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El Rodeo (Concord, NH)

One of the things I learned long ago about living in New England is that certain phrases should immediately make your “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!” alarm go off. One of those is most any sentence containing both “New England” and “Barbecue”. Also up there is “New England” and “Mexican”. Really dangerous is the combination of “New England” and “Authentic Mexican” food, since, while I’ve been to the occasional good actual Mexican place (including El Rincon down in Manchester, or when they have their A game going, Gusanoz, although for the latter I usually need to budget extra for the extra margarita I’ll need to wash down the bad service), usually I find an “Authentic” place to be dismal Tex-Mex at best, sub-Old El Paso at worse. But every once in a while I do stumble across a place that’s actually putting in a good effort, and not just dishing out queso-flavored disappointment. So, on that note, I introduce you to El Rodeo.

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De La Vega (Deland, FL)

You know, I get a lot of odd requests in life. One of the odder ones in recent history was, “Hey, can you send me a bunch of photos I can use for a training funeral?”. Since yes, among the various colorful people I know are not only legislators, lawyers, professors, Lords, and actual rocket scientists, but funeral home directors as well. My answer was, of course, sure. I assembled an eclectic selection of photos of myself (you know, like the one with the horse mask, or the bathtub one, or the creepy cowboy one) and thus, the legend of Paul Crawford was born, a man who bears a shocking resemblance to myself, but, alas, departed this world late last year. Sniff. It’s like I know the guy. In any case, part of the deal was that I would get pie (dutifully delivered via Fedex), and, if I found myself in Florida, dinner. Thus, on a somewhat recent trip to Daytona for testing at Embry-Riddle, I found myself with an opportunity to meet up with my friend Leslie, have a nice dinner at De La Vega with her and her husband, and raise a glass in memory of poor Paul Crawford.

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Pierogi Me (Quechee, VT)

Every once in a while, it’s nice to see a local place start to hit their stride and become successful. In this case, I’m talking about Pierogi Me. While there’s a modest Polish population here (particularly in Claremont, NH), Polish food is mostly limited to the occasional special event (like Polish Night at The Old Courthouse), so I’m always on the lookout for opportunity to find some Polish sausages or pierogi. So when I first heard about Pierogi Me, finding their product involved a bit of a hunt, since they made the pierogi in their own kitchen and primarily sold pierogi at several farmers markets, the Killdeer Farm Stand, and, most easily found, the freezer case at Dan and Whit’s General Store. Alas, about half of the times I went to try and get them, I’d find that the word had gotten out, and there wouldn’t be anything left. But then, an important change happened: they opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

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Anju Noodle Bar (Kittery, ME)

One of the simpler foods that I really enjoy is a good ramen noodle shop (indeed, I’ve reviewed rather a lot of them). It’s been one of the upcoming trendy foods, with ramen shops opening up all over the place, some more Japanese-inspired, some more Korean-inspired. But they are almost always tasty. But it’s also one of those trends that hasn’t really made inroads into New Hampshire yet. But it’s almost here, indeed, a recent trip to Portsmouth had us crossing over to Kittery in search of dinner, and we ended up finding Anju Noodle Bar just over the river from Portsmouth, in scenic downtown Kittery (right across from one of the entrances to the shipyard).

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Modern Apizza (New Haven, CT)

Like most any trip of ours that involves driving through Southern Connecticut, if the timing allows, we usually stop in New Haven for Pizza. For those people that aren’t familiar with it, New Haven Pizza (often known in the area as “apizza”, pronounced somewhat like “a-beets”) is practically a religion, with several establishments having turned out this style of pizza for almost a century now: chewy crusty, heavy charring, crushed tomato sauce, and relatively light cheese. It’s actually my favorite overall style of pizza, and it’s almost impossible to have a discussion of the style without an argument about which of the two iconic New Haven pizza places: Frank Pepe’s or Sally’s Apizza, is the best. I was brought up in the Pepe’s faith (there really wasn’t much question about it, if you had asked about Sally’s, it was like asking your Protestant parents if you could go to the Methodist church…), but do appreciate a Sally’s pie every once in a while. But somewhat lost in the noise in this argument is the fact that there are actually several more excellent places in the pantheon of New Haven Apizza other than Pepe’s or Sally’s, indeed, I can easily think of another half dozen good places to go (and even more that used to be around, like Bimonte’s in North Haven). But if there’s one perennial also-ran in the race for best Apizza, it’s one of the most venerable as well: Modern Apizza.

