Tuesday, December 30, 2008
New Year's Eve: Music this week will be WEDNESDAY night to celebrate 2009. Dog House Roses will play from 10 PM to 12:30. Give us a call if you'd like to come for dinner - reservations between 5 and 9:00 pm - or just come out to celebrate.
2009: We'll be open New Year's Day, Friday, and Saturday. We'll take a brief vacation from January 4 through January 14, and reopen Thursday, January 15 with the music of Chris Lyon and Fran Forum.
The Bee's Knees: You can satisfy your hunger for local produce at The Bee's Knees in Morrisville - in their new dining room. Sharon raised funds through the Community Supported Restaurant model to expand her wildly popular restaurant and music venue. I certainly plan to check out the new space. The Bee's Knees
Winter Hours (with Blunch!): We'll return from vacation with Blunch on Sundays from 11 AM til 3 PM. Music will remain Thursday nights and we will serve dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and Monday from 5-9 PM. We will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the winter.
Skiing: As many of you know, we have some of the best cross-country ski areas in the state. The trails at Highland Lodge in Greensboro and the Craftsbury Outdoor Center are open! And don't forget great (free) skiing on the John Morton-designed trails here in Hardwick. We've provided links for places to stay in the right hand column if you're coming up for our snow.
As we look forward to 2009, we'd like to thank all of you who have supported and encouraged us through our first seven months of operation. It has been a wild and exciting ride. Sharing it with all of you has been a great joy. Thank you!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Steven prepared an array of tantalizing appetizers for the crowd at a holiday party hosted by Hardwick area's agricultural businesses for their employees and families - High Mowing Seeds, Vermont Soy, Vermont Natural Coatings, Jasper Hill Farm and Pete's Greens. Steven's cheesy wheatberry balls were a standout favorite - wheatberries from Butterworks, squash from Riverside, onions from Pete, garlic from Harvest Hill and Vermont Milk Co. cheddar blended together and deep fried, served with a spicy tomato sauce from Pete's tomatoes. There are rumors that this delectable treat will hit the menu sometime soon - so stay tuned!
New Year's Eve: We would love to ring in the New Year with you! Make your reservations for New Year's Eve at Claire's. Come for dinner, come for dinner and dancing to Dog House Roses, or just come for dancing. We're taking dinner reservations for any time between 5 and 9 PM. The band will play from 10:00 to 12:30.
Gift Certificates are still available and we are thrilled to be donating $10.00 for every $100 in gift certificates sold to NOFA Vermont's Farm Share program.
Monday, December 8, 2008
1. Come in for dinner and celebrate with the best produce from our local farms. Then head home or to a friend's hearth to welcome the New Year before a roaring fire.
2. Come for dinner and stay for the party, featuring the music of Dog House Roses.
3. Come for the party and dance the night away.
Dinner reservations from 5 to 9 pm
Music from 10 pm until 12:30
Weekend Hours for the December Holiday Season. Weekends Visiting? Shopping with our local merchants or open studios? We've changed our hours to celebrate the Holiday Season with you. Join us on Saturdays in December for drinks, coffee and treats from 2 - 5 PM, regular dinner service from 5 - 9 PM. Sundays, we serve dinner from 2 PM until 7 PM.
Shop local, bring your receipt from a local business or artist or craftsperson, and we'll buy you a cup of coffee or tea! Of course, we have gift certificates available so you can give the best local produce - for each purchase of $100 worth of gift certificates, we will donate $10.00 to the Northeast Organic Farmer's Association Farm Share program which helps low income families buy farm CSAs.
From Steven's Kitchen: One of my favorite things about cooking is the creative aspect of it. Soup is one of those things for me where I can choose a main ingredient - say the last of the Fennel from Pete's Greens - and the journey starts there. Combined with Brian Titus' potatoes from Woods Edge Farm, onions from Bruce and Judy at Riverside Farm, Bill Half's garlic from Harvest Hill and Vermont Butter & Cheese cultured butter and lastly how could I not add Butterworks Farm cream and voila it has been transformed into a luscious, soul warming bowl of goodness. The final addition of crispy fennel, onions and leeks from Robin Taylor round out the creaminess with the always welcome addition of a little crunch. So get it while you can, the Fennel Potato Soup is on the menu for only a couple more days then we will all have to wait until next year and its next incarnation - happy eating everyone!
Music Notes: Thursday December 11, Jay Ekis comes to play at Claire's. Jay is a rock musician influenced by many elements of world music. He has a new CD out called "Touched by War." We are thrilled and honored to have him come to Claire's. You definitely don't want to miss this show. Check out Jay and sample his music at www.ekismusic.com. Music starts at 7:30.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
We hope you all had a lovely holiday. When you're leftovers run out or you just want to get out and have someone else cook for you, come on down to Claire's for a delicious meal. New tonight on the menu will be Steven's Lobster and Clam Chowder. Ed from Stowe Seafood has brought us some beautiful Maine lobster and Rhode Island clams that Steven cooks with Butterworks cream, Riverside Farm onions and Harvest Hill Farm potatoes.
