Pots, edgers and manure

Holiday gifts for the gardener

I love the holiday season: the lights, the carols, the cookies and more. It’s a good antidote to the news, and to the gray and chilly weather. Last summer many gardening necessities sold out as so many people were quarantined at home and took to gardening. So I recommend getting presents now, before everything is sold out. Here are some ideas for presents to gardeners.

Nice pots are good presents, for growing plants on the deck or just for their sheer beauty. For my birthday this year my wife gave me an urn made by Brattleboro, Vermont, potter Stephen Procter. It is 20 inches tall, a foot wide in the middle and tapering to a six-inch neck. His website, stephenprocter.com, shows mostly huge pots, some six feet tall, but he makes smaller things like mine, too. And your garden center will offer a wide variety of nice pots for growing things, too.

We all need hand tools, and sometimes we lose them. So you can always give a weeder to your loved one. The best of these, in my opinion, is the CobraHead weeder with its curved single tine that is great for teasing out roots of grasses and invasive weeds, or for use at planting time to loosen the soil. It’s available locally or from CobraHead.com for about $28 including shipping, and made in America.

Last summer was dry, so watering devices and accessories were hard to buy locally much of the time. One item that is a bit of luxury, for me, is a three-way or four-way splitter for the hose. Look for a good, heavy-duty metal one at your local garden center. Why four-way? One for each hose. No more disconnecting and reconnecting hoses. Price? Around $30. Give a five- or six-foot hose to go with it, to attach to the spigot and the splitter. Under $10.

Another watering device is a watering wand. Dramm is the best because their wands deliver a lot of water in a gentle fashion. I like a 30-inch wand with a built in on-off controller. Around $25.

I like adding height to the garden, and an easy way to do this is with Gardener’s Supply’s “Essex Round Trellis.” It comes in five-foot and seven-foot heights, and I selected the taller one to grow my morning glories next year. Metal, easy to assemble, $60 or $80. It will look good in the garden all winter, too.

Also from Gardener’s Supply I got some metal edging. It comes in a variety of lengths and assembles and installs easily; it’s sold as 12- to 24-foot kits in a variety of metals and finishes for $43 to $80. These bend nicely and create a finished look for a flower bed.

I love gardening books. I realize that the web has a lot of information, but nothing beats a book in my hands as I settle in on a cold and snowy day.

Norwich, Vermont, garden designer Bill Noble came out with a beautifully illustrated book this year, Spirit of Place: The Making of a New England Garden (Timber Press, $35). It is a lovely description of his gardens – and the thought processes that went along with doing this over a long period of time.

I have a few cases of my last book, Organic Gardening (not just) in the Northeast: A Hands-On, Month-by-Month Guide (Bunker Hill Publishing, 2015) collecting dust. It came out at $17.50 in paperback, but I am offering it now at $15 including shipping. It’s a collection of my best articles arranged by month. Send me a check at P.O. Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746.

Storey Publications (storey.com) is one of my favorite publishers for garden books, not only because their books are practical and well-written, but because many are in paperback and very affordable. Their Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Ed Smith ($24.95 in paper) is a classic and a must-have even for experienced gardeners.

New to me this year are these, all looking interesting. Best of all is a great book on soil by Dianne Miessler, Grow Your Soil: Harness the Power of the Soil Food Web to Create Your Best Garden Ever. It explains very well how soils work, what soil test results mean, and how to correct deficiencies. You don’t need to be a scientist to read this one ($16.95 in paperback).

The Gardener’s Weed Book and The Gardener’s Bug Book, both by Barbara Pleasant ($14.95 each) are very useful No color illustrations, but the drawings are fine. It’s written for organic gardeners.

Saving Container Plants by Alice and Brian McGowan is a useful book for all of us in New England that want to winter over tender perennials that we have grown in pots on the deck all summer, but that can’t survive the winter outdoors. A stocking stuffer at $9.95 in paperback.

Lastly, give your loved one a pile of … manure. Farmers and garden centers sell hot-composted or aged manure that is great for the garden. It will improve the soil and nurture soil organisms. Three yards is a small dump truck load, or you can go get a load in a pickup truck.

All my best to you, my readers, in this holiday season. Don’t be naughty, and Santa may bring you what you want.

You may reach Henry at henry.homeyer@comcast.net or at P.O. Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746.  

Featured Photo: Alder catkins provide seeds now. Photo by Henry Homeyer.

The Weekly Dish 20/12/10

News from the local food scene

LaBelle Winery expanding to Derry: LaBelle Winery will be expanding its business into Derry next year, according to a press release. Owners Amy LaBelle and her husband, Cesar Arboleda, recently announced the purchase of Brookstone Events & Golf on Route 111. The property, according to the release, will undergo significant renovations beginning this month, with the intention of creating a Champagne house, a restaurant and a wedding and event center. Plans also include an “artisan village” with several outdoor and indoor gathering areas, including a nine-hole par-3 golf course and a miniature golf course. The Champagne house will include a tasting room and a space where a new line of sparkling wines will be produced, while the restaurant will feature farm-to-table American cuisine and wood-fired pizzas served in an upscale casual environment. The golf courses and event center are scheduled to reopen in April 2021, with the restaurant and retail marketplace opening in June, followed by the winery tasting room in July. Visit labellewinerynh.com.

Farm-fresh feasts: The Farmer’s Dinner, a New Hampshire-based farm-to-table dinner series, recently announced the schedule for its ninth season in 2021, according to a press release, and it will start with a dinner at Live Bee or Die Farm in New Boston on May 23. The series will continue with dinners at Dunk’s Mushrooms in Brentwood on June 12, a colonial dinner on July 18 in Derry, a dinner at Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, Mass., on Aug. 14, and a dinner at Vernon Family Farm in Newfields on Aug. 29. Since 2012, The Farmer’s Dinner has hosted nearly 90 farm-to-table events across New England, feeding more than 17,000 people and raising more than $125,000 for local farms. Tickets are available now at thefarmersdinner.com.

Blueberry farm retires: Durocher Farm in Litchfield, known as a destination for its early and late season varieties of pick-your-own blueberries for more than four decades, will not be returning in 2021. “The Durocher family has decided that the time is right to retire,” read a recent post from the farm’s Facebook page from Bob Marr, who has leased and operated the blueberry farm with his wife, Jennifer, for the past three years. “Both Jen and I have done our best to keep the farm open to the public but as in life, all good things must come to an end.” The farm, which was established in 1943 by the Durochers, according to its website, featured more than 2,500 blueberry bushes for picking that were originally planted in 1975.

NHLC launches new website: The New Hampshire Liquor Commission has unveiled a new e-commerce website for its products, according to a press release. Online ordering with 90-minute same-day in-store pickup is now available at 10 Liquor & Wine Outlet stores across the state, including both stores on Interstate 93 in Hooksett and on Interstate 95 in Hampton, as well as the stores in Manchester, Londonderry, Salem, Pembroke, Rochester and West Lebanon. The new site also now has an educational platform with access to virtual and in-person experiences with celebrities, winemakers and master distillers. Users can create personal profiles on the site to search for and save their favorite brands. According to the release, the Commission recently surpassed $1 million in sales from its curbside delivery and in-store pickup program, launched earlier this year. Visit liquorandwineoutlets.com.

Have a festive feast

Where to order your holiday meals and desserts

From specialty entrees to fresh baked sweet treats, check out this list of local restaurants, bakeries and caterers to place your order with this holiday season.

