Winter farmers’ markets are a fun place for food discoveries, and that’s where I met Tracey Brown and John Valdes, owners of Seacoast Butters in Amesbury. They were offering samples of their extensive line of compound butters, plain or spread on warm bread.
The Sise Inn is a just right balance between a bed and breakfast and a small hotel. The property looks like a Queen Anne mansion – which it was. John E. Sise (rhymes with “nice”), a 19th-century Portsmouth businessman, built the house around 1881. Just over a century later, the structure was renovated, expanded, and turned into an inn. Current co-owner Diane Hoden has been the innkeeper since 2002. “It’s a blend,” she says. “You get the feel of being in a more homey atmosphere with the personalized service of a B&B, yet we have all the modern amenities of a small hotel, and someone is here on site 24–7.”
I have a weakness for homemade preserves. Whenever I’m at a market, I check out the shelves for those local goodies, in search for something unusual. I hit gold when I discovered Amelia Maes & Co., with their line of hot pepper jams and jellies. Raspberry Thai Jam caught my eye – and my taste buds, since raspberry is a favorite in our house. It’s got the expected fruity sweetness of raspberry jam – and then a subtle kick from Thai and habanero peppers, plus a savory edge from red bell peppers.
The White Barn Inn is all about a relaxing getaway – this is not a quick stop for a business trip. It’s also about luxury and romance, with well-appointed rooms, an onsite spa, and an award-winning gourmet restaurant located in a converted white barn. The inn is part of the Relais & Châteaux group, one of only 40 such accommodations in the U.S., and they have to meet strict standards to qualify. “It’s very, very special,” says innkeeper Corinne Finn-Heyl. “We welcome every guest with a glass of champagne, and guests receive a fruit bowl and flower arrangement in their room.”
“We are by definition a motel,” says Damien Callahan, Director of Operations for The Port Inn. “But we capitalize on the fact that we’re small, charming, unique – not a big corporate hotel.” The 57-room property consists of two buildings and 12 room types, ranging from economy rooms to suites with kitchenettes, ideal for longer stays. Built in 1955, the Port is owned by brothersJim and Mark Bouzianis, and has been in the family for some 40 years.
“October is our busiest month of the year,” says Karen Meyer, innkeeper of Three Chimneys Inn in Durham. The inland location makes it popular in the winter as well – 11 of the 23 rooms have gas fireplaces. “People love to be here in the winter, especially on a snowy night,” Meyer adds.
In January 2009 the longtime Bow Street Inn went through a dramatic transformation to become The Ale House Inn, an homage to the building's history as an 1880s brewery warehouse. Innkeeper Doug Palardy emphasizes that they are not a B&B, even though the Ale House often get labeled as such. Rather, Palardy, who owns the establishment with his husband, Daniel Innis (Dean of the Whittemore School of Business at the University of New Hampshire), prefers to encourage guests to try the many great restaurants in Portsmouth, while the partners concentrate on the accommodation end of things.