Monday, December 27, 2010

On New Year's Eve, Invest in Hardwick

Local New Year: Though it seems these difficult economic times aren't over yet, we still have much to celebrate and to encourage locally as the New Year breaks. As always, we're investing our New Year's Eve in the communities around Hardwick and so can you. Join us for dinner on Friday, and you can trust that 79 cents of every food dollar we spend spend goes to local farmers and artisans. While you celebrate with your family and friends, you'll also enjoy the unique sounds of old timey Americana and jazz from our favorite local duet, The Butterbeans. Performing from 7-9, their nostalgic tunes will bring to mind the best of New Year's Eve past.

From the bar, toast the coming year with our bubbly cocktail special, a New Year's Bellini. Frozen raspberries and elderflower liqueur are blended until smooth and topped with Honey Gardens sparkling mead.

Every reservation of two or more made by Thursday, December 30, at noon, will enjoy two desserts as a gift from us, and all our New Year's Eve guests can enter to win the Grand Prize Drawing, a Valentine's Day dinner for two.

Around the Galaxy: The gals at Galaxy are grateful for everyone who has shopped at Hardwick's independent this year. Read this fun article about Galaxy and other quirky Vermont bookstores in Seven Days.

Music Notes: Acoustic Bluegrass/Roots group Wiley Dobbs Duo will join us Thursday, December 30 at 7:30 with their mandolin and guitar. This will be their first time at Claire's and we look forward to welcoming them and supporting Vermont music.

Local Events: The Craftsbury Outdoor Center is open for the ski season. You can buy a season or day pass and enjoy winter in the Northeast Kingdom. Mark your calendars for the Craftsbury Marathon on Saturday, January 29 and the Craftsbury Marathon Tour on Saturday, March 5.

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Buy a gift certificate now through the new year and we will donate 10% of sales to NOFA-VT's Farm Share Program.

Our annual closing will start at 2 pm after "blunch" service on January 2, reopening Monday, January 17 at 5 pm for dinner.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vermont Gifts

With wishes of peace, joy, and love for all our purveyors, friends, families, and neighbors!


Local Food: Steven's cooking philosophy is based on bringing out the fullest flavors our farms can provide, which is best exemplified in all its simplicity by his traditional approach to the cheese plate. Truly our local gift, the wealth of cheeses produced by neighboring artisans provides a variety of flavors that can be fully appreciated on their own as well as complement other flavors. The cheese plate features a rotating selection of three cheeses from Jasper Hill Farm, Ploughgate Creamery and Bonnieview Farm. You will find Coomersdale cheese, a semi-hard cheese similar to young pecorino from Bonnieview; Hartwell, a soft-ripened bloomy rind cheese from Ploughgate; Bayley Hazen blue and Moses Sleeper, a soft and grassy triple cream cheese from Jasper Hill; or their Clothbound Cheddar. The plate features apple slices, walnuts and crunchy croutons to complement or contrast with the flavors and textures of the cheese. Our cheese plate can be enjoyed as an appetizer to start your meal or as your final course.

At the Bar: December means eggnog time and we feature the rich decadence from Strafford Organic Creamery at the bar. We serve our hot chocolate with a splash of Organic Maple Liquor from Green Mountain Distillery and top it off with a heaping serving of warm and frothy egg nog.

Around the Galaxy: Whether you are looking for Christmas gifts, cookbooks to add new flavor to your holiday meals, or a great new book to settle in with by the fire during a vacation, Galaxy has plenty to choose from. And don't forget Hardwick's 2010 bestseller, The Town That Food Saved, available pre-wrapped for your gift giving ease.

Music Notes: Students from Hazen High School choir will help get us in the holiday spirit by singing a variety of songs on Thursday, December 23 beginning at 7:30.

Local Events: Startdust Books in Craftsbury will host December's Full Moon Feast on Tuesday, December 21 at 6:30. The monthly potluck dinner will feature a representative from Vermont Foodbank who will talk about the organization. Bring a dish to share and a plate, utensils and a cup. For more information, call 586-2200.

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Buy a gift certificate now through the new year and we will donate 10% of sales to NOFA-VT's Farm Share Program.

We will be closed December 24 and 25 so our staff can celebrate the holidays with their families and friends. Our annual closing will start at 2 pm after "blunch" service on January 2, reopening Monday, January 17 at 5 pm for dinner.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bring on the Braise

Local Food: Nose to tail is a mantra to some, indicating the careful use of very traditional techniques to prepare every cut of meat available. Our pork braise is inspired by these traditions and the slow cooking used in kitchens around the world to get the most flavor and the lightest texture. Pork cheek from Pete's Greens is unique, a rich cut of meat that is often found smoked or cured. Steven marinates it in Shelburne Vineyard's NuMondo red wine, then adds a dry rub of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, mace, coriander and star anise. With the flavors absorbed, he braises the meat in red wine and apple cider from Harvest Hill Farm in Walden. It is then sliced and served with jus from the braise as well as cranberry and house made mustard sauce. Purple cabbage from Surfing Veggie Farm marinated with apples and onions in the NuMondo wine and red wine vinegar accompany the pork cheek, along with mashed potatoes and sunflower sprouts.

At the Bar: Savor the flavors of the holiday season with a Gingersnap Appletini. A pop of ginger flavor comes from Domaine de Canton liqueur, which is mixed with your choice of vodka. Apple cider from Harvest Hill brings out a little holiday sugar. Shaken vigorously to incorporate the flavors and give it a chill, the Gingersnap Appletini is served up, with the rim dusted with crushed gingersnap cookies from Vermont Common Foods.


Music Notes: Hardwick's own The Butterbeans return for their hometown gig this Thursday, December 16 at 7:30. Support local music and enjoy the sounds of their fiddle, guitar, banjo and mandolin on jazz, blues, swing and original tunes.

Local Events: Celebrate the newly renovated Hardwick Inn at 4 South Main St on Wednesday, December 15 from 4-6 during the Open House hosted by Lise and Larry Hamel. From 3-4 on the 15th, Santa will welcome families and children. Refreshments will be served. Also on the 15th, S & J Fitness will be offering special deals including 15% off all memberships and gym services. Visit them on the second floor of the Hardwick Inn from 2-7.

