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Counting on Kismet

Side Dishes: Café breaks new ground

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Standing with a lease in hand, Crystal Maderia, owner of Kismet in Montpelier, prepared to make a leap: She was about to move her sweet little breakfast-and-lunch café from out-of-the-way Barre Street to a bigger downtown location. But something stopped her, and it sounds a little like, well, kismet. When her contractor failed to keep their appointment, Maderia realized the new space would never be ready in time for the busy catering season.

So, instead of relocating, Maderia decided to do more with her current spot. This summer she’ll partner with around a dozen guest chefs, some local and some from afar, to offer a series of dinners. Kismet’s visitors will range from famed West Coast wildcrafter Iso Rabins — who will spend several weeks in residence — to Matthew Bilodeau of the nearby Black Door Bar and Bistro.

To make room for more cooks in the kitchen, Maderia is turning Kismet’s basement into a workspace. Soon she hopes to contract with a charcuterie expert who can use part of it for curing ham and bacon for diners’ breakfasts.

Another upcoming project: giving longtime employee Alexis Hurley, 21, a chance to spread her wings. “She’s going to start a mini taco shop at Kismet,” Maderia says. Every Tuesday night beginning in June, Hurley and her friends will dish up a small menu of Mexican specialties made entirely from scratch. “There will be three or four tacos and two or three higher-end, more exquisite specials,” says Maderia.

The restaurateur says there’s a simple rationale behind her various space-sharing schemes: “Montpelier really needs more variety, but there’s not enough business to support five more concepts.” By ushering new chefs into her kitchen, Maderia hopes to give them a place where they can experiment without risking their nest eggs. Call it community service.

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