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January 2012

January 31, 2012

Johnson Center Rescues Rare Historic Horse Breed

IMG_0649A horse is a horse, of course, of course — unless that horse happens to be a rare breed called the Colonial Spanish. In that case, says horse enthusiast Stephanie Lockhart, don’t mistake the hardy little steed for just any old pony.

These were the mounts first introduced to the then-New World by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. The horses were later adopted by some American Indian tribes, and raced across the West carrying Pony Express mail carriers.

“These were the first horses in America,” says Lockhart of the horses, also called Spanish mustangs. “They’re like old souls. You look into their eyes, and you can just see the history involved.”

For the five newest horses at Lockhart’s nonprofit Center for America’s First Horse in Johnson, more recent history was a hard-knocks affair: Until earlier this month, the horses were living in New Mexico, where record-breaking drought conditions meant hay, grazing and water were expensive and hard to come by. The horses were thin, and their aging owners — who had been raising the Colonial Spanish for 60 years to keep the historic breed alive — knew they couldn’t keep them any longer.

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Alice Eats: Mimmo's Pizzeria

Cheese274 Carmichael St., Essex, 288-9494

I have two older brothers. One is a chef, who, my mother loves to recount, asked for a wheel of fontina for his third birthday cake. The other is rather pickier than we are. Since birth he's refused to eat meat — and most vegetables. My mom calls him a "pizzatarian." That's why, when he declares a favorite pizzeria, I take note.

At the moment, my brother's official pizza of choice is the one at Mimmo's in Essex. I hadn't had one for years, and I needed to see if he was as right-on as usual.

At times, the pizzeria is so packed with locals that there are lines out the door. Luckily, last night was a slow one. We were seated immediately on the carpeted dining room side by the bar.

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January 30, 2012

Wining and Dining Upstairs at Leunig's Bistro

IMG_3492“I am not a glutton — I am an explorer of food,” declares the late humorist Erma Bombeck in a quote that decorates the menu at Leunig’s Bistro’s new upstairs speakeasy. But with all the appealing appetizers at last night's soft opening, it was hard not to be both explorer and glutton.

At the top of the dimly lit staircase, a new world blooms into view like an art-deco Oz. Paintings by Mark Evans are positioned around angular sconces from Conant Metal and Light. The overall impression is of a miniature Flynn Center, which may be the desired effect, as the spot seems perfect for the pre- and post-theater crowds. Speaking of unique lighting, table lamps from High Beams Lighting in Sutton have shades decorated with real fiddleheads and horsetail.

IMG_3495The food here, in the depths of winter, is heavier than early spring fiddleheads, but drinks compensate, most notably the St. Germain cocktail, an effervescent tipple made with the elderflower booze and sparkling wine.

For the soft opening, servers brought snacks to each table from the fun new bar menu. When the place opens for real tomorrow night, prices will be reasonable. After all, the purpose of the bar is to handle overflow from guests waiting to spend most of their dollars dining downstairs.

An ample serving of candied Vermont Smoke & Cure bacon kettle corn, with a hint of spice, is $4. My favorite snack, the duck fat kettle chips, is among the most expensive at $7. It's worth the splurge, calorically speaking. Sweet duck fat seeps into the crisp potatoes, which are dusted with pepper and coarse salt. Truffle aioli comes on the side, for a pairing as sensuous as silk and satin.

Other highlights include “French onion bites,” which are presented in compartmented dishes meant for escargot. Each chunk of toast combines all the best elements of the restaurant’s signature soup, sans broth. I was also fond of the creamy, meaty Bayley-Hazen-Blue-and-bacon dip, which came with warm, buttery crostini, and the ultra-dark homemade coconut truffle, thrice the size of most bon bons I've seen.

The upstairs bar opens at 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and closes at 10 p.m. during the week and 11p.m. on weekends. Sundays, it's open for brunch, with a range of special Bloody Marys and a raw bar. Those looking for a meaty morning can try a cocktail made with bouillon, bacon and olives stuffed with pepperoni. Meet you upstairs?

Former Lawmaker David Zuckerman Joins Patent Lawsuit Against Monsanto

ZuckermansOrganic farmer David Zuckerman, a former Vermont legislator, has joined a class-action lawsuit against genetically modified seed giant Monsanto and will appear in a Manhattan courtroom tomorrow for the first hearing in the case.

With his wife, Rachel Nevitt, and their daughter, Addie (pictured), Zuckerman runs Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg, a 115-acre 151-acre certified organic, community-supported-agriculture farm that raises vegetables, pigs and poultry. Zuckerman served seven terms as a Progressive representing Burlington in the state House of Representatives, including four years as chair of the Agriculture Committee, before retiring in 2010.

Monsanto is infamous for suing farmers whose crops were cross-pollinated with the company's patented genetically engineered seeds — and now the farmers are fighting back.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), representing 83 farmers and farm organizations with membership upward of 250,000, is asking a federal judge to protect farmers from patent lawsuits should their crops become cross-pollinated with Monsanto's transgenic seed. (Click here to read the complaint.)

As a legislator, Zuckerman sponsored the Farmer Protection Act to protect Vermont farmers from just such lawsuits. "The Farmer Protection Act said that if genetic material did trespass onto another farm, and that farm loses money, the owner of the patent would be liable, not the farmer," Zuckerman tells Seven Days. "It would have placed responsibility for cross-pollination with seed manufacturers like Monsanto."

