Bern Baby Bern – Meet Our Hot Sauce!

 

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.

The Skinny Pancake’s Local Foodshed Map / Image Credit: AE Digital Environmental Communications

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.

Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to see, first-hand, the importance of the relationships built between farmers and restaurants like the Skinny Pancake during a working membership at Good Heart Farmstead, one of the Skinny Pancake’s local purveyors (which also happens to be run by a friend of mine from college).

Washing greens from Good Heart Farmstead destined for the Skinny Pancake, Montpelier / Image Credit: AE Digital Environmental Communications

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.

Hannah Fair – A Preschool Teacher Becomes a Star

Hannah Fair – A Preschool Teacher Becomes a Star

There is no shortage of singer-songwriters in Burlington, Vermont. In fact, our community of folk-loving, accepting listeners has created a sort of Mecca for them. We love all that they bring to our intimate stage at the Skinny Pancake: baring their hearts and souls, perhaps helping us think more deeply about our own lives as we listen closely to their stories and melodies.

We’ve hosted Hannah a few times on our stage, but one night stands out. It was a benefit concert for the Against Malaria Foundation (itself a show full of wonderful songwriters), and Hannah was part of several acts. She had an old banjo and acoustic guitar, and she asked me, “So, how long would you like me to play for?” She seemed a little nervous, with a wide-eyed look; yet I could tell she’d done this more than a few times. A member of the crowd asked, “Another singer-songwriter?  Really?” It was a question I declined to answer.

As we were about to find out, Hannah was so much more than we expected. She brought the room to silence, in complete awe of her performance.

From the very first song, it was clear that Hannah Fair was not only a phenomenal singer but also a true artist and poet. Her lyrics were compelling, and you could feel the authenticity in her voice. The entire room was right there with her, happily along for the ride, and left with that feeling that only live music can give you. This was something special, something rare.

Her set consisted of mostly original songs, and a few truly impressive covers, including a rendition of Beyonce’s “Love on Top.” Surely not a song your average singer can pull off.

One thing you cannot say about a Hannah Fair show is that all the songs sound the same – a typical complaint with singer-songwriters. In truth, she’s got an incredible range and variety of material. One of my favorites is a song called “No Whiskey,” which she wrote with her little sister. Based on this tune, her little sister could be the next Hannah Fair.

 

Her song “Roots,” performed as a Tiny Desk Contest submission, is a lyrical whirlwind and really shows off her incredible songwriting, with its magical range and quirky brilliance.

 

Our Wednesday Night residency with Josh Panda has recently come to a close, after 5 years strong. While we undoubtedly will continue to have Josh on our stage regularly, it was time for a new chapter for both Mr. Panda and our Wednesday night line-up. So not long ago we were left with the question of who could fill these enormous Panda Bear-sized shoes? But the answer it seems is that nobody needs to. Over 5 long years, Josh emerged as the artist he is today. The freedom of a weekly stage is liberating, allowing for an artist to grow.

 

Similar to Josh Panda, Hannah Fair started out, as so many Burlington musicians do, busking on Church Street. With an impressive set in tow, she heads to our Weekly residency. Over time, she will fill her own shoes; with her own voice, her own crowd, and her own bar tab.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8 pm, and watch this extraordinary talent, a preschool teacher by day, take you somewhere else for a couple hours.

HAPPY LA CHANDELUER

These days it would appear that just about everyone and everything has their own ‘day.’ Some of these are super essential: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Wine WednesDAY. Others can be downright head-scratching: Watermelon Day, Wiggle Your Toes Day, National Underwear Day (all actual Days). But if there’s one minor obscurity that sure as sin deserves its own day, it’s the Official Food of Pancakia: The Crepes.

 

Yes, friends. There is, in fact, a crepe day. Because of the cosmopolitan nature of the skinny pancakes we enjoy, this day isn’t just national, it’s international!

 

While at first glance this would appear to be a marketing ploy that we made up in order to generate some business in the cold Winter months, let me assure, that we are truly not that clever. While we’ve been celebrating Punxsutawney Phil all these years, Francophiles have been flipping crepes on February 2nd on what they call La Chandeleur: a holy day celebrating Jesus Christ being presented at a church 40 days after his birth.

