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Side Dishes: Sugarsnap takes over ECHO's café

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Three months after closing for the winter, the café at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center will return with new hands at the helm.

South Burlington-based caterer Sugarsnap will reopen the museum’s 55-seat space on February 1 with a roster of its signature local, organic fare. Think chicken-curry wraps, sesame noodles, panini, and a mac and cheese made with local cheddar, as well as a range of coffees and, in summer, herbally infused teas.

Sugarsnap has been offering to-go salads and sandwiches at ECHO’s gift shop since November. The partnership started when Sugarsnap aced the “Food Less Traveled” event at the aquarium, in which six local chefs competed to create dishes with the lowest food miles.

“After years of managing the café, I’m happy to pass the torch,” says Tina Lecours, ECHO’s director of guest service and private events. “Sugarsnap was such a good fit, because they’re local and organic.”

Sugarsnap will seasonally rotate through specials such as salads made of quinoa with dried fruit and nuts; curried sweet potatoes and brown rice; and black beans and corn. Every component is made from scratch, says owner Abbey Duke — from the stocks to the pie crusts — and most of the ingredients come from local sources such as the company’s three-acre plot in the Intervale.

Behind the dishes is Sugarsnap executive chef Laura Kanya, who joined the company two months ago. Kanya, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America who also holds a degree in diet and nutrition from the University of Vermont, was formerly executive pastry chef at The Essex culinary resort & spa and executive chef at Vermont Mystic Pie.

Most of the food will be cooked in Sugarsnap’s South Burlington kitchen and reassembled at ECHO, where kitchen space is limited. The seven-year-old company will hire extra people to handle the volume, says Duke.

The café will be open for lunch seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The public won’t need to pay admission to grab a seat for lunch inside or, in summer, on the deck overlooking Lake Champlain.

While visitors enjoy the view, they can get to know Sugarsnap. Duke points out that its other two locations, on Burlington’s Riverside Avenue and in South Burlington, cater to busy commuters. The ECHO café “increases our visibility and also brings us closer to the people who are just having fun.”

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