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.

We:

  • 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

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
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

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
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

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
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

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Portland, ME
Best of Show: 
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

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Jamestown, RI
Best of Show: 
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.

The Hero Islands in Lake Champlain

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
North Hero, VT
Best of Show: 
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

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
East Boothbay, ME
Best of Show: 
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!

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