Moving forward

A new hip-hop vibe from Fee The Evolutionist

Winning the Rising Star New Hampshire plaque at this year’s New England Music Awards was quite gratifying for rapper Fee The Evolutionist, but also bemusing. “I was laughing about that,” he said by phone recently. “I’m a rising star — it only took me 20 years.”

It’s actually a bit longer than that.

Bill Fee was dropping rhymes in the mid-1990s, with DJ Lyrical in the group X-Caliber. The period birthed an incredible story, when they impressed producer Ski Beatz during his visit to the radio station at UMass-Lowell. This led to an invite to Ski’s New York City studio, but their opportunity got bumped so another rapper could finish his first album — Jay-Z.

The rest is hip-hop history.

“Looking back, you know, it was probably the right decision,” Fee said with just a little irony. “We weren’t ready.” Ski Beatz stayed a mentor and produced X-Cal’s “Back in the Dayz” last year. The old-school track recounts that heady time and includes Fee’s life partner Ruby Shabazz on vocals.

Fee’s solo career is a newer development.

“I’ve always been in bands,” he said. “Playing drums, percussion, songwriting, rapping, singing … last November was my first solo release.” That would be the blistering “Go,” a two-minute sprint that evokes punk and metal with the same fervor as hip-hop.

Such cross-pollination is typical for Fee, and it’s one reason he and Shabazz have been called “King and Queen of New Hampshire Hip-Hop” more than a few times. Another is the couple’s consistent civic engagement. “We love it,” he said. “We embrace the community, and the community embraces us.”

The latest example of his genre-hopping ways will be on display Sunday, Jan. 15, in his home town of Nashua, when Fee performs with guitarist Adam Payne at Millyard Brewery. The centerpiece of the show, which will also include brief sets from Shabazz and fellow Nashua rapper Cody Pope, is an acoustic set featuring Fee rhyming and Payne’s looped playing.

It’s hip-hop, time-traveling to a ’60s jazz club. “A folk vibe,” Fee said. “I’m gonna bring my cajon and bongos, and some percussion … it’s going to be a lot of improv. Set songs, some familiar covers, but we’re also going to flip stuff, make it fresh.”

This is Fee’s first gig with Payne, who he initially saw perform at a festival in downtown Nashua a few months back. “I loved it, and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve gotta link up.’ This was the opportunity,” he said. Millyard’s a logical venue choice, he added. “I just feel like a brewery is a good place to have guitar and percussion, and kind of introduce what we do.”

The microbrewery has been a big supporter of the local arts scene, offering regular weekend events. In a Jan. 4 email, Millyard’s Dean Baxter called 2022 “a storming year,” saying “we are fast becoming a leading live music venue [and] continue to support some of the best-known musicians in New England. Fee is one of those.” 

Fee adopted his Evolutionist moniker to underscore his solo career as a step away from band days, along with the way he draws from many eras as an artist. “I’ve seen the evolution of hip-hop; I’m taking you through that,” he said. “I have soul samples from the ’70s, a little R&B, and I’ll get a little bit more aggressive … that’s one aspect; the other is the evolution of myself, and my growth as a person. I’m always evolving, and trying to learn new stuff.”

He views his NEMA win as validation for the genre in the region. “It’s flourishing; we’re in a renaissance period for hip-hop up here,” he said, pointing to the success of Pope and DJ Myth, who he also collaborates with, and other local artists, along with the excitement that surrounded the recent Hellhound for the Holidays showcase at Nashua Garden as examples.

His own brand of hip-hop is distinct from many others, Fee continued. “I consider it more of the jazz style; it’s organic,” he said, noting it attracts an eclectic group of musicians eager to work with him. “You’d be surprised how many people are open to that … they’re like, ‘Oh, I have never done this before.’ It’s new; we’re kind of making our own genre right now.”

