Dartmouth's Winter Carnival and Visiting Hanover
A fire flickering in the lobby fireplace and fresh-baked cookies welcomed us to the Hanover Inn. Without losing the classic elegance and timeless grace we loved, the re-do adds 21st-century amenities, along with serious upgrades to the guest rooms. Ours overlooked Dartmouth Green, and its custom furniture by Pompanoosuc Mills gave it a pleasing blend of contemporary and traditional.
For dinner we crossed the street to Canoe Club Bistro, where we began with a salad of heirloom beets and a bowl of tomato and fennel chowder before entrées of Pad Thai and mussels with fries. A classical guitarist and the pub-like atmosphere made it a genial place to unwind on a Friday evening.
The breakfast menu surprised us with some unusual options and we both ordered the chef's specialty, Eggs Benedict on a potato cake instead of English muffin with delicious applewood-smoked bacon replacing the Canadian bacon. The eggs were perfectly cooked, and the mild hollandaise helped the flavors to blend beautifully in each bite. My tea was served in a wide covered cup resting on an oval bamboo tray, which was a nice touch.
From our window we had gotten a sneak preview of Dartmouth Winter Carnival's (2014 date TBD) main snow sculpture on the Green, but after breakfast we donned boots and scarves to find the rest scattered around the campus. The reception desk gave us a schedule of the weekend's activities, so we made a note to get back in time for the human sled dog race. Legend has it that the carnival began – just over a century ago – as a way to lure students from women's colleges to the then all-male campus in mid-winter.
Facing the hotel from across the Green is Baker Library, where we stopped to tour the 3,200 square feet of wall illuminated by one of the country's finest cycles of mural art, "Epic of American Civilization," by Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco.
The artist portrays in a bold, dynamic style the progression of mesoamerica from human sacrifice at the hands of masked priests, through a cross-wielding Cortez overlooking a landscape littered with bodies and into a machine-dominated world. His portrayal of the church, the military and the dehumanizing effect of industrialization send a clear message, but one not popular in the 1930s when these were painted, so the murals were quite controversial.
We were still discussing the murals when we arrived at Molly's. All that tromping around in the cold whetted our appetites, so we had no trouble demolishing their signature half-pound beef burger with a slab of cheddar melting over the top and a wood-baked chorizo pizza covered in roasted garlic, caramelized onions, black bean corn salsa, cheddar and fresh basil.
The inn is part of a complex that includes the Hood Museum of Art, the Hopkins Center for the Arts and the new Black Family Visual Arts Center. We began with the Hood, where only a small portion of the museum's nearly 65,000 pieces can be shown at any one time. We regret that this usually means that their extraordinary collections of Native American and primitive art remain hidden. But the six Assyrian stone reliefs from the palace of Ashurnasirpal, dating from around 900 BC, along with other ancient works, are beautifully and permanently displayed. So is the collection of American portraits and landscape paintings, which includes some of the major names in New England art, from Copley to Maxfield Parrish.
The newest addition to the complex is the Black Family Visual Arts Center, facing onto an open terrace behind the Hood. Through this academic year the terrace is enlivened by a huge sculpture in bronze and stainless steel, "Crouching Spider," by Louise Bourgeois. A small gallery inside shows changing exhibits of student and other works.
Across the street, we browsed in the League of NH Craftsmen Gallery before admiring artistry of another sort at The Chocolate Shop. Even though it wasn't Valentine's Day, February seemed an appropriate time for selecting a box full of artisan chocolates from some of the world's best chocolatiers.
One of the bonuses of staying at the Hanover Inn is that it is connected directly to the Hopkins Center for the Arts, so there's no need to even put on a coat to attend a performance there. Tempting as it was, the timing of that night's concert meant that we would either have to rush through dinner (which we are rarely willing to do) or eat quite early, so we elected to make dinner our evening's entertainment. It was a good call.
Dinner at the Hanover Inn
The new main restaurant at the Hanover Inn is not yet completed, so dinner is served at a small restaurant in the space that used to be called Zin's. (EDIT NOTE: Since this was posted, Pine has opened at the Hanover Inn. Click here to learn all about the new main restaurant) With the basket of warm artisanal bread came an amuse bouche, a tiny cup of beet and fennel soups so thick they formed separate stripes. A row of perfect raw and fried oysters alternated on a long plate, and I chose a bistro salad: frisée and red endive topped by a poached egg, brioche croutons and bacon lardons that perfumed each bite with delicate smokiness.
The Duet of Duck – sliced rare breast and cannelloni filled with confit of leg – was served with fig and pickled red onion relish. My grilled veal tenderloin was pink and tender with seared edges, surrounded by roasted Viennese fingerlings. We shared the dessert special, Tarte Robuchon, a dark chocolate ganache in butter crust decorated by fresh berries.
After breakfast, we headed for the Dartmouth Skiway, just north of Hanover, to watch the Winter Carnival Alpine Races. Inspired, we skied ourselves, enjoying the easy atmosphere of this mountain where Olympic medalists mix easily with local kids and families. Dartmouth has sent athletes to every Winter Olympics since the winter games began in 1924 and 63 have brought home medals.
We left in time for late lunch at Lou's Bakery, back in Hanover. Certified green, Lou's – like the inn – uses locally sourced ingredients for both their restaurant and bakery, and we warmed up there over bowls of jalapeno-laced tortilla soup. Of course we had dessert – wedges of buttery Linzertorte.