Archive for February, 2008

The Wayside, Berlin-Montpelier Line


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I hate the phrase “down-home.” I know it’s supposed to make you feel all warm and cozy, designed to suggest an unpretentious, throw another log in the pot-bellied woodstove, ya’ll-come-back-now-ya-hear setting, but when describing a restaurant, it’s not the first word I hope to hear. The very reason I go out to eat is because I want something different than what I prepare in my own home. However, at the Wayside Restaurant, down-home eventually won me over. Read more

American Flatbread — Burlington Hearth


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Pizza and beer. Since the dawn of time, have there ever been two more perfectly suited best friends? Give me a plain cheese and a six-pack of carbonated swill on a Friday night, and I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty happy. Give me a night out at American Flatbread in Burlington, I’m so overcome with epicurean joy that I could almost weep. It’s that good. Read more

Montpelier Pizza


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For a small city, Montpelier is overrun with pizza places; some good, some bad, some gloriously cheap, some with $25 price tags and toppings like kale and tempeh, and some just plain greasy. People say that pizza is like sex, and even when it’s bad, it’s still kind of good. I see several flaws in that theory and as a Montpelierite and a lifelong pizza fan, I have found that when a person knows what they’re doing, it will be really great. The pizza, I mean. Here’s a rundown of the noteworthy: Read more

Penny Cluse, Burlington


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Penny Cluse serves the best breakfast in Vermont. Hands down, case closed, all other morning eateries can dry their eyes on their own half-rate pancakes.

Located on Cherry Street in downtown Burlington, “The Cluse,” as we insiders affectionately call it, has been serving up their in-high-demand brunch since Charles Reeves and Holly Cluse opened in 1998. I think I’ve actually eaten breakfast there fifty times or more, and I can’t think of a single time that I’ve been disappointed with the comforting, fresh, impeccably prepared food. I’ve tried almost everything on the menu, but for the last several years I’ve been ordering the same thing (tofu scram with salsa, side of fruit, chicken sausage) and when I think about that perfect plate of food, I could actually cry — it’s just that good. Read more

Hen of the Wood, Waterbury


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Hen of the Wood is a restaurant that will change your life.

Okay, maybe I’m just floating on the euphoric high that a late summer dinner at the place induced, maybe I’m remembering those corn fritters that I ordered, and how they brought me back to the Augusts of my childhood, seeing my father coming in from the fields with the first bushel of sweet corn under his arm, but until I take some sort of downer or eat a bad taco, I’m riding this lovely, buttery cloud and sticking by my statement. Read more

Mario Batali Silicone Spoonula


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Mario Batali Silicone SpoonulaUsually I would hate this item based solely on the word, “spoonula,” not actually a word, but just a grammatical annoyance like “spork,” “guesstimate,” or “funexpected.” But I love it! I love it for its heat-resistant silicone, oval-shaped head, as bright orange as the neon Crocs that Batali boldly sports. I love its burly, wooden handle. I love its not-quite-a-spatula, not-quite-a-spoon identity crisis characterized by its slight curves. It’s incredibly heat resistant, perfect for pushing around scrambled eggs or caramelizing onions, safe for all of your non-stick pans, and there’s just something cheerful about its sunny presence in your utensil crock. It cost me about $7, but it was money well-spent, because every time I use it, it just feels like it was meant for my hand. Spoontacular.

