Portsmouth Eats: Moxy

Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

At the beginning of July, my mom and I headed up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for a very important occasion: my first dress fitting! And since my mom lives in Connecticut and Portsmouth is a bit of a hike, we decided to make a weekend out of it. I had my appointment at Madeleine's Daughter early evening that Friday, so I saw my dress, got it all pinned up, and then we were free for the rest of the weekend. And since there's nothing better to follow up a dress fitting than a big dinner, we headed out to eat.

Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

Moxy is one of the newest restaurants to hit the Portsmouth dining scene. It's an American tapas-style restaurant with a focus on small plates and local food (two things I love). We were excited to check it out. I was invited in to sample the menu, and the restaurant knew I was a food blogger.

We were warmly greeted at the door and shown upstairs to a loft-like space with a few tables overlooking the rest of the restaurant, the bar area, and the open kitchen.

Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

We started off the evening with some cocktails. I had a white sangria, which was sweet and palatable, and my mom ordered a cosmo.

Drinks at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

We chatted with our friendly waitress for a few minutes, and she explained that we could order whatever we wanted or chef/owner Matt Louis was prepared to send us out some dishes. We went with the latter. (Always go with what the chef recommends!)

When the first dish arrived, I have to admit we exchanged disappointed glances. I knew we were both thinking "Granola? Kale? I never would have ordered this." So case in point why it's best to go with the chef's recommendations: This dish was amazing. And we would have missed out. The "something to snack on," as it's called on the menu, was full of melt-in-your-mouth crispy, chili-scented kale and the most incredible hunks of pumpkin and sunflower seed granola. The hot, salty, and sweet components and the chewy and crispy textures really played off of each other well. (We made sure to pack up the leftovers to go!)

Something to snack on at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

Next we had the Moxy bread. This is grilled bread with grated tomato and Hickory Nut Farm cheese. It was a great appetizer (fresh bread, fragrant tomatoes, good cheese) but nothing out of the ordinary.

Moxy bread at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

Then we had the fried oysters with pickled veggies and chili aioli. The oysters were crisp on the outside and buttery inside, and the battered peppers and pearl onions were flavorful accompaniments.

Fried oysters at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The summer flounder crudo arrived next with a charred vegetable marinade, bell pepper and pea shoot salad, and vegetable tempura. The dish had warm and cool components and crunchy and soft components. I loved the array of textures and the light, summery flavors.

Flounder crudo at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The hasty pudding "frites" were intriguing, and we were excited the chef sent some out. The thick, crunchy, creamy frites came paired with molasses barbecue sauce and buttermilk dip. They would definitely be a dish I'd go back for when I'm seeking comfort food.

Hasty pudding "frites" at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The apple cider lacquered pork belly, skewered with Maine cherry tomatoes, and pickled radish offered a simple sweet and savory bite.

Pork belly at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The next dish was one of my favorites: grilled skirt steak with an herb salad, charred red onion, roasted pumpkin seeds, and green goddess dressing. The meat was perfectly cooked, and all of the components added bright jolts of flavor.

Grilled skirt steak at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

I think I would enjoy the beef short rib marmalade on grilled bread with pickled onions and Great Hill blue cheese a lot more during the winter. It's a nice, heavy comfort-food dish. The marmalade was a thick spread of tender meat, and that with the blue cheese made for a very rich, hearty dish.

Beef short rib at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

I loved the quick-sauteed snap peas with rainbow carrots, carrot-ginger preserves, crispy potato, and pea shoots. But you have to really like ginger to like this dish (which luckily I do); it packs a punch.

Snap peas at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The roasted monkfish with sunflower-dandelion pesto and tempura red onion was absolutely delicious. The fish was just so tender and fresh-tasting.

Roasted monkfish at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

Even though we had just been eating small plates all evening, we were incredibly stuffed at this point. So while we were excited to see the johnny cake community, featuring cornmeal pancakes, brown-sugared pork shoulder, house sauces, crispy onions, and pickled cucumbers, I don't think we were fully able to appreciate it. I made one little roll-up with a cornmeal pancake, a piece of lettuce, some pork, some pickled cucumbers, and a sprinkling of crispy onions... and took a couple of decadent bites. The whole combination was delicious. My mom picked at the pork and the crispy onions. I would definitely recommend ordering this dish early on and sharing.

Johnny cake community at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

The last savory dish to arrive was a pretty simple dish, but we both thought it was incredible and one of the best of the night. It was a plate of roasted New Hampshire beets and greens with herbed creme fraiche, pea tendrils, and crispy onions. It's one of those dishes that has perfectly paired components and just works.