Music Notes: This Thursday we will be treated to a repeat performance from a great performer, singer and guitar player - Jeremy Raboin. We loved him the last time he played at Claire's and are eagerly anticipating his return. Music starts at 7:30.
Book Notes: This Saturday December 6, Claire's partner Linda Ramsdell will be hosting a celebration at The Galaxy Bookshop marking the independent bookstore's 20th year in business. Yes, I said 20 years! The Galaxy Bookshop has been enriching our minds and our community for 20 years and we can't thank Linda and Sandy and Stella enough for all they do! The party will go from 8 AM to 5 PM. Please come out and celebrate this Hardwick treasure. For more details, you can go to the bookstore's website at www.galaxybookshop.com.
Ski Notes: The Craftsbury Outdoor Center will be hosting its Craftsbury X-C Ski Race Sunday December 7 beginning at 10 AM with day of race registration at 9 AM. We have snow! Come on out to experience what we think is the best cross-country skiing around. Then, after working hard all day on the trails, come on down to Claire's for dinner. We'd love to hear all about the race. For more information, you can call 586-7767.
Enjoy your week and we look forward to seeing you soon.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
OK, it is just plain COLD. Aargh. But, it is nice and warm and cozy at Claire's - such a great place to come in and warm up with a tasty bowl of Steven's Leek and Fennel Soup with crispy garlic made from Robin Taylor's leeks, Pete's Fennel and celery root, Riverside Farm onions, Harvest Hill garlic and Butterworks cream. Paired with a lovely organic hot mulled cider - you'll be warmed up instantly!
Music Notes: This Thursday is our very first Third Thursday Acoustic Music Jam. Music starts at 7:30. You can contact Ted Donlon at firstname.lastname@example.org or just come on down to play and we'll fit you in. This is a great opportunity to hear some local musicians and to play out at a fabulous venue.
Holiday Notes: Please consider Claire's as the place to hold your or your company's holiday gatherings. We are available for bookings, so give us a call.
Also, when shopping for presents this season, we encourage you to support your local economy and buy LOCAL! We are offering Claire's Gift Cards as a nice way to support a local business that supports our local farms and to give a friend or family member a wonderful night out.
Cool Story: So, we have a friend who happens to be a local celebrity from Morrisville. Her boyfriend, also our friend, set out last night to get Chinese takeout, forgot to turn left at the Chinese restaurant and just kept driving til he landed at Claire's. He called said friend and had her come meet him for dinner at Claire's. Really, I don't make this stuff up. :)
That's all for now. We hope to see you soon.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Election Notes: We will have the television at the bar tuned to election coverage this Tuesday night to follow the returns. Come on down and join us for this historic event. We may even have some crazy drink specials - related to the candidates - so bring some creativity and name some drinks. Don't forget to vote first!
Music Notes: This Thursday at 7:30 PM, Allen Church and his son Jeremiah will perform some wild and wooly Celtic music at Claire's. Jeremiah played here the other night with Town Wide Yard Sale and he plays a mean fiddle. The father-son duo should be a blast.
Cooking on Main Street: If you haven't tried Steven's Apple Cranberry Raisin Bread Pudding with warm caramel sauce yet, you simply haven't tried the best bread pudding ever! We had some last night for staff dinner and wow - the cranberries simply pop out with fresh sweet-tartness. Apples direct from Champlain Orchards, cranberries around the corner at Vermont Cranberry Company - in Fletcher, grown by the Boyden Valley Winery vintner - maple raisin bread from Elmore Mountain Bread, and maple syrup from Caledonia Farm. Yes, this segment is supposed to make you hungry!
Art Notes: The fabulous paintings of Lois Eby will be coming down November 4 - so if you haven't been in to see them, this is your last chance at Claire's. They are really amazing and you don't want to miss them. We'll be hanging Hardwick artist Ken Leslie's dramatic winter scenes from the island of Svaalbard on November 5. We will be hosting an opening for this show on Monday November 10 from 4:00 - 5:00 PM. Come on down and see these incredible paintings and meet the artist! You can view some of his work by clicking on View Ken Leslie's online gallery from his Johnson State College page.
Cool Story: Two of our friends who live in Woodbury drove north to Hardwick to eat dinner at Claire's BEFORE going back south to see a movie in Montpelier! Such devotion. We are very honored. See you soon. Peace.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The golden Tamaracks are holding out as our last bit of color in the landscape. Snow is in the forecast! Hear that skiers? Soon. I spread three loads of beautiful gravel on my deteriorating driveway yesterday with the help of a friend and his awesome dump truck. I felt like a little kid watching it work. Very cool. Also got more wood delivered. Will keep you all posted on stacking progress - because it is so riveting - though I may just cover it with plastic for next year.
Music Notes: Thursday, Jay Ekis will perform his eclectic blend of folk, rock and world music at Claire's. Music begins at 7:30. You can check Jay's music out at http://www.ekismusic.com/.
Cooking on Main Street: Steven's pumpkin crême brulée is still wowing diners, with the great pumpkins from Riverside Farm, Butterworks Farm's rich cream, and the most delicate eggs from Windhorse Farm. Finish the flavors with a hit of smokey maple syrup from Caledonia Farm. Crispy, creamy pumpkinny local deliciousness!
