×

After the Fire, They’re Cooking Again

  • Pauline Poulin cheers on a fellow competitor during the Summer Sizzler awards ceremony at the Harpoon Barbecue Festival in Windsor, Vt. Saturday, July 23, 2016. Vermont Maple barbecue won seventh in chef's choice with their beer battered shrimp and sixth in sausage on Saturday, and ninth place for their chicken on Sunday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pauline Poulin and Lyle Farnham toast during a lull before the awards and the dinner rush at the Harpoon Barbecue Festival in Windsor, Vt. Saturday, July 23, 2016. Farnham has volunteered to help Poulin and Langhans at the festival for about five years and calls it his working vacation. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • After teaming up with his sister Linda Caruso, middle, on presentation, David Langhans holds up a contest entry of beer battered fish for approval from his Tara Thurston, left, and the rest of his Vermont Maple Barbecue team during the Harpoon Barbecue Festival in Windsor, Vt. Saturday, July 23, 2016. During the two day event, the team prepared eight entries in categories from pulled pork to shrimp for two separate competitions, the Summer Sizzler and the Kansas City Barbecue Competition. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pauline Poulin chats with a customer while working the Vermont Maple Barbecue counter at the Harpoon Barbecue Festival in Windsor, Vt. Saturday, July 23, 2016. "We're commoners," said Poulin. "We don't think we're better than anybody else, we just love to feed people barbecue." After losing her barbecue trophies in the restaurant fire in May, however, Poulin was hoping for some recognition in the weekend's contests. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • David Langhans feeds the fire in in his smoker to cook ribs and chicken during the Harpoon Brewery Barbecue Festival in Windsor, Vt., Saturday, July 23, 2016. "The more you serve, the more you make, the more people you make happy," said Langhans. "We're here to vend first, second to compete." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Geoff Cota, of Barnard, feeds a bite of barbecued chicken from Vermont Maple Barbecue to his fiancee Elyse Robichaud, of Barnard, during the Harpoon Barbecue Festival in Windsor, Vt. Saturday, July 23, 2016. With her baby two days overdue, Robichaud's mother said they were in search of spicy food and plenty of walking when they decided to attend the festival. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pauline Poulin tastes a sauce prepared by Lyle Farnham for one of Vermont Maple Barbecue's entries in the Summer Sizzler Barbecue Competition at the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vt., Saturday, July 23, 2016. It was the twelfth year Poulin and her partner David Langhans, of Randolph, Vt., competed in the festival, and the first since their restaurant, open only for about five months, burned down last May. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lyle Farnham, of Barre, rubs the smoke from his eyes while checking meat in the smoker and Tom Langhans, right, makes french fries at the Harpoon Brewery Barbecue Festival in Windsor, Vt., Saturday, July 23, 2016. Vermont Maple Barbecue was stocked with 180 racks of ribs, 140 pounds of chicken and 600 pounds of potatoes to feed their customers during the festival. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Sunday, July 31, 2016

Windsor — For the past 12 years, Pauline Poulin and David Langhans have fed their brand of barbecue to visitors from across the country, beginning with a food truck near Interstate 89’s Exit 4 in Randolph.

On Dec. 1, 2015, the couple opened their Vermont Maple Barbecue restaurant in downtown Randolph. On May 4, a fire destroyed the building.

“To have it go up in flames was horrific. The carpet was pulled right out from under us,” Poulin said. “We were doing so well. It was such a shame.”

But the couple, in a sense, were in luck: In addition to their perseverance, they were joined by a large customer base determined to see the homegrown business get back on its feet through a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign. Last week, at Harpoon Brewery’s annual barbecue festival, they competed for the 12th year in a row, placing in the top 10 in three competitions barely a month after they re-opened their food truck at their Randolph farm.

“We feel extraordinarily good about that,” Langhans said.

A few days prior to the competition, Poulin and Langhans were allowed to go back to where their restaurant stood to see if there was any equipment left to salvage. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“We were praying we could retrieve some things from the ashes,” Poulin said. “When we got there, there was basically nothing.”

They quickly went to a store and bought the equipment they needed to compete last weekend.

“For us, we compete once a year and that’s at Harpoon,” Poulin said. “The rest of the time we focus on feeding our customers.”

At the scene of the fire, Poulin stumbled across a few burned out trophies from previous Harpoon competitions that had, along with winning ribbons, filled the restaurant. It was a reminder of the packed dining room they used to have, where after more than eight years working from the food truck with little heat, they had finally settled.

“It was really cold year-round,” Poulin said. “It was such a treat to go into the restaurant.”

Their barbecue family extends beyond the competition. After the fire, they received flowers from top executives at the Windsor and Boston locations of Harpoon Brewery.

“It about dropped us to our feet,” Poulin said.

While the event is competitive by nature, it is also a celebration of the food all the producers and participants love. In the past 12 years, Poulin and Langhans have driven across Vermont to different fairs, including the Deerfield Valley Farmers’ Day Fair in Wilmington, Vt., which they have attended for 12 years, and the Tunbridge World’s Fair.

They’ve encountered barbecue lovers who have traveled long distances to visit them at the same spots for years.

“Our pride is in keeping the taste and flavors consistent,” Poulin said. “Every time, every year.”

While the couple would be open to starting another restaurant, there are no immediate plans to do so. In the past month at the farm — which is also home to beef cattle, three dogs and a cat — the couple have served up barbecue Thursday-Saturday, from noon to 8 p.m., to customers who have been with them from the beginning.

“They just had followed us. It’s a culmination of all those years on the road and working,” Poulin said. “We’re still here, and they’re following us again.”

 

James M. Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@vnews.com or 603-727-3230. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.