Looking for a new fine dining spot in the Okemo, Stratton area at a reasonable price? How about under $75.00 for a four course meal with wine for two? If you are willing to book your dining experience several days in advance, then Rowell's Inn is worth your time. Rowell's Inn is right on Route 11, about midway between Chester and Magic Mountain. It is one of the oldest country inns in Vermont. The inn started life as an 1820 stagecoach inn and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. In 2003, the inn changed ownership and is now by Michael Brengolini and Susan McNulty. Michael is the chef. He's from the West Coast. He admits to having no formal training in the culinary arts, but he has had years of practical experience and has definitely adopted a unique style.
When you book a meal at Rowell's you are booking for a single four course entrée dinner, served on a Friday or Saturday evening at 6:30 pm. Other arrangements are possible but you should try to make them well in advance. The experience reminds me of the days when airlines used to call you at home prior to an overseas flight and confirm whether "you are flying with us tonight." It is this sort of atmosphere that greets you at the door. You are welcomed into the pub, a small area off the living room and adjoining the kitchen by Susan and Michael. You are offered drinks in an intimate atmosphere and introduced to other guests. Of course, you can be off on your own, if you wish before the fire in the living room. Michael proudly shows of an immense collection of hot sausces and salsas in the pub goes over the menu.
A cozy area immediately adjoining the pub.
We were seated in the main dining room with its wedding flooring, stained glass windows, tin ceiling ,antique filled hutches and formal linen. Our table was decortated with fresh flowers and small candles.
Our first course amidst romantic candelight was a sweet and sour soup, containing sausage, beef and vegetabless, and fresh cilantro.The soup was bursting with flavorr and had some heat. (This soup is one of Michael's recipes.)
After a mixed green salad with home made salsa we were treated to an extra appetizer with an Indian flavor and containing potato and beef, a mint sauce and a sweet plum sauce. Our main entrée was Coq au Vin - chicken in wine with mushrooms presented with a fresh pansy. The chicken was cooked in its skin, very well marinated and tender. Accompanying the chicken were seasoned vegetables and a balsamic rice. The rice was flavorful and the vegetables were perfectly cooked. We combined this with a bottle of good quality French wine. Portion sizes were not miniscule, but neither were they overwhelming.
Desert was homemade shortcake (Susan's recipe) with assorted berries soaked in Grand Marnier. It was suprisingly light and a nice finish to the meal along with fresh coffee.
All this (without the wine) would normally be $25.00 per person plus tax and gratuity. If you dine out, you know this is excellent value. Not surprisingly, word of Michael's meals at Rowell's Inn is spreading. There is at least one nearby, well known innkeeper, who regularly dines at Rowell's Inn. Maybe you should too. Check out the sample menu on the Rowell web site.
Timothy Palmer-Benson, May 29th, 2004
1834 Simonsville Road (Rte 11) ~ Andover, Vermont (VT) 05143
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