Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Single Pebble, believe it or not, authentic chinese food in Burlington, VT

            A year ago to the date, I found myself on the streets of Beijing, China, bargaining aggressively with the local food vendors for the best deals on my daily jiaozi (dumplings).  At times, the interactions would get pretty aggressive as I tried to sheer one or two more yuan (Chinese currency) off of the already insignificantly small price.  Yes, in American standards, I was probably the biggest jerk in the room, but in China, dealings like this were commonplace.  Life is a battle there and both buyers and sellers put their lives on the line for each an every yuan in their pocket. 
            After four months in China, where my daily diet consisted of dumplings, triple fried eggplant, oil drenched stir fry noodles, and a distinct lacking of what health-conscious American society would ever deem acceptable, I was ready for a much needed cleanse.  As this blog has clearly proven, I am by no means a health nut and I love my fair share of food, but when I arrived in Newark, I could not have been more ecstatic for the possibility of ending a meal without the feeling of a soy sauce flavored brick in my stomach.  Since that day, I can count the number of times I have had Chinese food in the past year on one hand, so when Lauryn and I were looking for the next restaurant to feature prominently on our (self designated) award-winning blog, I figured it would be the perfect time to revisit the food of my homeland.
            Fridays this semester have typically become a lost day.  It is the day following a wonderful dance filled night at the senior club we call the bar, and any hopes of productivity are immediately thrown aside.  On days like these, there are few things less appetizing than a big heaping meal of Chinese food, but after asking nearly everyone we knew for restaurant suggestions, we found ourselves being pointed time and time again to Burlington’s A Single Pebble.  It was heralded by a few of our friends as not only Burlington’s best Chinese restaurant, but, cuisine aside, also as one of Burlington’s overall best.  After a threatening of Magic Wok or A Single Pebble, Torch finally caved and, throwing Amy Schleuter into the car, we headed on up to Burlington’s 133 Bank Street.
            A Single Pebble is not a flashy restaurant.  In fact, the exterior caught me by surprise as it looks just like a normal Burlington residence.  However, the interior has all of the commonalities of a classy Chinese joint, with scattered tables topped with red table cloths and a red Lazy Susan, which added a much appreciated touch of authenticity to the dining experience.
            At 5:30, A Single Pebble was sparsely populated, which proved beneficial to our grumbling stomachs, but ultimately would be our downfall (more on that later).  The hostess was notably very friendly and incredibly accommodating to our many questions.  Turns out, the original chef was an American man who traveled many times to China, collecting local recipes and a passion for the fare, and decided to start up one of Burlington’s best establishments.
            After a brief overview of the menu by our hostess, we decided to order five dishes.  The meal began with the highly recommended Dry Fried Green Beans, which are fire flavored green beans wok tossed with flecks of pork, black bean, preserved vegetable, and garlic.  Yes, after too many dishes of triple fried vegetables, I was 100% skeptical with the word choice of “fried”, but this dish turned out to be our best decision.  The beans were wok fried, aka sautéed, and were one of the best renditions I’ve ever had of not only Chinese green beans, but green beans in general.  Not too oily, not too spicy, but extremely fresh and flavorful.  My kind of dish.
            Next we were brought a dish of Chicken Dumplings with Spicy Sesame Sauce, which were steamed chicken filled dumplings served with a ginger vinegar sauce.  The dumplings were both light and flavorful, but it was truly the sauce that made the dish.  We even found ourselves dipping the meat buns, which came next, into the sesame sauce.  Two for two.
            Unfortunately, the above mentioned meat buns were the lowest point of our meal, but this was all relative as they were still pretty good. The baozi (meat buns) in China came cheaper than dirt, with the skin of a dumpling and the biggest hunk of meat (you designated the type, hypothetically…) inside.  When comparing the food available to me in America and the food in China, I don’t find myself nostalgic for much of the Chinese fare, that is, except for the baozi.  So when the menu offered “meat buns”, my mind immediately began to spin and my mouth began to salivate.  Unfortunately, these weren’t the baozi of Beijing and instead came with a thick breading filled with a small lump of pork accompanied with hoisen and peanut sauce. The breading was a little too hearty and the meat was too unsubstantial.
            As I mentioned before, the emptiness of the restaurant really affected our meals in two different ways.  For one, our appetizers came out in rapid fire succession and our hunger was immediately satiated.  Unfortunately, we learned that we have no self-control or concept of pacing, and by the arrival of our main dishes, we were pretty uncomfortably full.  Welcome to my dining experiences of China…
            For main dishes, we ordered the House Special Chow Fun, which was fresh wide rice noodle with chicken, shrimp, roast pork tossed in a light brown sauce, and the Tangerine Peel Chicken, which came as crispy chunks of chicken with chilis, tangerine peel, & garlic sauce framed with broccoli crowns.  I’ve grown up loving Chow Fun, so much that even now, eight years after I left home, my family members from New York’s Chinatown still bring me heapings of it.  To me, Chow Fun is the more substantial, more flavorful, and more satisfying rendition of the thinner noodles of Lo Mein.  The wideness and thickness of the noodles makes each one more meat-like (I know that sounds gross, but really, its awesome) and makes it hands down one of my favorite Chinese dishes available.  A Single Pebble did not disappoint.  The plate came with such a huge heaping of meat and seafood, all of which was remarkably fresh and unbelievably tasty, that we questioned whether or not we had ordered a noodle dish.  The noodles, hidden beneath the mass of meat, completely lived up to my expectations and dreams.  They were cooked perfectly and the “light brown sauce” (what does that even mean?) was not too oily, always a difficulty that restaurants seem to face.  As for the chicken, I can only describe the dish as a classier version of Panda Garden’s General Tso’s Chicken.  By classier, I do not mean more healthy, because each chunk of chicken was coated with the standard fried layer.
            If you find yourself with a few spare hours and a craving for Chinese food A Single Pebble is certainly worth the trip. Located just off Church Street, you can walk off the “Chinese-food baby” that will surely be present following your meal. 
 The Outside of the Restaurant
Dry Fried Green Beans
Chicken Dumplings with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Meat Buns
House Special Chow Fun
Tangerine Peel Chicken

