Food Blog

The Hitz We Miss


Eva’s Grandmother “Jocie” circa 1944.


Gertz Girlz Lisa and Eva have been ramping up college campus visits these days, while Lisa and Dee scratch their heads, wondering how we got to Eva’s senior year so fast. Rites of passage are part and parcel of a child’s journey into adulthood, and while for teens it’s all about tomorrow, we adults find ourselves yearning for yesterday. With little birdie Eva preparing to fly the nest and meet her future, Lisa and Dee have been reflecting on past family meals. For example, how many times have you heard someone say, I tried a recipe and it was a big hit. Those hit recipes often go on to become legendary, highly anticipated year after year, and ideally preserved in the family archives. So much of what is placed on the family table ends up more in our hearts than in our stomachs.

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

My mother, born Marie-Jocelyne Francoise Cardinal, is affectionately known by one and all (including her grandchildren) as Jocie. She has a 100% French-Canadian family and culinary background and is a wonderful cook. So my three siblings and I, and my father, were pretty lucky. It wasn’t till my young world opened up a bit though, and I started to venture outside my own family table, that I began to realize and appreciate her cooking skills. A mother of the 1960’s and 70’s, with a large family to feed three times a day, Jocie stuck to the basics like most women of that era. She cooked the middle-class favorites, but she cooked them really well. Her homemade (everything was homemade back then) spaghetti and meatballs were so good, I remember a neighbor boy who had eaten them once, and then tried to wrangle a dinner invitation when I told him that’s what we were having!

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

When I was 14, my mother went to work full time. Luckily her job was only a five minute drive away so she was able to keep close tabs on her latchkey daughter, now responsible for watching out for two younger brothers (and not very well, but that’s another story). Weekly food shopping was always on Thursdays after work, and dinner was always a Swanson aluminum tray with turkey, stuffing, wrinkly mixed vegetables, and a spongy (i.e., strange) cherry cobbler. I didn’t mind at first, but she became dependent on these meals and who can blame her? If we all loved to make a home cooked meal night after night, after eight hours of work day after day, there wouldn’t be a need for Blue Apron and the like.

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Yep, this is the one. Yuck! And all for just 99 cents!

Frozen dinners are not something I miss, but at some point, and perhaps to assuage her guilt, my mother began making special birthday meals and we got to choose whatever we wanted. My brother Stu always chose Veal or Chicken Parm, and both were wonderful (I have since stopped eating veal for ethical reasons). My go-to was roast beef with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and pita bread, sliced in halves lengthwise, and generously buttered and broiled until bubbly and slightly browned around the edges. All bow to the Carb Queen!

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

Even though my siblings and I are all in our 50’s now, we can all easily recall what our favorite “Jocie” dinners were when we were kids. I sent a poll via text for the purpose of this blog post, and literally got a reply within minutes from all of them. Mike was all over her American Chop Suey. For Jim, it was her Chicken Cordon Blue. But there’s always a Fussy One in every family…in this case it was my sister Lynn, who wryly informed me she was never a member of The Clean Plate Club. Apparently she only liked roast pork and only if it was well done! No wonder she was the skinny one!  My dad who passed away almost twenty years ago, made no secret of the fact that he loved his wife’s New England Boiled Dinner (always served on a Sunday).

As for me, I adored my mother’s French-Canadian version of Irish Stew…ground beef, tiny diced potatoes and carrots, and peas in a fragrant beef broth. I remember spending an entire summer day playing outside, and coming in to eat dinner (which was only ever called “Supper”). The stew was already ladled into the light green, small bowls that we children ate out of…four of them lined up on the windowsill to cool, the steam visible to our hungry little eyes. And always, always, always…. there was bread and butter on the table. Because if it has gravy, you need to SOP it up!

Josie’s version of French-Canadian Irish Stew, courtesy of Lisa Gertz.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

In addition to the gravy aspect (agree with you Lisa on the sopping with bread!) I loved the roast beef meal because it reminded me of the Sunday afternoon dinners at Nanny and Pop’s house when we lived in Maryland. They were my maternal grandparents and lived in a row house in Baltimore. I loved being in that urban environment, loved the smells, loved playing with my cousins in the small back yard, adjacent to the alley where we would kick a can around. Really! It was fun! And I loved the food. Unadorned, savory, hearty. After dinner I would sneak upstairs to tap out bad poetry on Pop’s typewriter, which now sits on the filing cabinet in my office.

Many a bad poem was tapped out on this machine!

We would also have broiled pita as an accompaniment to beef fondue, which may have been my brother Richie’s birthday meal. It was also an occasional weekend dinner treat (this was the 70s, and fondue was all the rage). The pita was easy to replicate, but over the years I have tried to make a gravy that comes close to the savory stuff I would pour to pool into the well of my mashed potatoes. I’ve made the occasional roast, but my attempt at gravy, well, let’s just say I’m no Gravy Master. Another favorite involving gravy was her Salisbury steak. Recently, in an effort to find something else to do with hamburgers, I came across a recipe online and guess what? It was just like my mother used to make. I’ve made it twice in two weeks and will be ballooning to a new pant size soon 😉

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Salisbury Steak and an attempt at healthy eating.