All Real Meal (87 Elm St., Manchester, 782-3014, allrealmeal.com) is taking orders now for full Christmas dinners that feed either three to four or six to seven people. Dinners include slow-cooked turkey breast with gravy, cranberry almond green beans, creamy mashed potatoes, homestyle cornbread, pecan pie cheesecake and bacon herb hash brown quiche. Place orders as soon as possible. Curbside pickups and contact-free deliveries will be on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Angela’s Pasta & Cheese Shop (815 Chestnut St., Manchester, 625-9544, angelaspastaandcheese.com) is taking orders for a variety of items for the holidays, including dinner side dishes prepared fresh, like caramelized Brussels sprouts, potatoes Lyonnaise with roasted garlic, and glazed carrots with ginger butter and green onions; assorted breads and dinner rolls from Iggy’s Bakery; and savory items like pork pie. Order by Dec. 19 at 4 p.m. (pre-pay only). Pickups are on Wednesday, Dec. 23, or Thursday, Dec. 24.

The Bakeshop on Kelley Street (171 Kelley St., Manchester, 624-3500, thebakeshoponkelleystreet.com) is taking orders for several items for the holidays, including pies (apple, pumpkin, chocolate cream, coconut cream, banana cream, Key lime, Dutch apple, pecan, lemon meringue, German chocolate pecan, cherry and more); as well as assorted pastry trays, cookie trays, yule logs, cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes and holiday cream tarts.

Bite Me Kupcakez (4 Mound Court, Merrimack, 674-4459, bitemekupcakez.com) is taking orders for several cakes, pies, and platters for the holiday season. Cake flavors include chocolate flourless torte, strawberry shortcake, chocolate whipped cream cake, six-inch cheesecakes and dairy-free double-layer red velvet, chocolate and vanilla cakes. Pie flavors include apple, triple berry and pumpkin. Platters include a brunch option with coffee cake, muffins and doughnuts, and a dessert option with cupcakes, brownies and cookies. Order by Dec. 16. Pickups are on Wednesday, Dec. 23, and Thursday, Dec. 24.

The Black Forest Cafe & Bakery (212 Route 101, Amherst, 672-0500, theblackforestcafe.com) is taking orders for several items for the holidays, including sweet pies (apple, Dutch apple, cranberry apple, pecan and chocolate cream); cakes (coconut, carrot, chocolate mousse and Black Forest gateaux); assorted holiday cookies, quiches and tarts; cookie baskets; scratch-made dips and spreads (spinach chipotle dip, herbed goat cheese spread and Southern pimiento cheese); and entrees (chicken and creamy mushroom thyme sauce, slow-braised beef brisket, Italian sausage, vegetarian or butternut squash lasagna, and chicken and sun-dried tomato penne). Order by Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. Pickups are available through 3 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24.

Blue Loon Bakery (12 Lovering Lane, New London, 526-2892, blueloonbakery.com) is taking orders for various flavors of pies (apple, apple crumble, pecan, maple pumpkin and apple cranberry galette); breads (baguettes, sourdough, multigrain or brioche rolls); savory quiches (ham and Gruyere or spinach and feta); and other assorted pastries and desserts, like take-and-bake sticky buns, caramels, cinnamon rolls, cookie platters and gingerbread tree kits. Order by Dec. 21. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Buckley’s Bakery & Cafe (436 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 262-5929; 9 Market Place, Hollis, 465-5522; buckleysbakerycafe.com) is taking orders for a variety of holiday-themed cakes, like gingerbread spice cake and dark chocolate peppermint cheesecake, as well as traditional or peanut butter Yule logs, eight-inch pies (apple, Key lime or chocolate cream), and assorted loaves, rolls and party trays. Order by Dec. 20.

Cafe El Camino (134 Newton Road, Plaistow, 974-1652, cafeelcamino.com) is taking orders for a variety of specialty “crowd pleaser platters” for the holidays, including empanada platters, rice platters, chicken or pork platters and more. Orders must be picked up by Thursday, Dec. 24, at 3 p.m.

Caroline’s Fine Food (132 Bedford Center Road, Bedford, 637-1615, carolinesfood.com) is taking orders for a variety of specialty items to go, including appetizers, like artisan cheeses with fruit and cured meats, poached shrimp with a traditional cocktail sauce, and smoked salmon terrine; entrees, like turkey ballotine stuffed with savory sausage herb stuffing, and roasted beef tenderloin with horseradish cream sauce; and sides, like garlic mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts with Parmesan and thyme, roasted butternut squash and sauteed haricot verts with slivered almonds. Order by Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. Pickups are on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Cherry Bomb Cookie Co. (Exeter, find them on Facebook @cherrybombcookieco) is taking orders for a variety of specialty Christmas cookies and do-it-yourself cookie kits and houses. The shipping deadline for orders is Dec. 18.

The Common Man (25 Water St., Concord, 228-3463; 304 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 429-3463; 88 Range Road, Windham, 898-0088; Lakehouse Grille, 281 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-5221; 10 Pollard Road, Lincoln, 745-3463; 21 Water St., Claremont, 542-6171; Foster’s Boiler Room, 231 Main St., Plymouth, 536-2764; 60 Main St., Ashland, 968-7030; Lago, 1 Route 25, Meredith, 279-2253; Italian Farmhouse, 337 Daniel Webster Hwy., 536-4536; Airport Diner, 2280 Brown Ave., Manchester, 623-5040; Tilt’n Diner, 61 Laconia Road, Tilton, 286-2204; 104 Diner, 752 Route 104, New Hampton, 744-0120; thecman.com) is taking orders for holiday meals for one or for four. Choose from either glazed ham or herb-roasted prime rib; both dinners come with mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, pesto green beans, maple-roasted Brussels sprouts, Parmesan-crusted dinner rolls, sweet bread, apple crisp and cinnamon whipped cream. Other a la carte options available to add to your order include spinach-artichoke dip and crackers, peel-and-eat shrimp cocktail, cheese lasagna, macaroni and cheese and pecan pie. Order by Dec. 18. Pickups are on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Copper Kettle To Go (39 Main St., Wilton, copperkettletogo.com) is taking orders for a several specialty treats and baked goods, like pecan pie, Nutella pie, cold brew coffee pie, gingerbread cream pie, pistachio cream pie, Andes candy brownies, red velvet trifles, coffee cakes, and assorted muffins (flavors include blueberry and chocolate chocolate chip). Order by Dec. 20. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Crémeux French Patisserie (707 Milford Road, Merrimack, cremeuxfrenchpatisserie.com) is taking orders for a variety of French breads and desserts, like chocolate sponge cake, dark chocolate crémeux, mousse chocolat praline, choux filled with vanilla creme patisserie, chocolate chip brioche, cranberry walnut brioche, organic sourdough boule and more. Order by Dec. 19.

Crosby Bakery (51 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 882-1851, crosbybakerynh.com) is taking orders for several baked goods for the holiday season, including pies (apple, apple crumb, blueberry, pecan, pumpkin, mincemeat, cherry, banana cream, coconut cream, chocolate cream, lemon meringue and more); as well as assorted rolls, breads, cakes, cookies, and savory items, like gorton, meat pie and salmon pie. Order by Dec. 22.

The Crust & Crumb Baking Co. (126 N. Main St., Concord, 219-0763, thecrustandcrumb.com) is taking orders for a variety of treats for the holidays, include cinnamon or pecan sticky buns, old-fashioned sour cream coffee cakes, butter or Shaker squash rolls, flourless chocolate torte, and several flavors of pies (apple streusel, blueberry crumb, forest berry crumb, maple bourbon pecan, chocolate cream and maple cream) and quiches (bacon cheddar and tomato and three-cheese). Order by Dec. 18.

