The Blue Mermaid

Tonight we are going to talk about my "favorite restaurant in Portsmouth." Bold statement, bold flavors, the (bold) Blue Mermaid.

But before I do that I need to showcase last night's openface meatloaf sandwich! The sequal was better than the first performance.

Two slices meatloaf, ezekiel english muffin, babybell cheese, marinara sauce, toaster oven...oh, baby! Considerations for three nights in a row have entered my mind but I just can't bring myself to tripple play the meatloaf. For me eating something similar two nights in a row is pushing it, but I couldn't dismiss the daydreams of this sammy. (do you daydream of food?)

Glorious. Saturday's supper perhaps.

Do you have a tried-and-true restaurant? An establishment consistently delivering on taste, price and service in turn capturing your loyalty? The Blue Mermaid is my true blue.

My most recent visit to the Blue Mermaid marked a very momentous occasion. The meet and greet of my mom and Matt's mom! After much debate on where to allow this "laissez faire" dinner to occur and resistance on my part to go to the Blue Mermaid again (Matt and I seriously go there on the reg) I came to my senses and realized, "What better place to bring my family and Matt's together but our favorite place," (the same realization that goes down in the My Idea Windows 7 commercials when ordinary people think of something fabulous before the geniuses at Microsoft).

Located in the Hill, an historic area of Portsmouth, the Blue Mermaid could possibly get overlooked, as it is not the center of attention downtown. Which explains TASTE Magazine coining it "Portsmouth's Best Kept Secret." Caribbean inspired, the Blue Mermaid is brightly adorned with inspiring photographs and eclectic decor. The Mermaid's passion for delivering high flavor and unique festive food is apparent in every item that reaches the table starting with the warm tri-colored tortilla chips and homemade salsa. The service is always exceptional, informative and friendly and that salsa, did I already mention the fire roasted, award winning salsa?

My boyfriend "knows what he likes and what he likes to do" (his words) so he tends to order the same drink, appetizer and entree at the Blue Mermaid every time. No judgement, his lineup is stellar defined. I usually order some variation of the margarita or sangria. The picture below showcases the Painkiller and a Patron Silver marg.

The Painkiller Light & dark rum, pineapple juice, oj, and coconut with fresh nutmeg (right) Patron Silver Patron silver tequila, Cointreau, a splash of sour, splash of lime, float of Grand Marnier (left)

The Crispy Calamari served with a tomato roasted poblano aioli dipping sauce gets the party started every time.

The calamari at the Mermaid is without exception, amazing. Nailing the two integral factors perfectly: lightly crispy on the outside, deliciously fresh on the inside.

Let's jump in the trust tree for a minute or two. The real reason Matt and I continually come back to the Blue Mermaid is for the Braised Short Ribs. These "fall off the bone" ribs really and truly fall off the bone but land softly in the decadent sauce sent from Caribbean heaven. Moderately rich but full of flavor, I could eat spoonfulls of this sauce all night.

Braised Beef Short Ribs
Island rubbed and braised in a guava-soy reduction, served with roasted poblano mashed
potatoes and sauteed green beans

If food by sea is more your preference, the selection of fish entrees is vast and irresistible. Wood grilled salmon, shrimp, scallops or mahi-mahi to be paired with your choice of two sides and sauce. The possibilities are endless; salmon with roasted corn red pepper salsa, jalepeno pesto or chipotle honey glaze. Shrimp with sunsplash salsa, grilled mango vinaigrette or mango chutney. Aside from the talented wood grilled selections, other Mermaid specialities include but are not limited to: Pan Blackened Mahi-Mahi served over couscous and a black bean and corn roasted waffle topped with mango napa cabbage and chili slaw; Seafood Tagine: Salmon, cod and mahi mahi sautéed with curried tomatoes, onions and peppers in a rich coconut fish stew, served with foccacia and a side salad (pictured below right) and Bimini Chicken Pan roasted boneless breast of chicken sautéed with bananas and walnuts in a bourbon coconut sauce, served with chef’s vegetable and sweet potato hash.

The entree on the left is a special that peaked my interest. Blackened salmon with an avocado cream sauce (on the side), baby bok choy and roasted red peppers with roasted poblano mashed potatoes. Special indeed.

With numerous visits over the past four years, I have tasted a plethora of delicious items: Lobster and Roasted Corn chowder; Steamed PEI Mussels sauteed in fire roasted tomatoes, white wine, garlic and herbs; grilled bananas; corn bread; Mermaid Mac and Cheese, Saddle Bags, crispy wontons filled with chicken, jack cheese, herbs and spices, served with a ginger soy sauce....to be continued.

