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Mad River Taste Place Anchors Food Bounty in the Valley

Written by Judy Thurlow on . Posted in Uncategorized No Comments

  

By Melissa Pasanen

Photographed by Daria Bishop

About an hour before a special event, the Mad River Taste Place team was busy preparing to welcome a crowd of area businesspeople eager to see and taste what was going on in the renovated bank building in Waitsfield’s Mad River Green Shopping Center. Mary Tuthill, retail manager and head cheesemonger, gave a final tweak to a case filled with dozens of offerings from more than 40 Vermont cheesemakers. Erika Lynch of Babette’s Table, maker of Vermont-sourced, European-style cured meats, sliced a variety of her hams for platters. Vermont-made spirits, hard ciders, beers, and wines were ready for tasting, along with locally crafted chocolates and naturally leavened breads.

The new tasting center and retail store is the brainchild of Robin Morris, also president of the Mad River Food Hub incubator and processing facility located just a few hundred yards away. Over his years working to support the production, storage, and distribution needs of the area’s burgeoning food and beverage sector, Morris concluded that “the marketing of the makers is the missing link.” His vision for the Taste Place is to provide a high-profile, centralized tasting, education, and shopping opportunity to help build demand for both Mad River Valley and Vermont food and drink.

While some might pigeonhole the Mad River Valley as a winter sports destination, economic vitality studies revealed that “food was one of the leverage points, one of our major assets,” explained Josh Schwartz, executive director of the local planning district. This was no surprise to those on the front line like Kim Donahue, co-owner of The Inn at Round Barn Farm. “I love this space, and I love what it is going to do for the Valley,” Donahue said, gesturing around the wood-raftered, light-filled room where shelves and coolers overflow with local jams and pickles, freshly roasted coffee and granolas, maple candies and sought-after craft brews. “It gives us traction, the ability to really anchor our spot in the food world.”

The Taste Place is also the first permanent home of the Vermont Cheese Council, whose executive director, Tom Bivins, has an on-site office from which he can pop out to check on the best Vermont cheese selection in the state. The former chef and culinary instructor has been integral to the state’s food scene for three decades. “I’ve been advocating for a tasting place in Vermont for years,” Bivins said. “The growth has been just incredible, not just in quantity but in quality. This is a great central location where our cheeses and all the other products are presented in a way that really gives them an opportunity to shine. It’s an asset not only for the Valley but for the whole Vermont food and drink community.”

Beyond stocking a wide range of Vermont products to buy and take home, the Taste Place also offers tasting boards of cheese, meats, and condiments, along with local beers on tap and flights of Vermont ciders and wines. Large photographic portraits, a video loop of cheesemaker interviews, and detailed product labels all help tell the backstory, an important ingredient in building a following for Vermont’s premium products. The retail team led by Tuthill — a trained chef with deep experience in restaurants and food retail — can make recommendations and share information on everything they carry. Tuthill also manages a robust calendar of maker-presented tastings and workshops. “I think I’ve met every single person I’m buying from,” she said, “like Erika of Babette’s, I know for a fact we’re helping to build her business and support her family. It’s the coolest thing to be a part of.” Not to mention, Tuthill added, “We sell all the stuff that makes people happy.”

Vermont Snack Bars: High-End Chefs Shake It Up

Written by Judy Thurlow on . Posted in Uncategorized

By Melissa Pasanen
Photo by Daria Bishop

As kids growing up in Vermont, Chloe Genovart and Charlie Menard enjoyed their share of summertime snack bar fries and frosty creemees. Each went on to become successful culinary professionals serving the high end of the dining spectrum instead. After years spent in Manhattan, Genovart and her husband opened the elegant SoLo Farm and Table in South Londonderry; Menard built up the event catering operation at the romantic Inn at Round Barn Farm in Waitsfield. At these two destinations, menus feature beautifully composed dishes like hand-cut tagliatelle with house-made lamb sausage, or halibut finished with a tangerine-miso glaze.

Last summer, both added second venues that deliver something different: decidedly casual and exceptionally delicious versions of the classic snack bar. At the Genovarts’ Honeypie in Jamaica and Menard’s Canteen Creemee Company in Waitsfield, their sophisticated gastronomic skills and local-sourcing priorities are applied to perfecting burgers, lobster and clam rolls, and Vermont’s iconic soft-serve ice cream. “I’ve always had a love of this kind of Americana, the roadside snack bar, from clam shacks along the ocean to the creemee stands of Vermont,” says Menard.

“It’s a good way to get good food to a wide range of people,” says Wesley Genovart, Chloe’s husband. “On our days off, this is how we like to eat,” he adds.

