Posts Tagged ‘Vermont’

Carpenter & Main – Norwich, VT

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 by virginia


Josh and I recently spent our first weekend away from baby J, to attend a wedding in New Hampshire. While Josh has been away before for work, I’ve never spent a night apart from J and I was obviously a bit apprehensive about the situation. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to a responsibility-free weekend and spending some quality time with the hubby. We drove up on Friday and spent a few hours hiking Mount Cardigan in the afternoon, then got ready for what we hoped would be a nice, romantic dinner at Carpenter & Main in Norwich, Vermont.

The view from the top of Mount Cardigan

The view from the top of Mount Cardigan

Norwich is a picturesque, quaint-looking New England town. We didn’t have time to walk around but we drove past a lot of old colonial-style buildings along the way. The restaurant is located on Main St. and, as the name implies, the corner of Carpenter St. We had a reservation and were seated immediately, in a smaller room to the side of the entrance.

Our waitress seemed a little bit harried but stopped by our table to check in while we were looking over our menus, promising to return soon to take our drink order. Josh selected a bottle of Zinfandel that was wonderfully full-bodied and spicy once it opened up. We were served dinner rolls to start, which were warm, fluffy, and soft throughout.

Soft dinner roll

Soft dinner roll

The menu is divided up into three sections – morsels, small plates, and larger plates. We wanted to taste several items and so we decided to mix and match from the morsels and small plates to start, and then finish off with the larger entrees. We asked our waitress to bring the food out in whatever order she thought would be best.

The soup of the day and two morsels showed up first. Since the soup was chilled, it was set in between our plates while we tasted the morsels. I started with the braised short rib bruschetta. It was pulled short rib meat piled on three toasted rounds of bread and topped with horseradish gremolata. The short rib was a tad on the dry side but I really enjoyed the gremolata, which had a nice kick to it from the horseradish and really bumped up the flavor of the bruschetta – I just wished there was more of it.

Braised short rib bruschetta with horseradish gremolata

Braised short rib bruschetta with horseradish gremolata

Josh got the caramelized tofu triangles first, which were served with charred broccoli rabe. He was intrigued by this dish when he saw it on the menu but I was a little wary. Turns out that I was right, as the tofu was mushy and completely drowning in a soy marinade. It must have been sitting in the marinade for a while, as the inside of the tofu was completely brown and it was incredibly salty. It was a bit more balanced when eaten together with the broccoli rabe, but overall, we thought the dish tasted like bad Chinese takeout.

Caramelized tofu triangles with charred broccoli rabe

Caramelized tofu with charred broccoli rabe

In between bites of the morsels, Josh and I both tasted the soup, which was made from three melons – cantaloupe, honeydew, and banana melon. The puree was refreshing and sweet, though not overly so. I thought it was a nice mix of flavors, including a citrus note in the background, but Josh thought it was a bit boring. He was looking for some more acid and perhaps a savory component, like olive oil, to break up the sweetness of the melons.

Soup of the day - cold cantaloupe, honeydew, and banana melon soup

Soup of the day – chilled cantaloupe, honeydew, and banana melon soup

The next course was when the meal picked up a bit. I received the Moroccan lamb meatballs with spicy tomato glaze, which packed a punch of flavor. I was actually expecting something more Mediterranean, like kofte, but the spices actually skewed more Indian in flavor to me. The tomato sauce was creamy with lots of spices, reminiscent of tikka masala, and the lamb was coarsely ground and gamey, which I liked. The meatballs were definitely under-seasoned though, but it was an easy fix with the salt shaker on the table.

Moroccan lamb meatballs with spicy tomato glaze

Moroccan lamb meatballs with spicy tomato glaze

Josh got the vol-au-vent of escargots, which was snails piled in a puff pastry basket. The escargots were plump and tender, and the puff pastry was nicely browned and flaky. The garlic-herb cream sauce on the plate was fantastic. There were visible slices of garlic but it wasn’t overpowering. The garlic flavor was nicely balanced by the taste of fresh herbs, and the sauce was lighter than a traditional garlic butter. However, it also desperately needed more salt, but once I sprinkled some on, the dish really came together and popped.

Vol-au-vent of escargots with a garlic-herb cream

Vol-au-vent of escargots with a garlic-herb cream

For our entrees, we shared the crispy duck confit and trout ala meuniere from the larger plates section of the menu. The duck was a confit leg with tender meat and crispy skin. It was served with warm potato salad and mesclun greens. The meat was slightly under-seasoned, but when eaten with the whole grain mustard vinaigrette, the dish came together nicely. I enjoyed the lightness and brightness of the dish, and it was a good counterpoint to the heavier appetizers that we had been eating.

