Fall Head Over Heels for Portsmouth Restaurant Week 25 Oct 2013, 10:36 amIt just keeps getting better and you have more reasons to fall in love with Portsmouth than ever before. What am I talking about? Restaurant Week, of course. Only twice a year can you enjoy a three course meal at some of the Seacoast's best restaurants for just $29.95.
Featuring 43 restaurants, this fall's Restaurant Week begins November 7, 2014. You can enjoy your meal in dowtown Portsmouth, just a 10 minute walk from the Inn. Or take a scenic drive to Durham, Rye or Hampton, NH or try Kittery or York, ME. For $29.99 for dinner and $16.99 for lunch, you can eat the fixed price menu at any one of the participating restaurants. Or you can order a la carte if you see something you prefer there. This year, there are some new places to explore this year. Or you can visit an old favorite.
Here are some of the new kids on the block. Salt Kitchen & Bar is located at the Wentworth by the Sea Resort and features local foods in a contemporary atmosphere that has not forgotten its historic roots. Located in the newest buildings in downtown Portsmouth, the British Beer Company offers classic pub fare with an amazing variety of beers and lagers. A short walk off the beaten track in the West End of Portsmouth (where the locals enjoy MoJo's BBQ) is the newest dining option called Tavola. Enjoy this fun Italian eatery with great brick wall ambiance and friendly staff. And while not a new name to Portsmouth, The Rosa Restaurant is at its old location but all new inside. There are just too many to list here, so see all the options at the Restaurant Week website.
Restaurant Week wraps up on November 16th, 2013, so make a reservation to stay at the Martin Hill Inn and you will be just a 10 to 20 minute walk to all the downtown Portsmouth restaurants. Other seacoast locations are a 15 to 25 minute drive away.
Enjoy Art with a Splash and find your inner painter 2 Jul 2013, 4:15 amHonestly, I have not painted since I was in elementary school (except one attempt at watercolors with my aunt about a decade ago). So when I decided to try out the "Art With a Splash" shop on State Street in Portsmouth, I was not sure what I was getting into.
I took a while deciding which night to try my hand at painting with acrylics on canvas. You see it was not just a matter of finding a night when I was not already busy, but also a night when the subject painting looked appealing (and not too hard).
So one quiet Thursday night, I joined about 15 other intrepid, budding painters to try my hand at a lovely seascape with mountains, sailboats and lovely flowers in the foreground.
Everything is waiting for you, all the paints, palates, smocks, brushes and canvases. All you have to bring (if you want) is some wine or other favorite beverage and maybe some snacks. Give this some thought, because you are going to be there for at least two fun hours creating your masterpiece.
So we get settled at our table with easels and canvas. All eyes are turned to the back of the shop where Jim, our instructor, stands ready with his blank canvas and the original that we will be working from. Mind you, I don't say "copy" because everyone's will be different and that's the way they like it at Art With a Splash.
Over the course of the evening, I mix colors, try different brush techniques, get bailed out of a bad bit of prospective rendering and generally have a great time. My neighbor has a much bolder style with her palate and she has broad strokes running through her sky and seascape. Across the way, another customer has a way with the mountains, giving subtle depth to the valleys between the hills.
And here it is, my masterpiece!
By the time I walked home that night with painting in hand, I was decided that a return visit was certainly in order. I'll have to keep my eye on the works of art coming up in the next few months until one grabs me.
Look at the calendar of paintings for yourself and see if an evening with wine, cheese and art may not be just the memory to paint for your Portsmouth vacation.
Art With a Splash is located at 222 State Street, Portsmouth, NH and can be reached at 603-427-8251 to make reservations or book through their website. You can walk back to the Martin Hill Inn after your moment of artistic expression in just 10 minutes.
Peach Pancakes, a taste of summer anytime 18 May 2013, 1:18 pmNothing says summer more than peaches, warm and ripe enough to send sweet juices running down your hands as you eat them. While we often take advantage of the season to make these peach pancakes at the Martin Hill Inn, we also love to enjoy a bit of summer on the off season. So here is a simple recipe for that bit of peach sweetness anytime. If you are in Portsmouth, NH, we hope you will come try these and some of our other yummy breakfasts. Enjoy!
