New old time

Low Lily unveils Angels in the Wreckage

On their latest album, Low Lily, the rootsy trio of married couple Liz Simmons and Flynn Cohen and fiddler Natalie Padilla, decided to be bold. Angels in the Wreckage runs an expansive 14 tracks and is full of forthright songs. An a capella anthem, “What’ll You Do” is punchy, political, ready-made for a protest march; “One Wild World” covers similar territory more tenderly. Neither song, however, shies away from their core beliefs.

“We feel a little bit more comfortable being ourselves and speaking our mind and just kind of putting it all out there, because we’re not in our 20s anymore,” Simmons said in a recent interview. “Making a 14-track album would have felt almost gratuitous when we were younger, but at this point, we just don’t care; we had a lot to say.”

The album is their first with Padilla, as former fiddler Lissa Schneckenburger departed last year. “Travel was really too much for her at this stage in her life; it was an amicable parting,” Simmons explained. In fact, Schneckenburger contributed four songs to the new LP, one a co-write with Simmons, and plays on the opening track, a cover of Shawn Colvin’s “Round of Blues.”

“It feels like she’s still kind of present in the music, in that back of the curtain way,” Simmons concluded.

Cohen met Padilla at a fiddle camp, run by Brian Wicklund, where they’d both taught for several years. Initially he thought she’d be a good accompanist for his solo gigs. “She had a lot of the same taste in multiple styles,” Simmons said. Faced with a lineup change, they realized “someone like her, with all this versatility, would be the best fit.”

Padilla was living in Montana when she joined the band, but she recently relocated to Northampton, Mass., a short drive from Cohen and Simmons’s home in Brattleboro, Vermont. “We were ready to continue to fly her out for every tour, but she actually decided of her own volition to move,” Simmons said. “Now she’s a local.”

Born into a musical family, Padilla is also a singer, songwriter and guitarist. All three talents are on display in her lilting ballad “Captivate Me,” one of the album’s best tracks. An ode to her medicine man great-grandfather, it includes a gorgeous three-part harmony, and lovely acoustic interplay between her, Cohen and multi-instrumentalist/producer Dirk Powell.

Powell mastered their 2018 album 10,000 Days Like These and was the right choice to produce this time around.

“Especially because Natalie brings some of that old-time fiddle, and Dirk is so familiar with that particular style,” Simmons said, adding, “in terms of the American roots music, him being such a kind of legend in that world, it seemed like such a natural pairing.”

Throughout the project, they worked virtually with Powell, emailing tracks to him in Louisiana. “He would pick up what we were putting down,” Simmons said. He played banjo, double bass, electric guitar and, on the superb “Lonely,” piano, triangle and button accordion. “He brings a little of that Bayou flavor, that Cajun sound, which I think works so nicely on that track.”

There are two Cohen instrumentals on the record. “Keep the Pachysandra Flying” is a full group romp. He performs solo on “Bastard Plantagenet Blues,” a tribute to his time with English guitar master Davey Graham early in his playing days.

“Flynn went to school in England in Devon for three years and had the amazing opportunity to study with him, he also even had an all-day lesson with Burt Jansch” — a gift, as it turned out, Simmons said. “Burt was like, ‘Oh, you don’t owe me anything.’ Rolling with those guys, they were just so nice. None of them are alive anymore, so he enjoys little tributes when he can to those folks.”

The record ends as it began, with a cover — Jethro Tull’s “Wond’ring Again.” Simmons considers the song apocalyptic, a reflection of the album’s overall mood. “That’s kind of where that Angels in The Wreckage title comes from,” she said. “I’m struck by how beauty and destruction can live side by side.”

For a CD release tour that stops at Concord’s Bank of New Hampshire Stage on April 28, Low Lily will perform as a five-piece, with a rhythm section of double bass player Hazel Royer and Stefan Amidon on drums. They will perform the new LP from start to finish.

“We’re really excited to go on the road and represent the album sound live in this fuller way,” Simmons said.

