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Portsmouth Report

I've eaten at Colby's twice. Both times were good, yet altogether unremarkable. I know many people love the place, though I never quite understood why. I think it's a matter of following the crowd.

Feb 16, 2014
bewley in Northern New England

Portsmouth Report

Amen to that. Nice report!

Feb 13, 2014
bewley in Northern New England

Other PDX food boards?

Oh there are some local "hidden" gems to be sure, but few and far between (due to a lack of a substantial "ethnic" population).

The other thing you will find are a lot of local mini chains. Upsetting to me as it hinders variety. For a town that prides itself on shunning national chains (except Starbucks), Portland really is a chain sort of town.

Feb 12, 2014
bewley in Metro Portland

Other PDX food boards?

The name is deceiving. Though they do sell some Thai staples (a wall along the back of the dining room has some shelving with a limited selection of imported items on it), its basically a restaurant. What they do have, however, are some excellent noodle dishes. The food is highly recommended.

Feb 12, 2014
bewley in Metro Portland

Other PDX food boards?

Hello Mr. Taster™,

The portlandfood.org boards may be accessed via your Facebook account (if you have one). Supposedly also via Twitter (but that never work for me). You cannot log on or create a new account any other way to my knowledge.

I think what biggestal was trying to convey, is that Portland eschews what it deems as being too fancy. (They hate any perceived pretension.)

Ethnic Food carts abound, I think there's around 700 scattered about, but there's a serious lack authentic, hole in the wall, affordable eateries of the kind you're used to in any big city like LA, NYC or San Francisco. I also think Portland is a bit more blue collar in its tastes (read: meat and potatoes) than people make it out to be. Here, they love burgers, big sandwiches, breakfast burritos and doughnuts. Honestly, Portland's most iconic food establishment in known for its stale doughnuts that people are willing to wait in line an hour for. That being said, Seattle is just 3 hours up the road and Vancouver, BC a little over 4, so you're in close proximity to 2 really great food towns.

Relating to your former post on this board: We like Red Robe Teahouse in Portland's Old Chinatown, however most of the Chinese restaurants/markets are out on 82nd Street. Pok Pok and it's sister restaurants are indeed fantastic and best approximate traditional Thai street food. That being said, their portions are on the small side and prices are high. Frank's Noodle House on Broadway is decent. The dim sum (ordered a la carte) is good at Pure Spice Chinese. The only Thai Market is Lily Market Oriental Food & Gifts. Also Uwajimaya in Beaverton and Barbur World Foods (Middle Eastern) are worth checking out.

Good luck!

Feb 12, 2014
bewley in Metro Portland

Marrakesh

It's basically a tourist oriented place. They try to get everyone to order the pre fixe menu vs off the a la carte. It's affordable enough, but the quality is lacking. If you're into Moroccan this place just outside of town gets good reviews: http://daressalam.org/

Oct 03, 2013
bewley in Metro Portland

The Lost Kitchen in Belfast

May 15, 2013
bewley in Northern New England

The Lost Kitchen in Belfast

I'm not sure what you mean? Is there something apparent that is not being said? You have people saying the place is closed. A chef/owner's mother writing a note, a chef writing a vague blog about the hard facts of life and needing a breather, and a bunch of people wanting to make reservations and time their trips to Maine accordingly.

May 02, 2013
bewley in Northern New England

The Lost Kitchen in Belfast

It almost seems like the poor girl had a breakdown or some form of mental exhaustion if you read between the lines. Running a restaurant is hard work (but it doesn't make one a hero or "brave" as according to some of the posts on their facebook page). No, a restaurant is a business, and, as such should be run like one. Currently, The Lost Kitchen appears to be run more like a "cause" than a "business."

I wish her and her staff luck.

May 02, 2013
bewley in Northern New England

Foodiest City: Asheville, NC vs Charleston, SC (or possibly Savannah, GA?)

