Archive for the ‘Vermont’Category

Vermont’s Crowley Cheese an American original

Crowley Cheese factory in Healdville, Vermont
Cheesemakers always seem like magicians, using a straightforward process and a few ingredients to transform perishable milk into tasty blocks that improve with age. Here in the U.S., the folks at Crowley Cheese in Vermont (802-259-2340, www.crowleycheese.com) have been doing it longer than anyone else on record, or so they say.

Dipping cheese at Crowley Cheese in Healdville, Vermont The Crowley family started selling their own cheese in 1824. In 1882, Winfield Crowley built the current factory to expand on his family’s farmhouse kitchen cheesemaking operation that used milk from their dairy herd. The factory still produces cheese with raw milk from several local herds.

In the world of cheeseheads, Crowley is an “American Original.” It is a cheese with a North American pedigree that owes nothing to the old country. Never big on the fine points of taste, the Food and Drug Administration disregarded the Crowley history when it classified Crowley as a “Colby.” The Colby category was “invented” in Wisconsin in 1885, six decades after the Crowley family started making their washed-curd cheese.

The factory and sales room is open daily to visitors. It’s on Healdville Road in Healdville, a village of Mt. Holly. Fortunately, Google Maps and most GPS systems have it in their databases. The workers only make cheese a few days a week—sometimes Tuesday through Thursday, sometimes Wednesday through Friday. It’s not a process to be rushed, and takes most of the day. However, much of the time is devoted to standing around and waiting.

Making the cheese


Raking curd at Crowley Cheese in Healdville, Vermont Early in the morning, workers pump 5,000 pounds of whole raw milk into stainless steel tubs. The cheesemaker adds lactobacillus culture (the same microbe that turns milk into yogurt) to convert the milk sugar into lactic acid. After more heating, the cheesemaker stirs in rennet. This separates cheese curds from the watery whey. As the cheese sets up, the workers cut the curd into small pieces. When it looks like popcorn and has the resiliency of a pencil eraser, they start scooping the curds into a second sink. The staff—usually the cheesemaker and two or three assistants—knead the curd while running water on it to wash away the residual acidity. After salting, the curds are packed into molds and placed in a press. By the next morning, whole wheels of cheese are formed. They are ready to be dipped in wax and aged to varying degrees of sharpness. Because Crowley lacks the acid of a cheddar, it ages much more quickly. At two years, it is as ripe as a five-year-old cheddar.

The sales room has lots of samples, including several flavored cheeses. (The Crowley family used to give sage-infused blocks as Christmas presents.) One of the more recent flavor additions is “muffaletta,” which contains a chopped mix of various olives. Most folks opt for the medium sharp. Those with a hankering for old-fashioned general store cheese choose the two-year-old sharp. It can be pretty tangy, but lacks the back-of-the-throat bite of a cheddar. On our last visit in September, we stumbled on a rare cache of extra-sharp. It was spectacular for the grilled cheese, chopped tomato, and crumbled bacon sandwich below. (The filling is the same as a BLT that we posted last year: hungrytravelers.com/tomatoes-meet-match-bacon-basil/.)
Grilled cheese, bacon, and tomato sandwich made with Crowley Cheese

05

10 2016

Lincoln Inn emerges as Vermont’s gourmet destination

Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont
The Lincoln Inn in Woodstock is among the most European of the little inns in Vermont, and not just because chef Jevgenija Saromova hails from Latvia. She and innkeeper partner Mara Mehlman describe the property as a “restaurant with rooms.” That’s a model common in the European countryside, and often signals great dining. Think, for example, of Maison Troisgros, one of the pioneers of modern French cuisine.

Woodstock isn’t Roanne, of course, and Jevgenija Saromova (or Chef Saromova, as she prefers) isn’t Jean or Pierre Troisgros. Not yet, anyway. But she has impressive classical culinary credentials and a personal style unique in northern New England. She worked in top restaurants in Italy, France, and England before joining Mehlman in Vermont. The two women have applied the model of the French “auberge” to an 1875 farmhouse with six charming, carefully decorated rooms and green lawns that roll down to the Ottauquechee River.

