What's a Needham?

Photo by Richmond TalbotSun poured into the room where Richmond, John and I sat drinking an early evening libation.  Having missed the Kentucky Derby and our yearly Mint Julep on the traditional Saturday, we had felt the need to make up for the loss on Sunday.

Richmond’s juleps are a perfect blend of sweetened mint, ice and Maker’s Mark; even a sometime drinker such as I finds they go down very easily.

Bennington and the Champlain Valley

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Bennington, VT
Best of Show: 
Vermont Kitchen Supply, in Manchester

The Battle Monument in BenningtonWe toured the southwest corner of the Green Mountain State from Brattleboro to Bennington along the Molly Stark Byway, and then north along Scenic Route 7a to Manchester, Route 30 to Poultney, and then the excellent Route 22a up the Champlain Valley as far as Vergennes. In Vergennes, we stopped for an excellent dinner at the Black Sheep Bistro, and then we set out across the mountains. We watched the supermoon rise over the mountains east of Mad River Glen, and took Rte 100 up to I-89 just as it got dark.

the Champlain Valley

The Champlain Valley  is justly famous as a touring destination, but the lower stretch of that side of the state has its own hilly and rural charms, from populist Bennington to patrician Manchester to scenic Lake St. Catherine and onward to Poultney. The towns are small and the hills can be rugged, but Routes 7a and 30 are lightly traveled and have enough turns and hills to keep the scenery changing.

Fresh Asparagus Dinner - Sole Oscar!

Filet of Sole OscarI was lucky enough to get a bunch of fresh-cut Asparagus at Verrill Farm  in the morning, and then lucked into a half a dozen farm-fresh egg yolks from a friend at work who eats only the whites.

From there it was easy to suggest some sole and Jonah crab meat for dinner, and the Filet of Sole Oscar was the obvious dinner:

  1. Steam the asparagus a few minutes, then plunge it into ice-water to cool it and keep it bright green.  
  2. Melt 1 cup butter.
  3. Dip the sole in flour and then in egg and saute in 1/4 cup melted butter until golden. Set aside on a warm place.
  4. Slowly whip the egg yolks in an electric mixer.
  5. In a clean skillet, toss the asparagus in 1/4 cup melted butter to heat through, then lay the asparagus across the sole filets.
  6. Saute the crabmeat in the same skillet, and lay it across the asparagus.
  7. Squeeze half a large lemon into the yolks, then slowly pour in the remaining 1/2 cup melted butter. Add a pinch of cayenne, and salt and pepper if you think it needs it. This is the Hollandaise.
  8. Drizzle the Hollandaise across the crab/asparagus/sole, or just face reality and dump it all on. It's so good you'll take no prisoners!

We served this with a chilled Pouilly-Fuisse white Burgundy, a classic accompaniment that suited the dinner perfectly.

From start to finish was less than 30 minutes, but they were not relaxing minutes. You can do this after work if you are not too tired.

Circumnavigating Lake George

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Fort Ticonderoga, Lake George, and Saratoga Springs, NY
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WAAWWE Market, Gassetts, VT

Excursion Boats on Lake George

We took advantage of ann early start to do one of our favorite trips: a circumnavigation of Lake George in upstate New York.  

Among other goals, I hoped to get a second example of the very regional Michigan Hot Dog, a sort of confirmation of my first sighting in 2007. What luck! Immediately after crossing into New York I screeched to a stop (I guess I do a lot of that) at Top Dogs Snack Bar, featuring Michigans! Dog-lovers can read more on that in The Dog Log.

Lake George is a very long, skinny lake on the edge of the Adirondacks. It has great historical significance from the days of the revolution and the Erie Canal system. It's shores are lined with many summer cottages, some quite expensive. Lake George Village is the kitschy headquarters of summer on the lake, full of t-shirt shops, cotton candy, mini-golf, and the like. It is a tidy town, and very nice if you like that sort of thing...but a foodie paradise it's not.  We ended up having dinner at a nice Italian place in Saratoga Springs.

Who could resist?The best foodie discovery of the day happened back in Vermont.

Fiddleheads Feast

We celebrated spring yet again with a Fiddleheads feast.

As usual, our Saturday adventure to Maine produced a lot of great foodie loot and we had to do something with it. We had fiddleheads and diver scallops from Gurnet Trading Post, Jersey cow milk and fresh eggs from Two Coves Farm, spring onions and some mushrooms from Bow Street Market, so we went with an early-spring "fruits of the forest" fiddleheads and mushrooms theme.


  • Mushroom Puffs with FiddleheadsOpened with a Lazy Lady cheese and some cob-smoked pepperoni (both from Vermont)
  • Puff-pastry shells filled with a mushroom medley and each topped with a fiddlehead.
  • A canape of medallions of Shad Roe poached in Fino sherry with a cider vinaigrette, and
  • Some fresh green almonds with salt.

The North End of Casco Bay

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Bailey's Island
Best of Show: 
The Gurnet Trading Company and Two Coves Farm

The view from Bailey's IslandWe got out of Worcester in time for a trip out scenic Orr's Island and Bailey's Island, which shelters the northern end of Casco Bay from the sea.  It was a very productive trip! We got fiddleheads, diver scallops, Jersey cow milk, and farm-fresh eggs.

