Café Review: The Book Bar, Portsmouth, NH

You know that feeling where you’re just sitting there, at work or at home just minding your own business, and out of nowhere this pressure pushes on the back on your skull and your neck and makes your heart shudder into overtime? That feeling that something is wrong, and your gut is writhing with indecision and doubt. That same, strange, sensation has been plaguing me for days and is turning my everyday life into a bit of a thriller. I don’t know what it is- anxiety? A sense of foreboding? All I can say is that something’s a bit off in the big, wide world out there… and before it rears its ugly head, I’ll be burying myself in books.


This may be a theme of mine, but whenever I feel like something is askew in this world, I always strive to find a new sanctuary. Whether this is a new place to write, a new bookstore to haunt, or even a new spot to sit in the sun while I read, I just need a new vibe to saturate my brain while I try to distract myself with fantasy worlds.

I did a little road trip recently and found my way out to Portsmouth, NH, where this one bookstore still sits- I drove past it every week for two years when I worked on the coast, and I never had the time or energy to actually stop and enjoy the establishment, even though my eyes were drawn to it like little magnets each time I passed by.

The Book Bar.

I was expecting a hopping bar, something filled with young twenty-somethings socializing and laughing and eating off their food-filled plates. But what I walked in to instead was essentially a library with a centralized stretch of wall converted into a café. With a bunch of beer taps.


Despite my expectations, my nerves relaxed as soon as I walked in and I saw fluffy couches, worn book bindings, and smelled the strong bite of coffee. It was around noon when I got there, and there were people eating their gorgeous lunches with a craft brew, but there were also people sitting at the tables reading one of the many used books that the store offers with a pastry and cup of tea in hand.


I let myself sink into the comfort of the place, ordered a cup of tea called Be Joyful (supplied by a local tea artisan store), and picked up a slightly battered copy of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. My mind got to wander, my body got to relax, and slowly that feeling of nervous anticipation lessened.

What is it about these moods that draw us to the one place that can heal us?


The atmosphere was perfect, the music was lovely (it was a bit hipster-y, but really, what can you expect with a used bookstore/bar/café?), and the book choice was rejuvenating. There’s something special about finding gems on the shelf that you can’t find in the big book sellers nowadays… it kind of reminds me of when I was a kid and book recommendations didn’t really exist (my friends weren’t big readers). It was all up to my intuition and hunting skills to find my next heart-warmer.


The Book Bar is a thriving, book-lovers dream. I think anyone, whether you’re looking for a place for good food and drinks or to find that strange title you don’t think anyone will carry, would love it.

If you give it a shot, let me know 🙂

Cafe Review: Buckley’s in Merrimack, NH

Hey friends! 

I have another little travel log here, one documenting my trip to a beautiful new cafe in Southern NH. 

Buckley’s is a local steakhouse owned by an awesome restaurateur named Michael Buckley, and together with his wife Sarah they’ve opened some of NHs best restaurants. They have since opened a bakery and cafe next to the steakhouse where they offer freshly baked bread, pastries, sandwiches, cold-pressed juices, and, of course, coffee.
It was a beautiful day when I went so I bought an iced coffee to sit outside and read in their little garden patio, and it wasn’t just any iced coffee. On top of normal iced coffee, they also offer cold brew, Vietnamese style, and nitro coffee. I got a nitro (which comes in one satisfying size) and paired it with a chocolate macaron and a bag of local coffee beans to bring home with me.


This cafe was extraordinary in terms of service, food options, and atmosphere. There is a plethora of vegetarian food options which REALLY made my visit extra special, and we already planned for a nice lunch trip for next time. Their sandwiches are pre made and stuffed with amazing assortments of food, and their bread selection made the cafe smell like home. It really is a beautiful place to visit and I would suggest anyone driving through to stop by.


The thing that really struck me though is how nice everyone was. You know that alienating feeling you get sometimes going into a “cooler than you” independent cafe? Buckley’s was neither aloof nor intimidating and all of the employees were smiling, laughing, and overall happy to help. This doesn’t downplay who genuinely sophisticated the cafe looks, either. It looks like an upscale indie cafe for professionals, but remains warm and inviting like the rest of Buckley’s establishments.

Definitely check it out 🙂 the nitro iced coffee came out frothy and delicious and the macaron was just the right amount of dense, crunchy, and sweet.  

Until next time!

