Brooks plays Brooks

Virtual tribute show promises the best of Garth

There’s an emphatic mood these days at the Palace Theatre: The show must go on.

Since the pandemic has again ended performances for live audiences, some postponed events are now being repurposed to happen virtually at the Manchester venue. One scheduled for Jan. 15 is a night of Garth Brooks hits performed by local musician Brooks Young.

Two more evenings of music are set, an All New Piano Men tribute to Elton John, Billy Joel and others Jan. 22, and the Feb. 5 Divas Through the Decades, reprising singers from Etta James to Gloria Estefan, Tina Turner and Madonna. All shows premiere on Friday night, and later are made available to stream on demand.

A singer, guitarist and songwriter, Young is no stranger to the impact that national events can have on the arts. His breakout gig, opening at Singer Park for B.B. King, was nearly canceled the day it happened: Sept. 11, 2001. But the concert had already been rescheduled from 12 days earlier, and the blues legend wasn’t going to let it slip again.

Along with his musical prowess, Young has worked as technical director for the Palace and Rex theaters for the past two years.

“It was a good fit with my background,” he said in a recent phone interview, noting that he’s currently studying for a music business degree. “I love all the people. … I feel like I haven’t worked a day since I started here; I just get up and do something that I love every day.”

One of Young’s latest projects was overseeing the installation of a new state-of-the-art video screen for the Palace stage; it will be behind him at his Brooks Plays Brooks show. He promises a high-tech performance, with a socially distanced band that includes a steel guitarist and a fiddle player.

“It’s going to be your typical Garth Brooks show with the fancy lights, the video wall, the smoke, the whole nine yards,” he said. “We’re not just going to be standing up there like deer in headlights.”

The event’s name was a natural choice, as was the artist being lauded.

“I grew up listening to him and I’m familiar with all his music. He was one of my first CDs in the ’90s. I always thought if I were to do a country show, it’s definitely going to be Garth Brooks,” Young said, noting that his grandfather was in a touring country group when he was younger.

So the longtime blues ace decided, “I’m going to try it. So I got myself a cowboy hat, and we’ll see what happens.”

One result is a new song with a country flavor called “Ask Me How I Know” that recently debuted on Spotify. Young has plans for more studio work in the spring.

“I always thought I’d play some country music, and my grandmother always asked me, ‘Hey when are you going to have a country group, because you love it,’” Young said. “She passed away last July, so I said … ‘Maybe now is a good time to do it.’”

The new tune follows a Christmas song that arrived last month, reflecting a strategy of putting out a lot of material, one track at a time.

“You can’t just release something once every two or three years,” Brooks said. “Things need to come out a couple of times a year, singles and stuff like that — that’s how the algorithms work with all the streaming services. I’ve been learning a lot and trying to adapt with these new times.”

Brooks Young Plays Garth Brooks
Friday, Jan 15, 7 p.m.
Where: Palace Theatre, 96 Hanover St., Manchester (virtual event)
Tickets: $15 at (free to members)

Featured photo: Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/01/14

Strumming: Offering a range of tunes from pop to rock, reggae and country, Acoustic Tandem features Tom Colantuoni and David Hoffman trading guitar licks and singing; Hoffman keeps rhythm with a pair of claves. Their set list includes classics — Creedence’s “Bad Moon Rising” is done as a harmony-rich rave-up — and newer hits like Little Big Town’s “Boondocks.” Friday, Jan. 15, 8 p.m., Chantilly’s Restaurant & Pub, 1112 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 625-0012.

Drumming: The instrument played by Senie Hunt is many things, including a guitar, which he loops through a sound machine to produce a mini symphony, and uses for percussion in amazing ways, drawing from rhythms of his native Sierra Leone. As a five-year-old refugee from the Diamond Wars, he was adopted by a Stateside family that owned an instrument import business. Saturday, Jan. 16, 8 p.m., Backyard Brewery & Kitchen, 1211 S. Mammoth Road, Manchester, 623-3545.

Supporting: A weekly series of pre-recorded concerts kicks off with Soggy Po’ Boys and runs through the end of March with a goal of helping the regional music scene’s beleaguered members raise some money and provide them with a well-produced, multi-camera video to showcase in further endeavors. Fans receive a great snapshot of a vibrant community and the chance to make difference. Premieres Saturday, Jan. 16, 7 p.m. on, $20/show; season passes available.

Brightening: Enjoy a snack, a beverage and a midweek performance from Jessica Olson, a New Hampshire native who calls herself an “uncaged song bird.” When she’s not playing solo — like most everyone these days — Olson fronts her eponymous band. She recently joined the lineup of streaming musicians at, so those interested in her sound can check her out there. Wednesday, Jan. 20, 8 p.m., Homestead Restaurant, 641 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 479-2022.

At the Sofaplex 21/01/14

Herself (R)

Clare Dunne, Harriet Walter.

