Blues Fest debuts at Rex

The first New England Blues Festival was a modest one-off featuring regional bands, including Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks, led by organizer Nick David. Buoyed by its success, David brought it back the following year and soon was attracting national talent like Chicago heavy-hitter Nick Moss, and the event scaled to multiple venues.

The annual show has attracted a bevy of talent over the years, including Muddy Waters’ son Big Bill Morganfield. David’s former group Mr. Nick & the Dirty Tricks backed him up in 2018. “I get goosebumps talking about it,” David recalled in 2019, “because that’s as close as I’ll ever get to playing with Muddy.”

David always hoped the show would stop in his hometown of Manchester; that will finally happen on Sunday, Jan. 29, on the stage of the Rex Theatre. “I’ve been talking to the Rex off and on for the last few years,” David said by phone recently. “I really like the venue a lot.”

The 13th festival features four guitar heroes. There’s headliner Mike Zito, Moss, playing for his fourth time, Roberto Morbioli, and Paul Size, the latter a member of David’s latest group, and concert house band, The Wicked Lo-Down.

Size is a legend in the blues rock world dating back to his stint in L.A.-by-way-of-Texas band The Red Devils, whose early ’90s residency at the gritty King King club attracted movie stars and music legends. They made an album with Mick Jagger that was never released (one cut was on Jagger’s Very Best compilation), and backed Bruce Willis on his Return of Bruno LP. Rick Rubin produced their lone live album, in 1995.

The Wicked Lo-Down grew out of a fruitful collaboration in late 2019 between David, Size and another guitarist, later replaced by Jeff Berg and augmented by a rhythm section of Nick Toscano and Mike Law. Hobbled by lockdown, they made an album, We Hot, in mid-2020 that stayed shelved for almost two years before its release last November. It’s a barn-burner, with a churning title cut and the Blasters-adjacent “Lena” among the standouts.

They’re now gigging and shopping the record to labels, including Zito’s moniker Gulf Coast. David met the guitarist in 2021 at the White Mountain Boogie & Blues Festival. Zito passed on releasing it, even though he reportedly “loved” the album, according to David. “Nobody was willing to sign us because we weren’t out there gigging … how are they going to make money off us if we’re not playing? Who knows who we are?”

Zito has had a string of blues chart-topping albums in the recent past, beginning with 2018’s First Class Life and a Chuck Berry tribute collection that had assistance from Joe Bonamassa, Walter Trout, Robben Ford, Luther Dickinson and Sonny Landreth. Zito’s most recent disc, Resurrection, received a Blue Music Award last year for Best Blues Rock Album.

The chat with Zito did get David a headliner for his festival, which has two Massachusetts dates, Salisbury and Norwood, along with Hartford, Connecticut, before its New Hampshire finale. “Mike and I have some stuff in common,” David said. “He was into doing it, so we were able to get it together this year.”

Morbioli is an Italian guitarist who comes Stateside once a year. David met him over a decade ago when he appeared on John Guregian’s Blues Deluxe radio show. “It was on the UMass Lowell radio station,” David explained. “I was living there with my wife at the time, and she spoke fluent Italian. We went down there, hung out and played a few songs. We’ve been friends ever since.”

Finally, along with his status as a fest perennial, Moss created an interesting conundrum for David from the time they met.

“I got confused for him often; we’re both similar-looking,” he reported of the guitarist, who rose to fame with Nick Moss & the Pop Tops. “We both had big greasy pompadours, and we’re big guys named Nick. I saw a picture of him once and thought he was me. I was like, why do I have a guitar in my hand? Oh, it’s because that’s not me.

13th Annual New England Winter Blues Festival
When: Sunday, Jan. 29, 8 p.m.
Where: The Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester
Tickets: $23 at palacetheatre.org

Featured photo: Mike Zito. Photo by Scott Lukes.