Culture (75 Mont Vernon St., Milford, 249-5011, culturebreadandsandwich.com) is taking orders for various breads, like sourdough loaves and dinner rolls, as well as pecan pies (whole or by the slice), holiday cheesecakes, cranberry galettes, holiday cookie trays, and cocoa bombs available in various flavors, from milk, white or dark chocolate to cookies and cream, gingerbread or peppermint. Order by Dec. 19. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Ding Dong Deliver (dingdongdeliver.com) is a ghost kitchen powered by Great New Hampshire Restaurants, which owns T-Bones Great American Eatery, CJ’s Great West Grill and the Copper Door restaurants. Featured items for the week of Christmas include prime rib, ham or roast tenderloin dinners, each with mashed potatoes, butternut squash, and bread and butter, as well as multiple flavors of pies, like apple, pumpkin, pecan and blueberry. Order by Dec. 18 at noon. Deliveries and pickups are on Wednesday, Dec. 23.

The Foundry Restaurant (50 Commercial St., Manchester, 836-1925, foundrynh.com) is taking orders for Christmas dinners to go, featuring your choice of either roast ham with pineapple raisin relish, or baked haddock with Ritz crackers, lemon and white wine. Each entree comes with bread and butter, scalloped potatoes, honey-roasted carrots and parsnips, green bean almondine, walnut brioche stuffing, and a mixed green salad with red wine vinaigrette. Other a la carte items available to order include appetizers, like stuffed mushrooms, bacon-wrapped blue cheese-stuffed dates, shrimp cocktail, Swedish meatballs with ginger blueberry jam, bacon-wrapped scallops, and pork pie with homemade gravy; and desserts, like Mississippi mud pie, raspberry cheesecake and gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting. Order by Dec. 20. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 10 a.m. to noon.

Frederick’s Pastries (109 Route 101A, Amherst, 882-7725; 25 S. River Road, Bedford, 647-2253; pastry.net) is offering several specialty treats for the holidays, include wreath cakes, gingerbread cookie kits, Grinch cupcakes, cheesecake samplers, chocolate-covered Oreo and graham cracker trays, Christmas Yule logs and more.

Giorgio’s Ristorante & Bar (270 Granite St., Manchester, 232-3323; 707 Milford Road, Merrimack, 883-7333; 524 Nashua St., Milford, 673-3939; giorgios.com) is taking orders for holiday variety boxes for Christmas, which feature your choice of smoked pork rack chop with apple chutney, garlic roasted prime rib with au jus and horseradish cream, or seafood lasagna, with sides like sweet and Yukon gold whipped potatoes, traditional stuffing and roasted Brussels sprouts. Also available are Christmas Eve seafood feast boxes, with items like crab cakes and lemon aioli, lobster bisque, and Ritz baked haddock with lobster sauce. Order by Dec. 21 at noon. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from noon to 8 p.m.

Granite State Candy Shoppe (832 Elm St., Manchester, 218-3885; 13 Warren St., Concord, 225-2591; granitestatecandyshoppe.com) has several holiday-themed candies available for purchase, like Christmas-colored malt balls, peppermint or wintergreen candy canes, candy cane caramels, salted caramel or peppermint cocoa bombs, sour gummy Santas and more.

Grasshoppers Garden Center (728 River Road, New Boston, 497-5788, grasshoppersgardencenter.com) is taking orders for multiple flavors of pies, including apple, apple cherry, blueberry, chocolate maple pecan, mincemeat and eggnog. Order by Dec. 11.

Greenleaf (54 Nashua St., Milford, 213-5447, greenleafmilford.com) is taking orders for Christmas dinners to go, featuring your choice of pink peppercorn and rosemary glazed ham, roasted chicken or prime rib. All dinners come with mashed potatoes, honey-glazed carrots, green bean almondine and mixed greens. Other a la carte options available to order include homemade sourdough loaves, homemade dinner rolls with butter, pecan pie (whole or by the slice), holiday cheesecake (whole or by the slice), pear and cranberry galette, chocolate cake slices with chocolate buttercream, assorted holiday cookies, cocoa bombs in a variety of flavors, and creative wine pairing cocktail kits. Order by Dec. 19. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from noon to 2 p.m.

Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant (233 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-6212, hartsturkeyfarm.com) is taking orders for family meals to go, featuring your choice of turkey, ham or prime rib, plus a la carte options like gravy, stuffing, butternut squash, whipped potatoes, turkey pies, sliced turkey by the pound, soups and chili, rolls and cornbread. Pickups will be available through Thursday, Dec. 24, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Harvey’s Bakery and Coffee Shop (376 Central Ave., Dover, 742-6029, harveysbakery.com) is taking orders for multiple items for the holidays, including gingerbread cookies, deluxe cookie trays, fruit cakes, dessert cakes and more. Order by Dec. 19.

It’s All Good in the Kitchen (184 N. Broadway, Salem, 458-7434, itsallgoodgf.com) is taking orders for a variety of sweet treats and desserts for the holidays, like tiramisu, strawberry or plain cheesecakes, chocolate peppermint rolls, cinnamon rolls, assorted cookie trays, whoopie pies, apple cider doughnuts and cupcakes. Savory items are also available to order, like lasagna, baked macaroni and cheese and chicken pot pie. Order by Dec. 19.

jajabelles (143 Main St., Nashua, 769-1873, jajabelles.com) is taking orders for a variety of Greek pastries for the holidays, like lamb- and beef-filled grape leaves, spanakopita, finikia, kourambiethes and baklava, as well as a variety of sweet treats and desserts. Order by Dec. 18. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Just Like Mom’s Pastries (353 Riverdale Road, Weare, 529-6667, justlikemomspastries.com) is taking orders for several sweet treats for the holidays, like red velvet, chocolate mousse or cranberry orange white chocolate cakes, traditional Yule logs, dessert bowls, cheesecakes (gluten-sensitive white chocolate raspberry with cinnamon walnut crust, or Oreo cookies and cream cheesecake), pies (cran-raspberry apple crumb or Kahlua black bottom), platters with mini whoopie pies, finger pastries or holiday cookies, coffee cakes, dinner rolls, quiches, and breakfast pastries, like cinnamon buns, turnovers, muffins and croissants. Order by Dec. 19.

LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898, labellewineryevents.com/catering) is taking orders for several items for Christmas, available in servings of six to eight people or 12 to 14 people, like assorted artisan cheeses, shrimp cocktails, mashed potatoes, maple sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, honey-glazed carrots and cinnamon maple bread pudding for dessert.

McNulty & Foley Caterers (124 E. Hollis St., Nashua, 882-1921, mcnultycatering.com) is taking orders for various individual or family-sized dinners, including those with slow-roasted sirloin of beef or sweet and spicy glazed ham, along with Delmonico potatoes, green beans, glazed carrots and rolls. Other a la carte options include baked lasagna with meat sauce or vegetable lasagna, whipped bliss potatoes, green bean casserole and pork pie. There are also desserts, like grapenut custard pudding, chocolate cream pie, lemon meringue pie and an assorted cookie platter. Order by Dec. 18. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Mr. Mac’s Macaroni & Cheese (497 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 606-1760; 2600 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, 380-7916; 440 Middlesex Road, Tyngsboro, Mass., 978-939-6227; 175 Littleton Road, Westford, Mass., 978-392-9495; mr-macs.com) is taking orders for both hot-and-ready and take-and-bake trays of macaroni and cheese, as well as macaroni salads, assorted green salads, desserts and more. Placing orders at least 24 hours in advance is appreciated. Order by Dec. 22 and get a 10 percent discount on all holiday trays.

New England’s Tap House Grille (1292 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 782-5137, taphousenh.com) is taking orders now for French-Canadian holiday meat pies, made with pork, beef, potatoes, celery, onions and garlic in a house-made crust. Pickups are available at various times on Wednesday, Dec. 23, and Thursday, Dec. 24, for Christmas, and on Wednesday, Dec. 30, for New Year’s.

