On The Job – Alexiev Gavriluk


Alexiev Gavriluk is a beekeeper and owner of Mad Russian Apothecary in Derry.

Explain your job and what it entails. 

I keep bees. I help the bees make honey, then I sell the honey. I also teach people about our best practices and how we co-exist … and how they can coexist with the bees.

How long have you had this job? 

My wife and I got the bees during the pandemic, so I’ve been keeping them for four years. I learn from the bees every day and every season, so I’m constantly growing as a beekeeper. 

What led you to this career field and your current job? 

I’m disabled, and I’ve always worked blue-collar jobs. … I needed to find something I could do comfortably on my own. We’d always loved the idea of keeping a few hives … as a hobby. As I grew more involved in the meditation aspect of it, matching the energy of the bees, I also grew more in tune with the hives, and beekeeping became more than just a hobby … Also, I’m just really good at it. I also love talking with our honey customers at fairs and markets about the benefits of pure local honey and how good bees are for the environment.

What kind of education or training did you need?

I attended an online bee school taught by a master beekeeper. Everything else was self-taught, hands-on learning.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire? 

I wear long jeans, work boots, a beekeeping jacket, leather elbow gloves and a special veil attached to a hat. … When I’m working with the honey, I wear whatever I don’t mind getting sticky. When we’re working at a market or fair, my wife and I wear matching yellow plaid shirts.

What is the most challenging thing about your work, and how do you deal with it?

I work with hundreds of thousands of stinging insects buzzing around me — most people would find that a little challenging. But since I learned to operate on the bees’ frequency … the hardest part now is dealing with my disability. I had to adapt beekeeping to fit what I could do with my hands. I attached special handles to the boxes, additional bars to lift the frames and other little techniques to make the job more accessible.

What do you wish you’d known at the beginning of your career?

The bees know more than I do, and I’m better off assisting them than trying to control them.

What do you wish other people knew about your job? 

I’d want people to know the systemic harm … lawn pesticide or poison causes to our environment. The bees, the wildlife — everything suffers. … Also, I’d want people to know the value and importance of raw local honey, and why it’s often more expensive than … in supermarkets.

What was the first job you ever had?

Sweeping the parking lot and cleaning the dumpster area of a local convenience store when I was in fourth grade.

Five favorites
Favorite book: Necroscope by Brian Lumley
Favorite movie: Big Trouble in Little China
Favorite music: Punk rock and metal
Favorite food: I have two: shoo-fly pie, and obviously honey
Favorite thing about NH: We’re in the woods but still close to everything – city, mountains, ocean.

Featured photo: Alexiev Gavriluk. Courtesy photo.

Treasure Hunt 24/02/08

Hello, Donna.

This quilt was given to my husband and me when we were married. It was a family piece so we kept it safe till today. Now we would like to use it and it’s in need of some repair. Can you provide any information on a value and can it be reinforced for use on our bed?

Mary Anne

Dear Mary Anne,

Your crazy quilt is most likely from the early 1900s, so wear from use is expected. Sometimes you can come across one that was never used, but not often. Crazy quilts were made mostly from scraps of a mixture of different materials with different colors, stitching, etc. Lots of them were made by a group effort of family, friends etc.

Some can be very plain with just stitching and others can have detail added in each fragment of material. To find them signed by the maker or makers and dated is a plus.

Mary Anne, the value is in the detailing, age, fine detailing, signatures and, as always, condition. A value to start with would be, it’s safe to say, in the $100 range in plain but good condition. Then it goes up from there for extra detailing.

As far as use, it’s tough unless you remove it from the top of the bed daily. The treads are old and won’t withstand night use. There are quilt repairers out there. I’m just not sure it would be cost-effective for hand work. You might just want to use it the way it is. Just decoratively and carefully.

I hope this was helpful, Mary Anne. Glad to see a family piece shared. Enjoy!

Donna Welch has spent more than 35 years in the antiques and collectibles field, appraising and instructing. Her new location is an Antique Art Studio located in Dunbarton, NH where she is still buying and selling. If you have questions about an antique or collectible send a clear photo and information to Donna at footwdw@aol.com, or call her at 391-6550.

Kiddie Pool 24/02/08

Family fun for whenever

Family shows

• Local family entertainer Mr. Aaron throws a Valentine’s Day Party Saturday, Feb. 10, at 11 a.m. at the Bank of NH Stage (16 S. Main St. in Concord; ccanh.com). Tickets cost $15.75. Give a listen to Mr. Aaron’s music at mraaronmusic.com.

• See Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo, an interactive show featuring live dinosaurs (operated by puppeteers) on stage, at the Capitol Center for the Arts’ Chubb Theatre (44 S. Main St. in Concord; ccanh.com) on Saturday, Feb. 10, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $35.25 to $48.25 (for an additional $28.75, take part in a VIP meet and greet).

Free art

• Saturday, Feb. 10 features free admission for New Hampshire residents to the Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St. in Manchester; currier.org, 669-6144) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., stop in at the Creative Studio for family art fun. Short family tours will be available in the galleries as well, according to the website.

Basketball weekend

• Catch the Saint Anselm Hawks this weekend when both the men’s (3:30 p.m.) and women’s (1:30 p.m) basketball teams take on the teams from Southern Connecticut State University at Stoutenburgh Gymnasium (73 College Road on Saint Anselm College campus in Manchester). Tickets to either game cost $10 (kids 5 and under get in free to regular season games) and are available for purchase starting one hour ahead of game time at the Gymnasium ticket booth. See saintanselmhawks.com. Both teams will also play the teams from the College of Saint Rose on Tuesday, Feb. 13; women’s game starts at 5:30 p.m. and men’s game starts at 7:30 p.m.

