Making lemonade

Jade Trio EP release show

By Michael Witthaus

Andrew North & the Rangers are a busy band. Along with frequent gigs, they lead the First Wednesday open jam session at Concord’s Bank of NH Stage. They began hosting it at the lush downtown venue after their regular Ranger Zone open mic night ended when Area 23 moved a few miles down State Street to become The Forum Pub.

The lottery-based open session is unique in offering local musicians the chance to play with a full group. Also, the venue has top-notch lights, sound and multimedia, which makes it a great place to shoot promotional photos. The opportunity extends to performers who typically can’t take advantage of an open mic, like a young drummer who stopped by recently.

“He can’t go to an open mic and be like, here’s my snare drum, I’m going to play three songs for you. It doesn’t really work,” North said in a recent phone interview. “So we got to jam with him and come up with some funk jams and things like that. It’s cool to get musicians who aren’t able to provide the full expression of what they do in a traditional open mic setting.”

North also encouraged non-musicians to come for the entertainment.

“The talent level is shockingly high most months,” he said.

In addition to their musical endeavors, however, the band — original members North, Rob O’Brien, Chip Spangler and Dale Grant, along with recent additions Jillian Rork and Randy Hunneyman — all have busy day-to-day lives, and getting all six together is difficult at times. “We’re made up of people who are parents and professionals, with a whole lot going on in their lives,” North said. “From a scheduling perspective, there’s often times when somebody can’t make a gig.”

A year ago, only three people came to a scheduled practice session — North, Grant and Rork. Rather than bail for a month, they began jamming. They called the result Jade Trio, a stripped down, intimate effort. Songs like “Ben Folds’ Mind” and a new take on the instrumental “Epiphone” originally on the Phosphorescent Snack album have an easy, neo-jazz quality.

They enjoyed playing together enough to document the sessions in Concord Community Music School’s rehearsal hall. A four-song self-titled EP will be released on April 5. On the same day, in the same practice space, the three will play a one-off show, followed by a full Rangers acoustic set.

A benefit concert for the school, the event exemplifies the tightly knit Concord music community. Back when Area 23 was preparing to relocate, North and his bandmates did a final show there. Fiddler Audrey Budington, who has played with North in the Senie Hunt Project and is currently a member of Rebel Collective, joined in for a few songs.

“She works at Concord Community Music School and was like, ‘We need to do something with you guys this spring,’ so that’s where this show came from,” North recalled. “It’s really fortuitous the way everything came together.”

Making it an all-acoustic evening was an easy call for North.

“They have a Steinway piano on the stage, and we’re going to take advantage of that,” he said. “We’re really excited to see what this ends up sounding like, because we haven’t played a show quite like this before. Also, because it’s out of our regular wheelhouse [of] music venues and nightlife type places that have a bar and things like that, we’re not sure what to expect as to who’s going to come.”

He’s eager for what may be Jade Trio’s only public performance. However, it can be a challenge to come up with a rhythm section while working in a piano, drums and baritone saxophone configuration.

“Between the three of us, we’re all kind of juggling who’s holding down that low end of things, so when Jillian is going to take a solo on the saxophone I’ll drop my left hand lower to make sure we’re covering that frequency range,” North said, adding, “I really enjoy that process of three people making music together in the moment and sort of intuitively passing off that kind of stuff. It’s really a pleasure to get to play with people on that level.”

Andrew North & the Rangers w/ Jade Trio
When: Friday, April 5, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Concord Community Music School, 23 Wall St., Concord
Tickets: $10 suggested donation

Featured photo: Jade Trio. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 24/04/04

Local music news & events

Blues Italiano: Beginning with the formation of his group Morblus in 1991, guitarist Roberto Morbioli made a name for himself in the blues world. One critic likened him to “Eric Clapton and a young Stevie Ray Vaughan.” Another called his mix of “funk, soul, shuffle, swamp, second line and everything else” a “relentless feast for the ears.” Lately, Morbioli is readying a new album for release. Thursday, April 4, 8 p.m., Stumble Inn, 20 Rockingham Road, Londonderry. See

Local laughs: Headlining Nashua’s Center for the Arts was a career milestone for Drew Dunn, a Nashua South High grad. Though now based in New York, he’ll always be a hometown boy. He headlines a show with support from pal Paul Landwehr, Liam McGuirk and Danya Trommer, part of a regular Friday comedy series. After a few more New England dates, Dunn is off to Canada, Key West and Arizona. Friday, April 5, 7:30 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester, $26 at

