Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


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Fun in Maine: What to do this weekend?

After some snow showers on Friday, the weekend in Portland, Maine looks to be nice indeed for January – sunny, with temps in the 30s and even 40s. If you’re looking for something fun to do, here are a few ideas (thanks to mainetoday.com, The Frontier, and various other sites, for the event listings that contributed to this post!).  You can also check out Maine Today’s full listing of 11 events this weekend specifically, right here.

Portland On Tap Craft Beer Festival, Saturday, January 30th (where I’d be) – America On Tap brings you Portland On Tap this weekend with two sessions at the Cross Insurance Arena.  This event offers the opportunity to sample over 100 releases from the country’s top craft breweries, enjoy live music, and nosh on some delicious food.  The first session is from 1pm – 4pm, with the second session from 6pm – 9pm. Regular tickets are $35, and VIP are $55, but include a food voucher, t-shirt, and other upgrades (like an extra hour of festival fun).  For full details or to buy tickets, check the festival out here.  A quick look at the vendor list showed me a few Maine breweries like Allagash, Geary’s, and Gritty McDuff’s (among others), and I hope the Maine-based businesses are highlighted as they deserve to be!

Camden Winterfest, January 30th – February 7th – Camden brings you Camden Winterfest, a whirlwind week of winter events (how’s that for some alliteration?) that offer fun for the whole family.  The schedule of events includes Snow Sculpting Championships, a Polar Plunge, Snow Plow Parade, and US National Toboggan Championships – among many others!

Lost Valley Winter Duathlon, January 30th, 10am – noon – Do you love winter’s outdoor sports?  Looking to stay active and earn that Saturday night pizza and beer?  This is the event for you.  Lost Valley’s Winter Duathlon is a 10km course on which competitors nordic ski 5km, then snowshoe the remaining 5km.  Check it out here.

Oscar Nominated Shorts, Animated, February 2nd – 7th, various show times – The Frontier in Brunswick, Maine is one of my favorite entertainment venues.  Coupled with a restaurant serving exceptional food, you can’t go wrong.  Tonight’s Maine Short Film Festival is sold out, but don’t miss out on their upcoming series of showings of Oscar Nominated Shorts.

Located further Downeast?  Rockland’s The Strand Theatre features “West Side Story” this weekend, Sunday at 2pm!

Hit the Slopes: Outdoor Magazine named Sugarloaf one of the Best Winter Trips of 2016 (#truth).  If Sugarloaf is too intimidating, check out Mt. Abram Ski area – they even have a Full Moon Hike this weekend followed by live music.  Shawnee Peak night skiing is always a hit, too!

If you’re on a budget, there are still many great opportunities to get out and enjoy your community for free or at least on the cheap.  A few ideas, plus another listing gem from Maine Today:

Portland Museum of Art: Free on Fridays evenings from 5pm – 9pm – so go get some culture.

Portland Comedy Showcase: $5, 8pm on Wednesday nights at Bull Feeney’s on Fore Street.  Good for a laugh!

Trivia Night: Free, 7pm on Tuesday nights at Elements Books Coffee Bar in Biddeford.  I am loving the renaissance Biddeford is having these days – such a neat, historic town! (oh, and Elements serves beer!)

Free / inexpensive outdoor adventures abound in Maine in the winter: from snowshoeing, to cross country skiing, to sledding and ice skating – this is really what winter is all about!


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Recipe: Apple Crisp Pie

This recipe seemed particularly appropriate to share as many readers are Christmas menu planning and prepping.  It was a hit at our Thanksgiving table, and I’m pleased to report that (courtesy of prepared crust) it was easy as well as delicious.  That’s about all I require in a baked good – because I am not a baker.

Apple pie is a classic holiday dessert, and by far my favorite treat year-round.  At some point in my childhood (my mom likely remembers exactly when), I fell in love with apple pie and began requesting it for every special occasion.  No cake for me, thanks – I’ll have my birthday candles on a pie, and so on.  Over the years, I’ve developed into a bit of a pie snob, which has led me to the unfortunate conclusion that if I like my apple pie just so, I need to make it myself – or spend a fortune at carefully-vetted local bake shops.

