Après: The Best Of What’s New
Vermont is known for its creative cuisine. But this past year, chefs around the state have taken that reputation a step further, earning prestigious praise on a national scale. In December, Forbes named Woodstock’s Lincoln Inn and its Michelin-star-rated chef as one of the top 10 best restaurants of 2016, and in September, Burlington’s Hen of the Wood made Conde Nast’s list for top restaurants world-wide. With that, cheers to Vermont chefs, and here are our picks for the best of what’s new for the coming season.
The coolest new ski-town restaurant in Vermont opens up this November in… a tram car. “In Japan, food trucks are big—you see whole villages of them at the base areas at ski mountains,” says Jordan Antonucci. That’s what he was envisioning when he and his wife, Momo, opened a food truck just down the road from Jay Peak two years ago, serving Momo’s specialty: miso soup.
This year, the two self-professed ski bums moved Miso Hungry to an old tram car at the base of Jay Peak. “Our dream was that we could have a ski-in, ski out place where you could get a steaming bowl of noodles without clicking out of your bindings,” he says. The soup is made with a bone broth that simmers for five days before local meats and vegetables are added.
The couple met when they were both guiding whitewater rafting trips in Japan. After skiing all over Japan, Australia and the U.S., they settled in northern Vermont (where Jordan’s brother lives) near Jay Peak. “It’s one of two places in the East I’d want to ski every day,” says Jordan.
Jay Peak’s former sister resort, Burke Mountain is also heating up its aprés scene with the new hotel and Willoughby’s Restaurant right on the mountain. Off the mountain, the Foggy Goggle Osteria, an Italian place that Trout River Brewing’s former owners opened in September 2015, has been getting rave reviews.
Meanwhile, over in Jeffersonville, the big news in town is that the beloved Farm Store, which has an extensive collection of natural foods, local meats, cheeses and produce has reopened and expanded in the old Windridge Inn building at 168 Main Street. Stop in for coffee and fresh-baked muffins before heading up to Smuggler’s Notch or after you come down for a bowl of soup.
At Stowe Mountain Resort, you can let the kids climb the walls (the giant new climbing wall, that is), at the new Spruce Peak Adventure Center, while you grab an Off-Piste Pesto pizza or a CCC chicken wrap and a beer at The Canteen at the Adventure Center.
For those who want to bowl every day (or maybe just on weekends), Stowe Bowl opened at the end of last season in the hip new Sun & Ski Inn with an eclectic menu that ranges from Asiago Truffle Popcorn to Indonesian Chicken Satay to Bitterballen (Dutch beef fritters with a spicy Dijon mustard). The last is a nod to owners Mark and Rachel Vandenberg’s Dutch heritage.
If it’s Austrian heritage you are looking for, the new Bierhall at the Von Trapp Brewery has the perfect pairing for that Helles or Dunkel that’s brewed next door. House-made wursts, schnitzles, kebabs and hot pretzels (as well as other fare such as mouthwatering caramelized brussels sprouts) are served on Vermont Farmhouse tables, beneath the soaring ceilings of the post-and-beam room. Best yet: cross-country trails are right out the door so you can ski in and ski out. About three miles away (just up from Sunset Grille), the Alchemist’s new brewery and tasting room opened in July with plenty of Heady Topper on tap, but does not serve food.
Another new hotspot for après-ski, Picnic Social, opened this past fall in the stylish Field Guide hotel serving creative, highly-affordable and pretty darn delicious casual dishes such as Smoked Trout Toast, addictively crispy Smashed Fingerling Potatoes and Chocolat Pot de Crème (with caramel popcorn). Chef Justin Perdue came from Philadelphia but has hired the sous chef and maître d’ from the Bees Knees, formerly of Morrisville. Also new: PK Coffee’s upscale digs (and heady brews) on the Mountain Road and, on Main Street, Tap 25 which features an extensive beer menu and local musicians.