Thank you for the replies, sorry for the confusion. Basically I meant the "Southeast" as specified by this board. Miami, New Orleans, Florida, Kentucky and Atlanta all have their own categories. so I didn't include those. So, it seems the consensus is Charleston first, then Asheville, with Savannah coming in at a distant third.

Yes, I should have written Northern New England (not Northeast) when mentioning Portland, Maine.

Doesn't Asheville have more brewpubs and more of a farmer's market scene vs Charleston? It also has three or four Indian places, does Charleston have that many?

What about ethnic markets, taquerias, spice shops, etc? I know Charleston has a Whole Foods and Trader Joes over the bridge on Mt Pleasant, does Asheville have any decent markets in town?

May 01, 2013
bewley in Southeast

Foodiest City: Asheville, NC vs Charleston, SC (or possibly Savannah, GA?)

Which city in the southeast has the most variety of ethnic food?

If you were to pick a city that would appeal to both foodie tourists and (that has the most culinarily "aware" locals) which would it be (outside of Atlanta, GA)?

Also, If you wish to throw the Research Triangle into the mix, so be it, I'm all ears.

I live in the northeast and hands down (outside of Boston) the award goes to Portland, Me.

May 01, 2013
bewley in Southeast

The Lost Kitchen in Belfast

According to their Facebook page, they're gearing up for the summer.

There's a real disconnect here. If she's bailing, then she should just come out with it on her blog.

Apr 20, 2013
bewley in Northern New England

A Caribbean Affair: Manchester NH Closed?

I read a recent article in the Union Leader that a European style coffee shop serving soups, salads, wraps, etc., has replaces A Caribbean Affair. Does anyone know anything about this or if they relocated?

I tried once to get there, but they were closed, so we went to Republic instead.

Apr 08, 2013
bewley in Northern New England

Puritan Back Room: Manchester, NH Chicken Tenders

Well, I finally tried the famous chicken tenders, and yes they're pretty good. My dilemma is that they aren't good enough to justify the all the hype. We arrived at the Puritan Back Room around 12:15 PM and went inside to order a medium portion of the regular chicken tenders to take out. Five minutes later, our order was ready, which we ate in the car. The tenders were made with fresh breast meat, ample portion served with the requisite watered down duck sauce. The sauce was tasty enough, but the chicken was flavorless--no detectable seasoning whatsoever. As we ate the parking lot became jammed with cars as the multitudes arrived. The place was soon hopping.

I’ve spent the past 7 years chasing elusive ghosts in an attempt to understand local (primarily NH) tastes and preferences. On the advice of others and online reviews, I've eaten many of the things this area has to offer and what it's known for. I've tried maple squares, cardamon cake, Italian subs and now the famous chicken tenders and I've come to a conclusion: in these parts it's NOT about the food as much as it is about cherishing local traditions and memories. Most of the GREAT meals I’ve enjoyed are at places the "locals" tend to shun because they're too "foreign" or "weird."

Bland taste, large portions and affordability are all common denominators for popularity at “local” restaurants, but the most important ingredient is history and tradition in these parts.

Nov 26, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Brunswick Maine News?

Has anyone tried Tao in Brunswick? http://tao-maine.com

And why did Clementine close? http://www.clementinemaine.com

Any other happenings?

Nov 19, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Looking for Best Destination Restaurants in VT, NH, ME

We ate at Hen of the Wood a month ago and were blown away by the food and service. Top notch. I wish I had eaten at Hugo's when Rob Evans was at the helm, I hear mixed reports now.

I've tried the Skinny Pancake at both locations and though the crepes are good, their service is terrible (both times). I would classify the service as uninformed and aloof.

Nov 01, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Portland - Disappointed at Miyake, but Duckfat was Fabulous (LONG)

I've eaten only once at Duckfat, when it first opened and liked it and the concept, but wasn't wowed by the fries (I don't think the oil was hot enough). That being said, most people love it and I will return someday (but Eventide beckons me across the street).

I've eaten at Fore Street a few times, food was good both times, but the service the first time was terrible and the second was much better (but we went with a regular).

