Welcome Spring in Chesterfield, NH
As the snow melts away, it’s time to get outdoors and watch the flowers bloom in Chesterfield
With April come the daffodils of Welcome Hill Road in Chesterfield
photo by stillman rogers
Only 12 miles from our destination in Chesterfield, we stopped in Keene, at Papagallos for pizzas from their brick oven. After splitting an appetizer of calamari Rhode Island-style, sautéed with hot peppers, we enjoyed a Roman-style pizza with artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and eggplant, and a Mediterranean with peppers, Kalamata olives and feta cheese, each with a sauce of sundried tomatoes.
Breakfast at the Chesterfield Inn began with a plate of fresh-cut fruit, with yogurt sweetened slightly with a drizzle of honey. The miniature corn muffins were still warm from the oven. A full menu offered pancakes, eggs and other entrées, but we ordered the day’s two specials: a frittata of zucchini, yellow squash, sweet red peppers and cheddar, and eggs scrambled with sausage and Swiss cheese.
Innkeeper Judy Huber advised us that the daffodils were in full bloom on Welcome Hill, and all along Welcome Hill Road. So we walked from the inn instead of driving, to enjoy the patches of yellow beside the road and in front yards. At the crest, a bench overlooks a beautiful little vale simply yellow with flowers. A trail winds down through this sea of daffodils interspersed with a few bright tulips.
We detoured just across the river to North End Butchers, where we ordered custom-built sandwiches on bread from Jasmine’s Bakery — all-natural roast beef with red onion, Shelburne Farms cheddar, arugula and horseradish crème fraîche, and nitrate-free smoked turkey with garlic aioli, greens, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and Manchego cheese. Back in NH, we took our first right, through a bosky little gulf to eat our picnic lunch on the ruined steps of Madame Sherri’s Castle.
The mystery of Madame Sherri's in springtime
photo by stillman rogers
The chimneys, arches, fireplace and grand staircase are all that still stands of the stone house, but exploring the foundations it’s easy to imagine what it must have looked like when the exotic theatrical costume designer hosted lavish parties here in the Roaring ’20s. Paris-born Madame Antoinette Sherri, her wild parties, her chauffeured Packard, her fur coat and her fast crowd of New York friends were described on signs as we entered Madame Sherri Forest, now a conservation area.
Following the trail from the pond below the house, we hiked up to Indian Pond, a beautiful little oasis held in a bowl of wooded hillsides. From there a trail climbed to an overlook with views back down onto the pond. A little farther on, we could look down from the ledges to the Connecticut River.
After our climb, we watched the sunset over the Vermont hills the terrace of our room over a glass of wine. By the time the sun disappeared, we were glad to finish our wine in front of the fireplace in our large room. Unlike many country inns, the rooms at Chesterfield Inn are not retrofitted into a farmhouse, but in a specially designed wing and separate buildings. So rooms are spacious enough for king-sized beds and comfortable sitting areas, and each has its own private terrace and view.
Dinner at Chesterfield Inn
Pan Asian barbequed shrimp with Nishiki rice cake and grilled pineapple salsa
photo by stillman rogers
Chef Robert Nabstedt surprised us with a cosmopolitan menu featuring some of his favorite ingredients — wild game. We chose one game option for each course, beginning with grilled sausages on balsamic-braised red cabbage with an ale mustard sauce. The smoked wild boar bratwurst contrasted nicely with the milder-flavored pheasant sausage made with cognac. The other appetizer, Asian barbequed shrimp on a Nishiki rice cake, was served with grilled-pineapple salsa. The main course of pan-roasted pheasant breast was served with delectable leeks braised in cream with rosemary. The meltingly tender walnut-crusted rack of lamb was glazed in merlot and served with red onion marmalade and savory roasted potatoes.
After breakfast, hearty and leisurely enough to be considered brunch, we drove a short distance to Chesterfield village, a stone town hall, post office and cluster of houses sitting along ridge. Just beyond, we parked at the edge of Pisgah State Park and followed the Old Chesterfield Road, now a multi-use trail. After a short loop to Lily Pond, we continued on to the larger Fulham Pond. Several other trails meander through this 13,668-acre wilderness, the largest state park in New Hampshire, and among its most pristine and diverse woodlands — or it was until recent clear-cutting ruined some portions of the forest.
Chesterfield Gorge is a little-known geological feature where a waterfall leaps and plunges down through a deep rocky defile. The longest single drop may only be about 20 feet, but the overall length of the cascades, falls, slides and pools make it particularly scenic. Trails on either side connected by bridges give plenty of viewpoints, the best of which, from the far side of the gorge, showed an impressively long chute filled from recent rains. This is the best time of year to see the whole gorge, without foliage obscuring parts of it.
Almost back to Keene on Rte. 9, we stopped at Stonewall Farm to see the Belgian draft horses and alpacas. We were just in time to watch the afternoon milking, and we stopped in the farm store to buy cheddar cheese made from herd’s milk — along with local honey from Bee Tree Farm.