OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a procrastinator. The Kimpton Taconic Hotel in Manchester Village has been open well over 18 months, and though I had been to a number of meetings/conferences there, I had never gone to the onsite restaurant, The Copper Grouse.
My husband and I decided, rather spur of the moment, to head to Taconic for dinner on a recent weeknight. I was already familiar with the decor, which I love, kind of “Vermont chic," comfortable without being too casual, lodge-like, without dripping in testosterone. The mounted ” animal heads” are actually works of art, not taxidermy. The lobby and restaurant are filled with wood, leather, and stone fireplaces, softened with furniture upholstered in earth color fabrics.
As a mostly vegetarian, I checked out the menu ahead of time and noted that there was going to be more than enough for me to choose from with a minimal amount of my usual, “I’ll take this without that,” reconfiguration of the menu, which I’m often forced to do.
My husband called to make a reservation so that we could go after I picked up my daughter from rehearsal. We live embarrassingly close to Taconic (I pass it at least 4 time s a day taking my kids to/from school), so within 15 minutes of getting home, which added another two trips past Taconic for that day, we were being greeted by Emily, the hostess, and John, the manager of The Copper Grouse. We chatted a bit about “being a Vermonter” since both are relative newcomers to Vermont. We have lived in Vermont over 26 years, and even though two of our three children were born here, we’re still not sure if THEY are considered Vermonters. Anyway, Emily, showed us to a “cozy table for two” and I immediately moved my chair closer to my husband. He thought I was being romantic, but then followed my gaze thru the window and realized I wanted a view of the outside fire pit. What can I say? Thirty years is a long time to be with someone and fire pits are rather mesmerizing. Janet, our server arrived rather quickly and took our drink order. Almost immediately, we were served a basket of warm Earth, Sky, Time farmers’ bread with butter. Earth Sky Time bread is well loved by locals - fresh, crusty on the outside, tender on the inside , grainy, wholesome - the way bread should be.
The dinner menu was not extensive, but did have quite a variety of options, more than enough to satisfy most diners. As a “mostly” vegetarian, I actually eliminated some items based on preference, which doesn’t often happen for me. (I rarely choose, just find something I can work with or around.) Janet told us the specials and indicated that the Mustard Seed Crusted Atlantic Cod was going to be replaced with salmon that evening. Here’s where my “ mostly" vegetarianism comes in. I do eat Caesar salad on a regular basis knowing that the dressing is made with anchovies, and about once or twice a year, I eat salmon. The menu said the cod, now salmon, was served with a “roasted acorn squash puree, vegetable hash. honey cream” - so I did not ask whether or not, the Butternut Bisque or Tomato Red Pepper Soup on the menu were vegetarian. (They are, by the way.) I decided I’d order the salmon dish, eat a few bites, concentrate on the vegetables and bring the rest of the salmon home for my husband to have the next day. I ended up ordering the Caesar Salad and the Mustard Seed Crusted SALMON. My husband, a true omnivore, ordered the Beet Hummus - served with warm pita triangles and heirloom carrots, for us to share, Pan Seared Scallops, and, with a suggestion from Janet, the Tea Crusted Pork Tenderloin.
Truthfully, we were in heaven. The decor was relaxing, the food was excellent, and the servings generous. The Caesar Salad was served well chilled with grilled bread instead croutons and was generous enough that I packed up half of it to take home to my son, for whom Caesar Salad is just about the only vegetable dish he will eat (and yes, he is also a vegetarian - an extremely picky one). The beet hummus was tasty and a beautiful color - packed up half of it to share with our daughter - a rather adventurous vegetarian. My husband loved his scallops served over sunchoke puree, watercress cream, fried beet chips, crispy sage. Honestly, by the time our “big plates” arrived, I wasn’t sure I would eat much more - then came my salmon. As I had planned, I concentrated on the vegetables. Let me just say, one taste of the roasted acorn squash puree and the two words that competed in my brain were “ambrosia” and “manna." Perhaps I need to expand my vocabulary of religious terms for food to give you a better sense of just how good it was. I decided mid-way thru the pleasure to give the salmon a taste, just to be polite. It was as good as the rest of the dish. Unbelievably tender, it just melted in my mouth and the taste - divine. My husband gave a taste, and agreed. Alas, none of it came home for him to enjoy the next day. His Tea Crusted Pork Tenderloin was just as satisfying, beautifully plated, and the creativity and presentation turned a choice piece of tenderloin into a memorable occasion.
By the time it came for desert, neither of us really needed it. I chose the Salted Caramel Brownie - knowing my kids would love it if I could not finish it. It consisted of an intensely chocolaty flourless brownie with a hint of coffee (I discovered later coffee grounds are added to lend it the subtle coffee flavor.) served with a generous scoop of caramel ice-cream and a drizzle of caramel. I feared it might be too sweet, but it was delightful. My husband chose the Apple Tart Tartin with vanilla ice cream. It is made with a smoked maple syrup lending it a distinctive smoky finish. Along with dessert, he chose a lovely glass of port, that was so smooth, even I as a non-drinker could appreciate it. He had already chosen a Baileys on the Rocks and a Riesling from the bar menu to accompany his meal, both of which he enjoyed.
All in all, a very satisfying meal and evening. I was already planning what I would try on a return trip, when I learned that the menu changes seasonally, so next month, the menu is likely to be different. I can imagine what delight might happen with Spring vegetables! I will definitely not procrastinate when it comes to planning a repeat visit.
The Copper Grouse is located within the Kimpton Taconic Hotel - 3835 Main Street, Manchester, VT 05254 (802) 362-0176
Open 7 days a week for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner with Brunch served on Saturday & Sunday.