Diaspora

'Seven Days' Food Writers Look Back on 2022’s Unexpected Highlights – Seven Days

Seven Days needs your financial support!
cars/trucks
bicycles
sell your ride
health/wellness
home/garden
post your service
all merchandise
sell your stuff
all categories
post your class
apartments
homes for sale
for sale by owner post your listing
browse notices
post a notice
If you’re looking for “I Spys,” dating or LTRs, this is your scene.
December 28, 2022 Food + Drink » Food + Drink Features
Published December 28, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.
In this world, there are glass-half-full people and glass-half-empty people. If we were the latter, we would focus on what the Vermont food scene lost this year: Chittenden County Asian restaurant pioneer Silver Palace in South Burlington; the OG wood-fired Pizza on Earth in Charlotte; the Bearded Frog in Shelburne; and Burlington favorites such as Half Pint Farm, Knead Bakery, Penny Cluse Café and Sweetwaters.
But we choose to be on Team Glass Half Full. Favorites come and go; that’s a natural part of life and business. We think it’s more fun to celebrate the gains and revel in the happy surprises. Here are seven to which we’d like to raise a full glass.
— M.P.
Northern Vermont has no shortage of tacos. But this year it felt like really good tacos were popping up everywhere — often in unexpected spots, such as coffee shops, parks and even theaters.
Take the Qué Rico Taquería event on February 28 at the Double E Performance Center in Essex, where a line snaked through the bar area. People waited for their food while watching the late, famed Mexican singer Vicente Fernández on the theater’s big screen.
Qué Rico Taquería is the side hustle of Stephen Coggio, executive chef at Cloud 9 Caterers. He brings culinary school training and time spent working and traveling in Mexico to his excellent tacos, which at the February event featured slow-cooked carnitas, braised-then-fried tripe and marinated pork shoulder. Qué Rico Taquería continued to pop up in various spots this year, mostly at Manhattan Pizza & Pub in Burlington.
In late September, Mario Dominguez Hernandez and Anne Kellogg of Las Hermosas began holding regular taco nights at Vivid Coffee Roasters in Burlington, which will continue into the New Year. Dominguez Hernandez, a native of Mexico City and a professional cook for more than two decades, knows his adobo-marinated beef and slow-cooked carnitas. He has an equally deft touch with vegetarian options, such as roasted cauliflower with golden raisins and sweet potatoes with poblano peppers. Freshly made salsas are punchy and freshly fried chips crunchy.
Casa Birria dipped into the new summer BTV Market in Burlington’s City Hall Park in July, offering its namesake earthy, aromatic stew and dunkable tacos and quesadillas. Owners José Ureña, Lauren Ebersol and Weslie Khoo kept things simple with the traditional Mexican birria of Ureña’s childhood. They soon added the South End’s weekly Truck Stop to their schedule, warming up the last few fall evenings of the season. Casa Birria will be back in Burlington next summer on Fridays and Saturdays.
In Middlebury, ShireTown Marketplace‘s breakfast tacos skew less traditional — especially the bacon-egg-and-cheese combo that owner Kevin Archambeault calls “the gringo version.” But they’re no less delicious for it. The market and restaurant opened fully in mid-September, offering tacos filled with fire-roasted veggies and meat five days a week.
— M.P. & J.B.
It wasn’t just tacos that got better this year. The number of global cuisines represented in Vermont’s dining scene exploded, and a few appeared that had been sorely missed.
We have pop-ups, communal kitchens, markets, food trucks and food carts to thank for many of the additions. Moon and Stars Arepas and Green Mountain PotStickers brought Colombian and Taiwanese fare, respectively, to Church Street carts in Burlington. The BTV Market helped spread the word about Case Birria (see “Taco Town,” above), Haitian Dominican-inspired Calito’s Popsicles, Maritela’s Filipino Cuisine and Somali-influenced Jilib Jiblets, among other global food entrepreneurs.
