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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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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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Gaku Ramen (Burlington, VT)

Since we live a little over an hour from Burlington, we tend not to do a lot of late night dining around town, since it’s often easier to grab something in Montpelier or the Upper Valley on the way home. But our recent trip had a staying a night in the very pleasant Hotel Vermont (which has a truly fine beer bar in the lobby), and between our earlier event with friends from the FOM and having a night cap at the Hotel Vermont bar, we decided to do a late evening stroll down Burlington’s Church Street, checking out the late night shopping and dining options. A lot of Church Street’s options close at 9, but a few places keep going for quite a while. While we almost got drawn into Ken’s Pizza (itself worthy of a review at some point), as we got to the south end of Church Street I remembered a place that’s been on our hit list for a while: Gaku Ramen.

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Bleu (Burlington, VT)

For our annual celebration of Carol’s birthday, we decided this year to head up to Burlington, VT for a weekend of hanging out with friends, exploring more of Burlington’s great scenery and dining options. Our usual go-to for Burlington is Asian food, since it’s the nearest metro area with a decent selection of Asian restaurants (and indeed, our previous night’s visit was to a ramen shop), but Carol was craving seafood, so we opted for a brunch at Bleu, located inside Burlington’s Courtyard by Marriott.

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