Just ate at the new Miyake recently (I have eaten at the old spot as well), totally enjoyed the meal. The service and food were spot on. We had the 5 course tasting (lunch) menu with wine/sake pairing for $85 pp and thought it was a great deal. We have always gone for lunch, never for dinner, and the place was slow. Masa was there for all but the last course and the guy's very talented. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Oct 24, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

New Hampshire Magazine Top Restaurant Picks for Fall/Winter

It's a good round-up of NH's culinary happenings. I think it would be near impossible to keep everything up-to-date with places coming and going on a weekly basis. Yes, some of these places have already closed, but hey, I've seen other media outlets make similar faux pas on a number of occasions.

I will agree, however, that NH Magazine does coordinate their reviews with their advertisers, as they tend to give places recognition and love "upfront" they then solicit for ads. And, if you participate in their annual "Best Of NH" program, you'll be sure to get plugged in the back of the magazine. That being said, I think it's a great article and that it's a shame half of those places mentioned in it will probably be closed within a year.

Oct 23, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Eventide Oyster Bar/Portland, Maine

It's a coincidence that we were going to eat here for lunch on the day this was posted, but opted to go to Cafe Momo in Manchester, NH instead (which is excellent btw). I still want to try Eventide, but will definitely go forewarned, as it were.

Oct 11, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

new to NH

We love Cafe Momo, great family, great food!

Sep 20, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Is Anyone Else Underwhelmed by Harman's Cheese in Sugar Hill?

That's the real point. You go to Cabot Creamery because they make the cheese. Harman's is a reseller just like Calef’s General Store in Barrington, New Hampshire. Whether or not they do their own onsite aging as both places claim is up for debate.

I will say Cabot is way overpriced now in the past few years (it's not the bargain it used to be). Two years or so ago the price of dairy rose because of fuel prices. Cabot raised their prices as well. MIlk and everything came back to market prices, Cabot never did.

We were in Sugar Hill last week (Polly's Pancakes) and I would have loved to have tried the smoked cheddar ELWarren mentions.

Aug 27, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Middle Eastern "Mediterranean" options in New Hampshire

Yes, I think the comparison of crispelli stuffed with anchovies and spicy sausage subs of past to the sweet version is telling of our times and changing culture.

Aug 21, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Middle Eastern "Mediterranean" options in New Hampshire

Dave I really appreciate your input and I agree with you. Your point is well made that there isn't enough ethnic multiculturalism in NH to sustain prospective eateries. I grew up in an area with huge Italian population (fishermen) and you don't know how I lament the loss of not having any decent Italian in the Seacoast area . . . I could go on and on. I just picked Middle Eastern food as an example, I could easily have chosen pizza or Italian or Portuguese, Spanish, etc.

I honestly thought my tastebuds had changed in the past 7 years I've spent here, God knows I have all sorts of new allergies and whatnot, so maybe my taste memory was off, but honestly, it's just not the case. I went to Florida this past year and ate at a restaurant that totally brought me back to why I love Greek food in the first place. If my introduction to Greek food was here in NH, I'd think, ‘It's ok, but it doesn't make me crave more.'

Also, the reasoning that it’s the “type” of food doesn’t hold true for me. I have eaten Dominican food in NYC (it’s just ok) and, well, just compare the number of Dominican cookbooks and those of Middle Eastern cuisine, there’s no comparison. It's like comparing Moroccan food with that of Uganda or comparing Mexican food with the DR. You know?

I DO agree that the Middle Eastern/Greek food is not that good here (New Hampshire), but it IS good elsewhere. That being said, I tried the Gyro Spot. Thank you for the rec. It's good, not great. THey use the vertical spits (good sign). They have pork and chicken gyros. The pork version is tasty and reminds me of what you'd find in Greece. The chicken, however, was nondescript and was only saved by it's spicy mayonaise mustard sauce. Their food was ok, but didn't leave me craving for more.

Dfrostnh, I agree about the popularity of chains and the loss of local cuisine and traditional flavors. It's sad and prevalent throughout the US.