Fee The Evolutionist w/ Adam Payne
When: Sunday, Jan. 15, 5 p.m.
Where: Millyard Brewery, 25 E. Otterson St., Nashua

Featured photo: Fee The Evolutionist. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/01/12

Local music news & events

Blues boy: Among the many veteran guitarists praising Quinn Sullivan are Buddy Guy, who said “players like Quinn come along once in a lifetime,” and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, who called him “a true speaker of the language” of the blues. A prodigy who’s had a guitar in his hand for most of his life, Sullivan has shared stages with Carlos Santana and the late B.B. King, and many others. Thursday, Jan. 12, 7:30 p.m., Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club, 135 Congress St., Portsmouth, $15 and up at

Guitar voice: Renowned as one of the premier purveyors of instrumental rock, Johnny A found his calling by accident, when a case of laryngitis claimed his voice; it’s been him and his guitars ever since. Johnny’s been a Tupelo Music Hall favorite since it was a small venue in Londonderry. His upcoming Blues, Beatles and Beyond show has support from a rhythm section of Dean Cassel on bass and drummer Marty Richards. Friday, Jan. 13, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $35 at

Hard hitting: A release show for the debut album from Tino Valpa includes sets from Born Cursed and Heavyweight. The video for the title track, “Live Or Be Lived All Over,” is a metallic knockout. The four-piece band, driven by a rapid, racing beat, jumps and thrashes through the song, a call to rise up from life’s struggles. Valpa’s raging vocals are on point, and other tracks are just as bracing. Saturday, Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m., Riverhill Grange, 32 Horse Hill Road, Concord. $10 at the door for this all-ages show.

Fab faux: While some Beatles tribute bands move through the group’s entire career, 1964: The Tribute sticks to their touring days, recreating live shows that most audiences couldn’t hear above their own screaming. From Ed Sullivan to Candlestick Park, it’s one of the most satisfying doppelgänger performances around, with stunning recreations of classics like “She Loves You,” “Tell Me Why” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Sunday, Jan. 15, 7 p.m., Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester, tickets at

Songstress: NH Music Collective continues to find opportunities for local performers like Kimayo, who plays for the dinner crowd in Concord. The singer-songwriter calls her music a “confidante, dance partner, comforter [and] mood lifter.” Her 2021 coming out song “Becoming Untamed” chronicled a journey of “re-wilding … shedding expectations and old belief systems to awaken intuition, curiosity, and self-love.” Wednesday, Jan. 18, 6 p.m., Uno Pizzeria, 15 Fort Eddy Road, Concord. See

At the Sofaplex 23/01/12

Strange World (PG)

Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid.

This Disney animated feature introduces us to Searcher Clade (voice of Gyllenhaal), who, when he was a kid, was forced, like it or not, to join his famous father, Jaeger Clade (voice of Quaid), on his explorations to find a path beyond the mountains that surround (and keep cut off) their city-state. On one exploration, Searcher discovered pando, the electrified fruit that becomes a source of power to their previously horse-and-buggy world. Jaeger was uninterested and plunged alone through the mountains.

Twenty five years later, Searcher is a successful pando farmer and himself the father of teenage son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White). Searcher farms, his wife/Ethan’s mom Meridian (voice of Gabrielle Union) flies a crop duster and Ethan dreams of a life doing something else — maybe exploring like the grandfather he never knew.

Searcher wants nothing to do with exploration, but when president (and former expedition member in his dad’s explorations) Callisto (voice of Lucy Liu) shows up on Searcher’s farm, it looks like he might have to hit the trail once again. Across the land pando plants have been dying and Callisto needs to find out why to save everyone’s modern way of life. They discover that pando isn’t separate plants but one big plant and decide to follow a hole deep in the earth to find the source of the plant and see if they can figure out what’s killing it.

Naturally, Ethan stows away on the subterranean ship making the journey and Meridian shows up to tell Searcher that Ethan is there, putting the whole family on the trip into the mysterious deep and the Strange World they find there.

Where and what is this Strange World? I kind of feel like if you’ve been through middle school biology you’ll know pretty quickly, thus making the wait for the reveal feel extremely draggy (and the very straightforward “here’s what’s been happening” explanation is oddly deflating of the cool concept).

