Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine


Leave a comment

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.

20151125_191230-1

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!

Advertisements


2 Comments

Kickstarting Winter in Maine

It may seem ironic to suggest that Maine “comes alive” at this time of year, when leaves are falling, days are growing shorter, and most are thinking about getting out the electric blanket and hibernating for winter, but that is simply how I think of it.  Spring, with its fresh buds and abundance of mud, will be welcome when it arrives, but late fall and winter bring their own energy to the state.

Winter is for the people of Maine.  Oh, you’ll find a tourist here and there as well as the New Englanders from surrounding states who come to enjoy the skiing, but primarily, it is Mainers themselves who embrace what Maine has to offer in this season.  With the advent of the holidays and winter weather comes the opening of Sunday River and Sugarloaf, ski (and snowboard) sales like the big, annual Down East Ski Club’s 53rd Annual Ski Sale, prepping of snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, and more – all focused on opportunities to enjoy the rugged beauty of the Maine outdoors, even in the colder months.

On the heels of Small Business Saturday, I felt compelled to write a post highlighting some recently published, timely resources.  Maine’s small businesses are the economic engines of the state and provide most of the employment opportunities, so let’s continue to support them through this season and the full year!

First, it is the holidays and many people will be Christmas tree shopping in the coming weeks.  I’ve posted on this topic in years past, but this year I recommend checking out this list from MaineToday.com.

If you make it to Sugarloaf this season, be sure to stop in the new Burton Signature store and say hello to my brother, Ed, in between runs.  Snowboarders rejoice – a store of their own, right on the mountain!  In other news at the Loaf, this week is Locals’ Week – depending on your residence, you ski free through Friday!

Not far from the Loaf is the Rangeley Lakes area – an outdoorsman’s dream in the Maine winter.  Featuring Saddleback Mountain, snowmobile trails, ice fishing, and cross-country ski trails, it has something for everyone (including cozy cabins if you’d rather be inside with a book).

If you’re looking for good local Christmas shopping, look no further than renowned shopping hubs in the Old Port and Freeport.  A few of my favorite stores for holiday gifts: D. Cole Jewelers (husbands, take note); LeRoux Kitchen; and the Maine Potters Market. Other fun, local ideas: head into a craft brewery and grab a gift card, tee shirt, or six-pack for the beer lover in your life; take a tip from Northeast Whitewater and give the gift of a Maine experience (not to mention, studies show people who have experiences / travel / learn new things are happier than those who have an accumulation of goods); or for your skiers and boarders, check out this gift-giving guide.

The state of Maine has something to offer everyone.  When I reflect on the many things it’s given me, I feel truly blessed.

Happy holidays!


Leave a comment

Portland Beer Week!

After two months of gluten-free eating, I can scarcely express how excited I was just to toss myself into a chair at our local watering hole on a Friday night and enjoy a beer.  Nirvana.

While my local watering hole these days is far from Portland, Maine, I’m no less enthusiastic for you lucky ducks who have a chance to experience Portland Beer Week – a mere six (yes, 6) days away!  2015 marks the 4th annual event, which runs from Sunday, November 1st – Saturday, November 7th.

IMG_20131129_194621_640

Portland Beer Week is more than just a celebration of the high quality beer being brewed in Maine, it is a celebration of all things related to beer – from the beverage itself, to the glass, to the bar.  With this in mind, I particularly appreciate the “Superlatives” contest being introduced this year, where beer and bar lovers can cast their votes on everything from the ‘Surliest Delivery Driver’ to the ‘Best Beer Blogger.’ (Carla gets my vote! Check her out @beerbabe on twitter)

The participant and event lists are looooong, which is great news for people like me, who like variety.  There are so, so many interesting events, and you can check them all out here, but those that I’d love most to attend are listed here (I’ll only hate you a little if you go… and please send pics and reviews):

