Signs of Life 20/07/09

All quotes are from One Man’s Meat, by E.B. White, born July 11, 1899.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22) My goal is no longer a three-hundred-egg hen but to find peace through conversion of my table scraps into humus. It’s good to have goals.

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22) I have just got hold of a book called Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, which bids fair to shape my mystical course from now on. … The hero of the book is the common earthworm. You’ve got some good reading in store.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22) The possession of a dog today is a different thing from the possession of a dog at the turn of the century, when one’s dog was fed on mashed potato and brown gravy and lived in a doghouse with an arched portal. Today a dog is fed on scraped beef and Vitamin B1 and lives in bed with you. It’s time to update the update.

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22) As for me, although I am motorized to a degree, I enjoy living among pedestrians who have an instinctive and habitual realization that there is more to a journey than the mere fact of arrival. So much more.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21) I had expected to see more of the Fair than usual this year, because I had some sheep entered, and had to be around to tend them. But I found that I saw less, rather than more, because of being there in a responsible capacity instead of carefree. Work is work.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21) The farm as a way of life has been subordinated to the farm as a device for making money. Somewhere … in the process of introducing vitamins and electric time-switches into his henhouse the farmer has missed the point of the egg…. The chicken knows.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19) Anything can happen at a county agricultural fair. … To the fair come the man and his cow, the boy and his girl, the wife and her green tomato pickle, each anticipating victory and the excitement of being separated from his money by familiar devices. Your green tomato pickle is on the road to victory.

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18) The lake had never been what you would call a wild lake. Even the tamest lake has a wild side.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20) This month … I am going to get a cow. Perhaps I should put it the other way round — a cow is going to get me. It should be mutual.

Aries (March 21 – April 19) This morning made preparations for building a boat — the first boat I ever prepared to build. Bought ten cents’ worth of wicking and borrowed some caulking tools, and prepared myself further by asking a man how to build a boat and he told me. Now ask another one and compare.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20) The sum of ninety cents seems a lot to spend for anything, no matter what. But when I get up into gustier amounts, among sums like fifty dollars, or a hundred and thirty-two dollars, or three hundred and seven dollars, they all sound pretty much alike. “Out of your league” is a big category but so is your league.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20) Some people can look at the notation 5/23/29 and it means something to them, calls up some sort of image. I can’t do that. I can see lust in a pig’s eye, but I can’t see a day in a number. There’s a whole day in a pig’s eye.

The Music Roundup 20/07/09

Good times: One of the region’s musical treasures, Charlie Chronopoulos is a triple threat. He writes lyrically complex and compelling songs, renders them in a soothing honey and woodsmoke voice, and plays guitar like a beast. Good to have him back on the circuit, with shows booked throughout July. Check out his original “Chief and a Warrior,” recorded at Manchester’s Studio 2, for a taste of his brilliance. Thursday, July 9, 6 p.m., Village Trestle, 25 Main St., Goffstown. See facebook.com/charlie.chronopoulos.

Wooden music: Like Jethro Tull, no member of The Clavis Brudon Band answers to that name, which is an amalgamation of the first three letters of the quartet’s surnames. They play a tasty brand of folk rock, this time at a new-ish venue; the restaurant’s been around for a while, but the rustic deck in back was just completed (one of the few bright spots of the pandemic is more outdoor performance spaces). Friday, July 10, 5 p.m., Tooky Mills Pub, 9 Depot St., Hillsborough. See facebook.com/The-Clavis-Brudon-Band.

Happy man: Another among the plethora of entries into the live music scene is Paul Lussier, a singer, guitarist, actor and veteran of the regional scene. Lussier promises songs about peace, love and understanding to remedy current contentiousness, with a set that includes classic rock covers, and he may sprinkle in a few originals from his rock musical in progress, You Are My Song. Saturday, July 11, 4:30 p.m., The Hill Bar & Grille, 50 Chalet Way, Manchester. See paul-lussier.wixsite.com.

Local hero: The Concord music community got sad news recently that True Brew Barista is closing, as the owners are retiring. Thanks for the many years of memories. The scene continues apace led by dedicated folks like Lucas Gallo, a musician and show promoter, who plays at a brewery that’s also keeping the flame burning. Enjoy an all original set along with stellar craft beer. Thursday, July 16, 7 p.m., Lithermans Limited Brewery, 26B Hall St., Concord. See facebook.com/lucasgallomusic.

Live and local

Soulful Concord band plays in Bow

FieldHouse Sports, a Bow facility better known for year-round indoor soccer, is the latest entry into the live music scene. Fiddler Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki led off the drive-in lot series on July 3, performing with his trio. A week later Trade, a rhythmic, horn-seasoned combo featuring some of New Hampshire’s finest players, will host the parking lot party.

Trade began with singing drummer George Laliotis and guitarist Scott Solsky, and a batch of Solsky’s songs that departed from his then band The Hats.

“I was at the point where I wanted to start a project and write the kind of music that has always spoken to me,” Solsky said in a recent phone interview. “The one thing I always came back to is that soul Motown thing … and no one sings that like George does.”

Early on, Trade played as a trio with keyboard player Matt Hogan, later adding horns.

“Over the years there were people coming in and out,” Solsky said, “But it’s always been George and I.”

In mid-2018, Trade released a CD, Puzzle. The album’s nine tracks were cowrites.

“I’ll come up with the idea, and George writes a lot of the lyrics being a singer, it’s more in his wheelhouse but the band does the arrangements,” Solsky said. “We’ve worked really well together as a group; everyone has ideas, and everyone contributes.”

The current lineup is Laliotis, Solsky, bassist Chris Noyes, a horn section of tenor sax player Zack Jones and Jamie Boccia on trumpet, and newest member Chris Sink on keys. The band recently released a new single on their SoundCloud page. “Real Deal” was an outtake from Puzzle.

