Boston Restaurant Blog -- July, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
I have been to Vermont a couple of times over the past several months, including visits to Weston, Manchester, Grafton, Ludlow, and a few other towns. But it had been more than a year since I had been to the Stowe area, and I really needed to get back there, as it is one of my favorite places in all of New England. So a trip was made there last week, and although the weather wasn't all that good, it was great seeing the old sights again. And it was also great getting to a number of restaurants, including a couple I had never been to before.
Our first stop was for lunch at Eaton's Sugarhouse in South Royalton, VT, a place we are familiar with, and actually featured on the site this week (see our Eaton's Sugarhouse page for more). Lunch at Eaton's was excellent once again, and very filling, allowing us to have a fairly late dinner. Between lunch and dinner, we stopped for a drink at Mr. Pickwicks Pub at the Ye Olde England Inne on Route 108 in Stowe, where I had my first Switchback Ale (it was outstanding) and I also got to taste a decent honey beer from Long Trail called the Pollenator. We then headed up the road to The Shed, a restaurant and brewpub that has been one of my favorites over the years. They have something called a Shed burger, which is a burger cooked in beer and served on an English muffin, and it was as good as ever. I also had a "ski of beer," which is a sampling of six of their homebrews, and while a couple of them were quite good, none of them approached the level of the Switchback Ale I had tried before dinner.
The next morning, we had a continental breakfast in the elegant and classy dining room within the Trapp Family Lodge. Continental breakfasts can often be pretty boring, but not at this place, as the buffet table was loaded with fresh pastries such as croissants, muffins, Danish, and more. Oatmeal, fresh fruit, and cereal were also offered, as was some of the best coffee I have tried in a long time. The staff was friendly and professional, the seating comfortable, and the views out the windows occasionally outstanding when the clouds broke over the mountains. At $15 per person, the price was just a tad steep, but certainly worth it in my opinion. The Trapp Family Lodge is really one of the most interesting lodging options in New England, so whether you go to the Austrian Tea Room (across the street) or the main dining room as we did, or even the lounge where you can hear piano music, getting a taste of this wonderful spot high up in the hills above Stowe is something you won't soon forget.
The rest of the morning was spent hiking around Smuggler's Notch and driving around Jeffersonville, Cambridge, and Waterbury, finally stopping in Stowe for lunch at a surprisingly excellent pizza joint called Pie In the Sky. You wouldn't expect to find a place specializing in wood-fired thin-crust pizza in rural Vermont, but Pie In the Sky does indeed feature that. We opted for their lunch buffet, trying the plain, pepperoni, and white pizzas. The plain pizza was perhaps my favorite, with a terrific mix of zesty and slightly bitter cheeses. The pepperoni was almost equal to the plain, while the white pizza was almost too bitter, but pretty good overall. Pie In the Sky is family-friendly, and a great place to go if you're in a hurry, especially when they have the buffet going. This wasn't my first time here and it definitely won't be the last.
After lunch, we made another trip (actually it was across the street) to Mr. Pickwick's for more Switchback Ale as well as an excellent German wheat beer that they had on tap. It was raining, but the outdoor deck was covered, so we spent a nice chunk of the afternoon kicking back and watching the rain fall while smelling the wood-fired pizzas being cooked across the way. The afternoon turned into evening, and we eventually ended up at the Foxfire Inn just north of the village of Stowe for some Italian food. I have written about the Foxfire before (and have been there countless times), but it is again worth noting that this is perhaps the place to go if you want Italian food in the area, especially if you are looking for a quaint, charming environment. The signature bread sticks with garlic were as good as ever, as was the fresh Caesar salad and the rich and flavorful cream of broccoli soup. Entrees impressed as well, with the baked penne coming with a smooth layer of ricotta cheese and a hearty tomato sauce, while the chicken ripieno was loaded with delicious gorgonzola cheese, sweet figs, and savory pancetta, all in a moderately rich marsala wine sauce. We had just enough room for dessert, which was a good-sized mud pie with gooey hot fudge and a crumbly chocolate cookie crust.
After another continental breakfast at the Trapp Family Lodge, we hit the road, heading south along Route 100 through the charming towns of Waterbury, Waitsfield, and Warren, before stopping for lunch in Rochester. Our destination was the Rochester Cafe, a classic Vermont restaurant, country store, and soda fountain that was absolutely packed, even though it was a weekday. We waited awhile for a table, finally getting one under the "specials" board. One of the specials was a plate of potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce, which we ordered to start. They weren't quite Manhattan-style potato pancakes, but they were quite tasty. I also ordered a thick maple milkshake, which had the rich, sweet flavor of real maple and nearly filled me up before our entrees even came along. And the entrees were very impressive; the north country wrap had deliciously crunchy chicken mixed with tangy cheddar and jack cheese, fresh veggies, and tasty honey dijon dressing, while the mount cushman grill sandwich had healthy multi-grain bread with real turkey, crispy bacon, Vermont cheddar, veggies, and a delightful homemade pesto mayonnaise. The fries were also a hit, as they had a rough outer coating that gave them a good crunch. Unfortunately, we had no room for dessert.
The Rochester Cafe pretty much marked the end of our trip, and about 3 hours later we were back in the Boston area. There were many culinary highlights to the trip, with the pizza from Pie in the Sky actually sticking in my mind more than anything (except for perhaps the Switchback Ale). Another trip or two to Vermont will hopefully be in the works later this year, as well as a drive through the state on the way up to Canada, so there will be more reports coming up on this always-interesting New England state.
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