Podcast Episode 61: Crop Bistro & Brewery in Stowe


An interview with Ken Aiken


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Ken Aiken 150x150: Podcast Episode 61: Crop Bistro & Brewery in Stowe   Food and Travel

Ken Aiken

In this episode of the Find Dining Podcast, Ken Aiken of Touringroads recommends Crop Bistro in Stowe, Vermont where Chef Tom Bivins serves up dishes like the Carolina MOP Chicken Sandwich and Vermont Rarebit. We discuss moto-foodies, Vermont cheese and the importance of a beer glass’ shape.

Ken recommends:

  • Beer-battered fried pickles
  • Cheddar Larger Soup
  • Carolina MOP Chicken Sandwich
  • Vermont Rarebit

Food for Thought:

Out of the Frying Pan Picks:

minilogo: Podcast Episode 61: Crop Bistro & Brewery in Stowe   Food and Travel




Transcript

Seth: This is Episode Number 61 of the Taste Trekkers Find Dining Podcast. Welcome to Stowe, Vermont.
 
Hello and welcome to the Find Dining Podcast. I’m your host. My name is Seth Resler and this is the podcast for foodies who love travel and travelers who love food.
 
Here’s how it works, we talk to somebody new from a different city and we talk to them about their local culinary scenes. So if you go in there and you’re a foodie and you want to know where to go and what to check out, we tell you all about it. This week, we’re talking to Ken Aiken and we’re talking about Stowe, Vermont.
 
Ken, thank you so much for joining us.
 
Ken: Well, thank you for inviting me.
 
Seth: Now, you’re a travel writer and you focus on food and you focus on motorcycling and this is fascinating to me. I’m going to warn you right up front, everything I know about motorcycling, I learned from watching the TV show Sons of Anarchy. You’re the author of Touring Vermont’s Scenic Roads, Motorcycle Journeys through New England, Motorcycle Journeys through Atlantic Canada. You’re a regular contributor to Rider, Backroad, ThunderPress magazines and a number of other places. So I’m really excited to have you on. Thanks for joining us.
 
Ken: I appreciate it.
 
Seth: One of the things that I think that’s really interesting is you call yourself a Moto-Foodie.
 
Ken: Correct.
 
Seth: Explain that concept to me. What is a Moto-Foodie?
 
Ken: Outside the United States, motorcycles are referred to as moto and, of course, foodie, so it goes together. It doesn’t make any sense in terms of tourism, for example, to talk simply about travel because you have to stop and eat nor does it makes sense to talk just about regional cuisine and foodie destinations because somehow you have to arrive there. So I put the two concepts together and now, I’m branding myself as a Moto-Foodie in addition to my regular travel ID.
 
Seth: So this is really interesting. I mean, this is like a concept that we haven’t really talked about on the podcast, but essentially what you’re saying is how you get to the destination is a really important of the travel. Will people who travel by motorcycle experience food in a different way or somehow wind up with different experiences than people who, say, take a car or fly in or things like that? And then how does that influence, you know, sort of what your experience is going to be?
 
Ken: It’s very simple. I mean, there’s a lot of different aspects to it, but the basic simple thing is 90% of our taste is smell. So if you’re in an environment where you’re not closed in air-conditioning but you’re out there and you’re smelling the countryside that you’re going through, in fact, you’re even smelling in somebody’s restaurants before you get to them, this heightens the experience, wouldn’t you say?
 
Seth: Yeah, no, that totally makes sense. I mean, I would imagine that especially when you get into some of these places that really love to do the Farm-to-Table, you start to see all that. You know what I mean? We have such a disconnect from our food before it winds up on our plate these days and I would imagine that that opens the door and you get to see a lot more of that when you’re traveling by motorcycle.
 
Ken: Well, that’s correct. There’s also a disconnect in travel. You’re in a car that many hardcore bikers called cage simply because your view is restricted. When you’re on a motorcycle, your view is complete. I can look down into the pavement underneath my feet at the same time, I can look up into the sky and I can see unrestricted views on either side. So as I’m moving along and there’s something taking place in the field, I get the smell that’s coming across, I get the temperature changes because, for example, riding to your Porsche is cooler on a sunny day than alongside a field or a field that has river. So there’s that sensory input as well. Plus the smell, the smell of new-mown hay or the smell of cooking that’s coming out of the house, restaurant, whatever.
 
