Grateful dad

New music and shows from Lucas Gallo

Over the past year, Concord singer-songwriter Lucas Gallo noticed a marked shift in how the diners that he played to responded to his craft.

“People’s appreciation … or the way they show it, has changed,” Gallo said in a recent phone interview. For example, “I usually don’t put out a tip jar, but people walk by and just throw a 10-dollar bill at me and say, ‘Good job, man.’ That was a rare occurrence, but now people are dropping money at my feet.”

Another bright spot of the pandemic was outdoor performing, which grew out of necessity but has become de rigueur at many venues. Gallo books music at Penuche’s Ale House in Bicentennial Square, which is known for its raucous basement, but they’re “trying to work a patio in,” and he expects that the soon-to-reopen True Brew Barista will likely use its outdoor space for live music at some point.

Gallo played at last year’s summer series hosted by Capitol Center for the Arts in nearby Fletcher-Murphy Park, which will reprise in early June, and he’ll be back again for a July 31 show. He’s also involved in the return of Market Days to downtown Concord in August, with an even sharper eye for area talent.

“They’re really focused on local offerings, not national or bigger chain vendors, which I think is cool,” he said.

Lately, he’s been playing at places like Area 23 and had effusive praise for the restaurant-tap room’s owner, Kirk McNeil, “who never let the live, local music stop no matter what.” He recently did a set at Main Street Bar & Grill in Pittsfield; it reminded him of The Green Martini, a mainstay Concord bar until it burned down in 2012.

“I lived there for a while, it was my go to, and maybe it was because some of that crew is there, but it had a super chill, fun, friendly hangout vibe,” he said.

An upcoming show at Concord Craft Brewery will showcase Lost & Found, a six-song EP released digitally in March. Their Safe Space IPA is not the only reason he enjoys going back to the brewery.

“It’s so supportive,” he said, adding their outdoor performing space is “one of the many cool places that have popped up everywhere. You get passers-by when you play their patio; it’s right on the road.”

There’s a lot of love and warmth on Gallo’s new record, a reflection of family nesting during the long quarantine. The title track is an easygoing love ballad; “Thrive” offers words of wisdom for his children. “I wanted to write a sort of advice-type song for them,” Gallo said, “ and that’s what came out.”

It succeeds sweetly, offering a checklist of instructions. “Don’t let the bumps and the bruises of the day change the way you’re moving through it,” he sings, “every pain heals itself in time … be the light.”

Such sentiments, and the choice of the album’s title, Gallo said, are a reminder that “in addition to the underlying theme of gratitude, there is the sense/motif of light and darkness, and a balance between the two that corresponds with being lost and found.”

While the music scene ground to halt for large parts of 2020, Gallo managed to get a lot done.

“Funny thing, there didn’t seem to be a huge amount of slow time,” he said. “Maybe it was all the livestreams people were doing … people just found ways to do more, but it’s nice to see them getting back into the restaurant and patio gigs.”

Along with his solo projects — another three-song record will arrive mid-summer — Gallo has plans to again reunite his old band JamAntics.

“We were going to do another show last year and everything was shutting down before we announced it,” he said, “We have some stuff in the works for later this year. I don’t want to say too much, but we’re crossing our fingers that everything continues the positive trend, so we can open later in the year.”

Lucas Gallo
: Saturday, April 24, 4 p.m.
Where: Concord Craft Brewing, 117 Storrs St., Concord

Featured photo: Lucas Gallo. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 21/04/22

Local music news & events

Hometown girl: Enjoy country songs with a local sparkle as Nicole Knox Murphy starts the weekend early at a rustic pub that has live acts three nights a week. Murphy’s paean to her home state “My 603” was honored by the New Hampshire Senate with a resolution in June 2020. Thursday, April 22, 6 p.m., Village Trestle, 25 Main St., Goffstown. See

Showing respect: Fans of old-school hip-hop should check out DJ Shamblez paying tribute to legendary producer DJ Premier at a late afternoon session of spinning. In November 2019, he unearthed vocals from Guru, his late performing partner in Gang Starr, to create One Of The Best Yet, and he recently released a video of “Glowing Mic” from the follow-up instrumental LP, featuring Big Shug. Friday, April 23, 4 p.m., Lithermans Limited Brewery, 126B Hall St., Concord,

Amateur hour: Aspiring standup comics should check out the return of Comedy Open Mic and see how their Zoom meeting snark lands on a live audience of non-coworkers. Here’s a sample joke posted on the restaurant/pub’s Facebook page for recruiting purposes: “The next time your wife gets angry, drape a towel over her shoulders (like a cape) and say, ‘Now you’re SUPER ANGRY!’” Saturday, April 24, 5:13 p.m., Area 23, 254 N. State St., Unit H (Smokestack Center), Concord,

Tuesday tunes: Massachusetts guitar ace Ryan Foley has a range of influences, from Hendrix to Alan Holdsworth and Doc Watson. He’ll pair his music with craft spirits and ales at a riverfront brewery, distillery, bar and restaurant. Foley is celebrating the recently released album, North Hadley Tobacco. Fans of Nickel Creek and Union Station will appreciate his fretwork. Tuesday, April 27, 6:30 p.m., Stark Brewing Co., 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester,

Have a happy Oscars Sunday

Why the Oscars and the Oscar movies can be fun

I love the Oscars.

Sure, the awards ceremony is long, people thank their agents, not all of the Choices! made with montages or original song performances or “comedy” bits are successful. And, yes, the Oscars don’t always pick the best movies or the most deserving artists in a year to nominate or to reward with the big prizes.

But still — I am excited about the Sunday, April 25, Academy Awards ceremony (8 p.m. on ABC; at 6:30 p.m. something called Oscars: Into the Spotlight will air, according to media reports, and will feature pre-recorded performances of all the original song nominees and maybe this will be fun and maybe it will be lame but I’m totally going to watch it). And this year has the potential of being extra fun/extra weird (which can also be fun) because it’s going to be “like a movie” somehow, as all the reports about the Steven Soderbergh-produced pandemic-era (but allegedly Zoom-free) ceremony have stated.

Perhaps you don’t care about the Oscars (which is fine, we all pick our own things to geek out over). Perhaps you find yourself not caring this year because you haven’t heard of some of the movies (only 18 percent of “active film watchers” have heard of Mank, according to a New York Times article from April 18, the gist of which was the annual freak-out about whether people will watch the Oscars, heightened this year because award shows in general have seen ratings tank during the pandemic). During this year of limited in-theater movie releases and limited “let’s go see whatever random movie is playing” outings, it seems totally normal that people wouldn’t be aware of the movies unless finding out about movies is their Thing.

