Leaves changing. Weather getting cooler. Everything seems to be in transition this time of year in Vermont. One thing that remains a constant though is the satisfaction you get after a meal at Stone Soup. You might know we're slightly obsessed with food here at Vermont.com (check out our Burlington Dining Guide for some proof), and we recognize that we probably say this during every season, but we're going to go out on a limb, live in the moment and say; fall food is the best food.

The warm, hearty meals shared with family really seem to represent some of the best that life in Vermont has to offer. Not only are we more often than not dining in full view of this state's spectacular foliage, but we're still able to benefit from the late summer harvest. The vegetables seem more robust, the fruit more appreciated - we love it all. Stone Soup takes things to a whole new level by combining these local ingredients into delicious fall dishes (several of which can be enjoyed all winter long). Here are three of our favorites:

1. Mustard Greens Salad

Stone Soup Burlington VermontThis is as fresh as it gets. With mustard greens available from local farmers right up until the first frost, it goes from the farmer directly to Stone Soup almost immediately. Topped with orange chipotle dressing, and served with roasted parsnips, butternut squash, carrots, cranberries, toasted almonds, and red onions - amazing!

2. Curried Pumpkin Soup

Stone Soup Burlington Vermont

Made with lemon grass, ginger, leeks, curried spices, sweet spices, coconut milk, and local pumpkins. This dish just screams fall flavors.

3. Brisket

Stone Soup Burlington Vermont

Stone Soup takes LePlatte River Angus Farm beef and braises it with star anise, homemade beef stock, and spicy peppers for more than six hours. The result? An out of this world brisket. Served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and a side of kale - and made with lots and lots of love.

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Stone Soup is located at 211 College St. in Burlington and is open Monday - Friday from 7AM - 9PM and Saturday from 9AM - 9PM. In their words "We source, prepare, and present our food as if we are feeding our family and friends every day—because we are. FOOD IS LOVE." We couldn't agree more. To find out more about Stone Soup and other great Burlington restaurants, check out the Burlington Dining Guide. Cheers!

Chad Braidwood is the owner of Saratoga Olive Oil Co. and we’ve never encountered someone quite as zealous and passionate about their business. As Chad states simply, “It’s very, very easy to sell a good product. For me, this is a no brainer – I love doing it.” We were able to pop in and ask Chad about how he’s embraced the community and the science behind creating such a quality product.

Vermont.com // I remember when we spoke before, you mentioned that you had previously been involved in the medical profession – how does one go about transitioning to olive oil?

Saratoga Olive Oil Co // The transition to selling extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) was not as much of a career change as one might think. My brother, sister-in-law and myself were all in clinical research. There are extraordinary health benefits with consuming EVOOs and balsamic vinegars. I was with Johnson and Johnson at the time and we bumped into a clinical trial that was in Berkeley that was for cancer patients. One of the biggest aspects to cancer research is quality of life. In this clinical trial there was a sidearm where you took three tablespoons of EVOO and over time you were asked questions. How do you feel today? How is your outlook on your disease? The patients who were taking the EVOO were far more upbeat and optimistic. This really resonated with the three of us and we started doing more research going back to the Roman times and Mediterranean lifestyles. We encountered the taste before you buy concept and just ran with it.

VTC // It’s easy to see some of the places where your scientific side comes out, even in the labeling of the oils themselves.

SOOC // All of the oils that are sold at Saratoga Olive Oil Co. are laboratory tested for polyphynol counts, oleic acid counts and free fatty acid counts to ensure the consumer is receiving the healthiest and freshest EVOOs anywhere in the world!

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VTC // And how are your oils actually made – what is the process?

SOOC // All of our oils are first cold press – we say press, but now everything is actually done by centrifuge, no more pressing typically. But it’s still all cold and that’s what’s really important. Whenever you add heat to the olive oil, you might get a higher yield, but you’re releasing far more free radicals, which are broken down carbon chains. You want the whole carbon chain of the polyphynol – and keep the free radicals (which cause oxidation of the skin or aging) from being released.

From there our infused flavors are created with the essence of the flavor itself. For example, in Tuscan Herb, blend of oregano, basil, garlic, rosemary – we take fresh garlic and fresh basil and squeeze, releasing the oils and fragrances that epitomize the flavor. Always fresh, never dried out or susceptible to any fertilizers or GMOs – when we say it’s an organic product, it’s organic.

VTC // As I look through the store, I can see oils and balsamics from around the world. How do you decide which types to carry and from where?

SOOC // Great question – this my favorite part of the job! After the clinical trial in Berkeley, when we were doing our research on Roman times and the Mediterranean lifestyle, we noticed the connection between olive oils and wines. Where people are making good red wines, you get great oils! The temperatures and minerals in the soils provide different flavor contrasts. So, here you have two different presses of the same type of olive, Chilean Koroneiki and Greek Koroneiki - you try each of these and they’ll be very different. You might get the grassy overtone in each, but because of where each olive came from, you get completely different flavors. We follow the weather, was it sunny that season? Warm? Rainy? You can learn a lot about how it was affected by where it was grown and most importantly, if you follow it, you can predict where it will be best next. You’ve got to follow the crush. I had a 2010 crush Italian Nocellara de Belice – absolutely amazing, loved it! The 2012 came out and ‘eh, it’s alright’. It’s exactly like wines, different years, different weather, huge differences in flavors – follow the crush!

