Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Scenes from a Summer Away

IMG_8895So here it is, my annual summer vacation photo round-up, featuring our recent family trip starting in Vermont, where we picked-up my daughter Belle from sleepover camp. The photo above is of Belle at The Mad Taco in Montpelier, VT waiting to devour her first Mexican meal in over four weeks…doesn’t she look thrilled to be back in her family’s clutches? (Side note: If you go to Mad Taco be sure to sample all of their house-made hot sauces). From Vermont we took many back roads into New Hampshire, skimming the northern edge of the White Mountain range, before entering northern Maine, zig-zagging past fog-dusted lake fronts and old farms, until we reached our annual rental cottage on St. George’s Peninsula. So come along with me! I will keep the photo montage short, scrappy, and caption happy.

IMG_8913My first breakfast in Maine is always a variation of the above: A bowl of jersey milk yogurt (like blueberry, raspberry, or strawberry-rhubarb) from Swallowtail Farm and Creamery, raspberries from a front yard-stand down the road, granola from Good Tern, which is a fantastic small co-op in nearby Rockland, and some kind of blueberry crisp or compote. This concoction is best eaten while figuring out the day’s plans (“should we go swimming in the quarry?” “take a walk on the rocks?” “visit the used bookstore?” “take out the paddleboard?” “play Stratego?” “read a book?” “how about we do nothing!?”)

IMG_8933Normally we make a stop in Portland, Maine on our way up north, but this year our itinerary changed, which meant I didn’t get a chance to have breakfast at 158 Pickett Street Cafe—a place that I love and have documented with the unbridled passion of a Rolling Stones groupie—for the best bagel on the northeast seaboard. But luckily my mom drove our normal route, and did me a solid by picking up a paper bag full of Pickett Street’s “everything” bagels and a container of their addictive sweet chili cream cheese. I used both to make a tomato and egg sandwich. Thanks mom!




IMG_8965Oysters. Lobster Roll (served with a side of melted butter and mayo). Steamers. All from a tiny lobster shack called McLoon’s, located just around the cove from our house. You fill up on crustaceans that are literally pulled up from the dock right outside their kitchen door, cap it off with a slice of blueberry pie, then topple home from rock to rock on the water’s edge.  It’s possible that we ate at McLoon’s more than once in a day. We may have gone there a lot. Do you blame us? It has officially joined my list of favorite restaurants in the area, along with Primo in Rockland and The Slipaway in South Thomaston.


IMG_8994The aforementioned roadside berries. We’ve been lucky to that our visits Maine usually coincide with wild blueberry, blackberry, or raspberry season, and every year I look forward to driving by the one home that sells pints and quarts of sweet wild raspberries on a card table in their front yard. Pro-tip: Always buy two quarts when you stumble on a card table laden with wild berries, one to eat in the car ride home and one for eating on top of yogurt, pancakes, salad, ice cream, and this…
IMG_9151A raspberry sandwich, using up those roadside berries that didn’t get devoured in the car, and inspired by a recipe from a story about the Cotswolds that I worked on while an editor at Saveur magazine: Crusty baguette slathered with butter, topped with a layer of ripe berries (squished down ever-so-gently so that they don’t roll off with the first chomp), a drizzle of maple syrup, and a squeeze of lemon. It’s weird. It’s wonderful.


IMG_9009We eat a lot of salads in Maine. There’s just such an amazing bounty of farm stand vegetables, organic co-op produce, local cheese and yogurt, and other treats, that the easiest, most satisfying lunch is always an enormous salad. Like the above, made with all local ingredients from places like Morning Dew Farm: Arugula, raw corn, grated beets and carrots, pea-shoots, shallots and feta, topped with a creamy vinaigrette made with Milk House raw milk yogurt-apple cider vinegar-mustard-and maple syrup.


IMG_9088Here’s another nod for finding and using as many local food products as possible, like the (above) fresh churned butter from Smiling Hill Farm. This stuff was so rich, salty, and nutty, it was like eating a hybrid of parmigiano-reggiano and butter. I cooked with it for practically every meal.


IMG_9214Most nights after dinner found us at the Harjula’s ice cream truck, which is parked alongside a farmer’s field that slopes down to St. George’s River. We’d be feasted upon by skeeters while waiting to order our cones filled with scoops of deer-caribou-bear-moose tracks, but it was worth it.


IMG_9225Besides the nightly cone, Belle and Conor also had more than a few root beer floats (seen above at the Rockland Lobster Festival, an annual event that I go to grudgingly because I always come home cranky from the heat of the midway and smelling like a corn-dog dipped in diesel fuel and lobster sweat). Clearly the “summer diet” (aka a total relaxation of rules in regards to the consumption of soda, ice cream, sweets, hot dogs, french fries, grilled cheese, etc.) was in full effect.


