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Alice Eats: Restaurant Reviews

February 4, 2014

Alice Eats: Parkway Diner

IMG_72451696 Williston Road, South Burlington, 652-1155

This weekend, I fell in love. Diner love, one of the most important kinds in my line of work, right up there with eros, agape and sushi.

Coming from the New York City suburbs, where diner food is a proud regional tradition, I have taken nearly 16 years in Vermont to find a diner that I considered completely acceptable. But it's finally happened. And best of all, the Parkway Diner is right in my neighborhood.

You might be thinking, It's just diner food, what's the big deal? One thing is the enviable freshness of the product, very clear in the above-average salad at right. And that's in the off season. Owner Corey Gottfried says he plans to source local ingredients come summer.

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January 28, 2014

Alice Eats: A Busy Winter Weekend

In Good Taste, St. Albans

It used to be that January was the Vermont dining nadir. Everyone was light on both product and motivation to do much besides try to lose weight gained over the holidays.

Clearly, times have changed. I spent the weekend going to a different culinary event each night. If you missed out, keep these breaks from the winter doldrums in mind when they next appear.

Friday: In Good Taste, St. Albans

I could never have anticipated the crowd that clogged the St. Albans City Hall on Friday night. Clearly, Franklin County was starving for a good food event. The evening began at 5 p.m. By the time I got there after 6:30, 20 tasting tickets for $10 had been discounted to $5. According to the folks selling tickets, so many vendors had already sold out that it was only fair.

IMG_7151But there was still lots to learn.

I started with a sip of cucumber-flavored TreTap. The supplemented water is made from the byproducts of maple sugaring at Branon's West View Maples. Basically, it's SmartWater with a Vermont edge. It didn't taste like cucumber, but the ultra-pure liquid was a nice palate cleanser before feasting.

Nearby, students from Northwest Technical Center's culinary arts program were preparing a piquant steak tartare using meat donated by Highgate Center's Choiniere Family Farm.

I ended the evening with a flight of five different ice ciders from from Hall Home Place of Isle La Motte.

Surprisingly for this nondrinker, my favorite was the Sweet Six, which its makers describe as having a "brandy-like finish." What I liked more than the burn was the ideal blend of sweet and tart. The acid of some apples cut through the sticky sweetness of others. Too bad the six apples change each season. I may never taste a blend quite like that one again.

Saturday: Ramen Cook-Off, Shelburne

The following evening, my buddy Jack Thurston and I judged the first of three annual cooking contests held at Chef Contos Kitchen & Store, owned by another pal, Courtney Contos.

RamenSince the store is small, entries were capped at seven. To keep things fair, we tasted each bowl anonymously labeled with a number. Three were Thai curry soups, not ramens, so, while tasty, they simply couldn't win.

One soup stood out clearly from the pack. It had the lip-glossing slick of collagen I was looking for in a well-salted broth. Just as the truck drivers in Tampopo insist, the balance of broth, noodles and meat was spot-on, too. And it turned out the winner had a familiar face.

Suzanne Podhaizer of Salt in Montpelier, former Seven Days food editor, turned out to be the ramen's creator. I hadn't realized at first taste that the soup was made not from pork but from goose, including braised meat and cracklings from the animals she helped raise (and slaughter) herself at a farm called Gozzard City in Cabot.

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January 21, 2014

Alice Eats: The Hawker Stall

IMG_7123Wednesdays at ArtsRiot Kitchen Collective, 400 Pine Street, Burlington, 540-0406

Just as it should, the ArtsRiot Kitchen Collective has continued to morph since I visited every pop-up dinner for a week in November. Last week, I made it to the Hawker Stall, which debuted its Wednesday night dinners last month.

But the man behind the Hawker Stall isn't new to ArtsRiot. Jeremy Bernozzi was Richard Witting's sous-chef at the space's short-lived Chinese café.

Now Bernozzi is bringing his vast knowledge of Asian cuisine to Wednesdays, with a new stop each week. He works with Misery Loves Co. vet Andrew Burke, who adds fine dining experience to Bernozzi's street food. Every other week, Burke's menus prevail with more upscale offerings, such as "inauthentic Japanese" tasting menus.


Last week, I made it to one of Bernozzi's nights. He was focused on the neighborhoods of Kuala Lumpur, a destination that I've long had on my wish list. And I hadn't experienced Malaysian food since I was a kid in New York City.

Clearly, I wasn't alone in my excitement. By the time I arrived, about 7 p.m., the kitchen had already sold out of daal fritters and beef stew. I ordered coconut ice cream, but the counter help forgot to include it in my order and that, too, was gone by the time I realized it.

