Goodbye Nutella: Why We’re Ditching One of Our Most Popular Ingredients

Howdy folks,

We are getting rid of Nutella.

Now, before you start throwing crepe batter at me, hear me out…

Yep, we know you love Nutella. Heck, we made about 40,000 crepes with Nutella in 2017 alone…that’s approximately 7207 pounds of gooey chocolate and hazelnut nom-nom goodness. 

But there’s a deep, dark secret that y’all may not be aware of: the second ingredient in Nutella is modified palm oil, which is what gives Nutella its silky, spreadable texture. As far as our one and only Planet Earth is concerned: palm oil sucks.

Why? The equivalent of 300 football fields of rainforests are deforested every hour to make way for palm oil plantations and demand is projected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050. Rainforests, on the other hand, are essential to our climate’s health and stability: sucking up climate-change-causing carbon dioxide, providing habitat for more than 10 million species of flora and fauna, and producing more than 20% of our world’s oxygen. There’s no way around it: palm oil is the enemy of the rainforest and Nutella is dependent on palm oil. And while Nutella and its parent company have made efforts to reduce their environmental impact, those words on the ingredient list just never sat easily with us. 

If you’re hip to the ways of the Pancake than you know we are on a mission to change the world by building a safer, healthier and more delicious foodshed. So while wildly popular, Nutella has been this unspoken black eye on our mission all along. Surprisingly, we have never gotten a single guest complaint about it. But we knew and we care. So what were we to do? Do we stay loyal to our Nutella-loving guests or remain committed to our mission? 

The great Alan Newman solved this riddle for us. You may know Alan as the co-founder of Magic Hat Brewery, Seventh Generation and Gardener’s Supply. Holy moly, right? We asked Alan, “Please, font of wisdom…help us?!?” Ask and ye shall receive: in a transmogrification of Yoda and Gandolf, Alan sniggled, “Make not the mistake in choosing the tyranny of the ‘or’, when the genius of the ‘and’ can be at hand.”  Preach on, brother!!! Our Nutella conundrum need not be a binary choice between our values OR our guests!  We can pursue our mission AND improve the tastes our guests have come to love. 

So, with those words in mind, we set out on a quest of Odyssean proportions. We would find a higher quality, BETTER TASTING, and much more sustainable chocolate hazelnut spread. We were nearly shipwrecked and left for lost several times over…and yet like Ernest Shackleton, we never gave up and eventually found our Elephant Island: this palm oil free chocolate hazelnut spread we now present to you, our eager crepe-eaters.

The second we passed this savior of a spread across our lips, we just…knew. We knew it was better. Richer. Nuttier. Rounder than Nutella….and as smooth as this blog post. And the icing on this “NEWtella” cake: it’s a more sustainable product because it does not depend on Palm Oil. No ingredients destroy the rainforest. And it wasn’t just the palm oil that concerned us about Nutella. Nutella also uses soy lecithin (from GMO soy) and vanillin, which is an artificial vanilla flavor used instead of real vanilla extract. Our new product contains no artificial flavors. This magical goop is better for the planet, better for the body, and better for the taste receptors.   

So for all you Nutella fans out there: #SorryNotSorry. We got rid of a product that many of you loved, cherished and some even bathed in….but the earth is grateful, and we think you’ll love this stuff too.

-Benjy Pancake

On Local Sourcing

Hi there! On Monday, June 19th our flagship location on the Burlington waterfront turns 10 years old. As we reflect on 10 years of this restaurant, and 14 years in business, we thought we’d share the tale of how we learned to love and source local. We figure we ought to air some dirty laundry in hopes to inspire others that they can do it too.

As of our last audit in October, we source over 70% of our raw and value-added products are locally sourced, but it was not always that way. In fact, when we first opened as a cart on Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace in 2003, exactly 0.0% of our food was sourced locally. Yup, you read that right. We were single source shoppers, and Costco had everything we needed: flour, butter, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, eggs, milk, strawberries, Nutella, ham, shredded cheddar cheese….and the prices were great. We didn’t do much business that first summer. In fact, companywide today, we will do more business in a good hour now than we did that entire year. Even though we sourced from just one location, and even with only a modest amount of business, it was hard. When you’re a one-man show, you do all the showing yourself. You wear all the hats. Sales, service, prep, cooking, accounting, repairs, and maintenance. And if something breaks, there’s no money to throw at the problem…it’s Yankee ingenuity (re: duct tape) followed by time and as a last gasp, money…


That first summer was so tough, in fact, that we rented the business to a friend for the summer of 2004. The cost: buy us a new trailer to replace the one I flipped over while driving our handmade cart to its storage for the winter. Well, thank goodness for that friend, Michael Rimoin, because he saw the light. He had fun out there and managed to nearly double our sales in year two. He had so much fun that he convinced me I had to come back…and thus began the process of long term crepe dreams.


