Canoe Club, Hanover, NH

(Originally written long-hand, July 8, 2009)

The end of the school year went by in a blur of papers, exams, coffee and take-out. Now I find myself spending a week on the campus of Dartmouth College at what my husband lovingly calls "
Latin Camp." The pros? Professional development, personal enrichment, a week in charming Hanover, New Hampshire. The cons? Living in a dorm room and eating every meal at the campus dining hall. I'm half-way there, and I have no choice but to skip the "mess hall" and take myself out to dinner.

I first read about the Canoe Club while browsing the New England travel books at Bank Square Books in Mystic and remembered it this afternoon after deciding to "go gourmet." I enter and take a look around. A canoe on its side behind the bar holds high-end bourbons and scotches while postcards, old photos, and canoe-race awards adorn the Dartmouth-green walls. I am reminded that the Connecticut River is a short mile away and appreciate the unique functionality of the well-placed canoe.

The menu boasts of partnerships with local farms. In fact, I caught the tail-end of the Hanover-Area Farmers' Market on the walk to the restaurant. I'm seated at a high table facing the bar and my server greets me straightaway. I order wine and peruse the menu.

I start with the black-bean and sausage soup. It's full of tomatoes, carrots, celery and onion, all in a spicy minestrone-type broth. I sop up what remained with the chewy Portuguese dinner rolls. The soup is hearty and nicely seasoned with a hint of heat in the sausage. Off to a good start.

Maybe I'm in a soup mood or maybe it's the damp weather, but I order the cioppino next. I can't believe the amount of seafood that comes in the bowl: two large tiger shrimp, six "rope-cultured" mussels, and two dozen bay scallops. All of this, along with onions, stewed tomatoes, carrots and potatoes, rests lightly in a saffron sauce. I dig in and enjoy while I observe my surroundings. Next to me, a young buck seemingly new to the workaday world is chatting with his mentor over beers. A couple is sharing a romantic meal at a table near the window. Two college-age girls are gossiping over wine at the bar. With its warm feel and ideal location, this seems like the perfect place for all types.

Desire for decent food, a touch of PMS and an abhorrence of my recent Spartan living style drives me to order three, yes three, desserts. The first, called "Lime Cloud," I can't resist - it is sweet-tart, has bits of lime pulp, and is as light as its name implies. Next, "Canoe Club Chocolate Kisses," slightly larger and more squatty versions of those made by Hershey, these are darkly decadent and melt without bitterness on my tongue. Finally, the seventy-five-cent shortbread cookie is the crispy balancer of the other two treats. I ordered a couple more to enjoy with a later-that-night cup of tea.

An evening lecture draws me away from my leisurely dinner, just as the live entertainment, a female jazz singer, belts out the opening lines of "Girl from Ipanema." Darn professional development!
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