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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

Vermont-based Adventure Dinner facilitates connection through unique dining experiences

Sitting down for a meal with others, especially with strangers, inevitably encourages an element of community amongst the group. Vermont-based business Adventure Dinner strives to foster this connection with unique dining experiences throughout the state.

The business hosts a variety of “adventures,” totalling around 100 events a year. These range from public ticketed dinners to public pop-ups and private celebrations. 

“One of the tenets of our philosophy is connection,” Sas Stewart, founder of Adventure Dinner, told The Campus. “We do structure the events very gently to facilitate connection for folks who are coming who are looking for that.” 

While the events are held throughout the entirety of Vermont, many take place in Addison and Chittenden Counties. The business will always have roots in Vermont, due to the strong interconnected community of food and drink lovers that reside in the state, according to Stewart. 

Every public dinner takes a year to plan, as Stewart aims to ensure that each dinner has a localized focus with regard to local food and drink as well as a particular location. The process begins with an initial search for a location and area. From there, Stewart visits the selected site to start planning the logistics of the event and how to best highlight the specific menu items she has selected.

Pop-up events are generally quicker to plan and can take place at restaurants, cafés or outdoor food markets, such as their most recent pop-up event in South End Get Down in Burlington. Through her decade of experience in the food and drink industry, Stewart has made numerous contacts with restaurants and other people in the industry to facilitate collaboration for these pop-up events.

The idea for Adventure Dinner was inspired by Stewart’s previous business, StoneCutter Spirits, a Vermont-based distillery specializing in barrel-aged gin. After she sold that business in 2019, Stewart made an effort to incorporate her past focus on local products and good production practices into Adventure Dinner. 

Stewart began holding bi-annual adventure dinner events in 2015, before formally opening the Adventure Dinner business in February 2020. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic a month later, Stewart was forced to shift operations and instead engage customers through take home meals and virtual events in an attempt to foster community. As the pandemic became more manageable and restrictions lifted, Stewart was slowly able to conduct more small-scale, in-person events, eventually returning to full in-person events. 

The business’s public dinners now host anywhere between 40 and 80 attendees. 

These public dinner events are bookended with opening and closing ceremonies. The opening ceremony allows those who are celebrating something — birthdays, vacations, anniversaries or just visiting Vermont — to share this occasion with the group. Stewart added that she makes an effort to hold space for attendees who are introverted or might not want to share out during the opening ceremonies. Attendees are also welcome to introduce themselves at this time while Stewart communicates details and expectations of the event. 

At the end of the dinner event, the group gets the chance to share their feelings about the experience in a few words. At summer dinners, Stewart often gives attendees sparklers as a representation of the passing of light from the individual to the community.   

SJ O’Connor ’24 attended one of Adventure Dinner’s public dinner events last October. The event took place outside on Killeen Crossroads farm in Shelburne, Vt. O’Connor noted the significance of that location in creating a unique dinner experience. 

“The leaves were turning and Camel’s Hump was in a direct line of view,” she said. “It was fantastic.”

O’Connor said she heard about Adventure Dinner through a friend who was working in Vermont catering. The dinner was cooked on-site by the business’s executive chef, James Kitchens. While it was chilly outside, the hosts served warm drinks, and provided blankets and outdoor heaters, O’Connor added.

The group of around 30 attendees enjoyed the family-style dinner at a long table with no assigned seating, which was done intentionally to match the business’s community-based focus. O’Connor noted that the group was primarily comprised of people older than her.

 “Spending a night with people outside of college was very rewarding,” she said. “It was one of the most unique dinner experiences I’ve had the privilege to attend, and [I] would love to go back.” 

According to Stewart, Adventure Dinner is a women-owned business at heart, and strives for inclusivity in all realms. 

“Adventure Dinner wants to be a place that eats, breathes and talks about inclusivity, whether it’s folks who come to us for private celebrations who want to do untraditional things, or folks who want a hospitality setting,” she said.

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Stewart noted that Adventure Dinner also made an effort to hire a diverse team to help with the events and business operations. The business has a roster of more than 60 employees who work part-time on events, in addition to a smaller group of about four full-time employees.

People of a wide range of ages and identities attend the Adventure Dinner events, including both international visitors and Vermont locals, Stewart said. The wide range of events and locations throughout Vermont enhances the goal of accessibility toward which the business strives.

Adventure Dinner’s next events are a series of Halloween-themed pop-ups which will take place on Oct. 26, 27 and 28 at Peg & Ter’s in Shelburne, Vt. On the first two nights, patrons can make dining reservations at the Great Pumpkin Spooky Pop-Up, while the final night is a ticketed Beetlejuice Dinner, which will consist of a showing of the second Beetlejuice film and a four-course, four-drink meal. Tickets for the Beetlejuice Dinner are $175.20 in total per person.

Adventure Dinner is in residency at Peg & Ter’s for the next two months, where they will be hosting a range of ticketed dinners and themed pop-up nights.

Emily Hogan

Emily Hogan '24 (she/her) is a Local Editor.   

She is studying Environmental Policy with a minor in Math. In addition to writing and editing for the Campus, she also dances with the On Tap dance troupe and serves on the Environmental Council. She has previously worked with the Sustainability Solutions Lab at Middlebury.