In 2005, the local food movement was starting to heat up, especially in Vermont. We still sourced just about everything from Costco but had enough awareness to go to The Intervale and enjoy Pick Your Own berries from Adam’s Berry Farm one afternoon. We brought a few pints back to our cart and sold them as a novelty. That said, we had FUN! We had some very basic systems and enough sales to modestly pay ourselves that year. The Skinny Pancake’s reputation was growing!


2006 was a big year for local food and for the Skinny Pancake. Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Delima” came out that April and spread like wildfire. That summer, the Skinny Pancake operated out of its first commercial kitchen: Nectar’s was kind enough to share their space with us. With commercial grade mixers, refrigeration, dish machines and more, we were much more efficient. Our fledgeling systems were growing stronger, and actually, legitimate, as was our following of crepe eaters. That year, we became the first ever cart to join the Vermont Fresh Network. We hung their plaque proudly and chased down what local food we could manage. We still shopped at Costco, but we bought King Arthur Flour and local dairy. We made a more regular habit of PYO berries. The experience of being able to source from down the road was incredible.


In 2007, we opened our first brick-and-mortar location at 60 Lake Street on the Burlington waterfront. Our building was LEED-certified. It housed Seventh Generation and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. We looked up to our heroes at Ben & Jerry’s and American Flatbread and said, “If they can do it, so can we.” Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy came out that spring, following on the heels of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. We felt inspired and stepped it up. Our local food sourcing increased dramatically to include bacon, apples, whipped cream, honey, tofu, coffee, beer and more. Conspicuously missing, though: most proteins…


Business has a hierarchy of needs. Survival comes first. After making a trip around the sun, we gained confidence…we were saving a smidge of money. In 2008, we took a big, expensive step forward by adding local chicken to the menu. The difference in price between commodity chicken and local chicken is staggering. At five times the price, we watched our food margin fray by nearly 2% from our choice in chicken alone. But we managed it…


Every year since then we have continued to improve our local sourcing one item at a time. When we did our first local food audit in 2009, we were just barely over 50% local. Since then, our local sourcing has increased to upwards of 70%…that’s a 50% increase! In an effort to afford to source more locally, we focused on reducing the costs of our commodity foods. We worked with our teams on controlling their waste. We used every tool in the box, and some laying around outside the box.

As our local sourcing grew, as did our scale, and we discovered new challenges. It was no longer sufficient to just call up our farmers and buy without planning. We began to develop growing contracts that forecasted our demand for the entire season. Contracts allow our farmers to plant reliably without having to spend money on marketing or absorb waste. As a result, we have been able to get better pricing. But buyer beware: when we overcommitted on our basil for our pesto, for example, it led to $1000 in waste as we could not process it fast enough. We can still remember the daunting image of a literal ton of raw basil filling our commissary kitchen. Lessons were learned one at a time. For the pesto, we learned that we needed to move beyond a table top commercial food processor. We needed a large object called a ‘Verticle Chopper Mixer’ to get through it all. That VCM is now vital to our ability to freeze local pesto in season and thaw as needed year round.


Today we estimate that we source about $2,000,000 in local raw and value-added products annually. In order to manage the complex forecasting, contract, and communication process, we hired a full-time Local Food Coordinator, a recent UVM Food Systems Major graduate. We have picked the “low hanging fruit” in the local foodshed…and most of the middle hanging fruit too. There are still some elusive local foods that we just can not afford or can not get at scale. But we’re always working on it.

Hopefully the moral of this story is clear…but just in case, we’ll spell it out for you: ‘going local’ is a journey, not a destination. And it takes one foot in front of the other to get anywhere with it. If you’re an aspiring food entrepreneur intimidated by local sourcing, just take it one step at a time. You’ll get there.




Today is Earth Day. Every Day Should Be.

Today, April 22 2017, is Earth Day and we’re celebrating with crayons. That’s right…drop by any of our locations and color in one these awesome “I love earth” pages any day this week. For each one that’s completed, we will donate $4.22 to 1% For the Planet. You don’t even have to color between the lines!  

Earth Day carries more gravity this year than ever before, which is why we’re making this effort to call attention to it. With the March for Science happening today and the People’s Climate March next week, this week is a watershed moment for modern day environmentalism. Across the country and world, millions of global citizens will stand up for scientific truth and for the principals of conserving and appreciating the only planet we have.

