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August 7, 2014

Maine LobsterFest 2014: Seafood Cooking Contest Judges

Judges for this year’s Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest were:


(from left to right) Elizabeth Watkinson, owner of Owl’s Head Lobster Company; Chaz Doherty, Chef at Trackside Station in Rockland; and Susan Axelrod, food writer for the Portland Press Herald and

October 13, 2013

Maine Mussel Chowder with Colorful Vegetables

While many Maine chowders look alike, this gorgeous brew has eye appeal to add to its gustatory delight. Age this one for at least a day for best results!

image by Scott Dorrance

Mussel Chowder with Colorful Vegetables
Brooke Dojny, Dishing Up Maine

2 cups water
1 cup bottled clam juice
4 pounds Maine mussels, scrubbed and debearded
6 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups peeled, diced all-purpose potatoes (about 1½ pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 large shallot, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups heavy cream

Bring the water and clam juice to a boil in a large pot. Add the mussels, return to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, until the shells open, about 4-6 minutes depending on size. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a bowl, discarding any that do not open. Set aside 16 mussels in their shells and shuck the rest. Pour the mussel broth into a large glass measure and set aside to allow any sediment to settle.

Heat the butter and oil in a large soup pot. Add the potatoes, salt, and pepper, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, leeks, bell pepper, and shallot, and cook, covered, over low heat until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the wine, raise the heat to high, and cook briskly until reduced by about one-third, about 3 minutes.

Add the reserved mussel broth, leaving any sediment behind, and add the cream and the shucked mussels. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to blend flavors.

Add the reserved mussels in their shells. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. (The chowder is best when allowed to age for at least 4 hours, or overnight.)

Reheat gently. Ladle into bowls, making sure that each serving contains at least 2 mussels intheir shells, and serve.

Yields about 2 quarts (6 main-course servings).

October 8, 2013

Apple-Maple Salad Dressing

This is a good basic recipe for fruit-based dressings. You may experiment with your own choice of fruits, but this combination of real Maine maple syrup and apples is perfect for fall salads and as a marinade. This dressing will keep for several weeks under refrigeration.


Apple-Maple Salad Dressing
Michael Salmon, Hartstone Inn, Camden

½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup chopped vidalia onion
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1½ Tablespoons real Maine maple syrup
2 small Cortland apples, cored and coarsely chopped

Combine all ingredients listed above and mix in a blender until smooth.

Makes about 1½ cups.

August 2, 2013

Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest 2013

Another delicious time was had by all again this year at the annual Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest. Held Friday morning at the North Entertainment Tent on the Lobster Festival grounds, the event drew a record crowd. Despite the rain, the heat was on as this year’s five finalists entertained festival-goers and impressed judges with their unique seafood recipes.

This event is always a lively, fun time in great part to outstanding emcee Louise MacLellan-Ruf and volunteer Celia Crie Knight. Audience participation is encouraged as lobster lore is discussed and there is an opportunity to ask questions of the panelists as they prepare their dishes.

The five amateur chefs who shared their culinary talents this year were John Ruppert, Brunswick, ME; Adam B. Marcus, Owls Head, ME; Tyrrell Hunter, Brunswick, ME; Justin Libby, Tenants Harbor, ME; and Gerald Huang, Jersey City, New Jersey.


Contestants and Judges (L to R): Adam B. Marcus, Allison Fishman Task, Lynn Archer, Melanie Beckett Hyatt, Louise MacLellan-Ruf, Gerald Huang, Tyrrell Hunter, John Ruppert, and Justin Libby.

L to R: Allison Fishman Task, Tyrrell Hunter, Lynn Archer, Melanie Beckett Hyatt, Louise MacLellan-Ruf

This year’s winner (and her second year in a row taking the top prize), was Tyrrell Hunter for her Spectacular Seafood Cannelloni.

Judges were Lynn Archer, owner and chef at Brass Compass Cafe and Archer’s on the Pier in Rockland; Allison Fishman Task, host of the Yahoo! Original Program, Blue Ribbon Hunter; and Melanie Beckett Hyatt, editor of Maine Food & Lifestyle.

Check our blog in the coming days for complete stories, recipes, and images! As always, we had a great time covering and helping promote this special event!

June 13, 2013

Maine Lobster Festival Cooking Contest: Calling All Amateur Chefs



CONTACT:  Celia Knight 207-542-1192

Call for Maine Lobster Festival Cooking Contest

ROCKLAND — Amateur chefs are invited to sign up for the annual Maine Lobster Festival Seafood Cooking Contest. The contest is part of the 66th annual festival, which will be held July 31 through Aug. 4 at Harbor Park along the city’s waterfront.

