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.

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

Annie
Sometimes a girls gotta work REEAL hard

Timberwind Moves to Belfast!

One calm Sunday in April, the crew of the Riggin and the Timberwind moved our new pretty schooner up Penobscot Bay to her new home in Belfast, Maine.  The day started calm and then picked up to a feisty 25 knots of breeze on the beam, but for a spring day in Maine, this is still a fairly low key day on the bay.  As the sun was closing out the day, our crews celebrated their efforts.  To top it all off, the Bangor Daily News was kind enough to highlight the Timberwind‘s new life.

Celebrating a good day together.
Celebrating a good day together.
Quarter view of a pretty boat and a pretty town.
Quarter view of a pretty boat and a pretty town.
Cassie.  Knitting.  On a boat.  Two of the best things in life.
Cassie. Knitting. On a boat. Two of the best things in life.
Save and sound at her new dock, Thompson's Wharf in Belfast, Maine.
Save and sound at her new dock, Thompson’s Wharf in Belfast, Maine.

Annie
Thank you, Belfast, for your welcoming ways

Clementine and Grand Marnier Chocolate Cake

Elizabeth’s favorite flavors are chocolate and orange and so for her birthday in late March, can you guess what sort of cake she asked for?  Knowing that Easter was on it’s way, and also knowing that while SHE got her cake, WE didn’t get our cake, I decided to make it again and this time for our Easter dinner crowd.

This cake is lovely for a couple of reasons.  The oil and sour cream make it a forgiving batter that once baked into a cake, stays forever moist.   The clementine zest, orange extract and Grand Marnier ensure that the cake is infused with orange flavor at several different levels.  Lastly, the bright orange garnish of the clementine lends an eye-catching splash of happy color and tang.

IMG_9815-001aClementine and Grand Marnier Chocolate Cake
Cake:
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons clementine zest; about 3 clementines
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 teaspoons orange extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Glaze:
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
8 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 clementines, sliced thinly and halved for garnish

Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment and a large mixing bowl combine sugar, zest, eggs and canola oil on low speed.  Measure out the rest of the wet ingredients in one liquid measuring container and measure all of the dry ingredients into a sifter.  Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the mixing bowl ending with wet.

Divide batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the edges of the cake have pulled away from the sides of the pan a little and a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.

Glaze:
Melt the chocolate and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and let the chocolate continue to melt.  When the chocolate is fully melted, add the sour cream and the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

To Assemble:
To assemble the cake, remove the cooled cakes from their pans and transfer one to a serving platter.  Spread 1/2 of the glaze onto the top of the cake and rim with clementines so that you will be able to see the rinds.  Repeat the process with the second cake.  The glaze is a little easier to deal with if it has cooled somewhat, but don’t wait until it has cooled completely as it will set up.  Garnish with clementine halves and serve.

Serves 12 to 16

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Annie
Gonna get me that last slice…

Easter Celebration – Complete with Bunny Cake

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.

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Annie
Adjusting to change and grateful for the people around our table

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.

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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

Annie
Cocktails for Easter!

Easy Cowl – Upcycled Turtleneck

Recycling used clothing has to be among one of the most satisfying ways to spend a cold Sunday afternoon (other than watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl – GO Pats!)  Easy, frugal, fun and useful all at the same time, this sweater became a pair of hand warmers for Ella, a mini-skirt for Chloe and a cowl for me.  Now the rule is that no one can wear their item on the same day.  Fair enough.

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Lay the sweater out on a cutting board.
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Cut straight across the top from sleeve seam to sleeve seam.
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Cut off the sleeves. They will need to be edged in some way. Create a thumb hole with a button hole attachment on your sewing machine.
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Trim the neck seam. Embellish with a blanket stitch in a complementary-colored yarn.
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Wear on the days that your daughters are not wearing their items!

Annie
New clothes!

Cocktails Anyone? – Let the Testing Begin

Those of you who know me well, may find this next announcement a little incongruous…  I’ve begun to write two columns on cocktails for the State of Maine’s publication, Maine Spirits.  While at first blush, my low alcohol consumption may seem a bit odd for the writer of such a pursuit.  On the other hand, cocktail creation is just another form of gastronomy and it’s in that vein that I approach this new project.

Last night the journey began.  I started with a trusted source, Jamie Oliver, and made an Elderflower Tom Collins (watch the video).  I must say, it was a good start.  This morning, I then went out to restock our liquor cabinet and am now ready to roll.  First on the list is a Blood Orange Margarita.  I’ll letcha know how it goes. IMG_8875

Annie
Cocktail recipes coming to a blog near you!

On a Boat, It’s Not Always Perfect, But It Is Just Right

I traded swanky, landscaped, plated meals for the pine-studded coast liberally sprinkled with lichen-covered granite and a sea that is ever changing from a smokey charcoal to deep forest green.  My kitchen (galley) is outside and instead of being enclosed by four greasy walls lined with pots, pans and stainless equipment, I have pine tables, a cast iron wood stove and the smell of wood smoke.  My skin has the kiss of the sun, rather than the pasty white of someone who works indoors, even in the summer.

However, as a chef, there are a few things that occasionally ding my pride.  I’m a big girl, also an enthusiastic, optimistic one, so the moment doesn’t last long.  But I cook  on a boat all summer long and there are a number of situations that take priority over the visual attractiveness of my culinary hard work.  Sometimes my food doesn’t look perfect and it bothers me.

