SPOTLIGHT: River Gallery School auction

The annual benefit auction supports the programs and scholarships of the River Gallery School, which has offered art classes, studio space, and a creative community since 1976. For $20 admission at the door, you get delicious appetizers, lively music, coffee, dessert, and a paddle number that lets you bid on fabulous items donated by local artists, craftspeople, businesses, restaurants, students, and friends of the school. A cash bar will be...

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WEDDINGS: Wedding profile: Michaela and Zach

Wedding profile: Michaela and Zach Theme. Earthy elegance. We wanted a wedding that reflected who we are and also the natural beauty of Southern Vermont. Our wedding was very DIY. We made all of the decorations by hand, including pinwheels and birchbark candle holders. We also printed all of our invitations with a handmade letterpress. Zach designed the invitation and drew the sketch of the knot. My mom baked gluten-free carrot cakes, and one of my best friends decorated the cake to look like birch bark. We tried to tie in all of the elements in our ceremony, which is how I came up with the idea for the pinwheels…they provide a way for us to appreciate wind. Apparently all of the pinwheels started to spin like crazy at our ceremony when we had our first kiss. Why Southern Vermont? We wanted to be married in Marlboro because we both graduated from Marlboro College and feel strong ties to the area. We were married at our professors’ house in Marlboro in a beautiful and intimate ceremony. We chose the White House Inn in Wilmington for our reception, both because of its proximity to Marlboro, and because of how impressed we were with the accommodations and staff. Something borrowed? My Mom’s pearl earrings. Something new? My shoes: sparkly gold Toms shoes from the company’s wedding collection. Something blue? A garter that Zach actually ended up wearing. We decided to mix up the tradition a little bit. Reception. We had Samirah Evans come and play for us with her Handsome Devils. It was amazing, and they provided us with a wonderful dance party. Our flowers were done by Carie Kowalski, a wonderful florist from Marlboro whose work reflected my style of earthy and...

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Spotlight: Stone walls

What is more quintessentially Vermont than a stone wall? In this two-day outdoor workshop from the nonprofit Stone Trust, expert workshop leaders Travis Callahan and Chuck Eblacker will guide students in continuing the restoration of a beautiful wall across from the Dutton Farm House in Dummerston. Learn the structural techniques involved in building and rebuilding stone walls with no mortar so you can work on your own projects, or so you can simply admire and appreciate proper walling techniques of this traditional...

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WEDDINGS: Say Bake to the Cake: Some regional pros give inside advice to help you plan one of the most visible parts of your ceremony
Feb13

WEDDINGS: Say Bake to the Cake: Some regional pros give inside advice to help you plan one of the most visible parts of your ceremony

WEDDINGS Say Bake to the Cake Some regional pros give inside advice to help you plan one of the most visible parts of your ceremony By Katherine Cox Every couple wants to put their personal touch on their special day, whether it’s the venue, the vows, the theme, or the cake. Yes, the cake. The cake is one area that a couple can truly display their personalities and interests. On display at the reception, the cake can speak volumes about the bride and groom. “Most of the time, the wedding cake is a showpiece,” says Irene Marston of Irene’s Cakes by Design in Ludlow. There are endless varieties of cakes and designs to sift through, and wedding cake makers suggest the first place to go is the Internet. There, couples can explore photos of cakes and learn more about specific bakers so that when they meet, they can discuss options and narrow down their decisions. “We tell couples to go with the design they like, then we can make the cake fit their budget and theme,” said Ronna Gendron of Ronna Gendron Cakes in Alstead, N.H. “I have some couples who know exactly what they want: the look, the flavoring. Others have no idea.” Gendron’s specialty is “the artistic part”: making flowers and figurines from edible gum paste, a malleable dough that dries rigidly. “I love getting creative with flowers,” she says. Design elements can range from real flowers to edible flowers, casual or elegant, and lifestyle themes writ large in sugar. Gendron especially likes clients who want their special interests incorporated into the cake design. “I love it when they get unique and personal,” she says — that allows her to work more creatively. For one couple from New York, Gendron made a huge cake to resemble an apartment building. Another couple whose dogs were a big part of their lives had chocolate paw prints all over the white cake. Yet another couple who were getting married on a ship chose a life-preserver motif. “They also felt like they were saving each other,” Gendron says. Timing is crucial Even if a couple has no fixed idea of what they want their wedding cake to say about them, bakers in the region urge brides and grooms to think about whom they want to make their cake and to do so as soon as they have a date. “The sooner, the better,” says Dave Kelly of Sticky Fingers Bakery of Dover. Timing is crucial, especially if it’s a busy season for weddings, so Gendron suggests that couples book early. Four to six months is the typical lead time for most...

