MORE BLOGS: Off Message (News & Politics) | Live Culture (Arts) | Stuck in Vermont (Videos)

Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog

« July 2013 | Main | September 2013 »

August 2013

August 30, 2013

Grazing: New Eats in the Northeast Kingdom

Parker Pie Wings at Newport Airport

Earlier this summer, Megan James and I drove up to the Northeast Kingdom to report on Newport, a city that has long struggled economically but is currently experiencing something of a rennaissance as it waits for $600 million in development projects. As we wandered around town for 36 hours, we were impressed by much of what we ate, including a grilled cheese sandwich spiked with kimchi and charred lamb chops. Equally impressive was the locavore culture — a string of community gardens supplies some of the restaurants with fresh produce, and tomatoes and herbs were growing on the back patio of Lago Trattoria.

Two more places hadn't opened yet: An outpost of Glover's Parker Pie Co., called Parker Pie Wings, was waiting out some water issues inside a converted hangar at Newport's airport. Downtown, a former department store was in the midst of a dramatic facelift to become the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center. We comforted ourselves with creemees from the ice-cream window at the Pick & Shovel until we could return.

Which I did this week — both the pizzeria and tasting center are now open. In an effort to get a taste of the latest dimension of Newport's food scene, I jammed visits to both into a frenetic, 90-minute window.

Continue reading "Grazing: New Eats in the Northeast Kingdom" »

August 29, 2013

Meet the Cuke-O-Melon

Earlier this week, I was speeding through the aisles just before Healthy Living Market closed for the night, when I spied these:

As a great appreciator of cute food, I found this a must-purchase. I had my first bite in the car on the way home. With a slightly thicker skin than your average gherkin, the berry-sized "Cuke-O-Melon" really did offer a suggestion of eating a tiny watermelon. But the flavor was that of a cucumber with a hint of sour bite.

IMG_6180So what the heck are Cuke-O-Melons? I called Tangleroot Farm's Adam Reed to find out. His vegetable farm is in Gansevoort, N.Y., not far from the Healthy Living market in Saratoga Springs.

It turns out, the little melons aren't bonsais, but a species of their own called Melothria scabra. They're more commonly known as Mexican sour gherkins, cucamelons and, most adorable of all, "mouse melons."

Reed says he found out about them this past spring through a friend who was planning to plant them. "There was very little research that went into them," he says.

He says that many customers claim they've been popping the mini-cukes "like M&Ms." I've done some of that, but have also halved them and thrown them in with cherry tomatoes and chopped local mini-peaches in a salad.

And, lucky for me, Reed says he just harvested three more cases to send to Vermont today.

August 27, 2013

Alice Eats: Champlain Valley Fair

It's that time of year. You know, the time when people dye chickens pink to support breast cancer research. It's the season for airbrushed T-shirts; getting a new, vaguely pornographic slogan plate for the back of your truck; and of course, eating your way to a roundness that recalls the Venus of Willendorf. Or maybe that's just me?

Believe you me, I'm not at the Champlain Valley Fair for the rides. I've done that. But each year, there's something new and wonderful (depending on your definition) to consume at the fair. Below are this year's highlights.

IMG_6158Doggin' It

As I did my first walk-around, I was shocked to learn that Fat Daddy's was no longer offering its popular "pork boners" along with its signature onion rings and mammoth turkey legs. An employee told me that the cost of the mini shanks meant little profit. So they added a new item instead.

Meet the tornado dog. The $6 item is composed of two hot dogs skewered end to end, wrapped in ribbons of potato, then fried.

If you're wondering how to eat the creation, I can't help you. It's not easy. But if you're in the market for chips and a hot dog, together at last, this dish is for you. I especially enjoyed the sprinkle of butter and garlic powder on mine, one of a range of choices, including cheddar or spicy powders.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Champlain Valley Fair" »

August 23, 2013

Locavore Korean Cuisine Comes to Cabot

Frieddumplings_2013You know that a restaurant is intensely anticipated when it gains more than 100 followers in its first 24 hours on Facebook. But not every restaurant is the brainchild of Elena Gustavson, the program director at the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick.

Gustavson's social-media presence may be blowing up, but she doesn't plan to open DownStreet Eats at 3075 Main Street in Cabot until mid-September.

Gustavson's locavore pedigree is enough to get many diners excited, but the chef-owner admits that she hasn't yet reached out to many of her farmer friends in the Cabot and Marshfield area to source the new restaurant — though she plans to.

Locally focused restaurants are a dime a dozen in Vermont these days. But Korean food is not.

Continue reading "Locavore Korean Cuisine Comes to Cabot" »

Grazing: Rosehip Simple Syrup

I strumbled across these gorgeous rosehips the other day. To my excited eye, they looked plump and ready for kitchen action — that is, until I picked them, took them home and made a simple syrup, which turned out to be more the rusty color of coral than the deep ruby that comes from truly ripe rosehips.

Rosehips really hit their stride after the first frost, when their tartness gives way to a citrusy sweetness. Last year, I used them to make a glaze. This year, I've decided to drink them. 

Continue reading "Grazing: Rosehip Simple Syrup" »

August 20, 2013

Guild Fine Meats Opens Tomorrow in Burlington

The Farmhouse Group's Guild Commissary has been up and running for more than a month. Tomorrow, the ultimate fruit of master butcher Frank Pace and chef Tom Deckman's labors will be unveiled with the official opening of Guild Fine Meats at 111 St. Paul Street.

IMG_6150Today, the staff at the new butcher shop and deli is getting used to the space with a soft opening.

But sorry, meat lovers, you'll have to wait until tomorrow for a look at the good stuff. The butcher case is papered over.

Co-owner Jed Davis says that a full menu of sandwiches and salads will be available within a few days, with the majority rolling out tomorrow.

