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Seven Days Food Writers Look Back on a Tasty 2018

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Published December 26, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.

The dumpster setting of Waterbury's Salvage Supperclub - FILE: MICHAEL VERILLO
  • File: Michael Verillo
  • The dumpster setting of Waterbury's Salvage Supperclub

What did you eat in 2018? The question may sound trivial at the end of a year when very important congressional politicizing (ahem, Brett Kavanaugh), midterm elections, the Special Counsel investigation, and the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle dominated the headlines.

But here at the Seven Days food desk, eating is serious business. We spend our days and evenings gallivanting around the state searching for the finest sustenance these great Green Mountains have to offer. Then, when we find something good, we pen a little love note and put it in the paper.

Luckily for all of us, 2018 brought plenty of memorable edibles. And what better time than year's end to take stock of the hundreds of meals we've put under our collective belts? For convenience, we've grouped them into some catchy categories.

Let's get on with it, shall we?

Culinary Field Trip

Dumpster dinner

Lessons at mealtime aren't my favorite thing, but you can't beat the way I learned about food waste while dining in a dumpster at Salvage Supperclub in Waterbury. The lesson was delivered via cocktails infused with cornhusks and foraged rhubarb, espresso-ground chocolate cake, and beet pasta made from gleaned veggies and flour that a local baker/millstone maker had spared from the compost bin. Oh, yes, and mushroom pâté prepared from stems tossed by a restaurant.

The dinnerware was borrowed from a local nonprofit, the table flowers came from the garden of hosts Georgia and Jeremy Ayers (Jeremy, a potter, made the vases), and the table that seated 16 of us in the dumpster on that hot August night was constructed from a pine tree that had fallen over in a storm. Banging on a dumpster, as we did at meal's end to show our gratitude and pleasure, makes for beautiful applause.

— S.P.

Richmond Community Kitchen

Students preparing peaches for dessert at a Richmond Community Kitchen class - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Students preparing peaches for dessert at a Richmond Community Kitchen class

Crisp lamb crackers and grilled octopus with pepperoncini and dill are among the dishes that make Honey Road in Burlington one of my favorite places to eat — when I can get a table at the perpetually busy spot. In August, I was among the fans who got a behind-the-scenes peek into the mind-set of the restaurant's James Beard Foundation award-nominated chef and co-owner, Cara Chigazola Tobin. She taught a cooking class at Richmond Community Kitchen with humor and warmth, sharing personal anecdotes from travels to the eastern Mediterranean, along with recipes and tips for success. The communal meal that the dozen participants cooked under the chef's guidance was 100 percent vegetarian and 100 percent delicious, from zucchini-feta fritters to cantaloupe-and-fennel salad with toasted pita croutons. I did not even miss the lamb crackers.

— M.P.

Memorable Meal

Celebration of the life of Eric Rozendaal

Celebration of life for Eric Rozendaal at Rockville Market Farm in Starksboro - COURTESY OF NATALIE STULTZ
  • Celebration of life for Eric Rozendaal at Rockville Market Farm in Starksboro

A celebration of the life of Eric Rozendaal, who died in July at age 51, drew about 500 people to Rockville Market Farm in Starksboro, where Rozendaal farmed with his wife, Keenann, and crewmembers who were family to him. The tribute on August 12 included a poem by Rudyard Kipling recited by his daughter, a Miley Cyrus song sung by his niece, and loving words spoken by family and friends.

But first, there was food: a beautiful and bountiful farm feast organized and prepared by chefs Maura O'Sullivan and Charles Reeves of Penny Cluse Café in Burlington. Farmer friends provided food, Luke Stone of the Hindquarter presided over the pig roast, and other cooks pitched in. The buffet offered pork, baked beans, cole slaw, cherry tomatoes with corn and zucchini, greens with maple vinaigrette, watermelon and cantaloupe with mint and basil, shishito peppers, popsicles, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and beer. It was true to Rozendaal: generous, colorful and creative.

— S.P.

