Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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! 

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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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