Birthday boys

Drew Dunn and Saku Yanagawa At Rex

From his early days doing open mic nights in his hometown of Manchester, Drew Dunn has exhibited a tenacious work ethic. On any given night he’d do multiple sets, starting in the Granite State and ending in downtown Boston. Dunn began doing stand-up in 2014 and by 2018 had triumphed in comedy contests on both coasts, in Boston and Seattle.

A year later, in July 2019, he checked off a personal bucket list item with an appearance at Montreal’s venerable Just For Laughs comedy festival, where he killed it, and caught the attention of a top management team, who signed him on.

To borrow a metaphor from Dunn’s days as a rising high school baseball star before an injury cut short the dream, he was destined for the big leagues. Last year, the comic made the move to New York City, where a hard-working comic can do five or six sets on an off night like Monday or Tuesday.

“Just to be able to get the same quality stage time I was getting in New England, but in New York, and to be able to get a higher rate with so many comedy clubs on any night of the week … is a big benefit,” Dunn said by phone recently. “There are shows like that in New England, but they’re few and far between.”

Dunn was poised for the move, which quickly found him doing semi-regular gigs at The Stand, a club that’s booked big name comics like Pete Davidson, Nikki Glaser, Jim Norton and Janeane Garofolo. Preparation was key, along with a need to test himself on a bigger stage. Dunn had established ties to the city, making friends and doing gigs there over the years.

“I didn’t want to restart my career and have to be doing open mics and kind of introduce myself again; I wanted to at least maintain some of the momentum I had in New England at the time,” Dunn said. Facing big-league pitching was catnip to him. “If I can surround myself with and follow these killers, these guys that are doing the things I need to do … that’s the next step in my career.”

A current component of Dunn’s success strategy is frequent visits home for shows like one May 20 at Manchester’s Rex Theatre, where he’ll co-headline with West Coast comic Saku Yanagawa. The show will be filmed for a documentary to be titled Breaking America that will include stops at popular area landmarks like Laconia’s Funspot mega-arcade.

The show falls on both Dunn and Yanagawa’s 30th birthday, another cool element, and one of many things the two have in common. “We’re both born May 20, 1992, we both played baseball our whole lives and started doing stand-up comedy around the same time … just on opposite sides of the planet,” Dunn said. “We met in Seattle in 2018 and always thought it’d be fun to do something like this.”

It’s Dunn’s third time headlining the Palace Theatre-owned venue; he’ll be back in August for another show. Dunn noted he’s been working a lot with Palace comedy booker Jim Roach. “He’s been helping me foster and grow that New England audience … I did Buzz Ball for Greg and The Morning Buzz over the winter,” he said. “The Rex has been good to me [and] I think their goal is to try and get a bit of a younger clientele.”

The birthday bash will be hosted by Boston comic Chris Tabb and include a pair of feature comics, followed by Dunn and Yanagawa each doing, fittingly enough, a 30-minute set. Appearing in front of family and friends just a stone’s throw from where it began is special for Dunn.

“It’s definitely a treat to see the evolution from open mics at Murphy’s Taproom and the Shaskeen Pub, then going down to Boston and eventually kind of having to leave,” he said. “To even be able to do this has been a fun journey, so I’m excited to see what it can turn into.”

Drew Dunn & Saku Yanagawa
When: Friday, May 20, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Rex Theatre, 28 Amherst St., Manchester
Tickets: $25 at

Featured photo: Drew Dunn. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/05/19

Local music news & events

Timely humor: Experience as a source of humor propels Funny Women of a Certain Age, a comedy lineup including Vanessa Hollingshead, Leighann Lord, Julia Scotti and Carole Montgomery, who pitched the idea to Showtime in 2019. “I created this show to give opportunities for women over 50,” she said at the time. “For far too long, being of a ‘certain age’ has been considered the end of a career. I’m helping to change that.” Thursday, May 19, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $35 at

Mixed up: An evening of house and techno music has Low Groove of Deep Tech Recordings, who recently teamed up with Koop for “Sand The Floor.” The label called the new mix “a clever jam with production chops and enough nostalgia to bring us back to our childhood.” Previously, the Maine-based DJ released the full-length Phantom Power in 2018. He’ll do a four-hour set at the downtown nightspot Friday, May 20, 9 p.m., SoHo Bistro & Lounge, 20 Granite St, Manchester,