Continue reading "Guild Fine Meats Opens Tomorrow in Burlington" »

Alice Eats: Lunch at E.B. Strong's Prime Steakhouse

IMG_614710 Church Street, Burlington, 497-1214

One of the fun things about reporting Alice Eats is sharing opportunities to eat at pricier restaurants on a budget. Many of the "price is no object" spots in the area don't serve lunch, but when they do, you're guaranteed a chance to try the fare without taking out a second mortgage.

More than a year after E.B. Strong's Prime Steakhouse opened on Church Street, I still hadn't tried it, skittish about its reputation for $40-plus steaks. Now that it's serving lunch, I finally got my chance to get a meal for two at Strong's for less than the price of a steak.

I got more than I bargained for. On a quiet Sunday, a friend from my extracurricular life in theater was the only server. He sent out a delicious French onion soup made with veal stock, and a complex, spice-rubbed tuna tartare and watermelon dish. The latter hit notes that clearly showed chef Brian Jenzer's experience in Southeast Asia — it balanced sour, sweet, salty and spicy flavors admirably. But since I didn't pay for those dishes and they would have put me well above my Alice Eats price point, that's all I'll say about them.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Lunch at E.B. Strong's Prime Steakhouse" »

August 16, 2013

Grazing At the Norwich Farmers Market

Picture 3Photo from Norwich Farmers Market

In the constellation of 70 or so farmers markets in Vermont, a few stand out as regional anchors: Burlington, or course, as well as Capital City in Montpelier and Brattleboro in southern Vermont. In the Upper Valley, the big daddy is the Norwich Farmers Market, which has occupied a field on Route 5 every summer Saturday since 1977.

Norwich is such a staple — and has so many craft vendors — that it can be easy to overlook it in favor of smaller, more ecletic and fringe markets, especially if you're always in search of new experiences (like me). Yet when I paid a visit last Saturday, it was clear why Norwich holds the alpha position among its peers. It's well-designed, well-stocked and large enough for you to find everything you might need for a week of eating. It's also a testament to the robustness of the Upper Valley food scene, at least when it comes to purveyors.

Each one of the wooden booths here look like they might blow over during the next storm, but they've actually been standing for years. These were the highlights for me last week:

Continue reading "Grazing At the Norwich Farmers Market" »

August 13, 2013

Alice Eats: Bottomless Pit BBQ

2111 Route 108, Jeffersonville, 777-1540


Where can you find that bad-ass barbecue truck above? Surely, it must be parked somewhere in Burlington's South End. Sorry, hipsters, you'll have to pedal pretty far to try Bottomless Pit BBQ, all the way to the hills of Jeffersonville, near Smugglers' Notch.

IMG_6084Saturday evening around 7 p.m., the elevation had already brought an autumnal chill to the outdoor seating area. Still, packs of kids ran up the green hills and around the fenced-in chickens, giving the place a rural family feel, something like Bread & Butter Farm's burger nights.

Bottomless Pit is theoretically a barbecue spot, but there were only two smoked options on the menu that evening: pulled pork and brisket. The rest of the bill of fare was given over to burgers, hot dogs and seafood specials.

I scoped out a picnic table on the potted-plant-lined porch leading to the take-out window and got to ordering.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Bottomless Pit BBQ" »

August 10, 2013

Grazing: Gas, And Growler Fills, at South Burlington's U-Save Beverage


When the junior Richard Bushway suggested to his parents, Rick and Karen, that they add a growler-filling station to their South Burlington gas station and convenience store, they were understandably lukewarm. "We didn't know how well it would move," says his mother.

They gave him their go-ahead, though, and their son got to work on a wood-paneled, publike nook at the back of the store. He crafted three tap handles — using brass knuckles, a knife handle and a gun barrel — and on April 15, tapped three inaugural brews: a milk stout from Long Trail Brewing Company, a Belgian-style blonde from Harpoon Brewery, and a double IPA from Breckenridge Brewery.

Ricks2Five months later, U-Save Beverage is about to sell their 500th growler. "Turns out there was quite a calling for craft beer," quips Karen, pulling a growler of Lost Nation Brewery Saison for me when I dropped in this week. (Also on tap were a stout from Dieu du Ciel and an IPA from Ballast Point.) 

"I noticed they [his parents] weren't make a lot of money from gasoline," notes the younger Bushway, a longtime craft beer lover. "I began bringing in beers that I liked and that people were talking about. Then I thought, you know, some restaurants and bars are doing growlers — let's do a growler bar."

It wasn't as easy as pulling a handle; the law dictates that as a convenience store, Bushway had to directly contact every brewery whose beer he wanted to tap. "So I had to write 15 different emails to 15 different breweries. Some people said, I don't want my beer in a gas station.' But I told them, 'I'm a beer store that sells gas.' Some laughed at that." Yet talking to Bushway, it's clear that's exactly how he sees U-Save.

Bushway estimates they now fill about 25 growlers a week. Next on tap are a black IPA from Dieu du Ciel, and a lemon-pepper kolsch from Long Trail, and another as-yet-undetermined IPA. "It's Vermont. I always have to have an IPA on tap." 

The refrigerators here are well-stocked with interesting bottles, too, from the likes of Mikkeller, Six-Point Brewery and Founders Brewing Co. As Karen Bushway narrates their contents, she has to explain to a customer from Boston that she could only buy one four-pack of the Alchemist's Heady Topper at a time. "They'll be gone by tonight," she says of the limited supply. Even so, the woman — who has been charged with bringing some back to Boston — sneaks on line a second time, with a second four-pack.

U-Save Beverage, 1332 Williston Rd., South Burlington. 862-2907.

Email Newsletter

Fill out my online form.
All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684