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Omnivore Food Blog By Suzanne Podhaizer

Livin' La Vida Localvore

August 29, 2008

Huge 'Shroom at Smokejacks

Img_1938I got an unusual phone call this afternoon from Josh Robinette, head chef at Smokejacks. "We just got a 25-pound puffball mushroom from a forager," he explained excitedly. "Do you want to come see it."

Of course I did...I grabbed a camera and headed up the restaurant. The big bad fungus was sitting on a sheet pan in the walk-in, but Chef R. brought it upstairs  so I could snap a pic in better light. 

Img_1936Can you believe that thing? It's as big as the table!

What's he going to do with it? Put it in risotto, for one thing. It'll also make an appearance in the resto's wild mushroom ravioli, which is apparently a big seller. If you want to try it for yourself, you should head there soon...They expect it to be gone in a few days.

While I was there I asked the staffers if anything else noteworthy was going on, and owner Susan Huling mentioned that she thinks the new menu is better than ever.

She gave me a copy, and here are some of the highlights:

~ Local potato soup with scallions, cheddar, bacon and sour cream

~ Duck confit quesadilla with black beans, queso blanco and jalapeno salsa

~ Hickory-smoked Vermont pork ribs with black strap molasses bbq sauce, maple baked beans and slaw

The cheese list, which is always excellent (but pricey), currently includes many of my local favorites, including Jasper Hill's stinky, silky, perfect "Winnemere," Thistle Hill's fruity and nutty "Tarentaise," and  Vermont Butter & Cheese company's goaty, ripened "Bonne Bouche." 


May 14, 2008

Farmers' Market Season Has Begun!

Img_4120_2 Where in Vermont can you find sizzling burgers made with grass-fed beef, Tibetan momos, pork tamales, egg rolls and barbecued meats with Caribbean sauces, all in one place?

Nope, it's not an International food court or an "eclectic" restaurant: Every one of these items is available at the Burlington Farmers' Market, which kicked off the season last Saturday with gorgeous weather and a big, hungry crowd.

I had a great time wandering City Hall Park and reconnecting with a few vendors I hadn't seen for a long time. Although I didn't buy too much (my farm share takes care of most of my Img_4122 veggie needs), I did get some cave-aged "Butternut" cheese from Willow Hill Farm as well as some Caprella (you can never have too much cheese) and pork chops from Doe's Leap. And I got some ground beef from Stony Pond Farm, too.

Although there weren't many veggies available yet (some overwintered roots, microgreens and tons of spinach), the most exciting part about the first few markets is that there's something new every single time.

I may have to miss this coming weekend though...I'll be handing out the 7 Nights Dining Guide at the Vermont Chocolate Show in Essex, as well as sampling the delightful chocolate martinis.

* Pics: Rachel, Addie and David of Full Moon Farm
* Shoppers relaxing on the green

May 09, 2008

This Week's Farm Share: 5/9/08

I can't wait to do some cooking with all the delightful stuff that came my way this week:

Mixed Potatoes
Spring Dug Parsnips
Savoy Cabbage
Mesclun Braising Mix 
1 Bunch Basil
1 Bunch Scallions
1 Bunch Mizuna
Champlain Orchards Apples
Butterworks Farm Yogurt
Dulse Seaweed
Pearled Barley
Patchwork Bread.

April 23, 2008

I'm In Love with Pete's Greens (This Week's Farm Share)

It may have been 80-degrees today, but it's still April, and usually, that means the only local vegetables available to Vermonters are baby spinach, sprouts and perhaps some tiny mesclun greens. But not if you have a Pete's Greens CSA share. This week we got:

Baby "salad turnips" and their greens
A nice big head of Napa cabbage
Overwintered parsnips
A mixture of green and purple choi
A bag of mixed braising greens
Organic oats
Mixed, cracked grains
A baguette
Smoked cheddar from VT. Milk Company

Tonight my dinner was 100% local: Polenta with braising greens, shiitake mushrooms and smoked cheddar with pork chops from Jericho Settlers' Farm (cooked in local sunflower oil, no less). Mmm.