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Middlebury Chili Contest: an eating marathon of grand proportions. Pace yourself.

It was a classic March afternoon in Vermont, winter jackets still essential, prompting students to curse the never ending winter. But something was different about this Saturday, March 11th.  It was only 12 pm, and my teammates and I had already finished a game of pick up soccer, unusual for us because Saturday mornings are not always a productive time.  Our inspiration this particular day came in the form of the 3rd annual Middlebury Chili Festival, which gave us the jump start we needed to get the day going early.
            After a disappointing rumor was spread that the Chili Fest was to be held the same weekend as Winter Carnival, I was more than anxious for the actual day to arrive.  In only its third year, this food celebration drew over fifty local restaurants and businesses that showed up hoping to take home the title of best chili. The categories included game, vegetarian, pork, and chicken with a few sprinkling of seafood and other unique varieties.
            Ravenous as usual, we called the match and headed downtown where the streets were filled with Middlebury students and community members.  In a slightly ambitious manner, spoons in hand, Kirsten Lundquist, Amy Schlueter and I vowed to try every chili available…I mean we had to get our money’s worth (entrance is $3 dollars). Needless to say, we may have set our goals too high, and by the fourth vendor it was evident that our strategy required modification. We began to share samples, getting our own only if the taster proved too little. While we all had our own favorites, there were some chilis that were undeniably magnificent. 3 Squares of Vergennes (see earlier review) offered a unique Chili Verde option that in Amy Schlueter’s opinion was top-notch. The defending champion, Costello’s Market of Middlebury, had easily the longest line at the competition, offering their Chocolate Red Wine Chili, which boasted a unique combination of sweet and rich flavoring. My personal favorite was Tourterelle. Like many of the servers at the competition, the Tourterelle representative was making bold claims that this chili would undeniably be the crowd favorite. Intrigued, I took a full serving … and then another. I can easily say that if Tourterelle offered this on their menu I would frequently make the 6-mile trip up Route 7.
            Two hours and an intake of chili that made me cringe later, we slowly made our way back to the Modular Home. We were greeted by sweatpants with elastic waistbands, a marathon of “Say Yes to the Dress”, a couch and an endless supply of apple cider. Some would argue that this Saturday doesn’t sound productive at all, but until you experience the Middlebury Chili Festival in all its glory, I don’t expect you to understand.
            The Chili Fest is an annual event that takes place during the town’s Winter Carnival.  As Main Street shuts down and all of the town businesses and community members flood the main drag, any MiddKid that misses this epic event regret it.  Next year, take the five minute walk into town and spend some of the best three dollars of fill-you-to-the-brim chili you’ll ever experience.  But whatever you do, don’t forget your jacket.

