Essex, Stowe and Burlington
Just returning from a three day ski trip - we stayed at the Essex (http://www.vtculinaryresort.com) on a package deal which included a dinner at Amuse.
Amuse bouche was a quartet based on tomato: bruschetta, caprese, a foam, and a bloody mary shot. Bread course was a gougere. Wife had oysters two ways and a scallop en croute for her main. I had etoufee stuffed quail to start and the elk (which replaced the emu menu item that night). Dinner was OK. The amuse-bouche was a bit uninspired, the gougere was tasty (how can choux and cheese ever be bad!), the oysters were a miss with the preparations masking the oysters and the scallops en croute being uneventful. The quail was quite good but the etoufee part didn't really conjure up a New Orleans vibe. The elk was a bit over done and could just as well have been beef. We were thankful that the meal was included in the deal as menu prices were very high - footing the actual bill would have been a little hurtful for what the meal was.
We had two diners in the Tavern at the Essex - laziness after a day of skiing kept us in. First night we started with the calamari (which was more accurately listed as misto frito on the bill) that was fantastic - calamari, along with peppers and artichokes and a trio of sauces were a total hit. Wife had a chopped salad, not much to say there. I had the cassoulet which was made with house cured bacon and house made sausage and confit - very good and VERY rich, I could only manage to eat half unfortunately! Dinner two was at the bar, a veggie burger for the wife which was called "one of the best veggie burgers I've had in a long time!" and a Tavern burger for me which was called "pretty uneventful". We drank many Switchbacks.
Rode Stowe the first two days and had lunch at Piecasso (http://www.piecasso.com/) both days. We're recovering New Yorkers and admitted pizza snobs - this place is amazingly good. Lunch one we had The Luca (and more Switchback) and lunch two we had the "Two slices and a PBR for $6.50" deal, which may be the best ski town lunch deal ever. If you're ever in Stowe you must try it!
Smuggs on day three. Awesome breakfast at 158 Main (http://www.158main.com/) in Jeffresonville - really great vibe, total local feel, super tasty house baked breads and strong coffee. I don't know much about the place's story or chef but they seem to be doing great things there. The Valentines Day menu looked fantastic, especially for $75 a couple!
Lunch was at Tiny Thai (http://tinythairestaurant.net/) in Winooski based on some digging on CH. Oh wow. $7.95 lunch specials include a drink, a side salad, an app and a main. Perhaps some of the best Thai I've had in the states and a killer killer deal with our entire lunch bill ringing up to $17.33.
Dinner at Farmhouse (http://www.farmhousetg.com/lovesVT.html) - probably my favorite restaurant in Burlington. So many gorgeous beers and consistently great food. Started with the soft cheese plate and then spied another table getting some off the menu onion rings and had to have some. I heard that they're soon to be added to the regular menu - they're definitely up to snuff! Wife had the veggie burger (shock!) and I had the lamb burger special. So good. We love the drink, the food and the service.
Breakfast this morning at Magnolia, another of our faves. I finally had the Bo Knows breakfast to try the pancake. Holy decadent in a "this is good for me, sorta." kinda of way, though I could just eat the sourdough with butter all day long and be happy. Wife had the breakfast burrito but was disappointed because it wasn't huevos ranchero. I told her it was the same thing but all wrapped up which seemed to make it better. Remember to ask for the Vermont Pepper Works hot sauces!
Anyhow, we're really smitten with the Burlington area. Beautiful part of the state, so much good skiing, so much good food - thanks for having us!
My fiancee and I just came back from a 2 night stay at the Essex as well. We also had dinner at Amuse as part of our package. Overall we were impressed with the dinner - with the minor exception of my appetizer. I had a duck/torteloni dish where the meat had a very fine texture that was a bit off putting. We both thoroughly enjoyed our entrees and dessert.
Other meals included breakfast at Magnolia which was amazing. I had the lemon ricotta pancakes which may have just been the best pancakes I have ever had. She had a vermont omelette which she enjoyed but the hit for her was the toast/homemade strawberry preserve. Low light was the homemade ketchup which was downright inedible - kinda wished I had some heinz packets for the homefries.
We also had breakfast at the Skinny Pancake. Mixed review here....we both enjoyed our food but felt it was a bit overpriced. I had a traditional crepe and a side of house cut fries (some of the best ever) but honestly left still hungry. $5 for a single unstuffed crepe with syrup? Breakfast was over $30 which isnt terribly overpriced had I not needed to stop at a local bagel shop on our way out of town.
Final meal in the area was at Sarducci's in Montpelier. Food was great and very reasonably priced. Only hiccup was rushed service who was late on the water refills and forgot a request for a second beverage.