Friday, January 1, 2016

Exploring A Hidden Jewel - Burlington, Vermont

The winter season has finally begun and for some people like me, it means hibernation.  This winter has been a mild one so far.  We just started having snow after Christmas, which is quite unusual in New England.  Just after Christmas, our little family decided to go on a short winter vacation.  Not in a ski resort though as there was still no snow at that moment but we opted to explore the small city of Burlington, Vermont.  This is a trip that made Burlington one of my favorite New England cities to date.

Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary | Blog
The view of Church Street, one of the most photographed locations in Burlington.

So why Burlington, Vermont? It all started when I was reading Conde Nast's list of Top 25 Hotels in the U.S., Reader's Choice Awards 2015.  Seeing Hotel Vermont included intrigued me because I have a keen interest in contemporary boutique hotels. Hotel Vermont was just built in 2013, a sleek and very modern boutique hotel. Initially we just planned to stay over the weekend but we enjoyed it so much that we decided to extend our stay. We love it because as soon as we stepped into the hotel, we were impressed by the interiors, the cozy and homey feeling and even the smallest thing like the fruit-infused water at the lobby. My husband and I felt exactly the same thing -- we felt like we were out of the country. 

Lobby | Hotel Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog
The inviting lobby of Hotel Vermont.

Musical Performance | Hotel Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog
At night, guests of the hotels opt to linger around the fireplace and listen to good music on a Saturday.  At the hotel lobby, there can be different activities.  On a Sunday morning, the staffs of the hotel were making scented beeswax candles, which is entertaining for kids and adults.

Hallways | Hotel Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog
The clean, and very nice smelling contemporary interiors of the hotel.  We enjoyed the small pantry located on each floor of the hotel.  Organic teas, gourmet coffee, apples, and candy canes for the kids.

Hotel Room | Hotel Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog
Picture courtesy of Hotel Vermont.  We stayed at a king bedroom, where there was also a trundle bed where Mary slept.  We had a view of the Lake Champlain from our room.

Along  with Hotel Vermont’s cozy interiors are great restaurants within the hotel.  We had our breakfast at the hotel restaurant Juniper where typical brunch food shouldn't be taken for granted.  The thing about Vermont is that they have a bustling and dynamic farm to table dining scene where we tasted the huge difference of eating fresh local food from meats to dairy.  My daughter’s yogurt every morning was just one of the best!  And the taste of the food is simply notches higher compared to your typical restaurant.  It totally reminds me of ABC Kitchen in NYC. 

Juniper Lounge | Hotel Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog
Mary at the lounge area of Juniper in her Imoga Patricia dress and fur collar - a perfect accessory during the cold winter months.

Juniper | Hotel Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog
Dining area of Juniper

Bruch at Juniper | Hotel Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog
We love Juniper's corned beef hash with beets as wells as their Eggs Benedict.  


At Hotel Vermont, I started drinking a concoction called hot toddy -- a hot tea mixed with whisky or rum as well as honey & lemon. Another type of hot toddy is a buttered rum -- basically a mixture of cider, butter and rum. I drank this every morning and evening because I was feeling under the weather when we came to Burlington. They say it’s a good therapy for colds and flu and I could say it really helped and made me felt better. 

Hot Toddy | Hotel Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog

Another restaurant at Hotel Vermont is one of Vermont’s hottest restaurants, Hen of the Wood.  The first spot of Hen of the Wood is in Waterbury, Vermont which has been pretty popular because of its rustic ambiance.  Nevertheless, Hen of the Wood at Hotel Vermont is also impressive.  The restaurant menu changes every day as they’re featuring local ingredients.  From their unforgettable buttered crispy crackers paired with Vermont’s local cheeses, freshly baked buns and entrées, we were completely satisfied with our meal. Satisfied is definitely an understatement of our dining experience.   Even our own Mary has her own food statement; it is her best mac n cheese so far :) 

Hen of the Wood | Hotel Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog
Open kitchen of Hen of the Wood.  Local cheese, freshly baked buns & crackers.  Hanger steak and our favorite so far that night, pork loin with buttered parsnip, rye spaetzle and pickled apple jus.


With just our first day of Vermont, I was already completely happy with our mini-vacation.  I was not expecting any other eventful activity during this trip aside from pampering ourselves with a massage, spoiling ourselves with good food and browsing shops at Church Street.  The thing that made a mark on me when it comes to shopping at Church Street is that they offer brands of winter clothing that are not widely available in the U.S.  Some of these are Fjällräven from Sweden, and Lole and Hatley (for kids) from Montreal. 

Church Street Marketplace| Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog


We also had our activities planned for Mary.  One day was to go to Echo -- Lake Aquarium Museum where we had a good view of Lake Champlain.  Mary had fun playing at the museum including learning about and touching starfishes, pretending to be a scientist and watching National Geographic Movies like "Living in the Age of Airplanes" and "Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure."

ECHO Museum | Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary Blog
The facade of Echo at dusk.

Shipwreck | ECHO Museum | Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary
Mary loved playing at a life-sized recreation of a shipwreck.
ECHO Lake Museum | Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary
Striking a pose at the museum in her Imoga fur collar and Tartaleta drop waist dress.
Jellyfish | ECHO Lake Museum | Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary
Touching starfishes.  (Mary wears her racoon headband from Adelaide NY).

After the museum, we tried Skinny Pancake which was just a walking distance from Echo.  It is a creperie also committed to using local fresh ingredients from Vermont.  As usual, we had a great time at the creperie and my cannelloni crepe was just the winner.


Skinny Pancake | Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary


Crepes| Skinny Pancake | Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary
Ham & cheese, strawberry shortcake, butter & brown sugar, and cannelloni crepes .  The salad was  also interestingly good!

We couldn't stop discovering really good restaurants in Burlington.  We were impressed with the few that we tried and so, we were hoping to try other restaurants.  Under the Farm House Group of restaurants, we originally planned to try Pascolo, an Italian restaurant but unfortunately, it didn’t fit our schedule as it is only open during evenings so we opted to try a Mexican taqueria under the same group, named El Corjito.  As usual, we were not disappointed.  We just loved the taco lengua and their great options of Margarita.  We could totally taste the freshness of tomatoes, herbs and beef.

El Corjito | Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary


Tacos | El Corjito | Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary


Margarita | El Corjito | Burlington, Vermont | Chichi Mary
Totally satisfied with my peach margarita!


We ended our stay in Vermont with a factory tour of Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury. We were thinking of going to a cider mill but we knew that Mary would like this tour even better. She was enthusiastic to learn about the production process of ice creams. New Englanders being New Englanders, the line to buy ice cream was so long even though the weather outside was below freezing at around 20F. I absolutely loved the new mocha caramel flavor they let us sample after the tour was over.


Ben & Jerry's | Waterbury, Vermont | Chichi Mary


Ben & Jerry's Truck | Waterbury, Vermont | Chichi Mary

Ben & Jerry's Factory | Waterbury, Vermont | Chichi Mary


Until now, I’m still daydreaming about our short stay in Burlington. As soon as I got home, I couldn’t help but to research about more resorts and restaurants in the city.  I know that we needed more time.  It was just a short vacation that we originally planned to just try a couple of highly rated restaurants and to relax in a beautiful hotel.  But the impact was unexpectedly great that we are already planning on when we will be back next.  Most unexpectedly for someone as winter-averse as myself, I can say that I’m now looking forward to winter vacations if it's going to be in some place like Vermont!

Cheers,
Mitshi

   

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