This past weekend was Erik’s 30th birthday, and we decided to go all out. Well, as much as we could with the pandemic. There were 3 more-upscale restaurants that we had heard good things about but had never been to ourselves. So we took $300 and 3 days to properly celebrate by grabbing takeout from all 3!
Friday, October 23, 2020 – Hen of the Wood
Our first celebration was on Friday night, when we ordered from Hen of the Wood in Waterbury.
We grabbed some Parker House Rolls with cultured butter and sea salt for $7. These 4 rolls were sweet, pillowy, chewy, doughy – all you would expect from a Parker House roll, with the added richness of cultured butter and topped with flaky sea salt.
For an appetizer, we had the Squash Scarpinocc with brown butter, apple, and pumpkin seeds for $15. Scarpinocc is a very unique shape of filled pasta, and these were delightful. The edges held a slight crunch for texture, while the middles were tender and filled with a very silky squash filling. They came in a citrusy cream sauce with tiny cubes of fresh-tasting pumpkin. They were very good, though we don’t recall there being any pumpkin seeds on the one that we got.
For the main entree, we shared the Duck Breast with winter squash, delicata, and pickled cranberries for $34. The duck breast was served a beautiful medium-rare with the crispiest, most smoky, rich skin. They cut crosshatching into it and the result was an amazing, almost bacon-tasting layer to accompany the meatiness of the duck breast. It was plated upon a squash puree which was delightful. The pickled cranberries provided a great compliment to cut through the fat and provide a high note that was not too sour. The roasted delicata added to the depth that the duck brought.
As a side dish, we ordered Creamy Polenta with smoked cheddar for $8. The creamy polenta was just that – extremely creamy. The smoked cheddar was an amazing flavor and the dish just melted in your mouth.
And finally, for dessert, we had the Chocolate Torte with hazelnut meringue, ganache, and coffee mousse for $11. This chocolate torte was amazingly silky and had an incredible initial hit of espresso that faded into a very rich, quality chocolate. There were candied hazelnuts that provided a nice nuttiness and crunch and the chocolate ganache was a great addition. Overall, not too sweet and a very composed dessert.
Saturday, October 24, 2020 – Michael’s On The Hill
Our second celebration was on Saturday, when we grabbed takeout from Michael’s On The Hill.
For appetizers, we got the Roasted Mushroom Tartine with truffle honey gastrique and the Maine Crabcake with Belgian endive, lemon mayo, and parsley salad, each for $15. The Roasted Mushroom Tartine was less mushroomy than we had anticipated. It was built on a very buttery toasted bread that was unable to be picked up. The truffle honey gastrique was very delicious, almost like a very garlicy balsamic vinegar. We even dipped some of the appetizer bread in it! The crab in this crabcake was so unbelievably tender, it is mind boggling how it stayed together in a patty. It melted in your mouth and was the perfect amount of seafoody taste – light, crispy outside, and not blended with so many other filler ingredients that you lost the crab (we’ve all had THAT kind of crabcake before). This crabcake really let the amazing crab shine.
We each ordered separate main dishes. I got the Slow Roasted Chicken with ratatouille, garlic confit mashed potatoes, and herb jus for $29. Unfortunately, the slow roasted chicken was not our favorite. Don’t get us wrong, the chicken was good – it just wasn’t THAT much better than the chicken we make at home. It was unseasoned, and while juicy, lacked that amazing chicken flavor that typical skin-on chicken has. The mashed potatoes packed a very intense garlic flavor, in a good way. The ratatouille, again, wasn’t our favorite. We felt like the ratatouille we make at home is better.
Erik got the Smoked Maple Syrup Glazed Pork Shank with cheddar polenta, crab apple puree, and braised greens for $35. The pork shank was great. While it didn’t taste very maple-y, it did have that perfect balance of smoky and sweet, and was juicy and fall-off-the-bone. The polenta was ok, but the cheddar flavor was not very strong, and the polenta itself was a bit lumpy. The crab apple puree and the braised greens were AMAZING. The crab apple puree offered a great pairing with the pork, bringing a freshness to an otherwise deep flavored dish. The braised greens were very tender and had a great bacon-y taste.
We didn’t get dessert as Erik’s mom had made him a coconut cream pie (the America’s Test Kitchen one), so we had that in lieu of something from Michael’s.
Sunday, October 25, 2020 – Blue Paddle Bistro
The last stop of our trifecta weekend was Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero. Because it is so far from our house, we decided to eat in the car at a water-side pull-off, and we were treated to a wonderful sunset as we ate!
For the appetizer, we ordered the Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts with bacon lardons, garden chives, and bourbon honey balsamic glaze for $10. These Brussels sprouts were amazing. Just the right amount of tang from the balsamic glaze, lots of great bacon flavor, but still able to taste the Brussels sprouts themselves as well. If you have read our review of Hatchet in Richmond, these Brussels sprouts are very similar to those in theory and execution.
For soup, we grabbed a bowl of Creamy Corn Chowder for $8. It was just that. Creamy, tons of corn, thick, rich – there was no mistaking this for a corn soup.
For an entrée, I grabbed the Cider Brined VT Raised Pork Chop with bacon braised cabbage, potato mash, and a cider reduction for $30. The bone-in pork chops (there were two!) were very juicy and flavorful, not to mention tender. We ate with compostable silverware (shout out to World Centric for making awesome compostable silverware), and we had no problems cutting the meat with the flimsy knife! The bacon braised cabbage had a very good bacon flavor, with a slight bitterness from the cabbage. Plus, the purple cabbage added a wonderful pop of color to an otherwise single-toned dish. The mashed potatoes were alright – nothing special, but certainly not bad. The crispy potatoes on top were actually sweet potatoes, which was a very interesting and well-executed idea!
For Erik’s entrée, he got the 13oz Ribeye with VT cheddar mashed potatoes, Caesar salad, and horseradish sauce for $34. While the Caesar salad was good, it wasn’t anything special. The mashed potatoes were the same as the ones that came with the Pork Chop entrée, but with a layer of melted cheddar over top of them. The ribeye was a very classic, well-seasoned ribeye, and the horseradish sauce was the perfect balance of spicy and creamy.
So there you have it! Our weekend trifecta of restaurants that we visited in celebration of Erik’s 30th birthday. We definitely recommend each of these restaurants and hope that if you do visit them, that you enjoy them!