Kim visits some amazing Vermont entrepreneurs with incredible products at the Made in Vermont Marketplace in Essex Junction, VT. Here are just some of the highlights.
Although the “farm-to-table” concept has caught on as a national trend, it is hardly new to Vermont chefs. Three of my favorite chefs, a German, Italian and Swede, would rather source local purveyors than import exotic foods from around the world. Why is that so important to them? Although I had an idea of how they would answer my question, I was fascinated to learn how they developed their opinions and differed in perspectives.
“It’s not just about fresh produce,” says Christoph Wingensiefen, Executive Chef at Stoweflake, “it’s also about being environmentally responsible. Think about the resources and energy it takes to transport a product across the country or overseas. Not to mention the chemicals used to be sure they survive the journey. Buying local just makes good sense on all levels.”uncommon to see him in Stoweflake’s labyrinth garden with an eager-to-learn chef hand picking fresh herbs for the daily soup. He simply loves teaching the principle of using the highest quality and most natural resources available. Those that have had the pleasure to learn from him have never forgotten his unique lessons.
Formerly, Wingensiefen was chef instructor at the renowned New England Culinary Institute after performing his skills throughout Germany and the U.S., including the Ritz-Carlton, Golfclub Schloss Luedersburg and the Homestead Golf & Ski Resort. Wingensiefen concludes, “What it comes really comes down to is choice. I can serve you food that has been on a truck for a week or local produce that is delivered daily. But decide for yourself,” as he handed me a fork to try my favorite mixed greens and salmon salad. “Taste the difference.”
Chef Owner, Tony De Vito, born and raised in Terracina, Italy, learned early from his family that harvesting fresh ingredients were the only way to prepare food. Even today, he grows his own tomatoes and herbs on the deck of his farmhouse restaurant, Trattoria La Festa, in Stowe. He added, “We are pretty lucky to live in a place where each season brings a bountiful array of beautiful food. I love to create my Italian family’s recipes using Vermont-raised poultry, meats, cheeses and, of course, my tomatoes!”
After moving to the U.S. as a teenager, De Vito learned “hands on” what fresh really meant. “It’s amazing I have all ten fingers,” Tony says, laughing, as hewaves a snappy two-pound lobster in my face. “I prepared 200-300 of these guys every weekend at Fantasia Restaurant as ‘Lobster Boy’. To this day, I detour lobster tanks by at least 300 ft.!”
It was at Fantasia that De Vito launched his education and appreciation for excellence in cuisine with promotions from Lobster Boy to line cook, banquet chef and so on. De Vito went on to prosper in his career with experience at the Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Bay Tower Room, Grille 23, Brae Burn Country Club and Dertads.
Perhaps the most inspirational farm-to-table story of the past decade is that of Chef Jeffrey Weiss and Pete’s Greens, a four-season organic vegetable farm in Craftsbury, Vermont.
Jeff Weiss, Chef Owner of Tastings Food & Spirits in North Troy explains, “I began working with Pete in 1990. I had just moved to Vermont, was in search of local produce, and Pete was just starting out. We quickly established a great relationship because we both knew that naturally grown, local produce was not only flavorful, but also held tremendous economic and health benefits for the community.”
The partnership escalated a couple of years ago when Pete’s Greens was in need for organic land because they lost its underinsured barn in a tragic fire. Most of us remember the community outreach to help them recover, but it was Weiss that gave them a new home.
As we walked through the fields, Weiss reflects, “But it wasn’t until after I opened my restaurant that I realized how fortunate I was. Not many chefs have the opportunity to see so much beautiful produce growing in their back yard, to be certain what foods are at their peak freshness and then to be able to create a spectacular dish with excellent flavor and quality.”
Weiss’ parents, from Stockholm, Sweden and NYC, encouraged him as he earned his degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales, RI. Weiss went on to gain his 5-diamond experience at the Class Pa Hornet and Matpalatset in Stockholm, Hyatt Regency, Hilton Head, and several Ritz-Carlton locations. His tenure in Vermont included the world class Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, and now, his life’s dream, Tastings.
As I interviewed these three outstanding chefs, I was not surprised that they are truly committed to patronizing Vermont foodpurveyors whenever possible. But what I didn’t know is that this German, Italian and Swede shared a deep, personal passion for the “farm-to-table” concept long before they arrived in Vermont. It is their life-long dedication to cherishing the earth, eat from its fruit—and my favorite part—share their delectable, magnificent, nutritious creations with us.
