Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Black Trumpet Bistro

29 Ceres St.
Portsmouth, NH
Owned since March 2007 by Chef Evan Mellett and his wife Denise, the Black Trumpet is a hidden gem on Ceres St. in Portsmouth.
Taking advantage of available seating in the upstairs wine bar, I was excited about dining at the Black Trumpet. We were greeted immediately and our waitress promptly arrived at our table with our menus and the extensive wine list. Shocker, I ordered a glass of Cabernet and my friend Kristin enjoyed a glass of pinot grigio while we read over the menu. I decided to mix it up a bit tonight and started off with an order of their Stuffed Grape Leaves with pomegranate youhurt ($6). Kristin decided she was going to go for that too. We really enjoyed these flavorful little dishes! The pomegranate youhurt served with them was a unique and different flavor combination, but really enjoyable. Very creative and full of flavor. Next, I went with the Chef’s Meze Plate: a daily assortment of three little dishes in one ($13). Tonight's meze plate consisted of veal saltimbocca, a bamboo rice encrusted sea scallop and a puree of white beans, with garlic and ginger. I thought the large sea scallop was perfectly prepared, the veal saltimbocca was also perfectly cooked and had a wonderful richness to it. I wasn't a big fan of the white bean puree though. It was bland (even though you could definitely taste the ginger) and lacked that extra zing. We finished off our food adventure at the Black Trumpet with their Cheese plate of: Pont l’Évêque – France – Pasteurized cow’s milk, ripe and fragrant, supple and creamy. Paired with Meyer lemon pomegranate syrup. ($11) it was accompanied with sliced crostinis. I am a huge cheese fan (cheese, wine and chocolate, anytime, anywhere!) and love to have the opportunity to try new cheeses while dining out. I like how theirs is served on a slate cheese board with the cheese name written across it in chalk. This was for me the perfect way to finish our meal. Although we glanced at the dessert menu and it all sounded great, we were full and ready to head back out for some more Christmas shopping in downtown. I will have to remember to save room next visit for some dessert. Here is where I need to mention my friend Kristin's love of the fresh Artisan Breads that the Black Trumpet serves. She also wants me to say that they are not stingy with serving it and even giving you more when you finish the first batch. The butter was blended with black sesame seeds and herbs and had a really nice rich flavor to it. Kristin was a crazy person eating the bread, but she didn't care and made mention she will go back just for more! ha ha ha! Our waitress was friendly and really knew the menu well, the overall service with everyone making sure your water glasses stayed full and you were being taken care of was great. It's nice to be able to get out somewhere and really enjoy the food, the atmosphere and the service. The restaurant location has a great feel of history to it and is decorated simply with warm colors and low lighting. I think the wine bar is great to go with friends and the seating in the dining room downstairs screams GREAT DATE place! I strongly recommend you call for reservations since seating is limited. We were winging it and lucked out with getting a table in the wine bar quickly when we arrived. Everything is made in house and they strive to use local, fresh ingredients.
I would like to note that the Black Trumpet is currently offering a Stimulus Package Sunday-Thursday nights. For only $19 you will have an opportunity to enjoy a 3 course meal consisting of a soup or salad, a light entree or open faced sandwich and a dessert. The menu will change often so I definitely think you should give it a try at such a great price!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pimentos-Exeter, NH

Last night I was out and about the Exeter area with a friend of mine. We were done work for the day and wanted to shoot downtown for a drink or two. We went to the downstairs lounge at Pimentos at 69 Water St. I like the lounge here. It has a nice feel to it and the drinks are average in price. We got a high table top and decided we were going to share a lite bite while chatting and catching up with each other. Our waitress suggested the stuffed dumplings. She said that they use to have pumpkin ones that were delicious and now had new ones on the menu that were artichoke and baby spinach stuffed dumplings with a goat cheese sauce. I figured we would give it a whirl. I drank my glass of house Cabernet and my friend drank a glass of Blue Moon (bottle, not on draft). OK, let me ask you this, picture in your mind what you think DUMPLINGS should look like....you see them? OK, our waitress brings this plate over of 4 very small, very flat ravioli looking things that are covered in the goat cheese sauce. First thing out of my friends mouth was "those are NOT dumplings!" I was puzzled myself, but we each tried one. They weren't anything to write home about, that was for sure. The goat cheese sauce was very bland and didn't really have that goat cheese bite you often taste when it's a sauce. Four tiny, thin raviolis for $9.00....WHAT? Are you serious? The regular dinner menu at Pimentos has some nice sounding dishes on it, but I think they are overpriced. Exeter didn't need a wanna be fine dining restaurant, they need some place reasonably priced with good food to keep the people coming back. The upstairs dining room was empty and including us there were 5 others in the downstairs lounge. Our waitress came over to clear our plates and asked us what we thought of the dumplings and I told her I didn't think they were much like dumplings at all and that they had no real flavor to them. She still stuck with her story that the pumpkin ones were really good, but that maybe she shouldn't be recommending these new artichoke and baby spinach ones. A few minutes later when she brought the check, she said "I stuck my finger in your sauce on the plate when I took it and I agree, the sauce was really bland." That was interesting. We finished our drinks, paid and left. I will go back to Pimentos downstairs lounge again, but only to have drinks. I will pass on the lite bites next time. I think maybe they are overshooting here with the menu. Guess time will tell how business does for this new joint.
UPDATE OF PIMENTOS-3.14.09- I'm done with this place. I have been back 3 times since I wrote up the review and last night was the last attempt to see what others like about this restaurant. As soon as my friend and I sat down (downstairs at one of the high tables in the lounge area), the waitress came over to let us know that they are out of ALL chicken dishes and sandwiches, the haddock sandwich and the steak tips. I asked her how is that possible for a Friday night? She said they were busy Thursday night and didn't get any of those items back in for the weekend. I ordered Malbec and for dinner had the steak baguette (the waitress recommended this) that came with their pomme frites. The meat was fatty and the pomme frites were really oily. I didn't finish my meal because I was full....of disappointment once again! My friend was hungry and liked the hamburger she ordered. I asked about desserts, but was informed the kitchen was closing so if I wanted something I should decide quick (it was almost 10), I passed. When I was brought my 2ND glass of wine, it was full of cork pieces. I drink a lot of wine (don't take that the wrong way, ha ha ha) and I wasn't going to drink this glass. I asked nicely for a new glass of Malbec and watched our waitress bring it over to the bartender. The bartender looked at it and then looked at me with one of those looks like tells you she really doesn't care about the cork in your wine and was bothered that she had to repour. When the waitress returned with it, she asked if she could bring us our check because she wanted to go home for the night and that the bartender would pick up our table. We cashed her out and although we were there for about another 45mins, no one ever came back to our table to check on us or ask if we wanted anything else. I guess because the bartender was busy hanging out at the bar serving one of the owners, a few other workers off the clock and a couple of friends. Bye Pimentos, good luck.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Green Monkey for Restaurant Week