The Gurnet Trading CompanyWe knew we were in foodie-friendly country when, passing by the Gurnet Trading Company for the hundredth time, we saw a sign out for frsh fiddleheads. I screeched to a stop and we went in to see what was on offer. They indeed had a bowl of lovely green fiddleheads for $4.99/lb (much less than half the price closer to Portsmouth), and right beside it in the ice was a bowl of diver scallops. I asked about them, bought a few for dinner tomorrow night, and carried on. Later I learned more about them, and that information is recorded here.

We made it out to the point and back, a very lovely drive not far from Portland and Freeport, and then across Mountain Road past the Black Sheep Wine Shop and Vegetable Corner to go out to then end of Harpswell. That is a pretty drive, too, although it ends rather abruptly.

Saturday Morning in Worcester

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Worcester, then Maine
Best of Show: 
Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Marketplace

Worcester City HallI love Worcester. You can go around the world without leaving the city. In Worcester, I have shopped or dined: Armenian, Swedish, Ghanaian, Korean, Irish, Greek, Japanese, Lebanese, Russian, Vietnamese, French, Polish, Italian, and Yankee. I have had kim-chee, cow's foot, and ham and eggs (not at the same meal!). 

And of course the range of restaurants in Worcester runs the usual gamut from the hash-houses to the excellent, Remember that Worcester does not suffer from the Tourist Effect: nobody goes to Worcester for the scenery, so the food has to be good!

George's Coney Island Hot DogsI lived in New York City for many years, but one of my favorite neon signs in all the world is in Worcester, and it's all about hot dogs.

Worcester is home to the classic diner, and boasts many excellent ones in various stages of renovation or destruction.

So it should come as no surprise that when I am lucky enough to find myself in that hotbed of ethnic foodie excellence, I look for things that are hard to find elsewhere, or that are expensive in gourmet shops but inexpensive and common in some ther cuisine.

And my favorite spice-seller is there. Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Marketplace is a my go-to place for spices and other unusual or rare goodies.

Sunset from Cadillac Mountain

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Bar Harbor, ME
Best of Show: 
Marshall Wharf ale with a local island burger at McKay's Public House

Bar Harbor Sunset

We started our day with breakfast in Portland, and then made tracks downeast on a glorious early spring day. Our destination was Bar Harbor and Cadillac Mountain, in Acadia National Park. We made it in good time, but arrived at the gate only to find it closed. A friendly ranger seeing our disappointed faces, hurried over to tell us some happy news: he had to make some rounds, but he would re-open the gate in an hour, so we would be able to get up the mountain in time for the sunset.

 McKay's Public House, Bar HarborWe headed into Bar Harbor, just a mile from the gate, and looked at our rather limited options for April dining in Bar Harbor. We saw that an old favorite, McKay's Public House, was open and serving, and we were able to be seated right away. That was good not only considering our rush for the sunset, but also because right after we were seated the placed filled up more crowded that a lifeboat from the Titanic! (This weekend being the 100th anniversary of that disaster, many people were dressed in Edwardian formal dress, and the waitstaff were dressed as ship's crew.

We were a bit nonplussed over the celebration, but the dinner was excellent.

Saturday Morning in Portland

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Portland, ME
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Breakfast at the Farmer's Table

The Farmer's Table, Portland, MEWe explored Portland for a little while in the morning, and made a few discoveries.Best of Show has to go to The Farmer's Table, a seriously locavore place on the waterfront with outdoor and indoor dining. I had an omelet with Pineland Farms cheddar cheese and Maine Grind breakfast sausage, with black coffee. Lorna had grilled salmon on arugula. Everything was fresh, expertly prepared, and delicious.

The Farmer's Table serves dinner too, so we are sure to be back for that. I was happy to see that the bar features a number of local and New England spirits, including  Cold River Gin and almost all of the Berkshire Distillery products.

We made a few other discoveries and acquisitions of note. The Corner General Store had many Maine microbrews in a cooler, as well as the whole line of Maine Meadworks sweet and dry meads. I grabbed a Needham for the road, but didn't need it because...

Lorna had visited Dean's Sweets in search of something fancy in white chocolate. She was disappointed, but the true chocoholic won't be: they make rich, super-chocolate decadent truffles by hand in the shop.

Easter Kites at Beavertail

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Jamestown, RI
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The Crepes Suzettes at Moulin Rouge

Kites over BeavertailOn Easter Sunday we left cloudy Plymouth behind to find the sun over Narragansett Bay before heading back to Massachusetts for some Easter family time. We had three destinations in mind, and then exploring until sundown.

We had an early dinner at the Moulin Rouge restaurant in Tiverton. We had discovered it only a few weeks previously, and Lorna has dreamed about the Crepes Suzettes ever since.  Crepes Suzettes are a deceptively simple dish made with good ingredients and a lot of flair: a couple of crepes, some orange-butter, and some Grand Marnier, flambeed tableside and served hot - exquisite! The dinner was excellent and the dessert was as imagined.

BlithewoldWe crossed the bridge to our old friend Blithewold afterward, where the daffodils were in full bloom. The weather was a little cool, but not too cool to explore the grounds and the house for a good hour or more.

Then we went down to Newport, stopping briefly at the well-stocked Vicker's Liquors for a bottle of Maine Meadworks Dry Mead to share with family that evening, before continuing over the Pell Bridge to Jamestown on Conanicut Island.

The south end of Jamestown has many grand homes, many of which are for sale.

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