Deep in central Vermont is an old farming town, and in that town is an alley-like street, and along that street is a dim, sparkly space, and inside that space is a copper bar and along that bar, recently, was a bowl of garlicky white-wine-butter broth, and in that broth were warm kernels of sweet corn, wedges of heirloom tomatoes, a smear of tangy pesto and wilting baby lettuces... and then, in a few bites, the broth and the corn and the pesto were inside me, and it was happiness.
Sometimes when I'm heading south, I take exit 4, wend down into Randolph and take a seat inside the Black Krim Tavern. Situated on Merchants Row, it's sort of hard to find, but it's magnetic: dim, sexy, friendly and reasonably priced, with small plates of simple but creative fare, turned out by talented hands.
Owners Sarah Natvig (front of the house) and chef Emily Wilkins have a reverence for the farmers around them. Natvig is married to one: Chip Allen, who runs Pebble Brook Farm (and took the photo at right), which provides some of Black Krim's produce. Other booty, like the delicate sweet corn, comes from a constellation of local farms. Wilkins uses it all — plus other nonlocal ingredients — to turn out tiny explosions of deliciousness: fish cakes with lemon aioli; poached shrimp over rice noodles with a coconut-lime sauce; braised chicken crépes with napa cabbage and cremini mushrooms; you get the idea. The menu rotates constantly, too, as it should. I had an amazing lentil salad there a few months ago that is no longer on the menu. I trust it will come around again. In the meantime, I have a lot left to try.
I consider any chef who thinks to muddle corn and lettuce in a white wine broth a kindred spirit. Ditto for a bartender (Natvig) who offers samples of her hand-selected wines until you find one you like. She pours craft beer and sake martinis, too. I only wish Black Krim were closer.