A massive Heritage pig stares up at Justin Dain, chef of the newly opened PINE Restaurant at the Hanover Inn in Hanover, NH. Disinterested, he snorts and saunters on. It is nine in the morning, cold, and overcast at best. The chef six-five, hulking and pristine in his leather jacket sidesteps the chickens and ducks nipping at the feed sprinkled all over the ground to make his way down the hill to see next week’s pig.
Dain and one of the farm hands, Curtis walk on discussing quail eggs and micro greens. Excitedly, I make my way over to the edge of the property where an ox and a bull stand untethered. I have never seen an ox up close so I approached with caution. Horned and Herculean, both looked on unconcerned about the tiny human trudging toward them.
This was my first trip to one of the 30 farms and producers that source PINE Restaurant (for whom I both bartend and photograph). The restaurant works based on a farm-to-table philosophy but can also serve as a reflection of the food culture in the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Dain has termed this style of cooking as “Refined American” referring to local, simple, good food; no fuss, no muss, just high level flavors and quality.
Justin Dain is the Executive Chef at the Hanover Inn in Hanover, NH. He has received regional and national recognition for his food including preparing a custom dinner for the renowned James Beard House in New York.
“I don’t stick things where they don’t belong. I like things clean and simple.” Dain says. “When I use a product, I try to use it the right way. The way it should be used. If I have pork, I am not going to try to make it into something else. I am going to find the best way for that pork to be pork and the flavors to compliment it.”
Boston Chef and Restauranteur for PINE Michael Schlow agrees; “simple does not mean plain, creative does not mean complicated”.
Local, organic product demand continues to grow in 2013, with consumers reporting that their motivations include helping local businesses and farms along with sharing a common a belief that the products are healthier, fresh, and more humane.
So here we are in Croyden, New Hampshire in our mud boots and winter jackets, shopping.