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

I love to hear about my mother’s childhood memories and one of my favorites is of when my grandmother Jocie was making meatballs and she let her kids help her. My Uncle Mike was about 6 and he decided to throw a meatball into the air to catch it…apparently he never caught it because it STUCK TO THE CEILING!! I can imagine how funny that would be and my mom said it resulted in a fit of giggles!

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

And a permanent round grease spot on the ceiling as a souvenir of that moment! As time goes on we try to replicate some of the Hitz We Miss, and we add to them too, creating an ever-evolving list of favorite dishes, some of which get passed down to become current “Hitz.”

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

One of my favorites is my mother’s No Fail Chicken Casserole.



Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

Which was one of MY mother’s recipes and it is loved by all who ate it. Credit goes to our family friend Cheryl Menino who I believe first gave it to my mom in the early 80’s. How can you go wrong with chicken, cheese, wine, and a can of good ol’ Campbells condensed Cream of Whatever soup? It’s easy and delicious and it feeds a crowd. This is one where you need to keep copies of the recipe around because you just know a friend is going to ask for it during dinner.

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

I just thought of two more favorites. My mother’s Chicken & Red Sauce over Couscous is amazing. I also loved my Papa’s Meatloaf…nobody could make meatloaf like Papa.


Papa’s Veggie Meatloaf (ketchup is a vegetable!).

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

Except now we have his recipe and you will get it on a regular basis (at least until you go off to college!)

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

Growing up, my father (Eva’s Papa) didn’t cook, but in our teens, he developed an interest in trying his hand at the stove. The big fail of family legend was his idea to save time by mashing potatoes in the blender. The result was an inedible grayish goo and a lot of laughs and ribbing. But his Chicken Cacciatore over linguine was a huge hit. Richie would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to steal leftovers, which would inspire huge fights the next day. Dad’s other signature dish was chili con carne, but it’s the cacciatore that will live on in my memories. Jerry Gertz’s Chicken Cacciatore

There are so many dishes that I miss, but mostly I miss the days of youth and the dinners that brought us together and defined us as a family.

Gertz Girlz Final Dish:

It’s another wonderful rite of passage that one of the things you look forward to when you come home during college breaks are…The Hitz You Missed! Here’s to keeping the good ones in the rotation and creating new Hitz for future generations!


Food Blog

Hornz of Plenty



There must be something in the human DNA that makes us happy at the sight of food in large quantities. Perhaps it’s some lingering genetic memory of times of famine. Whatever the cause, August is definitely the month to calm any insecurity you may have about food scarcity. Just visit a farmer’s market if you need proof of that. We have a beauty just down the street in Litchfield, New Hampshire called Wilson’s Farm Market, and this being National Farmer’s Market Week, the Gertz Girlz headed over with recipes on our minds, and plenty of shopping bags at the ready.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

To prepare for our trip, I pulled “Vegetables” off the shelf–a cookbook written by James Peterson. I’m embarrassed to say that up to this point, I had not cooked a single recipe from its pristine pages. I love veggies and can only offer that I’m more carnivorous than I thought. I’m certainly CARBivorous 🙂 Bring on the potatoes and pasta, please! In fact, save time and bring gnocchi!

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

They say timing is everything. I’m having some regrets at the moment over my decision to try the Keto diet that you’ve all heard about to death, just as all the beautiful fresh carbs of August come available. So while I would’ve loved to have made corn chowder, served with cornbread, and a side of corn relish, that is not happening until I fit into a favorite pair of jeans. Corn is the Lucifer of veggie carbs.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

Mwah ha ha!!! I dine with the devil, because my first recipe was Corn Fritters, or as I like to call it: Cornzilla! Who says vegetarian dishes must be healthy? Not me. And since I’m not on the Keto diet, I took four ears of locally grown, super sweet corn kernels and deep fried them into these lovable little devils! My mom would make these on early autumn weekends but I don’t have her recipe. This recipe comes courtesy of Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman RECIPE and I followed it to the letter, EXCEPT hers calls for 1/2 tsp of cayenne so I halved it. It’s spicy enough, but I think it would be okay with the full amount, especially if you sprinkle on powered sugar to balance it out. I also bought a new bottle of maple syrup to make it extra decadent.

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Corn Fritters (aka Cornzilla) sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

Happily, I was able to find some interesting alternatives and still have fun at the farm stand. I focused on the fragrant August tomato for my first dish, Shakshuka. I had never heard of this until I started searching for Keto recipes. For this recipe I went all the way back to the 2010 food blog of the Smitten Kitchen and simply swapped out the Anaheim peppers for our good ol’ farm stand green peppers. Shakshuka is a Mediterranean dish that is basically a slow-cooked marinara sauce made in a large skillet. Once the sauce thickens, you make three or four small wells in the sauce and crack an egg into each well. You cook this until the whites of the eggs have set.

