The Double Take

I have a friend who is an identical twin. During the Covid lockdown, she and her sister both had babies. Each of them would visit each other fairly frequently, but because they were being really cautious with newborns in their houses, the visiting sister would stand on the porch fully masked. They would each wave to the inside baby, and the babies, assuming this was just how things worked, would wave back at the lumpy, masked, vaguely mommy-shaped figures on the porch.

After a year or so, both sisters and their babies were able to get together in the same room for the first time without masks. According to my friend, the look on the babies’ faces as each of them saw two pretty much identical versions of their moms on opposite sides of the room was one of the most hysterical moments in the history of babies.

The point of this story — aside from the fact that it’s fun to mess with babies — is that the nature of reality is always a little beyond our comprehension. We have all been in situations where we thought we knew what was going on, but then discovered that we really, really didn’t, and had to reconcile two similar but fundamentally mismatched versions of reality.

Which, somehow, brings us to today’s cocktail.

Double Take

This is a take on a classic — if not often made — cocktail, a Cucumber Ginger Gin Fizz. This version uses largely the same ingredients as the original, but turns them on their head. Traditionally, this is made with cucumber juice and ginger syrup. This version uses homemade cucumber syrup and ginger brandy. You might think of this as a mirror image — the “other mommy” — of the original.

1 ounce cucumber syrup (see below)

1 ounce London dry gin – I like Death’s Door, but Gordon’s would work well, too

1 ounce ginger brandy – I’m a fan of Jacquin’s

1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

2 ounces seltzer

Combine the cucumber syrup, gin, brandy and lime juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake enthusiastically.

Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.

Gently stir in the seltzer.

Sip, while thinking deep thoughts about the nature of reality.

The lime hits you first. You smile and nod approvingly, because you really like the taste of lime juice, and here it isn’t too acidic. Then your palate and a different set of synapses grab your attention and say, “What do you mean, ‘lime’? That’s ginger.” And you keep smiling and nodding, because you like ginger, too. But it’s at that point that you notice the cucumber, which is pushed out of the way by the lime again. It’s like a set of extremely demanding triplets. Fortunately, they have the gin and the fizziness of the seltzer to ground them.

The nature of existence can be transient.

Cucumber Syrup

Wash, but don’t peel some cucumber — half of one, three of them, it doesn’t matter — and chop it into medium (half-inch) dice.

Freeze it for several hours, or overnight. This will give jagged ice crystals a chance to form and poke holes in all the cucumber’s cell walls.

Combine the frozen cucumber and an equal amount of sugar — by weight — in a saucepan, and cook over medium heat. You’re going to look at what seems to be a dry, lumpy pile of sugar, and think to yourself, “That’s never going to make syrup!” Until it does. All those tiny holes made by the ice crystals will let the sugar draw all the liquid out of the cucumber, and because a cucumber is approximately 96 percent water, everything will come together very satisfyingly.

Bring the syrup to a boil, to make certain that all the sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat, and let it steep for 30 minutes.

Drain the syrup with a fine mesh strainer, and store in your refrigerator for several weeks.

Featured Photo: Double Take. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Emilee Viaud

Emilee Viaud earned a bachelor’s degree in pastry arts from Johnson & Wales University, and subsequently worked in bakeries and restaurants in the Boston area. She then took a break from restaurants to work in the travel industry, but later opened her own pastry business, Sweet Treats by Emilee, where she focuses on custom cakes and cookies as well as selling sweet treats at retail locations in southern New Hampshire.

Emilee is also the Executive Pastry Chef of Greenleaf and Ansanm in Milford and Pavilion in Wolfeboro.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A KitchenAid mixer. I use it for almost everything. I have even started to make pie dough in a mixer with a paddle attachment, which is a lot faster than a food processor or by hand.

What would you have for your last meal?

Bacon, egg and cheese on a croissant. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I could eat one of these every day. Nothing beats a freshly made croissant.

What is your favorite local eatery?

Lighthouse Local (21 Kilton Road in Bedford,, 716-6983) and its bakery, The Bird Food Baking Co. They make amazing doughnuts and cookies! I also love their breakfast sandwiches.