Fiddle finesse: A Scottish expat who cut her teeth in Glasgow’s rich session scene, fiddler Louise Bichan came to the States via a Berklee Music College scholarship. Bichan now lives in Cornish, Maine, but says Scotland will always be her home. Her latest single, the lilting instrumental “Coldstream,” dropped last month, and her area show coincides with the release of her new album The Lost Summer. Saturday, April 6, 7 pm., Blasty Bough Brewing Co., 3 Griffin Road, Epsom, $30 at

Groove rock: Raw, raucous and relentless, Catwolf is an all-female trio making waves in the North Country. In June they’ll host Underground Sunshine, a women-forward showcase. Their Lakes Region winery show starts with wine tasting; food is available for purchase. Sunday, April 7, 7 p.m., Hermit Woods Winery, 72 Main St., Meredith, $15 and up at

Country girls: Though Emily Mann and Wila Frank, the duo known as Paper Wings, have rural West Coast roots, their banjo and guitar sound convincingly evokes Appalachian bluegrass. Songs like “Is It True” have a stomp and holler vibe, with forceful yet sweet harmonies. Now Nashville-based, they’ve released three albums, the self-titled 2017 debut, 2019’s Clementine and the new Listen to the World Spin. Tuesday, April 9, 7 p.m., The Word Barn, 66 Newfields Road, Exeter, $16 at

Transient and Strange, by Nell Greenfieldboyce

Transient and Strange, by Nell Greenfieldboyce (W.W. Norton & Co., 211 pages)

The science writer Nell Greenfieldboyce has worked for NPR since 2005 and is a bit of an outlier. She doesn’t use social media much, lets her kids call her “Nell” and adopted a combined yet unhyphenated last name. She also has, until recently, resisted talking about her personal life in her writing. That changed a decade ago when a friend convinced her to write about a spider in her kitchen with which she had become entranced. And once that door was opened, a sort of floodgate opened from which Transient and Strange emerged.

“Transient and strange” is a phrase from a Walt Whitman poem about meteors, and meteors streak across the cover of Greenfieldboyce’s book, which combines science writing and memoir with a poignancy rarely seen in the genre. The author links discoveries undergirding disparate topics — tornados, black holes, spiders, fleas — to events in her own life, including her parenting mistakes, her parents’ physical decline and her husband’s health issues. The book is revelatory in every sense of the word.

The book begins with a sweet mildness that belies what is to come. She’s lying in bed with her children, when her 6-year-old shares that he’s been thinking about tornados, having listened to an audiobook that mentions one. At first, Greenfieldboyce is excited about introducing her children to this wondrous thing: “a spinning column of clouds snaking down to the ground.” But after watching her children’s eyes as they watch a short video, she realizes that she’s introduced not wonder, but fear, and indeed, both children, ages 3 and 6, become obsessively worried about a tornado hitting their home.

This leads Greenfieldboyce into her natural territory: making science relatable for a mass audience. Her attempts to calm her children’s fears lead her to call a University of Oklahoma scientist whose research led to the 1996 film Twister, then to read a book he’d read as a child, to learn about the development of Doppler radar, and the devastating tornado that hit Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1953, killing 94 people and displacing 10,000.

But then, she suddenly slips in some devastation of her own, a traumatic experience from her childhood that sends her to seek counseling as adult. Like a tornado, we don’t see this coming, and Greenfieldboyce skillfully weaves her own story with happened to the families in Worcester, as their ordinary lives were upended, then there was an eerie calm, and then the storm slammed into them again.

One of the more interesting details that she shares about the Worcester tornado is of survivors who described potatoes and eggs floating in the air as the tornado approached — a phenomenon caused by the wave of low pressure.

The story then easily flows into a visit with her hospitalized father, which leads into a discussion about — wait for it — meteors. Admittedly, this is no ordinary family. Greenfieldboyce has long been interested in extraterrestrial rocks; she wears a chunk of one as a pendant, and she’d just bought her father a piece of a moon rock as a Christmas present. (Maybe not as strange as it seems, even though it had wound up in a drawer; he’d once worked for NASA.) She takes us on a whirlwind journey of famous rocks (the revered Black Stone in Mecca) and improbable rocks (the meteor fragments that hurtle to Earth) and reminds us that what we take for granted today was practically heretical just a few centuries ago. Thomas Jefferson, for example, reportedly mocked Yale scientists who said rocks they’d collected had come from space, saying, “It is easier to believe that two Yankee professors would lie than that stones would fall from heaven.”

