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A Wonderful (and Wacky) Warren Tradition

06/17/2022 5:13 pm

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As one of the only states to form a republic before statehood in 1791, Vermont has an unusual take on independence. We Vermonters love it, revere it, and celebrate it like we’re still our own little country squeezed between the Yorkers (New York) to the west and the Yankees (New Hampshire) to the east.

And there’s no better example of celebrating that spirit of independence than the Warren 4th of July Parade that takes place right outside our door every year (well, almost; remember 2020?).

This year’s parade theme is Liberty, and that’s sure to mean some of the most creative, inventive floats this side of Disney.

Inn guests will have a front row seat to all the fun from the rockers and Adirondack chairs on our front porch, cheering the assorted players, from school kids to politicians to grand marshals, former inn owners Win Smith and Maggie Smith. In short, you won’t want to miss the excitement. Details and logistics can be found on the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce website.

Also, our friends across Main Street at the Warren Store will be doing their part to celebrate with an ice cream cart and music following the parade from their upper porch.

You don’t want to miss this. Come as a spectator this year (we’re fully booked) and plan now to join us on the porch next year.

Dining Around the Inn

05/19/2022 1:53 pm

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One of our great joys over the last 25 years has been hosting gatherings of family and friends for all manner of celebrations, always around a table of the finest cuisine from the freshest ingredients Vermont (and Chef Jacob and our farm partners) has to offer.

Think weddings, rehearsal dinners, post-wedding brunches, birthdays, anniversaries, life achievements, passages like confirmations and bar (and bat) mitzvahs, even memorial celebrations. You name it, we have likely hosted it.

What knowing, long-time guests appreciate is the number and diversity of dining venues we have around the property. 

Most diners know us by the Main Dining Room overlooking Main Street, Freeman Brook and the back garden, where we host breakfast for house guests and dinner for all comers daily. (Reservations are always required.) Diners can choose indoors or out–in the garden or on the back porch, featuring newly-installed electric radiant heaters to keep you cozy.

Adjacent to the dining room is the Brook Room, our more formal white-table-cloth private dining room. We can accommodate up to 30 people comfortably, gathered around the hallmark fireplace and surrounded by art curated by our gallery friends at Edgewater Gallery. We have recently hosted our popular artists talks in the Brook Room but whatever soiree you can conceive, we can host.

Then there’s Tracks, our rustic but very comfortable tavern beside Freeman Brook. There’s the giant hearth with its roaring fire (in season, of course), the cozy bar with just four seats, the dramatic ski murals, and the Adirondack-style furniture that embraces you while enjoying a bespoke cocktail or a local brew. (If you’re feeling adventurous, you might also want to try a glass of our very rare Bhakta Spirits Armagnac.) Tracks also boasts an outdoor terrace for al fresco dining.

Hidden near Tracks is our most secretive dining venue, the Wine Cellar. Here, you and up to six of your besties can enjoy an evening of fine food and fun surrounded by our legendary wine collection. Chef Jacob likes to present a five-course tasting menu paired with wine for these very special evenings.

In the height of summer, on one of those dreamy, starry August evenings, the best dining venue might very well be the intimate Terrace for Two next to Freeman Brook at the very back of the garden. Here you and your lovely can enjoy each other, fine drink and food, and the soft sounds of the coursing brook. This has been the site of many a memorable anniversary dinner.

If none of these five dining options captures your fancy, we’re always happy to serve dinner in your room or suite. Yup, believe it or not, some guests just don’t want to leave the cocoon. And we’re happy to oblige.

Reach out to talk about how we might help you enjoy celebrating life at the inn in a way and place you haven’t considered.

‘Surprisingly unpretentious for one of Vermont’s most fashionable hideaways’

04/13/2022 1:31 pm

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Recently, we were happy to stumble across this thoughtful description of the inn in the book Buildings of Vermont by Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, published by the University of Virginia Press.

