Meat and Greet
What do fragrant pea blossoms, caramelized elk filets, delicate peach ice cream and Coulommier cheese have in common? Yes, they were all part of recent dinner service at the Mountain View Grand, but more importantly they all have long roots in New Hampshire. Dinner from the hilltop grand resort is always a treat, for one, because Chef Kevin Cottle cares a lot about good food and, two, the view from the dining room is smashing. This evening was no different. The sun set across the mountain vista as the evening unfolded as a culinary tour of the state.
Present at the dinner were a few of the growers responsible for the organic produce and healthy proteins.
The delicate pea blossoms are grown at Weather Hill farm (286-4282) by Charlie and Joanne Burke. He rarely harvests peas; his main intent is to grow pea plants to harvest the pea blossoms and pea tendrils for high-end chefs. Burke says of his tender produce: “They have all the taste of peas.” Chef Cottle used the tendrils and blossoms to garnish the entrée plates.
Burke also grows a variety of other young plants, such as baby arugula that are harvested 14 days after they are planted. Again, most of his produce goes to chefs. Burke, organizer of the Sanbornton Farmers Market, is dismayed that people walk past his young arugula to pick up a head of iceberg lettuce. He hopes that in the near future more chefs will be asking for the delicate green and that market shoppers, once familiar, will follow. His ultimate hope is the inverse — that customers will be asking chefs, “Is it grown locally?”
The first entrée on the menu was brook trout from Hy-On-A-Hill Trout Farm (www.hyonahilltrout.com) in Plainfield. Cottle prepared the extremely fresh fish delicately to preserve its naturally sweet flavor. Tom Fisk bought the aquaculture operation about fi
ve years ago, and now stocks several ponds, tanks and raceways with rainbow, brook and a few brown trout. In the spring and fall they sell fish to stock ponds, but all year round they are able to make deliveries for “table” fish all over the state. Their waters are from deep wells and may be part of the reason they claim to have the tastiest trout around. If you want to visit the operation, you can catch and release all day for $5 or keep them for $5 a pound.
Next up was the elk filet, caramelized and given a quick sear by Chef Cottle. John and Julie Morse of Kear-Wood Farms in Wilmot have about 60 head that are free to roam a multi-acre fenced in area. About 20 babies are born each year and about the same number are taken to slaughter. The meat from the three-or-four-year-olds, from tenderloin to hamburger to osso bucco cuts, is frozen for retail and wholesale orders. They are large animals and each yields a good quantity. In addition, the racks of the elk from the whole herd are harvested for their “velvet,” which is ground and put into pill form for a joint lubricant. The racks grow back and can be taken again and again. Julie says that elk meat is extremely healthy, with low fat and cholesterol levels, and that elk is an “extremely clean animal.” With the low-fat factors and no hormones, Julie claims even vegetarians have ordered the meat.
The Morses’ mission is more than raising healthy food. They have lived in the New London area for many years and are trying their best to maintain the open spaces and beauty of the region. If they sold, their land would just sprout another condo development. They note that the new “view” tax by the state is not helping their case and seems unfair when the bucolic view is their own working barn.
The meal so far was very satisfying. Local products were playing starring and supporting roles as the meal unfolded. To cap the meal, Chef Cottle prepared a trio of ice creams from the Sandwich Creamery (www.sandwichcreamery.com) in North Sandwich. Tom and Lisa Merriman have been developing cheeses for the past 10 years. Their tasty Coulommier was part of an earlier presentation, a salad with tomatoes and the creamy subtle cheese. But, in addition to the cheeses from cheddar to brie, the Merrimans have developed a full line of ice creams and sorbets. Present this evening were a strawberry sorbet packed with the essence of the fruit, and peach and blueberry ice creams. The ice creams are made from the very rich milk of grass-fed cows. Their products are available at several retail outlets (check the Web site), but go to the source to enjoy the all-natural stuff right from the container in the countryside setting.
The event was part of a series of dinners fostered by the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection (www.nhfarmtorestaurant.com). The fledgling organization attempts to match small farmers and other producers of agriculture-based products with local chefs looking for fresh, local products.
Scheduled for September 21 is a dinner at the Franconia Inn benefiting Bode Miller’s Turtle Ridge Foundation. A breakfast is also scheduled at Blake’s Restaurant (www.blakesicecream.com) in Manchester on September 26. Finally, an end of the season dinner at the Eagle Mountain House is planned for November 9.
The dinners are about good food, but more than that, the cooperative effort seeks to preserve all that is good about the state. Dig in, and benefit yourself and the state. NH
Maybe the star of Bethlehem is rising again. The North Country town has recently been graced with an unusual restaurant. Angelica’s on Main Street is a labor of love for owners Tammy and Fred Cunha. The charming building created quite a stir as the owners first set in beautiful landscaping and then designed a building that looks like it was always there. Tammy says her husband studied the architecture of the area homes before planning the restaurant. Now, a capacious porch that seats 40 also reflects the laid back architectural flavor of the town.
The food is basically fried fish, but this is not a typical fish shanty. The Cunhas own a fish-processing plant in New Bedford, Mass., and procure the freshest fish possible, including lobster, clams and yellowtail.
There also is a Portuguese connection, so you may find kale soup, chorizo and linguica on the menu, too. In the evening, specials are created with a bit more creativity. A fish market is also on the site, and plans are under way to build a bakery.
Up the road in Littleton a new restaurant called Bin 42 is bringing locals in with their tasty and creative pizzas. The menu is just that; several pizza choices, including one with peaches and prosciutto, plus beer and wine.