Crispy duck confit with warm potato salad and mesclun greens with whole grain mustard vinaigrette

Crispy duck confit with warm potato salad and mesclun greens with whole grain mustard vinaigrette

The trout dish was a huge portion of fish, definitely the biggest plate of food we had all night. The fish itself was nicely prepared – lightly dredged with a delicate crust. The sauce was classic – lemon, parsley, and brown butter – which paired nicely with the flaky fish. It was served with wild rice and the vegetable of the day, which happened to be green beans. It was a homey yet refined dish, but once again, I had to make liberal use of the salt shaker.

Trout ala meuniere with lemon parsley brown butter wild rice medley and green beans

Trout ala meuniere with lemon parsley brown butter, wild rice medley and green beans

Overall I really enjoyed our dinner at Carpenter & Main, although I think I liked the food better than Josh did. While the under-seasoning was a problem for both of us, it was easily rectified by adding some salt to finish off the dishes. I thought the flavors were good otherwise, although I would pass on some of the morsel plates next time, like the caramelized tofu (which was surprisingly too salty), and the short rib bruschetta, which was a bit boring compared to some of the either items we tasted. I absolutely loved the escargot vol-au-vent, which was a refreshing take on a classic dish, and both of our entrees, the duck and the trout, were superb as well. Prices are on par with the food, with morsels ranging from $4-$6, small plates from $8-$14, and larger plates from $12-$29. Service was warm and friendly, and the ambiance was casual but subtly polished. The best part though was that Josh and I were able to have a delightfully romantic meal, just the two of us, which is something that we’ve been missing.

Carpenter & Main
326 Main St.

Norwich, VT

Killington Day 2 – Santa Fe Steakhouse

Thursday, February 18th, 2010 by virginia

After a grueling second day of skiing (it was super icy and I was having boot issues), we were starving and looking forward to having a nice, relaxing meal. It was Valentine’s Day so the few restaurants we called in the area that take reservations were all booked up. There are many Killington restaurants though that don’t take reservations, but wait times were ranging from 1-2 hours. We decided to stay in for a while and watch some of the Olympics before heading out for a late dinner, hoping to miss the prime time rush. We ended up stopping at the closest restaurant to our condo, the Santa Fe Steakhouse, and were able to get a table right away.

Josh and I ate at the Santa Fe Steakhouse last year and found the food to be pretty good, which is why we recommended stopping there. The décor is a bit kitschy but the atmosphere is lively. There was live music playing from the lounge next door, which we could hear from our little alcove on the upper level. While we looked through the menu, our waitress came by to take our drink orders and informed us that they were out of several things, including the rack of lamb, which I had my eye on. I had eaten the lamb last year and it was nicely prepared and well seasoned, and after the bland food we had at Hemingway’s the previous night, I wanted something that packed a lot of flavor. I ended up choosing a steak from the specials menu, and after we placed our order we headed down to the salad bar that is included with all of the entrees.

The salad bar offerings

The menu calls it a Caesar salad bar, and while there is Caesar salad available, that’s not the only thing. There was also a big bowl of mixed greens, and an assortment of salad toppings such as tomatoes, onions, beets, beans, and cheese. It was actually a pretty good selection and makes for a great appetizer.

I ended up sticking with the Caesar salad, topped with a few grape tomatoes. The dressing was tangy and garlicky but there wasn’t enough of it. The salad was pre-mixed in a large bowl and I wish they had put some extra dressing on the side, as I really wanted more. Still, it was refreshing and all the vegetables were crisp and fresh tasting.

Caesar salad

While we munched on our salads, we also nibbled on the basket of rolls they brought. There were plain ciabatta rolls and some seeded rolls, all served hot right out of the oven. Though the interiors were a bit dense, they had nice crispy crusts and good flavor. We ended up polishing off several baskets.

Hot and crusty rolls

For my entrée, I went with the Mardi Gras ribeye, which was one of the specials of the day. It was a huge piece of meat and cooked medium rare as requested. The steak was coated in a lot of different seasonings, which gave it a nice charred crust on the outside. I think cumin was the predominant flavor and imparted a pleasant smokiness. Ribeye is a fatty cut but the meat surrounding the fat was tender and juicy. The steak was topped with a creole crab mustard sauce that was thick and rich, with little bits of crab mixed in. It was a delicious steak, and I’m happy that I ended up ordering it. The mashed potatoes and vegetables that came on the side were a pass though. The potatoes were over seasoned with a weird combination of spices, and the vegetables were limp, tasting mostly of chewy, tinny corn.

Mardi Gras ribeye

Josh ordered the pork loin, which our waitress said was one of the more popular dishes at the restaurant. The loin came thinly sliced and topped with a brown sauce, but the pork was completely overcooked. It had an unappealing gray color to it, and when I took a bite it was like chewing on sawdust. The chipotle demi glace sauce did nothing to help, and it was a disappointing dish overall. Josh ended up eating only one slice of the loin out of four, and I gave him half my steak (it really was huge) so that he could fill up.

