Predictably, Portsmouth contributes its share of news, with Ben Hasty leaving The Dunaway Restaurant at Strawbery Banke (www.dunawayrestaurant.com) to join Chef/owner Rob Evans at Hugo's in Portland. Evan Hennessey, whom Seacoast foodies remember fondly from 43 Degrees North, unveiled his first new menu in September as the new executive chef at The Dunaway. On State St., Agave Mexican Bistro (www.agavemexicanbistro.com) opened in June, drawing crowds to its smart bar for the big selection of tequilas, for guacamole made tableside and other Mexican (not Tex Mex) favorites. A waterfall runs behind the spirits at an additional bar upstairs. Also new on State St. is an Irish bar, McMenemy's Restaurant and Pub, that will be replacing Molly Malone's. Portsmouth has a new Spanish restaurant, Cava (www.cavatapasandwinebar.com) at 10 Commercial St. Alley. The menu offers true tapas and small plates. In the Madison Village Shopping Center, authentic Greek food is served cafeteria style by the Zottos family at Cafe Nostimo (www.cafenostimo). Interestingly, great Greek food is served cafeteria style in truck stops across that nation.
Just south in Rye, Chef Gerry Burt is bringing guests back to Villa Fresca (www.villafrescaristorante.com) with starters like roasted wild mushrooms with charred onions and basil oil, and a menu of other creative takes on Italian dishes made with fresh local ingredients.
Wings Your Way (www.wingsyourway.com), which started out as a college hangout in Durham, has expanded into a family restaurant and bar in North Hampton.
New in Exeter is Las Olas Taqueria (www.lasolastaqueria.com), a casual spot for well-prepared versions of the usual burritos, tacos, quesadillas, fajitas - plus some creative specials. Pimentos (583-4501) is the latest incarnation of the 69 Water St. space, with Chef Rob Miller serving mildly innovative takes on old favorites.
In Nashua, Café India (882-8100) has opened in the Elm Street location of the former Mezze, and La Mexicana Bakery (886-9499) has moved in around the corner on West Pearl, baking everything (including scrumptious cookies) right there. Opening soon at 57 Factory St. is Timber Grill. Owner Dan Quinn plans on keeping the long bar and adding seating downstairs. The menu will feature not comfort food, but food that people are comfortable with, says Quinn. The word fresh will be taken seriously, with fresh ground beef for burgers and healthy fresh vegetables. Siru Kiku offers fresh sushi on Broad Street.
Valentino's (www.valentinosrestaurants.com), where the DeFelice and Dahl families serve Italian-American favorites, is new in Hudson's Nottingham Hill Plaza; a prime rib special is offered Friday-Sunday evenings. Also new, on Lowell Road, the former owners of August Moon bakery in Milford have opened SoHo Asian Restaurant & Bar (www.sohocuisine.com) with two separate menus, one Chinese and one Japanese with a range of sushi, sashimi and maki.
Like SoHo, Asian Breeze (www.asianbreezenh.com), an Asian-fusion restaurant on Route 3/28 in Hooksett, has two menus, but their second one explores little-known authentic dishes of China, Korea and Japan that are not found in other restaurants.
Just down Route 101, Casa Blanca (472-3656), which has quickly developed a following for its authentic Mexican cuisine, has added a new Margarita menu.
Over in Milford, Carol Shaheen, the owner of the Red Arrow in Manchester, has purchased the forlorn Milford Diner. Locals are happy the diner will be a diner again.
Concord's North Main Street dine/drink scene has a few changes. Bistro Rustica (224-2110) opened in August with a pan-Mediterranean menu that goes beyond the usual suspects. Capitol Grille's new owner, Nancy Fiske, has changed its name to Concord Grille (www.capitol-grille.com). Shannon Drake has closed 55 Degrees after four years of offering fine dining on Main Street. Barbara Lambert has just opened Barb's Beer Emporium (224-8660), a beer specialty shop featuring world microbrews, in the old Capitol Convenience location. Friday tastings featuring local brewers began with Woodstock Brewery.
In the Lakes Region, Spanish native Luis Marin is now executive chef at The Manor on Golden Pond (www.manorongoldenpond.com) in Holderness, taking charge of the Van Horn Dining Room and M Bistro. Scott Ouelette, chef/owner of Canoe and O, has opened The North End (thenorthendrestaurant.com) at the former Black Snout location in Moultonborough. The Italian menu features all the red-sauce favorites and the parmesan-piccata-marsala trinity. (seasonal)
In New London, The Colonial Farm Inn (www.colonialfarminn.com) has opened an upscale dining room on Route 11, serving dishes such as brandy-flamed escargot with crimini mushrooms and peppered duck breast in cranberry-port sauce.
Shane Quieros has recently been named Chef de Cuisine at the Mountain View Grand (www.mountainviewgrand.com); the hotel offers monthly wine dinners, spotlighting its 9,000-bottle wine cellar and a menu of dishes inspired by the hotel's commitment to using local ingredients (many grown right on the property). This summer the Mountain View extended food service to the long front porch with a veranda menu of light dishes and desserts.
Jackson gears up for another après-ski season, with new owners Don and Joyce Bilger breathing new life into The Shovel Handle Pub at Whitney's Inn (www.whitneysinn.com). Chef Marty Sweeney, former owner of Wildcat Tavern, serves updated comfort food, and there's live entertainment on weekends. On Wednesdays the Wildcat Inn & Tavern (www.thewildcatinn.com) has begun serving a $23.50 dinner for two.
News in the far north is Murphy's Steak House (www.beartreecabins.com) in The Inn at Bear Tree, newly opened in the historic Pittsburg property. Executive Chef Angel Brown offers steaks, maple-glazed pork chops, baked haddock, grilled shrimp and other straight-forward dishes, and on Wednesday evenings from 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. takes reservations for up to four guests at a Chef's Table for more adventuresome dining. NH
Barbara Radcliffe Rogers is co-author of "Eating New England," a food lover's guide to local food sources and dining. Stillman Rogers is the author of "It Happened in New Hampshire," 31 stories from the state's history.
This article appears in the November 2008 issue of New Hampshire Magazine