March 20, 2013 Vermont for Non Skiers
We decided to take a trip up to Stowe. It was just after the blizzard like weather here, so it took us an hour just to get out of Boston and onto the highway. The ride wasn’t great, this is what our car looked like after being two hours on the road, covered in an inch of ice.
We stopped over at our favorite place, Simon Pearce for lunch. Weekdays are nice because they aren’t that busy. The waterfall outside was mostly frozen but it still looked beautiful. And we were able to watch them work on the covered bridge from the window.
The place is charming as usual and we basically have the whole dining room to ourselves.
We ordered the cheddar soup ($5) that was creamy and delicious but still managed to feel light. The chicken sandwich ($15) came on a crusty baguette with a lovely salad-quite tasty. I had the lunch special which was the crab cake on a bed of rice with black beans ($15). The flavor was tasty with the crab cake, a new spin on things. Service was good, the waitress was very attentive. Simon Pearce Restaurant; The Mill; 1760 Quechee Main Street, Quechee, VT. 802.295.1470. Simonpearce.com
We decided this trip to follow the VT cheese trail. On of the stops makes my favorite cheese – Cobb Hill. I would love to go back when the weather is warmer, something tells me the place will be bustling with animals and the store will be stocked with fresh veggies. They have been making cheese since 2000, Ascutney Mountain (an Alpine style cheese aged for 7 months with a sweet and nutty flavor) and Four Corners (a cheddar style cheese aged 2-4 months with a tangy buttery flavor). The farm store is open year round. You have to love that VT still works on the honor system. There is a lock box for the cash and a clipboard for you to write what you buy. They have a freezer full of meat and a freezer full of their home made frozen yogurt.
We had never had their frozen yogurt before. They come in half pint and pint sizes in a variety of flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate, Maple, and coffee.
We brought a cooler, but couldn’t wait to dig in, and good thing they had plastic spoons in the cooler! The frozen yogurt is a little grittier that what you would find in the supermarket, but it was really delicious, both the coffee and the vanilla flavors!Cobb Hill Farm; 5 Linden Rd, Hartland, VT 05048. (802) 436-4360.
It was beginning to get darker and colder outside, so we made our way up to Stowe to the Stowe Mountain Lodge. 7412 Mountain Road Stowe, Vermont 05672. 802.253.3560. The drive up to the mountain is long, but when you get to the hotel it is lit up with trees covered in Christmas lights, really quite beautiful. We are greeted by the valets, who couldn’t be more friendly (the whole time we were there we were really impressed by their service). You must valet park your car at the hotel, you can come and go as many times as you please, and the cost is $20 a day. A lot of people were complaining about this on websites. My feeling is, if you’re paying this much to stay at this hotel, why are you complaining about $20 a day for a valet.
We get a regular sized room in the south wing, which is quite a long walk from the lobby. It is around the spa and pas the pool, there is a second smaller lobby where you can wait and have your car pulled into the “south circle” if you don’t want to walk all the way to the lobby.
They have a couch and some ottomans under the coffee table for ample seating in case you have guests. The view isn’t much from this room, you look out onto some woods and the road up to the hotel.
The fireplace is on a timer which is nice.
The room has a kitchen area with 4 place settings, a fridge and a dishwasher.
The bathroom is spacious with a bathtub and a stand up shower.
They do have a hairdryer in the room, but it is not as powerful as they ones that they have in the spa.
For dinner, we head over to Crop – a fairly new restaurant, that opened last January, in place of where the Shed used to be. The Shed closed for an expired lease, they have really done some nice things inside to make it feel like a new place. 1859 Mountain Road, Stowe, VT. 802.253.4765.
