Even in Vermont, foodies may have heard of a Colorado restaurant called Duo. Executive pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom is a perennial James Beard Foundation award nominee, and the Huffington Post named Duo one of the five best locavore restaurants in Denver. Now Brattleboro will share the wealth. A second Duo is slated to open in the town's historic Brooks House in September.
How did that happen? Credit goes to Stephanie Bonin, a Brattleboro native who opened Duo and two other now-sold restaurants in Denver with her husband, Keith Arnold. Bonin says that when the couple's second daughter was born, in 2012, they decided to leave the city. They settled in Dummerston, Vt., last summer and have been running the Denver Duo remotely, traveling to Colorado every 10 to 12 weeks.
Damaged by a five-alarm fire in 2011, the now 143-year-old Brooks House needs work before it can house new tenants — including, besides Duo, the Community College of Vermont, Vermont Technical College and independent learning center Oak Meadow. A $23 million effort to rebuild the Brattleboro cornerstone will most likely wrap up in September.
Bonin is currently interviewing potential chefs de cuisine to work under Denver-based executive chef Tyler Skrivanek. "He'll write the menu for both places, and the chef we'll hire here will work with him to be able to make it reflect what's growing here," Bonin explains.
She's looking forward to seeing one particular local food group grace the menu. "The fruit that is here in New England is incredible," says Bonin. "In Colorado we struggle so much to get fruit. That's a really glaring difference between the two."
Currently, Bonin and Arnold are starting conversations with local farmers and suppliers to create East Coast counterparts to the relationships they use to stock their Denver restaurant. The goal is to recreate a menu that incorporates 90 percent local produce in season.
Since Duo's opening is still months away, menu details will take time to solidify. One thing Bonin knows will be available at the opening is Lozada-Hissom's sticky toffee pudding, a freshly baked cake served with hot rum-toffee sauce, whipped cream and pecans. "It's absurdly delicious," says Bonin.