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Friday, October 29, 2010

Sour Phruit

Watching the World Series gives me a sour taste in my mouth since the Phillies aren't playing.  So I figured I'd write a little bit about a sour fruit.

Damsons are a tiny fruit related to the plum that originated in Syria.  As the Roman Empire spread into England, the fruits also made their way into Great Britain.  It used to be that they were only found in the wild, but they are now commercially grown.

They're too sour to eat out of hand, but sweetening them by poaching or making into jams makes them palatable--although still very tart.  Damsons are used to make gin, wine and beer in England as well as slivovitz, a distilled spirit made in Slavic countries.

So at least until the end of the Series, damsons are the official phruit of the Phillies.  A nice big glass of slivovitz ought to help me get through it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Halloween is just a few days away.  As usual, I'm hoping that we don't get many kids showing up so I can have all the left-over candy.  I can always sneak some of Jake's...

In the US, we spend over $2 billion each year on Halloween candy--a huge chunk of candy makers' annual income.  So what kinds of candy are the favorites?  That's a little hard to figure out.

There are loads of lists and surveys that give you "favorite" Halloween candy and they're all different.  But there are some trends.

Chocolate candy almost always tops the lists (Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups usually).  But Candy Corn is also up there--for whatever reason.  Those little waxy things are gross if you ask me.  Ask Jake, and he'll say that he loves them.  I guess that's why these lists are all different.

What would I like if I went out Trick-or-Treating?  Snickers & Reese's are good for me.  I like Milky Ways, too (especially the dark chocolate).  Smarties are good--and nostalgic.  Starbursts.  Oh, and York Peppermint Patties.  Does anyone give Heath bars for Halloween?  I love them.

For some reason, there was an article on MSNBC's website that listed the "healthiest" candies--kind of an oxymoron.  They were Jolly Ranchers, Blow Pops, Gobstoppers, Pixy Stix and Candy Corn.  The least healthy?  Mr. Goodbar, NutRageous, Snickers, Baby Ruth and Mounds.  Not coincidentally, those "unhealthy" choices are the best tasting.

What candy are you giving out this year?  Or are you giving out something else like toothbrushes or pencils (and then waiting to get your house egged)?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Have fun and be safe!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Years ago, before I ever thought I'd do cooking for a living, I watched Jacques Pepin cook on PBS.  At the time, I didn't realize the influence that he would have on me, to an extent, but also on TV cooking shows. 

                     Photo: wsre.org
Pepin, who recently celebrated his 75 birthday, is one of the original TV chefs.  His shows have featured his expertise in technique, classic foods, quick and healthy cooking, a show cooking with his daughter and, one of the most entertaining, he and Julia Child cooking together.  The two of them are a riot--different styles, but both with a great wit--always busting on each other for using too much or too little butter or something to that effect.

Despite being in the biz for decades and well into retirement age, Pepin is currently in production of another PBS series, has published almost two dozen books and instructs at Boston University and is the Dean of Special Programs for the French Culinary Institute in New York.  He's also an accomplished artist, often painting the artwork for his books.

He often makes things look easier than they seem--especially technically.  But there is no doubt of his love of cooking and the joy he has for helping others feel the same way.  It doesn't seem like he'll be slowing down anytime soon.  Happy Birthday, Jacques!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bucks County Biscotti

As I told you last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing the owners of Bucks County Biscotti for a Bucks County Taste article I was writing.  The article is now up.  Check it out and learn about this great local business and the people who make it happen.  Warning--you're going to be craving cookies after reading!

Monday, October 25, 2010


What a crappy weekend sports-wise.  I really felt like the Phils were going to pull it off.  How disappointing.  The Giants?!  Come on...  I think I'll be rooting for the Rangers.  The Phillies are set up to be good for quite a few years to come, but it's still a bummer.  Then, to get my mind off of baseball, I watched the Eagles give up 27 points in the 4th quarter to lose.  Thanks.  That helped.

I can't wait until Election Day--simply so those horrible, tacky and pretty much useless TV commercials will no longer be aired.  Just once, will one of you people tell me what you've done and not how your opponent is going to send the country or state or county or township into the deep recesses of the Netherworld?  I like politics--I find it interesting.  But something has to be done with the way races are run.  No wonder voter turn-out is low.

We just pulled a nice, ripe, yellow tomato out of our garden.  Good thing we haven't gotten around to pulling everything out yet. 

