The Hero Islands in Lake Champlain

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North Hero, VT
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Maple Ambrosia Wine at Hillis' Sugarbush Farm, Colchester

The view from Shore Acres Inn, North Hero, VTThe days are getting longer, so we can extend our range. Yesterday we made it to the far corner of New England, to North Hero, VT in Lake Champlain.

North Hero is one town south of the Canadian border and a kayak ride from New York. The islands are beautiful flat farmland, with stunning vistas of the lake and the mountains beyond on both sides. If you time your dinner reservation right, you can drive homeward during the long sunset over the Adirondacks. Now that's a dessert!

We had also spent a few hours in Burlington, first at the Fleming Art Museum at University of Vermont, and then shopping in town, so we had less time than usual for exploring the backroads and byways. We did make it out to Malletts Bay but then we had to make tracks for North Hero.

Hillis' Sugarbush FarmAlong the way we could not resist one stop: almost to the first island on Route 2,we saw a homemade sign for wine and maple products, next left. We ended up following a gravel road into the woods, emerging by a humble farm shed with an "open" flag.

Shad Roe

Shad Roe, UncookedI love shad roe.

It's a very seasonal thing, appearing briefly when the shadbush and forsythia are in bloom, and, in these parts, around Opening Day. Spring is here, with tempestuous weather turning mild and brown fields turning green, fresh Asparagus and Pea Greens and sun-kissed strawberries are not far behind.

Shad roe is not pretty. It looks like a pair of lungs. You can find lots of details with a quick web search; the important thing to know is that is is very seasonal, very regional, and usually very hard to find without a reliable fishmonger. 

It is also very delicate; a slip of the knife can spill the precious eggs and make it much more difficult to prepare and serve.

We found some, in one market by luck and in another by special order.  We served it with another delicacy in our Shad Roe and Halibut Cheeks dinner.

Shad Roe, CookedI suppose there are some clever chefs who could find some way to present it attractively, but my advice is to concentrate your efforts on the preparation and let the presentation follow as needed.

I always use the butter-poaching method in Jasper White's Cooking from New England.

Shad Roe and Halibut Cheeks

Shad Roe in Butter SauceBy a stroke of great good fortune, I finally found my long-sought Shad Roe on the same weekend that Richmond lucked into four fine halibut cheeks. Obviously we had to build a dinner around our acquisitions!

The shad roe recipe is my favorite from Jasper White's Cooking from New England. The rest of the recipes we just made up.

The Menu:

  • We started, as we so often do, with a cheese discovery. In this case it was Three Cheeses from Narragansett Creamery.
  • We had the shad roe for an opener. I poached it in butter, then browned the butter and added minced anchovies, capers, parsley, and ham for a sauce. 
  • That was rich, so we sampled Three Dry Vermouths, which went very nicely with the fish. These were supplemented through the meal by Lillet Blanc and Cocchi Americano.
  • We followed the shad roe with Annette's salad of arugula, pine nuts, and other goodies.

Both sides of Boothbay Harbor

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East Boothbay, ME
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The Harbor Fish Market, in Portland

The view from Ocean PointSaturday's expedition broughts us some classic views of Maine's mid-coast region on both sides of the Sheepscot River. The views got better and better as we meandered through Westport, ME past Wiscassett and Boothbay Harbor to East Boothbay and Ocean Point. We had left the rain behind us somewhere around Portsmouth so the day was beautiful and the colors were gorgeous.

It is early spring even in Maine, so the daffodils were up and the forsythia and shadbush were blooming. As every foodie knows, when the forsythia blooms, the foodie's thoughts turn to Shad Roe! I had hoped to score some two weeks ago in the Hudson Valley, and last week in Rhode Island, but failed on both counts. I had placed an order at The Market at the Pinehills in Plymouth, but I was not sure they could get it for me. How frustrating! Shad roe season was winging away in beautiful spring days...

The harbor Fish Market

We passed through Portland on our way north, so I made a detour to the Harbor Fish Market down on the waterfront. I had read about it on the web, but had never been there. 

What a discovery!

Exploring eastern Rhode Island

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Bristol, Newport, and Little Compton, RI
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Clamcakes and black coffee at Reidy's in Portsmouth

Blithewold Daffodil DaysWe explored eastern Rhode Island yesterday. Our primary objective was to catch the thousands and thousands of daffodils in bloom at Blithewold, an historic mansion in Bristol, RI, but I took advantage of the opportunity to explore the Ocean State east of Narragansett Bay. It was a productive expedition!

Reidy's in Portsmouth, RIWalking the grounds of Blithewold worked up something of an appetite. I wanted something Rhode Island, and I got it at Reidy's Family Restaurant in Portsmouth, between Bristol and Newport. Reidy's is a pleasant, homey little place on Rte 138 that proudly advertises their "bottomless coffee cup".

That's a good thing, because I wanted to try their clam cakes, and Lorna had a design on their whole-belly fried clams; all that fried food might grease up the palate without something to cut it. It was too early for a 'Gansett, so black coffee was in order. Rhody Lunch at Reidy's

Here's what we got:

The clamcakes were light and perfectly cooked, delicately savory and not at all greasy.