“We were on the fence about whether or not we were going to do that one, then we were like, nah,’ Solsky said. “We kind of regretted not recording it, so it’s like we’ll just do it now.”

Working in isolation during quarantine was a daunting exercise.

“It was interesting; everyone having their own part, one person recording and sending it to the next and so on down the line,” Solsky said. “There was a learning curve for all of us, and I feel especially me, because I’m not super digitally inclined. To be able to get ourselves set up so that we can each individually record was the biggest challenge.”

Another track, called “Attachments,” is in progress, with hopes to complete it in the coming weeks. Solsky is also at work on a solo record at The Noise Floor in Dover. The backing band for half of the instrumental effort was Trade, and most of its songs are now part of their stage repertoire. Solsky calls his music “Jazztronica,” noting that “it came about because for my solo stuff I do the looping thing … it kind of has a flow to it.”

Both Solsky and bandmate Sink contributed tracks to Pass the Hat, a benefit LP organized by Chris Chase at Noise Floor. Fifty musicians offered songs, raising over $10,000, which was donated to 25 of the record’s contributors. Solsky played several Facebook Live shows during lockdown and was encouraged by fans’ willingness to drop money into his virtual tip jar.

He and the rest of Trade are anxious to be back in front of an audience, however.

“It’s exciting,” Solsky said. “As much as I’ve appreciated the support while livestreaming, whether it’s by myself or with the band, I always find that there’s a certain energy that you never really can reclaim when you’re just playing in front of the camera. That feeling of having a live crowd in front of you makes the energy of the music very different.”

Trade
When:
Friday, July 10, 7 p.m.
Where: FieldHouse Sports, 12 Tallwood Drive, Bow
Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the gate per vehicle (up to 2 people), $10 each additional person at fieldhousesports.com

Hamilton (PG-13)

Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

Go watch Hamilton, the movie created from filmed performances of the musical made in the summer of 2016 and now streaming on Disney+.

You don’t need me to tell you that the musical based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, the “ten dollar Founding Father” as the play reminds us, is great. I feel like even if musical theater isn’t your thing, you’ve read stories about the production, which follows Hamilton’s life from the time he arrives in New York City through the Revolutionary War and into the first few decades of the new American government. Maybe you’ve heard a few of the songs, maybe seen video of the performances at the White House. Maybe you’ve gone further — listened to the cast recording or seen the PBS show Hamilton’s America, filled with making-of and behind-the-scenes information. I’m not one of the lucky people who have seen the production live but I feel like I had some familiarity with Hamilton. Even after all that exposure to the story and the songs and the performances, this production still feels fresh and this movie is still excellent.

As advertised, this movie features the people I most associate with Hamilton when it first came out: Lin-Manuel Miranda (also the play’s writer and lyricist) as Hamilton, Leslie Odum Jr. as Aaron Burr, Daveed Diggs as Lafayette and Jefferson, Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica, Phillipa Soo as Eliza, Jonathan Groff as a delightfully maniacal King George and Chris Jackson replacing whatever image I had in my head of George Washington. Rather than run down the plot, which you probably know, either from previous Hamilton coverage or, like, history (which, sure, this takes some liberties with), let me run down some of what stood out from finally getting to see the whole play and see it as a play and not as a movie adaptation (which, I feel like I would have missed out on so much seeing a version of the story shot on location, 2012’s Les Miserables-style).

• I was surprised, delightfully, how much of this is Aaron Burr’s story and how meaty and complex that part is.

• I also liked how much heft the character of Eliza Hamilton, Alexander’s wife, has. This story acknowledges women (and the limits of their opportunity) in a way I don’t think you often see in big mainstream Revolutionary era stories outside of Abigail Adams and her “remember the ladies” quote.

• I am not the first or the 1,000th person to say this, I’m sure, but wow is the staging a real thing of wonder — how the play uses its set and set pieces, how it uses costumes. It’s beautiful and clever and just such a joy to watch how one actor can be two different characters or how a relatively sparse set can be a battlefield or an office or whatever is needed.

• For being a film of a stage production, this movie is incredibly dynamic. I have seen plays turned into movies (the recent Cats, for example) that felt more stuck on a stage than this one. There is great movement and action.

• King George is a hoot.

• I was not prepared for the different times and different reasons this movie would get me all choked up.

Go watch Hamilton if you’re a super-fan. Go watch Hamilton if you’re mildly curious. Just go watch Hamilton, a slice of history about a slice of history. A

Rated PG-13 for language and some suggestive material, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Thomas Kail with music, book and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (based on Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow), Hamilton is two hours and 40 minutes long and is streaming on Disney+.

Book Review 20/07/09

The Madwoman and the Roomba, by Sandra Tsing Loh (W.W. Norton, 276 pages)

Can we say that it’s a little more than ironic that a woman who found fame leaving the stifling prison that was a 20-year marriage is now rhapsodizing affectionately about the “domestic mayhem” that is her life?

But that is where Sandra Tsing Loh has arrived 11 years after the publication of her celebrated Atlantic piece titled “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” which was an explanation of why she ended her marriage and an invitation for other people to do the same.

A year earlier, she’d found fame and acclaim for Mother on Fire, an acerbically funny memoir of parenting, and many of her fans were surprised to find her ringless a year later, although it did much for her career. I tend to be stoutly judgmental about such things, but I’m willing to forgive a lot for a laugh, including “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and another mildly disturbing Atlantic essay in which she said she wished her 91-year-old father would die. That’s probably a character flaw in me, which is why I like Loh even as she tramples on my fundamental values. She has plenty of her own, on public display in two books that portend a long-running series, 2014’s The Madwoman in the Volvo, My Year of Raging Hormones and now, The Madwoman and the Roomba, My Year of Domestic Mayhem.