• At Southern New Hampshire University, the Penmen take on the Adelphi University Panthers with women’s (1:30 p.m.) and men’s (3:30 p.m.) basketball on Saturday, Feb. 10. The games take place at Stan Spiro Field House (at the Southern New Hampshire University campus, 2500 River Road in Manchester); regular season games are free to attend.

• Catch some mid-week basketball on Tuesday, Feb. 13, when the men’s ( 5 p.m.) and women’s (7 p.m.) Rivier Raiders teams play Mitchell College at Muldoon Fitness Center (440 Main St. in Nashua). See rivierathletics.com.

Growing and eating cardoon

It’s like an artichoke, but with more food per plant

Most years I start some onion seeds and perhaps a few artichokes indoors in February; this year I will also start some cardoon seeds at the same time. Cardoon, which is a lovely-looking plant related to artichokes, is a delicious vegetable too.

Artichokes and cardoon are in the thistle family, and closely related. With artichokes, we eat the flower bud before it matures. The edible part of cardoon is the midrib of the long leaves, much as we eat the stalks of celery. But cardoon stalks are eaten cooked, not raw.

Since cardoon plants are rarely sold at garden centers, you may wish to buy some seeds now and plant them indoors in February. It grows best in full sun with rich soil and plenty of moisture. Like artichokes, cardoon seems to have few pests or diseases. It is also a lovely decorative plant in the flower garden. It is a big plant that is vertical in growth habit and has silver-green leaves with toothed edges. You may need to stake it to keep it from encroaching on nearby plants.

Toward the end of the growing season and before it flowers, you must blanch the leaves before eating them. Blanch in this use means depriving them of light, not steaming them. In the Piedmont district of Italy (in the northwest part, near Turin) farmers do this by digging up cardoon before the first frost in the fall. They lay it in a trench and cover it with soil for 2 weeks to blanch it and give it a bittersweet flavor. Easier yet, according to the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog, you can blanch the plants by wrapping them with several layers of newspapers (avoid colored print), enough to keep out the light. You don’t dig them up to do that. By the way, I find I always learn something when I read the Johnny’s catalog. The variety I ordered from Johnny’s Seeds is called “Porto Spineless.”

Cardoon is in the thistle family, and if you don’t harvest the leaves it will eventually produce gorgeous purple flowers like those you see on wild thistle plants. I have read that if you are in Zone 6 or warmer, it will survive the winter just like a perennial flower — just cut it back, leaving the stubs of leaves at 10 inches.

In Italy there is a cardoon dish called “bagna cauda.” It is to the people of the Piedmont what haggis is to the Scots. If you meet someone you like, you invite them over for a bagna cauda, which translates loosely as “hot bath.” But cardoon goes in the bath, not people.

An evening with bagna cauda features a container of hot olive oil, an inch or two deep, with a whole head of thinly sliced garlic and a can or two of anchovies in it. It is brought to a simmer and kept simmering with a hot plate or flame. As with fondue, you spear food and cook it in the hot oil — the midribs are cut into 1-inch pieces for cooking. But the one key ingredient is always cardoon. Yes, there can be radishes, cubes of beef, celery and perhaps peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms or fennel. But without cardoon, it is not a proper bagna cauda. It is good to add an occasional splash of red wine in the pot to keep the garlic and anchovies from burning. You need loaves of good French bread that you tear — not slice — into pieces and use to catch any drips of oil.

For the less adventurous and the garlic-averse, here is the recipe I adapted from Ellen Ogden’s wonderful cookbook From the Cook’s Garden:

1 pound cardoon stalks (1 plant), rinsed clean and towel-dried

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup milk, heated

½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup dried bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375°F, and warm an 8×11-inch baking dish, lightly buttered. Prepare midribs of leaves by cutting off the leaf portion and cutting into 4-inch pieces. Cook the cardoon by boiling in lightly salted water for 10 minutes or until tender. Melt butter and whisk in flour, cooking for two minutes. Gradually whisk in milk and bring to simmer. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread bottom of baking dish with a little sauce, arrange half the stalks in dish, and cover with sauce and half the Parmesan cheese. Repeat and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake until top is lightly brown, about 20 minutes.

As much as I love artichokes, you really only get a few tablespoons of food from a plant that takes up a 2- or 3-foot square section of garden. Cardoon has a similar flavor, but you get enough from one plant to serve as a side dish for four people. And because it is so vertical, it takes up less space. It is a gorgeous foliage plant that can get to be 3 to 4 feet tall, so you can plant it in either the flower garden or the vegetable garden.

Part of the fun of gardening, for me, is in the eating. Fresh is better than store-bought. And for cardoon, growing your own is probably the only way to have some. So if you plan to start your own tomato seedlings indoors in April, why not start early with some cardoon?

Henry is the author of four gardening books. Reach him by e-mail at henry.homeyer@comcast.net. This winter his column will appear just once a month.