This official archive is part of the national list of historic and cultural resources worthy of preservation. Although the majority of the buildings are individually listed properties and privately owned residences, many others are preserved for commercial, religious and institutional uses.
A prime example of one of these historic buildings is a Romanesque brick and brownstone structure located in the Montpelier Historic District.
The Vermont State Agricultural Building — formerly owned by National Life — was built in 1891.
My interest in this historic building derived from a visit to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (next door) last summer. The stately, four-and-a-half-story structure was wrapped in construction scaffolding. As I walked past, I noticed that it was decidedly asymmetrical, had windows of different shapes and sizes, and had a conglomeration of roof styles.
Intrigued, I decided to take a closer look.
The short flight of steps led me to enormous mahogany doors with an intricately carved semicircular frieze above them. Inside, I found floors made of Egyptian mosaic tiles, wainscoting of warm shades of brown and tan Swanton marble, and a beautiful stairway also made of marble and wrought iron.
When carefully walking around outside, I could see that the building was in the masonry restoration phase. Craftsmen were busy working on every level.
Masonry contractor Bruno Gubetta, owner of Alpine Building Restoration, was there to explain what I was looking at.
“We collaborated with SAS Architects (Smith Alvarez and Sienkiewycz) and Quinn General Contractors as the historic masonry specialists to restore the building’s façade,” Gubetta said. “We will be here for a couple of months to clean the brick, replace and reconstruct some of it, and repair the stone. Plus, we need to do some repointing (removing improperly installed mortar and reinstalling historically accurate mortar).
“Today,” Gubetta said as he pointed to the roof, “Tim and Chad’s crew are rebuilding the chimney while our other crew replaces brick on the north elevation.”
Alpine Building Restoration, which Gubetta established in 1992, began with small projects on historic homes. Within a few years, the company established a strong reputation in Vermont and won larger commercial projects.
Once it became recognized by some of Vermont’s most respected designers and architects, Alpine became a preferred historic-restoration company. Its projects in the past 20 years have included UVM’s Old Mill, Redstone Hall and Williams Hall, Middlebury’s Town Hall Theatre, the Howard Mortuary Chapel, and as many as 1,000 more historic buildings.
Other aspects of the project at 116 State included insulating the foundation, waterproofing, working on the drainage system and restoring the windows.
In addition to masonry restoration, the biggest part of the project was the copper and slate roof. Says Gubetta about replacing the roof of a historic building, “You don’t guess. Like authentic masonry, there is no substitute for experience.”
Rodd Roofing of St. Johnsbury was up to the task. The 85-year-old company specializes in commercial and residential roofs made of copper, slate, metal, cedar, tile and more. It has worked on a vast number of institutional buildings, colleges, hospitals and churches across New England.
At 116 State, Rodd Roofing installed North Country Black, a top-quality slate from northern Maine and Canada. The dark-gray slate is similar in quality and appearance to the legendary Unfading Black slate that Welsh immigrants first mined in Monson, Maine, in 1870. Between the new roof and refurbished masonry, the result is stunning.
Now, every day since my trip to the DMV last summer, I notice at least one historic building along every road I travel in Vermont. Each one is stately in its own manner, resilient against time — with a hand from the men and women who are dedicated to preserving its history.
Tom Moore, a leading Vermont builder, has always had a vision of building a home for his family, primarily made with wood from his land. He wanted to build an environmentally conscious home that would be sustainable, energy-efficient, exquisitely crafted, and comfortable.
That is exactly what he did.
On Upper Stevensville Road in Underhill Center, you will find the truly “green” Moore home. The house is mostly made from tamarack trees — because he had acres of them, and because of their natural ability to be rot-resistant. He used the tamaracks instead of pressure-treated lumber for retaining walls, sills, outdoor joists and miscellaneous framing.
Other wood harvested included ash, pine and maple, which were fashioned into tongue-in-groove wall paneling, flooring and ceilings. The only wood he commercially purchased were for trusses, decking, wall and roof sheathing, wall studs and sustainably harvested cork flooring.
The airtight and weather-tight house has a foundation that was poured using insulated concrete forms, which Moore claims is most effective way to build a finished, heated basement. The house’s double-wall framing — 13 inches thick — was designed by Moore using two separate applications of soy-based foam spray. There are also 2-foot overhangs and two roof-mounted flat-panel solar collectors. The house is outfitted with a highly efficient propane boiler, is divided into five separate heat zones, and has triple-glazed Pella windows with between-pane shades. Beveled window openings have wide sills of recycled granite that absorb incoming heat.
