5//9/2013 - Checking out a new scene, trying new food and saving some money — those are the core ideas behind Restaurant Week NH.
“People are creatures of habit. They go to the same restaurants they like and they don’t really leave their region. There’s so many different restaurants all over New Hampshire, and this really gives you the opportunity to try something new,” said Benjamin Knack, executive chef at Bedford Village Inn. “It will open your mind to different restaurants, different towns, different regions.”
The second annual event takes place from Friday, May 17, through Friday, May 24, at more than 130 restaurants all over New Hampshire. Special deals will be offered for three-course lunches and dinners at participating venues.
Knack is one of six celebrity chefs for the event and said that the Bedford Village Inn will offer dishes that are not currently on the menu but may have been in the rotation in the past or will be in the future, including one item that will make its debut during Restaurant Week NH.
“We’re doing sauteed shrimp and mussels with chorizo, ham and a little tomato cream sauce and we pour it over soft polenta. It will be going on one of our menus soon, but I decided to run it out on Restaurant Week so people could try something different,” Knack said. “It’s really a popular trend now, French food or French technique with a southern flair, so we’re going to do that dish and call it shrimp and grits.”
The Great NH Restaurants family of eateries, which includes the various Cactus Jack’s and T-Bones locations as well as the Copper Door in Bedford, will also be taking part. Their lead chef, Nicole Barreira, is another of the celebrity chefs for Restaurant Week.
“Copper Door is doing something unique. For lunch we are doing ‘Diablo Mussels,’ a spicy mussels dish,” Barreira said. “We’re also doing poblano and chipotle shrimp pizza. And for dessert, berries and white chocolate creme brulee.”
There are three price levels being offered by participating restaurants: lunches at $10 and dinners at $15, lunches at $15 and dinners at $25, and lunches at $20 and dinners at $35. Each restaurant will offer a three-course meal for lunch and dinner, with multiple choices available.
Other menu items of note include porcini rubbed flat iron steak at Buckley’s Great Steaks in Merrimack; braised lamb shank on creamy cheddar polenta at Colby Hill Inn in Henniker; sauteed sea scallops with sweet mango chutney at Fody’s Great American Tavern in Nashua; Mrs. Cameron’s strawberry shortcake at Hanover Street Chophouse in Manchester; wood-grilled Atlantic salmon at MT’s Local Kitchen and Wine Bar in Nashua; cajun chicken macaroni and cheese at Speaker’s Corner in Nashua; crispy panko-coated flounder at Surf in Nashua; and a lobster BLT at the Barley House in Concord.
“One of the things that is really important for us is to have a lot of restaurants involved. It’s great to see that other restaurants are taking the initiative to create a new menu that people can come out and try,” Knack said. “You can get out there and go to a restaurant that is really embracing what this event is about, and that’s trying different things and supporting New Hampshire.”
According to Mike Somers, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, last year’s inaugural event was a big success.
“I would say it surprised me how successful it was,” Somers said. “We had some restaurants say that their business was up 20 to 30 percent that week. That’s a strong showing. I think everyone I spoke with said they saw so many new customers come through the doors. I would consider it an overwhelming success. I was amazed.”
Somers said that last year’s total of 130 restaurants has already been eclipsed and that he hopes the final tally will be approximately 150 venues taking part, all offering meals at discounted priced to encourage diners to experiment.
“We always seem to have an excuse to not go out, and I think this takes away some of the barriers,” Somers said. “One of the objectives is to draw focus to the great culinary activities we have in the state. It gives customers an affordable option to get out there and try something that maybe they couldn’t afford before. We really want people to take advantage of this opportunity to try a new restaurant.”
The other celebrity chefs involved are Jeffrey Paige from Cotton in Manchester, Bud Selmi from Margarita Grill in Glen, Todd Sweet from Portsmouth Brewery and Roland von Gunten from The Common Man family of restaurants.