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Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's All About ME

The view of the harbor from our B&B in Boothbay Harbor.
Well, we've been back from our 2 week trip to Maine for a few days and I'm finally settled enough to get something written about it.

It was a great trip--we had really good weather for the most part, took some beautiful and fun hikes and, of course, ate a bunch of great food.  As you would expect, much of what I'll be writing about is food-related.

The drive up was pretty uneventful.  We always talk about how, once you cross the bridge from Portsmouth, NH into Maine, you can almost feel a palpable change.  You breathe in and know that you aren't dealing with the hubbub of the Philly suburbs anymore. 

We made our usual stop at Freeport and visited L.L. Bean and a few other stores.  Then it was on to Boothbay Harbor.  We used to drive straight through to our ultimate destination, but that gets pretty long and several years ago, we decided to stop a couple of nights in some other towns.  We've stayed in Boothbay Harbor the last 3 years in a nice B&B, The Bayside Inn--very kid-friendly (they have 2 kids of their own who were so excited to hang with Jake for a little while) and in a great location.

Our first ME dinner was at a place we visited last year.  The Lobster Dock gets great reviews and, if you're a fan of the Food Network show Throwdown with Bobby Flay, you may recognize it as the location of the Crabcake Throwdown episode (Flay won--a few nights later, we actually saw the episode on TV). 

The menu is HUGE, but we were in the mood for some good fried seafood.  I got a humongous platter of fried haddock, Maine shrimp, scallops and clams piled on a load of French fries.  MB got the fried haddock platter--a huge piece of fish over fries.  It was delicious: cooked to perfection--not a speck of grease on the paper plate, eaten on the dock overlooking the harbor.  Jake got a hot dog, but had his greatest epiphany of the trip--he loves fried Maine shrimp.

Maine shrimp are those little tiny shrimp--very tasty and tender.  I offered him one of mine and that was that--he probably ate half of the many I had on my plate.  He was so excited that he found something new to eat--and, as you will find out, he ate plenty of them in the coming weeks.

You can see the big menu
in the background.

 After dinner, we waddled over to the Greater Boothbay Ice Cream Factory--another place we've visited in the past.  Here they offer probably 70 or more flavors of homemade ice creams--and you can split the scoop, too (2 "half-scoops" of different flavors.  Very tasty.  Ice cream could be Jake's favorite food.

Artichokes (a member of the thistle
family--obviously) in the Garden of
the Five Senses.

Jake in the "bear cave".

After a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, blueberry muffins and more, we headed to The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens--a favorite of ours from our other 2 visits.  These gardens are relatively new and fairly unknown, but they are incredible--even in September.  Everything is done exceptionally well--from the walkways to the benches to the sculptures to the cafe to the gardens themselves.  They have a number of gardens including The Garden of the Five Senses, The Kitchen Garden and the incredible Children's Garden, which opened during the summer.  We literally spent all day there--much of it in the Children's Garden where Jake climbed in a tree house, hid in a bear cave and played in the fountains among other things.  It really is a must-see destination.
More fun at the Gardens.

Later, we went to nearby Wiscasset and had dinner at Sara's Cafe, a nice family restaurant with a great view of the Sheepscot River.  Admittedly, the food is so-so, but it's a good place to take kids.  They have very good desserts, too.  For the first time in a long time, we didn't stop for a lobster roll at Red's Eats, across the street from Sara's.  Sort of feels like something is missing not having stopped there, but as you will find out, there were plenty of lobster in our future.

Creme Brulee French Toast greeted us the next morning, our last in Boothbay Harbor.  After dragging our full bellies around town a little bit, we stopped at Ocean Point, a nice public area nearby.  Then it was off to the cottage in Brooklin.
In that area, one of the most famous and popular places to eat is Moody's DinerOpened in 1934, Moody's has been the place to get good, homemade comfort food.  Among the things we had there: Turkey Sandwich (with their own roasted turkey breast), Turkey Pot Pie, Blueberry Pie, Chocolate Cream Pie and a Whoopie Pie (The debate rages on about whether Whoopie Pies are a Maine creation or a PA Dutch/Amish thing.  They taste the same and my theory is that if they're both called the same thing, there must be some sort of connection between the two.  I should do some research about that.)  Anyway, we finally stopped at Moody's after passing it for the last 12 years.  Good stuff.

We made it to the cottage after going grocery shopping (the Tradewinds Grocery Store  in Blue Hill is great) and we were ready for the next part of our trip.

Next time:  Farmers' market, hiking and a meal at one of our favorite restaurants (anywhere)--Cafe This Way in Bar Harbor. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Salmon Follow-up

Back on Sept 9, I shared with you an email regarding a petition against FDA approval of genetically modified salmon.  On the 24th, I received the following email from the folks at Fresh:
Take a bow.
This weekend, over 10,000 FRESH petition signatures against genetically engineered salmon were delivered to the FDA. And guess what: after three days of hearings, the FDA agreed with us that there's significant concerns about genetically engineered salmon, and it must go through a rigorous public review before further consideration for approval.

This is huge. You did this. Your signature, and your efforts to spread the word put a stop to the corporate fast-tracking of genetically engineered salmon in our food system!