The service was slow, and I mean really slow. The dining room was busy, with some large parties, but it isn’t busy season yet…so we were a little disappointed. We waited for about 5 minutes to be greeted before we were seated and then our order wasn’t even taken by a waiter. He read the specials from his book, and when another table sat down and asked for the mussels, he said they didn’t have them. Upon going back into the kitchen, they did in fact have mussels that night…so good thing he checked. We started with a cheese plate, which was actually quite lovely. It came with honey, toasted bread, nuts and a lovely salad with fiddle head ferns. The cheeses were lovely, a very mild blue cheese, an Apline style cheese that was buttery and a harder cheese that was almost like a parmesan. We decided on the Billi chili: Vermont Goat, Black Beans, Sour Cream, Cheddar ($14) served with a side of cornbread. The chili was delicious, with a nice little kick to it. The cornbread was a bit dry, but overall, the meal was quite tasty. I have to admit that I was looking forward to my old Shed burger, so I tried Crop’s burger: Freshly ground beef, Lettuce, Tomato, Grilled Onion, Vermont Cheddar Smoked Bacon, Portuguese Muffin, with hand-cut Fries ($13). The burger was quite good, juicy but not overly so, the muffin still retained it’s freshness. Overall a good dinner, I think that from looking on the website, we thought that it was a little fancier than it actually was, but we would certainly head over here again.
Day 2 we decided to hit the spa. Again, not yet crowded at the resort, so the place was pretty empty – which was SO nice. See the spa menu here.
The waiting room is lovely. It is warm and cozy with a nice view of the mountain. They have comfy chairs and blankets along with tea and water. With services at the spa, you are welcome to sit here all day.
While the spa has a jacuzzi, there were definitely people outside enjoying the heated pool and the outdoor jacuzzi. They have a swim in swim out area so you won’t be too cold! I had a Swedish massage with Patty, who is excellent. She started her career later in life, and is also an esthetician. I can’t speak more highly about her service - she was professional and courteous and she gives a great massage. On another day, we went in for facials. I have to say that the facial was not as relaxing and luxurious as the massage. The woman was a little on the rough side, and it felt a little choppy at moments, not smooth fluid movements, making it hard to completely relax.
After our massages, we head out for breakfast, a casual bagel spot down the mountain the Stowe. The Bagel, 394 Mountain Rd, Stowe, VT. (802) 253-9943. They have a casual spot near the movie theater and have pretty decent bagels.
We jump in the car and go on the hunt for more cheese. We stop at Neighborly Farm. They are open Monday thru Friday 8am to 4pm and can be found at 1362 Curtis Road, in Randolph. They have a small shop where you can buy cheese at $5 a block.
They describe their Colby as: “This was the judge’s favorite Colby last year at the American Cheese Society-and it was our first blue ribbon. It’s always the kid’s favorite with its cheery orange color and it’s mild sweet/nutty flavor. Colby is an American original that was invented in Colby, Wisconsin. It is a cheddar that’s not “cheddared,” which accounts for it being somewhat softer and milder than a real cheddar.” You can also buy their cheese online.
We go try to go to Turkey Hill Farm, but we can’t immediately see a place to go in, so we decide to go to town and grab a bite to eat to regroup. We stop at the Randolph Depot, located at Salisbury St. There is parking outside. The people behind the counter are friendly, and they seem to know all the locals. The inside is quaint, they have a good number of sandwiches and home made soups. Prices are affordable and they accept credit cards. The grilled chicken waldorf salad wrap was tasty ($7) and the ham and cheese wrap was good as well ($7.50). They were very decent portion wise and came with a pickle and chips.
After lunch we head back to find Turkey Hill Farm. We drive a bit further down the driveway than we did the first time…and we are greeted by the owner. Turns out that they have closed their retail business about a year ago. Bummer! We do stop to check out their sheep as we head out. I think that one was giving me a look!
Back in Stowe we stop over at Laughing Moon Chocolates, (78 South Main Street, Stowe Village, VT 05672) we need to pick up some treats for some friends back home. They are buzzing and busy as Valentine’s day is just around the corner.
We decided on a box of assorted truffles.
And some chocolate bars.
For dinner, we go to Trattoria la Festa at the base of the mountain. (4080 Mountain Road, 802.253.8480) When I look at the website, I am a little hesitant.
We get there and walk into a dimly lit bar area where there are a bunch of locals hanging out. We are brought into the dining room where we are greeted by Christmas lights and red plastic table cloths. There are lots of families here with young children.
We both get the cannelloni with “bolognese” sauce. It comes out bubbling in a casserole dish. The pasta is good, there is a lot of ricotta cheese filling, and the meat sauce is good, but I am not sure I would consider it a bolognese sauce.