Lisa’s Shukshaka

Because I have to be fancy (and also because I wanted to add more protein and fat to the dish), I added crumbled sweet Italian sausage to the sauce. It was so good I made it again a few days later. The versatility of Shukshaka is terrific…you can serve this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and everyone will be impressed.

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

My mother’s telling the truth – I loved the Shukshaka. But you know what would’ve been great with it? Cornbread.



Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

Honestly, I don’t know where she gets the snark. But onto my next dish which I liked for a lot of reasons, Cucumber Soup with Wasabi Avocado Cream. I found this recipe in my favorite kitchen bible, Ruth Reichl’s The Gourmet Cookbook. I made a small change and simply combined all ingredients instead of using the wasabi avocado cream as a garnish. I was drawn to the recipe initially because this New England summer has been an absolute scorcher, and the idea of a chilled cucumber soup was very appealing.

Cucumber Soup with Wasabi Avocado Cream

The cool cucumber and avocado flavors were magnificent together, and the little kick of wasabi was just enough to keep things interesting. It occurred to me that this would also be a phenomenal “palate cleanser” at a fancy dinner, served in chilled shot glasses with tiny spoons. The Keto Gods would be delighted! Cucumber Soup with Wasabi Avocado Cream

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

Well, the carb demon was in my kitchen yet again, because I bought sweet potatoes, and the next recipe I chose was Indian-style Sweet Potato Salad. This was a mistake with regard to leftovers; my husband Doug doesn’t care for sweet potatoes, so I ate it for a week. The good news is it was delicious and tasted even better the next day, and the day after that, and, well, after six days I threw in the towel. But I’m proud to say what I tossed fit in a small container.

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The mandolin was a gift from my mom Fran back in the ’90s.

I also chose this recipe because it provided an excuse to haul out my rarely used mandolin to thinly slice a red onion. Props go to my husband for handling this part. I’m going to have to use this wonderful tool more often! Even a super sharp knife would never get the onions this uniformly thin.

Here’s my big takeaway from this recipe: rubbing coarse salt into the onions makes them even sweeter and oh so tender. After the salt massage, they rest in a colander for 20 minutes, then, thoroughly rinsed and squeezed of all their moisture, they are rendered limp. It’s a spa treatment; I’d be limp, too! I plan to use this method to top a burger, fold into an omelette, or even before caramelizing. What a revelation!

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So beautifully thin!

I’m a firm believer in making a recipe exactly as written the first time unless something really stands out as wrong, like baloney with whipped cream (credit: The Three Stooges). So I made this verbatim with one exception: I didn’t use mint because it wasn’t available (not a big fan of the herb, I admit, so I didn’t try that hard to hunt it down). And I thought twice about using the 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper, because ouch! But I did use it and…ooo yeah! It’s intense. If I were to make it again, I’d cut back to 1/4 tsp. I’d also use a thinner yogurt. I used Fage Greek which is fantastic and thick, but too much so for a yogurt sauce. Rather than dolloping the sauce, I would prefer to drizzle. It would make a prettier presentation as well. I’d like to point out that this was my error; the recipe doesn’t specify a type of yogurt, other than plain, of course.

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Dee’s Indian-style Sweet Potato Salad

Would I make this again? No. Certainly not with sweet potatoes. But it specifies substituting with Yukon gold, so that might be worth a try. Indian-style Sweet Potato Salad

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

Back to the farm stand itself…Wilson Farm is one of our ‘happy places.’ I got my driver’s license this year and I enjoyed getting my practice hours in going to the farm in Litchfield…it’s very scenic with cornfields, blueberry patches, and historic farmhouses on either side. Once you arrive, it’s a pretty scene with flowers everywhere you turn. Inside you can find everything from whoopie pies to fresh bread baked right on the premises. One of my favorite things is the fresh whipped cream you can buy for dunking all the beautiful berries they offer. The people who work at Wilson’s are also very friendly.

Gertz Girlz Final Dish:

It’s not often that a farm stand has an outstanding website so we would be remiss not to mention it. They offer about a hundred recipes which makes it easy if you need some ideas in a hurry before you visit Wilson Farm! (Locations in both Litchfield NH and Concord MA).

Go and enjoy their bounty!

More info:


#alfresco, #seasidedining, Food Blog

Mermaidz on The Deck

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We are now well into the lazy, hazy, crazy daze (er, days) of summer, and the Gertz Girlz have heard the siren call of the sea (or in this case, the Merrimack River)! For this dining adventure, we channeled our inner mermaidz and headed to The Deck in Salisbury, MA. The day started overcast, which isn’t a bad thing on a humid day; sitting beside the water under a big umbrella with refreshing beverages makes for a cool, relaxing way to pass the hours. But to make it extra special, we were joined by our very first honorary Gertz Girl–and intrepid mermaid–Cheryl Notartomaso! As the afternoon wore on, the clouds burned away and left us with a perfect day for dining alfresco.

