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4393 Awards: Food & Drink

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When it comes to dining, we're blessed with a menu of great restaurants and bars that provide a variety of delicious options. Pizza? Burgers? Sushi? Fried green tomato biscuits? Prickly pear margaritas? Maple-bacon toffee with pistachios? ... We'll tell you more when we get back from lunch.

Best pizza

1. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge

2. Blue Stone

3. Pizza on Main

Nominees: The Bench, Pizza Joint, The Matterhorn, House of Pizza, Jimmz Pizza, Firetower Pizza, Angelina’s, Zachary’s Pizza, Downtown Pizza, Jeffersonville Pizza Department.

Best new restaurant

1. Doc Ponds

2. Pizza on Main

3. Idletyme Brewing Co.

Nominees: Cork Wine Bar (Stowe), Rogue Artisans Café, Edson Hill, El Toro, Thai Kitchen, Landmark Tavern, Fledermaus Teahouse, Johnson’s Kitchen.

 Best burger

1. Blue Donkey

2. The Bench

3. Doc Ponds

Nominees: The Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Prohibition Pig, Lost Nation Brewing, Sunset Grille & Tap Room, Harrison’s, Plate, Burger Barn, The Whip, 10 Railroad Street, Idletyme Brewing Co., Depot Street Malt Shop, Rimrocks, Flannel at Topnotch, Arvad’s, Coslin’s Pub at Stowehof, Landmark Tavern.

This was a close one, with the top three pickling it out for the area’s best burger. In the end, the other contenders just couldn’t ketch-up to the self-described “kick ass burgers” at Blue Donkey. It’s no wonder with options like the Southwest — pepper jack cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions, jalapenos, guac and tiger sauce — or the Italian, a spiced patty with herbs and garlic, mozzarella, balsamic aioli, and LTOP. Our fave? The Bacon Bleu. Natch.

Best bartender

1. Andrew Kneale, Harrison’s

2. Kate Wise, Doc Ponds

3. Jeremy at the Matterhorn

Nominees: Jen Martin, Plate; Lex Collazo, Sunset Grille; Andy Hull, The Bench/Sushi Yoshi; Jay Perron, Prohibition Pig; Jason Willett, Stowe Bowl; Gretchen Jarvis, 10 Railroad Street; Ashley Airoldi, Sushi Yoshi; Dennis Tallagnon, Backyard Tavern; Otis Helfrich, Sunset Grille and Tap Room; Morgan Manning, Hoagie’s; Brent Miller, Hourglass; Charles Mehrtens, Plate; Nina Van Zandt, Tavern at Edson Hill.

Best après ski, party time

1. The Matterhorn

2. Piecasso

3. The Reservoir

Nominees: Sushi Yoshi, Prohibition Pig, Rusty Nail, Sunset Grille and Taproom, Rimrock’s Mountain Tavern, Blackback Pub, Idletyme Brewing Co., Burt’s Pub, The Backyard Tavern, Doc Ponds.

Looks as if USA Today had it right. The newspaper named Matterhorn the country’s Best Après-Ski Bar in North America in February and our readers agree.

Best après ski, upscale

1. The Roost at Topnotch

2. Idletyme Brewing Co.

3. Cork Wine Bar & Market

Nominees: Green Mountain Inn, Hourglass at Stowe Mountain Lodge, Tavern at Edson Hill, Lounge at Trapp Family Lodge, Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, Solstice.

After some stumbles out of the gate in its first incarnation as Crop, Idletyme has come into its own under the guiding hands of Michael and Laura Kloeti of Michael’s on the Hill fame. Tasty craft beers, an eclectic menu — the fried green tomato biscuit with Grafton sharp, sweet and spicy grapefruit marmalade, cress and bacon is inspired, especially when followed by the duck leg confit — is made all the better by a lovely atmosphere with three distinct places to party: a rustic bar, elegant dining room, and lounge with super cool Holstein-themed booths courtesy of Wendy Valliere of Seldom Scene Interiors. 

Best server

1. Jess Krux at The Bench

2. Seth Burbank at Harrison’s

3. Mary Windler

Nominees: Sophie at Doc Ponds, Anna Dunn at Harrison’s, Jane Foster at Edson Hill, Lisbeth at The Whip, Maggie Cleary at Doc Ponds, Natasha Wescom at Pizza on Main, Ryan Woodward.

Best chef

1. Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood

2. Aaron Martin, Plate

3. Michael Kloeti, Michael’s on the Hill

Nominees: Matt LeBlanc, Harrison’s; Toni Devito, Trattoria la Festa; Jack Pickett; Justin Wright, Doc Ponds; Michael Werneke, Prohibition Pig; John Nelson, Piecasso; Gary Jacobson, Bistro at Ten Acres; Rich Haab, Sunset Grille; Andy Figliola, 10 Railroad Street.

