December 27, 2007

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More food and wine events, a menu for the bar
A year in local food trends
By Susan Ware food@hippopress.com

Even in southern New Hampshire, the food scene has more trends than a 13-year-old.

In recent years food trends have screamed unique — e.g. the crazes for pomegranate, molten chocolate cake, acai, Barcelona, green tea, no-carb. While a few have lasted — most bars still serve a good pomegranate cocktail — others, like no-carb, have thankfully faded.

Locally, Milford has been a food spot on the rise. Sadly, the French Bistro closed this year — not because of lack of patronage, but because of an immigration issue for the owner. Rachida’s, a Moroccan eatery, opened on the once-defunct Elm Street and along with other new businesses is breathing life back into the stretch of town. Another foodie spot to watch is Hudson. While foodies flocked to Dynamite Sushi, the town pretty much closed up at night, but this past year has seen several new restaurants open.

Local food trends now seem to speak to a simpler, softer, more provincial attitude. Foodies seem to want chef-owned restaurants in their neighborhoods serving comfort food made with locally sourced ingredients, which they want to be able to buy themselves if the mood strikes. No over-the-top cocktails, but instead choices in the size of pour of wine and classic cocktails. They’d rather have a small piece of artisan bread than a basket of cold white bread and they want to have fun — more wine tastings and foodie galas, cooking classes and wine tutorials.

• International street food: Southern New Hampshire has its share of ethnic eats — colorful neighborhood spots like Spice Market, where you can grab samosa, and Saigon Market, where fresh baozi is sold on the weekends — but when aranchi started appearing on menus at decidedly American places like Fody’s Great American Tavern and Z Food & Drink, street food had arrived. Bought on the street in Italy, these fried risotto balls are eaten out of a paper cone. More than pho and its friends gyro and bubble tea, aranchi joins the ranks of satay at Cotton and Gorton at Richard’s Bistro. Aranchi is also available at Pizzico and Lucias Tavola.

• Bar menus: The tapas-meze-cichetti craze has helped to raise the profile of the lowly appetizer in restaurant bars, with owners picking up on the idea that you might want some eats with your drinks. Locally, Granite Restaurant has its bar menu, called “nosh,” complete with grilled lamb lollipops, an orange-date and parmesan salad and a horseradish crusted po boy. Commercial Street Fishery rolled out a bar menu in the fall that includes Maine clams and chips and coconut tempura chicken served with a Thai peanut sauce. Fody’s Great American Tavern has a bar menu with cheddar fondue and panko crusted crab cakes with kimchi cream.

• All hail Caesar: The tableside Caesar salad is making a comeback. Piccola Italia does it, and now Saffron Bistro has brought it back. While the whole raw-egg-in-the-dressing thing still makes some squirm, and it is debatable whether anchovies really belong in a Caesar salad (they do), it is a fun show.

• Size doesn’t matter, quantity does: Consider the slider. White Castle gave birth to a small, square burger 75-plus years ago that became known as a “slider” — officially spelled “slyder.” So small, and priced at between 5 and 10 cents each, people would order a bunch of them. Genius marketing, the slider trend started to spread.

Billy’s Sports Bar added a menu of sliders — including hamburger and a chunky white meat chicken salad, after sourcing just the right rolls. Jillian’s offers sliders on its menu, as does Bedford Village Inn’s tavern The Tap Room, where a trio of sliders are all Angus beef, with toppings like foie gras, St. Andre cheese and Great Hill Blue cheese. Just recently Commercial Street Fishery added sliders to its bar menu, made with thinly sliced steak, applewood smoked bacon and Vermont cheddar.

• The fish taco: Popular because of its multiple layers of texture: tender white fish deep fried until crisp and served in a crunchy taco shell with cold, crisp vegetables; it is heaven. Cactus Jack’s offers a classic baja- style fish taco, as do Casa Blanca, Dos Amigos and Commercial Street Fishery.