The Music Roundup 23/01/26

Local music news & events

Song truths: With his debut album, Leap of Faith, singer-songwriter Dakota Smart evinced stunning maturity for such a young artist. His performance at the regular Bell and Brick Winter Concert Series will include originals, like the climb-on-a-back-that’s-strong “Believe” and the semi-autobiographical “Sunrise In New York,” along with covers from the classic rock canon and modern popsters like Ed Sheeran, The Black Keys and The Lumineers. Thursday, Jan. 26, 6:30 p.m., Belknap Mill, 25 Beacon St., Laconia, $10 at the door.

Disco fever: Time travel to Studio 54 circa 1976 with Boogie Wonder Band, a 10-piece combo paying tribute to acts like Chic, Sister Sledge, the Bee Gees and their namesakes Earth, Wind & Fire. Both a musical and lifestyle phenomenon, the era still resonates, and BWB has covered it for over 25 years, with two female vocalists and singer Apollo Johnson along with keys, guitar, a pair of horns and a rock-solid rhythm section. Friday, Jan. 27, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $40 at tupelohall.com.

Local color: A former congressman and current talk show host leads Paul Hodes & the Blue Buddha Band, which just released a debut LP, Turn This Ship Around. One song, “The Night I Met John Lennon,” is a true story that happened a few doors from the Dakota in NYC and included the ex-Beatle, Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol and a large quantity of hashish. The rest of the record is an enjoyable mix of roots and psychedelic rock. Saturday, Jan. 28, 8 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $21.75 at ccanh.com.

Grunge redux: An evening of ’90s music, Seattle Night is led by Nothingsafe: An Alice In Chains Experience with Justin Ballard of tribute act Song Garden doing a set of Chris Cornell covers. According to a press release, “Nothingsafe reproduces the dark, heavy, and delightfully sludgy rhythmic backbone of AIC, while lead singer SteveO commands the stage with powerful, haunting, and intoxicating vocals.” Saturday, Jan. 28, 9 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, facebook.com/Nothingsafe.AIC.Boston.

Munch music: Enjoy an afternoon of hickory-smoked barbecue and tunes from Dan Blakeslee. The multitalented singer and guitarist is coming off a heady 2022; he served as official busker at the Newport Folk Festival, an event he designed the poster for a few years back, and joined Anais Mitchell, Natalie Merchant and other stars for a rousing singalong of an Elvis Costello song on the same stage where Joni Mitchell later performed a historic set. Sunday, Jan. 29, 3 p.m., MrSippy BBQ, 184 S. Main St., Rochester. See danblakeslee.com.

At the Sofaplex 23/01/26

Encanto at the Hollywood Bowl (TV-G)

Stephanie Beatriz, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

I know, I know, do you really need to hear the Encanto songs again? Yes! This filmed concert of the songs of Encanto as presented at the Hollywood Bowl is a delightful celebration featuring the original vocal talents from the animated movie as well as some beautiful staging with sets, light projections and dancers as everything from townsfolk to animals. It’s fun, a nice introduction for kids who have seen more movies than live theater and a nice reminder that the Encanto songbook is stuffed with dancy gems. AAvailable on Disney+.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (PG)

Lashana Lynch, Emma Thompson.

Roald Dahl works through more childhood terrors — a bleak school, a sadistic headmistress, awful parents — in this charming if occasionally PG-ily violent and mean musical starring Alisha Weir as the titular heroine. Matilda is smart, a lover of stories and only occasionally naughty with vengeful acts against her negligent parents (Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough). When she is sent to a grim day school run by tyrannical, joy-hating headmistress Agatha Trunchbull (Thompson, having the most fun), Matilda can’t stand for the bullying of her fellow students and begins a revolution against Trunchbull, which even extends to the kind Miss Honey (Lynch), Matilda’s teacher. Miss Honey has her own difficult past with Trunchbull but tries to teach her children with respect and kindness nevertheless, cheering them on, if quietly at first, in their rebellion.

I think because of the cruelty of Trunchbull and the indifference and abuse by Matilda’s parents, I’d peg this one at somewhere in the 11-year-old-and-up viewership range. For kids old enough not to be scared, the story involves some lovely set pieces with songs (“When I Grow Up” is nicely done) and a sweet tale about the vindication of a bookish girl. And, as mentioned, Thompson, a sort of fairy tale witch-as-dictator, seems to be having an absolute ball. B+ Available on Netflix

Missing (PG-13)

A teen uses location services, street cams and Colombian Taskrabbit to search for her mother in Missing, a lightweight thriller.

