BROOKFIELD, Vt. — Ariel’s Restaurant is housed in a mid-19th-century farmhouse that offers seats in a formal parlor, at a table within reach of the bar, or, in season, on a glassed-in porch overlooking a lake. The restaurant, off a dirt road in Brookfield, a town of 1,200 a half-hour south of Montpelier, attracts culinary fanatics.
The restaurant is the creation of chef Lee Duberman and her husband/sommelier, Richard Fink. She was a New York song-and-dance gal, her husband says, and, he adds, “the boss and brains” behind Ariel’s. He was an actor and classical guitarist.
Duberman experiments with mainly local ingredients, but there is strong technique behind it, the result of working as a culinary gypsy — catering for Sardi’s in New York’s theater district, and in the kitchens at Ma Maison in LA and The White House in Vermont. She graduated first in her class at the Culinary Institute of America, and finally found a kitchen of her own. Ariel’s has been open since 1997.
There are typically only five or six entrees on the menu and eight to 10 small plates, all with playful parings. Chicken liver pate comes with caramelized red onion marmalade, another pate comes with watermelon rind and sweet cucumber pickles, Dickie’s croutes, and a maple syrup compote that includes black raspberries, blueberries, and red currants. Vegetable bisteeya, roasted autumn vegetables and quinoa baked in phyllo dough, is one of the popular vegetarian dishes.
The chef draws on “30 years of experience plus a developed palate.” She suspects she has a form of synesthesia, in which someone might experience music as colors or taste food as shapes. “It’s almost like visual arts. Shapes fit into each other like the mustard seed and watermelon rinds. They go together flavor- and texture-wise. I don’t have to taste that to know it can work.”
Her ingredients are relentlessly local. “I buy from six or seven local farmers. Whatever they grow, they tell me at the beginning of the week,” she says. “From spring to October, 85 percent of the vegetables and 75 percent of the meat comes from within a 10-mile radius.”
The chef and the sommelier take a daily 3-mile walk and discuss recipes and dabbling with ingredients. “Richard will stop and all of a sudden he’s in the woods and he’ll come out with a hat full of currants and black raspberries,” says Duberman. The foraged ingredients, which can also include morels, chanterelles, ramps, and wild ginger, make their way into syrups and infusions at the bar or desserts like panna cotta and sauce reductions for meats.
Ariel’s Restaurant 29 Stone Road, Brookfield, Vt., 802-276-3939, www.arielsrestaurant.com. Ariel’s is open in the winter on Fridays and Saturdays, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day (with a prix fixe menu), and New Year’s Eve. Every two weeks in winter, Duberman and Fink host Sunday cooking classes at Green Mountain Girl’s Farm, a nearby B&B, in which participants eat the meal they prepare. Classes are $85 per person.