So, if you haven’t already bought your bubbly and blocked off Sunday evening on your calendar, why is the Oscars, in its 93rd year of fusty award giving and “Webster’s Dictionary defines story-telling”-ness, worth getting excited about? Here are the reasons why I, in spite of everything, love the Oscars:

The clothes: “Pretty dresses” (and suits and their intersection, i.e. Billy Porter’s awesome 2019 gown) may sound like a shallow reason to be interested in something but capital F Fashion is not something I, a vintage Targeeé and Old Navy couture -type, get a lot of regular exposure to. Post-Oscars coverage can include things like discussion of a designer’s recent collection or side-by-side pictures of a dress on the runway and the same dress, often modified, as worn by an actress. It’s a real Devil Wears Prada “cerulean blue” glimpse at how high fashion connects with the business of styling celebrities. Also, you know, the dresses are pretty.

The speeches: Corny as it is, it’s fun to see what everybody says to thank their spouses and parents. I also like the general messages of the joy of doing their work: Linda Holmes on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast often cites Once’sGlen Hansard’s saying “make art, make art” in 2008. I also like when people are just tickled with their win, i.e. Julia Roberts in 2001 (in vintage Valentino, I learned). And then there are the “talk to the industry” speeches, like Frances McDormand in 2018. They can be funny and serious and sweet and they still have an element of “real person having an awesome moment” to them.

The unexpected moments: Sometimes I seek out the clip of when Samuel L. Jackson calls Spike Lee’s name in 2019 and Spike Lee comes up to the stage and gives him a full body hug. Or when in 2017 Jordan Horowitz, La La Land producer, announced that Moonlight had actually won best picture (followed by Jimmy Kimmel’s excellent “Warren, what did you do?” to presenter Warren Beatty). Or in 2020 when the crowd reaction to an attempt to cut off the Parasite team after their best picture win got the camera to cut back to them. I don’t watch a lot of sports so this is one of my few annual reminders of what live TV looks like.

Olivia Colman: For all of the above-stated reasons. Some people are just really good at being on awards shows. (She’s nominated this year for The Father, which is available for rent.)

Arguing about what should have been nominated: I hoped Elisabeth Moss for The Invisible Man (currently on HBO Max or available for purchase) had a shot at a best actress nomination. I’d have added The Willoughbys (on Netflix) to best animation.

Beyonce’s Black Is King (Disney+) must not have been Oscar-eligible because it definitely should have grabbed Costume Design, Production Design, Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling and Original Song nominations (whatever, see it anyway).

My Original Song nominations would have included Jamie Dornan’s beach power ballad in Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (available for rent but just purchase it because it is silly fun) and something from The Forty-Year-Old Version (Netflix), which also deserved other nominations.

I join other early pandemic-era movie watchers in wishing that First Cow (currently on Showtime and available for purchase) and the comedy Palm Springs (on Hulu) could have gotten some love.

I wanted Regina King to get a director’s nod for One Night in Miami… (on Amazon, the movie did get nominations elsewhere). Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks (Apple TV+) also feels like it should have shown up somewhere. As my family could tell you, I can go on forever about who should have been nominated.

Predicting the winners: Despite the existence of Gold Derby and other internet prediction sites which track nominees’ rise and fall in the prediction rankings, it’s still enjoyable to chew over whether Nomadland (on Hulu and available for purchase) will take the top prize (and the director Oscar for Chloé Zhao) as it’s predicted to, or if Zhao can get her win but Minari(available for rent) will pull off a surprise best picture victory, as is my hope.

My other predictions/preferences: Yuh-Jung Youn in Minari is the favorite and my favorite to win actress in a supporting role. Soul (Disney+) will probably take the animated feature prize but my pick would be the charming A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix) or, as a very close second, the lovely Wolfwalkers (Apple TV+). I am all in for Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Netflix), which is heartwarming as well as a fascinating history lesson, in the documentary feature category but My Octopus Teacher (Netflix), surprisingly, seems to be what the internet predicts is leading. I want “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest (Netflix) to win original song but predicts that either Leslie Odom Jr.’s “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami or 12-time nominee (zero wins) Diane Warren’s “Io Si (See)” from The Life Ahead (Netflix) will take the prize.

The movies! The Oscar ballot is, more than anything else, a list of movies; this year, it’s a list of movies you can see right now from the comfort of your couch. In addition to the movies listed in this story, I laid out where to find all the nominees in stories in the March 18 (feature film and acting nominees), March 25 (other mainstream-y categories nominees), April 1 (visual effects category nominees), April 8 (documentaries) and April 15 (international feature films and shorts) issues of the Hippo (find them at

This year’s nominations make for a pretty good list and the best picture nominees, while they may have dour-sounding one-line descriptions, are all actually quite lively and full of engaging performances. (I gave most of them an A in my reviews.) Minari, Nomadland and Sound of Metal (on Amazon Prime Video), while certainly not wall-to-wall zaniness, have moments of joy and humor and end at a place of optimism and hope. Other nominees do feature helpings of delight, such as Emma (on HBO Max and available for purchase), the short Burrow (Disney+), Love and Monsters (available for rent or purchase) and, for classic Hollywood nerds, Mank (Netflix), as well as the aforementioned Eurovision Song Contest, Farmageddon, Soul, Wolfwalkers and Crip Camp.

And the Oscars nominees aren’t the only list of movies going. Thanks to the podcast This Had Oscar Buzz, I’ve become a fan of the AARP Movies For Grownups awards (which were announced in March). The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Hulu) won their grand prize; see all the nominees and winners (there are categories like “Best Ensemble” and “Best Grownup Love Story”) at The British BAFTA awards, given out a few weeks ago, also offer some viewing options (some Oscar overlap, some stuff you won’t see listed elsewhere); see

And get in the Oscar spirit by checking out the Film Independent Spirit Awards (those winners will be announced Thursday, April 22, at 10 p.m. on IFC), which include some of those First Cow-y early 2020 films.

Featured photo: Minari

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, 256 pages)

Type “Haruki Murakami” into the Google search engine, and one of the questions that comes up is “Why is Harukami Murakami so popular?,” which elicits a laugh. Sometimes, wading through his matter-of-fact, beige-to-gray prose, one does have to ask.

Murakami’s characters often seem aimless, their wanderings pointless, and in his longer works, such as 2017’s Killing Commendatore, so can his writing. One scornful critic has called him “the Forrest Gump of global literature.” But it’s not hyperbole to call the Japanese writer a sensation, so for people who would like to sample Murakami without a month-long commitment, there’s an opportunity in First Person Singular, a collection of eight stories that coalesce around love, death, aging and reality.

I think.

Murakami reminds me of the children’s book Nothing Ever Happens on My Block (by Ellen Raskin), in which a glum child sits on a stoop and complains about how boring his life is, while fire trucks zoom by and witches pop up in windows. Surely there’s more going on here than I’m seeing?

But then Murakami has one of his characters, a writer, say to an editor: “Theme? Can’t say there is one,” which seems like a sly confession befitting the owner of a jazz bar who famously decided he would become a novelist one day while watching a baseball game.

I digress, but so does he. That said, after a slow start, First Person Singular is a wonderfully quirky foray into the world of Murakami, the strongest stories being “Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova” and “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey.”

