2008 in small bites
The year in foodie ideas
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
The food scene in southern New Hampshire hummed right along in 2008. In spite of the bad economy, most restaurants and shops kept busy, and their customers were in the mood for comfort food to help ease their woes. As Priscilla Lane-Rondeau of 900 Degrees said recently, “People want to go out and have fun because of all the gloom and doom they hear.”
• Localvore mania: From the study of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Concord readers to the busy weekly farmers’ markets, local food was more popular than ever. Gail McWilliam Jellie, of the Division of Agricultural Development for the state’s Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Food, said there were 74 farmers’ markets on record this year, up from 61 last year. Some markets even moved indoors to be open year around — the Farmers’ Market at Salzburg Square (292 Route 101, Amherst), the Brookline Farmers’ Market (Route 13, next to TD Banknorth), and on occasion, the Manchester Community Market at the Franco-American Centre (52 Concord St., www.facnh.com). Plus, the Vegetable Ranch in Warner will do a winter community-supported agriculture program (CSA) this season. Shares cost $185 for six loads of organic vegetables every other week (call 496-6391). And the New Hampshire Virtual Farmers Market is online at www.nhfarms.com.
• Is beer the new wine? Though beer is always a popular beverage, there is a trend toward pairing it with food, much like what’s done with wine. Local restaurants such as J. W. Hill’s in Manchester, the Granite Restaurant in Concord, and the Crown Plaza in Nashua all hosted beer dinners, where a specific beer was matched to each course, or the beer was used as an ingredient. Barb’s Beer Emporium opened in Concord, where customers can make their own six-pack combinations and attend weekly beer tastings. The Drink Shoppe in Hudson also hosts weekly beer tastings.
• Do-it-yourself beer and wine: For any wannabe wine makers and brewmasters, there are now a number of local places where you can practice these crafts. IncrediBREW in Nashua has offered customers make-your-own beer, wine and soda services for 13 years. And this year two Vintner’s Cellar locations opened in the area — in Concord and Bedford — where people can produce their own wines. For home brewers there is Kettle to Keg in Pembroke, where you can also pick up wine-making kits as well as beer ingredients and supplies.
• A bottle of New Hampshire: There are now 14 wineries in the state. The New Hampshire Winery Association continues to promote the state’s wines to both locals and tourists, most recently with the creation of the New Hampshire Wine and Cheese Trails (www.nhmade.com and www.visitnh.gov). Most of the wineries have tasting rooms and conduct tastings at local shops that carry their products. For a list of state wineries, visit www.nhwineryassociation.com.
• Celebrity chefs on the scene: Chefs and food experts from around the country came to New Hampshire to show off their knowledge. The Bedford Village Inn hosted Jason Tucker, executive chef of Tresca in Boston’s North End; Renee Bejeux, executive chef of La Provence, and Donald Link, chef-owner of Cochon and Herbsaint restaurants, from New Orleans; Kurtis Jantz, executive chef of Neomi’s in the Trump International Resort, Miami; Matthew Levin, executive chef at Lacroix in the Rittenhouse hotel in Philadelphia; and Lorenzo Polegri, chef-owner of Zeppelin in Orvieto, Italy. Bella Vino Specialty Wines and Gourmet recently hosted George Taber, author of Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine (Scribner, 2005) and To Cork or Not to Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle (Scribner, 2007), and Zorvino Vineyards brought in Napa winemaker Joseph Carr.
• Kids in the kitchen: The availability of cooking classes for kids of all ages has grown in the past year. The For Kids Who Cook cooking school recently opened in Derry and offers classes for children from preschool age to teenagers. And this past summer there was a Girls of American History cooking camp held in Concord. Both the Nashua and Merrimack YMCAs hold cooking and nutrition classes, and kids can take cake-decorating classes at Frederick’s Pastries in Amherst, or after-school and summer camp classes at Chez Boucher Cooking School in Hampton.
• A festival for every nationality: A large variety of ethnic cuisines were represented at festivals this past year, a number that seems to grow every year. The Global Gourmet Gala in April for the Lutheran Social Services Interfaith Refugee Resettlement Program featured food from Afghanistan, Somalia and Thailand. There were also Latino, African-Caribbean, Lebanese, and Asian food festivals this summer and every month brought a different Greek festival.
• Radio food: Red Arrow Diner owner Carol Sheehan and teacher Michelle Trumble brought food back to the radio with the Food for Thought with the Taste Buds show every Sunday morning on WTPL 107.7. For those who haven’t had a chance to tune in, past broadcasts can be heard on www.tastebudsradio.com.
• Second locations: Speaking of the Red Arrow, Sheehan opened a second location in what was the Milford Diner just off the Milford Oval. Nonni’s Italian Eatery opened a second restaurant in the Holiday Inn in Concord (and plans a third for New London). And Zacky’s Pizzeria opened a second location in Auburn to go with the one on Lake Winnipesauke. However, one second location wasn’t so successful — the Caesar’s Pizza in Nashua closed a few months after opening.
• Low-cost gourmet food: Some higher-end eateries came out with lower-cost menu options to help customers’ budgets in tough times. This fall, Z Food and Drink had a four-course tasting menu of local foods for $35, while Richard’s Bistro offers $5 lunch, $10 brunch, and $20 dinner selections. And the Bedford Village Inn refurbished the Tavern and opened the new Corks wine bar, which both offer lower-priced menu alternatives to the regular dining room. Corks also has high-end wines available by the glass.