A couple weeks ago, in Nashua, NH for work, I discovered the perfect appetizer. It's about time, right? A variation on the seriously awesome grits and pork belly appetizer I had with house made hot sauce and sunny side up egg at the Apple Pie Cafe at the Culinary Institute a couple years ago, the bacon and eggs at MT's Local Kitchen and Wine Bar has captured the crown.
I wish they had seated us closer to a window so I could give you a better look at this masterpiece of comfort: crispy pork belly with the perfect ratio of tender fat to chewy meat, deep fried egg with still-runny yolk, dense, creamy grits, and a little dried apricot compote. The grits might not have passed muster with a true GRITS (girl raised in the south), but this Yankee was thrilled with the hearty grind of the corn, the perfect, balanced selenity of the pork, the rich egg yolk, and the sweet, musky funk of the apricots. If I had my own restaurant, a variation of this dish would be on the menu, and it's something I wish I could get around these parts, because it's all the things, for me, that make perfect comfort food.
MT's Local, right on Nashua's little Main Street/downtown area, is decorated in soothing colors and cool art. In fact, the watercolors of churches in the ladies room were so cool, I had a fleeting impulse to abscond with one. But I have to say, while our meal was good, that appetizer really was the highlight of the meal. There were a couple other good bites that you should know about, though, as overall, this was one of the brighter spots in the Nasua culinary scene that I've experienced.
The cheese plate came complete with fried discs of tangy, ripe, creamy goat cheese - given the side eye by our more conservative eaters and gobbled up by those of us on the more adventurous side. I also enjoyed the rather spicy apricot jam on this plate - Mr. MT knows what he's doing with apricots, you guys! It was sweet and tangy, pairs well with the funk of the goat cheese.
I ordered the white wine braised pork with pappardelle for my entree, and eagerly anticipated its treasures after that fabulous pork belly and grits appetizer - but the pasta was a bit gluey. I liked the light, lemony flavor of the dish overall, but a finishing sprinkle of sea salt or a shower of pungent Romano cheese would have gone a tremendous way in helping amp up the flavor.
The braised duck with gnocchi and ricotta was the winning entree of the table. Lucky Shannon for ordering this gem! The duck was lush, deep, savory incarnate. Pick this if you hit up MT's.
Liz went for the special, which was fried chicken. And it WAS special! I loved the dark meat, with its succulent crust and a little moat of delectable, rich, homemade gravy. Home style is done correctly here.
An odd little menu tick stuck out to us and we asked the waitress to bring us a sample: crispy ham croutons, which were listed as an ingredient in the field salad. Joke's on us! Rather than the homemade pork rinds I was imagining, these were crispy cubes of bread, and large cubes of ham. Separate - not a crouton made of ham, but ham AND croutons. Wah-wah.
We sampled some desserts, but they didn't really toot my horn. I think that appetizer was so ooey gooey good, I only had eyes for it. We all chatted and gave MT's a seven on the BHS scale - there were some great dishes and some problematic ones, but lovely, warm ambiance, fab drinks (order the It's Me Time!), and good company. Keep it on your list, order the duck, and snag me a watercolor, will ya? My personality is big, my hunger is bigger!