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Food

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Top 5 Dream Days in 2016, Schooner Mary Day’s Maine Lobster Bake

Spending three days with my daughter in August before she left for her first semester of college is a gift I don’t take for granted. A lobster bake on a deserted Maine island after a day of sailing aboard a historic Maine windjammer is just the icing on the cake. Captain Barry of the Schooner Mary Day anchored near a quiet beach with no other boats in sight and proceeded to row us over to shore. The crew built a fire, and then placed two massive pots brimming over with lobsters, corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, and a healthy top layer of seaweed. When ready, Captain Barry threw off the layer of seaweed and grabbed his tongs to place all the lobsters and fixins in a circular design. We each grabbed our lobster and found a spot on the beach to dine. 

The lobster opened easily without the need for crackers, as large pieces of tender claw meat was soon dipped into the butter, washed down with a nice, dry sauvignon blanc. Sublime. After polishing off the tail and leaving a puddle of water on my shirt and bathing suit, I could start all over again. See, the best part of a lobster bake aboard a Maine windjammer is that you can eat as many lobsters as you want. Captain Barry tells me that his record is a college student who devoured 13 lobsters in one sitting. Content with my big 2-pounder, I was happy to make the first of several s’mores over the hot wood. Quite sated, four of us decided to swim back to the schooner instead of rowing. A wise decision. The water was clean, cool, refreshing. The dinner far more memorable than all those James Beard-award winning restaurants I dined at last year.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/05/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 16, 2016

Stocking Stuffer No. 5: A Night at Mystic’s Spicer Mansion

One foot into inside the Rose Salon of the Spicer Mansion and I was smitten. The fresco ceiling, inlaid wood floors, moldings, and original windows had all been lovingly restored to its 1853 origin. But it wasn’t until dinner that evening that I realized why this new 8-room inn perched on a hill overlooking Mystic had achieved Relais & Chateaux status. The meal started with canapés and cocktails in the Rose Salon, before moving past the small kitchen to the intimate dining room for our six-course feast. An East Beach Blonde Oyster spiced with cider and green chile whet my appetite for more to come. Next up was a beautifully presented Nantucket bay scallop ceviche with slices of radishes and sweet potato in a small colorful bowl. The third dish was a stunner, native cod doused in a porcini mushroom and lobster broth and topped with genuine truffles. Then came a tender Vermont quail under a bed of pistachios, pomegranate, and barley, perfectly paired with the Antica Terra “Ceras” pinot noir from Willamette Valley. Dessert was a cinnamon-spiced apple with a dab of maple cream, paired again brilliantly with the sherry-like Marco de Bartoli Superiore Oro from Sicily. Last but not least was a wooden jewel box filled with macarons and homemade goodies created by the staff. 

Remember the name of the chef, Jennifer Backman, because she’s on her way to winning many accolades. Indeed, I would have to say this was my favorite meal of the year and that includes stops at Shaya in New Orleans, the best new restaurant in America according to the James Beard Awards, and Pot Luck Club in Cape Town, often mentioned as the top restaurant on the African continent. Chef Jen's signed menu is now pinned to the wall of my office, next to another memorable dinner, “Paris 1906” at Grant Achatz’s Next in Chicago. The best part of the meal is that we could simply walk upstairs to our room. Want to impress your loved one this Holiday Season? Make the splurge and book a room and dinner at the Spicer Mansion. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/16/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Stocking Stuffer No. 2: Larry Olmsted’s Real Food Fake Food

In 2012, Boston, a city that prides itself on its fresh seafood, was rocked to its ocean-loving core when a two-part expose published by the Boston Globe revealed that a significant number of fish were mislabeled at area restaurants, grocery stores, and fish markets. Diners were served cheap Vietnamese catfish instead of the succulent and more expensive grouper, haddock instead of cod, tilapia in place of pricey red snapper. Indeed, 24 of the 26 red snapper samples tested were some other species of fish. The two reporters went on a fish collecting spree, sending samples of their findings to a laboratory in Canada for DNA testing. The outcome? A whopping 48 percent of the seafood was mislabeled. In his latest book, Real Food Fake Food, writer Larry Olmsted goes so much further, telling us that most kobe beef sold at restaurants is indeed wagyu; extra virgin olive oil is rarely that, usually cut with soybean and peanut oil; grated parmesan is almost always fake; and that grass-fed beef was probably drugged and raised in a crowded feedlot. It’s no surprise this book has already made many “notable books of the year” lists. For anyone who wants to start off 2017 on the right foot, grab a copy and then buy that olive oil from a trusted supplier Olmsted recommends, like Oliviers & Co. One taste of their olive oil and you’ll never go back to the fake stuff again.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/13/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October is Cranberry Harvest Season in Massachusetts

