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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog

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February 2013

February 5, 2013

Alice Eats: The Mad Taco at Blackback Pub and Flyshop

IMG_51881 Stowe Street, Waterbury, 244-0123

In 2010, Ricky Binet, the owner of the Blackback Pub & Flyshop, told Andy Bromage, "If I have a Bud Light tap in here, it’s going to be on the toilet flush."

Rightfully, the bar has since gained a reputation as a mecca for beer lovers, even in bar-happy Waterbury. With eight Hill Farmstead Brewery varieties currently on tap, the casual pub may also be one of the best places to sip the best beer in the world.

IMG_5182But since November, the Blackback has earned another distinction: It's now a Vermont destination for Mexican food.

The third Mad Taco is just as delicious as the other two, in Waitsfield and Montpelier. And because executive chef Joey Nagy allows his chefs de cuisine room for innovation, there's something different at each.

One example is the guacamole at right, courtesy of chef Todd Cassel. The ultra-tangy, creamy dip was speckled with whole cilantro leaves, chunks of tomato and tiny squares of onion. The concoction was so addictive, I didn't mind that the whole, fried tortilla chips were a tad too thick. I just kept eating, tired jaw be damned.

The house tortillas found a greater purpose as part of the special tortilla soup. In the bright, acidic broth, they became more like noodles or dumplings. The potage came to me fiery hot in temperature, but I would have liked a bit more spice. Even the jalapeños floating in the soup, along with a welcome glut of braised chicken and onions, didn't pack much punch.

IMG_5186The greatest successes were versions of my classic Mad Taco favorites.

Since all the taco plates cost $8 for two, the Blackback Mad Taco allows mixing and matching. The al pastor didn't have pineapple, as I generally expect, but the braised pork within was pure fatty, umami pleasure.

Both that and the slightly underseasoned, beer-braised chicken greatly benefited from Cassel's masterstroke, a hot sauce called Pinky & the Brain.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: The Mad Taco at Blackback Pub and Flyshop" »

February 1, 2013

Grazing: German-Style Beers Debut Tonight at Crop Bistro & Brewery

12-21-12 end of the world brewery 035-1It was many moons ago that Crop Bistro & Brewery ordered an 8.5-barrel brewing system from Caspary, a Bavarian brewhouse and manufacturer that produces compact, nimble systems with multiple vessels. Then the staff waited, and a corner of the pub sat empty in expectation.

Crop's head brewer, Will Gilson, who joined the staff in September, has had months to ruminate on what he might do with the copper-clad system — the first of its kind (at this size) in Vermont. Gilson is already known for German-style beers, Weiss beers in particular, to which he has devoted himself during his 20 years of brewing in Utah, Vermont and at New Hampshire's Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co. (Gilson attributes his love of German styles in part to studying abroad in Germany during college.)

In December, the equipment finally arrived, accompanied by Caspary founder Rudolf Caspary, who traveled from Germany to Stowe to help install it. In early January, Gilson brewed two batches of Münich-style Helles lager while Caspary assisted.

This evening, Gilson will tap that Helles for the first time, as well as his hallmark style: a Bavarian-style Weiss beer. 

Continue reading "Grazing: German-Style Beers Debut Tonight at Crop Bistro & Brewery" »

And Ben & Jerry's "30 Rock" Flavor Is...

BenAndJerrysLizLemon_350_020113Liz Lemon Greek Frozen Yogurt with a Blueberry Lavender Swirl?

OK, so creator Tina Fey is Greek. Very cute. But to some who have considered the head writer of "TGS with Tracy Jordan" part of their lives since 2006, the tart choice strikes a sour note.

Where are the mozzarella sticks, the Cheesy Blasters and the all-important off-brand Mexican Cheetos? And what are blueberries doing there? The junk-food junkie would surely have nothing to do with that or with a frou-frou lavender swirl.

Maybe the character who proudly displays Tarquin Cardona's photograph "Half Eaten Lunch" in her office and eats whole pizzas in her sleep wasn't perfectly in step with B&J's premium pints. Liz Lemon would likely just wait for someone to pick her up a tub of whatever was on sale at the gas station.

We decided to ask Ben & Jerry's Grand Poobah of PR, Sean Greenwood, who could be to blame for the odd choice. It turns out the answer is none other than Ms. Tina Fey herself.

Responding as he entered an airplane, Greenwood texted us, "Tina had to approve — so our R&D guru, Kirsten Schimoler, personally packed an 'ice cream by Mail' shipment on dry ice and sent [it] directly to her. Kirsten came up with the combination after touring the West Coast — and was inspired by the fresh fruit & herb combinations. Once she came up with the flavor, with it being lemon-based, there was only ONE person in mind to partner with... So we approached Ms. Liz Lemon herself."

So there. Got a problem? Take it up with Liz Lemon.

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