In a small town like Amherst, NH, its not always easy to find a hidden dining gem, so allot of times I will venture out to Milford or Wilton or even over to Bedford in search of new and interesting cuisine. Luckily for me I have found just such a hidden gem in The Rustic Leaf Bistro in Milford, NH. I have passed by The Rustic Leaf Bistro numerous times on our way to the Milford Drive in (which we are counting down the days till they open, look for a blog on that this spring!). I am a big proponent of using local ingredients and supporting local farms and farmers, so one of the things that drew me to The Rustic Leaf Bistro was their heavy use of local ingredients from surrounding areas. Hey, the blog is called “Eat Local” for a reason you know? So for my first visit, I opted to stop in for lunch. The first thing you notice when you walk in is how bright it is. From the photos on the website I was not sure what to expect for lighting for the photos, but it has such great light, windows everywhere, and has a warm, inviting feeling to it that wraps you up once you walk in the door.
]Being a food photographer, I always look for a nice window seat when doing a food blog. Nothing with too harsh a direct light, just a soft diffused light for the images, and I’m not shy about asking for a specific table. If its lunch and quiet, I’ll ask for a four top, but never at night, you always need to put the interest of the restaurant first. I got a perfect seat right by the window, beautiful, clean, linen table cloth lined table, and we were off. Never underestimate the power of the first words of the waitress. The waitress is like the host of the party, and their attitude and demeanor will dictate the flow of the meal. My waitress was absolutely phenomenal throughout the entire meal. She knew her specials, never missed a step with my order when I asked for something special, and was always sure to check with me to see how I was doing at every course. But more importantly, she made me feel like an important guest, even though I was a single, and there were several four tops around me. That is the sign of a great waitress. Now…on to the food!
I’m a bit of a soup fanatic, I think it comes from my time in the Army as a cook, when, in the field during combat training, I would make these wild and flavorful soups in the desert using all sorts of wild combinations of left overs and mre’s. And the guys in the unit loved me for it, because when your tired, cold, and sleeping in the freezing desert, a unique, rich, hearty home cooked soup is like gold. They had three special soups that day, each one sounded just as amazing as the next, but the one I settled on was the butternut squash bisque, I’m a sucker for a good bisque, what can i say? This may sound cliche but there wasn’t one spoon of that soup that my mind didn’t say “wow!”. It was a thick, hearty soup with great texture, not over puree’d, not overly chunky, and it was seasoned beyond perfection, with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, but just enough to float over your taste buds.
The next course was the crab and artichoke dip. My opinion is that a hot dip is only as good as its tortilla chips, and the second the plate was laid in front of me I knew that these were fresh, crisp, home made chips. The way I can tell is the slight sheen of oil on the chip, not so much that its greasy, but just enough to hold the salt. I knew that these had just come from the fryer, and a restaurant that makes fresh homemade tortilla chips daily is a place that has an eye on the details. The first bit was amazing, perfectly seasoned, fresh crab, with the ideal amount of chopped artichokes. My waitress was sure to inform me that the ramiken was “oven hot”, that’s attention to detail, and a thoughtfulness towards the guest, that’s a great waitress.
Next was my entree, the Cedar sandwich, which I had with the addition of caramelized onions, cause i love caramelized onions. The sandwich was served with a massive portion of sweet potato fries. Now, if you are someone that likes fries, you will love these fries. They are cut relatively think, and cooked to the ideal state, crispy and brown on the outside, and soft and sweet on the inside. They were seasoned lightly with either kosher or sea salt, which has so much more body and flavor, another eye on the details. The wrap itself exploded with the flavors of the bacon and the chicken. The bacon on this sandwich was amazing, the smoky flavor filled every bite. I’m not sure if they serve breakfast but if they do I’m coming by for a plateful of this bacon! The freshness and vibrance of the flavors in the Cedar sandwich were amazing, with so much flavor, I don’t know why all restaurants in the area use local ingredients. Now, mind you, at this point I was STUFFED! But no self respecting food photographer/ food blogger is going to leave such an amazing meal without trying desert. Plus, I was getting sleepy at this point and needed a cup of coffee to walk up. As you all know, I’m a coffee snob, and a harsh harsh critic of coffee. The very first sip of The Rustic Leaf Bistro‘s coffee sent memories of The Mount Washington Resorts coffee. I used to go there every fall for my anniversary, and to this day no cup of coffee has ever compared to theirs, that is, until I had a cup at The Rustic Leaf Bistro. I had to get a piece of cake, after all, photos of cake is pretty much what I’m know for, right? I went with the mocha ganache cake, and when it was set down in front of me, all i could say was “WOW”. It is a HUGE slice of cake just bursting with flavor. The cake was moist, the ganache rich but not overpowering, and the filing was this unique, dense, mocha flavored filling which is something new, even to me. I have to be honest, I contemplated not publishing this blog, because once people read about how amazing The Rustic Leaf Bistro is, how incredibly fresh and vibrant their food is, how inviting their dining room is, and how welcoming their staff is, it wont be long before they have to start rolling out the wait list, with lines out the door. But you know what, that’s ok with me. Incredible restaurants like this need to have as much exposure as they can possibly handle, and we as a community need more The Rustic Leaf Bistros to bring to the table the great combination of wonderful recipes with local ingredients.