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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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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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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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Foley Taco and Bean (Brandon, VT)

One of my more unusual destinations in late 2020 and early 2021 was Middlebury, VT, for both work reasons (a subcontractor runs a lab there), and recreation (in the Fall of 2020, we hiked the TAM: the Trail Around Middlebury). Our travels around there also lead us by a favorite winery (Lincoln Peak), and one of my favorite breweries, Foley Brothers in northern Brandon, VT, a nice little western VT town. On one swing through Brandon after visiting the brewery, we noticed that Foley had started up a new business, Foley Taco and Bean, located in downtown Brandon, VT, so we decided to stop in and try it.

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Oakes & Evelyn (Montpelier, VT)

The big thing that limited my restaurant reviews during the last year’s pandemic was the simple fact that I’ve had very, very little formal restaurant dining. Indeed, between March 2020 and May 2021, Carol and I had exactly one elaborate, sit-down dinner, and that was at one of our local favorites for fancy meals, Pine (for which you can read an older 2014 review), where we had a splendid anniversary dinner, seated at a socially-distanced table on their outdoor patio on a beautiful September evening. But then a big shift happened at Pine in January 2021: we got news that, while Pine wasn’t closing (indeed, reports from friends are that it is still doing well), the chef there, Justin Dain, was leaving, along with manager Emily Chism and Bar Manager James Ives (who has had stints working with several of the better bar programs in the area). They were moving to Montpelier, Vermont, to open up a new restaurant in a space on west State Street recently vacated by Kismet (another favorite of mine, recently downsizing to their original location over on Barre St). The new restaurant is named Oakes & Evelyn, named in honor of two of Chef Justin’s relatives.

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Fox and Harrow (Royalton, VT)

(Closed) It’s always a bit weird that when the various delays involved in writing up my restaurant reviews result in my having a review written for a place that, after my visit but before the review posts, ends up closing… With a usual delay of 2 months or so between a visit and a review, this isn’t the first time it has happened, indeed, you end up with these odd sorts of reviews that are like flies trapped in amber, referring to a place that my readers could never go. Indeed, in a bit of irony, my review of the previous restaurant to inhabit this space, the old Fox Stand Inn in North Royalton, fell to exactly this fate, closing two weeks after a rather pleasant dinner I had. My usual policy is to forego these reviews in favor of working on my backlog, but in this case, I thought I’d share the review in a bit of an ode to what pre-pandemic dining was, and what we hope it will soon be again.

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Funkalicious (White River Junction, VT)

While Covid-19 continues to tally up some casualties on the dining scene, I’m still thrilled when someone is able to reverse the trend with the occasional opening. In this case, over in White River Junction, VT, in an older storefront that last I knew held Kibby Equipment Company (purveyors of fine chainsaws), Kevin Halligan and Dee Sonthikoummane have opened Funkalicious Market and Deli. This wasn’t a sudden opening; I remember seeing an announcement in the Valley News almost a year ago that they were installing countertops and getting ready for opening a market and deli that was focusing on housemade meats and specialty sandwiches, with an opening in February or March. Well, we all know those sorts of plans turned out… but in late October 2020 Funkalicious was finally able to open their doors, primarily offering a butcher counter and a menu of interesting sandwiches showcasing their smoked meats and other prepared deli foods.

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The Parker Pie Company (West Glover, VT)

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is very pleasant to visit: nice, rolling, forested hills and meadows, with some very nice views of the White Mountains to the east, the Green Mountains to the West, and a few smaller peaks scattered across the landscape. It’s also rather rural at times, so there’s not always a lot of good dining options. But there are some real gems hiding in some of the smaller towns and villages across the Northeast Kingdom’s landscape. One such spot is located in the village of West Glover, VT. Going behind the Lake Parker Country Store, you find yourself at the entrance of a pizza place: Parker Pie.

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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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