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Frodo in Penny Cluseshire 

Published June 15, 2009 at 5:49 p.m.

Today I decided to take my lunch at Penny Cluse. I say "take my lunch" because it sounds fancy. Like I'm a lady who lunches with endless free time and a husband who doesn't mind footing the bill. Ah, someday. For now I'm a workin' girl, just a step on the boss man's ladder. (Thank you, Dolly Parton.)

Anyway, as I walked into Penny Cluse, I was greeted with the most astounding information. It turns out that I had literally just missed Elijah Wood of Lord of the Rings fame. Apparently, Frodo dines at Penny Cluse on the regs, according to staff at the cafe. I bet, since he's done, like, a million other movies, he doesn't like to be called Frodo. Sorry, Frodo.

So, what's Wood doing in our state of verdant peaks? Turns out that Wood is besties with some folks up here, including former Penny Cluse employee James Bellizia, who happens to strum a guitar in the band Heloise & the Savoir Faire, a New York-based quintet on Wood's Simian Records. Lead singer Heloise Williams went to Middlebury and Joe Shepard, the group's lead dancer, soft-shoed around Burlington for a while. Are you seeing the connection now?  It's all becoming clear.

Wood started coming in to Penny Cluse last year when he was up in Vermont for a wedding. His lady at the time was a bridesmaid for the nuptials, so he tagged along. And he got hooked on the Bucket-o- Spuds. Or maybe Mama Cruz's Huevos Rancheros. Or any of the eight million other amazing things on their menu. So now he's a regular. And by regular, I mean he's been in there a few times. He loves the joint like he loved that damn ring.

Frodo isn't the only famous person to get his or her Penny Cluse on while visiting Burlington. According to the restaurant's staff, Renee Zellweger made a cameo, as did Molly Ringwald and the members of the Black Crowes and Wilco. Ani DiFranco eats there every time she rolls into town, and minor music celebs such as Feist and Bonnie Prince Billy have also noshed there. Chelsea Clinton did some glad-handing there while on the campaign trail for mama Hill, though she didn't have time to actually eat any gingerbread pancakes or fish tacos. Former guv Howard Dean was whooping it up in there when he was in town in May to give the UVM graduation address.

Loads of famous people come through our fair city, and no doubt they all have to eat. Penny Cluse isn't the only spot where the most important among us go. Karl Lagerfeld chewed a few bites of veal saltimbocca at Trattoria Delia before spitting it into the napkin of one of his minions. Then he returned to the restaurant a few months later, sniffed some gnocchi and treated his entourage to the resto's priciest wines. I'm sure other famous people eat in downtown Burlington,  but I'm not sure where.

I'm hoping that when Bob Dylan, John Cougar Mellonballs and Willie Nelson roll into town for their triple-bill show at the Champlain Valley Expo on July 17, they find their way to our downtown eateries. I would kill to see Dylan mumbling his way through a falafel pita from Ali Baba's, Mellencamp twirling some pasta at Three Tomatoes or Nelson gumming some sushi at Asiana House. But for now, I'll have to settle for the image of Frodo Baggins, wee hairy Hobbit, smacking his lips at a Penny Cluse lunch.

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About The Author

Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2011.


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