There is a pleasant afternoon to be had envisioning what comes next: The Madwoman in the Face Mask? The Madwoman and the AARP? The Madwoman and the Depends? Loh (pronounced “low”) has built a devoted following, so it’s a safe bet that Roomba won’t be the last. Loh, who the New York Times once crowned a worthy contender for “publishers’ holy grail, ‘the female David Sedaris.’” Like Sedaris, she is reliably funny and specializes in understated comedy built around the adventures of a strange family that feels vaguely familiar but, under the microscope, is really nothing like yours. (How unlike yours? Her father, for starters, had a rock song written about him by a band named Boy Hits Car. The song contains the line “Mr. Loh’s not afraid to be naked.” There you go.)

But she imagines herself this red, white and blue everywoman, trying earnestly to be one of “us” rather than one of the dastardly “them,” all the while showing that she’s not really poor and struggling, but just seems to have too many stupidly rich friends. As a technique, this is generally opaque, and she wears peasant clothes well in one of the stronger chapters in the book, titled “Stanford Swimming.”

In the essay, Loh makes comic hash out of an evening spent with friends at a New York estate that “looks like a large villa you’d find in Europe, protected by lush non-native hedges.” The friends, of course, are “thems” and if you hadn’t already figured this out, you will when the wine comes out and the friends say, winsomely, that it isn’t expensive but was on the Zagat list of “great wines under $40.”

“Charlie and I raise eyebrows amusedly at each other. For us the price cap on a bottle of wine is eight dollars,” Loh writes. The next nine pages are essentially “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” had Mr. Smith been sardonic, an easy-going, fish-in-a-barrel takedown of people who have personal cooks and tennis courts and sons who win swimming scholarships to Stanford. Loh, in comparison, says that she’s not even sure her teenage daughters can swim, and they come to the table, one looking like an L.A. gang girl “edging into drag queen,” the other a “painfully thin” child evocative of Ichabod Crane who is “less eating her salad than worrying it.” She worries that when lacrosse is mentioned, her daughters will think the conversation is about sparkling water.

“Stanford Swimming” is one of the longer essays in a collection that ostensibly runs the length of a year, Loh’s 55th. As Madwoman in the Volvo was about menopause, it’s more difficult to define what Madwoman and the Roomba is about, other than maybe trying to pay off a tax bill born of an IRS audit detailed in a chapter called “A very Hindu audit.” It’s here, among other places, that Loh’s everywoman credentials seem just a tiny bit overstated, as she exclaims worriedly about the IRS challenging $25,000 in business expenses and says she only gets massages when Groupon is involved.

There is a lot of exclaiming in this book. There also are a worrisome number of exclamation marks, making it seem that a stern editor wasn’t one of those business expenses, and an overabundance of Loh’s trademark dashes, which she seems to use as a calling card and a stand-in for ellipses. Example from a bit of dialogue: “‘You cannot lumber after waiters like an extra from The Walking Dead, knocking over priceless Louis Quatorze art along the way —’”

It’s a small quibble, and maybe you love it, but David Sedaris doesn’t do it.

At the end of the year Loh’s father finally dies, and at first she seems to have all the remorse and grief that you would expect of someone who has been grousing for years about why he had the nerve to live so long, given the “giant money leakage of his care.”

There is an important conversation to be had about whether science is extending life for too long, and Loh’s most shocking statements may be more shrewd calculations than heartfelt emotions; her undergraduate degree, after all, was in physics. But the reader still has the right to be shocked when, upon going to her father’s house soon after his death, Loh decides to take a selfie with her father’s corpse. Is this a thing? If so, it would seem more the action of a millennial than a baby boomer “at the dropping tail of the boom.”

It’s hard, however, to dislike any writer who calls a mortuary professional a “Styx crosser” regardless of other offenses. A-

BOOK NOTES
Since The New York Times once said Sandra Tsing Loh (reviewed above) was a candidate to be “the female David Sedaris,” it seems appropriate to see who else has earned this honor, and more importantly, whether they’re in paperback so we can take them to the beach.

Sedaris, of course, is the sly humorist made famous in 1992 by an essay about playing one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s, the broadcast of which is now an NPR holiday tradition. His books, which include Me Talk Pretty One Day and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, seethe with weapons-grade humor softened by a folksy tone and a surprising depth of wisdom and lived pain.

Why do we need a female Sedaris? Hard to say because there is no equivalent search for a male Anne Lamott.

But the contenders, according to Google, include not only Loh but these authors:
Lauren Weedman,Miss Fortune (Plume, 304 pages)
Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There’d Be Cake (Riverhead, 230 pages)
Susan Reinhardt, Chimes from a Cracked Southern Belle (Grateful Steps, 384 pages)
Susan Jane Gilman, Hypocrite in a White, Pouffy Dress(Grand Central Publishing, 369 pages)
Faith Salie, Approval Junkie (Three Rivers Press, 288 pages)
Jen Lancaster, Bitter is the New Black, (Berkley, 416 pages)

To be fair, there are others, but some women seem to have given the title to themselves on their blogs. I make no guarantees as to how Sedarisian these women are, but note that Crosley has especially good reviews.

Or you could just wait for a new Sedaris book to come out. The New York Times recently reported that there are two in the queue, The Best Of Me, a collection of previously published essays, due out in the fall (pandemic willing), and Carnival of Snackeries, more selections from the diary he has kept for more than 40 years, scheduled next year.

