High country show

Fogelberg tribute is a gem

A careful return to concerts at the Franklin Opera House includes a hybrid live and livestream show on Nov. 14, with Maine singer-songwriter Don Campbell playing the music of Dan Fogelberg. Employing a voice that closely resembles the soothing tenor that propelled hits such as “Leader of the Band,” “Same Old Lang Syne” and “Go Down Easy,” Campbell will perform both solo on piano and guitar, and with an expanded band.
For Campbell, hearing Fogelberg’s Souvenirs album as a teenager in the early 1970s was a transformative experience.
“It made me want to become a songwriter,” he said in a recent phone interview. “It felt like he was singing directly to me. A common thread with fans that I meet is it’s almost like you knew him through his music.”
Campbell has had a lot of success with his chosen craft. He’s a six-time winner of the Maine’s Best Singer-Songwriter poll and took top honors at a Grand Ole Opry competition of original artists that earned him $50,000 and a Gibson Les Paul custom guitar. He’s made 14 CDs of original music, including a pair of Christmas albums. His most recent release is 2014’s The Dust Never Settles.
It’s Campbell’s tribute act that’s getting the most notice in recent years, however.
When prostate cancer claimed Fogelberg in 2007, Campbell began recording his favorites to memorialize him, ultimately releasing a double album in 2012, Kites To Fly – The Music of Dan Fogelberg. Its title is a metaphor, not a lyric reference.
“His songs are like beautiful kites that you take down from the wall and outside to fly a little bit,” Campbell said. “That’s the only way I can describe them for someone who doesn’t know Dan’s music.”
The tribute was noticed by the Fogelberg Association of Peoria, Illinois (the singer’s hometown). The family trust invited Campbell to perform at their annual Celebration Weekend in 2013 and endorsed his act on its website.
“I got to speak to his mother through the foundation president, who put me on the phone with her,” Campbell said. “It was really quite an honor.”
The upcoming Franklin show will be Campbell’s first livestream, and he said he’s relieved to be performing for an in-person crowd at the same time.
“We like to play for people, not at people, where you can talk to the audience,” he said. “So I love opera houses. They always sound great, and they were built for carrying sound. We’re not a loud band; we’re more about playing the parts.”
He’ll bring a seven-piece band that includes fiddle and mandolin players for the evening. It will span Fogelberg’s career, from his gentle, semi-confessional early work to mid- ‘70s jazz rock and the 1985 bluegrass classic High Country Snows, a record Campbell names as one of his most beloved in the catalog.
“It was a special project,” he said.
Over the summer, Campbell and his band did a few outdoor, socially distanced shows. One memorably happened in the parking lot of The Clambake, a favorite seafood restaurant in his hometown of Scarborough, Maine; he and his band played atop a flatbed truck.
“People got lobster rolls and sat in lawn chairs between each car or in the back of a pickup truck,” he said. “We put on a three-hour concert and it was really great. I’ve always said, ‘Evolve or dissolve.’ Everybody’s had to evolve in 2020 to keep things going.”
Asked what he’ll remember most about this challenging year, Campbell answered quickly.
“Playing in close proximity to people,” he said. “Being able to play in venues where there are dancers right in front of you, it’s hard to replace that.”

The Music of Dan Fogelberg – Don Campbell Band
When: Saturday, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Franklin Opera House, 316 Central St., Franklin
Tickets: $18 & $20 ($17/livestream) at franklinoperahouse.org

Featured photo: Don Campbell. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 20/11/12

Local music news & events

Laugh night: After working as a district attorney and criminal defense lawyer, Paul D’Angelo became a standup comic, and a successful one at that. He’s opened for everyone from Aretha Franklin to Huey Lewis, at places such as Caesar’s Palace and New York City’s Friar’s Club. D’Angelo also appeared on Showtime’s Godfathers of Comedy a while back as well. Friday, Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester. Tickets are $25 at palacetheatre.org.

Local lights: A silver lining of Covid-19 is area bands like Mica’s Groove Train who’ve stepped up to fill the gap left by national tour cancellations and received well-deserved big-stage spotlight moments. Yamica Peterson keeps busy in a number of configurations, but her NEMA-nominated group is the one that gave her a name for soulful, danceable funk. Saturday, Nov. 14, 8 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord. Tickets are $25 at banknhstage.com.

Brew tunes: Live music returns to a neighborhood microbrewery as Nick Ferrero strums and sings at an afternoon gathering. Ferrero is described as a “folk punk singer songwriter and heartfelt rock ’n’ roller,” who “aims to be the voice of his generation, whether anyone hears it or not.” The event will be set up for social distancing, the way of the world for the foreseeable future. Sunday, Nov. 15, 2 p.m., To Share Brewing Co., 720 Union St., Manchester, see facebook.com/nickferreroofficial.

