A 24 Carrot Dining Experience| 09.19.23
Why You Should Go: Fine Dining Experience, Layered Flavors, Culinary Masterpieces, A Food Experience hard to match in the NEK
Things You Should Know: Higher prices but well worth it; Don’t let menu descriptions scare you – plenty of food in each dish; Not Really a Kid Friendly Menu; Farther out from many of the area attractions so may be a hike for most NEK Diners
For many years, getting a table at Rabbit Hill Inn has been almost impossible. The restaurant’s reputation, the food, and the fact the Inn’s guests get first dibs has meant reservations many weeks in advance were required. But, in the last year, the beloved Inn has been purchased and a new chef has taken on the kitchen – renaming the restaurant 24 Carrot at Rabbit Hill Inn, and I’m thrilled to report that the food is phenomenal!
We’ve written about the restaurant at Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford, VT before. It has been among our top dining experiences in Vermont. We recently dined at the new restaurant with visiting family members and we were not disappointed.
Warning: The Food Images and Descriptions Below are not for the hungry. It is best to read this on a full belly!
The Vibe at this Waterford, VT Restaurant
If you have never been to the Rabbit Hill Inn, the location is charming. Gardens surround the Inn, and little rabbits are hidden throughout the property. The tradition at the restaurant is to start your meal with house made bread – a recipe that is over 100 years old. It has traditionally been served with butter, in the shape of a rabbit (see our older review). But, with the new name came a few other changes. While the bread is the same, and delicious, the whipped butter was shaped like a carrot, and dusted with herbs and a little edible gold flake. Now, I get that themed food can be a little tacky, but this presentation was anything but. The subtle nod to the old tradition was well presented – and that would continue with the platings that followed.
Now, deciding what to order would have been next to impossible – but luckily there were so many of us (7) that we were able to almost order everything on the menu that night! (It is the best thing about dining with friends)
The Food Experience
We’ll start with appetizers.
We ordered two salads: a summer salad with grilled nectarines, blueberries, goat cheese and a vinaigrette and a Caesar salad with grilled lettuce and anchovies. The summer salad was filled with contrasts crunchy lettuce, radish, and cucumbers against creamy cheese and soft fruit. Bright and sweet flavors contrasted with the slightly sour cheese and the acidic dressing. But the bigger surprise was grilled lettuce in the Caesar!
This was a new culinary experience for me, and I was excited to try it. Grilled lettuce is nothing like reheated lettuce – it gives the typically bland vegetable fantastic flavor making it shine in the dish. The taste is a little smoky and nutty, leaning toward a light cabbage/Brussels Sprout flavor but more subtle. When combined with fresh crotons, tomatoes, anchovies, and a parmesan ice cream – yes you heard that right – it was hard to pass the salad along for others to try. The “ice cream” melted over the lettuce leaves adding an almost second dressing to the dish – bringing more of that saltiness that makes Caesar salads delicious.
We ordered a cheese plate for the table. Blue cheese, a brie, soft cheve, green olives, strawberries, blueberries, pickled carrots with an artisan sausage rounded out the selection. We nibbled at this and it was delicious – but the other dishes quickly outshined the beautifully plated appetizer array.
Having all made our entrée selections, there was one dish many of us wanted to try but it hadn’t been selected as a main course. SO, we ordered the ravioli Caprese for the table. Caprese is typically a salad with fresh tomato, mozzarella, basil, and a balsamic reduction. Sometimes it is turned into a sandwich – but this was the first time I’d seen it as a pasta dish, and the take on that classic appetizer was fantastic.
The handmade ravioli was filled with a mozzarella cheese mixture and plated on top of a traditional tomato sauce that was full of flavor. A bite of ravioli topped with a little of the sauce was a bright burst in your mouth, similar to biting into a tomato and having its contents pop, spreading over your taste buds. The sauce contained the basil that when added to the other summer veggies on the dish made this ravioli a true summer star.
By this time, we were all very excited about our entries. A rundown of the menu included a fillet of beef with potatoes and roasted veggies, Halibut over farro with a strawberry sauce and roasted carrots, lamb chops over black rice and roasted veggies, a mushroom medley served with roasted veggies and a sweet potato puree, and finally – the only thing we didn’t order – a roasted chicken dish.