For example, the reason this salad has so many apples on it is not that Cassie, my assistant cook, got crazy with the apples, although this is not out of the question.  No, the true reason is that salad greens unprotected, literally, blow away with the first step on deck.  We feed the fish, not our guests.IMG_7753-001a

I love the look of micro-greens.  Do I ever use these delicate beauties?  No.  I would be the only one to see them.  See the blowing away reference above.

Also, the nature of my galley and the space available on any boat dictates that I serve family style.  I don’t have space to plate up 30 dinners in my galley.  Which means that sometimes my food is served in the pan in which it was cooked.  Again, there is a rustic simplicity, and dare I say beauty, to this look.  But no, beauty is not the word.  Practical, useful, convenient, expedient, safe, frugal.  These are the words I would use to describe my pans, but I tell you, a girl who wants to look pretty does NOT want to use these words and neither does the girl, who is the chef, who wants her food to look pretty.

The menu for lunch on the day these photos were taken was:

Local Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese, Roasted Veggie and Local Italian Sausage Mac n Cheese, Garlic Knots, Apple, Walnut, Raisin Garden Greens Salad, Dijon and Champagne Vinaigrette and an Apricot Orange Pound Cake

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It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  And then I look at these photos and I’m sad that they don’t do it justice.  I remember this meal and I loved the Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese… There was nothing left of this meal.  But the look of it?  The pans are …  Hmm.

Ah well, at heart I am both creative, practical, artistic, and frugal.  It turns out that my food on this beautiful boat we sail, meandering along the breathtaking Maine Coast, has the exact qualities of both me and of Maine.  I’d rather be right where I am – in my outdoor kitchen, creating honest food that fits it’s place perfectly.

Annie
Just accepting what is

Blizzard Cake – Lemon Roulade with Blueberries and Cream

For our family, the winter is a time of much needed hibernation.  Our summers are busy, intense, focused (and lets not forget FUN), however, every second has a name from the middle of May to the middle of October.  This sort of intensity requires an equal and opposite energy, which is what winters in Maine are designed for in our house.

As you may have heard, our New England winter has had more than it’s fair share of snow this year, which fits perfectly into our hibernation mode.  Those years where it doesn’t snow much are just a little bit harder to sink into.  We CAN go out all the time.  There are very few snow days, the phone rings more, the possibilities for a day are endless.

Not true when it’s blowing 30 knots from the North East and the snow has been falling for hours with no end in sight.  Those days are p.j. days, cozy days, baking days, writing days.  They are slow because the choices are limited, meetings are cancelled and the urge to knit increases 10-fold.  The permission to have a meandering freedom about the day is exactly what a family needs when their summers are as packed as ours are.

Our days are on somewhat of a repeat.  Snow, shovel, bake, knit, write, snow, shovel, cook, knit, write.  Repeat. I find myself in the minority, where the continual wildness followed by a hoary, sunny calm is energizing.  Interspersed with a snow shoe and a horse ride, the dormancy is like a cozy sweater with a long, soft scarf wrapped around my neck.  Comforting, calm, creative and cozy.

This cake, Blizzard Roulade with Lemon Curd, Blueberries and Cream,  is named after the first blizzard that blew through our winter, but certainly not the last.  As I write, another 8 to 12 inches is falling on our world.  Maybe I’ll go bake another cake.

Annie
Cozy and calm

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Lay the cake out flat on the towel.
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Spread blueberry jam and lemon curd. Roll gently.
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Final roll. Anchor with a toothpick if needed.
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Delicious frosting.
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Can’t resist. Who caught that on camera?

Happy Chinese New Year – The Year of the Ram and, well, Fiber

We are feeling sheepish – but not in the bashful sense, rather in the fiber way.  In celebration of the wonderful sheep that give us fiber for all of our knitting projects, the Schooner J. & E. Riggin launches a year-long giveaway of gorgeous yarn.  It’s the year of the ram (or the goat or the sheep depending on who you are talking to) and in honor of the Chinese zodiac (yang) and it’s Lunar New Year, 52 Skeins and our Maine Knitting Cruises will be giving away one skein of yarn from small, hand-crafted vendors.  Some are our favorites and some are new to us, but no less lovely.

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Each week, the yarn will be featured on our Maine Knitting Cruise page, on Facebook, and all the other social media places you might expect (Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest).  To enter to win head on over to the Maine Knitting Cruises Facebook page and do the following – a) leave a comment, b) tag a friend (for an extra entry) and/or c) share the post (for an extra entry). Enter each week.  At the end of the year, we will draw one name from all 52 weekly winners. This lucky person will win a 52 skein stash of yarn (valued at over $1,300).

As it turns out, the hardest part of this giveaway might be on our wallets here at home.  All of this yarn is so gorgeous, that we will not be able to resist making purchases of our own.

Good luck to you all.  And may the best sharer win!

Annie
We believe in ewe.

We kick off Week 1 of 52 Skeins with locally (to MidCoast Maine) spun and dyed ontheround yarn! To know more about ontheround and where to find her fabulous yarn and details on the whole 52 Skeins giveaway visit the Maine Knitting Cruises page on our website.

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