Park party: Among the many offerings at the Exeter Arts & Music Fest is a singer-songwriter tent hosting an array of local talent, including Dyer Holiday, bluesman Alan Roux, Artty Francouer, David Carson, Tod Hearon, Liz & Pete, and Darien Castro. The main stage has morning yoga with Qwill, Red Tail Hawk, The Bulkheads featuring Adrienne Mack-Davis, a SG603 Groove Lounge, and Cold Engines closing. Saturday, May 21, 11 a.m., Swasey Park, 316 Water St., Exeter,

Urban vibe: A pair of local hip-hop artists are featured in YKLR Showcase, an extension of Manchester-based Xplicit Studios. Nashua-by-way-of-Georgia rapper GMT Marc B, who was featured on fellow Gate City artist BME Bravo’s release Rock Star, co-headlines with Danny Cruz. Rochester-based Young Kings Living Right presents the event. The company is currently recruiting talent for a Miami, Florida, jaunt later in the year. Sunday, May 22, 8 p.m., 603 Bar & Grill, 1087 Elm St, Manchester, $10 at the door, 21+.

Funny lady: After spending five years in Boston doing standup, Jenny Zigrino headed west and found success in films like Bad Santa 2 and 50 Shades of Black, along with guesting on Comedy Central’s @Midnight. A Conan appearance was a turning point. She’s been rising since, doing regular gigs at big-name clubs in California and beyond. Wednesday, May 25, 9 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, $10 at

At the Sofaplex 22/05/19

Senior Year (R)

Rebel Wilson, Sam Richardson.

Also Mary Holland, Zoe Chao, Justin Hartley and Chris Parnell.

In 2002, cheer squad captain Stephanie Conway (Angourie Rice) is days away from achieving her vision of the perfect life: She’ll be going to prom with her handsome boyfriend, Blaine (Tyler Barnhardt), where she fully expects to win prom queen and then they’ll get married and move into her dream house and live happily ever after.

Except at the pre-prom pep rally, Stephanie’s rival Tiffany (Ana Yi Puig) causes a stunt to go wrong and Stephanie lands with such a thud that she’s sent into a coma for 20 years. When she wakes up she’s horrified to learn that the strange 37-year-old woman looking at her is actually Stephanie’s (Wilson) own reflection in the mirror and that the world around her has moved on. Uncertain of what to do with her life, she capitalizes on the fact that her childhood friend Martha (Holland) is now the high school’s principal and she goes back to school to finish the one month left of her senior year. While Martha and Seth (Richardson), another friend from the old days, are still around (Seth is now the school’s library), so is Tiffany (Chao), now married to Stephanie’s old boyfriend Blaine (Hartley) and the mom of Bri (Jade Bender), the school’s new queen bee.

This comedy offers a blend of Big/13 Going On 30-type kid brain in adult body comedy, Strangers With Candy and its inappropriate adult in a high school setting, and the 21 Jump Street movie with its comedy about Gen X/elder millennial-types encountering modern high school culture. It is not quite as smart, funny or sharp as any of those properties, but it has its moments. What Wilson lacks in emotional range she makes up for, to some degree, in willingness to be as ridiculous as the scene requires.

Senior Year isn’t a good movie but it feels like the kind of movie that could hit you at the right moment and be a thoroughly satisfying movie, with its occasionally successful bits of silliness, multiple dance numbers, turn-of-the-millennium jokes and the affability of its cast. C+ Available on Netflix.

Firestarter (R)

Firestarter (R)

Things get toasty when a young girl gets angry in Firestarter, a new adaptation of the Stephen King novel.

Based on some light Wikipedia-ing, this does seem to be an entirely new riff on the book and not some universe-continuation something with the 1984 Drew Barrymore version. There is an early 1980s vibe attached to this movie, even though the first date we see on the screen is from footage of college students Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) and Andy (Zac Efron) being interviewed on some scratchy video from way back in technologically primitive, er, 2008? Also, when we meet little girl Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), she may be pouty about not having wi-fi and smart phones but her clothes seem straight out of the E.T. wardrobe department, which adds to the movie’s overall out-of-time feel.

Vicky and Andy are technology-eschewing parents living in a small Maine town who disagree about whether their middle-school-ish daughter Charlie needs to “push it down and bury it” (Andy’s point of view) or “learn to control it” (Vicky’s preference). The “it” is the catchall for Charlie’s abilities, the most worrisome of which is her ability to start fires with her mind. Or rather, her not-quite-controllable tendency to start fires when she gets really mad. I guess she had been “pushing it down” but lately she finds that peer bullying about her weirdness is getting to her, leading to a little explosion in the school bathroom.