  • Local 188 & Bunker Brewing Tap Takeover:  all week while supplies last
  • Rising Tide Tap Takeover at The Great Lost Bear: Sunday, 11/1 at 5pm – a must do!
  • Cider Night at The Thirsty Pig: Tuesday, 11/3 at 4pm – I enjoy a good cider nearly as much as a good brew!
  • Free Introduction to Home Brewing Class at Maine Brewing Supply: Wednesday, 11/4
  • Shipyard Beer Dinner at new restaurant 953 Congress Street: Monday, 11/2 at 6:30pm (ticketed event – limited space)
  • Allagash Mega Bash at The Great Lost Bear: Friday, 11/6 at 5pm – two Maine powerhouses come together!
Enjoying a Maine craft brew - Allagash White - while supporting my Pats... and prepping for a cookout!

Old shot: Enjoying a Maine craft brew – Allagash White – while supporting my Pats… and prepping for a cookout!

Those are just my top picks – there are many incredible options… and you can tell things get especially “thirsty” on Thursday.  Attend one or many, but get out and about and enjoy this booming part of the local economy!

Bottoms up! #207beerweek


Leave a comment

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!


Leave a comment

Wine in Maine: Sweetgrass Farm Winery and Distillery

When I think about our visit to Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery, the image that instantly pops into my mind is that first moment, as we pulled into the gravel driveway and had our first glimpse of a sweeping view of field, forest, and mountains.  The driveway itself is edged closely by both the road and the winery, as so many other old farms now are – pressed up against our modern roads.

The view at Sweetgrass

The view at Sweetgrass

The winery structure is charmingly, classically Maine.  A pretty, shingled building that has been updated to combine traditional elements with other, more modern influences like the wraparound deck and railing.  I found this combination of styles to be a theme throughout Sweetgrass – and it’s been executed so seamlessly that it enhances the experience without feeling too “perfect” or “untouchable.”  Inside and out, from the restored old truck and the gleaming copper Alembic still to the classic, white Adirondack chairs on the lawn, Sweetgrass hit all the right notes. “Sweet” indeed.

One of the most appealing aspects of Sweetgrass for me personally was how integral Maine traditions and products clearly are to the business.  I even feel the combination of the historic and the modern design elements and decor reflect this – generally speaking, Mainers hold on to a deep respect for the way things have been done for generations, while still moving forward themselves.  For example, in addition to operating as a winery and distillery, Sweetgrass is still a working farm.  They raise and sell Friesian and Friesian cross sheep for both meat and fleece; they have laying chickens and meat chickens; turkeys; pigs; and two cats.  They grow some of the fruit they use in their wines and liquors, and buy the vast majority of the remainder from other Maine resources, and they also grow grass (hay) for feed.  Sweetgrass sums up everything I felt about the experience there on their website, when asked about their philosophy: “to be a family run business preserving Union’s rich farming tradition, firmly rooted in the community, supporting local sustainable agriculture, local business, and donating 10% of profits to organizations which support families, children, and rural life.”

Philosophy and setting aside, the wines and liquors we had the opportunity to taste were exceptional on their own.  While my favorite, by a large margin, was their apple wine – delightful and crisp and pairs beautifully with lobster – I also enjoyed the sparkling cranberry apple (after all, what could be more holiday-appropriate than this flavorful, bubbly treat?) as well as the rhubarb smash.  Nick particularly enjoyed their renowned Back River Gin, which ended up being one of three bottles we purchased and brought home with us.  During our tasting, we had the opportunity to chat a bit with one of the owners about the business and what they’ve strived to accomplish.  I walked away understanding that vision, experience, and commitment have been critical to their success, which now includes an Old Port location and many accolades and awards, in addition to the Farm itself.

From beginning to end, this is a must-visit Maine winery. It was just our second of three winery stops during our cross-Maine trek from Crescent Lake to very nearly the Camden area, and it is the one I would most like to visit again.  Next time, though, I’d pack a picnic lunch, plan to stay a while, and indulge my wish to sit in one of those Adirondack chairs, soak in the view, and sip a Sweetgrass wine.

20150707_123617

That’s how I recommend you experience it!


Leave a comment

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.

photo 2

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.

photo 4

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.

