The romance of cheese pie
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BY MAT CLOUSER
GOSHEN — The intrepid one-time chef and full-time bon vivant, Anthony Bourdain, who would have turned 66 years old over the weekend, once said, “you have to be romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.” If he’d ever had the good fortune to make it to the Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen, he’d likely have amended that statement to include cheese pies, as well.
Sitting in the shade beside a cool pond nuzzled by trees and a flowering mountain meadow sounds romantic—and it is. It shouldn’t be too hard to imagine music in the air, maybe even from a band with a poetic-sounding name, such as Bread and Bones. Nearly everything in Goshen during the summertime is romantic, it seems. But it’s not exactly the place one thinks to find a wood-burning oven delivering some of the finest pizza anywhere.
And yet, this summer marks the second year in a row that killer pies have flown alongside the hawks and dragonflies atop Blueberry Hill. What’s more, the musical acts accompanying the show-stopping pizza feature Vermont musicians who are showstoppers in their own right—artists like Bloodroot Gap, Matt Flinner, and—yes—Bread and Bones, among others.
Running from June through September, Pizza by the Pond offers all-you-can-eat pizza and a concert every other Thursday and Friday night from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. (music from 6 to 8)—weather permitting—for a tax-inclusive fee of $35 per person (free for kids under five).
The menu features a rotating array of pizza—including options for vegans, vegetarians, and the gluten-averse—and complimentary lemonade and ice tea, as well as salads and desserts for an additional charge.
Even those raised at the altar of the holiest American pizza parlors like Frank Pepe’s of New Haven, Conn, think Blueberry Hill’s pie is divine. “The pizza is some of the best around,” said current Leicesterian and New Haven native Tom Russell, wiping a festuche of cheese from his mouth during Friday’s event.
Most ingredients come from local farms, such as Middlebury’s Elmer Farm and New Haven’s Misty Knoll. Even Republic of Vermont’s maple syrup is used in their salad dressings.
Some ingredients are hyperlocal, coming from Ripton’s Mountain Yard Farm and Goshen’s Icehouse Farm (the Inn is on Goshen-Ripton Road, after all), and the herbs were snipped from the Inn’s garden.
Two of this year’s pizzaiolos, Hannah Callaway and Cavan Curran, take their work and lifestyle seriously. The self-described vagabonds have been traveling recently throughout the Northeast trying different pizzas, picking grapes with local vintners, and engaging in that most romantic pastime—making cheese.
Curran, who has a history of making pizza in less romantic settings such as State College, Penn, said that experience taught him to make pizza well—or else. “Drunks don’t have much patience,” he said, laughing.
Innkeeper Shari Brown, no stranger to romance herself, said she showed up at the inn around 1986 as a guest and hasn’t left. Though the inn has long held special dinner events, Brown said the current outdoor food and music programming began during the pandemic. Not only has it been more fun than their traditional 4-course meals, she said, but it’s also held to a higher purpose.
“Folks were looking for something to do outside,” she said. “Our [other] offerings had been so specific to travelers. It was nice to reconnect with the community.”
Brown said the installation of the wood-burning oven was something she’d been thinking of for years because she’d finally been able to do it via grant money that she’d obtained through an anonymous donor in Middlebury who specialized in helping fund small restaurants. As for the decision to make pizza, Brown said, “Pizza is just popular. It brings people together.”
The inn limits its Pizza by the Pond attendees to 80 guests per night, and while Brown says they will accept walk-ins as space allows, guests are strongly encouraged to make reservations through the website as the dinners frequently sell out. The ticketing process for each week opens on the Monday prior to the event.
Brown, whose gentle dog Remy can be found patrolling the grounds, lazing in the grass, and taking the occasional dip in the pond, says other dogs are welcome to attend the dinners. However, she says, unlike Remy, they must always remain on a leash, lest too much added commotion spoils the romance.
*A complete list of Pizza by the Pond’s performers and a link to reserve tickets can be found online at https://www.blueberryhillinn.com/pizza.