Giving thanks … to the chef

By Becki Trudell

The Thanksgiving holiday is centered around a huge meal and, of course, family. But with the big meal comes hours of preparation — and a great, big mess.

Peeling potatoes, chopping onions, basting a turkey and the inevitable dirty pans and soiled tablecloths are not likely to put a damper on your gratefulness, but they can hinder the relaxation that the Thanksgiving holiday affords.

Fullerton Inn owner Nancy Rugg of Chester prepares a table for a recent weeknight dinner. The inn will be serving a Thanksgiving buffet on Thursday, Nov. 22 from 1 to 4 p.m. / Photos by Cynthia Prairie

Whether you’re visiting to get a head start on the ski season or you live here and just want a stress-free experience, a few restaurants are remaining open for business on Thanksgiving Day, this year, Nov. 22.

In Chester and the surrounding area, there are a few options that allow you to both enjoy your family and also feel at home without the added stress of preparing the Thanksgiving meal and cleaning up afterward. You just may find more time for the finer aspects of the family holiday such as listening to your uncle’s run-of-the-mill jokes and the choosing between red, white or sparkling wines.

Of all the area restaurants called, we were able to put together a list that takes your from breakfast to after-dinner drinks within a short drive.

Beginning with breakfast, the Country Girl Diner, at 46 VT Rt. 103 S., will be open from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. serving its regular seasonal breakfast menu and holiday favorites such as baked goods and pies including pumpkin. And don’t forget that giving is the other part of Thanksgiving. The diner will continue to be a central drop-off spot for donations to New Jersey and New York to help supply families affected by Hurricane Sandy. Holiday items would be much appreciated. For more information, call 802- 875-1003

For a Thanksgiving dinner in Chester, the Fullerton Inn, at 40 the Common will be offering its holiday buffet from 1 to 4 p.m., serving roast turkey with a dried cranberry thyme stuffing, Silver Springs Farms steamship round veal with two sauces, broiled Atlantic salmon and side dishes such as butternut squash and apple-wood smoked bacon mashed potatoes.

A variety of desserts will be offered to round out the feast. The cost is $30 per person and $17 for children 11 and under. For reservations, call 802-875-2444.

Given the success of previous years, the turnout likely will be high. Fullerton Inn owner Bret Rugg said that last Thanksgiving was one of their busiest yet. Still, the Fullerton will close at 4 p.m. “We want (our employees) to … spend time with their families,” he says. “We’re closed Christmas and Christmas Eve for the same reason.”

Fullerton Inn owner Bret Rugg pours a glass of wine in the bar.

Located at 92 Main St. in historic Grafton, the Inn at Grafton will be offering a more formal, sit-down dinner. Seatings are available on the hour from 1 to 6 p.m. Dinners will include entrees such as turkey roulade with sage and cranberry stuffing, prime rib, grilled bone-in pork chops or roasted seitan, a popular wheat-based vegetarian option. Starters range from a roasted pumpkin salad topped with locally made Grafton Village Bear Hill cheese crisp or cheddar ale soup made with Grafton cheddar. A wealth of sides also will be offered, among them candied yams, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. Desserts will range from pumpkin pie to chocolate marble mousse. Local products are used as often as possible. Pricing is $50 per adult and $25 for those and younger. Reservations are required. Call 802-843-2231

 A short trip north to Ludlow, and you’ll find Sam’s Steakhouse, at 91 VT Rt. 103, serving a buffet of Thanksgiving favorites such as the hand-carved turkey, maple-glazed ham, roasted prime rib and baked sole, as well as sides such as garlic mashed potatoes and roasted butternut squash. A full dessert bar is included in the cost of $25 per person. And the restaurant will be serving from noon to 8 p.m. Reservations are recommended, so call 802-228-2087.

If you want to end your holiday out of the house for a nosh and a drink, you can drop in at the Phelps Barn Pub at The Inn at Grafton. The pub will be open from 7 to 9 p.m.

Rugg and Wally Sabotka, owner of Sam’s Steakhouse, agreed that Thanksgiving brings a generally good turnout since tourists are in the area for the start of winter ski season or locals want to leave the cooking up to someone else. “We’re very busy on Thanksgiving — very busy,” said Melissa Gullotti, of the Inn at Grafton.

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