The charming town of Manchester Vermont

Every year, my husband Tom and I venture to a new destination in the Northeast for a long, relax and recharge weekend after the holiday rush. This month, we headed up to the charming town of Manchester, Vermont-a little gem nestled among the Green Mountains. The town has just about everything a couple needs to relax and recharge: laidback, gourmet, romantic, restaurants with Wine Spectator wine lists, gorgeous mountain scenery, and quaint shops. For those looking for a more active, outdoor experience, Manchester is very close to Stratton and Bromley mountains for skiing and boarding. It also has many cross-country and hiking trails.

We stayed at The Reluctant Panther Inn. It is located on a quiet street and a quick drive to all the restaurants and shops. The 20 rooms and suites in this boutique, luxury inn scream “New England charm at its finest”. They are decorated with antique furnishings, fireplaces, roomy marble baths, and handsome artwork. You can’t go wrong with whatever room or suite you select and the staff can’t wait to serve you. We enjoyed homemade, chocolate, chip cookies each day, as well as glorious, full breakfasts delivered in a picnic basket. The homemade, breakfast items included scones, granola, health bars, yogurt, and breakfast sandwiches (so tasty!). We stay at boutique inns a lot and we were more than delighted at the quality and local sourcing of the breakfasts and snacks. We wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.

We also explored two of the finest restaurants in town: The Silver Fork and The Reluctant Panther. The Silver Fork is just across the street from the Reluctant Panther in the former library-think floor to ceiling windows, high ceilings, stone walls, and a space that just oozes intimate dining and charm. The restaurant opened in 2011 is owned by a husband-and-wife team with a “European and Caribbean menu of movement”. The menu changes according to the chef’s inspiration, what is fresh at the market, or what is in season. It changes frequently which keeps bringing delighted diners back for more. We started our meal with Escargot en Croute, a handful of lovely Escargot baked in puff pastry-just glorious! We also ordered the string fries which were literally the best that we’ve ever had. For the main entrées, Tom ordered the shrimp mofongo, a dish comprised of sauteed shrimp in a tomato creole sauce with mashed yuca, greens peppers, onions, garlic and olives. It was so delicious! I opted for the salmon strudel wrapped in filo and spinach sauteed in lemon butter and served with mashed potato and sauteed green beans. I eat salmon a lot, have never had it prepared this way, and it was just sublime. The menu also includes a variety of items, including salads with lovely cheeses from Vermont, homemade soups, duck confit, beef stroganoff, osso buco, and rack of lamb-something for everyone. The Silver Fork is definitely one of the finest restaurants that we’ve experienced and we can’t wait to return.

The other restaurant that we enjoyed was the one at our inn. The dining room is a dozen tables strategically spread apart for privacy and a very intimate dining experience. It offers the best of Vermont’s local foods. The female chef is from Israel and has worked in renowned restaurants all over the US. A few years ago, she was awarded the Vermont chef of the year and her lobster fondue was awarded the best tasting dish in Vermont. For starters, we opted for the local mixed greens with clothbound, Cabot cheddar, and thyme vinaigrette-so delicious! For our mains, we chose crab stuffed trout and the pistachio stuffed lamb loin. I had never had trout before and it wasn’t gamey at all. The chef prepared it with creamed leeks, chardonnay sauce, and mushroom risotto with spaghetti squash and it all paired together in a superb fashion. The lamb that Tom had was glazed with date syrup and served with cous cous, roasted carrots and parsley vinaigrette. He’s not a huge fan of lamb but he really loved it. The menu also includes duck liver pate, seared day boat scallops, braised short ribs, and Vermont Waldorf pork chop. We would go back and dine there again in a New York second!

As we rode back to Boston through the Green Mountains, we reflected upon our trip. We concluded that we stayed at the best place in Manchester and dined at the best restaurants. We did Manchester our way and came back feeling refreshed and recharged after our trip to the quaint hamlet of Manchester.

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