Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« August 2009 | Main | October 2009 »

September 2009

September 15, 2009

Eat Globally, Write Locally — The Foreignvore Challenge

Localvore Friends, today I embark on a great challenge (a challenge I was supposed to undertake yesterday, but I forgot). Today, on the 15th of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand niner, I begin my week of eating globally. For seven days, I shall become a foreignvore, eating only food that comes from at least 100 miles away from my Burlington HQ. Coincidentally, my challenge happens at the exact same time that localvores (or "locavore" if you're talking about people who eat only crazy women) embark on their annual "eat local" challenges. Funny that.

To the right is an example of food I can't eat. It's from Starksboro, 23 miles from my HQ.

It's going to be tough, since most of what I eat comes from local farms and producers. So for a week it's going to be goodbye Arethusa Collective carrots, goodbye Orb Weaver cheese, goodbye Champlain Orchards mini apple crumbles. Forget drinking Strafford Creamery chocolate milk or even eating Madhouse Munchies potato chips. For this week, I'm going without.

I've heard that localvores give themselves a "Marco Polo" list — exceptions to the 100-mile radius rule. For them, the list generally includes salt, pepper, yeast and other spices. For me, this list will include Dragonfly Sugarworks maple syrup and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, among others. I'm going to call it my Ethan Allen list, after the founder of the eponymous furniture company. 

So far I've done pretty well. This morning I ate cereal from Washington State and soy milk from Michigan. I also had a glass of grapefruit juice from Florida. I almost fell off the wagon mid-morning since today is Bagel Tuesday in the office. But after a quick call to the Bagel Cafe and Deli where the bagels and cream cheese came from, I was assured that neither the bagels, nor the plain cream cheese were local. Phew! Snack on.

Lunch proved to be difficult since I didn't do much in the way of pre-planning. In a pinch I grabbed a bean burrito from California, a yogurt also from California and a "natural soda" that came from California as well. I suppose the Golden State really is the breadbasket of the nation. Soon, I will treat myself to a chocolate bar from some exotic Central American locale.

After a week of eating globally, I will write up my findings and present them to you, fair reader(s), in an easily digestible nugget of information. Then I will make myself a lapel pin that I will wear with great pride, boasting of my foreignvore success. If you so desire, you can read about my trials as a foreignvore in the Sept. 23 issue of Seven Days. Until then, I bid you fair, far dining. 

Best Bites: Firebird Café

163 Pearl Street, Essex Junction 316-4265

Summer 2009 240 Being half of a couple of obsessive eaters can be challenging: Sometimes one of you wants breakfast, the other wants lunch. Other times, you feel like something healthy, but your partner wants to down a few hundred calories per bite.

From experience, I can recommend a compromise: Firebird Café. The new occupant of the former New World Tortilla space has choices to satisfy any mood. The fresh California-bred aesthetic of owner Jake Tran pervades every dish. Expect lots of avocado and sauces lovingly made that morning.

Even the hot chocolate is something special. Chocolate chips get melted in milk in the cappuccino machine, resulting in what Tran describes as a “Choco-latte.” We had ours with a poblano pepper and tomato omelette (see above), bathed in a zesty chipotle sauce. It made a satisfying in-mouth mole. The flavorful homefries were a delightfully crispy side.

Summer 2009 123 For a more indulgent breakfast, nothing can top the Croissant French Toast (at right). Picture two whole croissants, battered in a cinnamon-sweet egg wash, then fried. Oh my yes. Best French toast ever.

More in the mood for lunch? It’s hard to choose between the many appealing panini. Last time, I tried the Orchard, a combination of black forest ham, brie, and apples with housemade honey mustard on sourdough. More honey than mustard, the condiment alone is worth writing home about. Any sandwich can also be made as a wrap. Next time I plan on trying the Pilgrim, smoked turkey with cranberries, cucumbers, provolone and tarragon mayo. Or maybe it will be the Pork Carnitas Burrito. Or multigrain French toast with grilled bananas. No matter what, I know I’ll leave more than satisfied.