April 11, 2008

Vermont's First Annual Jr. Iron Chef!

Jr_iron_chef_vt_08_logo_cropTomorrow, at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex, 30 teams of Vermont youth will go head to head to find out "whose cuisine will reign supreme."  Although there's no "secret ingredient," the youngsters were tasked with creating localvore dishes that can easily be replicated in a school cafeteria. Given that it's barely spring and the growing season is just beginning, this isn't as easy as it sounds.

The middle school competition will happen Saturday morning, while the high schoolers will compete in the early afternoon (I'm the head judge for the high school competition). Attending is really inexpensive, $2.50 for individuals and $5 for a family, and the money raised benefits the Burlington School Food Project and VT FEED. There's also gonna be a few food vendors, maple sugar on snow and live music.

You won't find Molto Mario or Cat Cora there, but there are going to be a few local celebs, such as Kathy O'Brien (of Survivor fame), Mark Bove, Anson Tebbetts (Deputy Secretary of Agriculture) and farmer/legislator Will Stevens. The M.C. will be Chairman Sean Buchanan, executive chef for Stowe Mountain Lodge.

It's for a good cause and it should be fun. Hope to see you there!

March 27, 2008

The Yogurt Project: Liberté Méditerranée Yogourt, Plum & Walnut

This is the second post in my yogurt project. If you missed the first one, I've quoted my writeup about how it works below:

What's the deal with little cups of yogurt? Just a few years ago, fermented-dairy eaters had a choice between Dannon and Columbo. Remember Columbo? I didn't...I had to ask my coworker to help me come up with the name of "that other major yogurt company when we were growing up."

Now, I see customers standing dumbstruck before the yogurt shelf, not knowing whether to reach for full-fat sheeps' milk, low-fat cows' milk or even a soy.  So,  I figure, it's time for a massive yogurt taste test.  You ready?

If I were a purist I would taste only plain yogurt, but this is my game, and I don't wanna. So I'm going to do the best I can comparing different brands by eating their most enticing flavors.

Liberté Méditerranée Yogourt: Plum & Walnut

Packaging: The packaging for this product is fine. Writing on the white, plastic cup is in purple, black and blue, and there's a very simple drawing of plums and walnuts with a blue swirl above it. It doesn't get me excited, but it doesn't turn me off, either.
     It's labeled free of rGBH. The product is made in Canada with milk from the St. Albans Creamery Cooperative in Vermont.

Nutrition Info: 6 oz. serving. 250 calories. 22% fat. 0% fiber. 24 g. sugars. 6 g. protein. 20% calcium, 20% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C.

Live Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Bulgaricus

Appearance: White and thick, the consistency of really dense whipped cream. The plums and walnuts are on the bottom. When mixed into the yogurt, the whole turns a very pale purple with bits of walnut strewn throughout.

Aroma: This product has a nice, sweet, milky aroma with just a hint of sourness. When the fruit is mixed in, it smells like plums, too.

Mouthfeel: Thick, but not too thick, and very pleasant. The fruit mixture alone has the consistency of applesauce with nut bits mixed in. Those who don't like chunks in their food may be turned off by the walnuts.

Taste: Completely delightful. The yogurt itself is slightly sweet and tastes like cream, with the smallest hint of sourness on the finish. The fruit and walnut combo is intensely plummy. The walnuts add textural interest --  if you like that kind of thing. -- but not much flavor. Overall, I can't imagine many things I'd rather eat.

Notes: Some may balk at the calorie content or the amount of fat in this product: Don't. Please. Fat and fiber help make you feel full. When I eat low-fat yogurt with no added fiber (yes, some yogurts are "enhanced" with a fibrous ingredient called inulin, which is often extracted from chicory plants), I want to eat again in about 10 minutes. The Liberté. on the other hand, actually fills you up.  Sorry for being a  Liberté proselytizer, but this is the first yogurt that I've ever loved.