Mary’s Restaurant at the Inn at Baldwin Creek, a home away from home

The town of Bristol is predominately known for its hallmark, the Bobcat Café, a casual and delicious pub-like establishment that draws many MiddKids to the quiet town.  What most people don’t know is that ten more minutes down the road, through the town of Bristol and bordering on the edge of middle-of-nowhere Vermont is another equally charming restaurant at the Inn at Baldwin Creek.  Mary’s Restaurant, the quaint bed and breakfast’s main attraction, is the perfect combination of wholesome Vermont, mom and pop bed and breakfast, and comforting home cooked food.  I first heard about Mary’s from my fellow blogger and promptly begged my parents to take me during their next visit up north.  
Mary’s is remotely located, a solid thirty minute drive from the middle of campus.  As many of you already know, the drive to Bristol, particularly in the fall, is well worth the trip. The Inn at Baldwin Creek stands alone on a long mountain road, only appearing just when you think you’ve completely left civilization.  The main dining room of Mary’s exudes comfort. Upon entering, we were immediately greeted by the wife of the owner and chef, a delightful woman who made it clear to us that personal touches are what Mary’s strives for.  The first time I dined at Mary’s, I was seated in the main dining room that boasts tablecloths and dimly lit candles, but this time, perhaps because we look so much like grungy college kids, we were put in the back room which has a more casual feel.  
We chose to go to Mary’s specifically for the specials that were being offered that evening.  A few weeks ago, Lauryn had gotten word that the kitchen was revamping its menu and that they were offering a sneak preview deal for their spring dishes.  Never one to pass up the opportunity to eat good food at a discount, we hastily made reservations for this particular day.  Lauryn and I sampled two of the four different spring preview pairings offered.  Lauryn ordered “Hannah’s Combos”, a shrimp risotto and duck, while I ordered "Martha’s Picks", which came with chicken and the highly recommended arctic char.  For $22, we were given both of our entrée selections as well as freshly baked bread and a house salad.
For starters, the house salad was visually nothing incredible.  As a simple mixed green salads garnished with assorted standard vegetables, I was unenthusiastic about its prospects.  However, upon first bite, it became clear that Mary’s house salad dressing gave this salad a distinctive flavor that we both greatly appreciated.  We also loved the toasted almonds that complemented the dressing perfectly and gave the salad a more dynamic feel.  For what appeared to be just a simple house salad, Mary’s was able to impress these two foodies.
Lauryn and I both agreed that while some aspects of each of our main entrées were exceptional, there were other parts that were either mediocre or plainly unappetizing.  Lauryn loved her seafood risotto; the risotto was cooked wonderfully and the flavoring made this dish one of the best takes on risotto that I’ve had in a while.  However, she pushed her duck aside early on, stating that the flavor of the cherry glaze did not complement the dish.  One for two for Hannah’s Combos.  As for my main dish, I loved the arctic char.  The fish was cooked so that it retained its moistness, and the sauce that garnished it was worthy of bread dipping.  However, like Lauryn, I was only satisfied with half of my pairings, as I found the chicken to be pretty darn strange.  The chicken breast cut was a little chewy and the rub, while moderately pleasant upon first bite, left a weird spicy aftertaste. In my mind, the perfect pairing would be the artic char with the risotto, but the restaurant is pretty strict about retaining the pre-set groupings.  Trust me, we asked.
After we consumed our main entrées, we turned our attention to our three side dishes.  The only memorable side was the strangest carrot-butternut squash purée that was a failed attempt at the combination.  Not typically ones to leave food on our plate, both Lauryn and I found ourselves pushing this orange mush to the side. The other two options, a kale and a rice pilaf were unmemorable and didn't add much to the plate.
    As you have no doubt noticed, Lauryn and I were unusually critical of this restaurant’s fare, but after receiving so many comments on the universally positive nature of our reviews, we figured it was about time that we dished out some criticism.  Mary’s quaint and cozy atmosphere, as well as the beautiful drive there, makes this place worth a single visit.  I personally can’t say that it will become one of my staples as I have found more consistency at many of the other similarly priced, equally distanced restaurants. Our dinner concluded with a frank conversation with the hostess in which she asked for, and genuinely seemed to take into account, our honest opinions, which unfortunately wasn’t the 100% positive review that we’re accustomed to giving.  This was a positive conclusion to our meal as the conversation highlighted the restaurant’s dedication to maintaining an intimate connection between the kitchen and the diner.  
The food at Mary’s is average priced for a nicer establishment with appetizers ranging from $8 to $15 and entrees from $20 to $26, the exception being the $40 10-ounce beef tenderloin.  Mary’s also offers more casual bistro entrée options that are all under $15.  Overall, Mary’s is a fine restaurant that we would recommend to those craving the comfort of a homey bed and breakfast, but in my opinion, next time I’d probably just go the closer, equally priced Tourterelle.
 Crostini with a white bean dip
Complimentary bread and butter

