Browse for Adventure

In Praise of the brick and mortar Bookstore plus recommendations for new reads and book clubs to join

There’s nothing quite like the experience of shopping at your local independent bookstore, and luckily New Hampshire has several. Here’s what those in the business had to say about the local book shopping experience and current reading trends.

Balin Books

Previously the Nashua location of Toadstool Bookshop, Balin Books introduced its new name in early 2023 (Balin rhymes with “gallon,” according to the store’s Facebook page). The store is still under the ownership of one of the original founders.

“We have a new name but … nothing else has changed about our business other than the fact that there’s a different sign above the door,” said manager Michael Joachim. A general book store, Balin Books is able to tailor its stock to what the community wants.

What do people get from shopping at bookstores that they don’t get online? What is that experience like and why do you think people seek it?

Balin Books. Courtesy photo.

It’s interesting because … there was a pretty big crisis following the rise of Borders and Barnes & Noble, which dramatically changed the landscape. Bookstores adjusted and they kind of survived that and then Amazon and other online purchasing came and that was another big crisis that reduced a number of stores, and the people that were left, I think, were the real survivors, the people who figured out how to be an asset to the community and to offer something that people actually wanted rather than just a bunch of companies that opened stores willy-nilly all over the landscape and didn’t really have a way to survive. I think there’s always … a foundation

… of people who, while they might buy books online, they want the experience of wandering through the store and actually seeing what’s available in front of them as opposed to poking on a screen, flip through a book, get a look at what’s actually in it, compare to what else is available in that same category and that same subject and make a decision right away and buy it. They just want to absorb what’s out there and you’re never going to get that online, and that’s very important to a significant number of people, so if you can create that environment where browsing is a pleasurable, informative experience, and have the right selection and the right services, you will survive and do well.

How have local bookstores, and yours specifically, fared with the times and trends of online shopping with sites like Amazon and big bookstores like Barnes & Noble? How have you adapted and changed?

I think you’ve got to be involved in the community. We do a lot of work with the local schools, there are educators that come to us and we help either provide books for the class or get discounts for kids who need it in their classes. We’re connected to the Nashua Public Library pretty well … You have to have a great selection. You [have] to have an inventory that matches what your community is looking to buy, looking to browse. You also have knowledgeable people who know how to help and have some experience and can answer some of those questions. A lot of people are intimidated when they walk into a bookstore because they don’t want to look dumb. They don’t want to ask questions that may make them uncomfortable. If you walk into … a bigger chain store like that where the turnover is more substantial, if that person doesn’t know what you’re trying to find and then you make the customer feel uncomfortable, the whole thing just gets a little weird. People love that when they come in here … [if they] don’t understand what it is they’re looking for we can help them get to the answer without making them feel uncomfortable.

Have you noticed any other patterns or trends of shopping at local bookstores?

I find a lot of people come in and say that they’re really pleased that we’re here. … When I started in the business … almost every town or every couple of towns had a local bookstore where people could come and get what they needed. That’s changed dramatically. You can go 20 miles without a bookstore now. I think for the bookstores that are still here, and the bookstores that are doing well and offer a real service to the community, a lot of people really appreciate that … they want to support a local, independently owned store and that’s gratifying.

When genres seem to be attracting the most interest from readers?

Historically it’s always been children’s books, which is a big age group anywhere from baby books to young adult. That’s a big chunk of our store because a lot of people want to buy books for their children, they want them to read [and] people buy them as gifts. For adults it’s fiction, biography, history. But then we have people who want … self-help books, cookbooks, but within the fiction genre, which is a big chunk of our store, we’ve got mystery, suspense, horror, science fiction, romance — all those things are a big part of what we offer.

Is there any type of book, whether genre or author, that has become popular in the last few years that has surprised you?

There’s been a very big boom in romance, specifically a couple of authors that figured out how to use TikTok to promote themselves and particularly a woman named Colleen Hoover … [who] I believe … came out of nowhere to be the bestselling author in the country two years ago … so it’s been interesting to watch how people can work the market place to promote themselves and how it actually works. … I think an independent store can react a lot more quickly to something like that … we can just jump on it right away, get some books in pretty quickly and respond to the community.

What was the most popular book of 2023 and what books are you excited for in 2024?