Also Conleth Hill, probably best known as Lord Varys from Game of Thrones. Dunne plays Sandra, a mother of two daughters who is living in a hotel paid for by housing assistance, scraping by on two jobs and generally scrambling to make some kind of normal life for her kids after separating from her husband, Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson). Their fraught marriage finally ended when he beat her up, breaking her hand, while their youngest daughter, Molly (Molly McCann), watched and their older daughter, Emma (Ruby Rose O’Hara), ran for help. She still has shared custody of the kids with Gary, who vacillates between being an aggressive jerk and a manipulative jerk who tries to guilt her into getting back together. Her hotel is so far away from the kids’ school and her jobs that her life is a constant schedule of long travel times and being late for everything. Then she has an idea: What if she builds her own house? The assistance organization can’t help her but Peggy (Walter), the woman she cleans for, offers to let her build what is essentially a tiny home on her property and loans her the cash for building materials. People point out to both women that there are oodles of reasons this won’t work, but Sandra is determined to find a way to take control of her own destiny.

To some extent this movie is exactly what it sounds like — a gritty but heartwarming feel-good movie. But it has some excellent performances — in particular, Dunne’s — that make it come together and be optimistic without being sappy or melodramatic. The child actors do decent work and the movie is able to suggest details about the lives of its characters without having to explain every element, creating a well-rounded and well-paced film. B+ Available on Amazon Prime.


Movie screenings, movie-themed happenings & virtual events


Chunky’s Cinema Pub

707 Huse Road, Manchester; 151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua; 150 Bridge St., Pelham,


with IMAX at 38 Cinemagic Way in Hooksett; 11 Executive Park Drive in Merrimack; 2454 Lafayette Road in Portsmouth;

Red River Theatres

11 S. Main St., Concord


Wilton Town Hall Theatre

40 Main St., Wilton, 654-3456


Red River Virtual Cinema Red River Theatres is currently offering indie, foreign language and documentary films via a virtual cinema experience. Recent additions include City Hall, a documentary about Boston city government. See the ever-changing lineup on the website.

The Storytellers a week-long series of silent films accompanied by live music performed by Jeff Rapsis at Wilton Town Hall Theatre, through Friday, Jan. 15, at 7:30 p.m. each night. Admission is free but a $10 donation per person is suggested. Films: Wednesday is Spiders (1919) from Lang; Thursday is Way Down East (1920) from Griffith; Friday is The Saphead (1920) starring Buster Keaton.

Princess Bride Trivia Night Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at Chunky’s Manchester, 21+. Reserve a spot by purchasing a $5 food voucher per person.

Peter Pan (1924) silent film accompanied by live music performed by Jeff Rapsis screens on Sunday, Jan. 24, at 2 p.m. at Wilton Town Hall Theatre. Admission is free but a $10 donation is suggested.

Dawson’s Creek Trivia Night Thursday, Jan. 21, at 7:30 p.m. at Chunky’s Manchester, 21+. Reserve a spot by purchasing a $5 food voucher per person.

Star Wars Trivia Night Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m. at Chunky’s Manchester, 21+. Reserve a spot by purchasing a $5 food voucher per person.

The Freshman (1925) silent Harold Lloyd film accompanied by live music performed by Jeff Rapsis screens on Sunday, Feb. 7, at 2 p.m. at Wilton Town Hall Theatre. Admission is free but a $10 donation is suggested.

Sylvie’s Love (PG-13)

A jazz musician winds through the life of a woman who loves him in Sylvie’s Love, an almost miraculously good romance on Amazon.

This movie is beautiful to look at, beautifully romantic, sweet and joyful. For whatever reason, romances that are this straightforwardly romantic without any dressing up of comedy or tragedy or whatever are so rare that it feels like something of a miracle that this exists at all, and that it exists in an accessible way, and not as some released-and-it-disappears indie.

Sylvie (an excellent Tessa Thompson) is a young woman who seems to just radiate energy and possibility, living in Harlem in the late 1950s. Her mother, Eunice (Erica Gimpel), literally uses Sylvie as an example of poise to the young girls at the etiquette school she runs, but Sylvie loves music and television and hangs out with her father, who goes by Mr. Jay (Lance Reddick), at his record shop where she can have access to both. She’s engaged but the movie suggests that the engagement was more a way to placate her mother when Eunice thought Sylvie had gone too far with a boy than the result of a desire to be married. What really gets Sylvie beaming is television and the desire to work as a producer, a dream that seems far-fetched for a Black woman in the mid-century, as her father says, but TV is her passion nevertheless. Well, television and Robert Halloway (Nnamdi Asomugha), a talented young saxophonist who takes a job at the record store to hang out with Sylvie. Though she’s engaged and he is friendly with a girl angling to be a girlfriend at the club where he plays with a jazz quartet, the two are drawn to each other.

The romance of Sylvie and Robert doesn’t go smoothly and part of what makes this movie work is that we can believe both in the depth of their love and in the reality of the things that keep them apart. The movie starts in the early 1960s and then jumps back five years and then moves forward. We see these two people love each other while pursuing life goals that they also love. It’s all so kind, gentle, sweet, beautiful — not words that maybe sound like you should be pumped to see this movie but it is such a warm and rosy story that it is a nice world to be in for a while. The movie has an almost old-fashioned romance movie feel, like something you might see from the late 1950s or early 1960s, but without the overtly stylized showiness of a Mank.

Thompson is one of those actresses I don’t think I’ve ever disliked in a movie but she really is a delight here. She is able to convey strength and confidence even in moments where her character doesn’t fully know the right answer. Likewise, Asomugha is able to sell us on both his character’s devotion to Sylvie and all the decisions the character makes that pull him away from her. And they create a kind of glow around themselves as a couple.

