‘Sweet Caroline’ for the win

Musical Bingo Nation adds songs to game night

Musical Bingo Nation is changing bingo’s sound all across the Seacoast — rather than listening for “B2” or “G6,” players listen for the opening chords to “Never Gonna Give You Up,” “Sweet Caroline” or other songs on their bingo sheet.

On Tuesdays at Tailgate Tavern in Stratham, anyone who wants to play gets a free bingo card when they’re seated. Throughout the night, guests eat and drink while keeping an ear out for the songs listed on their card, which were created by the entertainment company Musical Bingo Nation.

“They [are] usually based upon some sort of theme, like either ’60s, ’70s, hits, or one-hit wonders,” said Stephanie Smith, general manager at Tailgate Tavern.

A host from Musical Bingo Nation plays the tunes throughout the night, and once someone fills a column, row or diagonal they’ll win a prize, ranging from free drinks to Tailgate Tavern gift cards.

“The good thing about it is it’s not like trivia, where you’re locked in and you have to be there at a certain time. You could come in late or just play one round if you want. It’s a lot of fun,” Smith said, though she noted that some people have started to arrive hours in advance to guarantee a seat.

The game is family-friendly at Tailgate Tavern, she said, which is especially welcome in a time where it’s challenging to find out-of-the-house things to do.

“It’s nice to go out into a socially distant environment and be able to bring your kids along with you and play and have a good time and just be a family,” Smith said.

Wally’s Pub in Hampton has been offering Musical Bingo Nation on Tuesdays for a couple of months, and bartender Hannah Beringer said it has already brought bigger crowds to the beachside bar.

“People … come in just to play bingo,” she said. “It’s just a good way to get out and have fun without just sitting at a bar all night long.”

Saddle Up Saloon in Kingston is entering its third month offering Musical Bingo Nation, and owner Bob Page said the new game has “definitely helped,” with the bar seeing about a 25 percent increase in customers on Wednesday nights.

“The music they play is excellent,” Page said.

Smith agrees, saying that staff loves bingo nights too.

“We’re all just in such a great mood, listening to great music. The customers are happy, we’re happy,” she said. “The other day [the host] was playing ‘Sweet Caroline’ and everyone in the restaurant was singing. It makes me happy. It makes everyone happy. … I don’t know too many people that can listen to music nice and loud and stay in a bad mood.” – Sadie Burgess

Where to play music bingo
Here are a few spots that are currently offering Musical Bingo Nation.

Wally’s Pub
: Tuesday nights, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Where: 144 Ashworth Ave, Hampton
More info: wallysnh.com/calendar

Saddle Up Saloon
: Wednesday nights, 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: 92 Route 125, Kingston
More info: saddleupsaloonnh.com/Events

Tailgate Tavern
: Tuesday nights, 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: 28 Portsmouth Ave, Stratham
More info: tailgatetavernnh.com

The Goat
: Monday nights, 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: 20 L St., Hampton
More info: goatnh.com

Featured photo: Musical Bingo. Photo courtesy of Steph Smith.

Ready to rock?

Live music returns to big venues — carefully

Fueled by rising vaccination rates and the tantalizing promise of herd immunity, the live music industry is more optimistic than it was a year ago. Around the region, however, a haze of uncertainty remains, and a survey of regional venues seating 500 or more patrons reveals varying plans to offer shows in the coming months.

In Manchester, the Rex and Palace Theatres are ambitious, almost booked solid from June through December. There’s more caution at Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts and its sister room Bank of NH Stage, with only outdoor events planned — at least until New Hampshire eases its social distancing rules for venues like theirs from 6 to 3 feet.

Portsmouth’s Music Hall is taking a hybrid approach, re-launching 2020’s successful Music Under the Arch outdoor concert series while booking regional acts for its Historic Theatre. Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach is selling tickets for nationally touring acts, though it’s aware that those shows might get canceled or postponed.

That’s also somewhat true for Bank of NH Pavilion; the Lakes Region shed is bullish on its plans for national acts like Toby Keith, Dave Matthews Band and Chris Stapleton, betting on New Hampshire plans to allow 100 percent capacity there by July 16, “assuming self-attestation of vaccination” by fans when they purchase tickets.

At SNHU Arena in downtown Manchester, the state’s largest indoor facility, tickets for Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa are still being sold, but the July 24 date, rescheduled from last summer, might move again. The arena’s next listed concert is Eric Church on Dec. 3; the country singer’s 55-city Gather Again tour is scheduled to kick off in mid-September.

“The chicken/egg situation is still true no matter what confident venue people say,” Tupelo Music Hall CEO Scott Hayward said on April 5. “Unless artists are ready to organize tours through several states and be confident that it’s safe everywhere, they’re not going to mount tours.”

The question of how to ensure the safety of audience members lingers. New Hampshire state guidance makes no mention of a so-called vaccination passport or other form of proof. Verifying such a document was deemed “impossible to do” by Capitol Center Executive Director Nicki Clarke in an April 6 phone interview. “If some other authority issues something” defining enforcement, she said, it might have a chance of working, “[but] we just think it’s a problem on so many levels.” (Clarke, also a member of the Governor’s Economic Re-Opening Task Force, announced her retirement from the Capitol Center after 14 years at the helm on April 9.)

Two efforts born of necessity last year are returning, each bringing a different mindset.

Tupelo Drive-In in Derry was a pioneer in parking lot concerts, garnering national press for its quick pivot from indoor to outdoor shows. It will be back exactly as it was in 2020, with only minor tweaks. That said, Hayward sees an end in sight as he eyes indoor shows for the fall, albeit cautiously.

Not so for Northlands, launched last year as Drive-In Live by the agency that books Plymouth’s Flying Monkey Cinema. With a capacity more than double Tupelo’s, it can book bigger acts. The rebranded venue now has five-person audience pods instead of parking spaces, and its founders envision a life well beyond the pandemic.

Here’s what venues around the region are doing in the coming months. Fans need to be aware that everything is a moving target. Tickets bought for an event in May or June might end up unused until September or October — or even 2022. It’s essential to frequently check websites and social media pages — the latter option seems to be the most reliably up to date.

Palace Theatre & Rex Theatre, Manchester

The wall calendar in Palace Theatre CEO Peter Ramsey’s office is filled with shows.

