Home Hill

June 6, 2006

Plainfield, New Hampshire  Two years ago we spent a few nights at a Relais and Chateaux property called Twin Farms., just north of Woodstock on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River.  The entire area – the Upper Connecticut River Valley – is lovely, and the town of Woodstock is charming.The disappointment of that trip had been the inn itself which is highly touted.  It had no tennis court and no place to swim; and in fact, had very few places to even sit outside.  The restaurant was passable but hardly memorable.  We did take some walks in the woods, some of it on trails that they groom for skiers in the winter. A lovely setting, pleasant rooms, and comfortable public rooms but this time we wanted to be in the area but with even better facilities.
We found it at Home Hill, a Relais & Chateaux property on the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut River.  In addition to charming and well-appointed public rooms, great grounds, rooms and suites in near-by cabins, it also has a lovely terre-battu tennis court and small pool.  The main building, dating to 1818 is set on 25 acres along River Road beside the Connecticut River. 

The owners and hands-on hosts are Victoria and Stephane du Roure who bought it in 1996 and turned it into a French country inn, right down to the petanque court and a totally French staff.  A lot of great taste and hard work earned them their R&C listing in 2002.The two restaurants, however, overshadow all these trapping and amenities.  Yes, you read it correctly; there are two different dining options in this inn of 12 rooms.  Our first night we ate in the comfortably elegant main dining room (inside, but adjoining is a very pleasant dining terrace), ordering a la carte  because we were not hungry enough to wade through either the degustation menu with its 6 courses ($89 or $154 with wine pairings) or the four-course Menu Poisson.  Eat well we did ala carte, in spite of our three-course decision.  The amuse bouche was an unusual white gazpacho with rapes and pine nuts.  Varian’s cold pea soup with crab, avocado and pink peppercorns ($16) was perfect. 

Gary’s duet of sweetbreads, saltimbocca style wrapped in prosciutto with fresh sage and fig-onion jam and piccata with lemon, parsley and capers ($16) was ethereal.
 The main course kept up the high quality and our attention, which is often hard to do after fabulous appetizers.  Gary’s roast veal tenderloin with baby turnips, cumin and honey-glazed carrots, served with exotic fruit chutney and a spiced veal sauce ($38) was so good he didn’t want to give Varian more that a little taste.  But don’t feel sorry for Varian, because her Moroccan spiced Guinea hen with pearl couscous and a salad of watermelon radish, cucumber and tomato ($36) was equally delicious.As usual, Varian had a cheese plate, and Gary reveled in a mixed dessert plate which included sliced figs, tuiles, and buffalo yogurt ice cream.  With the meal we drank a Le Grange St Julien 2003 which, at $70, was a good value.  The wait staff, all French, was knowledgeable, pleasant, and professional.

The next day we played some tennis, swam, walked around the Dartmouth campus (15 minutes away), and had a salad at the Hanover Inn.  Dinner back at the inn was in their bistro next to the main room, but totally separate physically and in spirit.  It is only a la carte and a little lighter than the main dining room.  Both of us started with a salad of tomatoes and mozzarella which was perfect and a fairly priced at $8.

Gary’s roast chicken ($16) with mashed potatoes and baby carrots passed his test of a chef with flying colors.  Varian’s hangar steak au poivre ($20) with sautéed spinach was delightful.  No dessert and no cheese but we did enjoy the same Le Grange St Julien.
And while you are in the area, don’t forget to visit the Simon Pearce complex in nearby Queechee.  This glass-blowing operation, plus a huge store sells glass and other products for the home, also is the home of a restaurant hanging over a river at the base of a spillway.  The dishes are mostly simple and reasonably priced (as are the wines) making it a great place for a lunch and post-lunch shopping.

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