Ring in 2021 with laughter

Three comedy shows celebrate New Year’s Eve

Most years Headliners Comedy Club is a many-headed monster on New Year’s Eve, with shows all over New England. 2020, however, is anything but normal. Maine has a 9 p.m. curfew, and performances are banned in Massachusetts. New Hampshire is still on, though it’s scaling back to three socially distanced affairs at different Chunky’s Cinema Pubs.

Only one event, in Manchester, includes a midnight countdown.

Amy Tee, among a trio of comics appearing in Pelham, is glad for a chance to perform.

“I’m gonna look at the glass half full,” she said in a recent phone interview, “just embrace it, be appreciative of the people that are coming out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and put 2020 behind us. I’m looking forward.”

Comedy began as a bucket list item for Tee over a decade ago, “something I’d always wanted to do since watching Stand Up Spotlight on VH1,” and grew quickly from there. “That very first time on stage I felt it in my soul … that’s what I was supposed to be doing.”

Tee’s career has two parts; for the last 10 years, she’s been sober. Soon after quitting drinking, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She found the news liberating and wove it into her act.

“By diminishing the stigma of what mental health looks like, I had an opportunity to show people that it looks very different from what people think,” she said. “It was also cathartic. … I created a lot of damage in my earlier years [and] confessing and talking about it felt almost like amends.”

This calling extended beyond the stage, becoming a second career for Tee with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, where she works with dual diagnosis patients.

“I do motivational speaking on behalf of mental health and substance abuse,” she said. “So that was kind of the trajectory. It changed drastically, and actually gave it more passion and purpose.”

Her act is honest and revealing, yes — but also hilarious. Dressed in a tie and suit jacket, she begins most shows by poking fun at her androgynous appearance.

“You’re probably wondering what bathroom I’m gonna use,” she said. “It’ll be the one with the shortest line, I guarantee you that.”

She’ll riff on married life — and being openly gay in her act has never been a big issue for Tee.

“Though in the last four years, I’ve had this sinking feeling of things being mean,” she said. “I’m able to make people feel comfortable about gay people on stage because I joke about it in a stereotypical way. Also, me being married is not a lot different than other people being married. It just happens to be two women. We still have the same challenges.”

Although it’s unclear how long live performances will continue, Tee prefers even smaller crowds to the Zoom shows she did during lockdown. Ever the optimist, she managed to find a bright side to those.

“I had no commute, I was dressed from the waist up, and nobody knew if I was wearing a bra or not. … I almost enjoyed it sometimes,” she said.

Tee credits Headliners CEO Rob Steen for keeping the scene alive.

“With the challenges he’s had, he’s done a really good job … letting us perform, whether it’s been outside this summer, or now as we’ve moved into some of the indoor venues,” she said. “Comedy is my passion and where I get my joy — I need it for my mental health. So it’s been nice to still be able to perform amongst the challenges. The audiences that are coming out are appreciative, and they also need it for their mental health and a night out.”

Amy Tee, Jim Colliton, Jason Merrill
Thursday, Dec 31, 8 p.m.
Where: Chunky’s Cinema Pub, 150 Bridge St., Pelham
Tickets: $30 at chunkys.com
Also: Drew Dunn, Jody Sloane, Paul Landwehr at Chunky’s Manchester – 7 and 10 p.m. (w/ Dueling Pianos & Ball Drop)
Kyle Crawford, Matt Barry, Tim Mckeever at Chunky’s Nashua – 8 p.m.

Featured photo: Amy Tee. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 20/12/24

Local music news & events

Holiday green: Trying to make the best of the worst year ever, Celtic Thunder will air its annual Christmas concert online. The show, filmed in front of a live audience in Poughkeepsie, New York, is presented by the Capitol Center and will be available on demand for 48 hours after it premieres. Enjoy favorites like “Let It Snow” and “Silent Night” delivered with an Irish and Scottish flavor directly to your Christmas Eve living room. Thursday, Dec. 24, 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 at ccanh.com.

Hometown girl: Returning from the West Coast for the holiday season, M.B. Padfield performs solo at a Londonderry restaurant that was among the first to offer live music post-lockdown, and continues until another stay-at-home order comes. Padfield moved to L.A. in early 2018 and has had success with her own efforts and session work, including a co-write on Yeti Tactics’ recent Guest House. Saturday, Dec. 26, 8 p.m., Stumble Inn, 20 Rockingham Road, Londonderry. See mbpadifield.com.

Spin city: Featuring upbeat house music and an array of DJs. Open Decks revives a popular night of EDM and camaraderie, with all Covid regulations enforced, according to the club’s Facebook page. Professional gear is provided, but though the evening’s name implies an open mic event, it’s not an opportunity to learn how to DJ; only the experienced should apply. Tuesday, Dec. 29, 9 p.m., Central Ale House, 23 Central St., Manchester, information on facebook.com/thedadum

Early goodbye: The urge to close out 2020 ahead of time is easily understood. Leathal New Year includes sets from DJ Clay, Waraq, Problemattik and Leathal Wreckords, the underground rap group behind the event, whose fitting slogan is: “Bringing an end to the adventures of 2020 … with a HAMMER!” Covid-19 regulations will be strictly enforced at the 21+ event. Wednesday, Dec. 30, 6 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, tickets at leathalweekend.com.

At the Sofaplex 20/12/24

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (TV-PG)

Dolly Parton, Christine Baranski.

Dolly Parton is an angel and Christine Baranski is a lady-Scrooge in this Netflix Christmas movie that isn’t nearly as fun as that description would indicate. Regina (Baranski) is a rich lady who somehow owns the entirety of her hometown. Shortly before Christmas, she evicts everybody because she’s selling the town to the Cheatum corporation so they can build the giant Cheatum Mall (which, ha). Nuts to this town, Baranski sings, which she left behind to move to the Big City years earlier. Why? Secrets! (Although, once you hear what the secret is, “nuts to this town” is probably a reasonable response.)

