Seeing as it was the Fourth of July and dining options were still somewhat limited in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley during a summer embroiled in a pandemic, my wife and I decided it would only be proper to offer our children a rarity for their next meal: ice cream for dinner.
For the uninitiated, this can be a complicated proposition. All ice cream treats are not created equally, which presents some irregularities to the proposal. For spectrum’s sake, a banana split would be considered hefty enough for a meal. On the other hand, give a kid a mere popsicle, and you’re risking cries of hunger only an hour later.
So, it’s safe to assume that our first trip to Tricks and Treats (www.facebook.com/
It’s always fun to come across a quirky spot like Tricks and Treats in that the experience is that much more memorable thanks to the unique offerings and surroundings. Consider the North Conway Olive Oil Company (ncoliveoil.com) in this regard, an entire store (two locations, actually; one in North Conway Village, the other at Settler’s Green outlet shops) dedicated to olive oils and vinegars, both for cooking and sampling. There are some 85 varieties here to choose from, with a knowledgeable staff that can share recommendations based on the customer’s cooking habits and tastes. The store also will periodically host classes. Check its website for more details.
Just next door in North Conway village sits another unique food stop in the North Conway House of Jerky (northconwayhouseofjerky.com), featuring some of the most unique flavors you’ll come across anywhere in the Northeast. Some of the exotic samplings here include alligator, kangaroo and python (yes) jerky. Ever have snapping turtle jerky? Here’s where you can try it.
The North Conway area boasts a bevy of quirky stops for dining and snacking pleasure, but you can find unique spots for food all over New England. Here are a few of the more notable places that define themselves away from the norm, and are the perfect sorts of joints where you can take a break from leaf-peeping this fall.
There are doughnut shops where bakers can get crazy with the sorts of flavors they offer. But then there is Maine’s Holy Donut (theholydonut.com), with two locations in Portland and one in Scarborough, serving up some uncommon potato doughnut flavors. There are the pomegranate, chocolate sea salt, toasted coconut and coffee brandy flavors to choose from, never mind the fall season bringing their limited edition apple doughnut. The doughnuts are made from Maine potatoes and other high-quality ingredients, making the Holy Donut a popular pilgrimage, where doughnuts have been known to sell out. So, get there early (or order online).
Polly’s Pancake Parlor (pollyspancakeparlor.com) is the sort of place you always hear accolades about, but, until you go, it’s impossible to truly understand the draw of this divine breakfast spot in Sugar Hill, N.H. For more than 80 years, this shack has been dishing out hearty omelettes, waffles and sandwiches, but it’s the pancakes that keep customers clamoring back. It’s all in the batter at Polly’s, where you can choose from plain, buckwheat, ginger, whole wheat, cornmeal and oatmeal buttermilk. My favorite is the gingerbread, but go with the sampler and get a taste of everything.
A staple of summertime in Vermont is, of course, the creemee, the Green Mountain state’s special variety of soft-serve ice cream. Once fall steps in though, many creemee stops close up for the winter. That’s not the case at Waitsfield’s Canteen Creemee Company (www.canteencreemee.com), a take-out spot that is open all winter offering sundaes, burgers and a fried chicken that is created with a “miracle dredge.” Canteen Creemee is the creation of Charlie Menard, chef at the fine-dining establishment Inn at the Round Barn Farm. So, you can expect the salty (fried chicken banh mi) and sweet (pumpkin escobar) offerings to each have a special flair unlike other creemee stands.
There’s farm-to-table dining, and then there’s what you get at Gibbett Hill Grill (www.gibbethillgrill.com), in Groton, Mass., which is akin to dining on the farm itself, with no transport necessary. The interior of the restaurant is comfort dining at its apex, featuring a central stone fireplace that immerses guests in its warming glow. Steak is the star of the menu here, but it’s also hard to overlook such items as the Scottish organic salmon, the lamb burger and corn and tomato risotto. Work up your appetite by getting there early and taking a hike along the Gibbett Hill trails, which are open until dusk.
Brewpubs are a New England favorite no matter the season. Rek’-lis Brewing Company in Bethlehem, N.H., and Littleton Freehouse Taproom & Eatery in Littleton, N.H., are two can’t-miss stops for any White Mountain journey. Woodstock Inn Brewery in North Woodstock, N.H., a popular stop for a pint or a meal, boasts an adjacent inn, and offers daily tours.