“We have some 200 events scheduled between June 1 and the end of the year, which is a lot,” he said. “I’ve only got maybe six or seven days free from Labor Day to the end of the year and most of them are Mondays.”

Many are shows that were postponed in 2020, like Linda Ronstadt Experience and KT Tunstall. “From the beginning, we were committed to not treating any artist in an unethical or bad way, so we guaranteed we’d rebook them out,” Ramsey said.

Those include Paula Cole, The Fools and Billy Joel tribute act David Clark’s Songs in the Attic.

Ramsey’s big hope is a five-week run of Mamma Mia! in the fall, at full capacity.

“We were running Mamma Mia! when we shut down and we ended up canceling 15 sold out shows,” he said.

Manchester’s newest venue was sent reeling when the pandemic shut it down mere months after opening. Rex Executive Director Chuck Stergiou promises three months of regular Friday night comedy shows, along with a solid mix of music, from locals like Ally Beaudry and the Spain Brothers to Adam Ezra, Susan Werner and Max Weinberg’s Jukebox, a side project of the E Street Band drummer due to hit town on Nov. 11.

Capitol Center for the Arts & Bank of NH Stage, Concord

While the space was shuttered for the year, indoor air treatment capabilities were improved, hands-free restroom equipment was added and other pandemic-related enhancements were done, so both the Chubb Theatre and Bank of NH Stage are ready when the State of New Hampshire green-lights larger audiences.

For Clarke, reducing the social distancing minimum from 6 to 3 feet would be a critical step.

“Depending on what happens with the guideline situation, if it loosens up a little bit, getting another 25 or 30 people into the Bank of NH Stage makes a difference for us,” she said. “Nothing’s going to change in the big theater until we really can be at full capacity, because of the fees we pay artists.”

Rather than plan indoor events that currently aren’t economically viable, there are plans for an 11-show Sunday in the Park outdoor concert series in nearby Fletcher-Murphy Park, beginning on June 16 with guitarist Joe Sabourin.

Tupelo Music Hall, Derry

After inventing a new business from scratch in three weeks last year, Hayward will again transform his parking lot into Tupelo Drive-In — he hopes for the final time.

“The question is, how long are we going to be outside? We’ve booked through the end of July, but from everything I can see … we’ll be outside in August. I’m hoping I can get back indoors by October, but who knows?”

An eclectic mix of talent is booked, from national acts like Dar Williams, Tiffany and Popa Chubby to local favorites like Truffle, Entrain and guitarist Tim Theriault, who opens the season on Friday, April 30. A May 29 Jon Butcher Axis show will include a guest appearance from Stompers front man Sal Baglio.

Doppelgänger acts appear frequently, beginning with Foreigners Journey May 1 and May 2.

“The tributes attract a lot of people because they are generally bands that have been around a very long time, like the Eagles,” Hayward said. “People like the music … it appeals to parents and kids alike, and they will bring the families.”

Northlands, Swanzey

After a switch from cars to pods inspired by European festivals, the novel venue can sell even more seats for big-name acts like Indigo Girls, Allman Betts Band, Dinosaur Jr. and Smith & Myers, the latter an acoustic side project from Shinedown front man Brent Smith and guitarist Zach Myers.

The switch was made to improve audience experience, Northlands Director of Operations Mike Chadinha explained in a phone interview. “The drive-in was cool in a lot of ways because you’re tailgating at instead of before the concert,” he said, but other issues, such as sight line and sound, negated the benefits. “Someone has a giant truck and the person behind them has a Honda Civic, that’s a little tough. On top of that, I don’t think artists generally want to play to a parking lot.”

Bank of NH Pavilion, Gilford

Beginning with Thomas Rhett on June 3 and June 4 and ending with Toby Keith in early September, there are 17 shows scheduled at New Hampshire’s biggest outdoor concert facility that require fully relaxed guidances. “We expect to be back to full capacity by midsummer, so a very good chance,” the venue responded on its Facebook page when fans asked about whether their tickets would be used.

That said, four “reduced-capacity, socially-distanced” shows are bet-hedgers for the LiveNation property. Country singer Jake Owen appears May 29, followed a month later by an Independence Day weekend run from by Nashville band Old Dominion.

The Music Hall, Portsmouth

The historic downtown theater will take its mixed approach of indoor and outdoor events a step further, with livestreams of socially distanced concerts now available. The focus of those concerts continues to be regional talent that would appear at the smaller Music Hall Loft in different times.

Music Hall CEO Tina Sawtelle is especially pleased with a three-concert series featuring Zack Williams, Rachael Price and Son Little, designed to assist fellow Portsmouth venues 3S Artspace and Prescott Park.

“They were not able to access State of New Hampshire Covid emergency funding as easily as we were,” she said by phone, “so we’re opening up our doors and providing the production team and the front of house team to run those events.”

Proceeds will be split evenly between the two nonprofit organizations, Sawtelle continued. “We’re just thrilled to be hosting it and to be collaborating in a way we haven’t before,” she continued. “We hope that’s a real relationship that is sustained beyond Covid and these trying times that we’re all in.”

The very successful evening concerts on Chestnut Street resume with two shows from Antje Duvekot on May 8, followed by area bluegrass stalwarts Rockspring the next Saturday. Also slated are folksinger Vance Gilbert on May 19 and the duo Crys Matthews & Heather Mae on June 22.

Casino Ballroom, Hampton Beach

Beginning with the ’60s revival Happy Together Tour on June 27 followed by the annual SoCal ska show from Badfish on July 2, Casino Ballroom has over a dozen dates slotted for summer. But the reality, Marketing Director Andy Herrick explained by phone recently, is many may be postponed because advance ticket sales already exceed capacity limits.

“The holy grail for us is when restrictions can be dropped,” Herrick said. “No one has a crystal ball, but the fall looks reasonably good, and maybe even summer, with the vaccination rate being what it is.”

The reluctance of big-name acts to hit the road compounds things.

“We’re only part of the big picture, because tours have to happen for our shows to happen,” he said. “We’ll try to stay positive, and keep shows on our website that have a shot.”

