In a perfect world, every dinner would end with the option of seconds on dessert. We'll confess that's the indulgent tradition that draws us back to the Notchland Inn. But on this visit, a single finale—the seductive espresso pot de crème—more than suffices, especially after Tuscan white bean soup, balsamic-baked mushrooms with fennel seeds, dainty lamb chops drizzled with a saffron cream reduction and fresh greens with red onion vinaigrette.
Every day, chef Sandy Reinschmidt plots a five-course, multichoice "seasonal eclectic menu according to her whim—and invariably right on the mark. She first visited as a guest five years ago, when innkeepers EdButler and Les Schoof—transplanted New Yorkers who'd been, respectively, a geriatric nurse and a ballet company manager—were still busy exorcising the bad vibes of the previous owners, a divorce-bound couple who, Schoof says, had turned this grand 1862 granite manor into their own not-so-private War of the Roses. The two men are celebrating their 10th anniversary as innkeepers, and the place is blissfully ghost-free (though Schoof has tales at the ready for guests who won't be otherwise appeased). The spirited residents—as opposed to resident spirits—include a pair of llamas and two very fetching Bernese mountain dogs.
Samuel Bemis, the Boston dentist and entrepreneur who began building this steep-gabled, English-style stone villa in the 1850s, was a semi-hermitic naturalist. He accrued 10,000 acres, sparing them from the deforestation prevalent during that era. The inn retains 100 acres, great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Alpinists can alternate between Bretton Woods or Attitash Bear Peak, each about 10 miles away.
The seven rooms and five suites, each named for a local notch, are all thoughtfully accoutered rather than "done. There's always something pleasant—including a wood fire in every room—for the eye to rest upon, but the decor steers clear of prudish polish. We're especially fond of Dixville, the mountain-view attic of the former schoolhouse on the property, and Evans, with its raised jacuzzi overlooking a cozy firelit sitting room and porch, which in turn overlooks a pond and a gazebo sheltering a hot tub. We promise ourselves a dip, just as soon as we finish this after-dinner round of Scrabble in the Arts-and-Craftsy, Gustav Stickley—designed parlor, where time seems to stand still.
RATES Double rooms cost $185—$295 per night (two-night minimum), with the high end representing holiday rates. Dinner is $30 extra per person; $35— $40 for nonguests.
CONTACT 603-374-6131 or 800-866-6131; notchland.com