TBones – Derry

My Dad – the Pop of Corn Dad’s humor always makes me roll my eyes even though I secretly chuckle.  He loves jokes that play with words or take a common phrase literally.  His sense of humor is at times bizarre.  Example?  Dad makes popcorn every time I visit (not the odd part, we love popcorn).  One Harry Potter night, while scarfing down popcorn, Dad said “when I die I want my coffin to be filled with popcorn.”  Why?  “So that as people walk by to pay their respects they can grab a salty handful to snack on.”  Of course.

If you eat in the bar at the Derry TBones, be sure to ask for popcorn to snack on while you wait (they’ll only bring it if you ask).  [Update: a CP reader informed me Tbones has complimentary bread in the dining room, so ask for that too!]  We parked easily in their large parking lot, and my friend Jen and I grabbed a booth in the bar.  Their drink menu is tantalizing but far too short.  I know they have a full bar, but I need a menu to suggest  fun concoctions.  We both started the night with a Raspberry Cosmo ($6 if ordered between 4-6pm).  It was sweet and tangy and way too easy to drink!

For an appetizer, we tried the Chicken Quesadilla ($6 if ordered from 4-6pm).  It was enormous, and filled to the brim with chicken, cheese, and veggies.  It was so stuffed with wonderful food that it resembled a burrito more than a traditional flat quesadilla: definitely a good sized appetizer to share.

My salmon (with two sides, I chose broccoli and butternut squash) was seasoned to perfection and cooked just right.  I enjoyed the combination of broccoli, squash and salmon together.  It was a fairly small portion, but at only $16 (and with a side salad no less) this is not unreasonable for seafood.

I am looking forward to returning to TBones, although I recommend going when you can take advantage of their drink and app specials (visit their website for more details).  Dad- I’m sorry to say, I hear that no food is allowed anywhere inside a funeral home, so no-go on the popcorn casket.  Bummer Pop, that’s a corny law!  (you groan, but I guarantee Dad’s loving it).  ¡Buen provecho!

CP4Less:  Join their rewards program and for every $100 you spend at Tbones or Cactus Jacks, you get a $10 gift certificate.  Join their email list and you’ll receive coupons from time to time (and one for your birthday).
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Mame’s Restaurant – Meredith

Click for icon explanationHappy Birthday – Have some Stitches  Ahh, Birthday Parties.  Mom was always good about having fantastic, affordable, theme-parties.  For my cat-themed 7th birthday, we had a homemade cat cake, homemade piñata cat head, and several silly games like pass the ball of yarn.  When my brother celebrated his 7th birthday, he requested a pirate-themed party.  Mom plundered the dollar store and purchased plastic swords for the guests.  I’m sure we had a blast battling pirates with our ‘authentic’ swords.  I took a good swipe at my brother and – there she blows – connected with the back of his skull (yes, I attacked when his back was turned- but that’s just good battle technique).  While plastic swords are certainly safer than say, a machete, they still aren’t designed to come in direct contact with skulls during battle.  Long story short, brother goes to the hospital and comes home with stitches.  Luckily I wasn’t forced to walk the plank.

My grandmother-in-law recently celebrated her 90th birthday.  Go Grandma!  To celebrate, the in-laws organized lunch at Mame’s, a restaurant in Meredith near her retirement community.  Originally a brick home built in 1825, it was converted into a restaurant in 1978, so it has an old-fashioned country feel.  The menu has a wide variety of food and prices, ranging from inexpensive lunch entrées to upscale specials.

