Who knew Woodstock, Vermont was home to such esteemed, delicious food? You’d never guess it if you just stumbled into the most prominent main street eatery, Bentley’s (a pub food spot that doesn’t deserve scorn, but is not worth writing home about either) but nearby are two varieties of high end cooking: the romantic, waterfall view Simon Pearce (technically a few miles east in Quechee), and the dimly lit hidden Italian gem, Osteria Pane e Salute.
Simon Pearce is the epitome of established upscale dining. Waitstaff in pressed white collared shirts, a heavenly view – in this case a rushing waterfall located right under your seats, a seasonal menu of dishes that come to the table with considerable haute cuisine panache, and a crowd of oldsters lining up from the minute the dinner hour begins (advanced reservations recommended). While for normal day to day eating a place like this might be stuffy for Jim and I, Simon Pearce seems more custom fit for special occasions. Plus it’s in Vermont, where even stuffiness is a bit more laid back.
Natural stunning ambiance and crisp whites are grand, but I’d hardly be spending my time telling you much about them if the food weren’t great. We shared a tempura shrimp appetizer as well as a crab cake that was easily the single most tasty dish we had all vacation. Both followed by substantial main dishes, mine a flavorful roasted chicken over handmade pasta, Jim’s a hearty cod with gourmet mashed potatoes. We ended the meal on an equally decadent and high note with a walnut meringue dessert.
While Pearce is a fancy pants feast in the established traditional sense of the past few decades, Osteria Pane e Salute is the back to roots, modern version of the same idea. Instead of stuffy, you find warm and cozy, a locavore menu that tells you exactly where the ingredients come from, a mix tape that includes Serge Gainsbourg, dim lights and limited seating (definitely, definitely need reservations for this one). All in all, a place that both in style and food quality would feel right at home in Brooklyn, receiving rave reviews from Adam Platt. That it’s nestled in the upstairs of an old white building off Main Street only makes it more charming and special.
Dining here has options for many budgets, which is nice. A long list of excellent sounding thin crust pizzas fill the back of the menu while a $42 dollar four course meal pre fixe is listed on the front (the items from which can also be ordered a la carte). Since we were in vacation mode, we of course opted for the pre fixe and were thrilled with the results: buttery proscuitto and fresh handmade mozzarella, a decadent liver pate crostini, seafood pasta with a lovely rich sauce, calamari grilled to tender perfection, and last but not least, a homemade vanilla gelato dusted with licorice sea salt. The meal, to our surprise took over two hours, and we enjoyed every second.
If you’re in the area, or even a drive away, consider these spots for a nice meal out, depending on your mood. Neither will disappoint. Lots of photos after the jump- oh and the last is of a marshmallow sundae I had at the quaint and ultra friendly Mountain Creamery – great for a less fancy sugar fix.