Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fosters Write Up

Cava brings wine, tapas to Port City

cmcmahonfosters.com cmcmahon@fosters.com

Article Date: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cava, the Port City's first wine and tapas bar, has opened on Commercial Alley. Owner John Akar, right, and Chef Gregg Sessler.(John Huff/Staff photographer)
PORTSMOUTH — From Blue Hawks to business owners, two local men have joined forces to bring the Port City its first wine and tapas bar, Cava, located on Commercial Alley.John Akar and Gregg Sessler, former Exeter High School graduates, always knew they wanted to start a restaurant together. Starting out as teenagers working at the Beach House Restaurant in Hampton Beach, the duo have had their hand in the hospitality business for quite some time."We always had the dream of opening up a restaurant," Akar said.Following high school, the two went their separate ways and after years of doing their own thing, teamed up to bring a bit of Mediterranean flavor to local patrons. Sessler worked on the West Coast as the executive chef at the Caprice Restaurant in San Francisco, while Akar worked in management for Agave Mexican Bistro in Newburyport, Mass.A chance find on craigslist for the property located on Commercial Alley sparked the two to bring the West Coast appeal of tapas to the East Coast.Akar considers Cava one of the first actual wine bars in the city and said while most restaurants only offer wine by the glass, his business will offer it by the taste, half glass and full glass.Cava will also specialize in high-end martinis, he said, and will continue to constantly recreate the wine list."It will be constantly changing and evolving," Akar said.The concept of tapas is all about small portions capable of being shared by patrons, he added. The food menu will have a Mediterranean feel, mixed with some Lebanese, Greek, Turkish and Spanish flavor."You can go light or you can have a full meal," he added.Saturday's grand opening went off without a hitch, said Akar. Customers turned out in force, sparking an hour wait for a table."The place was packed," he said. "People really loved the downstairs bar area because it's not only just a great place to hang out and have a glass of wine, but it provides a city feel."The business will also offer a special toothpick menu from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., where diners can choose from color coded appetizers for an affordable price.The majority of the food is homemade and is made right in front of customers lucky enough to score a seat at the chef's table, said Sessler.Akar plans on heading up the back of the house business, while Sessler will busy himself preparing the many dishes.The establishment is capable of seating nearly 50 patrons and in the warm season will open up the outside seating area.To check out what Cava has to offer visit, http://www.cavatapasandwinebar.com/.

Portsmouth Herald Business Profile


December 05, 2008 6:00 AM

PORTSMOUTH — Cava, the tapas bar and restaurant, opened last week in downtown Portsmouth. Word of mouth on the new establishment is spreading fast.
Cava is the name of a Spanish sparkling wine. Cava also means "cave" in Spanish. But when you go to Portsmouth's Cava think Spain, Portugal, Lebanon, northern Africa, southern Italy and so on.

Owners: John Akar and Gregg Sessler
Location: 10 Commercial Alley, Portsmouth
Phone: 319-1575
Hours: Open 7 days a week - 3:30-5:30 p.m., afternoon tapas; 5:30-9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 5:30-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.