Amateur chefs age 18 and older are welcome to compete for more than $500 in prize money during this popular event. A panel will pick five contestants and their recipes to participate in the contest. Selection is based on creativity, suitability of the seafood to the recipe and simplicity. The recipes can be any dish and must contain seafood found in Maine waters.

The contest will begin at 9 a.m., Friday, Aug. 2, in the North Entertainment Tent on the festival grounds. Judging will begin at 11:30 a.m., with prizes announced and awarded around 12:30 p.m. First prize is $200, second prize is $175, and third prize is $150.  Lead Sponsor for this event is Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegar.
The contest audience will have the opportunity to sample the prepared recipes in the cooking area and pick up the contestants’ recipes after the awards are presented.

For additional contest details and to download an application form, visit or contact Celia Knight by e-mail at or call 207-542-1192.

Applications will be considered until July 13. Selected contestants will be notified by July 20.

June 10, 2013

Maine Littleneck Clams

When I think of Maine clams I tend to think of soft shell clams, the kind Waldoboro is famous for, not the littlenecks of my New Jersey childhood. But yes, it’s true. You can find littlenecks in Maine. Ever cross the New Meadows River, glance up river, and notice people standing in boats with tong rakes? They are “bull raking,” which is the exhaustive work of hand raking mahogany or little neck clams.

image courtesy of

Imagine my delight when a foraging friend recently brought me cherry stones from the Damariscotta River, which we devoured on the half shell. They were delicious! I see them popping up here and there on menus now, at Brian Hill’s Shepherd’s Pie, sourced from the New Meadows River, and more recently at the spanking new Salt Water Farm just down the street in Rockport, ME.

We ordered them at Salt Water Farm last week during a heat wave and they arrived at table chilled, studded with new green onions, and wonderfully seasoned in a broth rich with good olive oil and garden herbs. Aside from ruining my blouse with an oily stain (extracting them from the shell is best done wearing an apron!) they were perfect in the heat with a firm and delightful mouth feel.

Here is a recipe I believe you’ll enjoy:

Littleneck Clams with Chorizo, Tomato and Green Onion
Laura Cabot, Laura Cabot Catering, Waldoboro

2 pounds Littleneck clams
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped Vidalia onion
1/4 cup white wine
1 plum tomato, chopped fine
1/2 cup crumbled Chorizo sausage
Fresh pepper and chopped parsley to taste, a dash of smoked paprika, chopped green onion

Rinse clams in cold water.

In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, heat oil and sauté onion, chorizo, and garlic; add paprika.

Add the wine, clams, and tomato. Cover tightly.

Steam until the clams open, about ten minutes.

Let cool down, then serve with broth and sprinkle with more pepper and green onion. Wear an old tee shirt and enjoy them fully!

Serves 2.

June 7, 2013

Arrows Restaurant Butternut Squash Donuts

Today is National Donut Day and instead of hitting up the local Dunkin, James Beard winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier suggest whipping up a batch of their Butternut Squash Donuts with Warm Maple Syrup. Light and crispy, moist butternut squash is complemented by maple syrup made on-site at Arrows, their acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant in Ogunquit, ME (


Butternut Squash Donuts with Maple Syrup
Created by Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier (

2 eggs
1¼ cup sugar
1 cup peeled, cooked, pureed butternut squash
½ cup milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon baking soda
1¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Oil, for deep-fat frying
2 cups hot maple syrup

Combine the eggs, sugar, squash, milk, butter, and vanilla in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt, and ginger. Add the dry ingredients to the squash mixture. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 1½ hours.

Place the dough onto a floured board and roll it out to a half-inch thickness. Cut with a 3-inch donut cutter. Heat 1 inch of oil in a heavy pan to 375°. Fry a few at a time, until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve drizzled with maple syrup.

Yields 2 dozen donuts.

May 7, 2013

Melissa Kelly of Primo Wins JBF Best Chef Northeast Award

We want to take this opportunity to congratulate Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland for her 2013 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Northeast. Well Done!!

image courtesy of Kent Miller, Portland Press Herald

April 18, 2013

Warm Dandelion Greens Salad

With a spring chill lingering in the air before the arrival of May flowers, chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier suggest their Warm Dandelion Greens Salad. The salad is a great way to take advantage of early spring produce, while still providing a warm, hearty side dish to any meal.

