Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Take Your Shot

My friend Scot Langdon has an announcement:
"Scot & Mary Langdon of Long Hill Photography & Grab Your Bag Travel, are planning a New Hampshire Lakes Region Photo Tour, Oct 18/19 2014.
Small group, 10 Spots only for this wonderful Trip,  (All details, pricing, photos and contact information are located here >> http://phototours.grabyourbagtravel.com)"

Monday, July 14, 2014

Best of Lakes Region, Part II, Et Al

We told you some weeks back about Lakes Region winners in New Hampshire magazine’s annual “Beat of New Hampshire ” issue.

Well, those were the choices of the editors.

Now it's time to hear the Voice of the People: the results of the magazine’s Readers Poll – as well as some other interesting tidbits left over  from the July issue of the magazine.

The Best Outdoor Dining in NH - from the Town Docks website.

Statewide, readers said the best Outdoor Dining spot in New Hampshire is the Town Docks in Meredith. (It’s owned and operated by the Common Man Family of Restaurant, which is based in Ashland.)

They named the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook in Gilford the best Large Music Venue in the state. (No surprise.) And they chose  Biedermans' Deli and Pub in Plymouth the best deli and the best place to get sandwich.

Then, reviewing the results get complicated.

For instance, the Common Man was picked for serving the Best Crab Cakes among "local chains" in the state. Then, it tied with its neighbor in Laconia, Fratello’s Italian Grille, for best Outdoor Dining in the “local chain” category – but the Common Man restaurant that won is based in Claremont, and the Fratello’s winner is in Manchester. (The Common Man also picked up top statewide honors for Best Diner with the Tilt'n Diner and the Best Children's Menu at its Airport Diner in Manchester.)

And that wasn't all. 

There were several other "local"l restaurants the readers picked, but there were frequently named, not under the general all-state category, but under the “local chain”, “regional chain” or “national chain” designations.

For instance, T-Bones Great American Eatery, which has a restaurant with a great view in Laconia, was named the place to taste the menu of the state’s best chef: “Chef Nichole”. And it was named tops among “local chains” in several other areas including best hamburger, best french fries, best onion rings, best wings and best children’s menu. (We can testify that their burgers, fries and rings are superior.) Meanwhile, its sister adjoining restaurant, Cactus Jack's, was picked by readers for serving overall Best Chili in New Hampshire.

The Weathervane Seafood Restaurant, which operates a “Lobster in the Rough” eatery in Weirs Beach, was named best seafood restaurant among “regional chains” as well as being cited for serving the best clam chowder, fried clams, lobster roll and onion rings in that designation.

Sal's Pizza in Belmont serves some of the state's best pizza, say NH magazine readers - from the company's website.

Johnson’s Dairy Bar in New Durham was voted tops for ice cream among the "regional chains." (There's only one other Johnson's, in Northwood.) Sal’s Pizza in the Belknap Mall won for best pizza among "regional chains", the 99 Restaurant that sits on Rte. 3 in Tilton won for best burger among the state's "regional chains", and the League of New Hampshire Craftsman stores in Meredith and Sandwich were among the group voted best overall “local chain” gift shops in the state.

Actually, the popular magazine's Readers Poll is always  a little ‘tilted’. Every reader gets one vote, and since most people in New Hampshire live south of Concord, some of the best places in the state - in the Lakes Region - are unknown to them.

Perhaps to compensate for the tilt, the magazine also named top regional winners. So the Lakes Region's Favorite Restaurant pick was Hart’s Turkey Farm in Meredith – and although it has plenty of competition, it’s hard to argue with the choice of the established local legend. The Favorite Ice Cream was Kellerhaus in Weirs Beach – another longstanding traditional winner. And the Best Coffee House was the Meredith Bay Coffee House.

Meanwhile, one more winner will be of interest to Lakes Region food buffs.

The state’s best Irish Pub, according to the readers, is the Holy Grail in Epping. The Holy Grail of the Lakes Region will be opening in Laconia sometime this fall or early winter.


And how did we miss this the first time? The magazine's editors named the "City on the Lakes" its “City on the Rise":Laconia has had its ups and downs over the years, but the city seems poised for a big revival with some great shops and restaurants plus new ones coming (like the Holy Grail Irish Restaurant & Pub going into the old Evangelic Baptist Church in Veterans Square). There’s lots of downtown development afoot and an embrace of the region’s multicultural community as Laconia takes advantage of its great historic “bone structure” for shopping and tourism.”

