Whether you call it farm to plate, field to fork, farm to table or field to plate, in a Vermont restaurant, it typically means the owners and chefs have direct purchasing relationships with local farmers, prepare menus based on what is seasonally fresh in Vermont, create shorter menus with a higher concentration of locally pasture-raised meat and use local produce first, followed by regional. Highly esteemed farm to plate restaurants, most of which are chef-owned, commonly identify the sources of local ingredients on their menus and Web sites.
Where do Vermonters go when they want to savor a meal prepared with the freshest Vermont ingredients? As you roam the Green Mountain state, seek out one--or all--of these 14 local favorites that are devoted to farm to plate cuisine:
1. Hen of the Wood
92 Stowe Street, Waterbury, Vermont, 802-244-7300, and now in Burlington at Hotel Vermont, 802-540-0534.
Reservations are a must for chef-owner Eric Warnstedt's wooded dining cellar in a vintage 1835 grist mill, located just minutes off I-89 at exit 10 in Waterbury. Devoted to "serving seasonal American food celebrating the farms of Vermont and the Northeast," Hen of the Wood sets the standard in farm to table restaurants. Warnstedt has thrice been named a James Beard Awards finalist for Best Chef in the Northeast. Dinner is served Monday through Saturday. A second Hen of the Wood debuted at the end of 2013 in the newly opened Hotel Vermont in Burlington. Dinner is served here nightly.
2. Roots the Restaurant
51 Wales Street, Rutland, Vermont, 802-747-7414.
Rutland is fast becoming a local food mecca, with one of the state's leading farm and food networks connecting local businesses and social programs to quite possibly the most diverse collection of food producers in Vermont. Roots, a friendly downtown eatery, serves traditional specials packed with these diverse local ingredients. Lunch and dinner are available Tuesday through Sunday.
3. Claire's Restaurant & Bar
41 South Main Street, Hardwick, Vermont, 802-472-7053.
Prices are reasonable, and the percentage of food produced locally may be the highest in the state (it's estimated 80 percent comes from within 15 miles) at this cheerfully simple café in the heart of Hardwick: the town that food saved. Sunday Brunch is a local showcase, and live music events for food-related causes are frequently scheduled. Enjoy dinner daily except Wednesday.
4. Lago Trattoria
95 Main Street, Newport, Vermont, 802-334-8222.
In Vermont's northernmost town center on the shores of Lake Memphremagog, Newport has experienced a culinary renaissance sparked by the Fresh By Nature campaign, which has transformed traditional town restaurants into dining venues focused on food system sustainability. Lago Trattoria is a fine example of this trend, serving traditional Italian fare from "field to fork." Open for dinner Monday through Saturday.
5. Salt Café
207 Barre Street, Montpelier, Vermont, 802-229-6678.
Food writer, homesteader and chef Suzanne Podhaizer grows her own produce and collects even more from local farmers to feature on her three-week rotation menu, which is inspired by events, places and literature like Alice in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings. BYOB makes for an affordable night out at this side-street bistro just outside the state capital's town center. Dinner is served Tuesday through Sunday.
6. Juniper's Restaurant
2059 Darling Hill Road, Lyndonville, Vermont, 802-626-8310.
On the outskirts of the bustling village of Lyndonville, deep in the crevices of Vermont's remote Northeast Kingdom, the Wildflower Inn beckons to diners with its on-site restaurant: Juniper's. Here, local meat (including some of the inn's own pasture-raised beef) is featured extensively on the menu, along with produce and specialty products from a solid assortment of nearby farms. Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday, both for inn guests and the public.
7. The Downtown Grocery
41 South Depot Street, Ludlow, Vermont, 802-228-7566.
In Ludlow, the closest village to Okemo Mountain Resort, the hottest spot for dinner isn't a grocery store, as the name implies, but a restaurant with blackboard menus chef-owner Rogan Lechthaler prepares using farm ingredients in innovative sauces and local meats cured in the cellar. Open nightly for dinner except Tuesday in winter.