Blues dude: A regular around the region for decades, Arthur James debuts his friendly blues music at a venerable venue. Last year, James released the solo acoustic Hey… I’m Still Here, his first LP sans band, and a prescient move considering the current live performance climate. Highlights include the easygoing “Got Me A Woman” and “292 Nashua Street,” a countrified gem. Thursday, Nov. 12, 6 p.m., The Stone Church, 5 Granite St., Newmarket; more at arthurjames.org.

Love and Monsters (PG-13) & The Craft: Legacy (PG-13)

Love and Monsters (PG-13)

A guy travels through miles of monster-infested wilderness to see a girl in Love and Monsters, a sweet, hopeful movie about the end of the world.

Joel (Dylan O’Brien, who is better served by this movie than by the Maze Runner movies he starred in) and Aimee (Jessica Henwick) are high school sweethearts who are in a car overlooking their bucolic California town, hanging out and making out, when suddenly an air raid siren goes off, stuff starts to blow up and the military shows up. Monsters are soon destroying the town and the couple is separated as people rush to evacuate. These monsters are mutated creatures — giant bugs, worms, frogs, lizards, etc. — created by chemicals that rained down on Earth from bombs sent to destroy an asteroid. (But wait —, you’re about to say. Look, just go with it.)

Seven years later, Joel, like the rest of the surviving 5 percent of humans, lives with his colony underground. Traumatized by the early days of the monster uprising, he’s not so much of a hunter, more of a soup-maker and radio-fixer. But with these skills he was able to call around to other human colonies and eventually find Aimee, living in a colony by the beach 80-some miles away. Because he still loves her (and also because he is lonely as the only person not paired up in his small colony), Joel decides to set off on the trek to see her.

Along the way, Joel meets Clyde (Michael Rooker) and his sort of adopted daughter Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) and they help him learn some survival skills, including some decent archery work. And Joel befriends a dog called Boy who turns out to be a good and useful traveling partner.

For a movie with giant man-eating ants and worms (decently portrayed and just this side of silly), Love and Monsters has a surprising amount of heart. And it’s hopeful. It shows Joel, deeply heartbroken and lonely, learning how to take the world as it is and move forward with some optimism despite, like, man-eating termites and a seriously depopulated world. And it’s funny — Love and Monsters isn’t full of big laughs but it has a lightly humorous tone throughout that really complements the sweet and bittersweet elements of the story. B

Rated PG-13 for action/violence, language and some suggestive material, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Michael Matthews with a screenplay by Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson, Love and Monsters is an hour and 49 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It is available for rent or purchase.

The Craft: Legacy (PG-13)

A new generation of teenage witches uses their powers to teach jerks lessons and apply sparkly eye makeup in The Craft: Legacy.

Teenager Lily (Cailee Spaeny) and her mom (Michelle Monaghan) move to a new town to live with Adam (David Duchovny), her mom’s new flame, and his three teenage sons. Lily isn’t terribly excited to start at a new school and her first day does not go well. Her period shows up unexpectedly and a particularly meatheaded boy, Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine), a friend of Lily’s new stepbrother-types, humiliates her. Lily runs to the bathroom, where Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Frankie (Gideon Adlon) and Tabby (Lovie Simone) show up with words of comfort and a new pair of shorts. They have their eye on Lily and after she is able to shove Timmy into a locker without really touching him the trio decide that Lily is exactly who they’ve been looking for — the fourth, who will complete their coven and allow them to tap into the witch powers they’re certain they have. And with Lily around, they find they can perform some impressive feats, like telepathic communication, briefly freezing time and playing a kick-butt round of Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.

There is a very “first two episodes of a new CW series” feel about this movie — a new series I would probably watch even if it’s still finding its footing. Legacy balances, or at least it tries to balance, teen drama with magic and humor with horror, both literal and metaphorical. In one plot point, the girls cast a spell on Timmy, who tormented them all at some point. Their spell, basically, makes him woke — talking about his feelings and chastising bros for making insensitive jokes. It’s a cute element that is executed, at least for a while, OK. A series probably could have developed in clever ways but a movie just doesn’t have time.

The actors here are fine — little is stand-out but it feels like everybody is bringing a bit of something to their characters, even if they don’t get the time to do all that much. The movie’s final note really does have that “mid-season finale” energy and many of the story and character choices made here would make sense if this is the start of a longer-running universe. As a stand-alone movie, The Craft: Legacy feels not-yet-done and in need of a tighter focus. C+

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, crude and sexual content, language and brief drug material, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones (from characters by Peter Filardi), The Craft: Legacy is an hour and 37 minutes long and is distributed by Columbia Pictures. It is available for rent or purchase.

