Archives for category: Food

13 May 2012

omelet bar
eggs any style
vermont ham, lobster, smoked mussels, mock duck, chorizo
vermont cheeses (chevre, cheddar, pepper jack)
peppers & onions, mushrooms

waffle bar
classic / whole wheat waffles
blueberry syrup, vermont maple syrup, bananas foster sauce
whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate-covered nuts, assorted candies

selection of local and domestic cheeses, including baked brie

fruit & crudité platters, charcuterie, house made rillette, duck confit

classic mixed greens with aged sherry vinaigrette
grilled asparagus salad with hard-boiled egg and lardons
roasted beet salad with vermont goat cheese and maple balsamic

raw bar
smoked mussels, house gravlax, peel-and-eat shrimp, jonah crab claws

hot items
vermont bacon & sausage
home fries with peppers & onions
tuscan eggs benedict
(polenta cake with wilted arugula and tomato-basil hollandaise)
roasted red pepper soup
hungarian-brasied chicken
broiled tilapia with fine herb beurre blanc

assorted housemade desserts

Seatings available Sunday, May 13, from 10a-3p.

$35 for adults
$18.95 for children aged 6-12
Free for children aged 5 and under

Call 800-727-4295 for reservations.

Written by Tom Brooks, director of food and beverage at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa.

Sometimes you get inspiration in unexpected places. The other day I was concocting a recipe for this week’s Savorvore theme, “Backyard Pizza Hearth,” when I walked into the office of one of my colleagues. Immediately I noticed the marvelous smell of fresh pesto mingled with the unmistakable aroma of pizza.

“Whatcha eatin’ there?” I asked.

Collin Parker, our marketing coordinator, told me it was leftover pizza he had thrown together the night before, with “a little sauteed chicken, some sauteed mushrooms, pesto, mozzarella cheese … .”

It looked good, smelled even better, and tasted incredible! (He offered a bite, and I just couldn’t refuse!) And just like that, I’d found my Savorvore recipe. Well, yes, it’s his recipe, but we’re all friends here, and what’s a little co-opting between friends?

If you’ve never tried cooking pizza on a grill, it’s definitely worth giving a shot. Not only does your house stay cooler (and can’t we all use that right about now?), it gives the pizza a nice outdoorsy (in a good way) taste.

Just make sure you use a pizza pan, spray the grill liberally with non-stick spray, or brush it with olive oil. There’s not much that’s worse than having a big ol’ pizza stuck to your grill.

And now that you have a basic recipe, feel free to try it with your favorite pizza ingredients.


Recipe: Chicken-Mushroom Pesto Pizza
One-half pound chicken (one large breast), cubed
3 tablespoons pesto
3-4 large fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 fresh or frozen 14- to 16-inch pizza crust

Saute chicken in olive oil over medium heat. Add fresh basil, salt and pepper. When chicken is almost cooked through, add mushrooms. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, and set aside. Set grill to medium heat. Roll out dough (sprinkle with flour so it doesn’t stick), and transfer to pizza plate. Spread the pesto onto the dough, add the cheese, and then top with chicken and mushrooms. Sprinkle another thin layer of cheese, and then place pizza onto grill. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.

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

I’ve never been much of a skier. I know, I know– born-and-bred Vermonter and not a skier? That’s tantamount to being born in California and not being much of a surfer.

For some reason, though, I’ve never seen going down the side of a mountain with two pieces of wood hooked to my feet, dodging trees at high speeds as a good time. Now the base lodge, on the other hand? That’s my idea of fun. Good conversation, a warm fireplace, plenty of friends, and of course, plenty to drink.

So I sit here wondering what kind of drink would appeal to the sophistication of skiers, be seasonally appropriate, and have a good name. Enter my right-hand man, Mark Elwell and his Aspen Mint Martini: Stoli Vanil, creme de menthe, White Godiva liqueur, and Baileys Irish Cream.

