Swing revivalists

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy hits Tupelo

Southern California in the 1980s was a melting pot of musical genres. Co-billed shows with punk bands, barrio rockers Los Lobos and twang master Dwight Yoakam were common. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy drummer Kurt Sodergren recalls seeing X and the Blasters at the country-centric Palomino Club in North Hollywood.

“It was really an exciting time and I felt like everyone was included,” he said by phone recently ahead of a May 18 show at Tupelo Music Hall in Derry. “To me, it had kind of that punk rock energy … if you want to do it, go on, let’s do it.”

This milieu was perfect for Sodergren and his friend Scotty Morris to explore a passion for swing music. With an upright bass player, they formed an unconventional trio late in the decade. Musical differences led to Dirk Shumaker taking over on bass, which led to the evolution of the band that made hits like “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby).”

Wearing vintage suits, with Sodergren sporting bleached hair and Doc Martens boots, they served up a brand of swing that fit the cultural democracy well. “Not to knock Glenn Miller, but it wasn’t Glenn Miller, it wasn’t sleepy,” Sodergren said. “We did this one cover of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing!’ that was nothing like Benny Goodman’s version. It had all those elements, but it also had a really loud Fender Strat right by my drum set…. It was loud and exciting.”

In 1993 the band self-released an eponymous album, which led to a residency at L.A.’s famous Brown Derby. They broke out when their songs were included in the 1996 movie Swingers, signing with a major label and touring nationally. The peak of this heady time was an appearance in the 1999 Super Bowl halftime show. Writer Michael Weinreb called them “the last niche act” to grace that big stage.

The lineup included Gloria Estefan and Stevie Wonder, who drove a car onto the field. What stands out in his memory is bumping into Kiss, who’d played a pregame set. In full makeup, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers were standing near the field when Sodergren and his bandmates walked by.

“My first show was Kiss and Cheap Trick. I was a big fan, and they recognized us!” he recalled, adding that he and Peter Criss chatted for close to 15 minutes. Criss admired his drum set, a new Slingo Buddy Rich reissue. “I couldn’t believe it. If I was 12 again and said, ‘I’m going to meet Peter Criss,’ people would have laughed at me.”

Two factors fed Sodergren’s love for retro music. One, wanting to be the opposite of his older brother, a fan of bands like Foreigner and REO Speedwagon, and two, his dad’s big record collection. “He had Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall,” he said. “I heard Gene Krupa’s drumming on it and just was blown away. I would play them all the time.”

He shifted into high gear at the urging of his teacher, who “really had a lot of jazz on his mind and told me, ‘You’ve got to know this music,’” and upon learning that his grandfather once played saxophone professionally. “He’d perform in a town for like two months and stay in an apartment above the venue and travel with my grandma. When they had my dad, he had to settle down; he got a job at Montgomery Ward. He still played in the local big band, but not for a living.”

Currently in the midst of a multi-week East Coast run, the band is a big favorite in New Hampshire. Sodergren said he’s excited to be back at Tupelo Music Hall. “It’s super intimate,” he said. “You can see people’s faces, the energy is great. I don’t feel like we have to hold back. Those kinds of venues are my favorite.”

After celebrating the 30th anniversary of their 1993 debut album last year, Sodergren is keen to work on new music, but expects the Tupelo show will be a retrospective of past material.

“We’ll probably rehearse some songs at soundcheck, but [it’s] really more celebration of the 30th. We’ll try and play something from every single record,” he said.

Unique in that their original lineup is mostly intact, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy have no plans to slow down.

“We really love what we do, and we bring a really great energy to it,” Sodergren said. “We don’t just get up there and open a book and start playing a song and then politely wait for applause. People get happy in my band, and it’s pretty great.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
When: Saturday, May 18, 8 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry
Tickets: $45 at tupelohall.com

Featured photo: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 24/05/16

Local music news & events

Scotsman: Punk rock fans will delight in a multi-act downtown show headlined by Billy Liar. The Scotland native’s latest album, Crisis Actor, is a post-pandemic gem, with a guest appearance from Frank Turner and a batch of songs that rage, scream and snarl. Rounding out the bill are Oh The Humanity, regional favorites Jonee Earthquake Band and The Doldrums. Thursday, May 16, 7:30 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, $5 at the door, 21+. See billyliarmusic.com.