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Save the date for a sweet weekend

Plan to visit the 15th Annual Whitingham Maple Festival on Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24 to learn about the life and lore of making maple syrup — sugaring, as it’s known — and its historical importance in this small town (the birthplace of Mormon church icon Brigham Young). The town also hosts a craft fair and pancake breakfasts/luncheons on both days, and a sugar-on-snow supper on Saturday evening. That’s just one of the maple-related events taking place on Vermont’s Annual Maple Open House Weekend, which offers an opportunity to visit one or more sugarhouses throughout the state. We suggest you call first. Participating sugarhouses in Southern Vermont: • Evans Maple Farm, 61 Spaulding Hill Rd, E. Dummerston (802-257-0262, http://www.evansmaplefarm.com). • Green Mountain Sugar House, 820 Rte 100N, Ludlow (802-228-7151, http://www.gmsh.com). • Hidden Springs Maple, 162 Westminster West Rd, Putney (1-888-889-8781, http://www.hiddenspringsmaple.com). • Havoc Hill Sugarhouse, 190 Havoc Hill, East Dorset (802-362-4136, havochil@myfairpoint.net). • Jim and Josie’s Maple Syrup, 1055 Vt Route 11, Londonderry (802-824-3295, windrows@sover.net). • Mitch’s Maple, 2440 Green Mtn Turnpike, Chester (802-228-5242, cpmit@tds.net). • Robb Family Farm, 822 Ames Hill Rd, Brattleboro (802-258-9087, http://www.robbfamilyfarm.com). • Smith Family Maple, 327 Atcherson Hollow Rd, Cambridgeport (802-869-2417, smithfamilymaple@hotmail.com). • Sweet Maple Alpaca Farm, LLC, 154 River Rd, Westminster (802-376-9846 or 802-380-0750, http://www.sweetmaplealpacas.com). • The Corse Farm, 773 Corse Rd, Whitingham (802-368-2420, thecorsefarm@myfairpoint.net). • Wood’s Cider Mill & Sugar House (1482 Weathersfield Center Rd, Springfield, 802-263-5547,...

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SIDEBAR: Bringing yourself to the bling
Feb13