The accolades keep piling up for the seven-time James Beard-nominated Eric Warnstedt, who literally is Vermont’s chef. The Stowe-Waterbury area is fortunate to have two of his three eateries, the hipster-vibed, accessible Doc Ponds — a cheddar fritter, fried oyster, handcut fries sort of place — and the elegant Hen of the Wood with its complicated sounding, yet somehow still simply prepared dishes. (The second Hen location is in Burlington.) A thousand chef’s hats off to you, Mr. Warnstedt.

Best restaurant, fine dining

1. Hen of the Wood

2. Harrison’s

3. Michael’s on the Hill

Nominees: Plate, Trattoria La Festa, Bistro at Ten Acres, The Whip, Edson Hill, Trapp Family Lodge, Solstice.

Hen of the Wood also won in this category in the inaugural 4393s. It’s no wonder. Here’s how owners Eric Warnstedt and William O’Neil imagined their restaurant before opening in an historic gristmill in Waterbury nearly a decade ago: “a warm inviting atmosphere, a historic and visually appealing setting, seamless service and most importantly outstanding wine and beautiful food.” Mission accomplished. Mucho kudos, too, to Harrison’s in Stowe Village, expertly run by the incomparable Kneale family, and Michael’s on the Hill. Frankly, you can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list.

Best restaurant, casual

1. The Bench

2. Doc Ponds

3. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge

Nominees: Lost Nation Brewing, The Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Prohibition Pig, McCarthy’s, Sushi Yoshi, 10 Railroad Street, Pizza on Main, Sunset Grille & Tap Room, Cactus Café, Charlie B’s, Depot Street Malt Shop, The Village Tavern, Hoagie’s, Charlmont Restaurant & Pub, Blue Donkey.

Right from its opening day last year, The Bench had that vibe. In. Cool. Hip. Drive by any evening and the parking lot overflows with cars idling for a spot. The Bench has a great beer selection, a clean rustic look, great service — best server! — an easy-to-enjoy menu, and that vibe — for days. The wood-fired oven doesn’t hurt one bit.

Best family-friendly dining

1. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge

2. McCarthy’s

3. Harrison’s

Nominees: Sushi Yoshi, Pizza on Main, Depot Street Malt Shop, Sunset Grille and Tap Room, Idletyme Brewing Co., 158 Main, Hoagie’s, Arvad’s, 10 Railroad Street, Charlmont Restaurant & Pub, Blue Donkey, Charlie B’s, Doc Ponds.

Kids are common here, but never seem underfoot. (Have I just been lucky?) But Piecasso could win best ski bum dining. Best shredder dining. Best MTB dining. Best trivia dining. Best pizza dining … oh yeah, they won that too.

Best breakfast/brunch

1. McCarthy’s Restaurant

2. Green Goddess Café

3. Maxi’s Restaurant

Nominees: 158 Main, Deb’s Place, The Bagel, Café on Main, Dutch Pancake Café, Green Mountain Inn, The Gables, Stowe Street Café, Charlmont Restaurant & Pub, KC’s Bagel Café, Black Cap Coffee.

Best local market

1. Commodities Natural Market

2. Pete’s Greens Farm Market

3. Stowe Seafood

Nominees: Harvest Market, Village Market of Waterbury, Mac’s Market, Johnson’s Sterling Market, Shaw’s Grocery Store, Sunflower Natural Foods, Riverbend Market, The Farm Store.

Yoga pants aren’t the only ubiquitous trend in the area. Natural food markets, food coops, farmstores, specialty food purveyors … it’s a downright craze and a damn nice one to boot. Commodities, which just opened a little over a year ago on Stowe’s Mountain Road, repeats at the top of this register tape.

Best place to grab a quick bite/takeout

1. Green Goddess Café

2. Edelweiss Mountain Deli

3. Bender’s Burritos

Nominees: Café on Main, Harvest Market, The Bagel, Deb’s Place, KC’s Bagel Café, Mountain View Snack Bar, Apple Core Luncheonette at Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Mac’s Market, Wicked Wings, Black Cap Coffee.

This was a nail biter, but in the end The Goddess prevailed, edging out Edelweiss, last year’s winner. The café features truly awesome build-your-own salads, imaginative breakfasts, an eclectic array of sandwiches — bring back the meatloaf please! Oh wait, we can just get one at Edelweiss! — and plenty of veggie options. You’ll feel like one of the locals. And where else do you get to see Jan Chotalal, formerly of Marsala Salsa fame? She’s all that.

