The write stuff

Dan Crohn’s comedy craft

On his 1977 live album Let’s Get Small, Steve Martin riffs about the wonders of the world, and ends by quipping, “the most amazing thing to me is I get paid for doing this.” It’s a thought that echoes during a conversation with Dan Crohn. One reason is he credits Martin for inspiring him to become a comic, but the other is that to Crohn standup isn’t just a job. It’s a way to hang out with like-minded friends and do what he loves.

That said, Crohn is a workaholic. If he’s not on stage, he’s home in Somerville writing jokes. During a recent phone interview, it’s Tuesday night and he’s booked to do 10 minutes at Boston’s Bell in Hand. Lately he’s spent a lot of time testing material at Modern Pastry, an 80-year-old North End Italian bakery. “I always feel like if I’m not doing new stuff, what’s the point?” he said. “My jokes get old, and I get tired of them.”

Crohn did his first set in 2004 — he still has the tape. Ten years later he quit a job teaching fourth-graders to go full-time. Now he regularly headlines throughout New England and often beyond, at places like Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. In August he’ll do two nights at Helium in St. Louis, and he’s performing on a Caribbean cruise ship in late December.

As a child Crohn was a comedy nerd, encouraged by his parents. Shows like In Living Color and SNL were appointment television. His father owned a record store that provided albums and VHS tapes; he remembers hearing Henny Youngman on the family turntable at a tender age.

“My parents would go in their room and listen to Redd Foxx with the door closed.” Crohn recalled. Though less adult, his own comedy fare was captivating in its own way. “I was listening to standup very early, and got obsessed with it almost immediately.”

A year or two after turning pro, he made his own album, It’s Enough Already. In May he recorded a second, to be released later this year on Virtual Comedy Network, a label that in 2019 included him on Best of Boston Standup, Vol. 1. His clip, “I Think About Death a Lot,” discussed true crime shows that keep him paranoid and always noting the time, lest he get called as a witness. My whole life “is preparing for police questioning that’s never gonna happen,” Crohn said.

He’s had the opportunity to work with many great comics and compare notes with them, like his favorite comic, Dave Attel, who he shared the stage with at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre. “The highlight of my career,” he said. “We talked forever about it, which was really nice.”

Crohn spent a couple of years supporting Sebastian Maniscalco, and he has also opened for Nikki Glaser, John Oliver, and Jon Lovitz. In 2013 he was a panel guest on a Boston-centric episode of Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast. Another great memory is a long conversation with Steven Wright at the prestigious Nantucket Comedy Festival.

“Writing is my favorite part of this,” he said. “My second is getting to work with incredible acts.”

For Crohn, the discipline of standup is part of its appeal. “A great comic, Nick Di Paolo, once said, ‘Oh, you’re funny off the cuff, well, that’s why you become a comedian — now go write some jokes.’ I believe that it’s a lot harder to write jokes and entertain people. When you’re just making stuff up, that’s improv. If you wanna do improv, go for it.”

To that end, he didn’t share the antipathy many comics had toward online shows during the pandemic. “I love Zoom,” he said. “I approached it as a way to workshop jokes, with cards and my notes out. I refused to let that muscle atrophy.”

On the other hand, crowd work — the comic’s euphemism for bantering with an audience — holds little appeal for Crohn.

“I hate it! I like writing,” he said. “The craft of standup, the editing and the refinement of material, is what I’m addicted to the most. I love how jokes work, and I love how my jokes work specifically. I love the creative process. It’s what drew me to it originally, and it’s what continues to sustain me in a business that shouldn’t be called a business.”

All the while, the words of his wild and crazy comedy idol ring in his ears. “I continue to be enamored about it to this day,” Crohn said. “I still can’t believe that people give me money.”

Dan Crohn
When: Saturday, June 10, 8 p.m.
Where: Headliners Comedy Club, 700 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: $20 at
Also supporting Mike Koutrobis on Friday, June 9, 8 p.m. at Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry ($22 at

Featured photo: Dan Crohn. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 23/06/08

Local music news & events

Trailblazer: With now grown-up fans called Debheads, Debbie Gibson remains a model for modern performers. In the late ’80s she wrote, sang and produced hits like “Electric Youth” and “Lost in Your Eyes.” Later she moved to Broadway, starring in Grease, Les Misérables and other musicals. Following a health scare, in 2021 Gibson released her first new pop album in 20 years, The Body Remembers. Thursday, June 8, 7:30 p.m., Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester, tickets $39 to $49 at

Generational: With plans to tour with a changing cast of up-and-coming musicians, Pat Metheny released Side-Eye in 2021, citing the platform he received from older musicians in his early days as inspiration. An area stop has the renowned jazz guitarist performing with Chris Fishman, a keyboard prodigy who began playing in Southern California bands at age 7, and New Orleans drummer Joe Dyson, a Berklee graduate. Friday, June 9, 8 p.m., Nashua Center for the Arts, 201 Main St., Nashua, $59 to $99 at

