Tudor Convertible

So, here’s the thing – if you asked me to describe myself, I’d say I’m a fairly regular, run-of-the-mill guy. “High maintenance” is not a phrase that springs to mind. I’m a mushroom and jalapeño pizza with a Diet Sunkist kind of guy.

And yet, “regular” and “run-of-the-mill” are apparently terms that cover a wide spectrum of standards.

I was talking recipes with a work friend, as one does, and mentioned this Indian dish I was really grooving on at the moment.

“What’s in it?” she asked suspiciously. Apparently, I have a reputation.

“That’s the great thing about this,” I told her. “Aside from paneer, it’s all stuff you have around the house.”

“What’s paneer?” she asked.

“A type of Indian cheese,” I said.

“Could I use cheddar?” she asked.

“Um, not really. Anyway, you basically just need some cashews, and—”

“I’m going to stop you right there,” she interrupted. “When you say ‘cashews’, do you mean those nuts that fancy people serve at cocktail parties? Who keeps those in their house? I have seriously bought cashews maybe three times in my life.”

I assured her that they were easy to find, but completely flummoxed her when I mentioned cardamom.

“I’ve never even heard of that,” she informed me.

I’m not sure why I continued to describe the dish, because our communication gap just kept widening from there.

I mention this because I tried a new cocktail recipe this week. As I read over the ingredients, I was pleased to note with each one that I had it on hand:

“Pimm’s? Check. Elderflower liqueur? Also check. Gin? Very much, check.”

As I worked my way down the list, though, I realized that aside from lime juice and ice cubes, most people would not actually have any of these ingredients.

I wonder sometimes, if anybody actually makes any of the cocktails I develop, and I’m realistic enough to concede that the more exotic ingredients I call for, the less likely anyone is to actually try one of these drinks. I tried making the new cocktail with several shortcuts and substitutions that would bring it marginally more into the mainstream, and all of the variations were fine, but not as stunningly delicious as the exotic, labor-intensive version.

So, here’s what we’ll do — take out the best gin you have and make yourself a classic gin and tonic. Drink it while you make out your shopping list. You’ll feel braced and even a little sophisticated by the time you’re done.

Our high-maintenance drink is a riff on a cocktail called War of the Roses. I’ve taken some liberties with it, so it needs a new name. Based on the emotional scars I still have from watching the 1989 Kathleen Turner/Michael Douglas movie of the same name, I thought about calling this a Kathleen Turner Overdrive, but then I found out that there is a heavy metal band by the same name, and that’s not really the vibe I’m going for. I ended up settling for a simple, classic name: a Tudor Cocktail. The actual War of the Roses is where Henry VII defeated Richard III and became the first Tudor king of England.

Tudor Cocktail


  • 1½ ounces Pimm’s No. 1, the liqueur usually used for making a Pimm’s Cup
  • ¾ ounce cucumber-infused gin (see below)
  • ¾ ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • ¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup
  • dash Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 0.4 grams fresh mint leaves
  • 4 ice cubes

Bruise the mint by rolling it around between the palms of your hands, until it looks like sad spinach. Drop it into a cocktail shaker.

Add the rest of the ingredients and shake vigorously for about a minute.

Strain into a chilled coupé glass.

Garnish it, if you feel the need, but be aware that this drink is very confident in its own deliciousness and will give you some serious side-eye if you do.

Every ingredient in this drink makes its presence known. Yes, you can absolutely make this with regular gin, but the cucumber gin raises the taste to another level. I tried muddling a couple of slices of cucumber instead, and it was fine, but not as good. I also tried using cucumber syrup instead of simple syrup and that was fine too, but not transcendent.

Gin & Tonic. Photo by John Fladd.

Is this drink a project? Inarguably.

The good news is that once you’ve bought all the specialty alcohols and made the cucumber gin, you will have everything you need to drink a seriously injudicious number of these cocktails and recover, for a brief moment, a sense of wonder and an open heart.

Cucumber gin

Wash but don’t peel some cucumbers. The little Persian ones are really nice, but don’t stress over not finding any. Add equal amounts — by weight — of cucumbers and gin to a blender. Blend them on your lowest speed. The idea here is to chop the cucumbers finely enough to expose a lot of surface area to the gin, to help the infusion process. Pour the mixture into a wide-mouthed jar. Store in a cool, dark place for seven days, shaking twice per day. Strain and filter the gin.

You will be glad you did.

Featured photo. Tudor. Photo by John Fladd.

