views from the road

One warm September or October day, I pulled over and hung out with these cows for a while. Look at their view! Pasture and sky for miles.

Fall in rural Maine comes with more apples than a normal human can consume. Apple trees are everywhere which means one thing: free apples are everywhere. This tree was dripping with fruit, and after gathering a bag full, they were made into that “apple butter” stuff.

three months in maine

It has required more than one pinch for me to believe that I am already a quarter of the way through my contracted time in Maine. These three months have been very fulfilling: sometimes difficult, often fun, and nearly always delicious. Cooking has provided a consistent comfort throughout these three months of hard work and increasingly short days. Shopping at Rising Tide Community Market and Sheepscot General Store have made that cooking even more enjoyable because I look forward to the actual food shopping as much as putting the ingredients together. I often resort to Facebook Mobile Uploads to share images of my culinary endeavors instead of this blog because by the time I’ve worked all day and finishing my meal, I’m ready to drink a beer and go to bed. Since my blog audience and Facebook friend community are nearly identical, I am not going to fret about my delinquent ignorance of “one palate, many plates.” Instead, I will fill in where it seems right, and settle into the rhythm of a long winter’s blogfest. Or at least that is the intention.

Image

Pictured above is some apple-zucchini bread French toast. Half a loaf was going stale in my refrigerator so I revived it into French toast. I credit San Francisco’s famous Mama’s for turning me onto making French toast out of quick bread. Their cranberry-orange bread and banana bread versions blew my mind and altered my palate to crave this denser French toast.

A few notes about the other items in the picture:

  • Since moving to Maine, I have made the switch to raw milk as my milk of choice. The last time I went to the store, they ran out of my favorite (from Straw’s Farm in Newcastle), so I got some raw goat’s milk instead. It is delicious, with an almost savory tang that lends goat cheese its distinctive taste. [The next product I want to try from Straw’s Farm is the lamb. Lee Straw boats his animals out to an island where they forage on seaweed and other goodies until it is time for slaughter. I don’t think I’ll ever find an animal that has lived a more chill life.]
  • I put maple syrup on/in everything. Yogurt, roasted vegetables, cookie batter (instead of sugar), tea, toast, salad dressings. You name it.
  • That smaller jar has homemade “apple butter” in it. I use quotation marks because whatever that stuff is does not resemble apple butter in the slightest, but it is a delicious apple spread that I’ve enjoyed coating breakfasts like this one, mixed with Grey Poupon and apple cider vinegar to drizzle over roasted squash, or eaten by the spoonful straight out of the jar.

When I lived at home, it was not uncommon for my father to bring home an unmarked paper bag filled with fresh mozzarella (like, milk-leaking-everywhere fresh, not whatever that stuff is you buy at the supermarket), butcher paper lined with thinly-slice prosciutto di Parma, and a loaf of panella bread sliced to order. At Haverford, I lived minutes away from Carlino’s Market where I could get my fix. In Maine, I have to search a lot harder, but I occasionally visit Sweets & Meats for positively scrumptious baguettes and an expertly curated selection of meats and cheeses. The sandwich above is from the first visit to the store. I layered foraged oyster mushrooms (first sauteed in butter) on the bread with prosciutto and local cheddar for a Italian-American/Mainer fusion sandwich that hit the spot, and several other spots I didn’t even know were there until I was hitting them.

Fried eggs are the perfect food; the runnier the yolk, the better. My eggs come from the backyard of one of my co-workers, whose sons raise chickens and sell their unbelievably fresh, orange-yolked eggs for $2.50 a dozen. This dish paired a fried egg with roasted radicchio with balsamic vinegar and a sourdough olive roll from Borealis Breads. Few things are better than sopping up egg yolk (this time with balsamic vinegar as well) with good bread to finish a meal. Yum.

seattle, or sandwich city

Prior to my brief sojourn in August, my exposure to Seattle was two-fold: watching Grey’s Anatomy in high schooland hearing excellent things about it in college from native Seattleites.

I stayed with my friend Hannah and her family, which was great. It is pretty special to contextualize college friends in their home environment, especially when that environment involves adventures in cooking salmon whole.

Wassup, fish? You were one tasty finned creature.

Now, I know Seattle is known for its rain and its salmon and that giant thing that was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, but I came to know Seattle for its sandwiches. Hannah picked up at the airport and we went directly to get banh mi at Saigon Deli in the International District, conveniently on the way from the airport to Hannah’s house. Cilantro needs to appear in more sandwiches I make for myself. Maybe I’ll start a container garden for the winter.