Representative: Rescheduled and relocated due to weather, the all-day Exeter Arts & Music Fest has a wide range of regional talent appearing on two stages. Eclectic rockers Cold Engines headline the main stage, with support from Wood, Wind & Whisky, Marcus Robb Quartet and Tim Parent & the Grim Bros. A singer-songwriter tent has Elijah Clark, Liz Ridgely, Artty Francouer and three others. Saturday, June 10, 11 a.m., Town House Common, 6 Bow St., Exeter, $10 suggested donation, see

Café society: Brunchtime music at a downtown coffee shop is offered by Charlie Chronopoulos. Sunday, June 11, 11 a.m., Café la Reine, 915 Elm St., Manchester, see

Partnership: Mixing blues rock and outlaw country, Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton collaborated on their new album, Death Wish Blues. No Depression called it “some of the rawest and most hard-hitting music of their careers.” The online journal Americana Highways raved over the pairing, likening it to “the charm of duets like Johnny & June Cash as well as Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood.” Wednesday, June 14, 7:30 pm., The Flying Monkey, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth, $39 and up at

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (PG)

Re-enter the comic-bookily animated world of Miles Morales, a Spider-Man but not the only Spider-Man, in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, a beautiful and fun new adventure.

Miles (voice of Shameik Moore) is doing a shaky job at balancing his life as a promising student at a smart-kid school who is carrying his parents’ — Rio (voice of Luna Lauren Velez) and Jefferson (voice of Brian Tyree Henry) — big expectations for his future and his job as a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. This is perhaps why he’s a little too flip and dismissive when battling the “villain of the week” The Spot (voice of Jason Schwartzman), whom he ditches to rush to a parent-principal conference. The Spot was himself messing with multi-verses; one experiment brought a certain radioactive spider to the Miles Morales world. But then he was blown up in an explosion I sort of remember from the first movie and now he is partly made of wormhole. We first meet him trying to use his wormholes to break into an ATM at a bodega. But then he realizes he can wormhole into himself and then travel through various universes — such as a universe entirely of Lego, for example, or one where New York City is called Mumbattan and is a massive, Mumbai-like megalopolis (with its own Spider-Man, one Pavitr Prabhakar voiced by Karan Soni).

This multi-verse-hopping and the associated destruction bring the attention of an elite group of Spider-persons who go around fixing multiverse breaches. One of these Spiders is the Spider-Woman Gwen Stacy, known as Wanda (voice of Hailee Steinfeld) when Miles first met her in the last movie. He is delighted to see her and when he learns that her visit to his universe was part of a mission, he decides to follow her into the multi-verse. Thus does he meet other Spiders she works with: Jessica Drew (voice of Issa Rae), a motorcycle-riding bad-ass Spider-Woman who kicks bad-guy butt while being pregnant; Miguel O’Hara (voice of Oscar Isaac), the very intense leader of the Spider team; Hobie (voice of Daniel Kaluuya), a supercool Sex-Pistols-y British punk Spider-Man whose friendship with Wanda makes Miles all jelly, and returning Spider-Man Peter B. Parker (voice of Jake Johnson), who I thought of as the schlubby Spider-Man in the first movie and who now wears a BabyBjorn-type pouch to carry around his Spider-powers-having toddler Mayday.

At first, Miles is eager to be a part of this supercool team of Spider people. But then he starts to become uneasy with their philosophy of putting adherence to canon and the events that make a Spider-Man who they are in all timelines — the death of an uncle, the crushing of a police captain — even over the life of, say, Miles’ dad, a police officer on the brink of promotion to captain.

It’s a nice bit of business, toying with the whole “canon” thing. Do all Spider-Man stories need an Uncle Ben-type to die after telling that universe’s Spidey that with great power comes great responsibility? Can Miles make his own choices, be both the city’s Spider-Man and a loving son? This movie seems to be folding in some “thinking about fans thinking about franchises” in its story of a teenager finding his way. And it folds in cinematic Spiders-Man past, from a little nod to the tangential Venoms to a nice cameo from an iteration of the last live-action Spider-Man. It ‘s a lot, but it all works and comes together to make something that feels like a fun recognition of all the ways we’ve seen Spider-Man over the last two-plus decades while also being its own thing.

Of course, all of this, good though it is, is very secondary to this movie’s visuals, which are absolutely beautiful and would, if this movie did nothing else right (and it does lots of things right), make this movie a “year’s best” contender on their own. This movie looks great. It does such awesome things with illustration style and color and little touches with the build of this character or the style of that one to convey who they are. It also uses these visuals to augment the emotions in a very comic book/graphic novel way, playing with color when, for example, Wanda tries to talk to her police captain dad (voice by Shea Whigham) to show them either far apart or coming together. Or playing with scale or with the size of the characters in the frame. It’s such a joy to look at and it gives the movie a liveliness that makes it feel shorter than its over two-hour runtime.