Popovers on the Square (11 Brickyard Square, No. 23, Epping, 734-4724; 8 Congress St., Portsmouth, 431-1119; popoversonthesquare.com) is taking orders for a variety of items for the holidays, including its signature pies (apple, apple crumb, pecan, pumpkin, chocolate cream, coconut cream and Key lime), as well as Christmas cookies, fruit or mint Oreo cheesecakes, fruit tarts and holiday-decorated vanilla or chocolate cupcakes. Order by Dec. 20.

The Post Restaurant (125 Fisherville Road, Concord, 228-0522; 58 N. Main St., Concord, 227-6686; postrestaurantnh.com) is offering heat-and-serve Christmas meals to go, featuring your choice of carved turkey and gravy or spiral cut ham. Each meal comes with homemade stuffing, herbed mashed potatoes, green beans, butternut squash, cranberry sauce, a dinner roll and your choice of a dessert (Yule log slice, glazed butter rum cake slice, cheesecake slice or apple pie slice). Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Presto Craft Kitchen (168 Amory St., Manchester, 606-1252, prestocraftkitchen.com) is offering its entire menu cold for pickup on either Tuesday, Dec. 22, or Wednesday, Dec. 23, in addition to several specialty desserts, like Oreo truffles, freshly filled cannolis, cookie trays, and pies (flavors include banana cream, coconut cream, cannoli cream, cookies and cream and chocolate cream). Order by Dec. 20.

Queen City Cupcakes (790 Elm St., Manchester, 624-4999, qccupcakes.com) is taking orders for a variety of festive flavors of homemade cupcakes, including eggnog, chocolate-covered cherry, coconut snowball, gingerbread whoopie, white peppermint and Cadbury Christmas creme. Order by Dec. 21. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Red Arrow Diner (112 Loudon Road, Concord, 415-0444; 137 Rockingham Road, Londonderry, 552-3091; 61 Lowell St., Manchester, 626-1118; 149 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua, 204-5088; redarrowdiner.com) takes orders for its homemade cakes and pies at all of its locations. Flavors include apple, blueberry, pumpkin, chocolate cream, brownie cream and more. Online orders must be placed at least 24 hours in advance of pickups.

The Red Blazer Restaurant & Pub (72 Manchester St., Concord, 224-4101, theredblazer.com) is taking orders for a variety of take-and-bake items for the holidays, including with turkey, stuffed chicken breast, ham, chicken cordon bleu and seafood newburg, as well as homemade desserts, like tiramisu, carrot cheesecake, Almond Joy cake, caramel gingerbread cake, peanut butter mousse cake, chocolate mousse trifle, pistachio eclairs, whoopie pies and more. Order by Dec. 21. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24.

Revival Kitchen & Bar (11 Depot St., Concord, 715-5723, revivalkitchennh.com) is taking orders for holiday take-and-bake meals for two, with options that include seafood newburg, beef tenderloin roast or chicken cordon bleu. All entrees come with bacon potato casserole, Dijon- and thyme-glazed root vegetables, house salad, bread and butter and a cookie tin. Order by Dec. 19. Pickups are on Wednesday, Dec. 23, or Thursday, Dec. 24, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Tailgate Tavern (28 Portsmouth Ave., Stratham, 580-2294, tailgatetavernnh.com) is taking orders for heat-and-serve meals for four to six people, featuring items like various appetizers, soups and salads to choose from, as well as entrees, like baked brown sugar and pineapple ham, slow-roasted turkey with dark meat and gravy, or marinated and roasted pork tenderloin; and desserts, like house-made apple crisp or white chocolate bread pudding. Order by Dec. 20 at 2 p.m.

Trombly Gardens (150 N. River Road, Milford, 673-0647, tromblygardens.net) is taking orders for a variety of flavors of fresh pies from the Saxy Chef of Antrim, like apple, blueberry, chocolate maple pecan, mincemeat and more. Holiday meals are also available for ordering, like turkey roulade with sausage cranberry stuffing, or family-sized lasagnas, as well as add-on sides, like sauteed apples or green bean almondine. Order your pies by Dec. 13 and your meals by Dec. 14.

Tuscan Market (63 Main St., Salem, 912-5467, tuscanbrands.com) is taking orders from its special holiday catering menu, which include full dinners of either turkey, ham or standing rib roast that serve to six to eight people. Each comes with its own selection of sides, depending on the main course option you choose. Other a la carte order options include sides, like Jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, roasted cauliflower, mascarpone whipped potatoes and porcini mushroom ciabatta stuffing; and desserts, like tiramisu, assorted Italian cookies and biscotti, flourless chocolate torte and individual cannolis or cheesecakes. Order by Dec. 22. Pickups are on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Van Otis Chocolates (341 Elm St., Manchester, 627-1611, vanotischocolates.com) has several seasonal treats available just in time for the holidays, like candy cane pretzel twists, candy cane Swiss fudge, and milk, dark or white chocolate mold candy canes and red-nosed reindeer pops.

Yankee Farmer’s Market (360 Route 103 E., Warner, 456-2833, yankeefarmersmarket.com) is taking orders for specialty holiday roasts, like smoked ham, turkey, beef tenderloin, leg of lamb and Buffalo tenderloin. Pickups are from Thursday, Dec. 17, through Thursday, Dec. 24.

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Don’t want to Dine In? Check out our Take Out listings!

Out on holiday

Where to dine out this Christmas Eve or Christmas Day

If you want to take a break from cooking at home, check out this list of where to enjoy a holiday feast this Christmas Eve, Thursday, Dec. 24, or Christmas Day, Friday, Dec. 25. Some local eateries are also featuring their own specialty meals in the days leading up to the holiday.

Special meals

A Feast of the Seven Fishes menu at Jamison’s (472 Route 111, Hampstead, 489-1565, jamisonsrestaurant.com) will be available from Wednesday, Dec. 16, through Saturday, Dec. 19. You can enjoy all seven dishes for $50 and wine pairings for $30, or purchase them a la carte.

Feast of the Seven Fishes at Bedford Village Inn (2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford, 472-2001, bedfordvillageinn.com) will be on Thursday, Dec. 17, from 6 to 10 p.m. In addition to a chef-attended pasta station and an Italian dessert station, the dinner will feature several house fish dishes, like haddock puttanesca with roasted Yukon potatoes; oysters on the half shell with cocktail sauce, citrus mignonette, horseradish and lemon; grilled calamari salad with pickled vegetables, radicchio and arugula; and lobster- and crab-stuffed sole with shaved fennel salad and blood orange butter. Tickets are $85 per person and reservations are required (dinner is 21+ only and tables are limited to a maximum of six guests each).

• Enjoy a Polar Express family brunch at LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898, labellewinerynh.com) on either Sunday, Dec. 20, or Thursday, Dec. 24, from 10 a.m. to noon. Each meal will feature items like assorted muffins, scones and rolls, salads, fruit, specialty casseroles and more, plus a full cash bar, live readings of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, and a screening of the family holiday film The Polar Express. Ticket price breakdowns are $22.99 per person (tickets are sold by the table only, with a maximum of six guests per table).

• At The Grazing Room at the Colby Hill Inn (33 The Oaks Henniker, 428-3281, colbyhillinn.com) a Christmas Cheer menu is available for takeout, as well as limited in-house dining, now through Dec. 20 (except for Dec. 14 and Dec. 15), and then again on Dec. 21, Dec. 22 and Dec. 26. Seatings are between 4 and 8:30 p.m. The three-course prix fixe menu features your choice of a first course, an entree and a dessert, plus additional appetizers to share (see website for the full menu). The cost is $65 per person.

Feast of the Seven Fishes at Tuscan Kitchen (67 Main St., Salem, 952-4875, tuscanbrands.com) is on Thursday, Dec. 24, featuring items like baccala soup, grilled octopus and calamari, lobster and shrimp tagliatelle and herb-crusted cod. The cost is $65 per person, or $85 with wine pairings.