I ordered tea with honey, but they oddly informed me they didn’t have honey.  Because there were eleven of us in the party, it’s tough to gauge service and speed, so I’ll just talk about food.   The Seafood Scampi Pizza was covered with crab, lobster, alfredo sauce and cheese for $11.  Even the crust, with a slight sweet flavor, was tasty.  The prominent seafood was accented with creamy sauce.  The pizza was very small, but there was quite a bit of seafood, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with the cost/size ratio.  My Maple Scallops with Risotto was disappointing.  Risotto, which I usually love, had absolutely no flavor and was like eating plain white rice.  Maybe they forgot an ingredient?  The scallops were drizzled with a maple balsamic sauce which complimented the scallops, but whoever did the drizzling should have made it rain a little harder: there wasn’t enough to flavor all the scallops.  I noticed online that the Maple Scallops are no longer on the menu- I wonder if I’m not the only one who found it lacking and they replaced it with something more tantalizing?  The enormous slices of cheesecake, decorated for the birthday gal, were rich and sinful.  I decided to eat half of my slice and take the rest home, but when I glanced down, my plate was empty.

While I wasn’t impressed with my meal, Rick’s pizza was so good that if I’m ever in this area again, I’ll return just for the pizza.  Thankfully the party favors were chocolates, so I was able to restrain myself from attacking Rick’s grandmother with plastic weaponry.  Puts a new spin on ‘death by chocolate’ though.  ¡Buen provecho!

CP4Less:  Restaurant.com currently has gift certs for Mame’s.
Keep it Local: unknown
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900 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza – Manchester

Click for icon explanationFool Me Twice…  “7 days without pizza makes one weak.”   Every Monday after tee-ball practice, Mom, Dad, my two brothers and I would squeeze into a booth at the Candia House of Pizza and split a large.  As time went on, one large wasn’t enough, as us kids felt we needed 2 pieces each (we didn’t – the pieces were huge and we were not).  My parents, not willing to waste money to buy an additional pizza, channeled their math skills and tricked us with an illusion.  The following Monday, my parents requested the pizza be cut into 16 pieces instead of 8.  When the pizza arrived, the three perception-challenged children quivered with glee.  “Look at all that pizza!  I’m gonna have 3 pieces instead of 2!”  Not only did we finish our meal fully satisfied, but there were even 2 pieces left.   Geez I had smart parents.

Which line is shorter?

I’d been hearing buzz about Manchester’s 900 Degrees, and being a pizza-lover, I was anxious to give it a try.  I visited on Sunday for lunch, easily parked in the lot, and was seated in a booth.  The atmosphere was rustic, cozy, and upscale – you can tell it’s a specialty-pizza place.  Their menu reads well, but because there are only a few options for lunch-size personal pizzas, I was able to choose quickly.  You can order full-size pizzas during lunch if you’d like, but we decided to order two lunch pizzas to try more of their selections.  They also offer appetizers, sandwiches and entrées, and I’m looking forward to testing their martini menu next time.

Their bread is bland, and needed to be soaked in the seasoned oil to be enjoyed.  I rarely order salads because I’m not a huge fan of them and I’d rather order something I can’t make at home.  The Catalina Salad caught my eye though, with mixed greens, grapes, cranberries, roasted almonds, onions and goat cheese.  The onions (amazing) looked like worms but were my favorite part of the salad.   I didn’t even need the lemon vinaigrette that came with it.  I could easily eat this salad every day, and that’s saying a lot coming from me.

What is the best thing to put on a pizza?  Your teeth!  The Bella Cosa  and BBQ Chicken Pizzas arrived looking much larger than a personal pizza should – great portions for the cost.  They were cut into only 4 pieces though, so my perception-challenged appetite ate them all.  Curse you parents, you’d think I’d learn by now!  The Bella Cosa -garlic cream sauce, onions, spinach, rosemary ham, and prosciutto- tasted a lot like a creamy seafood dish (probably the garlic cream sauce) and was delicious through all 4 slices and quite salty (which I like).  BBQ pizza tends to have too much BBQ sauce for my taste, but this was a nice balance of sauce, cheese, chicken and crust.  The sauce complemented the flavors rather than overpowered them.   Sadly, because I mowed down my entire pizza, I had no room left for their dessert apple pizza, which sounded delightful.  Has anyone tried it?  It’ll have to go on my list for next time, along with those  martinis.

