just a quick blurb about recent meals at both:
*** Hen of the Wood ***
i wouldn't say it's one of the best restaurants in the country as one or two chowhounds have called it, but it holds its own in the top tier. its strongest point: truly excellent ingredients, especially meats and dairy products. flavors are subtle and muted, allowing the freshness of ingredients to shine, but failing to wow diners who prefer stronger flavors.
- celery root and pear soup (very mild, hard to detect the pear and a bit too starchy / floury for my taste)
- calamari (beautifully prepared with broth, garlic, parsley and a light sprinkling of possibly panko)
- winding brook farm pork loin (very lightly brined, moist meat)
- the signature smoked duck with turnips, radish and cranberries (good, moist meat, very light hint of juniper berries)
- house-made chocolate buttermilk ice cream (amazing, one of the best ice creams i've ever had)
- raw milk tarentaise (produced locally, but don't remember by whom; nutty and mild, served with fragrant apple butter, toasted, unsalted hazelnuts and slices of baguette)
- a carafe of very good shiraz (not locally made, again forgot to write down producer).
price -- a bit over $100 for two, without tip -- was very reasonable for the quality. service was excellent (not hovery, but always present if needed; we had a really nice woman serve us, a transplant from long island). decor was a vermont stereotype with all its cute, quaint trappings, but one cannot help but be charmed by the warm, friendly space converted from a mill. it was a very pleasant place to eat, not stuffy or otherwise over the top.
*** 1824 House ***
food was not as interestingly or competently prepared as at hen of the wood, but certain dishes stood out. we had:
- french onion soup (supposedly famous, locally, and not badly made, though i prefer my onions melted more into the soup)
- house salad (good ingredients, greens, pine nuts, chevre, a few lone, out of season cherry tomatoes, nicely -- i.e. not over -- dressed)
- lamb chops (very good, perfectly tender, though oversalted in parts) served with well made roast fingerling potatoes, asparagus (steamed, boring), and a few tendrils of roasted sweet potato 'fries'
- cassoulet (unclear what went wrong -- possibly undercooked -- but the flavors did not meld and absorb into the beans as they ought; also over salted; however, EXCELLENT leg of duck)
- white chocolate mousse (horribly, overpoweringly sweet)
- trio of sorbets (well flavored, a bit icy, as when i make it at home)
- three glasses of wine.
the total was about $120 before tip. service was southern-style nice. decor was farmhousy, one probably wouldn't feel out of place in jeans.
it's a good choice for the area, but not something i'd drive out of my way for.