The Cranberry Harvest Celebration at Makepeace Farms in Wareham, an hour south of Boston near the Sagamore Bridge to Cape Cod, might be over, but it’s still a great time to visit the bogs of Massachusetts during harvest time. We brought a journalist from Cape Town to the region last Thursday and were mesmerized by the men working waist-deep in the flooded cranberries colored a brilliant red. A.D. Makepeace Company is the world’s largest cranberry grower, a founding member of the Ocean Spray co-op, and the largest private property owner in Massachusetts. Cranberries have been cultivated in this part of the world for approximately 200 years. The temperate climate is perfect for growing cranberries with warm days in summer and cold nights in autumn. We watched as workers culled and then vacuumed up the cranberries into a truck that heads to a nearby Ocean Spray processing plant to make cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, and craisins. The harvest continues until mid-November and A.D. Makepeace is offering one last guided tour of its bog this Saturday, October 29th, at 9 am. Afterwards, stop by Tihonet Village for sandwiches and salads, chocolate-covered cranberries, and treats from their bakery like tasty cranberry macaroons. I grabbed a pint of fresh cranberries after a worker told me how to make homemade cranberry liqueur with equal amounts of cranberries, sugar, and vodka. I’ll tell you how it turns out. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/26/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, October 24, 2016

New Takes on Old Classics in New Orleans

Start with Cajun specialties like the one-pot wonder, jambalaya, brought to New Orleans by the French of Nova Scotia over 250 years ago. Add the rich sauces and fresh herbs of Creole cooking that blended together from the city’s Spanish, West African, and French roots. Take full advantage of the bounty of shrimp, crawfish, oysters, and redfish found in the surrounding gulf and bayou, and, voila, you have all the necessary ingredients to create North America’s favorite culinary destination. The city that brought you Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, and John Besh is now home to a new generation of acclaimed chefs, including Israeli Alon Shaya, whose restaurant, Shaya, was recently named the Best New Restaurant in America according to the James Beard Foundation. They bring a new twist to the old classics, even when it comes to cocktails. 

To find my favorite dishes in town, please see my latest Local Flavor column in this month’s Virtuoso Traveler Magazine. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/24/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, October 07, 2016

Favorite Fall Outings in New England, A Stop at B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill in Mystic, Connecticut

Off the beaten track, Somewhere in Time might feel like somewhere in the middle of nowhere. But once you arrive and see the slew of people lined up for breakfast, you realize this is a local institution. Grab a mug of coffee and get ready to dig into the large selection of omelets, pancakes, and French toast. Then head nearby to B.F. Clyde’s. Open in 1881, B. F. Clyde’s is home to the oldest steam powered cider mill in America and what a contraption it is. Walk around the machinery, amazed that it still runs. Then hit the store to try the sweet cider, pumpkin bread, apple pies, and maple syrup. A perfect fall outing. 

I'm off to Chicago next week, back Monday, October 17th. Enjoy Columbus Day Weekend and keep active! 

 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/07/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, July 01, 2016

A Must-Stop at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market

First started in 1750, Halifax’s farmers’ market is the oldest continuously running market in North America. Over its history, it bounced between many locales from church basements to breweries. That all changed in November 2010, when local purveyors finally got a permanent home right on the harbor. The 56,000-square-foot multilevel building is open year-round; its hours change depending on the season. The best time to visit is during breakfast on a Saturday. Grab an egg or bacon sandwich (only 5 bucks) and a hot cinnamon bun at Wrap So D and eat at one of the tables in or outside. Then go shopping for souvenirs like jewelry made from sea glass, folk art, or the handcrafted cutting boards. I always stop at the Rudi’s hot sauce booth for his Sweet Cherry Bomb, good with chips, and the spicy Candy Reaper Burn, perfect on a veggie and tofu stir-fry. 
 