The lunch pizzas are a tasty deal, I just wish they had more options (not all their regular pizzas are available in lunch size).  I’m looking forward to trying other pizza creations on their menu.   I’ll just have to remember to cut mine into more slices next time and save a few for leftovers.  ¡Buen provecho!

CP4Less:  Check 900’s website, as they have specials throughout the week (ie. on Tuesdays- select martinis are $5).
Keep it Local:  Several of their menu items contain organic ingredients and they use a lot of local foods.   900 Degrees is so committed to Going Green that they dedicate an entire portion of their website to it (energy, water conservation etc).   They even have an Environmental Mission Statement.
*Love pizza?  A Slice of NH is a blog dedicated to NH pizza places!
Posted in Manchester | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Loaf and Ladle

My Brother is a Bread Hoarder Growing up, when my brother wanted bread, he would open the bag, take out a piece, and bite a corner off.  Then he’d put that slice down, take out the next one, and bite a corner off.  He’d repeat this corner-biting ceremony with every slice in the entire loaf, leaving my mom with a pile of bread that resembled the ears of an alley cat.  Even though my mom hid the bread as soon as she returned from the grocery store, he still managed to find and slaughter it.  In an effort not to waste food, Mom cut off the violated portions, leaving me with abstract art sandwiches.

I recently visited the Loaf and Ladle with said brother, but this time, he is not getting anywhere near my bread!  The Loaf is famous for their homemade breads, and I have to admit, this restaurant holds a great deal of nostalgia for me.  My dad works in Exeter, and growing up, he would often meet us at the Loaf during his lunch break.  I associate this place with my childhood, so now, many years later and with my grown-up taste buds, I’m interested to see what it’s like.

The Loaf and Ladle is located in downtown Exeter with scenic views of the river (and unfortunately it gets severely flooded).   No parking lot, so plan on a little on-street searching.  Their sandwiches and soups are listed on a sign.  You order cafeteria-style and can take your food into their worn-out dining area.  Hubby and I arrived ahead of the rest of the family, so I took advantage of the time and began the painstaking decision process.  One employee was frustrating and one attentive.  As soon as I came in the door, one asked me what soup I wanted.  I informed her I was waiting for my family, and we’d order then.  She asked what kind of bread I wanted with my soup.  I repeated that I was waiting for my family.  Within the next 5 minutes, she asked me the same question three more times!  Eventually she left and I was able to ponder the choices.  Their sandwich menu was unimpressive, lacking any unique sandwich options.  The soup menu was far more interesting.  The other employee overheard me choosing, and she graciously offered me samples of my top choices.  So helpful!  I tried a spoonful of the corn chowder, pesto potato, and chili, and decided on the corn chowder with a chicken salad sandwich (all their cream soups are made with non-dairy cream).  With each soup order, you get to select a hefty slice of fresh bread, so I went with the sweet carrot lemon bread.

My chicken salad sandwich was good but not remarkable (other than it had all four corners intact).  The thin bread slices meant plenty of room for lettuce, tomatoes, and sprouts but I felt they could easily (and should have) scooped on more chicken.   The creamy corn chowder was well seasoned, but in my corn-crazed opinion, needed more kernels.  The thick slices of carrot lemon bread were moist and sweet:  no butter needed.  It would have been even better warmed or toasted.  Dad’s veggie burger chili was rich and thick.  This blog sure is a great excuse to ‘need’ to taste test everyone’s food!  Yum!

My brothers sandwich (after my artistic tasting)

While it certainly didn’t live up to my childhood memories, the food is good and portions filling, especially the creative and plentiful soups.  While nothing screamed “exceptional,” it was all tasty, fresh food, so an easy choice for a quick lunch.  In the future, I’ll probably order my meal to go – and toast my bread at home -or sit outside and skip the drab dining area.  I guess I’m the bread hoarder today, as I ate a corner out of everyone’s sandwich, including my brother’s.  Ah, sweet revenge.   ¡Buen provecho!