20150707_122254

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.

20150709_185210

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!


Leave a comment

Wine Coast to Coast

Wine has been on my mind.  My husband and I often talk about our dream of owning a vineyard and making wine (I’m more interested in the farming, back-to-the-earth, nature-centric aspects; he’s truly passionate about the chemistry behind great wine and how to craft it), and we talk nearly as often about where to make this dream a reality.  But that’s a post for another day.  It is easy to be swept away in the romanticism of wine and wine making.  It’s a drink that makes you dream (or daydream).

Just one short week ago, I returned from my very first visit to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys – a trip that was stunning from the scenery to the wine and beyond.  It was also a striking contrast to many of the charming vineyards and wineries I’ve visited in North Carolina, Virginia, and, yes, Maine.

It reminded me that I owe you all posts on three Maine vineyards and wineries in particular: Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery, Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery, and Cellardoor Winery.  Consider this the first post in a series, as I share a little bit about my experience with wine on the other coast before bringing you back to the Down East and sharing my experiences enjoying the authentic, family farm setting of Savage Oakes; the more polished-yet-rustic, hip vibe of Sweetgrass; and the upscale, glamour-meets-country appeal of Cellardoor.

The view at Sweetgrass

The view at Sweetgrass

In celebration of a dear friend’s 30th birthday, I traveled to northern California for a girls’ weekend in wine country.  I was picked up from the airport by the other ladies and immediately whisked off to Napa, where we began our fun with Oxbow Public Market – a fascinating and appealing conglomeration of food vendors and shops, and where I enjoyed a positively delicious salmon ceviche.  From there, we proceeded along the Silverado Trail as it winds through many of the most widely recognized names in American wine.  I’ll tell you, it was a special thrill to see, in person, the places where many wines we love were grown, crafted, and aged.

Wisely, we shared a number of tastings throughout the weekend, otherwise I hesitate to imagine how tipsy we may have become.  Our first stop was Miner Family Winery, where we enjoyed a truly excellent Viogner and an unusual Chardonnay fermented only with the wild yeast on the grapes (which I liked – very different) before transitioning into dryer reds.  Perhaps the most memorable part of that visit, though, was the consultant who handled our tasting.  A native of Sonoma whose father is a grower,  his knowledge (and willingness to take our picture) made the tasting enjoyable and engaging.

At Miner!

At Miner!

From there, we made our way to Charles Krug, which houses its tasting room in a stunning 1872 building, an atmosphere that contributes effectively to the tasting experience.  Taking in the high ceilings, the rustic charm, the old, deep window wells, all while sipping their Family Reserve Generations – a blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. It is an experience in and of itself, and precisely as they describe on their website, with spice and lovely fruit flavors of blackberry and red currant.  That entire afternoon was a blurred combination of exhaustion (i.e. jet lag), wine, and laughter, which all culminated in a giddy patio dinner at Francis Coppola, complete with stunning views of vineyards and mountains.

The following day, a car service took us around Sonoma Valley, where we made it to five – five! – wineries, including Ledson, Landmark, Kunde, Imagery, and Chateau St. Jean. In my opinion, Kunde stood head and shoulders above the rest for a number of reasons.  From the wine, to the cave tour (where they age their wines – and have an event space!), to the consultant who handled our tasting, the entire experience was exceptional.  I also knew Nick would like the fact that they grow all of their own grapes, which seemed rare, at least among the wineries we visited.  What surprised me was how much I appreciated that fact, too.  Sitting in our home in Georgia, I didn’t feel particularly concerned with whether the wine I was consuming was made from grapes grown by the winemaker, but when I was there – among the vines – it became much more significant.  So I ordered four bottles (naturally).

It was a truly incredible weekend.  By the time I journeyed home on Sunday, I felt I’d seen (and consumed) more than I imagined possible in two days.  Napa was glorious, and Sonoma quieter, but no less impressive.  I’m looking forward to thinking about how very, very different these experiences were from Maine wineries and sharing my perspective with you.  Differences aside, this was a trip not to be missed!