- Tom McNeill
Just a few decades ago, dining out in Vermont might have consisted of a cuppa cheddar soup, steak and potatoes — or maybe a plate of pasta tossed with a then-exotic sauce called pesto.
How times have changed! Our food scene has evolved into a dynamic, delicious hotbed of imaginative cuisine, renowned for farm-to-fork fare. While the staples still rule here, chefs might now blend local ale into the soup, grill cuts of grass-fed beef or grind freshly picked ramps into their pesto. Local is a given.
7 Nights is a celebration of that vibrant dining scene, representing nearly 900 diners, bakeries, bistros, bars and restaurants across Vermont. Foodies keep the annual print guide in the glove compartments of their cars, in case they crave a brioche in Burlington, smoked-trout sushi in Waterbury, a lobster roll in North Hero or goat curry in Windsor.
The online version of 7 Nights has become the place for diners to comment on their eating experiences. It also has the most accurate, up-to-date dining information in the state. The moment an eatery opens, closes or changes its concept, we're on it. And once a year, we call every restaurant in 7 Nights to make sure our listing is accurate.
In 2012, some of those calls were bittersweet. Tropical Storm Irene dealt a major blow to many. We're still waiting for some beloved restaurants to recover — such as the Green Cup in Waitsfield — and mourning the permanent loss of others, including the venerated Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury.
But plenty of flooded and damaged eateries have come back, such as Waterbury's Juniper's Fare, Waitsfield's MINT Restaurant and Tea Lounge, and Warren's Pitcher Inn. And, despite the storm, we gained new culinary gems this year: creative, farm-fresh tacos at Mad Taco in Montpelier and El Cortijo Taqueria y Cantina in Burlington; playful pub fare at Crop Bistro & Brewery in Stowe; and imaginative plates at Burlington's Pistou.
We could all use a drink after Irene — and luckily, it's been a stellar year for local libations. Numerous new microbreweries and distilleries opened this year, joining the state's growing group of wine makers and crafters of hard cider and mead. Vermont now boasts more microbrewers per capita than any other state in the country, and some of our wines are winning national awards.
What pairs best with a zingy saison or an icy glass of La Crescent? A wedge of local cheese! Vermont boasts so many talented cheese makers, it's impossible to list them all, but we've collected the names of a few that welcome visitors for sampling on page 119.
Every year, Vermont tastes just a little better.