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Loreley (New York, NY)

One of the many items we managed to tick off of our to-do list in New York City was finally getting a chance to see the Tenement Museum (we’ll go back, each tour only shows you a fraction of the building). But as the tour was wrapping up, we were hungry for a light lunch, and we realized that the location was quite convenient for us to hit up a favorite spot: Loreley.

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Mui (New York, NY)

On our last trip to New York City, we stayed in the most wonderful NoMad Hotel just north of Madison Square Park, and on the edge of Koreatown. We planned to have an outing to Koreatown to try out one of the better Korean Fried Chicken places, but had a major wrench thrown into our plans when most of the neighborhood found itself without power. However, one place I called, Mui, said that aside from deep-fried items they could still prepare food, so we headed off to check them out.

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Cappone’s (New York, NY)

Sometimes, I’m drawn into a place due to a recommendation, or a good online review. Sometimes, it’s as simple as walking down the street and seeing a line outside a place. And sometimes, the product itself is calling to you. In this case, we had just finished a rather pleasant visit to the Whitney (in it’s new location at the south end of the High Line, making it a new gem in the meatpacking district). Afterward, we were walking down Gansevoort, and found that amongst the hip nightclubs and galleries that seem to be the staple of the modern MePa (groan, at some point all the TriBeCa/SoHo like names will be taken…), is the Gansevoort indoor market, filled with all sorts of little food stalls (including, interesting, a stand selling autentico horchata de chufa, proper Valencian-style horchatas made with tigernuts). But it was walking by the stand of Cappone’s that my eye was drawn to two things: (a) a picture-perfect slab of rare, herb-crusted roast beef, and (b) the clerk at Cappone’s carving it to make a sandwich. At that moment, a proper, rare roast beef sandwich was what exactly what I was craving, so we decided to lunch there.

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The Brass Buckle (Greenfield, MA)

Like always, a trip down to the NYC area almost always involves a pit-stop in either southern VT or western MA for breakfast. Luckily, both Brattleboro, VT and Greenfield, MA have quite a good selection of places. In Greenfield, one places has been calling our attention for a while; The Brass Buckle. Located on Main Street just west of the main corner of downtown (Rte 10 and Main), the place itself is quite simple: it’s a quiet little breakfast coffee shop. But since it consistently gets good online reviews, and often has a line out the door when we come by, on this visit, we got there early enough to avoid a rush (and being a weekday, avoiding the weekend crowd).

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Pizzeria Verita (Burlington, VT)

A recent trip to Burlington had us searching out some pizza for a craving. This isn’t particularly challenging in Burlington, which has rather a lot of decent pizza places with good beer lists, including American Flatbread, Ken’s Pizza, Leonardo’s Pizza, and Manhattan Pizza and Pub. Yes, the fine people of Burlington do indeed like their pizza and beer. But our trip had us staying a night in the newly opened Hilton Garden Inn, and the back entrance dropped us out right in front of Pizzeria Verita. We’d known of it for a while, but it had never percolated to the top of our list. Why? Two reasons. First, it’s next to the truly wonderful Trattoria Delia, which has been known to suck us in off the street in hopes of scoring a table without a reservation (we’ve generally been successful at that). The second? The location, 156 St Paul Street, is one of Burlington’s “cursed restaurant” spots. Over the years I’ve been going to Burlington, it’s been a string of different restaurants (in my tenure, it’s ranged from Irish to Hipster heaven to Sports Bar), some good, most mediocre, none of them lingering long. So, to be honest, I was waiting to see if Pizzeria Verita lasted a while before going, and on this trip, seeing it across the street reminded me that they’ve been around since 2012, thus probably breaking the curse.

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