Only a few Vermont restaurants consistently deliver exquisite food and gracious service. Michael's on the Hill, located on a scenic stretch of Route 100 between Waterbury and Stowe, is one of them. There, in an intimate farmhouse setting, Michael and Laura Kloeti reign over the kitchen and dining room, respectively. When it's warm enough, seating extends to an enclosed wrap-around porch with views of the surrounding countryside.
When a chef is as good as Swiss-trained Michael, it's a shame not to take advantage of the multicourse tasting menu. The "Gold" version is reasonably priced and offers perfectly prepared comfort foods. For about $20 more per person, the "Platinum" edition brings luxe items, such as black truffles and lobster, to the table.
The sun might be setting over the mountains while a server brings out an amuse bouche — literally "amuse the mouth" — to awaken the appetite. One night it's a spoon topped with savory duck terrine, apple chutney and a single, crisp, blue-potato chip for crunch.
The cocktails are no less creative: Try a martini made with cucumber-scented Hendrick's gin and garnished with blue-cheese-stuffed olives.
Kloeti's crab-cake appetizer captures the essence of the sweet yet briny seafood, and complements it with a slightly bitter endive slaw topped with miniature champagne grapes, which explode between the teeth like sweet caviar. He follows it up with a tender, butter-poached lobster atop an earthy mushroom risotto.
Dessert is a playful variation on the kiddie favorite PB&J: a dense chocolate torte topped with a scoop of peanut butter ice cream, served with Concord grape sauce.
Michael's doesn't take itself too seriously, but food lovers do.