A Topnotch Weekend in Vermont

A Topnotch Weekend in Vermont
Almost at the top of Smuggler's Notch, hence the double-entendre name, Topnotch Resort is everything it claims. The location is secluded, atop its own road and surrounded by 120 acres woodland, its hillside setting giving it a panoramic view of Mt Mansfield and neighboring mountainsides. And the resort leaves nothing to chance in guest-pleasing service and amenities.

Although Topnotch is handy to Stowe's famous ski slopes and trails (the base lodges are just a few yards up the road) we had come for a mid-season weekend, while the weather was warm enough to enjoy the heated swimming pools, and the fall color was just beginning to tint the leaves. It was unseasonable warm, enough that we chose to eat dinner on the terrace with the mountain view as a backdrop -- but more on that later.

Munching on the still-warm chocolate chip cookies that are always in the lobby, we followed a bellman to our room, which also overlooked the mountains. The room was large enough to easily accommodate the super-sized bed, a good-sized desk, and a loveseat with a double-wide ottoman with space to spare. Bed-side tables held good lights, but in addition there were individual high-intensity lights on each side for bedtime reading.

The walk-in closet was furnished with shelves and plenty of hanging space, with two luggage racks and plenty of space for both opened suitcases. A pair of plush bathrobes hung in the closet. The bathroom had a broad vanity with a full mirror and make-up/shaving mirror, as well as a tub with a shower. Bath amenities included all the usuals, plus make-up remover and spare towels.

For all its comforts, we didn't spend much time in our room. The rest of the resort kept us busy (there?s a spa, tennis courts, two pools (one is reserved for adults), lawn games and for walkers and cyclists the Stowe Recreation path, which begins almost at the door and leads into the village below. And a short drive beyond Topnotch is Smuggler?s Notch itself, where the road narrows to weave between giant glacial boulders.

The village of Stowe has plenty of diversions, too. We especially liked the variety of galleries showing fine handcrafts and art, and the exhibition at the Helen Day Arts Center. Stowe is known for its arts-friendly environment, and several artisans have studios that are open to visitors. Among them is Little River Hot Glass Studio, where you can watch molten glass formed into beautiful brilliantly colored goblets, glasses, vases and dishes.

Dinner at the Topnotch restaurant, Flannel, was the day's highlight, however. Although we chose to dine outside, we could have watched the sunset over the mountain just as easily from the dining room itself, as it has an entire wall of glass overlooking the view. But dinner quickly diverted our attention. It isn't easy to cook duck perfectly, and we've sampled less than perfection from some highly lauded chefs. But the duck at Flannel was superb ? cooked just as we?d requested and fork-tender, the inside juicy and the exterior crisp and bursting with flavor.

A seafood risotto was so packed with shellfish that we almost couldn't finish the rice part -- except that it was so savory that we couldn't bear to leave a grain of it in the dish. The plump shrimp still tasted of the sea, and the mussels were plump and juicy. An entire lobster tail crowned the dish, perfectly cooked and tender.

From the spacious room to the delicious dinner, the experience was Topnotch.

You Should Also Read:
Maine's Inn by the Sea
Berry Manor Inn in Rockland Maine
Camden Harbor Inn

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