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Health Check: The Baited Hook (Lebanon, NH)

Since I’ve been running this blog for well over a decade, every once in a while it’s worth revisiting some of my old favorites and see how the places are doing. In this case, an outing with a local Upper Valley Foodie facebook group has us revisiting The Baited Hook, the well-known “clam shack” on the shores of Mascoma Lake in Lebanon, NH (years later, I still get in arguments about this, but The Baited Hook in unarguably still in Lebanon). Indeed, it was way back in 2008 that I originally reviewed them, and there was a lot I liked back then: a nice dining room and outdoor patio overlooking the lake, a decent burger, and a fair selection of fried seafood specials. Nothing fancy, but certainly enjoyable, and popular with the folks living on the lake.

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Sugar and Spice (Mendon, VT)

Our annual trip over to Lake George, NY for the Ohana Luau By The Lake (“The Best Little Event in Tiki”) had us doing a nice morning drive across Vermont. I rarely take US-4 all the way across Vermont (I usually find Route 9 or Route 11 to be more efficient if I’m heading to Albany or someplace south of that), so this trip gave us a nice opportunity to stop and have a late breakfast at a spot that’s long been on my hit list. When we moved to Northern New England, we quickly discovered that most any long drive through Vermont (and quite a bit of New Hampshire as well) inevitably brings you by several sugarhouses, all performing the seasonal New England rite of boiling sap down into maple syrup. In-season, it is rather fun to go to a bunch of sugarhouses, see the boiling process, and try the different syrups (I used to buy a lot, but once we started tapping our trees, I now have more syrup than I can easily consume). But the sugaring season is a short one, and a lot of the sugarhouses around the state augment their wintertime operations by pairing their product with its most natural partner: the pancake. As a result, rural Vermont is peppered with all sorts of pancake houses, including some of my favorites, like Eaton’s Sugarhouse in Royalton (which I oddly haven’t reviewed, I’ll have to fix that…), Johnby Boy’s in Rutland, and Sugar and Spice in Mendon, VT. The last of these was right on our route, so we stopped in and gave them a try.

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Le Relais de L’Entrecôte (Paris, France)

After wrapping up our business activities at the Paris Air Show, we headed into downtown Paris to meet up with our hosts for dinner. Our hosts were staying at a nice hotel in the 6e Arrondissement (we were staying at a Comfort[sic] Inn out by CDG; a word of advise for anyone wanting to do the Paris Air Show: reserve your hotel room months in advance!), which is one of my favorite parts of town (twice before I’ve stayed at the nearby Hotel Quai Voltaire on the banks of the Seine in the 7e Arrondissement for a quite reasonable price, but not during the Air Show). The 6e Arrondissement has a nice selection of cafés, chocolate shops, and even a really good rum bar. As we rendezvoused with our hosts, it was just few minutes before 17:00, so our host recommended we see how the line was for the nearby Le Relais de L’Entrecôte.

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Bouillon Chartier (Paris, France)

After two busy and fruitful days of work in Grenoble, we headed back to Lyon and caught a flight up to Paris, joining some more colleagues for a few days at the Paris Air Show. When our hosts offered to take us out to a traditional Parisian Brasserie with an outing to Bouillon Chartier, I was quite pleased. I’ve long maintained a list of classic Parisian restaurants I’ve wanted to try, and Chartier is near the top of the list (as an aside, more than once on our visit I was comparing recommendation lists with our hosts, and pleased to see a lot of overlap). Bouillon Chartier, founded in 1896, is one of Paris’s older existing restaurants.

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Auberge des 3 Pucelles (Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte, France)

After a hectic April and May of traveling, I was looking forward to a relatively quiet June, and then work came up with an opportunity; for several days my coworker and I were visiting a commercialization partner in Grenoble, France, culminating in a trip to the Paris Air Show. So yeah, life is tough. After packing up and catching a flight out of Montreal (my general rule seemed to hold; Montreal is cheaper than Boston for French-speaking destinations, I’m guessing because of higher demand and competition?) into Paris, and then catching a flight to Lyon, and then about an hour’s drive, we found ourselves in Grenoble in the western foothills of the French Alps. After an afternoon of actual work and facility tours, our hosts wanted to take us out to a nice dinner. Normally an easy task, much like the US, Monday isn’t the greatest day for restaurant outings; most of the places in Grenoble are closed on Mondays. But our host had a place he enjoyed west of town, up in the Parc Naturel Régional du Vercors, up a winding mountain road outside of the village of Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte): L’Auberge des 3 Pucelles (roughly “The Inn of the 3 Virgins”, named after the nearby rock formation).

