Everyday IPAs

Some IPAs now are borderline crushable

IPAs are king. But they’re also super confusing.

You’ve got American IPAs, New England IPAs, West Coast IPAs, session IPAs, double IPAs, Imperial IPAs, triple IPAs, oat IPAs, East Coast IPAs, Belgian IPAs, British IPAs and so on and so forth. And I didn’t even say anything about double, single or triple dry-hopping. And I definitely didn’t say anything about different hop strains.

It’s just a lot. My head is spinning.

Now, of course, there’s quite a bit of overlap within those categories and styles and every brewer is putting his or her own twist on all of their brews, not just IPAs, so every West Coast IPA is going to be a little different — maybe even a lot different. So I’m not sure it’s really worth trying to break it all down. And I’m not sure I even could.

Across the board, IPAs are incredibly flavorful and frankly exciting brews. They are bursting with hoppy flavor.

But, as I’ve written many times, they can be a bit much. Sometimes you want to have a few beers, and double IPAs that come in with an ABV of more than 8 percent are not conducive to drinking multiple beers. And beyond the alcohol, IPAs can just carry a little extra heft that can bog you down a little bit.

I’ve been pleased to see and taste a “new wave” of IPAs that are what I like to call “tweeners.” They’re not quite session IPAs, which I think can sometimes drink more like hoppy light beers than actual IPAs, but they’re not quite your standard IPA, at least in terms of drinkability. These are IPAs coming in at about 5.5 percent to 6 percent ABV but still offering plenty of hoppy, citrusy, piney goodness, but with a little less heft.

I’m not sure if it’s actually a new wave or just coincidence — or if it’s all in my head — but I’ve had several lately and if it is an actual trend I think it’s a good one.

Here are three IPAs to whet your whistle that fall right into my tweener category.

Glory American IPA by Wachusett Brewing Co. (Westminster, Mass.)

I realize it’s obvious that this brewery has a special place in my heart but I really think it’s with good reason. Glory is incredibly easy to drink but doesn’t sacrifice flavor. You’ll definitely pick up plenty of tropical fruit notes, coupled with bright, pleasing bitterness. Plus, the can design, featuring some red, white and blue action, is a winner.

Angelica Hazy IPA by Lord Hobo Brewing Co. (Woburn, Mass.)

The brewery website says this brew was “designed to be a one-of-a-kind showcase for the magnificent Mosaic hop, bringing forth strong citrus flavors.” It also notes the “color, haze and taste are as if you’re drinking a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice with full mouthfeel.” I’m not sure I’d go that far and I don’t mean that as criticism. This drinks much lighter than that to me, and pleasingly so. There’s definitely plenty of fresh citrus flavor and the color is definitely reminiscent of a glass of OJ — and at 5.5 percent, you can have more than one. ​

Matchplay IPA by Smuttynose Brewing Co. (Hampton)

Formerly named the “Backswing IPA.” I haven’t tried this one but this fits the bill to a tee. I’m not sure if you caught what I just did there. The brewery says this is “soft and refreshing, yet packed with bright and bold hops.” Seems well worth a try to me. Smuttynose also brews a Backcheck IPA that is a little higher in ABV.

What’s in my fridge?

Little Choppy Hoppy Session Ale by Mast Landing Brewing Co. (Westbrook, Maine)
Speaking of sessionable brews, Little Choppy is about as crushable as it gets at 4.3 percent ABV. This has a pleasing and somewhat surprising bitterness, coupled with a nice combination of citrus and pine I think. I liked it more and more as I worked my way through the can. Cheers!

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

Snickerdoodle muffins

Isn’t it every child’s dream to be able to eat cookies for breakfast? Actually, don’t a lot of adults have that dream? While I can’t fully endorse cookies for breakfast, I absolutely can support making and eating muffins that taste just like a cookie!

Snickerdoodles have been a regularly made cookie in my home, both as a child and a mom. The combination of sugar and cinnamon plus an interesting hint of tartness makes them a “hard to eat just one” cookie. Turn them into a muffin, and they’re a delicious way to start the day.

Most of the ingredients in these muffins are pretty straightforward and probably are items that can be found in your refrigerator and pantry. The one ingredient you may not have but absolutely need is cream of tartar. You’ll find it in the spice section in the grocery store. Although you need only a small amount, it gives these muffins that special something. As for the milk in the recipe, use whatever you have: plant-based, whole milk, skim. It really doesn’t matter.

Now, for serving them, I highly recommend eating them warm, sliced in half and topped with a little bit of butter. They are so delicious they might be called “hard to eat just one” muffins.

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.

Snickerdoodle muffins
Makes 12

Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Muffin topping
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Muffins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt and sugar.
In a large measuring cup whisk the milk, vanilla and egg together.
Add the milk mixture and 1/3 cup melted butter to the flour mixture.
Stir just until flour mixture is fully moistened. It may be lumpy.
Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes.
Cool muffins in the pan for 5 minutes.