Best baked goods

1. Harvest Market

2. Edelweiss Mountain Deli

3. Café on Main

Nominees: Elmore Mountain Bread, Thompson’s Flour Shop, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Stowe Street Café, Rogue Artisans Café, PK Coffee, Jana’s Cupboard, Sweet Crunch Bake Shop, Deb’s Place, La Strada Bakery, Cake & Crumb Bakery.

Fresh off a renovation, Harvest Market continues to roll its competition in the best baked-good category. An array of made-from-scratch baked goods includes scones, tarts, coffee cakes, croissants, muffins, chocolate confections — sugar fix! Wash it all down with a fresh cup of Vermont Artisan coffee. Or an espresso!

Best maple syrup

1. Stowe Maple Products

2. Butternut Mountain Farm

3. My own!

Nominees: Nebraska Knoll Sugarhouse, Sugarman of Vermont, Trapp Family Lodge, Percy Maple Products, Highland Sugarworks, Sandiwood Farm.

Best dessert

1. Laughing Moon Chocolates

2. IC Scoops & Stowe Ice Cream

3. Plate’s banana pudding

Nominees: The Whip, Sac de Bonbon; Harrison’s cherry pie; Stiff Peaks macarons; Jam Bakery pies in Richmond; Gracie’s, Doggie Bag; Doc Ponds pie.

If this was an MLB lineup, it would win the World Series. Sorry Cub fans. Tribe — ain’t your year. Red Sox, well, never mind. A few tips: the salted caramels at Laughing Moon — mwah. Stowe Ice Cream’s Vermont maple — heaven. And Plate’s banana pudding? Here’s how we described it last year: “like fluffy clouds scooped from heaven.”

Best place to get a creemee

1. Mountain View Snack Bar

2. I.C. Scoops

3. Depot Street Malt Shop

Nominees: Crossroads Deli, Blue Donkey.

A creemee is a creamee is a creemie, right? Well maybe, and spelling variations aside, in our readers’ poll a creemee is best enjoyed when ordered from an outdoor window, preferably with a sliding screen. The food at Mountain View Snack Bar gets pretty good reviews too.

Best local spirits maker

1. Green Mountain Distillers

2. Smugglers’ Notch Distillery

3. Caledonia Spirits

Nominees: Boyden Valley Winery & Spirits.

Connoisseurs all have their favorites, but in the 4393s local boys Tim Danahy and Howie Faircloth poured it on, handily taking first from some formidable competition. The makers of organic vodkas, gin and a maple liqueur, this dynamic duo shot onto the scene 15 years ago — can you believe it’s been 15 years? — and have steadily built a reputation for quality, taste and purity.

Best local brewery

1. The Alchemist

2. Lost Nation Brewing

3. von Trapp Brewing

Nominees: Rock Art Brewery, Prohibition Pig, Idletyme Brewing Co., Big Tree Brewing, Hill Farmstead.

Best local cidery

1. Stowe Cider

2. Cold Hollow Cider Mill

3. Boyden Valley Winery & Spirits

Cider is as cider does. Oops, wrong movie. Stowe Cider house rules. Go Windlers.

Best beer list

1. The Bench

2. Doc Ponds

3. The Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room

Nominees: Prohibition Pig, Blackback Pub, Idletyme Brewing Co., Stowe Bowl, 10 Railroad Street.

Hill Farmstead’s Edward, Legitimacy and Dorothy, von Trapp’s Helles and Weissbier, Firestone Walker’s Union Jack, Foley Brothers’ Prospect, and 14th Star’s Tribute … that’s just a drop in the barrel of the brews you might find on draft at The Bench. The tallies for the top three in this category were super close, but The Bench came out on tap, er, top, beating its sister restaurant in Waterbury, The Reservoir, with a mighty fine list of its own, and newcomer Doc Ponds, where beer lists, too, are an art form. But really, we’re all winners, aren’t we?

Best beer shop/selection

1. Stowe Beverage

2. Craft Beer Cellar

3. MoVegas Fill Station

Nominees: Edelweiss, Crossroads Beverage, Johnson’s Sterling Market, Cork Wine Bar & Market, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Stowe Mercantile, Tomlinson’s (Morrisville beverage).

Best wine shop

1. Cork Wine Bar & Market

2. Stowe Wine & Cheese

3. Fine Wine Cellars

Nominees: Stowe Beverage, Leisure World, Mo Vegas Fill Station.

Intimate. Cozy. Convenient. The in-crowd. Cork.

Best place to meet for coffee

1. PK Coffee

2. Black Cap Coffee

3. Stowe Street Café

Nominees: Harvest Market, Green Mountain Coffee Café, Thompson’s Flour Shop, Rogue Artisans Café.

The voting was close… loyalties run deep when it comes to a favorite coffee bar. But PK Coffee, which just opened shop this winter, is already a fave hangout — a place for good friends, good conversation and a good cup of Joe.

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