The facade of the Pitcher Inn is surprisingly unpretentious for one of Vermont’s most fashionable hideaways and surprisingly staid for one of Vermont’s most notoriously unconventional architects. (David) Sellers, a pioneer of design/build architectural practice, is a longtime resident of Warren, with his office in the reworked Odd Fellows Hall on Brook Road.

The original inn was a local landmark assembled from four adjoining buildings and named for an owner’s collection of more than one thousand pitchers. When it burned in 1993, Sellers convinced retired Merrill Lynch executive and Warren booster Win Smith to rebuild the property. Within the original footprint he designed a rambling white facade, matching the rhythm and scale of the streetscape and utilizing motifs from local nineteenth-century vernacular. Borrowing from Vermont village iconography, he faced the two-story central element with double galleries.

But behind this conventional facade, the rest of the hotel reflects Sellers’s passion for improvisation, found objects, collaboration, and fine craftsmanship. Executing the public spaces and some suites himself, he turned to colleagues–including James Sanford,, Duncan Syme, Courtney Fisher, and Mac Rood–to design other spaces. He also brought in wood-carvers, furniture makers, mural painters, decorators, masons, and tile craftsmen to participate in the realization of an idiosyncratic vision that included such themes as Mallard Room, Trout Room, Mountain Room, Lodge Room, and the Stable. Interiors are furnished with an eclectic array of antiques (from a Louis Sullivan column to rare decoys), furniture (including original Gustav Stickley pieces), and artwork, and are finished in local materials that range from Verde Antique marble to birch-bark wainscoting and hand-selected tree trunks.

The results are imaginative and highly crafted, filled with details like a flying wooden mallard that swivels beneath a rooftop weathervane and a concrete floor imprinted with animal tracks. The inn as a whole consists of a series of unique individual spaces, giving the public the opportunity to experience the kind of work Sellers and his colleagues have otherwise lavished mainly on private houses around the state.

(Editor’s note: We have added a few paragraph breaks for ease of reading online.)

‘Conceptual Realist’ Kate Gridley to Speak at the Inn

03/10/2022 1:09 pm

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We’re keenly anticipating a visit later this month from Middlebury artist Kate Gridley. Kate is the third and final artist in the Edgewater Gallery Winter Lecture Series. She’ll be at the inn on March 31 (additional details below) to present “Tools of the Trade.”

Gridley’s talk will be about her process and some of the stories connected to particular paintings in her latest work, which focuses on antique tools, specifically a collection of tools on loan from the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury. She writes; “While meditating on A.B. Smith’s tools, I have spent months looking into the beauties of form and function, diverse edges and patinas, the interplay of objects and shadows, that beautiful and mysterious realm of objective versus abstraction.”

The tools in Gridley’s latest work remind us a lot of the implements on display throughout the inn, especially those surrounding the grand hearth in our dining room. What better way to appreciate the tools of the past and their inherent beauty than through a painter’s interpretation of them.

Kate Gridley works from her studio in Middlebury, Vermont, and calls herself a conceptual realist. She is a skilled portrait and still life painter whose portrait of the Honorable Governor Jim Douglas hangs in the Vermont State House. After graduating from Williams College, Gridley studied painting in New York and then Florence, Italy, where her focus was on renaissance painting techniques. Her work is held in public and private collections and can be seen at the Vermont State House, the New Hampshire State House, the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, the Middlebury College Museum of Art, and Norwich University, among others. Gridley’s illustrations have appeared in numerous publications.

Who: Conceptual realist painter Kate Gridley
What: Edgewater Gallery Winter Lecture Series “Tools of the Trade,” including a talk and a la carte dinner
When: Thursday, March 31, 2022, 5 pm
Where: The Pitcher Inn Dining Room
How: Call either The Pitcher Inn (802.496.6250) or Edgewater Gallery (802.458.0098) for reservations. Please note that space is limited and the last Winter Series event sold out. Also, attendees are required to show proof of vaccination and wear masks when not seated.

