Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Farmers Market Kitchen: Mother Hubbards

Posted By on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 at 10:00 AM

  • Photos: Hannah Palmer Egan
Last week, I stumbled on a boatload (or a porch full, as it was) of stunning Hubbard squash at the WORLD FAMOUS Evansville Trading Post in the Northeast Kingdom. I couldn't get away without snapping up a couple (they keep for months and only get sweeter as they age). This morning I roasted half of one with maple syrup and butter using my mother's method, which works well with any amber-fleshed winter squash. 

Hubbards are one of the largest winter squash, sometimes swelling to close to two feet long and a foot or more across. Their skin is tough and thick — don't dare try and peel them with a potato peeler — and their flesh is head-bashing hard and kind of mealy. But when roasted and mashed, their flavor is deeper than the easier-to-handle butternut or acorn, nutty and earthy and, I swear, has a hint of fallen leaves, too. The flavor of autumn in New England.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Alice Eats: India House Restaurant

Posted By on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 12:04 PM

207 Colchester Avenue, 862-7800
I often think that my 12-year-old self would be pretty satisfied with how my life turned out. My boyfriend and I can play Street Fighter II at an arcade that also serves food and video-game-themed cocktails. I get to eat out for a living. And I don't have kids, so I can have fun without finding a babysitter.

But 12-year-old Alice would be horrified at the state of my Sundays. At that time in my life, I rose each week to worship in the institution that still remains closest to my heart: the Indian buffet.

But as often happens, my religion fell away in the Green Mountains. Not by choice but by circumstance. The Indian restaurants I found in northern Vermont were pallid imitations of what I'd grown up with. I left my subcontinental food stops to visits in Montréal or New York.

But this Sunday, I was desperate. Over the last couple of years, I'd heard rumblings that, along with a major renovation inside and a new sign outside, culinary matters at India House had improved, as well. 

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Farmers Market Kitchen: Dead Greens Gratin

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 9:01 AM

  • Photos: Hannah Palmer Egan
It's late September and the greens are still going strong. You've already blanched and frozen all that you intend to save for winter, but the garden's still cranking out chard, kale, collards and whatever else at a cold-weather-defying rate. During a mild year, some kales will winter over and grow through the following spring if you let them. And at market, these hardy survivors will chug along well into root-vegetable season and beyond.

As summer gives way to fall, these greens are also one of the last doses of fresh chlorophyll we'll get, and I'm happy to embrace both the tyranny of leaves and cooler-weather cooking. Let's bust out the cream, shall we? 

Adapted from an Alice Waters classic, this rich, creamy gratin will take care of whatever greens the garden wants to throw at you, and warm your belly on a cold autumn's night.

Even better, it works fine with whatever ratty old past-prime leafy things you've got kicking around your fridge. Last night, I made it with a mix of wilty rainbow chard, kale and gummy celery, but you could add radish or turnip greens, spinach, leafy herbs (basil, sorrel, lovage, in moderation) or even some sad-sack arugula. Get crazy! All dead greens love cream. 

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Farmhouse Group to Close Burlington Deli

Posted By on Thu, Sep 18, 2014 at 4:58 PM

  • Alice Levitt
  • The Bad Idea
Updated 09/19/14 with more information from Jed Davis, Farmhouse Group's managing partner.

Maybe the Bad Idea — a sandwich composed of a homemade maple doughnut, house sausage, egg and cheese — was more prophetic than addictive. Farmhouse Group owner Jed Davis announced today via email and social media that Guild Fine Meats, the home of the Bad Idea, Piggly Wiggly Poutine and a slew of sandwiches prepared from homemade deli meats, will serve its final meals next Thursday, September 25.

Via email, Davis said, "We are very proud of this restaurant – the ambition behind the concept, and the daily execution in particular. Our staff was exceptional. We hold our heads high knowing that we created and delivered a unique concept to the market, and that we excelled with quality product and service. Unfortunately, not all businesses work out."

With a steady stream of customers, to the casual observer, the business seemed to be working out just fine. But in a phone conversation after this story was originally posted, Davis explained that profit margins were to blame.

"It can be a tough gig, the farm-to-table restaurant movement. You’re operating in a world with much, much higher costs than other people," he said. "That model works brilliantly in some cases and unfortunately, it just didn't work here."

While the Farmhouse Tap & Grill Burger is a successful vehicle for the local meats produced at the company's commissary, Davis said a deli sandwich proved to be a less cost-effective fit. "The guest wanted [the sandwiches] to be two bucks less and the business needed ti to be two bucks more. That value conversation just break down," he explained.

The Guild Fine Meats products sold at 111 St. Paul Street also make their ways into the dishes at Davis' four other Farmhouse Group restaurants, including Guild Tavern, Pascolo Ristorante and El Cortijo Taqueria Y Cantina. Bacon, sausages and deli meats from the label are already available at City Market and Healthy Living.

But what will become of the space? Will the prolific Farmhouse Group try its luck with another concept? "That's undetermined right now," Davis told Seven Days. "We're going to feel that out."

Davis and his team are also working to find potential homes at their other restaurants for some of GFM's most popular sandwiches and baked goods. 