This decided, I bravely forged ahead and have attempted apple pie from scratch on more than one occasion, but after two minimally successful and one absolutely disastrous experience with homemade crust, I made a key concession: purchasing prepared crust.  If I loved to bake, I might find some strange pleasure in the painstaking blending of flour and (ice) cold water and the subsequent torturous rolling out of crust (and then the true frustration: attempting to peel your now beautifully flat, round crust off the countertop, only to discover that it’s basically bonded in place except for the edges, which will gleefully separate and crumble into to useless bits – not that I’m speaking from personal experience…), but see, this is just not my cup of tea.  Whiskey, on the other hand, might get me through it.

And to be completely honest, my pie snobbery does not extend to the crust.  Once baked, I can’t tell the difference between a nice, prepared crust and one made from scratch – and frankly, if I could, I think Pillsbury would be in the lead.  Not to mention, everyone around me is much happier as a result of this small adjustment (i.e. Nick).  So prepared crust it is.

I remember reading this recipe for the first time and exclaiming, “look – it actually CALLS for prepared crust!”  A dream apple pie recipe if ever there was one.  It comes from Recipes from the Maine Kitchen and is the perfect combination of a pie and a crisp – with a crisp’s crumbly, sugary topping.

This pie serves 8, and you’ll need:

  • 5-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I actually like to use a blend of sweet and tart apples, rather than all Granny Smith)
  • 1 prepared (!) 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix the flour and sugar and blend in the softened butter, then set aside.  Place the apples in the prepared pie crust, and grate nutmeg and cinnamon over top (for the record, I pre-tossed my apples with nutmeg, cinnamon, and the dash of salt so the flavors would be throughout the pie).  I also added just a bit of almond milk, but any cream would do, if you like a slightly creamer finish.  Cover with the flour and sugar mixture – for the crisp top – and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a knife goes easily into the fruit when tested.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Don’t judge my pie or my photography… I’m not Martha Stewart.  Just know that this pie not only lived up to, but exceeded my (lofty) expectations.

Happy holidays!


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Family Recipe: Cherry Tomato Pasta

This recipe is a Shevenell original, and I’m honored / excited / proud to share it.  My brother, Ed, is the creative mastermind behind this flavorful blend of veggies, olive oil, butter, and wine, which can be served over pasta or a “noodle” like spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini.  This meal is delicious and good for you – especially if you go the 100% veggie route.

Mom and I whipped this up during her visit to Georgia, and it will become a regular in my cooking rotation (get ready, Nick).  Ed has a knack for coming up with new recipes and unexpected flavor profiles that taste spectacular, and this is no exception.

Serves 2-4
You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and whole
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Balsamic vinegar (1-2 tablespoons, your preference)
  • Worcestershire sauce (just a drizzle)
  • 1-2 cups white or red wine, or chicken stock (or a combination;quantity depends on your preference)
  • Noodles of your choice (or spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini)

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat, then add the onions and saute until tender.  Add the cherry tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce, continuing to cook over medium high heat until the tomatoes blister, burst, and start becoming tender.  At this point, add your wine and/or chicken stock and allow ingredients to simmer.

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We made our sauce with a blend of white wine and chicken stock, approximately 1 1/2 cups total, and it was excellent – the rich qualities of the broth and the acidity of the wine created a nice blend to complement the other flavors.

Allow the mixture to simmer while the wine reduces, approximately 10 minutes, then add your noodles, squash, or spiralized zucchini.  Continue to simmer for a few minutes, or until squash or zucchini is soft.  Ed likes to go with zucchini for the nutty flavor it introduces.

You can also easily incorporate meat in this recipe, just vary when you add it depending on cooking requirements.  To keep it easy, Mom and I went with cooked Italian chicken sausage, which also made this a heartier dinner.  Other good additions would be: cooked chicken, shrimp, or a flaky white fish.  For even more nutrient value, you can toss in some leafy greens like spinach or kale.

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Recognize the shape of that cutting board? #ME

This is one of those recipes I love because you can stray from it a little bit or vary it to work with the ingredients you have, and it will still deliver delicious results.

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

I hope you try it – and enjoy!


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Recipe: Mom’s Best Brisket

Alright, faithful readers.  I’m back with a not-so-weekly recipe, but it’s guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.

I was a bit shocked when I realized how much time had passed since my last recipe post, but then I remembered: for the last four months, I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free and dairy-free diets in the (ultimately futile) hope they would minimize or eliminate my migraines.  No such luck, but through that process I discovered how many of my Maine cookbook recipes heavily feature dairy (because let’s be honest, it’s delicious).  I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that aside from difficulty at restaurants, eliminating gluten and dairy really wasn’t that hard, and I didn’t miss it that much.  Now that I’m back to an unrestricted diet, it’s time to get back to regular recipe shares.

