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Side Dishes: Vermont fare gets its 15 minutes on TV

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Getting a product featured as “Snack of the Day” on “Rachael Ray” may sound like a small biz’s dream come true. But for the folks at Lake Champlain Chocolates, the road to Ray was paved with frustration.

It all began innocently enough in January, when the show’s staffers asked for a few chocolate samples, says LCC spokesperson Leann VanDerHeyden. Since Ray’s people had made several similar requests in 2008 and never followed through, she didn’t get her hopes up.

On Thursday, January 8, VanDerHeyden received an email announcing that the company’s Five Star Bars would be featured on the show and asking for 150 six-bar packs by the following Monday. “That’s $3300 dollars’ worth of product, not to mention $500 dollars of overnight shipping,” VanDerHeyden observes. “But we said, ‘Let’s take a chance.’”

On January 14, the LCC staffers learned their segment had been cut in the editing room. A “Ray Show” staffer wrote: “We know you’re a small company, but we’d be willing to work with you to feature you in a future episode if you’re able to send another 150 pieces.”

“I was incredulous,” VanDerHeyden fumes. “I thought they were overstepping their bounds [originally] when they asked for 150 six-packs instead of 150 bars — one bar is a snack, six is a gift. I said, ‘OK, I think we’re going to pass on this.’” As compensation for her trouble, she asked if the show could display an LCC weblink on its “Snack of the Day” site. The response: “We don’t put your link up unless the product actually airs.”

At that point, VanDerHeyden, who’s never been Ray’s biggest fan (“I don’t care for . . . her style of cooking. I’m not drinkin’ the Kool-Aid . . . ”), was feeling downright annoyed with the trendy TV chef. With “nothing to lose,” she sat down and penned a polite-yet-snarky missive. “I wrote that . . . I’ve read a lot of [negative] things about [Rachael Ray], and it’s hard not to buy into those things when you’ve had such a negative experience,” she relates. “To acknowledge that we’re small and request such a large amount of product is irresponsible and misleading . . . I signed it, ‘Respectfully, but seriously disappointed in Ms. Ray.’”

The tactic may have worked. On January 28, sans fresh shipments of chocolate bars, the 30-second segment hit the airwaves. “I happened to be home sick that day, and it was painful to watch 43 minutes of the talk show,” says VanDerHeyden. “And then [Ray] did it, and she did a fine job.”

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Dealing with the staff of a hit TV show may be no walk in the park, but when it comes to increasing a brand’s visibility, an appearance on “The Martha Stewart Show” is definitely “a good thing.” On January 15, in her “Must Have” segment, Stewart put the spotlight on cheese from Murray’s, one of New York City’s finest fromageries. Of the 100-plus cheeses sold at the shop, Stewart homed in on Bijou — a goat cheese from Vermont Butter & Cheese Company — and used it in an exotic watercress and persimmon salad.

Sharp-eyed viewers may also have noticed a labeled wedge of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar hanging out on Stewart’s counter.

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The press release arrived somewhat late — two hours after the segment aired — but, on February 2, the world finally saw Mark Bove of Burlington make his famous lasagna with Hoda and Kathy Lee. Click here to see the clip .

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Honey Gardens of Ferrisburgh is getting a sweet Valentine’s Day gift from The Food Network. On February 14, at 6:30 p.m., the apiary will be featured on “My Life in Food,” an unusually meditative-sounding series profiling “individuals whose lives have been transformed by food.” The segment is biblically entitled “Milk and Honey.”

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