Book Notes: TONIGHT is Mad Farmer Poetry night at Claire's. Co-sponsored by The Galaxy Bookshop, this event will bring our local farmers together to read from the work of one of the great farmer poets of our time, Wendell Berry. Farmers will begin reading from Mad Farmer Poems at 7 PM, so make your reservations for dinner or just come on down to read or listen. We're planning on having a blast.
Holiday Plans: We want everyone to know that Claire's is available for booking holiday gatherings. So give us a call and we'd love to talk about how we can be part of your holiday celebrations. We will be closed Thanksgiving Day.
Stay warm. Peace.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The leaves are on the ground, the skies are gray, and the little New England houses look cozy as their owners rake and button up for winter. It is quite beautiful in that season-changing kind of way. The peepers have come and gone and now we have each other to keep us company as winter nears.
Music Notes: This Thursday October 23, we will be entertained by Town Wide Yard Sale. The band is fronted by Ben Roy and he has with him a fiddle player, a standup bass and a mandolin player.
Cooking on Main Street: New on Claire's menu is Steven's Pork and Pumpkin Stew with a Cheddar Herb Biscuit. The pork comes from Bonnieview Farm in Craftsbury, the pumpkin comes from Riverside Farm in East Hardwick, the onions and fennel come from Pete's Greens in Craftsbury and the cheddar cheese comes from the Vermont Milk Company in Hardwick. This is getting rave reviews so come try it before it's gone!
Book Notes: Don't forget that this Tuesday October 28 Claire's and the Galaxy Bookshop will be hosting a Mad Farmer poetry reading at 7:00 PM. Local farmers will be reading or reciting from Wendell Berry's fabulous book Mad Farmer Poems. So come celebrate farmers, poetry, food, neighbors, community, and the better world we'd all like to manifest. For more info you can check out the Galaxy Bookshop website at http://www.galaxybookshop.com/.
In the News: Gourmet Magazine has a story up on its website about all the cool agricultural activities happening in Hardwick. You can read it at "Hardwick Revival." Be sure to click on the link next to the story about Jasper Hill's new aging caves. Gourmet also published a story about community supported restaurants that features the Bee's Knees and Claire's, available here: "New CSAs."
That's all for now. We look forward to seeing you soon. Peace.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
What a week! The colorful leaves on the trees are hanging on and the sky is blue and the sun is warm - perfect leaf peeping weather. And the peepers are out in force. I met one woman last week from California who had never seen fall foliage. She was so excited she could hardly contain herself. Vermont sure puts on a good show!
Music Notes: This Thursday at 7:30 PM Jeremy Raboin will be serenading us with his guitar and very nice voice. He dropped by Claire's one afternoon with his guitar and started playing. We loved it. One of our waitstaff commented - "I'll work the night he's playing!" So, we booked him. Come on down and join us for another great night of food and music.
Cooking on Main Street: It's hard to pick out just a few of Steven's incredible menu items to highlight each week. I love hearing people try to express how delicious the food is. What we hear most is how intricately and beautifully blended the flavors are. One particular dish where Steven wows diners is his Vegetable Pot Pie. Fall squash from Riverside and Harvest Hill Farms, peppers and onions from Pete's Greens, leeks from up the road in Craftsbury, and garlic, all stewed in white wine and butter under a Flint corn crust. Not to be missed.
Book Notes: This Tuesday, October 14, Vermont mystery writer Archer Mayer will be reading from his new installment "The Catch" at the Galaxy Bookshop starting at 7 PM. I have been addicted to his mysteries forever and I love when he comes to town. As always, come on by Claire's for dinner before or dessert afterwards.
Social Notes: A singles group for local folks over 45 is forming in the Hardwick area. They will be meeting at Claire's on Sunday October 19 from 4-6 PM. The goal of the event is for folks to get together and make friends and organize activities. So, if you're over 45 and single, come on by for a drink and a bite to eat. Claire's of course will still be open to all on this day, so you can still come to dinner even if you are not single or over 45. :)
Energy Event: Friday, October 17, at 6:3pm - "THE POWER OF COMMUNITY - HOW CUBA SURVIVED PEAK OIL" will be screened at Hazen Union High School in Hardwick. Admission is free. The film focuses on Cuba's process of transition to a sustainable society as a result of their loss of fuel when the Soviet Union collapsed. The goal of this film is to give hope to the developed world as it wakes up to the consequences of an oil dependent culture. There will be a forum following film led by Vermont peak oil educator Carl Etnier, as well as a presentation of information from HEART (Hardwick Energy Awareness Resource Team), about local community initiatives to conserve oil.
Art Notes: Just a reminder that Lois Eby's beautiful paintings will grace our walls until November 4. Those are her paintings in the New York Times photograph of Claire's. You can read up on Lois and her work at http://www.loiseby.com/.
We are welcoming leaf peepers and others to Claire's this afternoon from 1 - 4 for coffee and dessert. If you are in the neighborhood, come by and say hi.
