Monday, October 14, 2013


Another great road trip as Laurie and I depart from Queens with a destination of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  First, we pass through Portsmouth and over a bridge to the city of New Castle, the only town in NH composed entirely of islands.  We can see a huge building on the hill, Wentworth by the Sea Hotel and Spa, an historic hotel presently operated under the Marriott Hotel brand.  


Just down the hill is one of their restaurants, Latitudes Waterfront.  A quick check-in as lunch is much desired after the four-hour ride.  Although you can eat indoors, the weather was perfect for short sleeves and on the deck for a scenic view of the marina. 

When at the sea, have seafood.   Crisp Local Crab Cake, served with a casaba melon salsa, ginger and citrus aioli and micro herbs for a start.  I couldn’t resist having the Coastal Maine Lobster Cobb Salad.  A good portion of fresh lobster meat, smoked bacon, spring dug potatoes, avocado, tomatoes, grilled Vidalia onions, goat cheese and field greens.   Now that’s the way to begin a trip in New England. 

Seeking a room closer to the elevator I was actually given what turned out to be a handicapped accessible room.   It was quite large, had a closet with rack that was lower (works for me…I’m short), and a few areas where I would be able to pull a chain for assistance.   Not sure why there was a bathtub vs a shower.  Great view of Portsmouth.   

The hotel has an indoor and outdoor pool, golf course privilege via the Wentworth Country Club, tennis court as well as a Spa and Wellness Center.   I indulged in a 50-minute Reiki Energy Massage that totally relaxed my body and wound up taking a catnap before dinner at SALT, the hotel’s signature restaurant. 

There are four areas to this fine dining eatery.   Enter to view the bar and lounge area that connects to a chef’s bar.  You can choose to sit at this bar and watch your food being prepared. 

Why salt?   There are menu items where the protein is served on a block of salt.  I’ll get to that later.  The main restaurant actually has two areas; the closer being less “formal” and where breakfast is served (I had a lobster omelet) either off the menu or buffet.   This leads into the more formal dining room.  There is also a private glass enclosed room where the wines are kept.  

Laurie and I opted for “fine dining” in which the food was served “French style”.  That means that each guest’s plate was placed at the same time requiring as many servers to do so.  I think that they call in “Presidential style”. 

We ordered to share in order to taste the menu’s offerings.  Cuisine?  I would call it…farm to table with world influences. Prosciutto wrapped Maine scallops with an oregano salad and lemon honey was the starter, followed by:  Wood oven Baked Oysters with creamed spinach Pernod, farmers style bacon and Fontina cheese; Northeast Family Farms Beef Carpaccio served on a Salt Block, with orange and espresso crust, gorgonzola cream, Pepper Cress and Crispy Capers; Rustic Hand-rolled Gnocchi with local mushrooms, spinach, crispy pancetta, sheep’s milk cheese and tartufo cream. What they left out in this description is garlic.  In fact, with many of the menu items and my lack of love for garlic, SALT could be changed to GARLIC.  Laurie loves garlic. 

Salad is always important especially a Roasted Baby Beets with local goat cheese, baby arugula and a seasoned olive oil. For a main course I chose the Beef Tenderloin with salted potato wedges and fresh grilled veggies. Upon my request, the balsamic vinegar and any use of garlic was eliminated. Dessert included a Vanilla Crème Brulee, a scoop of their made-on-the-premise (Homemade?  Who's home is it made in?) hazelnut gelato, chocolate lava cake with drops of  their own "nutella"  and Tiramisu that was reminiscent of an after-dinner drink. 

Departing for Portsmouth, we did a road tour of New Castle stopping at Fort Constitution State Park overlooking the Piscataqua River and the Atlantic Ocean.  The Portsmouth Harbor Light, a working lighthouse, is located on the premises. It’s a tour on your own venue.  

There is no "downtown" area but we did spot one store.

