Ooo La La! Gourmet cake shop opens on Canal Street

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LaShunda Allen decorates a wedding cake at Ooo La La Creative Cakes, which recently moved from her home to a space in downtown Laconia. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LaShunda Allen developed a love for cooking at a young age. But before she could open Ooo La La Creative Cakes, downtown’s newest business, she had to navigate a landscape of challenges.
Ooo La La occupies the space at the corner of Canal and Beacon Street East, which most city dwellers will remember as the home of Awakenings Café. This summer will be spent focusing on her wedding cake clients, and she plans to add cupcakes for retail sales this fall and, later, gourmet pies. She also plans to host cake-decorating parties, for both children and adults.
“This is 17 years in the making,” Allen said while preparing to decorate a wedding cake in her shop, which opened at 62 Canal St. on July 15. “It has been an amazing journey. It’s finally here, I feel very blessed.”
Allen was born in Phoenix, Arizona, where her mother, Sharon, owned and operated a cafe.
“She didn’t teach me how to bake, but she definitely taught me how to cook,” said Allen. Sharon also gave her daughter two other gifts, which would each pay dividends in the decades to come. Allen said her mother was “a godly woman” who passed on her faith to her daughter. She also saw her mother meet, and overcome, challenges that life dealt her.
Sharon was struck with a rare illness while she was a college student. By the time doctors had cured the disease, it had taken all of the sight from one eye and nearly all the vision from the other, leaving her legally blind. Sharon, who raised LaShunda by herself, left college so that she could open the restaurant to support her family. And, though she was blind, Allen said was able to prepare fried chicken and “the best peach cobbler.” Her business was successful enough that she could provide jobs to family members who fell on hard times.
DSC 0645 DS“Whatever she had, she used it. And she did it very well,” said Allen. Sharon even juggled single motherhood and her business to go back to school and finished her degree. But, then, when Allen was 10, her mother died.
Many in her family didn’t give Allen a chance, considering her circumstances. But, her aunt Fay, who had been Sharon’s closest sister, did, and she took her in. Fay supported and encouraged Allen, including when she indicated an interest in culinary arts. By 14, Allen had begun to fall in love with baking, and by the end of high school, she had earned a scholarship to the prestigious culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.
After earning her degree, Allen spent three months working with bakers in Milan, Italy, where she learned to be a perfectionist. She started her professional career with a baking company in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire, and then got the job as the head baker for Hart’s Turkey Farm. At Hart’s she began to develop a name for herself, and found that more and more wedding cake customers were being referred her way.
“I started to think to myself, I could make a business at this,” said Allen. So, she quit her day job to go into business for herself – right at what turned out to be the depth of the recession. Allen, a single mother by this time, wasn’t able to make ends meet, and ended up requiring state assistance, an experience that she said was both humbling and “awesome,” thanks to the education and training the state provided in addition to financial assistance.
“When I was looking for a job in that program, I started my business.” Ooo La La began out of Allen’s home in 2010. She also found a couple of other part-time jobs, including as an instructor for Lakes Region Community College. Within a year, her business had started to gain traction, and Allen found herself juggling two jobs, her home business, and being a mom to her young son.
“It was a lot, but it was truly a blessing to finally be living my dream.” She dropped one of her jobs to keep up with the growing demand, but decided to keep teaching, something she enjoys doing.
Her business has grown because of two things, she said. The first is her willingness to personalize cakes to match her clients’ desires. The second is her cakes themselves – she utilizes a blend of European baking techniques that result in a cake that is moist and springy, and icing that is decadent yet light.
As Allen reflects on the journey that finally led to her opening the doors of her own cake shop, she gives credit to the support of her aunt Fay, her faith in God, and the tenacity that she learned from watching her mother.
“She was very strong and definitely made her own way,” Allen said of her mother. “She made her mark on me, a very strong mark.”

