Alice Eats: The Buttertub Bistro at Topnotch Resort
4000 Mountain Road, Stowe, 253-6445
After a stressful week finishing up the new 7 Nights magazine (on stands April 20) and working on the upcoming Vermont Restaurant Week, all I wanted to do on Friday night was lounge around and eat fondue.
Despite our Alp-like environs, fondue is hard to find in the Green Mountains. I wasn't about to melt bricks of cheese myself, so off to Stowe I went.
Upon arriving, it was also clear that there were plenty of comfy places to relax, with couches surrounding two walls of the bar and styled, in my estimation, to look like a hip art show in a horse barn.
Charcuterie was on my mind, but my server informed me that most of it is now imported. I settled instead on the burger and cheese fondue.
The fondue menu offers two choices: Sweet chocolate or savory Vermont cheddar-ale. Not exactly Emmenthaler with kirsch, but it seemed worth a try.
I was right. The cheese mix didn't taste out of place at all. Rather, it was like a very subtle morph between cheddar-ale soup and traditional fondue. The boozy bite melded perfectly with the sharpness of the cheese.
My one complaint was the texture of the concoction. Perhaps the small réchauffeur didn't provide enough heat, but the cheese wasn't quite as smoothly melted as I would have liked, and thus its coating was a bit too thick.
For $12, I also got to choose four items for dipping. Soft pretzel pieces (right) were an obvious pick. So were local heirloom apples. I also selected organic baguette, which, though crusty, was a little too fresh for an authentic fondue experience and fell apart a bit in the dipping process. The kitchen was out of grapes, so strawberries had to do as my final choice.
For an additional $2 each, I also chose maple sausages and strips of moist, delightfully seasoned grilled chicken. The strawberries and sweet sausages were not ideal pairings with the cheese, but they didn't clash, either. Really, it was all enjoyable.
That said, it was a delicious burger. Cooked exactly to the requested medium, it was juicy and well seasoned with a generous layer of Cabot cheddar and sweetly rich-tasting caramelized onions on top.
Surprisingly flavorful tomatoes were also nicely seasoned with salt and pepper. The bun was made from a challah-like bread sufficiently substantial that my hands didn't get messy even when handling the slightly greasy burger. The crisp, skin-on fries were good, too, but not the bistro frites I was hoping for from the same kitchen as the steak frites I had tried at Norma's.
Though the burger was satisfying, I wouldn't return for one at that price. However, when the fondue mood strikes me, I now know a relaxing place to indulge.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.