Lake Winnipesaukee the largest of the lakes in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire seemed like a perfect place for a short vacation and a nice follow up to my article on a similar subject – eating around Lake Winnipesaukee.
I really wanted this whirlwind trip to be special as I was introducing someone new to the area. The first thing that had to happen was getting there. With a pit stop or two it takes about 4 hours to drive from Montreal. The one stop I always like to make is in Derby, Vermont just south of the border.
There lies an exceptional Mobile Mini Mart off Rt. 5 that prepares hoagies (foot long sandwiches) daily that my family has been eating for over 20 years. The store manager nods his greetings – he’s been there for 16 years. The sandwiches haven’t changed a bit. My usual choice is sliced Turkey with Provolone cheese, thinly sliced onions, a little mayo and shredded lettuce.
This is my equivalent of lunch autopilot despite other options like Tuna and a mean Roast Beef. The accompaniments are crucial in making the experience. You need to pick out the right bag of salty snack (in this case two bags; “Smartfood” white cheddar popcorn and flavor contest winning Lay’s cheesy garlic bread chips). Next comes your cold beverage from the giant wall of fridges. I usually grab a single Snapple Peach iced tea, but at 2 for $2 I snap up both Raspberry and “Lemon” by mistake. My lovely co-pilot opts for Green Mountain coffee. Finally for dessert, a bag of peanut butter filled M & M’s and a Take 5 candy bar (excellent despite having a dry pretzel center).
For a driving snack we take along Vermont made Maple Beef Jerky for only $2.99. On the road again we cross into New Hampshire, with a highlight of the drive south on Highway 93 – the ride through Franconia Notch State Park. You knew you were getting closer when you saw the rocky outline of the Old Man’s face proudly watching over from the top of the ridge, referring to the former ‘Old Man of the Mountain’ (a rock formation on top of the Notch that resembled an old man’s face, which has since collapsed, now portrayed on many State signs). The problem is trying to imagine where he once stood and point it out to first timers while trying not to drive off the one lane parkway. It’s hard to believe The Old Man fell down in our lifetime after being there for countless years (I guess that’s what fridge magnets are for). Exit 25 off the 93 comes up relatively quickly and is the scenic way to get into Center Harbor on Lake Winnipesaukee. It takes you via route 175, then onto 3 and 25B. The bonus is you get to ride through the pleasant town of Holderness. There are neat places to stretch your legs including the newly renovated Squam Lakes Inn’s Market Place which apart from selling baked goods, gifts and sundries has cans of silver and blue energy drinks (a.k.a. Red Bull).
Squam Lake for those that don’t know is where they filmed “On Golden Pond” (the 1981 classic starring Henry Fonda). Film set or not, the area is pristine as lakeside towns go and meandering down the semi-rural roads is always picturesque. A glimpse of the big lake appears through the forest (no need to mention we’re getting close). Route 3 encompasses much of the lake and we get to the T-junction for Moutonbourough Neck road. It’s a gentle curving, tree and camp lined road passing several private condo developments that leads to a little piece of heaven. Deer and other forest dwelling creatures can be prevalent (thus abide by the speed limit for the benefit of both man and beast).
I’ve seen several “I brake for Moose” bumper stickers over the years (see one up close and you’ll know why). Before the bridge to the island at the end of the neck road, you come across a welcome sight (that is if you like to eat and drink). Jo-Jo’s Country Store has been a fixture and place of happy vacationers for as long as anyone can remember. I heard it was recently bought by a large supermarket chain, yet still has it’s local charm.
On this quick stop only Samuel Adams Limited Pumpkin Ale, and a bottle of Barefoot Merlot were purchased. Despite not being a big drinker myself there are some relaxation requisites. Upon arrival to my cousin’s condo we quickly unloaded the trunk, aired out the condo and started our decompression. Since we’d be driving out to dinner, I saved the drinking for BBQ night (see New Hampshire: Revisiting Lake Winnipesaukee Part 2), so I let the sunset serve as my serenity. Later that night we ventured out to Buckey’s Restaurant (240 Governor Wentworth Hwy).
It was 8pm so I wasn’t concerned when the dining room was sparsely filled (folks tend to eat early around the lake). Hearing the blackboard specials I noticed a Montreal Rib Steak on the menu – our server volunteered it was simply a Rib Steak with Montreal Steak Spice on top (how cliché). We decided to share the full rack of ribs, with 2 sides; onion rings and coleslaw for $21. The rib sauce was tangy and Texan in taste, although you needed the serrated blade to cut the meat off the hefty bones. There was plenty in that department, but I was not impressed with the “onion-less” onion rings (the onion centers had dried up). The coleslaw was shredded well and creamy yet not enough to balance the somewhat dry meat we ended up gnawing on. I probably should have splurged for the fried scallops or steak tips, but our server did say ribs were one of the top 3 specialties. After a long day on the road we were content to go back and stargaze the lake sky. Adding to the quintessential lakeside list was a Boston Red Sox game on the tube (versus the Yankees – bonus).
Watching a few innings, I grabbed some rich New England Vanilla ice cream topped with some blueberries and raspberries ‘et viola’ a nice ending to the first night in the Lakes Region. The baseball game was a nail biter, but was too tired to worry. It was time to turn in for a much needed sleep. Lobster Rolls and the best breakfast spot around would be in my dreams (see New Hampshire: Revisiting Lake Winnipesaukee Part 2). I was out like a light before I could add “On Golden Pond” to my must watch DVD (ie. VHS rental) list.
Jeff Shoer: Having traveled the earth in search of a happy stomach, Jeff continues to follow a path to food loving destinations. He hopes to walk off the calories en-route to more great tastes. Read more about his passion for food in travel below.