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‘Perfect Fall Getaway’ Reprise

09/05/2023 5:26 pm

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Editor’s note: We originally published this post a year ago. It still rings true.

We’re always honored and grateful when others recognize what makes The Pitcher Inn so special. Recently, two media outlets cited the inn for its very particular appeal during the autumn months of September and October in Vermont.

Discoverer begins its round-up story: “Nothing beats the warmth and comfort of a fall evening spent by the fire. Thankfully, there are plenty of quaint and cozy inns around the world that embrace the autumn feeling and provide the perfect, intimate getaway. Whether you’re looking to snuggle up with a book by the fireplace or gaze upon colorful fall foliage during breakfast, the following inns will meet all your seasonal needs.”

And then leads with this about the inn: “Fall in Vermont is perfect for biking, hiking, picnicking, and of course, leaf peeping. Nestled between the scenic Green Mountains of Vermont in the charming village of Warren is The Pitcher Inn. While staying at The Pitcher Inn, all of those classic fall activities are easily accessible due to the property’s proximity to the Roxbury State Forest. Choose a one or two-bedroom suite in the “barn” or a room in the main house. Jet out on a fly fishing adventure or stay in and curl up next to one of the inn’s 14 fireplaces (Editor’s note: Now including wood stoves in some rooms.). Guests can also indulge in seasonal fare onsite at the onsite pub or private dining rooms.”

Discoverer puts us in good company with other similar properties in the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, and Ireland.

Over at Condé Nast Traveler, Cassie Shortsleeve and Todd Plummer write in “See Vermont Fall Foliage in These 15 Beautiful Places” about what makes the state so distinctive in autumn, including the Mad River Valley. They write: “Vermonters will tell you to continue driving north on Route 100 toward the Mad River Valley, the region of Sugarbush Resort. The autumnal colors are there, of course, but so is the Mad River Taste Place, an artisanal market of Vermont food and drinks, charming country stores like the Warren Store, and some of the best tacos around in Waitsfield (we’re looking at you, Mad Taco). Can’t bring yourself to leave? Don’t. Relais & Châteaux’s The Pitcher Inn in Warren is a white-clapboard classic on the outside with individually themed rooms (think: the “ski room” and the “school room”).”

You can read the complete write-ups at the following links: Discoverer Blog and Condé Nast Traveler.

Five Fall Favorites

08/13/2023 2:10 pm

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Already in mid-August the trees are beginning to reveal their fall colors. It may be the plentiful rain we’ve had this summer or just the shorter days. Whichever, it’s the season we live for here in Vermont, the one that draws visitors from around the globe. It’s also a last chance to sport our summer duds before the cooling winds demand a fleece layer. And it’s when we love to get out into the Mad River Valley and explore.

There’s plenty to do–too much for a single weekend–so here are our five favorites.

  1. Ride the single chair at Mad River Glen. For just three weekends each fall the cooperatively-owned ski mountain spins its iconic single chairlift to allow 100-mile views across the Green Mountains to the Whites in New Hampshire and the Adirondacks in New York. This year’s dates are September 23, 24, 30 and October 1, 7 and 8. Times and details are at the Mad River Glen website.
  2. Go for a leisurely walk in the valley or hike to a high spot like Sunset Ledge (the name befits the reward). Upon check-in ask your guest assistant for a copy of our walking guide that includes Burnt Rock and Sunset Ledge nearby and walks in Stowe and Burlington if you want to travel further afield.
  3. Bike the backroads. It should come as no surprise that bikers travel from across the country to cruise along our paved and unpaved roads. Each year we welcome groups from outfitters like Backroads as well as leisure guests looking to get out on one of our newish Cannondale Quick 6 house bikes. We will happily offer you suggested routes, either a quick ride around the village of Warren or a zip along the East Warren Road with its spectacular view of the Green Mountains.
  4. Discover the secret stashes at nearby locally-owned shops. If your tendency is more sedate activities, like finding the perfect pair of artisan earrings or a repurposed and reimagined Vermont farm implement, the Mad River Valley offers plenty of options. The most convenient for inn guests is a stroll across Main Street to the “almost world-famous” Warren Store. There you’ll find coffee, croissant, clothing and cabernet, among many other treasures. Or travel north to Waitsfield for the shops along Bridge Street. Or discover a perfect good-read among the stacks at the Tempest Book Shop, also in Waitsfield.
  5. Get inspired by local Vermont art. A good place to start is right at the inn. Our curators from Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury are continually changing up the art on the walls at the inn. Or walk across Main Street to Art in the Village, right next the Warren Store, where artist and gallerist Rita Ioannidis curates a wide selection of Vermont artists. Or make your way to the Bundy Modern just up Route 100 to see “Nor’easter,” a show of three New England artists (Saturdays only, through September 3, or by appointment).