Who is a celebrity you would like to see eating something you’ve made?

Duff Goldman. He would be honest in his critique on taste and design. I grew up watching him on TV, so having him eat something of mine would be an honor.

What is your favorite thing that you make professionally?

I actually like decorating more than the science behind baking. I like to find the art within pastry, so decorating wedding cakes with buttercream and cookies with royal icing is where I can be creative and find it to be relaxing (sometimes, lol).

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

Croissants stuffed with chocolate chip cookie dough. I haven’t had one yet but hope to get one soon; almost every bakery has jumped on making them. I might make them for the Milford Farmers Market this summer!

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

After working in the kitchen all day, any hot meal will do. I always make meals that are quick, easy and something my 4-year-old will eat as well. I usually go for pasta, green beans and garlic bread.

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
These require no chilling before cutting/baking.

1 pound soft room-temperature unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 room-temperature eggs
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Beat butter and sugar together just until incorporated in a stand mixer.

Scrape the bowl after each new ingredient is added.

Add eggs and both extracts and mix until incorporated.

Add the cups of flour, baking soda and salt, and mix until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Roll the dough out, cut your shapes and bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes until the edges just start to turn brown.

Featured Photo: Emilee Viaud. Courtesy photo.

MHT: Most Happy Tacos!

It’s time for Taco Tour 2024

When the Greater Manchester Chamber organized its first outing with the Taco Tour last year, there was a steep learning curve, said Cole Riel, the Director of Taco Tour Manchester.

“Last year, we were able to get a handle on logistics, like line control and helping restaurants put out product,” he said. “It’s not what we’re used to, serving 20,000 taco-loving folks.”

This year’s Taco Tour on Thursday, May 2, from 4 to 8 p.m., in downtown Manchester promises to be the biggest yet. Started in 2011 as a way to draw attention to Manchester’s vibrant food scene, the Tour has grown each year, drawing in more and more local restaurants to participate, and increasingly larger crowds to taste their tacos or Mexican-themed dishes and vote on their favorites. The restaurant with the winning taco will win bragging rights, a trophy and $1,000 to donate to a charity of its choice. Originally conceived and organized by the Hippo, the Tour was run by Intown Manchester in 2019, then took a Covid hiatus, returning last year organized by the Greater Manchester Chamber.

According to Riel, this year’s Taco Tour will include more than just tacos.

“There will be a concert stage at the corner of Elm and Bridge streets,” Riel said. “Fun acts like the ones who will be performing just add liveliness to the event.” The acts will include Harrison Goodell ( at 4 p.m., Cody James and Joe Delault ( at 5 p.m., and deSoL ( at 6 p.m.

According to Steve Freedman of radio station 92.5 The River, which is helping sponsor this year’s live performances, the performers are particularly well-suited for Taco Tour.

“We [The River] are proud to break new artists and promote local artists,” Freedman said. “The first two acts — Harrison Goodell, Cody James and Joe Deleault — are ‘homegrown,’ and the main act, deSoL, is a Latin rock band that we at The River have supported for over 10 years. ”

There will be other fun events, such as a pet watering station and a doggie costume contest run by the Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter, and a Stonyfield Yogurt Family Zone at the Manchester YMCA (30 Mechanic St.).

This will be the second year that The Potato Concept has participated in Taco Tour, though the first year from their new brick-and-mortar location, on Hanover Street.

“We’re pretty proud,” said co-owner Brandon Rainer. “This event is the town jewel for Manchester.” The Potato Concept’s offering in this year’s Tour will be a “Potaco,” a twice-baked potato skin with seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream. There will also be a “Vegan Potaco” with a black-bean salad filling.

900 Degrees Pizzeria (50 Dow St.) will serve chicken tacos with a house-made fresh pico de gallo.

“We love this event,” said 900 Degrees General Manager Dan Gove. “It’s a lot of fun; it gives us a chance to give people something completely different than we normally do.” He and his staff are preparing 1,000 tacos.

