17 May 2011

Pickity Place ... Lunch and Herbs

Last week, I met my friends for lunch at Pickity Place. It's a springtime junket that we repeat every year at planting time. You see, Pickity Place is a special hidden garden and restaurant that sits up a long dirt road and in the woods of Mason, New Hampshire. It's a special place on so many levels. It's a lovely herb garden, it's an antique New England farmhouse with all the nooks and crannies and ells and outbuildings that typify old farm life, it's an inventive luncheon restaurant that specializes in light herb-based recipes, it's the inspiration for illustrations of a classic publication of the children's story, Little Red Riding Hood, it's a little bit of heaven far away from the urban sprawl that slowly encroaches on New England.

Our visits are always timed for when we want to bring annual herbs back into our kitchen gardens. We go and pick up all the classics - basils, lemon verbena, dill, tarragon, parsleys, and cilantro. I always end up getting more of their sages, thymes, rosemary, and marjoram too. This year, I will make a rosemary topiary for the kitchen. For my friend Cathy, the collection of perennial flowers always tempt her!
So, we come from a couple different parts of the state and meet on a sunny morning to browse the greenhouse and gardens, pick up some sweet gifts in the gift shop and have lunch. I never take pictures in the restaurant because it is such an intimate space and I am shy about disturbing our fellow guests. But ...   the front parlor and side ell of the house serve as a small museum dedicated to Elizabeth Orton Jones and her vision of Red Riding Hood's grandmother's house... with the wolf, of course! He begs for his photo to be taken.

Back to lunch, though...

Suffice it to say, the food is light, fresh, and beautifully presented with fresh herbs and edible floral garnishes. The restaurant's menu changes monthly. Recipes are based on herbs and seasonal vegetables. Soups, breads and desserts are a standard offering, but there are always two entrees from which to choose - one with meat or seafood and the other a vegetarian offering. This May's menu included raspberry iced tea, lavender infused lemonade, lemon and ginger infused iced tea, French onion sour cream spread on crackers, a roasted red pepper veloute soup with fresh watercress, a pickled asparagus salad, roast beef medallions served over a Boursin-spread baguette toast with a light beef gravy, stir-fried baby bok choy, a warm chive bread with roasted red pepper butter, and a bittersweet chocolate cup filled with lime mousse and coconut whipped cream surrounded by mango pineapple chutney. It seems a lot for lunch, but the servings at PP are small enough to make eating everything possible, yet large enough to leave the table satisfied. Perfection in my eyes. 

Our routine is always the same. We linger as long as possible over lunch and then meander out for a trip to the gift shop. We poke through the gardens and potting shed and exchange news and some gossip, head out back to the greenhouse for our plants and then load the trunks of the cars, give each other hugs, and head our separate ways to our own little patches of Earth. It's time to plant. The next day we always talk on the phone and pledge to return later in the summer for another lunch and more bonding in the herb garden.

... an inviting spot for sitting and listening to the catbirds and bees ...

... inside one of the drying sheds, a little vignette ...

... when it's hot and sunny, the drying shed is a cool respite ...

... by July, the birdhouse will be surrounded by mounds of flowers and herbs ...

... one of my favorite garden places in New England ...

... illustrations from Elizabeth Orton Jones' rendition of the classic story ...



  1. Love the name! Thank you for sharing that special spot with us; loved your photos and that lunch sounds divine.

  2. What a cute little place! I'll have to stop by some time when I'm passing through New Hampshire. Thanks for the post!

  3. This is such a wonderful place tucked in the woods of Mason, N.H. The food is delicious, the gift shops are fun and the gardens great to walk around. I sure miss it, next time I go to N.E. will make a point of going.
    Thank you for this article.


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