Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Woodbine Cottage

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I am writing today about a place I never knew but long ago I found the small spiral-bound WOODBINE COTTAGE-OUR FAVORITE RECIPES cookbook in a used bookstore and was intrigued by its handwritten (and copied), old-fashioned style, and New England recipes. I have always been partial to woodbine, too, as it was a common wood plant in Ohio (where we called it "Virginia Creeper") and Woodbine Farm was the name of the Jaffrey farm where my friend Di grew up (and where Willa Cather wrote THE LOST LADY in a tent she pitched in their fields). The woodbine plant seems to conjure up all sorts of romantic associations, of a trailing and meandering vine on old porches and homesteads.

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Woodbine Cottage in Sunapee Harbor, New Hampshire was a successful tea room and restaurant for decades. It closed about 15 years ago after Eleanor Hill died, its creator and longtime proprietor.

On Sunday my husband and I were heading up to Sunapee Harbor with our friends Linda and Eric who go up that way frequently. It is a lovely part of New Hampshire but only an area with which I've become more familiar in recent years. We were going to ride the Mt. Kearsarge dinner cruise on Lake Sunapee, a beautiful 9-mile lake surrounded by old camps and cottages (and a few newer ones here and there).

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On the way I asked Linda about Woodbine Cottage as I knew she had mentioned it before. She had many meals there--and afternoon teas--in their hey-day and said "they made the lightest, highest pancakes" she'd ever had. She, too, had bought the cookbook which, while it doesn't have the pancake recipe, has other things like waffles, breads, desserts and a few main dishes and soups. I was anxious to at least see the building. [Linda also said that they sold "shelves full of Country Fare," one of my favorite potteries that I've been collecting, made originally by Zanesville Pottery in Ohio from the 1940s-1960s, in an attractive brown and aqua glazing that I have noticed is once again making a comeback in newer lines of dinnerware now sold in stores. Oh the pain of never having gone there for Country Fare, too...]

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So before our cruise we walked over to the former Woodbine Cottage. It looks a bit forlorn now and has not been in use since its past ownership. The gardens are overgrown and the woodbine that crawled up the front of the house and over its roof on special trellices is long gone. The property is apparently for sale for $399,000 after a developer attempted to reopen the restaurant and build condos behind it. [A tight location, parking issues, and neighbors, likely nixed that idea.] It was a thrill to see it after imagining it from the cookbook. While it was a bit tumble-bumble, it didn't disappoint. From the outside I felt wafts of tea rooms past when they were dotted all across New England and run by sweet old ladies like Eleanor Hill. May it rest in peace.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love old homes and pictures like this.
Thanks for sharing.
j. in ca.

Heather said...

I just got your book from the library and am reading it today. It is just lovely! Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

I just ordered your book today from Amazon. I love vintage kitchens and anything to do with them. I can't wait to receive the book.
I hope you do more like it.
joanna

doberste5 said...

My grandmother and my sister used to go to Vermont and New Hampshire every yr in the beginning of October. We would stay at a little motel there in Newport and we ate several of our meals at the Woodbine Inn. The restaurant was so quaint and cozy. U first walked into a little gift shop that had the nicest of gifts there and when you would walk in a little bell would ring from the door. There was a huge fireplace in the main eating room and while sitting there waiting for your menu's a waitress would walk around with a heavy cast iron pan that had sweet rolls in it and she would plop one on each and every person's plate. Next would come soup and rolls and then an appetizer then the meal, and then dessert and coffee. All was included inthe price of the meal. It was my sister's and my most favorite part of the trip....eating at the Woodbine Cottage. It hurts me so much to see what it is today. I also have that recipe book that I bo9ught from there as they would make in the restaurant a ham loaf (which is in the book) that's to die for.

Tia said...

Thank you for writing about The Woodbine Cottage. It was one of my parent's favorite places to go for lunch. We had this recipe book in my family; not sure who ended up with it, as both my parents are gone now. But you should try the Chicken Pot Pie recipe. I have it in my old recipe box. It is soooooo delicious, I'm making it today. So I missed Pie Day too; but will make up for it today :D

T.

Anonymous said...

Today I went to make the Woodbine Cottage Buttersctoch Rolls to have for Easter dinner. However, when I copied the recipe, I seem to have left out the exact amount of salt it called for! Does anyone have that recipe to see how far off I am? I remember going there in the
'60's for dinner. It was a HUGE treat in the days when no one ate out the way they do now-or used to before the economy hit the skids! Thanks!

