Friday, June 20, 2008


Part 2

"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 Mill Street, the bar area sets just the right mood for a beer, a cocktail, or even a meal. Soon, the flat screen television will be connected, in time for the peak of baseball season, the summer Olympics, and the Tour de France.

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 Lamoille River? That view, of course, comes with a small price: the streaming sunlight at the end of a hot day, and the hard glass surface that magnifies every decibel of sound. Combined with the amazing proportions of the space, our historic and beautifully detailed tin ceiling, our generous and convivial benches, the stunning floor made from local wood, and our warm mahogany tables, all this makes for a charming and comfortable space, but one with few surfaces that actually absorb sound!

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.

Finishing Thoughts

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, or stop any of us on the street. We really want to talk with you.


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