As Vicky and Andy had always feared, this incident puts Charlie on the radar of the government agency that had a hand in the college experiment that gave Vicky and Andy their powers (or heightened preexisting powers or something). Vicky had simply stopped using her telekinesis but Andy had used his ability to psychically “push” people to give people hypnotism-like smoking cessation treatments (but for cash only, one of his many “stay off the grid” procedures). The parents worry that Charlie’s abilities, with her since birth, will make her a test subject (and maybe worse) for the government that will hold her hostage for the rest of her life. They intend to take off, running and disappearing as they always have, but they are not quick enough to escape Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes), another person with superhuman abilities sent by the shady Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben) to bring in Charlie and her parents.

Most of the powers of the people here are activated via staring — there’s a lot of close-ups on eyes, a lot of times we see Charlie squint or glare before something explodes. If a staring-heavy movie is playing it straight (which this movie is), there isn’t going to be a lot of room for deep character insights and subtle performances. Everybody here is basically fine, giving it their mostly-all. Reuben is an entertaining villain-in-a-suit; Efron brings the slightest whiff of humanity to “dad of main character.”

“Low-fi” is the description that settled into my brain about this movie, from the score that had occasional Casio-like notes to the opening credits that gave very Halloween-movies-remake vibes to the wardrobe choices to the pacing to the, well, everything. Perhaps for that reason, the movie never felt like it was asking all that much of me nor did I find myself expecting all that much from it. Slightly above average pizza, $12 per bottle red wine and this movie all feel like they are operating on the same level — sort of comfortable and enjoyable without being in any way stand-out — and feel like they create the natural combination for how this movie is best viewed. You need to watch something/eat something/drink something effort-free after a long week and this movie needs you to be not super picky about plot or acting expectations. C+

Rated R for violent content, according to the MPA on Directed by Keith Thomas with a screenplay by Scott Teems, Firestarter is an hour and 34 minutes long and distributed by Universal Studios in theaters and via Peacock.

Featured photo: Firestarter.

Out of the Corner, by Jennifer Grey

Out of the Corner, by Jennifer Grey (Ballantine, 335 pages)

She had the time of her life. I’m sorry, but it had to be said.

There’s no other way to sum up the gilded, glossy existence of actress Jennifer Grey (best-known for Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), her much publicized problems with her nose notwithstanding.

I came to Grey’s new memoir, Out of the Corner, with exceedingly low expectations, having read too many celebrity memoirs that exist only because the authors are famous. Shockingly, it turns out that Grey can actually write and has entertaining things to say. Granted, some chapters are more riveting than others — she charges out of the starting gate with an essay on her plastic surgery that’s as good as anything I’ve read in months.

Things necessarily slow down when she fills us in on, say, middle school — there’s really no one famous enough to make me care about what their life was like when they had braces and acne. But even then her life was interesting enough (naked people in a hot tub at Larry Hagman’s house, anybody?) to drag us through the wonder years to return to the interesting stuff.

Grey is the daughter of Academy Award performer Joel Grey and Jo Wilder, and the granddaughter of Mickey Katz. She admits that this star lineage earned her “a certain degree of warmth right out of the gate” whenever she met someone in New York or L.A. In New York, she recalls her parents giving star-studded dinner parties and going to a grand Christmas party each year where famous musicians, actors and directors would stand around a grand piano robustly singing show tunes — accompanied by Stephen Sondheim.

“So even though we were Jews and didn’t have our own Christmas tree, we did okay,” she writes in an understated style.

Her parents led glamorous lives and were often gone for weeks, but were fiercely devoted to their family (which included Grey’s younger brother who was adopted). But for all of Grey’s fond memories, there are glimmers of dysfunction — her mother, for example, would at times walk around the house naked in front of her daughter, once told her that she’d tried to commit suicide by putting her head in an oven, and once told Grey that her brother was beautiful but she was “interesting looking.”

It seems like stuff you tell to a therapist, not put out in the world, but it makes for interesting reading, even though it’s unclear what Grey’s motives are, given that her parents, now divorced, are still alive and she doesn’t seem to hate them.

