Conway NH area: White Mountain Cider, Glen NH
Four of us hit the White Mountain Cider Company for dinner last Saturday. Every element of our visit was fantastic.
We arrived and started with a couple rounds of excellent cocktails. Thanks in large part to bar manager Jeff, the cocktail program here is on par with the top cocktail establishments in Boston, NYC, and London. This is not an exaggeration; I’ve been to top places in all three. History counts with cocktails, and Jeff’s rendition of the “Original” Martini, using Old Tom’s Gin, Antico Carpano (an old fashioned sweet vermouth which is nearly impossible to find) and Peruvian bitters created a drink worth having twice (so I did). The "Gin-esaisquoi" would have been a good drink with just the gin, lillet blonde, falernum and orange bitters ingredients, but it was elevated to another level with the addition of a sprinkling of cardamom dust on top. Mrs. Alcachofa, a big fan of cardamom, also decided to replicate her first round by ordering another. Our other DCs, seated further away from me, will be hard to describe their drinks, since I was enjoying mine so much. But I believe one was the Granite St Punch, served as a single drink, I recall tasting this and enjoying the apricot element. Also a rum drink, although I don’t recall if it is one that is one the menu online ( http://whitemountaincider.com/bar/men... ). Suffice it to say, all were excellent and showed a true craftsman’s sense of balance of flavors.
On to the food. I recall the following apps: Crab Cakes on Apple/Fennel Salad—very nice combo of flavors, and the crab cakes were untraditional in that no mayo was used, and they came out great. “Winter Calamari”, fried & tossed with a Cranberry Syrup & Sage—not cloyingly sweet, as was a concern with the cranberry syrup; very good even to the one DC who is not generally a calamari fan. Cassoulet w Duck Confit, Sausage & Bean—good; I think we did expect the duck confit to elevate this a little bit more, but still good. Lamb “Carpaccio”, seared Lamb, thinly sliced, and served with a black olive & red pepper tapenade—excellent, probably my fave of the apps.
My entrée was the Chicken & Pasta, dusted with porcini powder & sautéed with Portabello mushrooms, penne, cream & parmesan; I’m just a fan of everything in there, so I was very happy. Mrs. A ordered the Pan Seared Salmon and particularly enjoyed the shaved Brussels sprouts on top—we’ve never seen sprouts presented that way. DCs got the Bay Rubbed Duck Breast and the Pan Seared Scallops; both got rave reviews. The scallops were topped with a seafood “nage”… no idea what nage is, but it worked. We ordered a tasty Cimicky shiraz with dinner, which seemed reasonably priced at $40 (though I’m unfamiliar with Cimicky).
After all that, we only needed to split one dessert four ways—a satisfying ginger bread pudding. And of course there was Fernet available!
P.S. We took a cab.
White Mountain Cider Co
Us-302 Glen NH, NH
Finally went here last weekend. Jeff was great at the bar and I feel we blew it by ordering wine rather than mixed drinks as he is clearly a master bartender. We sat at the bar among a bunch of locals and/or repeat visitors. I've never been at a bar where so many of the bottles were unfamiliar to me! It was impressive.
The food...less so. We had a beet, grilled orange and goat cheese salad and some dates stuffed with chorizo served on kale. The kale was great. The dates were ok but the chorizo was cooked until dry and crumbly. The beet salad was bland with about a tablespoon of goat cheese scattered over the plate. More would have been better but it just didn't have much going on. My wife ordered an asian shrimp salad, again bland. Not much going on. I wasn't super hungry and ordered a burger, medium rare. It came medium well and I guess I should have said something but it was our first time there and we were having a great time chatting with the folks next to us. For us, complaining is expensive. It kills the vibe, and while having fun talking to our barmates who frequent the place, it didn't seem like the best trade. Anyhow, I'd try it again and do mixed drinks. I'm sure our food experience was an aberration.
This past weekend, we took a quick jaunt up into the White Mountains with another couple. The goal of the weekend was to spend quality time with good friends and to get in a little R&R. With that in mind, I searched for a place to grab dinner on Saturday night. During my search, I came across the White Mountain Cider Co. (WMCC). The more I read about WMCC, the more I was convinced it was the perfect blend of what I was looking for.
Housed in a romantic 1800's remodeled New England farmhouse and situated on Route 302 in Bartlett, New Hampshire, WMCC is a fanciful restaurant that discerning foodies dream about, but rarely find, when looking for an enticing place to eat in a non-urban territory. Don't be fooled though, the quaint country farmhouse ambiance is deceiving. Culinary Institute of America graduates Scott and Teresa Stearns don't just cook up standard country fare, instead, what you'll find is a cosmopolitan and sophisticated menu with some of the freshest, seasonal and local ingredients.
Reviewing the extensive bar menu was my first clue that I had hit the jackpot. The bar menu features classic and modern artisan cocktails, definitely a nod to "return to the craft cocktail" trend. The bar menu VERY much reminded me of our trip to Barbara Lynch's "Drink" which we raved about in our blog.