• Kobe or not Kobe: The American Kobe burger is big, and the emphasis is on “American” because true Kobe beef is not exported from Japan. Years ago it seemed that every pricey burger had the adjective “Kobe,” a word that really just meant expensive. But as foodies got savvier, menus had to change. Today, a menu doesn’t say Kobe unless it is, and often, if done correctly, it says Amercian Kobe.

True Kobe beef is raised and slaughtered in Japan. There, the Wagyu cows are massaged because they have little room to exercise. In America, restaurants serve Kobe-style beef produced from a crossbreed of the Wagyu and the American Black Angus that is raised and slaughtered the same way as the Japanese Wagyu cows. Cotton offers an American Kobe beef burger, as does Z Food & Drink and Saffron Bistro.

• Pour options: Restaurants are taking the opportunity to turn customers on to new wines by offering different size pours. Not flights per se, but the opportunity for the diner to truly match a wine with each course without getting sloshed. Look for wine in a size you like it at 900 Degrees, Granite Restaurant, Unwined and Z Food & Drink.

• Foodie events: Southern New Hampshire foodies love a good party and the local wine gala-foodies-event scene has exploded. The Easter Seals Winter Wine Spectacular caps off a newly created Wine Week — a foodie-oenophile extravaganza that combines all things near and dear — new wines, winemakers, top chefs, hot restaurants. In Manchester the Taste of the Nation event each spring is going strong with more than 30 restaurants, and this year saw the first-ever packed Palace Theatre Wine Tasting. But, be warned, just because there are more events doesn’t mean there are more tickets — these babies sell out fast.

• Taste of Here: Local “Taste Of” events are important to the local food scene; they give folks a chance to check out restaurants and meet chefs and owners. Taste of Nashua has set the bar but Manchester has ramped up its Taste, adding more restaurants each year. A few months ago Concord restaurants and food purveyors turned out in force at a Taste of Concord held indoors at the Capitol Center for the Arts to benefit the Concord Boys & Girls Club.

• Celebrity foodies: Over the past year, southern New Hampshire has seen more visits for celebrity chefs, cookbook authors and wine makers than ever before — and none of them are stumping for candidates. The year started with a visit from Michael Mondavi, son of wine titan Robert Mondavi. Enthralled with New Hampshire, he is returning to attend Wine Week in January. Butter’s has a regular calendar of winemakers who visit the Concord shop and pour, and every fall Cotton hosts a cookbook author series where a menu is prepared from a cookbook and the author is on hand to sign to benefit the Salvation Army’s Kids’ Café. Bedford Village Inn also runs a celebrity chef series; check the inn’s Web site for details.

• Chef you: There has been a surge in cooking classes, and while that is wonderful, it feels like New Hamsphire is still lagging in class offerings. For classes, look to Southern new Hampshire University, Colby Hill Inn, McIntosh College, Impressive Chef Liz Barbour and even the Nashua Public Library.

• Chef and owner: There is a local boom in chef-owned and -operated restaurants despite the stress of being both the kitchen talent and the manager of a personnel-heavy business. This past year saw Z Food & Drink, 900 Degrees, Ciao Baby and Julien’s on Elm open. These spots join the ranks of other chef-owned restaurants such as Michael Buckley’s trinity of Michael Timothy’s, Surf and Buckley’s Great Steaks, Mangia and Cotton.

Of the trend, Jeff Paige, chef and co-owner of Cotton, had this to say: “For the most part, many chef-owned and -operated restaurants care enough to go the extra mile. They put quality before profits. It’s a business philosophy, a way of life for many chefs.”

In another move, Richard Vareschi, chef and owner of Richard’s Bistro, a landmark restaurant in Manchester, brought in chef Matt Provencher to slowly take over the reins and, after a year or two, buy the place. Rumor has it that other chef-owned and -operated restaurants are on the horizon for 2008.