Roasted beets at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

We ended the meal on a sweet note with some whoopie pie sliders. The cake was a little dry, but it helped that the whoopie pies came with a bowl of warm chocolate for dipping.

Whoopie pies at Moxy, Portsmouth, N.H.

We truly enjoyed our dinner at Moxy. I was impressed with the combinations and the interesting pairings, the use of local ingredients, and the service. I might have to go back when I head up to Portsmouth for my next fitting at the end of August! (There's a grilled summer squash dish I still want to try.)

This dinner was an incredible treat. Thank you so much to Matt Louis and everyone who took care of us at Moxy. This dinner was complimentary, but as always, I'm giving you my honest opinions.

What's the best small plate you've eaten lately?

Moxy Restaurant Modern American Tapas on Urbanspoon


Strawberries And Sparkling Rosé Mini Wedding Cakes

Mini wedding cakes

Between my own wedding and a handful of others we've attended or are planning to attend this year, I am in full-on wedding mode. So when I saw a pan that makes mini wedding cakes, I had to have it. I thought the cakes would be fun for different wedding-related events... namely bachelorette parties, where they would make adorable party favors. I first broke out the pan back in May when Michelle, Alicia, and I had a mini joint bachelorette party in Cambridge with friends Meghan and Daisy. I made St-Germain and Champagne mini wedding cakes then, and while I thought they were okay, I knew I could do better.

So I broke out the pan again for another friend's recent bachelorette party. I knew the cakes needed more flavor, so I went with a recipe that would really pack some in. And since I couldn't frost the cakes (they're good for decorating and glazing, but regular frosting would just cover up all the detail), I decided I needed to fill them.

I also wanted to find an easier way to decorate them. The first time I made the cakes I made some icing and tried piping it on. It worked out okay but was messy and drippy. When I saw some decorating pens at Williams-Sonoma (practically in my friend's wedding colors!), I bought them immediately, hoping they would make my life easier. And they did. Decorating was still a bit of a challenge because as I was doing it, I realized that I'm used to writing or piping on a flat surface, like the top of a cake. Decorating the sides is a little more difficult.

To make the cakes extra special and party ready, I placed them on paper doilies, wrapped them in clear wrapping paper, and tied them with ribbons in coordinating colors. The girls all thought they were adorable and couldn't wait to dig into them!

Mini wedding cakes

Strawberries And Sparkling Rosé Mini Wedding Cakes (cake and frosting recipes adapted from The Cupcake Diaries: Recipes and Memories from the Sisters of Georgetown Cupcake)
Makes about 10 mini wedding cakes

Note: You'll make the cake batter the first day and refrigerate it overnight, and then you'll add the strawberries and rosé to it the next day. You'll also make the frosting the second day, so plan accordingly.


2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean
1 1/4 cups whole milk, room temperature

4 ounces (a little more than 1/2 cup) strawberries
1/2 cup Chandon Rosé (or other good-quality sparkling rosé)

24 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in 24 pieces and softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon whole milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
Reserved rosé from cake recipe plus enough to make 1/2 cup

Paper doilies, optional
Icing pens, optional
Dragées or pearls, optional


Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.

Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until well incorporated. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition, and scraping down bowl as needed.

Combine vanilla, seeds from vanilla bean (split bean and scrape out seeds with a paring knife), and milk in liquid measuring cup.

Add one third of flour mixture to butter mixture and mix on low speed. Then gradually add one third of milk mixture, beating until incorporated. Repeat with another third of flour mixture followed by another third of milk mixture. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and remaining milk mixture. Scrape down bowl as needed.

Transfer cake batter to airtight container and refrigerate overnight. (In a pinch, you can skip this step but I like letting the batter rest.)

When ready to bake cakes, hull and dice strawberries. Measure out rosé in large measuring cup. Add strawberries to measuring cup and let soak for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray wedding cake pan with baking spray.

Drain strawberries, reserving rosé, and stir strawberries into cupcake batter.

Fill cake cavities with 1/2 cup batter each.

Using small offset spatula, spread some batter up the sides of the cavities.

Bake cakes for 18 to 22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Wiggle each cake with your hand to loosen it from the sides of the pan and then invert pan to release cakes onto wire rack. Let cool completely. Once pan is cool, spray with baking spray and repeat with remaining batter.

Mini wedding cakes

While cakes cool, make the frosting.

Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat 16 tablespoons butter and confectioners' sugar on medium speed until incorporated. (I like to start my mixer on low so the sugar doesn't go flying everywhere and then turn it up once the butter has worked through a little.)

