What goes on after dark

Courtney and her date at Pearl Restaurant & Oyster Bar.

Although Peterborough is a popular summertime destination, the temperature was in the 30s for my scheduled "Evening Out." But I'm no dummy: I asked a cute boy to be my date in order to heat things up a bit.

The center of town was fairly quiet for a Saturday but there's something particularly charming about downtown Peterborough in the winter; the twinkle lights in the trees blurred by the romantic haze of visible breath, complemented by the water-grazing-rocks soundtrack of the Contoocook River.

Our first mission (and additional temperature assist): cocktails. The Waterhouse, located in the building that was formerly home to Acqua Bistro, overlooks the Contoocook and has an intimate bar area with an interesting martini list. Inside, we happened upon the creative director of this magazine, Susan Laughlin, settled at the bar, further proving what a small state NH is. Susan was heading to the first Saturday contra dance nearby and my date and I had reservations at the Pearl Restaurant & Oyster Bar with the intention of catching some live music afterwards at Harlow's Pub.

Since the Pearl is located in a strip mall outside the center of town, we had to get back in the cold car, but our dining experience more than made up for it. We kicked things off with some Canadian oysters and the Pearl's House Cocktail, featuring fresh ginger, vodka and prosecco, then dove into some red wine and the Coconut Rice Bowl with curried veggies and shrimp - a reason to drive to Peterborough in itself. Traditionally a devout coffee drinker, I have recently gotten into tea as my after-dinner beverage of choice and the Pearl offered a large selection of potted varieties. We had originally discussed venturing elsewhere for dessert but were too tempted by the Pearl's offerings and gave into the hot chocolate cake with candy cane gelato and the Pain Perdu, a custard-soaked brioche topped with caramelized bananas.

Back in town things were picking up as the live music took hold at Harlow's. We scored a high-top table right near the dance floor, ordered a couple brews and stool-danced to the Murphys Blues Band. I have to say, the crowd at Harlow's was one of the most eclectic I've seen out in NH. From hipsters to blue hairs, everyone was loving life and having a grand time. Full of soul music, good food and drink, Peterborough indeed had provided us with a memorable Evening Out.

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