Fall Garden Harvest: Jalapeno Poppers and Basil Pesto

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Football season has returned! And while it’s a strange time of year when football and sailing season overlap, I so enjoy the return of fall Sundays spent inside watching TV, eating hearty football fare, and drinking a few beers in the afternoon.
This past Sunday was actually not sailing weather out on Casco Bay, so we were free to enjoy the games guilt-free. As has become an annual tradition, we harvested our garden’s jalapeno plant and made poppers out of our spicy, bountiful pepper harvest.
Purple gloves and jalapeno poppers means football – go Ravens!
First, A. squeezed his man hands into my gloves and began preparing the peppers – slicing and deseeding them. I prepared the filling of cream cheese and shredded cheddar.
Is it just me, or is the availability of cream cheese-filled jalapeno poppers diminishing? I have no time for cheddar cheese-filled peppers; the one true, correct option for stuffing spicy peppers with is cream cheese.
We then just coat the stuffed peppers in egg wash and breadcrumbs and freeze some for future football games. Just thinking about a freezer full of poppers for snowy football Sundays makes me feel cozy.
While frying is obviously the best way to cook a jalapeno popper, baking is a nice sane substitute. (Maybe Santa will bring me a Fry Daddy? Hello, football Santa?) Bake them at 350*F for about 30-40 minutes, or until golden and some have started to ooze.
Try topping your poppers with seedless raspberry or blackberry jam – far superior to serving them with sour cream or Ranch dressing, since that verges on creaminess overkill.
I also pulled up half of my gigantic basil plant (tree) to make some pesto for the freezer.
I whizzed up a relatively small batch (about a cup) in my food processor with Parmesan, walnuts, garlic, and olive oil. But there’s still tons left in the garden, so I’ll make another batch and freeze it…but then what?
I don’t find pesto heats well (cheese melts, the oil breaks) and it often becomes mealy in the freezer. I don’t particularly enjoy pasta salads tossed with pesto – they’re always dry and lacking. Which is too bad, because when it’s fresh, basil pesto is amazing. If you have good pesto uses, please let me know!

These frozen herb silicone starter trays are made by Ball and are available online or in some big box stores. You can also use an ice cube tray – either way, I transfer the cubes to a freezer-grade plastic ziptop bag, labeled and dated, after they’re frozen.

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Making Kombucha + Preserving Maine Summer Vegetables Fast

Business up front, party in the back! Tonight, I’ll be at Boothbay Craft Brewing for trivia night from 4:30-8pm with copies of my book DISTILLED IN MAINE for sale. Tomorrow night, I’m reading and giving a talk about the book at the Maine Historical Society at 5:30pm. Steve from Vena’s Fizz House will be mixing up cocktails using a local spirit. Tickets are $10-15.

Next, I’m coordinating a very exciting Portland Spirits Society (a group of women interested in learning about booze) event – a Bourbon and boozy chocolate truffle tasting with restaurant Grace and Dean’s Sweets on October 1st at 6pm. The tickets are $25 (plus service fees) and include four samples of Bourbon and chocolate truffles. Spots are limited and tickets are going fast, so get yours soon if you’re interested! Ladies only, please.


Now onto some recent food projects… my kombucha is finally finished! It tastes great, but it’s not as fizzy as the store-bought stuff, so if anyone has any tips about a secondary fermentation, hit me up.

When we last chatted about kombucha, that intriguing, tangy fermented tea drink, I was growing my own SCOBY or starter from a batch of store-bought booch. Well, grow it did, and after a week, I had a new SCOBY that was ready to go.

