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Side Dishes: Leftover Food News

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There are some telltale signs of a restaurant in decline: faltering service, unavailable menu items, inexplicable closings. It's doubtful anyone was shocked to see Riverside Avenue's defunct Tortilla Flat go out, for example.

What's less common? A thriving place that suddenly closes up shop. That'll happen at the end of March, when Steve & Erika's at the Ten Acres Lodge in Stowe shuts its doors. Chef Steve Super, a NECI grad who leases the popular restaurant from the Inn's owners, explains that the closure wasn't due to slow business, but just the opposite: "The volume of business being provided at the restaurant was, perhaps, overwhelming to the property or to the inn," he suggests.

Ultimately, Super says, the Inn's owners bought him out of his lease. "The restaurant is going to sit vacant. It's a shame," he opines. Though he's reportedly fielded "a lot of very nice offers here in the area," he's opted to head to the warmer climes of Houston, Texas, for an "exciting opportunity."

But, rather than drift through his last few weeks in Vermont, Super plans to go out with a bang: "We're not lowering our standards, our quality or our efforts until the very last day. I don't have any rules about food as long as it's done from scratch and it's perfect."

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If you think culinary school is all about making flaky, butter-rich pastries and decadent duck dishes, NECI is out to prove you wrong. The educational institution is teaming up with the folks at Fitness Options in South Burlington to show that staying healthy and eating well don't have to be mutually exclusive.

For $445, the cooperatively taught class in "Cooking & Fitness" will offer participants exercise routines and culinary instruction. According to a blurb about the offering, "You will learn to buy and prepare healthy foods while also participating in physical activities . . ." There's nothing like doing step aerobics while stirring a simmering pot of spaghetti sauce.

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Beginning this Friday, the recently refurbished Nectar's will offer up sweet strains alongside its pulled-pork sandwiches. "We'll have dinner music starting at 5:30 on the weekends," says owner Damon Brink. "Hopefully it will build to every day of the week." The music will be of "all types," but the acts will be mainly "soloists, duos and trios," he guesses.

Along with the rock 'n' roll, house-smoked local meats and chicken wings, Brink is touting new accommodations for customers' derrières, including "old church pews, stools and low tables with seating" that he calls "much more comfortable."

He boasts, "We're really looking forward to mixing in the whole dinner-lounge vibe. It's a place where you can come after work and order from our new menu and sit in a comfortable seat and be entertained."

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Smokejacks has a hip new website. In addition to listing the resto's "bold American" menu offerings, it allows fans to purchase gift cards, sign up for a newsletter, see the current "featured artist" and check out the "localvore plate" du jour. Today it's a "Pete's Greens beet salad with Vermont Herb & Salad microgreens and local honey vinaigrette." Mmm.

Other Smoky news: a recently updated dessert menu and an upcoming "classic St. Patrick's Day dinner" featuring corned beef and cabbage served with horseradish-mustard sauce, potatoes and Irish soda bread. No word on whether they'll offer green beer.

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