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Meat of the Matter

Side Dishes: Local beef gets a spotlight


Working as manager of Shelburne Meat Market, Dana Pontbriand hated selling customers $40 steaks that weren’t local or all natural. That’s why he and lifelong friend Eric Lavigne decided to open a market of their own. When Vermont Meat and Seafood Market sells its first cuts this Saturday, November 6, in Williston, customers can choose from a careful selection of meats — with a side of education.

Most products come from local farms, and Pontbriand promises to provide more info than just names: “[We’re] letting the customer know everything about the meat they’re getting … where it’s from, where it’s slaughtered, how it’s slaughtered and why it’s going to [your] family.”

Shelburne’s Laplatte River Angus Farm will be the market’s main beef supplier. It will carry high-end cuts such as filet mignon and prime rib, as well as dry-aged steaks. The market will stock Misty Knoll Farms chicken and turkey, both naked and marinated in Italian, spicy Asian and lemon-pepper sauces. Salmon, swordfish and other seafood will come from Wood Mountain Fish, a family-owned business that ships marine fare from Boston to Vermont restaurants and markets.

For those who want Laplatte beef without the cooking, Archie’s Grill in Shelburne, where it’s a specialty, could be a destination. The quick-service spot opened late last month. Owner Dick Hess, a 40-year restaurant veteran, emphasizes environmental responsibility on his localvore menu and in his packaging — everything from the cutlery to the take-out containers is biodegradable.

The restaurant is a tribute to Hess’ father, Archie, who lived through the Great Depression, and whose work ethic Hess says continues to inspire him.

Diners will have to work hard indeed to finish Archie’s namesake burger, which consists of two patties stuffed with blue cheese, then topped with caramelized red onions, Vermont Smoke and Cure bacon, maple syrup and a fistful of hand-cut fries. “It’s 6 inches tall when it’s done,” says Hess.