Archives for the month of: April, 2010

Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

As we prepare for a warm weather, right after a major dumping of spring snow (gotta love Vermont, right?), I tend to gravitate toward more refreshing beverages, ones that are thirst-quenching and invigorating at the same time.

Let’s face it: Yard work is not always easy, and when you’re working in 80-degree weather, nothing says summer like some classic cocktails. Mojitos, margaritas, daiquiris, and coladas are the order of the day, but nothing quite says spring and summer to me like the gin and tonic.

It was first introduced in India by the British East India Company in the 18th century. Tonic contains quinine, which is made artificially but was sourced from the bark of the Cinchona tree. It has pain-killing and fever-reducing properties, but is extremely bitter in nature. To mitigate the bitterness, the British added their beloved gin to make it more palatable.

Tracing its origins all the way back past the 10th century, gin is a neutral spirit that’s principal flavoring agent is juniper berries. Juniper berries were recognized as possessing medicinal properties by Italian monks, and in some cases were used to treat bubonic plague (though not effectively). Gin is most commonly found in a London dry form, though there are several other legal styles of gin. London dry is perhaps one of the most popular because of the citrusy notes that accompany it. London dry’s flavor is derived from the addition of lemon and bitter orange peels and may include herbs and spices, such as anise, angelica root, cinnamon, licorice, lime peel, grapefruit peel, saffron, coriander, nutmeg — the list goes on.

Ever wonder why Bond said he wanted his martinis shaken, not stirred? Vodka martinis are fine shaken, but you should always stir a gin martini. (For those of you who didn’t know, the original martini was made with gin). Shaking gin bruises the fruit of the juniper berry, and it “deadens” the drink and eliminates the liveliness of the flavors.

I’m a big gin and tonic fan. Let’s just get that out there now. If I had one drink to live with for the rest of my life, Tanqueray and Tonic would be my life-long companion (besides my wife, of course). With the flavors of Juniper prominent and the refreshing taste of botanicals, it’s my No. 1 go-to beverage for the warmer months (plus, I’ll never get malaria).

With that said, I’ve recently found a new gin that is pretty interesting, refreshing and quite different. For those of you who like the subtle flavor of cucumbers, try Hendrick’s. One of the only gins — if not the only gin — distilled in Scotland, this gin has a very slight nuance of cucumber that’s refreshing but subtle. Try the following cocktail with a little twist this weekend while the heat is on. I think you’ll find it as refreshing a beverage as any you’ll find, and you’ll be safe from malaria. Enjoy!

The Hendrick’s Tonic
1 ½ oz. Hendrick’s Gin
½ oz. St. Germaine
8 oz. tonic water (I prefer the small bottles of Schweppes as tonic can lose its fizz quickly)

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice.

Be sure to join us at The Essex for our fabulous Mother’s Day Brunch, Sunday, May 9th!


Waffle Station
Blueberry Compote, Strawberry Compote, Whipped Cream, Whipped Butter, Vermont Maple Syrup

Omelet Station
Tomatoes, Sautéed Mushrooms, Sautéed Onion,
Sautéed Bell Peppers, Wilted Spinach, Vermont Cheddar, Ham

Charcuterie Display

Imported and Domestic Cheese Display,
Whole Wheat Crackers & Breadsticks

Crisp Vegetable Crudité, Onion Cream Fraiche

Sliced Fresh Fruit, Carved Watermelon

Smoked Salmon Display, Traditional Sides

Raw Bar: Smoked Bay Scallops, Shrimp Cocktail

Crab and Cucumber Salad with Orange Tarragon Aioli

Mixed Green Salad

Asparagus and Candied Nuts, White Verjus Vinaigrette

Seared Salmon with Spring Onion Vinaigrette

Chicken Saltimbucca, Sage Vin Blanc

Roasted Vegetable, Cheddar Strata

Blintzes with Fruit

Breakfast Meats

Broccoli Raab, Roasted Red Peppers

Crispy Risotto Cakes

Dill-Roasted Fingerlings

Carving Stations
Roasted Prime Rib of Beef, au jus, Raifort Sauce

Herb-Crusted Pork Loin, Raisin Bourbon Sauce

Sourdough, Focaccia, Baguette,
Honey Lavender Rolls, Sun & Rain Rolls

Berry Mousse Cups, Chantilly, Fresh Berries, Tiamisu Cups, Chantilly, Lady Fingers, Passion Swirl Mini Cheesecakes, Chocolate Mignardise Display, Sugar Cookies

Praline Pate, Flower Assorted Mini Cupcakes, Mini Eclairs, Cream Puffs with Lavender Lemon Pastry Cream, Lemon Meringue Tartlets, Cherry Almond Scones, Plain Croissants, Apricot Twist Danish, Chocolate Croissants

Kids Dessert Table
Assorted Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Pops

ATRIUM: Seatings at 11:00, 11:15, 11:30, 1:15, 1:30, and 1:45
TAVERN: 10:30-1:15
BUTLER’S: 10:00-1:15

$29.95 for adults
$14.95 for children 6-12
Children under age 6 are free.

