Written by Caroline Abels
Published in Vermont's Local Banquet
The Williamsville Eatery’s website features a list of local farms and food purveyors that’s even longer than its menus. The impressive list shows where the Eatery buys its local food—but the length of the list is just one reason why the two-year-old restaurant has earned a “Snail of Approval” certification.
“Snail of Approval” is a program of Slow Food Vermont. It’s a certification awarded to restaurants, bars, food and beverage producers, stores, and markets that have been deemed “outstanding among peers” and that contribute to “the quality, authenticity, and sustainability of Vermont’s food supply.” So while local sourcing is important for the certification, so is seasonality, taste, low environmental impact, fair business and labor practices, support of humane farming, and community engagement.
The criteria is very much in keeping with that of Slow Food USA and Slow Food International, parent organizations to Slow Food Vermont. With chapters around the world, Slow Food is an international movement that seeks to highlight and protect high-quality regional foods that are in danger of disappearing in today’s fast food world (hence the phrase “slow food”).
Snails of Approval are awarded by Slow Food chapters in many American states. In Vermont, eight restaurants and/or food producers have earned a Snail so far—Kismet, Juniper Bar and Restaurant, Hen of the Wood-Waterbury, Misery Loves Company, Eden Ice Cider, Mary’s at the Inn at Baldwin Creek, Bee Sting Bakery, and the Williamsville Eatery. Certification is valid for two years, and a site visit is conducted by Slow Food Vermont board members.
In the case of the Williamsville Eatery, their application for a Snail (which they provided to Local Banquet) reveals a restaurant that mirrors much of what’s happening in Vermont’s local food scene. Chef-owners Glenn Richardson and Dylan Richardson (father and son) forage for mushrooms, ramps, and fiddleheads; they compost and keep raised garden beds on site; they use eggs from their own chickens; they cook from scratch; they cook with ingredients appropriate to the season; and one day they hope to extend the season by drying, pickling, and freezing many local foods.
Their “eclectic and rustic fare” is centered around pizza whose crust is made from organic wheat grown and milled by Nitty Gritty Grain in Charlotte. At their Thursday-through-Sunday dinners, served inside Williamsville’s former general store, they also serve cheeses from Maplebrook Farm in Bennington, prepare meats from Black River Meats, use organic black beans from Vermont Bean Crafters…and the list goes on.
Lauri Richardson (Glenn’s wife, Dylan’s mom) says the Snail of Approval application process was rigorous but she appreciates how Slow Food Vermont considers the “whole consciousness” of the restaurant.
“The process was stimulating and valuable for articulating and reviewing where we are thus far in our endeavor, and the goal setting was inspiring,” Lauri says.
To learn more about other Snail recipients, or for details about the Snail of Approval application process, visit Slow Food Vermont.