We head into downtown Portsmouth to take in some sites and soon it is time for lunch. We are dining at Blue Mermaid Island Grill.  Heave me up the stairs!  Oh, oh, the restrooms are on the second floor!   I handled that well, too.  Back down to the outside deck as I pass the bar (not the lawyer kind). Perfect weather!  Cuisine has Caribbean influences. 

The restaurant is located in the downtown district at the corner of High Street and Hanover Street in a 200 year old house. This particular area is called “The Hill”. Scott and Karen Logan are the proud owners. Scott stopped by to chat.

Menu has a “pick a grilled protein, pick a sauce and choose two sides” option. I indulged in grilled sea scallops with a sauce selection of Sunsplash Salsa.  For the sides I chose corn fritters and a small salad.  Ordered delicious and fattening desserts of banana crème brulee and banana bread with ice cream…which we shared.  Great meal!  Oh, yeah, they have entertainment most evenings. 

Rolling back to the car, we set our destination for Kittery, Maine where malls of outlets are located.  Neither Laurie or myself are “shoppers” but we did explore one place called the Kittery Trading Post.  In preparation for Halloween, a really huge pumpkin was carted in front of the store…most likely a contest coming up. 

Back over the bridge to Portsmouth as we check into The Port Inn, located at 505 US 1 Bypass. It’s the longest operating lodging facility in Portsmouth and is both locally owned and operated.  Although the inn does not have the pizzazz of the Wentworth, the motel type rooms are large, clean and comfortable. Amenities: microwave and refrigerator in the room, heated outdoor pool, and continental breakfast is included.  If you need to check your email, there is computer and printer in the lobby…at no charge. Lobby area has couch as well as some rocking chairs.  

Is it time for dinner?  Let’s try some Northern Indian food at Tulsi, as we go back over the bridge to 20 Walker Street in Kittery. 

A Mango lassi is ordered as I’m not sure how spicy the food will be. OMG! We ordered the Boti Lamb Kabob to share and neither of us could handle the marinated chili spice!  It came with two sauces.  Laurie tasted the green one and warned me.  I couldn't imagine how hot my mouth would feel had I combined it with the kabob. I figured that my best bet (I’m also not a fan of cumin) would be the Tandori Chicken, something that seems to be “safe”.  OMG! Chili again!  Now, I realize that many people are used to the “hot”.  For me, I feel this particular chili all over my mouth. 

The wait staff did their best to accommodate me with a dish of chicken in a cashew sauce and without the use of cumin as well.  I enjoyed this one and not knocking the quality.

Skipped dessert as we went back to Portsmouth for a behind the scene (not really) look at Kilwins Portsmouth for ice cream and chocolate. Located at 20 Congress Street in the downtown area, you can usually view someone such as owner Jeanette Desmond tempering chocolate for dipping or making fudge.  There are several chocolates and caramel apples to choose from such as chocolate dipped oreo cookies and nonpareils. What do pareils look like?  Some of the chocolates come directly from the main company as well as a featured “origin” chocolate such as one that was imported from the Dominican Republic. 

Wander to the back area for a variety of ice cream flavors, all made on the premises and using the Kilwin formula.   

Continental breakfast, check my email and we are on our way to Strawbery Banke, a ten acre museum of historic renovated homes and businesses that formed in a neighborhood once known as Puddle Dock.  Since the history expands 300 years don’t expect the “period costume living museum” atmosphere of places such as the ilk in Williamsburg or Sturbridge Village in MA. With most of the 42 buildings on their original site you will find a docent in each building and a scheduled “time period owner” in one. 

For instance, going to the Shapiro House I encountered Mrs. Shapiro, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant in 1919 who was tending to household tasks. She described the foods that she was making as well as her family’s journey to the United States.  Due to her Hebrew Calendar, the holiday of Succoth was being celebrated.  A sukkot was erected in the garden just outside of the home. 