I get now why this movie, which spent like a minute in theaters around Thanksgiving, had such odd, vague marketing. To explain the story feels like you are tangling yourself up in details and characters and themes. Strange World has some beautiful visuals, moments of action and an interesting central quest but it also has a lot of talking about characters’ feelings and motivations and parent-child relationships. Like, a lot of talking. Those text-heavy scenes, often between adult characters, slow down the action and make the movie feel less kid-compelling. By its nature, the setting of the movie doesn’t lend itself to lots of high-personality new creatures and characters (we get one, basically, which, as a character in the movie calls out, feels like it’s primarily there for merchandising purposes), leaving only the humans. Sure, I thought to myself, this is a lovely reminder to me, a grown parent, to listen to my kids and their dreams and ambitions without imposing my ideas about what their dreams should be. But what are my kids going to do during the moments that inspire these thoughts? In my experience, that’s when they go to the bathroom or start searching for another screen to watch until the action starts up again. B- Available on Disney+ and through VOD.

M3gan (PG-13)

A terrifying giant doll becomes even more terrifying thanks to some A.I. programming in M3gan, a lively thriller coming in at a brisk hour and 42 minutes.

Gemma (Allison Williams) is a toy designer who becomes the guardian for her tween-ish-aged niece Cady (Violet McGraw) after Gemma’s sister and brother-in-law die in a car accident. Cady, who was in the car with her parents at the time, is understandably distraught about both the traumatic accident and their deaths. Gemma, who is unsure about this whole parenting thing, decides that she can cross two tasks off her to-do list — cheer up Cady and beta test a new toy — by introducing Cady to M3gan, a 4-foot-tall doll who will bond with its primary user and learn how to relate with that particular child. Previously, Gemma had helped develop toy company Funki’s Purrpetual Petz, a sort of toothy-Sonic-plus-Furby creation that looks nightmarish but has impressive tech (we later learn that Gemma has programmed it to listen to its kid owners and collect data — but of course). It is also sort of chef’s-kiss perfect in how annoying it is portrayed as — it makes realistically parent-aggravating noises and has all of these dumb app-based features.

M3gan (voice by Jenna Davis; Amie Donald does the doll action, according to Wikipedia), which will be a kid’s best friend, surrogate parent and gentle nag about teeth brushing all rolled into one, also seems like a just awful product and one of the great aspects of this movie is that most people’s reaction to seeing the doll for the first time is to be instantly creeped out by it. For some reason, though, it isn’t until a therapist points out that Cady is transferring all of the grief-bonding that should be happening with Gemma to the doll, that Gemma starts to get a little concerned. She tries to get Cady to take some breaks from M3gan, but by then her silicone creation has started to get sassy.

Again, it is really quite delightful that this movie never tries to get us to think maybe M3gan is a good idea. From the first moment we meet the first prototype (whose face melts! It’s great!), the movie makes it clear that this poorly-thought-out toy will be some kind of horror show, even if we don’t know at first what kind. When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I probably thought something like “ugh, what ridiculous nonsense.” After seeing it, though, my reaction is “What ridiculous nonsense! 10 out of 10! Four stars! No notes!” Like the brutal artificial intelligence it portrays, it feels like this movie guessed the potential response to it and absolutely leaned all the way in. Is it all intentional, what a snort-laugh hilarious movie this frequently is? I think probably. Williams has such a great “ha! What?” energy the whole time and everyone is so appropriately, un-horror-movie wigged out by M3gan that I feel like M3gan knows it’s chosen gothicly silly over scary and that that choice was correct. B+

Rated PG-13 for violent content and terror, some strong language and a suggestive reference, according to the MPA on Directed by Gerard Johnstone with a screenplay by Akela Cooper and a story by Akela Cooper and James Wan, M3gan is a delightful hour and 42 minutes long and is distributed by Universal Studios.

Featured photo: M3ghan

Born to Run 2, by Christopher McDougall and Eric Orton

If starting (or restarting) an exercise program is one of your new year resolutions, Christopher McDougall can help you achieve it.

McDougall, a former war correspondent for the Associated Press, fell into a second career when he started writing about running. His 2011 book Born to Run had the effect of an incendiary device in the running community because it challenged the notion that runners need expensive shoes. Now he is back, with Eric Orton, for Born to Run 2.