Spirng Flower Shows

• Thursday, Feb. 22, through Monday, Feb. 25: Connecticut Flower and Garden Show. Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford. The biggest show in New England with plenty to learn and see. ctflowershow.com

• Friday, March 1, through Sunday, March 3: New Hampshire Orchid Society Annual Show and Sale. Courtyard Marriott, Nashua, New Hampshire. If you love orchids, this is a must-see. nhorchids.org

• Saturday, March 2, through Sunday, March 10: Philadelphia Flower Show. The biggest and oldest show of its kind in America. Go mid-week to enjoy smaller crowds. Buy tickets in advance, as admission is less expensive that way. phsonline.org/the-flower-show

• Friday March 22, through Sunday, March 24: Capital Region Flower and Garden Expo. Hudson Valley Community College, Troy, New York. flowerandgardenexpo.com

• Thursday, April 4, through Sunday, April 7: Rhode Island Home Show: This home show includes two areas devoted to flowers, including the Federated Garden Clubs of Rhode Island competition. Ribahomeshow.com

Spring Flower Shows
• Thursday, Feb. 22, through Monday, Feb. 25: Connecticut Flower and Garden Show. Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford. The biggest show in New England with plenty to learn and see. ctflowershow.com
• Friday, March 1, through Sunday, March 3: New Hampshire Orchid Society Annual Show and Sale. Courtyard Marriott, Nashua, New Hampshire. If you love orchids, this is a must-see. nhorchids.org
• Saturday, March 2, through Sunday, March 10: Philadelphia Flower Show. The biggest and oldest show of its kind in America. Go mid-week to enjoy smaller crowds. Buy tickets in advance, as admission is less expensive that way. phsonline.org/the-flower-show
• Friday March 22, through Sunday, March 24: Capital Region Flower and Garden Expo. Hudson Valley Community College, Troy, New York. flowerandgardenexpo.com
• Thursday, April 4, through Sunday, April 7: Rhode Island Home Show: This home show includes two areas devoted to flowers, including the Federated Garden Clubs of Rhode Island competition. Ribahomeshow.com

The Art Roundup 23/02/08

The latest from NH’s theater, arts and literary communities

Own an original Tomie dePaola: The Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St. in Manchester; Currier.org, 669-6144) is selling 200 tickets at $50 each for a raffle of two original artworks by artist, author and illustrator Tomie dePaola. The sale runs through Feb. 29. See the website for a look at the pieces being raffled and to purchase tickets. The funds raised support the Tomie dePaola Art Education Fund, which was “created by the Currier in Tomie’s memory” and “awards scholarships to lower-income families and disadvantaged youth, allowing them to participate in our classes and camps throughout the year,” according to the website.

Save the date for Chris Bohjalian: Author Chris Bohjalian will discuss his new novel The Princess of Las Vegas and more at the Bank of NH Stage (16 S. Main St. in Concord; ccanh.com) on Wednesday, March 27, at 7 p.m. The event is part of Authors on Main and is a collaboration between Gibson’s Bookstore, New Hampshire Public Radio and the Capitol Center for the Arts and will feature Bohjalian in conversation with NHPR’s Rick Ganley, according to a press release. Tickets cost $39 (one admission and one hardcover copy of The Princess of Las Vegas) and $49 (for two admissions and one book).

More coming up at Gibson’s: Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St. in Concord; gibsonsbookstore.com, 224-0562) has several author events coming up. On Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 6:30 p.m. Margo Cooper will discuss her book of photographs and interviews Deep Inside the Blues with Holly Harris, host of WUMB’s Spinning the Blues. On Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m. Leila Philip will discuss her book Beaverland: How One Weird Rodent Made America. On Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 p.m., Matthew J.C. Clark, a Maine carpenter, will discuss Bjarki, Not Bjarki: On Floorboards, Love, and Irreconcilable Differences. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 6:30 p.m., Pembroke-based author Avree Kelly Cark will discuss her book Malice Aforethought: A True Story of the Shocking Double Crime That Horrified Nineteenth-Century New England. On Tuesday, March 12, at 6:30 p.m. author and gardener Jane Hawley Stevens will discuss her new book The Celestial Garden: Growing Herbs, Vegetables and Flowers According to the Moon and Zodiac. On Thursday, March 14, at 6:30 p.m. Casey Sherman will discuss her book A Murder in Hollywood: The Untold Story of Tinseltown’s Most Shocking Crime.

New exhibit: Mariposa Museum & World Culture Center (26 Main St. in Peterborough; 924-455, mariposamuseum.org) features an exhibit from New Hampshire photographer Becky Field called “Crying in the Wilderness” that illustrates “the physical and emotional toll of immigrant detention,” according to a press release. The exhibit features the story of an African man who sought asylum in the U.S. in 2018 and moved in 2020 to the Seacoast, where his movements were tracked via an ankle monitor, according to a press release. Admission to the museum costs $8 for adults, $6 for seniors. The exhibit will be on display through Sunday, April 14. The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On display in Rochester: The Rochester Museum of Fine Arts (rochestermfa.org) exhibition “Neither Created Nor Destroyed” featuring works by Julie K. Gray is on display in the Bernier Room at the James W. Foley Memorial Community Center (150 Wakefield St. in Rochester) through Friday, March 1. The building is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Celebrate Mardi Gras (Tuesday, Feb. 13) with a performance by the Soggy Po Boys at the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester; palacetheatre.org) on Saturday, Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m. The show will feature New Orleans-style jazz, Caribbean music, funk, soul and brass band/street beat music, according to the website. Tickets cost $29.
Circus company Cirque Us, featuring “acrobats, aerials and quirky clowns,” will present One Man’s Trash on Thursday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. at Stockbridge Theatre (44 N. Main St. in Derry; stockbridgetheatre.showare.com, 437-5210), according to a press release. Tickets cost $22.