We still have a lot of work ahead of us. The corporations pushing genetically engineered salmon aren't backing down. We need to take advantage of this victory and re-organize to stop genetically modified salmon once and for all.

Please donate $5 to help FRESH continue our fight against genetically modified salmon.

The FDA agreed that the small sample sizes, incomplete data and poor scientific assessments in the research done on genetically modified salmon warrant concern.

Dr. Gary Thorgaard, the only member of the Committee with expertise on fisheries, called on FDA to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement, a sentiment echoed by other members of the Committee during the discussion period. The FDA will publish the final environmental assessment that they have thus-far kept from the public and open it up for the required 30-day public comment period. This only happened because of our tremendous protest and could end up meaning slowing down this process by years.

In light of the numerous unknowns raised throughout the two day meeting, FDA officials announced that any approval will require post-market review and data requirements, but we must make sure that they also require proper regulation and safety assessments.

That means we still have quite a battle to fight! But there are only three of us here behind FRESH, and it is your support that keeps us up and running, doing what we can do to help protect our fragile food system.

Whether or not you signed the petition, this is pretty good news.  Not only that the questionable idea of genetically changed fish will be looked into further by the FDA, but that once again, it's proved that working together, we can make positive changes in the things we eat and how they are produced.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Go Phils!

Just a quick post to congratulate the Phillies on their 4th straight NL East Championship!  I feel a 3rd World Series appearance in a row coming on!

I've tried to explain to Jake that the Phillies don't really make the playoffs every year--although they have every year that he's been alive.  Someday I'll tell him about the 80's teams...

Go Phils!

Friday, September 24, 2010

How to Buy Shrimp

While here in Maine, Jake found out that he loves fried Maine shrimp--those little tiny shrimp that they have up here.  They are really sweet and tasty.

The Morning Call recently ran an article about shrimp.  As you know, the BP oil spill threatened not only the shrimp, but livelihood of the many shrimp fishermen who fish the Gulf.  But according to virtually all reports, shrimp from the Gulf is safe to eat--and a good thing, too. 

Shrimp is the favorite seafood in the U.S.  According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (you'd be familiar with this if you received my September newsletter), wild and farmed shrimp from the U.S. & Canada are an environmentally favorable seafood to eat.

The article has tips from Chef John Besh, one of the top chefs in New Orleans (and the country, for that matter) about buying the best shrimp:
  • Dark brown heads, legs or tails can mean old shrimp.  The color should be light, "almost transparent in a way," Besh said.
  • Use fresh shrimp immediately, if possible, or within a day.  (In our area, fresh shrimp are almost impossible to find because they are very perishable.  Even the shrimp that you find in a seafood store has been frozen.)
  • Whole, fresh head-on shrimp should still have antennae attached; shrimp without them were likely frozen.
  • Besh said shrimp should smell "fresh and briny from the sea."  (A good hint for any kind of seafood.)  Perform a "sniff test" at the counter, if you like.  If the store refuses, try an old Julia Child trick: Buy the shrimp, open the package right there and complain, loudly, if unsatisfied.
  • Buy shrimp with the shells still on; use them to make a shrimp stock for use in recipes.  "Shrimp shells have more flavor than the actual shrimp meat itself," Besh said.  Here's his simple recipe: "Toast the shells in olive oil, add onion, garlic and celery.  Cover with water and cook 45 minutes."
  • Frozen shrimp can be as good as fresh, Besh said.  He prefers shell-on shrimp because they're less prone to freezer burn.  He also prefers to thaw the shrimp himself when he's ready to use them, rather than buy thawed shrimp at the market.  (Cook's Illustrated suggests the same thing.) 
  • Avoid precooked shrimp, Besh said.  "I can't control it.  I'm at the whim of someone else cooking my food."
  • Develop a relationship with a reputable fish dealer who cares about the freshness and quality of the product.  (Just a few in our area are Captain Bob's in Quakertown, Heller's in Warrington and Bucks County Seafood in Dublin.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Sunshine, upper-60's temps, fresh veggies, the bay out the back door and $4.50 lobster...am I in heaven?  Nope, I'm in Brooklin, Maine!

We spent a couple of days in Boothbay Harbor and now we're here in Brooklin (I'm currently at the cute little public library) and it's just the best place on earth.  Just came from a tiny, but really great farmers' market here in town (or village)--got some veggies, freshly made whole-wheat baguettes, fresh mozzarella and homemade blackberry/blueberry jelly.  Mmmm...

You'll hear more about our trip (probably more than you want to hear) soon!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Genetically Enhanced Salmon

I received an email about this topic yesterday and I thougth I'd share it with you:
We have 10 days before the FDA meets to discuss AquAdvantage Salmon (genetically modified) salmon. We want to deliver 10,000 signatures opposing the approval of this fish - will you please add your name to the petition today?

AquAdvantage salmon are genetically engineered to produce growth hormones year-round, creating a fish that the company claims grows at twice the normal rate.