Guitar man: Three decades after breaking through with his surf-shredding Endless Summer, Gary Hoey has been in a blues mood for the past few albums; his most recent is 2019’s Neon Highway Blues. More than a few polls list him among the top 100 guitarists in the world, and Hoey has performed with everyone from Johnny Winter to Jeff Beck and Queen’s Brian May. Friday, May 17, 8 p.m., Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, $40 at tupelohall.com.

Crowd work: When veteran standup comic Cory Gee bounds onstage, he’s almost immediately mixing with the crowd; learning who’s married, which couples are dating for the first time, and who might be celebrating a birthday. The rapid-fire back and forth helps him size up the audience, but it’s not a call for a longer conversation. He’s setting up jokes. Saturday, May 18, 8:30 pm., Headliners Comedy Club, 700 Elm St., Manchester, $23 at headlinersnh.com.

Blues contest: The road to Memphis 2025 begins at the Granite State Blues Challenge, where bands, solo and duo performers and youth acts compete for tops in the state. The event is presented by Granite State Blues Society, which is dedicated to preserving the blues while raising money for children’s charities. Winners will perform at the International Blues Competition next year. Sunday, May 19, 1 p.m., Bank of NH Stage, 16 S. Main St., Concord, $15 at ccanh.com.

Trumpeter: Legendary horn player, composer and producer Herb Albert and singer Lani Hall perform. With Tijuana Brass, the album cover of his Whipped Cream & Other Delights was the ’60s version of clickbait; interestingly Alpert was also the co-owner of the label that released it, A&M Records. A decade later, Alpert hit with the dance floor classic Rise. Monday, May 20, 8 p.m., Nashua Center for the Arts, 33 Main St., Nashua, $49 at nashuacenterforthearts.com.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)

Apes together strong, sometimes, in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, the fourth movie in the reboot series that started with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011.

A title card and a throwback scene to the funeral for Caesar, the Andy Serkis mo-capped chimp leader from the first three movies, reminds us that humans have been pandemic-ed into near oblivion, with most of the remaining people unable to speak and intellectually limited. Now, many (ape?) generations removed from that initial multi-decade struggle, apes live in all kinds of settlements, including, for the chimps we first encounter, as a clan in a small village where they smoke fish and raise eagles. Wikipedia and an appearance mid-movie by the Griffith Observatory suggest that this all takes place in Southern California. Noa (Owen Teague), a chimp who seems like an almost-but-not-quite adult, has to find an eagle egg for his special big boy ceremony the next day. When an encounter with a human stealing fish from the smokehouse leads to the breaking of the egg he had found, Noa sets off that night, in the dark, to find another one. Noa really needs that egg now because his dad, Koro (Neil Sandilands), is the head of the raptor raising operation and Noa doesn’t want to disappoint him.

The nighttime egg hunt leads Noa to cross paths with a raiding party from a different ape community. They don’t see Noa but they do find his horse and send it running so they can follow it and get to Noa’s village.

When Noa returns, the village is on fire, his buddies Anaya (Travis Jeffrey) and Soona (Lydia Peckham) and his mom, Dar (Sara Wiseman), are being herded together and tied up and his dad is trying to rescue the eagles from their nest-house atop a burning tower. Noa helps his dad but then they both have to fight Sylva (Eka Darville), the gorilla who is head of the raiders. This is all for Proximus Caesar, Sylva says before using his cattle prod-like weapon to cause Noa to fall from the tower. Noa wakes up the next morning, buries his father and sets off in search of his stolen clan.

Eventually Noa makes it to the “kingdom” of Proximus (Kevin Durand), who Wikipedia says is a bonobo. Proximus has a large work camp outside some kind of human-made bunker and is kidnapping clans to serve as a workforce to help him pull open the giant doors of the bunker, which he hopes is filled with treasures. Seeing as the bunker is in the cliff next to a beach and he’s had to build a sea wall to keep the beach from being flooded, his “kingdom” isn’t very big. But Proximus lives pretty large, spending most of his time in a ship beached on this part of the coast where he has a dining room, captured-ape servants and a pet human, Trevathan (William H. Macy), who, unlike the feral people we see by a watering hole out in the wild, can talk and read, specifically read Proximus stories about ancient Rome.