Dandelion greens are not always for sale in the supermarket but you’ll frequently see them in season or at the farmers’ market. They do seem a bit intimidating because they’re in these big, unwieldy, long bunches, but just chop them up to get a real treat. They have a unique flavor not unlike Belgian endive or radicchio. We think this is a great technique for preparing any kind of warm salad. Serve as a start to dinner or as a side to a main.–Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier (

Warm Dandelion Greens Salad
recipe and image courtesy of Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, Arrows Restaurant and MC Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, ME

1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic cloves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup dried currants
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
10 cups (about 3 ounces) dandelion greens, washed and chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a nonreactive saucepan, make the vinaigrette by mixing the onion, garlic, rosemary, chili flakes, sugar, currants, vinegar, and canola oil. Heat the vinaigrette over medium heat until just hot. Toast the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over medium heat until just lightly brown. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and toss in the dandelion greens to warm, about 2 minutes. Toss the greens in the vinaigrette and top with the pine nuts. Serve at once.

Yields 6 servings.

February 4, 2013

Arrows Restaurant: Roasted Salmon with Mom’s Sauce, String Beans and Pine Nuts

James Beard Award winning Maine chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows and MC Perkins Cove Restaurants in Ogunquit, ME are getting some national attention in Rachael Ray’s magazine, EveryDay with Rachael Ray. They are featured in an article entitled “For the Love of Food” and are one of three chef couples from hot restaurants around the country, sharing a recipe that brought them closer – perfect for foodies who also love Valentine’s Day.

Mark and Clark have shared their Roasted Salmon with Mom’s Sauce, String Beans and Pine Nut recipe which reminds them of a special dinner at Clark’s family’s house – sealing Mark’s new love of salmon and of course the relationship.

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 3.16.14 PM
image and recipe courtesy of

Roasted Salmon with Mom’s Sauce, String Beans and Pine Nuts
Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, Arrows Restaurant and MC Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, ME

¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1½ teaspoon grainy mustard
1½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus 2 whole sprigs
Coarse salt and black pepper
9 Tablespoons EVOO, plus more for brushing
Ice water
6 ounces green and yellow string beans
2 skinless salmon fillets (6 to 7 ounces each)
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Position a rack in the center of the oven; Preheat to 424°. In a medium bowl, stir together the two vinegars, brown sugar, Worcestershire, soy sauce, mustard, and chopped rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in 9 Tablespoons EVOO.

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water and 1 Tablespoon salt to a boil. Fill a medium bowl halfway with ice water. Add the string beans to the boiling water and cook until brightly colored and al dente, about 1 minute; drain and plunge immediately into the ice bath to cool completely. Drain again, then pat dry.

Lay the salmon fillets skin side down on a greased baking sheet. Tuck a rosemary spring under each. Brush the fillets with EVOO; season with salt and pepper. Whisk the sauce and spoon some over the fillets. Roast until firm and just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove and tent with foil.

In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat; cook until light golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately add the toasted pine nuts and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring to coat with butter. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot, about 2 minutes. Divide the beans and pine nuts between 2 plates.

Using a spatula, transfer the salmon fillets to the plates and drizzle each with another spoonful of sauce. Serve immediately.

Dinner for 2.

December 12, 2012

Fog Bar & Cafe

We’d just come from the movies. Hungry, yes. And thirsty. We rolled into FOG, the new hang in Rockland, the intention being to get a quick drink before a meal elsewhere. Long story short, we were seduced into staying right there. Plate after small plate emerged, wafting goodness, and we’re still raving three days later.


Owned by Ashley’s parents, but the love-child of Ashley Seelig and Josh Cardoso, FOG seems destined to be the new “best place to meet” on the Main Street. The lofty atmosphere and big spaces offer the perfect foil for the old black and white movies or anime digitally projected on the back wall. Especially fun at Christmas time! Christmas in CT, anyone? Ashley is clearly in charge, here there and everywhere making sure all is running smoothly and, indeed, the staff seems very well schooled. Josh is a beer genius with 8 interesting beers on tap, both from Maine and imported. Friendly and knowledgeable, everyone on staff appears to be having fun.

Chef Nick Krunkkala, who we’ve seen before at Rock City, is turning out inspired food, although not every dish is fully evolved. They are well on their way with French and Southern inspired comfort food offerings that speak to solid kitchen technique and modern interpretations. I noticed a perfect potato carre (large square dice) on their vegetable plate along with beautifully ribboned vegetables. The cheesy grits were creamy. The shaved salad was generous and fresh, and the duck wings were nicely sticky and flavored with an interesting tamarind sauce. Fried green tomatoes with candied bacon could have benefited from more lacquering on the bacon for more flavor and crunch. The rabbit rolls, the most anticipated, yet my least favorite item, needed a more appropriate, sharper sauce. Maybe mustard? I do like that they are bringing in unusual items and exalting the flavors of simple ingredients.

