I was really excited to be able to get out of town last weekend, it was like I was 8 and it was Christmas. We headed up to Portsmouth, NH after work on Friday and checked in to the Sise Inn on Court Street, just a few blocks from the center of town. The Inn was really cute and the staff were very accommodating (when we got into our room we realized there was a party next door so they quickly moved us to a quieter, and nicer, room).
We dropped off our bags, unpacked little, and then headed out to explore the center of town. Portsmouth is really, really quaint and cute. Most of the buildings are old brick and the houses are Victorians. It felt like a mini, quieter, cleaner Boston. We were sold. We went in and out of art galleries and little shops with our coffees warming us against the cold.
Around 7pm we started looking for a place to eat. I had some great recommendations from a friend who grew up a couple towns over and so the first thing we did was stop into the Black Trumpet on Ceres Street to make a reservation for the following night. Then we went next door to the Oar House for dinner. The dining room was all booked up so we sat in the bar area which was cozy and had a piano player who was later accompanied by a young woman who had a beautiful voice. We shared a bottle of wine and started with the Lobster Bisque which was finished with sherry and cream. So many lobster bisques that I am used to are really creamy but this soup was all lobster with just a splash of cream. It was the perfect way to wind down after spending a couple being out in the cold. All around us it seemed as though everyone was ordering the Seafood Portofino for dinner and it looked amazing. Someone had clearly caught on to this as it was every other dish coming out of the kitchen. The portions looked big so we decided to split an order which we did not regret – the photo to the left is about 1/3 of the dish. The Seafood Portofino came with shrimp, lobster (big chunks, as you can see), roasted garlic, wilted spinach, shallots, leeks, all in a brandy sherry cream sauce served in puff pastry. Amazing. It originally comes with scallops but we asked for it without as its the one thing I am allergic to, sadly. I did unfortunately slip going to the ladies room causing an ungraceful split in the middle of the dining room, a large bruise on my left leg and a room full of gasps. As if the food and company wasn’t memorable enough, right?
The next morning we headed to the Friendly Toast on Congress Street. We had both been to the one in Kendall Square, Cambridge, so knew the quality of food as well as the atmosphere. The decor is the same in both locations with the walls covered with random knickknacks, wall art, game boards, ect. Its eclectic and comfortable. He ordered the Eggs Benedict and I, after much back ad forth, settled on the Flying Fish Scramble which is scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, home fries, and a massive slice of toast. The portions are huge and the food was so good that we actually came back the next morning for breakfast again. He got the Eggs Benedict again (a ringing endorsement right there) and I had the French Toast (with their Anadama bread). Everything was delicious and worth the wait, which there inevitably is.
After a big breakfast we opted for sushi for lunch so went to Sake Sushi on Congress Street. We caught them right at the end of their lunch, just before 3pm. We sat at a traditional Japanese style table / booth by the window where we took our shoes off and people watched. We started with miso soup and seaweed salad and then had spicy tuna maki, shrimp tempura maki, and eel and avocado (my favorites). I wasn’t crazy about the eel as it seems a little over cooked or dry (as I mentioned, we were there minutes before they were closing if they don’t cook it to order) but otherwise everything was really good and fresh.
We managed to pry ourselves away from a dining table for a few hours to walk around, get some coffee, and do some more window shopping but then it was time to find a place to get a drink before dinner. We got harangued into 2 Ceres Street (named after its’ address) by a overly friendly guest and saddled up at the bar. We had hoped to get a seat by the fireplace but the place was packed. He got an espresso martini and I had the Jam Jar Shiraz which really tasted like you had spooned a tablespoon of blackberry jam into it. It was sweet and almost sticky; not sure its something I would want with dinner but it was great as an early evening drink. We then headed back to the Inn to change for dinner.
Our reservation at the Black Trumpet was at 9:15 so we were pretty hungry by the time we got there (even though we had been eating every couple of hours since we got to Portsmouth). We shared a bottle of wine and started with the Spicy Octopus and Arugula with fennel, olives and capered tomato. The Octopus was delicious. I hadn’t had it warm before as usually it seems to be served in a cold salad but I am definitely a fan of serving it this way.
For my entree I had really wanted the Paprika Pasta Pillow stuffed with seafood sausage, simmered with finfish and shellfish in a creamy tomato caldo but all hope of that was squashed when the waiter confirmed that there are scallops in both the pasta and the sauce. I was having a hard time deciding what to get so took the waiter’s recommendation and ordered the Pan-fried Whole Acadian Redfish with wild rice and fregola pilaf, served with a citrus-ginger whipped hollandais. He ordered the Duck Breast with johnnycake polenta and fried broccoli in membrillo glace. When our dinners came out my face dropped. I knew my fish was coming out whole but I guess I didn’t understand what that really meant. It was whole with bones and head and all. I opened it up and poked at it and just didn’t know where the hell to start. I must have looked disparaged as he didn’t hesitate asking to switch dinners with me, even though he had been thinking about duck since we sat down. It was very nice of him. I wasn’t sure how I felt about duck but it was actually delicious (look at that layer of fat, can’t go wrong there!) so I was really happy with the swap and hope he was too. Chivalry is not dead. We wrapped up dinner with the Apple Cranberry Kissel with gingersnap crisp and brown sugar sour cream which was good but a little too tart and sugary for us. It may have paired better with a couple of coffees to cut through it the sweetness but we were sticking to wine.
We rolled out of town after breakfast on Sunday and vowed to come back soon, even if just for the day.
I loved Portsmouth. If it were a restaurant I’d give it 5 Spoons.