There is no doubt that so much activism at once is driven by a grave threat: climate change, and  the deniers of it who are currently in power. These politicians are ignoring established scientific theory, undermining our environmental institutions, destroying data that tracks environmental changes, and injecting politics into an arena it has no business in.


The Skinny Pancake rallies around an environmental mission “to change the world by creating a safer, healthier and more delicious food shed.” We do not have a mission to take political stands. We want to welcome all walks of life as guests to enjoy the Skinny Pancake.


But wait, isn’t this a political statement, and shouldn’t we shy away from it? No. Our fervent belief is that love of our planet and heeding established science should not be a political position, so we will not treat it that way. Historically, environmentalism used to be a bipartisan issue, and we want to do our part to reunite around it. Earth Day was created by a Republican Congressman Pete McLoskey and a Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson. The EPA was created by Republican President Richard Nixon and strengthened by Republican President George H.W. Bush. Both of them, and many other Republicans of yore, spoke compellingly about the need to protect our environment.


Loving our planet is a shared goal that all of us can rally around. Inaction only accelerates the incoming tide. As David Titley, Director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate at Pennsylvania State University, explained, “The atmosphere doesn’t care what any single person believes. It’s just going to keep getting warmer, and the climate’s going to change as long as we keep increasing the amount of greenhouse gasses.”


The scientific consensus is clear: climate change is human-caused, dire consequences are potentially around the corner, and our current trajectory must change immediately.  The the best way out of the predicament is international accord to move toward cleaner fuels, efficiency in construction and transportation, better urban planning, food production, waste management, and more.  The technology to solve this problem already exists and will only improve. The will to address it exists, especially if the United States would lead the way. If human ingenuity could create the industrial revolution, the Internet, and put a man on the moon, we can band together and clean up our atmosphere. All it takes is action, today and every day going forward.






Steady Betty, Armed and Ready

One doesn’t forget the first time they witness the female powerhouse that is Steady Betty. For me, it was the Magic Hat Mardi Gras party in 2016 (Just a year ago? Sinful, I know). Kicking off that weekend by dancing to the 8-piece rocksteady band of all women is one heck of a way to kick off the annual March celebration. And as we welcome the ladies back to our Skinny Pancake Burlington stage this week, let’s dive a bit deeper into this crew.

Steady Betty has a hold over the Burlington area. From early sets at Radio Bean to bigger stages at Nectar’s and Higher Ground, to big outdoor shows at Grand Point North and Waking Windows. From the first minute the stew of bass, drums, and horns hit your ears, the aural impact works its way to your toes, and soon thereafter into a full on groove. Their reggae infused with dance and funk can get anyone on their feet – you see this from their long-time fans and first-time listeners alike.


While many folks originally associated Steady Betty with their early champion and occasional participant, Kat Wright, the roster of talent in this crew runs deep. With sound tech extraordinaire, Rachel Capobianco (who’s spent some time on the road with Mike Gordon), the incredible pipes of Mariam Bernardo (with her own album in the works), exceptional rocksteady guitar playing from Linda Bassick (of a weekly Radio Bean kids show among other projects), and an absolutely kick-ass collection of horns players – it’s very easy to throw the work SuperGroup at this collective.


Coming up with a variety of pieces with so many influences only makes the creative process that much more intriguing. Rocksteady inspiration comes from Dawn Penn, Judy Mowat and Phyllis Dillon. Linda Bassik sources support from other female musicians as an influence of encouragement and growth during her time with Steady Betty over the last five years. “I feel freer in my musical expression than I ever have before.”


So how would one support females artists here in Vermont? First off, don’t make any assumptions. “Don’t limit girls wanting to play instruments by telling them certain ones are for boys are certain ones are for girls,” says Bassik. Being inclusive just the beginning. Involvement in the Burlington area comes easy when there are so many fantastic venues around. Volunteering time at the Flynn or Higher Ground, or you can spend some time with the artists themselves – you can find many of them hanging out on any given night enjoying another local musician’s show.


Supporting organizations like Girls Rock Vermont is one way Steady Betty influences younger females with an interest in music. One of the Girls Rock mottos is “we build each other up” which is exactly what women must do. No judgment, no comparisons. Linda explains “contrary to what our culture is telling you, there can be more than one female in a band! And she doesn’t have to be the singer!” So come support these fantastically badass females Friday, March 24th!




Linda Bassick – Guitar & Vocals

Miriam Bernardo – Vocals

Rachel Capobianco – Drums & Vocals

Caroline O’Connor – Bass

Zoe Harris – Alto Sax

Margot VanHorne – Trumpet

Allison Frazier – Baritone Sax

Megan Waterhouse – Tenor Sax
Sometimes Kat Wright on vocals (when she is not busy with her band!)

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.


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.

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?