As I’ve mentioned a few times on here, I generally prefer not to review a place if the reason I went there was a special event. However, some places (like the Cabane a Sucre a few months ago) are special event only, and in other cases (like the The Corner House Inn), the nature of the special event isn’t directly food related, and I’ve got a reasonable expectation of being able to have a similar menu item on a regular visit. In the case of PINE, we went there for a special Friends of Laphroaig Scotch Dinner, and ended being very impressed with the food as well.
The end of February is when Winter starts to soften a bit, and up here in these Northern parts, that also means the gradual introduction of two additional events: the introduction of “mud season” (in which the local dirt roads become almost impassible due to the combination of melting snow, poor drainage, and frost heaving), and “maple season” (in which you drive down those same muddy roads visiting shacks emitting large amounts of steam, in which maple sap is being boiled down). It’s a fun time of year, and quite a few places make a pretty big to-do of it. Vermont and New Hampshire, for example, have sponsored Maple weekends when you can go touring around, but our friends over the border in Quebec take this a lot more seriously (primarily since Quebec produces far more maple syrup than anywhere else, even if some of it occasionally gets heisted), and several large sugaring operations in Quebec host elaborate “Cabane à Sucre” celebrations, usually with copious amounts of food featuring maple. But there’s one of these that outdoes all the others: Cabane à Sucre Au Pied de Cochon.
Corner House Inn Recently, I had an odd confluence of invites to an event. You see, it’s not every day when I get notices of a special event from (a) the mailing list of the Tamworth Lyceum, a small NH events center (b) the mailing list of a local distillery, (c) a notice from a mixologist I follow on twitter, the “Cocktail Whisperer” and (d) a specific mention of the event by Klaus the Soused Gnome. I figured that the confluence was a sign that I simply had to attend the event: an evening of cocktails at the Corner House Inn in Center Samdwich, NH, hosted by the Tamworth Lyceum and Art in the Age distilled spirits. Despite the rather remote (for us) location, we decided to make a day of it, check out some sights around Lake Winnipesaukee, and end up at what’s basically a pleasant country tavern in the quiet back roads of rural NH. Pairing Menu I’m usually a bit reluctant to review a place that I’ve only attended for a special event, since special events usually don’t show what a normal visit to a place is like (and often, especially for holidays, show places when they don’t have their A game). But this particular event was so remarkably, well, awesome, that it required a writeup. Bitters The concept was simple: a four course tasting menu, with each course paired with a custom cocktail. But therein lies the secret: these weren’t your regular cocktails, but custom-crafted concoctions made by Warren Bobrow, author of Apothecary Cocktails, and featuring high-end ingredients, hand-chipped block ice, unusual infusions, and, bitters. Indeed, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another collection of bitters as extensive as that brought by Warren (and that includes visits to such well-stocked stores as Boston Shaker in Somerville, MA). All available for tasting and customization of your cocktails. Klaus meets one of my gnomes The event was off to a solid start right away, with us arriving in the dining room to Warren chipping away at a block of ice and making Root and Ryes: a pleasant cocktail based upon Knob Creek Rye and
Turns out some things are becoming traditions. Based upon the success of last year’s St Patrick’s Day Dinner hosted by Umpleby’s Bakery and the Upper Valley Beer Society, and the resounding success of The Beefsteak last fall, we decided that this year we’d again host another St Patrick’s Day celebration and stout tasting.
There are a lot of New England traditions I really enjoy this time of year. Snowshoeing. Winter Carnivals. Maple Sugaring. And community suppers. Almost every weekend in late winter, harvest, and game season, there are a wide variety of community breakfasts and dinners, sponsored by a wide variety of local organization, churches, fire departments, and clubs, all of which provide a good way to meet a good cross-section of local society, as well as have a good hearty meal. While there are many such local dinners, however, quality really can run the gamut from “cheap spaghetti dinner” up to “homemade top-notch feast”. And the Hartland Congregational Church (known locally as “The Brick Church” to distinguish it from the white painted church down the road) hosts a top-notch example of the later: the Hartland “Famous” Roast Beef Supper.
For the last several years, I’ve bee an active member of The Upper Valley Beer Society, which is primarily a homebrew club, although we also have visiting brewers, go on the occasional brewery/cidery tours, and host the occssional special event, such as last March’s St Patricks Corned Beef dinner in conjuction with Umpleby’s Bakery in Hanover. Back in April, Charles, the owner of Umpleby’s, distributed an essay about the history of the Beefsteak, a New York area traditional that is a lengthy food event featuring profound quantities of beef (and a few other meats), beer, and little else (tradition also mandates that one wear their “second best suit”). We found the tradition compelling, and given our easy access to amazing local beef and beer up here, decided to throw one of our own.
This July, my brother got married in London, and since his father-in-law is a member of the House of Lords, part of the wedding reception was held over at the Palace of Westminster (to quote a random tourist we overheard, “You know, that big place with the clock that looks just like Big Ben.”) It was rather nice, since we got nice tours of both Houses of Parliament, and got to roam around a completely empty and tourist-free Westminster Hall. The wedding dinner itself was in the Strangers’ Dining Room, the function room in the House of Commons apparently reserved for such affairs.