 

The Art of Wildcrafting

06/28/2023 1:39 pm

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When guests wonder what makes dining at The Pitcher Inn so fine, we often offer a one-word response: wildcrafting. Just as we rely on our farmer partners like Field Stone Farm for the freshest ingredients, we look to our wildcrafting partners Nova Kim and Les Hook to share the natural bounty of the Vermont woods and meadows.

Collectively Nova and Les have more than 100 years of experience in the pursuit of wild foods. Recently we checked in with them about their approach to their craft and about what wild foods guests might taste on their plates while dining at the inn.

Tell us about wildcrafting, how long and why you do it.

Wildcrafting is learning to accept what wild plants are offered for the gifts that they are and helping to preserve them as well as their habitat. Wildcrafting is when you walk through a landscape, familiar with the timing and seasons of those other beings around you, knowing that when you leave, things will be better for your having been there and better for you as well.

We have been wildcrating, collectively, for over a hundred years between the two of us. The advantage of old age.

What inspires you?

The necessity of educating, understanding and preserving all the wild plants, both native and introduced.

What’s the range of plants and other wild organics you gather?

Blossoms, berries, bulbs, evergreen tips, greens, herbs, potherbs, roots, and gourmet mushrooms.

What are you gathering now?

Today we will be delivering Wild Watercress, Elderblow Blossoms, Wintergreen Leaves, Sweetfern tips, Concolor and Spruce fir tips, and Berkeley’s Polypore (a mushroom).

We don’t want you to give up your secrets, but generally where do your wild organics come from? Meadow ? Woods?

Since we collect such a wide range of plants and mushrooms, our collection areas are defined by the season and weather…no one specific habitat. Many of these same areas/beds have been producing for 20-plus years due to careful attention and not over harvesting. When we do lose an area, it is often due to clearcutting.

Offer some advice on how inn guests should approach unfamiliar ingredients.

As with anything new, start with small amounts.

Have you enjoyed a meal prepared by Chef Jacob and his team including ingredients you have sourced?

Not yet.

Field Stone Farm Fresh

06/13/2023 1:19 pm

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One of the joys of summer in Vermont is farm-fresh produce. And about now is when it comes in abundance.

Here at The Pitcher Inn, in the kitchen, we’re all smiles when Hannah Blackmer bursts through the door with armfuls of produce. Hannah and her mom Chandra run the women-owned and -operated Field Stone Farm between Northfield and Roxbury, Vermont, just over the mountains from the inn. This time of year Field Stone is our primary source of fresh vegetables, a key ingredient in our many summer and fall offerings. 

We recently caught up with a very busy Hannah Blackmer to learn more about her passion for farming. Here’s a lightly edited version of our conversation.

Tell us about Field Stone Farm and something about you.

Field Stone Farm was started in 2010 and has been owned and operated by a mother-daughter team since 2016. We strive towards no-till, regenerative practices on one-and-a-half acres of mixed vegetables, and make wicked good wood-fired pizza. The farm is located in Northfield on land that I grew up on. Before returning home to farm here, I had two additional seasons of farm work.

What motivates you to farm?
I have always preferred to work outside. When I started farming, I found that it pushed me not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Working in tandem with so much that is beyond your control…every season is humbling, and that challenge feeds me. And while I cannot control the weather, I can control the care that goes into how I choose to grow food. Intentionality, craftsmanship, and pride invite a connection to my community beyond our socially distilled simplicity of “eat to live”. When people get excited about flavor, texture, variety, and quality–about slowing down their day to be present with what is on their plate–that feels right and good. Everyone deserves to know the joy food can bring. It may seem like a small impact on the world, but it is my impact, and I’m honored to make it.

What are you growing this year?
We grow almost the entire alphabet of veggies. This year we added some new heirloom tomatoes that I’m really excited to try, and some new pepper varieties. Last year we grew some ginger, and this year we doubled down on that and are trialing some turmeric.

What are you delivering to the inn?
Right now I’m delivering a lot of greens! Typical June stuff: lettuce mix, arugula, spinach, kale, cilantro, and radishes. We deliver lettuce weekly, the rest will transition out in favor of summer crops before too long.