So it is a much greater sensory experience when you’re approaching on a motorcycle, plus getting out in the open air, being exposed to wind and the elements, you do work up more of an appetite.
 
Seth: Oh, I believe it. Tell me a little bit more about exactly what you do, you know, either on a day-to-day basis or sort of on a, you know, like what is the last couple of months look like for you. What are you doing?
 
Ken: Well, in May I was out in Milwaukee checking out that food scene and writing about where to eat and stay when people arrive for the Big 110th anniversary that Harley Davidson is putting on. Then a new event took place at the big Laconia rally in which they initiated a farm tour in many parts of New Hampshire, the Farm-to-Table Movement is in the fledgling stages, so this was a very important step to introduce 350,000 motorcyclists to the possibility of seeing what food was produced locally.
 
Seth: Wow.
 
Ken: Those are examples. So I went down and extended that. I went down to Portsmouth, New Hampshire where I think the brew scene started in 1971 and there’s also sort of the epicenter of what’s happening in their [inaudible] but I spent time in Vermont. I’m working now on project in Ottowa. So as I’m doing travel, I’m also doing food travel.
 
Seth: How do you wind up doing this? I mean, I know I’ve got people listening who are sitting there going, “That sounds like the coolest thing ever. This guy just rides his bike around and eats at different places and writes about it.” Tell me about your background and how you wound up doing this?
 
Ken: Well, I grew up in Vermont. I grew up learning to garden and forrage, you cook and preserved food at an early age and it’s a very much part of my background. Then in the 1970s, I started making acquaintances like Ben Cohen, when you had a little five gallon bucket that he is producing ice cream in and that evolved, of course, into Ben & Jerry’s. My friends were all involved in creative endeavors and some of those are foods so you couldn’t ignore it. Things were coming up like Bill started Catamount Brewery and, you know, of course, there was always Cabot Creamery and there are cheeses and Crowley Cheeses. It’s just the Vermont environment and this was at its sort of endless stages.
 
Seth: So you really grew up around this and, I mean, this was happening right where you were?
 
Ken: Yes. But I didn’t have announced my perspective. So this was all taken for granted, like this was normal, there wasn’t anything special about it. It didn’t become special until my former wife and I started going back and forth from Vermont to Italy. And then Italy, I gained an outside perspective on food culture. And I took my Vermont experiences and I started to combine them writing for Italian Food, Wine & Travel magazine and I guess that’s when I first began to acknowledge that I was a foodie. I didn’t understand it before being in Italy.
 
Seth: I think you’re right. I think people just take it for granted. It’s one of those things that people come out and say, “Oh, I’m totally a food tourist,” but they didn’t know that there was a name for it, you know, like they just sort of took it for granted and didn’t realize that was a thing. You know what I mean?
 
Ken: I know what you mean. It’s just that food and tourism, it’s just beginning to be put together and I live in two very different food scenes, in Montreal which is one of the great food destinations in North America and Vermont which is doing incredibly exciting things with food but they’re very, very different by all type of tourisms, Seth.
 
Seth: Right. So let’s turn to Vermont, but before we do, I know you have a trivia question for me about Stowe. Tell me what it is.
 
Ken: What national organization was founded in Stowe?
 
Seth: A national organization that was founded in Stowe. Now, is this a food related organization?
 
Ken: No, it’s not food but it’s highly recognized. It’s not obscure.
 
Seth: Okay. So I don’t think it’s NASA. Give me a hint sort of what arena is it in. Is it political? Is it cultural?
 
Ken: Sports.
 
Seth: Sports…
 
Ken: Yes.
 
Seth: …in Stowe Vermont.
 
Ken: Recreational sport, we call it.
 
Seth: I’m thinking that it’s probably something to do with skiing or winter sports up there but I’m going to think about it for a little bit. We’re going to come back to that question, what national organization started in Stowe. You know, while I’m thinking about it, let’s talk about Stowe. First of all, where is Stowe?
 
