Best of NH 2008




Dig in! Drink up! Hit the road! Rock on! Shop until you drop! And, while you are at it, don't settle for second best. Here are the results of our Best of NH 2008 Readers' Poll, plus Editor's Picks in five categories - Food & Drink, Fun & Adventure, Arts & Culture, Shops & Services and This & That.

Editor's Picks: Food and Drink

Cuisine with a Twist: At Z Food & Drink (www.zfoodanddrink.com) on Elm Street in Manchester, owner Tom Puskarich has created a dining experience that is always more than expected. The room itself is fun and funky with fanciful swirls repeated in chairs and lighting fixtures, and each dish is presented in a thoughtful manner. His simple nacho appetizer is twisted East with crisp won tons, sesame peanut sauce, wasabi sour cream and daikon sprouts to complement the grilled chicken. Here, French technique plays well with flavors from Latin American and Asia, while Chef Terry Remick brings inspiration from his former gig at Baldwin's On Elm.

Mountaintop Dinner: Like a pumpkin carriage, the chairlift sweeps its guests to the top of the mountain for a fairytale dinner at Meister Hut on Mount Cranmore (www.cranmore.com) in North Conway. High above the twinkling village the Meister Hut transforms into a magical dinning room with flickering candles, blazing fire and live music. Guests begin their night with a welcoming reception followed by a four-course gourmet dinner with selected wine pairings. A little Port is poured to warm the soul before guests depart for the lift back to the base and into reality. This sells out fast.

Sweet Spot to Meet: For 16 years, Concord's In A Pinch Café (www.inapinchcafe.com) has been a prime meeting place for busy professionals looking for a quick bite over business or stay-at-home moms looking for some peer-to-peer communication. Somehow the mood there is just right for either, and the sandwiches, pastries and specials are delicious, fast and reasonably priced. In A Pinch Café is celebrating its sweet 16th birthday this year just as they open a second location: Still In a Pinch Café in the neighborly south end of Concord.

Upscale Fries: What better way to mix the sublime with the ridiculously simple. Chef Jaron Rockwell at the New London Inn (www.newlondoninn.us) deep fries the shoestring French fries in lard (just the way McDonald's used to), then tosses them in white truffle oil. Dip them in the Meyer lemon aioli or roasted garlic crème fraiche for a transcendental flavor sensation. Served in the tavern or restaurant.

Little Italian Paradise: Paradiso Italiano in Salem (893-2496) is a hidden jewel. The food, all homemade from scratch, is fantastic - the best Chicken Parm and Italian sub (so big you're not likely to finish it) around. Add to that a friendly and comfortable environment and you have an experience that is perfecto.

Healthy Hotdogs: Buffalo weiners from Yankee Farmers Market in Warner (456-2833) are so tasty you'd never guess they were so good for you. The retail store offers more meaty treats, including more sausages, venison and buffalo bacon.

Sticky Buns for Breakfast: At the Woodstock Inn in North Woodstock (www.woodstockinnnh.com), sticky buns are fresh-baked daily and served right from the oven while you read the menu of dozens of breakfast entrées. Or just stop with the sticky buns and coffee.

Family-Friendly Restaurant in the Whites: Movies, a while-you-wait play room, face painting and a menu filled with stuff kids love make the Red Fox Bar and Grill in Jackson (383-4949) a place where you - and your kids - don't mind waiting in line for a table.

Mushrooms on the Menu: Evan Mallett, chef/owner of Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth (www.blacktrumpetbistro.com), is an expert mycologist, gathering the ingredients for his superb mushroom dishes literally from his own back yard.

Fried Clams Inland: Dipsy Doodle Dairy Bar in Northfield (www.dipsydoodle.biz) serves big, fat, juicy, cooked-just-right clams that taste like they're fresh the sea. Look for the big happy cow on the sign.

Jewel of a Café: If you're often riddled with indecision when it comes to choosing a meal, then Jewell and the Beanstalk in Manchester (www.jbeanstalk.com) presents a whole new level of quandary. As though the huge breakfast and lunch menus weren't enough, the daily specials board is almost as long. Try an avocado omelette bursting with ingredients, blueberry French toast or a classic chicken potpie. Get it to go or linger in the cozy café filled with local art and mismatched furniture.

Veggie Quesadilla: Good Mexican food is hard to find and great authentic Mexican food is even harder. The search comes to an end at Consuelo's Taqueria in Manchester (www.consuelostaqueria.com). If you can't decide what to try, sample the grilled veggie quesadilla. With fresh vegetables, just the right amount of velvety melted cheese, no unwanted grease and a side of homemade salsa (chopped tomatoes, onions and cilantro), it's a healthy indulgence.

Pork Pie: Two generations of Guillemettes have been making pork pies at Harvey's Bakery and Coffee Shop in Dover (749-3564) for 75 years and they're not about to stop. People come from all over the tri-state area just to buy their meat pies. Full of ground pork (laden with secret spices), real mashed potatoes and packed into a homemade flaky crust, only a mémère could do better. Bring a cooler and stock up - pies come frozen in two sizes.

Grilled Sandwich: The grilled scallop melt served up at The Fish Shanty in Dover (749-1001) is a flavor collision of fried fresh sea scallops mounded between two slices of bread, covered with a slice of cheese, topped with tartar sauce and grilled to perfection. Blame its wonderfulness on Helen Costas Phofolos, who in 1975, officially invented the sandwich. It's addictive, says Annie Phofolos-Johnson, Helen's daughter who now runs the place with her own sons.

Two Restaurants Under One Roof: Cartelli's Bar & Grill in Dover (www.cartellis.com) is the culinary version of "he said, she said." He wants Italian, she wants sushi. She wants to watch the Red Sox, he wants to sip wine. Fortunately, when tastes differ, the atmosphere and menu at Cartelli's delivers, with something for everyone, from the quiet dining area to the lively pub to a menu that offers classic Italian to freshly prepared sushi and sashimi. Even the cocktails get along - check out the sake-tini.

Coffee North of the Notch: Before heading off for a day of adventure in the White Mountains, stop by the White Mountain Café (www.whitemountaincafe.com) in Gorham for a cup of java and a homemade pastry to fuel up. This one-of-a-kind meeting place for coffee lovers and the outdoor crowd will make you linger for a few extra minutes before hitting the trails to enjoy their wide variety of baked goods, breakfast sandwiches and locally roasted organic coffee. There's also complimentary WiFi.

Best Birthday Cake at a Restaurant: It's your birthday so calories don't count. If you are a fan of chocolate and it's your B-Day, the rich, moist chocolate cake they bring out at Fratello's Ristorante Italiano (www.fratellos.com) in Manchester will make you glad you were born.

Best Boiled Dinner (Asian style): Boil your own Asian-style meal at San Francisco Kitchen (www.sanfranciscokitchen.com) in Nashua. The Shabu-Shabu pot is filled with either a mild misu or spicy broth. You dip and simmer your veggies, seafood or beef and manage them with a strainer. At the end you slurp up the thick noodles that have soaked all the while in the flavors.

Rural Greek Dining: You know this rural eatery must be good when there's at least a 20-minute wait after 5:30 p.m. on a Friday night. Fremont Pizzeria and Restaurant (fremontpizzeria.com) in Fremont offers not only deliciously tempting pizza, but Greek specialties as well. Try the Mediterranean lentil soup, followed by a slice of pizza or some lasagna. You'll be glad you waited. Conversation Starter: The white columns outside the place once adorned the home of big band legend Benny Goodman.

Tableside Desserts: At The 1785 Inn (www.the1785inn.com) in North Conway the waitstaff loves performing with fire and they do it with the expertise of a Ringling Circus lion tamer. Whisper the magic words - Bananas Foster, Cherries Jubilee or Peach Flambé - and the show begins. Or try the French Connection coffee drink, your own Fourth of July sparkler: Cointreau is poured into a glass with an orange-juice-coated rim dipped in cinnamon and sugar. The glass is warmed and when the Cointreau ignites it's tossed between two glasses, forming a waterfall of flame. Hot coffee, Tia Maria, Amaretto and whipped cream top off this cup of courage. (www.the1785inn.com)

Paninis: Unwind during your lunch break over a simple yet delicious panini from the delicious and funky Gala Café (www.galacafe.com) in Manchester. Try a cheese and tomato melt, or savor the flavor with the proscuitto di parma. All the paninis are served on homemade foccacia bread. Get yours to go, and make sure to grab a slice of decadent cheesecake for dessert.