In “Charlie Parker,” the narrator begins by recounting a story he wrote in college about the American jazz legend experimenting with bossa nova, a type of music that is an alchemy of jazz and samba. The thing is, Parker died before bossa nova was invented, so the narrator envisions a recording that is fantasy. But one day, browsing through a music store, he comes across a crudely produced recording called “Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova” that lists exactly the same tracks that he had invented. Instead of buying the album ($35 seems a bit much), he leaves the store, but then regrets the decision and returns to the store the next day. What happens next is equally fanciful but compelling, and as with much of Murakami’s work, instructive in music.

“Confessions” is a story that could come from the pen of Stephen King, had King grown up in Japan instead of Maine.

The narrator, yet another trademark Murakami wanderer, checks into a ramshackle inn, where everything is old and decrepit, to include the cat sleeping in the foyer. The inn does have one nice feature, two if you count the vending machine that dispenses beer. (Who knew that such things existed?) It has a glorious hot-springs bath, in which the narrator soaks blissfully for a while. This is where he meets the titular monkey, a grizzled creature that shows up and, in perfect English (actually Japanese, as this, like Murakami’s other work, is a translation), offers to scrub the narrator’s back. Naturally, the narrator wants to learn more, so he invites the monkey to come to his room later for conversation and beer.

There, he learns how the monkey came to learn to speak more eloquently than many human beings and to appreciate opera. He also learned that it’s hard being an educated monkey — one is not accepted by his own kind, nor by the humans that he more closely resembles. And one has a particularly hard time finding love.

So the monkey, over time, developed an oddly touching way of experiencing love without having physical contact with the human women he desired. The method did, however, take something from the women, making it unethical. And when the narrator later meets a woman that he suspects had encountered the monkey, he has his own ethical test, of whether to tell her what had transpired. If, of course, it transpired at all and wasn’t just the fevered imagination of a tired man soaking in a hot spring.

This story was published last year in The New Yorker,as was “With the Beatles,” a rambling recollection of a man remembering his first girlfriend and her older brother, whom he had only met once while he was dating the girl, but then encountered decades later by chance. He had broken up with the girl, who did not “ring my bell,” and both had married someone else, and he was unaware of the shocking turn her life had taken until running into the brother.

The repurposing of previously published stories into a book seems vaguely like cheating, although it is done frequently by authors of stature. So, pro tip: You can find some of these stories by searching the table of contents on Amazon and then searching for them online.

“Carnaval” is built around the composition by Robert Schumann and involves a music-centered relationship with the ugliest woman the narrator has ever known, “the result of a unique force that compressed unattractive elements of all shape and sizes and assembled them together in one place.”

“The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection,” which appears to be pure memoir (but who knows?), is a man reflecting on his love for baseball, and how he scribbles poetry in a notebook in between action. (“Let’s face it — baseball is a sport done at a leisurely pace.”)

Reading Murakami is also best done at a leisurely pace, lest you feel out of touch with an author who is never in a hurry to get where he is going, and often seems not to know where he is going, which may be the truth. (Theme? What theme?) But it is a singular experience, which is sometimes rewarded with an unexpected jolt of humor, as when Murakami (or his narrator, hard to tell the difference), reflecting on his habits of dressing, says that when looking in his closet of unworn dress shirts, still in the dry-cleaner’s plastic, starts to feel apologetic toward the clothes and tries them on out of kindness. Or when a character flatly intones, “Loving someone is like having a mental illness that’s not covered by health insurance.”

Murakami could be one of the greatest writers of understatement the modern world has known or, equally plausible, an imaginative jazz bar owner who stumbled into literary acclaim. Either way, Murakami fans will thrill to this collection, even though they’ve likely already read much of it. Others will Google “Why is Haruki Murakami so popular?” B-

The demise of physical books was supposed to be e-books; the end of physical bookstores, Amazon. But what if the extinction-level event turned out to be vending machines?

Probably not, but I did do a double take upon learning this week about a nonprofit called Short Edition, which has installed more than 300 “Short Story Dispensers” at locations around the world. Users can choose the length of what they want to read —one minute, three minutes or five — and the machine prints it out, looking scarily like a CVS receipt. (See a demonstration at

There don’t appear to be any in New Hampshire, but a map of locations shows a variety of locations, to include airports, universities, wineries and, somewhat disturbingly, libraries. There’s lots to unpack here, including the shrinking American attention span, but this could be an interesting way to expose people to new writers.

Meanwhile, for short reads that don’t come on a receipt, check out:

Spilt Milk by Courtney Zoffness, a two-time resident of Peterborough’s MacDowell Colony, (McSweeney’s, 211 pages) offers essays on motherhood, family connections and Judaism.

Of Color, by Jaswinder Bolina (McSweeney’s, 129 pages), poignant essays on race and identity from a poet who writes that he looks more like the 9/11 hijackers than the firefighters who responded that day.

Love Like That by Emma Duffy-Comparone (Henry Holt and Co., 224 pages). The publisher says these stories are about “brilliant, broken women that are just the right amount of wrong.”

The Glorious American Essay, edited by Phillip Lopate (Pantheon, 928 pages), collects 100 classic essays from colonial America to the present, including luminaries such as E.B. White, Rachel Carson, David Foster Wallace, Lewis Thomas and James Thurber.


Author events

ERIN BOWMAN Author presents Dustborn. Outside Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord). Sat., April 24, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Call 224-0562 or visit

PADDY DONNELLY Author presents The Vanishing Lake. Presented by The Toadstool Bookshop of Nashua, Peterborough and Keene. Virtual, via Zoom. Sat., April 24, 1 p.m. Call 352-8815 or visit

LITERARY COCKTAIL HOUR Presented by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Featuring authors Kat Howard, Kelly Braffet, Cat Valente, and Freya Marskem in conversation with bookstore staff. Virtual, via Zoom. Sat., April 24, 5 p.m. Call 224-0562 or visit

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 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 or call 436-2400.

Featured photo: First Person Singular

Album Reviews 21/04/22

Robots Of The Ancient World, “Mystic Goddess” (Small Stone Records)

As you know, I’ve been disappointed many times by bands advertised as “doom metal” or “stoner” acts. It’s always the same: I press play on the promo record hoping to hear something that’s even half as crazed (and mildly proggish) as Black Sabbath’s Sabotage album, but it’s never that; it’s either hipster-barfed Queens Of The Stone Age nonsense, Candlemass mollusk-gloom or Wino Weintraub-level Ozzy karaoke (Wolves In The Throne Room was one rare exception). This, though, is cool. I’m jumping the gun here by writing up the title track single (the album’s due May 21), but that right-arrow “play” button was too tempting for me to resist. This Seattle-or-thereabouts-based quintet aren’t as prog as mid-’70s Sabbath, but they do want to impress the metal dudes with their arms crossed in the back row, which they accomplish through a next-level feel for polyrhythms a la Jane’s Addiction, but with more poly to the rhythm. Their first album was great, so I have every expectation that the balance forward on this one will be pretty neat-o as well. A+

Hugh Manwell, Guidance (self-released)

