951 Main Street, Fairfax 802-849-0265
One of the first places I ever ate in Vermont was the Country Pantry in Fairfax. The year was 1996. It was spring and kids were playing baseball in the field nearby, the scent of fresh manure drifting all around. The food was great. I was completely won over by the hot turkey sandwich, with its flavorful yellow gravy, crisp fries and colorful presentation (see top photo on right).
Over the years, the Country Pantry, later AJ's Country Pantry, remained my favorite spot for hot turkey or a huge, cheap breakfast. It closed late last year. Jack Foley, owner of another good breakfast spot, 158 Main in Jeffersonville, reopened the joint as Vermont Breakfast Company in February.
After a suitable period of mourning, I finally gave it a try on Sunday. The first signs were good: The full breakfast menu is served until 4 p.m., when abbreviated options kick in. There was a wait for a table, too, even at 1:30 in the afternoon, just like the old days.
The space was slightly spiffed up, but mostly the same. The photos of livestock, for example, were still in place on the walls. The menu promised plenty of enticing options, both new and old. I briefly considered bananas Foster pancakes or a sausage, egg, cheese and rosemary breakfast sandwich. However, I knew the best way to judge the place would be to order the same things I did when I reviewed AJ's Country Pantry in September.
For about the same price, I got a couple of thin (though wonderfully tender) slices of turkey on home-baked bread with a side of crisp fries. I missed AJ's cranberry sauce, the coleslaw, the orange section...even the light showering of parsley — basically, color (see bottom photo on right). The offering with would have been okay, despite slightly thin and over-salted gravy, if it did not compare so wanly the older and better balanced rendition.
When a place has breakfast in its name, it better be good. Luckily, the farmers breakfast at VBC stood up well to its predecessor. The big breakfast plate at AJ's included just one type of meat: At VBC, you get two juicy sausages and two hearty slabs of exceptionally smoky, peppery bacon. The two eggs were cooked to ideal over-medium. Ultra-thick french toast can be made from any of the six home-baked breads on the menu. We went with white, and the centers of the well-soaked slices reminded me of a light, moist soufflé. The outside was crisp, with a pleasant hint of cinnamon that paired deliciously with maple syrup. The home fries appeared to be baked, despite their name. They were lightly dusted in Cajun seasoning, and acted as a slightly spicy foil to the sweet and salty breakfast items.
All in all, I learned my lesson: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and when eating at VBC, I shouldn't skip it.