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Bent Hill (Braintree, VT)

One of the bigger pieces of news I had gotten on the local dining scene last summer was that Bent Hill Brewery was now serving food. I’ve always liked that brewery, and was actually a bit surprised by the announcement: the last time I had visited Bent Hill in person (in 2014), they had recently expanded to all of approximately 24′ square. Well, apparently they’ve kept expanding; I regularly encounter their beer all over Vermont, and now they’ve got not only a larger brewery, but a full tap room that this summer started serving food. All summer it was on our hit list, and finally, in early September, we were able to meet up with our friends Rick and Sarah for a nice dinner as we enjoyed the fall foliage.

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Greenleaf (Milford, NH)

I’ve long been a fan of Top Chef on Bravo, being one of the cooking reality shows that generally has talented chefs and not too many irritating personalities. On the most recent season, we saw something on Top Chef that doesn’t happen that often for us: they featured a New Hampshire chef: Chris Viaud. Chris owns several places in southern NH, including Greenleaf in Milford. While we don’t get down to that part of the state often, we thought that a trip to Greenleaf would be a good way to celebrate our anniversary this year, so we went to check them out.

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Bellomo’s Market (Rutland, VT)

Every once in a while I have various food cravings for regional specialties that are challenging to find in Northern New England. In this case, every once in a while I’m graving a good, mid-Atlantic style Italian sub sandwich (aka a “Hoagie”). They are a pretty rare bird around here (no, Subway does not count!). Yeah, a lot of places will make you a “sub sandwich”, but all too often the resulting sandwich, even if tasty, will lack some of the quintessential aspects of a good hoagie: a flavorful mix of ham, salami, and Capocollo, proper provolone cheese, and, very, very importantly, a good crusty Italian-style sub roll. But among my circle of friends there’s a New Jersey transplant, Joe, and he made a specific recommendation to me if passing through Rutland: Bellomo’s Market.

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Howard Johnson’s (Lake George, NY)

Okay, I can see most of my readers already scratching your heads, asking “Howard Johnson?! Did Rich fire up the Offbeat Eats time machine?” In a way, we did, with our annual trip to Lake George, NY. Lake George is a bit of an odd place: as primarily a summertime getaway for the Northeast, it maintains a little protective bubble where the ravages of time and America’s changing tastes and economic factors are buffered: there’s an old-school, 1960s era Tiki-themed Polynesian Resort, a still (seasonally) open A&W Root Beer stand, various “Trading Posts” and many mini-golf courses… and the very last remaining Howard Johnson restaurant. Actually, the vibe is a bit less “protective bubble” and more “they didn’t get the memo”, but yes, the Lake George HoJo soldiers on.

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Jones Donuts & Bakery (Rutland, VT)

Every year (at least the non-Pandemic ones), we attend (and help run) Ohana: The Luau at the Lake, an annual gathering of Tiki and cocktail enthusiasts at the Tiki Resort in Lake George, NY. Preparing for Ohana involves several driving trips to Lake George, and that route generally takes us right through downtown Rutland, VT as we cross that state. This has given us more than a few opportunities to explore some of Rutland’s offerings. In this case, we were craving donuts. I know, New England is the land of Dunkin’, but let’s be honest, you can always do better than Dunkin’ by finding a good, local donut shop. In this case, our route through town took us right by Jones Donuts.

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Carpenter & Main (Norwich, VT)

After our recent whirlwind trips to Michigan and Alaska, it was nice to be back at home in the Upper Valley for a bit. We used it as a good opportunity to meet up with friends and check out one of our local places we hadn’t visited in a while: Carpenter & Main, in downtown Norwich across from Dan and Whit’s.

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Han Fusion (Hanover, NH)

In my 20 years of living in the Upper Valley, 3 Lebanon Street (the “Hanover Park” building) has had a succession of Chinese restaurants in the basement: when we first arrived, it was Panda Garden, and then after that it was Orient, and then in 2019 it changed to Han Fusion. I hadn’t been too much of a fan of either Panda Garden or Orient in general, since they mostly seemed to serve fairly generic Americanized Chinese food, and I originally hadn’t expected Han Fusion to be much better. However, I started to hear some good things about Han Fusion from several people in the Upper Valley who I actually trust with Chinese food (such as Chris Ng, who runs the local Upper Valley Foodie Group), and looking at their menu, found several menu items that I really like (soup dumplings, dry-fried chicken, and rice cakes). We had vowed to finally get out and try them… and then the Pandemic hit.

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Tia’s Gourmet (Anchorage, AK)

When we first arrived in Anchorage, we walked around the downtown area checking out a few art galleries while waiting for lunch. It’s a bit of a touristy area, with more than a few places hawking tourist trinkets, fishing expeditions, and the like. And one thing you can’t miss while walking around the Town Square Park or Old City Hall Park is a rather large number of street carts serving up…. reindeer sausages. We originally opted not to indulge on our first visit since we had lunch plans, but as we wrapped up our short trip to Alaska, we drove back into downtown Anchorage to turn in our Turo rental car, pick up a few items from a nice little art gallery, and stop by and check out one of them: Tia’s Gourmet Hot Dogs and Alaska Reindeer Sausage.

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Spoonline Bistro (Girdwood, AK)

While most of my breakfasts in Girdwood involved getting sourdough pancakes at The Bake Shop, we did go branch out and try some of the other places in town. In particular, Spoonline Bistro over in “downtown” Girdwood generally had a quite a following as well, with most mornings having a line almost as long as The Bake Shop. So we decided to check it out.

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The Bake Shop (Girdwood, AK)

Our home base in Girdwood was a small studio condo at the base of the Alyeska resort ski slope, and even when we first checked in, there was a noticeable pleasant aroma of baking bread and spices. On our first trip back out to the parking lot to get the rest of our luggage, we immediately discovered why: the front door to the condo building exits pretty much directly into the outdoor dining patio for The Bake Shop, one of the primary breakfast joints in Girdwood.

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