2 1/4 cups flour
4 Tbs cornmeal
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 large can peaches, drained
2 eggs, beaten
4 Tbs vegetable oil
Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir to combine.
Put the peaches, eggs, vegetable oil and peach liqueur in a large quart measuring cup.
Blend with a stick blender until the mixture is smooth (unless you want a few peach lumps).
Add enough milk to equal 3 1/2 cups of liquid, if needed.
Add the wet to the dry ingredients, stir to combine but be sure to leave some lumps which are the sign of a good pancake batter. Let rest while the griddle heats. Give the batter a quick stir or two before using.
Cook on a hot griddle. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
The most romantic Italian restaurant is in Portsmouth, NH - Ristorante Massimo 7 Apr 2013, 6:48 pmAs the owner of a romantic B&B in a town with loads of great restaurants, I am often asked about where to have dinner in Portsmouth for a special occasion. I am always happy to recommend Ristorante Massimo because it has the three most important qualities of a top romantic dining spot: atmosphere, service and great food.
When you enter Massimo's you are greeted by warm colors and soft wood paneling before you get a big smile and friendly hello from Massimo himself. The dining room has brick and wood walls adorned with oil paintings of beautiful scenes of Italy gently illuminated with small gallery lights. The whole room radiates love, comfort and elegance without a bit of stiffness or pretense.
Located in the lower level of the historic Custom House building, the restaurant takes full advantage of the architecture which creates nooks and alcoves for tables of two or four without separating you from the hum of the dining room. If you are planning a private party, these is a separate room for up to 20 of your friends. Massimo or Davide will help you with all the details.
After you are settled in, the staff will acquaint you with the select wine list and you can pour over Chef Jericho Loichle's latest offerings. Tempting anti-pasti lead you into small plates of hand made pastas most available as appetizer or main course. Sauces you will recognize such as Carbonara and Bolognese sit alongside Carne di Maiale Affumicata, or smoked and braised pork served with house-made chickpea gnocchi, sautéed dandelion greens and ricotta salata.
Soups, salads and main courses follow with the emphasis moving from pasta to meats and seafood. Duck, veal, beef, lobster and salmon all find their places on the Secondi menu. Many of the servers have been with Massimo for years. So if you are having trouble deciding, they are ready to help. But you are never rushed through your dinner here. Everything is well paced and beautifully presented.
I recently visited Ristorante Massimo for April 2013 Portsmouth Restaurant Week. The special fixed price menu offered many tempting items, but I settled on the Torta di Verdure followed by Capesante con Risotto - porcini crusted day boat scallops over a locally grown king trumpet and blue oyster mushroom risotto; finished with a saffron lemon emulsion. To round out the evening, I had Torta alla Cioccolata - Valrhona chocolate mousse tart served with amoretto flavored raspberries and toasted salted walnuts.
For a limited time, Massimo's will be having Bistro Night each Thursday evening featuring a menu of three tantalizing courses for $29.95 per person. Each dish is created with fresh seasonal foods. Don't miss out on this opportunity as I'm sure it will be gone in a few months, chased off by the visitors from far and wide who hear about Ristorante Massimo from critics and locals alike.
Ristorante Massimo is located at 59 Penhallow Street, Portsmouth, NH. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made through the internet or by calling 603-436-4000. The Inn is located just a 15 minute walk from this little bit of Italian dining heaven.
Portsmouth Restaurant Week stages a return engagement - April 2013 24 Mar 2013, 2:41 pmNow a well established part of the dining scene on the New Hampshire Seacoast, Portsmouth Restaurant Week returns on April 4, 2013. There are 49 restaurants participating this year compared with around 36 when the event started. So this is sure to prove a culinary extravaganza for locals and tourists alike. The participating restaurants range from Portsmouth to Durham, Rye to Hampton and from Kittery to York, ME. Being in Portsmouth, our bed and breakfast provides an ideal location for visitors to experience the semi-annual Restaurant Week because it is only a 10 minute walk into downtown.