This came to my attention from my jazz-promotion space, but it comes off more like an attempt at an a capella indie project. Manwell, a New York City multi-instrumentalist, is responsible for every sound on this album, all the drums, trumpet, saxophone, bass, guitar, piano and synths. He’s capable enough at all of them, and you have to hand it to him for the effort. But while the line on this record promised a “big band” style effort, it’s mostly far from that, even if opening tune “Welcome To The Show” does have an overarching vibe of torchy, Night They Raided Minsky’s burlesque to it. The balance forward is a mesh of many things, though, very little of it big band. Manwell obviously digs stuff like J Dilla, Gorillaz, 1970s-period Miles Davis, probably even Steely Dan; his mercurial attention wanders to so many different retro urban influences that the record eventually emerges as one that wants to be something completely different. Toward that, it’s certainly ambitious, put it that way. B


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Hey guys, what the heck’s the name of that stupid TV show where a crew of fishermen go out on a boat during weather that’s right out of The Perfect Storm, where they laugh and punch themselves in the face and keel-haul each other while pulling up giant nets crawling with 3-foot lobsters and man-eating devil-crabs? Oh right, it’s the Deadliest Catch show. For me, that’s basically what every week is like, but in a musical sense, when I look through my emails. Just like those crab dudes, every week, I hold my nose, punch myself in the face, and go see what new albums are coming out, just so you rotten little trolls can point and laugh while tedious trust-fund hipster-crabs pinch my ears and dreadful thrash-metal lobsters just cold clamp down on my you-know-what. We’ll start this week’s ill-fated expedition with Sweep It Into Space, the new album from ancient semi-retired semi-punks Dinosaur Jr, streeting on April 23! I was never into punk bands that weren’t really all that punk-sounding, so you’ll have to forgive my not being able to identify which old “relevant era” Dinosaur Jr tune the new single, “I Ran Away,” rips off. After a loping, jangly intro part, an uneventful chorus part comes in, which of course follows the formula of every song written in the ’90s.

• Also for April 23, famous Las Vegas singing organism Tom Jones is still around, which means there’s hope for humanity, because he saved everyone in Mars Attacks, and whatever, I think he’s awesome. Check it, yo, he’s 80 years old but looks like a teddy bear version of Larry Ellison, maybe even Robert Downey Jr. Since he’s not really a songwriter, his new album, Surrounded by Time, will mostly feature cover songs, including a rub of Todd Snider’s “Talking Reality Television Blues,” a six-minute opus about pop culture nonsense and whatnot. Jones mostly does a William Shatner on this one, not really singing, just trying to talk-sing like Johnny Cash, you know the deal. Yes, it’s epic.

Field Music is an art-rock/prog-pop type of band from England that’s counted in its ranks members of such acts as Maxïmo Park and The Futureheads. Oh, whatever, they’re sort of like Todd Rundgren or Prefab Sprout, so if such names trigger a Pavlovian response in your physiology, by all means go and drool on a Field Music CD, just not in front of me please (many people dig them, of course, which is probably why they broke up for a few years). Flat White Moon is their latest album, and whoa, I’ve always wanted to say this: Stop the presses! The single “Orion From The Street” is like what you’d get if Wire rewrote Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere.” This is so awesome I can’t even stand it. Holy expletive. You should pay actual money for this.

• We’ll end this week’s torment with the second album from Porter Robinson, called Nurture, and now I’ll read the Wiki to see if I shouldn’t have just skipped this bit. Hm, blah blah blah, he’s an electronic musician. He has a new single, called “Musician,” if this stupid ad with Ryan Reynolds will ever — ah, here we are. It’s bloopy and chopped, with unintelligible chipmunk vocals, basically your average Orbital album-filler song.

Retro Playlist

Ten years ago this week, the thrust of this column was aimed at a couple of big-name albums, which we’ll get to in a second, but there was a local boy making good as well, namely Hampton singer-guitarist dude Doug Wheaton, who had just released a self-titled solo album for his Slow Burn project. I was mildly sucked in from the start, when his press sheet asked, “Tired of wimpy emo guys in tight pants playing sensitive, quirky ballads on beaten up acoustic guitars? Need more power chords in your life? Then the nine songs I have posted are right up your alley.” It’s still around on his ReverbNation space, including the tune “24 Hours,” which sounds sort of like what would happen if David Byrne was in Los Lobos.

That week I also talked about the new Airborne Toxic Event album, All At Once, which found those rawk dudes casting off their Arcade Fire-ish indie shackles and just cold going for it. I noted “if Cold War Kids had been an ’80s band that dug Joy Division, this could’ve easily come of it.” It was nice to see that they had “reinvented themselves as a cultural vacuum cleaner bag, touching on Bruce, Neil Diamond, Lords of the New Church, Gavin Rossdale, U2, Goo Goo Dolls, Big Country, and Simple Minds, [i.e.] almost everyone who’s ever ‘mattered’, while wafting a somewhat dark edge.”

There was also a new k.d. lang album afoot that week, called Sing It Loud. After explaining how she’s basically a female Roy Orbison, I pronounced that this record found her “not just channeling but actually becoming Orbison, in a way, which isn’t all that strange.” Lots of organic feel to this record, which made it super nice. “Easily the most stunning thing on the album,” I stanned breathlessly, “is the deep-and-rich refrain of the banjo-dotted ‘Habit of Mind,’ which is too divine for the soccer-mom niche it’ll be pointed at.”

The West Coast IPA

It’s not fair to call the IPA style ubiquitous. I mean, it totally is, but at the same time, that descriptor just takes away from how much innovation and how much variation takes place within this style.

For a quick second, think about what your choices were for IPAs 10 years ago at your local beer store. (Did you have a local beer store 10 years ago?) Times have changed.

Today, in terms of quantity, IPAs are a dime a dozen — or like in reality closer to about $60 per dozen — but within the style, you’re looking at double IPAs, New England-style IPAs, American IPAs, even triple IPAs, dry-hopped IPAs, session IPAs, and so on and so forth.

While the New England-style IPA, with its combination of juiciness, haze and drinkability, tends to get the most attention these days, let us not forget about the West Coast IPA.

This isn’t a new style, of course; you could make a pretty sound and probably accurate argument that this is the style that really kicked off the current IPA craze, and maybe the craft beer revolution altogether. Think Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA or a Sculpin IPA by Ballast Point.

The West Coast IPA features prominent flavors of citrus and pine and a lot of bitterness. So you still get citrus flavors as you probably would with a New England-style IPA, but you would not consider calling these beers juicy. These beers bite and the presence of pine notes sets this style apart even more.

You’ll see West Coast IPAs described with words like “dank” and “resin.” Now, look, clearly no one placed a call to a marketing agency when they came up with those words, but it’s too late now. I don’t know that there is an explicit definition of the term “dank,” but I take it to mean the brew is sort of funky — in a good way.

For a lot of IPA drinkers, it’s that hop bitterness from the West Coast or American-style IPA that drew them into this style in the first place. It’s also what turns off others from truly giving the style a chance.

Looking at the pour, the West Coast style tends to lack the thick, golden haze of a New England-style IPA. West Coast IPAs can range from nearly clear to a rich amber color.