The legislation passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Jim Douglas in 2006.

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January 27, 2012

Grazing: Yum Dragon Dumplings, for Year of the Dragon

VegdumplingWhen I visit Asian food markets, I usually pick up big bags of dumplings as surefire backups for nights when I don't feel like cooking. They're cheap, easy to cook and always filling, and can do in any kind of pinch.

They also happen to be an auspicious food for celebrating Chinese New Year — they symbolize wealth. So when I found out about locally made Yum Dragon Dumplings during the same week that Year of the Dragon arrived, I tracked down a bag to mark the occasion.

These plump little pockets are the creation of Linda Furiya, an accomplished food writer and author who lives in Shelburne. Though Furiya grew up in Indiana eating mostly Japanese fare, she's travelled and lived in China, too, and for years penned a food column for the San Francisco Chronicle on Japanese and Chinese cooking.

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Movies You Missed 23: Beware the Gonzo

GonzoThis week in movies you missed: Tilda Swinton's psycho kid from We Need to Talk About Kevin acts out in less antisocial ways. He tries to save the future of print journalism!

What You Missed

Actually, teen actor Ezra Miller (pictured) made Beware the Gonzo well before he played the title character in Kevin. But no one who viewed the latter film can ever see Miller in a high school without expecting him to pull out a weapon and cause mayhem. Though Kevin wasn't a particularly well-thought-out character — he was basically just evil — his sociopathic glower was memorable.

But we can discuss that if Kevin becomes a Movie You Missed (it's stayed clear of Vermont so far). Suffice it to say that in this little indie, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, Miller plays a nicer kid.

He's Eddie "Gonzo" Gilman, a nerdy senior at Parker Prep with aspirations to being the next Woodward or Bernstein. But Parker's newspaper is under the editorial thumb of Gavin Reilly (Jesse McCartney), a sneering blond wrestler who refuses to let Gonzo chase the meaty stories that interest him. Meanwhile, Reilly's jock buddies bully Gonzo's friends with impunity, and the principal (James Urbaniak) couldn't care less.

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Vermont Company to Supply Cat Toys to the Stars

Classic_w_LogoLast week, Milia Bell of Burlington packed up 300 Tickle Pickles and shipped them to California. The squishy green tubes, redolent of catnip, will go in swag bags offered to attendees of the 84th Academy Awards on February 26.

If any A-listers actually own cats rather than handbag-sized dogs, those Pickles will eventually end up where they belong — being clawed and embraced by frenzied felines. That could be a stroke of a luck for a two-person Vermont business.

Bell is the owner of Tipsy Nip Organic Catnip Products, which used to be PupCat Bakery. She's been baking treats for cats and dogs and selling them at local farmers markets since 2004. Since 2009, when Suzanne Podhaizer interviewed her for Seven Days, Bell and her partner have shifted focus — from dogs to cats. They changed their name and now sell only their cat toys and catnip wholesale, with 15 to 20 accounts around the country. (Their canine baked goods are still available at farmers markets.)

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Sold! Middlesex Farmers Snap up Mobile Slaughter Unit

Resizedimage300225-rabbitsIt’s official. The that mobile poultry processing unit we first wrote about two weeks ago has sold to the highest bidders — in this case, Lila Bennett and David Robb of Tangletown Farm in Middlesex. Bennett and Robb logged the winning bid in an online auction at $61,000. That’s a pretty penny, but it's also 65 percent of the original $93,000 price tag that the state paid for the mobile slaughterhouse in 2008.

Bidding on the slaughterhouse ended on January 13 but the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets announced the official sale Thursday after mulling over the final bid. In a press release, Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross said the agency is happy with the selling price, and will be reinvesting the money earned through the sale into the meat processing industry in Vermont. Farmers have long identified meat processing as a weak link in the growing local foods industry in Vermont, saying that the few inspected slaughter facilities in the state are overbooked or too far away.

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John Sayles to Open White River Indie Films' Fest in April

Chris-cooper-as-colonel-hardacre-2Here's some cool news for indie film fans: John Sayles will be at White River Indie Films' annual fest on April 27 with his new film, Amigo.

A story of American imperialism rearing its head in the Philippines in 1900, Amigo, starring Chris Cooper (pictured), was screened at the Vermont International Film Festival last October. It's available on demand and probably soon on DVD.

WRIF's Q&A with Sayles is still a big deal. If you remember the '80s, you probably know Sayles has been making films steeped in social consciousness since 1979's Return of the Secaucus Seven. He became an indie fixture before people used the word "indie," combining a leftist sensibility with sharp writing and solid drama in movies such as Lianna, Eight Men Out, Matewan, The Brother From Another Planet and Lone Star.

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January 25, 2012

Williston Screening of 'Pina' to Benefit Work of Local Choreographer

Wim Wenders' Oscar-nominated documentary, Pina, is coming to Vermont in March. If I were you, I'd buy my tickets now. Seriously. Do it.

First off, proceeds from the March 1 screening at Williston's Majestic 10 benefit the Flynn Center and, more specifically, Vermont choreographer Hannah Dennison's large-scale tribute to Pina Bausch, Dear Pina, which premieres in the cathedral-like breeding barn at Shelburne Farms in June.

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