The former Blue Moon Market and Café goes from granola to tequila.You could say it was a bolt out of the blue when Kathy Gallant decided to open Blue Moon Evolution.It was Earth Day 2010 and friends and family had gathered for the 16th anniversary of the opening of Blue Moon Market & Café, a health food market and lunch spot in downtown Exeter. Gallant's children, who grew up working in the market, proclaimed that the multi-course dinner they were enjoying at the moment was the next step for their mother. And so it came to be.Gallant's daughter Allysa came back from Mexico to hostess, her daughter Meadow works behind the scenes, while her husband and son worked on the physical remodeling job. The market was transformed by late fall into a fine dining destination featuring fresh and local foods prepared with a light touch. It was named Blue Moon Evolution because that is exactly what it was.Gallant opened the market when she moved to Exeter years ago because there were no other markets in town, and especially no markets carrying traditional health foods, supplements, etc. But, she explains, "Now, large grocery stores have aisles of 'natural' products so there was no need to compete with them." Besides, after becoming a "brand anthropologist" through extensive research, Gallant found that all the "natural" brands that had lined her shelves were now owned by giant corporations. Burt's Bees is owned by Clorox, Naked Juice is owned by Pepsi, Odwalla Juice is owned by Coca Cola and most of the original alternate cereals are now owned by General Mills and Kellogg's. Want milk on that? Horizon Organic Milk is owned by Dean Foods.Gallant unrolled a long white plastic sheet she created with markers that lists all the details of who owns what. Frankly, it was a bit impressive. These corporations keep the labels very similar and often do not put their names on them. Gallant's feeling is that corporations are only concerned with the bottom line and the product, originally lovingly conceived, may become a watered down version of its former self.With no need to stock shelves with products widely distributed by giant corporations, Gallant decided to narrow her focus. By preparing foods from local sources she didn't have to worry about Pillsbury gobbling up her soup and sandwiches.Years ago, the café portion of Blue Moon started with just three tables and eventually expanded to more than half of the total space by the time that anniversary dinner concentrated Gallant's focus.Gallant now has a new kitchen staff to continue the evolution. I was surprised to see Chef Ted McCormack in the kitchen. He had been executive chef at Flag Hill Winery and previous to that Three Chimneys Inn. He shut down his latest enterprise, Harvesting Hermit, in April to join Gallant in this new quest. McCormack and Gallant were headed in the same direction, but now share the path with their devotion to local products prepared in a healthful manner. Gallant says, "I am all about the Zen of Ted. He is passionate about local foods even though it's not the easiest route."Every morning local farmers and producers drop off their products. Brookford Farm stocks Blue Moon with fresh organic milk, cream and eggs. Fresh seasonal produce is from Meadow's Mirth, Stout Oak and a few other Seacoast farms. In addition, Gallant has her own one-acre garden that supplies tomatoes, beans, herbs and more. One employee spend a fortnight drawing up a chart of all their local resources.Every evening Blue Moon Evolution evolves from a rustic café serving soup, sandwiches and a creative salad bar until 3 p.m. to a fine dining room, complete with low lights, candles and white tablecloths. At dinner all traces of the café disappear and a fully stocked bar becomes part of the scene. Healthy smoothies with spirulina are supplanted with cocktails with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and other cocktails made from house-made simple syrup and house-made infusions ($10). The beer list offers a nice selection of craft beers, including two gluten-free options ($4 to $5). Locally sourced Moonlight Meadery is represented with several choices offered by the bottle ($20).The dinner menu is a concerned diner's dream. Sure, there is a nice selection here for the vegan or vegetarian, but Gallant is offering options for the conscientious meat-eater, too. Offerings include a "Raw Foodie" lasagna ($18) (Gallant's husband lost 35 lbs. on a temporary raw food diet), encrusted tofu ($18), local organic baby greens topped with a fried egg ($10), along with a few standbys that include chicken under a brick, lemon herb haddock, a Kellie Brook Farm pork cutlet with a grilled peach and blueberry brandy sauce ($24) and a grass-fed beef London broil ($26). Each of these entrées is offered with your choice of two sides. In addition, daily specials make use of market fresh vegetables and fruits.Unique on the menu is the GF and V code. Each item is listed as being gluten-free (GF) or vegan (V) or whether it can be prepared as such.Interesting on the menu and presented beautifully are the "board" offerings. The raw board offers raw sunflower pâte, marinated raw vegetables and a raw onion bread ($10), while a cheese board offers a trio of local cheeses, grilled crostini, chutney and a dab of honeycomb. Chef McCormack's house-made charcuterie is the focus of the third board.The dessert list is short but features a flourless chocolate cake ($8) and the creamy cashew cocoa torte with raw chocolate and dates as a sweetener ($8). Gallant says the latter has been on the menu since day one and it was a perfect, not-too-sweet ending to a meal you could feel good about.Gallant's concerns about healthy eating began shortly after a family member was diagnosed with cancer some years ago. Building on her concerns, she has become a local advocate for healthy eating, saying "Education should be at the top of the food pyramid." Indeed, nutrition education and healthy cooking is what Gallant is all about: "I just wanted to feed people healthy food - guide them to better eating." When things settle down Gallant plans to teach cooking classes again and continue her mentoring that began with her natural foods market and continued to the local teen center. From teaching how to enjoy juiced greens to making kale chips to tips for using those never-ending greens in your CSA allotment (freeze it and use in soup and stocks), she wants people to know they have a choice. In spite of a generation of kids growing up on food developed in test tubes, you can find good food. You just have to look locally.Be alert if you are a first-timer trying to find Blue Moon Evolution. Its position on Clifford St. in Exeter makes it seem like it's on a one-way street going the wrong way. But there's little doubt that Gallant is headed in the right direction. NHMore InformationBlue Moon Evolution
8 Clifford St., Exeter
www.bluemoonevolution.com Lunch Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m, Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and SaturdayReservations are accepted.
This article appears in the September 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine