Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our first Valentine's together

Happy Valentine's Day, we hope you are able to share it with someone you love. We are looking forward to the holiday, and hope that everyone has as much fun as we will have. Often holiday's like Valentine's do strange things to a restaurant... You know people will come out; you write special menus, often crammed with expensive items; restaurants I have worked in have even added tables, taken away all of the larger tables and exchanged them for two tops. We talked at length about our approach to holidays. We decided they would be the same as normal days. We decided that we like what we do every day. As such, our Valentine's menu is our menu. Our tables are our tables, and we do not take reservations.

I part, we realized that we are not a quiet, romantic table. We are a raucous sexy party. It may be a different approach to Valentine's. It is community seating and talking with neighbors and friends. It is sharing drinks, food, and laughter. It is a great time.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Craft Beer Week?

Portsmouth will be celebrating Portsmouth Beer Week February 27th through March 5th, and it culminates in the tapping of Kate at PBrew. We are as excited this year as we have been in every year past. The good folks at Seacoast Beverage Lab had contacted us in our early days about the events. While we wanted to participate in some fashion we just didn't know how or what we would be doing. Now we are approaching the date and wanted to let everyone know that besides seeing us out and about at Portsmouth's fine beer-centric establishments on our downtime, we will be planning to drag some gems not available on the New Hampshire side of the river out of the storage and onto our lines. De Ranke XX. Sure. BooGoop? If we have any left... we are running it now. Sours? We anticipate Cuvee de Jacobins and Rodenbach in, not to mention the Sasuga Saison from Oxbow-- brett and funk. Mikkeller Simcoe. Unfiltered Bruges Zot. Yeah, we're on the wrong side of the river, but worth the 5mins.

It makes me wonder what we are planning for American Craft Beer week in May...


Friday, February 10, 2012

The New Menu...

There has been a constant conversation about our menu since we opened. I mean among the staff. Only a few weeks in, the chef announced that he intended to change it, keep it fresh. And he meant soon. Gavin and I were excited. We slowed him down a bit-- booking parties, eating up his down time. And there was just the day to day, fortunately for us we have been busy. More so than we anticipated. And that is wonderful, everyday we feel the support and love of our community. But, the business was its own set of delays for Jake... just keeping up with the volume and demand on our from scratch kitchen.

Well, the menu is here. In the middle of winter we are ferreting produce from farmer friend's root cellars. We are thankful to Jean and Josh Jennings of Meadow's Mirth for bearing with us as we get our legs. Every Wednesday, they make the trek to Kittery, loaded with staples. It will be with it for everyone as we cultivate this and other relationships with area growers.

On Tuesday, the new iteration of the menu rolled out. It was quiet, without fanfare. We decided we would announce the menu change in time for the weekend. But it was the first time that as a staff we saw the food. It began earlier than usual, as the whole house organized and the new menu items feel into the prep. By service, the kitchen was cawing about not being ready for service about scrambling for garnishes, and mis-en-place. By the time customers arrived and food was going out the kitchen was unphased and stoic. There was more commotion over shift drinks than new dishes. Near the end of a busy Tuesday in February (yes, they happen) Gavin and I had a chance to start tasting through the dishes. He remarked that the most impressive part of the process to him, was that after so many years working in other restaurants, watching dishes get made, tweaked, and remade, our kitchen just talked about dishes... and then executed them. Jake and Skye went back and forth for weeks, sometimes involving us in conversations other times dismissing ideas we offered with little more than a sideways look. But after they had set the menu in their minds, there was little left but make the food that they had envisioned. And that is what they did. Almost flawlessly. Gavin was proud. I was proud. It was one of those moments where every doubt we had had along the way became moot. It was a quiet moment we shared over a bowl of bolognese.   

So, some favorites have been shed from our menu. Not because we didn't love them, not because we were hoping to deprive anyone. Just so our kitchen could keep it new. So they could work with new ingredients and present new dishes for people to fall in love with. We hope it will be a successful menu, we hope that you enjoy it. We are betting that you will.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Maine Magazine

We enjoy magazine photoshoots. We just wrapped one up with Maine Magazine. Perhaps better than the shoot was the visit from Joe Ricchio, the Maine Magazine food editor. Bang up job.