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Buy a gift certificate now through the new year and we will donate 10% of sales to NOFA-VT's Farm Share Program.

Book a Holiday Party at Claire's now and you'll be entered to win a $30 gift certificate. For groups of six or more we will offer a $25 prix fixe menu.

We will be closed December 24 and 25 so our staff can celebrate the holidays with their families and friends. Our annual closing will be after "blunch" service on January 2, reopening Monday, January 17.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Warm up these winter nights

Local Food: Charlie Emers of Patchwork Farm and Bakery brings over the best fresh-baked chocorackers bread made using Meunerie Milanaise flour from Canada with Vahlrohna chocolate chunks made in St. Albans. Steven uses the treat as the base for bread pudding, which includes caramel mixed with fair trade French roast coffee from Vermont Coffee Company, and Organic Maple Liquor from Green Mountain Organics. Baked and served warm, this rustic morsel of chocolate lets you savor each ingredient without too much sweetness. Try it with a shot of hot espresso or the maple liquor with its earthy warmth.

Around the Galaxy: Come explore the bounty at Galaxy with the season's best cookbooks. Harvest to Heat: Cooking with America's Best Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans features our neighbors at Jasper Hill, and Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat is by Vermont author and James Beard award winner Deborah Krasner.

Music Notes: Cosa Buena returns this Thursday, December 9 at 7:30. Support local music and enjoy their acoustic music with a gentle Latin-Jazz feel.

Local Events: Celebrate Vermont Glass Workshop's 26th year with their Open Studio Seconds Sale. The studio will be open Saturday, December 11 and Saturday, December 18 from 10-5 with live glassblowing demonstrations. Call Wendy at 472-5733 for more information.

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Buy a gift certificate now through the new year and we will donate 10% of sales to NOFA-VT's Farm Share Program.

Book a Holiday Party at Claire's now and you'll be entered to win a $30 gift certificate. For groups of six or more we will offer a $25 prix fixe menu.

We will be closed December 24 and 25 so our staff can celebrate the holidays with their families and friends. Our annual closing will be after "blunch" service on January 2, reopening Monday, January 17.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two in the Pot

Local Food: Good turkey is something to be thankful for year 'round. And with Rebel Pine Farm in Wolcott crossing two heritage breeds - the Blue Slate and Bourbon Red - we have unique and flavorful meat to fill a root vegetable pot pie. Starting with sautéed turnips, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas and onions, then adding white wine from Shelburne Vineyard to create a jus, Steven includes kale, finishing with turkey and baking. Topped with a crispy crust of cornmeal from Butterworks Farm and Grafton cheddar, this ultimate comfort food is also available vegetarian with tofu from Vermont Soy, or you can enjoy its rustic simplicity with nothing but veggies. Try the pot pie with a glass of Boyden Valley Seyval Blanc for $9.00 or pint of Trapp Helles Lager for $5.00.

Around the Galaxy: Come to Galaxy on December 4th to celebrate 22 years of a world of reading in Hardwick! Andrea Chesman and Tracey Medeiros will be at Galaxy from 11-1 to sign their cookbooks. Sandy, Stella and Linda will cook from Andrea's book Recipes from the Root Cellar, and Tracey's book, Dishing up Vermont. Come sample recipes and meet the authors from 11-1, and join the Sirius celebration at The Galaxy Bookshop from 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening.

Music Notes: The trio of Katie Trautz on fiddle, banjo and guitar, Jay Ekis on guitar and Noah Hahn on acoustic and electric bass will join us on Thursday, December 2 at 7:30. Don't miss their unique blend of rock/folk/indie originals and covers.

Local Events: Join authors Bethany Dunbar, Caroline Abels, Ben Hewitt and Julia Shipley at the St. John's Episcopal Church at 6:30 pm on Friday, December 3 for a benefit to raise money and awareness around hunger in Vermont. In lieu of admission, please bring a non-perishable item for the Hardwick Area Food Pantry or a monetary donation to benefit the Center for an Agricultural Economy's Food Access Fund. For more information, contact Elena Gustavson at elena@hardwickagriculture.org or call 802-472-5840

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Buy a gift certificate now through the new year and we will donate 10% of sales to NOFA-VT's Farm Share Program.

Book a Holiday Party at Claire's now and you'll be entered to win a $30 gift certificate. For groups of six or more we will offer a $25 prix fixe menu.

We will be closed December 24 and 25 so our staff can celebrate the holidays with their families and friends. Our annual closing will be after "blunch" service on January 2, reopening Monday, January 17.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ah Shucks!

Local News: This week, we've upholstered our generous benches for a scoosh more comfort. Thanks to the skills and dedication of Linda Fox and a little ingenuity and research of our own, our benches are padded with wool batting from Neil and Kristin Urie at Bonnieview Farm and covered with recycled, biodegradable fabric made utilizing a low energy process consuming only 0.1% of solvent.


Local Food: Arriving from a family oyster farm in Maine, the celebrated Glidden Point Oysters have debuted on our menu, shucked to order so they are as fresh as possible. Raised using low impact handling, these plump oysters yield sweet and briny meat for seafood lovers to savor. For that touch of Hardwick, Steven serves the oysters with lemon thyme and horseradish straight from his own garden. He tops them with an herbed butter with roasted garlic, rosemary and thyme, adding a dash of bread crumbs and bits of crispy bacon. Gratinéed to lightly toast them and add crunchy texture to the oysters, the plate arrives at your table with a salad of Napa cabbage from Pete's Greens and pea sprouts from Peace of Earth Farm. Try the Oysters with a glass Shelburne Vineyards sweet riesling or Vidal Blanc Ice Wine.

Around the Galaxy:The bookshelves are practically sagging with the weight of the season's crop of cookbooks. Always a great time for new titles, this fall has brought an especially delicious selection. On Saturday, December 4th, Galaxy celebrates 22 years in business with a Sirius Reader party, cookbook signing and recipe tasting. Come by between 11 and 1 to meet Andrea Chesman, author of Recipes from the Root Cellar, and Tracey Madeiros. Tracey is the author of Galaxy bestseller Dishing Up Vermont.

