Wednesday, August 10, 2016

PINE Restaurant, Hanover, NH

The Hanover Inn is a fancy inn located in Hanover, the town next to where I grew up, right adjacent to the Dartmouth campus.  Given that my family lives nearby, I've never stayed at the inn, and, prior to a few years ago, wouldn't have considered eating at the hotel either.  But a couple years ago they did a full remodel of the restaurant, brought in a new chef, and even gave the restaurant a new name: PINE.  It started to get great reviews, so I took notice.

As a hotel restaurant, PINE serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekends, and is open every day.  It consists of a formal dining room, plus a bar and lounge with casual seating.

The restaurant menu sounds good every time I take a peak (plenty of seafood, lots of local products), but normally when I visit the area I'm not really looking for fine dining, and, we always have other places to check out for breakfast (like Lou's, the Hartland Diner, and 4 Aces Diner).  Finally though, one night my parents and I wanted a small casual meal, and I suggested we go to PINE ... to sit in the lounge and just have some small bites and cocktails.

The atmosphere in the lounge was casual yet refined, and we were able to get one of the few tables, near the gas fireplace (yes, fireplace burning even in the summer).  It was a comfortable, nice place to have a good cocktail and a snack.  Service was fine.

We had a nice time and it was a good pick for what we were looking for that night, and I'd like to return sometime to the full restaurant to further evaluate.

Tequila Cocktail.
A few months prior, I travelled with a co-worker who had us do tequila shots one night (long story).  It was the first time I'd had tequila in ages, yet, I strangely got hooked.  Since then, I've been ordering tequila drinks whenever I see an interesting one, and, PINE actually had a pretty amazing sounding cocktail menu.  House made cordials, fancy smoked salts, creative recipes.  I picked one of the few tequila drinks, I don't recall the name.

The drink itself was fine, although it had way too many ice cubes in it.  My dad commented, "it looks like a cup of ice with a little water in it".

The interesting thing was the salt.  Hard to see here, but it was not just applied to the rim, it was somewhat artfully used around about half the glass.  My dad said he thought it looked like dirt.  Sigh.  Most of the salt was standard white salt, but there were also 3 large smoked salt crystals too.  The salt treatment was different at least, but I felt a bit strange licking the salt from the side of my cup, rather than just the rim.

I enjoyed my drink, and I'd have another, although I'd prefer to explore more of the cocktail menu.
Bread & Butter.
After we ordered, we were brought a basket of bread and butter.

The bread was not warm, and it was sourdough, which I don't like.  It was soft and crusty, but otherwise, not remarkable.

The butter however was crazy fluffy, and tasted intensely of cream.  I really liked the butter, and just wished I had something I wanted to put it on.
Homemade sour cream potato chips with truffle, chive & onion dip.
I think my parents thought I was a bit crazy for going to a nice restaurant, and wanting to order chips and dip.  But I actually really love chips & dip (yes, even classic Lays with generic sour cream and Lipton onion soup mix).  I prefer nicer of course, but, sometimes, basic chips and dip will do.  So I was interested to see what spin PINE would put on chips and dip.

The chips were quite flavorful on their own, and didn't need a dip.  The menu said just sour cream, but I swear I tasted some onion on the chips too.  They were crispy, but over-fried for my liking, a bit too oily, and were a bit burnt.  But, the flavor was good.

The dip was super thick, I think made from crème fraîche rather than sour cream, and garnished with bits of chopped up onion and chives.  The truffle was clearly truffle oil, and was very strong.  Anyone remotely truffle adverse would not care for this at all.

My dad didn't like the dip, but tolerated the chips.  My mom thought it was all tasty.  I appreciated the flavors and the sophisticated play on chips & dip, but I wouldn't get this again.
Baby kale with caesar dressing, brioche croutons & shaved parmigiano.
A few weeks prior to my visit at PINE, I had a kale salad (in an airport lounge of all places) that blew my mind.  I'd tell you about it, but it was at the Centurion Lounge in Vegas, and, well, what happens in Vegas ...

I had been craving another one ever since.  And, after a few days of a horrible diet on the east coast consisting of far too many ice cream cones from Dairy Twirl and Fore-U, and uh,  Dunkin' Donuts, I was really feeling the desire to have some greens.  Thus, I ordered a salad, something I pretty much never do.

The kale was baby kale, fresh, crisp, a bit bitter, not really that interesting.  The dressing was classic caesar, fairly garlicky.  I liked the big flakes of shaved parmigiano on top.

Overall, it was all fine, not notable, not bad.  The only part that was subpar was the croutons, they were just generic tiny little cubes, not sure what was supposed to be "brioche" about them.  I probably wouldn't get it again.
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