Presidents Week is one of the most popular for strapping on your skis and hitting the slopes. However, when it comes to ski resorts, the trails may be ridiculously good, but it can be a slippery slope as far as seriously good après-ski dining is concerned. Here, are top ski town restaurants in New England for a great meal when you’re not schussing the slopes — with local ingredients as fresh as the powdery snow.
Fire Tower Restaurant & Tavern, Stratton, Vermont
Ask owner Peter Micioni what type of menu is offered at his restaurant and he’ll tell you, “It’s kinda like the state of Vermont — a little weird.” Named for the fire tower at Stratton Mountain’s summit, the restaurant draws skiers with creative cocktails like the Bacon Old Fashion with bacon-infused Makers Mark, Vermont Maple Liqueur, muddled cherry and orange, and a bacon garnish topped with soda. And the Blackberry Thyme Mojito with Bacardi rum, muddled mint, lime, blackberry thyme shrub, and simple syrup and topped with soda and an aromatic thyme garnish. There’s also an impressive local Vermont beer selection for craft fans. Diners gravitate toward the “apres-tizers” and other inventive menu items. “We are famous for our Ahi Nachos app and Chef Max Venison,” says Micioni. The nachos feature tuna tartare, crispy wonton, pickled onion, wasabi aioli, hoisin-lime, and daikon radish, and the venison is cooked medium-rare with a spice rub with a wild mushroom-shallot risotto and a chasseur demi-glace. Make a reservation at Fire Tower Restaurant & Tavern.
Solstice, Stowe Mountain Lodge, Stowe, Vermont
Executive chef Josh Berry’s creative menu has a strong New England accent — consider it his up-close-and-personal invite to taste Vermont and the region. The emphasis is on local and, often, organic ingredients. Fall head-over-skis with the Vermont Creamery Chévre & Spinach Pizza, the Lobster Bisque (Maine lobster, local Mansfield Dairy light cream, and cognac), and the Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese-Crusted Beef Tenderloin (the blue cheese is from local Jasper Hill Farm) with grilled asparagus, Yukon mashed potatoes, and bordelaise sauce (made with Mansfield Dairy farm-fresh eggs and fine herbs). Make a reservation at Solstice.
Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire
Begin in The Cave with “The Prohibition,” a discreet cocktail infused with French-pressed Russian Earl Grey Tea, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and a splash of whiskey, served in an inconspicuous speakeasy tea cup. The Cave was an underground bar during prohibition; built in 1902, it started out as the hotel’s squash courts. Move on to the somewhat formal Main Dining Room — with mouth-gaping views of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range that rival the mouth-watering, locally sourced menu. Think Stewed New Hampshire Mushrooms (chestnut, elm, blue, and king oyster mushrooms) and a Route 302 Salad (arugula, crumbled blue cheese, walnuts, pears, and roasted beets, finished with dark balsamic). Then there are Cape Cod clams with Chardonnay cream and linguine and pork medallions with blueberry-pecan chutney. For dessert, don’t miss the Baked Indian Pudding with boozy raisins. Or, maybe after a day on the slopes, you have hat head and want to go casual. Sneak over to Stickney’s Pub and Steakhouse, located just a whisper from the Cave on the lower level of the resort; try to snag a table in front of the fireplace. The menu features Cabot Farms Cheddar & Ale Dip with chips, Maine lobster Mac and Cheese, Fish ‘n Chips (beer-battered cod) and Butterscotch Bread Pudding. Make a reservation at Omni Mount Washington Resort.
Flannel, Topnotch Resort, Stowe, Vermont
Executive chef Cortney Quinn embraces local comfort food here. There’s the cheese board with local Singing Cedars honey and Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps, and the East Coast Halibut, served with chive potato, prosciutto cream, baby carrots and roasted shallot, and garlic spinach. For breakfast, it’s all about the French Toast on challah, with Grand Marnier custard and — wait for it — Vermont syrup. Views of Mt. Mansfield are also local and comforting. Make a reservation at Flannel.
Bistro at Ten Acres, Ten Acres Lodge, Stowe, Vermont
Chef Gary Jacobson shares his love for New England’s regional bounty, offering everything from fish plucked-from-the-sea to roast meats and bistro beauties such as handmade patties on housemade buns with hand-cut fries and housemade chips. Make no mistake — the emphasis is on made-from-scratch, even the mustard and pickles. The most popular dish is Pan-Seared Lobster with the chef’s bourbon and tarragon sauce and served with polenta. Or, the Smoked Grafton Cheddar Chicken, which stars pan-sauteed medallions of chicken, house-smoked ham, caramelized onions, smoked Grafton Cheddar cheese, mushrooms, red peppers, and new potatoes in a sherry cream sauce. The menu also gives a nod to our neighbors to the north with a Quebec Duck Breast with pumpkin seed tomatillo sauce. Bonus: Craft micro brews and fresh-pressed cocktails abound. Make a reservation at Bistro at Ten Acres.
Laurie Bain Wilson is a Boston-based journalist, author, and essayist who writes often about travel, food, and baseball. Find her on Twitter @laurieheather.