What’s really got you excited right now?
We just finished up all of our big spring plantings (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and winter squash) which is always fun to have behind us, and now we’re on the verge of snap pea season which is very exciting! We don’t heat any of our greenhouses, so we typically have to wait a little longer for all the summer treats but I think the wait is totally worth it.

We encourage guests to come dine with us to see if “the wait is totally worth it,” as Vermont farmer Hannah Blackmer puts it.

Five Summer Favs

05/25/2023 12:06 pm

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With all there is to do in summer in Vermont’s Mad River Valley, it’s hard to pick favorites. But pick you must if you’re going to taste the real Vermont during a brief visit. To help, we offer our five favorite summertime activities in and around the twin towns of Warren and Waitsfield.

  1. Warren 4th of July Parade. It may be the wackiest, most cherished parade in America. Think zany floats, costumed parade-goers, and treats from the Warren Store. This year’s theme is The Sounds of Freedom. Insider tip: Stay in one of the inn’s rooms (Calvin Coolidge, Chester Arthur) that front Main Street and overlook the parade route and enjoy the parade from your private balcony.
  2. Warren-Waitsfield Bike.This is a staff favorite ride that affords both valley views and, along the East Warren Road, some amazing vistas of the central Green Mountain range extending from Mount Abraham to Camel’s Hump, highlighted by the Sugarbush and Mad River Glen ski lines.
  3. Waitsfield Farmer’s Market. Every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 am until 1 pm, on the green in Waitsfield, is the best entertainment in the valley. You’ll find seasonal fresh veggies, tasty prepared foods, and live music, not to mention good people vibes.
  4. Dipping in the Mad River. It’s the waterway that gives our splendid valley its name, and it’s a mighty pleasant way to cool off on a hot summer day. You can visit any number of swimming holes. We like Warren Falls, just a few miles south of the inn on Route 100, and the Laureau Swim Hole, just a few miles north in Waitsfield.
  5. Dining on the Tracks Terrace. There’s no better way to end you day of adventure than al fresco dining, weather permitting, on the terrace just outside Tracks tavern, overlooking Freeman Brook. Enjoy a cocktail, cold beer or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc to start, then follow it with apps and entrees from the new Tracks menu

We imagine that residents and lovers of the Mad River Valley might have their own ideas about favorite summertime activities, but we’re pretty sure you can’t go wrong with any of those listed above. Enjoy! And be sure to talk with one of our guest assistants for their ideas.

Artist Talk with Jim Westphalen

04/03/2023 3:34 pm

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Photographer Jim Westphalen will join us at The Pitcher Inn, in the Brook Room, on May 11, 2023, for dinner and an artist talk.

Jim has always had an affinity for the built landscape; those patterns and features reflecting human occupation within the natural surroundings. His current body of work, entitled “Vanish,” is an ongoing narrative that speaks to the decay of iconic structures in rural America.

His May talk at the inn will focus on his chosen subject matter, photographic technique, and his path to becoming one of Vermont’s premier fine art photographers. The talk follows the screening of his documentary, “Vanish: Disappearing Icons of Rural America,” which premiered at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury on April 8, 2023.

Jim will share examples of his work at the inn and guests will have the opportunity to ask questions and to enjoy dinner following his presentation.

Who: Photographer Jim Westphalen

What: An evening of fine art and fine dining, presented by Edgewater Gallery & The Pitcher Inn

When: Thursday, May 11, 2023, 5:30-8:30 pm

Where: The Pitcher Inn Brook Room

How: To register, call The Pitcher Inn at 802-496-6350. There is no cost for the talk and dinner is a la carte from the restaurant’s dinner menu.

Artist Talk with Kathryn Milillo

03/13/2023 5:45 pm

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Vermont oil painter Kathryn Milillo is preparing for her solo exhibition at Edgewater Gallery on the Green in October 2023 and will join us at The Pitcher Inn, in the Brook Room, on March 30, 2023, for dinner and an artist talk.

Kathryn is drawn to the aging architecture of Vermont’s barns and farmhouses. She strives to honor their decaying but handsome presence.

In her artist talk Kathryn will share her journey to becoming a painter, as well as her inspiration, technique and approach to creating fine art.

“I am influenced in my painting choices by a background in English literature and graphic design,” says Kathryn. “Words like ‘grace,’ ‘refuge,’ and ‘abandonment’ are veins of gold to be mined. Playing with light and dark, color complements and negative spaces, I aim to create a visual poem.”