At one point in this movie, Regina is drinking a whiskey and talking about life’s trials with the bartender who has just served her — Violet (Selah Kimbro Jones), who is an elementary-school-aged child. This scene is kinda great, as is one where Regina thinks Angel Dolly Parton is a rhinestoned hallucination as a result of a brain tumor. Parton, Baranski, Jenifer Lewis as Regina’s childhood buddy, even Jeanine Mason as Regina’s put upon assistant are all sorta kooky and fun in this Christmas cheese ball, but way too much of this movie is taken up by the drippy town and its assorted drippy denizens. The movie is all over the place, not really picking a plot lane — but ends with Baranski wearing a simple but lovely white shift dress. Add that to Parton’s white jean jacket-y blouse thing with I think a feather hem and you understand why I can’t recommend this movie and yet I also can’t bring myself to give it the blah grade it deserves. How about a C+, emphasis on the +? Available on Netflix

Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special (TV-G)

Mariah Carey and…

Billy Eichner, Tiffany Haddish, Jennifer Hudson, Misty Copeland, Snoop Dogg and also Snoopy the Dog and Charlie Brown and Linus and Woodstock, because, I guess, corporate synergy as this appears on Apple TV+, which is also the current home of Peanuts content. The year 2020 has got the whole world down, so Mariah Carey is tasked with Saving Christmas by raising holiday spirits, which will help to light the way for Santa Claus. Mariah is thusly whisked from her stylish apartment to the North Pole for a series of costume changes and musical numbers. At 43 minutes, this is definitely more network Christmas special than plot-driven movie but who cares, it’s great! And by “great” I mean fun, silly, self-aware about its silliness, full of good cameos and whole-family appropriate. Also, of course, it contains The Song, which is teased throughout before we finally get an all-singing, all-dancing version of Carey’s big Christmas hit. This is the perfect thing to have on while you’re cooking holiday fare or wrapping holiday fare or immobilized by exhaustion on the couch after all the holiday cheer. B+ Available on Apple TV+.

Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (R)

Al Pacino, Andy Garcia.

Nothing says “holiday season” like some cable station somewhere running The Godfather movies on a loop for a couple of days. You can add to that this Christmas season by checking out Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, a slightly reedited version of what was previously known as The Godfather Part III. Released in 1990, some 16 years after The Godfather Part II, “Three,” as characters on The Sopranos called it, is stuck in my memory as being full of “hoo-aah!” Al Pacino acting and a derided performance by Sofia Coppola. But 1990 is nearly twice as long ago from today as it was from the series’ original heyday (I saw it a while after 1990, when it was already universally understood to be an embarrassment). After checking out this updated version, I feel like we just didn’t know what it was back then. This movie is that most 21st-century thing: a continuation of a franchise in an established cinematic universe. It’s basically The Godfather: The Force Awakens — some old characters and some new characters and some stuff about regret.

This version is a clearer presentation of the story from what I dimly remember: An ailing Michael Corleone’s ambitions for a family legacy that leaves crime behind (and that gains wealth and respect on an international scale) are the central driver of the movie. Vincent Mancini (Garcia), his nephew who is hungry to be a part of the Corleone family’s old business, and Vincent’s affair with his first cousin, Michael’s daughter Mary (Coppola), are less important to the story than I remember. And Coppola’s very green performance fits with the Meadow-Soprano-but-even-more-naive character as presented here. Pacino is more nuanced than I thought (and than the movie’s famous “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” line reading suggests). Talia Shire also returns as Michael’s sister Connie. I feel like if this movie was being made now, that character would have a bigger role; Shire and Connie clearly have more than they can do here.

Director Francis Ford Coppola could have been even more merciless with his cuts; this movie still weighs in at two hours and 38 minutes (only four minutes shorter than the original version). But, while not perfect, it’s also not terrible and there are worse things than a talented director revisiting popular characters. B Available for rent or purchase.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (R), Freaky (R), Godmothered (PG)

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (R)

The late Chadwick Boseman probably secures his Oscar with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a new Netflix movie, adapted from a play by August Wilson, which also features a standout performance by Viola Davis.

The bulk of this movie’s action is centered around Ma Rainey (Davis), a real-life founding mother of blues, showing up at a Chicago recording studio in 1927 to record a set of songs. Most of the scenes are either in a large recording room or a small rehearsal room where her band heads between recordings. The band consists of pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman), Slow Drag (Michael Potts) on bass, band leader and trombone player Cutler (Coleman Domingo) and Levee (Boseman), a trumpet player with a lot of ideas about his songs and the band he plans to form and even “better” more modern arrangements for Ma’s songs. Levee is certain his style of playing will better reach customers in the big cities, who might see Ma’s music as too country. The studio’s owner, Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne), seems to agree with Levee, but Ma doesn’t care about the potential big city audience when she knows what the audience who turns out to see her likes. Her manager Irvin (Jeremy Shamos) might tend to agree with Sturdyvant but knows that ultimately Ma will have things her way. And as we see when she talks to Cutler about making these recordings, she might seem like a diva (demanding cold Coca-Colas or for a nephew to have a small part) but she always knows exactly what she’s doing and how to wring the most from a system that is inherently against her interests.

There are times when this movie very much feels like a play in the staging and the way people talk, but I didn’t mind that, even when it leads to monologues that would maybe feel unnatural in a more “out in the world” movie. Here, the strength of the performances easily pushes past any not-quite-cinematic staginess. The movie takes place, for the most part, on one day in 1927 in one building but also manages to serve up a good slice of late 1800s through mid 1900s American history (the ending of the movie mercilessly encapsulates the next at least 50 years in the American music industry).

Boseman, who died this summer, will likely get the bulk of the spotlight here. This movie shows how much more Boseman had in him, how much of a good-across-the-board performer he was. Boseman was someone who could be an anchor in a big popular blockbuster, a believable action hero and do more nuanced work. Even though he gets some big shouty moments here, you can see layers going on behind Levee’s words.

Davis, of course, is also great here because she is basically great everywhere. Davis is masterful at showing how Ma uses loud demands as protection in a situation of constant vulnerability. Davis doesn’t give us a perfect human being but does give us a rounded character whose life you can see in the expressions on her face. A

Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by George C. Wolfe with a screenplay by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (based on the play by August Wilson), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is an hour and 34 minutes long and distributed by Netflix, where it is currently available.

Freaky (R)

A high school girl swaps bodies with a grunting serial killer in Freaky, a fun horror movie with a particularly fun Vince Vaughn performance.

