Congratulating Newlyweds

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Rte 1 as far as Camden, Maine
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Irish coffee with the newlyweds

Irish CoffeesWhen my baby brother got married in October, Lorna and I gave the newlyweds a pair of nice Waterford Irish Coffee cups along with my Irish Coffee recipe.

We finally got to show them the proper use of such fine vessels with the help of fresh-ground coffee, Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey, and fresh thickened cream. It was a cool night in coastal Maine, and the Irish Coffee took the chill off while we looked at photos of their honeymoon in Italy.

Irish Coffee is a delight on a winter evening, when prepared properly with quality ingredients. Don't let a disappointing experience with weak coffee and Redi-Whip ruin this convivial winter potion for you - try my Irish Coffee recipe when you can, and post your thoughts below.


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Eastham and P-town
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The elusive Eastham Turnip

The Eastham TurnipEver since our Discovering Our Roots dinner a few weeks ago, I have had a nagging sense of inadequate scientific effort. Turnip afficionadoes will no doubt recall that in that Discovery Dinner we sampled a newly-discovered Gilfeather Turnip from Vermont along with two other turnips. One of those was the fabled Eastham Turnip, but of course we had not acquired an Eastham (Cape Cod) Turnip in Brattleboro, VT; the Eastham entry had come already cooked and lightly seasoned from Annette's freezer.

It wasn't exactly a fair comparison. The Eastham Turnip was not treated the same way as its competitors, and it may have gained an unfair advantage. You can imagine competition among turnips must get awfully fierce, they so seldom get the spotlight... So I vowed to procure an Eastham Turnip and subject it to the same rigorous treatment endured by the Gilfeather and the ill-fated Scarlet Turnip.

Eastham Turnips are not exactly leaping off the shelves of Cape Cod groceries. You have to search diligently, or else you have to know where to find them. Richmond had generously told me of his special hunting ground: a roadside stand on the east side of Route 6 in Eastham. It's a little place, easily missed. I know this because I missed it. Twice. And by the time I got back there, they were closed.

Before reaching the happy end of this action-packed turnip tale, here's the skinny on the Eastham turnip stand:  as you head north on Rte 6 in Eastham, doubtless closely pursued by some impatient pickup truck, don't dawdle.

Discovering our Roots at the Brattleboro Farmers Market

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Brattleboro VT and up the Connecticut River Valley
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The exciting range of unexpected root vegetables and pumpkins at the Brattleboro Farmers market

Winter VegetablesWe explored the stretch of the Connecticut River from the Massachusetts border north to Quechee Gorge, VT and Lebanon, NH. Our itinerary started with a late breakfast at the dedicated locavore Chelsea Royal Diner in Brattleboro, a visit to the farmers market, and then a drive northward along VT Rte 5, hugging the river the whole way.

We made a number of discoveries and renewed our acquaintanceship with some old friends, but nothing beat the Brattleboro Farmers Market!

There are actually two Farmers Markets in Brattleboro: the summer-fall market by the river was having their last, pre-Thanksgiving market, and the indoor market downtown was open. Both were busy.

 What was so exciting? We found a few heirloom local vegetables that were new to us: Gilfeather Turnip, Long Pie Pumpkin, and Lutz Green Leaf Beet, plus the Italian Chioggia beet and a scarlet turnip. We also scored sausages from pasture-raised pork and beef from Dexter cattle, Just So Vermont unsweetened black-currant juice that is sure to become an ingredient in something, and artisanal ciders from Whetstone Ciderworks.

Most of this plunder will be cooked up in one of our Discovery Feasts this week.

Exploring Portland's Old Port

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Portland, ME
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House-Made Sausages at The Thirsty Pig in Portland

The Thirsty PigWe explored Portland on Saturday. It was a pretty blue-sky November day, crisp but not cold, and many people were in the Old Port.

There are many fine galleries and artisans shops in the Old Port, and it soon became clear that Lorna didn't need me tapping my foot by the door. Fortunately refuge was available right down Exchange Street at The Thirsty Pig. Despite the fact that we had recently had lunch at Becky's Diner*. I could not resist trying their own house-made sausages and it was Maine Beer Week.

I selected an Alewife Ale from the Run of the Mill microbrewery in nearby Saco, ME. On the advice of their sausagemeister, I  enjoyed a Lithuanian-style kielbasa made with parsley and ale in the mix, and then served with Morse's Sauerkraut and my favorite Maine Mustard Pickles. It was delicious. Now I have to find reasons to have lunch in Portland again, but that won't be difficult!

*NSFW Warning: The Becky's Diner website plays annoying seagull-and-surf sounds. 

Cocktailian Studies in Boston

Fort Point, Boston
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The Lion's Tail and the Liberal at Drink

Drink Fort PointI took Wednesday off for some R&R. It was a beautiful Indian Summer day, so I drove as far as Columbia Point to have a lunchtime walk with Lorna at work, then I left the car there and took the T to South Station.

It's always fun exploring Boston. On this day I scouted the North End for a Taurasi to wash down an upcoming Neapolitan Dinner (and succeeded twice over at Cirace's, then meandered down the Rose Kennedy Greenway to view the activities of Occupy Boston.

After that I needed to kill a couple of hours until Lorna arrived at South Station to join me for dinner; naturally I went to Drink.

Drink is a bar, after a fashion. It is a cocktailian bar, with extraordinarily knowledgeable staff and an unparallelled range of ingredients. When I have trouble with a classic cocktail, I head to Drink to get set aright.  When I am in Boston with time on my hands (after 4pm), I make the trip and explore cocktails made with ingredients I have been unable to find or unwiulling to spend the money on.