The overall mission of Taco Tour Manchester has remained the same since 2011: to make the public aware of the depth and diversity of Manchester’s restaurant scene.

“We want to provide an awesome, well-rounded experience for families and restaurant enthusiasts,” Riel said. “We want to remind them of restaurants they may have forgotten about since the last Tour. They will taste [our food] and make plans to come back shortly after.”

The tacos

More than 70 local restaurants are participating in this year’s Taco Tour. See the map for their locations. Here are their scheduled offerings:

815 Cocktails & Provisions – BBQChicken, Alabama white sauce, marinated collard greens, vidalia onions, lime

900 Degrees – chicken tacos

Alas De Frida – Birria Taco

Alley Cat Pizza – “El Gato” pizza folded with taco toppings

Annapurna – Steamed chicken and fried momo (dumplings) taco with an authentic Nepali sauce, and vegetable or pork steamed or fried momo taco with authentic Nepali sauce

Antojitos Colombianos – chicken, pork and vegetarian Tacos

Bad Brgr – “Smash Burger Taco” and a chicken taco

Barcode Lounge & Grill – “Mac & Cheese Tacos” with pulled pork, Jerk Chicken with pickles, as well as dessert tacos

Ben and Jerry’s – Mexicone Dream Ice Cream Nachos (Americone Dream ice cream, waffle cone “chips,” caramel drizzle)

bluAqua Restrobar – “The Jaws Taco” with fresh shark

Boards and Brews – “Garlic Parmesan Ranch Tacos” with chicken tenders and fries, and sweet potato fry tacos

Buba Noodle Bar – “Bahn Mi Taco” with lemongrass beef, Asian pickles, cucumber, cilantro, umami sauce

Campo Enoteca – Polpetti (Meatball) taco

Cat Alley Cafe – Breakfast Taco with scrambled eggs, chorizo, potatoes, and queso fresco

Consuelo’s Taqueria – “Taco’n Madre” with sauteed pork served on a corn tortilla topped with green tomatillo, guacamole salsa with onions and cilantro

DeadProof Pizza Co. @ Bonfire – Street birria taco and vegan maple gochujang cauliflower taco

Diz’s Cafe – “Diz’s Magic Taco,” a beef taco with DizSpinaca, topped with shredded lettuce and pico de gallo

DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown – birria beef taco

El Rincon – “Taco Borracho,” with carnitas, pork, and beef with caramelized onion, jalapeno, and chorizo

Firefly Bistro & Bar – “Cheesy Chicken Taco” with seasoned chicken, cheddar cheese, chipotle crema, and crunchy tortilla chips in a soft flour tortilla

Granite State Candy Shoppe – “Chocolate Taco Crunch Mix,” with chocolate-drizzled waffle cone pieces with cinnamon and chocolate

Granite YMCA (The YMCA of Downtown Manchester) – Sugar cookie taco with strawberry and whipped cream filling, oreo crumble, and orange and green sprinkles

Hooked + Ignite – fried fish tacos

Industry East – Peanut chicken satay tacos, with confit chicken, Thai spiced peanut sauce, scallions, and sesame

Keys Piano Bar & Grill – Jerk chicken soft taco with cabbage slaw and ginger, or a vegan option with grilled vegetables

Kisaki – Sushi taco, with spicy crab and lettuce with tempura seaweed skin

Margarita’s Manchester -–soft flour tortilla with carnitas, garlic crema, picked radishes and fresh cilantro

Maya’s – jerk chicken & jerk beef tacos

Manchester Fire Department Central Station – smoked pork taco with cilantro lime coleslaw and a special hot sauce

Osaka – Spicy Crab with crunch and avocado wrapped with seaweed (hand rolled) and Spicy Tuna with crunch and chopped raw tuna, wrapped with seaweed (also hand rolled)

Patz Deli – “Mexican Chicken Salad” with chicken, carrots, peas, corn, mayo, sour cream, crushed Fritos, Sriracha, in a soft flour tortilla

