Samurai Soul Food (Fairlee, VT)

A little over a year ago, the small town of Fairlee, Vermont had a noticeable shift in the dining scene. The little restaurant right next to the town’s Whippi Dip creamee stand, which has been one of those restaurant locations that’s chronically failing (having at least 4 different restaurants in my years living here) had again re-opened, this time with rave reviews from most of the people I know living over Vermont. Furthermore, this time, the newcomer was definitely run by some good talent, the owners both came from the kitchen at Worthy Burger. So for a good chunk of the last year, Samurai Soul Food has been on my hit list, and a bit over a week ago I was finally able to work in a visit on my way home from Hill Farmstead.

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815 (Manchester, NH)

Since I enjoyed my little speakeasy excursion in Nashua, on another recent trip down to the area, I decided to go with my coworker Jed to another of the area’s speakeasies, 815. Not as well disguised as CodeX, 815 (named after the address, 815 Elm) hides primarily just by having nothing apparent by the “entrance” other than a phone booth. Calling on the phone, you need a password to get in (I’ll leave to my readers to figure out that detail), although rumor is that really good knock-knock jokes or hula dances may work as well, your mileage may vary.

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CodeX (Nashua, NH)

Every year I spend the better part of a week in Nashua assisting in a FIRST Robotics competition, and as a tradition, after we’re done with the event several of us go to (rather good) El Colima in Nashua to celebrate. For the last two years, I’ve noticed that the space next to El Colima appears to be some sort of used bookstore, but since I’m visiting in the evening, it’s not surprising that they aren’t open. But recently, I found that the bookstore, Codex, is much more than it appears to be. There are a few clues that something’s afoot: first of all, while there are books in the window, you can’t actually see inside. The “main entrance” has a “closed” notice on it, along with a copy of the 18th Amendment, and looking at the various books in the window, you can see a distinct alcoholic theme involved. The door also has a handwritten “enter around the side” notice on it, and, going in through the side door, there’s little in there other than a stairwell, a door for the “Youth Council” (which is apparently exactly that), and a bookcase. I’m sure you can guess where this is going…

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Lost Nation Brewing (Morrisville, VT)

In the years since I moved to Northern New England, the area has really embraced the craft beer revolution, moving from a relatively small handful of breweries (Long Trail, Harpoon, Magic Hat, Smuttynose, and a few others) to having literally dozens of high-quality smaller breweries throughout the area. One that has gotten more than a little bit of following since they opened in 2013 is Lost Nation Brewing in Morrisville, VT. Located in a fairly quiet industrial park on the west side of town (not far from Rock Art, another well-regarded brewery), Lost Nation has primarily focused on European-style, lower-alcohol beers to differentiate themselves from the rest of the “Cloudy Hop-bomb Vermont IPA” style (which I like as well). And while I like their beer (especially their Gose), there’s another secret to Lost Nation: they’ve got some really good food.

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The Inn at Round Barn Farm (Waitsfield, VT)

During our recent mostly snow-less Vermont visit, we did rather enjoy our accomodations at The Inn at Round Barn Farm (where our stay was half off since we had gotten a gift certificate for one night from a silent auction from Prevent Child Abuse Vermont at A Single Pebble). I usually don’t review Bed and Breakfasts since it’s usually a bit difficult for non-guests to dine there, but I was pleased enough with the meals that I figured it was still worth a writeup.

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Allium (Waterbury, VT)

For our other dinner out while we were spending an extended weekend in Vermont, we decided to go back to Waterbury and check out some of the locations. Since we moved to NH (more than 16 years ago, how time flies!), Waterbury has definitely grown up from the fairly sleepy town that also sported a coffee roasting factory and an ice cream factory into something a bit more refined. It had one really well-regarded brew pub grow up, get flooded, and moving on to found a full-fledged, world famous brewery (now up in Stowe). It’s also had several restaurants and beer bars appear over the last decade or so. One of the newer arrivals in town is Allium.

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The Bistro at Ten Acres (Stowe, VT)

A few weekends ago we decided to spend a longer weekend in Vermont’s Mad River Valley, take in some of the sights, enjoy a few of the local breweries, and maybe get in some skiing. Well, despite leaving a house with almost two feet of accumulation back in NH, most of Vermont didn’t get the same heavy Nor’easter storms we did, so we mostly found ourselves staring at… dormant grass (and Mad River Glen only had two runs open!). Despite the unseasonable weather, however, the rest of the trip went pretty smoothly, we just spent a bit more time exploring, checking out breweries, and having a few nice dinners. One of our spots was a new one to me: The Bistro at Ten Acres in Stowe.

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Beau (Montpelier, VT)

Montpelier is another one of those towns around here that seems to punch above their weight when it comes to the culinary front. Sporting a good Asian fusion place (Kismet), a Southern cooking place (Downhome), several good Italian places, a taco shop (one of the Mad Taco outposts), two Pho joints, a whole range of other dining options, and even a culinary school, I’m never far from some good eats in Montpelier. But there are always new things showing up, and a bit over a year ago we were taking the back way to Hunger Mountain Co-op via Barre Street when we happened across Beau. Beau had an interesting business model: it was basically a combination of a butcher shop with house-cut meat and house-made charcuterie and a cocktail bar, with custom-crafted cocktail served out of a rolling bar out front. They also do a light menu of charcuterie and soups (and, in nicer weather, set up an outdoor patio and have a food truck or portable pizza oven come by). It was pretty much custom-adapted to my particular tastes… all in a 300 square foot store. Well, a few changes have occurred since they opened. Alas, the cocktail program has ended (realistically, that was a lot to cram into such a small space), but they’ve expanded the meat area and their menu as well, so overall, it’s probably been a bit of an improvement, since I can still get all the same great meats and a better set of dining options (and if I want a cocktail, head to one of several other nice spots around the area).

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The Copperline (Chicopee, MA)

You know, I’ve found Western Massachusetts really has a lot to offer, especially on the food and drink scene. The “Pioneer Valley” between roughly Greenfield on the North and Springfield in the south is a wonderful combination of small college towns, rural villages, and post-industrial mills towns (much like my own Upper Valley of VT/NH). Amongst these towns, a plethora of small breweries, bars, restaurants, and food provisioners have popped up, and there are even a few nice ethnic regions like Chicopee (Polish) and Springfield (German). So I always love heading down there. So, when a recent event had us heading down to Chicopee, it was also a chance to explore more of the town. Sure, being a weekend day, several of my Chicopee favorites like Millie’s Pierogi (handmade pierogi sold out of a building behind a car dealer) and Chicopee Provisions (horseradish kielbasa) were closed, but being around at breakfast time gave me a good chance to check out a place that’s been on my hit list a while: The Copperline.

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Smithsonian Chowder House (Northampton, MA)

We all have them, those little hole-in-the-wall places that we’ve driven or walked by a million times thinking, “I should go in there,” but for some reason we never get around to it? I’ve discovered several great places that way (and a few marginal ones as well, to be honest), but one of our more frequent day trip destinations in Northampton, MA. It’s a nice little college town, with a yarn shop that Carol likes (Webs), a great tea shop, and a lot of little restaurants. Almost every time we go there, we end up parking in the municipal lot next to the bus station, and every time that means we walk by the small and simply decorated Smithsonian Chowder House. There’s also a location in Hatfield that we’ve driven by a few times, but we’re never seeming to do it at lunch time. But a recent trip down to Chicopee (to the most unusual Hu Ke Lau that’s still doing Polynesian dinner shows, and worthy of it’s own review at some point) ended up with us being in Northampton right around lunch, and we finally go to duck in.

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