When we arrived, we were greeted by the hostess and the soothing sounds of the sole guitarist. Once shown to our table, our waitress Britt introduced herself. Little did we know she'd be the best waitress ever, skillfully explaining to her indecisive guests the differences between many of the cocktails. During the course of the conversation, someone mentioned to Britt how similar WMCC's cocktail list was to a certain Boston bar ... when Britt asked which bar, we of course said "Drink", to which Britt immediately replied ... "no kidding, what a small world." As it turns out, WMCC's Bar Manager, Jeff Grdinich works a few nights a week in the Barbara Lynch establishment. Go figure, no wonder I fell in love with the bar menu at first site! All of the drinks we had were palatably pleasing. Anyway, here is what we had:
* Very Old Fashioned
* Apple Blow Fizz
* The Avenue Cocktail
As for food, the table started off with an order of the homemade kettle potato chips with three sauces, gorganzola cream, loaded (bacon, chives and sour cream) and roasted garlic aioli. I don't even know where to start ... these were the most delicious potato chips I've ever had. Seriously.
* Charcuterie with pates and local cheese - seriously yummy.
* Spinach, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Purse with Barley Risotto and Carrot Butter - absolutely delicious - the carrot butter, though it sounds weird was so creamy and the barley added the perfect texture.
* Cider Mill Burger with Roasted Portabella, Wilted Spinach, Tomato Chutney, Applewood Smoked Bacon & Cheddar Cheese - a force to be reckoned with. The ultimate of burgers.
* Rare Bear Chicken Salad with Walnuts, Apples, Gorgonzola and Balsamic Vinaigrette - the dressing is homemade and super thick. It's sold in the store for those who can't live without it.
As for dessert, the table split an order of the Homemade Cider Donuts with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce. I probably sound like a broken record by now, but it was absolutely delicious. All in all, a fantastic end to a fantastic dinner.
The low down:
* Location: Rt. 302, Bartlett, NH.
* Reservations: Recommended.
* Parking: Free lot.
* Ambience/Decor: Country, rustic, cool.
* Drinks: Artisanal, craft cocktails with a modern twist, mostly $10 each.
* The Food/Menu: Sophisticated American. You can order off the regular menu or the lite bites menu that is also served in the dining room.
* Cost: Pretty darn reasonable.
* Service: Ask for Britt - she was the best.
To add to it, right next door to the restaurant is the Red Barn Country Store and Deli where you can get a delicious sandwich to go, fresh daily made apple cider donuts, apple butter jams and other locally made products. You'd better believe we made a pit stop there the next morning to buy some donuts (and a pumpkin whoopie pie for my hubby) for the car ride home. Stopping at the WMCC is a must for those headed up to the White Mountains! There are some pictures in our blog.
(This was in reply to a post stating that the Cider Co.'s cocktail list was unimpressive, due to a limited selection of vodkas. The comments must've been deleted, but I'll let my soapbox bluster live on for those who might be interested.)
The only thing distinguishes most vodkas from one another is marketing and hype. There are a small handful of exceptions, artisanally-crafted products that walk the walk in terms of what goes into their production. But in the end, even the "honest" companies are striving to craft a product that is by definition odorless and colorless, regardless of potato/wheat, organic or purchased from an agribusiness conglomerate like ADM. Anyone who actually thinks the measure of a great cocktail bar is the presence of three feet of frosted glass bottles that all essentially contain the same bland contents (don't get me started on the phony flavored vodkas.) is a marketer's dream. Or in less-euphemistic terms, a rube.
Here's some much better-articulated reading on the subject:
I have indeed. However, I think Eric Felten's Chicken Little act over the "loss" of the Noilly Prat that Americans have known for the past 50 years is completely off-the-mark.
In fact, that Maugham quote he runs up the flagpole -- "Noilly Prat is a necessary component of a dry martini." -- was penned in the late 50's, while Maugham was in France, according to cocktail historian Gary Regan. Thus, this sacrosanct quote is likely extolling the virtues of the very same European-formula bottling now making its return to the U.S. market, not the one departing us.
Cocktail enthusiasts are giddy about this new release.
• Here's Regan's taste-test and commentary, in his Buy-Back column:
• a discussion of the new NP on the Spirits Board:
• a discussion on the Boston Board about the availability of Dolin vermouth (the whole line is fantastic, I've got the Dry and the Rouge in my fridge at home):
Great write-up, Alcachofa! I was trying to remember the details of what we ordered - you did way better than I! This was a very comfortable, welcoming restaurant that I wish wasn't quite so far from my home.
For cocktails, S had the El Presidente, followed by an Original Martini - both of which he enjoyed. I had the Root of All Evil, which is a warming drink of bourbon, grand marnier, maraschini and Fernet. This was a lovely drink to come in out of the cold to. I followed this up with a very nice Gin-esaisquoi.
The food was as good as you described. Absolutely delicious. I loved the crab, which they told us was made with a bechamel, and the lamb carpaccio. And the calamari.
S and I split the duck and the scallops. They were both terrific, but the edge goes to the scallops. Perfectly cooked and just heavenly.
It really was a memorable evening.