MASON, N.H. -- A hooded red cape hangs behind a cottage door as if waiting for Little Red Riding Hood. At Pickity Place, odds are she'll show up.
The path along a dirt road and through the woods does lead to grandmother's house, a nearly 220-year-old cottage that inspired the illustrations by Elizabeth Orton Jones in the 1948 Golden Book version of "Little Red Riding Hood." The canopied four-post bed in the yellow-stenciled room filled with book memorabilia is where the wolf lay waiting in grandma drag.
The fairy tale continues in the cottage with its charming five-course luncheon amid cozy tables, waitresses with garlands in their hair, and dried herbs hanging from the low ceiling. Dishes on the two-choice menu that changes monthly are seasoned from the more than 400 varieties of flowers and herbs growing on the 4 acres of gardens and in the greenhouse on the property owned by Keith and Michelle Grimes. Kale and lentil soup, turkey saltimbocca, marinated vegetable and farmers cheese tort, caramelized carrots and fennel, and orange marmalade souffle were recent offerings under chef Keith's supervision.
"You get to do what you want and people trust you," he said about the menu.
The dozen gardens at Pickity Place see a burst of life in May when lunch is followed with a stroll through them with themes from culinary to fragrant. Outside grandmother's hilltop home stands a huge, twisting white ash that dates to the cottage's early days in 1786. Look for the Grimes's cats, Rosemary and Sage. A former carriage house is an herb-accented gift shop, while grandma's room is the "Little Red Riding Hood Museum" with its book and doll shop.
Thirty years ago, Don and Judy Walter nurtured their home into Pickity Place. Keith Grimes worked as a chef there, eventually buying it. It is a place for the ladies,but Grimes has been known to announce sports scores to the gents, whether the games have fairy-tale endings or not.
If you go
Nutting Hill Road, Mason, N.H., 603-878-1151
The luncheon costs $14.95 (plus tax, no alcohol served but wine service available for those bring their own) and seatings are 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., and 2 p.m. Additional seating added in summer. The gift shops are open 10-5 through December. The greenhouse is open through September. A Christmas shop is open September-December. Lectures, demonstrations and workshops are available year round.