And a couple of other "misses" from the editors' list: 

Hermit Woods Winery was an editors choice.

Fruit Wines: "Hermit Woods Winery, now in Meredith, offers a surprising selection of fruit wines that are designed to be enjoyed with meals. Unlike most varieties that are terribly sweet or thick,  the dark berry fruits wines here compare to grape wines. Winemaker Ken Hardcastle finds organic fruit from elderberries to black currants to blueberries to create a delicately balanced blend. Their 2012 Hermitage is fermented dry and barrel-aged to create a Bordeaux-style character — fruit forward, but so much more."

BLT: Squam Lake Inn in Holderness "has a BLT to beat the band. The bacon is thick and smoky, the tomato is tasty and the lettuce is, well, lettuce. It's all mounted on a delightful sourdough bread for lunch. For dinner, find it loaded with lobster. The bacon version is also available at the Squam Lake Marketplace, formerly the Holderness General Store. P.S. Grab a dozen pistachio cookies for the road – they'll be gone before you hit I-93."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lakes Region Soundings: Results

From Lake Winnipesaukee to Squam Lake and beyond...

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read," said Grouch Marx
We thought of one of our favorite quotes this week while contemplating how to describe just how wonderful a summer hot dog tastes when cooked outside over an open fire, and served with baked beans: "Outside of baked beans, barbecued hot dogs are the best. If they're Walter's Market Baked Beans, you won't even need a hot dog bun." 
Or something like that.
That's our indelicate way of announcing that Walter's Market Baked Beans are back in the Lakes Region.  
A long-time favorite of  Laconia folks, the delicious side dish has been missing from the local food scenery since the market closed some years back - another victim of our changing national economy, the expansion Walmart grocery outlets, and the international baked bean shortage crisis.
But now Ted and Jen at the Water Street Cafe have managed to secure the recipe, and Walter's Baked Beans are back. Many thanks to the couple.
The beans are great with breakfast, or as a side dish with your hot dog, hamburger, corn beef hash, fried clams, etc.


We're not sure who advanced the idea but we wholeheartedly support the action taken this year to virtually remove all mosquitoes and other pesky bugs from the Lakes Region for the summer. 
Of course, we're not sure if it can remain enforceable into late July and August. The buggers have a tendency to ignore any "rules" they deem too "flighty."


Was someone really wearing this T-shirt in Weirs Beach, just days after Motorcycle Week ended? "Moose Drool Brown Ale Missoula, Montana."
And we thought Northern New Englanders held the copyright for bizarre, raw humor (Remember the old Road Kill Cafe in Gilford?)
BTW, Moose Drool has five stars on ratebeer.com.

And if you take the trip up the hill between Meredith and the City on the Lakes and watch a baseball game featuring the Laconia Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, not only will you see some of the best young players in the country – "Tomorrow's Major League Stars Today," as the saying goes – but you will enjoy an evening out hovering over one of the most scenic landscapes in the Lake Region.
And when the game starts to wind down, the setting sun will spot the white clouds with pinks and oranges... Really, breathtaking. 
And not bad for five bucks per person (and kids under 16 are free).
(At Saturday’s game against the Sanford Mainers, the son of Yankee great pitcher Mariano Rivera, was seen. The younger Rivera – who is also named Mariano – is pitching for the Muskrats this summer.)


Friday, June 20, 2014

Lakes Region Rises To Top Again

And as long as we're giving out awards...

Our friends at New Hampshire magazine have just released their “Best of New Hampshire” and, as usual, the Lakes Region is liberally represented.

Here’s a list of local editor picks. We’ll show the reader’s choices in our next post.

American & Seafood Restaurants
Private Dining: So, it is time to propose, celebrate an anniversary or you just had your nails done. If you’re looking for a super-special spot, consider the cupola at Lavinia’s in Center Harbor. Just the trip up two sets of stairs and through grandma’s attic is worth the occasion. Once seated in the cozy space you’ll have views of the lake and windows all around. Enjoy the meal in total privacy, and forget it, there’s not much room for anything else. Reservations required. 

Scallops: There’s nothing quite as succulent as a fresh scallop with a perfect sear and a slight translucence. At Local Eatery in Laconia, Chef Kevin Halligan makes this perfect seafood dish with a savory risotto and, if it’s your lucky day, a taste of lobster. The old train station setting lends a sweet historic touch to a great meal.

