Side Dishes: Adrianas, Willow Smart, Junior's Italian Restaurant, Blue Star Café
In case you missed it: Adrianas, which took over the upper Church Street spot formerly occupied by NECI Commons, closed abruptly last week after a little more than a year in business. The space is for rent. Calls to owners Michelle and Ty Formel were not returned by press time.
Fans of award-winning Vermont cheese maker Willow Smart  may have noticed her new offering, with a distinctive bright-orange, brine-washed rind, at local gourmet stores and co-ops. The cheese is called "Paniolo" — named, Smart says, in tribute to a group of Hispanic cowboys who settled in Hawaii.
Why is a Green Mountain cheese named after a bunch of islanders? The feisty cheese maker may live in Milton now, but her family hails from the land of the luau. There they own Parker Ranch , formerly one of the "largest cattle ranches in the country," says Smart.
The biz has been in the family for 160 years, and the Paniolo cowboys have been roping cattle there for just as long. "They've literally worked our ranch for 10 generations. Their great-great greats worked for my great-great greats," Smart explains. But their numbers are shrinking. On our ranch, she says, "There used to be about 50, but they're down to about 12." There's even a society devoted to Paniolo preservation.
On Christmas Day, Junior's Italian Restaurant  will team up with Costco Wholesale  for its third annual "Need to Feed" dinner. The event is a free spread, "a hot meal and cheer," explains Junior's President of Corporate Relations Megan Terry. Last year, 80 people, including individuals and families, got to sample cold cuts and shrimp cocktail from Costco, as well as the restaurant's Italian dishes and pastries.
Terry expects a similar menu this year, but hopes to feed twice as many hungry folks. "We believe in giving back," she exclaims, noting that over the past year, Junior's Italian donated nearly 10,000 pounds of leftovers to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.
In addition to the food, guests will be treated to limo rides to and from the event, courtesy of Benways  and Ethan Allen Coachworks . The main pickup site will be the Food Shelf on North Winooski Avenue. Terry is still searching for other sites to host pickups in Colchester and Winooski. For more information, call Megan Terry at 734-1773.
Winooski's Blue Star Café  has stopped serving dinner for now, confirms staffer Dan Gutheim, but is open for brunch seven days a week. "It's basically the same weekend brunch we've been offering for the past year or so, plus a couple of sandwiches," he says.
Night visitors needn't go hungry, though. The hip spot still serves light fare such as panini and salads in the evenings — "just stuff you can munch on if you absolutely need food," says Gutheim.
Middlebury grad Scott Barber, who earned his B.A. in art history and Italian, was just hired to serve as sommelier at Dallas' five-star, five-diamond Mansion on Turtle Creek , once called the "top U.S. hotel" by Zagat. He previously worked at The French Laundry  in Napa Valley.