SIDEBAR: Bringing yourself to the bling

Bob Borter has been making jewelry in Brattleboro since 1984. (Lynn Barrett) Bringing yourself to the bling Following is contact information for the artisans and businesses listed in this piece. • DK Walter: 81 Main Street, Brattleboro; 802-722-9620; davidwalterjewelry.com. Tues.–Sat. 10–6. • Gallery in the Woods: 145 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-257-4777; galleryinthewoods.com. Mon.–Sat. 11–5:30, Sun. 12–5. • Renaissance Fine Jewelry: 151 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-251-0600; vermontjewel.com. Mon.–Sat. 10–5:30, Sun. 11–4. • Borter’s Jewelry Studio: 103 Main St., 2nd floor, Brattleboro; 802-254-3452; bortersjewelry.com. Tues.–Fri. noon–5:30. Additional hours by appointment. • Evan James Ltd.: 48 Main St., Brattleboro; 800-382-6583; evanjames.com. Mon.–Thurs. 10–5:30, Fri. 10–6, Sat. 10–5. • Adivasi: 8 Flat St., Brattleboro; 802-258-2231; adivasi.com. Mon.–Sat. 10:30–6:30, Sun. 11–4. • Verde: 133 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-258-3908; verdeforgardenandhome.com. Mon.–Thurs. 9:30–6, Fri. 9:30–7, Sat. 9:30–6, Sun. 11–5. • Boomerang: 12 Elliot St, Brattleboro; 802-257-6911; boomerangvermont.com. Mon.–Thurs., Sat. 10–6, Fri. 10–7, Sun. 10–5. • Penelope Wurr Fine Contemporary Glass: 167 Main St., Brattleboro, 802-246-3015; penelopewurr.com. Mon.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 11–5. • Silver Moon Adornments: 29 High St., Brattleboro; 802-254-9600; silvermoonvt.com. Tues.–Sat. 10:30–6. • Altiplano: 42 Elliot St., Brattleboro; 802-257-1562; altiplano.com. Mon.–Sat. 10-6, Sun. 11-5. • Malisun Jewelry and Thai Imports: 44 Harmony Place, Brattleboro; 802-258-1124. Sun. and Mon., 10-4; Wed.-Sat. 10-6. • Delectable Mountain Cloth: 125 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-257-4456; delectablemountain.com. Mon.–Thurs., Sat 10–5, Fri. 10–6:30, Sun. 1–5. • Brilliance: 56 Elliot St., Brattleboro; 802-254-4460; brilliancebest.com. Mon.–Sat. 9:30–6, Sun. 11–5. • Vermont Artisan Designs: 106 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-257-7044; vtart.com. Mon.–Thurs., Sat. 10–6, Friday 10–8, Sunday...

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LOCAL FLAVOR: Adding value: Can you improve on the simple goodness of maple syrup? Entrepreneurs and farmers in Southern Vermont are using the sweet stuff in ways that might surprise you.

Maple syrup. It’s never been just for pancakes. The Algonquins wouldn’t have been surprised at the current entrepreneurial nature of the “sugaring” industry. It’s well-known that Native Americans were tapping northern maples for centuries before the first settlers came, and the legend has it that the delicious sweet sap was discovered when a woman — naturally, it was a woman — used some of it to boil up the evening venison. So put down marinade as its first use. But hold on to your hats. Besides the traditional syrup, maple cream, and ice cream (Yea! Creamies!), there are maple lollypops, maple cotton candy, maple jellies, granulated maple sugars, maple cookies, maple pickles, maple vinegar, maple mustards, maple barbecue sauces, maple-coated nuts, and maple kettlecorn. Also, a dip made from half maple cream and half cream cheese. (How do you stop eating it?) Now, in a new twist, maple has recently entered the wine-and-spirits field. There’s a place in New York selling a chocolate maple porter beer-making kit and another making organic maple bitters. Three kinds of maple vodka are coming out of a company in Quechee. And now maple bourbon, maple rye, and maple liqueur are coming out of our very own Brattleboro. Christian Stromberg’s Saxtons River Distillery has been making Sapling, a rich, golden, sweet, small-batch maple liqueur, since 2007. In 2011, it won the gold medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Located in the longhouse by the West River on Route 30 (where Tom & Sally’s Chocolates used to be), Stromberg started his distilling career in Cambridgeport, near Saxtons River — hence the name of his company. Stromberg was an automotive engineer before he became a distiller — something about the technical nature of distilling makes it attractive to engineers, he said — and he based his liqueur on his family’s traditional Lithuanian recipes. But where Lithuanian cordials had a honey base, he substituted maple. “I didn’t see anything happening with maple in the spirit world, so I modified the family recipe,” Stromberg said. “The Lithuanian cordials are heavily spiced, though, and I didn’t do that. Maple is subtle and could easily be overpowered.” When Stromberg went into business, in 2007, the country was in an economic decline. Yet his company has always been in the black, Stromberg said, even if only a little. “You know what they say,” he said. “When times are good, people drink. When times are bad, people drink.” Now he is introducing two new spirits, maple rye and maple bourbon. Both are made by sweetening and then re-aging — in oak casks — bourbon and rye that he buys from...