For $29.99 for dinner and $16.99 for lunch, you can eat the fixed price menu at any one of the participating restaurants. Or you can order a la carte if you see something you prefer there. It is the best way I know to sample new restaurants or visit one you haven't walked into for a while. Locals research the menus in advance and plan their dining strategy! With so many restaurants participating, it is hard to choose from fine dining, ethnic, pub food, pizza, burgers, pasta, seafood, or just about anything else you can name.
Need further tempting? Brazo is featuring a Stuffed Poblano Pepper with creamy corn polenta topped with melted cheese and a spicy tomato caper sauce. The District will have Braised Beef Short Ribs with grilled scallion mashed, roasted asparagus and house flatbread. Hop across the Piscataqua River for a taste of India in Kittery at Tulsi and their fabulous special menu. There are just too many to list here, so see all the options at the Restaurant Week website.
Restaurant Week wraps up on April 13, 2013, so make a reservation to stay at the Martin Hill Inn and you will be just a 10 to 20 minute walk to all the downtown Portsmouth restaurants. Other seacoast locations are a 15 to 25 minute drive away.
Maple sugar producers expect a great season in 2013 17 Mar 2013, 3:00 amSince the weather is cooperating with just the right mixture of cold and moisture, the Sugar Houses of New Hampshire expect to have a good year. You will get to see and learn all about maple syrup production during their annual Open Houses on March 23 and 24, 2013.
Next door, the state of Maine celebrates Maine Maple Sunday on the 24th. All in all, a sweet weekend to be visiting the Martin Hill Inn since Portsmouth, NH is so close to so many maple syrup producers.
At the Inn, we serve organic 100% pure Grade A maple syrup with our waffles, french toast and pancakes. We think it tastes wonderful, particularly on the blueberry pancakes. But if you can visit these maple houses, I think you will experience the different grades as well as the variety and unique flavors that only come from small production and local purchasing.
Over 110 maple houses will be open for this 18th annual event. Syrup and syrup products will be available for sale and some locations will have breakfasts and petting farms. Visit this site for sugar house locations in New Hampshire. Stay at the Martin Hill Inn and you are a 30-45 minute drive to sugar houses in Nottingham, East Kingston, Brentwood and Candia.
We look forward to your visit and hearing of your sugar house adventures.
Easy and yummy cornbread or cornbread muffins 24 Feb 2013, 2:16 pmWhile we are often developing new recipes for breakfast at the Martin Hill Inn. We rely on some time tested gems, such as this Cornbread Recipe, to come out of the oven perfectly every time. Good for a full sheet of cornbread or as Cornbread Muffins, this basic recipe will become a favorite in your house.
What I like most about this version is the perfect balance between cornmeal and flour that gives enough cornmeal flavor while the flour holds the bread together. Choosing vegetable oil over melted butter (you can use either) increases the moisture content in the cornbread preventing the too often dry-crumbly cornbread of bad memories.
Like most muffins, quick breads and pancakes, this recipe can be prepared ahead in two bowls, combined in the morning and, voila, you have beautiful cornbread in just 35-40 minutes on a Saturday morning. Better yet, if there are any leftovers, weekday breakfasts are covered.
If you decide to stay here at the Inn, we are likely to pair the Cornbread with Baked Cheddar Omelets with Hot Salsa! I hope you enjoy this recipe and do contact the Martin Hill Inn if you have any questions.
Cornbread or Cornbread Muffins
Yield: 9x13 pan or 2 dozen muffins
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, well beaten
2 cups milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter, cooled slightly
Grease a 9x13 baking pan or 2 muffin pans. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (or 425 degrees if you are making muffins). Put the oven rack in the upper part of the oven.
In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat the eggs and then beat in the milk and vegetable oil (or melted butter). You can stop at this point if you have used vegetable oil, put the wet ingredients in the fridge and start again in the morning.
Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, stirring to combine, but leaving lumps in the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan or muffin tins.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes for the pan of cornbread. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes for muffins. When done, a toothpick should come out clean and the top spring back when tapped.
