Food Lovers' Guide: Herbs and Condiments
On the Side: A Cottage Industry
It's hard to think herbs and New Hampshire and not conjure our state's version of the "Secret Garden" – Pickity Place in Mason. Not only are herbs grown and sold at this over-200-year-old storybook cottage in the woods, they are also the stars of the seated luncheons served in the über-cozy dining room. And the storybook thing – that's for real. The 1786 red house was the inspiration for the 1948 Little Golden Books version of "Little Red Riding Hood," illustrated by a Mason resident, the late Elizabeth "Twig" Orton Jones.
Yes, there is a Riding Hood theme throughout the place, including a room set up with the big, bad wolf in granny disguise. But of equal fame are the herbs grown, dried and sold on the premises. In the warm months visitors are urged to walk through the kitchen garden where fragrant basil, oregano, edible flowers and intoxicating lavender are among the plants. A sign urges people to "please handle the herbs." It's that garden that inspires the five-course seasonal herbal luncheons served at Pickity Place.
The menu changes each month. February's selection includes northern white bean soup with bacon and rosemary, classic Caesar salad with Romano and herbed croutons and chicken and sausage cacciatore over creamy basil risotto served with spiced tea or mulled cider.
To engage in a little post-meal retail exercise, the rustic gift shop next door also sells herb cookbooks, herbal potpourri, jams, jellies, gourmet soup mixes and blended herbs for dips, sauces and other dishes. In warmer months there's also a greenhouse/nursery where you can buy the same herb plants growing in Pickity's gardens.
248 Nutting Hill Rd.
Fun Fact: "Camp mix," the all-in-one seasoning mixture that enhances corn on the cob as well as everything from burgers to veggies, was born of necessity in New Hampshire. It was concocted in 1982 by Tom Trayer to save space on family camping trips by mixing seasonings and packing them in one bottle. When fellow campers began trying to abscond with the delicious blend, he knew he was onto something. The secret blend is now manufactured by the Sunquam Tribute Company in Londonderry and is available at farmstands and specialty stores. (603) 566-3350
Jerry’s Bloody Mary Mix
Alcohol-free mixes available in regular and hot and spicy.