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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tasting My Way Through Grafton's Annual Food Fest

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 3:52 PM

Cave-aged clothbound cheddar at the 2016 Grafton Food Festival - JULIA CLANCY
  • Julia Clancy
  • Cave-aged clothbound cheddar at the 2016 Grafton Food Festival
“I don’t mind mist, but please don’t pour,” said Angela Comstock, innkeeper at the Grafton Inn, as she watched slate-colored clouds shift across the skyline. It was Saturday, July 9, and the inn was hosting its fourth annual Grafton Food Festival. For an hour or two, the weather seemed to heed her request. Then the sky cracked open, raining buckets.

For another all-day food festival, a washout could have been a disaster. But, luckily, the inn's field was sheltered by an enormous tent, making a cozy enclave for festival-goers and 25 vendors hanging out within its barriers. Also luckily, the Grafton Inn was filled with stalwart folks who didn’t mind a little water.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fat Roasted Asparagus With Poached Eggs and Toasted Breadcrumbs

Posted By on Sun, Jun 26, 2016 at 1:42 PM

Asparagus with poached eggs and breadcrumbs - JULIA CLANCY
  • Julia Clancy
  • Asparagus with poached eggs and breadcrumbs
I keep a one-gallon bag of homemade breadcrumbs tucked in the freezer. The bag grows fatter week by week with odd ends of olive loaves, stale bagels, nubs of potato bread and too-old slices of homemade rye. The bread scraps will get slicked with olive oil and toasted into croutons; those that remain will be pulsed in a blender and zipped into the freezer bag. There they remain, until meatballs need making or a pile of spaghetti with herbs and cream begs for an extra hit of texture.

Currently, I have a favorite way to use those breadcrumbs waiting in my freezer. Determined to celebrate asparagus season as long as possible, I blanketed a platter of fat, roasted spears with toasted breadcrumbs and a few poached eggs. The runny orange yolks — courtesy of hens Alice, Riggs, Garfield, Houdini and George Costanza (yup, I know they're female) — mingle with the tender-sweet stalks and golden breadcrumbs for a dish that meets all go-to notes of color, flavor and texture. Here’s the recipe.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Iraqi Lunch, and a Farewell

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 12:30 PM

Suaad Alsammraee - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Suaad Alsammraee
Recently, I was invited to have lunch with Suaad Alsammraee and her friends at the Courtyard Retirement Home in Winooski. I got to know the 65-year-old Iraqi at a financial literacy class organized by the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. Alsammraee wanted to have one last get-together in Vermont because she and her husband were moving to Oregon to be closer to their daughter. The couple resettled in the Green Mountain State in November 2013, but most of their children live in Europe.

When I arrived at 10 a.m, Alsammraee's kitchen was already in full swing. She divided tasks between Ahlam Al Attar and Houda Musanovic and supervised them. I later found out that Alsammraee, or Sursur, as her grandchildren call her, had prepared the dishes days in advance. Among them were trays of kofta, or minced lamb meat, and borek, a thin, flaky dough with meat filling and peas, were ready to be baked.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Five Tips for Making Perfect Pizza

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 2:11 PM

Fresh out of the oven at Pizzeria Verità - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Fresh out of the oven at Pizzeria Verità
Pizzeria Verità is known for its Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza. The restaurant is nominated annually in Seven Days readers' choice awards, and is No. 1 on TripAdvisor (up from No. 2 last week) for Burlington-area pies. (See my story about learning tricks of the dough here.) This means that sometimes you can't get a table at the restaurant.

If you find yourself out of luck — or you're planning a party — here are five secrets from Verità co-owner Leslie Wells for making the best-tasting pizza at home:

  • Use a dough recipe with a long fermentation process; this gives the crust more structure and airiness.
  • Source the freshest, highest-quality ingredients for topping. 
  • Never underestimate a great cheese. 
  • Get your oven as hot as possible, and finish with the broiler to cook the top.
  • Keep it simple; don't over-top the pizza. The key is to have flavors that complement, rather than overwhelm, each other.
Of course, Wells also has a sixth suggestion: "When all else fails, come to Pizzeria Verità!"

What tricks do you have for making pizza at home? 

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Farmers Market Kitchen: Root Cellar Galette

Posted By on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 1:28 PM

  • Hannah Palmer Egan
'Tis the season when markets are few and far between, and when farm stands tend to close at dusk, which comes earlier every day. That makes it tough to get farm-fresh vegetables with any frequency, except from the grocery. The good news is, autumn's harvest keeps for weeks, so you can stock up without fear of spoilage.

Right now, my crispers are stuffed with carrots from my last trip to mom's garden, beets from the Intervale's Half Pint Farm (from a weeks-ago trip to City Market), aging celery and a box of cranberries from Cranberry Bob. On the counter, my bowl of onions, garlic and shallots overfloweth.

A while back, I made a bunch of pie crusts and froze a few for a lazy day when I wanted pie, and, wanting to do something fun with this assortment of cool-weather produce, I threw together a quick (and beautiful!) savory galette with some cheese.

Like most of my farmers market recipes, this one is endlessly tweakable — mix and match the roots, swap shallots for onions or cheddar for pecorino (these will behave differently when baked but both will work), and voila! An impressive but easy supper awaits.

Oh, the joys of freezing pie crust! 

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Farmers Market Kitchen: Stuffed Buttercups

Posted By on Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 12:55 PM

  • Photos: Hannah Palmer Egan
On Route 100 just north of Waitsfield village, Hartshorn's Farmstand offers a wild proliferation of root-cellar vegetables, squash in particular. Bins along the outside of the stand overflow with butternuts, acorns, hubbards, kabochas, delicatas, and — my personal favorite — buttercups.