• That word of the year — localvore: Eating what’s grown locally is a trend that has been holding strong for a couple of years. The bottom line is that people want to know where the food they eat came from. An emerging trend in southern New Hampshire that we will see more of in 2008 is localvore; eating food stuffs typically grown in a 100- mile radius of your home. Tough to do if you go hard-core because this means no coffee or chocolate or strawberries in the winter.

• Cows and fish with happy lives: More than ever we want wild-caught seafood — not farm-raised — and beef and free-range poultry and meats that have not been shot with antibiotics and steroids. Commercial Street Fishery and Surf have relationships with fish mongers who provide wild-caught seafood. Richard’s Bistro has relationships with meat purveyors who bring them top-of-the-line meats, as does Cotton. One trend elsewhere that might be soon to catch on here is more sustainable fish on local menus. Local purveyors and restaurateurs say that patrons like the concept but aren’t ready to pay the price that comes with it.

• Asian, not fusion: Note, Asian is still the local chef’s favorite food and you will see more of it on menus in 2008. Pop into the Korean Place, Golden Bowl or Saigon Market on any given day and bump into a local chef dining or shopping. The marriage of Asian flavors — sweet, spicy, salty, sour and hot — is popping up on all types of menus. Not fusion, where marinara is somehow mixed with an exotic Asian spice, but true Asian flavors and techniques.

• Eats from the Middle East: Middle Eastern eats are back in a big way. Lebanese food returned to the Queen City in 2007 when Benvenutos switched its focus from Italian — which they do well — to more Lebanese. Finally, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside falafel, made-daily baba ganoush and a deconstructed fattoush salad that rocks. Mezza opened in Nashua in 2006 to a great buzz, and quietly, Cedars Café, from the outside an unassuming pizza place in Nashua, has been serving homemade Lebanese treats about the same amount of time. Also in 2007, Seven Hills, a Turkish restaurant, expanded its operation to include more dining space, a good sign for the local food scene.


A year of eats
Some of the restaurants mentioned in this story.
• 900 Degrees 50 Dow St., Manchester, 641-0900, www.900degrees.com
• Bedford Village Inn 2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford, 472-2001, www.bedfordvillageinn.com
• Benvenuto’s, 100 Hanover St., Manchester, 625-4200
• Billy’s Sports Bar, 34 Tarrytown Rd., Manchester, 622-3644, billyssportsbar.com
• Buckley’s Great Steaks 438 DW Hwy., Merrimack, 424-0995, www.buckleysgreatsteaks.com
• Butter’s Fine Food & Wine 70 N. Main St., Concord, 225-5995
• Cactus Jack’s 782 S Willow St., Manchester, 627-8600
• Casa Blanca 230 Rte 101, Bedford, 475-3656, www.casablancamexican.com
• Cedars Café 379 Amherst St., Nashua, 578-0700, www.cedars-cafe.com
• Ciao Baby 1105 Elm St., Manchester, 626-0001, www.ciaobabyonelm.com
• Colby Hill Inn 3 The Oaks, Henniker, 428-3281, www.colbyhillinn.com
• Commercial Street Fishery 33 S. Commercial St., Manchester, 296-0706, www.csfishery.com
• Cotton 75 Arms Park, Manchester, 622-5488, www.cottonfood.com
• Dos Amigos Burritos 26 North Main St., Concord, 410-4161, www.dosamigosburritos.com
• Dynamite Sushi, 30 Lowell Rd., Hudson, 889-0787, www.dynamitesushi.net
• Fody’s Great American Tavern 9 Clinton St., Nashua, 577-9015, www.fodystavern.com
• Golden Bowl 124 Queen City Ave., Manchester, 622-2000
• Granite Restaurant Centennial Hotel, 96 Pleasant St., Concord, 227-9000, www.graniterestaurant.com
• Impressive Chef- Liz Barbour, 465-6929, www.thecreativefeast.com
• Jillian’s 50 Phillippe Cote St., Manchester, 626-7636
• Juliens On Elm 915 Elm St., Manchester, 622-3723
• Korean Place 110 Hanover St., Manchester, 622-9377
• Lucias Tavola 181 Route 13, Brookline, 249-9134, luciastavola.com
• Mangia Italian Deli Café 114 Londonderry Tpke., Hooksett, 647-0788
• McIntosh College www.mcintoshcollege.edu/Seasonings.asp
• Mezza Lebanese Bistro 6 Elm St., Nashua, 883-4224
• Michael Timothy’s 212 Main St., Nashua, 595-9334, www.michaeltimothys.com
• Nashua Public Library 2 Court St., Nashua, 589-4600, www.nashua.lib.nh.us
• Piccola Italia 815 Elm St., Manchester, 606-5100, www.piccolaitalianh.com
• Pizzico 7 Harold Dr., Nashua, 897-0696, www.pizzicorestaurant.com
• Rachidas Restaurant 222 Elm St., Milford, 673-8899
• Richard’s Bistro 36 Lowell St., Manchester, 644-1180, www.richardsbistro.com
• Saffron Bistro 80 Main St., Nashua, 883-2100, www.thesaffronbistro.com
• Saigon Market 93 S. Maple St., Manchester, 644-3555
• Seven Hills 57 Factory St., Nashua, 578-0777 www.sevenhillsrestaurant.net
• Southern New Hampshire University www.snhu.edu/386.asp
• Spice Center 245 Maple St., Manchester, 626-7290
• Surf 207 Main St., Nashua, 595-9293, www.surfseafood.com
• Unwine’d 865 Second St., Manchester, 625-9463
• Z Food & Drink 860 Elm St., Manchester, 629-9383, www.zfoodanddrink.com.


