Jay Peak Area Restaurants: Bernie's, Montgomery Pizza and Subs, The Belfry (Montgomery Center, Vermont)
I was surprised to see there've been no prior posts on restaurants in the Jay Peaks area, considering how popular a ski mountain Jay Peak is... and how hungry you get after skiing those challenging trails!
Here's a quick blurb on Bernie's Restaurant, Montgomery Pizza and Subs, and The Belfry, all in the Montgomery Center, VT area, where we stayed. There are accompanying photos here: http://www.girleatscity.com/2011/03/b...
Our first night, even before skiing whetted our appetites, we stopped in at Bernie's Restaurant, a small chef owned establishment with quite an eclectic menu. There's standard pub grub, Mexican selections on some nights (advertised as authentic; we hear it's popular), and options with distinctly haute aspirations. My partner had the grilled pork chop with mashed potatoes and gravy. I had duck breast with blueberry sauce. Each entree comes with either a soup or a salad, as well as the vegetable side of the day. On the night we went, the vegetable was sauteed broccolini and baby cut carrots, which were well made, crisp tender, and perfectly seasoned with what I think were fresh rosemary and garlic.
Our starters were a mixed bag. His salad included humdrum Dole prepackaged salad mix-esque lettuce, a bit of carrot and red onion, and a few grape tomatoes. But my soup, a clam chowder, was very good, possibly homemade.
His pork chop, a generous one-inch cut on the bone, was well brined and well seasoned, though it came overcooked in parts. A few bites near one edge were inedibly charred; the parts near the bone were moist and perfect. Mashed potatoes were buttery and smooth, I think made from scratch. Gravy was probably a doctored version of something from a can or jar, but inoffensive.
My duck breast (pictured at the top of this post) was oddly tough in parts for some reason, though it'd been cooked to a good, medium rare temperature and much of the fat had been rendered from the skin. The blueberry sauce, full of tiny wild blueberries and spiked with some sort of liquor, was delicious, a very good match for the meat. The biggest star on my plate was actually probably the broccolini, though, which I thought were made with real competence.
The next day, after a full day of amazing skiing on fresh powder at Jay Peak, without stopping for lunch, we were dog tired and ravenous. We tried for an early meal at a local pub, but it was packed with the apres ski crowd. So we opted for what we thought would be mediocre takeout from Montgomery Pizza and Subs, instead. We were pleasantly surprised.
Montgomery Pizza and Subs is a charmer. It's a hole-in-the-wall, casual takeout joint with a few tables added as an afterthought. The menu features pizza and subs as advertised -- served, we hear, on homemade bread and pizza crust -- as well as homemade cookies, cakes, brownies and burritos -- really, really good burritos. Our order took a while to come, but those chicken burritos were worth the wait. The filling, basically a very good homemade chicken stew with rice and sweet peppers, was chock full of savory, well developed flavors, though the chicken was tender and not overcooked.
A side of fries was the only disappointment: They were undercooked and soggy with oil, a sure sign of having been fried in insufficiently hot oil.
The best meal we had in the Jay Peak area, though, was at The Belfry on our final evening in town. We were hobbling about with sore knees and not really motivated to go out for dinner. Frankly, I would've been glad to drink a bottle of wine with a Power Bar and call it a day, but he was a real trooper and offered to drive and carry me from the restaurant to the car if necessary. I'm glad we (he) rallied.
Beers at this rustic pub / diner / bar were, by NYC and Vermont resort standards, dirt cheap: Most 12 oz mugs or bottles are less than $4. There were locally brewed Long Trail and Switchback ales on tap. Switchback was unfiltered, easy drinking and likable, if somewhat bland. Long Trail was slightly spicy and fruity, with a hint of apricot on the nose, also fairly quaffable. Both were great, low-alcohol beers to drink after a physically demanding day.
He ordered a creamy tomato vegetable bisque to start, which was fair, though not wonderful. It included bits of canned mushrooms.
For our mains, I had the bacon wrapped, maple-glazed pork chop special with twice baked potato and a small side of vegetables. The lone spear of broccoli in the vegetable medley was crisp tender, still bright green and pleasant to eat given our somewhat vegetable deprived diets of the past few days, though in truth, the remainder of the vegetables (I remember a hard lump of carrot and some undercooked onions) were mediocre. The real stars were the pork chops and potato, both legitimately excellent. The pork chop was succulent and bursting with juices, not a moment overcooked, and it paired gorgeously with the maple glaze and bacon. (There was also a little ramekin of apple sauce, but it was forgettable in comparison to everything else.) Bacon was perfectly crisp, the maple glaze not overly sweet and strongly aromatic. Our waitress told us the owner had just harvested this syrup the prior weekend during an annual maple syrup festival. Twice baked potatoes were creamy and... well... I don't use this adjective often, but it's appropriate, here: They were glorious. Creamy. Cheesy. Rich. I'm certain they were not healthy. :)
He ordered the penne with sausage and rose sauce (a marinara and cream sauce, I think). The plate was well portioned for hungry skiiers. Sauce was pleasant, though almost certainly a doctored version of something jarred; slices of sausage were juicy; the pasta itself was al dente. It was attractively sprinkled with grated parmesan and dried cilantro or parsley. He said he enjoyed the plate, but wasn't thrilled about it.
For dessert, we shared the maple cream pie, which tasted like a version of chess pie with maple syrup for flavoring. The generous wedge was topped with canned whipped cream and drizzled with more maple syrup. Somehow the pie avoided being overwhelmingly sweet and the maple flavors were wonderfully vivid. Prices were fair: Pasta entrees were about $13, burgers were about $6 or $7, and specials were between $16 and $20. This is a restaurant I'd be excited to pay a return visit to, next time we ski up this way.
