Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

IRONY

Irony is the fact that we spent a night in Maine riding out a tropical system in a motor home park in an RV. First of all, hurricanes and tropical storms should not occur in Maine. Second, one should never be in a “trailer park” (or RV park, campground, etc.) during any weather event with strong winds. Third, one should never ride out a storm (of any kind) in an RV or trailer. Fourth, just because you are not in a “trailer” does not mean you will not be impacted even if you parked close to one – after all, they are magnets. Yes, we left New Orleans after 15 years and were glad to think that hurricanes were not going to be a part of our summer thoughts. Sunshine, cool weather and lobsters were to replace the usual New Orleans summer thoughts of humidity, heat, murders, and hurricanes (all New Orleans specialties).


Well we prepared as if we were still living in New Orleans and a tropical storm was coming. We had plenty of food and drink, batteries, water, and secured all flying objects outside. In fact the night before, Nancy braised meat for a Shepard’s pie and cooked beets for a salad. We secured the outside patio by putting away the furniture and closed all the RV slides. Three movies were on hand and a trusty weather radio. The rain started early in the morning and the wind really started to howl around 5 pm. After hours of cabin fever, we decided to take a walk around the campground. We were desperate to see damage and if we could help out if there was any; but other than one tree down, the walk turned up nothing. The trees really swayed and leaves were flying through the air, but there was no serious excitement. Finally, we settled in for the evening and watched our three movies, ate the Shepard’s pie and drank some wine. The rain stopped and the wind became a whisper. The next morning the skies were clear and life was normal.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

BLUEBERRY BARBEQUE SAUCE


rtHere is a simple recipe for a seasonal barbeque sauce that will liven up you meal. This sweet and slightly tangy sauce will work well with pork, chicken, and salmon cooked on the grill. When I can get good blueberries in the store, I buy them and freeze what I don't eat in a couple of days. If fresh blueberries aren't available just go to the freezer section and grab a bag – they work just as well. Having spent 15 years living in New Orleans, hot sauce is a must. Adjust the seasoning to your palate.

This recipe can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. Just heat the sauce and serve it over the meat when it comes off the grill.

Grilled pork chop with a simple salad of blue cheese and walnuts.  Perfect camping food!


Ingredients:


1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup yellow onion, small dice
¼ cup ketchup
⅛ rice wine vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
⅛ teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed)
couple of dashes of Tabasco®

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook for 5-7 minutes until softened. Add all other ingredients (ketchup through Tabasco®) and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes until all flavors are combined.

Yield: 1 ½ cups (serves approximately 4)




Monday, August 29, 2011

AH, BLUEBERRIES…

We would be remise if we did not have a post on blueberries while in Maine, especially since this state is the largest producer of wild blueberries in the world. This is also an appropriate time for this post because August in Maine is the principle time to harvest wild blueberries. Maine has over 60,000 acres of wild blueberries that grow naturally in barrens and fields. We experienced the culinary delight of wild
 blueberries on many of our hiking and biking trips. A blueberry field with ripe blueberries is hard to pass up. Finding blueberry patches is not hard – just look for the flood of people rummaging around in low  bushes on the side of the road. We usually hang around a blueberry patch until our fingers are tired of picking and our teeth are stained an unappealing shade of bluish-purple.

The wild (lowbush) blueberries are smaller than their cultivated (highbush) cousins and will delight your palate with a sweet and slightly tangy flavor. Oh sure, they are known to have health qualities because of their antioxidant powers that protect against heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, but that is not the sole reason for eating them. Besides most of the time, they are eaten in pies, syrup-draped pancakes, buttered muffins, sweet cobbler, and French toast stuffed with cream cheese. All of which are perfect to counteract the health qualities of the antioxidants and lead to other diseases that we won’t talk about.

Blueberries are grown on a two-year cycle with half of the fields being harvested one year and the other half harvested the next year. After the fall harvest, the plants are pruned to the ground by mowing or burning. The traditional method of harvesting blueberries by hand with a rake is still a common practice, especially on smaller farms. Fields that are raked by hand are sectioned off with white string in order to help mark their fields for pickers. Today, larger farms have decreased harvest time by utilizing mechanical harvesters. Once blueberries are picked they are sorted so that debris and unripe berries can be discarded.

