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Hotel Vermont: It's So Vermonty!

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Hen of the Wood
Hen of the Wood - Cuisine Photos

Yes, the dishes that come out of the kitchen at Hen of the Wood in Waterbury are as delicious as they look! The tender fried oysters (upper right) were my favorite.

© 2013 Kim Knox Beckius
I first met Chef Eric Warnstedt when he teamed with Vermont's best chefs to prepare a seven-course dinner at the famed James Beard House in New York City in 2010. It was the most delicious evening of my life, and Warnstedt's lobster dish was my favorite course. Since then, the chef-owner of Hen of the Wood in Waterbury, Vermont, has twice been a James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Northeast nominee, and his notoriety is guaranteed to soar with the debut of a second Hen of the Wood at the Hotel Vermont in Burlington.

Because the restaurant had not yet opened when I visited the hotel (it's slated to welcome diners in late August 2013), colleagues and I joined Hotel Vermont General Manager Hans van Wees for dinner at the original Hen of the Wood. On Monday evenings, the Waterbury restaurant serves a mix of smaller plates perfect for sharing, so I sampled everything from salted and buttered radishes to grilled octopus. Three of my favorite dishes are pictured above:

  • Lobster, Spring-Dug Parsnip & Pickled Rhubarb with Crispy Ham;
  • Fried Oysters (which paired perfectly with Heady Topper, the world's best-rated beer, crafted at The Alchemist Brewery, also in Waterbury); and
  • Crispy Pork Belly, Ginger, Pickled Strawberries & Cilantro.
Hen of the Wood in Waterbury is tiny and geared for special occasions: Advance reservations are a must. Warnstedt said the new Burlington location will be twice the size and able to cater to a casual crowd of walk-in dinner guests eager to try his inventive, beautifully executed cuisine. At night, the restaurant's butcher room will be transformed into a private dining venue for groups of up to 10 adventurous guests.

Warnstedt is renowned for serving the best of what's fresh from Vermont's farms and gourmet food producers. With their shared commitment to local vendors, Hotel Vermont's partnership with Hen of the Wood should be a perfect marriage.

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