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October 2012

October 30, 2012

Alice Eats: Mr. Crêpe

IMG_4820144 Church St., Burlington, 448-3155

Many restaurants were closed last night in anticipation of Sandy, but when I called Mr. Crêpe to see if they were serving, the young lady on the phone assured me, "We're not afraid of hurricanes here."

Very well. To Church Street I went, the wind blowing and the streets zombie-apocalypse empty.

Clean, modern and bright, the interior of Mr. Crêpe felt like the perfect antidote to the dark doings outside.

The prices at Mr. Crêpe can be astonishingly low, and even in the foreboding weather, several college-aged diners were digging in.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Mr. Crêpe" »

Eating (and Drinking) Your Way Through A Power Outage

Vienna-sausageHurricane Sandy spared Vermont from the worst of its wrath, but some of us are still without power. So, what do you do when all you have in the refrigerator — cheeses, lettuce, cucumber, radicchio, scallions, chicken thighs — needs to be eaten tout de suite?

My Oklahoma-born, tornado-bred grandfather had a simple solution for times such as this: Vienna Sausage and Schlitz. He once rode out a days-long wildfire this way, shut up tight in his trailer and resisting all efforts to evacuate.

He would probably grimace at my own au courant storm ideas — sear the radicchio, then melt Spring Brook Farm Raclette on top by shoving underneath my propane stove? Marinate the chicken thighs in orange juice, ginger and soy, then grill them? Others of my ilk prepared for Sandy, too. Seven Days multimedia producer Eva Sollberger made an epic-looking mushroom stroganoff, while Kathryn Vanderminden, a chef who runs Village Roots Catering in Pawlet, put together "a really big crockpot of venison stew with lots of veggies and potatoes." She's also blessed with a fully gas stove, she says, so she can roast squash throughout the week.

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October 26, 2012

Grazing: Can't. Get. Enough. Cider.

HalibutLast week I undertook the brutal, grueling task of pairing local hard ciders with creamy, unctuous local cheeses. Just when I thought my stomach had recovered, I was invited to a cider pairing dinner at the North Hero House Inn & Restaurant on the Champlain Islands. It sounded too unique to pass up.

If last week's exercise taught me how well cider plays with cheese, last night's dinner schooled me in two more things: The hard, and even the sweet, stuff works equally well with savory dishes, and there's a seriously talented chef lurking inside the North Hero House. Last April, chef Tim McQuinn — who cut his teeth at Boston's Craigie On Main — joined the team here. (Even longer ago, McQuinn was a Paul Smith's College alum; one of his mentors, former NECI vice president and current consultant Paul Sorgule, was at last night's dinner.)

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October 23, 2012

Alice Eats: Hana Japanese Restaurant

Hana150 Dorset Street, South Burlington, 448-3525

The Blue Mall hasn't had the best luck as a culinary destination. Though Wings Over Burlington has the best tenders around, and Outback Steakhouse has a steady clientele of people I've apparently never met, restaurants such as Nothing but Noodles and Erics' Place seem to have come and gone quickly. The excellent natural foods spot, Moon Meadow Market, is long gone, and Vermont Sandwich Company has also closed.

But last month, a new hope came to the mall: Japanese food, the only such option in South Burlington besides Koto Japanese Steakhouse on Shelburne Road.

IMG_4773Hana's owners previously worked at Koto, and the menu is similar, with slightly lower prices at the new restaurant. Hana also boasts some new entrees you won't find at Koto, including eel don and curry chicken. But priced between $18 and $26, the specialty entrees don't fit into the Alice Eats range.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Hana Japanese Restaurant" »

October 19, 2012

Grazing: Cocoa Beans Save the Day

ChocolateA spate of new businesses is moving into Montpelier, into spaces owned by Montpelier Property Management. I'm sure it's welcome news to most everyone in town. Yet I've eagerly anticipated one in particular — Chill, the brand new gelato place at 32 State Street.

So I went down Tuesday to check it out. The best-laid plans: Chill is only open from Thursday to Monday, at least until spring. Through the window, I could see the gelato flavors scrawled on a chalkboard — hazelnut, stracciatella with roasted cherries, "Mint-pelier" — as well as lemon and pear-anise sorbets. Sigh. It would have to wait for another day.