I followed the recipe from Drink the Harvest by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest, a beautifully done book that details how to make meads, ciders, syrups, and juices from fresh fruit and herbs. 
Once I grew the SCOBY, I was ready to make the actual kombucha. To start, I brewed a batch of strong tea (2 cups of water, 8 organic black tea bags) and stirred in a cup of white sugar to the hot tea. I then let it cool down to room temperature and added 2 quarts (8 cups) of filtered water. 
I poured this mix into a glass one-gallon container from Ball (not a canning jar, but good for fermenting) and added my new kombucha SCOBY, plus 1 cup of the tea/kombucha liquid in which it was growing. (This extra cup of liquid is to ensure that the next batch of kombucha is properly acidified so no nasties grow in it before the kombucha bacteria/yeast do their naturally acidifying thing.) 
Above, you can see the first kombucha SCOBY I grew, over top of the one that grew in my one-gallon container. SCOBYs will grow to fit the container they’re in, and so the second one is very wide. They’re both in a cup of kombucha that I reserved, in a jar in my fridge, waiting until I need to make another eight cups of kombucha. 
After ten days of fermenting, I tasted the kombucha and found it to be pretty tangy like I like it. I strained out the SCOBYs (reserving one cup of kombucha to go with them) then filled three quart jars with kombucha. 
I was hoping to achieve a secondary fermentation in order to make it a little carbonated by adding a bit of honey and letting it sit, covered, at room temperature. Alas, no significant carbonation built up, so I strained it again and transferred it to the fridge for storage. 
I added a bit of honey to the jars for my secondary fermentation, as suggest in The Art of Fermentation, hoping the kombucha yeast/bacteria would eat up the honey and produce some fizz. But I also read that kombucha needs sugar, not honey, to ferment, so maybe I should have added sugar instead. 
Finally, I added some blueberry juice from Worcester’s Wild Blueberries, to one of the jars, sent to me in my Box of Maine, a box of Maine-made goodies. I was thrilled to remember I had the juice in my fridge, because making fruit juice seemed like a daunting hurdle and probably wouldn’t have happened. But now I have plain and blueberry homemade kombucha! 
Adapted from Drink the Harvest by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest
2 quarts, plus 2 cups filtered water
1 cup white sugar
8 black tea bags
1 kombucha SCOBY, plus 1 cup of SCOBY liquid
Boil two cups of water to a boil, and stir in sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and pour tea into a glass jar or ceramic crock with at least a half-gallon capacity. Add two quarts water and let cool to room temperature. Add SCOBY and reserved kombucha to the tea. Cover and let stand for 7-10 days.
Begin to taste kombucha after one week. When the flavor is to your liking, remove SCOBY and 1 cup of kombucha for your next batch. Filter kombucha and pour into jars or bottles. Add in 1/2-1 cup of fruit juice, a few tablespoons dried herbs, or a handful of fresh herbs for flavor, if desired. Keep in the refrigerator and use within one month. 
After vacation, I returned home to crisper drawers full of CSA vegetables. I guess I’d hoped they’d magically disappear while I was gone? Fortunately, none of them had liquefied, but they needed to be moved along, and fast. After all, there was another share arriving in short order. 
Flipping through my new copy of The Backyard Homestead: Kitchen Know-How by Andrea Chesman, inspiration struck. She has a recipe for a vegetable base that uses up 8 cups of vegetables and stocks your freezer for future meals. 
I chopped up every soup-related vegetable I could find: onions, celery, carrots, sweet peppers, summer squash, fennel, garlic scapes, and Swiss chard. I sauteed it until crisp-tender in a large stockpot, then added about two cups of tomato puree that I’d made in a separate pot with my garden tomatoes. 
The whole thing made about four pints, or eight cups, of what I’m calling vegetable base. It’s thick, so I can see diluting it with stock and adding beans, lentils, potatoes, and/or meat to make soup or just thawing it and serving it over some grain like couscous or quinoa, again with beans or meat. 
I don’t know why, but I felt so damn satisfied that I’d managed to get rid of heaps of produce in such a short time and in a way that I really feel like I’ll use come cooler weather. Give it a whirl!
Frosty jars from the freezer

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of both books I mention as review copies, as well as a free sample of the Box of Maine service. 
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Dining Out Casco Bay Islands: Down East Feature

