trumpet-door

On this week’s agenda was a visit to freezing cold New England and therefore a meal with our friends Evan and Denise at the Black Trumpet, their cozy bistro on a side street in Portsmouth, N.H. We arrived on a sunny, wintry afternoon, just in time to interrupt dinner prep. Right behind us was Walter, the windblown fish guy, who brought swordfish and clams wrapped in butcher paper plus news of a wharf fire. Next through the door was farmer Jean, of Meadow’s Mirth Farm, sporting long curls and a woolen cap, and carrying beautiful green winter squashes. Evan gladly took the squashes and said he’d check in with her at the weekend farmer’s market.

That evening Evan sat down with us to drink a glass of Pinot Grigio, then ordered — and cooked — our meal himself, and the food didn’t stop coming for a very long time. First was a plate of salt cod brandade, followed by veal sweetbreads with brussel sprouts, figs, and bacon he’d smoked at home. Then came local mussels with a decadent bread pudding. A pork rillette with pickled beets and winter chicories. Fresh swordfish, indisputably fresh, with curried red pepper sauce. A fabulous raw goat’s milk cheese from Consider Bardwell Dairy in Vermont. And then Meyer Lemon cheesecake with pomegranate jus that was to die for.

Still the good times felt measured. The tables were half-empty, as they are everywhere across the land these days, and our friends are hunkering down for tough times. Whether a small restaurant devoted to local, seasonal food can make it through the dark winter ahead is anybody’s guess, and that’s a problem not only for people we know and love but also for organic growers, the fish monger, the cheesemaker, and the pig farmer. And this in a community with a vibrant local food scene. Which could mean trouble for local eaters everywhere — trouble for you and me both.

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