- Courtesy Of Suzanne Podhaizer
- Suzanne Podhaizer's spinach-nettle soup with crème fraîche
The new team members at the Peacham Café introduced themselves to the community last weekend. More than 100 people — from Peacham, Danville, St. Johnsbury and as far away as Burlington — stopped by to sample what Avery Cisné, Jack Billings and Suzanne Podhaizer were cooking up.
The trio leases the community-supported café at 643 Bayley-Hazen Road, which is owned by Peacham Community Housing and managed by the Peacham Café Board. In July, the board announced that previous café operators Crystal Lapierre and Shannon Pelletier had "decided to move on to quieter pursuits" after five years.
Podhaizer replied to the board's call for new tenants "approximately 28 minutes after they put it up," she said.
The former owner of Montpelier's Salt, as well as a former Seven Days food editor, Podhaizer said that "it was totally not in my plans to do restaurant work. But, my whole career, I've been just running through doors that opened in front of me."
Billings and Podhaizer started Haven Hearth & Homestead in St. Johnsbury in November 2020, selling prepared foods, wildcrafted syrups and other products from their own market-garden-size farm at local markets and pop-ups. A part-time software engineer, Billings runs the couple's farm and sugaring operation; he'll help with front-of-house and behind-the-scenes operations at the café.
He and Podhaizer were looking for sales outlets that wouldn't put them in competition with other local farmers. "Having the café as an outlet — both for the cooking side, using what we grow in the things that we serve, but also being able to sell to nearby residents who don't have easy access to a grocery store — seemed like a pretty good move," Podhaizer said. "And I really love its community nature."
Podhaizer reached out to Cisné, who bakes naturally leavened, wood-fired breads and pastries at A Very Good Co. In the mornings, he'll bake the café's pastries and make sandwiches on his breads.
Podhaizer will prepare an ever-changing lunch menu of salads, soups and hot dishes, such as chicken and dumplings with meat from Cross Farm in Barnet and nettle and ramp powder.
Starting this week, the café will be open Wednesday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Podhaizer will offer takeout dinners for preorder and pickup, weekly Sunday suppers, and cooking classes and Salt-style theme dinners on alternating Saturdays.