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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.

Hemingway's Restaurant - Hanover, New Hampshire

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 New England. 

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.

Hemingway's - Hanover, New Hampshire - click to enlarge

“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. 

Hemingway's - Hanover, New Hampshire - click to enlarge

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
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 Can School.

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.  

Pan-roasted 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
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 people here.”

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

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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