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"We Entertain When It Rains"  


The Wentworth - we Went, and it was Worth it!
by Carolyn Donovan, January 2005

We stayed in room 404 of Arden Cottage at the Wentworth, and let me tell you, The Wentworth turned out to be my complete fantasy of a New England inn, and I’m from New England!


The Wentworth Inn at Jackson Village is one of those old, elegant hotels you still see in certain parts of New England (mostly northern New England, where they used to have train service that brought prosperous city folk up for entire Summers of fresh air and wilderness). Begun after the Civil War by a Gen. Wentworth and his wife, the inn is just over the bridge and across the street from the one-room library.

The Wentworth - I want to live here.

The Wentworth - Can I live here, please?

We were fortunate that we arrived the day after their 11th annual ice sculpting competition, which was showcased on the veranda. The winner was a sculpture of an old airplane, but it was so warm that the propeller fell off, and the fellow that was creating the penguins injured himself somehow and had to seek medical help. That's just the way things go in the White Mountains...

Yay! I'm not on the dinner menu!

Check-in was cheerful and efficient, and the lobby was spacious and glowing. There were big couches and chairs in front of the fireplace and at the big picture windows.

A taste of things to come

A room with a...fireplace

Our room had its own entrance, right there on the front porch. The gas fireplace was in a real firebox and had a marble mantle surrounding it. Don’t let people tell you gas fireplaces are a poor substitute for a wood fire, a gas fireplace is lovely to look at, doesn’t throw smoke or embers, and can heat up a room with a more gentle and even heat than a wood one can.

We had a four poster bed that was big enough for Henry VIII and possibly some of his wives, and needed three pillows to span it. We had a wide bow-fronted window with a cushioned window seat. The windows had both wooden blinds and a room-darkening set of drapes, which looked like they were made specifically for the room.

Our lovely, lovely accomodations

The hardwood floors were great, and something you don’t normally see in hotels. The only thing that was missing (and this is coming from a cleaning lady’s daughter) is that there was no shoe mat in the room itself and so we tracked some of the outside inside (you just can’t wipe everything off on the door mat outside). There was a large writing desk and green-glass shaded desk lamp, great for pouring over the four-sided map of the area they give you at check-in.

A room with a bath

The bathroom was more than I could’ve hoped for, and gave me many ideas about my aromatherapy bath salts company.

When the Wentworth says they have two-person Jacuzzi tubs, they mean they have two-football-player-sized-person Jacuzzi tubs.

I'll be in the tub

The Wentworth offers a nice touch in the tub alcove – three big glass jars of Wentworth Inn bath salts (Lavender, Walk in the Woods, and Lilly of the Valley). Scoop some out with the big brass scoop, get your partner in there, and turn on the jets. (Note to smarty-pants bubble bathers: do not use half of the trial sized, SLS-free foaming face wash to make your bubbles, even if it produces thick, foamy suds. Use only the same amount as you would to wash your face. Trust me on this.)

The Wentworth even provides two tea light holders and candles (and matches). They clearly know their clientele. This tub is so big that when both of us sat in it we had to grope around for each other (not that kind of groping, thankyouverymuch).

Perhaps just a little bit...of all of them!

The shower stall was separate from the bath, and even came with a seat. Just how do those shower stall doors stay closed, are they vaccuum sealed? I don’t know, but the whole thing was great, especially that shower head. A little advice: bring non-skid slippers for the bathroom (they supply the robes). The tile floors are slip-per-ee when wet, and if, say you forget to bring your body wash with you, you may have to step out of the shower and walk to the vanity to get it because the shower opens from the right and the vanity is on the left.

Everything in the bathroom seemed newly done, and the workmanship seemed top notch: no weirdly placed tiles, no missing shellac on the bead board wainscoting, no goopy caulking around the tub. It was like the perfect bathroom, except with maybe not quite enough towel racks...

How much for how much?

