Despite all the hype about plant-based diets, being vegan, or even vegetarian, in America makes you one of the meager 5 percent according to a 2018 Gallup poll. Vegans know this well, but it’s harder than you think to find restaurants offering vegan fare, as we discovered in Vermont.
First of all, I am not a vegan, but I do prescribe to increasing plant-based foods in one’s diet. However, most of us have a friend or family member that has turned to a 100% plant-based diet. On a press trip in northern Vermont, my goal was to savor as much Vermont cheese as possible and at least a few cider donuts (a classic New England fall treat). However, I watched my friend Carolyn eat one salad after another and, frankly, was surprised that, for being such a green state, Vermont did not have more vegan offerings on menus.
We traveled from Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, which has a fair amount of vegan restaurants, to Shelburne, Stowe, and Vergennes. We dined at wine bars, breweries, and some very fine farm to table restaurants. My cheese goal was far exceeded as nearly every establishment presented us with the most gorgeous cheese and charcuterie boards I have ever seen!
The Village of Vergennes and Vergennes Laundry
Just 30 minutes by car from Burlington, Vergennes is a darling village that is called Vermont’s smallest, oldest city (population 2,800). Centrally located between Lake Champlain, the Green Mountains, and Middlebury College, the architecture in quaint, historic downtown Vergennes recalls 19th century New England and Main Street offers some excellent dining options and locally owned shops. Our group of six writers had a lovely breakfast at Vergennes Laundry by CK on Main Street.
In 2017, Award-winning Chef Christian Kruse bought Vergennes Laundry and is fulfilling his dream of owning a restaurant while solidifying Vergennes as the center of Vermont’s culinary scene. Chef Kruse served as executive chef at Basin Harbor in 2012. In 2016, he was invited to cook for the prestigious James Beard House in NYC, was recognized as “Chef of the Year” by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, and was the Culinary Cup winner at the annual Culinary Classic event at the University of Vermont. Vergennes Laundry features wood-fired bakery goods, an espresso bar, Chef’s Table dining, and specialty wine dinners, all with the finest local ingredients and flavors in a casually, intimate light-filled setting.
Basin Harbor on Lake Champlain
Only 12 minutes from Vergennes lies Basin Harbor, a quintessential New England summer resort on the shore of Lake Champlain.
Remember Kellerman’s Resort in the movie Dirty Dancing? Many New England summer retreats still operate like Kellerman’s where guests return every year for the same week. Basin Harbor is family owned for six generations. And, with a 60% return rate, families have been returning to Basin Harbor for generations. And why wouldn’t they? Basin Harbor offers everything you want in a summer vacation: hiking, biking, kayaking, sailing, a kids program, casual and fine dining, and well-appointed, comfortable guest rooms and private lakefront cottages that are pet friendly!! From the original farmhouse and the oldest operating inn on Lake Champlain, to the contemporary Adirondack-style lodge, Basin Harbor’s accommodations are unique, charming and memorable.
Creative Vegan Dishes by Executive Chef Phillipe Ducrot
Our one evening at Basin Harbor – I so wish we could have stayed longer! – we dined at Ardelia in the main lodge. Our hosts for dinner were 5th and 6th generation owners, Penny Beach and Penny’s daughter Sarah Morris. The menu featured six courses expertly paired with wines from the Loire Valley and Cotes du Rhone in France, Campania in Italy, and hard cider made with Basin Harbor apples in Vergennes! From the Spicy Jumbo Shrimp with Watermelon Salad and Lobster Fricasse to the Elk Filet Mignon and Lamb Loin with Demi Glace, every dish combined well balanced, complex flavors and were well prepared and beautifully plated.
As perfect as each course was, Chef Ducrot’s creativity was eclipsed by the outstanding vegan dishes that he and his kitchen staff prepared for Carolyn. I mean look at how happy she was not to be served a salad!
For me, the Rum Baba presented for dessert fell short, but that is because I was coveting Carolyn’s elegant vegan chocolate cake with crimson spun sugar! I snagged a bite – we share the love – and it was scrumptious! A spectacular ending to a most elegant dinner. Thank you, Penny and Sarah!
See photos of 4 of the 5 savory vegan dishes prepared by Chef Ducrot and team in the collage below. Pin it to your Pinterest boards for inspiration! And to remember the beauty that can be found at Basin Harbor and Lake Champlain!