Goners back

John Hiatt returns with beloved band

For his 1987 album Bring The Family, John Hiatt had a band of heavy hitters: guitarist Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe playing bass, and drummer Jim Keltner. But he knew they wouldn’t be with him to tour in support of that career-defining disc. So when Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson suggested he seek out Sonny Landreth, Hiatt listened.

“He spoke of him in terms of, ‘He’s the other slide guitar player,’” Hiatt recalled in a recent phone interview. “He knew Ry wasn’t coming out with us, so he was recommending Sonny as the other guy who could do the job…. Indeed, it turned out to be the case.”

Landreth brought a rhythm section of David Ranson and Ken Blevins to audition for Hiatt, a process that took one run through “Memphis In The Meantime” to complete. After months on the road elevating that and other Bring The Family tunes, the band, now called The Goners, went into the studio with iconic producer Glyn Johns to make Slow Turning.

The band reunited in 2018 to celebrate that album’s 30th anniversary. Now, fresh from touring with Jerry Douglas in support of their 2021 collaboration Leftover Feelings, Hiatt is back with his old group and an expanded setlist that includes songs from the two albums they made together in the early 2000s, The Tiki Bar is Open and Beneath This Gruff Exterior.

“We’re extending out to them, with the exception of the first A&M album (Family); but we toured that so extensively it feels like it’s theirs in my mind,” he said. “Mainly drawing from those four, and there are things included in those records that I haven’t played in a long time. So we’re kind of excited about that.”

Asked about the ease with which his infrequent touring unit gets back into form, Hiatt chuckled. “We’ll see,” he said. “We don’t like rehearsing too much — save it for the night. We’re kind of a weird, I don’t know, punk band — except for Sonny, who’s a virtuoso. The rest of us are good at what we do, but we just do one or two knuckleheaded things.”

Along with his own output, other artists have recorded Hiatt’s tunes extensively, from Three Dog Night to Bonnie Raitt, whose version of “Thing Called Love” helped reboot her career. Bob Dylan did Hiatt’s “The Usual” for the soundtrack to Hearts of Fire. Hiatt can’t name a favorite, though hearing the Neville Brothers do “Washable Ink” stands out. “Because I love them so much … but there’s been a lot of thrills, spills and chills getting songs covered.”

As to his own songs, Hiatt is taciturn. “They’re like kids [and] you don’t have a favorite child — it’s against the law,” he said. “I love them all; they grow up and go out, and some of them excel in different ways than others. But again, it’s like children — you love them all until the bitter end.”

With two dozen albums spread across almost 50 years, Hiatt allows that the muse is easier to summon as he approaches age 70 and awaits the birth of his first grandchild, courtesy of daughter Georgia Rae — but only a little bit.

“The biggest problem I think you have to get by is you gotta get past that guy, John Hiatt, who writes songs,” he said. “I do remember when I was younger and I got a little bit of notoriety, the sort of modest career that I’ve had, you kind of get scared by your own ghost, you know? So in that respect, I think it’s easier. But they’re maybe fewer and farther between.”

That said, he has enough new material for a record and hopes to hit the studio sometime in the next six months. “I don’t know what it will be, if I’ll do it acoustic, just me,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to make just a solo record.”

The upcoming tour has Hiatt considering another possibility. “I have thought about getting The Goners back together with Glyn Johns and making a record,” he said, rising at the notion that watching the Get Back documentary may be part of his inspiration.

“Wasn’t he amazing in that?” he said of Johns, who also helmed the follow-up to Slow Turning, 1990’s Stolen Moments. “And no different, no different — that’s what’s so great about him. I mean, we’re no Beatles, and he was a much younger man, but he was just as forthcoming and easy going with us back in ’88 as he appeared to be on the Let It Be tapes. He’s a great guy; he’s holding a lot of cards.”

John Hiatt & the Goners Featuring Sonny Landreth w/ Chris Trapper
When: Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m.
Where: Colonial Theatre, 609 Main St., Laconia
Tickets: $49 and up at etix.com

Featured photo: John Hiatt. Photo by David McClister.

The Music Roundup 22/06/23

Local music news & events

Piano double: Led by doppelganger Ben Eramo, Cold Spring Harbor offers a very convincing evening of Billy Joel’s music. Eramo began at his baby grand as a 4-year-old. He became enamored of Joel at age 11, when his piano teacher gave him the song “My Life” to learn, and he did so quickly. Thus inspired, he then continued to work his way through the rest of the Piano Man’s songbook. Thursday, June 23, 8 p.m., LaBelle Winery, 14 Route 111, Derry, labellewinery.com.

Blues & country: A touring performer since his teen years, James Armstrong is steeped in blues music. In his 20s, the guitar slinger became the youngest member of Smokey Wilson’s band and went on to form Mama Roo before getting signed to marquee label High Tone Records, home to Robert Cray and Joe Louis Walker. “Harvard Square busker turned rising goddess of twang” Ashley Jordan opens. Friday, June 24, 8 p.m., Lakeport Opera House, 781 Union Ave., Laconia, $30 and up at lakeportoperahouse.com.

