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Cuisine Cruise

Side Dishes: Luxury on the lake

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It ain't the Caribbean, but Lake Champlain lends itself just as well to aquatic eating - in the summer, that is. At the end of last season, the owners of the floating Spirit of Ethan Allen launched a cruise line designed for "people who really want to vacation on the lake," says Marie Lathey, director of sales and marketing for the new Lake Champlain Cruise Line. The floating hotel offers overnight accommodations for up to seven nights with sumptuous, three-course New American meals made mainly from local ingredients. Except for the big-screen TVs, it sounds like a throwback to the S.S. Ticonderoga.

There's one modern-day challenge, though: LCCL is still seeking a head chef. "We're actually currently searching for the most qualified and ideal chef for the cruise," says Lathey, "someone who's familiar with New England, the localvore movement and local farmers." For now, they're working with the chefs from "The Spirit" on the first stages of menu development.

They're also working on their vessel, The Moonlight Lady. She's a 1920s "inland cruise ship" replica with all the modern amenities. "One of the most exciting aspects is that we're currently adding a new top deck to the boat that will have a culinary theater," Lathey reports. "We'll actually be conducting food workshops on some of the cruises." Future plans include wine cruises as well as a journey that will double as "culinary boot camp."

Why the foodie focus? "In Vermont we don't have glaciers, we don't have the Bahamas," says Lathey. "We wanted to focus on what we do have, and we have great food." Not to mention the most dramatic dining-room view in the state

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