At first glance, soups and stews might not seem all that glamorous in terms of a topic for a gourmet cooking cruise, however, how to begin and season a soup or stew is the very basis for not only many a diners’ dinner, but also the sauces that can elegantly top a seared tenderloin or grilled salmon.
From stock to pistou, we’ll talk about how to make super tasty and healthy soups, stews, and sauces and then sample them for lunch or for dinner. Perhaps it will be a Coconut Curried Lentil and Potato Soup with Nan or a Pork Loin Roast with a Rhubarb and Red Wine Reduction Sauce. Who knows, because the menu is different every week on the Riggin, so your guess is as good as mine.
Soup, Stew, and Sauce Tip: The time a cook takes to saute the vegetables at the beginning of a soup, sauce, or stew can not be underestimated. When the vegetables caramelize a bit and begin to develop a little brown on the bottom of the pan, flavor is building. To rush this process is to forgo the depth of flavor that is possible forever.
Come share some super good food with us! July 6 to 9 is our next Maine Food Cruise, but there are more on the schedule. Check it out!
The trip began with a visit to the Swan’s Island Company north of where the Riggin is docked. Jackie Ottino Graf, the resident dye-master and social media maven of the company, took us through the dyeing process, handed out complementary patterns with yarn, and shared her extensive knowledge.
The next day found us in the Rockland yarn shop, Over the Rainbow Yarn, owned by Mim Bird, resident knitting instructor extraordinaire, for last minute items and extra yarn (because who doesn’t need EXTRA yarn)? We left the dock shortly after for our 4-day adventure armed with more yarn than we could possible knit in as many days.
Our first day had us romping across the bay to feisty winds and feistier seas with a promise of sunnier days to come. Mim started everyone off with information on how to knit with multi-colored yarn, the difference between a tonal yarn and variegated yarn, plus many more tidbits and facts.
As with any knitting retreat, some dug right in to their project and managed to knit furiously, finishing on the last night. Others meandered their way through the day, working on the official project some and their pet projects as well.
I’ll post photos of the actual dyeing process next, because that cool event deserves it’s own post.
My hands are blue (from indigo), but my spirit is sunny
P.S. When you go to the Swan’s Island Company website, check out what schooner is the setting for some of the photos! And,yes, the model and the yarn are pretty too.
P.P.S. Our next two knitting cruises are June 19 to 22 and August 31 to September 5. You should come!
There’s a new sandwich gig in Rocklandtown and it’s delightful. Malcom and Jillian Bedell, of From Away fame, have joined the corps of high-caliber restaurants in town with their food truck, Wich, Please. This tiny kitchen, serving breakfast and lunch sandwiches such as a swanky BLT built on sourdough bread, with frisee, confited tomatoes and crispy bacon, began with a Kickstarter campaign and the faith of several hundred fans and supporters.
That belief has paid off and the food truck is open for business beginning this week. Set up to handle two cooks max, Malcom and his assistant have very little room to maneuver in this small food truck. Actually, the space looks pretty familiar – a lot like my galley. No jumping jacks for those two, just the dance of two chefs moving from one place to the next weaving in and around each other to reach for the next ingredient. Cassie, my assistant cook, and I get this all too well.
My Rubenesque, a vegetarian Ruben made with roasted beets and Morse’s sauerkraut, was a well-balanced blend of texture and flavor. The crispy bread off-set the crunch of the kraut and the easy bite of the beets – the flavors all complimenting one another.
Located on the edges of Rockland Harbor with the tang of the sea greeting the outdoor park seating, there’s no doubt that these two have a formula for success. Oh, and try the grilled cheese too – ours was with caramelized onions, pickled jalapenos, and chips.
Good luck to you both! Today is taco Friday, friends, from 4-7pm.
For years, a visit to the rustic fishing village of Stonington, Maine required a walk down Main Street to the Purple Fish, a little publicized, but revered little gallery run by Jan and Evelyn Kok. When we shared with our guests the not-to-miss sites of Stonington, these two people and their gallery were always top of the list. We described Jan and Evelyn as the oldest kids we knew. With their heads of hair that had turned fully white and their backs bending to the weight of gravity a little more each year, the vitality and energy of this couple dimmed not one bit.
I say that when I grow up, I want to be like them. As a couple. As a person. I always left the Purple Fish feeling as if I had my priorities straight. Life is about good music, harmony, joy, stories, laughter, love, sharing… the important things.
Evelyn has now left us, but today in the mail I received a whiff of her essence in the form of her artwork. Christina Ships, owner of Inn on the Harbor in Stonington and also niece to these incredible human beings, has taken on the project of sorting through Evelyn’s artwork and turning them into cards and stationary. (We’ll be selling these in the ship’s store this summer. Let us know if you’d like us to send you a set: 6 packs are $20 plus shipping for either of the Riggin shots or a collection of the sea shells.)
So for a moment, Evelyn was alive again, stories of her wafting across the screen of my mind leaving me with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart.
Last fall, the wood stove that we inherited when we bought the Riggin 18 years ago, died. Admittedly, it was a slow death, complete with many repairs and upgrades, but once the stove was out of position, like a soldier out of step with the rest of his/her unit, the flaws became more evident. The first one being, no one should be able to look from the outside wall of the fire box and see through a crack to the grate inside. No one. Ever.
But before we were able to get a good look at the stove from all angles, we had to get it out of the space it had occupied for almost 40 years. (Remember that we inherited the stove with the Riggin. The original installation would have been some time in 1977.) To get the stove out required a feat of engineering, as with most anything involving schooners where everything is heavy and nothing is square. The trick to getting the stove out had to include no one getting hurt, so just getting a bunch of crew muckled onto the thing and muscling it out of the space wasn’t going to work. We’ve tried to fit more than three people in my galley space and trust me, there’s no room to maneuver a single thing, much less a several-hundred pound stove.