Topping
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.
Remove the muffins from the pan.
Brush the tops of the muffins with the melted butter.
Generously sprinkle the tops with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Photo: Snickerdoodle muffins. Courtesy photo.

In the kitchen with Gabe Alpuerto

Inspired by made-to-order tableside guacamole at his favorite Mexican restaurants, Gabriel “Gabe” Alpuerto of Londonderry started creating his own at home and would bring it to parties. After realizing that the avocados would go brown during longer trips, Alpuerto decided to instead pre-make and bottle his tomato mix and, when he arrived at his destination, make the guacamole on site. That turned out to be a game-changer. Gabe and his wife Melissa started Solo Agrega Guacamole (soloagrega.com, and on Facebook @soloagregaguacamole), now producing their guacamole mix at Creative Chef Kitchens in Derry and selling it at several local stores, including Mr. Steer Meats (27 Buttrick Road, Londonderry), the farm stand at Sunnycrest Farm (59 High Range Road, Londonderry) and The Flying Butcher (124 Route 101A, Amherst). The company’s name translates to “add one,” or as Alpuerto likes to say, “just add avocados.” But the mix, he said, is also great as an ingredient for spreads, quesos or simple salads. In addition to being sold in stores, Solo Agrega is a regular vendor at the Pelham Farmers Market on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., outside the First Congregational Church of Pelham (3 Main St.).

What is your must-have kitchen item?

My knife is my best friend. That’s the one thing that I can’t live without.

What would you have for your last meal?

I’m a big fan of spaghetti. A big bowl of my mom’s spaghetti is a meal I could probably eat all day long, every day for the rest of my life.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

La Carreta, because we love Mexican.

What celebrity would you like to see trying your product?

I would go with Oprah [Winfrey] on that one. I feel like whatever Oprah says kind of becomes the trend.

What is your favorite thing to use your product on?

I’m a simple guy and just like it with a nice tortilla chip, or even kettle chips are great too.

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

I don’t think it’s any dish per se, but I think everyone is gravitating more toward eating local and supporting local businesses.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

A nice big breakfast. … I feel like breakfast makes anyone happy, no matter what time of the day.

Chickpea salad
From the kitchen of Gabe Alpuerto of Solo Agrega Guacamole

1 can chickpeas
3 ounces Greco Greek feta cheese
½ cup Solo Agrega guacamole mix

Drain chickpeas. Mash ⅓ cup in a bowl and leave the rest whole. Toss with Solo Agrega mix and feta. Serve and enjoy.

Featured photo: Gabe Alpuerto. Courtesy photo.

What’re we drinking?

Bartenders talk about serving cocktails in 2021, plus what trends are in the mix

Dan Haggerty and Jeremy Hart weren’t sure what to expect as they prepared to open their new craft cocktail bar and eatery in early February. Although vaccine rollouts were well underway, New Hampshire remained under a state of emergency, with the statewide mask mandate still in effect and spacing restrictions at bars and restaurants in nearly every county.

Three nights into the bartending duo’s first week open at Industry East Bar in downtown Manchester, a friend came in to visit — and later ended up jumping behind the bar herself.

“She was just in the bar checking it out and she goes, ‘It’s really busy. If you guys need any help…’ and so then I was like, ‘Can you come in tomorrow?’” Haggerty said. “So she became kind of our barback and food runner for a little bit, just by being there.”

Jeremy Hart, bartender and co-owner of Industry East Bar in Manchester. Photo by Live Free or Die Design Photography @livefreeordiedesignphoto.

When the last of the restrictions were lifted early in the spring, “it was like the floodgates opened,” according to Haggerty, with a constant turnaround of thirsty customers that dwarfed even what he, Hart and executive chef Jeff Martin saw during their first few weeks. He can count on one hand the number of times that Industry East has closed early, at or before midnight.

“I didn’t think that people would consume as much product as they are consuming,” Haggerty said. “I don’t know if it was just because all they had been spending money on was Amazon and takeout, and so they were like, ‘Oh my God, I’m at a bar, and someone’s actually making me a drink,’ [but] people are consuming food and drink at an insane pace right now.”

In spite of their immediate success, the small team has also encountered challenges along the way, from finding adequate staffing to acquiring quality products for drinks.

Bar managers and bartenders of both new and established restaurants have faced all kinds of similar obstacles over the year and a half that continue to linger today. We spoke with several of them to get a sense of what life has been like behind the bar.

Setting the bar

Kellie Connolly, bar manager at the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford, was out of work for about three weeks during the initial pandemic shutdown. She returned to a bar that was rendered completely unrecognizable, transformed instead into a “conveyor belt” for takeout orders.

