I hate being cooped up in my apartment all day, so I decided to drive up to Williston, Vermont, to have lunch yesterday. I realized once I started up there that the restaurant (Texas Roadhouse—I love their rolls) I had planned to go to (my boss had given me a gift certificate for it as a Christmas present) was not open for lunch during the week. However, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. I decided I’d go to 99 Restaurant. If you’ve never heard of 99 Restaurants, they are a New England staple. The food is pretty good too, and I’ve been to the one in Williston enough that the hostess takes me straight to what she refers to as my “usual table.” They are really nice, but while I like the food, it’s the music that I love. They always play ‘90s rock music, which is the music of my high school and college days. I always get their Country Fried Chicken. The first time I had it, I thought the gravy was odd, but it’s grown on me. Anyway, on my way up there, I decided I really didn’t want the Country Fried Chicken, so I decided I’d go to Chili’s and have their Chicken Enchilada Soup, one of my favorites. I got to Chili’s and realized that the parking lot was full, and if there was not parking, there would be no tables available.
Since Chili’s, Ninety-Nine, and Texas Roadhouse we’re all out of the question, I decided to go to Vermont Tap House. Vermont Tap House, as the name implies, has a large selection of beers and hard ciders, but I wasn’t in the mood for alcohol. They also have a large selection of wood-fired pizzas along with appetizers, sandwiches, and salads. I usually get their buffalo chicken pizza. While not a traditional pizza, it is pretty good. As I was waiting on a table, I saw their dessert menu (now we get to the point of this post). They had Maple Creme Brûlée, Chocolate Mousse, Death by Chocolate Cheesecake, Tap House Dough Bites (fried dough balls covered in cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar), and Bread Pudding (ask for the flavor of the day). When I finished my pizza, I asked for the dessert menu and decided to ask about the Bread Pudding. Being from the South, I’ve had a lot of bread pudding, so I was a little skeptical about how well a Vermont restaurant would make bread pudding. My waitress told me that the bread pudding this week was a Chocolate Stout Bread Pudding topped with Toasted Oak Ice Cream and Candied Pecans. It sounded a bit unusual (What flavor is “toasted oak” anyway?) but also intriguing, so I thought, what the hell, I’ll give it a try. Thank God I did. It was wonderful.
The bread pudding was soft and creamy on the inside with a layer of delicious chocolate on the bottom and just a little crunchy on top to give it a contrasting texture. I’ve never had ice cream on bread pudding. Usually, it’s a warm bourbon or rum sauce. The ice cream was a perfect complement. I can’t describe what flavor toasted oak is, but it had a light brown color like a coffee ice cream and had a hint of vanilla. The rest of the flavor was indescribable but delicious nonetheless. There was nothing left when I was finished, and I usually don’t eat all of a dessert unless it is creme brûlée. When my waitress came by to check on me, I did something I never do, I told her to tell whoever made the bread pudding that it was truly delicious. It told her that I was from the South and had eaten my fair share of bread pudding and this ranked as one of the best. She was very pleased to hear it and told me she’d tell their pastry chef. The pastry chef only comes in once a week, and when she does, she prepares all the desserts for the week. My waitress said that she didn’t think she was in today, but she’d definitely give her the message. She said she’d be thrilled to hear it.
I did not have high hopes for a Vermont bread pudding, but it far exceeded anything I would have imagined. The best bread pudding I’ve ever had was at Stonewall’s BBQ in Oak Grove, Mississippi. Many places make bread pudding with whatever bread is available. Stonewall’s made theirs with cinnamon rolls and drizzled it with a delicious white icing. Nothing else ever came close to their bread pudding until the Chocolate Stout Bread Pudding topped with Toasted Oak Ice Cream and Candied Pecans I had yesterday. I don’t often brag about food I’ve eaten in Vermont. I think some of y’all already know how I feel about Vermont “cuisine,” but when I find something good, it’s worth writing about. This bread pudding was worth writing about.