Fried Bologna Sandwich: Yes, you read that right, fried (well, it's really grilled) bologna. The Goffstown Rotary Club's specialty is on the menu at every major event in Goffstown Village. Try this timeless treat during Old Home Days and be transported back to your childhood. As the Goffstown Rotarians say, "We're full of baloney, and proud of it!"

Pizza Overload: Want a pizza that's loaded? Everything and anything that can go on top of a pizza is stacked on the pies at Pizza Barn in Center Ossipee (539-2234). No portion control allowed. Pizza makers grab a handful of this and that, and slap these beauties together. It's in an authentic barn with lots of seating, yet on a summer night you might have to wait in line.

Rural United Nations of Food: Chef Peter Johnson and his wife, Catherine, don't discriminate at their Gypsy Cafe Bar & Grill in Lincoln (745-4395). The couple's love for food and travel helped inspire the eclectic menu. You'll find it hard to pin a label on this restaurant, where you can find dishes that range from Asian and Thai to Cuban and American Southwest. With a casual air and friendly staff it's the perfect place to try something new.

Old-Timey Soda Pop: With a name like Squamscot it's gotta be ... wait, wrong slogan. Actually, the delicious soda of Newfields' Squamscot Beverages (www.nhsoda.com) needs no slogan. The cheery colors and rustic labels take you back to simpler times, and the great flavors (we like "Black Cherry," but try "Yup" for something different) remind you that the Connor family has been in the bottling business since the Civil War and know what they are doing.

Waay North End of Boston Dining: At Florence's in Merrimack (www.florencesitalian.com), you'll find the double delight of delicious Italian food and great prices. Don't be deceived by the storefront location - once inside the atmosphere is casual and cozy with checkered tablecloths and a pillared dining room decorated with grape arbors. The extensive menu features homemade favorites like veal saltimbocca and linguini with clam sauce.

Bloody Mary: Brunch is the best excuse to start the day with a drink. The chilled Bloody Mary at The Homestead Restaurant (www.homesteadnh.com) in Bristol and Londonderry is refreshing and sports a full complement of skewered shrimp and veggies. It's almost a meal, and a most pleasant way to start a Sunday.

Use of New Hampshire Maple Syrup: The culinary alchemists at Parker's Maple Barn in Mason (878-2308) turn the essence of New Hampshire into a heavenly drink. Their maple syrup frappes made with vanilla ice cream, fresh milk and syrup tapped and processed onsite are pure ambrosia and such a deal for $4.75.

Gorton: What? Yes, gorton (pronounced gaw taw) or, as the Quebecois sometimes call it, creton. This poor man's pâté, made of boiled pork butt and spices, is best served on toast with mustard. Once a mainstay in New Hampshire's Franc communities you have to search pretty hard to find this delicacy nowadays. Fortunately Crosby Bakery in Nashua (882-1851) sells gorton by the half pint ($3.55) alongside some other Franco favorites like tourtière, or meat pie. Bon appetit!

Starry-Eyed Italian Restaurant: Rossi's Italian Ristorante & Pizzeria in New Hampton (744-2377) has that old-fashioned family feel that places like The Olive Garden and other national chains just can't match. Try one of the pastas with clam sauce - and keep an eye out for Ben Affleck, who has friends in the area and is said to be a regular visitor. (Word is, he loves the garlic bread.)

Asian with a View: After building a reputation - and clientele - with great Asian food in tiny Marlborough, N.H., Lee & Mt. Fuji (www.leeandmtfujiatboilerhouse.com) has opened a new restaurant in Peterborough. Not only does it have the same great food (the sushi and tempura are to die for), its location in an old boiler house means you have a view of water (lighted at night) rushing over a dam outside with a forest as a backdrop.

Gourmet Pizza: While the classic cheese or pepperoni pizza will never grow old, spice things up a bit and try a gourmet pizza from Giorgio's Ristorante in Merrimack and Milford (www.giorgios.com). Giorgio's grilled, not baked, thin crust pizzas are crispy and delicious. Choices such as pesto chicken pizza or shrimp, crab and artichoke pizza will wake up your tastebuds.

Art-infused Café: When you're browsing the newly opened Currier Museum of Art (www.currier.org) in Manchester, stop for a bite to eat in the Winter Garden, a spacious and sky-lit room that bridges the original 1929 building and the new galleries. There you'll get both a tasty timeout and a look at some grand-scale mosaic artworks - one contemporary, one not.

Cheesecake: Great cheesecake is always a taste of heaven, and at Eden in Amherst (www.edenrestaurantandlounge.com) the cheesecake is divine: not too heavy, not too light, sweet and delicate as an angel's kiss.

Pig Shanks: How can something so lowly taste so good? The answer - braising. Chef Matt Provencher is now adding his own touch to Richard's Bistro (richardsbistro.com) in Manchester and his pig shanks are cooked until tender at the bone and finished in the oven with a soy and honey glaze. Sweet, succulent and very satisfying.

Veal: At Pasquale's (www.pasqualeincandia.com) you can find a taste of Italy on the back roads of Candia where Chef Pasquala Celone cooks with his heart the simple foods from his native Campania. Veal is offered four ways, but how can you resist the classic saltimbocca with prosciutto di parma and fresh sage leaves, sautéed in olive oil, finished with imported Marsala wine.

Bargain Gourmet: Practice makes perfect and the culinary students at Southern New Hampshire University (www.snhu.edu) are practicing hard while serving lunch and dinner at the school's Hospitality Center in Manchester. The five-course dinner is well-prepared and only $25 and it may feature the cuisine of France, Spain, Italy or northern and eastern Europe depending on the weekly schedule. You'll have to wait until school is back in session to make a reservation (629-4608) and P.S., bring your own wine.

Carpaccio: The eponymous dish at Carpaccio's Ristorante Italiano in Hanover (www.carpacciohanover.com) is offered in five versions. The thinly sliced raw beef, raw venison, raw King Salmon or cooked octopus are appropriately dressed and paper thin to melt in your mouth. It's a light way to start a meal with a nice taste. Chef Giovanni Leopardi even offers a vegetarian version with thinly sliced heirloom tomato and organic goat cheese from Heart Song Farm topped with arugula salad.

Asian Duck: Yo is from Thailand so he knows authentic family favorites and serves them at his Yo's Thai Cuisine (www.yothaicuisine.com) in Rochester. For an Eastern treat try his Panang crispy duck, off the bone, served with Panang and coconut sauce. For more authenticity dine upstairs at the low tables and sit on even lower stools. Be even more authentic and remove your shoes before entering the room.

Country Club Chef: A country club chef needs to be well-versed in the favorite foods of the weekend athlete - steak, steak and steak. But Chef Steve Stinnett at the Manchester Country Club (www.manchestercountryclub.com) loves to reach beyond the bovine and play with the cuisines of Europe, especially Italy where he was privileged to visit on behest of the Italian government. He has a flair for the creative and a passion for pairing food and wines. Forget the golf, it may be worth joining just to eat.

Scones: The owners of the Arbor Inn Bakery in Rye (arborinnbakery.com) take serious pride in all their baked goods and desserts, and their scones are certainly no exception. If you can manage to choose just one from flavors like lemon blueberry cream, apple maple walnut cream, white chocolate apricot almond cream or mandarin orange cream, you've fought half the battle. The other half is managing not to buy 10 more and eat them in one sitting.