86 Pleasant St

Of course you knew I would be all over Portsmouth Restaurant week. Who in their right mind wouldn't be with the state of the economy? Tonight I dined at The Green Monkey to enjoy their fine food and libations. Owner Deb Weeks was working the floor and was excited to already be enjoying what was going to be another booked evening for the restaurant. That's a great sign of others being out and enjoying this week of special treats. Owned by partners Phelps Dieck and Deb Weeks, The Green Monkey will be celebrating its 5Th year anniversary on the 22ND of this month. Deb and Phelps also take care of their baby across the street, Brazo (another gem of mine). The restaurant has a clean, sleek modern feel to it and there was a good buzz of tables conversing which is always a good sign of happy guests. The bar is small but was consistently busy with a youthful crowd. Although my eyes wandered over their delicious menu, I wanted to make sure that tonight I took advantage of their participation in Restaurant Week and ordered off of the Prixe Fix 3 course menu for the bargain price of $29.95. I started my evening by with a Thai Mango Fizz ($10) served with their signature tail hanging monkey, I enjoyed this sweeter martini. My dining companion had a Dirty Swedish Girl ($10) which is their pour of a dirty martini and a good one at that. My first course choice was a salad served deconstructed and consisted of a slow roasted mixed beet salad, a generous cut of walnut crusted goat cheese, fresh greens and served with a thyme & Meyer lemon vinaigrette. I know its just a salad, but I haven't enjoyed one as much as I did this one in a very long time. meals were served with a basket of warm, crusty, sour dough bread accompanied by a garlic infused butter. My dining companion chose the 2ND first course option of an acorn squash and apple bisque topped with toasted seeds and cardamom cream. The bisque was smooth and very tasty. The cardamom cream I thought was a nice touch. My second course pick was the Chicken Trio with stir fried vegetable lo mein, marinated breast dressed with a 5 spice jus, crispy soy line drumstick and 2 chicken and leek dumplings. The trio was very good and I especially loved the dumplings, but left most of the lo mein on the plate as it was too salty to enjoy. The other option for your entree off of the prixe fix was the House made Fettuccine with grilled eggplant caponnata and shaved NH tomme cheese. My dining companion really enjoyed. I sampled some of it myself and thought it was really good too. Nothing really beats house made pasta! OK, ready for the dessert options? I chose the pumpkin spice creme brulee with maple sugar cookies over the cherry and cognac bread pudding and I definitely think I picked the winner. The brulee was perfect and was so rich I was sad that I couldn't finish it, but glad that someone else at the table did for me. Our waitress Betsy was great. She was prompt and friendly and always came to the table with a smile. What really made the evening enjoyable was the warm hospitality that Deb Weeks provided. When you are welcomed into a restaurant as Deb welcomes you, you know you will be back again and again. Thank you Deb, chef Patrick, Phelps and the rest of The Green Monkey staff, keep up the good work. I will be seeing you again soon for those pumpkin seed encrusted scallops!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Portsmouth Restaurant Week-Nov 10th-16th

Take a bite out of Portsmouth's Restaurant Week, it's a great opportunity to visit some of the best restaurants that Portsmouth has to offer at great prices!
Nov. 10-16, Participating Restaurants include: Agavé Mexican Bistro Dos, Black Trumpet Bistro, Blue Mermaid Island Grill, Brazo, The Carriage House, The Dolphin Striker, The Dunaway Restaurant at Strawbery Banke, The Green Monkey, Harbor's Edge at the Sheraton Harborside, Jumpin' Jay's Fish Café, The Library Restaurant, Pesce Blue, The Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth Gas Light Co., Radici, Ristorante Massimo, Rudi's Portsmouth and The Wellington Room.
Restaurant Week Portsmouth will feature three-course prix fixe menus for $16.95 per person for lunch and $29.95 per person for dinner (does not include beverages, taxes or gratuity). Reservations are strongly recommended.
To book reservations, diners must contact the individual restaurant(s) of their choice. On Saturday, Nov. 15 participating restaurants will only accept Restaurant Week reservations for parties seated prior to 6:30 p.m.