 

It may sound like this is a day to prance around ornate overhead lighting fixtures, but in fact, the day is celebrated with crepes. Why crepes? Good question. One theory suggests the magnanimous nature of one Pope Gelase began the custom, as he would feed crepes to pilgrims traveling to his church on February 2nd. Others say that eating lots of crepes has simply become customary during the Mardi Gras season and a day emerged in particular. But the theory we’ll choose to run with this year is that the form and color of crepes call to mind images of the sun.

 

Ah, yes, the sun. That magical orb in the sky that so often eludes us in the winter months. Alas, much like our friend the groundhog, one might even say that a crepe could just as accurately predict when exactly we will see our spring, but we won’t go there.

 

Legend has it that while preparing crepes for La Chandeleur, one must hold the crepe pan in one hand, and a single coin in the other. While making a wish, simultaneously flip both the coin and the crepe. If you’re able to catch the coin and somehow avoid burning yourself, CONGRATULATIONS, for wealth and prosperity await you the rest of the year.

 

We imagine that many folks on this side of the pond probably won’t celebrate this somewhat dangerous custom, but, we’d still like to give you an opportunity to eat crepes at least, and we’d like to think there’s some good luck granted to those who do. So while we won’t be flipping coins on International Crepe Day, we will be flipping crepes, and free ones at that. To celebrate our day of days, free Nutella, Pure & Simple, or Pooh Bear crepes for those who join in on the holiday.
HAPPY LA CHANDELUER.

An Ode: To the Odyssey of a Troubadour and a Pancake

The first time I heard Josh Panda perform was on Church Street in the summer of 2008. The Skinny Pancake had just one small location on the Burlington waterfront which had just completed its first trip around the sun. As a small operation, I wore many hats back then – payroll, scheduling, accounting, working shifts on the floor and so much more. I also booked all the music that came through the Skinny for those first two years.

The Church Street Marketplace can be a charming scene in the busy summer months, with musicians of all stripes entertaining the passing crowds. It can also be chaotic: choked with enough people to ruin a Fire Marshall’s afternoon. Regardless of your perspective, there is a lot of competition for attention out there. And yet amongst that scrum, Josh Panda’s performance jumped right out from the crowd. His voice is so crystal clear, so versatile, so powerful, his demeanor so playful. His songwriting has a set of barbs that would make a fisherman jealous. Josh had attracted a crowd that day and lured me in too. Alas, after a few minutes, my many duties called…so I dropped a business card along with a few bucks and moved on down the way.

Like many self-respecting (or self-destructive?) musicians, Josh is not one for self-promotion. My business card likely found its way into his pocket and then onto a disorganized pile in short order…if it didn’t go straight into the trash. But Josh has a secret weapon: his now wife, then girlfriend, and co-owner of Pandarue Productions, Ruth Hill. Several months later, as fall waned into winter’s wax, I received an email in signature Ruth Hill style. She weaved a string through her mother to my brother and onto another sibling just to get our attention to perform in our little creperie. She is focused, determined and smart…though frankly, it wasn’t that hard to get a date on the calendar at the ‘Cake back then. My brother’s note read, “This is that Josh Panda guy Ted was referring to you.  The music certainly passes the test as far as I’m concerned.” His first gig with us was booked with his then backing band, ‘The Murder Ballads’ on the winter solstice of 2008. It was a raging success. In our next newsletter, I reported, “Josh & the Murder Ballads absolutely lit up our venue…one of the best performances we have ever had!!! I told Josh as many days later in a mid-town encounter, thanking him for bringing his talent to our little city. His response:

“I heard Burlington was a hip town with a home-grown music scene…and that’s where I want to be right now. Just hoping to be that double-shot of espresso in the mug of Burlington’s music scene.”