CP4LessGood Eats currently offers 50% off gift certs to the Loaf and Ladle
Keep it Local:  With no website or FB page, it’s tough to know much, but I did see local artwork for sale  on their walls.

Posted in Exeter | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Country Tavern Restaurant & Pub – Nashua

CP Yearns to go to Hogwarts I am a Harry Potter fan (and by fan, I mean dork- I crocheted myself a Gryffindor scarf).  Hubby and I are both music teachers, and you’ll often hear us joke that our conducting batons are Harry Potter wands (hey, this joke kills in 4th grade).   Before each movie release, my parents, brothers, Hubby and I traditionally get together and watch all the previous movies.  This worked great at first, but with each new release, it got harder because there was always one additional movie to add to the queue.  So in anticipation of needing to watch all seven before the final movie release this July, we are gathering to watch HP1 this evening.

Hubby and I decided to visit Country Tavern beforehand because I only have a few more days to use my birthday month discount.  Country Tavern is a restored farmhouse in Nashua, and if I didn’t live an hour away, I’d eat here once a week.  From the taste of the food, to the drink specials, to the prices, to the staff- Country Tavern is a gem.

Wednesdays mean free apps in the bar from 4-6 and ½ off martinis.  I love a good cocktail menu, and their martini list alone is enough to keep me returning.  I have indulged in several of their unique martinis, including Key Lime Pie, Oatmeal Cookie, Carrot Cake, and Asian Pear.

We parked in their lot and easily found a booth in the bar.  The free apps for today were sweet and spicy chicken wings.  You know my trepidation of spicy food, but Hubby thoroughly enjoyed them and went up for seconds (and thirds).  I spent the time attempting to decide which amazing martini to order.   I had it narrowed down to two, but when I asked the bartender his thoughts on them, he informed me there were other options not on the menu.  Apparently a few of his drinks were poached and showed up on other restaurants’ menus.  Scandalous!  He recommended a Lemon Meringue martini and I jumped right on that.  This whipped cream-topped martini was so scrumptious it may even be a new favorite, and the graham crackers on the rim are an authentic touch.

They bring out rolls if you order an entrée, and both of our meals came with salads, so I enjoyed drinking my pie and eating salad and rolls while hubby devoured chicken wings.  I recommend trying their honey poppy seed dressing- it’s tangy and sweet which makes eating a salad a treat.

Hubby ordered Seafood Fettuccine and I ordered Butternut Squash Ravioli.  The Seafood was smothered in a rich parmesan cream sauce that didn’t overpower the flavor of the plentiful seafood but was strong enough to enhance the pasta.  The Ravioli sauce contained amaretto, and I’d drink it like a smoothie if I could.  The raviolis themselves needed more butternut inside.  In fact, one of my ravioli’s was completely empty!  Luckily, the sauce on plain pasta would still make a great dish.  However, I think it would be even more incredible if the ravioli were stuffed liberally with butternut.  While chatting with the bartender about the sauce, he mentioned that it’s even better made with Frangelico, which implies the sauce is made to order.   I will request this next time.

I must discuss the service.  Every server we’ve ever had here has been exceptionally friendly, relaxed and eager to accommodate, which I find is highly unusual for restaurants.  The bartender, our server this time, was friendly and humorous, but also knew when to retreat and let us be.  I think I overheard him telling another table that the restaurant houses a ghost, so I’m intrigued.  Does anyone know the story?

Country Tavern was a great place to kick-off our Harry Potter marathon.  The food, drinks, service, and prices were stellar; with the only “flaw” being it’s so far away from me!  When I figure out how to use the Floo network, I will surely be a regular here. ¡Buen provecho!