Big four: The final performer of the 47th annual Market Days Festival, Andrew North & the Rangers are celebrating their fourth year together with new music. The Hippo called their 2020 debut album, Phosphorescent Snack, a multitracked gem, with elements of funk, soulful pop and progressive jazz, as if “Steely Dan meets Frank Zappa at a 1969 Chicago Transit Authority listening party.” Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m., Hometown Stage, Bicentennial Square, Concord, full schedule at marketdaysfestival.com.

Crescent combo: Among its achievements over a quarter century together, Galactic has appeared at its hometown New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 22 times. They’ve also brought their signature funk and soul sound to the Bonnaroo and Coachella festivals, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live and provided the soundtrack for the movie Now You See Me. Singer Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph became the band’s newest member in 2019. Sunday, June 26, 7 p.m., Cisco Brewers, 35 Corporate Dr., Portsmouth, $30 at portsmouthnhtickets.com.

Side hustle: Led by twice Grammy-nominated Scott Sharrard, Eldorado Slim is a step away from the guitarist’s work as music director for the late Gregg Allman’s band and his current gig in Little Feat. The group exudes an analog vibe with a Hammond B-3 organ, percussion, drums and a horn section, with music inspired by vintage acts like Eddie Harris, King Curtis and Chico Hamilton. Wednesday, June 29, 7:30 p.m., Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club, 135 Congress St., Portsmouth, $30 and up at jimmysoncongress.com.

Lightyear (PG)

Lightyear (PG)

Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear is stuck on a vine-and-bug-filled planet but he still seeks to go “to infinity and beyond” in Lightyear, Pixar’s thought experiment about the origins of Buzz Lightyear.

Not the Toy Story Tim Allen-voiced toy Buzz Lightyear who was beloved by human child Andy and became best friends with fellow toy Woody. This is the character that toy was based on, as a title card explains, and we are watching the movie that Andy watched. So we in the audience are — in the Toy Story universe? It’s a concept that sort of pulls you through the looking glass if you think about it too hard.

Here, Buzz (voice of Chris Evans) and fellow Space Ranger Alisha Hawthorne (voice of Uzo Aduba) are crew members aboard a giant spaceship that is, I think, searching for life throughout the galaxy. He decides to investigate a promising-looking Goldilocks zone-type planet but this peaceful-seeming world is full of giant attack bugs and aggressive vines that try to pull people and the ship under the dirt. Buzz and Alisha, who along with a rookie (voice of Bill Hader) have gone exploring on the planet, barely make it back to the ship. When they take off, the pull of the vines makes the launch trajectory less than perfect, but Buzz is determined to clear a large mountain that the ship is suddenly heading right for.

And he almost does.

The crystal fuel cell that allows the ship to take off and to reach hyperspace traveling speeds breaks in the attempt to launch. Alisha tells her friend that they’ll wake up the scientists and other crew members in cryosleep and use the planet’s resources to regroup. After about a year, it seems that they have. Buzz boards a jet-ish spaceship to test a new fuel cell and slingshots around the planet’s nearby sun. But the fuel cell doesn’t quite make it up to speed and he returns to the planet to find that while he has only aged a few minutes the people back on the ground have aged four years.

Buzz is shocked — one crew member suddenly has a large beard, Alisha is engaged. But Buzz is determined to keep working on the fuel cell to try to fix the situation (the stranding of the ship, landing on the planet in the first place) that he feels deeply responsible for. So he goes up again and again. And comes back to learn that Alisha and her now-wife are expecting a baby, and then after a few more missions sees them celebrating their son’s graduation and then their celebrating their own multi-decade anniversary with their grown son and his partner looking on. And then one time Buzz comes back to find not Alisha but a recorded message she has left for him.

Through the decades (for everybody else) that only read as days or maybe weeks to Buzz, his constant non-aging companion is Sox (voice of Peter Sohn), a robot cat from Alisha. During one of Buzz’s brief stays, Sox asks what he can do to help Buzz out and Buzz offhandedly says Sox could figure out the whole fuel cell re-creation conundrum. It’s a big job, but Sox does have a lot of alone time in Buzz’s seldom-visited apartment.

While Buzz is laser-focused on getting off the planet and getting everyone “home” — to include a great many people who are probably a generation or two removed from wherever home was — the people on the planet seem to have largely lost interest in the fuel cell problem and are more focused on making life better there. Buzz takes one more desperate mission to prove that he can get the ship going again, but finds himself returning to a society facing threats from a mysterious ship and a bunch of robots called Zurg. Fighting the Zurg is a young woman with a familiar last name: Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer), the now twentysomething granddaughter of Buzz’s old friend Alisha.

