Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Weekly Recipe: Fish Chowdah!

What could be more appropriate on a winter night in Maine than warm, comforting fish chowder?  Well, nothing else came to mind, so this week’s recipe is one for Fish Chowder from the Portland Symphony Cookbook.  This is my first time trying this recipe – there are two fish chowder recipes in Recipes from the Maine Kitchen that I know well and love – but I wanted to branch out.

Chowder is a traditional and popular New England dish.  The root of the word is believed to be from the French word, “chaudiere,” which means pot.  Clam chowder, perhaps the best known of the chowders, is made, of course, with chopped clams and potatoes.  There are many variations of fish chowder, and the one below calls for haddock.  I used cod in this case, because my grocery store didn’t have any fresh haddock today.

If you have the cookbook, this recipe can be found on page 52.  You’ll need:

  • 1 lb. salt pork, diced
  • 3 medium onions, sliced
  • 5 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 2 lbs. fillet of haddock, skinned
  • Roughly 1 quart milk
  • 1 small can of evaporated milk

Fry the salt pork until crisp, drain and set aside.

Salt Pork Frying

Salt Pork Frying

Leave 4 or 5 pieces of salt pork, as well as 1 tablespoon of fat, in the pot.  Add onion and simmer briefly.  Cover with water and boil for 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and cover with water.  Simmer until nearly cooked.

potatoes simmering

Lay haddock (or other white fish) on top of the potatoes and onions and steam until cooked.  Add enough milk to cover the fish, and then add the can of evaporated milk.  Be careful not to boil while the milk is heating.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle pork chips on each dish.

This recipe was excellent – maybe my husband’s favorite chowder that I’ve made – but I did modify a few things:

I added about a half cup of Chardonnay at the end of cooking – the broth seemed a little bland to me – and that flavor really made a difference. And I’ll admit, I was skeptical of the salt pork up until I sprinkled it atop my chowder and dug in.  It was a delicious, salty garnish and set off the chowder perfectly.  I’ve also learned that incorporating salt pork into chowder is a traditionally New England approach.  Ultimately, I did not dice it prior to cooking – it seemed easier to fry it until crispy and then crumble it, which worked quite well.  I think you could also add celery, and possibly even fennel and other vegetables, to this recipe and get a great end result.  Speaking of results, here are mine:

Bowl of Fish Chowder

Bowl of Fish Chowder

Yum!


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Portland On Ice!

Portland On Ice, a winter festival celebrating the city’s arts’ scene, kicked off yesterday evening, January 25, 2013, and runs through Saturday, February 2nd.

You gotta love this charming city!

You gotta love this charming city!

This event is a celebration of Portland’s diverse music scene, world renowned museums and galleries, and destination shopping (which we know is fantastic!).  The Portland Harbor Hotel featured an Ice Bar to get things started, and the week continues with a series of live music events.  As someone who loves live music, I can only lament that I can’t be there to participate in the festivities!

Today, The Asylum is hosting a free event called Strike A Chord from 12pm – 6pm, which features interactive music exhibits from local studios, labels, musicians, photographers, and more.  It also includes an instrument petting zoo and an open mic session at 3pm.

All week long, various locations in Portland will host bands and other attractions.  Below are just a few from each day – for a complete listing, check out the event page here.

Saturday, January 26th:

Front of Ri Ra in the Old Port

Front of Ri Ra in the Old Port

Sunday, January 27th:

  • Dobra Tea: 3-2-1 Poetry Slam
  • Merrill Auditorium: Happy Birthday Mozart
  • Andy’s Old Port Pub: Peter Gavett

Monday, January 28th:

Tuesday, January 29th:

  • Andy’s Old Port Pub: Dave Magario
  • Big Easy: Mama’s Boomshack

Wednesday, January 30th:

  • Big Easy: Rap Night
  • Blue: Tim Adam’s Bodhran Spectacular
  • Ri Ra: Jeff Cusack

Thursday, January 31st:

  • Ri Ra: Kilcollins Band
  • Andy’s Old Port Pub: Isaiah Bennett
  • Gingko Blue: OCTANE

Friday, February 1st:

Saturday, February 2nd:

  • One Longfellow Square: The THE BAND Band Tribute to Bob Dylan
  • Blue: Jesse Lupica Quartet
  • Civic Center: Portland Pirates vs. Albany
Front of One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine

Front of One Longfellow Square in Portland, Maine

I hope you get out there and enjoy this great event – there are certainly plenty of opportunities!