Not all hearts and flowers

Mosaic Art Collective takes on Valentine’s Day

In its latest month-long themed exhibition, Mosaic Art Collective in Manchester turns to matters of the heart; fitting, given Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of February. However, the pieces submitted thus far — photos, sculptures, paintings and prints — cover the spectrum of emotions, and the depth of feelings.

“It’s not just lovey-dovey,” Mosaic’s founder and president Liz Pieroni said by phone recently. “I would say the ones that are depicting heartache are more definitely gripping.” One example of this is “Release,” a jarring graphite-on-paper drawing by Jaida Mei that depicts a woman facing a powerful wind that’s literally tearing her up.

“This is a new artist to us, so I haven’t met them,” Pieroni said, calling Mei’s work “really, really powerful and almost a little bit scary, almost surreal.”

More playful is “The Love Letter,” from New Hampshire Institute of Art graduate Andrew Freshour. The ink and watercolor print is reminiscent of a Tomie dePaola illustration. It shows a royal coach carried by two dogs in powder wigs. “It’s about self-love, self-indulgence … living your most authentic life,” Pieroni opined, calling its style “like a fairy tale but also very over the top … kind of like the Muppets meet real life.”

Yes, there are flowers as well, Pieroni continued.

“We also have some beautiful botanical paintings that are probably more palatable to some people, they’re just really beautiful,” she said. “Red Between the Lines,” from Manchester painter Susanne Larkham, is a zoomed-in pastel of a rose in many shades of red. Jonathan Pereira’s “Love in the Form of Time and Growth,” on the other hand, is multicolored and brimming with childlike innocence.

More submissions are expected for the open call event, Pieroni continued.

“We don’t really know what we’re going to get until the night before we select pieces,” she said, adding that invitational shows like the one in March with Manchester high school students to celebrate Youth Art Month are more predictable.

A Hooksett native and an artist herself, Pieroni moved back home from Vermont in the wake of the pandemic. “I have three small kids, [and] after homeschooling and trying to figure out all that, we were really in need of a little bit more help … and we wanted to be closer to family,” she said.

Searching for a gallery and realizing that the closest ones were either on the Seacoast or in Boston, she opened Mosaic Art Collective in September 2022.

“I was searching for a place to show my work locally, but I also needed an art studio,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t be the only one in that same boat; ultimately, I was correct.”

Recently Mosaic began offering live music, and Pieroni is planning more.

“We’re trying to open up the gallery as much as possible,” she said. “The music event was one way, but then we’re also offering art talks. The Struggle Bus improv group did a performance here, and we also have run some workshops. We’re trying to find different ways of bringing people in, for all sorts of reasons.”

Art is available for purchase at Mosaic; some pieces can be acquired for as little as $36.

“The majority of things that we hang on the wall are under $500 typically, so they’re pretty reasonably priced,” Pieroni said. “Ultimately, you’re supporting a local artist, so you get good-person points.”

She urged anyone with uncertainty about ownership to consider Mosaic.

“Our biggest challenge is trying to bring people in who maybe haven’t purchased art before or considered themselves as collectors,” she said. “Finding those people and making it relevant to them and, also, a little less scary than walking into a gallery.”

ALL Heart Statuses
Where: Mosaic Art Collective, 66 Hanover St., Suite 201, Manchester
When: Through Wednesday, Feb. 28 (opening reception Saturday, Feb. 10, at noon

Featured photo: The Love Letter – Andrew Freshour Courtesy photo.

Cook for your Valentine

How to impress with fancy eats, cozy eats and a decadent dessert

Generally speaking, as a grownup on Valentine’s Day, you have four paths open to you:

(1) Sitting alone on your couch, in the dark, eating ice cream and watching kung fu movies. This will seem very familiar, as this was probably how you spent New Year’s Eve a few weeks ago.

(2) If you are young, enthusiastic and employed, there are Champagne, jewelry and optimistically intimate undergarments. These are grand, romantic gestures. They are undeniably effective, but also set expectations for the evening uncomfortably high, and at the same time make you look bad on the next gift-giving holiday, when you aren’t so demonstrative. It’s a risk.

(3) If you are older, and somewhat trampled upon by Life, there is the panicked last-minute purchase of traditional gestures of romance — grocery store roses ($15), a heart-shaped box of chocolates from the drug store ($25 for a big one), or getting a heart tattooed on your butt, with your loved one’s name on it (around $150, plus tip).

(4) Or, if you have been with your loved one for a while, a greeting card and dinner. This has some advantages:

(a) Nobody expects anything profound on a card. You can buy a generically romantic or even blank one, then look up a poem on the internet and copy a couple of stanzas into the card. Don’t try to take credit for good poetry. Cite your source, and you’ll look classy. Alternatively, you can try to be funny. Your joke might not go over, but you will still get points for trying, even if you’ve drawn a zombie holding a bouquet of dead roses, with a caption that says, “I love you for your brain.”

(b) Dinner is a winning strategy; we all like food. Even if you’ve been arguing with your loved one and things have been a little tense, we all have to eat sometime, and your sincere cooking gesture will not go unappreciated.

So if you’ve decided to cook a Valentine’s Day dinner, again, you have a few different approaches.