Other features include a heat exchange system, fresh-air ventilation, LED lighting and appliances, European-style radiators, and a remotely-controlled gas fireplace. Moore’s vision was to build a totally green home — not just the structure, but everything in it, including built-in closets, stairways and a fully equipped kitchen. The home showcases magnificent creations, such as a cherry and tiger maple bedroom set and book-matched tiger maple inlaid kitchen cabinets. All were designed and custom-crafted by Moore, his son Lincoln, and master cabinet maker Clark Sargent in Moore’s cabinetry shop.
Additionally, the house is efficient in size. Moore believes that, to be responsible for the environment, the “mega house” needs to go away. He set the example by building a smaller, smarter house that takes advantage of every square inch of space. Mini-closets under stairways and built-in storage contribute to the space-saving residence. Mirrors are strategically placed to reflect and expand visual space.
The house may be downsized, but it does not compromise any home comforts.
Perhaps the most significant accolade for the Moore house is a LEED certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), established in 1998, uses a rating program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is a voluntary program that promotes transformation of the home-building industry toward sustainable practices. The organization claims that a certification means a “green” house uses less energy, water and natural resources, creates less waste, and is healthier for those living inside than conventional structures.
To most of us, that means lower energy and water bills and — more importantly — the security of knowing that our families are not exposed to health threats such as mold, mildew and other indoor toxins. Plus, the resale factor may have an advantage.
According to a recent blog post by Peter Yost, director of residential services for Building Green LLC in Brattleboro, “While many green labeling or rating programs are just beginning to penetrate the real-estate and appraisal industries in a significant way, LEED (for homes) is already well-recognized in the marketplace for well-built, energy-efficient and comfortable homes. This label should be attractive to potential buyers when you decide to sell your home in the future.”
Today, Moore—a certified green professional— has become an expert on building energy-efficient homes beautifully. He wants to build cozy, comfortable green dwellings where people can raise their children, and then adapt easily for retirement years. He wants to build homes that conserve resources, while teaching children to be good stewards of the earth. He envisions artistically crafted, custom-made works of art that celebrate the world — and do not contribute to its destruction.
Information: www.tommoorebuilder.com; some information courtesy of Dick Nelson, Vermont Builder and Architect Magazine.
When most of us go through a midlife crisis, we get a burning desire to a make a significant change in our lives. Typically that means an impulsive car purchase, sparked romance, or a sudden compulsion to get in shape.
Not for KK Harvey of Stowe. She liked her car, had a handle on love and was already fit. Instead, Harvey got the urge to fly.
She began her midlife ambition with flying lessons in 1996. Ironically, that year marked the death of Vermont’s first woman pilot, Grace Hall Pugh. Pugh achieved her student permit in 1932 and became Vermont’s “First Lady of Aviation” in 1938.
“Grace was a minority, and pioneer of her time,” Harvey says. “But we still have a long way to go.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Harvey is right. Of the 600,000 active pilots in the U.S., only about 6 percent are women and only slightly more than 3 percent are rated as airline transport pilots. But organizations like The Ninety-Nines, a nonprofit founded in 1929 by 99 woman pilots, is trying to change that. They actively promote the advancement of aviation through education, scholarships and mutual support.
The newer, nonprofit Women In Aviation was established in 1994 to encourage women to seek all opportunities in aviation — beyond piloting. Today, both organizations have thousands of members and are making a difference in the future of aviation.
Harvey recalls, “Training to become a female pilot in a male-dominated industry did not concern me. Being a minority only meant that I would have to work harder to prove myself.”
“Besides,” she jokes, “As someone once told me, some men think they are better than they really are, and some women don’t realize how great they really are.”
Harvey realized her ability to be great — and to beat the odds.
After getting her private pilot’s license in 1997, she went on to get an instrument rating (flying into the clouds) and then a commercial rating (flying for hire) shortly after. Her flying experience in the past 15 years has included flight instructor, ground instructor, photo-shoot pilot, glider tow pilot, glider pilot, aerobatic pilot, U.S. mail pilot, charter pilot, fractional pilot and ultimately corporate pilot.
“I have been remarkably fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time for a lot of my jobs and experiences,” Harvey says. “It is an industry that relies heavily on networking.”
Today Harvey is the chief pilot at BioTek Instruments Inc. in Winooski, commanding a Cessna Citation Jet 3. The company initially chose a Cessna for its low operating costs, in part because it’s a single-pilot, twin-engine jet. After a couple of years, BioTek upgraded to the Jet 3, a larger, newer, more efficient version.
Harvey routinely flies BioTek staff members to meetings, allowing them maximize their time and productivity.