Teen Millie (Kathryn Newton) is having a hard time. Her father died a year ago, which has left her mother, Coral (Kate Finneran), a bit of a wreck and her police officer older sister, Char (Dana Drori), angry. Millie is so busy trying to smooth over their relationship and take care of her mom she doesn’t seem to have the space to grieve herself or to live her life. Her friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) urge her to go to the upcoming homecoming dance, take a chance on talking to the boy, Booker (Uriah Shelton), she likes and pursue her dream of heading off to college. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and realize you never lived it for yourself, Nyla tells her.

And that end may come much sooner than expected. The Blissfield Butcher (Vaughn) has long been a local urban legend, a spooky tale of a serial killer who hunts teens born from decades-earlier murders. Nobody much believes the stories until four teens are horribly, red-corn-syrupily murdered in the movie’s opening scenes. After the big football game, Millie, who plays the school’s mascot, is waiting alone outside the stadium for a ride home. The Butcher appears and chases Millie before stabbing her in the shoulder with a strange, old blade he stole from the scene of the movie’s first murders.

Char arrives just in time to scare him off but not before Millie notices that the Butcher started bleeding from the same spot on his shoulder where he had stabbed Millie in hers. When she wakes up the next morning, she finds herself not in her cheery bedroom but on a mattress in a murder-lair (complete with disfigured mannequins and dead animals) and in the giant (and smelly) body of the Butcher. Which, of course, means that back at her house the Butcher is waking up to her unsuspecting mom and sister.

Quickly, we figure out the rules to this situation: The knife has curse-bestowing properties, the bodies have been switched for 24 hours, Millie has to stab the Butcher to switch the bodies back or their situation becomes permanent. Though a pretty solid sketch of the Butcher is all over the news — making it hard for Millie to move around her town unnoticed — she does get some help from Nyla and Josh, whom she’s able to convince of her true identity. They work to get the knife from the police evidence locker and find the Butcher to get her body back. She also needs to stop the Butcher, who quickly realizes that his physically weaker new body nevertheless has the benefit of lulling people into seeing no threat until it’s too late. Also, Millie irritatingly notices, the Butcher seems to have done a better job at styling her body (a bold red lip, a sassy red leather jacket) then she usually does.

The Butcher, both as Vaughn and as Newton, is just a grunting kill machine; it’s Millie where the actors get to do a performance, particularly Vaughn. Sure, it’s a little gimmicky to have big, extra-scruffy 50-year-old Vince Vaughn nervously biting at his finger and screeching like a teenager. But he does a really solid job making us see Millie and her feelings, fears and conviction.

Beneath all this silliness, Freaky — not unlike Happy Death Day, which this movie’s director, Christopher Landon, also directed — has some interesting beats about grief and learning how to come back from loss. A scene between Vaughn as Millie and Finneran’s Coral (Millie’s mom) does a good job of being silly and funny, bittersweet and filling in the details of the family’s relationships with each other in a way that really pays off later. There are also some interesting moments about power and gender that transcend what you expect from a movie with this much gleeful gore.

I will admit that I am definitely more in the tank for this kind of horror — horror plus laughs, weighted more toward laughs — and this movie puts you even more at ease by not only making the kills extravagantly stagy but also making everybody other than Millie who is attacked by the Butcher extremely unsympathetic. So, it’s all fun with very little serious “keep you up at night” terror. B+

Rated R for strong bloody horror violence, sexual content and language throughout, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Christopher Landon with a screenplay by Michael Kennedy and Christopher Landon, Freaky is an hour and 42 minutes long and distributed by Universal Studios. The movie is currently in theaters and available on video on demand.

Godmothered (PG)

A godmother in training tries to prove her godmothering prowess before her academy of godmothers is shut down and everyone is sent to work as tooth fairies in Godmothered, a live action movie new to Disney+.

Eleanor (Jillian Bell) has never done proper godmother work and it doesn’t look like she’s going to get the chance. Even though she is the rare eager young recruit, there isn’t much call for fairy godmothers these days and the school’s headmistress, Moira (Jane Curtin), is considering shutting the whole thing down. In a desperate attempt to save the Motherland, as the godmother headquarters is called, and prove her own godmothering abilities, Eleanor finds an old letter to a godmother from a young girl named Mackenzie and decides to go to Boston to find and help her.

When she arrives, she learns that Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) is now “old,” an Isla-Fisher-aged single mom with two daughters — teen Jane (Jillian Shea Spaeder) and younger Mia (Willa Skye) — and a crummy job on a fifth-ranked local news show. Eleanor is surprised but still determined to help her; Mackenzie thinks she’s doing an act and calls security. Eventually, by showing Mackenzie her old letter, doing some magic and getting a raccoon to help with household chores, Eleanor convinces Mackenzie that she is a real fairy godmother. But Mackenzie, who is still grieving the death of her husband, says she doesn’t want the ball gown and happily-ever-after with a prince that Eleanor has been trained to provide. Might that change if it turns out that colleague Hugh Prince (Santiago Cabrera) is interested in more than just Mackenzie’s producing abilities?

This has a very Enchanted feel — with the earnest visitor from fairyland learning the strange and grimy ways of the unmagical modern-day Earth. But this movie isn’t quite as, er, enchanting — not quite as smart in its story or its writing, even though I am a fan of Bell and Fisher does solid work here too. This has that second-tier-ish-ness of a direct-to-video sequel (with some direct-to-video-level special effects too). But for that, it’s not the worst. Common Sense Media gives this an age 8 rating and I would say it’s that primarily because younger kids might be a little bored but it wouldn’t necessarily scare or traumatize them. (There is maybe one extremely veiled sex joke that I only half caught because my kids were sort of in and out of the room during the movie; there for the singing and the fairy magic but wandering away during the emotional talking stuff.)

I think Godmothered could have been a more substantial movie with a little rewriting; it has a solid cast, some nice ideas (does True Love really have to be about finding your Prince? And what does “happily ever after” truly mean?) and some cute moments. B-

Rated PG for some suggestive comments, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Sharon Maguire with a screenplay by Kari Granlund and Melissa Stack, Godmothered is an hour and 50 minutes long and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios on Disney+.

Featured photo: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Perestroika in Paris, by Jane Smiley

Perestroika in Paris, by Jane Smiley (Knopf, 288 pages)

My daughter asked what I was reading this week, and I struggled to explain. “It’s a novel about a racehorse who escapes from her stall” — eyebrows raised — “and wanders around Paris” — slight smirk — “and becomes friends with other animals.”

