An Early Spring Jaunt in Lebanon
We’d been hearing about Gusanoz and this was the first chance we’d had to sample their Mexican specialties. We began with guacamole, which was made to order as we requested it, with lots of cilantro and an extra spoonful of jalapeños. The mole-braised short ribs caught my attention, slow cooked and served with a mild tomatillo sauce. The sauce was not so mild on the Chile Verde Burrito, filled with slow-roasted pork.
The wide floorboards and antique furnishings in our room at Shaker Hill Bed and Breakfast reminded us that the farmhouse was built in the late 1700s by an officer in the Revolution. Breakfast there began with hot scones and fruit, followed by French toast with maple syrup.
We were so close to the Enfield Shaker Museum that we began our explorations there, with a visit to the Great Stone Dwelling, once the tallest building north of Boston. It’s the largest dwelling house the Shakers ever built, completed in 1841, and was one of about 300 buildings that made up the community here. Today that main residence is the central focus of the museum that reveals their way of life, inventions, beliefs and wealth of beautifully designed furniture and crafts. After touring the buildings we hiked up to the Shaker Feast Ground for views of the village and Mascoma Lake.
We risked dulling our appetite for lunch, but knowing that Muriel’s Donuts closed at 1 and was not open Sunday, we headed to the hillside neighborhood in Lebanon where Muriel has been cooking donuts since the 1960s. Her jelly-filled crullers are so good that it took real willpower not to have a second one.
We dawdled around a bit before going to Stone Arch Bakery Café for lunch. We both chose sandwiches: turkey-walnut salad on honey-oatmeal bread and roast beef on onion-rye, and listened to the live acoustic music that brings everyone here for lunch on Saturdays.
Although Lebanon has lost much of its downtown shopping to the mall sprawl of West Lebanon, it retained its wide common and the historic buildings surrounding it. The Colburn Park Historic District includes 23 buildings facing the park, which has served as a common continuously since 1792. The streetscape of stately homes, public buildings and commercial blocks around the park ranges from Federal Period and Greek Revival through Victorian and into the early 20th century.
We could appreciate the architectural details of each of the buildings with the excellent walking tour from the Lebanon Historical Society website, which also pointed out historical notes we would certainly have missed. For example, the stack of cannonballs that stands near the Civil War statue at the 1890 Soldiers Memorial Building contains two shells from the Spanish American War Battleship Maine. Just off the square we found the AVA Gallery and Art Center, where local artists show their work.
Dinner at Three Tomatoes Trattoria
At the other end of the park is Three Tomatoes, where we arrived early enough to get a window table on Saturday night without a reservation.
We began with artichoke and prosciutto bruschetta and mussels steamed in white wine and shallots. For mains we chose chicken saltimbocca and the day’s special, wood-fire roasted Atlantic cod with caper pesto. The lively vibe and smart surroundings make Three Tomatoes a place to linger over the rest of the wine and espresso.
Robert Frost described the day’s weather perfectly: “You know how it is with an April day. When the sun is out and the wind is still, you’re one month on in the middle of May.” Definitely a day to be outdoors enjoying it, and we had several choices of trails to hike.
The Northern Rail Trail passes through Enfield, using the former railway route along the shore of Mascoma Lake, but we chose Colette Trail alongside Bicknell Brook. Between Grafton Pond and Crystal Lake we passed several waterfalls, some of them stair-step cascades over wide ledges, and one good-sized drop shortly before the trail ends at Crystal Lake.
While admiring Lebanon’s historic architecture, we’d noticed Salt Hill Pub in the 1882 Whipple Building facing the park, and we stopped there for bowls of hearty beef and Guinness stew after our hike.
The apple trees at Poverty Lane Orchards were just beginning to bloom when we stopped for a tasting at Farnum Hill Ciders, before heading on to lose ourselves for a couple of hours in the two jam-packed floors of Colonial Plaza Antiques & Flea Market (603-298-8132). It’s the kind of place to look for vintage doll carriages, typewriters, tin scoops, a Rookwood vase, old cookbooks, cast-iron lawn furniture, fancy crocheted doilies, wicker porch rockers and portraits of somebody else’s great-grandmother.