The meal came with a house salad that was lettuce, dressing and parmesan cheese. The dressing was quite heavy on the garlic, and after leaving, I felt like I had this coating on my tongue of garlic. Good thing we both had the salad and thus cancel each other out! Dinner was $44. The service was good, the restaurant is certainly casual and family friendly.
The next day we are off to Burlington to walk around. Love this photo of an old hotel. Hey, at least they have color tv!
Breakfast for lunch at Mirabelles (198 Main Street, 802.658.3074) We grab a seat in the corner and order.
Chocolate chip pancakes($7.25) are delicious. Light and sweet, a perfect way to start the day.
And the egg sandwich, also quite tasty ($5). Service was good-waiter was friendly, if a little absent minded at times.
After breakfast we are off to Shelburne Farms to walk off breakfast/lunch. 1611 Harbor Road • Shelburne, Vermont 05482. 802.985.8686.
Trails are free to walk in the winter time. Make sure to wear water proof boots because they ask that you walk on the gravel trails and not the road. Stop in at the welcome center and they will give you a map of the trails to walk.
Just some fun carvings along the way.
There were only a few animals out that day – some donkeys, a few goats and 2 alpacas (we think). A sign warns you not too get too close because “fingers some times can look like carrots”.
We stop in the store on the way back and pick up some of my favorite butter from Vermont Creamery. I can’t explain it, but the taste is just amazing. Here is what they say on their website about the butter: “While working on a dairy farm in Brittany, France, Allison Hooper took careful note of what happened to the milk. After each milking, she set the cream aside. Natural, lactic bacteria took over, ripening it into cultured cream — or crème fraîche. When the thick result was churned into butter, she knew she had learned something valuable. Inspired by this lesson, VBCC cultures the freshest, high quality Vermont cream from the local St. Albans Cooperative, a coop of 500 family farms in Northeast Vermont. The cream is churned in small batches becoming a rich European-style butter with 86% butterfat content and unique farm-fresh taste. Use Cultured Butter at high temperatures for a perfect pan sear, or in pie crust and cookies for superior elasticity and flakiness. Taking perfection one step further, the Sea Salt Crystal Cultured Butter is a balance of creamy butter with the crunch of Celtic sea salt.”
We head to Hen of the Wood for dinner that night, one of my favorite places to eat. 92 Stowe Street, Waterbury, VT. (Open Tuesday – Saturday) The place is chef owned and operated and it was just announced that he is a Best Chef in the Northeast finalist for a James Beard Award for the second year in a row! Congrats Chef!
We made reservations ahead of time, this place is always crowded. Some people were actually turned away at the door. The restaurant is pretty small.
We had a lovely dinner. I had the ricotta gnocchi, hand rolled and then sauteed, making them a little crispy on the outside. They were finished with a leek puree on the bottom and roasted cauliflower and pine nuts ($22). For dessert I had the cheesecake, which was delicious. A small piece, but it had a big taste. It was creamy and delicious, but light as air. A wonderful graham cracker crust with some cranberries on the side. Overall, an excellent meal, they never disappoint.
We started with the cheese plate – all the cheeses are a la carte. We went with:
- Landaff “Made from our own high quality raw cow’s milk, Landaff Cheese is a mild, semi-firm cheese with a delicious combination of flavors, tangy with a clean finish. The open and buttery texture comes with a natural, cave-aged rind. It melts beautifully for cooking, and makes a wonderful addition to any cheese plate.”
- Tarantaise From Springbrook Farm, a ” Semi-hard, natural raw milk from pasture fed Jersey Cows. Aged ten or more months.” Reading, Vermont, Raw cow’s milk, semi-firm, smooth and nutty
- Pawlet from Consider Bardwell Farm, “Raw Jersey cow milk is the basis of this Italian-style toma, which is aged four to six months. A creamy texture and bright bite makes this a great sandwich cheese or an appetizer with broad palate appeal. A versatile cheese, like the town of Pawlet, VT which brings us slate, syrup, and timber.” West Pawlet, Vermont, Raw Jersey cow milk, complex, creamy & bright
- Rupert from Consider Bardwell Farm, “An aged, raw Jersey cow milk cheese inspired by great European Alpine cheeses like Gruyère and Comté. These 25-pound mega-wheels age a minimum of six months, with a sharpness and complexity that gains with time. A long aging cheese like the town of Rupert, VT, one of our states oldest towns, settled in 1761.” West Pawlet, Vermont, Aged raw jersey cow milk with a sharpness & complexity
New in town is the House of Jerky. They have only been there a few months, located at 100 Mountain Road, 518.302.5100. They have exotic jerky like Kangaroo, venison, salmon, wild boar, and buffalo.