Ken: Stowe is in the center of Vermont. It’s very close to Montpelier. It’s a little bit Southeast of Burlington. It’s positioned in a very narrow valley between the Presidential range and the Worcester range of mountains. In fact, the two highest peaks in Vermont are Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak and they formed the back draft of the village of Stowe. This valley is 20 miles long. It’s anchored on the south by a village called Waterbury, Waterbury being the home to both Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Vermont Coffee Roasters which is the largest territory of coffee roaster in the world.
 
Whereas on the northern end is a small up and coming town called Morrisville and that’s very exciting. Some new fresh things are beginning there. So this particular stretch through which Route 100, a highway that follows the mountains to the entire length of Vermont is located and it’s part of what they called the Golden Highway because of the wealth and prosperity along this particular quarter.
 
Seth: And how many people are we talking about in Stowe, I mean, how big is it?
 
Ken: What weekend?
 
Seth: So in other words, this is a place that a lot of people come in as a vacation destination?
 
Ken: People come in from around the world to ski in Stowe. It’s a self-proclaimed ski capital of the east. Many people from Europe have actually moved to Stowe or own very luxurious summer homes but many of these summer homes and these incredible resorts had become three-season. So it’s as busy in the summer as in the winter these days.
 
Seth: And is this a place that you have to wealthy to visit? I mean, do I have to wait till my Facebook stock goes up to $150 a share before I can plan a vacation or can you come in on a budget?
 
Ken: You could come in on a budget and one of the place that we’re going to be talking about I feel is very budget-oriented but, again, a lot of people equate the amount of money you spend to the richness of the experience that you’re going to receive and that’s just not true. When you think about skiing, for example, I mean, there are ski bumps and then there are very wealthy skiers, so even though the standard for food is exceptionally high, that doesn’t translate into pricing.
 
Seth: Is there a particular time of year to come?
 
Ken: The whole issue is there’s so much going on, I mean, you know, the Balloon Festival is famous, Antique Auto Shows, the Vermont Craft Festivals. There are so much going on that even if you live in Stowe, you do not get to go to everything. You have to make choices, you really do.
 
And in the wintertime, of course, the place is packed because you have cross country of skiing at Trapp, you have snowshoeing, you have not only Stowe but, you know, longer 100, you have other ski areas so it becomes exceedingly busy at that time. Also it brings a lot of people who just come for the beauty of this place. From the village of Stowe and the bottom of the valley, there is a road called the Mountain Road District 108 and it goes up one side of Mount Mansfield and it goes through a narrow canyon between the two highest peaks of the state. It’s called Smugglers’ Notch. Smugglers’ Notch is dramatic.
 
And so a — and it’s not open in the winter, it’s only open in the summer. They can’t plow up through there. Tourists just come, so many people just drive through Stowe at that kind of place.
 
Seth: Now, let’s talk about food in this region. I mean, what is this region in Vermont known for?
 
Ken: This region has more top award-winning restaurants than any place between Boston, New York City and Montreal.
 
Seth: Really?
 
Ken: Yeah.
 
Seth: That much fantastic dining there.
 
Ken: There’s that much fantastic dining and then when you move away from the so called award-winning, it’s still pretty astounding.
 
Seth: I mean, are there farms in the area, I take it?
 
Ken: I’m going to talk a little bit about the Farm Fresh Network because this is big movement and there’s many other producers like Sean Buchanan, a speaker at the Taste Trekker Conference. He was very instrumental in Stowe introducing Farm-to-Table and is now the business development director for Black River Produce. Another one of the panelist, Meghan Sheridan, she is actually the Executive Director of Vermont Fresh Network. So these people have been very instrumental is developing this relationship between farmers, food producers and chefs.
 
Seth: Yeah, and we should note that we’re recording this before the Taste Trekkers Conference but people are probably listening to it afterwards but these are, like you said, Sean Buchanan and Meghan Sheridan, two of the people who are going to be speaking there. So talk to me a little bit about what they did. I mean, what is the Farm-to-Table Movement like in Vermont?
 
