Thursday, October 20, 2016

Talk About Home!!!

I have often(probably TOO often)used the ambience of a restaurant as a measuring stick for whether or not I would return to a particular place. I even, and don't ask me how, use it to gauge how good the food is.

The Cod's Head in Boothbay Harbor, Maine entices you with this great quality and once you have plunked your butt into a chair, everything seems to fall into place perfectly.

Although the barbecue aspect of this restaurant is their driving force, it is the smiles you notice on everyones faces and the perfect dishes that come from the kitchen, and from the hands of cooks and servers, that made me continually return.

I know I should probably be talking about the sample Ronaldo and I enjoyed during the Harborfest, but if you don't let me indulge about the many other aspects of this "downtown" eating establishment, I honestly will not be able to write another review. Yeah, I hate not finishing one project before starting another!

Every year I visit Boothbay Harbor, I am compelled to return to this place. It was such a pleasure, first off, to have the master barbecue man show me exactly how they strut their stuff around the outdoor smoker. This is the perfect example of less is better. All they have is a small smoker on their back porch, yet their smoked, barbecued dishes rival ANY Southern pit I have tried, bar none!

Rarely can you find a Fish House and "pit" that is owned by a someone who also owns 2 others restaurants in the area and STILL keep the quality and same friendly staff on a level playing field at all times, but they remarkably have done so here.

                                                                        MINE OYSTER

Mine Oyster is one of the restaurants of which I will be posting about in the next week or so is just as memorable as the Boathouse Bistro.....both of which are a world apart from the Cod's Head, yet equally as culinarily significant.

This "family" not only won me over, but with a smile and a great attitude, they silently beckoned Ronaldo Linares and his family for breakfast the next morning. The ONLY reason I didn't go was pure laziness, I wanted to sleep in. What a mistake that was! For the next full day, all I kept hearing was how great the food was and how busy they were. Lesson learned.

The Boathouse Bistro

In closing, I just cannot say enough about how this place was truly a dining experience that made me feel at home and their uncomplicated, inexpensive and impressive portions continually beckon me every single time I go to Boothbay Harbor.

Well done my friends and if there were one restaurant I would feel comfortable going into at anytime of day without having to don a dress jacket and clean shoes, this would be it. And that is a feeling that stays with you even when you are long gone.

Ohhh....almost forgot to mention the sample during the Boothbay Harborfest. The Pulled Pork Slider.....O M freaking word......The tastiest mouthful of barbecued pork. I am so shocked they didn't kick Ronaldo and I out after our 3d and 4th mouthfuls, hahahaha. And when you tempt a Yankee with a Watermelon Mint Julep just as many times....both of us went away more than satisfied and quite willing to go back for more the second we exited. Bravo, bravo, bravo my friends......


Friday, October 14, 2016

A Cake With No History

Most recipes can be traced back, at least somewhat, to a particular era but no Dump Cake. The classic presentation(never thought I would use the word classic with dump)uses cherries and pineapple as the bottom layer and a type of vanilla cake mix poured, or dumped, on top and then baked. When it comes out of the oven, it resembles a cobbler in some ways and a grunt in other ways.

Some "authorities" ascribe this cake as being made during WWII while others say it stemmed from the late 1980s, when both parents began working, leaving little time to properly prepare dishes for their family once at home.

Regardless, I don't think it matters all that much because this is one of those recipes that is easy to make and the kids can have a go at it as well. And one more thing. Don't bother with premade cake mixes when you have everything you need right up in the cupboard.


Yankee Pumpkin Pie Dump Cake

This is one of those simple cakes that will be the most moist you can possibly make. When served straight from the oven, you will notice a puddle of deliciously fragrant cider pooling in the bottom of the pan. But when chilled completely, this cake explodes with flavor, with all this spiced liquid being absorbed into the cake, which is my way of enjoying it!


Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon each baking powder and cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup canned, pure pumpkin(NOT pumpkin pie-flavored)
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup crushed gingersnaps
1/4 cup small, diced papaya, frozen, fresh or canned *
1 1/2 cups boiling apple cider or juice

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Grease a 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Dump flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well. Dump eggs, pumpkin, butter and vanilla in flour mixture and stir until just combined. Dump batter into prepared pan.

