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.