 

In the months and years thereafter, Josh hopscotched through dates at the Skinny P. In 2009, We infamously set him up for our biggest night of the year, July 3rd on the Burlington waterfront. When it threatened to rain, I was dispatched to get shelter and returned with a rather dirty 6’x8′ tarp. Apparently, I still had a lot to learn. Suffice to say, it was insufficient. (My sincerest apologies to the great Lowell Thompson who still holds that one against me.) The party abruptly moved inside as the impending rain approached. The crowd quickly completely overwhelmed our tiny venue. It was muggy and wet. We’re lucky we didn’t have a slip-and-fall lawsuit that day. Panda and his band were on a roll and didn’t want to stop. He kept playing acoustic, his powerful voice projecting over the crowd, while we reassembled our fledgling PA from outside to indoors. We only managed to get one speaker working, but he didn’t seem to care that night…nor did the crowd, so long as they could still enjoy his pipes.

 

In January 2011, after several more packed parties at the Pancake, Josh settled into his weekly Wednesday residency, which has enjoyed a proud five-year run, ending January 25th. Before we expanded our location on the Burlington waterfront, performing at the Pancake was a tightrope walk. Somewhere just past critical mass we would find ourselves over capacity. With not an inch to spare, a performer like Panda could pick up a fork and start eating from a guest’s plate…it was that tight.

 

Half way through his residency, we doubled the size of the Skinny. We were careful to make our last night in the old space our regular Wednesday residency with Josh, and what a night it was. When it was all said and done, we took it upon ourselves to begin the demolition right then and there. This big broad wall had curtailed our size and limited our parties. It had been a physical and psychological barrier. “TEAR DOWN THIS WALL, MR. PANCAKE!!!” Panda declared. Tear it down we did…

With an expanded space and improved performance area, Panda found new life in his residency at the Pancake. He hosted bigger bands. He worked through his own limitations and found comfort in performing alone. We hosted multiple New Year’s Eve crowds together, an infamous Doors cover celebration for Halloween 2015 and many, many more Wednesday nights. For several of us, Wednesday became our weekly routine to get together and catch up.
But like all odysseys, this 5-year collaboration is set to end. And while that’s surely a bittersweet thing for those of us who found weekly comfort in the music and friendship, everything is ultimately impermanent. Moreover, when one door closes another one opens. The Pancake-Panda collaboration is far from over. We’re just moving onto the next chapter.

 

-Benjy Pancake

Who Is Josh Panda?

Ever since the announcement of this show at the Skinny Pancake Hanover, folks all over the Upper Valley have been asking: Who is Josh Panda? 

We here at the Local Music Corner were wondering the same thing, so we dug into this Panda fellow to see what we could find.

It turns out that Joshua Panda, hails from the Southern United States, but ultimately settled in Burlington, VT aiming to be ‘the shot of espresso in the city’s music scene.’ And he’s certainly put his best foot forward in that effort.

Over the years, Josh Panda has tackled pretty much every musical style imaginable, from Tom Waits to Adele:

In addition to these one-off covers he peppers into his shows alongside impressive originals, Mr. Panda knows how to don a musical costume and do a full-length tribute to musical legends. Over the years, he’s channeled, Van Morrison, Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, and relevant to this blog post: The Rolling Stones.

So, to answer the question of, ‘Who is Josh Panda?’ It’s tough to know, really. The man can do anything and be anyone, it just depends on the show you catch.

This Friday, at the Skinny Pancake Hanover, we’ve been assured Josh Panda is bringing his Rolling Stones show, and it’s sure to be a good one. Hope to see you there!

Lots of good music happening across the Upper Valley this week so be sure to give a listen wherever you are. Which shows are YOU most looking forward to this week?

Will Smith and Crepes with Brooke Annibale

Brooke Annibale studied abroad in Paris when she was in college. While her love of songwriting was well established at that point, she gained a new love that summer of 2007: crepes. She may not have seen it coming, but this Saturday at the Skinny Pancake in Hanover she’ll have the opportunity to celebrate both of those loves in the same room.

In advance of the show, I asked Brooke a few questions about her continuing rise as a touring musician. Read below, including a few songs to check out, and come see her for yourself this Saturday night in Hanover.

Local Music Corner: When did you first pick up a guitar? What was the song that made you say, ‘oh, I want to play that?’

Brooke Annibale: I started playing guitar during the summer after my freshman year of high school, when I was 14 going on 15. My grandfather (my mom’s dad) was a guitar player and so is my uncle. That side of my family runs a music shop that sells guitars and other related gear as well as a live sound equipment company here in Pittsburgh. I had started writing lyrics and melodies really young, like in elementary school. When I got a bit older I realized I really wanted to be writing songs. I needed a tool to do that with so the guitar was a natural pick for me, having been around it in some way all my life. I started taking lessons at the family shop that summer and began writing songs a few months later.

