A spring visit to the charming and historic Pickity Place in Mason, NH for lunch, shopping, and a stroll in the garden.
Tucked off the beaten path in the tiny southwestern New Hampshire town of Mason, Pickity Place offers a warm welcome to the many lunch-goers that flock to its cozy dining rooms and gardens each year, even in the winter when the gardens are covered with snow. It’s a “secret” place that’s anything but to the locals in Mason and its surrounding towns. Charming and blissfully removed from the plazas and malls that clutter our lives, Pickity Place is a hilltop hideaway that’s all about slowing down. “Lighten your spirit as you step out of your world and into ours” they instruct. And we do.
My family (well, the women in my family) started visiting Pickity Place about 15 years ago after my sister moved to Townsend, MA (just 20 minutes south of Mason) and my mom remembered it was nearby. Even though my sister has moved further away since then, we still enjoy planning the occasional visit to the 1786 cottage for a tasty lunch, strolling the grounds, and shopping. In my experience it’s an especially popular destination with old friends, sisters, and like our family, mothers and daughters. Men are, of course, welcome at Pickity Place, but I think it’s fair to say that on most days they’re outnumbered!
While you can visit Pickity Place without having lunch, you shouldn’t. The carefully constructed prix-fixe menu changes monthly, and is made and adorned with edible flowers and herbs chosen to enhance each of the five courses, from soup to dessert. In 2012 Yankee named Pickity Place an Editors’ Pick for “Best Fairytale Lunch.”
There’s a reason behind the “fairytale” part. While it’s a destination in its own right, Pickity Place is also known as the original visual inspiration for the “Grandmother’s House” in the Little Red Riding Hood story (learn more about the history of Pickity Place in editor Deb Despres’ blog about her winter visit here). It’s an association they enjoy, selling books and toys showcasing the story and staging an entire room with sleeping “Grandmother” in bed (sometimes with one of the two Pickity cats, Rosemary and Sage, snoozing on the pillow).
After the bell rings it’s time for lunch. There are three dining rooms — two inside and another on the all-season porch. It can be a little crowded at times, particularly if it’s a full seating, but that’s part of the charm. Pickity doesn’t feel so much like restaurant as it does a home that hosts an ambitious garden lunch, so settle back and enjoy the courses as they come.
During my visit, I enjoyed vegetable dip on crackers, followed by a cup of creamy broccoli soup with smoked Gouda cheese, then a spring chopped vegetable salad. In the cooler months I order the hot spiced mocha as my beverage, but in the spring and summer, the iced spiced tea (complete with cinnamon stick) is wonderful.
The main course, which was also served with garlic bread and sun dried tomato dipping oil, was a four cheese ratatouille quiche topped with sauteed asparagus with citrus shallot butter and garnished with spring chives, lovage, and a fresh (edible) pansy.
And for dessert, an artful presentation of Dutch chocolate mousse in sweet pastry with strawberries and whipped cream, garnished with lady’s mantle and another pretty pansy.
Energized from lunch, I headed outside to enjoy the gardens, which were lush and green — just the thing after a long winter. Colorful flowers are tucked into every corner at Pickity Place, adding to its country charm.
A few steps from the main entrance is the Herb Shop.
Inside, rows upon rows of bagged bulk herbs and dip mixes are waiting, along with a trove of kitchen goodies, hostess gifts, and more.
As you leave the Herb Shop, swing around and head toward the gardens and greenhouse.
There’s nothing like a mass of pansy faces to brighten my day. Ever since seeing Disney’s Alice in Wonderland as a child I can’t look at them without seeing a sea of faces.
Time and time again, visitors are instructed via sign to “please handle the herbs,” so go right ahead.
Follow the path to the Herboriste, which offers plants and other garden gifts for sale like birdhouses, seed packets, and potted herbs.
You may also spot Pickity cat Sage curled up among the pots. No visit for me is complete if I haven’t spotted one of the cats. Both are friendly ambassadors to the Pickity experience. Hello, Sage!
The bustling greenhouse helps illustrate the year-round growing operation at Pickity.
But then it’s back to the gardens, where I stroll to my heart’s content until it’s time to head home.
So long, Pickity Place! Thanks for another lovely and tasty visit.
Have you ever visited Pickity Place?
Picky Place. 248 Nutting Hill Road, Mason, New Hampshire. 603-878-1151; pickityplace.com