Featured photo: Northlands. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/04/15

Local music news & events

Hip-hop health: A benefit concert for suicide prevention stars J Gramz and several other acts, part of the Tour For Life Fundraiser series. The Brockton rapper is a good choice to headline, as his lyrics and beats reflect a hard-won survival through street life, depression and addiction. Also appearing are Ty Hunt, Paranormal Adam, Vad33m, Diastro and five others. Thursday, April 15, 7 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, $12 at the door, 21+, more at gramzgtp.com.

Celtic crossing: A Seacoast microbrewery welcomes Erin’s Guild, a favorite of regional Irish music fans. The trio of Sean Fell on guitar, Patrick Bowling, who competed in the All-Ireland championship on flute and bodhran, and mandolin player Scott Sutherland weaves traditional jigs and reels with American folk songs and a few of their own originals. They have released three CDs, including their most recent, Lost In The Game. Friday, April 16, 7 p.m., Stripe Nine Brewing, 8 Somersworth Plaza, Somersworth, erinsguild.com.

Out standing: Sometimes the only way to deal with fear is to blast past it. For years Nick Drouin was chided when he tried to sing. Stay behind the drum kit, people told him, and he did — until one day he didn’t, and began writing his own songs. It’s a good thing, too, because Drouin’s instinct for what makes a good country record matches his sense of where he should fit into the creative process: front and center. Friday, April 16, 8 p.m., Bonfire Country Bar, 950 Elm St., Manchester, bonfire.country/manchester.html.

Rocking return: It’s been five months since Truffle played in public, though front man Dave Gerard has kept busy with solo shows. Being idle is uncommon for the group, which boasted on Facebook that they’ve never even gone five weeks without a gig. The year is shaping into a busy one for the “New Hampshire Soul” band, together over 30 years with no slowing down in sight. Saturday, April 17, 2 p.m., Stone Church Beer Garden, 5 Granite St., Newmarket, tickets sold in two-, four- and six-person blocks, $50 to $150 at stonechurchrocks.com.

Brunch bunch: Art, cuisine and music combine, the latter provided The Incidentals, a fun cover band that touches on everything from the Ramones to Frank Sinatra. The newly launched brunch, offered in the Currier’s Winter Garden, now includes table service, house bloody mary and mimosa flights, and a rotating chef-curated micro menu. Reservations are not required, but timed tickets for a gallery visit are. Sunday, April 18, 10 a.m., Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester, currier.org.

World travel through movies

A look at Oscar’s International Feature Film nominees

Seeing all of the International Feature Film nominees feels like a personal victory, sort of on par with the thrill you feel at filling a punch card to get a free coffee or cookie.

I know seeing five movies on a list of dozens doesn’t seem like a great accomplishment but it’s a task that can’t be completed every Oscar year, at least not before the ceremony. Some years the international nominees don’t hit the U.S. until weeks later. This year, however, all five of the movies are available for home viewing now. And all are worth a watch, not just for Oscar completists but for any movie fan looking for something different.

Another Round When I checked awards prediction website Gold Derby on April 12, this Danish movie from director Thomas Vinterberg (who is also nominated in the Directing category) was the favorite to win the category; it’s available to rent (including via Red River Theatres’ virtual cinema) and on Hulu. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, it tells the frequently comic, sometimes troubling story of a group of middle-aged friends who test that Homer Simpson saying about alcohol being the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. They decide to try an experiment wherein they are slightly buzzed all the time, drinking while at work (as teachers at what appears to be a high school) to see if it makes them happier, more relaxed people, with varying results (particularly as they start to increase their preferred level of intoxication). Mikkelsen gives a strong performance.

Better Days This Chinese entry is based on a Chinese YA novel (according to Wikipedia) and is available for rent. It follows a young woman, Chen Nian (Zhou Dongyu), traumatized by the death of a bullied student at her high-pressure high school and dealing with bullying herself (as well as her mother’s financial and legal problems). She makes a friend and protector in Liu Beishan (Jackson Yee), a teen who gets by as a petty criminal. Though there is some anti-bullying message-iness, the performances of the leads are solid and engaging.

Collective Also available via Red River Theatres, for rent in general and on Hulu, this Romanian documentary is also nominated in the Documentary Feature category. If I were an Oscar voter, this would likely be my pick in the International film category, especially for its focus on a newspaper and its journalists as they cover a fire at a nightclub that led to many deaths — first in the fire itself and then at hospitals. The story of those deaths uncovers problems with the safety codes at the club and then problems at the hospitals, where patients died from bacterial infections and the journalists uncovered a scandal related to inadequate disinfectant solutions. We also meet a newly appointed minister of health attempting to reform the system and constantly hitting bureaucratic walls.

The Man Who Sold His SkinAlso available via Red River Theatres and available for rent, this movie, as end title cards and Wikipedia explain, takes its inspiration from a real-life artist, Wim Delvoye, who tattooed a work of art on a man’s back and gave the man a cut of the sale price in exchange for the obligation of showing up to display the work. Here, Belgian artist Jeffrey Godefroi (Koen De Bouw) offers money and, more importantly, a visa to Sam Ali (Yahya Mahayni), a Syrian refugee who lets the artist use his back as a canvas. The image is itself of a visa, making the work a commentary on immigration and the commodification of people — or something, so Jeffrey explains. For Sam, it’s mostly a means to get to Brussels, where Abeer (Dea Liane), the woman he loves and planned to marry before he had to flee Syria, now lives with her husband. The movie is frequently funny, with moments of sadness, tragedy and absurdity, and Mahayni makes Sam a compelling and complex character.

Quo Vadis, Aida? Available for rent and on Hulu, this film from a Bosnian director is tense and captivating even if you also know that it is speeding toward tragedy. In 1995 Srebrenica, UN translator Aida (Jasana Đuričić) is frantically trying to protect her husband and two teen/young adult sons as the Serbian army takes over the Bosnian town. Đuričić gives Aida a mix of competence and desperation that is hard to watch but absolutely riveting.

Snack-size movies, supersized stories

Oscar season is one of the few times in a year when I find myself seeking out short films and I always end up wishing I did it more often. Shorts can be such a perfect, quick-hit story-telling mechanism and I feel like they are perfectly suited to the “what can I watch on Netflix for the next 30 minutes?” viewing experience.

This year’s short film Oscar nominees are fairly easy to find at home — and that was even before the release of the short films as a package via virtual cinemas (at places such as Red River Theatres, where you can buy a virtual ticket to see all the films in a category — documentary short subject, animated short film or live action short film).

