Best of New Hampshire 2010

The very best of New Hampshire for 2010 including Readers' Poll winners and all of our Editor's Picks.




Note: You'll find the list of Readers' Poll Winners following the Editor's Picks.

Editor's Picks

Food and Drink

Cheesecake: It might be hard to save room for dessert at Firefly American Bistro and Bar (22 Concord St., Manchester, fireflynh.com), but your efforts will be well rewarded. If you're going to indulge in dessert - especially cheesecake - it better be great, and Firefly's version definitely delivers. It has a velvety texture, is neither too sweet nor overly moist and somehow for all its decadence manages to still feel light. Along with a cup of coffee or one of Firefly's dessert martinis, it's the perfect ending to a great meal.

New Pub in the North: Saalt Pub, in the basement of Libby's Bistro in Gorham (115 Main St., libbysbistro.net), serves distinctly non-pub-like dishes with your brew, in a relaxed setting where you'll be well dressed in your hiking boots. Enjoy shared boards of nachos that include pickled onions, nut-crusted gorgonzola, creative paninis or plates of charcuterie.

Twist on Pizza: Dante's Pasta and Vino in Barrington (320 Calef Hwy., dantespasta.com) has been serving red sauce and spaghetti for years, but on a recent trip to Rome, owner Dante D'Antilio found a simple yet very tasty spin on pizza. Now he offers his version of Pizza Crudo Amano - house-made pizza dough, charred on the grill, served with basil leaves, fresh tomatoes and shaved Parmesan. It's a kit - just assemble, drizzle the nice olive oil on top, fold and eat. Simple but sublime.

$5 Lunch: A weak economy has its benefits. If you are seeking a light lunch, head over to Richard's Bistro in Manchester (36 Lowell St., richardsbistro.com) for a $5 lunch deal that varies each day. Choose from the likes of chorizo and spinach soup or an arugula salad with strawberries and feta or a Portabella mushroom wrap or a pan-seared sole with marinated grilled vegetables. If you are really hungry, order two or three of the choices. Either way it's lunch with a gourmet profile.

Offal: Best Offal may seem like an oxymoron, but if you are going to eat offal, it is important to eat the best. At Burdick's Restaurant in Walpole (47 Main St., burdickchocolate.com) they only use tongue, liver, heart and kidney from antibiotic- and hormone-free animals. Their lamb sweetbreads melt in your mouth as does the bone marrow stew. Availability changes, so call before you make the trip, but then again their artisanal chocolates alone are worth crossing the state.

Chef Experience: So you think you can cook. Then bring it to Z Food and Drink in Manchester (860 Elm St., zfoodanddrink.com) by signing up for an Amateur Chef Night. You, the chef, are given access to the kitchen, the tools and the mind of Chef Tom Puskarich to help give form and substance to your recipes and thoughts. It's your night to serve 40 friends and acquaintances with real panache.

Vegetarian Indian Cooking: All the flavors of homestyle cooking in India are at Meena's Kitchen in Nashua (113 West Pearl St., meenaskitchen.com) in freshly prepared dishes with vegetables and grains in flavorful concoctions. Owner/chef Meenakshi crafts a multi-course meal that offers a taste of the specials and menu staples so you can eat without making decisions. It's all good - even for those who have not cared for traditional Indian foods.

Homemade English Muffins: Who knew that English muffins could be made across the pond? At Stone Arch Bakery (39 Main St., Claremont, and 103 Hanover St., Lebanon) the batter is baked in coffee cans, so you can take home a loaf or have your breakfast sandwich served on a freshly made and toasted muffin at the bakery.

Toffee Bars: A good toffee bar is not easy to make, but the folks at Winnipesaukee Chocolates (53A N. Main St., winnipesaukeechocolates.com) in Wolfeboro get just enough crunch without too much sweet. Their Spicy Toffee is made with cumin and cayenne, covered with their fabulous dark chocolate and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds for a taste of heat and sweet and smooth and crunchy in one bite.

Ginger Beer: Top your authentic Caribbean meal with a refreshing homemade soft drink. The ginger beer at A Caribbean Affair in Manchester (917 Elm St., acaribbeanaffair.com) is a melange of spices and fresh ginger root that is fermented with a bit of yeast for just enough kick and deep flavor not found in bottled products.

Hard-to-Get Pretzel: Maybe the effort it takes to get it makes this soft pretzel all the more tasty, but whatever the reason it's worth a trip to the top of Cannon Mountain in Franconia (cannonmt.com) to have one. No matter the season, take the aerial tramway up to the 4,000-foot peak and head for the cafeteria/bar. There you'll find the yummiest soft pretzel around. Try a little mustard with it.

Maryland-Style Crab Cakes: If you've ever had a crab cake in Maryland, home of the delicious blue claw crab, you know what a really good crab cake is - not bulked up with tasteless fillers, but made with wonderfully spiced crab meat lumps, just barely held together. They have crab cakes like that at the Library Restaurant in Portsmouth (401 State St., libraryrestaurant.com), accompanied by a classic cocktail sauce and creamy mustard sauce.

Fresh Hot Donuts: Donuts, pure and simple, fresh from the kettle in plain, jelly, sugar, cinnamon-sugar or crullers are a wallet-pleasing 60 cents for one or $6 a dozen at Muriel's Donut Shop in Lebanon (20 West St., 448-1508).

Small-batch Coffee Roaster: Granite Ledge Coffee in Canterbury (graniteledgecoffee.com) has been roasting and distributing organic, shade-grown, Fair Trade certified, Rain Forest Alliance coffees for several years now. Since they're "small batch roasters," they don't actually roast the beans until they know where they're going - either to one of several select stores or shipped directly to your home.

Classic Chinese Restaurant: The China Bistro (yes, we know, the name means "Chinese French Restaurant") in Laconia (89 Lake St., chinabistronh.com) has been renovated in the past few years and offers Lakes Region diners and visitors from afar a pleasant dining experience. For one thing, it's the only place in New Hampshire named one of the Top 100 Chinese Restaurant in America by the Chinese Restaurant News. Martin Yau, the award-winning chef and host of the "Yan Can Cook" TV show, discovered the place on a visit to the Lakes Region and now it's rated No. 33 in the country.

Tuna Sandwich: The tuna panini at the new Cafe Europa on in Nashua (182 Main Street, cafeeuropanashua.wordpress.com). This redefines the tuna fish sandwich - made with baby yellow fin tuna mixed with chopped olives, preserved lemon, fresh tarragon and extra virgin olive oil on a grilled homemade baguette. For $7, we'll never eat a traditional tuna sandwich again. Cafe Europa is a new bistro run by the former chef of the now-defunct Black Orchid Grille in Nashua.

Burger to Make at Home: The best beef makes the best burger. Before you fire up the grill take a trip to Miles Smith Farm in Loudon (56 Whitehouse Rd., milessmithfarm.com). Raised in a natural, kind environment, the farm's Scottish Highlander cattle are naturally lean. Free of chemicals, growth stimulants and artificial hormones, these grass-fed lawn moo-ers make great burgers. If you can't make it to the farm, Miles Smith Farm beef is available at co-ops, health food stores and farmers markets.

Got (the best) Milk?: The Mahoneys produce clean, healthy raw milk and cream on their certified organic Brookford Farm in Rollingsford (70 Sligo Rd., brookfordfarm.com). Raw milk is not homogenized or pasteurized with high heat. Their small herd of happy, healthy Jersey cows is pastured on 280 acres. They never receive antibiotics or growth hormones. You can purchase milk and meet the girls at the farm or find it (without the girls) at select health food stores and farmers markets.

Homegrown Mushrooms: Healthy Home Harvest in Northwood (Facebook) has worked long and hard to develop the correct environment for growing luscious Shiitakes, Lion's Mane and Grey Dove Oyster mushrooms. This delicate treat is best when fresh, so discovering them at the Northwood or Newmarket farmers markets or Philbrick's Fresh Market in Portsmouth is like finding a true gift from the earth.

Stuff in Which to Pour Milk: Do you like granola but find that most are not at all healthy? At [me] & goji (meandgoji.com) mix and match healthy additions, nuts, dried fruits and more online to create your personal recipe, all the while watching the price and nutritional information be updated. Too many calories, then back off the chocolate-covered goji berries - but, boy, they are good. Give it a name and wait a few days for the personalized cereal capsule to be delivered via mail. Pass the organic milk, please.

Eurostyle Cafe: Europeans know how to live and they spend a lot of time in cafes discussing politics, sipping lattes and no doubt Twittering. Now you can channel your inner Euro zeitgeist by visiting Republic Cafe in Manchester (1069 Elm St., republiccafe.com) and linger over fresh-brewed coffee and house-baked pastries for breakfast, locally sourced salads for lunch or local grass-fed steak frites for dinner. The space invites conversation and so do the owners Ed Aloise and Claudia Rippee.

Creamy Brownie: Well, OK, the secret is cream cheese, but this not-too-sweet treat is a sublime blend of chocolatey goodness and subtle excess. They go down sooo easy. Find them at 45 Market Street Bakery in Rochester (45 Market St., 692-4511).

