Waterbury, Vermont. Home to Ben and Jerry's and the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. These sights and the fall foliage beckoned us to the area over the Columbus Day holiday where we enjoyed a fabulous foodie fall weekend. And the foliage wasn't half bad either! Here is our "best of" version.
Best BBQ: We love BBQ, and that's been made clear a number of times on this blog. But BBQ in Vermont? How could way-up-North-erners know how to make good ol' Southern food? We don't care how, but they do! The Cider House BBQ and Pub is a fantastic BBQ joint in Waterbury, VT that does BBQ right. We were heartily welcomed by a friendly server (whom we happened to run into later on that weekend). After bringing us mini-loaves of tasty cornbread, he suggested a pint of local hard cider and named some of his favorite dishes. We could barely finish everything we ordered (which was quite a bit). We started with BBQ shrimp done in the New Orleans style, and mopped up the buttery sauce with grilled bread. Chris had St. Louis ribs dripping with mildly spicy bourbon sauce that he paired in a combination plate with tender pulled pork in tangy Carolina mustard sauce. To accompany his meat feast, he chose fried okra (where did they find okra up here?!?!), and horseradish mashed spuds. Amy was enticed by the amazingly crispy buttermilk fried chicken that was served up with smooth, creamy grits and mac-n-cheese made with local VT cheddar. Oh. So. Yummy. Every bite.
Best Breakfast: Perhaps we were still on a Southern kick, but we had to go to Penny Cluse Cafe, up the road a bit in Burlington, to try their "Sleepy Nate's Biscuits 'n Gravy." We read about this dish in Food Network Magazine a few months ago. All we can say it, it was well worth the wait (and apparently, there's always a wait at this corner spot). Flaky biscuits swam in a creamy gravy that was so full of herbs it was practically green and had the freshest herby-est flavor. The Smoked Salmon Plate was huge and a nice change of pace, as it was served with grilled baguette and chevre rather than the usual bagel and cream cheese. The Zydeco breakfast (not pictured) - eggs served with super-spicy andouille sausage and black bean - rocked our souls.
Best Romantic Dinner: On a weekend such as this, we had to have one special occasion, not-so-casual, romantic, fancy meal. Everything we researched seemed to point us in the direction of a place called Hen of the Wood. That's all fine and good unless you call too late and can't get a reservation since everyone knows about it and it's one of the heaviest tourist weekends of the year in VT (oops). In the end, it was a blessing, because we completely fell in love with our "second choice," The Kitchen Table Bistro, where we had an exquisite dining experience. The Kitchen Table is all about preparing and serving local, sustainable, seasonal foods; in fact, their list of local suppliers is very impressive. Also notable is their willingness to serve half-portions so there is less waste. We really enjoyed the appetizer special of steak tartare served on crispy potato chips with pickled vegetables. Chris loved his quail dish - a lovely little roasted bird served over risotto with root vegetables. Amy's grilled VT pork was perfectly cooked and fork-tender; it was served with crispy herb spaetzle, braised chard and roasted apples - a wonderful fall meal. For dessert, an "open-faced chocolate-coffee sundae" made with homemade ice cream and topped with plenty of crunchy candied almonds. Having this artfully prepared local food in a 1795 brick homestead house only added to the comforting ambiance.
Best Dessert: The best dessert we had was the one-scoop sample of Ben and Jerry's "Cho-COW-late Chip" we received at the end of our tour of the Waterbury plant. Great fun, indeed! However, the crisp-on-the-outside, warm, fresh cider donuts from the Cold Hollow Cider Mill came in a very close second.
Best Snack with a View: After a brisk round-trip ferry ride from Burlington, VT to Kent, NY, we stopped at the Ice House, where we enjoyed a light snack and warmed up with a cup of spiked hot tea. Amy's French onion soup was your typical crock, but Chris's roasted beet salad with goat cheese was a gorgeous and delicious plate. What stole the show, however, was the fabulous view of Lake Champlain at sunset.
I used to live in Burlington...this makes me so nostalgic. Love Penny Cluse. Next time you're up there, try Mirabelle's...a great breakfast/lunch spot.
Love reading about your epicurean escapades...
My wife and I have been to B&J, Cold Hollow and the Cabot facility up that way and they all make for a fun outing. Vermont has so much to offer it just takes a bit to travel to all of it!
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