If you will remember from previous articles, Baileys is a liqueur that has been distilled and includes additives such as nuts, flowers, fruit, spices, cream, and sugar. These are great flavoring agents, but also are quite delicious on their own as aperitifs or digestifs. Baileys has been around for a long time and is a great mixer for cocktails, including martinis and coffee additives.

One of the primary ingredients in Baileys is Irish whiskey (which comes from the Celtic word usquebaugh meaning “water of life”). And what better place to make whiskey than Ireland; the oldest surviving distillery license was granted by King James I in 1608 to a distillery in there. Another marked characteristic of Ireland is its farms. Baileys relies on more than 1,500 hundred farms (and their 40,000 cows) to produce its cream. The cows are fed on four different strains of grass and are outside grazing more than nine months of the year. Through a clever process of homogenizing alcohol, Irish whiskey and cream, the products are emulsified along with some vegetable oil (to prevent separation). Baileys then adds cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, sugar and caramel to get the finished product.

This week I’ve included two recipes for you: the Aspen Mint Martini along with Water’s Homemade Baileys Irish Cream, which comes from my friend Erin Waters. It’s a pretty good recipe to make ‘your own’ Baileys. Be aware, though, that it will separate after awhile– so I recommend you only make what you’re going to use in a sitting. Both are tasty, both will warm you up after the slopes, and both are easy to make.

So, calling all ski bums! Please enjoy.

The Aspen Mint Martini
1 ½ oz. Stoli Vanil vodka
1 ½ oz. Baileys Irish Cream
¾ oz. crème de menthe
¾ oz. Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
Hershey’s syrup

Combine vodka, Baileys, crème de menthe, and Godiva in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Take a chilled cocktail glass and slowly turn while drizzling in Hershey’s syrup (creating a pattern). Strain Aspen Mint Martini into the cocktail glass. Serve garnished with chocolate shavings.

Water’s Homemade Baileys Irish Cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half & half
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tbsp. Hershey’s syrup
1 ½ tsp. instant coffee
1 ½ -2 cups Jameson Irish Whiskey (based on your tastes)

Combine ingredients in a blender until incorporated. Refrigerate and enjoy.

Serves 6-8

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 orange, zested
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B or dark amber)
2 cups water
1-2 apples, sliced
Whipped cream

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, and nutmeg in a bowl. Blend in butter with pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork just until dough is evenly moistened. Do not over mix.

Bring syrup and water to a boil in a 4-quart pot at least 10 inches wide and lower to a simmer. Add sliced apples.

Using an ice cream scoop drop dough into syrup mixture, leaving space for dumplings to expand. Gently simmer over moderately low heat, covered, until tops of dumplings are dry to touch (15-20 minutes). Serve warm.

Garnish with whipped cream.

Tarragon Corn Chowder
Yields: 1 quart

1 potato, par-boiled
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup Spanish onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2-3 sprigs fresh tarragon
Pinch Salt
Pinch Pepper
¼ cup white wine
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen or fresh corn

Place the diced potato in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a separate pot, fry the bacon on medium heat, stirring constantly.
Add the onion and celery, cooking until transparent.
Add the fresh tarragon, salt, and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds.
Add the white wine and reduce about 3 minutes.
Add the butter.
When butter is melted, add the flour to make the roux.
Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and mix thoroughly.
NOTE: Stir constantly and keep at medium heat to prevent soup from burning.
Add the other 2 cups of the stock, the corn, and the par-boiled potato.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Courtesy of Butler’s Restauarant & Tavern at The Essex Resort & Spa, a proud Partner in Education with New England Culinary Restaurant.

Written by Chris Benjamin, food and beverage director at The Essex.

Of all the holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is perhaps my favorite. It’s the one holiday that isn’t over- marketed. It doesn’t require spending gobs of money, and it still holds it original purpose– taking time to reflect on the year and giving thanks for the many blessings we receive in our life.