In the documentary category, all of the films were fairly easy to track down:

Collette This movie available via The Guardian tells the story of a French woman visiting the German concentration camp where her brother, a member of the French resistance in World War II, was killed so many decades ago.

A Concerto is a Conversation Available via the New York Times, this film features Kris Bowers, a composer whose work includes the score for the movie Green Book, talking with his grandfather, who left the segregated South and built a dry cleaning business in Los Angeles. This is definitely the most hopeful in tone of the entries.

Does Not Split This documentary, which I rented on Vimeo, gives us the story of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in the months leading up to the start of the pandemic.

Hunger Ward In war, children are always the casualties, so explain the doctors in this documentary about the starvation of children in Yemen. Available on Paramount+, this short reminded me of the documentaries about doctors in Syria and their determination to save as many lives as they can in the roughest possible conditions.

A Love Song for Latasha This Netflix short captures the lasting trauma caused by the shooting death of a bright, ambitious girl in a convenience store in Los Angeles in 1991. Though the documentary touches on the wider social issues, it is primarily focused on Latasha as remembered by friends and family and the impact she had during her short life.

In animated short film, two are relatively easy to find on their own.

Burrow This short on Disney+ is a sweet tale (dialogue-free, outside of cute animal chirps) of a bunny trying to build a dream home. The animation has a pretty, hand-illustrated look.

If Anything Happens I Love You Largely black and white with a sort of fluid sketchbook appearance, this Netflix short about two people lost in grief was difficult to watch (definitely don’t watch it immediately after dropping your kids off at school) but lovely with moments of remembered joy among all the sadness.

Opera, Genius Loci and Yes-Peoplejoin those previous two movies in the Oscar Shorts presentation available via Red River Theatres virtual cinema and other theaters on shorts.tv. The animated shorts package has other films on it as well, including a short adaptation of The Snail and the Whale that recalls adaptations of other Julia Donaldson books like Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo.

Opera made me think of a cuckoo clock — like, a cuckoo clock as designed by a children’s book author who had spent time watching Darren Arronofsky’s film mother! Life, death, marriage, religion, war and more are all contained in a pyramid-like space that houses rooms and halls and factories and landscapes that interconnect in ways that aren’t always clear until we move down the pyramid. This one definitely benefits from being able to rewind and take a closer look; it has oodles of little details.

Genius Locihas a dreamlike quality as its central character moves through a city and through a variety of artistic styles.

Yes-People’s characters have a charming visual style that blends newspaper comics and a more rounded, almost clay-like appearance. These animated shorts often have the feel of picture books for adults and Yes-People gives us a bouncy look at one day in the life of a group of people with the charm of that kind of story-telling. The movie is also available for rent on Vimeo.

Most of the live action short films are available a la carte now.

Feeling Through tells the story of a young man, struggling with homelessness, who finds himself helping a man get home. The movie, which is available on YouTube, has a nice mix of uplift and humor.

The Letter Room has some big names in its cast: Oscar Isaac plays a prison guard whose desire for advancement puts him in what first seems like a dead-end job — reading and recording the mail to inmates. But he finds himself getting mixed up in the lives of two of the inmates. Alia Shawkat (of Search Party and Arrested Development) also appears in this film, which is available for rent on Vimeo.

The Present is one of three movies I saw via the shorts presentation but it is also available on Netflix. The movie follows a Palestinian man and his young daughter shopping for groceries and a new refrigerator while also navigating West Bank checkpoints.

Two Distant Strangers, also on Netflix, follows a Black man in New York City who has a fatal run-in with police only to wake up back in the bed where he started his morning. The circumstances around his death can change each time he relives the day but frequently the same quick-to-violence white police officer is the one pulling the trigger. Even with its moments of Groundhog Day humor, the movie never lets the audience off the hook about what it’s saying.

White Eyetells the story of unintended consequences. A man trying to retrieve his stolen bike finds himself conflicted as he learns more about the man who says he just bought it.

Don’t have time for all the shorts? If I had to pick two must-watches from each category, I’d recommend A Concerto is a Conversation and A Love Song for Latasha in the documentary category, Burrow and Opera in animated shorts (OK, probably Burrow and If Anything Happens I Love You, but I could barely bring myself to watch the latter short the first time and definitely won’t be watching it again, beautifully done as it is) and for live action The Letter Room and either Feeling Through or Two Distant Strangers.

Featured photo: Another Round

Thunder Force (PG-13)

Thunder Force (PG-13)

With Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer playing middle-aged lady superheroes, Bobby Cannavale playing all the ego and Jason Bateman playing a half-crab man, Thunder Force really should have been a better movie than it is.

I had such hopes after Superintelligence, the Ben Falcone-directed Melissa McCarthy movie that hit HBO Max a few months back. That movie was so above average and genuinely enjoyable that I let myself get way too excited for this movie, forgetting all about my letdown at Tammy and The Boss.

As it is, I won’t even pretend I’m being completely objective about this movie; I like McCarthy and Spencer and all the other players here too much not to grade on a curve. And it helps that this movie is on Netflix, so if you already have a Netflix subscription it basically only costs your “what should we watch, I don’t know, this looks promising” time.

The comic book-like premise here is solid: Once upon a time (March 1983) a cosmic ray struck the Earth, giving superpowers to people genetically predisposed to be sociopaths. These people, called Miscreants, have basically an unchecked ability to cause mayhem, as no good-guy superpower-having people exist to stop them. After young Emily (Bria D. Singleton) loses her parents to a Miscreant attack, she vows to make it her life’s mission to find a way to stop them.

First, however, she has to make it through school, which is not easy when you’re perceived as a nerd. Luckily, Emily has a friend in Lydia (Vivian Falcone), who might not be a star student but is willing and able to stand up to anyone picking on Emily. The girls remain close friends until high school, when Emily’s single-minded studiousness and Lydia’s lack of direction pull them apart.