Joan Nathan at Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, Burlington

A sold-out luncheon at Ohavi Zedek in late July honored not only visiting cookbook doyenne Joan Nathan, but also the generations of Jewish cooks whose recipes she has chronicled over her long career. The synagogue's chef, Richard Witting, and a team of volunteers prepared an impressive spread of global dishes from Nathan's latest book, King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking From Around the World.

After the meal, attendees shared stories of Lithuanian honey cakes, Polish onion cookies, Romanian pastries filled with farmer's cheese, and potato dumplings that were called shlishki in Hungary and vareniki in a family with Galician roots. They recalled Algerian-French Shabbat dinners of tagines and bureka pastries, and a Middle Eastern bean, onion and lamb stew made by a beloved great-grandmother. The cooks may be gone, but their spirit and traditions live on in their food.

— M.P.

Antidote to Instagram Hype


@stonesoupalley Instagram feed - FILE: JAY ERICSON
  • File: Jay Ericson
  • @stonesoupalley Instagram feed

#Hallelujah! An Instagram feed out of #VT, the #foodie #locavore capital of the #world, where food isn't peddled as #porn (#itdontlooklikethatforlong), and farming isn't exalted as #sacred (#dirtystrenuousendlessworkshittypay). At @stonesoupalley, Tim Elliott, chef and co-owner of Zabby & Elf's Stone Soup, trains the Pop Tart-size piece of plastic called an iPhone on the alley by his Burlington restaurant. #Followers are treated to images such as a pigeon-pecked piece of bread, a trash run punctuated by a cigarette break, a cook cooling his burn with a handful of snow, and a cardboard box from NYC fish purveyors Russ & Daughters (#farflungpickledherring). #YoTim, if you catch co-owner Avery Rifkin breaking a freshly baked loaf of challah in the alley and reciting a #blessing, please post!

— S.P.

Finest Flash in the Pan

Banchan, Montpelier

Stone bowl of bibimbap at Banchan - FILE: JAY ERICSON
  • Stone bowl of bibimbap at Banchan

For a hot minute, Montpelier had a Korean restaurant. On Elm Street, sisters An Na and Jin An and their mother, Jin Suk, served corn tea to hungry locals, along with snacks — diced kimchi, fried pancakes sliced into thin strips, soy-dressed potatoes — in tiny stoneware dishes. These complemented the mains: stone-bowl bibimbap, with rice buried under marinated beef, tart-and-crunchy kimchi, and a runny egg; tofu stews stained shocking red with gochujang; lettuce wraps with savory miso sauce, shredded pork and sticky rice. And life was good — for the four months it lasted.

Banchan didn't lack patrons; its tables were full daily. But running a restaurant is hard, and it didn't take long for Jin Suk's "not quite ready to retire" project to become an early-retirement plan. Who can blame a grandmother for wanting to focus on grandmothering? And An Na did say, upon closing, that future pop-up meals are a possibility. So let's stake our hopes on that, eh?

— H.P.E.

Beau Butchery + Bar, Montpelier

Crammed into a small storefront in Montpelier, Beau was a self-described "authentic butcher shop with a Prohibition-era bar and European-style delicatessen." I appreciated the skills and deep commitment to quality meats of butcher and co-owner Jules Guillemette, who taught me about French Canadian creton, the fat-capped, slow-cooked mixture of ground pork, salt and seasonings that Guillemette's grandmother made and served in reused plastic butter tubs.

To drink, one could order housemade bone broth or, on select evenings, the perfectly conceived and mixed cocktails of bartender Kate Wise. The butcher-bar was perhaps too quirky to last, born of personal passion that burned fierce and bright until it closed abruptly after 18 months.

 — M.P.

Worth the Splurge

Housemade pastas

It never hurts to be reminded just how rewarding a bite of freshly made, perfectly cooked, perfectly sauced pasta can be. This year brought many reasons not to pass over pasta. At Misery Loves Co. in Winooski, a tangle of midnight-black spaghetti with squid and sea urchin delivered umami flavors as deep as the sea. At Mangalitsa in Woodstock, cappelletti (literally, "little hats") filled with local feta luxuriated in five-spice brown butter with dried cranberries and pecans. Hen of the Wood in Burlington offered mezzaluna ravioli plump with smoked sweet potato and crowned with a velvety oxtail sauce and toasted breadcrumbs.

