Category Archives: Food

A Food Tour in Portland, Maine

Yesterday, Clif and I went to Portland for a food tour. Our state’s largest city, Portland is known for, among other things, the quality of its food and beer. Our daughter Dee gave us this tour as a Christmas present, but neither of us fancied walking around Portland in slush and snow. So we waited until August, when the weather was suitably warm, and I could also call it a pre-birthday celebration.  (Remember, our credo is to celebrate early and often.)

A little backstory: I am, ahem, more than a little obsessed with food, so for me it is a perfect day when I can go from store to store and sample food. One of the happiest days of my life was when we visited Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, New York. As we approached the huge parking lot, and I saw what appeared to be acres of food stalls and food trucks, my heart began to beat with excitement. But I digress. Fortunately for me, Clif is what my mother called “a good eater,” and his enthusiasm for a foodie tour almost matches mine.

Here then, captured in photos, is the food tour we took yesterday.

Vervacious was our first stop, where we had lobster mac and cheese and got to sample some of their delectable spices and balsamic vinegar. (Clif is to the left of the sign.)

After that it was time for chocolate from Dean’s Sweets—salted caramel and a chocolate coconut truffle. Oh, deliciousness! (Clif is again on the left.)

Then onward to the Public Market House, which features many vendors under one roof.  I had a tasty squash soup. (Clif had something else, but I didn’t get a picture of it.)

And a sort of Maine/Thai fusion dish—sticky rice with coconut milk and blueberries. Very good!

Our penultimate stop—Stonewall Kitchen, for scones with blueberry preserves.

Finally, to Bull Feeney’s, an Irish Pub, for beer and Scotch eggs. Two confessions: I am not a beer drinker—I prefer cocktails—but I was more than happy to give my beer to Clif. Also, I have never had Scotch eggs before. In fact, I was only dimly aware of what they were. But I am an egg lover, and eggs done any way are just fine with me.

So there we have it. As my Yankee husband noted, a pretty darned good day.

 

 

An Illuminating Week

Last week was a week of illumination, where I learned so much and also had so much fun. I guess you could call it a nearly perfect week of good movies, good food, a wonderful play, a fine lecture, and time spent with my nephew and daughter. Who could ask for anything more?

Once again, I am grateful that we live in a rural area with lakes, rolling hills, and forests yet also have access to plays, art, lectures, and independent movies. This definitely falls under the category of having the best of both worlds. We are also three hours away from Boston and seven hours away from New York City. In short, central Maine rocks.

First, the food. When Dee comes for a visit, one of her favorite meals is a waffle breakfast. I know this is bragging, but Clif’s homemade waffles are pretty darned good. We bring the waffle maker and batter to the dining room table, and out the waffles come, hot and fresh. This time, for sides, we had fresh strawberries and veggie sausages. (Dee is a vegetarian.) We had this breakfast not once, but twice.

Dee is a pizza hound as well as a movie buff, and it seems this pairing is not unusual. Next to Railroad Square Cinema is Grand Central Cafe, which makes pizza in a wood-fired brick oven. I am not a pizza hound, but I have to admit that Grand Central’s pizzas are very tasty.  The pizza featured below, which Clif and I shared, had cheddar, chicken, mushrooms, and barbecue sauce and was served piping hot.

And as far as Clif is concerned, pizza and beer go together the way chocolate and peanut butter do. This particular beer came from Bar Harbor.

Now for the illumination. Colby College, a liberal arts college with an incredible art museum that has become a destination, is a major sponsor of the Maine International Film Festival (MIFF). This year, in conjunction with MIFF showing one of Disney’s most beautiful, films—Bambi—Colby hosted a lecture called “Bambi and the Art of Tyrus Wong” presented by the filmmaker and animation historian John Canemaker.

I had never heard of Tyrus Wong (1910-2016), a Chinese immigrant who suffered poverty, discrimination, lack of recognition, and at a young age, the loss of his mother. Despite the hardships, Wong became an animator extraordinaire who worked on Walt Disney’s Bambi. Wong’s luminous, Asian approach of soft, blended backgrounds enhanced the vivid, memorable characters in this movie.

During the lecture, I also learned that Bambi was based on Felix Salten’s 1923 Austrian novel, Bambi, a Life in the Woods. When I came home, I Googled Felix Salten and discovered that his book “was  one of the first environmental novels ever published.”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend MIFF’s presentation of the movie Bambi, a 35mm Academy Archive print shown on the huge screen at the Waterville Opera House. It meant leaving our dog buddy Liam unattended for too long.

Ah, well! I really can’t complain as I learned two things I didn’t know about—the animation of Tyrus Wong and the Austrian writer Felix Salten.

And I saw some first-rate movies, which I’ll write about tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Meridians!

On Saturday, Clif and I went to the town of Fairfield, about thirty miles away, to celebrate the third birthday of Meridians. a snappy wine, beer, and food shop owned by the son-in-law of some friends. Because of the distance, Clif and I don’t go to Meridians often, but we always enjoy this local shop whenever we do visit.

For the third birthday celebration, there were beer and wine tastings plus utterly delicious chicken tacos courtesy of Outland Farm in Pittsfield.

