We left Montreal early on Friday morning and drove straight down to Winooski, Vermont, to have lunch at Misery Loves Company, a lovely spot that came highly recommended by several of my food loving friends. My vegetable tartine featured some great seasonal products on a lovely bread made by the restaurant’s bakeshop, which is where we headed next for coffee and dessert. Take a short walk around Winooski’s Rotary Park to the recently opened MLC Bakeshop and enjoy a great espresso featuring Stumptown Coffee, one of my faves. I also had a delicious apple pie, which I highly recommend. The shelves were a tad bare at that time of day but I was assured that the rest of their desserts as well as their breads are well worth the stop.We then headed to the Starlight Inn, an adorable vintage motel with 11 movie star themed rooms. I really didn’t know what to expect but this motel was such a pleasant surprise! And so close to Burlington (about a 10 minute drive) that we went back after checking in for an afternoon snack of fries at Al’s French Frys, a historic diner that’s been operating since the late 1940s followed by an excellent pour over coffee at Maglianero, which is located in the lobby of an industrial building and also doubles as a cute art gallery. The best part of staying at the Starlight Inn is that it’s right next door to the Sunset Drive-In Theater, which you can attend for free if you’re a guest at the motel. The four giant screens each feature double bills every night (open weekends April, May, September & October and every night in June, July & August). When was the last time you went to a drive in? In my case, it was my first time and I loved it! Unfortunately, we could only watch part of American Graffiti (so vintage!) before we had to drive into Burlington (a 10 minute drive) where we had reservations at Hen of the Wood, one of the main reasons why I’ve been wanting to visit Vermont for so long. Almost everyone I talked to about Vermont was very enthusiastic about Hen of the Wood. The restaurant is located within the funky yet rustic Hotel Vermont and features a “simple, uncomplicated and down-to-earth menu” create daily based on the ingredients available from local farms. The idea is to share a few plates and not to skip the best part, a plate of Vermont cheeses at the end of your meal. We sampled the grilled octopus with heirloom beans and a roasted tomato pepper relish, the mushroom toast with house bacon and a poached egg, the housemade mozzarella with tomatoes and zucchini and the hanger steak with onion, beet and a local blue cheese. Everything was great, including the incredibly efficient, friendly and professional service but I must admit that I wasn’t blown away and the little matter of a sandy octopus didn’t help. I would definitely recommend the place but I wouldn’t drive down to Burlington just to eat there. We ended our meal with an excellent array of local cheeses served with housemade crackers and condiments. The wine list is exceptionally good as well and I highly recommend sitting at the bar to watch some of the kitchen choreography, which includes cooking most of the menu in a wood-burning oven or over a wood burning grill.
Day 2 started with brunch at Juniper, a restaurant also located within Hotel Vermont. Juniper is open for breakfast every week day from 7 am to 10:30 am and 7 am – 1 pm on weekends. The menu changes seasonally and is based on locally sourced ingredients. Choices include light, classic and hearty options and ours included the Red Flannel Hash with grass fed corned beef, beets, potatoes and two eggs and the Monte Verde eggs with local bean salsa, arepas, chorizo and queso fresco, both fresh, tasty and hearty. A DIY mimosa and Bloody Mary bar is available every weekend as well with great toppings.The original plan was to drive south to Vergennes Laundry, a lovely bakery and bread baking spot I had heard about but it was closed for a month so that was quickly put on the backburner until the next trip. Instead, we paid a visit to the Saturday morning farmers market in Shelburne, a lovely little market about a 15-minute drive south of Burlington. We visited the Shelburne Farms stand at the market and decided to make a detour and visit the farm. Little did we know that this was a huge farm that would’ve probably taken all day to visit probably. Something to plan for on my next visit for sure. It’s a non-profit organization and a 1400-acre working farm that offers many educational programs for kids and adults. Shelburne Farms also offers lodging and dining on the beautiful grounds which abound with many farm animals, vegetable gardens, a dairy facility and lovely old barns. Plan on spending a few hours there – which I unfortunately didn’t – so you can take advantage of the many tours that are offered. As an alternative to the Shelburne farmers market, Burlington hosts its own farmers market every Saturday from 8:30am to 2pm.
The rest of the afternoon was spent on Burlington’s Pine Street, a gentrifying industrial area with interesting and edgy shops, including a few antique ones like the Barge Canal Market a great place filled with kitschy items, mid-century furniture and all-around great objects. The street also hosts a few food trucks on Friday nights. After a quick fix at the Bluebird Coffee Stop‘s cute caffeinated kiosque on Burlington’s bustling and pedestrian Church Street, we were off to Stowe and more importantly, the beautifully rustic yet absolutely luxurious Stowe Mountain Lodge, located at the base of Mount Mansfield and within the Stowe Mountain Resort. Our suite included a fully equipped kitchenette, a living room, a gas fireplace, an unbelievably comfortable feather bed, a great bathroom with a beautiful tub to relax in and a balcony with a breathtaking view of Mount Mansfield. The plan was to go out for dinner that night but the Lodge is so inviting that we decided to take advantage of the facilities with a light dinner by the fire at the casual Hourglass lounge. Stowe Mountain Lodge also offers a high end dining experience at their Solstice restaurant and of course, in room service.
DAY 3Our last day started with a copious breakfast at the Lodge, which was followed by a ski lift ride up Mount Mansfield to admire the fiery fall colours. Take the first lift over the road right at the hotel. Get there early for the second lift – the Gondola SkyRide – which takes you up the mountain since there might be a line up for that one. The breathtaking view of the Adirondacks, the White Mountains and Spruce Peak while heading up and once you’re at the top is definitely worth the wait. If you’re a skier, you’ll be happy to catch the lift right from the hotel and to take full advantage of the Lodge’s spa to warm you up after a long day of winter fun. There are countless outdoor activities like hiking, zip lining, canooeing, horseback riding, dog sledding and many more for you to explore while at the Lodge and since I didn’t have time to do any of that, I am definitely planning a return visit!
What goes up, must come down and down the mountain we went in our flashy, lime green Ford Fiesta straight to Prohibition Pig for lunch. Open for lunch and dinner and specializing in great barbecue food, cocktails and beers, Prohibition Pig will hit the spot at any time of day. When you walk in, grab any empty bar stool or wait for a table on the other side of the restaurant. We sample the smoked brisket sandwich and the barbecue pork one with a glass of Vermont’s very own Alchemist Heady Topper beer. The food here is honest, fresh and local. A list of local farmer friends is available on the menu. There are a variety of homemade sauces available at each table although my sandwich didn’t really need an extra kick and was just fine the way it was.The key to any road trip is to enjoy the road and there are no roads more charming than those of Vermont. We had to make several stops while driving to admire a particularly colourful hill, a pristine lake, a great old barn or a charming covered bridge. Use the road less travelled when mapping out your weekend and enjoy the journey for it is an absolutely beautiful one, no matter the season.
Many thanks to Ford Québec for lending me the trusty and gas friendly lime green Ford Fiesta that I drove around in while in Vermont. Many thanks also to Juniper restaurant for the lovely brunch and to Stowe Mountain Lodge for offering me an overnight stay in one of their beautiful suites overlooking Mount Mansfield. That goose down bed was so comfortable and the mountain air so fresh that I slept for 10 hours straight!