Exploring Concord, NH

A winter weekend in the state’s capital begins with an art lesson and ends in outer space



Photo by Stillman Rogers

Friday Evening

We plunged right into our weekend of savoring Concord’s arts scene by joining eight total strangers for Colors & Cabernet, a unique one-night art class at the Kimball Jenkins School of Art. Held in the downtown Victorian estate that was the home of a wealthy local family, our painting lesson with a professional artist led us step-by-step through the process of creating paintings of our own. All the supplies were provided — except the Cabernet, which was BYO. We left with two (very) original paintings.

Dinner at Old Europe

Chef/owner Nikolija Mujakovic combines Mediterranean favorites with some Adriatic dishes that are not household names. We began with grilled zucchini involtini — zucchini slices rolled with herbs, goat cheese, ricotta and roasted red peppers — and a bowl of mussels sautéed with white wine and a zesty tomato sauce. We followed with veal Marsala served with wild mushrooms, and something rarely seen on a NH menu: Cevapi. The delicious, juicy Yugoslavian sausage was served with Lepina bread and sour cream.

Saturday Morning

Our room on the third floor of The Centennial Hotel included one of the 19th-century building’s turrets, transformed into a circular sitting room with windows overlooking Pleasant Street. The décor doesn’t pretend to be Victorian, but incorporates the 1892 architecture into stylish contemporary rooms whose serene colors are accented by vintage Vogue fashion prints.

As we were headed to a farmers market, where we knew we’d find lots to nibble on, we opted for a light breakfast of flaky croissants at Bread & Chocolate, then detoured across to Hill Street, where we found the McGowan Fine Art Gallery open. Specializing in emerging New England artists as well as those who are already well established, this gallery always has at least one work that tempts us to take it home. At the Concord Winter Farmers Market at Cole Gardens we browsed among vendors selling cheese, artisanal breads, maple syrup, sweets and other local farm products. As we were on that side of town, and considering alternative energy sources ourselves, we stopped to tour the passive solar building at the Society for the Protection of NH Forests Conservation Center. We decided to leave the nature trails through the society’s 90 acres alongside the Merrimack River for a warmer day.

Lunch

The Barley House was our next stop, for a hearty serving of chicken pot pie brimming with tender white meat, mushrooms and vegetables, and a bowl of Guinness beef stew topped with crispy onions.

Saturday Afternoon

Photo by stillman rogers

We stopped at the Museum of New Hampshire History to pick up the historic walking tour map and learned of an exhibit at the New Hampshire Historical Society Library, behind the Statehouse. “Soldiers, Sailors, Slaves and Ships: The Civil War Photographs of Henry P. Moore” features images and experiences of New Hampshire servicemen during that war.

We used the walking tour map to learn about buildings as we walked along Main Street, popping in and out of shops. We found high-quality local handwork at the League of NH Craftsmen, and vibrant clothes and accessories in Gondwana & Divine Clothing Co. We spent the longest at Pitchfork Records, one of NH's few independent music stores, looking through new and used vinyl (even 45s), CDs and DVDs, including rare music and local bands. As Valentine’s Day was approaching, I made sure that our route back to the hotel was via Granite State Candy Shoppe.

Dinner at Sunny’s Table

Sunny’s doesn’t offer the same-old Asian Fusion as the chef stirs Chinese, Korean, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian and a few other eastern methods and ingredients together with a localvore ethic. Our salmon tartare gave a satisfying kick to our taste buds without numbing them to the delicate fresh salmon flavors. The slow-cooked Malaysian beef short ribs were tender and meaty and richly flavored from braising in miso and red wine. The menu gives fair warning that the Angry Shrimp are “hot & spicy” so we were expecting fire. But although they were indeed hot, the flavors were balanced and the shrimp flavor wasn’t obscured.

Saturday Evening

We had tickets for a performance at Capitol Center for the Arts, a theater originating in the great era when vaudeville shows toured the country. Its Egyptian-motif decoration been restored and the refurbished stage and backstage can now accommodate full Broadway shows. As dinner had been early, we stopped downstairs before ascending to our tower for glasses of port and an artisanal cheese plate from the hotel’s Nosh Menu.

Sunday Morning

Photo by stillman rogers

We slept late and descended for a leisurely brunch at the Granite Restaurant, downstairs. We both ordered grilled grapefruit followed by smoked turkey/sweet potato hash topped with free-range eggs and poblano aioli, and a three-egg frittata with my choice of three fillings from a list that included caramelized onions, grilled Portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, Black Forest ham, Gruyere, goat cheese and Vermont cheddar, in addition to the usual additions. It was served with hash browns and chived crème fraîche.

Sunday Afternoon

As we’d spent our morning sleeping and eating, lunch was not on the afternoon agenda. We decided to spend it at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center to see three new exhibits. One focuses on the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter (LRO) and the Moon, another examines New Hampshire's Mineral Treasures through a collection of 255 of 294 known mineral species found here. The third, Picture Yourself in Infrared, contains a special camera that converts infrared into a visible image. We finished off with a fascinating planetarium show on Black Holes.

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