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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.