Low Lily CD Release Show w/ Green Heron
When: Friday, April 28, 8 p.m.
Where: Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord
Tickets: $23.75 at

Featured photo: Low Lily. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/04/27

Local music news & events

Reimaginers: At a weekly residency in a Gate City speakeasy, Loce Jazz puts a unique spin on its namesake music. The trio — guitar, drums and keyboard — elevates Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” journeying from its signature opening riff to a place that McCoy Tyner might have taken the classic rock hit. They also do more traditional fare, like the John Coltrane rearrangement of “My Favorite Things” and a sweet, swinging take of Kermit’s “Rainbow Connection.” Thursday, April 27, 8 p.m., CodeX, 1 Elm St., Nashua,

Resinating: The latest in a series of concerts featuring local bands is topped by festival favorites The Trichomes, a psych-funk act noted (and named) for its sticky sound. They’re joined by Good Trees River Band, who’ve tightened up from their jammy origins, getting a bit heavier in the process. Bad Lab is a Dover hip-hop trio that formed late last year boasting “old-school beats and modern vibes,” and Peregrine Dream is an acoustic singer-songwriter effort. Friday, April 28, 7 p.m., The Strand, 20 Third St., Dover, $15 at

Alternative: A five-comic show has Casey Crawford mining his “dumb life” for one-liners. This got him on Jimmy Kimmel Live a few years back. Born in South Dakota, he worked in the New York comedy scene before heading north to New England. He’s a rural Steven Wright, with quips like, “When I go for a walk in the woods, people stop me and ask if I work there.” Juan Cespedes, Bill Douglas, Bonnie Lee and Casey McNeal round out the bill. Saturday, April 29, 8 p.m., Murphy’s Taproom, 494 Elm St., Manchester, $20 at the door, see

Evocative: For those who still want their MTV, an evening with Neon Wave is just the tonic. The five-piece band pays tribute to an entire decade, doing the hits of Duran Duran, The Fixx, Scandal and others, while totally dressing the part. Their synth-y redo of Berlin’s “No More Words” is a set highlight, and they also do a banging version of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” with co-lead singer Brien Sweet in eyeliner looking like The Cure’s Robert Smith. Saturday, April 29, 8:30 p.m., Pasta Loft, 241 Union Square, Milford. More at

Seasonal: An afternoon Swing into Spring concert from the Capitol Jazz Orchestra features singer-guitarist John Pizzarelli, who’s covered a lot of ground in a career that’s included working with Paul McCartney and Michael McDonald. The Globe praised him for “reinvigorating the Great American Songbook and re-popularizing jazz.” He recently marked Nat King Cole’s centennial with the third in a series of Cole-centric albums. Sunday, April 30, 4 pm., Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord, $33.25 and up at

Evil Dead Rise (R)

A teen just can’t not open the obviously evil Book of the Dead, thus releasing demons or whatever and leading to a tsunami of gore, in Evil Dead Rise.

The movie actually starts at an A-frame cabin of devilry out in the woods. After some creepy voice work and R-rated violence, we jump back one day and meet Beth (Lily Sullivan), some kind of tech worker for a rock band. When Beth realizes she is unexpectedly pregnant, she rushes to visit her older sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland). But Ellie has problems of her own: her husband (and the father of her three kids) has taken off, and the building where they live in a someteenth floor apartment is being torn down, necessitating a stressful move. Teens Bridget (Gabrielle Echols) and Danny (Morgan Davies) and younger sister Kassie (Nell Fisher) are further traumatized when they’re caught in the building’s parking garage during a large earthquake. The supports shake, the ground cracks — so naturally when Danny spots a hole leading below the unstable structure into an old bank vault, why not climb down? And why not take the veiny, fang-having book he finds down there along with accompanying record albums — hey, the kids love vinyl!

Danny and Bridget argue over what to do with the book; Danny thinks their mom could sell it for big money (to whom?) and Bridget is like “go put it back.” Danny says, sure, tomorrow, after I flip through these pages full of disturbing imagery and play the records full of incantations. Even though Danny did the summoning, it’s Ellie who is the first to become possessed — all cadaver-ish skin and unnerving vocal changes. The last thing she says before the real Ellie is overtaken by the possessor is a plea to Beth to take care of her babies, a task that would be easier if the cell phones weren’t down and the building’s stairs hadn’t collapsed.