Pho Golden Bowl – “Pho Taco,” with beef, sour carrots, rice noodles and basil

Piccola Italia Ristorante – Chicken Parmigiana with a chicken cutlet, sauce and mozzarella, and a Chicken Caesar Taco with grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, caesar dressing, Parmigiano flakes and croutons, also a dessert Cannoli Taco

Queen City Cupcakes – Churro Cupcake

Rare Breed Coffee – Iced Horchata Cortado and Caliente Hot Chocolate

Shopper’s Pub – “American Taco” with tender broiled pork in a toasted shell with sweet pickle relish and a blend of spices

Soho Bistro & Lounge – chicken, beef, steak or scallop tacos

Stashbox – biscuit & gravy tacos

Strange Brew Tavern – whiskey-marinated shredded chicken in an ancho pepper-infused crema

Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream – Ice cream tacos and nachos with waffle bowls as tacos and nacho shells

Taj India – Chicken Tikka Taco

Thai Food Connection – a wonton shell with chicken and Thai sauce

The Farm Bar and Grille – BBQ pulled pork, cheddar cheese, coleslaw, in a flour tortilla

The HopKnot – “Walking Taco” with jalepeňo honey, beer cheese, pico de gallo, and beans

The Patio @ Hilton Garden Inn Manchester – “PB&J Taco” with blueberry tarragon jam, peanut chicken, sour cream & onion potato chips, and Sriracha aioli

The Pint Publik House – Soft flour tortilla filled with Jamaican curried chicken, cheddar-jack cheese and shredded lettuce

The Potato Concept – “Potaco” with ground beef, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and sour cream

The Stoned Wall Bar & Grille – A jerked chicken and kiwi salsa taco

Thirsty Moose Taphouse – “Beef & Cheese Taco” with pico de gallo and sour cream

Thousand Crane – “Teriyaki Chicken Taco”

To Share Brewing Co. – “The Elvis” with banana slices, honey drizzle and optional bacon, on a flour tortilla

When: Thursday, May 2, from 4 to 8 p.m.
Where: downtown Manchester plus a few spots outside downtown
Cost: $3 per taco, cash only
The Official Taco Tour 2024 Map, available on the Taco Tour website (, includes information about locations of participating restaurants, ATM’s, portable toilets, water stations and more.

Featured Photo: Previous Taco Tour. Courtesy photo.

Lemon Cream Pie

We’ve all made impulsive kitchen purchases — exotic ingredients or fun toys — and then never used them. When faced with a new piece of kitchen fanciness, most of us are a little gun-shy.

Today’s recipe, while extremely simple to make, uses one piece of specialized equipment and one ingredient that you probably don’t already have in your pantry: a microplane zester and lemon juice powder. Should you have a grater to zest lemons with? (Yes, because it’s incredibly cool and makes zesting citrus, hard cheese or chocolate extremely easy.) Why in the world would you have a jar of lemon juice powder in your pantry? (Short answer: to make things taste lemony without making them wetter.)

You can totally get by without either of these — grate lemons with the side of your box grater with the tiny holes, and substitute lemon zest for the powder — but making a pie (this pie, anyway) will be easier and better with them.


  • ½ cup (175 g) finely ground cookie crumbs – these can be stale homemade cookies, crispy grocery store cookies or even graham crackers; your blender or food processor will do a good job of crumbifying them
  • 5 to 6 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice powder, or the zest of one lemon

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then press into a 9-inch pie pan. Build up the sides of the crust if you can, but don’t let this stress you out.

Chill the crust in your refrigerator for half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes.

Set aside to cool.

As you pull your crumb crust out of the oven, there is a very good chance that the sides will have slumped down to the bottom of the pan and there is a giant cookie grinning up at you instead of a pie crust. This is where most of us will start second-guessing ourselves and wallowing in shame:

The thing is, it doesn’t really matter. Unless you are competing on a British baking show, nobody cares. The pie will still taste great. So what if it’s in layers? Pretend this is what you meant to do, and move on.

While the crust is cooling, make the filling:


  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, roughly the juice of 4 lemons

Add all the ingredients to a bowl, and mix thoroughly. If you are measuring your ingredients by weight, put the mixer bowl on your kitchen scale and add each ingredient, taring (zeroing out) the weight as you go. You’ll be surprised how relaxing this is.

