Bahnan's Market

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Bahnan's MarketI have shopped at Henri Bahnan's store since it was a tiny bakery making Armenian peda bread. I would ride over on my bicycle and get a loaf of the bread hot off the oven-conveyor. Bahnan's also had a crowded skinny storefront where he sold middle-eastern spices and other ingredients. This was maybe 25 years ago.

Today, Bahnan's International Marketplace, Bakery, and Cafe is a much larger, thriving operation. It is still my go-to place when I need Greek or middle eastern foods, spices, and other goodies. It is the only place I know I can always get the Dodonis Feta that I use to make my celebrated Spanakopita, and the heavier country fillo that I use in that popular recipe. I buy my olive oil there, and the roasted unsalted hazelnuts that I use in my Buche de Noel every Christmastime.

Bahnan's is conveniently located just a few doors down from Ed Hyder's Mediterranean Marketplace, another must-visit while in Worcester.

Foliage and Fine Ale

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Fryeburg, ME
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Artisanal ales at Ebenezer's Pub

Ebenezer's PubWe set out early, but not early enough to beat the traffic to the Fryeburg Fair, a great agricultural fair in western Maine not far from North Conway, NH. By the time we reached the outskirts of Fryeburg (a long way indeed from Plymouth!) the traffic was at a standstill, so we took a left turn and headed north through the Maine portion of the White Mountain National Forest.

It was one of the best foliage drives we had ever taken, the more so because we ended up at the legendary Ebenezer's Pub in tiny Lovell, ME.

Ebenezer's is a funny space by a golf course with an astonishing array of micro- and nono-brews, Belgian Ales, and other treats. It is defiinitely a destination, the sort of place you can go to try something you won't find anywhere else. That's what I did, a wonderful high-gravity nano-brew from NH. It was very malty, with coffee-molasses undertones and a dry finish, balanced by assertive hops that gave structure without intruding. I could find the brewer again, but...I had to promise Chris (the owner) that I wouldn't give the name online!

Ebenezer's isn't really near anywhere, but it's a very nice ride and a great destination.

Away, Away Downeast: Part 3 of 3

Homeward bound from Lubec
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Escargot and Finnan Haddie at Le Garage in Wiscasset

Downeast SardinesSunday was a long driving day. We awoke in Machias and started early with pie and coffee at Helen's before heading further downeast to Lubec and then all the way home to Plymouth. That's not that bad, about 400 miles if you stick to Rte 1 and the interstate, but of course we didn't. We explored all the inlets and points that had roads we could drive on and had great fun. 

Eventually we ran out of time and had to head homeward, through Machias and Ellsworth, back over the excellent bridge at Bucksport and past Belfast back to the comforts of more settled lands. We reached Wiscasset around 7pm, in time for dinner at our favorite waystation when heading home from the Maine Coast, Le Garage.   

This whole long expedition was a special trip for Lorna's birthday, and I had made a reservation in advance. Lorna's dad was from Nove Scotia, and maybe that's why she always gets the Finnan Haddie appetizer - it's a sort of Yankee Soul Food.  We go there quite a lot (we are in Maine quite a lot) and Cheryl knows us well by now. I won't say what she did to make Lorna's birthday special, but it was quite special indeed! (And mercifully it did not involve the waitrons singing Happy Birthday.) 

Away, Away Downeast: Part 2 of 3

Lubec, ME
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Black Coffee and Blueberry Pie at Helen's

Black Coffee and Blueberry PieDowneast Maine is blueberry country, and there are no better blueberies than the tiny Wild Maine Blueberries. I usually try to avoid the carbs, but I can't pass up the black coffee and blueberry pie for breakfast at Helen's in Machias.

From Machias we continued our eastward trek toward the dawn country, arriving in Lubec some time later after exploring the few side roads that reach out to the sea. It's only about 30 miles, but we were in no rush - we were adventuring!


Monica's ChocolatesOne happy discovery out in Lubec, about as far as you can go in Downeast Maine before you reach Canada, was Monica's Chcocolates. Monica is an excellent chocolatier who makes beautiful shells and filled chocolates that she boxes up and ships all over the country. I still haven't learned how she wound up in Lubec, though - Monica is from Peru!

