Local Rhythms – Going Gourmet in Claremont?

greenacres.jpgThere’s a certain conversation I often have with people who aren’t from my hometown. It invariably ends this way:

“In Claremont? I had no idea.”

There’s fine dining, eclectic shops, and a first class performing space? Uh-huh. From the look on their faces, you’d think I lived in Brigadoon – or Hooterville.

The only thing missing was a place catering to my inner gourmet. That usually required a trip to Hanover.

Upon discovering Green Acres, I was the one saying, “in Claremont?” Anyone who’s ever sat hypnotized by the Food Network is going to love this place.

The store’s name playfully harkens back to the classic television show – their (under-construction) web site is “givemeparkavenue.com”.

It’s the kind of place an urban sophisticate like Eva Gabor might have opened herself, if she’d ever stopped complaining to Eddie Albert about being stuck in the sticks.

Situated next to Violet’s Books in Opera House Square, Green Acres is an oasis of handpicked delicacies – locally made cheeses, freshly baked bread, craft beer (with corks!), and wines Robert Parker can love.

They also carry chic cookware, and dark, decadent Lake Champlain Chocolates.

Proprietor Tristan Henderson is a very erudite 21-year old; he also makes a first-rate latte, which customers can enjoy on the large, comfortable leather couch in the front of the store.

Soon – and this is the best part for me – there will be music. Beginning February 16, Green Acres will host its first “Cheese Jam.”

A group of musicians, led by South Strafford fiddler Randy Leavitt, will swap tunes and have a good time.

Tristan envisions the gathering as a song circle, not a performance. It’s a bit like Lebanon’s Salt Hill Pub on Tuesday nights, except with Cajun, folk, and traditional French-Canadian music instead of Irish tunes.

It includes open invitation to anyone who fancies himself a player to come in and share.

With the pending arrival of Sophie & Zeke’s into the newly renovated Brown Block, Opera House Square is shaping into the downtown hub everyone in Claremont always wanted it to be.

Maybe the folks who run the Farmer’s Market will move to the bullpen this year. That would be exciting.

To those who haven’t experienced Claremont’s renaissance first-hand, we welcome you.

What other lively happenings await?

Thursday: Recycled Percussion, Colby-Sawyer College – My pick of the week. Imagine the “beat on anything that looks drum-able” sound of Stomp! Then add in heavy metal guitar shredding, a sampling, scratch mixing DJ, and plenty of urban sass. That about sums up this inventive foursome. Quite honestly, I’m just trying to meet my deadline. Give me a few more hours, and I’ll find more superlatives.

Friday: Amity Front, Salt Hill Two – How come bands who charge 10 bucks everywhere else perform free at Salt Hill? Must be the charming owners. Amity Front play roots music that recalls “American Beauty” Grateful Dead. Good singing, good playing – if you ask me what my favorite style of music is, it’s this: strip away the amps and flash, and prove what you can do with your fingers and your voice. These guys are right there in the sweet spot.

Saturday: Molly Cherington, Blow-Me-Down Grange – This singer-songwriter blends the raw neo-folk energy of Ani DiFranco with a Joss Stone soulfulness. A fine example of this miraculous balance of edge and flow is “Become,” a track from Molly’s just-released “Our Minds Were Made.” The CD is included with each ticket – my kind of guerilla marketing. Since Cherington, a Plainfield native, now hails from Denver, she doesn’t play many local shows. Don’t miss this chance.

Sunday: Susan Werner, Tupelo Music Hall – Some intimate venues are worth the long drive. There’s Iron Horse in Northampton, Higher Ground in South Burlington, and this gem in Londonderry, which just underwent a sound upgrade. The acoustics are amazing, and the talent is first rate. Werner just released an album, “The Gospel Truth,” which tries to reclaim some of the moral high ground ceded to the religious right in the last few years. What is faith? She has some interesting answers.

Tuesday: Billy Rosen & Norm Wolfe, Tip Top Café – White River Junction is quite the hot spot these days, and jazz is a big reason why. Rosen and Wolfe are busy guys, playing in Woodstock, Quechee and Claremont when they’re not making regular stops at Canoe Club. Rosen’s guitar and a fine dish like pork ginger meat loaf are the perfect combination, and Tip Top is a nice cozy place to enjoy both.

Wednesday: Ed Eastridge, Canoe Club – Tasty licks from the one of the area’s finest jazz guitarists, and he’s a smart singer too. One wag described his music as “like therapy” – and I won’t disagree. There is something quite soothing about his restrained, delicate touch in the midst of life’s vicissitudes.