Canteen Creemee Company occupies the brightly painted end of a shopping center in Waitsfield and offers a chalkboard menu divided into “Salty” and “Sweet”; a turntable plays the chef’s own vinyl collection, from Rolling Stones to current indie bands. The menu, too, is a blend of old and new. There’s a very good burger, with optional toppings, including everything from caramelized onions to kimchi, and excellent freshly cut fries that can be ordered “dirty,” meaning confettied with nuggets of shredded brisket, bacon or pickles. The fried chicken boasts an incredible crisp crust thanks to a secret “miracle dredge” (also deployed on the crunchy “chicken-fried” onion rings); it’s worth ordering just for the rich corn pudding — really a very moist cornbread — on the side. Other highlights include a stand-out vegetarian falafel burger and fried whole belly clam roll with house-made tartar sauce.

Creemees are a big thing here. Menard starts with the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery base, “then we have our way with it,” adding real ingredients like pure maple, fresh ginger, Belgian chocolate, local blueberries and honey. The rotating flavors rarely include vanilla. It’s a risk, Menard acknowledges, but “this isn’t a vanilla kind of place,” he says, paraphrasing a customer comment. The sometimes wildly creative “next level” sundaes include the relatively tame Bad Larry’s Maple Madness topped with a fluff of maple cotton candy, maple crystals and sugar cookie crumbs all the way to Grandma’s Summer Harvest, featuring a honey creemee, diced zucchini bread, crème fraîche drizzle, tomato jam, freeze-dried corn and fresh basil.

Honeypie in Jamaica is located in an old convenience store/gas station and uses recycled materials as décor: standing-seam roofing serves as wall panels. Unlike Canteen Creemee Company, which is open regularly only May through October, Honeypie is year-round. Customers can eat in or sit outside at tables where the pumps once were.

You could argue that the Genovarts had to open Honeypie just to have somewhere to serve Wesley’s ideal burger, which he’d been working on for years. The final combination of ground short rib and chuck is a thing of beauty and starred on the cover of Food & Wine magazine before Honeypie even opened. The Bring It is the chef’s personal favorite: a double patty with kimchi, bacon, “special sauce” and melted American cheese. Another burger offering, the Slamber, stacks two ground lamb patties with melted cheddar and sautéed peppers and onions.

The Slamber is a delicious example of how the Genovarts use whole, local animals efficiently across both restaurants, leveraging both staff and the expanded production space. Honeypie’s sausages are also made in-house and go global with lamb merguez, Spanish chorizo and a pork sausage version of a Vietnamese banh mi. Other sandwiches include the Late Riser with egg, house-made maple-bacon breakfast sausage and rosemary hash browns and an outstanding weekend special lobster roll, generously piled with sweet meat, shaved celery and drawn butter.

On the sweet side, Honeypie’s milkshake menu stands out. Flavors include strawberry-buttermilk made with local berries and buttermilk left over from freshly churned butter made for their other restaurant, and coffee made from fresh-roasted beans from the coffee shop across the street. The milkshakes start with a rich base from Kingdom Creamery in East Hardwick, which is also used in their traditional chocolate and vanilla creemee menu. With two young children, the Genovarts wanted to make sure that their menu covered the basics — even though their two-year-old daughter’s favorite menu item is the lamb merguez sausage. Overall, says Chloe Genovart, “We just wanted to have a nice place for kids and families and community.”

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Written by Judy Thurlow on . Posted in Uncategorized

By Melissa Pasanen
With recipe-testing assistance by Sarah Strauss
Photographed by Oliver Parini
Adapted from chef-owner Jana Koschak, North Folk Mobile Café and Catering, East Albany

This is a gorgeous salad that can be made with diced orange carrots, as Jana Koschak originally created it, but is particularly eye-catching with a mix of baby rainbow carrots. Although the colors may bleed when you cook them together, the lemon juice brings them back into focus. Serve topped with the yogurt and another handful of fresh summer herbs, or let guests spoon it on themselves.

1½ pounds small carrots, preferably multicolored, scrubbed clean and peeled if needed

2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided,
plus more to taste

¼ cup olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 serrano chile or small jalapeño, seeded and minced, to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed
lemon juice, divided

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

1 packed cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves (or a mix of fresh mint and cilantro), plus more to garnish

Trim carrot ends and halve or quarter lengthwise into pieces about the size of your little finger. Place in a large skillet with about 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt and cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer just until tender, but not too soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. (They will continue to cook a bit, so better to remove slightly undercooked.) Drain, rinse immediately with cold water, shake dry and place in a serving bowl.

Return skillet to stove over medium heat and add oil. Sauté onion until softened and turning golden, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chile, sugar, paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and ginger and cook, stirring, about 2 to 3 minutes until garlic is softened. Take skillet off heat. Return carrots to pan with remaining teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and toss to coat. Transfer to the serving bowl, making sure to scrape up all the spice and onion mixture. Salad can be made up to this point and left at room temperature for several hours.

Whisk remaining tablespoon lemon juice into yogurt with salt to taste. Chill. When ready to serve, toss carrots with chopped cilantro. Taste and add salt as needed. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve with yogurt. Serves 4 to 6.

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