Christmas Eve Dinner at Bedford Village Inn (2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford, 472-2001, bedfordvillageinn.com) is happening on Thursday, Dec. 24, with seatings from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the dining room. The three-course prix fixe menu will be followed by a dessert buffet and a cash bar in the Great Hall. Items will include lamb and potato gnocchi, black garlic French onion soup, rosemary and thyme marinated filet mignon, Jumbo shrimp and New Bedford sea scallops, savory mushroom Wellington and juniper and anise-cured Long Island duck breast. A separate children’s menu will also be served, featuring items like macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers and more. The cost is $89 for adults and $49 for kids ages 10 and under. Reservations are required.

Christmas Eve Dinner at Copper Door Restaurant (15 Leavy Dr., Bedford, 488-2677; 41 S. Broadway, Salem, 458-2033; copperdoor.com) will feature a special prix fixe menu beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24. The cost varies ($59 for two courses, $69 for three courses and $79 for four courses). Items include coffee-crusted pork chop, garlic Parmesan salmon, truffled mushroom ravioli, barbecue pork flatbread, crispy lemon Brussels sprouts, caramel apple pie and chocolate raspberry cheesecake. Reservations will be accepted through 8 p.m.

Christmas Dinner at Salt Kitchen & Bar (Wentworth by the Sea, 588 Wentworth Road, New Castle, 373-6566, saltkitchenandbar.com) is on Friday, Dec. 25, from 1 to 8 p.m. The four-course menu will feature mini deviled eggs, plus your choice of either winter root bisque or bitter greens salad; an entree (steak au poivre, maple-brined turkey, butternut squash ravioli or pan-seared sea scallops); and a dessert (eggnog cheesecake or gingerbread pudding). The cost is $64.95 per person ($25.95 for kids under 12).

Christmas Dinner at The Wild Rose Restaurant (Stonehurst Manor, 3351 White Mountain Highway, North Conway, 356-3113, stonehurstmanor.com) is on Friday, Dec. 25, from 2 to 8 p.m., featuring your choice of an appetizer (grilled brie, duo of crab cakes, shrimp cocktail or bacon-wrapped scallops); a Caesar salad; an entree (maple-brined turkey, prime rib of beef, grilled rack of lamb, grilled vegetables, oven-roasted half duckling or pan-seared North Atlantic salmon); and a dessert (triple chocolate torte, bourbon pecan ice cream with caramel, or blueberry cheesecake). The cost is $68 per person.

Open on Christmas Day

Bedford Village Inn (2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford, 472-2001, bedfordvillageinn.com) will be open for breakfast from 8 to 10:30 a.m. in its lobby bar, and from 1 to 9 p.m. for lunch and dinner, serving its full menu with some specials. The tavern and dining room will be closed.

Lakehouse Grille (281 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-5221, thecman.com) will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Open on Christmas Eve

900 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria (50 Dow St., Manchester, 641-0900, 900degrees.com) will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Alan’s of Boscawen (133 N. Main St., Boscawen, 753-6631, alansofboscawen.com) will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Belmont Hall & Restaurant (718 Grove St., Manchester, 625-8540, belmonthall.net) will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Black Forest Cafe & Bakery (212 Route 101, Amherst, 672-0500, theblackforestcafe.com) will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Coach Stop Restaurant & Tavern (176 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, 437-2022, coachstopnh.com) will likely be open until 8 p.m.

CJ’s Great West Grill (782 S. Willow St., Manchester, 627-8600, cjsgreatwestgrill.com) will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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

KC’s Rib Shack (837 Second St., Manchester, 627-7427, ribshack.net) will be open from noon to 6 p.m.

LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898, labellewinerynh.com) will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Las Olas Taqueria (356 Lafayette Road, Hampton, 967-4880; 30 Portsmouth Ave., Exeter, 418-8901; lasolastaqueria.com) will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Red Blazer Restaurant and Pub (72 Manchester St., Concord, 224-4101, theredblazer.com) will be open until 8 p.m.

Second Brook Bar and Grill (1100 Hooksett Road, Unit 111, Hooksett, 935-7456, secondbrook.com) will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the kitchen, and until 5 p.m. in the bar.

This story was possible with the generous financial support of Hippo readers. Hippo is very grateful to have the support of its readers. If you haven’t contributed yet, please consider a small contribution. Your contributions allow Hippo to write more stories and gets you access to additional stories and columns. 

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Hillbilly Elegy (R)

Hillbilly Elegy (R)

J.D. Vance’s popular 2016 memoir gets the awards-season glossy movie treatment in the Ron Howard-directed Hillbilly Elegy.

Neither of the movie’s two lead actresses, Glenn Close and Amy Adams, has won an Oscar despite multiple nominations for each. Perhaps the desire to rectify this is why J.D. (played by Gabriel Basso as an adult and Owen Asztalos as a kid) feels like a lesser character in what is technically his own life story.

After a scene of young J.D. and his summers spent in Kentucky, his family’s ancestral home, the movie jumps to adult J.D., now a law student at Yale. He’s trying to get a summer gig at a fancy law firm in D.C. to be near his girlfriend, Usha (Freida Pinto), when he gets a call from his sister, Lindsay (Haley Bennett), letting him know that their mom, Bev (Adams), has overdosed on heroin and is in the hospital. Lindsay, the mom of three kids and with her own job, needs help figuring out how to take care of Bev. As J.D. drives back to Ohio, where his mom and sister live, we get flashbacks to his childhood — his mom’s volatility, her and J.D.’s relationship with her parents, Mamaw (Close) and Papaw (Bo Hopkins), and later her struggles with drugs. There is a bit of This Is How People Live Here posturing about Middletown, Ohio, where J.D. and his family live, and rural Kentucky — and Yale, actually, where everybody reminds me of The Simpsons parodies of upper-crusters.

This movie is a whirlwind of wigs and accents and “Most Acting over Best Acting” but the biggest problem with it is, I think, a focus problem. The interesting story here is the story of three women — Mamaw, her daughter Bev and her daughter Lindsay — and the choices they made. Because J.D. is the nominal center of the story, though, we get flat versions of these women. The movie presents very little depth on their inner lives, their choices, the circumstances they dealt with and who they are as people. We get wisps of their story and hints of their thinking but only through J.D.’s eyes.

And, sure, a valid criticism of my criticism is that this isn’t Lindsay’s story (or Bev’s or Mamaw’s), it’s J.D.’s and so we’re naturally going to get his viewpoint. Unfortunately, the movie puts Adams and Close in the spotlight — they are the big names and they are the ones doing the heavy lifting, so the thinness of their characters is all the more noticeable. And, though he is the narrator and center of this biography, J.D. isn’t all that well-rounded either; the big events in his life seem to be presented largely in montage. The movie doesn’t even do a great job with filling in the details of its setting. Instead of getting a rich story with a strong sense of place populated with fully realized people, we get a list of life events and people presented more as types.

The movie begins and ends with photographs of Vance’s family (or, in the case of the beginning photographs that seem to go back into the 1800s, maybe they’re just families like his, I don’t know) and these still photos by themselves offer a more interesting glimpse into the lives of people in the region, just as the modern photos of Vance’s mother and sister and the few sentences on title cards about them offer a wider window on them than the movie we just watched. I feel like there are interesting stories to be told about this family and the history of the region and maybe Vance’s book tells him but this movie doesn’t. C

Rated R for language throughout, drug content and some violence, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Ron Howard with a screenplay by Vanessa Taylor (from the book by J.D. Vance), Hillbilly Elegy is an hour and 57 minutes long and distributed by Netflix.

Featured Photo: Hillbilly Elegy (R)

Downtown sound

Will Hatch celebrates new EP with release show

While the making of Will Hatch’s first full-length album For You might be likened to a marathon, his new EP Downtown was more of a sprint. With extensive studio time and a long back and forth between Hatch and producer Immanuel the Liberator, he spent over two years finishing the 2018 disc.

