Ultratravel U.S.

Summer 2014

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54 ultratravel N ew Yorkers can be a snobby bunch. As a native, I had enjoyed some of the top-rated restaurants in the world before even turning 16 (my sister studied at the Culinary Institute of America, so my parents considered this to be important research). So imagine my skepticism when my boyfriend, a resident of southern Vermont, said there were some great restaurants near him. Let's just say this: Less than a year later, we were married. Vermont's Green Mountains are dotted with farms, and yet at present, most of what is grown on them is shipped out of state. That may be changing: The state legislation establishing the Farm to Plate Investment Program is the most comprehensive local food law in the country, aiming to improve the farm economy of the state and double access to local food by 2020. And a batch of chefs are already doing their part, running small restaurants that grow their own ingredients and prizing what local farmers produce. "We are a mission-driven restaurant, " says Ismail Samad, chef and co-owner of The Gleanery in Putney. "We wanted to encourage people to eat 'out of season' like our grandparents did, canning vegetables from our short, four-month growing season." A year and a half ago, by selling shares to the community, he and his partners opened the restaurant, which showcases locally made furniture and dinnerware to complement its daily menu. "There's such a great lifestyle here: We live above the restaurant, our son helps us in the garden, you don't have the headache of getting a liquor license like in New York City," says Chloe Genovart, a native of Manchester who owns SoLo Farm & Table in South Londonderry with her Spanish husband, Wesley. After logging close to 80-hour weeks in New York at Per Se and Degustation, respectively, the couple opened SoLo in a restored farmhouse about three years ago. "In the quieter seasons, you really need the community," Genovart continues. "We are all about the experience, and we want to keep the local farmers alive. You do have to pay more for a lamb that isn't shipped from Colorado, but we use every bit of it in different dishes, grinding the less appealing bits for charcuterie." The SoLo menu changes weekly; this summer, look out for homemade burrata and ramps. "We foraged for 90 pounds of them over three days!" Due to the harsh winters, there's an enthusiasm akin to winning the lottery when an ingredient is back in season. At The Downtown Grocery in Ludlow, "before the tomatoes are ripe, Rogan makes an incredible tomato leaf pesto— something so of-the-moment, I almost think you can taste the exact date in every bite," says Mississippi-bred Abby Lechthaler of her chef-husband's style. Rogan is an alum of both Boston's Mistral and Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, and Abby provides the ebullient hospitality of a Southern hostess at the restaurant, which offers fine dining in a casual setting. "Respecting the seasonality of every ingredient makes cooking—and eating—so much more fun. We love that a mushroom guy and a lobster guy drop by to show their bounty," she continues. "We love trying new things and finding new sources, as much as we hope our guests do." "Eighteen years ago, it wasn't easy to source locally," recalls Deirdre Heekin of Pane E Salute in Woodstock. "Now the bounty is attracting hungry and creative people both in the field and the kitchen." Heekin and her chef-husband, Caleb Barber, now grow 80 percent of the produce used by the restaurant, in addition to making 10 wines at its small vineyard. Regulars love their cured meats and thin- crust pizza, inspired by their annual trips to Italy. Eric Warnstedt is the chef and co-owner of Hen of the Wood, with outposts in Waterbury and, more recently, Burlington. "If you don't like asparagus, you probably shouldn't visit during that season, since it may end up on every dish," Warnstedt, a perennial James Beard Award nominee, jokes. "And then it's gone again! With our shorter growing season, you seize every new ingredient with gusto." VERMONT FOOD-TRIPPING Vermont's picturesque country roads make for the perfect road trip backdrop. Hit the road for Vermont's chef-owned restaurants this summer, and enjoy masterful meals of local and seasonal ingredients. BY ZOE SETTLE Contact your travel agent to take your inner foodie on a Vermont road trip.

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