[Burlington, VT] Hen of the Wood


(John Hartley) #1

The restaurant gets mentioned on foody websites and forums as the city’s best. With only three dinners in the city, we had no way of validating that view, or otherwise. But there proved to be no reason to doubt the claim. This is a serious foody restaurant. There’s a very tight menu – seven or so starters, half a dozen main courses (including two for sharing). It’s clearly designed round the seasons with an emphasis on local produce. Service is excellent and is well paced in an almost European fashion. There’s none of the rush to get you in and out that you so often encounter in American restaurants.

A decision on a starter was almost made for me. A restaurant called Hen of the Wood which serves the mushroom. It’s lightly fried and served on toast with a thick slice of bacon which effectively seasons the dish. It’s pretty much my favourite Sunday breakfast. What’s not to like?

The other starter was no less of a dish in its simplicity. There was a generous serving of shredded braised ham. It had a little hint of spice – mace, maybe. There’s toast to pile it on to and a honey mustard to drizzle over.

We’d had some big meals in recent days and something relatively light was called for. For one of us, that was grilled brocollini. Tomatoes had been roasted to an intense flavour and pureed into a sauce. A puddle of that dressed the plate which was then topped with faro, through which a little more sauce had been stirred. The brocollini was then put on top before a final scattering of chopped nuts.

Hangar steak came accurately cooked as requested and was well flavoured as you’d expect from this cut of meat. There was griddled lettuce – a preparation that I always surprise myself by enjoying. And a buttermilk sauce that, in truth, I found more interesting than enjoyable. Not that there was anything actively wrong with it – it’s just I wasn’t convinced by the sourness of the buttermilk working here.

The sensible portion sizes meant we had room for dessert. For one of us, that was house made ice cream. They have several in the selection – one, a rhubarb and raspberry one was lovely. You could taste both fruits and the sharpness contrasted well with the sweetness of the other selection – a maple vanilla.

The restaurant offers its cheese selection as an appetizer as is common in the American tradition or as a dessert alternative in the European tradition with which I’m more familiar. And they have a really good selection – around eight cheeses, all from Vermont, ranging from a creamy three week matured one up to a twelve month matured Cabot cheddar. I ordered the cheddar and a fairly mild goats cheese. The plate comes with their housemade crackers, which were delicious in themselves, if a little sweet. There’s a scattering of candied hazelnuts and a sweetish rhubarb “butter”. It would be an improvement in the balance of flavours to replace at least one of these sweet items – but I am nit-picking here.

All in all, this was an excellent dinner. Thoroughly recommended.


[Burlington, VT] Trattoria Delia
#2

If you are through this area again I’d strongly encourage you to try the original Hen of the Wood location in Waterbury, VT (about 30 min from Burlington). Similar food and service in a truly beautiful and unique New England setting in a retired grist mill.


#3

I just made reservations for our upcoming trip in August!