When I was in college at Middlebury, I spent my summers on Campobello Island, an eight-mile by three-mile island on the Bay of Fundy that also is home to FDR’s 34-room summer “cottage”. It’s really rural and makes Middlebury—and most Vermont towns—look like a thriving metropolis. There are no traffic lights for 75 miles. Saturday night entertainment consists of locals’ dances at the American Legion. Coffee brandy is the drink of choice.
What makes Downeast Maine and Campobello Island so special for me is the proximity to the ocean. Whales abound. Rare seaglass litters area beaches. Fishing is the primary occupation for locals in the area with lobsters, scallops, clams, periwinkles (aka “wrinkles”) and halibut the main source of income. Living only a mile from the docks, I had ready access to the freshest seafood available.
During those summers, I also tried my hand at clamming and picking wrinkles. I was the girl in the pink-and-green galoshes in the mud flats, bent over searching for the tiny holes that were a sign of clams down below, trying with all my might to keep up with the seasoned diggers. I also had a recreational lobster license that allowed me to tend to five traps. Lobster bisque, lobster stew, lobster rolls, lobster pie, steamed lobster. At 43 lobsters for the summer, I hit my max.
Living in a fishing community spoiled me and made returning to Vermont always a bit of a bummer. The idea of seafood in a land-locked state isn’t the most appealing… Lucky for me (and you!), Bleu Northeast Seafood opened in Burlington and gives seafood a place at the table in Vermont.
Bleu Northeast Seafood, Burlington, Vermont
“Celebrating the connection of Lake Champlain to the sea,” Executive Chef Douglas Paine at Bleu, as well as nearby Hotel Vermont and Juniper, sources the freshest seafood in the area. Every morning, Doug networks with local fisherman from New England and the Canadian Maritimes to procure fresh ingredients for his menu.
Bleu’s decor is modern and hip, with big windows looking out onto Lake Champlain from two sides of the building. Cushy booths add a friendly, relaxed vibe and a few red chairs add a punch of color to the otherwise maritime-inspired room. The space isn’t large, but the open bar that leads into the hotel makes it feel more expansive.
Eating at Bleu Northeast Seafood
Bleu’s menu has everything you would expect from an upscale seafood restaurant: Maine Rock Crab Cakes, Citizen Cider Steamed Mussels, Seafood Chowder, Fried Whole Belly Clams, Beer-Battered Fish & Chips and Whole Maine Lobster. We enjoyed a refreshing plate of briny oysters (the six were just as a tease, as this girl could eat dozens), followed by whole-belly clams, served with pickled red onion, celery, capers and a raw apple-cider vinaigrette. The pickled veggies paired perfectly with the apple-cider vinaigrette, adding just a bite of acid to the otherwise sweet clams.
For entrees, Nick chose Seafood Paella with Starbird salmon, scallops, mussels, chorizo, spring peas and saffron rice—he quickly declared the rice the best he’s ever had. Nick gave me one of the scallops from his paella, and it was sweet seafood perfection. I was hesitant to try the Bouillabaise even though Chef Doug recommended it, since I have a strong, strong love-affair with Tourterelle‘s saucy Bouillabaise dish, eating it literally every time I dine there. I went for it though and was glad I did. The artfully plated dish of perfectly cooked seafood was more seafood than broth with the addition of fingerling potatoes. The Pernod in the broth brought the dish to life. I literally licked the dish clean with the help of some crusty Red Hen bread. It was that good.
To cleanse the palette, we shared a semi-sweet pecan tart with flaky crust and the creamiest cinnamon ice cream I’ve had. A double espresso for him, a glass of Eden’s Heirloom Ice Cider for me… a sweet ending to an otherwise deliciously briny meal. During my next fresh seafood craving, you know where to find me…
Tips for Visiting Bleu Northeast Seafood
- I knew Doug was the Executive Chef for Juniper and Hotel Vermont, so I—for some reason—thought Bleu was in the same building or somehow connected. Bleu is actually located in the neighboring Courtyard Burlington Harbor. Enter through the back of the building.
- For vegetarians and carnitarians, Bleu’s menu will appease you, too, with a Wild Mushroom Pappardelle dish, along with a Grilled Local Sirloin, Frenched Chicken Breast, a Grass-Fed Beef Burger and a Smoked Turkey BLT.
- If parking is an issue, Bleu offers valet parking—a rare find in Burlington.
- Chef Doug’s recommendations? Oyster, Smoked Shrimp and Fried Clams for appetizers. Bouillabaise and the Lobster Roll were his choices for entrees.
- Check out the unique sea salts on each table: Applewood smoked, coarse and fine sea salts make many of the dishes really pop.
- Bleu Northeast Seafood also offers breakfast and brunch. Give the Fried Oyster Benedict, Cured Starbird Salmon or Smoked Bluefish Cake a try.
Bleu Northeast Seafood
25 Cherry St, Burlington, VT 05401
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