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30 Apr 2009
Conde Nast Traveler Magazine Names VT Restaurant One of the Best

I was looking this evening at my Facebook friends/fans pages when I came across some surprising news from Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism Association's Facebook page.

They reported that Claire's Restaurant in little 'ol Hardwick, Vermont had been chosen for one of the most prestigious awards around.

Conde Nast Traveler magazine named it one of the top restaurants in the country, an award they gave to only 43 restaurants nationwide, and just three in New England.

In commenting on Claire's, Conde Nast Traveler said: "Appropriately, Claire's serves simple food that highlights exceptional ingredients from Vermont's fertile agricultural community: slowly leavened breads, peppery radishes, and creamy raw-milk cheese. Local microbrews, artisanal sodas, and ice wines from Shelburne Vineyards keep the drinks as interesting as the cuisine."

Conde Nast Traveler sends out its reviewers anonymously to act like any customer including paying for the meal. There's no "comping a freebie" to get a good review. The restaurant has to stand on its day-to-day quality. Conde Nast did not even tell Claire's they had won the award. A friend of the restaurant happened to see the article and passed the word along to Claire's!

Claire's is a Community Supported Restaurant, a concept where local people make an investment in a community restaurant in order to have a good quality facility in what is usually a rural environment where the economics of such a facility often don't work.

I have not been to Claire's so I can't personally vouch for the quality. And I am only a little surprised there is a good quality restaurant in Hardwick. The phenomenon of top quality restaurants in small villages is not unusual in Vermont.

What I am surprised at is that someone from a big time magazine somehow found Hardwick, Vermont. While it is a fine enough town, and a classic Vermont village, it's not often a destination or even on the way to anything except to Vermont's beautiful but least populated land. It was probably a tip from someone and I would love to know the story behind Conde Nast Travelers' discovery of Hardwick and Claire's.

In the meantime, I'll have to just put it on my long list of first time restaurants to visit. There are so many great restaurants in Vermont I think I will run out of life expectancy and money before I get to them all. But it's a goal.

You'll find Claire's at 41 South Main Street in Hardwick about 30 minutes north of Montpelier and maybe a little less than that west of St. Johnsbury.

There is an interesting article on chef Steven Obranovich at the Seasonal Chef website in which answers questions about his approach to using locally produced ingredients even in the middle of a Vermont winter.

Here's a thought: if you stay with us at the Grunberg Haus, go to dinner at Claire's (about a 45 minute drive), and bring back your review and a copy of the menu for our collection, we'll give you a $20 discount off the normal $115 room rate, double occupancy, for a room with a private bathroom, full cooked breakfast included - offer good anytime May 1 - June 15.

(c) 2009 Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus Inn
Advice , Food
posted by  grunhaus at  20:17 | permalink

30 Apr 2009
Alchemist Brew Pub Closing for One Week

The Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury is planning some extensive kitchen renovations and will therefore be closed from Monday, May 4 through May 11. They will be reopening Tuesday May 12 unless their projects go as well as mine do.

With these new renovations, Chef Jeff is planning to bring some new items to the menu. I can hardly wait to see what those will be. The Alchemist blog says that right now, he's off to his home town of Cincinnati to learn more about making Cincinnati chili and to hunt turkeys. Hmmm - is that trip related to new menu items?

(c) 2009 Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus Inn
Advice , Food
posted by  grunhaus at  12:19 | permalink

15 Mar 2009
Stowe Inside Line Newsletter

Photo courtesy of Stowe Inside Line newsletter

This photo was in today's Stowe Inside Line newsletter and I thought it was a great picture to represent the great spring skiing conditions we are having now.

"Great" is the word I heard most often from our inn's guests and other people I spoke with about this weekend's skiing at all four local ski areas: Stowe, Sugarbush, Mad River Glen, and Bolton Valley. Both Saturday and Sunday were sunny and warm, making for classic spring skiing conditions.

The weather forecast calls for some rain on Wednesday and Saturday night but that will probably change - forecasts of more than a couple of days out always seem to. However, most everyday for the next week should offer some very good "popcorn" snow conditions.

