The Woodstock-Queeche Area

Woodstock, which is bookmarked by Quechee (with its gorge, VINS center and Simon Pearce glass studio) to the east and Killington (with its ski slopes and hikes) to the west, is one of our favorite towns in the country. Not only is it one of the most beautiful towns in the country (the American Planning Association recently designated Woodstock’s Elm Street as one of America’s 10 Greatest Streets), it is also surrounded by beautiful mountains, hiking trails and country roads and—of particular interest to us—has more good restaurants per capita than any town we know of.

Woodstock and Quechee Restaurants

Over our 30 years of visiting Vermont, we have eaten at almost every restaurant and inn in the area. Although we have enjoyed many, there are two in particular, to which we return year after year—Simon Pearce (downtown Quechee) for lunch and Prince and the Pauper (downtown Woodstock) for dinner. We repeated these traditions this year:

  • Lunch at Simon Pearce begin by browsing the glassware, the art gallery (across the street) and by watching the video of the flood and the clean-up. Then came lunch at the restaurant, at a window overlooking the falls, the covered bridge (or at least what is left of it) and the gorge. We began, as we often do, with the decadently rich and delicious squash bisque), followed by two enjoyable entrees, the grilled steelhead with butternut squash hash and apple-mustard sauce and sesame seared chicken with spicy apricot sauce, accompanied by glasses of Simon Pearce Sonoma Coast Pinot.
  • Prince and the Pauper, our go-to Woodstock dinner favorite, again did not disappoint. I did a three-course dinner, beginning with the country pate, a salad and the chef’s specialty, three big, grilled boneless rack-of lamb slices, wrapped in mushroom duxelles and spinach and puff pastry and Sauce Bordelaise. This was served with whipped squash, potatoes Lyonnais with a toasted parmesan crust and broccoli. And, since we sat in the bistro, rather than the main dining room, Joyce was able to order a single entrée—a roasted Korean glazed salmon fillet coated with black and white sesame seeds and served with a Korean barbecue sauce. All were delicious with a bottle of Chianti Classico. Our server, meanwhile, was always available to answer questions about the food, the flood and the recovery of our favorite town.

Woodstock 1 - Queeche BridgeWoodstock 2 - Queeche Bridge

We also had dinner at two other Woodstock area restaurants.

  • Pane e Salute, (NOTE: THIS IS NOW CLOSED) a husband-wife Italian restaurant that is open only four evenings a week, with the owners devoting the rest of their time to their farm at which they grow the restaurant’s produce. Since we were there during the heart of mushroom season, we took advantage of the very interesting mushroom tasting meal, which consisted of three types of local, wild, gathered varieties of mushrooms, each in a different dish: snow shrimp mushrooms in a light lemon sauce, farrotto with honey mushrooms, and hen-of-the-wood mushrooms roasted in white wine and thyme with potatoes and braised escarole. We took the maître-d/sommelier’s recommendation of pairing this (and a penne pasta with beef, pork and lamb ragu) with an excellent 2008 Nebbiollo ‘Alba and finished the meal with plate of three wonderful cheeses (Cobb Hill Ascutney Mountain Alpine Cow’s Milk, a Gorgonzola Dolce and a La Tur). The tiny restaurant was charming, the menu and wine lists were intriguing and the service was extremely knowledgeable. The food, however, turned out to be somewhat less inspired than the descriptions and the service was bit haphazard. Although this was somewhat understandable given that one person had almost full responsibility for handling the restaurants 18 customers), we were surprise that a couple that takes such obvious pride in their ingredients and preparations, never quite got around to asking whether the dishes met our expectations. Overall, great concept; moderately acceptable execution.
  • Mangowood, (NOTE: THIS IS NOW CLOSED) the restaurant at the Lincoln Inn, is the creation of an Asian chef who applies Asian technique and spicing to contemporary American dishes. Our dinner consisted of the butternut squash soup, rack of lamb and salmon. All, especially the two entrées, were very good. Although the meat and accompaniments of each entrée were nice, the sauces made both dishes.

