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Crumbs

Side Dishes: Hong's Chinese Dumplings, Taco Bell, St. Pierre's Catering, Hen of the Wood

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You're not alone if you've been missing the Hong's Chinese Dumplings cart, which sets up in front of Borders on Church Street. For three years running, in 2005, '06 and '07, Seven Days readers voted the savory snacks the area's hottest "street food." They're best slathered with owner Hong Yu's homemade ginger garlic soy sauce or hot chili oil.

So why have the dumplings disappeared? According to Yu, a misunderstanding with the Vermont Health Department is to blame. Because she couldn't do all of her preparation on her licensed cart, she was making some of her food at home. "They never told me I needed a license," she laments. "I've been doing this for almost nine years. It is always very clean. Every morning I cook things fresh."

Now Yu can't vend until a representative from the health department visits her home and certifies her kitchen. She isn't sure when that will be.

"I feel very sad," Yu says. "I miss my customers, but I don't want to do something illegal." She plans to reopen on Church Street as soon as she gets the health department's go-ahead. Eventually, though, Yu would love to open a small "dumpling house."

"It's very tough on Church Street," she asserts. "I'm getting older now; my shoulder hurts and my back hurts." Inside, without a heavy cart to push around and set up day after day, Yu thinks she could "work more, and maybe hire somebody. It would look like a Chinese house inside. It would be cute," she concludes.

Ay Ay Ay! On July 23, despite drizzly weather, crowds converged at 7 a.m. - three hours early - to wait in line for a taste of "double-decker tacos" and nacho cheese gorditas at the opening of Rutland Town's new Taco Bell. According to a report in the Rutland Herald, by lunchtime the wait at the drive-through was 50 minutes long.

Until last week, the chain's Dorset Street location was the only one in Vermont. But Taco Bell's corporate bigwigs plan to remedy the dearth soon; they have plans to open five quasi-Mexican eateries in the Green Mountains. For now, fans of the "Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme" are waiting with bated breath to learn which towns they'll choose. ¡Ellos quieren Taco Bell!

Folks who suspect that the chile-slinging eatery might be behind the recent salmonella poisonings can set their minds at ease and go chew a chalupa. The Taco Bell website reports: "Food safety is our top priority. The CDC and FDA have recently advised against eating raw jalapeños. We do not serve raw jalapeños. Our jalapeños are pickled and packaged, and they are not related to the jalapeños the CDC is investigating." Phew!

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Wanna buy a catering company? Roy St. Pierre, of 13-year-old St. Pierre's Catering, is packing up and moving to warmer climes and hopes to sell his biz.

In addition to traditional catering, St. Pierre runs the café at Higher Ground, serving up Caribbean jerk chicken sandwiches and beer-battered fries with cheese sauce to hungry show-goers. He's also catered backstage for the likes of Lyle Lovett and Ringo Starr.

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He's still part-owner of the restaurant, but Craig Tresser, formerly co-chef at highly acclaimed Hen of the Wood at the Grist Mill, has moved on to a non-culinary job, confirms co-owner and Executive Chef Eric Warnstedt. Why? In part, because Tresser and his wife have a "bun in the oven."

"It's all good stuff," Warnstedt suggests. "He wanted to start a family and have a normal life. Things are kind of crazy around here."

Replacing Tresser in the role of sous chef is Phillip Clayton, who used to be sous at Trattoria Delia. "He's been here for a month. It's going well," Warnstedt reports.

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Lots of restaurants are closing their doors due to the tough economy. But despite a padlock on the gate, Tantra on Church Street in Burlington isn't one of them. So says owner Manatat Waiwong, who is currently traveling in Thailand. She claims it will reopen on August 4, when she returns.

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Want to do something to help Vermont's hard-working restaurateurs through tough times? Bike to your favorite restaurant, and spend the gas money - on food.

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