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Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES in VT » VERMONT (all topics) » Montpelier Comes Alive: Cuisine
Montpelier Comes Alive: Cuisine

Montpelier, Vermont

By Mike Dunphy | January 06, 2012

A Birchgrove Croissant
Inside Birchgrove Baking
Coffee Corner
The Lush Interior of Positive Pie
Three Penny Taproom

Being a cold state, Vermont likes its food hearty—preferably drizzled with maple syrup, and accompanied with dairy products from Cabot, Hood, and Ben & Jerry’s.

The Roaster at Capitol Grounds

The organic revolution is strongly rooted as well, with grass-fed, free-range, and fair-trade meats and produce at a growing number of farmers’ and organic markets. As capital, Montpelier is the standard bearer and home to a variety of ecologically minded restaurants, bakeries, and bars. For a taste, follow the culinary map below.

Warm Up at Capitol Grounds

In a city that works hard to keep chain restaurants like McDonald’s outside the gates, Capitol Grounds serves as the Starbucks. Located a block from the capitol, the coffee maven prides itself on its roastery. As coffee beans begin to deteriorate once roasted, Capitol Grounds freshly roast their beans several times per week to ensure the coffee is as fresh as possible.

Sourced from producers in South America, Mexico, and Indonesia; all of their beans are shade-grown according to both bird friendly and fair trade standards.   Four degrees of roasting are available: Full City (the most popular), Viennese, French, and Italian.

Breakfast at Coffee Corner

Early in 2010, Coffee Corner was in danger of closing after more than fifty years of service. Concerned citizens, including members of the state legislature, searched for a solution.

They found it in long-time head cook Michael Raymond, who was encouraged to take the helm. Bringing in his son Ryan, a graduate from the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University, the two adopted a healthier, more eco-friendly approach by sourcing bread, produce, and meat locally and eliminating trans-fat cooking oils.

The vibe, however, remains classic diner with standards like omelets, pancakes, waffles, and a full range of lunch sandwiches.

A Cheesy Pesto Pancake

Lunch at Skinny Pancake

Beginning with a cart made of wood scraps from their parents’ kitchen flooring, Jonny and Benjy Adler’s business Skinny Pancake grew quickly to a brick and mortar restaurant on Burlington, Vermont’s waterfront, in 2007.

Two years later, “Mini Skinny” opened in Montpelier on Main Street.   Continuing their commitment to socially responsible business practices, they source as much food as possible from more than forty local farms.

This philosophy tastes especially great in a variety of crepes like apples and brie, the veggie monster, sass-squash, and my personal favorite—the cheesy pesto.

Beer Break

Vermont’s top-ranked quality of life can partly be attributed to having the most breweries per capita in the country—one for every 29,797 people.

In Montpelier, the best brews are quaffed in the Three Penny Taproom on Main Street, “a craft beer mecca” according to the Boston Globe. Owner Scott Kerner is not only passionate about beer but also about sourcing from smaller breweries in the state.

The stand out is the American Pale Ale from nearby Hill Farmstead, but anything from the twenty-four beer tap list impresses.

Three Penny also strives to “illustrate the harmony of flavor” with soups, stews, warm-pressed sandwiches, and a selection of cheeses to complement your beer. If help is needed, just ask the incredibly friendly bartenders for advice.

Dinner at Positive Pie

Positive Pie stands out as a refreshing departure from quaint New Englandness into a more chic urbanity. Walk through the front door and you’ll notice it immediately— the multi-colored flood lights, funky ceiling fixtures, straw blinds, crystals, lava lamps, and Buddha statues.

Birchgrove Baking

By day, Positive Pie is a humble pizza joint drawing on owner Carlo Rovetto’s Sicilian heritage and lifetime in the family business, but after 8PM, the lights dim, a disco ball starts spinning, and customers shake their moneymakers to live music and DJs.

The dinner menu also opens up to include more gourmet dishes like butternut squash pearl couscous, pasta Bolognese (with Vermont family farms pork), and fried calamari and tiger shrimp in an aged balsamic reduction.

Dessert at Birchgrove Baking

A trip a little farther north up Route 12 is well worth the effort to visit Birchgrove Baking.   Jennifer Toce and John Belding apply their training from the New England Culinary Institute and California Culinary Academy into an assortment of “refined American” favorites like chocolate brioche, banana caramel tarts, vanilla bean cheesecake, and customer favorite coconut cake.

Every bite is made on-site in the morning and uses no artificial ingredients—just old school butter, flour, sugar, and cream sourced from local producers whenever possible. They taste especially good paired with the available Vermont artisan teas and coffees.

Montpelier can be reached from exit 8 on Interstate 89 in Vermont.

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