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.