Mom’s Best Brisket comes from my all-time favorite Maine cookbook, Recipes from the Maine Kitchen.  It fits my low-maintenance cooking and entertaining requirements: brief ingredient list, relatively straightforward, and delicious results.  I made this on Saturday while we were entertaining a few friends and watching college football (Go Tigers!), and it was a hit.  For the best flavor, you should really make it the day before…. but I ran out of time.

Recipe serves 10 (also halves well)
You’ll need:

  • 6 lb. single brisket or 2 smaller cuts
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Oil or spray for browning meat

Brown the brisket on all sides in a heavy skillet or large Dutch oven.  Remove brisket and put on a platter, then brown the onions and garlic.  Add the remaining ingredients and place the brisket back in the pot.

You can either cook the brisket on the stove top over a low flame for 2 to 3 hours, covered, or put it in the oven, covered, at 325 degrees for the same amount of time.

At 2 hours, check the meat – if it is tender but not falling apart, remove the brisket and place on a large cutting board.  Slice the meat across the grain in 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices, return to the pot, cover and continue cooking for a half hour to an hour.  This step is messy but is worth it!  The flavors really seep into the meat this way.

I served the brisket with a salad and garlic couscous, but mashed potatoes would also be an excellent side.

Happy cooking!


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Harvest On The Harbor – Starts Tomorrow!

How did the middle of October get here so quickly?  That seems to be the theme of the year for me – it has simply flown by and I find it hard to believe we’re well into fall, harvest, and foliage season.

With this time of year comes Maine’s premier food and wine festival, Harvest on the Harbor.  Beginning tomorrow, October 21st, and running through Sunday, October 25th, this festival brings together exceptional talent from food and drink to entertainment.  The events are not cheap, but they sound incredible.  You can review the schedule at-a-glance here and buy tickets here.  A few that appeal to me the most:

Vines to Wines – Oct 23rd, 5:30pm – 7pm at Custom Home

Maine Marketplace – Taste the 8 Regions of Maine – two times, Oct 24th from 12pm – 2:30pm and 4pm – 6:30pm at The Portland Company

Harvest Hop Beer & Whiskey Crawl – Oct 24th, 7pm – 9pm – East Bayside

Get out and enjoy all the city and the state has to offer!


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Wine in Maine: Cellardoor Winery

My third and final installment in the Wine in Maine series is here!

When people think of wine in Maine (anyone who’s flipped open a Maine-based magazine, at least), it’s highly likely that Cellardoor is the first thing to come to mind. Glossy advertising will do that, especially without much noteworthy competition in the state.  Having now visited Cellardoor in person, it is easy to see the appeal of this winery – it combines a picturesque view with quality wine and an atmosphere that, at least on the surface, is representative of the great state of Maine with rustic touches, coastal elements, and a general sense of welcome.

Tasting Room Bar Area

Tasting Room Bar Area (restored, 200-year-old barn)

On the day of our visit, as we wound our way from Union to Lincolnville, I was filled with anticipation to see the business that has been clearly established as the preeminent Maine winery and wine destination, down to their very website URL, mainewine.com.  In many ways, I was not disappointed.  The visual experience both indoor and out at Cellardoor is stunning – a beautiful facility with a smart and attractive selection of merchandise, combined with a sweeping view.  I struggled with writing my review of this winery because I recognize how many of my readers, and consumers in general, may love the Cellardoor experience.  I simply didn’t – something was missing for me.

I struggled even more, having read the Cellardoor website and chatted with the staff, because it is clear to me that the business owner, Bettina Doulton, is deeply committed to sharing her love of Maine and has played a leadership role in advancing and promoting the Maine wine industry, founding the Maine Wine Guild and its statewide Maine Wine Trail.  Undeniably, these contributions are heartfelt, genuine, and critically important to the state’s wine tourism industry.  I admire her mission, what she has accomplished, and the business she’s built.

