restaurant dishes were the same as those listed by the BFP folks. Here's my list, in no particular order.

I've starred dishes that were also mentioned in the Free Press article. With the exception of a couple recent discoveries, I've eaten all of these dishes numerous times. I've included links to the restaurants' listings in our 7 Nights Guide to Restaurants and Bars so you can see what other people think.

~ Pho Dang: Beef Pho with brisket and rare beef (*)
~ American Flatbread: the signature salad and the Belgian-style beers (*)
~ Ground Round: Wood Creek Farm burger on Red Hen brioche with Shelburne Farms Cheddar (*)
~ Junior's Italian: pasta Bolognese and pasticciotti (my favorite Italian pastry)
~ Red Onion: the Red Onion sandwich. I can't seem to order anything else when I go there.
~ New World Tortilla: Thai chicken burrito, unwrapped.
~ L'Amante: Gnocchi with braised pork and cherries. I've only seen it on the menu once. It was sublime.
~ Green Room: Smoked trout quesadillas, anything Chef Pratt does with smoked duck or foie gras
~ Penny Cluse: chorizo and egg tacos, the tofu scram with peanut-ginger sauce, and the salad with lime-cilantro dressing.
~ Chef's Corner: smoked salmon eggs Benedict
~ Big Fatty's: smoked chicken (no bbq sauce required), brisket, collards and the unique baked beans
~ Dobra Tea: pita Dahab (with feta, olives, tomatoes and a sprinkle of cardamom), all of the tea
~ Asiana House: O'toro sashimi,  Kiss the Dragon roll, lots of other maki.
~ Sonoma Station: Blue Seal steak frites
~ Cheese Outlet/Fresh Market: chicken, pasta and olive salad; potato, bacon and leek salad; spicy green beans with cashews; angel kisses. And there was a dish they had years ago (in 1999 or 2000) that they no longer have, made with grilled chicken, mango and red onion, that was just fantastic.
~ Smokejacks: seared tuna with cucumber noodles, ginger or lychee soda, cheese plate, and a lemon ginger bread pudding they once had.
~ FolkFoods (at Farmers' Market): the Ruby (with one of their awesome veggie patties, apples, cheese, sauerkraut and a yummy sauce)
~ Tamale Girl (at Farmers' Market): any tamale, I'm a sucker for dishes made with corn
~ Rookie's Root Beer (at Farmers' Market): root beer
~ Krin's Bakery (at Farmers' Market): coconut cupcakes, macaroons

I could keep going (or expound further on these delightful dishes), but I won't...

What are your favorites?

November 15, 2007

Yummy Lunch at Chef's Corner

I hardly ever venture to Williston because I hate "box stores" with an unholy fervor. Last week I made an exception because I needed to locate some weatherstripping for my ultra-drafty apartment. I didn't think I could find any artisan, locally produced window plastic or vinyl foam, so Home Depot it was.

As my mom's birthday had been the previous day, I decided to invite her along and buy her lunch at Chef's Corner. The café and bakery is owned by two talented chefs, Jozef Harrewyn and Scott Sorrell (Sorrell recently purchased co-founder Rene Ball's share of the biz). I've met Jozef a couple of times — First at a wine pairing dinner at Vermont National Country Club and then while snacking on crispy pig's ears at Shelburne Farms  — but due to my Williston-itis, I'd never eaten at his restaurant.

I'm really glad I did. Mom and I shared the meatloaf lunch special with mushroom gravy, a Niçoise salad made with fresh tuna on a bed of buttery lettuce, and tiny tastes of marinated artichoke salad and sweet 'n' earthy roasted corn salad. Everything was well made and really delicious.

We took home a bunch of desserts, too. I can't vouch for the ones my mom got, but I can say that the mini maple cheesecake, coffee meringue and lemon diplomat (it's a dessert made with mousse)  were  excellent. 

I may have to start going to Williston just to eat there. My next venture will be for weekend brunch. Jozef tells me that they have an eggs Benedict special every Sunday.

August 09, 2007

Tasting Dinner at Café Shelburne

For a couple of foodies, sharing a multi-course tasting menu is the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion. Eating a slew of small dishes minimizes the risk that one mediocre offering will dampen the mood. And it's kind of sexy to ooh and aah over each course with someone who's having the same deliriously delicious experience at the same time.

