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September 2013

September 12, 2013

UVM Drops Rookie's Root Beer as Not 'Real' Enough for Real Food Challenge

4312_80295988987_5357015_nSometimes, locavorism can almost seem like hysteria. And sometimes, it's just plain confusing — as in the case of the recent drop of Rookie's Root Beer from the University of Vermont's dining options.

Burlington-brewed Rookie's is no longer on tap at Brennan's, UVM's "local and organic dining destination," where a wall map lists the various farms and producers that populate the menu. Why? 

"Rookie's Root Beer is a local, Vermont company, but to be considered local by Real Food Challenge standards, products must include at least 50 percent local ingredients," writes Caylin McKee, UVM's dining sustainability and social media coordinator, in an email.

In March 2012, UVM became one of the first schools to commit to the Real Food Challenge, a national campaign to shift $1 billion in higher-ed food expenditures to local, "real" options by 2020 — that means foods that are "local, ecologically sound, humane and/or fair," as McKee writes. 

"Because of the nature of Rookie's product, the main ingredient being sugar, they do not meet the 50 percent requirement," she adds.

Continue reading "UVM Drops Rookie's Root Beer as Not 'Real' Enough for Real Food Challenge" »

September 11, 2013

Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen Owners Bring Burritos to Barre

LocoKeith Paxman and Rich McSheffrey have a lot on their plates — literally. Late last year, they opened Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen, then expanded to provide food service for the Country Club of Barre. But apparently their desire to feed their hometown has only grown. As soon as December 1, the lifelong friends will open Two Loco Guys at 136 North Main Street, the space formerly occupied by Espresso Bueno.

Paxman and McSheffrey originally planned to use the storefront as a catering kitchen for their regular off-site orders. But they soon realized that there was enough space to do something extra.

In front of the catering kitchen, Two Loco Guys will serve burritos and bowls, but as Paxman is quick to point out, not quesadillas or tacos. "We're not Mexican," he insists. "We'll have global flavors."

A full menu is still in the future, but Paxman says options might include Caribbean curry or Asian-style burritos alongside classic Mexican or Southwestern versions. Or a wrap stuffed with a bacon cheeseburger and caramelized onions.

Paxman emphasizes that gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diners will all be well-fed at the new quick-service restaurant. Given the popularity of Cornerstone, lines for the December opening may soon fill the (newly repaired) Barre sidewalks.

September 10, 2013

Chef Jason Tostrup to Leave the Inn at Weathersfield for Okemo Mountain

Food-tostrupWhen it comes to jobs, there are human years and there are chef years. As intensely creative beings, chefs sometimes jump from workplace to workplace (and kitchen to kitchen) more frequently than, say, accountants or schoolteachers.

Which is why it's notable that chef Jason Tostrup has been at the Inn at Weathersfield for eight and a half years — and not surprising that he's moving on. 

Today, Inn co-owner Marilee Spanjian announced that Tostrup will take his final bow on October 30, just before the Inn closes for stick season. When the first flakes begin falling, the chef will be sharpening his knives in a kitchen not too far away — Epic at Solitude, the fine-dining restaurant at Okemo Mountain in Ludlow.

"We can all agree he is an amazingly talented chef," wrote Spanjian. "But what you may not know is Jason's love and commitment to his wife and young children. This new position will allow him to be home at night. No more dinner shifts."

Tostrup came to the Inn almost a decade ago after stints at Colorado's La Renaissance Restaurant and Thomas Keller's Bouchon, and subsequently became one of the first Vermont chefs to energetically build relationships with local farmers. In 2008, Bon Appetit magazine named the Inn at Weathersfield a "Top 10 Culinary Inn," and in 2010, Fodor's Travel Guides called its Verterra "the best restaurant in Vermont."

Continue reading "Chef Jason Tostrup to Leave the Inn at Weathersfield for Okemo Mountain" »

Alice Eats: A Food Writer's Weekend

Back in 2010, I offered Alice Eats readers a glimpse into what a weekend in my life really looks like. Three years later, it seems like time to share another wild few days of eating and drinking around Vermont.

IMG_6227The whirlwind began after I finished reporting a food news piece about the food-themed exhibit opening next week at the Fleming Museum. I ran over to Hotel Vermont where I met with New England Culinary Institute executive chef Jean-Louis Gerin just after he picked up a very special guest at the Burlington Airport.

There on the comfy couches beneath Juniper's slate walls sat Ariane Daguin, owner and co-founder of D'Artagnan, Inc. Since starting that meat-selling business in 1984, the Gascony native has established herself as the goddess of American meat, bringing foie gras, charcuterie and game meats to the masses via a network of small farms.

Why was she in Vermont? "He twisted my arm," she said, smiling conspiratorially at Gerin. The twice-knighted Montpelier-based chef has some pull after 28 years at famed Restaurant Jean-Louis in Greenwich, Conn.

Starting Saturday morning, Daguin would be sharing her expertise in a duck-filled weekend that began with a seminar on making cassoulet and culminated in a D'Artagnan-heavy brunch.

Why spend so much time with NECI students? "The students are my clients of the future. And I guess I love convincing people what I think is right. It’s always an opportunity to think about good husbandry for farms," says Daugin.