By this point, my daughter’s face could’ve been an all-out meme, the expression people post on Twitter when they hear something utterly ridiculous. And I hadn’t even gotten to the part where the animals befriend a young boy.

But hear me out. It would also be difficult to describe Animal Farm and Charlotte’s Web to people who haven’t read them without eliciting the same reaction. Jane Smiley’s Perestroika in Paris may not rise to that level of classic, but Perestroika, the racehorse who goes by Para, is as charming as Wilbur the pig and as memorable as Boxer the horse. It’s a surprising and delightful diversion for the gloom of post-Christmas winter.

Para is a filly who idly pushes up against her stall one day after a race and it unexpectedly opens. Although she is well-treated and loved, she is a curious horse and takes advantage of the opportunity to explore. Before leaving, she investigates a pile of her groom’s belongings and is interested to find a leather purse. She had heard people talk of purses — in fact, she has won many and figures this was probably her own — and so she picks up the purse with her mouth and carries it with her.

The droll scene conveys two things to the reader: that Smiley has a smart and understated wit, and that she knows horses and horse racing. In fact, she’s a Pulitzer Prize winner (for the novel A Thousand Acres, published in 1991) and many of her books for young readers involve horses. But Perestroika in Paris isn’t a horse book; it’s an animal story rich with subtle commentary on the human condition.

The first of Para’s new friends is Frida, a homeless hound — or, as Smiley puts it, “free dog” — who has been on her own and lonely since her human companion died. Intrigued by the sight of a horse on its own, carrying a purse, Frida befriends Para and helps her find a place where she can sleep at night, undetected. Then comes a world-wise raven, and two ducks which Frida, though hungry, manages with Edward Cullen-style self-control not to eat. Instead, she befriends the proprietor of a local market and offers him money she pilfers from Para’s purse in exchange for a bag of bread, beans, carrots and lettuce. (She is a very smart dog, having figured out that she can get humans to do what she wants when she performs some sort of trick.)

The animals encamp for a while in the Champ de Mars, with the occasional foray into Paris when it’s dark. There is some necessary suspension of disbelief in all of this, not only for the talking animals but for the fact that they are not quickly hauled off by Animal Control. Smiley deals deftly with this problem. For example, when Para goes out on her own one morning, she encounters a kindly baker who offers her oats and sugar. “She knew so little about horses that at first it didn’t occur to her to report the animal. If a horse lived in Paris, and could stroll down the street gazing into shop windows, Anais thought, then that was the horse’s business.” And the shop owner who gives Frida food in exchange for the money she continues to bring him assumes that she’s a very smart dog who has been sent by someone who is housebound.

The commentary by the animals is refreshing and may well accurately reflect what they think. One day, Frida reflects on runners she comes across, “Running humans never looked at a thing. … Perhaps they could not do two things at once, which was why she had never seen even the fastest ones catch a pigeon.”

But the most astute observer might be the raven, Raoul, who notes “there is nothing quite as amusing as observing humans in their own habitats.” (He also later reveals that many human beings are reincarnated as avians; he suspects he was once an ineffective government official. But then again, he also believes that Christmas, for humans, is a “mass breeding ritual.”

The story builds slowly, with the animals gradually building bonds with friendly humans who do not deem it necessary to intervene in their lives. We also look in occasionally on Para’s former trainer, who has assumed the horse was stolen or is dead. The most central human, however, is Etienne, an 8-year-old orphan who lives with his great-grandmother, who has known much loss. The animals, which now include a rat, are all bonded with Etienne and come to his aid when he experiences a tragedy

In this year of Covid and closed theaters, there wasn’t a “feel-good movie of the year,” but there is a feel-good book of the year, and this is it. It’s the happy ending we’ve all been waiting for. If only Smiley could write 2021. A

They say you can’t tell a book by its cover, but you can tell a lot by its title. Books can go through several — the author’s choice isn’t necessarily the final decision, and the publisher’s isn’t necessarily the best. In fact, book titles can change even after a book has been published, for a paperback edition or second printing.
As such, it’s a pleasure to come across book titles that are so punchy, so perfect, that they make you want to read the book. Here are some of the best titles of 2020, a year that for some people has been one of the worst.

Block, Paper, Chisels by Kim Cunningham (Bauhan Publishing, 128 pages) — A collection of images depicting nature in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, with information on the artist’s influences and techniques, plus some haiku.
Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st Century Memoir, by Madeleine Albright (Harper, 384 pages) — Recollections of the former secretary of state, the first woman to hold the office in the U.S.
You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, by Alexis Coe (Viking, 304 pages) — Described by The New York Times as a “historiographical intervention in the form of a sometimes cheeky presidential biography.”
Good Morning, Monster, by Catherine Gildiner (St. Martin’s, 368 pages) — The subtitle, “A therapist shares five stories of emotional recovery,” isn’t nearly as catchy, but with the type set atop a fried egg, it’s a world-class cover.
Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon and the Things That Last, by Wright Thompson (Penguin, 256 pages) — You don’t have to drink bourbon to be seduced by the title of this look at the family business whose motto is “We make fine bourbon at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must.”


Author events

KJ DELL’ANTONIA Author presents The Chicken Sisters. Hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Online, via Zoom. Wed., Jan. 6, 7 p.m. Registration required. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

SUSAN CONLEY Author presents Landslide. Hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Online, via Zoom. Thurs., Feb. 11, 7 p.m. Registration required. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

THERESA CAPUTO the star of TLC’s Long Island Medium will present “Theresa Caputo: The Experience Live” at the Capitol Center for the Arts (44 S. Main St. Concord, ccanh.com) on Wed., April 7, 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $39.75 (with option for a VIP Photo Op for an additional $49.95).

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Online. Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. Bookstore based in Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

TO SHARE BREWING CO. 720 Union St., Manchester. Monthly. Second Thursday, 6 p.m. RSVP required. Visit tosharebrewing.com or call 836-6947.


POSTCARD POETRY CONTEST Peterborough Poetry Project seeks submissions of original poems written on picture postcards for an upcoming anthology. Deadline is Dec. 31. Visit peterboroughpoetryproject.org/contests for more information.