LMC: What were the early gigs in Pittsburgh like? What sort of rooms were you playing and what sort of acts were you sharing bills with?

BA: My first live performance was at my high school talent show, which led to my first gig at a local coffee shop. A fellow student had a show booked there and asked me to open. I played that coffee shop frequently and then started playing other coffee shops in surrounding towns. I was mostly sharing the bill with other local acoustic singer-songwriters.

LMC: You graduated with a degree in Music Business. Because of this degree, do you think your approach is more pragmatic than if you were a road warrior during that time?

BA: I’m not sure, because I really think that actual experience within the industry and on the road is just as valuable as studying it. In college, I, fortunately, got a good balance of both of those. I went to Belmont in Nashville and you can really become immersed in the industry while you’re there. I think in some ways the degree gives me a more sensible awareness about the ins & outs of the industry that I might not have gained otherwise. But I also know that I’ve learned just as much from my experiences as I did from my studies.

LMC: How does the production behind this newest release compare to the earlier records? Are there more people involved in the process as you continue to gain a following?

BA: I’ve made my last 2 full-length records and a 6-song EP at the same studio in Nashville. They all have a similar cast of players and people involved because of that, but each are still slightly different. With each release, I’ve gotten more involved in the production process, especially with the dynamics and instrumentation of each song.

LMC: What’s your songwriting process like? Do you start with words or pick out a melody?

BA: The process is always a bit different every time. When I first started writing songs it was definitely the words that came first. Now mostly, it starts with finding something on the guitar that inspires a melody and then sorting out what the song wants to be about from there.

LMC: What are some of your favorite venues you’ve played?

BA: I really like playing house concerts, which if you haven’t heard of, they are exactly what they sound like… concerts in people’s houses. It gives me an opportunity to really connect with people. In Pittsburgh, my favorite place to play is probably the Pittsburgh Winery.

LMC: According to Wikipedia, we were born in the same month (July 87!). Out of curiosity, what were your contemporary influences, musical or otherwise?

BA: Wikipedia is correct on that. Well, the first CD I ever owned was Will Smith, so…

But really, when I first started playing I listened to a lot of John Mayer, and was also pretty into acoustic-based emo music, things that don’t really influence me anymore. I’d say my longest running influence has got to be Elliott Smith and in recent years, songwriters like Glen Hansard (The Swell Season), Lisa Hannigan, and Brandi Carlile have been steady influences in one way or another.

Brooke Annibale: This Saturday at the Skinny Pancake in Hanover – $10 online or at the door.

Lots of good music happening across the Upper Valley this week so be sure to give a listen wherever you are. Which shows are YOU most looking forward to this week?

The Skinny Pancake’s Rockin’ Employees: Chris von Staats, a Man of Many Talents

Each month the Skinny Pancake will give you a behind the scenes look at an employee who embodies the missions and values of the Skinny Pancake. This month, we’re excited to introduce you to Chris von Staats!

Chris von Staats live at Skinny Pancake’s Jazz Night, Tuesday evenings 7-9pm

Chris von Staats, the Skinny Pancake’s Bar Manager, is a man of many talents.

From his creative, locally-inspired prohibition era cocktail creations, to his professional, industrious demeanor managing the Skinny’s bar, and his musical talents (including great vocals and lightning-fast fingers on the guitar), Chris appears able to do it all with relative ease.

When Chris isn’t serving up craft cocktails with a hat tip to drier times, you can find him commanding the stage with an ever-evolving set list at Jazz Night at the Skinny Pancake’s Burlington waterfront location on Tuesday evenings from 7-9pm.

We spoke with Chris on Jazz Night to learn more about what it’s like working for the Skinny Pancake, and what keeps him motivated, movin’ and groovin’.

