Category Archives: Food

Water, Water Everywhere: Jeffrey Becton at Bates and a Trip to Fuel Afterwards

Yesterday, Clif and I went to to the Museum of Art at Bates College. Of the three colleges, Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin—all of which have fine art museums—Bates’s is the smallest. Nevertheless, as The View Out His Window (and in his mind’s eye): Photographs by Jeffery Becton  illustrates, small doesn’t mean second rate. Far from it. (If time allows, do clink on the link to take a look at some of the work in this terrific exhibit.)

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Bates College Museum of Art

The moment I walked into the gallery and saw the photographs, I got that particular feeling—a sort of current—that comes from seeing very good art. Becton’s photographs are large, and they feature surreal montages of old houses, old doors, peeling paint, still lifes, and decay. Water figures prominently in all the photographs as it comes into a room or laps at the edges or is just plain there. The palate is muted, almost soothing, yet there is also a certain sadness in most of the photos. If Andrew Wyeth had had a more vivid imagination, this is how he might have painted.

From one of the wall signs, I learned that “[t]o create the works…[Becton] photographed, painted, layered, fused and altered digital imagery from myriad sources and constructed the pictures…”

The woman at the desk told me that she’d like to step into one of the photographs. My response: “Only if there was a quick way out.”  All that water coming into the rooms has a, well, unsettling effect.

Indeed, on the wall, is a quotation by Jeffrey Becton: “We love, need, and fear water and for good reason. I try to tease out the resonances and amplify them because life is difficult and unfair and the passing of time is mysterious.”

The exhibit runs until March 26, and Clif and I plan to go back for a second look. Bates College is only thirty minutes or so from where we live, and for us it is an easy trip. Readers, if you like art and live within driving distance, then I urge you to go see this exhibit. Admission is free, and on Monday and Wednesday the museum is open until 7:30.

After the exhibit, we went to one of our favorite restaurants, Fuel, which specializes in simple French cooking, “country French food with no attitude.” The food and flavors at Fuel have a subtlety missing from most restaurants in Maine, even the good ones. Fuel also makes delicious cocktails, which I cannot resist.

The restaurant has a comfortable bar, and we chose to sit there and order from the bar menu. (We have a gift certificate, and we decided it would go further at the bar.)

First I started with a cocktail, a cosmopolitan. As Clif was driving, he had a beer.

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I had lobster pasta and cheese, a lovely blend of cheeses and lobster—I found three whole claws in my dish.

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As we never eat beef at home, Clif ordered a burger and fries, a treat for him because he has it so infrequently.

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Was there room for dessert? You bet there was. We ordered profiteroles—a fancy word for cream puffs—filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

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A sweet ending to a fine day.

To the Farmers’ Market for Potatoes, Carrots, and Mocha Chaga

Last weekend, Maine escaped the wild storm that hit much of the Eastern Seaboard. The storm dropped freezing rain on North Carolina, where Shannon and Mike now live, and headed north to dump over a foot of snow in places such as New York City, where Dee lives. Then it went out to sea, leaving us unscathed.

Therefore, on Saturday, we went to Longfellow’s Greenhouses for the winter farmers’ market they host from January 9 to February 27, from 9:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is held in their “mall”, a long strip, covered like a green house, that connects the retail store to the actual greenhouses.

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The mall

Our own Farmer Kev was there, and we stocked up on potatoes and carrots, two essential winter vegetables. (In the fall, I had already stocked up on his winter squash.)

Farmer Kev and Clif
Farmer Kev and Clif

We chatted with Farmer Kev for a bit, and we learned he has his very own farm now in West Gardiner. Quite an accomplishment for a young man who isn’t even thirty and who doesn’t come from a farming family, from whom he will inherit land.

When we were done talking to Farmer Kev, we wandered up and down the mall, looking at the various products. So many good things  to sample and see, but we were especially taken with Zen Bear, which sells honey and honey tea. We talked with Frank Ferrel, formerly of Maine Public Broadcasting fame and currently one of the owners of Zen Bear. (He and his wife Lisa run the business.) He told us that the honey comes from Amish farmers in Aroostook County in Maine.

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Frank Ferrel ready to make some honey tea

We sampled some of the teas—“a gently infused herb, spice, honey and tea mixture…” All were delicious, but the one I liked the best was the Mocha Chaga, made from cacao, honey, Maine sea salt, chaga, and lucuma.  According to Zen Bear’s website, chaga “is a medicinal mushroom that grows on decaying birch trees.” According to Wikipedia, lucuma “is a subtropical fruit native to the Andean valleys of Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.”

Quite the exotic drink for central Maine in January, but the cherry on the sundae, so to speak, was when Ferrel told us about how chaga was extremely high in antioxidants. (He had some tested at the University of Maine.)

Chaga
Chaga

All right, so Mocha Chaga is exotic—for a Mainer—and high in antioxidants.  But how does it taste? I am happy to report that it has the delicious taste of hot cocoa, albeit one that has unusual ingredients and is high in antioxidants. I bought a jar of Mocha Chaga and had a cup this morning for elevenses. It was very good indeed.

