Monday, January 31, 2011

Succulently Rustic

Local Food: There's little that's more succulently rustic than a nicely aged potted meat. For the Quebecois, it might be creton, or ciccioli in Italy, also known as rillettes in France. Whatever the name, the variations on this traditional home technique provide a texture similar to a liverwurst spread, but with much more pork flavor. With pork ribs provided by the famous cheese makers at Jasper Hill Farm, Steven slowly cooks the meat in a braise of Shelburne Vineyards NuMondo red wine until it is fall-off-the-bone tender. The pork rests for a few days to let the flavors develop. It's then finely shredded and mixed with blueberries from Shirley's Produce that Steven preserved over the summer. With just the right combination of smooth textures, the rillettes are spread on a hearty grilled slice from a six grain loaf baked at Patchwork Farm & Bakery. Topped with pickled red onions and ramps for a touch of tartness, and served with a sprout salad for a bit of green to balance out the rich pork, the rillettes are drizzled with mustard elderberry vinaigrette to finish, featuring elderberry juice from Honey Gardens.

Around the Galaxy: With Valentine's Day approaching, consider the bright red Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human or a passion infused combination of recipes and travel writing, In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love by the proprietors of Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock.

Music Notes: Birchwood Coupe will make their debut at Claire's on Thursday, February 3 at 7:30. Check out their folk/americana originals and support local music.

Local Events: Spend the afternoon of Saturday, February 5 with Tom Stearns, president and founder of High Mowing Organic Seeds at Highland Lodge in Greensboro. Tour the High Mowing Seeds facility in Wolcott from 4-5, enjoy dinner at the Lodge from 5:30-7:30 and stay for the presentation at 7:30 by Tom about healthy food systems. Call the Highland Lodge for more information at 533-2647.

Super Bowl Sunday is next Sunday February 6. Start your pre-game at Claire's with $2.50 Switchback pints, $4 wine and $5 Hot & Cold Martini.

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.

Reserve some love and make your Valentine's Day reservation today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Heavens to Dumplings

Local Food: Even as the outside temperature has dipped below zero, the temperature in Claire's remains warm and cozy as you settle in with a bowl of Steven's Chicken and Dumplings. With chicken, shallots, and parsnips from Pete's Greens in our last delivery before the fire, Steven adds carrots from Harvest Hill Farm and potatoes. They are served in a warm jus with white wine, and creamy cornmeal dumplings on top. The dumplings are made with Butterworks Farm cornmeal and greenhouse grown rosemary from Vermont Herb Company for a burst of herbaceousness. Steven browns the dumplings just until they are golden and just a bit crispy.

Around the Galaxy: While the Galaxy takes a break from events for the winter, there are plenty of books to keep you warm this winter. Whether you want to escape with a novel or an adventure tale or spend some extra time near your warm oven, Galaxy has it. This is a great time to explore some of the 270 recipes in Andrea Chesman's Recipes from the Root Cellar, or to sample from Eating Well's Comfort Foods Made Healthy.

Music Notes: Soulful, gritty and sweet singer/songwriter Dave Keller returns this Thursday at 7:30. Come in from the cold and support local music.

Local Events: Help support Pete's Greens in their effort to rebuild their barn after a devastating fire. Visit Bid for the Barn to bid on a wide variety of items donated by Vermonters to help raise money for the effort. Check out our donation, a dinner for four with Pete and two rooms at the Kimball House in Hardwick.

As part of the ongoing mission to raise money for Pete's Greens, we will make a donation from our sales on Thursday, March 17, also known as St. Patrick's Day. Celebrate the day by wearing your finest greens, bring some extra greens in your wallet, and show off your talent at our Open Mic Night in support of Pete's. Email if you are interested in performing.

If you are interested in making a more immediate financial donation to Pete's Greens, stop by Claire's and drop it in our donation bucket or donate directly on the farm website.

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.

Please remember to make reservations at your earliest convenience. It helps us plan a more enjoyable and relaxed evening for you. Without a reservation, you may have to wait longer for a table.

Upcoming Events: Valentine's Day will be here soon- reservations fill up fast so make yours today.

