You’re shopping for a light no-cook dinner or snacks to share with friends: a freshly baked King Arthur baguette ready for a smear of Jasper Hill’s Harbison cheese, a bottle of red wine that may be new to you. A spread of smoked trout along with imported sardines from Portugal. Throw in a jar of fig jam from the Adriatic. Done. You’re at Fontinalis, the new self-described “wine and provisions” shop in downtown White River Junction, Vermont.
And what elegant provisions they are: mostly wine and tinned fish, with a smattering of cheeses and a few other specialty snacks. Tinned fish? The (mostly) imported delicacies have been an up-and-comer over the past few years at some fine restaurants. Boston’s formerly (and maybe still) “it” restaurant Saltie Girl is famous for it; it has an entire page of its menu devoted to its “Tin List.”
Not long ago, the phrase “fish in a can“ called to mind little more than tuna sandwiches but outside the States, especially in Spain and Portugal, tinned fish is a way of life. Duck into a wine bar in Lisbon or Madrid and you might find several varieties of fish in a can, waiting to be opened and served at room temperature with some bread along side your next glass. —Bon Appétit Magazine
Fontinalis, so called after the species name for brook trout, is owned by Max Overstrom-Coleman, who also owns the nearby and much-adored cocktail bar, Wolf Tree. The store opened in May of this year and occupies the space vacated earlier by JUEL Modern Apothecary. Why White River Junction? According to general manager and shop director Sabina Formanek, “White River is a community of kind and creative people running cool small businesses, and we wanted to be a part of that growth and hopefully encourage more small businesses to join us in this area. Max owning a business a stone's throw away wasn't bad either.”
Asked about the UV’s reaction to the shop, Sabina responded:
“We have been very pleased with how the Upper Valley community has received the shop. As a Vermont native, I knew that the state was plentiful with spots to purchase great beer, incredible cheese, and flawless maple syrup. Those places are designed to thrive primarily from tourism. I wanted our shop to be a delight for out-of-towners, a place to pick up carefully curated wines and speciality provisions, but also a place for the local wine-head or tinned fish-obsessed to stop in weekly to treat themselves and stock their pantry or wine cellar.”
Store hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11am-7pm, “sometimes going a little past 7pm on the nights we host our free wine tastings (which are extra fun!) Follow us at @fontinalisvt for the most up to date information on events and happenings.” The website is here.
Artist Carey Matthews-Daut lives in Lebanon NH and works in White River Junction; she likes sketching her way around the Upper Valley. She captured a charming corner of Fontinalis (photo, top, courtesy of the artist). Her website can be found here.
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.