In the kitchen with Alan Frati

Alan Frati of Derry is the co-owner and co-founder of Crack’d Kitchen & Coffee (327 S. Broadway, Salem, 212-1511, crackdkitchen.com), which opened its first New Hampshire location in his hometown of Salem in April 2021. Inspired by their love of breakfast sandwiches, Frati and business partner Danny Azzarello opened the first Crack’d Kitchen & Coffee in Andover, Mass., in 2019. The eatery is a fast casual concept specializing in locally roasted coffees, smoothies, bowls and eclectic breakfast options like loaded hash browns and egg sandwiches with creative toppings. A third location would later follow in Peabody, Mass., opening earlier this summer, in addition to a 20-foot food trailer known as The Yolkswagon — catch the trailer at a special Black Friday event at From the Barrel Brewing Co. (1 Corporate Park Drive, Unit 16, Derry) on Friday, Nov. 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A good sharp knife is kind of like the cornerstone of any kitchen. … Even though we’re primarily a takeout restaurant, one of the things we were founded on is that we cook real food, and so we’re cutting up all of our vegetables, slicing bread, things like that, so you need a good knife.

What would you have for your last meal?

A really good steak. I like my steak medium rare, and I think I’ve got to do a prime cut cooked over some really nice charcoal or hardwood.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I’ll give a shout out to my friends at a newer spot that opened up, Los Reyes [Street Tacos & More] over in Derry. They do some killer stuff over there, and they’re really good people.

What celebrity would you like to see eating in your restaurant?

I’d love to see my guy Bill Belichick come in and order. I think we would get a pretty big kick out of that.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

Honestly, I think all of our breakfast sandwiches stick out. I love the Live Free or Die, which is one of our signature sandwiches, and we call it that because we get our bacon from up at North Country Smokehouse. [It has] our house-made ketchup, a sharp cheddar cheese and we always use 100 percent cage-free eggs, and that’s on a nice buttery soft brioche bun.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire?

I think it’s the whole vegan and plant-based movement. I definitely see that way more now than I have in the past — people coming in and asking for egg substitutes, vegan cheeses, things like that.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

We’re those people that like to grill 12 months out of the year. We do a lot of grilling, everything from steaks and chicken to vegetables and starches. … We cook a lot of comfort food too. I have three kids now, so we’re not usually doing stuff that’s too fancy.

Maple turkey sausage
From the kitchen of Alan Frati of Crack’d Kitchen & Coffee

2 pounds ground turkey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon paprika
2 Tablespoons maple syrup

In a mixing bowl, combine the maple syrup with all of the seasonings to create a paste. Add the ground turkey and mix thoroughly so that all the ingredients are well-incorporated. Form the turkey mix into 3-ounce patties and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten into ½-inch thick circles. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, ensuring that the turkey is cooked through. Serve as is or sear-cook sausage in a cast iron pan for a more caramelized flavor.

Featured photo: Alan Frati, co-owner of Crack’d Kitchen & Coffee in Salem. Courtesy photo.

Doughnut you know it

NH Doughnut Co. opens in Bedford, expands menu offerings

When Amanda Baril opened the first New Hampshire Doughnut Co. on Route 4 in Chichester in 2019, her concept was simple — an outlet where you create your own doughnuts, choosing from a variety of toppings to customize them not unlike how you might an ice cream sundae.

Fast-forward just three short years, and Baril’s business has since evolved in a big way, introducing two additional brick-and-mortar locations, delving into brewery collaborations, doughnut pop-ups and custom orders for weddings, and even converting a former horse trailer into a miniature food truck. Her newest shop, now open on South River Road in Bedford, has further expanded the menu to offer yeast ring and filled doughnuts, fritters and French crullers.

It’s quite the success story, as Baril’s husband Chad pointed out, when you consider that all of this took place amid a global pandemic. The original New Hampshire Doughnut Co. opened back in late August 2019, some six months before Covid would arrive in the Granite State.

At the time, the business started out with a basic vanilla cake doughnut and a completely customizable list of coatings, toppings and drizzles to choose from. But as Amanda Baril quickly came to find out, most customers would prove to have a hard time choosing their own.

“We ended up putting out a favorites menu, and we found that people were really just choosing from the favorites. So we started putting those out and ready to go and people would just be like, ‘I’ll take this, this and this,’” she said. “They wanted the variety, but they also wanted it ready for them.”

In February 2020, the Barils signed a lease to open a second shop in downtown Concord, in the space formerly occupied by the Capital Deli. It was around that time, Amanda Baril said, when they decided to shift to a weekly doughnut menu that would regularly change with new offerings.