This isn't the Hawker Stall's fault, but careless counter service seems to be part of the deal at ArtsRiot, and the one thing that keeps me from being a regular.

But Bernozzi and Burke's food was worth it. I had never had anything quite like their rojak before. The salad featured cubes of pineapple, sour mango and apple sweetened with tamarind and palm sugar. A touch of shrimp paste added salt, while bird's-eye chiles gave it heat. Cilantro cooled it, and tofu skin, peanuts and sesame gave the dish varied texture. The deceptively complex flavors were as bright and beautiful as the salad looked.

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January 14, 2014

Alice Eats: Harvest Café

IMG_7118McClure Lobby, Fletcher Allen Health Care, 111 Colchester Avenue, Burlington, 847-3978

This week is Seven Days' annual Health & Fitness issue, our chance to pay homage to some of the food that we don't usually have an opportunity to write about. In my case, that's hospital food.

Alice Eats is all about sharing great deals, and Fletcher Allen Health Care's Harvest Café has more than a few cool reasons for me to endorse it: While the food isn't uniformly healthful, it is prepared with an eye toward good health.

The cafeteria is open from 5 a.m. until 3 a.m. every day, meaning it competes only with downtown's Kountry Kart for all-hours supremacy. The wide range of foods is prepared with as many local ingredients as possible, including produce grown at the hospital garden in season. And most importantly for the purposes of this column, the food is cheap. Really cheap. $3 for a pizza cheap.

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January 7, 2014

Alice Eats: Jericho Café & Tavern

IMG_709230 Route 15, Jericho, 899-2223

Talented young chef Jonathan Gilman started cooking in the kitchen at 30 Route 15 in Jericho in September 2012. Since then the space, which started as the Village Cup, has seen two name and concept changes.

I didn't make it to review Fields Restaurant, though I did enjoy trying dishes at Gilman's experimental test kitchen before the opening.

Now, with yet another new name, and the owners of Rosie's Restaurant in Middlebury at the helm, Gilman finds himself running the kitchen of the Jericho Café & Tavern.

Unfortunately, with each transformation, the returns seem to be diminishing. Gone are the days of Douglas-fir-braised pork shanks and farm-egg flan with brûléed honeycomb and herbed lavender “glass” that were the chef's signatures when he started. There's nothing wrong with more approachable homestyle fare, but at a recent lunch, some dishes worked far better than others.

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December 27, 2013

Alice Levitt's Best New Restaurant Dishes of 2013

Fried chicken was hot from Stowe to Montgomery Center. After last year's glut, pizza was on the wane. A couple of stinkers in smaller cities made the term "gastropub" seem a whole lot less cool.


But my favorites this year triumphed over the trends. I ate so many delightful dishes in my travels around the state and beyond, it was nearly impossible to choose, and I'm sure as soon as this is published, I'll have regrets.


I'm a little bummed that so many of my picks seem to have landed in the Burlington area this year. Which means one thing: In 2014, I'm expecting big things from the rest of the state.


Marzipan bagel from the Bagel Place

The Bagel Place

In a bagel-icious year, the clear winner for both weirdest and most delicious o-shaped creation was the marzipan bagel at South Burlington's the Bagel Place.

The sticky layer of sweet, baked almond paste was countered by a plain bagel, which ensured that the treat wasn't saccharine. Until the Lithuanian owners start serving up šašlykai and bigos, this taste of Eastern Europe will have to do.

Misery Loves Co.

Few western chefs understand the value of making you work for a dish the way Asian cooks do. Luckily, the chefs at Misery Loves Co. in Winooski understand such rewards.


Their Chinatown Pig Tails left diners rooting around with their chopsticks for all kinds of tasty morsels: peanuts, bok choy and, most importantly, cross-cut sections of a pig's furthest reaches. The big flavor of ginger, smoked cayenne, hot long red chiles, cilantro and vinegar ensured that I wouldn't stop digging until every bite was gone.



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December 17, 2013

Alice Eats: Family-Style Sunday at nika

Food-nika83 Church Street, Burlington, 660-9533

I was first introduced to family-style dining when I visited Pennsylvania Dutch country as a kid. Sharing a table with overweight Southern tourists tearing into my dumplings and shoofly pie wasn't my idea of acceptable dining, even at age 8.

Recently, I've had to get over my heebie-jeebies for the term. Luckily, in Vermont, it means only that you have to share with your own party, and from Misery Loves Co.'s meat-and-three suppers to roasted chicken Sundays at Guild & Company, I'm loving the trend.