Woodstock Do To

Although Woodstock and Quechee certainly have great restaurants, they have much more. Some of our favorite Woodstock stops include:

  • A hike up Mount Tom (about 3 miles up the 1,350 ft). Our preferred means of traversing the mountain, as shown us by a friend, is a switchback-laden hike up the mountain’s face, and a tranquil saunter down the backside, past the Pogue (a pretty pond) and along tranquil carriage roads. The short, easy hike provides nice views of the city and hills, a walk through tranquil forests and ends in the town’s 19th century cemetery.
  • A self-guided tour of Billings Farm (an historic, working dairy farm that provides a range of exhibits, interactive activities and educational programs) and the associated Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park (which explains the contributions of and provides a tour of the mansion of the three owners of the farm –Marsh, then Billings, then Rockefeller–and each of their pioneering contributions to American land stewardship and conservation efforts.

Woodstock 3 My TomWoodstock 4 - Mt Tom

No trip to Woodstock, however, is complete without a leisurely walk through the town and stops at many of the local shops. Some of our favorite in-town stops include:

  • Gallery Row along Center Street and the town green, with three large art galleries, each with an interesting selection of art (primarily oil paintings) that focuses largely on Vermont, Boston and the rest of New England).
  • An exploration of Gillinghams, the 125 year-old general store that seems to have everything, including (along with its next door Village Butcher Shop) the town’s best wine selection.
  • A drink at Bentley’s—a charming bar and restaurant. Although we have not developed an appreciation for Bentley’s food (especially given all the great options in the area), we always try to stop by the atmospheric bar for a drink.

Quechee To Do

Although there isn’t much to “downtown Quechee”, the town and surrounding area does have a lot to do. Some of our favorites include:

  • Simon Pearce, the focal point of what passes for a downtown, contains, as discussed above, a large hand-blown glass and pottery gallery (and when the downstairs reopens from the flood, a demonstration workshop showing how each is made), an art gallery and a good restaurant. The workshop, built in 1991 from the remains of an old woolen mill, uses the power from the neighboring falls to fuel furnaces in which artisans blow the glassware that is sold upstairs and in Pearce’s other stores throughout the country. The restaurant, meanwhile, is cantilevered over the river, with a great view of the river, dam and the charming Quechee covered bridge. Although the bridge, not to speak of Simon Pearce and other surrounding buildings, were damaged by Irene’s floods, the atmosphere and the food remain as compelling as ever.
  • VINS (Vermont Institute for Natural Sciences), a non-profit organization that takes in, rehabilitates and releases injured raptors and also has a display and ongoing educational programs of birds that are not capable of being reintroduced into the wild. The Institute has interpretive displays of more than 20 raptors, ranging from beautiful white snowy owls, to speedy peregrine falcons to majestic bald eagles. The regular shows (three a day), may explain parts of the institute’s mission (such as its Emergency Room activities) and provide informative demonstrations and explanations of different birds in flight. The Institute also has exhibits on local insects and wetlands wildlife and about a mile of interpretive trails.
  • Sugarbush Farm is always one of our first stops on every Woodstock trip. For those who wish, the maple forest tour and the sugarhouse provide a good overview of the entire maple syrup-making process. The real fun, however, starts with the tastings. This begins with a guided tasting of a selection of about a dozen different cheeses (especially the cheddars, which range all the way from a very mild to a 120-month cheddar) and then to the maple syrups, from the first-flow Fancy to the end of spring Grade B Amber. This, however, is only the start. The next room takes you through a self-guided tasting of Sugarbush’s sausages, cheese spreads, jellies, dips and assorted other goodies. Then comes the real challenge—deciding what and how much of these to buy and take home. A tough decision based on all the tastes you experience through the afternoon.
  • Cabot Creamery Queeche Store at which you can sample many of the dairy cooperative’s cheeses and local Vermont wines and see a range of Vermont crafts.
  • Queeche State Park, which includes a 2-mile round-trip walk along the edge of the gorge, which provides at least a first step in walking off lunch and all of the cheese samples.

Woodstock 5 - VINS Owl - GoodWoodstock 6 - VINS Bald EagleWoodstock 7 - Queeche GorgeWoodstock 8 - Queeche Gorge (2)

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