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Morse’s Sauerkraut

Morse’s Sauerkraut is a true Maine tradition.  Just ask David Swetnam and Jacquelyn Saywer, the owner / operators, who purchased Morse’s in the fall of 2000 – tumbling into bed after a cross-country move to Maine, waking on Day One to make saurkraut – and immediately thereafter being inundated with customers – some of whom had been buying their sauerkraut at Morse’s for more than 70 years.

Morse's sign

Morse’s sign

During my Christmas trip to Maine, I had the pleasure of meeting David and Jacquelyn in person, albeit briefly, as Morse’s was packed to the gills with customers at the time.  After their busy holiday season, David was kind enough to talk with me and share their story, which is the one I want to share with you today.

When I originally envisioned this post on Morse’s Sauerkraut, I expected to be writing about the establishment itself, the goods to be purchased there, and their famous sauerkraut.  Instead, while I will touch on these areas (after all, the post would be rather incomplete without them), the story I learned is one that goes to the core of why I started writing this blog; it’s a tale of two people falling back in love with the state of Maine – of feeling drawn to the place, to the people, and ultimately back to their roots.

Both David and Jacque have Maine roots –  Jacque is actually a descendant of Harriet Beecher Stowe – and the German side of David’s family had settled in and around Waldoboro, as many other German immigrants did.  Between 1742 and 1753, roughly 1,000 Germans settled in what was Broad Bay, Massachusetts at that time.  Today, it’s known as Waldoboro, Maine.  The agrarian lifestyle and terrain felt familiar to many of these immigrants, and German Americans can be credited with gifting us with popular American foods including hot dogs, hamburgers, and sauerkraut, in addition to other mainstream traditions including the Christmas tree.

Cheeses, meats, and other tasty treats

Cheeses, meats, and other tasty treats

Despite these deep roots, David and Jacque’s lives and careers as art dealers took them far from Maine and around the world – including time spent in Seattle, Santa Barbara, and even Peru, where they were introduced to a rare breed of dog – which they still keep and raise today.  In 1999, David returned to the East Coast to visit his father, who retired to Massachusetts.  While there, he decided to take a trip up to Maine and revisit some childhood haunts – a trip that would ultimately alter their course – he was so charmed by the state that he made an on-the-spot decision to find a way to move back. Luckily, Jacque was in agreement with him.

Having been entrepreneurs all their lives, he and Jacque began a search for the right business to purchase, and in what can only be described as a twist of fate, stumbled across an ad for Morse’s Sauerkraut.  Intrigued, David took a closer look at the business and called on his 95-year-old Aunt Hazel for a bit of insight.  Her resounding advice was, “Oh David, you have to buy it.  It’s famous all over for its sauerkraut, and your grandfather simply haunted it.”  And buy it they did.

image

David and Jacque soon discovered how accurate his aunt’s assessment had been.  In keeping with tradition, they issued a very brief, very small advertisement in the local newspaper.  It read simply – ‘Kraut’s Ready.’  And just like that, customers descended.  Many were of German or other European descent, while others had simply adopted the Morse’s sauerkraut tradition as their own over the years.  Until better cold storage for cabbage was developed, the making of sauerkraut was a seasonal business, with Morse’s opening in October.  This meant immediate gratification for David and Jacque in their first fall as owners of Morse’s Sauerkraut.