Featured photo: Love and Monsters (PG-13)

Squeeze Me, by Carl Hiaasen

Squeeze Me, by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf, 336 pages)

This year has already seen the publication of one clever novel about the weirdness of the Sunshine State (Florida Man by Tom Cooper) and another that was a satirical takedown of the Trump presidency (Make Russia Great Again, by Christopher Buckley). Did we really need another that combines the finer points of the two?

Why, yes, it turns out that we did. Carl Hiaasen, a Miami Herald columnist who also finds time to crank out books every other year or so, offers balm for the post-election brain in Squeeze Me, a satirical novel that takes a well-worn premise (a political cover-up) and makes it glorious. The fact that it takes place in the second term of the presidency of a man the Secret Service code-named Mastodon should not be a deterrent to anyone except for die-hard Trump supporters born without a funny bone.

The novel begins with a Palm Beach socialite gone missing during a charity gala. Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons, whose wealth derived from marrying well twice, spent a lot of time at events benefiting second-tier diseases. (The current one, the White Ibis Ball, is a fundraiser for “a group globally committed to defeating Irritable Bowel Syndrome.) She has the sort of friends who object to her being listed missing through a “Silver Alert” for seniors. “Isn’t there a premium version for people like us? A Platinum Alert, something like that?”

Like many of her friends, Kiki Pew’s lineage can be described simply from whence her money came, i.e, “the antifreeze and real-estate Cornbrights”; and the “asbestos and textile Fitzsimmonses.” It is the sort of sly detail that makes Squeeze Me so delectable, savage and mocking yet never coming off as mean.

Kiki Pew, in addition to raising money for various causes, is an ardent supporter of a president who is “white, old and scornful of social reforms.” So are her friends.

“Often they were invited to dine at Casa Bellicosa, the Winter White House, while the President was in residence. He always made a point of waving from the buffet line or pastry table.”

Unfortunately, Kiki Pew, fascinating a character as she is, is with us only for a short time, as what happened to her sets up the cover-up that consumes the bulk of the novel. The unsettling manner of Kiki’s death was not good for business at the Lipid House, the place where she was last seen. But, rewritten, it could be very good for the president.

So a plot is hatched to blame her disappearance on a 25-year-old man from Honduras named Diego Beltran, who was arriving on the shore of Palm Beach via a smuggler’s boat the same night at the White Ibis Ball. And the president seizes the opportunity to suggest that her “brutal murder” was an act of “political terrorism” aimed at his administration. At her funeral at Cape Cod (“Winter residents of Palm Beach inevitably return north forever, either in caskets or urns”), she is eulogized by the vice president as a “martyred patriot.” A rallying cry is soon heard across the country: No more Diegos!

There is a monkey wrench in this plan, which is that there are people who do know what happened to Kiki Pew, most significantly, Angie Armstrong, who runs a nuisance-wildlife removal business. From alligators to coyotes to possums, Armstrong wrangles them all, releasing them in the wild when possible, burying them when it’s not. (Again, demonstrating Hiaasen’s wicked mastery of blending real life with comic fiction, in one memorable scene she snares a bobcat hunched on a Peloton bike like Grace in Boston.)

Baked into this Wag-the-Doggish story is an affair the first lady (code name Mockingbird) is having with a Secret Service agent.

Hiassen is a longtime writer of humor, but this book is an extraordinary accomplishment, given a personal tragedy. His brother, Rob Hiaasen, was one of the journalists killed by a gunman in a newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2018. The book is dedicated to him. It’s good that he has retained a sense of humor in the wake of loss like that. (Side note: A novel that Rob Hiaasen had worked on for years was published after his death. All proceeds from Float Plan go to a group called Everytown for Gun Safety.)

As the election fades into memory — if the election fades into memory — we may all be a little hung over, needing just a we fix of politics before returning to what resembles real life. Squeeze Me will get you over the hump. A

You don’t have to have been a supporter of Barack Obama to be dazzled by the recent video clip of him effortlessly swishing a basketball through a hoop in Michigan while on a campaign stop with Joe Biden.

Say what you want about his politics, but the former president is cool. Which reminded me of a 2018 book, Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents, (Little, Brown & Co., 240 pages). The author is Pete Sousa, who was the official White House photographer for the entire eight years of Obama’s administration. His book juxtaposes photos of Obama with tweets, articles and headlines about and by Trump, and is predictably devastating but also smart and entertaining. It is definitely not for Trump fans, but if you know someone who still has an Obama/Biden bumper sticker on their car (I still come across them), this would be the perfect Christmas gift, paired with Obama’s new memoir.

Shade was released in paperback last fall, but this is the type of book better in hardcover.

What we all should be reading for the next few weeks are books about the Electoral College in anticipation of the events of Dec. 14, but who can stomach that?

