Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spicy Early Spring

Local Food: Falafel is a traditional dish of the Middle East and North Africa, providing lots of protein from the simple chickpea bean, and loved by Arabs and Israelis alike. Steven's approach to the ultimate street food replaces the chickpeas with local black beans from Butterworks Farm and tofu from Vermont Soy. We serve it as you might find it in Israel, Palestine, or Lebanon - with honey yogurt, made with Butterworks yogurt and Honey Gardens honey, and a spicy carrot sauce reminiscent of harissa, which provides a little kick from jalapenos that we dried in house on ristras.

Around the Galaxy: For all of you reading The Town That Food Saved and eager to discuss it with your neighbors, we will host a book discussion at Claire's on Saturday, April 10th at 3:30. Hope to see you there.

Music Notes: Dave Keller returns Thursday, April 1st at 7:30. His original soul and blues music is both stirring and reassuring.

Local Events: It's time to make big plans for the 2010 Hardwick Spring Festival and the Sustainable Living and Agricultural Fair! Attend the organizational meeting at the Center for an Agricultural Economy at 7:00 on Tuesday March 30th to help plan or volunteer. For more information, call Elena at the Center, 472-5840.

Alex Botinelli's artist reception is today from 4 to 6. Come to meet the artist, and stay for dinner.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Sugar Shack Shimmies

Local Food: There's no surer sign of spring in Vermont than sugaring in full swing and a sugar shack warm from the heat of boiling sap. Maple syrup is the first "harvest" of the year, and it is celebrated in a simple dish called poudding chômeur, developed by women factory workers in Quebec and brought to Vermont by immigrant families. A literal translation would be "poor man's pudding," a frugal mixture of northern staples from the cupboard that combine to form a creamy dessert. Served piping hot, Steven's version of this tradition brings the flavors and fragrance of the sugar shack to your table. Enjoy it with a latte or spiced cider.

Around the Galaxy: Thank you to over 40 people who pre-ordered The Town That Food Saved at Galaxy and thereby contributing over $200 to the Hardwick Area Food Pantry. If you haven't gotten your copy yet, Galaxy is well stocked. On Saturday, April 10th at 3:30, Galaxy will host a discussion of the book at Claire's.

Music Notes: Old-time stringband The House Carpenters will play Thursday, March 25, at 7:30. Be sure to come out and support local musicians Katie Trautz, Ted Ingham and Dan Haley.

Local Art: Hardwick resident Alex Botinelli brings an exhibit of paintings and mixed media work to Claire's beginning Tuesday, March 23. Her art explores the relationship between composition, form and color. The opening reception with Alex is Monday, March 29, from 4-6 pm.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Book on Hardwick on VPR

Author Ben Hewitt appears on Vermont edition to discuss his new book, The Town that Saved Food, an open and engaging appraisal of the Hardwick food system. The program is scheduled for Tuesday, March 16, at noon. If you miss the live broadcast, visit to access a podcast of the program. And later on Tuesday, meet the author in person at The Galaxy Bookshop or have a beer with him at our bar.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Local Grill: Our burger starts with grass fed beef from Snug Valley Farm, served on a toasted bun crafted especially for Claire's by Charlie at Patchwork Farm. The burger is grilled to order and can be topped with either Grafton Cheddar, Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue, or bacon from Winding Brook Farm, along with Toll-a-Bell sprouts and onion from Pete's Greens. Riverside Farm sends along potatoes we hand cut and serve with Steven's new apple ketchup - just the right balance of spicy, sweet, and tangy to go along with the crisp fries and juicy burger.

Reservations: Help us plan accordingly to make your dining experience a pleasant one every time you join us for dinner or blunch. If you know in advance that you will be coming in, please do your best to call or email to make a reservation.

Around the Galaxy: Don't miss the World Premier of Ben Hewitt's new book, The Town That Food Saved, at The Galaxy Bookshop on Tuesday, March 16 at 7:00 pm. Reserve a place for dinner at Claire's before or after the book talk for a special $25 prix fixe dinner or enjoy our regular menu. You can also come by after to raise a pint to the author at the bar.

Music Notes: The Motel Brothers return on Thursday March 18 at 7:30 to play original acoustic Americana from the Green Mountains. James Bentley writes, sings, plays guitar and harmonica while Eric "Nord" Segalstad plays mandolin, lead guitar and sings.

What Can Hardwick Really Teach the Rest of America?

by Melissa Pasanen
(reprinted with permission from the Center for an Agricultural Economy -

Book titles are always tricky, but the title of Ben Hewitt’s new book, “The Town That Food Saved,” put me on hyperbole alert before I even saw the advance proof. To be fair, that was only partially the fault of the title.

You’d have to live under a rock in the Vermont food and farming world to be ignorant of what’s going on around Hardwick, the Northeast Kingdom town that is the subject of this book and of the identically titled article by Hewitt published on Gourmet magazine’s website in October 2008. In fact, anyone interested in food and agriculture in Vermont is so aware of all the attention paid by everyone from Emeril Lagasse to Dan Rather that the very mention of Hardwick often prompts eyeballs to roll even as people acknowledge that yes, there are good things going on in Hardwick. There is perhaps a wee bit of jealousy involved but, more importantly, a justified feeling that there are other places in Vermont doing valuable work to re-imagine and rebuild a local food system so why does Hardwick get all the press – and now a full-length book?

