One of our Paddle Crew pulled me aside the other night and let me know that a couple of dinner guests were inquiring, once again, about our beautiful hand-made paddle hanging in our bar area.
“Would you go talk to the two people standing by your paddle, Mandy? They want one,” she said. I could tell she was trying to be very patient with me despite how busy the night was. There were appetizers and entrees that needed to be delivered and that were the priorities of the evening. (Chef Phoebe has a policy that all food needs to go out within 30 seconds of coming off her kitchen line.)
Immediately, I scrambled out to the bar. There they were, admiring the awesome hand-carved paddle that features a raised map of the Champlain Islands with a little pinned tag that simply reads: “You are here at The Paddle.” I explained to them that this was an original, made just for us in 2009, by our dear friend, Rod Larrow. I continued to share with them the back-story of our friendship (I was a colleague of his wife, Donna, back in the early 1980s when I worked in the recreational sports department at UVM) and why he wouldn’t duplicate his piece of artwork (it’s our present). They laughed when I told them that I could have sold this gift (or one like it) hundreds of times over the past five years. Letting them down easily, the story will always be the same: Yes, Mr. Larrow’s paddle was in hot demand and, no, he wasn’t going to budge.
Would it be bad to admit, at this time, that secretly I am happy that he has maintained his integrity? I mean, after all, it’s great having an original.
Although our special one-of-a-kind paddle is truly a treasured keepsake here in our little bistro, it really speaks volumes of the complete generosity and friendship we experience at The Paddle day in and day out. I am often reminded by Chef Phoebe that I do not come from a “restaurant background.”Sure, Iwas in the sandwich-making business for a bunch of years, and – to date – nine years with our bistro. She quickly points out that I am a marketer, a people person, who happens to work in a restaurant setting. And, as such, I tend to look at day-to-day things in a different perspective. So, believe me when I declare that we have the most awesome folks who dine with us, and believe in us, to the point that they make beautiful gifts to adorn our walls, pledge a vote for a current cause of ours, spread the word, via social media, when we are in need of spreading the word or join in when we are offering a helping hand to folks (or critters) in need.
Today’s column is a “thank you”, of sorts, to all of them.
Thank you to the wonderful couple who presented us with a gorgeously rustic welcome sign in honor of our recent ninth Paddle birthday. They had it made in Maine last summer and patiently waited until our anniversary to present it to our Paddle Crew. (I spent the good part of that evening walking around to find just the right spot.)
Thank you to the many friends who took out their credit cards and made a donation over the past two years – in honor of both Paddle Pups – to the Canine Cancer Campaign. Your involvement in both Orvis Cover Dog contests made Wyeth and Watson the most “popular” dog with some of the most money raised for this important cause. We asked for your help and you helped us set some records!
Thank you for clicking on your smart phones, tablets and desk top computers to let everyone know when we had frozen and broken pipes. Your help even garnered us well-wishes, offers of plumbing help and increased reservations on the day after “the event” so our down time wasn’t such a financial struggle.
Thank you for driving by on that chilly April Earth Day morning three years ago when Chef Phoebe was dressed-up as a beaver while we waved our “Honk 4 Beaver” and “Don’t Tread on Me” signs. Because of the wonderful, comprehensive – albeit – humorous coverage of our publicity stunt by our local newspapers and television stations, and the attention of local motorists who drove by honked, we were able to convince the state to erect “Wildlife Crossing” signs. And, yes, the beaver mortality declined near the Sand Bar State Park.
Feeling like a bit of an awards show, I know that there are friends out there that I have failed to recognize. Please forgive me. I’m short on space but, rest assured, that I truly do remember you all, and both Chef Phoebe and I will forever be grateful for your passion for the Blue Paddle Bistro.
Mandy Hotchkiss and Phoebe Bright are co-owners of the Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero.
Phoebe’s Famous Cream of Tomato Soup
2 tablespoons cooking oil
8-10 cups tomatoes
1-½ cups carrots, chopped (The secret ingredient)
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
¼ cup white wine
2 quarts cream
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat a pot, adding the oil. Let it get hot.
2. You start with your mirepoix (which is a fancy French term that means cooking with onions, carrots and celery): add these vegetables to your pot and sauté a bit. Add the white wine and let it simmer down.
2. Add tomatoes of your choice; I use a combination of fresh vine-ripened tomatoes and tomato filets; add a little water. As the soup cooks, you need to add more water to prevent burning the tomatoes.
3. Once the flavors have married (be patient) add heavy cream and puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper.