Friday, July 14, 2017

Dine on Nine: Jezebel's Eatery


This is the latest in a series of reviews I call Dine on Nine.  Route 9 goes all across the south of Vermont and is lined with several communities between Bennington and Brattleboro.  People from all walks of life end up on this little stretch of highway, and there are not just fun diners, drive ins and dives, but fine dining establishments offering up classic as well as innovative fare.  

Today's review concerns the village of Willmington, a village close to Mount Snow between Bennington and Brattleboro.

Stopping into Jezebel's is easy - they are open breakfast lunch and dinner, and provide seating inside and outside in the warm months.

For being a teensy town, Wilmington has a lot of nice places crammed in their few blocks of interesting, historic commercial district. I'm beginning to explore beyond Dot's, which has generally captured my attention for breakfast and lunch as I've been passing through.  Since friends recommended Jezebel's, I have happily stopped in to see what is going on there.


Jezebel's is ensconced in the historic 1836 Lyman House on the main drag of Wilmington


Extensive lunch menu with lists of appetizers, salads, sandwiches 


Hey hey - local brews!  When in Vermont, quaff what the locals are quaffing. Try some of Vermont's finest.

My sandwich experience was mixed - while it was a delightful combination of ingredients, it was made with inconsiderate abandon. Large wads of meat and creamy cheese were stuffed in the middle of the bread and not mashed down.  I recommend spreading out the ingredients across the surface of the bread so that each bite has all of them, rather than leaving the diner to get a bite of largely tasteless beef then an entire bite of cream cheese.  It's supposed to be a  blend of ingredients for a reason. With an extensive list of sandwiches, I'm hoping the back end of the house will get this elementary aspect of sandwich making in the near future. I did the only thing to be done myself, and took the sandwich apart to spread everything out.  Yum.  I'm glad I took that extra step to taste the combination. A lot of thought has gone into the sandwich list and I'm hoping Jezebel's will get the kitchen in shape to execute them well.


These duck legs are called duck wings on the menu - can I take off points for this?



YUGE slice of prime rib

My prime rib experience was mixed. It was rare, as I requested, it was flavorful, tender, and  it had  "rested" all the way to cold on the outside.  It is a "generous" portion, about 3/4 pound at least.  I nibbled around the edges and packed it in a box.  The potatoes were perfect.  The veggies were flawed by woody asparagus. So-so.  What else can I say about food of this quality?

While Jezebel's eatery is not pretentious, it shows its aspirations in the menu listings, which are extensive and include fish, pork, beef and fowl.  I like their ideas for sauces and sandwiches, and they have ok presentations - nothing really fancy in that department.  The execution in general is lame, and the back of the house needs some stern guidelines to follow so that the food will be worth the prices we are paying for it. What kitchen worth its salt should be told by a customer that the sandwich is all balled into the middle of the bread, or that the prime rib - one of the priciest dishes on the menu, has gone cold?  If my experiences are the norm, the staff must wake up and be professionals.

This place has many ingredients for a very nice restaurant experience. With a kitchen that has gotten over being lazy, Jezebel's will be a highlight in the Wilmington scene. As it is, I'd look for less expensive fare that is more reliable, or go for the established fine dining places and have something that has been professionally made and presented.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dine on Nine: Thai Bamboo

My review of Thai Bamboo is the latest entry for a series of reviews I am calling Dine on Nine.  Route 9 goes all across the south of Vermont and is lined with several communities between Bennington and Brattleboro.  People from all walks of life end up on this little stretch of highway, and there are not just fun diners, drive ins and dives, but fine dining establishments offering up classic as well as innovative fare.  Some may be a few hundred yards off the highway, up a little lane, and those may end up providing the best meal you or I have ever had.

At the corner of Main and High Streets in Brattleboro, nestled in beside Pliny Park, Thai Bamboo is serving Thai food of good quality.

I like most of the Thai food I've been served in the U.S. and Thai Bamboo is no exception. The menu is full of the classic Thai specialties so there are the soups and salads, the curries and the noodles and the rice dishes. There is a list of a dozen or so chef's selections that I'm currently tasting.