Cocoa_beanNext door, fortunately, a similarly tantalizing operation is in full swing — Cocoa Bean at 40 State, which also opened a few weeks ago. Inside the airy space, the smell of chocolate layers the air, and two cases are loaded with truffles, barks, caramel-filled chocolates, pumpkin- and moose-shaped pops and free samples of glossy dark and milk chocolate leaves.

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October 18, 2012

Gorging at the Vermont International Film Festival

Cooking_History_10Last year, for the first time, the Vermont International Film Festival was organized thematically — and one of those themes was food. It was intended to be a one-time special, but, says executive director Orly Yadin with a laugh, "I can't keep away from food. It was really successful and we got really good feedback. This year, we found enough good films to try it again."

Yadin says that while the seven food-themed movies are all superficially focused on eating, their subject matters range from history to politics to ethnography.

Continue reading "Gorging at the Vermont International Film Festival" »

Nothing to Yaff At: YaffBars of South Hero Are Energy For Hounds And Humans

YaffbarWhen Mark Brooks set out to create a power bar that outdoorsy dog owners could share with their active pooches, he made an interesting observation about interspecies cuisine. His first instinct was to bake a dog biscuit that people could eat. But that concept proved too hard to swallow, as he discovered the day he asked his teenage daughter to try one.

“She said to me, ‘Dad, I am not eating dog treats!’” recalls Brooks. “My first reaction was to get into an argument with her. But when I thought about it, I realized, my God, she’s right!”

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October 16, 2012

Alice Eats: Next Door Bakery & Café

IMG_47555247 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, 985-9877

Every once in a while, I find food so good in a space so small that I want to keep it all to myself. That's why it's taken me so long to write about Next Door Bakery & Café.

Despite its location (adjacent to its big brother, the Bearded Frog) and its pedigree (Frog pastry chef Jesse Lauer is at the helm), the quirky café has flown under the radar.

When I mention it to folks outside Shelburne, they rarely know about the spot, which opened at the end of July. But locals keep it humming. Every time I've visited, it's been bustling, but if I wait a few minutes, I'm always able to grab a table.

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October 15, 2012

Vermont Maple Syrup Gradings to Change: a Sticky Situation

Ice cream with syrupIt’s no secret: Vermonters are fanatic about maple syrup. We drizzle it over our pancakes and smoked bacon, have it in our creemees and candy, brew it with our beer; we flavor our lives with this sweet, sticky substance. 

 The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, in partnership with the Vermont Sugarmakers Association and UVM Extension, will hold three public meetings seeking comments on the proposed changes to the maple grading system.

Currently, the U.S. and Canada are the largest maple-producing countries in the world, and have completely different grading systems. In Vermont, an entirely separate grading system is in place. For example, “Fancy,” “Grade A Dark Amber” and “Grade B” syrup only exist in the Green Mountain State’s markets.

The proposed changes aim to streamline a variety of grading jargon into a new set of consistent international standards. “Vermont fancy” would be replaced with “Grade A Golden Delicate Taste.” The other grades would undergo a transformation as well: 

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October 12, 2012

Grazing: Flames, Chops and Wine at South Woodstock's Kedron Valley Inn

Kedron2"It's going to be 16 degrees tomorrow night," I overheard a woman tell a couple who had just arrived from Florida, and who had just been seated in the tavern of the Kedron Valley Inn. If they'd be outside, she added, they should bundle up.

Sometimes Vermonters take a quiet glee in delivering deadpan news of impending "weather," and the tourists blinked back for a moment, digesting the news. For the moment, though, they were toastily ensconced near the fire here, pints in hand.

When the prospect of the first freeze is only a night away, our thoughts turn to places such as this. I'm constantly taking mental notes of inns with fires, but can still draw a blank when pressed to find easygoing spots where you can kick back with decent food and some flames. I'd driven by this South Woodstock inn on Route 106 dozens of times, but always thought this brick, Federal-style building looked too formal to be welcoming.

Continue reading "Grazing: Flames, Chops and Wine at South Woodstock's Kedron Valley Inn" »

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