Chocolate brings smiles to the masses. Whether hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake or just delicious chocolate by itself; it can’t help but bring out the best in all of us. When we see the sweet treat a smile come to our faces. We know it means a brief sugar rush. It’s supposed to be an aphrodisiac. So it only makes sense that someone should throw a Chocolate Fest, right??
Well tomorrow, March 9th from 12 – 2pm at Colby-Sawyer College; chocolate lovers will converge for the 18th annual Chocolate Fest! Tickets are just $10. This festival will include “best chocolate” and “best display” in which festival guests will be voting for the winner. This is an event not to miss! So if you are in the Lake Sunapee region swing by and if not head that way or you may have to wait till next year and it’s chocolate so that’s just not worth it when you can taste the region’s best chocolate!
Every year as winter begins to lose its bite and the temperature starts to break away from freezing during the day and creep into the forties maple trees start to produce their sweet sap. At this time collection of the clear fluid begins by a tap in the tree collecting the sap in a bucket or by piping it to a collection station. The sap is brought to the sugar house where the sap is turned into syrup by boiling the water out of the syrup. 35-50 gallons of sap is needed to make just one gallon of maple syrup depending on the sugar count in the sap. The syrup this then filtered and bottled for us to take home and enjoy.
New Hampshire will be celebrating the Maple Syrup production process on March 23rd and 24th when over 110 sugar houses will be opening their doors to celebrate and educate us about the sweetest food found in New Hampshire. The weekend will include learning how maple syrup is made, samples, horse- drawn rides and of course pancake breakfasts. Make sure to check out your local sugar house!
When most people think about potatoes they think Maine or Idaho but what about New Hampshire’s potatoes? I’m not talking about who’s the most prosperous potato producing state in the industry, but who has adopted the white potato as their state vegetable. New Hampshire has as of mid-February.
Why the potato, you may ask? Well a group of fourth graders from Derry Village School in Derry, New Hampshire were research the white potato when the discover the place the white potato first grew in North America was Nutfield, New Hampshire now known as Londonderry, the birth place of General John Stark. I’m not suggesting he or his family grew the first potato but it was first planted by an Irish-Scottish immigrants. The state of Virginia weighed in on this, claiming that Virginia grew the first potato but they have since withdrawn their claim. The students requested the state house make the white potato the state vegetable. After some debt about the potato and a consideration for broccoli as the state vegetable the students request was approved.
So a little about white potatoes… White potatoes also sometime called Irish Potatoes. Potatoes are edible starchy tubers. They are in the night shade family with bell peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. They were first brought to Europe after the invasion of South America. They were adopted into the English and Irish diets. When the Irish were migrating to North America they took this dietary staple with them and began producing in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire no longer grows potatoes commercially but they can be purchased as part of the fall harvested at most local farmers markets. They can also often be purchased at winter markets because they store well in root cellars or a cool dry location.
For those of you curious the state fruit is the pumpkin as of 2006!!
Cut the potatoes in half or quarters and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary; toss until the potatoes are well coated. Dump the potatoes on a baking sheet and spread out into 1 layer; roast in the oven for at least 1 hour, or until browned and crisp. Flip twice with a spatula during cooking to ensure even browning.
Remove the potatoes from the oven, season to taste, and serve
I’ve been dying to start my Drinking Around New Hampshire blog but the timing never seemed to work out. Holidays, busy schedules and blizzards have kept me from experiencing what New Hampshire has to drink, until Wednesday.
Now, many may not know this but New Hampshire may become the drinking capital of America. Currently New Hampshire has 28 licensed wineries. Twenty-one of which you can visit and they aren’t limited to just grapes. They also include fruit wines, meads, spirits and ciders. But when it comes to your favorite drink, New Hampshire doesn’t stop at wine. They offer at least 21 breweries, microbreweries and brew pubs and it’s still growing. With the new laws about nanobreweries, I predict beer brewing will continue to expand. Especially since New Hampshire is said to sell the most beer per capita. Looking for something a little bit more family friendly. Homemade soda can also be found here. This is the home of Moxie after all. Check out the links below for the new laws about nanobreweries and New Hampshire’s beer consumption
But now onto my Wednesday night adventure to LaBelle Winery.
LaBelle Winery isn’t a new winery in New Hampshire. It was start over six years ago by Amy LaBelle. In this time, LaBelle has grown and expanded, including their new building which opened on Route 101 in Amherst in October 2012. The new building includes a surrounding vineyard on rolling hills, and outdoor dining area with a large fire pit. The inside is beautifully decorated with a tasting room and gift shop, not limited to just wines but also jellies, chocolate and wine lovers’ gifts. The new building also has a stunning ballroom for functions. The room has already hosted 5 weddings. Check out LaBelle’s website from the link below.
