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Cask & Kiln: A Lounge for Any Season or Occasion

The ribbon drive across the bottom of Vermont on Route 9 stretches from the Green Mountain State’s border with New York in Bennington, to where it meets New Hampshire in Brattleboro. It climbs mountains, passes lakes, and runs alongside rivers and the beautiful Harriman reservoir. There’s access to camping, state parks, ski and golf meccas and more, making it a great, active way to experience Vermont in 46 miles. It’s the perfect weekend road trip.There are few interruptions, the most notable being the small town of Wilmington, where anyone visiting southern Vermont should stop for dinner at Cask & Kiln Kitchen. While there is fine dining offered downstairs, head upstairs to the lounge after your active day.

Within a few miles of Cask & Kiln there is swimming, boating, hiking, golf, fishing and skiing. That makes this the ultimate spot no matter the time of year. Wilmington’s small downtown is home to several shops including The Vermont Bowl Company, multiple used book stores, antiques shops and boutiques—don’t be surprised by its small size and low population—you can spend several hours checking out all there is to offer.

Cask & Kiln takes reservations by phone for larger parties. Be sure to familiarize yourself with their cancellation policy; it’s strict. For upstairs we’ve never made a reservation. We’ve also never had to wait. That said, we generally go on the earlier side and it does fill. It’s never a bad idea to call! The restaurant also expects diners to arrive on time for their reservations so take note: there is no parking on site. Park west of the intersection of Routes 9 & 100 on 9 (parking is limited on both the north and south sides of the street) (A) or turn onto 100 South where there is a free parking lot (B). It’s a very short walk from either parking choice.
We arrived around 6:30 and immediately headed upstairs. Downstairs, including the entryway (where you’ll also find one set of bathrooms) is bright and open with lots of white and antique metal in the decor. The open staircase is lined with mirrors and portraits in mismatched metal frames, mixing modern and classic old Vermont style: it’s beautiful (check out Cask & Kiln’s Instagram!). Upstairs has a completely different aesthetic. It’s all about brick, dark wood and mirrors. And it works.

There is bar seating, overlooking a well-stocked and appointed bar where cocktails are crafted expertly. Or, diners can choose from couches or low-top tables that ring the exterior wall. There is also a bar with stools alongside the eastern exterior wall. There’s a cool 40s vibe but with all of the modern conveniences. And while 40s-esque bars can often be cluttered, Cask & Kiln is not. It’s the perfect balance of big, super-stocked bar and chic lighting with spare decorations otherwise. This perfect balance is present in everything Cask & Kiln has to offer.

We were greeted by Avery, who is incredibly friendly and super knowledgeable about the menu and wine list. She’s also a lot of fun. She has been assigned to our table every time we come—fine with us! We started with one cocktail each.

Kris got the super fresh Prince Hapnick (left). Served on the rocks in a tall glass, it’s Havana rum, muddled tarragon, simple syrup, fresh lime and a splash of soda. It wowed us from the first sip: smooth, super grassy with a nice lightness from the soda. Despite being layered with flavors (citrus, herb) it wasn’t overpowering at all. Very light. Very refreshing. I’d imagine very dangerous, too! There’s no booziness here.

I enjoyed the more alcoholic Hannibal 8, a mix of 1800 Reposado tequila, ancho reyes, creme de cacao, lemon and nutmeg, served in a short glass on the rocks. To start, this is round and punch-like but quickly the tequila comes to the front before a long finish with balanced spice: both heat and the earthiness of the nutmeg. Both cocktails were excellent.

Cask & Kiln Kitchen, always has a flatbread on the menu. Avery walked us through the current iteration: tomato sauce, red onion jam, mozzarella, arugula and fried chicken. We knew the chicken was good (one of us usually gets the fried chicken sandwich) so that made up our minds. We also switched to a bottle of wine.

The glass and bottle lists at Cask & Kiln Kitchen are phenomenal. They cover all of the price points, regions and styles and have an impressive selection of bubbles. No matter what you like, chances are it’s on there. We usually get a bottle of Austrian Grüner Veltliner when we visit but we wanted red to go with the snow and chilly weather a little better. Wouldn’t you know it? They had a bottle from Roussillon, what I believe to be a much under-appreciated and offered French wine region. We got the Saint Roche Chimères, a Grenache. Wine service was excellent thanks to Jack who had the whole thing down, even a nice somm pour (and he’s not a somm!). They serve reds in glasses with gigantic bowls. Hooray!