“Every week we would update the menu … and it would be different, and people really loved that,” she said. “We had the key normal favorites but then we’d change up everything else.”

The pandemic’s arrival that March ended up delaying the opening of the Concord shop all the way to December 2020. It’s unique for only operating as a retail storefront — according to Baril, the plan was always to bake everything fresh in Chichester and ship to Concord every morning.

Special doughnut-themed weeks, such as Harry Potter, Disney and others, also entered the mix.

By the summer of 2021, the couple began looking for a new location in the Manchester or Bedford area; they signed a lease on the South River Road property by the end of that year. The buildout of that space was relatively quick, Amanda Baril said, but ongoing supply chain issues with their equipment delayed their opening to mid-September of this year. For similar reasons, they have also since shifted to a monthly doughnut menu.

Today, the Barils now have staff members wholly dedicated to all different aspects of the business, from the newly available crullers in Bedford to gluten-free and dairy-free doughnuts made in Chichester, which has since transitioned into a production-only facility. They recruited Vanessa Robinson as a baker — she formerly worked at Van Otis Chocolates in Manchester.

“I was like, ‘I need to find somebody with experience who knows flavors better than I do,’ and she has been fantastic,” Amanda Baril said. “I am so happy to have her on board because she really adds so much.”

New Hampshire Doughnut Co. even now has its own wedding division, regularly fulfilling catering orders for doughnut walls, doughnut buffets and other gatherings large and small.

Chad Baril added that they’ve begun partnering with local colleges for internship opportunities — a student even designed their current logo — and have worked with several breweries to host doughnut pop-ups. Some, for instance, feature homemade icings made with locally brewed beer — on Friday, Dec. 9, and Friday, Dec. 30, they are expected to return to Lithermans Limited Brewery in Concord.

While there are no plans to open a fourth location, Amanda Baril said she hopes to eventually find a larger available space in Concord where they can bake doughnuts.

“I think when we had it written on paper before we opened up in Chichester, it’s come full circle now, I would say,” Chad Baril said. “The creativeness of Amanda and her staff was kind of the awesome curveball that we got, but now it’s starting to get back into that community. … We want to touch people’s lives and create a kind of legacy, sort of like, ‘Look at what we did.’”

New Hampshire Doughnut Co.
Where: 410 S. River Road, Bedford, 782-8968; 2 Capital Plaza, Concord, 715-5097 (a third location, on Route 4 in Chichester, is now used as a production facility only — no walk-in service)
Hours: Both the Bedford and Concord locations are open Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., or until doughnuts sell out
More info: Visit nhdoughnutco.com, email nhdoughnutco@gmail.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram @nhdohco

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of NH Doughnut Co.

Coffee, cocktails and community

Café la Reine opens second spot in Manchester’s North End

Nearly a decade after Saint Anselm College alum Alex Horton opened Café la Reine on Elm Street in Manchester, she and her team have expanded to a second location built on quality eats, great coffee and community. Café la Reine North End, which arrived in the space of the former Blake’s Restaurant last month, is more than three times the size of its downtown counterpart, introducing a full-service breakfast and lunch dining experience in addition to craft cocktails.

It was March 2013 when Horton, a Methuen, Mass., native who has lived in the Queen City since her college days, opened the original Café la Reine. At the time, there were not a lot of places around like it, and Horton herself recalls as a student always looking for a place where she could order a cup of coffee and comfortably sit down and do her homework.

Over the years, the spot has added everything from sandwiches and salads to avocado toasts, oatmeal bowls and açaí bowls to its menu, and has become known for its live “Java Jams.”

Even pre-pandemic, Horton said she had been looking for a potential second location. She happens to also live in the North End neighborhood where Blake’s closed its Hooksett Road restaurant in early January 2021, a spot that had been open for nearly four decades.

“When Blake’s closed, I knew that it was going to be kind of a loss for our neighborhood,” she said. “I mean, my husband and I went here on the weekends for breakfast forever, or we’d walk the dogs down [here] and get ice cream from the window. We frequented this place a lot.”

Soon after the property went on the market, Horton — along with her general manager, Dominique Gibson — decided to inquire about potentially taking it over.

“I really wanted a second location that had parking, and I wanted to expand on my menu, because you can only offer so much in a 1,000-square-foot space downtown. It’s so small and our kitchen is so tiny,” Horton said. “And so, I wanted a spot that had a bigger kitchen so that we could possibly make things for both locations out of this kitchen here.”

