Onions, hot fudge, pepperoni, mustard, even rhubarb, toppings are a way to personalize a food item, and to some, what’s squirted or sprinkled on top is just as important as the main dish underneath.
People who work with toppings every day end up with strong opinions about them, it turns out.
Ciara Lagarde is a manager at Water Street Cafe in Laconia. She said there’s a right way to top waffles. “Nutella and Strawberry,” Lagarde said. “You have to at least have pure New Hampshire maple syrup. Pecans, whipped cream, those are the most popular.”
“I think toppings make things better. It depends on what it is, but it enhances what you’re having,” said Rose Pucci, owner of the Union Diner in Laconia. “I have so many different toppings.” Many of the foods she serves are topped with something, such as her waffles and pancakes. Lunch items get topped too, such as her “Martini burger,” which has cream cheese and green olives.
Pucci has been serving a “Windy City” hot dog just about since she opened her diner. It’s an homage to a Chicago-style hot dog, which is an all-beef frank topped with onions, tomato, pickle relish, mustard, sport peppers and celery salt.
“They’re fantastic,” Pucci said of the Chicago dogs. “I have family in Chicago. Whenever I travel there, I always have one in the airport.”
Of course, her diner is 1,000 miles away from the Windy City, and many of her patrons are uninitiated. It sometimes leads to a little conversation between guest and server.
“Usually it’s, ‘What’s a sport pepper?’” Pucci said she has to special order the peppers, which are small, pickled, and about as spicy as a pepperoncini. “Then they try it, and they’re hooked,” she said. “People love it. It’s a unique item, I wouldn’t want to get rid of it.”
Kaylon Sweet operates the Silo food truck, parked at Twin Barns Brewing Company in Meredith, where hot dogs are on the menu. While a Chicago dog follows a strict ingredient list, Sweet prefers to let his imagination run. “Hot dogs are just salty tubes of meat. It’s the best thing in the world. Why not put some crunched up Cheetos on it?”
Sweet also owns Osteria Poggio, a restaurant in Center Harbor, where he takes a similar approach to his pizzas. A balanced approach is important when considering pizza toppings, he said.
“If you’ve made a good dough, you don’t want to cock it up by putting (bad) ratios of toppings on top,” Sweet said. “I want to have sweet, savory, some bitter, acid and salt.”
On his pizza menu currently is a “Summertime” pizza, which has a roasted garlic base, rhubarb, goat cheese, and smoky and spicy nduja sausage. “That pizza itself is pretty balanced, what can we do?” Sweet finishes the pizza with slices of strawberry and a drizzle of honey. “That brings it back to the…
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