Avery Montgomery and Maddy Hajjar collect grape leaves at Alpenglow Farm in Warren for their dinner at the Sweet Spot in Waitsfield.

Grape leaves stuffed with lamb and beef. Slow-simmered chicken on rice. Flatbreads fired over eucalyptus leaves. Fresh melon garnished with sumac. A martini of gin, vodka, and olive leaf brine, garnished with a cherry tomato.



These are a few of the items that Avery Montgomery served at her pop-up dinner on September 1 at the Sweet Spot in Waitsfield. She called the dinner “An Evening of Grape Leaves,” serving 110 dishes to 56 guests.

Montgomery grew up in Warren. She attended Harwood Union High School from seventh through ninth grade and Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire, for the remainder of high school. She went on to study food systems in the Environmental Science department at Barnard College in New York City, then worked for one year as a line cook in a Brooklyn restaurant before moving back to Vermont in the summer of 2022. From there, she pieced together seasonal farm work in Warren, Northfield, and other towns.

“The dinner was a long time coming,” Montgomery said. She was pruning grape plants at Alpenglow Farm in Warren when she conceived of the idea to do a pop-up dinner service. “My summer jobs were ending. I didn’t know what to do next. I thought, maybe I’ll just do a restaurant!” she said, laughing.

“With seasonal living in The Valley, you always have to recalibrate – who will I work for next? Where will I live?” The silver lining, she said, is that “you have to change things up, be open to letting new things come out.” 

With the idea for the dinner on her mind, Montgomery got her friends together to brainstorm, as well as the support of the Sweet Spot to host it. She started testing recipes and set a date. “But,” she said, “I had absolutely no idea how to pull it off. I didn’t know how to source local ingredients, or how to promote it. My friends all wanted different things and I was saying yes to everything. So, it fell apart.”


In winter 2022, Montgomery was living with friend Maddy Hajjar at Knoll Farm in Waitsfield. “Maddy decided we were going to share all our food, and cook together. When we made something great, we’d joke, ‘this is going in the restaurant!’”

Montgomery and Hajjar were also working together, cooking and serving food at the Sweet Spot’s Friday night dinners. After service one night, the idea for Montgomery’s pop-up dinner emerged again. This time, it really happened.

Montgomery sourced ingredients from Vermont farms – rather than seeking specific items, asking what farmers had available. She bought chicken and lamb from Union Brook Farm in Northfield, where she had been learning how to slaughter chickens. She got yogurt from von Trapp Farm in Waitsfield. And grape leaves from Alpenglow Farm in Warren, where the idea originally came to her. Local friend Marissa Alfiero provided wild sumac that she had collected previously.

Friends also helped prep food until 1 a.m. on the night before the dinner. During the service, they took orders, served drinks, and ran food. “It was 100% a group effort,” Montgomery said.

She learned a lot from hosting the dinner – most importantly about how to roll with the punches. “Rather than say something is absolutely going to go well, it’s more useful to say, things will go sideways 30% of the time. And we’ll just have to figure out how to respond in the moment.”

Montgomery is planning to host more dinners on Fridays from 5:30-9 p.m. at the Sweet Spot beginning November 10.