The movie also has some strong supporting performances, including from Eva Longoria, who seems to be having a lot of fun as the wife of one of Robert’s bandmates.

Sylvie’s Love is a bottle of Champagne, a box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses — a perfectly executed romance classic. A

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content, and smoking, according to the MPA on Written and directed by Eugene Ashe, Sylvie’s Love is an hour and 54 minutes long and is distributed by Amazon Studios and available via Amazon Prime.

Featured photo: Sylvie’s Love

Beginners, by Tom Vanderbilt

Beginners, by Tom Vanderbilt (Knopf, 320 pages)

If you’ve ever considered learning something after the age of 8, chances are you’ve been told how difficult it would be. It’s easier to learn a language or how to ski, or start to play an instrument, with the benefit of a young brain and the absence of fear.

Tom Vanderbilt acknowledged the challenge before him when he decided in his late 40s to learn to play chess with his young daughter. One researcher told Vanderbilt that his daughter would learn the game twice as fast as he could.

But, as they say, age and treachery can overcome youth and skill. And Vanderbilt wasn’t willing to accept being consigned to the indignity of being an “adult learner,” with the expectation that he was going to learn a new skill poorly, if at all. He decided to put up a fight. And what he learned, presented in Beginners, challenges the idea that our brains are on conveyor belts headed down after we reach a certain age, and that it’s not worth the effort to learn new skills.

Vanderbilt argues that we all should be learning new things right up to the time when the hooded guy with the scythe shows up. It doesn’t matter whether we have time, or if the things we learn have any obvious connection to our jobs, he says. Learning anything new, whether a skill or fact, delights our brains, which crave novelty. And it’s not just the things that we learn that benefit our lives, but the act of learning itself. There’s evidence, in fact, Vanderbilt writes, that taking on the challenge of learning multiple things at once — for example, signing up to learn Italian in the same month you’re also taking up crocheting — is even better for the brain than undertaking one new thing. And while that may sound stressful, taking up new pursuits actually alleviates stress, research has shown.

In any new or difficult endeavor, people often advocate “baby steps,” and Vanderbilt begins by drilling down on how children actually learn to walk. It’s not a side gig. Babies spend about a third of their day practicing walking for six months, and they don’t actually get it down perfectly until several years later, he says. They don’t learn to walk by marching about in straight lines, but by wandering across different surfaces in different patterns. And, of course, they fall down a lot. Learning for adults is much like that, Vanderbilt says. “Development does not always march uniformly in one direction. Infants may learn to walk, then briefly revert to crawling. Always be on the edge of the impossible,” he writes, adding, “Remember: If it feels easy, you’re probably not learning.”

Vanderbilt’s own journey of being a beginner began with chess but then expanded to singing, surfing, swimming and jewelry making, among other things. Given that his explorations were done in pursuit of a book, he had the blessing of a supportive wife and tax deductions to support his research. He took singing lessons, for example, from a New York voice coach who also teaches famous actors, and he acknowledges that the lessons were not cheap. He later joins a chorus to enjoy the twin benefits of using his new skills and learning in a social setting (which is even better for us than learning on our own).

People who don’t have the time or resources to learn new things under the tutelage of coaches in idyllic settings (he engages in “wild swimming,” for example, off the coast of Greece) may experience Beginners as a somewhat impractical guide to what aspirational Americans do when they have too much time on their hands. But we live in a time when virtually any skill can be acquired via YouTube; in fact, one 70-year-old woman Vanderbilt met in the Bahamas had taught herself to swim by watching videos online. As such, Beginners is a useful and engaging companion to any new pursuit, validation that even if you don’t turn into an Ironman or Grandmaster, no, you’re not wasting your time learning how to swim or play chess.

As a bonus, Vanderbilt offers aid and comfort to anyone who finds their memory isn’t what it used to be. Our brains are less efficient as we age, not merely because of biological degradation but because they contain so much stuff, he writes. “You’ve no doubt found, as you’ve gotten older, that you sometimes struggle to retrieve the name of a film or person. Of course you do! It’s because you’ve seen thousands of films and met thousands of people. Try implanting five decades of raw data into a kid and let’s see how they do,” he says. B+


People on both sides of the political divide reverently quote him, so it’s easy to forget that Martin Luther King Jr. was a controversial figure in his day.

It’s even harder to fathom how controversial he was when you read some of what King actually wrote and said, which often reaches the heights of poetry.

For anyone who has only read about the civil rights leader we honor on Monday, and not actually read what he’s written, there’s a rich library of his words that has aged especially well, beginning with Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community? (Beacon Press, 256 pages).

Another good option for the novice King reader is A Testament of Hope, The Essential Writings and Speeches, edited by James M. Washington (HarperOne, 736 pages).

Meanwhile, adding to multiple substantive biographies about King, there’s a new book out this month that looks promising. Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life and Win the 1960 Election is something of a historical thriller (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 368 pages). It’s by Paul Kendrick and Steven Kendrick, a father-son team who have collaborated on two other historical books: Douglass and Lincoln: How a Revolutionary Black Leader and a Reluctant Liberator Struggled to End Slavery and Save the Union and Sarah’s Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America.

