Simon Pearce: perhaps best known in Hanover proper for its glassware shop on Main Street, the company operates a sit-down restaurant in Quechee, Vermont that our Review crew decided to cover for research purposes. Professor Vladimir Ipat’evich Persikov, returning from a long hiatus, commandeered the same Ford Escape Zipcar from the Jesse’s review. While it proved serviceable once the headlights, defroster, and Bluetooth connection buttons were figured out, the differences in maneuverability, speed, and the existence of working brakes from the Soviet Lada line of vehicles eventually ended up being troublesome for the Professor. (“How do you double the value of a Lada? Fill it with gas,” as the old Soviet joke went.) Persikov longed for the day when the Review would buy a company car, which, knowing the new budget-cutting TDR President Zubrow, would probably be a 1960s-era VW minibus coated with a grayscale tie-dye paint-job.
Persikov picked up his old comrade, Kobe Brined, at the Review office. Brined was fairly stoked to be reviewing a different restaurant from one of Hanover’s more pedestrian offerings, especially with a newcomer to the Review Reviews series. Persikov and Brined welcomed Sir Winston Gladstone Disraeli Halifax Rhodes D.S.C., V.C., J.P. to the Escape-cum-troika. Rhodes was late, the reason for which Persikov and Brined speculated had something to do with overtime rounds of polo or cricket. After the fifteen-minute trip culminating in a downhill plunge into rural Vermont, unburdened by modern amenities like street-lamps, our trio found their way to The Mill at Simon Pearce. A rustic brick building, the farmhouse ambiance continued inside with polished hardwood flooring and handmade glass accoutrements. The Reviewers were intrigued by the solidly constructed glass goblets and jars on sale in the gift shop and would have liked to have attended the tour of the attached glass factory — perhaps another time.
Persikov, Brined, and Rhodes were seated briskly by a friendly maître d’ (who showed them to their table despite the fact that they were a quarter hour past their reservation time) and served by an equally amicable waitress. Aided by prior research and the judgement of the waitress, the crew quickly decided upon the seared sea scallops (“spring pea purée, prosciutto di Parma, mâche, Spanish olive oil,” $14) and the crispy duck confit (“creamy lentils and pancetta, mustard sauce,” $14). During the pleasantly short wait, the gang was taken aback at the stunning view from the picture window: a deluge of water from the Ottauquechee River pouring over a wide waterfall. They imagined it would be an even greater sight during the day, daydreaming about the possibility of bringing visitors to the Review over to Simon Pearce for more fine dining on the paper’s dime. [Editor’s note: Not a chance. We went over this with Jesse’s!]
During this wait, their server brought them a free plate of bread with some butter. This came in two varieties: a few slices of a dark whole grain bread as well as two small French baguettes. The baguettes were, the crew felt, better as a stand-alone choice. Solid and hearty, the baguettes provided a nice crunchy texture that went well with the butter. The whole grain bread was fine, with a pleasant aftertaste from the molasses that had gone into it. It was less substantial than the baguette, however; Persikov guessed that it would pair better with breakfast foods like eggs over easy and bacon, while Winston wanted to give it a chance with olive oil. Brined, during this discussion, merely gnawed hungrily on an entire baguette.
The appetizers came in small portion sizes: there were only two scallops (forcing Persikov and Brined to split one) and one duck leg in the confit. The quality, however, more than made up for the quantity. All three Reviewers found the scallops a real delight. After swallowing, Sir Rhodes deemed them “fabulous, meaty yet soft, with a beautifully prepared pea sauce,” observing the aesthetically pleasing presentation. Persikov seriously began to muse about applying for a grant to discover how the restaurant cooked the molluscs to that perfect consistency. Kobe Brined simply declared, “A+,” and the others agreed heartily.
The duck confit was also an excellent choice. The three amigos began sampling morsels of meat from the leg bone, finding them to their satisfaction. “Greasy, but not too greasy,” said Brined happily. “No supermarket rotisserie, this,” Sir Rhodes agreed. The sauce received slightly more of a mixed reception, however. All three diners thought it was delicious, but disagreed on whether it suited the duck confit. Always one to enjoy spicy food, Persikov approved of the piquant horseradish kick the stuffing provided, but the other two were less enthusiastic on its pairing with the poultry. Despite this difference of opinion, the three Reviewers agreed on a solid A- for the dish.