Details: Visit www.restaurantweekportsmouth.com or call the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce at 610-5510

Monday, October 27, 2008

Harbors Edge, Sheraton Harborside, Portsmouth, NH

I have to say, I was very disappointed in my dinner at the Harbors Edge at the Sheraton. I was surprised too since I have spent a holiday meal there, Easter last year matter of fact and really enjoyed it. My dining companion ordered the Chicken Scallopine ($20) which came with the title of "a house favorite" and was Panko crusted sauteed chicken cutlets, olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella,
Lemon basil butter sauce, grilled asparagus and creamy wild mushroom risotto. The chicken really lacked any flavor and although the asparagus was good (how can you really screw up asparagus though?) the risotto was way too thick and unenjoyable. I ordered the Pan Roasted Salmon ($24) with warm tomato shallot compote, white truffle oil, creamy wild mushroom risotto and grilled asparagus. I had to agree with my dining companion on the risotto here, I don't know whether the cook just had an off night with the risotto or just wasn't in the mood to care. You know good risotto when you have it. The salmon was average in taste and was a small portion size for price. We skipped apps and after both of us having disappointing entrees, we skipped the desserts too. The dining at dusk menu is good bang for your buck(served 5pm-630pm) and available if you seat upstairs in the lounge ($13.99). I would think twice about eating a meal downstairs in the main dining room though.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Flatbread Company- Portsmouth location

Flatbread Company originally started in 1998 with the Amesbury, MA mills location. Now they have locations in Portland, ME, North Conway, NH, Canton, CT, Bedford, MA and Paia, HI. If you have yet to set foot inside any of their locations, add it to your list of must try pizzas. When you first enter a Flatbread Company restaurant, you can't help but be drawn in my the huge wood grilled fire that is surrounded by an open kitchen so you can watch your pizza not only be prepared, but also cooked. The atmosphere of the 3 locations I have visited have all been warm and welcoming and visiting a Flatbread Co to me always feels like a treat. This visit to the Portsmouth NH location right down 138 Congress St I took someone who had never heard of or been to one before. As soon as we walked in, he knew he was in for something special. He said he thought we were just going out to a run of the mill pizza joint. O contrar! We got a cozy little table for two right by the kitchen and the wood fired oven. We were waited on by Grant who was very friendly and prompt with anything we needed. We each started our meal with a glass of Rex Goliath Cabernet ($7) and we split the house Organic Salad with Heart Song Farms goat cheese ($7.50). It has organic mesculin and sweet leaf lettuces tossed with organic celery and carrots, tossed sesame seeds, arame seaweed and a homemade berry vinaigrette. For our pizza, we shared a large homemade Sausage pizza with sauce ($18 and more than enough for two people to share). It has nitrate free, maple fennel sausage, sun dried tomatoes, caramelized organic (I don't think i need to keep typing organic, you get it by now, the have only organic products) onions, mushrooms, whole milk mozzarella and grana padano cheese (a sharper parm taste) baked on bread dough that is topped with their wood fired cauldron tomato sauce. If we hadn't of shared the salad, we easily could have polished off that whole pizza, but we brought a few slices home. I knew my dining partner enjoyed the meal when he sat there and said he wished he had his sweatpants on. HA HA HA! We passed on dessert, but they have a killer (HUGE) homemade brownie sundae with Annabelle's vanilla ice cream ($6.25) or their homemade gingerbread with Annabelle's pumpkin ice cream. YUM. The stated purpose of the Flatbread Co. is to create a restaurant that is authentic, truthful and real. I think they have accomplished that. Enjoy!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Loaf & Ladle-Exeter, NH location

