Portsmouth Eats: Popovers And Surf

About a month ago, I went to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with my friend Carrie to shop for wedding dresses. Her wedding is the month before mine, and we thought it would be fun to make the trip together and see if we found any dresses we liked enough to bring our moms back to see.

Why were we heading to Portsmouth when there are plenty of dress shops right in Boston? There's a shop in Portsmouth called Madeleine's Daughter where friends and friends of friends have bought their dresses and it was recommended to me so many times I had to check it out. I'd rather go somewhere where someone has had a great experience than draw straws trying to figure out where to go.

So anyways, that's why Carrie and I made the trek (it's only about an hour), and being the good brides we are, we headed out early to make sure we'd get to our appointments on time. We arrived with plenty of time to spare, drove into downtown Portsmouth, parked in the (ridiculously cheap to this Boston-area girl) parking garage ($0.75 an hour), and sought a place to have breakfast.

We walked across the street to Popovers, which was also recommended to me by several friends.

Popovers, Portsmouth, NH

It just so happened that there was an open table outside, so the hostess reserved it for us, and we went in to place our orders. For some reason, we were both in the mood for egg sandwiches with cheese and bacon (maybe something about wedding dress shopping makes you crave bacon?), so we each got one.

Egg sandwich at Popovers, Portsmouth, NH

The sandwich, served on a soft roll with lots of egg and gooey cheese, definitely hit the spot, but I wished a couple pieces of the bacon were a little crispier. I also wished I had room after breakfast for some of the delicious-looking pastries in the case.

Popovers On The Square on Urbanspoon

But, calories consumed and minutes dwindled, it was time to drive the 2 miles back down the road to the dress shop. We were both a little alarmed to see that the shop was in a strip mall, but our fears subsided once we got inside. We were greeted, checked in, and ushered to plush chairs to wait. Then we were each taken to our respective dressing rooms, where we tried on as many dresses as we could during our 1 hour appointments. My consultant helped me quickly narrow down what I was looking for. I went in with an idea of what I wanted and didn't want and actually loved one of the silhouettes I thought I would hate (trumpet) and hated the one I thought I would love (A-line). At the end, Carrie and I showed each other our top three dresses.

I actually found my dress that day; I just didn't know it yet. I know everyone says you just know when you find the dress, but I am a little on the practical side, so I think deep down I knew I had found the dress, but I needed to look a little more just to be sure. I asked my consultant (McKenzie -- who I very, very highly recommend -- she was awesome) to mark down my four favorite dresses and planned to bring my mom back to see them.

Wedding dress shopping is hard work. There's a lot of diving and turning, stepping up and stepping down, and gawking and admiring. We were tired and in need of some nourishment... and cocktails. A quick drive brought us back into downtown Portsmouth, and after a little wandering around, we decided to check out Surf for a light lunch.

Surf, Portsmouth, NH

Surf, located on Bow Street, happens to have a teeny tiny back balcony with four tables on it that overlooks the water. It was a pretty warm day and I think people were trying to stay in the air conditioning, so we got the balcony all to ourselves.

We started with cocktails. You all know my love for St-Germain by now and my desire to get everyone to love St-Germain, so we both tried the Piscataqua cocktail (St-Germain, Pama liqueur, Champagne, and soda water). The drink was just what we needed: a little bubbly, a little sweet, a lot refreshing.

Piscataqua cocktail at Surf, Portsmouth, NH

Then we decided to just share an appetizer and a salad. We went with the fried Jonah crab cakes and the fried tomato and crispy bacon salad (I'm telling you... wedding dress shopping does that!). The crab cakes were just the way I like 'em: lots of crab, no fillers. They had a crunchy coating and came topped with a Louisiana-style remoulade.

Fried Jonah crab cakes at Surf, Portsmouth, NH

I wouldn't recommend ordering the fried tomato and crispy bacon salad if you're really looking for a light salad, but if you want a salad with some depth and a lot of flavor, then go for it! The bacon on this salad was crisped to perfection. I don't think I've ever had fried red tomatoes, and I found them less sturdy and more "melty" than green tomatoes. This was an interesting way to add them to a salad as opposed to just chopping them and tossing them in. The tomatoes and bacon rested on a bed of mixed lettuces, and the whole thing was topped with a peppery parmesan dressing.

Fried tomato and crispy bacon salad at Surf, Portsmouth, NH

Just as we were paying our bill, some other diners decided to brave the heat. The timing worked out nicely for us. And I just have to note that even though we were all alone on the balcony, our waitress was awesome. She was attentive, never forgot about us, and made some great recommendations for us about the drinks we got and the dishes we ordered. It was so relaxing and peaceful to sit out on the water, sip cocktails, have some girl time, and enjoy a leisurely lunch.

Surf Seafood on Urbanspoon

Overall, we had a really fun day in Portsmouth. I think trying on dresses made the wedding seem even more real and imminent. One of the things about having a long engagement is feeling like the wedding is lightyears away and there's plenty of time to get everything done. But that gets balanced out by realizing there's more and more stuff to do and then thinking you won't ever get it all done. It was kind of a relief to start the dress shopping process and realize that there actually could be a dress out there for me. I left looking forward to returning and showing off the dresses to my mom... and hopefully spending a little more time in downtown Portsmouth.

Have you been wedding dress shopping -- for yourself or friends? What do you remember most about it?