With Vermont’s emphasis on all things dairy, it’s been really amazing to find such a wide array of plant-based products that are being created locally. In a great little co-op in Williston, we came across a new (to us) BBQ tempeh from Rhapsody Natural Foods. With a few days left to explore Vermont, we reached out to see if they might have time to meet with us. Elysha, one of the owners of Rhapsody, welcomed us out to their production facility, nestled in the small town of Cabot.
Elysha and her husband moved from the Netherlands, eventually settling with their family in Vermont in 1997. Their entrepreneurial dreams eventually led them into the food industry with a vegetarian restaurant they ran for 14 years in Montpelier. Like many ex-restauranteurs will tell you (us included), the long hours, no vacations and constant stress wears you down and often leads to a change in lifestyle. They were already producing tempeh and other fermented foods for their own restaurant, that when another local producer stopped making it, they decided to make the leap from chefs to tempeh producers.
Rhapsody Natural Foods makes much more than just tempeh. When we arrived and entered the kitchen, the entire building smelled of ginger from the vegan egg rolls they were assembling that day. They also make two ‘ready to eat’ tempehs, red and white miso, miso starter cultures (koji) and natto. Elysha gave us a tour of their production kitchen, the fermenters, the ageing room (where all the tempeh magic happens) and the fridges and freezers loaded with boxes ready for delivery. Their natto has been a bit of a surprise bestseller, to the point that they’re actually hoping to expand into another building just to keep up with the demand. We tried their BBQ tofu and noticed the flavour is far less bitter than many other tempeh products we’ve tried. She told us that they quick fry the tempeh before packing it in its sauce which helps take out the bitterness and gives it a much milder flavour.
After watching her team work and seeing the ins and outs of the production, Elysha offered to walk us around the rest of the grounds, where she and the rest of her family live all within walking distance. They’ve created an incredible homestead on their property full of vegetable gardens, fruit trees and rice patties and her tour showed us just how much family and community play a huge part in the philosophy of their business. Their goal for Rhapsody was to provide for the community – they work with local co-ops and farms and family members help with the business and even her grandkids come in to assemble boxes from time to time. Rhapsody’s motto also focuses on sustainability. She emphasized the importance of supporting organic farms, overall natural living and the benefits of live, unprocessed nutrition and after spending time just a short time with Elysha, we came to understand how much she values those tenets.
After a great tour and some tasty vegan egg roll samples fresh from the fryer, Elysha sent us off with a huge block of her original tempeh, and some fantastic tips and recipe ideas we couldn’t wait to try. Rhapsody’s Original Tempeh is different from many of the tempeh brands we have tried before. It is much milder in flavour and really picks of the taste of the seasonings and spices you cook it in. Normally when we cook tempeh, we simmer it in water first for about 10 minutes to take out some of the bitterness. We found this tempeh to have a much more subtle flavour so we found we really didn’t need to do that in any of the recipes we came up with. Stop by their website and order yourself some fantastic, artisan-made tempeh!
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