Restaurant Critique: Hemingway's

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Ski Life Eats Hemingway's

Killington, VT.

Ted Fondulas on architectural cuisine: "I'd pick taste over presentation any time. With poke-you-in-the-eye dishes, you can end up sacrificing flavor in order to create." On laundry lists of ingredients: "Why use 10 ingredients when four will suffice?

Food is about balance and harmony, not just throwing a lot of things into a dish." And on too many cooks in the kitchen: "Good restaurants are governed by a single palate. Everything from the food to the wine list to the service is a reflection of the person in charge."

At Hemingway's, owner-chef Fondulas is the person in charge. Along with his wife, Linda, he saw potential in the historic 1860s house (a former stagecoach stop) that hosts his restaurant. And he chose to bring daring, French-inspired cuisine-rabbit, sweetbreads, whole baby lamb-to Killington, back when even skiers from Boston and New York wanted mostly traditional fare.

Fueled by a lifetime of experience that began in his grandfather's upstate New York restaurants and extended to kitchens in New Hampshire, Maine and California, Fondulas, 52, says his inspiration came from traveling throughout Provence, France, dining in local restaurants and "nosing around" in their kitchens. In 1982, he decided it was time to settle down and open his own restaurant in "a place that wasn't a city." Killington fit the bill.

Today, Fondulas serves food that reflects his singular palate in an elegant setting that includes three old-world (albeit filled with a collection of abstract art) dining rooms: the stone Wine Cellar, the brick-walled Garden Room and the dramatic Vaulted Room. Sticking "close to the bone" with locally raised and grown products, he presents seared diver scallops with corn, chives and a hint of vanilla, and rack of lamb with a zucchini, fennel and wild-mushroom timbale. Homemade morel, shiitake and chanterelle-filled ravioli is finished with duck and truffle consommé. Pheasant, house-aged, may end up in strudel or as confit.

"Cooking is not just a job," Fondulas says. "Every day I focus on the idea that when someone comes in, it might be the only time-and they deserve the best."