Side note: Grey’s father, who recently turned 90, came out as gay in 2015 at the age of 82. But in her memoir, Jennifer Grey explains how she and her mother found out years before: when the mother of Matthew Broderick, whom Grey was dating at the time, told her.

“It was like a sniper attack,” Grey writes, saying the knowledge “rattled me to my core” — not because of his sexuality, but because of the deception. It was heartache, she wrote, to know that he had to hide an important piece of his life from the people who loved him.

Out of the Corner is filled with deeply personal revelations like that — often wrapped in a tale about a Hollywood superstar. And she provides a backstage pass to all her movies, telling, for example, how she was cast before Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing and had not wanted him to get the part.

But that isn’t why the book is good. It’s good simply on the strength of its writing, which sent me digging through the acknowledgements to see if there was a hidden ghostwriter. Apparently there was not; although Grey credits an editor, Barbara Jones, who worked closely with her, she says that the novelist Dani Sharpiro told her she needed to write the book herself. (Is there anyone she doesn’t know?)

There are also surprisingly mature themes running through the memoir, such as Grey’s mother’s increasing unhappiness as she sets her own talent and ambition aside to support her husband’s career. “I come from a long line of women who became mothers and wives at the expense of the career they wanted.” That said, Grey herself got married and became a mother at the age of 41, an experience, she writes, “that far exceeded my wildest dreams.”

About that nose — Grey writes that her mother’s attitude was “In case of emergency, break nose” and that when she was young, “I had always felt like my nose needed protection, like a kid sister who regularly got bullied on the schoolyard. I was my nose’s keeper.”

But Grey liked how she looked, and she only succumbed to pressure to have it altered after a surgeon told her that a deviated septum had her breathing at only 20 percent of normal capacity. Two procedures later, it did not go well; on a plane, Michael Douglas (there she goes again) didn’t recognize her. A woman working an airline counter looked at her ID and said, “I’ve seen Dirty Dancing a dozen times. I know Jennifer Grey. And you are not her.”

Grey now seems to be deeply at peace with her nose and her life, and for someone who has seen Larry Hagman naked in a hot tub, seems to be shockingly well adjusted, and even, dare I say, wise. Her book is an unexpected summer pleasure, though it helps if you’ve seen the movies. A

Book Notes

The fiction winner has a title that sounds like a Borat movie: The Netanyahus: An Account of A Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family (New York Review Books, 248 pages).

Joshua Cohen’s novel is described as historical fiction, which assigns way too much gravitas to a novel that looks more to be a merry romp through history enlivened by imagination. I plan to read it not because of the Pulitzer, but because of its title.

Yet someone left a one-star review on Amazon and wrote: “Clueless author.” That didn’t age well.

The Pulitzer for biography went to the late Winfred Rembert — and his “as told to” co-author Erin I. Kelly — forChasing Me to My Grave, an Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South (Bloomsbury, 304 pages). The book intersperses photographs of Rembert’s art with his stories of growing up in Georgia in abject poverty amid undisguised racism, his time in prison and his evolution into an acclaimed artist.

No one could vilify this poignant remembrance or author, but there were only 80 ratings on Amazon, an astonishingly low number, compared to, say, 19,000-plus for Stephanie Myers’ Twilight and 23,800 for Jodi Picoult’s Wish You Were Here.

Finally, the prize for general nonfiction went to Andrea Elliott, a staff writer for The New York Times who spent eight years following the life of a homeless Brooklyn child named Dasani. The resulting book is Invisible Child, Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City(Random House, 624 pages).

This one fared better with Amazon readers — 910 ratings, many of whom followed Dasani’s story as it was serialized in the Times. And most found the book engrossing, despite its formidable length. There were Pulitzers awarded for history and poetry, as well, but these three merit your attention — no matter what anyone on Amazon says.

Book Events

Author events

JAMIE RASKIN Author and congressman presents Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Fri., June 3, 11 a.m. Visit or call 224-0562.

R.W.W. GREENE Author presents Mercury Rising. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Fri., May 20, 5:30 p.m. Visit or call 836-6600.

TAMMY SOLLENBERGER Author presents The One Inside: 30 Days to Your Authentic Self. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Wed., June 1, 6 p.m. Visit or call 836-6600.

PAUL DOIRON Author presents Hatchet Island. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Wed., June 29, 6:30 p.m. Visit or call 224-0562.

