When staying home for Christmas is not an option
By Walter & Pat Brooks
hen staying home for Christmas is not an option, the choices can be inconvenient, unless you consider driving to destinations in New England.
The period from December 20 through January 5 is hectic at any airport, even without weather related delays and cancellations, but the good old family car can get you to most parts of our region within a few hours, and at a fraction of the cost and none of the problems associated with air travel at Christmas time.
That way you can spend your air fare on a lovely New England inn and some exciting dining out in the region's greatly improved restaurants.
We Chose Jamaica, Vermont, that is
With most our relatives visiting kin away from Cape Cod, we decided to drive to Jamaica Vermont which is two and a half hours northwest of Boston where the Three Mountain Inn offered a cozy, comfortable and quiet respite.
This property has recently been taken over by a young couple named Ed and Jen Dorta-Duque who have extensive backgrounds in the hospitality industry, and the service, surroundings and food show that expertise. The dining room's cozy size belies its achievements as one of the few AAA Four Diamond properties in the state.
The drive getting there along old Route 2 across northern Massachusetts is pleasant enough, but when you turn north in Greenfield and head towards Brattleboro and Route 100 the scenery really gets picturesque. See the map at the bottom of this article for directions to the inn.
The Three Mountain Inn menu offers four course prix fixe dinners at fifty-five dollars. One evening we sampled the Roasted Elk Chop which was memorable, as were all the other entrÃ©es we sampled. The starters and desserts matched the entrÃ©es.
Even though it's a small inn rather than a B&B, the breakfast is included, and we're not talking muffins and juice, but a very special full course breakfast each morning with a choice of main dishs following fresh juice and hot from the oven scones to whet your appetite.
Near the mountains
The sleepy village of Jamaica is on historic Vermont Route 100 a half hour north of Brattleboro. This is smack dab in the middle of some of New England's best skiing areas like Stratton, Bromley and Mount Snow.
Hosts Ed and Jen are animal lovers as well, and the inn is pet friendly. The cheerful living room always has a fire burning, and the tavern is a local meeting place.
Ed is a cyber whiz and has added wi-fi which he offers at no charge to travelers who bring their laptops as I do.
Jamaica is also a great location for day trips any time of year. The route is one picture postcard village after another all the way to Canada.
There has also been a quiet revolution in the dining options in Southern Vermont. In the past decade dozens of New York's finest chefs have decamped to these mountains.
During our four day holiday here we had one spectacular meal after another.
The former has just been taken over by a young couple. The night we were there the two were alone, he in the kitchen and she hosting and waiting. I only mention this because despite this shortage of staff the food was really first class. We were impressed with such a performance during this busy season.
The Three Clock Inn on the other hand can stand comparison with any five star dining room in the world.
We started with the Hudson Valley Foie Gras served with black Mission Figs in a Port Marinade and the Baked Woodcock Sheep Cheese served on grilled eggplant with a balsamic reduction.
Our entrÃ©es included Maine Lobster Pot Pie with root vegetables and Vermouth Cream and one of the best cassolulets I've had in years.
Their web site spells out the rest of the moth watering menu and is worth a visit.
On the morning we left, we filled up for the four hour drive home at Asta's Swiss Restaurant where the atmosphere and cuisine match the mountains
Things to do in Icy Jamaica
Lest you think we spend all our time drinking and eating, this lovely village offers other non-culinary delights.
Thankfully we listened to the urgings of our host and hostess to wend our way up a mountain road, over five bridges to the Hot Glassworks run by a delightful couple named Hank and Toby Schwartz.
These two flower children have managed to stay true to the 1960's while raising a family, building a most unusual home and establishing a highly successful business with clients all over the world including some of NYC's smartest shops and department stores.
Other delights in "Beautiful Downtown Jamaica" (population 754) include the Elaine Beckwith Gallery of Fine art, the Main Street Gallery and Margie's Muse Handweaving and Gallery, all within a short stroll of the Three Mountain Inn.
There is also a typical Vermont Country Store where you can still find a bottle of Moxie.
And just on the south end of town visit D&K's Butterfly Heaven and Bird Aviary, or continue a tad further and go for a horse drawn sleigh ride in the snow at Adams Farm in Wilmington on the way to Mount Snow.
Another great day trip is a visit to Manchester Center a half hour west for great outlet shopping.
DIRECTIONS: Take U.S. Route 91 North to exit 2 in Brattleboro, Vermont. Stop to visit its five book stores, two tattoo parlors, myriad arts and crafts shops, and its wonderful bakery; or proceed through town to Route 30. Travel North on Route 30 about 23 miles to Jamaica, passing through the picturesque villages of Newfane and Townshend. As you enter Jamaica Village, the Inn will be on your right.