I am really not exaggerating when I say every bite was not only amazing, but surprising as well. Layered flavors that you didn’t expect made for a fun and delicious evening.
The halibut was the best thing on the menu that night – we all agreed. (we even had two people at the table that dislike fish and yet couldn’t get enough of this dish). The top of the halibut was encrusted with an herb crumb and salt, cooked to form a crust on the fish providing a crunch to balance the soft protein. There was also plenty of pepper in the spice mix, adding some heat. This dish was served with a strawberry sauce that was bright, creamy and the perfect acidic counterpart to the fish. Was a little worried it might be too sweet, but that wasn’t the case at all.
The protein was paired with a farro and rice medley, forro is the term for three types of dried wheat that when cooked has a nutty flavor similar to a brown rice. Overall, this was a filling dish and the protein portion was large enough to make a hearty entrée.
The next dish we tried was the lamb. Cooked to a perfect medium rare (as requested) the meat was soft and flavorful. Again, we were all impressed with the potion size as lamb chops can sometimes be small and accompanied by large amounts of sides in order to make up an entrée.
But, on this dish, the lamb was the featured ingredient. Greens and roasted root veggies accompanied the lamb, which was served over a black rice. Finally, the lamb was paired with a light mint sauce giving a hint of sweetness without the overpowering taste of sugar that comes with jelly. And, the meat was well seasoned – something that is often missing on red meat.
That brings me to the steak dish. Beautifully prepared filets, salted and peppered (could have used a little more salt), and topped with an herbed butter that was seasoned enough to flavor the filet well. Served with roasted potatoes, greens, and carrots this dish was hearty but the use of fresh herbs (in place of dried herbs) kept the flavors lighter, making this a good summer or early fall dish.
Another pleasant surprise was the mushroom medley. This was the vegetarian option on the menu – and it did not disappoint. A variety of mushrooms lightly sautéed in butter and herbs topped a bed of greens and roasted vegetables. Though roasted separately, the root veggies had been thrown into the sauté and coated with the butter and herbs adding more flavor to the sweetness brought out by roasting. This was plated with a sweet potato puree.
The earthy flavor of the mushrooms paired with the sweetness of the roasted veggies was one flavor combination, but pairing the mushrooms with the puree or the roasted veggies with the puree offered completely different flavor profiles making this dish a fun and tasty experience. I would have loved to see this medley of items as a side dish for a protein or in an appetizer portion. There was so much flavor, I could see many people enjoying the dish as an addition to their main meal.
There were cocktails and wine to pair with our meals, but with all of this food the drinks were an afterthought.
We ended the meal with four shared deserts, as I said we tried just about everything on the menu.
A chocolate medley that contained a brownie over caramel sauce with a house made fudgesicle; a carrot cheese cake with a carrot cake base served with white chocolate tulle and an apple pineapple sauce; a blueberry moose topped with berry gelatin and traditional meringue served over shortcake and blueberry sauce with a side of ice cream; and last but not least – a berry custard that was exactly what summer tastes like, with fresh strawberry and blueberry flavors apparent in every bite.
I could write a full blog about the desserts alone!
While the food at this restaurant is certainly high end, all of it is approachable. There are great flavors, large portions, and many of the ingredients come from farms nearby. The prices are on the high end of restaurants in northern Vermont, but not by much. The average entrée in the area is currently running $25-$35, with some beef dishes running close to $40. Entrée prices at 24 Carrot at Rabbit Hill Inn were between $35-$50 when we visited. When the portions, the flavors, the different preparations and techniques used in each dish, and the local ingredients are all factored in, the prices were more than worth it. Two entrees, an app, and a desert would be more than enough for two people, with leftovers to bring home.
We recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a fun dining experience, or looking to try something different and delicious. It really is a culinary gem – pairing ‘fancy’ city dining experiences with Vermont’s approachable spin on it. 24 Carrot at Rabbit Hill Inn is a must try for anyone in the area.
For Contact Information for This Waterford, VT Restaurant