I think that's all for now. Peace.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The Echo, "Revitalizing the Rural Economy: Claire's Restaurant and Bar is Locally Grown"
The Echo, "Claire's Restaurant: Servin' it up local" multimedia
Food Writer Marian Burros - who has a home not far from Hardwick and has spent many years in the area - reported in the New York Times yesterday on what she found in Hardwick over the summer. Her focus is on farming and the regional rural economy, and how local business people and farmers are returning to the area's roots in agriculture through successful collaborations and ongoing cooperation to generate jobs and economic growth. Burros' article has been among the top 20 emailed Times stories for two days (number 3 on Wednesday), and has been posted widely on blogs in the US and abroad.
New York Times, "Uniting Around Food"
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Greetings all and welcome to all the new folks on this list!
First I want to thank all of you who are telling your friends about Claire's and sending them to us. We are meeting the most wonderful people. It is such a treat.
I also had the privilege of eating at Claire's on Saturday night. My family and some friends came up to celebrate my and my sister's birthdays. And we had a blast. The food of course was amazing, the service fabulous and Don's Margaritas just can't be beat. It was a great experience.
Book News: Tonight at 7 PM Rowan Jacobsen will be reading from his new book "Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis" at the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick. You can read more about this event and others at http://www.galaxybookshop.com/.
Debate News: We will be showing the presidential debate tonight at the bar. Come on down and watch the fireworks with us. It starts after dinner at 9 PM.
Music Notes: This Thursday the fabulous Bread and Bones will be playing at Claire's starting at 7:30. They are a rootsy acoustic folk trio. Award winning songwriter Richard Ruane fronts the band and they are really awesome. You can learn more about them at http://www.breadandbones.com/ and you can link from there to their myspace page to hear some tunes.
Cooking on Main Street: It's definitely pumpkin season at Claire's. Steven has a luscious pumpkin soup on the menu and a pumpkin creme brulee. So come warm up at Claire's and try our warm soup and enjoy our local bounty!
Tomorrow I'm off to Burlington to get my oil changed and my snow tires put on! Woo hoo! Winter preparations continue.
Don't forget, you can also check in with us at our new website - http://www.clairesvt.com/ and our blog www.newvermontcooking.
See you all soon.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Wow! I don't know if I can remember ever seeing such incredibly stunning fall foliage. I hope you are all enjoying it. If the trees aren't on fire where you are, come visit us in our neck of the woods - and of course have a meal at Claire's. :)
Music News: This week's Thursday music is Jeff Nicholson. He is a singer-songwriter from around Stowe parts. He has just released a CD which should be available at the show. You can hear some of his newly recorded tunes at www.jeffnich.com. Music starts at 7:30.
Also, we will be having Third Thursday acoustic music jams at Claire's beginning in November. They will be hosted and coordinated by the man behind the Greensboro Blues Jam Ted Donlon. So, all you musicians out there, get excited and come down and play with us.
Great news - the Highfields Institute benefit dinner at Claire's has sold out and has a waiting list! It should be a great night - diners will enjoy local food donated by local farmers and bakers and prepared by Claire's chef Steven Obranovich and great conversation with Bill McKibben. Although the dinner is full, you can still come out to hear Bill at the Hardwick Town House. He will speak from 5:30 to 6:30. This Wednesday, October 1. Contact the Highfields Institute for more information at 472-5138 or visit their website at www.highfieldsinstitute.org.
And, this is not to be missed - from the Galaxy Bookshop and Claire's:
Mad Farmer Poets
Tuesday, October 28 7:00 PM
At Claire's Restaurant
A celebration of farming and poetry! The Galaxy Bookshop and Claire's Restaurant invite you to join us for a special evening featuring some of the Hardwick area's own farmers, reading poems from Wendell Berry's new book, Mad Farmer Poems.
"During the otherwise quiet course of his life as a poet, Wendell Berry has become "mad" at what contemporary society has made of its land, its communities, and its past. This anger reaches its peak in the poems of the Mad Farmer, an open-ended sequence he's found himself impelled to continue against his better instincts. These poems can take the shape of manifestos, meditations, insults, Whitmanic fits and ravings--and are often funny in spite of themselves. This edition is illustrated with beautiful etchings by Abigail Rover. The book is a wonderful testimony to the power of anger and humor to bring even the most terrible consequences into a focus otherwise impossible to obtain."
Cooking on Main Street: For you vegetarians and even you omnivorians, Steven's Warm Greens, Grains, Seeds and Sprouts - all stuffed into some kind of vegetable (tomato, pepper, squash - depending on the night) and smothered with mozzerella cheese - is a must try dish. It has been getting rave reviews from some of our regulars who have it every time they come in! It's always a little different to keep things interesting.
That's all for now. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Check it out! We'd love to hear what you think.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Music Notes: I'm getting this out a little early because lots of notices have gone out about Wolcott poet David Budbill's mini tour in Hardwick on September 25. He and and New York City based bassist William Parker will be performing at the Hardwick Town House at 7:00 PM. Admission is $12.00. Following their performance at the Town House, they will lead audience members in a musical march down the street to Claire's to play a late night set of poetry and music beginning around 9:00 PM. This is their Zen Mountains - Zen Streets tour. A duet for poet and improvised base. You can read more about them here: http://www.davidbudbill.com/zenmount.html
What you may not know is that we will be having another show of music earlier in the evening at Claire's. Starting at 7:00 PM, the great singer and songwriter Lewis Franco (check him out at www.lewisfranco.com) will be performing. Lewis will be joined by his band the Missing Cats who add a scat-meets gypsy-swing sound. Lewis and David are friends and we may even be privileged to have them jam some together during David's later set.
