Cloudland Farm (North Pomfret, Vermont)

One of the more interesting places I’ve had dinner around the Upper Valley is hiding in the hills north of Woodstock in North Pomfret’s “Cloudland”. If you find yourself driving up that way, it’s really easy to see why the area has its name (something about the valley construction seems particularly adept at forming and holding low-level clouds). But Cloudland is also the home to Cloudland Farm, an over-a-century-old family farm that’s well known for supplying meats at various farmers markets, general stores, and as a purveyor to local restaurants. But they also have a dining room that’s open Thursday-Saturday (plus occasional special events) for dinner, usually with special themes. Previously, I’d been there twice to celebrate birthdays, once on a Brisket Night, and once on a Ramen Night, and being a birthday dinner, taking photos wasn’t my first priority. But for the last few months, our friends Liz and Wesley wanted us to join them for a Burger Night, and in June we were finally in town at the right time to make it happen.

As an added bonus, this was my first time to Cloudland Farm’s dining room during daylight hours, and it’s a good way to show off the pleasant dining room of Cloudland: it’s a large, open dining room with wood walls and floors, and excellent views down the valley towards Woodstock (if clear) or the clouds (more usually). We were there with a rather large group of friends, and our good cheer was boosted by Cloudland being one of the few places around here with a generous BYOB policy (and a modest corkage fee they actually waived for us as well), so soon enough we were sampling a variety of New England beers we brought as we considered the menu.

Like the other theme nights I’ve been to at Cloudland, the menu is fairly limited, in fact, the menu for Burger Night is basically “burgers”. Basically, a fixed-price, 3 course meal of appetizers (hushpuppies), a main course (cheeseburger with cheddar or blue cheese) with potato salad and vegetable slaw, and a dessert (a combination of pound cake and sorbet). It’s not a bad deal for $29, with a few options for upgrades (bacon and sauerkraut being the main ones). I opted to go with the cheddar option with bacon, while Carol went for blue cheese, bacon, and sauerkraut.

First to arrive was the hushpuppies, with big bowls of them served up to each end of the table. I adore hushpuppies, especially if done perfectly: small, firm globs of slightly seasoned corn with a good crispy exterior holding in some moisture. Most of the hushpuppies were exactly what I was looking for, but, admittedly, a few at our table were “extra well done”.

Any reservations, however, evaporated with the arrival of the burgers. I ordered up my burger my usual medium rare, and the burger arrived with a perfect consistency: a perfect, well-seared crust and a still-pink and very juicy interior. The local cheddar was nicely melted down onto the patty and topped with four slices of nicely crisped bacon on a firm, crusty house-made roll. Adding in some house-made ketchup and mustard sauces, this was exactly what I was looking for in a modern, thick “bistro-style” upscale burger. I’ve always liked Cloudland’s beef in my own cooking, and here it made it a very flavorful, juicy, but fairly lean burger. Both the potato salad and the beet slaw were very tasty side dishes as well, complementing the burger quite nicely without overpowering it.

Carol had opted to be a bit more adventuresome, going with the blue cheese and sauerkraut. I wasn’t sure what to think of sauerkraut as a burger topping, but the tangy but still somewhat crisp kraut at Cloudland worked well, adding a nice bit of both crunch and salty acidity to the burger, combining well with the sharp blue cheese. Having had a nibble of her burger, I’d definitely consider getting that combination next time.

Dessert was a nice changeup, with an herbed pound cake and rhubarb sorbet served up with a light creme anglaise, and bit of honeycomb crisp. I liked this combination a lot; the pound cake was a firm, lightly herbed version with a solid crumb to it, perfect to pair with a bit of the very tangy rhubarb sorbet, dabbing the combination in the creme. I thought this finished off the meal nicely.

Really, I was glad to have this outing; I caught up with a few friends that my hectic travel life had kept me from seeing much (indeed, two days after this meal I was on a plane to France), the food was great, and Cloudland is a rather nice environment for just hanging out with some wine or beer. I’ve enjoyed all my meals there so far, and wouldn’t hesitate to return for another event.

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