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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog

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November 2013

November 5, 2013

The New Café Shelburne Is Serving BYOB Dinners

A cute rabbit standing back-to-back with a giant chef's knife. The new logo makes it clear that this is not your grandmother's Café Shelburne.

IMG_6572And you can get a taste of the locally focused French fare now. New chef-owners Bill Iliff and Weston Nicoll (right) began their soft opening last weekend. The restaurant is now welcoming diners, as long as they bring their own wine. Café Shelburne will open officially, complete with wine list by Lauren Taratoot, by November 15.

The wines will focus on bottles from the Loire Valley, which the chefs compare to Vermont, but with a warmer summer that allows the grapes to grow more delicious. The wines are predominantly biodynamic, but Nicoll says this is because "the small producers we want to get, that's just how they're doing it. That's how their grandfathers did it — there's just a word for it now."

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The Alchemist Cannery to Close Retail Store

6a00d83451b91969e2019b00b3c62d970d-320wiIn a blog post earlier today, the staff of the Alchemist Cannery in Waterbury announced that they plan to close their retail store and self-guided tour area. "We had hoped our location at 35 Crossroad would be capable of handling the traffic, however, with growth comes growing pains," they wrote. You can read the full announcement here.

Fans of the Alchemist's main beer, Heady Topper, seemed to reel from the news. The double IPA has cult status among beer drinkers, who mob the cannery's retail store in a steady stream (there has long been a one-case limit at the store).

Their passions flared on the Alchemist's Facebook page, where those who love Heady Topper inexplicably turned on those who produce it. One person called the Alchemist staff "selfish," and another called it an "absolutely horribly run business."

One sad fan wrote, "This is terrible, terrible news," echoing those who complained that it's next to impossible to find Heady Topper in stores. "Remember, remember the 5th of November," wrote another, while others defended the brewery's decision and suggested it might help improve foot traffic in area stores.

Whoever is managing the Alchemist's Facebook page suggests complex forces at work behind the closure, and hints another solution is in the works. They've also done an epic job of keeping up with comments.

"There are a lot of moving parts here," the Alchemist wrote to one follower. "We are thinking long term and we will have a plan in place soon — but Ben & Jerry's didn't start where they are, and they had to make plenty of tough calls like this in order to get where they are. Have patience. Thanks."

Alice Eats: Vermont Ale House

IMG_6563294 Mountain Road, Stowe, 253-6253

Sometimes, you have to get past a drunk guy or two to get to Dad's library, but usually it's just him and his buddies. Inside Stowe's Vermont Ale House, the sauced fellows may be total strangers, but the books are pretty much the same.

In the sunken side room, complete with blazing stone fireplace and flat-screen TVs showing a hockey game and skiing, is seemingly every book ever released as part of a Time Life collection. There are issues of National Geographic dating back to the 1960s. And as far as I could tell, there are copies of every Agatha Christie and Hardy Boys book, too.

IMG_6567I could have spent all evening enjoying myself with a volume by the fire (part of Teddy Roosevelt's collected works, perhaps?) on Saturday night, but there was eating to be done at my table just up the stairs.

The "Alice Eats" price limit prevented me from trying one of the bar's creative cocktails such as the Ruby Faye, composed of Green Mountain Organic Gin with rosemary syrup, fresh lemon, soda and orange-blossom water. I also had to skip the 24 beers on tap, which include local and hard-to-find craft brews.

The obvious first gustatory stop was the house specialty: a hot roast beef sandwich.

Even for this blood-craving carnivore, the meat was simply too rare. The thick wad of beef was a mess of gooey flesh and fat in my mouth. The situation improved when I thought to cut small slices of the sandwich and dip them in the warm, scallion-speckled beef broth on the side. Sour cream flavored with horseradish was a nice addition, too, but it was still not an easy sandwich to get through.

IMG_6566For an extra two dollars, I added fries to my plate, which was an excellent move. The crisp, lightly battered potatoes were salted to perfection.

I also liked the balance of the arugula salad. Shaved fennel and paper-thin slices of Fuji apple contributed fun, crisp textures and hints of licorice and sweetness to the greens dressed in a light, white balsamic vinaigrette.

The ball at the bottom of the plate at right is a breaded orb of Vermont Creamery chèvre. It was too large for its own good, throwing off the cheese- to-crust ratio, but who can argue with the interplay of hot, fried cheese and refreshing greens?

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November 1, 2013

Grazing: Gooseberries, Meet White Whiskey

A pile of them had been hanging out on our desks for a week or more, tiny pleated husks filled with ... fruit? I wasn't sure. Alice told me these were gooseberries grown by her mother; I was a gooseberry virgin. I peeled the papery husk away and bit the sunshine-colored fruit: It was gently sweet but with tart and apricoty undertones. The flavor was hard to describe, but I thought immediately of turning it into some kind of drink.

The quickest way to imbibe cape gooseberries (also known as Peruvian ground cherries) would be to make a simple syrup, which I did with the fistful I took home from the office. Serendipity had also recently delivered a bottle of Vermont's first white whiskey —  an unaged whiskey straight from the still, sans barrel aging — made by Vermont Spirits in Quechee. It's called Black Snake, it's distilled from Vermont corn, and it's clear, roundand warming — almost as if it has an invisible vein of cinnamon — and slightly sweet. Imagine a softer blanco tequila, a much more flavorful vodka, a spirit whose flavor is as unusual as gooseberries and whose versatility is kind of thrilling.

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