This movie is not terribly made — there is a respectable ocean of stage blood and the slightest dusting of evil-demon sass. But its most stand-out images are largely riffs on similar images or scenes from other movies — previous Evil Deads but also The Shining, maybe Fargo. It has that odd time-out-of-time quality that some recent horror movies have, where cars and clothes could have you thinking you’re watching something set in the late 1970s but also there are cell phones. The final fight scene has its charms.

It’s all fine, I guess, if this is your thing, but it doesn’t have any staying power beyond the moment you’re watching the movie. This is not a movie I will be thinking about for weeks. This is likely not a movie I’ll still be thinking about by the time you read this review. There’s a pokiness about the film — even when the “Evil”-ing had begun, I still felt like things hadn’t really gotten going, like the motor hadn’t fully kicked on in this movie. C, maybe a C+ for not really doing anything wrong and for having Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi credited as executive producers.

Rated R for strong bloody horror violence and gore, and some language, according to the MPA at Written and directed by Lee Cronin, Evil Dead Rise is an hour and 37 minutes long and is distributed in theaters by New Line Cinema.

Featured photo: Evil Dead Rise

The Society of Shame, by Jane Roper

The Society of Shame, by Jane Roper (Anchor, 360 pages)

The year is young, but it’s hard to imagine that there will be a smarter, sassier takedown of social media this year than The Society of Shame, Jane Roper’s merrily caustic novel about cancel culture.

Roper, who claims to live in Boston, but whose real home is apparently Twitter, has taken pretty much everything that’s happened in social media over the past few years and mocked it so deftly that it’s impossible to be offended, even if you see yourself in it. It’s tempting to compare her to Christopher Buckley, the author of Thank You for Smoking and Florence of Arabia, but she may be better.
The novel is centered around Kathleen Held, a mother, writer and editor who returned home early from a trip to visit her sister in California to find her garage — and soon, her life — in flames.

Held’s husband, Bill, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, was unexpectedly at home, and even more unexpectedly at home with a lissome young staffer with her underwear removed. The taxi driver who brought Kathleen home first rescued the family dog from the house, and then in the chaos of emergency services arriving, snaps a photo of the scene, which includes not just Bill and the staffer, but Kathleen from the rear, with a large menstrual blood stain, “the size of a saucer,” on her capris.

When the picture gets out — the taxi driver turns out to be enterprising — Bill’s campaign and the couple’s marriage are on the brink. But the biggest news turns out to be Kathleen’s stained pants, which, combined with sympathy for the cheated-on wife, turns into a social-media, menstrual-positive movement called #YesWeBleed.

The perimenopausal Kathleen, furious at her husband and mortified about her pants, is faced with a couple of choices: leave or stand by her man, and ignore the movement or join us. Meanwhile, she is dealing with conflicted emotions of her middle-school-age daughter, Aggie, who was away when the incident happened but soon came home to find her life as turned upside down as her parents’.

If this all sounds kind of angsty and icky, yes, it could be. But Roper is a gifted comic writer, who knows how to throw a punchline and to sustain a running gag, or two or 20. The taxi driver, who parlays his fortuitous fare into fame, having been savvy enough to snap a selfie with the Helds’ dog, is one of the recurring jokes.

But it is social media cameos that make the novel so hilarious, the ever-changing, irreverent hashtags (from #YesWeBleed to #YesWeRead to #AllBloodMatters) along with the all-too-familiar tweets, which are fiction here but draw their power from their ubiquitous inspirations in real life. Examples: “Rich white lady bleeds through her organic cotton pants on the lawn of her Gold Coast mansion. Cry me a river, Karen” and “While the internet is falling all over itself to feel sorry for privileged Kathleen Held, more than half of the 37 million Americans living in poverty are women. #Priorities #EqualPayNow #LivingWage #EndPoverty #MedicareForAll.

There are also numerous bad puns in the media coverage that pops up in short chapters throughout the book (e.g., a “Tampon in a Teapot” as one droll commentator put it).

