In the kitchen with Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce of Salem is the owner and founder of Granite State Spice Blends (granitestatespiceblends.com, and on Facebook @granitestatespiceblends), a company offering small-batch herb and spice seasoning blends available in a variety of flavors. Pierce, who is also the executive chef for Fresh Picks Cafe, a division of Cafe Services, Inc., of Manchester, launched Granite State Spice Blends earlier this year as a side hustle. Each of his blends is individually toasted, muddled and ground before being packaged — his signature product is an all-purpose blend called the “SPOG” (it features salt, pepper, onion and garlic as its ingredients). But Pierce’s lineup of more than a dozen blends also includes a curry powder, a chili powder, an adobo seasoning, a Caribbean jerk seasoning and a few other unique offerings, from a “hot magic dust” blend with ground chile peppers to the “miso shroomy” blend with ground mushrooms and miso powder. Granite State Spice Blends will be a featured vendor at the Great New England Holiday Shopping Extravaganza on Friday, Dec. 10, and Saturday, Dec. 11, at the Hampshire Hills Athletic Club (50 Emerson Road, Milford). You can also order Pierce’s blends online in either two- or four-ounce bags.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

There are actually three things: my grinder, my Lodge cast iron, and my Big Green Egg kamado-style cooker.

What would you have for your last meal?

Definitely tacos al pastor.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

The Black Trumpet in Portsmouth. We’ll typically sit down and just order a whole bunch of dishes, to turn into a huge experience.

What is your personal favorite blend that you make?

My favorite is the SPOG, because that was the one that got it all started. Aside from that one, the adobo is definitely the fan favorite .

What celebrity would you like to see trying one of your blends?

Joe Rogan.

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

Foraging for seaweed and taking advantage of what our oceans have to offer seems to be pretty popular right now. UNH has done classes on it and they’ve teamed up with chefs in the area.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

My go-to at home would probably be tacos, because it’s everybody’s favorite no matter what day of the week.

Adobo-roasted spatchcock chicken
From the kitchen of Matt Pierce of Granite State Spice Blends

1 whole broiler chicken (about 3 pounds average size)
1 ounce Granite State Spice Blends adobo seasoning
2 Tablespoons yellow mustard

Preheat the oven or grill to 350 degrees. Score both sides of the chicken’s backbone to create guidelines. Using poultry shears, cut out the backbone. Pat the cavity dry and score a line in the middle of the breastbone. Flip the chicken and press down so the breastbone splits and the chicken is now flat. Rub mustard on both sides to allow the adobo seasoning to stick to the bird. Sprinkle a generous amount of adobo seasoning all over the bird. Cook for an hour to an hour and a half. Turn the heat up to 400 degrees for the final 15 minutes. The thickest part of the breast should be at 165 degrees and the meat should be easily pulling from the bone. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. When done, do not discard the bones — add them to a pot of water with thyme, bay leaves, crushed red pepper flakes, carrots, celery and onion, and simmer for two hours to make a great bone broth.

Featured photo: Matt Pierce. Courtesy photo.

Holiday feasts

Where to dine in for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

’Tis the season for holiday dining, as several local eateries are getting ready to host special dinners and events on and during the days leading up to Christmas Eve, Friday, Dec. 24. A few of them will also be open on Christmas Day, Saturday, Dec. 25.

One of the first will be a Polar Express brunch at The Bistro at LaBelle Winery in Amherst (345 Route 101, 672-9898, labellewinery.com) on Saturday, Dec. 18, from 10 a.m. to noon. In addition to assorted scones, muffins and rolls, the menu will feature a multi-course food offering and holiday-inspired cocktails. The event also includes a screening of The Polar Express and photo opportunities with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. Admission, after taxes, is $41.31 for adults and $23.09 for kids ages 3 and up.

Enjoy a special chef’s Christmas cheer menu at Colby Hill Inn (33 The Oaks, Henniker, 428-3281, colbyhillinn.com) during several designated days in December with seatings from 4 to 8:30 p.m. The gardens will be professionally lit with holiday decorations, and the multi-course menu will feature a variety of a la carte items to choose from. The Colby Hill Inn is also hosting a “Ho Ho Homicide” murder mystery and high tea event on Sunday, Dec. 19, beginning at 12:30 p.m. The menu will feature rounds of holiday-inspired cocktails and sparkling wines, along with holiday punch, seasonal high tea sandwiches, assorted pastries and the added drama of a murder mystery. Tickets are $75 per person (reservations are required), and all attendees will receive free entry to the Inn’s Winter Wonderland Barn Market with local crafters and live music.

Read on for a list of special meals, in addition to New Hampshire restaurants that will be open for business on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Do you know of a local eatery offering Christmas dinners that we may have missed? Let us know at food@hippopress.com.

Special Christmas Eve meals

Christmas Eve Dinner at Bedford Village Inn (2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford, 472-2001, bedfordvillageinn.com) is happening on Friday, Dec. 24, with seatings from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. A three-course prix fixe menu will be served in the Inn’s dining room, followed by a grand dessert buffet and cash bar in its great hall. The menu will feature your choice of an appetizer (five spice grilled shrimp, black garlic French onion soup, lobster arancini, red kuri squash bisque, Dunk’s Mushrooms vol au vent, or veal, prosciutto and mortadella stuffed tortellini); a salad (local kale and Swiss chard, or winter spinach salad); and an entree (grilled filet mignon, olive oil poached day boat halibut, Long Island duck breast, beef cheek stew, savory mushroom Wellington, rosemary-rubbed Christmas rib roast, or New England seafood pot au feu). The cost is $95 for adults and $49 for children ages 10 and under. The Inn’s Lobby Bar will also be open for breakfast from 8 to 10:30 a.m., and for dinner from 4 to 9 p.m., serving its full menu with some specials. The tavern and the dining room, meanwhile, will be serving lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will be closed for dinner.

Christmas Eve Dinner at Copper Door Restaurant (15 Leavy Dr., Bedford, 488-2677; 41 S. Broadway, Salem, 458-2033; copperdoor.com) will be on Friday, Dec. 24, from 4 to 8 p.m. at both locations, featuring your choice of a two-course, three-course or four-course prix fixe menu. Options include pistachio-crusted tuna, truffled arancini, mushroom bisque, spinach salad, pork shank au poivre, sesame grilled chicken, garlic panko salmon, butternut ravioli, sugar cookie cupcake, chocolate peanut butter pot de creme, and raspberry white chocolate cheesecake. The cost is $59 per two-course meal, $69 per three-course meal and $79 per four-course meal. Reservations are highly recommended.

Christmas Eve Dinner at Epoch Gastropub (The Exeter Inn, 90 Front St., Exeter, 778-3762, epochrestaurant.com) will be on Friday, Dec. 24, with seatings from 3 to 9 p.m. In addition to its regular menu, the Epoch Gastropub will be serving a special three-course prix fixe menu, with items like grilled apple salad or roasted cauliflower soup, potato gnocchi, herb-roasted half chicken or braised lamb shank, and bûche de Noël (Yule log) or gingerbread cake for dessert. The cost is $55 per person.

Christmas Eve Dinner at Granite Restaurant & Bar (The Centennial Hotel, 96 Pleasant St., Concord, 227-9005, graniterestaurant.com) will be on Friday, Dec. 24, from 5 to 9 p.m. A special prix fixe menu will be served, featuring items like local squash fritters, creole baked oysters, seafood chowder, Creekstone Farm braised short rib, Maine lobster pappardelle, honey nut squash risotto, flourless chocolate cake, and panettone “French toast” with house made ice cream and local apple cider caramel. The cost is $60 for adults and $20 for children.

Feast of the Seven Fishes at Colby Hill Inn (33 The Oaks, Henniker, 428-3281, colbyhillinn.com) will be on Friday, Dec. 24, with one seating at 4 p.m. A seven-course meal will be served, featuring baccala salad on croustade, house smoked flaked salmon, calamari fritti with lemon aioli, cioppino with clams, mussels and monkfish, lobster fra diavolo, baked sardines in peperonata and escarole with roasted garlic, and grilled branzino with orange, olives and capers, along with a dessert trio of limoncello sorbet, mini chocolate chip cannoli and pignoli cookies. All courses will be paired with Banfi wines. The cost is $130 per person and includes the wine pairings.

