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Engine Light Flashing | Changing times hit snowmobiling

Written by Matt Crawford on . Posted in Outdoor Recreation and Nature

This copyrighted article appears in the Winter 2014−15 issue of Vermont Life magazine. 

snowy Saturday will come this winter when one of the toughest tables to reserve in all of Vermont’s dining establishments will be in a rustic little structure near Walden Mountain. The walls are particleboard. Ketchup and mustard come in color-coded plastic containers. The napkins are paper. There’s not a sommelier, sous chef or valet on staff. The menu can best be described as “1950s drive-in” — burgers and fries, cheesesteaks and hot dogs. Hit it early enough, and there’s plenty of homemade zucchini relish to be had.

Situated in the hills just west of Lyndonville, The Coles Pond Sledders Cook Shack sits smack-dab on a snowmobile trail. Location, of course, is key to its success. It’s open for just a few months of the year and fills its 16-seat capacity on those weekend days when it’s snowy and cold and an estimated 00 snowmobiles zip by on their way to Hardwick or to a nearby lookout that offers stunning views of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.

High winds prevented jumpers from going too big, but the crowd of about 150 people were impressed during an event sponsored by the Barre Town Thunder Chickens. Photograph by Bear Cieri.

High winds prevented jumpers from going too big, but the crowd of about 150 people were impressed during an event sponsored by the Barre Town Thunder Chickens. Photograph by Bear Cieri.

“We get fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends — entire families that stop in here for something to eat,” said George Peak of Walden, operator of the Cook Shack. “I like to think the food is part of the reason, but the reality is all those people come here to be part of something.”

A mix of adventure travel, outdoor exploration and social event, snowmobiling sees about 10 percent of Vermonters ride each winter, plus thousands more who come here from out of state to take part. Many businesses are along for the ride — hotels, gas stations, machine dealerships, clothing retailers, mechanics and restaurants — to the tune of an estimated $350 million a year generated for the state economy.

Yet, over little more than a decade, the number of participants has shown a steep decline. In the winter of 2002–2003, membership in the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers stood at about 45,000. By last year, the number had dropped to about 23,000, a plunge of almost 50 percent.

What happened?

As a winter tradition in Vermont, snowmobiling, in historical terms, is relatively new, and holds a tenuous place in the state’s imagination. If Vermont recreation had a Mount Rushmore, snowmobiling would not be on it. Hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, cycling — all for various reasons connect more directly to Vermont’s identity, even though snow machines have been on the landscape, starting as backwoods workhorses, since the 1930s. It wasn’t until the late 1950s, when factories started manufacturing smaller gas-powered engines, that the first modern-day snowmobiles began to take shape. In the cultural backdrop of the time, with the emphasis on muscle cars, drag racing and powerboats, snow machines were a natural fit as a new recreational pursuit, and a boom time began.

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Recipe: Honey Granola

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Recipes

Honey Granola
Yields 7
At one point Phil Merrick called this recipe “Authentic 
Hippie Granola,” he explains, because 
it originated with his older brother, “an 
alternative-lifestyle type from Ann 
Arbor. It was the way he and his friends made granola circa 1970 in their co-op 
communal living situation.” Notable for its lightly honeyed sweetness and lack of spices, Merrick likes that the grain, seeds and honey shine. “Honey has a distinct flavor that complements grains,” he says. You can add a teaspoon or two of your favorite spices — just know that Merrick is a purist and feels they obscure all that pure nutty, oaty granola goodness.
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Ingredients
  1. 5 cups old-fashioned or quick-
cooking oats
  2. ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
  3. ½ cup roughly chopped raw whole almonds
  4. ½ cup roughly chopped raw walnut pieces
  5. ½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut, optional
  6. ¼ cup raw sesame seeds, optional
  7. ½ cup honey (see note at end)
  8. 2 tablespoons canola oil
  9. 1 generous cup dried fruit such 
as raisins, golden raisins or 
sweetened cranberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet (jelly roll pan) or shallow roasting pan with parchment or a nonstick baking mat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts, and coconut and sesame seeds, if using.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together honey and oil. (If honey is not pourable, warm slightly in a microwave or on stovetop over low heat until liquefied.)
  5. Pour honey mixture over oats mixture and stir to distribute evenly.
  6. Spread granola in prepared sheet. Bake granola 12 to 15 minutes until dark golden brown, stirring once about 8 minutes into baking to prevent granola at edges of pan from getting too dark.
  7. Set pan on a rack and cool completely. Add dried fruit and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Notes
  1. Photo by Ken Burris
Adapted from baker and co-owner Phil Merrick, August First, Burlington
Adapted from baker and co-owner Phil Merrick, August First, Burlington
Vermont Life Magazine http://www.vermontlife.com/blog/

