how2heroes in Vermont!

how2heroes trekked up to the Green Mountain State to explore Vermont’s love for food and sustainability. The theme of the trip was bread, chocolate, and down-home favorites using local ingredients. WATCH FOR THE VERMONT VIDEOS IN THE NEXT 2-3 WEEKS.

Susan Reid, of King Arthur Flour and her bounty of bread

Our first stop was at King Arthur Flour in Norfolk, Vermont. Susan Reid may look familiar – she is a Chef/Instructor & Editor of “The Baking Sheet,” and has graced the how2heroes website many times before, with tantalizing videos such as Chocolate Almond Coffee Cake, Whole Grain Brownies, and the Zucchini Caponata. During this visit, Susan tackled bread baking. Do yeast-based breads intimidate you? Susan filmed a “Bakers’ Tip” tutorial on different forms of yeast, and applications for each.  Next, she showed how to make a No-Fuss Focaccia bread (pictured top middle). Susan explained that she often throws all of this recipe’s dry ingredients in a jar to take to dinner parties or cookouts. Once she gets to her party, she mixes the wet ingredients and allows the bread to rise during cocktails or appetizers, then pops it in the oven for fresh and hot bread, just in time for dinner. Genius

After mastering the Focaccia, you may want to try your hand at Susan’s Basic White Bread (pictured bottom right). Once you smell this bread baking and taste its freshness, you will never go back to a store-bought loaf. The photo situated in the bottom middle is a variation on Basic White Bread. By adding cinnamon, sugar and raisins, it transforms into a Cinnamon-Swirl Bread. If you have ever attempted a swirl bread before, you know how the swirls often pull apart and separate when it is baked then sliced. Stay tuned to discover Susan’s secret for preventing this mishap!

Next, Susan covered at-home artisan bread baking. It is a difficult task to achieve a crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside bread product without industrial bread ovens.  Susan makes this possible, and will hold your hand along the way to aid you in the creation of Rustic Olive Rolls (pictured middle) and traditional French Baguette. The time needed for multiple dough risings is well worth the wait.

Want to know the most creative tip Susan gave the how2heroes crew? Save the little packets of shower caps from hotel room bathrooms. They fit perfectly as a cover over a bowl of rising dough. So much easier than wrestling with plastic wrap!

Lake Champlain Chocolates' Chocolate Artist Emily Jones with her Chocolate Picture Frame & Chocolatier Kirk Weed with the Ultimate Chocolate Cake and Chocolate-Strawberry Truffles

Once in Burlington, we visited our still photographer Zoe Brookes’ former place of employment – Lake Champlain Chocolates. Watching the production of each confection was amazing! It took all of the world’s willpower to restrain ourselves from plucking a truffle from the assembly line of moving chocolate.

Chocolate Artist Emily Jones demonstrated chocolate sculpting techniques. She explained how to temper chocolate, then work to form fun shapes and designs. Thinking of giving a card for a birthday or special occasion? Très blasé! Give a Chocolate Picture Frame with a personal message inside! Emily’s scrumptious spring-inspired creation (pictured upper left) would be a “sweet” gesture at any occasion! What’s also great is that all the unused bits and ends of chocolate can be “recycled” into a chocolate bark. We have the Chocolate Bark with Cranberries & Candied Orange Zest, as well as the Chocolate Bark with Toasted Almonds to satisfy your chocolate cravings until the video goes live.

Next, we filmed an essential classic…(drumroll please…..)…the ULTIMATE CHOCOLATE CAKE!  This recipe could not, I repeat,  NOT be simpler. When we initially received the recipe, we were alarmed to see that the cake contained no eggs! Kirk explained that this recipe has been in one of the Lake Champlain Chocolates employees’ family since World War II, when food staples such as eggs were being rationed. The leavening agents in this cake are baking soda and white vinegar. Chocolatier Kirk Weed frosts his dense, moist cake with Mocha Buttercream Frosting (pictured top right).  While waiting for this recipes, try some other ultimate chocolate delights like Chef Jansen Chan’s Flourless Chocolate Cake or Paul Dorr’s Chocolate Pudding Cake.