Now, brewers are constantly experimenting and the guidelines for specific styles are getting broader and broader by the minute, so keep that in mind.

But, to me, the West Coast IPA is just an exciting brew that smacks you around with a ton of bold flavors. Sometimes you do need to get smacked around a little bit.

OK, that’s enough, let’s get to the beer.

New England Gangsta by Earth Eagle Brewings (Portsmouth)

Yes, you can make West Coast IPA on the East Coast. This has a nice floral bouquet on the nose with prominent hop character — fresh, bright and not overly bitter.

Union Jack by Firestone Walker Brewing Co. (Paso Robles, Calif.)

“Big and loud,” as the brewery describes it, is right on. This is super hoppy and flavorful. The hops hit you right in the face from a variety of angles — so be ready.

Stone IPA by Stone Brewing (Escondido, Calif.)

Another iconic West Coast IPA, this hits you with a ton of tropical flavor and pine.

Pitch A Tent by Hobbs Brewing Co. (Ossipee)

This double IPA is well-balanced, featuring tropical notes and plenty of citrus and just enough bite. The pour is nearly crystal clear. At 8 percent ABV, be careful.

What’s in My Fridge
Juice Lord by Lord Hobo Brewing Co. (Woburn, Mass.)

This is super-juicy and full of big fruit flavor as you’d expect, but it’s also bitter, maybe more bitter than I expected. It took me a second to get used to that, I think just because I really wasn’t expecting it, but after a few sizable sips, I was all in. Yet another Lord Hobo brew you should track down and enjoy. Cheers!

Featured photo: West Coast IPA. Photo by Jeff Mucciarone.

Regina Davison

Regina Davison and her husband, Jeremy, own R & J Texas-style BBQ On Wheels (183 Elm St., Unit 3, Milford, 518-0186,, which opened a brick-and-mortar space in late December following the success of the couple’s food truck last summer. The eatery features everything from combo plates of brisket or pulled pork with scratch-made sides like collard greens, cornbread and baked beans to harder-to-find items like crawfish and fried okra. A wide variety of Southern-inspired desserts includes pecan pie, banana pudding cake, and peach cobbler with a scoop of ice cream. A native of Dallas, Regina Davison came to New Hampshire about eight years ago, where she met her husband.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

[A] tasting spoon, and a long-handled stirring spoon.

What would you have for your last meal?

I have so many allergies, so I would like everything that I’ve been unable to have. Fried oysters, honey-glazed salmon with a watermelon salad, and then crab legs, shrimp and a large bowl of every fruit known to man.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Greenleaf [in Milford], because the owners are very nice and the drinks are amazing.

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

[Actress] Taraji P. Henson, because she motivates me to keep pushing and reaching for my goals and dreams.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The brisket mac and cheese. I eat it almost every day.

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

Pizza and barbecue.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

My family and I love hot pot [cooking]. We can eat it every day. We always buy a ton of thinly sliced rib-eye, Angus beef, chicken, sausage, watercress, spinach, bok choy, rice noodles and at least three pots of jasmine rice.

Homemade baked beans
From the kitchen of Regina Davison of R & J Texas-style BBQ On Wheels in Milford

2 pounds pinto beans
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup molasses
½ cup chili powder

Combine all dry ingredients into a slow cooker and cook overnight on low. In the morning, stir and add at least two cups of water. Add molasses and continue cooking for two hours in the oven. Serve hot with cornbread.

Featured photo: Regina Davison

Tales of new restaurants

Local eateries push through a tough first year

What’s it like to operate a new restaurant during a pandemic? Despite myriad challenges, local chefs, restaurateurs and cafe owners have weathered the ongoing restrictions in the industry and found success along the way. Here’s a look at some of their stories.

Big Kahunas Smokehouse

1158 Hooksett Road, Hooksett, 935-7400,

Opened: June 2020

Merrimack’s Big Kahunas Cafe & Grill, which also offers barbecue catering options with an island-style flair, has been established for just under 10 years. According to co-owner and chef Jum-Pa Spooner, it was a customer who first told him and his wife, Amanda Persijn-Spooner, about the newly vacant kitchen in an adjoining space of Shooter’s Outpost in Hooksett.

“We were playing around with the idea of a second location … [and] we already had the smokehouse menu lined up from our catering,” Spooner said. “So we just kind of said ‘OK,’ and then Covid kind of happened simultaneously with it.”

Big Kahunas Smokehouse had originally been slated to open in April before pandemic restrictions pushed it back to June. Spooner said having a built-in covered deck immediately allowed them to place tables and chairs outside for dining, as well as small live music acts.

“As soon as we got that first warm day, the tables and chairs were out,” he said. “We’re lucky because we have such a beautiful wrap-around deck with plenty of shade and easy accessibility.”

Takeout is the biggest part of the eatery’s business, offering a menu of fresh entrees with various sides and signature sauces to choose from.

“Most Americans think of Texas or Louisiana when they think of barbecue … but they don’t tend to think about the other side of the continent,” Spooner said of eatery’s concept. “This is just something just a little bit different from what people might be familiar with.”

Lechon kawali, for instance, is a special kind of crispy pork belly that’s charred on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Caribbean pulled pork with hand-cut slaw, and smashers, or smoked potatoes cooked on a hot griddle with seasonings, are among its other staples.

BiTsize Coffee Bar

1461 Hooksett Road, Unit A1, Hooksett, 210-2089,

Opened: September 2020

Even though BiTsize Coffee Bar (pronounced “bite-size”) opened the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend in 2020 in Hooksett’s Granite Hill Shoppes plaza, its genesis dates all the way back a full year. The shop, which offers single-origin Costa Rican coffees, espresso drinks, teas and smoothies, as well as a food menu of fresh baked goods and pastries, is a partnership between Granite Hill Shoppes property owner George Kassas and Rabih Bou Chaaya, who has owned Maya Gourmet in Methuen, Mass., since 2014.

The two men met when Kassas, who had envisioned a coffee bar for the then-vacant space on the lower level of his Hooksett plaza for more than a year, visited Bou Chaaya’s Methuen shop in the summer of 2019 and invited him to take a look at the space. Delays in the formation of their business plan lasted several months before construction could even begin.

Now, newcomers consistently discover the shop almost every day.

“We’ve still been getting a lot of new customers that haven’t left the house yet, or they have been working from home since the pandemic started and are finding us now,” Bou Chaaya said.

Initially, BiTsize Coffee Bar’s baked goods, which include French-style butter croissants, cookies, muffins, scones, and Danishes, were prepared at Maya Gourmet the night before. Now they’re all made fresh onsite, many sourced overseas from a bakery in France. Maya Gourmet’s baklava is available for sale, in addition to other treats out of a bakery display that include French macarons and cake slices in several flavors. Newer items like breakfast sandwiches and pistachio and lavender lattes were recently added to the menu too.

Late last year, online ordering and curbside pickup were implemented. Starting on May 1, according to Bou Chaaya, the shop’s hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays will extend from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with outdoor patio furniture seating available on the deck.

bluAqua Restrobar

Tuna tartare. Photo courtesy of bluAqua Restrobar.