“I can fly to them to Atlanta for a meeting and have them home for dinner,” Harvey says.
She also flies routinely to Florida, the Caribbean, the West Coast and many places in between. Harvey has even flown to Europe twice — the long way, from Burlington to Canada to Iceland to the United Kingdom.
“I really enjoy trips when I can see down to the ground and follow our progress through the country,” she says. “I never tire of picking out New York City, Atlantic City, the Mississippi, the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Bahamas or the Grand Canyon from the air.”
In addition to piloting, Harvey manages everything about the flights — selecting airports, planning flights around the weather, fuel purchases, monitoring consumption, and overseeing maintenance schedules and cleaning of the aircraft.
Harvey is proud to shine the beacon of Grace Hall Pugh and the thousands of woman who preceded her — even though the idea took flight because of a midlife crisis. She says she is loving life and has no plans to stay grounded.
Regardless of where her travels take her, Harvey loves coming home to Vermont.
“There is nothing like approaching Burlington Airport for a landing when the sun is setting over the Adirondacks and reflecting on Lake Champlain,” she says. “At that moment, there is no other place on earth that I would rather be.”
When you need just the right color accessory to match an outfit — for one event — there is only one thing to do: Go consignment shopping! Although the consignment store had the little purple purse I needed, it was the discovery of Kelly Brunell that made the trip successful.
Kelly, a Vermont jewelry artisan, had consigned a couple of her handmade gemstone designs at the shop. One, a beautifully strung red necklace, caught my eye with its incredible luster and brilliant color. The tag description read “Madagascar Ruby & Blister Pearls: The ruby is the stone of love and coin pearls the stone of pure femininity to the Polynesian people. Wear it in good health, Kelly.”
As I drove home clutching my latest find, I became fixated on its creator. I decided to learn more about this fascinating Vermont artisan.
Kelly Brunell was born of native Vermonters; her mother was a successful business owner, her dad an accountant for the state. The two shared a deep love for the mountains and Brunell was raised in a modest home at the base of Camel’s Hump.
“It was fun,” Brunell said. “We had the mountain pretty much to ourselves. I knew every rock and tree on that mountain. It was a time when children could wander about, the rain made your hair feel soft, and the snow practically buried your house.”
Although Brunell is deeply rooted in Vermont, that did not keep her from wandering about the country as a young woman. Her travels began at age 17 as a model for the Canadian company La Belle Femme.” During her short modeling career, Brunell developed a wanderlust that eventually took her to Seattle, West Virginia, Florida and New Mexico. Traveled out at age 38, Brunell returned to the Green Mountain state, the place she calls her real home.
Brunell began studying gemstones shortly thereafter and — as her mother had — started her own business, Opaque Mountain Designs.
“My passion for stones came from my childhood exploring the mountains,” Brunell said. “It was the fossil that mostly intrigued me, and still does. Then I fell in love with opaque gemstones. Contrary to their name, they are neither transparent nor translucent, but solid-colored in appearance and delightfully smooth to the touch.
“I love all varieties, including agates, turquoise, carnelian, and one of my favorites, Tiger’s Eye. This stone is remarkable because of its striking play of light and movement over the surface of the stone — kind of a wavy three-dimensional effect. Although most people recognize it as brownish-yellow, reddish-brown or grayish-blue, there are other rare varieties like Marra Mamba from the Hamersley Ranges of the Pilbara region of Australia. I have seen stones from there in shades of red, green, yellow and blue. I just can’t get enough.”
The treasures include Botswana agates, Chinese turquoise, Brazilian amethyst and Japanese freshwater pearls. There are jewelry designs hung everywhere in various stages of completion. Each necklace, bracelet and earring was well on its way to becoming a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
And Brunell does not stop at gemstones. She makes jewelry from everything nature has to offer, including wood, gems of the sea and beads made from recycled glass.
Her philosophy is straightforward. She believes that it is essential to recycle, renew and reuse what is already on Earth.
Brunell, rolling her eyes, expounds, “We are getting smothered with cardboard boxes, glass and manmade materials that are creating mountains of a different kind. Mountains of trash that don’t produce anything, much less gemstones.”
Opaque’s jewelry can no longer be found at the consignment store. It is displayed at some area boutiques on beautiful driftwood displays handmade by Brunell’s husband, Jim. Although a few of Brunell’s pieces can be found at Elements at Stoweflake, Green Envy and the Stowe Emporium.
“The earth has many stones unturned,” Brunell said. “However, when they are discovered — and I get my hands on them — they will become one of my designs.”