By the time Noa makes it to Proximus, he also has a human traveling companion. A woman he first calls Nova (Freya Allen) — a name bestowed by orangutan Raka (Peter Macon), a follower of a sort of religious sect based on the true stories of the original Caesar — began following him on the road. At first he thought she was just scavenging food but later he realizes there’s more to her than appears.

Trailers and the fact that she’s wearing a tank top on the movie poster suggest Nova has a whole deal independent of Noa’s “get the clan back” quest. I know this is exactly the wrong way to watch this movie, but I found myself wondering about the details — how many years are we post-pandemic? Are the humans we see in comical fur-bikini-type get-ups virus-impaired survivors from the before times or newly born-in-the-wild people? Do the apes in various colonies and villages and kingdoms have any communication with each other? Or trade?

I fully admit none of these things matter. But the movie left me wondering these things I think because the onscreen action was all very medium-at-most compelling. Where I found myself thinking “this might be one of the top five movies about war I’ve ever seen” during the War for the Planet of the Apes I didn’t feel as pulled in by this one. Were there no previous, very excellent trilogy, I might feel more excited by this movie. But it did not stand up to the comparison.

That said, Kingdom isn’t bad. It is fine, perfectly cromulent, a decent product. It has “blockbuster-flavored seasoning” sprinkled throughout, with references not just to its previous films but elements that call to mind other cinematic universe-type stories. It doesn’t wow, but it doesn’t offend. There are moments when interesting nuggets poke through. No particular performance stands out; no one gives the sort of startling humanity to their motion captured, CGI-ed characters that Serkis gave to Caesar. But then again, maybe it’s the comparison that makes the perfectly serviceable work of Teague, Macon and Durand seem totally acceptable but unremarkable. B

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence/action, according to the MPA on filmratings.com. Directed by Wes Ball and written by Josh Friedman, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is two hours and 25 minutes long and distributed in theaters by 20th Century Studios.

Featured photo: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

Worry, by Alexandra Tanner

Worry, by Alexandra Tanner (Scribner, 290 pages)

If there’s a twentysomething in your life, or if you are one, you will love Jules and Poppy, the anxious and squabbly sisters in Alexandra’s Tanner’s debut novel, Worry.

And also, at some point, you’ll just want to throttle them.

Tanner has bottled the nervous essence of youthful TikTok and spilled it out on the page in a quirky, pre-Covid novel that is dialogue-driven and plot-deprived but somehow manages to be fun to read.

It begins — and ends — in 2019. Poppy Gold, the younger of the two sisters and ostensibly the least emotionally stable, arrives at Jules’ rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York.

She takes over her sister’s home office and plans just to stay for a short while until she can find her own place.

Poppy has tried to kill herself and has picked up shoplifting for fun, but she seems to be on the mend emotionally. She, like much of her generation, is highly socially conscious, refusing to let her sister buy a SodaStream because she “doesn’t want to support Israeli apartheid.” She doesn’t have a job but is convinced she can get one and afford the rent on her own place, or else get their parents to subsidize it.

Jules, the narrator, knows better. Jules is somewhat stably employed as an editor for a publishing company that produces study guides similar to SparkNotes, and has a boyfriend with “an MFA in poetry and half a Ph.D. in poetry.”

“He pretends he knows things about wine and I let him. I pretend I know things about Russian literature and he lets me. It’s all very tentative,” Jules says. In her spare time, Jules obsesses over Mormon mommy blogs and picks fights with them in the comments. She calls them her mommies.

Her real mother, and Poppy’s, practices Messianic Judaism, just started an Instagram account (zero followers) and argues with her daughters about whether police are bad or good and is prone to texting them a thumbs-down emoji when they say something she doesn’t like.

“I don’t understand why the three of us can’t ever just have, like, a nice conversation,” Jules says to Poppy, discussing their mother. “Not even a conversation, just a moment even. What’s her deal with us? Why doesn’t she like us?”

“Oh,” Poppy says without looking up, “it’s because she’s a narcissist and we’re her appendages. It says so in the trauma book.”