I’ll spoil this much about how Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ends — it doesn’t. We get the words “to be continued” on the screen and while that sort of thing normally drives me nuts (focus on the movie we’re currently watching, not the sequel! — is my usual anguished cry) I don’t think it gets in the way of enjoyment of this movie. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is so enjoyable that I don’t mind having sat through a 140-minute Part 1 and am excited for March 2024 when, Wikipedia says, I’ll get to see Part 2. A

Rated PG for sequences of animated action violence, some language and thematic elements, according to the MPA on I would definitely let a tween kid watch it but might hold off for younger elementary kids. Common Sense Media, which tends to be a decent judge, pegs it at 9+. Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson with a screenplay by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller and Dave Callaham, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is two hours and 20 minutes long and distributed in theaters by Sony Animated Pictures.

You Hurt My Feelings (R)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus accidentally glimpses behind the veil of niceties that keeps marriage and society functional in You Hurt My Feelings, a smart if meandering comedy written and directed by Nicole Holofcener.

Beth (Louis-Dreyfus) is a moderately successful writer whose memoir did OK but whose latest book is not getting the interest she’d hoped for from her publisher. What do they know, your book is great, her husband, Don (Tobias Menzies), assures Beth, always responding to her request to read drafts by telling her how much he likes it. But then, while Beth is shopping with her sister Sarah (Michaela Watkins), Beth and Sarah overhear Don telling Sarah’s husband, Mark (Arian Moayed), how much he doesn’t like the book. Sarah is devastated — that her husband would lie to her, that he would dislike this book that she considers such a part of herself.

She doesn’t tell Don right away that she knows his true feelings, and thus he is bewildered with her anger at him. Of course all around this one untruth are a swarm of other things people say out of kindness and encouragement: Beth telling her college writing students that their pieces and ideas are good and interesting; Sarah always telling Mark what a great actor he is; Beth telling Don that he doesn’t look tired (Don is a therapist and one couple basically tells him he looks too tired for them to expect much out of him that day); both Beth and Don encouraging their definitely bright and talented son Eliot (Owen Teague), definitely too bright and talented to be working at a pot shop in Brooklyn, a-hem, they nudgingly say to him.

Even Beth seems to realize both that her hurt is real and that there really isn’t anything else Don could have said to her. They are a solid couple who love each other and love their son, who loves them back, even if all three of them annoy the poo out of each other at times. All four members of the central two couples dramatically state a desire to pitch their chosen career, which feels like a very normal reaction to having just enough success to feel like you should have more success and a general exhaustion with whatever the difficulties of said career are (other people, usually). There are few real problems here, just little pinpricks of annoyance at life, conveyed in familiar ways.

You Hurt My Feelings does feel longer than its 93 minutes but it is also at its best when giving its attention to one moment, one conversation and all the layers of things happening within it. This movie is very good at letting you see everyone’s discomfort and feel all the adjustments they’re making in the moment to try to keep on trucking through the conversation or the situation. This movie isn’t particularly buoyant but it is light and it never takes itself too seriously or tips into mockery of its characters.

Louis-Dreyfus is, naturally, the standout here. She just radiates genuine good-hearted imperfection. Like, yes she is this un-self-aware but also she’s not terrible. And, sure, she is the beautiful actress we’ve seen on TV for decades but she’s also able to access the goofy awkwardness of a real human. She helps make this solid if not brilliant movie enjoyably watchable. B

Rated R for language and for, like, who under the age of “I pay for my own health insurance” is watching this film?, according to the MPA on Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (see also 2013’s Enough Said and 1996’s Walking and Talking), You Hurt My Feelings is an hour and 33 minutes long and distributed in theaters by A24.

Featured photo: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Soul Boom, by Rainn Wilson

Soul Boom, by Rainn Wilson (Hachette Go, 275 pages)

The shelf life of The Office and its cast seems eternal, even though it’s been 18 years since the sitcom’s debut. The actors keep turning up in other roles, in podcasts and in a surprising number of books, the latest from Rainn Wilson, who played the quirky paper salesman Dwight Schrute on the long-running NBC series.

It was the kind of iconic role that is hard to escape later in one’s career. Like Bob Odenkirk will always be Saul Goodman to fans of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, Rainn Wilson will always be Dwight Schrute, which is a bit of a problem for someone who is now selling spirituality. As great as that character was, he would not be my first choice for discussing the mysteries of the universe, human consciousness, God and death.