Also of note in the month we honor King:

One of King’s successors at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta is Raphael Warnock, who recently won one of the hotly contested U.S. Senate seats in Georgia.
It remains to be seen if Warnock has King’s rhetorical gifts, but he’s got a book, The Divided Mind of the Black Church, which was released in paperback last month (NYU Press, 278 pages). Promotional material says it’s an exploration of what the priority of the Black church should be: saving souls or transforming the social order.


Author events

DR. JARED ROSS HARDESTY Author of Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in New England (2019) presents a virtual lecture, “Confronting Slavery in Early New England: History, Sources and Interpetation.” Thurs., Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m. Part of The Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden’s free public winter continuing education series. Registration is required. Email to receive the link to the Zoom event.

REBECCA CARROLL Author presents Surviving the White Gaze. Virtual livestream hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Tues., Feb. 2, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5. Call 436-2400 or visit

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

DIANE REHM Author presents When My Time Comes. Virtual livestream hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Tues., Feb. 23, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5. Call 436-2400 or visit

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, 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 or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit or call 224-0562.

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



Offering remotely by the Franco-American Centre. Six-week winter session runs Jan. 21 through Feb. 25, with classes held Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Spring session dates TBA. $225. Visit or call 623-1093.

Special events

EXETER LITFEST Literary festival will feature local authors, keynote speaker Victoria Arlen, book launches, a Saturday morning story hour for kids, and programs on various topics including publishing tips, mystery writing and homeschooling. Hosted virtually via Zoom by Exeter TV. Thurs., April 1, through Sat., April 3. Free and open to the public. Visit

Featured photo: Beginners, by Tom Vanderbilt

Album Reviews 21/01/14

Frank Sonic & L-Ex, “Talamanca Beach, Ming (Ger) Remix” (Amber Blue Recordings)

As if I don’t mention it every other month, I’m always up for some velvet-rope techno, especially Above & Beyond-style trance, in other words “trance that’s actually too slow to be properly considered ‘trance’ but whatever.” That’s Frank Sonic’s trip, at least on this track, which isn’t a chest-thumping floor-stomper, more one of those countless odes to the crazily decadent island of Ibiza, in this case a specific beach that struck his fancy when he visited on tour. No, Sonic isn’t in the same class as Tiesto or any of those DJs with “Van” in their name, at least here in the States. But he’s been a fixture in Germany for 20 years, and stuff like this would do just fine for me if the right club ever opened up in these parts. The tune builds and swirls and dive bombs like an overly confident seagull, hitting on the right vibe to remind us that travel sure was a fun thing back before the plague hit, you know? A

Trillionaire, Romulus (Nefarious Industries Records)

I hesitate to dub this band a supergroup, but it does have all the markings of some sort of mutant hard-rock Toto, being that it brings together a bunch of guys who’ve been through the ringer for a collective period of many decades. If you’re hip to bands like Inter Arma, Fuligin, A F—ing Elephant and such, you may have been exposed to parts of this whole, which reads like a tech-savvy (in a Linkin Park sense) version of Metallica (in a the-singer-sounds-like-Hetfield sense). No, it’s not a lot like Tool, so get that out of your head before you decide prematurely to bail on this, and besides, I can’t stand Tool. No, it’s like if Mastodon had gone in a near-emo direction, but no, it’s not emo either. The riffing is sharper than a paper cut, befitting a band that’s been together a really long time, but they haven’t. The tracks were passed around from and recorded in Boston, Seattle, Richmond and Nashville, thus it’s a Covid baby, and quite the great one, in fact. A

Retro Playlist

Weird coincidence, but if you noticed my talking about the Cheatahs in the weekly rundown, here they are again, coming up in a search for old stuff I haven’t talked about in a dog’s age. Their 2013 album Extended Plays was actually a rollup of the band’s earliest EPs, showcasing the initial volleys in the British indie-shoegaze-pop foursome’s attempts to take over the world. That hasn’t happened, to date, and they’re way overdue for a new album these days; their second LP, Mythologies, came out in 2015. With regard to my first exposure to them, I described them as “Foo Fighters on Drive Like Jehu’s budget, but it’s beyond that; these guys are fantastic riff-writers, as heard in album opener “The Swan”, which rides one hellaciously awesome guitar line for most of the tune and then stops to riff something even more cool, after a Sabbath-y Foo Fighters-ish fashion.” As for the last album, it rated a 73 on Metacritic’s aggregate score, meaning they were considered pretty freaking good. To be honest, it wasn’t until I was today years old that I finally caught up with Mythologies, or at least some quick samples thereof; it’s a bit more formulaic than their older stuff but still worth a stream if you’d be down with clean, blissy, over-reverb-ed shoegaze sung by a dude who’s trying to nick Simple Minds (who wouldn’t?).

Not so awesome was Buckcherry’s Confessions album, which I reviewed that same week in 2013. They were doomed in my eyes from the start anyway; I don’t trust throwback hard-rock bands that can’t come up with riffs to save their lives, and these L.A.-based imbeciles were lucky I didn’t throw the book at ’em and give them an F grade for being “very much like 3 Doors Down if that band had been exposed to too much Papa Roach.” Did it help that the singer, Whatsisname, ripped off Staind’s stupid sourball inflection? No, it did not.


