Food writers know how to dish out criticism, but a local one is about to have the tables turned. On November 1, Suzanne Podhaizer will leave her job as Seven Days food editor. If all goes well, the reviews will start coming when her new Montpelier restaurant, Salt, opens just a few weeks later in mid-November.
According to Podhaizer, the opportunity to open her own business arrived in the form of kismet — literally. Podhaizer recently interviewed Kismet owner Crystal Maderia about her localvore café’s imminent move to the spot left unoccupied when Restaurant Phoebe closed in July.
Podhaizer and her chef-husband, Dan Green, saw the cozy café space Kismet is leaving behind as the perfect spot to open the kind of restaurant they always hoped to find in their own dining-out experiences.
What can guests expect at this food writer’s restaurant? Creative interpretations of classic dishes and techniques, made from scratch using local products and the best tastes from around the world, Podhaizer says. Green spent the summer laboring at Jericho Settlers’ Farm, from which he’ll source some of Salt’s products. In return, the restaurant will supply prepared food to Jericho Settlers’ winter CSA.
Salt will initially open for lunch, then add dinner in December. The midday meal will include quiches and soups, including sherried chestnut-mushroom, and a potato and kale potage with housemade chorizo. Afternoon strollers can sample espresso, coffee and a wide range of snacks, such as popcorn flavored with local cheeses, s’mores crafted from Salt’s own graham crackers and marshmallows, and “Pop Tarts” in flavors such as lemon curd and apple compote. Among the sweet and savory scones will be ones featuring Serrano ham and piquillo pepper.
Queen City residents can pick up the same snacks every other Saturday after the Burlington Winter Farmers Market opens in Memorial Auditorium on November 6.
In December, Podhaizer and Green will debut a small dinner menu, which will rotate weekly but always include handmade pasta and braises. Savory soufflés, one of Green’s specialties, can also be expected on the bill of fare. Look for popovers stuffed with unlikely fillings, including duck confit. Prix-fixe meals will include composed cheese plates with condiments tailored to the curds.
At a restaurant called Salt, the seasoning naturally gets pride of place. Each table will boast a selection, including Maine sea salt and smoked salt. “We like salted desserts,” says Podhaizer. Her salami-and-smoked-paprika truffles will find a home at her restaurant, along with salted caramels.
Diners can accompany the dishes with a line of artisan cocktails. “I prefer savory cocktails,” Podhaizer says, “so I’ll be playing around with ingredients like preserved lemons, herbs and spices to make things that actually get you hungry for dinner, instead of something that’s sticky and sweet and satiating.”
After four years at Seven Days, Podhaizer notes that the career switch will allow her to participate in the food scene instead of observing it. “I’m really happy to be an advocate for the local food movement and work with farmers who grow such wonderful produce,” she says.