Side Dishes: Leunig's upstairs bar opens; Flan comes to Vermont; Hotel Vermont presents an ice bar
Tucked behind the bar of Leunig’s Bistro  is a secret: a stairway that leads to the new upstairs bar, which opened on Tuesday. The art-deco décor amplifies the speakeasy feel, but anyone who can ascend the slim staircase needs no password to enter, starting at 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. The upstairs stays open, like the downstairs, till 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on weekends.
General manager Bob Conlon says the lounge was built to handle the overflow of diners waiting to be seated downstairs. But it’s likely to become a destination itself, with a menu that includes fun bar foods  not available at the restaurant proper. Kettle chips are sweet with duck fat and come with a sensuous truffle aioli for dipping. French onion bites offer all the best parts of the Leunig’s signature soup, sans broth. Diners seeking a light snack before heading downstairs will find charcuterie plates, crudités and nuts.
During Leunig’s popular Sunday brunch, the upstairs offers a treat of its own. An array of special Bloody Marys accompanies a raw bar. Those looking for a meaty wake-up call can try a Mary made with bouillon, bacon and olives stuffed with pepperoni.
It’s not easy to find flan in Vermont, but Vanessa O’Neill of Vermont Flan Company  has plans to change that. This Saturday, the Montpelier-based baker is holding a flan tasting at White Rock Pizza & Pub  in Woodbury from 1 to 4 p.m. With more than seven flavors, including pumpkin and coffee, her products are already a hit at Hunger Mountain Co-op  in Montpelier and Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op  in Hardwick. “It’s a love-or-hate thing, because of the custardy texture, but I wanna say that the majority of people who actually try it really love it,” says O’Neill, who also sells the flan at her two work places, White Rock and the deli at Plainfield Hardware.
The Hotel Vermont  may still lack walls (it’s due to open in 2013), but that won’t stop its owners from throwing a party this weekend behind the hotel’s future site, complete with an ice bar, s’mores and electronica.
On Thursday, New Hampshire ice artist Jeff Day will begin carving sculptures to adorn two bars (and an ice luge), a tent and a fire pit in the outdoor courtyard that the hotel will eventually share with the Marriott Courtyard Burlington Harbor.
Guests can pair bottles of Long Trail’s Hibernator or Blackberry Wheat, or craft cocktails made with Vermont Spirits Gold Vodka, with s’mores from Lake Champlain Chocolates and soups, sliders, breads and spreads from the kitchen of the Marriott. Burlington DJ Cre8 will be on hand to spin tunes.
Tickets are $20 and available from hotelvt.com .