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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog

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June 2013

June 25, 2013

Alice Eats: Dinner at Sneakers Bistro

IMG_579928 Main Street, Winooski, 655-9081

My review of Mule Bar appears in the paper tomorrow and in the Bite Club newsletter today. But the brand-new restaurant wasn't the only place on the Winooski roundabout that I visited last week.

Sneakers Bistro may have started serving breakfast and lunch 33 years ago, but it was March of this year that the beloved egg slingers began serving dinner from Wednesday through Saturday.

Despite an otherwise busy downtown, only one other couple was eating when we arrived. When we left, we were alone.

Why the stark contrast to the lines out the door on weekend mornings? Is it possible that people still don't know that their favorite breakfast joint is doing dinner?

Clearly, not enough people know about the best deal on the rotary: From 5 to 7 p.m., tacos are $2.50 each.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Dinner at Sneakers Bistro" »

June 24, 2013

What's With All the Carrots Downtown?

CarrotIf you've been seeing carrots on the streets of Burlington, you're not imagining things.

The roots have been stenciled on sidewalks from Church Street Marketplace to the Intervale Center to trace the very short distance separating Burlington restaurants from the farms that produce their fresh ingredients.

The carrots will lead the way this Thursday, June 27, when, at 5 p.m., foodies will make the trek from the intersection of Church and Pearl streets to the Intervale.

The walk celebrates the season's first Summervale event; even more notably, it marks the Intervale Center's 25th anniversary. "The Carrot Walk is really celebrating 25 years of sustainable agriculture in the Burlington city limits," says Joyce Cellars, the Intervale Center's community relations manager. Bikers are also encouraged to join the fun — they're calling it the Carrot Ride.

Though the official treks are taking place only this Thursday, Cellars says staff from the Church Street Marketplace and the Intervale Center will continue to touch up the sidewalk carrots throughout the summer.

Besides the route to the farms, sponsoring businesses that use Intervale produce are also marked with carrots. Cellars says she hopes the bursts of color on the sidewalk will encourage community members to eat at participating restaurants, have locavore spa treatments and make the walk to Summervale events each week until its season ends on August 29.

June 21, 2013

Grazing: Rabbit, Rabbit Everywhere?

At first, I thought it was just me. Lots of places — Italian, French, 'nouveau Vermont,' whatever — seemed to suddenly have a rabbit dish on the menu. Braised rabbit. Fried rabbit. Oatmeal-crusted rabbit with mustard demi-glacé and guajillo-rosemary aïoli (at the Inn at Shelburne Farms, though I didn't get to try that).

Was rabbit creeping onto menus with stealth...and butter? I asked fellow food writer Alice Levitt if she'd noticed anything. "Juniper has it in hazelnut gastrique with a flaming sprig of juniper. El Cortijo has had a ton of it lately in salads and tacos. I had it at Hen of the Wood in the pasta dish I wrote about this week," she says.

Happily, the rabbit wave is not an illusion. I've had a long kitchen love affair with rabbits (as well as those who hunt them): a longtime boyfriend of mine used to shoot them in the English fields with his air gun, then skin them outside our door. I'd stew them with mustard, garlic, cream and rosemary, then spoon the whole thing over egg noodles. Even if he didn't tote home dinner, rabbit was easy to find at the grocery store, where the low-fat meat is something of a staple. Here in Vermont, I was thrilled when I met a woman at a party who raised and sold rabbits on the down-low. I got a steady supply from her — that is, until she moved away a few summers ago.

Continue reading "Grazing: Rabbit, Rabbit Everywhere?" »

Dishing With...Winemaker Kathleen Inman

Kathleen_72Since yesterday, Burlington has been quietly filling with prominent winemakers who are in town for this weekend's waterfront Burlington Wine & Food Festival.

Among them is Kathleen Inman, the winemaker at Inman Family Wines in California's Sonoma County, who arrived in BTV yesterday for her first-ever visit, starting with a dinner at Pistou where her wines were featured.