Ken: Well, from my personal perspective, growing up in a family of farmers, I watched this transition of the small family farm disappearing and the land is coming back to woods. But the hippie movement that I was a part of saw many people coming back, wanting to move off the land. In the process, with the assistance of the State of Vermont, the Agriculture Department of Vermont Extension Service, they were able to develop specialty foods.
 
Vermont is well-known for production of cheese, one time before refrigerated transport by rail, every town has their own cheese producers. So some survived into the modern day like Crowley Cheese. Others became incredibly well-known like Cabot Cheeses, their famous cheddars who two years ago, they took the world’s gold medal for English style cheddar much to the upset Brits over that one and someone else I know just took national gold for their goat cheese.
 
So these specialty producers with the help from the state are creating farms that are self-sustaining. And bringing that kind of exciting food, besides things like, you know, all your veggies that you produced, besides, you know, livestock that’s properly produced, it’s so wonderful to know where your food comes from whether it’s a chicken or a cucumber. And more and more people understand that in Vermont. But it has risen to a national level and when chefs can support the local economy at the same time presenting wonderful ultra fresh ingredients to their diners, it becomes win-win situation.
 
Seth: You are really seeing this connection between the chefs and the local farmers.
 
Ken: Well, that’s correct and I’m going to go back to Sean Buchanan because he was the Executive Chef of the Stowe Mountain Lodge which is very high-end lodge at the base of the famous ski resort and in fact, even Cliff House sits on the very summit about Mansfield. He brought in this concept to this big corporation and has proven to be an extreme success and the success is mirrored in the fact that it’s successful not only in their top four-star dining room but also in their smaller venues.
 
There’s also many Europeans who had come, for example, the Trapp Family who came from Austria, Sound of Music and all that and they have the Trapp Family Lodge. So this is sort of a formalization of something that was happening before but now has become much more commercially viable.
 
Seth: So let’s talk about Stowe as I’m headed in and I’m a foodie, are there certain neighborhoods or strips or streets to explore that I should definitely make sure I check out?
 
Ken: When you start out there, you’re starting out in Waterbury. There’s local restaurants where I even going to about which really are very, very good. But then there are places like Hen of the Woods which is the old Mist Mill but the Hen of the Wood and Eric Warnstedt is such a noted chef that they’re now opening it in Vermont’s newest boutique hotel in Burlington.
 
You moved past them and you got into a famous New York chef and Michael Kloeti came from New York wanting to get away from that crazy corporate chef world and established his own place called Michael’s on the Hill. Well, this is also going passed Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tours and their ice cream plant, going passed Cold Hollow Cider Mill. You have to go pass The Alchemist which is one of the hottest microbreweries, you get IPA beers.
 
And you’re moving up the valley along you’ll see a sign hanging that says garlic farm and things of this nature. And 10 miles later, you pull into the Little Village of Stowe and the Little Village of Stowe has many incredibly eateries in there. I mean, we talked about Ben & Jerry’s but there’s many other homemade ice cream places that exceed that quality like I.C. Scoops right in the middle of Stowe. And then there’s innovative places that are opening like the Blue Moon Café that’s in behind on school street.
 
These are small places but most people turned at the three-way stop sign which actually works quite well and they head up the Mountain Road which is so packed with places that it becomes really crazy. If you wanted to just maybe have a quick lunch something or — you could stop into the Green Goddess Café. They make everything from absolute scratch. If you like Mexican food, why not go for a real Mexican food at Frida’s. Do you like beer? Is that something you enjoy?
 
Seth: I do like beer.
 
Ken: Well, the Vermont Ale House is not a microbrewery. They stock many microbreweries in Vermont, but they also stock very scarce hard to find beers around the world.
 
Seth: That’s my favorite type of place. I love walking in and ordering the beer that I’ve never heard of before. It sounds like there’s a lot going on there. Are there any — you mentioned a couple, are there any of the chefs that we should keep our eye on?
 
Ken: There’s many, many, many top chefs. There’s like Josh Berry. There’s Kim Lambrechts at the Trapp Family and Steve Truso at Green Mountain Inn. Well, my favorite is Antonio DeVito at Trattoria La Festa. If you want real Italian food, that’s where you go because they’re Italians, they brought it over, it’s a family tradition and they’ve been there for 25 years.
 
