A few months ago, we caught wind of a culinary buzz happening in the hills of Royalton VT (a close neighbor to Worthy Burger and Vermont Law School). Royalton, huh? A mere half hour away from Woodstock VT, we had high hopes for a gastronomic destination closer than say, Waterbury or Burlington. Through social media hints from both Andrew Plotsky and Two Potters, we became acquainted with the venture of Jayne Sully Cole and her husband, Josh Walker. Their vision for an elevated dining hub transformed the 200-year-old Fox Stand Tavern into what is now known as Wild Roots.
Of course, the first step to an extraordinary dinner is atmosphere. You walk into the front door of the large brick colonial, situated amongst a crowd of fluffy white hydrangeas. Rich red walls welcome you into the traditional layout of the space. Upon looking around, you can easily spot a number of Two Potters ceramics, in addition to live edge pieces and antiqued glass vases. It’s evident that Jayne and Josh have made a great effort to update the restaurant. They redesigned the building’s three dining rooms with a new coat of paint, along with a few free standing shelves and potted plants in the windows. Two large canvases in the main dining area and bar pay homage to both the couple’s Colorado roots, as well as their new Vermont setting. The restaurant now resonates modern aesthetic, while also maintaining the building’s rustic charm.
Sitting down with chef Peter Varkonyi was the real treat of the night. We were astounded by the amount of thought and intention that went into each dish. While Peter does not aim for the traditional meat-and-potato meal, he likes to serve food of “quality sustenance.” To do this, Wild Roots looks to utilize as many “CSAs” (community supported agriculture providers/partners) as possible. Peter has created a symbiotic relationship with local farmers on many levels. When a hail storm pelted one farm’s bok choy, for instance, Peter offered to ferment the harvest into kimchi for both the restaurant and the farmer to sell. Another supporter proposed seed harvesting to Peter, which now allows the chef to keep the fruit’s pulp and skin and relay the seeds back to the farm. In addition, Peter purchases whole animals and butchers them himself. This not only lowers the processing cost for the farmer, it also allows the chef to have fun with nose-to-tail dishes. Wild Roots offers an ever-changing menu as the restaurant works through each animal cut. It has come to a point where, Peter says, “Farms are calling with different produce and ideas. One farm just recently reached out selling 30 pounds of garlic scapes.” As such, we were served delicious pickled garlic scapes throughout our meal. This is something we like to call food industry permaculture. Production, distribution, and consumption all occur within a 50-mile radius. Jayne and Josh even have plans to sell ultra local beer, such as Upper Pass Beer Company. Amongst the substantial list of direct supporters, Wild Roots utilizes products from Free Verse Farm, Edgewater Farm (a favorite of our inn’s as well), Stitchdown Farm, and Blue Ledge Farm.
Without a doubt, a food-oriented customer would revel in an evening at Wild Roots. As our knowledgable waitress put it, this restaurant focuses on sharing at the table. Even if you order a supper portion for yourself, we guarantee your fellow diner will want a bite. Moreover, each meal you have at Wild Roots will inevitably differ from the next. Not only does chef Peter have nose-to-tail in mind, but he also excels in preservation. Rather fortuitously, Wild Roots’ opening in April coincided with spring and summer harvest. As we head into autumn, Peter has the chance to utilize the restaurant’s cellar to preserve seasonal produce for service throughout Vermont winter.
We began with Peter’s homemade liver pâté with a layer of chicken schmaltz (a favorite of the chef’s) on top. The creamy, almost whipped texture spread easily atop our toast from Red Hen Baking. Accompanied by delectable provisions such as pickled garlic scapes, mustard seeds, and cucumbers, we knew this meal was off to a fantastic start. We opted for one of the “to share” plates as well. While the “farm share” was incredibly tempting (also highly recommended by the chef himself as a nod to the current week’s harvest), we ordered the relatively smaller heirloom tomato toast. Large slices of Edgewater Farm tomato and thick rasher bacon melted in our mouths. The hint of chili vinegar in this particular dish made for a pop of flavor that kept us going in for more. After a brief chat with Jayne, a Level 2 sommelier (!!), we accompanied our suggested glass of wine with supper. The homemade ricotta gnudi with sweet peas was deliciously satisfying with brown butter, oregano blossoms, and creamed corn – a true ode to the produce of the season! The rabbit atop a bed of grits, steamed okra, and pickled garlic scapes was another winner. Both plates left us full and happy! In our opinion, you certainly get your money’s worth and more at Wild Roots.
We are extremely excited to have a restaurant like Wild Roots a mere 30 minutes away. This eatery undoubtedly earned a place at the top of our recommendation list. Make your reservation today! They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 5pm to 9pm. In addition to their beautiful indoor dining space, you may also dine al fresco on their large back porch (complete with string lights and umbrellas). We look forward to the near future, when Wild Roots will outfit their restaurant with plates and serving pieces from local maker, Two Potters! Also, keep an eye out for collaborations and events with Wild Roots in the near future. We know we will!