June (Storm Reid), 18, is on eyeroll-whatever terms with her mother, Grace (Nia Long), as Grace heads from their L.A.-area home to vacation in Colombia with her boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung). The vacation falls on Father’s Day, a tough time as June’s dad James (Tim Griffin) died when she was little. June is no more interested in Kevin’s awkward beginnings of some discussion about his feelings for her mom than she is in Grace’s blah blah blah about safety. She just wants Grace out the door so her friend Veena (Megan Suri) can come over with a big box full of cheap booze purchased with the money Grace Venmo-ed June “for emergencies.” I guess needing booze for the friends hanging out at your parent-free house for a week, culminating in a rager the night before mom is slated to return, is, like, a hosting emergency. The only oversight June has is a brief visit from Heather (Amy Landecker), her mother’s friend, who seems a little too fond of Kevin.

The Sunday morning Grace is set to arrive, a hungover June wakes up late and rushes to the airport to meet her. She waits — and waits and waits but neither her mother nor Kevin get off the plane. When June calls the hotel in Colombia she is able, with some help from some quick Google translations, to figure out that while Kevin and Grace are no longer there, their suitcases and other items still are. June calls the embassy but finds it closed and the hotel won’t send her the security footage over the internet. Via the Colombian version of Taskrabbit, she hires Javi (Joaquim de Almeida) to go to the hotel to get the footage. He doesn’t find that but does find other clues to where the couple may have gone.

As Missing’s present-day scenes begin, June and her friends are watching Unfiction, a true crime show. Using some of the techniques of that show, Veena and June figure out how to find street footage that might give more information about her mother’s trip and even her relationship with Kevin. Against the advice of Agent Park (Daniel Henney) at the Embassy, who is all “evidence we can use in court,” June worms her way into Kevin’s Gmail account and starts to learn more about her mother’s boyfriend. She also gets access to the location services that give her more clues about where they really went.

Some of the same people involved in this movie were also involved in Searching, a 2018 movie seen almost entirely through a variety of screens (phone, computer, etc.) where John Cho searches for his teen daughter. Though this movie isn’t quite as stuck to screens, we are learning and searching and seeking largely through June’s computer searches and phone calls with occasional news reports and “live” scenes worked in. The movie edits these pieces together in a way that keeps things moving. I wouldn’t say this particular puzzle is super-complicated or all that twisty — there are several twists that the movie drops enough clues on that it feels a little pokey how long it takes June to figure them out. But Reid, who carries the action with her worried face, is a compelling enough lead character that the movie never really feels slow.

Missing maybe makes little nods toward saying something about our constant surveillance, our very unprivate notions of privacy and the true crime industrial complex. But mostly it is a fun enough thriller that moves along at a brisk enough pace. B

Rated PG-13 for some strong violence, language, teen drinking and thematic material, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Nick Johnson and Will Merrick with a screenplay by Will Merrick & Nick Johnson, Missing is an hour and 51 minutes long and is distributed by Sony.

Featured photo: Missing

The Matter of Everything, by Suzie Sheehy

The Matter of Everything, by Suzie Sheehy (Knopf, 320 pages)

If you’ve been on this planet for more than two decades and have decent health insurance, you’ve probably had an X-ray at some time. However, you may not have given any thought as to how the technology came about unless it was required on a test.

Suzie Sheehy, an Australian physicist, is here to forgive and redeem the incurious with a surprisingly engaging book that delves into 12 experiments that radically upended the world. While “read a science book by a particle accelerator physicist” might not be on your bucket list, The Matter of Everything is an easily digestible dive into advances in physics that will be especially useful for anyone who struggles to define a quark.

Sheehy didn’t plan on a career in physics; she was studying civil engineering in college when she was invited to an overnight astronomy event at the Leon Mow Dark Sky Site not far from Melbourne. (Dark sky preserves are places where you can see much more of the galaxy because of the absence of artificial light.)

