Asked what he would say to Vermonters who might be tempted to purchase their teas from online mega-retailers, Stone Leaf Teahouse owner John Wetzel's reply was simple and firm: "I would say don't do that!" Why not? "When you're buying locally, not only does the money stay here, it's also more likely than not that the quality and customer service are going to be exponentially better," he declared.
Pandemic-era restrictions on Vermont's businesses arwe beginning to loosen, but these establishments are still counting on community support to stay afloat.
Wetzel's Middlebury-based tea import company offers full tea service and more than 200 loose-leaf teas and tea wares. He believes humans forge connections when they share tea. Indeed, the same might be said for Vermont's intimate food and drink settings — it's one reason these small establishments are valuable.
Though he could reopen the retail portion of Stone Leaf to in-person customers, Wetzel has chosen not to for the time being. "I take it as a big responsibility to my employees and my customers and my family, so I'm gonna be more on the cautious side," he said.
Some food and drink sellers have reopened their doors, and most, if not all, continue to provide contact-free purchasing options. That means Vermonters can savor the state's bounty — from comestibles to cocktails — in a way that feels right for them.
This week's installment of our weekly column highlighting local shopping options features items related to eating and drinking, from a cute (yes, cute!) kitchen compost bin to carefully curated culinary gift baskets. What's more, money from the purchase of several of these items goes toward food security and supporting restaurant industry employees affected by the pandemic.
If you don't see your favorite retailers here, seek them out. This list is by no means comprehensive. Check the status of many Burlington-area sellers by visiting shoptheregister.com to browse the Register, Seven Days' new digital guide to shopping locally online.
Flower Mug With Infuser
Whether you're trying to perk up in the morning or calm your nerves before bed, a steaming cup of tea can be just the thing. Those sipping solo can do so in style with the flower mug and infuser set from Stone Leaf Teahouse in Middlebury's Marble Works district. Place your tea leaves in the ceramic infuser, dunk them in the eight-ounce mug and let them steep. Not just beautiful, the vessel boasts a practical feature: Set the used infuser in the upside-down lid to avoid drips.
How to buy: Order at stoneleaftea.com for shipping or curbside pickup.
Also try: Kikkerland Mouse Kitchen Timer from Kiss the Cook in Burlington.
Kitchen Compost Bin
"With Vermont's compost law requiring everyone to divert food scraps from the trash starting July 1, we wanted to create a product that makes it easy to collect food scraps while also looking beautiful on a kitchen counter," wrote Alysia Catalfamo in an email to Seven Days. Catalfamo and her husband, Jamie, are the co-owners of Cold Hollow Woodworking, a Georgia, Vt., company dedicated to using locally sourced wood and finish. Their solar-powered woodshop produces kitchen compost bins in two sizes with several wood options. The dishwasher-safe stainless steel insert brings a bit of convenience to saving food scraps.
How to buy: Order from coldhollowwoodworking.com for free shipping on orders of $50 or more.
Also try: Demeter Metal Compost Bin from Gardener's Supply Company, with locations in Burlington, Williston and Lebanon, N.H.
Vermont Isolate and Create: An Industry Cookbook
Have you ever dreamed of indulging in a Michael's on the Hill breakfast or a Bistro de Margot dessert in the comfort of your own home? As the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants to shutter, sisters Jenna and Nora Rice, a marketing professional and a chef, respectively, decided to lend a hand. The siblings have put together Vermont Isolate and Create: An Industry Cookbook, an ebook containing 20 recipes from 15 Vermont chefs. One hundred percent of the profits benefit the Vermont Restaurant Strong Fund to support individuals in the restaurant industry who have been impacted by COVID-19 closures.
How to buy: Order at jennarice.net for a digital copy.
Also try: The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook: 125 Organic and Farm-to-Fork Recipes From the Green Mountain State by Tracey Medeiros from Phoenix Books Essex and other local bookstores.
THIRST Wine Club
If you aspire to base your wine selection on more than the cost of the bottle and the cool label design, Dedalus Wine Shop, Market & Wine Bar's THIRST Wine Club is a good place to start. "This is our wine club for the budding wine geek," reads a declaration on the Burlington establishment's website. Each month, club members receive two specially chosen bottles, along with helpful info sheets and recipes for pairing. You'll be raving about sweetness level and body profile in no time.
How to buy: Subscribe at dedaluswine.com for curbside pickup or local delivery.
Also try: The wine club through Boyden Valley Winery & Spirits in Cambridge.
Who knew pizza grew in gardens? The Grow. Pizza patio gardening kit, available from the Vermont Institute of Natural Science Nature Store, allows foodies to cultivate just about everything they need to build a tasty 'za. The 100 percent recycled fiber packaging doubles as a planter for basil, tomatoes, green bell peppers, oregano, parsley and scallions grown from seed. Starter soil, plant ID stakes and growing instructions make this palate-pleasing project easy as pie.
How to buy: Order from vinsweb.net for shipping or curbside pickup.
Also try: Pizzacraft Round Pizza Stone from Capital Kitchen in Montpelier.
Build Your Own Basket
Chocolates and cheeses and jams, oh my! Choosing from Cheese & Wine Traders' selection of specialty eats, gourmands can curate their own gift baskets filled to the brim with flavorful finds. Pick five, 10 or 15 items from local food producers such as Lake Champlain Chocolates, Castleton Crackers and Plymouth Artisan Cheese; employees of the South Burlington business will pack the provisions for a gift-ready presentation.
How to buy: Visit cheeseandwinetraders.com or call 863-0143 for shipping, local delivery or curbside pickup.
Also try: Beer Lover's Cheese Duo from Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company in South Woodstock.
Foodbank Farmer's Market Crew Light Socks
"We were working on a design like this one and right now seemed to be the perfect time to release it," reads Darn Tough Vermont's description of its Foodbank Farmer's Market Crew Light socks, "with a purpose beyond keeping you comfortable." That purpose is to support the Vermont Foodbank, which is working hard to provide state residents with access to food, a service in high demand during the coronavirus pandemic. Wear these socks to show your commitment to eating locally and supporting fellow Vermonters in need.
How to buy: Order at darntough.com for shipping.
Also try: Support Champlain Valley food producers by ordering from Addison County Relocalization Network's online farmers market. Pickup locations are in Bristol and Middlebury.