 

Why We’re Encouraging Our Guests to Purchase Travel Insurance

02/18/2022 4:26 pm

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It’s a topsy-turvy world, especially for the hospitality business. No doubt you have noticed. Perhaps your favorite restaurant has closed or curtailed hours or switched up its menu.

Here at The Pitcher Inn we’re facing the same challenges as other small hotels and restaurants. And we’re doing our best to meet them. We’re paying staff more and we’re trying flex schedules to meet their needs–as well as yours.

One of the most perplexing challenges for guests–and for us–has been uncertainty surrounding travel. We are a small business with a fairly restrictive cancellation policy. We require a 100% deposit when you make your reservation. If you cancel your visit 60 days prior to arrival, we offer a 90% refund. Between 30 and 60 days, we offer a 50% refund. Less than 30 days, 10%. We think this is a fair approach, all things considered.

But for some guests this has been a burden. To lessen that burden, we have partnered with RentalGuardian, backed by Nationwide, to offer two levels of travel insurance. And we’re encouraging guests, especially those planning a multi-night stay, to seriously consider and purchase travel insurance.

RentalGuardian’s Standard Travel Protection is available for 7% of the cost of your trip and covers up to 30 travel-interruption situations, including an auto accident en route to the inn or the unexpected death of a pet. The Cancel for Any Reason Travel Protection option costs a bit more, 10.8%, and covers additional situations like illness, injury and natural disasters.

You can learn more about the two options here, or by conferring with one of our guest assistants when you make your reservation. If you’re reserving online, via pitcherinn.com, we’ll give you the option of purchasing insurance upon completing and paying for your reservation. Guests are welcome to purchase travel insurance from another insurer, as well.

We’re doing our best to meet your needs first as well as run our business soundly. And we always welcome your feedback on this and other policies. Thanks for your continued patronage. We look forward to seeing you in this beautiful valley soon.

Give the Gift of Vermont This Holiday Season

12/15/2021 7:25 pm

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Pearl S. Buck said about Vermont, “It’s a country unto itself.”

We couldn’t agree more. (Younger readers may not recognize Buck as the acclaimed 20th century author of The Good Earth. She knows a country when she sees one.)

And after two years (!) the pandemic has us all re-considering everything, from work (the great resignation) to family (can we safely gather?) to how we spend our money. On this last point we are finding more and more people seeking experiences, not more things.

That’s why we offer a modest suggestion: Instead of giving another sweater or pair of gloves, how about giving the gift of Vermont–and all that it offers?

If there is a loved one in your life that has yet to experience Vermont (or would love to return), maybe she needs a little incentive. That’s why we’re suggesting a Pitcher Inn gift certificate as the ideal holiday gift this year.

Why Vermont? It’s the “something’s-different-here” feeling you get as soon as you cross the border. It’s our people and their indomitable spirit. It’s the hill farms with their open fields and scattered Holsteins. It’s the focus on quality, whether dairy products (thinking of a certain ice cream) from Waterbury, glassware from Quechee, jewelry from Middlebury, or crafts or art or beer or spirits from all over our brave little state. The list is literally endless.

We can’t think of a better place to experience all that Vermont has to offer than the Mad River Valley, smack dab in the middle of the state, and our very own inn, in the picturesque village of Warren that so epitomizes small-town Vermont.

The inn is the embodiment of Vermont in so many ways. Each of our 11 rooms and suites is a tribute to some part of Vermont’s past (and present in some cases), including Ski, which celebrates one of our favorite ways to get through winter, Trout, which honors our fishing tradition, and Calvin Coolidge, which pays homage to our 30th president.

Besides the immersion in Vermont, your loved one will also appreciate our luxurious linens, steam showers, fireplaces (or wood stoves), our five-star cuisine, and our overall sense of hygge (look it up).

Why not give the gift of the country we call Vermont this holiday season? Call 802.496.6350.