Walt Whitman muscles his way into this story, as Herman Melville does later, and Greenfieldboyce’s own words hold their own with these literary stars, even as she tells stories that involve several unsavory characters, like the man who tried to seduce her when she was 12. For someone who for 30 years was intent on not writing about herself, she writes with a shocking amount of candor, most of all when she writes about what she calls “my eugenics project.”

At 23, she fell in love with the man she would eventually marry. He had a genetic condition called polycystic kidney disease that would one day result in his needing a kidney transplant. Although she was in love and committed to him, she writes, “I didn’t think an organ transplant at the age of thirty or forty, and then years of taking drugs to suppress the immune system was anything to just shrug off.” And just as her boyfriend had inherited the disease from his mother, who had inherited it from her father, there was a chance that their children would inherit it too.

All this thrust the young couple into the world of genetic counseling and artificial reproductive techniques. He was against the “reproductive industrial complex”; she thought they’d be crazy not to avail themselves of scientific methods that might allow them to have a baby free of the worrisome gene. Their struggle to conceive a child — taking place at the same time that he is preparing to have a kidney transplant — takes the reader deep into the couple’s most intimate spaces. And quite by happenstance, it does so at a time when the nation is newly engaged in a conversation about in vitro fertilization and the ethics of frozen embryos.

Theirs is a deeply moving story, as is the book overall. Greenfield has said that she wrote the essays independently, not knowing what would become of them, but they flow beautifully, like water. She may not have all the answers to her questions — or ours — but the questions she raises are fascinating. Transient and Strange is neither; it is elegant, thoughtful writing that will endure in your thoughts. AJennifer Graham

Album Reviews 24/04/04

Altin Sencalar, Discover The Present (Posi-Tone Records)

This jazz leader and his long-time co-trombonist Chris Glassman have been hailed by such major zines as Stereophile, who said they sound like “21st century grandchildren of JJ Johnson and Kai Winding.” That’ll mean very little to folks who aren’t big in trombone-jazz, of course, aside from the obvious, they’ve got a nice setup going on here. There are Latin and Vegas edges to this stuff, most eminently in a cover of Four Tops’ 1970s radio-hit “Ain’t No Woman Like the One I’ve Got,” which is jaw-droppingly clean on the production end. The proverbial fourth wall has been all but obliterated in the Big Tech era; any search for Sencalar brings up his LinkedIn page first and foremost, which kind of struck me funny; it enumerates all the colleges where he’s taught, including some in Japan. That left me with the impression I’d be hearing rote academic renditions of this stuff aimed at a particular niche, but the exuberance is really inspiring throughout. A+ —Eric W. Saeger

The Legless Crabs, “Golden Bachelor” / “Get Down” (Metal Postcard Records)

Meanwhile, somewhere on Alpha Centauri, there are bands that, like Pepperidge Farm, remember. In the case of this band, what’s remembered is the Butthole Surfers, a band I’d bet 99 percent of you folks have heard of but only 0.01 percent have actually listened to. Now, Metal Postcard seems to be something of a prank record label, given that they charge random prices for their records, like, one was $22,890, and you can purchase this band’s entire discography for $264.67 (or just the two-sided single for $2). Boy, that’s some nerve, but these guys are such full-of-baloney popinjays (sample press quote: “If the Legless Crabs had released music in the ’60s they would have been rediscovered in the ’80s and fawned over”) that I can’t think of anything bad to say about them. But yes, these tunes do sound like the Surfers: slow, messy, distorted beats and bullhorned vocals, do you need anything else? Of course you don’t. A+ —Eric W. Saeger