Seth: The chefs there, do they tend to be local and come up to the area or are chefs moving to Stowe from other regions?
 
Ken: They’re moving from other regions. Michael Kloeti, of course, was a big New York chef. Another one is Steve Schimoler who is a well-known chef. He has dealt many things like culinary cream. He came up to Vermont to become the Vice President of Product Development for Cabot Creamery and then he opened the Mist Mill in Waterbury which became absolutely top rank. But after that became successful, he closed it. He left, he went to Cleveland. And Cleveland, he opened a kitchen and he called it the Customized Restaurant Operations Platform, CROP, and that has opened the whole Farm-to-Table movement, that has made it the top restaurant in Cleveland. He just moved back to structure up this CROP in Stowe.
 
Meanwhile, he teams with another well-known chef called Tom Bivins and Tom was the chef at The Inn at Shelburne Farm. Shelburne Farm is being the Vanderbilt Webb state in Shelburne. Then he moved from there to Pitcher’s in Warren, another ski area and while he was there, he helped them get the designation of Relais et Chateaux. From there, he just moved on and became the Executive Chef at the New England Culinary Institute which he just recently left to become the co-owner and executive chef at the CROP Bistro.
 
Then they also pull in a brewer, Will Gilson. Will’s background was he just spent a short time at The Alchemist. He’s best known for all the brews he developed at the Moat Mountain Smoke House & Brewing in North Conway. Before that, he was at Snake River Brewing in Jackson Hole and Squatters Brewpub in Salt Lake City. These guys then hired Tim Bauer who is a general manager and he was the owner of a trendy bar and tappas restaurant, very trendy thing in Del Mar Beach, you know, West Palm Beach, Florida. It was called the Falcon House.
 
So this shows one place where they called this talent, you know, all this interconnections into a totally new fusion that’s happening. And this exemplifies what’s happening in Vermont, not just in Stowe but also in other places like Burlington and Southern Vermont.
 
Seth: We’re going to take a break and come back in just second and we are not only going to give an answer to your trivia question, we’re going to find out what national organization started in Stowe. We are also going to dig in to your restaurant recommendation and then we’re going to play a game called Out of the Frying Pan.
 
So Ken Aiken was one of the many people who actually came out to the Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference. We actually recorded this interview before the conference and then he was there and I’m so glad that he came out and so many other people did. We have an absolutely fantastic time in September in Providence, Rhode Island. And if you want to see pictures and tweets and recordings to some of the speeches that were given there, you can go over to TasteTrekkers.com/conference and you can find a full recap of everything that went on there.
 
In addition to that, in the coming weeks in the podcast, I’m actually going to post recordings of some of the various sessions. We’ve already posted recording Episode Number 59 of Matt Jennings’ keynote address, so you can hear that and there’s more to come.
 
I do want to let you know about one of the thing which is that you can now go to the Taste Trekkers website and on the right hand side, there’s a tab that says, leave a voice mail, and you can actually leave a message for us. So if you want to hear your own voice in this podcast, go on, leave a message, ask us a question, say something, give us a comment, tell us about some great event that you want to plug, let us know and we will include it in here. All right. Thanks so much and we’ll get back to Ken.
 
We are talking to Ken Aiken. He is a Moto-Foodie, I mean you’re up in the North East, you know, going between Vermont and Canada on your motorcycle and, you know, checking out the food scene and writing about it and we’re talking about Stowe, Vermont. Ken, you had a trivia question for me. Give it to me one more time.
 
Ken: My trivia question, what national organization was founded in Stowe? You want a hint so I told it was sport related, recreational sport even.
 
Seth: Yeah.
 
Ken: And your guess?
 
Seth: So recreational sport, I’m thinking it’s got to be something around winter sports, something like skiing but I don’t know, I don’t know what the national ski organization is. Am I close?
 
Ken: You’re close, you’re close. It’s the National Ski Patrol.
 
Seth: Oh.
 
Ken: These are the people that keep you safe when you’re on slopes.
 
Seth: So that started in Stowe?
 
