a visit to the Gilded Age

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Lenox, MA - "Newport in the Mountains"
Best of Show: 
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

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

Type of Post: 
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?

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Port Clyde, ME
Best of Show: 
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.

Sigh.

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

little smokey shrimp

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Brunswick and Freeport, ME
Best of Show: 
Smoked Maine Shrimp from Grindstone Neck, Winter Harbor, ME

Grindstone Neck of MaineOne of our discoveries at the Bow Street Market was a 6-oz pouch of naturally-smoked little Maine Shrimp from Grindstone neck in Winter Harbor, away downeast beyond Elllsworth.

I have always liked the little Maine shrimp in all sorts of preparations. Le Garage in Wiscasset uses them several ways, in Newburgs and on a special Caesar salad that I especially enjoy. But i had never seen them smoked until I lucked into that bag in Freeport.

I am anxious about smoked foods unless they are really smoked and not simply seasoned with iquid smoke. I was glad to see the ingredients were natural, so I bought a bag.

These were delicious! Smoky and salty enough to enjoy on a cracker with a cocktail on a blustery February afternoon, or flavorful enough to hold their own on a well-equipped salad.

It will be awhile before our travels take us to Winter Harbor, but Freeport is easy enough, and now the Bow Street Market on the short list for our next trip in that direction.

Finding 12 Sweet Hearts

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Portsmouth & Ogunquit
Best of Show: 
The hearts at Harbor Candy in Ogunquit

The steeple in Market Square, PortsmouthWe're getting mighty close to the Past Presidents Night Gala. Soon we will have no more opportunities to acquire excellent goodies in our travels. My targets for this expedition were some interesting soft drinks, and a dozen very fine truffles to decorate the Chocolate Truffle Torte.

The Chocolate Truffle Torte is a great crowd-pleaser, and as the only chocolate dessert on the menu, it has to be special. It is a 4-layer chocolate cake, covered with a bitter chocolate glaze, and then adorned with fine chocolate truffles.

I know of some gorgeous chocolates at Stage Stop Candy on Cape Cod, but there's no way I will get there before the party. We were headed to Portsmouth, to Carl's Meats and Golden Harvest, and to Byrne and Carlson Chocolatiers.

I found some beautiful jellies at Byrne and Carlson, but no chocolates that would suit that cake, or at least none better than what I can get at Fedele's in Pembroke on my way to work.   

I decided to opt for Fedele's unless we could find something appropriate along the coast in Kittery, York, or Ogunquit.

What's New?

Type of Post: 
What's on my Mind?

Did you know...

New material is added to this site all the time. Some of it (Best of Show and Feast Reports) are always posted to the frint page. But all the many pages of "backstory" about ingredients and markets and what-have-you never get promoted to the front page. You see them through their links, but you can also see what's new by clicking on the Recent Posts link in the menu beneath your username in the left sidebar.

Locavore dining in style

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Quechee, VT, Barre, and the Northeast Kingdom
Best of Show: 
Baked Maplebrook Farm Burrata at Three Tomatoes Trattoria

Three Tomatoes LebanonOur quest for more goodies for the Old Colony Club's annual Past Presidents Night gala brought us to the Quechee VT/Hanover, NH area for the trifecta: the waxed two-pound wheel of Cabot sharp cheddar at the Cabot Store, the King Arthur Flour Company Baker's Store, and the excellent and comprehensive cheese counter at the Hanover Food Coop.

I achieved all my party-related objectives in short order, so we went exploring through the mountains north of Woodstock as far as the Barre quarrylands, then west to the Connecticut River.

At sundown we set out for dinner and home. We had been to Three Tomatoes Trattoria before, but the last time we got stuck behind a belly-dancing team (I'm not kidding) and that table of 10 made service slow for us, as we shared a server. But we knew the trouble was timing, not quality, so we gave it another chance last night, and I am glad we did.

Three Tomatoes makes a special effort to support local farming, as do many restaurants in that area. I usually like to eat light before the long drive home, so this time I contented myself with their Wood Oven Baked Burrata from the Small Plates part of the menu.

A Burrata is a wonderful invention, until very recently unavailable in this country unless you knew someone who could fly it over from Italy.

Eclectic Essentials

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Pemaquid Point and Waldoboro, ME
Best of Show: 
Morse's Sauerkraut. in Waldoboro ME

Pemaquid Point LightIt's just three weeks until the Old Colony Club's annual formal Past Presidents Night gala, so I had to score some elegant, eclectic, edible oddities to set out. We had long been planning an expedition to Pemaquid Point, near Damariscotta, so it was imperative to include the famous Morse's Sauerkraut on the itinerary.

Morse's has grown far beyond the humble Kraut House (Est. 1918). Under the ownership of Jackie and David, it has grown to include an astonishing array of German delicacies, cheeses, fine meats like Broadbent ham and sausage products, and all kinds of things to serve them on and with, all in addition to their flagship fresh sauerkraut and pickles.  

Morse's SauerkrautWhat did we find?  An Usinger's Smoked Liverwurst and my favorite Maine Mustard Pickles to go with it, some pumpernickel, rye, and other bases for canapes, a variety of interesting crackers, red and green olives, a Bavarian mustard, a couple of their brilliant beet-colored pickled eggs, and a three-pack of Underberg digestive bitters for those who cannot help themselves against the array of goodies we set out.

Hail the Great Chieftain o' the Puddin'-Race

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Destination: 
Plymouth, MA
Best of Show: 
The Haggis and Scotch with friends

A Haggis for BeginnersOn Friday night, my friends at the Old Colony Club toasted Scottish poet Robert Burns in style with Scotch and a Haggis.

It's great to have friends who can get past whatever calumnies they have heard about this famous dish of Scotland and give it a fair try. It is rich and savory, seasoned with nutmeg and other spices and filled with oats that soak up the flavors and lighten the "pudding".

As Burns toasted the Haggis:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my airm....

There is more to Address to a Haggis, which you can read here. The next time you serve a haggis, you might address it thus, or you might just stab it with your dirk and have at it with crackers and Scotch whiskey!

Have you had a haggis experience? Tell us about it through the Comments link below.

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