Catherine said...

Hi there (re: Butterscotch rolls),

I have my own copy of this book in storage as we've moved in the past year from New England to Kentucky. However, I've emailed my friend Linda, pictured in this blog, to see if she might be able to put her hands on it. If so, I'll post back the salt amount here. Or, email me at info@catherinepond.com if you'd like.

Happy Easter and thanks for reading my blog!

Catherine

Phil said...

I had the pleasure of their wonderful cusine in the early 80's. Loved all the fresh picked veggies, and the berry pies were out of this world!

Phil Hilton
(At that time from Lake Horace, near Weare, NH)

T Brockman said...

My family used to go to Sunapee on vacation when I was little. The Woodbine Cottage was one of the high points of the trip. Butterscotch Sticky Buns were top notch. My Mom always made their "French" dressing with Campbells Tomato Soup! And I'm making Baked Stuffed Shrimp with Ritz Crackers for dinner tomorrow night with some magnificent and huge wild caught shrimp. Thanks fir the memories.

Anonymous said...

I first went to the Woodbine with a girlfriend I was trying to impress - she was! Then while a student at NEC in Henniker I went a few more times. Graduation, and relocation kept me away for a few years. Then my wife and I went a few times. We found the atmosphere, food and service as wonderful as before.

We are planning on being in the area so I looked up the Woodbine only to find your info. We are sad to hear that it has been closed for so long.

Anonymous said...

I was a customer at Woodbine Cottage several times in the late sixties. I had 11 adopted children and three homemade. My wife and I ate there for our anniversies ALONE, no kids LOL! I found two copies of the cottage cookbook on line and bought them several years ago. Once for the Ex and one for me. I live in Oaxaca Mexico year round where I volunteer as an Anglican priest in the state prison here in Oaxaca. I make special treats for American friends at holidays or special dinner parties. My wife still makes the Butterscotch buns every Christmas.
Rev. Spencer G. Thompson sthomp1256@aol.com

Anonymous said...

I spent many years on Lake Sunapee in the 70's and The Woodbine Cottage was such a unique and special place. There was (and is) no place like it. The Butterscoth Rolls or sticky buns as we called them are heavenly, my boyfriend's grandmother would make them every Sunday from her well-used copy of the little cookbook they had. And the Raisin Sauce for ham is the best ever. Perfect for an Easter ham!!

bill and judy said...

Sorry to say the building is now gone. The only thing that remains are some day lillies in the from yard. As of 8-1-2011

Jonathan Jenkins said...

I unfortunately have only found this site. I was thinking of Woodbine recently. My parents owned summer cottages in New London which they rented (this was in the 1950's and '60's, and would often take the people who rented tem to Woodbine (or just me!). I remember the gift shop and the butterscotch rolls that a couple of people mentioned. It, as I recall was owned by Eleanor and Robert Hill - he probably died before she did. The last time I went was in the early 1970's when we took my father's sister who was in a nursing home in Concord. - Even though I try to get back to New London now and then, I haven't been to Sunapee Harbor in ages, was was sorry to read the building was no longer there. I have many happy memories of it and that time period. -

Jonathan Jenkins said...

I unfortunately have only found this site. I was thinking of Woodbine recently. My parents owned summer cottages in New London which they rented (this was in the 1950's and '60's, and would often take the people who rented tem to Woodbine (or just me!). I remember the gift shop and the butterscotch rolls that a couple of people mentioned. It, as I recall was owned by Eleanor and Robert Hill - he probably died before she did. The last time I went was in the early 1970's when we took my father's sister who was in a nursing home in Concord. - Even though I try to get back to New London now and then, I haven't been to Sunapee Harbor in ages, was was sorry to read the building was no longer there. I have many happy memories of it and that time period. -

Jonathan Jenkins said...

I unfortunately have only found this site. I was thinking of Woodbine recently. My parents owned summer cottages in New London which they rented (this was in the 1950's and '60's, and would often take the people who rented tem to Woodbine (or just me!). I remember the gift shop and the butterscotch rolls that a couple of people mentioned. It, as I recall was owned by Eleanor and Robert Hill - he probably died before she did. The last time I went was in the early 1970's when we took my father's sister who was in a nursing home in Concord. - Even though I try to get back to New London now and then, I haven't been to Sunapee Harbor in ages, was was sorry to read the building was no longer there. I have many happy memories of it and that time period. -

Anonymous said...