I find it very fitting to write a review of my favorite soup and sandwich spot on the seacoast on a day when it hasn't stopped raining since I woke up. The loaf and ladle right downtown on Water St. in Exeter is a great lunch OR dinner spot that sits right on the river. Upon arrival you figure out the restaurant is set up cafeteria style so you have to get in line. Your orders are taken while you move along the line and after paying, it's a seat yourself setup. On a rainy afternoon like today, the line was a bit long, but worth it. While waiting in line to get your tray and silverware and to place your order, you can read the sandwich board which will also lists the special dish of the day (today it was Shepard's pie) and the quiche of the day (cauliflower and onion today). Then there is the list of soups made for the day which always include one or two vegan soups too. The last board to make a decision from is the bread board. I love the bread served with the soup at Loaf and Ladle. If you order a cup of soup you get one slice of bread and 2 slices with a bowl of soup. The slices are cut by hand while your in line and they are HUGE. Most of the time I don't even bother with a sandwich or even a half a sandwich if I am getting a bowl of soup with 2 slices of their bread. My favorite bread on the board this time of the year is their winter wheat. Is soft and dips quite well with any of their soups. In the summer they make some delicious batches of different cold fruit soups(strawberry, blueberry, etc.) and also a good gazpacho and a mean beef chili. Today I indulged in a bowl of their Fish Chowder. It was seasoned well and had good sized pieces of fish, potato and bacon in it. The chowder wasn't overwhelmingly think either which is a nice change from most recipes I have had on the Seacoast. They also have a surprisingly large variety of fresh baked pies at very reasonable prices too. You can also buy loafs of the different breads to take home that were made for the day. A raisin and carrot bread caught my eye today. Good service is hit or miss, but I have lucked out lately with friendly staff taking orders from the line. I recommend the Exeter Loaf & Ladle location over the newly opened Portsmouth location. I don't like how the owner tried to upscale a soup and sandwich restaurant. I think she should have kept it cafeteria style like Exeter. I also wonder if she has ever done a soup cookbook. I would be interested in making some of those soups at home. It's a big part of the appeal. It's what works and has been working for over 3 decades. What's that saying, "If it ain't broke....."

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Portsmouth Brewery

http://www.portsmouthbrewery.com/ Portsmouth, N.H.

Having lunch or dinner or just drinks at the Portsmouth Brewery is so much a part of my regular routine, it's about time I add it into the blog. It has such a well rounded menu, anyone will find something they would like. I have become a huge fan of executive chef Rob Martin who keeps the menu at the Brewery fresh and I look forward to seeing what tasty dishes he adds to the small plates and the entrees that change every few months on the Brewer's Table section of the menu. Secretly have my fingers crossed that the next Brewer's Table menu repeats last winter's Pumpkin Gnocchi. My most recent visit to the Portsmouth Brewery was for dinner. For a change of scenery, my dining companion and I decided to sit downstairs at Jimmy Lapanzas bar. I had a glass of Cabernet (just the house, I love my red wines) and my friend had a glass of the newly tapped golden German ale, Kolsch that was recommended for him to try by our bartender/server Melissa. It is fermented at a slightly cooler temperature than the other Brewery ales and then it is cold age it. It's a light, fruity version of a German style beer, but still has that clean, crisp finish that you would expect. For an appetizer, we shared the Crab Rangoon Dip $7.95 which is served with fried won tons. If you like Crab Rangoon, you will love this dish! Its made with real crab and is a very rich appetizer, that's good to the last bite! If you run out of won tons, no worries, they will bring you more! For my entree I ordered the Frenched Pork Chop $17.95, a dish from the Brewer's Table section of the menu. A 9oz. naturally raised bone-in pork chop, grilled to temp, served with mashed cumin roasted plantains, whole roasted figs and a demi glaze reduction with fresh sorrel. It was fantastic! It was cooked medium and it melted in my mouth. I also really enjoyed the creative side dish of the mashed plantains(I am a big fan of plantains although I can't ever cook them as well at home). Chef Rob Martin again completely satisfied my hunger and will keep me coming back for more. The service by our bartender Melissa was great too. She really knows the menu well and can give you some great suggestions for both drinks and food. It's a real treat to go out to eat and not only find a place with great food, but also great service. When I asked Melissa what her signature cocktail to make is, she says to ask her for a Hot & Dirty Martini! I will definitely be back for one of those in the near future!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2008 Maine Oyster Fest

A wicked good shucking time

Have you heard about this? Last year was the first year it was put on and sponsored by York Lobster & Seafood. Part of the proceeds raised go to the York Fishermen's Association to help them repair docks and other fishing equipment. Its a great evening of food, cash bar, fun and oysters that takes place at the Union Bluff Meeting House in York. There will be a competition again this year that all guests can vote on for the best signature oyster dish as well as an oyster shucking and the oyster luge competition! Prizes are awarded to the top winning restaurants/chefs. The guest judges for this year are Rowan Jacobsen, Rachael Forrest, Jean Kerr and Fiona Robinson. The list of restaurants for this year already is looking delicious! The live music was great last year and I am sure all who attend will again enjoy the food, music and atmosphere this year while supporting a good local organization. Last year also included a pig roast and a silent auction, so I am hoping to see those two key parts again this year as well. Tickets are only $45.00 per person and well worth it! You can get yours today by visiting http://www.maineoysterfest.com/ . I hope you can get your tickets before they sell out!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Rusty Hammer