But following his passion, Wilson founded a media company that he, perplexingly, called “Soul Pancake” and currently stars in a streaming travel show called The Geography of Bliss. It’s hard to see his third book, Soul Boom, as anything but other than a marketing vehicle for the show, given its timing and its promotion of The Geography of Bliss. But maybe it would at least be funny, I thought.

Sadly, not, at least not in the smart, sly way that The Office is funny. It’s lighthearted and at times amusing, but Wilson’s folksy style of writing often deteriorates into words that really should not be on the printed page, as in this cringy sentence from the preface: “So … OK to move forward on the old booky-wook?”

Really, it was not — he lost me at booky-wook — but I soldiered on, hoping for improvement.

Wilson grew up in a family of Baha’is, members of a monotheistic faith that teaches progressive revelation — the idea that God is so far beyond our comprehension that existential truths must be revealed to humans gradually through holy teachers like Jesus, Mohammed and the Buddha. Its founder and prophet, Baha’u’llah, was, to the mind of young Wilson, “loving and reasonable” with “absolutely no fire-and-brimstone qualities.” Although he left the faith for a time in his 20s (“For a couple of years, I even tried on atheism like some jaunty, rebellious cap!”), he eventually returned to it.

But Soul Boom is not a come-to-Baha’u’llah book. Wilson does not seem particularly interested in recruiting people to his faith, but just in expanding our spiritual consciousness generally. He believes that nothing less than a spiritual revolution can solve the problems the world faces. And although he’s not hard-line preachy about it, he does want us to believe in God and the continuation of consciousness after death. You can’t have a “soul boom” without belief in a “soul,” after all.

Wilson’s own belief in an afterlife solidified at the time of his father’s death of heart disease when, after life support was removed, he recognized that “This body, this vessel was not my father. … The still, vacant body on that hospital bed in the ICU was simply a suit he once wore.”

That leads into a discussion of consciousness that is informed by Wilson’s deep reading in philosophy and disparate religious traditions. He notes that for all our scientific advances, human consciousness is largely a mystery. He then invites us to think about death, a topic that he tried to address in a reality-type TV show called My Last Days. (The studios passed.)

Again, he was failed by an editor, who left intact sentences like this one: “But what, exactly, does death put into perspective? Why, the preciousness of life, you big silly willy.”

This is the problem with celebrities writing books. Editors are so star-struck that they obsequiously leave in sentences — indeed, sometimes whole paragraphs and chapters — that should never have survived the first draft. It is this sort of silly-willyness sprinkled throughout that drags Soul Boom to a literary nether level. It’s unfortunate, because there are some moving passages in the book and Wilson, despite admitting that he hasn’t read some of the books from which he quotes, has clearly thought deeply about the material.

In one chapter, he writes about the importance of pilgrimages and describes his family’s trip to visit the Shrine of Bahji in Israel, where the founder of the Baha’i faith is buried. After sitting on the floor and praying there for over an hour, Wilson writes, he found that his world had shifted. “It’s like when you hit your windshield wipers and spritz the glass in front of you and all of a sudden you realize just how dirty it had been. Just like that, you can see everything outside your car with a renewed clarity. It was like that. Only in my heart,” he writes.

Without proselytizing, Wilson rues the way in which our culture has turned away from words like “sacred,” “holy” and “reverence” and is losing touch with religious traditions of all kinds, to include those practiced by Native Americans. “In fact, my life in 2023 Los Angeles is pretty much lacking in anything remotely sacred or spiritually connected. It’s all iPhones, quickly devoured sandwiches and leaf blowers. It’s texts and podcasts and emails. It’s pressured phone calls, calendars, and a nonstop newsfeed.” But he points out that the problem is not capitalism, per se. While our society is losing touch with the sacred, even businesses created for profit can be meaningful places — he gives as an example the Seattle restaurant where he and his wife had their first date, before taking up the question “What makes something sacred?”

Ultimately Wilson proposes seven pillars of a spiritual revolution, which, while not terrible, are disappointingly platitudinal and sound more political than spiritual. (They include “Celebrate joy and fight cynicism,” “Build something new; don’t just protest” and “systematize grassroots movements.” It’s all fine, in the way that fast-casual restaurants are fine, and I’ll admit to being impressed that he’s friends with noted theologian David Bentley Hart and quotes from a wide range of poetry and scholarly books. (He also includes a list of recommended reading, which is also admirably diverse.)