Better: Humorist David Sedaris has a new collection of previously published work: The Best of Me (Little, Brown & Co., 400 pages).

But if you are bent on staying up with the news, these are two salient books that should be read together: Why We Need the Electoral College by Tara Ross (Gateway Editions, 320 pages) and Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College by Jesse Wegman (St. Martin’s Press, 304 pages).

Incredibly, there are two other books about the Electoral College that were published this year: Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? by Alexander Keyssar (Harvard University Press, 544 pages); Presidential Elections and Majority Rule, the Rise, Demise, and Potential Restoration of the Jeffersonian Electoral College by Edward B. Foley (Oxford University Press, 256 pages).|

Don’t ever let anyone tell you traditional publishing is dead.

Featured photo: Squeeze Me

Album Reviews 20/11/12

Raf Vertessen Quartet, LOI (El Negocito Records)

The term “avant-garde” originally came to us from the military, a catchall describing a small troop of highly skilled soldiers who went ahead of the rest of the army to explore the terrain and warn of potential danger. That military association has mostly faded from the public hivemind, which nowadays regards it as an adjective describing various forms of improvised, off-the-cuff art. After years of trying to “clue in” to avant-jazz, even the red-hottest of it, like this Brooklyn-by-way-of-Belgium drummer has accomplished on this, his bandleader debut, I’ve experienced several stages of self-confidence, but always come back to my musician’s sense that improv is three-dimensional, that the listener is observing personal, not solely musical, interactions. Here, the sax/trumpet/bass contributors do seem to want to expand on Vertessen’s whiteboard sketches, but the constant outbursts of (spoiler) unmitigated skronk really did nothing for me until the heavily syncopated “Fake,” at which point the band did sound like they had a common goal. Note that the whole record was recorded during two one-shot attempts, so, as one critic noted, it gets better after they’re warmed up. B

Fred Hersch, Songs From Home (Palmetto Records)

Album titles rarely ring this true. On this LP, the Ohio-raised jazz pianist, now 64, has made coping with Covid easy on himself by leaving his two usual-suspect rhythm-section cohorts out of it and simply solo-doodling with (mostly) some standards at relaxed leisure, at home. This guy’s a survivor; one of the first jazz musicians to come out as gay and HIV-positive, he was on the ropes in 2008, first suffering from AIDS-related dementia and then, promptly afterward, pneumonia. Unbelievably, after nine nominations, he still hasn’t won a Grammy, not that those are handed out like candy, and regardless, a Grammy won’t keep a person from contracting Covid depression. No, better to keep at it, to be the best you can be, and within this wide-open environment, Hersch reminds us that he is indeed one of the best, period. Playful versions of “Wichita Lineman,” “After You’ve Gone”; some deft rhythmic change-ups on “All I Want,” solemn modal ruminations on Hersch’s own “West Virginia Rose” — sweet escapism abounds. A+

Retro Playlist

By now it’s an established supposition that I may indeed have an undiagnosed allergy to bands in fedora hats, a fashion accessory usually reserved for bands that specialize in music I detest, like jam bands. If I see fedora hats on bandmembers, I usually expect them to play their guitars through wimpily affected Peavy amps, with the distortion knob set to “Don’t Upset Anyone.” I mean, it’s cool if you’re into that; maybe that’s on me, on my black-and-white worldview. My thinking is that a band either plugs guitars into amplifiers to produce loud-ass noise, or leaves them unplugged in order to temporarily to soothe the savage lager-drinking beasts who attend shows, concerts and after-hours fire-pits. I’m not much with gray areas, apparently.
That’s not to say I hate all fedora music. You know for a fact that I’m always nice to Norah Jones, whose Blue Note Records release, The Fall, had me gushing over its prettiness (if not its faux-world-weariness) way back in 2009 (“’Chasing Pirates’ — the lyrics of which betray a weariness with the stupid side of boys — is a shy chick’s ‘Like a Virgin’ in rhythm, tone and attitude”). As well, back in June of this year, I was quite impressed with her new LP, Pick Me Up Off The Floor (“she is officially a folk-jazz goddess … and at least she’s not trying to become a media conglomerate like everybody else who lucks into a hit record”).
And don’t forget Amos Lee. I always have time for that guy. 2011’s Mission Bell is still one of my favorite fedora albums, on the strength of the galloping “Windows Are Rolled Down” alone, but there’s plenty of folk-and-soul-tinged fedora-pop on board to love. Thus I am not hopelessly irredeemable.
(Note that someone may jump onto a [hopefully rickety] stack of milk crates and object that Lee is simply too soulful to be classified as a fedora artist, but that’s the whole point: My “Critic’s Tip To Bands” for this week is to avoid being boring if you’re writing fedora-rock tunes, a thing far easier said than done.)


