What could be better than being outdoors, surrounded by fall foliage on a beautiful Autumn day? How about being outdoors with your family and friends, picking apples? There is just something perfect about a day spent picking apples. Every since since I was young my mom would make sure that all of us blocked a Saturday or Sunday off and we would head up to Hick's Apple Orchard (which is actually right across the New York border out of Vermont) for a day of apple picking. Its crucial that everyone piles into one car, that you wear comfy clothes, and old sneakers... and that you bring your camera of course.
Hick's Apple Orchard isn't your typical apple picking destination, they have turned it into quite a spectacle. When you get there you quickly realize that everyone else in the state realized today would be the perfect day to pick some apples, as there are lines of cars, grown-ups and kids all over the place. They have a petting zoo, an old barn full of the historical information, and crafts to partake in. They have homemade pies, apple cider, and the best... Apple Cider Donuts, for you to enjoy either prior to the apple picking or post apple picking fun. The apple cider donuts are all made on site... there are two flavors... original or cinnamon sugar (my favorite) and only cost .55 cents each.
After you have filled your bushels, and your bellies with fresh apples from the tree, I suggest you take some time and wander around up there. The views are spectacular. I have included some pictures I took, and these are just a few of the many. The sky is crystal clear, and you can see all the way into the Green Mountains. To be honest there isn't much I would rather do than head outdoors with my family and friends and take in the amazing natural beauty of Vermont. I could spend the day up there walking the trails, peaking up and over hills to see what I see... its a great way to remind yourself of the simple things. Its also a great/cheap way to spend an afternoon with those you love.
Although a lot of things come to mind when I think of Castleton, I wouldnt say "fine dining" is one of them. You are far more likely to find snack bars, and ice cream stands than you are to find an elegant dining experience which offers an extensive menu and wine list... that was until the Iron Lantern Restaurant opened a little over a year ago. This restaurant prides itself in being a "Cozy, family-owned restaurant offering Old World Cuisine." What this translates out to be is a beautifully decorated tavern-feel dining room and bar with amazing food. I have been here many times, and never getting the same thing twice. They are open for lunch and dinner (I find the lunch menu has more that I enjoy--being a vegetarian). The appetizer options are delicious, and wide. The entree list is affordable and unique to the area offering such things as, Sautéed Maryland Crab Cakes," "Charbroiled Maple Cider-Glazed Pork Chops," and "Broiled Atlantic Scrod." Seafood and strong flavored meats are all over this menu, and are perfectly paired with a very strong wine list, especially for this small town. The tables more resemble your dining room at home than they do a restaurant. The lighting is dim, and soft to offer a relaxed and welcoming feel. The family that owns the restaurant has been planning this place for many years, and it shows in every antiqued detail from the bar to the curtains. They recently added a bar area that is called "Olde Iron Tap Room" which features a big screen plasma television, large fireplace and comfortable couches. On Fridays and Saturday nights you will notice the bar fills up with local youngsters looking for a cozy place to catch the game and enjoy one of the many beers on tap. Overall this restaurant has the best of it all... central location (right in downtown Castleton), reasonably prices, great menu options, warm atmosphere, and a good mixture of locals and tourists. Its not a place to miss on your way through town!
Favorite Dish: Like I said the menu is definitely an extensive one, and especially at lunch... it is somewhat overwhelming. However I definitely have favorites I can throw your way... I love their "Portobello Roasted Red Pepper Mozzarella" panini. All of their sandwiches are grilled over an open flame and served with homemade kettle chips... yum, yum. As far as appetizers go they offer a "Oven-Baked Feta Cheese" plate that combines a huge slab of imported feta cheese, assorted marinated olives, white wine, olive oil, garlic, and bread for dipping... its big enough to share and absolutely delicious. And although I have never eaten it I feel the need to mention a house favorite... "Shrimp and Crab Fondue" which is "Gulf shrimp and Maryland crab combined with a creamy Vermont cheddar sauce, artichoke hearts, and spinach and baked in its own bread bowl. Served with Vermont-made tortilla chips." If you ask anyone in town they will be sure to mention that dish as a favorite. If you show up too late in the night, chances are good they have run out of it. Like I said the menu goes on and on, as could I in this section... just take my word for it- check it out! You WONT be disappointed :)
One of the best things about calling Vermont my home is the look everyone gives you when I tell them where I am from. Their eyes light up and they almost always say either-- "I hear its beautiful there," or "You guys make great syrup." Yup that about sums it up. My home state is known for its beautiful landscape and its great homemade maple syrup. It didnt take long for someone to combine those two elements and come up with the restaurant Sugar and Spice which is located in quintessential Killington, Vermont.
You can find this restaurant along one of the more traveled highways that leads you from its northern tip to its southern roots--US Route 4. Its a log cabin restaurant with all the elements tourists are looking for-- an old sugar house, a small horse barn, a great view surrounded by huge maple trees, a huge gift shop full of everything that IS Vermont, and of course... everything you would want in a delicious, homemade breakfast. Sugar and Spice, the restaurant has only been around since 1982 (which makes it a baby by VT standards) but it was built out of a historical estate in Vermont history-- The Ripley Estate. Many of the buildings still stand, giving this restaurant the ambiance familiar to a an old house in your family, a warm, cozy hideaway that few know about, and of course all the love and flavor a home cooked breakfast should provide.
Favorite Dish: Although I have tried and loved almost every item on the menu, it seems only appropriate to highlight the dish that made this restaurant so famous-- their Sugar & Spice Pancakes, which is a stack of 4 pancakes with a "special cinnamon and maple sugar" concoction that is baked right in to the pancakes themselves. DELICIOUS! If you are feeling risky and throwing all calorie counting to the wind, I also suggest the pancake and ice cream combo. You can choose what flavor pancake you want (from their homemade buttermilk, pumpkin (so good) or just regular ole' pancakes) and then top it off with their HOMEMADE maple butter crunch ice cream. I don't think I need to explain why that is so delicious, it speaks for itself. Of course every breakfast comes with your options of homemade potatoes, eggs, toast, etc. They even have Canadian bacon that they put with every dish. I myself am a vegetarian, but friends that have tasted it rave on its sweet flavor. Needless to say almost every dish has been sampled and enjoyed by this traveler. With every dish you get your own container of Vermont Maple Syrup (that upon the completion of your meal) you can take the remainders with you when you leave. Its a great experience, full of flavor, love and just sweet, sweet sugary goodness. :)