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Jan. 15 arrives this week, on a Friday, which can only mean one thing: New albums will be arriving in the Pandoras and whatever, to soothe your aesthetic sensibilities and of course make you wish good music were coming out instead! Take for example Suckapunch, the seventh album from English pop-punk/post-hardcore (could we possibly dispense with all the superficial, superfluous genre-labeling this year and just call all this stuff “emo” whether the band likes it or not?) band You Me At Six! They are certainly likeable enough for what they do; they sound sort of like Fall Out Boy, but with nothing new to add, so you might like them, I have no idea whatsoever. I could have sworn I’d written these guys up before, but maybe I didn’t, who cares, like, I thought they were a tiresome hipster-indie band until I went back and listened to their biggest songs, which were like Fall Out Boy. Whatever, and then I checked to see if some WWE wrestling dude had used one of their songs as an “entrance theme,” you know, the sophisticated part where the wrestler runs out of the arena tunnel and starts barking at the moon and throwing chairs at the referee. Anyway, the title track is actually OK, like a cross between Coldplay and Linkin Park (please don’t pretend you couldn’t possibly imagine what that would sound like, seriously, I beg you), even if the video is just a trope-dump of sci-fi nonsense, like first there’s a random Darth Maul dude, and then they get unplugged from their Matrix brain implants, blah blah blah. You might like it, like I said. I do not know.

• Hmm, let’s see what else is here. Wait, guys, this looks interesting, some British indie band called Shame, with their second album, Drunk Tank Pink, this might actually be cool, because NME takes them seriously. Yep, on their first album, Songs Of Praise, they were sort of like a drunk version of Elbow that was trying to sound a bit like the Hives, like a mutant strain of oi-indie. The new single, “Water in the Well,” is like old Madchester yell-pop, a lot cooler than Gang Of Four (is that OK to infer, or am I risking my critic’s license?). I like these guys and would be most keen on joining them if they ever assemble a flash mob with the intent of invading a big electronics store and throwing golf balls at everything that looks expensive.

Midnight Sister, you say? Never heard of them? Hmm, neither has Wikipedia. Eh, maybe it’s cool, given that their record label is Jagjaguwar Records, which has sent me good records in the past, or am I thinking of the Cheatahs? I swear, my brain is like an episode of Hoarders, except everything in my packed-to-the-ceiling guest room is nothing but boxes of bad, redundant albums without any redeeming artistic qualities. Meanwhile, this new album, Painting The Roses, has a new single, called “Foxes,” a cabaret-rock tune that’s sort of like 1970s Electric Light Orchestra. I don’t hate it, does that help any?

• Wrapping up, let’s look at “Mork & Mindy,” the new single from Spare Ribs, the latest LP from Sleaford Mods! OK, it’s awesome, like imagine a brain-damaged Cockney “punter” rapping gently over a wicked cool EDM chill beat. No, I’m serious, this is cool, in its way!

Beer and DIY

Good beer to help with home improvement projects

Over the course of several weeks, my wife painstakingly and tediously removed all the wallpaper from a stairway and second-floor hallway. She used a vinegar solution, a steamer and other products to complete the job.

I was an observer throughout the frustrating wallpaper removal process, and I did feel some guilt over that. But it is my turn now and I’m going to need some beer to get me through my role in this leg of the project.

I am currently undertaking a process that involves “sealing” the ripped up walls from all the scuffing and scraping that comes with the wallpaper removal process, and then applying a skim coat of plaster. The next step is another coat of sealer, which also acts as a primer, followed by a couple coats of paint.

Also, all of that is according to, for your information. I don’t know what I’m doing.

The wallpaper removal was undoubtedly worse, but this is still a lot. Plus, there are ladders involved and I’m more of a “don’t-go-past-the-third-rung” kind of guy.

Jobs like this, particularly ones that don’t involve lots of sharp objects, need beer. You want to do a good job — I know I want to do a good job — but you also need to reward yourself for your efforts. And let’s be honest, stuff like plaster and paint, well, they need time to dry before you move on to the next step.

I think most people have found themselves tackling more home improvement projects in the past nine months than they expected. I know I have, and beer has been a critical component of these jobs.

You can’t just choose any beer, though. I suppose you can but I’m not sure you should. That double IPA or that imperial stout in the fridge may be tempting but the high ABV on those beers is going to slow you down — and maybe bring your efforts to a complete stop.

That’s not what we want. We have to get this job done. To do so, more sessionable beers are your friend, beers that are, say, 6-percent ABV or less. The specific style, of course, is less important. The big thing, and I’m being serious, is that you want to be able to enjoy a beer or maybe two while you work, but we still need to complete this project and do it well — at least to the best of our abilities.

Pilsners are an obvious choice: crisp, clean and refreshing. Beers like the Dirty Blonde Ale by Portsmouth Brewery, the Koastal Kolsch by Great Rhythm Brewing or the Alexandr Czech-style pilsner by Schilling Beer Co. would make excellent choices.

While an imperial stout might not be the best move, a “regular” stout or porter would be perfect, maybe even ideal. You can slowly slip a stout or a porter over an extended period of time and still enjoy the robust, complex flavor.

The Java Roots stout by Granite Roots Brewing is very smooth and boasts huge coffee flavor. Other local options include the Robust Porter by Smuttynose Brewing Co. and the Robust Vanilla Porter by Great North Aleworks.