The restaurant is located at 42 Main Street. Look for Deacon’s Bench and a paper menu stapled to the fence. Open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner only.
NH Made (www.nhmade.com) has reached an agreement with UPS for guaranteed overnight delivery. This means chefs can order local produce and meats and be assured they will have it fresh the next day. Call Charlie Burke for more details. 286-4282
Good Food, Great Views
When what is out the window is almost as important as what is on the plate.
By Barbara Radcliffe Rogers
While the dinner on the table and the vibe of the dining room are prime considerations for choosing a restaurant, a smashing view can add the finishing touch to a perfect dining experience. And from the seacoast to the mountains, New Hampshire has enough scenic settings to go around.
Despite the dramatic crashing waves outside and the open-ocean view, all is not seafood at Ron’s Landing (929-2122, www.ronslanding.com) in Hampton, where Chef/owner Ron Boucher arranges some non-traditional marriages of land and sea. The white-linens-and-candlelight setting of an old Seacoast home highlights a menu where a Maryland-style crab cake might share the plate with charbroiled filet mignon, or veal cutlet could be topped with sautéed king crab meat. In a signature dish, Chef Boucher surrounds veal medallions in a pistachio nut crust and garnishes them with lobster claws. On Friday and Sunday evenings, the mood for a seaside dinner becomes even more romantic with live music.
Not far away, in New Castle, Latitudes (373-6592, www.wentworth.com) sits closer to the water below the grand Wentworth by the Sea. In the foreground a marina of white boats bob in the waves, and the view moves upward past a wide swath of blue water to a fringe of soft marsh-grasses and the trees of the opposite shore. Here and there the shoreline is interrupted by a seaside home and an occasional sailboat skims across the picture. Wentworth Executive Chef Dan Dumont met the challenge of how to keep diners’ attention on the table by choosing contemporary free-form china and providing roomy upholstered chairs, then designing a menu that charms at first sight with a tempting array of small dishes (oyster shooters or a trio of bite-sized burgers, each treated differently) and substantial salads, as well as more traditional entrées. Open daily for lunch and dinner until Labor Day and then weekends through Columbus Day.
Not all of New Hampshire’s water views are of saltwater, of course. Lakes from Winnipesaukee to tiny Crystal Lake have dining rooms with windows on the water.
Lago Costa Cucina in Meredith (279-2253) extends the dining area right over the water with a dining deck over Meredith Bay. The casual atmosphere of rustic wooden tables and murals of rural Italy set an easy vibe that fits nicely with Chef Scott Martin’s menu of house-made pastas, and homey favorites such as osso buco (his is made with pork instead of the usual veal) or rainbow trout roasted with garlic and fennel. A full wall of windows brings the lake views to indoor diners.
Across the lake in Wolfeboro, the “lobster shack” adjunct of Wolfe Den American Bistro overlooks the wooded shores of Back Bay, with the low profile of the Belknap Range providing the backdrop for the view across the lake. At Wolfetrap Grill and Raw Bar (569-1047, www.wolfetrap.com), the laid-back mood is set by the long copper bar and the lobster tank — which provide most of the décor, as well. Make it a total water experience by arriving on their vintage boat, which will transport you free from the town dock. Wolfetrap may not be on the ocean, but the seafood is strictly ocean fresh.
While there is no shortage of good views in the White Mountains, some sites simply beg for a dining room with a wall of glass. The Mount Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods (800-314-1752 or 278-1000, www.mtwashington.com) obliges so well that there is hardly a table in the entire dining room that doesn’t have a view of Mount Washington. Not just Washington, but its only-slightly-lesser neighbors, rising from a wooded foreground. From the breakfast table you can trace the progress of the Cog Railway trains as they exhale puffs of smoke along the track. Everything about the dining room is grand: its round shape and cruise-ship atmosphere, and the live dance music that invites guests to waltz or lindy between courses by Executive Chef James Dyer.
You can also see Mt. Washington from Sunset Hill House in Sugar Hill (823-5522, www.sunsethillhouse.com), although in the distance. Closer — in fact the large dining room windows look straight at it — is the western side of Cannon Mountain, and it’s a stunning sight at any time of year. In winter, the setting sun reflects on the snow, a phenomenon known as Alpenglow, but in the fall that same red glow seems to set the autumn leaves on fire. The fall menu created by Chef Joe Peterson might include a pair of venison chops with a lingonberry-roasted pear sauce and creamy polenta; whatever is offered is sure to bring everyone’s attention back to the table
At the White Mountain Hotel (356-7100, www.whitemountainhotel.com) in North Conway, The Ledges overlooks another mountain famous for its skiing — Cranmore. Windows form the entire east wall of the large dining room, so you don’t need to ask for a window table to see the Mt. Washington Valley spread before you. If you are lucky, the setting sun might catch in an early evening shower to bring a rainbow arching over the mountain. Not as formal as the Mount Washington Hotel, The Ledges’ easy resort atmosphere provides a balanced setting for Chef Dana Lunn’s complex and artistically-presented dishes: Veal Oscar is my all-time favorite, sautéed veal cutlet with flavorful crab Florentine, tender-crisp asparagus and Béarnaise sauce.
The Inn at Thorn Hill (383-4242, www.innatthornhill.com) dining room looks down onto the tidy little village of Jackson, a more intimate view than some of the sweeping mountain vistas of the large hotels, but a thoroughly pleasing one. Just as pleasing is the dining room itself, where guests can dress casually, but the settings and surroundings are undeniably elegant and the service far from casual. Executive Chef Jonathan Cox has added a Mediterranean accent to the menu since his arrival. NH