As time has gone by, much has changed at this small business. For the first several years, they maintained the business much as it had always been – making and selling sauerkraut being the highlight, in addition to making pickles (Morse’s makes and sells over 100 tons of pickles and 100 tons of sauerkraut per year ).  The transition to being open year-round and selling a wider array of goods occurred very naturally.  First and most importantly, better cold storage for cabbage was developed, making it possible for David and Jacque to make Morse’s famous sauerkraut year-round.  On a side note, nearly all of the cabbage for their sauerkraut is grown on a local, commercial farm in Warren, Maine.  ‘Cabbage central,’ as David called it, is actually in upstate NY today.  With this ability to make and sell sauerkraut all year, other needs become more evident, and through a combination of special orders and initiative, David and Jacque began expanding their product offerings to the variety of goods they sell today- an eye-poppingly colorful display of pickles, relishes, mustards, vinegars, dried German recipe ingredients, German and European candies and cakes, sausages, cheeses, and more.

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While this variety has transformed Morse’s into an even greater resource for the community, their sauerkraut, made with Morse’s secret recipe, is still very much at the core.  Today, they ship to many customers by mail order, while still thousands more venture from all over the country to buy their sauerkraut at Morse’s – they have fans are as California and of course, throughout the Northeast.  In addition, Morse’s distributes their sauerkraut to over 150 stores and restaurants in Maine, while some business owners will drive up from Massachusetts and Connecticut to purchase it to sell in their establishments.

So, what makes Morse’s sauerkraut so special?  Cabbage is incredibly good for you – it is low carb, high fiber, and contains cancer-fighting 3-indole carbinol.  The fermentation process to create sauerkraut amplifies this impact, because the probiotics that drive fermentation support your digestive system, and in combination with the high fiber quality of this food, may even assist in weight loss efforts.  Fermentation also increases the bioavailability of the antioxidants found in cabbage (bioavailability means the availability of nutrients in a food for your body to absorb and use – for more on this topic check out the Bioavailability post on Ann Pierce’s blog).

Head of cabbage

Head of cabbage

However, most commercially sold sauerkraut has been pasteurized and taken out of its natural fermentation liquor, or brine, and then placed in a new brine filled with unhealthy preservatives.  So while flavor already set Morse’s apart, perhaps the most significant difference is that Morse’s sauerkraut has not been pasteurized, which maintains its flavor and texture as well as its healthfulness, and it is sold in its fermentation brine – which essentially means it continues to ferment – and the longer it does this, the more the bioavailability of those nutrients increases.

Vinegars, pickles, relishes, mustards, and more

Vinegars, pickles, relishes, mustards, and more

Over time, David has come to see Morse’s Sauerkraut as a living museum, and he and Jacque as merely the curators for the time being.  Many of their customers and their families have been buying their kraut at Morse’s for many decades – making it not only a very successful small business, but a special tradition.  He hopes, and believes, that the people of Maine, and those across the United States, will continue to return to Morse’s to buy their sauerkraut long after he and Jacque are gone.

I believe he’s right.  Morse’s Sauerkraut is a reflection of the state itself – having stood firm in its traditional operation as a farm stand since 1918, it is a proud and recognizable business that has been open to change while remaining true to its roots.

For more about the history of Morse’s, please visit this link for the history page on their website.  You might learn something unexpected – for example, Virgil Morse, Jr. constructed the current building himself from the ground up!

image

3856 Washington Road
North Waldoboro, ME 04572

Phone: 207-832-5569

Email: morses@roadrunner.com


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Weekly Recipe: North Shore Potatoes

As promised, today’s weekly recipe comes from another Maine cookbook!  In this case, I selected a recipe from The Maine Collection, a cookbook by the Portland Museum of Art, and it did not disappoint.

This North Shore Potatoes recipe seemed an appropriate follow up to my HoME Grown post on the Maine Potato (which for some reason posted with a date of December 3rd, my apologies!), and while it’s not a great example of a healthy potato recipe, it is delicious.  It can be found on page 81 and it serves 6 people.  You’ll need:

  • 6 medium potatoes, boiled
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups Cheddar cheese, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Boil potatoes and store in the fridge until cool enough to peel.

Peelin' potatoes!

Peelin’ potatoes!