The meal plan at the Wentworth is a stunning value, which at the time of our stay was $38 per person for a full, made-to-order breakfast AND a five-course gourmet dinner. If you are not a guest of the Inn the ala carte price is much higher than the meal plan price.

And dinner, oh my gosh, have I told you about the dinner?

The pleasures of dining, grownup style

Let me just say at the start that I got schmoozy with our fabulous waiter Kevin, who did a great job at “Yes, Ma’am” ing me throughout the whole event—and believe me, dinner at The Wentworth is an event—without once being obsequious or over the top.

The chef at The Wentworth is Brian Gazda, formerly of the Boston Harbor Hotel. I have eaten this man’s food at the BHH, when my (fabulous) roommate at the time (darling) was head of Concierge Services at the hotel (kiss-kiss), and the thing I liked about Mr. Gazda’s entrees was that they were complete meals; each plate was composed of the main meal and specific sides to match that main in particular. No “today’s vegetable is peas and carrots ” with this guy!

So, a five course meal consists of appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, and dessert. We were urged at check-in to make sure we made room for dessert, because the pâtissier, Fabrice Dubuc, is French. Good, good, advice.

We arrived a little before our 8pm reservation, had a drink in the cute-as-a-button bar, the kind that is small in order to prompt conversation between hotel guests. I ordered my first glass of wine, and my boyfriend ordered a Grey Goose martini, because he’d never had that vodka before. There was not quite enough Grey Goose to make a full martini, so Kevin gave him that martini on the house, and offered to make him another of his choice. Great, smooth service. How could you not fall in love with this place?

Then we toddled off to the dining room, where we were seated at our right-in-front-of-the-fireplace table. The table was nicely set, the china matched the décor of the room, the napkins were cloth. We were both glad that we got slightly gussied up for dinner (meaning, we both wore what we bought two hours previously at the Gap Outlet in North Conway).

The dining room - low key, but impeccable service

My meal consisted of

  • Spiced Chilled Gulf Shrimp Martini with Lemon Tossed Field Greens, Marinated Tomatoes, Sweet Chili Rouille (no, you didn’t drink it)
  • Asparagus soup
  • Belgian Endive and Caramelized Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Warmed Bacon, Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
  • House Made Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Tortello in Melted Leek and White Wine Tomato Sauce
  • Madagascar Vanilla Bean crème brûlée

My boyfriend had

  • New England Crab and Cod Cake with Celery Root Remoulade, Frisee Leaves
  • Caviar black lentil soup
  • Spinach Leaves Warm Pecan, Maple and Shallot Dressing with Bacon, Portobello Mushrooms and Great Hill Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • Coarse Mustard and Parsley Rubbed Tenderloin of Pork with Cranberry Port Wine Sauce, Sweet Potato Pave and Fresh Green Beans
  • Chocolate hazelnut mouse torte

Before I go on, one small caveat about the dinner, which we thoroughly enjoyed for two and one have hours: if you think you and your partner are going to have a night of romance after the meal, forget it. You are so pleasantly full, so happy to be at The Wentworth, so slightly tipsy from the two glasses of Snoqualmie Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, that the only place you’re going to is Winkin, Blinkin and Nod.

The shrimp were large, dense, and came in a martini glass, which was a tiny bit fiddly but you can eat shrimp with your fingers, right? I ate all the tomatoes and the frisee, too. The asparagus soup was, well, I was very sorry to finish it.

The salad was an interesting combination, as endive seems to get such a bum rap around here due to its somewhat bitter quality. I will say that it was not the salad I ordered, but it looked good, and I ate it happily; the pear was an excellent counterpoint to the endive. There were four tables of two people each and three of them (including us) ordered at the same time, which means that Kevin got 29 items out of 30 correct. Kevin was both bartender and waiter that night, and impressed the hell out of me with his ability to take our orders without writing anything down. Hell, I couldn’t tell you my room number without looking at the key…

My main dish, the Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Tortello, was so stunning in its taste and, well, feel, that I stopped breathing after my first bite. A tortello is a large tortellini, as far as I can tell (and tortellini is different from ravioli in that ravioli uses two pieces of pasta to make its shape whereas tortellini uses one, and just folds it over). I didn’t know any of this when I ordered it (A jello torte? A big tart?), but it was the vegetarian dish for the evening, so I ordered it.