PAUL BROGAN Author presents A Sprinkling of Stardust Over the Outhouse. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Thurs., June 30, 6:30 p.m. Visit or call 224-0562.

SARAH MCCRAW CROW Author presents The Wrong Kind of Woman. Gibson’s Bookstore, 45 S. Main St., Concord. Tues., July 19, 6:30 p.m. Visit or call 224-0562.

CASEY SHERMAN Author presents Helltown. Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Sun., Aug. 14, 1:30 p.m. Visit or call 836-6600.


DOWN CELLAR POETRY SALON Poetry event series presented by the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. Monthly. First Sunday. Visit

Writers groups

MERRIMACK VALLEY WRITERS’ GROUP All published and unpublished local writers who are interested in sharing their work with other writers and giving and receiving constructive feedback are invited to join. The group meets regularly Email

Writer submissions

UNDER THE MADNESS Magazine designed and managed by an editorial board of New Hampshire teens under the mentorship of New Hampshire State Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary. features creative writing by teens ages 13 to 19 from all over the world, including poetry and short fiction and creative nonfiction. Published monthly. Submissions must be written in or translated into English and must be previously unpublished. Visit for full submission guidelines.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit or call 836-6600.

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

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

Album Reviews 22/05/19

Curse Of Lono, People In Cars (Submarine Cat Records)

Well this is nice, even though I’m not big into Lou Reed. Now, that’s not to say it’s a whole lot like Lou Reed, but that’s the first tangible feel to the third LP from this London band, which, like so many U.K. collaborations, has an obvious fetish for the American South; there’s slide guitar on here, as well as a lot of really agreeable, quite pretty Americana vibe. I suppose I really need to elaborate on the Lou Reed reference, though, just to be clear; singer/bandleader Felix Bechtolsheimer’s voice evokes a dude serenading himself absently while noodling around with his bobblehead collection, in case you need an explainer. So it’s pleasant and unobtrusive in that way, and despite the indefatigably urban PR source that sent me this, it’s very, very accessible and should please fans of Wilco who wouldn’t mind a little more Amos Lee added to that core sound. Not a thing wrong here. A

Focus, “Aether”/”Sequinox” (Dissident Music)

I’m telling you, folks, I’m really trying to support good progressive-house music (and this stuff here isn’t just good, it’s great), but the assumed knowledge on the part of these Beatport-dependent artists (and their utterly incompetent PR flaks) is really getting on my last raw nerve. I’ve already been through two pages of Google trying to get the deets on exactly who this person or soundsystem is, but the only clue I remain left with is a count-’em 180-word blurb sheet that indicates this two-song upcoming-album-tease is the work of one guy who’s from somewhere in Florida, and that’s it. Is it something I’ve never heard before (and mind you, house DJ stuff was what kept me writing for the all-night-club-centric Miami New Times for about a year, like, I really do like it a lot when it’s done well)? No, it is not, but trust me when I say this is up there, meaning Above & Beyond/ Armand Van Helden-level. Beach vibes, lovely synth lines, sexy vocals, all the ingredients in place. Recommended of course, but man, this whole cult needs to lay down some entry-level carpet so that the genre ceases being so insular and unapproachable to newbies. Holy freaking crow. A+


• Uh-oh, it’s May 20 and you know what that means. I mean, I hope you do, because I don’t, all I know is that there will be new albums, and our purpose here is for me to try to hypnotize you so you’ll avoid the bad new albums and just buy the good ones, if there are any. Since my little Jedi mind trick never works anyway, let’s reverse-psychology this thing for once and kick things off with an album that I’d actually recommend, only because it is an album by farm-girl-turned-edgy-goth-queen Zola Jesus, and its title is Arkhon. I’ve talked about her before because I find her quite fascinating; her music combines electronic, industrial, classical and goth into a fricassee of weird, which has gotten her gigs doing her weird act at venues like urban museums and whatnot. She’s guested on songs by Orbital, M83 and Hollywood Vampires, so she’s like one of the coolest people ever born, but she spent a lot of her early life in North Dakota with literally no one around but her parents. I know, that’s how most people are living now anyway, but whatever, what I’m saying is she’s like a David Lynchian version of a ghost girl, and she causes trouble in the music industry whenever she can, so that makes her a good person no matter what this new single, “Lost,” might sound like. As is her habit, the video is a cinematic treasure, there she is, trudging around in the snow with a bunch of sticks, and there are all these weird mountains around, but it could be a scene from someplace that actually exists — yes, it does, the video was shot in Turkey, at Argos in Cappadocia. The music is really epic, a creepy industrial vibe, and she’s singing in a pretty chant style with the echo knob cranked all the way. So she puts down the bundle of sticks, picks up a torch and goes into this mountain cave, and she starts seeing visions of herself as some sort of Turkish goth goddess, and it makes no sense from there, but the song is really cool, kind of New Age-y but goth and spooky. You’ll probably dig it if there’s the slightest trace of cool in your DNA.

