New eats and more beer
2009 on the local food scene
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
As 2009 comes to a close, it’s time to look back on the year in food for southern New Hampshire. And it was a busy year! In spite of the gloom-and-doom economy, food entrepreneurs decided to take a chance, and foodies rejoiced in their courage.
• New hot spots: A number of new restaurants opened in the area in 2009. Can you imagine a time before Mint Bistro, J’s Tavern, Sunny’s Table, XO, Express Café, Estabrook Grill, Boloco, Hot Stone Pizzeria, All Juiced Up, Crepes Island and Ignite? And a couple of well-known names in the area restaurant scene moved into new ventures. Ed Canto expanded his Nashua Sausage King food carts to a store-front restaurant, and the city’s Seedling Café was sold so owners Joshua and Danielle Enright could open the Rustic Leaf Bistro in Milford. Shirley D’s in Manchester became the Red Barn Diner, and Summer Freeze in Concord got a new owner.
• The world came to New Hampshire: Many of the region’s new restaurants have an ethnic spin, which allows everyone to enjoy the flavors of the world. The Middle East was well represented with Beirut Shawarma in the Spice Center and the Sahara International Market in Manchester, plus Gamil’s Egyptian and the Lebanese dinners at the Washington Street Café in Concord. Meena’s Kitchen in Nashua brought to light the cuisine of southern India, Restaurant Adria brought Bosnian food to the city, and Ichiban in Concord took off with hibachi tables and sushi bar. The Latin segment was also well represented with Liz’s Bakery, Jalapeños Mexican Grill, and Empanadas in Manchester.
• Beer still the new wine: The interest in beer as more than a game-day beverage continued to grow in 2009. Two new beer shops opened — Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett and Big Al’s in Concord, both focused on craft beers instead of the big-name mainstream brands. And New Hampshire got a new brewery with White Birch Brewing in Hooksett.
• Hollywood comes to New Hampshire: Last winter the state got a visit from actor Dan Aykroyd with his line of wines. He signed bottles at the Nashua state store and moved on to a wine dinner at the Bedford Village Inn. And C.R. Sparks sous chef Jim McGloin jumped into the fire on Hell’s Kitchen with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
• A bit of Washington comes to New Hampshire: Washington D.C.-based Five Guys Burgers, which got a nice burst of fame when President Obama went to one of the D.C. burger joints, opened a location at Greenfall Marketplace, 341 Amherst St. in Nashua, 589-7881. The menu, for the most part, is burgers (with or without cheese and/or bacon), hot dogs and French fries.
• Bad weather didn’t stop local: The movement toward local food continued to grow, but a cold, wet summer put a damper on the crops most coveted at local farmers markets. Tomatoes and corn were the hardest hit. However, the weather didn’t slow down memberships in local community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs), where customers buy memberships in the winter or spring and receive a portion of a farm’s harvest throughout the summer and into autumn. Local harvest CSA member coordinator Elizabeth Obelenus said in October, “This was the most difficult weather we’ve had since we started in CSA eight years ago. But we also had the most interest from people that we’ve ever had. Years ago, we pretty much had to go door to door for people to hear about us. Now…people are searching us out.”
• Festivals and tastes galore: There was no shortage of ways for area foodies to try international eats throughout 2009. Almost each month from spring until autumn brought a different food festival — Greek, Latino, African-Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Asian. All three major cities offered a taste of their best restaurants, with the Tastes of Downtown Nashua and Manchester and the Taste of Concord.