Across the Hudson and into the Catskills

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Olana Historic Site
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Last Chance Cheese in Tannersville, NY

Olana, home of painter Frederick ChurchWe chased after the springtime sunshine and found it in the Hudson Valley. Our primary objective was the fabulous Olana, home of superstar 19th-century Hudson River School painter Frederick Church. Like the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Olana shows what can be done with money and taste, and its views of the Hudson are unparalleled. And of course, there is plenty to see and do in the Hudson Valley, which is quite reachable from most of New England except Maine and the upper reaches of NH.

Of course, being intrepid pilgrims, reaching the Hudson was not enough to satisfy our wanderlust, so we crossed the river at Rhinebeck, NY, slipped through Saugerties, and charged up Route 23a into the mountains. Church and his teacher Thomas Cole painted many famous scenes of the Catskills, especially the dramatic and justly-famous Kaaterskill Falls.

Last Chance CheeseIt really is a spectacular ride, and a rewarding one for foodies. At the top of the mountain is Tannersville, NY, a colorful little ski town (near Hunter Mountain) with some quirky shops, none quirkier than Last Chance Cheese.

We have visited Last Chance many times since first discovering it maybe 15 years ago.

a visit to the Gilded Age

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Lenox, MA - "Newport in the Mountains"
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The tea and pastries at Patisserie Lenox

Ventfort Hall, Lenox, MAWe traveled to Lenox, MA to see the Berkshires and to visit the faded splendor of Ventfort Hall, the home of financier George S. Morgan, brother of the more famous JP Morgan.  After the mansion, we explored down Rte 183 to Great Barrington, and then eastward along Rte 57 until sunset caught us in Springfield; it was an excellent drive through the mountains.

The staff at Ventfort was knowledgeable and charming. We very much enjoyed the tour, especially the little ladies - a collection of about 60 fabulous mannekins dressed in intricate ladies costumes from 1855 to 1914. When we finished, our guide recommended we visit downtown Lenox for lunch.

We had driven past Lenox a hundred times or more over the years, speeding by on Rte 7 or taking a more leisurely route down 7a, but we never discovered the delightful little downtown stretch that runs for a few blocks just east of Rte 7a. Of particular note there (and worth the drive) was the Patisserie Lenox.

Patisserie LenoxWe The Patisserie Lenox is a top-quality bakery in the heart of the Berkshires, nearby Tanglewood and all the old gilded-age mansions.

An Old Friend Rediscovered

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Portland, ME
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Rediscovering the Public Market House

Portland ObservatoryWe went to Portland to see a Degas exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art, and stumbled into an old friend!

Years ago we used to visit the old Portland Public Market regularly. We dined on fresh fish washed down with draft Allagash White Ale at Scales, shopped for liquids from the incredible selection at Maine Beer and Beverage, and always sought out local cheeses and charcuterie from Kris Horton.

As we were leaving the museum (having missed coffee at the already-closed cafe) I asked the woman at the admission desk where I could find good locally-roasted coffee. She pointed me down the block to Monument Square.

Portland Public Market HouseThe moment we walked in the door we knew we were on familiar ground. The K. Horton cheese counter stretches ahead and off to the right, full of interesting imported and local products, and half-hidden by even more tasty wares along the counter in front and atop the cases. It was like we had left off a conversation last night and picked it up today, although it must be five years or more since the old Public Market was closed down to make way for condos.

Past Presidents Night Photo Gallery

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What's on my Mind?
OCC Past Presidents NightI have assembled a photo gallery of the foods we served at the Old Colony Club's annual Past Presidents Night gala. The photos were taken by my sister-in-law Lynn Sgammato, who helped to set up and keep the train on the rails though that enormously enjoyable but complex event - thanks Lynn!

Vesper discovered in Camden?

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Port Clyde, ME
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Cocchi Americano at French & Brawn Market, Camden

Cocchi Americano LabelI first tried Cocchi Americano at Drink in Boston on my birthday a couple of years ago. It's an aperitivo made from moscato d'asti and one of the herbal ingredients is cinchona bark, the same ingredient that gives quinine its flavor and is found in a variety of other bitter aperitifs from France and Italy. I enjoy an aperitif now and then. especially with a rich shellfish dish, and I find Lillet Blanc too sweet for my tastes, so I tried to find the Cocchi Americano and never succeeded - until now.

I found this long-lost liquid at French & Brawn Marketplace in Camden, Maine, which is also a good place to find Maine Mustard Pickles from Morse's and other interestnig treats.

James Bond fans of a cocktailian bent may recall Bond's recipe for a Vesper cocktail, which he invented in Casino Royale. That drink called for Kina Lillet, a quinine-laced Lillet that is no longer made. I think the Cocchi Americano is a step in the right direction, although never having tried the original Kina Lillet I have no way of knowing how close or far the Cocchi and the Lillet Blanc are from the original Kina Lillet. I suppose the only solution is diligent and patient research with varying blends until I become a superspy.


Of course, this is strictly in the interest of Science.

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