“The Society of Shame” is not a metaphor, but an actual group of people who have experienced cancellation, whether from becoming a shameful meme or by uttering something unfortunate that was caught on a hot mike. Membership is by invitation only, and Kathleen intercepts an invitation meant for her husband, and attends a meeting out of a combination of curiosity and desperation, because her life is becoming unrecognizable due to her overnight notoriety.

The group was formed by a popular romance novelist who was canceled after audio leaked out of her calling her fan base “fat Midwestern housewives and pensioners on cut-rate Caribbean cruises.”) The author had shut down her social media and disappeared from public view after her explanations and apologies hadn’t helped.

But now she coaches a diverse group of people about how to recover from public humiliation. The current group includes “Angry Cereal Mom,” a mother who turned into a GIF after someone filmed her speaking angrily to her son in Whole Foods, after which “an entire cascade of natural and organic cereal boxes from the shelf behind her rained down on her head” and “the Moonabomber,” a college frat boy whose innocent antics on the beach was inadvertently captured in photos of an elderly couple celebrating their anniversary on a balcony up above.

There’s also a famous actor caught saying crude things about a woman on a hot mike, and a woman who became famous because she called the police on a Black man reading the electric meter in her backyard. There are others, and Roper covers all the bases of cancel culture with just the right tone.

The tension in the novel involves the fracturing of the Held family concurrent with Kathleen’s reinvention of herself, with the coaching of Danica, the founder of The Society of Shame. There’s a weak and somewhat tired thread here, about a wife who had set aside her own ambitions to support a rakish husband, and while it’s pretty clear where that is headed, it doesn’t detract from the wicked pleasures of the book, which expand as the #YesWeBleed movement grows and contorts. As Willie Wonka once said, there are “little surprises around every corner but nothing dangerous,” and The Society of Shame proposes to make us both laugh and think.


Album Reviews 23/04/27

T3nors, Naked Soul (Frontiers Records)

Had a weird little exchange the other day, on either Facebook or Twitter, I forget, where this one guy was saying that every album put out by Frontiers Records sounds the same as all the others. I can’t say I concur with that, only because basically all indie labels tend to sign bands that fall into that same trap, like, you won’t hear a Metal Blade-released LP that has much character past Slayer, for example. This one’s somewhat unique in that it features three successful AOR-style singers, Kent Hilli of Perfect Plan along, with Robbie LaBlanc and Toby Hitchock, both of whom have been in bands that specialized in Whitesnake/Jefferson Starship rawk. Spoiler, the result is a bunch of Toto-style radio nuggets with a few Scorpions-ish moments here and there, which is code for “this band has no sense of humor at all and is completely unaware that it’s not 1985 anymore.” That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means that wiseasses like me have no patience for it. B

Dust Prophet, One Last Look Upon The Sky (self-released)

Local-to-Manchester, N.H., guy Otto Kinzel continues to prove himself to be a fiercely independent warrior in the worst industry in the world, the music business. Right on time, a new album from guitarist/singer/label-runner/floor-mopper Kinzel, bass player/keyboardist Sarah Wappler and drummer Tyler MacPherson has landed, aimed at expanding on the apocalyptic verism they tabled in a teaser single a little while back, accomplishing that by pouring on classical lit-goth imagery from John Milton, Flannery O’Connor and such. Wappler kicks things off in style with a ghostly contrapuntal piano line serving as an intro, which leads us into “When The Axe Falls,” easily the best thing I’ve ever heard from Kinzel, a doom-speed Metallica joint made more delightfully indie by some guitar rawness. Riff-wise, “Dear Mrs. Budd” evokes next-level Obsessed, featuring a waltz-time bit that’s instantly memorable. New Hampshire, you really need to help these people get to their rightful place in the underground metal hierarchy, I’m serious. A+


