DORSET, Vt. -- Dorset is a picture of whiteness, from its pristine homes to its abandoned marble quarries.
Anchoring the town is the Dorset Inn, a 1796 tavern with stenciled walls and a fire-lighted parlor. I was glad to discover it serves three meals daily, as a snowstorm loomed. I was one of only two overnight guests, a captive audience. Would the food be any good?
Its owner is Sissy Hicks, who doubles as head chef. Her cookbook sells at the front desk, which seemed auspicious. I half expected to be the sole person dining on such a blizzardy night, but to my surprise, the place was full.
Three of the starters sounded especially mouth-watering: yam fritters, warm goat cheese over wilted spinach with sun-dried-tomato melba toast, and a salad of apple, fennel, and butternut squash. Curious about the squash, I went with the salad. It came with mixed greens, dotted with orange squash bits and fennel shavings. But with only a hint of maple vinaigrette, it was tasteless. I chided myself for having missed the goat cheese, and hoped bread or rolls would materialize at my table. They didn't.
But to their credit, I could sense from the menu that the kitchen was environmentally aware. There were vegetarian dishes, such as baked eggplant crepes with spinach and ricotta, and something for local tastes, like pheasant pot pie. The seafood special was pan-seared wild striped bass, one of the few species I knew was not endangered. I chose it, and was glad I did. A chunk of it arrived on a mound of blanched spinach. On the side were extra buttery mashed potatoes surrounded by an addictive sauce of fresh herbs, mushrooms, leeks, and white wine. The meat was white and succulent, its skin just a tad crispy. Between bites, I feasted on the potatoes, a comfort food if I ever tasted one. The contrast of flavors and textures boiled down to a single word: scrumptious.
Plus, I got a second chance at some goat cheese. A Vermont cheese plate was listed on the dessert menu, under the chocolate terrine and the bread pudding with whiskey sauce. It turned out to be two cheese types served with juicy pear slices and a sampling of crackers. One, a sheep's milk cheese from Townshend's Peaked Mountain Farm, was waxy and mellow. The second, from Consider Bardwell Farm in Pawlet, was the crowning moment: a silky, piercingly tart goat's cheese in a perfect little mound that looked vaguely like something outside. Snow.
The Dorset Inn, 8 Church St., Dorset. 877-367-7389. www.dorsetinn.com. Daily 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Entrees $11-$32.