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Side Dishes: Local Exposure, Mexicali, Tassajara Bread Book, Cooking with Shelburne Farms

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If you miss the naked Men of Maple Corner calendar, which was discontinued four years ago, you may want to check out the Rutland Area Farm & Food Link's "Local Exposure." The 2008 calendar pics show local farmers and producers doing what they do best . . . in the buff. March is a syrup maker standing behind a carefully placed jar of the sweet stuff. September is an elderly apple picker climbing a ladder with a wrinkled sack full of apples. February reveals a broad dairy farmer squatting behind a cow, tugging on its udder. You can pick one up on RAFFL's website: www.rutlandfarmandfood.org.

Ever wondered about the Mexicali ad on The Point that encourages customers not to fill their Tupperware containers at the Williston restaurant's salsa bar? According to co-owner David Auriemma, it happens all the time. "Someone's always trying to come in and sneak home some salsa to make their nachos with," he says. In one such incident, a woman "brought in a three-quart Pyrex bowl in her purse," he relates. "She proceeded to fill it up." When confronted by the Mexicali staff, he continues, the patron was surprised, and "didn't understand why it wasn't OK."

If you want to bring home a helping of Mexicali's south-of-the-border sauces, all you have to do is ask. The restaurant sells a selection of freshly made toppings for just $2 per cup, or $3 if you want all that and a bag of their homemade chips.

Any hippie worth his sea salt knows about Edward Espe Brown. The Buddhist baker authored the famous Tassajara Bread Book, among others. Now he's the subject of a highly touted documentary, How to Cook Your Life, which recently opened in New York.

Montpelier's Savoy was lucky enough to score a last-minute booking, and will show the flick for a week starting December 14. The movie "may not play anywhere else in Vermont," predicts theater co-owner Rick Winston.

As Winston describes it, "This film follows [Brown] as he gives workshops that deal both with Zen practice and cooking, and how to apply one to the other and back again. It's full of philosophy with a very light touch." See the film listings for details.

In case you missed the recent report last week in the mainstream media: Van Miguel Hartless, 24, of Fair Haven got more than he bargained for at a Rutland Burger King last summer. After ordering up some takeout, he arrived home, bit into his Southwestern Whopper and allegedly found an unwrapped prophylactic alongside the pickles. Unsurprisingly, the Green Mountain College student is suing because of the nightmares and emotional distress.

A number of fast-food lawsuits have turned out to be fraudulent - the latest, a severed finger in a bowl of chili, was a total hoax. But Hartless submitted to a polygraph test to prove that his claim is no, um, whopper.

Two Vermont food books have gotten a lot of recognition this year: Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories From Vermont, by Melissa Pasanen and Rick Gencarelli, made The New York Times' Top 25. A memoir by former Burlingtonian Phoebe Damrosch, Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter, scored on the foodie website Leite's Culinaria.

Rural Vermont, which "activates, advocates and educates for living soils, thriving farms and healthy communities" under the directorship of Amy Schollenberger, also put out a cookbook. It's filled with more than 100 recipes submitted by RV members.

What's inside? There are fanciful-sounding dishes such as "Chicken Goop" and "A Whole-Lot-of-Something Pie," as well as one piece that instructs braver readers on how to eat raw heart, liver, kidney and other bloody bits. Those uninterested in sucking down spleen might prefer the sausage, kale and white bean stew or Vermont blue cheese and pesto pizza.

Buy it for $15 on the Rural Vermont website, or pick up a copy at the Otter Creek Brewery in Middlebury.

Williston-based food writer Molly Stevens whipped up the centerpiece of Saveur magazine's December issue. Her article, "King of the Feast," gives recipes for roasting Caribbean-style pork shoulder, herbed chicken, classic prime rib and striped bass.

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