I can tell that time will be kind to this endeavor. There is so much enthusiasm and talent on tap, they can only get better and better. And we are lucky to have such an interesting and delicious new place to go in Rockland. Cheers!

December 5, 2012

Flat Iron Steak

Seems to be on every menu these days, a Flat Iron Steak. I’d been hearing so much about this cut of meat I decided I needed to try one.


Known to be a “butcher’s cut”,  or “butler’s cut” as it’s known in the UK (and they know the good stuff, right?), this steak is well-marbled, tender and full of robust, beefy flavor. It is also fairly thick and perfect for marinating and grilling. There are only two per animal, like tenderloin…but are a fraction of the cost. I was thrilled to be able to walk into our little Hannaford here in Waldoboro, ring the meat department buzzer, and have the nice lady butcher cut me two on the spot. See, the butchers know!

I made a simple marinade of EVOO, coarse salt, and cracked pepper with plenty of fresh garlic. Let that sit over night, get a grill or cast iron skillet really hot. Pat the meat dry and cook over high heat, turning once for perhaps 8 minutes in total for a two inch thick steak. If cooked indoor, DO put on your fan, you will need it.

Cardinal rule: Do not over cook this type of meat.

Rule two: Let it rest, tented, after grilling or pan roasting.

Rule three: Cut it thin and on the bias. Pour the jus over the top and add butter sautéed mushrooms finished with Tamari soy sauce for a special treat! Maybe some blue cheese mashed potatoes?

Rule four: Enjoy what sneaky butlers have known all along!

November 8, 2012

Ricotta Gnudi and Maine Lobster

Maine Lobster Chef of the Year 2012, MacKenzie Arrington, shares his winning recipe!

image by Ted Axelrod

Ricotta Gnudi and Maine Lobster with Truffle, Chanterelle Mushrooms and Chervil
Chef Mackenzie Arrington, The Dutch, New York City

Ricotta gnudi, 8 portions
1 pound Maine lobster, claw knuckles
1 pint truffle cream sauce
4 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, roasted
8 pieces chervil
8 slices black truffle, shaved
Salt and pepper to taste

1 quart ricotta
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons truffle oil
Salt to taste
Aproximately 1 quart flour

1 pound lobster, claw knuckle meat
2 pounds butter

1 quart heavy cream
3 shallots, minced
1 cup white wine
1 Tablespoon truffle trim
Salt and truffle oil to taste

1. Remove the ricotta from the liquid and place into a large bowl. Whisk until all the curds are broken up and the ricotta is smooth.
2. Season heavily with salt, whisk and taste. Once you’ve reached the desired level of seasoning add truffle oil in while whisking until you can taste truffle but it is not overpowering.
3. Add in the eggs and whisk until they are fully incorporated.
4. Switch to a rubber spatula and add in a small handful of flour and fold in. You want to incorporate the flour with as minimal motion as possible not to over work the gluten. Add in flour until the mixture begins to form up and not stick to the sides of the bowl as easily.
5. Flour your work services and place the mixture onto the flour. Sprinkle with flour and work the remainder in by “chopping and folding” it with a bench scraper.
6. Once the mixture has started to bind and is still slightly tacky you are ready to go.
7. Work with small amounts at a time and keep the main mixture covered with plastic wrap so it does not dry out. First make a single size piece to test in water that is just under a boil to make sure all of the seasoning levels are correct and the mixture holds together.
8. Roll the portions out by hand in an outward motion on a floured surface to great one quarter width cylinder. Use the bench scraper or a knife to cut the “gnocchi” into 1-inch pieces. Place onto a well floured sheet tray and then sprinkle more flour over top to start the curing process. Let the gnudi “cure” for a few hours under refrigeration before use.

1. Cook your claw and knuckles in boiling water seasoned with salt and any other seasonings you wish to use. I personally enjoy fennel seed.
2. Cook for about 7 minutes.
3. Shock them in ice water and then remove them from the shell for the final preparation.

1. In a sauce pot heat a little oil and butter over medium low heat.
2. Add shallots and season with salt.
3. Once the shallots begin to break down and sweat they will become very aromatic and translucent. You do not want any color.
4. While you are doing this process have the cream in a separate pot over low heat reducing. You want to reduce the cream by 1/4 by the end of the sauce so this just gives you a bit of a jump start.
5. Deglaze the shallots with wine once they are translucent and let the wine reduce down till it is “dry.”
You will be left with very soft and aromatic shallots at this point.
6. Add the cream and finish out the reduction.
7. Once the cream has come to the desired reduction, transfer it into another pot or bain marie.
8. Season with salt and truffle oil and add in truffle trim.
9. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep for 20 mins.
10. Reserve warm if you are going to use it right away, if not cool as fast as possible and store cold.