There’s a book called Fourth Wing, which was a fantasy book that, again, the author [Rebecca Yarros] did something online to promote herself and it was just a huge book. The sequel Iron Flame came out right around Christmas time and that was big. And Sarah J. Maas, who writes fantasy books, has a new book coming out next month, which should also be gigantic.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

I like the last Stephen King book, Holly. … That was a good book, that’s the one that’s sticking with me at the moment.

Balin Books
Where: Somerset Plaza, 375 Amherst St. in Nashua; 417-7981,
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Upcoming author events:
Jeanne Dietsch, to discuss her report New Hampshire: Battleground in the Fight to Dismantle Democracy, on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 11 a.m.

Five recent releases recommended by Balin Books
The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
A Stroke of the Pen by Terry Pratchett
The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
My Effin’ Life by Geddy Lee
Gator Country by Rebecca Renner
Alfie & Me by Carl Safina

Bookery Manchester

Liz Hitchcock, along with her husband, Jeremy Hitchcock, opened Bookery, a bookstore, gift shop and cafe on Elm Street in Manchester, in 2018 with the goal of creating a venue for civic discourse, community and culture. A general bookstore, Bookery adjusts inventory to align with what the community is reading, and carries other merchandise like candles, socks, puzzles, cards and more. The store hosts events with authors, a monthly book club, weekly storytimes, live music, political talks, workshops and private events.

“We’re really just proactive at seeing what our community’s reading at this time, listening to their feedback on what they want and what they need and following that as our guiding star,” Hitchcock said.

What do people get from shopping at bookstores that they don’t get online? What is that experience like and why do you think people seek it?

I think the main reason why people go to a local bookstore is curation. Obviously I, just like anybody else, can go to Amazon and see … books and some of them have five stars and some of them have three stars, but in the end I want someone to tell me if I read this book then I might enjoy this book … There’s nothing better than someone who’s actually read the book telling you that it’s something that you may enjoy, so it’s really about the process of curation — hand selling is gigantic — and then obviously the ability for us to have authors come into our store to meet our customers is really important as well.

corner in bookstore with shelves against wall and fake fireplace
The Bookery. Courtesy photo.

How have local bookstores, and yours specifically, fared with the times and trends of online shopping with sites like Amazon and big bookstores like Barnes & Noble?

I think that in the end we are probably faring a little bit better than places like Barnes & Noble because we do have an entrenched community that we support and we love. I do think that Barnes & Noble is doing a better job at creating that community around them now that they’ve given more free will to the managers of the stores, but I think that we’re doing well even based on the circumstances of the economy and Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Have you noticed any other patterns or trends of shopping at local bookstores?

Not specifically that I can name. We have seen growth year over year, which has been helpful especially with the rising cost of employees and buying books and shipping, so we appreciate that greatly. I think just really the part that still surprises me is adjacent towns that are still surprised when they see that we have a bookstore of our caliber downtown on Elm Street, so even still getting the word and making sure people know that we’re there, what we offer and that we love our community.

When genres seem to be attracting the most interest from readers?

2023 was a huge year for romantasy, a new hybrid sub-genre between romance and fantasy. Sarah J. Maas is a huge staple of this genre, but this year we have a new heavy hitter in Rebecca Yarros! Her two books Fourth Wing and Iron Flame both caused such a stir in the book world this year it was hard for bookstores to keep up! Fourth Wing centers on a dragon rider academy, with an enemies-to-lovers romance to boot with plenty of spice for those interested!

What was the most popular book of 2023 and what books are you excited for in 2024?

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang was a huge book for us this year. R.F. Kuang ended 2022 with a huge book in Babel, and her new literary fiction rode that high and then some. Yellowface is about two authors, one white, one Asian, working on their manuscripts. When the writer of color suddenly dies, the white author takes it upon herself to steal the late writer’s manuscript, finish it, and pass it off as her own under a pseudonym. A great commentary and satire on whitewashing in lucrative industries. [In] 2024 — We’re really looking toward Knife by Salman Rushdie, releasing in April! It’s a memoir from the author about his recently survived assassination attempt in 2022, 30 years after a “fatwa” was ordered against him by the Supreme Leader of Iran calling for his assassination. It promises to be an eye-opening read about his first-hand account of that day and what followed. Can’t wait!

