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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Burlington Street Becomes Food Distribution Site

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 3:40 PM

A guardsman loading food into a pickup truck Tuesday in Burlington - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • A guardsman loading food into a pickup truck Tuesday in Burlington
A Burlington builder flashed a V sign out the window of his Ram 2500 as he steered his pickup under an overpass on the Beltline on Tuesday morning. His victory was being No. 1 in a long  line of cars at a food distribution site in Burlington’s New North End.

The man, who declined to give his name, arrived at 4:30 in the morning, before the sun came up. Three lanes of cars fanned out behind him, filled with Vermonters waiting in the sunshine to receive cases of government-supplied food.

“There’s uncertainty, and we don’t know how long this will go on,” said the man, a father of four, adding that his work is slow. “I’m here for basic needs.”
Cars waiting in line to receive food on the Beltline Tuesday in Burlington - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Cars waiting in line to receive food on the Beltline Tuesday in Burlington
The food giveaway in Burlington, the first in Vermont’s largest city, was one of several such events that have been held around the state in the past month. Organized by the Vermont Foodbank in collaboration with the Vermont National Guard and the state’s Emergency Operations Center, the distributions aim to address a steep rise in food insecurity due to job losses and the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Feeding America, a national hunger-relief group, estimates the number of food-insecure people in Vermont is up by 46 percent, and the number of food-insecure children is up 60 percent, according to the Vermont Foodbank.

In Burlington, roughly 550 cars moved through the line at a rate of about 120 cars an hour, according to organizers. Some people got food for themselves and family members. Others came to assist people who don’t have cars or were otherwise unable to access the food.

A Colchester woman who lost her job in the registration department at the University of Vermont Medical Center said it was the first time she has needed help getting food.

“I don’t get any other assistance,” the 56-year-old said. “So this helps.”

Patricia Mallette, 66, traveled from North Clarendon with her 16-week-old puppy, Molly. The 70-mile trip was minor compared with the 1,475 miles she drove each way, two weeks ago, to pick up her dog.

Patricia Mallette of North Clarendon and her puppy, Molly - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Patricia Mallette of North Clarendon and her puppy, Molly
“We are food short,” Mallette said. “My stepdaughter hasn’t gotten unemployment [benefits] in eight weeks, and they are starving.”

A Shelburne mother of three, driving a Volvo station wagon, arrived at the thoroughfare at 5 a.m. Her family is in the construction business and is experiencing “lack of work and lack of income,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.

The help with food is "huge" and necessary, she said, but the time spent waiting in line could be used to look for work.

Samuel Dingba, 25, youth program coordinator for AALV, drove the New Farms for New Americans van to the Beltline site. Originally from Cameroon, Dingba said he was picking up food for 20 families that don’t have cars.

“It makes me happy to be able to help other families,” Dingba said.
Samuel Dingba - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Samuel Dingba
Also collecting on behalf of other people was Steve Hamlin, president of the board of North Avenue Co-op. Hamlin, 62, said he hoped to get food for nine families but wasn’t certain he’d be allotted that much.

“There’s a lot of people in there that are struggling to make their bills, including lot rent,” Hamlin said of residents at the mobile home park.  “As the president, I go out and do everything I can to help them."

He’s a security guard who’d been working 60 to 80 hours a week, but, with events canceled, his work is down to about 30 hours a week, Hamlin said.

Cars lined up for food Tuesday on the Beltline in Burlington - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Cars lined up for food Tuesday on the Beltline in Burlington
The food distributed Tuesday included 1,000 Farmers to Families kits, according to Nicole Whalen, spokesperson for the Vermont Foodbank. Paid for by the USDA and put together by the Abbey Group of Enosburg  Falls, each box contains 15 to 25 pounds of produce, 20 pounds of chicken and 7.5 pounds of dairy products, according to Whalen.

In addition, 1,930 boxes of nonperishable food, supplied by FEMA and totaling about 28,800 meals, were distributed.