“All of the alcohol was off the bar. Everything had been boxed up and stored away,” Connolly said of the early months of the pandemic. “The beer coolers and wine fridges were full because [we] were now able to utilize those in a takeout fashion. … But besides that, it was an empty hub, no longer anything of what you would have seen at a bar. It was very bizarre.”

Connolly was part of a small team of staff that were brought back originally and included both bartenders and servers. But with no bar in the traditional sense, there was no cocktail mixing.

“No longer were you a bartender. You were just a man on the team and it was everyone in and everyone out. That was kind of the mentality of it,” she said. “We all had positions, whether it was answering phones, running takeout orders, or doing the cleaning. It was all hands on deck.”

The bar would eventually see its alcohol replenished with the return of indoor and outdoor dining. Social distancing restrictions, however, required the Copper Door to use only half of its bar seats, with dividers placed between pairs. But even then, only parties of guests who came to the bar together were able to be in adjacent seats — unless the dividers moved, a single person sitting in one chair would make the chair beside it unusable.

“You could slide a seat down and make a three-person section, [but] you couldn’t move the chairs from one side to the other,” Connolly said. “It was like a game of Tetris, just constant moving. … Reintroducing people to the new landscape and just explaining everything to them how we were doing things was also a big part of the job.”

Bar seats were similarly spaced out at Shopper’s Pub + Eatery in Manchester, which originally closed for about a month and a half, according to general manager Nick Carnes.

“When we initially reopened indoors, we started with about five of our 16 bar and waitstaff,” he said, “and then it was just a solid six-month stretch where it was just myself and one other person every day, all day open to close, just trying to grind everything out by ourselves.”

Spacing is already an inherent challenge at Industry East with only 20 indoor seats. Carnes noted that, with the Residence Inn by Marriott hotel directly next door, Shopper’s tends to see an influx of customers who are traveling for work during the week. Especially in the early days of the pandemic, this meant out-of-staters who were essential travelers.

“Every now and then, you’d have one guy that doesn’t know anybody that just flew into town, he’d sit down and take up three seats [at the bar], and then nobody could sit in those other two seats,” he said. “So it was a mixture of making sure you could come out and have a good night … while keeping everyone else safe and making sure nobody else got sick.”

But overall, Haggerty said the consensus among patrons has been one of both positivity and gratitude.

“I think 99 percent [have been] happy, fun-loving people, being almost extra nice,” he said. “Generally, pretty much everyone is like, ‘Hey, I’m so glad that your profession is still a thing and you guys are open. Thanks so much.’ … But I mean, only a certain percentage of the population is still even coming out. We get people in here every single day that say this is the first place they’ve gone since last March.”

The “Vax.” pictured with Madears co-owner, chef and mixologist Robb Curry, has carrot juice, orange juice, ginger, lemon juice and a simple syrup, and includes a side of either tequila or brandy to “inject” into it. Courtesy photo.

Similarly, the new location of Madear’s Southern Eatery & Bakery in downtown Pembroke that opened last October has introduced many more people in the area to the eatery’s scratch-made Southern concept. Co-owner, chef and mixologist Robb Curry said he and partner Kyle Davis now have a much larger kitchen and bar, as well as nearly twice the dining room capacity as their predecessor on Hanover Street in Manchester.

“For the most part, our guests have been very respectful and understanding,” Curry said of the overall response so far. “I do also see that people at the bar tend to be a lot more understanding because they see more of what’s going on between the kitchen and the front of the house.”

Regulars were also happy to return to the bar at Stella Blu in Nashua when it reopened last year.

“We … had to put time limits in place, but we weren’t having to really use them or say it to people,” front-of-the-house manager and bartender Elissa Drift said. “They were definitely respectful enough to kind of just go with the flow.”

While the Copper Door has steadily maintained a loyal clientele, Connolly said she has noticed a shift in bargoers’ overall habits within the last year to year and a half.

“Happy Hour starts a lot earlier now,” she said. “Normally that was around 4:30, 5 o’clock, but now it’s at 2:30 or 3. … What was the quieter time is now full of people that are just done with working at their house and are coming out for that afternoon cocktail. At least in this area, I feel like the whole flow has altered a little bit.”

Thirsty trends

Since Industry East opened its doors earlier this year, Haggerty has noticed distinct trends in the types of cocktails being ordered.

“The espresso martini is back in full force. I think I’ve made more espresso martinis in the last six months than I’ve made in the last three years,” he said. “A ton of people are ordering cosmos too. … All of those older drinks that kind of went away after the early to mid-2000s, when the craft cocktail movement had a boom, are now back.”