Soon it becomes clear that Poppy will not be moving out anytime soon, and to the delight of their father, a dermatologist who is always telling his daughters what cosmetic work they need to have done (and does it free), they settle down to housekeeping together. They even adopt a three-legged rescue dog named Amy Klobuchar.

This is the point where there should be some rising story arc, some crisis, some Thelma-and-Louise-esque trip. Astonishingly, there is not. Worry is essentially a book full of snappy dialogue and stream-of-consciousness observations of one millennial and one zoomer. Poppy and Jules are an Algonquin Round Table that seats two.

While they both have dreams — Jules has an MFA and still aspires to be a “real” writer — they are locked in anxiety, self-consciousness and a never-ending loop of videos on the internet that end badly, from 9/11 to a zoo panda’s death. This leads to a conversation about whether watching videos like that changes a person.

Poppy argues yes: “There is a before and after of me watching this video, you know? There’s the me who hadn’t chosen to watch the video, and there’s the me who did. And I’m not the old me anymore.”

To which Jules replies: “The Internet isn’t real, it isn’t experience. It’s moving dots.”

But when Jules ventures out into the real world to watch a writer lecture at a museum, and another young woman tries to befriend her, she refuses to engage and spirals into self-pity. “There’s never been a reality in which I could be a serious thinker, a serious writer. I’m a Floridian. I’m a consumer,” she says to herself.

Tanner disguises the seriousness underlying the women’s unhappiness with her light, comic touch. When, for example, a high-school drama friend reaches out to Jules, Jules admits, “It thrills me to see that she is not working as an actress, that she’s working in nonprofits — the fate of the unremarkable — and that she’s the annoying kind of married where she has her wedding date, bookended with hearts, in her little bio box.”

But Tanner throws the readers under a bus with an emotionally challenging ending that is a sharp and unexpected departure from her modus operandi up to that point. It’s as if she’d been serving cotton candy, and then suddenly left the room and came back with fried alligator. But by that point, it’s too late for the reader to bail.

Worry is, in essence, an anxious monologue that will resonate most with young, under-employed, over-educated Americans who live in large cities on the coasts. B

Album Reviews 24/05/16

Unearthly Rites, Ecdysis (Prosthetic Records)

You know, I don’t know if I’ve ever reviewed an album from the Prosthetic imprint in this space, but they’ve stuffed my emailbox for so long now that it’d be weird if I didn’t hear from them. It’s like that viral video that made the rounds a few months ago, where a little boy’s getting off the school bus and an all-black chicken comes running over to him to get hugs; Prosthetic is one of my favorite hug-seeking chickens, so let’s do this thing. If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re talking about a death metal band, one that comes to us “from the death metal caves of Finland,” and this is their first full-length. They love to brag about their DIY roots, which are verified through their really raw overall sound, which one critic didn’t like, but I do: It’s very punky, folks, just a dilapidated wall of hate atop which sits a workable-enough singer who does a fine Cookie Monster imitation. For what it is, it’s awesome. A-

High On Fire, Cometh The Storm (MNRK Heavy Records)

The mainstream rock press’s love for this mud-metal band has mystified me since the release of their first album, never you mind how long ago it was. I know some people love them some Motorhead, and I appreciate that, but that’s what ex-Sleep guitarist Matt Pike and his boys have always sounded like to me, Motorhead with a side of — well, nothing else really. By the way, they won a Best Metal Performance Grammy in 2019, the last time they could be bothered to put out an album, which speaks more to the distracted, half-informed mindset of the Grammy people than anything else, but let’s get to this one, which opens in fine fettle with “Lambsbread,” a riff clinic that sounds like Motorhead crossed with early Slayer, then the distinctly Crowbar-like grind-a-thon “Burning Down,” which does peg the coolometer. Bassist Jeff Matz (formerly with Zeke) adds some trippiness to the proceedings, specifically by playing a Turkish lute, so some of this sounds like Motorhead playing with Ravi Shankar. OK, anyway, there we are, Motorhead, um I mean High On Fire everyone. A