Kobe Beef: This sublime beef can be expensive, but the ground version in small portions can make for a pleasant mouthful. At O Steaks & Seafood in Lakeport (56 Doris Ray Ct., opecheeinn.com/restaurant) Chef/owner Scott Ouelette stuffs meatballs with a bit of cheese and serves them on a stick with delightful aioli - a perfect pairing with O's great wine-by-the-glass selection.

Sandwich Platter: Whether you need a quick bite or a platter of savory treats for an open house or meeting, you can't beat Butter's Fine Food and Wine in Concord (70 North Main St., buttersfinefood.com). Chef/owner Kristy Ammann takes great cheeses, imported meats and vegetables and combines them into wonderful sandwiches with jazzy names like Satchmo, Miles and Billie. She serves her generous sandwiches on fresh crusty breads and croissants from A Mere Baguette and doesn't skimp on the aiolis, tapenades and crispy greens.

Muffins for Lunch: Mostly Muffins in Colebrook (51 Parsons St., 237-4582) extends the muffin-munching meal options with lunch muffins - try ham and cheese, complete with the mustard.

Drink of Water: NH20 is drawn from the Alton farm of Deanna Chamberlain (Chamberlain Springs). Deanna still recalls visiting the farm, then owned by her grandparents, as a kid from the city; she and her siblings would jump out of their car and run to the water pump where they'd drench themselves in the delicious spring water. You may feel like doing the same thing after your first sip of this delicious home-grown wonder. NH20 is bottled on the farm and distributed all over the state, or you can order it online at chamberlainspringsnh2o.com

Decadent Caramel Apple: Here's one more reason to look forward to fall and apple season here in New Hampshire. The hand-dipped chocolate-and-caramel-covered apples from Ava Marie Handmade Chocolates (43 Grove St., Peterborough, avamariechocolates.com) go above and beyond the classic treat. With toppings like white chocolate and pecans, you get the perfect combination of salty, sweet and, of course, the real star of the show - the juicy apple in the middle.

Tasty Tarts: Jacques Fine European Pastries in Suncook (128 Main St., jacquespastries.com) are the ace of cakes, but if you are lucky enough to find their tarts or pastries at a trade show (or our Best of NH Party) you are in for a real treat. All the love and precision they put into decorating custom cakes can be found in miniature.

Falafel: Beirut Shawarma, located inside the Spice Center in Manchester (245 N. Maple St., 626-7290), serves the best falafel around. Though it might be tough to ignore all the other options like chicken shawarma wraps, stuffed cabbage and grape leaves, we really recommend you give the falafel a shot first. Save the rest for subsequent trips - you'll definitely be back.

Itty Bitty Brewery: If you really love craft beer then give White Birch Brewing beers a try. The small two-barrel brewery in Hooksett (whitebirchbrewing.com) brews limited supplies of finely crafted beers. Follow brewer Bill Herlicka on his journey of taste with aged Belgian Tripels, Espresso Strout, English Barley Wine and more. The supply is so limited the bottles are numbered.

Great Craft Beer: Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout from the Portsmouth Brewery (56 Market St., portsmouthbrewery.com) is so good, there's even a day named for it: Kate Day. Kate Day is when the stout is released to the thirsty public, and it's also the day it completely sells out. In a matter of hours. In addition to the official keg tapping inside the restaurant, some bottles are also sold on a first-come, first-served basis. This year's release party was in March, so stay tuned for 2011 plans. Kate the Great is a rich black stout with a tan head, flavors of dark chocolate, fig, roasted coffee and a velvety smoothness that will leave you wanting more, if you can get another before the keg has kicked, that is. Don't believe us? Beer Advocate Magazine named it the "Number One Beer in the USA (Number Two on Planet Earth)." Hyperbole or truth? Drink a pint and we bet we know where you'll stand.

Healthy Enchiladas: How'd you like to enjoy a yummy enchilada and only consume 340 calories - for the whole thing! You can get what the folks at Gusanoz Mexican Restaurants in Lebanon and Hanover (410 Miracle Mile and 11 Lebanon St., gusanoz.com) call a "lite" enchilada without the fats and oils. It's two chicken enchiladas - one red, one green - served with black beans, lettuce, tomato and non-fat yogurt. Another plus - 33 grams of protein.

Italian Pie: You will say "molto gustoso" (or, more likely, "very tasty") when you have Italian pie at Fratello's Italian Grille in Manchester, Lincoln and Laconia (155 Dow St., Kancamagus Highway and 799 Union Ave., fratellos.com). A customer favorite, it's penne baked with marinara, sliced sausage, pepperoni, ricotta cheese and mozzarella. The flavors combine deliciously - mamma mia.

Smoked Ham: At North Country Smokehouse in Claremont (800- 258-4304, ncsmokehouse.com) they take pigs from certified-humane family farms and smoke the rear quarters at high temperatures over fruitwood chips. Unlike supermarket hams, no water is necessary to impart moistness. The smoky sweet slices are also flavorful served at room temperature for sandwiches or a charcuterie platter.

Use of the State Fruit: Since the pumpkin was declared the state fruit in 2006 (thanks to the effective lobbying of the Wells Memorial Elementary School students), this is a soup you can eat with New Hampshire pride. But you need no excuse to indulge in the Pumpkin Apple Bisque at The Barley House Restaurant and Tavern in Concord (132 N, Main St., thebarleyhouse.com). Some people (like our editor) go there just for another fix of its creamy, savory sweetness.

Artistic Breakfast: For locals and visitors to Portsmouth, nothing seems to sum up the city's blend of open community and authentic weirdness better than the frantically decorated Friendly Toast in Portsmouth (121 Congress St., thefriendlytoast.net). It helps that they have one of the most creative and delicious breakfast menus anywhere. Seems like the world has taken notice. Friendly Toast got picked as one of the 59 best breakfast places in America in 2009 by Esquire and then again this year by "Good Morning America."

Burritos: The burrito is possibly one of the simplest and most satisfying food inventions. If you want to get back to true burrito basics, Consuelo's Taqueria in Manchester (36 Amherst St., consuelostaqueria.com) is the place to go. Fillings range from meat selections such as chipotle beef, carnitas (sauteed pork), alambre (beef or chicken with bell peppers, onions and bacon) and chile verde (pork in a spicy green sauce) to a few equally delicious vegetarian options. No matter what you choose, they all come with homemade salsa, cheese, rice and beans. If you're feeling brave or exceptionally hungry, you can make it a burrito grande for $1.75 more.

Shellfish Appetizer: At the Granite Restaurant & Bar in the Centennial Inn in Concord (96 Pleasant St., graniterestaurant.com) find a satisfying shellfish trio. The oyster of the day is served with a pink peppercorn mignonette, a lemon poached shrimp is served with a Gran Marnier cocktail sauce and, lastly, a cherrystone clam is stuffed with bits of bacon and herbs. This taste of the sea is presented by the restaurant's new chef, Cory Fletcher, a young but inventive Southern New Hampshire University graduate who made the former 55 Degrees a go-to place for small plates.

Italian Sub: A good Italian sub needs high-quality meats and cheese and the correct balance of acids to cut through all that richness. At the Stuffed Sub in Manchester (1293 Elm St., 622-9090) owner Matthew Thomas adds fresh-cut onions, tomatoes, lettuce and banana peppers with a drizzle of olive oil to meld it all together for the perfect gestalt in his Milano.

Nitrogen Martini: Some like it cold and that is exactly how your martini will be served when a dose of nitrogen is added at Surf in Nashua (207 Main St., surfseafood.com). The inert gas will not affect the flavor of your key lime pie martini, but the chill will air-condition your palate.

Chocolate as Art: If you think of chocolate as something consumed in mouthfuls, we say there's nothing wrong with that, but Manchester's Dancing Lion Chocolate (dancinglion.us) wants to re-educate you. Owner Richard Tango-Lowy invites you to contemplate each of his tiny, handcrafted works of art, to prepare yourself for the worldly experience they offer. From his enrobed truffles to his handpainted "Chinese Masks," each morsel is created from exotic chocolates carefully paired with subtle flavors. Find them at the Franco-American Centre on Fridays (call 424-0713 to confirm) or by appointment.

Reuben Sandwich: They pile it high at The Halligan Tavern in Derry (35 West Broadway, facebook.com/thehalligantavern), so bring your appetite when ordering the reuben with house-made kraut, thick slabs of grilled corned beef and homemade aioli. The former fire station is a hopping pub with a new rooftop deck for outdoor dining above street level.

savory Crepes: Silver Moon Creperie of Dover (20 Third St., silvermooncreperie.com) has plenty of treats to satisfy the sweet tooth, but the savory crêpes really stand out (and fill you up). From vegetarian favorites like eggplant and tomato to meatier versions such as andouille, egg, tomato sauce and swiss, you'll want crepes for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Bread and Butter: If you're the kind of person who could make a meal out of really good bread and butter, the Bunten Farmhouse Kitchen in Orford (1322 NH Rte. 10, thebuntenfarm.com) is the place for you. The super fresh homemade breads - try the Farmer's Daughter rolls and the sweet bread - are the perfect compliment to the farm's great meals, especially the Sunday Brunch. Add their whipped butter from their own Milking Devon cows and you've got yourself a real treat.

