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Side Dish: Leftover Food News


Published March 26, 2008 at 10:51 a.m.

Oats and maple syrup are a natural combination in baked goods - think muffins or hearty loaves of bread. Now, thanks to the Peak Organic Brewing Company of Portland, Maine, you can try the combo in drinkable form.

The buzz biz's "maple oat ale" is made with oats from their home state and syrup from ours: The sweet stuff comes from Butternut Mountain Farm in Morrisville, with a certified organic sugarbush.

Peak founder Jon Cadoux calls the brew "a celebration of local farming and organic agriculture."

Lemon Grass Thai cuisine, located on a busy stretch of Shelburne Road, will be closing at the end of the month. Although the location has a lot of visibility, a spokesperson for the restaurant says it was difficult to find good help willing to make the trek.

Sometime in April, the Asian resto's owners will open a new eatery, the Drunken Noodle House, at Five Corners in Essex Junction. The 47-seat space will have lots of noodle bowls - spicy pad kee mao, translated as "drunken noodles," is expected to be a big seller. There will also be numerous curries and a greater emphasis on seafood.

Jim King, owner of 11-year-old The Pizza Joint in Stowe, is expanding Vermont's pre-made pie horizons. Even before he began selling three varieties of par-baked and frozen discs last month, King's eatery-cum-Internet café was not your average pizzeria: King grows his own hydroponic basil to supplement what he buys, and makes the salad dressings, such as fresh horseradish herb, spicy Thai and creamy bleu cheese, from scratch.

Need more convincing to try the pie? King's "Long Trail" variety is a multigrain crust topped with local goat cheese, artichoke spread, sun-dried tomatoes, 'shrooms and fresh basil." He occasionally competes in large-scale pizza-making competitions, noting that he won "one of the competitions up in Montréal a year and a half ago."

It's been a bad month for mozzarella. In mid-February, Woodstock Water Buffalo - the first and only creamery in the United States to make cheese and yogurt from the milk of the shaggy, horned beasts - closed unexpectedly. Then, last week, a scandal rocked the Italian cheese-making world, as some of their balls of bocconcini were found to contain milk tainted with dioxin, a cancer-causing chemical.

Luckily, though, there's some better news: The Woodstock-based dairy was recently purchased by businessman Frank Abballe, who pledged not to move the company. The biz is being renamed Vermont Water Buffalo Inc.

In addition to restarting production of yogurt and fresh mozz, the company will add some new artisanal cheeses - including varieties that will be aged in the massive cheese caves at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro - VWB plans to market the animals' lean and healthy meat, too.

Think the cozy comfort food at Morrisville's The Bee's Knees is, well, the bee's knees? Then you'll want to stay tuned as the funky café expands its seating and culinary offerings.

"We're putting in a full kitchen and doubling our seating," says owner Sharon Dietz. Since she's been cooking food in an upstairs apartment and slogging it down the stairs to her customers, the new kitchen will be a welcome change, and will allow her to greatly expand the menu. For example, she anticipates adding a.m. specialties such as Eggs Benedict and pear-and-banana pancakes to the current roster of breakfast sandwiches and pastries.

To make the lunch and dinner offerings sparkle, Dietz is planning to hire a chef who shares her food philosophy. "We're not trying to be the fancy place, but we want everyday food to feel special," she explains.

With the current economic climate, how was Dietz able to finance an expansion? By turning to community members à la Robert Fuller's Bobcat Café in Bristol. Folks "buy in" to the restaurant in order to provide funds. They'll be paid back, in part, with food.