Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hen of the Wood

Judy and I spent our 32nd anniversary in Vermont. For dinner, we went to a wonderful restaurant in Waterbury called Hen of the Wood, 
located at 92 Stowe Street (802-244-7300). It is located in the old Waterbury Feed Company gristmill 
on a small creek. At the back of the restaurant, there is a beautiful view of  a cascading rocky creek, 
although if you look the other direction, you see the freeway crossing the creek via a bridge. 
The restaurant is in the basement of the building. It is very dark, lighted with candles, and loud, the sound is probably amplified by the cement floors.  The menu changes daily, although from what little bit I've watched it on-line, it appears the same dishes cycle through. For one appetizer we had a locally made goat cheese, aged at least four months, with apple butter, candied fennel, hazelnuts and crostini. 
By itself, the cheese was rather hard and dry, but in combination with the apple butter and candied fennel on a crostini, it was a blended orchestra of tastes and textures that was fun to eat and delicious. It epitomized what a great chef can do by combining ingredients. As a second appetizer, we had the signature dish, the "hen of the wood" mushroom toast with hen of the wood mushroom (a picture of what the mushroom looks like in the wild is below), 
a poached egg and bacon on toast. I believe the bacon may have been cooked in some maple syrup. 
This was probably the best tasting item we had. It was fatty, juicy and something more akin to an upscale loggers breakfast. We were sharing, but I could have eaten two or three by myself and happily called it a night. As a third appetizer, we had rabbit liver pate with whole grain mustard, onion jam and grilled toast. 
The liver pate was very mild, but as with the cheese plate, I ate it in combination with the other ingredients to get the orchestrated version. The crisp and buttery toast, the sweet and limp onion jam, the coarse and slightly bitter mustard and the creamy and slightly sweet, slightly organy, liver pate was a delightful mixture of taste and texture. Finally, as a fourth appetizer, we had fried oysters with aioli (a garlic mayonnaise), lemon and parsley. Here again, it was all about a mixture of tastes and textures. 
The outside breading was still hot and crispy, the inner oyster was still coolish and explosively juicy and the aioli added a creamy texture, a little lemony, but not overly strong. I really liked the first few I ate, but then grew a little tired of them. This came later with our entrees (I ordered it later) and by then Judy was getting too full to eat her share. As her entree, Judy had goat's milk gnocchi, with cauliflower and broccoli. 
I'm not a huge pasta fan, so to me it was alright. Not something I would order.  For my entree, I got rabbit leg and loin in sauces and a green vegetable that I cannot recall. The vegetable was much like spinach, but I think it was something different. I think one of the sauces was cognac based. 
The rabbit was extremely juicy, not over-cooked at all, and had a very nice flavor, both without the sauces and with the sauces. We passed on dessert as we'd just come from the Ben & Jerry's factory tour before-hand and had a pint of B&J's Boston Cream Pie ice cream waiting for us in the car. Besides, we were stuffed. Hen of the Wood is difficult to get into. We made reservations more than a month in advance. I read of people unable to get in even with two weeks advance notice. It is worth a visit. 

1 comment:

  1. Delicious! Another memorable anniversary feast. I hope there are many more to come.