Quiche: Teresa Stauber, owner of Simply Delish (566-3189, simplydelishnh.com/blog), grew up in a family of people who loved cooking. Now she's the cook and stirring the love into her delicious quiches. They're just the right consistency and full of flavor (the spinach artichoke is especially good). Give her a call to get a list of places where you can buy it.

Fried Rice: This Chinese staple can be found at every Chinese restaurant with its ubiquitous brown hue. Order the special white fried rice at the Lilac Blossom at their two locations in Nashua (385 E. Dunstable Rd. and 650 Amherst St., lilacblossom-nh.com) and instead of salty soy sauce enjoy the flavors of sesame oil and some magic that takes the rice, tender chicken, shrimp and Asian vegetables from boring to blessed.

After-show Cocktail: Seems like there's always been a restaurant next to Manchester's historic Palace Theatre that you could pop into after a show, but the latest incarnation really shines. Ignite Bar & Grille (100 Hanover St., ignitebng.com) has dressed up its interior to keep that artsy theatre buzz going while you grab a highball for the road. Hungry? Their late night menu deserves a curtain call.

Hearty Italian: When Veano's Italian Kitchen closed their restaurant on Loudon Rd. in Concord, devoted fans from all over the state mourned. They've reopened on 16 Sheep Davis Rd., Pembroke, (224-2400) and resumed serving the delicious heaping helpings of Italian comfort foods, from lasagna to chicken parm. And they taste just as good as everyone remembers.

Apres-Climb Feast: So you and your crew have scaled Mt. Eisenhower. You are footsore and wiped out but still high on that sense of achievement and camaraderie that develops along the trail. No one wants to go home, so you head to Woodstock Inn in N. Woodstock (135 Main St., woodstockinnnh.com), which feels a bit like home but with better food and an extensive list of beers (including a bunch of great ones brewed right there on-site). And you are not alone. Tales of the trail are being told at tables all around you. "Ahh," you say as you take a deep draught of their award-winning Pigs Ear Brown Ale. "Yum," you say as a groaning tray of delicious and comforting food appears at your table. "Thanks," you say to whoever it was who suggested you come here. You're welcome.

Healthy Smoothies: Make that a healthy lunch at All Juiced Up in Manchester (790 Elm St., all-juiced-up.com). Go green with kale, pineapple and coconut blended up with vanilla yogurt or try the V-8000 with parsley, green pepper, cucumber and more. Need more of a nutritional boost? Custom add bee pollen, spiralina or a host of other power supplements. Gluten-free sandwiches are also on the menu.

Swiss Cheese: When you buy cheese at Boggy Meadow Farm in Walpole (13 Boggy Meadow Ln., boggymeadowfarm.com), you can see the very cow that produced the milk that the cheese came from. Their all-natural farmstead cheeses, based on old Alpine recipes, are made by hand right on the farm. The award-winning maple-smoked Swiss - buttery, nutty and sweet - is smooth with just the right hint of smokiness.

Homemade Cookies: Craving a chocolate chip cookie just like Mom used to make? Order a batch from The Sugar Mommy, aka Jenny Cheifetz (thesugarmommy.com), and you'll be transported to classic gooey chocolate heaven. The Sugar Mommy, a former elementary teacher turned stay-at-home mom, now whips up all sorts of sweet treats from her kitchen, including everything from chocolate-covered Oreos to chocolate peanut butter cups - but our taste buds were captured by her standout "loaded" chocolate chip cookies. These are big, thick cookies with just the right amount of crunch on the outside and softness in the middle. These hefty cookies have something for every chocolate lover - they're filled with milk, white and dark chocolate chips. Try to eat just one.

Healthy Soup: The Soup Guy, aka Curtis Gould (thesoupguy.net), makes soup that's a meal. A broth chock full of chunky, freshly chopped vegetables was always the best cure to what ails you, but modern soups are watered-down and over salted. Gould uses local produce when possible and keeps the fat and sodium content in control without dialing down the flavor. Eat them out of the paper cup or serve in your best china and take all the credit. Check his website to find the next Seacoast farmers market or store delivery.

Shops and Services

Body Powder: The Garden Plum in Weare (290 Quaker St., gardenplum.com) offers herbal bath and body products and one of their newest is Aspen Leaf body powder made with Quaking Aspen buds harvested from local trees. Oregon Grape and Yarrow flower essences are added for a pleasant but not overpowering aroma and the Bentonite clay draws out toxins for a natural alternative to deodorant.

Gourmet to Go: If you are looking for local cheeses and/or great meals to take home and heat and serve, you will be happy to know that Circa 1906 in Manchester (1362 River Rd., 518-5632) has some of the best chili, chicken pot pies, quiches and baked beans around. Owner Michael Lewko is a former chef now putting his skills to work in a smaller setting where quality and sourcing can be controlled.

Doggie Supplies: Woof It Down Dog Boutique in Windham (Route 111, woofitdownonline.com) is overflowing with more accessories for dogs than Paris Hilton's closet. Think bling and it's all here, along with healthy natural dog food and treats. The shop even has its own bakery for the fido foodie in your home. Friendly and fun atmosphere, the staff is warm and welcoming of you and your dog. Need some fashion advice? There's plenty of collar and leash bling as well as doggie outfits in all shapes, sizes and seasons. Want to know the most popular nail color for your precious poodle? Stop in and find out.

Cowboy Gear: Kick up your heels and trot on in to Concord and American Cowboy Supply, (113 Storrs St., americancowboysupply.com), where you'll find Western tack and clothing for the adventurer in you. Slap on some tough riding jeans, slip into a pair of shiny leather cowboy boots and giddy up to the first open field you can find. Take a deep breath and savor the smell of leather as you sort through the huge selection of new and used saddles of all makes and kinds. Pick up a new cowboy hat and shirt and let your imagination take over. Someone has to fill John Wayne's boots.

Fabric Outlet: If you're a quilter, a crafter or just want some fabric for curtains, Frank's Bargain Center in Claremont (12 Charlestown Rd., 542-2218) is the place to go. It's chock-full of fabrics and patterns - both new and old - at great prices. Plus, there's every kind of notion you need - thread, buttons, lace and more. If Frank doesn't have it (and he probably does), he'll find it for you.

Wellness Workshops: You don't have to plow a field to grow a vegetable garden; you can create a square foot garden and have enough vegetables to share. You don't have to go to the pharmacy for an over-the-counter pill to make you sleep, there are natural herbs to relax and toss you into dream world. The educational classes offered through the Wellness Workshops at the Celery Stick Cafe located in the Concord Coop (24 South Main St., concordfoodcoop.coop) are often free, always interesting and presented by area experts. From naturopathic skin care to discovering the benefits of composting worms, weekly classes fill up fast and space is limited.

Natural Baby Supplies: When it comes to outfitting newborns and smartly dressed kids, trendy moms who appreciate stylish clothing and natural and organic products head to Milford and The Stork Organic Baby Boutique (273 Union Square, storkorganicbaby.com). Here is where you'll find one of the best new products - the spa baby tub, which is designed to let baby sit upright in warm water, preventing slips and soap in the eyes. Gentle baby wash, powders and natural lotions are big sellers. For hard-to-satisfy little boys, you'll appreciate the clever tees, especially the one featuring a fishing pole with a crab clinging to a line. Too adorable.

Shabby Chic Revival: Facebook Kaza, because once you meet the talented owner, Lisa Swan, you'll be a regular. This Concord shabby chic interior design and gift store (202 South Main St., 244-9445) has European class without the snobbery or high prices. Unusual items include a set of three eggs made of cement and perfect for a boss' desk - locally made soaps wrapped in pages from Russian text books, hand-sewn toss pillows, old classic books with yellow faded pages folded in intricate patterns and much more, including sparkling hanging Eiffel Towers. You'll even find funky furniture. The store window is always changing and at times may include live models! Do yourself a favor and get on Kaza's e-mail list for discount prices, decorating advice and a few laughs.

Poinsettias: If your holiday poinsettias disappoint - falling, shriveled leaves and all that - try the ones at the House By the Side of the Road in Wilton (361 Gibbons Hwy., housebythesideoftheroad.com). Come fall, their greenhouses are filled with the most glorious poinsettias - so perfect you wonder if they're real. Not only that, they last long after the holidays have come and gone, still perfect. For an especially festive touch, try the ones sprayed with glitter.

Rural Arts Market: Local Works Marketplace at WREN (2011 Main St., wrencommunity.org) in Bethlehem not only offers free classes in crafts, but displays works by more than 200 local artists and artisans working in pottery, glass, silver, iron, wool, silk, paper, wood and fine arts. Wren's aim is to connect people with one another, provide access to resources many couldn't afford on their own and offer learning opportunities including entrepreneurial business training and technical assistance. It is a national model for rural economic and community development.