This time around, it took just one day.

Will Hatch & Co. — the singer-songwriter, guitarist Taylor Pearson, mandolin player Brian Peasley and a rhythm section of drummer Eric Ober and bassist Jon Cheney — rolled into Cambridge’s Bridge Sound & Stage in mid-October and knocked out Downtown’s six songs with alacrity.

Financial necessity was one reason for the quick turnaround. Money for studio time came from a single summer show, as the pandemic battered the music business. More than that, the band was primed.

“We’ve been playing together for the past few years. … The lineup’s solidified, we’ve become a tighter unit,” Hatch said in a recent phone interview. “Plus, nobody’s playing a lot of gigs this year so we were just practicing over the summer.”

The approach that day — polish a track, do the take and move on to the next effort — worked perfectly and produced a spirited, capable effort.

“We just wanted to do everything live and reflect what this band sounds like,” Hatch said, “rather than getting into a whole, you know, big studio creation.”

The title cut, an upbeat country rocker about relationship breakdown, illustrates the group’s chemistry, while providing a template for the album, Hatch said.

“While my solo performances are more melancholic, the band thrives on raucous crowds and barroom antics,” he said. “Late-night Concord is a theme that runs throughout the tracks.”

Another high-energy highlight is a cover of “They’re Red Hot (Hot Tamales)” — perhaps the most rollicking song in blues legend Robert Johnson’s catalog. Hatch calls it one of his favorites on the new record.

“We’ve been playing it a long time and it’s not an easy one, so I was pretty proud that we pulled that off,” he said. “It’s a fun song with a lot of weird changes and I was happy we were able to do that.”

The EP’s other cover is “Waterbound,” a traditional folk song. The band also enjoyed laying down the last track of the day, “Beer Bottle Blues.”

“It has electric guitars on it, so it’s a little more rock,” he said. “I think we were all happy with how that one came out; it’s real clean and nice.”

The anchor of Downtown is the ballad “Kid From Holden” is based on a real tragedy, the 2015 drowning death of Plymouth State University student Jake Nawn. Hatch describes friends leaving books by Nawn’s favorite writers with notes inserted in them to try and lure him out of the woods, and the frantic desperation of his family as the search dragged on. It’s a spellbinding story song.

“How many times did I pass him? / I never will know,” sings Hatch of Nawn, an aspiring writer beloved by classmates. “A poet he lived and a poet he died, but the river just came and it went.”

Hatch spoke of his need to “keep retelling stories about local tragedies and keep them alive through folk music.”

A release show at Penuche’s Ale House will have a smaller, socially distanced crowd. With the recent spike in cases, it’s still scheduled to happen.

“I don’t want to jinx anything, because everything is getting canceled,” Hatch said. “We’re just happy to have the opportunity to play out , even if it’s a small crowd. It’s just still nice for us to keep playing.”

Will Hatch & Co.
: Saturday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m.
Where: Penuche’s Ale House, 6 Pleasant St., Concord
More: willhatchmusic.com

Featured photo: Will Hatch & Co. Courtesy photo.

The Music (Gift) Roundup 20/12/10

Local music news & events

Scene support: Among those hit hardest by this no good, awful, horrible, please-let-it-end year are working musicians and the venues they play in. For the latter, a great present for your favorite fan is a gift certificate, or even a ticket for a future show. Tupelo Music Hall (tupelohall.com), Capitol Center for the Arts and Bank of NH Stage (ccanh.com) and The Palace and Rex (palacetheatre.org) are among the places that could use a boost, and music lovers will appreciate something to anticipate.

Teacher, teacher: Since March, it’s gone from total lockdown to sort of quarantined and back again; in short, a lot of time spent indoors, and more in the forecast. So why not gift an experience that can be enjoyed in spite of the current malaise? Plenty of musicians are offering one-on-one lessons via Zoom or Facetime, among them Danielle Miraglia, an ace blues guitarist and stop box champion. Children or adults will love them. Half-hour slots are $37 each at daniellem.com.

Get equipped: Learning to play requires an instrument, and a great resource is Manchester Music Mill. From a beginner’s Epiphone Les Paul Express six-string electric ($127) to a vintage 1976 Gibson Johnny Smith Hollowbody approaching seven grand, they’ve got the aspiring musician covered. On the acoustic side there’s everything from an entry-level Cort Earth ($99) to top-of-the-line Martins. Keyboards too — get in the game with a used Yamaha PSR portable or go all in with something grander.

Direct connect: There are a lot of ways to give local musicians some love. Buy a track or more on sites like SoundCloud or Bandcamp — among the artists with new offerings this year are Hunter, Conniption Fits, Dead Harrison, Town Meeting and a joyful holiday album Dan Blakeslee. Grab a vinyl copy or some swag on a band website, and then put it under the tree. Nobody makes much from streaming, but ordering direct is a guaranteed way to maximize an artist’s profit.

Be conventional: For those deserving of a sweeping gesture, big-ticket items are there to be found. Duetto is a $599-and-up tabletop radio/turntable combo that plays internet radio stations from around the world along with Spotify or Amazon Music while offering an outlet for when the retro mood strikes. Box sets this year include Tom Petty’s complete Wildflowers sessions and Bob Dylan’s work with George Harrison from 1970. Find that last one and be a true hero — it’s very limited.

Mank (R)

Mank (R)

Screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz writes Citizen Kane while recuperating from injury and Citizen Kane-ily reflecting on his career in Hollywood in Mank, the most made-for-Oscar-nominations movie I have ever seen.

It is a movie about the movies featuring a character whose name is on one of the Academy Awards’ prizes (that being the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award; the Irving Thalberg played by Ferdinand Kingsley here is worth his own biopic). Many of the towering figures of 1930s Hollywood appear in this movie set in southern California that somehow captures, despite being in black and white, the sunny California-ness. And you get the intersection of California politics and Hollywood (and the conservative politics of corporate Hollywood clashing with the liberal politics of creative Hollywood) and a testament/cautionary tale about the power of movie magic storytelling in a real political world. There’s a “fake newsreel”! This movie has everything!

When we meet Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) in 1940, he has recently been in a car accident and has been given a place out toward the southern California desert to recuperate, a nurse (Monika Gossman) to care for him and an assistant, Rita Alexander (Lily Collins), for him to dictate his screenplay to. All of this comes courtesy Orson Welles (Tom Burke), who has hired him to write a screenplay (or begin the writing that the two would complete; look, the authorship of Citizen Kane is a whole thing — what I’m talking about here is what this movie tells us about a screenplay that would ultimately have both Mankiewicz’s and Welles’ names). John Houseman (Sam Troughton) is to work as editor on the project and it seems understood by everybody, immediately, that what Mank is doing is a potentially dangerous undertaking.Even Alexander, a British lady who is more concerned about her RAF pilot husband’s survival than Mank’s career woes, immediately knows that the great man in decline that Mank is writing about is a thinly veiled riff on media magnate William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), which would make his ditzy showgirl wife a take on Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), even though Mank insists he doesn’t mean it to be her.

In flashbacks we see how Mank used to be a writer at MGM for Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard) and used to be a friend of Hearst and his mistress Marion Davies, having met her through her nephew, the writer Charles Lederer (Joseph Cross). The witty Mank was, for a while, a regular at gatherings at Hearst’s house in San Simeon, where he hung out with the likes of Mayer and Thalberg and saw their influence beyond media and into the world of state and national politics. Mank seems to want to appear above politics, playing the sarcastic wiseguy role, but the 1934 governor’s race and Mayer’s and Hearst’s opposition to the Democratic candidate Upton Sinclair seems to make it increasingly hard for Mank to follow his wife Sara’s (Tuppence Middleton) “if you don’t have anything nice to say” advice. And then there’s his own self-destructive behavior — drinking and gambling and a fair amount of what seems like self-loathing.

