A Taste of the Mountains

Our North Country “Little Switzerland” has charmed many a visitor, compelling them to stay on. When they are Swiss and bring the cuisine of the homeland with them, the match is heavenly. By Susan Laughlin

It was time for a change, it just wasn’t fun anymore,” says June Phillips of the Bernerhof Inn in Glen. June and her husband George left the corporate world several years ago to work for themselves — as innkeepers. Now the “decisions … and mistakes are our own.”

The Phillips had camped and skied in the area for 30 years and their favorite place for a drink was the Black Bear Pub. So, owning the Black Bear Pub, as part of the Bernerhof and Red Apple Inn, was a natural fit. “Working up here is very relaxed,” she says. “No more suits and ties. Now we can walk to work and bring the dog along, too.”

Good old-fashioned gemütlichkeit has been offered at the Bernerhof Inn since the early 1880s. The classic Victorian structure was built to house weary travelers on their way through Crawford Notch to The Mount Washington Hotel, quite a trek in those days by carriage.

The building has had a succession of owners and names through the last 120 years. From Pleasant Valley Hall, to the Glenwood by the Saco, to finally the Bernerhof, so named by former owners Claire and Charlie Zumstein because it reminded them of their homeland in Switzerland. To this day, Swiss hospitality and cuisine is a hallmark of the inn, maintained, in spirit, by June and George Phillips.

The inn has nine rooms, many with large whirlpools and fireplaces. The latest major renovation was done in the ’90s by Ted and Sharon Wroblewski, who owned the inn for 25 years prior to the Phillips. June says 75 percent of their customers are repeat business built by the Wroblewski’s goodwill.

Owning the inn has worked out well for the Phillips’ immediate family, too. Now the grandchildren can come up and stay at the Red Apple and feel right at home with the large family gathering spaces, fireplaces and recreation room. “And someone else cleans up after them,” says June.

June makes and serves breakfast for the guests; it is her chance to mingle. “It is one of the nicest parts of being an innkeeper,” she claims. “Inn guests are very interesting people.” From a wealth of family recipes she builds a large breakfast that includes muffins, coffee cake, fresh fruit, pancakes, ham and eggs. And her pineapple stuffing side dish wows everyone.

The Phillips recently took on management of the restaurant and hired Chef Phil McGibbon, formerly of the 1785 Inn and the White Mountain Hotel, both in Conway. McGibbon sees the move as an opportunity to expand the creative aspects of the menu. But just the same, a few old standards will remain, including the Weiner schnitzel, venison and fondue. He even plans to offer a fondue meal that includes a cheese fondue appetizer, a hot-oil fondue for meats and shrimp and a chocolate fondue for dessert.

Chef Mark Prince, a former chef at the Bernerhof, has recently been hired on as a consultant. People are asking for German, Swiss and Austrian items from the old menu, says June. So Prince is working with McGibbon to perfect the Old World menu. German night on Monday nights is in the works and will include bratwurst, Jaeger schnitzel, Holstein schnitzel and a cheese raclette, served with boiled potatoes and gherkins, just like in Europe.

Twice a year the Phillips continue the tradition of the Taste of the White Mountains Cooking School started by Prince. Here, students work in the kitchen alongside the chefs preparing a complete menu for lunch and dinner. The next teaching weekend will be held in mid-May with Master Baker Steve James, formerly of The Balsams. He will be teaching a bread and dessert class with his easygoing style. A mid-November weekend also features three days of classes and workshops.

The warm and cozy “Dining Room at the Bernerhof” and the equally cozy Black Bear Pub seem like the perfect backdrop for a winter’s day of skiing or snow shoeing. What is it about Old World food that feeds the soul and warms the heart? Maybe it’s the calories, but still, once in a while when the cold wind blows, you need to heed the call. NH

The Bernerhof Inn
Route 302, Glen
(800) 548-8007