Thanks to all the 'hounds who helped me plan our New Year's trip to Stowe, we managed to have a couple of soild meals. The two best meals we had in Vermont, hands down and by a mile, were at Simon Pearce in Quechee and The Alchemist in Waterbury. Off the top of my head and with a kooky toddler running amok here goes:
In Stowe we had a very good breakfast at McCarthy's, nothing amazing by any means, but a solid meal that we'd repeat. Corned beef hash, although touted as homemade, was not good at all- a smooth, silky paste that my toddler dubbed "dogfood." Cinnamon buns were delicious as were all the omlettes, pancakes etc. There was also a Pancake place at an Inn that had an excellent looking menu that I would have tried if we had gotten up early enough for a proper breakfast on any other day. After a snowy sleigh ride at the Trapp Family Lodge on Saturday morning and a nice conversation with a von Trapp grandchild ( I LOVE THE SOUND OF MUSIC!!!!) we went to the Austrian Tea Room and although we had heard (and believed) that the food was beyond sub par, decided that if we ordered judiciously enough, we'd fare well. The wursts and the sauerkraut and potato salad were excellent as was the cheddar soup. My son INSISTED on spaghetti and meatballs and we knew it would be atrocious and well guess what....it was :) A roast beef sandwich on oatmeal bread with horseradish dressing was pretty uninspiring but did the trick. Best bet is to stick with the wursts. The saurkraut, by the way, was actually excellent. A dinner at Pie in the Sky that evening was very good. Although every local we spoke with including our massage therapist who was a self-professed "pizza freak" said that newcomer Pie-Casso was better, we eneded up at Pie in the Sky because it was right across from our hotel and our tot was exhausted from hours of sledding at the hill behind the school. The Vermonter pizza (cheddar, apples, ham) was great after a long snowshoeing expedition and the cannelini bean and fennel soup was also excellent. The spinach salad was also very fresh and large and totally welcome what with all the fatty stuff we'd been consuming. Takeout salads from the Shed after the movies the following night were fresh and excellent (sorry we didn't get to try their Shed Burger) New Year's Day lunch at The Whip was GROSS (it was highly reccomended by young locals we met in our hotel pool- they had had their wedding there- they also highly reccomended Harrsions's, Foxfire for Italian, and the Malt Shop for ice cream, we chose the wrong place from their list I guess...) Service SUCKED - sorry there was no better word- the chili was GARGANTUAN gobs of greasy meat with nary a scallion or cilanto to brighten the insipid mess up, the pheasant flatbread was muddled with gobs of oily cheese and even the beverages were lukewarm with no ice. All that, and our server brought our bill to us with our entrees....Guess there was no dessert!?? We LOVED the donuts and cider at the Cold Hollow Mill and appreciated all the samples at both the Cabot Annex and Ben and Jerry's. We had a super dark hot choclate at Lake Champlain Choclates and a decadent pink peppercorn raspberry dark chocolate that is worth noting. We toyed with the idea of dinner and music at the Rusty Nail on New Year's Eve but a disco theme seemd so wrong, not to mention it seemed a bit chain-like in an Applebees kind of way and so... we ventured into Burlington for dinner. Fireworks over Lake Chmaplain were lovely and we managed to snag an early table at Smokejacks without a rezzo which was great as places like American Flatbread had two hour waits what with all the FirstNight crowds. Our Meal at Smokejacks was very good but unbelievable- steaks were cooked well, my chicken and maple grits and garlicky greens were well executed, bread basket was hysterical with one pat of artfully presented butter for about twenty pieces of bread, dessert was majorly lacking- an all style no substance peanutbutter/ chocolate concoction that was presented beautifully but had no taste or richness. A "tying to hard" debacle. Excellent Kettle Popcorn bought from a vendor on Church street more than satisfied our after dinner sweets hankering.
Our dinner at Alchemist deserves some mention b/c I just glazed over it at the beginning- excellent pub fare in a rustic setting, very fresh produce, hearty soups, solicitous service, insane waits (we ended up snagging seats at the bar and eating our meal there) I think The Alchemist was the best menu I had seen and the food was really better than average. I coveted huge platters of wursts and saurkraut as they passed as well as pot roast dinners. Our burgers and seasoned fries were delicious and we really enjoyed our cheddar beer dip with soft pretzel nuggets.
Simon Pearce was ***outstanding*** and deserves a post of its own which I will try to accomplish if my Chowpup cooperates later on.
In all, I really enjoyed our long weekend in Vermont and look forward to returning for some foiliage this Autumn.
Sorry if this didn't come out too polished- no time to edit :(
Again, thanks for all the suggestions,
Thanks for a great review. We've only eaten at Simon Pearce once. We were early, enjoyed shopping and exploring the building and then waited for the restaurant to open so we could have a seat by the window. It was wonderful. In Stowe we enjoyed the Dutch Pancake House for breakfast and the plain, simple restaurant near the movie theater. Next time you drive from Stowe to Burlington, make a stop at the Boyden Valley Winery for a tasting.
Glad you enjoyed Vermont. Winter holidays can be tough as the crowds are huge hear. It sounds like most places did a decent job (except for the Whip). There are some great places you and your family should try on your return visit especially if it is not a holiday. Post a week or so in advance and us Vermont Hounds will help you out! Reservations are fairly easy here, even in the best places (unlike the people waiting 6 months to hopefully catch a glimpse of Mario in his shorts and clogs at Babbo).
Happy New Year !
Well, I am Tony, and in addition to Addisonchef's wise words (especially Trattoria Delia and L'Amante), I would add:
The Kitchen Table Bistro: Right off of Rte 89 in Richmond (exit 11, one exit North of Stowe). This is a place that seems to have it all together from ambiance, proper table settings, great food, well thought out wines, and attentive service. In many visits, I have never been dissappointed.