Album Reviews 20/07/09

Tokyo Motor Fist, Lions (Frontiers Music SRL)

Clear the decks, grandmothers, it’s a bona-fide ’80s melodic-metal fest, a new project from Danger Danger singer Ted Poley and guitarist/producer Steve Brown of Trixter. Unlike so many wannabes who have (dis)graced this column, however, it would appear that this gang of hairdos can actually write songs, an ability that may or may not be critical to rock ’n’ roll success anymore, not that anyone’s keeping track really. “Youngblood” kicks off this set with Eddie Van Halen hammer-on-guitar stuff, a ton of hookage and a rather successful nicking of Def Leppard, which is the overarching thrust here. What’s that? No, I don’t mean stupid first-album Def Lep, I mean the ideas that came from the skull of Mutt Lange, the dumb-looking producer who got himself dumped by Shania Twain for being the stupidest playa in history. Poley doesn’t have the vocal range of Joe whatsisname, but the flash-fried hormonal angst is all there. Thirty years late, but yeah, nothing wrong here. A

The Beths, “Out of Sight” (Carpark Records)

With the slightest effort I’m sure I could pirate or Google my way into finding the rest of this New Zealand act’s upcoming second album, Jump Rope Gazers, but this single should pretty much spill all the tea I need in order to determine whether they’ve got a handle on ’90s radio rock, which is the real test. They look like they’re 15, or they dress like it; there’s a certain doubling-down on the millennial ukulele-rock look that seems to be defining Zoomer bands, which is fine with me, being that they really have nothing else to be enthusiastic about in the world these days. Anyway, yeah, their 2018 debut LP Future Me Hates Me put them on the radar of all the Stereogums and Pitchforks of the world, deservedly so, being that the better parts of the record would have fit in fine between a Fiona Apple track and one of those dreadful tunes by Live, and, well, voila, they’ve still got it, going by this new track, even down to the video, which was shot on Super 8 film, comprising footage of our heroes doofing around in their Volkswagen Rabbit or whatever it is. The tune has a huge shoegaze-rawk opening worthy of Goo Goo Dolls and such, but — here’s the kicker — singer Elizabeth Stokes’ vocal never gets above milquetoast level, lending it just the amount of broke-down cred it’ll need to get the attention of tedious zines like Nylon. Good luck to ’em, I say; this isn’t bad at all. A

Retro Playlist
Eric W. Seager recommends a couple of albums worth a second look.

Many things are going to change in a Covid-19 world. Meantime, not directly related to Covid but nonetheless indicative of a burst of cultural evolution, we’re also seeing changes in the arts as far as the general regard for women. We’re still miles and miles from arriving at the right place, but the #MeToo movement has made things just a bit safer overall for women to function in industry without having to expect the worst sort of discrimination and physical and psychological abuse on an ongoing, daily basis.

The perception of women in rock has changed as well over the years. The punk-based riot grrl movement, born in the Pacific Northwest in the early ’90s, has become a bit obsolete as far as a driving social force; we’re quite used to seeing women spazz and stomp or otherwise completely own a stage by now, whether you’re a boomer who dug on X-Ray Spex back in the day, a Gen Xer who followed Courtney Love, or a Zoomer who’s into the boldly androgynous vibe of Billie Eilish.

It’s still a work in progress. Looking back at my review of Dead Weather’s 2015 album Dodge and Burn, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t go off on some tangent about women rockers needing an Eilish-style next-step. Yes, singer Alison Mosshart was/is a badass when she’s fronting The Kills, but her role in that band feels like more of a Robert Plant to Jack White’s Jimmy Page than an equal partner. There’s just something sketchy about it, is what I mean. Maybe it’s the band’s (well done) ’70s hard rock image, but it felt like less of an equal partnership than a case of White saying “She’ll do.” The number of female musicians and singers to whom White has played Svengali has bugged me for a while now, and I could be dead wrong, but I’ll just leave it at that.

To me, the queen of rock is and always has been Chrissie Hynde. The woman just doesn’t care about what you think, as we talked about in 2008 when the long-overdue ninth Pretenders album, Break Up The Concrete, landed. On that one, there was the bit where she comically sounded out a drum roll with her voice in one of the songs, another example on the album in which she flaunted her power level like an alternate-universe George Thorogood trying to save the world from greed and stupidity. Always, my vote would be Chrissie for President.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Email esaeger@cyberontix.com for fastest response.

PLAYLIST
A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Friday, July 10, is the next general release date for albums, when we will hear new material from Rufus Wainwright, whose new album, Unfollow the Rules, is in the trucks and on the way to stores, if there are any stores even left! Isn’t that exciting? No? Come on, you guys, you know, it’s Rufus Wainwright. No, I don’t know any of his songs either. All I know is that he was born around the time John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were making up crazy lies about each other in order to convince voters they should be the one to be president. Aren’t you glad that things have evolved so much, in our political arena? Wait, Wiki is telling me that Rufus Wainwright didn’t participate in the Battle of Bunker Hill, he was actually born in 1973. Huh, I thought he was some super-old dude who didn’t make it as big as the O’Jays or Minnie Ripperton. Wait, let me read this more. Let’s see, Blah blah blah, likes opera … his career peak was in 2007, when his album Release the Stars climbed to No. 23 on the Billboard payola spreadsheet, and his mopey sadboy piano “Going to a Town” did OK. He’s done acting. He’s Canadian. Burp. Did I miss anything? His new song is “Damsel in Distress,” a Harry Nilsson-ish tune, heavy on the wide-screen ’70s taxicab-radio vibe. It’s OK, but it’s definitely not opera. Jeez, the more it goes on, the more it sounds like every ’70s song ever made thrown into a blender. He should stick to acting.