A few aesthetics, such as the tables and the blue-colored booths, have been kept and may be familiar to those who frequented Blake’s. But Horton and her team still spent the last several months revamping the space, even recruiting Alexis Clark and Nicole Rocha of The Terracotta Room on Elm Street to help install the plants you see along most of the booths.

As you walk inside, you can immediately turn to your right and order coffee or food to go from a counter, or you can be seated at a booth or table. Horton said her team plans to utilize the takeout window for online orders.

With the exception of the açaí and oatmeal bowls, just about everything on the menu downtown is available at Café la Reine North End. But that’s not to say that the new eatery’s menu is a carbon copy of its predecessor. A wide variety of items are exclusively available at this space, from pancakes and Belgian waffles to eggs Benedicts and hash brown bowls.

“We have a bunch of starters, like loaded fries with eggs and hollandaise on top, which is so good,” Horton said. “We have wings, boneless [and] bone-in, and then we have huge breakfast sandwiches … and your classic big breakfast where you get everything. … For lunch, we have tuna melts, avocado BLTs and then some burgers and salads, so it’s a pretty full menu here.”

Café la Reine North End also differs from the downtown location in that there is a full bar, from which you can order mimosas, bloody marys, and what Horton calls Above Average Joes.

“They are our boozy coffee cocktails that we serve in a pint glass. They’re so good,” she said.

Horton said she soon hopes to host either open mic or weekend live music events at her new space. A side room directly to the left of where you walk in has also already been used for larger parties and gatherings, or for those who want to go and work where it’s a little bit quieter.

Reflecting on the last decade, Horton said she never thought she would eventually expand to this degree, but has nonetheless enjoyed the experience and the response from the community.

“I was so young when I opened downtown, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll be OK with this,’” she said. “But then, I guess it’s just been the excitement and adventure of opening new businesses, especially with people that you love to work with. I feel like it’s all of our projects because we all had a hand in it, and that kind of reflects in everything from the menu to the way it’s decorated.”

Café la Reine – North End
Where: 53 Hooksett Road, Unit 6, Manchester
Hours: Thursday through Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on Wednesdays.
More info: Visit toasttab.com/cafelareinenorthend, find them on Facebook and Instagram @cafelareine.northend or call 782-5367

Featured photo: Photo by Ethos & Able Creative, eacreative.co.

The Weekly Dish 22/11/24

News from the local food scene

Grab a pint: The New Hampshire Brewers Association is once again promoting breweries with the return of its annual NH Pint Days fundraiser. Now through Wednesday, Dec. 7, limited-edition 16-ounce Wili Belcher pint glasses are available for sale at more than 35 participating breweries statewide. The artwork portrayed on this year’s glasses, titled “State of Adventure,” is by local artist Sarah Fenerty of Northwoods Brewing Co., and $1 from each glass benefits the Association. Visit nhbrewers.org or find the Association on Facebook @nhbrewers to view a list of breweries that have the pint glasses, which is sorted by region of the state.

Five courses, five breweries: Join Amphora Restaurant (55 Crystal Ave., Derry) for a special beer pairing dinner on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. that will showcase options from five different local breweries with each course. Featured beers will be from Throwback Brewery of North Hampton (paired with the pumpkin bisque), Rockingham Brewing Co. of Derry (paired with the strawberry, walnut and feta salad), Daydreaming Brewing Co. of Derry (paired with the pineapple glazed wings), From the Barrel Brewing Co. (paired with your entree of choice — bangers and mash, risotto milanese with smoked brisket and fig glaze or eggplant sto fourno), and Out.Haus Ales of Northwood (paired with bananas Foster). The cost is $100 per person, with a $50 deposit required that will be billed the night of the event. Visit amphoranh.com.

Spirits of history: Get your tickets now for a special Prohibition Repeal Day Old Forester bourbon dinner at Rambling House Food & Gathering (57 Factory St., Suite A, Nashua), scheduled for Monday, Dec. 5, the 89th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in the United States. The event will begin with a cocktail half-hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by a five-course bourbon taster and pairing menu at 6 p.m. that will reflect important dates through Old Forester, bourbon and American culinary history. Old Forester, according to the dinner event page at ramblingtale.com, was one of six distillers that was granted government permission to continue production for “medicinal purposes” during Prohibition, and it’s the only one of those six that’s still in the whiskey business today. Roaring Twenties attire is optional, but encouraged, during the event. See the website or call 318-3220 to purchase tickets or reserve your table.

Reds with your bird

How to pair red wines with the Thanksgiving feast

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, a gathering of friends and family to share a large meal after the morning road race and football game. We give thanks for the fellowship, but we also look forward to the sumptuous meal, only to be outdone by late-night snacks of leftover turkey and cranberry. The turkey and sides are the main attraction of the event, taking hours of painstaking work, not without days, if not weeks of planning, assigning various side dishes to those joining in the event.