A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Friday is April 5, and it will mark another Friday of albums for your listening displeasure and whatnot! You know what band we haven’t talked about in a long time is Vampire Weekend, remember them, you guys? They were like a cross between Ben Folds and Paul Simon, doing yacht rock for flat-broke millennials who lived with their parents. How did they ever get so big? No, I’m asking you, how did that band ever happen? OK, fine, the polyrhythms were borderline interesting, if you’re new to this planet and had never heard people playing, you know, drums before, or something? Lyrically, they’re sort of edgy, offering “a dynamic blend between the secular and the religious,” which means zip if you don’t care about lyrics, but you know what else, Barack Obama sought their support for his 2012 re-election campaign, and since they believed that politicians actually had a say in what happens in this country, they gladly accepted. But anyway, they had legitimacy during that mercifully short Aughts era when everyone hated music and was getting their revenge by listening to this band and so many others, so what have they gone and done but recorded a new album! This one, which only came out a few hours ago, is titled Only God Was Above Us.

• For some reason — probably because I don’t really care about either of them all that much — I’m always confusing the Black Lips with The Black Keys, whose new album, Ohio Players, is on the way! No, kidding, I do like how the Lips behave like demented punk rockers, and they can be sort of cool, don’t get me wrong. The Keys, though, I thought that was just a summer thing with the skinny jeans crowd, but it did last, Gawd bless ’em, so, on the occasion of this new album, it’s time once again to try to tell them from Arctic Monkeys or Strokes or whatnot (I never could, Gawd bless ya if you can). Lol, the Black Keys subreddit has some bad reviews of this thing, never mind the stupid kiss-butt bot that pops in to say “Myeahhh, I hope this means they’ll be spending time in Ohio!” Good grief, get me out of this subreddit, why am I even doing this, let’s go listen to one of the new songs, “I Forgot To Be Your Lover.” Ack, they’re trying to be Sam Cooke, or maybe — wait, I get it now — the Ohio Players in ballad mode! Boy, I’ll tell you, I have no use for this at all, but if you’re big into hookless tuneage, go for it.

• Wait, I thought Old 97’s were all done being mean to music, but if so, why am I seeing a new album called American Primitive being released by them this week? Wait, no, forget it, Rhett Miller is still their singer, I’d gotten confused because he was doing solo albums for a few years there and had kind of dumped them, not that I was keeping track. “Where The Road Goes” sounds like something Willie Nelson should be singing, not someone who isn’t 100 years old. It isn’t a very interesting song, is writing interesting songs even part of the typical game plan for bands nowadays? Discuss.

• We’ll end this remarkably uninteresting week of new albums with Phosphorescent’s new one, Revelator. Phosphorescent is the stage name of American indie singer-songwriter Matthew Houck, who is originally from Alabama but now lives in Athens, Georgia, so people will think he’s cool or whatever. The title track has mellow, strummy acoustic guitar, and there’s Spacemen 3 reverb on Houck’s voice, which is pretty much the only thing that’s keeping me from falling asleep while it’s playing. He sounds like a bad karaoke version of José González. What on Earth possesses people to support artists like this, seriously? —Eric W. Saeger

Mango Crème Brûlée

A note about mangoes: Fresh, ripe mangoes are a gift, tender, juicy, sweet and perfumy. Even in New Hampshire, pretty much every supermarket will have fresh mangoes. Granted they might not be ripe, but with a little planning even the most ham-handed cook can buy a hard mango and let it ripen up for a week or so before eating it or cooking with it. But if you find yourself in a bind, mango-riping-wise what then?

Frozen fruit is just about perfect for making purees and syrups. The freezing process breaks down cell walls and lends itself to processing. Is it as good as an actual ripe mango? Not even remotely. Is it better than no mango? Infinitely.

The same goes for canned mangoes. Unlike their frozen brothers, their cell walls are mostly intact, so they won’t dissolve into mush. Diced “champagne mangoes” — the little yellow ones — would beat up a canned mango in the parking lot without breaking a sweat, but for a Mud Season tropical crème brûlée, it will do nicely.

¾ cup (230 g) mango puree

1/3 cup (79 g) sugar

2½ cups (567 g) heavy cream

pinch of salt

1 Tablespoon really good vanilla extract or vanilla paste

7 egg yolks

2 fresh, ripe mangos, diced, or 1 can mango cubes

Preheat your oven to 280ºF.

Separate your eggs, and put the yolks in a large bowl.

Puree mangoes in your blender. If you are using frozen mangoes, let them thaw first.

Whisk the mango puree, sugar, and heavy cream together in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until it is “scalded” — this means hot, but not yet boiling (about 180ºF, if you’re using a thermometer).