Cafe Mirabelle, a cozy country French restaurant in Portsmouth, NH 17 Feb 2013, 2:06 pmOn a blustery winter night in Portsmouth, what better place to settle in but Cafe Mirabelle for some classic French food, warm atmosphere and friendly service. My friend and I had dinner there a little while ago when the snow was deep and the windows of Cafe Mirabelle were practically glowing. It only took us 10 minutes to walk through the snow from the Inn.
A quick review of the menu showed a list of the best, classic French dishes, from Escargot to Coq au Vin. But maybe we would prefer Baked Brie followed by Bouillabaisse or Filet au Poirve. We had some trouble deciding and in the end I asked the chef to choose for me from between the Pork Loin with Calvados sauce or the Seafood Crepe.
When my Pork arrived, it was so tender, I could cut it with a fork. The sauce of diced apples sauteed in Calvados brandy provided just a touch of sweetness to the meat. My friend's Coquille St. Jacques had a rich, creamy sauce over scallops and shrimp. The vegetables of the day were simple carrots and green beans steamed to perfection with just a touch of butter. The potatoes had been sliced thinly and layered in a pie dish, then baked so that the center was soft and the top and bottom golden brown with a crispy crunch.
This is good honest food with gentle flavors that come from fresh, quality ingredients. Nothing is hiding behind fancy presentations, foamed sauces or fusion foods. And when you are all done with these fantastic savory dishes, the dessert menu awaits. We had to choose among Profiteroles, homemade Sorbet, Creme Brulee, Clafoutis, Chocolate Cake or Mousse. It was a tough call, but we were very happy with the Brulee and a Berry Sorbet.
Cafe Mirabelle also serves brunch on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Can you imagine the wonderful crepes that could be served at a French inspired brunch? I must find time to have brunch very soon.
If you love the food here, how about taking it home but not in a doggie bag. Instead you can take cooking classes from Chef Stephan so you can make true country French cuisine for yourself after you leave Portsmouth. For example, this month the class was Stocks and Sauces, providing the basics and finishing for all good foods.
Cafe Mirabelle is located on Bridge Street in Portsmouth, about a 10 minute walk from the Martin Hill Inn. If the weather is blustery, there is a big parking lot just across the street and the drive will take mere minutes. Reservations are recommended (603-430-9301).
Nano-Brewery tour at Throwback Brewery, an intimate experience 21 Jan 2013, 11:21 amTaking up a small space among a series of warehouses of Route 1 in North Hampton, NH, the Throwback Brewery is all about the relationship between brewery, supplier and consumer. Founded in 2011, this three barrel brewery strives to source all its ingredients from within a 200 mile radius. Currently, Nicole informs us, they are about 70% to that goal. Grains from Brookford Farm in Canterbury, NH and locally collected maple syrup are just some of the fresh ingredients that mark these brews as a true NH natives.
Entering the space that houses the brewery is like walking into your neighbor's garage to find a wet bar and a bunch of picnic tables with friends hanging out drinking beer. Open in the afternoons three days a week, or by appointment/chance, you can stop by to buy a beer, refill your growler or get an informal tour.
Nicole happily takes my friend and me on a quick tour starting with the MacGyver-like contraption that moves the grain from mixing pot to masher and on to the rest of the line. Everything is right there and often done only through the intervention of human hands and everyday devices. The smoker, for example, came from Home Depot just like many you might find at a backyard BBQ.
Rather than large fermentation tanks, Throwback has smaller barrels kept in a fermentation "barn" that is divided into four rooms. Each room has its own standard window air conditioning unit that controls the temperature of that room to fit the type of brew fermenting at the time. According to state law, each fermentation tank has to have a name or designation, at this brewery there is a humorous Muppets theme running through the names along with appropriate picture on each one.
At the bottling station, because it is certainly not a bottling line, we learn that the four bottle station is a far cry above the one at a time bottling gun they used to have in 2011. After bottling, the label machine affixes each label one at a time, but just perfectly lined up. Nicole admits that this was an essential piece of equipment from day one since both she and Annette are very detail oriented and would have lost hours making sure that each label was perfectly affixed if they had done by hand.
