Chase’s Daily can’t be beat for a hearty, farm-to-table lunch (96 Main St., 207-338-0555, $5-$12). Afterward, enjoy a scenic winter hike on snowshoes or cross-country skis on the Little River Community Trail, just off Route 1 (www.belfastbaywatershed.org). A short section hugs the shore of the Little River Reservoir for a mile (one way) through a young hardwood and pine forest. The longer section follows the river through woods for 3 miles.
Back in town, warm up with an après-hike mocha at Bay Wrap (20 Beaver St., 207-338-9757, www.baywrap.com, hot drinks and sandwiches $1.65-$10). Then, after a hot shower at the hotel, it’s time for dinner at Belfast’s new destination restaurant. Filling the narrow, brick-walled space of a Gothic bank building, The Lost Kitchen showcases the talents of chef Erin French and her eclectic touch with traditional European cuisines and cocktails (108 Main St., 207-930-2055, entrees $24-$39).
JANE ROY BROWN Jane Roy Brown
IN AND OUT AROUND MONTPELIER
Harry Morse hated milking cows, and for that Nordic skiers can be grateful.
It’s Saturday afternoon, sunny, and dozens of them are spread out on 25 kilometers of professionally designed and groomed trails, recently freshened by new snowfall.
They ski through maple groves, under hemlocks, along ridges with mountain views and across pasture once trod by Holsteins.
“My dad finally had his way, but it was posthumously,” says Burr Morse with a smile.
Morse, 64, is owner of Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, a combination farm stand, gift shop, and sugarhouse, which he ran for nearly 20 years with his dad before inheriting it. His father had opened the popular tourist spot back in the 1960s. Ever eager to tap new revenue streams, Harry had thought a cross-country skiing center might be a profitable offshoot. Burr, worried about financial risk and workload, demurred.
But 10 years ago, some adjoining neighbors, cross-country enthusiasts, had what turned out to be a good idea: Form a limited-liability company; conjoin their properties, some 300 acres altogether; and open a ski center.
The Morse Farm Ski Touring Center (1168 County Road, 802-223-0560, www.skimorsefarm.com; adults $12, youth $8, under 6 free) would bring more customers to the stand to buy the syrup Morse produces from his trees as well as a host of other Vermont products: chocolates, sweatshirts, mugs, and his in-demand “maple creemees.”
“Another beauty of this place is that it’s just 2 miles from Montpelier,” says Susan Stone, “volunteer manager” of the ski center, who with her husband, Charles, brought 30 acres to the endeavor.
“The proximity to Montpelier means people can ski here during lunchtime,” she says, mentioning that Governor Peter Shumlin is among the visitors.
“Here, you put on the skis and just go,” says Stone of the center, which also features snowshoe trails.
Afterward Montpelier is only 2 miles away. The state capital, population 7,800, has bookstores, gift shops, and a number of night-life options. Lost Nation Theater (39 Main St., 802-229-0492, www.lostnationtheater.org) offers theatrical productions and the Savoy Theater (26 Main St., 802-229-0598, www.savoytheater.com) shows independent and foreign films.
There’s a coffeehouse, Capitol Grounds (27 State St., 802-223-7800, www.capitolgrounds.com); and colorful bars, among them Three Penny Taproom, a lively gastro-pub (108 Main St., 802-223-8277, www.threepennytaproom.com), and McGillcuddy’s Irish Pub, with wide screens for sports, (14 Langdon St., 802-223-2721, www.mcgillicuddysvt.com). A good bet among many fine restaurants is Kismet (52 State St., 802-223-8646), which is dedicated “to local foods” and “sustainable regional seafoods.”
Recently, I did a morning ski and then visited the Vermont Thrush Restaurant (107 State St., 802-225-6166, www.vermontthrush.com), which for years was a hangout for lobbyists, lawyers, legislators, and journalists. The tavern, with new ownership, is located near the State House in an 1825 brick building. It offers a full menu featuring its “thrushburger,” a seven-ounce patty of ground beef, topped with cheddar and bacon, and served with fries or salad.
Visitors can tour the nearby 1859 State House, a virtual museum with 19th-century furnishings and paintings. Or, there’s the state historical society’s Vermont History Museum (109 State St., 802-828-2291, www.vermonthistory.org), where one can view Civil War artifacts and learn about political and social movements in Vermont from Temperance to Anti-Masonic. Continued...