Happy Canada Day! It’s been a wonderful week revisiting Halifax and Cape Breton. I want to thank Pam Wamback at Tourism Nova Scotia for her help designing a fantastic itinerary. To my American friends, enjoy the 4th of July! See you back here on the 5th. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/01/16 at 04:30 AM
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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Visit a Massachusetts Cheesemaker This Summer

According to the Massachusetts Cheese Guild, there are now 22 artisanal cheesemakers across the across the Commonwealth. Some, like Dave Smith at Smith’s Country Cheese in Winchendon, have been in business since 1985, creating Gouda wheels from his Holstein herd. Eric and Ann Starbard at Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling milk 60 goats to make their award-winning chevre. Berkshire Cheese in Dalton is another pioneer in the state, producing raw cow’s milk blue cheese since 1998. Order a map from the Massachusetts Cheese Guild, call a cheesemaker in the morning to see if production is scheduled that day, and then bring the family to see how the cheese is made and to hopefully hug a cow or two. You won’t regret it. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/05/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, April 01, 2016

Chef Michael Smith Makes His Triumphant Return to the Inn at Bay Fortune

When I first ventured to the Inn at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island’s western shores, I arrived via kayak, courtesy of a four-day inn-to-inn sea kayaking jaunt. I paddled onto the grassy shores and walked across the sloping manicured lawn, getting my first glimpse of this grey-shingled estate and its Repunzel-like towers.  After washing the salt and rust colored sand from my body, I arrived for dinner expecting the usual PEI meal of lobster and mussels. Little did I realize that I was in for a culinary epiphany.
 
The first course was pan roasted oysters in a soothing soup, creamy but not overwhelmingly rich like chowder. Then came a salad of mixed greens where the waiter announced matter-of-factly that “everything is grown on the property, including the edible daisy.” A seared rainbow trout topped with tomato risotto and black olives was followed by the meat course, a roasted leg of lamb, butchered by the farmer down the road. Dessert was a peach, strawberry, and mint compote, made on premises, of course. Before calling for a wheelbarrow to be escorted out of the restaurant—after all, I spent the day paddling 8 miles along the island’s fabled red clay cliffs and the night feasting—I had to first meet this talented chef who shrewdly took advantage of all his homegrown goodies.  
 
Standing tall in the kitchen was Michael Smith, a transplant from Manhattan who was once sous chef at Bouley, one of the few restaurants in the city awarded four stars (extraordinary) by the New York Times. When he left, his peers thought he fell off the map. Little did they know he was venturing to a farming and seafaring mecca.  
 
The gregarious chef pointed to a large map of the island, dotted with more than 60 golden tacks. “These are all the fishermen and farmers around the island that we use to get our supplies,” says Smith, adding “when we don’t grow it ourselves.” Smith would go on to much acclaim, with the success of his Food Network television show “The Inn Chef,” and the release of his best-selling cookbook, “Open Kitchen--A Chef’s Day at the The Inn at Bay Fortune.” But thankfully he never forgot his past. Last year, he purchased the Inn at Bay Fortune and this May, Smith and his wife, Chastity, will launch PEI’s first five-star inn after a complete redesign of its 15 rooms. He has also developed Fireworks, a brick-lined open hearth, grill, and smokehouse. I’d say it’s time for another kayaking trip. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/01/16 at 07:05 AM
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Friday, March 04, 2016

A Well Deserved Best Chef in the Southwest Nod to Steve McHugh

In May 2014, my sister and I walked into a new restaurant in San Antonio called Cured and were blown away by dish after dish. Everything presented that meal was masterful from the selection of innovative charcuterie to the symphony of favors found in that ridiculously good pig’s head dish. “Crawfish Love Letter” was a tribute to the decade Cured’s chef Steve McHugh spent in New Orleans as chef de cuisine to John Besh. Even the mundane burger, a patty made with bacon and topped with smoked onion and homemade American cheese was one of the best burgers I've ever had. All delivered in a classic 1904 space in the burgeoning Pearl District (see my story on this emerging foodie neighborhood in The Washington Post). So I was delighted to read last week that McHugh is getting the acclaim he deserves, chosen as one of the semi-finalists by the James Beard Foundation as one of the Best Chefs in the Southwest. He’s the only nominee from San Antonio, which I find hard to believe, because it’s one of my favorite places to dine in America. Do yourself a favor this spring and book a room in the new Hotel Emma, housed in a former 19th-century brewery, and simply walk to dinner every night in the Pearl District to one of the 15 restaurants. You’ll thank me. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/04/16 at 06:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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