Here are some pictures of the event.

A happy little crowd tasting wine, beer, and chicken tacos.

An Asian chicken taco with slaw and a zesty peanut sauce. I could have one right now.

Michael and Heather Holland, the owners of Outland Farm. How lucky Maine is to have such a wealth of young farmers. At their farm, along with chickens and pigs, Mike and Heather have apple and peach orchards as well as other varieties of fruit. We will definitely be making a trip to Outland Farm when the peaches are ready. Oh, fresh peaches!

One of the great things about a wine or beer tasting is that you actually get to sample different types that you probably have never tried. I’m not a beer drinker, but Clif is, and he found a beer he really liked that was brewed in Bend, Oregon. Naturally Clif bought a four pack, and what better place to drink beer than on our own patio?

A very happy birthday, Meridians! May you have many, many more.

To the Red Barn, Fernwood Nursery, and John’s Ice Cream

Yesterday was a finest kind of day, even though it was hotter than heck—in the 90s. For Mother’s Day, Shannon gave me a gift certificate to the fabulous Red Barn–thank you, Shannon!—and our first stop was lunch. I had one of my favorite things—a delectable lobster roll—and Clif had fish and chips and a side order of onion rings.

After that, it was on to Fernwood Nursery in Montville, where I met my blogging friend Denise Sawyer and her husband Rick. A note about blogging friends in general and Denise in specific: Blogging has enhanced my life  in unexpected and utterly delightful ways. In this country and in many others, through blogging, I have met a wonderful, creative group of people who inspire me. You might even call this a far-flung community of kindred spirits.

I met Denise in a roundabout way, through an Irish blog called The Aran Artisan.  As it turned out, Melissa, of the Aran Artisan, is originally from Maine, and Denise, one of her followers, lives in Maine now. Hence the connection. Denise found out I was Franco-American and very kindly sent me a book about Franco-Americans. I discovered Denise and her husband own a nursery that specializes in shady plants.

I have a shady yard and gardens with, ahem,  a few holes. As Fernwood Nursery is within driving distance of where we live, Clif and I decided to make the trek to Montville after our Red Barn lunch.

What a treat to visit Denise, Rick,  and their delightful nursery tucked in the woods. Truly, it felt like Clif and I were connecting with old friends, even though we had never met. Despite this being a very busy time for Fernwood, Denise graciously took time to talk with us and to give us advice about planting in dry shade. I came home with a Solomon’s seal, just perfect for that aforementioned hole in the garden.

Denise also told us a little about herself, about how she came from an old Connecticut family that dates back to the 1600s. Rick is from the Lewiston/Auburn area, and they own about twenty acres of land in Montville, which not only supports the nursery but also provides about 85 percent of what they eat.

Most of the land remains wooded, and Denise is quite rightly proud that they get so much out of a small footprint, their livelihood as well as a lot of their food.

As we sat outside in wicker chairs, I heard the clucking of chickens in a nearby pen, big with plenty of room to peck and scratch. In the background came the melodious song of large wood chimes, and it almost seemed as though the woods were singing.

Denise and Rick have what can only be called a flair for making their nursery a lovely place. Green, green, and green, so bright yet soothing. Lots of little containers tucked with different varieties of hens and chicks. Double-blossom white trilliums. Arresting sculpture.

Here are some pictures of Fernwood Nursery.

As Denise noted, “It’s a good place to be.”

It most certainly is, and we look forward to visiting again.

Now, you might be wondering how in the world we ended the day that would be in keeping with seafood and a delightful nursery.

Following Denise’s suggestion, we went to John’s ice cream.

As the sign indicates, the ice cream is handmade and oh so delicious.

What a good life we have!

Utterly Delicious Best-Ever Bagels at Forage in Lewiston, Maine

For this post to make a lick of sense, you need to know a little about Lewiston, Maine, a city about a half-hour from where we live. Once upon a time, when the mills were booming and a decent living could be made, Lewiston was a thriving albeit small city that people actually wanted to visit. My mother and Clif’s mother both spoke about how going to Lewiston—from Skowhegan and Bangor, respectively—was a treat they looked forward to.

However, by the end of the last century, the booming days of the mills had come to an end, and Lewiston became a gritty, edgy place where people struggled to make ends meet. Gray and shabby and a little menacing, it was not picturesque. It was not cool. It was definitely not a place that tourists wanted to visit.

But Lewiston does have a few things in its favor. It is the home of the fine Bates College, which brings a little pizzazz to Lewiston, no matter how down and out the city might be. Lewiston is not far from snappy Brunswick or trendy Portland, but it is far enough away so that real estate hasn’t soared to the point where ordinary people can’t afford to buy a house. (Always a very bad sign, in my opinion, when house are out of reach for average folks. )

Slowly, businesses and good restaurants, lured by affordable real estate and a college community, have started coming to Lewiston. There seems to be a good change in the air, and Forage Market is a perfect example of this.