While waiting for the main course, Sir Rhodes became increasingly convinced that his dinner partners were perhaps not the best trained in table manners. Professor Persikov absently began chewing the ice cubes in his water glass after scraping the last of the stuffing from the duck confit bowl, while Brined had used the wrong fork for his appetizer; the dirty entrée fork was staining the pristine white tablecloth until he sheepishly requested that their waitress replace it. Winston resolved to teach his next Review Reviews partners better etiquette, lest the series sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted table manners. He wondered whether this would have a degenerative effect on the times, and whether it was even too late — the otherwise excellent (and spotlessly clean) W. C. didn’t even have a washroom attendant to personally hand him a towel to dry his hands after washing.
The Main Course
The hungry Reviewers felt that many of the dishes looked equally delicious, so they drew lots to determine who would review which item. Kobe Brined ended up with the North Star Farm lamb shoulder pappardelle (“olive oil roasted tomatoes, peas, pearl onions, chive crème frâiche, mint and parsley,” $30); Professor V. I. Persikov with the grass-fed New York sirloin (“horseradish and celery root purée, grilled asparagus, baby spinach, truffled pommes frites,” $29); and Sir Winston Rhodes with the crisp roasted duckling (“currant, almond and grilled red onion tabbouleh, spiced mango chutney,” $32). Like the appetizers and bread, the entrée dishes arrived quite speedily — and yet, still with a beautiful presentation.
Brined’s dish ranked a clear third among the trio’s choices — and even so, was still excellent. The lamb shoulder pappardelle was a sort of medley of broad pasta noodles with finely chopped lamb bathed in a sea of sauce and vegetables. The individual components were all cooked well, but Brined felt they did not quite synergize well together. They were still good enough for Brined and the others (who also sampled the dish) to give it a solid B+.
Professor Persikov’s rare steak was quite good. The interior was a healthy shade of pink and was tender enough to meet Persikov’s demanding tastes. “It pairs well with the purée’s horseradish flavor and crispy pommes frites,” he noted, though the Reviewers speculated that the steak might not even need the help, as the seasoning was tasty enough. The truffles, asparagus, and spinach, though well-prepared, paled in comparison to the hearty chunk of sirloin in Persikov’s eyes. The crew gave the steak an A- and would recommend it to anyone. The best, however, was yet to come.
Sir Winston Rhodes’s crisp roasted duckling was a sheer delight. “With a crispy exterior and juicy, moist interior, it’s quite splendid. The sweetness of the chutney perfectly complements the spicy peppers. A+ with a citation!” The other two took small samples of the duckling meat and agreed wholeheartedly with the appraisal. All elements of the dish worked together to make the entrée a flavorful homerun. “If Simon Pearce should last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest dish!’”
The trio, though stuffed, still had room for some desserts. After some deliberation, Sir Rhodes settled on some espresso ($3.50) and a glass of Strafford Organic Creamery cinnamon ice cream with house-made caramel sauce ($8); Persikov on Callebaut chocolate and raspberry cake (“cream cheese filling, raspberry sauce,” $9); and Brined on Bailey’s hazelnut cheesecake (“coffee anglaise, candied hazelnuts,” $9). Each Reviewer was satisfied with his choice, though the two cake slices were deemed to be too small for the nine-dollar pricetag. Sir Rhodes was more than happy with his ice cream, though he felt the caramel sauce was too sweet for his liking. He was also pleased with his espresso, which he ordered since he had work to complete that night. Persikov enjoyed his raspberry cake, at least until he ate the raspberry-flavored hard candy embedded in the frosting; it tasted alright, though was incredibly sticky, annoying the Professor to no end. The crew guessed that it was a garnish that was not supposed to be eaten. Persikov was forced to eat the piece of cookie embedded in Sir Rhodes’s ice cream (also a garnish) to cleanse his palate. (On the plus side, it went well with the caramel sauce Rhodes had left aside.) Brined was completely happy with his sweet piece of cheesecake after the savory lamb shoulder dish.
The Reviewers headed back (with a wide-awake Sir Rhodes at the wheel, who remembered to drive on the right side of the road this time) with considerably heavier stomachs. The crew concluded that Simon Pearce was a great choice for people who wanted an elevated dining experience and had the bankroll for it — the meals were definitely not cheap, but were well prepared and presented, and the spectacular view added greatly to the experience.