By Rachel Forrest
Hampton Union, Tuesday, Decemer 14, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- Sampling an array of tasty "small plates" for an after work snack or even for dinner is becoming the new way to enjoy a dish or two or many.
In Spain, it's called "tapas," a snack usually enjoyed standing up with glass of wine in hand and plenty of conversation to go along with it. More and more American restaurants are adapting the small plate way to dine and as The Galley Hatch restaurant in Hampton unveiled its brand-new 25 item tapas menu on Dec. 1, the first question is — what to try first?
The new tapas menu, filled with the flavors of the Mediterranean with touches of familiar New England, was developed by Executive Chef Jeff Snyder and Galley Hatch owner John Tinios, who saw a change in the way his customers were dining. While the regular menu is still in place, offering this new menu gives diners more options and more flavors to explore.
"Tapas is a part of my Mediterranean heritage," says Tinios. "I'm Greek, and this kind of dish is in our food but also in Italian, and of course Spain."
The menu is divided into Tapas frio (cold) and caliente (hot) and dishes run from $3 to $6.30 per plate, served from 3 to 6:30 p.m. throughout the restaurant.
"With the smaller portions, you can come in with a party of three and share the dishes," says Chef Snyder. "A lot of items on our menu is full size but many people come in here after work for a glass of wine and just want some small bites to eat."
Those bites include uislie like Greek meatballs in cinnamon marinara with garlic bread, spinach feta turnover and a hummus plate are alongside plates of simple mixed Greek olives, roasted and seasoned nuts and more "traditional" items like Irish nachos with potatoes, bacon, peppers and cheese or a crab and shrimp cake with chipotle aioli.
Seafood lovers will enjoy the traditional oysters Rockefeller, fried calamari, and a grilled shrimp skewer with a Saigon glaze. Peel and eat shrimp with cocktail sauce and lemon aioli and even oysters on the half shell are included on the frio side of the menu.
"The customer just checks off what dishes they want on the menu — there will be one on every table — and we have a new wine menu to go along with it with wines by the glass in 3, 5 and 7 ounces," says Tinios.
Tinios says that watching how his customers have changed the way — and when — they dine was one of the drivers in developing the tapas menu.
"The economy has driven a lot of new ideas to the forefront," he says. "If you just sit still, as a restaurant you'd expire in this economy. We feel the small portions and price point are attractive.
And the way people go out now is different. Their entertainment time is earlier, they're going out earlier — maybe 4 p.m. or right after work and they're going home earlier. They want a drink and an appetizer. When times are tough they tend to go to places where things are casual, where they can network or have a laugh."
Chef Snyder says that coming up with the dishes on the tapas menu took some experimentation and testing and at first the menu is a bit conservative to see how it goes over.
"We're using product we have in house already, which makes sense in any kitchen. We included some fan favorites from our regular menu like the feta dip. It's been on the menu forever. The Buffalo chicken dip was a new add. Some of the stuff is from what I think of when I sit down with my wife to eat — 'What would I want?' Mozzarella cheese, tomato. Low-calorie nibbling food."
"We put the Greek meatballs on the menu back in April," Tinios adds. "They were very well accepted and Jeff and I came up with items when we had the ingredients on hand. We did think of healthier food but when you're using Mediterranean ingredients you have healthier cuisine. I love that kind of food — Jeff loves that kind of food."
Chef Snyder started with The Galley Hatch in February with a background that includes 19 years with Chef Ron Boucher at The Beach House and The Landing and Tinios says that their mutual love of similar kinds of food and ways to cook helped to create this new tapas menu.
"Jeff and I wish we'd connected a long time ago," says Tinios. "We both feel that using great ingredients gives the food love and we both like the Mediterranean food although I'm a home-cooked American with food the Pilgrims ate."
The tapas menu is meant to add some fun to dining with presentation designed to delight as well.
"We bought some neat plates," says Tinios. "All different shapes, L-shaped, rectangles, origami. Part of the fun of having fun food is the presentation. People eat with their eyes."
Still, says Tinios, it's the food that matters and the tapas menu is a part of a gradual updating of the 40-year-old restaurant overall. "The Hatch needed some updating," says Tinios. "And we do that from the inside out. We'll make some changes in the decor but my whole thing is that you always start with the food. We're working on a bigger menu, reducing the number of items. It gives us room to put more creative dishes on as specials, to be as creative as we want. The tapas menu is a part of that. You can try so many different dishes, but even if you just come in for an ice cold beer and some spiced nuts, it's great."