First, the business! I’ll be reading from DISTILLED IN MAINE and sharing stories of Maine’s alcoholic past and present at Maine Historical Society on Friday, September 11th at 5:30. What – that’s cutting into happy hour, you say? I hear ya. Cocktails will be provided by Steve from Vena’s Fizz House. Tickets are $10 for MHS members and $15 for non-members. Hope to see you! 
I was asked in early July to write a feature for Down East magazine, and I was extremely! excited! One, I’m always excited to write for magazines, and two, the feature was about eating out on Casco Bay islands. The Island Issue is on stands now – pick it up to see my seven page spread (!!!) of dining on three islands in Casco Bay: Peaks, Great Diamond, and Chebeague Island. 
But then there was a catch: a short deadline, made even shorter by my family’s visit over the upcoming weekend. So I had about a week to visit the islands and write the piece – which meant I visited three islands in three days. It was a whirlwind tour, but certainly a worthy challenge. 
After my friends and I caught the ferry back to Portland, we really felt we’d gotten away – more so than if we’d driven to Cape Elizabeth or Yarmouth for dinner. The islands are special places, and when you visit, you feel like you’re part of a club or at the very least, capture some of that feeling you get when you’re on vacation, far from your daily responsibilities. Check out September’s Down East for my write-ups as well as some behind-the-scenes tidbits below. 
We thought it’d be great to sail to Peaks Island on a Sunday for lunch at Milly’s Skillet, the new food truck on the island, or The Cockeyed Gull, an adorable shingled restaurant I’ve always wanted to visit. Unfortunately, our sailboat’s steering gear had other ideas and we ended up being towed back to Portland before we could dock at Peaks. Whomp whomp. 
But a schedule is a schedule, so we hopped on the ferry and motored back out to Jones Landing. I ordered aggressively from Milly’s: fish chowder (not normally green – the hue is borrowed from the picnic table umbrella), fish tacos, a lobster roll, and fried Brussel sprouts. 
The lobster roll was a hit – the brioche bun was thick and sweet, with a nice, buttery crunch. There was tons of lobster meat and was enough to split for $18. Portland Food Map recently shared the update via the Forecaster that owner Molly Ritzo will open another truck in Falmouth on Route 100, so look for Maine Mountain Trader to get a taste of Molly’s cooking if you don’t make it out to Peaks before she closes for the season. 
But there’s still plenty of good weather forecasted this summer in which to check out the Cockeyed Gull. After our food truck lunch, we headed to the Gull and sat on the deck overlooking the water. While we ordered several things, my favorite dish was the risotto with peas and mushrooms, topped with scallops, shrimp, or chicken. I went for grilled scallops – I can’t get enough of them. 
When I saw that the Gull made their own desserts, I had to order a slice of key lime pie, even though we were all groaning with discomfort from our double lunches. The pie didn’t disappoint, tart and creamy with a nice crunchy graham cracker crust, even though we were seriously pushing the limits of reasonable consumption at that point. 
The next night, we caught the ferry from Portland to Chebeague Island. I’d never been, and we loved the luxury of being picked up by the friendly young guy from the Chebeague Island Inn in a van that shuttled us from the southern end of the island to the restaurant, three miles away. 
We dressed up for the occasion, as the Inn is a little more formal, although like most things in Maine, it manages to be refined and relaxed at the same time. I have to admit that dinner at the Chebeague Island Inn would be out of my weeknight price range otherwise, but you could manage a less expensive version by sticking to the burger and a beer. 
The arugula, tomato, feta salad was zippy with strong flavors from the Aleppo pepper and pickled watermelon rind throughout (and room temperature, which is a rarity). We didn’t love the mussels, that while local, were dry rather than in a broth for slurping and sopping. 
Aside from the burger, which was salty and rich with onion rings on it, the seared scallops over white asparagus were my favorite entree. The other fish dish we ordered was a little overcooked, and thus dry, so stick with the scallops and the burger. If nothing else, the porch of the Inn is a great place to enjoy a cocktail during the sunset. 
We were on track to miss the ferry back to Portland, so we opted to take the shorter ferry to Yarmouth and fortunately one of our dear friends was available to come pick us up in Yarmouth. The ferry ride from Portland is lovely, but it does take longer, so be more prepared than we were to call it an early night. 
Lastly, I headed out to Great Diamond Island to Diamond’s Edge with my honey. We enjoyed a romantic date on the lawn of the restaurant – until the rain began and forced us onto the deck of the restaurant. 
I’d been to Diamond’s Edge several times for drinks in the past, while out sailing, but never for dinner. The menu is huge, so there’s surely something for everyone. The standout for me was the fried oyster, pork belly, and spinach appetizer – all served over a bold mustard-Porter sauce. 
We both enjoyed our entrees, an island bouillabaisse packed with tons of seafood and the filet mignon – classics that were satisfying in their familiarity. Instead of dessert, we retired to the bar for a nightcap, watched the Red Sox with a few other people, then strolled down to the ferry dock when we saw its lights appear around the corner of the cove. 
It’s pretty special that we’re able to pop out to an island in Casco Bay for an evening, letting you leave behind the rhythms of daily life to enjoy a special late summer meal. If you’re the summer bucket list type, I suggest adding an island drink or dinner to your list as we enjoy these last few weeks of my favorite season in Maine. 
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BBF Travels: Lyon Distilling Co. St. Michaels, MD