• Mike Skinner is the white rapper dude who makes albums in his U.K. bedroom under the name The Streets, a project that’s huge in England but hasn’t yet cracked the U.S. Top 50. All that means is that I could probably deal with whatever Skinner’s selling on his new mixtape, None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive, because it’s probably crummy British-cockney hip-hop, not crummy American Jeezy/Eminem-wannabe hip-hop. Yep, there it is, listening to the single “Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better,” I am drowning in chill-out cockney rap that’s got a bumpy, off-kilter, mildly Gorillaz-ish beat, all made the better because Tame Impala is the guest. In other words it’s a tasteful, mellow Tame Impala song, except with Skinner doing his Stormzy imitation. All right? OK, everyone, single file, let’s move along.

Julianna Barwick is said to be a New Age ambient artist, but I’ll be the judge of that. Her trip is using an electronic loop station to decorate her voice, which is interesting, and she was commissioned to remix Radiohead’s “Reckoner,” which I won’t bother listening to because I don’t have to. Her new album, Healing is a Miracle, is out within mere hours and features the single “Inspirit.” Hmf, it builds up for two minutes with multi-overdubbed vocals with from-the-mountaintop effects on them, yet never turns into something that would make me say, “Jeepers, that’s almost as nice as Enya.” Actually make that four minutes. Nothing happened, why did I bother.

• Lastly, The Fader calls Margo Price “country’s next star,” so maybe her new album That’s How Rumors Get Started will make me say the same thing after I hear the single “Twinkle Twinkle.” Hmm, I dunno, it has fuzzed-out ’70s Deep Purple guitars, but she sounds like KT Tunstall or something. It’s cool, I guess. Is it OK if I just call her “country’s next Deep Purple lady” or whatever?

The Weekly Dish 20/07/09

Outdoor tastes: Get your tickets now for a special socially distanced version of the annual Taste of the Region event, happening on Tuesday, July 21, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Normally held inside the Tupelo Music Hall, this year’s festival will take place outdoors in the parking lot of the venue, at 10 A St. in Derry. More than 35 food and beverage vendors from Derry, Londonderry and other surrounding cities and towns will be on hand, competing for their best options in three separate categories — Savory, Sips and Sweets. The event is organized by the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. According to Chamber President Ashley Haseltine, exhibitors and tables will be set up with safe social distance measures, and designated areas will be set up for attendees to take their samples to enjoy. Regular cleaning services will be provided throughout the evening by ServPro Derry/Londonderry. The cost is $35 per person — purchasing your tickets in advance and wearing a mask during the event are encouraged. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Kyle B. Ross Memorial Scholarship Fund. Visit gdlchamber.org.

The Packie finds a new home: On June 30, local craft beer store The Packie relocated from South Willow Street to a new space at 581 Second St. in Manchester, in the Second Street Shoppes plaza, owner Jon Pinches confirmed. Since April, The Packie has been open for pickup and delivery only, and it continues to operate that way in the new location until further notice. In addition to more added space for inventory, Pinches said, a walk-in cooler is being planned for the new store space when it reopens to full capacity. The store is currently open Tuesday through Sunday, from 1 to 6 p.m., with ordering available online. Deliveries are made within a 10-mile radius of the store, with a $2 fee included (a minimum of 12 cans or bottles is required). Visit thepackienh.com.

Angela’s gets a new owner: Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop on Chestnut Street in Manchester, known for its specialty food items like pastas, cheeses, wines and prepared to-go meals, has a new owner at the helm. Manchester native Steven Freeman, who was a regular customer of the shop for more than two decades, purchased it on June 15. Freeman told the Hippo he plans to expand the shop’s food offerings to include more made-to-order pizzas, paninis and Italian sandwiches, and to add Italian sodas and provide more catering and delivery services. Angela’s is currently open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visit angelaspastaandcheese.com.

Local culinary scholarship: Nashua-based spice company Mola Foods is offering a $500 scholarship for culinary students, according to owner and founder Jeannette Bryant. Online applications are available now for those who qualify, and will be accepted through Aug. 31. Bryant said she wanted to start a scholarship for culinary students who may need help paying for student loans but don’t secure high-paying jobs right away in the restaurant industry. She founded Mola Foods, which features a product line of internationally inspired seasonings, spice blends, sauces and marinades, in 2016. In late 2019 she opened a mini retail store in her office space at 15 Tanguay Ave. in Nashua. Visit molafoods.com.

A virtual trip to Tuscany

Get a bit of Italy in a glass

While Covid-19 has limited our ability to travel, summer with its long days and warm sunsets takes us off to romantic, dreamy environments. Tuscany is one such place that comes to mind.

All of Italy is noted for its cuisine. Dishes like fagioli all’uccelletto (a side dish of cannellini beans stewed with tomatoes, garlic and sage), breads like focaccia and the luxuriousness of gelato all have their roots in Tuscany, Florence and its countryside. The cuisine of Tuscany can be both simple without overbearing sauces, but also inventive with multiple textures, herbs and spices enhancing its dishes. As for wine, Tuscany is known for Chianti but there are other wines produced, some well-known, others not.