Music Notes: We will be closed this Thursday for Thanksgiving. Join us next week for Katie Trautz, Noah Hahn and Jay Ekis.

Local Events: Meet the creator of basketball, James Naismith, in a living history presentation at the Jeudevine Library on Tuesday, November 30 at 7 pm. See Robert Cheney, author of Basketball's Origins, become Dr. Naismith. For more information contact the library at 472-5948

Getting Ready for the Holidays: Buy a gift certificate now through the new year and we will donate 10% of sales to NOFA-VT's Farm Share Program.

Book a Holiday Party at Claire's now and you'll be entered to win a $25 gift certificate. For groups of six or more we will offer a $25 prix fixe menu.

We will be closed Thursday, November 25 as well as December 24 and 25 so our staff can celebrate the holidays with their families and friends. Our annual closing will be after "blunch" service on January 2, reopening Monday, January 17.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rue-Full Baguette

Local Food: Wandering the streets of Paris on a cold day one November, Steven found what would become his all time favorite street food, made by a neighborhood baker... a cheese covered baguette with thick chunks of pork belly called lardons. Back home, he discovered that the Filone bread from Charlie Emers of Patchwork Farm and Bakery makes the perfect variation, with its hint of rye flour. To bring out the creamy cheese, Steven tops the halved loaf with Coomersdale, a semi-hard cheese similar to young pecorino, from Bonnieview Farm in Craftsbury, with a creamy bechamel sauce and a bit of nutmeg for the right melting silkiness. Caramelized red onions and apples are baked into the cheese with bacon from Pete's Greens to add crunch and smoke, and sunflower sprouts accompany the plate. So if you find yourself wandering Main Street in Hardwick, stop in for a journey that takes you near and far, best with a pint of Hill Farmstead Brewery Citra or a glass of Vermont's Cayuga white.

Around the Galaxy: On Tuesday evening from 6:30-8:00, Galaxy hosts a Local Author Celebration. Come meet seven different authors representing a variety of genres. And mark your calendars now for a cookbook signing and recipe tasting at Galaxy on December 4th.

Music Notes: Dan Haley returns this Thursday at 7:30 for a solo performance as Dan Haley is Mister Casual. Check out his Indie/Rock/Pop originals and covers and support local music.

Local Events: The Sari Fashion Show and Indian Dinner is this Saturday, November 20 at 6:00 at Hazen High School. Proceeds benefit Child Haven International. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under and are available at the Buffalo Mountain Coop, Gagnon's and Hazen.

The Full Moon Festival is this Sunday, November 21. There will be events throughout the day at Stardust Books and Cafe and The Art House in Craftsbury including a silent auction, music, gallery opening and a full moon feast. All proceeds benefit The Common Place.

Holiday Hours: We will be closed Thursday, November 25 for Thanksgiving and December 24 and 25. Our annual closing will be January 2 for dinner and reopen January 17.

Buy a gift certificate now through the new year and we will donate 10% of sales to NOFA-VT's Farm Share Program.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ribs

Local Food: Beef short ribs from Pete's Greens are more tender and meatier then their pork counterpart. Steven generously seasons the ribs with toasted cumin and smoked paprika, grills the ribs for a smoky flavor, and then braises them in Switchback beer and apple cider from Champlain Orchards, creating a rich jus as the sauce. They are served with sweet roasted acorn squash from Riverside Farm, parsnips from Rowan Farm and creamy polenta made with cornmeal from Butterworks Farm for a variety of complementary textures and flavors. The tender fall-off-the-bone meat is not to be missed.

Around the Galaxy: Just as farms have been busy harvesting and getting ready for Winter, publishers have been sending out the season's new crop of cookbooks. Come in to browse At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka or, for a different flavor, My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy's Undiscovered South. The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century includes the recipe most requested by readers, Marian Burros' Purple Plum Torte. Come in now and pick up some inspiration for your Thanksgiving and harvest dinners.

Music Notes: Blue Fox returns this Thursday, November 11 at 7:30. Support local music and check out "one of the few authentic blues musicians in Vermont."

Local Events: Sterling College students will present informative slideshows explaining their internship experiences on Wednesday, November 10 at 6:30. The event is free and at Simpson III.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ruby Reds

Special Note: We will be closed for a private event Saturday, November 6, returning to regular service for "blunch" on Sunday. Thank you for your understanding.





Local News: Larry Hamel's restoration of the Hardwick Inn brings light and warmth to downtown Hardwick during the first snow of the season.

Local Food: Vermont Cranberry Company in East Fairfield grows some of the best tartly sweet ruby fruit. With duck just available from Applecheek Farm in Hyde Park, Steven has crafted a plate featuring sauteed breast to capture the rich texture and crispy skin, paired with a sauce composed from cranberries, apples, and plums, a mixture that balances the sweet and tart aspects of each to complement the luscious duck. Steven also brought back a fall favorite, his upside cake starring cranberries and blueberries. Cranberries also arrived at the bar, in our Claire's Cosmo and Cranberry Margarita.

Around the Galaxy: The third annual Read-a Thon starts Friday at 5PM at The Galaxy Bookshop. Last year avid readers raised over $1500 to benefit Hardwick Head Start and Early Head Start. The deadline for registering was last Friday, but if you've missed that and are still interested in participating, please call Sandy at 472-5533 before November 4.

Music Notes: Rustbucket Brothers return this Thursday, November 4 at 7:30. Support local music and get down with their "rootsy Americana rock and country with a helping of Green Mountain soul."

Local Events: The First Friday Artist Talk at the Art House this month features Jennifer Ranz of Greensboro. She will show examples of her work and speak about her thirty years both painting and working with clay.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Radicchio

Local Food: The burgundy leafed radicchio is an Italian staple, and though it looks much like green leaf cabbage, it is actually a variant of chicory. Slightly bitter - with a hint of spice - when eaten raw, slowly braising or even roasting or grilling radicchio mellows the deeper flavors. Steven prepares the mildly spicy, crispy radicchio to complement the sweetness of the apples and celery root he serves with grilled scallops. The rich brown butter sauce with crispy sage and fennel confit round out the dish and balance the earthy winter vegetables.