Plated fancy dinner with asparagus and mashed potatoes
Grilled portabella mushroom, mashed potatoes, and grilled asparagus. Photo by John Fladd.


As Valentine’s Day cooking goes, this is a big swing. If you pull it off, you will look confident and accomplished. If you and your dining companion are still getting to know one another, this will hint that you have hidden depths.

Even if things go spectacularly wrong — even if there are billows of smoke from the kitchen, even if the dog races through the living room with your main course in his mouth, even if you injure yourself dramatically in some way — you can smile gamely, wipe a tear from the corner of your eye, and ask, “How do you feel about pizza?” You will still come out ahead.

You want to cook something that is legitimately delicious, grown up, and impressive, but not actually very hard to make.


If your Valentine is a fan of red meat, this is the time to double down on a really good piece of beef. Here’s the recipe for a truly excellent steak:

Go to a real butcher. Describe how you’d like your evening to go. He or she will show you some steaks. To you, they will look like most of the meat in the case. Trust the professional. Say, “Yes, please,” then ask them how to cook it. They know meat better than you ever will. Write down their directions, go home, and do what they told you to do.

This will be a Very Good Steak.


If you are a strong and confident cook, roast a whole chicken. Stuff the cavity with lemon quarters and thyme, and baste it with olive oil and garlic.

If you aren’t quite that confident, your best bet is Chicken Piccata.

Chicken Piccata

2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half –you can buy them this way at the grocery store

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

all-purpose flour, for coating

6 Tablespoons (¾ stick) butter

5 Tablespoons (3 big glugs) olive oil

⅓ cup (75 grams) fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ cup (113 g) chicken stock

¼ cup (55 g) brined capers, rinsed

chopped parsley for garnish

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Coat them with flour, dusting off the excess.

Fry the chicken over medium heat in 4 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil, until both sides are golden brown, about three minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the lemon juice, chicken stock and capers to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the little bits of fried chicken — if you want to impress people, call this fond — and incorporate it into the sauce.

Return the chicken to the pan and give it a brief spa day in the sauce, five minutes or so.

Remove the chicken again. At this point it is probably getting confused and a little frustrated, trying to figure out what you want from it. Plate it with your apologies.

Add the last 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce and whisk it vigorously, like it owes you money. Again, if you want to use a fancy cooking term, this is called mounting the sauce. If you tried to work that term into a joke later on, who could blame you? If you whisk briskly enough that your sauce doesn’t break, you’ll probably get away with making a mounting joke.

Pour the sauce — the piccata sauce — over the chicken, and top with the chopped parsley. Congratulations, you’ve made Chicken Piccata.

This is delicious. It is a classic but went out of style 20 or 30 years ago, so there’s a good chance your dining companion hasn’t heard of this before. The acid from the lemon juice plays off the bright, salty flavor of the capers. This would be a bit too sharp, but the butter has rounded off the edges and given the sauce a richness that complements the chicken. The effort-to-deliciousness ratio of this dish is excellent.


Your best bet here is an omelet or roasted portabella mushrooms. The mushrooms will have a rich flavor and a meaty texture. The eggs are dependably delicious and look good on the plate. If you mess them up it will only take a couple of minutes to redo them.

Grilled Asparagus

Some people find asparagus intimidating. Cooked properly it is probably the easiest vegetable to cook. It looks good on the plate. It tastes good and establishes your grown-up credentials.

Buy a bunch of baby asparagus, the pencil-thin ones.

Rinse the stalks, then break off the woody base of each spear. Bend it like you are going to break it in half. Surprisingly, it won’t actually break halfway across the spear, but toward the end, where it starts to get woody.

Soak the stalks in bottled balsamic vinaigrette for about an hour.

Spread the asparagus on a baking sheet, then broil it in the oven under high heat for about four minutes, until it looks cooked and the vinaigrette looks foamy.

That’s it. It is incredibly easy. The asparagus actually tastes like something, unlike when you were a child and one of your relatives boiled it for an hour or so. This is a sophisticated side dish.

Your Starch

Two straightforward side dishes are mashed potatoes and couscous.

The secret to excellent mashed potatoes is boiling the potatoes until they start to fall apart. Drain them, then return them to the pot and stir them to dry them out. They will continue to fall apart. When they look dry — well, drier — mash them with a potato masher, then add a truly injudicious amount of butter and cream. Season it, and again you look like a pro. If nothing else goes right tonight, good mashed potatoes will save you.

On the other hand, there’s couscous. It looks like rice. It’s faster and easier than rice. It’s not rice. Mix dry couscous with an equal amount of boiling water or broth and a little butter. Cover it and leave it alone for seven minutes. Stir it with a fork and boom, you’ve cooked couscous, baby!

Toasted ravioli. Photo by John Fladd.


Valentine’s Day comfort tastes delicious, is bad for you and doesn’t have to be paired with anything. However, here are some notes.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Don’t believe what anybody has told you: Do not spread mayonnaise on the bread instead of butter. No, it is not “just as good.” Try to remember to leave butter out in the morning to soften up. Make sure you thoroughly butter each exterior side of the sandwich before you grill it in a pan. Fancy cheese doesn’t make for a better grilled cheese. Don’t let anyone shame you out of using American, if that’s how you roll. Cheddar or pepper jack are always good. Edam is about as fancy as you want to go. Serve your sandwich with a crunchy pickle.

