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 🙂

Vegan Food and Wine Pairing: Rose and Nicoise Salad

Hey, foodies!

So to break up the monotony of this hot summer weather, I decided to kind of go with the flow and find something light and refreshing to eat while I was relaxing with one of my Summer Reads. It was a hot, muggy day when I felt my stomach rumble and thought “Well, I’m only in the mood for a salad,” but I didn’t want a boring kind of thrown-together salad. Besides, salads are so easy to pair with wine (Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are staples) and I wanted a bit of a challenge.

So I found this recipe over at Minimalist Baker called a Vegan Nicoise Salad. I’m a sucker for French recipes (it’s the francaise in me, I’m guessing) and was so, so excited to have something different to eat and plan for. I have never had butter lettuce, so this was actually a really fun recipe to make and the homemade dressing has become a household favorite.

I paired this with potato salad (instead of putting the potatoes on the salad itself) and made my guy some ribs. Together we ate with some glasses of Rosé from Charles and Charles. Enchante, if you please.

 The recipe for the salad was super easy:

1 Head Butter Lettuce

Nicoise Olives (I used Greek because for some reason my grocery store doesn’t carry Nicoise…???)

Cherry Tomatoes

Chickpeas (mashed with Dill, Maple Syrup, and Mustard… seriously, SO SO good!!! This is to replace the tuna in typical Nicoise salads)

Green Beans (boiled real quick to take out the rawness)

And the special Homemade dressing (click on the link above for the ingredients- it’s incredible)


I paired this with a Rosé thinking that maybe, just maybe, it’ll pair well with the chickpeas. Rosé’s go great with fish, so I thought- tuna is usually too strong for a Rosé, so it should work well with something milder but just as hearty (chickpeas), right?

Funnily enough, the Rosé paired best with the ribs that night. It’s sweet, strawberry flavors brought out the sweetness of the BBQ sauce. Paired with the salad, the wine had some good, light flavors to it, but the acidity in the dressing brought out the acidity in the wine. It made it kinda pucker-y which isn’t a good thing…

The wine, overall, was a beautiful, light, fruity wine that had a ton of flavor on its own. I would totally drink this wine again and make this salad again, but not pair them together. This salad would have paired better with a Chardonnay for sure- to cut that acidity and balance out the creamy butter lettuce. I really think that would have been a better pairing.

But, we live and learn! And I genuinely think you guys should try out the recipe on Minimalist Baker. They are an amazing power-couple running that site and they have some brilliant recipes.

Summer is the perfect time for Rosés, so I think I’ll try another pairing just to see what happens! What do you guys think? Are you guys super into these dinner recipes or do you want me to work on some dessert/dessert wine pairings, too?

And as always, until next time my reading winos!


Morgan Paige

Dare to Pair: Vegan Pizza and Shiraz

90+ Cellars  

Dare to Pair: Vegan Pizza and 90+ Cellars Shiraz

Hey, everybody!

This month’s Dare to Pair features the oh-so-satisfying 90+ Cellars Shiraz and the most comforting of comfort foods- pizza!

In all honesty, November and December wore me out in terms of cooking. I wanted to make something that appealed to the worn-out, chilled-to-the-bone side of me that seems to rear its head during the winter. Ours has been a mild one, but when it’s cold, it’s cold. We have sheets of ice to greet us in the morning and a deadened winter sky to say goodnight… and the only way to combat these seasonal blues is with some good friends, good entertainment, and good food!

I have a hard time finding satisfying pizza, however, because I am lactose-intolerant. I haven’t had that nice creamy flavor of stringy, melted mozzarella for a long time, but what really draws me back to pizza is the dough. I’ve always been a huge pizza dough fan- I’d steal your crusts if you weren’t paying attention. So I excitedly picked up a local pizzeria’s dough, one that I tend to dream about when I go through bouts of not having a good Italian dish.

This is the Portland Pie Company’s dough that they make with Shipyard’s beer. They have so many flavors (garlic, wheat, original, basil to name a few) and even offer a gluten-free option, but the beer dough is by far my favorite. It’s just tangy enough and super flavorful and I think it gives the dough some heft. Portland Pie Company is one of my favorite local restaurants- there’s one in Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire, and if you go, think about picking up one of their pizza pockets!

Anyway, I decided to go kind of peppery with this pizza by topping it with arugula, marinara sauce, yellow tomatos, “bacon,” and shallots. The dough is so easy to work with and so agreeable to every topping. I paired it with some beer-battered fries and a nice Italian-inspired salad, and then came the fun part.

