Finding a good restaurant in the middle of nowhere is an un-expected blessing, said Mark Bittman in The New York Times. Even more amazing is to discover “a group of restaurants that is not only acceptable but compelling,” all within about 20 miles of one another in north-central Vermont.

Such was the case when I ventured to the area and found myself enjoying fare that could “hold its own anywhere in the world.” All of the restaurants use local ingredients, when possible, and change their menus daily. They prove that dazzling cuisine can be found just about anywhere.

Kitchen Table Bistro, Richmond
Thomas Chittenden, Vermont’s first governor, built the house that now contains this “very country, cozy, and comfortable” restaurant. Some dishes served here can be merely average, but others “are spectacular.” Not to be missed is an appetizer consisting of apple–sweet potato fritters with maple-cider mayonnaise. Main courses excel at marrying fish or meat with vegetable accompaniments. A well-executed pan-roasted chicken was served with sautéed spaetzle, Brussels sprouts, and garlic. The fork-tender lamb shank “was nearly overshadowed by roasted cauliflower” accompanied by a sage-garlic-lemon mix. 1840 W. Main St.,
(802) 434-8686

Hen of the Wood, Waterbury
“My favorite.” Housed in a former mill alongside a rushing stream, it offers an Arcadian setting, especially on summer nights. The “terrific” dishes include calamari prepared with bread crumbs, lemon, and chilies; wild mushrooms on toast with poached egg and bacon; local rib-eye served with beets, potatoes, and garlic; and “killer” seared scallops with sunchokes and bread crumbs. 92 Stowe St., (802) 244-7300

Green Cup, Waitsfield
Long known as a dependable breakfast spot, this restaurant has begun serving dinner in a “recently renovated, slightly spare but lovely back room.” While décor and execution still have a way to go, the Green Cup shows “tremendous promise.” The swordfish and pork belly salad in a grapefruit and mustard dressing “worked beautifully.” Also “absolutely delicious” are the skirt steak on guacamole, and a pumpkin-stuffed ravioli with a sauce of beets and dill. 40 Bridge St., (802) 496-4963