I find it amazing how much better local apples taste than the ones shipped in from Washington or Oregon or New York or wherever.  They're so much more juicy and flavorful.  Grab some before they're not around anymore!

Made a tasty Crock Pot meal for us yesterday. 

BEEF FAJITAS (They're really not fajitas in the traditional sense, but good nonetheless.)

1 1/2 pound beef flank steak
1 cup chopped or sliced onion
1 green sweet pepper, cut into 1/2" pieces or sliced
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1 can stewed tomatoes (14 1/2 oz), cut up
12 flour tortillas (7")
1 Tbsp lime juice
Shredded cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa for topping
  • Trim any fat from meat.  Cut steak into 6 portions.  In a slow cooker, combine onions, green pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander and salt.  Place meat on top.  Add undrained tomatoes.
  • Cover; cook on low setting for 8-10 hours or on high setting for 4-5 hours.
  • Heat tortillas by wrapping in foil and heating in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Or wrap in a damp paper towel and heat in microwave on high for 1 minute.  Remove meat from cooker and shred.  Return meat to cooker and stir in lime juice.
  • Serve meat/veggie mixture on warmed tortillas.  Add desired toppings. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010


But not just any ordinary cookies.  I'm talking about fresh, hand-cut, all-natural biscotti made in Hilltown.  I'm talking about Bucks County Biscotti.

Happy Boy--enjoying a Chocolate-
covered Classic Anise Almond Biscotti.
 Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with owners (and sole employees) Karen Riley and Craig Silbert for a Bucks County Taste story.  They generously took time to tell me about their business and show me around their beautiful 18th Century home and the area where the magic occurs--where they bake, cut and package their great product. 

Check them out--the biscotti are really delicious.  I'll let you know when the story is posted so you can learn all about this wonderful local business.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Make Me a Match

Yesterday I was watching the Phillies game (ugh--but I still say they win in 6) and, as is usual while watching baseball, I got the munchies.  So I got some nice salty pretzels and some fresh apple cider from Penn Vermont Fruit Farm in Bedminster (really tasty).  What a pairing!  The salt from the pretzels brought out the incredible flavors of the apples.  Yum!

In an article in The Atlantic, innkeeper and author, Regina Charboneau writes about some of her favorite food duos.  And while some of them--salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and orange--are on my list of favorites, some of them are just a little more "fancy" than I have in mind (oysters and caviar, anyone?). 

So I started thinking about some of my favorite things to eat together.  Some of them are, admittedly, weird.  But I like them anyway.
  • Bacon and maple syrup.  Charboneau lists bacon and brown sugar as one of her favorites, but I don't think there's much better than some good bacon and real maple syrup.  Some really good pork sausage and maple syrup (or "dip" as Jake used to call it) aren't bad either.
  • Cheetos and peanut butter.  OK.  This gets a little messy, but I love it.  Nice crunchy Cheetos (not the puffed kind) dipped in PB.  Hey, you eat those little cheese crackers with the PB in the middle, right? 
  • PB&J sandwich and potato chips.  While we're on the PB subject, there's just something great about a PB&J and plain old potato chips.  My sister used to put the chips IN her sandwich (maybe she still does).
  • Gorgonzola cheese and pears.  This is a classic pairing, but man, it's so good.  I love the Mountain Gorgonzola from Pasqualina's Italian Market and Deli here in Blooming Glen.  Creamy, tangy and a little sweet matched with the sweetness of the pear.  Apples are good, too.
  • Chocolate and hot pepper.  I do agree with Charboneau about the chocolate/orange combo, but I love chocolate and spice.  It's becoming more of a common thing to find these days.  Try it sometime.  The creaminess of the chocolate tames the heat.  Chocolate with chipotle is great (adds some smokiness).  Or try the incredible Chocolate-Jalapeno ice cream at oWowCow Creamery in Ottsville.  Deep, dark chocolate ice cream with a nice amount of heat.  Sooooo goooood.
  • Pretzels and chocolate ice cream.  Big salty pretzel dipped in really good chocolate ice cream.  Oh yeah.  It's that salty/sweet combo again.
  • Melon and Prosciutto.  Another classic, but one of my all-time favorites.  Sweet melon wrapped in salty prosciutto.  Ahhhh...drizzle a little balsamic reduction over it and you have an appetizer that can't be beat.
  • Tomato and salt.  It's depressing that tomato season is gone.  But it was wonderful while it lasted--when I could just bite into a fresh tomato, sprinkle a little sea salt and dig in. 
Did I miss anything?  I'm sure I did.  Let me know what some of your favorite pairings are.  Don't worry, I won't pass judgement. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eating Jack

Like most families, we'll be carving a big orange pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern very soon.  Jake gets very excited about doing that--he's already asked if we can roast the seeds to snack on (that's my boy!). 