But around here, very few restaurants offer them. Sure there's the 3-course prix-fixe option at a bunch of places, but that's different. I'm talking 6+ courses, each one made up of just a couple bites of tantalizing food. The only ones I've been able to find are at Hemingway's, Hen of the Wood and Christophe's on the Green. Michael's on the Hill doesn't appear to have one, but there is a note that they're happy to accommodate "special desires."

As my second anniversary approached, I thought it would be really nice to have a tasting dinner, but couldn't stray far outside of the Burlington area. So, I decided to start calling area chefs to see if any were willing to do a special occasion menu. Luckily, the first chef I spoke with, Patrick Grangien of Café Shelburne, said yes right away. And of course, I asked about the tasting and made the reservation without disclosing my secret identity as "Food Girl." I use my husband's name when I make reservations so chefs don't know who I's the only way to make it fair.

The food was excellent. Everything was cooked perfectly, sauces were mouthwatering, there was a lot of variety and the portions were just right. Here's a run-down of the courses.


1) Escargots with prosciutto, Parmesan and garlic butter topped with tiny toast rounds.
2) House-smoked salmon with veggie egg rolls, balsamic reduction
3) Creamy gazpacho topped with zucchini and shrimp
4) Blood sausage ravioli in a Bordelaise sauce with caramelized onions
5) Striped bass with red pepper sauce, snow peas and carrots
6) Duck breast with potato gratin and hedgehog mushrooms, demi-glace
7) Artisan Cheese Plate
8) Currant sorbet
9) Floating island topped with toasted almonds and caramel in a vanilla sauce, garnished with blueberries
10) Apple tart with caramel ice cream

I was particularly enchanted by the creamy gazpacho, the duck and the currant sorbet, which was the creamiest, richest sorbet I've ever had, but like I said, everything was delicious.

I wonder if there are more chefs out there willing to do tastings...

July 10, 2007

Visiting Shelburne Farms

Where can you watch cheddar being made, buy delicious sticky buns and olive-studded ciabatta and see baby pigs frolic, all within one building? Shelburne Farms, that's where! In the past, I'd visited the CoachImg_3382 Barn at the farm for a production of Romeo and Juliet, and also for a presentation on maple terroir. But I'd never just visited to enjoy the properties offerings, until last weekend, that is.

On Saturday morning, I had breakfast at the Inn at Shelburne Farms with my lovely friends Margot, Eva and Molly. All three have been there before and assured me that I would just love it...they were right!

We sat at an outdoor table with a view of the lake. I ordered a mimosa because I'm finicky about Bloody Marys, but was promptly jealous when I tried a sip of Eva's. Now that I think about it, I don't even like the concept of a mimosa: I'll take my champagne and fresh-squeezed o.j. separately, next time. Or, more likely, I'll order a nice, stiff, horseradish-scented Bloody Mary, instead.

Then I had eggs Benedict. When I try a new breakfast place, I almost always order the eB. Why? Because the ability to turn out a good hollandaise sauce is the mark of a well-run kitchen. And this was a good hollandaise, albeit, it could have used just a touch more lemon, methinks. The eggs were perfectly poached with sunny yolks, the toast was just crusty enough and the Vermont ham was a delicious complement...nicer than the traditional Canadian bacon. Molly had a gorgeous fruit plate (the pineapple she let me sample was sweet and juicy). Overall, a very tasty meal in a lovely setting.

After breakfast, we explored the gardens and visited the Inn's fancy library and game room. Then we walked along a forest path to the Farm Barn, which houses the Cheddary, Bakery, Wood-Working Studio and Children's Farmyard. We shopped at the O'Bread Bakery (mmm...cinnamon twists and olive rolls) and checked out the baby animals before heading back to the car in a rainstorm. We stopped at one more place, too, but you can read about that in this week's food news (on Wednesday afternoon...before that, you'll find last week's food news).

On Sunday, I was spending time with my lovely friend Kate, who hails from San Diego. Kate wanted to see Vermont cheese being made. Where to go? Back to Shelburne Farms! We visited the cheese-making facility and watched as cheddar curds were drained of their whey. We also sampled Shelburne Farms Cheddar at a few different ages (6 months, 1 year and 2 year). We both liked the 2-year cheese best. And yes, we stopped at O'Bread for a few treats. This time, I got a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread and a flaky chocolate croissant.

What a lovely, educational and ultra-Vermont-y place to take advantage of...In the future, I'll be visiting Shelburne Farms on a regular basis. I can't wait to go back for dinner!

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