• Here we go, my precious trolls, just like every Friday, April 28 will be a day on which new rock ’n’ roll albums will appear magically, in your Spotify, because that’s how things are done, in these United States! The first thing that jumped out at me in this week’s list was an album titled Signs of Life, from Neil Gaiman, the human who wrote Sandman and all those other Lovecraft-meets-X-Men books and comics or whatever his trip is, I’ve never really gotten into any of that stuff. But wait, why would an esteemed author make an album when he doesn’t have to? In this case I’ll bet it’s because he’s sick of watching his wife, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, make all the albums in the family. I would definitely do that too, like, if Petunia were an author of romance novels, I’d definitely drop the nonfiction book about social media that I’m working on right now and write a book about smooches and sexytimes just to keep her on her toes and get a nice sweet $2,000 advance from Harlequin Romance And Sexytime Book Co. and spend it on a used copy of Spider-Man No. 3 or whatever, as opposed to a signed copy of Sandman No. 1 or whatnot, you feel me? Anyway, folks, Gaiman is not a one-man band, so his music album needed actual musicians, and so he hired a group of instrument-playing slackers he knows, who call themselves the FourPlay String Quartet (see what they did there?), and those people play on this (probably completely pointless) album. I’ll now meander over to the YouTube box and listen to one of the tunes, “Bloody Sunrise,” which I selected because it looks like there’s a hot vampire girl in the video. Yup, it’s a cute vampire girl, and she’s singing a quirky comedy number about crawling out of her coffin and hanging around with bats and owls and trying to get a boyfriend, and oops, there’s the string quartet, and the vampire girl sings decently enough, like a third-place finisher on The Voice, something like that. There’s a random TV in the graveyard, and every once in a while Neil Gaiman (I think) appears on the TV and starts harmonizing with the vampire girl. This would be something for the Neil Gaiman completist on your holiday shopping list, because why wouldn’t they want to see proof that Neil Gaiman once did something incredibly dumb?

• If you’re like me at all, you’d given up on Canadian art-rock bands after the first one you ever heard, but you actually held a little hope for Braids, whose new LP, Euphoric Recall, has a very worthwhile little single, “Evolution.” Overall, it evokes an understated-electro version of Lisa Loeb’s “Stay,” something that Sia would definitely do. It’s a good one.

• Believe it or not, there are bands in Cincinnati, Ohio, friends, and one of them, The National, recorded a single that former President Barack Obama named as one of his favorite songs of 2017, namely “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” which was indeed jagged, slightly aggressive and cool overall. The band’s new album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, leads off with the song “Eucalyptus,” an art-rock thingamajig that combines the sounds of late-’80s Wire and Guster to create a slightly cowboy-ish atmosphere. It’s perfectly fine.

• Lastly it’s Canadian folk-rockers Great Lake Swimmers, with their new album, Uncertain Country! They’ve released albums on the Nettwerk Records label, which is code for “they’re consistently good.” The new single “Moonlight, Stay Above” is way too Bon Iver-y for my tastes, but other than that is shimmery and peaceful and blah blah blah.

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).

Sloe gin fizz

I opened the door to the back seat of my car and went to put my briefcase in but saw something out of the corner of my eye and stopped short.

A couple of times a week, when I stop at the convenience store to pick up some iced coffee, I will treat myself to one of the individually wrapped chocolate-covered graham crackers on the counter by the cash register. For reasons that remain obscure to me, I must have bought one, then tossed it into the back of my car the day before.

I picked it up and examined it. Although still hermetically sealed, it had clearly had a rough 24 hours. As it sat in the hot car throughout the previous day, the chocolate had melted. It had been cold overnight, though, and it had firmed back up. Not wanting to waste a gift from Past Me, I ate it before getting into the front seat.

“Look at you!” I said to it, as I unwrapped it. “You had a rough day, but you pulled yourself together, and here you are, back on the job. Thank you. I appreciate your work ethic.”

I was suddenly struck by a rare moment of perspective and clarity. I was standing in my driveway, actively working to validate the feelings of a graham cracker. I had clearly turned some sort of emotional corner.

So now, as I decompress from a week where I, too, feel as if I’ve been melted and refrozen and tossed aside, I would very much like a nice drink. Clearly though, my judgment is somewhat suspect at the moment. It is time to fall back on a classic, one that has weathered decades of this sort of week. Maybe something fizzy.

Sloe gin fizz

  • 2 ounces sloe gin
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • extremely fizzy seltzer – I like Topo Chico

Combine the sloe gin, lemon juice and simple syrup with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly.

Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.

Top with seltzer, and stir. If you have a bar spoon — one of the ones with a long, twisty stem — this is a good time to use it.

Garnish with one or two cocktail cherries. If you decide to use one, it will be a special occasion when you eat it at the end of the drink. I like to use two, though. I feel like this whole experience might be a bit traumatic to a cherry, and I like to give it some company.

Sloe gin is a sweet, low-alcohol liqueur. It is not too sweet, though, and could use a little help from the simple syrup to stand up to the lemon juice. The lemon juice, in turn, balances the sweetness and provides brightness to the endeavor. The seltzer dials back the intensity of the other ingredients and provides a spring-like fizziness. This is a delicately sweet, low-octane treat to start your weekend off, giving yourself at least as much validation as you would give to a graham cracker.

Featured photo: Sloe gin fizz. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Kelley-Sue LeBlanc

Kelley-Sue LeBlanc — a.k.a. “KSL” — is the owner of The Sleazy Vegan food truck (, and on Facebook and Instagram), which offers a rotating menu of seasonally inspired whole-food plant-based breakfast and lunch items. In addition to maintaining a regular schedule of public appearances in southern New Hampshire, The Sleazy Vegan participates in events and offers catering services. LeBlanc, who grew up in Nashua, originally launched The Sleazy Vegan last year as a ghost kitchen in Manchester before expanding into a food truck a couple of months later. Find The Sleazy Vegan next at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Drive, Concord) on Thursday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and at Derryfield Park (Bridge Street, Manchester) on Friday, April 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. LeBlanc is also among the roughly 90 participants of this year’s Taco Tour, returning to downtown Manchester on Thursday, May 4, from 4 to 8 p.m.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

I’ve learned in the last year that I need to have at least two of everything, because we have two kitchens and we bop between them regularly. The one thing that I take with me between them is my chef’s knife. I process a lot of veggies and having a super-sharp blade makes everything more fun and safer!

What would you have for your last meal?

Vegan pho, spiced up with hoisin, Sriracha and fresh cilantro. Pho is my go-to for whatever ails me, and it always makes me feel better.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

I can’t possibly name one. … I’m going to use the opportunity [to] holler at my other vegan and vegetarian providers. The Green Beautiful [in Manchester], Troy’s Fresh Kitchen [in Londonderry] and Col’s Kitchen [in Concord], because they deserve to be seen and heard, and we all deserve to be fed well!

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from your food truck?

Oh, I think about vegan celebs that I’d love to feed all the time, but the first thought that came to mind just now was Adam Sandler. It would be cool to have him get “grinders and hoagies” from the Sleazy Vegan food truck in Manchester. A new kind of “lunch lady.”

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

Honestly, the thing I love about our menu is that it changes so much and it reflects what is available in season hyper-locally. If I had to pick one thing, though, I would have to choose the breakfast burrito. It’s so hard to get breakfast out as a vegan and if you do find something, it’s not typically as hearty a meal. … I load it with black beans, peppers, onions and scramble that with Just Egg [a plant-based egg substitute made from mung beans], then onto a tortilla … and [topped] off with paprika potatoes, avocado and vegan sour cream.

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

Back in 2019, I was looking to do a market research analysis project to understand if southern New Hampshire would support a vegan restaurant and a non-alcoholic bar. Covid put a cork in that research project, but my questions have been answered. … We are seeing loads of expansion in vegan and vegetarian options and I’m also seeing more in the mocktail and non-alcoholic bar space. I hope that both of these markets continue to blossom.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Soup. I just love soup and I love that I can use up whatever is in the fridge or pantry to make something unique and satisfying.

Spicy Thai peanut sauce
From the kitchen of Kelley-Sue “KSL” LeBlanc of The Sleazy Vegan food truck

½ cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 Tablespoon tamari sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 to 4 Tablespoons green tea
½ a jalapeno pepper
Thai basil

In a bowl or a blender, mix the peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, tamari, jalapeno, lemon juice, hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger, cilantro and Thai basil. Use the green tea to add more liquid as needed to obtain the desired consistency. Top it off with some crushed peanuts.

