Posts Tagged ‘food’

[Some of] the Best Things I Ate Last Year

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Photos by Melissa Pasanen.

Yes, it is a tough job — and yes, someone’s got to do it.

Part of my work as food editor for Vermont Life and as a freelance food writer is to travel around the state and taste lots of things at high-end restaurants and at roadside truck stops. I also cook a lot, often with Vermont-grown or Vermont-made ingredients.

The good news is that I get to eat delicious food. The bad news is that the phone photo layout app I used to make this photo only fits nine images, so I couldn’t possibly include every memorable bite I ate last year. (Although, as my ever-patient but occasionally frustrated husband will tell you, they are all on my phone.)

So, starting from the top left and going clockwise, some of the most delicious things I ate in Vermont last year:

• The special chef’s choice sushi sampler at San Sai on Burlington’s lakefront boasts perfectly fresh fish each with a little extra twist: red snapper with an egg yolk sauce, salmon with carrot sauce and tobiko, marinated white tuna. There’s also sushi pizza; I know it doesn’t sound purist, but don’t knock it until you try it.

• Last summer’s peaches from Shelburne Orchards were exactly what my memory tells me fresh, ripe peaches should be — only to be so often disappointed by mealy or under-ripe fruit shipped from far away. We joined swarms of locals who descended like bees on honey during weekly picking sessions for the short peach season.

• Successfully leveraging the momentum behind their food truck, the trio behind Misery Loves Company launched a bricks and mortar location in Winooski around Thanksgiving. Their multi-layered and multi-textured sandwiches are addictive. I believe this was the Dunnsky piled with house-cured corned beef, vinegar slaw and Thousand Island, but I’ve eaten them all and they are all very, very good including the vegetarian Peaceful Resolution. They recently started dinner, too and their lemon curd doughnuts are to die for.

• I was torn between two slices of pie but one photo was better and this pie slightly more to my taste (which tends to the tart-sweet rather than the sweet-sweet.) The lemon meringue pie is a classic made at Hinesburg’s Good Times Café; their key lime is also stand-out. The very close runner-up was a slice of maple cream pie eaten at the congenial counter of P&H Truck Stop in Wells River off of 91: tooth-achingly sweet with a really good flaky crust and piled with freshly whipped cream.

• I trekked to the Common Man in Warren at the urging of food-savvy friends in the Mad River Valley and was not disappointed. This ethereal Jerusalem artichoke soup with dehydrated black olive oil and fluffy lemon marshmallow cubes might sound like a chef’s indulgence, but it worked beautifully. For the less adventurous, Chef Adam Longworth also roasts a textbook-perfect chicken. (For more details, see the winter issue’s Out to Eat column.)

• These crispy smoked chicken skins with sake-mirin glaze are not always on the menu at The Belted Cow in Essex Junction but when they are, you should indulge. Chef John Delpha, a national barbecue champ, also offers his fine brisket regularly.

• Hen of the Wood in Waterbury remains one of my top recommendations for dinner and I’m chomping at the bit for the Burlington location to open in the new Hotel Vermont later this spring. Their calamari with lemon, basil and smoked chilies is gorgeously memorable in all ways.

• A rich duck egg from Guy Choiniere’s farm in Highgate Center, perfectly poached (easier with these eggs than chicken eggs I found) on a toasted slice of farm bread from Bread & Butter Farm, which straddles both South Burlington and Shelburne. So simple, so good.

• Most fall, winter and spring Sunday mornings in Underhill, you can pull up to the home-based bakery of Poorhouse Pies and smell the fresh doughnuts ― from French crullers to maple-glazed ― coming out of the fryer. There is simply not much better than fresh, handmade doughnuts.

What was the best thing you ate in 2012? Let us know on Twitter @VermontLife.

It’s Not Too Late for a Handmade Holiday

Written by Julianne Puckett on . Posted in The Arts

Peppermint scrub. Photo by Julianne Puckett.

The holidays are upon us again; for many, that means fretting over finding the perfect gift for everyone on the gift list. This year, forget the iPads and Keurig coffee brewers and consider a handmade holiday.

I dare you to find one person on your list who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a handmade gift from you (well, maybe not the guy who posted that meme on Facebook that reads, “Homemade gifts are the perfect way to say I’ve got lots more time than money.” Get that guy a gift card). And yes, even if you are craft-challenged. Because the gifts can be handcrafted by your hands … or by someone else’s.