IMG_9275I love the Good Tern co-op in Rockland, and also the co-op in nearby Belfast, because they’re always stocked with jars of local pickles, notions, sauces, cheese, cured meats, smoked fish, and such. To end our midday meals, I would place the jars on the table for everyone to help themselves and make a little “digestive” pickle plate. I am a firm believer in the power of pickled and feremented things to help with digestion. Seen above are: Fermented gingered carrots from Thirty Acre Farm, truly delectable homemade dills from Vermont Pickle, pickled beets from Gracie’s Garden, hot sauce from some dude named Chip, and feta from Pineland Farms.


IMG_9309The fish that you’re able to source on the midcoast of Maine is so spectacular and fresh, that I eat as much as I can, including for breakfast. Above is flour dusted filets of sole, sauteed in browned butter (see aforementioned Smiling Hill Farm butter) and then drizzled with lime juice and tamari. I served it over sushi rice topped with microgreens from Morning Dew Farm and ripe avocado. If I could eat this ever day for breakfast I would.

IMG_9369And last but not least, here is Miss Maeve, my college roommate’s little girl who joins us along with her family every year for a visit that is crowned with our annual pie-eating contest (where everybody wins because you’re stuffing your belly with pie and you don’t have to use utensils). My friend always spoils us with multiple pies from Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland, and this year she brought a sour cherry pie that was a sweet-tart-juicy fantasy between two crusts. Oh Maine, I miss you already.

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Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

I Say Tomato

I just returned from our annual trip to Maine—where, among many other delights, we picked wild berries, swam in the salty waters of a granite quarry, consumed probably one too many lobster rolls (if that’s possible), ate ice cream cones from a roadside truck in front of one spectacular sunset after another, kayaked between lobster boats and buoys, and spent afternoons spying on a local osprey nest—and I will be sharing some of my favorite photos and food finds very soon; but in the meantime, I thought I’d pay brief tribute to the beginning of tomato season. One of the consolations of returning from a wonderful, soul-satisfying vacation is knowing that a tomato orgy will be waiting…
The first haul from my CSA was magical and epic, and since you may also be dealing with a large quantity of heirlooms, beefsteaks, sungolds, and the like, I thought I’d share by TOP 3 favorite ways to eat a summer tomato and here they are:

1. BLT. I really don’t have to elaborate on why this is #1, right? But since you asked, I like mine on toasted white Pepperidge Farm bread. Yes, it’s gotta be Pepperidge Farm. Hellman’s mayo on both slices, followed by the ripe and juicy tomato slices first, fresh ground pepper on top of the tomatoes, then several strips of very crisp bacon (center cut, thick slices if possible), top the bacon with a couple of leaves of butter leaf lettuce, and then the BONUS layer…a slice or two of sweet, bread & butter pickle. Trust me.


2. A deluxe-raw-summer-vegetable sandwich which can start off as just a  lazy/vegetarian’s close cousin to the BLT (layer slices of fresh tomato on generously buttered toast, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with a vinegar of choice and very good olive oil) but then reach new levels of deliciousness if you are so inclined: Perhaps you have some pesto in the fridge (which I try and always have during the summer), use that as your condiment, or if things are getting crazy, add it to softened butter and slather that on the warm toast. Also, if you have a spare ear of corn in the fridge, cut off the kernels in sheaths, layer it on the tomato (yes, raw), sprinkle it with lime juice and perhaps some sriracha. From there keep going: Sliced radishes, a slice of sharp cheddar, smashed avocado…some variation of this raw tomato-veg sandwich is basically what I eat for breakfast every morning during tomato season.


3. Next, is a fresh tomato One-Bowl Summer Spaghetti. We did a simple no-cook version in KEEPERS that is perhaps the most satisfyingly quick and delicious summer weeknight meal you can whip-up:

In a large bowl, add several chopped tomatoes (about 3 large or the equivalent) along with their juices, add 2-3 minced garlic cloves, a handful of torn basil leaves, 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella (I like the tiny balls you can find in the store, but you can also cut a large ball into cubes), several glugs of good olive oil (summer is when I always invest in a bottle of high-quality olive because I use so much of it for dressing salads and raw vegetables, you don’t want the drecky stuff here), a handful of pitted black olives (this being optional), and salt and pepper to taste  (be generous with the salt since the tomatoes and pasta will absorb all of it). Let the tomato ingredients comingle while you cook a box of spaghetti (or your preferred pasta, cavatappi is also a good option for all the folds and ridges), and then place the drained, still hot pasta directly on top of the tomatoes. Toss to combine (tasting for more salt and adding more olive oil if you think it needs it) or if you’re bringing the along to a BBQ or picnic, keep it untossed until ready to serve. I also like to drizzle some really good balsamic vinegar on my serving.