Holiday Happenings in the Mad River Valley

11/23/2021 8:40 pm

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Magical is a word we love to describe the inn and its village setting. It’s truer this time of year, with the snow-dusted evergreens and the colorful, twinkling lights at dusk. Part of the magic comes from the happenings in the Mad River Valley this time of year, from the first turns on the mountains to the shopping all around. Here are a few happenings in the valley we think you might enjoy during your visit to the inn.

The Warren Store
Inn guests have the perfect view of what we consider the best general store in the state, the Warren Store, just across Main Street. And this time of year what a view it is. The store takes on a holiday glow outside and in, and the shelves are stocked with gifts aplenty, upstairs and down. It’s also a great place with street-side seating to watch the snow fall while enjoying a coffee, tea or warm Vermont cider.

Opening Day
This year Sugarbush has slated November 24 as Opening Day, Mad River’s is December 11, Mother Nature permitting. Both are a bit of a celebration of future skiing and riding to come. Are you ready? Is your gear tuned?

Moretown Artisans’ Sale
Vermont is a state of artists and crafters and there’s no better place to discover the perfect holiday gift than the annual Moretown Artisans’ Sale, back this year as an in-person event. December 11 and 12, 11 am to 3 pm at Moretown Elementary School.

Sugarbash (63 years young)
December 17 marks the 63rd birthday of nearby Sugarbush Resort. The festivities begin at 6 pm in Castlerock Pub.

Holiday Stars
Careful observers will see many lighted holiday stars at homes and businesses throughout the valley, often five in at a time. While their origin stems from the Waitsfield Festival of Lights in 2013, the stars took on a whole new meaning in 2016 when five of our teens perished in a wrong-way collision on the interstate. Today the stars serve a somewhat bittersweet reminder of the fragility of life and the hope of a brighter tomorrow. You can read more about the stars in the Valley Reporter.

The Pitcher Inn to Serve Rare, Exquisite Bhakta Spirits Armagnac

10/19/2021 2:24 pm

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Forget about everyday Cognac. If you’re seeking a taste of rare brandy, Armagnac should be your go-to sip. And now Pitcher Inn guests can imbibe in among the rarest, most exquisite Armagnacs available in the world.

That’s because inn owner George Dorsey has purchased a complete Bhakta 50 collection from Bhakta Spirits, the newest venture from spirits innovator and Whistlepig founder Raj Bhakta.

For the uninitiated, Armagnac hails from the Gascony region of southwest France and is distilled from wine (usually a blend of grapes that can include Baco 22A, Colombard and Folle blanche) using a column still.

According to Bhakta, “Armagnac is an undiscovered gem of the spirits world with the grace and elegance of the finest Cognac plus the robust flavor of the best whiskies.

“It’s relatively unknown because the French have kept the best for themselves. Until now.”

The inn is the first buyer of the complete Bhakta 50 collection, a bottle each of 38 specially blended Armagnacs dating from 1868 to 1970. Bhakta 50 is whiskey-finished Armagnac that passes through an Islay cask for two weeks, which imparts a smokey salinity.

Guests will be able to enjoy a Bhakta Spirits Armagnac at any time, served in a brandy snifter or whiskey glass, neat, after dinner in the restaurant, late night in Tracks, anytime in the library or the garden.

We’ll toast to that. And to a new taste experience.

A Winning Wine Program

09/28/2021 1:00 pm

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It’s been almost six months since Restaurant Manager and Sommelier Elizabeth Cahill made her way to the inn from California’s Napa Valley and Auberge du Soleil, a Relais & Chateaux property noted for its wine program.

Although Elizabeth grew up on the east coast, she’s still figuring out guests’ wine preferences through careful listening and learning–and a bit of good old trial and error.

She finds that inn and restaurant guests are especially fond of Oregon pinot noirs. One guest favorite is pinot from Adelsheim Vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon. Its 2018 Willamette Valley vintage displays “bright red cherry and subtle brown baking spice flavors with earth undertones.”

