More than a few tasks can be accomplished comfortably in a commercial kitchen but aren't easy to do at home. One of them is making rich, gelatinous beef stock, which calls for a gigantic cooking vessel plus a sizable stash of animal bones. Another is the preparation of pâtés and terrines. These meaty classics require slow cooking in water baths, then setting for hours or days. While not particularly complicated, they do require time and patience, which are increasingly rare among home cooks. Would you take the time to create perfect grill marks on hundreds of green olives?
Shelburne's year-old Amandine on the Village Green does. This take-out destination and gourmet grocery brings the restaurant kitchen - specifically, that of Café Shelburne - to your home. When Chef Patrick Grangien and his crew aren't too busy whipping up vichyssoise and roasted racks of lamb in red-wine sauce for the Café, they turn out plates of elegant yet unfussy food for Amandine's take-out case, such as those smoky grilled olives and rabbit pâté.
Many of the dishes are French, but not all are. A North African-style curried lamb dish is one of Amandine's standards, as is Italian osso bucco - braised veal shank with tomatoes and basil. Good old down-home American food is on the menu, too: mac 'n' cheese, cole slaw, a couple kinds of potato salad and shepherd's pie. Each day brings new sandwich and soup specials.
Looking for a heftier portion of a particular delicacy? Patrons can order a selection of items by the pound, pan or dozen. Pair these with a bottle of wine and a few treats from the grocery section - which offers an array of cheeses, crackers, spreads and condiments, some imported from Europe - and you've got the makings of a cocktail party or a romantic picnic.
In the main shopping area, which looks like it was someone's living room once upon a time, a freezer holds quarts of deeply flavored stock - in beef, fish and chicken - that can quickly be converted to soups or sauces. On a recent visit, there were also freshly made pints of rum raisin, pistachio and maple ice creams, as well as coconut and black current sorbets. Amandine also offers chocolate truffles, fresh-fruit tarts and a selection of other sweet treats.
Caitlin Fay, whose husband is the sous chef at Café Shelburne, owns the business with Christine and Patrick Grangien and acts as manager. Fay says they aim to provide quality quickly. "If you go to the grocery store," she explains, "you're going to get something Cryovac'd. Here, you can get things that are really freshly prepared." Say, jumbo shrimp and celery in a light lemon cream, or a seafood terrine with basil sauce.
With so many places in the area to buy wine and cheese, how does Fay set her dry-goods selection apart? She chooses a product mainly for its novelty and whether she'd want it in her own kitchen. One big player: Stonewall Kitchen of York, Maine, which began as a table at a farmers' market and has expanded into a condiment empire. Its well-loved Barefoot Contessa line has been a big hit.
Asked how are Shelb-urbanites are taking to the concept, Chef Grangien says, "The gourmet grocery does pretty well. We sell some cheese and little goodies you can't find anywhere else." Fay notes that the store has become a "one-stop shop" for people on their way home from work. "The prepared foods really bring them in."
And if you want a pâté fresh enough to pass off as your own creation, you know where to go.
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