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Stowe Overhaul

Side Dishes: New chefs join old favorites


Published June 23, 2010 at 7:28 a.m.

As summer brings bikers and hikers to replace skiers and riders in Stowe, two restaurants have made some more permanent swaps of their own. After a brief stint at Harrison’s Restaurant & Bar on Main Street, Curtis “Bear” Hillard has returned to his previous post at the Greenville Inn in Maine. The chef, who once assisted his mentor, Hartmut Handke, at the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest, helped take the menu at Harrison’s beyond basic steak and seafood.

“Chef Bear” left Harrison’s on short notice, but co-owner Andrew Kneale says he’s found a worthy replacement in Casey Christensen. For the past six and a half years, the New Hampshire native, a Johnson & Wales University alum, cooked at top restaurants in Aspen, Colo. Christensen is fresh from heading the kitchen at Piñons Restaurant in that city. He plans on updating the menu that Hillard left behind, but after less than a month in Vermont, he admits, “I’m just sort of getting my feet wet.”

In May, Jeremy Somerset took over the kitchen at Mr. Pickwick’s Pub at Ye Olde England Inne, just up the Mountain Road from Harrison’s. Somerset was part of the opening team at Solstice at Stowe Mountain Lodge, where he eventually served as sous-chef.

According to Mr. Pickwick’s owner Chris Francis, Somerset has already made a strong imprint on the aesthetic of the restaurant. “His philosophy is to use as many Vermont products as we can and support sustainable agriculture,” says Francis. Somerset left bangers and mash, and four other British classics on the menu, but updated the rest to include more seasonal options — think roasted Misty Knoll Farms chicken with pork-belly-studded cabbage, cranberry quinoa and honey jus; or duck breast and leg confit with brown-butter gnocchi and roasted beets.

Somerset’s plan also includes a new emphasis on Vermont beef. The inn now offers steak frites, and filet mignon from Vermont Highland Cattle Company. Francis says he and Somerset are hoping to replace their finely marbled Kobe steaks with an equivalent product from the Green Mountains.

Given that Francis is a music lover and performer, he’s quite keen on Mr. Pickwick’s new jazz brunch. Each Sunday, guests can enjoy a trio or quartet’s take on standards while dining on the deck.