Category Archives: Arts

Late summer at the Inn

Here we are in the middle of September wondering how the 4th of July got to be so long ago.  It was a long, hot, dry summer – now there’s a nip in the air every morning and the colors are starting to show on the trees.  Fall tends to be a long season here in northern New England and that’s just fine with us because there’s always a lot to do, things to see and great food to sample.

The downtown area on and along Elm Street will be busy tonight because it’s the night of the 7th Annual Taste of Downtown event from 5:00 to 8:00 PM.  Participants will be able to wander form shop to shop and sample culinary delights from 21 downtown restaurants.  It’s a great opportunity to see what the shops, new and old, have to offer and try some of the newest dishes from local restaurants.

This weekend will feature the 1st Chase event for the NASCAR crowd at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS)in Loudon, NH.  Always a great event that draws huge crowds to the area, this will be the last year that NHMS hosts the first of the Chase.  Next year the first event will be in Chicago but NHMS will still have the second event of the Series!  After a couple of years of cold and sometimes rainy weather, it looks like we should have great weather for the main race on Sunday.

By the first of October, it gets even busier!  The World Championship Chili Cook-off (see my earlier blog for the details) will be in downtown Manchester from October 1-3.  The Deerfied Fair, which is one of the oldest, largest and most exciting fairs you could ever attend, takes place in nearby Deerfield from September 30 through October 3.  And the Fall colors will be coming out in full splendor around us while all these other events are taking place.

How are the colors going to be this year?  You can ask 100 people how the colors are going to be this year, or any year for that matter, and get 101 answers.  The bottom line is that they are always breath-taking.  The real beauty is that it isn’t just one day – it’s a whole season unto itself.  By the end of August the “swamp Maples”, maples near the bogs and swamps with their endless supplies of water, have already started to change to bright red and orange.  As time moves along the colors spread up the hillsides and across the forests starting with the softer birch and maple and moving slowly towards the harder ash and oak.  By the end of October, we are left with the soft, warm shades of brown that mark the end of Fall and the prelude to Winter.  Many oak trees will keep their leaves into, or even through, the winter so the foliage season just seems to keep on going.

Time to make your plans to come to northern New England to see all that we have to offer.  We’ll be here at the Ash Street Inn to help you enjoy it all.

 

Top 10 Cities to Live In

I know I talk a lot about Manchester, NH being a great place live in and visit.  Some folks might just shrug that off and attribute it to the fact that lots of people think they live in a great place.  If they didn’t think it was that great they would probably move to another place that was better!  But Manchester has received a bunch of accolades from several sources so I thought I’d pass them along to prove that I’m, at least somewhat, impartial.  And I’m not a native of New Hampshire either.  My wife and I are both from Massachusetts, what they call Flatlanders up here, so that’s not just being idyllic about home-sweet-home.

Portfolio.com, which is the online presence of the now-defunct magazine, recently named Manchester, NH the 10th best mid-size place to live and start a business.  They found that Manchester has a healthy economy, moderate cost of living, light traffic, robust housing stock and top-notch educational system!  As innkeepers here at the Ash Street Inn, we are more interested in what might drive visitors to Manchester than what might make them want to live here but it turns out that they overlap quite well.  A good economy, light traffic and great schools in the area mean that we get lots of guests who are looking for a chance to relax and enjoy themselves and want to spend that time in a vibrant community with other folks who are doing the same things.  Works for us all.

One award however does not a trend make.  It would be much more meaningful if there was some independent corroboration.  So here we go.

In May of 2010, Forbes Magazine named Manchester, NH to their Top 10 list of livable places based on the last five years of economic growth, cost of living, current unemployment rates and crime rates.

In 2009, CNNMoney.com named Manchester, NH 13th on their list of the best places to live and start a business in the United States.

Also in 2009, Kiplinger’s named Manchester, NH the second most tax friendly city in the US, second only to Anchorage, AK.

Last, but not least, also in 2009, Forbes magazine put Manchester, NH #1 on it’s list “America’s 100 Cheapest Places to Live”.

It’s great to see that, for the criteria that were the basis for these surveys, Manchester, NH is doing well and has been for some time.  Of course, if you were to change the criteria, Manchester’s ranking might well be different but to find a thriving, active, fun community that can change with the times and isn’t just about the hype of the current fads, these criteria work just fine.