One man who came for food, Fred Jackson of Burlington, rode in a pickup truck with a U.S. flag sticking up from the hood.  A onetime airplane mechanic, Jackson said he sometimes gets groceries at Feeding Chittenden in Burlington.

“I heard about this, and I’m needy for food,” Jackson, 62, said. “I think they’re doing the best they can do.”

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Home on the Range: Sheet Pan Roast Chicken

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 3:24 PM

Sheet pan chicken with roasted vegetables - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Sheet pan chicken with roasted vegetables
My most recent virtual cooking lesson with my brother-in-law, Conor, was supposed to prove how easy it is to make delicious roasted chicken and vegetables in just a single sheet pan.

One of our versions turned out delicious, but the other — not so much.

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Orwell Butter Maker Earns Attention From Trump and the 'New York Times'

Posted By on Sun, May 24, 2020 at 4:38 PM

Animal Farm butter from Orwell - COURTESY OF DIANE ST. CLAIR
  • Courtesy of Diane St. Clair
  • Animal Farm butter from Orwell
On May 21, the New York Times published an article by restaurant critic Tejal Rao headlined, "As the Restaurant Industry Struggles, the President Talks About Butter."

The butter in question captured President Trump's fancy during a May 18 meeting with restaurant executives to discuss potential federal support during the pandemic. Diane St. Clair makes it at Animal Farm in Orwell from the milk of her tiny herd of grass-fed Jersey cows.

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Short Order for Restaurants: Two Months Closed, Two Days to Open

Posted By on Sat, May 23, 2020 at 2:17 PM

Spot on the Dock in Burlington on Friday evening - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Spot on the Dock in Burlington on Friday evening
Jackie Oktay has been busy homeschooling her kids, converting two restaurants to takeout businesses, and keeping 40 people employed. So she missed the news on Wednesday that restaurants could open for outdoor dining on Friday. They'd been ordered to stay closed for two months as part of the state's effort to rein in the coronavirus.

Oktay, co-owner of Istanbul Kebab House in Burlington and Tuckerbox in White River Junction,  found out Thursday morning  that restaurants got the green light.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God,’ ‘’ Oktay said by telephone Thursday afternoon. “The wheels start turning: What the heck do I have to do now?”

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Friday, May 22, 2020

NOFA-VT's Pizza Oven 'Feeds Those Who Feed Us'

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2020 at 8:37 PM

From left: Livy Bulger, Nick Kierstead and Tucker Levy prepping pizzas at Red Wagon Plants - JORDAN BARRY
  • Jordan Barry
  • From left: Livy Bulger, Nick Kierstead and Tucker Levy prepping pizzas at Red Wagon Plants
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont's pizza oven has been a reliable sign of summer since 2006. Established by the late Enid Wonnacott, who led NOFA-VT for more than 30 years, the mobile oven could be found on farms throughout the state, bringing people together around pies topped with local, farm-fresh ingredients.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pizza oven is still a beacon of commensality, though the mission has a different focus this year.

The nonprofit has launched a new project called "Feeding Those Who Feed Us," which brings the mobile oven to certified organic farms around the state to cook for hardworking farm crews.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Drink Up: Unconventional Bar Snacks To-Go at the Monkey House

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 6:21 PM

Maple-Whiskey Lemonade and a Cup of Noodles to-go from the Monkey House - JORDAN BARRY
  • Jordan Barry
  • Maple-Whiskey Lemonade and a Cup of Noodles to-go from the Monkey House
The Monkey House opened back up Thursday with drinks to-go — and a disclaimer. The Winooski bar's website, which is now set up for online ordering, states that every order with one or more alcoholic beverage "must include at least 1 Hot Dog or 1 Cup of Noodle." 

Bar snacks were a pretty random category to begin with, but Gov. Phil Scott's directive allowing delivery and takeout of alcoholic beverages from restaurants and bars during the COVID-19 pandemic — as long as they're purchased with a meal — has brought the land of popcorn and peanuts to a whole new level. 