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WEDDINGS: Mount Snow Valley

WEDDINGS: Mount Snow Valley The Mount Snow Valley provides numerous options for a destination wedding, including a winery with vistas of two states, and many charming inns that host tented weddings on their grounds. The Mount Snow Resort features spectacular mountain views or indoor ballrooms. Cooper Hill Inn boasts wedding couples can get married on “top of the world.” Owned and operated by the same family for over 80 years, Boyd Family Farm specializes in Vermont country weddings and offers truly custom wedding floral designs. Barn weddings are a specialty of the Colonel Williams Inn in nearby Marlboro. The Inn’s barn is the largest post & beam barn in Southern Vermont and dates to circa 1770. the innkeeper can even don the Colonel’s authentic uniform upon request. From florists to superb bakeries, country inns and dining options, the Valley is a perfect venue for a destination...

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WINE OBSERVED: Weighing the options: Planning a wedding or celebration? Here’s how you can find a wine that will please a number of different palates and complement a wide variety of foods

Here is something to think about as you plan your wedding (or other gathering, for that matter): What wine will you serve at your reception? If you are having the reception at an inn or managed property, you might be limited to buying your wine directly through them or paying a per-bottle corkage fee for what you supply yourself. Even if you are paying a $20 per bottle corkage fee, you can often do better supplying your own wine. You’ll have something that you like and, if there are leftovers, something to help remind you of your shared celebration. Here are some guidelines for choosing wine for your special day. They will allow you to select “common denominator” wines: those that will accommodate a broad range of palates and complement a variety of foods. Weight Weight refers to fullness in the mouth and the richness of the wine, and is generally a function of the amount of alcohol. Since sugar is converted to alcohol through fermentation, the higher the sugar content of the grapes, the higher the percentage of alcohol in the resultant wine. Higher alcohol levels are expressed in both taste (sweeter) and texture (fuller or weightier). Some people are used to the very full wines of ripe regions like California and Australia. Often these folks drink only red wine because they do not like the seeming “lightness” of white wines, which frequently are lower alcohol. Weight also affects food pairing. If you select something massive for your red wine (14.5–15%) alcohol, it is likely to overwhelm at least some of the food — unless you are only serving nearly raw red meats! To acknowledge the efforts of the caterer, you will probably need to tone down the alcohol level. And given that some people will drink multiple glasses, you might want to choose wine that falls in the 13.5–14% range. Fruit Wine flavors range from very earthy to very fruity. To some extent, this is a function of ripeness. If the fruit is mature when it is picked, it is sweeter, with fruitier flavors. Most people enjoy a healthy dollop of fruit, from citrus, apple, pear, or melon in white wines to cherry, strawberries, dark berries, or plum in red wines. Malolactic Fermentation Grapes contain acid, and depending on these may produce wines that are tart or even sour. One way to prevent undesirable off-flavors is to allow the wine to undergo malolactic fermentation. In this process, the naturally occurring malic acids — similar to those in green apples — are converted to lactic acids, like those found in milk. The difference affects both texture and flavor....

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WEDDINGS: Sidebar/Three tips for selecting your wedding cake

Sharon Myers of Sharon Myers Fine Catering in Brattleboro (who made the cakes in the two photos in this story) suggests the following tips: • Cupcakes seem to be the rage right now. They give you an opportunity to offer two or three varieties to your guests. • If chocolate is your favorite and your groom/partner loves lemon, you can ask for different tiers to be different flavors. Or do two cakes for a real splash. • If you are going with a fruit filling, be seasonal and decorate the outside with the same fruit. Instead of paying for expensive sugar flowers and fondant, go with fresh blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries. It will look fresh and seasonal, especially with local...