The Blue Mermaid will always be my favorite restaurant in Portsmouth but now the food and memories hold a more distinct place in my heart. Food really brings people together and at its essence is the shared flavors of communities and relationships. Over the years, the Blue Mermaid has united new couples, old friends and now families.

If food is love, the Blue Mermaid is Aphrodite.


Summer comfort meatloaf

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful comments on my last two posts. Embracing life and living for today can easily be forgotten during the more monotonous days but it resonates with all of you and that just warms my big ol' heart.

It is 84 degrees in Portsmouth tonight, I do not have AC and I chose to pre-heat the oven for my debut into cooking meatloaf. Writing these words, I wonder if I'm a partial lunatic. For one, I only like my mom's meatloaf and two, it is not winter. I like to think I just wanted to capitalize on Wednesday's day off from working out and create a new dish. Meatloaf is comfort food defined, so I guess even in the dog days of summer we all need a lil' comfort.

Speaking of dogs!! Matt's family just brought home a brand new golden retriever and named her Bella after none other than Patriots coach, Bill Belicheck!

How cute is that ball of fluff!?! eeeeeee so cute.

Anyways here are the loaf of meat* deets: adapted from here

Summer Comfort Meatloaf

■1/2 medium white onion, chopped finely
■1 red bell pepper, chopped finely
■2 large carrots, grated or chopped finely
■1 lb ground turkey breast
■6 ounces of tomato/spaghetti sauce
■3/4 cup uncooked rolled oats
■1/4 cup shredded parm cheese
■2 tsp. dried oregano
■2 tsp. basil
■1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
■2 egg whites
■2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
■Splash of Worcestershire sauce
■Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine all ingredients (save the cooking spray) into a bowl and mush together. Years of watching my mom mix and mush with her hands inspired me to do the same. But if you aren't that kind of gal or gent, by all means use a wooden spoon!

3. Spray the cooking spray into a loaf tin and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour

4. If you so desire, broil on high for 3 minutes to get the top and edges nice and crispy. I am going for the "Hi, my name is Joy, I have two kids and I just burnt my meatloaf again" look. (Joy is my mom)

To really transform this winter comfort food into a summer meal I nixed the standard mashed potatoes and sauteed seasonable summer squash and zucchini with a light coating of EVOO, garlic powder, sea salt and oregano and prepared a side salad with Olivia Organic's spring mix, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and feta cheese. Oooo la la!

Plate, serve, enjoy!

This is a far cry from the meatloaf I grew up eating, but I clearly wasn't trying to replicate my mom's AND it was still very good! I like knowing this is a healthier version; I will never turn down extra veggies, and the marinara sauce, oregano, basil and parm cheese really elevated the flavor.

It's a win but next time this meatloaf is prepared the temperature outside will be at least 20 degrees cooler.

Is there a comfort food that reminds you of your childhood? Have you recreated in your own kitchen?

*I apologize and will never refer to meatloaf in this way again. Ew.


Team KP

There are purities in life that are hard to catch sight of on a daily basis. Genuine random acts of kindness, pure bliss, true love and living in the moment. Witness any of these real moments and the emotions become contagious. For example, have you seen the "random acts of kindness" Liberty Mutual commercial? It is an inspiring, accurate depiction of the chain reaction that can follow when a complete stranger observes an other's unexpected kindness.

This past Saturday I observed an entire community living in the moment when I attended a fundraiser at Willikers in Shrewsbury, MA for Kevin Phillips (KP), a friend of Matt's living with pancreatic cancer. KP was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this past Spring...at the age of 27. Quickly after this news shocked and stunned friends, family and the Westborough community, Kevin's closest friends created a facebook page, Team KP, to be there for KP, his girlfriend Theresa, her son Jake, and well, each other. There is no shortage of support. Via facebook, friends comment and status updates are posted on the reg., purple Team KP wrist bands were created, t-shirts repping the KP logo designed, a Kevin J Phillips fund at Sovereign Bank was born and Saturday's fundraiser celebrated life.

The atmosphere at Willikers on Saturday was positive and heart warming. Local businesses and organizations donated gift certificates to be raffled, three local bands performed, and stellar prizes such as a getaway weekend, Red Sox tickets, and a bat signed by Red Sox captain Jason Veritek were silently auctioned. The owner of Willikers even donated the restaurant and the food for the evening. KP's close friends and organizers of the event really did an exceptional job (thank you!!) Looking around the room you saw friends and family connecting, overwhelming support and devotion, and everyone in attendance was living.in.the.moment!

