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Political Palate

Side Dishes: Where food and governance intersect . . .

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Americans hungry for change have been celebrating Barack Obama’s election and inauguration with all manner of special eats. Photos of cakes and cookies decorated with the president’s likeness have cropped up across the Internet, and foodie websites spent the last week promoting special “Inauguration Menus” based on the commander in chief’s faves, including shrimp ’n’ grits, veggie pizza and chili con carne. (Needless to say, beets are off the list.) There’s even a blog, Obamafoodorama.blogspot.com, dedicated to documenting Obama’s meal and products honoring him.

Several of the items featured there have a Vermont connection. Back in 2006, Laini Fondiller of Lazy Lady started turning out small batches of a cheese called “Barick Obama.” When we covered it in this column in April 2007, Fondiller mentioned that the cheese offers “middle-of-the-road flavor.”

More recently, a 23-year-old former Essex Junction resident named Sam Chapple-Sokol — who works in D.C. for the antitrust division of the Department of Justice — made the list with his homebrewed beer, “The Audacity of Hops.” He premiered the coffee-flavored blend at an Election Night party and got such a warm reception that he prepared an “InaugurAle Edition” to serve on January 20.

“I was excited about Obama as a candidate, and it’s fun to brew for a purpose,” Chapple-Sokol explains. The drink makes use of his father’s home-roasted Kenyan, Hawaiian and Indonesian coffees — purchased green from Uncommon Grounds — to represent Obama’s eclectic heritage. Oddly enough, the brew isn’t particularly hoppy. “It’s sweet and coffee flavored, so it kind of has a mocha thing going on, which kind of overwhelms any hoppiness . . . I was thinking about doing an Imperial Bitter to celebrate the last eight years, and a sweet beer for the next eight years,” says the young partisan.

As a homebrewer, Chapple-Sokol can’t sell his beer, but he’d love to see it find a wider market. “I haven’t been giving the recipe away, so I still have some sort of intellectual property over it,” he speculates. “I really respect all the breweries in Vermont, so if anybody small wanted to take on a barrel or two, I wouldn’t say no.” Hear that, guys?

In political developments a bit closer to home . . .

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Burlington’s four mayoral candidates — Mayor Bob Kiss, Dan Smith, Andy Montroll and Kurt Wright — may be good bean counters, but are they chili connoisseurs? We’ll find out on February 8, when the four judge Avenue Bistro’s Chili Cook-Off Competition.

The fee for having your hot stuff on the menu is $25. Nonpoliticians can sample the goods for just $5. Proceeds benefit the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.

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