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Omnivore Food Blog By Suzanne Podhaizer

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July 2007

July 31, 2007

Crazy Food Week

I really hate to post to say that I'm not posting, but here I go...

With the American Cheese Society conference happening, as well as the Vermont Fresh Network Forum, I'm going to be bouncing all around town for the next few days, and may not be able to post much.

But I will put up "story chat" posts tomorrow afternoon. One of this week's stories is on a topic that people love to debate, so hopefully, that will be fun.

Today is my anniversary, and I have a really special dinner planned for the occasion, so when I get a chance, I'll report back on that, too.

Have a great week!

July 25, 2007

"Guilt-Free Food" Story Chat

Wanna talk about Alice Levitt's provocative op-ed article in the food section? Here's where you can do it...

Greater Burlington's Best Burger?

The other night I had an amazing cheeseburger -- flavorful, savory and perfectly cooked. The meat -- dry-aged, local ground beef from Wood Creek Farm in Bridport -- was topped with caramelized onions and Shelburne Farms cheddar on Red Hen's dense sweet brioche.

Where did I eat this delightful creation? At the Ground Round in South Burlington during their Vermont Fresh Network Farmers' Dinner. As I've mentioned both in a story I wrote about the Ground Round and in the Food News column, the restaurant's GM, Bob Scott, is hard at work adding local products to the franchise's menu. The beef and Vermont Smoke & Cure bacon, which they use on the bacon cheeseburger, are two of the newest.

I asked Bob to give me the scoop on some of the restaurant's burger options:

$7.99 -- Basic model on a bun. Comes with madhouse munchies chips.
$9.49 -- The one I tried. Brioche, caramelized onions, cheddar.
$10.49 -- This luxe bacon cheeseburger comes on a bun with a side of whiskey peppercorn sauce. It's the priciest burger they have.

I've eaten burgers at various places around town, and this may be the best one I've had. Think I'm crazy because Restaurant X's burger is clearly the Platonic ideal? Tell me all about it!

July 23, 2007

More McKenzie!

Last week, when I learned that cured-meat-purveyor McKenzie's Country Classics, formerly McKenzie of Vermont, has been owned by Kayem Foods in Massachusetts since 1999, I wondered if the information was newsworthy or if everybody already knew.

After chewing on it for a few minutes, I decided to mention it in my Food News column. Apparently, other folks agreed it was news...the Free Press put a story about the meat merger on the cover of today's "Business Monday" section!

July 19, 2007

You Say Cilantro, I say Culantro...

Q - What in the heck is culantro? Is it a mispronunciation of cilantro orFigure 1 something completely different?

A - OK, you caught me! I asked that question myself. Why? Cause I ran across culantro for the first time a few weeks ago, and wanted to share my new knowledge with the world. At least with the very small world composed of people who read my blog.

My encounter with culantro happened at Pho Dang, a new Vietnamese cafe in Winooski. My bowl of beefy pho arrived accompanied by a selection of herbs meant to be torn up and stirred into the broth. Mint, cilantro and Thai basil were recognizable, but there was one herb, with long serrated leaves, that I'd never, ever seen before. I can't remember the last time that happened!

So I did a little research. Culantro (or ngo gai, in Vietnamese), as is evident by the pungent aroma, is closely related to cilantro.  It is native to the Caribbean and tropical regions of the Americas, and is a popular kitchen herb in the aforementioned regions, as well as in Southeast Asia.

Despite that, I was unable to find a single recipe calling for it in any of my regional cookbooks. To make matters worse, a book on Mayan cooking and another on the cuisines of the Caribbean said that cilantro and culantro are the same thing. The only tome that differentiates is The Essential Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. But even then, it doesn't actually call for the stuff.

Since my old-fashioned, paper books weren't helping, I turned to the web. If you're able to find culantro at an Asian or other ethnic market, here are a few uses...

1) Black beans and rice with culantro chimichurri, from the Cooking Diva Blog.
2) Pho Bo, from It's a Vietnamese recipe, even though it's on a Chinese cooking page.
3) Linguine and lobster caribe, on the Food Network's Site.

The picture, by the way, is from a very informative, yet rather dry horticulture website at Perdue.

July 10, 2007

Visiting Shelburne Farms

Where can you watch cheddar being made, buy delicious sticky buns and olive-studded ciabatta and see baby pigs frolic, all within one building? Shelburne Farms, that's where! In the past, I'd visited the CoachImg_3382 Barn at the farm for a production of Romeo and Juliet, and also for a presentation on maple terroir. But I'd never just visited to enjoy the properties offerings, until last weekend, that is.

On Saturday morning, I had breakfast at the Inn at Shelburne Farms with my lovely friends Margot, Eva and Molly. All three have been there before and assured me that I would just love it...they were right!

We sat at an outdoor table with a view of the lake. I ordered a mimosa because I'm finicky about Bloody Marys, but was promptly jealous when I tried a sip of Eva's. Now that I think about it, I don't even like the concept of a mimosa: I'll take my champagne and fresh-squeezed o.j. separately, next time. Or, more likely, I'll order a nice, stiff, horseradish-scented Bloody Mary, instead.

Then I had eggs Benedict. When I try a new breakfast place, I almost always order the eB. Why? Because the ability to turn out a good hollandaise sauce is the mark of a well-run kitchen. And this was a good hollandaise, albeit, it could have used just a touch more lemon, methinks. The eggs were perfectly poached with sunny yolks, the toast was just crusty enough and the Vermont ham was a delicious complement...nicer than the traditional Canadian bacon. Molly had a gorgeous fruit plate (the pineapple she let me sample was sweet and juicy). Overall, a very tasty meal in a lovely setting.

After breakfast, we explored the gardens and visited the Inn's fancy library and game room. Then we walked along a forest path to the Farm Barn, which houses the Cheddary, Bakery, Wood-Working Studio and Children's Farmyard. We shopped at the O'Bread Bakery (mmm...cinnamon twists and olive rolls) and checked out the baby animals before heading back to the car in a rainstorm. We stopped at one more place, too, but you can read about that in this week's food news (on Wednesday afternoon...before that, you'll find last week's food news).

On Sunday, I was spending time with my lovely friend Kate, who hails from San Diego. Kate wanted to see Vermont cheese being made. Where to go? Back to Shelburne Farms! We visited the cheese-making facility and watched as cheddar curds were drained of their whey. We also sampled Shelburne Farms Cheddar at a few different ages (6 months, 1 year and 2 year). We both liked the 2-year cheese best. And yes, we stopped at O'Bread for a few treats. This time, I got a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread and a flaky chocolate croissant.

What a lovely, educational and ultra-Vermont-y place to take advantage of...In the future, I'll be visiting Shelburne Farms on a regular basis. I can't wait to go back for dinner!

July 06, 2007

The Food Timeline

Did you know that Fig Newton's have been around since 1891, and were most likely invented in Newton, Massachussets? Or that the Yukon Gold potato didn't exist until 1981? I learned both of these tidbits from the Food Timeline, created by a reference librarian named Lynne Olver who hails from Whippany, NJ. Olver and co. also answer culinary questions on far, they claim to have responded to 16,476 such queries.

I've visited the site a bunch of times during various culinary research projects, but it was just today I got the bright idea of telling you about it! Silly me.

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