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Side Dishes: The Smiling Snail is Chittenden County's first "CSK"


Published January 18, 2012 at 7:54 a.m.


The joys of CSA membership are many. Having a bountiful supply of fresh, local produce delivered weekly is great — if you have the time to clean and peel your celeriac and cook all that kale. As a busy marketer at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Tiffany Shaw didn’t always have that luxury. But she found prepared-food options at nearby grocery stores seriously lacking. That’s why, last fall, Shaw left her job to devote herself full time to a new project, a community-supported kitchen called the Smiling Snail.

Shaw’s CSK model, of which she says she’s seen only a few examples across the country, involves cooking with local meats and produce, including many ingredients grown at her own Charlotte “micro-farm.” Then she delivers the finished products to Vergennes, Burlington and Hinesburg and everywhere in between. Wednesday deliveries start at the beginning of February; members can buy shares at any time and choose from commitments as short as a month.

Starting a locavore business in one of Vermont’s most agriculturally barren months sounds challenging, but Shaw explains that she planned ahead. “I’ve been processing food myself. My freezer is full of local blueberries, tomatoes and eggplant,” she says of the ingredients she grew herself. The self-taught chef is quick to point out that, while she partners with the likes of Bloomfield Farm and Stony Loam Farm in Charlotte and is in talks with other local suppliers, her business does not aim to be 100 percent local all the time.

What’s more important is that the food tastes good and is reasonably priced. A family share costs $130 a week; a week’s half-share, more appropriate for couples, rings up at $70. Each share, which is delivered fresh, not frozen, includes soups, salads and sides, as well as entrées, breads, snacks and desserts. Braised winter greens with garlic and pork belly may sound glorious to some, but Shaw will adapt her healthy comfort-food menus for vegetarian customers.

Shaw says her ads on Front Porch Forum have generated strong interest; nonetheless, for her first year, she plans to limit delivery to about two dozen shares, all delivered in GMO-free, wheat-based containers and reusable Mason jars. Letting someone else do the cooking has never seemed so responsible.

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