Like the first book, which examined the athletic prowess of members of a tribe who can run for hundreds of miles without the accoutrement that most modern runners think they need, Born to Run 2 introduces us to some fascinating people, like a woman who was formerly 300 pounds but now runs regularly as a form of prayer. But this is essentially a training manual for regular people, especially people who have been told they can’t run, and people who find running tedious or hard.

McDougall argues that running is a natural state for the human body — “if it were difficult, we’d be extinct.” The earliest humans — for whom running was an occupation, not an interruption of the day — were able to survive in unforgiving circumstances not only because of their brains, but because they were able to run long distances. They weren’t faster than the animals they pursued, but since they could sweat and their prey couldn’t, they could outlast them by running until the animals collapsed. “Evolution doesn’t reward pain; it rewards joy,” the authors argue. For the modern human, “If it feels like work, you’re working too hard.”

Or running all wrong.

Most runners, even longtime ones, run wrong and in shoes that bring on injury. McDougall and Orton are particularly critical of the “squishy” shoes that are all the rage. While shoes that are padded and gel-packed may feel comfortable to stand in, they too much separate the foot from the ground, making our feet land unnaturally and preventing us from feeling the useful discomfort that should be the signal to run differently. They are equally disdainful of much common running advice:

“‘Listen to your body’ may be the only fitness advice more useless than ‘We are all an experiment of one.’ You and your body don’t speak the same language. You have no idea what each other is saying,” they write. “Your body still believes that on any given day it needs to run to find a mate, or fresh water, or a safe hideaway for the family before glowing eyes emerge from the dark.”

What advice does work? McDougall and Orton break it into seven fundamental steps: food, fitness, form, focus, footwear, fun and family. Yes, a cynic might say the sum total of the advice can be reduced to “eat less, exercise more,” but they offer counterintuitive, actionable steps to help us get to that point whether we are beginners or veteran exercisers who need a reboot.

For example, they point out that most runners focus on how they can run longer, not how they can run better (which would lead to running longer, and without injury). To run better, they maintain, takes all of 10 minutes to learn — in the comfort of your home, barefoot, with music. Your natural running form emerges when running in place, back to the wall, to songs set to a certain number of beats per minute — they recommend “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s, but they also offer other choices such as The Beatles’ “Help!” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock & Roll.” Once you can feel how you’re supposed to run, it’s just a matter of practice out on the road or trail, they say.

They also promote a lifestyle full of what they call “movement snacks” — bite-sized stretches and movements throughout the day to keep us limber and emotionally in check. “The more you move, the more emotionally safe you’ll feel. The safer you feel, the happier and less anxious you’ll be.”

As for food, they advocate a diet heavy in sustainably sourced meat and cheese. “There is no ethical argument that can be made in support of commercial meat production,” they write, but with our carb- and sugar-rich diets today, our bodies have forgotten how to use fat as fuel, which is why so many people are obese. They prescribe a two-week “factory reset,” eating no foods that are high glycemic.

And of course, they take on running shoes, which they call “the most destructive force to ever hit the human foot.”

“If the Food and Drug Administration were in charge of running shoes, they’d be announcing a recall and yanking them off the shelves,” they write, citing a study that found people who ran in expensive running shoes bought after a gait analysis at a running-shoe store suffered five times as many injuries as people who hadn’t had that kind of “help.”

Minimalist shoes, however, had a short shelf life, and there’s little pleasure in running barefoot in New England in winter. There are some brands the authors recommend that can be ordered online, but at minimum, they recommend taking out the insole liners of your current shoes for immediate improvement. McDougall and Orton also offer advice on a number of other running topics, including best practices for running with dogs.

