Restaurant Review: The Downtown Grocery (Ludlow, VT)

The Downtown Grocery is less than 10 minutes from the Golden Stage Inn, and is located in the heart of Ludlow, Vermont.

We’d been hearing rave reviews from guests for some time, and decided it was time that Golden Stage Inn gave The Downtown Grocery a review of our own!  (We are far from food critics….but we are definitely food lovers all around.  Besides – what better excuse to go out do dinner than “It’s for work”?!)  Julie and Mike had dined there before, but I had only had a drink at the bar once last winter.  I’d really wanted something to eat, but the intimate restaurant was totally packed.  Downtown Grocery’s tables are usually completely booked, sometimes several weeks in advance during the busy ski season!  Naturally, I was dying to get a bite…

So this past week, I finally enjoyed a meal at the Downtown Grocery that defied my expectations.  My great-aunt and great-uncle were visiting, so my family wanted to treat them to a meal that would be memorable and eventful.  We sure got what we were asking for!

The hostess was enthusiastic, and our table was gorgeously placed at the intersection of two sunny windows.  Though the Downtown Grocery is a fine dining establishment, the atmosphere stays true to the name and is welcomingly laid back.  The restaurant consists of just two small rooms with plentiful sunlight streaming through the windows.  The menus strive to incorporate fresh, local ingredients as the season provides.  Each room has a full blackboard chalked up with seasonal specials – about five unique appetizers and entrees.  It is wonderful that there are so many specials because each dining experience will be unique.  However, I found it difficult to read the chalk board.  Although it is the size of a classroom blackboard, there are so many specials that the writing is very small, and not very clear in the first place.  Everyone in my family had to take turns standing awkwardly in the center of the small room to read the specials, which disturbed not only the flow of our dinner, but probably the peace of those around us as well.

Regardless, it is admirable how vast the array of fresh, local ingredients in Downtown Grocery’s menu can be.

Chef Rogan Lechthaler has quite the resume under his belt.  I respect that he came back to his Vermont origins to serve real food to real people (meaning, not celebrities and the grossly rich).  The Downtown Grocery is dining at its best, yet is connected to both the people, the land, and the original homemade processes that make fresh ingredients into good food.

From the drink menu, I had to order the Bees Knees cocktail, of course.  This drink includes orange and lemon juice with gin, plus a drizzle of hibiscus-infused honey.  (So bummed I didn’t take a picture! Guess I’ll just have to go back.)  It was quite refreshing, and not at all too sweet.  The appetizer was a tougher choice.  All the specials looked so inviting, but I chose to go with a classic – Maine mussels with shallot-dusted frites.  I think my mother made the best choice, however, with Coger Garden’s mesclun salad.  It came on a cutting board, with honey-drizzled Bijou cheese, herbed crostini and raspberries.  The greens themselves were artfully topped with an edible flower – Nasturtium.

As our meals arrived, I knew I’d made the right choice.  See below for the main event: pancetta-wrapped monkfish atop celeriac and chanterelle mushrooms!  My father and uncle ordered rabbit-wurst with sauerkraut.  I know it evoked their memories of growing up on farms eating suppers inspired by their German and Dutch heritage.

Downtown Grocery dinner ludlow VT

Here are pictures of two Downtown Grocery classics: ribeye with ‘lincoln log’ potatoes and a pimento burger with frites and house-made pickles & ketchup.  Try not to drool…too much, anyway.

Downtown Grocery Entree ludlow VT

 

Downtown Grocery entree

We’d saved room for dessert and tried a smattering of Downtown Grocery’s dessert offerings between the table.  I had vanilla creme brulée that was to die for…and definitely had a hard time sharing!  (Check out a picture of the creme brulée and other restaurant images here.)  Other desserts included chocolate souffle with espresso sauce and blueberry-peach cobbler.  Though delicious, these were both a little too heavy for me to enjoy at the end of such an elaborate meal.  I’d love to go back to try the cheese board.  For the honeybee enthusiasts out there, it comes with local honeycomb!  Additionally, the ice cream and sorbet flavors are ridiculously creative, and I believe almost all are house-made.  Those flavors that stood out to me were blueberry goat cheese, strawberry balsamic, watermelon mint and pineapple basil…

…you can bet I’ll be back!