Sox, the movie’s standout supporting character, helps to amp up the kid-friendly silliness of the movie, which features a lot of adults talking. I’ve felt that some recent Pixar movies — Soul and Toy Story 4 come to mind — feel so invested in adulty-seeming characters and their adult, midlife problems about career fulfillment or being an empty-nester that I didn’t see the kid appeal of the story. Here, while there is a lot about Buzz learning to face up to a mistake and move on from it and learning to be part of a team, I feel like the movie approaches these rather complex concepts in kid-accessible ways. How do you deal with a mistake that you made without letting that mistake consume you? How do you live life from where you are now and move forward? I found myself being impressed with how the movie delivered these concepts in a way that I think kids (dealing with not making their travel soccer team or being in a different class from their bestie) will get, emotionally, even if it’s not something they could express in words.

Lightyear is, of course, beautiful to look at. It has a few truly lovely moments in space and in the sky. In particular, there is a shot with clouds that was stunning in the same way that the rendering of water in the short Piper was, where I may have actually said “wow” out loud.

Lightyear doesn’t grab you by the heart like recent Pixar offerings Turning Red or Luca. And while there’s nothing too frightening for younger kids — there are some scary robots, many of whom are also goofy, and some giant spiders — I did wonder if there was enough silliness or bounciness for kids younger than, say, 7 or 8 (Common Sense Media rated the movie as being for 6+ and they tend to be fairly accurate in their age assessments in my experience). It’s a nice movie, in the kindness sense, without being particularly delightful, and it’s a fun movie while still having moments that feel, if not sluggish exactly, just not as peppy as they could be.

Lightyear is not the most memorable Pixar offering but a perfectly acceptable option for families looking for entertainment and air conditioning. B

Rated PG for action/peril, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Angus MacLane with a screenplay by Angus MacLane (based on characters by Pete Docter & Andrew Stanton & Joe Ranft), Lightyear is an hour and 40 minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Studios in theaters.

Featured photo: Lightyear.

Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday, 386 pages)

There are a lot of things to appreciate about this debut novel from Bonnie Garmus: The story is original, the writing is engaging and the cast of characters is mainly quirky and fun. Well, except for most of the men. And therein lies one of the problems with this book.

Lessons in Chemistry is fiercely devoted to the idea that women in 1960s California were treated entirely unfairly and had no opportunities for careers outside of the home, and that men were generally awful humans who had zero respect for women and were successful only because they were born male.

The book centers on chemist Elizabeth Zott, who works with an otherwise all-male team at Hastings Research Institute, where she doesn’t feel her work is respected. Prior to that job, Elizabeth was trying to get her Ph.D. but was sexually assaulted and kicked out of the program after defending herself with what must have been a pretty sharp pencil. So she has a particularly strong point of view about the male species and equality. Fair.

“Elizabeth Zott held grudges … mainly reserved for a patriarchal society founded on the idea that women were less. Less capable. Less intelligent. Less inventive. A society that believed men went to work and did important things … and women stayed at home and raised children.”

But then she meets Calvin Evans, a renowned scientist who appreciates Elizabeth’s intelligence and passion for the sciences. His character is reminiscent of The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper, with his academic genius far superior to his emotional intelligence and ability to understand human behavior and societal norms. But he is a champion of Elizabeth almost from the start, despite her oft-exaggerated views on life.

“‘You’re saying,’ he said slowly, ‘that more women actually want to be in science.’

She widened her eyes. ‘Of course we do. In science, in medicine, in business, in music, in math. Pick an area.’ And then she paused, because the truth was, she’d only known a handful of women who’d wanted to be in science or any other area for that matter. Most of the women she’d met in college claimed they were only there to get their MRS. It was disconcerting, as if they’d all drunk something that had rendered them temporarily insane.

‘But instead,’ she continued, ‘women are at home, making babies and cleaning rugs. It’s legalized slavery.’”

Not to be too dramatic or anything.

Elizabeth has self-righteous tendencies and can be annoying at times. There are some contradictions in the book too; Elizabeth spends so much time talking about how she deserves equality, yet she ends her cooking show, Supper at Six, with “Children, set the table. Your mother needs a moment to herself.” So fathers can’t be home cooking? If the point here is equality, shouldn’t it work both ways?

Still, Elizabeth as host of the show is one of the author’s more clever moves; Elizabeth takes the job begrudgingly when life seems to leave no other option, and she uses it as a forum to bolster the spirits and promote the intelligence of the housewives who are watching. She uses scientific formulas in her recipes and encourages women to do more and be more. The problem is, she isn’t likable (in my opinion — as of this writing, the book has a 4.4-star review on Goodreads, so I’m not necessarily in the majority here). I had a hard time believing that anyone would watch her show; she comes across as smart, yes, but not personable. She speaks like the scientist she is, and it’s not relatable dialogue. No one who is not a scientist — man or woman — would know what she’s talking about most of the time, and it’s not like Google existed back then to figure it out.

