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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.”

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