At the end of a day of foliage and fun, restore yourself at Waterville Valley’s eateries
In 1987, Sean Stout was a self-described ski bum who had gone to Colorado to ski but couldn’t find a place to live. He began hitching back East and remembered having met the executive chef of the Waterville Valley Conference Center, so decided to give him a call.
“I was standing by a cow field outside of Indianapolis,” says Stout. “I called him and said, ‘I’m broke and homeless.’”
The chef offered him a job at the conference center, where Stout — who is also a graduate of the Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts — impressed everyone with his drive and commitment. When a chef’s position opened up at the Brookside Bistro in Waterville Valley’s Town Square, he took it, and within a few years he was managing the place.
Today, after career twists and turns that took him to five-star restaurants in Maine and Florida, Stout is back at the Waterville Valley Resort (www.waterville.com) with his own restaurant, the Wild Coyote Grill (www.wildcoyotegrill.com), which features creative American cuisine in a “mountain casual” atmosphere, surrounded by the beauty of the White Mountain National Forest.
His philosophy? Keep it simple, keep it fresh and change the menu frequently, according to the season. “Probably 95 percent of the food comes from scratch,” says Stout, who tries to use local New England ingredients as much as possible. (Originally, he wanted to use only native New Hampshire ingredients but found that too limiting. “They don’t call this the Granite State for nothing,” he jokes. “Agriculture is tough here.”)
You don’t have to start out as a ski bum to operate a successful restaurant in Waterville Valley Resort. You can also be a tennis bum.
Of course, “bum” hardly describes Tom Gross, who was national director for Rod Laver’s tennis school in the 1970s. Later, he was in Europe writing for Tennis Magazine when Tom Corcoran — the visionary founder of Waterville Valley Resort — asked him to run the resort’s tennis center.
Then Corcoran asked Gross if he wanted to open a pub in the Town Square. The result was Legends 1291 Sports Bar, which opened in February of 1989.
In the early days, Legends (as it is known to locals) did not serve food and specialized in live music, drinks “and debt,” jokes Mike O’Brien, longtime manager.
That all changed in 1997 when Gross added food and changed the focus to make Legends more family-friendly. He also opened the Olde Waterville Pizza Company nearby.
“That made a huge difference immediately,” says Gross. “Suddenly, we were catering more to families than the late-night crowd.”
It’s not just people that enjoy Legends. One time, a black bear got into their food storage locker. Gross shone a flashlight into the locker and the bear turned around, his face full of Russian dressing, just two beady black eyes visible in the beam of the flashlight. “We stopped buying Russian dressing in plastic containers after that,” he says.
Not content to run only two restaurants, Gross opened The Flying Burrito Brothers in 2003, offering fresh Mexican take-out.
A Diamond in the Valley
At Diamond’s Edge North (www.diamondsedge.com) in Waterville Valley’s Town Square, the main dining room looks out over Corcoran Pond, making it the perfect place for a romantic dinner or a gathering with friends. Manager Steve Lonergan describes the Diamond’s Edge North menu as “casual fine dining for the whole family.”
It features a beautiful “Cheers”-style bar made with wood from an old church building. Most evenings, you’ll find locals and visitors gathered here. “It happens all the time,” says Lonergan, “people meeting people they know while sitting at the bar, making connections.”
The restaurant is popular with tour groups, many of whom come back year after year. Lonergan recalls one time when the dining room was filled with visitors from the U.K. for an entire week. “You’d hear all these British accents, and you’d think you were on the Titanic,” he says.
Just across Town Square from Diamond’s Edge North is its sister restaurant, Aglio (pronounced “Ahl-yo”), a family-oriented Italian restaurant where you can dine in or, weather permitting, on the patio with a view of the waterfall streaming from Corcoran Pond.
If you don’t have time for a big sit-down meal, check out the Jugtown Sandwich Shop next to the Jugtown Country Store in Town Square. The shop features soups, salads and deli sandwiches made from Boar’s Head meats and cheeses. Right next door, connected to the country store, is the Jugtown Coffee Shop, which offers Green Mountain Coffee, cocoa, hot tea and self-serve pastries, muffins and breads.
The Full Cup Press
When John and Carol Savas met in Turkey in 1964 (John is a native, Carol was with the Peace Corps), they never dreamed they’d end up running a gourmet coffee and pastry shop in the Waterville Valley Resort.
Like so many others, the Savases originally came to the area to ski. They were living on Cape Cod at the time, and Tom Corcoran suggested they open a shop at Town Square. A short time later, Carol closed her real estate business on the Cape, moved to the valley (John came later) and opened the Coffee Emporium in a bright, sunny location overlooking Town Square and Corcoran Pond.
What’s the secret of the Emporium’s coffee? “We make everything with a French press,” says Carol. She explains that many coffee shops sell what’s known in the business as “grab and go” — coffee that’s pre-made and served from an urn or carafe. “French press coffee is better tasting,” she says, though they do have a house blend and decaf ready to go for those who are in a hurry.
A couple of years ago, Carol and John began serving waffles for breakfast. The waffles were such a hit that they expanded the service, and now offer complete breakfasts on weekends and vacation weeks.
It’s a long workday at the Emporium, but Carol wouldn’t have it any other way. When old friends ask how she can live in a small town without all the things that city life offers, she explains that she can take a break, enjoy all that Waterville Valley has to offer — golf, hiking, biking, world-class skiing, tennis, cultural activities, an indoor ice rink, boating, a skate park and a host of outdoor activities — and come back refreshed.
On top of all that, there’s great coffee. What else could a person need? NH
This article appears in the October 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine