Our hometown is Bristol, Vermont, nestled in the Green Mountains. Our downtown has one stoplight and about a block of storefronts. Small town life is, by definition, small — but it can also be vibrant and surprising, just as full of unfamiliar flavors as it is familiar faces. And one of our favorite places in downtown Bristol to experience that kind of vibrancy is Tandem, the downtown storefront that Jess Messer and Lauren Gammon transformed into a pop-up events venue and commercial kitchen in 2015.
In the three years since its opening, Tandem has become a gathering space in our little town, a place for cozy brunches and inventive dinners, a home for a summertime night markets and holiday pop-ups. It's where Jess and Lauren foster their own businesses, and help support those of other chefs and makers.
Perhaps most of all, it’s a place that celebrates food — the farmers that grow it, the hands that prepare it, the eaters who consume it. This love of good food is what connects Lauren and Jess, the thread that runs through their friendship of nearly 20 years. “We joke that yuzu cemented our friendship,” says Jess.
Jess started her business — Savouré — in Montreal after her family moved to Canada in 2010; a former human rights researcher, Jess used Savouré as a way to connect with the farmers and culture of Quebec, crafting fermented veggies and pickles, jams, and handcrafted sodas. She brought the business with her when her family moved to Vermont. Her seasonal sodas are made from wild foods, herbs, and roots, or locally grown produce. She delights in putting local ingredients to use in surprising and inventive sodas, using the bounty from Vermont's farms, fields, and forests in sophisticated flavor combinations. When a hiker stumbled across wild plums on nearby Snake Mountain, the hiker brought a bushel to Jess at Tandem and asked, “Do you want to do something with them?” She did, of course.
When we tagged along for a morning of food prep at Tandem, Jess was concocting a brew of pink peppercorn and fresh rhubarb. Her sodas taste of the seasons in which they’re made — and this soda was the embodiment of spring.
Meanwhile, Lauren was busy prepping for an upcoming dinner, shaving spring asparagus and zucchini for one of her courses (read on for the recipe, below!).
For Lauren, food is a means of exploration. She caught the travel bug young, and after attending college in Vermont, spent years hoofing her way around the globe — seeking out street vendors and local food everywhere she visited. Today her catering business, Nomadic Chef Catering, focuses on farm-to-table cuisine that celebrates Vermont food, but pairs those roots with international or unexpected twists.
Tandem defies easy explanation. There aren’t any regularly posted hours, and the space doesn’t have a website. Jess and Lauren like it that way; they don’t want to be railroaded into one vision for the space, preferring flexibility and some spontaneity. Our Bee's Wrap team has dined here for our holiday dinners, shopped here during night markets that are part farmers' market, part street fair, and cozied up with a cup of coffee during mud season brunch pop-ups.
As we travel Bristol's Main Street every day, we're grateful for Jess and Lauren's creativity, their love of food, and their vision for what a community gathering space can be. It's part of what gives our small town such a big heart.
Shaved Asparagus with Smoked Trout
Recipe courtesy Lauren Gammon
Boil down two peeled potatoes, small onion, and two cloves of garlic in four cups of salted water.
In a high speed blend, combine cooked potato, onion, garlic, and broth with one fillet of smoked trout and ½ c. half and half; blend into a thick cream. Season with white pepper.
Meanwhile, shave asparagus and zucchini with a hand-held peeler for a ribbon-like effect. Toss vegetables with lemon juice, minced preserved lemon, garlic to taste, and EVOO. Salt to taste. Gently heat egg yolk over double boiler, making sure not to cook.
Serve fresh marinated asparagus and zucchini ribbons with 1/2 cup of trout cream on the side. Use the yolk to drizzle a zig-zag in the cream. Enjoy!