Melt butter and cheese together (I recommend buying shredded Cheddar to save time).  Add sour cream, salt, pepper, and onion, and stir until blended.  Peel and grate the potatoes, and add to other ingredients.  Mix together and put in a casserole dish.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  I also added some additional Cheddar cheese and breadcrumbs for a tasty topping.

This recipe was outstanding – it went well with fish the first night and perfectly with steak the next night.

Fresh out of the oven!

Fresh out of the oven!

The Maine Collection was initially printed in 1993 and was sponsored by the Portland Museum of Art Guild.  Proceeds from its sales went toward the restoration of the McLellan-Sweat House, now a historic house museum, which was originally constructed in 1801 by shipping magnate Major Hugh McLellan.  The Mansion is an exceptional example of Federal style architecture, and while the restoration took longer than anticipated, the Portland Museum of Art re-opened this space to the public in October 2002.

IMG_20130115_185349_907

If interested, Amazon does list this cookbook for sale!


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Ski Maine

Many things about Maine make it an incredible place to grow up.  Living there teaches you to be tough without being hard, to be self-sufficient and still neighborly, to work hard, but know when to call it quits and enjoy your home and family.  There are many reasons I believe the place and the people gave me these traits, and one of them is the seasons – the hard winters, muddy springs, humid summers, crisp falls.  Each season brings its own challenges as well as its pleasures, and at this time of year, winter sports are the highlight.

I grew up skiing Sugarloaf, Shawnee Peak, and Saddleback Mountain.  I’ve skied Sunday River too, but in the battle between The Loaf and The River, Sugarloaf gets my vote.  Each of these mountains offers something unique to the winter sports enthusiast.

Shawnee Peak, a small mountain in Bridgton, Maine, was a short, 45-minute drive from my house, making it an easy weekday or weekend trip.  My dad took us frequently as kids, and later, once we could drive ourselves, Eddie and I would head up there often.  The mountain has a limited number of trails due to its size, making it a great place for a beginner – there are plenty of options with gradually-increasing difficulty.  My favorite thing about Shawnee Peak is the night skiing – there is something incredibly freeing about slicing through snow, flying down the mountain, with the dark all around you and just a bit of lighting.  In addition, Shawnee Peak offers a comfortable, local vibe both on the slopes and in its restaurant, Blizzards Pub and today, they’re celebrating 75 years.  Congrats!

I learned to ski at Sugarloaf, and my brother works there now at the ski shop and The Bag.  Sugarloaf has undergone immense change and growth during the years since my childhood – so much so that I scarcely recognized it the last time I was there – but it has an undeniably special place in my heart.  I’ve always felt that Sugarloaf is quintessentially Maine – with friendly staff, great hospitality, plenty of activities for skiers, boarders, tubers, and even golfers in the summer time.  The organization’s commitment to growth and quality improvement is also evident.  Sugarloaf offers a variety of lodging and dining options, not to mention a huge variety of trails with different degrees of difficulty.  The mountain is the largest ski area east of the Rockies, with 1,153 skiable acres and 14 lifts.  Maybe I can convince my brother to write a Sugarloaf-specific post in the future!

Despite my fond childhood memories of Sugarloaf, Saddleback Mountain is easily my favorite mountain in Maine.  At Saddleback, I finally learned how to successfully ride the t-bar – with another person and by myself.  At Saddleback, I tried snowboarding for the first (and last) time.  The years my family spent going up to Saddleback during February vacations were formative for me – I was a pre-teen and then a teen, finally old enough to be given greater independence to ski where I’d like, without supervision, and I embraced it.  Saddleback didn’t intimidate me, because at the time they only had two lifts and 3 t-bars, and in no time at all, the mountain felt like home to me.  Even today, Saddleback is recognized for being “different” from other ski resorts in Maine – it is in a class of its own – it may not be the biggest, with the most lifts, the most trails, the most restaurants – but it is unique, welcoming, and all about the outdoor sports enthusiast’s experience.

For a full list of Maine ski areas, check out this page from the Maine Office of Tourism.  So get out there, and ski Maine!