Arts, Culture and People
Movie Popcorn: The mandatory movie treat may look inviting for mindless munching at the local cinema, so face it — it’s addictive, but terrible. At the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center in Plymouth, they have strived to up the ante on this humble experience. Popcorn is popped fresh, and you get a choice of toppings from cinnamon and sugar to the most interesting maple butter. After the show the staff passes out bags of the stuff to movie and concertgoers. The venue and talent line-up is worth the trip too.

Music Producer: Producer/engineer/keyboardist Brian Coobes treats the musicians  who come to his Pittsfield (i.e. remote) Rocking Horse Studio like stars, because that’s how he sees them. And he connects them to major stars he has met along the way, like Garth Hudson of The Band, Greg Hawkes of The Cars and Chris Difford of Squeeze. He’s helped launch talented local artists like Will Kindler, the Dusty Gray Band and Tristan Ormand. He’s recently been nominated for two Emmy Awards (for WMUR’s “Christmas at Rocking Horse Studio” TV program) and for Producer of the Year at the 2014 New England Music Awards.

Desserts, Ice Cream Stands and Bakeries
Donuts: It started in 2007 with an eBay purchase of a mini-donut maker and taste tests by the neighborhood kids. Then, what was meant as a summer family venture quickly turned into a full-fledged, year-round business with a brand new, high-capacity donut maker. The reason for the quick growth of the Northfield-based Ian’s Wicked Good Donuts? The donuts are wicked good. (The company was also smart enough to go mobile, taking a donut maker directly to a niche market, campgrounds.)

Fudge: The Mill Fudge Factory in Bristol can make a fudge convert out of anyone. If you’re one of those who thinks fudge is too sweet and cloying, just try something like the Pure New Hampshire Maple (made with NH maple syrup) or the Snowy Moose with coconut and dark chocolate. All of their artisan fudge varieties are sweet, sure, but they’re not too sweet. It’s a perfect balance. They also make “spirited” fudge with whisky or Baileys Irish Cream.

Fun & Adventure
Aquatic Timeshare: Love the idea of sailing around Lake Winnipesaukee on a blue-sky summer day? Who doesn’t, but how many of us can afford the cost or want the hassle of taking care of it? Now there’s a way to do it — a timeshare. For just $400 (NH residents), you can use a sleek 24-foot keelboat 10 times this summer. The timeshare is a joint project between the NH Boat Museum, the Wolfeboro Parks & Rec. Dept. and Brewster Academy.

Art Attack: Art Escape in Laconia is like a working beehive; it buzzes with creativity for all ages and all art levels. You can have fabulous fun by painting canvas, throwing clay on a wheel, fusing glass, painting ceramics and more at this beautifully designed creative studio. Special events, paint and wine nights, birthday parties, and private parties fill the calendar. Want more? Check out their summer camp.

Good Clean Fun: Alleluia! You can go to a three- day (August 7-9) music festival and bring the kids. The Soulfest is New England’s annual premier “Social Justice & Christian Music Festival.” Based at Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, the event brings together more than 80 national (Tobymac, Switchfoot, Third Day) and regional artists and speakers on four stages. On-site camping is available. Expect prayer, inspiration and wholesome family fun.

Recreational Partnership: All Aboard! This Hobo Railroad excursion in a restored, vintage coach showcases New Hampshire’s scenic beauty and ecological diversity as it travels through the woods and along the banks of the Pemigewasset River. Passengers in the “rolling classroom” learn about the wildlife and vegetation along the route from Squam Lakes Natural Science Center instructors, who treat you to a live animal presentation in the Choo-Choo Theater at the railroad station in Lincoln following the one-hour, 20-minute tour. Nature By Rail classes are in session July 19, 26 and August 2, 9, and 23. 

Ethnic Food Restaurants
Pad Thai: If you’re one who always (or mostly) orders pad Thai in Thai restaurants, you know the quality of the dish can vary greatly. Rest assured, at Asian Delight in Franklin, you’ll find pad Thai that’s not only perfectly made, but beautifully presented too. Take note, pad Thai connoisseurs — you don’t have to go a metro restaurant to get the best.

Food Odds & Ends
Micro Dairy: Really, there’s nothing quite like the taste of fresh raw milk. At Brookford Farm in Canterbury, they distribute it in half gallons through CSAs, farmers markets and retail outlets, putting happy white mustaches on growing kids across the state. The milk is also skimmed for the richest cream around from their mixed herd of Jerseys, Brown Swiss, Guernseys and Holstein. With an on-site cheese-making facility, production includes a full complement of cheeses from a raw milk cheddar to cottage cheese to kefir. Get mooving.