Her passionate stance on raising meat right has won her lots of chef fans, including Anthony Bourdain, who named his daughter after Daguin. Gerin is part of the pack, too. In the '80s, when most pork was pallid, white, factory-farmed mush, he marveled at the pink, marbled pig flesh produced by Daguin's small farms in Missouri.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: A Food Writer's Weekend" »

September 6, 2013

Grazing: The Summer Drink I'll Miss the Most — Orleans Bitter Spritzer

OrleansBrrr. The heat kicked on last night, and the basil narrowly missed a date with frost-induced death. Though these are the best sleeping nights of the year, they're also kinda bittersweet, since we all know what lurks around the corner.

Summer is technically still here, though, and all this season I've indulged in in a coral-colored ritual in a glass, one based on the elegant Orleans Bitter. A version of this drink was first served to me early this summer by Orleans' co-creator Deirdre Heekin at her Woodstock restaurant osteria pane e salute. As a friend and I sat the bar, Heekin handed us a few wine glasses filled with ice, Orleans, sparkling water, and an orange wedge.

I haven't made wine spritzers very much, but this was another creature — dry but quenching, zesty, invigorating, graceful. It was almost like drinking liquid hyssop with a tropical edge. There may have been other flavorings lurking in there, but I didn't ask; I went home and replicated it in the simplest way possible.

I say simplest, but its key ingredient — Orleans Bitter — can be challenging to find. When I ran out of my first bottle, It took me a while to find another. Last week, I hit gold at the new Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center in Newport. Then my personal spritzer party picked up where it left off.

With its ease of preparation and bittersweet balance, this drink is a liquid mirror of late summer. Make it as strong or as weak as you like.

Continue reading "Grazing: The Summer Drink I'll Miss the Most — Orleans Bitter Spritzer" »

September 4, 2013

UPDATE: Café Shelburne to Close — But Only Briefly

Cafe-shelburneAfter 25 years, one of Chittenden County's most beloved fine dining institutions is closing. But only until a former sous-chef takes over, reopening the restaurant on October 24. More details from him will follow when we have them.

Patrick and Christine Grangien announced today on Café Shelburne's Facebook page that they are ready to call it quits.

This afternoon, Patrick Grangien told Seven Days, "We just want to take a little bit of time — a much-needed break." He hopes to remain open until October 12, for one final Saturday service. But he realizes that as employees may be forced to find other jobs, he might not have enough staff to continue feeding his fans that long. His advice: If you want to taste his food one last time, come as soon as possible.

It's unlikely there will be another chance. Though Grangien says he will remain in Vermont, the note on Facebook hinted, "We are turning over a new leaf, and we are moving on to exciting projects." He chooses not to disclose what those projects might be. However, his answer to whether the endeavors will be food related was a curt "I don't think so."

Though he's not overly nostalgic about his quarter century feeding Shelburne, Grangien said he's grateful for his time running the restaurant.  "It was a good experience. We are a little bit sad," he said. "We made quite some friends those years. It's tough for us to call it quits."

September 3, 2013

The Inn at Weathersfield Launches a Cooking School

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Are cooking schools the wave of the future, or at least the future of food tourism? Marilee and Richard Spanjian, owners of the Inn at Weathersfield, think they might be. As the couple prepared to make a career change a few years ago, they scoured the country for a cooking school to purchase — until they realized that the hands-on, atmospheric space they sought didn’t exist. Instead, the Tennessee residents purchased the Inn at Weathersfield last winter, then renovated the loft over its barn to create their own school, the Hidden Kitchen. It opened at the end of July.

Each class centers around a food from a local Vermont farm, which Inn chef Jason Tostrup uses to guide students in creating dishes. During one of the earliest classes, “Vermont Veal Revival,” Lisa Kaiman from Jersey Girls Farm dropped in to chat as students transformed the meat she had raised into a veal tartar topped with a farm egg, and veal cutlets with andouille sausage and cheese.

“More and more people are becoming cognizant of where their food comes from, and are taking control of what they’re eating. They want to take the time to invest in creating a meal for themselves and they don’t necessarily know how to do it,” says Marilee Spanjian of the classes.

Continue reading "The Inn at Weathersfield Launches a Cooking School" »

Alice Eats: Hyde Away Inn and Restaurant

IMG_61851428 Millbrook Road/Route 17, Fayston, 496-2322

The Mad River Valley has more than its fair share of dining destinations. Venues such as the Mad Taco, the Common Man, the Sweet Spot, Bridge Street Butchery and even Maynard's Snack Bar have all earned places in my rotation — driving the better part of an hour be damned.

With a fusty reputation, the Hyde Away Inn and Restaurant was never on that list. Until now.

Earlier this summer, Bruce Hyde Jr., a graduate of Cornell University's hotel school, came on board and remade the comfort food served at the restaurant and tavern to showcase local ingredients. Really local — most of the food comes from within a mile or two.

The crowd was mostly of the blue-haired variety when we arrived in the dark dining room on Saturday evening. I overheard several recalling the room's previous tenant, Zach's Tavern, part of the Snuggery Inn, which closed in 1987. Its logo graces the background of the current menu.

The antique-filled room recalls an even earlier time. With its petite table lamps and padded leather chairs, it reminded me of visiting my great-grandmother's house.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: Hyde Away Inn and Restaurant" »

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