Many people forget that pumpkins aren't just for carving...they're a nutritious and delicious vegetable that is greatly underused.  Check out my latest post on Bucks County Taste about pumpkins and how to use them for more than just decoration!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time to Send the Pig Packing?

Everything's better with bacon, isn't it?  Well, for many years now, that's been the thought by a lot of people (including me).  There are bacon cupcakes and bacon donuts, bacon with fish and veggies and, well, pretty much anything else you can think of.

But according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, some folks may think that bacon has run it's course these days.  They say that bacon can cover up the real flavors of foods and that it's just being overused. 

OK, I admit, bacon does show up all over the place (bacon lip balm?!?) and sometimes is a crutch to add flavor to some tired dish.  But for me, bacon will never go out of style.  Smoky, salty, great texture, great mouth-feel.  Who would get tired of some crumbled bacon on a salad or soup?  Or a great BLT when tomatoes are at their peak?  Or a little bacon in some fresh waffles with real maple syrup?  Oh yeah.

No, I don't agree with them.  Bacon is here to stay.  What do you think?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TV Foodies

Through the years, I've learned a lot from watching cooking shows on TV--from Saturday afternoons on PBS to the Food Network.  These days, many shows are more entertainment than actual instructional, but that doesn't mean that you can't learn or get inspired from the them. 

Epicurious, the great food website, has named the Top 10 foodies on television.  As you may expect, the late, great Julia Child has topped the list.  But who else is there?  Check out the list and see if your favorite made it.  Who should be on the list who isn't?  Who should be kicked off the list?  Let me know what you think!

Personally, I think Christopher Kimball, of the America's Test Kitchen, Cook's Country PBS shows and Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines should be on there--I think they're the best cooking shows on TV. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moving On!

Well, the Phillies know who they're opponent in the NLCS will be--old friends Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and the Giants.  It'll be a tough series--if any team has the starting pitching to match the Phils', it's the Giants.  But I ahve a good feeling about it--the offense will come to life (Ryan & Jayson will have a big series) and the Phillies will win in 6 games and head to the Series once again...this time with home field advantage!

Go Phils!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just Offal

There aren't too many things that I won't eat.  Among them, however, is offal.

Offal is the word used to describe any kind of innards or organs from an animal to be used for food: brain, liver, kidney, stomach, tongue, etc.  To many, it's aptly named--they think offal is just awful.

Some experts thought that 2010 would be the year that American consumers would buy more offal because of the economic situation in the US.  Well, according to butchers and this article from PioneerLocal of Illinois, that's not the case. 

The main reason they cite is the "gross" factor.  Unless you were raised in a culture that traditionally eats these meats, many Americans (like me) have no desire to put a heart (or any other internal organ) in my mouth.  There are other reasons, too. 

These meats are high in cholesterol and many folks are trying to avoid that in their diet.  Plus there's still some fear about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease) that keeps the sales of calves brains down.

How about you?  Do you eat offal?  How do you prepare it?  Why do you like it?  Were you brought up eating it?  Let me know.  I'm offally interested in what you have to say. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Anniversary Discounts

I usually don't reprint things that I write in my newsletter, but I want to make sure everyone knows about these discounts.

October 16 marks the 1-year anniversary of Dinner's Done Personal Chef Service as a full-time business.  Thanks to everyone for their support, encouragement and faith.  Like most small businesses these days, I'll need it for Year 2 as well!

To celebrate my anniversary, I want to offer a special discount on my services (not including Crock Pot Wednesdays).

Take a 5% discount on a Dinner's Done service before the end of 2010.  Buy a 2nd service before the end of the year and take a 10% discount on that service!  A 3rd service in 2010 will get you a 15% discount!

Again, all services must be performed during the 2010 calendar year.  All first-time client and referral discounts apply as well!

This is a great way for you to do what you've been thinking of doing--treating yourself to the stress-free life of having a personal chef.  You'll save money, enjoy great food, feel good about the food that you and your family are eating--and have the free time to sit back and think about how you could have ever done without it.