Tater Tots

Don’t try to save time or energy by using your air fryer. That’s fine 364 days a year, but on Valentine’s Day, actually bake your Tater Tots in the oven. Cook them on a wire cooling rack that you’ve placed inside a baking sheet. This will let the hot air get to all sides of the Tots, and you won’t have to flip them halfway through cooking.

Toasted Ravioli or Pierogi

Don’t worry about thawing or pre-cooking them. Fry them — frozen — in butter over medium-low heat. By the time they are golden brown on both sides, the insides will be warm and creamy. If you’re making pierogi, spend 20 minutes beforehand and caramelize some onions to go with them.

Buttered Noodles

Follow the instructions on the box. Boil the pasta for that long; don’t depend on your memory. Drain it and add real, full-fat, salted butter. I recommend radiatori, but you know what kind of noodle your loved one likes. If you don’t, you need to do some hard thinking about your place in the World.

Ultra-rich brownie with melted ice cream and homemade chocolate sauce. Photo by John Fladd.


Maybe you want to make some kind of romantic gesture but you’d really rather not make a huge production out of it. There is a middle ground: a decadent dessert — something rich and chocolatey. You want it to be a celebration, just not with trumpets and confetti — maybe something you can share with the lights low and the music romantic.

Ultra-Rich Brownies with Malted Ice Cream & Homemade Chocolate Sauce

The Brownies

6 ounces (1½ of the big bars you find at the supermarket) 99 percent dark or unsweetened chocolate, broken up

18 Tablespoons (2¼ sticks) butter

4 eggs

2½ cups (495 g) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1¾ cups (210 g) all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Butter a 9”x 9” baking pan, and line it with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave. Heat them in a plastic or glass bowl for 30 seconds, stir, then microwave them for another 20 or 30 seconds, stir, then another 15 or so, until they have melted and combined. Set aside.

With an electric beater or in a stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt at high speed for three minutes, until the mixture is extremely light and creamy. There isn’t any leavener in this recipe, so the air you beat in now will do any raising these brownies get.

Turn down the speed on your mixer, and blend in the chocolate mixture. Wish it luck and Godspeed. Salute it, if you feel so inclined.

At very slow speed, add the flour, a couple of spoonfuls at a time. More flour or a higher speed will cover you with flour.

When the flour is completely mixed in, stop the mixer. Stir the mixture once or twice with a rubber spatula to make sure everything gets combined thoroughly, then pour the batter into your prepared pan.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Set aside to cool.

The Ice Cream

Plain, store-bought vanilla ice cream is just about perfect for this dish. If you wanted to go a step further — make a semi-grand gesture, perhaps — homemade malted milk ice cream might be 10 percent more delicious.

3 cups (680 g) half-and-half

¾ cup (106 g) malted milk powder

3 egg yolks

½ cup (99 g) sugar

¼ cup (53 g) brown sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla

Heat the half-and-half and malted milk powder, stirring, over medium heat until it comes to a simmer.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks and sugars together.

When the cream has come to a simmer, very, very slowly pour it into the egg mixture, stirring vigorously. You’re adding the cream slowly to keep it from scrambling the eggs.

When everything is mixed together, return it to the saucepan and heat it again until it has thickened slightly. If you are keeping track of the temperature, this will be at around 175ºF.

Remove your ice cream base from the heat, and strain it into a one-quart container. Let it cool, then stir in the vanilla, and store, covered, in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. It has had a traumatic day. Say something comforting to it as you close the refrigerator door.

When the ice cream base has thoroughly chilled, churn it in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer the soft ice cream to a container, then put it in your freezer to harden up.

This is a delicious, fairly subtly flavored ice cream that will complement the rich chocolate in the brownie and the chocolate sauce.

The Chocolate Sauce

1 cup (250 g) water

½ cup (160 g) corn syrup

½ cup (100 g) sugar

¾ cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder

⅓ cup (2 ounces, 55 g) chocolate chips

In a small saucepan, combine everything but the chocolate chips. The cocoa is hydrophobic, which makes it sound like it has rabies, but that just means that it doesn’t like to mix with water. It will take some energetic whisking and a stern look to bring everything together.

Keep whisking the sauce over medium heat, until it just starts to boil. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the chocolate chips. They will melt and incorporate within a few seconds.

Let the sauce sit for an hour or two to thicken and for the ingredients to get to know each other. Let’s face it; you forced the issue with your whisking. It’s only fair to give everyone time to calm down and settle in.

This is not an overly sweet chocolate sauce. It’s definitely a dessert sauce, but there’s a seriousness about it. It tastes like chocolate, not like candy. You may have noticed that there is no vanilla in the ingredients; that would have rounded out the edges of the chocolate and given it a mellowness. Without it, this sauce is a handsome man in a dark suit.

Putting It All Together

It’s pretty straightforward. Plate a brownie, top it with slightly more ice cream than you might think, and spoon your homemade chocolate sauce on top. You might want to heat the brownie for a few seconds in the microwave, but just until it is gently warm, not hot and gooey. That’s for another occasion.

This dessert is all about contrast. There are chocolate purists who insist that you should use all chocolate — the brownie, the ice cream and the sauce — chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. That would be too much here. The brownie and the sauce are two shades of very serious chocolate. They need vanilla or malted ice cream to stand out and show off their depth.

