Ever since we were little, our dad, hailing from the Green Mountain State, had warned us about avoiding the “tourist traps” along Route 4. The town of Woodstock, he claimed, was “something Disney would have created.” As for Quechee, we weren’t allowed to stop at the import shop Scotland by the Yard, or the gift shop Fool on the Hill, either. Thus a meal at Simon Pearce was forbidden fruit. And I did crave it. I’d been collecting the master’s designs (Simon Pearce, the glass and pottery guru) for years, and all I wanted was to dine at the historic, much-talked-about mill spot on the Ottauquechee River.
This was my year, and the wait was worth it. By day, brave young’uns jump from the rocky cliffs into the cold waters just below the restaurant windows, while diners are served fresh rainbow trout and a curlicue salad of frisée laced with bacon and a soft egg. The Ballymaloe brown bread with sweet Vermont butter is impossible to stop eating. Really. Oh, and Dad? I stopped at Woodstock, too, and I loved it–I even bought some shoes.
1760 Quechee Main St., Quechee, VT. 802-295-1470; simonpearce.com
HEN OF THE WOOD
When it comes to regional ingredients, chef Eric Warnstedt walks the walk, which includes a stellar selection of Vermont cheeses, all served in a former grist mill located on Thatcher Brook.
92 Stowe St., Waterbury, VT. 802-244-7300; henofthewood.com
LAKE MOREY RESORT
The water is the heart of all the activity at this family getaway, and that includes meals. The dining room is 15 feet from the shoreline; the menu highlighting New American cuisine includes fresh, seasonal Vermont produce and locally raised pork with apple-raisin chutney.
1 Clubhouse Road, Fairlee, VT. 800-423-1211; lakemoreyresort.com
TULLY AND MARIE’S
Hovering over Otter Creek, a flavor-packed brunch, lunch, or dinner awaits. The menu skips around the world cuisines of Asia, Latin America, Europe, and, of course, New England, with offerings such as a curried tofu, huevos rancheros, Maine crab cakes, and bracing Bloody Marys.
7 Bakery Lane, Middlebury, VT. 802-388-4182; tullyandmaries.com
THE NORTH HERO HOUSE INN & RESTAURANT
This 1891 home on North Hero Island boasts a well-appointed dining room serving terrific food, including locally raised beef and produce–but we prefer the patio or porch for crackerjack views of Lake Champlain and east to the Green Mountains on the mainland.
3643 U.S. Rural Route 2, North Hero Village, VT. 888-525-3644, 402-372-4732; northherohouse.com
THE INN AT SHELBURNE FARMS
You could buy the recipe book Cooking With Shelburne Farms and prepare all those house favorites, such as the bacon-and-goat-cheese tart, but then you’d miss the stellar views of Lake Champlain and the thriving 1,400-acre National Historic Landmark just outside the door.
1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne, VT. 802-985-8498; shelburnefarms.org
SPLASH AT THE BOATHOUSE
A unique location and an eclectic menu: The casual meals aren’t cheap here, but how do you put a price on eating atop a floating dock on Lake Champlain?
1 College St., Burlington, VT; 802-658-2244; enjoyburlington.com/waterfront/splashcafcatering.cfm
WEST RIVER MARINA
This kitchen has deservedly built a great reputation on its solid burgers, served with impossibly crispy fries. The folks here also do a great job with seafood, pizza, pasta, and–oh yeah–that sunset.
28 Spring Tree Road, Brattleboro, VT. 802-257-7563; vermontmarina.com