Chef Dinners: Rub elbows with some of the best culinary artists from around the world at The 2008 Chef Invitational Series at the Bedford Village Inn in Bedford (www.bedfordvillageinn.com). From now through November, one guest chef per month will work with BVI Executive Chef Peter Agostinelli to prepare a four-course prix fixe meal, complete with wines from the Inn's extensive wine cellar. Dinner guests will experience a world of International flavors during this series, which includes French-, Cajun-, Italian- and Mediterranean-inspired menus.

Lounge Menu: You don't always want a large meal and sitting at the lounge with views of Mt. Washington is already food to the soul. At The Inn at Thorn Hill in Jackson (innatthornhill.com) you will find the views and a great small plate menu created especially for the lounge. Choices change seasonally, and typical bar menu items are several notches above the typical bar: Burgers are venison, chips are harissa, bread is house-made naan, pasta is Tagliatelle with applewood-smoked bacon, English peas and cream.

Much Ado About Duckling: Eat like a king with the ducking pâté at Damian's on the River (damiansotr.com) in New Boston. Owners Damian and Sonia Martineau bought the former Ship Wrecks restaurant and totally remodeled it to feature the riverside view. While gazing out the picture windows to the babbling brook below, feast on ducking paté wrapped in bacon and perfectly complemented with a sweet yet tangy blueberry-ginger chutney.

Lobster Sandwich: Sometimes the simplest foods are the best. Can you really improve on lobster, lettuce and mayonnaise on great bread? The Saffron Bistro (www.thesaffronbistro.com) in Nashua makes a Maine lobster sandwich with a chiffonade of lettuce and light mayo on sweet bread that is simple and delightful. A pile of kettle chips adds a touch of salt. Sit at the bar and enjoy the company of Miss New Hampshire USA, who tends bar here when not wearing her crown.

Classic Red Wine: Candia Vineyards (www.candiavineyards.com) in Candia makes a number of vault reserve wines, but they excel with the old-fashioned grape varieties. Need proof? The vineyard has consistently won medals from competitions such as the Indianapolis International Wine Competition, the International Eastern Wine Competition, the Amenti del Vino Wine Society and many more. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, a good starting point is the medium-plus bodied Good King Robert's Red or the mellow Classic Cab.

Political Pancakes: Ever since Jimmy Carter became "Jimmy Who?" during a folksy photo op, Robie's Country Store in Hooksett (www.robies.org) has attracted chatty locals and bloviating political luminaries. Now they've earned some national attention for breakfast food. The light and buttery pancakes mixed up by co-owner Debra Chouinard recently received prominent mention in Saveur. But she takes it in stride. Folks at Robie's behind the register and at the table are used to the nation peering over their shoulders to see what's on the plate.

Fresh Lemonade: Why bother with lemonade made from a mix. Get it fresh-squeezed at Sugar and Ice (335-1140) on Rte. 125 in Barrington. The owners of this charming new ice cream stand take pride in using the finest ingredients in both their ice creams (check out the fully loaded natural pistachio) and drinks.

Southern-style Barbeque Platter: Mojo's BBQ Shack (436-MOJO) opened up in Portsmouth and immediately had a packed house hungering for their dry-rubbed, slow cooked meats and authentic southern sides (like moist cornbread, real dirty rice and the best collard greens north of the Mason-Dixon). Slather on a little extra Big Moe's Arkansawce and you will be in BBQ heaven. They just opened a second shop in North Hampton, so the word is spreading. Maybe the South will rise again.

Vegetarian Takeout: Spicy Asian Noodle Salad from the Red Ginger, (373-6791) in Portsmouth is the perfect solution to satisfy the vegan on the go. Bright Asian flavors and a bit of tang is both light and satisfying.

Saganaki: The Way We Cook (625-5454 ) in Manchester pan fries Keffaloteri cheese and deglazes it with Metaxa brandy and lemon juice for an authentic balance of exotic flavors and tang. The complex blend excites the tongue while preparing the appetite.

Omelette Station: The catering staff at Concord's Grappone Conference Center makes perfectly delicious omelettes to order, hot, fast, with flair and packed with the good stuff. The Center itself is a rising star in the state for hosting events and meetings, and the food service at the Grappone Conference Center Catering (www.grapponeconferencecenter.com) has never let a rubber chicken anywhere near its kitchens, let alone served one to guests.

Thanksgiving Anytime: Good news for all who love the country's official holiday bird. Hart's Turkey Farm in Meredith (www.hartsturkeyfarm.com) just opened a new location in Manchester, right where Hooter's once turned out chicken wings, served up by lasses in tight uniforms. We think that Hart's turkey breasts will be an easier sell, even to the average Manch-vegan.

Mac and Cheese: Portsmouth's The Library Restaurant (www.libraryrestaurant.com) has lots of Old World charm, and along with a great menu of steaks and chops, it makes some of the best comfort food side orders anywhere. Don't believe us. Take along a gourmet palate and some well-behaved kids and both will simply die for the macaroni and cheese.

Family Style Dining: Nonni's Italian Eatery (www.nonnisitalianeatery.com) in Hillsborough and just opened in Concord does a great job of bridging the worlds of gourmet cuisine and fun family dining. It helps that they serve up dishes, sides and salads family style, so portion control is up to the individual and it's possible to feed a family without taking out a loan. Fun fact: The Concord Nonni's, based in the Holiday Inn on Main St., has begun delivering their brick-oven pizzas to nearby Main St. locations via Segway.

Most Anticipated Reopening: Home Hill Inn (www.homehillinn.com) in Plainfield has lost its French attitude and is now firmly replanting its roots in New England. Chef Paula Snow worked under the former owner and has created a menu that is less pretentious, with an emphasis on fresh and local cuisine. A pan-roasted local cod is $19 and room rates have been halved. The new attitude is let's have fun!

Meatball: Sometimes a good red sauce and a meatball is just enough to satisfy your inner Italian. The tender meatballs at Villa Banca (www.villabanca.com) on Main Street in Nashua can be ordered as a side dish or in a meatball sandwich, smothered in provolone cheese and served on focaccia bread.

Way to Bring Home the Bacon: Let your nose lead you to Claremont's North Country Smokehouse (www.ncsmokehouse.com) and your mouth will water over choices like applewood smoked bacon and smoked cranberry pecan chicken. Plan your next party faster than you can say cheese (of which they also offer a wide selection). Turn the heat up with the whiskey fennel sausage made with Jack Daniels or the andouille sausage, a Louisiana tradition with plenty of spice in each bite.

Quiche: Real men do eat the quiche at the Black Cat Café (www.blackcatcafe.com) in Laconia. Owner Kinney O'Rourke resuscitated the former name of the café inside the charming old Laconia train station and his staffer, Erin, bakes up flavorful quiches daily with flaky crusts and savory ingredients such as chicken and artichoke that would satisfy even the Ironman.

Ice Cream Cakes: Bruster's Real Ice Cream on Amherst St. in Nashua (881-9595, www.brusters.com) creates ice cream cakes that don't skimp on the cake. They come with your choice of homemade ice cream atop homemade chocolate or yellow cake. Ice cream flavors include Key Lime Pie with a bit of graham cracker crust swirled in and Coffee Oreo. Bruster's ice cream is made fresh frequently and with a horizontal mixer that blends in less air, for a creamy taste with only 12-percent butterfat. You'll swear it's richer.

Seasonal Restaurant: The Lakes Region swells with visitors in the summer, but is pretty quiet in winter. Coe House Restaurant & Pub (www.coehousenh.com) in Center Harbor takes advantage of the winter hiatus and opens with a bang in late April. It's beautifully decorated by co-owner Luke Dupuis, whose Home Comfort furniture store is next door. The upscale setting is matched with exquisite cuisine prepared by co-owner/chef John Richard. For a special occasion ask to be seated in the cupola for a romantic 360-degree view of the lake.

Double Delight: Jordan's Ice Cream (267-1900) on Rte. 106 in Belmont builds a perfect homemade treat of freshly baked oatmeal cookies sandwiching freshly-made ice cream.