Kirk also made decadent Chocolate-Strawberry Truffles (pictured bottom right). This recipe could be made with milk or dark chocolate, and any jam or jelly (mmm….try black current, huckleberry, blackberry or rhubarb! Get creative!). Roll the confections in powdered sugar or cocoa powder. Kirk exclaims that these babies are supposed to be ugly, resembling savory truffle fungus.

Keepin' it local with Corned Beef Hash, Buttermilk Pancakes, and a creamy Chocolate Milkshake at The Farmers Diner

On the way back, how2heroes stopped at The Farmers Diner in Middlebury, Vermont for some classics made with local ingredients. The diner as adorned with farm-themed kitsch and cherry-red booths. Waitress Alexandria Spooner blended a soda fountain favorite – a Chocolate Milkshake using local chocolate ice cream, whole milk, and rich dark chocolate sauce. The best part is that Farmers Diner serves their milkshake in a mason jar!

Line Cook Micheal Carter shared diner breakfast favorites – Buttermilk Pancakes and Corned Beef Hash. We topped our pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, but they are delicious enough to eat on their own! The hash was a meaty mass of finely chopped corned beef, peppers, onions and potatoes – a great alternative to the Irish classic Corned Beef & Cabbage. These recipes will be perfect additions to a Sunday brunch, perhaps alongside some Creamy Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Goat Cheese, or Honey Almond Granola with Raisins and Cranberries. Or you could make them for mom on Mother’s Day (May 9th)!

how2heroes savored the Vermont flavor in downtown Burlington, and across the countryside. A few of the stops we made were: Magic Hat, Cheese Traders and Ben & Jerry's

What is a trip to Vermont without visiting quintessential local Vermont attractions? If you opt not to buy your cheese straight from one of Vermont’s countless artisan cheese makers, stop into Cheese Traders, a grocery and wine extravaganza at discounted prices. The best part – the cheese ends! These large, misshapen hunks of cheese from local farms are sold at extremely discounted prices! The crew brought some samples back for the office!

Along with Vermont cheese comes…good beer and ice cream! We swung by the funky, eclectic Magic Hat Brewery, visited Ben & Jerry’s, and sampled the local fare in downtown Burlington. One of our dining highlights was at Duino Duende, a cool little eatery specializing in street food from around the world. We stuffed ourselves with Poutine (fries, cheese curd and gravy), Tostones (fried plantains), Piroghies (stuffed, boiled dumplings), and lamb sliders. YUM!

We are very excited for all of you to learn from the talented heroes in Vermont that we met. We can tell you first hand that everything was delicious and you can absolutely do it at home yourself!  Keep an eye out for the videos or better yet, sign up for the newsletter so we can tell you when they’re ready.

Destination: Portland, Oregon. Food Carts, Fabulous Restaurants & Fantastic Home Cooking

We recently took a food field trip to one of America’s great food cities: Portland, Oregon. Portland is a young city where everyone I met except one person is from somewhere else but no one plans on leaving anytime soon. With the great restaurants and breweries, close access to the mountains and wine country, and an overall friendly, laid back lifestyle, who can blame them? While there was a constant drizzle almost the entire time I was there, nobody seems to notice or care. Take out an umbrella and you may as well have “Tourist!” stamped on your forehead. It’s just not done. And why call attention to yourself? Okay. Hoodie it is.

H2H_BLOG_FoodcartsCommitment to using local ingredients and practicing sustainability practices is big in Portland (as it should be everywhere). But what REALLY sets Portland apart is the unbelievable Food Cart culture. There are over 400(!) food carts throughout Portland. And these are not your run-of-the-mill fast food carts. Savvy young chefs, cooks and entrepreneurs are turning out amazing food in their little cramped carts all over the city. And they’re all very well aware that word of mouth is the best way to build their customer base. When they’re not cooking or waiting on customers, they’re busy tweeting about their specials and collecting fans on Facebook.

Food carts at Hawthorne & 12th are open late night as is one of our featured heroes, The Grilled Cheese Grill (watch Matt make a mean Jalapeno Grilled Cheese). While most carts don’t have seating, Matt’s idea to purchase a Partridge family-style bus, have a local artist paint a mural on the ceiling and turn the bus into a dining car is pure genius.

IMG_0313The carts downtown are plentiful and cater to the business crowd. Hero Nancy Ettinger from Savor Soup is in this neighborhood and ladles out soul-satisfying soups for all like the Potato Leek Soup we filmed.

