NORTH CONWAY, N.H. — You might think this would be the last place you’d go to get toasty this winter. But not if your plans included the 1785 Inn & Restaurant.
They’ve got a real fire-and-ice thing going on. Outside this 228-year-old bed-and-breakfast inn, it’s a frosty world of snow fields, ski trails, and mountain peaks, blanketed in white. Inside the restaurant, there’s a massive brick fireplace — the inn’s original cooking fireplace with a beehive oven — that adds a cozy vibe to the place described by NECN’s TV Diner as “the ultimate in romantic excellence.”
Once you’ve doffed a few layers and settled in, things really heat up. Order one of the signature flaming coffee drinks, say, the French Connection, and enjoy the show. Waiter Paris diBrandi brings a dash of elan to this process, mixing the drinks tableside. First, he coats two goblets with orange juice, and rims them with a combination of cinnamon and sugar, then he warms them and pours the Cointreau. He lights the glasses over an open flame, caramelizing the sugar (turning the rims so the sugar doesn’t scorch), and creating a stream of blue flame that he “pours” from glass to glass. Everyone in the dining room turns to watch.
“It’s all OK, as long as Paris isn’t burning!” diBrandi exclaims as he tosses the flame higher. “Whatever happens is part of the show!” Happily, he still has both his eyebrows. He adds amaretto, coffee, a dollop of whipped cream, and another splash of amaretto for good measure. Voila! It’s hot, delicious, and entertaining.
Of course, you’ll want to order a flaming dessert, too. Not many places offer these fabulously retro, tableside creations anymore, so why resist? There’s the classic Cherries Jubilee, aflame with Meyers’s dark rum over vanilla ice cream, and a gooey, buttery, flaming Bananas Foster, a house favorite. The combo of bananas and coconut, used as a garnish, lends a taste of the tropics. We watched as waiter Alan Cassell tossed a chunk of butter into a sizzling skillet, and then added two quartered bananas, brown sugar, and banana liqueur.
“The sugar, liquid, and butter will make a nice sauce,” Cassell said, coating the skillet with the mixture over a flame. As the sugar caramelized, he produced two plates of vanilla ice cream. With a flourish, he poured in the dark rum, and the skillet was instantly aflame. We could feel the heat, and the syrupy concoction smelled delicious as Cassell poured it onto the ice cream. The final touch: a sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes.
Open nightly to the public for dinner. French Connection, Cherries Jubilee, and Bananas Foster are each $10.85. Entrees $17.85 to about $36.
1785 Inn & Restaurant 3582 White
Mountain Hwy., North Conway, N.H.