House Salad
"Hannah’s Combos"
(roasted duck and seafood risotto)
"Martha's Picks"
(chicken and artic char)

Monday, March 21, 2011

American Flatbread, not your ordinary pizza pie

Let me paint you a picture.  The other day, I went to the gym at 3pm with hopes of getting in a satisfying workout.  Needless to say, that didn’t happen and I left only fifteen minutes later with a desire to do something else. At 7pm I tried again.  This time, I made it to the front desk where I put my sneakers on, took a seat, and hung out with my friend from abroad.  After several hours of chatting and catching up, I had missed dinner, lost the incentive (yet again) to do anything productive, and headed over to Flatbread for the perfect cap to the day.  Long story short, I returned to my beautiful home sweet mod after two unsuccessful trips to the gym, zero minutes of exercise, and the acquisition of one of Flatbread’s evening specials.  Who says a pizza isn’t the perfect substitute for a workout?
Located in the Marble Works district, American Flatbread has recently become my favorite dining option in a twenty-mile radius.  Yes, I even prefer it to the french fries of Black Sheep.  Shocker.  Two years ago, the restaurant section of Flatbread revamped its schedule so that the dining room opens Tuesday through Saturday from 5-9pm.  I think of it as one of the best developments that has occurred during my four years at Midd.  The restaurant doubles as a factory for the company, which sells a frozen variety of its pizzas in grocery stores throughout the nation.  This way, after you’ve read our review and are salivating at the thought of a New Vermont Sausage Flatbread but come to the harsh realization that you’re sitting in a kitchen in Stamford, CT (thanks for reading our blog, mom and dad), you can run off to the grocery store and pick up your very own!
The menu at Flatbread boasts a wide array of unique and mouthwatering all-natural pizzas baked in a wood-fired earthen oven.  While I’ve tried many of the menu’s offerings, my personal favorite has been unwavering: the New Vermont Sausage, a combination of Duclos & Thompson’s naturally raised Weybridge pork in a homemade, nitrate-free maple-fennel sausage baked w/ sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions, mushrooms, cheeses, & herbs is this meat-lover’s dream flatbread.  The heartiness of the meats combined with the flavorful nature of the herbs, not the mention the bountiful oil that seeps from each piece (don’t shy away because of this) makes this flatbread the best on the menu.  However, for those that are less adventurous, the Cheese & Herbs, which comes with Fine mozzarella, Blythdale Farm Asiago, Italian Grana Padano, garlic oil, & herbs, their take on a white pizza, and the Med Bread, a take on Hannah Newman’s plain pizza (you ordered the plain pizza, Hannah), will satisfy your palate.  Many of my friends also enjoy the Punctuated Equilibrium, which comes with kalamata olives, clay oven-roasted sweet red peppers, handmade Vermont goat cheese, fresh rosemary, red onions, mozzarella, & garlic.  I highly recommend this flatbread to all the goat cheese fanatics out there.
Despite these fantastic staple items on Flatbread’s menu, in the end, it has been the restaurant’s weekly specials that have kept me coming back.  In the gym-related story mentioned above, I was fortunate enough to return to my modular home with a large order of that night’s special: a homemade meatball, sundried tomato, mozzarella flatbread that brought all of my mod-mates running into the common room. The specials are the perfect opportunity for the chef’s of Flatbread to demonstrate their creativity, and they very rarely disappoint.  There are always two special flatbread offerings, one vegetarian and one with meat.  This past Saturday, we sampled one of each; the vegetarian offering included a sun-dried tomato sauce with baby spinach and ricotta cheese topped with a balsamic glaze, and the meat-lover option consisted of Bolognese sauce with Lewis creek farm rutabaga and Parmesan cheese. 
Sure Flatbread is known for their undeniably unique and delicious take on pizza, but do yourself a favor and order the Evolution Salad as an appetizer. The salad features organically grown lettuces, celery, + carrots tossed with Flatbread’s own ginger-tamari vinaigrette made with homemade berry vinegar and topped with toasted sesame seeds. Take it from someone who has mastered the salad bar at Proctor, this salad is mind-blowing.
If you haven’t already garnered this from our review, we are absolutely crazy about this Middlebury establishment.  Flatbread is the perfect place for a casual dinner with friends or family, or in my case, Middlebury’s ideal takeout joint.  Whether you’re a MiddKid, a visiting family member, or a prospective student, your time in Middlebury will not be complete without a stop at American Flatbread. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Trattoria Delia, stepping back into Old World Italy

