After a day of skiing at Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont, we began to research where we should have dinner knowing that the majority of eateries near a ski resort tend to be burger joints and pubs with a whole lotta beer on tap.
We were staying at the Windham Hill Inn, which houses one of the best restaurants in the area and had already been spoiled by a tasting menu the night before (see the write-up on our experience), so we figured that we’d be hard pressed to find a comparable establishment in the area. Soon, someone mentioned Verde Restaurant in the Stratton Mountain Village, then later, it came up again and even our pals at Windham Hill blessed it.
We care about sustainable practices and organic fresh food, and love to see chefs use food made from local farmers whenever possible and Verde is on board. I had the opportunity to chat with Scott Halnon, the chief guru behind Verde, who encouraged us to come in hungry. We sat at the bar since it was a busy weekend night and were immediately greeted by the ever so gregarious Jeremy behind the bar, who seemed to know as much about hard spirits and martial arts as he did wine pairing and food.
MAN, do they have the food nailed; it was no surprise when locals smiled at us we told them we discovered the place ‘kinda’ by accident. They clearly knew we were in for a treat but little did we know we were about to be hit with 6 or 7 “treats.” Jeremy and the chef seemed to think we should try a little of this and a little of that, although as far as we could tell, we weren’t working off an official tasting menu.
While a Vermont mountain, especially in the middle of winter, is nowhere near the sea, Verde does serve a mean Ahi Tuna Sashimi, which is served with cured cucumbers, pickled celery and shishito peppers over a yuzu honey vinaigrette.
While we were tasting and eyeing our neighbor’s dishes, out came the Grilled White Pizza, which they prepare with garden herbs, mozzarella, house ricotta, arugula and fresh lemon, and the homemade House Rigatoni, which is tossed with sirloin, house veal sausage, mixed mushrooms, heirloom tomato sauce, basil, fennel pollen and parmesan. Yum!!
Shortly thereafter, a 2007 Prieure d’Arche Sauternes from France came out. Known as a sweet wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux, I wondered whether foie gras would shortly follow, even though the odds were low given that I just tasted the best I’ve had in years the previous night and we were in rural Vermont. Surprised to find the dish on two consecutive menus when you can’t find it at all in California anymore, out came a seared Hudson Valley foie gras paired with Sauternes. Slightly richer and sweeter than the preparation at Windham Hill Inn but still ever so delicious, the fois gras was accompanied with cranberry fritters, macadamia nuts, maple espresso caramel and pickled cranberries.
“Heaven….I’m in heaven and the……”
You get the idea. It was hard to stay focused on anything Jeremy was saying after indulging in a sauce which combined cranberries, caramel and macadamia nuts.
Before having our light salad intermission, we devoured the Berkshire Pork Belly, which was served with chickpea puree, tomato jam and mosto. Rich but exquisite and I couldn’t get enough of it. The Berkshire Pork Belly was by far my favorite dish from the night.
To slow things down a bit, we went with the Kale salad next, to alleviate my guilt more than anything else and besides, who doesn’t love a raw organic kale salad, especially after an ever so rich foie gras?
It was so incredibly fresh, I smiled thinking how lucky we were to get two for two in a small rural region of Vermont. It came with a sweet potato, marcona almond, Vermont chevre and a sun dried cranberry vinaigrette.
Frankly, if you don’t want to play full out like we did on that one delicious evening and just want to sit at the bar for a few appetizers, I’d suggest trying both their salads together with the charcuterie plate, which comes with oxtail marmalade, warm pork terrine en croute, duck sausage, pickled hen egg and a Grafton 5 year cheddar.
Before we moved deep into red meats, we went for Rainbow Trout on the main entree menu, which comes with a potato puree, broccoli, leeks, capers, toasted pine nuts and local apple agrodolce with brown butter. It was paired with Bodegas Ontanon, a 2010 Blanco Rioja from Spain. Most of the dishes have a New England flare to it, with autumn-like flavors, which is perfect on a cold winter day, particularly after you’ve been pounding the slopes for several hours.
The grass fed rack of lamb was incredibly juicy and tender and despite the dish already having me at “hello,” I was nearly on my knees by the time I realized the lamb sat on top of an exquisite truffle gnocchi, not to mention the accompanied lamb sausage, watercress, grilled fennel and cured cherry tomatoes. Whoahh Nellie!!
We ended with the Venison Scallopini, which was served over a bed of wild rice, parsnip puree, demi glace and cabernet braised pears. I loved this dish, and it ranked second choice after the insanely tender pork belly from the start of our evening…We ate both the lamb and the venison with a 2005 Chateau le Caillou, Pomerol, Bordeaux from France. The pairing was perfect!!
Rather than go with a heavy dessert at the end of our splurge, we had a flight of housemade ice cream and sorbets, which included a maldon salted caramel.
If you want to know what they’re capable of on the chocolate front however, go on, be tempted…
And then, somehow, somewhere along the way, before the coffee dared to arrive, an espresso martini showed its sweet and devilish face. Think vanilla vodka, dark creme de cocoa, a coffee liqueur and fresh brewed espresso all in one glass. Want to stay wired for the rest of the night? Then, this drink is for you. Jeremy never seemed to wane, stop telling jokes or cease from giving us impeccable service all night long.
As the restaurant slowed down, so did we. Ahhh, what a night. Did I mention that I rolled out of there as we made our way to a snow covered car for the drive back to our Inn? Two for two in southern Vermont is right!
Thaddeus Buck and his team nailed it! Kudos and thanks again Jeremy, Thaddeus and Scott for your gracious hospitality, top notch service and outstanding food that our palettes are still begging for more of weeks later. Go Verde and Stratton!
Landmark Stratton Mountain (Village)
Note: also be sure to see our write up on Stratton Mountain, Windham Hill Inn, Windham Hill Inn’s Restaurant and Things To Do & See in Southern Vermont.