Podere La Pace Rosso Maremma 2014 (originally priced at $59.99, and on sale at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $25.99) is an interesting blend of 25 percent cabernet franc, 25 percent merlot, 25 percent cabernet sauvignon and 25 percent petit verdot. This wine is a “Bordeaux blend” that is unusual in that it has both merlot and cabernet sauvignon in the mix and they are mixed in equal proportions. The color of the wine is a deep, thick purple. To the nose it is floral, with a touch of dried fruit. To the mouth, it explodes with dried cherries and roasted plums, red currants, grilled herbs and hints of dried leather. The medium body is “plushly” textured. My wife described it as “crushed velvet.” There is a slight touch of underlying acidity providing some lift on the finish as it leaves behind flavors of cooked plums, grilled herbs and spicy tobacco notes lingering with a long, long finish. The alcoholic content is high at 14.5 percent, a little “hot” to the mouth, but it leaves beautiful “legs,” clear liquid lines on the side of the glass. This wine hails from Cura Nuova, located just four miles from the Gulf of Follonica on the Mediterranean Coast. Abiding by the strictest organic farming methods, the Podere La Pace vineyard, founded in 2007 with its first vintage in 2013, is small and young — just a little over 10 acres. In addition to the four grapes in this red wine, the vineyard is also planted in chardonnay and viognier, and produces limited quantities of olive oil and grappa. Wine production is limited to 30,000 bottles per year. Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a score of 88/100 and recommended to enjoy it before the end of 2020. This may be why the state liquor store has it on their “close-out list.” That being said, I would still recommend picking up a few bottles, as I believe it can cellar for a couple more years.

Blodilaia Brunello di Montalcino 2013 (originally priced at $55.99, and on sale at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $27.99) is a true brunello, that is 100 percent sangiovese grosso. These grapes are noted for having thicker-skinned berries, producing wines with bold fruit flavors, high tannins and high acidity. These tannins and acidity extend the life of this wine, allowing it to reach perfection a decade or more after bottling. According to the strict wine-making parameters of the DOCG, the wine must develop on oak barrels for a minimum of two years, then bottled and cellared for another two years before it can be sold. This wine is now just coming into its own! Robert Parker described this wine as offering “blackberry and cherry nuances enhanced by spice, leather and elegant balsam herb.” The color is much lighter than the red blend discussed above. It has a slight amber tone to it, approaching the color of a fine sherry. To the nose it was reserved with slight floral notes. To the mouth the fruit was less forward than the red blend, offering a certain silky elegance. The tannins were in check and it had a nice, long finish. It was worth the wait!

So, dream a bit. You may not be able to visit Tuscany, but you can grill a steak, or split a chicken, rub it with herbs and enjoy an afternoon sunset. Enrich this simple fare with a simple antipasto or chicken liver pate spread on toast points. Try a Panzella, a cold salad of bread soaked in balsamic vinegar, mixed with onions and tomatoes, basil, all topped with olive oil of course! You will be carried off to Tuscany!

In the kitchen with Ed Ellis & Kim Ricard

Ed “Monkey” Ellis of Candia and Kim Ricard of Concord are the owners and founders of Monkey Time Bakery (177 Deerfield Road, Candia, 483-0220, find them on Facebook), a gift shop and homestead bakery offering a variety of specialty treats by order, like lemon bars, cinnamon rolls and carrot cakes. Originally from Newark, Delaware, Ellis has been in the Granite State for a decade. The bakery is housed in the front of his Candia home, in the former space of a general store. Requests for special orders are accepted through Monkey Time Bakery’s Facebook page, with pickups by appointment.

What is your must-have kitchen item?
EE: I just got a Bosch Universal Plus mixer that is phenomenal.
KR: My KitchenAid stand mixer. It makes cooking from scratch fast and easy.

What would you have for your last meal?
EE: Lasagna.
KR: Chicken Parmesan, fettuccine alfredo style.

What is your favorite local restaurant?
EE: In Candia, Cello’s [Farmhouse Italian] or Town Cabin [Deli & Pub]. I also like Tuckaway [Tavern & Butchery] in Raymond and Umami [Farm Fresh Cafe] in Northwood.
KR: The [Franklin] Oyster House in Portsmouth, Umami [Farm Fresh Cafe] in Northwood and Cello’s [Farmhouse Italian] in Candia.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your bakery?
EE: Puddles the Clown [entertainer and singer Mike Geier] of Puddles Pity Party.
KR: Rachael Ray.

What is your personal favorite thing that you’ve ever baked?
EE: I really like apple dumplings. They are easy and the reward you get with the flavors is phenomenal.
KR: That is a tough one. I would say Texas sheet cake or carrot cake. I love chocolate and the frosting on the Texas sheet cake is divine.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
KR: Gourmet burgers.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
EE: Steak tips, either on the grill or broiled.
KR: Pizza, hands down, with [the] crust and sauce made from scratch.

Classic peanut butter cookies
From the kitchen of Ed “Monkey” Ellis and Kim Ricard of Monkey Time Bakery in Candia

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
½ cup peanut butter, any kind
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugar and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat egg and add to butter mixture. Mix in vanilla extract. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture until just combined. Grease a cookie sheet with butter or line with parchment paper. Roll dough into balls, about a tablespoon each, and place on the cookie sheet. You should be able to get a dozen cookies onto one cookie sheet. With a fork that’s been dipped in flour, gently press on the cookies and make a crisscross pattern. Bake cookies for eight to 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool.

Have a Greek food weekend

Your guide to finding Greek festival favorites

Nearly all of this year’s Greek food festivals in the state have been canceled or postponed — but that doesn’t mean you can’t embark on a Greek food adventure of your own. Offering everything from savory dishes like pastichio and lamb shanks to sweet treats like baklava and loukoumades, several local Greek eateries talk about what they do best and what you can look forward to the next time you visit.

Pastichio

Known as a “Greek lasagna,” pastichio — sometimes also spelled pastitsio — is a baked pasta casserole dish with a creamy white béchamel sauce and meat, most commonly ground beef. Ioanis Kourtis, whose father and uncle together run Athens Restaurant in Manchester, said it’s available as a big, hearty serving on the eatery’s house specialties menu. It’s one of several dishes the two brothers prepare daily.

You’ll see different variations of pasta or meat. Peter Tsoupelis of Amphora Restaurant in Derry said he gets his macaroni imported directly from Greece to make the pastichio, which is often available out of the eatery’s refrigerated take-and-bake case. In Greece, because ground beef is not as readily available as in the United States, according to Tsoupelis, pastichio can instead be made with pork, lamb or even goat.