Some of their recommendations may be radical, but Born to Run 2 is engaging and for the most part convincing. It can be read without having read the first book, but for maximum inspiration, start with the first and proceed to the second. B+

Album Reviews 23/01/12

Heroes and Monsters, Heroes and Monsters (Frontiers Music srl)

You get why this is a stupidly named band, right, like, I don’t have to explain that there’s a really great band called Of Monsters And Men already, and Lana del Rey has a song called “Gods & Monsters,” right? (Am I being pedantic, I’m really trying to change, folks). But belay all that nonsense, because we’re talking about our friends at Frontiers Records, meaning it’s time for our periodic reminder to local Iron Maiden- and Judas Priest-soundalike bands that they’re one of the last companies that might give you an actual record contract if you’re nice, just tell them I sent you. Anyway, the rundown: Canadian supergroup-ish three-piece hard-rock band here (has there ever been a Canadian hard-rock that’s been able to find a fourth guy?): the singer was in Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick’s band, the multi-instrumentalist was in Slash with Myles Kennedy and whatnot, and they sound quite a bit like Skid Row (you remember them, right? No, that was Cinderella. What? No, that was Tigertailz. Sorry? No, that was Poison. Etc.). The tuneage has some Savatage-ish power-metal to it, and the singer has a little Metallica to him. It is definitely OK. B

David Crosby, Live at the Capitol Theatre (BMG Records)

Yes, this founding member of both the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash is still kicking around, sharing bong hits with random people and doing whatever else he does, if anything. Point of order, the Capitol Theatre in this case is in Port Chester, N.Y., not the movie theater in Arlington, Mass., but I’m not here to tease the 81-year-old alpha hippie. In fact, he’s still a decent enough songwriter, although there aren’t any songs from his last album, 2021’s For Free, in this live package. This one mostly consists of oldies recited by Crosby and the three 20-somethings (known as The Lighthouse Band) he has backing him up these days: “Deja Vu,” “Woodstock” and “Guinnevere” are here, all delivered with that old magic that involved those world-stopping silences in between phrases. He sounds pretty good vocally, and he’s still quite the acoustic guitar picker, but what may be most notable about this is that it’s his first live solo LP. A+


• OK, super, we should have plenty of albums to talk about this week, because we’re clear of the holidays, meaning that all the bands and semi-talented “artistes” should be back to making a bunch of tunes so we can all gather around and hold hands and try to keep from laughing at all the awful music-clowns, who’ve been busy as little Santa elves, making albums for our merriment and snark. Now, try to be nice this time, guys, we wouldn’t want to — oh no, there’s barely anything in the current “you should review this” list on Metacritic, just two things coming out on Friday the 13th of January (yep, that’s how this year’s starting out, with a Friday the 13th right off the jump), and one of ’em’s a metal album! Terrific, I should have just stayed in bed until it’s warm out, you know, like, who needs this anyway? OK whatever, the metal album, here it is, it’s the new one from Obituary, called Dying Of Everything, is that edgy or what, folks? This band has been around since 1984, and they are from Tampa, Florida. The test-drive track on the band’s Bandcamp is “The Wrong Time,” and it’s like a cross between Leviathan-era Mastodon and Wasp. Funnily enough, that isn’t the worst combination ever, OK let’s move on.

Margo Price is an American outlaw-country/Americana singer-songwriter and producer based in Nashville, Tennessee, and I know that for a fact because that’s what Google says, pretty much verbatim. The Fader thinks she’s going to be a huge star, whatever; and she was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy in 2019. Her new album, Strays, is on the way, and hopefully you’ll like it, I guess. Right, so now let’s descend on this nice little innocent album like a pack of Dementors and find every fault with it and mention nothing nice about it, unless I change my mind after a few bars. OK, here’s a single, called “Been To The Mountain,” listen to that, she sounds a little like Cyndi Lauper or Gwen Stefani, I guess, and the tune is kind of Sheryl Crow-ish, straight-ahead bar-band rock. She does a little rap-skit thing in the middle that sounds like Transvision Vamp, if you remember them. Nothing much going on here, but it’s not all that bad.