Strawbery Banke is open from May 1 to October 31 but there are guided walking tours and special events from November 1 to December 30th. Visit the houses at your own pace using a Visitor’s Guide site map and be sure to take in the sights and aromas of the gardens. Those houses  that are open will have a flag displayed with the number of stars in accordance to the era of the historic home.  The admission price allows you to return the next day (suggested to do).

All of the walking stirred my hunger as we are back to the downtown district

 where Portsmouth Gaslight Company is located.  The restaurant has three areas to dine with the main one on the first floor and alternative deck as well as the downstairs “Downtown Pizza” with a brick pizza oven.  Menu is American style cuisine with other influences. So, where looking at lunch of mainly burgers, wraps, soups, salads and some specialties.  They make use of local ingredients.  

 We shared an appetizer of Thai Spring Rolls: gingered duck and pork rolled in a wonton wrapper with shredded veggies, served with a sweet and sour housemade sauce and sweet pickles.  Now, that was savory. 

I usually don’t have a burger but the Farmers Market tempted me.  The classic wood fired burger is topped with a fried egg, goat cheese, bacon and onion rings over shredded lettuce, tomato relish and red onion.  Biting into it was more than difficult and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Okay, I did have to use a knife and fork.  We skipped dessert.

It’s a bit early for the 3:00 p.m. Portsmouth Harbor Cruises. Arriving at the dock at 64 Ceres Street I see a restaurant that shares the deck space called Oar House. The restaurant itself, an historic museum, is located just across the street.  This area was a thriving seaport in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  In December of 1802 120 buildings burned including the wooden mercantile structures that occupied the restaurant site.

During the initial renovation of the Oar House, a spring-fed well was revealed at the downstairs dining room. You can still see this well behind a glass enclosure. 

Other displays to check out such at the jazz band above the bar. The present owners try to honor the marine heritage of Portsmouth in its heyday of commerce on the sea.  Love the wood! 

“A Navy sailor was ordered to take a prisoner to the Naval Prison and the two traveled side by side, with the prisoner handcuffed.  As they changed trains in Boston, the con asked the sailor for a cigarette.  As the sailor dug for a Lucky Strike and matches the prisoner smashed him in the mouth with his manacles and jumped to escape.  The sailor, his upper lip badly torn and bleeding, reacted quickly, drawing out his .45 automatic and dropping the prisoner.  Initial Navy surgery on the sailors lip was badly botched, and subsequent plastic surgery did not help.  The sailors name?   Humphrey DeForest Bogart.”  This is one of many stories told by Captain Andrew Cole of the Portsmouth Harbor Cruse when we encounter an old prison that appears to look more as if it were a stately castle and known as the Alcatraz of the East. 

We sail out of the harbor on the Piscatqua River passing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which is actually located in Kittery, Maine.  One of the tasks of the shipyard is to repair submarines, one of which we could view. 

History was told of the homes, bridges, forts and lighthouses during the 1 ½ hour cruise.  Other available cruises include an “Isles of Shoals Cruise” of the nine legendary islands located six miles off the coast, an “Inland River & Fall Foiliage Cruise” that heads inland to either Great Bay or Cocheco River, as well as evening and sunset cruises.  

With the Shapiro House at Strawbery Banke there begat Temple Israel located on State Street.  Founded over 100 years ago it is a Conservative temple by immigrants, it is not a surprise that there is an antiqued sanctuary.  “Temple Israel is dedicated to the principle of Klal Yisrael which reaches out to all Jews; to the principle of Tikun Olam which seeks to make the world whole, to support the causes of the Jewish People and the State of Israel, and to be the focal point of the Jewish community of Southern New Hampshire.”  


The Music Hall, located at 28 Chestnut Street, is a Victorian-era theatre that features curated entertainment for all over the world, the oldest in New Hampshire.  Although we were unable to attend a performance, we did have a guided tour of the lobby, 900-seat auditorium, state, backstage, and even the bathrooms.  No kidding, even if you don’t have to pish, you must see these stunning fancy but up-to-date bathrooms!  Ask about the connections between the maritime and the stage.  When asked if anyone wanted to perform on the stage, it didn’t take much for me to reenact a scene from the Wizard of Oz.  Can I place this on my resume?