Check out the many Dinner's Done services and their prices on my website.  Then give me a call or email me to set up a consultation.  Help me celebrate my anniversary with a gift for yourself and your family!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kids These Days

Jake having fun at dinner--
as usual!
As an eater, Jake is pretty good for a 4 1/2 year-old.  He doesn't like cheese or potatoes or most sauces (unlike pretty much every other kid in this country).  But he has been trying things more readily lately--kalamata olives, gravy (I told you he doesn't like sauces), various veggies, fish.  He likes most of it once he tries it.  As you have heard, in Maine he learned that he loves fried shrimp.

To top it off, he's a pretty healthy eater, too.  He's much more apt to eat some sort of fruit or veggie (broccoli, sugar snap peas, etc) than chips or some other snack food.  He loves his candy--especially chocolate--but those are a treat, not something he has a lot of. 

He has a good attitude toward food that we've helped to foster in him--we talk about food and treat it with respect, take him to farmers' markets, eat a wide variety of foods, let him help prepare the food when he wants to, make meal time a time for fun.

Snack of choice at today's farmers' market?
The Morning Call recently ran an article including an interview with Tanya Wenman Steel, the editor-in-chief of epicurious.com, co-author of the "Real Food for Healthy Kids" cookbook and mother of twin 12-year-old boys.  She gives some great tips about getting kids to eat--and eat well.
  • Have young kids help clean lettuce or peas or whatever.  Have it be fun for them to come in contact with the food.  Steel says not to worry about the mess.  "It's more about creating a fun environment and warm memory and a Pavlovian instinct that the kitchen equals fun."
  • Teach your kids that fresh foods are better.  Explain how the perimeter of the grocery store is where the better foods are.  Take them to farmers' markets.  Get excited about the colors and textures of the foods.  Let them pick out things to try--most likely younger kids will go for the colorful things, which just happen to be the most nutritious.  Involve them in the preparation of meals. 
  • Many people say that their kid doesn't eat.  But, Steel says, most of the time those parents don't eat either and don't sing the praises of healthy foods. 
    You have to be the ultimate PR person for spinach.  You've got to be a spokesperson for the deliciousness of fresh food.  And that means not just talking the talk, but walking the walk and eating that way every day in front of them.
  • Starting him early.
  • Start them early.  Putting something new on their plate when they are learning to feed themselves is the time to do it--they'll try it.  Studies show that kids need to try something over a dozen times to get used to the flavor and smell of a food.
  • Challenge teens (especially boys) by appealing to their competitive side.  I'll bet you I can make these Brussels spouts taste good to you.
  • Require them to at least try the food.  If they don't like it, then they can say, no thank you.  But don't negotiate with them.  They should eat what's on the table--you should not be making 3 different veggies for 3 different tastes.
  • Try substituting healthy foods for other favorites.  Make a healthy trail mix instead of chips.  Offer peanut butter on an apple instead of candy. 
  • Portion sizes are important.  Steel says:
    Portion sizes are probably half of what parents think they should be.  It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it's full.  So I always start my kids with fresh veggies...By the time they're eating dessert, hopefully it has been 20 minutes and they're going to say, 'I don't need another thing to eat.'  But if they do, give them whatever fruit is in season that will satisfy the sweetness they're craving.
    Admittedly, these tips aren't the easiest things to implement.  Although we think we do a pretty good job with Jake, there are times that he just won't eat what we give him.  But the key is trying to do it--try to make these tips work and you'll have a healthier kid who will enjoy and respect food much more than if you didn't make an effort.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's All About ME (conclusion)

Our last Thursday at the cottage just didn't start the way we wanted it to.  We wanted to leave early for our final trip to Acadia, but didn't get out of the house until later.  Then, we realized that our photo card was filled--yeah, we took a lot of pics--so we had to stop at a Radio Shack (the 3rd store we tried--the others were sold out of them) to buy one.  All they had was a huge one for $30-some.  On our way out of the parking lot, we were rear-ended by some guy anticipating the green light.  No damage, but you know how it is.  Just not what you want to deal with. 

The plan was to hike the South Face of Cadillac Mountain--the highest mountain on Mt. Desert Island.  It's a rather easy hike that we'd done before, but it's relatively long (3.7 miles one way).  We weren't sure if it would be too much for Jake. 