Portsmouth, N.H.
I was in the mood for a good burger the other night and since I have heard so much about the WIMPYS (burgers) that The Rusty Hammer serves up, I figured, what the heck, why not give it a try! I sat with my dining companion in the bar area at one of their high tables so he could watch the NASCAR interviews that were on one of the TVs. The specials board showed that they Crab Pearls (which I had heard where good), but when our waitress came out, she said they didn't have any more of those and hadn't for a couple of days (since they were closed Sun/Mon I guess). We split a side (appetizer) order of Red Hook beer battered shrimp $7.95. Although these little morsels were quite tasty, there were only 9 little ones in the serving so at almost $1.00 each, soooooooooo not worth it. I had a Wimpy with cheddar cheese and mushrooms with a side of seasoned waffle fries. It was good, but nothing to rave about. My dining companion ordered a steak which was exactly what I thought it was going to be, a BAD idea. It came out cooked medium to temp, but was tough and he didn't think anything special. Of course not, it's the Rusty Hammer. The waitress wasn't that friendly from the get go and never returned to our table (she kept hanging out up by the front door, I don't know, looking for love perhaps?) until I asked for the check. I think your best bet with the Rusty Hammer is skip the food and go right for the drinks in the bar. They do run some good Beer Bucket specials right now thanks to the Red Sox.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Barn Tavern

Dover, NH

I caught The Barn Tavern on one of their last Lunch serving afternoons (at least for a while they said due to the economy). Although I find the atmosphere of this restaurant very charming and really enjoy their deck that looks over the river, the food leaves too much to be desired. I started off with 3 of their Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops that are tossed in a butter, brown sugar and maple glaze ($2.25 each). For being Sea Scallops, they were more like the size of a hunky bay scallop and the presentation of the plate wasn't very appealing. My dining companion ordered the soup special of the day which was a Pineapple Gazpacho (he is a Gazpacho FREAK). It didn't have the look or texture of a Gazpacho at all. Looked more like a cold tomato soup with big chunks of vegetables and pineapple in it. I could tell just by the look on his face when the dish was placed in front of him, he was disappointed. The French Onion Crock looked good though that my other dining companion had and was priced fair at $5.50. She didn't think it was anything special though and she really enjoys her French Onion soup. For my lunch, the waitress (who was very pleasant) suggested the steak tips or a salad, but I went for the chicken pot pie. It wasn't good. It wasn't very hot and looked more like a bowl of chicken stew than anything remotely resembling a pot pie. Oh well, maybe it was an off day for the chef, or maybe The Barn Tavern is better at dinner than they are at lunch. What ever the case may be, I think the next time I am in the Dover area, I will look somewhere else to have lunch.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wild Willy's Burgers York, ME

Although the burgers here are really good, I don't recommend you visiting the original location of Wild Willy's in York, Maine. The burger toppings are not fresh, the salsa on their "La Bamba" burger tasted like a cheap store bought kind, the ranch dressing on the "Santa Fe" could stand improvement and the cost of their Frontier draft root beer by the cup is a rip off. The other locations in Mass and NH are franchised out, so they might have something better to offer. The staff (including the founders son who managers this location) are NOT friendly at all and I don't think in the entire 2+ hours we were there did I see a smile come across any of their faces. It's too bad, the concept is great, but if you don't have that all important ingredient of a friendly, outgoing staff, you just aren't going to be as good as you could be. The summer brings tons of tourists into this location and my guess is they do a killer business especially since it is CASH ONLY. It's seasonal and shuts down right around when then snow really starts to fly. The small location has a fun atmosphere, but when it is busy, you are pushed and pulled while you wait for your meal and it just isn't comfortable. They keep the menu simple with burgers and fresh cut fries as their top sellers. I wish it was better, but it isn't.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hagan's Grill- Hampton, NH


(603) 926-5668

Located in the heart of downtown Hampton is a gem of a restaurant. Hagan's Grill originally opened in the summer of 2005 and was purchased by Bob and Dora Hand in Spring of 2006. The seating is limited so if you plan on visiting, I highly recommend you call ahead and make a reservation or hope to score a seat at the bar while you wait for a table. Known for its eclectic American/Asian cuisine, Hagan's Grill is a favorite of the locals and the summer beach bums. The ingredients are fresh and meal ideas simple. You will find some great nightly specials ranging from pasta to fish to a pizza made on their own wood grill. I kicked off my dinner with a Key Lime Martini ($9) and for an appetizer, I tried the pita nachos ($10) which are a nice change of pace and very flavorful. For dinner I had a penne pasta special ($16) that had ground pork in a tomato leek cream sauce with a blend of cheese that was excellent! I switched half way through with one of my dinning partners who was having the famous Fish Burrito ($15). The executive chef, Kurt Holzweiss has been cooking things up in the kitchen for the past 2 1/2 years and has grown quite a following with the locals. I hear they have a local following for the baked mac and cheese ($9) which I plan on trying at my next visit. The atmosphere is contemporary in design, but the dress and vibe are casual and fun. It can get noisy in there, which is a clear sign of a good restaurant where people go and enjoy themselves. I was happy to see the addition of lighter fare options (which I don't recall seeing over the winter). My only gripe with my most recent dining experience at Hagan's Grill would be the service wasn't as good as I would expect it to be. I was seated at a high table in the bar area and at first the bartender who was our server was fine, but as soon as the bar got busy, we were ignored and ended up having to hunt her down to pay the bill and to get a box for the leftovers. Guess you can't win them all. I still say if you haven't checked this little hot spot out, the food is definitely worth a visit.