12/20/2007 Lots of dough

12/13/2007 Gifts for gourmands
12/6/2007 Making spirits really bright
11/22/2007 Just don't ask them to cook
11/15/2007 Easy as pie
11/8/2007 Italian eats, bistro style
11/1/2007 Bringing Italia to New Hampshire
10/25/2007 Trick or treat, the grown-up version
10/18/2007 Shop where the pros go
10/11/2007 Enjoy apple season from orchard to plate
10/04/2007 Tradition on the menu
9/27/2007 Meet your pig
9/20/2007 In search of the right meat
9/20/2007 Vegan blogger branches out
9/13/2007 Get ready to eat
9/6/2007 Fifty years of fair
8/30/2007 The buzz about peach fuzz
8/23/2007 Enjoy the Caribbean, sans hurricanes
8/16/2007 Festival weekend
8/9/2007 Still time to scream
8/2/2007 Perfecting a pound of pasta
7/26/2007 Gourmet Concord?
7/19/2007 Tart treats of a New Hampshire summer
7/12/2007 Reintroducing ratatouille
7/5/2007 Time to hit the grill
6/28/2007 Peanutty dinner delight
6/21/2007 Spicy meat, grilled meat and saucy meat
6/14/2007 Holy Barbecue
6/07/2007 A wine for Red Sox
5/31/2007 Pinot noir romance
5/24/2007 Josh Logan eats (not before shows)
5/17/2007 Baklava, spanakopita and souvlaki — a.k.a. dinner
5/10/2007 Cremeland celebrates 60 years of burgers and shakes
5/3/2007 New eats in bloom
4/26/2007 Pho sure
4/19/2007 Cakes, cow-free
4/12/2007 Serving up the first square
4/5/2007 More than just a chocolate bunny
3/29/2007 New 'nuches
3/22/2007 A taste of genuine sweetness
3/15/2007 From homemade to home business
3/8/2007 Shop the farmers' market year round
3/1/2007 Feeding Mama Kicks
2/22/2007 Keepers of the vino
2/15/2007 Noodly comfort food
2/8/2007 The luxury of osso bucco
2/1/2007 Super platters for the Super Bowl
1/25/2007 It's a wrap
1/18/2007 The writing foodie
1/11/2007 Where the beef is, piled high and hot
1/04/2007 The healthy foodie
12/28/2006 The return of pasta and fall of the diet: the year in eats
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