There has also been a significant boom in tequila-based cocktails, and not just because it’s summer. The most popular specialty drink currently on Industry East’s menu is known as the C.R.E.A.M. (as Haggerty explains, an acronym standing for “Cucumber Rules Everything Around Me”). That drink features a cucumber shrub and tequila base with lemon juice, a little bit of jalapeno to offset its sweetness and a cucumber ribbon garnish with salt and pepper.

“Even in February when we opened … everybody has been way into tequila. I can’t explain it,” Haggerty said. “I think maybe a lot of people are just getting into it that maybe hadn’t been, or they were just like, ‘You know what, I’m really tired of drinking vodka.’ … People will drink tequila on the rocks. I’ve also seen people get tequila old-fashioneds.”

Drift agreed that tequila is a leading trend in the cocktail world right now, followed by bourbon and also Aperol spritzers. Options at Stella Blu include a blood orange paloma with fresh pressed juice and a house-made mango habanero salt; a strawberry jalapeno margarita with pureed fruit and a zesty lime salt rim; and a tequila and mezcal-based drink called the Mezcalita, featuring pineapple juice, Cointreau orange liqueur and a smoky-flavored house vanilla bean syrup.

The espresso martini at the Copper Door — called the Rocket — has been among the eatery’s top-selling cocktails, according to Connolly, as well as the restaurant’s blood orange cosmo, which uses Solerno blood orange liqueur, cranberry juice and a freshly squeezed lime; and the “Pepperoncini-Tini,” featuring olive juice, pepperoncini juice and blue cheese-stuffed olives.

Connolly added that a menu of mocktail options was rolled out last year to rave reviews.

“I’ve really seen, especially since Covid, a spike in people coming out and choosing a craft mocktail instead of a cocktail,” he said. “We also have a few unique non-alcoholic beers that have been flying off the shelves.”

Madear’s has had fun with all kinds of creative drinks, including a few that are meant to be satirical of the times, like the “Covid rum punch.” Another one, known simply as the “Vax,” is a mimosa-style cocktail featuring orange, carrot and mango juices, ginger bitters and your choice of an “injected” ounce and a half of tequila or an ounce and a half of brandy.

“All of those are super juices, so the idea was it was something to build the immune system,” Curry said. “It was something that was immensely popular when the vaccinations came out.”

Ready-to-drink canned cocktails are also a major trend. Carnes said they became a game-changer at Shopper’s with the onset of the pandemic when it comes to customer volume.

“The main concern right now is if you don’t have the staff to really maintain with cocktails … the simplicity is where you need to try to make up for it,” he said, “and [the canned cocktails] are all good. It’s not like you’re downgrading by getting one.”

Staffing and production

Consumers may have returned to the bar in droves, but managers say the pandemic has resulted in unprecedented struggles in obtaining product. This goes for everything from specific liquor brands to some of the most arbitrary of cocktail ingredients — and, in some cases, even beer.

“Big names like Budweiser and Coors … have stopped production of bottled beers due to a glass shortage,” Drift said. “So what you see is what you get right now. Whatever is in stock is being blown through, and after that it will just be cans and aluminum bottles, or on draft.”

Early on, Haggerty said even getting basic supplies like silverware and rocks glasses was a challenge, due to the high volume of inventory ordering that took place as restaurants and bars reopened. Finding and maintaining a quality staff has itself also been an issue at times.

“It’s a little better now, but at the start it was like pulling teeth trying to find anyone,” he said.

Staffing in general has been tough at Madear’s, especially behind the bar and at the front of the house, Curry said. Moving out of the Queen City to Pembroke, a much smaller town, Curry said he had the idea that the space would get more of a basic drink crowd. But the opposite has been true, as over the last year he has sold more signature craft cocktails.

“It’s easier for me to get a server than it is a bartender. … Bartending tends to have a lot more responsibility behind it than on the service side, especially in our establishment,” he said. “You’re not only bartending, you’re also a liaison between the back of the house and the front of the house, so you’re at the first step of things coming out.”

Left to right: The Blood Orange Cosmo, the Copper Door “Cosmo” with pomegranate juice, and the Pepperoncini-Tini with olive juice, all from the Copper Door. Courtesy photo.

Stella Blu transitioned to a tip pooling system for its staff, meaning that tips were divided amongst everyone based on the number of hours they work. Drift said that this has been an effective approach thus far at boosting the overall employee morale.

“We found, coming back from all of this, that the tip pool really does drive a better, more cohesive team,” she said. “There’s no ‘That’s my table.’ … I think guests get better service and better attention, and people are more willing to help each other because it’s for the greater good.”

Haggerty noted that a positive aspect to come out of the pandemic has been the renewed sense of solidarity among different places of business, especially for bar staff and waitstaff. He and Hart both picked up bartending shifts at Shopper’s while Industry East was still being built, for instance.

“Now that everyone’s been through the wringer … there’s been almost this revamped, new kind of inter-bar camaraderie,” Haggerty said. “It’s really cool now to be able to see that happening.”

