Some skiers pick their winter destinations based on the terrain. I pick mine based on the terroir — specifically, the proximity to good dining and drinking. This creates a challenge in a family that prioritizes snow grooming and game rooms over gourmet cuisine. My daughter would add indoor pool to that list, never mind food, while my son would happily subsist on slope-side waffles.
This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the sport. A T-shirt declaring, “to air is human,’’ was a wardrobe staple in my teen years, and I still occasionally hit the moguls. But these days — with a 7-year-old who doesn’t believe in turning — I care more about what we eat between runs than how many we take. And Vermont, where we vacation, has stellar options.
This season I planned our travels keeping four favorite spots within driving distance. They each celebrate the land that brings us to the Green Mountain State in the first place and would merit a road trip on their own. They also happen to be near popular resorts, or close enough for a date night that requires nothing fancier than clogs with warm socks.
For the microbrew collector
“That would be killer,’’ Stowe resident David Taylor exclaimed, talking about pours not powder. Lawson’s Finest Liquids had recently opened its new brewery, taproom, and retail store in Waitsfield, and locals circled the walnut bar at lunchtime. It’s “giving folks a good place to go for a microbrew instead of just going to a gas station for a four-pack,’’ Taylor observed. “It brings people together.’’
While the people’s attire ran to fleece and knit caps, the simple menu was sophisticated with light fare like charcuterie and olives. I ordered the Vermont cheese plate and a lager from the register then settled onto a stool under the post-and-beam ceiling that also tops a beer hall and a kid zone. Near the foosball table, a girl played with princess figurines as parents picked among 16 draft options.
“It’s really exciting to have a variety of beers that are always available, or available most of the time,’’ explained co-owner Sean Lawson, who started the business in 2008 with his wife, Karen, in an outbuilding. “We’ve never had a home for Lawson’s Finest.’’ With views of Scrag Mountain, the cathedral space seems a fitting tribute to the craft liquids that repeatedly land on “best’’ lists.
Lawson’s Finest Liquids, 155 Carroll Road, Waitsfield, 802-496-HOPS, lawsonsfinest.com
For the foodie
Burlington might be better known for pizza and pot than stylish small plates. That is until Cara Chigazola Tobin arrived. Formerly chef de cuisine at Oleana in Cambridge, Mass., Chigazola Tobin took her talents to Vermont in 2016. At Honey Road, her Eastern Mediterranean restaurant with partner Allison Gibson, she gained a loyal following and two James Beard nominations in the first year.
“Ana taught me so much while I was there,’’ she said of Oleana’s Ana Sortun. “I really fell in love with the style of food.’’ Just back from a trip to Lebanon, she aims to keep the cooking current. Standouts during my dinner included the hummus and lamb cracker. Did I mention the lamb cracker? And the dolma and cauliflower — washed down with a Lebanese white from my perch at the bar.
“I usually can’t get in here. It’s so original,’’ remarked my seatmate, Todd Lockwood, who helped Phish record its early material, this being Burlington. “This place has its own charm.’’ The narrow space is a swirl of brass and pink with windows onto the street where a certain Bernie can be spotted walking by. The clientele: “Everybody,’’ Chigazola Tobin said. How refreshing.
Honey Road, 156 Church St., Burlington, 802-497-2145, honeyroadrestaurant.com
For the locavore
You won’t find a menu for Mangalitsa on its website. That’s because owners Nick Laurendeau and Matt Lombard change it most weeks. The young pair met working at upscale Twin Farms resort and ventured on their own in 2017. Local is the thing at their Woodstock restaurant — the produce comes from Fat Sheep Farm, a short drive away, while Lombard raises their namesake pig.
One November night it appeared in a terrine and as a pork chop with sweet potato puree. “The stuff we get is really incredible, and we want to show it off,’’ Lombard said. That was true of the crispy Brussels sprouts and the grilled swordfish with roasted delicata and shishito pepper that I enjoyed. Laurendeau presented his dishes to diners as Lombard fixed them cocktails and suggested wines.
The 26-seat space is similarly warm with rustic touches like mason jars displaying preserved vegetables — pickled onion was paired with duck liver mousse and pumpkin butter on my visit. Fat Sheep’s Todd Heyman delivered the evening’s bounty just before dinner, stopping a second to chat. The moment reflected the restaurant’s rootedness in people and place.
Mangalitsa, 61 Central St., Woodstock, 802-457-7467, mangalitsavt.com
For the wine lover
La Garagista, a farm and winery on Mount Hunger, seems conjured from an Italian film with scenes of languid lunches in the yard. It’s the real-life inspiration behind “An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir’’ by Deirdre Heekin, a James Beard semifinalist. And for Hart: tavernetta forestiera + bar a vin, pop-ups hosted by Heekin and her husband, Caleb Barber.
“We’re trying to evoke the idea of the alpine refuge where you might go after skiing, where you have a glass of wine, a little snack,’’ Barber said. They serve dishes like bean soup and melted racelette in a barn on their Barnard property. “This is our face-to-face time with the public,’’ he continued. That’s taken on new meaning since closing their restaurant in the space Mangalitsa now occupies.
Customers subscribe to their newsletter to learn about the private events, which feature their wines and ciders. “In the winter people come. It doesn’t matter if it’s zero out,’’ Barber said. This fan braved early snow, scoring a bottle of Harlots & Ruffians, whose label further states, “white wine of Vermont.’’ It’s a great name, but they had me at Vermont.
La Garagista, Barnard, 802-291-1295 (text preferred), lagaragista.com