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LaShunda Allen, owner of Ooo La La Creative Cakes, plans to offer cupcakes for retail sale out of her new storefront in downtown Laconia, where she will also make cakes for special orders. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

  • Written by Adam Drapcho
  • Category: Lake Style
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Lakes Region Foodie – Stop and Go Italian Potato Salad

 

By Barbara Lauterbach

barbara lauterbach
Summer time, and the living is easy... for some! But for those of us that have been inundated with guests, both family and friends, it isn’t that simple. Meals to plan, be with the company and not appear frazzled takes some planning. Potato Salad is a universal favorite, and can be made ahead and refrigerated. It can accompany anything: grilled steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken.
I like to peel the potatoes the night before, and submerge them in cold water so they won’t discolor.
If you want to cook the potatoes the night before, it is better not to peel them before cooking, (you lose nutrients by peeling before cooking) and if peeled they can become soggy. Cook according to your favorite method, boiling or steaming, then drain in a colander. Peel or not, according to the recipe. Pour one cup of distilled white vinegar over them, shaking lightly, then place the drained potatoes in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Perhaps you are not quite sure what potato makes the best salad? You want to avoid some favorites, such as Russet or any other traditional “Baker.” White Eastern (sometimes called “all -purpose white"), or Yukon Gold potatoes have a medium starch content and retain their shape well when boiled. The all-purpose red (or Red Bliss) potatoes also work well, as they have a medium to low starch content. I personally like the “fingerlings,” small and a bother to peel, but leave the skins on for texture! They range from yellow to red skinned, and are generally available later in the summer, about now. I know that John Moulton at Moulton Farm grows some. They hold their shape well.
Just a few tips about storing, don’t wash before storing, and keep them in a dry, cool place, and don’t refrigerate or freeze uncooked potatoes.
Now to the best part, Potato Salad! This recipe is one of my favorites, and can be done ahead and refrigerated. A real show stopper!

lakestyle peppers
Stop and Go Italian Potato Salad:
1 ½ pounds red or brown all-purpose potatoes
2 each large red bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, green bell peppers
Salt and freshly ground peper to taste
4 scallions, including tender green tops, chopped
6 Italian-style black olives, pitted, 6 red-leaf or Boston lettuce leaves for garnish
1 ½ cup cubed provolone cheese,(1/4 inch cubes))
1 ½ cup cubed salami, (1/4 inch cubes)
DRESSING
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ half teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a heavy saucepan that accommodates the potatoes without crowding, place the potatoes, water to cover, and about 1 teaspoon of salt per quart of water. Cover partially, and bring to a boil, and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, 20 to 25 minutes after the water has returned to the boil. When done, drain in a colander and return them to the warm cooking pan briefly, tossing them over low heat to dry them. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes, and cut into ¼ inch cubes. Place the potato cubes in a bowl, and let cool to room temperature.
If you like, while the potatoes are cooking, cut a thin slice from the base of each pepper so that the pepper will stand upright. Then cut a slice off the stem end, to leave an opening large enough to permit stuffing with the potato salad later. For added color, dice the flesh from these slices, and add them to the salad when you toss it. With your fingers, remove the flesh and ribs from inside the peppers. Sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper and turn the peppers upside down on paper towels. Let stand until you finish making the potato salad.
To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil until an emulsion forms (until it holds together).
Add the scallions, provolone, and salami to the cooled potatoes and mix gently. Pour the dressing over all and toss gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Turn the peppers right side up and fill with the potato mixture. Top each pepper with an olive and a sprig of basil or parsley. Place a lettuce leaf on each plate and top with a pepper. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to six hours. Serves six.
When I realized that not everyone was eating the peppers after I removed the plates, I took them to the kitchen and, since it was all family, I rinsed the remaining peppers carefully, dried them and later sliced them, combined with sliced onions, and fried them up for a delicious hamburger or hot dog topping. That last tip is up to you!
With a little preplanning you can enjoy your guests, And, the feeling will be mutual!

Bon Appetit!

Barbara Lauterbach is a member of International Association of Culinary Professionals and a Certified Culinary Professional with extensive background in teaching, lecturing, demonstration and product promotion. She is the author of four cookbooks, and has been published in Cooking Light, Yankee, Fine Cooking and the Boston Globe. She lives in Meredith.