My friend Mary Jane alerted me to Forage Market. On Facebook she shared a piece from Saveur magazine describing how Forage’s sourdough bagels were baked in a wood-fired brick oven. The writer, Mathew Kronsberg, then went on to make this astonishing claim: “These were not just great bagels for Maine. They were great bagels for anywhere.”

On Facebook, I immediately wrote to Mary Jane, “We’ve got to go to Forge.”

“Ready when you are!” came her immediate reply.

So yesterday, on an April day with a lovely light rain, Mary Jane, Clif and I traveled to Lewiston to check out these great-for-anywhere bagels. Even on a Wednesday afternoon, Forage was packed with people of all ages. The tin ceilings, dark interior, and hip staff give the place a cool vibe that we all loved.

But how were the bagels? Readers, they deserved the high praise they got from Mathew Kronsberg. Simply put, I don’t remember having a better bagel anywhere, even in New York City. Heresy, I know. I got a sesame bagel, and it was loaded with those luscious seeds. Crispy on the outside, soft and springy on the inside, that bagel was oh-so delectable, and I could have one right now. Clif, with his poppy seed bagel, and Mary Jane, with her garlic bagel, concurred that these were terrific bagels.

My one regret is that because I had a bagel sandwich–smoked turkey, lettuce, tomato—I wasn’t able to appreciate the full deliciousness of my bagel. This means that I’ll have to go back soon, in midmorning, and have a bagel spread with butter and nothing else.

Mary Jane, are you up for another trip to Forage?

Scenes from the totally excellent Forage Market:

The funky interior
Honey and a glimpse of the hip staff
Clif and Mary Jane, ready for bagels!
Words to live by

 

And finally, those bagels!

The Velocity of Spring and the Easiest Soup Ever

In northern New England, spring always drags her pretty heels until suddenly she bursts upon us in all her glory. This year, however, the burst seems to have come at lightening speed.

Here is the picture I took on Monday, April 3, to toast my blog-friends Derrick and Jackie.

Here is a picture I took on Wednesday, April 19, a little over two weeks later.

Even by Maine standards this is fast, fast, fast, and I just can’t get over the velocity with which spring has come this year.

The male goldfinches have begun to turn bright yellow, the phoebes are singing their  “fee-bee, fee-bee” song, and my perennials are poking their bright green leaves up from the cold dirt.

Tra-la, tra-la! Spring is here, and even though yesterday and today have been chilly and rainy, I know that winter is firmly behind us.

Time to remove the leaves from the front garden beds (me). Time to rake the yard and clean up the sand by the edge of the road (Clif).

Because of the chilly weather—very common in Maine in the spring—for supper last night I had soup in mind, specifically a curried chickpea and cauliflower soup.

I poked around  the Internet,  and using suggestions from various recipes, I came up with the easiest, tastiest soup I have ever made. And I mean ever. This is chiefly due to using cans of diced tomatoes with green chilies. Spiced with onion and garlic as well as green chilies, these canned tomatoes are so flavorful that they make an excellent albeit spicy base for a soup, and no additional onion or garlic are required.

Add chickpeas, cauliflower, and a few other spices. Let the soup bubble and violà! You will have a spicy, satisfying soup for a cool spring day. Broiled toast with olive oil and grated cheese makes a fine accompaniment.

In fact, who could ask for anything more?

Curried Chickpea and Cauliflower Soup

Makes 6 generous servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (14.5) ounce cans of diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
  • 2 cans of water, using the chili cans
  • 2 (15,5) ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cups of cauliflower, cut small. (Add more or less, depending on how thick with ingredients you like your soup.)
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste. (I added neither.)
  • Splash of milk, optional

Directions

  1.  Put all the ingredients into a slow-cooker.
  2. Cook on high for three or four hours. On low for about eight hours.
  3. When the cauliflower is tender, the soup is done.
  4. Near the end, add the splash of milk—coconut would be lovely—but this is optional.
  5. See what I mean about this being the easiest soup ever?

A Beauty of an Easter Weekend

A few days ago, the weather forecast was for sun on Saturday and rain for Easter Sunday. Clif and I had planned to have crab-meat rolls on the patio on Easter, but as the forecast didn’t look good, we decided to have the rolls on Saturday. After all, our philosophy is to celebrate early and celebrate often.

Saturday, as predicted, turned out to be a beauty of a day. In honor of the occasion and of the lovely weather, we brought out the round white table from down cellar. I felt like jumping up and down with joy. It is always a thrill to have the outside furniture on the patio, and soon the large green table will be joining the smaller one.

Oh, what a nice little feast we had, with a shared whoopie pie for dessert.

The sun was warm, the red buds were showing on the maples, and all around us birds called, sang, and twittered. Best of all, in April, there are no biting bugs to vex us, which makes time spent on the patio even sweeter.

Today, Easter Sunday, did indeed start out cloudy, and in the spirit of celebrating often, we decided to have a small Easter brunch of egg-in-toast and turkey bacon.

By eleven, the clouds were gone, the sun was shining, and I made a pot of green tea sweetened with honey. It will be chilled for iced tea for mid-afternoon when we go out on—you guessed it!—the patio.

It’s shaping up to be a lovely Easter weekend, the gateway to spring then summer and lots of time spent outside.