Thursday, September 30, 2010
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
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
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
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
Overall, then, the share of purchases made in
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
Though we have tripled our sales of
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.