December 28, 2006

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The return of pasta and fall of the diet: the year in eats
A smorgasbord of trends hit southern NH in 2006
By Susan Reilly  news@hippopress.com

Food has trends.

Two years go, the foodie world discovered Spain and pomegranates.

Before that, martinis were all the rage. So what will foodies in this neck of the woods remember about 2006?

• Authentic ethnic: A multitude of new ethnic places entered the scene over the past 12 months. Pho Golden Bowl on Queen City Avenue, Manchester changed hands and now cooks some of the best Vietnamese food around. Mezza Lebanese Bistro, on Elm Street in Nashua, and Cedar’s, on Amherst Street in Nashua, both serve up truly authentic Middle Eastern eats. And the former Rice and Roll location on Broad Street in Nashua got revitalized with Goong Choun, a Korean restaurant.

Tenth Planet, located on Amory Street, Manchester, opened and serves Bosnian food, including cevapi, the national sandwich. Nashua’s Dessert Mavens moved into a commercial space to better produce kosher sweets and challah.

Dokdo Food Market opened on Main Street in Nashua and is the only local source for Korean ingredients. Riverwalk Cakery at Railroad Square, Nashua, makes a true German cheesecake with quark. And Seven Hills brought Turkish food to the area with its grocery and restaurant on Factory Street in Nashua.

A local baker started selling samosas, the tasty meat-filled pastries, at Spice Market on Valley Street, Manchester. And squeaking in before the end of the year, Consuelo’s opened up on Amherst Street in Manchester and serves up tortas, which areMexican-style panini.

Speaking of sandwiches, Marc Rousseau, the owner of Sausage Heaven in Manchester, started making muffolettas and cubanos with well researched, authentic recipes this year after he traveled to south Florida and New Orleans.

• Controversy on food scene: Several food-related stories became gossip fodder in 2006. (1) Baldwin’s on Elm in downtown Manchester closed. Months of speculation about what would appear ended with word that an Italian restaurant/club will open in 2007. (2) Toro in Milford closed suddenly, with health inspectors finding that the owners had been squatting in the space before they hit the road, flushing the toilets with water dredged from the adjacent river in an eatery that once commanded $30 a plate. (3) In Manchester, Ma & Pa’s Kitchen, a new restaurant on Lake Avenue across from the Verizon Wireless Areana, won the school’s pizza contract, a meaty payout for a new business, only to quickly have that decision called into question when information about the owners’ past improprieties came to light. Ma & Pa’s was ultimately given the contract.

• Farmer-chef relationships: During the floods in spring 2006, chef after chef expressed concern for their friend, organic farmer Eero Ruuttila at Nesenkeag Farm in Litchfield, who had some of his fields of organic crops flooded.

Friendships between local farmers and chefs mean better produce on our plates and a better quality of life. When there is a personal connection with what we eat, brought mainstream by the Slow Food movement, everyone wins. Local farms don’t give way to developers ready to throw up McMansions because there is a market for their crops. Consumers don’t have to eat a cucumber that has been waxed and stuck in cold storage for months. This is a trend that we hope continues because nothing can beat local.

• Farmers’ markets: Support for already popular summer markets grew this year. Nashua spiffed up its farmers’ market in 2006, and held it downtown on Sundays, making it easily accessible, and Amherst created a year-round market. The Manchester’s farmers’ market, a place to see and be seen for foodies, held a tomato contest ala Boston’s Haymarket.

• Italian is back: Italian, it appears, is back. Pasta used to be one of the seven deadly sins, but now people are back to enjoying carbs in moderation.

Newbie restaurants such as Cucina Toscana on Amherst Street in Nashua and Village Cucina on Main Street in Concord are embracing their Italian roots and filling seats because of it. Earlier in 2006, Café Mangia opened on Londonderry Turnpike in Hooksett and has been simmering dishes based on the chef-owner’s Isle of Capri childhood. At 1005 Elm Street, Manchester, Ciao Baby is getting ready to open in early 2007 with a chef lifted from a top restaurant in Boston’s North End. And finally, Harold Square opened on Rockingham Road, Londonderry, with an Italian-centric menu.

• Liquid doggy bags: When you think of leaving a restaurant with an open bottle of wine in a paper bag, it conjures up images of Ripple in a brown paper sack or driving illegally with an open container.

But in fact, after checking in with a few restaurants, it appears that the better the wine, the less likely people are to leave any of it on the table, whether they finish it or cork it.

