Strawbery Banke Portsmouth, NH. Photo courtesy of Roger H. Goun.Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth, NH – Photo by Roger H. GounThe scene is a cold, December night in 2007 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A biting wind cuts across the Piscataqua River, scattering the few snow flurries loitering in the air and shaking the Christmas lights that adorn the trees in historic Strawbery Banke. We enter The Dunaway Restaurant, a contemporary dining establishment inside a classic New England saltbox-style home, and are welcomed by a warm fire in the hearth. We sought out this restaurant because its chef, Ben Hasty, a local who grew up on a farm in South Berwick, Maine, very much embraced the use of regional, New England ingredients all the way from legumes to lobster.
Ben’s creations were superb, ranging from his Maine oyster embellishments to his vanilla infused poached lobster. During dinner, we looked up at one another and said, “It’s good to be back in New England.” In fact, we had moved back the previous month after several years in Atlanta, Georgia. When we moved away, we knew that we would someday return. Little did we know, however, how much we would miss the many things that collectively and uniquely make New England home.
Many of our family members, friends and colleagues leave the area and never return, while others make the occasional visit back. Surprisingly, though, we’ve found growing numbers who – consciously and intentionally – make their way home. Our chef Ben Hasty, like us, came back to New England. He stopped by to chat when our meal was done and shared his similar passion for the region. That’s the characteristic, a deep-rooted connection to place that continually calls to those destined to return – and to those who enjoy living here.
For the past two years, we’ve been reconnecting with all six New England states. Fried clams in Rhode Island. Historic ships in Connecticut. Mountain top meadow views in Vermont. Politically-inspired breakfasts in New Hampshire. Slow walks around Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Scenic drives along the coast of Maine. Barely a week passes that we’re not enlightened by something old and something new.
We’re not sure whether it’s because we were away or that we’re just a little bit wiser, but nonetheless we’re happy to be back. And we’re equally glad to palaver about New England.
-The Two Palaverers
Epilogue: The Dunaway Restaurant closed after being sold last fall and will reopen in 2010 under another name. After the purchase, Ben Hasty joined the restaurant scene in Portland, ME, but has recently returned to Epoch Restaurant & Bar in the newly-renovated Exeter Inn in Exeter, NH.