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Uh oh, gang, the new releases of Nov. 13 are on the way, and things are heating up, probably! I mean, the holidays are basically here, so all your favorite bands and twerking frauds plus William Shatner In A Pear Tree want you to spend the last of your emergency Spaghettios unemployment money not on food, but on albums, like you should, don’t be such a cheapskate! I haven’t looked at the list of new releases yet, but I’ll bet you there’s some OG rapper dude releasing a Christmas album, or maybe a team-up between Kellie Pickler and Dolly Parton, which could be titled Before And After. Wouldn’t that be funny? No? OK, whatever, let me put on my Santa hat and check the list! Whoa, wait a second, look, guys, it’s a new AC/DC album, called POWER UP! The title is capitalized, because seriously man, now that they’re all older than Betty White or whatever, Angus and his boys are seriously powered up! Ho ho ho, this should be awesome in every way, I can’t wait to hear the new single, “Shot In The Dark,” but first, look at Angus! He looks like a beardless Gandalf now, like a cemetery caretaker extra dude from some 1980s PBS show about Sherlock Holmes, so funny and awesome. OK shut up, wait, here’s the video, after this commercial word. Hey, why is the YouTube spam-bot trying to sell Cadillacs on an AC/DC video? Don’t they know AC/DC hates new cars, because the establishment is bad? I’m gonna email Angus on his MySpace or AOL, right after this song (man is he gonna be mad)! Ack, guess what, it’s the same song as “Shoot To Thrill,” like, I’ll bet if you heard this song and “Shoot To Thrill” played at the same time, you’d just say “Hmm, interesting multi-tracking!” Ho ho ho, all right, enough of that.

• I say, old chaps, it would appear that there is a new album from Yukon Blonde, called Vindicator! If you tend to avoid bad music, you probably don’t know about this Canadian indie-rock band, but for the record, they did have a No. 11 hit (in Canada) with the (Canadian) single “Saturday Night,” which was basically a meatless Canadian ripoff of A-ha’s “Take On Me.” Unfortunately they weren’t sued into oblivion for that, so now I have to go listen to the band’s new single, “You Were Mine,” because no justice no peace. I’m watching the YouTube video for the song now, and shocker, it has no hook, just vibe, like a way-too-long Gorillaz/Jamie Liddell mashup. I am now shutting it off and will try to forget the dumbness I have just experienced.

The Cribs are an indie band from Britain (or, more specifically, because you know how people in the U.K. like to be specific: Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England, U.K., Europe, Earth, solar system, Orion Arm, Milky Way, universe). They have been around since the early Aughts, and everyone from England loves them, because they once made a song called “Mirror Kissers” that sounded kind of like The Hives. The band’s new LP, Night Network, is on the way, and it features the tune “Never Thought I’d Feel Again,” which sounds like a Herman’s Hermits B-side from 1965. You might like it, but probably won’t.

• To end the week, let’s talk about Fear & Loneliness, The Darcys’ new album! “Too Late,” the single, sounds like background music for a disco scene from The Love Boat, and is, thus, worthless, but I thank the band for playing.

Sherry, sherry, baby

Give the world’s oldest fine wine a chance

Whenever I think of sherry, the fortified wine, I cannot help thinking of Frankie Vallee singing “Sherry, Baby” in that Jersey Boys falsetto voice. Wait, I may have said too much, and yes, I occasionally tune into “60’s on 6” on Sirius radio!

Sherry (the wine) has a bad reputation, linked to proper ladies drinking ever so politely from little glasses. However, it should not have such a limited audience. It is more than a beverage option for tea, served with small sandwiches and polite fruit creams. It should be served chilled and enjoyed along a fireside, wrapped in a blanket.

Sherry has a long and storied past. At about 2,000 years old, it is the world’s oldest fine wine, made principally from the palomino grape, along with a couple of others in Jerez, Andalucia, Spain. It has been imitated in other regions, but never with any success outside of Jerez. In fact, the EU has dictated the name can only apply to wines from Jerez. It can range from the driest, most delicate fino to the richest, most pungent oloroso. The wine is made in a traditional manner. The grapes are harvested and the wine is made in exactly the same manner as any other dry white wine, but in the following year the wine is fortified with alcohol and other wine to raise the strength to 14.5 percent. A skin of naturally occurring yeast, called flor, forms along the surface of the wine, which makes a barrier between the surface of the wine and the air within the cask, preventing the wine from oxidizing and imparting that “nutty” character sherry has. The amount of flor on the wine determines the direction the sherry will take, from fino, which is fortified to 15.5 percent, to oloroso, 17.5 percent.