As celebrity books go, it’s a pleasure to find one that takes on life’s biggest questions, but there’s nothing here that seems especially revolutionary. C

Album Reviews 23/06/08

Cache, Cache (self-released)

Minneapolis, Minnesota, is from where this five-piece band originates; their aim, if I’m translating their one-sheet correctly, is making mud-metal fun, which is far from the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, not that the Melvins are slouches in that regard (they did record a metal version of “Dies Irae,” the opening theme to The Shining, once, never forget). This is the band’s debut EP, and whoa, I really like this already, at kickoff song “El Rudo,” a stoner-metal tune that’s got more personality in it than Queens Of The Stone Age have ever exhibited. It’s a cross between High On Fire on the instrumental end and Isis on the vocal side, mid-tempo NWOBHM stuff but not with anything annoying going on. That’s right, kids, you could do much, much worse than this, and as far as injecting a little fun, go check out “Forever in Retrograde” and its roots-punk-meets-black-metal fierceness. If your little brother is getting bullied at school, this record could change his life. Big thumbs up. A+

Adekunle Gold, Tio Tequila (Def Jam Records)

This three-song teaser for an album to be released on Def Jam in July bills this fellow as a “master of Afropop,” which may or may not be all that accurate; to me it can often sound like a slightly inebriated Rik Rok, retrofitted with too much Auto-Tune, engaged in a search for the bubble-pop radio-matrix that loves shoving stuff like this into the ears of preteens. Don’t get me wrong, his CV is impeccable: He grew up in the city of Lagos in Nigeria, specifically the area that’s slated to become Eko City, a massive development designed to help in stopping the erosion of the city’s coastline (the breezy, shuffley “Omo Eko” pays homage to the project). An established hit has already made the rounds, “Party No Dey Stop,” an irresistibly sweet but unabashedly Afrobeat-driven joint that’s further prettified by the presence of guest chanteuse Zinoleesky’s subtle soprano. A great summer jam for sure. A+


• June 9 is our next CD-release-jubilee Friday, and there will be new albums released on that day, by the shipload, see the ship heading to the dock right now, filled from the “aft to the stern” with new albums! Thankfully the ship didn’t encounter an iceberg or a 100-foot tidal wave on its way to the dock, because someone would be making a movie about it right now, meaning we’d have to be subjected to more “acting” from Ryan Reynolds and the other three or four elite actors who are the only ones who get invited to make blockbuster movies these days, you know? What’s that? Yes, you’re right, I’m just jealous of play-to-the-back-of-the-theater hacks like Ryan Reynolds, and that’s why I became an art critic, just so I could work off my soul-deep envy, because if there’s anything I could get out of this life, it would be the starring role in a Paul Blart, Mall Cop: Who Blarted alongside Kristen Schaal or some other insanely gifted artiste lady. Satisfied? Yes, I became a rock critic because I wanted to hurl insults at bands and artistes who deserve much better treatment, and speaking of that, let’s go ruin the day for fans of Godflesh, whose new LP, Purge, is just coming out right now! Wait a second, I like this band, if I recall correctly, let me go look. Right, they’re not God Lives Underwater, a band I like, and they’re not Godsmack, a band I never really cared about because they were a local band that got a big record contract while my band was struggling to get a European record contract, so yes, I’m envious of them. While all this is going on, Godflesh rules, if you like stuff like Crowbar or Melvins, devastatingly heavy stuff. The new “single,” for lack of a better word, is “Nero,” comprising a nasty, caterwauling riff that evokes slow-motion math metal or emo. I’ll stamp this as 90 percent awesome and we can proceed with the rest of this.

• So King Krule is the stage name of an Englishman named Archy Ivan Marshall whose trip is indie, jazz fusion, hip-hop and other genres. His new album is Space Heavy, and the whole record is on YouTube if you want it and can find a YouTube-to-MP3 converter that won’t turn your computer into a doorstop. One of the tunes is “Seaforth,” a sunny but miserable little ditty that sounds like really sad Gorillaz or Crash Test Dummies, depending on how old you are. It’s got this feather-light half-unplugged guitar part that seems to go on forever and the whole thing is about as interesting as a potato-baking contest, so let’s drop this business and go on to something else, that’d be great.

• Like King Krule, Youth Lagoon is another pseudonym occasionally deployed by a millennial with a jones for bad indie rock, but you know what was great about today? My commute to the office was all green lights for once, and YouTube hasn’t been making me watch a bunch of Liberty Mutual commercials, they’re just letting these dumb songs play without making me wait, hence I’m receptive to this person’s music for the moment, so I’m listening to “Idaho Alien,” the new single from his forthcoming album Heaven Is A Junkyard. Maybe it’s owed to the fact that I hated that King Krule tune, but this one’s good overall, the dude sings kind of like Kim Carnes before she wrecked her voice. Ha ha, this guy could have at least tried not to make it so obvious that all the up-votes and comments are from the same bot farm, jeez Louise.

• We’ll close with The Boo Radleys, whose new album, Eight, includes the song “Seeker,” which sounds like Maroon 5 trying to do ska, and no, I can’t imagine what could be worse than that, for the record. — Eric W. Saeger

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).