Hope to see you here! Call 802-878-1100 for reservations.

And remember our Special Mother’s Day Gift Card offer: Buy a $100 Resort-wide gift card, and get a $20 gift card free!

Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

Port’s history is a bit subjective, but here’s my understanding. Port has been made for centuries in the Duoro Valley of Portugal, and we have the trade wars in the 1700s between France and England to thank for its introduction to the world. Because of the conflicts, French wine was hard to get in England, so they began sourcing from Portugal. Because most of the wine spoiled on the way over, brandy was added to the barrels before departure, creating a very stiff glass of wine commonly referred to as “blackstrap.”

A minor nobleman sent his son to Portugal to source some of this wine, and legend has it that this son happened upon a winemaker who was adding the brandy (technically called aguardente, which is a neutral spirit made from grapes) during the fermentation process. By doing this, it stopped the fermentation cycle, leaving increased levels of sugar behind yet still enhancing the alcohol levels. Modern day port was born.

While hundreds of grape varieties are blessed by the government to create port, only five are commonly used: tinta barroca, tinta cao, tinta roriz, touriga francesa, and touriga nacional. These grapes are blended and harvested on the dangerous shale slopes of the Douro Valley (one of the most hazardous areas to harvest grapes in the world; several fatal falls are recorded each year).

When buying port, here are some of the rankings you should consider and know:

Ruby Port: The most inexpensive and most mass produced, the wine is stored in cement tanks to keep from oxidizing until it’s blended to match its makers desired flavor. This is a good way to start getting into port.

Tawny Port: Seeing a minimum of seven years in wood and going through the Solera process of aging, tawny ports are the next step up. Slightly nutty from the exposure to wood and lighter brown in color, the tawnys are the beginning of something very special. They are great as dessert wines and pair well with chocolate.

Colheita: George Bergin, my friend from Winooski Beverage, educated me on this one, a tawny port made from a single vintage. Instead of being aged for seven years, these are typically aged in barrels for over 15 years, in some cases 20, and then bottled.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV): This is port that was destined to be a vintage one — but it sat in the barrels for too long, either by accident or on purpose. LBV is a wonderful way to work into a vintage style port.

Vintage Port: This is the most expensive of the styles on average. All the grapes are harvested from the specific year, and these see about 18 months of wood aging before they go into the bottle. These ports are just like wine vintages — they each vary with each year and not every year is a declared vintage year for port. It is only when the best quality grape has been achieved.

White Port: Very rare and made from white grapes, if you find one, buy it. You won’t be disappointed.

Port flavors are as diverse as the hundreds of grape varietals they are made from, but each one is distinct and beautiful. Port is one of the few things that I’ve found pairs well with chocolate, and they make a wonderful digestif.

The state of Vermont’s Department of Liquor Control has a fairly solid selection available. An even better kept secret is the little store of vintage ports that are holed up in the Winooski Beverage Warehouse. George tells me he has several old vintages from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and one from 1937. While they aren’t super cheap (the 1937 goes for over five Franklins), there are some pretty reasonable prices there.

We keep a fairly generous selection at The Essex Resort and Spa, so swing by to try a taste the next time you’re in the area. A word to the wise: Never get intoxicated on port. The residual sugar and strong alcohol is a sure recipe for a disastrous morning. But try some port on your next occasion, and enjoy one of life’s greatest treasures.

Surprise your mom with a pampering visit to Spa at The Essex, the Burlington area’s only full-service Spa and Salon, featuring:

• 10 treatment rooms
• Relaxation lounges
• 25-yd indoor pool
• Saunas
• Oversize outdoor hot tub
• Steam rooms
• State-of-the-art Fitness Center

PLUS: With the purchase of a $100 Essex Resort gift card, you get a $20 gift card FREE!

Call (802) 878-1100 or visit our front desk to give Mom her well-earned day of rest and relaxation. Be sure to mention this ad to get your FREE $20 gift card.

And don’t forget to make reservations for our amazing Sunday Brunch at the same time!

Offer expires May 10, 2010. Free $20 gift card valid beginning May 11, 2010.

Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

As the snow melts from the mountaintops, and the fresh, vibrant green leaves emerge from their buds, it’s wonderful to see the endless stream of people walking along the roads looking out for Mother Nature (and their community) through the simple act of picking up trash.