Aug 21, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

The Hounds of Dover, NH

can this be updated?

Aug 19, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Jamaican in Cape Neddick

I love that place! Haven't been in a couple of years, but you describe it well.

Aug 15, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Middle Eastern "Mediterranean" options in New Hampshire

With the recent closure of Mavi Bistro in Hudson, NH I’ve come to a few conclusions. First, when I hear about a great “ethnic” place that has recently opened in New Hampshire I MUST get there within the first six months because one of two things may happen, either they will Americanize their menu (in one of a few different ways) or they will close. Also, most eateries that offer anything perceived as different (and I’m not talking cupcakes, Thai, gourmet burgers or marshmallows) will probably not make it in NH unless they can draw customers from “away.”

Typical signs a restaurant is in trouble include cutting back on heat in the winter and AC in the summer, portion sizes get smaller, quality of food diminishes and offerings expand such as signs stating “Now offering brunch!” or “Now serving ice cream!” when their concept has nothing to do with such things.

To keep this relatively short I’m going to discuss “Mediterranean” or Middle Eastern restaurants in NH.

My first taste of the Middle East in NH was Pauly's Pockets in Durham. That was seven years ago and I haven’t been back since. Pauly’s is beloved by all of the locals because most of the locals went to UNH and if it wasn’t cheap crappy pizza or wings you were eating, it was Pauly’s pita pockets. I recall the sandwich was good, but lacked certain aspects found in most falafel/kebab joints. Pickles were added, sauces were modified, etc. When I inquired about this to the owner he replied, “Yes, yes, but the kids wanted something more familiar, so I made changes.” So, in essence, Pauly was able to adapt and, although he serves nothing like you would find anywhere in the Middle East, he survives and thrives.

A few years later I heard about a lady in Somersworth NH serving Lebanese food out of a gas station called “Quick to Go.” The wonderful lady who cooks and runs the place, Michelle, is from Beirut and she is a great cook indeed. The first time I went my experience was not great, however, and I actually said so here on Chowhound in the old New England section. At that time, Michelle would prepare her food once a week on Fridays and, when I tried it, the food was reheated in a microwave by one of her daughters and wasn’t fresh. Now, everything is made fresh and Michelle is there all the time as business has picked up after they were featured on NH Chronicle. That being said, the place struggles and my guess it if it weren’t for the gas station/convenience store keeping it afloat, it would have closed long before now. I inquired to Michelle why she didn’t have a doner grill (vertical spit) to cook her shawarma and she explained you must be busy enough to have meat standing out unrefridgereated and she wasn’t at that level yet. This was three years ago and she’s still not at that level.

The concept of doner grill is important in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s what makes doner kebabs in Turkey, shawarma in Lebanon and throughout the MIddle East and Gyros in Greece. Without this grill, the meat cannot be browned or caramelized and give it that unique flavor. Cooking the meat on a hot griddle just doesn’t cut it. So, although Michelle’s shawarma is tasty, it’s not as good as it could be because she’s not busy enough. Her falafel and hummus is outstanding however.

Another local Middle Eastern take out place (in this case Turkish) is located in Newmarket, NH and is called Jay's Newmarket Convenience & Turkish Kebabs. Jay’s has been round for a few years and he serves authentic falafel, Adana kebabs, doner kebabs and shish kebabs. And, he actually HAS a doner grill! Now for the bad news, the food is not as good as when he first opened, he now has partnered with another guy to do Italian food and the whole operation is for sale. The triple whammy: he’s not busy enough in Newmarket, his food quality has diminished as a result, he brings in another more “recognized” menu items and he’s looking to get out. Go now!

Last year a new place opened in Portsmouth called Zahtar Mediterranean Sandwiches. Run by an affable, local corporate chef, this place offers fresh made falafel, hummus, gyros, shawarma and soup. None of it authentic, most of it would be shunned in places such as Boston, NYC, heck, anywhere outside of NH, because he's not serving what his menu purports. The gyro is more like a meatloaf, the shawarma is flavorless roasted chicken. Still, the locals love the place because it’s “exotic” without being too daring culinarily speaking. Chocolate hummus anyone??