CALL FOR BLACK WRITERS New Hampshire-based theater company and playwright collective New World Theatre announces an open call to Black writers to submit monologues that reflect their personal experience of living while black, to be published in an anthology titled “08:46.” The deadline for submissions is Jan. 1, 2021. Visit newworldtheatre.org/08m46s.

Album Reviews 20/12/24

H.P. Lovecraft (read by Andrew Leman), The Festival (Cadabra Records)

I’d be more than happy to make part of this space’s regular praxis reviews of horror-story readings, but my PR feed is like a box of chocolates, usually composed of gross strawberry-coconut bonbons, of course, and almost never cool caramel-cookie-filled slam-dunks like this. You may recall last year, or whenever it was, we went over an album that captured a reading of one of M.R. (Montague Rhodes) James cherished ghost stories; I’m pretty sure it was also released through Calabra Records, but who cares, I was glad to be apprised of this one either way. It’s a limited vinyl release, read by actor Andrew Leman, who’s a member of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Leman may sound a bit bookwormy, which isn’t necessarily bad (Anthony Heald’s commercial reading of the Jurassic Park-related novel The Lost World was a lot more hateful than this), and he obviously has deep reverence for the matter, as did the album’s soundtrack guy, horror composer Fabio Frizzi. The story itself is set during the holidays, but don’t let that stop you; Lovecraft’s crazily bizarre world is always fascinating, and this 30-minute escape pod is a very special treat for new and old fans. A+

Pete Ellman Big Band, For Pete’s Ache (Cadabra Records)

Just what it looks like, a jazz band with a more than adequate sense of style. This now-11-year-old contingent comes to us from Illinois, where Ellman is a vital cog in the annual Naperville Big Band Jazz Festival (which of course hasn’t a prayer of running this year); he retired from the 566th Air Force Band around 2009 and promptly fired this outfit up to burn on all cylinders. Along the way, the band’s been joined by such greats as Wayne Bergeron, Jeff Coffin, Wycliffe Gordon, John Fedchock and Peter Erskine, just to drop a few names, who all must have had a blast with this nimble, razor-sharp crew. Lots of originals here, starting with the noir-esque “High Speed Pursuit,” during which you can practically feel the pavement shake as the tune busies itself conjuring Al Capone’s Cadillac V16 trying to outrun the cops. This is top-drawer stuff if, a lot of it original, always with its heart in the right place. A+

Retro Playlist

Over the years this space has covered a seemingly uncountable number of oddball releases. In case it wasn’t obvious, I do take pains to avoid heavily funded corporate-produced albums, as it’s a recipe for nothing but trouble: Readers will either get mad that I failed to notice some minor redeeming quality about a record, or they’ll get upset that I failed to notice something that automatically, in their eyes, made the album suck. Toward all that, I hold out perpetual hope that everyone who’s ever taken a pop music group seriously has eventually grown up to be an upstanding, valuable citizen, perhaps by volunteering for the Peace Corps or something of that sort.

Nobody’s perfect, in case that’s news. Let’s go back almost six years, to February 2015, when a certain public relations firm trolled me into reviewing Enter, the debut EP from a purported “goth/trip-hop” band called Temple Invisible. The band is/was from Romania, and they were promised to be a cross between Massive Attack, Portishead and Depeche Mode. “The only way this could be more enticing CD-reviewer-bait,” I wiseassed back then, “is if the promo came with a free robot girlfriend.” As you’d guess, it was quite the disappointing listen, far from the rich and delicious industrial chill-tech I’d expected. There was goth-metal riffage, though, in some of the tunes, if that’s your thing, like “Disappearance,” which was basically “half Aphex Twin and half Lacuna Coil, in other words it sounds like Collide.” Edgy neo-’80s goth-pop is seemingly everywhere now, so I expect this band is doing OK, if all the members haven’t abandoned ship.

A few months later I made like Wile E. Coyote for the umpteenth time with regard to Portal/Well, an album from Bee and Flower’s Dana Schechter, stumping under the name Insect Ark. A former metal chick, Schecter’s indie cachet was nonetheless impeccable, being that she formed the band Angels of Light with Swans leader Michael Gira in the early ’90s. And so, Schecter had partaken of too much freak-pop Kool-Aid, and this LP turned out to be a fairly typical trip down whack-job lane, viz: “roiling wetworks made of organic and synthetic drums, heavy ringouts and faraway lead-guitar figures, [all] creating murals evocative of Mount Doom lava flows and war wreckage.”

I’ll be falling for the “wait, no, seriously, an awesome album from someone associated with Swans” trap until further notice, just saying.


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Ha ha, the next general-release day is Christmas Day, which means that even if any bands are crazy enough to wait until this week to release their stupid album, no one will be able to buy it on the traditional Friday date! So what the heck is my play here, you’re probably wondering. Well, I have no idea, but if there are any polka-metal bands with a nice shiny new release coming out on or around the 25th, I will find them, and I will snark them. Ready, here I go, into the Google void, with my trusty fishing reel, zzzzing, plop, into the slimy ooze it goes, and wait, ho ho ho, we have a winner, the AlbumOfTheYear website claims that some comedy rapper dude named Lilnedbigby is releasing his second mixtape, ingeniously titled Mixtape 2, on The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year [void where prohibited]! Hmm, the only Lilnedbigby I’m seeing is some kid on Twitter who’s babbling some nonsense about “politics” (if you actually consider the last election cycle “politics” and not cage wrestling), and he has two followers on Twitter. Maybe he’s a troll. Nope, some other Twitter Twit claims he might be the only Lilnedbigby fan in the world, and there are other people tweeting at Lilnedbigby. OK, whatever, I found a lyric site on Genius.com, with a bunch of Lilnedbigby lyrics. No music, so I used my journalistic superpowers to take the next step, visiting YouTube while wearing a fake beard and not dressed in a T-shirt for once. Wup, there he is, he’s probably 15 if that, and the music is random hangry venting about R Kelly, some girl who wants nothing to do with him, and, I think, trying to get his mom to take him to McDonald’s or something. This is actually a pretty smart move, because no one would release an album on a Friday Christmas unless they were insane. So, thanks, insane kid, for saving my column!