Inman has been making wine since 2002, three years after she and her husband purchased a Russian River Valley farm and planted thousands of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vines. At her Olivet Grange Vineyards, she resolved to make the "lower-alcohol, higher-acid wines," that she grew fond of while living and traveling in Europe over the previous 15 years.

Even before that long spell across the pond, winemaking was perhaps always lurking in Inman's blood; she was born in Napa Valley, albeit to a teetotaling family of Seventh-Day Adventists. After college, she pursued a career in finance in Yorkshire, where she lived and raised a family with her British husband, Simon.

Inman was a passionate gardener with a long-smoldering dream to make food-friendly, terroir-driven wines. Since she and her family returned to northern California, she's gained a reputation as a solo winemaking force — she only hired her first employees recently — as well as a non-interventionist winemaker who relies on organic grapes and native yeasts for her line: two silky Pinot Noirs, a Pinot Gris, a taut, citrusy Chardonnay, a juicy (limited-release) rosé and a brut rosé sparkling wine.

Continue reading "Dishing With...Winemaker Kathleen Inman" »

June 18, 2013

Alice Eats: Chalkboard Menu Mondays at Hen of the Wood

92 Stowe Street, Waterbury, 244-7300

Once in a great while, I break from the usual Alice Eats format of meals for two that ring up at less than $35. These very special blog posts stick to the spirit of the column, though. A great fine-dining deal just can't be had for that little, but still, on Chalkboard Menu Mondays at Hen of the Wood — Waterbury, it's not much more. My three-course meal for two came to $55.59 before tip, a fraction of what a meal costs there most other days.

The restaurant reintroduced its "locals' night" last Monday. Last night, the most expensive entrée was the $20 hanger steak. Other than that, the service, food and lovely atmosphere of the stone culinary temple were intact. And following a rainy spell, the waterfall was working overtime to make the evening beautiful.

I skipped the snack-sized pickles and frites in favor of a trio of appetizers in the IMG_5779$10 range.

The salad course came first. Pig's ear salad, that is.

On top of a pile of soft, leafy lettuces and shaved baby turnips rested more than my fair share of fried pig-ear slices.

The cracklings burst with fat — far more indulgent than your average crouton. Combined with hazelnuts and a mustard vinaigrette, it was a delicious salad, but even for me, the pork was a little excessive — I ended up having half of it packed up to take home.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Chalkboard Menu Mondays at Hen of the Wood" »

June 14, 2013

Grazing: Quick, Fresh Ricotta (With Spring Peas and Mint)

Peas1'Tis spring, the time when we cut back, eat fresh and slim down. Yet somehow, I didn't get the memo. Lately I've been taken with turning out batches of fresh, fattening ricotta.

It all began last week in New York, when I stopped in for a bite at a cacophonous, newish restaurant called Maysville. Though the small plates were incredible (think agnolotti with nettles), I was bummed that they were out of a particular plate: spring peas, mint and ricotta. Once I left, I couldn't get ricotta off my mind. So once I got home, I promptly picked up some cheesecloth, broke out the milk and vinegar and got to work.

Really, this is all you need for simple ricotta — fresh, preferably organic milk, some kind of acid (lemon juice works), a saucepan, a drainage system and about a half hour of (mostly down) time. The reward is warm, luscious, tangy cheese that tells store-bought versions to just go home. 

So far, I've stirred my ricotta into pancake batter, blended it with two different versions of pasta with spring vegetables, and spooned it over — yup, peas, which I topped with mint and chives from my garden. I haven't dared step on a scale in the last week.

Continue reading "Grazing: Quick, Fresh Ricotta (With Spring Peas and Mint)" »

June 11, 2013

Alice Eats: Juni's Dog Haus

IMG_56942653 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Cabot Annex, Waterbury, 882-8016

Vermont is always just a little bit behind on national culinary trends. Hot dogs with quirky, homemade toppings is but one of them. We may not ever have a Japadog, a Crif Dog or a Hot Doug's, but Vermont is now home to the one and only Juni's Dog Haus.

The third eatery from the church group behind Juniper's Fare Café (also in Waterbury), Juni's has filled most of the tiny space that formerly belonged to Muddy Paw Coffee with a griddle and fryer.