Gertz Girl Cheryl.jpgCheryl Sez:

First I have to thank the Dee, Lisa and Eva for letting me be their first honorary Gertz Girl!

The Deck is always a great place to visit on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon and the company of the girlz made it all that much better.

When you first arrive the valet is ready to open your car door and park your car and reminds you to give your server your ticket when you are paying the check and it will be waiting for you when you are ready to leave. I like that! I was seated right way at a nice table with a view and our server arrived quickly to take a drink order while I waited for the girlz to arrive. Being in the hospitality business my entire career, great customer service is paramount and keeps customers coming back. I felt the service was on par from start to finish.

Caesar Salad with Chopped Kale and Seared Scallops

Our starter of Blue Corn Chips and Guacamole was just enough to hold me over until my ‘go to’ Caesar Salad with chopped Kale and Seared Scallops arrived. The salad, tossed with just enough creamy Caesar dressing and shaved parmesan was abundant and full of flavor. The fresh seared scallops were cooked perfectly, crispy on the outside and sweet and tender on the inside. As an ‘add on’ it was totally worth the $12 price. I have visited the Deck in the past and I have had the Caesar with Grilled Shrimp and it never disappoints.

While the menu is a bit limited there is always something that even the most finicky eater can find, and if not just sit back order a cool beverage and enjoy the beautiful view in the day time or at sunset.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

More often than not, I have a hard time deciding what to order. I try to study the menu online and narrow it down beforehand so I don’t irritate the wait staff or my dining companions. What can I say? I hate to regret a choice, which is probably why I don’t have tattoos. Anyway, The Deck has a limited menu which helps, but honestly, they could have put a bowl of Alpo in front of me and I would have been happy. Not sure it would have paired well with my Pinot Grigio, but…it’s about the atmosphere! The fragrant breezes! The water views! And of course, and most importantly, the company!

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Cheryl and Dee

I was thrilled to welcome Cheryl as our first honorary Gertz Girl. She and I met through work in 2001, becoming fast friends, but life has since moved us along divergent paths, so it was a real treat to spend this beautiful day with her–along with Lisa and Eva, of course! And it was like a mini staycation for me as well; I haven’t been near the water since 2006. Sad, but true.

Oh yeah, so the food! I was torn between the Seared Scallops starter as an entrée, the Fish Sandwich and the Stuffed Portobello Mushroom. Cheryl kindly offered me one of her scallops. Thank you, Cheryl! It was perfectly seared and sweet, and I will most definitely order it on another visit, but I decided on the Fish Sandwich. I’m not a big fish eater, oddly enough, but since mushrooms grow in the woods, and particularly as I watched the boats bob in the marina, I thought it more fitting to go with seafood. When in Rome…

A table with a view!

It was a generous portion, and the haddock was gleaming white, moist and flaky. The coating was light and not a bit greasy, but it was also a tad bland. I would have liked it more with some salt and pepper–or dare I suggest, a smidge of Old Bay seasoning?–mixed into the batter. The lettuce and tomato brightened the sandwich but the tartar sauce could have been thicker.

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Fish Sandwich

I also could have done with a slice of American cheese to make it a kicked up Filet-O-Fish, didn’t think to ask. These are quibbles; the sandwich was thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying. The brioche bun was nicely toasted. The fries were perfectly salted. I avoided the pickle, figuring it wouldn’t mesh with the wine, which was light, crisp and DeeLish!

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

Summertime and the living is easy. Whoever wrote that nailed the feeling we all had the afternoon we landed on The Deck! Warm sun, blue skies, and incredible views all taken in under cheerful red umbrellas. I was coming off a tsunami of fried food that weekend – the usual suspects of breaded clams and scallops. I perused the menu at The Deck and went for something light. I ordered the Sesame Salad with the addition of grilled shrimp.

Sesame Salad with Grilled Shrimp

The salad is comprised of Napa cabbage, mixed greens, peanuts, red pepper, bean sprouts, chick peas, and carrots, with cilantro and a light dressing of ginger tahini. Crunch, crunch, and more crunch! I think this would satisfy any herbivore’s craving for a substantial salad by itself. But this mermaid was happy she ordered the grilled shrimp on top. The shrimp were just right, firm to the bite with a tender finish. Altogether very satisfying on a warm day.

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Cheryl and Lisa (before the clouds burned away)

Lest I forget – the Mojito cocktail was pretty much the perfect accompaniment to both the salad and the festive ambiance offered at this seaside restaurant. If people-watching and boat-watching are your thing you will enjoy The Deck, which also has the added bonus of sitting beside a drawbridge which opens and closes regularly to let the taller vessels pass through.