This American Chitty Chat — Gabbing with Ira Glass

Ira glass Yesterday I had the good fortune of chatting with my new best pal, the besuited, bespectacled Ira Glass of public radio's This American Life. I don't think he's aware that he's my new bestie, but no matter. Plenty of my besties don't know of their exalted status in my social orbit — Dolly Parton, Alan Rickman, everybody who's every been on America's Next Best Dance Crew.

Anyway, yesterday Ira called me up to gab and was all like "Um, like, uhhhhh....Hey, Lauren. Like, what's new and stuff?" And I was all like "Ira, what the H? You were supposed to hit me up like a hour ago to talk about your upcoming show in Burlington. Now you trying to call me late? Uh-uh. That ain't cool." And Ira was all like "Yo, uh, like, dawg, sorry about that. I was all editing some stories and crap about kids who lost their sweatshirts and cats stuck in trees and old ladies who don't wear underwear and junk like that. Uhhhhhh, like, sorry dude." And I was all like "I.R.A., listen. It's cool. I know you gotta make the mad skrilla writing stories for PBS and shiz. We good." And Ira was all like "Ummmm, uhhhhhhh, oh word. Thanks for understanding."

So yeah, we chatted for a good half an hour about his show and how awesome it is and how many awards it's won and stuff.  He kept trying to talk about "what makes a good story," and I just wanted to talk about myself and how I could get a piece on his show. Hey, Ira, I've won awards, too. Ever heard of the Suburban Newspapers of America Class E: Under 25,000 (daily) Awards? Yeah, 3rd place best feature 2003 — that was me.

But in all seriousness, Ira is a swell guy. He was very gracious and understanding of all of my dumb questions, like "So where do you get your story ideas?"*** and "Again, how can I get a piece on your show?" You can read all about Ira's take on the show and the fine art of storytelling in Wednesday's Seven Days. And after you read the interview, you can go see Ira live at the Flynn Theater on Sept. 26. If you don't do either, we won't be besties anymore.

*** I did not ask this question. This is the worst question to pose to a journalist. Generally, my answer to that question is "Your mom" because I'm classy like that.

September 14, 2009

Will Prog Rep. Dave Zuckerman Become ... a Democrat?

State Rep. Dave Zuckerman (P-Burlington) is officially mulling a run for higher office ... as a Democrat.

Another politician making the leap à la Tom Salmon? Not exactly.

Zuckerman tells Seven Days he's considering the run for either state senator or lieutenant governor with the hope of winning the primary as a Democrat and then earning the support of the Progressives — that way he'd be on the ballot as a Progressive/Democrat. Zuckerman can earn the dual label if he wins in the Democratic primary and also wins as a write-in in the Progressive primary. Or the Progressives could simply name him as their candidate after the primary — all major parties can fill empty slots on the ballot if no one emerges from the primary a victor.

"I'm talking with people, and in fact I had a sign up at the farmers market this past weekend that read: 'What do you think David Zuckerman should do?' said Zuckerman. So many people were asking him privately that he decided to make it more public. So far, folks have been encouraging.

"I do have to figure out if my farm and family can handle it," said Zuckerman.

This fusion approach is modeled on the successful candidacy of State Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden). Ashe was a Progressive city councillor who ran in the Democratic primary for state senate in Chittenden County — and won. He then won a seat in the 30-member chamber.

"This is one way that a Progressive can run in the statewide race while removing the three-way conundrum that challenges some voters. If Democratic voters feel that Progressive views are similar to what they see the Democrats' views as, then hopefully this would be met with a warm reception," said Zuckerman. If not, he added, then he'll consider it a lesson learned.

"It would be both an olive branch and a test, and it would leave the decision up to the voters instead of hard-core insiders from either party," said Zuckerman.

Zuckerman was first elected to the House in 1996. He has served as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and is currently a member of the House Ways & Means Committee.