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Skinny Pancake's ShiftMeals Launches Farm Program

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 7:15 AM

Tommy Thompson Community Garden in Burlington - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Tommy Thompson Community Garden in Burlington
ShiftMeals, the hunger-relief  initiative started by Skinny Pancake restaurants to provide free meals to unemployed restaurant workers, musicians, gig workers and others, is establishing an agricultural component, the organization announced this week. The endeavor,  ShiftMeals GrowTeam, is part of the group’s effort to address the rise in food insecurity from the economic impact of the coronavirus.

ShiftMeals GrowTeam will provide laid-off cooks, servers and other hospitality workers access to farms and the means to grow their own food and learn about agriculture.  Through partnerships with gardens and farms in Burlington, Richmond and Marshfield, ShiftMeals GrowTeam will build so-called Victory Farms at which people can cultivate their own food.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Vermont Restaurants Can Open for Outdoor Dining on Friday

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 10:18 PM

The old days, at Spot on the Dock in Burlington - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • The old days, at Spot on the Dock in Burlington
Updated on May 21, 2020.

Restaurants in Vermont can open for outdoor dining starting Friday, according to guidelines released Wednesday by state officials.

Gov. Phil Scott closed the state's eateries on March 17, though he allowed them to continue takeout, curbside and delivery service. Wednesday's decision to allow outdoor dining on-site is the latest step in reopening the state's businesses.

The update to Vermont’s “Be Smart, Stay Safe” order includes certain stipulations: Restaurants must use disposable menus, and a reservation or “call-ahead seating” system; tables must be at least 10 feet apart; takeout service, as opposed to table service, is preferred; and the maximum number of diners seated at one time can be 50 people or the licensed seating capacity, whichever is less.

Leunig’s Bistro, located at the high-traffic corner of College and Church streets in Burlington, can seat 50 people outdoors, chef-owner Donnell Collins told Seven Days Wednesday night. But with tables spaced 10 feet apart, Leunig’s can accommodate 18 to 20 customers, Collins said.

“I can’t support 95 people with 20 seats,” she said, referring to the size of her staff. “It’s just not gonna happen.”

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Home on the Range: Magical Cocoabean Cupcakes

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2020 at 10:29 AM

Nancy Cain's Cocoabean Cupcakes - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Nancy Cain's Cocoabean Cupcakes
I cannot count the number of times I've made these cupcakes over the last five years since their creator, Nancy Cain, told me it was the single recipe in her then-new cookbook I should try if I only tried one.

I will admit I was skeptical. Not only were they gluten-free, as was everything in Cain's cookbook, Against the Grain: Extraordinary Gluten-Free Recipes Made from Real, All-Natural Ingredients, but I had  recently experienced full-on disaster with another baking recipe (not Cain's) featuring the same gluten-replacing ingredient.

But I had promised I would give them a try, and when I did I was floored. With just six simple ingredients that many people will have on hand (even in a pandemic), this is the best and easiest chocolate cupcake recipe I've ever baked.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Sharp Increase in Reported Poisonings From Ramp Look-Alike

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2020 at 8:01 PM

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) harvested in late April (not be used for ID purposes) - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Ramps (Allium tricoccum) harvested in late April (not be used for ID purposes)
Reported cases of serious illness due to people mistaking highly poisonous false hellebore (Veratrum viride) for a prized wild edible, ramps (Allium tricoccum), have more than doubled in Vermont over last year's number: to 22 so far, according to Dr. Karen Simone, director of the Northern New England Poison Center.

"It makes you wonder: Are people just having more time on their hands, or are they going back to nature because of all the things that are happening?" Simone said. "It's hard to know, but it's definitely a big increase."

The Poison Center, based in Portland, Maine, serves Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire; it typically receives from zero to eight reports of false hellebore poisoning per year across all three states. The total number of cases to date is 25. All but three of those have been reported in Vermont, mostly in May. 

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