Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Hearth and Candle, Smugglers' Notch Resort

When Smugglers' Notch Resort invited us to come stay at their resort, I started immediately scoping out the food choices. Located right at Smugglers', my expectations for the Hearth and Candle were low, based on childhood experiences eating burnt hamburgers at another Vermont ski mountain. I couldn't have been more wrong. In fact, my meal there has been one of the highlights of the summer.
The owner, Akash Parikh tries to make the best use of local summer produce, in conjunction with Chef Michael Fitzgerald. Our waitress was clearly very familiar with the menu, too, and steered us well.
We began with an amuse bouche of watermelon, truffled cippolini onions and asparagus. It was light and delicious. My favorite part? The balsamic syrup that glazed the bottom and provided a sweet-tartness to the produce. My kids loved the warm bread, the scrumptious maple butter, and the fresh vegetables from our house salad. An even more playful treat was their version of the amuse: fresh strawberries in a little tart with a bit of the balsamic syrup. I loved that the restaurant offered the children such a sophisticated opportunity to share the meal.
Next, a bargain and indulgence. One of their appetizers (that could easily be a light meal) is the chance to choose 3 of their 5 local cheeses, served with a seasonal chutney. My favorite was the "Bijou" from Vermont Butter and Cheese. It was smooth, rich, and so good, that my 2 year old reached for a handful! (The blessing and curse of a foodie son is that I need to share these types of treats!) The "Inspiration" from Mt. Mansfield Cheeses in Morrisville, Vermont was smooth and mild enough that it pleased even my mother, never a lover of strong cheese. Finally, the cloth bound Cheddar from Cabot, as nutty as a fine Gruyere. Served with garlic, mellow and sweet from a long roast, I was nearly full after the plate.
However, the Hearth and Candle went further, treating us to a second amuse: a melon granita with warm honey and crisp almonds. It was a refreshing mid-meal taste, that my two year old loved as much as I did.
As for main dishes, I was able to find some room, thankfully as my chicken was so delicious. It was a Misty Knoll chicken, with crispy skin and moist meat. Served on top of homemade fettuccini, the icing was the the sauce. By using a Vermont chevre, from Vermont Butter and Cheese, they created a creamy sauce that was perfect to highlight the earthy combination of shiitakes, chanterelles, hen of the woods mushrooms, pencil-thin asparagus and cipollini onions. The dish was so good, that I enjoyed it again at lunch the next day.
My mother enjoyed the "Flatbread of the Day." In this case, it meant chewy, grilled homemade dough, layered with fresh mozzarella, summer tomatoes and basil.
The Hearth and Candle has 2 (!) kids menus. The first has your more standard listings of burgers, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, etc. And in fact, my kids chose noodles and a hot dog. But the fries tasted like the best double browned steak frites and the homemade sauce was as fresh as could be. For kids that are a bit older, they can chose from the Young Diner's Menu and get "tempura fried green beans", trout and risotto or baby back ribs.
By the end of the meal, our kids were so spent that they headed out to play (unknowingly in the herb garden (!) creating thyme scented toddlers!). Alas, I had to pass on desserts such as a pear cream tart.

Last points. First, full disclosure: we paid for this meal, but they did know I was blogging about that. That being said, I would definitely visit again. For the quality, the price is reasonable, I loved the seasonal use of local ingredients and, this place is worth a visit, even if you aren't staying at Smugglers' Notch.

The Hearth and Candle, Smugglers' Notch Resort, Jeffersonville, Vermont, 802-644-8090

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