The book’s other “lesson in chemistry” — the chemistry between Elizabeth and Calvin — is short-lived. Their relationship was the highlight of the story to me, but it ends abruptly, and the plot disappointingly transitions to its heavy-hitting feminist focus. Calvin’s character becomes less about his impact on Elizabeth’s life and more about a convoluted subplot regarding his family history, an adoption mystery and the funding of scientists.

There are some fascinating characters, like Elizabeth and Calvin’s daughter Mad, and Mad’s babysitter Harriet, both of whom add depth and refreshingly different points of view to the book. And then there’s Six-Thirty, Elizabeth and Calvin’s dog, who learns to understand hundreds of words that Elizabeth teaches him. I appreciate the purpose of that message — anyone, and any dog, can do anything! — in the context of this book, and it’s mostly delivered well, through the eyes of other characters, like Elizabeth (who thinks it just makes sense that a dog could learn any words) or Harriet (who thinks Elizabeth is strange). But there are a few random, abrupt moments in the book where we’re seeing things from Six-Thirty’s point of view, and I found it a bit off-putting. His perspective didn’t seem to add anything to the story and, to me, it just slowed down the flow.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the first half of the book. The second half was missing, well, chemistry. Elizabeth is a better character alongside Calvin, which is likely the opposite of what Garmus was aiming for, her message seemingly being that women don’t need men. That message might have gone over better if Elizabeth were the least bit happy and hadn’t been described in the first few pages of the book as “permanently depressed” and “ashamed” of her job as a TV host — it’s hard to cheer for a bitter “hero.” C+Meghan Siegler

Book Notes

Nora Ephron’s most famous films were When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, but it was Heartburn, not insomnia, that made her famous.

A novel loosely based on her breakup with Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame, Heartburn (Knopf, 179 pages) was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and began the transformation of Ephron from journalist to screenwriter and director, although she never stopped writing books. Her 2006 book of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck (Knopf, 137 pages), was a droll reflection on aging.

Ephron would be pleased that her neck is concealed in the photo on the cover of the new book about her life. Nora Ephron, a Biography (Chicago Review Press, 304 pages) is by Kristin Marguerite Doidge, a journalist who combed through Ephron’s own writing and interviewed colleagues such as Tom Hanks and Martin Short.

Meanwhile, the ex who inadvertently launched Ephron’s Hollywood career published his own memoir this year: Chasing History, a Kid in the Newsroom (Henry Holt & Co., 384 pages). His work with Woodward at The Washington Post resulted in the 1974 book and subsequent film All The President’s Men, which was consequential in bringing down a president, Richard Nixon.

Incredibly, it’s the 50th anniversary of the Watergate scandal (although Nixon didn’t resign until 1974), which means that Woodward and Bernstein are making the rounds on news shows. There’s also a new history of Watergate called, quite redundantly, Watergate, a New History (Avid Reader Press, 832 pages) by Garrett Graff.

Did we need a new Watergate history? “The answer turns out to be yes,” writes Len Downie Jr., but he’s a former Washington Post editor, so take that with a grain of salt.

Meanwhile, if you’d rather not revisit the Nixon years, go back even further in time to The Monster’s Bones (W.W. Norton, 288 pages), promising nonfiction by David K. Randall. It’s about the discovery of the first T-rex skeleton in Hellcreek, Montana, in 1902, and how this fueled our fascination with dinosaurs — and natural history museums. —Jennifer Graham

Book Events

Author events

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

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


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

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 pembrokenhtownlibrary@gmail.com.

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. 844 Elm St., Manchester. Visit bookerymht.com/online-book-club or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit gibsonsbookstore.com/gibsons-book-club-2020-2021 or call 224-0562.

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

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

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

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



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

Album Reviews 22/06/23

Chastity Brown, Sing to the Walls (Red House Records)

The long and short of this album is that it’s like Adele but with approximately 564 times more soul. Like everyone else’s, Brown’s world slowed to a crawl when Covid hit, and as a bonus she got to watch the horror of the Minneapolis riots unfold from her place in the city (we probably all have a story or two from those days, don’t we, when we were all still trying to get an understanding of exactly what Covid is, and suddenly there’d be something afoot right on our doorstep that scared us silly?). As a Black woman, she’s got plenty of anger to burn from those days (and these days, for that matter), but the songs here are Americana-steeped easy listening neo-soul for the most part, slow pensive beats combining with seriously good songwriting to make for a really comforting, Roberta Flack-ish vibe. Nothing wrong with this record from my seat; I’d recommend it for fans of both Adele and Amy Winehouse. A+

Todd Marcus Orchestra, In the Valley (Stricker Street Records)