• Huh, I thought that was going to be it for the week, like, no other albums to talk about, but hark, some Bad Santa guy just came down my chimney and handed me an album announcement from someone named Emily Finchum, whose Morbid Curiosity album/mixtape/whatever comes out on Thursday the 24th! A quick expert analysis of social media finds her on Facebook, where we discover that she’s 18 years old, a human from Washington state, and that all her songs are always released on Facebook first. Weird, though, she hasn’t released anything on Facebook in months, but the song “Morbid Curiosity” is on YouTube. It’s OK, basically a Billie Eilish ripoff, but it’s kind of ’80s-ish, bouncy and happy. Maybe she should get together with Lilnedbigby, the guy I just talked about up there. What sort of music would they create? I do not care.

• Anyway, so yeah. The next release Friday is on Christmas, this is completely hopeless. Well, wait a moment, look, at the last minute, Genius.com says there’s some band called ¡MAYDAY! releasing a new EP, titled Minute to Midnight 00:59 coming out on Christmas Day! Supposedly they’re a hip-hop band, and their single “Flatline” does kind of sound a bit like someone from Cypress Hill let their little brother into the studio to do some swearing and rapping over an old Stooges riff. It’s cheap-sounding but actually kinda cool, like something you’d hear on the soundtrack to a Deadpool movie. I’ve heard worse, like every single day.

An adventure in sesame: Drinks with John Fladd

Do you remember reading those Choose Your Own Adventure books when you were a kid?
You’d get to a turning point in a story, then find instructions like:
“To poke the sleeping bear with a stick, turn to page 130.
To run away from the sleeping bear as fast as you can, turn to page 170.”
So, then you’d turn to page 170, and read something like:
“Oh, no! You run away so fast that you don’t watch where you are going and ram into an oak tree, dislodging a porcupine, which falls on you. You scream so loudly that you wake the bear, who eats you, then picks his teeth with the quills. The End.”
This drink is a little like that, minus the hostile wildlife. It is an adventure in sesame.
I’ve been thinking a lot about fat-washing, lately. Fat-washing is what upscale bartenders call a method of infusing alcohol with the flavor of something oily. You hear occasionally about bacon-washed bourbon, or butter-washed rum. Almost any food that is fat-soluble is also soluble in alcohol. Shmancy bartenders can use that chemical loophole to add background notes to a cocktail. Theoretically, you could use this technique to make a peanut butter and jelly martini, for instance. (Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Let me write that down…)
A week or so ago, it occurred to me that if you can fat-wash peanut butter, couldn’t you do the same thing with tahini, the sesame paste used in hummus? I adapted a recipe for peanut butter-washed bourbon:

Tahini Rum

1 liter inexpensive white rum (As usual, you probably don’t want to use your good stuff, when you are covering up most of the subtle flavors with tahini. I used Mr. Boston.)
16 oz. tahini (I like Krinos.)

  1. Combine rum and tahini in a very large jar or other air-tight container. Shake with great vigor.
  2. Store the jar somewhere warm and dark for seven days, shaking twice per day.
  3. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, then filter through a coffee filter.

This results in a fantastic sesame rum. It is silver in color. It is smooth and tastes delicious. You could easily sit in an armchair with a brandy snifter of the stuff. There is, however, a drawback:
The rum and the tahini have spent a week getting their groove on. At the end of it, the rum has gotten everything she wants out of this fling, says, “Well, this was fun…” and goes on her way. The tahini, on the other hand, has turned into Rick Astley, and is determined that he is never going to give her up.
As much as the rum has bonded with the tahini, the tahini has bonded with the rum, and without the use of a lab-grade centrifuge — which my wife will not let me buy — a liter of rum nets you between 10 and 12 ounces of finished product. Given that there was a relatively small investment in the rum to begin with, that might be OK.
But there is another way:

Sesame Rum No. 2

1 cup white sesame seeds
4 cups white rum

  1. Over medium-low heat, toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet, stirring constantly, until they have turned the color of a graham cracker or a lion.
  2. Transfer seeds to the same large jar or airtight container. Add the rum. There will be a satisfying sizzle.
  3. Shake, then store in the same warm, dark place for four days, shaking twice per day.
  4. Filter through a coffee filter.

This sesame rum is not as smooth and silvery as its little brother, but it is also delicious. It has a deep golden color and really pops in your mouth, shouting, “It’s SESAME TIME, Baby!”
And you net about a quart of rum.
So, now you’ve effectively made the first of your Choose Your Own Cocktail choices — silvery and sleek, or bold and bronzy.
Here is your second choice:
The Vera Cruz Chameleon
3 oz. Tahini rum
3 gr. (a very small handful) cilantro
¼ oz. simple syrup
Tonic water to top (I like Fever Tree)
Tiny ice cubes

  1. Rinse the cilantro, then muddle it thoroughly in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.
  2. Add rum, then dry shake. (This means without ice.) This will allow the alcohol to extract color and flavor from the cilantro.
  3. Add ice and simple syrup, then shake again, until cold.
  4. Strain into a large glass, over tiny ice cubes.
  5. Top with tonic, then stir gently.

This is really delicious. The first flavor to hit you is the cilantro, but there is a delightful, smooth sesame aftertaste. If you are a cilantro fan — and of course you are, because you are smart and tasteful — you will love this.
But wait! What’s that you say? You’re not a cilantro fan? That’s very sad, but I’ve got you covered there, too.

The Lebanese Chameleon

3 oz. Sesame Rum No. 2
3 gr. (a very small handful) flat-leaf parsley
¼ oz. simple syrup
Tonic water to top
Tiny ice cubes

  1. Rinse, muddle and dry shake the parsley as above. Do NOT shake a second time.
  2. Filter your parsley/sesame rum through a coffee filter, into a tall glass, half filled with tiny ice cubes.
  3. Add the simple syrup and stir vigorously.
  4. Top with tonic, then stir again, this time gently.
  5. Drink with immense satisfaction.

So, do you remember that classic of American literature, The Cat In The Hat Comes Back? The one where the cat leaves a greasy pink bathtub ring that threatens to engulf the neighborhood? If you don’t filter the parsley rum, you will get the same stain, but in swamp green. It will taste delicious but will not look appetizing. If you want to skip the filtering step, drink this cocktail in a tiki mug.
A note on tiny ice cubes: I recently discovered that you can buy small silicone ice trays that make tiny (about ¼-inch) ice cubes that are like crushed ice, but better! They chill your drink extremely well and they look really, really cool.
So you can make a cilantro-based cocktail with tahini rum or sesame rum, or use the same recipe — again, with your choice of rums — with parsley, instead. You are somewhat spoiled for choice.
And there are no bears.
John Fladd is a veteran Hippo writer, a father, writer and cocktail enthusiast, living in New Hampshire.