Head south from Stowe on Route 100 and you’ll see a large red barn-like structure going up. It’s the future home of Vermont Artisan Coffee. A few miles south, just off the Waterbury-Stowe Road, the former Tanglewoods Restaurant is being turned into a yoga and wellness center with a new restaurant, named simply The Restaurant at Zen Barn, that’s scheduled to open in December.
CENTRAL & SOUTHERN VERMONT
In downtown Waterbury, Cork, the wine bar and brainchild of ex-racer and SKI magazine ski tester Danielle Nichols Moffat and her sisters Katie and Morgan, has a swank new location on Foundry Street.
Prohibition Pig keeps turning out what may be the state’s best beer and barbecue combos with an expanded space off the back that’s been packed since it opened a little over a year ago.
Waterbury’s beloved Blue Stone Pizza is still there and has a new outpost that’s going strong in Waitsfield. Another newcomer to the Mad River Valley scene is Home Plate, serving breakfasts and dinner comfort food with a truly local focus and an affordable, down-home flare. Don’t let that fool you though: with dishes as varied as home-ground burgers, Tempura Artichoke, a Falafel Platter and a Curry of the Day, Home Plate may score a home run with just about any palate. Meanwhile, up on the mountain the Glen House, midway up Sugarbush’s Mount Ellen, is reinventing itself as a wine and beer bar for the season.
The Common Man is not new but has a new approach. When the Sugarbush classic closed the doors to its 19th century barn last spring—many feared it was for good. “I think we just needed to rethink things,” says owner Lorien Wroten. Over the summer, she and her husband, chef Adam Longworth, began serving special pop-up eight-course dinners in the closed restaurant. “This gave Adam the chance to be creative and make special meals for small groups,” she explains. Longworth, who studied under Alfred Portale at New York’s Gotham Bar and Grill, got his groove back—so to speak. This winter the restaurant is open again but Longworth will also be doing intimate “I-8” dinners (8 courses, $80 dollars).
In a similar vein, Pittsfield’s The Backroom, which The New York Times called “the coolest dining room in New England,” is also back after closing for the summer and Mendon’s Red Clover (which was named Restaurateur of the Year in 2015) has planned its monthly First Friday wine dinners for Dec. 2 and January 6.
Over in Woodstock, the Lincoln Inn has opened up the private dining room Paul Newman used to reserve as “The Chef’s Table.” There, chef Jevgenija Saromova, who has cooked in Michelin-starred restaurants around Europe, is serving up some incredible 7- to 12-course dinners (for $145 to $195 per person). “We wanted to be a ‘restaurant with rooms,’ a destination where people can come and have an amazing meal and then spend the night,” says Saromova’s partner Mara Mehlman, who moved here from England and bought the inn in 2014. The menu changes each night but promises to be something exquisite.
Another classic inn that came back last season (it opened in fall of 2015) is the Four Columns Inn in Newfane. In its previous incarnation, the classic 1832 Federal-style building allegedly hosted Sting, Michael Douglas and Mick Jagger. It closed in 2013. Since its reopening and renovations by hotelier Charles Mallory, it’s been completely renovated and the dinner menu includes dishes such as Citizen Cider Chicken Liver Mousse, handmade pastas and local grass-fed beef.
Noodle soups are a thing now at ski resorts. Karma, an Asian-fusion restaurant moves into the village at Stratton with ramen bowls and “craft cocktails with a twist, like vodka filtered through Herkimer diamonds for a side of positive energy,” a release states. Hmmm….
Last, if you are coming to or leaving ski country there are two new places that are well worth a stop. In White River Junction, Piecemeal Pies is far more than its name implies. Chef Justin Barret, who trained at the Michelin-starred The Spotted Pig in New York, creates savory pies such as rabbit and bacon or curried vegetables, and serves them with a small menu at either a communal table or counter.
If you are coming through Manchester take note: Fortuna Sausage, the Rhode Island sausage maker that has been written up in The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and numerous other publications, relocated to Vermont. It opened on Nov. 12 on Main Street in Manchester Center. The hand-made dry-cured sausages and dried meats have been repeatedly called some of the best in America.