“The way we make it at Amphora, we use ground Angus beef, which is the way my father taught me how to make it,” he said, “but if there was going to be meat in my yiayia’s kitchen, it was going to be either pork or goat. We didn’t have ground beef or lamb often.”

At The Windmill Restaurant in Concord, pastichio is one of several rotating weekly specials prepared by Sofia Smirnioudis. She also has a hand in making the dish for the annual Taste of Greece festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Concord, normally held in September.

“I like to use a big [pasta] … like a ziti,” she said. “I do pasta on the bottom, then a red meat-based sauce in the middle, and creamy cheese sauce on the top.”

Gyros

Pronounced “YEE-rohs,” gyros are popular street food dishes all over Greece, consisting of meat, vegetables and tzatziki sauce wrapped or stuffed in pita. At The Gyro Spot in downtown Manchester you can order all kinds of gyros, from pork, chicken or a mix of lamb and beef, to vegetarian or vegan versions with mixed greens.

“It’s kind of like the perfect hand-held meal. It’s got everything from your carbs to your proteins and veggies, wrapped up together,” Gyro Spot owner Alex Lambroulis said. “Most gyro shops in Greece will have a counter right outside the window in the summertime.”

The meats used for all gyros at the restaurant are hand-cut and marinated before being stacked as a döner kebab, or on a vertical rotisserie. The cone-shaped stack of meat is then layered with fat on the top and sliced into thin shavings when ready to be stuffed in a gyro.

Down in Nashua, Main Street Gyro offers more than a half dozen types of gyros daily, including the traditional pork but also chicken, lamb and bifteki, or a mix of pork and beef. Those are also stuffed with meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie.

“We make all our sauces in house as well, so we have tzatziki, and also kopanisti, which has roasted red bell peppers, feta cheese, olive oil, hot pepper flakes and Tabasco, so it’s a good spicy spread,” owner Basil Tourlitis said.

The traditional pork gyro is not only one of The Gyro Spot’s biggest sellers, but it’s the most common filling you’ll find in Greece, according to Lambroulis.

“We make our own tzatziki with Greek yogurt, garlic and cucumber, and then it comes with onions, tomatoes and our hand-cut fries,” he said. “Now, you might find different regional variations on the sauces, like tzatziki, ketchup and mustard, [but] everywhere you go [in Greece], they put fries in it.”

The eatery’s chicken gyro features a spicy mayonnaise known as its signature “G sauce.” Other less traditional options at The Gyro Spot include gyros reimagined as loaded french fries or burritos with rice.

Spanakopita

Also known as “spinach pie,” this popular pastry dish features layers of spinach and feta cheese stuffed inside phyllo dough, often also with scallions or onions, Tsoupelis said. Its phyllo pastry cousins include “tiropita” — with cheese and egg — and “kreatopita” — with meat, usually beef or pork. Variations on spanakopita might include the types of cheeses or vegetables used, or even the portion sizes. Main Street Gyro, Tourlitis said, makes its own spanakopita with spinach, feta cheese, dill, salt and pepper.

“Some people use leeks, [or] some use a majority of egg and feta,” Kourtis said. “My uncle makes it fresh with phyllo dough, spinach, feta, eggs and spices, and he butters the dough, so it’s very rich and delicious. … Spinach is the most universal.”

In some Greek households, according to Tsoupelis, it can be customary to bake an entire pan of spanakopita at a time, with large square-sized servings.

“My aunt lived in a small house outside of Athens, and she’d make a big pan of it,” he said. “It was almost like having a cake at the house for when somebody would come over. It might last 15 minutes or it might last a day and a half.”

But at Amphora, Tsoupelis said he likes to roll his spanakopita into individual 3-by-3-inch triangles and cook them to order, serving them more as intimate appetizers.

Spanakopita is also available homemade year-round at Chrysanthi’s Restaurant in Brookline, manager Amanda Pelletier said, as large pieces per serving.

Moussaka

Like the pastichio, moussaka commonly has ground meat and béchamel, only it’s baked in layers of eggplant, potatoes, or sometimes zucchini instead of pasta. Also known as an eggplant- or potato-based casserole, it’s another dish that Smirnioudis will often bake as a special at The Windmill Restaurant and for Holy Trinity Church’s Taste of Greece festival. In fact, she said she’ll use the same type of béchamel sauce used in the pastichio.

It’s also a frequent special at Chrysanthi’s, especially during the colder months, Pelletier said. Their version features layers of sliced potato and roasted eggplant with seasoned ground beef.

Amphora makes it with ground Angus beef, but Tsoupelis said he’s seen it with just about any other type of meat, especially lamb, pork or goat.

Souvlaki

Souvlaki features skewered meats and occasionally vegetables that can be consumed either as side dishes or as full meals over rice or with pita bread and tzatziki.

“[An order] comes with six pieces of lamb per skewer, and you get a Greek pita, tzatziki sauce, salad and hummus with that,” Pelletier said of the souvlaki offered at Chrysanthi’s.

Tourlitis said both pork and chicken souvlaki are options as dinners or sides at Main Street Gyro. A souvlaki dinner will include two skewers of meat, served with a side salad, hand-cut fries or rice pilaf and warm pita bread.

Souvlaki Pizza & Subs in Manchester, in addition to offering marinated pork souvlaki as a dinner with salad, rice or fries, prepares souvlaki as grinders on Syrian bread or as meats for salads. Pork and chicken souvlaki are also available at Salona Bar & Grill in Manchester, according to manager Maria Kostakis.