Although this is a three barrel facility, referring to the number barrels each batch produces, Throwback can have up to 21 barrels of brew fermenting on site when they are using their full capacity. Annette and Nicole recently purchased Hobbs Farm, just across the road. When they move into the barn there, they will be able to expand eventually to a 15 barrel operation and perhaps grow some of their own grains.
If you are a home brewer or just really into beer, this is a great place to visit and meet the brewers personally. So from the Martin Hill Inn, you can drive to Throwback in less than 10 minutes by going straight south on Route 1 to 121 Lafayette Road, North Hampton, NH in the number 2 warehouse, unit #3. Check here for exact instructions and hours.
If you can't make it to the Brewery, you can visit many downtown Portsmouth pubs and restaurants that feature Throwback Brews. Since downtown is just a 10-15 minute walk from the Inn, you are always close to throwing back a good brew. Here are just a few: Flatbread, Moxy, The District, The Black Trumpet Bistro, Lexie's Joint, and Portsmouth Gaslight.
Get an inside look at Smuttynose Brewery by taking a tour. 15 Jan 2013, 6:23 amOne Saturday afternoon, I drive just 4 miles south from the Martin Hill Inn to take a tour of the Smuttynose Brewery in Portsmouth, NH. But at first, I think I'm in the wrong place. My first impression is one of having walked into a machine shop. But as soon as I round the corner of the work bench, there was the beer. Standing around the beer taps were about 20 other folks waiting to see the inside workings of the little brewery that has grown by leaps and bounds.
There are no fancy viewing windows here and I recommend a pair of gloves to ward off the chill. The brewery asks you to wear sensible shoes because you really get the sights and sounds of a brewery here as you stand below the fermentation tanks and step over hoses. Sacks of barley and hops are stacked along the walls of the milling house. The control panel of the brewing house are right above the tanks and we are told about the natural filtration process and cooling process that leads eventually to fermentation time. Finally we get a look at the fermentation tanks, some of which date from the first brewing operation in this building.
Founded in 1994, the brewery now produces around 40,000 barrels annually. As Smuttynose grew, so did the equipment. Some of the tanks are so large, they had to cut holes in the roof to lower the tanks into the building. To preserve the outside of the tanks from rust and perhaps to kill a little time, workers have painted some really interesting designs on these tanks. One of them looks like a pool ball and another a gigantic eye ball!
Second to last stop on the tour is the bottling machine. It was not running that day and according to the tour guide that was probably a good thing. This is no ultra-sophisticated, high-tech, lightning fast bottling line. This is a reconditioned soda filling line from the 1950's. It makes a lot of noise. But the slower speed and custom changes made allow Smuttynose to package variety 6 packs that other companies won't do because of the labor involved. The labeling machine is a second-hand German labeling machine updated with a laser printer. It takes 8 people to run the whole bottling line when it's going, filling glass bottles containing 25% recycled glass at a rate of 185 per minute.
Last stop is the warehouse. This is a beer drinker's heaven, stacked high with cases and kegs of the craft beers that Smuttynose sends up and down the east coast and out to Chicago. The top selling brew is Smuttynose IPA. Did you know that the city of Chicago now consumes more Smuttynose beer than the entire state of New Hampshire? And they only started distributing there in November 2010! In the coming year, the brewery will be moving to its new location in Hampton, NH into a larger facility so that even more states and cities can enjoy this wonderful brew.
At the end of the tour, we return to the tasting area where you can buy some more brew, including short batches and older vintages in limited and irregular numbers. Can't get to the brewery for special brews? Sign up for the Big Beer Series Subscription to receive nine special edition brews.
Tours are held at the brewery on Fridays at 5:30 p.m., Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Tours are free, but the staff requests that you donate something to on of two local charities instead. Up to 46 visitors can be accommodated. Walk ins are taken on a first come, first served basis starting 10 minutes before the tour begins. So reservations are recommended and can be made on line. ID required.
The Smuttynose Brewery is located a short drive from the Martin Hill Inn. After the tour, if you find yourself a little hungry, you can visit their sister micro-brewery, The Portsmouth Brewery, in downtown Portsmouth. There you can enjoy great food and a tasting flight of their specialty brews before walking back to the Inn.