The VAULT Gallery in Springfield, VT: July & August 2014

Our bed and breakfast, located in Proctorsville VT, is very close to several great art & craft facilities.  One of these is the Vault Gallery in Springfield, VT.  It is about 20 minutes’ drive away from Golden Stage Inn, located in the downtown of an old industrial town located right on the Black River.  The VAULT Gallery showcases uniquely creative arts and handmade crafts from around Vermont.  It is accessible, affordable, modern and gorgeous.  The summer exhibition’s focus is flowers.

The VAULT gallery also offers art classes for wannabe artists and seasoned crafters alike.  There are even camps for your kids – if you’d like to get some alone time during your vacation!  Check out the offerings for 2014 summer at the Vault:

Art Workshops for Adults

Saturday, July 26 (rain date Sunday, July 27)
9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Plein Air Workshop in Watercolor Instructor: Rob O’Brien AWS, NWS
This class will meet at the gallery and then set off for a day of outdoor painting. The workshop will begin with a demonstration by the instructor followed by student painting. A critique and discussion will take place at the end of class.

Workshop fee $65 Members/$70 Non-members
Materials list available upon registration
Plein Air Painting workshop in Vermont
Saturday, August 23
9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sun and Shade – Late Summer Landscape in Pastel
Instructor: Robert Carsten, PSA-M, IAPS-MC
Explore the Dynamics of painting the warm, sunlit landscape, the coolness of a special shady spot or how to include both in one composition. How you convey that feel of late summer in your work and that lovely golden light that we experience as the sun moves lower on the horizon as we start shifting toward autumn. Working from your sketches or photos, we will explore concepts of color design, and techniques. Various approaches will be presented and demonstrated. Critique, at easel assistance, and lots of painting time will make this an educational and enjoyable painting experience. All levels welcome from beginner through advanced.
 
Workshop fee $70 members/$75 Non-members
Materials list available upon registation

Art Camps for Kids

VACATION ART CAMP
Held at Parks and Rec on 139 Main Street
Mon-Fri July 21 to 25 
9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Experiment with Papermaking
Taught by Diane Kemble and Melissa Post
Create your own handmade papers! Start with paper scraps and water. Churn it up in a blender. Add dried flowers, colored threads, and other surprises. Press through a screen, dry and iron. Then use your paper to make cards, books, night lights, collages, and other creations.
 
Age 8 and up Art Camp Fee $70. Class size limited. Pre-registration required.

You’re Invited!

Gallery at the VAULT invites you to
Celebrate the Season with a Summer Party 
Saturday, July 26 from 2 to 5 p.m.
at the Inn at Weathersfield

An Afternoon Collage of Food, Celestial Drinks, and Outdoor Pursuits!
  • Taste unique craft cocktails and imagine celestial navigation with Max Overstrom-Coleman of Vermont Spirits.
  • Enjoy delicious food made from local ingredients.
  • Ramble through the gardens and grounds of Inn at Weathersfield.
  • Explore photography with Richard Cofrancesco. (Bring your own camera.)
  • Learn the art of Fly Tying with Dennis Fontaine.
  • Try your hand at flower arranging.
  • Play Croquet and Bocce Ball or Relax on the deck.
Reservations are necessary.
Stop in at VAULT, or call 802-885-7111.
Tickets are $40 each, Checks payable to Gallery at the VAULT.
What’s Going on In the Okemo Valley – July & August 2014

July and August are packed with fun summer activities, festivals, concerts around the Okemo Valley.  In this entry, you’ll find upcoming events close by the Golden Stage Inn B&B.  Some highlights are Hops in the Hills beer & wine fest at Okemo Mountain Resort, an outdoor concert by Sensible Shoes (sponsored by Golden Stage Inn!), and varied arts & entertainment at Next Stage Arts Project, in conjunction with Apron Strings Theatre Co. and Twilight Music.

2014 Cavendish Concerts on the Proctorsville Green

Hosted by the Cavendish Community Conservation Association, this concert series is a well-loved summer event.  Join picnickers on the lawn by the gazebo and enjoy a peaceful Vermont evening with homegrown tunes.  Concerts are Wednesdays throughout the summer; upcoming concerts listed below:

July 23 – Sensible Shoes – playing a funky mix of original music and cover tunes (sponsored by Golden Stage Inn and Old Cavendish Products!