Elizabeth has also been serving a lot of pinots from Big Table Farm, an Oregon winery with Napa roots, and from Ken Wright, one of the oldest and most distinguished crafters of Oregon pinot noir.

Elizabeth’s long tenure in Napa has made her a fan of California pinot noir, which tends to be a bit darker and more purple in color than Oregon pinots. Some of her favorite vineyards include Merry Edwards in the Russian River Valley, Kistler Vineyards in Sonoma, and Kosta Browne, which sources grapes from the Santa Rita Hills, among other AVAs. All of these wines are on the inn’s wine list, which Elizabeth has been refining since she arrived.

While Elizabeth continues to understand eastern tastes in wine, she’s not at all surprised by the level of sophistication guests display about wine. One example is a bit of a cult wine from Jonata, which sources grapes from California’s Central Coast’s Ballard Canyon appellation within the Santa Ynez Valley. She ordered just six bottles, thinking it would be a rare guest who recognized the winemaker. Those six sold quickly and she doubled her next order.

When asked about which wine adventurous oenophiles shouldn’t overlook, Elizabeth quickly points to an Austrian varietal blaufrankisch from winemaker Roland Velich at Moric. Blaufrankisch is an indigenous Austrian grape that has as much finesse and elegance as pinot noir, according to Elizabeth.

As if running the restaurant at the inn and understanding the wine preferences of guests isn’t enough, Elizabeth has also been part of the team renovating and updating the wine cellar at the inn. She reports that after several months of construction, the wine cellar–a favorite guest dining spot for special occasions–is back better than ever, with more wine storage and better lighting than before.

Next time you visit the inn for an overnight stay or dinner, don’t hesitate to ask Elizabeth about her new favorites in the cellar. You won’t be disappointed.

3 (Okay, 4 or More) Things that We Love About the Mad River Valley in Summer

08/13/2021 1:28 pm

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August in the Mad River Valley offers too many summertime choices. We know, tough problem.

But when our guests push us to name the three best things to do in August, we don’t hesitate. Together our three recommendations (with options) make a splendid day.

Start with a walk (and it’s more a walk than a hike) in the Scragg Mountain Town Forest in Waitsfield (not to be confused with the beer of the same name; see below), about six miles from the inn. There’s an information kiosk and a few short well-marked loops, but if you’re up for a longer adventure you can actually hike to the top of Scragg Mountain (4.2 miles out and back, according to AllTrails).

Mad River Valley, Pitcher Inn, Warren, Vermont, Hiking, Biking, Waterfalls

Once you’ve worked up a sweat and an appetite, head to the Warren Store across Main Street from the inn for a sandwich-to-go (consider the ever-popular #6) before driving on to Warren Falls. There is nothing more refreshing than a dip in the Mad River at the height of August. The water is at its warmest but still mountain-stream cool. Rest, relax, dip, repeat. The falls are just two miles south of the inn and there’s plenty of parking.

Now you’re ready for refreshments, and we have two options to consider. Canteen Creemee makes some of the most outrageous and delicious confections for miles around. You can keep it simple with a classic Vermont maple creemee or go all in with a Mojito Sundae (no worries, it’s alcohol free), and everything in between. Canteen is in the center of Waitsfield, about six miles from the inn. (We also love The Sweet Spot in Waitsfield.)

If your taste buds tend more toward hops than dairy, head to Lawson’s Finest Liquids taproom just north of Canteen on Route 100, where you’ll find a wide selection of beers on tap (IPAs are a specialty), brewed in the building next door, including the aforementioned Scragg Mountain Pils (4.8 ABV). (You might also check out Collaborative Brewing on your way back to the inn.)

Top off your adventurous day with a fine dinner at the inn, presented by Chefs Jacob Ennis and Peter Heaney. Now that’s August in Vermont.