PLAYLIST

A seriously abridged compendium of recent and future CD releases

• Hoo-rah, look alive guys, the May 17 music-CD drop-date, and look at this, I’m already out of my element, because the first thing I have to deal with in these proceedings is a new album from Cage the Elephant, called Neon Pill! I am one of those professional music journalists who was sent the first Cage The Elephant album and thought it was boring and stupid, which led to a 20-year journey of having no friends, but it was worth it just to see the look on people’s faces. I still don’t get it, and I still don’t like this band or Portugal [curiously placed period] The Man either. But one of my associates really likes Cage The Elephant, and so for them (because I really, really care) I will heretofore forthwith proceed to put my current stomach contents at risk by listening to their new single to see if they’re still the emperor’s new clothes of skinny-jeans bands. Are y’all ready, that’d be great. OK, so I’m now reporting to you live from YouTube, guys, where I’m about to listen to the title track. Uh oh, wait, is this actually Cage The Whatever, or is it Guster? It sure sounds like Guster, talk about boring. Wait, this just in, folks, there’s some skronky noise in the mix, probably added so people would think the song’s important, but it’s better than nothing. Once again, I’m Eric Saeger, everyone, and this is “Listening To Really Pointless Music.”

• Carefully manufactured fashion-victimizer Billie Eilish is still around, being an unintelligible one-person Insane Clown Posse and doing annoying stuff like resembling my least favorite ex, and plus making albums, like her new one, Hit Me Hard And Soft! No, I don’t mind Billie Eilish, if people want to believe the record company’s story about how they found her in a Dumpster eating stale saltines or whatever the deal was, I cannot prevent them from falling for marketing ploys, but either way, let’s trudge back over to the YouTunes to see what’s going on with this ridiculous post-postmodern whatever. So, dum de dum, let’s see, here’s a tune from the new album, called “Chihiro.” She is half-whisper-singing, of course, because that’s her brand, heaven forbid she should just sing like a normal — wait, hold it guys, this is just a bunch of snippets from the song, because she knows all the 9-year-olds who listen to her would just pirate the tune through YouTubeToMP3, isn’t that clever? The song is slow, with an upbeat afterparty vibe, sort of like if Sade were a 15-year-old who smoked cigarettes and skipped school a lot. We’re just plain doomed, fam.

• There are a lot of albums for me to ignore this week, look at ’em all. There’s massively annoying ’90s person Ani DiFranco’s Unprecedented Sh!t; massively boring Canadian indie band Of Montreal with some stupid album, who cares what it’s called; and get this, guys, smirking nepo baby actress Kate Hudson is putting out an album titled Glorious, for some reason, which I only mention so you don’t accidentally buy it at Strawberries or Service Merchandise or who even knows where you’re supposed to buy albums now! Jeez Louise, everyone’s putting out an album this week, including mummified ’90s boyband New Kids on the Block, with their new one, Still Kids!

• And finally, it’s Portishead singer Beth Gibbons, with her new LP, Lives Outgrown! She of course is a trip-hop goddess, so there will probably be nothing to dislike about this. Yup, nope, “Reaching Out” has some really cool samples, a Florence Welch part, just badass stuff that you should listen to.

Marzipan Rhubarb Ice Cream

Base:

  • ¾ cup (180 g) unsweetened almond butter
  • ¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons (180 g) granulated sugar
  • 2¾ cups (660 g) half & half, or even better, unsweetened almond milk, which would make this into a vegan sorbet and intensify the almond flavor
  • Pinch of kosher or coarse sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract

Rhubarb Compote:

  • 3-4 large stalks of rhubarb, cleaned
  • An equal amount, by weight, of sugar. (If you don’t weigh your ingredients, wait until you’ve chopped the rhubarb, then measure out an equal amount by volume.)
  • Juice of half a lemon

In a blender, combine all the ice cream base ingredients. Maybe add the almond butter last, so it doesn’t gum up the blades of your blender. Blend — slowly at first, then more vigorously — for several minutes. Put the blender jar in your refrigerator to chill for several hours or overnight. (If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the base into a zip-lock bag and lay it flat in your freezer to freeze solid.)

Cut each rhubarb stalk in half, length-wise, then chop it into small pieces. This is what chefs call a “fine dice.” I would feel a little self-conscious about using a snooty phrase like that, except for one thing. If my wife walks into the kitchen while I’m chopping rhubarb, I can ask her if she’s impressed by my fine dice. She usually just rolls her eyes.