Ken: In 1938, and there’s now 26,000 members and 600 patrols around the United States and even some of the U.S. trajectories and some other places. They work with organizations around the world. But these are the people, a lot of them volunteers, that will keep you safe, rescue you if you need to. So it’s very, very important.
 
Seth: All right. I asked you for a restaurant recommendation. I said for coming into Stowe, where should we go? Tell me what you chose.
 
Ken: Well, I chose CROP. Now, the CROP actually doesn’t mean food. CROP is referring to Customized Restaurant Operations Platform, which was built by particular chef. And this is the second CROP. The first CROP is in Cleveland, probably the most, I would like to say, prestigious but the best word would be most highly powered restaurant in Cleveland.
 
Seth: And this brought together the four guys that you were talking about before?
 
Ken: Yes. There was a restaurant there before, it was called he SHED. This is where apres ski was actually developed. It was one of first group pubs in Vermont, very, very popular place. And when it closed in 2011, October I think, many of us are rather devastated. But a particular person who has connections with Vermont, we are talking about Steve Schimoler earlier, he came from Cleveland, because he have had success in Waterbury with the Mist Mill that he developed plus he was the product developer for Cabot Creamery and his daughter is one of the taste gurus of Ben & Jerry’s, so he has Vermont connections.
 
He came and purchased it and started to revamp it. Of course, with his connections, he teamed up with amazing chef Tom Bivins, what they did was they ordered a $500,000 state-of-the-art brew system from an Austrian company which was then shipped and sold in this restaurant in the front atrium.
 
Seth: Okay. So they’re brewing their own beers here?
 
Ken: They’re brewing their own beers. They brought in a master brewer who again had Vermont connections but not just Vermont, also his outside perspectives since his background takes him all the way up to Jackson’s Hole. He became very well-known in his 10 years in North Conway developing brews and his reason for making brew is simply that the existing brew company had grown to such an extent that they needed to standardize their brews.
 
Any time that you get into mass production of something, customer expects when they open a bottle, they’re going to get a particular taste. And people of this creative level constantly want to be advancing themselves, they can only do this by being able to experiment and when you have a brew system that produces only eight and a half barrels of brew at that time, you can tweak things and change things around and find this ultimate combinations either based on the menus they’re going to be offering, seasonal concepts, festival was coming up or just, “Hmm, I wonder if this will work.”
 
Seth: So you’ve got all these guys coming together. Tell me a little bit about the vibe of the place. I mean, when we walk in, what’s the feeling? What’s it look like? What’s the experience?
 
Ken: You know, this is tricky because you have an established place called the SHED and you want to revamp this place but you don’t want to be upsetting your regular customers. So it was done with a great deal of sensitivity. The kind of funky burn like pub was retained. The new brew system was put in right next to it in a modern atrium where they have the two stories of glass in the front so that you can see the gleaming copper from the room. Then they updated the interior. There’s a number of different settings. The main dining room has cathedral ceilings, very, very light and very — tables, chairs and Persian carpets on the floor. It’s not pretentious though.
 
There’s photographs from a noted Vermont photographer like David Miller. It’s very pleasing, the warmth. Adjoining that and separated by the streets glass partition is a very hip bistro bar with wood and, you know, lacquered tree limbs and that has — it’s a room but that room becomes divided by a big stoned fireplace which would be extremely cozy in the winter, of course.
 
Seth: That does sound very cozy.
 
Ken: If you go out back, there’s a very large patio under the trees and this patio separates the back of the restaurant from the bicycle path where people are rollerblading and bicycling and walking which follows the river. So, for people like myself who come with their motorcycle gear or bicyclists who are showing up in their latex, their warm and they — or people are just walking along or even though you just want to be outside on a nice day, there is a patio by the river sheltered from the noise of the highway.
 
Seth: I’ll tell you right now, that’s where you’re going to find me. I’m going to be out on the back patio sampling the beers. So let’s say I sit down and obviously that’s the first thing I’m going to want to start with. You got a brew that you would start off with?
 
Ken: No, I don’t have a brew that I start off with because, like I mentioned, this changes all the time, so you can be coming back every single week and you’re going to be finding some other offerings.
 