Innkeeper Mara Mehlman of the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont A native Californian, Mara first dreamed of living in Vermont when she took a Vermont foliage bicycle tour. Years later, she purchased the property, thoroughly renovated the building, and re-opened the inn rooms in July 2014. It became a gastronomic destination when Chef Saromova arrived from England a few months later. The women clearly love Vermont—skiing in the winter, kayaking in the summer—but they have no intention of replicating traditional New England fare.

“We’re not about maple syrup and cheddar cheese,” says Mara. “This is fine dining.”

Chef Saromova explains. “I don’t like boring food plates,” she says. “I like to combine textures and flavors.”

Refined Dining


Chef Jevgenija Saromova of the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, VermontChef Saromova spent nearly two decades as a member or leader of a kitchen brigade, but she works alone in the Lincoln Inn kitchen. Every dish is created to her taste and executed precisely as she envisions it. In effect, every diner gets the personal attention of the master chef. During most of the year, the restaurant serves a four-course prix fixe dinner Thursday through Sunday, with a more casual tavern night on Wednesdays. During foliage season, nights for dinner increase and tavern night goes on hiatus. The four-course meals—$55 per person—are gourmet pleasures. The menu changes daily. True to Chef Saromova’s word, it’s anything but boring. The Inn at Woodstock and other area lodgings send their foodie guests here for the full-blown fine-dining experience—complete with an excellent and surprising wine list.

Paul Newman Dining Room at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont In addition to the main dining room tables, one party per evening can book the Chef’s Table for a seven- or twelve-course tasting menu. Some of the plates are variations of those on the four-course menu, while others include specialized or especially precious ingredients. The Chef’s Table is served in the Paul Newman dining room (left). Newman and his family used to vacation here and a previous owner enclosed a side porch as their private dining room. One diner at the table faces a photograph of Newman in his prime, and some ladies have been known to fantasize that they were having dinner with the actor. We enjoyed a seven-course meal that ranks as one of the most memorable we’ve eaten stateside in a long time. Each course demonstrated another aspect of the chef’s ability to exploit taste and texture combinations for yet another striking composition.

Gazpacho served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Chilled Gazpacho and Olive Tapenade Crostini


Chef Saromova grows her own kitchen garden in the river bottom land behind the inn. Despite this year’s drought, she had good crops of tomatoes. Her take on chilled gazpacho is especially sweet from both the tomatoes and the roasted red peppers. It also has just a hint of red onion. The saltiness of methodically hand-pitted ripe olives (Kalamata and Niçoise by the taste) in the tapenade brings out the fresh vegetable flavors, while the paper-thin crostini give visual interest to the composition of the dish and a satisfying crunch. The dish was reveille for the taste buds: Fall in and stand at attention.

Lobster served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Lobster and Mascarpone-Enriched Orzo


Butter-poached lobster tail is a classic of French haute cuisine. The technique demands a low temperature to keep the butter from browning. Lobster cooked this way is more tender than boiled or steamed. Orzo and chopped mild greens mixed with a judicious bit of mascarpone form a presentation base for the lobster meat. The sweetness of the cheese calls the lobster’s sweetness to the fore.

Sea bass and scallop served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Sea Bass and Seared Scallops


Neither sea bass nor scallops strike any diner as unusual, but Chef Saromova’s approach to serving them together as a fish course speaks volumes about her classical training and her command of technique. The sea bass—striped bass, in this case, rather than more conventional farmed sea bass—is roasted in a persillade. Traditionally, persillade is a chopped parsley and garlic preparation that most chefs use throughout a meal. This version was light on the garlic and included enough mustard and breadcrumbs that it sealed in juices of this sometimes dry fish. The scallop was perfectly seared—just barely cooked through. For contrast, the sea bass came with stewed black-eyed peas. The legumes emphasize the meatiness of the fish. The scallop sat on a pasta-like salad of thin strips of cucumber and white radish lightly dressed with champagne vinegar—sharp flavors that highlight the scallop’s delicacy.