8. Starry Night Café
5371 Route 7, North Ferrisburgh, Vermont, 802-877-6316.
Chef Josh Krechel grew up in New Jersey but embraced local farm ingredients when he moved to Vermont in 1998 and spent his first four years cooking at Shelburne Farms. Seasonal, small menus were the staple from the beginning in 2003 when David Hugo opened this dimly lit and rather remote café on a lonely stretch of Route 7. The dining rooms are open Wednesday through Sunday: Always call ahead, as they often close for private events.
9. Michael's on the Hill
4182 Waterbury-Stowe Road/Route 100 North, Waterbury Center, Vermont, 802-244-7476. Perched on the perfect knoll peering over Route 100 between Waterbury and Stowe, Michael's on the Hill served "locally driven" fare before farm to plate was the catch phrase. Swiss chef-owner Michael Kloeti artistically presents European-style cuisine, partnering with local food mainstays like Cold Hollow Cider Mill to create core-inspired seasonal dishes on the “Hill” in Waterbury Center, Michael's is open nightly except Tuesday.
10. Farmhouse Tap & Grill
160 Bank Street, Burlington, Vermont, 802-859-0888.
Burlington, the Queen City of Bohemian trendsetting and most populous Vermont locale, delivered a Big Mac of a smack to corporate food industry America when it pushed out the city's only McDonald's in 2007. In its place, a Vermont farm burger joint opened. Farmhouse Tap & Grill, one block off the Church Street Marketplace, serves bulging, juicy beef, pork and turkey burgers: The meat is all grass-fed and locally raised. The beer selection is astonishing, and while the line to get in may make you grimace (reservations not taken), the wait is worth it for lunch or dinner daily.
11. Kitchen Table Bistro
1840 West Main Street, Richmond, Vermont, 802-434-8686.
Inside a two-floor vintage brick farmhouse that once belonged to Vermont's first governor, diners are in for a culinary experience that surpasses farm to plate. You might call it forest to platter! Foraged delicacies edge creatively into entrees, and the impressive array of food sources listed on Kitchen Table Bistro's Web site may boggle you. Located at the junction of Routes 2 and 17 in Richmond, it's a stone's throw from one of many farm partners: Conant's Sweet Corn. Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
12. SoLo Farm & Table
95 Middleton Road (former site of Three Clock Inn), South Londonderry, Vermont, 802-824-6327.
A Vermont gal moved to New York City, and while waitressing, she met a Spanish chef with oodles of accolades. Lucky for Vermonters, she brought him home, and together they have forged ahead in the farm to table movement: That trend is even in their new restaurant's name. High-class, East Village culinary prowess positions the Genovarts' SoLo as a powerhouse on the local gastro scene with a wine menu to complement. Open for dinner Thursday through Monday.
13. The Gleanery
133 Main Street, Putney, Vermont, 802-387-3052.
Opened in the fall of 2012, the Gleanery puts yet another spin on farm to plate—know your farmers... and your artisans. From the food to the dishware to the actual table showcasing the culinary creations, the local effort behind each is of equal importance. This café, dining room and gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch, dinner and communing.
14. NECI on Main
118 Main Street, Montpelier, Vermont, 802-223-3188.
The golden dome of the statehouse shimmers above Vermont's delightful capital city, home to the progressive decisions made by a collaborative government and the distinguished New England Culinary Institute (NECI). With an emphasis on farm to plate cooking skills, NECI turns out promising culinary innovators and stewards of the land. Many remain in Vermont; others venture into less sustainable-minded regions of the country, creatively inching seasonal, local, humanely-raised foods into growing pockets of America. Experience their culinary education first-hand at NECI on Main, the college's signature eatery in downtown Montpelier, serving lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and Sunday brunch.
The farm to plate trend is hot at restaurants, but it's not as much about a bandwagon as it is about chefs realizing their desire to cook what's fresh, local and seasonal. In Vermont, the groundwork is being laid for the local food industry to grow into a sustainable economic force, and, with a wide range of restaurants embracing the farm to plate philosophy, doubling local food intake by 2020 is shaping up to be an attainable and inspirational goal.