Ski Maine!

Ski Maine!


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Weekly Recipe: Gruyere Chicken (and a side dish!)

On Sunday evening, we invited a family over for dinner – we’ve become close with them over the last several years, as my husband has been a mentor to their son (also named Nick) since he coached him in soccer as a freshman in high school. Now, ‘little Nick,’ as I call him – although he’s probably over 6′ feet tall – is half way through his freshman year of college studying architecture at Washington University in St. Louis.  The entire family is wonderful – Nick and his younger sister, Annika, are both friendly, considerate, intelligent, polite, bilingual (the benefit of having a German father) – exactly the type of children most parents hope to have (not to say Nick hasn’t had his missteps – but frankly, I’d rather have a child who does test the limits a bit). Their parents, Jane and Klaus-Dieter, are also lovely, and they have hosted us at their home many times.  I can attest to what a fabulous cook Jane is.

I decided to make the Gruyere Chicken Dish from – you guessed it – my favorite cookbook, Recipes from the Maine Kitchen.  I promise (promise, promise) that my next ‘Weekly Recipe’ will come from one of my other Maine cookbooks – I just truly love this one that much!  This recipe was perfect for the occasion because it is easy to cook in a large amount – the original recipe is for 12!  And it is delicious.  After all, how could something with both gruyere and parmesan cheese go wrong?  I also took the cookbook’s recommendation and made parsleyed orzo as a side dish, in addition to a green salad.  I’ll share that recipe as well.

This recipe is on page 117.  The quantities below are for 12 servings:

6 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (12 halves)

Flour and butter

8+ tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in half

4 large onions, chopped

2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika

1 cup dried breadcrumbs

1 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

(I would back off a little on the wine and chicken stock – it’s a little liquidy for me – I’d recommend 3/4 cup of wine, 1 cup chicken stock)

Flour the chicken breasts and melt butter in a large skillet.  Brown the chicken breasts and set aside.  In the same skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and saute the onions until golden.

Flouring the chicken

Flouring the chicken

Mix together the Parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, paprika, and breadcrumbs.

Butter a large casserole dish, large enough for the chicken to be placed in one layer (you may need two dishes).  Preheat the oven to 375.  Layer half of the onions into the bottom of the casserole, and place the browned chicken on top.  Cover with remaining onions, and sprinkle the cheese mixture on top.  Dot with 4 tablespoons of butter.  Mix the wine and chicken stock together and drizzle over the dish.  Bake uncovered for one hour, and let rest in the oven at 200 degrees for an additional 15-20 minutes.

The parsleyed orzo recipe is on page 79.  I’d never made it before, but I have to say, it was excellent.  It smelled delicious and browned up beautifully.  My mistake was not adding quite enough salt and pepper during the mixing process.

1 lb. orzo

6 garlic cloves, whole (peeled)

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, divided by 3/4 and 1/4

1 1/4 cups parsley, chopped, divided by 1 cup and 1/4 cup

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

Boil orzo with the garlic for 10 minutes and drain in colander.  Rinse with cold water.  Remove garlic and mash with fork.  Whisk garlic with cream, add orzo, chicken stock, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.

Mixing!

Mixing!

Pour into a buttered, 2 quart baking dish.  Mix breadcrumbs with remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley, sprinkle over orzo and dot with butter.  Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes in the oven at 325 (this baking time may be a bit long – next time, in my oven, I’ll go with about an hour and 15 minutes).

Our dinner party was a success, and everyone gave the Gruyere Chicken Dish rave reviews.  My hubby and I are about to enjoy the leftovers, so it’s time to relax!

Yum!

Yum!


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Something Sweet: The Honey Exchange

At 494 Stevens Avenue in Portland, you will find a bright, inviting yellow house, now home to a business, that simply beckons you inside.  This bright, cheery store is The Honey Exchange, and it offers a wide range of products, including honey and honey bi-products as well as mead, wine, and all décor that is bee-related.  I was charmed the moment I walked through the entry and was welcomed by one of the owner / operators, Meghan Gaven.   She and her husband, Phil, are beekeepers who have turned this retail operation into a place where people of all ages can learn about honey, the bees that make it, watch these bees at work in their Observation Hive, and purchase honey and related goods.