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

Truth be told, I am a REAL mermaid and therefore I don’t eat my fellow sea creatures! I haven’t knowingly eaten seafood ever, although apparently my cruel parents duped me into eating it when I was little by ordering “Chicken Calamari” with a wink at the server. That said, I am most happy near any ocean, and I was content to be with the other mermaidz no matter what they ordered! So I went with the BLT.

World’s Best BLT, according to Eva!

Which is the biggest understatement in the world, because it should really be listed on the menu as World’s Best BLT !  There’s a lotta magic going in that-there sandwich which involved salty, thick bacon and just the right amount of fresh tomato and an amazing aioli mayonnaise to give it a kick. SO delicious! Alas, I also went at the fries pretty hard and so decided to take half the sandwich to go…that was a mistake.

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

I mean my salad was terrific. But at 10pm that night the World’s Best BLT was calling my name (if you get my mermaid drift). So I owe Eva the other half of that sandwich and it will be a wonderful excuse to go back!


Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

(Some mermaidz can’t be trusted with leftoverz).

Gertz Girlz Final Dish:

Newburyport is one of our favorite towns in New England, and some Gertz Girlz may even move there eventually. But if there’s one thing better than eating at a great restaurant in Newburyport – it’s eating at a great restaurant as you gaze adoringly across the river AT Newburyport. There’s a lot of summer left and before it’s gone, we strongly suggest you make your way to The Deck!!

More info:


Food Blog, Uncategorized

Birdz of a Feather



The Gertz Girlz are bird lovers. You might even say extreme bird lovers. One of us is the loving mother of a 29-year-old cockatiel. Another not only finds daily joy in feeding birds, but she even had the nickname “Birdie” at one time. For these, and other more gastronomic reasons, it seems fated that we would eventually pay a visit to The Purple Finch Café in Bedford, New Hampshire.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

Yes, I’ve been a parrot parent to my cockatiel Arnie since he hatched on April 15, 1989. Tax Day. And he’s been taxing me ever since! But I love him dearly. And now I can say I love the Purple Finch Café!


Arnold Edgar Gertz (aka Arnie) loves himself some Dunkin’ Donuts Everything Bagel.

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

This café has consistently won the Best Breakfast Place for the last several years (voted via customer polls) in the Manchester area. I kept reading about them in both NH Magazine and The Hippo, two local publications that take food pretty seriously. We took advantage of their “call ahead” service and set off on a beautiful Sunday morning recently. Walking into a busy café, made cheerful with splashes of purple and lime green throughout, we noted stencils of little purple finches which charmingly make appearances  throughout. In addition to tables in the dining area, you can also request a seat at the breakfast counter which has a large tv screen, where on this morning you could watch Ina Garten cook up a storm, while you ate your own delicious meal.

The Purple Finch has garnered a few awards, and rightly so!

One of the highlights of our visit was possibly the friendliest and most pleasant servers we’ve ever encountered – a smiling woman named Linny. She came to our table right away and let us take our time with the menu, answering questions and bringing our beverages to us in seconds. The menu takes a while to peruse as you have your choice of both breakfast and lunch menu items.

At 11am it’s usually a toss up for me. I decided on the Avocado Toast $8 (A slice of wheat toast topped with mashed avocado, sliced tomato, a poached egg, feta crumbles & scallions. Served with a cup of fresh fruit). Except could I make a few changes? Special orders don’t upset them. I swapped out the fresh fruit for a side of their amazing Sweet Potato Dots (think tater tots only healthier) which come with a little cup of real maple syrup for dipping. Also, could you hold the feta crumbles? No problem.

Avocado Toast with Sweet Potato Dots

When our food arrived, I got exactly what I ordered PLUS “would I mind trying a new dish the chef is trying out and telling us which of the two you prefer?” Being the helpful human being that I am, I was happy to oblige. The experimental dish was similar but more interesting: An English muffin topped with mashed avocado, field greens flavored slightly with a light Greek dressing, topped with a perfectly cooked poached egg. Outstanding.

The Arcadian Avo, a brand new dish not yet on the menu! No doubt it will be soon!

I let Linny know it was my favorite of the two and asked what the name of it was. The newborn didn’t have a name yet, so Linny rushed back to the kitchen to ask the Chef and came back triumphant – “The Arcadian Avo”. Pass the cigars, this one is special! So glad we could be there for this proud moment.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

As I mentioned in our Parker’s Maple Barn entry, when out for brunch I go for Eggs Benedict whenever possible. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Purple Finch has not one, but three types of Eggs Bennie (WOOT! WOOT!) but for this visit I decided to fight the urge and try something different.

How do I love brunch? Let me count the ways! Choices, choices and more choices! Purple Finch doesn’t disappoint with its inventive yet down-to-earth menu and there were so many dishes that attracted me. Among many contenders, the finalists were Breakfast Nachos, the Cowboy Breakfast Burrito (yes, big Mexican food fan), The Breakfast Caprese and the Chicken Corden Bleu Stacker.

And the winner is (insert drumroll)…the Breakfast Caprese!