Cucumber fizz

On a good day, a cucumber is 96 percent water. That hydrocentic (a word I just made up and am very pleased with) nature of a cucumber lends itself really well to cocktails. If you can extract the water? It’s bonded with cucumber flavor. That makes for a very good syrup. If you chop a cucumber up and soak it in alcohol, the volatile enzymes that give the cucumber its flavor are happy to jump ship and bond with the alcohol instead of the water. The more finely you chop it, the more surface area you provide for this reaction to play out. Let’s do this.

Cucumber syrup

(Trust me; it’s delicious.) Wash an English cucumber — one of the long, plastic-wrapped, ridgey ones — and chop it into medium (1/2-inch) dice. You don’t have to peel it or even remove the stem.

Put the cucumber pieces into a bowl, and put the bowl in your freezer. You can use any kind of container you like, but an open-top bowl will make your freezer smell like cucumbers. Which is nice.

Inside the cells of the cucumber, ice crystals will start to form. It will probably take an hour or two for the cucumber chunks to freeze up completely.

Using a kitchen scale, weigh the cucumber pieces in a small saucepan, and add an equal amount of sugar by weight. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, a typical English cucumber will probably give you around three cups of diced up chunks. This will probably weigh around the same as 1¾ cups of white sugar.

Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally. The first time you do this, you will be shocked at how much liquid comes out of the cucumbers. (It’s around 96 percent water, remember?)

At some point, crush the soggy cucumber pieces with a potato masher to coax even more liquid out.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir it for a few seconds, to make sure that all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let it sit for half an hour or so, then, using a fine-meshed strainer and a funnel, pour it into an empty bottle. In my experience, it will last about a month in your refrigerator. You will probably end up with about two cups of syrup.

Cucumber gin

(This is even more straightforward.) Wash, but don’t peel, some cucumbers.

Put the cucumbers and an equal amount of gin, by weight (see above) in your blender. Because your goal is to overwhelm the gin with cucumber flavor, you can get away with using a fairly non-fancy gin (I like Gordon’s). Blend at the lowest speed for about a minute. The goal here is to chop the cucumbers up pretty finely, to give them more surface area exposed to the alcohol. You’re not actually trying to puree it or anything.

At this point, you will have a bright green mixture that looks like hot dog relish. Pour it into a wide-mouthed jar, label it, and store it somewhere cool and dark for seven days, shaking it two or three times per day.

Strain and bottle it. If you let it set for another day or so, some of the tiny cucumber particles will sink to the bottom of the bottle, and you can strain it again with a coffee filter to make it prettier. Either way, it will be delicious.

Cucumber fizz


  • 2 ounces cucumber gin (see above)
  • ½ ounces cucumber syrup (see above)
  • 3 to 5 mint leaves
  • 5 ounces plain seltzer
  • lemon wedge for garnish

Muddle the mint at the bottom of a tall glass. Add ice.

Add the syrup, the gin, and then the seltzer. Squeeze the lemon wedge, then drop it into the pool. Stir.

Cucumber and mint are a classic combination. Gin loves being carbonated. The lemon gives a hint of acid that keeps the cucumber from tasting flat. This is light and fizzy and reminds you that, against all expectations, a cucumber is a fruit. It is the cocktail friend you never knew you wanted to be friends with.

I like to think that it is happy to make the sacrifice for you.

Featured photo: Cucumber Fizz. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Sherri Malouf and Shelby Malouf-Pieterse

Sherri Malouf and her daughter, Shelby Malouf-Pieterse, are the owners of Piggy Sue’s Steakin’ Bacon (, find them on Facebook), a bacon-themed mobile food trailer that hit the road last summer. Among the trailer’s signature items are the bacon steak skewers, featuring half-inch-thick cut slices of bacon on a stick, with the added option of chocolate sauce. Other staples include a bacon poutine with homemade gravy and chewy cheese curds; and fried ice cream, featuring your choice of toppings like whipped cream, sprinkles, hot fudge, Oreo crumbs and more. Piggy Sue’s sports a unique rubberhose art style that’s easy to spot — just look for the trailer’s titular mascot on the side.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

Shelby: Either my tongs or my fry scoop.

What would you have for your last meal?

Shelby: A medium-rare rib-eye steak, with caramelized onions on top and then probably some mashed potatoes and roasted veggies on the side. A full meal.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Sherri: Buckley’s [Great Steaks] in Merrimack, to go along with the steak theme!

Shelby: The one that first came to mind is actually Ming Du, and they are in Hillsborough. They have fantastic Chinese food — something about it is just better compared to all of the other places around me.

What celebrity would you like to see ordering from the food trailer?

Sherri: Morgan Freeman!

