Unfortunately, about halfway through this perfect day, I came down with a vicious chest cold that has me CURSING the ski Gods. For the first time this winter, the snow is GLORIOUS, and rather than skidding atop moguls, sliding facefirst down the mountain, and wiping out in ditches I’m…cursing Andrew Zimmern’s crassness from the couch (they’re having another Bizarre Foods marathon). I swear this season’s Bizarre Foods America is a remedy for his former position as an ambassador that only reinforces every negative stereotype other countries have about Americans. (Oh God. Even as I write this he’s openly making fun of a vegetarian. Nice. OH MY GOD now he’s describing the taste of of head cheese and pig’s feet jelly to her. He’s going to make her throw up, poor woman.) I still contend that it’s not necessary for him to chew everything with his mouth gaping open…
Ohhh Andrew Zimmern. Such an easy target.
(Need I say more? Source.)
Even so, I can’t stop watching it. But I wish there was a No Reservations marathon instead. I love Anthony Bourdain with my heart and soul.
Hitting the Pow
Anyway, before cursing my body’s poor excuse for an immune system and the Travel Channel’s poor excuse for a travel show host, I was skiing on some of the best snow of the season. KnightlyBoyfriend got a lot of great video footage on his new headcam, so I’ll post that once he cuts and edits it. But for now, here’s a quick taste of what it was like:
(We have the tendency to dress alike accidentally. Apparently we were both feeling the love for A&M.)
(The day started out foggy, but then the sun slowly started peeking through the clouds, creating this beautiful effect on the scenery.)
(You can see the fog falling and settling in the valleys.)
(I think the fog also ran a bunch of people off the trails, so we had them all to ourselves.)
As far as skiing is concerned, it was a perfect day.
Review: The Jolly Drayman
Skiing always works up the appetite of a ravenous beast awaking from a winter-long hibernation (both for food AND for beer), so naturally a decadent dinner had to follow.
The Jolly Drayman is one of KnightlyBoyfriend’s and my favorite restaurants in the Sunday River area. Located in the Briar Lea Inn, a quaint little inn reminiscent of an English B&B, both the pub and inn have been named “”Editor’s Choice” in Yankee Magazine and listed in The Food Lover’s Guide to Maine.
150 Mayville Road
Bethel, Maine 04217
The Jolly Drayman doesn’t look like your average restaurant. It’s warm, cozy and full of interesting antiques.
(The family sitting in the waiting area had like 3849283 kids.)
As you can see by the clientele in the waiting room, it’s a very family-friendly atmosphere. The hum of diners is just as cozy and comfortable as the décor, making it the ideal place to relax after a long day of skiing.
(Y’all…on a side note, Andrew Zimmern is in Szechuan, and he loaded a GoPro that fell – FELL – into a batch of their handmade chili bean paste that was about to go into a century-old grinder. The grinder isn’t something they manufacture anymore, so he literally almost just destroyed this town’s livelihood. SERIOUSLY???!?! It hurts.)
They lit the fire shortly after this picture was taken.
We sat in here.
The tabletops are set on antique spinning wheels,
and the menus are printed on newspapers.
The coolest part?
There are only a handful of places in New England (and in America, for that matter) that serve hand-pulled ales (these are more common in the UK). Last night was my first taste of a cask-conditioned, hand-pulled beer, so I’m still a little fuzzy on the details. From my understanding, “pulling a good pint” is an art form, requiring a bartender that understands the subtle air-ale mixture. The beer is served cellar temperature and has lower carbonation than its hoppy counterparts.
And the menu has beef wellington, my favorite entrée in the entire world. The chance to taste an unfamiliar style of beer whilst mowing down a puff-pastry encrusted hunk of filet, mushrooms and pate? Be still my heart.
Upon being seated, I immediately ordered the current hand-pulled ale – Gritty’s Best Bitter, a cask-conditioned bitter (“bitter” as opposed to “lager”) made right here in Maine.
It had a nice caramel color. It was very liquidy, not a thick sloshing glass. I expected an equally light taste, but was delightfully surprised by a heavier, thicker, complex flavor that was absolutely sensational after a day of skiing. It was definitely lower in carbonation, which was a nice departure because fewer obstacles competed with the actual taste of the beer. I can definitely understand the hype.