Little touches

Most of my visits to Thai Bamboo have been at lunch time, so I have been tasting my way through the lunch menu, selecting from the different groupings. My sense is that Thai Bamboo is going to serve a bit thicker sauce, and make things a bit more sweet than other Thai restaurants in the northeast. So if there's coconut milk in the recipe, it will be a bit more in quanitity and a bit thicker, such as in their Thai curries.  I find them quite delicious once I become accustomed to this difference. I don't know whether it's a regional difference or simply the chef's preference.


Light beginning to a lunch special

Each time I have made my visits, the service has been polite and professional with the occasional slip up. I went with a rather large party of 20 or so people during a Slow Living Summit event, and one person at the table wasn't served until all others were done eating, so every restaurant staff has its weak points, and sometimes the back of the house can't provide the service that the front of the house would wish.


Beef Macadamia, except with cashews

On a recent visit I tried the beef with macadamia nuts and enjoyed the plentiful marinated beef and also was mystified that there were no macadamia nuts. The kitchen substituted cashew nuts and said nothing. No restaurant should do something like this, however sometimes the back of the house just doesn't get it.

In summary, it's a lovely place to have a Thai meal in Brattleboro, and the good service should make it a pleasant enough visit as well.  You may encounter a weak spot or a bit of unprofessional behavior, and you'll have to decide how you respond if it happens to you. 

I'll continue to have my lunches at Thai Bamboo, but I'm also exploring that Thai food truck up at the roundabout on Putney road.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

North End Butchers

In the Black Mountain Square on Putney Road, right here in our town of Brattleboro, the clean, well-lighted North End Butchers shop holds many gustatorial delights. Although you can get sandwiches made up on the spot and a smattering of groceries, the main show is the meats counter in the back of the shop, where you may select from a variety of high end meats.



In spite of sadly out of date Facebook page and web site, the butchers are still open and doing business.

They are butchers with a mission statement (from their web page):
MISSION STATEMENT

To offer free range and humanely raised all natural meats from local farmers that are free of any chemical additives, preservatives, growth hormones or antibiotics.

To offer in-house made charcuterie items such as sausages, pates, terrines, marinades, stocks, soups, and sauces.

To offer a wide range of traditional and ethnic prepared foods and seasonal entrees made in-house using local ingredients.

To educate our customers on product usage.

To cater to fine food connoisseurs who desire to eat healthy, wholesome foods, while also supporting local businesses and agriculture.


While there to sample the wares I selected some fine Tavernier  chocolate, brandied cherries and small exotic peppers.  I passed over the pastas and many other delights and got some Italian tomato paste just for fun. It's the kind in a tube. As the small store front in the photo suggests, this is not a giant market.  For such a small space they have selected a good variety of specialty food that will complement the fine meats and put a little pizzazz on your charcuterie plate or in your menu.

I took home Iberian jambon, duck pate and pastrami from the deli case to satisfy all the different kinds of tastes for charcuterie in my household,  and then I browsed the meats case for future selections. All the classics I could ask for were there. As their mission states, they are very selective in the meats they provide, so if you are looking for the best in terms of sustainably raised and local fare, this is the place you can find it.

I suggest planning ahead if you're are having a large affair and taking time to talk with the staff to determine what they can offer. The are small enough to offer personalized services to fit your needs.

LorreBob sez: check it out!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dine on Nine: duo

My review of duo restaurant is the latest entry for a series of reviews I am calling Dine on Nine.  Route 9 goes all across the south of Vermont and is lined with several communities between Bennington and Brattleboro.  People from all walks of life end up on this little stretch of highway, and there are not just fun diners, drive ins and dives, but fine dining establishments offering up classic as well as innovative fare.  Some may be a few hundred yards off the highway, up a little lane, and those may end up providing the best meal you or I have ever had.


