Chefs Give Thanks This Holiday Season
This Thanksgiving, we visit with chefs across the Granite State to talk about food, family, and gratitude for local farms and fisheries.
Turnip the Beet: Dover, NH
The room is crisp. Like from a catalog, the pre-made meals neatly line the refrigerators and a couch fills the back wall. She crosses her legs as she sits in her chair, swiveling to face me. Her pink pants and white blouse accentuated with a big, beaded necklace complete the atmosphere of the vibrant new food hub in Dover.
Recognizing the sure power of comfort food, Allison Williams has come to find that the ingredients speak for themselves. Her respect for food drives her to transform one dish into another simply by using cleaner ingredients, yet taste so similar to the stick to your ribs comfort food we love. Her respect for local food manifests as a connection with her farmers; she has been to every farm she sources from. Her own dedication is admirable, although maybe a bit daunting to the average home cook. To cross this threshold she is not only offering cooking classes, but she also transforms what is so often thought of as bland, boring, healthy food into meals that are accessible, delicious and creative.
She explains that she hopes to work with what people already know about food to more easily introduce new methods. What she is pushing all of us to seek is health－something so many people aren’t able to experience as often as we would like to think. “Lots of people don’t know what it’s like to feel good,” she says.
Nicola’s Trattoria: Keene, NH
The restaurant is bold－all red, white and black. Posters, photos, and postcards announce this as a place comfortable in its identity, just like Nicola. Although, it hasn’t always been this way. He came from Italy, once married, and felt a great sense of loss and struggle to live in the present while honoring the past－remembering his home and bringing that to New Hampshire in order to find comfort.
His only experience with food was in his mother’s kitchen when he was young, but what began as a hobby transformed into building a life. Cooking in his house was mom’s domain－where she worked from six in the morning until late at night, making everything from scratch. By recreating his mother’s dishes in Keene, Nicola is able to not only bring the comfort of his mother’s kitchen home to him, but also to all of us.
Blue Moon Evolution: Exeter, NH
A new addition to the dynasty of Blue Moon Evolution success, Chef Paul Callahan relies on seasonality to bring the eating experience to life on each plate. With cherry tomatoes, he considers how to communicate the taste of the sun still warming the fruit’s skin. Paul sees food as a connection to the outside world, so using food to honor those who have influenced us is a way of uniting around a shared experience of living on this planet.
Rainbow Grille and Tavern: Pittsburg, NH
“Before you asked me about this, I didn’t think about it too much,” Dave said. The food at Rainbow Grille and Tavern conveys, in one word, “comfort.” The tavern’s upscale log cabin decor and traditional comfort food dishes give visitors a good reason to come inside, take a seat and relax. Some nights, they have a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary next to a table of fly fishermen in jeans. Keeping it simple, Dave says, “enjoying it’s what it’s all about.”
Karimah’s Kitchen: Kingston, NH
Coming from a part of the world many today may fear, Karimah uses her Lebanese dishes to show and tell that she comes from a place of love. Her kitchen feels like your kitchen at home more than anything, only this smiling, curly-haired woman is passing you falafel. She calls it the “food of celebration” and her hope to use this vehicle to “bring people together” is executed on many levels. From the food itself in addition to the family-style service, visitors are not only opened up to another world, but enabled to experience it and experience it together, creating a connection between all.
Karimah has lived in the United States from the age of fifteen and moved to New Hampshire only six years ago. She says the fact that supporting local is now “such a big part of society connects back to where I am from.” Though it looks a bit different there with markets rather than grocery stores, the connection among people is the same.