Crafty Cocktails

We asked local bartenders and bar managers which types of cocktails have been trending lately. Here’s a snapshot of some of those drinks and where you can get them.

C.R.E.A.M. (“Cucumber Rules Everything Around Me”)
From behind the bar at Industry East Bar, 28 Hanover St., Manchester, 232-6940, industryeastbar.com

Mi Campo tequila
lemon juice
cucumber shrub
Dolin Blanc vermouth
ancho verde liqueur
jalapeno tincture

The “Rocket” espresso martini
From behind the bar at The Copper Door Restaurant, 15 Leavy Dr., Bedford, 488-2677; 41 S. Broadway, Salem, 458-2033; copperdoor.com

vanilla vodka
Baileys Irish Cream liqueur
dark crème de cacao
freshly brewed espresso

Chocolate coconut macaroon
From behind the bar at Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 578-5557, stellablu-nh.com

Chocolate coconut cream
coconut rum
amaretto liqueur
toasted coconut rim

Blood orange paloma
From behind the bar at Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 578-5557, stellablu-nh.com

tequila
fresh-pressed blood orange juice
squeezed lime
soda float
mango habanero salt

The “Vax”
From behind the bar at Madear’s Southern Eatery & Bakery, 141 Main St., Pembroke, 210-5557, madears603.com

carrot juice
mango juice
orange juice
lime juice
ginger bitters
(optional) tequila or brandy on the side

Industry East Bar’s espresso martini
From behind the bar of Industry East Bar, 28 Hanover St., Manchester, 232-6940, industryeastbar.com

Caffe Borghetti espresso liqueur
Vodka
Orange bitters
Chocolate bitters
Cinnamon tincture

Strawberry jalapeno margarita
From behind the bar of Stella Blu, 70 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 578-5557, stellablu-nh.com

Tequila
Fresh pureed strawberries
Jalapeno-infused simple syrup
Squeezed lime
Zesty lime salt rim

Featured photo: Sandy Rozek, bar and beverage director for the Copper Door. Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 21/08/26

News from the local food scene

A taste of Brazil: Head to Greeley Park (100 Concord St., Nashua) for Brazil Fest, a one-day celebration of Brazilian culture featuring authentic foods, live music, dancing and more happening on Saturday, Aug. 28, from noon to 7 p.m. Since its inaugural event in 2016 as a way for Brazilian people in the area to come together and get to know one another, Brazil Fest has grown into the area’s largest Brazilian cultural festival. Restaurants and community members serve up authentic food options for the duration of the event — past items have included savory thin-crust pies called pastels, as well as Brazilian-style crepes with a variety of fillings; Brazilian-seasoned steak and chicken kebabs; and coxinhas, or fried dough filled with shredded chicken, sauce and vegetables. Admission is free and foods are priced per item. See “BrazilFest 2021” on Facebook for more details.

Island eats: Indonesian Community Connect will host its next Little Indonesian Marketplace at the Little Indonesia Cultural Center (156 High St., Somersworth) on Saturday, Aug. 28, from noon to 6 p.m. Held on the last Saturday of each month, the marketplace acts as a cultural bazaar, featuring traditional Indonesian food, arts and crafts, music, clothes and more, plus a local job fair and a gift shop with Indonesian candies, snacks, handcrafted decorations, souvenirs and more. Popular food options have included nasi uduk, a coconut rice combo served with either meats like fried chicken or vegetables, and tahu goreng (fried tofu). Visit indonesianconnect.org/little-indonesia-marketplace.

Smoothie Bus opens third shop: The Smoothie Bus Shoppe opened a new location earlier this month at 102 March Ave. in Manchester, its second spot in the Queen City and third in New Hampshire overall. Originally launched in 2018 as a mobile smoothie bus service only, the company has expanded to multiple brick-and-mortar locations, first in the Brady Sullivan Plaza in Manchester in early 2019 and then at 62 Pleasant St. in Concord last year. The Smoothie Bus Shoppe is now up to more than 40 different smoothies to choose from, as well as smoothie bowls, fresh juices and more. The new shop is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit thesmoothiebus.com.

Flipping the tables: More than a dozen New Hampshire eateries have begun using Fliptable, a new restaurant staffing app launched earlier this month in the state that offers a free, contactless digital hiring platform for restaurant owners and job seekers. According to an Aug. 9 press release, Fliptable instantly finds and connects job seekers with relevant and open positions in their area. The app officially launched in Burlington, Vermont, earlier this summer, and more than 80 restaurants across the country are now using it. Job seekers can access all job postings for free and can apply to unlimited positions. For restaurants, Fliptable is free to use until the business decides to conduct interviews, which then require a paid subscription. The app is available to download on iPhone and Android devices.