Friday, August 8, 2008

THe Old Salt, Rt. 1, Hampton NH

As a request by my friend Kristin (a Hampton local), I need to include in this BLOG the local staple on the seacoast of The Old Salt at Lammes Inn in Hampton NH. Originally a hot spot right on the beach in Hampton, the Old Salt burned down and the owners purchased the Lammes Inn and moved their restaurant to the current Rt. 1 location. They are very well known for their down home Sunday brunch complete with chocolate fountain (kids and adults alike love it!)! The food isn't anything to knock your socks off, but it is consistently good. I do have a soft spot for their Fish and Chips and on occasion can be found in their lounge (which reminds me of a bomb shelter and I am not alone in this thought) sharing some appetizers and drinking $4.00 Margaritas on Thursdays or $5 Martinis on Wednesday nights. The atmosphere is good year round. The main dining area has a huge stone fireplace that lights up in the Fall and burns clear through the Winter making it very cozy even during the off season.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Telly's Restaurant and Pizzeria-Epping NH

For those of you that didn't know, Telly's had a bad fire a few years back and it was destroyed. They rebuilt the restaurant and made it bigger and better this time around. I'm actually really glad they didn't give up. Sometimes, when we get knocked down, we have to pick ourselves up and keep going. This review takes place on last Saturday evening at 5:15pm. Yes, it was early for dinner, but I was out with my parents who often like to beat the crowds out at restaurants on the weekends. This did not happen. Although we were able to slip right into a booth, there was only one other table available, it was a full house on the tables and at the bar. This is a great sign of a restaurant in times like these with the economy being not so hot. They offer reasonably priced menu choices so families are plentiful here on the weekends. Telly's is first and foremost known for their brick oven pizza which I find refreshing and reasonably priced. You can easily share and be full by having a small pizza for two people if you order a side salad too. On this night, I was pleasantly surprised to find Orange Roughy on the Specials menu. I have been keeping an eye out for this fish on menus all over the seacoast lately since I have never tried it, but have heard great things. The Orange Roughy ($17.95) was served topped with a lemon butter cream sauce on a bed of jasmine rice and a side of asparagus. The lemon butter cream sauce was just enough so as to not take away from the fish, but to accompany it. The jasmine rice was perfect for this light white fish and it was prepared in coconut milk with salt, pepper and butter. I am very pleasantly surprised with this talented chef at Telly's and they have me wanting more. I opted for a glass of one of my favorite red wines (that's right, RED with FISH) which was a glass of Black Opal Shiraz ($5.75). The dessert was split between my parents and myself and is a house specialty. It is a HUGE piece of Bread Puddin' ($4.99) that is a delicate, moist croissant concoction laced with cinnamon'd bites of apple and raisins (this is exactly how they describe it, why mess with perfection I say!). If again you found yourself wandering out of the downtown Portsmouth area, take a hop, skip and a jump down 101 and try Telly's. I think you will enjoy it!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Agave Mexican Bistro, Portsmouth, NH

I was suspicious of this restaurant going in since I think the last thing that Portsmouth needed downtown was yet ANOTHER Mexican restaurant (never mind the fact that they went in right next to good old DOS AMIGOS). I have visited the new location of Agave (for those of you that didn't know, it has an original location in Newburyport, MA) on two occasions since it opened its doors and I don't see myself returning. The skinny on this place is that it is an overpriced, gussied up Mexican restaurant. I find the menu boring and the drinks expensive. I was disappointed in the gazpacho which was over pureed and under flavored and the super quick service of the meals for my table left me wondering just how fresh could the entrees really be if they are being sent out of the kitchen that fast. It will take a while I think for the newness to wear off, but I don't see the longevity of an upscale Mexican bistro like Agave for Portsmouth. In such a small, hip town , foodies want new places to come in and "wow us". Give us something new, exciting, fresh. Give us something to really sink our teeth into! The only upside I find with Agave is that my friend Max who bartends there can make you a mean margarita. If it is Mexican flavor you are seeking, try Poco's Bow Street Cantina down the street. I heart their empanadas appetizer and their Peanut-Ginger Chicken and Shrimp Saute, both priced right and full of flavor. If you are south of town, check out Las Olas in Exeter for a one big, tasty burrito.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Coming Soon, The Best Brunch on the Seacoast.

(for those of you that can't wait until I get the write up finished, it's at The Wentworth By The Sea in New Castle. Any brunch that offers all you can drink mimosas (or just champagne) included in their price gets my vote...and all my friends votes too.

Saunders at Rye Harbor


I'm not going to take up too much space here writing about Saunders. I just wanted to make sure I wrote something about it since I am tired of being disappointed by restaurants that have such great potential. Saunders at Rye Harbor has this great location right on the water in Rye, one of the few restaurants that do north of Hampton beach, but it's just so dirty and the food....I can only think of one word, BLECK! I am fairly certain that the carpeting in there is older than me and I don't think this spot has had a "face lift" in my lifetime. It's as if the owner decided to order everything they possibly could frozen, fry it in butter or oil and sell it to the public at fine dining prices. Its gross, do not go there. Even if you are lured by the Reggae music on their deck on Sundays, which will cost you a ridiculous $10.00 to get pass the unfriendly, rude hostesses that hang around the deck wishing they were 21 already. Saunders gets a big VETO and a wish that they would sell it and let someone come in that has a clue on what to do with a jewel of a location.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Holy Grail, Epping N.H.