I am looking forward to the April issue.



Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The D Word, or Diacetyl Beers

Many of our guests detest Diacetyl beers, or as some affectionately term them "butter beers". Some brewers and breweries seem unable to produce anything but such beers. They know who they are, and one such brewery does well in its Maine home. However, we are less a fan of butter flavors in our beers. It isn't a creaminess, it is that distinct melted butter that has separated and sat stove top for far too long. When it finds its home in an appropriate style, diacetyl qualities can be masked by other aspects of the beer. It can even make a pleasant appearance, in much the same way that forgotten pot of drawn butter can be a perfect compliment to steamers or boiled lobster. Hell, I'd probably pour some on my baked potato. But, on that potato I would probably regret it. The drawn butter would be thin, an oily mess in the making. I will stare at it and wonder why I hadn't just used a pat of creamy butter instead.

This week I tasted through several IPAs. And as I did the underlying Diacetyl qualities of several shone through.

Brooklyn, Blast.
A beautifully constructed double IPA, balanced at 8% with a rich mouthfeel and great set of hops. But, as it lingers on the palate there is a distinct diacetyl flavor. I assume that the Brewmaster knew this was present, that he wanted the butteriness to bridge the malt and hops. I like it, and while I wouldn't session these, I will admit it would probably work great with a steak topped with gorgonzola.

Smuttynose, The Big A
I can remember being a hop head and sessioning this beer. I have changed. I would like to think matured. I still love this brutal double IPA. Massive hops, a maltiness that warms you immediately (or is that the alcohol?). No butter to speak of, this beer is all about an assertion of citric acid. Dark chocolate or grapefruits (pink, ruby even) would be a fine snack. But really, I choose this beer to chew on hops.

Southern Tier, Gemini
Southern Tier Produces another fantastic high abv IPA. This double IPA delivers a lot of hops as well as an easy drinking beer with a staggering 10.5 abv. My experience with The Southern Tier lineup is just that, high gravity beers that drink like much lower alcohol beers. You have to look for the alcohol here, and while looking, you may find a slight butteriness that creeps in behind the malt and immediately before the smack of hops. That said, no complaints. A little butter on this beast does it no disservice.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Radishes. Pickles.

So the kitchen pickled radishes, and radishes have an intense smell when pickled. Keep in mind the taste is sublime-- but getting them to your mouth triggers the olfactory. Actually, just having pickled radishes in the same room triggers the olfactory reaction. Gavin had some concerns, and rightfully so. The odor is not dissimilar to a diaper. It means that every time we served the pickle, it should be prefaced with an explanation that the reaction between vinegars and the radish create the intense aroma. That conversation doesn't always take place in a busy restaurant. As we were serving them, we didn't think about using analogy; that the daikon pickle is similar to a washed rind cheese. That the off-putting smell belies the sweet, complex deliciousness. It would probably have helped to make sense of the item. That too may have been lost in the busy dining room. The radishes are gone, for now... the weekend cleared them out. But they will fondly be remembered.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Black Birch-- Think of us as a speakeasy

A lot of people ask us about signage. We don't have one hung yet. We are in a nondescript, one story government building (it was built in the 60's as a Post Office). We would love to hang our sign, we love the sign we commissioned Spotlight Woodworks to craft for us. We are having The Green Foundry build a pedestal and frame for the massive piece of red oak. And we are working to ensure that we get approval from the town of Kittery for the sign.

In the interim, I have come to accept that we are a hole-in-the-wall, a hard to find gem in Kittery, ME. At some point Gavin and I had joked about the resurgence of speakeasy-style bars in metropolitan areas. We certainly haven't been trying to be trendy... we just didn't exercise the best planning with regard to our business' facade. We will get the sign hung, and we are confident it will be a beautiful marriage of some very talented local artists and laborers. For now, we are poorly marked, have terrible visibility, but believe that for the people fortunate and patient enough to have found us, we offer something unique, wonderful, and comfortable. Thank you,