We were delighted to dine at Michael’s on the Hill last week while we were on the East Coast. Located in Waterbury (on the Stowe, Vermont border), this small restaurant in a charming turn-of-the-19th century farmhouse captivated us from the moment we sat down. Their vegetable garden provides some of the produce for the menu, emphasizing the farmer-chef connection, aka farm-to-table.
The ambience is eclectic: New England antiques with bold black and white woodcuts (3’x 4′ prints) on several walls in a dining room with dark wood beams and molding. The menu changes seasonally as expected from a restaurant that was the first certified Green restaurant in the Green Mountain state.
I started with the crispy Rhode Island calamari with frisée, reggiano and capers, which was a knockout. The calamari were sautéed–not until crispy– in a very light batter, more like a dusting of color than anything else. What made this salad so unusual is that the olive oil from the calamari was the only oil provided for the salad. A strong zesty lemon and light touch of balsamic completed the dressing, making the salad light and extraordinary. Next was a Maine crab cake with fennel, basil and roasted corn purée. We have had lots of crab cakes in our foodie years, but this one was original .
For our main courses I had the herb butter poached Maine lobster with celery root gratin, braised leeks and truffles. It was served in a small cast iron skillet, piping hot. The syrupy vegetables, cooked until carmelized, made the lobster an incredible dish, not the usual drawn lemon and butter. I suspected that there was a dash of the maple syrup Vermont is famous for splashed on the vegetables. I shared this dish with my husband’s cornmeal crusted Mountain Foot farm trout with herbed polenta and apples meunière. The trout had a lovely crispy skin but I felt the apples detracted from the richness of the polenta and the unique delicate taste of the trout. I still would order the dish, just putting the apples to the side.
And for dessert we had an incredible selection of artisanal cheeses, fruit preserves and slices of apple, melon, and champagne grapes to finish the perfect introduction to the best Vermont has to offer. The wine list had wines we had not heard of and the local bread was so delicious I wanted to take some home. Chef Michael Kloeti, Swiss-born and trained, and his wife Laura knock it out of the park with this superb Wine Spectator award-winning restaurant!