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

I recently read and loved Prophet Song by Paul Lynch! The hype for this one was crazy, considering it won the Booker Prize in the U.K. before its U.S. publication (I was so excited to read it that I ordered a copy from the U.K. before it came out over here). It tells the story of a civil resistance in Ireland after a nameless government regime cracking down on unions and anti-state sentiments. It’s a harrowing universal tale about government and government overreach, and transcends borders given the exact causes and politics associated with the book’s uprising aren’t given. You really can picture yourself in this novel. [It’s] truly transportative!

Bookery Manchester
Where: 844 Elm St., Manchester; 836-6600,
When: Sunday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Upcoming author events:

  • Joe McQuaid, author of War Fronts Home Fires, on Saturday, Jan. 20, at 2 p.m.
  • Joseph Carrabis will hold a workshop called “Write Your History, Change Your Life” on Saturday, Jan. 20, at 5 p.m.
  • Matthew Jones, author of Wish I Could Love You: A Collection of Failed Love Stories on Saturday, Feb. 10, at 5 p.m.
  • Fox Hollow, author of Heartstrings, on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 3 p.m.

Gibson’s Bookstore

Founded in 1898, Gibson’s Bookstore is the oldest continuously operating retailer in the Concord area and the largest independent bookstore in northern New England, according to its website. Current owner Michael Herrmann bought the business in 1994, expanded the business twice including the move to its current location in 2013 and bought Imagination Village toy store to integrate into the store, which also has a cafe. At this general bookstore with a wide variety of interests, Herrmann said, “our inventory is designed with Concord in mind.”

What do people get from shopping at bookstores that they don’t get online? What is that experience like and why do you think people seek it?

Bookstores of all kinds are great gathering places. They’re community centers, they’re places that build community, and you can’t really can’t replicate that online. There’s also one thing you can get at a physical bookstore that you can’t get online, [which] is discovery. If you go online looking for something you’ll find it but if you don’t know what you want or you might be open for new experiences then the only way really to get that is browsing in the real world.

How have local bookstores, and yours specifically, fared with the times and trends of online shopping with sites like Amazon and big bookstores like Barnes & Noble?

We’ve always had the larger bookstores to contend with probably since the ’80s, and Amazon came along at the end of the ’90s, so … we’ve been getting used to it for a lot longer than other types of operations have, so the independent bookstores that are still with us are well-equipped to compete with online stores like Amazon.

Have you noticed any other patterns or trends of shopping at local bookstores?

Well, certainly our sales are increasing every year and new independent bookstores are starting every year. The channel has been growing since Borders went out of business in 2011. That was sort of like the asteroid getting the dinosaurs and we were the mammals so our channel has been expanding ever since 2011, and Gibson’s Bookstore’s business has been going up pretty much since 2013.

When genres seem to be attracting the most interest from readers?

Fiction. We’ve seen a lot of new interest in genres like genre fiction [such as] romance and horror, mystery, science fiction. We’ve seen a lot of growth in those areas.

Is there any type of book, whether genre or author, that has become popular in the last few years that has surprised you?

Gibson’s Bookstore. Photo by Ryan Clark.

There’s always room for surprise. You don’t want it to be … formulaic at all, that’s why we take a chance on a lot of different … new authors. Where some of the big box stores have scaled back on, for instance, books for young readers like ages 9 to 12, we continue to bring in a lot of new authors in that area just because some of them are going to be important in the future and we want to build relationships and sales with them as early as possible. And there’s always surprises like this holiday season, the big surprise was how well the book by Liz Cheney did [Oath and Honor]. We didn’t have that on our 2023 bingo card but her book really struck a chord with people and … you can’t predict that in advance. You really don’t know, you sort of have to ride the tiger when the tiger gets to you.

What was the most popular book of 2023 and what books are you excited for in 2024?

Ann Patchett’s book Tom Lake was very popular. We did very well with that. In nonfiction David Grann’s book The Wager was extremely popular.

[In 2024] there’s a new novel by Chris Bohjalian coming out that he’s very excited about launching called Princess of Las Vegas, so I’m looking forward to reading that. … [Also] the new novel by Tana French that’s coming out called The Hunter and then there’s a new book by Tommy Orange, who wrote the novel There There, called Wandering Stars and … that’s coming in March [and I’m] also really looking forward to that.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

The new Tana French [The Hunter]. I just finished it.