Local flavors

Wines that help you dig in to the Mediterranean

The domestication of grapes and the production of wine have their roots in the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor as early as 6000 B.C. Through trade, the agriculture and imbibing of the fruit of these labors spread throughout the Mediterranean to the coasts of modern-day Turkey, Lebanon and ancient Greece. The Greeks, in turn, took their favorite beverage to southern Italy, Sicily, Sardinia and the southern coast of France and Spain as early as the eighth century B.C. with their establishment of trading ports. In this column we will explore a lesser-known white wine from Sardinia and a robust red wine from the Languedoc region of southwest France.

Our first wine, a 2019 La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna, by Sella & Mosca (originally $13.99, reduced to $11.99 at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets), is a wine most associated with Sardinia. Known as rolle in southern France, and grown in several different regions in Italy, it has been cultivated almost exclusively in Sardinia’s Gallura region, on the northern tip of the island. The label of this wine includes the statement, “Denominazione di Origine Controllato, the most strictly regulated denomination in Italy – Vermentino di Gallura.” These grapes thrive in Gallura’s vineyards, buffeted by the strong cold mistral winds that originate in the Atlantic and North Sea, travel across France, then leave the mainland entering the Gulf of Lion in the northern Mediterranean. The name “mistral” comes from the Languedoc dialect of Occitan and means “masterly.”

Vermentino lacks the strong acidity of most Italian wines, and Sardinia’s vermentino runs the spectrum from round and tropical to linear and mineral. The differences depend on where it is grown and the winemaker’s style. Some use steel, although some also age in wood. “Vermentinos from Gallura are structured but elegant, with pronounced mineral, almond and balsamic notes. They also have a hint of saltiness, thanks to the vicinity of the sea,” says Emanuele Ragnedda, of Capichera, a producer in the region. This vermentino has a pale straw color. To the nose it has a very slight tropical pineapple note along with pear and a touch of lemon blossom. To the tongue it is fresh with citrus, with some minerality, ending on a crisp note. This is great aperitif wine or it can be paired with seafood.

Our second wine hails from the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France. This spans the coastal region of France from the border with Spain to Provence. There are around 700,000 acres under vines, making it the single biggest wine-producing region in the world, being responsible for more than a third of France’s total wine production. Languedoc was first planted by the Greeks in the fifth century B.C., and along with Provence is the oldest wine-producing region in France. The region excelled in wine production from the 4th century through the early 19th century. The phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century severely affected the Languedoc wine industry and the region faced economic difficulties well into the ’70s until outside investment and re-focusing production led to many good new single varietal and classically blended wines.

The 2016 Domaine La Rougeante Corbières (originally $35.99, reduced to $17.99 at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets) is that classic blend of mouvèdre, grenache and syrah. The color is a dense, opaque maroon; the nose is of blackberry and plum with some dried herbal notes. These carry through to the tongue in a full mouth feel with medium leathery tannins, which call for air after opening. A long finish with these rich fruit notes ends in some minerality. This is a wine to be enjoyed now or cellared for three more years and paired with grilled red meat, a rich stew, or a hearty pasta. The local fare of the Corbières region that runs from the Mediterranean coast to the Pyrenees with its Catalan culture includes tomato, garlic, eggplant and artichoke. These are dishes rich in flavor, so the wine needs to be robust and hearty to stand up to the food, and this wine does just that.

These two wines differ markedly from the routine whites and reds consumed on a regular basis. They are worth exploring not only for their uniqueness but to honor their storied past. Take a virtual trip to the ancient Mediterranean with these two wines. Invite them to your next dinner on the patio.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

A drink for your imaginary yacht

I understand that you’ve got a lot going on right now — a pandemic, work headaches, psychotic squirrels terrorizing your birdfeeder, etc. So it’s understandable if you’ve lost track of things and forgotten that it is Yachting Season. We’ve only got so much emotional bandwidth, and some things drop through the cracks.

Fortunately, Esquire has your back. Or at least they did in 1969.

The Esquire Drink Book from that year strikes a very particular tone. Hidden amongst the recipes for Brandy Daiseys, Black Roses and racially-insensitively-named drinks that were probably pretty good but have been ruined for us now are the cryptic instructions for an innocuous-sounding cocktail called the Connecticut Bullfrog:

“This cocktail must never be served on shore but always on a boat, provided that the boat is not over 45 feet long, and the owner is the skipper (no hired hand). The ingredients are awful but the result does have something. Here they are and you must have them on board:

4 parts gin

1 part New England rum

1 part lemon juice

1 part maple syrup

Shake these ingredients together until your arms ache. Then have someone else do the same thing with about 10 times the usual amount of ice.”

Esquire Drink Book, Frederic A. Birmingham, 1969, E.P. Dutton & Co., p. 216.

