In Pittsfield, Vermont, a Gem Behind the Store
From the outside, the Pittsfield Original General Store is indistinguishable from the dozens of country stores that dot Vermont’s Route 100 byway. There’s the inviting front porch, the building’s circa-1888 wooden frame, and signs touting gunpowder, antiques and penny candy.
But look past the Vermont kitsch and you’ll find Vermont-made specialty items like Nutty Steph’s brand granola and Shelburne Farms Cheddar. The deli sells egg-and-cheese sandwiches and maple French toast with caramelized bananas and bacon marmalade.
Wander out the back door and you’ll find the Backroom, a 20-seat restaurant that serves farm-to-table tasting menus paired with serious cocktails, esoteric wines and Vermont nanobrews.
The surprising larder and stellar food are the work of Kevin Lasko, the former chef of Park Avenue in New York. Mr. Lasko and his wife, Katie Stiles, a former restaurant publicist who knows her way around cocktails and desserts, took over the General Store in 2014. The couple competed in obstacle races in Vermont, and the founder of one race owned the general store. When he learned Mr. Lasko was a chef, he asked if he would run the store.
“In our previous trips we’d noticed only a handful of really memorable dining options and a plethora of amazing products,” Ms. Stiles said. “We said we’d take over the store if we could cater the wedding venues he owned and open our own restaurant.”
Last February, the couple introduced the Backroom. It’s open Friday and Saturdays with one set seating a night. The evening starts with snacks and cocktails: a tartare of goat, from nearby Sweet Georgia P’s Farm; drinks, mixed by Ms. Stiles, like A Fine Mes, a combination of mezcal and smoked maple syrup.
In the open kitchen, Mr. Lasko crumbled Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farm over a BLT salad (left). Next came a culotte steak from Boyden Farm topped with a nutty Tarentaise béchamel sauce and sides of sunchokes and leeks. A chocolate mousse spiked with orange-flavored mascarpone (Ms. Stiles’s riff on an orange Milano cookie) had guests begging her for the recipe.
General stores have traditionally been a nexus for communities, and the couple has captured that effect with a dining experience that feels like New England’s coolest dinner party.