July 30 – Chris Kleeman – rolling from stinging slide guitar to deft rag-time; from the Southern styles of Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie McTell all the way up that big river to the Blues of Chicago.

August 6 – Yankee Chank – Featuring Cavendish’s own Bob Naess on fiddle, this Cajun/Zydeco band will have you dancing in the street.

August 13 – Voodoo Alien Blues Band – The Rutland based all star rhythm and blues band is led by local blues legend Steve Audsley and appears regularly at a variety of Vermont venues.

Hops in the Hills Beer and Wine Festival in Ludlow, VT

Put on by Okemo Mountain Resort, this is the 6th annual Hops in the Hills Festival.  Jackson Gore, the location of the event, is in Ludlow – a quick 15 minute drive from our B&B.  Admission is free and Hops in the Hills beer and wine festival Vermontyou can purchase sample combinations.  There are over 50 craft beers from regional brewers to try – and this year, Okemo is adding wine to the festival!

This year’s festival is 3 days long instead of 2, and will feature live music, craft vendors, and delicious things to eat.  Friday evening, enjoy live music by Cold Chocolate.

On Saturday, local restaurants will vie for the title of Okemo Valley Chicken Wing Champion, with live music by CK3.

Sunday’s festivities include a live performance by Phish tribute band Uncle Ebenezer.

 

 What’s going on at Next Stage in Putney, VT

July 24th:  The Stray Birds with Mike and Ruthy: acoustic folk and indie roots music.  Check out their style:

YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image

July 27th: Dinner and a movie – enjoy a locally sourced gourmet meal at the Gleanery, and then kick back for a screening of Chocolat (for dessert, haha!)  Tickets are $23.00.

August 7-16: AFTER THE REVOLUTION – a bold and moving portrait of an American family, thrown into an intergenerational tailspin, forced to reconcile a thorny and delicate legacy.  This play was written by Amy Herzog and the production is directed by Karla Baldwin.  

August 22: TONY TRISCHKA w/ HOT MUSTARD –  Tony Trischka was the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Banjo Player of the Year and received a Grammy nomination.  He will play with his band and the well-known traditional bluegrass quartet Hot Mustard.  These bands feature double banjos, saucy vocals and Merlefest banjo contest winner Bruce Stockwell. 7:30 pm

Twilight Music’s Tavern Lawn Series, Putney, VT

All concerts start at 6 pm on Sundays and are free.  In case of rain, concerts are held at Next Stage at 15 Kimball Hill.

July 27  PLANET ZYDECO – High Energy accordion/guitar driven dance music of Louisiana


August 10  THE STOCKWELL BROTHERS – Newgrass and contemporary folk music with brothers Bruce, Barry and Alan

August 24  THE SNAZ – Original, indie rock band featuring four Vermont teenagers

PlanetZydeco at Putney Tavern Lawn concert series

Planet Zydeco gets ready to play!

Summer 2014 at Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts

For talented artisans and wannabe craftspeople alike, Fletcher Farm School is the perfect place to dip your toes into something new.  Golden Stage Inn is just two miles down the road from their arts campus, and often offers multi-night stay discounts for Fletcher Farm students. Their summer schedule is jam packed with classes and workshops.  You can register online when you look at their schedule, or call the Fletcher Farm office at (802) 228-8770.  

 

I wish I could give a description of every class, but there are just so many!  Below you’ll find a schedule to peruse, and you can visit Fletcher Farm School’s website to read more about each individual class.

 

