Side Dishes: Shake Things Up
The legal pieces are still falling into place, but in a couple of weeks, Susan Huling will succeed her sister, Leslie Myers, as owner of Smokejacks  in Burlington. Myers is moving to Las Vegas this week, and the siblings have worked out an operating agreement that will remain in effect until the transfer is complete. Huling calls the changeover a win-win-win situation: “The restaurant needed some energy, Leslie needed to move and I’d just had a life change,” she reflects.
Huling intends to remain true to the restaurant’s mission, “Smokejacks was the local restaurant before the localvore thing was a concept,” she exclaims. Even though it’s very early in the growing season, the eatery is already sourcing 80 percent of its produce locally, including foraged items such as baby ramps and fiddleheads. Executive Chef Josh Robinette will collaborate with Huling to grow as much as they can on her property in Stowe. And they’ll make fresh mozzarella by hand. Ultimately, she remarks, they hope to create “signature products” that can be featured at the restaurant and sold in local stores: Think Smokejacks’ jam, apple cider and wine.
While many things at the restaurant will remain the same — the coconut chocolate crème brulee and sweet potato soup, for example — Huling will be making some changes. One is the addition of an artisanal Vermont “chocolate list.” “It will look like a cheese list where you choose your chocolate and it comes out on a plate,” Huling explains. There will be chocolate fondue, too. Both sweet treats will be on the menu “before Mother’s Day,” she promises.
But the biggest change she plans to make is a little less tangible. “Josh is a very talented chef, but he hasn’t really been showcased or in charge of the menu fully. My goal is to fully empower him,” Huling says. When the menu is under his creative control, she guesses, “He’s going to take Burlington by storm.” Burlington can’t wait!
When North Hero House Inn and Restaurant  owner Walter Blasberg began searching for a new executive chef to run his kitchen, he didn’t want to hire just anybody. “What I’m really anxious to do is to upgrade the professionalism and the commitment to excellence at the inn, both in food and room and lodging,” he explains. Who did Blasberg find? Chef Frederic Byarm, formerly of the Four Seasons in Philadelphia and the Killington Grand Hotel.
Byarm thinks of Vermont as a hotbed of “farm-to-table” dining, which he calls “an Old World, European approach.” In keeping with that approach, and his classical training, he plans to source food mainly from farms in three neighboring counties: Grand Isle, Franklin and Chittenden.
Entrées will include an “unconventional” surf ’n’ turf with braised veal and scallops, and local rack of lamb. The Inn’s signature dish will be pan-seared walleye. Pasta, ice cream and sorbet will be made in-house.
The Inn will begin serving dinner on May 2, and will offer a special Mother’s Day brunch and dinner on May 11.
In case you missed it:
Sweetwaters  has hired former NECI Chef-Instructor Tim Benzing to helm its kitchen and give the food a bit more zip.
Think! Café at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center has opened its doors — and waterfront visitors can even eat there without plunking down the cost of admission. Sandwiches, such as “Down on the Farm,” a ham, cheddar and veggie concoction with sweet ’n’ spicy mustard, feature Klinger’s  bread. The soups come from Sugarsnap  on Riverside Avenue. There are finger foods, too: hot dogs, pretzels and nacho chips with cheese.