Hen of the Wood
55 Cherry St
(802) 545 0534
Chef Hats: 4
Cost $ 123 USD (excluding tip)
When the Montreal Foo-Foodie travels outside of Montreal she takes the opportunity to try one or two of the local restaurants that have also been creating a buzz far from home. On this particular weekend we were invited to my nephew Joe Di Maggio Jr. Birthday party in Burlington, Vermont. So it is only fitting and normal that being the ultimate foodie I had to squeeze in a long-awaited dinner at Hen of the Wood, located in the Hotel Vermont in downtown Burlington just a few hops and skips away from Church Street. This restaurant owned by Chef Eric Warnstedt and his partner wine specialist William McNeil; it has been getting rave reviews since it opening in October 2013. The original and first Hen of the Wood is located in Waterbury Vermont (in Stowe) and has won awards as early as 2008.
What I really like about the restaurants in Vermont is their loyalty to using only local farm to table produce and lots of organic food. Here you are guaranteed to get the best and the freshest of local ingredients at some of the top restaurants.
On this particular evening we decided to have a late night dinner when we visited Hen of the Wood. Not being too hungry from all the birthday food and beer, we decided we were going to eat light. We got to the restaurant to find it still very busy at 9:30 p.m; we took a seat next to the bar but not for long as we were ushered to our seats in 5 minutes later.
The decor here is very country rustic chic with wood beam ceilings, wooden tables and chairs and a few banquettes against the wall. At the front you will find a bar filled where patrons can grab a drinking while waiting for their tables or just lounging around. At the back of the restaurants is a large open kitchen surrounded with a long counter and tall wooden chairs. If you are lucky enough to get front row seating at the kitchen counter you can watch firsthand the chefs cooking up a storm and you get the privilege to hob knob with them. Completely at the rear of the restaurant on the way to the bathrooms you can also spot a glass meat locker filled with aged meat. Pretty cool!
Our meal began with a half carafe of Hen of the Wood –so appropriately named after the restaurant , a Pinot Noir from California for $26.00 and a glass of Cider called Citizen by Unified press which came highly recommended. Brains not being much of a drinker really liked the cider.
I started with an order of fire oven bread with parsley radish butter and a hint of garlic. It came hot and moist and cut in quarters. We shared an order of Tonno di Maiale; pork braised in wine and drizzled with olive oil and pieces of black olives, accompanied with toasted bread and grain mustard. The Tonno di Maiale was thin tender pieces of shredded pork meat. It was good on its own, but when accompanied with the grain mustard, the acidity of the mustard changed the complexity of the dish and it exploded into different flavors bringing out the sweetness of the pork. I was amazed at the difference the mustard made and explained this to our waitress who agreed.
For my main meal I ordered the grilled octopus, served with homemade chips, sun chokes (radishes), ginger and scallions and few pieces of nettle. It was perfectly grilled, very tender and not chewy at all. The portions were not big but very satisfying and I was completely full.
Brains had Maine Lobster with parsnip purée, pickled apple and crispy ham served in a mini one portion Daub Crockpot, just
Frenchie had ham wrapped Roasted rabbit loin with apples, kohlrabi and crème fraiche…divine.
For dessert, brains had a deconstructed dessert of 5 items, a financiers, a maple walnut fudge square , salted caramel candy and a fruit jelly and espresso coffee to complete the meal. Frenchie an Opera cake with Sour cream Ice cream .Cost of meal was $ 123, 00 for three people excluding tip.
Service was extremely friendly and professional. Clientele was not overly pretentious; feeling of the place was very relaxed and very laissez faire, typical of a small town atmosphere. One can say that maybe the portions are too small but executed like any big city restaurant. Hen of the Wood can be classified as Modern American cuisine. You can tell it is cooked with love and passion and it’s simply plainly delicious and extremely fresh.
One thing we didn’t try this evening is their vast selection of Vermont cheeses. Not to be missed, as although we were not in the mood this evening, I have had the chance on many occasion to try the local cheeses and they are to die for.
Is it worth to travel 2 and a half hour to try this place? Definitely! But stay for the weekend and enjoy the Farmers Market and many more good restaurants Vermont has to offer. Guaranteed you won’t be disappointed.