Stuffed Cabbage: If you can't quite make it to Hungary during your lunch break, the next best thing for authentic Hungarian fare is Lala Hungarian on Elm Street in Manchester (647-7100). Offering traditional Eastern European cuisine, like their renowned stuffed cabbage dish, you'll feel like you've been transported to Budapest after one bite. Don't forget to grab one (or two) of their delicious pastries on the way out.

Sushi Pizza: This may sound like a bad idea, but Chef Michael at Takumi (www.takumijapanese.com) in South Nashua can even make sushi appealing to people unattracted to raw fish. He takes sheets of nori seaweed filled with sushi rice and dips it in batter for a quick fry. Atop this base is sashimi tuna, diced tomatoes and watercress drizzled with a spicy sauce. You may never go back to canned tomato sauce and greasy cheese.

Editor's Picks: Shops and Services

New Generation General Store: "General store" is not all that Dover's Tuttle's Red Barn (www.tuttlesredbarn.net) is, but it's hard to find a category that covers home-grown produce, imported cheeses and wines, gourmet foods, greenhouses and a gift shop, all on the oldest family farm in the country. "It's a farm market with appendages," says William Tuttle III, a descendant of John Tuttle, who started farming on Dover Point in 1632. Fruits and vegetables are always "same-day fresh," which means that Tuttle knows what to grow and how much to pick at any one time. He has plenty of experience to rely on; Tuttle says, after 370 years, they know what they're doing.

Color Consultation: The sunny days of summer are here and who wants to go out looking the same as they did during that long, drab winter? If you want to add some highlights to your look, the professional and good-humored staff at H2O Salon/Spa (www.h20salonandspa.com) in Bedford will fix you up right. Salon staff offer complimentary color consultation and a willingness to shake things up a bit. Along with imaginative color, techniques can be used to make hair look thicker and gloss can add healthy shine to any locks. The exotic mood of H20 - European with a mellow techno vibe - encourages a little risk taking, but they know how to help you express your wild side without doing anything you'll regret.

Costume Jewelry: Alapage (a la pahz) is an old French slang expression that means "front-page news" or "in fashion." A well-chosen name for a store in Bedford (www.alapageboutique.com) that carries such a range of jewelry by top designers - Dogeared, Gorjana, Alexis Bittar and Catherine Weitzman among them - that every wish can be satisfied. But selling jewelry (it also carries clothing and other accessories) isn't the only aim of Alapage. It also partners with one of its vendors to raise money for breast cancer research and to support the American Heart Association.

Bike Shop for Women: With stores in Hooksett and Concord to go with the 50, 000-square-foot warehouse store in Nashua, Goodale's Bike Shop (www.goodalesbikeshop.com) is the Golden Triangle on wheels. Brad Hill, who went to work for Walter Goodale as a teenager, is only the second owner of the store since it was founded in 1919. He keeps up with changing trends and has been ahead of the curve in selling bicycles and accessories designed for women, who are turning to bicycling in increasing numbers.

Convenience Store: Moulton's Market in Amherst Village (www.moultonsmarket.com) has been re-envisioned by Steve and Diane Yurish. They purchased the market in 2001 and transformed it from a convenience store to a store of convenience. A shelf of New Hampshire-made foodstuffs lines one wall, and Yurish frequently offers wine tastings on Thursday evenings. Several rows of shelving were removed to make way for tables for diners to enjoy a quick lunch from the full-service deli. In summer a local grower brings in fresh produce. In fall a buffet of 10 soups is made fresh daily by Steve Yurish. Call the soup line (673-GOOD) to see the day's offerings

Conversational Bookstore: Liberty Books in Concord offers a mix of comics, graphic novels, science fiction, N.H.-made products, political books (with a strong libertarian bent) and a proprietor who can engage you in a discussion on anything from early American history to underground comix to Real ID to contemporary art. Put in a cracker barrel and a woodstove and this is the kind of place (www.libertybooksnh.net) that you'd want to hang around to discuss the week's weather or plan the next American revolution.

Cigar Shop: Two Guys Smoke Shop in Salem, Nashua and Seabrook (www.2guyssmokeshop.com) started in Somerville, Mass., 23 years ago, and the business is still smoking in New Hampshire. The 8,000-square-foot store in Salem may be the largest cigar store in the country, according to owner David Garofalo. "That's what all my suppliers tell me," he says, though it's not yet one for the record books. Not just big, they offer the best selection of cigars, the most expertise and they enjoy explaining their product to ensure customers have no need to feel intimidated.

Honor System Pick Your Own: The suggested price is 75 cents a quart, but blueberry pickers on Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard (446-3655) are asked to leave the money in designated containers to help pay for the maintenance of the fields and upkeep of the roads. No evidence of cheating so far.

Un-Mall Shopping Center: Shopping can be relaxing, but sometimes the mall environment makes it hard to get in the retail groove. At The Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene (www.colonymill.com) you'll find tons of great shops and restaurants in a charming 150-year-old restored mill. From antiques and books to clothes and wedding dresses, the Colony Mill Marketplace has all your shopping needs in a consumer-friendly environment. Take a break at La Carreta, Elm City Restaurant and Brewery, the Brickyard Café and many more eateries.

North Country Sports Center: If you're an outdoors person, LL Cote Sports Center (www.llcote.com) in Errol is a died-and-gone-to-heaven kind of store. In its whopping 50,000 square feet there is something for every sporting endeavor - fishing, hunting, boating, camping, snowmobiling and more. They even have hot tubs for those end-of-the-day aches and pains. And, best of all - you can feast your eyes on a real (though stuffed) white moose.

Indoor Farmers Market: 'Tis the season for farmers markets and all the goodies you can find there - fresh veggies, fruits, breads, flowers, cheese, eggs, even meats. If you can't get to your local farmers market, fear not, there is now the N.H. Virtual Farmers Market (www.nhfarms.com), which was created by the N.H. Farm to Restaurant Connection. You can shop online by category, town or county. Pick what you want and it'll be shipped to you (after you pay the farmer directly; no payments are processed online). It's effortless, except for moving your mouse.

"Everything" Store: Just about every town has one but there's something about Black's Gift Shop and Paper Store (www.blacksgifts.com) on Main Street in Wolfeboro. Maybe it's because the Oldest Summer Resort Town in America has more than its share of well-to-do retirees. But Black's not only carries a slew of newspapers, magazines, paperbacks, high-quality tourist stuff and various recreational items like games and toys for kids and adults, there's also a jewelry department, a section devoted to collectible glass figurines and a full floor of fine furniture upstairs. Definitely one of the state's best places to spend a rainy day.

Cerebral Used Book Store: The upstairs Left Bank Books in Hanover (643-4479) seems to soak up the intellectual vibe of nearby Dartmouth College and mix it with the bohemian steam from the Dirt Cowboy Café on the street level below. It's hard to browse the tiny but intensely packed space without finding a moment of inspiration or a philosophical epiphany - usually in the form of an old tome you wind up buying and taking home. Their Tuesday evening programs are also stimulating and of sufficient variety to defy easy categorizing, just like their books.

Kitschy New Hampshire Souvenirs: Getting low on your Old-Man-of-the-Mountain-obilia? Need to stock up on Live-Free-or-Die wear? Head north to Lincoln's Indian Head Resort's gift shop (800-343-8000). It's a retail buffet of New-Hampshire-funk-meets-Native-Americana. In the OMG category is a statuette of a moose sitting in an outhouse, reading a newspaper - mounted on a small slice of tree with a leather strap imprinted with the words "New Hampshire." And you were wondering what to get Grandpa for his birthday.

Country Furnishings: Amish Country Barn in Concord (715-5231) is a few pegs above a typically frilly country décor shop. They take a cue from their Pennsylvania Dutch namesakes and keep most everything practical. The collection of handcrafted pine country décor features unique pieces and a great collection of braided rugs. There are classic country knicknacks if you want them, but here the beauty is simple and comes from functional woodwork, lovingly created.