Featured Photo: The Vera Cruz Chameleon. Photo by John Fladd.

Athanasios Sioras

Athanasios Sioras is the owner of Ya Mas Greek Taverna & Bar (125 Bridge St., Pelham, 635-4230, yamasgreektaverna.com), which opened in late August in the former space of Dimitriou’s, an eatery that was owned and operated by Sioras’s uncle. Ya Mas, which means “cheers,” according Sioras, features an authentic Greek menu split by classic and modernized dishes, including more than two dozen types of small plates; entrees, like pastichio, moussaka and slow-braised lamb shank; and desserts, like kataifi, rice pudding brulee and baklava sundaes. Around 30 percent of all of the restaurant’s products are imported directly from Greece, Sioras said, while others are sourced from local farms, like Brookside Farms on the Pelham and Dracut, Mass., state line. Prior to opening Ya Mas, Sioras worked as a food and beverage program supervisor at the Revere Hotel Boston Common and at the Boston Harbor Hotel.

What is your must-have kitchen item?
Just a regular chef’s knife.

What would you have for your last meal?
I would have a grilled whole fish, a branzino, and a nice bottle of wine.

What is your favorite local restaurant?
I do really like Surf, in Nashua.

What celebrity would you like to see eating at your restaurant?
Jennifer Aniston.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?
My personal favorite thing is the spinach pie, which we hand-roll our own phyllo dough for. It’s a huge serving in its own individual pan. Some people will get it as an entree, because it is quite big, and they’ll take half of it home.

What is the biggest food trend in New Hampshire right now?
Gluten-free and vegan. We have a lot of vegan and gluten-free items here.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
Junk food, or honestly I’ll just order a pizza rather than cook at home.

From the kitchen of Athanasios Sioras of Ya Mas Greek Taverna & Bar in Pelham

2 cups dried lima beans
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced white onion
¼ cup freshly chopped mint
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
½ cup tomato paste
3 cups water
1 tablespoon Greek honey
¼ cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon black pepper
1½ tablespoons sea salt

Soak lima beans overnight in a bowl. Strain lima beans and place in a baking dish. Add carrot, celery, onion, parsley, mint, salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix honey, tomato paste, water and olive oil. Add liquid mixture to baking dish and mix ingredients well. Wrap with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 90 minutes.

Featured photo: Athanasios Sioras

Yule love it!

A look at the holiday indulgence that is the Yule log

Growing up in Québec, Nathalie Hirte of Litchfield doesn’t remember a Christmas when her mother, Agnès Boucher, didn’t make bûche de Noël, more commonly known here as a Yule log. The chocolate sponge cake, rolled with a jam or buttercream filling and decorated to look like the wood from an actual tree log, was the centerpiece of her family’s kitchen table at dessert.

“She would cut out the edges from the pan, and I remember I always looked forward to getting to eat those crunchy sides, because she wouldn’t use those to roll the log,” said Hirte, now the office manager of the Franco-American Centre in Manchester and the founder of “Franco Foods,” a virtual recipe swap she started earlier this year. “She always made meringue mushrooms to put on top of the cake, and she had this very small plastic Santa Claus on skis. She’d put it on with powdered sugar to make it look like he was skiing down the log.”

While Hirte’s mother most commonly used strawberry or raspberry jam as a Yule log filling, you can use everything from a chocolate or vanilla buttercream to a salted caramel or peanut butter mousse. The variations continue when it’s time to give your cake its own festive decorations.

The result may look fancy, but with the right baking ingredients and tools a Yule log may not be as daunting to make as you might think. Local restaurateurs and baking experts discuss some of their own tips and tricks for whipping up this classic holiday dessert.

Baked in tradition

The precise origin of baking a cake around the holidays to resemble a log is unclear, but Pembroke chef Debbie Burritt, owner of Sweet Crunch Bakeshop & Catering Co., said it may be linked to a long-standing custom in France and other European countries of burning a “Yule log,” or a large tree log, in one’s fireplace on Christmas Eve. Keeping the ashes from the burnt log was thought to bring good luck for the year ahead.

Baking your Yule log cake starts with a basic mixture of eggs, sugar, flour, melted butter, heated milk and baking powder, poured over a prepared sheet pan. Hirte said she likes to butter her pan and then line it with parchment paper before adding the batter. The exact baking time may vary depending on the oven, but it’s generally pretty quick — around 15 minutes, she said.

“You want to be careful not to overbake,” she said. “I’ve found that using a bigger pan … has cooked faster but also rolled better. … You can touch the middle of it and if it’s moist and bouncy then you know it’s ready.”

Because the cake itself is very light and airy, the trickiest part of the Yule log is in the rolling. Denise Nickerson of The Bakeshop on Kelley Street in Manchester said that it should be rolled warm as soon as it’s out of the oven to prevent it from cracking. You can use parchment paper or a small kitchen towel dusted with confectioner’s sugar to carefully roll it before letting it rest for several minutes.

“Once it’s cool, you can unroll it carefully and then spread your filling, because [the parchment paper or towel] kind of trains it to be easily rolled back up again,” she said.

Filled with variation

Whether you’re using a jelly or jam, or a buttercream icing or mousse, the filling flavor inside of your Yule log will be up to your own personal preference. Simply spread out your filling of choice across the cake while it’s laying flat, then gently roll it once again.

Burritt has filled all kinds of order requests in the past, from a chocolate Yule log with vanilla buttercream to pumpkin or peppermint-flavored Yule logs.

“You can start with any basic variation of a sponge cake and turn it into a Yule log by changing the buttercream inside, or the cake itself,” she said.

Hirte said she still likes to make hers the way her mother did, with a strawberry or raspberry jam, but she’s tried other fillings over the years, like a salted caramel mousse.

Popovers on the Square in Epping and Portsmouth also makes its Yule logs with a raspberry jam filling, general manager Matthew Clark said, while at Just Like Mom’s Pastries in Weare, owner and baker Karen Car will make a vanilla sponge cake filled with chocolate mousse on the inside.