On the way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for our annual week at the beach, A. and I made a detour to St. Michaels, on the Eastern shore of Maryland, to revisit some of my old haunts and to check out some new ones. I lived there almost ten years ago (!!), teaching sailing at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Since I left, there’s new restaurants, a craft brewery, and even a small distillery, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the crew at the only bar in town is still the same. 
I first tried Lyon Distilling Co.‘s rum when I visited Maryland in the spring, heading to two liquor stores in the Baltimore area until we found a bottle of their dark rum in stock. It’s a sweeter rum with a rich caramel flavor, and it mixes well with a spicy ginger beer or in a tart Mai Tai. It’s also delicious sipped on its own. 
On the day of our visit, we rode our bikes from the maritime museum down the main street to the old mill district – where the brewery, winery, and distillery are conveniently grouped together. I didn’t even known about these mill buildings when I lived there, but much like Maine’s mill towns, these old buildings have been turned into studio spaces, boutiques, and makers’ shops. 
The tasting room of Lyon Distilling has a great industrial feel, and while there’s just tastings of the spirits on offer, it would be a lovely spot to hang out for a while and enjoy a drink. There’s a library of craft cocktail books – A. picked up a copy of And A Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis and I eyed Forgotten Maryland Cocktails: A History of Drinking in the Free State by Gregory and Nicole Priebe (another History Press book!). 
We tasted small sips of the unaged rum, the dark rum, and the Sailors Reserve – rum aged in used Bourbon barrels. The unaged rum is very bright – it’s made from cane sugar and molasses, while the dark rum is sweeter, with some homemade caramel stirred into the rum. 
The Sailors Reserve is a higher proof and not as sweet, due to the aging in bourbon barrels. We even tried the corn whiskey, surprisingly sweet for a white unaged whiskey, and were excited to learn of a rye whiskey in the works. 
After the tasting, we were off on a tour of the distillery – and it was the cutest, smallest distillery I’ve ever seen. 
Our tour guide was Jamie Windon, the very enthusiastic partner of Ben Lyon, and the other distillery owner. Her sister works in the tasting room and the three of them (plus an intern) are the only employees. Windon works on the sales, distribution, and administrative stuff, while Lyon distills – making 5,000 gallons a year – not a lot for a company, but a lot for one man, Windon laughed.
Lyon and his one employee ferment molasses, sugar cane, and water in 55-gallon drums for a few days, then distill the rum wash in a series of small pot stills. These small columns on the stills help to keep lots of flavor in the final spirit, so they’re used for whiskey and rum over the taller column stills that help make more neutral spirits like vodka. 
After the rum is distilled, the clear rum is aerated and bottled, while the dark rum has some homemade caramel added to the batch. Lyon melts some of the cane sugar that’s used to make the rum and lets it caramel, before dumping it into the rum. The Sailors Reserve is aged in small one or three gallon barrels – the picture below shows the bulk of the barrels that Lyon Distilling uses. 
Right now, Lyon rum is found in D.C. and Maryland, but the bottles sell out frequently, so your best bet is to head to the distillery. We enjoyed a local Dark and Stormy at Eva’s in St. Michaels later in the evening, then headed to Carpenter Street Saloon for a few Yuenglings and to watch the preseasons Ravens game. 
Fortunately for my nostalgia, not much has changed in St. Michaels since I lived there, save for the the welcome addition of a fantastic craft rum distillery, and it’s hard not to be happy with that kind of growth.
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How to Make Kombucha, Kefir, Kvass – Plus a Workshop!