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Farmers Market Kitchen: Honeyed Zucchini Layer Pie

Posted By on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 at 3:13 PM

  • Hannah Palmer Egan
Often with cooking, necessity is the mother of innovation. Faced with another massive, late-summer garden zucchini, I went to make a pie but, feeling lazy, planned to go the phyllo-crust route. I only make crusts from scratch in late fall and winter. Or that's the rule for today. 

I pulled the phyllo from the freezer, went to unroll it and (surprise), it splintered into a million paper-thin pieces — go figure, I left it very loosely wrapped last time I used it ... So my pie flew to the sky but I called up my loaf pan, (always waiting in the cupboard) and layered the broken phyllo in the bottom with honey and butter and zucchini stuffing and called it a day. 

It's sweet and light, a little salty, warming and delightful, and yields about three cups of zucchini water for later use. 

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August First Takes Over Pistou Space

Posted By on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 at 1:19 PM

One of Burlington's highest-profile restaurant mysteries has finally been solved. Since Pistou served its final meal to the public early this year, many diners have wondered what would settle into the space at 61 Main Street.

The question was answered yesterday, when Jodi Whalen and Phil Merrick collected the keys.

The couple owns August First Bakery & Café, just next door at 149 South Champlain Street. "We’ve had our eye on it for a long time now, but just ended up having to wait a while," Whalen says.

The Pistou space will become baking HQ for the business. Moving out of the "cramped" space in the back of August First will allow Merrick and his team to expand their pastry and bread offerings. Whalen says croissants may be part of the equation.

"People will be able to go into the bakeshop and just grab bread or pastry or a latte to go, which will make things easier for a lot of customers. Waiting in a long line for one baguette has been a challenge," says Whalen. That space may also become home to a grab-and-go case for immediate lunch gratification.

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Alice Eats: The Swingin' Pinwheel Café & Bakery

Posted By on Tue, Sep 16, 2014 at 12:14 PM

11 Center Street, 448-3961
Pastry counter - ALICE LEVITT
  • Alice Levitt
  • Pastry counter
Avoiding carbs, Pilgrim? Not at Burlington's newest breakfast spot. The Swingin' Pinwheel Café & Bakery is a temple to all things fluffy, flaky and chewy. A visit may necessitate a cowboy's level of activity to burn it off, but in my experience, it will be worth the effort.

The Pinwheel is literally a mom-and-pop business. Mom is Wendy Piotrowski, late of Patra Teahouse. Pop is Andrew Machanic, who started his career cooking at guest ranches out west when he was 17. Their progeny is there, too. Baby Waylon smiles at guests from his playpen stuffed into a nook behind the cash register.

The menu is small but tightly packed with original ideas. Big, light popovers are stuffed with fruit or eggs and cheese. Haystack Hashbrowns are something like rösti, topped with the diner's choice of sweet or savory breakfast treats. I did my best to eat my way through the little café for $35, but already have plans to return for new additions such as the Basque Breakfast — composed of two poached eggs and toasted focaccia with spicy tomato-white-bean stew — in the near future.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Farmers Market Kitchen: Pasta Pomodoro With Ham

Posted By on Tue, Sep 9, 2014 at 1:41 PM

  • All photos: Hannah Palmer Egan
I first made this dish in college, not long after returning from Italy, where I learned that amazing meals could be had using just a handful of decent ingredients. It's one of those early recipes that endures — easy, flexible, delicious — and is a go-to crowd pleaser. I make it in a pinch when all I have in the house are tomatoes, pasta, cheese and, if I'm lucky, deli meat.

With half a dozen past-prime tomatoes (some from last week's shenanigans at New Village Farm, some via mom delivery) this was just the thing last night. What's cool about this recipe is that the pasta cooks in the liquid that leaches from the raw tomatoes as they cook, so it absorbs their rich flavor and requires virtually zero seasoning. The ham and cheese provide plenty of salt to lift the dish from the doldrums. 

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Alice Eats: Uncle Pop Pop's Sandwich & Tapas Shop

Posted By on Tue, Sep 9, 2014 at 10:16 AM

1 Market Place, Unit 25, Essex Junction, 871-5835
Pinxto completo - ALICE LEVITT
  • Alice Levitt
  • Pinxto completo
For whatever reason, Spanish food simply hasn't caught on in the Green Mountains. The few attempts in Plainfield, Montpelier and Burlington have been short lived. It was a risk, then, for New Jersey native Adam McGinnis to open a tapas spot in Vermont, let alone relatively conservative Essex Junction.

In the area off Susie Wilson Road known to locals as the Red Mall, Uncle Pop Pop's lies at the back and requires a bit of effort to find if you're not from the ’hood. Perhaps that's why my dining partner and I were alone at the 25-seat restaurant when we arrived on Saturday about 7 p.m. Our extraordinarily well-informed server told us lunch business has been better than dinner, thus far.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Where Am I Eating? No. 2

Posted By on Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 8:37 AM

UPDATE, Thursday, September 4, 6:11 p.m.: Tanya Marshall guessed the correct answer — 158 Main in Jeffersonville — via email. Thanks to everyone who chimed in! 

A couple weeks ago, Alice Levitt debuted a new series here on the Bite Club blog.

The game goes like this. Alice or I post a photo of a memorable dish served at a restaurant somewhere in the Green Mountain State. You post your guess in the comments section below!

The first person to correctly identify where we're eating wins a gift certificate to one of dozens of Vermont eateries.

Ready? Go!

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