Tag Archives: Maine

a christmas review

A celebration is rarely complete without food and beverage. My family, like most, has such ingrained food traditions that I come to expect certain foods on certain holidays. The winter holidays (namely, Christmas and New Year’s) are the most emblematic of these food expectations. Mom always makes approximately fifteen kinds of Christmas cookies the weeks leading up to the big day. Christmas Eve consists of fette dei sette pesci, or feast of the seven fishes, with dishes like baccala salad, fried smelts, and spaghetti with tuna marinara. And Christmas morning holds my favorite tradition of all: egg nog, clementines, and panettone.

By Thanksgiving, panettone have arrived at the seasonal displays at our local grocery stores in New Jersey, and around December 15th, there are already a panettone or two in the house waiting to be unwrapped: the most desired and fleeting gift of Christmas morning. This year, though, I spent the weeks leading up to Christmas in Maine. As I might have mentioned here a few times before, Maine has few Italians and even fewer places to by Italian food. So one night, before venturing on the twenty minute drive to the nearest Hannaford to fulfill my panettone craving, I gave them a call to see if they had it in stock. After my inquiry was misheard as “melatonin” and I was transferred around between four different employees, I finally caved. I was making panettone myself.

Following Mario Batali’s recipe, I mixed the dough and watched it through the first and second rise, kneading it a bit here and there and finally adding the raisins. I was a bit hesitant about getting the shape right (right = pretty much a top hat), but the oven and the yeast seemed to do all the work for me. When I took this out of the oven, I almost sang.

Speaking of Italian pastry one cannot find in Maine, easily or at all, I visited New Haven, CT on my way back north and went to Lucibello’s Pastry Shop. The smell of butter and sugar smacks you on the head when you walk into this very unassuming bakery, coaxing you to buy their cookies and pastries. I got two pignoli cookies (probably my favorite cookie of all time) and a sfogliatella (or lobster tail, or lobster claw, or ricotta-filled pastry) for the bus.

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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.

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.