Please sir, I want some more

I think I have never eaten something so good. The pasta must’ve been made on the premises, because it was so soft, so fresh – I might even say delectable – that it possibly defies description. The spinach was fresh, the ricotta was too, and underneath my little islands of happiness were tomatoes and leeks, and oh! I gave my boyfriend only the tiniest taste, since I wanted all of it for myself.

I was very apprehensive before my dessert arrived, because I was sure my head would explode with delirium when it did. Luckily I have some very secure anchor points between my skull and my body, or else it would have.

I believe that I shall visit Madagascar some day and see these vanilla beans for myself. The only fault, and I can’t believe I am saying this, is that the dessert was too big. And I know it was too big because after tea and coffee came a little dish of two cookies, possibly macaroons, and I was unable to eat mine.

Yummy, yummy, yummy, I've got...brûlée in my tummy!

My boyfriend’s meal was just as good and just a beautifully presented. His pork loin came with a sweet potato pave, which was the wildest thing: shaped like a paving stone (hence its French name), about three inches high, it was a stack of thin thin thin sweet potato slices, baked (I believe). I mean, who does that sort of thing nowadays?

Pave that sweet potato!

His spinach salad was unusually good, in that the spinach was wilted and the mushrooms cooked down to, uh, mushroominess (gosh, I will never get an assignment as a food writer, that’s for sure), topped with award-winning crumbled Great Hill Blue Cheese from Massachusetts (yay!). There was no caviar in the soup, just black lentils resembling caviar, and was very earthy. His dessert was possibly too big also, but I don’t know for sure since he ate all of it.

Wait, we’re not done eating?

Breakfast came as a surprise. We helped ourselves to the fresh fruit salad, the muffins, and the cereal at the buffet in the middle of the room, and then the waitress asked what we wanted for breakfast! Since we were headed out for a day of snowshoeing, I ordered the spinach omelet and he ordered the banana pancakes.

And the next day ends

After our day of snowshoeing at Great Glen, the only thing that got me back to the car (we had about 100 feet between the end of the trail and the door of the car, and that was 99 feet beyond my endurance) was the thought that I was going to spend at least an hour in the tub back at our room at The Wentworth. And I just about did. (NOTE: the next day I expected to be so sore from the snowshoeing that I wouldn't be able to move, but that proved not to be the case, and I totally chalk it up to the whirling jets in the bath.)

We had a little bite to eat elsewhere – I didn’t want to mar my thoughts of that fabulous meal the night before, and plus I was a little pooped and didn’t think I’d be able to do such a meal justice – and it was nice to come back to our little hideaway and turn on the fireplace and snuggle in bed (there’s something about those matching robes…)

The Wentworth - a New Hampshire haven

I have to say that I was surprised that the hotel was not more full, but apparently their busy season is the Summer, which makes no sense to me considering they are literally around the corner from the Jackson Ski Touring Association and 15 minutes from four downhill ski areas. Also, many of the rooms have private hot tubs out in their balconies; wouldn't you want to take advantage of that after a day of cross-country or downhill? Or shopping at the outlet stores in North Conway, for that matter...

The Wentworth is the last of the elegant grand hotels in Jackson; the days are long gone when upwards of 40 trains a day brought guests to the area. The Wentworth is no longer just a hotel, it's a resort, with many types of accomodations, including cottages (in the upscale, 1890's kind of way), condos, and rooms in the inn itself.

If you need to get away from it all, even for a night, go to the Wentworth (leave the kids at home, and don't expect your cell phone to work). You will love the scenery, the location, the accomodation, the meals, the front porch, the back deck, the pool room, the pool; you name it, you will love it.

The Wentworth - lovely no matter what time of day

The Wentworth Inn

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Photography by Wan Chi Lau and Carolyn Donovan