Cafe Nostimo Deliciously Greek also in Portsmouth was excellent when they first opened, but the souvlaki now lacks flavor, the gyros are frozen processed strips typically found in NJ diners (not cooked on a doner grill) and it’s overpriced for what you get. Yet, it’s the only Greek restaurant in the Seacoast, so they do a brisk business. But don’t hold your breath if you’ve ever been to Greece or have eaten Greek food elsewhere because this place is toned down for local tastes.

I went to Cedars Cafe in Nashua last week based on online reviews and the fact that Mavi closed and I wanted to try a new place for kebabs. Cedars is run by a family (I think Lebanese) a fellow and his lovely, elderly mother. We tried the hummus (fantastic), tahini (good) falafel (nice) and the tabuleh was good, but they gave too much of it and it didn’t have enough bulgar in it. Now the bad news: the chicken kebab was a just grilled chicken breast with NO spice or marinade and the lamb kebab was also muted flavor wise. For this alone, I would never go back. It just wasn’t worth it. And they don’t serve shawarma as some of their online reviews report. Half of their menu is subs, so my guess is that that's what they serve most.

And last, but not least, we have the Spice Center in Manchester, NH. Located next door to the former location of our beloved long gone Gil’s. This is a cafe with a a few seats that serves the most authentic pan-Middle Eastern food in New Hampshire. Get there early (11-12) when the food is freshest, after 1:30 the place is dead and everything sits. They do have doner grills, but they’re not spinning after lunch. They also have Kushari, an Egyptian dish of rice, lentils, chickpeas and macaroni topped with tomato sauce and fried onion, which you don’t see everyday. The place is disorganized, but it’s worth it. NO burgers or subs, pizza or fried fish options on the menu here, it's the real deal for now.

In conclusion, I think the problem in New Hampshire is the locals focus too much on pizza, ice cream, burgers and the local Dipsy Doodle. It’s what they grew up with. There has been a recent influx of foreigners throughout the Granite State, yet not enough to make any impact with regards to food. Portsmouth is all money and pretension without the attendant cultural amenities and Manchester is a run down city that most people don’t wish to visit. Concord is ok, yet too white bread and though Nashua shows promise, it still lacks the culinary sophistication of most of Boston’s suburbs. One just has to see Nashua’s high turnover of ethnic restaurants to realize this is true.

Aug 13, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Mavi Bistro, Hudson NH

Thank you.

Actually went there for lunch today and will start a new thread on this.

Aug 08, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Mavi Bistro, Hudson NH

I think Nashua would be better suited, but there was another Turkish place called Seven Hills that closed a few years back:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/465384

Anyone ever try Cedars Cafe in Nashua?

http://www.cedars-cafe.com/index.html

Aug 08, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Mavi Bistro, Hudson NH

Very sad.

On their Facebook page they listed it as an "American Restaurant" and had a picture of bacon and eggs. They just wanted to fit in to make a go of it.

On their last thread announcing that they closed; Paul N Dave writes:

"That is too sad. I don't understand why people who live in Hudson don't support local businesses, especially when it was one of the few non-pizza places in this town :-/"

That about says it all.

In New Hampshire most ethnic restaurants that are not mainstream e.g. Chinese or Thai or Mexican, need to become a destination spots to survive because the "locals" prefer steak and eggs, pizza and beer, etc.

Aug 07, 2012
bewley in Northern New England

Mavi Bistro, Hudson NH

Is it under new ownership? Why would they have no Turkish cuisine whatsoever?

This doesn't surprise me in the least. There just wasn't enough demand for Turkish cuisine in a small town in New Hampshire (or even in large towns for that matter). The locals just want breakfast and American food. To state the obvious; New Hampshire is not Vermont.

Aug 01, 2012
bewley in Northern New England