• Hold it, I found more albums. That’s right, I tied a picnic knapsack full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the end of a hobo stick and departed my Metacritic bubble, and will you look at this, folks, it’s former HIM frontman Ville Valo, more commonly known as VV, with some new record called Neon Noir! We’re back in business, baby, let’s rock our ears and see if my lunch will stay down for a full song from this dude, whattaya say? Wow, the single, “Loveletting,” has a little bit of a She Wants Revenge flavor, but it’s also kind of hooky, like Eric Carmen used to be in the 1970s, and there’s definitely a goth edge to it. I have no problem with this tune at all, seriously. With regard to his 2023 tour, he’ll be appearing at Big Night Live in Boston, but not until April 2.

• Lastly, it’s Gaz Coombes, the frontman for Supergrass, with a new solo album called Turn the Car Around! Wow, this guy’s into the cabaret stuff, it looks like; he probably really digs Dresden Dolls and all that stuff, at least to go by the single “Don’t Say It’s Over.” There’s Austin Powers-style organ in there, and he favors disposable mid-Aughts hipster-pop vocals a la Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr. The song would be OK without the stupid organ, but on a scale of 1 to 10 in horribleness, it’s only around a 3, which improves on most of the music put out between 2002 and 2010, so bravo.

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).

Port — a winter favorite

Warm up with the flavors of Portugal

Planning on doing a little cross-country skiing — that is, once we really have a little snow? Or how about a little pond skating once it gets cold enough to freeze the water? Staying indoors? Why not curl up with a good book? These are all great wintertime activities, whether you’re huddled around a fire in the backyard pit after skiing or skating, or curled up under a comforter, when enjoyed with a glass of port.

What is port? It is a fortified wine that originated in Portugal and emerged into a worldwide market with an ever-growing complexity of wine varietals, growing regions and environments, all contributing to a vast array of color, noses and tastes.

According to publications by Taylor Fladgate, a respected port wine house, Portuguese port is made from grapes grown along the Douro River, where they have been cultivated since the Roman conquest of the third century B.C. These grapes produced enough wine for an export market. The Portuguese discovered that adding a small amount of grape spirit, or brandy, after fermentation not only increased its strength but kept it from spoiling. This technique evolved into the addition of the brandy during fermentation, keeping the wine’s sweetness and adding to its robust qualities.

In the early 18th century, the business of trading wines emerged, and with a long history of trading alliances between Portugal and England, the British merchants dominated the market. During this time the shape of the wine bottle changed from the short bulbous form to a long, uniform cylindrical shape, allowing the wine to age in the bottle to become even more complex in nose and taste. Port pioneered aging vintage productions.

The six most widely used grapes for red port wine are touriga franca, tinta roriz, tinta barroca, touriga nacional, tinto cão and tinta amarela. Port is a blended wine and therefore the blend is subject to change with each vintage. These grapes are principally Portuguese, unique to the Iberian Peninsula.

Our first port is Taylor Fladgate 2016 Late Bottled Vintage Port (available at the New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets at $22.99, reduced to $18.99). Produced from wines from a single harvest, it has a complex rich fruity character. The color is a deep and opaque ruby red, befitting its moniker, “ruby port.” There is an elegant light floral nose along with dark cherries and cassis. On the palate the fruit continues, joined by notes of dark chocolate along with a touch of leather, with reserved tannins.

Our second port, Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Porto (available at the New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets at $27.99, reduced to $22.99), is a rich tawny port that is fully matured in seasoned oak casks for 10 years, with each cask holding 630 liters (about 150 gallons) of wine. Aging in barrels brings delicate wood notes to combine with mature fruit. It is bottled for immediate drinking. It has a deep brick color. Its nose is of ripe dried fruit with a slight nuttiness and chocolate secondary notes. It is smooth and silky with rich jammy flavors with a long finish.

These two distinctly different ports, made by the same family-owned company since 1692, are readily approachable and very affordable. One note: Once these bottles have been opened, they should be stored in a wine fridge or standard refrigerator. Ruby port can be stored for four to six weeks without any trouble; tawny port can last for up to three months. But by all means, enjoy them this winter!

Cinnamon marbled quick bread

What better way to spend a chilly weekend morning than making homemade bread? Since this is a quick bread recipe, you won’t have to wait through cycles of rising, punching down and more rising. Just mix, bake, and cool for a few minutes.

