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The Hunter sisters turned into "ladies who lunch" and took my mother out for her birthday today. We motored out into the Autumn countryside to Concord, the picturesque Colonial town of Revolutionary War fame. We had lunch at the historic Colonial Inn (founded in 1716!) then toured the Presidential China exhibit at the Concord Museum.

The free parking lot out back was full, but we found a metered spot along Monument Square.

The Rotary Club had commandeered the main dining room, so we were in a small side room with about five tables. It had Windsor chairs, white tablecloths and colonial wall paper to set the 18th Century mood.

I started with the very moist slice of free corn bread, then enjoyed a deliciously smooth cup of lobster, shrimp and crab bisque. Someone had the clam chowder and proclaimed it "just about perfect" with eyes rolling in delight.

For my main, I ordered the very special "Belizean Shrimp with Gnocchi, Peas, caramelized onions, bacon and parmesan cream sauce." I worried that this would be too far afield of their Americana menu, but it was revelation of tender small shrimp, perfectly cooked pasta pillows and a light cheesy sauce, enhanced by the smoky bacon and onions with the colorful green of the peas. The rest of the gang tried the lobster roll and the Reuben sandwich, and proclaimed them just as they should be. I had to run put another quarter in the parking meter, so I trusted the dessert order to my companions and was pleased to see the classic New England warm Indian pudding a la mode when I returned. There was also a slice of carrot cake and a quadruple chocolate mousse pie with raspberry coulis. Mom complimented their coffee...a rare occurrence.

The service was fine, if not very personable.

They don't list the prices on the menu online, which can be a rude surprise, but they were completely reasonable, with the sandwiches running $8.95 and my entree at $14.95. Very reasonable for the hotel atmosphere with many tourists.

We adjourned and reconvened about half a mile down the road at the Concord Museum.

They have a good film on the town, and extensive exhibits on the history including Ralph Waldo Emerson's study, but we were intent on touring the special exhibit: "Setting the Presidential Table: American Presidential China." We wandered amongst the 100+ pieces - dinner and dessert plates, bonbon dishes, chargers and cups from two centuries of presidential entertaining. The most striking are the Lincoln china, with rich purple and gold hues. The Washington service had a pleasing blue Chinese style and some lovely Sevre French pieces. The Rutherford B. Hayes gruesome hunting motifs were enough to put one off eating altogether. Who wants a snow shoe or howling bear under their green beans? All the names you know from porcelain or Antiques Roadshow were there - Wedgewood, Limoges, Tiffany, Lenox. They also had the seating chart from the Kennedy era dinner for Noble Prize winners...quite a gathering of brains in one room. Even I, who is about the least decorating arts person around, could find interesting moments between the oyster plate and the demitasse cups.

We stopped at a farm stand/antiques store along Rte 2, Gerard's?, with an interesting assortment of fruits and vegetables ranging from Concord grapes and apples to peaches and pomegranates.

A marvelous adventure for a Fall afternoon!


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