New England’s Best Small Towns: Exeter, NH

 

 

Home of the redoubtable Phillips Exeter Academy, this town has long prided itself on being an incubator of young overachievers. It’s fitting, then, that a 25-year-old wunderkind has taken the helm of its highest-profile restaurant. This summer Ben Hasty—former apprentice to French Laundry star Thomas Keller—signed on as executive chef at the Exeter Inn‘s Epoch, launching an "upscale bistro" menu (think steak frites with onion confit and Worcestershire butter) that draws on local ingredients. And despite Exeter’s off-the-beaten-path location, Hasty is cooking to the standards of what he deems a very worldly crowd. "People travel here from all over the globe to put their kids into Exeter," the Maine native says, "which gives Epoch extraordinary potential to be a destination restaurant." (That is, as long as it can keep its chef: After tasting Hasty’s charcuterie plate, a brewery heiress from Montreal proposed kidnapping him to be her personal cook.) —J. L. Johnson

WHERE TO EAT, STAY, AND PLAY 

New England’s Best Small Towns 

 

 Photo by Todd Dionne

 

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