Living in a town filled with nothing but chain stores and restaurants, I often wish I lived in a town that was full of the opposite – stores filled with handmade objects and mom-and-pop type of restaurants, with fresh, homemade food made with local ingredients. I was fortunate to live in Boston and Brookline while I was in college, and I think having a large variety of cuisines at my fingertips literally 24/7, “spoiled” me and strengthened my love for high quality food. Luckily, I am not too far from towns that offer these luxuries, so I hop in my car and travel to them whenever possible. One of my favorite towns that has some great shops, and amazing restaurants, is Portsmouth.
Last week I realized I had a great excuse to Portsmouth – Restaurant Week! From November 8-17th, 49 greater Portsmouth area restaurants are participating in Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week offers a great value to hungry visitors – all meals are three course – a starter, entree, and a dessert – with lunches priced at $16.95 per person and dinners priced at $29.95 per person. The participating restaurants create special menus for the week, most of which include meals made with local, in-season ingredients – this foodie’s idea of the perfect meal!
My husband and I headed to one of our favorite restaurants, The Portsmouth Brewery, for lunch on Saturday. We went here last year during Restaurant Week as well and had a great experience with our friends. With that memory in our mind, combined with the fact that the Brewery includes a four beer taste paddle and an mouth-watering menu, we decided to head there for Restaurant Week ’12!
The menu had me hooked when I read the first course – House Made Pretzel with Sweet Potato and Cheese Filling. Wow. I literally texted a picture of this line in the menu to my husband with the words, “LETS GO!” He did not need further convincing.
We both ordered the pretzel, which was served with a spicy mustard sauce. It was delicious – soft dough, with a gooey and slightly sweet center, and sprinkled with kosher salt. The flavors combined nicely and it went perfectly with our beer tasting.
Next came the entrees. I ordered the Seafood Mac ‘N Cheese with scallops, shrimp, and penne in a cheesy ale sauce. SO. GOOD. Typically a mac ‘n cheese dish is heavy and leaves you feeling like you need to unbutton your pants (come on, you KNOW what I’m talking about….), but that wasn’t so with this dish. It lacked heaviness, but it did not lack in taste and was very flavorful. I think my favorite part was the perfectly browned and slightly crunchy topping.
Al ordered the Venison Swedish Meatball Sub in stout gravy with cranberry relish and house pickles. We had never ordered Venison in a restaurant before, and were slightly skeptical about how this dish would come out. Fear not – it was amazing. I stole a few bites and was surprised at the amount of flavor the meatballs had, and the sub in general. It reminded me of one of my favorite leftover dishes – a Thanksgiving sandwich. The day after Thanksgiving I always make a turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce sandwich (I can’t wait to taste this in a few days….) and the venison sub reminded me of just that. The seasonings in the meatballs were similar to a stuffing, and the cranberry sauce added a perfect combo of sweet and tart to the sub.
Last but certainly not least, this beautiful dessert: Frozen lemon-blueberry mousse with raspberry-ale compote. Again, a dish with a perfect flavor combination. Slightly tart (lemon and raspberry), slightly sweet (blueberry and whipped cream), and incredibly delicious. The best part of this dessert was that, like the mac ‘n cheese, it was not too heavy and we didn’t leave the meal feeling overly full, just satisfied.
After lunch we took a walk in Prescott Park, where we watched the day turn to dusk and fishing boats coming in to dock.
Although I may not live in the beautiful town of Portsmouth, I feel fortunate that it is only a short drive away. There is something about coastal New England towns, with there quaint restaurants and shops, brick lined sidewalks, and smell of the sea, that make me thankful that New Hampshire is where I call home.
Make sure to check out Portsmouth Restaurant Week, as it continues through November 17th! Many great restaurants are participating and it is a great deal. We may take a ride up to Portsmouth again this weekend because there are a few more I want to try. Happy eating!