The Breakfast Caprese

If you’re a fan of the salad, you’ll love the sandwich, unless you’re a vegan or vegetarian. This is an egg sandwich that made me think of what might happen if a BLT and a caprese salad had a baby. Served on a grilled ciabatta roll, the tomatoes were bright red and juicy, the field greens crisp and varied, the bacon thick and spot-on crispy. Instead of fresh mozzarella, they use a basil infused cream cheese, which I think helps make it easier to handle. It’s not super large, but things tend to slide around in a stacked sandwich with a lot going on. This one held it together well; though I did have to ask for extra napkins, I didn’t look undignified getting it into my mouth.

The Caprese Sandwich with Shredded Hash Browns.

The shredded hash browns I ordered from a choice of sides were crispy on the top and tender on the bottom. Potato perfecto! They weren’t seasoned, which I prefer. I like to control my own salt and pepper.

As Lisa mentioned, our waitress was friendly and enthusiastic. I got the feeling that she eats at Purple Finch on her days off! I know I would. I could easily try EVERYTHING on their menu, and that has never happened in all my many, many years of dining out. DeeLish!

Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

I really liked this place. It’s clean and bright and they even have a small coloring corner set up to keep the little kids quiet so I can focus on my Instagram scrolling.



Happy Kiddie Koloring Korner!

The menu has some great choices. I ordered the Finch-wich: A breakfast sandwich with fried egg, cheddar cheese, sausage patty and hashbrowns on a grilled bagel. It usually comes served with the house-made Sweet Potato Dots, but I swapped those out for a side of seasoned homefries and bacon. Delish! The sandwich with those crispy hashbrowns is a brilliant combo and the thick bacon was a solid 10.

The Finch-Wich Sandwich

Gertz Girlz Final Dish:

After we left the Purple Finch Café, we took a peek at their Take-Out Menu which we grabbed on the way out. We discovered the genesis of the café – Jeff and Julie, who met in the food industry while they were working their way through college at UNH, and decided to build a breakfast-serving nest together six years ago. Kudos to the Lovebirds!

There are many more items we want to try including a soup special, Scallop & Bacon Chowder, and every one of their unique sandwiches and salads! When the weather gets chilly we’d like to try The Harvest French Toast – Three slices of golden French toast topped with fire roasted cinnamon apples, cranberries, walnuts, powdered sugar and whipped cream!

We will be returning to the Purple Finch Café because of the great experience and, because, you know “Birdz of a Feather?!”

More info:

Food Blog, Uncategorized

Her Big Fat Greek Birthday



Dee’s birthday was coming up at the beginning of March and the other Gertz Girlz wanted to take her out to dinner to celebrate. They knew just the place too. “There’s this great Greek restaurant we want to take you to.” This was received with a less than enthusiastic response. (See our text conversation below.)


Hmm…a gastronomic roadblock. We all know someone who just isn’t ‘into’ certain types of food. We were treading on thin phyllo here. After all, it was Dee’s big day but we KNEW this restaurant wouldn’t disappoint. In the end, it was what we call a Win-Win. Huppa!

Gertz Girl Dee

Dee Sez:

My limited experience with Greek cuisine began in the ’70s when my mother, always the fearless baker, tried her hand at mastering phyllo on the way to making baklava. Not that I had a basis for comparison, but her result was a revelation. The outer phyllo layers were delicate and crispy, giving way to a sticky bite and a chew of sweet filling both rich and complex; a nut-filled sugar rush of the grandest order. I considered it strudel’s swanky cousin.

Amphora’s Decadent Baklava!

For my mother it was a labor of love, but unfortunately for our family the labor proved a bit too arduous. Those were the days before ample counter space and tall center islands, so the work was done hunched over the kitchen table, which puts enormous strain on the lower back. She made it just once more and then went back to strudel, one of many delights on her rotating schedule of desserts, including mandel bread (or mandelbrot, a softer Jewish version of biscotti) and sour cream coffee cake.

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Fran’s Much Loved and Well Worn Sour Cream Coffee Cake Recipe

A decade later I was a novice cook, just starting out with what would become a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. The first was the homespun Betty Crocker primer, a gift from my mother when I finally moved out of her house. The second was my first purchase: The Culinary Arts Institute’s magnum opus. (From Betty Crocker to Culinary Arts…geez, I wasn’t TOO cocky.)

The humility and the hubris of a newly-minted cook.

In relation to Betty’s book, to this day I have tried only one recipe from The Culinary Arts many pages, an appetizer plainly named Feta Cheese Triangles (probably a subconscious desire to follow in my mom’s phyllo footsteps).

The Culinary Art Institute’s Feta Cheese Triangles

Working with phyllo can be intimidating, but if you follow instructions to the letter –keeping dough moist under a damp cloth, having plenty of melted butter on hand and a good pastry brush – and if you are patient and careful, it is a fairly forgiving dough. The end result was simply wonderful, delicious and decadent. Crispy, creamy, salty, and oh so rich. And let me tell ya: I made it only one other time, for a friend’s backyard wedding, because it was a freakin’ back breaker.