Put the finely diced rhubarb in a bowl and then into your freezer — again, for several hours or overnight. The idea here is that ice crystals will form and poke holes in all the cell walls, making the rhubarb easier to cook down.

When the rhubarb has frozen completely, measure it or weigh it into a saucepan with an equal amount of sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it gives up its liquid and comes to a boil. Stir it thoroughly, to make certain that all the sugar has dissolved into solution, then remove from heat, and set aside. Stir in the lemon juice, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Set the rhubarb syrup aside for cocktails.

Stir your cold ice cream base, then pour it into your ice cream maker, and churn it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, cut your frozen ice cream base into ice-cube-sized chunks, and break them down in your blender or food processor. You will end up with soft-serve-consistency ice cream, very similar to what you would get from an ice cream maker.

Spoon the ice cream into freezing containers, alternating layers with the rhubarb compote you just made. You’re looking for a ratio of about 60 percent ice cream to 40 percent rhubarb. Store in your freezer for several hours to harden up. You can buy cardboard ice cream containers online, but one-pint plastic takeout containers work well, too.

Everyone knows that rhubarb goes well with strawberries; the sweetness of the fruit plays off the tartness of the rhubarb. A little less well-known is that rhubarb is very good friends with almonds. Nobody else seems to agree with me on this, but I’ve always thought almonds in sweet applications taste like maraschino cherries, which plays off the rhubarb just as well. Because the subtler flavors of the rhubarb can be overwhelmed by the intensely marzipan flavor of the ice cream, it’s a good idea to put more than just a ripple of it in this ice cream.

You know in old movies and TV shows, when someone gets a big reaction out of a crowd? “The real murderer is in this courtroom right now!” — that sort of thing? The excited murmuring of the crowd in the background is called “rhubarbing.” In the old days, the extras would just repeat the word “rhubarb” to each other. If they just lip-synched, it looked weird on film, but if they actually spoke real sentences, it would distract viewers from what the main characters were trying to say.

I mention this because when you serve this ice cream at a dinner party or picnic — “And tonight’s ice cream is — RHUBARB!” — this is the reaction you will get from your guests.

Featured Photo: Marzipan Rhubarb Ice Cream. Photo by John Fladd.

In the kitchen with Corey Fletcher

Corey Fletcher is the award-winning chef and owner of Revival Kitchen (11 Depot St., Concord, 715-5723, revivalkitchennh.com). Prior to Revival, Chef Fletcher was the executive chef at the Centennial Hotel and Granite Restaurant in Concord. Before Granite Restaurant, he worked at Colby Hill Inn and 55 Degrees. He is a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University.

What is your must-have kitchen item?

A good sharp chef knife or tongs — either one is in my right hand for about one third of my day. They are an extension of my mind.

What would you have for your last meal?

A well-marbled and properly seasoned grilled New York strip steak, medium rare, loaded baked potato with bacon, sour cream, butter and chives, along with buttered blanched broccoli. It’s a classic dinner in my mind and is comfort food for me.

What is your favorite local eatery?

My house with my wife and daughter, as I don’t get too many dinners with them at home, but that’s not an ‘eatery.’ So I’d say Moritomo for sushi!

Who is a celebrity you would like to see eating your food?

Dan Barber — mostly because he is the pinnacle of locally sourced dining.

What is your favorite thing on your menu?

Our menu changes seasonally and my preferences change with that, so right now it’s the fennel spice rubbed pork loin with lemon and olive oil-braised beans and Swiss chard, with black garlic puree, and a pea green radish salad. It sounds like a ‘heavy’ dish; however, the brightness of the lemon in the beans and the textures of the pea greens and radish is crisp and refreshing, making a good spring dish.

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

Supporting small/micro producers — from honey, baked goods, coffee roasters, restaurants, for example. Consumers continue to be selective about where their money is spent and they want to support people’s dreams and stories, rather than spending it at chains, etc.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?

Roasted chicken — my wife and daughter’s favorite, great for a relaxing Sunday.