Pour the filling into your prepared pie crust, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the center of the pie is just a tiny bit jiggly.

Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool. Once it is cool, put it in your refrigerator.

Just before you are ready to serve, make the topping.


  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice powder, or the zest of another lemon

Combine all ingredients, and beat until it makes whipped cream with medium peaks. Cover the surface of your pie with whipped cream, and garnish with even more lemon zest, if that seems like the right thing to do.

This pie has an incredibly high reward-to-effort ratio. It tastes juicy and lemony. The crumb crust with added lemonosity is a revelation. It is easy to make look pretty — just slather any mistakes with whipped cream.

Featured Photo: Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Maggie Prittie

Maggie Prittie calls herself a chocolate sommelier; “sommelier” in French translates to steward. She teaches people how to taste, pair and source fine single-origin chocolates, and teaches them the history, art, science and culture of chocolate. She has created, produced and customized chocolates for pastry chefs throughout southwest Florida. She has led more than 350 local wine and chocolate pairings. She has made chocolates for the directors of the Louvre Museum, the Salvador Dali Museum, the Ringling Museum, Sting, and Yo-Yo Ma, and on the set of a Food Network series. She studied under renowned chocolatiers Ewald Notter and Anil Rohira. She is a member of the FCIA (Fine Chocolate Industry of America). Originally from New Hampshire, she recently moved back to the state to share her knowledge as an educator, sales representative, and recipe developer with World Wide Chocolate in Brentwood.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Aside from the normal appliances, a convection/toaster oven, wooden and rubber spatulas and parchment paper.

What is your favorite local eatery?

Totally depends on my mood. Never fast food!

What celebrity would you like to see eating your food, and why?

Giada De Laurentiis. She is genuine and not pompous.

What is your favorite thing to make?

I love challenging myself with developing new recipes all the time, like Pistachio Spaetzle or developing a good espresso chocolate chip cookie recipe.

What is the biggest food trend in chocolate right now?

The biggest trend presently is just acquiring cocoa. The prices are skyrocketing and will keep rising. Single origin, farmer awareness, craft chocolate seems to be on the radar and hopefully will be more trendy.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Grilled domestic lamb with pistachio spaetzle. For dessert, Ritz Carlton chocolate cake with chocolate panna cotta frosting and a drizzle of bourbon caramel sauce.

Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies
From the kitchen of Maggie Prittie

Wet ingredients
1 cup browned unsalted butter
½ cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed)
¼ cup light brown sugar (firmly packed)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla paste (Prova)
2 room-temperature eggs
2 Tablespoons Prova Arabica Colombian Coffee Extract

Dry ingredients
2½ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch (adding cornstarch helps to make chewy cookies)

Chocolate chips
2½ cups Domori 75% Venezuela Wafer
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine them.
Brown butter, then let cool to room temperature (I let it cool in the bowl of the KitchenAid mixer).
Using the whipping utensil of the mixer, whip butter until soft, almost fluffy.
Slowly add all wet ingredients, adding separately, add eggs one at a time. Whip until well-mixed and almost fluffy.
Slowly add dry mixed ingredients into wet ingredients. I add them ¼ cup at a time.
Add chips once all dry is incorporated. Do not overmix.
(Adding the wafers while mixing does break some of them up.)
Bake on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet at 325°F for 10-12 minutes.
Let cool on rack.

Featured Photo: Maggie Prittie. Courtesy photo.

Taste of the Towns

Nashua Center fundraiser with food

Nashua Center will present its 21st Taste of the Towns event at the Sheraton Nashua on Thursday, May 2, at 6 p.m.. Eighteen area restaurants, caterers, brewers and distributors will present food and drink as varied as Thai food, baked goods, Mexican dishes or vodka.

Taste of the Towns is the Nashua Center’s signature fundraising event of the year. Proceeds go to support the Center’s mission to provide high-quality specialized care and support to small children and young adults with developmental difficulties in the greater Nashua area.

