Drive & Dine Jackson to Gorham
Natural wonders and great food await
BY SUSAN LAUGHLIN
For FULL ARTICLE: http://www.nhmagazine.com/June-2015/Drive-Dine-Jackson-to-Gorham/
- Heading back a few miles into Gorham, we parked in front of Libby’s Bistro and walked down the sidewalk. We were immediately hailed inside by a fellow standing at the door. How did he know where we were headed? Seems we were to be the guests of honor. Oh, boy, this evening was to be more special than I had imagined. Seems owner Liz Jackson takes the month of April off and our visit was ill-timed for a restaurant visit, but perfect for the staff party they were throwing.
In a side room, the table was set family-style with nice china, wine glasses and pretty blue water glasses. The 16 press back chairs stood ready and were later filled with the most interesting people — including the owners of Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Co. and a fellow starting a company in North Conway for runners who want to trail-run the Alps and volunteers maintaining local mountain bike trails. Obviously, they all loved Liz and the love was mutual. They even pitched in to prepare food and later clean up. What an evening! The food was downright amazing. Liz had prepared a sampling of the type of foods she is offering at the bistro and the pub. Front and center are her artisanal breads and accompaniments, including marinated grapes. The organic greens salad was perfectly dressed, the mussels savory, plump and delicately perfumed, while the sweet potato gnocchi were tender and served with succulent braised beef. In another family-style bowl was a hand-rolled pasta, lightly dressed with a Bolognese sauce. This wasn’t a typical dinner at Libby’s or the pub, but it highlighted the focus and quality of her menus.
Liz explained she doesn’t feel right preparing large slabs of meat anymore. Now her dishes are flavored with the succulence of beef or pork, especially her house-made pastas and other grain-based dishes. The menu is changed weekly in the Bistro and features a three-course, prix-fixe dinner for $25 to $30. The dining is exceptional and far from ordinary. The pub has a separate space and menu. Several years ago, Liz and her husband Steve rearranged the seating areas in the former bank they originally renovated in 1997. The pub had gotten so popular they moved it upstairs and made the bistro smaller.
The pub menu is pub-inspired but gastronomic. You’ll find some of the best poutine in the nation, along with local beef burgers on homemade buns, bowls of pasta or grains dressed with layers of flavors. Other grain dishes travel the world for tastes of India in an eggplant korma, and Thailand with bamboo rice scented with lemongrass, coconut milk and topped with shrimp. Moroccan spices can be savored with chicken and grains. There is so much flavor packed into the menu that one visit would never be enough. Gorham residents are lucky — and they know it.
The SAaLt Pub is not a secret in the North Country, so be forewarned it can be difficult to get in. Call ahead for reservations for parties of more than six — way ahead. Otherwise, a call may help you with the queue.
We headed back in the morning after a great breakfast by our hostess Mary Ann. I managed to get into the woods at Great Glen Trails with a short snowshoe hike during that precious slice of time when you don’t need mittens or bug repellent. Located across from Mount Washington, they offer opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and even kayaking in the summer season. Their Outfitters Shop will rent whatever gear you may need. Across the highway, the Auto Road is the way to the top of the mountain with a vehicle — either yours or a shuttle van. In the winter, a SnowCoach will take you above the tree line with the option to cross-country ski back down the road.
The mountain seems to always be in view.
Photos by Susan Laughlin