Cooking on Main Street: Steven has scored some beautiful Tenderloin from our friends Helm and Nancy Notterman at Snug Valley Farm. Tender grass fed beef grown two miles from Claire's! New on the menu also is a yummy gingerbread with warm local apples on top.
We're gearing up for the peepers! Enjoy the show everyone.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Hey all,I hope everyone is enjoying this incredible weather! My favorite time of year. A few trees up here are turning with many more to come. The summer folks have gone home to their winter habitats. We wish you all a happy and healthy year. I must say that this summer we met some incredibly wonderful people at Claire's and we look forward to your return.
Music and Events in Hardwick: Last Thursday, the fabulous vocal and songwriting powerhouse Erin McDermott with her band the Dixie Red Delights entertained us at Claire's. On Wednesday October 1, the Highfields Institute brings author and environmental activist Bill McKibben to the Hardwick Town House. He will be speaking from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Admission is $10.00 and all proceeds go to Highfields Institute, a cutting edge composting facility in Hardwick. To learn more about what Highfields does and for more info about the Bill McKibben event, you can go to their website at http://www.highfieldsinstitute.org/. Of course, we send our compost to Highfields, where it gets turned back into soil to grow the food we feed you at Claire's. A beautiful circle.
Cooking on Main Street: Steven has some yummy delicious new items on the menu. His acorn sqash soup with curry is out of this world. He is truly a soup magician. He is also serving a scrumptious cheese fondue made with Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese and their Constant Bliss. And did you hear the rumor that a turkey curry pot pie is on the menu? Hungry yet?
Just one more beer delivery to go today and then I'm off to the High Mowing Seeds Field Day to wander around their acres of test plots. Very fun. You can check out what High Mowing is up to at their website highmowingseeds.com. Today they are going to tell us all about their plans to grow sow beans in Vermont and then process them - at Vermont Soy in Hardwick, of course. http://www.vermontsoy.com/.Don't forget to check in at our blog at http://www.clairesvt.com/ for more info about our goings on.There you have it. Enjoy your week and we hope to see you soon. Peace.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
As you might have noticed, if you've had the opportunity to stop at Claire's or thought you might drop in for a quick bite to eat, the energy and vitality of the restaurant has taken on a life of its own. Almost every night, we have served at least 80 guests, and many nights we serve over 100. At least one night per week, 150 people cross our threshold and enjoy the best food produced by our local farmers.
What has most impressed us is the enthusiasm and support from our friends and neighbors in the Hardwick vicinity. Of course, our business model depends on our nearly 100 CSR holders, and the many additional investors in Claire's and the Hardwick Restaurant Group. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their initial financial support and for coming back again and again, with their families, friends, and guests. As well, we truly appreciate the opportunity to craft a menu from the best local produce, especially when our farmers come in again and again to enjoy what we have created for our guests from the food they grow. And each day we welcome guests who are visiting for the first time as we also embrace our regulars.
Hardwick has become a destination, with folks coming up from Montpelier, travelling from Burlington, or making the journey from St. Johnsbury to see for themselves all of the exciting enterprises in our area. Since many restaurants close on Mondays or Tuesdays, Claire's has become a destination as well for chefs and restaurateurs around the region. Their support is very much appreciated, as it contributes significantly to our local economy.
People are talking. More than the numbers and volume of business, we have been overwhelmed by how much people enjoy Claire's.
As we've mentioned before, all this has not been without challenges. Looking back on our mission and what we hoped to provide, we can take stock of two things: with the overwhelming response, we've been able to deliver a unique experience, exceptional and affordable local food of consistent quality and flavor, while expanding our menu and bar service; at the same time, the space and equipment available to us today can't go much farther than our current volume of business. We promised our friends and neighbors day long service, including lunch 5 days per week and our much anticipated Sunday "blunch." At this point, we are trying to balance the limits of our resources against what we had hoped we could do.
But we want you to know the details of the challenge.
As we outlined in our community meeting last Summer, our plans were modest, based on a number of conversations with potential investors, farmers, guests, and experienced restaurateurs, as well as our own experience. Restaurants fail because they overestimate revenues and invest in too much equipment. So we expected slow growth in the business and a gradual increase in the number of guests. Carefully calculating how many people would come through our doors every day of the year, our most optimistic scenario anticipated 80 guests over the course of an entire day on the best day of business, but not until 3 years of operations. Typically, we expected 20 people for lunch and another 20-30 for dinner during the week. Our most hopeful forecast anticipated that all 52 seats would be taken only a few times a year. We based our investment model and business plan on this scenario, demonstrating that we could make a restaurant work on Main Street in a small town.
We also faced the physical limits of the space. Exactly how much space could we afford to rent? How much was available and how could it be configured? In other words, how much financial obligation would be too much to swallow and threaten our ability to thrive?