I am fond of the buttercup for its rich, creamy flesh, subtle nutty flavor and relative ease in handling. Unlike the hubbard, which I also adore, the buttercup grows to a manageable size, cooks fairly quickly and is easier to slice without losing a finger to the knife.

And, when split in half and stuffed, these make a lovely entrée; they can also be cut, post-cooking, for a fine side dish. Either way, with fresh Vermont cranberries from Cranberry Bob, and sage, sausage and coconut, these stuffers make for a homey but interesting November meal. What's more, the recipe is vegan but for the sausage (and gluten-free!), so it's friendly for pretty much anyone.

The recipe can also be endlessly adapted: Substitute the sweet breakfast sausage for spicy andouille or chorizo, grapes for the cranberries, pears for the apples or rosemary for the sage. It's all good. 

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Farmers Market Kitchen: Fall Frittata

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 2:38 PM

  • Photos: Hannah Palmer Egan
With the summer farmers markets finished for the season, we're now in that autumn lull before the winter markets begin, and if you want farm-fresh produce, you'll have to hit up a farmstand — or your local co-op.

But with all the rain we've been having, late fall mushrooms are in full bloom. At the end of my Burlington block is an old maple tree that recently started fruiting with pounds and pounds of meaty oyster mushrooms — more than I could ever use. While summer oysters are usually milky white, as the weather cools, they start sprouting in shades of dusty brown, and these beauties were massive, some as big as my hand. 

I picked a couple pounds* (many more remain on the tree) and, feeling rich, started dreaming up a fall frittata with foraged apples from my pantry and a bit of McKenzie sausage from my fridge. A quick trip to City Market brought fresh sage, courtesy of Digger's Mirth Collective Farm, and Tarentaise, a mild, Alpine-style cheese from Pomfret's Thistle Hill Farm. And that, quite quickly, was that.

*For nonforagers, MoTown Mushrooms supplies great oysters in many colors, or you can usually find them at the co-op or other grocers. Also, any mushrooms you prefer will work well with this recipe.

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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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Friday, May 2, 2014

An April Foodie Scrapbook

Posted By on Fri, May 2, 2014 at 7:20 AM

With the arrival of May, I'm expecting to see a fresh start here at the Seven Days food desk. Between planning Vermont Restaurant Week, putting out the annual 7 Nights magazine and losing my longtime partner in crime, Corin Hirsch, I have never been busier than I was in April. 

In fact, I was so busy that I didn't find the time to blog about two major events that catalyzed Vermont foodies last month. On April 3 and 4, Chez Panisse owner and Slow Food pioneer Alice Waters visited Vermont from California. Two weeks later, a pair of "Chopped" champions showed off their Food Network-tested skills in a culinary battle in Montpelier.

As we venture into May and look forward to summer, I want to share some spring memories.

Onion confit, cabbage and cheddar panade in the style of Zuni Café's Judy Rodgers. Served with root veggie slaw and the season's first spring greens
  • Onion confit, cabbage and cheddar panade in the style of Zuni Café's Judy Rodgers. Served with root veggie slaw and the season's first spring greens

As exciting as it was to meet Waters, lunch at Burlington's Intervale Center was also an enjoyable state of the union for local foodies to meet, greet and realize how far we've come.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Alice Eats: A Busy Winter Weekend

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 12:36 PM

In Good Taste, St. Albans

It used to be that January was the Vermont dining nadir. Everyone was light on both product and motivation to do much besides try to lose weight gained over the holidays.

Clearly, times have changed. I spent the weekend going to a different culinary event each night. If you missed out, keep these breaks from the winter doldrums in mind when they next appear.

Friday: In Good Taste, St. Albans

I could never have anticipated the crowd that clogged the St. Albans City Hall on Friday night. Clearly, Franklin County was starving for a good food event. The evening began at 5 p.m. By the time I got there after 6:30, 20 tasting tickets for $10 had been discounted to $5. According to the folks selling tickets, so many vendors had already sold out that it was only fair.

But there was still lots to learn.

I started with a sip of cucumber-flavored TreTap. The supplemented water is made from the byproducts of maple sugaring at Branon's West View Maples. Basically, it's SmartWater with a Vermont edge. It didn't taste like cucumber, but the ultra-pure liquid was a nice palate cleanser before feasting.

Nearby, students from Northwest Technical Center's culinary arts program were preparing a piquant steak tartare using meat donated by Highgate Center's Choiniere Family Farm.

I ended the evening with a flight of five different ice ciders from from Hall Home Place of Isle La Motte.

Surprisingly for this nondrinker, my favorite was the Sweet Six, which its makers describe as having a "brandy-like finish." What I liked more than the burn was the ideal blend of sweet and tart. The acid of some apples cut through the sticky sweetness of others. Too bad the six apples change each season. I may never taste a blend quite like that one again.

Saturday: Ramen Cook-Off, Shelburne

The following evening, my buddy Jack Thurston and I judged the first of three annual cooking contests held at Chef Contos Kitchen & Store, owned by another pal, Courtney Contos.

Since the store is small, entries were capped at seven. To keep things fair, we tasted each bowl anonymously labeled with a number. Three were Thai curry soups, not ramens, so, while tasty, they simply couldn't win.

One soup stood out clearly from the pack. It had the lip-glossing slick of collagen I was looking for in a well-salted broth. Just as the truck drivers in Tampopo insist, the balance of broth, noodles and meat was spot-on, too. And it turned out the winner had a familiar face.

Suzanne Podhaizer of Salt in Montpelier, former Seven Days food editor, turned out to be the ramen's creator. I hadn't realized at first taste that the soup was made not from pork but from goose, including braised meat and cracklings from the animals she helped raise (and slaughter) herself at a farm called Gozzard City in Cabot.

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