Live, 

Morgan Paige

Cafe and Bookstore Review: Toadstool Bookstore in NH

So, if you guys follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably have seen this post coming… but I found the MOST amazing little bookstore just down the road from me, and I wanted to share it with you 🙂

Toadstool Bookstores is a small chain with three total branches in New Hampshire. Found in Milford, Peterborough, and Keene, I got chatting with one of the employees in the Milford store and just could not get over how amazing the selection was for a small indie bookstore.

From the outside, Toadstool is completely unassuming. However, once you go inside, you’ll see a myriad of carefully chosen books of all different genres beautifully arranged throughout the store. I was most impressed by the sheer amount of options and books that I just had never seen before. I mostly shop at Barnes and Noble now that I live in NH, but upon finding this perfect gem of a bookstore, I don’t know if I can go back.


I saw expanded genre-based sections, personal book suggestions from the employees (typical, but way more personal and numerous here), specialty book covers, and little notes taped on the shelves that gave blurbs about what to expect in a story. I picked up Garth Nix’s Newt’s Emerald (1- because I’m the biggest Nix fangirl and 2- the cover is ABSOLUTELY to die for) and right next to it was a tiny post-it exclaiming “Hints of Jane Austen and fantasy!” And just that small exclamation hooked me into buying it instead of grabbing one of the beautiful soft-cover special edition poetry books I had stumbled upon (believe me, I’m going back for it next time!).
On top of the extraordinary selection was a cute little café that appeared to specialize more in small luncheon/brunch meals than anything else. There were some pastries available, but they didn’t seem to be as appealing as the sandwiches or the coffee. They get their coffee from the local A&E Roasters just down the street, so I wasn’t at all surprised when the Americano I ordered was absolute perfection. I wish I could have found some snack to go with it, though… everything had dairy or meat in it. But you know, you go to a bookstore for books and coffee, and since they excelled so much in those categories I can’t really complain!

They also had a little event going on for luthiers while I was there. While I am not a musician, I thought it was fantastic that the café would host something a bit out-of-the-box and cater to the community in such a way.

Toadstool is my new favorite haunt for sure. If anyone is coming up into beautiful NH at some point, all the stores should be equally as impressive as they are all managed and archived by the owner. Whenever a novel is bought from a location, it is restocked and the selections are carefully cultivated by the same buyer throughout the state. Let me know if you make it up here and if you find something exceptional 🙂
Until next time!

Live,

Morgan Paige

Cafe Review: A&E Coffee Roastery, Amherst NH

2016 has been a game of catch up (it’s only March!!), and, as an introvert, it’s become a little exhausting. I enjoy space and time with my loved ones and friends, but this past weekend I found myself sitting in my living room after a particularly hard gym session (working up to running 5 miles is proving itself incredibly challenging), planning out my day, when I spontaneously put everything I needed to do to the side, left the house, and drove away from the loud masses of society… and my own churning head.

Instead of driving toward the city where my auto repair shop, grocery store, and bank lay, I went out toward the edge of town where a fantastic little café and roaster resides: A&E Roastery. It was like a dose of medicine as I walked in: it’s a haven for writers, adventurers, and artists alike. I’ve been a frequent haunt of theirs, always getting that same cup of brew to go and never really taking the time to enjoy their store and atmosphere… but that day, I decided to stop and take a breath and enjoy my coffee.

Their menu is vast and exploratory. Next to their normal choices (cappuccinos, lattes, Americanos) are specialty drinks like breves, nitrogen-infused cold brew, and pour overs. I ordered the latter, which is essentially a more involved version of drip coffee in which the barista pours hot water into a filter full of grounds and allows the water to drip through slowly and patiently. I absolutely loved this version of a cup of coffee; they gave me the Rwanda blend, and I discovered it was more open and flavorful and, surprisingly, a lot less acidic than the normal brew version. They offer gluten-free snacks, sandwiches, soups, and there are always vegetarian options available as well. The store is adorably setup with cozy reading nooks complete with cushiony chairs and intimate seating. I ended up choosing a nice bar seat in front of a well-lit window to sip my hot drink and settle my thoughts into contentedness.

Besides the fantastic coffee and food, A&E Roasters is also incredibly involved with their community and have the friendliest staff. They feature their roasted coffee beans at local joints like Jajabelles in downtown Nashua and sell their own beans in-house. They are featured in The Hippo, a local newspaper out of Manchester, NH, and were nominated in The Hippo’s Best Of awards, which just goes to show how much of a local favorite they are.

