In the dark of the night, the village of Bowers has the air of a time gone by.
Its nucleus of houses, clearly built in another era, line the main street close to the road reasonable placement when the mode of transportation was carriage or horse and the quiet of this place, off the beaten track, suggests a slower pace.
So it is with the Bowers Hotel, the village cornerstone. Step inside the inn, circa late 1800s, and an air of nostalgia calls up a subtle sense of longing for a simpler time.
Simple also aptly describes the inn's cuisine: The Bowers Hotel focuses on basic fare that's homemade and made well.
Just off the road that runs between Topton and Fleetwood, the stone and brick hotel's casual country ambience achieves gentility without approaching stuffy formality.
Teal bead board wainscoting and coordinating striped wallpaper above a white chair rail anchor the assertive decor. High ceilings, also painted teal, allow plenty of room for large gilt-framed paintings reminiscent of European masters.
Antique features of the hotel federal-style woodwork, the original hand-carved oak backboard in the bar and the functioning gas lamp that still lights the barroom add particular character to the Bowers' charm.
Menu selections feature several veal and chicken dishes veal Marsala and chicken cordon bleu, for example along with filet mignon and seafood ranging from crab cakes and stuffed flounder to shrimp scampi and a broiled seafood platter.
Pork and sauerkraut along with pork chops baked with apple stuffing also make appearances, in a nod, perhaps, to local heritage. Considering its children's menu (all selections cost $2.95), the Bowers Hotel is family friendly, too, especially on ''Family Thursday Nights'' when children's meals are free.
When I visited recently, we started dinner with a dozen steamed clams and baked spinach balls. The former, served with drawn butter, were small, tender and tasty.
Four large spinach balls, obviously hand formed, offered interesting textural counterpoint with a touch of crunch, from chopped onion, I believe. Honey mustard sauce for dipping added sweetness as well as depth to the flavor.
Dinner salads featured fresh combinations of romaine and iceberg lettuces, radicchio, cherry tomatoes and croutons. I couldn't resist hot bacon dressing, and I wasn't disappointed. Subtle and just warm, with a tinge of tartness, this dressing added memories of my Pennsylvania Dutch childhood to the salad.
Homemade dinner rolls shaped like a cloverleaf and topped with herbs or poppy seeds were a treat: Feathery, light and warm enough to soften butter, they offered the comfort only carbohydrates can on a cold winter night.
Sauteed with prosciutto, roasted peppers, olives and mushrooms in Madeira wine sauce, veal Sicilian was outstanding. Its sauce, with flavors at once earthy and salty, enhanced each bite of the tender medallions with savory complexity.
Mild, broiled freshwater trout, cooked just right, was well balanced by the richness of its topping almonds sauteed in butter.
Standard fare roasted red potatoes and an unremarkable vegetable medley of fresh green and yellow beans with baby carrots accompanied both entrees.
For dessert (remember, think homemade here), there was no competition in my mind between the likes of blueberry pie, strawberry creamsicle cake and rum balls and chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.
The large piece of dark, deeply flavored and moist cake perfectly matched with its light, fluffy and sweet frosting was easily enough for two, but much too good to share.
Susan Gottshall is a freelance restaurant reviewer for Go Guide. Gottshall, who tells it like it is, attempts to remain anonymous during restaurant visits. All meals are paid for by The Morning Call.
Linda O'Connell, Assistant
Managing Editor, Features