beet and goat cheese salad served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Beet, Goat Cheese, Granita Salad


The photo above doesn’t really do justice to this inventive salad where so many things were happening on the plate. The slices of red and yellow beet (left side) were sweet and delicious. They paired nicely with fresh lettuce leaves and a slice of soft goat cheese. The pomegranate-orange granita, however, elevated everything with a tart punch. The pickled cherry was, well, the cherry on top. The “dust” on the plate was dehydrated beet that had been pulverized in a blender. It was a pretty touch. The salad completely refreshed our palates before the meat courses began.

Filet and escargot served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Filet Mignon, Ravioli, and Escargot/Oyster Fricasee


This dish is an embarrassment of riches. Fortunately, each of the premium ingredients was restricted to a small portion. The raviolo atop the small piece of perfectly cooked, perfectly salted filet mignon was filled with an explosive mix of truffle and foie gras—pretty much an orgy of umami. Surprisingly, the oyster shell filled with a fricassee of escargot and oyster was equally dark, savory, and garlicky. Even more surprising, the snails were juicy and tender. (Face it—snails are usually rubbery.) The sweet potato purée provided a contrast of smooth and sweet to chewy and meaty. It was a brilliant dish.

Lamb two ways served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Lamb Chop and Smoked Lamb Breast


Lamb two ways is another Escoffier classic, but Chef Saromova’s variant is pure Vermont country. The lamb chop here is cut from a roasted rack. It was perfect. The second lamb dish was the breast—or brisket. She boned, rolled, and tied it up with string. After brining it for 20 hours, she cold-smoked with cherry chips for two hours, and braised it six hours until it was falling apart. As if the meats weren’t unctuous enough, Chef Saromova served them with figs poached in port wine. The little “berries” are actually balsamic glaze mixed with agar-agar and olive oil, then frozen so that they form little beads of explosive flavor. It’s just proof that such touches predate so-called molecular cuisine.

Chocolate delice served at the Lincoln Inn in Woodstock, Vermont

Chocolate and Fruit


Chef Saromova clearly favors creamy desserts. The chocolate delice—essentially a chocolate terrine with cookie crumb base and chocolate icing—is the ostensible star of this plate. The “bars” are a champagne and strawberry terrine. The flavor favors the wine over the fruit. By contrast, the strawberry sorbet tastes more intensely of strawberry than most fresh strawberries do. Capping it all off, the sweetened vanilla yogurt has a skin that makes it explode in the mouth.

Coffee, anyone?

Lincoln Inn & Restaurant at the Covered Bridge, 2709 W. Woodstock Rd., Woodstock, VT 05091; 802-457-7052; www.lincolninn.com.

Carrot mac & cheese for grown-ups

closeup of carrot mac & cheese
We encounter a lot of great food when we work on researching and updating our Food Lovers’ books about the New England states. But a simple and delicious plate of carrot mac & cheese from Daily Planet in Burlington (15 Center St., 802-862-9647, www.dailyplanet15.com) stuck in our minds. We ate it one chilly night at the bar of this bohemian downtown favorite with a moderately priced contemporary locavore menu and wondered why we had never thought of it ourselves.

A quick Google search revealed that a number of cooks had thought about such a dish. But most of the recipes we could find used either grated carrot or puréed cooked carrots and seemed designed to fool the kids into eating a vegetable. The Daily Planet version was more elegant. The carrots gave the dish a pale golden color and a subtle earthy flavor that had not been smothered in an excess of cheese.

We never got around to coming up with our own version, but this cold and snowy New England winter had us craving comfort foods. One day in our local Whole Foods, we took a look at the fresh juices and had an inspiration. Did Daily Planet substitute carrot juice for the milk while making the base bechamel sauce? It would certainly explain the fresh carrot flavor and the grown-up texture.

