After chef-owner Sissy Hicks sold the Dorset Inn early last year, she planned to make ends meet by hawking some of the specialty products she’s developed over the years: Think roasted-tomato salad dressing, Concord grape jelly and cheddar cheese straws. She bottles her dressings at the Vermont Food Venture Center in Fairfax, and for her other products, Hicks says, “I was able to purchase a house [in Middletown] from my nephew to put in a production kitchen.”
But Hicks, coauthor of two cookbooks based on her recipes from the inn, couldn’t stay behind the scenes. Her Middletown house has become Sissy’s Kitchen, a takeout operation running all day, six days a week. “It’s working. The shop seems to be doing well,” she says, mentioning that folks from Middletown have been “very supportive,” and old fans from Dorset stop in on a regular basis.
In the a.m., patrons find everything from breakfast sandwiches to brioche with smoked trout and scrambled eggs. At dinner, the menu goes global, with fare such as curried lamb, pot roast Provençal and Misty Knoll chicken Parmigiana. “I like a lot of variety,” Hicks attests. “But I try to gear it toward things people can just pick up and go without me fussing too much.” Although she switches things up regularly, Hicks makes sure her best sellers are in the freezer case: “I always keep chicken pot pie and shepherd’s pie because they sell a bunch,” she says.
She tries to keep prices low, too, despite using lots of local ingredients. “I don’t make a lot of money — I pay my bills,” Hicks says. “But people need to experience good food, and I just like to keep it affordable for them.”