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Salt of the Earth

Food News: Montpelier restaurant heads to the farm

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Blame bacon. Suzanne Podhaizer, owner of Salt in Montpelier, says she hadn’t seriously considered becoming a farmer until the opportunity arose at a recent Thursday “Bacon Night” at Nutty Steph’s Vermont Granola & Chocolate Factory in Middlesex. Chocolatier and owner Jaquelyn Rieke mentioned that she and Josie Green had purchased the Onion River Campground in Marshfield.

Now, Podhaizer says she’ll soon begin tilling her half acre on the property. It will supply Salt with the quirky produce the restaurateur always wished she could serve. “One thing I’ve noticed, buying from local farms, is they tend to grow items that have pretty wide consumer acceptance, and we’re looking to play around with some more unusual varieties,” says Podhaizer (former food editor for Seven Days).

Now that New England Culinary Institute interns have taken over her dessert- and bread-making duties, Podhaizer has extra time to focus on growing Salt’s specialties. The restaurant’s menu changes every three weeks, and Podhaizer says she’ll plan upcoming menus around the growing cycles of her crops. This summer, diners can expect a Middle Eastern menu featuring uncommon eggplants from the farm, including the tiny Turkish orange, and black garbanzo beans. An Asian menu will showcase yard-long beans, shiso and lemongrass, and epazote will appear on a Mexican bill of fare.

With greenhouse space on the farm, Podhaizer says she’ll cultivate some more conventional veggies year-round, including her own salad greens. She hopes Salt can save money by growing much of its own grub. What it won’t be skimping on is taste.

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