*OK, and a bonus dish worth making is the tomato-zucchini gratin recipe also from KEEPERS. Tomatoes and summer squash baked with garlic and olive oil and topped with parmesan breadcrumbs…then eaten with a salad or over pasta or grains. It’s a wonder.

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Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

The Summer Smoothie You’ve Got To Try

Mast_Blender Girl Smoothies Summer in a blender, that’s what I’m calling this recipe for a frozen nectarine-peach smoothie from the new book by Tess Masters (otherwise known as Blender Girl). Tess’s first book—The Blender Girl: 100 Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes—was a big hit because it was clever, full of healthful recipes, and just plain simple and fun. So when I received a copy of her light, bright, follow-up, I was thrilled. And lucky for you, the publisher of The Blender Girl: Smoothies is letting me share one of the recipes!

I’ve made this recipe with a combination of frozen and fresh peaches (now that we’re on the cusp of peach season in my neck of the woods), and for the sweetener I’ve done honey and agave, honey being my preference. I know the cauliflower may seem odd…but give it a try, you might be surprised by how well it works.


nectarita NECTARITA

This divine refresher makes skin sing . Nectarines contain bioflavonoids, antioxidants, and vitamin C that stimulate collagen synthesis and shield against UV damage. For expectant mothers, folate and potassium foster healthy baby growth, prevent muscle cramps, and boost energy. Add ginger and cayenne, and salt the rim of your glass for mocktail magic.

1 cup (240ml) coconut water
2 ripe nectarines, pitted and chopped
1 1⁄2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 cup (160g) frozen peaches
1 cup (125g) ice cubes
Natural sweetener to taste (optional)
optional boosters
Tiny pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1⁄4 cup (30g) frozen raw cauliflower florets

Throw all of the ingredients into your blender and blast on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until smooth and creamy.

nutritional facts (per serving)
Calories 237 kcal | Fat 2 g | Saturated fat 0 g | Sodium 257 mg | Carbs 56 g | Fiber 1 g | Sugars 43 g Protein 6 g | Calcium 89 mg | Iron 2 mg

Credit:   Reprinted with permission from The Blender Girl Smoothies, by Tess Masters, copyright © 2014, 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Photographs copyright © 2014 by Erin Kunkel

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Thursday, July 16th, 2015

Things I Like: Oreo Cookie Cones!


Most of you know that I rarely endorse products, and I NEVER do product placements, so if I feature something on the bloggy it means I really like it…


I stumbled upon these Oreo Cookie ice cream cones at the supermarket and in a flash they were in my cart. Although I’m not normally a sucker for brand-name, sugary treats, this is the time of the year where all bets are off, in terms of normal food choices. The weakening of the parental resolve, combined with a looser schedule and more time spent near a body of water (I’m not sure why that last part matters, but just go with me…), means all kinds of normally banned substances are being regularly consumed by my children. As a friend of mine said recently, once school’s out, her kids are on the “summer diet”: Organic/healthful/balanced/regular meals are replaced with a menu largely supplied by the snack bar at the town swimming pool. Yes, our farmer’s market and CSA may provide vegetables and fruit galore, but intermixed with that are regular appearances by things like cheese fries, sno cones, and funnel cake.

My family’s personal summer weakness is ice cream, which we eat unapologetically on pretty much a daily basis come July and August; whether it be from the stocked freezer, the neighborhood ice cream parlor, any passing ice cream truck we flag down, and of course, the town pool snack bar Good Humor menu. But at home, it’s kind of a thrill to put ice cream in a cone, and this is where the Oreo cone has been a welcome addition. I mean, what’s not to like about a scoop of mint chip surrounded by a crunchy cookie cone?

Next up for enjoying with ice cream is this crazy easy recipe for homemade Magic Shell, on the FOOD 52 site…you can find it HERE.


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Saturday, July 11th, 2015

Vermont Road Trips

Last weekend, we took a family road trip to drop my daughter off for her very first summer at sleepover camp. It was a fun, mixed-emotions journey: A little nostalgia because the camp is located near me and Tim’s old college of Middlebury (where the dinner menu used to regularly feature a dish called “Butt Steak”, but now has an organic cafeteria…what the heck?), combined with excitement at the adventure Belle was about to have, a sliver of nervousness, and just a bit of sadness at the looming goodbyes. Belle’s camp is old-school, meaning all communication is via snail mail. I love that she is in an environment that’s a digital no-go-zone (I wrote a four page letter the other day, complete with doodles, I can’t remember the last time I did this!), but it also means that I’m wondering pretty much every second of the day, “What is she doing right now!?”. Clearly this summer of virtual and actual separation is good for both of us, so I’m doing my best to embrace the independence and a return to old-fashioned communication. To help ease the transition, we hit a lot of our new and old favorite food stops in Vermont, which, if you didn’t already know, is a terrific food state.