The owners, John Akar and Gregg Sessler, were best chums way back in high school in Exeter.
Sessler's fiancee, Kristin Lane, is the pastry chef. Lane found the listing for the property on Craigslist. At the time, Akar was bartending at Agave, another Portsmouth restaurant, and Sessler was still in San Francisco.
"The mezze plate is all of my father's recipes," said Akar. "He's Abdallah Akar and from Lebanon. You can't get more authentic than this, and already it's one of our most popular items on the menu.
"It was always our dream to open a restaurant in Portsmouth," said Akar. "The timing was just perfect for us to make it happen now."
Akar and Sessler began working in restaurants when they were 16. Sessler attended Paul Smith Culinary School near Lake Placid, N.Y., then went on to work and own a restaurant in San Francisco. Akar got his business degree at the University of New Hampshire.
Now, the two are united in their new and first venture as a team.
"We thought about this for a long time," said Sessler. "The aim was great food at a nice price point. You can come sample tapas in the afternoon for $1 and $2, and taste some great wines."
Cava serves its fine selection of wine in three sizes, tasting, half glass and full glass.
"This is really catching on," said Akar. "People just like it. Last week a couple lined up 10 tastes and made notes."
Even the specialty drink list bears the names of those involved with the restaurant — from Akar's signature marguerite to a drink invented by their contractor, and one by Bridget Sullivan, girlfriend of Akar and a bartender and manager.
Four can sit at the chef's table at the cooking station. Customers can watch Sessler and his staff prepare everything, from start to finish, as well as chat with the chefs.
There are 48 seats. In the spring, there will be 26 outdoor seats on the patio.
"We did the design ourselves, with help from friends, of course," said Akar. "I think we're the first restaurant in Portsmouth to have floor glass. We're also very proud of our downstairs bar and seating area."
Both Akar and Sessler stress their goal for Cava was to make it a comfortable, inviting environment where people know each other. The menu — which features small plates, medium plates and small bites — is large and varied, changing frequently.
Akar said the wine list will change every two to three weeks, so wine patrons can keep on coming in to sample and drink new wines.
"This is a very big wine town," said Akar. "It supports three very fine wine stores, and this is great for us.
"One of the reasons we wanted to be here is that Portsmouth is such a vital restaurant town," he said.
Sessler loves the idea of serving tapas. He said the variety available in this type of cuisine is immense. It can be whatever you imagine based on the availability of ingredients, from local to those from the Mediterranean region.
"We've spent so much time on the Seacoast," said Akar, who has been a bartender at the Oar House and other restaurants. "Our clientele already know us, and they are helping to spread the word."
Sessler, who spent the last five years in San Francisco, said he is thrilled with the level of sophistication he is finding now in Portsmouth.
"The time just couldn't be better for us to open Cava," said Sessler. "I know people say the economy is bad and it is, but it's not bad for our restaurant, and we believe it will work and be a success.
"I think we fill a gap in some of the cuisine offered," said Sessler. "There's room for lots of good restaurants in Portsmouth. We're thrilled to be here now."

Cava Opens!

Cava opens quietly on November 14th

Cava's Opening Menu

Small Bites or “Bocadillos” served on rustic crostini

White Anchovies & Olive Tapenade ~ 6
Shaved Manchego & Serrano Ham ~ 6
Roasted Tomato & Garlic ~ 6
Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt & Pistachio Oil ~ 6
Seared Foie Gras & Quince Paste ~18

Tapas Modern & Traditional

Marinated Olives & Marcona Almonds ~4
Chickpeas & Sautéed Spinach with Spicy Chorizo ~ 6
Fried Potatoes with Herbs & Sea Salt ~ 6
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Spiced Marshmallow, Cocoa Nib ~ 8
Maine Crab Croquettes, Lemon Garlic Aioli ~8
Nelson Farm’s Baby Greens, 50 yr. Sherry Vinaigrette, Black Pepper Crackers ~ 7
Roasted Medjool Dates stuffed with Manchego & wrapped in Ham ~ 8
Chickpea “Fries” Smoked Paprika Aioli ~ 6
Roasted Artichoke with Serrano Ham & Romesco ~10
Beau Soleil Oysters with Citrus Pearls & Mignonette Sea Foam (3) ~9 (6) ~17
Mezze: Hummus, Marinated Feta, Tabbouleh, Baba Ghanoujh, Olives, Pita ~16

Small Plates: Seafood

Sautéed Prawns with Garlic, Garlic & Garlic ~10
Butter Fried Scallop, Sunchoke, Crispy Pork Belly ~12

Small Plates: Meats

Grilled Snake River Kobe “Slider” with Baby Greens and Smoked Jalapeño Ketchup ~10
Paella de Cava, Chicken & Spicy Chorizo, Saffron (prepared fresh every half hour) ~14
Grilled Beef Sirloin, Sautéed Chanterelle Mushroom, Chive & Citrus Gremolata ~18
Oregon Spring Lamb Loin, Hummus, Garbanzo Bean & Lemon Salad, Yogurt, Olives ~15

Sweets & Cheeses

Marinated Smoked Idiazábal Cheese with Rosemary ~ 6
Verde Capra Blue & Cana de Cabra with Honey Comb ~10
Traditional Flan (Cava’s own secret recipe) with Candied Peanuts ~ 8
Kristin’s Famous Churros with “Hot Chocolate” ~ 8

20% Gratuity Added to Parties 6 or more
Chef/Proprietor: Gregg Sessler
General Manager/ Proprietor: John Akar

Cava Construction Pics Finally

Cava Construction has finished!

In fact we have been open for a full month now...been a little busy sorry!

Here are some pics of the construction.

Thanks to all that worked on Cava

Wood Wrights General Contractors

Willete Fine Furniture
Caswell Mechanics


Power Pro Electric

Viking Welding

Dan the Painter

Rockingham Electric

Altenative Sales

Bridge Road Signs