There Sheehy saw Saturn’s rings and the arc of the Milky Way and experienced a recalibration of what she thought about the universe. She writes, “I wanted to know how it was all connected and how I was connected with it. I wanted to know if there really was a theory of everything. I felt deeply that all this mattered, that it mattered to me as a human, that understanding this was a goal big enough that if I managed it even a little bit, I’d not have wasted my blip of time as a conscious being.”

She changed course and began studying particle physics — how particles form, transform and behave. And her interest in connectivity eventually helped to shape this book, as she connects historical dots to show how some of the most ground-breaking advances have come about not from the “lone genius theorizing at a desk” but by stubborn and curious scientists who were determined to figure out something that stumped them.

Take, for example, the X-ray.

A German scientist named Wilhelm Rontgen was working with cathode rays (observable streams of electrons) when he noticed a green-colored glow coming from the other side of his lab. The light disappeared when he turned the cathode ray tube off, but remained when he covered the tube with black paper. He became obsessed with figuring out what was happening, and discovered that the strange light would leave shadows of what it passed through.

Rontgen had dark hair that protruded from his forehead “as if he were permanently electrified by his own enthusiasm” and was a shy loner ill-prepared for the fame that would find him when he began telling the world about the discovery of this new kind of ray, to which he assigned the letter “X,” to denote “unknown.”

While conducting experiments, “He spent seven intense weeks in his lab, occasionally being reminded to eat by his wife, Anna Bertha.” He used his wife’s hand to test what happened when the ray passed over a human limb and an image of her bones and wedding ring showed up.

Writes Sheehy: “According to legend, when Bertha saw the bones in her hand, she exclaimed, ‘I have seen my death!’ and never set foot in her husband’s lab again.”

Rontgen soon realized how transformative his discovery would be in medicine, and he made the first public presentation of his findings to a medical society. It marked the first time that doctors would be able to see inside the human body without cutting it; within a year, X-rays would be used to find shrapnel in wounded soldiers on battlefields.

Of course, with one being born every minute, as P.T. Barnum would say, X-rays quickly seized the public imagination in non-medical ways. “X-ray-proof” underwear and “X-ray glasses” would soon be for sale by unscrupulous entrepreneurs.

Sheehy (or her editors) was smart to begin with the X-ray experiment, since that is something to which most people can easily relate. She has to work a bit harder to get us to care about the origins of, say, cloud chambers or the linear accelerators that led to the discovery of quarks. But she is a good storyteller despite her formidable intellect and weaves in the sort of detail that humanizes her subjects and holds our attention.

We might not, for example, be as intrigued by the origin of the nuclear theory of the atom until we learn that it was developed by a man who believed that “swearing at an experiment made it work better” and thus cussed his way into changing what we previously believed about the composition of atoms.

Or that technology that dates historical artifacts was developed, in part, because contemporary physicist Charles Bennett bought an $80 violin at a New York flea market and was determined to find out if it was a famed Stradivarius instrument made in Italy.

This is not to say that the entire book is riveting to people who aren’t conversant in physics. For the science-impaired, it can go from fascinating to bewildering in the span of 10 seconds. I have lived many decades on this planet without once using “muon” in a conversation and don’t expect that to change even though I now know that muography is a thing and muons are apparently going to assure the structural integrity of our bridges in the future.

And while I understand in principle the importance of the Large Hadron Collider, which in 2012 confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson particle, I take it on faith, much like I take on faith that my air fryer will not explode no matter how loud it gets.

Disappointingly, Sheehy did not help me to wax eloquent on these subjects, nor did she convince me that with just a little more study I, too, could explain the Standard Model of particle physics to an innocent bystander.