Add vanilla, milk, salt, and rosé and beat on high speed until well incorporated. The mixture may look curdled.

Switch to whisk attachment and with mixer running at medium-high speed, add remaining 8 tablespoons butter a couple pieces at a time. Continue mixing until frosting is light and fluffy.

(You will have extra frosting. I suggest making some chocolate cupcakes the next day or you could make another batch of mini wedding cakes.)

Once cakes are cool, carefully cut a small cone out of each cake bottom using a paring knife.

Slice the top off each cone so you're left with a flat circle of cake. (Tops of cones make great snacks.)

Fill each cake with frosting using piping bag fitted with large round tip and place flat cake circles back on cake bottoms to hold in frosting.

Place each cake on a paper doily and decorate with icing pens and dragées or pearls, if desired.

Mini wedding cake

For an extra special touch, wrap cakes with clear wrapping paper or place in treat bags and tie with ribbon. Cakes are best the day they're made.

The cakes had a nice flavor and were fruity and fragrant from the strawberries and rosé. This recipe does make a denser cake, which is great for keeping the wedding cakes sturdy. The frosting was a little sweeter than I normally go for, but it takes such a small amount to fill the cakes that I think it provides a nice balance. Overall I was pleased with how the cakes came out, but I know I'll still be experimenting with other flavors and decorating ideas when I have another occasion to make these mini wedding cakes for.

Mini wedding cakes

Do you have any novelty pans?


Quick, Lighter Lunch Options At Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House

I'm sure a steak house isn't the first place you'd think of going to for a quick, not-too-heavy lunch. It's definitely not the first place I'd think of. I imagine French onion soup, fresh rolls, buttery mashed potatoes, and monstrous bone-in rib-eye steaks. And right after that, I imagine needing a nap.

Knowing that most people need a quick lunch that's not going to put them in a food coma when they get back to their desks, Del Frisco's, a steak house located at Liberty Wharf, switched up its lunch menu and added some less-hefty options, many of which can be prepared in just 10 minutes to provide guests with a speedy lunch.

I was invited in recently to sample some of the new lunch options.

The sampling was actually in the evening after work, and we were presented with four courses, each course a different lunch option. Normally I wouldn't have four different lunches in one sitting, but the chef made us smaller portions so we'd be able to taste more of the offerings.

I started my lunch-for-dinner with a glass of bubbly, decked out with raspberries.

Then I dug into the first lunch option: the seared ahi tuna salad. This is not your typical salad. The tuna comes accompanied by shaved napa cabbage, arugula, ripe chunks of mango, chilled noodles, toasted almonds, and ginger-sesame dressing. (The menu also said tomatoes and avocado, but I don't remember those being in the mix.) I really enjoyed this dish. It was light, cool, flavorful, and creative.

As much as I enjoyed the tuna salad, the next dish blew it away and was my favorite of all the dishes we tried. The spaghettini features garlic shrimp, plum tomatoes, basil, and lemon zest. The flavors were amazing, and the shrimp was tender and fresh. We all thought there might be anchovies in the sauce because it was a little briny and complex, but the chef assured us there weren't. Whatever is in there is really good.

Next up was the steakhouse salad. This normally comes with a 6-ounce portion of broiled prime strip steak (cooked to order), and we had smaller portions for sampling. I think the smaller portion would be plenty for me. The steak comes with a deviled egg, mixed baby greens, avocado, cherry tomatoes, bacon, Parmesan, blue cheese, and horseradish lemon dressing. I was hoping the horseradish would be a little more noticeable -- I couldn't really detect it. This dish is like your wedge salad appetizer plus your steak dinner rolled into a lunch-size portion.

The last dish we tried was the orecchiette, which comes tossed with grilled chicken breast, baby spinach, and a roasted garlic-Parmesan cheese sauce. My chicken was a little dry, but the flavorful sauce more than made up for it. I kept expecting to get bites of artichoke, so I think those would be a welcome addition to the dish. While this is a pasta dish with cream sauce, it's not overwhelming and would make for a filling but not over-the-top lunch.

There are plenty of other options on Del Frisco's lunch menu, from crab cakes and clam chowder to a chicken avocado club to filet medallions. There's also a preset $23 business lunch that includes a choice of one of four starters and one of three entrees.

I've been to (and written about) Del Frisco's in the past and think the atmosphere is great for a business lunch. And if you want to get away from the business aspect and just enjoy lunch, the restaurant is set up so that every table has a view of the water.

