Vermont road-trippers stop in Burlington for its crunchy college-town vibe and its beautiful location on Lake Champlain, not necessarily for its food scene. But over the past few years, chefs and artisanal producers have been using the state’s exceptional ingredients to turn Burlington and its outskirts into a bona fide restaurant destination.
In 2005, chefs Eric Warnstedt and Craig Tresser opened Hen of the Wood in Waterbury, 25 minutes from downtown. The two alums of Burlington classic Smokejacks do wonderful things with local produce. I loved the zingy salad of Vermont-grown beets from Pete’s Greens and the lamb shank from nearby Winding Brook Farm, served with a spiky, slightly sweet relish of parsley and Meyer lemon.
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Inside city limits, Kathi and Kevin Cleary opened L’Amante Ristorante in 2003, with a bar offering some of the town’s best cocktails, like a Clementini made with fresh clementine juice and a lemony riff on a Cosmopolitan that’s called, intriguingly, the Mistress. Chef Kevin Cleary adds subtle twists to Italian classics, as in his juicy roast half-duck with a fricassee of artichokes and potatoes and his arancini (rice balls) stuffed with mozzarella from Maplebrook Farm in Bennington, Vermont.