The Skinny on Chris von Staats and Jazz Night

Chris describes an evening at Jazz Night as a “sophisticated night out on the town,” and a “throwback to an older time.” W ith cocktails from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and von Staats’ group playing Billie Holiday in the background, it’s clear why:

Jazz night special cocktails

Ward 8: rye, lemon juice, orange juice, house-ma de grenadine, homemade maraschino cherry

Casino: Gin, Lemon juice, luxardo maraschino liqueur, housemade orange bitters, lemon, rosemary

SP: It must be interesting pouring drinks one night and playing jazz the next… What’s it like to work at the Skinny Pancake both as an employee and a performer?

CVS: It’s definitely a fun experience. In many ways, it makes me feel so much more connected to the Skinny Pancake. At my place of work, I get to do all the things I want to do. It’s a pretty sweet situation. Also, it’s funny how sometimes the lines are blurred for when one job starts and the other one begins…

On Jazz Night, when I am playing, I’m still coming up with cocktail specials and making sure the bar and everything else is all set. Sometimes, I’ll be playing and one of the staff who knows I’m a manager will come over and say something like, “Hey we need your help! The dishwasher broke!”

And I’ll run back during a set break and go and fix the dishwasher. Or when I am bartending here, if the band is having trouble setting up the sound, I’ll run out and help them set up the sound because I know how to do it.

It’s become where playing here and working here are both a part of my job, and I love it.

Chris von Staats live at skinny pancake’s jazz night, Tuesday evenings 7-9pm

Chris von Staats Mixing up something special

Skinny Pancake (SP): Why do you love working at the Skinny Pancake?

Chris von Staats (CVS): The core values of the company are all things that I love, too. There’s a lot of pride in the stuff that we [Vermonters] make here. For instance, one thing I try to do is make everything in-house. We just started making our own maraschino cherries, our own house grenadine, and our own house bitters—we’re doing everything from scratch.

We’ve also got 10 draught lines of local beer, and plenty of local top-shelf spirits. We’re using local produce and juices when possible in our cocktails, too. I love supporting that and being a part of that, and the Skinny Pancake does too… It’s local from the ground up, and that’s one of the things I love about working at the Skinny.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-1-14-13-pm

SP: If you were stranded on a deserted island with a group of people and could only serve one drink, what would it be?

CVS: It would be a “Singapore Sling.” We’ve run it here as a cocktail special before. It’s an old drink from the early 1900s, with a ton of ingredients; it’s a tiki drink. It’s a great example of a well-made, old cocktail that’s still one of the best. And, there are enough ingredients in it, eight in total, to hopefully sustain all of us on that island for a bit.

SP: What’s your favorite crepe and locally-inspired beverage?

CVS: The Jonny crepe, for sure. I order that almost every day. Also, the Crepedilla with the local, braised beef can last me three meals sometimes. I love that as well.

In terms of a beverage, when I started as the Bar Manager, of course, I was all about cocktails, and rarely thought about beers. And now, lately, I’ve really been loving beer. I’ve become somewhat of a beer snob [laughs]. I’m always trying to bring in new, different local producers, and experimenting with flavors and styles.

SP: If you were going to talk with someone who didn’t know much about the Skinny Pancake, what would you tell them?

CVS: I’d want them to know the Skinny Pancake is so much more than just a restaurant. The Skinny’s connections and roots run deep. We support so many local producers, and we support programs and initiatives that are something to be proud of as well, like 1% for the Planet and Green Drinks.

Also, Skinny Pancake has an incredible connection to the town [of Burlington], and Vermont as a whole. There’s a huge number of employees that work here, with all of the different branches throughout Vermont, and now Hanover. I can’t go anywhere in town without running into one of us!

Come on down to Jazz Night Tuesdays from 7-9pm at the Skinny’s Burlington waterfront location to see Chris von Staats throwing it back to an earlier time.

Thanks to Chris for having this interview, and for being such a rockin’ employee of the Skinny Pancake!

Masefield, Perkins and Bolles – Legends in the UV

Check out some Musical Legends this Weekend!

Music in the Upper Valley

Friday, December 9, 2016 by Michael Cyr

 

While we often spend our time taking a broad look at the shows all around the Upper Valley, there is a show happening this weekend with such an impressive collection of musicians that it deserves a deeper dive.