Featured photo: Kelley-Sue “KSL” LeBlanc, owner of The Sleazy Vegan food truck. Courtesy photo.

Rolling over hunger

Hampstead Eats food truck festival returns

Hampstead Congregational Church is gearing up for its third annual food truck festival fundraiser. Known as “Hampstead Eats,” the event is due to return on the church’s grounds on Saturday, April 29, and will feature tasty options from area food trucks and vendors, in addition to live music and a food drive to support the New Hampshire Food Bank.

“It’s been a great turnout both years,” event coordinator Roxanne McGaffigan said. “A huge part of this event is community. Community for people to come out to eat together, and then community to just be bringing awareness to food insecurity.”

McGaffigan said she launched the festival in 2021 in part as a fundraiser for the renovation and upkeep of the town’s Congregational Church. A small portion of the proceeds received from admission ticket sales is also donated to the Food Bank.

Attendees ages 5 and up pay an admission fee to gain access to the trucks, and all food selections are priced per item. The trucks will all be parked along the church driveway.

“There’s limited parking behind the church … and then there’s parking at the Hampstead Middle School at the end of the street on School Street, which is just two buildings over,” McGaffigan said.

Nearly all of the featured vendors that have participated in Hampstead Eats the last two years are making a return this time around. Chef Koz’s Crescent City Kitchen offers scratch-made Creole and Cajun-inspired dishes, while The Whoop(ie) Wagon is known for serving up all kinds of creative takes on whoopie pie flavors.

The Traveling Foodie is also back. Co-owner Jamie Mandra said they expect to offer several of their signature menu items, including “Love in a Cup,” a layered barbecue dish you eat with a fork, as well as their Southern fried chicken sandwich, birria biscuit bombs and Mexican street corn bowl.

A newcomer to this year’s festival is One Happy Clam Seafood & More — it’s operated by Rick Metts, longtime former owner of Clam Haven in Derry. Kona Ice, which offers several flavors of tropical-themed shaved ice, will be providing free cup upgrades for those who bring a nonperishable item to donate to the Food Bank, McGaffigan said.

Festival-goers are welcome to bring blankets or chairs out on the nearby church lawn to enjoy live performances, which will include Sons of the Solstice, followed by the Space Heaters.

Third annual Hampstead Eats food truck festival
When: Saturday, April 29, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Hampstead Congregational Church, 61 Main St., Hampstead
Cost: $5 admission fee for attendees ages 5 and up (cash or checks are accepted, as well as PayPal, accessible through the QR code on the event flier); foods are priced per item
More info: Search “Hampstead Eats” on Facebook, or call the church office at 329-6985
Event is rain or shine, and well-behaved leashed dogs are welcome.

Participating vendors

• Armstrong’s Gourmet Popcorn (
• B’s Tacos (
• Boogalow’s Island BBQ (
• Chef Koz’s Crescent City Kitchen (find them on Facebook @crescentcitykitchennh)
• Chubb’s Fries & Dough (find them on Facebook @eddiemencis)
• Kona Ice (
• One Happy Clam Seafood & More (find them on Facebook @onehappyclam)
• Pat’s Cider Donuts (
• Presto Craft Kitchen (
• The Traveling Foodie (
• The Whoo(pie) Wagon (

Featured photo: Photos courtesy of Alas de Frida Mexican Restaurant & Bar in Manchester.

But first, tacos

Taco Tour returns to downtown Manchester

After a successful revival year in 2022, Taco Tour returns on Thursday, May 4, and will feature its largest roster of participating vendors yet, along with two stages of live local music acts throughout the evening.

The Greater Manchester Chamber took the reins of Taco Tour last year, the first to take place since 2019.

“The crowd size was huge,” event director Cole Riel said of last year’s Taco Tour. “To have such a crowd in downtown Manchester, something we just didn’t see happening a lot since Covid, was a big win for the city and it has brought a lot of momentum for us into this year.”

