Community Feasting

It was a magical night in New Hampshire. On September 9, 2006, a gathering of 100 people turned out for a Growers’ Dinner held under candlelight in Hilary Cleveland’s historic barn in New London. And it was all about New Hampshire.

The 80-foot table was decorated end to end with fresh produce laid upon burlap. Beyond the table, out the barn, were misty mountain views. Inside, candles and crystal stemware added sparkle. And the fire department stood at the ready.

The event was about preserving the New Hampshire we all love — the beautiful open fields and picturesque barns. It was about making connections between the food we eat and the people who produce it.

Jack Diemar, owner of Jack’s of New London, hosted the event. This was his third annual participation with the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection’s Growers’ Dinner series ( He had pledged and worked very hard to make the dinner a 100 percent New Hampshire event. Even more, he donated all his restaurant services, the farms donated the products and $10,000 was raised to help preserve the Courser Farm in Warner.

Producers involved included Spring Ledge Farm, which has a farm stand near Main Street in New London. The first year Diemar hosted a dinner; he had cocktails served at the farm stand for an up-close-and-personal look at the food source.

The Courser Farm, Muster Field Farm, Gould Hill Orchards and the Jansal Valley Farm provided more produce. Gould Hill was chosen for the site of a reenactment of the dinner. Producers of the “Endless Feast,” a food series on PBS, caught wind of the event, but wanted natural light. Diemar graciously offered to restage it between rows of apple trees for the ultimate New Hampshire harvest dinner. The show will air sometime next spring.

Providing local protein came with a few problems for Diemar. The chosen supplier for pork, Winrose Farm in Greenfield, had their swine supply decimated by coyotes a few days before the event. Many phone calls later, the restaurateur located a local farmer who was willing to donate his personal hog supply to the cause.

One of the most difficult aspects of going local for Diemar is finding dairy in New Hampshire. Jack’s of New London started as a coffeehouse and there is need for milk in lattes and coffee. He is working on that, but at the dinner the Sandwich Creamery provided cheese for the apple-and-cheddar dessert, while the local ice cream shop, Arctic Dreams, provided Annabelle’s ice cream, made in Portsmouth.

The last kiss of perfection was the wines donated by Jewell Towne Vineyards of South Hampton. They recently won a Best of New Hampshire at the Big E for their Cayuga white.

When not scouting for local products, Diemar is overseeing at Jack’s. After several years of running four coffeehouses, he consolidated back to Jack’s of New London and maximized that property by being open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus offering catering. His chef, Andrew Gruel, manages the evening dinner and catered events, while his “fabulous” staff takes care of breakfast and lunch.

It all started as a business plan for an entrepreneurial class at Skidmore College nine years ago. Jack and his wife Jody were long-distance bikers and peddled to a lot of coffeehouses. It seemed it would be fun to run one. Now Diemar is totally ensconced in the community. Jack’s has become a meeting place, an outlet for adventurous fine food, a player in local agriculture and a supporter of the New Hampshire lifestyle. He feels great about that. Even at 5:30 in the morning when his day starts. NH

Butternut Squash Encrusted Pork Loin Chop (pictured above)

With Lavender Jus, serves four.
By Chef Andrew Gruel of Jack’s of New London

For the Squash Crust
1 butternut squash, peeled, chopped and roasted
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 teaspoon dried cherries
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Combine all ingredients until a firm consistency is achieved.

For the pork and brine:
4 pork chops
1 bottle of beer
1 gallon of water
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup salt
Bring ingredients to a boil, cool and pour over pork chops. Allow pork to sit in brine for 12 hours. Be sure to rinse pork and pat dry prior to cooking.
For the Lavender Jus:
1 sprig fresh lavender
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon fresh butter

After removing the pork from the oven, deglaze the cooking pan with the beef stock and allow the lavender to simmer in the pan for 5 minutes. Melt in butter.

For the final presentation:

Sear the pork in a hot pan until a light crust forms, about 3 minutes per side. Top each pork chop with a heaping spoonful of the squash crust and bake in a 350ºF oven for 8 minutes. Allow the pork to rest 5 minutes after removing from the oven. Serve with Lavender Jus.

Serving suggestion: Serve pork on a potato gratin and top with a shaved fennel salad.