We gave it a try, and found the following recipe makes a good carrot mac & cheese that doesn’t taste like Gerber puréed carrots.

CARROT MAC & CHEESE

Serves 2combining carrot mac & cheese

Ingredients

6 oz (1 cup) elbow macaroni
2 teaspoons butter
1/3 cup fine bread crumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
14 oz. (1 2/3 cups) carrot juice
1/2 medium onion, finely minced
pinch of paprika
bay leaf
1 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Set oven at 350°F. Grease deep 1-quart casserole dish. Set a large pot of water on high heat to bring to boil.

2. Cook elbow macaroni per directions until al dente.

3. While macaroni is cooking, melt 2 teaspoons butter and add to bread crumbs. Stir until crumbs are well-coated.

4. In a large saucepan, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and stir in flour until well-mixed. Whisk in carrot juice and stir in minced onion, paprika, and bay leaf. Let simmer, stirring to avoid sticking on the bottom, until bechamel thickens.

5. Stir in 1 1/4 cup grated cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Add macaroni to cheese sauce. Place half of mixture in casserole dish and sprinkle with half of remaining cheese. Spoon remaining macaroni mix into dish, and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Cover with toasted bread crumbs and bake until crumbs are lightly browned (about 30 minutes).

18

03 2015

Six things to bring home from Vermont

It’s official. The Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire has shipped to stores and is available online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Thanks to our efficient editors, we beat the technical publication date of July 3.

In addition to restaurants, the book highlights great shops and local food producers. Vermont may be best known for maple syrup and cheddar cheese, but there’s a whole lot more. Here are some of our favorite things to bring home from the Green Mountain State.

The Red Bar from Middlebury Chocolates (2377 Route 7 South, Middlebury, VT; 802-989-1610; www.middleburychocolates.com) is the hardcore chocolate lovers’ chocolate. Stephanie and Andy Jackson make all their chocolates straight from the bean. The Red Bar, says Andy, is “a throwback to the earliest known recipes.” It has a wild mix of sour, mellow, toasted, and sweet notes. While the book was at press, the couple moved into spacious new quarters south of town. They re-open for business on Friday (June 15).

Who would expect wine—let alone good wine—in Vermont? But Snow Farm Vineyard (190 West Shore Rd., South Hero, VT; (802) 372-9463; www.snowfarm.com) produces some outstanding estate-grown varietal wines. Many are available all over Vermont, but you have to go to the winery to buy the limited-edition Pinot Noir, American Riesling, and (our favorite), the Late Harvest Vignobles, a lush dessert wine with pronounced apricot notes.

We love the controlled smoke flavor imparted at Green Mountain Smokehouse (341 Route 5 South, Windsor, VT; (802) 674-6653; www.greenmountainsmokehouse.com). Koreen and Jake Henne smoke all their meats on the premises and sell to individuals only at their factory. We like to stop for the bargain-priced bacon ends, which we dice up to use in chowders, stews, and in place of guanciale in amatriciana. (See here for our recipe.)

When we go to the farm or catch them at a farmers’ market, we’ll often buy a young, soft-rind cheese made by Consider Bardwell Farm (1333 Route 153, West Pawlet, VT; (802) 645-9928; www.considerbardwellfarm.com) to eat right away. To take home, we’re partial to the creamy Pawlet aged raw milk cheese from Jersey cows. It’s an Italian-style Toma and multiple award winner from the American Cheese Society and World Cheese championships.

Mark Simakaski and Nichole Wolfgang taught beekeeping when they were in the Peace Corps; now they make mead (honey wine) that ranks among some of the world’s best. Artesano Meadery (1334 Scott Highway (Route 302), Groton, VT; (802) 584-9000; www.artesanomead.com) produces about 1,000 cases a year. We prefer the dry traditional mead without fruit infusions.

Sheep are always grazing on the hillside when you approach Vermont Shepherd Cheese (281 Patch Farm Road, Putney, VT; (802) 387-4473; www.vermontshepherd.com), and the little sales building looks like something out of a fairy tale. You can buy yarn spun from the herd’s wool as well as local honey. But we make a beeline for the refrigerator and pre-cut wedges of the best aged ewe’s milk cheese in North America.