Allowing space for 52 seats and a full bar was just about right in terms of our projections. Getting to that number was always a trade-off with the kitchen and storage space. Extending the kitchen would cut out a table, or adding a table would take away equipment. Working with architects and experts on kitchen design, we crafted a space for cooking and for guests that met our most optimistic expectations.
And you know what they say about expectations – at least double our most optimistic projections in the first month!
Today, every surface in the kitchen is taken throughout the afternoon preparing for dinner service, leaving no place to actually cook during lunch. With orders coming from each purveyor only a few times a week, our walk in refrigerator and freezer units are filled to capacity with the meat, cheese, and produce that you'll enjoy every night. What we call the line – where ingredients for every item on the menu are kept during service – has no room for the ingredients we would need to prepare lunch. Even our phones are overtaxed!
Imagine a kitchen designed to serve 80 meals over the course of a day. And we've been able to produce consistent quality and unique flavors for 150 people on many days.
That's our challenge. We'll carefully consider the options and monitor the ebb and flow of the business to figure out how we might be able to extend our service to you. In the short term, that means daytime service will be postponed. In the long term, it means we will continue to take stock, consider the resources available, and develop a plan for expanding our service so we can keep faith with our mission.
And keep coming to dinner!
We love what we are doing, and after so many years putting this plan together, we take such joy (and even a little pride) in each and every one of our friends and neighbors leaving Claire's after a good meal and a good time. Think of it this way – the more meals we serve, the sooner we can invest in Claire's so that we can continue to keep faith with our promises to you. Your enthusiastic embrace and support of Claire's is the measure of success. Thank you!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
"Grass-Finished Beef Makes for Juicy Burgers"
By Melissa Pasanen
Friday, August 1, 2008
Peach and Arugula Salad
Maple and Cider Vinaigrette
Bayley Hazen Blue, Roquefort, and Gorgonzola Crostini
Chicken Suprême or Tofu Napoleon
Tomato Beurre Fondue
Roasted Potatoes and Garlic
Open to the World
Cake soaked in Barbadian Rum
Advance Purchase Only
Price exclusive of beverages, tax, and gratuity
About The Taste of Place
Thursday, July 31, 2008
By Candace Page
Burlington Free Press
July 31, 2008
Saturday, July 5, 2008
On a warm day - even our few truly hot days - the air at Claire's is now moderate and drier, thanks to a gift of air conditioning from our landlord, Housing Vermont, at the Bemis Block. Don't expect an arctic chill, however! We are still very committed to socially responsible and environmentally conscious practices. In our historic building, our beautiful sun absorbing plate glass windows are too big to be made to open, so we will use the air conditioning wisely to make our space more comfortable for you and for our staff - especially those working at the hot stove in the kitchen!
And if you were looking for a place for a refreshing drink and televised sports, think of Claire's. Our flat panel television has been installed, and the cable will be connected - not in time for the opening segments of the Tour de France this weekend, but check in with us to see if we're all set for Minnesota at Boston on Monday Night Baseball at 7 pm on ESPN.
Beginning next week, we'll look forward to some truly stunning Tour de France segments through the Loire Valley and the Massif Central, on to the Pyrenees, then along the Mediterranean Coast and through the Alps. For news and the complete schedule for the race, visit the Tour's official site:
For those who like a spoonful of chill, Steven has been preparing a wonderful Gazpacho with tomatoes and roasted broccoli. Or you might want to try his Thai-style mussels, spiced just enough to cool you down on a warm evening.
Friday, June 20, 2008
"Twists and Turns"
Like any good mountain road, we've had a few "twists and turns" – from the walk-in refrigerator to the exhaust hood over the range – that almost kept us from opening or forced us to shut down. But we have kept our nightly schedule despite the technological obstacles (and some have said, despite Mercury being in retrograde) with the initiative of our staff and the responsiveness of Housing Vermont – our landlord – to make sure the equipment worked so we could keep our doors open.
Sometimes, this has kept us from providing the level of service we would prefer. When equipment doesn't function right, work in the kitchen gets delayed or sufficient quantities of produce can't be delivered. In addition, the level of enthusiasm – admittedly our oversight in not anticipating it fully – has meant that on a few nights some items have sold out. This can be especially disconcerting if you are not an omnivore! But we encourage you to ask your server how we might accommodate your needs… Claire's is always about conversation.
As well, the volume of business has been its own challenge, so we are now looking to expand our kitchen staff, with more cooks and a sous chef or lead line cook so our current staff can breathe a bit of the fresh summer air. That will help us expand the menu and hours of operation, as we bring to fruition the full project of daily lunch and dinner service and a range of cocktails at the bar.
What you'll see and hear at Claire's
In our first few weeks, you might have noticed that the bar area did not look quite right; was it "artistic" or unfinished? In our last push to open, we decided to leave a few of the finishing touches unfinished so the most important work in the kitchen and dining room would be completed. In addition, a few things required that we be open and see how the space "worked" before we could figure out what might need to be addressed. In addition, no one anticipated that August's heat would arrive in early June!