Ack, my envy’s really acting up thanks to this one. I started listening to this, the nine-piece jazz group’s first album since 2015’s Blues For Tahrir, without having first read the blab sheet and was tooling around with something else I had to do, so the goodly amount of dissonance had me grimacing a little; if you’ve read this column for basically any amount of time, you’re aware that I prefer my jazz the way I like my coffee, bold but not too obtrusive. Turns out, though, that clarinetist/bandleader Marcus is a frequent visitor to Egypt, the one place I’ve always wanted to see and probably never will now that Covid’s all but officially endemic. Anyway, Marcus’ dad is Egyptian, and like I said, he’s been there a lot, darn him, and the previous album was largely inspired by the 2011 Arab Spring movement, whereas this one focuses more on the history and nuances of the country. Hence you’ll hear quite a few turns that sound cobra-charmer-ish (the closing title track especially), but don’t turn up your nose yet; there’s plenty of nicely written straightforwardness in the form of modern jazz, post-bop, etc. A niche product that’ll enchant certain ears, obviously. A


• This Friday, June 24, is the next date for new CD releases, and wow, look at this, folks, it’s Closure/Continuation, the new album from British prog-rock band Porcupine Tree! It’s funny this came up now; a few weeks ago I was on the phone with an old bandmate of mine, and he said he totally loves this band and was planning to drop $400 to see them play someplace, I forget where. If you’re interested, I myself wouldn’t pay $400 to see any band, ever, unless there was a working time machine involved and I could see Al Jolson play at some club around 1931 or so, but my homie loves Porcupine Tree so much that he’s going to pay $400 and he’s going to this show by himself because no one else would do something that crazy. But to each his own, and just to reassure myself that I wasn’t a fool for not spending $400 to see these guys, I looked into their oeuvre on YouTube, and sure enough, their big-ish 2009 single, “Time Flies,” is indeed very cool, providing instant proof, at least to me, that the dearly departed Minus The Bear stole some ideas from them. Anyhow, this band has been around since 1987; they broke up for 10 years between 2010 and 2021, so this is a reunion album of sorts that features all the original members except for bassist Colin Edward. The most recent single at this writing is “Of The New Day,” a chill song with a decidedly mature edge reminiscent of Disco Biscuits but without the goofy funk samples. To be honest it mostly reminds me of the local band Vital Might, not that you’ve heard of them, or Disco Biscuits either, for that matter. Little bit of Pink Floyd going on with this band, before I forget to mention it.

• Well, here’s a blast from the past; it’s surf-rocker Jack Johnson, with his eighth LP, Meet The Moonlight, his first since 2017’s All the Light Above It Too. Johnson’s a pretty cool guy as guys come, always pretty happy (who wouldn’t be if they spent a lot of time surfing in Hawaii and elsewhere?), known to support and donate to such causes as Amnesty International, things like that; his most popular single was 2010’s “You And Your Heart,” a likable-enough unplugged Bonnaroo-begging campfire-indie sing-along that you’ve surely heard at one time or another. As for the new record, the leadoff single is the title track, a — spoiler alert — mellow surf-folk tune that’s a little bit Red Hot Chili Peppers and a little bit Beck, nothing groundbreaking but nothing to sneeze at either.

• Huh, look at this, my little 4chan trolls, it’s a new album from punkish Russian chick-rocker Regina Spektor, called Home Before And After! I’m sure there’ll be something fun on here; remember when she did the theme song to Orange Is The New Black, and it was kind of awesome? I mean I’m sure I’ll like the new single, “Becoming All Alone,” let’s go see. OK, it’s a poppy ballad-ish tune that’s reminiscent of 1970s radio-pop lady Maria Muldaur. Nice and catchy, this, but it’s not punky, so forget everything I said in the first part of this blurb.

• We’ll wrap this week up with Canadian “post-hardcore” crazies Alexisonfire, whose new LP, Otherness, will be here before you can say, “I sure hope this doesn’t sound like Good Charlotte, please don’t be another band that sounds like Good Charlotte.” OK, it doesn’t, it really is some sort of attempt to make “post-hardcore” music if you ask me, like it’s very yell-y but it’s also kind of doom-metalish. It’s neat, like if Imagine Dragons were an actual rock ’n’ roll band with “Anarchy” T-shirts and stuff instead of, well, whatever you’d call Imagine Dragons

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).

Para paella

Wines to go with this Spanish dish

My wife and I gather monthly for “wine dinners” with friends. As one would expect, the recurring event has a history that evolved over time. It began well before the pandemic hit when Tek Nique held monthly dinners, pairing selected wines with a five-course dinner. It was a great opportunity to learn about a line of wines and how the chef interpreted the wines, pairing them with exquisite American gourmet cuisine. The restaurant closed and the pandemic turned the world on end, but the camaraderie of the group remained strong. During the pandemic, there were any number of Zoom sessions with wine distributors selecting wines the group tasted and then critiqued over the joint Zoom meeting. During the months with fair weather, we gathered for “patio parties” with themes selected by the hosts. This month, we will host the group. We will serve La Paella.