Paprika Catering popped up with Argentinian empanadas in Waterbury. Montpelier-based Taíno Kitchen hit the scene with Puerto Rican family recipes. And we’re carefully following two newly hatched businesses: South Burlington-based Sarita Indian Kitchen and the Jamaican and British Portapies of Shelburne, which currently offer preorder takeout and delivery, respectively.
Meals served in the shared space at Burlington’s Tiny Community Kitchen took us to Iraq, Iran, Bosnia, Somalia, Korea, the Philippines and to the southern U.S. with Barbara Jean’s Southern Kitchen. We hear that regular shawarma pop-ups are in the works for 2023.
Speaking of the Philippines, this year Vermont went from having one dedicated Filipino restaurant and a Filipino-fusion sandwich shop to having three full-time Filipino restaurants. In addition to the stalwart Pica-Pica Filipino Cuisine in St. Johnsbury and the expanded Kuya’s at One Main in Randolph, this month brought us Nagueños Filipino American Diner in Essex Junction.
Several restaurants dedicated part of their menus to new specialties this year, bringing us such welcome options as the Burmese dishes at Irrawaddy in Essex Junction and chef Hersson Villatoro’s Guatemalan flavors at the Black Lantern Inn in Montgomery. Other restaurants gave us new ways to experience the breadth of their native cuisines, including Burlington hot-pot hot spot Café Dim Sum, St. Albans Japanese-but-not-sushi takeout restaurant Kaiju Kitchen and Essex Junction vegetarian Indian restaurant Namaste Garden.
We’re looking forward to the long-awaited opening of Santiago’s Cuban Cuisine at 3 Main Street in Burlington, which is currently undergoing “quite the transformation into a tropical oasis,” co-owner Luis Calderin said. He and chef/co-owner Oscar Arencibia are currently fundraising by preselling merch, gift cards and memberships, which offer access to discounts and members-only events. They’ve got their sights set on an early spring opening.
On our wish list for next year? Korean barbecue and a Jewish deli.
— J.B. & M.P.
It was a great year for cans. Sure, they’ve been the go-to packaging for Vermont’s beer industry for a while now (in increasingly larger sizes, much to my chagrin). But in 2022, we saw all kinds of beverages join the cans-can line.
My fridge is currently stocked with category-busting vegetable seltzers from Bristol-based Savouré; the cider-wine-cranberry combo Kalchē Kid from Kalchē Wine Cooperative; a CBD-infused sparkling tea from Taunik; the sparkling, botanical Bitter Bubble; and ready-to-drink cocktails from several Vermont distilleries — all of them in cans.
Those canned cocktails are now available in grocery stores and gas stations throughout the state, thanks to a bill passed by the Vermont legislature and signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott in June. The law created a new category within the state’s liquor statute for “ready-to-drink spirits beverages” and upped their potential sales outlets from the 79 state-contracted 802 Spirits stores to the nearly 1,000 private-sector businesses that are licensed to sell beer, wine and cider.
That means we’re seeing more locally produced “RTDs” — defined as having 12 percent alcohol or less, in containers of 24 fluid ounces or less — as Vermont’s distillers explore their new market. So far, my favorite is Cool Hand Cuke, a minty, cucumbery gin drink from Black Flannel Distilling.
I’m bummed that I missed the first batch of Caledonia Spirits’ canned Barr Hill gin and tonic, featuring a golden-hued tonic water housemade from real cinchona bark. It sold out immediately at September’s distillery-only release, vice president of marketing Harrison Kahn said. The next batch is planned for spring, so I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll get to sip one in the distillery’s front-lawn G&T Garden on Montpelier’s Gin Lane in 2023.
On the cannabis front, Taunik has been gearing up for Vermont’s legal retail market and officially launched on October 1 with its 50-milligram CBD sparkling teas, which are available on tap at Foam Brewers and in cans around the state.
The Taunik team has secured a commercial manufacturing space in Hinesburg that it has worked diligently to make “functional, efficient and secure — very secure,” cofounder Bob Grim said. There, the business will produce a variety of cannabis-infused beverages, plus “white-labeled” products in collaboration with others in the industry, Grim said.