LaBelle’s wines have received over fifty awards for their wines while competing against large scale wineries. Twenty-three wines are offered on the tasting menu and three cooking wines. An $8 tasting fee is required for five one ounce tastings, for an additional $5 you can taste 5 more wines. I tasted five wines. The menu is in order of dry to semi sweet, white to red, and finishes with dessert. So I tried two white, two red and a dessert. The first wine I tried was the Seyval Blanc. I found it refreshing and summery, lightly sweet with a crisp finish. This wine would be great for relaxing around the pool or to enjoy at a summer barbecue. It’s supposed to pair well with fish or creamy pasta dishes. The Apple Cranberry was my next wine of choice. The apples from this wine are from Walpole, New Hampshire and the cranberries from the cape. Thanksgiving turkey would love to be paired with this perfumed slightly sweet wine. My next wine was the Granite State Red. This wine is the best in house seller while the Cranberry wine is the best local wine seller according to my wine serving hostess, who was very charming and informative. The Granite State Red is a blend of a Marchel Foch grape that has been aged on French oak with a touch of blueberry to smooth out the finish. This is a wine I had to take home and enjoy again later. It was a flavorful smooth red that will pair well with grilled meat especially steak! The Virginia Mae Sweet Blueberry was my second red wine tasting. I love blueberry wines and I really enjoyed this one, but what I loved best about this wine is that this wine was named after Amy LaBelle’s aunt. Her aunt had suffered from ALS and now LaBelle’s donates a portion of the money made on the sale of this wine to ALS. My final tasting was the Dulce and all I can say is bring on the apple crisp on a cool fall day!! This wine is fantastic and this is when I got the chance to meet Amy herself. She came out when I tasted the Dulce wine. She was a fascinating woman with her passion for wine. I really enjoying meeting the winemakers and hearing what they think of their wines. Dulce is a hybrid grape variety that is enhanced with cinnamon, vanilla, and New Hampshire maple syrup and it begs for warm apple crisp and a side of ice cream on a crisp autumn day. But what I found most appetizing is the mixed drink recipe LaBelle offers for this wine. I suggest trying it.
Vanilla & Rum Eggnog
2oz LaBelle winery Dulce
2 oz Hood Eggnog
½ oz simple syrup
Dash of Labelle Winery Pure Vanilla
Dash of cinnamon sugar and nutmeg
Blend first five ingredients over ice in a strainer & shake to blend until frothy. Strain into martini glass with sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, nutmeg and a candy cane for fun!
Drink recipes aren’t the only wine instruction they offer. How about dinner ideas? Here’s a recipe they offer using their jalapeno cooking wine:
1 tbsp of olive oil 2 large red onions, chopped
3 tbsp chopped jalapeno with seeds 6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 ½ lbs ground beef 1 tbsp flour, preferably Wondra
¼ cup chili powder 2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt 1 tsp paprika
1 can diced tomatoes 2 15oz cans kidney beans, drained
1 cup LaBelle Winery Jalapeno Pepper wine 1 14oz can beef broth
Optional: sour cream, grated cheese, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion sauté until brown. Add jalapenos and garlic; sauté about a minute. Add beef; sauté until brown, breaking up as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Add flour, chili powder, cumin, salt and paprika, then mix in tomatoes with juice, LaBelle’s Jalapeno Cooking Wine, beans, and broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chili thickens, Stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Can be made ahead, keep refrigerated. Serve with toppings.
But with Labelle’s new facility the buck doesn’t stop here. Make sure you check out their website for upcoming event and details. Here’s a list of a few:
Upcoming LaBelle Events
Feb. 20 – Princess K.I.M.: A Path to a Play. Hear how Maryann Cocca-Leffler made her book into a play!
Feb. 27 – Introduction to Wine. Learn from a LaBelle expert
Mar 10 – Winemaker Brunch (Reservation Recommended) An intimate, plated meal, made by winemaker Amy LaBelle
Mar 31 – Easter Brunch (Reservation Recommended) Seasonal delights from our chef, plus an Easter Egg Hunt!
Apr 25 – Beer & Wine Pair with White Birch Brewery
May 2 – Introduction to Winegrowing/ Viticulture. Vineyard Manager & Winemaker teach Grape Growing 101
May 12 – Mother’s Day Brunch (Reservation Recommended) Honor Mom with a delicious meal.
