Boston Restaurant Blog -- July, 2012
Thursday, July 5, 2012
I spent a few days up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire recently, and as was the case last fall on another trip to the region, I was able to try a few restaurants for the first time, along with repeat visits to some dining spots with which I was familiar. All of the meals turned out to be good, though there were definitely some standouts.
Before getting into the first-time visits, I'll briefly mention a few places that I returned to. On the way up to the White Mountains, we stopped once again at the Pizza Barn in Center Ossipee, and as always, the pepperoni pizza was quite delicious, with loads of pepperoni on top and a lot of greasy cheese adding much flavor. (Their Caesar salad was very good as well.) Later that evening, we had dinner at the Thompson House Eatery in Jackson, and sat in their back room, which seems to be a three-season porch with peaceful views of the woods and meadows just beyond the restaurant. The artichoke dip and mushroom ravioli were both every bit as impressive as on the previous visit, and the chicken cutlet dish with mushrooms, provolone cheese, and marsala sauce was fantastic, with nicely-seasoned chicken going well with the slightly smoky sauce. Finally, we had breakfast at Yesterdays in Jackson, and while the food was terrific as always, the service was a bit spotty, with no one coming to greet us for a good five minutes--and one of our servers seemed rushed and distracted for much of the time. But the house-made corned beef hash and hearty toast were flawless, while the fluffy eggs and savory home fries were certainly satisfying.
Our second day in the White Mountains found us heading up north....way up north, getting awfully close to Canada before veering right and heading into Maine. We eventually made it down to Bethel in the early afternoon, stopping at a roadside food truck called Smokin' Good BBQ. The mobile restaurant, which resides in the parking lot of a food store, has a large smoker next to it that comes from Southern Yankee BBQ Smokers in Indiana, and on the day that we arrived, they were using oak in it (they also use apple wood and other types of wood, depending on the time of year, available supplies, etc.) On the day we were there, the weather was pretty steamy, but fortunately a few picnic tables are set up under tall pine trees, so we were able to stay in the shade. Out food turned out to be very good, though not the best I've had in New England, with the brisket, pulled pork, baked beans, cole slaw, and corn bread being decent if not exactly memorable. The brisket was ordered with a "wild" sauce, but it really wasn't all that hot, while the pulled pork was supposed to be North Carolina style, but it had little, if any zing coming from the vinegar-based sauce and tasted perhaps a bit more like Texas BBQ. The baked beans were better, with a rich sweet taste coming from the sauce, while the corn bread was not sweet at all, making it one of the most authentic versions that I've had in New England. The person behind Smokin' Good BBQ was as nice as could be and chatted with us (and others) the whole time that we were there.
We returned to the Jackson/Glen area after lunch, spending some time at the Jackson Falls and the Saco River before having dinner at the White Mountain Cider Co. A combination country store/cider mill/restaurant, I had been to the first two in the past, but never to the restaurant itself. And what a restaurant it was, with a rustic and cozy atmosphere, a terrific waitstaff, and the best food that we had during the course of the entire trip. We started with a half order of the house-made chips with garlic aioli, and to say this was an impressive dish would be an understatement. The perfectly-cooked chips gained a big boost in flavor from the aioli, but not a harsh boost by any means, as the garlic had a mellow flavor from being roasted. The half order of the chips, by the way, was huge, making me wonder exactly how many people the full order was geared toward. While waiting for the main course, we sipped some excellent drinks, including a slightly sweet hibiscus daiquiri and a strong but tasty "Shaker Lady," which was a citrus-based drink that included bourbon, fernet, and an ice cube about the size of a hockey puck. Our meals came to us a few minutes after we finished with the chips, and both dishes were absolutely marvelous. The grilled salmon was prepared on a bed of cous cous and also came with corn, bacon, and an earthy pesto that greatly added to the flavor of the fish. And every bit as good as the salmon, the freshly-made gnocchi came with creamy goat cheese, a complex-tasting ratatouille, and a North African chermoula sauce that was both smoky and spicy. We had just a bit room for dessert, trying a black and white cake with double chocolate ganache and some berries. Even though it had ganache in it, the dessert was almost delicate and not overly filling, which was good because we probably would not have been able to finish it otherwise. Prices weren't exactly cheap at the White Mountain Cider Co., but the quality of the food certainly made paying the extra few dollars worth it.
Our last day in New Hampshire began at a North Conway restaurant that I must have driven past more than 100 times over the years, but had never been to before. The breakfast and lunch spot, called Peach's, resides in what looks to be a home (or what used to be a home) just south of the center of town, with a steep wooded ravine behind it. The dining spot includes several seating areas, including an outdoor patio out front and an enclosed porch in the back that overlooks the ravine. We were seated in this back room and perused the menu, also running out front for a moment to take a peek at the specials. While it was difficult to choose from the traditional (and not-so-traditional) breakfast plates, we finally decided on the quiche lorraine and the chocolate-stuffed French toast. The French toast was about as decadent as you would expect, with creamy chocolate, sweet-tasting raspberries, and real maple syrup making for a tasty and yes, filling, treat. The quiche lorraine had a wonderfully smoky and nutty taste coming from the bacon and cheese, and it was a bit heavy on the onions, but not terribly so. One little quibble was the coffee, which seemed harsh to the point of being not too far off from your basic gas station variety, but perhaps it was just a bad batch the day that we were there. Service was friendly and prices were definitely reasonable.
The obvious highlights from our trip to New Hampshire (and briefly Maine) were the atmosphere at the Thompson House Eatery, the food and atmosphere at the White Mountain Cider Co. and yes, the pizza at the Pizza Barn. But Peach's was also a very nice spot, and one that may be my go-to place for breakfast if service at Yesterdays continues to be inconsistent. No more trips are planned to the White Mountains for the foreseeable future, but I'd like to get back sometime this winter; if I do, expect reviews of some more restaurants in the region.
Related Blog Entries: New Hampshire restaurants
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