Eating and leaf peeping in Vermont

Montpelier/Waterbury/Stowe, VT

Overview

Summer has come to an end here in New England…That is always a sad thought for me, as I love the beach and the warm weather. However, we live in Boston, where the change of seasons is inevitable, so we try to make the best out of every month of the year. The benefit of living in the Northeast of the USA is that we typically have warm and absolutely gorgeous fall. The air is crisp, the sun still gets up high in the sky and the trees are every shade of red, yellow and orange. I never knew that ‘leaf peeping’ was a thing until I moved here from Lithuania.  Apparently people fly from all over the country to enjoy the colors of New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Well, since we live here, might as well go ‘leaf peeping’ ourselves!

We have been to New Hampshire’s White Mountains in the previous years and have seen some great colors. This time we decided to combine Sean’s work meetings in Vermont’s capital Montpelier, with the foliage season.

MONTPELIER

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We left Wednesday after work and, after a little over three hours of driving, arrived to the smallest state capital in the United States with the population of under 8000! Neither of us have been to Montpelier before, so it was a fun work/leisure mini trip. With an exception of a few pubs most of the restaurants close around 9pm, so we decided to eat at the J. Morgan’s Steakhouse located at our hotel  Capitol Plaza. By the way- book your accommodations early if you plan on coming to Vermont during the foliage. Prices were high and many smaller hotels were sold out when we found out we are taking this trip. Capitol Plaza is in the center of town, very comfortable, great service, nice little gym that had everything you might need for a workout- I was happy to work here for the next two days and have this view out the window!

Dinner at J. Morgan’s Steakhouse was so filling that by the end of it we could not even finish the strawberry cake, which apparently has been featured in the magazine.

If you want my honest opinion- the cake looked a lot better than it tasted. We came back the next night for dessert and got their maple creme brulee. It was MUCH better choice than the hyped up and overly sweet cake.

I worked from the hotel on Thursday, Sean got back in the late afternoon and we went to have lunch together at the nearby Skinny Pancake. There are a few of them in Vermont, so if you like crepes, that’s a good place to visit. We each got a savory one and shared a sweet wild blueberry crumble with ice cream for dessert.

There is outdoor seating available with a nice view of the golden dome of the State House.

What else is there to do besides eating? There are a couple of streets with little boutiques for some shopping, nice art park, beautiful buildings, colorful trees this time of the year.

It’s a very picturesque little town that was quiet during the week, but I am sure is a lot busier on the peak foliage weekend.

We saw a lot of churches- one right next to another- did not expect that many for such a small community. And of course as you walk down the State street, you can’t miss the Vermont State House.

Almost across the street we spotted a little art park with interesting sculptures.

When we needed a sugar fix (as if the crepe was not enough) we ventured into a Rabble-Rouser Chocolate & Craft Co– interesting shop that sells clothes, pipes AND chocolates- a little bit of everything for everyone’s taste.

That was all of the downtown Montpelier and we returned to the hotel to finish up the work day. Not long after that was time for dinner- tonight we are checking out Sarducci’s– one of the best rated restaurants in town.

If you go there, make sure you are hungry. Food is very rich and heavy. I loved the caprese salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella the most. Spinach ravioli was good, but they were covered under so much cheese and swimming in a creamy mushroom sauce that all I could think about was how much I will need to workout tomorrow to burn this off. IMG_0330I guess I was not concerned about the calories THAT much, since we went back to our hotel and got creme brulee after all this feast. What can I say, we do like to eat…

That was our first twenty four hours in Montpelier. Friday was another work day and my lunch choice was a VERY spicy Thai food at Wilaiwan’s Kitchen. This place is open until 2pm and takes cash only. I love spicy food, but this was so hot that I had to ask to add some coconut milk to dilute it slightly. The chef was a bit taken back and told me that it does not go with the meal- it was actually a lot better with it!

Next time I would definitely ask for a mild version as I didn’t think to do so now.