It’s not unusual for a city to have at least one brewpub.  Portsmouth Brewery is the original in all of New Hampshire and you can expect several handcrafted beers.  These days, just being a brewery is not enough.  Add savory and great tasting food for the title of “Gastro Pub”.  

I’m a Blue Moon drinker.  Here is the description of the “substitute” brew, “Summer Flower Gruit”.  “Malt, wheat malt, Brittish Pale Malt, Carastan.  Hops: Strawbery Banke Hops, plus a bunch of flowers.” Yes, that’s correct. They use ingredients straight from the gardens of Strawbery Banke.  Back home, here I’ll  have to settle for Blue Moon.  Take a seat at look at the chalkboards for the offerings.  They’ll let you taste a few if you have your doubts.  

Bottled beer is one alternative. That’s okay because they have a “sister” brewing company called Smuttynose, located in the seacoast area as well. 

I began with Spinach Salad that had avocado, edamame, sesame stix, carrots, red onions and cucumbers tossed with baby spinach and miso-ginger dressing.  Duck!  I’m mean, that was my entrée.  Duck leg and duck breast with sweet potato wedges and spinach.  This restaurant, like many in the area, uses local food.  Do expect the use of beer as an ingredient in the cuisine.  

One more piece of recreation before we depart Portsmouth as we head out to the Gondalow. What is a gondalow? It’s a flat bottom wooden barge that was once prevalent along local waterways, such as the Piscataqua River.  The cruise is quite different from the one we had previously taken in the harbor.


We were lucky enough to share this sailing cruise with kids from an elementary school as they participated in hoisting up the sail, discovering sea creatures by towing for plankton, steering the ship, and exploring the rooms down the ladder.  

During the public sails you can still learn about the culture and history of the area as well as the possibility of having live entertainment aboard (such as someone playing the guitar). There is seating on the boat but not where your back is supported.  Stand, walk around, participate, bring a picnic basket…just have fun. The Gondola carries 49 passengers and sets sail at the dock located in Prescott Park.

Our departure took us on Route 1A South to Rye as we stopped for lunch at Petey’s Summertime Seafood Restaurant on Ocean Blvd.  well known for their fresh seafood and….lobster!  Peter goes out on his boat to bring up the lobster traps. The restaurant is more of a shack…but a bit larger and tends to get quite busy.  I think it’s due to their positive reputation.  It was difficult choosing one of their creamy soups…fish chowder, clam chowder, seafood chowder and lobster bisque.  I opted for the fish chowder which contained haddock.  I can see why they won awards.  The soups come in a “to go” container in order to save on dish washing regarding too much use of the water…ecological thing.

I was thinking about delving into a whole lobster when I saw the Lobster Pie on the menu.  I’m sure there was more than a half pound of lobster meat in this menu item that was baked in a deep dish with wine, butter and bread crumbs atop. It came with one of the best cole slaw I’ve had anywhere…I like it creamy with no celery salt or vinegar.  My potato choice was simply baked.  Have you ever had a baked potato that you didn’t need to put anything on?   I was told that it was “local”. 

I noticed that they were selling lobster at $3.99 per pound.  Why so cheap?  They are soft shell lobsters.  That means that the lobsters have recently shed and by doing this you would not only get a shell that is softer, but find that the tail and claws are not completely full as there would be water in between.  Not all places let you know that they are soft shell lobsters so ask! 

Skipped dessert and continued on the route along the seacoast passing through Hampton Beach and finally back onto I-95, back to Queens.  

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1 comment:

  1. From your post I think you have spent great time in portsmouth. I've never in that restaurant but stayed in Portsmouth Marriott hotel. My trip was also sound good but not like your.