That said, I am a little bit smarter for having read this book, my eyes having been opened to many more things that I know embarrassingly little about. There are about 13,000 particle physicists in the world, and they are just like you and me except that they spend their time using ion traps to mimic particle accelerators. Whatever that means. B

Album Reviews 23/01/26

keep calm stay home, A Theme For… (Give/Take Records)

I know how much a good percentage of my readership loves The Beatles, even if I don’t so much. I only bring it up because the artist in question here, London-based composer Oli Morgan, is the mastering engineer at legendary Abbey Road Studios, the 90-year-old space where The Beatles cut, you know, the Abbey Road album. That’s some cred, for sure, but Morgan hasn’t been using it to record bubblegum songs; he’s all about ambient soundscapes, using techniques he used while working for big shots like Elton John and Seal. This one took him long enough, and it’s only five songs clocking in at a total of 17 minutes, but it’s a quantum leap from the ambient stuff that ends up on this desk. The title track, for instance, has an advanced art-rock feel, starting with a History Channel-inspired let’s-explore-this-giant-underground-cavern feel before suddenly shifting into an IDM/noise-rock joint. “Unrest” is more droney, almost gothic in the way it resembles stuff I’ve heard from Noise Unit. Well worth your time if you need to get lost in really thick layers of melodically usable techno. A

Die Oberherren, Die By My Hand (Svart Records)

This LP is described as “the product of Joakim Knutsson’s dissatisfaction of a genre which has gone totally down the drain,” meaning goth rock, which means he may have never heard Front Line assembly and all that stuff, but you know the drill: any angry goth-rebel palomino is a pal-o-mine-o. It streets this week, this debut LP from a six-piece Swedish band that wants to appeal to “metalheads, synth aficionados, rockers and shoegazers” but that also believes goth peaked in the 1980s. The record lifts off with “The Horned One Stabs,” a tune that does remind us that bands like Sisters Of Mercy are sorely missed, and that’s no understatement; in other words the tune is basically what you’d hear if you took everything about SOM’s “Lucretia My Reflection” and rearranged the parts. “By The End Of The Shore” adds some Fields Of The Nephilim gloom-pop to the SOM trappings and voila, very enjoyable if in no way groundbreaking. They have my blessings, certainly. A


• So yo, the next general-release date for music CDs is Jan. 27, just a couple more months of winter horror left to go. Aaand terrific, I don’t know any of the artists dropping new product this Friday, so I get to — OK, wait, here’s one, Truth Decay from none other than You Me at Six, the British five-piece band that’s sort of half-emo and half-Creed insofar as temperament. You may have seen them on Warped Tour or whatnot, playing alongside Fall Out Boy and all those guys; chances are — if you usually do things like attend keggers and have a glass muffler on your car — that you’ve probably subjected yourself to their sort-of-hit single “Bite My Tongue” on many an occasion, but let’s just forget that, because a new and improved YMAS is here, to drop some fresh hot tracks! One hot track that got dropped for all you homeslices a few months ago was “Deep Cuts,” in which our intrepid heroes dabble with a Red Hot Chili Peppers sound at the beginning and then remember they’re trying to be Panic! At The Disco and so on and so forth. There’s another song for you to preview out there as well, “Mixed Emotions (I Didn’t Know How To Tell You What I Was Going Through),” which isn’t all that bad, a little like Hoobastank trying to emulate Aerosmith. It’s OK, but the video’s pretty dumb.

• Still on a British music tip, Sam Smith is a singer-songwriter who won fame in 2012 by featuring on Disclosure’s breakthrough single “Latch,” which peaked at No. 11 on the U.K. Singles Chart, according to Wikipedia — in other words you probably have no idea who we’re talking about here but that’s OK. Ha ha, this genius released a tune in 2014 called “Stay With Me” that was pretty good, but only because it sounded like Tom Petty’s 1989 hit “I Won’t Back Down,” but the party ended early, when Petty himself noticed the similarities between the hooky parts of the two songs (namely that they’re exactly the same except for the lyrics) and promptly sued the little rascal and settled out of court. But hey, come on, everyone accidentally steals from Tom Petty, you know that, so let’s cut Smith some slack and waddle off to YouTube to listen to “Unholy,” the latest single from their new album, Gloria. This track features German singer and popular trans figure Kim Petras (who received international media coverage that touted her as the “world’s youngest transsexual”). It’s a U.K.-garage-and-King Tut-tinged diva extravaganza that’s kind of fascinating, not that there seems to be any point to it whatsoever, but, well, there you are.

