Eating in the Berkshires and the Green Mountains – July 2007

July 19, 2007

The culinary day of July 5, 2007, started with a Nespresso chez Gary et Varian.

Next came an oatmeal and raisin cookie, a Macadamia/chocolate chip cookie and a French Roast coffee at the lobby coffee stand in the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.   

This was followed by chicken-fried pork with delicious sweet and sour cabbage (the Thursday luncheon special) at The Chelsea Royal Diner in Battleboro, Vermont.  Linda had a grilled cheese sandwich.  

Next on the culinary agenda was a Cherry Garcia bar at The Ben and Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury. The crowds there were immense; there was an hour and a half wait to take the tour so we skipped it and drove on into Stowe, the premiere ski resort in the Eastern U.S. 

Linda and I do not ski so we have limited experience in such places, but I expected that this gathering place for wealthy, well-travelled, social skiers would have several good restaurants. The other time we were in a ski resort, Verbier, Switzerland, we dined at Roland Pierroz, which easily merited its Michelin star. James Levine was seated at the table across from us; we heard him conduct the opening concert of the Verbier Music Festival the next night. A Stowe website says: “In New England, only Boston and Providence boast more award-winning dining establishments than our quaint town of 4,300 residents.” And so we went to the most recommended restaurant, The Blue Moon Café, with high hopes.   



From our hotel it was a short walk past the amusing garlic cloves in front of the Stowe Art Center. We were seated at a table by the window. Cool jazz was playing. We ordered a bottle of 2003 Paraiso (Santa Lucia Highlands) Pinot Noir which was quite nice.  


Linda started with figs stuffed with goat cheese and an arugula salad.



I began with the Spring-dug parsnip gratin. The sauce was like an Alfredo: good, but quite rich and boring after a while. The dish needed half as many of the nice fresh parsnips and a counterpoint, such as a slice of ham or smoked fish.



Linda went on to the rack of lamb with garlic purée, pine nut crust and mashed potatoes.



I had the Herb rubbed game hen with red cabbage slaw and mashed potatoes. For both of us the cuisine was quite ordinary; okay, but not interesting enough to make us want to finish the large portions. It was certainly not at the level we expected for the best restaurant in the Skiing Capital of the East.




We finished with a cheesecake with cherries and a good crème brulée. At 9:45 we were the last diners to leave the restaurant wondering where the beautiful people go for après-ski. We walked the two blocks back to The Green Mountain Inn.  We liked this historic (1833) hotel in the middle of Stowe. Our spacious, well-equipped room was in a modern annex.  In the morning we enjoyed the hotel’s breakfast buffet. Then we drove off through beautiful dairy country for three days visiting friends in Canada.



 Three days later we reentered Vermont south of Frelighsburg, where I had terrific home-made maple ice cream at the General Store and we bought ice-cider. We lunched at the café at The Shelburne Museum, which was really dreadful, a blotch on this fine institution.  We stayed that night at The Orchards, a new hotel just east of Williamstown. Our room was excellent, with all the extras that one would expect if it were a Relais et Châteaux.  We ate in their restaurant, Gala, which has only been open for two months. We were seated at a table looking out on the courtyard garden. It was quiet as the restaurant was only a third full. We ordered glasses of the 2005 Hogue Fumé Blanc for apéritif and a bottle of 2003 Robert Bruce (Central Coast) Pinot Noir. Linda started with the caramelized jumbo lump crab cake atop a salsa of Hawaiian golden pineapple with a kiwi fruit vinaigrette & chipotle lime aioli.  She liked the crab cake, but I think that the chopped pineapple was out of a can.



I started with thinly sliced smoked Hudson Valley duck with aged goat cheese & petite salad of baby field greens dressed in a citrus vinaigrette. The smoked duck was good, but did not go at all with the ball of goat cheese. Combinations that didn’t work seemed to be plentiful on the menu. The evening’s special was a rib eye with a brochette of shrimp: surf and turf lives on.



Linda went on to the center cut pork loin chop stuffed with braised gala apples, fresh herbs and VT cheddar cheese, over sautéed baby spinach, with a fava bean, sweet corn succotash & apple brandy pork reduction. There are, of course, neither fava beans nor sweet corn at this time of year except in cans.



My main course was free range chicken breast, oven roasted golden brown with an aged goat cheese, celery root beggar’s purse, vegetables A’ la Greque & French tarragon chicken naturale’. (sic.)



Linda finished with the crème brulée.  The service was genial, but Gala’s menu was generally complicated, pretentious and unsuccessful. We should have followed Gary and Varian’s advice, gone out into the thunderstorm and dined at Mezze.  

The next morning we went to the Sara and Gerald Murphy show at the Williams College Museum of Art. We loved it. Then we drove on to what has been one of our favorite stopping places on the Taconic State Parkway for the last 25 years: The West Taghkanic Diner.



Linda had the open roast beef sandwich; I had the delicious swiss and ham grilled sandwich; both came with the house cole slaw.  And then we drove on to New York where I never eat grilled cheese and ham sandwiches, alas.     

One Response to “Eating in the Berkshires and the Green Mountains – July 2007”

  1. Hi Mike and Linda,

    For us it helps not to have all that much experience with 5 star places, and then places like the Blue Moon seem pretty darn OK, as Garrison Keillor might say. I gave Jean her 50th b’day surprise party at Blue Moon. A raging blizzard ensued, and only 6 of the 30 invitees showed up. Anyhow we had fun and there was more wine per person.



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