Claire's and the Northeast Kingdom

lake willoughby

Last weekend we went up to the very tip-top of Vermont, the beautiful and majestically named Northeast Kingdom. Why is it called that? I don’t know. I found it very silly when I first heard the term — probably uttered by my my mother and father in law, who used to live there — but I’ve now come to realize that the place is so spectacularly beautiful that the description is apt. Kingdom, indeed.

There were two reasons for making the trek north: to visit some family friends Dan hadn’t seen in nearly a decade (and whom I’d never even met), and to eat dinner at Claire’s, the locavore dining darling, in Hardwick.

Yes, we drove straight to Claire’s.

Menus at Claire's in Hardwick

The menu at Claire’s

bread at Claire's

Best bread ever

curried carrot soup

Curried carrot soup with roasted pumpkin seeds and sprouts

What I want to say about Claire’s has less to do with the food and more to do with the experience. (Though I will say that they offer up some of the best bread Dan and I have ever had in a restaurant — possibly some of the best bread we’ve ever had ever. They don’t make it in-house, but kudos to the buyer who nabbed the loaves that graced our table last Friday.) At the risk of sounding like a Birkenstock-wearing, deodorant-shunning hippie — or, better yet former Top Chef contestant Carla Hall — there’s really a lot of love put into the food there. It feels right when you’re eating there, and I don’t mean righteous, or self-congratulatory, or smug, or anything like that. Unlike a lot of places that have jumped into the rushing river of local-sustainable-farm-to-table-ism, at Claire’s you feel very much at home. Eating acorn squash from two miles down the road is completely normal, not some saintly act to be exulted with dressy letterpressed italics on a menu that reads more like the acknowledgments in the back of a book than an uncomplicated presentation of something soulful and nourishing.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the food is really good: well-prepared and warming, unpretentious, and deeply satisfying. Also, the night we were there, they had on the dessert menu a dish that featured maple flavored marshmallow fluff. Seriously, people.

butternut squash

And what trip to Vermont would be complete without several food-related pit stops? The trunk of our car was stockpiled with maple syrup, cheese, apples, and winter squash. We can’t wait to go back.

2 Responses to Claire's and the Northeast Kingdom

  1. tigress says:

    OMG! I want to go.
    i am ridiculously embarrassed to say i live in the berkshires and have never been to vermont! that is just plain stupid, no?

    the photo is gorgeous!

  2. Pingback: Thai Pumpkin Soup » Soups » Plate to Plate

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