Talking Food with Portsmouth’s Chef Evan Mallett

New Hampshire’s Ocean Friendly Restaurateur

Interested in eating the freshest fish available? Where better to find a restaurant that fits the bill than in New Hampshire. The 13-mile coastline is dotted with eateries that feature casual lobster roll stands to burger huts and seafood restaurants, making it a hot spot during the summer.

No other place has more restaurants than the historical town of Portsmouth. In fact, there are more seats in restaurants than residents in Portsmouth. The restaurant scene is bustling on a Thursday night with locals and tourists. My niece Sonia and I made our way over to the waterfront to visit the Black Trumpet Bistro for a meal and a chat with Chef Evan Mallett.

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The Black Trumpet is located on Ceres Street, in one of the historical row of buildings overlooking the waterfront. The restaurant is divided into two levels. The space retains its historical charm from the 1800’s while seamlessly integrating modern upgrades.

Prior to opening the Black Trumpet, Chef Mallet worked in various restaurants in Washington D.C before moving to Boston to work as a food critic at the tender age of 25. After a brief cooking stint in Mexico, he returned to the US to work as a chef in Portsmouth, due to his grandfather’s frequent visits and love he had for the town. In 2007 Mallett and his wife Denise, had the opportunity to purchase the building and restaurant Lindbergh’s Landing. The building formerly housed James Haller’s legendary twenty-six year restaurant Blue Strawberry. Mallett, a huge fan of Haller’s philosophy of sourcing local sustainable ingredients, continues this practice in his restaurant. You won’t find any endangered fish species on his menu.

Mallett is involved in New Hampshire’s’ food scene and sits on the board of Chef’s Collaborative, Slow Food Seacoast.

Evan Mallett, in the kitchen

Chef Evan Mallett, in the kitchen

Chef Mallett answers a few questions about his philosophy and the New Hampshire Food Scene.

Q. How did you come up with the name for the restaurant?

I was foraging on a nearby mountain with my then-young children, and I was wracking my brain to decide on a restaurant name (the two options were taken and not very interesting), and I came across a field full of black trumpet mushrooms. I fell on my knees in a near-religious epiphany and quickly started stuffing mushrooms in the backpack that contained our picnic lunch to be eaten at the summit. In a bad-parenting move, I left the food on a rock, ran down the mountain with a backpack bursting with mushrooms, and left my poor kids at the summit to await my return.

Q. Who else In New Hampshire Is notable for their sustainable food practices?

Chefs Ted McCormack and Kath Gallant at Blue Moon Evolution
Chef Matt Louis at Moxy Restaurant
Chef Evan Hennessey at Stages Dining

Food policy: John Carroll at UNH, Sara Zoe Patterson of Seacoast Eat Local, Dorn Cox at Tuckaway Farm.

Q. How do you see yourself influencing the food scene in Portsmouth’s New Hampshire?

I can now say that my restaurant and its purchasing ethos have made a mark on our community by setting an example for other chefs and restaurateurs to follow. It is the natural state of the world to do what we do–it’s not rocket science–but we have to wrestle the existing, illogically broken system we grew up with to make change stick.

Q. Who inspires you in the food world?

Paul Greenberg author of the James Beard Award winning bestseller Four Fish and American Catch
Michael Pollan author of Cooked
Farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm
Chefs Michael Leviton, Sean Brock, Dan Barber and Rick Bayless
Jenna Darcy, who is a world-class forager and also happens to be the head gardener for our Heirloom Harvest Project farm garden.

Q. How often does your menu change? What inspires you to change it besides non-availability of a specific item?

The Black Trumpet menu changes every six weeks, but more often in the summer as the crop rotation dictates. Availability is the main reason to change menus, but my “secret reason” is that frequent changes keep our staff and customers engaged and excited about what we do. I credit this as the reason we have such great staff retention.

Q. How and where do you source your produce?

We grow most of it at this time of year, but I also buy from dozens of local farms throughout the year. One of my favorite farms, Meadows Mirth, has created a cooperative of farms from whom I buy produce via an iPhone app called “Three Rivers Alliance”.

Q. Who are your primary customers – regulars, locals, tourists etc?

In the winter, its mostly regulars. In the summer mostly tourists.

The tasting menu
Artistically presented, the dishes highlight natural flavour of food.

Special thanks to Visit New Hampshire for hosting us as their guest.

Black Trumpet on Urbanspoon

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