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December 2011

December 25, 2011

Grazing: Mulled Wine Recipe From Nina Koch

Mulledwine_84959_16x9Though Christmas is drawing to a close, a good mulled wine can warm your bones all winter. When I learned that Nina Koch, a regional wine representative at Vermont Wine Merchants, had perfected her own version, I asked to reprint it here and she graciously agreed. 

"After combing through many different recipes and watching some pretty comical YouTube videos, I came up with a fantastic recipe for some savory and delicious mulled wine," she says. "It took a few attempts and minor adjustments, but this will have you and your guests rosy cheeked and feeling festive." 

Nina introduced the recipe on her brand-new food-and-wine radio program, "The Sunday Night Crush," which airs every Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on With Seven Days' end-of-the-year madness and my own holiday plans, I couldn't post it until now — but this recipe could be useful for New Year's Eve parties, and beyond. The generous Nina is happy to answer wine-related questions, too; just email her at The Crush.

Continue reading "Grazing: Mulled Wine Recipe From Nina Koch" »

December 23, 2011

Movies You Missed 19: Saint Nick

Saint-nickThis week in movies you missed: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he's going to kill you (in this horror flick from the Netherlands, that is).

What You Missed

This week in Vermont news, we learned that public school teachers can get in trouble for telling fifth graders that Santa is fictional, like Harry Potter. Apparently it's culturally insensitive to cast doubt on a "symbol of the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ," said school superintendent Christopher Kibbe.

So I guess we can see why Saint Nick was never released theatrically in the U.S. In this slasher film, dastardly Dutch writer-director Dick Maas dares to imagine that Saint Nicholas is not just real, but evil.

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December 21, 2011

Burlington Photographer Chosen As Finalist in National Geographic Photo Contest

Zoe BarracanoThere's probably no greater honor for an aspiring photographer, short of winning a Pulitzer, than to have one's work recognized by National Geographic. This month, that honor belongs to Zoë Barracano of Burlington, whose photograph, "Magnetism," was chosen as one of 10 finalists in National Geographic's "Story Without Words" global photo contest.

Barracano's picture (right) was shot several years ago in India while she and her family were living in Singapore and traveling around Asia. It was chosen by Dan Westergren, senior photo editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine, who had the daunting task of sifting through more than 7000 submissions to select just 10 finalists.

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December 20, 2011

Alice Eats: El Gato Cantina

IMG_3344169 Church St., Burlington 802-540-3095

It's always nice to see restaurateurs giving people what they want. Not surprisingly, in Burlington, that means only the most local, seasonal ingredients available. That wasn't originally a focus at El Gato Cantina, but in recent weeks, owner Tree Bertram has made it clear that she's been listening.

Out went the popular elotes (grilled corn topped with queso fresco). In came specials focused on local meat and even Lyndon-made Sheffield Seitan.

When I tried the the new dishes last night, several things were missing, most notably, the pork mole made with braised local shoulder, which was out of stock. No matter, the chicken version is now made with Misty Knoll Farms chicken. I've had plenty of local lengua, and the truth is, tongue is tongue, even when it's from LaPlatte River Farm. I decided to go for the seitan instead.

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Center for Cartoon Studies Gets a New Home

CCSxmasIt's been a big year for the Center for Cartoon Studies. The nation's only cartoon school, based in White River Junction, kicked off 2011 with the announcement of Vermont's first, official cartoonist laureate, James Kochalka of Burlington.

In August, CCS did battle with Tropical Storm Irene when the White River poured into the building housing the school's Charles Schultz Library (they saved all the books).

This week, CCS announces a very happy culmination to the year: a new building.

Well, a new old building. CCS closed yesterday on its purchase of the historic post office on South Main Street, which was constructed in 1934. The Colonial Revival-style brick structure has also been a Vermont District Court and a private office building.

It's about to become the school's HQ, housing classrooms, much-needed faculty space, and the library. Existing tenants in the upper floor offices will remain and their rent will help to pay the mortgage on CCS' first fully-owned building.