Taunik has submitted its full license application to the Cannabis Control Board, and a required walkthrough with the board should happen this month. Once all the licensing is in place, the team plans to launch three THC-infused sparkling teas in 12-ounce cans: yerba maté and lemon, black tea and sumac, and green tea with mint and lime. Three new flavors will quickly follow, Grim said, with a wide range of volumes and potencies, including low-potency, sessionable options.
The can trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, either. Shelburne Vineyard will release a new Capsize Spritzer, as well as Iapetus’ juicy, picnicky piquette, Tributary, in cans for the first time in late January or early February. That’s perfect timing to hit the slopes with one in your pocket, winemaker Ethan Joseph pointed out.
— J.B.
Chef/co-owner Nisachon “Rung” Morgan of Saap restaurant in Randolph was as surprised as anyone on June 13, when she learned that she’d won Vermont’s first-ever title for Best Chef: Northeast from the James Beard Foundation. Asked by Seven Days during a recent phone call whether the win was expected, restaurant co-owner Steve Morgan said, “No, not at all. Not ever.”
He quickly added that his wife was “over the moon and appreciative” of the honor, which crowned her the premier chef of the year for the New England region.
When Rung and Steve, a former New England Culinary Institute instructor, returned from the Chicago awards ceremony to the modest restaurant they opened in 2014, the first sign that something had changed was 72 phone messages, Steve said.
To manage the sudden deluge of interest in Rung’s Thai menu, which favors dishes from her native region of Isan, they set up an online reservation system for the first time and stopped accepting walk-ins or takeout orders.
Over the past few months, Steve said, diners have traveled from as far away as New York City to sample dishes such as khao kluk gapi: rice cooked with fermented shrimp paste and served with nuggets of sweet glazed pork, shredded green mango and omelette strips. Other specialties include sweet and smoky nam prik pow chicken wings, finished with a 15-ingredient Thai chile paste; and sai-krok, compellingly crisp and fatty fried slices of Isan-style fermented pork sausage seasoned with lemongrass, dill and chile.
With stick season, things have calmed down a little at the 60-seat restaurant. The Morgans are still the only cooks, assisted by one kitchen employee who does prep and dishwashing. They can handle about 20 customers at a time, Steve said.
Saap is back to accepting walk-ins and takeout, depending on capacity, but it’s always advisable to call ahead. If you can’t get through, assume it’s too busy. “Sometimes we just randomly turn [the phone] off during service,” Steve admitted.
The Morgans have no plans to expand or change anything, Steve said. “The reason it’s so good,” he emphasized, “is that Rung is cooking for you every meal.”
— M.P.
In 2021, we deployed Seven Days staffers to survey the Burlington pizza scene, compiling reviews of 13 spots for a story called “Pizzapalooza.” While we didn’t continue that comprehensive tasting around the state in 2022, we seemed to be writing about a new wood-fired pizza spot every month. The best of them cropped up in unexpected places.
Right off the bat in January, Pearl Street Pizza lit up North Main Street in Barre. I’m not one to dis Barre’s dining scene, but until Pearl Street, I also wasn’t really one to partake in Barre’s dining scene. My stops there were few and far between.
As I dove into one of Pearl Street’s two-inch-thick, grandma-style pies — paired with a fernet and cola — I knew I’d be back. The lively restaurant has a laid-back vibe, and co-owners Wilson Ballantyne, Stefano Coppola and Chris Ruiz are as welcoming as it gets. The slim bar around the pizza oven is the best seat in the house. You get to watch the action, and it’s just wide enough for a whole grandma pie.
I had my first Monkey House pizza right before Waking Windows in May. The Winooski bar and music venue is the festival’s unofficial center, and its excellent new ‘za was a hot slice for throngs of hungry music lovers. With creative combos such as the burger-inspired Mc-Monkey, the corn-covered elote pie and a bangin’ housemade herby ranch sauce, the Monkey House also became one of my go-to spots for holding evening interviews with industry folks or getting a foldable, on-the-go slice.