Feast of the Seven Fishes at Ya Mas Greek Taverna & Bar (125 Bridge St., Pelham, 635-4230, yamasgreektaverna.com) will be on Friday, Dec. 24, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The eight-course meal will include Oysters Rockefeller, pan seared scallops, grilled octopus, prawn saganaki, little neck clam carbonara, seared branzino, haddock au papillon and strawberry chocolate mousse torte for dessert. The cost is $150 per person and reservations are required.

Special Christmas Day meals

Christmas Dinner at Epoch Gastropub (The Exeter Inn, 90 Front St., Exeter, 778-3762, epochrestaurant.com) will be on Saturday, Dec. 25, from 5 to 9 p.m. In addition to its regular menu, the Epoch Gastropub will be serving the same three-course prix fixe menu available during the Christmas Eve dinner (see that listing). The cost is $55 per person.

Christmas Day Buffet at Salt Kitchen & Bar (Wentworth by the Sea, 588 Wentworth Road, New Castle, 373-6566, saltkitchenandbar.com) is happening on Saturday, Dec. 25, with seatings from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The menu will include a raw bar with oysters, shrimp and King crab, plus seasonal fruit displays, an artisan cheese display, a Belgian waffle station, an Italian antipasto station, a carving station with golden roasted turkey, a Christmas dessert display and more. The cost is $74.95 per person and $26.95 for children under 12.

Christmas Dinner at Salt Kitchen & Bar (Wentworth by the Sea, 588 Wentworth Road, New Castle, 373-6566, saltkitchenandbar.com) is on Saturday, Dec. 25, with seatings from 1 to 9 p.m. The three-course holiday menu will feature signature options like slow roasted prime rib of beef, braised duck pappardelle, pan seared wild salmon, and maple-brined sous vide turkey. The cost is $64.95 per person and $26.95 for children under 12.

Christmas Dinner at The Wild Rose Restaurant (Stonehurst Manor, 3351 White Mountain Hwy., North Conway, 356-3113, thewildroserestaurant.com) is on Saturday, Dec. 25, with seatings from 2 to 8 p.m. The four-course dinner includes your choice of appetizer and Caesar salad, along with your choice of entree, the eatery’s signature sourdough bread, seasonal vegetables, dessert, coffee and tea. Available appetizers include bacon-wrapped scallops, shrimp cocktail, Jonah crab cakes or apple fig baked brie. Available entrees include roasted turkey, aged and pit-smoked prime rib of beef, the Wild Rose (shrimp, scallops, lobster and crabmeat served over tomato rose fettuccine with a garlic basil Parmesan cream sauce), grilled rack of lamb, filet of cod with a lobster cream sauce, roasted half duck, Faro Island salmon, or pan seared caramelized butternut squash filet with rice pilaf and julienne vegetables. Featured desserts will be flourless double dark chocolate torte, vanilla bean creme brulee, blueberry cheesecake or limoncello cake. The cost is $68 per person and reservations are required.

Open on Christmas Eve

900 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria (50 Dow St., Manchester, 641-0900, 900degrees.com) will be open until 5 p.m. that evening.

Airport Diner (2280 Brown Ave., Manchester, 623-5040, thecman.com) will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Alan’s of Boscawen (133 N. Main St., Boscawen, 753-6631, alansofboscawen.com) will be open until 6 p.m. that evening.

Americus Restaurant (LaBelle Winery Derry, 14 Route 111, Derry, 672-9898, labellewinery.com) will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Barley House Restaurant & Tavern (132 N. Main St., Concord, 228-6363, thebarleyhouse.com) will be open from noon to 5 p.m.

Belmont Hall & Restaurant (718 Grove St., Manchester, 625-8540, belmonthall.net) will be open until 2 p.m. that afternoon.

The Bistro at LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898, labellewinery.com) will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bistro 603 (345 Amherst St., Nashua, 722-6362, bistro603nashua.com) will be open from 11 a.m. to close (likely around 10 p.m. for the kitchen and 11 p.m. for the bar).

Buckley’s Great Steaks (438 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 424-0995, buckleysgreatsteaks.com) will be open from 4 to 8 p.m.

Chez Vachon (136 Kelley St., Manchester, 625-9660, find them on Facebook) will be open during its normal hours, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

CJ’s Great West Grill (782 S. Willow St., Manchester, 627-8600, cjsgreatwestgrill.com) will be closing at 5 p.m. that evening.

The Common Man (25 Water St., Concord, 228-3463; 304 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 429-3463; 88 Range Road, Windham, 898-0088; 10 Pollard Road, Lincoln, 745-3463; 60 Main St., Ashland, 968-7030; thecman.com) will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its Concord, Merrimack and Ashland locations, with gift card sales available until 5 p.m. in Concord and Merrimack and until 7 p.m. in Ashland. Its Windham and Lincoln locations will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for gift card sales only. The Common Man’s Claremont location will be closed.

Copper Door Restaurant (15 Leavy Dr., Bedford, 288-2677; 41 S. Broadway, Salem, 458-2033; copperdoor.com) will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with reservations accepted until 8 p.m., at both locations. From 4 to 8 p.m., the prix fixe menu will be offered in lieu of the eatery’s regular dinner menu.

Foster’s Boiler Room (231 Main St., Plymouth, 536-2764, thecman.com) will be open from 4 to 8 p.m.

Fratello’s Italian Grille (155 Dow St., Manchester, 624-2022; 194 Main St., Nashua, 889-2022; fratellos.com) will be open until 8 p.m. that evening at both locations.

Friendly Red’s Tavern (22 Haverhill Road, Windham, 437-7251, friendlyredstavern.net) will be open until 8 p.m. that evening, serving its regular menu with specials.

Gauchos Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse (62 Lowell St., Manchester, 669-9460, gauchosbraziliansteakhouse.com) will be open from 4 to 8 p.m.

Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant (233 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-6212, hartsturkeyfarm.com) will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Lakehouse Grille (281 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-5221, thecman.com) will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

MT’s Local Kitchen & Wine Bar (212 Main St., Nashua, 595-9334, mtslocal.com) will be open from 4 to 8 p.m.

Murphy’s Taproom (494 Elm St., Manchester, 644-3535, murphystaproom.com) will be open until 1 a.m.

Murphy’s Taproom & Carriage House (393 Route 101, Bedford, 488-5975, murphystaproom.com) will be open until 9 p.m. that evening.

New England’s Tap House Grille (1292 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 782-5137, taphousenh.com) will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Pasta Loft Restaurant & Brewing Co. (241 Union Square, Milford, 672-2270, pastaloft.com) will close at 8 p.m. that evening.

The Red Blazer Restaurant & Pub (72 Manchester St., Concord, 224-4101, theredblazer.com) will be open until 7 p.m.

Route 104 Diner (752 Route 104, New Hampton, 744-0120, thecman.com) will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Second Brook Bar & Grill (1100 Hooksett Road, Suite 111, Hooksett, 935-7456, secondbrook.com) will be closing its kitchen at 4 p.m. and its bar at 5 p.m. that day.

Surf Restaurant (207 Main St., Nashua, 595-9293, surfseafood.com) will be open from 4 to 8 p.m.

T-Bones Great American Eatery (25 S. River Road, Bedford, 641-6100; 404 S. Main St., Concord, 715-1999; 39 Crystal Ave., Derry, 434-3200; 77 Lowell Road, Hudson, 882-6677; 1182 Union Ave., Laconia, 528-7800; 311 S. Broadway, Salem, 893-3444; t-bones.com) will be closing at 5 p.m. that evening at each of its locations.

Tilt’n Diner (61 Laconia Road, Tilton, 286-2204, thecman.com) will be open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Wild Rose Restaurant (Stonehurst Manor, 3351 White Mountain Hwy., North Conway, 356-3113, thewildroserestaurant.com) will be serving its regular dinner menu from 5 to 8 p.m.

