June 1, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: We are what we eat
By Jeff Rapsis

Next week, downtown merchants and area restaurants will stage The Taste of Nashua, an annual event that brings together a lot of which makes the Gate City a special and unique place.

How does the “Taste” work? On Wednesday, June 7, about two dozen downtown businesses will open their doors to chefs and waitstaff from the some of the city’s best restaurants, who will set up portable cooking stations in the lobbies and among the aisles.

Then, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., participants will stroll from venue to venue, sampling the very best food to be found in Nashua, all the while visiting some of downtown’s interesting and often one-of-a-kind businesses. (Desserts will be served from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.)

To keep track of things, participants are given a cardboard “passport” that gets stamped when you visit each location. To encourage folks to meander, entertainment is provide on the sidewalk as well as inside some venues, too.

Tickets are limited; and last year the Taste sold out. Word this year is that tickets are almost gone, but it can’t hurt to ask. Tickets are $30 each and available from organizers at Great American Downtown; for more info, call 883-5700 or visit www.greatamericandowntown.org.

This year’s Taste of Nashua includes 29 different restaurants, more than ever before. It’s a good reminder of just how far the city has come, at least in a culinary sense, from the not-so-long-ago days when dining out around meant either the Green Ridge Turkey Farm or the Modern Restaurant.

Both of those Nashua icons are gone, but they continue to cast a long shadow. Just last year, a visitor stopped me on Main Street and asked for directions to the Green Ridge. He was genuinely disappointed when I told him it had closed quite a few years ago.

But it was a smaller city then, and fancy eating wasn’t a priority. Growing up in Nashua, the city’s culinary traditions that I observed included fishsticks on Friday, beans and franks on Saturday, and a pot roast with potatoes and carrots on Sunday.

Dining out? This was something done rarely, and only on special occasions.

Back before Nashua’s culinary awakening, the most exotic food in the city was found at the Singapore on D.W. Highway South, a sprawling Chinese palace that stood roughly where Barmakian Jewelers does today.

When I was a kid, nothing could top the MSG-fueled excitement of a “pu-pu platter,” and not just because of the name, but also due to the blue sterno flame over which you “cooked” your food.

We’d visit the Singapore maybe twice a year. More often, eating out meant a journey to either the Howdy Beef Burger joint on East Hollis Street (where the city’s majestic Union Station once stood) or to the A & W Root Beer drive-in on D.W. Highway South, with its commanding view of the Grace chemical plant spread out along the Merrimack River below.

Neither place exists today—come to think of it, the chemical factory is gone, too. With the amount of change that’s hit Nashua, it’s no wonder the city’s culinary scene has evolved. It had to. And I think we’re a richer community for it.

So eat hearty, and enjoy the diversity of food that stands as one of Nashua’s leading quality of life assets.


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