On a quest for great food? Try The Holy Grail food & spirits that just opened at 64 Main St. in Epping, N.H. I hit this British/American fared restaurant yesterday and loved it! The owners, David and Maureen Kennedy purchased and renovated the old St. Josephs Church (built in 1895) into this fabulous soon to be "hot" dining spot. There is a large bar/pub area right when you walk into the main dining area with 20 beers on draft, 20 bottled to choose from and 2 casks as well as a full liquor selections. There is a seating area in the back of the first floor has great views of the stained glass windows and there is more dining in the "Choir Loft" that over looks the pub below. This is the second restaurant I have been to on the Seacoast that is in a converted church and I love the concept. For started, I went with the Black & Tan Onion Rings ($8.95) which are indeed battered with Guinness and good to the last ring! For my entree, I went with the Irish classic of Corned Beef and Cabbage ($12.95). You are served a heaping pile of corned beef, cabbage, boiled potatoes and carrots. The corned beef was lean and delicious. I opted for regular mustard, but they do serve the meal with Colman's mustard on the side. My dining partner let me try their Shepherd's pie ($10.95) which is another classic Irish dish of ground beef in gravy with seasonings and mashed potatoes on top (some places make it with corn too, but not here) and it was served with a side of green beans. The seasonings with the ground beef and gravy is what really makes this dish taste great. You get a great portion size too for a great great price. The entrees were served with grilled buns and I enjoyed a 20 oz glass of draft English Cider ($5.25) which went great with my meal. Our waitress, Kaitlyn, was very prompt and very friendly. Other menu items include, Guinness Marinated Sirloin Tip, House Made Irish Bangers, Scotch Eggs and Wilshire Cured Ribs to name a few. Can't decide on which draft beer to have? Ask your server for a sample or two to try first! Dining here feels like you have been taken across the Atlantic and you are actually eating in a small Irish Village restaurant. Well Done Kennedys! I look forward to my next visit with you!

931 Ocean - Hampton Beach, N.H.

Don't bother stopping at 931 Ocean, just keep on driving down or up Route 1A and you will surely find better food at better prices. I have visited 931 on 4 occasions and I have to tell you, this last visit, was indeed my LAST visit. I was stuck with the same not very friendly waitress, but figured maybe the last time I had her she was just having a bad day. Not the case. The food is WAY over priced and the quality just isn't there in it to make it worth top dollar. The location is good (not great since the North Beach wall blocks your view of the ocean) and so are the martinis, but that about covers its goodness. This visit, I started with the red seafood chowder and I was so disappointed. It wasn't even presented well and had those tiny little shrimp in it that you know came out of a can. I actually kept having to pull shell bits out and when the waitress came to clear the bowl (which wasn't even halfway touched) I told her about the shells and she said, "Well, at least you know it's real right?" and walked away. Can you believe that was your answer? Good help is sooooo hard to find. It's a missing key ingredient in many restaurants these days it seems. For my entree I ordered the grilled salmon with mango salsa($24) and found it to be way too salty. I have also had the beef short ribs($20) here and found them to be too fatty and smothered in a flavor lacking hoisin sauce. I do like the way they prepare their sticky chicken wing appetizer($7) by cooking them up in a sweet, tangy soy sauce, but you can find better ones in other restaurants on the seacoast where your whole meal will be enjoyable. I recommend the soy sauced sticky wings at The Tavern at Rivers Edge in downtown Exeter. Enough bad mouthing for one post I think, don't you? Take my advice and pass on 931 Ocean. Try the upstairs lounge at Rons Landing on 1A. They have a great lighter fare bar menu and you can actually see the ocean from the bar while enjoying your meal.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Joyce's Kitchen- Joyce back in action in Newmarket

Although it was very unfortunate to see Joyce have to close Joyce's Kitchen in downtown Newmarket this year, I have great news! Joyce is back in action! She is now serving Breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays from 6am to 11am at the Rockingham Country Club at 200 Exeter Road. Although they have a limited menu there now as this weekend is only their 4th weekend serving up sunshine there, I am sure that once the word is out, they will be rocking and rolling with more of their menu items we remember from her kitchen. It's good to have you cooking in the kitchen for us again Joyce!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MOJO'S BBQ-Portsmouth & N.Hampton, NH

Maurice Buckley (MO) and Aaron Jones are very familiar faces
here around the Seacoast of NH. They finally took a giant leap together and opened Mojo's BBQ. Maurice says his father is the
person that taught him everything he knows about the BBQ
business and it all started when he was 10. Lucky us!
I think a the key ingredient that Mojo's has that many seacoast restaurants are lacking is good customer service. When I visit them, I always feel welcomed and they make me feel that my
business is appreciated. The secret here is the sauce. It's sweeter than it is spicy and
it is finger licking good! I always tend to lean towards sweet or tangy sauce vs. spicy when it comes to BBQ and they have it covered here! The sauce is called Big Moe's Arkansawce and is rightly named after Maurices dad. Mo has been selling it for about 7 years and it is available in retailers around the seacoast and of course at the two Mojo locations. I recently visited Mo at their new N.Hampton location on Rt. 1 and was glad to see them already growing. They took over a small space that use to be a catering company so the seating is limited to a few tables on the porch outside, but of course you can always order some great tasting ribs to go! I would recommend the chicken wings, the BBQ chicken and the the pulled pork sandwich. The side dishes range from mac and cheese to greens and all filled with southern flavors. The only side I am not a big fan of is the baked beans which I find to be a little too soupy (sorry fellas). Although Mojo's isn't a smoke house BBQ joint, its well worth the visit when your up for some good food at reasonable prices!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lattitudes at Wentworth By The Sea

