New This Month

How to Throw a Dinner Party Like a Vermonter

  • Photos by Paola + Murray
  • Text by Catherine Hong

When eight free-spirited makers converge on a farm for a midsummer evening’s meal, a rollicking good time is guaranteed. Everyone pitches in, and every creative element—from the flowers and cocktails to rustic food and plates—is either locally harvested or crafted by hand.

Lives of the Party

These friends are part of a community of farmers and makers, many of whom gravitated to Vermont from around the country for the state’s untouched land, progressive politics, and culture of can-do entrepreneurialism. The guest list says it all.

  • sas stewart stonecutter spirits black and white photo woman

    Sas Stewart is the cofounder of the award-winning local gin-and-whiskey distillery Stonecutter Spirits.

  • britt and matt witt red house black and white photo people

    Matt and Britt Witt are a husband-and-wife team who make waxed canvas bags and soft goods under the name Red House.

  • andrew plotsky rita champion stitchdown farm black and white photo people

    Rita Champion and Andrew Plotsky are the owners of Stitchdown Farm. Champion is a flower farmer and florist, while Plotsky runs a graphic-design studio in addition to farming.

  • david rossiter imhotep black and white photo man

    David Rossiter is a partner in Imhotep, a small design-build firm based in Cornwall. Rounding out the guest list: Jess Messer, the founder of Savouré Soda, an artisanal beverage company; and Martha Mack, Stewart’s director of beverage programming at Stonecutter (and winner of the Vermont Bartender of the Year award in 2015).

  • sas stewart stonecutter spirits black and white photo woman

    Sas Stewart is the cofounder of the award-winning local gin-and-whiskey distillery Stonecutter Spirits.

  • andrew plotsky rita champion stitchdown farm black and white photo people

    Rita Champion and Andrew Plotsky are the owners of Stitchdown Farm. Champion is a flower farmer and florist, while Plotsky runs a graphic-design studio in addition to farming.

  • britt and matt witt red house black and white photo people

    Matt and Britt Witt are a husband-and-wife team who make waxed canvas bags and soft goods under the name Red House.

  • david rossiter imhotep black and white photo man

    David Rossiter is a partner in Imhotep, a small design-build firm based in Cornwall. Rounding out the guest list: Jess Messer, the founder of Savouré Soda, an artisanal beverage company; and Martha Mack, Stewart’s director of beverage programming at Stonecutter (and winner of the Vermont Bartender of the Year award in 2015).

Easy Summer Living

Summer is worth waiting for. That’s one thing you learn when you move to Vermont, a state with famously long winters that dwindle into gray, damp springs punctuated by mud, mud, and more mud. But when mild, sunny days finally arrive, “it’s glorious,” says Sas Stewart, a Detroit native who moved to the area around Middlebury five years ago. “Everything is green and bursting with life, and you want to be outside all the time.”

On a Saturday afternoon in July, Stewart is standing at a counter in the Bethel kitchen of her friend Rita Champion. Stewart is doing what she does best, concocting inventive drinks—in this case, a pitcher of her favorite gin-based summer punch. “It’s easy to throw together,” she says as she reaches for a measuring cup and a bottle of bright-orange Aperol. “And because it’s a little lower in alcohol, you can have a couple of glasses and still play croquet.”

Fresh from the Field

Champion is in the kitchen too, finessing a loose arrangement of poppies, cosmos, lisianthus, sweet peas, and zinnias, all grown here at Stitchdown Farm. In celebration of the season—and the arrival of their first baby any day now—she and her husband, Andrew Plotsky, have invited a group of friends over for an afternoon of lawn games, cool refreshments, and Plotsky’s accomplished home cooking.

Modern Homesteading

“Vermonters have an independent spirit that we share,” says Plotsky. “We love how everybody has a connection to homesteading, whether it’s sugaring or logging or raising pigs.” Plotsky himself is a trained butcher, and for this intimate party, he’s set up his fire pit outside to grill lamb loins, several whole fish, and homegrown vegetables. “In the summer, we’re out of our cocoons, and we definitely socialize more,” says Messer, sampling a spread of local cheeses and fruit laid out on Imhotep cutting boards and a low bench built by Plotsky. “There’s that feeling of, We survived together! We made it!

Sips and Snacks

Cocktails by Stewart: a Victory Garden, composed of Stonecutter whiskey, Laird's applejack brandy, thyme-rosemary syrup, and a sprig of charred rosemary; a gimlet made with Savouré grapefruit-tarragon soda; and vibrant farm punch, a blend of Stonecutter gin, Aperol, Lillet Blanc, and lime juice. Local appetizers include cheeses from Vermont Creamery and Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, crackers from Castleton Crackers and Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps, charcuterie from Vermont Salumi, and fruit.

Home Grown

Whole mint and parsley leaves wake up rice salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta. The twist on tabbouleh enlists brown rice instead of the traditional bulgur.

Live Fire

Coal-roasted vegetables await a drizzle of sorrel green-goddess dressing.

Your New Favorite Cut

Grilled lamb loin is seasoned with a dry rub of coriander, cumin seeds, cinnamon, rosemary, and thyme.

Fish Meets Flames

Whole fish cooks over an open fire to get a crisp, crackly skin.

A Sweet Spot

With its delicate crust and not-too-sweet crumb, lemon-olive oil cake makes an enticing landing pad for macerated berries and whipped mascarpone.