by Alice Levitt
135 East Allen Street, Winooski 861-9453
There are things I have to check off my list at the Champlain Valley Fair each year. I always have to bring home at least one caramel apple (no nuts, please), hit the Elk's Club for a fried chicken dinner and grab some Pork Boners at Fat Daddy's.
These tiny pieces of pork shank previously seemed to be something that existed only within the whimsical confines of a place where carnies run free. No longer. Just down the road from me in Winooski, I can now get fried chunks of pork shank whenever I want, at Val's Wild Tomato.
At Val's, in the former gas station once occupied by New England Wings, they call the meaty bites Pork Wings. I find this disappointingly tasteful. I'm not disappointed at all with how darn tasty the things are, though. Whereas Pork Boners are slathered beyond recognition with barbecue sauce, Pig Wings are rubbed with garlic and lightly spiced before being tenderized in a deep fryer bath. Get the Buffalo sauce on the side for dipping. Like all of Val's sauces and dressings, it's homemade and has all the zip of the usual hot sauce, without the weird chemical taste.
The specialty sandwich menu is filled with unlikely-sounding sandwich combinations, most of which include homemade sriracha or wasabi mayo. I chose one of the stranger ones, The Norse Dwarf.
The centerpiece of the overstuffed sandwich, served on Red Hen bread, is a thick wad of chunky chicken salad. Add crispy bacon, dried cranberries, fresh spinach and cucumbers and slather on sriracha mayo, and you've got one weird, delicious lunch. The combination, it turns out, works seamlessly, as if every deli has always served a Norse Dwarf.
My sole complaint about Val's was a marked lack of organization. I was told that my meal would be ready for pick-up (there is no seating) in 15 to 20 minutes. I arrived 20 minutes later with most of my food being prepared. The Tadpole that I ordered, a collection of chicken fingers, fried mozzarella sticks and hand-cut fries languished on the counter getting soggy. Some crisping in my oven at home fixed this, but I'll be more excited to return once the Val's team becomes more organized.