We started with a barrage of appetizers. KnightlyBoyfriend ordered chili made with black beans, bison, and ale:
Served with tortilla chips and topped with globs of gooey, browned cheese. The flavor was quite good – if you’ve never had bison, it tastes just like beef, except much leaner. It can be gamey, but this was tender and delicious. The ale lent a nice depth of flavor to the dish.
KnightlyBoyfriend’s parents ordered the curry “chowda,” a house specialty at The Jolly Drayman:
Thinner than a normal chowder, it was packed with chucks of shellfish and potatoes and seasoned beautifully with a lovely curry. It could have been a little chunkier, but the flavor was rich and complex – just lovely.
I ordered the ceaser salad – it was a standard ceaser. Nothing groundbreaking, but satisfying nonetheless.
Satisfied my craving for something healthy smothered in pure fat. You know how I roll.
We also ordered fried mozzarella. Holy Jesus.
Thickly breaded with seasoned panko and served with a light and flavorful marinara, I don’t know whether the quality of the mozzarella was particularly incredible or if it’s just been too long since I’ve had fried cheese but GOOD GOD. I could have eaten a thousand of these wedges and reveled in the decadence. They were impossibly crispy on the outside and absolutely gooey and smooth on the inside. The marinara, equally delicious, was not an afterthought, but the ideal garnish.
For my entrée I split the beef wellington (cutely entitled the “pair of wellies” on the menu, since two smaller wellingtons come with the dish) with KnightlyBoyfriend’s mom.
Now – beef wellington. It’s decadence at its best – it’s a beef tenderloin served topped with mushroom duxelle, a mixture of minced mushrooms, aromatics and herbs that is reduced to an almost paste-like consistency (served atop beef, you’re essentially layering umami). The beef and mushrooms are topped with a sliver of pate and ever-so-lovingly wrapped in a thick pocket of puff pastry. What’s not to love?
The puff pastry was the perfect consistency – crispy and flaky on the outside, and slightly gooey and soft on the inside.
The meat-to-duxelle ratio was ideal, but unfortunately the meat was a little overcooked (and by overcooked, I mean well done). It’s really tough to make a wellington medium rare with small steaks, as you have to let the pocket cook until the puff pastry is finished, but I enjoy the meat juices running into the puff pastry while I eat. And the longer you cook meat, the more it loses flavor. I was a little sad it wasn’t medium rare.
The duxelle was nice, however, and tasted like mushroom butter. I even detected the buttery meat flavor of the pate running throughout the duxelle. The demi-glace further improved the flavor.
It was a solid wellington that would have been improved tenfold had the steak been cooked properly. I will say this – the last time we ordered the wellington here, this was not a problem, so I think we may have just gotten an unfortunate batch.
I won’t fault them though, I know this place turns out great food and beer, and the service is always perfection. And I still enjoyed the meal from start to finish.
KnightlyBoyfriend’s parents were kind enough to treat us to this dinner, so I don’t know the final bill. But the meal was priced as such:
- Chili ($5.95)
- Curry chowder ($4.95)
- Caesar salad ($4.25)
- Mozz wedges ($7.95)
- Beef wellington ($18.95)
- Beer – I don’t know, the price wasn’t listed
So for my meal – caesar, 1/2 mozz wedges (we got two orders for 4 people), 1/2 wellingtons, beer – it would have cost, what? Around $25, assuming the beer was $5? That sounds about right. The prices are great for the quality.
Summary of this Knight at the Restaurant
- The Jolly Drayman is one of the most celebrated restaurants in the Sunday River area, and one of my favorites for the cozy, comfortable atmosphere, excellent selection of English brews, and delicious menu of elevated pub fare.
- This is one of the few places in the States where you can try traditional hand-pulled ale. I strongly recommend coming here, if only for that unique experience.
- I also strongly recommend reservations, as there is almost always a wait.
- The prices are also excellent, especially when considering the high quality of the food and drink.
- Service is superb. If you have questions, the knowledgeable waitstaff is well versed on the food and drink, and will happily (and without a whopping serving of elitism) answer your question.
FINAL RATING: 3.5 / 5.0
Question: What’s your favorite thing to eat/drink after a long day of skiing?