Cocktails – In Good Company

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.

A captivating array of bitters by the Fee Brothers and our local Sweet Grass Winery.
Sharing The In Good Company, a Negroni and several botanicals.
Talking, learning, sipping, and having fun!
The In Good Company, a rif on a cosmo, made with rhubarb syrup and blueberry bitters.
Ice ball made on site for those who like their spirits cold and only slightly watered.
The bar at In Good Company in Rockland, Maine. You should go!

Sometimes a girls gotta work REEAL hard

The Baggywrinkle Cocktail – A Little Bourbon, A Little Pear Nectar…

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.


This cocktail is technically a shrub, a cocktail made with vinegar-ed syrup, due to the white balsamic. With Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. aromatic bitters, a Cranberry and Pear White Balsamic Vinegar from Fiore and home made pear nectar I created what we called The Baggywrinkle – a cocktail with a wonderful balance of sweet and spirit, sour and bitter.

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.

The Baggywrinkle

The Baggywrinkle
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.

Makes 1 cocktail

Cocktails for Easter!

Canning Pear Nectar

This fall, I was the surprised recipient of a beautiful bushel of pears from what we think is a Seckle Pear tree. That gift, however, did not come co-bundled with an abundance of time. I was determined that this gift would not sit too long while I put it off until the pears were passed perfectly ripe and had moved into “uh oh.”


To hustle along, I decided to not can them as whole pears, but as nectar. Making nectar is a much easier process than canning whole fruit, as it does not require peeling. It begins with making a loose pear sauce much the same way one would apple sauce by bringing to a simmer pear quarters and water and cooking until the pears are either tender or falling apart. Pear varieties will differ in whether they stay together once they are fully cooked or fall apart – just like apples.

With the addition of lemon juice and sugar plus a hot pack canning process, pear nectar emerges. I’ll use it all winter long in smoothies instead of honey, as a juice for brunch, a foundation for mixed drinks, combined with ginger ale for a special drink for the girls and, well, I let you know what else I come up with!

Thank you, friend Glen. I’m glad we are both good at sharing.

Spinach Smoothie – Green AND Tasty

A good friend of mine often shows up to our meetings together with her breakfast – a bright green drink so brilliant, it’s hard to know how she got it to be that green.  We are talking neon, nuclear green.   So one day, I asked her.  Spinach, she says, is the key, without the purple or red colored fruits which muddy the hue.  She then goes on to tell me that she adds kale, celery, cucumber and cilantro to her morning beverage.  I’m skeptical.  Until I try it.  It’s actually not that bad… and then I get used to it and it’s pretty good… and then I look forward to it.

There are mornings when I feel I’m drinking salad, but hey, I feel good, it tastes good and my pants like it too.  Win, win!  This one is one of my favorites and for more smoothies, click on over to the Maine Ingredient.

I’m not sure what I’ll do when we go sailing and the cord for the blender doesn’t reach the plug on shore.  Maybe Jon will rig up a human run generator where everyone can take a few spins around the deck while the blender is going and then we roll it up until the next morning.  Or maybe I’ll just have an apple for breakfast.


Spinach, Celery, Kiwi Smoothie
2 cups lightly packed spinach
5 ounces partially peeled cucumber; about 1/3 of a cucumber
1 stalk celery
1 peeled kiwi
1/2 ripe banana
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon raw honey

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until completely combined and smooth.

Makes 3 cups

Salad, it’s what’s for breakfast

Cook the Book: Hot Chocolate

I’ve found that this is a real treat for little ones when you use semi-sweet chocolate; grown-ups usually prefer bittersweet.

3 cups whole milk
3 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped or grated

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it is just ready to boil.  Put the chocolate in a blender and pour in the hot milk. Allow the mixture to sit for 10-15 seconds, so the chocolate begins to melt; cover securely, place a folded towel over the lid, and blend until completely mixed and frothy, about 30 seconds. Serve with marshmallows.

Makes 3 servings.