It’s amazing how difficult it is to find the time to appreciate all the good things that happen in our lives, especially when the concerns of the world, economy, war and everyday struggles bare their full weight on our shoulders.

At Thanksgiving, appreciate not only the bountiful food and beverages that laden the table but the friends and family that you love and hold dear.

Every year just before dinner, we stand in a circle as a family and say one thing for which we are grateful. This year I would have to say that I’m grateful for not only my wonderful wife and two kids, but for the opportunity to share my recipe and thoughts with all of my loyal readers. I appreciate the encouragement, the compliments, and the questions that I receive from all of you, and look forward to continuing to bring you trendy concoctions.

In the meantime– for this week’s selection, I wanted to find something with mass appeal, that works as an aperitif before dinner, and is seasonally appropriate, and while I’m sure there’s a pumpkin martini recipe out there somewhere, the other fruit that comes to mind this time of year is the cranberry.

Sweet, tart and easy-to-come-by, these little flavor bombs are just the thing to drink before dinner. It will awaken the palate and get you ready for a sumptuous feast.

My best wishes for a very safe and satisfying Thanksgiving to you and all of your loved ones.

Cranberry Margarita

2 oz. tequila (try Patron Silver)
½ oz. Cointreau
⅛ cup frozen cranberries, rinsed
2 tablespoons sugar
Splash of lime juice
2-3 oz. cranberry juice

Combine ingredients in a blender and puree. In a shallow bread plate, mound some sugar. Using a lime, rim the edge of a cocktail glass or Collins glass and dip glass into the sugar. Fill with cranberry margarita, garnish with lime wedge. Sip and enjoy!


by Chris Benjamin, Food & Beverage Director, The Essex Resort & Spa

“All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac!” These were the inaugural words spoken to me on my first of many adventures with Cognac, one of the finest brandies available on the market.

One of my greatest friends introduced me to this wonderful liquor after a round of golf. “Yak”, as it is sometimes nicknamed, is a fitting beverage after a great meal or after some time spent outdoors, as it warms the insides and is also a great way to promote digestion. Cognac, named for a small, French town near Bordeaux, is the crème de la crème of brandies (and is derived from the Dutch word brandewijn, meaning “burnt wine”). It is made from distilling grape juice, and it is classified as an eau-de-vie (“water of life”), since it is processed through the primary fermentation of grape juice and then through the distillation of the byproduct.

The secret is in the soil, which requires rich deposits of chalk– the more the better. The region around Cognac, and around its neighbor Armagnac to the south, has this key ingredient. The finest brandies are classified based on the region in which the grapes are grown, and the center of the region around Cognac — Grande Champagne — is the best.

They say that Cognac is the finest brandy, but those who appreciate a glass will fall in love with Armagnac. In my opinion, Cognac is smoother and more majestic, but Armagnac has the soul of the beverage with heftier smoke, more aggressive flavors, and a ruggedness that Cognac lacks.

The second secret to success is the amount of time spent in oak. The longer the aging time, the richer and more complex the flavors. Very Superior (VS) Cognacs spend a minimum of two years in oak (though most average four to five years) while Very Superior Old Pale (VSOP) is the next level up, with greater depth of flavors and smokiness, spending a minimum of four years in wood (though industry average is between 10-15).

Extra Old (XO) will probably break most people’s banks, but it is certainly worth the experience. These brandies age for over six years (though industry average is 20 years) and tend to be the most elegant and noteworthy. For those of you who remember the movie Cocktail, when Tom Cruise’s character and his buddy make a bet over a girl, the prize is a bottle of Louis XIII, one of the most expensive Cognacs produced today (complete with a $100 Baccarat Crystal bottle!)

Cognac can be an acquired taste. So to cut down the “burn”, and to make it more accessible to a wider audience, bartenders created the Brandy Alexander. I certainly wouldn’t waste a good XO on this, but the better the Cognac the smoother the flavor.