IMG_5696This leaves no room for seating. Instead, there are picnic tables outside and a drive-through window for diners on the go. But the cook on duty was kind enough to carry my large order to a table across the parking lot for me.

That wasn't the only time he went above and beyond. The buns that he typically uses for sliders weren't available, so he made me sandwiches that filled up normal-sized buns for the same price.

One was stacked with smoked, pulled pork. Executive chef Martin Smith told me last month that his signature barbecue sauce is called "My Smokin’ Hot Wife." The sauce indeed has a touch of heat, but it's a balance of sweet and sour with a touch of earthy cumin that makes it so delicious on the sturdy-but-moist strands of flesh.

The red cabbage slaw on top added only crunch. A thin slick of mayonnaise wasn't enough to give the veggies any real kick.

IMG_5699But another slider, the RedNEK, had plenty to spare.

A juicy fried-chicken patty was topped with hot sauce and banana peppers for a pleasant spiciness that was eased by Cabot cheddar and a slick of mayo. Crisp bacon, lettuce and tomato added crunch. So did the griddled bun — fluffy on top with a welcoming crackle as I bit in.

It was the kind of sandwich that simply shouldn't work as well as it did.


Continue reading "Alice Eats: Juni's Dog Haus" »

June 6, 2013

Magic Hat Settles Trademark Dispute With Kentucky Craft Brewer West Sixth

MagicsixthMaybe they hashed things out over a pint.

In a statement released on its Facebook page this morning, Magic Hat Brewing Company announced that it has reached a settlement with Kentucky-based craft brewery West Sixth Brewing. You may recall that Magic Hat filed an injunction claiming trademark infringement against West Sixth and its "6" logo, which Magic Hat claimed looked a little too close to the label for the South Burlington brewery's #9 beer. This led to a very public round of sniping between the brands online (see here, here, here and here) and even a little bit of Wikipedia vandalism.

We'll update on the Bite Club blog accordingly when we know more information. In the mean time, read the full statement after the jump.

Continue reading "Magic Hat Settles Trademark Dispute With Kentucky Craft Brewer West Sixth" »

June 4, 2013

Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays

TacoDid you ever wish there were a Mad Taco in the Burlington area? Starting today, there almost is. Winooski's Mule Bar, owned by the same team that owns Mad Taco, inaugurates its Taco Tuesday today with a menu similar to the small chain that has links in Waitsfield, Montpelier and Waterbury.

Each Tuesday the bill of fare will be different, but will likely always include a range of tacos, tortas and dinner plates. Today, those include several different toppings for both tacos and tortas that feature tender pork carnitas. The al pastor features salsa verde, while another is bathed in chef Jean-Luc Matecat's long-cooked mole sauce. Other meats include a beef carne asada and "roadside chicken." Vegetarians will opt for kimchee, black bean and cilantro tacos.

Continue reading "Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays" »

Alice Eats: Noonie Deli

IMG_56861 Marketplace, Unit 10, Essex, 871-5975

The story of Noonie Deli is long and winding. Jennifer Silpe and Blue Paddle Bistro's Mandy Hotchkiss started it as a cart on Burlington's Church Street in 1986, and the mobile operation soon ballooned to nine fixed locations across Vermont.

But soon, almost all of them were gone. Bryan and Jenny Phelps purchased the final, Middlebury link in the chain in 2010. And years after the business shrank, the young new owners began to grow it.

Earlier this spring, they opened a second Noonie, in the red mall in Essex. And this weekend, I finally tried my first bites of the legendary sandwiches.

IMG_5687Only one employee was working the counter on Saturday evening, and it took her a surprisingly long time to make the simple sandwiches and salad — she slowly referred to the menu behind her to make sure she didn't miss any ingredients. But the results were pretty darn attractive. At right is the Vermonter.

All of the bread at the store comes daily from Baker's Dozen across the street. I was excited to try the "crusty roll," hoping it would be akin to the New York-area hard rolls I simply can't find around here. Nope. It was actually just a very pretty burger bun. "Crusty" definitely didn't describe the fluffy roll.

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