• Garage rock dude King Tuff is from our neighboring state of Vermont, where he makes garage rock records for the Sub Pop label. He looks like your average everyday popcorn seller at the local Comicon, all beard and unattractiveness, but that makes him more edgy than most, as who would want to be seen like that. He’s also the singer and guitarist of stoner-rockers Witch, and used to be in Ty Segall’s backing band The Muggers, if any of that means anything to you, but meanwhile the hot new beats he’s about to drop are compiled on a new album called Smalltown Stardust, the title track from which is sort of unplugged Nirvana meets Beck or something of that nature. The video is kind of neat, he’s hanging around this colorful Sesame Street kind of sidewalk playing a piano and fondling an actual rat. Yay randomness!

• And to end this week’s thing, let’s check out Electrophonic Chronic, the latest LP from U.S. garage rockers The Arcs. Led by Black Keys singer Dan Auerbach, the single “Keep On Dreamin’” is a cross between Flaming Lips and Wilco. It takes guts to be that lazily viable and relevant, you have to admit.

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).

Vegetable vegetarian soup

I love aligning my cooking with the weather. When it’s January and the days are cold, I enjoy a hot meal at the end of the day. Even better than a hot meal is one that has been simmering all day long. After a day of work, it is nice to know that a warm dish awaits me.

Except for peeling the carrots and dicing the fresh veggies, this is pretty much a measure-and-combine recipe. Everything can be prepped and assembled in 15 minutes or less, which probably means it can be completed before your workday begins. Set your slow cooker on low, and you’ll return to a home that smells amazing!

The ingredients for this recipe are pretty simple, but I do have a few notes. I used unsalted broth and tomatoes, so before serving I tasted and added a tiny pinch of salt. If you use regular broth and tomatoes, the soup most likely won’t need salt. As for all of the veggies, you are welcome to add and delete based on your preferences. Broccoli, spinach and potato would make fine additions.

This recipe utilizes a slow cooker for the simmering. However, it can be cooked on the stove, and in much less than 4 hours. Once the fresh veggies have been added, bring the soup to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Add the frozen veggies, cook for 5 minutes, and serve.

No matter how you cook it, this soup is a healthy way to warm and fuel up at the end of the day.

Vegetable vegetarian Soup
Serves 6

4 cups vegetable broth
1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced green beans
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
½ Tablespoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas

Combine broth and tomatoes in a 5-quart slow cooker.
Add carrots, celery, green beans and seasoning.
Stir well, and cover.
Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
Add frozen corn and peas.
Heat for 15 minutes, and serve.

Featured Photo: Vegetable vegetarian soup. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

In the kitchen with Gerald Oriol

Gerald Oriol is the owner and executive chef of Caribbean Breeze (233 Main St., Nashua, 883-4340, find them on Facebook and Instagram @caribbeanbreezerestaurant), a one-stop culinary destination for authentic Caribbean eats, featuring Haitian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Jamaican and Dominican items all under the same roof. Arriving in the former Norton’s Classic Cafe storefront on the corner of Main and West Hollis streets in Nashua in late 2021, Caribbean Breeze also features a menu of many familiar breakfast items the space has long been known for. Oriol is originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and has amassed more than three decades of experience as a chef. For 19 years he served as an executive chef for Sodexo, and before that he worked for the DoubleTree Hotel in Cambridge, Mass. A certified executive chef through the American Culinary Federation, Oriol is also the recipient of several awards, including Sodexo’s Rookie of the Year award in 2001 and a silver medal in the ACF’s Hot Food Competition in 2004.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A knife.

What would you have for your last meal?

I have so many choices. It would be whatever’s available to me, because as a chef, doing what I’ve been doing for so many years, I learn … to love and appreciate any food.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I used to like to go to Chicken N Chips [in Nashua], but unfortunately now they are closed. … I used to travel a lot, so I’ve tried many places, but I don’t have enough time to eat out because of the business I have now.

