Two sisters, one kitchen. In many households, this would be a recipe for disaster. In the Dinner Belles’ domain, it’s a recipe for hearty fall dishes such as beef bourguignon with seared meat cubes bathed in a lush red wine sauce, complemented by earthy mushroom chunks. Or smoked-turkey tamales scented with a hint of cinnamon and topped with poblano cream sauce.
And sibling rivalry isn’t an issue: “We have a lot of fun,” says Connecticut native Jennifer Blanchard of the company she runs with her sister, Sarah Anderson. “A lot of laughter goes on in the Dinner Belles kitchen.”
Dinner Belles? The name evokes a hoop-skirted Scarlett O’Hara-type calling her menfolk in from the fields for dinner. Or maybe a klatch of elderly ladies whipping up church-supper pot pies. But as retro as it may sound, their biz is anything but. Blanchard and Anderson’s 3-week-old company specializes in delivering what Blanchard refers to as “hearty, wholesome dinners” – an entrée and two sides – to its customers’ doorsteps. As Vermonters work more and more hours yet worry about the nutritional consequences of fast food and takeout, feeding them is a growth business. The Belles operate five days a week and service Charlotte, Shelburne, Vergennes, Hinesburg and Ferrisburgh. And the sisters don’t do church suppers. The two moms – each has three children – pack some serious culinary wallop. Blanchard, older by six years, spent 18 years living in southern France, where, she says, “I shopped and saw what was fresh and brought it home and cooked with it: fresh fish, lemons, olive oil, cheeses.” She easily tosses off terms like pissaladière – a Gallic flatbread traditionally topped with onions and anchovies.
A visual artist and nurse with a degree in tropical medicine, Blanchard has also spent significant periods of time in Malawi, Sudan, Burundi and Ethiopia. “My work in Africa definitely enhanced my appreciation of food – the lack thereof on one hand, the enjoyment thereof on the other,” she muses.
An accomplished home cook by her own account, Blanchard likes to whip up French specialties such as individual mushroom tarts, as well as Ethiopian fare. “I love the community of food,” she says. “I appreciate people coming together around food as a means of communicating and loving.”
Younger sister Anderson covers the professional cooking side of the equation. Educated at the French Culinary Institute straight out of high school, and later at Le Cordon Bleu, she spent 14 years at the helm of a 4000-square-foot gourmet store and catering company in Chicago, Song o’ Sixpence. Although she still owns the store from afar, she “was ready to get out of it” when she moved back East, and says her current manager hopes to purchase it eventually.
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