Blueberry hand rake and recently harvested blueberries.  Later, the leaves and woody
stems will be sorted and removed.
Blueberry fields in the Fall turn a stunning brillant orange-red color.
We recently took a leisurely walk up Beech Hill to get a breathtaking hill-top view of Camden Harbor and the surrounding islands in Penobscot Bay. I know what you are thinking - walking up a “hill” does not usually have the connotation associated with a “leisurely” activity but this trip was leisurely due to the setting. The trail sits in the middle of 300 acres of land that have been set aside as a nature preserve which is managed for grassland birds, organic blueberry farming, and its scenic and historical values. Blueberries are harvested and sold to financially support the Coast Mountain Land Trust, the non-profit organization that manages this preserve and many others in the area. The fields make a beautiful backdrop for the trail and offer a splendid symbiotic relationship between financially supporting the preserve and fulfilling its mission of wildlife and historical preservation.

The Beech Hill trail winds through the blueberry fields up to a sod roofed, stone house.
Stay tuned in the next few days for some blueberry recipes. I like to buy them fresh at the School House farm stand, eat as many as I can, and freeze the rest. Don’t worry, freezing does not diminish the nutritional value – it is the whipped cream and vanilla ice cream that you pile on the pie that does that.

Until then, please enjoy some more blueberry-related photos.

Blueberry Winnowing Machine displayed at the Union Maine Fair and Blueberry Festival.
The blueberries were dropped down into the winnowing machine and onto a conveyor
belt.  As they went down the conveyor, wind driven by the fan blew off the leaves and green berries.
The blueberry festival had many products for sale.....jam, taffy, jellies, napkins
with blueberries, and fresh blueberries.
The festival proudly displayed the Maine Blueberry Queens.  Oh to be young and pretty!
Stopping for a quick bite along the bike route.

Other bikers along the route had the same idea.
"Beech Nut" the stone house on top of the hill.  Great place for a picnic
or just to relax.  The stone house was created in the early 1900's by a Rockport
architect Hans O' Heistad (an associate of the famed Olmsted Brothers Co.).  The
lodge was built as a day cottage for afternoon tea and entertaining.  It has been
completely restored and is now used for Coastal Mountain Land Trust functions.
Another gorgeous view from the top of the preserve overlooking blueberry fields.
Beech Hill overlooks Penobscot Bay and numerous islands.
 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Our Neighbors are Alpacas

For two weeks, we have been driving by an alpaca farm that is located a short jaunt from the RV park. As animal lovers, Betsy and I have been intrigued at how many alpaca farms and products are for sale in Maine; we see soft socks, fuzzy scarfs, attractive sweaters, and a host of other furry alpaca products at festivals, craft fairs, and stores. Since there is an alpaca farm so close, and their designer sign by the road is so eye-catching, we decided to stop in for a visit. Evergreen Ridge Alpacas advertises breeding, sales and a farm store and proudly proclaim that they are a “warm and fuzzy farm in Midcoast Maine.”
Two alpacas leisurely grazing .
As we pulled in to the farm, we were greeted by a very friendly woman, Ricki, who invited us into the store. Her friendly nature and our interest in the alpacas soon developed into an in-depth conversation and it became readily apparent that Ricki has a true passion for alpacas. Ricki is a self-described “burnt-out nurse” turned alpaca farmer – boy can we relate to burn-out leading to life style changes. It was easy to see her draw to the four-legged, long-necked, grass chewing, fluff balls. When Betsy started talking about artificial inseminations and the reproductive system of alpacas, Ricki seemed to sense that we were not just average visitors looking for a scarf, but instead very interested animal people. So, we were elated when Ricki suggested we take our conversation outside to the barn and meet some of the newest members of the 75-head herd.

It was the cute alpaca on the sign that lured us in to the farm and store.
Hungry alpaca!
Alpacas belong to the Camelid family and their close relatives are camels, llamas, guanacos, and vicunas. Alpacas and vicunas are valued for their wool while llamas and guanacos are valued more as pack animals along with camels who are also valued for their milk. Alpaca are sheared once a year before summer and their fleeces are highly valued. The textile industry recognizes 22 colors of alpaca fibers, but there are many more blends created from those colors. Alpacas are shorn for their wonderful fleece once a year which amounts to 5 to 10 pounds of soft, warm fiber that is turned into the most luxurious garments in the world.