CP4Less: With a Tavern Club card (free, sign up online), all entrees for you and one guest are always $12, lunch is always buy one get one free, a free entrée during your birthday month, and Sunday buffet is always $2 off.  Check their website for monthly specials such as ½ drinks.
Keep it Local: unknown
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Cafe Teresa – Londonderry

Take with a Grain of Salt Help my marriage!  Hubby and I have a recurring argument and we need you to weigh in.  Is ‘spicy’ a flavor or a sensation that simply masks all flavors?  You know where I stand, but for my new readers, I avoid spicy food like a witch avoids water.  I relish the complex flavors of a meal, probably due to my super nose.  When I eat

spicy food though, the spiciness numbs all my little eager taste buds like a shot of Novocain – and I taste nothing.   Plus, anything I eat for a good 20 minutes after also tastes like nothing, so I sometimes worry I’m permanently damaging my taste buds.  Hubby however, is drawn to spicy food, like I am to garlic.  When I ask him what he tastes, he says “spicy food.”  So readers, where do you fall in the great spice debate?  Does a kick of spicy improve the flavor of your meal or wipe it out completely?

I now return you to the regularly scheduled program:  We arrived at Café Teresa in Londonderry at 7pm, and the parking lot was packed, but we were seated within a few minutes.  They brought complimentary chips and salsa, but served on a plate, so every time I tried to grab one, I pushed chips off the other end.  Café Teresa serves both Mexican and Italian food, which seems odd, but they organize the menu into two separate categories.  The menu reads well, and there were several items that sounded appealing.  I didn’t order a drink, but their cocktail menu had enticing options as well.  I ordered one of the specials, Scallops over pasta in a lemon garlic sauce with spinach and tomatoes, hubby ordered the Jambalaya Pasta, and the in-laws ordered a Fajita Salad and Chicken Pesto dish.

The feel of the place is sparse.  Not dirty, it just feels empty or like they’re coming off a remodel.  Our meals came with small house salads, a nice addition to the elusive chips.  The meals arrived:  clearly fresh ingredients, large portions, and lots of meat in the pasta.  (My amateur photo skills = no pictures of the meals, oops!)  I was shocked when I actually tried mine.  It wasn’t seasoned well and tasted very bland; probably how it would taste if I made it myself.  My in-laws also agreed that their dishes were lacking in flavor as well.  I requested some parmesan cheese, hoping it would help, but our busy server forgot.  Hubby enjoyed his Jambalaya, which was spicy, so sounds like this may be a place to go if you’re looking for spicy rather than rich taste.

The full dining room makes me feel like I overlooked something, but three of the four of us felt the same way.  The bland food and bland atmosphere means I probably won’t be back.  And I’ll keep a container of garlic salt in my car just in case. ¡Buen provecho!

Posted in Londonderry | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Pochito’s Mexican Restaurant – Manchester

UPDATE: Pochito’s has closed.
CP Takes a Latin Lover I judge a book by its cover.  I know the adage, but I do it anyway.  How else am I supposed to choose a book?  To choose restaurants, I read their online menus .  This also helps me waste less of people’s time deciding.  Trust me, it takes forever to even choose what earrings to wear, so dining with me can be a bit tedious.

My father-in-law wanted to check out Pochito’s, a new Mexican restaurant in Manchester.  I found their menu online but was quickly disappointed.  None of the dish descriptions made me salivate.  Had it been up to me, I would have passed and checked out a different place.  But you can’t argue with the father-in-law, right?

Pochito’s has a parking lot, we were quickly seated, and brought water, chips and salsa (things are looking up).  The chips were good and salsa refreshing.  When the basket was low, our server never asked if we wanted more – she just brought more.  And more.  And more.  The energizer bunny must have replaced our salsa/chips at least four times.  Brownie points (I mean, brownies!)

CP with a Latin Lover

The atmosphere was upbeat with lots of chatter.  I was worried because I dislike having to raise my voice just to talk to my companions.  The tables were spaced out so the other conversations did not compete with ours and the music was soft enough that we could easily talk.