Its wonderful to see that people still have fond memories of Woodbine.
Thanks for all the nice comments,my grandparents owned this and I spent many an hour working in that kitchen.

KathieM said...

Have been wondering for some time whatever happened to Woodbine Cottage and finally decided to look on the internet. Thanks for the history and the photo. I remember going there with my Mother and her friends when I was a child in the 50's. Yes, she had a whole set of Country Fare. I loved those dishes but had to downsize and gave them up a few years ago. My daughter still has the black iron lazy susan serving piece. Good memories!

Catherine said...

Greetings all -- this is definitely my most commented on blog post in the history of blogging. I have had a hard time with my Internet so have not been blogging so much these days (as it also involves using my ancient laptop on public wifi until we get DSL here on our ridge in Kentucky). So I've not been able to post responses to comments. However, I did want you all to know that I am unpacking my remaining cookbook boxes in the coming weeks and that as soon as I get my hands on the WOODBINE COTTAGE cookbook, I will post the butterscotch roll recipe and any other that you request. If you have a recipe request, please email me at info@CatherinePond.com and I'll try to honor it before the summer is over...

Best wishes, Catherine Pond

Anonymous said...

I used to come each year over a 12 year period to sail in the Lake Sunapee Open and our Star Class District Championships. Having breakfasts at the Woodbine Cottage was a highlight and the delicious recipes got my cooking skills off to a good start. It was during my teens. One of my daughters now wears a ring purchased from that gorgeous gift shop - where we'd peruse while waiting for a table. I remember seeing staff podding peas on a back stoop - typical as all the ingredients were of the freshest quality. Remember the large size of the coffee mugs? The lemon meringe pie, the tomato soup...yum! Thanks for the memories & be assured the legacy lives on! Jos (formerly of LOC fleet,Toronto, Ontario)

Anonymous said...

My mother was a hostess at Woodbine Cottage in the late 1940's. She worked there every summer while she was in college. We had that cookbook, and the one thing I remember Mom making was the apple muffins. They were so light and delicious. The last time we were there was in 1984 or 1985 on a visit to family in the area. So sad to hear that it closed.

Anonymous said...

The Sunapee Historical Society is looking for personal memories of the Woodbine Cottage restaurant for a commemorative event in August 2014. Please share your memories here or email to sunapeehistory@gmail.com
Thank you.

B T said...

My parents and I vacationed twice a year at Russell's Inn at George's Mills. It too is now long gone but was at the opposite end of the lake. During the late 40's and 50's we ate regularly at the Woodbine Cottage. We were so hooked on the "sticky buns" that we would call down there just before they closed to see how many we could buy that night!! Some nights "0"; some nights a pan full. We couldn't get enough. How about their ceasar salad? The gift shop was the source of many items in our home. When you stepped down into the dining area from the gift shop it was an unbelievable feeling of warmth and good times. Oh yes, I was in 7-8th grade and absolutely fell in love with a college girl who worked there. We had to sit at her table. You can't duplicate the Woodbine Cottage. Now I'll get out our cookbook and think about all the Woodbine memories, roller skating across the street at the harbor and water skiing all the way back to Russell's Inn on occasion. BTH Conn/Atlanta

Hollis Natalie said...

In search of the Woodbine Cottage recipe for chicken croquettes, it's not in the spiral-bound. If anyone has it, much appreciated!

PhantomDriver said...

Happy to have found this blog site; just sorry it was so late in life. My family had a summer home on Jobs Creek. My first summer job (1967) was as a bus boy at the Woodbine Cottage. While I, too, am sad the Cottage is gone -- I'm grateful to have all the happy memories. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the interesting folks who made up the staff -- and the extended Hill family which came together every summer to make that Woodbine Cottage experience happen. The well-worn floors, memories of serving the breakfasts, the lunches, the dinners -- all stacked with the metal serving covers. Bob Hill working tirelessly in the kitchen, Eleanor Hill running the business like a corporate CEO, the homemade ice cream, the regular customers, the beautiful gardens. I'm blessed to have been a part of the Cottage's history. And, I have my well-worn copy of the cookbook. Here's to a grand past!