Around the Galaxy: Galaxy welcomes Pamela Kristan on Tuesday at 7P.M. Pamela will discuss her book, Awakening in Time: Practical Time Management for Those on a Spiritual Path. She has spent the last 25 years helping others find practical, creative strategies to help improve their lives through her workshops, talks and individual consultations. Come to Galaxy on Tuesday, October 26th.

Music Notes: Dan Haley is Mister Casual returns this Thursday, October 28 at 7:30. Support local music and listen as he crafts a 100% original chord garden of acoustic/electric art pop with clever lyrics, innovative harmonies and tuxedo shirts."

Local Events: Sterling College alumna and Salvation Farms founder Theresa Snow will present on food security in the state tonight at Simpson Hall at Sterling College. The event is free and open to the public.

Jeudevine Library's monthly poetry readings continue this Wednesday, October 27 at 7:00pm. Peggy Sapphire, Len Irving and Elenore Grimes will each read for 20-25 minutes, followed by refreshments and conversation with the poets. For more information, call the library at 472-5948.

Aaargh! Pirates the at Haunted Library! Stop by the Haunted Jeudevine Library on October 31 from 5:30-7:30 to plunder some loot. Be sure to visit Claire's for some Halloween treats as well.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tart it up

Local Food: At any time of year, Steven's tarts are a local showcase. Right now, with our long, warm fall just turning to cold and damp, and before the hens slow down their egg laying, they are quite a treat. Start with eggs from Windhorse Farm in East Hardwick, whipped with half & half from Strafford Organic Creamery. Add the last of the year's broccoli from Pete's Greens, then leeks and squash from Hazendale Farm. Top the tart with Hartwell cheese, a velvety and mild variety from Ploughgate Creamery. The pâte brisée crust is made with butter from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, and it is all baked until the cheese on top melts and develops a slight crispy texture.

Around the Galaxy: Come to The Galaxy Bookshop on Tuesday at 7PM to hear Tim Simard talk about his new book Haunted Hikes of Vermont. Just in time for Halloween hiking, the book is filled with both fanciful legend and practical trail information. Come on Tuesday, pick up a copy of the book and head out for a hike if you dare.

Music Notes: The Eames Brothers return this Thursday, October 21 at 7:30. Don't miss their "uplifting, soulful, mysterious" music that flows from "stinging electric shuffles to sparse delta blues."

Local Art: We welcome new art on our walls for the months of October and November by Kathy Stark. Join her Monday, October 18 from 4-6 for her artist reception.

Local Events: This week is particularly fruitful for those Vermonters interested in food politics and global activism. On Monday at the Town House, the New England Region of Witness for Peace, Buffalo Mountain Co-op, the Highfields Institute, and the Center for an Agricultural Economy welcome Kiado Cruz, an organizer with the Autonomous Network for Food Sovereignty in Oaxaca, Mexico. On Tuesday evening, Saint Michael's College in Colchester inaugurates the college's new Environmental Studies major with a special address by Indian scientist and food activist Dr. Vandana Shiva (note that the location has been changed from the Arts Center to the chapel). Read a recent interview with Dr. Shiva published by Rodale Press. And the focus is closer to home next week when Theresa Snow, founder of Salvation Farms, discusses hunger in Vermont and her work with the Vermont Food Bank on October 25th at 6:30PM at Sterling College.

This Saturday, the Wacky Worm Sisters of Down to Earth Worm Farm in Greensboro will host an Indoor Composting with Red Wigglers Workshop at 1:00pm. The workshop is free. Please RSVP to 533-9836 or newleaf@vtlink.net.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9, Sundays from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Counter Revolutions, or Can "Eating Together" Save Food?

by Mike Bosia

I approached last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, devoted to “eating together,” with a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation. The series of articles and essays promised a glimpse of the multidimensional character of food, bringing us back to the social nature of an activity many Americans have reduced to mere calories. At the same time, this latest venture in food journalism arrives just after the fall series of style magazines in the Sunday Times (men’s and women’s fashion, design, and travel), with their glossy images and painfully anachronistic consumerism. Would there be something new in this communal take on eating? Or is The Times enshrining food as another dimension of “style”?

Of course, the answer is a lot of both. The articles and their similarly arresting illustrations are like one of those PBS documentaries that seek all at the same time to describe and define a stereotypical Americana while avoiding the politics and power that shapes those stereotypes. Snappy and artfully evocative (explains an article on a pie cooperative in Alabama: “Behind a counter made of planks salvaged from abandoned sharecropper shacks, two young women slid pie tins into a double oven stack. At trestle tables, beneath industrial pendant lights, four young men, on lunch break from their G.E.D. classes, dug into slices of taco pie and made weekend plans”), the Magazine travels from the Maine coast, through the South and Southwest, out West to California’s irrigation fueled farmlands – without mentioning water – and past a kosher restaurant in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. There’s even a snarky gay man on Long Island who learns a thing or two about community and wellness from his deprecating spouse and a taciturn farmer.

With the essay, “Growing Together,” the Magazine’s food editor, Christine Muhlke, sets the tone. By her own admission, she was initially interested in farmers as the force behind the urban chef, and discovered that in rural communities, well, there is community (or “comm” as she unselfconsciously shorthands it). Muhlke’s piece places the right amount of emphasis on the efforts to build community, and the stunningly important part community plays as a resource for both rural living and sustainable farming. She also notes how limited the scope of these communities are despite the wide variety – very intimate, first hand, based in trust, and comparatively few in number within the broader food economy. She concludes with a quote from Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini, a reminder for me that “eating together” is nothing new. The Slow Food movement was founded more than two decades ago.

During a talk I gave on gender and local food politics last month for the Wellesley College Peace and Justice program, one first year student asked me a question that struck at the core of our food dilemma, overlooked by The Times’ much more celebrated food experts. “What about the Kenyan organic farmer,” she asked, “who makes a living growing food for European consumers?” The question of distance and community was brought home again last week, after I sent around an announcement about the founding events for the US Food Sovereignty Alliance to a variety of listserves and friends (my virtual food community). During a full week of direct action on food, October 11 would see people across the Americas calling attention to the latest global land grab and “indigenous resistance to conquest” – instead of Columbus Day. I received only one response, from a Vermont farmer who was especially disturbed that some people he would never meet might not revere Columbus: “Please don’t waste valuable electrons by forwarding nonsense like this,” he wrote to me.