• Half the people who saw the movie The Eternals thought it was stupid and had no character development, and the other half were all like, “Cool, another excuse for me to wear my Captain America jammies!” I’m totally sick of Marvel movies and just wish they’d stop, but if you saw The Eternals, you got to see Harry Styles for two seconds, during one of those stupid mid-credits things at the end, you know, when your date really needs to use the bathroom but you can’t because maybe if you don’t wait for the credits to rattle off the 42,858 animators it took to make another one of Marvel’s glorified Popeye cartoons, you’ll miss extra footage. Anyway, Styles is also a boyband tin idol, and he has a new album on the way, called Harry’s House. Since Harry has a fondness for selling out, he loves him some ’80s music (for now), so the first single, “As It Was” commits petty theft against A-ha’s “Take On Me” and then, even with that brainless pop tune serving as its, ahem, template, becomes tedious and trite. OK.

• Wait a second, some good local-ish news, as Methuen, Mass., band Cave In releases its newest LP, Heavy Pendulum, through the mighty Relapse Records label! The singer is kind of normal, kind of Alice in Chains-ish, but the music is doomy and maniacally heavy, think Crowbar and whatnot. Good for these guys.

• We’ll close up shop this week with another actual-good album, Raw Data Feel, from U.K. art-rock band Everything Everything! The song “Bad Friday” is pure genius, a fast-paced vocal thing that reads like a cross between Bone Thugs and Bruno Mars. You should go check this out this instant.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Cookout season is here

Long weekends await; get your beer cooler ready

When I opened up the lid, something flew out or scurried out. I’m still not totally sure. Was it a bird or maybe a chipmunk or something else? The movement was fast, apparently too fast for me to realize what I was seeing.

Regardless of what it was, I think we can be fairly sure it was a pretty good indication I’d left my grill unattended for too long.

Usually I grill pretty much all year long, but for whatever reason, not this past year, and the grill remained dormant for the entire winter and the bulk of the spring. I deserved my rude greeting when I peered inside the lid.

This is all to say that, yes, cookout season is here and you should definitely get your grill ready to go if you haven’t already. You should also start thinking about the beers you want to enjoy during the many, many cookouts you’re likely to attend or host, formally or informally.

Is it a cookout without beer? Only you can answer that question.

Of course, we have Memorial Day weekend bearing down on us and the Fourth of July will be here before we know it, even if it doesn’t seem that way right this minute.

Year-round, I think weather plays a major role in your beer choices. I don’t want to speak for you but on a hot day you’re going to want something light and refreshing. On a cold day, you’re more apt to pick something a bit heavier, a bit more robust.

That goes for cookouts, too. Especially this time of year, the weather is still a crapshoot. Last Friday we were in the 80s but just days before that it was cold and raw as we all tried to properly celebrate our moms.

Your beer choice also depends on time of day, food choices and, you know, what’s in the cooler. A midday cookout generally screams, “grab something light,” to me, whereas an evening cookout calls out more subtly, “go for the double IPA.”

It’s more complex than that, though. How long are you planning on staying? Are you going to eat something while you’re there? (You should.) Are you going to be participating in activities, such as Wiffle ball or volleyball, or maybe something less active, like cornhole?

I tend to think that as your activity level increases at a cookout, the ABV of the beer should decrease. (Do you want to just play iffle ball or would you like to win?)

And, what’s on the menu at this cookout? Are you digging into burgers and dogs, marinated steak tips or chicken breast, or maybe you or the host is grilling up spicy Italian sausage. Give it a second to consider what might be best paired with the food you are eating.

Don’t overthink it, though. You’re at a cookout, after all. Relax and grab a beer.

Here are three New Hampshire beers to enjoy during cookouts this year:

Tie Dyed Dry-Hopped Pale Ale by Great North Aleworks (Manchester)

Light, crisp and hoppy — this goes with everything.