Sonoma Station: Also in Richmond (in the village, which is like 2 blocks long). Again, well thought out menu that is properly executed (could be that Sonoma and Ktchen Table are both chef/owner operations).
Places I haven't been to recently, but have heard good reports from reliable sources: Christophe's (Vergennes), The Black Sheep Bistro (also Vergennes), Taste (Burlington), Mary's on Baldwin Creek (Bristol), Michael's on the Hill (Stowe but well before the village kind of near Ben and Jerry's) Hen of the Woods (was excellent as the Mist Grill with a great location that can be hard to find in Waterbury), The Warren House (near Mad River Glen), and Junior's (if you are in Vermont and really need pizza).
I hope this helps. Maybe it will eventually snow here to bring some more visitors !
I would agree on all of TonyO's thoughts with some slight differences.
Michaels on the Hill, which I visited about 2 months ago was a big disappointment from how it was when I was there multiple times approx. 2 yrs ago. Maybe I hit it on a bad night, but it wasnt a standout performer that I remembered it as. Not to say its a bad place, it was decent - but it wasnt as good as my previous visits. (And, this time around, the interior seemed somewhat rundown for a fine dining place.)
The Warren House (which is actually on the Sugarbush Access Rd - closer to Sugarbush than MRG) - I'd steer clear of. I have gone there more than a handful of times in the last couple years, and it is priced as fine food, served in an atmosphere for fine foods, but is clearly not fine foods - unless they changed things up recently. It was quite evident that cuts of meat were being defrosted in the back before cooking as a couple items came out with ice crystals inside...that sort of thing. But I can't vouch for it lately as I refuse to return. If you do find yourself close to The Warren House, and can't drive too far, I think the Common Man, on German Flats is a much better option. If you can drive 10 minutes down to Warren, check out the Pitcher Inn which is a solid option for fine dining.
Lastly, I thought Taste was fair for reasons mentioned in another post I made about it. Not terrible, but not great.
As for the Waterbury/Stowe trip, the Whip is a wannabe fine dining restaurant in my experience, somewhat similar to The Warren House (although, that said, I think its better than Warren House). Hen of the Wood is a solid restaurant in Waterbury. Friendly, good fresh food, great atmosphere (although lately, there has been no one there so its been quiet..but I expect that to change with more snowfall). Some dishes are much better than others, but nothing I've had there is bad.
As for Burlington, I would recommend the Green Room based on my last visit. I would also say that if you go to Smokejacks - to definitely get the Mussels Appetizer...
Thanks for the post.
I also spent a good part of the holiday week in the stowe/sugarbush area.
Immediately headed to The Shed on Wed. afternoon as we were starving and thirsty. Sad to report that the brewer Shaun's leaving has had an adverse effect on the beer. Both IPA and Porter that I had was really funky - barnyard like funk that would be appreciated in a belgian dubbel or lambic or saison, but not in an english style ale. The burgers we ordered were cooked to order perfect medium rare (which is what they suggest on the menu). They were thick, juicy, and had great charred beef flavor. Checked into the Inn in Waterbury and walked down to the Alchemist for a few. Alena DIPA, Holy cow IPA, el Jefe were hoppy and bitter like they should be - seems the recipe of the Holy cow IPA has been tweaked a bit to make it amberish in color instead of golden, but all the hop goodness I know this beer should have was there. Spent quite a few hours here grazing on spinach salad and a nice cheese plate while warming our hearts with great beer. A little busy until about 9, then the place was our own pretty much. Good thing our hotel was a short walk away because we both drank quite a few beers.
On Thur. we decide to head to Flatbread in Burlington - even though they were serving lunch last week, service was only from 11-2 or something, so no flatbread for me. So we walked across the street and had a fish sandwich at Vt Pub & brewery. Skipped the beers here since we are not a fan of their beers, and had a few after lunch pops back at Flatbread instead. The old ale and IPA were top notch.
After a quick nap, we walked down to the Alchemist for dinner. Alena DIPA had kicked and was replaced with O Positive (wild yeast fruit beer) which was a little difficult to drink, but mixed half and half with the Darkness (a dark wild yeast beer) was out of this world and quite like a Flanders Red ale. This time we ordered the beer cheese and my wife got the spinach salad again since it was so good the night before. More el Jefe and IPA to round out the evening.
On Friday we drove down to our house rental at Sugarbush. After telling my friends how good the Alchemist was, they wanted to go. So back to Waterbury for more great beer and food, this time with a team of eight. Too busy to seat all eight of us, but within a half hour we had all scoped out bar seats. This time I had the slow cooked pork panini and it was quite succulent. What a great bargain this place is.
Saturday we drove up to Stowe on the bad roads to go to the Swiss Pot. Each of us had a onion soup and salad, then we split a few fondues. Good food, great onion soup, but it was bit pricey at $50 a head for basically cheese and bread, but we had a great time. Beer list here has gone down hill big time - now they only have a couple local selections on draft instead of the great imported bottle list they used to have.
Surprise of the weekend was the snow that fell Friday night and all day on saturday. Made the conditions on Mt. Ellen fantastic for two days.
I'm not Tony, :-)) but here are some good ones in Burlington.
The Green Room (ecletic mix)
Trattoria Delia (a really romantic place, Italian)
L'Amante (again, Italian)
Five Spice Cafe (Thai)
Asiana House (sushi)
You can also go to the local newspaper's food pages: http://www.7nvt.com/7n/home.htm
Glad you enjoyed your stay, and it's great you were able to get into such great places on the holiday weekend! :-)