The wine!

I chose 90+ Cellars Shiraz, because shiraz tends to be peppery and super drinkable (syrah, the same grape but grown in France, tends to be earthier and more robust). In case I messed up the pairing, I knew I would still love this wine and could drink it on its own. A group of friends and I did a blind wine tasting once and tried this shiraz up against an incredibly expensive French Rhone (it was 100% syrah) and the Petite Petit petite syrah (California)- the 90+ was the most inexpensive of the group, but unanimously we agreed it was our favorite of the three!

Alas, I did end up fudging the pairing. I thought that a cheese-less pizza would be just enough oomph next to a hearty shiraz, with the spicy arugula and salty “bacon” (I’ll add a link to the fake bacon here… none of the boys at dinner realized it was fake bacon, just FYI). However, I was sadly mistaken. The shiraz paired super well with the salty fries and the sweet salad, but the tomato-based marinara sauce just amplified all of the acidity in the wine and killed the flavor. It was so overpowering, I could only sip the wine when I ate the sides instead of the main dish. It was kind of disappointing, but just goes to show that flavor profile isn’t the most important part of what to look for when you’re pairing- acidity and tannin absolutely needs to be taken into account.

Case in point, Jay offered me his 90+ Cellars Riesling (can you tell we really like this brand? you can clink on the name for the link to their website), just for the hell of it, and it knocked my socks off. I couldn’t believe it. Who would pair a Riesling with pizza? But then again, it made sense with the peppery notes of the food being cut by the sweetness of the wine and the acidity of the food being matched by the acidity of the Riesling (typically very high for a wine!).

I think the reason most pizza is paired with heartier reds normally is because of the cheese. The lactic acid in cheese cuts the high tomato-based acidity of the marinara base, which in turn makes it more pleasing with a zinfandel or a syrah. So… if you are making a regular pizza, go for the red, and if you’re making a cheese-less pizza, go for a white.

Next time, I think I’ll make a pesto-based pizza (without the parmesan 😉 ) and see how that goes. This journey of trying to find good red wines to pair with vegan meals sure is enlightening! It’s such a learning process, but that is the world of wine, right?

Let me know what you think! Do any of you have any tried-and-true pairings in regards to pizza and wine? Pizza and beer is like peas in a pod, but wine just adds that little extra exotic touch 🙂

Until next time!


Morgan Paige

Dare to Pair: Christmas Edition!

Dare to Pair: Christmas Edition!

Happy Holiblogs, friends, and Merry Christmas!

This Dare to Pair is a little on the fun side. I wanted to make a vegan-friendly meal to pair with a hearty red wine for a traditional Christmas dinner, but as I planned this dinner, I realized improvisation is your best friend! When I think of a Christmas meal, I think of some sort of roast, mashed potatoes, and every vegetable under the sun. I took this idea and morphed it into mashed potatoes, roast asparagus, and… drumroll please… the most (in)famous tofu dinner, Tofurky!

I had never made Tofurky before, but based on its flavor profile, I figured it’d be safe to pair it with something that pairs well with actual turkey: Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, and Garnacha are a few that I know work well with turkey. Riesling and Gewurtz are honestly the two biggest wines for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals- their fruity flavors balanced with spice and (for the most part) high acidity and low tannins make them super pleasing to the mild yet sometimes smoky flavor of the turkey. However, I felt like it was time to pair a red with a vegan-friendly meal, so I turned to my love of French wines: a Beaujolais!

Roast, dipping bread, and wine for two!

Beaujolais refers to a region in France where the majority of red wines are made using the Gamay grape (the white wine is usually Chardonnay). The French are very specific in the categorization and creation of their wines. Beaujolais wines tend to be very light-bodied and low in tannin, and I got especially lucky because the vintage of the Louis Jadot Beaujolais that I paired was also more balanced in acidity than I had expected (high acidity is pretty common, but this one didn’t seem too typically acidic) . It paired so beautifully with the Tofurky and gravy, I was honestly so, so surprised. Even with the roasted asparagus, the wine didn’t lose its fruity flavor or become overpowered by the vegetable. Sometimes, starches can bring out strange flavors with light reds, but the mashed potatoes (even though they were super garlicky) were incredibly well-paired.