It is so very nice and warm here in Southern Maine this week. This is my summer sweet spot – super hot out, enough to make the chilly ocean water bearable for a quick dip. 
You know what else loves this hot weather? The microbes that power fermentation! I’m teaching a workshop on fermented beverages at Whole Foods in Portland this Thursday night (sign up here – only $20!) and so I’ve started a bunch of fermented projects to have as samples in the class. 
I started with kombucha – my favorite fermented beverages (ok, ok, aside from beer – I should say my favorite N/A fermented bev). The only tricky part of making your own kombucha is getting the starter or SCOBY. 
Supplies for growing your own kombucha SCOBY
Since I didn’t know anyone who had SCOBY to spare (now I do – they tend to come out of the woodwork when you start talking about fermenting), I had to try to grow my own. I simply brewed one cup of organic, black tea, added two tablespoons of sugar, and a 16 oz. bottle of unflavored, raw kombucha. I used GT’s, but the local Urban Farm Fermentory‘s stuff is probably fresher and less processed. 
Kombucha SCOBY. My apologies. 
The SCOBY seems to love the heat – after four days, there’s a thickening layer of, well, gelatinous goo forming on top of the liquid. Kombucha is not for the faint of heart, frankly. 
After about a week, I can transfer my homegrown SCOBY into a new batch of sweet tea with a little more kombucha (to help kick off the fermentation – a process called back slopping) and let it ferment. After a week to ten days, I’ll have a big batch of kombucha, ready for flavoring or drinking as is. Buying bottled kombucha can be an expensive habit, but fortunately making your own is crazy inexpensive. 
Kombucha is kinda mainstream these days. Hardcore fermenters are into kefir or even kvass. You may have seen dairy kefir at the grocery store – a commercial product frequently loaded with added sugar and sold as a smoothie-like product. The real stuff is extremely tangy and not very sweet, like yogurt on steroids.
Water kefir – grains are visible in the bottom of the jar 
Water kefir (pronounced kuh-FEAR) is different – a fizzy, mildly sweet beverage that I liken to a fermented lemonade. It’s delicious, and can easily be made with some sweetened water and the kefir “grains” – a colony of bacteria and yeast. Dairy and water kefir are produced with different types of grains, so make sure you order accordingly. Either way, order the live grains or get some from a friend – I tried to rehydrate dried grains and they never woke back up. 
I ordered live kefir grains and when they arrived, mixed them into some spring water (my tap water is chlorinated and could kill the bacteria and yeast) with some organic, raw sugar. I added one tablespoon of sugar to one cup of water for every tablespoon of grains that I had (so two cups water, two tablespoons of sugar and grains). Kefir is an anaerobic ferment, meaning it needs to go into an airtight container, as it won’t work in the presence of oxygen. 
My first batch of water kefir was ready in two days – it’s on its second ferment, the one that amplifies the fizz. The grains have gone into a new batch of sweetened water, this time with a knob of ginger, as I’m hoping to liven up the grains’ production a bit. (They’re often slow to grow after being shipped across the country. Understandable.) It will be ready to drink in another day, and I’ll keep in my fridge. 
Beet kvass was by far the easiest of the beverages – it’s simply chopped beets in salt water (two large, organic, peeled beets, roughly chopped and stirred into 8 cups of water with 4 tablespoons of sea salt). 
I’d say, like many fermented beverages, kvass is an acquired taste. It’s salty and beety. Americans typically don’t drink salty beverages, so at first sip, it’s like drinking vegetable broth. I hear one’s body begins to crave it, but I’ve yet to push on through to that point yet. You’ll have to whip up your own batch to see if you want to hop on the kvass train. 
If you’re interested in learning the specifics of these three fermented beverages, join me at Whole Foods in Portland on Thursday at 6pm. Get your ticket at wfmfermentationstation1.eventbrite.com. I’m also teaching a fermented vegetable and a quick pickles and refrigerator/freezer jam workshop there in September and October, so stay tuned for those details. 
So far I’m buoyed by my success in the world of homemade fermented beverages. Give it a whirl – none of these projects are very expensive, and if they work, then you have delicious, healthy drinks for these hot summer days! 
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Review of Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room, Portland

Business first: Come see me today at Maine Craft Distilling, 101 Fox St. in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood from 3-5pm for your signed copy of DISTILLED IN MAINE!


Now for my recent experience at Boone’s… I have to be honest: I have a rather tortured relationship with The Rooms. I’ve enjoyed several meals at the Grill Room and the Corner Room, but the Front Room always seemed to fall short of the ravings I hear over their brunch.

