Keepin it Green in the Green Mountain State- Hen of the Wood

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Hen of the Wood. Great name, even greater cuisine! I have not so thoroughly enjoyed dinner out in a long time! The service, the atmosphere, and the food, oh my the food! We went on a Monday night and there was a wait so be sure to make reservations or do what we did and sit at the kitchen counter (which ended up being the best seat in the house).

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Menu of the day

Definitely order the grilled octopus, zucchini fritters, and tomato-mozzarella salad. All were delicious starters made better by watching Becca painstakinIMG_0517gly prepare each plate.The octopus was incredibly tender, no small feat for any who have tried octopus before. It came nestled atop a sunchoke puree accompanied by radishes and cilantro.

The zucchini fritters harkened me back to my Nanny’s farm where she would make fresh corn fritters for breakfast. They were light and fluffy, served with creme fraiche and local honey. The outsides were crispy and the insides soft enough to melt in the mouth. IMG_0516The tomato salad provided a much needed freshener with the housemade mozzarella and vinegar. This course definitely perked our palates for dinner!

Next we went to the rabbit with rhubarb jus and chicken with roasted chanterelles. Both were tender, beautiful, and deftly seasoned. IMG_0523

The chicken was my favorite. It was stuffed with a chicken sausage and topped with a pan jus. The currants scattered on the plate were that sweet tart note that emboldens flavors of savory entrees and the celery root puree was silken. The chanterelles were earthy and tender. it was some of the best prepared chicken I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

My only disappointment of the evening was dessert. We had a selection of bite-sized desserts, the milk cake with raspberry sorbet, a complimentary variety of sorbets, and a cheese tasting.

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The only one I truly enjoyed was the cheese. The cheeses were Vermont-sourced and served with a tart currant jam that finished our fabulous dinner perfectly. We will definitely be back on our next visit to Vermont!

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Keepin’ it Green in the Green Mountain State- Pho Hong

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Back in our little town of Roanoke, the best pho restaurant recently limited their hours, much to our lamenting tummies. We found Pho Saigon just by chance and it became a weekly, post-softball tradition for us. There is nothing like a hearty bowl of noodles to comfort tired muscles. Unfortunately, they are now only open for lunch except on weekends. So, when planning dining out in Burlington, we looked for a good pho place. Enter Pho Hong. And…its famed squid pho!

We went based on the amazing reviews for this place. Unfortunately, the website says nothing about no beer/wine license so we had to run to the Cumberland Farms around the corner- not a very good selection. The place is very popular, especially for takeout. We waited about 40 minutes for an outside table. Inside there was no air conditioning and patrons were visibly sweating. Outside the mosquitoes were oppressive! Our waitress kindly brought out cans of off, but that did not even touch the hungry insects. We eventually moved inside because being hot was better than being eaten alive.

I will say our server was very friendly and the food was okay. The portions were generous and the vegetables bountiful. Unfortunately, I have had some fantastic pho in other states and the depth of the broth just was not there. The small amount of protein in the overall bowl was also disappointing. All in all, I would not go back for dine in. Take out might be alright, but I think I would try another place first.

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Keepin’ it Green in the Green Mountain State- American Flatbread

Quilt hanging in American Flatbread. It is an homage to their local draft beer selection!

Quilt hanging in American Flatbread. It is an homage to their local draft beer selection!

Even eight years after my first visit, American Flatbread is still one of the best restaurants in Burlington! Great beer selection, amazing local ingredients, and fantastic service! Fortunately for us, AF has expanded since we last visited. They acquired the patio area between buildings. We did not have to wait even though it was a Friday night, and I think that is because of all this extra space. We can always count on AF to serve something local and yummy!

The menu is mainly wood-fired flatbreads of many ilks, local beer, and interesting salads. We ordered the Cheese and Herb, and the Pepperoni and Peppers flatbreads. The cheese and herb had whole milk mozzarella, Italian grand padona, garlic oil base, and fresh herbs. Delish! The pepperoni and peppers offered their homemade organic tomato base (so good), topped with nitrate-free pepperoni, green peppers, red onion, fresh herbs, and a blend of cheeses. We gobbled up both for our first dinner out in the Green Mountain State!

We also ordered their salad of the day- on the sign to the righIMG_0408t. I love kale, but this was even better than I imagined and the perfect accompaniment to AF’s rustic flatbreads. As usual, they served local microbrews. This time around it was Zero Gravity Brewing Company and it also did not disappoint. The Bernie Weiss was thirst-quenching, and a cool homage to Bernie Sanders, longtime Vermont politician and recent presidential candidate. AF has their flatbreads available in many grocery stores now, but if in town, a visit to the home location is a must!

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Keepin it green in the Green Mountain State- The great and wonderful Penny Cluse Cafe

Dining in Vermont is an experience all should have once in their life. The restaurants make every effort to locally source their ingredients, plan seasonal menus that support local farms, and are always reinventing themselves. Though only there for a few days, we found many gems in and around Burlington.
IMG_0427Breakfast. We are always on the lookout for a breakfast spot that inspires our palettes and makes us dream about it long after we have left. Burlington has such a place, Penny Cluse. Loved it so much we went three times in five days! Inventive food with fresh, local ingredients has never been done better.
Cornmeal French Toast with Rhubarb Compote!

Cornmeal French Toast with Rhubarb Compote!

The first trip offered cornmeal french toast with rhubarb compote, and though fresh Vermont maple syrup was served, it was not even necessary. Our son went for the original french toast with bananas on top and I think it may have been the largest plate of french toast I have ever seen. By the way, the food is big at Penny Cluse, so come hungry!

Huevos Ranchero

Huevos Ranchero

We also sampled the Huevos Verdes with a homemade avocado tomatillo salsa served atop poached eggs, spicy black beans and pickled vegetables. And, because my daughter and husband could not come to agreement, we also got the Huevos Rancheros for a sauce taste-off.

Huevos Verde

Huevos Verde

Personally, Iiked the Ranchero sauce better. It had more depth of flavor and the chili was more prominent. Both were good though, and we ended up getting one Huevos the third day with both sauces- the perfect combination! We also repeated the french toast the third day because I just couldn’t miss out on more serving.

The second visit, we went for the gingerbread pancakes, biscuits and gravy, turkey hash, and tofu scram.

Gingerbread PancakesThe thing about Penny Cluse is that they have an amazing menu, but there is a lot of magic going on with the special board.

Biscuits with Herbed Gravy- and yes it was as good as southern sausage gravy!

Biscuits with Herbed Gravy- and yes it was as good as southern sausage gravy!

The turkey hash, like the cornmeal french toast were both products of the special board. Another bit of advice our waitress imparted, order the bucket of spuds. You may think they are just glorified home fries, but you would be wrong, and if you ask, they will make you a half portion!

Not your usual side of fruit!

Not your usual side of fruit!

The fruit side is also unexpected. Raspberries, watermelon, peaches, grapefruit, pineapple, a date, and all of it was firm and fresh! Expect a wait because the Penny Cluse secret is out. We waited 40 minutes each day and that is about average. They have tasty coffee to stave off the hunger! If you are in Vermont, Penny Cluse is a must!

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