The Essex –Culinary Resort and Spa
70 Essex Way
Brunch for Three people: $ 52.00 USD before tip
Chef Hats: Three
The Tavern-Brunch- Mother’s Day
The next day was totally impromptu when my sister Chipmunk invited us to Mothers Day brunch at The Tavern in The Essex Inn. My sister being a foodie herself, even though she does not admit it, always finds these great places for me to try when I am visiting. This morning she thought I would really get a rise out of this place. The Inn is not really an inn as per Montreal standards it’s an Inn by big American standards because its location is set in the country. Labeled a Culinary Resort & Spa it sits on 18 acres between the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain in Essex Junction. The American Automobile Association awarded four diamonds to the Essex Inn and it is easy to see why.
It guarantees to offer something of interest to everyone in the family. In summer, kids and adults alike can keep busy day and night with fun indoor or outdoor activities no matter what the season. The Inn strong point and focus is their cooking classes at the Cooking academy. But you can also keep busy swimming, biking, horseback riding, playing tennis and boating and not to forget the rock climbing and obstacle course at the Northern Lights Rock and Ice Adventure Center attached to the Inn.
For those culinary adventurers, the Inn has two award-wining restaurants: Amuse and Tavern, offering seasonal menus using fresh and local ingredients. We were told by our hostess that Amuse was closed for renovations and to set to re-open soon with a new theme that would bring it patrons closer to a cooking/ dining adventure by offering a chef to table experience. All this to say the Chef would be cooking in front of you. Dining at the resort is always an event, with two restaurants staffed by the 188 chefs and students of the New England Culinary Institute. You can see the long list and pictures of the chef past and present posted on the wall in hallways leading to the two restaurants. The credentials Impressive!
Amuse, the resort signature restaurant is also renowned for its gourmet fine dining on New American Cuisine, while the Tavern’s a casual yet traditional American pub fare is a perennial favorite and serves exceptional breakfast and brunch. A total playground for us foodies in every sense of the word as you can even wander their chef’s garden (complete with herbs and chickens).The Essex Bakery & Cafe serves light breakfast, hot and cold lunch fare, and house-made sweet treats. The on-site cooking class program, Cook Academy, gives guests a chance to work with their renowned chefs in an intimate classroom kitchen. Super Cool!
Here I ate a different version of Eggs Benedict at $15.00, Southern style, my favorite. Instead of poached as usual they were coated in thick layer of cornmeal and deep-fried and served atop Vermont maple smoked country ham and a side order of homemade potatoes. The savory center still moist was filled with smooth creamy egg yolk and the crispy crunchy cornmeal on the outside gave it a different texture which balanced well against the palate. Absolutely ingenious and different.
Brains had Lox and Greens, at $11, her usual favorite. With generous amounts of smoked salmon on a Bagel with cream cheese and radicchio lettuce, served with a bowl of fruit.
Frenchie had plain waffles with Vermont maple syrup. Coffee and freshly squeezed Orange juice all around.
My sister chipmunk had Corned beef hash and potatoes topped with two eggs and side order of fresh country bread. The Boys Joe Di Maggio Jr and Smiles had blueberry pancakes from the children menu.
Service was kind of slow considering the place was empty, the manger did come see us to ask if all was okay and we had a great conversation about Montreal restaurants after my sister revealed I was the Montreal Foo-Foodie. His interest was piqued and he wanted to know about Montreal restaurant openings and closings and discuss some of the best restaurants he had been to in Montreal.
A genuine conversation that lasted for a while and you can see the transference of knowledge here between the two towns on what the other is doing in term of the food scene. Montreal and Vermont because of their close proximity copy or more play off each other for ideas. Many of our chefs go often to visit the Farmers market and local farms in search of new products and to see what is on the farmer’s organic food scene. The Vermont chefs and locals love coming to Montreal for our plethora of different restaurants and to get new fresh ideas from the big city folks. A match made in heaven for foodies, because you can have the best of both worlds.
I love The Vermont food scene just because of the freshness of their produce, this for me epitomizes what food is all about, healthy good eating. Meals cooked with the freshest ingredients turn out exceptional and are guaranteed to awe the most difficult of plates.
I still have many more places to try in Vermont and will be creating a wish list to ensure I get to try all of them and bring them to you.
After our brunch on this beautiful Vermont sunny day, we walked the grounds to explore this immense hotel. That is when I saw the chef with his wicker basket run across the grounds to the hen pen to pick up some fresh eggs. ‘Ahhh’ I said, only in Vermont do we get to we see this…. no wonder the eggs were super fresh the chicken just hatched them. Eat That!
Northern Lights Rock and Ice Adventure Center
A complete confidence building obstacle course and climbing circuit. Taste of Northern Lights Package costs $85, which includes all their challenges .Duration 2-3 hours.