Exotic Beers: The Milford based Pennichuck Brewing Company (pennichuckbrewing.com) invites you to expand your idea of beer with brews such as Feuerwehrmann Schwarzbier (translation: Firefighter Black Lager), Shouboushi Ginger Pilsner, Bagpiper's Scottish Ale, Pompier (a British-style barley wine ale) or their award-winning The Big O, an Oktoberfest lager. The Pozarnik Espresso Russian Imperial Stout (also an award winner) is an excellent place to start your international beer journey.

Friendly Funeral home: They have more than one home, but the new Phaneuf Funeral Homes & Crematorium in Manchester (www.phaneuf.net), with interior design by Christian Boyer, is peaceful and inviting, with all the coffins and urns in discrete browsing areas while the chapel is bright and colorful. The Phaneufs invite senior centers and residents of assisted living facilities to use the space for movies and other social events.

Eclectic Gift Shop: Middle Earth (752-7400), with its Victorian steam-punk architecture and its retro-'60s appeal, looks like part of a revival on Berlin's struggling Main Street, but it's really a part of the history of the City the Trees Built. It opened 40 years ago as a head shop that evolved into a gift shop appealing to all sorts of, uh, passions. The downstairs is a mix of the conventional (lamps, timepieces, jewelry) and the exotic (gargoyles, crystals and dragon statuary), while the upstairs is a smorgasbord of sensual gifts that lubricate or vibrate or offer such alluring titles as "Lap Dance in a Box." The roots of Middle Earth show up in true colors here where a wall and a glass counter are cluttered with rolling papers, pipe screens and bongs made of glass, stone and plastic and range from pocket-sized to 5 feet tall.

New Chocolate Bar: Plunge into the Madame Chiang (Kai-Shek) candy bar from Winnipesaukee Chocolates (www.winnipesaukeechocolates.com) in Wolfeboro. This 3 oz. brick of solid imported dark smooth chocolate, liberally laced with bits of candied ginger, has an Oriental zing that will wake your taste buds. All candy bars at Winnipesaukee Chocolates are named after places in the Lakes Region and come beautifully covered in colorful foils,with candy wrappers depicting a water color scene of the lake and a paragraph explaining its history. Buy all 12 creatively named candy bars and you'll be smarter than a fifth grader.

Shiny Things: Pentimento (444-7797) is an intriguing gift shop in the Victorian home of owner Felipe Evans. A great place in Littleton to shop for bling that does not cost big bucks. Find crystal hair accessories and shiny jewelry in a rainbow of colors in addition to organic bath and body products, fun stationery and funky reading glasses.

Wedding Cakes: There are wedding cakes - and then there are wedding cakes from Jacques Fine European Pastries in Suncook (www.jacquespastries.com). The talented pastry chefs at this small-town bakery manage to stir big-city sophistication into every cake they make, giving brides a choice of elegant and inventive designs that go way beyond the usual fare. Combine their artistry with the most delicious cake and you have the perfect centerpiece for the proverbial perfect day.

Rocks of Ages: Dick and Barb Medlyn, owners of The Quartz Source in Milford (673-0481), have not only accumulated some of the finest specimens of minerals in the New England area, but they are vastly knowledgeable about both the metaphysical and the geological properties of almost every stone in the store. Going in to visit the store is a treat for the eyes as well as the energy body and is a wonderful educational experience as well. The business diversified from Dick's taking over the family's monument business where you can find a beautiful pink quartz used for headstones.

Foodie Mecca: It's been a good decade so far for New Hampshire foodies, with great new restaurants all over and food trends appearing here as quickly as they do in some metro centers, but through it all there has been one place which was a sort of holy land for anyone who loved good food: More than a restaurant, Twelve Pine in Peterborough (twelvepine.com) is a culinary hub, packing its refrigerated cases with more than 2,000 different specialty items each year, all made from scratch. Great wine, tea, two dozen olive oils, cut flowers, gourmet picnic supplies - for instant gratification or enduring satisfaction, Twelve Pine is the promised land.

Kettle Corn: One bite of this crunchy and tasty snack will bring back memories of summer time at the local fair. Seaside Kettle Corn from Hutchinson's Candy in Hampton (hutchinsonscandy.com) is that perfect blend of sweet and salty unique to classic kettle corn. Pick up a bag at this sweet shop, but be warned - once you start eating it will be nearly impossible to put down.

Editor's Picks: Fun and Adventure

Kitchen Tour: Kitchens are still the most popular rooms for remodeling, and nothing gets the redesign blood flowing like taking a tour of beautiful and functional kitchens in some of the state's most beautiful homes. Naturally, there are lots of great tours being offered and usually they support good causes, but the Palace Theatre Kitchen Tour of Bedford and Manchester takes the prize this year by securing, along with the usual collection of lovely houses, the amazing penthouse in the former High Five restaurant space overlooking the Queen City and the picture-perfect home of the Voisine family that was featured this year on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Worthy and excellent Palace Theatre programs (palacetheatre.org) benefit from every dollar earned.

New Digs for an Old Favorite: With a name change, new location and a new mission, The Children's Museum of New Hampshire (formerly Children's Museum of Portsmouth) opens this month in an old Dover armory along the Cocheco River. Programs have been expanded to tweak the interests of all ages, especially the new Cochecosystem exhibit, a glassed-in addition describing the river, its habitat and its historical role in New Hampshire's growth. If you have kids in school, it's a safe bet this will be a field trip destination (www.childrens-museum.org).

Deal of the Cards: With the Granite State Rewards Card, you're tucking a bargain in your wallet. Look for deals on a growing list of participating restaurants, attractions, businesses and products in New Hampshire. The promotion rolled out in November and is already delivering bragging rights to card holders. One deal we like: Order the haddock plate or basket at Clam Haven in Derry and get another one for free. Find the card at N.H. information booths, the airport or local chambers of commerce. Or go online (granitestaterewards.com) and get one free, except for $2 for shipping and handling.

Day of Athletic Insanity: The 24 Hours of Great Glen (www.24hoursofgreatglen.com) is a mountain bike race at the base of Mount Washington. Every August intrepid weekend pedalers ride a course of single track, carriage roads, mud, roots and rocks at the base of the Rockpile. And for what? Bragging rights? They do it under sun and in torrential rain. The best part is the bagpipes at sunrise. Who needs sleep?

Overlooked Museum: Members of the Portsmouth Athenaeum don't mind the distinction of being "somewhat overlooked." Incorporated in 1817, this is a membership library with only 375 membership slots, and membership is by process over time. The collection includes more than 40 thousand rare books, manuscripts, photographs and items relating to the Seacoast area. It's open to the public for a few hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays or by special arrangement. Most of the collection can be seen online at www.portsmouthanthenaeum.com.

Dining With Wolves: Want to get your kids to eat like the big boys? Head on over to Pizza Mia in the Bedford West Plaza (472-8878) on Wednesday nights and have dinner with the Manchester Wolves. The team comes in on Wednesday nights for "za-pie" and a little meet and greet with the fans. Players will sign T-shirts and footballs (but not your check) as long as you don't mind a few smudges of pizza sauce. If Wednesdays don't work for you, visit the Wolves Web site (www.manchesterwolves.com) for a list of other area restaurants where the team eats during the week.

New Ski Slope: The South Peak of Loon Mountain (www.loonmtn.com) has opened and already snowboarders and skiers are counting the days until the next snowfall. Three new trails - Boom Run, Cruiser and Undercut - offer thrills for all levels. Two new chairlifts get skiers and boarders both vertical (a high-speed quad chair from the base to the peak) and horizontal (a fixed-grip quad that runs from South to Loon Peak). More trails are coming. The residential component to the package includes a planned village of single-family homes, ski in/out condos and other amenities, which are all being built by a separate group of resort developers.

Fresh Air Quest: New Hampshire's Great Park Pursuit - "No Child Left Indoors" - is the theme of this quest, with five sessions of educational outdoor games at five state parks throughout the summer, all designed to get the kiddies away from the video games and into the woods with family and friends. The quest (271-3556) began at Bear Brook State Park in May and will continue on other dates and other parks through August 17. By that time, the youngsters should be nearly ready to go back to school and their parents eager to send them - under the "No child left at home" program.