1. Have a large pot of heavily seasoned water just under a boil.
2. Place lobster claws and knuckles into warm brown butter or drawn butter and allow them to heat through while you are preparing the rest of the dish.
3. In a warm pan add a couple drops of oil and place your chanterelle mushrooms in. Once they start to get a little color on one side and start to release liquid flip them. Once the mushrooms are tender season with salt and toss a knob of butter into the pan, toss the mushrooms or baste them with the butter. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them into the base of the bowl.
4. Drop your gnudi into the bubbling water for about 45 seconds or until they are “dancing” on the top of the water.
5. Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer the gnudi into a pan with about 2 ounces of your sauce.
6. In a circular motion move the gnudi around in the pan to cover them but do not break them. This will also help thicken the sauce.
7. Remove the lobster from the butter with a slotted spoon and season with a sprinkle of sea salt.
8. Gently place your gnudi around the mushrooms in the bowl and reserve the sauce in the pan.
9. Place the lobster knuckle meat with the gnudi but try not to smash your hard work.
10. Spoon out the remainder of the sauce over the gnudi, lobster meat and mushrooms.
11. Finish by placing the claw meat and shaved truffle on top. Garnish with a nice piece or two of chervil.
12. Serve and smile.

Serves 8.

November 7, 2012

Flying With Knives: Part II

Checklist—cars loaded up and off we go. The audience of 200 is lined up at the door anxiously awaiting the opportunity to sample the lobster dishes of three contestants, be entertained by same three chefs on stage, and finally get the chance to vote for their favorite. I must admit hearing “Chef Margaret’s here, hello chef, best of luck to Mac, it’s the mother-son team” from all corners of the waiting crowd makes me feel like I am the one about to be back on stage…. Nope…I am to be the wilberforce behind the curtain. The one who will keep the rest of the team calm and focused and make sure the water is boiling and no one misses a spec when putting the lobster on during plating.

image courtesy of

Now the flurry begins, we have less than an hour to get everything boiling-everything reheated-judges plates are photo plate-perfect and orchestrate the plating of another 200 plates. We were promised induction burners (a professional type of hot plate that has water boiling in 90 seconds). What we walk into is a row of butane gas portable burners, and no one has thought to put in fresh cans of butane….Obstacle #1. Mac and I think alike and at the last minute packed up one of our induction burners… Saved!

Ricotta gnudi, a delicate tiny Italian style dumpling (for lack of a better description), is to be cooked on site. We will have to hustle to make this happen on portable butane burners. Obstacle # 2-the Alto Sham aka hot box onsite is luke warm (barely). Its purpose is to hold hot food, but at 120 degrees. You could put a baby in it for a nap and still need a blanket…. Mac thinks fast…All the stainless bowls we brought for just in case we need them are put on top of the pots of “slowly boiling water”, and the lobster in brown butter is dumped in for a faster reheat. Meanwhile, the induction burner we brought along is boiling pot after pot for a “boiling pot Chinese fire drill”. Boil 1 swap it out, boil 1 swap it out….

The back stage area is a bit chaotic as three cooking teams try to work, and a half dozen culinary student helpers stand in the way with “deer in the headlight eyes”. I snap into executive chef mode and start assessing the space and working on a game plan so that when Mac in on stage charming the crowd, his food will be plated in order and go out as it should.

We love Melissa Bouchard, executive chef at Dimillos Floating Restaurant. She is the first chef up. Her team is working on plates, the dish is beautiful, but I know from experience that being the first on stage sucks. Mac is number two and we are now in control of our destiny and everything is going according to plan.

Bless the heart of the third chef, Kerry Alterio of Café Miranda. In all the chaos, he actually asked if we needed help. I’m thinking “that’s a switch”. At my last national competition, a southern chef stole my butane back ups and my power strip. My sous found them hidden behind a trash can….

So here we go. Dina will cook the gnudi, toss it gently (Ricotta gnudi is delicate as a cloud, it breaks easily but when it keeps itself together and makes it to the plate and then the lips in one piece, it is like eating something an angel kissed.) in the truffle cream sauce, and pass it on to the student who will be plating it. I’ll take chanterelle duty until a student sees the placement and takes it over. (Side note on chanterelle mushrooms- they are a highly sought after wild foraged species-currently not in season in Maine so these costly fungi came to us from the woods of Oregon. Full of pungent woodsy, earthy flavor-the chanterelle is the best flavor friend lobster can have.

