The signature VerMonte Cristo at Mountain Creamery in Woodstock, Vermont.Photo Credit : Clare Barboza
The VerMonte Cristo at Mountain Creamery—the only diner in Woodstock, Vermont—is not a familiar sandwich in the way of, say, turkey and cheddar with a ruffle of romaine, but it’s worth the drive from any point in New England. It’s a breakfast-lunch hybrid, a sweet-savory trickster. There are fillings—a pile of turkey, ham, and Swiss—and homemade bread, which is egg-washed and griddledà la French toast. That’s the standard Monte Cristo format. The twist is the stainless steel ramekin filled with warm maple syrup (the real kind, grade A) for dipping. For people who can never choose between pancakes and eggs, or regular fries and sweet potato ones, the VerMonte Cristo says yes and both.
It’s been flying out of the kitchen today, along with the Vermont Gobbler (turkey, cranberry, sprouts, mayo). A tour bus’s worth of hungry diners has just cleared out. “They all wanted to order at once,” says Teena Clogston, who’s working the shift with her daughter, Amnesty Clogston-Rushford. “I said, ‘Your tour guide’s right there. She’s not leaving without you.’”
The Creamery is both a local hangout and a tourist haunt, and the secret of its 30-plus years of survival lies in courting both groups. It helps that Woodstock, home to Rockefellers and the venerable Woodstock Inn, has high standards. But the clincher is that the Creamery was locavore before locavore was cool. Owner Boris Pilsmaker has a farm just up the road that supplies the diner with beef, pork, turkey, eggs, and vegetables in season (though not enough to fully stock a menu this big). Still, it’s as unlikely to rebrand itself around farm-to-table hipsterism as it is to start offering yoga classes downstairs in the ice cream shop. This is a familiar, comfortable place serving familiar, comfortable food.
Even the decor hasn’t changed much since Pilsmaker opened the doors in 1987. He was a Boston kid who started making ice cream to fund his skiing habit, spending winters in Killington and summers on Nantucket. In 1980, he opened Nantucket’s iconic Juice Bar (he sold it in 2000). But as his sons grew, Pilsmaker and his family settled full time in Killington, and he and his wife, Sheila, established Hinterland Organic Farm in 1998. “Twenty-five acres, all trees,” he says. “I cut every tree down on that property.” Now the setup is complete: the farm, the restaurant, and the ice cream shop, whose product is high in butterfat, rich in flavor, and excellent on a piece of mile-high apple pie with a slice of cheddar. Son Ben is even stepping up to take over more of the operations.
Not that Pilsmaker is likely to rest on his laurels, or trumpet his success. He just likes the work. “We do this recipe. We roast our sugar pumpkins that we grow on the farm and mix it with black beans and make an omelet out of it with cheddar cheese,” he says, growing animated. “It’s that opportunity to do different things with food and use your imagination. It’s so rewarding to me to do that.” So food is a creative medium, one might say? A form of self-expression? “Well, I never thought of it like that,” he demurs. “I just like doing it.” He hesitates. “No, I don’t go that far with it … but I guess you could say that.”
33 Central St., Woodstock, VT. 802-457-1715; mountaincreameryvt.com