Staff at Michael Timothy’s on Main Street in Nashua says that they cork to-go all the time, so does 55 Degrees. Typically, they do it for folks who had a cocktail or two before dinner and maybe order that second bottle but decide against finishing it before hitting the road.

The law in New Hampshire “allows any person who has purchased a full-course meal and purchased and partially consumed a bottle of wine with said meal to remove it from the premises provided (i) the person is not in a state of intoxication and (ii) such bottle is securely sealed and bagged by the restaurant to be in conformance with open container laws.”

At the beginning of 2006, Scot Kinney, owner of Unwine’d, started a program called “Buy the bottle taste profile.” Guests are encouraged to enjoy some of a bottle at Unwine’d and complete a taste, body and finish profile. Kinney then suggests that they save a glass and take the bottle home, wait a few days and crack it open and note how much the wine has changed.

• Main Street Concord: Last year, it seemed that Milford was becoming the center of the foodie universe. This year, Concord’s downtown came into its own.

Butter’s Fine Food and Wine, 70 Main St., a cheese, wine and imported food items shop, offers items not found in the supermarkets. Village Cucina, 124 1/2 Main St., began serving its Italian offerings in September.

Main Street also is home to two top bakeries (Madeleines at 124 Main St. and Bread and Chocolate at 29 S. Main Street), Co-op Concord Food (30 S. Main St.) and the new Main Street Deli (80 N. Main St.), which cuts sandwich meats to order. Rounding out the restaurant scene are 55 Degrees, Capital Grille and Barley House.

• Modest meats: Butchers used to keep these cuts for themselves or grind them into hamburg because they were considered to be undesirable, lesser cuts. This year, tri-tip, hangar steak, veal shank, cheeks and shoulders are being scooped up at local butchers by those in the know and appearing on swank menus and backyard grills throughout southern New Hampshire.

The hangar steak stars on the menu at The French Bistro in Milford, where it is served simply marinated and grilled, and as a non-seafood option at Commercial Street Fishery in Manchester, where it gets treated with a Bourbon tomato cream sauce.

Bull Run in Hooksett started selling tri-tip this summer due to a demand from transplanted Californians, and now also often sells out of veal shank, which gets wrapped with a recipe for osso bucco.

Though these meats usually require a bit of extra cooking time, the results are far more flavorful and exciting than the preciously priced filet mignon.

• Superfoods on menus: Since diet has become a four-letter word to many, super foods such as blueberries, avocado, salmon, spinach and dark chocolate are starting on menus and the public is responding. Jewell & the Beanstalk on Somerville Street in Manchester serves up a turkey and avocado sandwich with spinach that fits the bill.


2007 wish list
A foodie’s wish for the local scene in the new year.

• Small, focused menus: Menus seem to continue to expand. Maybe it is part of the bigger-is-better mentality, but the everything-for-everyone menu is downright scary. Small, focused menus (that change seasonally) that restaurants know with certainty they can execute would help local eateries build specialities.
• More true vegetarian options on menus: Yes, most restaurants have a few options for the non-meat-eater (and a few places such as Manchester’s Café Momo, India Palace and Gil’s Indian Bar and Grill offer a great deal) but more dishes that capitalize on the flavors of vegetables without having to turn to meat would be a boon for vegetarians and the health-conscious alike.
• A neighborhood joint where two can eat well and sip wine for under $50. If Boston has them, we can have them.
• Cocktail flights of all sorts in bars and restaurants. Cotton in Manchester has caught onto this trend of serving a selection of sample-sized cocktails. Here’s hoping more eateries give it a try.
• More food events. Local “Taste of”s and wine galas are always packed and offer an excellent glimpse at the food scene. Now it’s time to expand on that and offer events with more adventurous eats and, does one dare to hope, a food competition.