Still, decades later, when their high school reunion approaches, Lydia (McCarthy) is pretty excited to see Emily (Spencer), who is now a rich and famous scientist type. True to old patterns, Emily forgets all about the reunion, so Lydia goes to her science lab/office to retrieve her — which is how Lydia, a “what does this button do?” type, accidentally gets injected with Emily’s superpowers-creating serum. Emily had planned to give herself super-strength and invisibility to help her fight the Miscreants. But now Lydia has the super-strength and Emily has the invisibility and they must work together, with the help of Emily’s super-smart daughter Tracy (Taylor Mosby), to fight a Miscreant called Laser (Pom Klementieff). Because they decide they need cool names to go with their powers and supersuits, they dub themselves “Thunder Force.”

Bobby Cannavale, playing a politician trying to get people to call him “The King,” and Jason Bateman, as a sometime criminal who has crab arms and is conflicted about his Miscreant status, also show up, as does Melissa Leo as Emily’s security officer. And, just writing this, I’m sort of excited about this movie all over again — sounds great! Except, parts of the movie just don’t click, like Leo, who always feels a step off from what the movie needs her to be. Or like parts of Bateman’s whole crab-arms thing, with jokes that go on too long or seem to trail off. Elsewhere it feels like jokes and character notes are left unexamined. The whole movie has a frustrating “not exactly there” feel.

That said, while writing this review, I did go back to check this or that fact in the movie and found myself watching whole scenes. So maybe the key is expectations; go in expecting nothing more than an hour and 46 minutes of new content that you’ve already paid for and maybe you’ll be suitably amused. B- because this thing has its moments and I’m definitely going to wind up watching it again.

Featured photo: Thunder Force

The Blizzard Party, by Jack Livings

The Blizzard Party, by Jack Livings (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 400 pages)

If you have a pulse and live in New England, you’ve likely heard stories about the blizzard of 1978, the historic Nor’easter that paralyzed states from Pennsylvania to Maine. As powerful as that storm was, so is a new novel about it, or rather, about a party that was held during it, and lives forever changed.

Astonishingly, it is the first novel by Jack Livings, a New York City resident who has won acclaim for short fiction (his short story collection is The Dog) and, in this, makes the transition to long form look as easy as picking up a pen. Yet this panoramic novel is a marvel of complexity, the antithesis of NaNoWriMo, the national spewing of tortured fiction that recurs like a bad cold every November. If it is overwritten in a few parts, it is only to drag you deeper into a corn maze of a story that ends with a boulder dropped on your head. Buckle up.

The narrator is Hazel Saltwater: “… known to be a Halloween enthusiast, known to my dry cleaner Tio as a generous December tipper, to my acquaintances a person of pleasant demeanor, to my lenders an exemplary credit risk, to my friends, a music, a crazy woman, a apopheniac, a rationalist, an open wound.”

Hazel is a widow whose husband, Vik, died in the 9/11 terror attacks. But that’s not what defines her life. What does is the events that transpired in 1978, when she was 6 years old and the blizzard of ’78 hit.

Young Hazel lived with her parents in an elegant apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. As the blizzard howled outside, she found herself asleep in a spare bedroom of a neighbor’s penthouse where an increasingly wild party was taking place. “This party had motivation,” Livings writes. The party, “an intimate gathering for 500,” was “a sweeping, pulsing organism that had oozed into every room of the penthouse, consuming whatever lay in its path, vacuuming up all the drugs, all the food, all the liquor.” It was a party so memorable that her father, a writer, wrote a book about it, which he called The Blizzard Party. (Yes, there is a book within the book, which must be forgiven.)

As often happens, Erwin Saltwater took some liberties with his story, and Livings’ book is Hazel’s retelling of what really happened that night. Because what happened to a young girl who fell asleep in a spare bedroom into which an old, sick man was suddenly thrust is far different from the telling of a story by a man who wasn’t even at the party and who, in fact, had little instinct for parenting and knew his failings in that department.

The old man who came to be with the sleeping child in that bedroom was Albert Caldwell, “partner emeritus and former head of litigation, at Swank, Brady & Plescher; (Harvard) class of ’26;, father of three, widower, atheist, fiscal conservative, moralist.”

Caldwell was, it appeared, suffering some sort of medical emergency. He had been found outside in the blizzard, “shivering with such violence that he appeared to be vibrating,” by a kind-hearted boy who would one day be Hazel’s husband. Overwhelmed by the chaos of the party, 13-year-old Vik parked the mute Caldwell in the only open space he could find. (Most crevices of the penthouse were occupied by people doing drugs or having sex).

What happened then? Well, that will take nearly 400 pages to get to, a journey leavened with wit and profundities but ultimately sodden with pain. At the heart of the story is the human capacity to keep secrets, despite their desire to be told. “Our secrets shape us,” Caldwell says at one point. “They give us form. Without them, we’d be perfect, smooth creatures. Angels, or something like them. But it’s by these distensions that we identify ourselves.”

Caldwell, as it turns out, was not the mute, disabled man that he seemed when led into the party, “shuffling along like a trained seal.” Desperate to preserve his own devastating secret, he had devised a plan to to fake his own death by drowning in the Hudson River during the blizzard; the appearance of having had a stroke was part of that plan. (I am not spoiling anything by revealing this; the book jacket says as much.)

Hazel’s father, too, has debilitating secrets that are manifest in his inability to cross a street without other people present. The two men’s traumas collide, bringing the young Hazel along and catapulting the adult Hazel, who has perpetually carried Caldwell in a “snug little slot in [her] head,” to her own momentous resolution of trauma.

Like the novelist Cormac McCarthy, who said he preferred not to mess up a page with “weird little marks,” Livings shuns quotation marks, as if the novel has no time for such trivial things even though it meanders to its conclusion. The punctuation is not missed, although the meandering at times is maddeningly slow. But with a conclusion you won’t see coming, The Blizzard Party achieves the holy grail of any long book: When it’s over, you’ll want — nay, need — to read it again. It would be a remarkable novel for any writer; it’s extraordinary as a debut. A

There’s no reliable accounting of the most popular topics for self-published books, but in nonfiction, arguments against vaccines are surely near the top.

On Amazon, two anti-vaccine titles are overwhelmingly rated 5 stars, despite the likelihood that their accounts would be suspended if these were not self-published books but posts on Twitter or Facebook.

Traditional publishing, for all its faults, is still a reliable gatekeeper on controversial topics, with its phalanx of editors and fact-checkers. So if you’re still mulling whether to get a Covid-19 vaccine, here are a few books that can help inform your decision.