Enjoy a light-hearted take on the region's culinary bounty in the comfortable atmosphere of this marina-side restaurant. At the bar near the fireplace, by the tall windows or out on the teak deck, the bistro style menu features local ingredients prepared with flair and presented with full attention to detail. This is one of my favorite if not my favorite seasonal restaurant on the Seacoast of NH. It opens around Memorial Day weekend and finishes up its season around Labor Day weekend. I truly look forward to seeing what's new on the menu as well as enjoying the comfort of the menu gems that are standard. Sitting up on the 2nd floor deck this past Memorial Day with friends, I began my meal with the Tasting of Grilled Stone Fruit small plate. It is new to the menu this year and was excellent. There was a peach half, a nectarine half and a plum half each with crumbled Great Hill Blue Cheese and a smear of pine nut puree. For my main course, I indulged in what is my first Lobster (LOBSTAH if you are a true New Englander) Roll ($19) of the summer season. I opted for the double side of the fresh made Apple Cabbage Slow over french fries and enjoyed every bite! They don't hold back on over stuffing the bun which is served open face. I recommend a few dishes that are always available which are the Bite Size Angus Burgers (3 for $10) off of the small plates menu and then the Ocean Breeze salad with either the Lobster Salad ($18) or the always delicious Toasted Almond Chicken Salad ($12). One more special dish I would like to mention is the very well known Latitudes "Raw Bar" which is a tower of chilled, poached Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp, Oysters, Alaskan King Crab Legs with a side of Tomato Horseradish Sauce. This delectable dish has plenty on it to share and runs at market price. I foresee a wonder season yet again along the water at Latitudes. Cheers!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Zorvino Vineyards Wine Dinners

Zorvino Vineyards
Main St.
Sandown, NH

I recently attended Zorvino Vineyards first Price Buster wine dinner of 2008 with some friends on the eve of May 23rd. The dinner was held in their function hall facility which is very impressive and has the look and feel inside of a mountain lodge. The Price Buster dinner we attended was their Spring Fling dinner and the cost for the meal and wine pairing was only $25.00 each so we figured why not give it a whirl! We arrived about 15 minutes early for the 6:30pm dinner start time and enjoyed drinks from the bar at reasonable prices and munched on some fruit, veggies, cheese and crackers while all the guests arrived. The hall filled up with about 50 plus guest and our host was Zorvinos wine guru (Director) Tom Zack. The meal was four courses and each was wonderful! We started off with a Mussel & Leek Soup which was paired with a 2007 Eco Domani Collezioni Pinot Grigio. This soup was delish! It was a puree of roasted leeks, potatoes and had steamed mussels in it. This was followed by a Cool Strawberry & Black Pepper Flatbread paired with a 2007 Zorvnio Fragole Z (which totally has a fresh strawberry taste to it). The Flatbread was a mini pita and although it was a little too tough to cut with your knife, my table dug right in and ate it like a slice of pizza! This was followed by the main course of a Spicy Cornish Game Hen with wild long grain rice and sauteed Fiddleheads paired with a 2005 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Chardonnay. The Hen was cooked perfectly and although it can be a little messy for formal dining, it was very flavorful and good choice for an entree. The meal was finished with a Fire Roasted Bartlett Pear with brown sugar & honey marscapone cheese paired with the 2008 Zorvino Razzberry Delight. I think all had a great time and with the prices of gas and the cost of just about EVERYTHING on the rise, it was nice to see the people out enjoying a meal and a great price! I highly recommend you keep your eye out for Zorvinos Wine Dinners and Events, they were worth every penny and then some!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brothers North Restaurant-CLOSED 12/24/09

Brothers North
845 Lafayette Rd.
Hampton, NH
Brothers North is a Greek and American food restaurant set up cafeteria style. Ever been to a Morrisons? well, this place isn't nearly as good, but runs on the same idea. You pick up your tray and silverware on one end and slide on down the line picking out what you would like to eat. Although the staff was for the most part friendly, it isn't enough of a good thing to get me to go back in. I was there for dinner and the portions are HUGE, but they are definitely cutting quality here for quantity. I had the Kotopita (chicken pie in Fillo dough) and I pulled out at least 4 good sized pieces of bones and so did one of my dining partners. The Kotopita was really dry too. The side order of Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) was good, but the meat inside of them with the rice was undercooked. It also took them 20 mins to bring out my side order without an apology for lateness. I found the other diners there were more into the American food plates vs. the Greek, but I don't see Brothers North packing them in. They just started serving breakfast which could be a good fit for them in the area but with some really good diners around I doubt it. I say, if its good Greek food you are seeking, seek it elsewhere.