We chose the Black Trumpet Bistro for dinner because the chef-owner cooks with local — sometimes even foraged — ingredients, and we wanted to taste New England. Plus, there’s a wine bar.
Each night at Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth, N.H., there is a different Chef’s Meze: a trio of tastes that the chef choses to serve together. Tonight, it is Rabbit Gallette, Braised Pork Cheek and Head Cheese.
Yeah. We decided to order that.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t that successful. The head cheese, especially, was nothing as we expected — and the flavors of all three were lost in the sauce.
The restaurant is very cute, with one big brick wall, wood beans, red walls, nautical-style lanterns and a killer view of the harbor.
We were in the upstairs part, the wine bar part, and were sitting at the bar. We got to know our bartender, John, who was very friendly and outgoing, and made us two delicious cocktails. Mine had gin; I can’t remember what Greg’s was.
The woman next to us was completely smashed. And it seemed like she and her friend were plotting to skip out on the check. They were talking loudly about having lost a credit card, and then one left and the other was on the phone charting her progress in finding it or getting cash. The whole thing was both amusing and annoying. The woman is in the far left in the photo:
After she left, we settled in for dinner. We started with Sauteed Foraged Mushrooms:
These were also disappointing. The texture of the mushrooms were great, but they were diced up so small you couldn’t tell even what kind they were — and that took away from the enjoyment of that texture, because you couldn’t really bite down on them. Plus, the dish was overwhelmed with garlic, some of it a little burnt.
And Egg White Fried Squash Blossom with rose-scented chickpea salad:
This was much more successful. I do love a squash blossom and this one was fried crisp and crunchy without being oily. The salad had feta cheese, too.
As we dined, the sun set and brought a beautiful light through the window. I’m not doing it justice here, but I’ll show you anyway:
I know it’s super-dark, but if you look out the window you can see a very nice blue. (Just nod and pretend that you do, anyway.)
For our main course, we shared Maine Mussels steamed with salami, kale, tomato and garlic:
The mussels were fabulous — so plump and fresh. But again, the other flavors overwhelmed the dish. The salami was too assertive. Once the mussels were gone, though, and we just had the broth, it was terrific for sopping up with bread. So salty and juicy.
By this time, a couple from Boston had joined us at the bar, and we were having a lively conversation. They were staying at our same hotel, and were celebrating their first anniversary. I’m sorry I didn’t take their photo, because we really enjoyed their company.
Here, instead, is a photo of the bar area:
We decided to skip dessert in favor of cheese.
We went for the three local ones, Lindy Hop from Dancing Cow in Bridport, Vt. (no, not a typo); Lake’s Edge from Blue Ledge Farm in Salisbury, Vt.; and Maggie’s Round from Williamstown, Mass.
Darn it. Once again, the dish was overwhelmed by its accompaniments. We felt like there wasn’t enough cheese and too much of the other pairings (even though the cherry preservers were divine). And, unfortunately, the kitchen didn’t send out a very good piece of the the middle chesese, the Maggie’s Round. It was mostly the hard, outside edge. You can see the discoloration in the photo.
Here’s the thing with Black Trumpet. We were there on one of the busiest weekends of the summer. We came without a reservation and they squeezed us in at the bar. The staff was amazing in every respect, and the food was trying really hard. I think the kitchen just buckled under pressure. The ideas and the philosophy are spot-on, and the restaurant deserves another chance from us.
When we’ll get there again, though, is hard to say. Let me know if you get there first.
The 411 on Black Trumpet: 29 Ceres St., Portsmouth, N.H. 603-431-0887. blacktrumpetbistro.com