Paella is one of the first things that comes to mind in Spanish cuisine. Its origins lie along the Mediterranean coast in Valencia and Catalonia. Paella is all about the rice — it must be a short-grain rice, high in starch. The best rice to use is bomba if you can find it; I use arborio, a close second. Next in importance is the pan. Paella must be cooked over high heat, uncovered, in a shallow pan. The ingredients in a paella can be a multitude, but the key ingredient is the sofrito, a sauté of vegetables, including onion, garlic, sometimes peppers, but always tomatoes. Olive oil, pimentón, and that element that defines paella, saffron! Beyond that, paella can be vegetarian, Valenciana (seafood and beans instead of rice), or my favorite, a mixed poultry and seafood paella.

What kind of wine do you pair with such rich and varied flavors, with the minerality that saffron imparts? First, I am a strong believer in cooking with wine, and it need not necessarily be added to the food! There are many wonderful cavas produced in northern Spain.

Segura Viudas Cava Brut (available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets for $14.99, reduced to $12.99) has a wonderful light, almost transparent color of straw. The vineyard has made history for 800 years and is one of the most awarded brands in wine and cava tasting, nationally and internationally. Made from 50 percent macabeo, 30 percent xarel-lo and 20 percent parellacia grapes, the wine has an elegant and persistent nose of tiny bubbles, delivering an aroma of dried white peaches, citrus, a bit of honey, and floral notes. It has a long, dry finish, luring you on to sip more and more while you prepare your sofrito.

For those who want something “light and bright” I suggest two whites. The Duquesa de Valladoid Rueda (available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets for $16.99, reduced to $14.99) has a pale straw color, with slight green hues. On the nose there are herbal aromas with hints of citrus flowers and minerality. Fresh and crisp on the palate, it features the acidity characteristic of the verdejo grape. It is akin to sauvignon blanc, but better. The other comes in a very colorful bottle: The Bodegas Langa Pi (available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets for $21.99) comes from Aragón. This wine is made from garnacha blanc grapes, a new varietal to me! It has notes of citrus, pear and honey. It is exceedingly dry with intense flavor and a long finish.

Rounding out our wine pairings are two reds. Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha (available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets for $19.99, reduced to $17.99) is made from 100 percent garnacha grapes. It has an intense red color, with a slight purple rim. To the nose the fruit is ripe, with slight floral notes. To the tongue blackberry and plum predominate. Marques de Murrieta Reserva 2015 Rioja (available at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets for $31.99, reduced to $28.99) is a blend of 80 percent tempranillo, 12 percent graciano, 6 percent mazuello and 2 percent garnacha. This is a truly elegant wine, aged for 18 months in oak, obtaining high marks from Wine Spectator and Robert Parker. These reds are light and will not overpower the seafood and poultry in the paella but will work well with the minerality of the saffron.

Experiment! Expand your boundaries. Don’t be intimidated! Prepare a paella and try some wonderful Spanish wines. You will be glad you did!

Featured photo. Courtesy photo.

Take five

It’s been a long, cold, and lonely winter.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that you are a teacher. You’ve finally broken down your classroom, covered all your bookcases with paper and answered the last of the emails from angry parents. Or, hypothetically, you’ve just pulled your last shift for the week at the convenience store, waiting on increasingly angry customers, who have never learned to say “Please” or “Good morning” and want to know why you, personally, have raised the price of gas.

Or, hypothetically, you’ve wrapped up another week at the DMV where—

You know what? Let’s just stipulate that you are feeling worn out and a little bit battered, emotionally, and now you’ve got a few precious hours to yourself to sit on the deck, or wallow around in an inflatable pool, and get your Cool back.

Because you are cool. You have distinct memories of being cool, sometime in the distant past. “You’re so cool!” somebody told you once. Or you think they did. Or was that a movie? It might be Samuel L. Jackson or Helen Mirren you are thinking of.

Anyway, you know that there is some cool floating around somewhere and you’re pretty sure you can absorb it, if you can just unclench your shoulders and let it soak into you.

Here’s an unsolicited suggestion of how to do that.

Step 1 – Music

Put on “Take 5” by Dave Brubeck or “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert.

I know — this isn’t your usual music; it’s something you imagine some old, not-cool person would listen to. Trust me on this. You can listen to your regular country or heavy metal or Mongolian opera later. For now you need this very specific type of jazz. Remember that shoulder-unclenching we talked about before? This will help you do it.

Step 2 – Take Your Shoes Off

Do it. Even if you’ve been wearing sandals all day, sitting in bare feet will send a message to your clenching parts.

