(Original Post November 2013)
Let’s not beat around the bush, Vermont is awesome. For many reasons of course, but in my case, the food tops my list.
Being a supporter of locally grown foods, small family farms and humane practices, Vermont is definitely one of the most impressive places I’ve ever been. Restaurants will gladly list their providers on the menu, nothing to hide. Also, many local food producers also boast of humane practices. Seeming to understand that happy animals are healthy animals which means a healthy bottom line for everyone involved.
The grocery stores are packed will local products, including many affordable organic, vegetarian and vegan alternatives. And I mean affordable. Most organic products are close to, if not, the same price as regular products! No need to go to an grossly overpriced specialty store? MARVELLOUS!
Fawning over Vermont aside, let’s get to the restaurant. I had found Hen of the Wood, planning our trip online on good old Urban Spoon. The ratings were off the charts. Critics and individuals alike seemed to be absolutely delighted by this little Waterbury restaurant. After visiting the website and looking over the small, yet intricate menu we decided we had to stop in for dinner.
Hen of the Wood was built in the lower level of an old mill. The restaurant itself is a simple and yet beautiful blend of wood and stone. The staff is classic casual in basic black. The ambiance is relaxed sophistication to its absolute perfection.
Now let’s talk about the food. As a first course we had the calamari with pesto and crab cakes with horseradish aioli. As a main we had the beef short ribs with goat cheese Gnocchi and the medium rare beef with Pinot noir sauce and kale gratin. As a desert we had the meringue topped chocolate brownie with caramelised cranberries and an assortment of petits fours.
I’m sure everything described here seems pretty straightforward, but it isn’t. The calamari, short ribs, gratin, Gnocchi and brownie were the best we have ever had. Every bite was better than the one before. The plating was impeccable. Dish after dish, one just as gorgeous as the next.
To make matters even better the service was flawless. Our server knew everything about our food. Where the meat was raised, from which farmer the produce came from, the history of the mill, the perfect glass of local beer to pair with the local organic local beef. Answering our millions of questions with enthusiasm and a smile. It was obvious the people who worked here loved their profession and had a passion for food.
Hen of the Wood is one of those places you just feel so fortunate to have discovered and urge everyone to go. They are the proof that uncomplicated, down to earth and locally sourced food can be the most remarkable. I guarantee that we’ll be returning sooner than later. Definatley the best find of 2013.
Hen of the Wood - 92 Stowe St, Waterbury, VT 05676, United States (1 802-244-7300) http://henofthewood.com