More than 125 Granite State restaurants will offer three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus during the first statewide restaurant week. Let’s hope you’re hungry, New Hampshire.
Jack Carnevale said he has been bugging the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association (NHLRA), of which he is a member, for quite some time to pull together a weeklong statewide dining event. The director of the association finally gave the event a green light, the group formed a committee of interested parties and “presto, change-o, here we are,” Carnevale said.
The first-ever New Hampshire Restaurant Week will run from Friday, May 18, through Friday, May 25.
“I’m truly amazed how this has come together and of the people that have jumped on board,” said Carnevale, owner of Bedford Village Inn, which has held its own similar kind of event for many years.
“I wanted to see if we could raise the bars in New Hampshire and let everyone know what great chefs we have and that we’re all about the restaurants, we’re all about tourism,” he said. “And in that tourism banner, we have restaurants and we have inns. This is a great way to showcase those.”
Restaurants will offer prix fixe menus at three different price levels for each meal, with lunches from $10 to $20 and dinners from $15 to $35. The price level of each participating restaurant is represented by one to three forks on the state’s restaurant week website. Bedford Village Inn has been designated as a level three restaurant.
“People are going to kind of be moving up from the restaurant category they usually patronize to a higher level during the week, because it gives them an opportunity to do that,” Carnevale said. “I think people will tend to go out a little more frequently.”
Carnevale said diners should be ready for a lot of surprises as participating restaurants and inns may offer specials other than the set prix fixe menus and deals.
“It’s up to the individual proprietor to be inventive,” he said. “They … have a captive audience — the more creative the experience for these people, the more they will come back and dine on their regular menu and stay at their place during regular season prices.”
The Farm to Restaurant Connection has signed on as a supporter and promoter of New Hampshire Restaurant Week.
“I’ve looked at all of the different regions. There is an outstanding group of restaurants to choose from,” said Charlie Burke, president of the Farm to Restaurant Connection, adding that his organization is encouraging participating restaurants to use the event as an opportunity to feature locally sourced food on their menus and would gladly match interested chefs with farms for the dining event. Burke said he will likely dine at a restaurant that has received the Certified Local distinction from the Farm to Restaurant Connection during Restaurant Week.
The Margarita Grill in Glen is among the Certified Local restaurants participating in the inaugural statewide dining week. The restaurant’s chef, Bud Selmi, joins chefs Nicole Barreira (Great NH Restaurants), Michael Buckley (MT’s Local, Surf, Buckley’s Great Steaks), Stuart Cameron (Hanover Street Chophouse), Josh Farrington (White Mountain Hotel), Benjamin Knack (Bedford Village Inn), Jeffrey Paige (Cotton), Luca Paris (Luca’s Mediterranean Café), Adam Parker (Indian Head Resort) and Todd Sweet (Portsmouth Brewery) as NHLRA-selected celebrity chefs for the event.
Margarita Grill will source its salad ingredients from Pork Hill Farms in Ossipee, and wild mushrooms for its wild mushroom enchiladas from a local purveyor.
“We thought it would be a good opportunity [to showcase local food] … people connect with that,” said Corrine Rober, owner of the Margarita Grill. “It seems the way everybody should be thinking.”
Selmi created a seafood quesadilla (made with marinated shrimp, scallops and crabmeat, hot sauce, sherry, Monterey jack and goat cheeses, red peppers, sour cream and olive tapenade) specifically for the eatery’s restaurant week menu.
“We thought [Restaurant Week] was a great thing for New Hampshire,” Rober said. “It’s just a good opportunity to really focus and get the word out there about our restaurants and tourism up here.”
Cameron said he also plans to incorporate some locally sourced food into his Restaurant Week dishes: “I try to give as much value as I can give on the plate … we think we do a great job here, so we’d like to have more people know about us,” he said.