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In beautiful, bucolic Quechee, you will find the Simon Pearce restaurant, showroom and glass blowing demonstration facility. Having grown up in Kilkenny, Ireland, where he learned his trade, Simon Pearce started his Vermont business venture in 1981. Powered hydroelectrically by the Ottauquechee River, the operation has grown over the years to become world famous, and for good reason.

A little recent history is needed to appreciate the Simon Pearce story. When hurricane Irene hit in August 2011, the renovated old wool mill, situated on a narrow gap by the river, saw floodwaters surge 25 feet above normal, filling the bottom two floors of one of Vermont’s most popular attractions, for both tourists and state residents, drawing 300,000 annual visitors. The storm caused more than $3 million in damages, destroying blown glass vases and tableware, and wiping out a never-to-be recovered 3,000-bottle wine cellar. It took a crew of 30 employees more than two weeks of 11-hour days to clear the debris from rooms filled with as much as 5 feet of mud. In the true spirit of Vermonters, Simon Pearce came back, better than ever.

Voted one of America’s most romantic restaurants by Travel and Leisure Magazine and recipient of the Wine Spectator’s “Best Award of Excellence,” the Mill at Simon Pearce is one of the most pleasant and relaxing venues for a terrific lunch or leisurely dinner. The views are spectacular, especially if you can nab a table close to the sights and sounds of the massive nearby waterfall.

The Mill offers lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Dinner, also Wednesday through Sunday, is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Reservations for lunch or dinner are a must. There is also a separate bar area open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Because of ever-changing COVID conditions, it is suggested that you call the restaurant to confirm hours of operation.

Lunch is simply fabulous. Appetizers, ranging from $7 to $13, offer salmon and whitefish rillettes, a Vermont cheese platter with scones, charred broccoli with a curry aioli, bacon, corn and jalapeño fritters and various salads and soups. Satisfying entrees include quiche of the day, crispy sesame chicken, the famous lamb burger with rosemary aioli and feta salad, ocean trout paired with a chimichurri sauce and a duck ravioli with pine nuts and a tasty tomato garlic jam. Prices for main plates are $16 to $20.

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Delicious desserts, all priced at about $8, include flourless chocolate cake, creme brulee, pavlova (a meringue-based dessert) with strawberries and chantilly cream, as well as sorbet and Stafford organic ice cream.

The dinner menu adds a pan-roasted halibut, a horseradish crusted cod, braised short ribs, a ravioli du jour and a Statler chicken with spicy sweet potatoes. Entrees are reasonably priced, $26 to $34.

A fun bar menu offers a cheese plate either by itself, or coupled with a charcuterie platter, garlic and parmesan gougeres (kind of like cheese puffs), Vermont cheddar soup and truffle chips. Simon Pearce offers an unusually deep, thoughtful and well priced list of champagne, rose, sparkling, white and red wines, many in the $50 to $100 range. The selection includes wine from the United States, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. It is nice to see guest friendly half-bottles on the list as well. Kudos for the Simon Pearce team that has bounced back from Irene to put together a wine menu any restaurant would be proud to offer. A lengthy list of options is available for draft beer fans and custom cocktails are available as well.

In the quintessential town of Norwich, an easy 15-minute ride away from Simon Pearce, is the King Arthur Baking Company. Our readers who bake surely know of this fabulous resource for flour ingredients, mixes, cookbooks and baked goods. Founded in 1790 in Boston by Henry Wood, the company, then known as the King Arthur Flour Company, has grown to become an employee-owned benefit corporation of nearly 350 employees. King Arthur now includes a bakery, café, retail store and school which offers classes and demonstrations to bakers of all skill levels. Sit inside or outside when weather permits to enjoy a meal or snack before or after shopping in the fun retail shop.

On the western banks of the Connecticut River (which forms Vermont’s border with New Hampshire), Norwich sits opposite its companion town of Hanover, N.H., the home of Dartmouth College. Both Norwich and Hanover are recommended for a leisurely shopping stroll.

David Meiselman and Myra Packman are food and restaurant columnists for Vermont News & Media. They can be reached at davidandmyravt@gmail.com.


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