Earlier this fall, nika introduced its own version of the concept with three courses of well-thought-out Mediterranean fare for $20 a person. And it's not just snack-size portions, either.

It's all part of a new set of deals available at the Church Street restaurant: On Mondays, restaurant and bar employees get 20 percent off their meals, along with $5 wine and $4 draught beer. Tuesday, every pizza on the menu is $10, including upscale specialties such as a pie topped with lemon-dill swordfish, fried capers and olives. On Wednesday, Flights & Bites night means $10 for a flight of three wines and $15 for six small plates — $20 for both.

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December 10, 2013

Alice Eats: Hostel Tevere

IMG_6973203 Powderhound Road, Warren, 496-9222

It's no secret that I'm a Jewish American Princess. I normally wouldn't be caught dead in a youth hostel. But Hostel Tevere is different. Even the bathrooms are clean, bright and decorated with hipster art that is more funny (if misspelled) than obnoxious.

The hostel's restaurant has become a major destination in the Mad River Valley, and for good reason. The small dining area, filled with communal tables, feels like a cool update on a 19th-century tavern, complete with a craft beer list that's heavy on Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery, as well as local names such as Lawson's and Lost Nation.

IMG_6966But the real attraction is the food. Local and handmade, yes, but more importantly, the menu is highly eclectic and the dishes are prepared with great care.

We started with a pair of kielbasa corn dog pops, as did, apparently, everyone else dining on Saturday night. How could you not, when each is only $1?

The kielbasa lent a stronger, tangier taste to the pop, but in the end, they were still just very good (tiny) corn dogs. But the Dijon aioli that came on the side ended up playing a key role with our other starter, the house salt-and-vinegar chips.

Though the warm chips were suitably salty, they could have used more of a pucker. But dipping them in the tangy sauce hit the spot. We nearly demolished the large bowl before our entrées arrived.

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December 3, 2013

Alice Eats: Handmade Food

IMG_6941Saturday night, 400 Pine Street, Burlington, 540-0406

For my feature in the paper this week, I hit up four of the regular pop-up nights at the ArtsRiot Kitchen Collective. I wasn't able to make it to the fifth, kitchen manager Tommy Winrock's Saturday Handmade Food night, before press time.

Since it was Thanksgiving weekend, Winrock stuck to the basics. Suspecting that some diners were already sick of their leftover turkey, Winrock declared that evening Wing Night.

It was a refreshing departure from gorging on stuffing. And even with such simple food, the New England Culinary Institute alum's talent shined through.

IMG_6940Seriously, even the carrot and celery sticks were  cut in textbook batonnets. My dining partner can be shy about the spice and vinegar of Buffalo wings, but he appreciated Winrock's crisp version, especially dipped in the thick side of blue cheese dressing.

The spice-rubbed wings were more fun, though. A subtle burn built slowly amid a slew of dry herbs dominated by oregano.

I was less enchanted with the sweet potato fries. Not as uniform as the raw veggies, some were ideally crisp, but others flopped when I picked them up. All the same, they were well seasoned and a nice departure from the regular potato option.

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November 26, 2013

Alice Eats: Yeah Baby’s BBQ-N-Grill

IMG_6927387 Brooklyn St., Morrisville, 888-2333

A new barbecue spot always motivates me to hit the road, even if it's a snowy one. On my way to Yeah Baby's BBQ-N-Grill on Sunday, I passed hunters in camouflage on their way home after a morning of tracking. The month-old restaurant isn't far from Mo' Vegas' main drag. The crowd and the music on the stereo confirmed that I had stepped into somewhere far from Burlington; I was in the "country."

The place, formerly Sabrina's Café & Bakery, has a lived-in diner feel that suits its new tenant. Local artwork of motorcycle riders decorates the walls, but the centerpiece of the room is a display of sauces — four varieties — all made by the restaurant's owner and pitmaster, Ted Hoadley.

IMG_6926More on those later. On that cold afternoon, we needed to warm up to lunch. The special pea soup called to me, even though I assumed at the diner-style eatery, it would be out of a can.

How wrong I was. The thick, carrot-speckled potage was not only homemade with love, it was done with a dose of smoke. According to our server, Hoadley smoked the ham himself, and it imbued the whole bowl with a seductive waft of the pit. It compared favorably with versions I've had at my favorite Québec sugar shack. If Hoadley wants to expand beyond his sauce line, the next product should be some pea soup. I'd buy it.

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