XO Bistro on Elm (827 Elm St., Manchester, 560-7998, xobistronh.com) will be open from noon to 8 p.m.

Zachary’s Chop House (4 Cobbetts Pond Road, Windham, 890-5555, zacharyschophouse.com) will be open during its regular hours, from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Open on Christmas Day

Epoch Gastropub (The Exeter Inn, 90 Front St., Exeter, 778-3762, epochrestaurant.com) will be open from 5 to 9 p.m. serving its regular dinner menu alongside its prix fixe menu.

Gauchos Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse (62 Lowell St., Manchester, 669-9460, gauchosbraziliansteakhouse.com) will be open for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Murphy’s Taproom (494 Elm St., Manchester, 644-3535, murphystaproom.com) will be open from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Murphy’s Bedford location is closed on Christmas Day).

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Gift Guide – Presents for your palate

Tasty gift ideas for the foodies in your life

Give the gift of local eats this holiday season — whether it’s a ready-to-eat meal, a cooking class certificate, or a specialty box of sweets, there’s something that’s sure to please every palate.

Make a meal out of it

A certificate or subscription to a local meal delivery service or caterer makes a great gift for those who just don’t have that time in their schedule to cook during the week. Here are a few weekly meal companies based in southern New Hampshire offering gift-giving opportunities.

All Real Meal (87 Elm St., Manchester, 782-3014, allrealmeal.com) is a weekly meal delivery service offering fully prepared meals you can readily reheat and eat in minutes. Ordering is done online for a weekly Tuesday delivery to up to more than 50 New Hampshire and Massachusetts towns (minimum orders of $49 for free delivery), as well as at the kitchen from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. All Real Meal also offers several unique gift giving options, from customizable gift cards to special monthly cooler bag deliveries for the holidays that can be purchased for a period of up to three, six or 12 months. Each bag is stuffed with eight portioned meals, two savory sides and two desserts, and deliveries will begin the first Tuesday of January.

Caroline’s Fine Food (132 Bedford Center Road, Bedford, 637-1615, carolinesfood.com) offers individual to-go options, as well as family-style prepared meals that can feed up to six people, with at least a 24-hour advance ordering notice requested. Gift cards can be purchased through the website for redeemable amounts of up to $100.

Ding Dong Deliver (dingdongdeliver.com) is a ghost kitchen powered by Great New Hampshire Restaurants, the parent company of T-Bones Great American Eatery, CJ’s Great West Grill and the Copper Door. The service offers ready-to-heat and ready-to-cook meal packages delivered to Manchester and Bedford, as well as restaurant pickup at each location. Meal orders must be placed by noon on Wednesday for delivery on Thursday, Friday or Saturday of that week, and can be sent to a friend or family member as a gift.

Local Baskit (10 Ferry St., Concord, 219-0882, localbaskit.com) offers online gift cards that are specially designed for gifting a meal to a friend or family member. Each card is redeemable for one prepared meal or a meal kit listed on the “Cook Tonight” section of the website — see shop.localbaskit.com/collections/cook-tonight. Selections vary each week but will always include both meat and vegetarian options for main courses and sides, sourced primarily from local farms and businesses. Local Baskit is also partnering once again with the Cherry Bomb Cookie Co. of Exeter, offering platters of hand-decorated cookies in the shapes of Christmas trees and poinsettias, as well as paint-your-own cookie kits.

New Roots Meals (Manchester, newrootsmeals.com) is a plant-based meal prep and delivery company launched last year. Weekly deliveries are made within a 30-mile radius of Manchester, as well as on the Seacoast — the menu changes every other week but is always 100 percent plant-based, with both breakfast and lunch items available. Gift certificates can be purchased for meals, and New Roots is also offering a special “gift bundle” for the holidays, featuring two entrees, two breakfasts, smaller snacks, a simmer pot jar and a peppermint mocha coffee kit with oat milk, coconut whipped cream, peppermint and mocha syrups and crushed candy cane and cacao nibs. Gift bundles are $85 each and must be placed by 8 p.m. on Fridays to be delivered the following Monday.

For the chocoholics

From customizable boxes of treats to more unique items like flavored hot cocoa bombs and chocolate “charcuterie boards,” these gift ideas will make anyone with a sweet tooth happy.

Candy Kingdom (235 Harvard St., Manchester, 641-8470, candykingdom.shop) has a wide variety of holiday-themed sweets and treats available now, like decorative chocolate Christmas trees, chocolate molded Santas, assorted fudges, and milk, white or dark chocolate solid Christmas tree pops decorated with rainbow nonpareils.

Dancing Lion Chocolate (917 Elm St., Manchester, 625-4043, dancinglion.us) has gift-giving opportunities that include a “chocolate tasting experience” featuring samples of eight of its bars, and a drinking chocolate set complete with a ceramic drinking bowl and a wooden device used to froth the chocolate called a molinillo. You can also purchase six-month or one-year “cacao connoisseur’s club” subscriptions, featuring one new custom bar each month (local pickups only); and cacao tree gift sets, which come with bonbon sharing boxes and a one-year heirloom cacao tree adoption helping to improve the lives of cacao farmers.

Granite State Candy Shoppe (13 Warren St., Concord, 225-2591; 832 Elm St., Manchester; granitestatecandyshoppe.com) offers all kinds of homemade holiday-themed sweets and treats available for purchase now online and in both retail stores. Selections include white peppermint bark, milk, dark and chocolate Santa Claus molds, peppermint or wintergreen candy canes, and hot cocoa bombs in flavors like candy cane and salted toffee.

Loon Chocolate (Manchester, loonchocolate.com) is a small-batch producer of bean-to-bar chocolate. In addition to multiple types of handcrafted bars, the company offers hot cocoa mixes, four-packs of hot cocoa bombs, bagged organic cacao nibs that are great for yogurt or smoothies, and do-it-yourself chocolate-infused elixir kits for your favorite spirits.

Nelson’s Candy and Music (65 Main St., Wilton, 654-5030, nelsonscandymusic.com) offers all kinds of holiday-themed sweets and goodies, like cocoa bombs, handmade candy canes, and sleigh-shaped gift baskets filled with fine chocolates and other treats.

Sweet Boutique (21 Kilton Road, Bedford, 222-1521, visitsweetboutique.com) offers customizable boxes and baskets, in addition to novelty items like chocolate sleighs, holiday peppermint bark and foiled chocolate Santas. Co-owner Lynn MacKenna has also begun offering chocolate “charcuterie boards” in various sizes, featuring assorted chocolates, nuts, gummy candies, dipped fruits and more. Special ordering by Dec. 18 is recommended.

Sweet Treats by Emilee (Milford, emileessweettreats@gmail.com, and on Facebook and Instagram) is taking orders for handmade hot cocoa bombs for the holidays, available in more than a dozen flavors, from milk, dark and white to egg nog, gingerbread, milk chocolate peppermint, salted caramel and more. They’re available as single orders or in packs of four and make great stocking stuffers. Order by Dec. 20.

Van Otis Chocolates (341 Elm St., Manchester, 627-1611, vanotis.com) has several themed gift boxes and baskets available for purchase, like a Swiss fudge gift set, a maple-themed gift set with treats from Ben’s Sugar Shack, and an “ultimate snacker” gift set featuring chocolate bars, chocolate-dipped pretzels, and the shop’s own line of Evangeline’s caramel corn. Other seasonal offerings include white chocolate candy cane dipped pretzels, candy cane and orange-flavored Swiss fudges, milk, dark or chocolate molded Santa pops, and now flurry gummies.

Things are cooking

Certificates for cooking classes make great gifts not only for those who are adventurous eaters, but also for those who may want to learn a thing or two in the kitchen or get back into the activity altogether.

The Culinary Playground (16 Manning St., Derry, 339-1664, culinary-playground.com) has a year-round schedule of cooking classes for kids and adults of all ages. Gift certificates can be purchased online and are redeemable to any of the available programs, which also include special adult and child team cooking classes and date night classes for couples.

LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898; 14 Route 111, Derry; labellewinery.com) has an ongoing schedule of cooking classes at both locations, often featuring wines paired with each item and recipe cards participants can take home with them.

Tuscan Kitchen (67 Main St., Salem, 952-4875, tuscanbrands.com) offers the Scuola Culinaria program, featuring an ongoing schedule of cooking classes dabbling in different areas of artisan Italian cuisine. Each class is designed to appeal to all backgrounds and experience levels and can be booked online. Private culinary classes can be booked too.

Order your holiday dinners and desserts

While you’re finishing up that Christmas shopping, it’s not too late to think about what you’ll be serving at the table. Check out this list of local restaurants, bakeries and other businesses offering specialty eats from entrees and sides to pies, cakes and other desserts.

The Bakeshop on Kelley Street (171 Kelley St., Manchester, 624-3500, thebakeshoponkelleystreet.com) is taking orders for layered cookies and cream tarts, mini Bundt cakes, Yule logs, cheesecakes, pies, assorted holiday cookies and more. Order by Dec. 17. Pickups will be on Wednesday, Dec. 22, Thursday, Dec. 23, and Friday, Dec. 24.

Bearded Baking Co. (819 Union St., Manchester, 647-7150, beardedbaking.com) is taking orders for pies (apple crumb, Key lime, chocolate cream or coconut cream), cakes (holiday spice cake or vanilla lamington cake with raspberry filling and coating of chocolate ganache), cupcakes (red velvet, chocolate peppermint, lamington, chocolate, vanilla, eggnog and spice cake), vegan cupcakes (cookie butter or Snickerdoodle), cheesecakes (plain, blueberry, strawberry, cherry or raspberry), and cocoa bombs in packs of six (classic, peppermint or salted caramel). Order by Dec. 18. Pickups will be on Thursday, Dec. 23, or Friday, Dec. 24.

Benson’s Bakery & Cafe (203 Central St., Hudson, 718-8683, bensonsbakeryandcafe.com) is taking orders for cakes, pies, holiday cookies and cookie kits, miniature gingerbread houses, gingerbread house decorating kits, cocoa bombs, holiday drinks and more. Order by Dec. 20.

Bite Me Kupcakez (4 Mound Court, Merrimack, 674-4459, bitemekupcakez.com) is taking orders for a variety of specialty items for the holidays, including chocolate flourless torte, strawberry shortcake, chocolate whipped cream cake and six-inch cheesecakes available in several flavors, plus dairy-free options, like double-layer red velvet cake, cookies and cream cake, vanilla cake, chocolate cake and Boston cream pie. Other options include pies (with flavors like apple, triple berry and Samoa with toasted coconut, caramel and whipped cream); and assorted platters, like brunch platters with coffee cakes, muffins and doughnuts; Santa cookie platters; or dessert platters with cupcakes, brownies, cookies and whoopie pies. Orders must be in by Dec. 13, with pickup times to be arranged during the week of Christmas.

The Black Forest Cafe & Bakery (212 Route 101, Amherst, 672-0500, theblackforestcafe.com) is taking orders for pies (apple, Dutch apple, apple cranberry, pecan, pumpkin, summer berry and chocolate cream); cakes (coconut, carrot, chocolate mousse, Black Forest gateaux or Frangelico mousse cake); and assorted holiday cookies, as well as savory items like baked pastas, cheese trays, scratch-made dips and spreads, and a la carte sides, like sausage focaccia stuffing, maple Dijon glazed carrots and parsnips, turkey-sage gravy, cranberry orange sauce, and cream of curried butternut squash soup. Order by Dec. 20. Pickups will be on Wednesday, Dec. 22, Thursday, Dec. 23, or Friday, Dec. 24.

Brothers Butcher (8 Spit Brook Road, Nashua, 809-4180; 142 Lowell Road, Hudson, 577-1130; brothers-butcher.com) is taking orders for specialty roasted meats like spiral ham, boneless prime rib and stuffed pork loin with traditional bread stuffing. Pickups will be on Wednesday, Dec. 22, Thursday, Dec. 23, and Friday, Dec. 24, until 1 p.m.

Buckley’s Bakery & Cafe (436 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 262-5929; 9 Market Place, Hollis, 465-5522; buckleysbakerycafe.com) is taking orders for specialty holiday cakes, including Yule logs, gingerbread spice cakes and dark chocolate peppermint cheesecakes, as well as 8-inch pies (Key lime, chocolate cream or apple), Parker House rolls, Dresden stollen rolls, and assorted breakfast, dessert pastry or cookie trays. Order by Dec. 19.

The Cannoli Stop at The Candy Shop (239 Loudon Road, Concord, 224-9706, thecannolistop.com) is taking orders for all kinds of items for the holidays, from cannolis with dozens of available handmade fillings to cannoli cream pies, whoopie pies, macarons, tiramisu, mini eclairs and cheesecakes, chocolate-dipped Oreos, Italian cookies and assorted dessert platters. Order by Dec. 15. Pickups will be available through Friday, Dec. 24, at 6 p.m.

Carter Hill Orchard (73 Carter Hill Road, Concord, 225-2625, carterhillapples.com) is taking orders for homemade pies in a variety of flavors, like apple, apple crumb, pumpkin, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb and pecan. Order by Dec. 12. Pickups will be available through Sunday, Dec. 19, at 5 p.m., when the orchard closes for the season.

Chez Vachon (136 Kelley St., Manchester, 625-9660, find them on Facebook) is taking orders for more than a dozen flavors of dessert pies and cakes, in addition to some savory items, for the holidays. Order by Dec. 21.

The Common Man (25 Water St., Concord, 228-3463; 304 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 429-3463; 88 Range Road, Windham, 898-0088; 21 Water St., Claremont, 542-6171; 10 Pollard Road, Lincoln, 745-3463; 60 Main St., Ashland, 968-7030; Foster’s Boiler Room, 231 Main St., Plymouth, 536-2764; Lago, 1 Route 25, Meredith, 279-2253; Camp, 298 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-3003; Lakehouse Grille, 281 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-5221; Italian Farmhouse, 337 Daniel Webster Hwy., Plymouth, 536-4536; Airport Diner, 2280 Brown Ave., Manchester, 623-5040; 61 Laconia Road, Tilton, 286-2204; Route 104 Diner, 752 Route 104, New Hampton, 744-0120; thecman.com) is taking orders for holiday feasts to go, featuring herb-roasted prime rib dinners with mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, garlicky green beans, maple-roasted Brussels sprouts, horseradish cream, demi sauce, Parmesan-crusted dinner rolls, sweet bread and cheesecake with berry compote for dessert. Meals serving one or four people, as well as additional optional a la carte items like spinach-artichoke dip and crackers and peel-and-eat shrimp cocktails, are available. Order by Dec. 17. Pickups will be on Thursday, Dec. 23, or on Friday, Dec. 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Concord Food Co-op (24 S. Main St., Concord, 225-6840, concordfoodcoop.coop) offers all kinds of items on its catering menu, from hors d’oeuvres and soups to half- or full-tray entrees, like house lasagna, grilled flank steak, grilled chicken breast, and tofu stir-fry, as well as assorted breakfast and dessert platters, from scones, croissants and muffins to cookies, bars and brownies. Orders should be placed as soon as possible.