We went to Pike Place Market, watched the guys throw the fish, tried some uncooked chocolate pasta (what?), and bought some Rainier cherries to have as the dessert course for the lunch we were both anticipating. A few hours earlier, we had been waiting on line at Salumi to order sandwiches. The employees make the wait a lot easier by bringing around plates of samples. Bless them. It’s only right, considering that the store is owned by Armandino Batali, father of Mario.

My sandwich had mozzarella, peppers, onions, and Agrumi salami, a variety cured with citrus and cardamom. Slathered together on some great chewy-crunchy-airy bread, it shot me right up to sandwich heaven. My favorite part of Salumi, besides the actual food, was this narrow walk-in refrigerator filled with salami. If I could live anywhere…

The final sandwich stop was Paseo’s, where I got the straight up Cuban roast sandwich for which they are apparently known. Very hard to eat, in a great way. Thick, succulent grilled onions. Well-seasoned and perfectly-textured pork. Really, how was I ever a vegetarian?

Seattle treated me well. The weather was ideal, the company great, the coffee unforgettable, and you know how I feel about the sandwiches. And Mount Rainier bid farewell to me on my way back East, for a breath-taking finale to my West Coast summer.

my week in the bay, pt. 2

I failed to mention in my last post something that most of you probably know. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it: the Bay area is a foodie mecca. Not only is there delicious food around every corner, but Northern California seems to has its wits about them in terms of food justice awareness and action. Like everywhere, there are definitely improvements to be made, but other urban areas can learn a thing or two from the organizations that have established a presence in San Francisco and Berkeley.

One of these organizations is La Cocina, an incubator kitchen in the Mission District that offers subsidized commercial kitchen rentals and entrepreneurial education to individuals with the culinary skills but without the financial resources to build their own commercial kitchen, go to business school, or invest in a project without guaranteed success. I visited La Cocina during one of my days of SF exploring and got a tour of the vibrant kitchen happenings: chai tea concentrate was being bottled, salsa was bubbling away, and tamales were being formed and steamed at record pace. It was inspiring and made me very, very hungry.

Following my recovery from the sensory overload inevitable from a visit to La Cocina, I passed Mission Pie. I immediately entered, armed with hunger, a craving for eggs, and the good word from a friend. Breakfast was a slice of broccoli quiche and The Best Latte I’ve Ever Had. Pretty sure I still have a lingering crush on that barista based solely on how that latte made me feel.

With mental and physical fuel from my respective visits to La Cocina and Mission Pie, I walked over to Hayes Valley Farm to volunteer for a day and help ease some of my Mano Farm withdrawal. The only job they had for me was compost sifting, so I did that for enough hours to sufficiently dirty my hands and make connections with some international visitors to SF. (I have a place to stay in Montreal with an urban farmer! Holla!) Hayes Valley is closing soon, as their agreement with the city is nearing its conclusion and the former highway off-ramp is going to be the site of an assisted living facility (or something), so I was happy to be catch them before they closed. And afterwards, I went to a little French bistro with two women from Barcelona and had this delectable cauliflower tart and bean salad.

A little cured meat porn to cure your ails. Spotted at the Fatted Calf, an insanely upscale specialty food store and expert in cured pork products. I ordered four slices of two salamis for a grand total of $1.98, much to the chagrin of everyone involved in servicing this customer. Screw them. I ended up walking to Toronado, a beer bar specializing in sours, ordering a cheap beer, and hiding at one of the back tables to enjoy my pork and beer. Nutritionally void; emotionally fulfilling.

One of my last meals in San Francisco was brunch at Mama’s, a tourist trap in Little Italy. And tourist trap it deserves to be. Connor and I waited on line for an hour and a half, and discussed our plan of attack for 95% of that time. We wanted a little bit of everything, so we split our plates. One of us ordered  the French toast sampler plate, complete with banana bread French toast (a revelation), and the other ordered the standard egg-meat-potato-toast brunch  combination/hangover cure. Dee. Lish. Us.