In this case, I had time for two: I started with a nod to our Occupy Boston comrades with a Liberal Cocktail, which is made with the virtually unavailable Amer Picon, and then I learned about the bizarre Allspice Dram with a Lion's Tail. Each of these is described in its own page, just follow the links! 

The Quest for the Golden Russets

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Lake Champlain Valley
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Golden Russets and Northern Spies at Douglas Orchards

Douglas Orchards, VTMy favorite apples of all do not even come available until late in the season.

Unlike Annette's Red Gravensteins, the Golden Russets and Northern Spy apples that I love are late October and November apples. The Russets especially are not an attractive apple - the russeting that gives them their name means they look a little like a small potato. It's too bad that more orchards do not grow these, because they are great in any kind of baking, holding their shape and responding well to the traditional pie spices.

I found mine at Douglas Orchards in Shoreham, in the Lake Champlain Valley. It is a scenic place (although not quite as scenic in November as the October day that I took the photo above!) above the shores of Lake Champlain. The best drive through the Lake Champlain Valley is along Rte 22a, taking advantage of the side routes out to Chimney Point and Larrabees Point, taking care to be up on 22a if you can be to catch the sundown over the Adirondacks and the lake.

Lorna's Tuscan Birthday Feast

Lorna's birthday is in October, which is surely one of the finest months for cooks! There are still plentiful fresh vegetables, the winter squashes are in, the Apples are ripe and ready, and you can cook without overheating the house!

This feast was one of my four-part Exploring Italy series, set in Tuscany. Most of the dishes came from Ada Boni's Italian Regional Cooking, with additional guidance from Anna Del Conte's The Classic Food of Northern Italy.

We had:

  • A starter of four New England cheeses, with a bottle of Rosso di Montalcino 2009
  • We opened the meal with the Livornese Cacciucco, a flavorful and generous fish soup.
  • Next came La Ribollita, the classic Tuscan white bean soup. I made this extra-hearty so as not to have two soups in the meal. This was extraordinarily savory.
  • The main course was a Pollo in Agrodolce, a fascinating and zippy dish that features white raisins, wine vinegar, pignoli, and bitter chocolate - this was the hit of the dinner!
  • With the meal we enjoyed a Boscoselvo Brunello do Montalcino 1999 and a Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale d'Oro 2000.
  • We finished with another surprise hit of the night, the mysterious Castagnaccio, a cake of chestnut flour, olive oil, pine nuts and golden raisins.

Surrounded by Witches

Salem, MA
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The pulled pork with a fried egg at the Scratch Kitchen

Scratch Kitchen, SalemIt may have been an error in judgment to go to Salem on the Saturday before Halloween, the biigest day of the year in the Witch City. But we were intent upon seeing the soon-to-depart Hudson River School exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum and forgot all about our possible peril.

Sure enough we were surrounded by witches and all sorts of ghoulish companions on the streets of the city, which look like an urban version of a country fair. Every available space seemed to host a Fried Dough truck or a Sausages and Peppers cart. Alas! I saw no Corn Dogs so I had to settle for real, local, organically-raised food instead.

The nice lady at the Visitor Center told us about someplace for breakfast, but it was full so we kept looking. Not far on we saw the Scratch Kitchen, proudly proclaiming local fare, so we went in.

They certainly have local fare well-prepared, including a succulent pulled pork from Lucki 7 Farms topped with a sunny-side up egg and washed down with a Notch Session Ale from nearby Ipswich.
The session ale is a sadly underrepresented type in this day of super-hopmonster Imperial IPAs and Imperial Belgian Drafthorse Ale and Imperial super-high-gravity neutronium ales: Session ales are flavorful but lower in alcohol (Notch doesn't go over 4.5% alcohol by volume) so they accompany a meal nicely without demanding to be the meal.

Questing in Connecticut

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Putnam, CT
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the Ramos Gin Fizz at 85 Main

Ramos Gin Fizz at 85 MainWhile Lorna was antiquing in the shops of Putnam, I sequestered myself in the quiet back corner corner of the awesome bar at 85 Main. I had planned on drinking coffee while she shopped, until I noticed the sign for their Classic Cocktails!

One of the cocktails on the menu is the Ramos Gin Fizz, which I have long wanted to try but never had the ingredients (or the courage).

It is not easy to make. Aside from the egg white and the cream and the orange blossom water, it calls for 5 minutes of vigorous shaking. This gives it the requisite body and froth, which opens up the flavors and may provide a show depending on the bartender, but it is exhausting so do remember to tip generously if you order this thing.  

The result is silky and magical, an evocative blend of flavors and textures - do try one!

Exploring Connecticut's Quiet Corner

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Woodstock, CT
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Afternoon Tea at Mrs Bridge's Pantry

Mrs Bridge's Pantry and Tea RoomWe took a foliage drive to Connecticut's quiet corner.  Along the way, we discovered Mrs Bridge's Pantry, a great little tea room and market for British goods.

It was the perfect place to relax after touring the lovely historic Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut, one of many interesting historic homes owned by Historic New England (formerly SPNEA).

Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, CTAfter some more driving (where we scored some fresh preservative-free cider) we headed home by way of the  Stone Bridge Restaurant* in Tiverton, RI, where she enjoyed the special Lobster Cheesecake and I had the Portuguese classic,  Pork & Littleneck Clams.

*NSFW Warning: The Stone Bridge website plays music. If you start to distract your coworkers or wake the baby, you can turn it off with a Page Music Control at the bottom of the page.

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