The Williams River House: A Picture Perfect Country Getaway by Susan Brent
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!
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
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
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
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 williamsriverhouse.com for a
complete tour of the house and grounds. For reservations call
Recipes compliments of Mark Martins
Bife' a' Portuguesa
4 large rib eye steaks about an inch thick
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 350ºF. 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.
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.