“Everyone involved in the event is very proud,” said Nashua Center’s Director of Development, Maryanne Gordineer. “We’re so proud of the vendors who come back year after year, and for them this is a way of connecting with the community and giving back.”

Gordineer described the event as a way for like-minded people to network with each other and chat in a relaxed, celebratory atmosphere.

“It’s a memorable experience,” she said. “It’s just fun!” Gordineer said there are usually more than 300 guests who attend the event and circulate around, socializing and tasting samples from the participating vendors: “I like to think of it as dinner by the bite.”

In addition to its role as a fundraiser, Taste of the Towns is a way to bring attention to the Nashua Center and the work it does for the Nashua community. Established in 1973, the organization helps people build fulfilling lives as part of the community. In the case of very young children, this can take the form of early intervention services to help families identify developmental challenges and give them support. For young adults with special needs, it might be helping them experience post-secondary education, whether it’s attending classes, getting vocational training, or just experiencing an aspect of college life like using a school’s gym facilities or cafeteria. The Center helps provide adult day services or residential services for other clients.

“It’s all about inclusivity,” Gordineer said. “We facilitate independence and community participation.”

Tickets for Taste of the Towns cost $75. They usually sell out quickly, Gordineer said.

For Gardineer, who started with the Nashua Center shortly before last year’s event, it was an introduction to New England foods. “I’d never had a lobster roll before!” she said, adding that it was a revelation.

Taste of the Towns
When: Thursday, May 2, at 6 p.m.
Where: Sheraton Nashua, 11 Tara Boulevard, Nashua
Tickets: $75 at
Participating vendors:
Bellavance Beverage Co.
Bistro 603
Friendly Toast
From the Barrel Brewing Co.
Graceful Baking
Imported Grape
K’Sone’s Thai Dining & Lounge
Liquid Therapy
Live Free Distillery
The Peddler’s Daughter
Prestige Beverage Group
Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse
Smokehaus Barbecue
Tara House Grill
Thon Khao
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
You You Japanese Bistro
Woodman’s Artisan Bakery

Featured Photo: Courtesy photo.

How do you blend spices?

Derry company shakes up flavor combos

The name of the Sal Terrae Spice Company came from owner Meredith Touma’s daughter, who was studying Latin at the time.

“It means ‘Salt of the Earth,’” Touma said. “To be the salt of the earth means to be excellent; to try your hardest, but not to be perfect.”

Derry-based Sal Terrae (, 548-1490) specializes in producing spice blends made from ingredients sourced from around the world. As an example, za’atar, a traditional Middle Eastern mixture, has sumac as a core ingredient. Sumac, a deep red, intensely tart spice, is extremely popular in other parts of the world but difficult to find and source here in the United States.

“My husband is Lebanese,” Touma said, “and I send him home several times a year to bring high-quality sumac back with him.”

Touma started her business during the Covid lockdown. She said it was an outgrowth of her personal values. At the time, she was a stay-at-home mother of four and had made a commitment to always serve homemade meals.

“I wanted to teach my children to not be scared of new cultures or flavors,” she said. “During shut-down, [a lot of] people were eager to explore new things while they were stuck at home. Suddenly, there was a market for new flavors for them.”

The spice blends Sal Terrae sells vary from the traditional, like za’atar, to new blends that Touma has developed herself.

“The Beach Blend is the most unusual blend that we make,” she said. The blend, which includes smoked paprika, oregano, ginger and cloves, was developed with seafood in mind.

“It was partly inspired by Old Bay,” she said. “It’s a classic, but it seemed like it was missing something. It needed some smokiness and depth.” The smoked paprika adds a bittersweet quality that complements the savory flavors of fish, like salmon.

“It [Beach Blend] has a little sourness to it,” she said. “That acidic quality helps bring some of the more subtle flavors to the surface. That’s why they always tell you to cook your salmon with slices of lemon on top.”