Potatoes and carrots, honey tea made from chaga and lucuma. You never know what you’ll find at a farmers’ market.

Lunch and Art: A Trip to Riverside Farm Restaurant and Wine Market and the Colby College Museum of Art

On Friday, Clif and I went to Oakland and Waterville for lunch and art. (Oh, the joys of being retired. We can go any day we choose.) For Christmas we had received a gift certificate to Riverside Farm Restaurant and Wine Market, which serves fresh, tasty meals. The day was gray, but the following photo gives some idea of the beauty of the place.

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And the welcoming but snowy entrance. (It is January in Maine, after all.)

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Inside, it was warm and cozy.  Clif ordered a burger, and I ordered a chicken pesto sandwich. Both were delicious. When we were done, not a bit of food remained on our plates.

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Clif’s burger

 

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My chicken sandwich

 

Not far from where we sat, two elderly women and a much younger woman were discussing hummus. (A granddaughter out with her grandmother and a friend? We didn’t ask, of course.)

One of the elderly women observed, “I wouldn’t have eaten hummus when I was younger.”

The younger woman replied. “I used to be afraid of it, but now I love it.”

A good example of how taste changes. Once upon a time, I wouldn’t eat pie. It just looked too messy to me. Now, I love pie with a passion that is almost beyond comprehension. And there are so many other foods I have not only learned to like but have come to enjoy—turnip, carrots, cilantro. I’m still working on peas.

After lunch, it was on to the Colby College Museum of Art.  A quick aside and a note of gratitude: Central Maine, where Clif and I live, is small and rural. Our town’s population is 6,000, and many surrounding towns have even fewer people. However, we are within easy drive of three fine private colleges—Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin—and they all offer many cultural events. Nearby, we also have Railroad Square Cinema, which shows independent films and the Theater at Monmouth, which features classic plays every summer, two of which are usually Shakespeare’s. Clif and I often reflect on how lucky we are to live in a rural community yet still have many cultural events to choose from.

But back to art: The Colby College Museum of Art is the largest art museum in Maine, and admission is free. The museum’s focus is “on American art, and commitment to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art.”  They have a large permanent collection, and they also feature various exhibitions with art from away, as we Mainers might put it.

William Zorach’s Mother and Child greets museum visitors, and as I find snow and sculpture to be an irresistible combination, I had to take a picture.

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Unfortunately, on Friday, the museum was in the process of taking down its Whistler exhibit and installing a new one:”Turning Back, an exhibition of 164 photographs by acclaimed photographer Robert Adams…”  This exhibit will be on display at the art museum beginning February 2.  (We did get a sneak preview as we were allowed to go through the galleries where this exhibit was being hung.)

Never mind. We still enjoyed looking at work from the permanent collection. And February 2 isn’t that far away. We will be back to see the photography exhibit, and we even have enough left on our gift certificate for another lunch at Riverside Farm Market.

A finest kind of thing to do on a winter’s day.

 

Lunch at Diane’s

Yesterday, we went to our friend Diane’s house for lunch. Clif had agreed to help set up Netflix on her computer and television. In return, she made lunch for us—spicy vegetable soup, cheese and tomato melts, salad, and chocolate gelato for dessert. I think we got the better end of the deal.

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While we were eating, Diane told us the story of her German grandmother, who came to the U.S. when she was eleven, all by herself on a boat across the Atlantic. She landed at Ellis Island and made her way through the immigration process, with no adult to help. Once this task was finished, it was on to Chicago, again by herself, to stay with relatives. She was widowed twice, supported herself and her children by being a seamstress, and lived into her nineties. A  hardy woman with a very, very strong personality.

Also, it’s interesting to think of this story in terms of immigration. Diane’s grandmother left Germany because she (or her family) felt there were better opportunities for her in the United States. (I can’t help but wonder how much a child of eleven would really want to leave home. She was the eldest in a big family.) Nowadays, Germany is seen as the land of opportunity for so many.  It’s funny how things change.

After lunch, Clif helped Diane install Netflix streaming, while I took pictures. First, of Casey, Diane’s cat.

Enough with pictures, already!
Enough with the pictures, already!

 

And then outside for some winter pictures.

Icicles on roses
Icicles on roses

 

Wind chimes against blue
Wind chimes against blue

 

Pampa grass against the snow
Pampa grass against the snow

 

After Netflix was installed and pictures were taken, there was more tea. And more talk, of course. We stayed until dusk, when the sky was dark but not black, and a waxing crescent moon shone in the night sky.

An October Day of Donuts, Falling Leaves, and Supper by the Fire Pit

Yesterday, Clif and I had many errands to do in Augusta, the city nearest the little house in the big woods.  To keep up our strength, we decided to fortify ourselves with donuts at Doc Hollandaise. Last week, Clif went there with his co-workers, and when he came home from work, he raved about the donuts.  As a donut lover—make that fanatic—I knew a trip to Doc Hollandaise would soon be in my future.

Doc Hollandaise is a breakfast place, and most days they are only open until noon. Along with the donuts, cooked fresh to order, they serve the usual delicious suspects—omelets, bacon, homefries, toast, and other breakfasty things.

