Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dining in the White Mountains: Cider Co.

Cider Co.: Main restaurant building
I pledge my never ending love for Ebenezer's Pub… just so you know. But there are reasons why during a brief getaway to the White Mountains you may make the decision not to head over the border to Maine.  Perhaps it's the little extra distance, or you're on the wagon, or you hate having a good time... I'm not judging. Anyway, whatever the reason, let's say you want another option for White Mountain dining. If you're looking for something a bit more romantic with upscale, elegant and locally sourced ingredients, there's really only one place that you should make a reservation: The Cider Company in Glen, NH. 
Store behind the restaurant
Cider press building
In addition to being located in one of the most beautiful areas of New Hampshire, the farmhouse buildings of the restaurant, country store, and the cider press for which the establishment is named, are so rustic and welcoming. I'm a sucker for any setting comprised of antique buildings that have been making lovely things like apple cider and sweet donuts for longer than I've been living. The main building that houses the restaurant is a restored farmhouse, and on walking through the entrance, you are lead past an inviting looking long bar, and into one of the adjoining rooms. Our table was located in one of the more secluded rooms off to the left of the building, but still allowed us a view of the bustling atmosphere of the restaurant. 
Our gracious server, Josh, was quick to crack jokes and make some very good suggestions. To start off, he touted the restaurant's reputation for being a cocktail-oriented establishment, dissuading us from our usual maneuver of heading straight to the beer list… or god forbid I might want a glass of wine every so often. Whatever. The cocktails did not disappoint. I went with what looked like a sangria that somebody actually gave a damn about when constructing the flavors. Yeah, I like crappy cheap sangria too, but it just seems like this is a cocktail that has a lot of potential, and somebody certainly produced a thoughtful beverage here at the Cider Company. There were hints of clove and vanilla, tropical fruits, and just enough pleasant tannin flavors from a strong red wine. Delicious and refreshing, while also complex enough to keep the imbiber's curiosity peaked. I would order this again. The bigger half went with a drink called the algorithm, which was dry and a bit more alcohol forward (bourbon, absinthe, bitters) than my sippy cup drink. Still, citrus flavors abound made the algorithm a food appropriate drink and a great way to kick start the evening. 
For food, we stared out with two appetizers.
Olives and Marcona
The olives and Macrona almonds: I see this dish on every restaurant menu where the patrons seem to be overwhelmingly either World Cup sailors or elbow patch clad professors. I guess smart/rich/wind-propelled folks really love fancy, flat looking almonds and briny olives. And so do I. Marcona almonds are just so meaty and perfect when paired with a fruity olive oil, just as these morsels were seated in. The appetizer is a large serving, with a special log dish filled to the brim with green olives, pitted for you by the good people of the restaurant, and dressed with lots of the previously mentioned fruity olive oil and a touch of vinegar. It's the perfect snack to share.
Beef carpaccio
Beef carpaccio: Thin sliced, fairly lean beef arrived at the table, topped with generous shavings of parmesan, pieces of raw onion, and a nice tangy, tart tapenade of green olives. The beef had been lightly seared, perhaps torched, on the outside, but still revealed a deep ruby red raw center that was both savory and unctuous. It played perfectly with a piece of zesty onion, that same fruity olive oil, the salty nutty cheese, and that delicious tapenade of the same tangy, briny green olives that we had seen in the previous appetizer. I might order this one again... and not share. 
Now, onto our main dishes.
Duck breast with corn crepe
Roasted duck breast: I find duck breast an irresistible menu item. Once a restaurant puts it on the menu, you know that they mean business. The duck breast isn't all that hard to cook, no harder than say a good steak, but for whatever reason I've never had a duck breast overcooked or undercooked, which I think is a pretty good indication that chefs really want to get this protein right. At any rate, I love seeing it on menus, and even more than that, I love it when a perfectly cooked breast arrives on a plate, sliced thinly and fanned out elegantly to show a vibrant pink, tender center right in front of yours truly. This duck breast was on point to say the least. It was presented on top of a very creative corn crepe, sweet and still with bits of crisp corn, the texture of a soft, silky pudding on the inside with a nice firm outside skin. The protein and the crepe were draped with a lovely, tart and fruity plum gastrique, given a dash of fried crunchy bits on top and a side of freshly blanched green beans. The entire dish was elegant, and had a harmony of flavor from the sweetness of the crepe to the savory, meaty duck to that tart sauce. I couldn't have asked for more.
Coriander rubbed pork chop
Coriander rubbed pork chop: For the Bigger Half, all signs point to this little piggy. He selected the pork and was delighted when a generous portion of slightly pastel pink in the center meat arrived in front of him. Juicy and succulent, the savory meat was a touch minerally, and very sweet, like great pork should be. It was rested on a bed of mashed potatoes and topped with a sort of bacon chutney that was fruity and salty, complimenting the double-down on the protein nature of this dish quite nicely. Those same great crispy green beans that we had also seen served with my duck rounded out the manly man dish. 
So for dessert? We did the donuts. Because when we do donuts, we ain't talking about skidding circles in a snowy parking lot. My Bigger Half, he does DONUTS. Unfortunately, the call of sweet apple treats was so uncontrollable that when they arrived there was no photo time to be had. But I can tell you that the warm, fluffy, cakey donuts were amazing, especially with a slightly boozy caramel sauce and that smooth, silky, sweet ice cream. So, no photos, but I'll leave you to take a gander at their website... lots of donut porn.
Like I said, this is a more upscale restaurant option if you're in the White Mountains. The food is delicious and the setting bucolic. I think if you've got one night for a romantic evening with elegant cuisine, clean mountain air, and delightful cocktails, then you've got a date with the Cider Co. 

Cider Co.
207 Rt. 302  
Bartlett, NH 03838
(603) 383-9061 

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