Who: Painter Kathryn Milillo

What: An evening of fine art and fine dining, presented by Edgewater Gallery & The Pitcher Inn

When: Thursday, March 30, 2023, 5:30-8:30 pm

Where: The Pitcher Inn Brook Room

How: To register, including dinner at The Pitcher Inn, call the Edgewater Gallery at 802-989-7419 or send an email to info@edgewatergallery-vt.com. To make dinner reservations for the evening, please call The Pitcher Inn at 802-496-6350. There is no cost for the talk and dinner is a la carte from the restaurant’s dinner menu.

Merci, Montréal

02/07/2023 2:25 pm

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We’re heartened by a recent write-up about the inn in the Montréal Gazette, the only English language daily newspaper in Canada’s second-largest city. Travel writer Rochelle Lash reflects on her recent visit to the inn:

It’s a quintessential country inn, with a twist.

Warren, Vt. has been on the map since 1789, but it is the posh Pitcher Inn that has put the hamlet in the tourism spotlight for the past 25 years. It’s shining particularly brightly at the moment, with its new Canadian-at-par special for the month of February.

The Pitcher Inn is a quintessential Vermont country inn, with a twist. It is a white clapboard classic surrounded by snowy mountains, dense forests and rushing waters, but the textbook style ends there. The authentic, one-of-a-kind establishment is filled with handsome antiques, whimsical curios and rare craftsmanship.

Featuring vintage walls of stone and brick, plus 13 wood-burning fireplaces and stoves located throughout, the Pitcher Inn positively glows with warmth. With luxurious interiors, personal service and gourmet dining, it’s a great place for sporty getaways, special occasions or romance.

“Guests have said they feel as though they are enjoying a friend’s country home,” said Tracy Kelly, the maîtresse de maison. “It is a wonderful place to relax and unwind.”

What to do: I am fascinated by the town of Warren, which is tiny but totally fulfilling. Main Street is home to only four select enterprises. In addition to the sublime Pitcher Inn, they’re all must-stops: hearty soups and sandwiches and yummy pastries at the Warren Store, a dash of culture at Art in the Village, and treasure hunting at Someday resale boutique.

If you are compelled to swim or have a workout, guests can use the very complete Sugarbush Health and Racquet Club.

I wanted to spend all day lounging at the Pitcher Inn, but it’s hard to pass up Vermont’s exceptional sports. Sugarbush Resort is an Alterra Mountain Company area affiliated with Tremblant through the Ikon Pass. With 111 trails and 16 lifts on two towering peaks, it’s one of New England’s biggest and most adventurous ski areas. I set out on a bluebird day (that’s ski-speak for sunny with vivid blue skies) and happily tackled cruisers, glades and bumps.

Interiors: The Pitcher Inn is filled with fine collectibles, including vintage oils and photographs, and modern works curated by Edgewater Gallery of Middlebury, Vt., which also presents exhibitions and lectures.

The inn has nine spacious guest rooms (no children) and a couple of two-bedroom suites in an adjacent building (children welcome). Each has a Vermont theme, such as Trout, Mallard, Ski or Hayloft, with exceptionally detailed decor to match. You’ll find fishing flies, duck decoys and old ski maps, all turned into objets d’art. Two rooms are named for former U.S. presidents Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur, both Vermonters.

“One of my favourite rooms is School,” said George Dorsey, who recently bought the Pitcher Inn with his wife, Gale. “It has a beautiful porch and nostalgic elements of a rural schoolhouse.

“But throughout the building, the history is precious.”

The accommodations have deeply comfortable beds and down pillows. Some have fireplaces, or balconies overlooking a branch of the Mad River. The bathrooms are thoroughly modernized, and stocked with natural toiletries from Whisper Hill of Quechee, Vt. All have soaking tubs with jets, and many have high-tech steam showers.

Cuisine: Executive chef Jacob Ennis brings extensive experience from the Vanderbilt Grace in Newport, R.I. and several Relais & Châteaux properties, including the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport and the Wauwinet in Nantucket.

The stately 275 Main is an elegant country dining room with fine landscape paintings, candles atop white tablecloths, elegant Windsor chairs and large windows. The menus change, but you might luck into steaks done on a wood-fired grill or meat roasted on a spit in the open fireplace. Other choices might be an elk burger, porchetta with chestnut stuffing or seared tuna.

Tracks is a woodsy tavern with massive stone walls, rustic furniture and a taxidermy zoo of snarling bobcats and wolverines. The casual menu might include a Cuban sandwich, a platter of smoked meat (prepared in house), cheese or charcuterie.

The ingredients are sourced from Vermont farms. Ennis tends bees and raises chickens, and his suppliers include foragers who stop by with surprises like forest mushrooms, sarsaparilla, ginger or ramps.