Copper Kettle To Go (39 Main St., Wilton, 654-2631, copperkettletogo.com) is taking orders for Christmas dinners, featuring ham, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, green beans and dinner rolls. Two sizes are available (feeding two to four people or four to six people), with additional a la carte options, like sausage gravy and biscuits, cinnamon rolls, assorted muffins, and pies like pecan, gingerbread cream, eggnog and Nutella. Order by Dec. 20. Pickups will be on Friday, Dec. 24, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Crémeux French Patisserie (707 Milford Road, Merrimack, 320-4702, cremeuxfrenchpatisserie.com) is taking orders for several specialty French desserts and delicacies for the holidays, including cherry and pistachio or winter spice tea, caramel and clementine bûche (Yule log), as well as bûche tiramisu, and croquembouche, featuring multiple choux pastries filled with Tahitian vanilla bean crème pâtissière assembled into the shape of a Christmas tree. Order by Dec. 19 at noon. Pickups are on Friday, Dec. 24, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Crosby Bakery (51 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 882-1851, crosbybakerynh.com) is taking orders for dessert pies (apple, apple crumb, blueberry, banana cream, chocolate cream, pumpkin and pecan); as well as savory specialties like salmon pie and meat pie with hamburger and pork; assorted cakes, cookies, party platters and more. Order by Dec. 20. Pickups will be available through Friday, Dec. 24, at 5 p.m.

The Crust & Crumb Baking Co. (126 N. Main St., Concord, 219-0763, thecrustandcrumb.com) is taking orders for a variety of scratch-made items for the holiday season, including dinner rolls (Shaker squash or butter), cinnamon buns (pecan sticky or vanilla glazed), and pies and cakes, like chocolate raspberry layer cake and maple bourbon pecan pie. Savory offerings include a local pork pie with sweet potato, rosemary and apple, and quiches in several flavors, like bacon and cheddar, spinach, marinated tomato and feta, and broccoli and pepper jack. Orders must be placed by Dec. 17. Pickups will be on Wednesday, Dec. 22, Thursday, Dec. 23, or Friday, Dec. 24, at a pre-arranged time (the bakery will be closing early at 4 p.m. on Dec. 24).

Ding Dong Deliver (dingdongdeliver.com) is a ghost kitchen powered by Great New Hampshire Restaurants, the parent company of T-Bones Great American Eatery, CJ’s Great West Grill and the Copper Door. They’re taking orders for holiday roasts and freshly baked homemade cakes and pies in several flavors. Online ordering will be available from Wednesday, Dec. 15, through Friday, Dec. 17, at noon, for deliveries to Manchester and Bedford only on Wednesday, Dec. 22, as well as local pickups at each restaurant.

Earl’s Steak Sandwiches (99 Oak St., Dover, 834-9659, find them on Facebook @earlssteaksandwiches) is taking orders for ready to heat and serve dinners for four, featuring your choice of either brined and smoked whole chicken with gravy or house cured and smoked holiday ham with a brown sugar glaze. Each dinner also comes with your choice of two signature sides (roasted garlic mashed potatoes, creamy white cheddar macaroni and cheese, fresh green beans with shallots and almonds, brown butter sage roasted carrots, or cornbread with honey butter). Order by Dec. 15.

Gingerbread house kit from Frederick’s Pastries. Courtesy photo.

Frederick’s Pastries (109 Route 101A, Amherst, 882-7725; 25 S. River Road, Bedford, 647-2253; pastry.net) is taking orders for all kinds of holiday-themed sweets, treats and goodies, like dark chocolate Christmas Yule log cakes filled with light chocolate orange mousse, gingerbread cupcakes made from scratch with molasses, cinnamon and sugar, and moist gold eggnog cakes laced with Myers’s dark rum. New offerings this year include gingerbread pyramid tree kits that come with 10 shaped gingerbread cookies, green and white buttercream frosting and candy to decorate. See pastry.net/category/christmas for a complete list of holiday items. Orders are strongly encouraged by Dec. 18. Pickups will be available through Friday, Dec. 24, at 4 p.m.

Giorgio’s Ristorante & Bar (270 Granite St., Manchester, 232-3323; 707 Milford Road, Merrimack, 883-7333; 524 Nashua St., Milford, 673-3939; giorgios.com) is taking orders from its catering menu now ahead of the holiday season, featuring everything from appetizers, sandwiches and wraps to pasta trays, meats sold by the pound, a la carte sides and desserts. Visit giorgios.com/catering to view the full menu. Place your holiday catering order by Dec. 22.

Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant (233 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-6212, hartsturkeyfarm.com) is taking orders for individual and family-sized meals to go, featuring your choice of whole roasted turkey, prime rib au jus or baked ham, all of which come with sides like whipped potatoes, butternut squash, green beans, dinner rolls and your choice of dessert pie. Order by Dec. 20. Pickups will be on Friday, Dec. 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For any last-minute needs, the eatery’s grab-and-go store will also be open that day, featuring a la carte items like sliced turkey by the pound, gravy, stuffing, butternut squash, soups, chili, rolls and more.

Harvey’s Bakery & Coffee Shop (376 Central Ave., Dover, 742-6029, harveysbakery.com) is taking orders for Christmas cookies, pork and chicken pies, maple cakes and doughnuts, fruit cakes, and eight- or 10-inch pies in all kinds of flavors, from apple, pecan and pumpkin to chocolate cream, coconut cream, lemon meringue and more. Order by Dec. 17.

Just Like Mom’s Pastries (353 Riverdale Road, Weare, 529-6667, justlikemomspastries.com) is taking orders for specialty holiday cakes, like raspberry mousse-filled Yule logs and cranberry orange white chocolate vanilla cakes, as well as pies (Kahlua black bottom, apple butterscotch pecan, chocolate pecan or savory pork), quiches (tomato, pepper and onion, spinach and feta, bacon, tomato and onion, or meat lover’s), assorted flavors of dinner rolls, cupcakes and cheesecakes, and holiday cookie, whoopie pie or finger pastry platters. Order by Dec. 18. Pickups will be through Friday, Dec. 24, at noon.

Klemm’s Bakery (29 Indian Rock Road, Windham, 437-8810, klemmsbakery.com) is taking orders for all kinds of sweet treats for the holidays, from pies and cakes to mini pastries, cookies and more. Order by Dec. 20. Pickups will be available through Friday, Dec. 24, at 5 p.m.

LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898; 14 Route 111, Derry; labellewinery.com) is taking orders for a variety of items for Christmas at both locations, including a la carte items, like artisan cheese boards, shrimp cocktail, spiced cranberry sauce, red wine gravy, brown sugar ham glaze, maple sweet potatoes, honey glazed carrots, and cinnamon maple bread pudding. Items can also be ordered as packages, serving either six to eight people or 12 to 14 people. LaBelle is also taking orders for cocktail kits in several flavors, with wine, natural ingredients and instructions (liquor is not provided and must be purchased separately). Order by Dec. 17. Pickups will be on Wednesday, Dec. 22, and Thursday, Dec. 23, at your location of choice.

Morrissey’s Porch & Pub (286 S. Main St., Wolfeboro, 569-3662, morrisseysfrontporch.com) is taking orders for holiday meals to go, featuring your choice of an entree (slow-roasted Angus prime rib au jus, roast chateaubriand, seafood pie, roast leg of lamb, roast stuffed pork loin, honey Dijon baked ham, roast turkey, or surf and turf). All meals are served with your choice of vegetable (broccoli gratin, broccoli and carrots, green bean almondine, or roast butternut squash); a potato (colcannon potatoes, O’Brien potatoes, scalloped potato casserole, baked potatoes or mashed potatoes); and a dessert (tiramisu, cheesecake, white chocolate bread pudding, apple strudel, or fruit of the forest pie). Order by Dec. 18. Pickups will be on Thursday, Dec. 23, or Friday, Dec. 24, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Mr. Mac’s Macaroni & Cheese (497 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 606-1760, mr-macs.com) is taking orders for macaroni and cheese trays, available in any type of regular menu flavor in small, medium or large, as well as macaroni salads, assorted green salads and desserts. An advance ordering notice of at least 24 hours is encouraged. As of last month Mr. Mac’s is now also offering nationwide shipping of about a dozen of its take-and-bake options, according to a statement from founder Patrick Cain. Orders submitted on Thursdays and Fridays will be shipped the following Monday and should arrive at their destination in two to three business days. Each order is packed fresh with cool packs to keep it at a safe temperature.

