Friday, April 28, 2023

Portsmouth offers delightful picturesque getaway

Portsmouth offers delightful picturesque getaway and numerous wine dine options

We spent a getaway weekend in Portsmouth (NH) for an extended family event. Portsmouth, a historic harbor port sited at the estuary of the scenic Pascataqua River, on the New Hampshire Maine border, exceeded our expectations with many picturesque, quaint cityscapes, and a broad range of shopping and dining options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, cafes, bistro's, fine dining, riverfront views, and wine bars.

We learned that idyllic Portsmouth, a town of 33,000, mushrooms to over 100,000 inhabitants during the summer season, attracted to shopping, historic sites, theatre and jazz clubs, and a extensive vibrant dining scene. 

Our short weekend stay only touched the surface, but discovered and exposed a target rich environment for readers of this blog, those interested in the wine and dine scene. 


Elephantine Bakery

For breakfast we dined at Elephantine Bakery, an idealic simple enchanting old-world cafe'. They profess to use traditional French techniques to handcraft breads and pastries, baked daily in their intimate kitchen. They consider daily coffee as a sacred ritual with a traditional Italian coffee menu espousing the philosophy that 'quality is essential and simpler is better'.

Elephantine Bakery sits off the main street tucked away in an alley, Commercial Alley in Portsmouth, that is as picturesque as an city view, opposite an equally enchanting wine and cheese shop ingeniously named "Corks and Curd"!

The Elephantine Bakery in Portsmouth was voted the No. 4 place to eat No. 4 on Yelp's Top 100 Places To Eat in New England. 

Elephantine Bakery is the dream of owners Sherif and Nadine Farag, which they pursued after becoming disenchanted with notable storied careers.

Nadine earned a Masters and completing one year of doctoral studies in global health at Harvard. Sherif, born and raised on the French Seacoast, graduated from Ferrandi in Paris where he studied bread and viennoiserie under the mentorship of Didier Chaput. He moved to New York City and worked in management consulting at McKinsey & Company. 

Sherif and Nadine checked out and founded The Elephantine Bakery, their dream to pursue to the deep values they believe in: good food, a beautiful setting, the nurturing of community, and the art of living well.

The atmosphere and setting is magical, "inspired by the enduring allure of the café—of countless rendezvous unfolding over coffee from Paris to Rome, from Beirut to Athens. Here, time and space obscure".

The decor "sports jungle wallpaper, leaping zebras, leopard-print ceilings, French bistro-inspired light fixtures, brass surfaces, and blue and white pottery create a tapestry of beauty".

Get there early as it only sits eight people inside and less than a dozen outside. 

Domaine De Ecette Les Gaoudoires Ruly 2019 at ROW 34

For lunch we dined at ROW 34 on Hanover Street and Portwalk Place, located a few blocks away from the famed Portsmouth’s Decks. Row 34 is among several upscale restaurants in town that are worthy to be a destination for dining.

ROW 34 take seafood seriously, but they profess "We are here to have fun, and we love what we do".

Their seafood roots run deep, "which means they (we) love local oysters and beer, source our lobsters from Jeremy’s cousin Mark (in York, Maine), and will run all over New England to find the freshest fish around. We source the best oysters from our friends, pick up our fish fresh from the Fish Pier, and are always on the hunt for the most delicious beer around."

Of course we had the Whole Buttered Lobster Roll served on a brioche bun. We also had sides of the Whitefish Croquettes, basil, preserved lemon aïoli, and Grilled Asparagus tapenade and citrus. All were delicious.

With lunch we had from the wine-list this Burgundian Chardonnay,  Domaine De Ecette Les Gaoudoires Rully 2019.

This obscure small production label has found distribution in the highly regulated state including the New Hampshire State Liquor. We also found it on the winelist, then saw it prominently in other wine shops in the village. I blog about this wine producer and label in a separate blogpost here.

Rio Tequila Cantina

For casual late afternoon, early dinner, we dined along historic Row Street overlooking the Portsmouth riverfront, harbor and two of the three downtown bridges crossing the river. 

We dined at Rio Tequila Cantina, located on the Portsmouth Waterfront. They serve authentic Mexican cuisine with a modern touch. They have two levels of outside patios overlooking the water and a bright vibrant picturesque dining room featuring colorful artwork and historic architecture and decor. 

We opted to sit inside to enjoy the artwork and delightful vibe, still having window scenic views of the Portsmouth harbor waterfront and bridges in the distance.

Rio is part of the Labrie Group family of restaurants which also includes Jimmy’s, The Atlantic Grill, Rio and adjacent The River House next door, also on the riverfront. Corporate chef Nathan Varney oversees executive chefs at each Labrie Group restaurant. We found the food incredible, imaginative, artful and delicious - amazing for a Mexican cuisine! 

I chose for my entree selection the Enchiladas, roasted poblano, three cheese, finished with enchilada sauce, crema, rice and beans. 

Linda chose the Street Corn Salad with shrimp, roasted garlic dressed mixed greens , warm carved corn, roasted red peppers, cotija cheese, spicy aioli, green onion.

Rio Tequila Cantina
37 Bow St., Portsmouth, N.H.

La Maison Navarre Pastry, Bistro, Wine Bar

We frequented La Maison Navarre Pastry, Bistro, Wine Bar, a Parisian-style cafe & pastry shop with light French fare, French pasty and macarons with a wine and cheese bar upstairs. Each morning we picked up fresh croissants for breakfast at the cafe.

Our family event duties didn't allow time to take advantage of the fine dining establishments of Portsmouth that we found. We look forward to returning to explore more of the Portsmouth wine and dining scene and the long list of establishments that we found during our walks around town - Bridge Street Bistrot & Wine Bar, Toscana Italian Chophouse & Wine Bar, Surf Portsmouth, also on the riverfront, adjacent Rio and River House, and Massimo's, like Rio, an ornate brick & stone setting with oil paintings on the wall, with upscale Italian fare & wines. 

We also walked by, checked out the menus and put on our list Cafe Mediterraneo Ristoranti Italiano, a small 40-seat Italian bistro located on Fleet Street downtown Portsmouth, adjacent and next door to La Maison Navarre. 

 Accommodations - Visiting Portsmouth, there are several hotels downtown within walking distance of the Riverfront and the numerous shops and eateries, the large Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside sitting on the hilltop overlooking the city, perpetually reliable and ever hospitable Marriott has a Marriott AC Hotel and Residence Inn, and adjacent, Hilton Garden on the same block. Our group opted for the Hilton Garden for its location. Unfortunately, several of the staff there (aside the bar staff) were unwelcoming, rude, condescending and confrontational - one to avoid if alternatives are available. 

Enjoy Portsmouth.