Lemon Hummus
From Corey Fletcher

3 cups cooked chickpeas
3/4 cup tahini
4 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon salt
zest of 4 lemons
¼ cup garlic, minced

Puree all together; adjust with cold water.
Adjust seasoning as necessary.
Serve with your favorite crackers, naan or pita, or seasonal vegetables.

Featured Photo: Corey Fletcher. Courtesy photo.

Greek food fest in Nashua

Music, dance and baklava this weekend

The festival is coming together. The tents are going up.

St. Philip Greek Orthodox Church (500 W. Hollis St. in Nashua, 889-4000, nashuagreekfestival.com) is getting ready to welcome visitors to its annual Greek Food Festival. “It’s an experience,” said Festival co-chair Marcy Mazur. It’s about great Greek food of course, but it’s more than that, she said.

“It’s a chance to invite guests to listen to authentic Greek music from our bands and visit our Greek marketplace, where they can pick up food or trinkets,” Mazur said. It’s an opportunity, she said, to watch Greek dances; guests are invited to learn how to dance and even to join in.

But of course the biggest attraction is the food.

Lamb enthusiasts will be excited to see a new cut of meat on the menu this year: lamb shanks. Because shanks are a cut of meat that require long, slow cooking, they are not grilled like the shish kebabs are; they are stewed in tomato sauce until the meat falls off the bone. The shish kebabs will still be grilled, though — chicken as well as lamb — on a special grill designed and built by a St. Philip parishioner. There will be a whole booth dedicated to loukoumades, fried Greek dough puffs served with cinnamon and honey and frequently eaten by the bucket. Adjacent to the loukoumades booth is a coffee station, which is, in turn, next to a pastry booth selling baklava, finikia, and Greek butter cookies called kourabiedes. The gyro station will have four different varieties of the pita bread wraps, including a vegetarian option filled with Greek salad and a vegan one with falafel.

“It’s a wonderful event of tastes and smells and sounds,” Mazur said.

While St. Philip — “There’s no S in our name,” Mazur said emphatically. “It’s very important.” — has been holding a food festival for more than 30 years, last year’s festival was the first since Covid. Mazur said the congregation missed it profoundly during lockdown. “It’s a community event,” she explained — not only during the actual Festival, but also in the months leading up to it. It is the culmination of a year of preparation for Mazur and her co-chair, Jamie Pappas.

“If we can get enough people we can usually finish up each dish in two days,” Mazur said.

If you imagine how the food for the Festival is prepared, you might imagine a group of church women in aprons putting out pan after pan of spanakopita (a pastry made from spinach, feta cheese, phyllo dough and an extravagant amount of butter) over a weekend.

“Yes,” Mazur said, “that’s exactly what happens. We have ample commercial freezer space, so we devote a weekend to making each dish. It’s time-consuming. There are 30 sheets of phyllo in each pan of spanakopita and I don’t even know how many pounds of spinach and feta.” Because making phyllo from scratch is incredibly difficult and time-intensive, the St. Philip ladies use commercial phyllo. “We don’t make our own phyllo, and we don’t grow our own grape leaves,” Mazur confesses.

The parishioners do, however, roll their own grape leaves — about 3,600 of them, as well as another 3,600 meatballs. This is on top of 150 pans of spanakopita and 100 pans of pastitsio (“That’s our Greek lasagna,” Mazur explains. “It’s just about my favorite thing we serve.”) Because it doesn’t freeze well, the weekend before the Festival is Baklava Weekend. “All the ladies look forward to it,” she said. “It’s a gathering of friends who get together, cook and laugh.”

Mazur’s advice to visitors is to plan to stay at the Festival for a while.

“It’s a relaxing atmosphere,” she said. ”The lines are going to be long, but it’s worth it.” Festival workers, easily recognized by their blue T-shirts, will work the lines, providing the people waiting for food with samples.

“It’s a big production,” Mazur said.

Greek Food Festival
When: Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Saint Philip Greek Orthodox Church, 500 W. Hollis St. in Nashua
More info: 889-4000, nashuagreekfestival.com
Parking is free. There will be a shuttle to take guests to and from overflow parking at Stellos Stadium (7 Stadium Drive in Nashua).

