One night, I decided that I wanted to visit New Hampshire. A week later, we loaded up the car and left for Labor Day weekend. It was an exhausting trip. We ended up skipping the hike up Mt. Washington given the 2hr drive from Lake Winnipesaukee. Our detour hike up Mt. Major was still fabulous nonetheless. Though we “slept” in and woke up around 9:30am each day, we were still exhausted. We ended up breaking the final drive home into two legs after we got lost and ended up in Boston. Luckily, we were able to pull into a service station and book a hotel in Stamford, CT courtesy of the free wifi at McDonalds (this is what happens when you refuse to get a smartphone). We couldn’t believe our luck- $30 for the night at a legit hotel? Well, the manager told us later on that he had accidentally entered the wrong price into the system and woke up from his nap to a $130 room being booked for $30. He was nice enough to honor our $30 price. But this is how most of the trip went- we were blessed and lucky to happen upon some good food at Lago, spectacular weather during our hike up Mt. Major and have the clouds clear away to some breathtaking views at Castle in the Clouds.

Mileage: 1,015 miles
Hours on road: +17hrs
Dates: 8/31-9/03/2012

Lago

lagob&w

Lago is most certainly a gem. Very few times do restaurants hit upon all four points- experience, taste, location and value- but Lago did it. Mark and I walked out agreeing that this was the best restaurant we’d ever been to together.

Before the bread is even served, you can grab a few crackers and slice your own cheese from a cutting board across from the hostess’s table. The ciabatta bread is mind numbingly amazing. It’s toasted slightly crisp on the outside but when you break into it, you’re literally pulling away fluff. It’s served with their rosemary infused olive oil, with a side of kosher salt, shaved parmesan and pepper. Delicioso.

pourage

Olio di Rosmarino e Aglio – Rosemary infused olive oil served with ciabatta

lago table

You can’t tell from this photograph, but we had a prime view of Lake Winnipesaukee from these windows. While the lake was indeed pretty, we were both captivated by the ambiance and decor inside. Details are littered abound. Each table has its unique design. The napkins have a double thin red line running through the corners. The candles aren’t just candles- they’re lamps and you can adjust the height of the flame.

flame!

zucchinifries

Zucchine Fritte: Fresh zucchini with panko Parmesan crust. Spicy tomato sauce ($7)

We almost mistook these for mozzarella sticks. They’re actually thin slides of zucchini coated in a thick batter and fried. They were piping hot when they were first served but absolutely delicious.

lago quad

UnCommon Sangria: OLE! By the glass or carafe – secret family recipe ($7/glass or $14/carafe)

The Sangria was probably my least favorite of everything we got. That being said, it wasn’t too bad. I thought there was a bit too much ice, which not only watered down the flavors, but also hurt my fillings. Still, for $14, we each got a full two glasses.

steak with gorgonzola butter
steakcut

Bistecca di Lago: Seasoned, char-grilled steak with Gorgonzola butter ($19)

Mark’s first reaction to the steak was, “It could be better.” But the Gorgonzola butter completely changed everything. Mark actually abhors butter. In fact, I’ve never seen him eat it. In this case, however, he slathered the butter all over the steak, coating it with its richness.  The only way I can begin describing this steak is through the Merovingian, who said, “You see, it’s like wiping your ass with silk, I love it.”

pasta carbonara

carbonara twist

Spaghetti alla Carbonara: Pancetta, cream, peas, Parmesan and cracked black pepper ($14)

The Carbonara was to die for. I’ve never had such awesome carbonara. Given that it’s practically made with all cream and butter, you’d expect this to taste too rich after the first few bites. Nope, it was rich without being overboard and it took all of my willpower to stop myself from eating the whole thing. I thought my stomach was going to explode. They don’t skip out on the pancetta either. There’s a ton of it and it’s in thick chunks. We ended up boxing it and ate it for breakfast the next day. Microwaved, it tasted the same!

chocolate dessert

Cioccolato Budini: A rich dense chocolate ganache pudding, shortbread crust and espresso mascarpone cream, dusted with sea salt ($6)

We went with the server’s suggestion and got the budini. I can only describe it as a chocolate tart. The ganache was very, very dense, but the mascarpone helped mellow it out. This is the first time I’ve had ganache with mascarpone, and I think it works wonders more than cream. The best part about the whole dish was the sea salt. I could cry. It was so spectacular.

whitechocolate
limoncello

Perhaps it’s because we were at the restaurant for nearly 2.5 hours, but our server, Karen, dropped off two shots of Limoncello and some white chocolate before giving us the check. What a thoughtful gesture.

