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Bite Club: Vermont's Food & Drink Blog

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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January 17, 2014

Grazing: Country-politan with Boggy Meadow 'Switchel' Cider Vodka

Switchel_vodkaVodka is the most infused of spirits. Berries, orange peel, citron, black pepper, chili peppers and vanilla beans all meet their ends in its clear depths, and drinkers never seem to tire of these infusions. Until now, though, no one (as far as I can tell) has thought to blend the clear spirit with apple cider and ... vinegar?

Yes. Vodka infused with vinegar may sound gross, but it actually echoes a drink that harks back hundreds of years. During the long haying days of the 1600s and 1700s, New England farmers often supped on blends of ginger, apple cider, spices and vinegar. This drink was known as "switchel," and it's undergoing something of a revival.

Boggy Meadow's cloudy, ochre-colored "Switchel" cider vodka is definitely unorthodox, but may not be so unusual two or three years from now. I've tried it in myriad vodka-cocktail ways — in a traditional martini with a twist; in a sherry martini; in a bracing Black Magic, with coffee liqueur and a spritz of lemon juice. All were delicious.

Its smoothest incarnation, though, may be a locavore riff on the Cosmopolitan. Switchel cider vodka lends a tangy twist to this blend of vodka, Triple Sec, cranberry and fresh-squeezed lime juice. It's a softer, brighter and more distinctive version of the original Cosmo — especially when blended with local cranberry liqueur. I've dubbed it the Country-politan.

Recipe below.

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January 15, 2014

South End Kitchen to Open Next Week in Burlington

After a yearlong, multimillion-dollar renovation of the former Sondik Supply building at 716 Pine Street, the staff of Lake Champlain Chocolates will unveil their bold new culinary center next week.

The colorful, 45-seat South End Kitchen at Lake Champlain Chocolates — bedecked in golden-rod tiles, filled with wooden tables and adorned with a stone hearth — anchors the 8,500-square-foot space. It's flanked on either side by an airy education kitchen and a glassed-in production area for Blue Bandana Chocolate Maker.

"It's a unique space, and it was fun to take an old warehouse" and transform it, said Jim Lampman, LCC's founder, who worked closely with his son, Eric, and architect John Anderson on the project. Architect Donna Church of studioblue Architecture created the design, which was partly funded by $1.3 million in financing from the Vermont Economic Development Authority.

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January 14, 2014

Farah's Place Has Closed — For Now

Food-farahsAfter two-and-a-half years in business, following a short run in Johnson, Burlington's only Persian restaurant has closed its doors. According to owner Farah Oberlender, the eatery was just too much for her to run on her own, and good help was scarce. "It's too much," she told Seven Days. "I just can't take it anymore."

Though 147 North Winooski Avenue will no longer be a destination for hummus, kebabs and herb-speckled falafel, Oberlender suggests that the business will be back in some form soon. "For sure we’re coming back for summer, but not as a restaurant," hints the chef.

Customers who have purchased gift cards should email Oberlender at [email protected].

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 10, 2014

Grazing Atop Killington


For skiers, slopeside food options have long been the culinary equivalent of a barren tundra: curly fries, hot dogs and nachos. Then again, as Killington Resort president and general manager Mike Solimano quips, "People say they want health food, but they keep buying cheeseburgers and fries."

ChowderLast night, 150 or so people who took the K-1 Gondola at sunset up to the resort's new peak lodge — a years-long project that opened just before Christmas — listened intently to Solimano as they also munched on the chowder, sliders, shrimp cocktail and mac-and-cheese boats that make up the new frontier of Killington lunch fare.

The challenges of building a six-sided lodge at 4000-plus feet aside, Killington's food and beverage staff worked to include as much local food as possible in the new menu.

Instead of cheese fries, the skiers lounging on leather couches or gazing out the lodge's floor-to-ceiling windows can tuck instead into bowls of creamy seafood chowder topped with smoked bacon (pictured); zesty chipotle-apple turkey chili; specials such as roasted swordfish and sautéed scallops; and, yup, cheesburgers, albeit made with locally raised meat and topped with Vermont cheddar. Or, they can belly up to the bar for a pint of Shed Mountain Ale or a hot cocktail of ginger brandy, orange slices and cinnamon.

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January 9, 2014

Fallout From Embezzlement at Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese: Sadness

Vermont has been beleaguered by embezzlement claims in recent years, including at the Readsboro Central School, the Hardwick Electric Department and the University of Vermont.

This week's news that the former administrator of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese would plead guilty to stealing $185,000 from the program over a six-year period has aggrieved at least two of those who were involved with the program, which dissolved last year.

"It's an extraordinary breach of trust," says Jeff Roberts, a VIAC cofounder who was its principal consultant. "I'm deeply saddened that we created a world-class organization, and for it to end, or for this to be the coda, is just unbelievable."

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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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January 3, 2014

Grazing: Blood Orange-Cranberry-Lemongrass Mocktail

Alas, the time for copious holiday drinking has passed. Cleansing teas, fresh juices and water have taken the place of bracing Manhattans and boozy egg nog — at least for the first few resolution-rich days of the new year. 

Yet staying healthy doesn't have to be boring. Mocktails, or alcohol-free cocktails, are refreshing, easy to make and user-friendly for drinkers, pregnant women and 12-steppers alike. 

This week I repurposed some leftover holiday cranberries to make a cranberry-lemongrass simple syrup, then blended it with fresh-squeezed blood orange juice and sparkling water for a juicy, tart-sweet, non-alcoholic tippler. Yeah, it has some sugar — but I needed to come down from the holidays easy. Recipe below.

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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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