12

06 2012

Recapturing a great flavor of New Hampshire


Our latest book, Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire (Globe Pequot Press), just arrived two days ago and it brought back fond memories of the research. One of our favorite meals was at the Bedford Village Inn, when Benjamin Knack, fresh from a season on Hell’s Kitchen, had just take over the dining program for this romantic destination property.

It so happens that Ben makes a killer gnocchi, which he claimed was so simple that even his then 4-year-old daughter could do it. There are a couple of secrets to getting just the right texture. The potatoes should be cooked so they “squeak like Styrofoam when you squeeze them,” he says. And they should be pushed quickly through the sieve so the potato remains warm while you’re making the gnocchi.

That particular night we ate the gnocchi tossed with duck confit, but they’re equally good dressed in a light sauce made of roasted tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and nothing more. We managed to get the Bedford Village Inn into Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire, but the gnocchi recipe arrived too late to make the first edition. Next time, maybe. In the meantime, here it is in all its glory (and simplicity).

GNOCCHI WITH ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

3 russet potatoes
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 pinch pepper
1 egg
1 cup flour

Directions

1. Bake the potatoes until they are soft (about 45 min) in a 350-degree oven. While still warm, cut in half and, using the skin, push through a sieve or tamis onto a table top.

2. Sprinkle cheese, salt, and pepper over potatoes and cut in with bench scraper. Break egg on top and cut into potato mix until well incorporated.

3. Add flour and cut in until it is fully incorporated. Knead gently until a ball is formed. Flatten dough to about 3/4 inch.

4. Cut dough into 3/4 inch dowels and cut dowels into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss uncooked gnocchi in flour and allow to dry for 15 minutes.

5. Set 6 quarts water, well salted, to boil in large pot.

7. Drop gnocchi into boiling water and cook until they float. Then allow to cook for 2-3 more minutes.

8. Toss with 1/4 cup canola oil and store covered in refrigerator up to 48 hours until ready to serve.

ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

5 vine-ripened tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Set oven to 350F.

2. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in roasting pan and cook 25-30 minutes.

3. Remove tomatoes from oven. Separate skins and discard. Purée tomatoes until smooth. Add 1/4 cup olive oil while blending and add salt and pepper to taste.

from Benjamin Knack, executive chef at the Bedford Village Inn

Montreal bargain lunches

Of all the guidebook series we work on, the research for the Food Lovers’ series may be the most fun. Our most recent published volume was on Montreal, but we didn’t spend all our time eating foie gras or dining at innovative contemporary restaurants.

We’re always on the lookout for good values, and we found 10 great lunches for about $10 where we could tap into various strains of Montreal culture. We recently published that roundup in the Boston Globe. You’ll find the results as a pair of PDFs on our Sample Articles page.

We are just about finished writing our next volume, Food Lovers’ Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire, and have a refrigerator full of artisanal cheese, cured pork products, and storage vegetables that we brought back to Cambridge from our research forays. Inspired by the great grilled cheese sandwich we had at Maison Cheddar in Montreal’s Outremont neighborhood (it’s in the Boston Globe article), we took some of that provender to improvise a New England locavore grilled cheese lunch.

The sharp cheddar cheese came from Vermont, a fig-walnut jam spread came from Stonewall Kitchen in Maine, and a few slices of Fox Smoke House bacon hailed from the woods of New Hampshire. We put those ingredients between a couple of slices of Nashoba Brook Bakery’s ”Harvest” bread, a sourdough studded with nuts, fruits, and candied ginger. (Nashoba Brook is in West Concord, Massachusetts.) As a counterpoint, we grated some Vermont carrots, added some golden raisins, and tossed them with a little cider vinegar, salt, a pinch of sugar, and a few drops of milk to make a Montreal-style carrot salad. Not bad. It succeeded in bring a taste of travel back home.

11

12 2011