This lunch menu preview was complimentary, but as always my opinions are my own. Thank you to chef Derek Barragan for sharing some highlights from the new lunch menu with us.

Lunch is served Monday through Friday, 11:30 to 4.

What would be your ideal light lunch at a steak house?


See You Soon, Elizabeth!

One of my favorite bloggers and favorite people in general has left Boston and moved to New York. You may know her... she's Elizabeth from Free Food Boston.

Elizabeth and I got to know each other through our blogs and met in person at a Whole Foods event back in December of 2010. Since then she's become my partner in dessert-eating crime, the person I can count on to take extra baked goods off my hands when I've gone a little overboard in the kitchen, and someone I just enjoy hanging out with.

While I wish Elizabeth well, I know it's not going to be the same around here without her. She always brought her happy, bubbly personality to any event or occasion. She's the person who always has the scoop on the best doughnut shop in town or what's on the dessert menu wherever we're eating. She's easygoing... and the best vegetarian I've ever met. One of my favorite Elizabeth moments was when we met up in Harvard Square one afternoon and she started telling me about a pulled pork and mango pizza she had tried. And I just looked at her, not comprehending, until she explained she had pulled the pork off the pizza. She's also done this with bacon and duck confit.

I think of Elizabeth as a good friend, a little sister, and a great dining companion. I'm so happy to have met her and to have gotten the chance to spend so much time with her over the past couple of years. I can't wait until she comes back to visit (even though she just left), and I'm looking forward to visiting her in New York some time soon.

It's not goodbye, but I'll definitely miss you, Elizabeth! I wish you all the best!

If you know Elizabeth, feel free to share your favorite Elizabeth memory here.


Grilled Mexican Tortilla Pizzas

Grilled Mexican tortilla pizzas

To say we've been lazy when it comes to making dinner lately is an understatement. The commute plus all my summer weekend travel is definitely catching up with me. By the time I get home at night, I don't even want to think about making dinner. We've been getting takeout way more than we should, and we're lucky that Jeff's mom cooks for us some nights.

On the nights when we actually cook, I'm always eager to make something on the grill. And on one particular evening, it just so happened that I had a new stack of fresh tortillas from Tortilla Land (remember last summer?) and some ripe tomatoes from the Backyard Farms event. Tortillas + tomatoes + grill = grilled Mexican tortilla pizzas!

I had this -- what I think is fabulous -- idea to cook the tortillas on the grill and top them with typical tortilla accompaniments. I got all the toppings prepped first because I knew the tortillas would cook really fast and I'd have to have everything ready to go.

I cut some corn off the cob and sliced up an avocado.

Then I diced a tomato, and Jeff grilled some chicken we had soaked in a fajita marinade.

Finally, I cooked and crumbled some bacon and sliced a couple of scallions, and of course, we had some cheese on hand too.

Then it was time to head out to the grill. We brought all the toppings out with us and a sheet pan for flipping the tortillas on. (This recipe moves quickly, and you don't really have time to go back inside once you put the tortillas on.) We kept the burners around medium to medium-low.

We put two tortillas on the grill and cooked them just until the undersides started to brown and get grill marks.

Grilling tortillas

Then we flipped the tortillas onto the sheet pan, grilled side up. (The tortillas cook too fast to leave them on the grill to top them.)

I covered mine with corn, bacon, tomatoes, avocado, scallions, and cheese.

Grilled Mexican tortilla pizzas

Jeff topped his with chicken, bacon, scallions, and cheese.

Grilled Mexican tortilla pizzas

Then we slid them back onto the grill, closed the lid briefly, and just left them on long enough for the bottoms to cook and the cheese to melt.

Grilled Mexican tortilla pizzas

We slid the pizzas back onto the sheet pan to carry them inside.

Grilled Mexican tortilla pizzas

And then we dug in. These are great for individual pizzas for dinner (everyone can top their own with whatever they like), or they could even be cut in wedges and served as an appetizer at a party. They take a little prepping upfront but come together really quickly so you can have them ready in no time.

Grilled Mexican tortilla pizzas

Thank you to Tortilla Land for sending me more tortillas this summer! If you haven't heard of Tortilla Land tortillas or you missed my posts from last summer, here's what you need to know: The tortillas are uncooked and fresh, so they need to be stored in the fridge and must be cooked before eating. I've only had the flour ones, but they also make corn and whole-wheat tortillas. I love the texture of the flour tortillas and have used them in steak tacos, fish tacos, chicken chimichangas, quesadillas, fajitas... and now tortilla pizzas.

What would you put on your tortilla pizza?