Before choosing my meal, I read the most important item: the drink menu.  A Latin Lover?  Of course I had to try it.  I find drinks like this tend to be mainly juice with a splash of liquor.  This drink packed a punch without tasting alcoholicky.  Not a word, but you know what I’m talking about.

After twists and turns down a hallway to the bathroom, I felt like a mouse in a maze, minus the cheese prize at the end.  When I exited the restrooms, I was completely disoriented.  Those mice have it rough.  I needed my GPS, but managed to find my way back.  This would have been much tougher had I been drinking several Latin Lovers, so bar hoppers, beware.  Bring a guide with you or you may never find your way back.

Skip this 'spinach' dip

The Spinach Dip appetizer was not worth it.  It tasted good, but was basically melted Velveeta with a garnish of spinach.  I want food that I can’t recreate at home.  I made out with my Latin Lover instead.

Sizzling fajitas and plates of food descended upon us.  I ordered the Caribbean Plate, and it looked far better than I anticipated.   Haddock, scallops and shrimp with amazing sautéed veggies aside rice that was moist and rich with flavor.  The spices they use were perfect, not hot.  I generally find authentic Mexican food to be bland, but this was not the case.  Everyone at the table raved about the flavors in their food (Caribbean fajitas and Taco salad).

I can’t wait to bring my mother here (she’s from Guatemala) to see what she thinks.  I hope my dad won’t mind if she decides to take a Latin Lover too.   ¡Buen provecho!

CP4Less:  Check out restaurant.com, they currently have Pochito’s gift certs.
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Firefly American Bistro and Bar – Manchester

Country Music Got it Right By day- and nights, and weekends- I’m a music teacher.  Considering that I have my undergrad and masters, you’d think I’d have very refined music taste.  Beethoven Symphonies.  Vivaldi Concertos.  I do love the classics, but when I need a little spring in my step, they don’t do it for me.  I’m sure admitting this is breaking some form of music teacher decorum, but there is nothing like a high steppin’ country song to get my feet tapping and my spirit singing.  Ironically, in college, country was one of the only genres I avoided.  Now, poor hubby, also a music teacher but with actual music teacher-y preferences, just chuckles when he walks in on me rockin’ and rollin’ to Luke Bryan singing “rain is a good thingrain makes corn, corn makes whiskey, whiskey makes my baby- get a little frisky.”  So readers, why shamefully admit this to you?  Because it turns out, when it comes to Firefly, I should have heeded the advice of country’s Alan Jackson (covering Jimmy Buffett) and accepted that “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”

Dirty Pumpkin Martini

Hubby and I are at Firefly for lunch to – surprise! – celebrate my birthday again.  Inform the server it’s your day and voila, free dessert.  On my last visit, I tried a Dirty Pumpkin martini, which was a delightful way to drink a pumpkin pie.  Behold a few selections on their Martini menu:  Peartini, Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate, Crème Brule, Chocolate Raspberry, Apple Pie, Blueberry Coffee Cake, and Pumpkin Harvest.  I gazed longingly at the drink menu, but didn’t feel right ordering one at noon, especially since I was planning on being productive when I returned home.

Firefly has their own parking lot, which is unusual for downtown Manchester.  There was no wait and after being seated, I went to the restrooms – and I didn’t want to leave.  I need their bathroom at my house.  It’s peacefully decorated, clean, cute and relaxing.

There are no free snacks at lunch, although I think there’s bread during dinner.  Their lunch menu offers several descriptive sandwich options for around $8 each.  I channeled my Guatemalan roots and ordered the Black Bean Burger with sweet potato fries but apparently they did not channel Guatemala’s love of seasoning.  The Burger fell flat, with no predominant flavor to encourage me to take another bite.  Hubby ordered the French Dip Sandwich (roast beef, swiss cheese, horseradish) with onion rings, which I pounced on.  I could feel my arteries clogging with every bite, but I happily clogged away (had I been dancing in clogs, my arteries may have been alright).  I didn’t try the sandwich (not a fan of horseradish) but he claimed it was good.

