It's a brisk, beautiful morning at Twin Farms, where the lightly falling snow sparkles like diamond dust in the early sunlight. Yet despite below-freezing temperatures and gusts of wind, coziness and calm pervade the dining room as guests warm themselves by the fireplace. Taking in the idyllic views from the boutique resort, nestled among 300 acres in the Vermont countryside, it's easy to shed the February funk as you tuck into a hearty breakfast of soufflé-like pumpkin-maple pancakes or poached eggs wrapped in Serrano ham and topped with a creamy swiss cheese pesto.
Dozens of exclusive retreats chase the winter blues away with pastoral settings, spa amenities, and blood-pumping activities, but few take food as seriously as Twin Farms, one of just 37 U.S. hotels in 2007 to get a five-star rating from the highly regarded Mobil Travel Guide. As it does at The Point in Saranac Lake, N.Y., Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., and Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Mont., food takes center stage at this country inn in central Vermont. Almost every morsel is delectable, from the locally made sharp white cheddar in the breakfast frittata to the freshly baked shortbread before bed.
It's not surprising that the adults-only Twin Farms, with an environment that's both luxurious and laid-back, attracts an exclusive clientele looking for a respite from their frenetic lives. For $1,100 to $2,750 a night for two people, including all meals, drinks, activities, and transport from one of the three closest airports—in Lebanon and Manchester, N.H., and Burlington, Vt.—you should expect perfection, and Twin Farms comes pretty close.
The 20 rooms and cabins, all with at least one fireplace, are sumptuously appointed, each in a different motif. The Meadow Cottage, which overlooks the property's private ski slopes, evokes The Arabian Nights with its tented ceiling and intricate mosaic tiles. The Studio has a modern feel, with contemporary furniture and original art by the likes of Roy Lichtenstein from the resort owner's private collection. Inside, guests can take in views of the white-birch forest from the two-story window in the living room or the roomy hot tub on the sunporch.
SKI, SKATE, SOAK
You can work up an appetite or burn off a few calories enjoying the multitude of activities the resort has to offer. In winter you can snowshoe through seven miles of wooded trails, glide across the skating pond, or take the Poma lift up to one of the seven ski runs. For hard-core skiers looking for more of a challenge, Killington is just 30 miles away. Don't know how to ski? The recreation staff will give you a lesson on the slopes or guide you on a snowshoe tour of the property. No need to pack your equipment. Twin Farms has everything from skates to skis.
For those who want something more relaxing, there's always the spa. You'll find the usual assortment of treatments, such as exfoliating salt body scrub ($130) and the personalized facial ($135). The pub, where you can play a friendly game of pool, and the Furo, a giant sunken indoor hot tub, are popular congregating spots. You can even take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh with a blanket and hot cocoa.
Whatever activities you choose during the day, it always comes back to the food. The staff will happily set up a bonfire in a snow-covered clearing so you can warm up as you enjoy a gourmet box lunch during a cross-country skiing expedition. Or have a cheese plate and bottle of wine delivered to your room for a post-massage treat. One possible complaint about Twin Farms is that there's almost too much food. But given the quality and presentation, it's pretty hard to resist.
There are no menus at Twin Farms. Trained at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt., Chef Ted Ask, along with his team, visits local farmers and cooperatives each day to find the best seasonal and organic ingredients available, supplementing them with goodies from afar, such as truffles and Pacific salmon. In winter, Ask also has his pick of squash, pumpkins, fine herbs, and other items from the three-acre farm and greenhouse on the property. Guests can make special requests, but you might as well sit back and enjoy Ask's creativity. For lunch one gray, snowy day, he conjured up a heartwarming turkey chili with black beans, corn tortillas, and charred green peppers, topped with crème fraiche. "We let the ingredients dictate the meals," says Ask.
As you might expect, dinner is the most lavish spread. The evening usually starts in either the sitting room or barn room (formerly a real barn) of the main house, once the retreat of writer Sinclair Lewis and journalist Dorothy Thompson. Order a cocktail from the extensive top-shelf bar while noshing on a crusty bruschetta topped with house-smoked duck and pear mostarda—a salty, sweet surprise.
DESSERTS TO DIE FOR
You can then enjoy your meal in the main dining room or opt for a more secluded spot, such as the romantic wine cellar with its single table for two. Our first course one night featured braised chicken served with a roasted red beet risotto, chèvre-leek compote, carrot drizzle, and apple cider syrup. The sweetness of the dish paired well with a 2001 Flowers pinot noir. The entrée, a savory beef tenderloin with maple-parsnip puree, rainbow chard, rutabaga, shiitake mushrooms, and a tangy red-onion marmalade, was ideal comfort food for the frigid night and went nicely with a bold 2001 Pride Mountain cabernet sauvignon. The chef misfired only once: The lobster and portabello mushroom Napoleon served the previous night could have used more flavoring.
Desserts at Twin Farms are also inspired. With its smooth and crunchy textures, the butterscotch pudding with brown sugar almond streusel, chèvre cream, and a crispy tuille was one of the best. With such decadence, the brochure should have a disclaimer: If you don't plan to be active, expect to go home a few pounds heavier.
By Adrienne Carter