WEATHERSFIELD, Vt. -- The Inn at Weathersfield is easy to miss. The sign from the road is small, and the inn is set far back, on 21 acres of woodland, so that if you're not careful, you can zoom past before you realize your mistake.
What a mistake it would be, because every moment lost in a weekend at this gorgeous country inn is a moment that could have been spent doing absolutely nothing, and doing it well. Luxurious without being stuffy, gracious without being pretentious, and quiet without being isolated, the Inn at Weathersfield feels pretty close to perfect, particularly at such reasonable rates. The delightful restaurant alone makes the place worth a visit for anyone vacationing in southern Vermont.
First impressions can be misleading, but that didn't happen here, where plates of fudgy brownies and crisp cookies and little glasses of sweet-tart hibiscus tea awaited at check-in. Jane Sandelman, who owns the inn with her husband, David, was on the phone taking a reservation, but signaled with a smile that she wouldn't be long. Then she showed me around the place, which was built in 1792 with an addition in the 1890s. With its pine floors, exposed beams, and fireplaces, the inn radiates the sort of warmth that immediately sets a traveler at ease.
I stayed in a room dubbed Kingsley, in the original part of the inn, with its roughhewn floors, sturdy antique cannonball bed, and huge faded Oriental rug. Hand-stenciled patterns run up and down the ivory-colored walls. A little wooden bench sits under the big window, with views straight onto the tree line on the other side of the lawn.
The inn combines a country feel with such luxury amenities as plush robes and slippers, fine linens and featherbeds, powerful showers, and CD players. Some rooms have cable TV, DVD players, and fireplaces, and there's wireless Internet access throughout.
I had little time for surfing the Net. When I wasn't walking about the wooded grounds, stumbling onto a little wooden amphitheater in a clearing, among other things, I was hanging out at the nearby Harpoon Brewery for a barbecue competition. David Sandelman helped me find my way there, sketching the most direct route for today and suggesting a scenic drive for tomorrow.
Jane handled my vague and shifting dinner plans with aplomb. Tired of ale and barbecue when I returned, I was sitting in the tavern waiting for a friend to join me at the table, when Jane brought a lively sauvignon blanc to occupy me. The inn has an impressive wine list, and a beautiful wine cellar, where private parties can dine at a chef's table.
Upstairs, my friend and I indulged in chef Jason Tostrup's celebration of the summer, featuring local products throughout the menu. A spicy tuna tartar came with nasturtium and borage, a relish made of cucumbers and apples, and a tangy black vinegar gelee. An heirloom tomato and arugula salad boasted little black raspberries, baby carrots, and a silky goat cheese dressing. Wild striped bass was perfumed with fennel pollen and set on mussels and ratatouille. The monkfish was wrapped in bacon and deepened by smoky black lentils.
All the while, an elderly pianist tickled out lovely versions of ''Misty" and ''I Only Have Eyes for You" as candlelight flickered throughout the dining room. The loud exclamations of an etiquette-challenged diner nearby threatened to pierce our tranquillity, but we managed to keep our focus on the sounds and tastes before us.
In the morning, I made a bleary-eyed beeline for the coffee, then sat at one of the small breakfast tables. Thankfully, I wouldn't have to engage in precaffeinated conversation with strangers. Instead, in this light-filled room, I scratched the head of the little black dog that came tumbling out of the dining room with a ball in its mouth, and gazed at the little stone patio on the other side of the tall windows.
Just as at dinner, the breakfast menu emphasizes local farms and their products, so when it came time to choose, I didn't hesitate: Eggs, please. When they're this fresh, and treated this carefully but simply, there's nothing better.
Contact Joe Yonan at email@example.com.
The Inn at Weathersfield 1342 Route 106 (Boston Globe)