Plan a Fall Trip to Hancock
Before the leaves fall, we take a last glorious weekend to paddle around our favorite waters in Hancock
Stopping for dinner at Delrossi’s Trattoria, we split an order of garlicky bruschetta topped fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers, then feasted on chicken and shrimp carbonara with diced pancetta, and seafood diavolo — haddock, shrimp, scallops and lobster in marinara sauce. Our third-floor room at The Hancock Inn was delightfully cozy, named for George Washington, who was inaugurated the year the inn opened. The theme was evident in blue-and-white-striped wallpaper and the red-white-and-blue sunburst quilt on the spool bed.
The Tavern Room’s large glass doors gave us a different perspective on the garden view from our room’s window-seat nook. While we crunched the inn’s own granola and fresh-cut cantaloupe with sweet blueberries, we contemplated the seven entrées. Our perfectly poached eggs were served with a meaty hash of corned beef.
There was more to the Hancock Inn’s gardens that we’d seen from our room. Along with flowers and rock garden with a cascading pool, we found raised beds of ripening vegetables (used by the inn’s chef, we learned) and a croquet pitch. Following a path to an old cemetery and the adjacent property, we were surprised to find goats right in the center of the village. Main Street Cheese keeps a herd of 13 Alpine does at a nearby farm, but the kids live here, where the cheese is made and sold in the honor-system dairy. The cute little critters munched hay and frolicked in well-kept play yards.
We left by their front gate to explore Main Street, lined by beautifully kept old buildings of the Hancock Village Historic District; most are on the National Register of Historic Places. At one end, in the elegant white-spired Hancock Meeting House, a Paul Revere bell chimes the hours.
By the time we reached the other end of Main Street, stopping for photographs and to browse in the Hancock Market (where I couldn’t pass up a copy of Hancock Women’s club cookbook, “A Taste of Hancock,” from their display of local products), the Revere bell reminded us that it was lunchtime. At a table on the porch of Fiddleheads Café, we enjoyed the Indian Summer weather and grilled balsamic chicken with roasted red pepper sauce, then split a giant ice cream sandwich of fresh-baked oatmeal cookies and ginger ice cream.
We love rock-bound Willard Pond, in the dePierrefeu-Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, where we were the only people on the still waters — just us, the great blue heron and a family of loons. We let the loons come to us, sitting still in the water and not paddling. When they had inspected us from a discreet distance, they ducked suddenly and resurfaced on our other side. We stretched our legs afterwards with a woodland walk on the Tudor Trail.
Back at the Hancock Inn, we used the last rays of sun and long twilight for a genteel game of croquet on the back lawn. We’re a bit out of practice, so it was almost too dark to see the wickets by the time we finished.
Dinner at Hancock Inn
A glance at the menu dispelled any notions of “ye olde Yankee inn” cooking. Chef Rob Grant sources meats and produce from local farms for his two menus, one for the tavern and one for the white-linens dining room, but guests can choose from both. We began with a flatbread topped by Main Street goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil, and grilled watermelon with sweet red onion and goat cheese. The latter was so delicious — a combination of sweet, fresh and tangy — that I could gladly have ordered another serving for an entrée, but our server described Berkshire Pork Flat Iron with grilled peach, pecan and arugula so appealingly that I couldn’t resist. It was a happy choice, as was Tim’s lamb entrée, a combo of roasted loin and fork-tender stuffed breast served with grilled eggplant. Chef Grant’s take on strawberry shortcake, mixing intensely flavored dried strawberries and rhubarb with fresh, piqued our curiosity. It was inspired, as was mine: cantaloupe ribbons layered with elderflower meringues in honeydew purée — a light and airy finish to a superb dinner.
Remembering the goat cheese on our appetizers last night, we asked to substitute it for the Boggy Meadow Swiss used on the grilled tomato stack and the sausage stack on the breakfast menu. The chef wasn’t offended at our messing with his creation, and the result was delicious, perfectly poached yolks mingling with cheese and sausage or tomato. Before leaving, we popped next door for cheese to take home. At the Harris Center, we considered the half-day hike up Mt. Skatutakee for the foliage view, but with a long afternoon of kayaking in mind, explored the lower trails instead.
After picking up picnic makings at the Hancock Market, we headed to another favorite put-in, on Lake Nubanusit. Our destination was Spoonwood Pond, at the end of the lake’s undeveloped western side. We carried the kayaks up the earth dam embankment to Spoonwood, where, with only one house visible on a faraway hillside, we paddled in a secluded world shared only with a pair of loons and a bald eagle, neither of which seemed concerned by our presence.