Editorial: Local cuisine still worth celebrating

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We learned two things from hotel and restaurant business owners and event sponsors last week when it was announced the Manchester Food & Wine Classic had been canceled. First, here's what we didn't hear: Complaints. No one blasted away at event organizer Townsquare Media for the short-notice scrubbing of the event, despite the fact it was called off two days before it was to begin. People were a little disappointed, but not bitter. Perhaps it's because hotel and restaurant owners know better than most that last-minute changes are a part of life. They've all dealt with snowstorms, illnesses, and brides or grooms with cold feet. The second thing we heard was that local innkeepers and chefs believe a festival featuring the region's culinary excellence is a great idea that ought to be revisited — whether it's put on by outside organizers or as a home-grown effort. We could not agree more. Just a few weeks ago, Wine Spectator released its list of honored Vermont restaurants for 2017, and seven from Manchester and Dorset made the cut — a significant fraction of Green Mountain State eateries the magazine cited for excellence. We could argue for the inclusion of several others. Manchester, Dorset and environs have a strong food scene worth celebrating. Between the strength of the farm to table movement in Vermont, the bounty of locally-produced food and the skill and experience of local chefs, there is indeed much to savor. We'll happily wager a Vermont-brewed beer or three that local chefs — professionals who are resourceful and creative by the very nature of their craft — can put their heads together and assemble an event that raises the profile of our food scene and raises money for a great cause or two. It wouldn't have to be fancy or complicated to be a great success. A theme dinner here, a wine tasting there, happy people everywhere, businesses sharing the costs and donating the proceeds ... yes, this could definitely work. Then again, perhaps Townsquare Media will return to take another swing at a food and wine festival. Townsquare didn't describe the "unforeseen circumstances" that led to the last-minute cancellation, so we can only speculate as to the reasons why they pulled the plug so late in the game. But perhaps they learned something through that experience that would improve their chances of success on a second try. Either way, we're convinced this is a winner of an idea that could benefit many worthy causes, particularly those helping families put food on the table when times are tough. In the meantime, we were glad to see that some events slated for last weekend went on as scheduled, namely a wine dinner at The Reluctant Panther, a pinot noir tasting at the Fire Tower in Stratton, and a celebration at Factory Point Town Green sponsored by Manchester Designer Outlets and featuring food provided by The Perfect Wife. It seems to us that Reluctant Panther GM Sean Burpee and Perfect Wife chef-owner Amy Chamberlain had the right attitude about this. "We're going to have fun," Burpee said last Friday.Added Chamberlain, "We're going to carry on and be positive and grateful we're on this planet."That sounds like Vermont to us. Last and not least: From our decidedly unscientific study of traffic crawling towards the roundabout all weekend long and the number of cars in hotel parking lots, it seems there were still plenty of folks in town, enjoying the glory of late summer in Vermont. We can only presume that at some point, they got hungry.


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