Bite-sized sausage-stuffed mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms can be a tricky dish to make. Although they’re relatively easy to prepare, it is also easy to produce a stuffed mushroom that is boring. The most important part of making a good stuffed mushroom is getting lots of flavor into the filling. The second most important part is cooking them in a way that prevents them from being soggy. Today’s recipe conquers both of those tasks.

The main ingredient in these mushrooms, not shockingly, is sausage. I chose turkey sausage to prevent the filling from being too greasy. I also chose hot sausage to add a good amount of flavor without needing to raid the spice rack.

Next, when baking these stuffed mushrooms, the directions instruct you to place them on a baking rack. This is not mandatory, but it is beneficial. Doing so keeps the mushrooms out of the liquid that pools, delivering a stuffed mushroom that is tender but not soggy.

Finally, the recipe includes small amounts of two cheeses. If these aren’t cheeses you usually have on hand, you can use just one. I really like the Parmesan in the filling for the sharp bite it has and the Asiago as the topping for its melting ability. If you decide to use just one, I would recommend the Asiago.

Bite-sized sausage-stuffed mushrooms
Makes 20

20 small button or cremini mushrooms
1/2 pound hot turkey sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup shredded Asiago

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Wipe mushrooms and remove stems; save stems.
Remove sausage from casing (if needed) and place in preheated nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Saute sausage for 5 minutes or until fully cooked.
While the sausage cooks, dice mushroom stems.
Transfer cooked sausage to a paper towel-lined plate.
Wipe excess grease out of pan and add diced stems.
Saute mushrooms for 2 minutes; add garlic, and saute for 1 additional minute.
Combine cooked sausage and mushroom mixture in a medium-sized bowl.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Add bread crumbs, Parmesan and pepper to taste.
Fill each mushroom cap with a spoonful of mixture.
Place the filled mushrooms on a wire baking rack set on top of a rimmed baking sheet.
Top each with Asiago cheese and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Featured Photo: Bite-sized sausage-stuffed mushrooms. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Jay and Lori Desmarais

Gerard “Jay” and Lori Desmarais are the owners of Bowlful (1536 Candia Road, Manchester, 232-3923, thebowlful.com, and on Facebook and Instagram @thebowlful), a takeout restaurant that opened inside Nickles Market in Manchester in late 2020. Bowlful specializes in all kinds of made-to-order rice, salad and pasta bowls prepared using fresh ingredients — popular options include a teriyaki bowl with bacon fried rice, broccoli and sesame seeds; a taco salad bowl featuring fresh lettuce, tortilla strips, cilantro rice, Mexican cheese, onions, salsa, avocado crema and jalapenos; and a garlic and spinach pasta bowl that’s finished with Parmigiano Reggiano. Bowls additionally feature the option to add a protein like grilled chicken, ground beef, pork carnitas, sauteed shrimp or grilled tofu.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Jay: For me, it’s a sharp chef’s knife.

Lori: A spatula.

What would you have for your last meal?

Jay: I would say lamb chops. That’s my once-in-a-year thing that I’ll have.

Lori: I’m Polish, so I love pierogi. The potato and the farmer’s cheese are my favorite.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Lori: We both love Tucker’s. … I love the Belgian waffles.

Jay: I always get the Sedona skillet. Their lunch is good, but more often than not, we typically find ourselves going there for breakfast.

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

Lori: I would love for Keith Urban to come see me.

Jay: Keanu Reeves. … I’d make him one of everything.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

Jay: For me, it’s the barbecue bowl. We make our own barbecue sauce, and it’s got some balsamic vinaigrette with tomato and cucumber. It’s like a summer outing in a bowl. It’s very refreshing and good.

Lori: The Cobb salad.

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

Lori: I feel like food trucks are really a thing. I feel like they are popping up everywhere, and so many people have come into the restaurant saying that we’ve got to do them, that what we do with the bowls would be great on a food truck.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Jay: I love to grill a rib-eye. That’s probably one of my favorite things to eat when we can.

Lori: Mine is stuffed shells.

Bowlful’s cucumber tomato salad
From the kitchen of Jay and Lori Desmarais of Bowlful in Manchester

5 medium plum tomatoes, cored and diced into ¼-inch cubes
1 English cucumber, ends removed and diced to ¼-inch cubes
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon lime juice
Pinch of salt to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve as is, or top with your favorite vinaigrette.

Featured photo: Jay and Lori Desmarais. Courtesy photo.

Plant-based perfection

The Sleazy Vegan launches in Manchester

Directly behind Manchester’s SNHU Arena, a new ghost kitchen is serving up whole food plant-based breakfast and lunch items, with plans to soon expand into a food truck later this year.