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Cloudland Farm (North Pomfret, Vermont)

One of the more interesting places I’ve had dinner around the Upper Valley is hiding in the hills north of Woodstock in North Pomfret’s “Cloudland”. If you find yourself driving up that way, it’s really easy to see why the area has its name (something about the valley construction seems particularly adept at forming and holding low-level clouds). But Cloudland is also the home to Cloudland Farm, an over-a-century-old family farm that’s well known for supplying meats at various farmers markets, general stores, and as a purveyor to local restaurants. But they also have a dining room that’s open Thursday-Saturday (plus occasional special events) for dinner, usually with special themes. Previously, I’d been there twice to celebrate birthdays, once on a Brisket Night, and once on a Ramen Night, and being a birthday dinner, taking photos wasn’t my first priority. But for the last few months, our friends Liz and Wesley wanted us to join them for a Burger Night, and in June we were finally in town at the right time to make it happen.

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Phnom Penh Sandwich Station (White River Junction, VT)

Okay, I know that my regular readers are already asking, “Wait… didn’t you already review Phnom Penh?”. The answer is, yes, I did, but that was the review of their Lebanon, NH location, and earlier this year, after a lengthy renovation, Phnom Penh opened up a newer location in White River Junction in the former Polka Dot Restaurant location. Normally, I wouldn’t do a review on a second location of someplace, but with the opening of Phnom Penh’s second brick-and-mortar location, a few changes have happened. First, the new location is primarily dine-in, versus the primarily take-out nature of the Lebanon location. Second, they’ve got a liquor license and a decent selection of wine and beer, with the latter focusing on local breweries (like River Roost, just down the street). Finally, the transition from a “Sandwich Station” to a full dine-in restaurant has allow Sarin Tin, the owner, to add several additional Cambodian dishes to the menu.

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Lucky’s Coffee Garage (Lebanon, NH)

Back in the summer of 2017, my friend Deb Shinnlinger signed a lease for a recently-closed service station on the green in Lebanon, NH, Roy’s Service Station, with the intent of quickly turning it into a “West-Coast Style Coffee Shop” serving up quality coffee, espresso, and bakery items within a month or two. Well, like a lot of endeavors in food service, the “month or two” turned into several months of drama of permitting and the sort of refurbishment challenges one can expect when turning a tired, old service station into a fresh and welcoming coffee shop, but in December of 2017, Lucky’s Coffee Garage became a reality and opened to the public.

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Surly Brewing Company (Minneapolis, MN)

When I lived in Minneapolis, one of my major activities was playing Ultimate (aka “Ultimate Frisbee”) in the Twin Cities Ultimate League, and I met a lot of interesting people playing in that league (including a future mayor of Minneapolis). One of the people I’d regularly encounter in league play was a pretty talented player named Omar, who really liked beer and brewing. He’d occasionally brought some rather good homebrew, and even commented, somewhat jokingly it seemed, that one day he was going to open a brewery. Fast forward a few years to a visit of mine in 2006, we were visiting Gluek’s (a former brewery that still runs a nice tap room and restaurant), and the bartender urged me to try this new, extra-hoppy (this was 2006, before the great IPA explosion) beer from an upstart brewery called Surly, run by a local guy called Omar Ansari. Yup. He did start. First in Brooklyn Center, growing like crazy, and then in late 2014 opened a $20M flagship brewery in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park, in a former industrial area that, in the 1990s, I would have never in a million years thought would become a “beer destination”.

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The Wienery (Minneapolis, MN)

Another former haunt of mine of Minneapolis that I wanted to visit was a little restaurant over on the West Bank in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood: The Wienery. Originally opened in the early 1980s in the location of the former “Edna’s Diner”, sitting in the shadow of the large Riverside Plaza apartment complex (those not from Minneapolis may recognize them from the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show), The Wienery continues to serve up a variety of hot dog. Started by a pair of transplanted Chicagoans who wanted to offer up Chicago-style hot dogs to the locals, The Wienery has had several changes of owners over the years (I know it changed hands at least twice while I lived in Minneapolis, and at least once since then), but even as the neighborhood has slowly changed from the 1960s hippie neighborhood adjoining the University of Minnesota’s West Bank, to the current mix of “Little Mogadishu” and slightly seedy bars, the Wienery is basically unchanged.

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