For those unfamiliar, The Front Room, The Corner Room, The Grill Room, and Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room are all owned by Chef Harding Lee Smith, a polarizing figure in Portland’s restaurant community. Despite all the dust-up over the chef’s personality and politics that the Bollard aired a few years ago (we don’t need to revisit the links; if you missed it, google it), I continued to occasionally visit the Rooms for their happy hour where cheap wine and a free appetizer spread proved difficult to resist. But none of the restaurants ever made my short list; the food always seemed… generic, frankly, and so I never found myself drawn to return very often.

When the boyfriend suggested Boone’s for his mom’s birthday dinner, my first response was, no way. Then I thought, ugh, don’t be such a B, give it a shot. It’s a nice restaurant on the water, and I wanted to have an open mind about the food there. I called and made a reservation for a Monday night – I asked to sit outside, but they don’t make reservations for the outside decks. So we crossed our fingers and went.

If you want to be all TL;DR about it, the takeaway is that the food is fine, the service was not so fine, and I was unfortunately not impressed despite trying to find a silver lining.

Really the tone was set as soon as we sat at our table. After sorting out the lost reservation mix-up (albeit one with no consequence), we were seated on the deck – it’s a busy area with a casual vibe, so perhaps I was on edge, wanting the evening to be a special occasion, not just a weeknight dinner out. But after about ten minutes of waiting with no sign of service, I returned to the host stand to let them know the issue. 
Our server came over a few minutes after I returned to the table, and I am going to try not to exaggerate for sympathy – offered a dismissive comment and poured our waters in silence. No, hi, how are you? Can I get you drinks? Sorry for the wait… She just offered an excuse, I guess? about what she was doing rather than waiting on us. I was frankly flabbergasted. I then was a friendly as possible, wanting the vibe at the table to be a positive one, but inside, I was pretty annoyed. 
Despite the meal getting off to a bad start, the rest of our experience was fine – we enjoyed each others’ company and the server didn’t offer much more to our table in terms of personality (good or bad). I liked this tomato salad (a special), with balsamic vinegar and fried cheese curds. The Bang Bang shrimp, fried with a spicy creamy sauce, was crunchy but kind of bland for the genre. 
The men enjoyed fish and chips – not the best plating I’ve ever seen, but again, the food was fine. 
My wood-roasted monkfish over beet puree with potatoes, edamame, bacon lardons, and fingerling potatoes (so succotash, basically) was good – the monkfish is very meaty, almost like a chicken breast. It was smoky and the puree lent a nice sweetness. 
As an aside, the fish at Boone’s is served a la carte, so I appreciated this special dish that was already put together. It seems like work to have to assemble fish, sauce, and sides from the menu, where I’d rather see what the chef and cooks thinks goes well together. 
The birthday gal enjoyed the wood-grilled chicken, served over a huge portion of mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach. We didn’t stick around for dessert, but headed to Captain Sam’s for an ice cream cone and a nice stroll down relatively quiet Commercial Street.
Our meal was probably close to $200 after tip (dinner was on the boyfriend’s dad, so I didn’t see the check), and I came away disappointed with the experience overall. I believe Boone’s bills itself as a relatively finer dining restaurant – at the very least due to the menu prices. But with salt sprinkled on the floors to create traction on the otherwise slippery floors (due to the humidity – it’s a waterfront restaurant, so it’s pretty much always humid), the state of the bathrooms, and of course the lackluster service, the details that would otherwise make it a fine dining experience were just not there. 
Bottom line: I unfortunately had my low expectations reinforced and believe that if you’re looking for local seafood or a fine dining meal, you’re better off headed somewhere else in Portland than Boone’s. Now I know! 
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Summer in Maine: Cocktails, Pickles, Cakes, and Lobster Rolls