Prater Vienna Lager by Henniker Brewing Co. (Henniker)

As the brewery says, this is “bready and crisp,” and perfect for sipping in between Wiffle ball at-bats.

Mountain Priest by Portsmouth Brewery (Portsmouth)

Dark and earthy but surprisingly light and dry — nice for a relaxing evening cookout or some smoky, sweet barbecue.

What’s in My Fridge
Daytime IPA by Lagunitas Brewing Co. (Petaluma, Ca.)
This comes in at 98 calories and just three carbs and as I’m a man of a certain age, I apparently need to pay attention to such things. And, as such, I decided to give this a try. It was perfectly fine! I mean, this isn’t going to satisfy an ardent IPA enthusiast. But if you’re intrigued by a very light beer with just a touch of hop bitterness, this is worth a shot. It’s only 4 percent ABV so I think you’re allowed to have several. Cheers.

Featured photo. Cookout season is here. Pair with beer. Photo by Marek Mucha.

Spiced date biscotti

This week I have the third and final biscotti recipe in this current series. This recipe is different from the previous two with a delightful amount of spices being a key part of the recipe.

This might lead you to ask: What spices are used in this recipe, and do I need to buy all of them? There are only two spices: cinnamon and ground cloves. While the recipe calls for only half a teaspoon of ground cloves, this spice is a key part of the recipe. Cloves provide an almost peppery bite that makes this biscotti unique.

As your regular cooking may not include this spice, try to find a bulk store where you can buy the tiniest amount. If you have pumpkin pie spice on hand, it makes an acceptable replacement, but you’ll have to be the judge as to the amount you use. You also won’t need to add cinnamon in addition to the pumpkin pie spice.

If you like a cookie with a lot of flavor, go buy some ground cloves and give this recipe a try.

Spiced date biscotti
Makes 30

⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped dates

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1½ Tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer; mix on speed 2 for 3 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined.
Add vanilla, mixing until blended.
Add flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves, stirring until combined.
Add dates, stirring until evenly distributed.
Divide dough in half.
Shape each half into an 8″ x 4″ rectangle, using floured hands.
Set each loaf 2″ apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the dough is set.
Leaving the oven on, remove the biscotti loaves and cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet.
Using a butcher’s knife, cut the loaves into diagonal slices, 3/4″ thick.
Return slices to the cookie sheet with the cut sides down; bake for 10 minutes.
Turn slices over, and bake for 10 minutes more.
Remove biscotti from oven, and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and milk, stirring until smooth.
Using a spoon, drizzle glaze over biscotti.
Glaze should set in 5 to 10 minutes.

Featured Photo: Spiced date biscotti. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Shelly-Anne Storer

Shelly-Anne Storer is the owner of Wild Orchid Bakery (836 Elm St., Manchester, 935-7338,, which opened in its current location last November. A native of Trinidad, Storer is originally from Diego Martin on the island’s northwestern coast, but has lived in the United States since late 2013. Wild Orchid, named after a connection she made between Trinidad and New Hampshire — both have an abundance of wildflower species — features a wide variety of scratch-baked items, from sweeter indulgences like black currant rolls and guava and cream cheese pastries to savory home-cooked meals like corn soup and stewed chicken and curry plates. Storer also has a regularly stocked case of pastries and baked goods, which include her own line of gourmet doughnuts in a variety of flavors. She also fulfills custom cake orders for occasions large and small and, since moving onto Elm Street from a previous spot in Manchester, has expanded her product lineup to include more vegan and gluten-free desserts and savory meals. Prior to opening Wild Orchid, Storer was a cake decorator at Triolo’s Bakery in Bedford up until its permanent closure in May 2020. Earlier this month, she announced a new partnership with Kayley Bowen of O’Regan Breads, who is now offering freshly milled breads, bagels and mixes in house at the bakery.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

My mixer.

What would you have for your last meal?

Doubles [a popular Trinidadian street food], with everything on it. It’s two pieces of fried bara, which is like a fried dough, and then it has a stewed chickpea mix that goes on top of it … and cucumber, cilantro [and] a tamarind chutney. That’s the one thing I miss from home and I would kill for that at any point.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

The Hop Knot is one of my top favorites. It’s almost like a home away from home for me … and the pretzel pizzas are the bomb!

What celebrity would you like to see eating at your bakery?