And I'm still dreaming of the tender tagliatelle gilded with cockles, cream and Vermont-grown saffron that I shared (sort of) at Dedalus Wine Shop, Market & Wine Bar in Burlington. Did I really need to be reminded?

— M.P.

The Daily Catch, Woodstock

Scallop linguine at the Daily Catch - FILE: SARAH PRIESTAP
  • Scallop linguine at the Daily Catch

When it comes to seafood and pasta, Maria Freddura oughta know: With her husband, Paul, she's been in the fish-and-noodle biz for more than 40 years. In Boston's North End, their original Daily Catch restaurant draws daily lines out the door. Another location in nearby Brookline is consistently crowded as visitors clamor for plates of cornmeal-battered calamari or monkfish marsala.

In September, Maria brought the Daily Catch to Vermont with a new restaurant on Central Street in Woodstock. As in Boston, the food comes to the table clattering and hot in a cook's sauté pan. But the bare-bones presentation only enhances the straightforward beauty of al dente pasta tossed with plump, sweet sea scallops with copious garlic, clam brine and white wine.

The lobster fra diavolo is a veritable feast of many fishes, with a quartered lobster perched on a spicy, red-sauced tangle of pasta with clams, mussels, shrimp and squid.

And, yeah, the food here is pricey, especially that lobster plate. But where else can you get seafood that's handpicked daily by the restaurant's owners, right when it hits the Boston docks?

— H.P.E.

Pizzeria Ida, Burlington

Pepperoni square pie at Pizzeria Ida - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Pepperoni square pie at Pizzeria Ida

Sitting at the counter at Pizzeria Ida in Burlington's Old North End, I watched Dan Pizzutillo prepare my calzone — turning it in the wood-fired oven, crowning it with mozzarella, tomato sauce and a squirt of olive oil. He served it on a big white plate; my kale salad — a crispy tangle of greens with a soft egg nestled within, shaved cheese on top — came on another.

"Are you gonna freak out if I put my calzone and kale on the same plate?" I asked Pizzutillo, making the move but wary of offending his keen food aesthetic.

"Nah," he said. "You paid. You can do whatever you want."

You bet I did: $25 for the calzone, $14 for the salad. With tax and tip (and leftovers), my $50.08 pizza-parlor splurge came with oozing rich ricotta, chewy dough, crunchy greens and Jerry Garcia covering Smokey Robinson — "I Second That Emotion" — on the sound system. I missed Ida's seasonal apple pie, $10 a slice, but photos reveal it to have been splurge-worthy in its own dough.

— S.P.

Cheap Eats

Breakfast sandwiches, Burlington

Blueberry hand pies at Willow's Bagels - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Blueberry hand pies at Willow's Bagels

I'm not really a breakfast person, but somehow (ahem, husband) I have found myself on a quest for the best breakfast sandwiches in Burlington. Follow along and share your own favorites on Instagram with #bestbreakfastsandwichbtv. A few criteria I generally observe: They should be grab-and-go. They must be made to order. They usually contain an egg. And, for somewhat arbitrary reasons, I seldom count bagel sandwiches (though Myer's Bagels tempts me). Luckily, there's no shortage of viable candidates for this affordable luxury.

Here are seven sandwiches to fuel your week: Give Monday a kick in the pants with the tender biscuit, tangy warm pimento cheese and generous helping of bacon at Mirabelles Café and Bakery. On Tuesday, go for the Great Northern's crunchy house-marinated vegetable breakfast sandwich. Wednesday is for Nunyuns Bakery & Café's excellently tender, uncommonly square biscuit sandwich oozing with melted cheddar. It's old school at the Shopping Bag on Thursday, where a hash brown gets cozy with thinly sliced ham on a crusty roll. Friday, level up and ask for your sausage patty and neat omelet square cradled in the standout maple biscuit at August First. Saturday is market day, so head to the Burlington Farmers Market for farm-fresh eggs and sausage sizzling on the griddle at Pigasus Meats. Wrap up Sunday with a satisfying vegan glazed tempeh on a house English muffin at Knead Bakery.

