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Side Dishes: Davin's Nut Job

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When Kelly Davin, 39, moved to Vermont six years ago, she couldn't find a job. A food lover, she turned to The Vermont Food Venture Center in Fairfax for help. "I took a 'Recipe for Success' class," she explains. "They wanted us to make a recipe that was viable for selling." The item Davin brought to her next class was a mixture of almonds, cashews and pecans flavored with ginger and local maple syrup. She'd made the snack for her wedding, where "people were fighting over it." The folks in her class loved the snack, too, and Waitsfield's The Nutty Vermonter was born.

For the first two years, Davin carried a trio of flavored nut mixes: maple ginger, maple cinnamon and maple chipotle. One evening, after a super-long workday, she had an epiphany. "I was starving to death and I was going to have a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich," Davin recalls. She threw a handful of spiced nuts in the food processor to grind them, and a new product was born. "I just had shivers down my spine when I tasted it," Davin says. "I was so excited that I called my mother, and she said, 'That's disgusting; who's going to eat that?'" Nowadays, Davin grinds all three flavors into butters, which far outsell the nuts themselves.

Davin and her husband peddle the products at the Stowe and Burlington Farmers' Markets and a few select shops, such as 3 Squares in Vergennes and Apple Mountain in Burlington. Recently, Davin made the transition from cutting out her own labels with scissors to having them professionally printed. She also sells items on her website, www.nuttyvermonter.com. What she doesn't want to do is grow too fast. "I've been really nervous about making the wrong step," she muses. "I want to be that nice little secret that only a couple hundred thousand people know."

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