Bread & Board: Manchester, Vt.

Travel East
Author:
Publish date:

A century before Bromley Mountain (est. 1938) was even a twinkle in beer magnate Fred Pabst Jr.'s eye, Manchester was already a destination resort. The well-to-do flocked here to escape the summer heat. That explains the fancy sidewalks, made of locally quarried marble and still ideal for spa-town strolling. Once Pabst started stringing local hills with rope tows and J-bars, the town went all out to welcome winter visitors as well. With Stratton (about 15 miles distant) added to the mix in 1961, Manchester solidified its position as a nexus of luxury. Even the influx of outlet malls has done little to tarnish its aura: These aren't just any off-price emporiums, but the likes of Anichini and Armani.

Both ski areas are a mix of old and new. Bromley has retained its rustic vibe. The wooden base lodge, though modernized and expanded, still resonates like a boombox to the tromp of equipment that was unimaginable when it opened seven decades ago. But grooming now compensates for the mountain's famous southern exposure, which used to guarantee icy slopes as well as enviable tans. This season at Stratton, you can ski a gladed trail cut by 1976 Olympic silver medalist Bill Koch, a Vermont nordic hero. It's a nice complement to the Power Park, a terrain park named in honor of local boy Ross Powers, the 2002 halfpipe gold medalist.

Best Dining Happily for Stratton skiers, the best food around is right on the mountain. The gleaming open kitchen at Verde (802-297-9200) is a showcase for local culinary phenom Bob Touchette, whose presentations are as grand as his taste is unerring. Seared foie gras atop an onion-marmalade bread-pudding tower with pickled bing cherry gastrique and a lagniappe of lobster-peach compresse? That's just an appetizer. Portions are generous to a fault, but you'll still want some contorni (side dishes), such as white truffle potato purée or charred corn fregula.

The other destination dining spot in the region is the Inn at West View Farm (800-769-4903; innatwestviewfarm.com) in Dorset, six miles north of Manchester. Chef/owner Raymond Chen worked alongside superstar Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York before cutting out for this postcard-quaint town to raise a family and mountain bike. His touch is deft, whether with handmade mushroom ravioli that ooze mascarpone or tiny, tasty rabbit chops in sage-niçoise sauce. A fun way to explore Chen's fusiony range is to sample his "Ten Little Dishes served in the inn's atmospheric 1870s tavern.The monumental Equinox Hotel (800-367-7625; equinox.rockresorts.com) has coddled wayfarers since 1769: the Marsh Tavern, where the Green Mountain Boys hung out, remains the heart of this grandly added-upon amalgam. So rich is its history, the Tavern could actually getaway with a "ye olde Yankee menu, but executive chef Mary Nearn is a forward thinker who favors robust New American fare. Her lobster cakes outshine their crabby counterparts, and the hearty pan-seared Colorado rack of lamb with barley pilaf could see you through a revolution, let alone a day on the slopes.

Best Lodging The Equinox (see above; $199—$929 per room) is also a fascinating place to stay, especially if you care to pursue falconry or indulge in a Maple Sugar Scrub at the restful Avanyu Spa (home of the Mountain Man Facial). The big, comfy rooms have a bit of Vermont flavor, with bleached pine furnishings and Audubon prints.Some B&Bs are perfectly set up for spoiling, and the Inn at Ormsby Hill, a mile or so south of the Equinox ($170—$385; 800-670-2841; ormsbyhill.com) is a paragon of the genre: The 10 bedrooms in this gloriously updated 1764 Colonial are variously appointed with four-posters, fireplaces and candlelit Jacuzzis. And innkeeper Chris Sprague's inventive breakfasts are real eye-openers.For an immersion experience inFederal finery, look into the 1811 House ($140—$280; 800-432-1811; 1811house.com), directly across from the Equinox. It actually dates from the 1770s, and itts antiques inventory could fill a Sotheby's catalog. With Oriental rugs, clawfoot tubs and a preponderance of wood-burning fireplaces, its thirteen bedchambers are lovely, livable reminders of a more gracious age. So are the common rooms, ranging from a basement billiards room to an honor-system "snug stocked with some 70 single-malt Scotch whiskies.

Best Nightlife For evening fun, head up Route 30 to The Perfect Wife (which also serves well-priced dinners; 802-362-3817; perfectwife.com) and the Red Fox (802-297-2156; redfoxinn.com), a big old barn near Stratton that has ruled the local music scene since the '60s.

December 2005

Related