On the bottle labels you may find the term “solera system.” One might call this “quality control.” It is a system of mixing young wines with older wines to ensure consistency, but it is more than that. Typically, there are four tiers to the stand of oak barrels sherry is stored in. Each year two thirds of the wine of the oldest in the tier will be blended with one third of the wine of the following year’s vintage. The wine is tapped off from each successive barrel, allowing new wine to be replenished in the top level. The fino soleras are emptied periodically to maintain the freshness of the wine. A good fino has spent five years rotating through these barrels. The oloroso soleras, however, may not be completely emptied.

Sherry comes in a variety of styles. Fino is the palest and driest of the Jerez styles. It has a citric quality to it. Amontillado is aged beyond five years and has a light shade of almond to it. It is still dry but more complex, rich and spicy. Oloroso sherries spend about 10 years in the solera and while still dry are mixed with other sweet wines to produce “cream sherries.” Sometimes sherries are made from other grapes, such as muscatel or Pedro Ximénez, a grape dried in the sun to produce extremely sweet wine. Sherries can be dated but dating them follows a complex formula because of the mixing of vintages, and sometimes there are individual vintages from single casks, but these are rare and can be pricey.

So, what sherries are available in New Hampshire? Sadly, the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets have somewhat meager offerings. Of the 76 stores only four varieties of sherries are offered in many of the stores. This is unfortunate because there is a wealth of types of sherries to explore. Our first is Dry Sack Medium Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $13.49 per bottle. This wine is the color of weak tea and has a dry “nutty” character to it.

Our next sherry is Savory & James Fino Deluxe Dry Sherry, available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $9.99 per bottle. The color of this sherry is a very pale straw. To the nose and mouth it is a very dry, light sherry with strong citric notes. One can compare this to a dry vermouth.

Our last sherry is Harveys Bristol Cream Solera Sherry, available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets at $13.99 per bottle. Perhaps the standard by which all other sherries are compared, it is a rich, smooth, full sherry with creamy notes, as its name defines.

Pick up a bottle or two to enjoy by the fire as the weather gets cooler. And remember, you don’t have to invite Grandma to enjoy new experiences with this fine fortified wine.

S’mores martini

Sylvester Graham would hate this article. For the purposes of this week’s cocktails, here’s what you need to know about Graham, who died in 1851:

• He didn’t invent the graham cracker — he encouraged people to grind their own flour (he said white bread was made from “tortured wheat”). Some mills started producing a rougher-ground, whole-grain flour that they called Graham flour. Graham crackers were made using this flour.

• He was horrified by alcohol.

• He was very impatient; he couldn’t understand why Americans didn’t just listen to him and change their lifestyles instantly (he basically thought pleasure and anything that gave you pleasure — alcohol, meat, sex — is bad for you).

So, here’s our first tie-in with Sylvester Graham: What’s with all the exotic ingredients, Cocktail Boy?

I’ve been looking back at the last several cocktails I’ve written about and I’m pretty sure some of you have been thinking to yourself, “OK, this drink sounds very interesting, but do I really need Nepalese orchid pollen to make it?” The most exotic ingredients in today’s drinks are cocoa nibs and grapefruit juice. (No, not together.)

The bad news is that Cocktail No. 1 will take you a week to make.

Cocktail No. 1 – The S’mores Martini

After making chocolate vodka last month, I decided to see if I could make graham cracker vodka (Sylvester Graham connection No. 2).

I’ll spare you the experimental methodology, but in short, it works.

Graham Cracker Vodka

1 sleeve (135 grams) graham crackers

3 cups 80 proof inexpensive vodka

Combine graham crackers and vodka in a blender. Blend at whatever speed pleases you for one minute. Feel free to chuckle evilly as the graham crackers meet their fate.

Pour into a wide-mouthed, airtight jar.

Store in a warm, dark place for a week, shaking twice daily.

(And this is really important) On Day 7, DO NOT SHAKE THE JAR.

Gently pour the clear liquid through a fine-meshed strainer, then through a coffee filter, into a labeled bottle.

Strain the remaining graham cracker glop overnight, then filter and add to your bottle.

S’mores Martini

2 oz. chocolate vodka

2 oz. graham cracker vodka

3-4 miniature marshmallows, for garnish.

In a mixing glass (see below), pour equal amounts of chocolate and graham cracker vodka over ice.

Stir gently but thoroughly.

Pour off, into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with toasted miniature marshmallows, much like you would a conventional martini, with olives.

Some bartenders make standard, conventional martinis by pouring an ounce or so of vermouth over the ice in the mixing glass, stirring it around, then pouring it out. The vermouth-washed ice adds just enough vermouthiness to the gin to make a solid dry martini. I suspect that if one were to wash the ice in this drink with creme de cacao before mixing in the chocolate and graham cracker vodkas, it would deepen the flavor even more. That would stretch the boundaries of Sylvester Graham-like simplicity and humble ingredients, though.

Observation No. 1 – Is this idea a bit cutesy and Food Networky?