The Crooked Ram in Manchester has become my favorite spot for natural wine, hard-to-find craft beer and excellent, sorta-fancy small plates on occasional trips to southern Vermont. The restaurant’s seasonal backyard area — the Yard — opened in 2021, but I didn’t make it there until this July. When I walked down the steps into the huge, stunning space, I knew I’d get good drinks. I wasn’t prepared for the salad pizza: perfectly blistered and topped with parsley, zucchini, spinach, mozzarella and lemon. The pizza oven is outdoors and fired up only when the Yard is open in the summer, so I’ll have to wait ’til things warm up for my next extra-green pie.
— J.B.
After more than two decades of reporting on the seemingly endless innovations in Vermont agriculture, I don’t see much that surprises me anymore. But, among the farm-related stories we wrote this year, a few stood out for their unexpected and positive angles.
I learned of SUSU CommUNITY Farm in 2021 when I heard cofounder Amber Arnold speak eloquently about the need to involve Black and brown people directly in conversations about diversifying land access. It was eye-opening to visit Arnold and cofounder naomi doe moody this summer in Newfane as they and their community started seeing the results of their empowering, collective, land-based movement that expands the definition of what many consider a farm.
In a completely different way, I was astonished by the abundance blooming in the half-acre, suburban Berlin backyard that farmer Abdoulaye Niane has transformed into Khelcom Farm. Niane, a star graduate of the six-month University of Vermont Farmer Training Program, and his wife, Marja Makinen, are building on what they learned in the first year of their business. Since Seven Days visited in July, they’ve added a hoop house and solidified plans to expand into a neighbor’s yard, and they’re collaborating to get Niane’s signature hot sauce to market.
For a sweet ending, let’s head to Pawlet, where Tim and Brooke Hughes-Muse have raised four cheerful children and tons of sweet potatoes on Laughing Child Farm. As the only Vermont farmers who exclusively grow “sweets” (as they call them), the Hughes-Muses eschewed conventional wisdom by choosing a niche approach rather than hedging their bets through diversification. A decade in, they — and other big-thinking Vermont farmers — continue to demonstrate that sometimes you do need to upset the apple (or sweet potato, or chile pepper) cart.
— M.P.
This one shouldn’t be a surprise. The only constant is change, right? Year after pandemic year, Vermont’s dining scene remains in flux, with fresh openings, unfortunate closures and favorite spots changing hands. Yet saying goodbye to Burlington’s Penny Cluse Café knocked everyone for a loop, and we’ll be eagerly anticipating news of its replacement.
In 2022, we saw a new restaurant called May Day inject fresh energy into the former Butch + Babe’s space in Burlington’s Old North End. In Essex, Maliwan Thai Restaurant took over for Joyce’s Noodle House; in Montpelier, Hugo’s Bar & Grill filled the expansive NECI on Main spot; and in Richmond, Vermont Fine got off to a fine start in the longtime home of Kitchen Table Bistro.
Other popular spots changed hands while retaining their beloved identities — and many of the items on their menus. In February, founders Jodi Whalen and Phil Merrick sold Burlington’s August First Bakery & Café to Frank Pace and Marnie Long of Great Northern Catering. It’s still a laptop-free zone. South Burlington’s Parkway Diner and Colchester’s Guilty Plate Diner both reopened under new ownership — the former with a full bar, the latter with barbecue. The North Hero House Inn & Restaurant and Burlington’s Revolution Kitchen also have new owners.
Many Burlington restaurants were on the move this year, including Dobrá Tea (from Church Street to South Winooski Avenue); Shy Guy Gelato (from an old space on St. Paul Street to a more modern one); and, soon, Myer’s Bagels (from Pine Street to Shelburne Road) and Pascolo Ristorante (from a downstairs Church Street spot to a street-level one).
