Best of New England: New Hampshire
106 KITCHEN AND BAR
It’s a little New Orleans, a little New England. This cozy bistro has French Quarter flavor and pan-southern influences: fried oysters with house-pickled veggies, a napoleon of Maine crabmeat and fried green tomatoes, and excellent braised short ribs basted with barbecue sauce. // 106 Penhallow St., Portsmouth, 603-319-8178, 106kitchen.com.
BUNTEN FARMHOUSE KITCHEN
Here’s just a sampling of the goods made at this working farm near the Vermont border: ice cream, mozzarella, cream cheese, gingerbread, sticky buns, doughnuts, and pumpkin marmalade. Bruce Balch (a Culinary Institute grad) and his wife, Chris, turn all these products and other local items into sumptuous three-course dinners Friday and Saturday in the winter and Thursday to Saturday the rest of the year. Don’t miss the terrific Sunday brunch, either. // 1322 Route 10, Orford, 603-353-9252, buntenfarm.com.
RED ARROW DINER
Open 24 hours, this Manchester institution is the go-to place for political candidates to meet with average Joes every four years, and for everyone else to dig into tasty plates of pancakes, hash browns, meatloaf, and mac and cheese year-round. While the Red Arrow isn’t exactly a secret, its menu is so packed with delicious oddities — a chili omelet, a turkey-salad BLT — you’ll discover something new with every visit. Don’t miss the brownie cream pie. // 61 Lowell St., Manchester, 603-626-1118, redarrowdiner.com.
BLACK TRUMPET BISTRO
It’s not romantic in the white-linens-and-flowers sense, but this cozy former ship’s chandlery has beautiful water views and plenty of candlelight to create an intimate vibe. Chef Evan Mallett and his wife, Denise, own and operate the restaurant, and their work reveals a love of seasonal ingredients — a romance in itself. Mallett’s eclectic menu includes everything from chestnut-and-ricotta ravioli with carrot purée to crispy duck breast with rye-berry risotto, cipollini onions, and date-orange molasses (pictured above). // 29 Ceres St., Portsmouth, 603-431-0887, blacktrumpetbistro.com.
LE RENDEZ VOUS
French native Verlaine Daeron opened this bakery in 2001 in a most unlikely location: Rural, blue-collar Colebrook was no food-lover’s mecca. But this northernmost town embraced her baguettes and boules, croissants and madeleines — so much so that when the U.S. government refused to renew her visa, the town rallied to keep their beloved boulangerie alive. Just sample the goods at Rendez Vous and you’ll understand why. // 121 Main St., Colebrook, 603-237-5150.
THE FRIENDLY TOAST
Get breakfast, lunch, or dinner any time of day at this rock ’n’ roll diner. Filled with ’50s dinette sets, retro light fixtures, and the odd mannequin or two, the Toast’s ambiance is as fun as its quirky menu. On weekends, patrons line up outside, salivating over the thought of pumpkin pancakes, breakfast burritos, and seasoned home fries — and always finding that it’s worth the wait. // 113 Congress St., Portsmouth, 603-430-2154, thefriendlytoast.net.
Brunch : Upscale
WENTWORTH DINING ROOM
It’s hard to beat the allure of a grand hotel brunch buffet: the vast displays of food, the free-flowing champagne, the pastry table, the omelet and carving stations! Wentworth does it up in style with a “Bubbles and Jazz” theme, ushering guests into a dining room with sweeping views of the water and music to liven up the mood. At about $35 per person, it’s a relative bargain for those with a good appetite. // 588 Wentworth Rd., New Castle, 603-422-7322, wentworth.com.
BISHOP’S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM
Grape-nut, Indian pudding, ginger — this is an ice cream shop that knows its audience. No wonder the lines get so long on hot days. These classic New England flavors are just a handful of dozens that rotate through the menu here. Another excellent choice: the dark chocolate “Bishop’s Bash,” loaded with chocolate chips, nuts, and brownie chunks. Rounding out the offerings are “Bish-Burger” ice cream sandwiches, frappes, sundaes, and sorbet. For New Hampshire natives, it’s the taste of summer. // 183 Cottage St., Littleton, 603-444-6039, bishopshomemadeicecream.com.
Italian : Upscale
Nicola’s is a special-occasion restaurant that serves up creative twists on regional Italian cuisine in an intimate, candlelit setting. The menu starts with saltimbocca — breaded veal stuffed with mozzarella and sautéed in white wine and olive oil — and only gets better from there. Expert service (overseen by chef Nicola’s wife, Cheryl) and an open kitchen add to the trattoria’s perfect date-night ambiance. // 51 railroad st., Keene, 603-355-5242.
THE RESTAURANT AT BURDICK CHOCOLATE
The team behind those adorable chocolate mice and the best hot cocoa on the planet also turns out wonderful savory dishes with a French accent. Start with duck confit and house-made charcuterie, then move on to mussels meunière or steak frites. Save room for dessert at the chocolate shop next door. // 47 Main St., Walpole, 603-756-9058, burdickchocolate.com.
MT’S LOCAL KITCHEN AND WINE BAR
For 15 years Michael Timothy’s was a magnet for fine dining in Nashua. Recently Michael and Sarah Buckley decided to redecorate, reconceive, and reopen as MT’s — a more-casual concept with a gastropubby menu and many entrées priced under $20. Fortunately, the excellent pizza remains: wood-grilled and lightly topped with San Marzano tomatoes, basil, and four cheeses; or caramelized onion, bacon, and chicken. // 212 Main St., Nashua, 603-595-9334, michaeltimothys.com.