This feels like such a movie-nerd’s movie I’m not even sure how to judge it. I mean, do I love it? Sure, it checks all the boxes for a movie geek, with movie nostalgia (or not nostalgia, really, because I’m not 110 years old but, like, reveling in the fantasy, mostly built by movies, of the early days of Hollywood) that packs an extra punch both because I haven’t been seeing big Hollywood movies in theaters and because the industry and its future are suddenly, here in 2020, so much in flux. I like all the technical elements of this movie, how in look and sound and scene transitions it looks like a 1940s film. Specifically, it uses a lot of Citizen Kane visual and storytelling elements and, sure, it does so very self-consciously, but it doesn’t make me like it any less.

Oldman’s performance feels, well, Oscar-bait-y in the extreme but captivating nonetheless. He’s not just Herman Mankiewicz; he’s a Herman Mankiewicz-y version of the Herman Mankiewicz character in highly stylized movie. It is not a natural performance, I guess is what I’m saying, nor is anybody else’s, but I bought it.

Look, this is 2020 and for those of us out in the movie fan universe (i.e. not going to virtual film festivals or working for film studios) this glossy Netflix bit of concession stand candy is probably as Hollywood as it’s going to get for us. This was probably always going to be an enjoyable movie to me, but under these circumstances it felt like an extra special bit of movie magic. A-

Rated R for some language. Directed by David Fincher with a screenplay by Jack Fincher, Mank is two hours and 11 minutes long and distributed by Netflix.

Hillbilly Elegy
Ron Howard directed this adaptation of J.D. Vance’s 2016 memoir and it’s streaming on Netflix now. It stars Glenn Close and Amy Adams — both of whom seem to be trying hard for their elusive Oscar wins. Find Amy Diaz’s thoughts on Hillbilly Elegy at hippopress.com, available for free thanks to our members and contributors.

Featured Photo: Mank

No Time Like the Future, by Michael J. Fox

No Time Like the Future, by Michael J. Fox (Flatiron, 238 pages)

If Michael J. Fox hasn’t been on your radar screen since the 1980s, you’ve missed a lot. You probably know that he has Parkinson’s disease, a diagnosis he announced in 1998, and started a foundation to fund research, and that he continued to work, acting and writing.

But because he appears eternally youthful, it’s still jarring to learn that Marty McFly, that Alex P. Keaton, is the father of four adult children and sits around mourning his empty nest. Children are time machines, he writes in his latest memoir No Time Like the Future, describing the “cruel velocity” with which our offspring catapult us into a future where, he says, “I wish away my time while I wait for my children to come and visit.”

Well. Didn’t see that coming when Fox was zipping around in Doc Brown’s DeLorean.

But Fox is now 59 and while that is young as Boomers go, he has been suffering the effects of a progressive neurological disease for 30 years, so the subtitle of this memoir is “an optimist considers mortality.” Optimism has been part of his brand since the diagnosis — his previous books were titled Lucky Man and Always Looking Up, the latter of which became a documentary called “Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.”

Lately, however, Fox says, there are days in which he wonders if he is out of the lemonade business, if it’s time to succumb to the lemons. He writes of possessing a body that has been weaponized — even with medication and regular physical therapy, his mobility and balance is so unpredictable that he is nervous about getting too close to his 90-year-old mother, for fear of knocking her over. “I love my mother too much to give her a hug,” he writes.

It’s not just Parkinson’s that’s the problem, but the chaos caused by the disease. He frequently suffers from injuries caused by falling, a finger swollen so badly that doctors feared they might have to amputate; a pinched sciatic nerve that renders him unable to go on the beach during a family vacation to the Caribbean; a broken arm that required a stainless-steel plate and 19 screws to fix. And he also suffered a tumor on his spinal cord that required a dangerous surgery two years ago.

The recounting of all these woes may seem like a proposal for the world’s worst book. Who, save the schadenfreudeans among us, wants to read 238 pages of a likeable person’s suffering? But Fox pulls it off, because the book is well-crafted, beginning and ending with a catastrophic fall, and the existential crisis that it represents, and it reveals an admirable mind, one that can fire off smart comic lines (“If Mike fell in the kitchen and no one was there to see him, would he still break his arm?”) while admitting despair.

It is the broken arm, not the disease, that pushes Fox to question whether his half-full philosophy of life is useful, to question whether being a “hopeaholic” (a term coined by artist Anna Deavere Smith) is actually harmful, both to him and to his fans.

“Have I oversold optimism as a panacea, commodified hope? Have I been an honest broker with the Parkinson’s community?” he wonders in anguish. “The understanding I’ve reached with Parkinson’s is sincere, but the expression of it risks being glib. … In telling other patients, ‘Chin up! It will be okay!’ did I look to them to validate my optimism? Is it because I needed to believe it myself?”

This is particularly relevant, because Fox’s reminiscing makes it clear that, despite his harsh trials, he dwells on a plane distant from most suffering mortals. When he drinks pina coladas in the Caribbean, he does so with Keith Richards; he is wealthy, able to afford the best of care and exotic vacations. It’s easier to view the glass as half full when it contains Dom Perignon, not vinegar.

But Fox is markedly self-aware and comes to believe that his attitude has become too cavalier, that he has spent too much time focusing on his body and its assorted travails, and that he needs to spend more time examining his mindset. He notes that while Franklin D. Roosevelt is known for saying, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” in the same speech Roosevelt said, “Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”

I’ll not spoil the ending by revealing Fox’s conclusion, only say that No Time Like the Future is occasionally disjointed but assembles itself nicely by the end and is a surprisingly thoughtful memoir by one of America’s most beloved celebrities. Michael J. Fox is not Alex P. Keaton but for the earnestness; he is not Marty McFly, but for the zeal; but he is the rare enduring celebrity who deserves a platform, and continued applause. (His foundation has funded $1 billion in Parkinson’s research.) Still, this memoir, his fourth, is gritty and maybe not the inspiration that people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s might want. Gift carefully. B

Books can be the best gift — or the worst.

On the plus side they are easy to wrap and relatively cheap to mail. You have literally millions of choices and are not limited to books published recently. Vintage signed copies of an author someone loves makes a wonderful gift (even if it’s inscribed to someone else), which leads to another plus: Books endure and are a tangible sign of your affection.

And a gift book can easily be made to pop with a few thoughtful additions, such as a book light to attach for night reading. (Note to my mother: I am all about the fingerless gloves imprinted with passages from A Christmas Carol on the literati website Storiarts.)

But a book is only a good gift if chosen with a high degree of sensitivity. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (One World, 320 pages), is popular this year, but it’s difficult to give because of the implication. Same with Joel Osteen’s Empty Out the Negative (Faithwords, 160 pages) or any kind of self-improvement book. Novels, too, tough. For a few years, I tried giving friends a copy of the best book I’d read that year but found they don’t always share my enthusiasm. And J.K. Rowling has a new children’s book out, but we have to tiptoe around her this year.