Earth Day is an important day in keeping our beautiful land clean, and I always appreciate those folks who take the time to get out and help keep things neat. Of course, creating a drink that tastes like earth is probably not in any bartender’s best interest. (Let’s face it– ‘dirt’ might be all the rage in the tabloids, but it doesn’t cut it in drinks)

Adding green to a drink is also a challenge, though. I’ve written about chartreuse and absinthe (and I just can’t bring myself to use Apple Pucker in anything), so one of the only options left is crème de menthe.

Commonly added to milk for a holiday treat, crème de menthe is made from Corsican mint and is famous as a key ingredient in Stingers and Grasshoppers. It’s also widely used in candies, chocolates, ice cream, and mousses.

There are two kinds, essentially– white and green. White is colorless and boosted by flavoring agents. Green used leaves steeped in grain alcohol to absorb color. Both create the desired effect.

So this week, I’m reviving an old favorite: the Grasshopper.

Traditionally made with crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and half-and-half, a Grasshopper becomes a Praying Mantis when you add vodka. This week’s drink is a variation on that—the Green Mountain Grasshopper.

Cheers to the volunteers who help keep Vermont clean. Enjoy a Green Mountain Grasshopper in their honor.

Green Mountain Grasshopper
1 oz. Green Mountain Sunshine Vodka
½ oz. green crème de menthe
½ oz. crème de cacao (clear)
5 oz. half-and-half

Combine ingredients over ice. Serve over rocks or strain into a martini glass (rimmed with chocolate, of course).

Looking for one last Spring Fling? The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa, has a special last-minute deal for you!

Book your two-night stay for travel before May 5, and you get:

    – Traditional Room with two beds for two nights
    – Fresh Start continental breakfast for up to four guests
    – In-Room movie of your choice, plus Vermont munchies
    – Unlimited use of NEW indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, and fitness center
    – Children (12 & under) get free dinner from Kids’ Menu with paying adult
    – $25 Spa at The Essex voucher
    – 20% off Northern Lights Rock and Ice challenge course

All for $129* per night

Hurry! This offer expires May 5, 2010. Two-night minimum stay required.

*Plus tax, service charge and $12 daily resort fee. $25 Spa Voucher valid when booking $100 or more in services.

Call 800-727-4295 to book this incredible deal now!

For more about The Essex Resort & Spa, visit our website.

Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

They say that spring in Paris is magical — one of the greatest places to be during the changing of the seasons. Paris hooked my mom and sister, who recently traveled there, but for me, I’ll take spring in Vermont any day.

After the cold, bleak days of winter, 55 degrees feels like t-shirt weather, and if it hits the 60s, I’m in shorts. I know some Floridians look at us Vermonters a little funny when we do that, but who doesn’t love the turning of this season?

Spring is also a pivotal time for us in our eating and drinking habits. While I love pastas, braised and roasted meats, and heavy sauces, when spring hits, I’m ready to change gears. Grilled fare, salads and seafood are the dominating items on my plate. And as my foods change, so do the aperitifs that go with them. While martinis are classics anytime of the year, adding fruit flavors to them is a light way to enjoy a variety of tastes. Tonics will start to come into play as it gets warmer, whether they are served with vodka or gin, and mojitos continue to enjoy the limelight with all of the fresh mint that’s starting to emerge.

Among my favorite drinks this time of year is the French martini. A classic in just about any bar you go, the basic components are vodka (specifically Grey Goose, because it’s French), Chambord, and pineapple juice.

According to its website, Chambord was created in the late 17th century in France’s Loire Valley. King Louis XIV visited the Chateau du Chambord and loved it. The creation of Chambord is fairly complex, starting with the sorting of blackberries and raspberries and steeping them in French spirits, specifically brandy, for about a month. Distillers then remove that initial infusion and add another layer of brandy, collecting more sugars and another layer of berry flavor. The two infusions are then sent to the Maitre Liquoriste (Liquor Master) who performs a complex blending of the infused brandies with vanilla from Madagascar, Moroccan citrus peel, and delicate herbs and spices. These form the black raspberry liqueur we enjoy today, and make our Kir Royals and French Martinis what they are.

So here’s to spring! Enjoy some grilling on the patio (ours at The Essex is open, by the way). Let’s hope it’s a great season with lots of sun. Enjoy!

French Martini
1 ½ oz. Grey Goose Vodka (Don’t skimp! Grey Goose is way to go with this drink.)
½ oz. Chambord
1 oz. pineapple juice

Combine ingredients over ice, shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with pineapple spear, and enjoy.

