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Locavore Movement

January 29, 2014

Sandor Katz to Teach Fermentation at Sterling College

SandorWhen Sandor Katz, author of the James Beard Foundation Award-winning The Art of Fermentation, spoke at Sterling College last spring, he attracted a standing-room-only crowd. Now he's returning to the institution, this time as a teacher.

Katz, also known as Sandorkraut, will be at Sterling from July 7 through 18 to teach "Fermentation with Sandor Katz."

According to Christian Feuerstein, Sterling's director of communications, "He is going to be available to [help students] learn fermentation one on one." Topics covered will include vegetable fermentation; making tonic beverages; culturing molds; and fermenting oils, legumes, grains and nuts. Of course, the New York Times-bestselling author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved will include his namesake sauerkraut among the foods in which he shares his expertise.

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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 20, 2014

How to Help Maple Wind Farm After Last Week's Fire

The destroyed barn Richmond last summer

Before most of us were awake on Monday, January 13, Beth Whiting and Bruce Hennessey of Maple Wind Farm had already received some very bad news. Just an hour and a half after the fire department arrived, their historic barn was declared a total loss.

Though the pair's home farm is in Huntington, an expansion in the summer of 2013 meant adding a Richmond property, including the barn that was destroyed.

The damage amounts to about $200,000, including refrigerators, washing tools, office space and 10,000 pounds of frozen vegetables.

Reached by phone this afternoon, Whiting was surprisingly upbeat. No people or animals were harmed in the fire and the farmers were able to sell their wares at the Burlington Farmers Market last weekend. Whiting says that although some poultry processing equipment was damaged in the fire, the farm remains on track to pass USDA inspection this winter. She calls the ability to rebuild to their own specifications a "silver lining."

Selling their own products will help cover some costs, but friends are helping out, too. David Zuckerman and Rachel Nevitt of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg are supplying organic pork and vegetables for a fundraiser at Hinesburgh Public House on January 28. The dinner, served from 5 to 9 p.m., will consist of three courses, all for $25. Ben & Jerry's is donating dessert.

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November 27, 2013

Flooded Intervale Farm Finds a New Home

F-tamarackfarm-mtVermont farmers will be in our thoughts tomorrow as we tuck into our Thanksgiving meals. And just in time for the holiday, Amanda Andrews and Mike Betit of Burlington's Tamarack Hollow Farm have something to be thankful for — they're moving to higher ground.

In a story last summer about the pitfalls of farming on the Burlington floodplain, Andrews articulately outlined the “urban farm adventure" on which she and her husband embarked after moving their farm from Wheelock in 2010. As of August, Tamarack Hollow had lost more than $100,000 this year alone to the flooding that crippled the growth of both plants and animals from the start.

Andrews was at her limit, even considering a career change. “What does seven years’ farming experience get you in the real world?” she wondered at the time. “You look through the job postings, and what you’d be qualified for is pretty slim.”

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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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October 16, 2013

Slow Food Vermont Awards its First 'Snails of Approval'

SnailOfApproval2Slow Food Vermont's membership drive just ended with tiny Vermont among the top four chapters in Slow Food USA to attract the most new members. But that's not the organization's only big news. Local restaurants are going slow with a new designation and a series of dinners.

Last year, just before the biennial international food conference Terra Madre, in Turin, Italy, Slow Food Vermont announced it would introduce the "Snail of Approval" to award to Vermont restaurants. The first two have finally been chosen.

The symbol at right is used worldwide to denote restaurants that adhere to Slow Food's ethic of "quality, authenticity and sustainability." The first two restaurants in Vermont to gain the honor are Mary's Restaurant at The Inn at Baldwin Creek and Hen of the Wood—Waterbury.

According to Mara Welton, Slow Food Vermont leader and Slow Food USA regional governor for New England, the restaurants were selected using an extremely exacting process. "That’s the point," says Welton. "We’re not just handing these out willy-nilly. We spent an enormous amount of time vetting."

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October 15, 2013

Alice Eats: Guild Fine Meats

IMG_6453111 St. Paul St., Burlington, 497-1645

It's called the Bad Idea, but that's a misnomer. It's actually a very, very good idea.

I've met my share of breakfast sandwiches and burgers served on doughnuts. Usually they're overkill that require a nap for dessert. Guild Fine Meats' Bad Idea is different. Like everything from the Farmhouse Group, the offerings at the brand-new deli and butcher shop have a sheen of sophistication and great taste.

After visiting the Guild Commissary for this week's feature, I was eager to try as much as I could this weekend.

The soon-to-be-legendary sandwich starts with a very special doughnut. Neither doughnuts nor maple are ordinarily my thing, but pastry chef Samantha Noakes has combined the two to create one of my new favorite desserts. She told me it was loosely modeled on the pastries from Krispy Kreme, and Noakes captured the airy, cloudlike quality of those doughnuts. But these are far more subtle, with just enough sweetness.

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September 17, 2013

Alice Eats: Rí Rá Irish Pub

581903123 Church St., Burlington, 860-9401

Thursday's Trivia Mania has made Nectar's my regular haunt for eight years now. But before the locally grown pub quiz sprouted up, my Tuesdays belonged to trivia at Rí Rá Irish Pub.

Back in the day, I had to hurry and eat before or get stuck having chicken nachos for dinner (pretty good), an Irish boxty (unpredictable) or burger (blah and overpriced).

But last May, the game changed when Rí Rá's menu underwent a major overhaul, complete with membership to the Vermont Fresh Network.

Now, the options are both more authentically Irish (see the photo at right) and more authentically Vermont. I recently passed by the restaurant and was drawn to the new bill of fare. Would the reality match up to the descriptions? I braved a Sunday night football crowd to find out.

I was hidden in a front corner away from the game, which was evocative of an Irish bar filled with nooks and crannies, but very dark to photograph.

IMG_6255A range of creative salads and mini sausage rolls would have to wait. I needed some belly for my belly.

Pork belly, that is. And the potato cakes had it. This Jewish girl was envisioning shredded potato like latkes, but these were like meatballs made of creamy mashed potato, with a panko crust to hold them together.

Cheddar-mustard sauce, in pools below the cakes and blobbed on top, sounded like potential overkill, but added a tangy edge of sharp flavor without too much extra glop.

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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.

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September 3, 2013

The Inn at Weathersfield Launches a Cooking School

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.

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