Vergennes Laundry by CK
247 Main Street
Tel: (802) 870-7157
Cost: $ 150.00 (USD approx. excluding tax and tip)
Chef Hats: 4
Like many foodies, this foodie likes to venture occasionally out-of-town for some destination dining either to sample some Farm to Table restaurants or Country tables. The idea is gaining mainstream popularity not only among foodies but also the general public who looking for healthier choices. Due to my Italian heritage, farm to table and healthy eating is a way of life that has been imbedded in my mind since childhood. We grew up believing that what comes from your garden is the healthiest and best choice.
These days I somehow have to agree strongly in this adage but don’t always necessarily follow it. As a young adult, my busy life and work constraints made supermarket shopping top of my list, McDonald’s a quick pit stop on nights I did not feel like cooking. These days with all the e-coli and salmonella outbreaks, I am left wondering if we can really trust the big-time producers and our city grocers. I won’t even jump on the Monsanto band wagon. Organic, local and freshest does make a world of difference, wither you want to believe it or not. Quebec has many good Country tables, yet nothing screams louder than Vermont when it comes to this type of destination dining. They have a whole lot more choices when it comes to organic, gluten-free and homegrown per capita.
Before the real cold weather and snow settled in, I visited Vermont in Fall to get my annual fix. I left the choices to my sister who has lived in Vermont for ten years now and is the bible of culinary dining in Vermont. Some apples do fall from the same tree, as we share the same passions about food. So, when she suggested Vergennes Laundry in historic downtown Vergennes, Vermont for my birthday dinner; I knew it was special. The small town of Vergennes (population 2588) is about 23 miles from the town of Burlington in Addison County. The town covers an area of 2.5 miles square miles, it is small but quaint and has lots to offer with its small boutiques, a handful of restos and its local amenities. It even has an Opera House and a lively local culture.
Laundry as it is called by the locals, is comparable to many big city restaurants and deserves the “world class” classification as their website mentions. I am always comparing restaurants and found that Laundry reminded me very much of a little wine bar in Montreal’s Griffintown called Foxy. Both basically cook most of their seasonal dishes in a wood fired or charcoal oven.
The difference with the two is where Foxy is dark and intimate, Laundry is intimate, bright and peacefully quiet with no pretensions. I found the hospitality and service comparable but couldn’t help but feel it was more personal and genuine. All of Laundry’s dishes are made with seasonal fresh local ingredients, each plate beautifully executed in current modern presentations. The menu at Laundry’ s uses common American produce like grits, seasonal squash and tomatoes as a base instead of the usual mashed potatoes, puree root vegetables or heavy sauces. They create simple themes all the while incorporating it with international cuisine. Laundry, also doubles as a bakery, making and serving its own hearty bread and fine breakfast pastries and desserts. It is open for brunch and dinner five days a week, except for Monday and Tuesdays.
The story of Vergennes Laundry is an interesting one. The name is quite odd and comes about from the previous owners who purchased the local laundromat in 2010 to start a bakery and café. Christened Vergennes Laundry, it had a seven-year run until Oct 2017, when award-winning and humble Chef Christian Kruse took over the kitchen. Kruse who comes to Vergennes after a decade as Executive Chef at the Basin Harbor Club, has many years of experience and moved up quickly in rank, he was named chef of the year in Vermont while at the Harbor Basin and has many more accolades on his résumé. At Laundry he brings to the table his original concepts and take on preparation of different foods in a way that exudes not only his culinary journey but our own rustic roots. His strong ethnic backgrounds are seen and felt throughout his cuisine. Laundry is definitely a foodie destination.
From the moment we walked into Laundry, we felt at home. It was quite late in the evening, but the place was still bustling with late night dinners. We got a window table for four facing the picturesque street. We were brought our menus and wine list immediately. After perusing the menu, we decided to go with a bottle of 2015 North Hill Oregon Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, it had subtle flavors that went well with our choices of dishes. A light red wine perfumed with hints of berries.
The menu is split in three sections or courses each containing about 5 selections each except for dessert. The first course consisted of six dishes each being $10.00 each. The second course meals were $ 24.00 each and the desert course was $ 9.00 each. We decided to go with a different entrée and main meals and shared everything.
For our first course, we chose the Endive Salad with blue cheese, pears, walnuts and honey drizzle. A simple and classic popular dish, the cheese was unctuous, mild and deliciously creamy. The dish had the right balance of sweetness between the pear and honey drizzle and crunch from the walnuts.
We had the Pumpkin Arancini made with butternut squash purée, with a coulis of squash and braised raisins and topped with micro greens. An innovative way to make arancini without the heaviness of the rice. Four beautifully plated arancini that were tender with the right amount of sweetness and combination of flavors.
The third item on menu ordered was the Roasted Squash Panzanella Salad. Different and an eye opener and different take on Panzanella salad, it was absolutely delicious. Perfectly roasted squash solid pieces of cubed morsels topped with plenty of micro greens and scatters of cubeb of sweet ginger bread complimented with in a light vinaigrette.
Last but not least was the Cassoulet made with Pork and Beans. A French Basque comfort dish, made Vermont Style with generous cubed portions of pork, squash, white cannellini beans, root vegetables tomatoes, and mild hints of rosemary. Perfect on the start for a cold fall evening. Along with this we were served a good portion of country bread with butter that helped sop up all the last remaining bites of our cassoulet.
For the second course at $24.00 each, we ordered, the Sancerre Poached Scallops on a bed of grits, with hints of pear and Chervil. A favorite all year round and an ingenious way to use a classic American staple as a base. Grits is not something we see often on Montreal menus. The scallops were perfectly cooked and each morsel was tender and perfectly cooked.
Next, we ordered last but not least, the Vermont Chicken and Tomato Tagine. The dish did not arrive served in a typical Moroccan tagine as expected. Instead, it was served in a soup plate and had the consistency of a hearty stew, made with a mix of cubed chicken, plump solid fresh tomatoes and tons of chickpeas in a tomato coulis. It had all the flavors of an exotic dish, laced with cumin and cinnamon. Hearty, flavorful and delicious.
For the birthday girl a dessert of chocolate Tiramisu cream cake, with caramel drizzle and rum infused crumble. It was lightweight, creamy and moist. An ingenious twist on a version of a classic Italian dessert.
As we lingered, we knew it was time to leave when we noticed we were the only patrons remaining. Our hospitable waitress brought us the tab and after paying, gave us a tour of the ovens at the back of the dining room. After we told her we were from Montreal she brought out the chef. Not knowing he was part French Canadian, he must have gotten a rise out of my blabbering about Montreal and how I found his concept similar to a wine bar named Foxy in Montreal’s Griffintown. He very patiently listened and smiled.
I loved Vergennes Laundry, it is the type of place I would go back to over and over again. As we stood talking in front of the warm ovens, I glanced around at the chef’s table and was already plotting my comeback. The perfect end to a more than perfect evening.