A note: These are extremely dense and rich brownies. For Valentine’s Day, especially if you’re sharing, go ahead and plate a conventional-size serving. Even the two of you might not finish it — it’s that rich — but this dessert is a Medium Dramatic Gesture (MDG), so now is not the time to start being practical. When you eat the rest of the brownies over the next few days, you’ll probably want to cut them into 1½-inch squares.

Romantic cocktail. Photo by John Fladd.


In the end, love is tricky.

Sometimes it sneaks up on you; you wake up one morning and realize that you’ve fallen like a 50-pound sack of cement. Sometimes it hits you between the eyes instantly — again, like a sack of cement. Sometimes it consumes you, filling every cell with fire and bubbles. But not cement.

So how do you express that? Love letters? Fighting a duel? A prenuptial agreement?

This year Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday. That doesn’t leave much opportunity to express what’s in your heart.

But a good cocktail might be a good symbolic gesture.

Unnamed Valentine’s Day Cocktail

3 ounces dry gin – a botanical gin might seem like an obvious choice for this, but you don’t want to muddy the other ingredients; a crisp London-style gin like Fords is just right for this

1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

1 ounce elderflower liqueur – I like St. Germain

3 drops rose water – as you add this, it won’t seem like enough, but three drops is just about exactly the right amount; you just want a subtle back-note of roses, you don’t want this to be too perfumey.

Several ounces of Asti spumante – you’ll be tempted to go up-market on this, to break out your expensive bubbly, but the spumante brings a sweetness that really adds to the finished cocktail. If this cocktail goes over well enough, you can save the Dom for another occasion.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, lime juice, elderflower liqueur, and rose water over ice. Shake for 30 seconds.

Strain into two cocktail glasses, and top with spumante.

Drink together while listening to Frank Sinatra’s cover of “Fly Me to the Moon.” Warning: This might lead to dancing.

The gin is the driver of this particular limousine. The spumante and the elderflower are the couple in the back seat saying, “Keep your eyes on the road, Fords.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Fords says.

The wine is what you notice in the front end, but with a floral aftertaste. This is not an overly boozy cocktail. (With that said, three of these could lead to questionable decision-making, which in a Valentine’s Day context might be just what you’re looking for.)

After all, isn’t that what Love is? The triumph of the heart over common sense?

This Week 24/02/08

Thursday, Feb. 8

Dancing Queens, the Ultimate ABBA Disco Tribute, begins its final weekend run tonight, with a show at 7:30 p.m. at the Palace Theatre (80 Hanover St. in Manchester; palacetheatre.org, 668-5588). Other shows this weekend include Friday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 10, at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 11, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $28 to $49. Find Michael Witthaus’ story about the show in the Jan. 25 issue of the Hippo at hippopress.com.

Friday, Feb. 9

Lotus Land, the American Rush tribute band, plays two nights at Tupelo Music Hall (10 A St. in Derry; tupelomusichall.com) — tonight and tomorrow night, Saturday, Feb. 10, at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $39. Find more ticket concerts this weekend and beyond on page 42.

Saturday, Feb. 10

Looking for a new outdoor winter hobby? NH Audubon’s Massabesic Center’s (26 Audubon Way in Auburn; 668- 2045, nhaudubon.org) “Beginner Bird Outing” will be held today from 8:30 to 10 a.m. All ages and skill levels of birders are welcome, according to the website, where you can register for the class, which costs $10 per person.

Saturday, Feb. 10

Join your fellow Swifties at “Swift Me Away,” a dance party featuring the music (but not, it should be noted, the person) of Taylor Swift today at 8 p.m. at the Bank of New Hampshire Stage (16 S. Main St. in Concord; ccanh.com). Tickets cost $21.75 (plus $5 at the door).

Tuesday, Feb. 13

Learn about the plans of scientists and artists for the April 8 solar eclipse at “Science on Tap: Science in the Shadow of Eclipse 2024” today at 6 p.m. at Stark Brewing Co. (500 Commercial St. in Manchester), an adult program presented by SEE Science Center. The event is free but advance registration is appreciated; go to see-sciencecenter.org.

Wednesday, Feb. 14

Catch a screening of the silent film Speedy (1928), a romantic comedy starring Harold Lloyd and featuring Babe Ruth and presented with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, today at 7 p.m. at the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester; palacetheatre.org). Tickets cost $10. Find more Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day special screenings in the film listings on page 35.

Save the Date! Saturday, April 6
Comedian Preacher Lawson comes to the Nashua Center for the Arts (201 Main St. in Nashua; nashuacenterforthearts.com) on Saturday, April 6, at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $29 to $49. Find videos of his comedy via preacherlawson.com.

Quality of Life 24/02/08

Child care aid

The New Hampshire Department of Health of Human Services (DHHS) has launched “Child Care Accelerate,” an 8-week business support initiative designed to aid child care providers in the state. According to a press release, the program, created in collaboration with Seed Collective, aims to help these providers improve their business operations and financial management to ensure their long-term viability and to enhance the availability of quality child care. Participants will have the chance to apply for the Opportunities to Succeed (OTS) grant, supported by $5 million from American Rescue Plan Act Discretionary funds, to fund projects like facility improvements. This initiative is a continuation of the state’s efforts to utilize $29.7 million in ARPA-D funds for critical needs within the child care sector, which includes various capacity-building and workforce expansion projects.

QOL score: +1

Comment: Since March 2020, more than $150 million in federal relief funds has been invested in the New Hampshire child care system.