Gibson’s Bookstore
Where: 45 S. Main St. in Concord
When: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

Upcoming author events:

  • Lloyd Sederer, doctor and author of Caught in the Crosshairs of American Healthcare, on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 6:30 p.m.
  • Joe McQuaid, author of War Fronts Home Fires, on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 6:30 p.m.
  • Chard deNiord, poet and author of seven books of poetry, presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 4:30 p.m.
  • Leila Philip, author of Beaverland: How One Weird Rodent Made America, on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m.

Upcoming releases recommended by Gibson’s

The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson (April 30); The Women by Kristin Hannah (Feb. 6); Rainbow Black by Maggie Thrush (March 19); Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange (Feb. 27); The Fury by Alex Michaelides (Jan. 16) —recommended by adult book buyer John LeDonne

The Angel of Indian Lake (The Indian Lake Trilogy #3) by Stephen Graham Jones (March 26); Funny Story by Emily Henry (April 23); Love You, Mean It by Jilly Gagnon (April 30); Happy Medium by Sarah Adler (April 30); Kosa by John Durgin (New Hampshire author!) (May 17); Incidents Around the House by Josh Malerman (June 25); American Rapture by CJ Leede (Oct. 15); Horror Movie by Paul Tremblay (June 11); The Pairing by Casey McQuiston (Aug. 6) —recommended by bookseller and marketing manager Ryan Clark

MainStreet BookEnds of Warner

Despite being rejected by the bank three times, Katharine Nevins, along with her husband, opened the doors to MainStreet BookEnds of Warner in October 1998 during the Warner Fall Foliage Festival. A community bookstore with toys and games set in a Pillsbury colonial homestead, MainStreet BookEnds is a general bookstore with particular strengths in the children’s, gardening and farming genres. In the attached barn is a gallery featuring the works of local artists.

“Warner is … an area where there are a lot of writers, a lot of musicians, [and] a lot of artists, so we’ve always tried to reflect that,” Nevins said.

What do people get from shopping at bookstores that they don’t get online? What is that experience like and why do you think people seek it?

Independent bookstores are extraordinarily important … for … the culture of the area …. Every single independent bookstore is unique. If you’re traveling and you kind of want to get a sense of where you are and who the people are, you track down an independent bookstore because once you get in there you’re in with all the locals, you’re in there with the things that are happening right there in that community. … If you can break the habit of the quick click, which is a hard habit to break, … you can go into the storefront and experience a community of readers who can recommend things to you or recommend things to your children. People who are experienced in books and can really make recommendations … can make a difference. … I’m fortunate because I have a front row seat of watching that every day and I see people talking with each other and saying, ‘My child had trouble reading and this is what worked for them,’ ‘My mother just died and I really found this book to be extraordinarily helpful.’ … Things like that happen all the time, so it’s really exciting. So you walk into an independent bookstore and you’re walking into, I believe, a piece of magic because you’re seeing exactly what that area has to offer.

How have local bookstores, and yours specifically, fared with the times and trends of online shopping with sites like Amazon and big bookstores like Barnes & Noble?

cafe area of bookstore with wooden floor and wooden walls, counter with bar stool on one side, racks with artwork for sale, framed painting lining upper part of wall
MainStreet BookEnds. Courtesy photo.

In 1998 the bank turned us down three times. They said there’s no way an independent bookstore is going to survive in these times, and Amazon had just started. Amazon has a ridiculous impact on independent bookstores [and] on every single neighborhood store, so the more you extract yourself from that kind of shopping, the more you’re supporting your community and the more you’re helping your community to thrive and survive … I think more and more people are getting tired of [the online] experience. I can tell you during Covid where we had to close the store for 15 months we kept going and we did curbside … and so forth, but that was when people really kind of woke up to how if we don’t support these little businesses right now, they’re not going to make it, and people came out of the woodwork, it was absolutely fabulous the support that we got. So I think the people … want to experience … being able to go into an independent bookstore and … and just that sense of turning everything off for a half hour, which is really important, and you can’t do that in many places but in a bookstore you can get lost in here for a while and that’s a very healing thing. Strange to say but there’s a lot of healing that goes on in an environment like that [where] people are just allowed to come in and relax and wander and who knows what’s going to happen.

Have you noticed any other patterns or trends of shopping at local bookstores?

