Top 3 Restaurants in the Mad River Valley

Farm to Table. It sounds cheesy these days right? Like an over-used, gimmicky expression to stay current in the food revolution sweeping the country. But there is a place where the words ‘farm to table’ were never gimmicky, it was never a new expression, and the phrase meant something deeper than wanting to get on the all-natural train.

It meant caring about what we put in our bodies. It meant planting seeds, growing fresh produce, harvesting it yourself, preparing the ingredients and presenting a truly fresh dish for your loved ones. It’s about seasonal, fresh ingredients that aren’t over fussed or stuffed with chemicals—and that’s always been the attitude in Vermont. Vermont has a well-documented love affair with farmers and the land, and anytime you head to this Green State you know you’re in for a culinary treat. In the small town of Warren, VT where the mystical mountain of Sugarbush lays is some of the best New England grub we’ve ever had.

Osso Bucco at Peasant in Waitsfield, Verrmont
Delectable Osso Bucco at Peasant in Waitsfield, Verrmont

Peasant is exactly what it sounds like. Well, sort of. It’s definitely an elegant step above peasant food, but the name says a lot. Owners and husband wife team Mary Ellen and Chris Alberti are NYC transplants, like so many of the Vermont population are, that decided a change of pace was in order after Chris spent 25 years on Wall Street. He took his love of food combined with an appreciation for the simpler ‘peasant’ dishes his restaurant is named after and started this amazing restaurant with so much heart and soul in every bite. They serve traditional, rustic food in a ‘simple feast’ fashion. The atmosphere is friendly, the ambience inviting, and the wait staff are all down to earth without feeling forced. There’s no pretense here.

It’s a family run restaurant—Mary Ellen told us that there’s usually at least one of her kids working in the kitchen or on the floor, if not more, on any given evening. The Maple Old-Fashioned is a must try cocktail to start the meal—and don’t leave without tasting the nightly ragout. The evening that we popped in the special was Pork Ragout with Penne and Asiago, and the marriage of flavors was innovative, original and perfectly balanced. A little piece of heaven on every forkful. Also – check out Mary Ellen’s handmade jewelry on your way out. It’s handcrafted Vermont artisanship at it’s finest.

Local Organic Roasted Chicken Paillard from 275 Main at The Pitcher Inn
Local Organic Roasted Chicken Paillard from 275 Main at The Pitcher Inn

275 Main at The Pitcher Inn is the ultimate in Vermont fine dining. It’s a Relais & Châteaux  property, a jewel of sophistication off a remote country road. Only a few minutes from the Clay Brook Inn, it’s the perfect way to unwind after a hard day on the slopes. The menu, which changes almost daily, is comprised of perfectly executed dishes like the Black Bass with Duck Fat Potatoes, Turnips in a Clementine Brown Butter Sauce to the mouthwatering plate licking worthy Chocolate Crèmeux. Executive Chef Sue Schickler has been at the Inn since its inception in 1997, as has General Manager Ari Sadri.

Ari’s love of food was inspired during his childhood on a self-sustaining farm in upstate NY, where cream-topped milk from the family cow, eggs from the family’s chickens, vegetables from the garden and game and other wild edibles from the forest all found their way onto the dinner table. That passion for food from both Ari and Chef Sue translates to a spectacular menu—Ari is also our favorite type of sommelier, incredibly knowledgeable and so very unpretentious. Their cellar is of the caliber you’d expect to find in Napa or France, so if you head to the Inn for a special occasion don’t worry, Ari will find something perfect for you.

The intimate, luxe, old-school Vermont style dining room at 275 Main at The Pitcher Inn
The intimate, luxe, old-school Vermont style dining room at 275 Main at The Pitcher Inn

For the slopeside diners, the weary skiiers, the powder chasing snowboarders and the family friendly atmosphere head into Timbers, the casual fine dining on-mountain option at Sugarbush’s Clay Brook Inn and their signature restaurant. The rustic chic vibe is welcoming and very ‘Vermont’ and they serve one of the best burgers we’ve ever had. Sometimes you just need to leave the fuss at home and dive into a perfectly cooked burger—that’s what you’ll find here. The creative chefs are also very dedicated to fresh, seasonal ingredients and have specials like the fantastic Tuesday Night Raw Bar. It’s a great spot for après ski cocktails or a fun family dinner after everyone reconvenes from their respective slopes, from the magic carpet riders to double black diamond adventurers! You can walk just a few short feet, be in your luxury suite, kick off those little torture chamber ski boots and be unwinding in minutes.

Raw Bar is shuckin' at slopeside Timbers Restaurant every Tuesday and Wednesday this season
Raw Bar is shuckin’ at slopeside Timbers Restaurant every Tuesday and Wednesday this season