Visit the Liberté website, here. 

March 13, 2008

This Week's Farm Share: 3/12/08

Here's what I got from Pete's Greens this week:

~ Green Cabbage
~ Sweet Storage Carrots
~ Mixed Yellow Potatoes
~ Rutabaga
~ Copra Onions
~ Champlain Orchards Squash Puree
~ Champlain Orchards Empire Apples
~ Vermont Milk Company Cheddar Cheese
~ Pete's Eggs
~ Anadama Bread.

February 29, 2008

This Week's Farm Share: 2/28/08

Usually my Pete's Greens farm share arrives every Wednesday, but this week, due to a snowstorm, it came on Thursday. I swung by the pick-up point on my way to meet friends for a birthday party at American Flatbread.

Here's what we got:

A very pretty, unusually shaped loaf of Elmore Mountain Bread with blue cheese sprinkles
A big jar of crystallized local honey
Maplebrook Farm mozzerella
A bag of local flour
Lots of root veggies...haven't looked through them yet

And by the time you go to Flatbread, I recommend their home-brewed North Star Saison...very nice.

February 23, 2008

This Week's Farm Share: 2/20/08

Since I get an amazing, year-round farm share through Pete's Greens "Good Eats" CSA, I thought it might interest some folks to hear about the products that I get each week (and maybe even a little about what I do with 'em). The contents of the share changes every time, and it is varied enough to dispel the notion that it's impossible to eat seasonally while living in Vermont's cold climate.

This week, I got:

A whole round of Jasper Hill's Constant Bliss
A big bag of frozen strawberries
dried local cranberries (really good)
Oat & Barley bread
A dozen eggs
banana fingerling potatoes

February 19, 2008

Vegan Treats at City Market

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a duo of products at City Market that I hadn't seen before: raw, vegan "egg salad" and "tuna" salad. At the time, I was seeking mass quantities of comforting cooked potatoes, so I abstained.

This morning, I noticed a some new products from the same company, Vermont Fiddle Heads, so I decided to try 'em. I came back to the office with a bag of raw spice cookies (dehydrated, not cooked) and balls of Super Mint Fudge. Both sweets are gluten-free and dairy-free.

As an omnivore who luxuriates in butter, cheese and cream from small, locally-owned farms, and who enjoys cooked products such as gingerbread cake and apple crisp, I'll admit that my palate may not be well suited to judging what might taste delicious to someone who abstains from such items. With that in mind, I tried a piece of the fudge.

The soft, dark brown ball felt soft between my fingers, and I resisted the urge to play with it as if it were Play-Doh. The aroma was dominated by mint extract, which made my sinuses feel nice when I inhaled. Like a more pleasant, edible version of Vicks VapoRub.

After biting into the ball, I was surprised to find it quite chunky -- seemingly with nut pieces and cacao nibs. The flavor had little in common with the product that I think of as fudge -- a smooth, creamy, sugar-y dessert -- but it was not unpleasant, and is certainly much healthier.

The sticky spice cookie was also dark brown but studded with nut bits. It had a mildly spicy aroma.  The most interesting thing about the cookie's flavor was the fact that every bite was a little different. One had more salt, another had a bitter edge -- perhaps from a piece of citrus zest. The spices were detectable, but not overpowering. 

Both tasted fine, but would I choose to eat them just for the pleasure of it? Maybe not. When I want what I consider to be a healthy snack, I often eat a handful of mixed nuts and dried fruit, fresh fruit with a piece of artisan cheese or some olives, all of which I love. Nix the artisan cheese and they're all vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free, too. But not all raw. And definitely not local.

On the rare occasion that I opt for something sweet, it has nothing to do with health. It's all about living a voluptuous, sensual life. To me that means downing an eclair, or something similarly decadent, every couple of weeks.

But if you're a vegan proponent of raw food, and enjoy slightly sweet snacks that you don't have to prepare yourself, I bet that these will be right up your alley!      

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