We’re really having a return of younger people coming in and just really loving the experience of wandering and talking about books and holding books. … The feelings … that you get when you pick up a book that you read … all those feelings come rushing back to you as to where you were at the time, and you can only get that with a physical book, that’s the only way you can get that.

When genres seem to be attracting the most interest from readers?

We follow the New England Independent Booksellers Association bestsellers list. … We all contribute to what sells the best in our stores and that’s the list that we go by in terms of our bestsellers. … There’s a whole lot of interest in young adult and in graphic novels for young adults. … We have a … section on regional titles in terms of New Hampshire and hiking [that’s] just about sold out … . That’s [a] huge area. People [want] to pick up books about the area and about hiking and enjoying the outdoors … and children’s books are always very, very big.

Is there any type of book, whether genre or author, that has become popular in the last few years that has surprised you?

I think that the popularity is reflected by the times, right? … Right now people are wanting more and more escape and comfort … so when a particular author becomes really popular that surprises us it’s probably because that particular author is providing a really good escape for right now. … You [also] read to learn about other worlds so I think if we’ve had some surprising authors emerge in the last couple of years it’s just been reflective of what we need as a society to cope.

What was the most popular book of 2023 and what books are you excited for in 2024?

Well, books like Demon Copperhead, Barabra Kingssolver’s book, that was huge; Iron Flame [by Rebecca Yarros and] A Court of Thorns and Roses [by Sarah J. Maas]. … [For] what’s coming up, well, I guess we just wait and see what’s going to emerge next — it’s always kind of a surprise … and I know people are excited about some new ones coming out there so I think we just wait and see.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

In terms of my favorite reads from 2023, the fiction would be the latest from Sigrid Nunez, The Vulnerables. The nonfiction is The Long Field by Pamela Petro. Children’s picture books would be Thank a Farmer by Maria Gianferrari, and middle-grade novels would be the latest from Ann Braden, Opinions and Opossums.

MainStreet BookEnds of Warner
Where: 16 E. Main St. in Warner; 456-2700,
When: Tuesday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

MainStreet Recommends

Tana French has a new book coming out, The Hunter (March 5)
Sarah Maas’s newest will be huge, House of Flame and Shadow (Jan. 30)
A wonderful biography just out on Willa Cather, Chasing Bright Medusas (out now)
Sy Montgomery’s latest, Of Time and Turtles (out now)
Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go celebrates 50 years with a new edition (out now)

More book shops

Here are some additional independent bookstores in the area.

The Lost Page Found Bookshop
Where: 35 Main St. in Goffstown; 384-1390,
Hours: See Facebook for winter hours. Posted hours on are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Morgan Hill Bookstore
Where: 253 Main St., New London; 526-5850,
When: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

RiverRun Bookstore
Where: 32 Daniel St. in Portsmouth; 431-2100,
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Toadstool Bookshop
Where: 12 Depot St. in Peterborough, 924-3543;
When: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Water Street Bookstore
Where: 125 Water St., Exeter; 778-9731,
When: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Book Clubs

Gibson’s Bookstore
45 S. Main St., Concord
When: first Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m.
Next up: Feb. 5: The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett

844 Elm St., Manchester
Book club
When: third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m.
Next up: Jan 18: Happy-Go-Lucky, by David Sedaris
Romance book club
When: last Sunday of each month at 6 p.m.
Next up: Jan. 28: By the Book, by Jasmine Guillory

MainStreet BookEnds
16 E. Main St., Warner
When: Sundays at 4 p.m.
Next up: Feb. 4: How the Post Office Created America, by Winifred Gallagher

To Share Brewing
720 Union St., Manchester
When: second Thursday of every month at 6 p.m.
RSVP to to attend
Next up: Feb. 8: Love in the Time of Serial Killers, by Alicia Thompson

Northwoods Brewing
1334 First NH Tpke., Northwood
When: Books and Brews meets on various Mondays
Next up: Jan. 29: Shark Heart: A Love Story, by Emily Habeck
Peterborough NH Area Silent Book Club
Find them on Facebook
When: The newly formed chapter was scheduled to have its first-ever meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at DiVine on Main (32 Main St., Peterborough); a second meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 6 p.m.
Next up: whatever you want
“Silent Book Club is a global community of readers and introverts reading together in quiet camaraderie. … At Silent Book Club, there’s no assigned reading. Instead, we’re inviting readers to grab a glass of wine, a tasty snack, a cozy seat, and a book of their choosing to read uninterrupted for one hour, with added time for socializing and discussing your book while making new friends,” according to the Peterborough chapter’s post on

Featured Photo: Gibson’s Bookstore. Photo by Ryan Clark.