Let the duo evening begin! Cabin Fever in the foreground, Hermit in the Woods in the background


A room with a view: one of the nice things about duo is the location on the corner of Main and High streets. The two walls along the streets are all windows, so the daylight floods in, you can watch the light change as the sun sets, and there are great views of one of the busiest intersections in town.  You know you're right in the middle of things. Hanging reclaimed windows define spaces in the dining room, so the light is unimpeded.  I really enjoy the sense of openness that these transparent materials create.

Duo is committed to using local sources and forming partnerships with local farms.  I will always support this effort, and duo staff make the most of what they get, which is a bonus!

For a recent visit, the "Hermit in the Woods" cocktail, with hops and pine bitters was the most surprising of the evening.  The cinnamon sugar rim on the "Cabin Fever" was somewhat jarring and didn't seem to belong to the same drink as the rest of the ingredients. But all the cocktails did the job that they are meant to do, so the party started on the right foot.

On one of our evenings at duo we ordered drinks and then had all six of the appetizers - it was a great way to get a variety of interesting flavors in tidbit sizes. Since this restaurant provides a seasonal menu, it won't be relevant for me to try to run down every dish.  Suffice it to say that duo goes far, far beyond wings and fried mozzarella. The night we were there we tasted a lovely variety of newer, fresher, interesting flavor combinations. Each appetizer has its little quirky side, and along with cocktails they woke up the party.

After appetizers we shared three entrees: The lamb shank was solid - everyone felt like the saffron rice was improved with salt, otherwise somewhat bland and not supportive enough for the beautifully tender shank.  Once the rice was properly salted we scarfed with abandon. The mushroom ravioli captured everyone's attention with the texture of the pasta and the intensity of the flavors. The bass on gazpacho [fish of the day] was the evening favorite. While it appeared to be bass on just another tomato sauce, it was a smash hit as people realized that the all-fresh gazpacho was enlivening and an excellent complement. We kept asking for more spoons to slurp up the great sauces on both the appetizers and the entrees.

To add a spring accent rhubarb was the fruit instead of apple in the dessert crostata, and combined with the creme fraiche gelato it knocked my socks off. The frozen lemon mousse with  raspberry sorbet wasn't bad either. But since the menu will change with the seasons and local availability of foods, these specifics are passing examples. I trust that duo will be making up great dishes with what they find any time of the year.

There are plenty of typical family restaurants in the area that serve the common American menus, so duo stands out as a different experience. They maintain a framework of the expected beef, pork fish and poultry dishes, but make them extraordinary with excellent sauces and presentations. The combination of the thoughtful, well-prepared food and the wise and stylish use of the space make this a good context for enjoying friends and family at brunch or dinner.

LorreBob sez: go and try some of this good local food for yourself!  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dine on Nine: Top of the Hill Grill

This is the latest in a series of reviews I call Dine on Nine.  Route 9 goes all across the south of Vermont and is lined with several communities between Bennington and Brattleboro.  People from all walks of life end up on this little stretch of highway, and there are not just fun diners, drive ins and dives, but fine dining establishments offering up classic as well as innovative fare.  



Their seasonal existence is due to the service model, which is basically the ice cream stand model. Stand outside and order at one window and pickup at the other window.

There is plenty of al fresco seating, under shelter and in an enclosed room with heaters for early spring and fall. The place has a very enjoyable & festive outside atmosphere. As I was enjoying a particularly pleasant outdoor lunch I heard a neighbor remark how hard it was going to be to go back to work.  I'm retired and I was also thinking how hard it would be to leave such a pleasant place. I can basically go wherever I want, and the greenery, nice tables and trees are hard to beat.  There are enough barriers to block out most of the road noise, so conversation is easy.




The dishes are very good for northern barbecue. The sides are the typical bbq sides that you are going to find all over North America- beans, cornbread and coleslaw, and they have some non- bbq dishes as well. They have the standard beef, pork and chicken in sandwiches and on plates with two sides. They also make sausage and smoke turkey. I will take a very long time to work though the extensive menu, because I will go for the barbecue almost every time. I've been there more than once  now, and the meat is consistently tender and moist and smoked to a pleasant degree. They sauce the meat lightly when serving it up and offer extra sauce.  I have never found it necessary to ask for extra and they are careful not to overpower the flavor of the meat with sauce. You can also order the meat and sides in bulk quantities for take away.