930 Elm St., Manchester, 836-3970,

Opened: January 2020

Scott Forrester estimates he was open for roughly 30 days before his Southern-inspired Manchester eatery began feeling the pandemic’s effects. For much of the initial two-month shutdown from mid-March to late May, bluAqua Restrobar wasn’t even open for takeout.

“It was a tough decision to make … [but] I really didn’t want the first impressions of our place to be coming from food from some takeout container,” Forrester said. “Also being downtown, it’s just not an environment that’s set up for quick and easy takeout.”

As soon as bluAqua was able to reopen outdoors, Forrester and his staff created a makeshift patio space out on the sidewalk. Despite its success throughout the summer, Forrester said he’s still waiting on some patio furniture and heating lamps that he ordered last year to arrive.

The menu changes seasonally but has included po’ boy sandwiches, gumbo, shrimp and grits, jambalaya, and other Southern-style foods. Due to a greater lack of walking traffic downtown, Forrester said keeping bluAqua open for lunch has not been viable.

“Every time you think you’ve overcome an obstacle, there’s another one behind it,” he said. “There have definitely been times when business is so inconsistent that I just can’t keep some menu items on hand. … We are seeing an uptick in business for dinner, though. This past March was our best month of the year, so that was refreshing.”


11 Water St., Exeter, 580-4604,

Opened: March 2020

Chef-owner Tim O’Brien was set to open the Italian scratch-kitchen Cornicello the very weekend after Gov. Chris Sununu’s emergency order limiting New Hampshire eateries to takeout only.

“I had people hired, trained and ready to go, and I had to let them go and drop my staff down to zero,” said O’Brien, a former high school English teacher who also owns Enoteca Athena in Brunswick, Maine. “They never technically worked a shift.”

Instead, Cornicello initially launched as a once-a-week takeout-only model, usually on Sunday afternoons. O’Brien would create a limited menu of fresh pastas, seafood and other items each week, inspired either from his family’s recipes or from his travels throughout the many regions of Italy. For several months until he was able to open for indoor dining that June, he would drive down from his restaurant in Maine on a Saturday night or early Sunday morning and prepare Cornicello’s food and wine orders for that week.

“I needed to open up to try to get my name out there to some extent,” he said. “That was incredibly difficult, to try to build a reputation in town while only being able to do takeout.”

When restaurants were able to welcome customers back indoors in June, Cornicello did so with entirely new staff members from those O’Brien had previously hired in March. But it would be several more months to follow before he felt that Cornicello had really hit its stride.

“By around October was kind of when we hit that turning point, because we finally started to get an established group of people that I would say have been regulars,” he said. “Before then, there were many days and weeks when I was just ready to throw in the towel.”

Cornicello is open Wednesday through Saturday for dining in, but even now O’Brien sometimes has to consider switching to takeout-only due to a lack of staff availability. Otherwise, he said, takeout has become a minimal part of his business while he now puts more focus on dining in.

“It can be difficult, because we’re spread out and it’s already such a small space that we’re in, but we do what has to be done,” he said.

Recently, O’Brien has been in negotiations with his landlord to use the empty lot next door to Cornicello as a patio. He has also proposed adding an onsite oyster bar to the town.

Chicken tortilla soup. Photo courtesy of Diz’s Cafe.

Diz’s Cafe

860 Elm St., Manchester, 606-2532,

Opened: May 2020

Named after owner and longtime chef Gary “Diz” Window of Manchester, Diz’s Cafe was about three weeks away from opening when the statewide stay-at-home order was first issued.

“We had signed the lease in January, and we were in the midst of trying to hire when everything started shutting down,” general operations manager Billy Martin said. “That delayed us getting our last couple of permits and inspections that we needed to open.”

More than two months later, Diz’s Cafe finally got the green light to open just after Memorial Day weekend. But with still a few weeks left to go before New Hampshire restaurants became allowed to welcome patrons back inside for dining, Martin said a collective decision was made to serve takeout orders directly out onto the street through the eatery’s front windows.

“It almost felt like we were operating like Cremeland [Drive-In],” he said of those first few weeks. “The second week we were open, we got clearance to put tables outside, so it was kind of like a takeout picnic-area model for a week or so. Then indoor dining resumed on June 15.”

Takeout still represents a significant percentage of Diz’s Cafe’s overall sales, Martin said, especially earlier in the week. The eatery is known for its scratch-made comfort foods and home-cooked meals, including its appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, but also its customizable “build-your-own” menu of at least one protein and up to three fresh sides.

“We’ve seen incredible growth, which has been encouraging,” he said. “We’ve definitely seen more people lately who have been more comfortable with dining in, as more people go back to work and there’s more activity downtown.”

As the weather continues to turn warmer and Diz’s closes in on a full year being open, the eatery is expected to add more tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. Martin said monthly specials will continue too, including possibly some Cinco de Mayo-inspired items in May.

School Street Cafe

1007 School St., Dunbarton, 774-2233,

Opened: August 2020

Lindsey Andrews and Carrie Hobi had worked together at MG’s Farmhouse Cafe in Dunbarton Center until its permanent closure in the spring of last year. The two cousins, who had talked while growing up about one day opening their own bakery and coffee shop, were later offered the space to rebrand and remodel that summer as the School Street Cafe. Since opening in August, the cafe has become known for its build-your-own breakfast sandwiches, fresh baked pastries and yogurt parfaits, as well as coffee sourced from Hometown Coffee Roasters of Manchester and several flavors of ice cream from Blake’s.

“We’ve recently introduced online ordering, which has been a huge success,” Andrews said. “We also have several picnic tables outside now … to help control the flow of traffic inside, or if you just want to sit out and enjoy the sunshine.”

According to Andrews, the School Street Cafe is also currently developing a catering menu that would include package options such as breakfast pastries and boxed lunches. Similar to last year, evening hours for the cafe will likely be extended in the near future for ice cream.

Second Brook Bar & Grill

1100 Hooksett Road, Unit 111, Hooksett, 935-7456,

Opened: September 2020

It was Christmas Day 2019 when Jeanne Foote noticed the vacant space that had been DC’s Tavern while driving through Hooksett. The Manchester native had spent more than a decade working at The Puritan Backroom and Billy’s Sports Bar, later owning Bella’s Casual Dining in Durham before its closure a few months prior. A lease was signed for the Hooksett storefront in January 2020, with the goal to open what would become Second Brook Bar & Grill in early May.

Even though the pandemic delayed the new casual comfort and homestyle eatery for four months before it finally opened in September, Foote said it actually proved to be beneficial.

“The restaurant needed a lot of work,” she said, “so Covid hitting really kind of gave us more time to think about what we wanted it to be, instead of just trying to throw something together.”

TJ’s Tavern was the eatery’s original name before it was renamed Second Brook, after the nearby brook by the railroad tracks that Foote frequented as a hangout spot while in high school.

Just within the last month, Foote said, takeout orders at Second Brook have been “off the charts,” especially on weekend evenings, while new customers also continue to dine in for the first time.