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SIDEBAR: Syrup for 10,000: One Vermonter takes his family trade into the 21st century

Peter Cooper-Ellis, who owns and operates Hidden Springs Maple online and retail in Putney, and his family have been making maple syrup for more than 50 years, selling under the Cooper-Ellis Sugar Makers label during the 1950s and ’60s. Yet Cooper-Ellis, who holds an engineering degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, lives in San Francisco, where he works at a software company in Palo Alto. He commutes east about once a month to help with the business and to visit with his three grown sons and the rest of the family. Cooper-Ellis and his brother Fraser started CE Maple in 1997, which uses current sap-collecting technology to boil about 10,000 gallons of syrup per year from the sap of 25,000 trees growing in a variety of nearby sugarbushes. Hidden Springs (the name comes from a nearby road), wholly owned by Cooper-Ellis and started in 2009, markets syrup — primarily, the CE Maple syrup, but also product from producers all over the state. He said he hopes to produce his own syrup for Hidden Springs. Hidden Springs, according to Cooper-Ellis, sells primarily online to 10,000 online customers through the company’s website, hiddenspringmaple.com, and on Amazon.com. “Various people had tried to sell maple syrup online,” but without much success, he explained, citing hard-to-reach customers. Further, Cooper-Ellis said, the problem with the maple industry relates to the multiple layers of middlemen and distributors. “The Web has really matured as a shopping destination in the last five years,” Cooper-Ellis said. “I wanted to see if the farm-to-Internet-to-customer model could work so that a farmer could set up a website, advertise on Google, and sell syrup. Which is what I’ve done.” Cooper-Ellis said he and his brother are very close, even though Fraser has nothing to do, by choice, with Hidden Springs. “He’s a conservative guy, more interested in the farm aspect,” he said. “But I never could have developed Hidden Springs without his help and support.” Cooper-Ellis spoke by telephone from the huge Fancy Food Show at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco — the first time Hidden Springs has gone to a major food show — where he has seen firsthand the niche that the business has in the wider marketplace. Hidden Springs is a “real Vermont farm,” he said. “The larger packers don’t really have small family farms” producing for them.” A little more than a year ago, Hidden Springs opened a retail store, attached to the picturesque family house at 162 Westminster Road, Putney, where syrup from various producers is sold, as well as a lot of other maple-related products, like candy. And gift baskets, art, beverages, and...

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SIDEBAR: Long a draw: Revitalizing the arts in Bennington County

Long a draw Revitalizing the arts in Bennington County Bennington and Dorset in Southern Vermont have long been a draw for artists who found inspiration in Vermont rural beauty and simple country lifestyle. As early as the 1870s, creative individuals and their families began to drive north during the summer months when travel was easiest. Answering the call for local cultural fare, by the end of the 1920s, the Dorset Players and the Dorset Painters had had their first shows and exhibits. Today, both groups still exist, though they have morphed into the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, and the Dorset Theater Festival in Dorset. Since 1992, Bennington has been home to the Vermont Arts Exchange at the Sage Street Mill, a reclaimed and refurbished mill building that manufactured clothing accessories, as well as buttons, furniture and mirrors. Founding Artistic Director Matthew Perry, working from his own studio to start, wanted a place where artists could find affordable living and working space, a place to exhibit their finished works, and a place in which the community, especially the special needs community, could come to learn by offering artist-taught workshops. He also wanted the community to take a different view of the empty mills that dot the landscape of Vermont. “The arts served as a catalyst to convert a derelict property into a working community asset,” Perry said. That same year, the Bennington Center for the Arts was opened by two philanthropists, Bruce Laumeister and Elizabeth Small. The space included a theater and two gallery spaces. During their travels, the couple had collected art and artifacts that included paintings and bronzes of and by Native Americans, kachinas, pots and jewelry, as well as rugs, which are part of the Center’s permanent collection. Today, seven galleries exhibit American wildlife art, works by Eric Sloane, and images of New England, as well as a permanent wind sculpture display visible from the...

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