I was surprised to see there've been no prior posts on restaurants in the Jay Peaks area, considering how popular a ski mountain Jay Peak is... and how hungry you get after skiing those challenging trails!
Here's a quick blurb on Bernie's Restaurant, Montgomery Pizza and Subs, and The Belfry, all in the Montgomery Center, VT area, where we stayed. There are accompanying photos here: http://www.girleatscity.com/2011/03/b...
Our first night, even before skiing whetted our appetites, we stopped in at Bernie's Restaurant, a small chef owned establishment with quite an eclectic menu. There's standard pub grub, Mexican selections on some nights (advertised as authentic; we hear it's popular), and options with distinctly haute aspirations. My partner had the grilled pork chop with mashed potatoes and gravy. I had duck breast with blueberry sauce. Each entree comes with either a soup or a salad, as well as the vegetable side of the day. On the night we went, the vegetable was sauteed broccolini and baby cut carrots, which were well made, crisp tender, and perfectly seasoned with what I think were fresh rosemary and garlic.
Our starters were a mixed bag. His salad included humdrum Dole prepackaged salad mix-esque lettuce, a bit of carrot and red onion, and a few grape tomatoes. But my soup, a clam chowder, was very good, possibly homemade.
His pork chop, a generous one-inch cut on the bone, was well brined and well seasoned, though it came overcooked in parts. A few bites near one edge were inedibly charred; the parts near the bone were moist and perfect. Mashed potatoes were buttery and smooth, I think made from scratch. Gravy was probably a doctored version of something from a can or jar, but inoffensive.
My duck breast (pictured at the top of this post) was oddly tough in parts for some reason, though it'd been cooked to a good, medium rare temperature and much of the fat had been rendered from the skin. The blueberry sauce, full of tiny wild blueberries and spiked with some sort of liquor, was delicious, a very good match for the meat. The biggest star on my plate was actually probably the broccolini, though, which I thought were made with real competence.
The next day, after a full day of amazing skiing on fresh powder at Jay Peak, without stopping for lunch, we were dog tired and ravenous. We tried for an early meal at a local pub, but it was packed with the apres ski crowd. So we opted for what we thought would be mediocre takeout from Montgomery Pizza and Subs, instead. We were pleasantly surprised.
Montgomery Pizza and Subs is a charmer. It's a hole-in-the-wall, casual takeout joint with a few tables added as an afterthought. The menu features pizza and subs as advertised -- served, we hear, on homemade bread and pizza crust -- as well as homemade cookies, cakes, brownies and burritos -- really, really good burritos. Our order took a while to come, but those chicken burritos were worth the wait. The filling, basically a very good homemade chicken stew with rice and sweet peppers, was chock full of savory, well developed flavors, though the chicken was tender and not overcooked.
A side of fries was the only disappointment: They were undercooked and soggy with oil, a sure sign of having been fried in insufficiently hot oil.
The best meal we had in the Jay Peak area, though, was at The Belfry on our final evening in town. We were hobbling about with sore knees and not really motivated to go out for dinner. Frankly, I would've been glad to drink a bottle of wine with a Power Bar and call it a day, but he was a real trooper and offered to drive and carry me from the restaurant to the car if necessary. I'm glad we (he) rallied.
Beers at this rustic pub / diner / bar were, by NYC and Vermont resort standards, dirt cheap: Most 12 oz mugs or bottles are less than $4. There were locally brewed Long Trail and Switchback ales on tap. Switchback was unfiltered, easy drinking and likable, if somewhat bland. Long Trail was slightly spicy and fruity, with a hint of apricot on the nose, also fairly quaffable. Both were great, low-alcohol beers to drink after a physically demanding day.
He ordered a creamy tomato vegetable bisque to start, which was fair, though not wonderful. It included bits of canned mushrooms.
For our mains, I had the bacon wrapped, maple-glazed pork chop special with twice baked potato and a small side of vegetables. The lone spear of broccoli in the vegetable medley was crisp tender, still bright green and pleasant to eat given our somewhat vegetable deprived diets of the past few days, though in truth, the remainder of the vegetables (I remember a hard lump of carrot and some undercooked onions) were mediocre. The real stars were the pork chops and potato, both legitimately excellent. The pork chop was succulent and bursting with juices, not a moment overcooked, and it paired gorgeously with the maple glaze and bacon. (There was also a little ramekin of apple sauce, but it was forgettable in comparison to everything else.) Bacon was perfectly crisp, the maple glaze not overly sweet and strongly aromatic. Our waitress told us the owner had just harvested this syrup the prior weekend during an annual maple syrup festival. Twice baked potatoes were creamy and... well... I don't use this adjective often, but it's appropriate, here: They were glorious. Creamy. Cheesy. Rich. I'm certain they were not healthy. :)
He ordered the penne with sausage and rose sauce (a marinara and cream sauce, I think). The plate was well portioned for hungry skiiers. Sauce was pleasant, though almost certainly a doctored version of something jarred; slices of sausage were juicy; the pasta itself was al dente. It was attractively sprinkled with grated parmesan and dried cilantro or parsley. He said he enjoyed the plate, but wasn't thrilled about it.
For dessert, we shared the maple cream pie, which tasted like a version of chess pie with maple syrup for flavoring. The generous wedge was topped with canned whipped cream and drizzled with more maple syrup. Somehow the pie avoided being overwhelmingly sweet and the maple flavors were wonderfully vivid. Prices were fair: Pasta entrees were about $13, burgers were about $6 or $7, and specials were between $16 and $20. This is a restaurant I'd be excited to pay a return visit to, next time we ski up this way.
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