Of about 1,000 of last year’s attendees surveyed by the Chamber, Riel said 73 percent reported discovering a new restaurant that had opened in the area, and 83 percent said they planned to come back to downtown Manchester in the near future. Collected data and feedback from last year’s Taco Tour among restaurants and attendees, Riel said, has aided the Chamber in making several key improvements to the event this time around.

“Everyone has to sign up to do a minimum of 1,000 tacos to be involved, which was not a parameter for participation in the past,” he said. “For most folks that we talked to, it’s between 1,500 and 2,500 tacos, and then some will continue to sell a little bit after. … So everyone now has a better sense of the scale that they will need going forward, and having that in place is going to be huge for everyone to prep.”

He added that the Chamber will also take active steps to manage long lines that form.

“There were a number of lines that kind of zig-zagged all over, and so we’ll have volunteers,” he said, adding that “end of the line” markers will be in place. “Folks can go online to sign up to volunteer and help us keep the lines organized.”

Around 90 restaurants, food trucks and other businesses have signed up to serve tacos this year. They’ll be set up all along Elm Street, which will be closed to vehicular traffic between Bridge and Granite streets. As in previous years, no price of admission is required — taco lovers are invited to simply come down to Elm Street any time during the event’s four-hour period and eat as many tacos as they can for $3 apiece.

“Attendees should expect everyone to be cash only,” Riel said. “That’s the easiest way that we found for speed of processing, and then at the same time too, obviously, cellular issues with so many people in a tight area … can always cause some hang-ups.”

Tacos won’t just be served on Elm either — eateries and other businesses will be set up along many connecting side streets, some of which will have some closures of their own.

“I’m excited for our friends who will be over on Hanover Street,” Riel said. “We have Industry East, who I’ve been told is coming from the trophy this year. Then we also have City Hall Pub, which wasn’t open when we had the event this time last year, so we’re excited to welcome them. … We also have The Potato Concept coming, and they’ll be doing a ‘PoTaco.’”

Other participants this year include bluAqua Restrobar, serving an alligator and andouille taco with steak chimichurri; The Wild Rover Pub, which will have a shepherd’s pie taco; and the newly opened Alas de Frida Mexican Restaurant & Bar, offering chipotle chicken tacos with grilled onions. Several vegan and vegetarian options are also expected — The Sleazy Vegan food truck, for instance, will serve a jackfruit taco with a mango-jalapeño salsa, while The Green Beautiful Vegan Cafe plans to have a “meaty” mushroom taco with red cabbage slaw, pickled peppers and an avocado crema, alongside a side of vegan street corn.

A downloadable map is expected to be available online at soon. Free shuttle buses will be making regular stops at several key points around the city, including Murphy’s Taproom, the Restoration Cafe and the Currier Museum of Art.

“That’s kind of a different path that people can take that won’t be busy,” Riel said. “It’ll be sort of like a ‘Choose your own adventure’ Taco Tour, just to help people out with planning in advance and making the map easier to understand.”

New to this year’s Taco Tour is live entertainment, including a concert stage at Veterans Memorial Park that will feature Jeffrey Gaines, Frank Viele and local rock group Best Not Broken. On a bandstand by the intersection of Bridge and Elm streets, performers will include Colleen Green, Manchester power pop band Donaher, and reggae rock group Supernothing.

Similar to last year, attendees can go to the event website to cast their vote for the best taco. The winning vendor will receive $1,000 to give to a nonprofit of their choice, in addition to a “Golden Taco” trophy. The “Most Creative Taco” will also be awarded this year — that winner will get a glass taco trophy created by StudioVerne of Manchester.

“We’ll keep voting open through Friday [May 5], … and then we’ll alert the winner sometime that weekend,” Riel said.

Taco Tour Manchester
When: Thursday, May 4, 4 to 8 p.m.
Where: Participating businesses stationed on Elm Street and various connecting side streets in downtown Manchester
Cost: $3 per taco (cash only)
Event is rain or shine and is dog-friendly. Elm Street will be shut down to vehicular traffic between Bridge and Granite streets for the duration of the event, as will a few side streets.

Featured photo: Downtown Manchester’s Taco Tour returns on Thursday, May 4. Photo by Ethos & Able Creative.

The Weekly Dish 23/04/27

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