New England’s Tap House Grille (1292 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 782-5137, taphousenh.com) is taking orders for savory French-Canadian meat pies for the holidays, freshly made with pork, beef, potatoes, celery, garlic and seasonings. Order by Dec. 16. Pickups will be on Thursdays or Fridays, Dec. 23 and 24, or Dec. 30 and 31.

Pinard Street Bakery at Charlie’s (1 Pinard St., Goffstown, 606-1835, find them on Facebook @pinardstreetbakery) is taking orders for savory pork pies or chocolate cream pies, as well as assorted home-baked cookies by the half-dozen or dozen. Cookie flavors include snickerdoodle, gingerbread, molasses, chocolate chip or sugar. Order by Dec. 18. Pickups will be on Wednesday, Dec. 22, or Thursday, Dec. 23, from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Presto Craft Kitchen (168 Amory St., Manchester, 606-1252, prestocraftkitchen.com) is taking orders for several specialty holiday menu offerings, like lasagna, a roast beef tip dinner with mashed potatoes, green beans and fresh bread, a stuffed chicken dinner with stuffing and gravy, glazed carrots and fresh bread, and a bourbon-glazed ham dinner with country macaroni and cheese, garlic green beans and fresh bread (dinners feed six people). Other featured a la carte items include charcuterie boards available in several sizes, butternut squash ravioli in a brown butter sage cream sauce, and “elf on the shelf” holiday-themed cocoa bombs. Order by Dec. 18. Pickups will be on Wednesday, Dec. 22, and Thursday, Dec. 23, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.

The Red Arrow Diner (61 Lowell St., Manchester, 626-1118; 137 Rockingham Road, Londonderry, 552-3091; 112 Loudon Road, Concord, 415-0444; 149 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua, 204-5088; redarrowdiner.com) is taking orders for homemade double-layer cakes and 10-inch pies, which must be placed at least 24 hours in advance. Pie flavors include banana cream, coconut cream, chocolate cream, brownie cream, cherry, blueberry, pecan and more. Cake flavors include carrot, chocolate peppermint, almond raspberry, pumpkin spice and more.

Red Beard’s Kitchen (Manchester, redbeardskitchennh@gmail.com, red-beards-kitchen.square.site) is taking orders for a variety of specialty items for Christmas, including honey-roasted ham dinners featuring country mashed potatoes, roasted root vegetables, buttermilk biscuits with honey butter, pineapple raisin relish and sausage cornbread stuffing. Each of the sides can also be ordered a la carte (serving four to five people), in addition to gravy, macaroni and cheese, and loaded twice baked potatoes, as well as seasoned oven-ready prime rib (serves four to five people) and pork pies with gravy and bread and butter pickles. Pickups will be on Thursday, Dec. 23, from noon to 4 p.m. at Noodz (968 Elm St., Manchester).

The Red Blazer Restaurant & Pub (72 Manchester St., Concord, 224-4101, theredblazer.com) is taking pie orders for the holidays, available in several flavors from apple, pecan or pumpkin to chocolate cream, coconut cream and more. Order by Dec. 19.

Roundabout Diner & Lounge (580 U.S. Highway 1 Bypass, Portsmouth, 431-1440, roundaboutdiner.com) is taking orders for family-sized Christmas dinners that feed five to six people, featuring slow-smoked prime rib or seasoned pork loin smoked with sugar-cured bacon. Both also come with red bliss mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts. A la carte items include appetizers like shrimp cocktail, Italian meatballs and bacon-wrapped smoked chicken or scallops; and desserts, like double chocolate Black Forest cake. Pie orders and half-sheets of cornbread are available too. Pickups will be on Friday, Dec. 24, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Smoke Shack Cafe (226 Rockingham Road, Londonderry, 404-2178, smokeshackcafe.com) is taking orders for Christmas dinners featuring smoked ham with sides like mashed potatoes, butternut squash, brown sugar carrots, green beans, macaroni and cheese and cornbread. Other a la carte items include bacon-wrapped turkey breast with jalapeno and sausage stuffing, smoked prime rib, a breakfast casserole and dessert pies. Order by Dec. 19. Pickups will be on Friday, Dec. 24, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sweet Caroline (28 Homestead Place, Alton, 875-0263, find them on Facebook @sweetcarolinenh) is taking orders for 10-inch pies in several flavors (apple, blueberry, pecan, chocolate cream, pumpkin, ricotta or lemon meringue), as well as traditional Yule log cakes, eggnog cheesecakes, and assorted mini pastry or cookie platters. Order by Dec. 18.

Tammaro’s Cucina (469 Charles Bancroft Hwy., Litchfield, 377-7312, tammaroscucina.com) is taking orders for several homemade pasta trays, with options like cheese or meat lasagna, stuffed shells, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken broccoli penne alfredo and more. Half-sized trays (feeding six to eight people) and full-sized trays (feeding 12 to 16 people) are available, and each comes with a loaf of garlic bread. Order by Dec. 22, for pickup on Friday, Dec. 24, at the latest.

Featured photo: Cocoa bombs and gingerbread from Benson’s Bakery & Cafe in Hudson. Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 21/12/09

News from the local food scene

Shop (and eat) local: More than 80 specialty food vendors, artists and craftspeople are expected to attend The Great New England Holiday Shopping Extravaganza, happening on Friday, Dec. 10, from 5 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 11, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Hampshire Hills Athletic Club (50 Emerson Road, Milford). The event will feature a bar on Friday night with holiday-themed cocktails available for purchase, followed by cash door prizes and an appearance from Santa Claus on Saturday. You’ll find local and regional vendors selling everything from hot cocoa bombs, cocoa mixes and artisan chocolates to hot sauces, jams and jellies, black garlic, baked goods, olive oils and more. There will also be pottery, jewelry, candles and other wares for sale. Free admission. Visit gnecraftartisanshows.com.

Brunch and bubbly: Join the Bedford Village Inn & Restaurant (2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford) for its next Champagne brunch on Sunday, Dec. 12, beginning at 9 a.m. in the eatery’s Great Hall. The event features unlimited mimosas and a brunch buffet, including a raw bar, a chef-attended omelet station and a selection of desserts like cookies, finger pastries and chocolate-covered strawberries. Tickets are $95 per person (21+ only) and reservations are required. Visit bedfordvillageinn.com.

Sereni(tea): Enjoy holiday afternoon tea with The Cozy Tea Cart at the Gatherings at the Colonel Shepard House (29 Mont Vernon St., Milford) Sunday, Dec. 12, 1 to 3 p.m. There will be a selection of teas and snacks, like tea sandwiches, pastries and more. The cost is $39.95; reservations are required. Visit thecozyteacart.com.

Final Canterbury market: The Canterbury Community Farmers Market Association will hold its final market of 2021, a special holiday-themed indoor winter market, on Saturday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market will be held inside the gymnasium of Canterbury Elementary School (15 Baptist Road, Canterbury), and will feature a wide variety of local produce, in addition to meats, eggs, small-batch coffees and assorted baked goods. There will also be specialty crafts, photo prints, personal care products and more available for sale. Face masks are required for all attendees. Visit canterburyfarmersmarket.com.

Showing some spirit: Steadfast Spirits Distilling Co. (134 Hall St., Unit H, Concord) will hold a holiday sip and shop event on Saturday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in its tasting room with local crafters, live music and pourings from the distillery. Admission is free, but donations of $2 to $10 per gift based on size are recommended, with proceeds benefiting Peace and Paws Dog Rescue of Hillsborough. See “Sip & Shop at Steadfast” on Facebook for more details.

Coffee and beer

It’s a magical combination

I go into most weekends with high expectations for my own productivity.

Generally speaking, though, my expectations rarely prove to be anything other than unrealistic. I have visions of yard work, cooking elaborate meals, tackling some long overdue painting, cleaning out the garage and any number of other chores and tasks.

Aside from the fact that my kids have dizzying weekend schedules sending my wife and me criss-crossing town for the bulk of the day, I am also just one person.

By 3:30 p.m. or so most Saturdays or Sundays, I find myself in a familiar spot: tired, maybe a little frustrated and probably stressed — and probably having made minimal progress on my to-do list. A cup of coffee would pick me up but maybe amplify my stress. A beer might nudge me toward completely giving up on my productive goals.

