Country Inns to Dine for
Enjoy a relaxed meal where the past lives on at classic New Hampshire inns
Sometimes our sprawling cities and citified towns seem like just another byway through modern America. But look closer. Across the state, historic properties on roads less traveled offer an escape to a hidden New Hampshire for a host of dining experiences that offer history and New England charm as a side dish. Stagecoach stops of the past are now accommodating inns with modern conveniences offering a heart-warming escape from the chill of winter and the dull coat of progress. Wide pumpkin pine floors, blazing fires, paned windows with a touch of lace, snow falling on pines — it’s why New Yorkers make the drive.
Every region has its past preserved at an inn. Most inn owners are, in fact, just caretakers of a tradition that started with the first stagecoaches and take pride in being keepers of the flame. The flame at many inns now includes a fine dining experience served within the soft glow of history.
In Henniker, Cyndi and Mason Cobb escaped the corporate world for inn keeping at the Colby Hill Hill more than eight years ago. The sign at the door says Lodging and Good Food, so in addition to arranging antique furniture, and shopping for fine linens the hosts take pride in their wine list and food service. Cyndi is a chef a heart — she was runner-up in a national pancake contest, but the couple depend on a professional chef for dinner service.
The Masons recently hired Cory Fletcher as head chef. Chef Fletcher brings with him a reputation as the Oz in the kitchen at the now shuttered 55 Degrees in Concord.
Fletcher’s philosophy on food is simple — create flavors that are crisp and clean. He works towards balancing flavor profiles, with sweet and spicy or tart and rich flavors that can be tasted separately, but bounce back and forth on the palate. He strives to have a range of textures in each dish, adding crispy duck confit to xx. More than just fun on the tongue, textures and colors add a visual delight — as Fletcher says, you dine with your eyes, first. The chef is fully on board the fresh and local food movement and looks forward to establishing relationships with local providers as the growing season burgeons.
The Colby Hill dining room boasts full-length windows with views into a private courtyard filled with birds and the tracks of wildlife on snow. Spring views bring the color purple with ancient lilacs framed against weathered barn board.
The fourteen guest rooms range from cozy rooms to canopied beds to suites in the barn with Jacuzzis and fireplaces. The inn is a member of the Select Registry, Distinguished Inn of North America.
Colby Hill Inn, 3 The Oaks, Henniker, (603) 428-3281, www.colbyhillinn.com
Romantic Dining at Country Inns
Whether you visit an inn for the food and wine, or prefer to end your meal just a few steps up a creaking staircase to a comfy bed, innkeepers are a great resource for local attractions. Marry your stay with a visit to a small-town general store, a wintry sleigh ride, or other backcountry adventures. Just ask your host.
A few picks by region
Bedford Village Inn, Rte. 101, Bedford, www.bedfordvillageinn.com
Not far from busy byways this inn offers intimate dining in a series of fire-placed rooms part of the original architecture of a working farm built in 1810. The luxurious accommodations are tastefully appointed. Other dining options include the Tavern and the new Corks, a small urban wine bar.
Three Chimneys, Durham, www.threechimneysinn.com
Creative accommodations near UNH listed on the National Register of Historic Place. The Maples is like dining in an elegant Colonial residence, the ffrost Sawyer Tavern offers a pub menu in a rustic setting. Rooms are sumptious and most have a massive four-poster bed so high you need a step stool to get to bed.
Inn at Danbury, Danbury, www.innatdanbury.com
Affordable and fun accommodations near Ragged Mountain offers a taste of German and Austrian cuisine complete with servers in dirndls and lederhosen.
Inn at Newfound Lake, www.newfoundlake.com
Dine in the Pasquaney restaurant with views of Bob houses on Newfound Lake or in the cozy Wild Hare Tavern. The former stagecoach stop offers affordable accommodations in classic New England decor.
Highland Lake Inn, www.highlandlakeinn.com
Innkeeper Pecco Beaufaÿs trained as a chef at the Sacher Hotel in Vienna and spent the following 30 years in luxury hotels in Europe and America. The inn recently opened the dining room to the public. This former gentleman’s farm built was in 1767 and is situated on 7 acres adjoining a 21-acre nature preserve. The nearby trail head of the Northern Rail Trail, is a perfect place to cross-country ski.
Chesterfield Inn, www.chesterfieldinn.com
A rambling farmhouse set on a hill is nestled in gardens carefully planned to look naturally beautiful. Ten rooms have views of the meadow and fine dining on the porch, with views of a snow covered grounds is special, indeed. Chef Bob Nebstadt takes pride in offering the usual with an unexpected.
Hancock Inn, Hancock, www.hancockinn.com
This historic inn proudly proclaims it is the oldest continuously running inn in the state.
It has it all, creaking staircases, original fireplaces perfect for candlelit dinners, beautifully restored rooms including several with Rufus Porter murals. An excellent wine list accompanies the New England fare.
Home Hill Inn, Plainfield, www.homehillinn.com
This lovely genteel inn, tucked away on backcountry roads, offers the best of inspired cuisine. The accommodations are as lovely as the food.
Aylmer’s Grille at the Woodbound Inn, Rindge, www.woodbound.com
Recently refurbished from the kitchen sink to the guest suites, the dining room at the Woodbound Inn offers a feel of old fashion resort with a contemporary flair of Chef Aylmer Given.
Inn at Thorn Hill, Jackson, www.innatthornhill.com
Award-winning dining in the heart of Jackson. Chef John Russ pleases and teases in both the dining room and lounge menu. The inn is newly rebuilt with all the character of the Stanford White original.
Darby Field Inn & Restaurant, www.darbyfieldinn.com
Take a moonlight sleigh ride right from the door of this inn after a dinner of New England fare. The inn is six miles from North Conway, but tucked away deep in the woods.
Ammonoosuc Inn, Lisbon, www.ammonoosucinn.com
Chef/owner Karen Melanie owned a bistro on Long Island. Trained in classic French technique she prepares fresh foods with an international influence. In winter, bistro menu items are available in the pub. Cooking classes are offered by appointment. All rooms recently updated with fresh décor. Zinfandel Jacuzzi Suite has views of the mountains over the tub and if that is not enough, a flat screen TV.
Sugar Hill Inn, Sugar Hill, www.sugarhillinn.com
Innkeeper, Steve Allen, has a passion for food and hired Chef Val Fortin to ensure a first-rate dining experience. Quaint rooms in the main house or more modern accommodations in the additions.
The 1785 Inn, North Conway, www.the1785inn.com
First-class dining with excellent wine list and sweeping views of the Presidentials.
Active bar scene, rooms are basic, but affordable.