Even though pork is more traditional, Smirnioudis of The Windmill Restaurant said chicken tends to be the more popular meat for souvlaki. When it’s served as a special, the dish features chicken cut into cubes and cooked with garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.

Lamb shanks

Hand-cut marinated lamb is one of the biggest draws at many of the state’s Greek food festivals, whether it comes fresh off the skewer or in a gyro. At Amphora, you can get lamb shanks, or roasted leg of lamb, one of the eatery’s many Greek specialties. Each order comes with a side of lemon-oregano potatoes.

“We braise the lamb slowly until [the meat falls] off the bone, and then we … [make] a very rich sauce from all the drippings of the lamb that gives it a very nice flavor,” Tsoupelis said.

Lamb shanks are prepared similarly at Athens Restaurant in Manchester and are, according to Kourtis, a special item made at the request of customers. The meat is baked on the bone in a tomato sauce and spices, and served with a side like rice or vegetables.

At Chrysanthi’s, lamb shanks are on the menu during the fall and winter. They’re slow-roasted for 12 hours in a homemade sauce before they’re served over vegetables and rice, according to Pelletier.

Dolmathes

Featuring meat or vegetables with assorted spices, dolmathes are often sold as an a la carte item at Greek festivals, or sometimes as part of meals. They’re most commonly rolled and stuffed inside of individual grape leaves, but Tsoupelis said you might see regional variations of dolmathes that use larger cabbage leaves.

“We do them vegetarian style with the grape leaves, so they’re small. They’re the size of your hand,” he said. “We put them on our antipasto salad or on the side. It has seasoned white rice, lemon juice and mint.”

Salona Bar & Grill, according to Kostakis, offers the stuffed grape leaves with beef, while at Athens Restaurant, Kourtis said, the dolmathes can be made in both variations of leaves. You get three stuffed grape leaves and two stuffed cabbage leaves per order, from the appetizer menu, with either lemon or tomato sauce. The dolmathes are also incorporated on the eatery’s house specialties menu, coming with rice or potato or as part of a combo special with roast lamb, chicken or meatballs.

“It’s ground beef, spices, lemon and rice, and the lemon sauce is really thick. They’re very popular,” he said.

Baklava

Perhaps one of the most recognizable staples at Greek festivals and restaurants, baklava is a dessert featuring layers of phyllo dough, honey or syrup and chopped nuts, most commonly walnuts or almonds. Variations can include pistachios or hazelnuts, or a simple syrup made with sugar and water, or lemon juice, instead of honey.

Youla Winarta of Youlove Bakery, a homestead business based in Nashua, said even though the word “baklava” has roots in the Turkish language, the word “phyllo” comes from the Greek word meaning “leaf.” Indeed, baklava is often characterized by the leaf-like texture of the dough.

The phyllo dough can be either made or pre-bought at a supermarket or wholesale grocery store. Church members who make their own baklava for the festivals will use large cooking pans, because the baklava is easier to roll in larger quantities.

JajaBelle’s in Nashua doesn’t use honey in its homemade baklava, but rather a house syrup, a homemade phyllo dough and tons of butter. In addition to offering it in the case at the cafe, owner Jessica dePontbriand sells it at the Nashua Farmers Market at City Hall Plaza on Sundays.

The Puritan Backroom Restaurant in Manchester, according to manager Eric Zink, makes its own baklava, as well as a baklava ice cream, which features a vanilla base with cinnamon, honey, walnuts and baklava pieces.

In addition to offering a traditional baklava, Winarta makes a version with hazelnuts and a chocolate drizzle, or “chocolate rolls” with walnuts, almonds, chocolate and organic milk rolled in phyllo dough. All are available to order per eight pieces, for local pickups or shipping.

Loukoumades

Many Greek festivals in the state will have special stations for loukoumades made to order. More colloquially known as “Greek donuts” or “fried dough balls,” these bite-sized morsels are deep-fried before they are often drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar, or both.

You get eight loukoumades per order at The Gyro Spot, according to Lambroulis, which are made from an old family recipe. Regional variations of the dish might include a simple syrup in lieu of honey, or with chopped walnuts as a garnish.

“It’s a very loose dough, almost like a fluffy pancake batter,” he said, “and we just drop them into the fryer and then drizzle with honey, cinnamon and sugar or give it to you on the side. … I like to soak mine in honey.”

Greek cookies
Most Greek food festivals in New Hampshire have a wide selection of desserts, and while baklava is often the star, you’ve probably seen all kinds of cookies for sale too.

If you want to try Greek cookies you’d normally see at festivals this time of year, you can order them from Youla Winarta of the Nashua-based Youlove Bakery, who bakes them to order in a fully licensed commercial kitchen. She’s not currently at any farmers markets or public events, but offers her full product line for online ordering at youlovebakery.com/shop. One of the most traditional Greek cookies — and one of Winarta’s biggest sellers — is the melomakarona, or honey cookies with walnuts. Similar to melomakarona, she said, is finikia, with slight variations on the cooking method or toppings, from nuts to dates.

“I make them … with flour, olive oil, honey and then they have a lot of good flavors like orange zest and cinnamon cloves,” Winarta said. “It’s a cookie primarily prepared during Christmastime but one that everyone enjoys throughout the year now.”

She also makes kourabiedes and koulourakia. Kourabiedes are shortbread cookies also traditionally consumed around the holidays, covered with powdered sugar and baked with flour, butter, canola oil, eggs, baking powder, baking soda and natural flavors.

Koulourakia are butter cookies shaped in a twisted design and topped with sesame seeds.

“Those are traditionally prepared during Easter,” Winarta said. “They are very good with a cup of coffee or tea. … They are not really sweet and have a good crunchy taste to them.”

All of Winarta’s cookies are available for shipping or local pickups in the Nashua area.

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