Town-wide Yard Sale: Both sides of the wide main street are lined with yard sale tables, and more can be found throughout the town. Their whereabouts are detailed on a map as the whole of historic Charlestown (charlestown-nh.gov) cleans house, cellar, attic and barn each July. They've been doing it for almost 20 years!

New Antique Alley: After years of struggling to find a new personality, downtown Laconia has finally hit on something that works - and suits the Lakes Region "laker" nature. Main Street is the state's newest "Antique Alley," with a half dozen antique/used goods stores including the Laconia Antiques Center, which features a large group of dealers. This should, in some ways, make up for the loss of the famous Burlwood Antique Center of Meredith, which did not open last summer.

Shop With An Attitude: The Bruised Boutique Skate Shop in Nashua (112 Daniel Webster Hwy., bruisedboutique.com) is a haven for roller girls from near and far. From tips and packages for freshmeat (those new to derby) to top of the line protective gear, skates and wheels, it's the best place around to find derby supplies and information. Need a present for a roller girl? A gift certificate to Bruised Boutique will definitely put you in her good graces.

Biker Bling: From the Hell's Angels to "Easy Rider," motorcyclists have always provided fashion statements. And now that biking is big business (some Harleys cost more than a Lexus) the fashion follows. Bizznatch Bling of New Durham (bizznatchbling.com) will customize just about any apparel from leather to denim using only genuine Swarovski crystals and their components. Bling also increases reflectivity and visibility, so like a custom hog with six-foot forks, it's eye-catching but not entirely just for show.

Recycled furniture: Deja Vu Furniture & More in Londonderry (113 Hillside Ave., dejavufurniture.com) is practically a trade secret for local interior designers who report finding $2,000 leather couches in great condition for $300. The owner is always targeting his keen eye on bulk sales from hotels and corporations. Great deals, but don't try to haggle. Like the Soup Nazi he'll simply point to the door.

Custom Leather: My Sexy Skins of Newmarket (mysexyskins.com) designed some jackets for motorcycle legend Alan Lee that were featured on CMT's "The Chopper Challenge" and their business took off with a roar. A glance at their product line (complete with hot models) shows what the excitement is about. Designer Lisa Cantalupo creates stylish and sometimes radical designs that blend the refined airs of high society with the hot rumble of the open road.

Place for Literary Groupies: Hoping to rub elbows with your literary heros meet local writers or snag a signed copy of your current favorite book? River Run Bookstore (20 Congress St., Portsmouth, riverrunbookstore.com) has an event for that. They partner with The Music Hall on the Writers on a New England Stage series, which has hosted book giants like John Updike, Anita Diamant, Dan Brown and Stephen King and they also hold their own impressive events.

Fresh from the Sea: Free Range Fish and Lobster (885 Second St., freerangefish.com) recently opened its second shop in Manchester. Each morning fish and seafood from the Gulf of Maine is shipped down including year-round favorites like salmon, haddock, scallops and swordfish. Maine shrimp are available in the winter. Other, less local types of fish - like sushi-grade tuna and mahi mahi - are offered as well.

Place to get Puzzled: If you are addicted to puzzles, head over to Piece Time Puzzles in Northwood (746 First N.H. Turnpike, piecetimepuzzles.com). Not only will they make custom puzzles from your photographs and use images from local artists, they create cut-wood puzzles for a beautiful and challenging keepsake. Also find a sampling of puzzling games for kids, a collection of puzzles from other makers and a few shelves of used puzzles that have been assembled to make sure all the pieces are enclosed.

Personal Color Analysis: Jane Balshaw, artist and aesthetician in Canterbury (12 Cogswell Hill Rd., 708-1083), knows how to expertly enhance your skin tones with her custom-blended products at her studio Euchlora. As an artist she developed her own color theory system for dying fabrics. Now, she sends you home with a hand-painted fan of colors on fabric to use as a guide for wardrobe, make up and interior living spaces.

Southwest in the Northeast: Get your Western fix at Kokopelli in West Ossipee (2420 Rte. 16, kokopellinh.com). You haven't seen Native American jewelry and pottery until you see the amazing quality carried here. The Acoma pottery, known for it exquisite fine lines and figurative decoration, is coil built by the Acoma and Zuni Pueblos and is of museum quality. Find handcrafted gold and silver bracelets, necklaces and rings adorned with amber, opals and Sugilite among the 70 feet of jewelry cases. A huge selection of cowboy boots, hats, handbags and fringed jackets will have you riding into the sunset in style.

New Shoe Outlet: Doug Clark started New England Footwear (newenglandfootwear.com) two years ago in order to build a better shoe, one that did a better job of fitting the natural shape of the foot. The result - GoLite shoe, designed to reduce the impact of the foot on the ground as well Z7 "wellness" shoes designed to increase muscle tone and circulation. Aside from thinking outside the (shoe)box, Clark also has a sense of history - he moved his company into an old shoe mill at 55 Main St. in Newmarket (yes, there's a retail outlet there).

Natural Cleaners: Want to know the right chemistry for your gentle skin? Stop in to Salzburg Square in Amherst and visit Just Naturals and Company (292 Rte. 101, justnaturalproducts.com) and discover a team of committed women, dressed in lab coats ready to teach organics 101. From natural and organic bug spray to safe and effective floor cleaner (great for wood floors), you can trust each ingredient has been well researched to be safe and effective. You might actually look forward to washing dishes with the aromatherapy dish soap that comes in three delicious scents; lavender, rosemary mint and tangerine lime.

Cool Local Hosta Nursery: Hip, hip, hooray for the Hosta and NH Hostas in South Hampton (73 Exeter Rd., 879-0085). It's home to more than 400 varieties of hostas, from cupped leaves to brilliant blue leafed "first frosts" (which is this year's Hosta of the Year). This humble low-maintenance leafy love gives most gardens their pop, yet is hardly ever honored or singled out for its generous leaves of beauty. Fill up empty spaces in your garden with Hostas and expect plenty of compliments.

Bloody Good Books: If beautiful rare books are any indication, the genres of horror, science fiction and crime are a powerful muse to the finer publishers. Bloody Rare Books of Exeter (99 Water. St., bloodyrare.com) is open by appointment only, but they manage to provide some of the mystique of a visit to a real antiquarian bookshop filled with treasures on their website. And if a rare title is calling your name (perhaps on a dark and stormy night), this is the place to look for it. For instance, they have an entire collection of books devoted just to the Lizzie Borden murders.

Fun and Adventure

Adventure Race: Mix something like an Iron Man Triathlon with deep woods orienteering and you get the general idea of an adventure race. Events can span days, and if you've got a burning desire to pit yourself against nature and your fellow man (or woman) Untamed New England (untamedne.com) is the place to do it. Next race date is August 12-15.

Skier's Surprise: According to SKI magazine, the best snow surfaces in the East are not in the White Mountains but at Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury (1398 Rte. 103, mountsunapee.com). The resort has ranked #1 in that category, which is snow quality and grooming combined, four years in a row. When the snow isn't flying, Mount Sunapee puts its energy-efficient army of snow guns into operation. Add in the highest vertical drop in southern N.H. and 65 trails and slopes on 230 skiable acres, and you've got the ingredients for a great day on the mountain.

Girl Power Experience: New Hampshire Fish and Game wants women to know how to hunt turkey, use a bow and arrow, and dress game. The Becoming an Outdoors Woman program offers participants the chance to learn these skills and more at a Rockywold-Deephaven Camp weekend in September. Additional single-day workshops include deep-sea fishing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and game cooking. We heard the porcupine was delicious. Visit their website for the upcoming opportunities, nhbow.com

Family-Friendly Fish Camp: The Glen (118 Glen Rd., theglen.org), a North Country resort on the shores of the First Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg, is a family-friendly vacation destination featuring a grand lodge and cozy cabins nestled in the trees on the shore of the lake. This place caters to families - no phones, TV, beepers or Xboxes, instead kids can look for moose, swim, fish, kayak, play board games or sit around a campfire. Old-fashioned family fun guarantees fewer timeouts.

One-Mile Waterfall Hike:Go take a short hike and take the family along or a special someone. Falling Waters Trail in Franconia Notch State Park features four waterfalls in less than a mile-and-a-half walk. Located opposite Lafayette Place Campground (Trail-head: I-93 Franconia Notch State Park Parkway), this is a great hike for beginners or for visiting guests wanting to experience New Hampshire's outdoors. Bring along a picnic; there are plenty of places to stop, sit on the rocks and get your toes wet. Don't forget the camera; the trail is full of seasonal wild flowers.

Combination for a Festival:How sweet it is, a lazy summer night filled with jazz and covered in chocolate! August 7th marks the 11th annual Waterville Valley's Chocolate and Jazz Festival on Waterville's town green (468-2553). Before, during and after the free concert, local chefs will be selling their favorite chocolate desserts by the serving so be sure to save room, you won't be able to resist several. And there will be palate cleansers of sorts: Head across the town square to Jugtown Country Store for a wine tasting. Jazz, chocolate and wine are a winning combination when it comes to the perfect summer night under the stars. The resort area is brimful of other activities if you wish to make a weekend affair of it.

