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 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 . 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.