Apple Picking – and then Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Reduction

On these warm, sunny, fall afternoons, the girls and I walked with our bushel baskets to pick apples.  We’ve an “orchard” on our “property” which translated means I occasionally trim the trees that grow wild in the field right next to our house.  The apple crop this year is unbelievably abundant and even the organic apples are surprisingly free of bugs and disease.  We’ve spent a few carefree afternoons with the girls climbing up high in the trees to reach for the riper apples more touched by the sun and me on the ground catching what they toss.  The musty, fruity fragrance of the ripe apples and the smell of the hay and dried grass in the field brushed over us as the sun warmed our sweater-clad shoulders and the making of memories was ripe in the air.

We do this every year and it’s one of the things that marks the growth of our girls.  This year, they could both climb the trees and even my younger didn’t get scared when she was high up in the tree.  I can remember years when they just sat on the ground and picked up the apples for the compost pile.

Picking Apples

The apples grow basically wild as they get very little help from me, although this year it’s a little different as the pruning I did in the spring actually helped produce bigger, healthier apples for the first time.  We freeze some for pies later; make applesauce and apple butter for school lunches and the rest goes into cider.  Even though it’s a very busy time of year for us, we always make time to press a few bushels for apple cider.  The process of making cider has always been fun.  Watching how the ground apples actually become this murky, sweet and tart juice in the press is fascinating.  The girls helped with the capping of the bottles and we even came away with “the apple hummus” as the farmer called it.  This is essentially what’s leftover after pressing out all the juice.  It makes great compost and the chickens had a good meal or two out of it as well.

Fresh apple cider has a very short shelf life and even changes flavor over a few days.  It is possible to use cider that’s beginning to ferment, “cider that tastes like ginger ale” as Ella describes it, in your cooking such as with the below recipe.  The other possibility is to make apple juice, which is done by boiling the cider before it starts to ferment.  You’ll stop the fermentation process and your cider will last a little longer.  Lastly, you can freeze cider, which is what we did with the half gallons we got from our press.  Just be sure to drain a little bit of cider off the top so your jugs don’t burst.

Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Reduction

2 pork tenderloins, (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total, trimmed of silver skin)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cups apple cider
1 cups apple cider vinegar
3 bay leaves
1 shallot, cut into 8ths
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°.  Rub the tenderloin with the salt, pepper, and paprika.  Heat the oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat.   Add the pork tenderloins and brown it on all sides.  Add the apple cider, apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, shallots, and heavy cream and bring to a simmer.

Place the sauté pan in the oven and cook until the pork reaches internal temperature of is 145° for medium and 150° for medium well, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Set aside the tenderloin on a platter and cover with aluminum foil.  Return the sauté pan to the stove top and reduce the sauce in the pan over medium-high heat until it measures 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes.  Strain.

Cut the tenderloin on an angle into 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices and serve with the sauce.

Serves 4-6

Wishing you warm hearts and full bellies

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Cook the Book – Chai Tea

Chai Tea

Chai tea is an Indian drink that has become popular in coffee houses.  It’s a nice alternative to hot chocolate. I make a batch of the spice base all at once so it’s always available.

1 bag of tea (orange pekoe or your favorite)
1 teaspoon spice base (below)
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar 

In a small saucepan, bring the water, tea bag and 1 teaspoon of the spice mix to a boil; remove from heat and steep approximately 5 minutes. Add the milk and sugar; return the pan to the stove over medium-high heat and continue to heat until the liquid is hot but not boiling.  Serve immediately.

Spice base

4 tablespoons ground cinnamon or 8 sticks
2 tablespoons cardamom seeds (try to buy them without the pods.  If they are in the pods, remove the pods and measure just the seeds)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
8 whole star anise

Grind the spice base ingredients together in a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground. You can store the mixture in an airtight container for months.

Makes ½ cup spice base, 2 cups tea.

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Cook the Book – Wassail Bowl Punch

Wassail is a drink that my mom serves every Christmas and I can’t smell it without remembering family times.

Wassail Bowl Punch

1 quart hot tea (black or orange pekoe, or your favorite)
1 quart cranberry juice
1 quart apple juice
2 whole cinnamon sticks
12 whole cloves
1 cup sugar
¾ cup lemon juice
2 cups orange juice
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced

In a large stockpot, combine all the ingredients except the orange and lemon slices.
Bring to a boil, strain, and pour into a large bowl.
Garnish with orange and lemon slices.

Makes 4 quarts

Dream big, think positive and allow all that goodness!

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