On January 27, an accidental fire gutted lower Church Street's Five Spice Café. Damage was estimated at $750,000, and recent renovations by new owner Sam Palmisano went up in smoke. He purchased the café from Jerry Weinberg and Ginger Hobbs on November 28, 2006.
For the past two weeks, Palmisano has been running the kitchen at the new Timbers Restaurant at Sugarbush. Former head chef and local food fanatic Sebastian Carosi has moved on to other things. Rumor has it that he and wife Melissa may be pursuing their love of cheese making.
Palmisano says that Five Spice will reopen as soon as the space is reconstructed. The impassioned owner envisions the restaurant as a phoenix rising from the ashes, and says he's in the process of getting a phoenix tattooed on his back. No word yet on whether the Five Spice logo, which used to be a fire-breathing dragon, will transform into a phoenix, too.
Speaking of transformations, the Timbers menu, which used to mention that the sea salt used was 150 million years old, is looking a lot less pretentious these days. The descriptions have gotten tamer, but the dishes are still wilder than average. Current offerings include elk, rabbit, red deer and goose.
Another change: The white tablecloths, which seemed to intimidate folks coming in for après-ski dining, are gone. "Now people come in here with ski boots and jackets," reports Palmisano - which is exactly how the folks running Sugarbush want it.