It’s called The Sleazy Vegan, and while there’s no retail storefront, online orders are now being accepted every Wednesday through Saturday, with local deliveries within a 5-mile radius of the venue. Owner Kelley-Sue “KSL” LeBlanc hopes to offer catering on the weekends, and she’s also set to participate in some upcoming events, like a private menu tasting at To Share Brewing Co. on April 19, as well as at the Manchester Taco Tour on May 5.

LeBlanc, who grew up in Nashua and now lives on the Queen City’s West Side, officially launched public online ordering on April 1. The Sleazy Vegan’s name origin is twofold — as she dreams of sailing, she wanted a business that could enable her to travel more. She came up with the phrase when playing around with other names that would share the “S.V.,” or sailing vessel, prefix. But the name, she added, is also reflective of her mission — bringing approachable whole food plant-based meal options to everyone regardless of their diet identity.

“People get really, really heated about the word ‘vegan,’ and I mean, it doesn’t have to mean anything bad,” LeBlanc said. “I’m not all the way vegan, but I do choose to eat whole food plant-based [meals] more often than not. … So much gets lost in the labels because they are loaded terms, with different meanings for people. I want to feed everybody great-tasting, fill-your-belly food that is good in your mouth and even better for your body and the planet.”

LeBlanc found her current kitchen space through a connection with Manchester Housing Authority and will also be feeding lunch twice a week to the residents of the building.

Grilled cheese and roasted tomato soup. Courtesy of The Sleazy Vegan.

The online ordering menu is designed to be approachable and enticing to people of all diets — not just vegans or vegetarians. Popular breakfast options out of the gate have included scrambles and burritos made with Just Egg, a plant-based egg substitute made from mung beans; as well as steel-cut oatmeal with cinnamon and nutmeg, and chia pudding made with oat milk and vanilla.

As for lunch items, LeBlanc’s biggest winners thus far have been the “sleazeballs,” or her take on a meatball sub featuring handmade plant-based meatballs on a hoagie roll; the spicy Thai chickpea wrap, which features a combination of chickpeas and navy beans chilled in a crunchy peanut sauce and dressed with various veggies; and the Buffalo “kitchen” nugget wrap. The play on words with the latter’s name comes from her daughter, Cheyenne, who confused the word ‘chicken’ with ‘kitchen’ as a toddler.

“The product we use for the plant-based ‘chicken nugget’ has a small amount of egg powder in it, so it’s not truly vegan. The taste and flavor are such a great alternative to chicken [that] we still wanted to offer it to folks,” LeBlanc said. “The fact that it’s a ‘kitchen’ nugget is a shy version of a chicken nugget … without me calling it that and offending a bunch of people.”

While certain menu items will be available every week, LeBlanc said she hopes to offer different specials in line with the seasonality of ingredients.

During the Taco Tour she’ll be set up at To Share Brewing Co., offering jackfruit tacos with a mango-jalapeño salsa. The April 19 event, also at the brewery, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 per person and will include a pint of beer and a selection of menu samples of Sleazy Vegan favorites.

Even once the food truck is ready, LeBlanc plans to continue operating out of the ghost kitchen — the goal, she said, is to make The Sleazy Vegan a reputable option for business catering.

“There are tons of businesses that have breakfast and lunch meetings and other events … that get catered all the time,” she said. “As an IT person, I used to be part of these events all the time, and there was nothing I could ever eat except for a salad. … So I really hope to be able to target businesses and I want them to understand that they can offer food [that is for] everyone.”

The Sleazy Vegan
Visit thesleazyvegan.com and click on the “online menu” tab

Where: Local deliveries are available within a 5-mile radius of the SNHU Arena (555 Elm St., Manchester). A food truck is also expected to launch later this year.
When: Wednesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., for breakfast and lunch. Special event catering is also available.

Featured photo: Spicy Thai chickpea wrap. Courtesy of The Sleazy Vegan.

Sweet deal

Greek pastries and custom cakes at new Raymond bakery

Reni Mylonas found success in 2020 as a homestead baker, dabbling in custom-order cakes and tapping into her Greek roots with pastries and cookies. Two years later, the Danville native has expanded into a new storefront in nearby Raymond, offering Greek favorites using recipes passed down in her family, along with other grab-and-go treats.

Agape Cakes & Confections, named after the Greek word meaning “love,” celebrated its grand opening April 9 with a menu of cupcakes, bars, macarons, cake popsicles and more. The new shop is in the Cozy Corner plaza on Route 27, giving Mylonas a permanent spot to sell out of for the first time. She’ll also be making authentic Greek pastries part of her regular lineup of sweets.