That said, there are some books that are pretty much guaranteed to please people in certain categories. Below is a roundup of suggestions from a serial book giver.
For Democrats: A Promised Land, by Barack Obama (Crown, 768 pages) or My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Simon & Schuster, 400 pages)
For Trumpy Republicans: Liberal Privilege by Donald Trump Jr. (self-published, no word count available) or Live Free or Die by Sean Hannity (Threshold, 352 pages)
For Never-Trump Republicans: It Was All a Lie, How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump by Stuart Stevens (Knopf, 256 pages) or Reaganland: America’s Turn Right, by Rick Perlstein (Simon & Schuster, 1,120 pages, not a typo)
For Health Geeks: Clean, the New Science of Skin by James Hamblin (Riverhead, 288 pages)
For Nature Lovers: What It’s Like to Be a Bird, by David Allen Sibley (Knopf, 240 pages) or The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, (Greystone, 288 pages)
For Shakespeare Buffs: Shakespeare in a Divided America by James Shapiro (Penguin, 320 pages)
For Beatles Buffs: 150 Glimpses of the Beatles, by Craig Brown (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 592 pages)
For Young Children (and Their Parents): No More Naps! by Chris Grabenstein (Random House Books for Young Readers, 40 pages)
For Animal Lovers: Dog Songs by Mary Oliver (Penguin, 144 pages) or Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life by John Gray (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 128 pages)
For Anyone Who Loves Christmas: Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean (Penguin, 272 pages) or A Literary Holiday Cookbook by Alison Walsh (Skyhorse, 272 pages)

Featured photo:No Time Like the Future, by Michael J. Fox

Album Reviews 20/12/10

The Myrrhderers, The Myrrhderers Sleigh Christmas (self-released)

It was with great sadness that I read last week there’d be no live Trans Siberian Orchestra shows coming to the area, just a streaming thingamajig instead. I looked to the universe, hoping to be cheered up, and lo, hark, behold, a wonderful holiday EP from a bunch of trolling punks declaring themselves to be a “North Pole punk-rock supergroup,” made up of members of “Dead Kringles, Prancid and Sleigher.” I immediately decided that the record would receive an A+ grade, then listened to all five songs, which literally only required 12 minutes out of my life. It’s all actually quite good if you like Good Charlotte demos and junk like that; their rub of “Deck The Halls” could actually be Green Day in Santa beards for all I know. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is straightedge-leaning punk-pop lunacy, and so on. These guys aren’t just pikers with an eight-track recorder from 1991, but I didn’t deduct points for their decent production quality. Very tolerable. A+

Deep Sea Diver, Impossible Weight (ATO Records)

This album being so good, I think I’ll pass on listening to their last couple of records, as the consensus seems to be that they’re not as ambitious. The quartet is led by Seattleite Jessica Dobson, who in the past has played with a who’s-who of indie royalty (Shins, Spoon, Beck, others), experiences that have helped to shape her into the closest thing to a millennials’ Chrissie Hynde that I’ve heard to date. There’s a palpable grunge edge to this stuff; “Lights Out” sounds like a cross between Yeah Yeah Yeahs (with regard to the vocal approach) and Superdrag (relative to the mashed-potato guitar sound), but she’s obviously got a jones for trip-hop, by the afterparty steez emanating from “Shattering The Hourglass.” So that’s all well and good, and the tunes, regardless of their disparate influences, sound like they belong together, but the killer bit is that Dobson’s songwriting is outstanding. Well worth your stream time. A+

Retro Playlist

Merry corona-mas everyone, as the science nerds like to say down at CDC headquarters! There’s still plenty of time to order holiday music CDs, so today I’ll look at albums this page has covered in the past, but first it’s your reminder of the festive songs I can’t stand in the least, like “Feliz Navidad,” “O Holy Night” and of course Billy Squier’s “Christmas Is A Time To Say I Love You,” which, yes, I already harped on a couple of weeks ago, but wait, go listen to it again, if your stomach can handle it. Isn’t his voice super-annoying, like, doesn’t he sound like some sort of post-punk WC Fields, as though he wants to say “Go away kid, ya bother me” after every line? I mean, sure, I’d rather be subjected to Billy Squier’s dumb song than “O Holy Night” while I’m in line at Walgreens buying some stupid last-minute thing, like my hatred for that song isn’t bone-marrow level the way it is with John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Christmas,” but — oh, you get the point.

For more tolerable holiday sounds, let’s go all the way back to 2006 for til Tuesday front-lady Aimee Mann’s Another Drifter In The Snow. It’s a mellow, very listenable collection, and her choices were all good: Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song”; a bearable “Winter Wonderland” and for (polite) laughs, a rip of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

In 2008 there was the charity-driven A Princeton Christmas: For The Children Of Africa album, by Princeton Choirs. Beautiful, reflective stuff for those quiet holiday nights, featuring donated tracks sung by The American Boychoir, The Westminster Concert Bell Choir and several others. Fun fact for cynics: Despite all the holiness baked into the tracks, there nevertheless exists a one-star review on Amazon submitted by someone who freaked out over the fact that the Princeton Theological Seminary Choir wasn’t brought into the mix. I really don’t need to expound on that, I’m sure.


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Yee hah. It’s a landslide of new releases, vying for your Hanukkwaanzmas dollar! I feel totally blessed this time of year, what with all the new albums coming out on Dec. 11, but honestly, this year I may not have enough snark left to deal with it all! I mean, just look, it’s a double-live album from Belle and Sebastian, called What To Look For In Summer, can you even stand it? Fifty million hipsters totally love dancing their happy irony dance to BS’s gentle, inoffensive twee-pop, and they only dance harder when the song is so boring and unlistenable that all their friends give up on them forever, like all that stuff from Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (they played the whole album during their headlining stint at the Boaty Weekender festival, the famous gathering place for rich people with boats and stock options, and some of those live versions are on this album). The album starts off with a version of the Scottish beer-guzzling singalong “The Song of the Clyde,” isn’t that so awesome? I’m totally going to listen to this album on my schooner as I chase that devil Moby Dick all over the seven seas, with my ironic hipster bos’n mates who all have mad harpoon skills and bunny tattoos!

• Wait, fam, look, we don’t just have young millennial hipster deck-swabs to talk about, because thar she blows, a new album from Paul McCartney, titled McCartney III! I totally can’t remember the name of his old band, something like Herman’s Hermits, or Len, or whatever, but either way, this guy, whose eyelift surgery makes him look like Carol Channing at closing time at an after-hours bash, is at it again, just cold bringin’ the guitar-pop music, to teach you crazy Death Grips listeners how it’s done! Boy, I can hardly wait to dig my ears into the new version of “Coming Up,” any of you boomers remember that awful song? Ah, here it is. It sounds like it’s sung by drunken Ewoks who don’t know how to use their cheap downloadable music-making software. Gack, it’s even more horrible than the original, so let’s put this aside for now and press on.

• Continuing our excursion to find musical coolness whilst sailing on board the Pequod, Canadian folkie duo Kacy & Clayton have been around since 2011, doing their part to bring good folkie-fied feels to the hipster whaling community and all young people who watch shows like Archer just to annoy their roommates. Their new album is Plastic Bouquet, a collaboration of sorts with New Zealand musician Marlon Williams! No, I have no idea who that is either, but whatever, yay Marlon Whastisname! The lead single, “I Wonder Why” mostly sounds like Roy Orbison, but it’s mostly an acoustic guitar thing, so there’s a rootsy Hank Williams feel to it as well. It’s OK.

• Lastly, we should probably take a quick listen to whatever’s going on in the new M. Ward album, Think Of Spring, specifically the single “For Heaven’s Sake.” Spoiler: It’s a wispy, dreamy unplugged-strummy-guitar tune with way too much reverb on his voice. I suppose I’d love it if I were a salty hipster whaleboat swab born in 1987 instead of never-you-mind-all-that, and had never listened to Simon & Garfunkel, because that’s kind of what it’s like, except it’s bare-bones. But I wasn’t, so I hereby rudely dismiss this song, with extreme prejudice.

• Finally we have Tucson-based Tex-Mex-indie stalwarts Calexico, with their new LP, Seasonal Shift! Huh, how do you like that, it’s a holiday album! The first single is called “Hear The Bells,” in which the boy-eez sing about drinking mescal and selling something or other by the side of the road, I don’t know. Sounds like a cross between Everly Brothers and your least-favorite pop band from the 1980s, if that helps any.

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