Other possible Democratic candidates include Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan, former House member Tom Costello, State Sen. Ed Flanagan and former Vermont CARES Executive Director Tim Palmer.

September 11, 2009

Leahy: Congress Close to Enacting Media Shield Law

News reporters may soon be granted federal protection from being held in contempt of court, fined or even jailed for refusing to divulge confidential sources.

That's the goal of a so-called "media shield law" being shepherded through the Senate Judiciary Committee by its chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

042609FaceTheNationBIG In April, Leahy made the first attempts to take up what is being dubbed the "Free Flow of Information Act". It has since been tweaked to gain passage, with some key changes approved Thursday.

Since April Leahy and the bill’s lead sponsors — Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) — have worked with media organizations and coalitions and Pres. Barack Obama's administration to make progress on the legislation.

Thursday, the committee adopted a key substitute amendment that would not protect reporters if they refuse to give up confidential sources in a case where national security is compromised, or if those sources came across their information illegally

“Enacting the Free Flow of Information Act — which carefully balances the need to protect confidential source information with the need to protect law enforcement and national security needs — would help to reverse the troubling trend of making the press the first stop instead of the last stop for acquiring information,” said Leahy in a statement. 

Continue reading "Leahy: Congress Close to Enacting Media Shield Law" »

September 10, 2009

Vermont Lawmaker Seeks Greater FairPoint Oversight

Yesterday, Fairpoint execs were grilled by regulators from Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. The telecommunications company continues to be plagued with problems since taking over the land-line phone system from Verizon.

In the event FairPoint Communications files for bankruptcy as a way to restructure its debt and protect its assets, one state lawmaker is urging colleagues to form a tri-state authority to ensure consumers have a greater say in how the company delivers services.


State Sen. Vince Illuzzi (R-Essex-Orleans) has floated the idea to both House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown) and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin (D-Windham). They, in turn, have spoken with their legislative counterparts in Maine and New Hampshire to broach the idea.

So far, there has been no concrete action, but there is interest.

"I have spoken with my counterpart in New Hampshire, and we are trying to arrange a call where we have the Pro Tems, Speakers and majority leaders on the call to discuss our next steps and how we might take some regional legislative action," Smith told Seven Days. "This is not meant to overshadow what the Public Service Board is doing, but complement it."

The state has asked FairPoint to explain why it should be allowed to keep its certificate to conduct business in Vermont. The company had a deadline of noon today to respond, but the Public Service Board has given FairPoint an extra week to file its paperwork, said Beth Fastiggi, a FairPoint spokeswoman.

The tri-state authority would need Congressional approval, since its jurisdiction would cross state borders. Illuzzi is concerned that currently, the states can't truly work in a coordinated regulatory fashion, which is problematic since Fairpoint is not only the primary carrier for many parts of each state, but the backbone for other carriers as well.

"I don't wish them any ill will, but they are providing a crucial service to a lot of Vermonters and Vermont businesses, and those folks need to have a voice if and when FairPoint heads into bankruptcy court," said Illuzzi. "If they have to file Chapter 11, then the bankruptcy court is there essentially to protect the creditors, and I think we ought to have some entity that covers the customers."

Vermont Delegation Applauds Obama Health Care Speech

You would have thought Pres. Barack Obama was addressing schoolchildren last night, as opposed to the day, before given the outburst by one Republican lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) all but yelled "liar, liar pants on fire!" as the president debunked common myths about the proposed health care reform effort. In short, the president said, his bill would not set up government-run "death panels" to kill off grandma, nor will it provide free health care to illegal immigrants.

In any event, Vermont's congressional delegation was on hand for the speech and as far as we know they only applauded and cheered along to the president's speech.

While many on the Left were hoping to hear the president come out strongly for a so-called public option component to be included in any reform effort, he only gave tepid support. While Vermont's delegation is uniformly supportive of a public option, none have committed — as others have in Congress — to vote against a bill that does not include a public option.