In a small bowl, mix ginger snaps with papaya and dump on top of cake batter, evening out. Dump boiling apple cider evenly over the top and bake 50 minutes, or until it bounces back in the center when touched.

Remove from oven to cool slightly before serving hot with ice cream if desired, or wait until it is thoroughly chilled before serving.


* Or use whatever fruit you have on hand, or none at all.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hands Down the Best Lobster Roll

I was invited again this year to judge the prepared dishes offered by various restaurants in Boothbay Harbor during the Boothbay Harborfest and our culinary journey couldn't have started on better footing. I say OUR because I was accompanied by a true friend who is, himself, a celebrity chef from New Jersey, Ronaldo Linares.

We were BOTH blown away by the attention and friendliness of Tom Philbrick and his wife, at the Boothbay Lobster Wharf, in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.


We were very pleasantly surprised that the entire staff welcomed us without even knowing who we were. Both Ronaldo and I walked around, saying hi to people we didn't even know and on top of that, we were welcomed to take a peak behind the counters in order to watch how they cooked their fresh from the ocean lobster and steamers. We availed ourselves, some may say took advantage of the generosity provided, by walking through their on-site buildings and poking around the lobster tanks and fish market.

If either one of us ever dared to try this in any other place in the country, we would have been promptly thrown out and handcuffed. But because we were in Maine, downeast Maine, Boothbay Harbor....The Boothbay Lobster Wharf to be precise, we were treated as old friends. (Young friends I would like to say....Just once, let me relive my younger days, will ya?)


After taking advantage of their kindness, we were all set to do some sampling. And the word sample simply was not in their vocabulary. They introduced Ronaldo and me to simply the best lobster roll found(and devoured)anywhere!

For $20...hear me was the largest, freshest, meatiest and most delicious lobster roll either of us has ever tasted, hands down!

It turned out great I might add because Ronaldo wanted to go have lunch after, but after relishing this treat, neither of us ate again for many hours.

You may say, and I understand, that our opinions may have been tainted because of our roll at the Harborfest, but I can assure you, that is the farthest from the truth. This was a monster of a sandwich! And what we both liked most about it was that it was simply freshly cooked lobster meat, IN LARGE CHUNKS, with mayonnaise...THAT IS IT!!!! When you pile this into a New England hot dog roll that has been buttered and grilled, you just blew us away. It was that simply grilled roll that still has Ronaldo talking about it.

Without rambling on and on(as I did when I posted about The Flagship Inn), I simply have to add that the Boothbay Lobster Wharf was a pleasure a full 360-degrees around, much like the scenery you get when you sit down either outside at their tables or opt to dine and drink inside their equally, casual tables.

Thank you my friends and we will see you again next year....or when I am hungry again.



It's Just That Simple!™

Sunday, October 2, 2016

2016 and The Flagship Inn.....(and everything else)

A vacation, or working trip, is truly defined by your initial reaction when walking into your home away from home. Not only does it set the tone for what lies ahead, but throughout your trip as well.

No matter what type of day you've had, when you enter your own domicile that is the substitute of your own home, you should be able to unwind without any cares what-so-ever. And The Flagship Inn is honestly the finest Inn I have ever had the privilege of staying at. And I truly mean that!

This has been my sanctuary for the past 3 years as I join Lori Reynolds on my rounds and book signings 
 during the Boothbay Harborfest every year. I walk into the office and ...BAM...they smile. That alone is worth the stay, but when they add friendly banter and a tone that reminds me of going to the back fence for a  neighborly chat, then I am all theirs!

I don't even know where to begin besides simply saying that the owner, Aaron, knows how to keep his guests happy, content and looked after. And this same sense of responsibility is ingrained in his staff, almost as if that was a prerequisite for hiring.

Putting the superbly, amicable disposition aside, the Inn is immaculately cleaned and as homey as you could possibly wish. Their repatronization rate must be off the charts!

And this is all readily noticed within the first hour of signing in. Wait until you wake up in the morning.