While sours aren’t my go-to, I like how the tart brightness of a sour wakes me up in the middle of a project. The Jam Up the Mash Dry Hopped Sour by Collective Arts Brewing was a good friend to me as I painted and plastered. The SeaQuench Ale by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery would be another favorite sour of mine.

Brown ales would be perfect companions as well, with their nutty, sweet flavors.

Find something you like, that doesn’t bog you down, and get to work.

What’s in My Fridge
Winter Warmer by Harpoon Brewing Co.
(Boston, Mass.) This is my all-time favorite holiday beer and a very nostalgic choice. I know the nutmeg is a bit much for some and straight-up off-putting to others, but I love the holiday spice and sweetness this beer brings. It’s so festive. It’s also dangerously easy to drink. Cheers!

Featured photo: Jam Up the Mash dry-hopped sour by Collective Arts Brewing.

Nice buns!

Nothing says comfort on a winter morning like a warm tray of freshly baked cinnamon rolls — and, while it can take more time, bypassing the canned dough in favor of your own scratch-made sweet treats can be a fun experience with a delicious result.

“Even a beginner can make cinnamon rolls,” said Nancy LaRoche of Cooking Up a Storm, a homestead business based in Goffstown that specializes in made-to-order baked goods. “There are different areas you can also be flexible in to suit your own tastes.”

From the filling ingredients to the manner in which you add your icing, local bakers share some of their best tips for making your own homemade cinnamon rolls.

Rolling in the dough

Baking cinnamon rolls starts with a basic dough using ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen, including milk, eggs, sugar, all-purpose flour and butter. Maria Bares, owner of The Baker’s Hands in Deerfield, said working with each of your ingredients at room temperature can have an effect on how quickly the dough will rise, whether or not you’re using yeast. A flour with a high protein content also helps to better produce a much fluffier dough.

“If you have cold eggs or cold milk right out of the fridge, then that’s going to slow the rising process down,” she said. “You also want to try to handle [the dough] as little as possible, because the more you do, the tougher it’s going to be.”

Letting your dough sit for a couple of hours after you’ve mixed the ingredients together, Bares said, will increase its volume and better enable you to incorporate your filling mixture. Colder temperatures will slow down the rising of the dough, so you can also cover it with plastic wrap and pop it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to work with it.

LaRoche said she likes to spread her dough out into a rectangular shape and gently pinch its edges before adding the filling. Spreading an even amount of filling across the perimeter of the dough, as well as rolling it up slowly and tightly, can help your rolls bake more evenly.

Prepping for the oven

A typical cinnamon roll filling, to be spread onto your leavened dough before it is rolled, will often contain a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Jenn Stone-Grimaldi, co-owner of Crosby Bakery in Nashua, said it’s especially important to incorporate a good-quality cinnamon.

“If you have a jar of cinnamon in your cabinet and you don’t remember when you bought it, you should probably go out and buy a new one,” she said. “The freshness and quality of the cinnamon really makes a difference in the final product.”

Softening your butter before mixing it into the cinnamon and sugar can better help to incorporate the flavors, according to Joy Martello of Étagère in Amherst. You can also add a drizzle of heavy cream on them before baking for a more moist and gooey texture.

You can even get creative with the fillings if you want to. Jacky Levine of It’s All Good in the Kitchen, a gluten-free bakery in Salem, which offers gluten-free cinnamon rolls to order on Saturdays, said she’s experimented with raspberry compote cinnamon rolls. LaRoche said she has added ingredients like walnuts, raisins, orange zest, cardamom, ginger and even Nutella.

“There’s an infinite variety [of ingredient options]. You can go to town really with anything that floats your boat,” she said.

From here, you can cut out your individual rolls using a properly sharpened serrated knife, or you can achieve this using a strand of unflavored dental floss — yes, dental floss. Simply wrap the floss around the dough and pull as though you were tying a knot.

“It sounds weird, but dental floss ensures a nice clean cut, which is key to getting those perfect swirls you want,” Bares said. “If you try to use a dull knife, it’s just going to squish the dough.”

You can use a baking pan or cookie sheet, or even a muffin tin. Bares said she likes to use a kitchen scale to evenly weigh each rolled dough piece, leaving a little bit of space in between each one once the rolls are placed on the pan. As an optional step to aid in the browning of the dough, you can add an egg wash to the top of your rolls.

The icing on the cake

Depending on your oven and how many you’re baking at once, cinnamon rolls can take as little as 15 to 20 minutes or as long as 30 to 35 minutes. While they’re in the oven, you can make your own icing to go on top using just ingredients like butter, sugar and milk.

“That’s another area where it’s flexible,” LaRoche said. “My favorite is a coffee maple glaze, [which is] brewed coffee, maple extract, maple syrup and powdered sugar.”

Bares said she prefers a cream cheese-based icing, which she packages separately with all of her cinnamon roll orders. Vanilla and freeze-dried strawberry powder are other optional ingredients.

Whether you lightly drizzle or spread your icing over your rolls is a matter of preference, as is adding it while they are still hot or after they’ve cooled.

“If you put it on while they’re still hot, then it will sort of melt and seep into the layers of the rolls. Some people prefer that if they don’t like a real thick coating of icing,” LaRoche said.