12/21/2006 Organic on the ice

12/14/2006 French but not fussy
12/07/2006 Southeast U.S. culture, in sandwich form
11/30/2006 Bites of comfort with chips of happiness
11/23/2006 Cityside adds class to conveniece
11/16/2006 Easier-to-enjoy Thanksgiving feasts
11/9/2006 The new classic
10/26/2006 Whip up a quiche
10/19/2006 A new way to crepe
10/12/2006 Comfort food for blokes and birds
10/05/2006 Smaller crop but still red and delicious
09/28/2006 The crunchier, lighter, healthier wrap
09/21/2006 City bagels in suburbia
09/14/2006 Cracking the custard code
09/07/2006 Eat your way down the block
08/31/2006 New flavors for an old summer dish
08/24/2006 Way down south in Hollis
08/17/2006 Frappe vs. milkshake
08/10/2006 Enjoy the bluest month
08/03/2006 Death of Toro
07/27/2006 Vacation on a plate
07/20/2006 Hitting barbecue big time
07/13/2006 Relishing the raspberry
07/06/2006 Are your edible souveneirs kosher?
06/29/2006 Fish, upscale
06/22/2006 Sweet rosey taste of summer
06/15/2006 When to pull out the EVOO
06/08/2006 What can you grill?
06/01/2006 Taste of downtown Nashua
05/25/2006 Deulge at farms
05/18/2006 Adorable and delicious
05/11/2006 Rub down
05/04/2006 Pinot to go
04/27/2006 A bit Italian, a bit egg foo young
04/20/2006 Meatier than breakfast...
04/13/2006 Let yourself eat cake
04/06/2006 Fear not the Risotto
03/30/2006 Making Friday a fishy delight
03/23/2006 The Thin Mints are here
03/16/2006 Divining your personality from pizza
03/09/2006 Cooking up a big bowl of comfort
03/02/2006 Dumplings demystified
02/23/2006 Carbs and comfort all the way
02/16/2006 She sells sushi by the sea shore
2/09/2006 Biting into the burger with bling
02/02/2006 Forget formal dining, head to the bar
01/26/2006 Goodbye rooster, hello year of the dog
01/19/2006 The secret lives of chefs
01/12/2006 Cooking up a pot of delayed gratification
01/05/2006 A sunny Italian side dish
A year of eats

All-you-can-read guide to breakfast
A bagel by any other l
abel
A picnic — it’s romance with ants
A sweet burst of summer, in stages
Beef, It's What's For Dinner, Lunch, And Dessert
Be it ever so humble, the burger rules
Blockbuster snacks for your movie
Box Of Chocolates
C Is For Cookie And Christmas And Cool Combo
Celebrating A Holiday For The Rest Of Us
Celebrate Easter In A Sugar Coma
Chat And Chew

Chinese soup is magic
Chocolate cake makes everything better
Chocolate, Part II
Competition flows like chocolate
Corn Flake Chicken, Honeycomb Salad
Dining at the "Your House Bistro"
Don't Dread The Bread
Dress Up Your Next Meal
Drinking Out Of The Box
Eating Your Way Back To Health
Empanadas
Enter Soup
Experiments With Very Bad Brownies
Feeding A Crowd The Morning After
Follow the cider house rules
Fresh Herbs
Go ahead — run silent, run deep
Goodbye corn syrup, hello organic oatmeal
Go Indian for Thanksgiving
Grilled Cheese Junkie

Halloween candy for grown-ups
Have a Happy Meal and a happier wallet
Holiday Cookies - The Easy Way
Holiday Potluck 101-Tips For The Kitchen Novice
Home-Based Date
How do you like them apples?
In-A-Pinch Love Feast
It's not easy to be cheesy
It’s not Christmas without tamales
Lest We Forget The Humble Squash
Keeping your cool while you eat
Living through your salad days

Looking Beyond The Hot Dog Stand
Lunching your way to a less toxic you
Meat's meat and a man's gotta eat

Moist and delicious chicken — no, really
Oatmeal Cookies, The Miracle Cure
Oscar Night, When The Stars Come Out To Eat

Offering Up A Slice Of Teriyaki Pie
Pot Pies Are Darn Tasty
Pumpkin-Flavored Treats
Small Plates Are The Next Big Thing
Speedy 'za not pie in the sky
Steak: it’s what’s for dinner, again
Summer coolers, just add sunlight
Summer Squash
Super Bowl Grub
Take A Walk On The Dark Side
Taste of Manchester Event
The Cosmopolitan
The joys of a simple oatmeal breakfast
The return of comfort food
The One-Note Cook Book
The New American Plate Cookbook
The Stickiest, Hottest & Sweetest Of Love's Labors
The taste of retro
The Unheralded Peanut Butter Cookies
The union of sweet and heat
The Weekly Dish (12-16-04)
The Weekly Dish (12-23-04)

The Weekly Dish [1-13-05]
There's a Barbecue Bonanza Next Door
Week Four: Adding Diet To The Mix
What Was Hot And Haute In 2004
When $$ trumps urge to dine out
When in doubt, go for the organic
When nothing else will cool, Slurp it
You Say Potato, She'll Say Potato,Too
You say tomato, writer says lunch