After brewing my own coffee while I was preparing for the day, I missed the comradery of my family so out the door I went. I walked roughly 300 feet to the 'breakfast building' out back, opened the door, and I was home. I was instantly greeted by 2 ladies who turned into my surrogate mothers for the morning. They beckoned me to 3 huge tables laden with food and beverages enough to feed everyone at the Inn a few times over.

You think a free continental breakfast is a draw to where you will be spending your vacation repose? Think of more.....MUCH MORE.

Not only was the staff friendly, but you could tell the Inn guests were just as friendly. This was because their day was beginning on their best foot forward, simply because of this breakfast treasure.

I could ramble on and on and still not cover just how child-friendly and wonderful the Flagship Inn is. The pool, playground, cleanliness, amenities (both on-grounds and within walking distance) and the honest to goodness care that is shown by all who works there harkens me there over and over again.

Forget about the other hotels in the area that charge well over three times the going rate at The Flagship Inn, I would rather pull up my chair right outside my room and admire what is surrounding me. And that would be the charm of it all.....


It's Just That Simple!™

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ayuh, that gawnicus 'et all the cling john.....

Ahhhhh, the nuance of Maine lingo. And it begins with AYUH.

I have been reading, lately, about the origins of the Maine word AYUH and listening to people from around the country and in various media(including movies) how they pronounce it. I have YET to find someone who doesn't sound extremely foolish trying to mimic our affirmative reply. They often strongly emphasize the A and draw it out wayyyy too long, followed by almost shouting the YUH part comically. But they leave out the most essential part of the word, the nasally twang with its distinctive drawl!


Does this Maine Fisherman look like he wants to talk?

You simply cannot say it properly without these elements, and one sounds like a foreigner when you try. Now this is not to say you cannot correctly pronounce it, but you truly have to be a Yankee, a down east Maine Yankee to be precise, to make it sound correct.

Although there have been many historians and linguistic experts who have come close to giving the origin of this word, they really haven't quite nailed it down. And this is because, again, it is too simple for anyone to figure out. My Dad always told me that there are often riddles in life whose answers are too simple to understand. Many people often delve deeply into meanings and backgrounds in order to try and solve this dilemmas, when the true answer takes no such route, and AYUH is one of them.


This word began with the simple YUH, of course with the nasally twang and drawl. Most of the time during the pre-19th century in Maine, the AYUH was phonetically devoid of the long A but as time progressed, and Maine became more settled with "outsiders", many paid to much attention to that beginning(almost silent) A and began adding it to YUH.


Over time, and into the 1800s, this A was added to YUH and it became widespread, with(again) way too much accent put on it. If you want to properly say it, simply draw out the Y, while allowing just a little air escaping through your nose at the same time and finish with the UH. It should sound like you are tired of repeating yourself and you sound frustrated, which brings us to the origination of the word.  

Let me give you one experiment that almost solves the origin question as simply as I can.


You are sitting down working on something and are fully focused on your task at hand,(Which us Mainah's are known for and have been for generations). You don't want to be disturbed or you are obstinate and don't like to be disturbed by someone with frivolous banter. (Which is the true nature of a true Yankee).

People are coming up to you disturbing your work with either monotonous questions or meaningless chatter. You are on edge and simply don't want to be disturbed. You answer 'yes' to anything you are being asked. You would automatically answer YES by drawing out the Y because of you are irritated and hinting to the questioner that the answer is obviously YES.


This is exactly how the AYUH became part of our Maine vocabulary. We drew out the Y, and when doing so, it sounds as if you have added a long A at the beginning. It's Just That Simple!


So forget about the stories about cold churches, weather, meetinghouses and the widespread catarrh that affected many New England communities of old. These played absolutely no role in our AYUH. Sure, catarrh resulted in a build up of mucus in the nasal cavities of anyone afflicted by it in young America, and often sounded as if you had a twang when speaking. But everyone suffered from catarrh long ago, but the nasally AYUH is ONLY heard in Maine and nowhere else, even though catarrh hit other communities far greater than down east Maine.


How bout some other Maine and Yankee terms that are long forgotten, but interesting in their own right?