“My grandparents were born in Greece … and my dad was as well, so I grew up in a very Greek household,” she said. “I’ve grown up eating all these pastries, so it’s fun to share with everyone and to introduce them to those who haven’t had a chance to try some of them.”

A self-taught cake decorator, Mylonas started baking around the age of 9. She gained experience working in a few local shops along the way, most recently at Love + Flour Bakery in Salem.

When she started Agape not long after the pandemic shutdown, it was friends and family that mostly made up her customer base. Word of her talents quickly spread through social media.

Nearly every day out of the shop’s case, available treats include six-inch and eight-inch cakes; rotating flavors of cupcakes, macarons, bars, and Mylonas’s own homemade Greek baklava.

“I actually individually roll all of the pieces, so they are just like little logs, essentially, as opposed to one full tray that you cut into triangles,” she said. “It’s a bit harder to make, but I find that it’s a better product. … You also don’t want too much syrup, but you want enough where it’s coated on the inside and outside, where it’s almost moist and chewy but in a good way.”

With the help of her grandmother, Mylonas offers galaktoboureko, a custard-filled dessert wrapped in phyllo dough, as well as various types of Greek cookies, like kourabiedes (rose shortbread cookies coated in powdered sugar), koulourakia (butter cookies with a hint of vanilla) and melomakarona (spiced cookies soaked in syrup and topped with walnuts and sugar).

A wholesale area of the shop features ground and bean coffee from Coco’s Coffee, a small-batch single-origin roaster out of East Kingston. Other items for sale include Chocofreta, a brand of imported Greek chocolate bars, as well as honey sesame sticks and Greek evil eye pendants.

“It’s like a protection eye that you can hang up. We have them in our house, or you can put them on a keychain,” Mylonas said of the pendants. “It’s part of our culture [and] it’s meant to deflect negative energy. … I also have some mugs that I sell as a pack with Greek tea cookies.”

Mylonas plans to continue accepting custom cake and cupcake orders while also operating the storefront. Her next business venture for Agape will be in the form of a mobile cupcake trailer, which she hopes to have on the road to rent for private parties, weddings and public events like fairs by this summer.

Agape Cakes & Confections

Where: 59 Route 27, Unit 5, Raymond
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
More info: Visit agapecandc.com, email agape.cakesandconfections@gmail.com, or follow them on Facebook @agapecakesandconfections and Instagram @agape_cakesandconfections

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of Agape Cakes & Confections.

The Weekly Dish 22/04/14

News from the local food scene

Easter sweets: Join Assumption Greek Orthodox Church (111 Island Pond Road, Manchester) for a walk-in Easter bake sale organized by the Ladies Philoptochos Society that’s scheduled for Saturday, April 16, from 9 a.m. to noon inside its church hall. Spinach and cheese petas, Easter bread and Greek cookies and pastries like baklava, kourabiedes, finikia and koulourakia will all be available. For more ideas on how to celebrate Easter Sunday this weekend, check out our annual listings that ran in the April 7 issue; they begin on page 24. You’ll find dozens of special brunch menus and specialty treat offerings at local restaurants and bakeries, as well as candy and chocolate shops that have you covered for those Easter baskets. Go to issuu.com/hippopress and click on the April 7 issue to read the e-edition for free. Contact each establishment directly for the most up-to-date availability on reservations and takeout items.

Cheers to beers: New Hampshire Craft Beer Week wraps up its final days now through Saturday, April 16 — go to nhbrewers.org or follow the Facebook page @nhcraftbeerweek for the most up-to-date happenings, as new events are posted daily. Presented by the New Hampshire Brewers Association, which represents the more than 80 licensed craft breweries statewide, Craft Beer Week celebrates local beer culture with a 10-day stretch of special releases, brewery anniversary parties and other special events, as well as various collaborative social media efforts to keep the community connected and engaged. Tickets are also now available for the Association’s highly anticipated Keep NH Brewing Festival, returning for the first time in three years on Saturday, July 9, at the Everett Arena Waterfront Park in Concord. General admission is from 1 to 4 p.m., with VIP admission an hour earlier, at noon.

Newick’s closes Concord restaurant: Local seafood staple Newick’s Lobster House has permanently closed its Concord location, according to a message recently posted to its Facebook page. “The building did not fit with the direction we are moving, and our lease is coming to an end,” the post reads in part. “We have been looking for a new location but have yet to find one.” The eatery’s original location at Dover Point will remain open, the post said. Visit newicks.com or follow them on Facebook for updates.

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