Mississippi Ave is open every day except Monday and that’s where our friend Kir from The Sugar Cube hangs in her adorable pink cart and bakes up treats like Mom used to make. She shared her spicy, crunchy Gingersnap Cookies recipe with us which I think you’ll all love. There aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the year to try all the food carts but it certainly inspires me to try some more next time I’m in town.

pdxrestaurantsThe restaurant scene in Portland is pretty incredible. The way Portland is laid out, it feels more like a bunch of hip neighborhoods instead of one big city. And that’s what makes it fun. Each has its own amazing restaurants, independent boutiques and coffee shops everywhere (I think it’s the rainy weather that creates a big need for coffee!). We hit the SE and the NE of Portland for 2 outstanding shoots at restaurants that really know how to make people happy: Screen Door and Toro Bravo.

Screen Door is owned by New Orleans natives David and Nicole Mouton. Chef Widmayer is originally from Ohio but has mastered Southern cooking. All you have to do is watch his Creamy Grits or Grits & Grillades videos and you will see that he is in his element. Customers wait (again, in the rain) upwards of 2 hours for the chance to sit down and bite into his friend chicken, crispy praline bacon or any of a number of above-and-beyond brunch items on their menu. And above all, he’s a super nice guy. We like to see good people being rewarded for their incredibly hard work.

Chef John Gorham’s restaurant, Toro, Bravo has received virtually every award including “Restaurant of the Year” from Willamette Week and “Chef of the Year” from Portland Monthly Magazine. They even received an award for “Waitress of the Year” from Portland Monthly Magazine. Now that’s full service. Chef John combines his love of Spanish tapas with his commitment to local ingredients. You’ll see in his Bacon-Wrapped Dates w/ Warm Paprika Honey video that he gives a shout-out to a local honey maker, Hood River. He also told us off-camera where we could find local duck eggs for his Spanish comfort dish, Basque Piperade with Duck Eggs. Toro Bravo also usually warrants a wait for a table but it’s absolutely well worth it. They smoke their own bacon and meats which in my book is enough. But try these 2 dishes he created for us on video and you will be booking a ticket to Portland.

H2H_BLOG_HomecooksJust as much excitement seems to be going on in the kitchens of Portland homes as in the restaurants and food carts. And some dream kitchens these folks have. Nice and open and perfect for entertaining while cooking. We visited with Nike exec by day, Brian Fairben, who welcomed us into his wonderful kitchen with stellar views of Mount Hood. Originally from Long Island, Brian not only shared his Fairben family Shrimp Scampi with us but he also bought his Alaskan shrimp fresh from Seattle just for the occasion. Now that’s hospitality.

Across town, Jason Callough, former chef turned IT professional at HP, had us over to his kitchen he designed himself (beautiful!) and shared his recipe for Brussels Sprouts w/ Roasted Chestnuts & Caramelized Shallots. He has a great way of taking his professional expertise and showing how you can put some of those techniques to practice at home. This is a side dish that just may trump the entree.

After all the gratifying shoots we tackled, there were 2 things we wanted to take in while in Portland. 1 – Voodoo Donuts. Basically, a punk rock donut shop unlike anything you’ll probably ever experience. My Portland friend and field producer Carla Arriaga was up to the challenge of helping me sample the crazy array of donuts they create. When it comes down to it, the maple-glazed bacon donut will change your life. Long & rectangular to accommodate a whole strip of bacon, there’s nothing quite like it. I thought at the time, “I could die right now eating this thing but I just might be okay with that.”

H2H_BLOG_Willamete1The second thing that was a must on the list was a visit to Willamette Valley where stellar Pinot Noirs are produced. A short 1-hour trip from Portland and we were standing in wide open vineyards taking in beautiful scenery, breathing in fresh air and sipping lovely wines. We visited 4 wineries and it was a fantastic wine education experience because it was focused. Just 2006 and 2007 Pinots. What I learned is that I enjoy the 2006s better as they are a bit more robust. Apparently 2006 was a warmer year and made what, to me, was a more full-bodied wine than your typical Pinot. The vineyards we visited were: Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene, Archery Summit and a nice family winery, De Ponte Cellars. My hands-down favorite wine was the Domaine Serene “Evenstad Reserve” 2005. I’m not an expert on wine copy so I will quote The Wall Street Journal‘s description of this wine: “Big, gutsy Pinot, with black pepper, earth and body to spare. Serious wine, made with integrity.” Right. What he said. All I know is that it was damn good!