The student and the farmer illustrate our dilemma from different perspectives, which is the real politics of community overlooked by all this talk of “eating together” (or, as Muhlke admits, groups of people with shared interests around food). Eating emphasizes the process of consumption, and so grounds communal relationships in food markets (admiringly cooperative) that bring together consumers and producers around interests. As we cultivate relationships in real time and actual physical space like farmers markets and CSAs, we also make choices about how we live and what we value in our communities. And this is complicated. In some ways, for example, we pull inward around a now communal dinner table, but a local and isolated one nonetheless, that at times draws on the same hierarchies of power and privilege of the traditional dinner table, with a man at its head.

This is how we risk substituting a democracy of consumer choice for the democratization of power. Building a network that brings together producers and consumers in cooperative markets, we might lose sight of the political. What happens, for example, when local markets can’t overcome deeply entrenched patterns of privilege or resentment? Or when we don’t share some of our most obvious and immediate interests, our experiences or perspectives, either locally or at a great distance? And how do we develop broad coalitions of solidarity beyond our own communities so we can knit “eating together” into a global political movement that can translate the best norms of cooperative markets into actual policy? One of the most insightful political economists of the last century, Karl Polanyi, drew a stark contrast between free markets and society. Before the rise of the free market, he demonstrated, production and consumption were part of fixed hierarchical social relationships based on reciprocity in rights and obligations. Nevertheless, Polanyi didn’t presume that hierarchical cooperation was in itself without politics – in fact, reciprocity was superior to free markets because economic activity was recognized as innately social and entirely political.

The politics of power and true democracy lurk beneath the consumerism of the Sunday Magazine coverage of food communities and our own burgeoning local food movement. This month, Vermonters can hear from two activists working on these issues globally and locally. On Monday, Kiado Cruz from Santa Cruz de Yagavila outside Oaxaca, Mexico will speak at the Hardwick Town House at 7 pm. Cruz is a farmer and organizer building democratic institutions around food produced for either local exchange or global sales. On Tuesday, Vandana Shiva, a founder of the international movement of peasants and farmers called Via Campesina, comes to Saint Michael’s College. Shiva is a renowned scientist who left the Indian Institute of Science to devote herself to the rights of farmers and the preservation of agricultural biodiversity. With Via Campesina, she has championed what the organization calls “food sovereignty,” a political process of building communities that emphasizes local decision-making and substantive democratic practice, coupled with the explicit empowerment of women and youth at all levels of governance.

Like the French farmer José Bové, another co-founder of Via Campesina whose visit to Vermont a decade ago represented the culmination of one stage in the development of an alternative food movement, these visits can inspire us to examine where we are and how we move forward within a global movement, to seek alliances with farmers and consumers around the world. Through the substantive forms of democracy advocated by the global movement, we can address our assumptions about power and privilege, and at the same time, draw on our own deeply embedded form of rural democracy and communal decision-making best exemplified by the institutions of the town meeting and Main Street.

“Eating together” should not be the limit of action; it is just the start.

Emphasizing local news, menu updates, and recipes, from time to time New Vermont Cooking also will feature reviews and ideas. In addition to being a co-owner of Claire’s, Mike is a political scientist at Saint Michael’s College working on food politics and political movements. He and Jeffrey Ayres at Saint Mike’s, with Carleton University’s Peter Andrée and Marie-Josée Massicotte of the University of Ottawa, are co-editing a book called Globalization and Food Sovereignty: Global and Local Change in the New Politics of Food, at University of Toronto Press.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finger Lickin' Good

Local Food: If you never imagined chicken nuggets at Claire's, we have news for you. Steven starts with earthy, rich and smooth chicken livers from Deb Hart at Windy Acres, soaks them in batter, and fries them until they develop a golden crust and a tender interior. Dusted with smoked paprika and cumin to add a hint of spice and smokiness, the livers are paired with a mild salsa of tomatillos from Rowan Farm and jalapeno and cayenne peppers from Pete's Greens. Just the right balance of rich flavors, indulgent textures, and bright acidity.

Around the Galaxy: For Halloween hiking, pick up a copy of the newly arrived Haunted Hikes of Vermont, and see if you dare check out any of the trails that are rated on a ghostly scale after you have read it. Filled both with fanciful legend and practical trail information, the book has something for every member of the family. Author Tim Simard will be at Galaxy to talk about his new book on Tuesday, October 19th at 7PM.

Music Notes: Fresh Greenes join us this Thursday, October 14 at 7:30 for their first performance at Claire's. Come in and enjoy the original music by father-daughter duo Chris and Juliana Greene on vocals, guitar and keyboard, with Sarah Cannon on fiddle.

Local Events: The Hardwick Fall Film Festival takes place this weekend at the Hardwick Town House. The festival, organized by Harriet Wood and David Rodgers, features four films by independent Vermont filmmakers. Take a look at the full schedule here.

Kiado Cruz, community organizer for food sovereignty in a rural community near the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, will speak at the Hardwick Town House on Monday, October 18 at 7:00. Cruz will address sustainable agriculture and community participation that are instrumental in the current autonomous movements in Oaxaca and Chiapas. The event is sponsored by the Highfields Center for Composting, The Center for an Agricultural Economy, The Buffalo Mountain Food Co-operative Learning Exchange, and New England Witness for Peace.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9. We will return to our regular Sunday dinner hours on October 17, seating arriving guests from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gingerbread is in the House

Local Food: Summer's turn to Fall marks the end of fresh herbs, but the cool, crisp weather means that spices call out for greater attention. Steven's blend of cinnamon, star anise and black pepper - along with some secrets - combine with the zip of crystallized ginger in his warm gingerbread cake. He adds molasses and maple syrup from Caledonia Farm for a touch of our orange and red "leafy"sweetness. Caramelized apples and pumpkins are added for texture, and cider-butter sauce to round out the spice, along with vanilla ice cream from Strafford Organic Creamery. Try the gingerbread cake with a taste of WhistlePig Whiskey, the new rye at our bar, distilled in Shoreham, Vermont.