The Weekly Dish 24/05/16

News from the local food scene

Competition-worthy cooking: If you’ve ever wondered how good the contestants on Top Chef really are, you can find out for yourself at a Top Chef Dinner on Friday, May 17, at Ansanm Restaurant (20 South St. in Milford, 554-1248, ansanmnh.com) starting at 7:30 p.m. Owner/Chef of Ansanm Chris Viaud, who is a James Beard Award finalist and Top Chef Season 18 alumnus, and four of his fellow Season 18 contestants will cook a five-course dinner celebrating the cultural background of each chef. Tickets are $150 and available through eventbrite.com.

Layers of knowledge: Add an Italian classic to your cooking repertoire. Tuscan Market (9 Via Toscana in Salem, 912-5467, tuscanbrands.com) will hold a Lasagna Cooking Class on Friday, May 17, from 2 to 4 p.m. Take one more step down the road of your pasta knowledge by making your own lasagna. This is a tradition that should be practiced in every household. This class will feature choices of multiple fillings, including vegetarian-friendly ones. The class will be taught by Chef Jarret Parizo-Kellerman. Tickets are $65 each and available through Tuscan Brands’ website.

Vines and wines: Experience an immersive outdoor vineyard tour and wine tasting at LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101 in Amherst, 672-9898, labellewinery.com) at a Vineyard Bud Break, Sunday, May 19, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sommelier and wine educator Marie King and winemaker Melaney Shepard will guide participants through LaBelle’s vineyards and lead them through a tasting of four LaBelle wines. Participants will learn about the grape varietals grown at LaBelle, how trellising and pruning work, and what it takes for vines to survive and thrive with a constantly changing New England climate. Tickets are $30 and available through LaBelle’s website.

Tacos and fun: Tuesday, May 21, is Taco and Tequila Night at The Peddler’s Daughter (48 Main St. in Nashua, 821-7535, thepeddlersdaughter.com).

On The Job – Melissa Fournier

Owner of Mellifera modern

Melissa Fournier is an artist and the owner of Mellifera Modern, which focuses on custom clothing with fine art photography elements (melliferamodern.com).

Explain your job and what it entails.

I do a lot of different types of art but I specialize in cyanotype on clothing, so I make custom clothing, basically, usually on denim. The process of cyanotype is actually one of the oldest photographic processes that exists. Chemicals go on in a darkroom, just like any other darkroom process, you bring it out into the sun and … then when you rinse it out it’s a beautiful blue color. I use a lot of pressed botanicals and other things like that to create that artwork….

How long have you had this job?

I have been making art for probably about a decade but I have been full-time for about five months.

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

A few years after college I really honed my craft to figure what I wanted to do with it. My repertoire is very big, so I had to narrow it down to be able to have a clientele and have a fanbase. …

What kind of education or training did you need?

I have a bachelor of fine arts. … it did help me hone my skills and learn new things that I can then implement in my artwork.

What is your typical at-work uniform or attire?

Messy clothes. … I am working with chemicals that stain fabric, I’m painting, I refurbish furniture on the side … Then, when I’m actually showing, I tend to wear my own artwork … to advertise it.

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

Probably getting people to see it. Especially online, the market is so saturated. Social media is very hard to break into and there’s only so much in-person work you can do.

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

I think that I underestimated how much work actually went into it and how long it would take to get to a point where I could go full-time.

What do you wish other people knew about your job?

How much work it is behind the scenes. I would say I am only actually making artwork 40 to 50 percent of the time. The other half is finding markets.

What was your first job?

I was a photographer for a Life Touch studio in a Target in high school.

What is the best piece of work-related advice you’ve ever received?

To not take a break after college. A lot of my professors and alumni warned me that you work so hard in college as an artist that a lot of people tend to take a break and … it becomes harder and harder to pick it back up. —Zachary Lewis

Five favorites
Favorite book: I have a first-edition copy of the best works of Roald Dahl that was given to me by my professor in college when I graduated, so that one is very very special to me.
Favorite movie: Probably 500 days of Summer
Favorite music: It’s a little cliche but Taylor Swift
Favorite food: Anything sweet. I like chocolate. Lots of desserts.
Favorite thing about NH: … I would say probably that, how much nature is here.

Featured photo: Melissa Fournier. Courtesy photo.

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