So why would I say that I didn’t especially care for Greek food? Easy: an unpleasant experience with stuffed grape leaves at a now defunct Greek diner in Belmont back in the ’80s. The memory of why I didn’t like it has faded, though ‘bitter’ and ‘slimy’ come to mind. I also don’t like olives, and I refuse to eat baby animals, so the ubiquitous lamb is out. But are these enough reasons to turn my nose up at all that Greece has to offer? Is it fair? No on both counts. So I gave Amphora a try.

Gertz Girl Lisa.jpgLisa Sez:

Having lived in the heart of Boston for many years before marriage, I made a sacrifice moving to New Hampshire eighteen years ago. I traded phenomenal dining-out options for a big house and better air quality. But it was a dismal sacrifice for a serious foodie who became faced with a choice of Applebees vs Pizzeria Uno.

Over the years, I have been more than thrilled to see small, interesting restaurants come onto the local scene. Amphora in Derry, New Hampshire is one I’m particularly proud of. I consider it a hidden gem. If you like casual and intimate dining, great service, and delicious Mediterranean food, you have hit the jackpot here. The décor has a sunny feel to it – perhaps it’s the pleasant lighting, lemon-colored walls, and authentic Greek artifacts scattered about, but on a cold, gray New Hampshire day, it feels like a warm oasis.

We were seated in the last booth, behind the water bearer statue.

My absolute favorite dish is the pork souvlaki dinner entrée – two skewers of tenderly roasted pork seasoned apparently in heaven. It’s served with fluffy rice pilaf, and a tzatziki sauce (a zesty cucumber-garlic dip made with real Greek yogurt drizzled with olive oil) on the side – perfectly tart and creamy to compliment the seasoned meat. But I’ve jumped ahead.

Pork Souvlaki Dinner Entrée with Rice Pilaf and Tzatziki Sauce

The appetizers are some of my favorite items on the menu and I made sure our Birthday Girl got to try some of them. We started with the “Mezza” a quartet of tasty dips accompanied by warm pita bread. This is a “hidden” menu item so be sure to ask for it! It’s fun to try all the dips and decide on a favorite.

The Mezza Quartet: Tzatziki, Melitzanosalata, Kopanisti, Hummus

Another wonderful appetizer is the Eggplant Frites. These long beauties are seasoned and lightly fried leaving a creamy eggplant interior that melts in the mouth. They’re also served with a side dip of the wonderful tzatziki.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

Amphora was a great experience and a very special birthday gift–thanks again Gertz Girlz! Our waitress was friendly and helpful with requests–especially when we asked the music be turned down slightly. The Mezza dips were delicious (LOVE hummus and fresh pita). The Eggplant Frites were crispy and creamy and so addictive I might have to try them at home.

Eggplant Frites with Tzatziki Dipping Sauce

The Gyro I was hoping to try had lamb mixed in with the ground beef, so I opted for the Souvlaki Sandwich with Steak Tips. At only $7.95 it was a delicious bargain: another super fresh, thick pita stuffed with juicy tips, lettuce, tomato, onion and yogurt sauce. DeeLish!!!

Souvlaki Sandwich with Steak Tips

And what great conversation we had! Naturally, one of the topics was foods we would never try, such as periwinkles, octopus and escargot. Disclosure: I did try escargot over 30 years ago. In the English language it’s a rubbery snail swimming in garlic butter, but who would eat it described that way? Even in French, once was enough for me. And of course, we talked about our favorite scenes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which we all love and have seen countless times.

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Eva Sez:

One of me and my mother’s favorite things to do together is watch chick flicks (with a big bowl of popcorn of course). We watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding a couple of years ago and I loved it. The scene where the grandmother is running around in the middle of the night chasing “the Turks” is hysterical! So whenever we go to Amphora it brings back that happy memory and also of their family restaurant, Dancing Zorbas.

Eva’s Thracian Chicken Sandwich

And if you go to Amphora, please do try the fresh feta cheese, so creamy and tangy and wonderful on the warm pita bread!

Fresh Feta Drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Gertz Girlz Final Dish:

Amphora has garnished accolades from The Boston Globe food critics as well as winning Best Greek Restaurant from New Hampshire Magazine. The owner, Peter Tsoupelis has great pride in his family’s Greek heritage and offers family dishes, but with his own unique culinary touches. He is quoted as saying, “Amphora is not your grandmother’s Greek restaurant.” Perhaps not – but allow us to recommend what I consider to be ‘Greek Penicillin’ the Avgolemona Chicken Soup. Yia Yia would approve!

Avgolemona Chicken Soup

When the Gertz Girlz catch a cold, this is the first place we go for a large takeout container of the delicious chicken, pastini, and lemon soup! And Dee can’t wait to visit again. Huppa!