We opt for the sampler pack, for $32.99 you get:
Black Pepper 2oz
Sweet & Spicy 2oz
Black Pepper 2oz
We gave these as a gift, and our friend was RAVING about just how good the jerky was!
A lovely covered bridge in town.
We grab lunch at the Depot Street Malt Shop. 57 Depot St Stowe, VT 05672, 802.253.4269.
I get the burger with onion rings (which cost extra – regular orders come with chips). The burger was really small but it was very good.
Cute soda fountain and kitschy decor. Service was good, there was one waitress for the whole place, but orders are simple. It started to get busier as kids were coming out of school.
You just have to have a milkshake here. I had the strawberry.
And you just have to love that only in VT do you see license plates like this one!
Valentine’s Day dinner we go to the hotel. Usually I avoid going out on Valentine’s day like the plague, but since we were on vacation we didn’t have a choice. Of course they have a prix fixe menu, but we passed.
The restaurant was empty but they sat everyone in this small corner near the front. We sat here last time we were here. There were families with small children, which I was sort of surprised at because the food and the prices aren’t super family friendly.
Of course we order the cheese plate (3 for $16) that comes with sliced bread, local raw honey, house made stone fruit chutney and toasted walnuts.
- Inspiration: Raw Cow Milk Mt. Mansfield Creamery, a washed rind cheese, raw milk, recipe from the Island of Corsica. The molds on the rind are typical of this French recipe. Smooth and semi-soft texture with a nutty flavor. Many times washed with beer. A favorite cheese amongst beer lovers.
- Cabot Cheddar: Pasteurized Holstein Cow Milk Cabot Creamers
- Oh My Heart: Pasteurized Cow Milk Lazy Lady Bloomy Rind, pasteurized, Brie style / rich, available Sep – Apr.
We order the Duck Breast: Orange Scented Confit|Braised Cabbage Organic Brown Rice|Mission Fig Syrup ($28). The duck was really delicious, tender and flavorful.
I have the gnocchi, which is an appetizer, but they make it into a entree sized portion. Braised Pork Shoulder|Roast Squash |House Made Raisins|Pine Nuts. I loved this dish, the pork was a little bit sweet and the gnocchi dumplings were perfectly light and delicious.
And for dessert, we have the Valentine’s day special. A strawberry mousse covered in dark chocolate with a puff pastry swam and champagne sorbet.
Very cute presentation, although I have to say I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. For me the best part was the sorbet. The service was good – the last time we were here it was better. The waiter seemed disappointed that we requested tap water and that we weren’t drinking wine. He didn’t seem very personable, but hey, everyone has bad days!
On our way out of town, we stop in Grafton to get some cheese at the Grafton Village Cheese Company. They have moved their retail shop into town to 56 Townshend Road. Viewing cheesemaking can be done at its production facility on 533 Townshend Road on select days. There is also a restaurant next door, Mack’s.
A cute little place with a few tables. The people couldn’t be nicer. They have a lot of menu options, something for everyone.
We get a corn muffin.
How great is it that you can come for a bite and then sit in a La-Z-Boy by the stove and take a little nap!
And how could I not get a grilled cheese, cheddar of course made on home made white bread. Really delicious and yet so simple!
After lunch we go next door and pick up some delicious cheddar cheese. They have lots out to sample, but we know exactly what we want. Friends gave us some for the holidays! It was a really fun trip, we did some different things, and we can’t wait to go back when the weather gets warmer and head to those farms that we missed this time around.
And just to leave you with some other goodies that we picked up along the way, above is the Ascutney Mountain cheese that I love so much from Cobb Hill and below is this great goat’s milk caramel from Fat Toad Farm. Their products are everywhere. They have some great flavors like cinnamon, original, vanilla bean, coffee bean and salted bourbon. Love that they come in these adorable 2 oz jars, as well as 8oz ones.
Drop me a comment about your favorite places in VT!