MORSE FARM MAPLE SUGARWORKS

We stopped by the Visitor Center in Montpelier to ask what else is around, since the town itself is charming, but so small. Very helpful lady recommended to go to the Morse Farm and gave us directions on how to get there via scenic route. I am glad we listened to her and not the GPS, because the views were spectacular!

The farm is located on the slight hill, overlooking the the fields and is open every day year round except for some holidays. In the summer the hours are longer, in the fall they are open till 6pm and winter/spring until 5pm.

There are free sugar house tours and tasting, nature trail, country store and even their own made maple soft serve ice cream!

We stocked up on the real maple syrup, walked around and sadly it was closing time. I would definitely return here again.

WATERBURY / STOWE, VT

For our last night- Friday into Saturday we had booked a hotel in Waterbury –  Best Western Plus Waterbury-Stowe. It has a pool/ jacuzzi and we wanted to be able to soak in the hot tub at the end of the week. This hotel is not near anything walking distance, but is close to many Vermont attractions by car.

I liked it, but if we come back, I think we’ll stay at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier simply because it’s in the center of town where you don’t need to drive to a coffee shop or a restaurant.

There really isn’t much in Waterbury, but there is an amazing food at the Hen of the Wood restaurant. The food was great, but the experience prior to it was not at all pleasant.

We did not have any reservations and when we showed up around 6pm the place was half empty. While Sean was parking the car, I walked in and asked for a table for two. The hostess was pretty short and told me that she has ‘nothing for you’ and that all tables have reservations coming and they don’t have a bar. I was quite disappointed seeing all these empty tables, so I left and told Sean, who was just walking in, that we will have to drive somewhere else. Sean decided to try asking again and came back saying that we DO have a table outside. The same sourly hostess seated us and could not explain to me why she did not have anything just a minute ago. Luckily the view and the food made up for the less than warm welcome.

Everything we had was incredible and our server was super nice. If it’s not cold yet- ask for the table outside. It’s much more quiet and the flowing river makes a perfect backdrop. IMG_0457At the end of the night we asked to speak to a manager to go over the initial greeting and to thank for the wonderful meal. Well, the SAME grouchy woman was the manager too! Maybe she was just having a bad day, but her attitude definitely has some room for improvement. Oh well- dinner exceeded our expectations, so she did not completely ruin our night.

MANSFIELD GONDOLA

We came to see colorful leaves, so what is a better way to do that than going up to the top of the mountain? Mansfield Gondola was around 30 USD per person- not a cheap attraction, but the views from it and from the top were worth the cost.

There even is a zip lining available for the adrenaline seekers, but we decided to skip that and just enjoyed the ride.

I think it was one of the best foliage colors I have seen in the past several years!

STOWE MOUNTAIN RESORT

After the picturesque gondola ride we were hungry and did not feel like driving to look for a restaurant, so decided to check out the resort, which could be reached by simply hopping on the free ski lift right there.

A few minutes later we were in a mini village- there were a few places to grab food or drink, swings to chill and relax- perfect accommodations for a little break near the outdoor fireplace.

TRAPP FAMILY LODGE

Have you seen the movie “The Sound of Music”? I loved it as a kid and never thought I would be visiting the place where the original family that the movie was based on resides! Well, most of them passed away by now, but the lodge is still in the hands of the same family that came here from Austria.

In the early 1940s, the von Trapp family toured the United Stated as the Trapp Family Singers and eventually settled in Stowe, VT on a farm with mountain views, which reminded them of Austria. Now it’s a unique resort with European style accommodations and cuisine.

We did not stay at the hotel of course, but were very happy to try the meals which were delightful!

CONCLUSION

There is so much more to this area of Vermont that we did not get to touch on this mini getaway.  Right in Waterbury, VT there is Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, close by in Cabot, VT you can tour the Cabot Cheese Factory– we were already so full from all the eating that simply did not feel like having more cheese or sweets would be that enjoyable. Plus, now we have something to look forward to for the next visit! Vermont is beautiful in every season, but I am especially grateful we got to experience this state at its most colorful.

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