All four local ski areas offer daily email reports first thing each morning. I especially like Bolton's and Mad River Glen's narrative reports. Stowe's Inside Line is fairly short but good and also has promotional listings of events around the resort. Sugarbush's report does not have any narrative - just a listing of trails and conditions.

If you don't want to get a lot of emails, check each resort's website for conditions and also use the Trail Reports on Alpine Zone as recommended a few days ago on this blog.

Just a few weeks of skiing left and conditions are excellent. The ski areas have several feet of snow pack left to work through so you have a little time to make some more runs before Vermont closes out what has been another outstanding winter sports season.

A note for snowmobilers: I am starting to see bare ground on lower elevation trails. Check carefully when making your plans on where to snowmobile. The VAST website Trail Reports page has details along with a link to a satellite map of snow coverage. There is still good coverage in the upper elevations.

(c) 2009 Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus VT

posted by  grunhaus at  19:37 | permalink

6 Mar 2009
Reminder to Enter Ultimate Ski Vacation Contest

I wrote a VT Travel Notes blog entry January 29 about The Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce (Waitsfield and Warren VT) Ultimate Ski Vacation Contest and wanted to follow up with a reminder that entries are due no late than Sunday, March 8.

As mentioned, the grand prize winner(s) gets:

- Cat skiing at Sugarbush- a ride in a luxury cabin Snow Cat to have first tracks in the best terrain before the lifts start running.
- Seven nights lodging in a slope side luxury condo with two outdoor hot tubs, heated outdoor pool, fitness center, game room
- Six day "Ski the Valley" pass good at Mad River Glen and Sugarbush ski areas, plus Ole's Cross Country Ski Center
- Free use of high-end demo equipment
- Four dinners for two people at four of the area's best restaurants
- A lunch for two at the very popular Warren Store Deli
- Fresh flower bouquet from Blue Toad Florist
- 60 minute couples therapeutic massage at Mad River Massage

There will also be a First Prize Winner and five Second Prize winners.

Enter now. The winners will be drawn Monday March 9. Good luck!

(c) 2009 Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus Inn
posted by  grunhaus at  20:26 | permalink

6 Mar 2009
Latest Unbiased Reports on Alpine Zone

Image (c) Alpine Zone

Most of the Vermont ski areas I follow give fairly honest reports on their conditions but they are sent out at the beginning of each day. Much can happen after that and I have found myself more and more taking a look at what is said on Alpine Zone.

These Trip Reports are usually at the end of the day but sometimes you will see mid-day reports. They often contain useful details on which trails the person skied and what they found there. Many of the reports are from people who are frequent skiers or riders (many are local Vermonters) who know which trails to choose and what to expect.

For example, here is what one skier reported just a few hours ago on his experience today at Stowe which started off looking bad but ended up being great.

I especially like the Twitter Reports so I can stay up to date and tell callers who ask about current conditions. It's great to be able to give them a report that is very current.

(c) 2009 Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus Inn
posted by  grunhaus at  16:23 | permalink

21 Feb 2009
Vermont Summer Camps for Young People

Tennis Magazine chose Windridge as one of the top ten tennis camps in the US.

Vermont has a very long tradition of summer camps for children and young adults. Some camps, such as Sangamon, have been in operation since the early part of the last century.

There are traditional camps, farm camps, sports camps, all boys and all girls camps, adventure camps, arts camps, wilderness camps, education camps, fitness camps . . . something for everyone.

A good place to start looking is the Vermont Camping Association website. It lists private, agency-based and religious-affiliated camps. Many are resident camps but there are also day camps which appeal to families who are on vacation in Vermont. The adults can go play while the kids enjoy camp during the day.

Many of the camps listed on the VCA website are also members of the American Camp Association and are accredited by that association.

Another camp directory is the American Summer Camps directory which also has a good overview of camp selections.

Now is the time to start making camp choices. Many of these camps are very popular and will fill up soon.

(c) 2009 Jeff Connor Grunberg Haus Inn
posted by  grunhaus at  20:33 | permalink

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