Around the Galaxy: If the cooler weather puts you in the mood to stay near the stove, try some recipes from two new books Apples: More Than 75 Delicious Recipes and The Comfort of Apples: Modern Recipes for an Old-Fashioned Favorite. Perhaps some Cider-Braised Ribs, Apple and Sage Burgers with Camelized Onions or Curried Apple Lentil Soup? And you can keep apples all Winter long with the help of The Complete Root Cellar Book: Building Plans, Uses, and 100 Recipes. Come by and check out these books along with many more in the Fall crop of books.

Music Notes: Mark Struhsacker has played guitar and sung in Montana and Vermont based bluegrass bands for over 35 years. He created and has fronted the WDEV Radio Rangers radio show which has aired on WDEV every Saturday morning at 10:30 since June 1986. Check out his bluegrass flat picking and cross picking guitar style on Thursday at 7:30.

Local Events: The sixteenth annual Share the Harvest fundraiser will be held Thursday, October 7th to benefit NOFA-VT's Farm Share Program. The program helps limited-income Vermonters afford CSA shares from their local farms. On October 7th, restaurants, co-ops and food stores will participate in Share the Harvest by donating a portion of the day's sales to the program. Both Claire's and Buffalo Mountain Co-op in Hardwick will participate.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9. We will return to our regular Sunday dinner hours on October 17, seating arriving guests from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Foliage in Hardwick

Foliage in the Northeast Kingdom is approaching its peak. Stop through Hardwick on your road tour and visit us for Blunch or dinner this weekend.


Monday, September 27, 2010

A Squash by Any Other Name

Local Food: Not inclined toward edible decorations, Steven prefers to harvest pumpkins for satisfying rather than scaring. This week, the plump squash from Mystic Morning Farm star in a tarte of leeks and pumpkin, paired with the smoky texture of bacon and the dry bite of Tarentaise cheese. You will also find the prolific fruit roasted with young chard alongside the crab cake. Pumpkin is also for breakfast, featured as pumpkin pancakes with hot buttered rum apples and whipped cream. And dessert is more than just pie. Look for spicy gingerbread with caramelized pumpkin and apples as a sweet finish to your meal. And if you are craving the flavor profile of pumpkin pie, you can find it at the bar in a pumpkin martini. You might also enjoy the stunning pumpkins from Ben's Pumpkins we feature in the dining room as sculpture. You can get your own pumpkins from Ben Notterman on Pumpkin Lane in East Hardwick.

Around the Galaxy: Archer Mayor returns to The Galaxy Bookshop on the publication day of his 21st Joe Gunther book, Red Herring, on Tuesday. As anyone who has been to one of Archer's many appearances at Galaxy can attest, he entertains the crowd every time. In addition to writing mysteries, Archer is a death investigator, a sheriff's deputy, a volunteer firefighter and an EMT. Come to Galaxy to celebrate Archer's success as a writer, and to kick off his bookstore tour in style. The evening begins Tuesday, September 28th at 7PM and is free.

Music Notes: Singer/Songwriters Ryan Arthur from Danville and Steve Wright of Gopher Broke will play this Thursday, September 30 at 7:30. Come out and support local acoustic rock and bluegrass music.

Local Events: On Saturday, October 2, The Hardwick Town House will present the Mellow Yellow Experience, an immersive musical theater show that transports audience members back to the time when "Baby Boomers" were coming of age. The show features live music, outrageous costumes and a stunning multi-media video light show. Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7:00. Tickets are available at the door and are $12 for the general public and $10 for those over 65. Call Shari at 472-5920 or David Cooper at 399-2589 for more information.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9. We will return to our regular Sunday dinner hours on October 17, seating arriving guests from 5-8. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Take a Bite out of Fall

Local Food: New England is as famous for the ripe colors of apples as for fall foliage, and Josh Karp and Maria Schumann bring us some of the best heirloom apples from their 100 year old Cate Hill Orchard. The first available are tart Duchess apples and the soft, sweet Peach apple, perfect for making sauces. Steven has included them at Blunch in the spiced brioche French toast served with hot buttered rum apples. Served raw and crisp, Duchess apples are found in the beet and spinach salad to add some sweetness and crunch against the creamy tang of blue cheese, dressed with walnuts and maple balsamic vinaigrette. They also accompany the duck leg confit in a warm salad of apples, cabbage and green beans. With blackberries and apples, Steven creates a compote served with the chicken liver mousse. We'll also be featuring apples in many forms at the bar, like our apple cidertini.

Around the Galaxy: Get ready for another World Premiere! Galaxy will welcome Archer Mayor on September 28th, publication day for Archer's 20th Joe Gunter novel, Red Herring. Come celebrate and help Archer kick off his tour in style, Tuesday, September 28th at 7PM!

Music Notes: Hardwick's own Jeanne Segretto Miller and Josh Gould, aka The Butterbeans return for their second performance on Thursday, September 23 at 7:30. Don't miss this opportunity to support Hardwick's music scene featuring Jeanne on fiddle and vocals and Josh on guitar, banjo, mandolin and vocals.

Local Events: Highfields Center for Composting will host a Livestock Mortality Composting Workshop on Thursday, September 23 from 10-12:30. The workshop is for farmers and agricultural professionals interested in learning how to compost routine livestock mortalities. The workshop is free and will be held at the Center's Demonstration and Research Site.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9. Please note we have extended our Sunday dinner hours and will seat guests until 9:00 pm. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Piper's Peck of Peppers

Local Food: Steven loves peppers more than almost anything else, so he brings an aficionado's sensibilities to their use on the plate. Warm with a hint of sweet spice, crisp and a bite of heat, or that dash of energy. Right now, Steven is using the large and earthy green peppers from Pete's Greens as an edible bowl. He fills the hollow of the pepper with wheatberries and groats for some texture, then adds fennel, onions and tofu from Vermont Soy to round out the stuffing. Mozzarella from Maplebrook Farm is baked on top of the pepper, and the plate is served with dragon tongue beans from Mystic Morning Farm, cauliflower, and lacinato kale from Harvest Hill, with a dash of pesto.