Cat stick-A small stick

Cling john-A soft cake of rye

Cohees-The term New Englander's used for people who came from Pennsylvania.

Essence peddler-A skunk

Gander party-A social gathering of men only

Gawnicus-A half-brained person, stupid.

Hawkins whetstone-Rum. In "honor" of a certain Hawkins who was once a temperance lecturer.

Keeler tub-A place in which dishes where washed.

Lap tea-where the guests are too many to sit at the table

Last of pea time-to be hard up and poor.

Malahak-To quickly and roughly chop something.

Moonglade-The term for the beautiful and color image a moonbeam reflects on still water.

To make a Virginia fence-To walk as though drunk

Jorum-A jug of rum

Hot as a red wagon-Extremely drunk

He can't spin a thread-Powerless to act

To be one of the White hens' chickens-A very agreeable and nice person.

Comfort powders-Little slips of folded paper with brief scriptures written on them.

Twizzles-Other types of fish that you weren't fishing for that got caught up in a fisherman's net.


And lastly, here are a list of old time apples found in many New England ledgers, diaries and histories since the Puritan era. See if any of these ring a bell.

Workaroe, Victuals and Drink, Wandering Spy, Sweet and Sour, Titus Pippin, Tom Putt, Nodhead, Sops of Wine, Smokehouse, Shiawassee, Savewell, Arkansas Beauty, Bailey Spice, Bunker Hill, Cabashea, Beauty of Kent, Belborodooskoe, Blushing Bride, Genesee Flower, Egg Top, Fallawater, Evening Party, Disharoon, Crow Egg, Chenango, Devonshire Duke, Lady Finger, Kentish Fillbasket, Iowa Beauty, King David, Kansas Keeper, Hartford Rose, Gloria Mundi, Good Peasant, Grandmother, Great Mogul, Missing Link. Old Garden, Mountain Sweet, Longevity, Legal Tender, Long Stem of Penn, Lowland Raspberry, Malinda, Pine Stump, Plumb Cider, Red Wine, Pumpkin Russet, See No Further, Tolman Sweet and Hubbardston Nonesuch.



Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Just That Simple!™

I have noticed the past couple of weeks that more and more large, food companies are altering their labels to identify with the consumer demand for simplicity. People not only want to know what is in their food products, but be able to at the very least, pronounce them. There is a huge wave of tidal opinion, as well, for food products to get rid of complicated and extended ingredients in the simplest of foods.

Our government tried this back in 2008 to combat obesity but to be honest, take a look at the stats,                                                                 
                                                " It ain't workin' ! "

When I see some famous faces on television, such as Robert Irvine(and he is just one of the many dozens)salt fish before dumping it seasoned bread crumbs(with salt in the seasoning) and deep fry it. Only to add even more salt on top before eating it, I cringle. There is simply no reason to keep dumping salt in our bodies to such an extent.....period!

And then you have the kitchen "experts" tell you certain salts are better for you than others, such as sea salt versus table, or Himalayan salt versus Fleur de Sel or smoked salt versus get my drift! Salt is salt my friends, let's stop relying on it so heavily in our diets or the death rate from not only obesity but illnesses as a result from high blood pressure will continue to skyrocket.

It is very difficult NOT to use a cake recipe, for example, that doesn't have some salt in it, nor pie recipes.

Now the argument is that salt enhances the sweetness of these desserts. Give that some thought for a minute.............Done?

Yes, I am guilty of creating recipes that truly are not the best, nutritionally, for you but just use some common sense when eating them. Take smaller portions or make these dishes sparingly. My goodness, there are so many other desserts and entrees you can make that makes use of natures flavors to enhance your food.

And when you take a look, or even prepare any of my recipes, I will let you know if a certain lower fat ingredient cannot be substituted, but overall, if a recipe calls for cream, milk or even fat-free evaporated milk is a perfect alternative.

To plug my second cookbook, Refreshed, you will notice not only lower fat recipes, but I utilize fruits and vegetables to a wider extent than most chefs. I also take advantage of fruit purees, fruit juice and fruit itself to lend a sweet touch where sugar is the norm.