That’s enough change to make a food writer’s head spin, but that wasn’t all. In an encouraging sign, several restaurants grew, opening additional locations, expanding their footprints or adding new concepts. Burlington’s Pingala Café added a second restaurant, in the New North End. The Misery Loves Co. team started Onion City Chicken & Oyster up the circle in Winooski. We can’t wait to check out Honey Road’s recently opened brunch spot, the Grey Jay, at 135 Pearl Street in downtown Burlington, and have already had a fun night at Paradiso in the city’s South End, the new semi-hidden “hi-fi listening bar and lounge” from the Dedalus team. In addition, Leunig’s Bistro & Café opened a new bakery and café, Leunig’s Le Marché, in the former Harrington’s of Vermont store in Shelburne in December.
Stone’s Throw Pizza is expanding to Waterbury — its fourth location. Pho Hong’s owners stuck closer to home, buying their Old North End restaurant space and blowing out a wall to grow into part of the laundromat next door. Jr’s Williston added an adjacent sports bar, Sidebar. In July, owner Bogdan Andreescu transformed his Winooski location from Jr’s Original into Jr’s Original Peking Duck House; in October, the restaurant reverted to its Italian roots.
Kuya’s Sandwiches merged with One Main Tap & Grill to take over Randolph’s corner restaurant as Kuya’s at One Main — and finally got a dishwasher in the bargain. The team from Burlington’s Monarch & the Milkweed hasn’t gone anywhere, but it’s having a wonderfully festive December running the pop-up Devil Takes a Holiday Cocktail Lounge. We’re still waiting to hear the name and details for the bar’s relaunch in January.
Here’s to more change in 2023 — but only the good kind, please.
— J.B.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’re fond of the number seven and multiples thereof. Continuing the tradition we started last year, we present a multicourse tasting menu — including beverages — of 21 highlights from our wide travels during 2022.
Juniper Bar & Restaurant in Burlington is my go-to spot for a cocktail with a view, but an early 2022 visit reminded me of the bar’s stellar beer list. It always features a selection of the elusive, intriguing creations brewed with mixed cultures and many foraged ingredients by Vasilios Gletsos of Wunderkammer Biermanufaktur in tiny Albany.
A couple of times a year, Burlington’s Greek Ladies Philoptochos Society of the Dormition of the Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church throws a bake sale, and I owe a friend for reminding me of this year’s mid-April one. Check the church calendar for dates, and order early if you want to sample my favorite: galaktoboureko, which melds custardy semolina with crisp phyllo.
French-trained chef and St. Louis native Marcus Stittum channels his grandmother at weekly pop-ups of Barbara Jean’s Southern Kitchen at Maudite Poutine’s Tiny Community Kitchen in Burlington’s Old North End. His shatteringly crisp, buttermilk-brined fried chicken, silky collard greens and nutty black-eyed peas do her proud.
Another fine cook I met while writing about Tiny Community Kitchen is Sabah Abbas of Sabah’s House. I wish I’d bought a dozen jars of her makdous: deeply savory, olive oil-marinated, bite-size eggplants stuffed with walnuts, red pepper and garlic.
My gustatory sacrifice of the year involved encouraging friends to order the last Uncut Gems cocktails available the day we visited Caledonia Spirits in Montpelier. The beautifully balanced drink with Tom Cat gin, scented with cardamom and ginger, also stars a hefty hibiscus tea ice cube that makes an amazing popsicle chaser after the glass is drained. Sadly, the bar had only two cubes left.
Every summer, my checklist includes a trip to Glover to see Bread and Puppet Theater and indulge in Red Sky Trading‘s freshly fried cider doughnuts. I take mine “gussied up” with cinnamon-sugar rather than “buck naked.”
If I could eat a whole truck, I would pick Burlington’s Mister Foods Fancy. Whatever chef Paul Trombley is cooking is over-the-top delectable (and, incidentally, vegetarian), from his green goddess dressing-drenched crispy potatoes to his fried halloumi slider with tomato-sesame jam and sumac onions.
Unfortunately, you can’t swing by Liberty Hill Farm & Inn in Rochester just to eat. But overnights come with an excellent homestyle dinner and breakfast, which fueled a reporting trip along Route 100. I’d recommend a stay just to eat farmer/innkeeper Beth Kennett’s tender blueberry pudding cake served with tangy yogurt whipped cream.