Now that the bar is finished, you can truly appreciate the stunning red oak bar Patty designed and built, and the craftsmanship of the stained red oak detail around the room. With the red pepper walls and marble counter recycled from Linda's bank building on
And of course we have more plans!
Working with an historic space – the Bemis Block was rebuilt with financial support tied to the preservation of historic aspects of the building – has been both a joy and a challenge. Who would want anything other than our giant windows "open to the world" with the splendid view of the bridge across the
So, with two birds in mind, we've installed accordion blinds made from fabric in a caramel tone that will filter the setting sun down to a soft glow as they also absorb the sound. Their best feature is that these lightweight blinds draw from the top and bottom, so we can target light and sound without blocking our view out or the view of the town into Claire's. And, we've installed sound absorbing acoustical tiles in the bar area, which has been one of the other most challenging spaces in terms of trapping sound. And air conditioning will be here in time for our real summer, by the start of July.
As these new features are incorporated, we'll see how the sound, light, and temperature change, and what more needs to be done.
We will continue to listen to our neighbors, friends, and supporters, and take into account all the feedback that we hear, responding to concerns and problems. Happily, what we have been hearing has been overwhelmingly positive with regard to both the food and the atmosphere. People enjoy a place in town where they can plan for a casual dinner or celebration, and by chance run into friends and family. Our friendly staff, and the show available "on stage" in the kitchen, set a tone of welcome and community that is very important to us as we work to get it just right. That said, we know it has not always been perfect, as hard as we have been working toward that goal. Where we know an experience has been less so, we have moved to make amends. We ask you to keep in mind that we are part of the community, and the community is part of us. Our success depends on your satisfaction and enjoyment.
Our success also depends on our commitment to food, which is first a commitment to conversations – between the chef and the farmer, and between our guests and our staff. We love to talk, so please feel free to talk with any of us about the food or about your experiences. Ask questions about our menu, stop in for a cup of coffee or a beer just to chat, drop a suggestion at the host stand by the door, send us an email at email@example.com, or stop any of us on the street. We really want to talk with you.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
As we count down our first month open, we at Claire's want to share with our friends, supporters, and community our appreciation for your raves, your constructive critiques, and your understanding. It has been quite an amazing few weeks for all of us, and we have much to thank you for and much to share with you about the challenges of opening and our plans ahead. That said, in all our planning we never anticipated the success we've had so far!
Measuring What Works
One of our favorite investments is our point of sale system (POS) which makes it much easier to balance the books at the end of the day, manage inventory, and make sure we are on budget. But the POS does one more thing: it helps us respond to our community by giving us a complete profile of what guests order and what dishes are the most popular. At the end of every night, we see how many people we served and verify reality against our projections as well as our menu.
At this point, two things stand out. First, we are consistently seating more than 80 people – as many as 110 on weekends, and rarely fewer than 60 – in a restaurant with 52 seats at table and 15 at the bar. In business terms, it means that almost every night we "turn" at least half the tables. That is not double our projections. It is QUADRUPLE our projections! Even as we looked out over the first four years, we never promised our investors and supporters more than a handful of nights when we would actually turn tables.
Second, we are almost exactly on target in terms of our price point. In developing our business model 18 months ago, we anticipated an average check price of approximately $20 per person, and every night's POS "reality check" gives us a per person average that is consistently between $20 and $23. The difference between projections and reality can in part result from price increases for food generally over the past year, and the challenge of opening so early in the growing season. With a range of possibilities at different prices on the menu, as well as an affordable wine and beer list, you have the choice of what you enjoy. Small plates or starters are selling at an amazing rate – some people make a meal of them, some just stop by for a snack, a beer or glass of wine. Of the entrees, our wonderful steaks from up the road at
And the menu will be developing even more. As soon as the best local frying potatoes become available, we'll "roll out" Claire's burger and fries. Our plan is to continue to expand the menu, offering more options at a range of prices for vegetarians and omnivores, taking advantage of the growing season and preserving some items for the winter ahead. In July, we plan to offer a full bar and to open during the day for lunch.
We are excited to see so many of our neighbors from Hardwick and all the towns around coming to eat at Claire's, saving some money on gas and still enjoying a wonderful evening out, while helping to support the farms in our area and the people who staff our restaurant. We've also welcomed guests from around
Watch this space tomorrow for more stories about our "twists and turns" and what you'll see and hear at Claire's over the days and weeks ahead.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Growing up and growing vegetables in a community garden with his mother, Steven learned to appreciate the things that sprout in the soil - after overcoming the initial uncertainty of a rebellious child. So its not surprising that his first stand in the kitchen was over the purity of vegetarian items. He took it upon himself to craft new menus in advance for vegetarian guests, and always insisted that any chef he worked with try the vegetable stock he made to replace the chicken... each time, he succeeded.
