Monday, July 28, 2008

Food and Drink in N.H.

The Portsmouth Brewery

I just returned from a long weekend in New Hampshire, and I have a few food adventures to share. Portsmouth is a lovely city, and my food memories from there have been pretty positive up to now. Unfortunately, the Dolphin Striker was only a shadow of the restaurant I had experienced two years earlier.

The Dolphin Striker advertises itself as "refined New England cuisine," but it is in need of much more refining. My friend Vince felt the pappardelle with lobster — one of Saturday night's menu specials — was bland. My main course, the "tasting of lamb," was very uneven. The ragout of shoulder was excellent, but the roast leg was uninspired.

I started with the foie gras, which was simply okay — below the expectations for a $15 starter. The berry and honey confiture that accompanied it fell flat.

I also question whether the Dolphin Striker is storing its red wines properly. Both varieties I tasted were unacceptably warm.

We capped the evening by going to an excellent coffee house that's near the city's historic center. The coffee house is called Breaking New Grounds, and it always seems to do much more business than the Starbuck's that is half a block away. One of the reviews of BNG at CitySearch complains about rude staff, but I've been there several times, and I've never found staff to be difficult.

For artisanal beer lovers, a "must" stop is the Portsmouth Brewery, located on Market St. The brewery has a nice selection of beers, from stout to lager.

I spent most of Friday in Hanover (home of Dartmouth), and here is my quick summary of food experiences there. I was pleased with the coffee and baked goods at the Dirty Cowboy Cafe, but Murphy's Pub (a couple of doors down) was very disappointing — a great space with lots of character, but the food was distinctly blah. If you're stopping at Murphy's for a beer, give it a try. Otherwise, caveat emptor. Both establishments are located right near the Green.

To be honest, the food highlight of the whole weekend was when Vince prepared homemade lobster rolls for lunch. God were they good!

It isn't as much work as I thought it would be. Having watched him prepare them made me feel confident enough to give it a try sometime.

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