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  • Staff photo by COREY PERRINE

    Josh Enright, owner and head chef of Rustic Leaf Bistro in Milford, smiles in the kitchen while talking to Nate Otey, preperation cook/dish washer, both of Milford, Friday, Dec. 4 at the restaurant. The new bistro is located in the same spot as the old French Bistro but focuses on mid-range dining and an all-local organic menu. Enright recently sold his other restaurant, The Seedling, in Nashua to pursue his business near the oval.
  • Staff photo by COREY PERRINE

    One of the new features of the Rustic Leaf Bistro is an added dining area not utilized by the old French Bistro.

  • Staff photo by COREY PERRINE

    Danielle Enright, co-owner of the Rustic Leaf Bistro, plays with her son JJ, 10 months, Friday, at the rennovated front entrance in Milford.
  • Staff photo by COREY PERRINE

    Thomas Latour, a chef at the Rustic Leaf Bistro, walks through the dining area made out of an actual trolley Friday, at the restaurant in Milford.
Sunday, December 6, 2009

Branching out

The decision to sell Nashua’s popular Seedling Cafe was a difficult one for former owners Josh and Danielle Enright, who had spent countless hours over 41⁄2 years behind its counters.

“It was hard to let it go,” Danielle Enright said, “but it’s nice to be able to focus on this new restaurant and changes and new things in our lives.”

One of the biggest changes right now is the imminent opening of the Rustic Leaf Bistro, a new restaurant in Milford slated to open within the week, which will carry over the Seedling tradition of using local, organic foods whenever possible.

Josh Enright’s lifelong dream to own his own restaurant that led the pair to open the Seedling in 2005. He had honed his cooking skills while working as a chef at C.R. Sparks in Bedford, was the culinary mastermind behind Seedling’s menu, including its signature wraps, which have won the readers choice for the Best of New Hampshire Awards given by New Hampshire Magazine.

Danielle Enright, who’s always had a passion for local, sustainable food, handled the business side of operations and also provided the cafe with many of its produce and herbs fresh from her garden. The cafe became known for Josh Enright’s imaginative and unlikely food combinations, like the “Jeff,” a wrap containing organic chicken salad with apple cider glazed chicken, organic apples, toasted walnuts, apple-infused cranberries, toasted pecans, cranberry-apple aioli and cheddar cheese.

“He just has this really great knack for flavor combinations,” Danielle Enright said. “It’s all in his head.”

But after 41⁄2 years, the couple decided to sell the cafe in September. The reasons were twofold: after four years, Josh Enright wanted to make dinners but was unable to with the limited equipment in the cafe’s kitchen, and the couple recently had their first child – also named Joshua, though they call him J.J. – and the responsibilities of parenthood didn’t lessen the responsibilities at the cafe. Danielle Enright wanted to be more of a stay-at-home mom and running the cafe was a full-time job for two people.

“It got to be quite a lot for one person to handle,” she said.

But because the cafe had so many devoted customers, they chose not to close but to sell.

“We felt bad leaving them in the lurch and closing, so we decided to sell it,” Enright said.

While the menu has remained the same, she said the new owner has made some changes, like discontinuing using the biodegradable silverware and takeout containers they once used.

“Unfortunately, it’s not quite what we thought it was going to be, but at least it’s still there,” she said.

Phone calls to the new owner were not returned.

The pair did have some reservations about opening a new restaurant in the current economy, but the opportunity to lease the former French Bistro property at 15 Elm St. in Milford squelched any concerns. They loved the building’s rustic appeal; it opens into a restored, wood-lined caboose, and the rest is an old Colonial, with a large picture window, old fireplace and a converted sun porch with seating.

The new restaurant will seat about 60 and have an extensive dinner menu with entrees priced between $14 and $24. It will also serve lunch – including some sandwiches – but the focus will be more on lunch entrees.

They plan to create “healthy, delicious rustic foods” at the new bistro, whose motto is “from seed to table” which speaks to the couple’s commitment to sustainable living.

“We just want to show, for health reasons, for taste reasons and for economic reasons, it’s just so much better to use local,” Enright said.

Many staff members from Seedling will work at the Rustic Leaf, Enright said, and she hopes former customers – some of whom they would see three or more times a week – will try the new venture.

There’s no telling how far they could branch out in this new location.

Enright said there is a small retail space from which they may sell produce, wine and other goods from the same New Hampshire farmers who provide food.

Since Milford has a farmer’s market on Saturday, Enright hopes the space could serve as an alternative to the grocery store during the week and possibly turn into something more permanent.

The new name is no coincidence – from a seedling, they now have sprouted leaves.

“The seedling was literally our seedling,” Enright said. “Now we’re growing up.”