I would probably freak out if I saw Stephen King. I’ve been watching his movies and reading his books since I was 15.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

The thing that I probably eat the most is my curry chicken empanada. … Like with many things that I create, I only made that because I was hungry, [but] now it’s one of my top sellers.

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

I think doughnuts, especially the vegan and the gluten-free ones, are now getting more attention. … Apart from that, tacos obviously. … We did a doughnut taco for the Taco Tour and it went amazingly well.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

My kids always beg for pancakes. That’s the No. 1 thing for them. When I’m home, I also do a lot of curries and stews, so pretty much what I cook in the bakery. They’re just really good.

Coconut fudge
From the kitchen of Shelly-Anne Storer of Wild Orchid Bakery in Manchester

4 cups coconut milk
2 cans (14 ounces each) condensed milk
Pinch of salt
2 pounds granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons margarine or butter

Combine coconut milk, condensed milk, salt and sugar, and cook to the softball stage (when the mixture takes the shape of a ball and pulls away from the pan). Remove from heat and add the margarine/butter. Mix until the candy loses its gloss. Pour into a greased 8×8” pan. Let it cool, then cut into squares. Store in a sealed container in a cool dry place.

Featured photo: Shelly-Anne Storer. Courtesy photo.

On a roll

Fresh lobster rolls, Italian sausages and more from new Nashua-based food truck

It’s not hard to figure out what’s on the menu of Donali’s Food Truck once you see its design. Featuring a large lobster on the side of the truck holding an Italian sausage sub roll in its claw, this land-and-sea concept is uniquely New England — lobster rolls and Italian sausages, cooked fresh with local ingredients, are the cornerstones of its offerings alongside other rotating specials.

The truck’s name is an amalgamation of the names of founders and business partners Donnie White of Nashua and Ali Zosherafatain, the latter of whom also owns Fishbones Restaurant in Chelmsford, Mass. Donali’s hit the road for the first time last month and is now a regular presence at both Boston Billiard Club & Casino in Nashua and Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. in Merrimack.

Originally from the Medford and Everett, Mass., areas, White used to sell sausages in front of the former Boston Garden. He ended up moving to Nashua about two decades ago for a job in radio before switching fields to various jobs in sales and marketing.

White’s interest in launching his own food truck stemmed from a trip to Key West, Florida, where he purchased a sausage cart after a chance encounter with a local vendor.

Italian sausage sub with peppers and onions
Italian sausage sub with peppers and onions. Photo courtesy of Donali’s Food Truck.

“Ali and I … ended up having to go down to Hammonton, New Jersey, to get some parts for my sausage cart to see if I could get this thing going,” he said. “We jump on a plane, fly down, and we roll in and there’s all these food trucks there. … They’re building all these big ones for Disney and Ikea and Chick-fil-A, and I just was like, ‘Man, I want one of these!’”

Although his menu is simple, White is very particular about his selected ingredients. His lobster rolls, for instance, use claw, knuckle and tail meat, all of which come freshly shucked every day, never frozen, from Boston Sword & Tuna. The rolls, sourced from Piantedosi Baking Co. out of Malden, Mass., are toasted on both sides and lathered with Kerrygold brand Irish butter.

The Italian sausages, meanwhile, come from Bianco & Sons, hailing from White’s hometown of Medford. He has offered 8-inch subs featuring multiple flavors of sausage from hot or sweet to garlic and cheese, prepared with freshly sliced peppers and onions. Other staples of Donali’s menu have included Philly cheese steak subs, smash burgers and barbecue chicken sandwiches, and White also has plans to soon begin dabbling in some taco and breakfast sandwich options.

In addition to Boston Billiard Club and Able Ebenezer Brewing Co., more featured locations likely coming soon are also in the works, including at some public events — exact dates and times are regularly updated to a schedule on Donali’s website and social media pages.

Donali’s Food Truck
Where: Donali’s Food Truck can be found at Boston Billiard Club & Casino (55 Northeastern Blvd., Nashua) and at Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. (31 Columbia Circle, Merrimack) most Fridays and Saturdays — exact dates and times vary; see website for its full schedule. The truck also regularly participates in public and private events.
More info: Visit, find them on Facebook and Instagram @donalifoodtruck or call 897-9714

Featured photo: Food truckers Ali Zosherafatain and Donnie White at a recent event. Photo courtesy of Donali’s Food Truck.

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