Our Gourmet: Going back in time on Newfound Lake
Inn on Newfound Lake1030 Mayhew Turnpike (Route 3A), Bridgewater
Serving: Wednesday-Sunday, 5-9 p.m.
Pricing: Appetizers, soups, salads: $5-$13; entrees: $16-$30
The inn is a stately old Victorian-era hotel, in its early days an overnight way station for stage coach passengers traveling between Boston and Montreal. It's perched on a hill just across the road from the lake, a location that we can imagine would be spectacular in fall. Inside, the public rooms are just what you'd expect in a hotel dating from the 1840s — ornate, slightly overstuffed and charming. Diners can choose the bright green-walled main dining room, a.k.a. Pasquaney Restaurant, the warm, comfortable Wild Hare Tavern or, as we did on a beautiful late summer evening, the veranda overlooking the lake.
Our Gourmet: From a short but interesting appetizer menu, ranging from coconut shrimp to spinach and artichoke dip, I chose the squid saute ($10), generous plate of warm squid rings and tentacles, tossed with garlic and chopped tomatoes in a warm olive oil dressing and garnished with baby spinach leaves. The squid was tender and plentiful, and there was no lack of tomatoes, garlic or olive oil. What was lacking, though, was flavor. It needed seasoning, either in the form of a spicier dressing or even a touch of salt. A 10 for initiative and presentation, but overall a 7.
The Dining Companion: Although leaning toward the coconut shrimp, I finally decided on the pan fried crab cakes ($11). Two New England-style crab cakes were served with a smoky chipotle mayonnaise. Although I am used to large chunk lump crab cakes, these tasted rich with a wonderful bread-crumb mix, which was well seasoned, and the chipotle mayonnaise had just the right amount of kick to complement but not overpower. A definite pleaser! 9/10
OG: The entree menu caters to a multitude of tastes, including specialties like signature Mediterranean haddock and Inn Meatloaf. I opted for venison medallions ($24), sauteed and sauced with a deep brown mushroom red wine demi-glace, served with mashed potatoes and veggies — in our case, green beans and carrots cooked just to the tooth. The venison — two medallions about the size of thin, hand-formed hamburger patties — was mildly flavored and tender, and the sauce, which was fairly robust, served it well. 8/10
TDC: Having eaten a lot of seafood and chicken for the last two weeks, I was ready for beef. The New York sirloin ($26) caught my eye — especially since it was served with a mixed peppercorn demi-glace cream sauce, veggies and rice or mashed potatoes. The veggies and potato were good, but I was a bit disappointed with the steak. It was cooked a bit more than the medium rare I had ordered, and I'm not quite sure what that sauce was, but it was definitely NOT the mixed peppercorn demi-glace cream sauce. With only one chef and a wedding party's meal being prepared at the same time we were placing our order, there could have been some confusion in the kitchen. After reviewing the menu, I would guess that it was the mushroom demi-glace, though OG thought he detected a touch of sweetness that his sauce didn't have. 7/10
OG: There is no regular dessert menu, but the litany of sweet endings recited for us made for tough choices. In the end, I chose a slice of no-bake three-berry pie ($7) — a combination of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, held together with a light, sweet berry gelatin and served in a pre-baked cookie-dough crust with a touch of whipped cream on the side. It was light in density and sweetness, with just a touch of tartness to keep it interesting. I might have preferred a graham cracker crust, but even with that criticism I'd give it a 9/10.
TDC: I've not had pecan pie in ages, so I decided to go with their bourbon pecan pie ($7). I had always found pecan pie delicious, but since the entire extended family found it overly sweet during our holiday get-togethers, I stopped making it years ago. I must say that if memory serves correct, this has to be the best pecan pie I've ever had. It was sweet, but didn't push you over the edge on the second or third bite, and there was a mild afterthought of bourbon that also helped to cut the sweetness. 10/10
All the rest: 17/20
When we arrived, the parking lot was packed and we worried that it would take forever to be seated, but as TDC mentioned, it turned out there was a wedding reception in the function area. We were seated immediately, and our server, who was efficient and helpful, warned us that because of the wedding, the kitchen might be a bit backed up. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, and we enjoyed our dinner at a very comfortable pace.
The location is lovely, the dining areas are charming and the food was good. If you're planning your leaf-peeping road trip, a drive down the east side of Newfound Lake with a stop for dinner at the inn would be a very pleasant, dare we say genteel, thing to do.
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