Sandra will be on knuckle meat duty, cautiously placing two to three pieces on each tiny plate, and then I will follow the gnudi patrol with perfect claws, placed exactly atop the gnudi. Ifrah will bring up the rear with the chervil garnish. (Chervil-an underutilized herb-actually a member of the carrot family but one of my personal favorites). Then out go the plates.

We can hear Mac talking with Tom Martin, owner of Lucky Catch Lobster (he’s the MC and an excellent choice) as calmly as if they are sitting in a bar having a drink together. He gives a shout out to his brother and Dad who are in the audience (2 votes for sure) I sneak out to take a peak at the monitor. QVC training paid off well. Mac talks directly to Tom and when Tom turns his eye to the audience, so does Mac. Good job! I hear Tom ask Mac if his Mom, the Maine Lobster Chef of 2008, is in the audience.  Mac quips “Nope, I got her out back working.”

As the last stack of 20 plates leaves the plating area, we sigh in unison that it’s done. We hear the audience give Mac a huge round of cheer and his lanky 6’5” presence pops back behind the curtain, all smiles. We join Melissa and her team on the sidelines to watch chef # 3 give his pitch.

Finally, the three chefs are called to the stage for awards.

MacKenzie Arrington—Maine Lobster Chef of 2012-Peoples Choice.

Okay-Now we all scramble back to clean up, dump trash, pack cars, carry dirty pans back down Commercial Street and an hour later Mac and Dina are elbow deep in the dish sink. And that is what culinary competition is all about!

***Tomorrow, be sure to check back here for MacKenzie Arrington’s winning Ricotta Gnudi recipe!!***

November 6, 2012

Flying With Knives: Part I

Flash back to 2008. Maine Lobster Chef of the Year competition at the Blaine House in Augusta….When yours truly was crowned, MacKenzie Arrington, my son, sous chef for the event and student at the Culinary Institute of America announced with total confidence, that he would steal the title from me in 2009. And, “so he did”. Two weeks after graduating from the Bachelors program at CIA, Mac became Maine Lobster Chef of 2009.

mac again

Between then and now, Mac moved to Brooklyn, NY, and began his calculated progression through the culinary world. In the last two years, under the guiding hands of David Chang (Momofuko), Daniel Humm (NoMad), and Andrew Carmellini  (The Dutch and Locanda Verde) (a few of New York’s top chefs) Mac has learned skills, techniques and nuances that we “provincial cooks” only see on shows like Iron Chef. So recently when invited by the Maine Lobster Promotion Council to return to Maine to compete in the 2012 Maine Lobster Competition, Mac jumped on a chance to bring his city style back home.

This year’s event would be different from year’s past in that a panel of 3 judges would cast their vote for their favorite and the audience of 200 would cast their vote for a second winner.

Along with his sous, the amazingly talented Dina Fan also of NYC and Taiwan, Mac, all packed and ready to fly north, arrived at JFK to pass through TSA (airport security). TSA can be a bit of a challenge for a traveling chef. Here’s how it goes…. Carry on bag opened and passing through the scanner revealing some questionable skeletons. Any chef who travels, especially if cooking is involved on the other end of a trip, takes his knives.

As security watches cautiously, Mac opens his case to reveal knives of almost surgical instrument comparison. “Very sharp-very expensive-very necessary.” What follows is the explanation of why he has them, what they will be used for, etc. Next item to be scrutinized by security—a jar of black truffles packed in salt. Explanation follows as to what they will be used for. Fear goes along with this explanation. These little balls of black “gold” are about as valuable as “gold”. Please don’t confiscate them officer!

Now of course the knives pose some concern for security. Can a traveling chef be trusted to leave them in his carry on bag? Must a flight attendant baby-sit them during the flight? Must they be locked in the cockpit with the pilot until the plane lands in Portland?

So far, as far as we know, no terrorist wearing size 15 Sven kitchen clogs ever hijacked a plane with an 8” inch chef’s knife, so Mac’s knife roll is allowed to travel in carry on….

Safely arrived in Maine, Mac and Dina begin prepping for the competition. Within sight of Ocean Gateway (where the event will be held) is my seafood processing facility, complete with a huge state of the art production and manufacturing kitchen. What could be better? Chanterelle mushrooms (pounds and pounds upon pounds of them) can all be browned off at one time in a 40 gallon tilt skillet, pots of melting butter cover the top of an 8 burner range, gallons of cream are reduced quick and slick on a row of induction burners. An entire 12 foot stainless table is floured for kneading, curing and cutting ricotta gnudi (recipe will follow!).