Monkey Business: Looking for a little adrenaline rush? Peel out of town and head to Monkey Trunks in Tamworth (1853 White Mountain Hwy., monkeytrunks.com). Challenging courses include the Jungle Course, which begins with a 90-foot zip line into the forest and ends with a giant swing into one of the world's largest spider webs. "Monkeys" will cross rolling logs, walk on hanging tires and jump the leopard's leap at 65-feet above ground. The Mini-Monkey course, which is for younger chimps 4-years and older includes swinging, jumping, zipping and climbing while being secured in a full body harness.

Paintball Spot: For sheer size (eight different fields) and for excellence of concessions, pro shop and staging areas, you can't beat AG Paintball of Weare (158 Deering Center Rd., agpaintball.com) Rated "Recreational Paintball at its best" by Paintball News, Paintball 2Xtreme Magazine and CrossFire Magazine.

Virtual Rock Climbing: What usually separates indoor climbing experiences from outdoor (other than weather) is the immersive character of a real climbing environment versus the climbing "modules" in most gyms. Indoor Ascent in Dover (47 Broadway, indoorascent.com) challenges you with more than 9,000 square feet of wall space, a massive bouldering room and 20 top-ropes over cracks, aretes, chimneys, slabs, and overhangs. They have endless lead climbs, including all over the ceiling. So go immerse yourself.

Out-of-This-World Event: The first Exeter UFO Festival (exeterufofest.com) in 2009 may not have put the town on the map as securely as did the UFO sighting back in 1965 that became one of the most famous close encounters of all time (read "The Incident at Exeter" for details), but it was a day-long hoot. There were tours and kids and tourists participated in everything from making chalk UFO drawings all over the town pavement to a construction of a (non-working) flying saucer out of recycled materials and informational sessions by renowned UFO experts. Plenty of reason to do it again. And again.

Place to Take Flight: Want adventure? Morningside Flight Park in Charlestown (357 Morningside Ln., flymorningside.com) sure can provide it. At the park - said to be one of the country's premier places for lessons in hang gliding and paragliding - you can fly, with an instructor guiding you, off a steep hillside or get towed from a grass runway by a light aircraft. Not quite ready for that? Enjoy a tandem flight with a professional instructor, where you're towed up to 2,500 feet and then released. Once free of the plane, you can take over the controls, if you dare.

Shaker Experience: New management at the Shaker Table - now called Greenwood's - at the Canterbury Shaker Village (288 Shaker Rd., shakers.org) is lowering the prices and focusing on Shaker-style food enjoyed the way the Shakers did, at long communal tables.

Pond Hockey: The New England Pond Hockey Classic, which debuted on Meredith Bay last February, seems destined to become a N.H. winter classic. Scott Crowder of Nashua and Bear Island (the son of NHL star Bruce Crowder) says the event drew 77 teams that played on seven Lake Winnipesaukee ice rinks that were created just by shoveling the snow off a portion of Lake Winnipesaukee. See pondhockeyclassic.com.

Par-3 Park: Any duffer knows that when you don't have time for a full 18 holes or if you just want to practice your putting and/or your short game, there's nothing like a good par-3 course. But good ones are few and far between. We recommend Piche's on Gilford Avenue in Laconia. It's maintained as a kind of public park by a group of volunteers and it's always in great shape. And since it's a nonprofit enterprise, you pay what you can afford.

Historical Breakfast: Robie's Country Store in Hooksett (9 Riverside St., robies.org) makes a hearty breakfast that's so good it could bring a group of Republicans, Democrats, Free Staters and Tea Party activists to a consensus that all is well with the world. And while they are gathered together in that historic country store setting, they can gain some perspective on the history of American politics as revealed by the long line of presidential candidates and opinion makers who have dropped by to shake hands with the Robies over the years. It's all there on their rustic walls.

Community Running Event: The Rock 'N' Race for the Concord Hospital's Payson Center for Cancer Care (giveto.concordhospital.org) was a wacky idea dreamed up by local developer Steve Duprey after a few drinks at the local pub. The next day he found out he had "agreed" to spearhead it. This 5K race blends serious runners and a serious cause with an enormous gaggle of local walkers and even a few anti-runners, all drawn by the incredible community spirit and the fact that along the moderate hilly course are stationed local bands playing their hearts out to keep the energy high. Since the race began in 2003, more than a million dollars has been raised. Drink up, Steve!

Daffodil Spectacle: It is really a private garden, but the owners are gracious enough to allow the general public to gaze upon their dell filled with clusters of daffodils of every variety. From mid to late April the daffs along with magnolia and crabapple trees burst into bloom for a long awaited start to spring. Now, don't all of you go at once, there is just one parking spot. (10 miles west of Keene on Rte. 9, south on Welcome Hill Rd., in .5 mile look on the right for garden bench)

Adventurous Lodging: Nope, it's not the AMC huts, though they have their rustic charms. For a night of REAL adventure visit Adventure Suites in North Conway (3440 White Mountain Hwy., adventuresuites.com). The rooms are designed to recreate just about any fantasy setting from the jungle to the psychedelic '60s (yeah, baby!) to a New York penthouse, and each one includes a two-person Jacuzzi (or larger!).

Arts and Entertainment

Outdoor Music Venue: For the third time in four years, the Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center (Meadowbrook Lane, meadowbrook.net) in Gilford has been nominated for the Academy of Country Music's Venue of the Year Award. Yes, you can see Sugarland and Reba McEntire there this summer, but the outdoor roofed pavilion also features programs by artists like the Boston Pops, the Beach Boys, ZZ Top and Bill Cosby.

Muskrat Love: The Laconia Muskrats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League are premiering this summer at the city's Robbie Mills Field (laconiamuskrats.com). These college-age players are among the best in the country: Stephen Strasburg, who signed a contract with the Washington Nationals for the most money for any rookie player ever, played in the league as did Minnesota Twins' ace relief pitcher Joe Nathan. While it's only 10 years old, the baseball is every bit as good as the older, more well-known Cape Cod League. (BTW, the Keene Swamp Bats are the other N.H. team in the NECBL.)

Online Arts Scene: The New Hampshire art "community" consists of many disciplines, each one with its own set of enclaves and cliques. But as the demand for local sourcing increases, it's ever more important to have some kind of network that allows for collaboration, cross-fertilization and inspiration. Art Spider (artspider.net) provides the necessary tools and the organizational zeal to tackle this daunting task.

Shakesperience: Advice to the Players, based in North Sandwich (advicetotheplayers.org), is a professional year-round Shakespeare troupe, but it's in the summer months when they introduce new generations to the Bard's work. Different summer camps and workshops cater to kids from ages 5-15, introducing them to the wonders of theatre and the timeless themes of Shakespeare's plays. In the Advanced Shakesperience, 12 campers (ages 8-15) receive 40 hours of instruction and are invited to participate in the August production of "The Comedy of Errors."

Rockabilly Roots: Before country music went mainstream, it spent some time on the edge. The sound it created while staring into the abyss mixed sorrow and joy, sex and religion, and gave birth to some of the most timeless music of all time. From those deep and twisted roots comes Elsa Cross, a Seacoast-based singer and songwriter with a growing fan base and voice that can channel Patsy Cline and Hank Williams in the same breath. Check out "Before I Find a Man" from her MySpace site, myspace.com/elsaacross.

Ironically Hip Poetry Event: An ironic love for William Shatner is a long-standing pop culture trend. Maybe you caught him reading Sarah Palin's tweets, beat poetry-style, on "The Tonight Show." He had a cameo spot in the movie "Dodgeball" and you've no doubt seen him as the suave and mysterious negotiator in the Priceline ads. The Coat of Arms Pub in Portsmouth (174 Fleet St., coatofarmspub.com) capitalized on the actor's resurgence with the William Shatner Beat Night event, where patrons read poetry as Shatner. This impersonation/poetry reading/comedy night perfectly captures the public's fascination with the original Captain Kirk.

Place to Jam: Studio 99 in Nashua is right in the middle of the city&'s downtown scene - the perfect place for (mostly acoustic) live music. Check the calendar (115 Main St., studio99nashua.com) and you'll find almost as many events as there are instruments. Jam nights - a favorite of both musicians and listeners - are offered in a kaleidoscope of music genres: jazz jams, blues jams, bluegrass jams, acoustic folk jams, acoustic wildcard jams and electronica jams. It's not a bar (coffee is the strongest you can buy) so it's teen-appropriate except for weekend late-night shows.

Agri-tainment: Farms have always been fun, but now agri-tainment is an official industry, one that helps farms survive. Sherman Farm in E. Conway (2679 E. Conway Rd., shermanfarmnh.com), in the family for three generations, is particularly good at agri-taining. Each September and October kids and adults alike are invited to find their way through an intricately designed corn maze (even haunted, if you dare, on special nights for older mazers). Not only that - there are animals to pet, pumpkins to pick, hay wagons to ride, corn boxes to play in, corn cannons to shoot, hot cider donuts to eat and more.

