One of my favorite assignments of 2011 was a self-assigned project - behind the scenes at the Heirloom Harvest Barn Supper on a lovely old farm in Stratham, New Hampshire. So I was delighted when one of these chefs, Evan Hennessey of Dover NH contacted me about his new restaurant which just opened last weekend. Stages One Washington is located on the 3rd floor of a renovated mill building, and it is a gem for locavores and diners from farther afield. They've already collected some wonderful reviews from Seacoast NH food critics! Chef Hennessey and his team have created a unique environment and experience for their guests - each weekend features a completely different menu, all uniquely themed and choreographed. Here are a couple of my favorite images from the first two shoots (for the "soft" opening serving a sumptuous dinner to family and friends). I adore witnessing the creative process in the kitchen:
This is one of my favorite shots: chef contemplating the next few weeks' menu drafts adjacent to a clock... 2 hours before first plate served in his dream restaurant.
Another really special aspect of this restaurant is the warm easy style Hennessey has with his staff. I have always been interested in collective/collaborative management styles, so I'm really enjoying seeing how the kitchen is organized and run. Here the chef demonstrates how to spherify iced tea for the evening's amuse bouche.
Dishwasher, first job, first day on the job:
There are 6 seats in the kitchen - in my opinion these are the best seats in the house. It is so much fun to watch the team compile each plate - when we eat here I am definitely going to be sure and reserve well in advance to have one of these prime spots!
One of the 5 courses served: an exquisite goat cheese ravioli sprinkled with pistachio dust, dehydrated green olives, and just-cut micro-greens grown on the kitchen windowsill. Yum!
This restaurant space is ideal for a wedding rehearsal dinner or private dinner party of up to 30 guests! It's also (in my humble opinion) a perfect spot for an exciting food-themed date night (hint hint... Matt Grazier!). The cooking techniques are innovative, but because much of the cooking is inspired by or includes familiar flavors this would be a fantastic way to introduce a non-foodie to the world of modernist culinary adventure. Chef Hennessey and his team also offer fine catering around Seacoast NH region under the name Flavor Concepts. We are definitely adding them to our list of recommended vendors for our wedding clients!
PS - this former Oregon barista was extremely delighted to discover coffee roasted by what one of the waitstaff told me is their local "nano-roaster"... in 7 words: Red Rover Coffee holds up against Stumptown. My family and friends out west may shrug when they read this (they take things like fine coffee at every food establishment for granted), but honestly this is the FIRST amazing cup of coffee I've ever had at a fine restaurant in New England.