Maybe it was only a matter of time before Vermont got its own jerky shop. Still, when I first drove by the sign a few weeks ago, I had to do a triple take — the shop's name somehow jangled against the sign's polished typography and Stowe's stately shops and houses.
But there it was: Vermont's Amazing House of Jerky. When I tried the door, though, a smaller, handwritten sign revealed that the owner was out getting "more delicious jerky" and would return the next day.
A few weeks later, I was in luck. Anthony Capone, the owner, was holding court in a sunsplashed shop so elegant that its product selection seemed out of place. It was time to confront my own preconceptions about jerky, which blanketed the rustic pine shelves Capone built himself.
There were various flavors of beef jerky, of course (chili was sold out), but also turkey, alligator, venison and even trout. As I considered some mushroom jerky in the vegan section (it rubbed shoulders with some granola), Capone called it "beautiful." The turkey was "silky," while another — the venison jerky — "tastes like red wine," he said.
Capone clearly has a passion for his trade. Though House of Jerky shops appear in dozens of places across the U.S., he insists his is not a franchise nor part of a chain; his stores in Lake Placid, Lake George and now Stowe are his alone.
To explain the makings of jerky here would take too long; this isn't locavore stuff, but to my untrained eye, it looked high quality. Those who can't decide between alligator and turkey could go for a sampler pack, which sells upward of $30. I opted for the benchmark Natural Style Beef Jerky, as well as some black-pepper venison, teriyaki turkey and Pan's Mushroom Jerky.
Capone was right: The venison jerky, while tougher than the rest, did indeed taste like red wine, maybe even a Cabernet filled with black fruit and charred flavors. The beef jerky was gutsy and umami, while the amber-colored, striated teriyaki turkey had the softest texture and sweetest flavor of the bunch.
The mushroom jerky wasn't as soft as I expected it to be; rather, it was (of course) earthy and tough, and reminded me of a few other mushrooms I'd tried as a teenager, sans bitterness. But I'll leave it to a vegan to decide.
Capone says a jerky store is in the works for Burlington. Watch out, Church Street.
Vermont's Amazing House of Jerky, 100 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 760-6111.