Away, Away Downeast: Part 1 of 3

Machias, ME
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Locavore Pride in Ellsworth

Localvore Pride!There's a lot of Maine seacoast, but you're not Downeast until you reach Ellsworth. In Ellsworth, Routes 1 and 3 meet, and most of the cars head out to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Once you've passed Ellsworth, Coastal Route 1 gets smaller and less well-maintained. The towns are smaller and further apart, and there's not much good coffee to be had until you get to Machias, 60 miles on. So you might as well get a cup at The Maine Grind in Ellsworth, fierce locavores who really get what it means to treat food right.

While you're parked, you could do worse than to stop in at the excellent John Edwards Market for some additional road provisions, perhaps something to enjoy in your motel room.

The Common Ground Fair

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Destination: The annual Common Ground Fair in Unity, ME.

Best of Show: The pasture-raised pork from Tide Mill Organic Farm

German Beer RadishThe Common Ground Fair is just about the antithesis of the Big E (see last week). It is smaller and quirky, in its own way. But the biggest difference is that it is hosted by MOFGA, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and so is a venue exclusively for organic and sustainable agriculture.

MOFGA has a number of fearless farmers growing produce that you probably never heard of and that you'll probably never see on the shelf at Stop & Shop, like the German Beer Radishes pictured here. That's one of the best things about coming to these events.

This year was the 30th annual Common Ground Fair. It has grown quite a lot since Lorna and I first visited it in 2001. Then is was certainly smaller, and the organic farmers and other vendors there were more likely to be the pioneers of the movement, the true believers making it happen in a difficult business environment.

The 2010 fair was much, much larger: 60,000 people were expected! There was a three-mile wait to park on Saturday afternoon, and then a 10-minute walk along a muddy woodland path after we'd parked. It was much further than when we'd parked for the Big E the previous week.

The Big E

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Dog on a StickDestination: The annual Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield.

Best of Show: The Wild Maine Blueberry Pie at the State of Maine building

The Big E is the biggest "agricultural fair" in all of New England. I put "agricultural fair" in quotes because the ag part of the show is much diminished behind the neon glare. Behind the mad bazaar of offbeat products, the enormous midway, the huge evening crowds for the country music performances, the BMX stunts and the juggler there were livestock and farmers, a cheese competition, and close-ups on regional specialties by state.


Brimfield and Beyond

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Destination: The annual September Brimfield Antiques Fair.

Best of Show: The Leverett Village Coop 

Saturday's adventure started with one of our three annual expeditions to the awesome Brimfield Antiques Show.

You really can't imagine the sense of remote rural deep-hemlock-hillside-dark isolation until you drive through Leverett, turn left on Rattlesnake Gutter Road, and visit the Leverett Village Coop... I got Kombucha and local Irish Stout from Lefty's Brewing, Bernardston, MA.

Trust the Expert

Destination: Provincetown, MA

Best of Show: A Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail at Bubala's.

P-town is great fun in the summer, and those who enjoy shopping can find some interesting treasures. I'm not much of a shopper, so I typically sit someplace with coffee to work and write while Lorna shops.  

On this particular occasion, I had a foodie goal: I had been learning about the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cocktail (see link above) and I have even made up a batch of that mysterious elixir known as Falernum Syrup to get the authentic flavor. But it still wasn't working for me; I needed the help of a pro.

Billy's instincts did the job. Billy is one of the barkeeps at Bubala's, on Commercial Street in Provincetown. I think he dreads when I come in because he knows I will want something that nobody else has ever asked for. But he also seems to enjoy the challenge, and always does a great job.

I had brought my Falernum in a little glass jar. He knew trouble was brewing when I set it down on the bar beside my clipboard and pen. I showed him the recipe and told him my troubles - the lime juice was beating up the other ingredients, but if I let up on it then it was too sweet. Alas! I had never had one properly made so I didn't even know what I was shooting for.

He drily said "You're shooting for a good drink, you fool." Then he took the Falernum and lickity-split he had shaken up a delicious Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail.

I asked him how he did it, and he said he'd just done it. I asked if he could do it again, and measure it this time.

Vermont Garlic Festival

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Destination: Vermont Garlic Festival

Best of Show: Tasting 19 kinds of garlic and 21 varieties of heirloom tomatoes!

The journey was memorable, too - we also enjoyed local Mocha Joe's coffee, grass-fed beef and local veggies at the Chelsea Royal Diner in West Brattleboro before we ever got to the Garlic Fest.

After we left the Garlic Fest, it was too early to head home, so wecrossed Vermont on country  roads en route to ... dinner and Benton Lane pinot noir at Giuseppe's in Meredith, NH (well, it's sort of on our way...)

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