Remove the cream mixture from heat, then, whisking like a crazy person, spoon a couple of tablespoons of the hot cream into the egg yolks. This is called “tempering.” It will slowly bring the yolks up to temperature without cooking them. Keep adding a few tablespoons at a time, whisking constantly; I use a ¼-cup measuring cup for this. When the yolks are incorporated into the cream, whisk in the vanilla.

Put ramekins into a couple of casserole dishes. I like to use the little glass jars that some yogurt comes in. Distribute your diced mango between the ramekins.

Pour your custard mixture into the ramekins — it should fill around 10 of the yogurt jars about three quarters of the way up. Pour hot water into the casserole dishes. This is called a “bain marie” and helps your crème brûlée heat evenly, so it doesn’t crack.

Heat on the middle rack of your oven for 20 to 40 minutes. It will probably take 40, but you should check on it every five minutes or so starting at 20. You want to cook the custard very gently, so it will not pick up much color. Check it by picking up one of the ramekins with a set of tongs and jiggling it. When it doesn’t slosh around but jiggles like Jell-o, it is ready to remove from the oven.

Remove the ramekins from their water bath and let them cool on your counter for half an hour or so, then chill them for at least three hours in the refrigerator.

Brûlée-ing them: Sprinkle sugar on the surface, then caramelize it into a thin candy shell that will crack when you tap it with the back of a spoon. Many cooks like to use a tiny blowtorch to do this. Pastry chefs use an industrial-strength broiler called a “salamander.” I like to use a plain, not-putting-on-airs plumber’s blow torch, the kind with a blue butane bottle that you buy at a hardware store.

Mango and vanilla are natural partners. This custard is cool, delicate and creamy, with little chunks of mango in it. The candy shell is warm and crisp and anything but delicate. It’s fancy, but even though you don’t indulge it very often, you’ve got a fancy side to you that needs to be let out of its cell every once in a while.

Featured photo: Mango Crème Brûlée. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Jillian Bernat

Jillian Bernat, Bar Manager at Greenleaf restaurant in Milford, began her career in the industry busing tables at the age of 15 at the Owl Diner in Lowell, Mass. She later worked as a server, a bartender and other positions at Lui Lui, a family Italian/American restaurant in Nashua, for 12 years. She later worked at 815 in Manchester, her first craft cocktail-related position. After a two-year stint at Bar One in Milford, she is now at Greenleaf in Milford.

What piece of equipment couldn’t you live without?

My must-have bar item is definitely my Japanese-style jigger. I was trained to always use one while working at 815 because consistency is key. You can free pour/count sometimes but it’s hard to do with squeeze bottles and not as reliable in my opinion.

What would you have for your last meal?

Lobster and steamers hands down. It’s a nostalgic meal for me, I grew up going to my grandparents’ house on the weekends to swim in their pool with my brother and cousins. Some of the most fun times and very New England. Lobster and steamers every weekend.

What is your favorite local eatery?

How do you even choose just one? No fair. I love Pressed Cafe as I’ve been going for years, even when they ran the Bridge Street Cafe back in the day. There’s a great Thai food spot in Goffstown also called Ubon Thai. The owner Nan is so sweet!

What celebrity would you like to drink one of your cocktails?

This one was tough but I kept coming back to one of my favorite musicians, P!nk. I think having her at my bar would be a riot. I am very not serious and love to laugh and make people laugh. I think I could chop it up with her easily. Plus, she’s a total badass and role model.

What is your favorite drink to make?

The smart alec in me says an easy glass of wine or a beer, haha! But I do love to make and drink a good negroni or variation with an agave spirit.

What is the biggest cocktail trend in New Hampshire at the moment?

I’m going to sound lame because I don’t really pay attention to trends. I think gin and agave spirits are still holding strong if I were to guess; perhaps that. It’s such a bummer that crap gin drinks back in the day have ruined it for people now; gin is so versatile!

What is your favorite thing to make at home?

I feel like I can speak for a lot of bartenders when I say, something simple! We don’t really like to work when we’re “punched out.” I love amaros and good vermouths, so usually a simple pour of something like that. Sometimes a good sour beer too.