Super dry pork loin El Paso

The other entrees ordered at the table were not quite as bad, but they were also just only passable. Jess had a tuna steak that was perfectly cooked rare, but it had a crust of blackened seasoning that was super spicy and totally overwhelmed the fish. Alice had shrimp scampi that was extra garlicky as requested, but nothing special otherwise. Lloyd’s duck with a Jack Daniels maple sauce was better than the duck we had at Hemingway’s, but nothing to write home about.

Fortunately service was great, as our waitress was very attentive, filling up our water glasses continuously and bringing us extra bread when requested. She noticed that Josh barely touched his meal and apologized, even though it wasn’t her fault. She ended up not charging us for the pork, and instead just charged him for a salad bar entrée, which was much cheaper.

Although we did enjoy the salad bar and the bread, aside from my ribeye, none of the other entrees were ones that I would order again. The food wasn’t terrible, but it just wasn’t great. Although entrees are a tad expensive, they do come with the aforementioned salad bar, so that helps to make the price seem a bit more reasonable. The annoying part about coming here, however, is that no one was answering the phone so we didn’t know what the wait would be. They had an answering machine message pick up that only gave the hours of operation, and then hung up. It was kind of frustrating, and not a good way to attract customers who don’t want to take the chance that there may be a huge line. I guess my advice would be that if you do come here, stick with the steak. It is a steakhouse after all, and they do cook a pretty good piece of meat.

Santa Fe Steakhouse
3501 Killington Rd
Killington, VT

Killington Day 1 – Hemingway’s Restaurant

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 by virginia

When I was thinking about the good food that we would have up in Vermont, Hemingway’s was the restaurant that I had in mind. Josh used to talk about this restaurant reverently when we were dating in high school and through college, though it was years before I finally got the chance to go. My first time was in 2005, to celebrate Josh’s successful defense of his Masters thesis. It was MLK weekend and we headed up to Killington immediately after his defense to have dinner and get in some skiing. I don’t remember exactly what I ate but I remember being blown away by the food, the presentation, the atmosphere, and the service. Granted, at that time I wasn’t as into food as I am now, but we had eaten out enough to know what separated good restaurants from spectacular restaurants.

When I started joining in on the February family ski trip a year later, Hemingway’s became an annual destination. Although we had never had a bad meal there, over the years we started to notice that the menu had gotten a bit more limited, the choices starting to repeat themselves year after year, and the food was slipping slightly. Still, it remained the best restaurant in the area, receiving accolades such as four diamonds from AAA. We had a pretty good meal there last year, and I was really looking forward to our meal this year. Josh’s parents tried to get a reservation for Valentine’s Day but we had to settle for Saturday night instead. No biggie, as I was excited to start our trip off with a bang.

The restaurant is located inside a large country house, and has the coziness of dining in someone’s home. You hang up your own coat in sort of a mudroom in the front, and when you walk through the door the restaurant is warm and cluttered with knickknacks. There are several different dining rooms, though we always end up in the same one, with tall ceilings and funky art hanging on the wall at unusual angles. The lighting is dim, giving off a romantic atmosphere, and it’s easy to see why the restaurant was booked up for Valentine’s Day.

Our meal started off with two different kinds of bread, a french roll and a slice of raisin almond molasses bread. The french roll didn’t have a super crispy crust but it was light and chewy in the middle. The raisin almond molasses bread had an interesting flavor to it, was slightly sweet, and had a nice texture.

French roll and raisin almond molasses bread with creamy butter

We also had sort of an amuse bouche, which was a plate of profiteroles filled with Vermont cheddar cheese. While it was tasty (mostly due to the cheese), it was kind of a departure from other amuse bouches that we’ve had here, which were usually more refined and a bit more exciting.

Cheddar filled profiteroles

Looking over the menu, it seemed like it was the same exact one from last year, with repeats from the year before that as well. While I understand that restaurants have their “classic” dishes that patrons will complain about if they don’t see it on the menu, I think having some variety from year to year is important as well. With only five options from each category, there really isn’t much to choose from. You tend to eat the same things over and over, and it just gets boring after a while.

Per usual, Josh and I picked out the dishes we wanted to eat and then swapped plates halfway through. I started out with the risotto with exotic mushrooms and truffle essence. This was a dish that I remember Josh’s sister having two years ago. I had tasted her dish and loved how creamy and comforting it was. This time, however, the risotto was a complete disaster. It wasn’t cooked long enough so that it was unpleasantly crunchy, and the starch hadn’t released to make the dish creamy. The mushrooms were unseasoned, and there was hardly any trace of truffle essence. What a huge disappointment.

