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East Regional: Dining Out, November 1997
Simon Pearce Glass Factory & Restaurant
How many glass shops encourage customers to test-drive the tableware? Because it’s a store¿a factory, in fact¿and a restaurant, Simon Pearce is able to lay a truly model table. With the exception of the edibles, almost every object in this spacious arch-windowed showroom/dining room is available for sale just steps away; you can even observe much of it being made. The clear, hefty, pleasingly-rounded glass is signature Pearce. Less immediately recognizable, though no less coveted, is his line of celadon ceramics, decorated simply with the swirl of the potter’s fingertip.
But in a restaurant, it’s what’s on the plate that counts, of course, and here it’s heady New American fare. Lunches might include warm Vermont goat cheese salad or cheddar-topped shepherd’s pot pie ($7.50-$8.50), and dinners might feature Tuscan grilled top sirloin with arugula and rosemary or sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna (entrées run between $16-$24). For accompaniment, choose a glass or bottle from the restaurant’s award-winning wine cellar with fairly priced selections. For dessert, at least one person in your party must order the Irish apple cake¿so soft, light and soufflé-like. Lulled by the food and the view of a waterfall churning toward a covered bridge, we could easily have stayed all day.
Information: Simon Pearce Glass Factory and Restaurant, on Main Street in Queechee; (802) 295-1470.
Can’t get enough of that fresh mountain air during the day? At Sugarloaf/USA you can head up the mountain at night¿but not for skiing. Last winter, the area began offering snowcat-accessed, evening dining at Bullwinkle’s, a mid-mountain warming hut on the mountain’s west side that is transformed at night into an intimate alpine restaurant, with crisp white linens and fresh flowers on candlelit tables.
A Bombardier snowcat, outfitted with a warm, 12-passenger cabin, transports diners up the hill to the restaurant, where they are greeted with a glass of wine and baked brie en croute accompanied by crackers and fruit. The heavy¿albeit welcome¿appetizer is indicative of the $65 fixed-price, six-course menu, which is laden with butter, bacon and cream and seems more Eighties than Nineties. Conspicuously absent are light, healthful choices, which makes sitting through six courses¿hors d’oeuvres, soup, appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert¿an expensive chore for those who watch their diets. Even the vegetarian entree¿eggplant and herb tomato sauce with porcini mushroom penne¿seemed heavy.
Another area that could stand some improvement is Bullwinkle’s heating system, which has difficulty keeping the dining area warm on cold, windy nights. Note: Be sure to dress warmly when you go. The $65 package includes snowcat transportation and dinner. Wine and beer are available at an additional cost. The restaurant has three seatings between 6 and 9 p.m. on Saturday nights. Dinners are also occasionally served other nights during holidays and vacation weeks from December through mid-April.
Information: Bullwinkle’s, Sugarloaf/USA, Carrabassett Valley, Maine; (207) 237-6939.
Mary’s at Baldwin Creek
There is no “Mary” behind the idyllic inn known as Mary’s at Baldwin Creek. There was a Mary involved in the early-Seventies communal restaurant that gave rise to the inn, but her name and destiny were somehow lost in the tie-dyed haze of hippie history. Today, Mary’s is owned by stellar chef Doug Mack and his wife and partner, Linda Harmon. They bought the business in 1982, made it a must-dine destination and, in 1994, moved it to a classic 1790s New England farmhouse on the rural edge of town¿about a half-hour, hairpin–filled drive from Sugarbush and Mad River Glen. The image may be pure Currier & Ives¿there’s even a horse-drawn sleigh ride offered during Sunday dinners¿but Mack’s sophisticated food is consistently cutting-edge.
A self-taught chef (he cooked his way through a degree in fine arts photography, which explains some of the visual panache), Mack pioneered the cause of regional cuisine and continues to put New England’s native larder to good use, with signature dishes such as maple herb-crusted Vermont rack of lamb or local Black Angus beef with Zinfandel peppercorn sauce. Entrées run between $11-$24 and are available in half portions for inveterate taster/grazers.
Conveniently tucked above the suite of dining rooms, each with its own ambiance (we especially enjoyed the rustic summer kitchen), are five charming dormer rooms, where you can sleep off the evening’s indulgences in quilt-wrapped coziness while dreaming of an equally brilliant breakfast and/or brunch. Rates are $65-$95/double occupancy, including breakfast.
Information: Routes 116 and 17, Bristol, Vt. 05443; (800) 634-5341 fax (802) 453-4825.
When you’ve mastered the last mogul of the day and are ready for a magnificent martini and a mild-mannered supper¿topped by a massive wedge of mud pie¿try Smuggler’s Cove. This comfortable, wood-paneled family restaurant caters to schussers, snow bunnies and kidlets alike.
Smuggler’s Cove is as unpretentious as Camelback Ski Area, a scant three miles away. Its red-brick walls are adorned with stained glass and lined with old books so you can enjoy a bit of Huck Finn with your hamburger or Little Women with your linguini. You won’t find trendy salads with designer lettuces at Smuggler’s Cove; instead, the menu is laced with hearty staples like chicken parmigiana and Louisiana gumbo. All sandwiches are served on delicious garlic bread.
Snuggled in a booth beneath a Tiffany lamp, we enjoyed crabcakes bigger than the Chesapeake Bay served with distinctive sweet-potato fries; the rib eye steak was cooked just as ordered with an oven-baked, not nuked, potato.
Owners Ron and Jenette Sarajian hire cheery servers, who eagerly reel off the daily and early-bird specials. Crayons are delivered pronto with kids’ menus. If mud pie isn’t your style, finish off with scrumptious rice pudding or Triple D (for deep, dark, delicious) chocolate cake. Reservations are recommended weekends and holidays.
Information: Route 611 South, Tannersville, Pa. 18372; (717) 629-2277.