Hemingway's: A Place
in the Country
They met in college in Utica,
New York, literature majors in a Shakespeare class. After graduation, they
married and headed off to England where they bought an MG and spent the
next year driving down the continent to Greece. He planned to teach
English in Crete, but then his family needed him back home.
What to do next? Returning
to Europe was not an option at this point. They looked at a map of
New England and saw an Ivy League college was around the juncture
of Interstates 89 and 91 where Vermont meets New Hampshire. That was an attraction, and besides, they’d never lived in
So they drove over to
Hanover, New Hampshire where he picked up a local paper. A restaurant in
Woodstock, Vermont was advertising for a bartender.
Thus began a trail that ended somewhat further west along Route 4
at a one-time stagecoach stop in Killington, Vermont where twenty years
ago, the young couple opened up a restaurant of their own and named it for
one of their favorite American writers.
Coming of age in the
1970’s, Ted and Linda Fondulas were representative of a generation of
smart, creative people who combined youthful idealism with breezy self confidence, a sense that
they could do anything if they put their minds to it and worked hard
enough. That gave them the chutzpah
to go into the restaurant business with virtually no training or
apprenticeship in the art of food preparation or the manifold requirements
of running a fine dining establishment. From the start, they did it all
themselves: the cooking, the purchasing, the handling of the front and the
back of the business. And, amazingly, they thrived.
Two decades later,
Hemingway’s is still going strong. Having being named one of the best 25
restaurants in the United States by Food and Wine Magazine and
earning a four star designation from Mobil Travel Guide, it remains
a testament to the Fondulas’ can-do-it credo.
“So many of us who got into the restaurant
business in the early 1980’s had been philosophy or literature
majors in college,” the attractive and ebullient Linda Fondulas
told us. “We picked up on this trend in America, the culinary
revolution of the early 1980’s. That was where our inspiration
came from. Only doing it here, instead of Boston or New York, was
kind of unique.”
“Here” is five acres off
Route 4 near the Killington ski-slopes where backed up against a mountain
of pine, a country inn with bright white shutters beckons. On an evening
in July, the garden is in full bloom and cascading blossoms spill onto the
brick walkway. The entrance leads to a small dining area with ample bar
and big old fashioned fireplace. Beyond in a festively decorated,
brick-floored garden room, chairs are painted sunshine yellow and hanging
plants blur the distinction between inside and out.
And just ahead is the graceful and spacious dining
room whose pink walls have taken on a rosy hue in the early
evening light. Skirted tables stand beside French doors
overlooking the garden or big opened windows, their sheer white
curtains billowing in the breeze. There is also a small dining
area below ground in what originally was a root cellar but today
functions as Hemingway’s wine cellar where a couple of thousand
bottles, largely American and French, are stored.
Linda Fondulas, carnations, and peonies at
Hemingway’s - click to enlarge
The profusion of flowers is
overwhelming - it is like like the late Cecil Bell of the second
generation of ash can school artists.
They are everywhere, artfully arranged in all manner of vases,
bottles, and containers, big bouquets of peonies and carnations,
ivy trailing from the edge of tables down to the floor. As is the
art. “It’s all local,” Linda says, of the eclectic
collection of paintings, water colors and prints, some done by
collected artists like the late Cecil Bell who worked in the Ash
In this enchanting country
setting, Hemingway’s serves sophisticated culinary preparations with
continental overtones but relying on fresh American products: fish that
are running, produce that is being harvested. A tomato consommé made with
chive oil was a stimulating starter.
The fallen goat cheese soufflé with endives where the soufflé is
prepared, allowed to fall, and then popped back in the oven, is a savory
delight that combines a mélange
of herbs with the salty sharpness of the cheese. A crab/scallop cake
topped with valeria sea weed and served with watermelon, mango, tomato,
and corn seemed an unusual mixing; yet the flavors harmonized wonderfully.
halibut and shrimp came with shitake mushrooms and frizzy leeks
that looked like crinkly spaghetti. Prepared in a carrot emulsion sauce
that made the dish a radiant shade of orange, it was an excellent entrée
as was the seared duck breast, sliced and served with spinach,
currants, and pine nuts in a smooth, sweet sauce of Port Madeira and duck
soup. We sampled as well the lightly smoked salmon that had been pan
seared and served with baby artichokes, little tomatoes, and tiny balls of
potatoes which had been scooped out of an Idaho with a melon scooper.
As rhubarb was still fresh in the markets, one of us had confit of
rhubarb and strawberry with lovage gelato while the other went for the
warm chocolate cake with malt ice cream and almonds -- delectable desserts
that were fittingly triumphant conclusions to a memorable meal.
In addition to the regular
menu, Hemingway’s offers a wine-tasting menu that evolved from its
monthly wine tasting dinner that began in the mid 1980’s when American
interest in fine wines was becoming more widespread. Today four wines are
matched to four courses, the last being cheese or dessert. There is also a
feasting menu with smaller portions of a range of courses.
It is altogether a very
impressive operation, and we told Ted as much when he emerged from the
kitchen in his chef’s whites. For many years, he had been out front and
handling the wine. Now he and Linda have reversed roles and he’s doing
the cooking, a role he clearly relishes.
Ted and Linda Fondulas – it’s his turn to be in chef’s whites. - click to enlarge
“How did we do it? Palate
and intelligence, I guess,” said Linda. “If we’re so good,
it’s because we have to be. There has to be a reason to draw
Ted, we learned, is Greek while Linda is Italian, and their
ethnic backgrounds certainly play a role in their passion for good
food. But in terms of initiative, know-how, and confidence –
this is one all-American couple, all the way.
Ernest would be proud.
P.O. Box 337
Killington VT 05751
Phone: 802 422-3886
Photos by Harvey Frommer