Having all these ingredients on hand, and being emotionally and intellectually at sea, I felt the need to field test the Bullfrog. I am the sole owner of my entirely imaginary yacht — which, being imaginary, is infinitely less than 45 feet long.

Not surprisingly, the Bullfrog was problematic from the get-go. I filled the large half of my cocktail shaker with ice — about 11 ounces — and added the seven ounces of liquid ingredients, at which point the smaller half of the shaker would no longer contain all the components.

(This cocktail deserves a poster: “The Connecticut Bullfrog cannot be contained.”)

So, I switched — as you will have to, if you decide to dance with the Bullfrog — to a large, one-quart jar.

I told my digital assistant to start a stopwatch, and started shaking.

The jar got uncomfortably cold very quickly — cold, as in frosty enough to bond my hands to the glass. Once I was able to pry them loose, this was solved by wrapping the jar in a tea towel.

The next problem was an unexpected one. I was pretty sure that my arms would start aching fairly quickly. I am not terribly fit in a general sense, but a regular regimen of martial arts and cocktail shaking have apparently toned me in unexpected ways. I lasted nine minutes. I know this because I asked my digital assistant how long I’d been shaking this jar.

“Over an extended period, possibly;” she told me, “then again, maybe not.” This sounds philosophically important, but was not as useful in a practical sense as I was looking for in the moment.

It took another full minute of shaking to stumble on an acceptably worded command to find out how long this exercise had been going on.

As instructed, I handed the jar off to my teenager in the next room, who lasted two minutes, five seconds before losing interest and handing it back to me.

At this point, a reasonable shaker (in a cocktail sense; I’m reasonably sure a Shaker, as in the 19th-century furniture-making religious community, would not have found themselves in this situation) could be forgiven for thinking that this project’s glitches were more or less over. Unfortunately, physics had other plans.

Air — particularly moist air — expands when it is heated and shrinks when it cools. Home canners use this fact to hermetically seal jars of compote and … stuff. Apparently, the same effect occurs when you shake an icy alcohol solution in a wide-mouthed jar for 11 minutes. It took a rubber jar-gripper and a lot of swearing to open the Bullfrog jar.

Pouring the contents into a tall glass was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy in contrast.

So, is the Connecticut Bullfrog worth all the effort? Is it actually any good?

Almost disappointingly: yeah, it is. I really wanted to sneer at a cocktail designed to be drunk by investment analysts named Scooter and Bunny, but this is one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve had in a long time. The combination of gin and dark rum — I went with Myers’s — gives an almost whiskey-like background flavor, which plays well with the acid of the lemon juice. There isn’t enough maple syrup to make this too sweet, but enough that there is some body and depth.

I do feel that more experimentation is called for — specifically, subbing out juice and syrup for other, less 1 percent-y ingredients –— and, as a friend observed to me, given the sheer amount of shaking required by this recipe, the drink really ought to be called the Kinetic Bullfrog.

Featured photo: Connecticut Bullfrog. Photo by John Fladd.

Lots of lemon whoopie pies

Although so much of my summer cooking and baking revolves around local produce, this lemon recipe is a summertime favorite of mine. There is something about the bright flavor of lemons that makes me think of hot summer afternoons.

These whoopie pies are all about lemon flavor. Both the cake and the filling are lemon-centric with the addition of lemon extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. What is key to this recipe is to use freshly squeezed lemon juice. Although I keep a bottle of lemon juice in my refrigerator, you really need freshly squeezed for this recipe. It makes the flavor so much brighter.

If you’re hungry, make these full-sized whoopie pies. If you have a smaller appetite, make the scoop about half as big, and you’ll have 20 delightful mini whoopie pies to enjoy.

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.

Lots of lemon whoopie pies
Makes 10

For the cakes:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tablespoons milk
Yellow food coloring, if desired

For the filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract

To make the cakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place butter and sugar in stand mixer, and beat with paddle attachment on speed 2 for 2 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated on speed 2.
Add extracts, baking powder, baking soda and salt, mixing well on speed 2.
Use a spatula to scrape down the sides, and add lemon zest and 1 cup of flour.
Mix on low; scrape sides with spatula, add lemon juice, and mix until fully blended.
Add remaining cup of flour, mix.
Add milk and food coloring, and mix until fully combined.
Scoop approximately 1 1/2 Tablespoons batter, spaced evenly, onto baking sheets.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cakes spring back when touched.
Allow to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheets.
Transfer to a baking rack to cool completely.

To make the filling:
In a stand mixer combine butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon extract; mix on low speed until combined.
Spread the flat side of 10 cakes with the frosting.
Top each with another cake.
Serve or store in a sealed container.

Photo: Lemon whoopie pies. Courtesy photo.