As expected, the flatbread was incredible. 

The crust was crisp on the edges with areas that were light and—dare I use this term to refer to pizza crust?—fluffy. And I mean this in a really good way. It was so light! But still held up without getting mushy. The onion jam grounded the flatbread with a nice umami base that was neither cloying in flavor, nor was it mushy or a textural turnoff in any way. The chicken was battered beautifully, light on the salt and texture which made it the perfect topping. Fried chicken can be dense or oily. Not this stuff. I especially appreciate that the arugula is very obviously popped on right before leaving the kitchen. I hate hot, sweaty greens. None of those here!

As I mentioned earlier, we always end up with a fried chicken sandwich. They’ve changed up the menu and the chicken sandwich is perfect for winter with sweet potato spread on the bottom bun, a perfectly battered and fried breast, red onion marmalade and maple chipotle butter on a challah bun. It is served with a nice helping of green salad tossed in mango dressing. The onion marmalade and sweet potato spread were a great complement to the chicken and gave it a real wintery flavor. Despite being huge, the toppings don’t get out of hand: no messy sandwich here! The salad is a great accompaniment with the mango dressing overing a nice, bright zip of flavor.
For the first time we got the signature Cask & Kiln burger. Made with Boyden Farm Beef and topped with cheddar, maple aioli and a sunnyside up egg on challah, we didn’t eat many of the pommes frites that came with it. That’s okay, they’re good but kind of standard fare. The egg is far more cooked than what I think of when thinking sunnyside and this is great because you get the great flavor of yolk without a mess and absolutely zero egg white runniness. This is how all eggs should be cooked. We’ve never ordered this because the idea of a fried egg on a burger sounds messy. Not at Cask & Kiln. The maple aioli adds sweetness that works in perfect contrast with the salt from the cheese and the beef is nicely seasoned and cooked perfectly. Go with medium if you like medium rare, the sear they put on this sucker is divine and the burger is perfectly juicy with plenty of pink.

Cask & Kiln has a la carte sides, perfect for sharing among friends or to enhance your meal. We got the mac ‘n cheese. You know how some mac ‘n cheese is just congealed in thick sauce and poorly melted cheese with pools of oil? Yeah, this is not that. The sauce is really light! Not that there’s not enough of it, there is, but it’s also lightweight. Not watery. And huge on flavor including a nice tart strike that I have to believe is either from white wine, lemon juice or mustard. Whatever it is, it cuts through the fat of the dish perfectly. This mac ‘n cheese will not overwhelm the palate. There’s a sprinkling of seasoned bread crumbs browned in butter on the top that give the dish the perfect amount of crunch. The noodles are soft but not mushy and because they are cooked beyond al dente, the dish stays light.

For dessert we ordered the salted caramel crème brûlée. It came with dried apples, a perfect match for this autumnal version. While the custard was absolutely to die for: rich, flavorful and delightfully salty, the crust was a bit much: too thick and too charred. The char flavor detracted from the custard and also required the use of a toothpick for a considerable amount of the drive home. That said: we ate nearly all of the custard so clearly it wasn’t that bad. 

We also had the whoopie pie which was incredible. The cake was light and fluffy with a nice cocoa flavor without being too sweet. Filled with cream cheese there wasn’t an overwhelming sweetness I find in most cream-sandwich desserts and the raspberries also kept things interesting.

I recommend Cask & Kiln to couples and groups (large groups can sit in the dining room but order off the menu; see the reservations/cancellations page) looking for a fun night out where the food can be the star of the show even if things get awkward. It’s that good. Also, the upstairs is off limits to kids (families who wish to dine with children can eat off the lounge menu downstairs in fine dining) so it’s the perfect date night spot. The next time you’re hitting the slopes, taking a dip at Harriman Reservoir or partaking in any of the other outdoor or indoor activities within a stone’s throw, balance out that activity with a visit to the lounge upstairs at Cask & Kiln.

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