Local Blues Legend: Mighty Sam McLain is the real deal: a soul man who has paid his dues, traveled the world and still comes home (to New Hampshire) with the blues. His latest CD "Betcha Didn't Know" (mightysam.com) was nominated as "Soul Blues Album of the Year" by the Blues Foundation. He just finished recording a collaboration with Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat that is titled "Love Duets Across Civilizations."

Burlesque: Burlesque is all about easy-to-digest, escapist humor, and if we ever needed a dose of that it's now. Jimmy Dunn's burlesque-style show at the Palace last November was such a hit he's doing it again, this time as "Funny Guys, Naughty Girls and Great Sax." Dunn is carving out a niche as the state's go-to funny guy for any number of MC assignments. Check out his recent string of commercials he's producing in his other job as CEO of Jimmy Dunn Creative (jimmydunn.com).

Family Friendly Music Fest: It's like a backyard music festival/cookout on steroids. The June Jam musical fundraiser for Muster Field Farm (musterfieldfarm.com) in North Sutton is going into its eighth year of operating below the radar for most Granite Staters while attracting some of the area's best folk, blues and rock musicians to perform and jam. It happens each June (duh), this year on the 26th. Burgers, hot dogs, snacks and beverages are on sale or bring your own picnic.

Movie Reviews:Translating an informed love of film into the written word, i.e. film criticism, is an art form fraught with many of the same challenges as taking a piece of literature and turning it into a movie. Either is an invitation for disaster, but when done right, either is a joy to behold. Trevor Bartlett, who writes for Portsmouth's weekly artzine The Wire (wirenh.com), writes essays on film that holographically broaden your insights into the movie at hand and illumine the art of cinema with the art of the written word.

Low-power FM Station: WSPS, the radio station of St. Paul's School, is treasured by lovers of eclectic music in the Capitol area. And this is just 240 watts of FM, so by that we mean pretty much within eyeshot of the Capitol dome. OK, reception extends as far as the Hooksett tolls on a good commuting day, but within that frequency dome is a veritable world of musical styles, from bluegrass mandolins to world rhythms to shredding guitars. Listen online at wsps.sps.edu

Jam Band: Good jam bands make people happy. The best ones lend a cool groove and warm vibe that turns any gathering into a memorable event. JamAntics (jamantics.com) has developed its reputation for spreading great jam from its base in Concord (where it's become the unofficial house band for outdoor events) to an ever-widening circle of fans who are willing to travel just to hear them perform their tight sets of loose and lanky tunes.

Cool New Music Scene: Want to entertain and impress your guest? Skip Boston and head to Manchester and Boynton's Taproom (155 Dow St., boyntonstaproom.com), quietly nestled on the third floor of an old mill building. This is one sophisticated space worthy of being a private club in South Beach. Here people smile and chat with one another under a canopy of warm lighting and great entertainment. Guest musicians and comedians are well established and always entertaining, reservations are suggested. Intimate space, great gigs and a true night out.

Foodie Memoir: Last fall, well-known chef James Haller presented the two-act, one man play called "Salt and Pepper Cooking" that reflected back on his earliest memories with food and family. Each dish was a chapter in his life, the touchstone that evoked a flood of poignant memories and a revelation for the audience of what made the man behind the Blue Strawbery, one of the first exciting restaurants in Portsmouth. If you missed the play, the DVD can be ordered from Three Hills Publishing.

AM Radio Music: Dreamfarm Radio on WKXL is hosted by Julie Lavender, whose DreamFarm Cafe is a jazzy cultural force in southern N.H. Her programs only air once a month (you can listen to them all online), and AM radio isn't known for its lack of static, but her show is a thrilling auditory excursion, fueled by some of the region's most talented jazz musicians, many friends of hers.

Contemporary A Capella:TV shows like "Glee" and acts like Rockapella have brought the joy of vocal harmonies to popular music of all genres (rock, metal, even rap). The movement has really taken hold at colleges across the country and UNH has produced a particularly lively example in Not Too Sharp (not2sharp.com). The Recorded A Cappella Review Board describes them as, "All male, slightly goofy and possessed of an infectious energy - Charisma just drips out of the speakers."

African Beat: Translated to English, the group's name says it all: "Welcome" from the West African land of Ghana. And the band is a welcome contribution to the state's creative community. The polyrhythmic cultural heartbeat of the Akwaaba Ensemble (akwaabaensemble.com) brings West African drumming and dance to life, reverberating out of the streets of Manchester where the group is based to the entire state as they perform in schools, at festivals and in concerts. The ensemble is led by master percussionist and teacher Theophilus Nii Martey, who began studying traditional African music during his childhood in Ghana.

This and That

Locally-minded American Chain: Local burritos wrapped with community service and a commitment to saving the environment is what you'll find at any one of two Boloco locations in Concord (10 Fort Eddy Rd., 410-3089) and Hanover (35 S. Main St., 643-0202). This Boston-based company gives out hundreds of burritos a year to worthwhile causes including Red River Theatre, Concerts for a Cause, NH Pathways and many others. A member of the Green Restaurant Association, Boloco is committed to eco-friendly products. Booths are made from harvested bamboo, tables from pressed paper board and cups are designed to decompose within 45 days. Oh, about the food. The chicken Thai burrito overflowing with rice, cucumbers and a peanut pepper sauce is completely "more-ish" - have one and you'll want more.

Green Car Dealer: Don't need a car? That shouldn't stop you from swinging by AutoFair Manchester at night to look at the parking lot.The company, with three locations near the Mall of New Hampshire (888-212-1005, autofair.com), is the first New Hampshire dealer to install LED lighting in its entire parking area. This smart lighting alternative is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 756-thousand pounds while reducing its lot lighting energy use by 88 percent annually (based on kilowatt-hour usage). There's more. All AutoFair stores take part in the EPA Energy Star program, tracking their energy usage through the Energy Star Portfolio manager. These proactive steps may have more charm than the chrome on a 2011 Ford Mustang Coupe.

New N.H. Sport Craze: Roller Derby is back, but forget about the '70s WWE-style theatrics - the sport has been reborn as just that - a sport. Roller Derby now comes with rules and penalties, serious athleticism and a strong sense of empowering women from all backgrounds. Just because the players aren't allowed to intentionally hurt each other doesn't take away from the nature of the game - it's a full contact, hard-hitting, leave-it-all-on-the-track style of sport. And you can find it right here in New Hampshire. The ManchVegas Roller Girls (mvrgnh.com) and New Hampshire Roller Derby (nhrollerderby.com) are two well established leagues that support travel teams and put on home bouts in Manchester.

Endangered State Office: Anyone home? Hello? It's hard to believe but the New Hampshire Film Office in Concord could be an endangered state office. This past legislative session an attempt to close down the one-man bureau (20 Park St., nh.gov/film) failed and that's a good thing. It's hard to find a more dedicated state employee like Matt Newton who singularly runs this much needed bureau. You can't expect Hollywood to come knocking unless there are resources and welcoming arms and Newton delivers on both. Imagine running into Kevin Costner or George Clooney skiing down Cannon Mountain? It could happen (please, oh, please!).

Meeting of the Media Minds: Every revolution starts in a room somewhere filled with wild-eyed visionaries of one sort or another. The NH Media Makers comrades who gather once a month at Crackskull' Coffee & Books in Newmarket (86 Main St., crackskulls.com) have been bouncing radical ideas off one another so long that even the cyber-bourgeoisie are starting the notice the heat. And, in spite of the anarchic zeal of some of the participants, the meeting has spun off a number of meaningful collaborations. Stay tuned for developments, or drop in and introduce yourself - but arrive early as the place fills up fast.

Oddball Sports Museum: New Hampshire collects strange little museums the way that museums collect strange little objects, and nothing exemplifies both tendencies better than the Muhammad Ali mini-museum at Merchants Auto Group in Hooksett (1278 Hooksett Rd., merchantsauto.com). It's the personal collection of Merchant's President Stephen Singer and displays everything from original Ali artwork to an X-ray of his broken jaw signed by boxer Ken Norton (who did the breaking). Read all about it at roadsideamerica.com.

Fun Fundraising Event: It's not often that someone reinvents the rubber chicken dinner so completely as Table Talk. This annual event at The Derryfield in Manchester invites businesses not only to buy a table for their clients and staff, but to decorate it in fantastic themes that light up or move or otherwise grow out of their centerpieces like over-budget Tim Burton productions. One drawback is that guests at this fundraiser tend to be having so much fun it's hard for the featured speakers to get everyone's attention, but since it's all for the Palace Theatre's youth programs (palacetheatre.org/youth-teen-theatre), there's always a show-stopping number by a group of talented kids.