JoJo Paquin

Chef JoJo Paquin of New London oversees all kitchen operations at Peter Christian’s Tavern (195 Main St., New London, 526-2964, peterchristiansnh.com), an eatery on the first floor of The Edgewood Inn in New London that has been around for more than four decades. The tavern is open to the public and serves everything from appetizers, burgers and sandwiches to artisan pizzas and plated steak and seafood dishes. Prior to joining Peter Christian’s late last year, Paquin held multiple kitchen jobs, including at The Flying Goose Brew Pub & Grille in New London for more than a decade, as well as at The Copper Fox and the Social House, both in Vermont.

What is your must-have kitchen item?
A marker, because we have to label and date everything. … I always like to have a thermometer on hand too.

What would you have for your last meal?
Probably a burger. It would be medium-rare and would have some Sriracha, cheddar cheese, bacon and peanut butter on it. I used to make my own cashew butter for burgers.

What is your favorite local restaurant?
The Flying Goose [Brew Pub & Grille in New London]. It’s actually my wife’s family’s restaurant.

What celebrity would you like to see eating at your restaurant?
Tech N9ne [rapper and record producer Aaron Yates]. … I’ve already fed Steven Tyler a few times. I’ve cooked for Sully [Erna] from Godsmack too. He’s a super nice guy.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?
I like the steak tips. They are bourbon-marinated with onions and peppers.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
I would say specialty pizzas, and also chicken sandwiches. We switched the menu over last summer … [and] our chicken sandwich is probably our best-selling item.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
I fire up the grill outside. Pork tenderloin with a romesco sauce is probably one of my favorite things that we have at the house.

Peter’s Favorite Fantasy pizza
From the kitchen of JoJo Paquin of Peter Christian’s Tavern

Store bought thin pizza crust of choice
Shredded mozzarella, provolone and cheddar cheese blend
Banana peppers
Diced tomatoes
Pulled beef
Arugula, tossed in 1 Tablespoon of lemon and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
Balsamic glaze
Grated Parmesan

Homemade Boursin cheese sauce:
1 clove garlic
1 package cream cheese
½ cup butter

Layer pizza with cheese, Boursin, beef, banana peppers, tomatoes and balsamic glaze (amounts dependent on preference). Cook at 450 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and finish with a handful of arugula tossed in lemon oil.

Featured photo: JoJo Paquin. Courtesy photo.

Make way for Mahrajan

Annual three-day Middle Eastern food festival returns

One of the few local church food events that was not canceled or postponed in 2020, the Mahrajan Middle Eastern Food Festival went ahead as scheduled thanks in part to the introduction of advance online ordering, a first for the decades-long tradition.

Following the scaled back event last year, the three-day festival of authentic Lebanese foods will return to Manchester’s Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite Catholic Church from Friday, Aug. 20, through Sunday, Aug. 22. Several features that didn’t happen last year are scheduled to come back this time around, including the dancing opportunities, the petting zoo and the children’s games.

“We’re not quite back to where we were before, but it’s definitely bigger [than last year’s event],” Rev. Thomas Steinmetz said. “We found that online ordering for takeout was actually very popular, so that’s going to be available again.”

Mahrajan co-chair Marylou Ashooh Lazos said this year’s menu will be slightly limited compared to those from previous events. As with last year’s event, the beef skewers have been eliminated, but you’ll still be able to order marinated lamb or chicken kebabs, available as meals with rice pilaf, lubyeh (green beans cooked and served in a tomato sauce) and bread. There will also be a kibbee dinner (Lebanese meatloaf), and other a la carte items like warak arish (stuffed grape leaves) with lamb and rice, cooked in a lemon broth; lamb or chicken shawarma; fatayar (meat or spinach pie); and tabbouleh salad with cracked what, parsley, tomato, lemon and spices.

“The lines are not very long anymore because we have the online ordering,” said Lazos, whose daughter, Nikki Lazos, is the head of the festival’s planning this year. “We’ll still have a tent with tables under it, where you can go sit and relax.”

Dessert options will include a lighter version of baklava known as baklawa, as well as maamoul (date cookies), ghrybe (almond butter cookies) and coosa pita, a custard Lazos makes herself.

“It’s a light-skinned zucchini and we make a custard out of it … in between layers of the phyllo dough,” she said. “It’s very sweet and light.”

Beginning the first day of Mahrajan, on Friday, Aug. 20, attendees will have the option to either pre-order in advance for pickup or order their food at the festival the day of.

Mahrajan Middle Eastern Food Festival

When: Friday, Aug. 20, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 21, noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 22, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite Catholic Church, 140 Mitchell St., Manchester
Cost: Free admission; food is priced per item
Visit: bestfestnh.com
Advance online ordering will be available beginning Aug. 20.

Featured photo: Scenes from previous years at the Mahrajan festival. Courtesy photo.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!