Since I have not been feeling well the last couple of days, I decided this would be a good opportunity to talk about my most favorite place to eat (to date anyway) in Vermont - Hen of the Wood in Waterbury. I admit that I've only eaten there twice, and it was after the first time I went that I decided it was my all time favorite place and after going again recently, I still hold firm to that opinion.
Let's start with the atmosphere. The first time we went it was a warm spring day and it was early evening, so the sun was still out and shining perfectly through the open doors that led out to a small deck that overlooks a bubbling brook. It was magical sitting there in the sun, listening to the brook while sipping some local wine with my husband. The building is a historic factory type building with beautiful stone walls and wood beams. Gorgeous.....really, I would love to live in that building! We went for the second time recently to celebrate our anniversary, and I can tell you that even though it's winter here in Vermont, the atmosphere was still beautiful - warm and inviting, and very romantic with all candles and low lighting. This is the perfect place for a special occasion dinner.
Now let's talk about the food. Hen of the Wood bases their menus around seasonal fresh local food, cooked to perfection in an elegant but simplistic way by their AMAZING chefs. The menu may seem small/limited to some, but really it has just the right amount of different options. The menu changes constantly, but for the most part you get a choice of 3-5 appetizers, 4-6 starters and 4-6 main entrees. One of the things I love about this place is that they serve you, what I consider to be, the proper portion sizes of everything. You are not going to be served a meal here where you will have leftovers to take home. So, my best piece of advice if you are really hungry is to order an appetizer and a starter for each person, in addition to your entree. If you do this, no one will leave hungry nor overly full....which is how it should be.
Normally when we go out to eat I get fish, mostly because it is the one thing I don't make at home very often because my husband is not fan of fish (he is more of a meat and potatoes kinda guy). So the first time we ate here I amazed myself by choosing steak as my main course. For the most part I ordered it because it was a cut of beef I had never had before, hangar steak. Plus it came with creamed Swiss chard, which I love and was curious how their version would taste. We also got a cheese plate for an appetizer and I ordered a wonderful salad for my starter, all of which was amazing and the presentation was rustic but elegant. Back to the entrees - my husband ordered steak as well, but it was a cut of meat we had never heard of before and we actually had to ask the waitress about it....that was a first! Unfortunately, this was two years ago so I can not remember the name of the cut of beef he ordered, but I can tell you that he LOVED it and I tasted it also, so I can attest to the fact that it really was amazing. Both of our steaks were cooked perfectly, and you could tell that it was fresh local beef because the flavor was how beef should taste, which is something some people have never really experienced before. Needless to say we left that day satisfied, in awe of how delicious everything was and amazed at the gem of a restaurant we had found!
For our second visit to Hen of the Wood, we ordered Panisse Frites with Aioli for an appetizer to share. While they did a wonderful job on cooking this, it was a bit on the salty side but it really didn't matter because everything else about it was perfect - soft and creamy and the Aioli helped to tone down the saltiness, so in the end it worked. We did forget that the portions here are on the smaller side, and so we didn't order a starter. Instead we munched on some bread, and while I didn't leave hungry I wouldn't advise skipping the starter unless you aren't very hungry. Anyway, my husband was psyched to see rabbit on the menu (something he ate often as a child) and I was excited he was ordering it because I've never tried it before so I was looking forward to taking a bite of something new that I personally would never order. I decided to go with the fish this time, halibut topped with a fruity compote served over caramelized onion and cabbage. Once again the chefs did not disappoint! My husband loved the rabbit, which I tried and thought was so creatively cooked that if I had not known it was rabbit I wouldn't have been able to guess what it was - it was actually very good. My fish was perfect, delicate with the perfect amount of fruity topping - just a enough to enhance the fish, not overpower it. Another perfect meal, and I can't wait to go back!! I'll have to think of another special occasion in the near future....
If you are visiting Vermont in the Stowe area and looking for a special place to eat, I HIGHLY recommend this place. The only "warning" I have is that it is a bit pricey, and I also have never seen a kids menu nor have I seen kids at this restaurant period. Here is a link to their website so you can check it out. Be sure to make a reservation - this is a favorite to locals as well so they book up fast!