Biggest regret: It took me 25 years to order the griddled garlicky kale with queso fresco at Penny Cluse Café. Having redressed that on my last visit in November to the now-shuttered Burlington landmark, I add my voice to the chorus begging for a cookbook.
I will console myself with the latest mad breakfast invention at the Café HOT. in Burlington. Its chicken-fried egg sandwiches involves no chicken (other than the one that laid the egg), but the crisp-coated slab of fried omelette mimics what people love about those fried chicken sammies.
— M.P.
As a relatively new Addison County resident, I spent 2022 cementing my new local rotation: luscious Turkish eggs from Vergennes Laundry, a perfect Sicilian meatball sub from Costello’s Market in Middlebury and crispy smashed potatoes hiding a sweet swipe of V Smiley Preserves at Bristol’s Minifactory.
In February, back in Chittenden County, Uncommon Coffee celebrated the lunar New Year with new #VeryAsian drink specials; the bright purple ube latte became a shop staple and had me stopping in Essex to refuel all year long.
I found another purplish gem at Trenchers Farmhouse in March. The gastronomia’s blueberry-and-corn tortelloni was a taste of summer, but the rutty, thawing road leading to its Lyndonville farmstand was all mud season.
When Sarom’s Café opened in Winooski in the spring, the bright, colorful Vietnamese spot immediately entered my lunch rotation. I like everything that mother-daughter duo Tuyet “Snow” Dinh and Mariana LyThach serve, but I ordered the housemade vegetarian cold-cut bánh mì the most.
I kicked off market season with a cup of the slightly spicy, very refreshing bubbly ginger tea from new Burlington Farmers Market vendor Julian Hackney’s Young at Heart Ginger Beer. Now the small-batch, nonalcoholic ginger beer is back in bottles and on tap around town.
For a road trip up Route 100, I found myself farther south than usual — a great excuse to stop in Jamaica for a piece of Honeypie‘s honey pie. I’ve been lobbying for more southern Vermont stories ever since.
While I was down there, I stopped at Wilmington’s 1a Coffee Roasters for jars of cold-brew and swimming hole advice. I managed to come home with six of the solar-powered roastery’s reusable jars, which I promise to return eventually.
I made it back to Montréal this fall and had a standout meal at Little Italy’s Vin Mon Lapin, where I drank Québec wine and learned the French word for “razor clams.”
Fox Market & Bar, Vermont’s only official gay bar, provided another destination-worthy dinner of curry, dolmas, gluten-free fried chicken and onigiri. Though I’d go far for that food, the East Montpelier spot is so cozy and welcoming that it feels like home.
Overall, it was a very good year for beets — my favorite food. In Burlington, the polarizing magenta veggies were the star of a four-hour industry night meal at May Day (roasted beets with rhubarb, amazake and nasturtium leaves) and a double-down brunch at the Café HOT. (beets in “bonut” and lemonade form). I’m currently savoring the remnants of a pint of beet ice cream from Vergennes’ Lu•Lu in hopes that it’ll last into the New Year.
Finally, Melissa and I are both grateful for Nomad Coffee head baker Chris Johnson and his crave-worthy kouign amanns. The lamination pro’s caramelized, difficult-to-pronounce treats are baking the local pastry scene a butter place (did we mention Johnson’s a pun lover?) — especially when sliced open and stuffed with semifreddo for a rich, flaky ice cream sandwich.
— J.B.
The original print version of this article was headlined “Seven Surprises of 2022 | Seven Days food writers look back on the year’s unexpected highlights”
Tags: , , ,
More Food + Drink Features »
Stone’s Throw Pizza to Open Waterbury Location
The Windjammer Restaurant Adds a Wine Bar in South Burlington
In West Windsor, Chelsea Monroe-Cassel Crafts the Official Cookbooks of Fictional Lands
Comments are closed.
Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

source

What's your reaction?

Excited
0
Happy
0
In Love
0
Not Sure
0
Silly
0

You may also like

More in:Diaspora

Comments are closed.