Perhaps I could combine the two? Well, you know, a coffee stout isn’t going to provide a caffeine boost but a slow-sipping brew featuring big notes of roasted coffee and dark chocolate might be just what the doctor ordered for easing frustration, while still allowing some modicum of productivity. Or maybe I just have a never-ending ability to find ways to justify having a beer?

I’ve written about coffee stouts and porters before and I’ll write about them again. These beers are like a coffee drinker’s dream: smooth, creamy brews boasting rich flavors of decadent coffee. And, might I add, it’s the perfect time of year to explore darker beers. Picture yourself spending the day Christmas shopping and running holiday-related errands, and then turning to a deliciously smooth coffee-flavored brew as you shake off the edginess from navigating holiday crowds.

In the age of buying local, brewers are more and more turning to local coffee roasters to flavor their coffee brews as well, which is a great touch resulting in unique, flavorful beers. And you can feel good about supporting your local economy.

Thankfully, craft brewers have fully embraced this style. Here are five coffee stouts and porters from the region to help you get through this busy and hopefully somewhat productive month.

Java Roots by Granite Roots Brewing (Troy)

This is just a coffee and chocolate bomb in a smooth, silky package. Granite Roots sources its coffee beans for this brew from Barrington Coffee Roasting Co., which is based in western Massachusetts. A perfect iteration of the coffee stout.

Gunner’s Daughter with Coffee by Mast Landing Brewing Co. (Westbrook, Maine)

The original Gunner’s Daughter boasts huge notes of peanut butter, chocolate and coffee and the “with Coffee” version — you guessed it — features an even bigger coffee presence. Decadent doesn’t seem to cover this beer. This is dessert in a glass.

Gepetto by Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton)

The brewery makes the late addition of whole-bean coffee in this brew, which results in a slightly sweet brew that features not only coffee but also sweet chocolate and marshmallow. It’s kind of like drinking a glass of coffee milk, which my mother reminded me was my favorite childhood drink.

Velvet Moon by Mighty Squirrel Brewing Brewing Co. (Waltham, Mass.)

This brew is especially smooth and creamy and relies on a blend of Honduran, Nicaraguan and Ethiopian beans from Atomic Coffee Roasters for its unique, amplified coffee flavor. This one hits you with waves of coffee.

Coffee Cake Porter by 603 Brewery (Londonderry)

While this has plenty of rich coffee flavor, this brew goes beyond that with coffee flavors complemented by notes of vanilla, cinnamon and a little smokiness. This is perfect for the holiday season.

What’s in My Fridge
Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig by Boston Beer Co. (Boston)
This is such a nostalgic choice for me, as I have many memories of enjoying this brew during holiday get-togethers. What I like about this brew is that it does have a little holiday sweetness and spice, but it’s not overpowering. This is quite drinkable, while still feeling like you’ve captured the holiday season in a glass. Cheers!

Featured photo: Coffee and beer together as one. Courtesy photo.

Roasted beet terrine

Beets. They definitely were a vegetable that I did not appreciate nor enjoy as a kid. Now that I am an adult, they have moved quite high on the list of ingredients I enjoy cooking (and eating). I have noticed that they appear on many more restaurant menus as well, so I am not alone in my thinking.

If you are intrigued by beets or want to start using them in your cooking, this is a great recipe. It allows the beets to shine, it has an elegant look and the effort to make it is minimal. The entire recipe does require many hours, but the majority of that time is spent roasting, cooling and setting. Active cooking time is only 30 minutes or so.

The trickiest part of this recipe is the peeling of the beets. I have done this multiple times and have a few tips: (1) Let the beets cool a little bit, so they are easier to handle. (2) Have a generous supply of paper towels, as they aid in removing the skin and they keep your hands from turning purple. (3) If you don’t want a residual pink hue, wear gloves.

Once you have the beet peeling under control, the rest of the recipe is a simple mix of slicing, mixing and layering. From that effort you will have a delicious and beautiful appetizer.

Michele Pesula Kuegler has been thinking about food her entire life. Since 2007, the New Hampshire native has been sharing these food thoughts and recipes at her blog, Think Tasty. Visit thinktasty.com to find more of her recipes.

Roasted beet terrine
Serves 6

4 small beets
5½ ounces soft goat cheese
4 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper
Honey
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds
Flaked sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Wrap each beet in foil and place in oven; roast for 45 minutes or until fork tender.
Remove beets from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Using a paper towel, remove skin from beets; allow to cool fully.
Slice beets thinly.
Combine goat cheese and Greek yogurt until blended. Season to taste with black pepper.
Line a 9″x5″ loaf pan with plastic wrap.
Place a single layer of beets on the bottom of the pan.
Top beets with half of the goat cheese mixture.
Repeat with another layer of beets followed by remaining goat cheese mixture.
Top with final layer of beets.
Wrap plastic wrap around top of beets; refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Unwrap terrine and transfer to a serving plate.
Sprinkle almonds on top of terrine, drizzle with honey, and finish with a sprinkle of salt.
Cut into slices, and serve.

Photo: Roasted beet terrine. Courtesy photo.

In the kitchen with Gabe DiSaverio

Gabe DiSaverio combined his two greatest passions — spicy food and sharks — with the launch of The Spicy Shark (570-2604, thespicyshark.com, and on Facebook and Instagram @thespicyshark), a line of products that includes craft hot sauces, wing sauce, Sriracha, hot honey and hot syrups using all natural ingredients. Since the first bottle of hot sauce was sold in February 2019, the Portsmouth-based company has gone on to win multiple national awards, and DiSaverio and his team have participated in various festivals and shows all over the country. Born in Manhattan and raised in northern New Jersey, DiSaverio attributes his love of spicy food to his family’s introducing him to a variety of ethnic cuisines from a young age. His love of sharks, meanwhile, stems from being a lifelong fanatic of the film Jaws — today The Spicy Shark works with and donates to Save the Sharks and several other nonprofits that focus on shark conservation and education. The Spicy Shark will be a featured vendor at both the Made in New England Expo on Saturday, Dec. 4, and Sunday, Dec. 5, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown (700 Elm St.) and the Great New England Holiday Shopping Extravaganza on Friday, Dec. 10, and Saturday, Dec. 11, at the Hampshire Hills Athletic Club (50 Emerson Road, Milford). DiSaverio is also organizing a new event, the first annual New England Hot Sauce Fest, to be held at Smuttynose Brewing Co. in Hampton in July 2022. Proceeds from that festival will benefit the Blue Ocean Society and the Seacoast Science Center. Visit newenglandhotsaucefest.com.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A Vitamix blender. One thing that’s really key to our sauces is the texture. We [blend] every single one of our sauces to get that consistency that they have come to be known for.

What would you have for your last meal?

My wife’s Thanksgiving pizza. We take a Portland Pie Co. pizza dough and essentially throw all of our Thanksgiving leftovers on it.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

That’s an easy one. That would be Petey’s [Summertime Seafood & Bar] in Rye.

What celebrity would you like to see trying one of your sauces?

Richard Dreyfuss. … Out of the original trio in Jaws, he’s the only one of the three who is still alive. He played Matt Hooper, the marine biologist. I actually got to meet him at SharkCon in Tampa earlier this year.

What is your personal favorite sauce that you make?

Each one is so near and dear to me, but if I had to say just one it would be the Hammah Gatah. I love blazing hot heat, and this sauce is my hottest. I put it on everything.

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

Eating local and knowing where your food is coming from. … This is something that’s been going on for a long time but still continues to pick up more and more speed. I see a lot more people being part of CSAs now, my family included.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

This changes all the time, but I would say right now we’ve been perfecting vegan lasagna. We make our own cashew cream and our own homemade marinara sauce.