In the kitchen with Cara Karpinski

When Cara Karpinski moved to New Hampshire in 2020, she discovered that her new job was no longer being offered due to the pandemic. Needing to find a new way to provide for her family, she realized her true passion was for dogs. Being a dog-mom of four, she decided to create Barkalicious, a gourmet preservative-free dog treat business made with eggs from her own chickens, with the belief that all dogs should to be “treat”ed with love.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

My must-have kitchen item is my KitchenAid mixer. I use it every day to combine my ingredients for the dog treats. I think it may be time to upgrade to a commercial version [of a] KitchenAid.

What is your favorite local eatery?

Currently, my favorite place for a romantic dinner is Buckley’s Great Steaks in Merrimack. For a more casual meal I enjoy the Coach Stop in Londonderry as well as Backyard Brewery on the Manchester/Londonderry line.

Name a celebrity you would like to see purchasing your dog treats.

It is hard to pick just one celebrity I would like to see purchase my dog treats, but the ones that come to mind are from HGTV. Tarek and Heather El Moussa from Flip or Flop, or Jonathan Knight from Farmhouse Fixer. I would say Taylor Swift, but I think she just has cats.

What is the most popular item on your menu?

Our most popular menu item is our bacon cheeseburger sticks. They are a little bit crunchier than our soft treats, but it has bacon on it, so how can it not be good!

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

The biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now is maybe pho. I had it for the first time a few weeks ago and it was fantastic. I am not really a hip [or] trendy foodie, but I do love all kinds of food.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

My favorite thing to cook at home is anything from scratch. I enjoy watching my family eat the meals I have prepared. It gives me great satisfaction when they love my hard work in the kitchen. The best meals I have made recently: beef stroganoff, chicken noodle soup and brisket.

From the kitchen of Cara Karpinski

4-pound (or so) brisket
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, cut
1 onion, chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 or 3 boxes pre-made beef stock or broth
salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika

Season both sides of meat with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Heat canola oil in a pan and sear both sides of meat for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.
Add onions, mushrooms and garlic to pan and lower heat. Cook until onions are translucent.
Add ½ cup water to scrape any solids in the pan. Return the brisket to the pan.
Cover meat with beef broth and simmer. Cook until tender (at least 6 hours).
Remove brisket and let cool.
Slice against grain. (I use a meat slicer to get very thin slices of meat.) You can also cut by hand.
Let the liquid in the pan cool to about room temperature as well as the brisket. Once cooled, add the meat back into the pan with the liquid and put in the refrigerator overnight.
About 3 hours before you want to have dinner, put the pot with the liquid and brisket back onto the stove and slowly warm. This meal goes very well with homemade mashed potatoes and carrots

Featured photo: Katie Pope of Confections by Kate. Courtesy photo.

From her table to yours

Farmers market vendor opens shop selling meals and baked goods

While opening her own bakery wasn’t her original career plan, the universe had other ideas for Chelsea Annett, the owner of Table, a Concord bakery offering cookies, cakes, soups, chicken pot pie and more freshly made items made from locally grown ingredients.

“This business really chose me versus me choosing it,” she said. “It just felt like something [that] had to be pursued and brought to fruition.”

Annett’s journey with baking started as she learned more about the local food system and seasonal ingredients from farmers at farmers markets.

“I started developing relationships with the farmers there and being curious about the things that people were growing and making, and having conversations about how to use them in food and really just becoming curious on my own about what I could make with those things,” she said. “I think that [seasonal ingredients] are the most fresh, they have the most flavor, [and] I think that supporting our local farmers is critical to environmental protection and … the future of food.”

A natural caretaker and a self-taught baker and cook, Annett enjoyed cooking for her loved ones as a way to care for others and make them feel good. After experiencing burnout and going through major life changes, she left her 14-year career in special education to focus on bringing her passion for baking from her own table to those of others.