Recipe: Honey-and-Cider Brined Roast Chicken

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Recipes

Honey-and-Cider-Brined Roast Chicken
Serves 4
This tangy-sweet glazed chicken is on 3 Squares’ catering menu and also shows up periodically as a special at the café. The chicken meat stays juicy and flavorful thanks to a honey-and-cider-sweetened salt brine; make sure to plan ahead to allow for adequate brining time. (Do not overbrine as the chicken can get too salty.) The platter of honey-bronzed chicken pieces flecked with woodsy rosemary is a showstopper 
and delivers a great combination of 
flavors “all in symphonic 
balance,” says Birong, with honey leading as first violin.
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For the brine and chicken
  1. 4 cups (1 quart) apple cider
  2. 5 tablespoons coarse kosher salt 
(Morton’s; brand matters for 
volume)
  3. 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  4. 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  5. 2 tablespoons honey
  6. 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  7. 3 slices (about ⅛-inch-thick) fresh 
ginger root, smashed
  8. 2 cups cold water
  9. 1 (about 5-pound) chicken, cut into 10 bone-in, skin-on pieces (2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings and whole breast divided in two lengthwise and then halved crosswise to yield 4 pieces)
  10. Olive oil to coat
For the glaze
  1. ⅓ cup honey
  2. ⅓ cup cider vinegar
  3. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
To brine chicken
  1. In a pot, combine cider, salt, peppercorns, garlic, honey, rosemary and ginger and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in 
cold water. Cool brine to room temperature, at least 1 hour.
  3. Place chicken pieces snugly in a glass or ceramic container (or in a large heavy-duty, zippered plastic bag) and pour in cooled brine to cover completely.
  4. Cover container or seal bag well and place in a bowl. Brine chicken in refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 12.
  5. Remove chicken from brine, discard brine, pat chicken dry with paper towel and refrigerate on a rack set over a rimmed jelly roll pan or roasting pan, uncovered, for another hour.
To roast chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F convection or 425 F in a standard oven.
  2. Line a shallow roasting pan or jelly roll pan with parchment or a nonstick baking mat.
  3. Pat chicken pieces dry once again with paper towel and arrange them in prepared pan.
  4. Using a pastry brush, coat chicken skin lightly with olive oil.
  5. Roast chicken for 20 minutes in convection oven or 30 minutes in standard oven, or until light golden brown.
  6. While chicken is roasting, in a small pan, whisk together honey and cider vinegar and then add rosemary sprig. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, at a gentle simmer, until reduced in volume by about one-half and is lightly syrupy, such that it clings to a pastry brush but is still liquid enough to brush, about 10 minutes.
  7. Remove chicken from oven and turn standard oven to broil with oven rack in position such that chicken will be about 3 inches from element. (Leave convection oven at 400 F.)
  8. Brush chicken generously with glaze and return to oven for up to 5 minutes until skin is dark golden brown. Watch carefully.
  9. Serve chicken drizzled with more glaze and chopped rosemary.
Adapted from Matt Birong, 3 Squares Café, Vergennes, photo by Ken Burris
Adapted from Matt Birong, 3 Squares Café, Vergennes, photo by Ken Burris
Vermont Life Magazine http://www.vermontlife.com/blog/

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