Undercooked risotto with exotic mushrooms and truffle essence

Josh’s butternut squash soup with a scallop and crab cake was better, though it was also something that we’ve had before. I like that the soup isn’t too heavy or rich, focusing instead on the flavor of the butternut squash. The scallop and crab cake was a bit small but fortunately didn’t have too much filler in it. It wasn’t spectacular, but this was my favorite dish of the evening.

Butternut squash soup with scallop and crab cake

For our main courses, Josh started with the duck breast with a confit of duck strudel. I had ordered this dish last year and remembered that it was pretty good, with the duck being well prepared. Josh wanted to make sure that the skin of the duck would be crispy, as he hates fatty duck skin, and our waiter said that “it could be.” Sadly, the duck arrived sans crispy skin. Instead, it had a weird, congealed quality about it, and was definitely still quite fatty. The duck was overcooked in my opinion, rendering it dry and tasteless. To add insult to injury, it was also cold. The only thing I liked on the plate was the strudel, which was kind of like a duck spring roll with a flaky crust. At least that was hot and crispy and had some bit of flavor to it.

Breast of duck with confit of duck strudel

The veal tenderloin we ordered fared slightly better, but not much. At least it wasn’t overcooked, and it came crusted with fennel that provided some flavor. It was accompanied by a corn cake, which was like seared polenta and had a nice creaminess to it. I was excited to have the Brussels sprouts and bacon that came on the side, but the Brussels sprouts ended up being really mushy, and the whole dish just lacked basic seasoning.

Fennel crusted veal with corn cake, brussels sprouts, and bacon

Because the menu seemed so limited, the risotto and the soup were the only appetizers we had on the table, and everyone encountered the same issues that Josh and I had with each of those dishes. For the entrees, both Jess and Lloyd had the beef filet, which was cooked well but also lacked seasoning. Alice was not too pleased with her sea bass, lobster, and couscous dish, as the fish was coated in cornmeal and had an unpleasantly gritty texture. The couscous turned out to be Israeli couscous, and there were only about three pearls altogether. Seriously. She ended up barely touching her dish.

Needless to say, none of us were impressed with our food and we even passed on dessert because we couldn’t wait to get out of the restaurant. They did bring us a little plate of sweets that had a tiny chocolate macaron and a maple pecan truffle for each person. A nice finish, but a little too late.

Tiny macarons and truffles

Even service was subpar, as our waiter seemed indifferent and inattentive. The only time he appeared was to refill our glasses of sparkling water, and we ended up going through more bottles than we would have liked. But even as he was pouring the water, he did it quite sloppily, spilling his way from one glass to the next. When it came to our wine, however, he disappeared with our bottle of pinot noir after the initial pour and didn’t resurface with the wine until after we were already finished with our entrees. He also didn’t bother to take the time to explain our dishes to us, and he didn’t come by to check on us and ask us how things were.

We were all really disappointed by the overall experience we had at Hemingway’s this year, although it did feel like this was bound to happen eventually. Over time, the menu has gotten very boring and limited, and I kind of feel like they’re just resting on their laurels at this point. We saw that the restaurant earned another four diamond rating from AAA in 2010, and that just makes me question the authenticity of a four diamond rating. We were so disheartened by the lackluster meal that I don’t think we’ll be coming back here anymore. The restaurant is very pricey, even by NYC standards, and the mediocre food really just didn’t justify the cost. It’s sad when a restaurant you love falls apart, and I kind of feel like it’s the end of an era for us at Killington.

Hemingway’s Restaurant
4988 US Route 4
Killington, VT

The View from the Top

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 by virginia

Ok so when I said that we would be doing lots of good eating up in Vermont, I lied. Unintentionally, of course. The food was quite a disappointment, but at least the skiing was decent. I was surprised by just how un-crowded Killington was, especially since it was President’s Weekend. I guess the recession has taken a toll, as lodging prices were still unreasonably high for this long weekend, as compared with other weekends.

The snow (or lack thereof) might have also kept people away, as there just really wasn’t very much of it. There was more snow on the ground in NYC/NJ than there was our whole way up into Vermont. Although they were blowing snow on some of the trails, conditions were pretty icy, especially in the afternoon. That, coupled with my nagging boot issues, made it a bit tougher to ski but I conquered my first black trail at Killington (though also unintentionally).

The scenery wasn’t as breathtaking as Heavenly but I managed to take a few shots from some nice vantage points. You can see from the trees and the mountains in the distance just how little snow there was overall. We ended up cutting our trip a day short due to an incoming storm, and simply because we couldn’t face one more bad dinner. Still, the condo we rented in Fall Line was nice and cozy, and it was good to spend some quality time with Josh’s family.

The view from the window in our condo

The view from the top of the Superstar lift

The view from the top of Snowshed, my favorite slope (it's the bunny slope)