But if you’d rather be a little more meticulous with your icing spreading, Bares said all you need to do is let your rolls cool for five minutes before applying it. Your finished rolls will keep in plastic wrap for a few days to a week, depending on whether they are frosted.

“I would say that unfrosted rolls stay good for about three to four days at room temperature, and then about a week in the fridge,” she said.

Kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon rolls) from Hulda’s Swedish Baked Goods in Brookline. Courtesy photo.

Swedish traditions
It’s unclear exactly where the first cinnamon roll originated, but the sweet treat is a long-standing tradition in several Nordic countries, especially in Sweden. Jenny Lewis of Brookline and her father, David Schur, are the owners of Hulda’s Swedish Baked Goods, a baking business honoring the legacy of Lewis’s maternal great-grandmother Hulda, who immigrated to the United States from southeastern Sweden in 1902. Hulda owned and operated a bakery in Chicago, where she made traditional Swedish baked goods like kanelbullar, or cinnamon rolls (“kanel” means cinnamon and “bullar” or “bulle” means bun or roll, according to Lewis).
The dough used for Hulda’s cinnamon rolls, Lewis said, is the same basic yeast bread also used for their dinner rolls and cardamom loaf. Kanelbullar are characterized by their braid-like texture, made by twisting multiple strands of dough across one another before the rolls go in the oven. They are also known for containing cardamom and not normally having an icing on top.
“If you use some of the cinnamon rolls you might buy at the mall, like at Cinnabon, as a point of reference then ours are a lot smaller,” Schur said. “It’s more the size of a dinner roll in an individual serving, so if you eat two you’re not going to feel terrible about yourself.”
Schur said cinnamon rolls in Sweden are also often enjoyed during a social tradition known as fika, which is popular all over the country and continues to be a major part of its culture.
“When somebody says ‘fika,’ it just means a social gathering or get-together. It’s a little bit like a mid-morning or mid-afternoon coffee break at work or at home,” he said. “You’re enjoying a cup of coffee or tea and in this case kanelbullar, or maybe cookies or another treat that goes with it.”

How to cut cinnamon rolls with floss, and the finished product. Photos courtesy of Nancy LaRoche of Cooking Up a Storm.

Make your own cinnamon rolls
Several of the sources for this story — including Nancy LaRoche of Cooking Up a Storm in Goffstown and Maria Bares of The Baker’s Hands in Deerfield — pointed to King Arthur Baking Co.’s products or recipes when it comes to making cinnamon rolls. The company, which sells flours and other ingredients and has a school which holds baking classes in Vermont, recently picked the “Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls” recipe as its 2021 Recipe of the Year; LaRoche, who tried this recipe out the day before her interview with us, reported that it indeed produced soft pillow-like rolls.

This version of yeasted dough cinnamon rolls starts with making a tangzhong, which is a blend of flour and milk that is warmed in a saucepan before being put in the mixing bowl with the rest of the flour and other ingredients added, the website explains. This technique “pre-gelatinizes the flour’s starches, which makes them more able to retain liquid — thus enhancing the resulting loaf’s softness and shelf life,” according to the recipe’s notes. The recipe follows an otherwise standard pattern of two rises (one of the enriched dough, one of the rolls after they’re assembled).

King Arthur has other takes on cinnamon rolls. There is a more straight-forward Cinnamon Rolls yeasted recipe, sans tangzhong.

If you’ve kept your sourdough starter alive beyond those first yeast-less weeks of the pandemic, they have a Sourdough Cinnamon Buns recipe that uses one cup of ripe starter along with a small amount of yeast. This recipe has a longer rise time for the dough and the assembled rolls.

For cinnamon rolls right now (-ish), King Arthur also has an Instant Gratification Cinnamon Roll recipe, where the dough’s rising agent is baking soda and Bakewell Cream for a kind of soda-bread cinnamon roll which doesn’t require a rise time.

Beyond these basic rolls, King Arthur has gluten-free and keto friendly recipes as well as variations to the dough (brioche, for example) and flavors. Notes on the recipes mentioned here explain how to assemble the rolls and then refrigerate overnight so that you can have hot fresh cinnamon rolls in the morning without waking up at 3 a.m. Find these recipes (which offer photos to help with some of the tricky steps and baking notes about techniques and ingredients) at

Where to get locally-made cinnamon rolls

This list includes bakeries and homestead businesses in southern New Hampshire where you can order cinnamon rolls. Some have them more regularly than others contact them directly for the most up-to-date availability.

The Baker’s Hands (find them on Facebook @thebakershands) is a homestead business based in Deerfield that offers a variety of baked goods made to order, including cinnamon rolls.

The Bakeshop on Kelley Street (171 Kelley St., Manchester, 624-3500, usually takes orders for cinnamon rolls on weekends and will sometimes have limited availability in the pastry case during the week.

Bearded Baking Co. (819 Union St., Manchester, 647-7150, has a daily offering of cinnamon rolls in its pastry case.

Benson’s Bakery & Cafe (203 Central St., Hudson, 718-8683, takes special orders for cinnamon rolls and will often have a limited amount in their pastry case.

Bite Me Kupcakez (4 Mound Court, Merrimack, 674-4459, features a variety of gluten-free pastries and baked goods, including cinnamon rolls.