“It never really felt like it could fully take off as a career because I don’t have professional training, I didn’t go to culinary school, I taught myself how to do everything,” she said. “There was probably a little bit of imposter syndrome that I was dealing with thinking that I wasn’t good enough to make it into a career.”

She began in 2019 by selling products wholesale and at the Canterbury and then Concord farmers markets. For the past few years Annett would travel to a commercial kitchen in Derry to do her baking, as Concord’s homestead food licensing rules prevented her from selling food made in her own kitchen. After looking for her own space, she found her current location in Concord, which she started working out of in June and opened for retail in November, and where her client base continues to support her.

“I’m extremely grateful I have beautiful, loyal customers that have sort of been with me from the beginning,” Annett said. “They’ve been waiting and waiting for me to have a place … and they are great about telling their friends and bringing people in. I think I’m lucky that the product tends to speak for itself.”

Where: 55 N. Main St., Suite B, Concord
Hours: Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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Connect with the natural world

Tanglewood Hollow offers classes, products and time with nature

Growing up, Allyson Speake developed a fascination with and appreciation for the natural world, something that she wanted to bring to others in the community. In March of last year Speake established Tanglewood Hollow, an educational supply store offering classes on a variety of nature-oriented topics for kids, toys and more on Storrs Street in Concord, to do just that.

“My grandfather was a naturalist and he grew wild cottage gardens for attracting wildlife and so I spent … many years alongside him as he taught me more about wonder and curiosity and seeing nature through that lens,” Speake said. “He just opened my eyes to what an amazing world we live in, and his home was called Tanglewood Hollow, so that’s … where the name came from.”

As a former teacher, Speake noticed that kids were struggling with what she called nature deficit disorder, and she wanted to find a way to foster natural curiosity and help them find connection to the natural world. Prior to opening Tanglewood Hollow, Speake would teach groups of homeschooled students from her home. She wanted to find a way to reach more of the community.

“I think it’s absolutely vital for us to build that relationship with nature,” she said. “If kids aren’t given that opportunity or are uncomfortable getting outside, how can we expect for them to really be the next stewards of our Earth and care for it and love it in that same way? Right now, it’s of utmost importance to care for our Earth and to do things to help it, so really I would say that’s probably the overall mission for us [is] helping to build the next stewards of our Earth.”

At Tanglewood Hollow, kids get hands-on experience during classes in the Nature Lab on topics like microscopes, dissecting owl pellets, raptors, making slime as well as nature crafts and activities. In one class, children were able to build a rotting log community where they could hold creatures like beetles, millipedes and pill bugs before adding them to the community to observe the breakdown. They will also have the opportunity to see the leopard gecko, Berry, and the jumping spider, as well as Clementine the corn snake, who sometimes comes out for interaction.

“I’m a big proponent of teaching kids to love the unloved things, and these creatures are things that are very often misunderstood, and people are scared and fearful of them,” Speake said.

“We try as often as we can to get [Clementine] out with the kids so they can have a good, positive experience.”

Many items are available in the shop, such as stuffed animals, life cycle kits, rocks, minerals, foraging tools, bug catching nets, butterfly kits, and curiosities, which are monthly mystery boxes that contain four different items from nature, previously including North American porcupine quills and fossils, that come with a newspaper written by Speake that gives information about the items.

“We would love to do some special things for the solar eclipse that’s happening in April, some star viewing at night … [and] more off-site classes for children and families,” Speake said. “We’ve got lots of plans for things. … You never know what you’re going to find here.”

Tanglewood Hollow
Where: 93 Storrs St., Concord
When: Open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m to 5 p.m.

Featured image: Courtesy photo.

In the kitchen with Chelsea Annett

A self-taught baker and a caretaker by nature, Chelsea Annett has a love for baking and cooking that sprouted when she was a young adult conversing with farmers and learning how to use seasonal ingredients. She was a special education teacher for 14 years before establishing Table, through which she provides baked goods and locally sourced, seasonally inspired food at farmers markets and now at her new location in Concord (55 N. Main St., Suite B), open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

My must-have kitchen item is a bench scraper. It has so many functions: cutting butter into dough, slicing and lifting dough and scraping the counter to clean up.

What would you have for your last meal?

I have way too many favorites to choose a last meal but probably freshly picked strawberries that are still warm from the sun or a perfectly ripened tomato. I feel like you can actually taste the sunshine.