That sourness plays a background role in some of Sal Terrae’s other spice blends, such as, surprisingly, the Sugar and Spice blend. Because it has a similar color to the “warmer” ingredients, it’s visually appealing and rounds them out. Traditional baking ingredients like ginger and cloves make sense. Three types of cinnamon are exciting to spice nerds and seem like a natural in this kind of blend. The cardamom is a little surprising, but welcome. And then there’s the subtle background sourness from the sumac, which brings the other flavors into sharper focus.

According to Touma, turning the traditional concept of “warm” or “cool” spices on its head provides her a lot of room to introduce her customers to different ways of cooking and new flavor profiles. Indian and Middle Eastern cooking traditionally use mace, cinnamon and cloves in savory dishes, while most American cooks use them in sweet applications. By focusing on what sorts of profiles she wants to create, Touma puts together nontraditional combinations that give her customers new ways to appreciate their favorite foods.

“Even as the owner, I’m still learning something all the time from my own spice blends,” she said. “None of our blends are going to be completely perfect for everyone, but everyone can find one that is perfect for their taste.”

Touma said today’s cooks have resources that allow creativity that past generations couldn’t take advantage of. “They were largely limited to cookbooks or word of mouth,” she said. Today, if someone wants to try a new ingredient or to cook something completely new to them, they can look up options on the internet. This is exactly the role she hopes that Sal Terrae’s spice blends will play — being able to play with food traditions, without being locked into them.

Featured Photo: Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 24/04/18

News from the local food scene

By John Fladd

Paint and Sip Night: Paint and drink wine in a relaxed, convivial atmosphere. Wine on Main (9 N. Main St., Concord,, 897-5828) will host Paint and Sip events with art facilitator Andrea Stetson on Thursday, April 18, and Friday, April 19, at 6 p.m. These events are open to adults 21 and older. Every $50 ticket includes all materials, instruction and wine tasting. Register via Wine on Main’s website.

Springfest: To Share Brewing Co. (720 Union St., Manchester,, 836-6947) will hold its second annual Springfest celebration Saturday, April 20, from 1 to 9 p.m. The brewery will observe the arrival of spring and the release of its Festbier Spring Lager with bratwursts, sauerkraut and more. There will be stein-holding competitions at 2 and 6 p.m., and live music with Upright Dogs from 5 to 7 p.m.

Foraging: Learn how to identify select wild edibles — mushrooms, berries, greens or even trees — via a slideshow and in-person samples to see and feel. The Hooksett Library (31 Mount Saint Mary’s Way, Hooksett,, 485-6092) will host “From Field to Table: Foraging and Identifying Wild Edibles,” a presentation by Emily Makrez, owner of F-Word Farm and educator on all things fermenting, farming and foraging-related, on Wednesday April 24, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, but registration is required via the Library’s website.

A pint of jalapeños

A springtime tradition at Concord Craft Brewing

Dennis Molnar, co-owner of Concord Craft Brewing, says weather plays a bigger role in running a brewery than you might think.

“Most people, unless they’re die-hards, are pulled toward lighter beers,” he said of spring beer drinkers. Which explains the Jalapeño Cream Ale.

Molnar said one of the challenges of making specialty seasonal beers is knowing how much to make, and when to make it.

“We get people getting in touch with us all the time, asking, ‘Why can’t you make the Jalapeño year-round, or why can’t you make that very rich, heavy porter all year round?’ It’s hard to know what the right amount to make is, before people’s tastes change,” he said.

The Jalapeño Cream Ale originally started as a tribute to Cinco de Mayo, Molnar said, but after several years customers started to think of it as a generally springtime beer.

“It’s a Golden Ale,” he said. “It’s on the lighter side, which makes it popular for warmer weather. We use real jalapeños and let it age [with the chiles] for several weeks. There’s a little bit of spice there, but not so much that you can’t finish your dinner or anything.”

Before the Jalapeño this year, there was the maple-season-themed Logger Lager.

“Most years, in the late winter/early spring, we make a bourbon barrel-aged maple brown ale,” Molnar said, “but we had trouble getting barrels this year.” Instead the brewery put out a mazen, a German-style, medium-bodied golden ale with maple syrup. “We liked the name,” he said. “Also, small brewers [like us] make unpasteurized beers. That means that the yeast ferments out the maple sugars, and you’re left with a more subtle maple flavor.”