UNH deadline extension

Students and their families will have more time to make decisions about their higher education, as the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has extended the application deadline for the 2024-25 academic year. This change comes in response to recent updates to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), providing applicants with a buffer to understand their financial aid options fully.

QOL score: +1

Comment: Despite the challenges posed by the FAFSA changes, the university has noted an increase in applications.

Sewage in the river

The Merrimack River faced a significant environmental challenge last year, as around 2 billion gallons of raw sewage mixed with stormwater runoff entered the river, surpassing previous sewer overflow records, NHPR reported. This increase is attributed to factors such as climate change impacts, increased rainfall and ongoing riverfront development. Outdated combined sewer systems struggled to handle heavy rain, leading to untreated sewage entering the river. Sewer overflow advisories were in place for 39 days during June and July. Approximately 500,000 to 700,000 people rely on the Merrimack River for drinking water.

QOL score: -2

Comment: Manchester, one of the most affected areas, is working on a project aimed at reducing sewer overflows into the river, estimated to cost over $300 million and extend over two decades.

QOL score: 55

Net change: 0

QOL this week: 55

What’s affecting your Quality of Life here in New Hampshire? Let us know at news@hippopress.com.

Big game kicks off at 6:30pm Sunday

The Big Story – The Tom Brady Super Bowl: Even though the great man is retired, Sunday’s Big Game between the Chiefs and 49ers is still sorta the Tom Brady SB without him even playing. It features Patrick Mahomes, who’s likely going to break all Brady’s passing records someday. And after being drafted lower than TB-12’s 199 slot, 2022’s Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy is taking his team to the Super Bowl in his second season just as Brady did. So the game’s top storyline is this: Will today’s top QB take another step toward Brady’s seemingly untouchable record total of seven by winning his third SB? Or will Purdy’s Cinderella story match Brady by winning his first in his Year 2? We’ll know on Sunday night.

Sports 101: Only two players have won championships in two different professional sports. Who are they? Hint: One won one of his playing for the Celtics.

News Item – Theo Epstein is Back at Fenway: Everyone is hoping that means as overlord of Fenway Park. But it’s as senior advisor to what John Henry values more than the Red Sox these days, his Fenway Sports Group investment arm. But at a time when co-owner Tom Werner builds ridiculous expectations by saying the rebuild will go “full throttle” this winter and then pass off last week’s signing of 29-year-old reclamation project Melvin Adón as “exciting” after posting a 7.56 ERA with a 2.10 WHIP and .297 batting average against last year in SF because he hits 100 mph on the gun, any news of Theo being close to JH is welcome to a desperate Red Sox Nation.

News Item – Sports Word of the Week: Disgraceful, used to describe the completely unprofessional state of mental readiness and contemptible lack of effort put forth by the Celtics in a 114-105 loss last week to the undermanned L.A. Lakers playing without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The best evidence for their “who gives a bleep” attitude was their mindlessly turning it over nine times in the first quarter.

The Numbers:

Of the Week Awards

Why Can’t We Get Guys Like That Award – Joe Thuney: The guard the Pats cheaped out on in free agency a few years back, sending him to KC, where he made first team All-Pro this year thanks to leading all linemen with an astonishing 99.1 pass block win rate. Though ironically, the incredibly durable Thuney may miss the SB with a pectoral tear.

Nikki Haley Was 100% Correct Award: As if we needed more evidence of what a fool Vivek Ramaswamy is, now we have his conspiracy theory about the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce romance being part of a plot that involves fixing the NFL playoffs to make sure her boyfriend’s team got to the Super Bowl so a presidential endorsement of Joe Biden during the halftime show would have the biggest possible TV audience. It’s so idiotic it backs up Gov. Haley saying in the first GOP debate, “Every time I hear you I feel a little bit dumber.”

Thumbs Down – Joe Mazzulla: It’s one thing to back your players against an unfair media assault, but to stand up against their, ah, effort being called “embarrassing” by calling that reaction “disrespectful” to a team that clearly mailed in it should be embarrassing to Joe. While losing the locker room is a way to get fired, a quicker way is to let non-efforts like that utter embarrassment slide.

Random Thoughts: Reminder to folks saying Coach B should take a year off to decompress. Moot now, but that’s what people said Andy Reid should do after he bounced out in Philadelphia. Instead he went to KC, where he’s won less than 10 games just once in 10 years, while winning two SB’s, and he’ll be in the big game Sunday for the fourth time in five years.

Sports 101 Answer: The dual title winners are Gene Conley and Otto Graham. Conley pitched for the champion 1957 Milwaukee Braves and won three times as Bill Russell’s backup with the Celtics. For Graham it was for the Cleveland Browns and Rochester Royals of the NBL, which merged with the Basketball Association of America the next year to form the larger NBA.

A Little History – Otto Graham: He took Cleveland to the championship game 10 times from 1946 to 1955, winning seven times to set the mark TB matched. Except he only played 10 years to Brady’s 23. His winning 81 percent (103-17-6) is the highest winning percentage in NFL history, as is his 8.63 yards career yards per pass attempt. So is Brady the G.O.A.T. or is it Otto?

Final Thought – Super Bowl Prediction: When the young Brady won his first SB he faced football’s best QB in Kurt Warner. That mirrors Purdy’s task and since he’ll get more time to throw from his OL than Mahomes will from his patched up group, I’ll go with the younger Brady version in a, ah, Taylor-made SF win over KC: 27-23. Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.

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