On the way up Cadillac.
The day was beautiful--sunny, warm, breezy.  It looked like things would be turning around for us.  Alas, the photo card didn't work for some reason.  So not as many pics of the trip up the mountain as we wanted.  I only had a little bit of film left in my non-digital camera.

But that, as it turned out, was the last of the problems for the day.  The hike was great--beautiful views, nice weather.  And Jake did great.  I may have carried him on my shoulders for a half-mile--probably less.  The rest he did on his own two little legs.  The apples and homemade trail mix helped give him energy.

The good day continued with our second trip to Cafe This Way.  Our server was Tony, who we've gotten to know over the years--Jake always looks forward to seeing him.  We found out, unfortunately, that it was Tony's last season in Bar Harbor before moving to Chicago.  Good luck, Tony!

Now some of the food that the 6 of us ate: The Brie-Wild Mushroom Fondue again, Maine Seafood Spring Roll, Shrimp with 4 Sauces, the Littlebit (olive tapenade, melted cheese, roasted peppers, roasted garlic on a sizzling platter with fresh bread), Pecan-Crusted Halibut, Grilled Scallops with a Citrus-Fennel Salad, Asian Pecan-Crusted Chicken, Duck with a Blueberry Sauce and more.  Exquisite food, as usual.  Oh, desserts--MB & I shared Chocolate Pots de Creme and Jake devoured Blueberry-Basil Sorbet.  I forget what the others had for dessert.  I can't tell you enough how good the food is there. 

Friday was a rainy, lazy day.  Just hung out at the cottage for a while.  Walked the beach a little bit.  Got lobsters for one last truly Maine dinner at night.

After cleaning up, it was time to leave the cottage.  MB, Jake & I stopped at The Fish Net in Blue Hill again for our lunch.  MB got a fish burger and both Jake and I had one last helping of fried Maine shrimp.  (I should have counted how many of those things he ate on this trip.) 

MB & Jake in York Beach

One last night in Maine lay ahead of us--in York Beach--not far from the border.  We had stayed at the Candleship Inn one time in the past and decided to stay again.  It's a very nice place--one of those places some go to for a total relaxation stay--massage, yoga, etc.  While we didn't do those things, we did have a nice stay.  For a nice change of pace, we at dinner at Guac-n-Roll--a burrito bar.  It was very good and reasonably priced.  MB had a Mexican Pulled Pork Burrito, I had one with Chorizo/Guacamole/Rice/Salsa.  Jake had a deconstructed steak taco (he basically just ate the meat). 

Our last nice meal was breakfast at the Candleshop Inn.  Barbara (the innkeeper) and her cook (a Jamaican woman who's name I'm forgetting) presented a wonderful vegetarian spread: scrambled eggs (or tofu if you wished), fried plantains, apple cobbler, granola (you make it yourself), bagels, muffins, smoked salmon with red onion, capers and cream cheese, fresh fruit salad, etc.  The food is great, the people are friendly and helpful--another good place to stay if you're in the area. 

So that's it...a wonderful trip full of fun, food, nature, rest and relaxation.  I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It's All About ME (continued)

Jake & Louis
When we first started going to Maine, we stayed at the Ullikana Bed and Breakfast.  Since Jake's arrived on the scene, we haven't stayed there, but we've kept in touch with Roy and Helene, the wonderful innkeepers and stop in to see them every year when we're in Bar Harbor.  If you ever want to stay in pretty much the perfect B&B, that's the place to go.  Beautiful setting, old character-filled building, eclectic artwork, incredible food and, best of all, two of the nicest and knowledgeable innkeepers that you could ask for.  They simply do everything right. 

On the Great Heat Trail
We stopped in to see Roy, Helene and (Jake's favorite) Louis, the black lab.  Jake and the dog played together while we caught up with the humans.  Then we headed to meet up with the rest of our group at Sand Beach in Acadia where we ate lunch (we packed sandwiches, etc).  They were filming a yoga video virtually all day there--kind of interesting.

There's a beautiful hike along the cliffs there--the Great Head Trail--that we hiked.  The first time Jake was on that trail, he was 7 months old and rode on my back (sleeping much of the way).  Funny to see him hiking the whole trail himself this time.

Insane kid swimming at
Sand Beach.

After the hike, we just hung out at the beach.  Jake, in his innocence (or ignorance) wanted to go swimming.  Now, the water there never gets much out of the 50's even on the hottest summer day.  It was freakin' cold.  Still, he went in.  Sorry, kid, you're on your own. 