Yes, but if you find yourself with chocolate and graham cracker vodkas, the Universe sort of demands that you do it.

Observation No. 2 – Shaken versus Stirred

For years, I’ve heard martini snobs sneering at the whole James Bond, shaken-not-stirred concept. But for the sake of … um, I’m not actually sure what … I decided to make two different versions of this martini, one shaken brutally in a Boston shaker (the kind with two halves) and one stirred in a mixing glass.

Shockingly, there was a real difference, and not a small one. The shaken martini had a different look, a different mouth-feel and even a different taste than the silkier one made in the mixing glass. By comparison, it seemed like it was made in a frat house. The stirred one was delightful and civilized.

Does this mean that you’ll have to invest in a special mixing glass and long spirally bar spoon? I did, but I suspect you could do just as well with a glass measuring cup and the blunt end of a butter knife. But let’s say you suffer from a Sylvester Graham-like impatience. Try this instead:

Featured photo: S’mores martini. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Frank Mannino

Francesco “Frank” Mannino of Nashua is the owner of Pizzico Ristorante Italiano & Martini Bar (7 Harold Drive, Nashua, 897-0696; 7 Continental Blvd., Merrimack, 424-1000; pizzicotogo.com), which offers a menu of authentic Italian appetizers, pastas and steak, chicken and seafood entrees, in addition to specialty burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and calzones. The drink menu includes a variety of house martinis and an extensive selection of Italian red and white wines. Pizzico, its name coming from the Italian word meaning “pinch” in terms of cooking, has been open in Nashua since 1996. Originally from Palermo, Italy, Mannino came to the United States as a teenager. He purchased the restaurant from his older brother Vito in 2005, opening the second location in Merrimack about three years later.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

I would say a pan or a knife.

What would you have for your last meal?

I would have our Sicilian stew, which we make in house with steak tips, sausage, carrots and onions cooked in a tomato sauce, and then we toss it in a pasta.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Michael Timothy’s [Local Kitchen & Wine Bar in Nashua]. I’ll usually have a steak dish, cooked medium-rare.

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

Robert De Niro.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The lasagna, which is one of our most popular items. The meat lasagna has ground beef and pork Bolognese, and then we do a vegetarian lasagna with layers of eggplant.

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

Definitely gluten-free [options]. We do both gluten-free pastas and pizzas.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Nothing too crazy, just a simple pasta with tomato sauce … or a cheese pizza.

Spaghetti Aglio & Olio
From the kitchen of Francesco “Frank” Mannino of Pizzico Ristorante Italiano & Martini Bar in Nashua and Merrimack (served with a pasta of your choice)

2 ounces chopped garlic
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt and pepper
Pinch of chopped parsley

In a saute pan, add oil and garlic. While it’s cooking, add the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Once garlic is a gold color, shut the stove off and add a little bit of hot water to prevent it from burning and the pasta from sticking to the pan. Toss the pasta in. Serve and top with freshly chopped parsley and Parmesan (optional).

Featured Photo: Frank Mannino

New American-Italian option

Mikey’s Roast Beef & Pizza opens in Hooksett

Nashua High School North and Southern New Hampshire University graduate Mikhail “Mikey” Bashagurov got his start in the restaurant industry at Giovanni’s at the age of 18, working many different roles over the course of several years. Nearly a decade later, after additional stints at Sal’s Pizza and the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, Bashagurov now has his own restaurant, offering fresh pizzas, calzones, subs, pastas and other items in a casual environment.
Mikey’s Roast Beef & Pizza, which opened on Nov. 6 in Hooksett, is in the former space of ABC Pizza on Londonderry Turnpike. Bashagurov found the vacant storefront earlier this summer with the help of Giovanni’s owner Jeannette Alexandrou, and has worked ever since toward reopening the eatery under his own name and brand. The menu is based on those of other similar casual Italian-American restaurants he’s worked in.
“A lot of the items are very similar, but they are my recipes, so they kind of have my own twists on them,” he said. “I will say that people would be familiar with the menu while still getting something different and new.”
Appetizers include french fries, onion rings, chicken fingers and wings, all available in multiple portion sizes, plus mozzarella sticks, garlic bread, meatballs, steak tips and grilled chicken tenders. There are also several salads, like garden, Greek, Caesar and antipasto with Italian meats, all with the additional option to add tuna, steak or chicken.
The roast beef sandwiches, which Bashagurov said feature meat sliced fresh every day, come in five different sizes ranging from three to six ounces. Other subs and sandwiches, divided on the menu between hot and cold, include BLTs and turkey clubs, chicken or meatball Parmesan subs, steak bombs — either as shaved steak or steak tips — and grilled chicken bombs with mushrooms, peppers, onions and cheese, smash burgers and fried chicken sandwiches.
Pizzas and calzones come in small or large sizes, with the option to choose a specialty topping (like the Mikey’s Special, with mushrooms, peppers, onions, pepperoni and sausage), or to create your own using around two dozen ingredient add-ons. A small selection of pastas using ziti and either garlic butter, alfredo or marinara sauce is also available, in addition to dinner plates with steak, chicken or roast beef and salads, fries or onion rings as sides.
Bashagurov’s wife Tiffani makes homemade chocolate chip cookies as a dessert option, which are thick and crunchy on the outside and feature a soft cake-like texture on the inside, he said.
The restaurant has a small dine-in space of about eight seats, but Bashagurov said that like its predecessor, Mikey’s will be largely focused on takeout, with delivery services also available within a five-mile radius.