Free Family Outing: Get in touch with your inner Yosemite Sam and take the family to the Wild Ammonoosuc River in Bath, where you can pan for gold. No kidding. The sparkly stuff was first discovered there in 1864 and prospectors have been heading for them thar hills ever since. Bring along your own mixing bowl for panning. All this trip has to cost you is a picnic lunch and a tank of gas. OK, maybe you do need to find gold for the gas. But if you want to sleep over or buy an official gold pan - about $5 - you can stop in at the Twin River Campground in Bath (747-3640), which rents cabins and camp space and has a gift store for those who hope to strike it rich.

Retro Family Night Out: Celebrate the Milford Drive-in's 50th anniversary by piling the kids into the SUV (you can even bring your dog) and heading to the twin-screen outdoor theater (www.milforddrivein.com) - one of only 380 drive-ins left in the United States and of three in New Hampshire. Some things have definitely improved over the years. Your car radio has replaced those huge speakers that hung on your window (letting in mosquitoes as well as sound). And now you can bring the laptop and use the theater's WiFi to google the latest review of whatever film you're about to watch. Don't worry, though, some things haven't changed. The drive-in still has a playground and the concession stand still serves up the likes of pizza, fried dough and cotton candy, of course.

Wholesome family fun: "No hill too steep, no snow too deep" - that's the Swain family's philosophy for the exhilarating ATV rides they offer on their Heritage Farm in Sanbornton (www.heritagefarm.net). The 4x4s go year-round (autumn is amazing) through miles of trails on the family's acreage. Take the kids to pet the farm animals, get some of the homemade frozen custard or head to the pancake house. The farm has been in the Swain family since 1818, and you'll see that they work it with the same pride their forefathers did.

Maximum Mini Golf: It's not a sure thing but you could try your luck at Chuckster's in Chichester (www.chucksters.com). The recreational facility has the longest miniature golf hole in the world at 201feet. Or you could go to the Hobo Hills Adventure Mini Golf Course in Lincoln (745-2125), reportedly the largest of the many "Adventure" golf courses scattered around the country. What ever happened to just getting it through the windmill? Chuckster's was planning on putting in a go kart track soon but ran into some flack from neighbors concerned about noise and fumes. In a conciliatory and green maneuver, Chuckster's is opting for electric go karts.

Movie Shot in New Hampshire Since "On Golden Pond": "The King of Kong," now available on DVD, is a fabulous documentary that takes you inside the insular world of competitive classic-video gaming. Since Funspot (www.funspotnh.com) in Weirs Beach has the largest collection of classic games in the world - and its annual competition draws people from around the world - much of the movie's action takes place at the local landmark. It's a fascinating look at human nature - just ask that the film reviewer for "The Village Voice," who at last count watched it seven times. (BTW, Funspot is now the largest arcade in the country.)

Aquatic Jazz Brunch: The Sunday Jazz Champagne Brunch on board the M/S Mount Washington (www.cruisenh.com) will have you tapping your topsiders. Indulge in this luscious floating buffet overflowing with fruit, fresh-baked goods, egg dishes and other goodies, including a generous carving station and more. Savor the view with a sparkling mimosa as you cruise along the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. Depart from the Weirs or Alton Bay.

Field of Dreams: At Mel's Funway Park in Litchfield (www.melsfunwaypark.com) you can feel just like Big Papi and Manny, and launch a few over the Green Monster. Well, maybe you won't hit them quite as far or hard as the Boston slugging duo can, but hitting a few balls over the replica of Fenway's famous left field wall is still pretty cool. At Mel's you can perfect your swing in one of the five hardball cages at speeds ranging from 45-85 mph or in the softball cages - four are slow-pitch and one is modified-fast pitch. After practice is over, check out the mini golf, go karts, driving range, arcade, lazer maze, lazer runner or just relax with a snack and an ice cream cone.

Second Amendment Adventure: Well, so maybe it's not politically correct, but thank God and Charleton Heston (may he rest in peace), by golly, it's still legal. Satisfy that urge (we know it's there) to open fire with a historic Thompson submachine gun, a sporty Uzi or a multi-cultural AK47. Re-enact a scene from the "Untouchables" or "The Sands of Iwo Jima." Machine Gun Safari in Woodstock (machinegunsafari.com) allows you to "experience the thrill of full auto" in a safe setting with supervision, eye and ear protection and all the ammo you can afford.

Community Culinary Event: For the past several years Jack Diemar has hosted a growers' dinner to benefit local agriculture. The dinner is a hot ticket in the community of New London -the local foods, the worthiness of the cause, and the rustic setting in Hillary Cleveland's barn make it a magical evening. Not only does Jack organize the event, but his restaurant, Jack's of New London, (www.jacksofnewlondon.com) donates all the food and necessary staff to run a dinner for more than 100 people.

Swimming Hole: Diana's Bath on West Side Road in North Conway is like swimming in an Impressionist painting. You can gently tread water while listening to the sounds of water cascading in warm natural pools among tall cedar and granite rocks. Think of it as a day in Mother Nature's own upscale spa without having to tip the massage therapist. This is the kind of place people imagine when they think about summer in New Hampshire. Bring lunch - there are picnic tables with a view.

Scenic Vista: Intervale scenic vista on Rte. 16 just north of North Conway is like a welcome center to the Great North - with broad vistas, a great topological map of New Hampshire and roomy bathrooms to boot.

Agricultural Experience: A visit to Alyson's Orchard in Walpole (www.alysonsorchard.com) presents a stunning, vast, fragrant tract of trees plus hiking trails, ponds, woods with a fabulous farm stand, too. Great staff. Luck out and get the personal tour from orchard manager, Homer Dunn, and get acquainted with hundreds of varieties of apples. We recommend the Cox Orange Pippin, an aromatic English apple that comes late in the season.

Fun Fitness: Why sweat to the oldies when the latest craze is swinging your hips to the infectious beat of salsa music blended with a bit of belly dance and rigatoni? Michele Esposito of Zoom2YouFitness.com brings her music and Zumba dance moves to the Queen City Ballroom (queencityballroomnh.com) in Manchester on Friday evenings for a fun cardio workout that adapts to any fitness level. So you think you can't dance? No problem - steps are simple, but effective. The hour dance-workout can burn 700 calories.

Editor's Picks: Arts and Entertainment

Voice of the North Country: Bob Barbin on WMOU in Berlin speaks to the old soul of the North Country, particularly when he does his Sunday morning French language broadcast, the last of its kind in the state.

Old-fashioned Summer Band Concerts: Walpole's idyllic village green, surrounded by stately old homes, is the perfect setting for bands that play everything from Dixieland and swing to rousing patriotic marches.

Gospel Choir: Now more than 60 voices strong, the racially and ethnically-diverse Dartmouth College Gospel Choir (hop.dartmouth.edu/ensembles/gospel.html) was the opening act at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival last spring and spent the last Christmas vacation performing in Italy and Switzerland. Back home, they filled the Spaulding Auditorium with 750 people for one of their performances. Much of the choir's success is credited to Walter Cunningham, the choir director for the past five years.

Unknown World-Famous Local Musician: Although he lives in relative obscurity in rural New Hampshire (though he's been known to show up at the occasional front porch session) in Irish music circles Paddy Keenan is a god. He's one of Ireland's leading uilleann pipers, and possibly the best of the best performing today. A fellow musician who played with Keenan in the Bothy Band compared his outstanding skill and talent on the pipes to Jimi Hendrix's legendary ability with a guitar. His father crafted uilleann pipes and his grandfather and father both played. Keenan took up the pipes when he was 10 years old.

Musical History Program: A concert performed by the New Hampshire Master Chorale (www.nhmasterchorale.org) is one history lesson you won't mind attending. The chorale, directed by Dan Perkins, has its own composer-in-residence who uses text from New Hampshire historians to compose music, creating a unique blend of Granite State history, music and art. Singers in the Master Chorale are auditioned annually and perform several incredible and emotional performances throughout the year.