Take a look as we update our new website.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Serving Community Along with Dinner

With our break behind us and concerns at hand after the fire at Pete's, we re-open our kitchen on Main Street tonight. Community is much on our minds. While Linda had a lot on her plate in Hardwick, from a fresh application of Vermont Natural Coatings on the wood floors at Claire's to working with the Center for an Agricultural Economy, her Claire's co-owners Steven and Mike went to New Orleans to learn from the the emergence of a new food community in a city well-known for its cooking but still struggling in the aftermath of Katrina and last summer's oil spill.

They found exciting new efforts, centered in part on a small program called Our School at Blair Grocery (left and above) in the still devastated Lower 9th Ward. This program helps young men and women from the community complete a high school degree while learning about sustainable agriculture, growing food at affordable prices for the neighborhood and selling produce to both established New Orleans chefs and rising newcomers. One of the best of these restaurants is a casual eatery in Bywater called Satsuma Cafe, named to honor the local citrus and not far across the canal from the Lower 9th (below).

Like Claire's, the Cafe provides a community space where people gather for good food, to keep in touch, and to enjoy an ever changing exhibit of local artists.

Another is Cochon (right) in the more established Warehouse Arts District. Both do their best to source local and sustainable produce in a region where farming and fisheries have been devastated by industry, bad government policy, and neglect, and are just beginning to make a comeback.

Coming home just after the fire at Pete's, Steven and Mike are inspired by how much communities can accomplish when they pull together to realize their dreams - even in the aftermath of overwhelming disaster, antipathy, and indifference. You can learn more about their trip by stopping by at Claire's or reading Mike's blog post and links on the Saint Michael's College website.

Aware that much of the food at Claire's is grown at Pete's, many in our community have asked what will happen now. We are fortunate beyond measure to be in the heart of an agricultural economy of such abundance; we're inspired by Pete's plans to rebuild and by the many efforts to support his plans in creative ways. So close to the farm itself, we are working with Pete on how we might best help, and you can send your support directly to Pete at his Farm Fund. While we look forward to the rebirth at Pete's Greens that spring will offer, the food at Claire's will continue to reflect the abundance of farms all around us.

Claire's is open tonight and every night except Wednesday, with bar service, coffee, and baked goods after 2:30 and dinner seating from 5:00 until 9:00 pm. On Sunday, we are open for Blunch from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm. Reservations are encouraged.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time to Re-Open and to Come Together

The image at left, taken in late Spring, is a reminder of the abundance we enjoy from Pete's Greens. This week's fire has been a shock for us, coming during our winter break just before we returned to prep the kitchen to re-open this coming Monday. As neighbors, we talk with Pete or his staff, go by the farm, receive deliveries, and serve the food he grows every day. Our staff is strongly connected to his. We're always pleased to see Pete and everyone who works on the farm come in for dinner or enjoy a beer at the bar. Pete's Greens is our largest provider and we are among his top customers. We count everyone at Pete's Greens among our family.

For our community, the loss of the barn, equipment, and stored food is a social and economic loss. The growth of his farm has been one of the most important parts of our local food system, sustaining our environment and numerous families. This is a setback for Pete, for his staff and the families who depend on them, and for the businesses like ours who count on the quality food Pete grows, as well as the countless other businesses nurtured by the dollars first earned on the farm.

Despite this loss, we are nonetheless optimistic. The fire is something we will work through as a community, and like any setback, it provides the opportunity for growth and renewal as we all pull together. So the photo of the farm taken in the Spring is also a symbol of regrowth.

We will open on Monday with produce that came from Pete with the deliveries prepared just before the fire. We are fortunate as well to have more than two dozen farms we work with, and a number of others who have inquired about providing food for our pantry. Of course, this might mean we'll have to venture a bit farther down the road than the 15 miles we are used to, our menu might be a bit shorter, and we will certainly be on the phone more frequently to rustle up enough produce for the kitchen.

And all of us in and around Hardwick will be pulling together. We're working with Pete to see how best we might fit into his plans to raise the capital needed to rebuild. In the meantime, please go directly to his website at and contribute to the Pete's Greens Farm Fund.

You might also come by on Monday and after to enjoy some of that legendary produce.