Thursday, May 15, 2014

Alice's Latest Obsession: Mint Chip Smoothie at Eco Bean & Juice

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 3:23 PM


I'm an obsessive person. When I was a kid, I flitted every few years from one life's purpose to another: the works of Stephen Sondheim, Victor Hugo, the Burke and Hare murders. I was nothing if not eclectic. As a grown-up food writer, I'm slightly better adjusted, but when I taste something truly special, it happens all over again.

Such was the case a few months ago when I had my first Mint Chip smoothie at Eco Bean & Juice in Burlington. In the depths of winter, I needed somewhere to stop after a spinning class at REV. I'd never thought of myself as a "smoothie person," but my mind was open — I'd never considered myself a spinning person, either.

As a lifelong devotee of mint chocolate chip ice cream (I still swear by the ones at Baskin Robbins and La Crémaillère in Bedford, N.Y., my lowbrow and highbrow childhood favorites), the choice was a no-brainer. Raspberry-chia-peach and Nuts About Acai — made with acai, berries, peanut butter and protein powder  — sounded attractive. But any foodstuff with fresh mint high on the ingredient list is my first choice.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Menu and Chef Details for Farmhouse Group's Newest Endeavors

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Slicing steak at Guild Tavern - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Slicing steak at Guild Tavern
The Farmhouse Group's latest project, Pascolo Ristorante, will debut in early May, says chef-partner Phillip Clayton. In anticipation of the Italian restaurant's opening, he has hired an executive chef and sous-chef to get the ball of pasta dough rolling.

Opening Guild & Company (now Guild Tavern) sous-chef Kevin Sprouse has returned to Vermont to take on the role of executive chef at Pascolo. In the interim, he gained seafood experience at Blue Point on North Carolina's Outer Banks. "He was looking to come back to the area right around the time we started searching for an executive chef for Pascolo," says Clayton of the Culinary Institute of America grad.

Sprouse's sous-chef will be Brattleboro native Michael Moranski. Most recently at chef Sean Brock's Nashville sequel to his famed Charleston restaurant, Husk, Moranski's Nashville career also included farm-to-table eatery Flyte World Dining & Wine and his own Sunday brunch pop-up at the Nashville Farmers Market, the Speckled Hen. 

Meanwhile, a new executive chef is also onboard at Guild Tavern, longtime Trattoria Delia chef de cuisine Bruce Stewart.

Why not place the chef best known for Italian food at Pascolo? "Bruce’s skill set extends well beyond Italian food, and he’s really excited about the opportunity to spread his wings a little bit and explore different types of cuisine," Clayton explains. "Kevin and Mike both have a passion for Italian food and great experience with it."

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Trader Joe's Will Open in South Burlington Store on May 16

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 4:11 PM

Trader Joe's in Connecticut - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Trader Joe's in Connecticut

The Trader Joe's that has been taking shape on Dorset Street in South Burlington will open on Friday, May 16, according to a press release issued by the company early this morning.

The 12,800-square-foot store is a typical size for the chain, and will sport the same island motif as its other 400-plus stores. Patrons can probably also expect the same eclectic assortment of food and drink, which can range from dark-chocolate-covered edamame and cheap red wine to salad greens, almond milk, flowers and vitamins. 

Trader Joe's was founded in California in 1958, and half of its stores are in that state. The South Burlington store was developed by Montpelier's Malone Properties, and underwent a lengthy permitting process before construction began last summer. No word yet on exactly how many "crew members" — aka staff — the chain will hire to run the store, but last year a local developer estimated about 60. 

The store is a stone's throw away from Healthy Living Market and Café  and one of a handful of new locations that will open this year — including stores in Boise, Boca Raton and Tampa.

South Burlington's Trader Joe's will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Slovenia Invades Vermont — Buffet-Style

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 5:22 PM

I would be surprised if any other food critic writes more about the cuisine at area universities than I do, but I can't help it. The University of Vermont hosts two of my favorite annual food events. Judging the Battle of the Campus chefs each year, the skills of the dining hall staff impress me every time. Last year's visit from Swedish chef Göran Päandel Berggren opened my eyes to Sodexo's Global Chef program.

Representative produce, including a melon carved by chef Marin
  • Representative produce, including a melon carved by chef Marin

This year, Slovenian chef Božidar Marin topped Berggren's few offerings by taking over Harris-Millis Unlimited Dining last night. Books on Slovenia crowded a table near the front of the dining hall and native music filled the air. The deli station held two whole-roasted suckling pigs as well as Vermont and European meats and cheeses. Every dish at each of the nine stations was a product of Marin's homeland. A one-night-only Slovenian buffet in Burlington? ArtsRiot, take note. 

Bela Krajina-style meat dumplings with Alpine Herdsman potatoes
  • Bela Krajina-style meat dumplings with Alpine Herdsman potatoes

There was a long line at the Mansfield Grill station, which is not uncommon. But usually it's for burgers and fried chicken sandwiches, not for fried meat dumplings from Slovenia's southeastern corner, a region known as Bela Krajina, or White Carniola.

