For our eighth anniversary it would have made adorable sense to go to a favorite restaurant of ours called No. 8 Kitchen in Amesbury, MA, but we’d learned it closed a month or so ago.
So Jon did the best thing ever. He found the chef we had loved there who had left maybe a year earlier and we went to Blue Moon Evolution Restaurant 8 Clifford St, Exeter, NH where he is executive chef. And just like that we are official groupies of Paul Callahan and his food philosophies that melded so well with what was originally an organic and locavore shop that had a small cafe.
We met Paul at No 8 Kitchen in Amesbury on a prior anniversary dinner, where we were first introduced to his special take on house cured meats and seafood along with his unique twists on food – compressed watermelon cubes imbibed with liqueur and brilliant mixings of local and wild herbs and produce. Blue Moon Evolution as a restaurant is committed to farm to table, sustainable food practices and compassionate care of livestock all while being stunningly delicious. The menu changes daily and we spoke with one couple who lived and worked near by and they said that no matter what their plans had originally been, they’ve been compelled to come down for lunch just by reading on Blue Moon Evolution Facebook page what specials are offered. Wed. popular Burger Night features a novel take on both a meat and veggie option.
Inside is charming as is the entire staff. The staff is engaging as much as a diner wants, well trained, and just so kind and pleasant. Shout out to Ryan, Devon and the newest employee Cici (sp?) for their part in making this such an exceptional experience. The inside is romantic/casual with twinkle lights, stars, real candles and tactile river rocks weighting the napkins.
You know you’re someplace special when the place is packed all night on a Wednesday (we recommend making reservations), is committed to high quality original local artwork (League of NH Craftsmen artist Matthew Smith’s lobster is seen in part in one photo) and the planters out front have signs that encourage you to try a nibble. Always one to follow instructions I tried a blueberry and a leaf of what I believe was lemon thyme. We had many more courses to come, but let’s count the PYO mini session as tasting #1. Good stuff and the first blueberry I’ve picked in decades.
Blue Moon Evolution puts its passion for homemade and local into everything – even their cocktails. I may have been inclined after the lemon thyme to keep in that mode so I chose the GEMINI SUN Hendrick’s gin, Fabrizia limoncello, muddled organic basil & cucumber, freshly squeezed organic lemon & a splash of seltzer. Fresh, tart and light, great for a summer night.
Jon tried POMEGRANATE MINT GREYHOUND vodka, organic grapefruit, organic pomegranate, house made grenadine & muddled fresh mint. Complex flavors were sweet tart and refreshing.
Our official meal started with an unexpected sample of:
WOLF MEADOW STRACCIATELLA CHEESE bruleed figs, vincotto & grilled crostini. It was a little bit of heaven. Don’t think we could go there again without ordering this. Stracciatella cheese is kind of like mozzarella or the inside of a burrata. Semi soft stringy and smooth. Vincotto according to our knowledgeable waitperson Devon and Wikipedia “is made by the slow cooking and reduction over many hours of non-fermented grape must until it has been reduced to about one-fifth of its original volume and the sugars present have caramelized.”
We ordered the CHARCUTERIE & CHEESE PLATE. Blue Moon Evolution cures the meats in house including a blue fish that we both loved.The combinations change daily. I was so pleasantly surprised by the number of unique cheeses made in our area. I wish we could remember the producers and names. My two favorites were the softs – a cremant goat and an ashed creamy bleu. But these change regularly too based on availability.
Jon had LITTLE BROOK FARMS HANGER STEAK curry rubbed, roasted carola potatoes, roasted maitake mushrooms & swiss chard, smoked tomato compound butter (The swiss chard was out of this world good with a smoky flavor as if it had been charred.)
I had PAN SEARED LEMON HERB HADDOCK sweet pea puree, summer vegetable & white bean succotash, house cured Kellie Brook Farm pork pancetta & lemon butter (but for me without the pancetta) The sweet pea puree and the succotash managed somehow to be my favorite things on the plate, regardless of how good and fresh the fish was, and that is a testament to a kitchen where everything on the plate is made with equal care.
We weren’t still hungry but after many negotiations among ourselves opted for BING CHERRY CLAFOUTIS candied cashews, blue moon organic ice cream. The cashews added such a nice textural and flavor change to the clafloutis. I tried and was quite fond of the restaurant’s own brewed mint and chamomile tea. The subtle flavors were calming and relaxing and Jon had a pot of rich french pressed coffee. We will now have to get a french press.
To celebrate our anniversary, the chef sent us a sample of something that had interested us both but we weren’t sure about: RAW CREAMY LEMON CASHEW TORTE with organic agave drizzle & fresh raspberries *raw* This was nicely zippy and had a unique texture where we could identify tiny grains of cashews in the otherwise mousse-like filling.The raspberries were gloriously big with the perfect sweet tart brightness.
Jon and I had been eating sensibly for a while now and this amount of food brought us to the stuffed point, however we were also content in the knowledge that the surprising flavors were so pure, local and fresh.
For a special occasion in a new restaurant this was a feast to be remembered and tried again and again but in pieces. We’re already thinking of which friends to share this awesome find with. And you all are on the list, because you only find a restaurant this great as you might expect “once in a Blue Moon”. And PS Jon – we are not going to the 99 for our 9th anniversary.
Note: Alison Colby-Campbell is neither a food writer/reviewer nor a self proclaimed foodie, but was compelled by such an exciting culinary evening that she wanted to share.