One of a Kind Weekend
Seasonal fun in Henniker
We arrived early enough to take a few runs on the lighted trails of Pats Peak, as well-groomed at night as we've always found them by day. Then we adjourned to the warm tavern atmosphere of Country Spirit Restaurant for a late dinner of Angus prime rib. Colby Hill Inn, just half a mile from the village center, stood surrounded in the warm glow the lights from its windows cast across the snowy landscape. Within minutes we were settled into our suite in the Carriage House and warming our toes in front of the fireplace.
As we enjoyed hearty breakfasts of French toast drizzled with a Grand Marnier sauce and an omelet filled with bacon, spinach and Feta, we were amused by half a dozen squirrels' attempts to rob the various bird feeders in Colby Hill Inn's back yard. Well-fortified, we headed back to Pats Peak to hit its trails in the morning light.
Although Pats Peak serves up some of the state's best ski-area chili, we decided to return to the center of Henniker to Daniel's for cups of clam chowder and hearty Reubens, which we ate while watching the rushing Contoocook River below.
I'm not a knitter or a quilter, but I enjoy enough other fiber crafts that two shops in Henniker drew me like moths to a candle. Quilted Threads is a lot more than a quilting shop, although it displays an eye-boggling kaleidoscope of quilt fabrics and a gallery of finished quilts to inspire stitchers of all levels. Amongst the hundreds of fabric bolts are rare embroidery threads, imported trims and enticing examples of handmade things, from whimsical pincushions to stylish handbags. Books are everywhere, filled with inspiration and instructions for even more. It's almost impossible for anyone with the tiniest creative spark to leave empty-handed.
We moved from this fabric heaven to wool nirvana, at The Fiber Studio, two floors of yarns and threads so tactile that they fairly beg to be patted. In addition to yarns are merino and other fleeces for felting, beads, buttons, woolcraft kits and a good selection of finished items made from beads, wool and other media. The helpful staff offered full instructions on how to make a necklace I admired there, and I left with all the materials, as well as a kit for making a cloud-like silk scarf.
Back at the inn, we raided the cookie plate in the guest parlor before heading to our suite to relax in the double whirlpool tub. The fireplace was cleverly positioned so we could enjoy it from the bedroom or from the tub.
Dinner at Colby Hill Inn
As our server poured wine (a very respectable Rioja label at less than $25), big snowflakes began drifting down to create an idyllic winter scene in the inn's flood-lit back yard. We shared an appetizer of crispy phyllo triangles, filled with cheddar, bacon and apples, on a bed of crisp baby greens. I followed with the house specialty, Vermont-raised Misty Knoll chicken breast filled with large tender chunks of lobster in boursin seasoned with leeks. So generous were the portions that we decided to share the tarte tatin, whose tangy apples contrasted smartly with the sweet, rich caramel.
We had chosen the annual New Hampshire Maple Weekend so we could tour a few local sugar houses. But the promise of pancakes drenched in hot-from-the-evaporator maple syrup didn't prevent us from enjoying another Colby Hill Inn breakfast and the squirrel show. This morning it was scrambled eggs with roasted sweet red peppers, leeks, mushrooms and the inn's own boursin cheese. After this, we decided to visit the farthest sugar houses first, before the pancakes, so followed Route 114 a few miles to neighboring Weare. There, at Pond View Maple Sugar House, we sampled maple cotton candy and maple popcorn and at Allen Acres Maple Grove we also looked into their small doll museum.
By noon we could do justice to lunch at Intervale Farm Pancake House, back in Henniker, where they had begun boiling before daybreak. Before leaving town, we couldn't resist stopping at Henniker's two second-hand bookstores, Old Number Six Book Depot in the center and Book Farm on Old West Hopkinton Road near its intersection with Route 9. Either one could have filled the rest of the afternoon.