Make It Yourself

Even at this late date, if you keep your ideas simple, you can give handmade gifts. I recently whipped up a batch of peppermint sugar scrub that took literally five minutes to make, yet, packaged in pretty jars with some ribbon and homemade labels, makes a lovely gift. Do you still need a little something for your child’s teacher or your favorite librarian? You can find step-by-step instructions for making the scrub on my blog.

Chocolate bark. Photo by Julianne Puckett.

And you can’t go wrong with food. Got a crabby grandpa that hates every gift you give him? I bet he wouldn’t say no to some decadent fruit- and nut-laden chocolate candy bark. And I bet you wouldn’t say no to making it when you find out how easy it is (the recipe is on my blog): if you can boil water and wield a knife, you’re all set. At this point, you’re practically Harry & David.

Buy Handmade
Let’s say you’re not quite Harry & David. Maybe you’re more like the Harry & David catalog. You can still give handmade by shopping handmade. If you’re as fortunate as I am to live here in Vermont, you can barely take a step without finding a handmade gift.

Shop your local main street: no matter what town you live in, you’re sure to find an art or craft gallery selling beautiful wares from local artisans. I have stopped more times than I care to count into Frog Hollow — a Vermont State Craft Center — in Burlington to find a special gift for someone and have never been disappointed.

Lovely wares at a holiday craft bazaar in Charlotte. Photo by Julianne Puckett.

No gallery in town? Online craft emporiums such as etsy.com can put you in touch with more artisans than you knew existed, from the local to the international, without even having to set foot out of your front door. Try qualifying your search for artisans by state to give your gift more local flair. Or simply shop the Vermont Life Catalog. I bought a beautiful set of luminaries from the catalog as a gift; knowing that they were handcrafted in my home state will make them that much more meaningful to the recipient.

And don’t forget local craft fairs, which are abundant during the holidays. You may not be crafty, but plenty of your neighbors are, and they’d love sell you a hand-knit hat, a fetching little apron, a polished wooden bowl, some silver jewelry or delicious maple products — and your family, friends or mail carrier would be even more delighted to receive them.

It’s not too late: happy handmade holiday to you!

Pigless Prosciutto

Written by Julianne Puckett on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape

Duck proscuitto. Photo by Julianne Puckett.

I love meat.

(I realize I probably just lost a bunch of vegetarian readers after that sentence; if you’re still with me, I’m hoping you might also be a meat fan.)

Seriously. While many might think of a nice spinach dip or nachos when someone says “appetizer,” I think charcuterie platter. Moreover, I have a penchant for throwing a little bacon into many of my recipes (even cookies and ice cream) and regularly refer to myself as The Meatasaurus.

Given that one of my emphases for 2012 on my blog has been learning how to make my own version of basic pantry staples (e.g., bread, pasta, butter, pickles), I decided in November to try my hand at curing meat, what with holiday entertaining and the accompanying appetizers right around the corner.

Using a dehydrator, I have made jerky from both chicken and venison, but jerky isn’t exactly holiday table fare. So I picked up a copy of Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and looked for a recipe that might offer an easy entry into the world of cured meats.

What I found was duck prosciutto. All you need is a duck breast, a whole boatload of salt and a cold room. Living in Vermont, I knew I at least had the cold room covered without much effort. Then I found a big, fat duck breast at the Sweet Clover Market in Essex and I was on my way.

I kid you not when I say that making the duck prosciutto was ridiculously easy. After packing the duck breast in salt for 24 hours, I rinsed it, seasoned it, trussed it in cheesecloth and hung it in my unheated guest room closet for just over a week. (Luckily, we didn’t have guests that week or it might have been awkward.)

The result? Amazing. I couldn’t believe that I had ended up with such delicious prosciutto with such little effort. I sliced it as thinly as possible and served it as part of my Thanksgiving charcuterie platter (no frou-frou crudites at our house). The tangy saltiness is also ideally suited for pizza; I froze a small portion for exactly that purpose.

I’ve already started dreaming about making my own sausage and bacon, and maybe whipping up a rustic pate or terrine for my next dinner party. Fortunately, I live here in Vermont where fresh, local meat is plentiful and readily available.

And apparently I’m not alone in my charcuterie obsession. A recent article in Seven Days newspaper’s “The Meat Issue,” (you know The Meatasaurus scooped up a copy hot off the presses) noted that given its popularity, charcuterie just might become Vermont’s next craft food craze, right up there with beer and cheese.

I’ve already dipped my toe into the world of homebrewed hard cider and DIY mozzarella, so I’m ready for the challenge. Clearly, I need to ask Santa to bring me a smoker. And a meat grinder.

If you want to try making your own prosciutto, you can find complete instructions, tips and step-by-step photos at my blog.

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