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Last year, when Elizabeth Manriquez - co-owner of Espresso Bueno in Barre - attended the Northeast Regional Barista Competition, the competitors barely numbered in the double digits and the vibe was pretty chill. Last weekend, when she traveled to Ithaca, New York, for this year's contest, things had changed. "There were 27 competitors. I don't even know if I would really call them peers: they were a little beyond," Manriquez says.

Manriquez didn't make it to the finals, perhaps because of an awkwardly timed shaker malfunction as she created her "I heart maple" specialty drink. Still, it's hard to believe the judges didn't appreciate her concoction of Monument Farms cream, Morse Farm maple syrup and espresso shaken with ice.

The "amazingly intense" competition is big on details: "Last year I didn't know to serve women first among the judges," Manriquez relates. "Or that if your tablecloth had one wrinkle, you'd lose points." This year she learned that bringing along your own grinder and a bus tub for dirty dishes is a must. There's always 2009.

Meanwhile, Barre has lost a coffee shop - The Firehouse Roasting Company & Café recently closed its doors. The space is for rent.

It must be the year of the Vietnamese Restaurant. Chinese resto Ming's of South Burlington, which had closed for renovations, will not reopen in its space near Waterfront Video. Next up for the Shelburne Road spot: the Vietnamese Noodle House, which a voicemail message promises is "coming soon."

Want pho with that DVD of Juno? Joining Pho Hong and Sapa's Coffee and Tea, the Noodle House is the third Vietnamese eatery to open in Chittenden County since January.

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Suzanne Podhaizer

Suzanne Podhaizer

Former contributor Suzanne Podhaizer is an award-winning food writer (and the first Seven Days food editor) as well as a chef, farmer, and food-systems consultant. She has given talks at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture's "Poultry School" and its flagship "Young Farmers' Conference." She can slaughter a... more


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