Alice Eats: Brunch at Rusty Nail Bar & Grille

BY ALICE LEVITT ON APRIL 17, 2012 | SEVEN DAYSThe Rusty Nail There's nothing like a lovely spring day to stir brunch cravings. I'm ready for a Benedict at any time of year, but when I headed to the Rusty Nail Bar & Grille on Sunday, I was met by a brunch rush that could only have been kindled by the 70-degree weather and plenty of outdoor seating.

Having an obsessive fear of sun damage, I was happy to stay inside. Our hostess had some difficulty processing that idea, but, hey, it got me a table right away.

A table filled with local ingredients for Bloody Marys sat beside the bar, and general manager Kate Wise told us that she was making excellent Irish coffees that day. But even at 2 p.m., I just wasn't in the head (or body) space for cocktails.

I was feeling more like a bacon, egg and cheeseburger between two duck-fat doughnuts. Unfortunately, the "Donaught" had just sold out. A burger served on doughnuts had sold out? This brunch crowd was serious, and apparently had learned nothing from Paula Deen's diabetes. My kind of crew.

Chicken and wChicken and Waffles at the Rusty Nailaffles would just have to do. The crunchy waffle was cooked a minute or two longer than I would have preferred, but was still delicious. It was the first sourdough waffle I ever tried. The starter gave it a deep underlying tang at the end of each malty bite. Caramelized peaches seasoned with Chinese five-spice powder took the place of syrup as a sweetener, though I wish there had been even more of the irresistible fruit.

If the waffle was slightly dry, the five meaty chicken wings made up for it. Brilliantly brined, the flaky, peppery breading peeled away to reveal gorgeously moist and flavorful meat.

The eggs Benny's name did little to hint at the uncommon wonders of the dish. First, the homemade English muffins. Thicker and chewier than Thomas', they were an ideally hearty base for the glories built upon it.

Thin slices of chile-roasted pork shoulder and belly were fatty in a moist, delicious Eggs Bennyway, not a greasy one. The meat melted in my mouth with a delightful kiss of heat. Both eggs were poached to reveal an ideally creamy center. Frankly, though, it wasn't necessary in the wake of the Hollandaise. Luxuriously creamy, a hint of smoke from chipotle peppers stayed with me even after I'd finished the dish.

Frequent readers might recall that I'm a stickler about home fries. These were nicely seasoned and fried in duck fat. This gave them a hint of sweetness that contrasted marvelously with a liberal covering of salt. When I reheated them at dinnertime with my leftover chicken and waffles, they were just as good as they had been at brunch.

Even as I write this, I'm salivating. And preparing to face the Donaught soon.

Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to alice@sevendaysvt.com.

Hotly anticipated Waterbury pub Prohibition Pig opens this week

Big Pig

BY ALICE LEVITT [03.13.12] | SEVEN DAYS

It’s been almost seven months since the Alchemist Pub & Brewery was forced to shut its doors in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene’s wrath. This week, its devotees will finally be able to return to the beloved building with the opening of Prohibition Pig.

Guests will see many familiar faces, says owner Chad Rich. Of the 14 full-time employees at the Alchemist when it closed, 11 are now on staff at Prohibition Pig. The familiar burgers, fries, wings and pretzels are there, too, along with Alchemist brews, now produced on higher ground at the Alchemist Cannery.

Those beers are among 24 on tap and 120 bottles, giving PP one of the largest craft-beer lists in the Northeast. The bar also stocks about 100 bottles of craft spirits, many of them hard to find.

Rich, the former bar manager at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill, has given that role at PP to Jeff Baumann, who was once his boss behind the bar at American Flatbread Burlington Hearth. By the end of the year, Rich hopes to begin distilling several of his own drinks.

For now, Baumann has conceived a list of 12 cocktails made from craft-distilled beverages — and some other surprising ingredients. The Averna Flip features herbaceous Amaro mixed with chocolate stout, bitters and a whole egg. The Red Delicious pays homage to Rich’s formative years in North Carolina with Noilly Prat vermouth, applejack, Campari and the deep-red Southern soda Cheerwine.

The food nods southward, too. Rich chose former Flatbread chef Brian Sheehan to head his kitchen because of his way with meat. “I just used to see it on all the specialty flatbreads, braising meats, doing the amazing things he did,” says Rich. “He’s really talented. I’m really excited about his food.”

Construction of some parts of the building took longer than expected, but the kitchen has been completed for weeks. In that interval, Sheehan has been perfecting the vinegar-sauced Carolina-style barbecue that gives the restaurant its name.

Though Rich says he doesn’t want his business to be known just as a barbecue joint, he’s particularly taken with Sheehan’s brisket. As for the smoked, seared fish, he touts it as “something I can go in and eat many times a week, and I don’t feel guilty about eating it, either.” Rich will make room for shrimp and grits, too. Most likely, so will a slew of new fans.

Seven Days: Alice Levitt's Best New Restaurant Dishes of 2011

POSTED BY ALICE LEVITT ON JANUARY 02, 2012 AT 03:29 PM IN ALICE EATS - RESTAURANT REVIEWS, FOOD AND DRINK, VERMONT Alice just wrote this article with her list of 10 dishes from new restaurants that captured her fancy in 2011 above all others. Of the 10, 1 is in Stowe; the other, in Waterbury -- here are those 2; discover all of Alice's favorites here, in blurt, the Seven Days Staff Blog.

The Rusty Nail Bar & Grille

1190 Mountain Rd., Stowe 802-253-6245

With the Bluebird Tavern's charcuterie now available only à la carte, what's a girl to do when she wants a meaty surprise? Hightail it to Stowe.

Though the Rusty Nail has long been a local favorite, it got some new blood with the 2011 addition of chef Michael Werneke. His butcher block is ever changing, but reliably showcases some of the best fleshy treats in Vermont.

Be on the lookout for the smoky, Southern-inflected headcheese and creamy, salty rillettes, studded with tender chunks of meat.

Juniper’s Fare

23 Commercial Dr., Waterbury 802-496-5504

Juniper's Fare, on the border of Moretown and Waterbury, is more a restaurant reborn than a new restaurant. It was more than a year old when Tropical Storm Irene gutted it. Less than a month later, the Church of the Crucified One's café was remodeled, and is better than ever.

Three cheers to that, and to the "famous" chicken club. The name is honestly earned with juicy, citrus-marinated chicken, gloriously crisp bacon, fresh veggies and pungent garlic mayonnaise.

The crusty Kaiser roll that holds the whole thing is noteworthy on its own; so are the onion rings, which are some of the best and sweetest I've ever had.