What Are You Having For Dinner at The Old Courthouse, Jane Rastallis and Karen Doucette?
Newport, New Hampshire may be the closest location for Upper Valley folks to renew their New Hampshire drivers’ licenses. Which is exactly what I was doing when I found a second, and tastier, reason to go to Newport: The Old Courthouse. The restaurant, that is. Owned by mother and daughter Jane Rastallis and Karen Doucette, The Old Courthouse offers an historic New England setting, genteel white tablecloths, and of course, great American cuisine from Executive Chef Robert Steele, who has been in the kitchen there for over fifteen years.
The building originated in 1826 as a home for the Superior Court of Sullivan County as well as a public meeting space. Approximately 50 years later, it became a schoolhouse until the burgeoning population needed more space, at which point it was turned over to the Grange. Fast forward over many decades of disrepair to the 1960s and 70s when the building was destined to be torn down to make way for more parking. The building was eventually saved and put on the National Register of Historical Places in 1973. In 1974, after a major renovation, it once again became a courthouse and remained so until 2003.
Enter Jane Rastallis, retired from a consulting farm in Boston and recently relocated to New Hampshire, with visions of a downtown restaurant. The Old Courthouse opened in 2004. Jane was later joined by her daughter, Karen, who moved from Rhode Island with her family to join the business.
In addition to serving lunch and dinner, private parties and catered events, the owners have revived one of the building’s original functions—to serve as a public meeting space. In recent weeks, it hosted former New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick who has left the bench and reinvented himself as an advocate for mental health. Jane and Karen observed: “There are not many opportunities in our area for entertainment and interesting book talks, and that’s what made us start this . . . We have done numerous events for the past 15+ years [including] Ben Kilham from the Upper Valley area, Fritz Weatherbee, Bishop Gene Robinson, Author/Professor of Religion Randall Balmer, and author Dan Szczesny, to name a few.”
Back to the menu that changes monthly. What would Karen and Jane choose for themselves?
Karen: “My first choice would always be rack of lamb. Chef Robert always comes up with a creative spice blend or sauce to accompany this and it has never disappointed.”
Jane: “My favorite meal is Sunday brunch: omelettes made to order, amazing, freshly made pastries, and live music.”
Want to peek inside The Old Courthouse kitchen and dining room? Click below for a short video tour.
(This is another post in a collaboration between Daybreak and Artful on local restaurants, where we ask owners and chefs what they would choose from their own menus. Photos courtesy of The Old Courthouse)
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.