Swinging by the Skinny Pancake Hanover this Saturday are three of the finest musicians in Vermont, if not the entirety of New England: Jamie Masefield, Doug Perkins and Tyler Bolles. Each of these musicians has a colorful career in their own right, which I dig into below. But the key to understanding their genius as a group is to hear them together: their performance together harkens the collective consciousness of tight-knit groups like Hall & Oates, Crosby, Stills & Nash or the Grateful Dead. After numerous gigs playing together, their intuitive understanding of each other’s musical trajectory is undeniable. They finish each other’s musical sentences, embellish each others’ phrasings, grow and quiet their dynamics with the coordination of two legs walking from the same torso. Their combined style is perhaps best described as jazzgrass…influences of Django Rheinhart, David Grisman and Doc Watson litter their shows.

Let’s take a minute to look under the hood of these individual players…

Tyler Bolles is an absolute dynamo of a bass player, but you wouldn’t know it when you met this humble dude. While he’ll be playing the upright variety this Saturday, he can also rock out with strapped up, bass hung low, as he so often does with Vermont act Swale. That band’s 2014 album The Next Instead, stands right up there with any other rock album that’s come out of Vermont according to my ears. You can see Swale on full display in an early filming of Vermont Public Radio’s Live from the Fort series (Quick aside: every video in this series is well worth your time). When he is not playing loud and fast with Swale, Mr. Bolles is also well known for his bluegrass frolicking in a thousand bands around Burlington as well as a stint with Patrick Ross‘ group, Hot Flannel.

Which brings us to our next player, Doug Perkins. Whoa. What a talent. Hailing from Washington, Vermont, Doug made a splash in the ‘90s and early in the ‘oughts with his driving bluegrass get-up, “Smokin’ Grass.” These days, he can be found playing with various groups including Hot Flannel. He also released a standout album in 2012: Music for Flat-Top Guitar. That instrument, the steel string acoustic guitar, looks like a wand in Mr. Perkins’ palms as he plays it like a wizard. No matter what group he’s playing with, watching a Doug Perkins solo will usually leave you with a jaw on the floor.

Speaking of jaws on the floor, enter Jamie Masefield. While he continues to call Vermont home, Jamie has made his mark on the national scene. His early career included a role as banjo player for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. But  Masefield gained independent notoriety for leading the Jazz Mandolin Project, when he caught the attention of Jon Fishman, drummer and namesake of the legendary jammers Phish. Additionally, here in a public radio loving region, he’s one of only a handful of Vermonters (pre-Bernie Sanders of course), to make his mark on the National Public Radio, having been featured on a Weekend Edition earlier this year talking about the intersection of his work as a stone mason and a mandolin player.

While each of these musicians stands tall in their own right, the sum of the parts is even greater than the whole. Trust me. So come on out this Saturday, December 10th at the Skinny Pancake Hanover, 8pm. Check out more info here.

Lots of good music happening across the Upper Valley this week so be sure to give a listen wherever you are. Which shows are YOU most looking forward to this week?

A Long, Strange Trip for Zach Nugent

Zach Nugent has had quite a run, a long strange trip you might say. And most of that run has been soundtracked by Jerry Garcia’s guitar. He says he first heard Grateful Dead music at the age of 3 or 4. “Music was the Grateful Dead and the Grateful Dead was music. That’s all I knew,” he told me.

At the age of 12, when Zach picked up a guitar, “Ripple” was the first song he learned. “Or at least, what I thought sounded like ‘Ripple’,” he says with a chuckle.

Over a decade later, Nugent is still playing “Ripple,” but instead of in his bedroom in Royalton, VT,  he’s playing in front of thousands of people at the Capitol Theater in New York with Melvin Seals and JGB, in the same spot and alongside the same keyboardist that Jerry played with years ago.

While his home is currently in Burlington, he was raised in Royalton and attended The Sharon Academy. Before Zach returns to the Upper Valley with his own Dead Set crew at the Skinny Pancake in Hanover on 11/26, I caught up with him in Washington, DC. Nugent has been on the road since September playing across the country and is excited to get back to his home base in Vermont. “I hopped immediately on the road when Melvin asked me to join the band and I think I’ve slept in my bed twice since.”