In addition to the food, an essential element to the planning of the dinner is the proper pairing of “the right wine.” The trick is to find a wine that goes with the vast array of flavors that make up the event. Toward that end, several different wines garner consideration. For appetizers, the selection of a sparkling wine is important. It should be dry, such as a brut from France or California. A cava from Spain is an excellent choice, but a prosecco is just a little too light and sweet to go with the oysters, shrimp or cheeses so typical of the beginnings of this banquet.

White wines for the main course are typically the “go-to” for many hosts. They are versatile, and with the rich butter and sauces that accompany the bird, a dry wine with “green notes” such as a sauvignon blanc or riesling makes for a good choice. While fuller-bodied wines like cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are crowd-pleasers, their bold and typically oaky notes are better suited to the roasted meats of December’s holidays.

So, about the reds. I recommend a pinot noir. There are so many to choose from. Whether from California or Oregon, or the Burgundian wines of France, you cannot miss with a well-balanced pinot noir to sip with the main course. Pinot noirs are food-friendly and often show classic fall flavors, such as cranberry, red apple skin, dried leaves and resonating allspice. What better match can one find?

Our first wine is a 2018 La Crema Pinot Noir Fog Veil Russian River Valley – Sonoma County,available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets, originally priced at $64.99, reduced to $29.99. The grapes for this wine come from neighboring vineyards to their Saralee’s Estate. The primary clones are Pommard and Flowers, first planted in 1996, and the wine is aged for 14 months in 100 percent French oak. The color is a ruby red. To the nose there are notes of black cherry, raspberry and baking spices. To the tongue, there is black plum and pomegranate, balanced by fine tannins, with very slight acidity. As the name implies, a late afternoon fog visits the valley daily, ensuring slow and steady ripening, leading to the grape’s slight acidity. Historically Russian River Valley pinot noirs had bright red fruit and delicate earthy, mineral notes. But changes in viticultural and winemaking practices have led to riper fruit and bolder wines, exhibiting black cherry and blackberry notes over the more traditional pinot noir notes of strawberry, raspberry and sour cherry. This is a bolder pinot noir worth trying and comparing to an Oregon or Burgundian-sourced pinot noir.

Our second wine is a 2020 Domaine Olivier-Nicolas de Bourgueil Cuvée Domaine, available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets, originally priced at $22.99, reduced to $12.99. This wine is 100 percent cabernet franc from the Loire Valley, France. To the nose, there are floral aromas, along with pink peppercorns, all linked to the senses of fall. There are notes of raspberries along with some minerality. This is a great wine that pairs well with the flavors of fall. The earthy-woodsy notes may not please all palates, but it is worth trying, as the price-point is most appealing. If it doesn’t suit your taste alongside the bird, try it with a piece of smoked Gouda. This could lead to a great pairing to be sampled again and again!

Enjoy the holiday. Share it with friends and family. Try some alternatives to “the usual go-to” white wine with turkey. Explore new wines and show your friends just how pioneering one’s taste buds can be!

Homemade applesauce

Applesauce is one of my favorite easily made dishes. On a weekend afternoon, the smell of simmering apples adds warmth to a chilly day.

This is a simple recipe, which gives you the ability to adjust it to your palate. The most important decision is the type of apple you will use. You can lean into a tarter version with Granny Smiths or you can go with a sweeter flavor by using Honeycrisps. Almost anything in between can work as well. The second most important decision is the amount of sugar. I prefer just a hint of sweetness, which is why I tend to use a slightly tart apple such as a McIntosh and add only two tablespoons of sugar. You definitely can change the amount of sugar. However, do it in small increments! Finally, the amount of cinnamon is personal. A great option is to serve the applesauce plain with a shaker of cinnamon nearby. Individually seasoned applesauce for all!

With Thanksgiving only a week away, this is a great recipe to keep handy. When you’re eating all the heavier leftovers (stuffing, veggie casseroles, and mashed potatoes — I see you) a side of applesauce could be the perfect choice.

Homemade applesauce
Makes 4

2 pounds apples (approximately 4 large)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
Cinnamon

Peel and core apples.
Cut apples into small cubes.
Combine apples, lemon juice, and water in a medium pot, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, and mash apples with a potato masher.
(If you prefer smoother applesauce, you can use an immersion blender.)
Add sugar, stirring to combine.
Season with cinnamon as desired.
Serve warm, or allow to cool before storing in a covered container.

Featured Photo: Homemade applesauce. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

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