Where to Eat
For a town that's barely a speck on the map, Woodstock is a cosmopolitan feast. Don't be surprised if your Muscovy duck breast has an Italian flavor, or if the guy behind the broiler graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.
Jackson House Inn & Restaurant 114-3 Senior Lane, Woodstock; 802/457-2065; www.jacksonhouse.com; dinner for two $100. Marty Holzberg's Tuscan cuisine has elevated this inn to a culinary destination. Between courses (to start, try the lobster cassoulet), he'll emerge from the kitchen into the cathedral-ceilinged dining room to entertain diners with stories of wee-hour phone calls from the eccentric mushroom-hunter, or the wild raspberries secretly nicked from a neighbor's yard. Holzberg's veal tenderloin wrapped in Vermont bacon tastes even better than it sounds. Ask for a table overlooking the garden.
Barnard Inn Restaurant 5518 Rte. 12, Barnard; 802/234-9961; www.barnardinnrestaurant.com; dinner for two $100. There are no guest rooms in this old farmhouse—just a semi-formal tavern where elegant dinners are orchestrated by chef-owners Ruth Schimmelpfennig and Will Dodson. Appetizers include house-smoked rainbow trout dabbed with horseradish crème fraîche, and rich sweetbreads drenched in a lobster-veal reduction. If you're still hungry, move on to a Long Island duckling breast over braised red cabbage or roast game poussin with caramelized root vegetables. Squeeze in a lemon custard tartlet with berry coulis at the end, or just head over to the adjoining bar for a digestif.
Kedron Valley Inn Rte. 106, South Woodstock; 802/457-1473; www.kedronvalleyinn. com; dinner for two $75. Chef Jim Allen re-creates typical American dishes using local produce with a lot of flavor. The grilled filet mignon is marinated in red wine, olive oil, black pepper, and garlic, and served with mushroom bordelaise; the salmon is stuffed with mousse, wrapped in puff pastry, and drizzled with beurre blanc and herbs from the inn's garden. Whet your appetite with the smoked pheasant salad and a glass of Chardonnay from the award-winning wine list.
Pane e Salute 61 Central St., Woodstock; 802/457-4882; dinner for two $60. Owners Caleb Barber and Deirdre Heekin spent a year in Italy on an impromptu culinary tour. After returning to Vermont, Barber headed back to Tuscany to apprentice with an artisanal bread maker, then came home again to open this tiny osteria. The couple's dedication to authentic Italian cooking is evident in every detail, from the selection of cured meats in the piatto toscana to the hearty consistency of the acquacotta ("cooked water"), a peasant soup of beans, tomatoes, onions, and sage. These perfectionists still spend time in Italy, researching the cuisine of one region each year.
The Prince & the Pauper 24 Elm St., Woodstock; 802/457-1818; www.princeandpauper.com; dinner for two $70. The clubby restaurant has earned accolades from critics since it opened in 1981, but dishes that diverge from traditional country French sometimes miss their mark. The orange-ginger sauce paired with wasabi-crusted ahi tuna is too tangy; the Vietnamese spring rolls are a bit odd. Still, "the Pauper" has its pluses: the menu changes daily, patrons chat from table to table, and co-owner Vincent Talento makes convivial rounds through the half-timbered room. If you stick to the classics prepared by chef and co-owner Chris Balcer—like the carré d'agneau "royale" and the house-made maple ice cream with sugared walnuts—you won't be disappointed.
Corners Inn Restaurant 52 Upper Rd., at Rte. 4, Bridgewater Corners; 802/672-9968; www.cornersinn.com; dinner for two $65. Though it's just south of the main artery to Woodstock, about 10 minutes outside town, the inn's low-key dining room (inlaid stone fireplace, white table linens, floral-upholstered chairs) still manages to lure patrons by the busload. They come for Bradford Pirkey's inventive cooking, to which the menu is "only a guide." For Pirkey, the chef-diner interaction is as important as the food. Try his veal with porcini and shiitake mushrooms; or, if you're a dairy aficionado, order the five-onion soup with three-cheese crostini and the equally cheese-laden artichoke bread. As the evening winds down, join Pirkey in the wood-paneled tavern for a pint of Long Trail Ale, brewed down the street.
Simon Pearce The Mill, Main St., Quechee; 802/295-2711; dinner for two $100. When you've finished watching the glassblowers in the studios downstairs, settle in at a table overlooking the waterfall and appreciate a different sort of craftsmanship. The Irish-influenced menu is as clean and comforting as the rough-hewn mill in which it's served; hearty appetites will appreciate chef Robert Newton's steamed pork dumplings and three-beet risotto thickened with goat's-milk cheddar.
Vermonters like to make a point of supporting their farmers and small businesses by buying local products (like maple syrup and cheddar cheese, two of the state's most renowned exports). Learn about tapping trees for sap and how cheese is smoked at the 550-acre Sugarbush Farm (591 Sugarbush Farm Rd., Woodstock; 800/281-1757; www.sugarbushfarm.com). Generous samples of four grades of syrup and 10 kinds of cheese (including maple—hickory cheddar) are offered throughout the tasting area and shop. To quench your thirst, head out to the Long Trail Brewing Co., about 10 minutes from Woodstock (Rtes. 4 and 100A, Bridgewater Corners; 802/672-5011; www.longtrail.com). The seven varieties of ale are brewed on-site; try a pint or two on the Long Trail Pub's deck, overlooking the banks of the Ottauquechee River.
Arts and Crafts
In 1981, Irish-born Simon Pearce moved his glassblowing operation from Kilkenny, Ireland, to a run-down woolen mill on the Ottauquechee River (The Mill, Quechee; 802/295-2711), 10 minutes from Woodstock. It was an immediate success, and his handblown glass bowls, lamps, and tankards are now sold at 350 stores nationwide.
As Pearce took in apprentices from around the world, he transformed the area into an arts-and-crafts breeding ground. British potter Miranda Thomas (the granddaughter of the architect behind London's Ritz and the interiors of the Cunard ships) left her studio in England in 1983 to set up a ceramics line at Pearce's mill. Her simple freehand designs quickly became popular. At the mill, Thomas was reacquainted with a former college classmate, Charles Shackleton (also a pedigreed risk-taker: his great-grandfather was Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton). The two joined forces—actually, they married—and opened their own studio in Bridgewater, five miles from Woodstock (The Mill, Rte. 4; 802/672-5175).
You'll also find other artisans and artists in the area, most notably wood-block printer Sabra Field, creator of a UNICEF Christmas card (the one with a bird teetering on an apple tree) sent out during the eighties. Her prints are sold at galleries across Windsor County, including Woodstock Folk Art Prints & Antiquities (6 Elm St.; 802/457-2012); her work is also available at www.sabrafield.com.