Located in the heart of Burlington, just three blocks from Church Street, is the unexpectedly authentic Italian restaurant called Trattoria Delia. We were first introduced to this eatery by Middlebury Women’s varsity soccer coach, Peter Kim, who raved that this place boasted some of the best Italian food outside of Italy. I was obviously skeptical; great Italian food and Vermont just didn’t seem to make sense in my mind. However, inspired by a much-needed shopping trip, we decided to escape to “civilization” (aka Burlington) and give this Old World Italian restaurant a chance.
Upon arrival, it was as if we were stepping back in time to fifth and sixth century Europe.  Caroline commented that once we stepped through the doors, we had exited Burlington and entered into the world of Nottingham and Robin Hood.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Little John and Friar Tuck once dined at places like this.  The restaurant has a wine cellar feel with stonewalls, dim lighting and a charming fireplace.  The wine bottles that elegantly graced every table served as a clear indicator that this wasn't the common college kid’s establishment and we were somewhat underdressed for the occasion. As we were guided to our seats while classical Italian opera boomed overhead, Maddy Boston, recipient of the “Battler of the Year Award” and the “Inspiration Award” who proudly sported a Middlebury crewneck sweatshirt, quietly uttered, “Thanks for the heads up Pete”.
As we opened the menu and were given fresh warm bread and garlic butter, it was evident that we were about to embark on an eating adventure of grand proportions. Caroline and I in typical fashion split two appetizers. We enjoyed the veal and spinach meatball special, which was served with a lemon and caper glaze. The lemon sauce and zest served as a twist on an otherwise common dish and could have been an epic failure, but I am pleased to admit that it completely changed the way I view meatballs. The lemon and capers added an element of freshness. Well done, Pete.  We also split the “Scarmoza alla Griglia”, described as Wood-grilled handmade smoked mozzarella served on a bed of arugula with grilled tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. After my first bite of mozzarella, I thought for sure that I was experiencing the highpoint in the meal. Trattoria Delia’s wood-grilled handmade smoked mozzarella was hands down the best variation of this cheese I have ever had the pleasure of trying. In fact, the mozzarella was so good that I honestly cannot comment on the other parts of the dish because they were more of an afterthought while I was politely scarfing down the dish.  Across the table with a mouthful of mozzarella, Caroline nodded in agreement.
Madeline Dougie Boston ordered the bruschetta as an appetizer and she said that while it was very good, there was nothing that made the dish stand out from others she has had before.  The dish was presented nicely with a heaping of tomatoes and herbs on each crostini.  However, I’d have to agree with Maddy that unlike the heapings of mozzarella that I was shoving into my mouth, this dish didn’t rock my world.
For entrees, Caroline and I split the Pasta Parmigiana al Forno and the Pollo alla Diavola.  The rigatoni dish was served in a cast pot with Trattoria’s homemade tomato basil sauce with a veal meatball, sweet sausage, fried eggplant and topped with homemade mozzarella. While undeniably good, much like the bruschetta, this dish was nothing unbelievable. The sauce was a little dull and certainly could not compare to the high standards set by the homemade sauce of John Favorito, father to our resident Italian, all-star freshman, and recently taken (sorry boys), Julie Favorito. But what the pasta dish lacked, the Pollo alla Diavolo made up for. The free-range (we were reminded in this moment that we were still in Vermont) chicken was marinated in lemon, extra-virgin olive oil and herbs, oven-roasted with garlic, chilies and black pepper, served with a Roman salad of greens, grilled artichoke and shaved red onion. After the first bite, I instantly wished I hadn’t agreed to share.  Across the table, shooting me dirty looks of disdain, it was clear that Caroline agreed. Our table of four agreed that this was the best chicken dish that any of us had ever had the joy of eating.  The chicken was cooked to perfection and the chilies and black pepper added a spice that was flavorful without being overwhelming. Given the large portion size, the prices at Trattoria Delia were certainly fair. Appetizers range from $5-$12 and entrees from $14-$30.
The night began with a feeling of discomfort about being slightly underdressed and ended with us driving home, blue jeans unbuttoned uncomfortably but happily full.  While the restaurant’s atmosphere won’t make this place a MiddKid’s common joint, the moderately reasonable prices, sinfully good food, and our big fat two thumbs up endorsement hopefully will entice students to take a break from Middlebury and the twenty-first century and spend an evening treating their taste buds in Nottingham.