Without conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment, the FDA has announced that it will potentially approve AquAdvantage salmon as the first genetically engineered (GE) animal intended for human consumption. They're counting on approving the GE salmon as a 'drug,' making it infinitely easier to pass through. The FDA is not even opening up for comments about its speedy approval of this new food, instead it's holding a short comment period about the LABELING of this salmon.
The health impact of eating genetically modified fish are entirely unknown. The FDA has NOT studied the long-term trials on the fish and with very little evidence, has deemed the fish 'safe to eat.' Even more alarming, the FDA has given very little evidence of these studies over to the public, excluding anything claimed by AquaBounty as "confidential business information."

Even if you personally choose not to risk your health by eating GE salmon, you still have a huge problem. Each year millions of farmed salmon escape from open-water net pens, throwing off entire ecosystems and economies as they dominate already fragile wild salmon habitats. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes that a release of just 60 GE salmon into a wild population of 60,000 could lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations.

We will deliver your comments IN PERSON to a meeting that the FDA is having about this issue on September 19th. That's only 10 days away! Can you please add your voice and say no to approving genetically engineered salmon?
We're down to 9 days now.  If you want to sign the petition against these modified fish, click here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Eat Off the Floor

We've all been to a restaurant that was...how can I put this nicely...um....well, gross.  Dirty silverware, yucky bathrooms, maybe a bug or two running around.  No way you'd go back to that place, right?  How did they ever pass inspection?

Well, a new study has shown that most people's home kitchens probably would not pass a typical restaurant inspection.  Is your refrigerator at the correct temperature?  Do you store meats properly?  Is there pet hair near preparation areas?  Do you rinse off all vegetables and fruits? 

While most restaurants rate an A or B with these inspection criteria, most home kitchens would not do so well.  In fact, according to the survey, 14% would fail.
"I would say if they got below a C, I'm not sure I would like them to invite me to dinner," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
These results were compiled from an Internet survey, not actual home inspections.  So, because most of the respondents were probably people interested in food safety and related topics, the actual results are probably much more negative.  If you had a fridge that didn't work right and bugs running around your kitchen, would you want to complete this survey? 

Read more about the survey in this AP story.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's Not the End

Today marks the "unofficial end of summer" as the local news programs are so fond of telling us.  Yes, we're in September now and the nights are getting cooler, the kids are going back to school and the baseball pennant races are heating up.

But for those of you who have enjoyed all the wonderful fresh produce our area has provided throughout the summer, don't despair.  There's plenty more still available.

Most farmers' markets are still going strong through at least the end of September with lots of great stuff for the taking--tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, greens, squash, watermelon.  Not to mention those crops that come in during the cooler months--broccoli, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, a variety of root vegetables, pumpkins and so much more.

So don't let the "end" of summer get you down.  Keep on enjoying the fruits of our local farmers' labors and eat well for weeks to come!

Have a safe and fun Labor Day!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Zoo

I just realized that I never put any pics of our trip to the Philly Zoo a couple of weeks ago.  As you know, Jake is animal crazy, so we became members of the zoo last year.  It's worth it even if you go just 2-3 times a year. 

There are a number of baby animals there that we wanted to see.  We saw some of them--we missed the kangaroo joey and the baby orangutan wasn't out when we were there.  The highlight, though, was the baby giraffe.  Very cute and only about 6 feet tall.  You can go on line and vote for what to name it.  It made me think that the baby giraffe is much more tender than the adult animal.  Here's a recipe for giraffe steak (you can substitute zebra or antelope if you can't find giraffe).

On a completely different subject, I have 2 more farmers' market appearances for the season--tomorrow at Plumseadville Grange FM (9-noon) and next Saturday at the Indian Valley FM (8:30-12:30).  Sorry, I won't be making any giraffe.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The "Best"

Jake and I went out to dinner the other night.  He wanted to go to Wendy's.  I tried to convince him to go somewhere else--Duck Deli, Luberto's--somewhere with decent food.  Well, guess who's choice won?  Yes, that Baconator was delicious.

We don't go to fast food restaurants very often.  Probably once every couple of months.  It's usually when we're traveling somewhere and we need something really fast.  Or as a special "treat" for Jake--it's the toy in the kids' meal that's the real treat. 

But for many, fast food is a way of life.  (As a personal chef, it's my goal to make this way of life disappear--heating up one of my meals is quicker, more nutritious and a heck of a lot tastier.)  A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless (and mindless) once uttered the words: "McDonald's?  Oh, man, I LOVE their food!"  I seriously don't think I've ever heard anyone speak about fast food with such passion and exuberance.  He's lovin' it.

Zagat's, the well-respected travel raters, have recently put out their survey on chain restaurants--both fast food and full service.  The best fast food burger?  Five Guys Burgers & Fries (I've never been there, although I have heard that their burgers are good.).  The best fast food fries?  McDonald's. 

The restaurants are grouped as Large Chains (up to 5000 US locations) and Mega Chains (more than 5000 US locations).  Overall, here are the fast food winners:

Best Food: In-and-Out Burger (large) & Wendy's (mega--our fast food of choice)
Best Facilities: Panera Bread (large) & McDonald's (mega)
Best Service: Chick-fil-A (large) & Subway (mega)

Check out more of the survey here.