PINE at Hanover Inn provided Spoon an opportunity to ditch DDS for one fine evening, tour the facilities, converse with executive chef Justin Dain, and get a discounted rate on a luxurious meal. Justin recounted his journey from 15-year-old bus boy and occasional burger flipper, to culinary school graduate, to collaborator with Michael Schlow on PINE. Now, Justin cooks and ensures the day-to-day running of the restaurant. He spends around a week and a half writing each new menu; while staples such as the ahi tuna and gnocchi will never leave, Justin’s goal is to keep developing new, creative dishes, pushing the presentation and taste of his entrées to dynamic levels.
Justin offered advice to anyone looking into going into the restaurant business: he stressed ensuring consistency, the best feature of any quality product. He also spoke about preferring to obtain an associate’s degree in food and beverage over a bachelor’s degree, and “doing something that doesn’t feel like work” as a career. Looking for quality food on a college budget? Justin says that many local farms agree to deliver fresh, seasonal veggies straight to Dartmouth for around $250 for the whole summer!
PINE utilizes a farm-to-table method of buying ingredients, sourcing the majority of products from farms in the Upper Valley. While buying locally is usually twice as expensive, Justin believes that building community is integral to PINE’s mission. Yankee Magazine recently named PINE as the best farm-to-table restaurant in New Hampshire!
After the tour of an expansive kitchen, students who had signed up for the three-course dinner sat down in a private back room to enjoy gourmet food from a dinner menu thoughtfully made just for Spoon.
The four-course dinner was well worth the $45 discounted price. Pre-appetizers included deviled eggs sprinkled with bacon, crisp, cooked potato chips and fries. The gnocchi appetizer was soft and chewy, accompanied by peas and bacon sprinkled for a tangy zest. The tuna’s avocado and cucumbers made the appetizer light and refreshing, perfect for the start of spring. The burger (classified as an appetizer?!) was large, juicy and filling.
Justin’s own favorite dish is the tortellini, garnished with peas and filled with ricotta and Parmesan. His playful food combinations never failed to please; bacon on top of scallops is delicious, who knew?
For dessert, the Peanut Butter Bombe contained a rich, velvety peanut butter middle as a crunchy peanut butter shell adorned the bottom. However, the crème brûlée stole the show with a perfectly caramelized top layer that shamed even KAF’s.
Next time, instead of opting for a three-course meal from FoCo (or even a four or five course for the ambitious), whenever you get above the median on an exam or your parents come to town, treat yo’ self to a gourmet meal at PINE.
Location: 2 East Wheelock St, Hanover, NH 03755
Hours of Operation: Mon – Wed 11:30am-10pm, Thur – Sat 11:30am-11pm, Sun 10am-10pm