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra presents:

Verdi’s Requiem, Saturday, May 1, 8:15 p.m.
Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Burlington, Vermont
Robert De Cormier, conductor
Indra Thomas, soprano
Judith Engel, mezzo soprano
Steven Tharp, tenor
Kevin Deas, bass
VSO Chorus

Pre-Concert Symposium: “Musically Speaking”, 7:00 p.m.
Hosted by Jim Lowe and featuring VSO Conductor Robert De Cormier with Terezin survivors Marianka Zadikow and Frederick Terna

As the official resort of this one-of-a-kind, sold out event, The Essex is honored to present this special offer:

For $299, you receive:
• Two premium tickets to the sold out concert and pre-concert symposium
• Overnight accommodations the night of the event (May 1)

Plus, stay another night for only $149 and enjoy all the amenities of The Essex.

We only have a limited number of tickets. Call 800-727-4295.

Click here for more information on this historic evening with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

It won’t be too long before summer returns to the Champlain Valley, and frankly, we can’t wait.

As the official destination resort of the Champlain Valley Fair (less than a five-minute drive away), we are pleased to be offering exclusive overnight ticket packages for some of the biggest names in show business: Bill Cosby, Keith Urban, and teen sensation Justin Bieber.

It’s going to be a big summer at The Essex, and you can be part of it!

The Essex has a limited number of premier seats for these concerts coming up this summer at the Champlain Valley Fair:

Justin Bieber – Friday, September 3. Floor seats for this show are already sold out to the public, but The Essex has exclusive GOLD CIRCLE seats available!

Keith Urban – Saturday, September 4. The concert is sold out to the public, but The Essex has grandstand seats available.

Bill Cosby – Sunday, September 5. Get tickets before you can buy them– Public ticket sale starts this Friday, but The Essex has exclusive GOLD CIRCLE seats available now!

This amazing package includes:
• Two nights’ overnight accommodations
• Two tickets to the concert of your choice
• Two ‘Fresh Start’ continental breakfasts daily
• $25 voucher for treatments at Spa at the Essex*
• Unlimited use of our indoor/outdoor heated pools, hot tub & fitness center
• Discounts on golf at Links at Lang Farm and Essex Outlet shopping
• 20% discount on our fun, hands-on Cook Academy cooking classes

All this for only $599* for two people (per show)!

* Plus tax. Limited Rooms available. 2 night minimum stay required. $200 non refundable deposit taken at time of booking. $25 Spa voucher valid when booking $100 or more in services.

Book now by calling 800-727-4295.

Written by Chris Benjamin, director of food and beverage at the Essex Resort and Spa.

Given the choice between writing about Easter drinks (which conjures visions of cute critter beverages such as a pink squirrel, a chocolate rabbit or a marshmallow egg) or Greek Easter, which has been explained to me as the greatest celebrated feast day in Greece, I chose the latter.

Not only am I deeply intrigued by the culture (I’ve been interested in Greece since learning about Greek mythology back in school), but Greece is also the home of some very interesting beverages. Although wine is slowly starting to gain speed there, my first introduction to Greek beverages came from sampling Retsina, which is a wine created when ancient Greeks filled amphorae (large double-handled vases) with wine and sealed them with pine pitch. At that time, they believed the wine was better due to the pitch, not because the pitch sealed the wine from air.

Today, Retsina is made from Savatiano grapes; a few pinches of pine pitch is added to the must, creating a unique flavor (in some folks’ minds). Try a bottle of Kourtaki next time you’re up for something different.

Another equally interesting beverage is ouzo. Ouzo is an anise-flavored drink that is widely consumed in Greece. Its history dates way back, and there’s a lot of controversy around its origins. Closely resembling raki (another licorice-flavored alcohol), ouzo is often drank neat or blended with water. It is traditionally served with Greek mezedes, which are appetizers consisting of octopus, calamari, fried zucchini, clams, and salads. Ouzo is sometimes drunk very cold but traditionally served neat. Another interesting fact about ouzo: If you add water, it will become milky white. This is due to the fact that anethole, the oil of anise, is soluble in alcohol but not in water. Coming out of the solution, it disperses light and therefore creates the cloudy effect. This is true of most anise-flavored liqueurs. Try it with sambuca or absinthe, if you’d like.

Easter is also an indication of the changing of the climate, and based on our weather forecasts, I’m looking forward to some warm temperatures this weekend. So in the spirit (no pun intended) of spring, we wanted to offer a different twist on ouzo– the ouzo citratini. We find it very refreshing and just the kind of drink you want to kick off the warm weather. Enjoy the holiday and your families, and have fun with the ouzo citratini this weekend. Enjoy!

Ouzo Citratini
1 ½ oz. ouzo
1 ½ oz. Absolut Citron
1 oz. lemonade

Combine ingredients over ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass and add a twist of lemon.