When I think of the “going local” movement, the first word that comes to my mind is unity. Buying locally and supporting local businesses unifies so many people not only in the confines of our smaller town communities, but also the larger communities of the regions of New Hampshire, and the state itself.
Last night, Charlie Burke, President of the New Hampshire Farm to Restaurant Connection, was nice enough to invite me to a spot at his table at the New Hampshire Made Local Stars Celebration Dinner. Located at the Grappone Center in Concord, a NHFRC Certified Local restaurant, Executive Chef Trish Taylor is no stranger to sourcing locally. The menu included meats, vegetables, breads, and desserts from all over the state of New Hampshire.
Walking in, your picture was automatically snapped on a small read carpet leading to the main table. After picking up my name tag, I perused the auction table filled with various New Hampshire goods from craftsmen, farmers, smokehouses and the likes (the program with complete list of silent auction donors can be found at http://www.nhmade.com/Dinner%20Program%202013.pdf). Cocktail hour consisted of local cocktails, beers, and wines from Sea Hagg Distillery, Hermit Woods Winery, and many more. For those of us under the legal drinking age (by four short months) there was a selection of soft drinks from Squamscot Beverages, milk from Bartlett Dairy Farm, and water from Nh20 Spring Water Company. I filled my plate with an assortment of local cheeses and rustic flatbread crackers, stealing a mushroom and sausage tart and a mini quiche from the waitress.
After cocktail hour, Trish Ballantyne, NH Made Executive Director, had a brief welcome speech and sent us to the stations on each side of the room to begin venturing into each perfectly made local dish. I decided to make my way to the salad station to start, choosing fresh braised greens topped with strawberries, bacon, and feta cheese. So engaged by every station, I made the executive decision to drop off my salad and head for the carving station for the roast rib eye of beef with braised baby bok choy. I could not have been more delighted with my choice. The meat was perfectly pink, the bok choy perfectly braised, and the greens were fresh and flavorful. After finishing my first plate, I moved on to the venison ragout and handcrafted rolls. The venison was so tender it practically fell apart in my mouth. After giving myself a few minutes to digest, I made my way to my favorite table, the dessert table. I have a ravenous sweet tooth, and the table was no disappointment. Unfortunately my eyes are much larger than my stomach and I decided to only have a small strawberry yogurt parfait and mini whoopie pie.
After eating, NH author and humorist Rebecca Rule had the whole room laughing with her New Hampshire related jokes, poking fun at the small towns and funky dialect. Overall, last night showed that people from all areas love to come together over a plate of food and the sound of laughter to support local businesses and local people. Delicious food, great company, and an outstanding love for our little state brought everyone together, and left everyone fulfilled.