Wintertime fun is found at Woodstock’s Union Arena.

skatingEdie and I are pretty familiar with ice in all its varied forms about this time of year.  We left sunny southern California in 2001 to move the Woodstock, Killington corner of Vermont and buy the October Country Inn.  We wondered what a Vermont winter was going to be like .  Winter where we grew up wasn’t much different that any other time of year except that the days were shorter.

One day, in response to questions about what to expect from a Vermont winter, a neighbor shrugged his shoulders and said:  “Find something to do, you can’t hide from it.”  We think this is good advice.

hockeyFortunately,  nearby Woodstock has a great resource for winter activities, the Union Arena.  Built on the Woodstock High School grounds in 2003 to fulfill a community need for a place to play indoor ice hockey,  it has since evolved into much more.  Besides ice hockey, the Union Arena is open to the public in the winter months for recreational ice skating, figure skating, and curling.

curlingThe Union Arena is a great resource for the Woodstock and Killington communities.  Even though the Union Arena is located on the Woodstock High School grounds, it wasn’t built nor is it operated with public funds.  It was built with privately donated funds, and is operated as a non-profit organization. The Union Arena operates year-round, offering non-ice platforms for non-winter events and activities, and is available to rent for special events.

So if you should be staying at the October Country Inn sometime this winter (we’d love to meet you), or anywhere in the Woodstock to Killington area, and looking for something to do, check out the Union Arena.  They just might be offering a curling or ice hockey clinic, or figure skating lessons.  Or, lace up a pair of ice skates and get into the Vermont winter spirit.



Local knowledge part 1: Four of our favorite Woodstock / Killington area dining spots.

harrysmealWhen we want to leave our innkeeping duties at the October Country Inn behind, and treat ourselves to a night out, that outing invariably consists of dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants.  Although the rural nature of life in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont might lead one to believe that there would be few gourmet dining options readily available, this is happily not the case.  In this little corner of Vermont, well placed between Killington, and Woodstock, Vermont we’re blessed with an abundance of chef-owned restaurants.  All of them are good, but these four are our favorites.

princeandpauperIn Woodstock, it’s the Prince and the Pauper.  Housed in a turn of the century building down an alley off Elm St. in downtown Woodstock, this quaint, cozy dining room and attached bar features a prix fixe menu.  However, ala carte options are available most of the time.  Ask for the bistro menu.  The Prince and the Pauper is located at 24 Elm St. in the heart of Woodstock, Vermont.  Call (802) 457-1818 for reservations.  We always make reservations well ahead of time.  This place is no secret to the locals, and is often fully booked.

chefbrad(Spring, 2014 Update!  Sadly, Chef Brad’s Fireside has closed its doors.)

Chef Brad’s Fireside is a new version of an old standard (Update:  Chef Brad’s Fireside is no longer open).  For many years, Chef Brad’s Corners Inn was the locals’ go-to spot for a great meal.  Brad left the state for a few years, and showed up again a couple of years ago with a food truck. (see May 5, 2013 post: Chef Brad is back in town and ready to cook for you.)  Starting last Fall, he has recreated his past success with this latest enterprise.  It’s the same great food as before, served in an intimate setting before a huge blazing fireplace.  Chef Brad’s Fireside is located at 4758 Route 100A, in Plymouth, Vermont.  Call (802) 672-1909 for reservations.

HarryscafeHarry’s Cafe is another old favorite of ours that is wrapped in a new location.  Harry’s old place in Mount Holly was a little small so his recent relocation into a bigger space is a good move.  The menu at Harry’s is varied and voluminous.  There are a lot of great food choices ranging from midwestern soul food to far eastern delicacies.  Harry’s new digs are located across the street from the Jackson Gore entrance to Okemo Ski Resort at 68 Route 100 North, Ludlow, Vermont.  Call (802) 228-2996 for reservations.

downtowngroceryThe last of the four,  The Downtown Grocery is a great, husband and wife (Rogan and Abby) owned and operated, bistro type restaurant.  This intimate cafe offers a creative and delicious variety of entrees.  Chef Rogan, a local boy from Weston, Vermont, makes his own pastas, sources fresh, sustainable seafood and cures his own meats in the cellar beneath his inaugural casual fine-dining eatery.  The Downtown Grocery  is located at 41 South Depot St., a short distance up a side street in the heart of Ludlow, Vermont.  Call (802) 228-7566 for reservations.

A paella-like Spanish rice to complement our Mexican dinner’s chicken enchiladas.

sriceHere at the October Country Inn, Mexican night is one of our favorite internationally themed dinners.  Edie and I are both from southern California, and we dearly love living in the Woodstock and Killington area of Vermont, but we really miss the good Mexican food that is so readily available in southern California.  So when we cook our Mexican meal for our guests, we always make sure there’s going to be plenty of leftovers for ourselves.

This particular Spanish rice recipe is very tasty.  It’s colorful and tangy without being spicy. To serve about 6 persons, collect the following ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 plumb tomatoes, seeded, cored and diced
  • 1 cup of rice (we use Uncle Ben’s)
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 2 cups of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
Onion, green pepper, and tomato diced and ready to go.

Onion, green pepper, and tomato diced and ready to go.

Saute the onions, green peppers, and garlic in the olive oil.  To dice the tomatoes, slice off the top enough to expose the seeded core.  Slice the tomato in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the core and the seeds with a spoon.  Dice the remaining meat and skin.  Place the water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Add everything to the pot and return to a boil.  Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes or until all of the free-standing water in the pot has been absorbed.  Season and fluff and serve while hot.  Ole!