Houses of pastel and fog seen from Alamo Square Park, where I was accosted by approximately five dogs, three hippies, and one shaman-in-training. The population of San Francisco is primarily made of up dogs, hippies, and shamans-in-training, so I wasn’t too surprised. My trip to the Bay left me yearning to return before I even left, not only because two of my best friends live there, but a one-week stint left so much of its cultural and culinary richness unexplored. I can’t wait to visit again.

my week in the bay, pt. 1 (in pictures, over a month later)

When I left Mano Farm, I hopped up north for about a week and a half before returning to NJ and ultimately making the move to Maine. My week in San Francisco and Berkeley was delicious and invigorating, and I was finally able to sit down and share it with all of you.

My first meal in SF: a wild boar sausage from Rosamunde with an Anchor Steam to wash it down. Also, pickles. My decision to go for the boar was undoubtedly influenced by Michael Pollan’s recount of hunting one down in The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Mano Farm zucchini, tomatoes and onions travelled up the coast with me to provide this nommy breakfast, coupled with a poached egg and some toast, all consumed in the very lovely, very French apartment of my friend Rachel who had visited me in Ojai a few weeks before my northward trek.

Tomato, manchego, red onion, parsley pizza at Arizmendi, a collective bakery where they churn out tons of scones and breads and muffins and cookies, and focaccia (oh my) but only one pizza variety per day. When I went to the bathroom, I saw a huge garbage pail labeled “Compost” filled to the brim with fennel fronds for tomorrow’s ‘za. Also spotted were countless 50 pound bags of wheat grown and milled in Northern California and a very attractive staff.

My hands still encrusted with Ojai soil, here I am sharing a brew with my friend Connor on his balcony in Berkeley. I don’t remember what this particular beer was, just that we had it with hummus and tortilla chips and called it dinner.

Dinner with Kristina and Rachel was a group effort: Kristina provided the tortellini while Rachel and I threw together the sauce and salad. Topped with some goat’s milk parmesan from a farmer’s market and chased with Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild, dinner was a success.

food habit

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Even a trip from California to Maine couldn’t end my habit of eating raw oats for breakfast. These are mixed with Carrie’s dad’s maple syrup, raisins, and coconut flakes from the food co-op near where I work where I will likely spend most of my money this year.

This morning, I am going on a farm visit and will continue getting acclimated to life at work and life in Maine. On another note, I woke up without an alarm for the second day in a row, so I am beginning to believe in miracles.

august

This August was the busiest month of my life. After closing out my time at Mano Farm, I traveled up the California coast–along the water and through (commercial agriculture) farm country–to San Francisco. I spent one full week in SF hanging out with a lovely smattering of folks and an even lovelier smattering of nibbles and libations. A short flight from San Francisco to Seattle left me in the Pacific Northwest for the first time, where I hung out with my friend Hannah and her family and a lot of really good sandwiches. I cannot wait to return.

The East Coast finally reeled me in, and I spent about two weeks ridding myself of a lot of unwanted belongings and organizing my thoughts and things for the long drive up to Maine. Luckily, Hurricane Irene left me and my father alone on the trip, save for a little rain and the news that a giant oak tree fell on my lawn in New Jersey. Apparently, my family is going to be without telephone, internet, or cable until October 1st, but that is only if they make it that long.

Nanette Cherichello's sittin' in a tree; it's so very B-I-G.

I had my first day of work today, and my first day of exploring on my own in the Pine Tree State. Naturally, I have a lot to report but since I want to do justice to the people, food and revelry of the past month, I will be rolling out entries over the course of this week that concern not-Maine. Trust me, the wait for Maine will be well worth it.

Oh, okay, fine!–one quick sneak peek:

That’s the Northeastern Special from the Southgate Restaurant in Bath, ME, where I am currently living with my friend Carrie and her fabulous family. Blueberries and Canadian bacon (from Canada? I have no idea…) put the “Northeastern” in this “Special,” but geography aside, this breakfast left me satisfied and absolutely stuffed for the majority of the day. Enough food for three meals, it was kind of an unruly choice for my first breakfast in Maine, setting quite the obesity-precedent and antithetical to the reason I am here in the first place (i.e., farming, nutrition, etc.). But the last time I was there, back in 2009, I vowed that as soon as I possibly could, I would bring my dad because it reminded me so much of diners back in Jerz. Except this one opens at 5 am to accommodate the employees of Bath Iron Works and closes at 2 pm because Bath lacks that certain je ne sais quoi of drunk Jersey guidos that power diner business back home.

Hopefully, all the goings-on of my August will help me be august (ba-dum-chh) in my new position in my new community in my new state. I can tell already that it is going to be one helluva year.