The Pitcher Inn will have a Valentine’s evening on Feb. 14, and it holds World Wine events almost monthly. Next up is France on March 16.

‘New Go-To Spot in Vermont’

02/03/2023 4:19 pm

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The winter 2023 edition of Edible Vermont profiles The Pitcher Inn in its “Last Bite” column. In case you missed it, here’s what Vermont’s foodie magazine has to say about dining at The Pitcher Inn.

There is a certain “what I am doing?” feeling when one moves, after 27 years, from New York City and heads back to the Green Mountain State. In this case, that worrisome person was me. Raised in Montpelier, I left for the lights of Manhattan shortly after college, never expecting to return. Enter Covid. I, along with thousands of others, felt chased out of Gotham. I moved full time into my 1800 weekend farmhouse purchased years before. I not only mourned my beloved city, but also the life I enjoyed daily and the culinary haunts that for years were my go-to spots for anniversary and birthday celebrations. I had lived blocks from Jean-Georges and Alain Ducasse eateries, exceptional bakeries, and cheese shops (I lived above a Dean & DeLuca for goodness sake). Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

An avid foodie, I researched top dining spots in Vermont and one summer day hopped onto Route 100, a stunning, scenic drive, with my palate GPS headed toward the tiny hamlet of Warren, home of the gorgeous, rustic-chic Pitcher Inn. I knew it would be a perfect nest to soak in an evening of pampering and culinary explorations courtesy of Executive Chef Jacob Ennis who, prior to helming the inn’s 275 Main, worked in some of New England’s award-winning culinary destinations. His ethos is creating menus showcasing farm-fresh “locally anchored, ingredient-focused gastronomy to sustainable seafood such as mackerel and monkfish and showcasing wild game in the autumn.” And when I read that he makes his own burrata and mozzarella (so long NYC fromagers!) and jams harvested from the inn’s grapevines, I knew this would be my favorite eatery outside of my beloved Big Apple.

Chef Jacob had a few minutes to greet me, hand-presenting his dishes and explaining the ingredients and flavors I would experience—his secrets on how he delicately sears, sautés, and roasts each expertly crafted dish.. He also explained a new program, Fire to Fork, that he is launching for the cool seasons, where he roasts vegetables, meats, stocks, and soups in the heart of the restaurant’s fireplace. This type of old-school cooking is not often found these days. On top of his dreamy food and cheeses, another score!

Working alongside Chef Jacob is Chef de Cuisine Peter Heaney, a graduate of New England Culinary Institute who has worked for 25 years in some of the world’s finest kitchens, including top establishments in Montpellier, France and in Montreal (now I think “how cool that I am from Montpelier”). His style of cooking is classic French and takes advantage of the bounty of farm-fresh items in the Mad River region. Together, the two chefs create a flawless culinary pas de deux. In addition, the delectable desserts are homemade.

The nearly 500-bottle wine cellar touts a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and is available for private dining. After feeling as though I had a foodie affair on some of my beloved NYC eateries, I had found my new go-to spot in Vermont. And I even snuck in a fireside Bhakta Spirits Armagnac après dinner at Tracks, the inn’s cozy tavern. Then it was a peaceful eve in Trout Room where visions of homemade burrata danced through my head.

Rebecca Widness is a part-time Vermont resident and luxury travel and hospitality public relations consultant.

Wine & Dine in Style

01/24/2023 1:40 pm

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Insider’s tip just in time for Valentine’s: The wine cellar at the inn (pictured above) is perhaps the most romantic of several romantic dining venues at The Pitcher Inn. So our romantic regulars tell us.

Picture yourself and your sweetie surrounded by more than a thousand bottles of racked wine from all over the world, some as rare as your love for each other.

You’ll enjoy a specially prepared menu from Chef Jacob Ennis and his team, curated specifically for the wines you choose, either a standard or a premium pairing. The latter gets you access to especially rare wines that we do not usually serve by the glass.

Chef is committed to sourcing most ingredients locally, or from the New England coast, in the case of seafood. If you have foodie favorites, let us know and Chef will build a menu just for you.

While the wine cellar can accommodate up to six people, four is ideal and two is very special.

Another way to enjoy the intimacy of our wine cellar include is a wine tasting before dinner in the dining room. Talk with our sommelier Tunney King and we’ll make the magic happen.

Ready for a romantic dinner to remember? Reach out and we’ll help you plan it.

Note: Because we’re so busy on Valentine’s Day in the dining room and Tracks, you’ll need to plan your romantic wine cellar dinner any day but Valentine’s.