An American Idol Eats His Way Through NH

The Laconia Pumpkin Festival and four local farms to star in an episode of Taylor Hicks’ “State Plate”

Courtesy photo

So, let’s be real. When it comes to any kind of rich culinary identity, New Hampshire doesn’t exactly boast the same kind of storied, symbolic snacks seen in our sister states.

Maine has lobsters and blueberries. Massachusetts, its chowder. Vermont, its maple syrup.

Here? The folks at New Hampshire Public Radio recently embarked on a quest to determine our signature food, only to find that — perhaps appropriately, given our place in the middle of the region — it’s mostly a mishmash of other New England cuisines.

Of course, any local could tell you that what we lack in originality we make up for in quality.

And that’s just what Taylor Hicks (yes, that Taylor Hicks, the 2006 “American Idol” champion) set out to capture when he visited with the crew of his new food-focused roadshow, “State Plate.”

Airing on INSP (formerly The Inspiration Network), each episode showcases a distinctive plate of food from a single state: an appetizer, an entrée, two sides and a dessert.

New Hampshire’s episode won’t air until early 2018. While Hicks’ tour took him to an array of local farms, his agenda also included a stop at the Laconia Pumpkin Festival to sample something made from the state fruit. One takeaway from that detour: “I didn’t realize there’s a lot of different varieties in which you can prepare a pumpkin.”

And on the whole, his tour left him enamored with New Hampshire’s tapestry of tiny towns and general stores stocked with stuff grown right down the street.

“It’s truly a farm-to-table state,” says Hicks.

That said, the Birmingham, Alabama, native was also impressed — and surprised — by New Hampshire’s apparent reverence for at least one seemingly ubiquitous deep-fat-fried food.

“I didn’t realize how many doughnut shops there were,” laughs Hicks. “I grew up with a Krispy Kreme around the corner, but you guys take the cake — no pun intended.”

“It’s interesting how there are all of these little doughnut shops that are so local and fresh, and all of a sudden you guys can’t get enough of it — so Dunkin’ Donuts has to put 100 stores in New Hampshire,” he adds. “I love it.”

And fear not, “Idol” fans: When he’s not filming his TV show, Hicks has hardly given up his musical career. He still performs live shows and debuted a new single, “Six Strings and Diamond Rings,” in September. In fact, the way he sees it, these pursuits are complementary.

“The way you prepare a dish is like the way you prepare a song,” says Hicks. “Hopefully you put a lot of love in it, and people will like it.”

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