It’s been a while since I had written a quality café review, and I felt this was a necessary revival. Cafés are a writer’s safe haven away from home and if I can find quality shops in my travels, I want to share them with you all 🙂

Do any of you have a favorite drink or order of choice at a nearby café? I’d love to hear new suggestions; I’m always looking for a good drink to try!

Until next time.

Live,

Morgan Paige

Discovering Aroma Joe’s, Hampton NH

 

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It’s not often where you find a diamond in the rough like Aroma Joe’s, but boy have I found one of the most fun coffee joints in New Hampshire. Located in the middle of Hampton, it’s sign stands like a beacon to passersby. Aroma Joe’s is solely a drive thru. I haven’t had the guts to go there early in the morning, but I’d imagine the traffic is still manageable as it has two drive thru’s and a very speedy staff! Plus, their drink choices and the price point are unbeatable. I get a large coffee with soy milk and try a couple of their flavors (their PB Mocha and Smore’s Fantasy are fabulous!), and it only comes out to $3.00. For soy milk and flavor shots, it’s fantastic! Next time you head to the beach (there are only a couple of warm weekends left!) you should stop here on your way out!

Hole in the Fence- Coffeehouse fun!

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Well guys. I’m really sorry that I didn’t catch this right away, but somehow in between me pressing the post button and the site actually catching on, all of my text had been deleted and my picture was distorted. I’m really sorry about that!

I’m extra sorry about it because this cafe was awesome, and everyone should know! It’s located out by Colby-Sawyer College in the New London area of New Hampshire (holy News!). I just stumbled upon it, and it looked more like a bistro from the outside, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But as soon as I walked in and heard “Hotel California” playing and saw the decor, I was hooked. The menu was awesome, too- it really caters to the college crowd, offering pizza and other simple meals, but it advertised that all their dairy was local and their coffee beans were from specific places abroad (they favored based on type, obviously). And they made their own whipped cream and gluten-free baked goods! I was hooked! I treated myself to an iced cookie dough mocha with soy milk and basked in the beautiful sunlight outside. It’s really a special place to visit, if you’re ever out in that neck of the woods!

Breaking New Grounds- Portsmouth, NH

breakingnewgroundscollageThis has got to be one of the most fun cafes to visit. It sits on a busy corner in Downtown Portsmouth and has a bunch of outdoor seating areas; almost always are they full when I make a stop at this fun cafe. It’s always packed inside as well with people of all ages and work backgrounds sitting at their tables, and there are two things about this place that keeps me coming back for more: 1) their food: they have yummy vegan energy bars with flax in them that taste SO good, and they seriously have the best muffins I’ve ever tried, 2) their large iced coffees are 32 oz. …

Thirty-two ounces, guys! 

They seem like a nice staff and are always super friendly, and their coffee options are just too many to count. It’s a must visit! Also, in the pic above, I happened by a little place called the Book Bar. It looked so cute! Maybe you’ll be seeing that review in a little while! 

 

Pressed Cafe- Nashua, NH

Pressed Cafe- Nashua, NH

Ever feel like getting a hearty, yet light smoothie or sandwich? How about a rounded salad? You know what, you look like the kind of guy to take a gourmet coffee with fair traded beans. The Pressed Cafe, newly open in Nashua, NH is home to the most expansive, most impressive menu I’ve seen yet. And not only that, it is a beauty of a cafe. Open ALL day long from Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, you can get your fix at any time. I, personally, had a Green Monster Smoothie after a nice long run on a hot day. It is chock full of almond butter, almond milk, kale, flax, and even a banana. I was full and feeling great till dinner 🙂 They were very nice and are still working out the kinks to a new business, but I foresee a great future for them! I suggest you all try them out! They’re in a plaza with a craft beer store as well, so all vices will be met!

Beantowne Coffeehouse and Cafe

Beantowne Coffeehouse and Cafe

Stopped on my way through Hampstead today at Beantowne Coffeehouse and Cafe. Totally worth the small detour! Reasonably priced, vegan and gluten-free friendly, with tons of great food choices and amazing coffee! Sip of the day: Large iced mocha with ghirardelli chocolate and soy milk, followed up with a veggie wrap. Make sure to check them out!