The garlicky pork patties were coated in a batter not unlike thicker tempura, then fried to a golden brown. Imagine a deep-fried hamburger, then multiply it at least a couple of times. The delicious indulgence included a side of Alpine Herdsman Potatoes, a dish not unlike gratin dauphinois, but with onions, bacon and sour cream adding a Germanic taste.

That's only part of what defines Slovenian flavors, though. The small country is surrounded by Austria and Italy in the west and Hungary and Croatia in the east. A mix of specialties from all four makes up the hearty cuisine.

Risotto with zucchini
  • Risotto with zucchini

Risotto with chunks of zucchini meshed Italian Parmesan with the pumpkinseed oil popular in Austria for a delicious, wholly Slovenian dish. The arborio rice had turned mushy under the dining hall heat lamps, but the buttery rice tasted so damn good, it didn't matter that the essential bite was missing.

Sea bass with mashed lemon potatoes
  • Sea bass with mashed lemon potatoes

Pumpkinseeds appeared again coating crispy sea bass. The fish itself, dressed in julienned carrots and celery,  didn't have the big flavor of other dishes, but the pile of mashed potatoes beneath it did. The creamy spuds were flavored strongly with lemon and mixed with sour cream. It was like the flavor photo negative of most fish and potato dishes.

Pohorje hot pot
  • Pohorje hot pot

My favorite savory selections were a pair of stews. A pasta and bean soup called pašta fižol was a thicker, meatier take on Italian pasta e fagioli. Just a hint of acid complemented the smoke emanating from thick chunks of North Country Smokehouse bacon.

As I'm a great lover of Polish food, the Slovenian version of hunters' stew, Pohorje hot pot, reminded me of bigos with beans instead of sauerkraut. In a garlicky red wine sauce, beef pork and venison were braised to tender perfection along with potatoes, mushrooms, bacon and carrots, then studded with chewy barley. If I hadn't already eaten several meals of heavy food, I would have gone back for seconds. But I still had to eat dessert!

I wolfed down the bled crmada so quickly that I didn't even photograph it. It was that delicious. Somewhere between a trifle and bread pudding, the sweet consisted of vanilla and chocolate sponge layered with vanilla custard and softened raisins. Rum simple syrup and carob made the whole thing so moist, the slices simply couldn't hold together. No matter. I ate until I could eat no more. Luckily, a Global Chef comes but once a year. 

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Grazing: Wine on Tap

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 2:42 PM


Gut instinct might tell you to stay away from wine in a box, but you’d only be half right: Boxed wines have been improving, though some are still god-awful.

Wine in kegs, however, are way ahead of the game. Often, restaurants must eat the cost of wine that oxidizes in the bottle, such as a slightly unusual varietal opened for a glass pour and never ordered again. This is partly why many wine-by-the-glass lists tend to resemble each other. (K-J Chardonnay, anyone?)

Enter kegged wine. Even if the clunkiness of a beer keg seems at odds with the elegance of wine, tapping vino in an airtight container keeps ruinous oxygen at bay and a batch of wine fresher, longer. It's also eminently "green," cutting down on glass waste.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Grazing: The Disneyland of Olive Oil

Posted By on Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 4:46 PM


The first time I saw a specialty olive-oil store — on Long Island — I thought it was kind of gimmicky. I'm not much for infused oils (unless I do it myself), and the concept seemed to take "artisanal" to a nutty level. Yet I formed this judgment without ever stepping through the door, and held fast to it even after I was given an olive-oil-store gift basket for Christmas and became hooked on chocolate balsamic vinegar. It was tasty, but would I ever buy some for myself? Nah.

So when I walked out of the Saratoga Olive Oil Co. store this week with three bottles under my arm, including an olive oil pressed with blood-orange peel, I had to admit I'd been turned. Seduced? I'm not sure. It probably doesn't matter, but like a favorite shoe store, I need to pace my visits.

The shop opened about a month ago at 86 Church Street, the second branch in what might be a slowly growing empire owned and run by the Braidwood family of Saratoga. The interior is spare, and both sides lined by stainless-steel urns filled with single-varietal and infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. In their midst is a table filled with jars of specialty salts in tricked-out flavors such as Hawaiian Black Lava and French Garden.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grazing: Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches

Posted By on Sun, Aug 21, 2011 at 3:22 PM


It doesn't look like much, but these were the remnants of an ecstatic eating experience (the sweet kind).

I found it impossible to take a decent photo of the salted-caramel ice cream sandwich that had our office buzzing this week. The same fleeting quality that made it so yummy — its sumptuous, salty-sweet insides — puddled into a gooey mess almost from the moment it emerged from the freezer. It is Mirabelles that had the genius to sandwich salted-caramel ice cream between two rich, slightly gooey chocolate crinkle cookies, and it oozes from the sides with every bite.

The dessert's flavor is so crazy making that I twirled and dodged while trying to catch every last bit before it dripped away. I ended up with some leftover cookie and a big pool of melted caramel and cream (see picture) that I dragged my fingers through like a child.

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