This bread recipe more than likely includes ingredients you already have on hand, if you bake, even on an infrequent basis. Even though the recipe specifies whole milk, which adds a little bit to the texture of the bread, you definitely could replace it with skim milk, oatmilk, almond milk or whatever you have on hand.

The hardest part of this recipe most likely is the waiting. You need to wait 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. Then you probably should give it another 10 to 15 minutes to cool before slicing. Sure, you could slice it right away, but the loaf won’t slice nicely. Let it cool just a bit more, then top those warm slices with some butter, and you have a delicious start to the day.

Cinnamon marbled quick bread
Makes 12 slices

1 cup whole milk
1 egg
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1⅓ cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2½ teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease the bottom and sides of a 9”×5” loaf pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together milk, egg, oil and vanilla.
Add 1 cup sugar and stir to combine.
Add flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring just until moistened.
In a small bowl, combine remaining ⅓ cup sugar and cinnamon.
Pour half of the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Sprinkle half of the sugar-cinnamon mixture on the batter.
Repeat layers with remaining batter and cinnamon-sugar.
Swirl a knife through the batter to marble.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.*
Cool for 10 minutes, and transfer to a cooling rack.
Cool slightly before slicing.
*If the edges are darkening but the middle is not cooked, cover with foil until baking is done.

Featured Photo: Cinnamon marbled quick bread. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Laura Spinney

Laura and Michaela Spinney of Hooksett are the mother-daughter team behind Michaela’s Sweets (857-444-8877,, and on Facebook and Instagram, a homestead bakery they launched last summer that specializes in a variety of custom gluten-free treats made to order, like cupcakes, brownie bites, whoopie pies and doughnuts. The duo’s journey began back in 2012, when they found out they both had Celiac disease and started experimenting with different allergen-friendly recipes. “Our goal has always been to create a product that nobody would be able to tell is missing anything,” Laura Spinney said. “It has taken off far more than I had anticipated it would from the get-go, and it’s been a wonderful experience so far.” All of their treats are produced in their Celiac-friendly home kitchen — you can order by filling out a form online through the website or requesting items via phone. A 48-hour ordering notice is appreciated, and local pickups and deliveries are available.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Our KitchenAid mixer, hands down. That is our lifeline.

What would you have for your last meal?

My answer would be sushi, any kind. I asked Michaela these questions too — hers is chicken tenders.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

[New England’s] Tap House Grille in Hooksett. I love that place. … My favorite are their pulled pork nachos with the white cheese sauce.

What celebrity would you like to see trying one of your baked treats?

I went with Michaela’s answer, because she instantly said Taylor Swift.

What is your favorite item that you offer?

For me, that would be the strawberry shortcake cupcakes. … Michaela’s favorite, and this was her idea that we just recently developed, is her Oreo cookies and cream brownie bites.

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

What I’ve noticed is a thing, just in the baking world, is whoopie pies. I have fun doing those. … You name it, we can pretty much do it. We do red velvet, apple cider, salted caramel, gingerbread. … Whatever sounded good to us, we’d put in our menu.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

For myself and my husband, our stuffed eggplant.

Gluten- and dairy-free fudgy chocolate chip brownies
From the kitchen of Laura and Michaela Spinney of Michaela’s Sweets in Hooksett

½ cup dairy-free butter
1 cup white sugar
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup 1:1 gluten-free flour of choice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
⅓ cup dairy-free chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan, or spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder. Stir until fully combined. Add in the eggs and vanilla and stir. Stir in the flour, salt and baking powder and mix until fully combined. Add the chocolate chips and mix. Spread into a greased pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes (or for 20 to 22 minutes if using a muffin tin). Do not overcook.

Featured photo: Laura Spinney (right) with her daughter, Michaela. Courtesy photo.

Falafel-y delicious

Sevmar Mediterranean Bistro coming to Salem

Boldness, intimacy, virtue and excellence — these are the four core values Jocelyn Maroun said she is taking to heart as she gets ready to launch her newest restaurant venture.

