A hike up the Gile Mountain Tower Trail and a tour of the Dartmouth campus later, it was time for dinner and back to Vermont we went. Being from the Bay Area, to be able to hop state borders so nonchalantly was a novel concept. You would definitely never hear anyone say, "Let's go to Nevada for lunch!" or "I'm just going to grab some coffee in Oregon." But with the Vermont border merely a couple minutes drive from Dartmouth, crossing between states there is just an everyday thing.
Anyway, AF wanted to take us to a little French restaurant with slightly fancier fare. Carpenter & Main was located on the quaintest little downtown street in what looked like a converted residential house:
We didn't have any reservations, so we had to wait a while for a table to open. We took a walk down the street, we talked politics on the picnic table outside the restaurant, and then when it got too cold, we tried to find a spot at the crowded bar inside.
Eventually, we got our table:
It's not a nice restaurant unless you get complimentary bread:
We wanted to try more dishes so we stuck to the small plates section on the menu, but Carpenter & Main also has full entrees such as steak, chicken, and trout. We started with the house charcuterie plate ($14):
It came with bread, smoked pork, duck pate, some kind of spread, pickled olives, and mustard.
We also got the house grilled flatbread ($10):
The toppings apparently change according to what is fresh that day. We lucked out and got mushrooms. I love mushrooms.
The warm salad ($10) was probably one of the most interesting dishes:
Even though it clearly said "warm salad" on the menu, we were still surprised by the fact that parts of the salad actually were not typical salad temperature. The aged cheddar, semi-melted by the roasted cauliflower and toasted pecans, added an interesting yet slightly strange texture. I never realized how pungent cheddar can get. The bursts of sweetness from the grapes helped cut through the stinky cheese taste, but I ended up wimping out and picking out what large pieces of cheese I could identity. I got it wrong quite a few times. Who knew cauliflower and cheese could look so similar?
The braised kale with pinenuts, golden raisins, and apple ($5) was one of the least memorable of the night:
While the Moroccan lamb meatballs in spicy tomato glaze ($6) were memorable in their tininess:
They were delicious, but we wished there were more of them.
Just as we wished we could have had more of the avocado fries with sweet and sour tomato sauce ($5):
What's not to love about fried avocado?
Carpenter & Main has a very intimate vibe and while the food was delicious, it's definitely somewhere you would save for a special occasion type of meal. But not super special occasions, if you know what I mean. Hm...let me try to explain myself. Carpenter & Main isn't a restaurant where you would feel underdressed in jeans and the prices aren't so outrageous that you can only justify dining there to celebrate something momentous. Yet it's not really a restaurant you would think to go to just any day of the week. The prices are just a tad too high and the portions just a smidge too small for an everyday meal.
Does that make sense?
Basically, it's a little too nice for my cheapass, hole in the wall loving self.
Carpenter & Main
326 Main St
Norwich, VT 05055