Mikey’s Roast Beef & Pizza
21 Londonderry Turnpike, Hooksett
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
More info: Visit mikeysroastbeefandpizza.com, find them on Facebook and Instagram @mikeysroastbeefandpizza or call 623-0005

Featured photo: A table of booze from a past Distillers Showcase. Courtesy photo.

Virtual wines and spirits

Liquor Commission presents 90 Days Around the World tasting series

In lieu of its annual Wine Week and Distiller’s Week, both of which bring hundreds of the world’s esteemed winemakers and spirit purveyors to the Granite State for several nights of tastings and seminars, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission is now bringing them to you from the comfort of your own home. The inaugural 90 Days Around the World program, which began on Nov. 2 and will continue through Jan. 30, features a three-month series of free virtual tastings, Q&A sessions and other interactive events with winemakers and distillers near and far.

Laphroaig. Courtesy photo.

“We knew it would be impossible to host the same events that we have in the past … but we still wanted to support that engagement with our customers, who continue to want to learn about our product offerings,” said Lorrie Piper, director of sales, marketing, merchandising and distribution for the New Hampshire Liquor Commission.

Each day during the program, participants can visit 90daysaroundtheworld.com and click on the “events” tab, where they’ll find a link to a virtual tasting or Q&A session that will be livestreamed on the Commission’s Facebook page and via Zoom. Most of them also include information about the purveyor and which wines and spirits will be discussed and tasted.

Those tuning in live can engage in the conversation by posting comments or questions to the video, but even if you miss one you wanted to watch, Piper said, all of the videos are archived.

“We’ll be monitoring the videos after they get posted, so we encourage people to still reach out, ask questions and make comments,” she said.

Several industry professionals who have travelled to New Hampshire for Distiller’s Week or Wine Week in the past have returned for this new virtual series. Among them is Jane Bowie, director of innovation at Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, who was a featured panelist at the Women of Whiskey & Spirits seminar during last year’s Distiller’s Week.

On Nov. 5, Bowie, along with Maker’s Mark master distiller Denny Potter, led an interactive virtual discussion and tasting of four of the company’s spirits.

“It’s not as personal, but you do get to talk to and reach a lot more people in this format,” Bowie said in a phone interview. “I almost think you can get more engagement in this scenario, because people are tasting from their homes. They’re in their natural environment and may not be as nervous about asking questions as they might be from a more orchestrated tasting.”

Some tastings planned for later on in the series will also feature live cooking demonstrations, meant to showcase food pairing suggestions with wines and spirits. In mid-January, winemaker Lisa Evich of Simi Winery in Sonoma County, California, will host a joint virtual cooking demonstration and tasting with executive chef Kolin Vazzoler.

Evich is a two-time past attendee of the Winter Wine Spectacular and has also participated in several dinners at local restaurants that have featured Simi’s products during Wine Week.

“Sonoma County is just such an incredibly diverse region to grow grapes in with nice lush flavors,” Evich said in a phone interview. “Kolin does an outstanding job of creating dishes that really complement and showcase what our wines are all about.”

Throughout the 90-day series, participants have the opportunity to earn points that would accumulate toward their chance to win multiple prizes and giveaways. You can start earning points by downloading the free Scavify app, which Piper said acts as a virtual “passport” for each event you tune into. Once you create an account through the app, you’ll earn points by getting a “stamp” in your passport.

Points can be accumulated by attending as many events as possible or by completing tasks, such as posting pictures of your favorite spirits or wines or correctly answering trivia questions. Some of the larger prizes, Piper said, include a $2,500 New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet gift card and a guide to build your own home bar, including tools and accessories.

90 Days Around the World virtual tasting series
When: Various dates and times, now through Jan. 30 (series began Nov. 2 and all tastings can be viewed on Facebook @nhliquorandwine)|
How to participate: Visit 90daysaroundtheworld.com or download the Scavify app to start accumulating points

Featured photo: A table of booze from a past Distillers Showcase. Courtesy photo.

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