By Lettie Stratton
Each time I attend a concert at Higher Ground, which seems to be quite often these days, I drive past the Windjammer and make a mental note to stop there for a nice dinner. I finally had my chance last Saturday night as my friend Justin and I made our way down Williston Road to the restaurant.
We were seated in the lower section of the dining area at a booth-style table located a few steps down from the main level. The walls were adorned with paintings of sea-faring ships with tall masts, braving the onslaught of approaching waves. Leafy green plants hung from the ceiling and soft Jazz played in the background.
Our waiter, Sonia, brought us our drinks—a Whiskey Smash for me (a crisp tart drink, complete with fresh lemon and mint leaves) and The Rosemary for Justin (a drink both earthy and sweet, with Bombay sapphire, citrus, and honey, garnished with a sprig of rosemary). Both were cold, refreshing, and just what we needed after a long hot day.
I sat in my brown leather seat perusing the Windjammer dinner menu and enjoying the ambiance of the candle-lit tables, which created a soft yellow glow, reflecting off the metal of the mini porthole window in the wood-paneled wall to our left. Sonia returned promptly to take our orders and re-fill our water (my glass was never more than half empty throughout the evening).
Previous to Saturday night, I spoke to General Manager Dan Phelan about the Windjammer and its recent Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, which they received both this year and in 2011. The award is given to an establishment that is recognized for having a quality wine list that complements the menu in both style and price. Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t try one of these surely wonderful wines, but the list of specialty cocktails looked too good to resist.
Justin and I ordered Mozzarella Fritti for an appetizer. The dish turned out to be an upscale version of the classic mozzarella stick, in ball form, with local cheese from Maplebrook Farms. The Arrabbiata sauce that accompanied the Fritti was sweet upon first taste, with a delayed spice factor as the flavors settled on my tongue.
Perhaps one of the greatest things about the Windjammer is that their impressive Salad Boat is included with all entrees. I piled my plate high with fresh greens, cucumber, chick peas, cherry tomatoes, grated carrots, and more, and topped it all off with a dressing of House Dill Ranch. After a drink, the Fritti, and a loaded salad, my stomach was already happy—and the main course hadn’t even arrived yet.
The Windjammer is known for its delicious steak and seafood, but I couldn’t pass up one of their other specialty dishes—the Harvest Chicken. Brined in Vermont maple syrup and cider, my eight-ounce chicken was served over parsnip and asparagus puree and topped with caramelized onions and fig relish.
Justin ordered the Local Ribeye—an impressive 10 ounces of Boyden Family Farms (of Cambridge, Vt.) grass-fed meat, grilled and topped with melted bleu cheese, pommes frites, and white truffle honey. He commented that the juicy rib eye was cooked to perfection, which seems to be a feat rarely accomplished by restaurants.
With a tagline of “Local, fresh, original,” Phelan said the Windjammer is primarily concerned with the quality and consistency of their products. He took pride in mentioning that they serve Angus beef and support local farms whenever possible, further explaining that the restaurant’s large size prevents them from being able to source more foods locally. A large portion of the menu items, though, boasted the name of an area farm in the description, proving that the restaurant is local, fresh, and original, indeed. Don’t miss dinner at the Windjammer, 1076 Williston Rd. in South Burlington. The Windjammer is open 7 days a week, Monday through Saturday, 11:30am-11:30 pm and Sunday 2:30 pm-10:30 pm. Call 862-6585 or visit www.windjammerrestaurant.com for reservations.