Best of NH 2017 Food Odds & Ends
Find sophisticated fare at Editor's Pick Cabonnay in Manchester. Photo by Kendal J. Bush
Party Platter: Want to really impress your friends at your next home gathering? Order the Local Pig Platter at Vida Cantina in Portsmouth and watch their faces as they turn from puzzlement to satisfaction. They’ll love dipping into the succulent pork and sides to make the most unique tacos they’ll ever experience. The platter even features the pig’s head … well, half of it anyway. If parties are about experiences, then this is it.
Duck Poutine: No matter how you choose to pronounce it, poutine is comfort in a bowl. Our neighbors to the north brought us fries covered in gravy and cheese curds, and Poor Thom’s Tavern in Meriden took it to the next level with the addition of crispy fried duck. The house-made fries are just smothered in these three ingredients, making a simple pleasure positively decadent. It’s on the starters menu, but no one will judge if you make it your meal.
Magic Mustard: Blackwater Mustard Co. of Contocook likes to refer to its hand-made, small-batch mustards as “legendary.” That might be a stretch, but then again it’s hard to debate the influence of the right mustard on food. Too often, the sandwich gets the credit when you know it’s the mustard that made all the difference. Blackwater’s exquisite whole seed, spicy or sweet mustards offer the best possible routes to creating a legendary sandwich, glaze or marinade.
Eggplant Redemption: Eggplant lovers tend to be outshouted by eggplant haters. Vito Marcello’s in North Conway Village has created something that will please both camps. His baked eggplant Stack Florentine is infused with his own tomato basil sauce oven-crisped with generous portions of panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan to provide the right meld and “mouth-feel.”
Sensory Dining: There’s fine dining, and then there’s Cabonnay. “Restaurant” isn’t really the right word, though young, award-winning Chef Chris Viaud’s menu is excellent. This multilevel space offers a myriad of dining experiences, from the modern bar that looks onto the atrium and its gorgeous chandelier to the spacious roof deck surrounded by garden walls. Dine in the Conservatory or Fantasy room, each with unique décor, music and projected images. You’re meant to feel as though this is more than just a place to eat a meal — it’s a complete experience for all of the senses. The name Cabonnay is a mashup of cabernet and chardonnay, and as you might suspect, the wine list is well-considered yet approachable. Cap it all off with one of the unexpected and delicious desserts crafted by Pastry Chef Aurélien Blick.