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Horseradish Cottage Cheese Relish The Dog Team Tavern

The Dog Team Inn was a delightful, world-famous old place located just north of Middlebury, Vermont, USA. Sadly, the legendary restaurant burnt down in 2007 (the owner died in the fire). The place was listed on the United States' Register of National Historic Places. Of all the celebrities who dined there, my favorite to mention (and one the restaurant's staff would mention the most) was Robert Frost. My parents saw him there once when I was a small child (I guess I saw him, too, but was too small to remember).

The place is extremely difficult to describe in words. There is a web presence here, however. It's kind of spooky; the owner was trying to sell the place in order to retire — and the place wouldn't let him.

One of the charming things about the restaurant was the "relish wheel," an old-fashioned device used to wind yarn on, from which hung copper pails filled with various relishes. Relish wheel offerings included bread and butter pickles, corn relish, apple butter, pickled beets, and this cottage cheese. The relish wheel was on casters and stopped at every table shortly after diners were seated.

This stuff was also available at the bar, with ridged potato chips for dipping. It is the quintessential New England flavor. It took a bit of experimenting, but all this recipe lacks is the creamy goodness of cottage cheese from Vermont dairy cows:

One pound small-curd whole milk cottage cheese (not low-fat)

1/4 cup good-quality bottled horseradish (or 1/8 cup freshly grated horseradish root*)

1 tsp. dill weed, fresh if possible

1/2 tsp. sugar

Salt to taste

Freshly grated black pepper to taste

The morning you're going to serve this, combine all ingredients and refrigerate. This gives the flavors time to blend and mellow. Check the seasoning before serving. If you've used fresh dill, garnish with a few sprigs before serving. This was served at the Inn with ridged potato chips. It also goes well with crudité or any of your favorite things to dip.

* About horseradish: it's a good idea, if you're new to grating fresh horseradish, to read Sneff's splendid writing about it here. Consider yourself warned.

The Dog Team remembered: One last bit about this singular place — in the parlor, where folks would wait to be seated, and where one would pass through after eating, there was an enormous fish-bowl filled with red-and-white "Starlight" mint candies. When I was young, I dreamt of having a restaurant of my own. Now, many years and three restaurants later, each place has featured a fishbowl filled with red and white starlight candies placed on a low table, low enough for even a four-year-old's small hands to reach for a bit of minty sweetness. I think of The Dog Team every time I gaze upon that candy bowl.

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