 Bruchetta $6.50
Pasta Parmigiana al Forno $17.50
Insalata con Proscuitto e Aceto Balsamico $9.50
(aka a salad of Proscuitto di Parma, organic bay greens, agrodolce onions, toasted pine nuts and shaved Grana Padano cheese, drizzled with aged balsamico)
Pollo alla Diavola $19.50

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tourterelle, French-Country Comes to Vermont

Route 7 is littered with homey bed and breakfast establishments, some appear dilapidated and on their last legs, while others are visibly more successful.  In my mind, the queen of the Route 7 bed and breakfasts is Tourterelle, located six miles north of Middlebury in New Haven, VT.  The Inn sits atop a hill that looks out onto the sweeping plains of rural Vermont.  Upon arrival, Kendrick Campbell ’13 burst out of the car in her flowing floral matronly gown and danced with the wind, marveling at the winter landscape that presented itself to her.  But the real treat awaited inside, and after a few minutes, we were able to pull Kendrick and her free spirit into the restaurant and begin our dining experience.
            In keeping with common bed and breakfasts, Tourterelle’s dining room is small and intimate.  Devin Perkins notes that the restaurant possesses a sophisticated but warming environment that offers a positive dining experience.  In standard fashion, we came in a party of ten, the loudest bunch in the room, and gave the kitchen a run for its money.
            For appetizers, our party largely went for salads and a sampling of other appetizer options.  Four members of our party ordered the staple Tourterelle Salad, which consists of arugula, marinated artichokes, roasted pecans, dried cranberries, Vermont goat cheese and topped with a balsamic vinaigrette.  As my fellows diners simply put it, you can’t go wrong with these ingredients and the Tourterelle Salad was a huge hit.
            Julie Favorito, our resident Italian, began to salivate profusely upon seeing the option for a Scallop Crepe and immediately announced to the table that she had decided her order.  The crepe was presented beautifully and admittedly, I was immensely jealous when the plate was placed in front of Favo and not me.  Based on the rate of which the dish was consumed, I can safely say that the taste directly corresponded with the appearance of the dish.  To all of you seafood lovers out there, Tourterelle’s scallop crepe is the dish for you. While small in size, each bite is packed full of flavor and receives this food reviewers full support.
            After seeing Julie’s dish, it would be tough for any appetizer to live up to my inflated hopes and cravings.  Recently, I’ve been on a weird kick where I like to order either the restaurants special or, as was the case with Otter Creek, the restaurant’s most unique option.  This tactic takes me out of my comfort zone, and for the most part, allows me to partake in an experience that I would otherwise have never had.  In this case, I ordered both the appetizer and entrée special of the evening.  To be completely honest, I had no idea what would be put in front of me when my appetizer came, so when a plate of cured meats and assorted grilled vegetables arrived, I knew that I had succeeded in my efforts.  For the Italians at the table, namely Julie and Lauryn, the dish was met with excitement and jealousy.  For the non-Italians, namely me, the orderer, and everyone else at the table, our hearts sank a little.  If you like cured meats, this dish was right up your alley and was a great rendition.  However, being not the biggest fan, I continued to stare enviously at both the Tourterelle Salad to my left and the Scallop Crepe to my right.  Not my best move.
            Fortunately, my entrée special made up for what the cured meats plate lacked.   That evening, Tourterelle was offering an Ahi Tuna special that, though moderately small in size, was grilled to the ideal level of rare and was extremely flavorful. The tuna sat in a moderately Asian flavored sauce that complimented the dish extraordinarily well.  Three of my fellow diners also ordered the special and all four of us left with big smiles on our faces.
            Another popular order was the Grillade de Saumon. Translation, grilled salmon. This dish was served with shrimp fritters roasted cauliflower, wild mushrooms in a shellfish cream sauce. The portion was generous but unfortunately, the salmon average. It was certainly not the best I’ve had in Vermont, in my opinion it was slightly overcooked. However, the wild mushrooms and shrimp fritters were delicious. Overall, the dish was good but next time I would try one of their more unique options. 
            The general consensus for Tourterelle is that the entrees were good but the desserts stole the show. We sampled the majority of the dessert menu, and believe when I say that you cannot go wrong with whatever option you choose.
            While this French-Country restaurant may not be the first place I call for reservations when my parents are in town, it is certainly worth a visit. Upon arrival a kind host and the warm smell of a wood burning fire greet you. The charming atmosphere alone is enough to make go back, the good food is just an added bonus. Just ten minutes from campus, this is a dining experience that is well worth the trip, but one that may be more enjoyable when your parents are taking care of the bill.