“We just recently hit our six-month mark, and I feel like the word is still getting out that we’re even here, with more people getting vaccinated and not being as afraid to go out,” she said.

Menu items, which include everything from appetizers, soups and salads, to burgers, sandwiches and plated entrees, also continue to evolve with new ideas, like mini pretzel bites with homemade beer cheese sauce, and prime rib French dip with homemade chips.

Stones Social

The Marge and Rita cocktail. Photo courtesy of Stones Social.

449 Amherst St., Nashua, 943-7445,

Opened: June 2020

Inspired by the supper club, or the concept of serving creative comfort foods and cocktails in a small and intimate setting, Stones Social had been in the works well before the start of the pandemic. The eatery is the latest venture of Stones Hospitality Group, which also owns two restaurants in northern Massachusetts — Cobblestones of Lowell, which has been serving elevated tavern fare since 1994, and Moonstones, an eatery featuring global small plates that opened in Chelmsford in the late 2000s.

According to beverage director Aislyn Plath, the family-run group took over occupancy of the space that would become Stones Socal in late 2019. Following a remodeling period, Stones Social would have been ready to open within a week of everything shutting down in mid-March.

“We knew that things were going south, but there was nothing we could do,” Plath said. “We decided to put [Stones Social] on the back burner and put all our energy into Cobblestones and Moonstones, because we knew we couldn’t let those suffer at the behest of a new space. … We also didn’t want people being introduced to us by eating something from [a takeout] box.”

Stones Social would eventually open in late June once indoor restaurant dining restrictions in New Hampshire were loosened. The menu, which includes lighter bar snacks like Buffalo tenders and Chinese short ribs, as well as burgers, wood-fired skillets, poke bowls and a wide array of house cocktails, has remained consistent throughout. Plath said a few promotions have been added too, like “Throwback Thursday” wood-fired pizza specials, and “Social Sunday” specials featuring smoked meats, brunch options and family-style meals.

Business was slow to start at Stones Social, but Plath said she has recently been seeing an influx of new people coming through the door. Since June, the eatery has also amassed a respectable following of regulars.

“They’ve been our biggest champions during this time,” she said. “It feels like we’ve been a little family over the last year.”

Trio’s Cafe & Cantina

Chicken fajita salad. Photo courtesy of Trio’s Cafe & Cantina.

264 N. Broadway, Unit 105, Salem, 458-6164,

Opened: January 2021

Salem native Julie Manzer opened this eatery, which features breakfast and lunch items with a unique Southwestern flair, in the Breckenridge Plaza in mid-January of this year. Trio’s gets its name from the owners — a “trio” of generations of the same family that includes Manzer, her mother, Janet, and father, Paul, and her two daughters, Tanna and Keira Marshall.

“Takeout used to be crazy, but I think more people have been getting more comfortable with coming in,” Manzer said. “We also just recently put out tables on the patio.”

The birria tacos, she said, have been among the more recent popular menu items at Trio’s.

“It’s a stewed beef that we cook overnight, so it’s super tender and falls apart like a pot roast would,” she said. “We serve corn tortillas with it and an adobo sauce.”

The menu also features staples like chicken or steak fajita salads, Mexican street corn tenders, and tacos and quesadillas with a variety of fillings, plus a selection of signature margaritas and a Happy Hour on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 2 to 5 p.m.

White Birch Eatery

Strawberry Cheesecake French toast. Photo courtesy of White Birch Eatery.

571 Mast Road, Goffstown, 836-6849,

Opened: March 2020

Cyndee Williams of Merrimack opened White Birch Eatery, her first restaurant as owner, on March 9, 2020. Just seven days later came Gov. Sununu’s emergency takeout-only mandate.

“Everyone was just starting to hear about the pandemic and what was going on,” Williams said of that first week being open. “[I was] super-nervous just as far as trying to figure out what was happening in the kitchen, like do I have enough spatulas and that kind of thing … and now I have to wonder, ‘Will I be able to stay open’? It was definitely a lot of long days and longer nights, where you ask yourself, ‘Is this going to work?’”

Williams said she and her staff attempted to offer takeout for a couple of days, but to no avail. After just one week of being open, White Birch Eatery ended up closing for nearly four months.

“The company that owned this space before us, Chiggy’s Place, did not do takeout, so we didn’t even have that takeout clientele, plus our restaurant was a completely different feel,” Williams said. “So first, it was just trying to get people to come in and try us … and then on top of that, getting them to wear a mask, not sit next to people and all that kind of stuff. It was difficult.”

White Birch Eatery finally reopened on July 6 and has been going strong ever since, thanks in part to Williams’ receiving aid from the state’s Main Street Relief Fund. The spot is now known for its breakfast and lunch items made with fresh, local ingredients, from grain bowls and sandwiches to toasts, omelets, breakfast plates and espresso drinks, plus its seasonal specials and an entire menu of options appealing to vegan and vegetarian diners.

Even though it didn’t take off right away, Williams said takeout is now integral to her business.

“We went from having no takeout to some days doing almost half of our sales in takeout, which is not what I had in mind at all,” she said. “We have come into one of those sticky situations now where on the weekends we will have so much takeout that we have to stop it.”

Williams, who has more than a decade of catering experience in several restaurants and hotels, said White Birch Eatery will also soon focus more on catering, for small gatherings like corporate events and bridal and baby showers out of an adjoining 40-seat banquet facility.

Zachary’s Chop House

Cwboy Rib-eye. Photo courtesy of Zachary’s Chop House.

4 Cobbetts Pond Road, Windham, 890-5555,

Opened: July 2020

Zach Woodard had owned The Lobster Tail in Windham for the last six years and had worked there as a chef for about a decade prior to then when he decided he was ready for a change. The new concept he came up with was simple: to bring an upscale steakhouse experience you’re more likely to get in a bigger city to rural New Hampshire.

Zachary’s Chop House opened in late July following a quick two-month turnaround that included a complete remodeling of the space. With the help of Woodard’s friend, Godsmack singer and frontman Sully Erna, he was able to quickly secure connections with contractors to redo everything in the restaurant from its front windows to its bathrooms and HVAC systems.

“It’s more casual fine dining, so we don’t have tablecloths or anything, but we do have a very nice upscale menu where we cook all sorts of steaks, and a little bit of seafood too,” Woodard said. “We do brunch on Sundays, [and] then for lunch we do burgers, salads, that sort of stuff.”

The eatery does limited takeout during the day, but Woodard will usually stop those services around 4 p.m. In addition to weekly indoor dining, Zachary’s Chop House has quickly become a favorite spot for its weekend brunches on holidays such as Easter Sunday, when there are items that include carving stations, omelet stations and fresh fruit displays.

“Here, it’s really about coming in and having that experience,” Woodard said. “We feel that the sky’s the limit for us once the restrictions stop and more of the vaccines are being rolled out.”

Zizza Authentic Pizzeria

653 Elm St., Milford, 249-5767,

Opened: January 2021

Michael Zielie of Wilton never could have predicted the volume of response that Zizza Authentic Pizzeria would get during its opening night in Milford on Jan. 15.