On the way back to Portland, we spotted a walnut and hazelnut stand. Coming from the East Coast, this was a special treat so I made Carla pull across a busy highway so we could sample and purchase some fresh nuts. The woman who ran the stand was incredibly friendly and patient as we mulled over the options. I got as much as I knew I could stuff in my suitcase to bring back for holiday baking and to share with mom. You can’t forget mom when you take a trip, right?

I would like to thank all the heroes in Portland who were so kind and accommodating to us on our whirlwind tour. In particular I would like to thank our Art Director turned Producer for the week, Carla Arriaga, who did an absolute stellar job lining up all the shoots, introducing me to great Portland people, schlepping me around everywhere and humoring me with a donut binge. Portland is probably the friendliest city I’ve ever been to and I recommend everyone pay those great people a visit.

Cheers from Boston, Lynne

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Ah, Cheese – how I love thee!

I don’t know about you, but I love cheese. I consider it a staple and it’s always at my dinner table. My friends make fun of me but oh, how they enjoy the bounty when I take it out to share with the perfect loaf of bread and a bottle of wine.

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Needless to say, a couple weeks back when I saw an ad in the Metro for the Vermont Cheese Festival I jumped at the chance to go. I didn’t know who was going to go with me, I just knew I was going and I would find a partner in crime in no time. Who could resist a weekend of cheese tasting in one of the most beautiful and scenic areas of New England? I decided to go with my mom and make a mother-daughter road trip out of it. I filled the gas tank, the coffee mugs, set the Greek tunes blaring and off we went.

Three and a half hours later we made it from Boston to Vermont and it was worth every mile. As we neared the venue, I noticed a “sold out” sign on the post. I was so excited. You’d think I was one of the lucky few getting to see the Rolling Stones before they croak, but no, I was there to taste cheese! My mother looked at me and said, “So all these people are just as crazy as we are?” Yes! I responded proudly.

The venue was gorgeous. After making our way through the entrance, the road winded through beautiful green pastures dotted with grazing cows. Following the road to the very end, we finally made it to venue – a glorious barn structure right next to the water. After taking in the view we proceeded inside for our Cheesemaking 101 Seminar.

Cheesemaking 101 was taught by Max McCalman, author and Maltre Fromager at the Artisanal Premium Cheese Center in New York and Marc Druart, Master Cheesemaker at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at UVM. The class was informative and entertaining. Marc Druart showed how to make a goat cheese and explained how curdling is like “Facebook”. Pieces come together or curdle and are attracted by things that are similar leaving behind the whey.

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As he explained the process and talked about the different cheeses, we each had a plate to sample. All of the cheeses were delicious. It was explained that the best way to each of the cheeses is to start with the milder ones to understand the nuances of each of the flavors that come from the cheese. Going from mild to stronger cheeses allows the palette to taste everything before it moves into a heavier cheese like a pungent Blue. It was further explained that the length of time a cheese ages determines its taste and its texture. In addition, the source animal has lots to do with the kind of cheese that is created. For instance, goat’s milk can create some milder cheeses and is easier for digestion.

When I initially signed up for the class, I thought, “How much could we possibly learn about cheese in a one-hour interval?” However, I found the class educational and fun – which has a lot to do with the instructors. It was well worth my money and it left me with wanting more.

So, after the class my mom and I started strolling the barn and filling our bellies with all the gloriously fresh, local cheese and bread that surrounded us. There were vendors everywhere and I left there with more than my share of cheese and freshly baked, local bread. After we had our fill, we meandered over to the water, sat ourselves down to enjoy our newly acquired goodies and take in the view. This, I decided, was a road trip I would definitely take again.

For more information, check out the site, here: http://www.vtcheesefest.com.

Cheeses we sampled during the seminar:
Bijou: Vermont Butter and Cheese, Websterville, VT
Paniolo: Willow Farm, Milton, Vermont
Farmhouse Cheddar: Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, VT
Tarentaise: Spring Brook Farm – Reading VT
Goz-Dawn-Zola: Green Mountain Blue Cheese Farm, Highgate, VT