New State Anthem: While New Hampshire's tourism czars were calling for a new state logo, a little-known online comedy team called Super Secret Project (thessp.ning.com) were releasing their hip hop parody video "Granite State of Mind," blending Robert Frost's poetry and lots of insider references with the lush sound and catchy rhythms of the original "Empire State of Mind" by Jay Z and Alicia Keys. Well, now it's in the viral video hall of fame, viewed by more people on YouTube than there are souls living in the whole Granite State. When SSP's Christian Wisecarver (of Hampstead) performed the song at The Music Hall in May they got a standing O. Having penned the new state anthem, maybe we should put Wisecarver on the travel council and see what he'd recommend for a new state emblem. Yo.

Indulgent Doggie Treat: We think Fido deserves artfully designed treats and who better to create them than Van Otis Chocolates in Manchester (341 Elm St., vanotischocolates.com). The frosting is healthful carob and the inside is chock full of nutritious peanut butter. Full disclosure - not too bad if you missed lunch yourself.

Master of Ceremonies: Google "Mike Morin" and "master of ceremonies," and you get a long list of events - "Dancing with the Local Stars," Encore Superstar Karaoke Competition and Business Committee for the Arts Awards among them - where Mike has acted as emcee. And no wonder he's so in demand. His on-air work at WZID in Manchester has honed his ability to please an audience and he's also very funny (check out his humor column twice monthly in the Nashua Telegraph).

Digital Deals: It's worth keeping an eye on Twitter and Facebook if only to spot what The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel (1000 Cold Spring Rd., thebalsams.com) is up to. The Dixville Notch grand hotel, now in its astounding 145th season, takes full advantage of all social media has to offer. Whenever a new and creative deal arises - like last month's "Miss a Moose" free stay promotion, where guests who failed to spot a moose on the hotel's Sunday Moose Safari were given a free stay - you'll find it posted on Facebook and Twitter. The new media-savvy resort also has the first ever "Inn-Bedded Resorter," a person who's dedicated to describing what life is like at the Balsams all summer long via various social media outlets.

Web Personality: The quirky but always passionate weather reports of Al Kaprielian have been such a fixture in the cultural mix of the Granite State, that when he was summarily dismissed from his 26-year-long post at WNDS-TV, his legions of supporters went through all five of Dr. Kübler-Ross's stages of grief. Then they mostly went back to playing Xbox and eating frozen waffles with peanut butter, but you can't keep a good Kaprielian down. He reappeared briefly on Manchester's cable access station MCAM TV 23. Now he's found a home that seems tailor-made for his up-close-and-personal delivery style: the Internet. Catch the "Al's Morning Weather" that goes live each day about 7:30 on NashuaTelegraph.com's weather page. We should have known that Al's not the kind of guy to buckle, even under "hi-i-i-igh pressure!"

Granite State Composer: Lawrence Siegel is a music composer, theater artist, scholar and performer with a national reputation in several interrelated fields. As artistic director and founder of Tricinium, Limited (a 501(c)(3) organization) and director of The Verbatim Project, he has facilitated participatory, interdisciplinary residencies in the creation and performance of original works of music-theater for more than 12 years. These have included such diverse contexts as junior high and high school meditations on society; a celebration of The New Hampshire Character for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation's Fortieth Anniversary; college courses; workshops for teachers; and community residencies, sponsored by ad hoc groups of local citizens (tricinium.com).

Food for Thought: Local foodies Carol Sheehan (of Red Arrow Diner fame) and Michelle Trumble, known on air as The Taste Buds, casually dish up the latest food news on Sunday mornings from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WTPL-FM and its affiliates. The duo interview local chefs and food producers, run challenging trivia contests, give recipes and engage in the kind of newsy familial chatter that you'd be prone to eavesdrop on if you were near their table at a restaurant. But no need to lurk - listeners are welcome to call in and add their two bites of info. Listen online anytime (mcc-web.com/taste).

Hip Arts Meetup: Tanya Lacourse is a talented self-trained photographer (Violet Marsh Photography) who worked her way through the cultural capitals of NYC, SF and Boston, only to find herself happily settled in good old NH. Well, happily, perhaps, but the lack of creative cross-fertilization did leave her feeling a little lost. She knew that crazy good artists were living all around her, but they needed an excuse to all get together into one place where they could make some sparks fly. So Tanya did everyone a favor and started the Arts Party to help break the ice. It's still just a sporadic event (hey, this ain't Barcelona), but that may change as more artsy movers and shakers get on board. Want to be notified of the next one? Drop her a line at vm@violetmarsh.com.

Operatic Maneuver: This June, guests at the Rochester Opera House (rochesteroperahouse.com) took a ride on the building's mechanical floor as it was lowered to the level position for the first time in a century. The moving floor was to allow the house to serve multiple purposes as theater and meeting house, but it froze in the up position. It's now the only working example of the device in the world.

Multi-Cultural Mashup: No matter how sophisticated the Granite State aspires to be, people who have lived here for more than a season know the heart and soul of the state lives in the North Country. The Northern Forest Heritage Park's Annual Cultural Festival (northernforestheritage.org) speaks for that heart and soul with a voice that's getting attention. Each June they represent the tapestry of cultures that settled the state's northern climes. Past years have merged the French-Canadian "Festival du Bois" and the Norwegian "Syttende Mia" fest. Next step is to introduce more crafts and traditions of the local Native American populations. With diversity shaping up as the trend of the 21st century, the most interesting multicultural festival in the state is still finding its inspiration in the past.

Readers' Poll

Barbecue
KC's Rib Shack
837 Second St., Manchester
ribshack.net

Buffalo Wings
Wings Your Way
215 Lafayette Rd., North Hampton

1181 Elm St., Manchester
wingsyourway.com

Caesar Salad
Lui Lui8 Glen Rd., W. Lebanon
259 Daniel Webster Hwy. Nashua
luilui.com

Chicken Tenders
Puritan Backroom
245 Hooksett Rd., Manchester
puritanbackroom.com

Crab Cakes (Local Chain)
The Common Man Family of Restaurants
thecman.com

Crab Cakes
Cotton75 Arms Park Dr., Manchester
cottonfood.com

Onion Rings (Regional Chain)
Weathervane Seafood Restaurants
weathervaneseafoods.com

Onion Rings
Clam Haven
94 Rockingham Rd., Derry
clamhaven.com

Fried Clams (Regional Chain)
Weathervane Seafood Restaurants
weathervaneseafoods.com

Fried Clams
Clam King791 Second St., Manchester
(603) 669-2868

Sushi
You You Japanese Bistro
150 Broad St., Nashua
youyoujbistro.com

Tapas
Cava
10 Commercial Alley Portsmouth
cavatapasandwinebar.com

Nachos (Local Chain)
La Carreta Mexican Restaurant
lacarretamex.com

Nachos
Hermanos Cocina Mexicana
11 Hills Ave., Concord
hermanosmexican.com

Clam Chowder
Newick's Lobster House
431 Dover Pt. Rd., Dover
317 Loudon Rd., Concord
newicks.com

Soup
Loaf & Ladle9 Water St., Exeter
(603) 778-8955

Soup (National Chain)
Panera Bread
panerabread.com

Chili
George's Diner
10 Plymouth St., Meredith
georgesdiner.com

Chili (National Chain)
Wendy's Restaurants
wendys.com

French Fries
Caesario's Pizza & Subs
1057 Elm St., Manchester
caesariospizza.com

French Fries (National Chain)
Five Guys Burgers & Fries
341 Amherst St., Nashua

1111 South Willow St., Manchester
fiveguys.com

Hamburger
The Barley House Restaurant & Tavern
132 North Main St., Concord
thebarleyhouse.com

Hamburger (Local Chain)
T-BONES Great American Eatery
t-bones.com

Hamburger (National Chain)
Five Guys Burgers & Fries
341 Amherst St., Nashua

1111 South Willow St., Manchester
fiveguys.com

Hot DogGilley's PM Lunch
175 Fleet St., Portsmouth
gilleyspmlunch.com

Frappe
Hayward's Ice Cream
7 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua

383 Elm St., Milford
haywardsicecream.com

Lobster Roll
The Beach Plum
17 Ocean Blvd., North Hampton
thebeachplum.net

Wraps
The Seedling Cafe
9 Water St., Nashua
theseedlingcafe.com

Pizzeria
Alley Cat Pizzeria
486 Chestnut St., Manchester
alleycatpizzerianh.com

Pizza (Regional Chain)
Sal's Pizza
sals-pizza.com

Pizza (Gourmet)
900 Degrees
50 Dow St., Manchester
900degrees.com

Pancakes
Parker's Maple Barn
1316 Brookline Rd., Mason
parkersmaplebarn.com

Wine Shop
The Wine Steward
201 Rte. 111, Hampstead
thewinestewardnh.com

Sunday Brunch
The Old Salt
490 Lafayette Rd., Hampton
oldsaltnh.com

Sunday Brunch (Local Chain)
The Common Man Family of Restaurants
thecman.com

Breakfast Place
The Red Arrow 24 Hr. Diner
63 Union Sq., Milford

61 Lowell St., Manchester
redarrowdiner.com

Butcher ShopP
rime Butcher
58 Range Rd., Windham

201 NH Rte. 111, Hampstead
primebutcher.com

Butcher Shop (Regional Chain)
The Meat House
themeathouse.com

Delicatessen
Jerome's Deli
44 Nashua Rd., Londonderry

393 Bridge St., Manchester
jeromesdeli.com

Dessert Cafe
Black Forest Café & Bakery
212 Rte. 101, Amherst
theblackforestcafe.com