Sugar adds sweetness.............THAT IS ALL! The items I just mentioned add sweetness AND flavor.

So toss that extra salt aside and make use of nature's abundant supply of healthy alternatives. If not for yourself, than for the ones you love. Here is a great example of a superbly simply and explosively flavorful dessert that showcases the taste of berries without added sugar. It may take a few tries to understand what true fruit flavors are, but a content smile beats all *$%# out of a guilty frown.

Blackberry Foolish Moose

3 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup apple juice
1 cup cranberry juice
2 envelopes plain gelatin
2 cups whipped topping

Add blackberries and juices to a food processor or blender and puree, on high, until as smooth as possible. Strain through a wire-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan, pressing the pulp against the sides to extract as much juice as possible. You will end up with about 2 cups.

Bring to a boil over medium heat. While mixture is boiling, lightly sprinkle the gelatin over the liquid, whisking at the same time. Do this slowly or the gelatin will clump up.

Continue whisking vigorously and cooking an additional minute.

Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until cooled and starting to thicken.

Remove from refrigerator and whisk in whipped topping. Cover and refrigerate until set and completely cold.


Makes about 4 servings



It's Just That Simple!™


Friday, August 5, 2016

Where's The Sugar?

Ya' don't need it! ..... It's Just That Simple!™
As many of you may know, I am a fruit and berry fanatic. I adore all fruit in any preparation, hence the addition of it in the majority of recipes in my new cookbook, Refreshed, and the center of attention in my third cookbook yet to be released.

I have enjoyed the addition of all types of fruit products from savory dishes to desserts.

Although there may be just as much sugar in(for example) real apple or orange juice as granulated sugar, you are enjoying the benefits of vitamins and fiber that is found in both fruits and berries.

I hold nothing back when I say that I frequently use prepared all-fruit(similar to preserves)found in all supermarkets because of its cost and convenience. And if you ever look on the ingredient list, you will see that it only contains fruit or berries, along with pectin and citric acid. Citric acid helps it from turning color while on the store shelves, plus it aides in a "side of the tongue" tartness. Many will substitute lemon juice when making it at home, but I leave it out below because I do NOT want to mask the flavor of any fruit or berry in my all-fruit.


Anyway, enjoy these 5 recipes for your very own Homemade All-Fruit to use on all types of dishes, or simply on a good ol' peanut butter sandwich, knowing that there is not a trace of added sugar.....none needed!

Each of the following recipes gives you about 1 1/2 cups total product when done. You will also notice that I use only a half of a box of pectin per recipe. You will have to open the envelope inside the box and measure out what you need into a bowl, closing up remainder to use again. Why do I do this?

I would much, much rather have to make this all-fruit again if I need more.

You can also make two different kinds of all fruit at the same time, without making too much.


From left to right we have Blackberry, Mango, Strawberry, Blueberry and Peach All Fruit.


Blackberry All-Fruit


2 cups fresh or frozen(and thawed) blackberries *
1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons(half a 1.75 ounce package)no sugar needed pectin

Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender until as chunky or smooth as desired. Transfer to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let rapidly boil for 1 minute, and remove from heat. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a container. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

* If you desire no seeds, then puree blackberries with juice and strain before cooking, resulting in a more jelly-like end result.


Mango All-Fruit

2 cups chopped mangoes(about 2 small mangoes)
6 tablespoons mango nectar or juice
2 tablespoons(half a 1.75 ounce package)no sugar needed pectin

Follow same directions as in Blackberry All-Fruit


Strawberry All-Fruit


2 cups chopped strawberries
6 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons(half a 1.75 ounce package)no sugar needed pectin

Follow same directions as in Blackberry All-Fruit


Blueberry All Fruit


2 cup frozen, but thawed, blueberries
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Follow same directions as in Blackberry All-Fruit, but without the pectin.


Peach All-Fruit

You can use any blend of juice with peaches, but make sure it is 100% juice blend.

2 cups chopped, fresh peaches(4 peaches)
6 tablespoons peach nectar or juice
2 tablespoons(half a 1.75 ounce package)no sugar needed pectin

Follow same directions as in Blackberry All-Fruit