A unique dinner out
You are thinking about going out for dinner and you decide to check the website menu to get an idea of selections. This generally works quite well no matter where you are. However, there are certain restaurants, whose culinary reputation precedes them, that offer no menu for perusing; I find that these are the places which rarely let you down.
There is such a place right here in Vermont in Pittsfield. It is on Route 100 about eleven miles from Bethel or about eight miles from the intersection of Routes 4 and 100 at Killington. Does the (Pittsfield) Original General Store mean anything to you? It is a cozy establishment along the lines of Gillingham's in Woodstock, but smaller. It is owned by a very savvy couple who are masters of the kitchen, no, make that masters of the food world! And this charming country store has a backroom where dinners are featured. Kevin Lasko and Katie Stiles left New York City a few years ago and settled into what is proving to be one of the most tantalizing, epicurean and unique establishments- maybe even in New England.
Another time I would love to discuss competitors of fine caliber, but for now I am imagining myself once again in The Backroom, pretty lights illuminating the two long tables, old bookshelves, intriguing cookbooks and a closet for a wine cellar/bar. Katie generally finds you first, lovely deep brown eyes greet you, as you step through the wide white door. You are offered a glass of bubbly, and a moment later as you take in the ambiance, your eyes will settle on master chef Kevin, with a friendly, shy, alert smile from behind the slate counter. This simple grey slab is the maneuvering ground for his culinary creations. Skip breakfast and especially lunch the day you get your reservation!
A little less than an hour is allotted to stand-up starters. Guests arrive, mingle and chat while Kevin produces one delight after the next and places it on his magical counter. Everyone is then invited to sit down at one of the two long tables and the feast begins. Kevin must dream his combinations in another secret gastronomic universe. I remember our first meal when a main course of scallops, as tender as soft butter, floating in a light salsa verde was placed in front us. My husband gave me an alarmed imploring look because he cannot bear mollusks. However, he is polite and he has no food allergies; he picked up his fork in fear, took a bite and immediately melted in wide-eyed, scrumptious relief. A first visit will set a high bar so I cannot understand from subsequent visits how each one almost outdoes the last. How is this possible? A glance at their website will reveal past menus: sunchoke and leek gratin with Jasper Hill Alpha Tolman, crab toast and orzo-stuffed clams, beef strip loin with scallion butter, cashews and barley salad, blood orange and grapefruit pavlova, basil and whipped cream...The dreams never cease.
There is another bonus to this restaurant and that is the 'front room', if you will, the day operation with breakfast specials, sandwich combinations, hamburgers-tasty equals to their lofty nighttime cousins. Think of going for a drive, cycling, skiing or tubing on the river nearby and imagine your reward! Vermontsoriginalstore.com
The Backroom is open for dinner Friday and Saturday evenings offering a set menu starting at either five thirty or six. You will certainly need to make a reservation-via email seems preferable: thebackroomvt.com. Starting the first of January, they will also be open Sunday nights. Another option is to collect a minimum of fifteen of your favorite friends/family, and Kevin and Katie will cook for you one of the other nights of the week. Allergies and aversions, as they say, are worked out. On that latter note, I think that my husband would even consume brussel sprouts and kale prepared by Kevin...
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