Step 3 – Drink This (It’s a Process)

Take Five


  • 2 ounces mango-infused rum (see below)
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce rhubarb syrup (see below)
  • 1 bottle or can of your favorite seltzer — I like Topo Chico

Combine the rum, lemon juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker, and shake over ice.

Pour into a tall Collins glass. Top with seltzer.

This will be sweet and tart and definitely like something somebody cool would drink, except—

Maybe? Maybe, it’s a little too sweet and boozy?

Take another sip to be sure.

Yup, just a little too concentrated. But, hey! Look at that! There’s an inch or so of room at the top of the glass now, for more seltzer. Top it off again.

Now, it’s perfect. **Sip, sip**

Oh — and look! There’s a little more room in the glass; better top it off again.

Still perfect. Slightly different, but absolutely delightful. **Sip, sip**

And again.

Eventually, you’ll run out of seltzer, which would be a really good excuse to make a second drink.

This time, try listening to Louis Armstrong sing, “Just One of Those Things.” Trust me.

Mango-Infused Rum

Combine 4 cups of white rum with 5 ounces or so of dried mango in your blender. Blend it to a rough-smoothie consistency.

Let the mixture steep for an hour or so, then strain it through a fine-meshed strainer and bottle. The mango will hold onto a fair amount of the rum, but you will be left with a beautiful, apricot-colored alcohol that will look really good in your liquor cabinet and taste like reggae music.

Rhubarb Syrup

Combine an equal amount, by weight, of frozen diced rhubarb and white sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb gives up its juice and the syrup mixture comes to a boil.

Remove from the heat, cover, and allow it to steep for one hour.

Strain through a fine-meshed strainer, pressing on the rhubarb to encourage any additional liquid to drain out.

Bottle the syrup, and keep it in your refrigerator. Add the juice of one lemon to the rhubarb, and eat it on ice cream.

Featured photo. Photo by John Fladd.

Mexican corn off the cob

Summer is here, and with that comes a variety of local produce. Although it is probably a month until local corn is ready, you definitely could use non-local corn to make this recipe. With the corn being sautéed, the need for just freshly picked this morning is less necessary.

Mexican corn is one of my favorite summer dishes because it is so versatile. Need a side dish to accompany whatever protein you’re grilling? Want a different topping for your taco dinner? Looking for an appetizer to start your menu? This recipe can do all of those things!

The ingredients are pretty cut and dried. The only ingredient that can’t be changed is the lime. You need an actual lime in order to have zest, and the lime zest is key in adding a sharp bite to the dish. Everything else has some wiggle room. While red onion is preferred, you could use a white or yellow onion. I have never tried frozen corn, but I think it would work, if you thawed it before sautéing. The plain Greek yogurt can be swapped for sour cream, if you have some on hand. Finally, since cotija may be more difficult to find, you can use feta instead.

Now with your ingredients in hand, it’s time to start cooking. Speaking of which, this recipe is super easy to make. From start to finish it’s about 10 minutes. Delicious and easy to make — two things to make you smile!

Mexican corn off the cob
Serves 4

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup diced red onion
3 ears corn
zest of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup cotija, crumbled & divided

Remove kernels from each cob of corn; set aside
Heat a large frying pan over medium heat; add 1 tablespoon oil.
Sauté red onion until tender; transfer it to a small bowl.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to frying pan, then add corn.
Sauté corn for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Return onions to pan, still stirring, for 30 seconds.
Transfer corn mixture to a medium-sized bowl, and add lime zest, chili powder, lime juice, yogurt and 2 tablespoons cotija.
When serving, top each dish with remaining cotija cheese.

Featured Photo: Broccoli, apple and bacon salad. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Jeremy Guyotte

Jeremy Guyotte is the head chef of Rambling House Food & Gathering (57 Factory St., Nashua, 318-3220, ramblingtale.com), which opened in early March just a few weeks after its adjoining sister establishment, TaleSpinner Brewery. Both are owned and operated by the Gleeson family, who also run 2nd Nature Academy (formerly known as The Nature of Things) in Nashua. With an overall focus on sustainability, the eatery’s dinner and bar menus feature a diverse offering of scratch-cooked meat, seafood and vegetarian options that rotate with the seasons, with ingredients sourced from purveyors all over New England in addition to the Gleesons’ own farm. A native of Gloucester, Mass., Guyotte has extensive experience working with seafood, most notably during culinary stints he spent at Captain Carlo’s Oceanfront and at Passports Restaurant in Cape Ann.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Radio. Music is an inspiration throughout the day. Oftentimes, music will spawn ideas in the kitchen and those ideas turn into delicious creations.

What would you have for your last meal?