June 6 – Summer Music Series Kickoff. Live music every Thursday night on the terrace.
June 16 – Father’s Day Clambake (Reservation Recommended)
Looks like New Hampshire will be enjoying a good deal of snow Friday. So this is just a friendly reminder to give your plow guy a call and take Friday off. Stay home with the family and watch New Hampshire get a fresh blanket of snow while sipping some hot chocolate by the fire. Check out the link below for Super Secret Projects song Plow Guy.
So while looking up items and information for future blogs, I came across an article in NH Magazine “Find Out What’s Sexy About New Hampshire” that I got quite the laugh from so I had to share it with you. I never knew NH was such a sexy state. Hahaha!
“Live free or die: For death is not the worst of all evils.”, was written by General John Stark as a toast for an anniversary reunion of the Battle of Bennington in July 1809, in which General Stark and his men with the aid of Colonel Seth Warner and the Green Mountain Boys defeated a detachment of General John Burgoyne’s army in 1777. This victory pushed the revolution in the colonists favor. It also made General Stark one of New Hampshire’s most famous soldiers. General Stark was unable to attend the anniversary due to illness and sent the toast via letter.
So who is General John Stark? General Stark was a first generation New Hampshire native, born in Nutfield , New Hampshire; in an area which is now Londonderry, on August 28th 1728. He was born the second son of Scottish immigrants Archibald and Eleanor (Nichols) Stark who were originally planning to land in Boston but their ship was said to have potential cases of small poxes and was sent away. When Stark was eight his family moved to Derryfield, now Manchester, where they settled and began there life. Stark grew into a frontiersman, exploring the New Hampshire wilderness. In his early twenties, Stark joined his brother and a small group of friends on a hunting trip. While out Stark was captured he tried to divert the Native Americans from his comrades but they got nervous about his extended disappearance. They let off a shot signaling the natives to their location. Stark’s brother got away, another member was killed and the last man was captured with Stark. Stark survived his imprisonment with the Natives and was even said to have earned their respect with his headstrong and bold behavior. His release was eventually purchased and he spent two year paying back the Massachusetts colonists who purchased his freedom. Stark’s adventures didn’t end there though that was only the beginning for him. He eventually took up arms as a member of Roger’s Rangers under Major Robert Roger. They joined the French Indian War also known as the Seven Year War. During his time as a Ranger, Stark and the Rangers were ordered to do a raid on a Native village in Quebec. They refused to be involved in the unnecessary slaughter of the people and they returned to New Hampshire. Stark also refused to let his soldiers drink on St. Patrick’s Day while the regulars partied heavily. This decision saved the lives of all of the soldier because the French thought they could use the holiday as an opportunity to attack the men. Stark’s forethought saved the lives of the men as they fought off the French.
During this time Stark married Elizabeth “Molly” Page the daughter of Caleb and Ruth Page. The Stark’s had 11 children. One of their children was Caleb Stark. Caleb Stark served in the Revolutionary War under his father and continued to serve after his father resigned. He also served as a Senator in New Hampshire. Molly spent a great deal of time caring for her children and her husband business while he was away fighting. She also treated her husband’s troops for small pox. Stories are also told of Molly’s tomboyish ways. Legend has it she was also a sharp shooter.
After the war ended Stark returned home. He started his own business. Stark believed in productivity but when fight broke out in Lexington/ Concord, Stark raced to Boston to enlist. During his time he fought many battles and proved himself a brave man.
Stark lived to the ripe age of 94 always believing in hard work and I’m sure felt a great disappointment when he couldn’t join his men at the reunion.
The first half of the toast “Live free or die” was adopted as New Hampshire’s State motto in 1945. It is likely one of the most widely known state mottos. Even vacationing in Hawaii a man asked where we lived and we told him New Hampshire. He laughed and said all I know about New Hampshire is ‘Live free or die’. Our state motto is a tribute to men like Stark, who believed in liberty and freedom, who fought bravely for these believes but have they become nothing more than ideology with no value? Is it just your right to ride around without a helmet or a seat belt and pretend to be free for these novelty ideas? Or is freedom more? Is it the separation from oppression and if it is what is oppressing us? Should we have a right to defend ourselves in whatever way we choice? Should we have a right to educate our children as we see fit? Should we have the choice to treat our bodies as we see fit or choice a doctor or health care plan that we feel fits our life styles? When General Stark said “Live free or die: For death is not the worst of all evils.” was he warning us to not turn our backs on our inalienable right to choice to live our lives as we see fit?