John Fladd

Something about Rosemary
2 ounces Uncle Nearest 1884 whiskey
1/2 ounce red wine/rosemary reduction syrup
2 dashes orange and angostura bitters
Stir and serve on a big rock, garnish with rosemary sprig.

Featured Photo: Jill Bernat, Bar Manager at Greenleaf restaurant. Courtesy Photo.

Springtime is tea time

Light, fruity varieties suit the season

By John Fladd

March and April are when the highest-quality teas — the “first flush” teas — are harvested.

“This is an exciting time of year for teas,” said Danielle Beaudette, the owner of The Cozy Tea Cart (104A Route 13 in Brookline,, 249-9111).

Later in the year there will be other tea harvests across Asia — the second flush in late spring, the monsoon flush during the summer, and the autumnal flush in September and October — but the first flush teas are something special. Tea plants spend the winter months gathering nutrients and minerals, she said which give teas harvested at this time of year a pure and delicate flavor.

Spring is exciting in the tea world too, because the change in weather brings a change in tea enthusiasts’ drinking habits. During the winter, Beaudette said, tea drinkers tend to drink chais and spicier warming blends. That changes come springtime.

“This is the time of year when we start moving into iced teas,” she said. “People want something a little fruity with the warmer weather.” It’s a good time to try new teas and to pair them with food. To this end, her shop offers seasonal tasting flights of teas with foods that complement them.

Here are four of her pairings for the new spring tea season.

Pairing 1: A plain scone with English caramel black tea

This is a fairly substantial black tea that is tempered by the sweetness of caramel.

“The scone is slightly sweet,” Beaudette said, “but mostly savory, which balances out the sweetness of the caramel.” This tea is a blend of black teas from China and Assam in northeast India.

Pairing 2: A cinnamon chip muffin with Assam East Frisian black tea

“Cinnamon has a strong flavor,” Beaudette said, “and you need a tea that can stand up to it and not be overwhelmed.” She compares it to pairing a bold red wine with hearty food. “This tea blend uses golden leaf Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon teas. Its infusion is brisk enough to handle the sweet and spicy flavors of the muffin.”

Pairing 3: Broccoli and cheddar quiche with Sencha Fukamushi green tea

“This is a Japanese green tea,” she said, explaining that there is a huge difference between the flavors of Japanese and Chinese green teas. “The Chinese tea has a nutty flavor, because it is pan-fired. The Japanese green teas are steamed, which gives them a more vegetal flavor.” Additionally, she says, some Japanese tea producers shade their tea bushes for a couple of months before harvesting the tea. The leaves have to work harder and thus produce more chlorophyll, which is another reason why it has a “greener” flavor. The vegetal qualities of this Japanese tea are well-balanced with the strong vegetal taste of the broccoli in the quiche.

Pairing 4: A “loaded” chocolate chip cookie with Vanilla Indulgence herbal tea

This tea is not actually made from tea leaves; it is made with rooibos, a South African plant with a lightly sweet, nutty flavor with woody notes. This plays off the coconut and walnuts in the cookie, and clears a tea-drinker’s palate to help distinguish between its two types of chocolate. The vanilla in the tea complements the butter and chocolate.

Regardless of which tea a customer chooses, Beaudette stresses the importance of brewing it correctly: “The lighter the color of a tea, the shorter amount of time you should steep it, and the lower the temperature of the water. Darker teas require longer steeping at a higher temperature.” If you use a teabag, she said, please don’t steep it for more than two minutes. “You’ll be happier with it,” she said.

Featured Photo: Photo by John Fladd.

Snacks, treats, ostrich meats

Made in NH Expo offers foodie fun and more

By John Fladd

When it comes to naming items produced in the Granite State, maple syrup might be the one and only thing that comes to mind. So prepare to have your mind blown at the Made in NH Expo from Friday, April 7, through Sunday, April 9, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown Hotel, 700 Elm St. in Manchester. According to the Business NH magazine website, the Made In NH “Try It & Buy It” Expo, now in its 27th year, will offer attendees the opportunity to discover a plethora of unique products available right here in New Hampshire.

