A Feast on Main Street

A special dining experience returns to Nashua

It’s on again. After a one-year hiatus, Main Street Nashua will be taken over this month by area farmers, local chefs and eager locavores happy to get a taste of September. The event, organized by The Farmers Dinner, is designed to be a showcase of seasonal foods prepared by local talent. Just what can be done with the beauty and bounty of the fall harvest — vine-ripe tomatoes and fruits, savory cheeses and a whole, heritage-breed pig? Well, plenty of heart and soul, goodwill, good food and a very good time for all.

Held in 2014, the most recent meal was a sit-down dinner, with volunteer servers rushing plates out to the more than 200 folks basking in an ideal warm fall evening as daylight turned to twilight. I remember clearly the two long tables set with white linens, garden bouquets and candlelit lanterns aglow as night began to fall. For a brief few hours, traffic noise was replaced with lively chatter, clinking glasses and the magic of communal dining.

The classic Main Street buildings provided the backdrop and the clear blue sky a “room without a roof,” but the menu was center stage. Courses ranged from a ratatouille with Parmesan foam from MT’s Local Kitchen & Wine Bar and Stella Blu to a caprese salad with herb pesto by Estabrook Grill (now shuttered) to a perfectly roasted pig. Dave Manganello of Riverside Barbeque served up his sauces and lent help (and he will be in the mix this year too). Additional courses included a local-potato frittata topped with fried pork rinds and caramelized onion jam offered by Peddler’s Daughter, and Brazilian cheese bread baked by Portland Pie and Riverwalk Café. The cleansing course sparkled with a gazpacho of heirloom tomatoes and watermelon offered in combination by Stella Blu and Riverside Barbeque. Dessert was a simple apple bread pudding prepared by jajaBelle’s served alongside Jake’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream. Libations were provided by 603 Brewery and Fulchino Vineyard.

Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis provided the centerpiece for the 2014 Main Street Nashua dinner — the 300-pound Tamworth pig for the spit. Chef Michael Buckley of MT’s Local Kitchen & Wine Bar, Buckley’s Great Steaks and Surf Restaurant embraced the project fully. He actually spent the night on Main Street with his cooking comrades on the eve of the event, swapping stories and tending to the beast as it roasted to a perfect succulence. At the dinner the next evening, he led the legion of volunteers, chefs and servers through the paces of service with all the command of a brigadier general. The plates were pretty, and the food was served hot — not an easy task. In short, the feast was an exceptional event prepared by the hospitality community and supplied by local farms for the eager dining public.

It’s not easy to shut down Main Street for several hours. As founder of The Farmers Dinner, Keith Sarasin was tasked with permitting, securing personnel and sourcing the food for the event, but this was not his first rodeo. It is the mission of The Farmers Dinner to bring farmers, chefs and diners together, often in unusual places or as part of a fundraising event to benefit a farm or charity.

Sarasin develops relationships with many area farms, including The Rickety Ranch and Kimball Farm, both represented at the 2014 dinner. By supporting them, he supports the goodwill they offer to others. Gary and Diane Bergeron of Hollis’ Rickety Ranch operate a partnership program to help troubled girls. The girls help out at the farm, work with horses and eventually become part of a warm, extended family. The third-generation Kimball Farm, on the other hand, focuses on environmental causes, growing heirloom produce varieties with a low-spray initiative.

As the seasons change, Sarasin discovers more farms and more stories to help set The Farmers Dinner’s table, from fields and orchards to fine dining establishments. He recently produced a dinner in the meadow at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm to help raise matching funds for purchasing the land. In the past, he has worked with Chef Evan Hennessey of Stages at One Washington in Dover and Chef Chris Noble, formerly of Blu Aqua in Amherst, combining the latest trends in presentation with local products. (Noble and partners will open a “Southern comfort with a twist” concept in Manchester sometime this year.)

This year, The Nashua Main Street dinner will have a new cast of characters, script and props with Chef Michael Buckley to once again lead the troops. The color starts with a fresh-squeezed purple beet lemonade. The aroma rolls in with cheddar garlic bread served with whipped honey butter. A pear, fully in season, is poached in wine and surrounded with smoked almonds and blue cheese. More seasonality with the soup course, a curried kuri squash bisque served with a dollop of lobster browned in butter and garnished with apple cream. Protein courses range from potted pork with pickled cabbage to roasted cod served with a hoisin black bean purée and kimchee relish. Then there’s even more protein — steak frites with a chimichurri sauce. Finally, the pies. Apple pie, sweet potato pie and a caramel pear tart will be served family-style. Why not! It will be like a community supper. Nothing against the church hall, but this will take the communal dining out to the streets and onto gussied tables to be enjoyed with sleeves rolled and taste buds dancing. Pass the napkins, please.