New Hampshire has seen some interesting new food trends over the past year. Some were short-lived (remember Pokemon Go bar crawls?), but others like canned beer and food truck festivals seem like they’re here to stay. Here’s a look at some of the trends that helped shape New Hampshire’s food scene in 2016, plus some highlights from the local restaurant world and beverage industry.
What’s new for food
One continuing trend this year was food trucks and food truck festivals.
The city of Nashua had its first annual Nashua Food Truck Festival in October.
The festival’s organizer, Michael Aquino, said he believes people are attracted to the specialty food experience that food trucks offer that isn’t always available at regular restaurants.
“I think we’re going to start to see it more,” he told the Hippo in October. “I know some local people looking to get into the food truck scene, and hopefully [the festival] paves the way for more of that kind of thing around here.”
In October, the New Hampshire Food Truck Festival returned for its third year at Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth and featured more than 20 food trucks. There were all kinds of food offered, including tacos, barbecue, sandwiches, ethnic dishes and sweet treats.
Janet Prensky, spokesperson for Food Truck Festivals of America, said food trucks have been on a steady upswing.
“Back in the day, there was a stigma around food truck foods because they weren’t the gourmet products that they are today,” she said. “Now it’s popular, and I think when we started we weren’t sure if it was a trend or just a fad, but we realize now that it’s a trend that’s here to stay.”
The local food scene also saw the rise of new subscription services like Spiced Up (spicedup.rocks), which delivers a monthly box of hand-selected spices; Local Baskit (localbaskit.com), which delivers meal kits with fresh, pre-measured local ingredients; and Calcutta Curry (calcuttacurry.com), which offers weekly delivery of healthy, home-style Indian meals. All Real Meal (allrealmeal.com), a subscription that delivers gluten-free, paleo and vegan meals, has been around for a few years but took a big step forward when it made its cauliflower-based pizza crust, One Crust, its first product to be available on the national market.
Local Baskit founder Beth Richards told the Hippo in June that meal delivery subscriptions have been trending nationally for several years but there was a need for more local services to provide fresher foods and faster, more flexible delivery.
“The concept is taking the food industry by storm,” she said. “It gives the person who wants to support local farms that convenience of not having to think about what to make for dinner.”
Many restaurants opened additional locations or announced plans for additional locations to come in 2017. Manchester gourmet macaroni and cheese restaurant Mr. Mac’s (497 Hooksett Road, mr-macs.com) announced its plans to franchise and open as many as three new locations in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts within the next several years, one of which already opened this year in Portsmouth (2600 Lafayette Road). Others include Giorgio’s Ristorante, which opened a third location in Manchester (270 Granite St., 232-3323, giorgios.com) to join its locations in Merrimack and Milford; and Pasquale’s in Candia, which opened a new sister eatery, Pasquale’s Restaurant, in Londonderry (87 Nashua Road, 587-0028, pasqualeristorantenh.com).
The Queen City welcomed a number of new restaurants including the third restaurant from Tidewater Catering Group, Unity Cafe (3 Sundial Ave., Manchester, 782-7325, unitycafe.com), new American fusion restaurant Gale Motor Co. Eatery (36 Lowell St., Manchester, 232-7059, galemotoreatery.com); and The Birch on Elm (931 Elm St., Manchester, 782-5365, facebook.com/thebirchonelm), which focuses on hand-crafted cocktails and globally inspired cuisine.
Manchester also said farewell to UnWine’d Key West Cafe & Grille on Second Street and Elm Street eateries Queen’s Pub and Grille, Funktion Spirits & Spoonfuls and Finesse Pastries (which moved to Boston). Cajun restaurant N’awlins Grille closed its Elm Street doors but announced plans to reopen in downtown Nashua.
Some notable new spaces opened, like A&E Coffee & Tea’s Sunporch Bistro (135 Route 101A, Amherst, 578-3338; find them on Facebook), which offers specialty coffees and teas as well as an expanded food menu and a focus on sit-down service. The Grand at Bedford Village Inn (2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford, 472-2001, bedfordvillageinn.com) unveiled its new Lobby Bar in June, a relaxed space with a menu of creative small plates like duck corn dogs and truffle popcorn. “[We wanted] to create a different kind of experience for people … [and] to set a distinction for the Lobby Bar in terms of the culinary side of things,” BVI President Jack Carnevale told the Hippo in August. “It’s not a place to have a sit-down meal with one course after another. It’s more of a fun menu. It’s fun to go through the selections and put things together and experience different tastes.”
In 2016, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission opened new Liquor & Wine Outlets in Epping, Plymouth, Pembroke, New Hampton, Londonderry and Seabrook, as well as a flagship store in Nashua, which is the largest liquor store in northern New England, according to a press release from the NHLC.
There was good news for beer and wine vendors when new legislation effective as of August allowed those participating in farmers markets to provide samples of their products.
New Hampshire’s brewery scene saw all kinds of growth, including new brewery openings like Pipe Dream Brewing (49 Harvey Road, Londonderry, facebook.com/pipedreambrewing), Lithermans Limited Brewery (126 B Hall St., Concord, lithermans.beer), Millyard Brewery (25 E. Otterson St., Nashua, millyardbrewery.com) and others.
There were new opportunities for beer enthusiasts to engage with the local brewery scene, like the New Hampshire Beer Club (nhmagazine.com/nh-beer-club), a monthly gathering at New England’s Tap House Grille in Hooksett where members can meet brewers, sample beer and enjoy food and beer pairings. There’s also the recently opened Flight Center (97 Main St., Nashua, flightcenterbc.com) a craft beer cafe with 48 local brews on tap, an accompanying bottle shop and special events like tastings, beer dinners and promotional nights with brewers. In June, Anheuser-Busch Brewery and Tour Center (221 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 595-1202) opened a social space of its own called The Biergarten, which features 14 beers on tap, a light food menu and an outdoor patio with fire pits.
What’s new for beer and wine
One of the growing trends in beer this year was cans. Since investing in a canning line late last year, White Birch Brewing in Hooksett spent much of 2016 transitioning from bottles to cans. Kelsen Brewing in Derry has also been working toward making more beers available in cans, and Stark Brewing Co. in Manchester launched a new line of cans this past fall.
Scott Thornton, founder of Great Rhythm Brewing Co. in Portsmouth, talked with the Hippo in August about why he decided to offer beer exclusively in cans.
“From our perspective, cans are a really good package for beer. It acts like a mini keg, keeps out the light and oxygen and keeps the beer the freshest-tasting,” he said. “And for hiking or concerts at outdoor venues, places that don’t allow glass typically allow cans. … We’d hate for people to be limited because [our beer] can’t travel where they want to go.”
Also popular this year were workshops and classes pairing beer and wine tastings with yoga. There’s the monthly Bend & Brew at Pipe Dream Brewing in Londonderry, the weekly Yoga at Throwback at Throwback Brewery in North Hampton, and sporadic Yoga in the Vineyard workshops at LaBelle Winery in Amherst, along with many other one-time workshops hosted by various venues throughout the year.
Michelle Fabbrini, owner of Zin-Zen Yoga in Bedford, talked with the Hippo in March about her studio’s weekly Yoga+Wine classes and about beginning a partnership with 603 Brewery of Londonderry to host periodic Asanas and Ales classes.
“Both yoga and craft breweries are trending and growing businesses, so I think it’s a cool aspect to merge the two,” she said. “In addition to the physical practice [of yoga], it helps you unwind and find a place of more peace and relaxation.”