Vaccine Hesitancy by Maya J. Goldenberg (University of Pittsburgh Press, 264 pages) covers public reluctance over getting vaccines going back to smallpox in 1796.

Much of the energy in the anti-vax movement comes from belief that vaccines are responsible for the rise in autism. Pediatrician Peter Hotez took that on in Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism (Johns Hopkins University Press, 240 pages), an account of his own research after his daughter was diagnosed with autism. The book was published in 2018 but released this year in paperback.

Hotez also has a new book on the topic: Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science (Johns Hopkins, 208 pages).

A few years older but still relevant is Meredith Wadman’s engrossing The Vaccine Race, Science, Politics and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease (Penguin, 464 pages), which is nonfiction that reads like a novel and is honest about the historic costs of today’s vaccines.

For much lighter fare, check out the new memoir from the reliably funny Jenny Lawson: Broken (In the Best Possible Way), (Henry Holt and Co., 304 pages).


Author events

SCOTT WEIDENSAUL Author presents A World on the Wing. Tues., April 20, 7 p.m. The Music Hall, Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Tickets cost $46. Visit themusichall.org or call 436-2400.

ERIN BOWMAN Author presents Dustborn. Hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Virtual, via Zoom. Tues., April 20, 7 p.m. Registration required. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

SARA DYKMAN Author presents Bicycling with Butterflies: My 10,201-Mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration. Hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Virtual, via Zoom. Wed., April 21, 7 p.m. Registration required. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com or call 224-0562.

BILL BUFORD Author presents Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking. Hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Virtual. Wed., April 28, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5. Visit themusichall.org or call 436-2400.

SUZANNE KOVEN Author presents Letter to a Young Female Physician, in conversation with author Andrew Solomon. Hosted by The Music Hall in Portsmouth. Tues., May 18, 7 p.m. Virtual. Tickets cost $5. Visit themusichall.org or call 436-2400.

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.

GOFFSTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY 2 High St., Goffstown. Monthly. Third Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Call 497-2102, email elizabethw@goffstownlibrary.com or visit goffstownlibrary.com

BELKNAP MILL Online. Monthly. Last Wednesday, 6 p.m. Based in Laconia. Email bookclub@belknapmill.org.

NASHUA PUBLIC LIBRARY Online. Monthly. Second Friday, 3 p.m. Call 589-4611, email information@nashualibrary.org or visit nashualibrary.org.



Offered remotely by the Franco-American Centre. Six-week session with classes held Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. $225. Visit facnh.com/education or call 623-1093.


READINGS AND CONVERSATIONS WITH GRANITE STATE POETS Part of National Poetry Month in New Hampshire. Virtual. Weekly, Monday, 7 p.m., through April. Featuring Rodger Martin and Henry Walters, April 19; and New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary and Margot Douaihy, April 26. Registration required. Visit newhampshirepoetlaureate.blogspot.com and hobblebush.com/national-poetry-month.

Featured photo: The Blizzard Party, by Jack Living

Album Reviews 21/04/15

Xiu Xiu, Oh No (Polyvinyl Records)

One usually doesn’t associate San Jose with experimental music, but Jamie Stewart has been producing just that out of the area for 19 years at last count. He’s been the only constant, although keyboardist and drum-programmer Angelo Seo has been a constant for several releases now, including this one. If you need some sort of touchstone, producing Stewart’s albums was a guilty pleasure of Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier, but Deerhoof-worship sure isn’t what’s afoot here. It’s a mercurial mixed bag of weirdness, in which Stewart sings deconstructionist-savvy duets with a bunch of different singers, including the aforementioned Saunier, Chelsea Wolfe and Alice Bag (Haley Fohr is particularly unlistenable here); his tentative, Norman Bates-style vocal is an acquired taste, as is his fetish for nonsense vocals, but this should work for you if you like things like the Swans when they’re in intelligible mode. Plenty of glitch and industrial noise, and for the most part it comprises billowy clouds of goth-ish mood-fog, but as always with this project, the record’s impossible to nail down in a couple of paragraphs. B

Johnny Thunders, “Chinese Rocks” (Die Laughing/ Golden Robot Records)

Warmup single for the forthcoming exclusive live album Cosa Nostra: Live At The Mudd Club 1983 Gothenburg, a Swedish live set from the former New York Dolls guitarist. Thunders was a tragic figure who grew up a fatherless outsider in Queens, N.Y., turned his back on a promising baseball career and died very mysteriously and way too soon. This song has been a staple anthem of original New York punk rockers for many decades now, written by Richard Hell and Dee Dee Ramone and first appearing on the 1977 album L.A.M.F. by Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers. The lyrics revolve around a drug reference that’s become almost quaint over time in some hyper-hip circles (the guys were trying to out-cool Lou Reed’s “Heroin”), and by the way, it was redone by the Ramones on their End Of The Century album. With regard to the quality of this release, well, it’s less than boombox-level, which one would expect for something this old and that was probably recorded on a cassette recorder by a roadie who never wanted the responsibility. But as such, it’s a priceless artifact. A+


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Where does the time go, I ask non-rhetorically, because look, guys, the next general CD release date is April 16! Since 80 percent of New Hampshirites love them some hard rock, we’ll kick off this week’s episode with none other than Led Zeppelin Mini-Me band Greta Van Fleet, with their new album The Battle At Garden’s Gate! As you know, these guys are nowhere near as adept at repackaging Zep as Fantastic Negrito (I think I heard Negrito won a Grammy this year, but my delicate constitution was, as always, too touchy to sit through all the twerking imbecility of the Grammys, so I’m just going by some headline I scrolled past while looking to poach some Twitter followers), but they sure are the next best thing to Negrito, if by “the next best thing” you mean “not even close, but at least I don’t feel horrible while it’s playing.” But hey, hilarious title, The Battle At Garden’s Gate, huh? There’s some meme that shows a pie graph of Zeppelin songs, showing that 30 percent of them are about sex, 68 percent are about hobbits, and 2 percent are about citrus fruits, and that’s all true, but these guys’ idea of a hobbit-style title — repeat, The Battle At Garden’s Gate — sounds like something you’d receive in a Loot Box when you were actually hoping for a 12-inch action figure of Gandalf just cold taking out a dragon with his light saber bow staff or whatever it is. But wait folks, that’s not all! The first single, “Age of Machine,” pickpockets tuneage from The Pretenders, Zep’s Houses of the Holy album, and some other Zeppelin thing, who cares. Now, granted, they do totally sound like a reincarnated version of Zep from 1971, but a version of Zep that grew up listening to Pennywise and Weird Al, not 1920s blues and whatnot. Oh, we’ve talked about this before, let’s just move it along here.