If you ever have the opportunity, you should spend a few days in Manchester, NH and see for yourself what a great place it is.

 

Scones

Today I’m going to talk a little about scones. Not so much about scones really but how the scones at the Ash Street Inn got to be what they are today.  It was an interesting journey that ended with a great result!

Before we opened we had determined that we wanted to make cookies and scones, from scratch, every day, so our guests would be able to have a little snack in the afternoon.  So first we needed to learn how make scones.  After a bit of trial and error, we were making some great scones!  We made them the traditional way as a 10” round which we cut into 8 wedges and kept them out on the counter under a pastry dome.  Our guests oohed and aahed but rarely touched them.

“Maybe they’re just too big for snacking!” opined my wife, Darlene.  [She’s the real innkeeper – I’m just the cook…]  So we made them as drop scones and got 12-14 from the batch.  We still heard the oohs and aahs but no one touched them.  “Smaller still” says the innkeeper!  Now I’m down to a medium cookie scoop, about one ounce capacity, and a batch makes 26-27 small scones.

Out goes the plate with four each of four different varieties.  And they disappear!  The same guests who wouldn’t take one before now have two or three of the little scones and then come back for more.  We just can’t keep them on the plate!

So that’s how we learned to make little scones that our guests really love.  More importantly, that’s how we learned a lot more about guests and how to listen to all of the things that they don’t say so that we can make their experience here at the Inn the best that it can be.

 

Here’s one of the recipes that we use at the Inn.  Great with a hot cup of tea but just as good with coffee!

 

 

CHOCOLATE CHIP ORANGE SCONES

Chocolate and orange, a classic combination from the Ash Street Inn!

2 cups all-purpose flour                                     ¼ cup orange juice

1/3 cup granulated sugar                                     1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking powder                                grated peel from one orange

½ teaspoon salt                                                    ¾ cup miniature chocolate chips (semisweet or dark)

½ cup unsalted butter, chilled

2 large eggs

 

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Cut the butter in ½ inch cubes and distribute over the flour mixture.  With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, stir together the eggs, orange juice, vanilla and orange peel.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and combine well.  The dough will be sticky.  With lightly floured hands, knead in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

 

Use a medium cookie scoop and place the scones on a baking sheet covered with wax paper. Freeze for several hours.  Then place in a zip-lock bag.  Scones will keep for 2-3 weeks.

 

To bake, remove from freezer and place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 13 to 14 minutes until just lightly browned.

 

International Cuisine

Many of our guests at the Ash Street Inn here in Manchester, NH are quite surprised to find out that even Manchester has international food – much less great international food.  If you love Asian food, we have many great restaurants to choose from but three really stand out as favorites of our guests.

For Indian food, the India Palace, at 573 South Willow Street, gets rave reviews from everyone.  Set in what looks like an office building along South Willow Street, the outside looks just a bit odd for a restaurant.  But once you are inside, the setting and decoration, not to mention the aroma, makes you forget where you are.  They have a varied menu from chicken to lamb to seafood to vegetarian to tandoori specialties.  All the ingredients are fresh and every thing is prepared on site.  Our guests love it and rate it highly.

For Thai food, Lakorn Thai, at 470 South Main Street on Manchester’s West Side, gets four stars from all our guests.  Set in a small, unassuming strip mall, Lakorn Thai is all about the food.  No fancy decorations – just great Thai food.  All of the dishes are authentic to the cuisine and can be ordered in your choice of spiciness.   We’ve been told to be careful how spicy you request because they will give you exactly what you ordered!  Simple surroundings, fantastic food and great prices have our guests going back for more!

Love Asian food and want a real treat?  Manchester is home to one of very few restaurants that feature authentic Nepali cuisine.  Café Momo, at 1065 Hanover Street, is a real gem.  Darlene is not a real fan of Asian food but we did visit Café Momo shortly after they opened and it was great!  We started with momos, which are small filled dumplings, and they were moist and sweet.  Darlene, who is also not much of a drinker but love cucumbers, tried the cucumber cooler which is lime juice, cucumbers and rice wine wants me to warn you that rice wine has a kick to it!  From there it was just a wonderful journey through to dessert where I ordered the rice pudding which was simple, and decadent, at the same time.  Both Darlene and I, and dozens of our guests, will assure you that Café Momo is a real find.  Lots of citrus, yoghurt and fresh fruits in amazing combinations.