Around the Galaxy: Thanks to everyone who came to welcome Rowan Jacobsen and his new book American Terroir to the bookshelves. The Galaxy still has some autographed copies of this fascinating book. If you missed Rowan in Hardwick, catch him at Bear Pond in Montpelier before he heads across the country on his tour. And for those of you busy preserving your own terroir, come browse the shelves at Galaxy to discover many books on canning and preserving.

Music Notes: Blue Fox returns this Thursday at 7:30. Don't miss what Pamela Polston of Seven Days calls his "deep-lazy-growly-sexy" vocals and his ultra-strength guitar playing.

Local Events: Celebrate Buffalo Mountain Co-op's 35th Anniversary on Saturday, September 18 at Atkins Field in Hardwick. The clothing swap will be from 2-5; make cider, hear poets, storytellers and musicians and play old-time games from 3-6. The potluck begins at 6- bring a dish to share, and your garden surplus for the community-wide stone soup. Following dinner, dance to local favorites the Butterbeans. For more information or to volunteer, stop by the Co-op or call 472-6020

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9. Please note we have extended our Summer Sunday dinner hours and will seat guests until 9:00 pm. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Something to Flap About

Local Food: With its intense flavors, duck from Applecheek Farm offers the perfect savory partner for the sweet fruits of late summer and the first tart apples. When roasted in duck fat - confit, as the French call it - duck legs offer a tender and succulent intensity that Steven balances with a warm salad of crisp vegetables that tames some of the richness with red cabbage from Mystic Morning Farm, apples from Champlain Orchards and green beans. Steven tosses the salad with a plum mustard vinaigrette, featuring plums from Champlain Orchards and mustard from Northeast Kingdom Mustard Company.

Around the Galaxy: Come to Galaxy on Tuesday, September 7th at 7PM when Rowan Jacobsen, a James Beard Award winning author from East Calais, introduces his new book, American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters and Fields. Come to Galaxy to get your copy now, and read about our neighbors who produce syrup and cheese, as well as a forest gastronomer from Quebec and avocado growers in Mexico. The book is delicious to read and Jacobsen explores the flavors of the food we are so fortunate to have in ways that extend new depths of appreciation and understanding.

Terroir is not just a concept; it gives us a lot to celebrate and appreciate. So come by before or after Rowan’s talk at the Galaxy Bookshop on Tuesday, September 7, to take note of “ terroir at the bar.” We’ll be offering specials on cocktails, spirits by the glass, as well as a flight of vodka or of whiskey. We hope you enjoy.

Music Notes: Rachael Rice and the Cosmic Americans return this Thursday at 7:30. Support local music and catch the performance of the "sweetheart of alt-country rodeo," according to Dan Bolles of Seven Days.

Local Events:Spend the weekend at Wheelock Mountain Farm in Greensboro Bend. The First Annual Planetary Wellness Day will be Saturday, September 11 from 10-8 to look at the environmental health of our planet. Sunday September 12 is the Third Annual Community Health and Wellness Day from 10-5. A variety of workshops led by local healers will be held throughout the day. Please bring a dish to share for the potluck lunch and a donation of $5-30 each day. For more information about Saturday, contact Robin at 533-2296. Questions about Sunday, contact Emily at 533-9929.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9. Please note we have extended our Summer Sunday dinner hours and will seat guests until 9:00 pm. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Terroir and at the Bar

With summer coming to a close just as Rowan Jacobsen comes to the Galaxy Bookshop next week to talk about his new book, American Terroir, we thought it was a good time to provide an update about our local terroir and what’s brewing at Claire’s. Take a look below at what we have “on the menu”, and come by before our after Rowan’s talk at the Galaxy to learn more and enjoy some specials at the bar.

Terroir is a French term, usually spoken in conjunction with wine production to define the particular qualities of a vineyard that shape the wine produced there, including microclimate, soil, sunlight, neighboring plants as well as human traditions and cultivation. More recently, it has been adapted to emphasize the unique nature of any growing community and the constellation of circumstances that provide opportunities for farmers and imbue food with distinct flavors. Terroir is another way of emphasizing the sense of place within the concept of local food.

For Claire’s, of course, our sense of place is about both flavor and community. We celebrate the ingenuity and capacity of our farming community, the dedication of those who work the soil, and the good fortune we have in our beautiful summers, our appreciation of the working landscape, and our ability to manage winter in sustainable ways. So we measure terroir on our menu in taste and place. Claire’s is a space for all of us to come together in our daily lives, and in doing so, we provide an opportunity to invest directly in the economic well-being of our neighbors in these difficult times.

That investment continues to be measured by our purchasing within 15 miles of the restaurant or just a bit farther in the NEK. In terms of our kitchen, Steven has crafted a menu that, from month to month and season to season, still puts 80 cents of every dollar we spend for the food we serve directly in the hands of the farmers, artisans, and businesses who are our closest neighbors. We don’t count the herbs and vegetables Steven produces in his kitchen garden, because Claire’s pays nothing for those. Beyond 15 miles, we purchase cooking wine from Shelburne Vineyards, fruit from Champlain Orchards, and, since the closing of the Vermont Milk Company in Hardwick, ice-cream from Strafford Creamery. Regional food-related purchases are upwards of 90 percent of our total spending, which now include Vermont sunflower oil and other cooking oils from Maine and Quebec. The seafood we serve from our coastal neighbors supports Stowe Seafood as well as New England’s fishing industry. Our spices and sugar are certified fair trade, providing confidence that when our dollars travel, we support communities with a deep tradition of producing and trading food staples.

Our impact, of course, is greater than our food purchases. We do business with the Village Laundry and other professional services, we employ more than 25 people cooking and serving your food, and we purchase more than just food. Overall, our contribution to the local economy – the farms, businesses and families that make up our terroir – has totaled 64% of every dollar we spend in the restaurant since we opened our doors in May 2008.