Here are their official statements:

Continue reading "Vermont Delegation Applauds Obama Health Care Speech" »

Remember This Guy?

Ben-f This is Ben Kaufman. You may remember him as the kid who came to Vermont to attend Champlain College, while running his own iPhone accessory business, Mophie. He quickly dropped out of Champlain to focus on Mophie before selling the company in 2007.

He took the money he made on Mophie and started working on another concept, which he premiered at the "Burlington Brainstorm" in February of 08. That's where I took this photo of him, in the space that houses the 215 College Artist's Co-op. At the time, Kaufman was calling his new venture kluster. He brought it to a TED conference, showed it off to some celebrities, etc.

I didn't hear anything about kluster for awhile, and then this Sunday, I was reading the NY Times Sunday Magazine, and I came across Kaufman's name again, this time in Rob Walker's Consumed column. Kaufman is now plugging, which sounds a lot like kluster (see video after the jump).

Continue reading "Remember This Guy?" »

September 09, 2009

Local Late Night Show Exits Stage Right

All good things must come to an end.

That's the case with WCAX-TV's locally-run and produced “Late Night Saturday,” hosted by Tim Kavanagh, a WCAX salesman, actor and standup comic.

KavanaughKavanagh emailed friends and supporters over the weekend to dispense the bad news. There will be no season four. At least not this fall. Kavanagh said tapings for the weekly show are being suspended indefinitely.

"The turbulent state of our economy has claimed many victims and our locally-produced show is now one of them," he wrote. "In the three years and 100 episodes that we produced, we witnessed a show that went from an idea to becoming a well-respected, well-viewed and an internationally award-winning program."

Kavanagh said he was proud of the show's accomplishments, and that it helped keep up WCAX-TV's tradition as a local broadcaster.

"LNS managed to remind the local industry what broadcast was intended to be ... local," he wrote. "My hope is that with the success of LNS, local programming will make a TV comeback for all to enjoy."

For now, Kavanagh told fans, the show will technically remain on the air. It will run previously recorded episodes and the crew is working on a few new episodes. Those new shows will mainly be highlight reels from its 100 episodes.

Station Vice President of Operations Alex Martin said the decision to put the show on hiatus was a difficult one for the family-owned affiliate.

"The decision was hard to come to because local programming is something we pride ourselves on, but those kinds of shows, in particular, are resource-intensive to produce," said Martin. "We just couldn't justify it from an economic standpoint, which is too bad because Tim is a great personality and he did a lot of great things with the show."

Back in June, the show got a nice mention in Better Homes & Gardens. LNS was plugged as one of a few shows where you can hear the words, “live before a studio audience!” And, in Burlington there's no line to get in as there are in LA or NYC.

“It all makes for a small-town version of a big-time TV talk show, complete with Kavanagh picking a viewer to be his on-stage sidekick for a night,” noted BH&G.

The show taped every other week inside Alumni Auditorium at Champlain College since late 2006. LNS just aired its 100th episode on May 16, capping its third season on the air.

September 08, 2009

Salmon Defection Spawns Reaction

As Seven Days reported this morning, State Auditor Thomas M. Salmon has renounced his Democratic Party roots and will become a Republican. 

"I did not leave the Democratic Party," said Salmon. "The party left me and tens of thousands of others in a reunion with the Progressive Party."


IMG_0352 Not that said reunion has won them many elections — especially against Republican Gov. Jim Douglas. Fusion, unity or head-to-head, the left has been unable to seat a governor in Vermont for many years. Heck, even former Gov. Howard Dean was known as a fiscal conservative when he led the state — never mind his status as a "raging liberal" today on the national stage.

In response to reporters' questions, Salmon said his intent is to run for reelection as auditor in 2010. But he won't yet rule out a run for higher office.

"I'd say there is about a 10 percent chance I'd run for higher office," said Salmon.

Continue reading "Salmon Defection Spawns Reaction" »

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684