Julie's Café and Julio's Wood-Fired Pizza
West Dover, Vt.
A passion for hot peppers and pastry diverted Julie Wilson from a career in nursing to one as a restaurateur. At Julie's Café, she has developed a new form of cuisine: Italian/Tex-Mex. Don't scoff. The hybrid works amazingly well in the wild mushroom crostini ($4.95) that comes zapped with a dab of chipotle adobo sauce. It's no less apparent in a chunk of seasoned, grilled salmon that meets its ideal mate in a sprightly fig salsa ($16.95).
Unassuming from the outside, this little roadhouse near Mount Snow packs an interior of considerable panache with its dramatic open kitchen and a deli counter, where the knockout desserts, such as volcanic mud pie, cocoa-dusted tiramisu and light lemon macaroon pie, reside.
With the cafe's success, Wilson recently opened Julio's Wood-Fired Pizza next door, where the organic pies range from classic tomato-and-cheese to the Southwestern, a pie decked with black beans and green chiles. Guests are also welcome to design their own pies.
Information: South of Mount Snow on Rte. 100 in West Dover, Vt.; (802) 464-2078.
Road Kill Cafe
At the Road Kill Cafe (motto: "Where the food used to speak for itself"), your server may sit down at your table while taking your order, the chef may come out of the kitchen and growl, and the decor is, well, eclectic. But this popular operation, with its original location in Greenville, Maine, is opening new restaurants throughout the state and in New Hampshire ski country.
Skiers like the reasonably priced food and the all-in-fun attitude. Where else can you order such delicacies as Bye Bye Bambi Burgers, including the Skunk Breath and the Interstate Pile-Up; Brake and Scrape sandwiches, such as The Chicken That Didn't Make It Across the Road; or a Soup Du Jour described as "what the UPS man found on his way here"? Nightly specials, the menu notes, depend "upon road conditions, average highway speed and the intensity of state police radar traps."
And it pays to remember the Road Kill warning: "Never assume it's a raisin."
Information: In Maine, Greenville (207) 695-2230; Rangeley (207) 864-3351. In New Hampshire, Bartlett (603) 374-6116; Laconia (603) 524-4700; North Woodstock (603) 745-8533. Open daily from 11:30 am for lunch and dinner. Reservations not accepted. As the menu says, "If you have reservations, you shouldn't eat here."
Dinner on this continent doesn't get more romantic or rich with foreign flavor than at Aux Truffles. Although the village setting at the base of Tremblant is Old Quebec, the food, created by chef and part owner Pier Cousineau, is creative French. When you hunger for something special, Aux Truffles delivers. The atmosphere is elegant and intimate, without being stuffy; the service is attentive at a leisurely pace.
The five-course menu includes entrées such as rack of caribou with mustard and rosemary sauce, duck breast roasted in balsamic vinegar and served with blueberry confit and loin of lamb served with almonds and citrus compote. There is always a fish of the day and a chef's choice. As is French custom, salad or a cheese plate are served after the entrée. Foie gras, a house specialty, is well represented on the á la carte menu.
Feeling adventurous? Try the "La Table du Chef Pier," a six-course selection of the chef's specialties. Choose a table near the paned-glass windows to watch the promenade of passers-by or to look out over the lower village. On a wintry night, ask for a fireside table for added warmth and romance. Prices are steep but worth the splurge, and the Canadian exchange rate provides a sharp discount. Reservations are highly recommended. Open daily 6-10 pm.
Information: Tremblant Village, Quebec, Canada; (819) 681-4544.
Stoneham Resort, Quebec
Only in Quebec, where joie de vivre reigns supreme, can an elegant dining room transform into a campfire-like setting.
At Le Praliné at Stoneham Resort, you can feast on Cajun marinated alligator ($28.95) or scallops wrapped in seaweed ($19.95), while being serenaded by a guitar and trumpet duo. Entertaining weekend patrons for their fourth year, the roving musicians play a wide assortment of tunes from Carol King and the Jackson Five to a Spanish and French repertoire, fulfilling nearly every request that launches their way. As flakes fall on the lit slopes of the largest night skiing resort in Canada and scented candles glow at each table, the trumpet player manages to hit high notes softly. Yet inevitably, before dessert, the refined room becomes a rollicking sing-along cavern.
Named after a type of nut, Le Praliné began as a steak house 13 years ago, but took on its nouveau soufflé-literally "new breath"-when Diane Guillot took over as restaurant director three years ago. She changed the menu and decor, stole a chef from a French restaurant in Old Quebec, expanded the wine selection and signed up musicians to top off the ambiance. Indeed, Guillot herself is carried away by festivities on many occasions, lifting her voice in renditions of female vocalists.
Last year, the international menu presented duck with blueberry sauce ($18.75), sweetbread with mushrooms ($19.95), horse tartare ($18.75) and rabbit paté ($5.95), among its offbeat fare. The wine list presents 60 choices and-new this year-a private reserve of more than a dozen vintages will also be available at prices ranging from $35 to $120 a bottle.
Information: Le Praliné, Stoneham Resort, 1420 avenue du Hibou, Stoneham, Quebec, G0A 4P0; (800) 463-6888 or (418)848-2411. Open daily for breakfast and dinner.