So what was missing for me?  It’s hard to put my finger on.  It is some intangible combination of the people, the wine, and the atmosphere that gives those businesses that capture it a very special quality and deeply resonates with their customers.  It feels natural and unrehearsed.  I love those special Maine businesses that feel deeply authentic even to the point of imperfection.  Cellardoor was stunning – so stunning and manicured it struck me as somehow more suited to Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard than Lincolnville, Maine.  I was reminded of how I felt during my college tour on the Furman University campus – rather like a bull in a china shop, as they say – certain I would break something in all of that pristine beauty.  So, candidly, it could be just me.  I am confident the vast majority of patrons enjoy every moment at Cellardoor and reminisce about their experience with family and friends. And while I am charmed by the meaningful history behind the Cellardoor logo, I simply found Cellardoor to be somewhat… remote.  It was beautiful.  The wine was good.  Our server was friendly and personable.  It just didn’t feel like the small businesses Maine is known and loved for, where the owners are omni-present, the employees are more ambassadors than mere workers, and the appearance and experience may not be flawless, but it is human and warm.

Having said that, I do want to share what I did enjoy.  First, I was really impressed by the merchandise Cellardoor chooses to stock – it is a classy and appealing mix of glasswork, art, pottery, books, and wine and kitchen gizmos. Where some wineries dip dangerously close to chintzy, cheesy gift items, Cellardoor has  a selection that would have me stopping by just to shop for something beautiful and unique.  Second, the wine was certainly well-crafted, and made from grapes grown across the country as well as Maine, which enables Cellardoor to offer varietals that more people are familiar with (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Syrah, among others).  This is a smart business move and, very likely, enables the owner and winemaker to craft wines they themselves already love.  I particularly enjoyed ‘Ned Said Red,’ a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with a naming back story.

The facility includes a restored barn and farmhouse (the tasting room is located in the restored barn), as well as a state-of-the-art winery across the road.  It has been beautifully redone with high quality finishes, and in combination with the view, would be an incredible and romantic setting for a wedding or other type of event.

If I visit again, my advice to myself is to appreciate Cellardoor for what it is, grab a glass of wine and a seat on the porch, and soak in the beauty of Maine.

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Wine in Maine: Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery

I’ve struggled to write this blog post with each attempt – multiple attempts made over multiple months – and I don’t know why.  Here, today, I’m forging ahead and doing my best to introduce you all to Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery, a truly unique winery experience that can be found in Union, Maine.

Perhaps my struggle to find the right words is borne of the very nature of Savage Oakes.  At its core, this is a family farm that represents the proud history of local farming and continues to raise pork, beef, and chicken today.  But beyond the core, necessity has driven Savage Oakes’ owners to find additional revenue opportunities, a situation many local farmers can relate to.  Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery is the ingenuity borne from necessity – a new business line at the family-owned operation that is still known as Barrett Hill Farm.

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Both businesses are owned and operated by Elmer and Holly Savage and their two sons, and while I haven’t had the opportunity to try any of their meat products, I have enjoyed two tasting room visits to sample a variety of their wines.  My first visit was on a chilly, early winter day complete with a dusting of snow, as my mom and I dashed in during a day trip that also included a stop at the nearby Morse’s Sauerkraut.

I found myself charmed by the farming roots of the business and by the sheer authenticity of the experience.  This is the type of winery you ought to find in Maine – and not in Napa.  The tasting room (although a new one is now under construction) was warm, with polished plank walls, and decorated with pieces of the farm’s history, such as an old yoke once used for oxen working the land.

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The wines were refreshingly authentic, too.  While the varietals may be unknown to many, I was familiar with the cold-hardy grapes they’d chosen to grow, many of which have been developed by the University of Minnesota.  These wine grapes are meant to grow in cold climates, like Maine, while still producing flavorful, appealing wines (so don’t mind the wine snobs who turn up their noses). Many of their wines have clever names, also tied to the farm’s rich heritage, such as General Knox (a white wine from LaCrosse grapes) and Come Spring (a light-bodied red wine that is a blend of estate grown Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, and St. Croix grapes).

I enjoyed both the Barn Red and Come Spring during our winter visit, and when we returned just last month with my husband (who I knew would appreciate the dual agricultural and viticultural focus), I was pleasantly surprised by how much enjoyed their white wines.  First Kiss, which is now sold out, was very good, as was Georges River.

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These wines are different – you need to allow your palate time to adjust, as they won’t (and shouldn’t) taste like the French varietals we are all so familiar with.  Once you learn to appreciate them, you may even find you prefer these wines and the way they complement various dishes.

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But all differences aside, Savage Oakes has done an excellent job of blending Maine tradition with new business opportunity, and they’ve created an atmosphere that is both welcoming for locals and unique for tourists.  I certainly recommend a visit and a tasting, and if you have the time, check out the final event in their Summer Concert series.  Cheers!