Rediscovering Breakfast at Shelburne Farms, From Restaurant Table to Market Garden | Seasonal Eats | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Rediscovering Breakfast at Shelburne Farms, From Restaurant Table to Market Garden


Published June 11, 2024 at 9:13 a.m.
Updated June 12, 2024 at 10:13 a.m.

Garden vegetable hash - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Garden vegetable hash

We rarely host out-of-state visitors during the summer and fall without taking them to Shelburne Farms. The 1,400-acre historic country estate turned environmental education nonprofit is a National Historic Landmark and a local treasure. Even the most seasoned traveler's eyes widen when the magnificent, turreted farm barn comes into sight.

Sometimes we simply stroll along the gravel trails and roads, meandering across meadows and through wooded copses. We might walk past the farm barn to climb Lone Tree Hill and marvel at the view of the graceful red-brick inn overlooking Lake Champlain. On our way out, we stop at the welcome center for nibbles of the excellent cheddar, made on-site from the farm's Brown Swiss cows.

When our group includes youngsters, or animal lovers of any age, we make a beeline to the barn to see the lambs, chickens and calves in the children's farmyard. We peek into the cheesemaking facility to witness the magical transformation of milk into cheddar and into O Bread Bakery to savor the scent of freshly baked loaves.

If I've planned ahead, we might dine at the inn, an experience which magically transports guests into late 19th-century elegance. I love a leisurely dinner in the crimson silk damask-walled, marble-floored dining room, preceded by drinks on the rolling lawn. It is, however, a commitment not suited to every schedule or budget.

The terrace at the Inn at Shelburne Farms - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • The terrace at the Inn at Shelburne Farms

Instead, I might suggest visiting the inn for breakfast. Reservations, particularly during the week, are easier to grab last minute. Breakfast is more casual and lighter on the wallet, and morning is the perfect time for a postprandial walk.

A recent Friday visit made me wonder why I wait for guests to indulge in the occasional Shelburne Farms breakfast. Unlike dinner, the experience makes me feel less like a customer and more like a member of the family who once descended from their quarters to start the day in that same dining room.

Chard in the market garden - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Chard in the market garden

Weather permitting, I'd opt to sit on the terrace for the best view of gardens and lake. Guests playing croquet on the lawn add to the relaxing, old-world ambience.

My friend ordered the garden vegetable hash ($20) with potatoes, toast and two eggs. I was sorely tempted by the breakfast egg sandwich ($16) on an August First brioche bun with shallot jam, Vermont Creamery goat cheese, arugula and a side of potatoes. But the biscuits and sausage gravy special ($20) with eggs and potatoes won out.

Our server listed off the hash vegetables — including sweet potatoes, salad turnips, green garlic and chard — some of which came from the property's market garden. Shelburne Farms executive chef John Patterson later told me that the vegetable hash is "a good expression" of the freshest harvest from the market garden and other local farms. In August, for example, it might feature summer squash, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.

Restaffing the seasonal operation each spring is a challenge, Patterson said. He is very happy that breakfast chef Brandy Allan returned for the second year and has given her creative license over the morning menu.

Biscuits and sausage gravy special with scrambled eggs and potatoes - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Biscuits and sausage gravy special with scrambled eggs and potatoes

Our dishes were generously sized and well made, and they hit the spot. Sage-flecked biscuits were flaky under a rich, herby cream gravy with an extra herb punch from Vermont Salumi's maple-sage sausage. I deputized the kitchen to choose my egg style and was pleased with the fluffy scramble. My friend's bowl boasted a rainbow of caramelized vegetables, topped with perfectly cooked over-easy eggs.

I did briefly regret not ordering the pancakes ($16), spied on a neighboring table. Patterson later told me that the fluffy, tender exemplars of the genre, made with Westfield's Butterworks Farm buttermilk, are his favorite. "I will literally stand in the kitchen and pound two in a row," he said.

Shelburne Farms farm store and welcome center - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Shelburne Farms farm store and welcome center

Patterson came to Shelburne Farms in 2019 but did not run his first full season until 2023, when the inn restaurant reopened to the public after a gradual post-pandemic reboot. His dinner menu this year returns to classics. Shepherd's pie for two ($65) stars the farm's lamb, crowned with a clothbound cheddar-topped potato purée and served with a cocotte of seasonal vegetables. A Maple Wind Farm chicken leg and thigh ($36) are roasted with a glaze of tamari, maple and apple balsamic vinegar and accompanied by sautéed cabbage and locally cultivated mushrooms.

New this season for guests who swing by for drinks on the inn lawn is a picnic box for two ($40) filled with Shelburne Farms cheddar, salame from Agricola Farm in Panton, apples, jam and crackers.

After breakfast, we took a quick walk through the inn gardens before heading down the hill to visit the source of some of those hash vegetables.

The market garden is on the Shelburne Farms map, posted all over the grounds, and easy to reach from the inn, though there are no signs to indicate exactly where to turn off the main trail. Follow the road that curves left behind the coach barn. Just past the solar array, take your next left onto a small dirt driveway to arrive at the two-acre operation.

Market gardener Jamie Hayes - MELISSA PASANEN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
  • Market gardener Jamie Hayes

We found market gardener Jamie Hayes harvesting rhubarb, which I later learned would be paired with a buttermilk cake on the inn's dessert menu. Peas vigorously vined up trellises and choy sum bloomed sunny flowers. Gold- and pink-stalked chard sprouted glossy green leaves, like those we had enjoyed in the breakfast hash.

Market garden manager Josh Carter welcomes visitors. "I want people to walk through here," he said. "I want to know if your breakfast was good."

Turns out you don't have to eat at the inn to get a taste of the market garden. Its produce and eggs are also sold at the welcome center, and some vegetables are served in the farm barn courtyard at a lunchtime cart, which offers another affordable way to eat with farm-raised beef burgers ($12), grilled cheese ($8) and market garden salads ($6).

I see a three-meal day at Shelburne Farms in my future.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Inn Time | Rediscovering breakfast at Shelburne Farms, from restaurant table to market garden"

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