A tiny town rich in rural charms, indoors and out
(Dorset was in the path of the recent Tropical Storm Irene. Please call ahead to make sure your destination is operational.Visit www.511vt.com for Vermont road information.) Dorset is located on meandering Route 30, known as the Stone Valley Byway because of the area’s many marble quarries - stone from the area has found its way into structures like the New York Public Library. Despite its rural setting and industrial history, tiny Dorset offers a surprisingly rich range of lodging, restaurants, tiny shops, and galleries - as well as attractive options for enjoying the outdoors. STAY Classic inns abound in Dorset, including the Inn at West View Farm (2928 Route 30, 802-867-5715, www.innatwestviewfarm.com, rates from $140), a restored 1870s farmhouse with comfy rooms, wide front porch for rocking in chairs and reading, and a small, dimly lit bar for after-dinner imbibing. The restaurant here is terrific, run by chef Raymond Chen, a former cook at Mercer Kitchen in New York City. The main building at Barrows House Inn (Route 30, 802-867-4455, www.barrowshouse.com, rates from $120) was built for a reverend in 1804, and since then several quaintly named buildings have gone up, including the Bird’s Nest and Truffle House. The Dorset Inn (8 Church St. and Route 30, 802-867-5500, www.dorsetinn.com, rates from $165) is the state’s oldest continually operating inn, offering lodging and dining for more than 200 years, located on Dorset Green, a tiny sliver of grass surrounded by classic clapboard homes. DINING When lunchtime arrives, head to the deli at historic Dorset Union Store (Dorset Green, 802-867-4400, www.dorsetunionstore.com), which has been a going retail concern since 1816. There you’ll find all of your deli favorites. My pick? A Boar’s Head pastrami sandwich, bursting with nearly a half-pound of meat, and a bottle of water, all for under $9. Whatever your pleasure, grab your lunch and wander outside to sit and watch the world slowly go by. Those looking for an upscale dining experience should consider Mio Bistro (3239 Route 30, 802-231-2530, www.miobistro.net, entrees from $17), a Mediterranean-inspired eatery in the heart of the village, steps away from inns and the historic green. Inside is cozy and romantic but diners can also opt to sit outside under a canopy as long as the weather holds. Either way, try the Tincho cocktail (Argentine wine with lime, $8) and perhaps Chef Leo LeDoux’s Thai-style, free-range Statler chicken breast, with Himalayan red rice wheatberry blend and mixed veggies. Another fine dining option is Chantecleer Restaurant (8 Read Farm Lane, 802-362-1616, www.chantecleerrestaurant.com, entrees from $28), set in a remodeled dairy barn featuring dishes like escargot with hazelnut butter, dover sole with capers and lemon, and rack of lamb. Due to recent flooding, the restaurant is temporarily closed but plans to reopen Friday. DURING THE DAY Rural Dorset has lots of outdoor activities (besides diving into the cool waters of the old quarries), such as hiking and camping at Emerald Lake State Park (65 Emerald Lake Lane, 802-362-1655, www.vtstateparks.com/htm/emerald.htm, $3 daily activity fee, cabin rentals $48 a night), open through Columbus Day weekend. The park is a popular destination for hikers with the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail nearby, and trails on Dorset Mountain. Adventurers may want to rent a canoe or kayak from BattenKill Canoe (6328 Route 7, Arlington, 802-362-2800, rentals from $40), which includes paddles, life jackets, dry bag, and shuttle pick up. More of an inside person? Shop at H.N. Williams Department Store (2732 Route 30, 802-867-5353, www.hnwilliams.com), an 1840 barn with head-banging low door frames, sloped floors, and stuff that locals love, such as Hoof Moisture for horses and an immense line of Carhartt work clothes. As an added bonus the store hosts a whopping farmers’ market every Sunday through Columbus Day (pick up some Nana Sandy’s preserves, and you may find that the sweet elderly woman on the label is the one selling you the preserves). Visitors to the Southern Vermont Arts Center (West Road, Manchester, 802-362-1405, www.svac.org), can marvel at the contemporary metal sculptures dotting the grounds of the 407-acre facility. Inside you’ll find a range of remarkable galleries, exhibits, educational programs, and live shows, such as “Doo Wop Legends’’ on Oct. 1. AFTER DARK There’s not a lot of night life in Dorset, but a worthy exception is quality community theater at Dorset Playhouse (Cheney Road, 802-867-5777, www.dorsetplayers.org, tickets from $15), where the Dorset Players on Oct. 7 launch their 84th season with Agatha Christie’s “Spider’s Web.’’ Northshire Performing Arts (3390 Route 30, 802-867-4146, www.northshireperformingarts.org) is hosting a performance by the Rioult modern dance company on Oct. 18 at the Arkell Pavilion at the Southern Vermont Arts Center; admission is free but donations are accepted. For music and such, there’s a lot of night life in nearby Manchester, about 7 miles away, including The Perfect Wife (2594 Depot St., 802-362-2817, www.perfectwife.com), where all manner of live music and open mike nights are staples. Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.