Fine New England cooking in a quaint blue clapboard inn
When a couple in France wished to eat out recently, they picked up the phone, made a dinner reservation, flew into Boston's Logan Airport, rented a car, and drove 75 miles up to David's Inn in Bennington, N.H.
What they found was a quaint little blue clapboard house with a dining room that is filled to capacity when 32 people come through the door. They also found excellent examples of New England cooking well worth crossing the Atlantic for.
David Glynn is accustomed to gourmands from far and near calling in at the tiny establishment he manages with the skillful help of family and neighbors. His guest book is filled with comments ranging all the way from "excellent" to "superb."
Part of the attraction is visual; before opening for business three years ago Mr. Glynn carefully restored the Cape Cod-style cottage back to its 1788 post-Colonial charm. The low-ceilinged dining room is cozy and inviting with its exposed center beams, wide pine floors, Franklin fireplace, stenciled walls, and abundance of dried arrangements.
By opening the house as an inn he was again faithful to its history. When his French grandmother bought the house in 1930, she ran it as a boardinghouse -- something that Mr. Glynn, who was born in one of the two bedrooms upstairs, can well recall. Today the bedrooms, each furnished with period antiques, are available for overnight guests.
Except for a short time in Boston studying at the Fannie Farmer Cooking School and working at the Harvard Club, Mr. Glynn has seldom strayed far from where he is now. For 15 years he managed the Maplehurst Inn in the neighboring village of Antrim and then opened an inn of his own in the same town.
By the time he moved the business back home to Bennington he had established his reputation for running a top-quality restaurant. David's Inn is based on the principle of "small is beautiful" -- a small menu, prepared by a small staff , serving a small number of people.
His menu has changed very little over the years, and everyone in the kitchen does the particular tasks he knows best -- two factors the owner believes are important for a restaurant to be consistently good. A key member of the staff is his mother, described by her son as a "born cook, who always makes the baked stuffed shrimp and delectable salmon pies." She also does much of the baking.
Lunch or dinner at David's begins with a relish tray, prepared by a local woman named Hazel who varies her offerings according to available produce. Cranberry-orange relish, pickled pumpkin, apple butter, and watermelon pickles are among the variants, while her popular five-bean salad is always on the tray. The tangy selections are perfectly complemented by fluffy yeast rolls and honey buns fresh from the oven.
A popular entree at either lunch or dinner is the salmon pie, which is served in a generous wedge covered with a rich egg sauce. Surrounding it are three kinds of vegetables, either from David's garden or a nearby farm. Other choices at lunch include tenderloin of beef hash, lobster bisque, and Welsh rabbit, while a hearty dinner selection might be Honey Baked Ham, Maine Lobster Pie, Beef Bourguignon, or pan-fried New Hampshire brook trout.
The dinner entrees, most of them priced around $7.50, also include dessert choices such as deep-dish apple pie or meringue shells with ice cream and David's own chocolate, strawberry, or butterscotch sauce.
Here we offer some recipes from David's kitchen for you to prepare in your own. Hazel's Five-Bean Salad 1/2 cup dried red kidney beans 1/2 cup dried lima beans 1 cup wax beans, cut in 2-inch lengths 1 cup green beans, cut in 2-inch lengths 1 cup shell beans or fava beans, shelled 2 cups sugar 1 cup cider vinegar 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 teaspoon celery salt 1 teaspoon salt 1 onion, sliced 1 green pepper, sliced 2 pimentos, chopped
In a large saucepan cover kidney and lima beans, rinsed with cold water, and soak them overnight. Add water to cover beans by 2 inches, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until tender, about 40 minutes. Drain beans and transfer to a large heatproof bowl.
In a saucepan of boiling salted water cook wax beans and green beans for 5 minutes. Drain beans and add them to the bowl.
In a saucepan of simmering salted water cook shell beans, drain, and add them to the bowl.
In a saucepan combine sugar, vinegar, oil, salt, and celery salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and pour mixture over beans. Stir in onion, green pepper, and pimentos. Mix salad well and chill, covered, overnight. The salad keeps in jars, covered and chilled, for 2 weeks. Serves 6 . Salmon Pie 1 recipe pie dough, enough for 9-inch pie shell Rice 2 pounds potatoes 1/3 cup milk 1/4 cup butter 1 pound salmon steak 2 large eggs, beaten 1 tablespoon parsley 1 tablespoon onion, grated
Roll pie dough into a round 1/8-inch thick on a floured surface and place in a 9-inch glass pie plate. Crimp edge, prick bottom with a fork, and chill shell for one hour. Line shell with wax paper, fill with raw rice, and bake in lower third of preheated 425-degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Remove rice and paper carefully and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Put potatoes in a saucepan, add enough water to cover by two inches, and bring to a boil. Simmer potatoes, partly covered, for 40 minutes or until tender. Drain, let them cool enough to be handled, and peel. Puree while still warm through a food mill or ricer into the saucepan.
In a small saucepan scald milk with butter until butter is melted and beat mixture with a wooden spoon into the potato puree. Season with salt and pepper and reserve it, loosely covered.
Poach salmon steak in a small skillet of simmering salted water covered with a buttered round of wax paper for 8 to 10 minutes, or until it just flakes with a fork. Transfer salmon with a slotted spatula to a cutting board, reserving the cooking liquid. Remove skin and bones and flake fish into a bowl.
Add potato puree, 2 eggs, onion, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste and beat mixture until well combined. Spread in shell, dot with butter, and bake in a preheated 350-degree F. oven for 30 minutes. Serve with egg sauce. Egg Sauce 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour Reserved cooking liquid from poached salmon Half and half 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped 1 tablespoon celery, minced
Melt butter in a saucepan, stir in flour, and cook over low heat, stirring for 3 minutes. In a measuring cup combine reserved cooking liquid with enough half-and-half to make 2 cups. Add liquid to pan in a stream, whisking, for 10 minutes. Add eggs, celery, salt, and white pepper to taste and simmer sauce for 3 to 5 minutes, or until thickened. Meringue Shells 3 egg whites 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat egg whites in a bowl, gradually adding sugar and lemon juice, until stiff. Cover cookie sheets with brown paper. Drop tablespoons of mixture on paper. With back of spoon make a well in the middle of each.
Place in preheated oven and immediately turn oven off. Leave in oven 4 to 5 hours or overnight. Remove with spatula, fill with ice cream and top with warm butterscotch sauce. David's Butterscotch Sauce 1 cup light corn syrup 4 cups brown sugar 2 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup water 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup light cream
Put corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, water, and salt in a saucepan, bring to boil, and let boil for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and add cream. Beat for one minute with an electric mixer at low speed.