While I went to school in New Hampshire, I'm not lying when I say Vermont was literally a skinny dip in the river away. We crossed state lines all the time, mostly in search of a beautiful mountain view or a good meal. I love New Hampshire, but my favorite food is in Vermont. Check out my must-try spots.
For the Best Food in Northern New England: Hen of the Wood
Hen of the Wood has been on my list of places to try since I buckled down as a serious foodie my sophomore year. The highly acclaimed restaurant is nestled in Waterbury, VT. The chef, Eric Warnstedt, has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Chef in America. This place is a must, more than any other restaurant in this series simply because these awards put it on an entirely new level. First off, the restaurant itself is gorgeous - located inside of an old mill next to a stream, I have never eaten in a more beautiful place. Amazingly, the food is even better than it looks. The menu is all seasonal and local fare and changes daily. I really went all out when I ate here, enjoying a delicate octopus small plate, a second small plate of croquettes made with cod, and heavenly, billowy, pillowy homemade gnocchi for my meal. The dessert was the most complex and delicious thing I've tasted in a dessert - brown butter cake with apple gelato, apple granita, salted corn flakes (I would buy these by the bucket full) and like 3 other perfect ingredients that I can't remember. Good news is, there is now a second location in Burlington. Reservations are a must. If you're in Waterbury, there is plenty to do in the area. The biggest attraction is the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, which is surprisingly inexpensive ($4) and offers the opportunity to try a never-before-made flavor from their flavor lab plus a free ice cream at the end. If you want to continue your foodie sampling, check out the Cabot Annex Store for cheese, Lake Champlain Chocolates, and the Cold Hollow Cider Mill (for cider, and more importantly, cider doughnuts)/ There's plenty of great skiing in the area, too.
For Road-Side Magic: Whippi Dip
Whippi Dip is a little seasonal roadside stand serving up ice cream and the best foods America has to offer: loaded waffle fries, cheeseburgers, fried seafood, etc. etc. The small shack with a walk up counter and outdoor seating is in Fairlee, VT right of I-91 and probably about 100 feet from the New Hampshire border. It's temptingly located on the way back from many popular hikes in the area, and I will never forget how good my loaded waffle fries, cheeseburger, and strawberry milkshake tasted one summer day after the 7.6 mile hike up Smarts Mountain. If you're in Fairlee, it could be fun to head to the Fairlee Drive-In after dinner at Whippi Dip in the summer months to catch a movie old-school style - in a drive in theater in the great outdoors.
For My Favorite Restaurant in the Area: Worthy Kitchen
Worthy Kitchen is definitely my favorite restaurant in the area (located in Queechee, VT). It pairs farm to table food with local brews and a fun atmosphere. My family and I love the fried chicken here, which never tastes greasy or heavy but instead salty and delicious in all the right ways. I've gotten it almost every time I've been in some form or another - whether an entire order for myself, or to try it in sandwich form paired with truffle fries and pesto mayo. The menu changes daily based on what they can get fresh, but there are some classics that have been around for a while. Matt and I did a cooking class with the chef, Jason Merrill, where we learned how to make a spiced bbq pork rub, cheesy grits, fiddleheads, and a watermelon salad. Chef Merrill talked a lot about locally sourcing ingredients for his restaurants (the second being Worthy Burger, which you'll read about next). In addition to 18 hand-selected beers on tap, they also have awesome root beer. Because sometimes you just need a root beer. While they don't take reservations and it can get busy, the line moves fast (its counter-service instead of table-service) and it's a great place to go with family and friends without breaking the bank. Worthy Kitchen just announced the planned opening of a Boston location in Brookline soon and I. can't. wait. I am literally SO lucky that I won't have to say goodbye to two of my favorite Upper Valley spots, Morano Gelato and Worthy Kitchen. If you're a Boston local, trust me, you are lucky too. If you're in Queechee for lunch or dinner, be sure to check out the Simon Pearce glassblowing and the scenic Queechee Gorge.
Worthy Burger came first, Worthy Kitchen came second, and they're both worth a trip. Worthy Burger is in South Royalton, VT right off of I-89. In addition to the a well-crafted classic burger, there is also a turducky burger (turkey and duck confit - um, yum), a fish burger, a chicken burger, and a veggie burger. The list of toppings can really take your burger to the next level - from a fried egg to local bacon to multiple types of cheeses like local brie, cheddar, goat cheese, and more. The buttery buns and perfectly crisp fries (you need to get pesto mayo for the fries) are the perfect carbs to complement this burger experience. Worthy Burger doesn't take reservations either, and can also get busy, but again, things move fast, the food is quick, and there are endless beer options while you wait.