Editor’s note: In the Summer 2014 issue we introduced a new department, Food & Drink. Here’s a sample of some of the stories included in that section.
Renaissance is served
In Winooski, nouveau food and nightlife spark a revival
Swing by Misery Loves Co. in downtown Winooski, and you’re likely to run into any number of in-the-know foodies, perhaps grabbing an expertly crafted espresso and an ethereal lemon curd donut. Later in the day, a similar crowd gathers across the traffic circle in the Scandinavian-style space at Mule Bar to savor hard-to-find Flemish sour ales paired with excellent bar food, like juicy burgers and crisp fries. And these are just two emerging players on the buzzing Winooski food and drink scene. “Over the last couple of years,” says chef-turned- butcher Frank Pace,“it’s just blown up.”
With its striking historic mill buildings and dramatic falls, Burlington’s gritty neighbor was long known for such solid destinations as Tiny Thai, Sneakers Bistro and music venue Monkey House. But after years of noisy and construction-tangled redevelopment, momentum seems finally to be rippling out from the central rotary to support more restaurants, an elegant wine bar (oak45), a warm, Wi-Fi- and espresso- fueled café (The Block Gallery and Coffeehouse), and multiple places to enjoy a well-made cocktail or an aromatic bowl of Vietnamese pho. There are even plans to reopen the long-empty restaurant in the Champlain Mill, home to technology company MyWebGrocer.
On warm summer days around the rotary, sidewalk tables bloom with umbrellas and the Sunday morning farmers market offers a bounty of fresh vegetables, meats, baked goods and ethnic foods made by the community’s diverse residents. A little further from the city’s heart, entrepreneurs are building other links in the food chain like a 5,000-square-foot meat production and baking facility opened about a year ago by the Burlington-based Farmhouse Group, where Pace is the butcher. A new microbrewery, Four Quarters Brewing, offers on-site tastings and growler fill-ups from its Belgian-inspired and barrel- aged brews. Brian Eckert, founder of Four Quarters, says Winooski felt like a good collaborative place to plant his business. “The food, bar and music scene here is flourishing,” he says. “It seemed like a great time to jump in.”
Farm-to-mouth trend adds “lattes on the hoof ”
There are abundant ways to enjoy Vermont products at the source — on-farm pig roasts, white-tablecloth dinners under apple trees, vineyard wine tastings— but Green Mountain Girls, a farm in Northfield, may lay claim to the most direct farm-to-mouth culinary experience. The small, diversified operation includes a dairy goat herd — from which it sells fresh, unpasteurized milk, as allowed by state law — and now visitors can skip the bottle and put it straight into a cup.
As part of the twist, newly born kids at the farm are named each year along a theme (children’s book characters, weather terms), and this year, “female movie stars” are milking age, so visitors can pay to fill a mug with fresh-brewed coffee and then hold it under a patient doe named Ingrid Bergman or Grace Kelly for a few foamy squirts of warm milk, creating what Green Mountain Girls co-owners Mari Omland and Laura Olsen have dubbed “lattes on the hoof.” Noncoffee drinkers or younger visitors can add frothy milk to tea or to a few spoonfuls of caramel made at nearby Fat Toad Farm, one of many food- producing neighbors in the area’s cooperative: Floating Bridge Food and Farms. It’s all about “giving people a chance to touch and feel the adventures of farming, to slow down and make memories,” Omland says. “Lattes on the Hoof ” must be booked in advance; visit www.eatstayfarm.com or call (802) 505-9840.
Topper in the Hopper
There’s nothing like a little scarcity to create buzz, but that alone does not explain the incredible success of Heady Topper, the Alchemist Brewery’s flagship canned beer. Described as “highly celebrated and nearly unobtainable” by The Atlantic and “the most sought-after beer on the market” by Bloomberg Businessweek, the unfiltered, hoppy-yet- smooth Double IPA has earned multiple “best” ratings since it was first brewed in early 2004 in the basement of John and Jen Kimmich’s downtown Waterbury brewpub.
The story behind it is almost as epic, starting a decade before with John’s single-minded trek to Vermont in search of a job with craft-brewing guru Greg Noonan. Despite the historic 2011 flood that wiped out their original brewery, followed by traffic issues and red tape that obliged them to close their second brewery to the droves of beer pilgrims, the Kimmiches have brewed on and hope to break ground this fall on another brewery in Lamoille County, with a retail store and tasting room.
Heady Topper was not developed specifically to conquer the beer world. “It’s really what John likes to drink,” his wife says. “The goal was to make a beer that was super hoppy and bitter, but not bitter in a harsh, astringent way. We knew it was unique, but we didn’t think it would be the highest-rated beer in the world. The phenomenon of it, we didn’t anticipate that.”
When the couple became aware that brewpub customers were ordering Heady and pouring it into bottles for later enjoyment — or sale — they decided to open a brewery/cannery on the other side of the interstate in Waterbury. The Alchemist team believes cans keep the beer fresher and that it’s the best way to enjoy their beer. The eye-catching silver and black design commands, “Drink from the can.” (It also offers a pithy environmental reminder: “Don’t be a D-Bag. Recycle this can.”)
The Alchemist has always sold all its beer within the state, from Barre up to the Burlington area, mostly through retailers and restaurants. They will continue to brew the entire 9,000-barrel annual output of Heady at the Waterbury facility; the new brewery will produce other beers like Focal Banger, an American IPA made with the popular Citra hops. Beer- lovers will once again be able to make the pilgrimage to buy cans of these and Heady from the new retail store, which will also host special events. “We really want to help get beer tourism to Vermont,” Jen says.
This is not to say that all Heady stays local. It was a much-tweeted part of the refreshments offered behind the scenes at the 65th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. (Event-host Neil Patrick Harris is apparently a huge fan.) Heady’s most recent brush with fame came in the form of a visit from President Obama’s “body man,” who brought presidential M&M’s and left with beer. Jen Kimmich wasn’t entirely sure that the POTUS humself would be drinking any Heady. “From what I understand, he’s a big Yuengling fan,” she says.