Brandy Alexanders incorporate crème de cacao (chocolate liqueur), which is a timeless flavor combination. During the holidays, it was a tradition to make truffles containing brandy and a cherry (these have degenerated into “chocolate-covered cherries”). The Brandy Alexander is making a strong comeback — as are many classic cocktails these days — and this one has a slight twist. Just remember the nickname “Yak” when imbibing– this is a drink truly enjoyed in moderation.

The Tavern Brandy Alexander
1 1/2 oz. Cognac
1/2 oz. crème de cacao
6 oz. heavy cream
1/4 oz. Navan Vanilla Cognac

Mix and enjoy.


by Chris Benjamin, Food & Beverage Director, The Essex Resort & Spa

Autumn has certainly come in and taken over our world, a prelude to the next longer season ahead. Seems like every day it’s 54 degrees, raining, and windy. The leaves are falling, and old man winter draws ever nearer.

It’s dreary days like these that make me seek out those comfort items that we keep around to lighten our mood and hearts; for some it might be a favorite sweater; others look for a place near the wood stove and a good book; still others might look towards a great comfort meal that was once a favorite as kids (mine happens to be my Dad’s Chicken a la King).  But for others, there’s nothing like having a solid cocktail in their hand.

I’m sure ‘Cork Dork’ Jason Zuliani might argue that a glass of wine is what’s needed, but to many folks in Vermont one of the most comforting beverages is coffee.  Warming on the inside, coffee in moderate amounts is also very healthy, recently linked to reducing the risk of colon cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and cavities (if you go sans-sugar).  Of course any beverage can be improved upon, in my opinion, with a little love from some distilled spirits, and liqueurs are the best marriage of flavors.

Liqueurs can be defined as any spirit (usually but not always low in alcohol) that are strongly flavored with either fruit, herbs or nuts and have higher than normal sugar levels (thus the lower alcohol).  Originally intended to be drunk after dinner as a digestif, these spirits are an ideal match for coffee as flavoring agents.  Examples of these types of liqueurs are wide and varied, and most have some an ancient, special recipe that’s been handed down for centuries (The Colonel’s seven herbs & spices has nothing on these guys).

One such liqueur is Grand Marnier, created by Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle in 1880.  It’s a blend of Cognac (more on this next week) and Citrus Bigaradia, a special orange hailing from the Caribbean.  It’s also one of the ingredients you’ll find in the Essex Warmer, this week’s featured cocktail.  While you’ll only find this at The Essex Resort & Spa, most restaurants carry their own specialty on their dessert menus, so take a look the next time you’re out.

I recommend sipping The Essex Warmer on the porch on a day like today, watching the leaves fall, or hosting friends for a celebration. While you can skimp and get cheaper liqueurs, I don’t recommend it.  The generics utilize more high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavorings than the real stuff, thus why they tend to be cheaper.


The Essex Warmer
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
3/4 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
3/4 oz Kahlua
6-8 oz Your favorite coffee (6 oz if you want to really taste the liqueur, 8 oz if you’re looking for the sneak attack).

Combine all the ingredients.  Top with whip cream and garnish with three coffee beans (this is traditionally done in Italy with sambuca drinks. The beans represent health, wealth and happiness).

PineappleMartiniby Chris Benjamin, Food & Beverage Director, The Essex Resort & Spa

Vermont is known for producing high-quality products sought-after nationwide: cheese, maple syrup, apples, organic produce and lamb, among others commodities. While our wine program is slowly gaining ground, and our beer is perhaps among the best around, one of the newest ventures is the art of distilleries, or the making of alcohol.

While there are relatively few distilleries throughout the state (at least that are legal; no telling how much moonshine is being produced), the ones that have come to market are continuing with the same quality for which our state is known. One coming to the forefront of recognition and market share: Green Mountain Distillers.