I cannot say that I am happy about the use of paper and plastic utensils.  Having a dishwashing operation is one thing I highly recommend. It's not only very hard on the environment to use disposable  items, it's yucky.

There is a small selection of soft drinks.

Many people call for takeout and if you want to avoid a long window line, that's the way to do it. Lunch lines have never been very long for me, but that may not always be so. For large parties, they will likely have something for eveyone because of the extent of the menu.

Their large menu is online:
http://www.topofthehillgrill.com http://www.topofthehillgrill.com

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dine on Nine: The New England House

This is the latest in a series of reviews I call Dine on Nine.  Route 9 goes all across the south of Vermont and is lined with several communities between Bennington and Brattleboro.  People from all walks of life end up on this little stretch of highway, and there are not just fun diners, drive ins and dives, but fine dining establishments offering up classic as well as innovative fare.  

West of Brattleboro, just before the long ascent to Marlboro, an interesting road side restaurant is serving good food and good times. Some would drive right by due to the brown exterior and subtle signage, and those folks are missing a comfortable and cheery dining experience.  I have kept going back as my curiosity has led me through different parts of the lunch and dinner menus. There are a side dining room and a square bar room that includes dining tables. On a Saturday night one may find a large contingent of one's neighbors enjoying the food and libations.

A recent late lunch with a friend included a shared appetizer of thinly sliced fresh tuna sprinkled with savory condiments that made it an excellent treat.



My friend, I'll call him Viking Dude, was very interested in the schnitzel, and so I chose the meal-size crab cakes (- yes, one is missing in the photo). The schnitzel was a bit dry and we felt that the very fine breading had soaked out most of the meat juices, but it was tender and the plate was completely clean at meal's end. We also felt that the breading was oddly devoid of any flavor and could have provided more ooomph to the pork. The crab cakes were finely ground with savory bread fillers and I would describe them as common or average, and a good size for a full meal.


The food is not especially innovative or extreme, but it's a good place to go with a large party that has varied tastes, like an office holiday party or a big family birthday celebration. There will most likely be something good for everyone.

The chef also likes to organize special themed nights, such as Italian night, so watch the website and outside marquis for information.

I've found service to be both attentive and responsive. In my experience the staff has checked for special requests a few times during the meal and kept up with drinks without being intrusive.  I have only one unfortunate experience of waiting almost an hour for my steak on a Saturday night, and the floor managers were so concerned that they did not charge me for the dinner, which was executed well and other than being very late, a good meal. 

I think this would be a nice choice for a night out with friends when you don't feel like having something too expensive or formal, and you want a varied menu of good choices. There's something of a mellow party atmosphere on a Saturday night in the bar that might be just the ticket for good times.

Those touring southern Vermont on Rt. 9 will find a very nice meal that should satisfy each person's tastes.

Full menus and more information about services and reservations are here: http://www.newenglandhousevt.com/dinner

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Entrepreneur to Table - this year's Slow Living Summit June 1-2

Goodness!  Where has the time gone?  Just as I've been digging around in our yard, I supposed I'd better get busy digging around in our local food scene again.

So here it is darlings! Our very own local food summit:
http://www.slowlivingsummit.org



Our local food and business entrepreneurs need all the support we can give them, so this summit has been produced to allow them to network among themselves and with people who can provide the expertise they need to keep their businesses on track and to provide us with the best products.

Even if you don't think you'll attend the summit, go to the page and take a look at all the things that are important for todays food and ag businesses.

If you think about all the time and energy it takes to produce the food we enjoy, you'll also want to celebrate our farmers at the Strolling of the Heifers festival in Brattleboro, June 2-4, which follows the summit over the weekend.  Get out and meet our farm business people!  Tell the farmers and other business people involved in our food how much you appreciate what they do in person!