In future posts we’ll talk about some of the other international restaurants that have sprung up in Manchester as the Queen city has grown and matured!

 

Spring Shows

Manchester, NH is home to two great venues for performances by renowned talent, sports and special events.  Both of the performance centers are large enough to draw great performers and groups but small enough so that you can really enjoy the show and see your favorite artists while they perform.

The Verizon Wireless Arena, .9 miles from the Ash Street Inn, at 555 Elm Street, is a 10,000 seat arena which is home to the Manchester Monarchs minor league hockey team but also hosts concerts and special events all year.  Some of the upcoming events include: Smucker’s Stars on Ice – Wednesday, April 14 @ 7:00 PM; the first annual Foursquare Day in Manchester – Friday April 16 from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM; Alan Jackson with Josh Turner and Chris Young – Thursday, May 13; Daughtry with Lifehouse and Cavo – Tuesday, June 15; and Justin Bieber with Sean Kingston – September 1.   A great place to see some of your favorite performers without the crowds you find elsewhere.

Less than .7 miles from the Inn, at 80 Hanover Street, is The Palace Theatre, an 840 seat late 1800s theatre which has been beautifully restored to the grandeur of its day.  It hosts events and performances in a truly intimate setting and offers the opportunity to see artists who prefer audience-focused venues.  From the New Hampshire Philharmonic to comedians to plays, the Palace hosts many one-of-a-kind events in the state.  Some of the upcoming events include: comedian Bob Marley – Saturday, April 17 at 7:00 PM & 9:00 PM; Gaelic Storm – Friday, April 23 @ 8:00 PM; Loretta LaRoche – Saturday, April 24 @ 8:00 PM; The Full Monty between April 30 and May 15 – Part of the Citizens Bank Broadway in NH series; the third annual farewell tour of Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) – Thursday, May 20 @ 8:00 PM; and Recycled Percussion Friday and Saturday, June 4 and 5 @ 8:00 PM.  Tucked right in among all of Manchester’s great dining and clubs, the Palace is always great entertainment.

So keep these two great venues in mind when you want to get out and enjoy a live performance but don’t want to break the bank doing it.  And keep the Ash Street Inn in mind if you want to make a whole night of it while you’re here in Manchester!

 

Manchester, NH – the “center of the universe”?

You might say we’re biased but, yes, we do see it as just that.  From the Ash Street Inn Bed and Breakfast, so many places are so close and easy to get to.  You can visit any of the New England states on less than one-half tank of gas.  Mystic, CT; Newport, RI; Portland, ME; Montpelier, VT and Provincetown, MA are all less than 175 miles away.  And with the easy access to all the interstate highways, you can get there quickly.  Or, if you prefer, there are lots of choices for “the road less travelled” that might get you there more slowly – or might not get you there at all.  It’s so easy to get sidetracked along the way that some guests never get where they were originally going at all – and don’t mind a bit.

Closer to home, there are still lots of choices when looking for great things to do in and around Manchester, NH.  Within 45 minutes in any direction, you can experience the wide range of choices that New England has to offer.  Head south and you can be in downtown Boston, MA with all that it has to offer – from the arts to sports to history.  Head east and you can experience all 13 miles of New Hampshire’s scenic coastline from the sandy beaches of Hampton Beach along the rock-strewn cliffs to Portsmouth.  Head west and you will be in the Monadnock range where picturesque little towns like Peterborough and Dublin home of Yankee Magazine, can be real “finds”.  Head north and you will discover Lake Winnipesaukee and Franconia Notch in the White Mountains, home to our beloved Mount Washington.

And, without even leaving Manchester, there are so many exciting things to do.  There is hiking, fishing and mountain biking around Massabesic Lake and the Audubon Center.  In season, you can ski and “tube” at McIntyre Ski Area. Minor league hockey and baseball are always great fun.  We have several venues for concerts and performances by artists from the world over.  The Currier Museum of Art and several other galleries and museums can make even a rainy day a great time.  With all the great restaurants and clubs in the city, everyone can find something that suits their style and have a remarkable day doing just about anything at all.

In future posts, we’ll talk in more detail about all the things to do in Manchester, NH and you’ll see why we like to think of it as the “center of the universe”!