— M.P.

Kimchi ramen at Si Aku Ramen, Barre

Marlyn Brown of Si Aku Ramen - FILE: HANNAH PALMER EGAN
  • File: Hannah Palmer Egan
  • Marlyn Brown of Si Aku Ramen

Marlyn Brown grew up in Manila but moved to Vermont decades ago with her husband, Peter. In April, the couple opened a noodle shop on Barre's Main Street, next to the Paramount Theatre, where diners can get steaming bowls of ramen or pho ($9.95 at lunch, $12.95 at dinner) and pan-Asian snacks such as steamed dumplings or Filipino empanadas.

Go there. Order the kimchi ramen. Brown has been honing her kimchi recipe for more than 30 years. With silky pork broth, chewy noodles and a runny egg, her kimchi noodle bowl is a spicy, multi-textured delight — and probably two meals, depending on how hungry you are — in soup form.

And don't get me started on the hand pies, aka "pup-tarts," at Willow's Bagels in Burlington. Butter-crisp crust scattered with crunchy bits of sugar and filled with strawberries and rhubarb in the spring, or sweet-but-tart raspberries at the height of summer. Money can't buy love, but I can't imagine a better pick-me-up for $3.50.

— H.P.E.

The Hippie Chickpea, Montpelier

Dishes at the Hippie Chickpea - FILE: SALLY POLLAK
  • File: Sally Pollak
  • Dishes at the Hippie Chickpea

I'll cover the gas to Montpelier for a $3 plate of roasted cauliflower and $6 falafel with tahini at the Hippie Chickpea. Chef-owner Vince Muraco, who arrived in town with a wealth of cooking experience, has devised a smart and appealing menu: veggie-centric meals rotate; prices stay low. If you dine at the Hippie Chickpea when the owners' kids are in the restaurant, family entertainment — a 3-year-old boy telling his mother, "I love you from all the world" — is on the house.

— S.P.

Cheers to...

Mandarin, Winooski

The Boba Fizz - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • The Boba Fizz

I'd like to thank Woody Wright-Moore — along with Mandarin owners Lawrence and Joyce Fong — for the best cocktail I drank all year. On a sunny October afternoon, I ordered the Mandarin Boba Fizz, a frothy, canary-colored gin Creamsicle of sorts. The experience began with a luscious, marshmallow-y head and a crispy dried lime wheel that shattered into sour-bitter shards when I bit into it. Wright-Moore garnishes most of Mandarin's drinks with dehydrated fruit — limiting waste, since dried stuff keeps way longer than freshies.

At the bottom of the drink, I found boba, the petite, liquid-filled spheres usually seen in bubble tea. They popped against the roof of my mouth, flooding my tongue with yuzu tang and sweet citrus.

If that's not your speed, other Mandarin tipples include tiki-style Singapore slings, zombies, scorpion bowls and classics such as a sazerac and an old-fashioned. And the restaurant's dining room invites sitting and sipping, with its low, violet-tinted lights, dark banquettes and weekend resident DJs whose spins are more ambient than rollicking.

Vermont's natural winemakers

Iapetus wines at Shelburne Vineyard - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Iapetus wines at Shelburne Vineyard

While I'm at it, I'd also like to give props to Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber of La Garagista Farm and Winery, Ethan Joseph of Iapetus Wine and Shelburne Vineyard, Krista Scruggs of ZAFA Wines, the good folks at Ellison Estate Vineyard, and Christopher and Jon Piana of Fable Farm Fermentory. All of these people (and others!) are creating beautiful, fascinating wild-fermented wines with hybrid grapes, wild apples and whatever else they can pluck from the local landscape.

Dudes, when it comes to making wine in Vermont, things just keep getting better and better.