When asked how he found himself to be filling Jerry’s musical shoes, he points to the formation of an informal, weekly, Grateful Dead jam at Burlington’s Nectar’s. What began four years ago with a few Deadheads noodling on couches quickly took on a life of its own. Every Tuesday since then Zach has helped guide a tour de force of special guests from all over the musical map to play tunes from the Grateful Dead songbook. Usual suspects include members of jam bands like Phish, Moe., Turkuaz and  Melvin Seals himself. But there’s also been less likely folks on stage, such as musicians from Lady Gaga’s touring band (yep…that Lady Gaga).

“The unifying power of Grateful Dead music is incredible” we both agreed.

While always a worthwhile evening, the one catch of the weekly Dead Sets has been that the fun didn’t start until 10pm on a Tuesday night. The necessity of hitting the road to play out of town venues on the weekends has unfortunately led to alienating would-be fans who simply can’t stay out after hours on a school night.

“Lots of people have been telling me for years, ‘I’d love to see you play, but I can’t stay up that late,'” Zach relays. Lucky for the Upper Valley, the show next Saturday starts at 9 and is on a weekend. Zach’s stoked because that means everyone can come: friends from back home, folks that have heard about him as a local legend, and even his parents – “Oh, they’ll definitely be there,” he says.

Local Food Audit

“Audit”…it’s not a particularly inviting word. The taxman has put a real damper on the concept. So, when we tell you we’re not only excited, but thrilled by the idea of self-auditing ourselves, try to stick with us for a moment. We’ll do our best to keep it interesting…

It turns out this is our 9th annual local food audit. When we first started this, we bought just over 50% of our food locally. Over the years, we’ve proudly been able to increase that number through more direct planning with farmers as they start to plant, while finding affordable and scalable local products to replace conventional options.

We’re happy to report that this year, we’ve bested all of our previous years’ performance. We’re also stoked to have run the numbers of Montpelier, Burlington Waterfront, and our new Hanover, NH outpost separately. Topping the list, the Montpelier Mini-Skinny clocked in with a hefty 76.27% of local food purchases, which just so happens to be a record for all of Pancakia. At 74%, our newest location in Hanover also outperformed any previous year’s records. And, just barely edging out their own performance from 2015, our original restaurant on the Burlington waterfront weighed in with a respectable 71.78% of our food for the month having been bought locally.

And now, how about a round of “perhaps you’re asking?!?”

Perhaps you’re asking: “how do you define ‘local’?” Good question! Transparency is so important especially when there is no official definition of ‘local food’ and no certifying agency. For example, “Vermont plus 35 miles” is pretty broad for Burlington when Montreal is closer to it than Brattleboro. Also, we all certainly love our craft beers, but few of their ingredients are sourced locally. Is that local? At the Skinny, we use the acronym “S.C.E.N.E.” (Security, Community, Economy, Nutrition and Environment) to identify five primary benefits of buying local. When in doubt about whether an ingredient counts as ‘local’, we measure said ingredient against this acronym “S.C.E.N.E.” Of course, mesclun mix from a farm up the road is local. But we also count locally brewed beers, roasted coffee beans and other value added products produced in the region too all of which contribute to the local economy, community, perhaps security and environment too.

Perhaps you’re asking: “why do some of our locations perform better than others?” It turns out different folks from different towns have slightly different tastes. We may sell more of one product in one town and another in the next. As a result, our “product mix” is different each month. As some crepes are more locally-sourced than others, that alone will lead to a difference between locations. Especially as we extend to regions a bit further away, the availability of local products is constantly changing based on who’s growing it and weather patterns.

Perhaps you’re asking: “why aren’t 100% of your purchases local?” Our goal has never been to be 100% local. Our goal is to buy as much local food as possible. In order to do that, we need to keep the volume UP, which means we need to keep the food affordable enough for folks to eat on a regular basis, which means we need to occasionally source ingredients that aren’t local. Also, people really like Nutella, strawberries, bananas and avocados.

Perhaps you’re asking: “who cares”? We do. Were we to maintain this average throughout the year, it means we spend over $2,000,000 a year into the local food economy, about 8x as much as we bought locally when we first started. In an era where a butterfly bats its economic wings in China and everyone’s pensions plummet, we take comfort and pride in keeping our cash right here in Vermont.