The Honey Exchange

In addition to the storefront aspect of their work, Meghan and Phil, who recently received his Master Beekeeper Certificate, act as connectors and supporters of the local beekeeping community.  People who may not have the space to keep bees, but would like to have the opportunity, as well as those who perhaps have the space and even the hives, but not the desire or time to beekeep, both approach them and the Gavens work to connect these individuals.  They also provide a number of classes, taught in their back room, to educate new beekeepers and others about the care and significance of these special insects and the honey they create.

The Observation Hive!  It has a little outlet through the wall for the bees to venture into the great outdoors.

The Observation Hive! It has a little outlet through the wall for the bees to venture into the great outdoors.

Meghan was friendly, down-to-earth, and took the time to briefly chat with my mother, my sister, and me about their work in beekeeping, extracting honey, and assisting other beekeepers with the extraction process.  They named their establishment The Honey Exchange because it is, in a fundamental sense, an exchange.  They harvest their own honey as well as others, and in return, jar and market the honey, labeling each container with information about the origin of the honey and the bees that made it.  Meghan also spends part of her time educating children about bees and their work, and how critical they are to keeping our world blossoming (pun intended).

An assortment of honey to taste!  Check out all of the different colors - a result of the bees and what type of flower or plant they took nectar from!

An assortment of honey to taste! Check out all of the different colors – a result of the bees and what type of flower or plant they took nectar from!

Like most of you, I have appreciated honey for a long time – using it to sweeten coffee and tea, smearing it on toast with butter and cinnamon, and even mixing it with soy sauce to make a sweet sauce for beets.  In addition to being tasty and natural (a vast improvement over Splenda and other manmade sweeteners), one of the things I love about honey is its nutritional benefit; as a natural anti-inflammatory, honey is an excellent addition to the diet of a runner like me.  To learn more about honey and its nutritional benefits, check out this blog entry by Anne Pierce, a Master Nutritionist in Denver, CO.  Because this nutritional benefit is important to me, I feel compelled to share one of the more surprising things I learned from Meghan: she recommended that I look closely at the label when purchasing honey – because some products that are labeled “honey” may have very little honey – or absolutely no honey – in them at all!  Natural honey, particularly some types, tends to crystallize quickly – so some manufacturers use a very minimal amount of real honey in their “honey” products to prolong its syrupy texture and appearance.  My recommendation: buy your honey from a reputable, local source… like The Honey Exchange.

My first venture into The Honey Exchange took place during a Thanksgiving trip to Maine in 2011, shortly after they opened.  My mother has raved about it to me many times and she promised to take me in.  When I began this blog, I knew I wanted to feature The Honey Exchange (and places like it), so I returned during our Christmas trip to gain the additional information I needed.  The Honey Exchange is an excellent representation of a Maine entrepreneurial endeavor – its owners, Phil and Meghan Gaven, make their living as owners of this small business – a business that not only contributes to the economy, but also serves an important environmental need by promoting the beekeeping industry and educating people about bees, these unique insects that truly make our world go round.  A perfect example of the significance of bees in pollinating our world relates to the Maine blueberry industry – it takes 50,000 hives to pollinate Maine’s 60,000 plus acres of wild blueberries (because this number is so high, many hives actually have to be trucked in from out-of-state).  For more on the Maine blueberry, see my HoME Grown post here.

Assortment of wines and mead

Assortment of wines and mead

I highly recommend venturing in to see this wonderful store – you will have a chance to support the local economy and learn about the important role bees play in our day-to-day life.  It’s bigger than we realize, and we could all take a lesson from this approach to life – do something you are called to do, however simple or complex, work hard at it, and prosperity will follow.

Learn more about The Honey Exchange online at thehoneyexchange.com or reach them by phone at 207.773.9333.

A very cute bee!

A very cute bee!