Arts & Crafts Classes July 2014

At Fletcher Farm School, Ludlow VT

July 11-13   Drawing for Beginners fletcher farm painting

July 11-13   Enameled Bowls

July 12-13   Painting in Acrylics

July 12-13   Scottish Jewelry

July 12-13   Contemporary Rug Hooking

July 12-18   Quilter’s Choice

July 12-18   Bobbin Lace

July 14-18   Silver Fabrication

July 14-18   Punch Needle Rug Hooking

July 16-17    Beadweaving

July 18-20   Digital Macro Photography with Camera, iPad or iPhone

July 19        Plein Air Felting

July 19        Hypertufa for the Garden

July 20       Trellises for the Gardenfletcher farm clay metal

July 19-20   Sweater Decoration

July 19-20   Classic American Baskets

July 21-22   Fused Glass

July 21-25   Reverse Painting on Glass

July 22-23   Warping the Loom

July 23-24   Precious Metal Clay

July 24-28   Intro to Weaving

July 25-27   Penwork Boxes

July 26-27   How to Paint Watercolor Landscapesfletcher farm nature drawing

July 26-27   Shaker Oval Boxes Basics

July 26-27   Digital Imaging

July 26-27   Glass Fusing Plus

July 26-28   Nature Drawing and Journaling

July 28-30   Hand Building Wheel Throwing Clay

July 28-31   Inter/Advanced Shaker Oval Boxes

July 28-August 1   Brides Box

July 28-August 1   Still Life Painting in Oils

July 29-August 2   “Not Your Grandmother’s Pot Holders” – Rags to Multi-Harness Riches

 

Happy crafting!

Everything Cheese!

Vermont is known for many things – winter skiing, maple syrup, green mountains – but perhaps most well known and loved is cheese!  From the cows lining the fields to first-class restaurants, cheese is an ever present fact of Vermont life and food.  This summer, try out a new recipe, visit a festival, and even make your own farmer’s cheese!

Goat Cheese and Flowers

I often think of cheese as delicious, but rarely would I call it ‘beautiful’ (especially not the goop that emerges from a freshly cut wedge of Camembert!)  But if you love goat cheese as much as I do, you are always looking for new ways to enjoy a fresh and fragrant roll of chevre.  Try this unique recipe for goat cheese rolled in edible flowers as both a palate-pleaser and a show-stopper.  The recipe below is re-posted from Healthy Living Market & Cafe’s blog.

Floral chevre log

“First, prepare your flowers and herbs.  Coarsely chop about 2 Tbsp of dried rosemary, remove the petals from about 2 Tbsp of dried calendula flowers, coarsely chop about 2 Tbsp of dried rose petals, and crush about 1 Tbsp pink peppercorns using a mortar & pestle or even just a rolling pin (note: all of these ingredients are available in our extensive Bulk Department!).  Mix all these together on a flat surface such as a cutting board.  Next, take a 10-oz chèvre log (we used one from Vermont Creamery) and roll it in the floral mix, pressing gently to make sure the flowers stick.  You may need to do this a couple times to coat the chèvre completely.  Then, to serve, spread a little bit of the floral chèvre on crackers, topping each with a touch of honey.  Tada!”  (Photo: Healthy Living Market & Cafe)

 

Cheese Up Close

Vermont cheese near ludlow vt

Yum! Cheese from Crowley in Mt Holly, VT – a 20 minute drive from our Inn.

There are dairy farms all across Vermont, in all shapes and sizes.  Not only do they provide us with creamy edibles, they are a living history and cultural tradition of our state.  Vermont cheesemakers take pride in their land, their animals and their product.  Dairy farming is one of the most difficult agricultural jobs around, and you can get a taste of place by visiting one of these farms in person.  Dig In VT has a fantastic map of cheesemakers across Vermont, so you can plan your own cheese tour and tastings.  You can learn about how cheese is made and taste test varieties to find your favorite.  Maybe you’d like to meet the animals in person – usually cows, but also sheep and goats on occasion.  Our personal favorite VT cheesemaker here at Golden Stage Inn is award-winning Crowley Cheese in Mount Holly, VT.  Crowley is a quick 20 minute drive away, as you leave the Inn and cross through the town of Ludlow on your way.  Julie is in love with their cheddar, and uses it as an ingredient in guests’ breakfasts often!

 Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Though a bit of a trek away from Golden Stage B&B, the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival is an annual summertime food festival not to be missed.  This year, it was one of Lonely Planet’s best American food festivals for the summer of 2014!  Located in Shelburne, VT, attendees can participate in demos, workshops and presentations free with admission.  There are over 200 cheese, wine and food products to sample as well.  Since Vermont has the highest number of cheesemakers per capita of any state in the USA, this had better be good!

vt cheesemakers festival

(Photo: VT Cheesemakers Festival)

 

Finally, if you’re interested in making your own cheese by hand, check out Golden Stage Inn’s recipe for how to make your own farmer’s cheese!

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