Monday, January 19, 2009

Wentworth Hotel-Bubbles & Jazz Sunday Brunch

The Sunday Brunch at the Wentworth Marriott Hotel in Newcastle, N.H. is THE BEST available on the Seacoast. It will set you back about $40 per person, but it is sooooo worth it. They have a jazz duo that plays each afternoon while the brunch is served from 10am to 2pm. The price of the Brunch includes all you can drink Mimosa's and/or Champagne. The buffet spread includes breakfast pastries, rolls, a cold plate station which has salad options, shrimp and oysters on the half shell, soup, an omelet/egg station, several hot lunch entree selections as well as breakfast choices that include meats and sometimes stuffed french toast or banana fritters, a carving station (usually 2 choices), Chef Jon is usually manning the hot interactive cooking station and always has something really delicious for you to try (from Lobster Raviolis to Mahi-Mahi with a pineapple chutney)! I can't leave out the dessert table which always has tasty little treats to choose from (I'm a huge fan of the chocolate covered strawberries which seem to be a staple thank goodness!) and the portions are small almost bite size on most so you don't feel bad trying a couple different sweets!
I have been attending the Sunday Brunch at the Wentworth for a number of years and although I have checked out alternatives to compare it to, there just hasn't been anything that has beat this one. I have been to several that are menu Brunches, but I think those those lack the luster that a well put together buffet brunch offers. I have also attended the Wentworth for a number of holiday brunches over the years (instead of cooking at home with a small family) and they go all out with the decorations and the food selections. The staff is attentive and very friendly, the spacious ball room is always beautifully decorated and the jazz music sets the tone for a leisure afternoon well spent in the company of friends and or family. Since this best brunch on the N.H. Seacoast is at a hotel, I like that you can feel relaxed enough to either dress up a little or go casual and comfortable. If you feel you need to take a nice walk after your brunch, feel free to walk the grounds of the hotel. There is a nice walkway that goes around the front side of the property as well as the docks that you can stroll in season while checking out the yachts that are in.
I have never been disappointed in the service or the wonderful selection of food that tempts me at the Wentworth Brunch and if you plan on making a reservation to check it out yourself, make sure you say hello to Chef Jon for me!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

ZAMPA- Epping, NH
The interesting thing about Zampa I think is you don't really expect it. Not where it is, or what it looks like from the outside. When I first dined at Zampa a few years back, it was like I discovered something that only a few people in the know knew about. The menu does change (although it keeps a few staple dishes) and is created by chef and owner Julie Di Tursi and the Sous Chef, Alex Thomas. They try to use mostly local products and organically fed and sustainably raised meats, fish and dairy. I have dined here for several years and I have only been disappointed once in my experiences and it just so happened to be this latest visit to Zampa that was the disappointment. It happens, you can't win them all right?
We sat at one of the high tables next to the bar for dinner. I ordered a glass of Vina Los Robles Pinot Nior ( I know, ME ordered RED wine, unheard of!). The bar at Zampa is cute and seats only 6. Most that take a seat at it are waiting for a table. The restaurant is small and cozy. It is decorated simply with red walls, green trim and the tables are sparse and have tiled tabletops.
Instead of serving a bread basket, here at Zampa they serve a stash of bread sticks with a chipolte aioli. It's a nice change of pace I think. The food here is all cooked to order so before you go, know that you shouldn't be in a rush. I started off with The Roasted Beet Salad ($7.95) which is baby greens, roasted beets, grilled onion, blue cheese, toasted hazelnuts and has a sweet ginger vinaigrette. the salad is BIG so worth the almost $8 i think. The toasted hazelnuts was a nice change too from candied pecans which most restaurants serve. My dining partner ordered the Lavender Honey Spare Ribs ($8.95). These baby back pork ribs with a rosemary-lavender honey glaze are really tasty. Another good appetizer is their Arancina ($7.95). Tonight I ventured off of the menu and went with a Special dish, the Salmon Wellington ($19.95). It was a large serving of Atlantic Salmon with dill and mushrooms wrapped in a puff pastry served with mashed potatoes and a creamed cabbage. It was...Eh. My expectation was high and not met. It was a little too fishy tasting and I thought the salmon could have been wrapped with some more flavor than what it had. I was a little bummed. It seriously was the first time I have been to Zampa and was disappointed. My date had their homemade veggie burger ($8.95) and although it is small (so don't go thinking a regular burger, think more of a slightly large slider), I order it from time to time because I really like the flavor. Its a homemade patty of roasted mushrooms, seasonal veggies and is served with a scallion aioli. Other current menu selections that I can say I have had and enjoyed are their Eggplant Parmesan ($16.95), homemade Fettuccine & meatballs (15.95) and teh Half Roasted Chicken ($18.95).
Our server Sarah was a little off this time, but maybe it was because she assumed a slow night and it became quite busy, quite fast.
Since Zampa is a small restaurant, I highly recommend you call for reservations Thurs, Fri and Sat nights. You should be fine walking in earlier in the week. Although, this last visit was "ho-hum" I won't give up on Zampa and I invite you to try it for yourself and see what you think.