Percussionists: Recycled Percussion (www.recycledpercussion.com) puts on a rock show like no other band. It's all about drumming with this Manchester-based group - without using any drums. In a typical show the guys use junkyard finds and objects usually associated with home improvement projects such as ladders, metal grinders, buckets and even the kitchen sink, all combined with guitar and a DJ to create a high-energy rocking experience you won't find anywhere else.

Party Band: Somewhere in the heart of Rock 'n' Roll you'll find a non-stop party with a free spirit, a packed dance floor and a little bit of crazy love. And if you ever find a party like that in New Hampshire, chances are the band on stage is Mama Kicks (www.mamakicks.com). Led by the luscious and pugnacious Lisa Guyer with Gardner Berry, Chris Lester and David Stefanelli providing high-test oomph, zing and wah-wah, they never fail to entertain. Mama Kicks knows how to testify and to satisfy the forever-young hearts of music lovers. Consider them the house band for the Granite State.

Grassroots Cultural Event: If you are looking for the best jukebox in the state, you need to look online, but bring along some pretty eclectic tastes. The brainchild of the weekly entertainment paper The Wire, The RPM Challenge was born in Portsmouth but has become a phenomena that spans the world (there are even entries from the virtual world of Second Life) The pitch is this: Any musician (or non-musician) with a little gumption can create an album of original music of 10 songs or 35 minutes in 29 days and submit it to be enjoyed, discovered or, as often as not, ignored by the thousands of curiosity seekers and music fans who are drawn to the RPM Challenge Web site (rpmchallenge.com). About 850 albums were submitted this year and the playlist encompasses about 16,000 individual songs, all in a database format that allows regular users to seek and find and recall their favorites. And you don't need a nickel to play this jukebox.

"Friday Night Lights": A sportswriter with the Union Leader wrote it a few years ago and it's still true: Laconia High School may be the greatest place in New Hampshire to watch a high school football game. The Sachem fans, the enthusiasm of the players and the coaches - it makes you understand why folks in small southern towns still turn out every week long after their kids have graduated.

Indy Film Project: Most people know that New Hampshire's most famous movie moments were created when Henry and Jane and Kate set up house at Squam Lake in the early 1980s to make a little hit called "On Golden Pond." Not as many know that the Oscar-winning screenwriter for that film, Ernest Thompson, still lives in the state and has continued to write and make notable films. The economics of filmmaking left O.G.P. as a kind of high water mark for New Hampshire moviemaking, but the new wave of small budget films with big box office potential (think "Juno" and "Once") have re-invigorated independent filmmaking. The time is ripe for the artist-entrepreneurs like Thompson (www.ernestthompson.us). He knows his way around the state and has a script that is rooted in local granite: Elysian Farm. Investors are signing up for his Whitebridge Farm Productions company and seem confident that cinematic lightning can strike twice in New Hampshire's Lakes Region.

Spooky Parade: Remember those rare October days in childhood when you were invited to come to school dressed up in a sheet, wearing plastic fangs or covered in fake blood, then allowed to walk in a line past a group of delighted grownups? Relive those days in spades each year at the Portsmouth Halloween Parade, always on Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. Don't be afraid. It's spooktacular fun. (www.spookyportsmouth.com)

French Language "Deejay": Roger Lacerte, host of "Chez Nous" Sunday mornings, 9-12 on WFEA (1370 AM) Manchester (669-5777) - with his foot-tapping tunes and energetic chatter, the genial Monsieur Lacerte can keep you entertained and engaged even if you don't understand a word of what he's saying.

Minor League Baseball Broadcast: OK, there's only one, but it's a good one - Fisher Cats baseball on Manchester's WGIR 610 AM. Mike Murphy and Bob Lipman do a first-rate job of calling the plays and giving background information about the Fisher Cats and the rest of the Eastern League. The broadcasts are good even when the "Cats" are bad.

South of the Border Sounds: High up in the Yankee north you may not expect to find good, authentic Latin American music. Surprise yourself and visit Lebanon's Gusanoz Mexican Restaurant (www.gusanoz.com) on the first Saturday of the month where the tropical joy of The Black Beans heats up the room. This band, consisting of four Cubans and an Uruguayan (who writes most of their music), pulses with the contagious rhythms of the Caribbean and Latin America. They draw an avid crowd of dancers when they perform and they provide a few dance lessons for the uninitiated. Gusanoz does its part to fuel the Latin vibe with authentic Mexican specialties and 82 kinds of tequila.

Hard Rockers: Hampton Beach rockers Wicked Automatic (www.myspace.com/wickedautomatic) proudly proclaim their motto "Rock Hard or Die," and their music sounds more like what these guys are than simply what they do. Their EP "Brave New Story" has been licensed to MTV networks, picked up for a few sports movie soundtracks and digitally distributed in 146 countries. It's added to more commercial and college radio playlists every day. "It's not just about rockin' out and meeting attractive and interesting women anymore, its now about rockin' out, meeting attractive and interesting women and being a highly ambitious rock group," exclaims lead singer Jon aka Telfair Anderson. Wicked Automatic is already finishing a new full length record, which is set for global release in June of 2008. The record will be supported by a North American tour.

Rap Act: As the "gangster" persona has diminished from the rapper repertoire and as Hip Hop has brought in a world of musical influences to the once-urban soundscapes, opportunities for real authentic rap music have become boundless. Out of that sonic wave bursts Granite State, a group of guys from Exeter who represent their New England roots with lofty emotional passion and raw sensual pleasure. Worth a listen, even if you've never really embraced rap, because this music reaches out and grabs you. "Word up to the 603," a new CD is due out soon. www.myspace.com/granitestate.

Locally Produced TV Show: John Herman, a Portsmouth-based performer and videographer, has created a fascinating and addictive interactive Web serial, Gravityland, which is produced entirely in New Hampshire. High production values and intricate plotting (with some of the twists and turns provided by feedback from viewers) make this puzzling program as entertaining as it is ambitious. (www.gravityland.com)

Theater for Movie Lovers: Anyone who has been there and enjoyed the comfortable seats, the great sight lines and the cheerful staff of mostly volunteers knows Red River Theatres (www.redrivertheatres.org)is a wonderful asset for Concord, nay, for New Hampshire. They not only run popular foreign films and some classic repertory cinema, they feature lots of American movies that you've probably never heard of, but the programming is so excellent that you are always guaranteed a film that is worth the price and well worth your time. Conversations after the show flow naturally out into the lobby. Snacks and drinks are reasonably priced and beer, wine and sandwiches are available. Parking? Did we mention the theatre is essentially built in to a parking garage that's free after 5 p.m.

Barbershop on the Bay: You may be surprised how much fun you'll have listening to a full concert of barbershop quartet music. The New Hampshire Barbershop Quartet (863-1492) comes to Alton every spring to entertain hundreds of people with this very special brand of all-American a cappella stylings.

Band of Gypsies: From the rural seacoast town of Strafford comes the percussive and exultant gypsy strains of Ameranouche (www.ameranouche.com). Featuring guitarists Richard Sheppard, Ryan Flaherty and bassist Xar Adelberg, this nationally acclaimed jazz ensemble plays acoustic compositions, both original and unique arrangements by American and Gypsy songwriters. As revealed in the complex and recursive music of guitar legend Django Reinhardt, gypsy music tapped into an ethereal sphere, somewhere between J.S. Bach and M.C. Escher. This may explain why three songs from the first Ameranouche album were selected to appear in this summer's "post-apocalyptic political thriller" Beachparty at Threshold of Hell, produced by National Lampoon. A second album is under way.

