Side Dishes: A "great Scots" meal in the Mad River Valley
The Green Mountain Opera Festival  threw itself a classy — and culinary — fundraiser Sunday evening at Waitsfield’s Round Barn . In addition to a short program of selected tunes performed by soprano Lori Phillips  and bass Erik Kroncke , the Round Barn’s Cooking From the Heart  caterers served up a Scottish dinner. The seemingly unusual choice was inspired by the GMOF’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor , coming up in June at the Barre Opera House. The Donizetti work is set, of course, in a Scottish castle.
The rafters of the Round Barn don’t exactly recall chilly stone turrets, and that’s a good thing; the circular expanse was filled with white-linened tables elegantly appointed with flowers and candles. Happily, the dinner experience didn’t reflect the opera’s tragedy, either. The well-portioned three-course menu began with Cullen Skink. The classic Scottish chowder with house-smoked Finnan Haddie (haddock) was fragrant, perfectly seasoned and creamily delicious.
Next came Scotch Pie, a lamb-and-beef mincemeat concoction topped with “mashed tatties” and horseradish sauce. Though the pastry was rather stiff, the filling was delicately flavored with a pleasingly smooth texture. The sauce gave the dish a wee bite.
Dessert — a Warm Pear and Whisky-Spiked Trifle — was architecturally impressive, with layers of rosemary and sea-salt Scottish shortbreads, bits of poached pear, melted chocolate, and rich Vermont mascarpone. The stack collapsed at the touch of a fork, however, as the shortbreads were hard and the other ingredients mushy. I would have welcomed a tad more chocolate — or, for that matter, pear.
It’s a small quibble about an engaging menu that I was relieved to learn did not include Scotland’s most notorious dish, haggis, or require me to wear plaid.