Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine - A Food Lover's Dream

With most Californians in the Bay Area living in the suburbs/outer suburbs in order to afford housing for under a million dollars, an hour to hour and a half daily commute each way is far too common.  Unlike the convenience of living in a large city like Manhattan or San Francisco where access to almost anything is often within a few block radius most of us are lucky if we can find a good non-fast food restaurant within a 20 minute drive.  Needless to say, staying 20-25 minutes from both Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine is a food lover’s dream. 

With Kittery quickly establishing itself as an up-and-coming food destination, we found ourselves here for half our dinners, Black Birch the first night -, Blind Pig Provisions the next, and Anju the last.    

Just across a pedestrian bridge from Portsmouth, NH, you will easily find Blind Pig Provisions on Badger’s Island in Kittery, ME.  With a great outdoor seating area overlooking the water to enjoy the beautiful sunset with a glass of wine and a warm inviting interior where the workers do not take themselves too seriously if their sign is any indication, it is no wonder Mainers know “the way life should be”. 


I could not resist starting with dueling clam chowders with a cup each of Manhattan and New England giving me the best of both worlds.  The three little pigs entrĂ©e that followed of pulled pork, pork belly, and crispy skin was a bit rich for me since I was now chock full of clams after consuming both clam chowders, so since it was shellfish free, I passed that off after a taste.  The halibut on the other hand was moist and flavorful and light enough leaving me with just enough room to walk across the state line back to Popovers on the Square in Portsmouth to give those popovers another shot. 

Now I understand why food critics try a restaurant up to 3 times before reviewing as I happily discovered that hollow top I complained about from Day 1 was just a one off.  Just like that food critic, we did end up here 3 times in 6 days for those popovers with maple butter to go. 

No longer use to the East Coast humidity, we realized we had to do laundry by Day 4 and found a Laundromat in trusty Portsmouth.  I took that opportunity to get myself another lobster roll from nearby Beach Plum in North Hampton before heading out.  Although previously tempted to walk the 3 miles each way from Hampton Beach for lunch here, since I am new in town and no longer in half marathon training shape, I did not want to chance finding my way back in the heat after lunch. 

Since we arrived right before 6, there was barely a line.  With a choice of 6, 8, or 10 oz of meat for the lobster roll or 12-20 oz for foot longs, I would not have hesitated in going for the 20 oz if only I had immediate access to a fridge for the other half.  Before long, I had my box with my 10 oz roll and a bag of chips that I held carefully in my hand like a priceless vase.  If Red’s Eats is the best lobster roll in Maine, Beach Plum is a contender for the best lobster roll in New Hampshire.  Teeming with fresh sweet claw meat lightly tossed with mayo, I could not stop eating it that as we pulled into Portsmouth 20 minutes later, all that was left in my box was that bag of chips. 


My husband found Street in Portsmouth by chance since it was just two blocks away from the Laundromat, perfect to grab a bite in between the wash and dry cycle.  Having already put away a 10 oz lobster roll, I was mainly there for company but did sample both the savory and sweet empanadas while my husband finally had dinner, a Korean beef bibipmap.  The dessert empanadas were filled with piping hot bread pudding topped with cinnamon sugar, prompting me to agree with my friend’s motto that there is always room for dessert! 


We definitely saved the best for last as our last full day in New England was filled with 5 star eats with lunch at Apple Farm Bistro - and dinner at Anju.  Our first dinner on this trip was in Kittery so it seemed fitting that our last was as well.  The open kitchen at Anju allows you to see first hand the flawless execution of the dishes, tempting you to order one of everything on the menu. 


Saddled with the difficult task of choosing, we started with a light and refreshing strawberry and mango salad, a perfect start to the meal.  Then to continue MY shellfish extravaganza, went with the brown buttered seared scallops over carrot harissa hummus so tasty, I was wishing for more.  The creatively presented ginger golden beets were diced small enough, made to look like a creamy risotto kept this dish clean and me satisfied without feeling stuffed.  Not to be left out, my husband had the braised boneless short rib rendang immersed in an Indonesian sauce layered in coconut farro.  The sweet coconut and the mildly spiced stewed beef gave each bite a perfect contrast of sweet and savory, making Anju the memorable meal of this trip and why I wish I found this place sooner so I could have returned for the other half of the menu. 


Spoiled by the easy access to great food at reasonable prices in comparison, it is hard adjusting back to California life. 

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