Hot honey lemon chicken
From the kitchen of Gabe DiSaverio of The Spicy Shark

⅓ cup The Spicy Shark hot honey
¼ cup lemon juice
5 to 7 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary)
1½ pounds chicken breast tenderloins
½ Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or nonstick cooking spray)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat or spray tenderloins with the olive oil or cooking spray and place in an 11×7-inch baking dish. Combine hot honey, lemon juice and rosemary into a small bowl and mix well until all ingredients are fully incorporated (if using fresh rosemary, do not put in bowl; add to baking dish in between tenderloins). Pour the sauce over the tenderloins and make sure it gets underneath. Place the baking dish in the oven uncovered and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the thermometer reaches 165 degrees. Flip the tenderloins halfway through cooking (optional: brown both sides in a hot pan on the stove if desired).

Featured photo: Gabe DiSaverio. Courtesy photo.

Farmhouse artisan

The Utopian now open in Amherst

Adam Parker’s culinary journey has taken him from upstate New York all the way down to Boca Raton, Florida, with multiple stints in New Hampshire in between. Now the seasoned chef and Nashua native has his own new spot — a cozy bistro in Amherst specializing in scratch-made small plates, entrees and monthly wine dinners.

The Utopian, now open in the MC Square plaza on Route 101A, is Parker’s first restaurant as owner. He learned about the vacant space that was previously used as A&E’s coffee roastery through a friend and said the pandemic ended up being the ultimate driving force for him.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, [but] with the pandemic I looked around and I said to myself that at any given point everything can come to a screeching halt and I’d rather be in charge of my own destiny,” said Parker, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America and most recently served as the corporate chef overseeing operations at Fratello’s Italian Grille and The Homestead Restaurant & Tavern. “From there it just slowly started coming together.”

Parker said The Utopian’s concept can best be described as “farmhouse artisan,” with tabletops made from repurposed wood and an always changing selection of locally sourced options. The eatery’s name is a nod to Sir Thomas More’s 16th-century book Utopia, a word he coined for a perfect world or place in which people can come together to live in commonality.

Photo courtesy of The Utopian.

The menu combines Parker’s own favorite foods to eat and cook with items his guests have responded well to over the course of his career. There’s a base offering of shareable plates like Parmesan chicken egg rolls, meat and cheese platters, artichoke or Buffalo chicken dips, and porcini ricotta meatballs with sage cream. But Parker has dabbled in a variety of other dishes out of the gate, from beef stroganoff and chicken Marsala to a vegan butternut squash risotto.

He has even added items to his regular menu that originated as individual customer requests.

“I just kind of listen to the environment that’s around me and I try to be in touch with what’s going on. That seems to help,” he said. “Everything’s made fresh and cooked to order, and I really love being able to individually create food for each person.”

For the last decade, Parker has owned New Hampshire Hot Sauce, a purveyor of four signature hot sauces that can be found across 50 different locations across the state, including The Utopian.

Desserts are fresh too, like chocolate peanut butter pie, Key lime pie, chocolate mousse “bombs,” and cannolis with homemade filling. The Utopian also features a full lineup of both local and imported wines, and has begun holding ticketed wine dinners, usually on the first Tuesday of each month. The next available wine dinner is scheduled for Jan. 11.

The Utopian

Where:
135 Route 101A, Unit A1, Amherst
Hours: Wednesday through Friday, 5 to 8:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.
More info: Visit theutopiannh.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of The Utopian.

Gourmet flavors

Delicious eats and more at Made in New England Expo

From artisan chocolates, baked goods and other sweet treats to spice mixes, hot sauces and locally roasted coffees, there will be plenty for foodies to discover at the Made in New England Expo. More than 80 vendors from across New Hampshire and its neighboring states will be selling their products under one roof during the two-day show, which returns to the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown for the fourth year on Saturday, Dec. 4, and Sunday, Dec. 5.

The event was originally conceived following the success of the Made in New Hampshire Expo, a similar multi-day show typically held in late March, said organizer Heidi Copeland, publisher of Business NH magazine and owner of EventsNH.

“We actually do have quite a bit of new vendors this year, because a lot of people at the beginning of the pandemic … were thinking about what they were going to do to make a living, and they ended up starting new businesses,” Copeland said.

Made in New England Expo. Photo by Matthew Lomanno Photography.

One such company is Mixed Up Nut Butter out of Vermont, which offers a line of craft nut butters made from different tree nut blends with pecans, cashews, almonds and more. Two new small-batch coffee roasters based in the Granite State will be there too — Critical Mass Coffee, which has multiple bagged blends of organic fair trade coffee; and Hato Viejo Coffee, a purveyor that sources its beans from the Dominican Republic.

Other newcomers to this year’s expo include Sunshine Baking, a New Hampshire company offering freshly baked shortbread cookies that launched earlier this year, and Pumpkin Blossom Farm, which has several lavender-infused products like a lavender honey and a lavender blueberry drink mixer, as well as soaps, lotions, bath sprays and more.

If you’ve attended the event previously, you’ll likely encounter some familiar faces. Chrismix Candy of Concord, for instance, will be back with its sweet and salty toffees, while Thistle’s All Natural, based in Loudon, will be selling its homemade zucchini salsas.

There is also a small overlap of businesses that have participated in the Made in New Hampshire Expo in past years, like Sap House Meadery of Ossipee, which will have canned selections of its craft meads; Loon Chocolate, a producer of small-batch bean-to-bar chocolates; and Smokin’ Tin Roof, a Manchester husband-and-wife team offering specialty hot sauces, jellies and mustards.

According to Copeland, food exhibitors are not required to offer samples, but per pandemic guidelines, those who do must provide them in individually wrapped or closed containers.

In addition to specialty foods and drinks, companies will be selling everything from jewelry, clothing and personal care products to candles, wildlife photography and various home decor. Copeland said the expo is a great opportunity for attendees to get some holiday shopping done while supporting local businesses.

“There’s always that chance that people are not going to be able to find things they want to order online, or they may be delayed,” she said. “Here, you can go pick something up that’s unique and locally produced, and the money you spend stays here and goes back into the local economy.”

Made in New England Expo

When:
Saturday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown (Expo Center), 700 Elm St., Manchester
Cost: $9 admission for adults, $7 for seniors ages 65 and over, $2 for children ages 2 to 12 and free for children under 2 ($2 per child under 2 if bringing a stroller into the hall). Tickets are only available at the door (cash or check only).
More info: Visit madeinnewenglandexpo.com or follow them on Facebook @madeinnewenglandexpo
Face masks will be required for all attendees.

Featured photo: Made in New England Expo. Photo by Matthew Lomanno Photography.

The Weekly Dish 21/12/02

News from the local food scene

Lamb dinners to go: Join St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (1160 Bridge St., Manchester) for its annual baked lamb dinner, a takeout-only drive-thru event happening on Sunday, Dec. 12, from noon to 2 p.m. Now through Tuesday, Dec. 7, orders are being accepted for meals featuring baked leg of lamb au jus, with rice pilaf, Greek-style green beans, a salad and bread for $20 per person. Contact Barbara George at the church office at 623-6115 or via email at bitos1254@yahoo.com to reserve your dinner, which will be ready for pickup at the church.

A piece of the pie: The Nashua Public Library will present a virtual event about savory pies and tarts on Monday, Dec. 6, from 7 to 8 p.m. featuring Chef Liz Barbour of The Creative Feast in Hollis. Barbour will demonstrate her favorite pie dough recipe and prepare a meat pie, with vegetarian options, and a seasonal vegetable tart. Visit nashualibrary.org to register and receive a Zoom invitation link to the event. Barbour has a full schedule of other virtual cooking events throughout the month of December. Visit thecreativefeast.com for more events.

Brunch with Santa: Get your tickets now before they’re gone to Polar Express brunch at LaBelle Winery in Amherst (345 Route 101) on Saturday, Dec. 18, from 10 a.m. to noon. In addition to assorted scones, muffins and rolls, the menu will feature a multi-course food offering and holiday-inspired cocktails. The event also includes a screening of The Polar Express and photo opportunities with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. Admission, after taxes, is $41.31 for adults and $23.09 for kids ages 3 and up. Visit labellewinery.com.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!