First up was lunch at American Flatbread, which is  located beside the Otter Creek River in area called The Marbleworks. There are now several of these boho-hippie establishments—where pizza-like flatbreads are baked in an enormous wood-burning hearth and topped with local cheese, vegetables, and meat—but the original was in Middlebury, and it’s founder based it on the communal ovens found in rural Quebec, before spawning a mini-frozen pizza empire. I had the special vegetarian flatbread, topped with roasted zucchini and mushrooms…and then said “what the heck?” and asked for local bacon on top. I mean..I’m worth it, right?


I have been a lover of hard cider since I could legally imbibe. In Belgium, my family regularly served a dry hard cider along with Sunday lunch, and as a college student I was introduced to the deliciousness of local cidermaker Woodchuck (which has also since grown into a mini-empire). I tried a new one to go along with my lunch that was a fantastic ginger-infused, medium sweet blend from Burlington based Citizen Cider called The Dirty Mayor. I have no idea what that name means but it was a delight.


Across the way from the restaurant was a beautiful Asian tea shop that was new from my last visit. If a place can have a calming, Zen, Feng-Shui vibe, then this sun-soaked nook had it…

The student working behind the counter gave us a little demo of the tea preparation, which I’ve always loved because of the combination of numerous steps, vessels, pots, and ceremony. When I asked about a collection of little icons that were placed on the slate counter where the tea was brewed, he told me they were “tea pets”. How have I never heard of such a thing? One of the pets was a Buddha and when he poured hot water on top of the Buddha’s head, he turned colors. Isn’t that charming?



One of the other bonuses of bringing kids back to your college town is subjecting them to your old stomping grounds (“Look kids! This is the building where mommy directed her first black box production, a modern-feminist retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello…blah blah blah…”) and also your favorite places to eat. One such restaurant is called Fire & Ice, and it’s basically like the place where you parents brought you when they came for Parent’s Weekend. It boasts the largest salad bar in the entire state, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration (there’s an actual boat in the middle of the salad bar and a block of cheddar the size of a small igloo under an enormous bell jar). But Conor and Belle’s favorite novelty item was the college-variety milk dispenser with unlimited chocolate milk. They did some damage here.


Our last meal together before the big drop-off on Sunday was at the truly special Vergennes Laundry, which is not in fact a laundry, but a bakery-cafe located inside of an old laundry building in the town of Vergennes, just a few miles north of Middlebury. This was my second visit, having first made a detour there during a skiing trip after readin a blog about the owner-couple on The Selby. You can read it HERE.


Now, this is an example of one of those stops where, a food writer/blogger needs to do some serious cajoling. When your family looks at you with weary eyes, communicating something along the lines of, “Really? Do we need to go to your Selby-artisianal-food find-and wait in line to eat a hipster-perfect pastry just so you can blog about it? Why can’t we just get an EggMcMuffin like the rest of the population?” Normally, I may feel a twinge of guilt, but in this case, I KNEW I was right, and there would be no griping once we had those perfect pastries in our mouths.


True to our mutual predictions there was a wait, amongst an assembly of Vermont-rustic-chic-hipster-beautiful families out of a Kinfolk magazine spread. But there was also wild strawberry tarts (see above); and homemade yogurt and granola topped with honey, strawberries and grapefruit;  warm chocolate croissants; and scones with a side of butter and the most flavorful homemade berry jam I’ve ever had. Oh, and the saucers of cafe latte… Let’s just say, the family griping didn’t last long. Mommy is always right.


For the trip home I bought a box of one of my most favorite things, a confection you rarely find outside of Europe, called pate de fruit, which is basically a gummy bear, but square-shaped and made with real, concentrated, seasonal fruit.

IMG_8249This is a box of strawberry and lemon pate de fruit…I ate it all on the car ride home.

IMG_8241After dropping Belle off and saying our goodbyes (and being instructed by Belle not to cry…so I held it together), our last stop was from back in our college days, an A&W drive thru that’s only open during the summer months. You order from your car, and a tray laden with onion rings, hot dogs, burgers, and root beer floats is then hinged to your car window. Magic.

And then it was back home. Eating fruit squares, listening to a classic rock station out of Manchester, New Hampshire, and wondering about my girl and all the adventures that lay ahead of her.

IMG_8195Me and Belle. XOXO


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