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

Guy Fieri, because he knows and understands food … and I think his critique would be very well-received.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

Whatever the customer tries, because that’s the food that I will make them … to please them and make them happy. Everything on the menu that I have from the islands [is] all very authentic.

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

To be honest with you … I feel like Caribbean food is a trend, because people will feel like it’s not something they can find anywhere else. … And you don’t need to travel to the Caribbean or go down to Boston. You don’t need to leave New Hampshire.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Unfortunately, when I get home, I get home late. … So if I have time, I will cook whatever my family wants to eat. … Usually I like to grill.

Haitian potato salad
From the kitchen of Chef Gerald Oriol of Caribbean Breeze in Nashua

4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, peeled and minced
2¼ teaspoons salt
1 small beet
2 eggs
½ cup sweet peas
½ onion, minced
⅓ cup red bell pepper, diced
⅓ cup green bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Boil the potatoes and the carrot in water with one teaspoon of salt for 10 minutes, or until tender. Boil the beet separately in water with one teaspoon of salt until tender, then peel and mince. Boil the eggs separately in water with 1/4 teaspoon of salt until hard. In a bowl, place the cubed potatoes, minced beet, sweet peas, carrot, onion, red and green bell peppers and mix with the mayonnaise. Add the black pepper.

Featured photo: Gerald Oriol, owner and executive chef of Caribbean Breeze in Nashua. Courtesy photo.

Brews by the Oval

Ogie Brewing now open in Milford

Nearly four full years after Bill Ogert signed a lease to open his own nano brewery in Milford, his vision is now a reality. Ogie Brewing, a stone’s throw from the town Oval, celebrated its grand opening Jan. 6 with a lineup of 10 beers on tap, following many months of delays.

“I’ve loved how many people have come in on our days open and said, ‘We’ve been watching you for years, we’ve been so eager, we’re so glad it finally happened.’ That’s encouraging,” he said. “You stop and look around [and] … you suddenly see the reward for all the hardships.”

It was February 2019 when Ogert, a former aerospace engineer who originally became interested in homebrewing through his brother, found the former Bravo Pizza storefront on South Street. Eighteen months of litigation would follow, stemming from a neighbor’s complaint over a zoning exception and eventually reaching the state Superior Court. The pandemic hit right in the middle of the legal proceedings, Ogert pointed out, further delaying the process.

By September 2020 the two parties were able to settle in mediation, clearing Ogie Brewing to begin its construction phase. But with Ogert’s lease up for renewal the following February, he quickly found himself at a crossroads.

“I just had to make up my mind, like, you’re in or you’re out,” he said. “And my wife convinced me to just keep doing it. We renewed the lease. … I was still working my day job through all of this, and pretty much every penny I made went into keeping this place going.”

By May of last year Ogert decided to quit his day job in favor of getting the brewery open. Just before Christmas, Ogie Brewing held a “super soft” opening, pouring pints of one beer — an easy-drinking lighter version of a Norwegian farmhouse ale Ogert called “Soft Serve” — with the plan to hold a grand opening two weeks later with a full array of beers on tap.

“When you’re trying to pick one beer to please a broad audience, it has to be a little lighter and a little easy to drink. Not super-hoppy, not super-yeasty,” Ogert said. “We named it ‘Soft Serve’ because it was the only beer we served for the soft opening. People come in and they’re like, ‘Is that some kind of an ice cream IPA?’ I’m like, no, it’s just a play on words.”

As for the rest of his beer lineup, Ogert said his intention has always been to have a total of 10 that rotate out. His offerings out of the gate include a Belgian-style witbier made with Maine wild blueberries, a single-grain, single-hop American pale ale, a sour flavored with California figs, a German-style hefeweizen, and a hazy IPA with tropical aromas and flavors, among others.

“People ask me what I specialize in, and my honest answer is that I specialize in variety,” Ogert said. “I decided I’d start off with a menu that would hopefully have something for everyone and also expose people to styles they may not have ever tried. … And, I mean, I’ve spent so much time … getting each recipe to where it is now. The ones I didn’t like either got reinvented to [what] they are on the menu or they were discarded completely.”