Shelby: I would love to see a chef, really just any celebrity chef. Honestly, I would probably just freak out if Gordon Ramsay came up to my truck and ate a piece of my bacon. … I would die a little on the inside, I’d be so happy.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

Sherri: I think probably for me it would be the bacon skewer with chocolate on it.

Shelby: I love it all! I think I’m going to have to say the poutine with the bacon on top, though.

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

Sherri: People seem to love the wood-fired pizzas. We just talked to someone recently who said he’d really like to do a wood-fired pizza food truck.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Sherri: I love to do the Bell & Evans boneless skinless chicken thighs. I do this marinade that is out of this world, and then I smoke them.

Shelby: I usually like just cooking really well-rounded meals.

Homemade chocolate balls
From the kitchen of Sherri Malouf and Shelby Malouf-Pieterse of Piggy Sue’s Steakin’ Bacon

12 ounces semisweet chocolate pieces
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
Pinch of salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
Granulated sugar (optional: flaked coconut, sweetened cocoa powder or instant coffee.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate over hot but not boiling water. Stir in the condensed milk, salt, walnuts and vanilla. Set the mixture aside to cool until it’s easy to shape into balls. Roll balls into sugar or other optional ingredients.

Featured photo: Sherri Malouf (right) and her daughter, Shelby Malouf-Pieterse, of Piggy Sue’s Steakin’ Bacon. Courtesy photo.

Get your Greek fix

Yiayia’s Greek Night Out to return after long hiatus

It was late 2018 when Concord’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church began hosting Yiayia’s Greek Night Out, an ongoing series of community events that feature Greek food demonstrations centered around traditional dishes, followed by dinners of the dish and dancing in the church hall. The sixth and most recent in-person event took place on March 14, 2020.

“It was right before everything was closed down,” the Rev. Constantine Newman of the church said. “I remember we had a very light turnout that day because everything was still sort of iffy.”

More than three years later Holy Trinity is now getting ready to revive the popular community event. Yiayia’s Greek Night Out is set to return on Saturday, June 17, and will feature the eggplant-based moussaka as its instructional centerpiece.

Past cooking demonstrations have featured other authentic Greek items like spanakopita (spinach pie), baklava, tsoureki (Greek Easter bread) and dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves). Newman said the events were born out of the growing interest in Greek food outside the church community.

Holy Trinity continues to hold monthly drive-thru Greek boxed dinners to go and is planning a flea market for later this summer where gyros and baklava will be available for sale.

Moussaka, Newman said, is similar to a Greek lasagna, but with eggplant instead of pasta.

“It’s not a complex dish but it takes a lot of time,” he said. “You need to thinly slice the eggplants and then roast them so that the moisture comes out. Then you layer eggplants and potatoes, and in between those layers is a meat and tomato sauce with spices. Then it’s topped off with a béchamel. … What we usually do is the demonstration dish is sort of a small one that we cook there on the spot, and beforehand we’ll have everything else made.”

Trays of finished moussaka prepared before the event will be served after the demonstrations, along with a side of Greek potatoes, a salad, and Greek cookies and ice cream for dessert. Music and dancing are expected for the duration of the event.

The $15 entry admission, Newman said, is available at the door. Collected proceeds go toward the event’s sponsor, Holy Trinity’s Mother Maria of Parish Outreach Ministries.

“They try to take care of people in the parish that are in need, or various charitable organizations throughout the city,” Newman said. “We’ve given donations to the [Concord] Coalition against Homelessness, the Friends of Forgotten Children, and Waypoint. … So the money that we collect … goes to helping needy people in general in our area.”

Yiayia’s Greek Night Out
When: Saturday, June 17, 5 p.m.
Where: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 68 N. State St., Concord
Cost: $15 per person
More info: Visit, call 225-2961 or email

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Concord.

West Side roasts

William & Sons Coffee Co. now open in Manchester

While living in Brazil with his wife, Patty, Jonathan Hutchins became interested in the world of specialty coffee. He opened a small boutique roaster in the southeastern city of Porto Alegre, with the mission to bring the hard work of coffee farmers harvesting high-quality beans to the forefront. William & Sons Coffee Co., named after Hutchins’ father, was born.

“My dad didn’t work with coffee, but he was just an inspiration for me to start the company, and so that was how we came up with the brand name,” Hutchins said.

Fast forward to 2021 and Hutchins, a Maine native, found himself returning home to New England. By the end of that year he would launch a small roasting lab in the town of Loudon.

Around that time Hutchins became connected with the owner of Mi Vida Cafe, formerly located at the intersection of Amory and Laval streets. When that shop closed and the space became available, Hutchins saw a unique opportunity.

On May 12, William & Sons Coffee Co. opened a retail location where its own roasted coffees sourced from multiple growing regions around the world are available hot and iced, in addition to a selection of teas and a small offering of baked goods like muffins and cinnamon rolls. Hutchins continues to operate out of his Loudon facility, where all his beans are still roasted.

