People and Places
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Written by Gerry Nooney
People and Places
This month, let's talk about people and places. Julia has the places angle covered with her field trip to the Mad River Taste Place, so let me tell you about one of the new faces we hired this winter.
Brian Lewis joined us as head chef at Rumble's Kitchen in early December. He and I had been playing phone tag for about 18 months. He'd been toying with the idea of making the move to the great white north for a while, and he was finally convinced. He chose wisely moving to the Mad River Valley, but we already know this: the Valley rules. Chef Brian comes to us from Rhode Island after quite a bit of time on the west coast. He's worked for some highly-skilled chefs and it shows in his cooking. His food is clean with simple and balanced plates. Every ingredient is well thought out. While my background is very protein centric, Brian has more experience with vegetables (though he's not a vegetarian). It's a nice combination for both of us to work and learn from.
His Roasted Cauliflower, Brussel Sprout Salad and Market Vegetable dishes have not only had great reviews; they have guests returning to have them again and again. The real gem on the Rumble's menu is his Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken. He makes a brine for pickles, soaks the birds, adds some butter milk for tenderness and fries these boneless pieces of chicken super light and crispy. Add some skillet mac & cheese along with fried brussels sprouts and you have a dish guaranteed to make you a better skier. Second to his chicken is his skill with pizza dough. His Grilled Pizza is better than most with interesting, forward-leaning toppings. He also taught me that cheddar cheese tastes better shredded over a burger and not completely melted, it lets the flavor and texture really stand out. Soigné on a burger? Look it up.
Chef Brian is a nice fit in our kitchen and our community. He's working on his skiing skills when he gets a chance and has a warm, friendly leadership style that fits in well with all of us here. If you see him, usually walking between Rumble's and Gate House with a cart, say hi and tell him to wear a hat. It won't mess with his hair.
Local Food Culture
The Mad River Taste Place, next to the Mad River Green in Waitsfield, is the kind of place you walk into the first time and think, "Why have I never been in here before?" It's an homage to and support system for all things Vermont, from adventurous cheese and beer, to super-local charcuterie and jam, to chocolates and sweets.
Mad River Taste Place is spacious and inviting, with high ceilings, family seating and a fireplace surrounded by large, comfy chairs. The invitation is obvious: come in, stay a while, enjoy a flight of cider (they carry every cider from the Vermont Cider Association), or a glass of wine with a plate of cheese and let us show you how cool Vermont is. The stories of the makers and growers are highlighted on the walls, a tucked-away movie screen loops films from the Vermont Cheese Council, and every label on the 70+ cheeses tells the story of the farm it comes from.
At the Taste Place, you can taste nearly anything before you buy it. If you're not sure what you are looking for, stop in on Friday and Saturday nights to talk to artisans and taste their product in the demo nook. Or go in on a Sunday, now through Presidents' Weekend, when six to seven vendors set up a winter farmers' market inside.