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Food Blog, Uncategorized

Parker’s Maple Barn



If you’ve lived in New Hampshire for at least 15 years (as we have) and still haven’t visited Parker’s Maple Barn Restaurant, we suggest you do. Visiting on a balmy day in mid-October is also a smart move. This rustic eatery nestled in Mason, NH definitely falls under the category of “Destination Restaurant.” A mile-long winding road was raining autumn leaves and pine needles in full sunshine, and brought us abruptly to Parker’s. As Dee said, “you know that you’ve arrived.”

Authentic in its rustic vibe, Parker’s has created an outdoor waiting experience that is part aromatherapy (the maple hits you as soon as you open the car door), charming, whimsical and relaxing. The restaurant, gift shop, outdoor coffee bar, and multiple woodsy seating areas make for an eye-catching exterior. Plentiful parking, including a spillover lot across the street let us know that Parker’s was established and popular. We arrived at noon on a Sunday and there was a 1.5 hour wait (no reservations). We had anticipated this and so should you. Breakfast is served all day, so act like royalty and order what you desire no matter the time.

After a 90 minute wait, we were immediately rewarded with a generous hot beverage service.  The good coffee (according to Lisa) was placed on our table in a carafe – no waiting for refills! If you are a tea drinker, like Dee, you can expect a carafe of hot water, and a tea chest with plenty of regular and herbal choices. We received quick service from a friendly, seasoned (and clearly exhausted) waitress. The food was worth the wait – it was a concise menu with many original temptations.

Gertz Girl DeeDee Sez:

As the name suggests, the restaurant is a large barn-like building decorated with wooden signs and whimsical folk art. There are plenty of rustic outdoor seating options (tree stumps, stone benches) while you wait for your table. But it isn’t autumn in New England if yellow jackets haven’t crashed the party. They chased us out of a covered bridge (another seating option that is no doubt packed when it’s raining), down a path and into the kitschy gift shop. We took a quick look, but opted to enjoy the fresh air and expansive grounds instead.

If you are “hangry”, DO NOT sit in the restaurant’s indoor waiting area. With so many customers, the barn-style door opens and closes with jarring frequency and almost everyone entering or exiting lets it slam shut. It will get on your nerves.

But let’s talk food! When out for brunch, my go-to dish is Eggs Benedict. My expectations are never high, mainly because Eggs Bennie is hard to mess up. Overcooked eggs are always the biggest disappointment, with rubbery ham and overly lemony Hollandaise tied for second. But when our waitress put down my plate, I marveled at how picture-perfect they looked. Honestly, look at this!


Perfectly poached orbs enrobed in a glistening, sunny sauce. Big points for providing a steak knife; this was a first. I have never understood how restaurants think it’s easy to cut through ham and English muffins with a butter knife.

And for the first time ever, I experienced that perfect Eggs Bennie bite. First silky and creamy, followed by salty and tender, and finally gooey and chewy. Heavenly. The home fries weren’t bad, either. But the side of bacon was just okay. I know there’s no such thing as bad bacon (except bad for you), but I think they are missing a great opportunity to offer a maple-candied option, since it’s all the rage these days.

Gertz Girl LisaLisa Sez:

Have you ever been offered “Breakfast Appetizers?” Me neither. How fun! I mean Deep-Fried Blueberry Bites? We might do this on our next visit, but at 1:30 we were in the mood for a lunch appetizer–Spicy Maple Chicken Tenders. The five oversized tenders were amazing. Like something you would get in a great urban Asian restaurant–very lightly breaded, subtly sweet and spicy, and truly tender. One of the lucky Gertz Girlz got to take some home for midnight snakz.


There were some seasonal specials that sounded incredible and involved pumpkin and cream cheese, but I ordered the Maple Ribs with Eggs Any Style, Home Fries and Toast. I hit on the ribs first. Wow! No sticky bbq-like sauce – just pure delicate maple flavor on tender pork that practically jumped off the bone. A little shout out to the whole wheat toast – it was extra thick and flavorful and a great vehicle for the perfectly cooked over-easy egg yolks.

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Gertz Girl EvaEva Sez:

I guess beverages are important to the Gertz Girlz! The waitress kept refilling my ice water which scores points with me, as one of my nicknames is “The Camel.” I was really excited to see a Thanksgiving Sandwich on the menu as it’s one of my favorite meals. It was fantastic and stacked with juicy, roasted turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. I was just a little disappointed by the appetizer plates (kinda chintzy). Food this good deserves to be served on fancier dishes!! (Side note: The other Gertz Girlz didn’t realize until now that Eva is a bit of a dish snob!)


Gertz Girlz Final Dish:

Between the “forest bathing” we did beforehand, and the wonderful dining experience we had afterward, the Gertz Girlz are so glad we made the drive to this unique New Hampshire establishment! Dee bought a beautifully decorated tin of Parker’s maple syrup for $11 and she and her husband enjoyed it on French Toast last night. It was divine. And if you visit between March and mid-April, treat yourself to a tour of the Sugar House while you wait to be seated.

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