With a population of less than 10,000, Montpelier, Vermont, is by far the smallest U.S. capital city, tinier by half than even the second-smallest capital, Pierre, South Dakota. Despite its (lack of) size, the city’s pleasant downtown is dotted with numerous shops, old churches, and historic colonial and Queen Anne homes. Quite a few restaurants all looked like great options for lunch, but my decision on which to choose was simplified when I walked by the campus of the New England Culinary Institute and discovered that it had a restaurant on Main Street.
For 34 years, NECI has been turning out talented chefs from a tiny student body of only 300. Eager to sample the current class’ skills, I nabbed an outdoor table at NECI on Main and soaked in the classic New England atmosphere. The tree shading my table was in the throes of a glorious foliage season, and the white steeples of churches around the downtown gleamed against a perfectly blue sky. With just the tiniest nip in the air, the ideal atmosphere served as the perfect entrée to a flawless dining experience.
Try This: Parallel a fine fall day with a fine fall meal. Begin with an autumn salad of honey crisp apples, candied bacon lardon, greens, Middlebury blue cheese, and an apple cider vinaigrette — a terrific start made exclusively with locally produced ingredients. If you’re a little chilly in the October air, go for the carrot ginger soup. Follow that with a pumpkin risotto with Brussels sprout petals, roasted red peppers, and sautéed goat cheese medallion in a cider reduction. For dessert, enjoy a chocolate-hazelnut-almond pot de crème with powdered sugar.