For dessert, I ordered chocolate mousse.  You’ll notice the ‘Happy Birthday’ icing is gone – I gracefully finger-ate that too.  The mousse itself was a good choice, but it was served atop of a mountain of Oreo crumbs.  I would have preferred less- and sprinkled on top or mixed in.  I ate the mousse and then ended up spooning mouthfuls of dry Oreos in my mouth, which ruined the memory of the creamy mousse.

Firefly’s food, both the meal and dessert, were ordinary.  The menu reads better than the food actually was.   I’ve heard their Sunday brunch is excellent and their Go-Go Bread app has won accolades, so next time I’ll order a martini and try the Go-Go.  I know from prior visits that their drinks are superior, so if you visit, consider heeding Jimmy Buffet’s advice and order a drink regardless of your time zone.  It is 5’o clock somewhere!

¡Buen provecho!

CP4Less: I haven’t found any deals for Firefly other than on a birthday.
Keep it Local: unknown
Posted in Manchester | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Van Otis Chocolates – Manchester

CP Smells Like a Dog Not that kind of smell, I wore deodorant today (although I do keep an extra stick at work for when I forget).  What I mean is, my freakishly alert nose notices smells that others don’t.  This can be a blessing (what’s better than the smell of sautéing garlic and onions?) or a curse (when my 5th grade students come in from recess).  I’ve read that about 80% of what we taste is actually due to our sense of smell, which explains why I love eating and discussing food.  Hubby, on the other hand, has basically no sense of smell which can be a blessing (I can eat as much garlic as I want) or a curse (if a cologne-wearing thief ever robs our home, we’re out of luck).

When it comes to Van Otis, I hope you share my nose power.  As soon as you open the door, you are assaulted with the enticing aroma of chocolate.  The air is saturated with it.  I stuck out my tongue (snowflakes style) to catch what had to be floating chocolate molecules, when my eyes landed on samples of nuts.  And popcorn.  And…holy chocolate, let me list all the items out for sampling today: 4 types of caramelized almonds (regular, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate), 3 types of gourmet popcorn (white chocolate, caramel, maple), roasted cashews, chocolate covered potato chips, peanut brittle, milk and dark swiss fudge, chocolate caramels, and chocolate disks filled with Zorvino’s Bacca Z and Fragole wine.  It gets better- the employees don’t glare, so you feel comfortable walking around and sampling one of everything, which you know I did!

How to choose?

I’m at Van Otis to use my bday coupon, of which I have two.  $5 off from WZID, and $5 off plus a free chocolate bar from Van Otis.  I was unsure if they’d let me use both, but I was going to try.

You already know I make sloth-like decisions.  The employee who helped me was extremely helpful.  She didn’t offer unsolicited advice (I’m not a huge fan of that), but when I approached her, she offered helpful suggestions and waited cheerfully while I hemmed and hawed over their extensive selection.

I focused on dark chocolate.  This lets me pretend I’m being healthy (and rationalize eating it all in one sitting).  Each purchase was around $6, and I was able to use both coupons without question, so my loot cost me a total of $2.

The Loot: Rice crispy treat - Cranberry almond bar - Pumpkin truffles - Pistachio creams - Chocolate ginger

The dark chocolate pistachio cream was delectable.  It tasted just like the pistachio pudding my dad used to make (well, Jello boxed it, but dad mixed it!)  The cream was a snazzy green color full of flavor.  I’m so glad I bought three of these.

The dark chocolate rice crispy was good but not distinctive.  I like my rice crispy treats to be super gooey, while this was drier and not worth the 2.99 sticker price.  The milk chocolate pumpkin truffles had a strong nutmeg scent, but I wanted more pumpkin flavor.  The texture was extra creamy and smooth, so if I wasn’t expecting pumpkin, I think I would have liked them a lot more.