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December 19, 2011

Fletcher Allen and Fresenius Pull Plug on Sale of Dialysis Clinics

Fletcher_AllenA for-profit company that wanted to buy Fletcher Allen Health Care's five outpatient dialysis clinics announced today it's pulling the plug on the $28-million sale.

FAHC announced last year it wanted to sell off the clinics because they were losing about $1.8 million annually. Fresenius Medical Care proposed to buy them and run them through its subsidiary, Bio-Medical Care Holdings, based in New Hampshire.

State regulators panned the proposed sale earlier this month.

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December 16, 2011

Maglianero Serves Up Lunch

Foodnews_20Those in search of an easily achievable New Year's resolution can add lunch at Maglianero to their lists. The hipster café at 47 Maple Street in Burlington begins lunch service on January 6, the first Friday of 2012.

Each day, folks from the Chubby Muffin will deliver two sandwiches, two salads and a soup to the South End spot. Café manager Francesca Orsini says that options may expand as demand requires.

Fans of the "Skinny Salad" at Chubby Muffin's sister restaurant, the Skinny Pancake, will be able to find it at Maglianero. Other specialties have been created just for the coffee shop. New dishes include a meatloaf sandwich with local cheddar and horseradish mayo on focaccia; an apple and brie sandwich; and gluten-free tabbouleh made with quinoa instead of bulgur. Orsini says she's especially fond of the organic beet, arugula and blue cheese salad.

According to Orsini, the boxed lunches will be available for pick-up from around 9 a.m. until Maglianero closes at 5:30 p.m. Looks like the year is getting off to a good start.


Grazing: Simple Butter Cookies For Christmas

Butter_cookiesIn the weeks leading up to Christmas every year of my growing up, my stepmother, Susan, would steal away in the late afternoons and evenings to bake batches upon batches of Christmas cookies. Most she learned from the Italian women of her family, and all were irresistible. As she loaded trays and tins with fig cookies, anisette cookies, chewy chocolate-chip cookies and gingerbread, she sometimes had to shoo us away from eating them as fast as she turned them out. 

I loved them all, but my favorite was her simple Italian butter cookie — light and almost lemony, even though it contains no citrus. Unfortunately, with my tendency to be far from home, I only learned the basic strokes of her recipe before she passed away. She had written down some recipes, but this one was lost. I've tried to recreate it, though, if only to capture Christmases gone by. It's one of the mysteries of food — how certain dishes can transport us directly back to the past.

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Movies You Missed 18: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Detective_dee_04This week in movies you missed: an ass-kicking, anachronistic genius detective from Hong Kong. Top that, Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes!

What You Missed

A 2010 mystery/action epic from prominent Hong Kong New Wave director Tsui Hark, based on the real Tang Dynasty official Di Renjie and latter-day fictions about his exploits.

The year is 689 A.D., and Wu Zetian (Carina Lau) is about to crown herself China's first empress, over the objections of clan leaders who do not want a woman on the throne. After officials inspect the 200-foot Buddha statue just constructed in the empress' honor, one of them bursts into flames, a victim of apparent spontaneous combustion.

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State Health Department Bans "Bath Salts" and Five Synthetic Cannabinoids

Salvia_divinorum_-_Herba_de_Maria"Tranquility", "Cloud 9", "Vanilla Sky" and similarly named products sold online as "bath salts" may sound as calm and relaxing as a hot bubble bath, but these ain't your grandma's epsom salts. Bath salts are the street name for the designer drug, Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPK), a powerful new stimulant to hit the underground drug scene in the last few years. MDPK, along with the much older hallucinogen, Salvia divinorum, or "Seer's Sage" (right), have just joined the ranks of illegal substances in Vermont, with possession of a single dose of these drugs constituting a felony.

The Vermont Department of Health announced this morning that it has banned the use, sale, possession or manufacture of bath salts and other designer drugs, which are sold in head shops and over the Internet to skirt state drug laws. As of December 16, bath salts and five synthetic cannabinoids — the active ingredients in marijuana — are now illegal in the Green Mountain State.

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