Today, Steven believes that vegetables, grains, fruit, and seeds should be respected as primary ingredients in any dish, and he believes that anything "meatless" is not suffering from a lack of substance or protein, nor does it need to mimic a meaty alternative. At Claire's, he exemplifies this approach on the menu with a daily "Warm greens, grains, seeds, and sprouts." Reflecting our support for local farms, the primary ingredient is the greens available in season, right now including baby chard, kale, and mustard greens, warmed and wilted in butter or oil (vegan depending) but still retaining their vibrant color and "bite." Adding grains, such as wheatberries, quinoa, and barley, provides a mixture of sweet and earthy flavors, a great "chew" or texture, and they are loaded with proteins. Though many Vermonters have discovered the wonders of quinoa, or even wheatberries, barley remains an underappreciated item for vegetarians and omnivores alike. A heaping spoonful of pesto - made with our sweet local garlic in season and lemony wild sorrel, or basil later in the season, or early mint - is mixed in to bring out the sweetness of the grains and greens while adding a subtle sense of heat and crispness. Oven roasted seeds add to the protein in the dish while providing the smokey flavor of caramel.
Our warm greens change regularly, while there are always other vegetarian and vegan items on our menu, from salads and pastas to rich stews, silky soups, and stunning entrees. And we have dishes to satisfy any omnivore, from the best grilled steak in the Kingdom and locally raised poultry and pork, to seafood from sustainable fisheries.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Steven is always looking for those classics – something familiar or comfortable, maybe something with a twist – that will bring back the best days we've enjoyed with friends and family around the table. It is, as he explains, "What farmers enjoy growing, people enjoy eating, and I enjoy cooking."
Our menu changes almost every day. Sometimes just a bite as new produce is available, but often more surprisingly. Here are a few items from the first two weeks at Claire's....
To Start or In the Bowl:
Cream of sunchoke and carmelized onion soup
Maine Crab Cake, spinach salad, lemon and sorrel cream
Shitake and Oyster mushroom tartine with Constant Bliss
Fusilli pasta with ramps, goat cheese, and mint pesto
Chef's daily Warm Greens, Grains, Seeds, and Sprouts
Chicken Molé and quinoa, cabbage salad
Pan Roasted Chicken with Asian salad
Halibut over a ragout of fiddleheads, spinach, asparagus, and tomato
Salmon and Panzanella salad with turnips
Grilled Snug Valley Sirloin with Isabella's Chimichurri, herbed butter, or Blue Cheese
Chocolate peanut butter fluff
Ginger Bread with ice cream
Rhubarb pecan crumble with ice cream
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
"Claire's brings flavors of the world to Hardwick"
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Daily 3:00-10:00, until 11:00 on Thursday and Friday; Closed Wednesdays
Dinner served 5:00-9:00
Look for Lunch and Weekend "Blunch" Hours Coming Soon
802 472 7053
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
This week, 7 Days features our chef, Steven, as the first to be thrown on the barbeque for their new column, Grilling the Chef. Take a look!
And we are eager to see you at Claire's... below see how things are revving up...
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Behind The Scenes........
Inside the kitchen area
Looking into the kitchen from the lower dining area.
Below: The walk-in cooler was installed today!
Above: One of our comfortable bar stools; Vermont Maple flooring with Vermont Natural Coating finish. Left: color possibilities.
Below: Two views of the bar; tin ceiling detail.
Friday, April 4, 2008
On Sunday, the Burlington Free Press profiled the Meyer's organic dairy and Vermont Soy business in the industrial park. You can find the story online and an additional slide show narrated by Andrew Meyer.
On Wednesday, Vermont Edition featured UVM professor and author Amy Trubek discussing her new book, The Taste of Place. Claire's chef Steven Obranovich joined the conversation, along with others who noted the diversity of food production in our area or anticipated the opening of Claire's.
You can listen to Vermont Edition from Wednesday by clicking on "listen" or "mp3" at the link below:
Friday, February 29, 2008
A few more "degrees of separation" bring us to the national food blog "Eater," reporting on a New York City restaurant that, like the Bee's Knees, is generating support for an expansion through CSR sales. But its all part of the family, as the restaurant's owners worked at the famed Lespinasse, where Michael Kloeti of Michael's on the Hill in Waterbury Center also cut his chops. Claire's chef, Steven Obranovich, has been Kloeti's co-conspirator for three years... that is, until Saturday night, when he leaves his post to devote himself full time to opening Claire's in May.
To read about Riverdale Garden in NYC:
And don't forget to sign up for a CSR at Claire's before the last one is snapped up!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Today, VPR features a story on the CSR program - Community Supported Restaurant coupons - we launched over the Summer and that the Bee's Knees has adopted to fund their own expansion. We expect the story to be distributed nationally by NPR, but in the meantime, here's a link to the coverage in Vermont - you can read the full story or listen on your computer:
Sunday, January 27, 2008
USDA regulators are considering new rules that will redefine terms like "naturally raised" for packaging and marketing materials. But farmers are concerned that big agribusiness has pushed the USDA too far, with the regulations even allowing "naturally raised" to apply to cloned animals raised on factory farms.
Monday, January 28 is the last day to comment on the regulations. You can do so directly at the USDA website:
In the "Comment or Submission" box, type "naturally raised" and hit "go." You will be directed to your search results. The first, "United States Standards for Livestock and Meat Marketing Claims..." is what you are looking for. You can click on the link for more details, or proceed directly to "Send a comment or submission."
For more information:
Organic Consumers Association
Center for Rural Affairs
A Vermont Hog Farmer's Take on the Proposal