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Chester Vermont Inn The Williams River House
397 Peck Road · Chester, Vermont 05143 · 802-875-1790


Tastes of New England Issue: April 2005

The Williams River House: A Picture Perfect Country Getaway by Susan Brent

Publisher’s Note: The Williams River House is a very special B & B, offering many extra little luxuries you will not find at most B & Bs. As you read this article, you will understand why we felt it belonged on our New England Getaway page – it ranks as a resort in our eyes!

In four short years Inn owners Mark Martins and Geoffrey Brown have created one of the most comfortable, elegant and inviting guesthouses in Vermont. With a love of old New England and its architecture, the men started their search for a property that not only would become a successful business but a home as well.

Their fondness for the outdoors and love of gardens and landscaping made having a large piece of workable property also a must. Chester, Vermont is where their dream became a reality. There they discovered a 1780 brick Colonial farmhouse for sale. It already had some of its much-needed renovations done, bringing the stately home back to its original beauty and condition. They knew they had found what they were looking for.

In the past the property had once been a working farm and offered 46 lush acres of wide green meadows, woodlands and rivers. Although the property had no finished landscaping to speak of or interior design work completed, Mark and Geof knew they had the beginnings of something special.

Both hard working do it yourselfers, they rolled up their sleeves and jumped in with both feet. Mark said, "We wanted to start from scratch and develop the business ourselves. That's why we didn't purchase an already existing Inn. We wanted our signature on everything we did, from the interiors and landscaping to the foods we'd prepare and serve. We also want to attract and embrace the kind of guests that would appreciate the effort put into everything we would do and offer."

The men designed and created gardens, walkways, stonewalls and terraces, including a stonewall-enclosed terrace with a large fire pit and woodland garden. Geof has several more projects on the drawing board to begin this year, including formal eighteenth century herb, flower and vegetable gardens.

The interiors of the home have been painted rich warm historic colors and the original wide wooden floors have been stained and polished. Custom window treatments adorn the mullioned windows. Canopy beds, oriental carpets, antiques and artwork fill the rooms.

The owners did nearly all the work. Anything they are capable of physically doing, they do. There is a sense of pride and satisfaction in their work with good reason. It's beautiful. The Williams River House has three bedroom suites. The suites are elegant and tastefully decorated; each has a private bath and sitting area and two have working fireplaces. The Essex Suite has a large deck with table, chairs and a hammock over looking the valley. The East India Suite has its own reading room with working fireplace and mountain views. Hawthorne Cottage, on the first floor, has a lovely stone terrace with a potted garden all to itself.

The common areas are plentiful inside and out, including a greenhouse that serves as a conservatory where tropical plants and plenty of warm sunshine await you; one can't help exploring and enjoying this unique Inn and its grounds.

The adventurous guest will find lots of recreation right on the property. During fair weather there is biking, hiking, fishing, bocce, croquet and picnicking; the winter offers cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and ice-skating. Downhill skiing is just 20 minutes away at one of Vermont's best mountain resorts, Okemo. Manchester is only 35 minutes away and has fabulous shopping.

Indoor recreation is the great food and good wine, which are always in abundance here. Both men enjoy cooking and prepare a wide variety of recipes, many of which are their own. A Williams River House cookbook is sure to be in the near future. They grow much of their own heirloom vegetables and herbs from seed and hope to be raising chickens soon. When you arrive for your weekend getaway, a warm meal of homemade hearty soup or maybe some spicy chili is there to greet you, along with a roaring fire and glass of wine.

Afterward you may want to climb into the generous hot tub right outside the tavern, making your long drive just a faded memory. The Tavern is a fairly new addition to the Inn and for Williams River House guests only. There you can enjoy a cocktail, play the piano, watch television or maybe have a friendly game of cribbage.

