Hidden behind the quaint downtown of Exeter, N.H., Blue Moon Evolution is serving approachable yet creative dishes — using ingredients that come from within 30 miles of the restaurant.
Originally a health food store and café, Blue Moon has been dedicated to preparing locally sourced and organic food since 1995. Its website even boasts a map listing the impressive range of farmers who work with the restaurant.
Our meal there began with complimentary warm bread with accompanying dipping oil. The bread — made by Jessica’s Brick Oven in North Andover — comes to Blue Moon partially baked and is then finished in the restaurant’s ovens. The dipping oil is made with a mix of fresh herbs including parsley, sage, thyme, and rosemary.
Because of the restaurant's dedication to local ingredients, Blue Moon’s menu changes frequently with the seasons (and holidays). But some items do sometimes remain on the menu — Blue Moon has been known to keep them on hand if regular customers continually ask for them. That being said, the dishes we sampled may not be on the menu for long, but they are a good interpretation of what the restaurant is capable of executing.
We started with an order of seafood cakes ($12), made with lobster, Jonah crab, shrimp, and whitefish. These gluten-free cakes were also served with a tangy lemon aïoli. The cakes boasted a generous amount of fresh seafood with just the right amount of buttery breading. The aïoli also provided a necessary fresh citrus flavor to the dish.
Blue Moon Evolution offers several cheese and charcuterie boards, as well as a few salads in addition to their appetizers, but we decided to go straight to their entrées. The menu offers only a few entrée choices, but there is something for every dietary preference — including carnivorous, vegetarian, vegan, and raw dishes.
The cauliflower quinoa cassoulet ($22) is one hearty vegetarian option, chock full of organic roasted cauliflower and tricolor quinoa in a tomato and fennel stew. The dish is then baked with parmesan and gluten-free bread crumbs, resulting in a healthy yet indulgent dish. The vegetables and quinoa were both cooked perfectly, and no extra salt or pepper was required.
The Little Brook Farm (in Exeter) pot roast ($30) is served with a wine pan sauce, sour cream and cheddar mashed potatoes, and organic vegetables. The tender pot roast fell apart with a touch of the fork, and the creamy side of mashed potatoes was an ideal companion for the meat. The wine sauce provided a nice hit of acid to the dish and made the roast that much moister.
Another notable entrée is the gluten-free scallop and lobster pie ($30), served in a brandy-roasted shallot cream sauce and baked with parmesan, kale chips, and bread crumbs. The appearance of the light brown sauce was a little unappealing at first, but the flavor erased any memory of what our eyes initially processed. The sweeter, ideally seasoned sauce blended beautifully with the fresh, well-cooked seafood. The only downside of this dish was the side of potatoes that had clearly been sitting for too long.
Desserts at Blue Moon Evolution are not to be skipped. The dark chocolate clementine pot du crème ($8), served with obviously homemade whipped cream, was incredibly rich and sweet — but, thankfully, well portioned. The bright clementine flavor helped balance the richness from the chocolate, resulting in a worth-every-calorie dessert.
The Newmarket, N.H.-made Bloomin’ Cow Ice Cream ($8) flavor of the night was Madagascar vanilla, topped with gluten-free chocolate cookie crumbs. This was a large dish of ice cream easily shared by two people, although the extreme creaminess and fantastic vanilla flavor of the ice cream made it difficult to do so. The cookie crumbs sprinkled throughout the dish provided a welcome texture and flavor to this otherwise simple dessert.
The wine list is modest yet varied, with half- and full-glass options available, as well as bottles. Prices can range from $4 for a half-glass to $89 for a bottle. Beer and cocktails are also available, and the real fruit juice Blue Moon uses in its cocktails was greatly appreciated.
Blue Moon’s setting only adds to its charm. Housed in an old barn, the atmosphere is intimate and cozy thanks to dim lighting and tasteful white string lights mixed with romantic candle flames.
The modest bar area is comfortably separated from the dining room, which has no more than 15 to 20 tables. And on a Friday night, you can expect the place to be just busy enough — a full house, but no wait time. We do recommend making a reservation.
Michelle Lahey is a professional chef who writes about food on her blog www.theeconomicaleater.com.