“There will be nearly 100 vendors this year,” said Kelly Keating, Event Director for Granite Media Group, the producer of the event, in an email. “We have woodworkers, furniture makers, chocolatiers, bakers, jewelers, homemade jams and jellies, outdoor clothing, T-shirts, authors, including two children’s authors, knitters, metal work, photographers, a lavender farm, potters, all-natural face and body treatments, women’s specialty clothing, children’s clothing, candles, tide clocks, fudge, custom cowboy boots, hand-tied fishing lures and more. We also have The Libation Station, an area where attendees 21 and over with ID can sample New Hampshire-made wine, beer, mead and spirits.”

For foodies, the Made in NH Expo will offer “lots of mouth-watering treats on hand to sample. Chocolate, baklava, spanakopita, spices and sauces, coffee, cheesecake, whoopie pies, cookies, cake cups, honey, pot pies and, new this year, an ostrich meat farmer,” Keating said.

According to the Made in NH Expo Facebook page, this year’s food vendors will include Twins 4 Life Creations, featuring all-natural New Hampshire blueberry sauce and jellies made from herbal tea; Lemongrass Restaurant and Sake Bar by Chef Ooh, bringing seasonings, dressings and sauces that give food an authentic Asian flavor; Granite State Candy Shoppe, offering gourmet chocolates and super-premium homemade ice cream; The Pot Pie Bar; Van Otis Chocolate; Fabrizia Lemon Baking Co.; The Mill Fudge Factory; Thistle’s All Natural, specializing in handmade zucchini salsas; Dandido Hot Sauce; Granite State Freeze Dried Candy; Holy Moly Snacks, with thin crispy beef chips in multiple flavors and a gluten-free option; Maggie’s Munchies, offering old-fashioned New England desserts like whoopie pies; Choo-Choo’s Cheesecakes; Youla’s Bakery, bringing traditional Greek desserts and delicacies; and many more.

For those who have never attended a Made in NH event, Keating offers enthusiastic encouragement. “Coming to the Expo is a unique way to see all of the variety of unique locally made products they may not have realized are made right in their backyard,” she said. “They’ll find artisanal food and beverages, handmade crafts, home goods and more, and they can talk with the makers. They can sample food and beverages made in New Hampshire, allowing them to experience the flavors of the state. Attendees can learn more about local businesses and products made in New Hampshire, gaining a great appreciation for the local economy and craftsmanship, and support sustainability at the same time.”

For kids, Keating said, there will be a balloon artist and face painter. There will be rescue animals at the event for people to meet, and music to give a festive atmosphere. In addition, Keating said, “There will be … a full-sized airplane on display, built by New Hampshire students through a program with the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire.“

On a personal note, Keating enjoys discovering new vendors and products she may not have known about before. “It’s nice to play a role in supporting small businesses in the state and seeing the creativity and talents of New Hampshire artisans,” she said. “The sense of appreciation for all things made locally makes the Made in NH Expo a fun experience.”

Made in NH Expo
When: Friday, April 5, 1 to 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, April 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown Hotel, 700 Elm St., Manchester
Cost: adults $8, seniors (65+) $7, children (under 14) free; tickets (available online or at the door) valid for one-day admission to the Expo.

Featured Photo: Past Year. Courtesy photo.

Potatoes get a home

Potato Concept opens a restaurant in Manchester

By John Fladd

Branden Rainer and Lauren Lefebvre run a restaurant entirely dedicated to baked potatoes.

“We are the Potato Concept,” Lefebvre said. Aside from drinks, everything the newly opened Potato Concept (119A Hanover St. in Manchester,, 667-0714) serves, even salads, comes on a baked potato.

“These are classic gourmet, twice-baked potatoes,” she sid, “filled with proteins, meats and fresh salads.”

Although the Hanover Street restaurant is new, The Potato Concept has been around for three years, catering events and putting up pop-up restaurants in breweries.

“That’s how we got started,” Lefebvre said. “We’d pair up with local breweries and take our recipes with us and do pop-ups there. Breweries have very limited kitchen space and they really welcomed our food.”

The couple welcomes the chance to cook in their own kitchen.

“Our kitchen here is a luxury,” Rainer said. “We’re so proud of it; it’s ours.”

He is very proud of how their business has evolved: “We’ve got a pedigree that we’re proud of.”

While focusing so intently on one food — baked potatoes — seems as if it might be limiting, Lefebvre said their repertoire is constantly growing.

