Feeling the Bern with House Made Hot Sauce
(this article originally appeared on AE Digital Vermont January 2016)
Burlington, VT – For a restaurant that sources over 70% of its ingredients locally, according to their latest local food audit, perhaps it’s no surprise the Skinny Pancake recently started making their own locally-sourced hot sauce to go alongside their mouth-watering crêpes, paninis, sides, and more…
With a combination of local habañero, anaheim, hungarian, and wax peppers, plus an homage paid to former Burlington mayor and current Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the Skinny Pancake’s Curtis Garrow has created a community-building, crowd-pleasing hot sauce that will leave you “feeling the Bern” no matter your political views.
The Birth of “Bern Baby Bern”
Call it an “aha” moment, call it eureka, but when Curtis Garrow stared down at the list of produce offerings in an e-mail sent from Pomykala Farm while ordering produce for the Skinny just a few weeks ago, he knew a house-made, locally-sourced hot sauce simply had to happen. Paying tribute to Bernie Sanders, the “Bern Baby Bern” hot sauce exudes the hometown pride, local resilience, and sticking-it-to-the-man attitude that Bernie himself believes in, which has endeared voters of all political parties nationwide.
In case you’re wondering what it’s like to “feel the Bern,” the “Bern Baby Bern” hot sauce has a medium kick with deep sweet notes to round out the spice from the mix of peppers Curtis uses. If you’ve got the guts, he has also created the “Green Monster,” which is rated EXTREMELY hot on the bottle, using green habañero chilis with a little bit of single-source pure Vermont maple syrup for sweetness.
The Skinny Pancake is renowned for its partnerships with local farms and for its work in building a stronger local foodshed across the state of Vermont. So why not use the now apparently vast array of Vermont-grown hot peppers available for a hot sauce?
Like a beautiful piece of artwork, a map of Vermont featuring plaques with the names and locations of all of the Skinny Pancake’s local purveyors adorn the western-facing wall of the Burlington restaurant, drawing the attention of locals and tourists alike.
Overhearing conversations from onlookers of this foodshed spectacle, one thing is unequivocally clear: people are increasingly wondering about and wanting to know where their food comes from.
And that’s something Curtis, and the Skinny Pancake, couldn’t be happier about.
Strengthening Local Foodsheds
As a born-and-raised Vermonter, sharing his love for the local foodshed by working with local farmers simply made good sense: “Seeing farming in an everyday sense,” Curtis told me, “these people dedicating their lives to what they do… What better way to give back than by purchasing local goods from local people that you know? We’re keeping the money local, and bringing their name into the bigger picture.”
In layman’s terms, what this means is that your salad greens now come with a name and a face–and that’s something to be cherished for more reasons than one. As members of 1% for the Planet, the Skinny Pancake is committed to the triple bottom line: People, Planet, and a Profit donating 1% of their annual sales to local non-profits, in addition to their care and respect for farmers and the working landscape.
On my hands and knees, in the compost-rich, organic soil, I began clipping lettuce greens, thinking about where they might be headed, and who the lucky end consumer of this fresh and crispy lettuce would be.
“Where’s all this gloriousness headed to?” I asked from a few rows away.
“Oh! That? That’s headed to the Skinny Pancake in Montpelier,” Edge, Good Heart Farmstead’s co-owner, told me. “Once you’re done, can you go down and give it a rinse?”
Washing the beautiful greens that go in the Skinny Pancake’s salads and accompany their crêpes was somewhat of a religious experience for me. As I was lifting them in and out of the water, I was imagining them perfectly dressed in the Skinny’s famous maple-pesto vinaigrette, sitting directly next to a Johnny crêpe, which features locally-raised pulled pork with caramelized onions and a VT maple-barbeque sauce, or a Josh Panda crêpe, “fried Misty Knoll chicken tenders with shredded potatoes wrapped in a cornmeal crepe and smothered in sausage gravy,” two of my all-time favorites the Skinny Pancake offers.
Being so close to the source, and knowing the greens’ final destination, was unlike anything I had ever been a part of before.
“How are those greens coming, Alex?” Edge yelled from across the farm. Time to focus…
But I couldn’t stop thinking.
“They have a reliable source of greens? And the Skinny Pancake reliably needs greens?” Perfect. Incredible!
“Match made in heaven,” I thought.
And it was.
Seeing Edge hop in his truck and head just 15 miles to Montpelier with the 50 lbs of lettuce we had just harvested was nothing short of magical.
From hot sauce to greens, it’s clear that every ingredient counts when the goal is to support as many local producers as possible. Without the pure dedication and big hearts of local farmers who make the abundance of local ingredients available, and the restaurants like the Skinny Pancake who purchase them and help farmers generate a steadier income, there would be no locally-made hot sauce to be had, or maple-y-pesto-y greens to enjoy on a chilly winter’s day.
And when it’s possible to support the local economy, why wouldn’t you? At least, that’s what those who are feeling the Bern are saying. Aptly-named “Bern Baby Bern,” the Skinny Pancake’s homemade hot sauce embodies the ideals and values Bernie Sanders himself holds close to his heart: supporting family farming, supporting affordable nutrition for all regardless of one’s socio-economic status, and weakening the grip of the multinational food corporations that hold our politicians hostage to their own self-serving demands.