Seth: Which is okay by me, I mean, I like to walk in and try the sampling, like I said, try something I’ve never had before. But, yeah, for example, what are some of the things you’ve had there?
 
Ken: Recently, a well-produced oatmeal milk stout which was so extremely smooth and the hops aftertaste was absent and I think it is one of the best brews to pair up with meals that I’ve had in a long, long time. There was a Bavarian Weizen that it’s half a Weizen that he produced which was wonderful summer beer, it had a little tang to the back taste then that claims my palate and I like this a lot although personally, I wouldn’t pair it up with food. This is the kind of beer that I associated with a hot summer day and I’ll just drink it by itself.
 
And there’s a third one, I’m just going to bring it up, there’s a bock, a double bock actually. This bock, I just happen to like it. It was extremely smooth and it was my favorite. Those who like wine, and we could talk about wine, but those who like wine know that the glasses is important. And one of the things that CROP is doing is they’re educating people that depending on the beer, the shape of the glass will affect how you experience that beer.
 
Seth: So give me an example. What type of glass should I be using with what type of beer?
 
Ken: You know those long tapered ones that come up sort of like a funnel shape almost?
 
Seth: Yup.
 
Ken: Those are for lager.
 
Seth: Okay.
 
Ken: And then if you want to get until like have your Belgian ales or your stouts and things, they come in a tumbler, you know. One of those things you’re going to search it with a water glass, a little bit wider at the top, a little bit narrower at the bottom.
 
Seth: Right.
 
Ken: Maybe you want to get into a pail ale or something that has a tulip-shaped glass.
 
Seth: Why does this change the way you experience the beer? Is it because of how it affects your smell?
 
Ken: Correct.
 
Seth: The glass can actually influence that?
 
Ken: Glass do. And then when you speak to — people are catching about the wines, they’re going to tell you, your white wine goes in this glass, your ice wine goes in this glass, this is all depending on the experience.
 
Seth: I’ve actually heard you should — if you have the option, you should never drink the beer out of the bottle because the bottle sort of closes off the smell and you’re not engaging your nose when you drink it. So if you can, you always want to drink it out of the glass.
 
Ken: That’s true, once you’re outside and it’s hot, you don’t want it to cool down.
 
Seth: Right. All right. So we’ve got our beer. We’re all set up there. Let’s start talking about appetizers. What do you recommend?
 
Interviewer: Well, of course, everything changes, so I’m just going to talk about the menu from two days ago because that was the last time I was there.
 
Seth: Sure. What do you have?
 
Ken: How about starting off with a cheddar larger soup, it’s only 7 bucks. It’s really nice, large soup. There’s many other things but I’m going to brand one that I had to try is one that — it sounds simple but has to be done right, beer-battered fried pickles, it’s fantastic. You know, that’s only 6 bucks. If you have to be vegan, how about hand rolled German style pretzel with a nice CROP round ale mushroom. Another one that I had and I just couldn’t resist, these are handcrafted tacos, one had duck confit in it, another one had cold pork and the third one have this absolutely wonderful grilled chicken.
 
Seth: This sounds dangerous. This sounds like I could fill up just on the appetizers before I get to my meal. Talk to me about main dishes, what do you recommend?
 
Ken: A Reuben sandwich, actually a real Reuben sandwich for 11 bucks. That’s really good. I also happen to like the fact that they had a MOP chicken sandwich. I like that a lot.
 
Seth: A what chicken sandwich?
 
Ken: It’s done with special sauce, so a chicken confit, it’s now like a grilled — it’s a confit chicken with coleslaw and Portuguese muffin and hand-cut fries and is a wonderful sauce. It’s called Carolina MOP chicken. It’s 12 bucks. Everything is fresh, fresh, fresh.
 
Seth: I like this that we’re not breaking the bank here either. I mean, this sounds like I can get a really good meal at a really reasonable price.
 
Ken: Practically, as much as you want, you can get out for 30, 35 bucks.
 
Seth: Sounds good. Well, thank you for the restaurant recommendation. Are you ready to play a little game?
 