One of the advantages of running a small brewery is having the freedom to test out new ideas, Molnar said.

“We can make a small batch and see how it works out,” he said. At the moment, he and his team are thinking about something new for the summer, a cherry wheat beer.

“It should be a fun, light, bright-colored beer,” he said. “We’ve finally got a good source for cherry purée.”

During the summer the brewery’s customers drink beers that are lighter in color, texture and percentage of alcohol, but in the fall they start drinking heavier porters and stouts.

“Our Squirrel Fights Nut Brown Ale is really popular,” Molnar said, “and Apple Crisp — like the dessert — Porter is one of our most popular fall beers. We almost always brew a pumpkin beer, too. Some people really like pumpkin beers around that time of year. A lot of them don’t actually like eating pumpkin, but they love seeing it in a glass.”

Right now, the flavor of the moment is jalapeño. Because it has become identified so strongly with springtime, it will be around for the rest of the season.

“We’ll have it in stores until the beginning of June,” Molnar said, “and on tap for a little longer.”

Featured Photo: Photos courtesy of Concord Craft Brewing.

A great French baking contest

This year’s theme is plays and musicals

How much do you know about the French-speaking world other than France or Quebec and could you express that knowledge in a cake?

On May 18, 10 teams of amateur bakers will have an opportunity to do just that at the Franco-American Centre’s Third Annual Fleur Délices, a cake-decorating competition dedicated to spreading knowledge about the Francophone world. Teams will bring everything they need to build elaborately decorated cakes with a French or French-influenced theme.

“This goes hand-in-hand with our mission at the Franco-American Centre,” said Nathalie Hirte, the event’s organizer, “to introduce people to the world outside the France/Quebec box.”

For the event’s first year the Fleur Délices’ theme was French-speaking countries around the world, Hirte said.

“Last year, it was fairy tales; this year our theme is Plays and Musicals of the French-Speaking World,” she said. “What’s happened in the past is the contestants have looked at our suggestion list, then gone and picked something else completely. As long as their cakes meet our criteria, they’re good.”

Fleur Délices — the name, which indicates “delicate and delicious,” is a pun; it sounds like “Fleur de Lis,” the symbol of France — is inspired by The Great British Baking Show, a television baking competition known for its creativity and kindness. Like its inspiration, Fleur Délices will require competitors to make and present cakes, but unlike the television show, there will be no baking on site.

“None of the venues we’ve held the event at have ovens,” Hirte said. Competitors will bake their cakes at home, then bring them to the event along with frosting and any edible elements they need to put their finished cakes together. Teams can have one or two participants. Single-person teams will have an hour to decorate their cakes; pairs will have 45 minutes.

Each cake must have a minimum of two tiers, and one of them must be a sponge. (“That’s another influence from the British Baking Show,” Hirte said.) The icing must include at least one buttercream. All cakes must have a 3D element that is made from an edible material. Other than that, the organizers have not been overly specific about their requirements.

“We didn’t want to limit the bakers’ creativity,” Hirte said. “We just want them all on a level playing field.”

Two or three judges will walk around during the competition, visiting teams at their stations and asking questions. They will judge individual cakes on taste, texture, overall appearance, creativity and their representation of the theme. The overall winner of the competition will be chosen from an average of the judges’ scores and will be presented with an engraved cake platter.

A People’s Choice winner will be chosen by the spectators. Because it will not be possible for every spectator to taste each cake, the People’s Choice winner will be based almost entirely on appearance.

“We guarantee that everyone will get two to three samples,” she said. “The last two years, nobody has left hungry. We always get positive feedback on the event.” The People’s Choice winner will be presented with a charcuterie board.

Fleur Délices is open to bakers 16 and older.

“The past couple of years we’ve had some French teachers and their students compete,” Hirte says. “That’s been fun.”

Registration for competitors is $20 per team and is open until Friday, April 26, on the Franco-American Centre’s website. Tickets for spectators will go on sale within the next week or so through the same website.

Featured Photo: Teacher and student team. Courtesy photo.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!