What is your favorite local eatery?

My favorite local eatery right now is probably Sour Joe’s pizza. Greg, the owner, is another person with a passion working so hard to pursue his dream. And I love that he uses a sourdough crust. It’s unlike any other pizza around here.

Name a celebrity you would like to see eating in your restaurant?

I would love to see Erin French from The Lost Kitchen enjoying something I made. She has exquisite taste and is involved in her community of food growers and makers.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

I always get asked [about] my favorite thing that I make. Right now I offer a galette on Saturdays that is pretty outstanding. It’s flaky dough that is folded around cheddar cheese and thinly sliced sweet potato and then we crack an egg over the top and bake it until it’s just set and top with a sprinkle of sea salt. The original favorite which is still at the top of the list is the brown butter chocolate chip cookie that is made with sourdough. It’s incredible.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?

I don’t really know what the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now is. I tend to steer away from trends. I am interested in food that comes from someone’s heart and is their passion. That’s the best food. Not trying to be anything else.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

My favorite thing to cook at home is sourdough bread. I love all the components of it and I’m fascinated by the process.

Rosemary Shortbread
From the kitchen of Chelsea Annett

2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter
Maldon sea salt

Heat oven to 325°F. Pulse the sugar, salt and rosemary in the food processor. Add flour and pulse several times. Cut butter into small pieces and add to the flour mix. Pulse until the mixture looks like sand. Press dough into an 8” parchment-lined pan. Prick dough with a fork and sprinkle with Maldon salt. Bake until golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

Featured photo: Katie Pope of Confections by Kate. Courtesy photo.

Live free and dine

Gourmet takeout market and culinary school opens in Nashua

On Wednesday, Dec. 20, Hollis resident Karen Calabro opened the doors to Live Free and Dine, a gourmet takeout market in Nashua offering meals made with locally sourced ingredients and cooking classes for all ages.

Calabro knows first-hand how transformative healthy eating can be, having started her own journey to a healthier lifestyle 15 years ago by making healthier food choices and creating meals from scratch, resulting in a 152-pound weight loss. As a professional chef, she aims to bring healthy options to those in her community.

“During Covid I was watching how restaurant after restaurant was going under, how quality was going down … [due to] the product shortages and the fact that there’s less and less variety now to some extent ….’’ she said. “I make things from scratch and I live very close to the earth and I wanted to make [that] kind of food for other people as well. … I just felt like somebody who has a background in culinary as long as me who has so many friends who are just fabulous, fabulous chefs and all these really great farms around me, I thought, ‘Gosh, this is really a no-brainer for me.”

Working with local farms and stores, Calabro offers ever-changing seasonal breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert menus with vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options that can be ordered a la carte in store or online for pickup. Items include Italian sausage, Korean candy pork belly, blueberry poppyseed pancakes, valhalla rose turkey, ginger molasses cookies, tiramisu, fruits of the forest pie and more.

Calabro’s professional journey in the food industry started when she was 13 years old, but her cooking experience dates back before that when she would help her mother cook in the kitchen for parties she would host.

“I [remember] as a child being the one in the kitchen doing the food and production with her by her side. … We would host parties for upward of 80 to 100 people. This was just the two of us and this is as a young child I learned knife skills.”

Knife skills are among the things Calabro will teach in her classes, beginning with rudimentary skills and tricks of the trade.

“I almost feel like people want to learn to cook a different dish and meal and everything, and that sounds romantic, but really it would be better for you to learn basic skills and [for me to show] you how to do those things and then [you can take] those skills back to the kitchen ,” she said. “It’s a professional culinary education, and you’re going to be working in a commercial kitchen that has commercial equipment.”

With safety in mind, classes for young children won’t have them working with anything hot or sharp, but will instead teach them how to measure, mix and combine ingredients while introducing them to the idea of making their own food.

With decades of experience, even working her way up to sous chef at the Torrey Pines Sheraton Grand in San Diego, Calabro says the creating Live Free and Dine has been a learning curve.

“The problem has been nobody has ever done this before, so we’re kind of trying to figure out how we can service people in the best way we can and what kind of food we can produce,” she said.

Live Free and Dine
Where: 650 Amherst St., Suite 6, Nashua
Hours: Wednesday through Friday, noon to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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