A couple weeks ago work took me to Rutland, Vermont. I had never been to Vermont before, and it ended up being pretty much what I expected: lovely weather, beautiful countryside, cows. There didn't seem to be much of a restaurant scene (or a nightlife) but we did happen upon one great little place on our last night there. My friend and co-worker, Catie, discovered Cafe Provence after reading an article in the local paper which featured restaurants using local ingredients. My immediate thought process after hearing about this was: Cafe Provence= french food, french food=use of cheese, cheese is from cows, cows are from Vermont! Or something like that. Basically I was pretty sure dinner was going to be GOOOOD...
Cafe Provence is in Brandon, VT, which was about 15 minutes north of our hotel. We drove past cows and rolling hills, and then we arrived in the cute little town. The restaurant had both indoor and outdoor seating, but we actually chose to sit inside because it was pretty chilly out (this was during a stretch of high 90s and brutal humidity in Baltimore-- travel is not all bad!). The only bad thing about the indoor seating is that the tables were really close together. As in, if I took a deep breath the guy behind me was going to feel it, and vice versa. Perhaps this is an attempt to be authentically European? I've never been to France, maybe someone can tell me...
Anyhow, we settled in at the table and began to look over the menu. Everything was sooo tempting, it was hard to decide! First, Catie ordered us a bottle of Domaine Tempier Bandol, Provence 2004. She chose this because she had actually tasted it at the winery on a visit to Provence a couple years ago and remembered it as quite good, and it was excellent!
Then, onto the food. For her first course, Catie ordered the Spinach & Four Cheese Raviolis, with spinach mousse & lemon herb tomato sauce. I had a taste and, indeed the local Vermont cheese was absolutely delicious in the tender little ravioli. The spinach mousse was kind of a flop though-- think vaguely spinach flavored jello. Blah.
I ordered the Moules Marinieres (steamed mussels with white wine, shallots, garlic & parsley, garlic toasts), which were just perfect. The mussels were plump, tender and full of flavor. There were a LOT of them, but I ate every one, all the garlic toasts, and then used some of the fresh baked bread on our table to soak up the awesome broth.
Plates were cleared, then came the main dishes. Catie chose the Stuffed filet of Sole with Shrimp Mousse, Mushrooms & Roasted Peppers with Asiago cheese & herb polenta, parsley cream sauce, and I ordered a duck dish, which sadly is no longer on their online menu so I can't give you the fancy description! As I recall, it was sliced duck breast as well as a roasted duck leg, served with crack-infused potatoes and fresh asparagus, atop a sauce made with Maine blueberries. Here are the dishes in all their glory:
Duck with Blueberry sauce
Again, both dishes were lovely. My duck was perfectly cooked-- moist succulent breast meat and crispy leg skin. Yum. Catie's elaborate fish dish was also tasty, and the polenta underneath was really cheesy and good.
Finally, on to dessert. Cafe Provence had a selection of beautiful homemade pastries and other super-sweet looking treats (no cupcake babies though!), but when Catie and I dine out, and dessert rolls around, it means one thing: cheese plate. But there was none on the menu! How is this possible??!! Well, when the waitress returned, I just flat out asked her if they happened to have a cheese plate back in the kitchen someplace, and they did! I heard angels singing when she told us she would bring it right out! A little while later, this gorgeous vision appeared before us:
Featured on this plate were a variety of local cheeses, including a blue, a cheddar, a nut-crusted goat cheese, and some fantastic, creamy brie. A few accouterments like apple slices, orange wedges, nuts and dried cranberries completed the plate. Well, I guess it could have used a bit of quince paste, but now I'm just nit-picking...
I was surprised and delighted to find a place like Cafe Provence while in Vermont. I may never get back to that part of the country, but if I do, I would definitely go back. I recommend it to anyone who finds himself or herself in the area, which some of you skiers out there just might, its fairly close to various ski resorts.
Sorry for the low number of posts lately but EP and I are both busy with our school, work, and personal life responsibilities (it doesn't help when I end up in hotels without Internet access!). We have several posts in the chamber and ready to be fired, so stay tuned!