Bright lights from the inn’s large windows cast a welcoming glow across the snow-covered New Hampshire landscape as we drove up the hill from the post-card perfect village of Jackson. As we checked in we were further welcomed by tantalizing aromas from the dining room, where fellow guests were already enjoying their dinners.
Our room was a suite in the Carriage House, the newest building on the 15-acre property, despite its old-fashioned sounding name. We were delighted to find that it was on the first floor, without a single stair to climb with our luggage (which for a trip that includes skiing is always abundant). Although the big chairs in front of our fireplace looked comfortable, memories of the dining room beckoned and we headed straight to dinner.
My seafood carbonara was filled with tender lobster claws, shrimp and mussels in a light cream sauce over linguini with sweet red peppers and mushrooms. Mussels in their shells were scattered on top. The roasted squash ravioli were served in a rich sauce reminiscent of a savory pumpkin pie filling. The chef delighted ten-year-old Mary by making her sausage and chicken in pesto without the mushrooms, which -- as she quickly noted -- proved that each dish was prepared to order. During dinner the hosts, Sandra and Gary, stopped by each table to introduce themselves and ask if they could help with any suggestions on activities or places of interest.
We chatted with Gary later, in the cozy guest parlor, where he told us that the inn has a long history of welcoming British travelers, especially during fall foliage. In the off-seasons the inn offers special package rates that may include a 50% discount on the third night or a fourth night free.
Our suite was well designed, with a free-standing wall separating it from the door to create an entryway. The first of the two spacious rooms held a king-sized bed with a long chest at the foot, large enough for all our luggage, although the plentiful closet and bureau space made it possible to unpack for a longer stay. Three-way lamps on the two bedside stands provided good bed-time reading light.
The focal point of the sitting room was the gas fireplace, and facing it were upholstered armchairs. At the back wall, a long sofa made into another bed. Over the fireplace was a second tv, and beside it was a small bar area with a refrigerator, sink and coffee maker. The big bathroom had a large whirlpool tub, separate shower, plenty of shelf space around the sink and good lighting (with a dimmer switch for the tub light). Two plush terry robes hung in the closet.
The central part of the Carriage House has a cathedral ceiling and a large fieldstone fireplace, in front of which are easy chairs. Below is the newly enlarged Aveda spa, one of only three full-service spas in the area. We looked at the spa menu and were surprised at the reasonable prices, certainly the lowest we’d seen in facility of this caliber.
The owners have achieved a rare balance at Christmas Farm Inn – between the traditional New England inn and the contemporary amenities of the spa and glass-walled pool house. This carries through in the dining room, where the chef creates an authentic inn dining experience, with a menu that mixes old favorites with updated selections that are never precious or pretentious. Prices are very reasonable, with entrees from $15 and generous portions.
They’ve gotten the Christmas theme right, too. Although an original Thomas Nast Santa beams benignly at guests seated in the parlor and the lighted trees in the Carriage House stay up all winter, Gary and Sandra don’t ever let it get tiresome.
Christmas Farm Inn is just outside of the Jackson, NH village center, on the road leading up to Black Mountain ski area. Call them at (800) 443-5837 or (603) 383-4313; www.christmasfarminn.com