1824 House (Waitsfield, VT), Hen of the Wood (Waterbury, VT)
just a quick blurb about recent meals at both:
*** Hen of the Wood ***
i wouldn't say it's one of the best restaurants in the country as one or two chowhounds have called it, but it holds its own in the top tier. its strongest point: truly excellent ingredients, especially meats and dairy products. flavors are subtle and muted, allowing the freshness of ingredients to shine, but failing to wow diners who prefer stronger flavors.
- celery root and pear soup (very mild, hard to detect the pear and a bit too starchy / floury for my taste)
- calamari (beautifully prepared with broth, garlic, parsley and a light sprinkling of possibly panko)
- winding brook farm pork loin (very lightly brined, moist meat)
- the signature smoked duck with turnips, radish and cranberries (good, moist meat, very light hint of juniper berries)
- house-made chocolate buttermilk ice cream (amazing, one of the best ice creams i've ever had)
- raw milk tarentaise (produced locally, but don't remember by whom; nutty and mild, served with fragrant apple butter, toasted, unsalted hazelnuts and slices of baguette)
- a carafe of very good shiraz (not locally made, again forgot to write down producer).
price -- a bit over $100 for two, without tip -- was very reasonable for the quality. service was excellent (not hovery, but always present if needed; we had a really nice woman serve us, a transplant from long island). decor was a vermont stereotype with all its cute, quaint trappings, but one cannot help but be charmed by the warm, friendly space converted from a mill. it was a very pleasant place to eat, not stuffy or otherwise over the top.
*** 1824 House ***
food was not as interestingly or competently prepared as at hen of the wood, but certain dishes stood out. we had:
- french onion soup (supposedly famous, locally, and not badly made, though i prefer my onions melted more into the soup)
- house salad (good ingredients, greens, pine nuts, chevre, a few lone, out of season cherry tomatoes, nicely -- i.e. not over -- dressed)
- lamb chops (very good, perfectly tender, though oversalted in parts) served with well made roast fingerling potatoes, asparagus (steamed, boring), and a few tendrils of roasted sweet potato 'fries'
- cassoulet (unclear what went wrong -- possibly undercooked -- but the flavors did not meld and absorb into the beans as they ought; also over salted; however, EXCELLENT leg of duck)
- white chocolate mousse (horribly, overpoweringly sweet)
- trio of sorbets (well flavored, a bit icy, as when i make it at home)
- three glasses of wine.
the total was about $120 before tip. service was southern-style nice. decor was farmhousy, one probably wouldn't feel out of place in jeans.
it's a good choice for the area, but not something i'd drive out of my way for.
I read your review of the 1824 House and I have to say I am truly surprised. Having eaten there more times than I can count, I have never been disappointed. I have only recently had the lamb rack (not chops) and found them to be unbelievably delicious. I have also had the cassoulet with a friend from Paris on two occasions, once with the rabbit and once with the duck and she said it was better than any she has ever had in France. The white chocolate was so light and fluffy, and the mixed berry compote I found added a wonderful dimension to the dish. I have to give the chef and staff credit, they are truly a wonderful team.
cimui, thanks for the 1824 House info, I have only been to their summer-time Monday Night Barn-B-Q. It's a limited menu, but tasty.
Hen of the Wood is my area favorite. I really appreciate the staff - they are always familiar with the menu offerings, flavors, and the wine list.