• Well, looky there, fam, it’s Let The Bad Times Roll, the new album from snotty Poindexter punks The Offspring! You remember them, with all their songs, you know, those songs that all just sound like remixed versions of “Come Out And Play.” (Sorry to bring that up, gang, really. Now the only way you’ll be able to get the line “you gotta keep ’em separated” out of your head is to go into the Apple store and shout it in the face of their Paul Blart at the top of your lungs.) So the title track is basically just the “Keep ’em separated” thing but a version played by a total ska band. Sublime comes to mind. OK, people, stay awake, let’s proceed.

• Until now, London Grammar was known as a dream-pop band, and that may have been true, but the title track from the British trio’s new album Californian Soil is trip-hop, not dream pop. It’s kind of nice, a cross between Mazzy Star and Florence and The Machine, but it’s not dream-pop. The video for the tune is pure Nylon-bait, an empty high-fashion statement with people dressed all spiffy whilst chilling out in scenes of ruin and upside-down people and whatnot.

• Lastly and rest assuredly leastly, it’s mummified video game boss villain Paul McCartney, with something mysteriously titled McCartney III Imagined! What does this all mean? Nothing really, from my seat, like the first single, “Kiss of Venus,” is basically an ’80s-pop song as redone by Justin Bieber, because it has a feat from mini-Bieber Dominic Fike. I can’t imagine anyone will actually dig this aside from the record company’s Like-bots, but have at it if you like.

Retro Playlist

Let’s go back to eight years ago this week or so, when the big news was the release of Life On A Rock, the 16th album from guitar-strumming cowboy person Kenny Chesney. I reported that the leadoff single, “Pirate Flag,” is a “mid-tempo number which has some banjo on there,” a “sleepy nondescript song about being a country boy” but at least wasn’t meant as a “WWE wrestling entrance theme like all the other garbage coming out of Nashville, even if it does remind me a little too much of Tom Petty’s ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance,’” which was OK, as “Chesney’s old and rich enough not to care about unimportant little details like originality, who cares.”

The real meat of that long-ago potato, though, was a look at Paula Cole’s Raven album. The bummer thing about it was that Cole, “a Rockport, Mass., native who studied at Berklee and actually made something out of that training” unlike most, actually had to throw a Kickstarter in order to get enough money to release the album. OK, Cole was never meant to be the next Joni Mitchell or whatever, but she did table a couple of really nice hits, namely “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” and the Dawson’s Creek theme song “I Don’t Want to Wait.” I do like that lady, and opined that her songs, although a bit long in running time, were “opuses of solitude, and her talent for haunting beauty is still there,” finishing with the bullet “Instant musical oatmeal for discriminating soccer moms.”

The other great one for April 18, 2013, was a world music joint, the self-titled debut from South African beatbox band The Soil. It’s a deeply immersive LP, mostly sung in their native (Sowego) dialect, “a warm, uninhibited set of (barely) rock-tinged a cappella hymns which, the band believes, come directly from God.” I’m too lazy to see if they got a Grammy nod for this record, but it did go well-deserved platinum in their corner of the world.

Meet crémant

Another French sparkling wine

When thinking of sparkling wines two immediately come to mind: Champagne and prosecco. Champagne is typically reserved for celebratory events and prosecco has generated a following because it is light and not complex, to be enjoyed in an afternoon or with dessert, without the guilt of spending a lot of money. But if you want complexity derived from a blending of a variety of grapes, along with the added boost of notes of fresh bread, and possibly a sweetener, you must turn to a Champagne, a cava or a crémant. In this column we will discuss crémant, as the other sparkling wine from France.

Crémant, made in the same method as Champagne, can be produced in eight different wine regions of France, including Alsace, Bordeaux, Loire, Bourgogne and Jura. Sparkling wine labeled as Champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France. Both Champagne and crémant are produced from grapes that are hand-harvested and both require a second fermentation in the bottle, with the lees (sediment of yeast), which helps to give the wines their natural fizz. Both have a second dosage of sugar or wine before they are corked and both are aged for a minimum of 12 months before they can be sold. The regulations for Champagne are very strict, while the guidelines for crémant may be a little more relaxed; however, crémants can still have the great quality of Champagnes and are growing in popularity.

Crémant d’Alsace means the “Sparkling Wine from Alsace.” This region makes up approximately 45 percent of all crémant production, producing approximately 40 million bottles annually, making this the largest contributor toward the crémant production of France. Our first wine, a Cave de Ribeauvillé Crémant d’Alsace Brut Le Comte (originally priced at $49.99, reduced to $17.99 at the NH Liquor & Wine Outlets) has a pale yellow color with a slight citric nose. The bubbles rise consistently and do not fade in the glass. The first taste is of green apples and is slightly citric, but vanilla and the yeast of brioche comes through in a full creamy mouth feel.

Alsace, located on the Rhine River plain and the border of Germany and Switzerland, has alternated between French and German control over the centuries. Wines produced here tend to be influenced not only by the cooler climate but also by German tastes. Varietals grown include riesling, gewurztraminer, muscat and pinot gris. It is logically expected that riesling is the predominant grape of this crémant produced by Cave de Ribeauville, the oldest wine co-operative in France, originating in 1895 and containing over 650 acres of vineyards.

Our second crémant is from the Loire Valley, home to kings and castles. The river flows through central France and the valley is referred to as “the Garden of France” due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and vegetable fields in its banks and hillsides. There are several wine regions producing muscadet on the Atlantic Coast, to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, southeast of Orleans that run along the course of the river. Comte de Saint Aignan Crémant de Loire Brut Première Étoile (originally priced at $28.99, reduced to $14.99 at the NH Liquor & Wine Outlets) produced by Fournier Père & Fils, is a blend of 60 percent chenin blanc, 35 percent chardonnay and 5 percent cabernet franc. The grapes for this sparkling wine come from the Crémant-de-Loire appellation of the Valley, including Anjou, Saumur and Touraine, in the heartland of the Loire Valley.