Hewitt, thankfully, is sensitive to the aggressive claim his title makes and also, as a seasoned freelance journalist, he is fully aware of how the media can build a nice little story into the next best thing since sliced bread – or rather, a hearty unsliced loaf of local baker Charlie Emers’ bread, as good an icon as any to represent a return to a pre-Wonder bread food system. For journalists, Hewitt points out early in his book, Hardwick’s agriculture-based renaissance offered a story that “was just so damn…perfect…neatly wrapped in recycled paper and adorned with a big, fat biodegradable bow.” In the end though, thanks to Hewitt’s capable and insightful storytelling, Hardwick makes a very useful case history of how one rural, downtrodden town has been reinvigorated through efforts to grow new businesses that happen to be food-based at a time when America seems to have finally accepted that our industrialized food system needs to change.

While Hewitt spends some time on facts and analysis, mostly he lets the characters drive his narrative and illustrate his points, making the book a truly engaging read. Hardwick provides good material and Hewitt has an eye and ear for illuminating and often entertaining detail. (Although there are few cases of TMI - as in the case of Tom Stearns’ expertise at armpit farting.) Among the many colorful personalities, though, if there are heroes in this book they’d come in the unlikely form of Ralph and Cindy Persons, a couple “on the wrong side of 50” who might start their day with apple pie and cold pizza along with a Bud Light and Clamato “breakfast beer.” The Persons operate a mobile slaughterhouse and, Hewitt argues, “have done more for their town’s food security, quality, and accessibility than anyone else…For $50, Ralph and Cindy will come to your home, shoot your pig in the head, make a deep slice in its throat to sever the jugular veins, hoist it into the air…, skin it, remove its viscera…, and saw it neatly in half.” Their chapter concludes with Ralph Persons explaining, “I like to tell people little things…Like how to cook heart so the whole family will love it, or make liver so their kids will eat it.” Of course, Hewitt reflects, it’s little things like this that make all the difference.

The Persons are part of the old guard Hewitt describes – from multi-generation farmers to the back-to-the-landers of the 70s and early 80s – who have been doing the local food thing for decades or longer and just quietly go about their business while the media fusses over the new young crop of “visionaries.” This dichotomy, it turns out not surprisingly, is the biggest conflict in the story. As one of the old-school , hippie generation of local farmers, Annie Gaillard of Surfing Veggie Farm, puts it to Hewitt: “I think we’re all on the same page on how to make this a better planet, but they make it sound like there was nothing here before.” At least one of the lower key members of the new guard, Tom Gilbert of the Highfields Center for Composting , acknowledges this point: “There’s a lot of hype right now…We have not created a new food system in Hardwick; we’re just rebuilding and utilizing an infrastructure that was already there. I think we let the media get ahead of us.”

“The Town That Food Saved,” winds down with Gaillard extending a hand across the divide to become a board member of the Center for an Agricultural Economy, the nonprofit founded by the new generation. In the last scene of the book, Hewitt takes a spot at the bar of Claire’s Restaurant on Main Street and watches a mix of the people he’s spent time with during his research arrive to eat carefully prepared, locally raised food. He reflects on what Hardwick can teach the rest of the country about not only relocalizing the food system but also about reconnecting with each other and with nature. “We’ve forgotten that every economy is ultimately an economy that exists only with the blessing of the sun and the land…Yet we have fooled ourselves into believing that we can usurp these forces through the blunt application of wit and will and the technologies they give rise to,” he writes. “That time is coming to a close. Change or be changed: These are the choices. The people of Hardwick have chosen the former.”

It wouldn’t have made as catchy a title, but Hewitt has made his most important point: Food doesn’t save towns. People do.
Melissa Pasanen is a South Burlington-based freelance writer and co-author of the New York Times notable cookbook, “ Cooking with Shelburne Farms” (Viking, 2007). She is food editor of Vermont Life and a regular contributor to The Burlington Free Press and Edward Behr’s Art Eating.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Local Libations

Local Libations: Multi-talented Linda Fox helps us keep summer alive year round with her organic cocktail syrups. She preserves her garden's bounty to make sweet elixirs from blueberry, elderberry, raspberry, strawberry and hot pepper as well as ginger and others. Try them in one of our one-of-a-kind "localvore" cocktails like the blackberry gimlet.

Don't forget, making reservations helps us ensure your dining experience is all that it should be.

Around the Galaxy: We're excitedly awaiting the arrival of Ben Hewitt's book The Town That Food Saved. Buy your copy before the World Premier event on March 16th, and we'll give $5 of the purchase price to the Hardwick Area Food Pantry. Call, stop by, or visit for details, including a special menu at Claire's.

Music Notes: Jay Ekis and Brian Clark bring their guitars and alt-country rock stylings on Thursday at 7:30. Stop by and support your local music.

Local Events: Visit High Mowing Seeds on Saturday, March 20 for their free annual "End-of-Winter Gathering." Look for the facility tour from 4-5, potluck dinner from 5-6 and a slideshow and discussion of vegetable varieties from 6-7. For more information, call 472-6174.

Hours: We're open from 2:30-5:00 for baked goods, coffee and bar service. Sundays and Mondays, we feature pint, wine and cocktail specials, as well as the Monday grilled cheese, fries and Switchback for $7 after 5:00.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Town That Food Saved

This month, join in the World Premier of Ben Hewitt's book about Hardwick, The Town That Food Saved. Meet the author at The Galaxy Bookshop at 7:00 on March 16. And that night, we'll feature a three course $25 prix fixe dinner crafted by Steven to celebrate the farmers, artisans, and producers highlighted in Ben's book. Reserve the special menu today for before or after the book talk, or join us for our regular dinner menu.

To Start:
Sprout and Beet Salad
Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
Pete's Greens, Surfing Veggie Farm & Jasper Hill

Main Course choice of:
Root Vegetable Pot Pie with Cornmeal Crust
Butterworks Farm & Pete's Greens
Beef Stew with Mashed Potatoes
Pete's Greens & Riverside Farm

Soy Milk Maple Crème Brûlée
Vermont Soy, Windhorse Farm & Caledonia Farm