Betsy (being the zoo person) was diligent in reminding me not to get too close if they are mad because their response is to spit. And, their spit is the rumen juice from their stomachs – I can imagine this is a very unpleasant experience if you are within spitting range! I appreciated this advice since I usually just run up to animals, stick my hand out to pet, and experience the consequences (good or bad) later. Luckily for us all, Ricki’s alpacas were in good moods and well-behaved. We thoroughly enjoyed Ricki’s warmth and enthusiasm that she showed for her alpacas and new found career. I am sure she is just as gracious with all visitors, but it really gave us a feeling that this truly was a “warm and fuzzy” farm and just down the road.

The store.
  



Mother and baby.







We were amazed at the many coat patterns that were exhibited.
The farm was 16 spacious acres with lots of pasture for the herd.
One of the newest members to the herd.  We loved the eyebrows.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Morse, Moody and a Little Red Schoolhouse

For the month of August we are roosting along Route 1 in Warren, Maine. We are a stone’s throw from Rockland, Rockport, and Camden (and within spitting distance of the Maine State Penitentiary). Our little town provides us with a great launching point to see lighthouses, harbors, museums, and state parks. Naturally, when we come to a new area we check out the food first. Between Warren and the neighboring town of Waldoboro, we have found some great food finds that make it to our list of “must see, do, eat” when in Maine.

Morse’s Sauerkraut (yes, their official name actually has “sauerkraut” in it) is a step into Bavarian that has you looking to see if your waitresses name is “Helga” and there is a hofbraĆ¼haus next door. Morse’s is an easy place to miss from the outside but really hard to leave when you are inside. It is half restaurant, half gourmet shop and deli. The restaurant is small and dark with six booths tucked into the wall. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch/diner fare until 4:00 pm. The menu is filled with authentic German dishes ranging from house-made pickles and borsht to schnitzel and goulash with every kind of “wurst” possible in between. (For you non-Germans or those of you who have never been to a baseball stadium, “wurst” are sausages) The adjacent gourmet shop features a selection of European goods that reminds me of the corner store when I lived in Belgium. We came for the sauerbraten, sauerkraut, bratwurst, Rueben sandwich, potato pancakes, and spaetzle. We had all that in our bellies and still bought bags full of German goodies (including more home-made sauerkraut, spaetzle, and wursts). The place has been making sauerkraut since 1918 and I think they got it right!


Waldoboro’s most famous eating establishment is Moody’s Diner, perched right along Route 1. The Moody’s tradition of good home style food dates back to 1934. As with any great American diner, there are daily specials that include turkey pot pie, meatloaf, pot roast, turkey and gravy all of which are competing against other culinary delights like grilled cheese with tomato and hot dogs. Don’t expect a fancy dining  establishment because that is not what Moody’s is known for. Instead, it is their home cooking comfort diner food and PIES! The diner is serious about their pies and is proudly decorated with signs that says “Pie Fixes Everything.” Homemade pies come in many flavors like lemon meringue, coconut cream, four-berry, strawberry-rhubarb, and the ever-popular blueberry. Did I forget to mention whoopie pie? We suggest coming at an off time because Moody’s has a tremendous lure on tourists and a steady stream of locals all vying for a coveted table or seat at the counter. Come hungry and start with desert.

Lemon meringue pie.

Diner food at its best - turkey pot pie,
potato salad, and macaroni salad.
For the two weeks now we have passed a sign for “Beth’s Farm Market." We decided to take the winding road that was slightly out of our way to see what Beth’s had in store for us. The corner stand was much larger than most and full of brightly colored flowers, sweet smelling pies, and freshly harvested produce. Beth’s actually sold lobster and oysters which were a new farm stand item to us. We munched on a deliciously sweet blueberry crisp while perusing the store. The produce was much higher in price than other stands but the displays and selection were great.

But the most visited food establishment for us has been the Old Schoolhouse Farm stand. Only a mile and a half from our RV park is an old red wooden 1850’s schoolhouse that has the best produce, bread, cheese, and pies we have laid teeth to. When I say we go every day, I am not exaggerating! The prices are low enough to make you feel guilty, the corn is so sweet you want to cry, the zucchini is bigger than my shoe, and the pies are better than grandmas. A black dog greets you at the door and if you’re lucky he will move; otherwise, it is your job to side-step him because he thinks he is the owner! This is a true farm stand that is surrounded by acres of fertile fields and farm equipment. There is no mistake about where the baskets full of produce came from. When you pull into the parking lot, you are greeted by big black cows feeding on yesterday’s produce that didn’t sell. When an item is out, it is out. If you walk along side of the farm stand, you will see employees scrubbing potatoes fresh from the earth. We have been dying for a summer peach pie. But the pies will only be baked when the farmer says the peaches are ready to be picked. We check back every day!
Our favorite farm stand.
 

Fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, pies...flowers....etc.
Morse's Sauerkraut only has a handful of these intimate little booths.
Morse's "Euro Deli" is a goldmine!

We usually pack a cooler so we can bring home all the good stuff.

More yummy treats at Morse's.


Beth's Farm Market not only has oysters, but cooking instructions. 


Blueberry crisp - big enough to share.
Garlic drying in the greenhouse.
"Pie Fixes Everything" (except fitting into those skinny jeans).


Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Famous 64th Maine Lobster Festival

Betsy in her free T-shirt
I have been wanting to come to this Fest for at least ten years now. I’m sure Nancy is tired of hearing about it from me. Every time I saw an ad or promotion for it I longed to go. And there are ads in Maine literature and magazines all year long. This is me, one of the greatest lobster lovers in the world……it’s my favorite food. I could only imagine being surrounded by tons of the steamed red delectables and being able to eat as many as I wanted for as long as I wanted! For 63 years I had missed out but no longer!
So, in March when we were making plans to spend a lot of the summer in Maine, I made sure we would be here for the first week of August to fulfill this lobster dream! When Nancy agreed, I also went so far as to sign us up online to volunteer at the Fest. Hey, free admission and a free t-shirt and lobster after our volunteer commitment, how could we go wrong? And we would be helping the great people who put this event on each year so that some money can go to charity.

The world's largest lobster cooker
The Maine Lobster Fest ("lobstah" as Mainers say!) takes place over 5 days on a beautiful harbor in Rockland, Maine, “the lobster capital of the world” as they call themselves. A non-profit organization puts on the fest and it is run entirely by volunteers (nearly 1,000). There are many activities besides eating lobster like the coronation of the Maine Sea Goddess, an open juried Art Show, music and concerts, exhibition tents with Maine-Made products, lobster-associated food vendors, a lobster cooking contest, carnival rides with a huge Ferris wheel and a parade through Rockland that had marching sailors from the U.S. Navy Ship USS Mahan, a missile destroyer, where tours were given. There was also the Great International Lobster Crate Race and the “little lobster” Diaper Derby. What other Fest has those?
Even "Miss Maine" came to the Fest to eat lobster!
My volunteer assignment was a 4-hour shift at the front gate where I welcomed people to the Fest, put “bracelets” on their arms so that they could come and go at will, and handed out Fest programs. It was a great way for me to talk to guests from all over the world that come to this famous Fest and I had a great time. Of course, you would know that Nancy’s assignment was in the Food Tent where she had a great time plating food to be served up as the crowds converged so she was happy too on her 4-hour shift. We both left our shifts happy that we contributed and wanting to eat lobster. We even bought lobster to bring back to the motor home and cook. That, of course, was my idea and Nance went along with it!

Well now I can say that I got to finally go to this wonderful Festival after wanting to for all of these years. After living in New Orleans and going to Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest, etc. I came to realize that festivals in Maine are not near the size of those but seventy five thousand people go to this Fest and over 10 tons of lobsters are served. This year the World’s Largest Lobster Cooker, built in 2008, steamed 1,600 pounds of lobster at a time, over 15 minutes. I can’t begin to tell you what a great day we had as we walked along the harbor to our car and I noticed the butter stains on my free t-shirt……a dream come true for me!

Rides at the Fest
Entrance to the Fest and the long line waiting for lobster dinners.
This is where I volunteered, as guests entered. 
Midway at the Fest

Nancy eating famous chowder.  It was the best!
A fish exhibit from a local seafood vendor.  Note the title.
A view of the Fest over beautiful Rockland Harbor

Lobster crate races

Nancy at her volunteer position
serving up seafood



A float in the parade

I can't get enough photos of beautiful lobsters!
Smoked shrimp, scallops and lobster, oh my!
Nancy and the lobster balloons that were everywhere
Nancy holding lobsters - boy was she a good sport!
Beautiful Rockland Harbor where the Fest was held
The lobster dinner line where lobsters were served
The end of a wonderful day with lobsters cooked at home
outside the motorhome