The following pics were taken from various facebook albums and not my own photography:

Prior to the event, an article was written in the online version of The Daily Westborough informing the community of the fundraiser and quoting friends and KP about the past few months. A close friend of KP's, Sarah Arsenault said, "Because of this, a lot of people who have lost track of each other over the years have re-connected. He’s such a positive guy. I think it rubs off on all of us who know him.” On Saturday night, KP's love for life was palpable. The positive attitude Sarah referenced was obvious and contagious. The energy at the event was bright, generous and full of love. All were savoring the moment and it was beautiful!

KP, you are an unbelievable person. You are honest, hilarious, energetic and a breath of fresh air. A true embodiment of strength and courage and a real inspiration to us all. I have not known you long, but I would be blessed to get to know you better. Live life and know no boundaries. Team KP!

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. ~Abraham Lincoln

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. -Randy Pausch

Forever is composed of nows. -Emily Dickinson

Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present. -Babatunde Olatunji


Get comfortable with the uncomfortable

In a few months my life will be very different. This change is fun and exciting but also evokes anxiety. I cannot dive into the details just yet but that Robert Frost, boy, he was onto something when he said, "take the road less traveled." I find comfort in having a routine; a settled home base, plans, convenience and familiarity. But too much comfort can create a wicked uncomfortableness. It is so easy to become "stuck" and afraid to try new things for fear of the unknown. Why take a big leap when your feet closely identify with the ground underneath? Because you might find you will land somewhere better. Because, as cliche as it is, everything happens for a reason. A solid plan doesn't always work out and embracing the twists and turns of life can get you farther than a strict regime. Despite the anxiety I occasionally feel when thinking about the unknowns in my future, I know that no matter what I'm going to be okay and all these foreign happenings have me pretty flippin' ecstatic. Like happy dance, singing Glee songs excited. My mature self also knows that living for today and embracing every moment is necessary. You don't grow as a person if you are looking to the future for answers or dwelling on the past and wondering, "what if." Ask those 'what if's' now. Create and seize the opportunities of today, it might be scary but it's time to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Four years ago I graduated UNH and moved home to New Jersey. I had all my ducks in a row. Live at home for a few months, intern at a great company which would "inevitably" turn into a full time position and move to Hoboken or Morristown, NJ with high school friends. After a few summer trips up north visiting friends in NH and Boston, I started feeling antsy. I really really missed New England. An itch I wasn't sure how to scratch went from an odd dull sensation to full on hives so to speak. It was August and my dream internship had still not offered me a full time position. I stayed up late one night browsing the UNH alumni website and just for shits and giggles I started applying to jobs in Boston and NH. I had a few calls. I landed the interview and in a mere two weeks I was back up in NH looking for apartments. WOW, from then on unexpected amazingness ensued. I got the job, located a small one bedroom apt. in Portsmouth, NH, and discovered an independent woman inside of me. If a genie would have told me in the spring of 2006 that I would move home to NJ and then move back to NH and love it, I would have told them they were craaaaaaaaaaaaazy and demanded my money back. Since I didn't see a physic or fortune teller, no one told me that, instead I was just paying attention and I am glad I turned right instead of left. Fast forward a few years and I cannot imagine my life anywhere else. Well, maybe one other place :)

The point of this rumination is straight forward: live for today. I don't want to get all zen preacher on you but worrying about the future, what hasn't happened yet, is silly. Because you don't know what is going to occur. We can get so caught up in this weekend, next week, this fall that we lose focus on today. If it wasn't for the twists, turns, ups, downs, and sideways paths life wouldn't be a journey. If you are debating something new, I say go for it. Challenge yourself. Grow. If you fall or the nerves become too much, keep calm and carry on. The things we regret in life are the things we do not do. I know you have heard that one before, I am just here to refresh the memory.

:words and pictures of wisdom:

Rise up this mornin',
Smiled with the risin' sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin' sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin', ("This is my message to you-ou-ou:")

Singin': "Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."

-Bob Marley

"So many roads. So many detours. So many choices." -Carrie, Sex and The City



The past few weekends I have shared my apartment with some of my favorite people. My mom and sister from NJ, Elizabeth from Portland, ME, Matt and his parents from MA., Tricia, Kristen and Ashley from Salem, MA, Boston, MA and Ipswich, MA and Matt's brother Ryan, and his girlfriend Tessa from Boston. Wow!

All were welcomed with open arms because I like to give big hugs.

Meals were savored ...

...whales were watched...

...glasses were raised and toasts were made.

Surrounded by seashells...

...adorable pups...

...and friends...

...sometimes I wish these indulgent weekends of visitors would never end.

PS. A lot of these pictures (sunflower, whale watch tour, little pup) were taken by my mom, beautiful right!?