Arts Booster: Artists have always needed their patrons, but for arts to take root in a community requires something more powerful than money: love. Meri Goyette loves art and she loves her city of Nashua. She's worked cleverly behind the scenes to embed a number of artistic works into the warp and weft of her city. But her current effort promises to be her legacy. Goyette has teamed up with Brookline's Andre Institute, connecting also with groups like, City Arts Nashua, the Great American Downtown and Nashua Area Artists Association, all helping artists from around the world come to Nashua to create permanent sculptural installations. Soon, several sculptures by artists hailing from regions as far flung as Vietnam and the Czech Republic will be installed in public spaces, transforming both the places and the people who pass by each day Above, Meri applauds while sculptor Mai Thu Van from Vietnam receives a token of thanks for participating in the Nashua Sculpture Symposium 2008.

Editor's Picks: This and That

Celebrity Couple: Tiffany Eddy and Tom Griffith are happily married, to other people, but on Channel 9's hit show "New Hampshire Chronicle," they are the friendly host and hostess and perfect pair of tour guides for the Granite State. They never worked together until Chronicle (www.wmur.com/chronicle) started in September 2001. They were on opposite news shifts - she was the morning girl and he was the night guy until, in 2002, Tiffany moved from Daybreak to co-anchoring News Nine Tonight at 11 with Tom. They really do like each other. And although they've spent an amazing amount of time together, after almost seven years they still make each other laugh. Tom just celebrated 20 years at the station in January, so he's seen a lot of women come and go in the chair next to him. (Colleagues often challenge him to name them all in order!) Many friends and fans kept tabs on Tiffany as she went from expectant mom to loving mother of a gorgeous (and slightly hammy) daughter. And as those who watch closely may already have suspected, she is expecting her second, a little boy, in August.

Theatre Critic: Kevin Gardner doesn't mince words, either as a writer or an on-air personality, and particularly not as a theatre critic, a role for which he is both well suited and well trained. He's been the go-to guy for adjudication and talk-back at the N.H. Community Theatre Festival, where he must provide immediate and face-to-face constructive criticism to performers who are still flush with the excitement of their performances. Now he provides equally honest and insightful commentary on locally-produced plays for his reviews on New Hampshire Public Radio (www.nhpr.org). The strength of a creative community can be measured by its ability to draw a crowd to artistic events. But its health is best determined by how it handles informed criticism. Gardner is betting that local community and professional theatre groups are ready for someone to take the kid gloves off and tell it like it is.

Subversive Journalist: Dave Ridley doesn't even pretend to be an objective journalist. As often as not he's the one making the news, like when he staged an "illegal puppet show" outside the Statehouse, hoping to be arrested to reveal one of the many outdated laws still on the New Hampshire books (the police declined the opportunity, by the way). But Ridley, via his video Web cast the Ridley Report (www.ridleyreport.com), does use the First Amendment in a way that would please the guys who wrote it. After all, not all the government abuses take place in grand scale. Lots of political and social issues, from home schooling to peaceful protests, take place under the radar of the regular media where Ridley and his video camera fly free.

Elegant Expansion: Head to the Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods (www.mtwashington.com), where the famed grand resort is getting the Disney version of an extreme makeover. We're talking major money, with about $22 thousand in upgrades going in to each guest room. That's a lot of pillows, and the colors and fabrics are yummy. Next, a billion-dollar planned community, brought to you by the same people who put together Celebration Florida, is being phased in. With the magic of Disney, who knows, winters in New Hampshire might be more manageable.

Double Entendre Street Name: Main Street in Rochester, said to be named after Rev. Amos Main, the first settled pastor of the local Congregational Church. "We think it's apocryphal, but we believe it anyway," says Chip Noon, director of the Rochester Main Street program. Just to be sure, he visited the statue of Parson Main at the junction of North and South Main. "I asked the parson and he said it was true," Noon reports.

Free State Watering Hole: Murphy's Tap Room in Manchester (murphystaproom.net) opened just over a year ago and quickly became known for its good food and service, agreeable prices and interesting political conversation. It was a destination bar for Ron Paul followers during the presidential primary campaign, and remains popular with those of a libertarian bent. Diagonally across from the Verizon Wireless Arena, it's also at the very point where Manchester's Saint Patrick's Day parade ends each year. Surely, Murphy's has the "luck o' the Irish!"

Unknown New Hampshire Town: When was the last time you took the kids on a road trip to Purmort? This Granite State Brigadoon is little more than the name on a sign for Exit 16 southeast of Lebanon on I-89. It's a fictitious moniker taken from the name of an early settler in order to meet naming conventions for interstate exits. However, a community by that name has now taken root around the exit and you can even buy Purmort souvenirs, including mugs and birthday cards.

Dinner Theatre: Why settle for mere dinner theater when you can have "interactive mystery dinner theater"? Mayhem and Murder Productions (mayhemandmurder.com) will turn a pleasant three-course meal into an unforgettable (slightly racy) night of entertainment. This show, with some of the state's best actors in tow, will come to you and fill any space, private home or ballroom, with delicious fun.

N.H. Photo Op: If you want to prove to your out-of-state friends that you live in quaint ol' New England, plant yourself in downtown Dublin (once called Monadnock No. 3) with its 19th-century white and red wooden buildings, including the 1882 Town Hall, the 1852 Dublin Church, the quaint red painted Dublin Police Department and the iconic Yankee magazine building If you're too lazy to drive, you can e-mail a Dublin postcard by getting on to ePodunk.com and searching for Dublin, N.H.

Gloriously Gossipy Web Site: New Hampshire Theatre Happenings, "the Online Greenroom" for N.H. theatre (www.nhtheatre.org), is a place where the state's community and, to a lesser degree, professional theatre insiders gather to pass roses and toss brickbats between performances and casting calls. It's as high-strung as a diva on Dexatrim and as melodramatic as the night of call backs for the local production of "High School Musical," but for anyone who knows or wants to peer behind the scenes of the local theatre community, it's addictive stuff. Run by Brett Mallard, patriarch of a local theatre dynasty, it's well designed and managed. The site offers many useful services for theatres and actors, plus online interviews with theatre luminaries, many of them locals who have gone on to Broadway.

Celebrity Dog: He goes by Jefferson, but his full honorific is Ch. Tennescott Jefferson Notch, a champion Bernese Mountain dog who lives in Littleton. He was recently featured in Martha Stewart Living and has made the news for his work raising money for the "Trees For Troops" program at The Rocks Christmas tree farm. He was a featured dog in the American Kennel Club magazine last year, and his work as a therapy dog has been written up in international newsletters. His owner, Barbie Beck-Wilczek, (www.wilczekwoodworks.com) says he's simply following in the charismatic pawprints of his father Machais, whose handsome mug was pictured on the cover of Dog Fancy Magazine and in the Bernese Mountain Dog calendar. Jefferson hasn't let fame go to his head. He works alongside his family and can often be found pulling a wooden cart on shopping trips.

Unique Opera House: The Rochester Opera House (www.rochesteroperahouse.com) recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and is the only remaining opera house of the era with a functional moving floor. That functionality had been lost to common knowledge until a group of engineering students in 1985 discovered the mechanism in a area filled with insulation through a small trap door in the floor. A motor and a series of pulleys raised the floor for stage performances and lowered the floor for dancing. In 1997 the opera house was reopened with fanfare, fully restored with the original mural designs and ready for performances.

College Costumed Mascot: Keggy! A creation of the Dartmouth humor magazine, The Jack-O-Lantern (dartmouth.edu/~jacko/). Here he is described in their own words: "Keggy is perennially ranked as among Dartmouth's finest anthropomorphic beer kegs. He came to Dartmouth in the fall of 2003 and instantly became a national sensation, lauded by ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" host Michael Wilbon as "some stupid beer thing," interviewed by Playboy magazine, mentioned in the Washington Times, discussed by Sports Illustrated on Campus, featured on CollegeHumor.com and written up in several Ivy League newspapers. Keggy was ruthlessly kidnapped and held hostage for several days, suffering one torn-off eye and and a badly damaged nose. After a ransom note was sent to Keggy's Jack-o creators, Hanover Police began a town-wide manhunt for Keggy's captors. He was eventually rescued and, after extensive physical therapy, he returned to his normal activities of cheering on Dartmouth sports teams.

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