To me, food is about the people, places, stories and traditions. That may mean crossing camel kabsa off my bucket list, but it has to be in Saudi Arabia on the sands with a Bedouin family. Or, it may be that I am with my family on the Sicilian coast during a beautiful Mediterranean sunset.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I unfortunately haven’t explored the local scene as much as I would have liked to yet, since half my time in New Hampshire thus far has been during Covid. That said, I love our downtown neighbors in Nashua. Stella Blu and CodeX have been highlights for my family.

What celebrity would you like to see eating at Rambling House?

Tom Brady. We both married women named Giselle and we’re the same age. Clearly, we’d be best friends.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

As of today, monkfish puttanesca, or the house-smoked salmon. We also serve some of the best ice cream I have ever tried in my life and I’m not alone in that opinion. God bless [Rambling House president and co-founder] Erin Gleeson, who makes it from scratch.

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

There is an increase in an understanding and appreciation for local producers. … At Rambling House, we are in a unique scenario, because we are building and expanding, and we are trying to source as much locally and from our own farm as we can. There is a lot of growth yet to come, but getting involved in the local community is showing us how much of a passion and demand there is out there from our guests, and the like-minded mission from our fellow restaurateurs and farmers.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Burgers [and] barbecue. … My children really love “mayonnaise chicken.” … It’s mayonnaise, Parmesan [and] spices, spread on chicken [with] bread crumbs and more cheese, baked. Unreal and not my personal favorite, but they love it.

Fresh fish papillote
According to Rambling House head chef Jeremy Guyotte, papillote is a classic French technique of sealing seafood with aromatics and baking or grilling it, trapping all the flavors and natural essences inside its own little “oven” of paper or foil.

1 whole fish or fish filet (any fresh fish will do)
2 Tablespoons compound butter

Compound butter (combine following ingredients):
Lemon juice
White wine
Olive oil

Combine compound butter ingredients, mixing well, then set aside. Place your fish on a piece of foil large enough to fold up over it. Smother with two tablespoons of compound butter. Starting at one corner of the foil, fold it into a triangle and seal it up by pinching the sides. Throw it in the oven on 400 degrees for 10 minutes, or on the grill for 8 minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then open and enjoy with your favorite summer sides.

Featured photo: Jeremy Guyotte. Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 22/06/23

News from the local food scene

Last call for your Jewish feast: This is the final full week to order online for Temple B’Nai Israel’s 25th annual New Hampshire Jewish Food Festival — now through June 30 you can visit tbinh.org and order from the temple’s menu of traditional Jewish-style foods, most of which feature recipes that have been handed down multiple generations. Offerings include sandwiches with corned beef, pastrami and tongue from Evan’s New York Style Deli in Marblehead, Mass., served on seeded and unseeded rye bread from Laconia Village Bakery. They’re available for individual orders as well as in custom deli sandwich “picnic packs” with coleslaw, pickles, deli mustard and rugelach, a sweet crescent-shaped cookie. New this year are two Middle Eastern items — halva, a sweet treat available in vanilla, marble or pistachio flavors, and a homemade Israeli salad with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in a lemon dressing. Other featured options are matzah ball soups, crispy potato latkes, homemade strudel, New York-style knishes and hamantaschen (triangular-shaped filled cookies), which are available in three flavors. All online orders will be available for pickup by appointment at Temple B’Nai Israel (210 Court St., Laconia) between Friday, July 22, and Sunday, July 24. Visit tbinh.org.

Edible landscapes: Join Chef Liz Barbour of The Creative Feast in Hollis for her next open garden tour, to be held rain or shine on Sunday, June 26, from noon to 4 p.m. on her property at 5 Broad St. in Hollis. Visitors are welcome for a self-guided tour of Barbour’s edible gardens to learn about how she incorporates various herbs, vegetables, fruits and edible flowers into her own home-cooked meals. Barbour, who is known for her various cooking classes and demonstrations, oftentimes using her own freshly grown ingredients, is also the author of the 2017 book Beautifully Delicious: Cooking with Herbs & Edible Flowers. Some of her other upcoming events include virtual appearances on behalf of the Baker Free Library in Bow on Monday, June 27, at 6:30 p.m., and the Amherst Town Library on Wednesday, June 29, at 7 p.m. — during each Feasting from the New England Seaside program, Barbour will share tips about buying, storing and preparing seafood at home and will demonstrate two recipes. Visit each library’s website to register and receive a Zoom link.

Brews for a cause: Get your tickets now for the third annual Kingston Brewfest, happening on Saturday, June 25, from 2 to 6 p.m. on the Kingston town plains (148 Main St., Kingston). The event will feature a variety of craft beers and ciders being poured throughout the afternoon from nearly 40 area breweries, along with live music, games, and food options from more than a half-dozen local food trucks. Tickets are $40 per person, which grants you access to unlimited five-ounce pours. Designated drivers receive $7 admission (21+ admission only for all attendees, including designated drivers). Donations are also welcome to the Kingston Volunteer Fire Association, a beneficiary of the festival. Visit kingstonbrew.com.

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