Not impressed…

The only thing I wasn’t entirely pleased with was the actual Tofurky gr
avy that they provided. It tasted fine with the wine, but it didn’t really compliment the actual food… next time, I’ll definitely be making my own from scratch. I mean… look at those… lumps…

And as for the carnivore in the family, my boyfriend was actually super impressed by the whole meal! I think he liked it better than I did, to be 100% honest. Tofurky is kind of an acquired taste… I used the glaze that they suggested on the box (it said olive oil and a bit of soy sauce), but next time I’ll do something stronger (more soy sauce!) and then probably pair it with a Gewurtztraminer. I think the strong smoky flavor of Tofu and the stuffing (my favorite, dang it was good!) would be really complimentary to a spicy wine like a Gewurtz. But for a red, the Beaujolais really was the way to go, and I’d absolutely suggest that instead of a pinot noir (which can sometimes be overly fruity).


Thanks for taking the time to hang out and I hope this inspires you to have a cruelty-free Christmas roast 🙂 Complete with a fantastic red wine as well!

Until next time!


Morgan Paige

Bonus pic of the Mary’s Angel ornament my Grandma sends me every year 🙂 Merry Christmas! ❤


Dare to Pair: Vegan Thanksgiving

Dare to Pair: Vegan Thanksgiving

Hey, everyone!

It’s been quite some time since I had such an amazing food and wine pairing that just had to be shared, but this one I have for you today is truly inspirational.

Vegan-Friendly Thanksgiving!

I am not a picky eater, not in the least, but for a very long time I’ve had trouble with my diet (I am lactose intolerant and, while I struggled for a decade with it, I wasn’t able to pinpoint the problem until about four years ago). My stomach problems aren’t cured at all, but I’ve been gently climbing the rungs to an all-vegan diet. Besides my own health, I have chosen to do this for moral reasons as well, and though I don’t tout this to my peers, I’m quite proud of the decisions I’ve made.

That being said, choosing to persue a vegan life style has made it VERY interesting cooking for my boyfriend and celebrating special occasions with my loved ones. It seems like most people and most events revolve around meat-based and dairy-based dishes. Thanksgiving is absoLUTEly one of these holidays, and I decided to go all out and challenge myself with a meal that was vegan friendly.

image2Part of what appealed to me about this challenge is that food and wine pairings so often revolve around the meat in a dish. This is because they usually have such complimentary acids and flavors; ever have a nice spicy syrah with a steak au poivre? It’s like they were made for each other.

To prove to the world and all those who turn down their noses at meatless wine pairings wrong, I dug around and found what turned out to be one of the most delicious meals I (and my boyfriend) have ever had.

I found this recipe for a vegan “chicken” pot pie along with a rosemary and olive oil sweet potato recipe. I paired it with Charles Smith’s Eve Chardonnay, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so floored by my own… guesswork? Research?

I tweaked the recipe a bit, I used more of all the insides (carrots, “chicken” strips, peas, onions, garlic), and used whole wheat flour in the roux instead of chickpea flour. I’m sure the chickpea flour would still be good for those who want something gluten free, though. I also used a veggie bouillon cube in a half a cup of water instead of the not-chicken base.

I was surprised at how beautiful it looked when it came out of the oven, but I was even more astounded when we sat down to eat. I got multiple “this is amazing!”s and “I can’t believe this isn’t real chicken” (for real, I’m not lying!) from Jay, and he even asked me to cook it again for Thanksgiving this Thursday! When we tried it with the wine, we were just shocked. Eve is a MOSTLY stainless steel aged Chardonnay, so it didn’timage4 have any oakey overpowering flavor to it (it was fermented in stainless steel and then aged for 10 months in French oak, but it’s still really mellow… look at that color!). It is delicious on its own, it’s a bit florally with apple notes and creamy lemon flavors. It’s pairing with the food did not bring out it’s acidity, so it was perfectly mellow and flavorful as we ate. The only thing that I was a little disappointed about was that Charles Smith couldn’t guarantee that the wine wasn’t made with animal products (I guess it depends on the vintage), so next time I’ll look further into a wine before I pair it.

Overall, great recipe and pairing though. If you’re looking to start with pleasing pairings like this, something sort of easy but still difficult to find the perfect match, I would start here. And this is the perfect topper to a Thanksgiving meal- it seriously is mindblowingly good!

Have a very Happy and safe Thanksgiving, until next time!



Bonus kitty and boyfriend food coma pic

Morgan Paige

Discovering Aroma Joe’s, Hampton NH



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!


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!