It was Cristi’s birthday (that’s her aglow above on the left), and a group of us were out to celebrate it in style. In Stowe, that meant Michael’s on the Hill, which is celebrity chef-owned by Swiss-born Michael Kloueti (his wife, Laura, runs the business side of things). The couple moved to Vermont and founded the restaurant when they had children, and have spent the last decade creating a local institution.
Crispy Rhode Island Calimari with Frisee, Reggiano & Capers
Not only is Michael a world-renown chef, having worked in restaurants from Hawaii to New York City, but he and Laura recognize the importance of healthy, locally-grown food. The restaurant is a member of the Vermont Fresh Network, Local First Vermont and Slow Food, and “the usage of local, organic products is of premier importance.”
From top right (counter-clockwise) are Starre Vartan, Healing Arts practitioner Cara Joy, Kristen Rosfeld and Kelly Cunningham.
All of that is in evidence when you sit down at your table in the circa-1820′s farmhouse with giant wrap-around porch which affords gorgeous views of the Green Mountains; everything on the menu is based on both seasonality and nearby availability, which means local meats (some in our party had the venison and local pork), seafood and fish from the nearby New England Atlantic coast, and of course, a host of harvest vegetables during the second week of October when I visited to see the last of the brilliant leaves blanket northern Vermont valleys.
Smoked Local Trout with Heirloom Bean Salad & Horseradish Cream
The service was amazing; our waitress described each dish in even more detail than the menu (those descriptions accompany the images I took here) and we started off with perfectly mixed vodka martinis (I am a stickler for a properly made martini and these passed with flying colors) and a slightly sweet, just-a-bit-creamy, bread meets hen-of-the-woods and cremini mushroom revelation that is a house speciality. I followed with the creamy, but not heavy mushroom soup (finished with a bit of truffle oil, oh! like heartbreak in a mouthful), because I am a lover of the fungus and even though it sounds crazy, they were such different mushroom dishes, it wasn’t overkill at all.
Roasted Mushroom Soup with Lemon Thyme & Artisan Cheese Crouton
Over several bottles of wine our varied main courses (how often does it happen that six women all order different mains? That’s how good everything sounded!), which we shared around, were slowly devoured. The local, fresh flavors were exciting and decadent and groan-worthy; each of us both insisted that others try our own dish, and couldn’t get enough of each other’s either.
Chantarelle and Hen-of-the-Woods Mushroom Tart
Vermont has its fair share of serious foodie restaurants; dinner at Michael’s on the Hill is the best meal I’ve eaten in the state, hands-down. And with the great wine selection, fantastic service and delicious views, this planet-friendly restaurant showcases the terroir of Vermont and New England with surety and aplomb. I can’t wait to go back when the seasons change, and so does the menu.
Quinoa Crusted Day Boat Cod with House Preserved Tomatoes, Castelvatrano Olives, Fennel and Rouille
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fall Vegetables, Shallot Confit, Browned Sage Butter and Local Cheese