But we still have much more we can do. Bar and beverage service, for example, have been the most difficult to imagine differently. We face the regulatory limitations of the Vermont Department of Liquor Control, a variety of market forces that structure pricing, the still relative rarity of organic or sustainable commitments in spirits other than wine and beer, and relatively few distilled spirits in Vermont. As well, our small bar tucked into one corner of the restaurant provides operational limitations.

From opening day, though, our bar has striven to be different. We started by deciding to be a corn syrup free bar – one of the first in the country to do so – and found a variety of sodas, Vermont produced bitters, and other condiments. Our cocktail menu highlights Vermont produce, including pickled ramps, cucumber, berries, and now melon. And our wines are selected for a balance of quality and sustainability, emphasizing smaller producers and innovators, some of whom are certified organic, but in general, no matter where they come from, vineyard and vintners that provide sustenance to their communities. Increasingly, as they have become available, our wine list includes the best northern varietals our state has to offer, as well as our distinctive local meads. Of course, our draft beer is always redolent of the varieties of terroir in Vermont, especially with the introduction of Hill Farmstead this summer.

Overall, then, the share of purchases made in Vermont has varied by category of beverage. Highest on beer, increasing with wine, and lowest on distilled spirits. We’ve decided to improve on that. With quality and a range of price points in mind, we’ve decided to focus our bar service on that sense of place best defined in the term terroir – when available, our purchases will go first to Vermont distillers. So you might have noticed that already we offer three moderately priced and impressive vodkas produced in our state: Green Mountain Organic, Vermont White, and Vermont Gold. We also have a distinctive maple liqueur from Green Mountain Organic, served in a shot glass or mixed in a cocktail. When not available locally, we hope to source our spirits from small and artisan production as nearby as possible, but also around the world as necessary, looking to organic or fair trade certification, or for distillers who respect their ingredients as well as those who provide and shape the ingredients into the final product. Sometimes our goal is to identify the distinctive terroir in which a spirit is produced. Other times, we support smaller producers over those who dominate markets to promote more appropriate scale and a diversity of products within vibrant markets that can nurture artisan production.

With no local producer making a well vodka, for example, we searched far and wide before settling on Luksusowa, distilled since the end of World War II in Western Poland from local artesian well-water and potatoes grown only along that country’s Baltic coast. It has the added benefit of being a distilled spirit that people who are glucose intolerant can enjoy. Our rums come from two distilleries that have been family run for generations, we have an organic London Dry gin, and we now offer a selection of distinctive whiskeys from small batch American and Scottish producers. Our quality tequila is now 100 percent pure agave, and we have added unique liqueurs to enhance or cocktail menu or to enjoy by the glass, including one made from wild elderflowers harvested in Switzerland.

Though we have tripled our sales of Vermont produced spirits this year over last, we do have a ways to go. We’re talking with producers and innovative thinkers in the industry, assessing what additional steps are possible and how to monitor our goals. As we develop our menu driven cocktail service, we’ll be trying out new mixes and intriguing local ingredients. Right now, we regret that the DLC has not yet licensed a Vermont rye Whiskey or those produced in New York and Massachusetts, nor a potato vodka from Maine and a gin from New York. It is still difficult for us to access wines produced in the Fingers Lake region. But we are looking forward to the introduction of Caledonia Spirits produced in Hardwick. Even citrus has been a concern, as first the real estate bubble and then a series of frosts limited the production of fresh lemon and lime in Florida. At this point, our only source for citrus is from far away in California’s parched orchards, where an elaborate system of water distribution provides the weekly soaking required for citrus trees, but at the same time depletes fisheries in the northern part of the state and literally drains the Colorado River delta. But we have plans, which include growing our own lemon and limes in the restaurant and our homes.

Terroir is not just a concept; it gives us a lot to celebrate and appreciate. So come by before or after Rowan’s talk at the Galaxy Bookshop on Tuesday, September 7, to take note of “ terroir at the bar.” We’ll be offering specials on cocktails, spirits by the glass, as well as a flight of vodka or of whiskey. We hope you enjoy.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Was Ben Franklin Wrong?

Local Food: Both men and melons, according to Franklin, "are hard to know." But even with its exotic tropical antecedents, cantaloupe is nonetheless a familiar companion for late Vermont summers. And the suppleness of muskmelons from Pete's Greens makes them versatile additions to our menu. Steven portions them for savory dishes like the crab cake, adding a juicy sweetness that offsets the bitter greens and complements the subtle crab meat. You can also find cantaloupe in the cucumber gazpacho, with an array of herbs from Rowan Farm, and a kick of spice from jalapenos and cayenne peppers. Just the right cool first course for our warmer end of summer days.

Around the Galaxy: Come to Galaxy on Tuesday, September 7th at 7PM when Rowan Jacobsen, a James Beard Award winning author from East Calais, introduces his new book, American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters and Fields. Come to Galaxy to get your copy now, and read about our neighbors who produce syrup and cheese, as well as a forest gastronomer from Quebec and avocado growers in Mexico. The book is delicious to read and Jacobsen explores the flavors of the food we are so fortunate to have in ways that extend new depths of appreciation and understanding.

Music Notes: Dan Haley is Mister Casual will join us this Thursday, September 2 at 7:30. Be sure to catch Noah Hahn and Dan Haley playing an acoustic set of folk-pop with jazz leanings.

Local Events: Kathy Stark will return to the Art House in Craftsbury for September's First Friday Artist Talk. She will show examples of her work, new and old and speak about her techniques, mediums and inspirations on Friday, September 3 from 6:30-7:30. Please RSVP here.

Reminders: We are open daily after 2:30 for coffee, bar service, and baked goods, and free WiFi, with dinner reservations available from 5-9. Please note we have extended our Summer Sunday dinner hours and will seat guests until 9:00 pm. We serve our special Blunch menu Sundays from 11-2. Claire's is closed every Wednesday.

We appreciate it when you reserve a table with us, as it helps us plan a relaxed and hospitable experience for you and all our guests. To show our appreciation, when you call, email, or stop by to make a reservation, you will be entered into our weekly drawing for a $20 gift card for your next visit.