In the heart of this elegant farmhouse the gourmet kitchen reigns supreme with a fireplace and large soapstone island. Guests are welcome and encouraged to sit with a glass of wine and enjoy watching some of the house specialties being prepared. Many of the food specialties are hearty ethnic dishes from recipes passed down to Mark from his Portuguese grandmother. "I grew up cooking by her side and she, like many grandmothers, was a great cook,” says Mark. Visitors not familiar with Portuguese cuisine are in for a real treat. One of Geof's signature breakfasts is his Black and Blueberry Belgian Waffles, light and airy, golden and crispy - they alone are worth the trip here. The guesthouse is perfect for small groups (6-10) traveling together because they can rent the entire place and that always makes for a fun time.

The Williams River House is also host to weddings, civil unions and other celebrations throughout the year. The house and surroundings are a wonderful setting for any type of gathering. The owners have come a long way in the four years since starting their Vermont adventure and feel that this is just the beginning. When asked how they manage to put so much effort and work into their home and business in such a short period of time, their response was "Passion. We have a desire and drive to create something special for both ourselves and our guests."

As time passes, this guesthouse will only get better and better. Plans for the future include a new barn for functions, a large grape arbor with an outdoor kitchen, a wood burning stone pizza oven and that's just for starters!

You'll find this statement on their website and calling card: "Williams River House; a guesthouse of exceptional quality, dedicated to good times and fine living." Having stayed there myself, I couldn't agree more. Both men are gifted with a sincere warmth and charm and have a natural talent for entertaining. They love to give tours and tell stories about the house and have a genuine way of making you feel right at home. They asked if they could thank all the wonderful guests they have had in the past and who have become friends and frequent visitors. They also said they could not have accomplished this undertaking without the help and support of all their friends and family who share in their dream. The Williams River House is located at 397 Peck Road in Chester, Vermont. Visit their website at for a complete tour of the house and grounds. For reservations call 802-875-1790.

Recipes compliments of Mark Martins

Bife' a' Portuguesa

(Portuguese Beefsteak)


4 large rib eye steaks about an inch thick

4 eggs

4 large cloves of garlic (chopped)

8 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil

4 bay leaves

1 cup dry white wine

4 TBSP. Dijon mustard

1 cup heavy cream

Fresh ground course black pepper

*Have a small skillet with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil put aside and ready to fry the eggs. You'll want to do this quickly when the steaks and sauce are done.

To prepare steaks and sauce:

Preheat your oven to 350F. Put olive oil, chopped garlic and bay leave in a large skillet, on very low heat to infuse the garlic and bay leaves into the oil. This takes 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile pat the steaks down on both sides with freshly ground coarse black pepper. Be generous with the pepper - it adds a nice crust to the steak. Raise the heat under the skillet to medium high and brown the steaks on both sides in the oil, garlic and bay leaves. After browning, place the steaks in an ovenproof baking dish and place in oven to finish cooking. The steaks are finished cooking in the oven while you make the sauce. Your steaks should only take about 10-15 minutes for medium rare.

To make the sauce deglaze the skillet with the wine and reduce about 1/3 just to cook the alcohol out, and then add the mustard and cream. Whisk it all together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Fry your eggs over easy in the frying pan with oil.

Place each steak on a heated plate and top with the over easy eggs; then spoon the sauce over each. Traditionally this dish is served with Portuguese style fried potatoes. I usually fry more than one egg per serving because guests love this dish and enjoy the eggs and how they complement the steak and sauce. You may want to have extra eggs ready to go and crusty bread ready for dipping in the sauce. Serve with a nice Merlot or a Portuguese green wine.

Portuguese Style Fried Potatoes

6 Russet potatoes

Quart of olive oil (does not have to be extra virgin)

*You can use vegetable oil if you wish or a mix of the two oils.

Coarse salt

Peel potatoes and slice in rounds like chips about 1/8 inch thick. Heat oil in a deep skillet at medium high heat until the oil quivers. Fry potato slices until golden brown. Fry in small batches to keep the heat of the oil consistent. Take them out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or brown bag and salt to taste.


Please email us at:

397 Peck Road • Chester, Vermont 05143