In addition to those with chocolate, Nickerson has also taken orders for “birch” Yule logs, which feature vanilla buttercream inside a vanilla cake, made to look like a paper birch tree.

“When we roll ours up we like to leave the ends exposed rather than covering it with frosting, so you can see the swirl, which looks like the rings of the log,” she said.

In Henniker, pastry chef Aaron Mallory of The Grazing Room at the Colby Hill Inn has been serving Yule logs for two as a dessert option on its Christmas Cheer menu, with a hazelnut filling and a chocolate ganache covering.

Time to decorate

Once your Yule log is baked and rolled, the final step is to decorate it to your liking. It’s a good idea to let the rolled cake cool completely, Hirte said, even waiting until the next day if you can, to make sure it is firm and any icing you use as decorative tree bark will not melt.

Lightly running the tip of a fork or a spatula through the frosting is an effective way to manipulate the texture, giving the cake some rough edges that look like tree bark, Nickerson said. You can also cut off a small sliver of the cake from one of the ends and place it against the side of the bigger piece to make it look like the smaller branch of a tree.

“You can dust it with confectioner’s sugar for snow,” Nickerson said. “We also have poinsettias we put on ours that are made out of gum paste.”

Other garnishes to give your Yule log a woodsy look involve adding meringue “mushrooms” dusted with cocoa powder, or holly leaves with sugared cranberries for added color.

Where to get Yule logs
While the deadline to order a Yule log for the holidays has passed for most bake shops in New Hampshire, there is still time to get one at one of these local eateries.
The Bakeshop on Kelley Street (171 Kelley St., Manchester, 624-3500, thebakeshoponkelleystreet.com) will have a limited amount of Yule logs available for sale, on Thursday, Dec. 24, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., owner Denise Nickerson said.
Colby Hill Inn (33 The Oaks, Henniker, 428-3281, colbyhillinn.com) is serving Yule logs for two as a dessert option on its Christmas Cheer menu. According to chief innovation officer Jeff Brechbühl, the menu will continue to be available for a few days after Christmas, on Dec. 26, Dec. 27 and Dec. 30.
Frederick’s Pastries (109 Route 101A, Amherst, 882-7725; 25 S. River Road, Bedford, 647-2253; pastry.net) offers a dark chocolate Yule log filled with a light chocolate orange mousse, available to order now through New Year’s.

Agnès Boucher’s bûche de Noël (Yule log)
Courtesy of Nathalie Hirte of the Franco-American Centre in Manchester

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the baking pan by buttering its surface and adding wax paper or parchment paper. Butter the surface of the paper and dust with flour. Beat the eggs in a deep bowl. Add the sugar, ¼ cup at a time. Make sure it is incorporated into the batter before adding more. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and the baking powder. Heat the milk (do not let it boil), then add melted butter. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Add the hot milk and stir gently, to not deflate the mixture, until the liquid is absorbed. Pour onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, until it is lightly golden (the cake should be baked throughout, but still moist).
While the cake is baking, prepare a clean towel for rolling. Sift some powdered sugar onto the towel, or use some parchment paper, to help ensure the cake does not stick to it. Take the cake out of the oven. While the cake is still hot, trim off the edges (they will be hard and crunchy). Turn out the cake onto the prepared towel. If it’s still on, remove the paper from the back. Roll the cake quickly with the towel and let it rest, towel and all, for 15 minutes.
Unroll and spread your choice of filling (jelly, jam, buttercream icing, etc.) and roll once again. It will look like a large Swiss roll. Let the rolled cake cool completely. Add any decorations of choice (optional: cutting off a piece to put on top of the cake can give it the look of a cut off tree branch). Cover everything with the icing, spreading it to make it look like bark. You can use a fork or a spatula to add texture. After decorating, display as the centerpiece of your Christmas dessert table.

Featured photo: Raspberry jam and dark chocolate mousse filled Yule log. Courtesy of Popovers on the Square in Epping and Portsmouth.

The Weekly Dish 20/12/24

News from the local food scene

Concord winter market moves online: The Downtown Concord Winter Farmers Market has transitioned to an online-only ordering model until further notice, according to a press release. Each week you can pre-order your market items online at harvesttomarket.com and pick them up at 7 Eagle Square in Concord on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. The online market for each pickup week is open until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesdays. Available products include fresh local produce, eggs, meats, baked goods, coffees, teas, soaps and more, and you can purchase items from multiple vendors all in one order. Cash, checks and debit or credit cards are all accepted. Follow the market on Facebook @downtownconcordwinterfarmersmarket.

New bakery opens in Manchester: A new bakery offering made-from-scratch gourmet doughnuts, cookies, custom cakes and other desserts and treats is now open in Manchester. Wild Orchid Bakery held its grand opening on Dec. 18 at 484 S. Main St. in the Queen City. Owner Shelly-Anne Storer, a self-taught baker who comes from Trinidad and Tobago, said many of the sweet and savory offerings available at the bakery are inspired by flavors of her homeland, from Trinidadian coconut rolls to saltfish buljol, or a salad dish of chopped fish, tomatoes and other veggies. She also has an ongoing partnership with Mike Brown of the Manchester-based Hometown Coffee Roasters, featuring his coffees brewed with a custom espresso machine Brown provided himself. On a table in the center of the bakery, Storer plans to regularly feature all types of locally made products for sale through partnerships with other area businesses. Visit wildorchidbakery.com.

Pollution prevention grant: The state Department of Environmental Services’ Pollution Prevention Program was recently awarded a two-year federal grant to aid New Hampshire’s craft beverage industry in pollution prevention efforts, including those who produce beer, wine, mead, cider and hard seltzer, according to a press release. The Sustainable Craft Beverage programwill focus on improving the quality and volume of wastewater, implementing energy efficiency, conserving water and reducing waste. The program, which received the grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Energy, will partner with the New Hampshire Brewers Association, the New Hampshire Craft Spirits Association and UNH’s brewing program, as well as state electric and gas utility companies, to provide education and training programs. According to the release, the need for the grant funds is in response to the potential for increased environmental impacts as the craft beverage industry continues to grow in the state, such as the discharge of wastewater, increased energy use and water consumption.

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