First the business! 
The Portland Spirits Society is headed to Biddeford for our August event on Monday, August 10th at 6pm. The newly opened Round Turn Distilling is producing an amazing, unique gin, so we’ll be learning from Darren the Distiller about his product. RSVP on facebook or shoot me an email: blueberryfiles at gmail dot com, if you’d like to carpool. Ladies only, please.
I’ll be at Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery in the Old Port (324 Fore Street) with copies of my book, DISTILLED IN MAINE, for sale and to sign. Come see me this Saturday at 2pm! 
– – – – – – – – – –
Phew, it feels like summer in Maine again! I was getting worried. OK, OK, I was getting grouchy. Someone just asked me, how’s your summer going? And I realized my answer depends on the weather. When it’s warm and sunny? Great! When it’s 60 and I have to wear a sweater? Watch out. 
I know, I know, summer in Maine is the best, bla bla, all that. But what if it’s not…then what? There are some serious expectations to be fulfilled, and when the weather doesn’t deliver it can get ugly. But here we are in a sunny, 80-degree stretch, and our sailboat has been freed from boat jail (aka the repair shop), so the livin’ is easy. 
I checked out the bar at Union, the restaurant in the new-ish Press Hotel, downtown Portland. The former home of the Press Herald offices, this boutique hotel is seriously swanky. There’s midcentury modern furniture as far as they eye can see, muted colors, and lots of textured fabric. The bar is a beautiful slab of marble, and the cocktail list is approachable but intriguing. I had a PYO Fizz, with Barr Hall gin, strawberries, egg white and lemon. 
I’ll be back for the Dow Punch (Plantation rum/Aperol/pineapple/bitters/OJ/house grenadine) and the Swaz (Old Overhold Rye/Zwack/lemon/absinthe). That last one just to find out what the hell Zwack is…
When the new copies of Bon Appetit and Imbibe magazines arrive at my house, I set to work finding the Portland, Maine reference. In Imbibe, our fair city is represented by a recipe for a D.T. Sloe from Portland Hunt & Alpine Club‘s Christopher Buerkle. It’s sloe gin (gin flavored with tart sloe berries), rhum agricole, lime, and simple syrup. 
I spied it on Hunt & Alpine’s new summer cocktail menu recently and had to order it (chances of me making it at home: slim to none). It was a little sweet, yet tart, and funky from the agricole rhum. I believe the menu compared it to a daiquiri, which I’m finding is my new go-to summer cocktail. (Yes, I realize I’m only a few ingredients away from drinking straight rum, leave me alone.) 
The D.T. Sloe is delightfully pink and comes neat in an adorable rocks glass. It’s a good sipping (as opposed to swilling) drink. Try one the next time you’re in there. 
My CSA share from New Beat Farm is all, can’t stop, won’t stop. The scary thing is that we share a share with another couple and still can’t keep up. I feel like Jessica Seinfeld, sneaking vegetables into dishes where they wouldn’t otherwise appear. Beets in smoothies are my new vegetable disguise. 
Of course, quick refrigerator pickles are always a good way to get the vegetables off of your to-do list. I made a quick brine of equal parts white vinegar and water, a few tablespoons of salt, – then add spices of your choosing (dill seed, mustard seed, peppercorns, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic). I pickled zucchini slices, snap peas, red onions, garlic scapes, carrot chunks, green beans, and cauliflower florets – those last three veggies I blanched briefly to improve their texture. 
These pickles disappear fast when added to an al fresco appetizer tray – crackers, hummus, olives, cheese. It’s nice to have a fairly virtuous item to round out all the otherwise indulgent snack options. 
Portland Patisserie has indulgent covered, however. But surprisingly, these sweets are so well-balanced that they won’t leave you feeling like you’ve gained several cavities or pounds. Roomie A. and I split these two – a frazier (strawberry cake) and a passion fruit blackberry chiboust – and didn’t want to die afterwards. Au contraire! 
Their cherry pastry made me want to cry. I didn’t realize breakfast pastry could be so good. And you know what? I was fine not knowing. No reason to indulge. Now I can’t stop thinking about them. Woe is me!
Last week, I found myself with time to kill in Kennebunkport – one of my favorite Maine villages to kill time in. There was no line at the Clam Shack (gasp!) so I thought I’d finally cross their lobster roll off my bucket list (what, you don’t have a lobster roll bucket list?). 
And it was delicious. I got to choose butter, mayonnaise, or both…and I bet you can guess which one I went with. The roll was buttered, grilled, and then spread with mayonnaise, and warm butter drizzled on the lobster meat. 

But it did not unseat Bite Into Maine as the winner of my heart – I love how BIM chops their lobster up into manageable pieces. I just cannot bite through an entire lobster tail without destroying the sandwich in the process. And very few things beat a buttered and griddled split top bun. Definitely a case of, if it ain’t broke…

Let’s get back to it – there’s still so much summer to be had.

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