Hen of the Wood opened in Oct. 2013 in Burlington as the sister restaurant to the original one in Waterbury. Menus change daily and feature wood-fired cooking. They strive to present the products of regional ranchers, growers, and bakers. It’s a fairly large place located next door to the Hotel Vermont. The entrance end of the place is bar seating where they will serve walk-ins, but it was an hour and a half wait for those on the Monday night that we visited. The other end of the room is the kitchen with fires blazing. There are also some counter seats facing the kitchen but we opted for one of the relatively small bare wood tables. Bench seating lines some walls and a low wall separates the dining area from the bar. Music is in the background and in combination with the crowd it made it fairly noisy. There are windows to the street outside along one wall but the lights were dim enough that I did want to turn on my flashlight but didn’t. Service was friendly and helpful and got the first several things out very quickly and then died for about 30 minutes before it picked back up. Parking is on the street or in the garage between the restaurant and the hotel.
Smoked Speck ham was served thinly sliced and plated with baby kale, roasted pears, goat cheese, and olive oil. It was plenty for 2 to split. The ham was delicious as were the pears but they seemed more raw than roasted. The goat cheese was shredded on top rather than in the customary chunks. The kale was fairly tender and worked well with the other ingredients. The smokiness of the meat was as good as its texture in the mouth. A fine start.
Parker House Rolls are in an order of 4 with cultured butter. This is one of their signature dishes but I found them disappointing. They were dry and dull tasting. I fear they were re-warmed which dried the edges too much. It also would have been nice to be able to order just 2 but that option was not offered.
Pork Belly was glazed with hot honey and served with charred leeks on buttermilk aioli. It was an exceptionally fatty slice of pork belly but it was great with the really flavorful leeks. It was odd that a couple of raspberries were on the plate – they didn’t really fit with the plate and the honey should have given it color. Nevertheless, it was a flavorful appetizer.
The duck was sliced and served on purée of Buttercup squash with herbed spaetzle and a roasted pear jus. The duck was cooked a nice medium rare, juicy, and fairly tender. It was excellent with the sauce and squash. The spaetzle were overcooked, tough, and dry but they were a minor part of the plate.
Hanger Steak was on a purée of buttered cauliflower and topped with smoked cabbage. The beef was ordered rare and cooked nicely but still, the meat itself was fairly dry. It was better with the cauliflower sauce. The cabbage was excellent and incredibly smokey.
They offer a number of cheeses that are not priced but inquiries found they are $10 each and come with crackers and something fruity. For dessert we opted to try the Roasted apples with puff pastry, cider, cheddar ice cream, and maple toffee sauce. With it we got a glass of the 2020 ice cider made from Honeycrisp apples in W. Charleston, VT. It was lovely with a gorgeous honey color. The apple dessert offered lots of textures with the flakey pastry, creamy ice cream, apple chips, cooked apples, and maple toffee crumbles. I didn’t detect a strong cheese flavor in the ice cream but the apples had a nice amount of flavor and went well with the dense ice cream. It was a wonderful ending to the meal.