Otter Creek, Middlebury's Hometown Bakery

            Located in the heart of Middlebury is the quaint Otter Creek Bakery. Upon entering this small establishment, you can’t help but be drawn to the display case, which hosts some of the most gourmet and mouthwatering desserts I have ever seen. Otter Creek has everything from Petit Fours to homemade Oreos. While I personally am a huge fan of their cakes, for those who don’t have an outrageously sweet tooth you may find this dessert type to be a bit rich for your taste. If so, I recommend trying any of their cookies, the cinnamon twists or the apple turnovers.  But before you dive into dessert, you should be sure not miss their sandwiches, served on homemade breads.  The display case also offers several ready-made options, such as a delicious chicken salad with grapes and celery, as well as other fresh daily options.
            Arguably one of my favorite sandwiches, the West Coaster is a combination of everything good in life. The smoked turkey combined with the avocado, sprouts, jalapeño jack cheese and tomatoes forms one of the smoothest sandwiches I have ever tasted. Today I tried it on their Honey-Oat bread, but often go for the Sourdough. Whatever bread you choose, you cannot go wrong with this sandwich. It should also be noted that this sandwich is typically served with sun-dried tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes. I change the order because the flavor from the sun-dried tomatoes is too overpowering and doesn’t allow for the spice of the jalapeno jack cheese to contribute.
Another sandwich that is certainly worth trying so long as you don’t mind of eating yourself into a heart attack is the BLT with Brie. This treat is a twist on a classic but be sure to get it paninied, as the melted Brie helps form a cohesive bond amongst the ingredients.
After a month of overindulgence where I made sure to eat just about everything that my heart desired, I found that, as with the majority of people, there are specific items that I tend to be drawn to.  For example, despite having dined at many different dinner establishments this January, instead of trying a vast array on entrees, at the end of the month, I found myself with many different experiences of salmon under my belt.  Not ideal for a supposed food critic. As a result, when I went to Otter Creek, instead of looking at the menu and seeing what I personally would have liked (which probably would have been Lauryn’s West Coaster. Yum.), I asked the cashier to give me their most popular sandwich.  This sandwich, called the Norwegian, came with Norwegian smoked salmon, dill cream cheese, and cucumbers on thinly sliced rye bread.  Nope.  Not what I would have ordered.  The sandwich was, in a word, interesting.  I’m not the biggest fan of dill and thinly sliced rye bread isn’t the first thing I jump for.  Yes, I am surprised that this is Otter Creek’s most popular sandwich because I can’t say that I would be tempted to order it.  To be fair, the ingredients were incredibly fresh and top grade, which was a saving grace for the interesting combination.  However, after passing around my sandwich at the hockey game (I didn't really want to eat it), I was given several extremely positive reviews from both dill lovers, smoked salmon lovers, and growing boys that will eat just about anything.  Despite the less than stellar experience, this sandwich has not stopped my quest to expand my palate and step out of my comfort zone.
Otter Creek is located in the heart of town, right across from the new bridge.  They are open seven days a week and serve both breakfast and lunch.  Otter Creek is the perfect place to pick up a cake for any special celebration or for anytime you are craving a little sweet.  Make sure you have cash when eating at Otter Creek as they do not accept credit cards. 

 Delicious Display Cases

 The West Coaster Sandwich
 The Norwegian Sandwich