Diner
The Red Arrow 24 Hr. Diner
63 Union Sq., Milford

61 Lowell St., Manchester
redarrowdiner.com

Caterer
Galley Hatch Catering
325 Lafayette Rd., Hampton
galleyhatch.com

Local Microbrew
The Portsmouth Brewery
56 Market St., Portsmouth
portsmouthbrewery.com

Cup of Coffee
Beantowne Coffee House & Café
201 Rte. 111, Hampstead
beantownecoffee.com

Cup of Coffee (National Chain)
Dunkin' Donuts
dunkindonuts.com

Local Coffee Roaster
A&E Roastery
135 Rte. 101A, Amherst
aeroastery.com

Sports Bar
Billy's Sports Bar & Grill
34 Tarrytown Rd., Manchester
billyssportsbar.com

Martini Bar
Cotton
75 Arms Park Dr., Manchester
cottonfood.com

Margarita
Hermanos Cocina Mexicana
11 Hills Ave., Concord
hermanosmexican.com

Margarita (Regional Chain)
Margaritas Mexican Restaurant & Watering Hole
margs.com

Bagel
Bagel Alley
1 Eldridge St., Nashua
(603) 882-9343

Bagel (Regional Chain)
Bagel Works
worksbakerycafe.com

Bakery Bread
The Good Loaf
75 Mont Vernon Rd., Milford
(603) 672-1500

Bakery Bread (National Chain)
Panera Bread
panerabread.com

Cupcakes
Wild Orchid Baking Company
122 Lafayette Rd., N. Hampton
wildorchidbaking.com

Cakes
Frederick's Pastries
109 Rte. 101A, Amherst

25 S. River Rd., Bedford
frederickspastries.com

PiesThe Pie Guy
8 Industrial Way, Salem
pieguy.com

Cookies
Black Forest Cafe & Bakery
212 Rte. 101, Amherst
theblackforestcafe.com

Brownies
Sinful Squares
sinfulsquares.com

Chocolatier
Van Otis Chocolates
341 Elm St., Manchester
vanotischocolates.com

Children's Menu (Regional Chain)
T-BONES Great American Eatery
t-bones.com

Children's Menu (National Chain)
Friendly's
friendlys.com

Children's Menu
Lui Lui
8 Glen Rd., W. Lebanon

259 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua
luilui.com

Outdoor Dining
The Derryfield
625 Mammoth Rd., Manchester
thederryfield.com

Restaurant (Best Wine List)
UnWine'd
865 Second St., Manchester
unwined.net

Restaurant (Best Beer List)
Strange Brew Tavern
88 Market St., Manchester
strangebrewtavern.net

Hip Restaurant (Atmosphere)
Z Food & Drink
860 Elm St., Manchester
zfoodanddrink.com

New Restaurant (opened within last 12 months)
XO on Elm
827 Elm St., Manchester
xoonelm.com

Locally Sourced Menu
The Rustic Leaf Bistro
15 Elm St., Milford
therusticleaf.com

Hotel Restaurant
Wentworth by the Sea
588 Wentworth Rd., New Castle
wentworth.com

Fine Dining Restaurant
Michael Timothy's Urban Bistro & Wine Bar
212 Main St., Nashua
michaeltimothys.com

Chinese Restaurant
Chen Yang Li
520 South St., Bow

124 South River Rd., Bedford
chenyangli.com

Thai Restaurant
Siam Orchid
581 2nd St., Manchester

158 North Main St., Concord
siamorchid.net

Indian Restaurant
India Palace
493 Amherst St., Nashua

573 S. Willow St., Manchester
indiapalacemn.com

Italian Restaurant
Piccola Italia Ristorante
815 Elm St., Manchester
piccolaitalianh.com

Mexican Restaurant (Local Chain)
La Carreta Mexican Restaurant
lacarretamex.com

Mexican Restaurant
Hermanos Cocina Mexicana
11 Hills Ave., Concord
hermanosmexican.com

Japanese Restaurant
You You Japanese Bistro
150 Broad St., Nashua
youyoujbistro.com

German Restaurant
Alphorn Bistro at the Inn at Danbury
67 Rte. 104, Danbury
innatdanbury.com

Middle Eastern Restaurant
Cedars Cafe
379 Amherst St., Nashua
cedars-cafe.com

Romantic Restaurant
Bedford Village Inn
2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford
bedfordvillageinn.com

Seafood Restaurant
Surf
207 Main St., Nashua
surfseafood.com

Steakhouse
Buckley's Great Steaks
438 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack
buckleysgreatsteaks.com

Irish Pub
The Peddler's Daughter
48 Main St., Nashua
thepeddlersdaughter.com

NH Bartender
Billy Laforge
The Wild Rover Pub
21 Kosciuszko St., Manchester
wildroverpub.com

NH Chef
Michael Buckley
michaeltimothys.com

Regional Favorite Restaurants

Salem Area
The Colosseum Restaurant
262 N. Broadway, Salem
thecolosseumrestaurant.com

Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee
Jesse's Restaurant & Tavern
224 Lebanon St., Hanover
jesses.com

Great North Woods
The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel
1000 Cold Spring Rd. Dixville Notch
thebalsams.com

Lakes Region
Common Man - Ashland
60 Main Street
thecman.com

Concord Area
Common Man - Concord
25 Water Street
thecman.com

Manchester Area
Puritan Backroom
245 Hooksett Rd., Manchester
puritanbackroom.com

Nashua Area
Michael Timothy's Urban Bistro & Wine Bar
212 Main St., Nashua
michaeltimothys.com

Monadnock Region
Nicola's Trattoria
Central Square, Keene
(603) 355-5242

Seacoast Region
Wings Your Way13 Jenkins Ct., Durham

215 Lafayette Rd., North Hampton
wingsyourway.com

Favorite Regional Ice Cream Shops

Nashua Area
Hayward's Ice Cream
7 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua

383 Elm St., Milford
haywardsicecream.com

Monadnock Region
Kimball Farm
158 Turnpike Rd., Jaffrey
kimballfarm.com

Seacoast Region
Lago's Lone Oak
71 Lafayette Rd., Rye
lagos-lone-oak.com

Salem Area
Moo's Place
27 Crystal Ave., Derry
moosicecream.com

Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee
Ice Cream Fore U
298North Planfield Rd., W. Lebanon
foreugolf.com

Great North Woods
Northland Restaurant and Dairy Bar
1826 Riverside Dr., Berlin
(603) 752-6210

Lakes Region
Jordan's Ice Creamery
Rte. 106 & N. Main St., Belmont
(603) 267-1900

Concord Area
Arnie&'s Place
164 Loudon Rd., Concord
arniesplace.com

Manchester
Puritan Backroom
245 Hooksett Rd., Manchester
puritanbackroom.com

Independent Book Store
Gibson's Book Store
27 South Main St., Concord
gibsonsbookstore.com

Independent Book Store (Local Chain)
The Toadstool Bookshops
toadbooks.com

Florist
Chalifour's Flowers, Gifts & Gourmet
46 Elm St., Manchester
chalifours.com

Jeweler
Bellman's Jewelers
1650 Elm St., Manchester

78 Market St., Portsmouth
bellmans.com

Hair Salon
H2O Salon Spa
7 Colby Ct., Bedford
h2osalonspa.com

Day Spa
Wingate Salon & Spa
139 Portsmouth Ave., Stratham
wingatespa.com

Romantic Country Inn
Bedford Village In
2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford
bedfordvillageinn.com

Music Venue (Large)
Verizon Wireless Arena
555 Elm St., Manchester
verizonwirelessarena.com

Music Venue (Small)
Tupelo Music Hall
2 Young Rd., Londonderry
tupelohall.com

Karaoke Spot
New Yee Dynasty
830 S. Willow St. Manchester
(603) 625-5606

NH Celebrity
Bode Miller

NH Radio Morning Show
Greg and the Morning Buzz
WGIR
wgiram.com

NH Radio Station - AM
WGIR
wgiram.com

NH Radio Station - FM
95.7 WZID
wzid.com

NH Radio Talk Show
"The Exchange"
NHPR
nhpr.org

NH Sports Team
Manchester Monarchs
monarchshockey.com

TV News Anchor
Erin Fehlau
WMUR-TV
wmur.com

TV News Reporter
Ray Brewer
WMUR-TV
wmur.com

TV Sports Anchor
Jamie Staton
WMUR-TV
wmur.com

Weatherperson
Josh Judge
WMUR-TV
wmur.com

Calendar

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