Route 66 in Bar Harbor
Dinner in Bar Harbor was on the low-key side this night.  We went to a place called Route 66.  It's a good change of pace restaurant--not the greatest food or service, but there's a lot on the menu and it's a good place to take kids.  I had a decent burger for a change, MB had the turkey dinner (cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, etc) and Jake, as you might guess, had fried Maine shrimp.  

The next day was a relaxing one.  We hung out at the cottage for most of the day--hiking the shoreline, kayaking and canoeing.  Later, we drove around Blue Hill Peninsula, stopping at the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin (they were making kayaks and some sort of little dinghy-type boat--a very cool place to visit) and Stonington. 

Dinner was homemade again, but delicious.  We ate the left-over mussels and the yummy sauce over pasta and the awesome lobster stew I made.  It's based on a recipe from Dishing Up Maine by Brooke Dojny.  It is simple and tastes better than anything you get in most restaurants.  Here's the recipe:

Best Bar Harbor Lobster Stew (makes 4 main-course servings)

3 cooked 1 1/4-pound lobsters
6 tablespoons butter
1-2 shallots, minced (not traditional, but I use)
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons paprika
3 cups whole milk (I used 1% with good results)
2 cups heavy cream
Salt (optional)
Sprinkling of snipped fresh chives (heretical, but nice)

  • Remove meat from lobsters and chop into 1" chunks (save as much juice as possible).  Scoop the green tomalley (or liver) out of the bodies and reserve.  Reserve 2 of the lobster bodies.
  • Melt the butter in a large, heavy soup or stew pot.  Add the tomalley and shallots (if using) and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook over medium-high heat until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.  Add the lobster meat and saved juices, sprinkle on the paprika, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  • Slowly add the milk and cream, stirring constantly.  Add the reserved lobster bodies, pushing them down so they're submerged in the liquid.  (They will contribute flavor.)  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours (mine actually sat for about 48 hours).
  • Remove and discard the shells.  Rehear the stew over very low heat, stirring often so it does not curdle.  Add salt, if desired.  Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the chives, if desired, and serve.
Sunrise at the cottage.
One more post to go--another trip to Cafe This Way, another trip up Cadillac Mountain, another lobster dinner and another drive home.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's All About ME (continued)

Clam shacks are the classic way to eat seafood in Down East Maine.  They usually have a walk-up window, a huge menu and very fresh seafood.  Most offer things like burgers and hot dogs (for some reason) and picnic tables (some even have indoor seating).  They usually do a great job with fried foods as well as fresh lobsters, steamed clams and mussels, etc.

You've heard me talk about Red's Eats in Wiscasset and The Lobster Dock in Boothbay Harbor.  Another place we've been to--maybe the best of them--is Bagaduce Lunch in Brooksville.  They've been closed for the season by the time we've gotten there the last few years. 

More fried shrimp at The Fish Net.

In Blue Hill, the "town" near the cottage (as opposed to the "village" of Brooklin), there's an excellent shack, The Fish Net.  By this time, MB's mom, brother and his girlfriend had joined us and we all went there for dinner--another chance for Jake to scarf down some fried Maine shrimp.  Among other things devoured that night--scallop roll (lightly fried scallops on a toasted hot dog bun), fish chowder, seafood stew, lobster roll.  There's just something about eating that kind of food at a picnic table with others doing the same--out under the clear sky having your legs eaten by mosquitoes.  OK, the last part isn't that great, but everything else is.  Nothing a little Off can't take care of.

While we were there, a lobsterman (part of the family who owns The Fish Net) brought some lobsters to our table for a bit of a tutorial about them.  It got us anticipating cooking our own the next night.  He was very nice and obviously enjoyed telling people about the critters.  He said that it was a great year for lobsters, which, I'm sure made him even happier.

Baseball by the sea.

For years, we had passed signs for Moose Point State Park on our way to Blue Hill or Bar Harbor and this year, we decided to check it out.  It's a very nice park--on the water with some nice paths to walk and nice lawns for playing baseball with Jake.  Apparently, moose have never been seen at Moose Point (some say they've seen droppings).  We saw neither.

From there we stopped at a very nice potter co-op and visited Perry's Nut House (I tried to link thei4r website, but not surprisingly, the site doesn't come up).  This place is, well, just plain weird.  Real stuffed wildlife, very expensive fudge and nuts, a while bunch of junky toys and souvenirs, a real mummy, fun house mirrors and much more.  Jake thought it was great--as have visitors since 1927.  I guess it's one of those places to stop in one time to say you were there. 

