People in the Upper Valley still talk wistfully about the Middlebrook Restaurant, a rustic West Fairlee establishment that operated for six years before closing in the early aughts.
UV diners can pack away their lament: The Middlebrook is open again, albeit with a new chef-owner and a reimagined menu.
Last summer, chef-owner Adam Doszkocs moved from Baltimore to West Fairlee to resurrect the eatery, which sits on 115 acres now owned by his family. (The Middlebrook's original owners, John Quimby and Michael O'Donnell, went on to open the Tip Top Café in White River Junction.) "[My mother] was thinking about moving, as this wasn't generating any income and was kind of a drain," says Doszkocs. "I know a part of her loves the property and didn't want to move. I thought, Wait a second..."
Doszkocs, who has worked in various parts of the food industry, from kitchens to food distribution, decided to draw on his know-how to revive the Middlebrook. The building still had excellent bones: a commercial kitchen, expansive gardens, a gaggle of chickens (for eggs) and an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven.
Doszkocs refilled the restaurant's two rooms with 60-odd seats, fired up the kitchen and began serving brunch in January, plating dishes such as beignets, egg-chorizo tacos and Hungarian crêpes filled with lemon ricotta cheese.
A few weeks ago, he and his staff began serving dinner, too, drawing heavily on local produce. "Much of what comes in here, from the milk to the honey to the meat to the vegetables, is local to Vermont," Doszkocs says. "That's always been really important to me."
The dinner menu focuses on New American cuisine such as fried Blue Point oysters with adobo aioli; pork-loin schnitzel; pan-seared brook trout; and house-smoked ribs with lemongrass, ginger and chili. Doszkocs sources local grass-fed beef for seared strip steaks and a house burger. Local goat meat from a Bradford farm goes into his goat tacos, which he says have "been a hit. Goat meat is fantastic, though for some reason it's really never caught on here."
As it happens, Doszkocs is the grandson of a Connecticut goat farmer, and he hopes to raise those animals in the future — along with Hungarian pigs. Why Hungarian? "They have these curly locks hanging off their head, and are more tender and much more flavorful than American pork," Doszkocs observes.
As the summer season ramps up, and the Lake Fairlee area fills with seasonal visitors, Doszkocs envisions serving dinner six nights a week. He says he'll also fire up the pizza oven for more casual barn dinners with a "stripped-down menu."
"Basically, our main goal is to not be exclusive, and to have my neighbors around West Fairlee want to dine here," Doszkocs says.