This would require the largest muscle of all – the brain. Often in the schooner world, heavy objects are moved by rolling them over logs or poles rather than sheer brute strength. This concept applied to the stove worked brilliantly. Several oblong fenders were placed on the sole in front of the stove where I usually stand. The stove was then carefully tilted on end to rest on top of the fenders and then rolled out of the galley space to in front of the stairs. Then fenders were placed on the backside of the stairs and with a pulley system rigged to the boom, rolled up and out of the galley. From there, the boom was able to swing the stove off the deck and onto the dock.
Once the stove was in the back of the truck, Cap. took it to be repaired at Bryant Stove Works, a well-known stove repair company in our area. The sad news came when the owner of the store suggested that she had cooked her last meal and the best use for her was a 21-gun salute. Good bye, old friend.
Lucy installed in her new home!
Hello, new friend, with your shiny chrome, your curlicues and your warming shelves. Welcome to my galley. I’m thinking her name should be Lucy. It’s an old-fashioned name and a wood stove on a 1927-built schooner should have an old-fashioned name. Plus, if some goes wrong I’ll be able to say, “Luuucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do.” I hope we will become fast friends, Lucy.
On a sunny day in March (they are happening more and more frequently), Elizabeth and I left the office for a cocktail adventure. Sometimes work is so HARD! As we entered the back door of In Good Company, one of my favorite restaurants in Rockland; well… in Maine; well… anywhere, we were greeted by Melody Wolfertz, owner and chef, and an unusual sound found in restaurants – quiet.
As she led us to the patina-ed walnut bar, she started right in, filling the quiet with the sounds of a restaurant – the click of ice falling into bar glasses, the dull chime of spirit bottles bumping up next to each other as they are pulled from shelves and amidst it all, the chatter of engaged creativity on my favorite subjects – food and cocktails. We spent a good deal of time talking about flavor profiles, the wonderful freshness and ingenuity that has literally and figuratively infused the cocktail world over the past decade, and what she thinks about when she’s making a well-balanced cocktail.
The full recipe and article will be out in the May issue of Maine Spirits, but in the meantime, here’s a look at our fun afternoon together.
Every celebration comes with traditions that we build around food. In our extended family here in Maine, where very few of us are actually related, but most of us celebrate our holidays together, we have several traditions. The first of which is that the Finger/Mahle house hosts the Easter meal.
Followed by… there are little girls running around collecting Easter eggs in the yard – usually hundreds of them – hundreds of what seems like little girls and, in fact, hundreds of eggs. Before the actual hunt there is the boiling, dying, painting, and coloring of eggs in preparation for the hunt – an afternoon of spring color applied to eggs in all manner of ways.
But wait a minute. This year, for the first time, we don’t have little ones running around at our knees (ours or anyone else’s) and our girls are old enough that dying eggs doesn’t hold the magic that it used to. Neither does the hunting of them. Our girls are firmly in teenager-land and while they weren’t quite ready to give up on the gift of candy, they were ready to let go of the traditional Easter Egg Hunt. I, on the other hand, might have had to rally a bit to the new order of things and, in secret, wistfully respected the wishes and interests of the budding adults in our household.
Another tradition that we moms pensively released was the annual Easter Cake. Long celebrated in our household with the usual argument of how the cake is actually constructed, neither the cake, nor the argument would be produced this year. Until… Maggie, our newest crew member, walked in with a Bunny Cake – decorated in nearly the same way as the Easter Egg cake and a perfect serendipitous addition to our Easter table.
While our family traditions are changing, what matters the most – that we gather together to eat and laugh – will firmly and forever be a part of how we celebrate together – teenagers or not, Easter Egg Hunt or not, Easter Cake or not.
Adjusting to change and grateful for the people around our table
This Easter, it being chilly and complete with a tiny dusting of snow, we set the menu accordingly and served lamb and several hearty accompaniments such as homemade baguette, rosemary roasted red and purple potatoes and roasted asparagus. As has become the new norm, I offered all comers to our Easter dinner a cocktail. This time, I had on hand fresh grapefruit juice, pear nectar and mango syrup. At first, people were sort of quizzical about a cocktail made with pear nectar, but by the end of the afternoon, as one person followed another, everyone, to a person, choose the pear nectar. Even my friend, who loves red wine, put the wine down for a while to sip on her own pear nectar cocktail.
For those who are not boat people, baggywrinkles are handmade chafe gear that look a little bit like furry logs. They are affixed to the topping lifts (You might not know what this is either, but it’s the wire that holds up the boom. If you don’t know what a boom is, might as well skip to the cocktail instead.) and prevent sharp bits of wire from creating a hole in the sails. This shrub is about the same manila or natural color as most baggywrinkles and because of the pear nectar, is actually has a little textural feel to it that could perhaps be described as, well, furry, if you wanted to stretch it, which I do because I’ve been wanting to call a cocktail The Baggywrinkle for some time now.
1 1/2 ounces Jim Beam Bourbon
3 ounces pear nectar
1/2 teaspoon Fiore Cranberry and Pear White Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 a dropper of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. aromatic bitters
ice for shaking and for the glass
slice of pear
Chill an Old-Fashioned glass with ice cubes. Combine the bourbon, pear nectar, vinegar, and bitters in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into the chilled Old-Fashioned glass, garnish with pear slice and serve.