A few nights later at Montpelier's Salt Café, my friend and I were so hungry, and so stressed from our days and our drives, that we committed a culinary faux pas: We ordered the same dishes for two courses. One server, Peter Colman, rightly tut-tutted us, but both of us had our hearts set on a seared scallop in blood-orange Hollandaise sauce, and the pork liver and sausage ravioli in a nutmeg-cream sauce that had recently earned a nod in New York magazine as one of the "101 of America's Most Delicious Noodle Dishes."
But first, co-owner Suzanne Podhaizer delivered an amuse bouche — a petite cube of local goat cheese atop a drizzle of sweet and smoky maple gastrique, a few microgreens floating on top. The tiny morsel slid down our throats with a sugary tang; I ran my finger across the plate. Next up was the scallop, one side deeply seared to the color of caramel and a piece of juicy blood orange glistening on top. The scallop itself was succulent, and the mostly cream sauce had faint hints of acid. An interlude of crisp spring greens followed — tossed lightly with toasted walnuts, feta and minced ramps that had been gathered by Colman that morning — and added a woodsy piquancy.
At long last, the ravioli. We had felt teased by the smaller plates so far, wanting more of whatever it was we finished. Now we knew why; this dish packed an epic punch. Tucking into the soft pillows, bits of tender sausage would occasionally pop out. We'd drag them around the plate, scooping up the rich, nutmeg-speckled sauce with its hints of sherry. It filled us completely and absolutely. Yet we'd heard the desserts here are transportive, and it wasn't a myth. My dense, flourless chocolate cake came smothered in a melted marshmallow that looked like pale lava spilling across the top. It oozed and stretched as I ever so slowly finished off the deep, dark cake. My friend's feather-light maple pudding came with a chip of smoky, salty bacon brittle. Both left us believing in the magic of pastry and vowing to return.