Ogert also has plans to implement a food menu — he’s thinking simple items that pair well with beer. While he said he isn’t focused too much on distribution outside of the brewery, he is implementing a “crowler” system for his beers — similar to growlers, only in cans.

“They would usually fill it like a growler and then can it at that time,” he said. “It gives us the ability to just pour off taps without pre-canning stuff. If you’ve tried a flight and you’re like ‘Wow, I really like this beer, do you have any to go?’ We just pour them off the tap like it was [for] a glass, set it on the canner, attach the lid and out you go.”

Ogie Brewing
Where: 12 South St., Milford
Hours: Currently vary; see their Facebook page for the most up-to-date details on their hours of operation each week.
More info: Find them on Facebook @ogiebrewing or call 249-5513

Featured photo: Ogie Brewing’s starting lineup of beers. Courtesy photo.

A taste of Somalia

Batulo’s Kitchen coming to Concord’s Bank of New Hampshire Stage

At the Concord Multicultural Festival, Batulo Mahamed has gained a reputation over the last decade as one of the event’s most popular food vendors, building a following for her sambusa, or Somali meat pies. You’ll soon be able to enjoy her pies all year round, thanks to the launch of a new culinary artist-in-residence program with Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts.

Batulo’s Kitchen, set to open Feb. 1 at the Bank of New Hampshire Stage, is the first participant of the new program, which aims to give new Americans an opportunity to start their own food businesses in a low-risk, low-cost setting.

“This is something that I’ve been trying for years to get done through the Multicultural Festival,” said Jessica Livingston, who joined the Capitol Center’s staff in March as community outreach coordinator. “We have several food vendors who are interested in starting a business … and the community obviously wants more access to these delicious foods.”

Livingston met with Sal Prizio, who took over as the Capitol Center’s executive director in late 2021, to discuss the establishment of the program.

“He said that there was a commercial kitchen just sitting there being unused and he wanted to do like a ghost kitchen program,” she said, “and I was like, ‘Wait, what? Are you serious? I’ve been trying to do something like this forever.’ … It’s a way to give back to the community and support local people and their food business endeavors, but it’s also a win-win for us because we can offer something different to the patrons who come here, rather than your typical concessions.”

Mahamed relocated to the United States with her family in 2004 from Somalia. In addition to being a regular vendor at the Multicultural Festival, she operates her own farm and sells her own fresh produce at local farmers markets through Fresh Start Farms.

“I was so excited to talk to Batulo about it because this has been a huge goal of hers, and I’ve always kind of promised that I would help her make it happen,” Livingston said.

Mahamed’s sambusa, known across the Multicultural Festival circuit as simply “Batulo’s meat pies,” are small triangular-shaped pastries that can be stuffed with one’s choice of ground beef, chicken breast or veggies. All are additionally prepared with bell peppers, onions, potatoes, salt, garlic, cilantro and curry powder.

Other than the sambusa, Batulo’s Kitchen’s menu will feature rice and vegetable meals, like basmati rice, stir-fried in onions and seasoned with veggie bouillon, cilantro, cumin and garlic.

“She’s keeping it pretty simple right now to what she knows,” Livingston said. “Her ultimate goal is to build up enough of a customer base and [have] enough income to be able to purchase a food truck when her residency is through with us. … She’ll be here all through 2023.”

Batulo’s Kitchen will soon be accepting orders for lunch pickup, as well as delivery through third-party services like GrubHub and DoorDash. Livingston added that she does expect Mahamed to also continue participating in the Multicultural Festival, due to return to Keach Park in Concord this fall.

“It’s strictly going to be a family business with her kids working with her, and I think that’s really kind of special,” she said. “It’s really all about preserving their culture, but doing it as a family and sharing the food that they love with people here.”

Batulo’s Kitchen
Opening Wednesday, Feb. 1
Where: Bank of New Hampshire Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord
Anticipated hours: Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
More info: Visit batuloskitchen.com, find them on Facebook and Instagram @batuloskitchen or call 848-2204

Featured photo: Batulo Mahamed, owner of Batulo’s Kitchen in Concord. Courtesy photo.

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