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VTC // I know that being a part of the community is huge for you – even in the products that you feature in the shop, lots of local favorites.

SOOC // Yeah, we try to support the local businesses as much as possible. All of our bread that is used for our samples is delivered fresh every day from Red Hen Baking Co. here in Burlington. We have pour-your-own infused maple syrup from Benito’s that we’re very proud of. Grand Isle Pasta – this is what we were going for in New York and what we love about Vermont – the people here are so excited to be able to buy something from up the road. They list all of their ingredients and keep everything organic.

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Middlebury Chocolates, they just started up and we love their products. We’re working on a new injected bar with them where we’re bringing in honey from Green Mountain Bee Farm and take the autumn and spring ‘harvests’ and inject them into the Middlebury Chocolate. It’s going to be amazing, and will be ready before July. Tortilla LocoL, started by a few recent graduates from UVM. Two super energetic, great guys, have been making chips for friends and family for a while. Got a logo and made it official and we’ve been carrying their chips since. Even our artwork is from a local artist Anna Ayers, whose work we’ve just fallen in love with.

And we try to get in good with the community. Obviously we have the samples everyday and we encourage people to come in as often as possible and try the new flavors. We do the food demos and teach people how to cook with our products. It turns into a social hour that by the second drink, it’s so noisy and festive in here - everyone is just having a blast!

VTC // Sounds like a great time – count Vermont.com in for the next one! Thanks again for taking the time Chad!

The next Saratoga Olive Oil Co. Food Demo is Friday April 26th– featuring an amazing menu prepared by Chef Ferguson of Halvorson’s Upstreet Café and wine pairings by Brad Kelley of Burlington Wine Shop. We’ll see you there!

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Saratoga Olive Oil Co. is located at 86 Church Street and is open for business Monday-Thursday 11AM - 6PM, Friday and Saturday from 11AM – 7PM and Sunday from Noon – 5PM.

For more info visit Saratoga Olive Oil Co

Over the weekend, Dobra Tea opened its doors and welcomed their first customers to a new type of tea shop. Occupying what used to be Mad Hatters Deli, Dobra Tea has blown through their adjoining wall and created a space that is equal parts retail and relaxation.  We were able to speak with Owner Stacy Jolles and learn what the new space will offer and a bit about tea in general.

Vermont.com // Besides perhaps making a glass for my grandmother or my girlfriend if she’s sick, I know next to nothing about tea. What exactly is the difference between a bag of tea from the grocery and what we can get here?

Dobra Tea // The biggest difference – our tea is really fresh. Most of what you would be buying in a grocery store is the leftovers of the processing – called the fannings. Our quality is much higher, we have the whole leaf, very carefully processed, not crumbled or smashed and always handpicked. Tea is just like wine – the terroir affects the way the tea tastes, in combination with how it is processed. There are numerous different tea categories; white, yellow, green, black, oolong – all of these are one plant (just like wine is from the grape), just all different varietals, and the way they are grown and processed. We have over 100 types of teas here – all different and unique.

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VTC //  What about the way that some bottles of wine have huge price tags? Does that happen with teas as well?

DT // You could go out and get teas that are one-hundred, two-hundred dollars, just like a bottle of wine. But, Dobra is a Czech/Russian word that means good and our mission is to provide as high quality tea as we possibly can, but make it affordable and accessible.

VTC // Tell me about the new space, what are you most excited about?

DT // Before, we had a tea room, bulk loose leaf tea shop, retail tea ware, tea to go, food, music, tea classes, all of this in a tiny little space. Now we can take all of that out of the tea room and leave the peace and quiet and bring our retail over here. The other big gain for us is we get a classroom space. This community really enjoys education and tea is a very complex subject.

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VTC // What type of classes will you offer?

DT // Over the weekend we’ll be having our first yoga sessions and we will also will continue our tea classes. Recently we went to Hawaii and visited six or seven tea farms. We brought back quite a bit of tea and had a class tasting all the different types, showing a slide show from the travels, and talking about tea processing.

VTC // I see that you’ve expanded your tea ware selection as well – can you tell us a little about the new offerings?

DT // One of the biggest things for us is that we carry tea from all of the tea drinking lands; China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, India, etc. and we serve it in the vessel that is appropriate for that country. So when we have a Chinese tea ceremony or a Japanese Tea Ceremony, we have the proper tea ware, served in the process and style that is accustomed. We now offer all of these different types of vessels in our retail area. We also have a lot of local artisan tea ware, from wonderful artists like Laura Baum all on display and for sale.

VTC // And to think, all this time my Grandmother and girlfriend were just being served in a coffee mug. Thank you so much for taking the time – I’m looking forward to coming in for classes and more tea tastings.

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Dobra Tea’s new retail space and classroom is located on the corner of Church and Bank Street and is open for business Sunday – Wednesday from 10AM-10PM and Thursday – Saturday from 10AM-11PM. Stop in, relax, and enjoy - these guys know their tea.

For more info visit  (more…)

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Summer Itineraries: 48 Hours on Stratton Mountain

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