Based out of Stowe, Green Mountain Distillers, with their most notable product being Sunshine Vodka, has recently attained certification as 100 percent organic. I have long been a supporter of this great product, featuring it in many of our drinks at The Essex Resort & Spa, but my support recently increased when I found out who were the masterminds behind it: Tim Danahy and his partner, Harold Faircloth III. Tim and I used to work together in a past lifetime at The Shed Pub & Brewery, where Tim was the master brewer. It was a great reunion and catch-up, and I learned of a couple of new products that have recently been released: the new Organic Lemon and Orange flavored vodkas.

Tim has long been, in my mind, one of the most talented brewers I’ve ever worked with, and I find that same talent has been applied to his vodka. Quadruple distilled for quality, the alcohol is combined with Vermont Spring water to give it a clean, distinct flavor that is perfect as a base for memorable cocktails. At the Essex, we use this vodka in many of our infusions, which is a huge hit and trend in the industry. While the following recipe might not help you for this weekend, it’s a great investment for future and can be brought out to impress your friends any time as it keeps extremely well (though I do recommend keeping it refrigerated to prevent spoilage).

I hope you enjoy the drink, and encourage you to seek out Sunshine Vodka, a great spirit consistent with keeping your buying local, organic and sustainable.


RECIPE: Pineapple Vodka Infusion
Created by Mark Elwell

1 pineapple, cleaned and diced into 1-inch chunks
3 bottles of Sunshine Vodka

Combine Vodka and pineapple in a large container that is tightly covered. Store in a dark, cool place for about a week. Remove the pineapple and push through a juicer (you can also just squeeze the fruit but this gets maximum extraction). If you don’t use the juicer, you can eat the fruit but beware the consequences (in other words, I wouldn’t jump behind the wheel of a car anytime soon).

RECIPE: Pineapple Martini
1-and-one-half oz. pineapple-infused Sunshine Vodka
Three-quarters oz. Malibu Rum
Three-quarters oz. pineapple juice

Fill a pint glass or tumbler with ice. Combine all the ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass and serve with a pineapple spear. Sip and remember summer or gulp and forget the winter.

Toasting with wineBeing Vermont’s Culinary Resort, we take great pride in our food and wine.

…which is why were so proud of the fact that Wine Spectator and Fodor’s have awarded our Butler’s Restaurant with a couple coveted awards.

Wine Spectator presented us with a 2009 ‘Best of’ Award of Excellence, and Fodor’s Travel, the foremost name in travel publishing, recognized us as a 2009 Fodor’s Choice selection.

We’ve long been an Award of Excellence recipient from Wine Spectator, but this year we were even more honored to receive the added distinction of the ‘Best of’ Award of Excellence for our outstanding wine selection. Butler’s is one of only 650 restaurants in the United States and the only one in northern Vermont to receive the award.

According to Wine Spectator, the award honors recipients for “having wine lists that exhibit either vintage depth or superior breadth across select regions.” If you’ve been here, you know what they’re talking about.

Our wine list includes incredible depth with over 600 selections of wines from 12 different countries.  Among our specialties– California Cabernet Sauvignon, Oregon Pinot Noir, French Burgundy, and excellent selections from Rhone, Southern France, and Italy.

If that weren’t enough, Butler’s was also recognized by Fodor’s Travel as a 2009 Fodor’s Choice selection. According to Fodor’s, “This distinction represents a remarkable achievement and recognizes Butler’s as a leader in its field for service, quality, and value in the 2009 year.”

Since 1988, Fodor’s Travel has been awarding the Fodor’s Choice distinction to only the world’s very best hotels, restaurants and attractions. The Fodor’s writers check out thousands of hotels, restaurants and attractions. Only the ones that Fodor’s deems worthy of a traveler’s time are included, and only fifteen percent of those are awarded the Fodor’s Choice designation by Fodor’s editors.

This is the part where we cordially invite you to come see for yourself. Reservations: 1-800-727-4295.