Thank you very much for the information. As a chowhound who has just moved to Stanstead Quebec from Montreal I was also wondering why so few post for this area since I can see Jay Peak from my post office here in Stanstead and it is neighbourhood. The quality of the meat and cheese on both sides of the border is fantastic and the bakery in Newport and the one in Stanstead are as good as all but the best in Montreal. Stanstead rabbit and some of the Vermont artisan cheeses are world class. I know how popular Jay Peak is and was wondering when I would see some mention of the restaurants in the area. I am surprised that you mention the maple syrup as we just had the annual Stanstead syrup in the snow but because the winter has been carrying on so long the sap has no really begun to flow even though last year the season was over at this time. I know for skiers the eastern side of Lake Memphramagog (Jay, Owl's Head, Orford is very compelling and the food is excellent but a trip around Memphramagog in the summer (august) might convince even the most passionate Francophile that the food in North America is as good as it is ever going to get.. The city of Sherbrooke which is so little known boasts restaurants which even New York City would be proud to claim as its own and a visit to the dairy and the suspension bridge park in Coaticook is an experience that even the most jaded New Yorker can enjoy fresh cheese curds and incredible ice cream over one of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in the world..
What a WONDERFUL overview of the area, Moedelestrie! I appreciate the tips about the cheeses and rabbit, in particular. I wish I knew where to look for these, more specifically. I buy all sorts of delicious raw milk VT cheeses in NYC, but I don't actually know where to find them in VT (other than a regular ol' Hannafords grocery store). Since there aren't many restaurants, next time we go, we'll probably rent a place with a kitchen and prepare some feasts of our own.
Also, which restaurants in Sherbrooke would you recommend? I think part of our route does take us through or near there.
I saw so many apple orchards from the road, I bet the apples are wonderful in the autumn, too....
Dining out has always been big in Quebec and Sherbrooke is no different there are a large number of chains and bad restaurants but I would suggest L'Olive Bleue on King is the restaurant to try on a visit to Sherbrooke especially if it is warm and you can get a table outside. I am sorry I am not very good at remembering names but a good bet to discover where to dine in Sherbrooke is to go into the Lebanese grocery across the street from the Provincial building at 200 Belvedere North is a wonderful Lebanese supermarket filled with great foods and foodies and they would provide you with a years worth of dining options it is also a good place to lunch.
Our local IGA in Stanstead has Stanstead rabbit and a good selection of Quebec cheese as well as the local wines and the fresh cider in season. The local orchard Heath has wonderful apples and their cider is excellent but varies with the ripening of the apples so that early season apple cider is less sweet(my particular favourite) and late season varieties are much sweeter. The Tomafobia restaurant on the Quebec side of Beebe does wonderful rabbit and crepes. Check out the Heath Orchards website and the Tomifobia Restaurant website. Our local boulangerie on Dufferin does great pastres coffee and sandwiches and is a lot closer than Mamie Clafoutis in Montreal's Outremont which is a compulsory visit in Montreal.
We have a number of excellent frommageries but I will mention the one I am most familiar with La Station near Compton. I was guided there by the owner of the frommagerie Atwater in the Atwater Market in Montreal (Atwater Market is truly foodie heaven). They make three kinds of cheese all of which are wonderful but I am partial to the raclette. You can watch the cows across the road and according to the cheese store manager you can tell the time of year the cheese was made because you can taste the diet the cows were fed on in the cheese. I don't know what this all means but my first taste of the raclette brought me back 50 years to when I first tried OKA when the Trappist monks were making it. There is a wonderful bakery in Compton Les Miettes and if you head North a couple of miles toward Lennoxville the strawberries at the small stand on the west of the highway make me double my intake of xyrtec because sometimes you do things that you know will make you itch.
I have only moved here full time six months ago so my voyage of discovery is only starting and it is difficult when you find a diner like Wood's Diner in Ayer's Cliff which my nephew claims is the best poutine he ever ate to not always go back.
You are chock full of good information.... Among other things, you're inciting me to pay another visit to Montreal -- soon! You write beautifully about that raclette and seasonal apple cider and strawberries and I love that one of your tips is to go hang out at the Lebanese Market... that's EXACTLY the kind of thing I would do. :) Thank you, again, Moedelestrie. I am saving your post in my personal files. It is a keeper.
Thanks for the tip on Montgomery Pizza and Subs. We stopped for lunch, and the sandwiches were made fresh and were tasty. Note that it is changing its name to "Fresh Betty's" which seems a little more apt. Only a few small tables here if you want to eat in, but if you want fresh food made by nice people at a reasonable price, you won't be disappointed. My two kids-- 11 and 13-- loved it.
Just wanted to comment on this line, which amused me:
"They were undercooked and soggy with oil, a sure sign of having been fried in insufficiently hot oil."
As far as I can tell, that seems to be how most Vermonters like their fries. :) I'm not sure why. I really prefer very crisp fries. :)
Hah. I know Vermonters who would twist of your thumbs for saying that. :) I do see soggy fries at a lot of ski resort type places -- but that's probably just because they have a semi-captive audience, the friers are manned by high school kids, and almost anything tastes good after a few hours of telemarking (or whatever your knee damaging activity of choice is).
Well, I say this mostly because nearly every single burger place or diner I've eaten at in Vermont has these soggy fries. Even Al's are like this. And I hear so many folks rave about the fries at this or that place that I can only conclude that's just how they like their fries. :) I don't eat at resorts in general because I don't ski. :)