— H.P.E.

The tamarind margarita, Nepali Kitchen & Bar, Burlington

Kassian Prior making signature cocktails - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Kassian Prior making signature cocktails

The tamarind margarita I drank at the bar one evening at Nepali Kitchen & Bar had a snap and sparkle matched by the bartender who poured it. That bartender has since moved on, and the New North End restaurant will change hands early next year. But its owner, Jeetan Khadka, said he plans to get a liquor license for Nepali Kitchen, his restaurant in Essex Junction. In fact, Khadka said, he'll travel to Nepal in February and hopes to return with a slate of Nepali cocktails to mix in Vermont.

— S.P.

Main + Mountain Bar & Motel, Ludlow

Palomaniac cocktail on the patio at Main + Mountain Bar & Motel - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Palomaniac cocktail on the patio at Main + Mountain Bar & Motel

If you're going to renovate a rundown ski-town motel to meet 21st-century expectations, of course you should replace the standard lobby with a stylish bar serving a menu of top-notch creative cocktails. Expect classics like the Negroni with textbook-perfect execution, alongside house originals with a side of attitude, such as the Impeachment featuring bourbon, bitters and smoked-peach-and-rosemary syrup.

— M.P.

Unexpected Pleasure

Moonwink, Manchester Center

In the midst of the outlets on busy Vermont Route 7A, May and Wesley Stannard opened Moonwink earlier this year, bringing the compelling flavors and textures of May's native Burmese food to Wesley's home state. The counter-service spot's menu shows the influence of more familiar Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines, but it delivers a wonderfully distinctive riot of tart, sweet, funky and loads of crunchy to your mouth. Try the Burmese falafel made with yellow split peas and served with a tangy tamarind sauce; or the fermented-tea-leaf salad topped with peanuts, sesame seeds and sprouted peas; or daily specials such as rice noodles with chicken curry and pickled mustard greens.

— M.P.

Hope for the Farmers

Orb Weaver Farm creamery version 2.0

Cheesemakers Marjorie Susman (left) and Marian Pollack with a photo of themselves from the early days of Orb Weaver Farm - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Cheesemakers Marjorie Susman (left) and Marian Pollack with a photo of themselves from the early days of Orb Weaver Farm

Pioneers among Vermont's farmstead cheesemakers, Marjorie Susman and Marian Pollack built a life and a living out of a rundown dairy farm in Monkton. After 37 years and a lengthy dance of courtship and painstaking legal documentation, the couple is entrusting its Jersey herd and creamery operation to Kate Turcotte and her husband, Zack Munzer. All signs look positive for a successful first-of-its-kind transition between generations — a hopeful model for the nearly 40 cheesemakers who now contribute to Vermont's working landscape.

— M.P.

Peterson Quality Malt buys Nordic Farms

Nordic Farms in Charlotte - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • Nordic Farms in Charlotte

In November, Monkton-based Peterson Quality Malt partnered with some of Hotel Vermont's owners to purchase Charlotte's 600-acre Nordic Farms.

That's exciting for Vermont beer, but the story filled me with hopeful, warm-fuzzy feels for another reason: It hinted at a potential remedy to the problem of what to do with the state's dying dairy farms.

The thing about dairy farms is that they're big — often 100 acres or more — because feeding hungry, lactating cows requires wide fields of pasture, corn or hay. Most of Vermont's new farms are tiny, low-budget veggie operations with no use for that kind of acreage. So the new farmers are in no position to take over the defunct dairies that are the cornerstone of our idyllic working landscape.

But what if — what if — our booming beer industry could make use of this waning dairy acreage? Cereal grains such as barley, wheat, oats and rye are the lifeblood of any brewery, and those crops just happen to thrive in the wide-open fields that characterize most dairy farms. OK, yeah, some of those crops are tricky to cultivate with our short, wet growing season. But global warming seems to be changing that, too.

Didn't a wise person once say, "When life gives you sour milk, drink beer instead?"

— H.P.E.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Auld Lang Aliments"

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