Since we moved back to Vermont a year ago, the yachtsman and I have been desperate for a good restaurant in downtown Burlington. Something to replace Smokejacks. Something like the Kitchen Table, where the food is amazing and you can get a more expensive, fancier dinner, or order off their bistro menu and eat very well for less. We pray nightly that Hen of the Wood will relocate nearby.
There is a fantastic Italian restaurant within walking distance of our house (L'Amante) and amazing Chinese food (A Single Pebble). And now there's the Bluebird Tavern (more on this soon), which is within the Burlington city limits, but not downtown.
The perfect dinner restaurant does in fact exist in downtown Burlington, but for just one night a month. For the past year, on the third Thursday of each month we've gone to our favorite breakfast restaurant and had the best dinner you can get in town at the Penny Cluse Summer Dinner Series (which actually runs year round, or it did this past year).
Each month's dinner is different (sometimes the theme is based on an ingredient, one month there was a Cabane a Sucre dinner, one month a New Jersey shore dinner), but every single one has been excellent. The chefs, Charles (who started Penny Cluse with his wife, Holly) and Maura (of Smokejacks fame), are culinary wizards who have probably made some Faustian bargain in order to cook so well. But that's between them and the devil. For now I'm going to show up each month and eat whatever they place in front of me.
I highly recommend you do the same. Not only is the food delicious, there is also great wine and often a fancy theme drink, it's a real bargain, and it's family style, so you'll meet some interesting people. (Or, if, like me, you are socially retarded, you can sit between your husband and your stepmother and not talk to strangers.) And like I said before, it's the best dinner in Burlington.
This month's dinner is on Thursday, July 23rd. If you're interested in going, RSVP to charles[at]pennycluse[dot]com. Here are the details, from the Penny Cluse e-mail:
"THEME? As you know, we occasionally long to explore the world beyond pancakes. So, here's what we're thinking: small things, served on small plates; tapas if you will. It will be a whole night of small things served on small plates until you feel much heavier and it's time to go home. There will be sangria to go with the tapas plus a selection of Spanish and Portuguese wines and the usual eclectic assortment of beers from near and far.
We're also welcoming a new pig from Rockville Market Farm prepared with all of the amazing local produce that is currently available.
The evening starts at 7:00 and will cost $35.00 per person for food (gratuity included). Send me an email and let me know that you are coming."