“We have curated probably 50 different recipes or so that we’ve taken to markets and fairs,” she said. “We just had a St. Patrick’s Day special with corned beef and spicy mustard.” The most popular potatoes the two sell are their Zesty Cheeseburger, “which is pretty much what it sounds like,” Lefebvre said; a PoTaco, “which is like a regular taco, but with a potato instead of a shell,” and a Buffalo Chicken Potato, which Rainer insists isn’t too spicy for New Hampshire tastes.

“We try to think of people’s palates and their level of spice,” Rainer said, but points out that Manchester diners have expanded the sorts of foods they eat over the past few years.

“Just look at this neighborhood,” Rainer said. “We have a tavern and an upscale seafood restaurant on one side of us, and a Nepalese restaurant and the Hanover Street Chop House on the other. Manchester is very diverse, and looking for new things.”

Lefebvre and Rainer go through a lot of potatoes.

“During Fair Season, we’ll literally buy a ton at a time from a farm in Massachusetts,” Lefebvre said. “We do a lot of catering; we’re always looking to take on new clients.”

After several years and countless potatoes, Rainer and Lefebvre have a well-polished system. “Lauren handles most of the food,” Rainer said. “I’m more of a sous chef and a greeter. We’ve been working with other small food businesses and we’ve had a lot of help each step along the way.”

He cites their work with Smokin’ Tin Roof (, a Manchester-area hot sauce producer. “People like a spicy potato,” he said. “It’s been an evolution.”

Lefebvre has developed their recipes on her own.

“There has been a lot of trial and error,” she said, “though thankfully not many errors.”

“We like to think of ourselves as delivering value,” Rainer said, “and potatoes are a great lunch value.”

Featured Photo: Courtesy photo.

The Weekly Dish 24/04/04

News from the local food scene

By John Fladd

Chili cook-off: On Saturday, April 6, the Rockingham Brewery (1 Corporate Park Drive, Unit 1, Derry,, 216-2324) will hold its 3rd Annual Chili Cook-Off as part of New Hampshire Craft Beer Week, from 2 to 8 p.m. Five staff members will present chilis they have made using one of the brewery’s beers. Chili flights will cost $20; each of the five chilies will be paired with the beer it was made with. Customers will be able to vote for their favorite. This has become a staff grudge-match. Chili and seating are both first-come, first-served.

Tickets for Beer and Bacon Festival: Tickets go on sale Sunday, April 7, for this year’s New Hampshire Bacon and Beer Festival ( in Merrimack on Saturday, June 1. As stated on the Festival’s website, it is “the largest sampling event in New Hampshire with 200 samples of beer, bacon & BBQ.” This is the primary fundraiser for the High Hopes Foundation, which provides life-enhancing experiences and medical equipment to chronically and terminally ill children in New Hampshire. Tickets start at $60 on the Festival’s website, and will be $80 on the day of the event.

Wine class: Wine on Main (9 N. Main St. in Concord,, 897-5828) will host a class, “Full Bodied Whites and Light Bodied Reds,” on Tuesday, April 9, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., to explore wines for drinking during the “in-between” season of early spring. The class will include six wines, light snacks and useful information. The cost is $35 per person. Registration is limited to 20 people and is available on Wine on Main’s website.

Craft rum dinner: The Forks and Corks Dinner Series will hold its April Craft Rum Dinner at the Copper Door (41 S. Broadway in Salem,, 458-2033) Tuesday, April 9, starting at 6 p.m. A five-course dinner will be served, each with a craft rum cocktail selected to complement the food. Reservations are required. Tickets are $95 per person and available through the Copper Door’s website.

Cookbook signing: Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St. in Concord,, 224-0562) will present an evening with Renee Plodzik, the author of the cookbook Eat Well Move Often, a collection of healthy, seasonal recipes, to discuss her follow-up book, Eat Well Move Often 2, Wednesday, April 10, at 6:30 p.m. Plodzik will discuss her new book, answer questions and sign copies for attendees. Copies of Eat Well Move Often 2 will be available for $44.95.

Dressings and marinades: As part of its Cooking Techniques series of classes, LaBelle Winery (14 Route 111 in Derry,, 672-9898) will host a hands-on Dressings and Marinades class Wednesday, April 10, from 6 to 7 p.m. Instructor Amy LaBelle will guide students through three recipes from start to finish. Tickets are $55 per person, available through LaBelle’s website, and include ingredients, recipe cards and glass jars for finished marinades.

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