Ken: Oh, sure. Let’s play.
 
Seth: This game is called Out of the Frying Pan. Here’s how it works. I’m going to ask you for a series of rapid fire recommendations, just tell me the first thing that comes to mind. And first, we’ve got to ask in a place like Stowe, what restaurant has the best view?
 
Ken: The best view has to be Cliff House. Cliff House is sitting on the top of the highest mountain in Vermont. You had to go up by gondola.
 
Seth: But it’s worth it.
 
Ken: Can’t beat the view.
 
Seth: Let’s say I’ve got kids in tow, you know, I got a two-year old in the back of the bike, is there a good restaurant to go to with kids?
 
Ken: I don’t think you can beat going to Pie in the Sky. It’s hand tossed wood fired pizza and pasta, super sandwiches made-to-order and that’s located on the Mountain Road. You know, what kids doesn’t like pizza and this also gives the opportunity to, “Oh, no, no, he doesn’t like mushrooms,” “Oh, no this one doesn’t like oats,” “This one happens to have this passion for smoked salmon.” So you can create this.
 
Seth: What about for vegetarian? Is there a great spot if you’re a vegetarian?
 
Ken: I would go to like the Green Goddess Café simply because, you know, the salads are great.
 
Seth: I’ve got to ask because we’re in Vermont, I’ve got to ask about cheese. Is there a great place to get cheese there?
 
Ken: I’m very passionate about cheese. Cheddar cheese from Cabot is internationally award-winning and one of their main retail outlooks is actually located in Waterbury center right on Route 100. So you can stop there and pick up cheese. But just about any kind of cheese that you can imagine is being produced in Vermont. Blue cheeses are being produced more and more. Goat cheeses are very popular, sheep cheese, you’re dealing with breeze. So when you go into a local deli or into a restaurant that offers a cheese board, you will get quite a variety.
 
Seth: Last question and I know you’re the guy to ask for this, if I’m rolling into town and my bike needs a tune up, needs some fixing, who do I go see in Stowe?
 
Ken: I do my own wrenching.
 
Seth: So we come to you.
 
Ken: That’s it.
 
Seth: I should ask, what are you riding?
 
Ken: Well, I own a couple of BMWs and Ducati but because of what I do as a motorcyclist, I’m frequently on factory bikes and press bikes, so it depends. I could be on a Harley. I could be on KKM. I might be on dual-sport. I might be on a cruiser. I might be on sport trailer. It depends on the situation. But I own three motorcycles.
 
Seth: Well, thank you so much for the restaurant recommendation. It’s CROP Bistro & Brewery in Stowe. It’s located at 1859 Mountain Road in Stowe, Vermont. People can find it online at the CROPVT.com. What about you, Ken, where can people read you if people want to follow you online, on social media, how can they do that?
 
Ken: Well, you just write just my name into Google but if you want to read a few of my blogs, you can do that @TouringRoads.WordPress.com or go to Amazon.com, order one of my books, subscriber to Rider Magazine or Backroads or you can find me in a lot of different places.
 
Seth: Sounds great. Well, thank you so much for joining us. You are our first Moto-Foodie. It’s been great talking to you.
 
Ken: Thanks so much, Seth. I appreciate it.
 
Seth: My name is Seth Resler. A couple of show notes before we go, first of all, head over to the TasteTrekkers.com website. We relaunch it. Check out everything that’s going on there. You can see stuff from the food tourism conference. You can also start your own culinary vacation. Just go there and you can see all sorts of events that are happening all over the country.
 
Also, please subscribe to the podcasts in iTunes. While you’re there, leave a review. You can also follow us on Twitter, we’re Taste Trekkers. We’re on Facebook as well. And if you want to be a guest on the show, if you want to come on, all you have to do is click the Contact Us link over on the Taste Trekkers website. Send us an email. We would love to have you. Thanks so much for listening.



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About Ken Aiken

Ken Aiken is a motorcycle- and culinary tourism consultant who offers guided Moto-Foodie Tours. He is the author of Motorcycle Journeys Through New England, Touring Vermont's Scenic Roads, and co-author of Motorcycle Journeys Through Atlantic Canada.

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