“We opened at 11 that morning and even by 3 p.m. we were busier than I thought we were going to be,” Zielie said. “Then the orders started pouring in after that. Between 3 and 4:30 p.m., we received probably about 150 orders alone.”

Beginning at around 5 p.m. that evening and lasting for several hours, Zizza’s 19-space parking lot remained full, with nearly a dozen additional cars parked on the side of Route 101 and police cruisers directing traffic. At one point, Zielie said, he counted around 90 people in the lobby and parking lot all waiting for their orders, a majority of which had been placed online through the website or via a mobile app the company developed.

“As the night went on, we decided instead to just start calling out names asking people what they ordered, and we just made those pizzas to order,” he said.

The next day, the decision was made to temporarily shut down the ordering app and instead implement a system in which customers choose their own pickup times in a five-minute window. As of last month, Zielie said, ordering through the mobile app and website is now back online, with specific times you can choose to pick up your order.

Zizza Authentic Pizzeria opened following the success of Friday and Saturday Wood-fired Pizza Nights at the nearby Hilltop Cafe in Wilton, which the Zielie family also owns. In addition to handcrafted pizzas, the menu features salads, made-to-order milkshakes, homemade Italian sodas, and “ZZandwiches,” or sandwiches made with folded pizza dough.

Hand-filled cannolis, each made to order with sauces like lemon curd, caramel and chocolate, and toppings like chocolate chips, pistachios and walnuts, were also recently added to the menu.

“Hopefully by the summertime, we’re going to introduce other Italian pastries and desserts, like gelato, cookies and ricotta pie,” Zielie said.

Feautred photo: Smoked Caribbean pulled pork. Photo courtesy of Big Kahunas Smokehouse.

The Weekly Dish 21/04/22

News from the local food scene

Tastes of France: Portsmouth’s The Music Hall will present a virtual author discussion and Q&A on Wednesday, April 28, at 7 p.m., featuring Bill Buford on his 2020 book Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking. The author and James Beard Award winner will talk about his journey learning traditional French haute cuisine while working under esteemed chefs in the city of Lyon. Chef-owner Evan Mallet of The Black Trumpet Bistro will serve as the event’s moderator. Tickets to access the livestreamed discussion are available at for $5 per person — a video link will be provided in your email confirmation. Virtual attendees also have the option to purchase a copy of Buford’s book for an additional $17 with their ticket purchase. Books can be shipped to you after the event, or available for pickup at the Music Hall’s Historic Theater (28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth).

Greek goodies: In honor of Greek Easter on Sunday, May 2, jajabelles (143 Main St., Nashua) is taking orders now for a variety of specialty Greek pastries, like baklava, spanakopita and tiropita, as well as finikia (date-nut filled cookies), kourambiethes (powdered sugar cookies), kataifi (walnuts wrapped in shredded phyllo and covered in homemade syrup), and koulourakia (twisted sesame cookies), all of which are available by the dozen. Other items include dolmathes (lamb- and beef-filled grape leaves) and tsoureki (Greek sweet bread). Orders are due by April 28 (by April 25 for the tsoureki), with pickups on either May 1 or May 2. Visit or call 769-1873.

All about dandelions: Register now for Dandelion Delights, a program of the Beaver Brook Association to be held on Sunday, May 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Maple Hill Farm (117 Ridge Road, Hollis). Instructor Rivka Schwartz will go over all the different ways dandelions can be enjoyed in foods and drinks and used in medicine to help stimulate digestion and aid the liver. Dandelion wine, soda, salad, tea and fritters will be covered, with take-home recipes and an information packet available for attendees. The cost is $22 for Beaver Brook members and $25 for non-members. Visit

Poutine pause: For the second year in a row, the New Hampshire PoutineFest will not be taking place at Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack, according to a statement posted on the popular event’s Facebook page on April 14. “That said, this doesn’t mean that all is lost for 2021,” the statement read. “We are currently investigating all potential opportunities. … When, where, how … TBD.” The poutine-centered festival was canceled last year due to the pandemic, with a roadshow “passport” promotion held in its place in which poutine lovers could visit participating restaurants across the state and get 25 percent off a regular order of poutine. Visit for updates.

On The Job – Amanda Cee

Amanda Cee

Founder/owner, Eye Candy Balloons

Amanda Cee is a certified balloon artist and the founder, owner and lead designer of Eye Candy Balloons, a professional balloon décor company based in Goffstown.

Explain your job and what it entails.

I make balloon art for celebrations, to make the big moments in people’s lives more memorable. … These are not your average balloons. There’s so much that goes into it. … I have to think a lot about the space, the layout, the proportions, the scale; it’s a lot of measuring and math. … I have a shop full of professional machines and inflators and tools, where I physically create the balloons … [and] I design the framing as well.

How long have you had this job?

I started my business in 2016.

What led you to this career field?

In 2012, I started working part time for [a balloon art business], doing business management-type things. At that time, the only [kind of balloon] I knew was a balloon on a string that you get when you’re a kid. … When I saw all these really cool things [the balloon artist] created, it opened my eyes to this world I never knew existed — the world of balloon art. … I was hooked. I knew this was what I wanted to do next.

What kind of education or training did you need?

There were a few years at that job when I was getting what I would now call ‘on-the-job training,’ working under an industry professional … and when I wanted to get started [with a balloon art business] on my own, she took me under her wing. … I go to conferences regularly. [The industry] is evolving, and there are new techniques that come out, so there’s no end to the learning.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

On site, I usually wear all black because I don’t want to be seen; I want the balloons to get all the attention.

How has your job changed over the last year?

The corporate galas, the 5Ks, the grand openings, the school events — those weren’t happening anymore, so I needed to pivot my focus to the new kinds of events that were happening. … Drive-thru baby showers, drive-thru graduations — people found ways to celebrate. … We don’t work with as many businesses now; we’re mostly going to people’s homes, doing their small backyard celebrations. … Yard art is also kind of a new industry category that has really taken off; people [want balloon art] for their porch or their deck or their mailbox or even their car.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

It’s OK to be a student. … Feeling like you have to know everything and do everything correctly all of the time is debilitating, but if you have the mindset of a student who is open to learning and full of curiosity, it relieves so much pressure and makes everything more fun.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

It’s about so much more than balloons. I view it as being able to create part of an experience. … The balloons, the lighting, the music — it all goes toward creating that moment that stays in our memory for a lifetime.

What was the first job you ever had?

I worked in a lawyer’s office for four years. I started there at age 15, filing and doing small tasks, and eventually was able to take on more responsibilities, like data entry and talking to clients.

What’s the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

Progress over perfection. … True perfection is unattainable, and with art, there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’ anyway, because it’s all so subjective and there’s no one ‘right’ way to do things.

Five favorites
Favorite book
: The Bridges of Madison County
Favorite movie: Gone with the Wind
Favorite music: Dave Matthews
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite thing about NH: The versatility. You can change your scenery in just a few minutes.

Featured photo: Amanda Cee

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