Blue Loon Bakery (12 Lovering Lane, New London, 526-2892, takes orders for cinnamon rolls and pecan sticky buns on Saturdays and Sundays.

Buckley’s Bakery & Cafe (436 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 262-5929; 9 Market Place, Hollis, 465-5522; will sometimes have a limited amount of cinnamon rolls in their pastry case. Special orders of at least a dozen cinnamon rolls can be placed with a 48-hour notice.

Cooking Up a Storm (, find them on Facebook @cookingupastorm.nh) is a homestead business based in Goffstown that offers a variety of baked goods made to order, including cinnamon rolls.

Crosby Bakery (51 E. Pearl St., Nashua, 882-1851, has a daily offering of cinnamon rolls in its pastry case.

The Crust & Crumb Baking Co. (126 N. Main St., Concord, 219-0763, takes special orders for cinnamon rolls, typically on the weekends.

Culture (75 Mont Vernon St., Milford, 249-5011, will often have a limited offering of fresh baked cinnamon rolls in its pastry case.

Dutch Epicure Bakery (141 Route 101A, Amherst, 879-9400, has a limited amount of cinnamon rolls available every day until they sell out. Larger custom orders can also be placed.

Étagère (114B Route 101A, Amherst, 417-3121, features a rotating selection of homemade baked goods out of its pastry case, including cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns and stuffed cardamom buns.

Hulda’s Swedish Baked Goods ( is a homestead business based in Brookline that specializes in Swedish baked goods, including kanelbullar, or cinnamon rolls with cardamom. Hulda’s also appears at the Milford Farmers Market in the summer.

It’s All Good in the Kitchen (184 N. Broadway, Salem, 458-7434, takes orders for fresh baked gluten-free cinnamon rolls that are available for pickup on Saturdays.

Klemm’s Bakery (29 Indian Rock Road, Windham, 437-8810, offers fresh baked cinnamon rolls out of its pastry case daily, or you can special order them for pickup.

Sarno’s Sweets (416 Daniel Webster Hwy., Suite E, Merrimack, 261-3791, accepts specialty orders for cinnamon rolls.

Wild Orchid Bakery (484 S. Main St., Manchester, 935-7338, offers a rotating selection of freshly baked pastries, including cinnamon rolls.

Featured photo: Cinnamon Roll by Nancy LaRoche of Cooking Up a Storm. Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 21/01/14

News from the local food scene

Tastes of yore: Join the Goffstown Public Library virtually for a medieval cooking demonstration on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. featuring local author M. Allyson Szabo. She’ll talk about the history of food from the Middle Ages and feature a recipe from her recently released book, The Reenactor’s Cookbook: Historical and Modern Recipes for Cooking Over an Open Fire. In addition to its many recipes, the book is full of historical references, as well as practical tips on everything from creating a cooking fire to what type of cooking vessels to use and how to make the featured foods on a home electric stove. Recipes also include many vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options available. Registration is required at Email Michelle Sprague at for more details.

Restaurant Week at the Inn: Now through Jan. 23, the Bedford Village Inn (2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford) is hosting Restaurant Week in its dining room, featuring a three-course prix fixe menu of popular French- and Italian-inspired dishes. The menu will include your choice of a first course (lobster bisque, gnocchi or Giannone chicken thigh); an entree (smoked sea scallops, cider-braised pork shank or prime sirloin); and a dessert (chocolate fondant, profiteroles or lemon sorbet). The cost is $49 per person and reservations are encouraged. Visit

Tucker’s coming to Bedford: Local diner chain Tucker’s will open a new location in Bedford this summer, according to a Jan. 4 announcement on its website and social media channels, in the former Outback Steakhouse at 95 S. River Road, which closed last year. This will be the sixth Tucker’s restaurant and also its largest — the other five locations are in Hooksett, Dover, New London, Concord and Merrimack. Tucker’s features a menu of breakfast items like omelets and scramblers, and lunch items like sandwiches and bowls, plus a rotating selection of specials. Meghann Clifford, executive vice president of business development and marketing for Tucker’s, told the Hippo that the new location is expected to be open by early July and will introduce new menu concepts like fresh juices, smoothie bowls and brunch-baked cocktails. Visit

New liquor store to open in Manchester: Construction will soon begin on a new state Liquor & Wine Outlet store at 850 Gold St. in southern Manchester, according to a press release from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. The 13,000-square-foot store is due to open by the end of 2021. According to the release, the NHLC has opened new or renovated existing Liquor & Wine Outlet stores in more than 30 communities statewide over the last decade. Visit

Treasure Hunt 21/01/14

Dear Donna,

I have an assortment of these wood block letters in many sizes. I collected them for years and ended up with a large collection. I’m wondering if prices have changed for them and if they are still collected now. Any information would be helpful.


Dear Angie,

I can relate to how things turn into collections easily! Collecting is a fun thing to do.

The print block letters you have served their purpose first in print shops. Now they are rarely used for that. Instead, they tend to be displayed decoratively.

I’m not sure what you paid when you collected them, but today the value on them runs from $2 to $4 each. Larger ones can net more, so if you have a collection of them it could bring a bit of a value in total. They have stayed in the same value range for a while now.

One thing I have learned over the years is to never let children play with them. They were made in a time when using lead was common. The lead is still present even after washing, so keep these away from children.

Featured photo: Courtesy photo

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