Sunday, March 09, 2014

My "New" Favorite Restaurant: Blue Paddle Bistro

A couple of months ago, I was in the thick of my annual quest to see all of the award-nominated films before the Golden Globes. I took my friend, Vicky, to the Roxy in Burlington, and after our double feature, we were discussing getting dinner, when I had the brilliant idea to call the Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero, which would be on our route home. In fact, I have been passing the cute little restaurant for NINE YEARS travelling back and forth from the ferry to Vermont, but I had never stopped and tried it out. Big mistake. HUGE. Also, I had a JumpOnIt coupon to try it, so the Universe was clearly trying to tell me something. ;-)

First of all, I called to inquire about a reservation about 45 minutes before we arrived on a Saturday night, and they were kind enough to accommodate us. When we got there and stepped inside, we saw that it was cozy and charming, and the co-owner, Mandy, who manages the front of the house, was just a delight! In fact, we ended the evening trading pictures of our scruffy, bearded doggies and becoming Facebook friends.

And the food--oh, the food! Chef Phoebe might be turning out the finest food in the region. Our shared appetizer: Pan-Seared, Cinnamon-Dusted Caramelized Sea Scallops with a Cider Butter Reduction and Applewood-Smoked Bacon.

For our entrees: Vicky had a butternut squash ravioli, and I had Coffee-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Veggies and a Sweet and Spicy Hoisin Drizzle. Everything was CRAZY GOOD!

Recently, Mandy has started writing a column for the
Burlington Free Press called "The Unpretentious Gourmet," and in it, she has shared a couple of Chef Phoebe's awesome recipes. The one I made tonight was their most popular soup, cream of mushroom. Of course, I made a few adaptations, as is my way. Instead of chicken soup base, I used MUSHROOM soup base (see how clever I am?), I chopped the mushrooms instead of slicing them (personal/textural preference), and I didn't have any caraway seeds, so I used celery seed, thyme, and dill weed. DELISH!

Note: I asked about the direction to avoid extra virgin olive oil, and Chef Phoebe responded that, for small quantities, she thinks it's a better flavor. EVOO has flavor which you don't want with the mushrooms. She continued: "Here at The Paddle, we make large amounts of soup so I do use oil because it doesn't burn as fast as butter. Hope this helps."

Blue Paddle Cream of Mushroom Soup
(Source: Chef Phoebe Bright, Blue Paddle Bistro, South Hero, VT)

4 tablespoons kitchen oil or butter (not extra virgin olive oil)
1 medium white onion, chunky chopped (about 1 cup)
4 celery stalks, chunky chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
8 cups domestic mushrooms, sliced
½ cup white wine (you should never cook with any wine that you wouldn’t drink, so have a sip)
1 tablespoon chicken (or veggie) base mixed with 1 cup water
1 quart heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
A shake of the wrist of Tobasco sauce

1. Warm up a stock pot.
2. Add oil, celery, onion and caraway seeds.
3. Let cook down to a medium softness.
4. Add wine and continue cooking on medium heat until the mixture is a bit softer.
5. Add mushrooms and chicken/veggie stock.
6. On low heat, continue cooking until mushrooms are soft (at least 20 minutes – this slow process brings out the flavor of the mushroom to an oatmeal color as Chef Phoebe called it)
7. Add one quart of heavy cream.
8. Add salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste.
9. Let your soup simmer for another 15 minutes or so; do not bring to a boil.

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