All-Clad Double Burner Griddle


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All-Clad Double Burner GriddleOde to All-Clad, the cookware that I long for yet I can’t afford. I have satisfied this craving for $150 sauce pots with a line of Cusinart stainless pans, an elegant knockoff, right down to the style of the riveted handles — the poor-man’s All-Clad. The Cuisinart has been good to me over the years, and continues to exhibit a solid construction and absolute reliability. But All-Clad, the supermodel of pans still calls my name. So recently, like a drug dealer offering me “just a little taste” before I become a strung-out junkie, All-Clad sealed the deal with the LTD Nonstick Grande Griddle. The griddle has been my doorway into the world of All-Clad, and seriously, I want to go to bed with this thing at night. It’s a double burner affair, so it performs really well on a gas stove, since heat control is a no-brainer. It’s passed the pancake test with flying colors several times over, with the flapjacks that are positioned on the surface between burners cooking evenly. Fried eggs can be flipped with ease on the nonstick surface, and sautéing large quantities of peppers and onions will make you feel like you’re working the flat-top at your favorite diner. It’s enough to make you want to shout, “Order up!” when the French toast is done. Clean-up is painless, though I wouldn’t suggest putting it in the dishwasher or using any kind of abrasive sponge/brush on it. I mean, this is All-Clad for Pete’s sake. Have some respect.

Retails for about $170 at some stores, though it can sometimes be found on Amazon for $99.

9” Scanpan Ceramic Titanium Skillet


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I think I’ve found the perfect omelet pan and I am ready to shout from the rooftops that Danish company Scanpan’s 9” skillet is my new best friend. The ideal size for a three-egg omelet (I am ridiculously hungry in the morning), the pan continues to dazzle me with its magical non-stick powers, and manages to do so with zero Teflon in sight. Not a coating or some kind of low-rent factory spray, the Scanpan is made of ceramic titanium, which, when treated with care, can be indestructible — this is space shuttle stuff. The company even claims that it’s safe to use with metal utensils, and backs up that saucy declaration by guaranteeing it for life. I have never had to use any kind of scouring pad or brush during clean up, even after scrambled eggs, and omelets actually slide right out of the pan with grace, thanks to its shallow, gently sloped edges. It takes a while to heat up, thanks to the heavy aluminum bottom, but that will only serve you well, if, like me, you detest brown, overcooked eggs. The pan retails for around $50 and is absolutely worth the investment.

Zyliss Garlic Press


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It’s easy to go through a garlic press a year, because most of them just aren’t built to last. They’re designed with weak hinges, chipable chrome and little cleaning tools that never really get into those tiny holes, leaving you with post-dishwasher garlic stucco in your press. Now I know, it could be argued that any self-respecting cook should avoid garlic presses like Bisquick, that the only way to show garlic the love it deserves is to chop it by hand. Maybe it’s just me and my freakishly porous skin, but this method leaves my fingers smelling like salami for days. So critics be damned, I found a wonderful garlic press, the Susi by the Swiss company Zyliss. Compact and sleek, lacking the bulky design of so many of its peers, the aluminum press had me at hello when I realized how perfectly it can be operated with one hand. It retails at around $15 and has the capacity to fit a couple of cloves at once. It’s not going to last you a lifetime (few presses will), but it’s been a good friend of mine for about five years until its finish recently wore away and it began to turn my garlic black with aluminum smudges. But truly, this isn’t a deal-breaker. I’m going to buy myself an identical replacement, because I’ve crunched the numbers, and since this thing has been so useful for half a decade, I’ve had perfectly pressed garlic and salami-free hands for about three dollars a year. Not too shabby.

A Binder Even More Useful than your Old Ghostbusters Trapper Keeper


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If you like Cook’s Illustrated magazine, you will adore The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Ring-bound like a binder and separated into easy-to-turn-to tabbed sections like “Poultry,” “Rice and Grains” and “Appetizers,” the book has become one of my new favorites. It’s filled with over 1,200 simple, easy to follow recipes, none of which make any claim to be fancy, but all of which have been “kitchen-tested” and Christopher Kimball approved. In typical America’s Test Kitchen fashion, it will instruct you on making the perfect mashed potatoes, flawless meatballs, and macaroni and cheese worthy of a Throwdown with Bobby Flay (though he would surely put chipotle in his). The book contains some true gems, including the best teriyaki recipe I’ve ever come across and a skillet lasagna that will rock your socks off.
Priced at $34.95.

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