The dark chocolate covered ginger was spicy, rich and bursting with flavor, so if you like ginger, buy this!  I prefer a subtle flavor, but Hubby gobbled this up and strongly declared it the winner (which means I get the pistachio creams all to myself!)

Here are a few other stellar chocolates I’ve purchased on other visits that I highly recommend:   Nutty Peanut Butter Egg:  reminiscent of a Reese’s cup but so much better that they don’t even belong in  the same category. The PB filling is sweet, the milk chocolate surrounding it is creamy and riddled with chopped peanuts.  I ate four in one sitting, and would have eaten more, but that’s all I had. Wine-filled Disks:  The Fragole is bursting with Zorvino’s strawberry wine (literally – eat in one bite or the wine will sputter all down your chin).  I recommend buying a bunch so you can practice proper eating technique.  They are especially fun if you pick up a bottle of Fragole wine (available there) and eat them paired.

If you visit, they have a parking lot off a side street so you don’t have to deal with on-street parking.  Van Otis is a good place to go for a special treat or gifts.  It’s too pricey for me to frequent on a regular basis, and some of their chocolates aren’t worth the prices, but others certainly are, and it’s fun work to find them! Van Otis is a great place to stop for a favorite piece.  And keep your eyes open for samples!   ¡Buen provecho!

CP4Less:  Join Van Otis and 95.7 WZID’s mailing list for your birthday coupons
Keep it Local: Van Otis has been selling chocolate in Manchester since 1935.    They have also partnered with NH businesses such as Zorvino Winery and Grape Time Winery to produce chocolates filled with their wines (a portion of Grape Time Winery chocolate sales is donated to the Animal Rescue League of NH).  They sell local products such as wine and maple syrup as well.
I’ve tried three of their wine filled disks.  The bacca Z (surprisingly one of my favorite wines) was my least favorite.  Still delicious, but they get better.  The Fragole is bursting with strawberry wien flavor (literally, eat in one bite or the wine will sputter all down your chin.  I recommend buying a bunch so you can practice proper eating technique.  They are especially fun if you pick up a bottle of Fragole wine (available there) and eat them paired.
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Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Shop – Manchester

CP tries Sandwich-Flavored Ice Cream Continuing on my birth-month journey, I cashed in my ‘free scoop’ birthday coupon at Ben and Jerry’s in Manchester today.   It was colder outside than the ice cream itself, but come on, it’s free!  The shop is easy to find on Elm Street, but parking is tough (on street and metered) so hubby dropped me off.  I only sampled two flavors because I always feel embarrassed asking (especially since today I wasn’t even buying anything).

First I tried a new flavor made with chocolate covered potato chips: Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack.  It was good (honestly, have you ever had a B&J ice cream that wasn’t?) but not amazing.  The potato chips tasted like malt balls, which I don’t care for.  Next I tried Clusterfluff: peanut butter ice cream with caramel clusters, peanut butter and marshmallow swirls.  I usually don’t like PB ice cream, but I love fluff, so I gave it a go.  Turns out Custerfluff is more than an ice cream, it’s also a time machine.  I was instantly transported to age 6, when my biggest concern was if the rain water would dry off the slide in time for recess.  Clusterfluff is like a fluffernutter sandwich, but better because the PB doesn’t stick to your mouth and rob your ability to speak.  I liked it so much, I choose it for my free scoop instead of my good ol’ Phish Food.

Ben and Jerry’s scoop shops can be a fun place to go (preferably during a warmer month) to try the specialty flavors that never get released in stores.  The prices are steep though, so I save this for a special treat if I actually have to pay 🙂

The b-day coupon worked smoothly and I left happily with my free scoop of Clusterfluff.  Now if only I could fly someplace warm to eat it.  ¡Buen provecho!

CP4Less:  Join their email list to receive a free scoop on your birthday.
Keep it Local: A VT company, Ben and Jerry’s is actively involved in several issues such as developing green freezers, using cage free eggs, and purchasing fair trade ingredients.  An entire portion of their website it dedicated to this topic.
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