Getting the water for cooking
the bugs.

Lobsters.  They're what you think of when you think of Maine--especially if you're hungry.  We bought a bunch at The Sleigh Bell Shoppe/Lobster Crate.  We're used to this place after all these years, but it's still pretty funny.  It's a nice little gift shop that happens to sell lobsters, too.  A very nice lady, Annette, runs it and is always very friendly. 

The cottage has a turkey fryer that we cook the lobsters in.  I simply fill the pot with sea water, crank the propane and get it boiling.  Then it's time for the bugs to take a swim and about 15 minutes later, we're eating.  The sea water seasons them perfectly.  We also picked mussels at low tide and I cooked them with some bacon, white wine and mustard.  They were really tasty even if some of them were gritty with little "pearls".  (That's what happens when you pick your own mussels.  Most that you buy or have in a restaurant are farmed and grow on strings, so sand doesn't get in and pearls can't form.)

It was quite a feast.  Jake was all excited about eating lobster this year (he had tasted it only 1 other time at Red's Eats), but didn't like the messiness of it.  Maybe next year.  Butter, lemon, wine, beer, salad and that great bread from the farmers' market.  Pretty much the perfect dinner.

We bought a few extras for a great lobster stew that I make.  But I'll tell you about that next time.

Ready to go to the table!

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's All About ME (continued)

Just like around these parts, there are farmers' markets all over the place in Maine and the small towns near where we stayed--Brooklin, Blue Hill, etc--were no exception.  We stopped by a very small (only about 5-6 tables) farmers' market in Brooklin (a very small village) and were bowled over by the great stuff--breads, veggies, jams and jellies.  We got some fresh mozzarella (actually from the seller's friend in Vermont), some fresh carrots and dragon beans (Jake has loved them since getting some at one of our local markets this summer), some incredible blueberry/blackberry jelly and a delicious whole-wheat baguette (one of the best breads we've ever tasted).  We were all set for our pasta dinner back at the cottage.

At the summit of Blue Hill Mt.

The next day was pretty relaxing.  We took advantage of yet another beautiful day to hike up Blue Hill Mountain, with great views of the village of Blue Hill and the bay.  We got to bed early because we were headed to Acadia the following morning.

Acadia is why MB & I have returned year after year to Maine.  If you've ever been there, you know what I mean.  Deep forests, mountains, ocean, lakes--it has it all.  There's really not much better than hiking up one of the many mountains, reaching the summit and just standing there to take in the breathtaking view.  We hiked up Connor's Nubble that day.  It was a little rough-going for Jake at the beginning as we had to follow the boulder-filled shoreline of Eagle Lake.  But we saw some loons and, once we left the shoreline and headed up the side of the small mountain, he was much better.  We worked up an appetite--good thing, too.  After hanging out at Jordan Pond for a while, we had reservations for Cafe This Way.

You've probably heard me talk about this restaurant before.  It is one of our favorite places to eat anywhere.  Comfortable, casual, friendly--you can go in your shorts and hiking boots and enjoy creative and delicious meals.  The menu is interesting--very hard to decide on what to order--and the flavors are incredibly well-balanced.  It's food that you'd expect in some fancy place, yet there we were with our hat head hairdos.  It's great.  We started going there the first year we visited ME--and their first year of operation--at the suggestion of Roy & Helene at the Ullikana B&B.  They have steadily grown bigger and more well-known, but never losing the feel that makes it so special.

OK.  Here's what we had.  MB & I shared Wild Mushroom & Brie Fondue as an appetizer.  If I knew it was this good, I wouldn't have shared it.  Jake got a kids' meal--grilled shrimp, corn on the cob, applesauce and pasta (not the usual kids' menu).  MB had Maine crab cakes (3 of them about 2" thick) with garlic mashed potatoes (one of their specialties), butternut squash puree (delicious) and broccolini.  I had Brazilian Mussels, Shrimp and Scallops--with a sweet, spicy and complex Tomato/Coconut Broth with lime.  It was great.  MB & I shared Chocolate Mousse (excellent) and Jake got a Chocolate Chip Brownie with his meal.  If you go to Bar Harbor, you HAVE to go here.  Do you understand me?  You HAVE to!

OK.  Next time, more fried shrimp, Acadia again and LOBSTERS!