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Side Dishes: Cabot, The Green Room, Finkerman's Riverside Barbecue, Bove's, Eat Local Vermont

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This year, the White House is expecting 60,000 people at its invitation-only holiday parties. One of the items on the menu is "Vermont white cheddar," confirms Julie Adams, deputy press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush, though she was unable to verify the cheese's provenance. A quick call to Cabot, the state's largest producer of a cheese fitting that description, was not returned by press time. But when asked whether the presidential cheese was likely to be a product of her company, the receptionist who directed our call exclaimed, "Well, I would hope so."

Admired the new menus at Burlington's The Green Room recently? The hip eatery has teamed up with local biz Flashbags to create a menu with a modern look and feel. "Laura [Cheney, Flashbags' co-owner] is a good friend of ours," dishes bar manager Alex Moran. "Most of the time, when people say they like the menus, I can point to the end of the bar and Laura's right there." The slick sleeves - which hold the restaurant's signature list of small, medium and large plates - feature a photo of the spot's exterior sign, frosted plastic and Flashbags' signature "loopy stitching," says Moran. "People love 'em."

Finkerman's Riverside Barbecue in Montpelier is on the market, says co-owner Lee Duberman, who's also chef-owner of Ariel's in Brookfield. But Duberman and her husband, Richard Fink, have a Plan B in mind, one that could allow them to keep the BBQ joint.

"We have a very consistent and loyal clientele," Duberman says, "and a very loyal staff." What's the problem? "Barbecue is iffy in Vermont," she ventures. "It's not like the South, where people go out three or four days a week for barbecue." Another issue: the rising cost of meat.

However, given the success of Ariel's, the couple's moneymaker, they're considering morphing Finkerman's into a more casual version of that fine-dining destination. It would be a "Mediterannean grill or bistro," explains Duberman, with lots of vegetarian options and seafood.

How does the couple maintain their sanity while managing two restaurants at once? During the winter months, they open Ariel's for special events only. This year, those include an Italian Holiday Feast, served December 21 through 24, and a multi-course New Year's Eve dinner. Look for upcoming events featuring other cuisines at www.arielsrestaurant.com.

Wanna see the Boves go tête-à-tête with Bobby Flay? The lasagna edition of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" airs January 20 on the Food Network.

So much for hopes that the Miguel's spot on Church Street would be reincarnated as a restaurant. A zoning sign on the window indicates that it will be the new home of classic clothing retailer Ann Taylor.

Rooting for root vegetables? Eat Local Vermont hosts its first-ever wintertime "localvore challenge" from January 27 to February 2. Find details at www.eatlocalvt.org.

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