But we were there for the donuts, and donuts were what we ordered. I chose a chocolate coconut donut. Rich and tender with flakes of coconut on top, it was delivered  warm, and the donut was so tender I had to eat it with a fork.

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Clif decided to go whole hog, so to speak, and ordered a maple bacon donut. It seemed to me that this was perhaps a step too far down the donut-topping path, but Clif liked it so much that he didn’t even offer me a bite. That donut was gone in a flash.

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In the interest of reporting for this blog, we ordered a third donut—cinnamon sugar—which Clif did share with me.  It was crisp and warm and had a lovely old-fashioned nutmeg and cinnamon taste.

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We spoke a bit with our server. She told us about the owner, Ann Maglaras, who uses buttermilk and kneads the dough with flour before cutting the donuts to order. Each batch only makes about twenty-three donuts, which means Maglaras frequently has to make more dough to satisfy the customers, who come in droves for those warm and wonderful donuts.

Duly fortified, we spent the rest of the morning doing our errands. Afterwards, we took a back road home, where I was able to see Maine October in all its glory—an old man sitting by a pile of burning leaves; the marsh grass burnished to copper; leaves coming down from trees in a flutter of gold. This was all illuminated by that clear October light, golden and at a slant.

After I got home, I swept the patio and wiped the outdoor tables. The day was so mild that I said to Clif, “Let’s have our supper by the fire pit.” Now that he is retired, we don’t have to save those activities for the weekend.

“Good idea,” he said.

“Let’s order Chinese food,” I suggested, “and end the day with another treat.”

“Sounds good,” Clif agreed.

And this we did, eating our egg rolls, rice, and chicken by the fire. The dog lay beside us, getting a treat now and then. (All right, getting a treat very often.) We listened to music—Talking Heads, Counting Crows, and We Might be Giants. The crickets’ fall song provided the backup.

We know, of course, that donuts can only be an occasional treat, and most of the time we will eat pears, apples, and grapes for our snacks. Ditto for the Chinese food, and tonight I’ll be making a fish casserole for supper.

But treats add spice to life, and in moderation, they are good for the soul, if not the body.

On this Bright October Day

On this bright October Day, when the sky is deep blue and there is a nip in the air and there is no better place to be than Maine, I bought forty pounds of squash and ten pounds of potatoes from Farmer Kev. From beneath my friends’ apple trees, I gleaned nine pounds of apple.

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What a wonderful bounty! Next week, I’ll be stocking up on more of Farmer Kev’s vegetables. And, I’ve got a lead on where to glean some pears.

Autumn is finally here, and how I love it.

The Last Cocktail Party of Summer

Homemade crackers with homemade cream-cheese spread
Homemade crackers with homemade cream-cheese spread

In Maine, the end of August usually heralds the end of summer, despite what the calendar might say, and indeed here and there, the leaves have started to turn. Accordingly, Clif and I decided to invite friends over for the last cocktail party of summer. (What a sad ring that has!)

Since learning to make them for our Fourth of July party, Clif and I have become proficient at making Moscow mules and our very own Maine mules. The nice thing about both drinks, which take vodka and ginger beer or ginger ale—the Moscow mules—or vodka and seltzer water—the Maine mules—is that when you’ve had enough, say, after a couple of drinks, you can then turn to plain ginger ale or seltzer water for a refreshing drink.

The weather was splendid, and we were able to host the party on the patio, one of my favorite places. We filled the cooler with soft drinks and tucked it under the round glass table. On top, we had glasses for everyone as well as a bucket of ice, sliced limes, maple syrup, and, of course, vodka. Those drinks don’t contain the word mule for nothing.

Then we gathered around the rectangular glass table. There were six of us—Margy and Steve, Cheryl and Denny, Clif and me. The day before, I had made crackers, and I served them with a homemade cream-cheese spread made with roasted garlic and basil. There were chips and salsa. Grapes. Those luscious peaches. And, of course, Clif’s legendary grilled bread.

“I was hoping you’d make grilled bread,” Steve said as he grabbed a hot piece of bread.

I am not kidding when I call Clif’s grilled bread legendary. It truly is, at least in the Winthrop area.

As we ate, the crickets sang. Birds came to the feeders, and Liam barked at noises we sometimes heard but most often didn’t. We talked about many things—the conversation never flags when we get together—but we spent a fair amount of time rhapsodizing about the poet Richard Blanco.

We also discussed how it was time for the state to stop trying to lure big businesses to Maine. This seldom ends well. If businesses can be lured into the state, then they can be lured out of the state. Instead, we all agreed that it was much more sensible to support small businesses run by local people and to help local businesses grow into larger businesses. There is never any guarantee that these businesses will succeed, but at least they will not be heading for parts of the country, or the world, where the labor is cheaper.

Gardiner is an example of how a city can support its own through various grants and tax breaks and reverse a decline that started when the great factories closed.  (Note: The link may include some irritating pop-ups, but the information is worthwhile.) Not so long ago, Gardiner’s main street was dotted with far too many vacant buildings. Now, with more businesses opening their doors, the main street looks decidedly more lively.

And, let’s face it, any city that is able to attract Frosty’s Donuts is on the right track.