  • Written by Adam Drapcho
  • Category: Lake Style
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British comedy opens at Winnipesaukee Playhouse

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“Round and Round the Garden” at the Winni Playhouse through Aug. 26 is a British comedy set in the 1970s. (Courtesy photo)

MEREDITH —A country house in England would appear to be an idyllic spot for a weekend getaway. But when three grown-up siblings and their significant others all end up under the same roof, long-time rivalries and romantic entanglements come bubbling to the surface. Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy “Round and Round the Garden” shows family drama at its funniest! It runs now through Aug. 26.
Written and set in the 1970s, “Round and Round the Garden” is part of The Norman Conquests, a series of plays written around the same six characters. It features Norman; his wife, Ruth; her siblings, Reg and Annie; and their respective partners, Sarah and Tom. It was turned into a three-part TV mini-series which debuted on PBS in 1978 featuring an all-star British cast including Richard Briers, Penelope Keith, Tom Conti, David Troughton, Fiona Walker and Penelope Wilton.
Commonly regarded as the British Neil Simon, Alan Ayckbourn is a master of comedy. He has written over 70 plays, many of which deal topics to which the average person can relate: marriage, parenting, family relations, social climbing, and romance.
The Playhouse has produced both of the other comedies which make up this trilogy over the past two years, featuring “Table Manners” in 2015 and “Living Together” in 2016. Most of the cast from the first two productions have returned, including Richard Brundage and Molly Parker Myers as oldest brother, Reg, and his wife, Sarah, who return to Reg’s childhood home to look after his invalid mother so his youngest sister, Annie, can get a weekend away. Little do Reg and Sarah know, but Annie’s weekend away features a romantic tryst with Norman (Nicholas Wilder), who is married to her sister, Ruth (Suzanne Kimball). Jason Plourde returns as Annie’s inattentive boyfriend, Tom. The cast is rounded out by Shanel Sparr who is making her Norman Conquests debut as Annie. When her older siblings are let in on her plot, chaos ensues as all three siblings and their partners suddenly find themselves under one roof, where long-time resentments come to the boil with sentimental yet humorous results.
Director Neil Pankhurst said, “It’s thrilling to have the opportunity to finish this trilogy that we started two years ago. That said, each of the plays are self-contained and if you missed ‘Table Manners’ or ‘Living Together,’ it will not impact your ability to enjoy ‘Round and Round the Garden.’”
“Round and Round the Garden” is the fifth play of the summer season performed at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse campus in Meredith. The 2017 summer season is generously sponsored by Bank of New Hampshire and the Taylor Community. Round and Round the Garden is further supported by the generous sponsorship of Chippers, The Laconia Daily Sun, and Misiaszek Turpin Architects. Tickets range from $18-$31 and can be ordered by calling 603-279-0333 or by using a credit card at www.winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org. The Winnipesaukee Playhouse also offers free educational programs in conjunction with each of the mainstage productions. Visit the website for details.

  • Written by Ginger Kozlowski
  • Category: Lake Style
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New book in the Winnipesaukee Adventures Series

From the award winning author/illustrator team of Andy Opel, Karel Hayes and John Gorey comes the newest children’s book in the Lake Winnipesaukee Adventures series and this one is set in the winter! "THE BOBHOUSE: A Winnipesaukee Christmas" (Peter E. Randall Publisher 2017) tells the story of Jack, Franny and J. J. as they spend their first Christmas in Boulder Lodge with Grammy.

The kids learn all about the challenges of living at the lake in the coldest time of the year and get a special tour of Wolfeboro from their friend Mr. Fuller. Franny decides to enter a fishing derby despite her doubting brothers and with the help of a jolly old man in a colorful bobhouse, Franny learns how to ice fish.

The artwork in "THE BOBHOUSE" continues Karel and John’s attention to detail, capturing the look and feeling of Lake Winnipesaukee during the Christmas holidays. Readers will recognize familiar sights around the region. Resident artist Hayes captures the magical colors of crystal clear winter days on the frozen lake with watercolors of winter scenes, including bobhouses, warmly wrapped children and ice fishing. Gorey’s inspired sketches tell the tale of a very special Christmas-time. Together they bring Opel’s words to life, as he takes readers on the next chapter of this engaging series.

The "BOBHOUSE" is the fourth book in the Winnipesaukee Adventure Series, which begins with summertime tales of kids “messing about in boats” in "THE WITCHES: A Winnipesaukee Adventure" (2011), and "THE WEIRS: A Winnipesaukee Adventure" (2013.) Then Grammy and the children enjoy fall at the lake, with a spooky twist, in "THE MANSION: An Old Winnipesaukee Mystery" (2015).

"THE BOBHOUSE" is available for sale at bookstores and giftshops around the Lakes Region as well as online at http://www.enfielddistribution.net/thebobhouse-2.aspx.

07 26 The Bobhouse

  • Written by Ginger Kozlowski
  • Category: Lake Style
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