“We weren’t really planning on opening up a shop,” he said, “but I had met a lot of the neighbors in the area here on the West Side, and it’s just an incredible community with amazing people. … I kind of liked doing that model versus putting something on Elm Street.”

Hutchins is a certified Q grader, or a licensed specialty coffee tasting professional as recognized by the Coffee Quality Institute. He sources his beans from as far away as African countries like Kenya and nations like Papua New Guinea, each unique for their own tasting notes.

“We have a lot of farmer friends in Brazil,” he said. “I have contacts with importers, and I do direct trade with some Brazilian farmers. … To start off our shop, we have a good friend of ours in Brazil who actually sent us 40 pounds of green coffee just to have for the inauguration, so that’s been kind of special. That’s our espresso that we’re using right now, and we’ll have other different coffees that we feature from different parts of the world in the future.”

William & Sons offers a full line of hot and iced coffees, with a variety of different roast styles. Hutchins said the “more fruit-forward” tastes of a super light roasted coffee are among the shop’s specialties, which he said are meant to showcase its origins. Coffee drinks can be made with whole milk, oat milk or half-and-half, in addition to several optional flavor shots and sweeteners.

Other options include freshly brewed teas, as well as some other specialty drinks from hot chocolates to iced mochas and bubble teas. Hutchins also produces a small selection of baked goods out of his Loudon roasting facility, like cinnamon rolls, muffins and brownies.

In the few weeks that Hutchins has been open for business, he said, the West Side community has welcomed him with open arms. You can’t miss the unique chocolate brown-colored building on the street corner — coffee lovers have already made it their new home to work on their laptops, in addition to many others that use it as a pit stop for their morning’s cup of joe.

“We’ve got like 10 or 15 people that have come in every single day since we’ve opened, and it’s just been really fun meeting a lot of different people every day,” Hutchins said.

William & Sons Coffee Co.
Where: 489 Amory St., Manchester
Hours: Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
More info: Visit, or find them on Facebook and Instagram

Featured photo: William & Sons Coffee Co. Photo by Emma Catherine Photography.

The Weekly Dish 23/06/08

News from the local food scene

Weddings and wines: Join Bookery Manchester (844 Elm St.) in welcoming LaBelle Winery owner and winemaker Amy LaBelle on Sunday, June 11, from 4 to 6 p.m. — she’ll be there to present and sign copies of her debut book, Wine Weddings: The Ultimate Guide to Creating the Wine-Themed Wedding of Your Dreams. Released Dec. 16, the book offers advice on planning and hosting weddings of every size and type, covering everything from choosing invitation designs and wedding favors to creating your own menu of signature drinks and wine choices. Admission is free and the event will include a wine tasting. During New Hampshire Wine Week, LaBelle’s Amherst location (345 Route 101) will also present A Celebration of Women Winemakers, a special four-course wine dinner happening on Wednesday, June 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Amy LaBelle will be joined by fellow winemaker Lisa Evich of Simi Winery in California to provide commentary on their philosophies and selected pairings throughout the evening. The cost is $99 per person — purchase tickets online at, where you can view the full menu.

A Jewish feast: Online ordering for the 26th annual New Hampshire Jewish Food Festival, presented by Temple B’nai Israel (210 Court St., Laconia), opens on Sunday, June 11, and will continue through Sunday, July 9. Menu items will include savory brisket with gravy, freshly sliced corned beef, pastrami and tongue from Evan’s New York Style Deli in Marblehead, Mass., as well as sweet creamy noodle kugel and a vast assortment of other home-cooked Jewish foods and pastries, most of which use recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. Since the pandemic struck in 2020, festival organizers have continued with an online ordering and pickup system. Those who place their orders online will be prompted to select a time on either Friday, July 21, or Saturday, July 22, at Temple B’nai Israel. Visit to view the full menu.

Let’s talk tomatoes: Save the date for a special in-person workshop on growing and harvesting tomatoes presented by UNH Cooperative Extension master gardener Will Lowenthal and happening at New Hampshire Audubon’s Massabesic Center (26 Audubon Way, Auburn) on Thursday, June 22, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Lowenthal will discuss the many challenges that can arise when growing your own tomatoes and will demonstrate different support methods, from staking and caging to overhead trellising. He’ll also show attendees how to properly prune tomatoes to control growth and improve disease prevention. The workshop will take place primarily outdoors, so dress accordingly for the weather and prepare for a short walk over grassy, flat but uneven terrain. Registration is required by June 20 — the cost is $10 for Audubon members and UNH Extension master gardeners, and $15 for non-members. Visit or call the Massabesic center at 668-2045 to register.

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