Culinary competition is in Mac’s blood. He is in high gear and thriving…. Guess he got that from his Momma! Prep tasks are delegated as my kitchen intern Ifrah (Raised and trained in strict German kitchens) culls through mounds of fresh lobster claws, picking out 220 perfect specimens, while Sandra, a retired Marine turned culinary student, exactingly picks through chervil (it’s an herb-recipe will follow!) Music is blasting; energy is high. Mac is methodically detailing his expectations of his team for tomorrow’s cook off. They all listen carefully. I go about my own flurry of business knowing Mac always has it under control.

Tomorrow—Thursday 6 am comes way too quickly. Back to the kitchen we go for the final prep work then hustle over to the Ocean Gateway for “show time”. Culinary competition may look easy from the audience but for the chef, being on stage is only the tip of the iceberg and unless every detail is planned like synchronized swim, the iceberg melts fast.

***Stay tuned for tomorrow’s conclusion of Flying With Knives***

November 5, 2012

Camden’s Fromviandoux

For the benefit of Mr. Kite, there will be a drink tonight at Fromviandoux.


Yup, Mr. Kite’s…it’s a drink on the cocktail menu. Camden’s new best kept secret is actually in the old digs of Mr. Kite’s (remembered by those of us “of a certain age”) and more recently, the former location of Zaddick’s Pizza.

Located at 20 Washington Street, the completely retrofitted, stylistic masterpiece that is Fromviandoux begins to soothe you beginning with that first glance through the windows. Big on French nuances, tastefully appointed and cushy, the understated elements of design all conspire to lull you right into the upholstered lounging area. There one can begin the delightful task of choosing from their terrific wine list, offered in full or half pours, or from a bevy of interesting and original cocktails (unless your prefer to sit at the bar).

image courtesy of Fromviandoux

Self-described as “relaxed fine dining” and as food “prepared with modern, local and seasonal influences”, this restaurant is a dream for those who love to taste and sample smaller plates. For those of us with food anxiety, such as myself, rest assured that the bigger plates are ample enough to really satisfy. Cheese lovers can also rejoice in the nicely chosen cheese list with interesting embellishments such as brittles, jams, or spiced nuts.

Upon dining there recently, my dinner companion and I arrived just at 5pm and watched the place fill up in short order. After a drink in the lounge area, now safely ensconced in a cozy, comfortable nook, and glowing after one Absinthe cocktail, we were ready to order. I chose sublimely crispy and creamy sweetbreads on a spinach purée and a lovely composed salad, accompanied by a nice Austrian wine, as starters. We then went on to a perfectly pan roasted Fluke on French lentils for me and the “house ground” burger with frites for him. That huge burger at $14 was one heck of a buy, supremely delicious, and accompanied by the best fries EVER. One of my complaints with French food is that it is often over salted. Not here. All is in balance, letting the flavors really shine. And the accompanying aioli and house made ketchup was to die for.

I wanted a cheese course or dessert… but was so comfortable that I decided to save that pleasure for the next time. Or maybe I will come for their lovely afternoon tea, which I am sure all the proper attentions are given to.

Take it from me, sometimes less really can be more!

October 6, 2012

Atlantic Smoked Salmon Frittata

“The frittatas I serve at the Inn are basically thick open-faced omelets. Toppings used are only limited by your imagination. Some of my favorite combinations include broccoli, bacon and Swiss cheese or bell peppers, prosciutto and Boursin cheese or cooked lobster, asparagus and Spanish Manchego cheese.”—Michael Salmon, Hartstone Inn, Camden


Atlantic Smoked Salmon Frittata
Michael Salmon, Hartstone Inn: Signature Recipes From an Elegant Maine Inn

6 large whole eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces Atlantic smoked salmon
1/4 cup grated sharp Vermont cheddar
2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 Tablespoons capers
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
2 Tablespoons sour cream
Fruit for garnish

These are individual open-faced frittatas. Crack the eggs in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk well. Add milk and salt, and mix.

In a 7-inch nonstick sauté pan, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add half of the egg mixture and stir gently (as you would for scrambled eggs) until the eggs are about 3/4 firm. Stop stirring and let the eggs set up. Flip over and firm up the other side. Remove to a baking sheet and cook the other half of the egg mixture in the same way.