Sevmar Mediterranean Bistro, on track to open soon inside Salem’s 97 Shops Plaza, gets its name by combining Maroun’s last name with that of Kelvin Severino, owner of the national demolition company ADEP Group and Maroun’s business partner. The eatery promises traditional Mediterranean appetizers, entrees, salads and other items with a modernized twist, along with a full bar, a Sunday brunch menu, catering options and more.

It’s a new concept for the space, although Maroun said it doesn’t really feel that way. That’s because the very same storefront was once home to Salem Kabob — owned first by her father, and later by her cousins — dating back to 2001. For more than a decade, Maroun herself also ran Jocelyn’s Mediterranean Restaurant & Martini Lounge on Route 28 with her partner.

“The community knows Jocelyn’s and Salem Kabob and it feels good that it has that good reputation,” Maroun said, “and so I want people to know that it’s going to be the same quality, if not better. It’s delicious, and it’s going to be friendly and inviting. I plan on being here every open hour to greet every customer that walks in, and I just want it to be a happy place.”

Returning to the site of Maroun’s father’s former restaurant, she and Severino have been hard at work the last few months gutting out the space, adding everything from a marble top bar to new slate floors and light fixtures to give it a uniquely hip bistro-like vibe. They’ve even added an old British telephone booth they bought that had to be delivered by a crane.

Much of Sevmar’s menu contains some of the same family recipes going back more than two decades to Maroun’s father’s tenure as owner of Salem Kabob. Additionally, Maroun and Severino have recruited longtime chef Sayde Elkhoury, who has more than 25 years of restaurant experience and who, like both of Maroun’s own parents, was born and raised in Lebanon.

But unlike Salem Kabob, which was takeout only, Sevmar offers dine-in service with about 42 seats, although Maroun said that online reservations through OpenTable will be recommended.

You’ll find many of the traditional items here that Maroun’s family has been known for over the years, from the hummus and the taboule to the falafel, stuffed grape leaves, spanakopita and baked kibbe, plus additional options like fried cauliflower served with a tahini sauce, and halloumi, or a mild cheese that’s grilled and served with olives, mint, tomatoes and pita bread.

Larger, entree-sized items include beef and chicken shawarma, and custom-grilled haddock and salmon. You’ll also find something on the menu called Gaby’s grilled chicken (named after Maroun’s father) — that’s marinated in olive oil, vinegar, lemon and fresh garlic.

“When we were kids, my father would make that chicken that was to die for … and we used to joke about one day selling it,” she said. “It’s the same recipe that we have now at Sevmar.”

Other options include various wraps — which come with french fries and with the option to add feta cheese or a garlic spread — and bowls that are served over rice pilaf. Choose a specialty option like a beef or chicken shawarma bowl or a vegan bowl with taboule and hummus, or build your own by picking a protein (chicken, beef, lamb, salmon or falafel), a sauce (tzatziki, tahini or house dressing) and other toppings (lettuce, cucumber, tomato or pickled onion).

“It’s food with delicious and healthy, organic, from-scratch ingredients,” Maroun said.

Brunch will soon be available on Sundays, she added, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“When I say ‘brunch’ it’s not just, like, eggs and grits. It’s a brunch party, Miami-style,” she said. “I started doing brunch at Jocelyn’s before I left there, and there was tropical music, people would dress up, [and] they drank Champagne. It was a vibe.”

As for the space directly next door to the restaurant, Maroun said plans are in the works to soon make it home to a cocktail lounge and event room, which they are calling Identity by Sevmar.

“The concepts are going to overlap in the sense that … Sevmar will be a place where you might come early with your kids to have dinner, or on a date and it’s very intimate, and then Identity will be a little bit more upscale,” she said.

Sevmar Mediterranean Bistro
An opening date is expected to be announced soon. Visit the website, call or follow them on social media for updates.
Where: 401 Main St., Unit 108, Salem
Anticipated hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday brunch is also coming soon.
More info: Visit, find them on Facebook and Instagram @sevmarbistro or call 870-0018

Featured photo: Sevmar Mediterranean Bistro. Courtesy photo.

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