Mark and I were head over heels with our experience at Lago. We felt as if we ate like royalty and the check came out to around $75 including a 20% tip. With a lakeside view, an incredible ambiance and ridiculously delicious food, what a steal! You’re talking about appetizer, alcohol, two entrees and a dessert.  We checked some nearby towns for similar restaurants but couldn’t find anything even remotely similar. One guy on Yelp put it precisely- “When looking for a nice elegant yet not stuffy place to enjoy a great meal in the lakes region, Lagos is your place.”

lago in the distance

Mount Major

There’s not much to say about Mt. Major other than it offers some of the most breathtaking views of Lake Winnipesaukee. The summit is mostly rock with few trees, offering a gorgeous panoramic view of the lake. The hike itself is about an hour each way. It took us nearly three hours since we stopped to take pictures and eat lunch. This is a hike that’s totally doable with sneakers. Get here early on the weekends. It’s packed and parking overflows to the highway.

We took the blue trail up and the orange trail down. The blue trail is mostly pebbles with a well maintained path. There are some steep climbs toward the end that require using hands. The orange trail is known as the boulder trail. Both are very family friendly.

mt major trail sign

i am going to pollenate you!
leaves and trails
lake- 1st overlook

lake2
rocks. happy angela?
lake winnepasaukee summit
terrain
me and mark
lake winnipesaukee liight leak
orange trail
hi mark
orange trail pain
genius climbs a tree
hola!
parkinglot

Wolfe’s Tavern

wolfe's tavern light leak
We desperately tried replicating our experience from the night before at Lago but failed to find any restaurants that were even comparable. Given that Mitt Romney has a summer house in Wolfeboro, NH, we decided to take the 50 min drive from where we were staying. We were a bit disappointed. Downtown is small and there are few restaurants, particularly those that offer lakeside dining.
We ended up going with Wolfe’s Tavern over Garwood Pub, given the more favorable reviews on Yelp.
wolfe's interior
bread + dip

burger with halumi
The Gichigumi:  with Peppercorn Seasoning, Bacon, Havarti Cheese, & Blue Cheese Dressing ($11.95)
burger with fried egg
fried egg!
The Pitchwood: with Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Melted Swiss Cheese & a Fried Egg ($11.95)

 

We rated both of our burgers 7/10. They were pretty good, but not great. One of my biggest peeves about burgers is a soggy bun. The plate had just landed and I took 1 minute at most to take pictures. By the time I picked up the burger, the bottom bun had nearly completely turned into mush. It was a bit gross. I had to keep the burger upside down after to prevent what was left of the bun from getting soggier.
Our overall experience here was mediocre. The restaurant itself is just weird. While the entrance to the bar is quite impressive, the dining room we were in needed a serious makeover. The colors were stuffy and there was a floral plush that lined the walls next to the booth. Something was just off.
Our server was very nice but she neglected to give us bread without our asking (not sure if this is a restaurant policy but we saw all other tables getting bread) and asked us if we were ready for our check without even asking us about dessert. We would have liked to at least have been offered the menu. In many cases, we do end up ordering dessert.
Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many places in Wolfeboro to dine (there are a few that involve a shack or some plastic chairs, but we were looking for a nice, sit-down place). Some of our other top picks were only open for breakfast and lunch.

 

wolfeboroinn B&W

Castle in the Clouds

castle2
We completely lucked out. We woke up on Sunday to a foreboding forecast. It started drizzling as we were eating breakfast and we decided to scrap the boat idea. Instead, we hopped in the car and drove to Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough.
This place is an absolute must if you’re bringing the kids. The castle, built in the early 1900s, has changed hands several times but today, the current owners (the Castle Preservation Society) are looking to preserve the castle and bring it back to its original form. As a result, the rooms are preserved with many of the original items on display. This is a self-tour with a few guides inside the castle to answer any questions. It takes an hour to walk through it and nearly two hours if you’re stopping to read everything (like we did). Entrance fees are $16/adult, $12/student or senior, $8/child and free for those 4 years and under.

 

overcast
flowers
Prior to the castle, there’s a couple of stops you can make. The first is a waterfall and the second a scenic overlook. Both are worthy of stopping for. Then, after parking in the main parking lot, a trolley awaits to take you to the castle, which is about a 3-5 minutes away.
trolley!
trolllley
castle in the clouds
cereal
frosted flakes and blueberries

library
intercom and bedroom

1920s
bathroom
sink
peakcock room

window copy
scenic view
mark ledge
castle
castle greeting
me and mark

drive
There are also 28 miles worth of hiking trails as well as some horse stables. Unfortunately, we had to head home, but we plan on coming back in 2014 when they fully renovate the place back to its original state.  There’s also a cafe in the carriage house which offers al fresco dining with a view overlooking the lake. Get there early if you plan on dining there because there are long waits.

back on the road

And with that, we were on our way home!

Lago Menu
1 US Route 25
Meredith, NH  03253
(603) 279-2253

Mount Major Hiking Info
Route 11
Belknap, NH 03809

Wolfe’s Tavern Menu
90 North Main Street
Wolfeboro, NH 03894
(603) 569-3016

Castle in the Clouds Website
Route 171,
455 Old Mountain Road
Moultonborough, NH 03254
(603) 476-5900


Lake Winnipesaukee on Dwellable