Spread one ounce of the smoked salmon over each frittata. Evenly sprinkle the cheese, red onion, and capers and crack some black pepper on each frittata. Place the baking sheet under a salamander or broiler to melt the cheese and lightly brown the top of the frittatas. Sprinkle with the chives.

Serve with a spoonful of sour cream and a fruit garnish on the side.

Serves 2.

October 1, 2012

Rockland District Nursing Association Basket Social

1st Annual Rockland District Nursing Association (RDNA) Basket Social

Food lovers, this is the charity event for you to support! Rockland District Nursing Association will soon be auctioning off a variety of savory meals and desserts prepared by amazing cooks from the RDNA service area. The day of the auction, baskets will be decorated to provide the names of the participating chefs and hints for the types of food and the meal locations/destinations being offered. For non-risk takers, a full menu for each basket will be available to review before the auction begins. Examples of baskets being auctioned include: invitation to a private home transformed into your own traditional British dinner for party of four guests, a tailgate football party delivered to your house on game night, or mouth watering desserts from Grandma.

Note: No food will be given out with the baskets the night of the auction. The basket represents the food/event won. The winner of the basket and donating cook together will determine final details for redeeming the meal or dessert at a mutually agreed upon date and time.


Rockland District Nursing Association (RDNA)

For the past 80+ years, RDNA has continuously served as a link in the community safety net, focusing on individuals who might otherwise not have access to care and helping when Medicare/MaineCare and insurance benefits run out. RDNA has been sustained through the generosity of this community. Serving Warren, Union, South Thomaston, Owls Head, St. George, Cushing, Thomaston and Rockland, RDNA nurses regularly see close to 300 predominantly elderly residents either in their homes or at monthly blood pressure clinics. Together with the Rockland Police Department and community health partners, RDNA hosts community unwanted medication collection events and public health trainings. Without federal/state funds or insurance reimbursement, RDNA relies on gifts and contributions to cover 70% of the annual operating costs, so that  $0.93 of every dollar returns to the community in service.

Rockland District Nursing Association
P.O. Box 1713
Rockland, ME 04841
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August 26, 2012

Red and Golden Beet Salad with Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette

This is a beautiful salad with a lot of different flavors: sweet beets, salty cheese, and tangy vinaigrette. For this recipe, we use farmer’s cheese, a fresh, crumbly white cheese available at specialty food stores. You can substitute a good feta.


Red and Golden Beet Salad with Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette
Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, The Arrows Cookbook

For the Vinaigrette
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 large shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 whole black peppercorns

Combine all the ingredients in the jar of a blender and process until smooth. The vinaigrette will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

For the Salad
2 medium yellow beets, trimmed
2 medium red beets, trimmed
Kosher salt
3 ounces butterhead lettuce (about 1/2 head), leaves separated, washed and dried
3 ounces mixed greens such as arugula and mizuna (about 3 handfuls), washed and dried
8 ounces farmer’s or feta cheese, crumbled

Put the yellow and red beets in separate medium saucepans with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches and add 2 teaspoons salt to each pan. Bring both pans to a boil over high heat. Cook until beets are easily pierced with a small knife, about 20 minutes.

Drain the beets and submerge them in ice water until cool. Using your fingers, slip the skins from the beets and discard. Slice the beets into 1/8-inch rounds.

In a large bowl toss the lettuce and greens with half of the vinaigrette. Arrange on 6 chilled plates. Put the yellow beets in the same bowl, drizzle with half of the remaining vinaigrette, and arrange on the plates. Repeat with the red beets. Sprinkle the cheese over the salads and serve.

Note: We like to make this salad with a mix of red and yellow beets. Be sure to cook them separately, and toss the yellow beets first, so the red beets don’t stain the yellow ones.

Makes 6 servings.

August 25, 2012

Tomato Sauce: Homemade and Quick

“I have had the pleasure of tasting some wonderful tomato sauces that have delicately simmered on the stovetop all day and into the night. To my delight, I have developed a decent sauce with a similar flavor that can be made in about 45 minutes.” —Kyra Alex, Lily’s Café & Wine Bar, Stonington


Tomato Sauce: Homemade and Quick
Kyra Alex, Lily’s Café Cookbook

1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomato
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
Large pinch of ground cloves
1 (more or less to taste) Tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Heat oil in large saucepan, add onions and cook until just tender. Add garlic and mushrooms and continue cooking until very soft. Add crushed tomatoes, paste, and enough water to give desired sauce consistency (usually 1 or 2 empty tomato paste cans full), and the remaining herbs and spices. Bring to a boil stirring often to prevent sticking.

Gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often. Adjust salt and pepper and add sugar if tomatoes have too much of an acidic bite. Freezes well.