Friday, April 9, 2010

Food Vacations

Last month I took my wife to a hotel run by the Vermont Culinary Institute for the weekend. The Essex Vermont Culinary Resort is a four diamond resort in Essex, VT with a full service spa, indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, tennis courts, golf course, bike path, hot air balloon rides, and the Northern Lights Rock and Ice Adventure complex. The city of Burlington is also nearby with numerous indoor and outdoor activities for all seasons.

Our experience revolved around the food, however. Cinnamon scones, maple creme brulet, peanut butter chocolate mousse, homemade muffins, antipasto, fennel orange salad, mahi mahi with pineapple salsa, Italian benedict with pancetta chiron sauce, caramel swirl cheesecake, banana bread pudding, fresh-made omelets with Cabot cheddar cheese, and homemade belgian waffels with local Vermont maple syrup were just a sampling of choices, on the Sunday brunch menu! Maple bacon has to be one of the greatest food creations ever with a crispy texture, and a sweet and salty flavor. I also tasted the Orecchiette vegetable salad not knowing the pasta looked like a small ear until it arrived. Butler's Tavern and Restaurant is the resort's onsite establishment that features farm to table cuisine, with an emphasis on local ingredients. Dinner selections include a collection of Vermont artisan cheeses or a Vermont goat cheese souffle for the first course. I tried Porcini Dusted Beef Tenderloin with a marsala sage glace de viande (or demiglaze), chive and sour cream mash potatoes, and grilled asparagus. My wife had the sea bass with red onion jam. It was not the best meal we have ever had, as the tenderloin was slightly overcooked and the sea bass a little bland, but the service was excellent, and the beer and wine selection is as good as any fine restaurant. I would recommend the crispy Arctic Char a la plancha with wilted greens, wild rice cake. Char is like salmon with a lighter flavor that melts in your mouth. The Flat Iron steak in chimichurri butter is another entree that is definitely worth trying.

At lunch time, Butler's Tavern has buffalo wings that are among the best I've ever tasted. A perfectly crispy, tender, and spicy sweet coating made us order two plates. Next time I'm trying the Braised Duck Nachos. Try finding those in taverns around here. I had the Misty Knoll Turkey Sandwich with Vermont smoke and cure bacon. Their bacon makes everything taste good. Sugar Mountain pulled pork sliders are also excellent, and the chicken and wild rice soup is a perfect start to your meal. There is even a cashew crusted tofu steak for vegetarians. For those who love fish and chips, the tavern has the fried favorite beer battered with Long Trail ale.

To start the day I had the Essex French Toast with homemade sourdough bread, lavender butter, and powdered sugar. The best thing about breakfast in Vermont? Green Mountain Coffee. I love it. It's stronger and better tasting than Dunkin Donuts, and not as acidic as Starbucks or Seattle's Best. Make cure to cover the your french toast with the local maple syrup too.

As you can see there wasn't much more to do than eat, although we managed to get massages at the resort, and made a quick trip to Church Street in Burlington. The Magic Hat Brewery was a good find too. Basically by Sunday, we were engaged in a food coma that is only rivaled by Thanksgiving Dinner. If you're aspring chef, you can take classes at the Cook Academy. Cutting Edge Knife Skills, Party in Spain, and April in Paris are just a few of the classes offered. I do recommend the experience at the Essex, but I also recommend bringing a pair of stretchy pants.

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