(Just want to clarify, after hearing from one of our regular readers - all material in this post, except for the introduction, is copywritten as it appears in New Hampshire magazine.

Monday, June 16, 2014

"We All Scream..."

... Especially in the Lakes Region.

The original Johnson's farm in Northwood, NH. Cows are contemplating 
wonderful ice cream they will soon make. (from company website).
The latest WMUR-TV viewers' poll lists the Best Ice Cream places in New Hampshire and no less than seven local spots made the cut, including No. 1, Jordan's Ice Creamery of Belmont.

Here's the rest of the local list.

19. Sandwich Creamery is an annual favorite around these parts. You can also get great locally-made cheeses here. It's open until 10 p.m.
"If you find the Sandwich Creamery, it’s because you’re looking for it. Off a minor state road, off a gravel road, onto a smaller gravel road, past a windmill and down over a hill to a flat spot in the shadow of Whiteface Mountain.” -Farming, June 2002

19. M 'n M Scoops (tie) is a new entry, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor on Main Street in Plymouth. The owners have been dreaming of starting this for the last 15-plus years, so you can be sure that there's been a lot of forethought.

 Bailey's started out as an ice cream stand, 
became a popular eatery and has now returned to its origins.
(from their website)

17. Bailey's Bubble is the last "left-over" from Bailey's, one of the Lakes Region's most famous family restaurants. The original was the favorite of thousands of summertime visitors, and the new place in downtown Wolfeboro continues that tradition - but unfortunately only the "great ice cream" part. We love their chocolate sundaes.

10. Johnson's Seafood & Steak calls itself the "original New Hampshire family restaurant" and who can dispute it? They have several locations but they all served ice cream that's made at their Northwood, NH farm. The New Durham one also has an outside order window, so if you're in the Alton area that's where you'll want to go. (See photo above.)

9. The Happy Cow in Laconia is another new spot - and further proof that no one loves ice cream - or does it as well - as the Lakes Region. We live near the Lake City and recently visited here, becoming instant converts. It's a charming hole-in-the-wall on Union Avenue.

1. What else can we say about Jordan's? It's been featured on the cover of New Hampshire magazine in the past, and been named one of the state's best ice cream places almost since it first opened its doors 15 years ago. Always a great assortment of creative flavors for both adult and kid tastes.

Remember: Summer sweets eaten on vacation have a special discounted calorie rate.
At least that's what a teenaged scooper at Johnson's said years ago.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tomorrow's Special Event... Murder Mystery in New Hampshire?

From our friends at the Belknap Mill
Meet author Mark Okrant on Tuesday, June 10 at 5:30pm at the Belknap Mill. The evening will include a presentation by the author for three of his books; two murder mysteries in the Kary Turnell series, A Last Resort and Murder at the Grands, as well as No Vacancy: The Rise, Demise, and Reprise of America’s Motels. The author will be available to sign copies of his books following a question and answer session. This event is free and open to the public. 

PSU's own Mark Okrant.


Murder is afoot at three grand hotels in New Hampshire – The Balsams, Mount Washington Resort and the Mountain Grand View Resort – and Mark Okrant’ s sleuth is on the chase. Solving the crimes is Kary Turnell, professor at a small New Hampshire University who has a knack for finding trouble and solving murders at historic resort hotels. Last year Okrant published another book, No Vacancy: The Rise, Demise, and Reprise of America’s Motels, a non-fiction work originally published as an e-book, which looks at the motel era through the eyes of one of New England's senior tourism investigators.

Mark Okrant is a longtime tourism professor and researcher, and is the author of five works of fiction and three of non-fiction.  As director of the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State University, he has coordinated tourism research for the State of New Hampshire since 1990, and has presented tourism marketing and planning workshops in Alaska, Canada, Romania, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. He has been an active tourism researcher since the 1970s, and is past president of the Travel and Tourism Research Association.

The "Meet the Author" series at  the Belknap Mill is a new monthly event where New Hampshire authors connect with their local audience. The participating authors will have the opportunity to answer questions and sign copies of their books. The second installment of the series, on Friday, July 11 will feature Carol Lee Anderson and her latest book, A History of the Belknap Mill: The Pride of Laconia’s Industrial Heritage

The Belknap Mill is the oldest, unaltered brick textile mill in the country. It has a permanent exhibit that interprets the history of the textile industry in Laconia, and has changing monthly exhibits focusing on the arts and history, as well as educational programs for all ages. 

For further information on the mill and its events, email programs@belknapmill.org, visit www.belknapmill.org, or call 603-524-8813.