The color is light gold (almost clear) with persistent but sparse bubbles. The nose is slightly nutty with notes of dark honey. To the mouth, there are bold citric notes, leading one to think that sauvignon blanc is included in the blend, as it is in crémant blends of Bordeaux — but it isn’t. The nose and taste of the chardonnay in this blend is more pronounced than in a typical Champagne, which may influence the taste buds of some more than those of others. The finish is long, perhaps in part owing to the presence of the chardonnay.

Each of these wines can be enjoyed as an aperitif or served with fish and seafood, and perhaps enjoyed with fruit and cheese. They are versatile.

Featured photo: Photo by Fred Matuszewski.

The Chestnut Club

This column is an intervention for my editor and her aversion to a certain liqueur.

We Americans don’t deal well with bitterness.

The taste of bitter things, that is. We are fine with it as a character trait, but bitter tastes have a steep acceptance curve for us. Other cultures are much more accommodating to it. The Chinese concept of candy is more likely to be bitter than sweet. The British brew beers and ales that would make an American face collapse in on itself. But offer one of us an oil-cured black olive (the best kind of olive, by the way), and most of us will shrink back in horror.

“But, but that tastes like … leather!”

Yes. Yes, it does.

And this aversion makes a certain amount of sense, evolutionarily speaking. Long ago, we developed the ability to taste bitter things to help us avoid toxins in the wild. If a new berry or caterpillar tasted astringent or bitter, our ancestors knew to spit it out. But that logic breaks down in our modern world. There are huge numbers of us — granted, not so much in New Hampshire — who challenge ourselves to eat the spiciest foods we can stand. Sweating and gasping until we feel light-headed from a literal pain response? Fine. Bitterness? “What? Are you CRAZY?”

Intellectually, we accept that delicious, well-nuanced foods need a mixture of basic flavors. Bake a batch of cookies without salt, and they will just taste wrong. We love sweet-and-sour pork and chocolate-covered pretzels. Bitterness has a place at the table.

Which brings us to Campari.

Campari is a bright red, extremely bitter liqueur from Italy. You have seen it at the liquor store, or behind the bar at most upscale joints, but probably don’t have any around your house. It is the dominant ingredient in a Negroni.

To be fair, it is not universally loved. Some cynical critics have referred to it as “The Raisins of Booze.” [Editor’s note: As in “Why are there raisins in this cookie? This did not need raisins,” but with an otherwise perfectly good cocktail and Campari.] And yet, the fact remains that it is one of the best complementary counterbalances to sweet juices or syrups in mixed drinks. It is a team player; nobody is going to drink a glass of the stuff.

Actually, hold that thought.

Sound of footsteps going into the kitchen, various bartendy sounds, a brief moment of silence, then a gasp of shock and the sound of a tiny glass hitting the floor. More footsteps returning.

Yeah. I can’t recommend that.

BUT, I stand by my assertion that Campari deserves the space on your shelf where you are keeping that bottle of Crystal Head vodka that you bought on a whim that time and can’t bring yourself to open. (Open it and drink it, already. It’s vodka. It tastes like vodka.)

A case in point is a classic drink — the Chestnut Club (sometimes known as the Chestnut Cup), a modern classic developed in a California restaurant of the same name. It balances sweetness in the form of orgeat (an almond-infused syrup pronounced “or-szott”, as in, “It is unclear at this time whether the victim was stabbed or shot”), astringency from gin, sourness from lemon juice, and, of course, bitterness from Campari.

Chestnut Club

2 ounces gin (lately I like Death’s Door, out of Wisconsin.)

2 ounces Campari (Yes. Do it. God hates a coward.)

2 ounces fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 ounce orgeat

1. Combine all ingredients with 4 or 5 ice cubes in a shaker.

2. Shake until it is very cold — at least until condensation forms on the outside of the shaker.

3. Pour, without straining, into a rocks glass.

4. Drink sincerely, without irony, and, if possible, while sitting in a leather chair in an oak-paneled library with a taxidermied tiger head on the wall.

This drink is delicious. The flavor comes in waves. You really can taste each individual ingredient. It implies fruitiness, without actually embracing a Tiki mandate. It feels as if it should be too sweet and frivolous to take seriously, but it’s not.

Do you know why?

Campari, people.

Featured photo: Chestnut Club. Photo by John Fladd.

Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin of Nashua is the executive chef of Industry East Bar (28 Hanover St., Manchester, 232-6940, industryeastbar.com), which opened in early February. Industry East features an eclectic cocktail menu with syrups, juices and other ingredients made in house, along with a food selection that includes flatbreads, charcuterie boards and shareable plates, from duck confit-stuffed popovers to braised short rib toast points. A native of Litchfield, Martin got his start in the industry working as a dishwasher at Woodman’s Seafood and Grill at Mel’s Funway Park while in high school — he later went on to study culinary arts at Nashua Community College. He was the sous chef at The Birch on Elm prior to Industry East’s opening, and has also held cooking jobs at the Bedford Village Inn and the Vesper Country Club in Tyngsborough, Mass.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

I’d probably have to say either my chef’s knife or a pair of tongs.

What would you have for your last meal?

I am a huge steak lover, so a big fat juicy rib-eye … and probably a nice glass of bourbon.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Savannah Kitchen in Newmarket. A shout out to my buddy Ian Gage, who’s the executive chef out there. They do a lot of really great stuff there. There’s a pork belly dish with barbecue sauce and apple slices that is unreal.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your menu?

I’m going to say Guy Fieri.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The duck confit-stuffed popovers, which I’m super proud of. We make them fresh every day.

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

It’s been going on for years but vegan and plant-based items have become really popular.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Honestly, when I get home from being in the kitchen all day, I’m either ordering out or I’m eating frozen pizzas or Cheez-Its.

Homemade popovers
From the kitchen of Jeff Martin of Industry East Bar in Manchester

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
4 eggs
Salt and pepper

Mix flour, salt and pepper together. Heat the milk to about 120 degrees. Pour the milk slowly into the eggs to temper them. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients to form the batter. Pour them over into a popover pan about halfway up. Bake at 395 degrees for 15 minutes, then bring the temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 15 additional minutes.

Featured photo: Jeff Martin

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