Cuisine to Entice Every Palate at Blue Moon Evolution
By Brian Guidi Fiddlehead
When it comes to organic, locally sourced cuisine, Blue Moon Evolution is the real deal.
The 19th-century structure is tucked behind the historic Gilman Garrison House in downtown Exeter. What awaits you on the other side of a sliding barn door is a warm yet, open gathering place.
The former Once in a Blue Moon Natural Food Market and Café is now one of the area’s premier farm-to-table restaurants. Blue Moon Evolution, as it’s now known, opened in 1995, focusing on all-natural, organic and locally sourced ingredients with a deep respect for creativity, nourishment and the well-being of the planet.
It’s operated by owner Kath Gallant and her daughter Meadow Ulery, who serves as general manager. Long before the terms organic and farm-to-table were part of the dining lexicon, Blue Moon was committed to being 100 percent organic. Gallant said she created the restaurant “with the quest for knowing my farmer and knowing where my food came from” in mind.
The restaurant uses only organic produce, oils, vinegars, citrus and proteins, sourced from local farms such as Stout Oak Farm and Clyde Farm in Brentwood, Kellie Brook Farm in Greenland and Riverslea Farm in Epping. With such close proximity to the coastal region, seafood is expectedly fresh, and chocolatiers such as Enna Chocolate in Epping ensure that even the sweets are locally sourced.
Blue Moon is also committed to environmental responsibility.
“Nothing is wasted, everything is used,” Gallant said.
Head Chef John Hallett’s skill and creativity result in a broad array of imaginative dishes.
Each day a “soup a santé,” or healthy soup, is made with all-organic ingredients, like the Thai white bean soup with carrot, celery, sweet potato, tomato, bell pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, coconut milk, peanut butter, red curry, agave and fresh herbs, topped with scallions; or the creamy, wild rice mushroom and beef soup with local beef, wild rice, leek, onion, garlic, sherry, dairy and fresh herbs, topped with croutons.
There are appetizers like Blue Moon’s modern twist on a retro hors d’oeuvre: Mast Tree Farm (located in Fremont) deviled eggs filled with curried carrot, topped with pickled beet and toasted sesame seed with a touch of Dijon mustard.
The menu is specifically designed to accommodate vegan, gluten-free and gluten-sensitive diners and those on a raw-food diet with zero sacrifice in quality or flavor. Each item on the menu clearly indicates these special food categories.
“When we created Evolution, we wanted to have something for the raw foodist, the vegan, the vegetarian, the conscious meat eater and the gluten-free person, with the reality being that in my family there is one of each of them,” said Gallant.
The vegetable nori roll is both gluten-free and vegan-friendly and bursts with light, crisp flavors. The savory bite combines nori-wrapped raw sunflower seed pâté, shredded beet, shaved red cabbage, carrot with cashew wasabi cream, tamari dipping sauce and pickled cabbage.
Blue Moon’s entrees have the same dedication to organic and local products as well as extraordinary flavor. Kellie Brook Farm braised pork shoulder is cast-iron seared, with wholesome toasted oat and barley porridge, complemented by smoked walnuts, poached pear and roasted butternut squash and apple-pear butter.
The grilled grass-fed flank steak is served with local sweet potato and market vegetables with roasted garlic butter sauce.
Chef Hallett also makes creative use of other proteins including pan-seared duck, and fresh fish like arctic char or pan-seared hake with toasted fregola sarda, chorizo, Dunk’s local smoked oyster mushrooms, roasted autumn squash, crispy lacinato kale and a romesco sauce.
For vegetarians, there are dishes like charred sunchoke risotto and local butternut lasagna, which are also vegan adjustable.
And while the lemon tart and blood orange crème brulé are gluten-free, anyone would want to indulge in these desserts.
Blue Moon also pays as much attention to its cocktail and wine list as they do to their food selection. Drink master Jerome Daly creates imaginative libations with his own infusions, dehydrations, sweeteners and cocktail mix ingredients like the Beetnik After Dark — organic beet-infused tequila, Cointreau, Lillet, freshly squeezed organic lemon and organic agave syrup — or the Dapper Don Draper with Bulleit bourbon, chai-infused dark brown sugar syrup, Fee Brothers walnut bitters and flamed orange peel, over an ice sphere.
Dining this good only comes around once in a blue moon.
For more information, visit bluemoonevolution.com.