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Running Late on Amtrak

You don't take Amtrak to anyplace a jet can take you if you are in a rush. Even from Boston to NYC, after taking into account the wasted time getting to and in the airports, flying is still usually faster than the train. But if you are on vacation and if your schedule is flexible, then the train can be a great part of an adventure. 

In July of 2017 we took the Lake Shore Limited from Boston to Chicago. For the first time in 12 trips, we missed our connection in Chicago due to lateness. The lateness was not due to any error on Amtrak's part, it was just an unusual combination of the things that can happen when you take a train:

Foodie's Guide to Train Travel

rails to the horizon

Between us, Lorna and I have traveled about 100,000 miles by Amtrak. We have also traveled about 6,400 miles by train in Scotland, England, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and France. Considering myself a seasoned rail traveler, I offer these thoughts on how you can have a happy rail adventure.

These are our long-distance train trips on Amtrak: 

A Foodie Weekend in the Old Port of Portland, ME

Type of Post: 
Best of Show
Wall of Maine Spirits at Maine Beer and Beverage, Portland

People frequently ask me about must-see places for foodies visiting Portland. Most recently, I wrote up this list in an email, and then I thought I should post it here:


If I were going to spend a weekend in Portland, I'd want to be sure to check out:

Dining and Drinking:

  • Becky's Diner - local breakfast joint
  • Gilbert's Chowder House - local lunch joint 
  • Fore Street - fancy dinner 
  • Drifter's Wife - acclaimed hyperlocal dining, if you can get in
  • Silly's - casual and fun near East Bayside
  • Duckfat - trendy dinner 
  • Portland Hunt & Alpine Club - cocktails
  • Thirsty Pig - beer and sausages
  • Novare Res - beer 
  • Central Provisions - cocktails, beer and good food
  • Liquid Riot - noisy distillery with restaurant 
  • Holy Donut - potato donuts, go early 
  • Mount Desert Island Ice Cream - Lorna still raves about the tangerine-tarragon sherbet 
  • Gelato Fiasco is also highly regarded. Not an ice cream guy myself. 

Shopping

Quiche with Shrimp and Mushrooms

Mushroom-MaineShrimp Quiche

This delicious quiche highlights the little Maine shrimp, with some layers of complexity added by sauteed mushrooms and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in a cheesy quiche-custard.  

The little Maine shrimp are hard to find, but worth the search. I got a pound of them frozen, cleaned and ready to cook at Pinkham's Seafood in Boothbay, Maine. 

Mushrooms add a great note to all manner of crustacean dishes - shrimp, crab, and of course lobster. Mushrooms also feature prominently in Russian cuisine, so in this recipe I bring in a Russian note with a pinch of dill.

For cheese I used the fine Italian Parmigiana-Reggiano for the warmth that it brings. In hot weather I might try a ricotta, but I made this on a rainy, blustery Mother's Day so the king of Italian cheeses was called into service. 

A Feast of Burgundy on French Election Day

Burgundy Dinner

On the day of an exciting election in France, we had our friends Kurt & Debbie over for a feast from Burgundy. 

I love the cuisine of Burgundy, and not just the celebrated wine. When we toured France in 2015, we drove from Lyon in the south to Dijon in the north and back again, through Beaujolais and the Cotes de Nuit to the Cotes d'Or.

We drove past vineyards large and small, with gorgeous old manor-houses and rustic outbuildings and other structures that made no sense to us. Among the vineyards on hills poorly suited for grapes were farms producing beautiful produce.  

Burgundy is known for food of all kinds. The inhabitants of the medieval gray stone buildings of Dijon in the north are fond of cheeses, pork, mushrooms, cream, and of course mustard.

At the southern end, just past Beaujolais, is Lyon, the culinary capital of France. There is a long tradition of courtly fare, but for this feast, I focused on the well-known hearty country fare. 

Beef Bourguignon

We enjoyed: 

Beals Cocktail

Beals Cocktail

This is an interesting and tasty old cocktail with a Scotch base. Don't use a fancy single-malt Scotch here! The bartenders who mixed the Affinity didn't know about single-malt Scotch whiskey in the 1920s.

This is not a strong cocktail, so it's a good one for a party where you can relax and have a few. 

I was long suspicious of Scotch-based cocktails, until I realized that I was not expected to waste my precious Lagavulin 16-year! Now I use Famous Grouse for these old-school Scotch cocktails and it has opened a whole new chapter for me.

A Three-Michelin-Star Dinner to Remember

Original 1900 Michelin Guide

A century ago, in the early days of motoring as a pastime, the young Michelin tire company started a booklet of restaurants to visit along one's travels in France. A restaurant of note was listed with a star, a restaurant worth a detour got two stars, and a restaurant worth a trip all on its own was awarded the rare and coveted three Michelin stars. The idea caught on, and now many decades later, those Michelin stars are big business. 

Happy Anniversary at Jean Georges!

For our twentieth wedding anniversary, we took a romantic weekend in the Big Apple, including dinner at Daniel and a lunch at Jean Georges. The former once had three Michelin stars but now boasts only two. The latter has had three stars for many years. On the other hand, Daniel is the darling of TripAdvisor and Yelp! so maybe the celebrated M. Boulud doesn't need those Michelin stars!

As for us, we agreed that Daniel was an experience maybe worth a detour (but not a $500 detour!).

Pumpkin Bisque

Pumpkin BisqueCold weather is soup weather, especially soups of the rib-sticking variety. 

This is a tasty accompaniment to many fall and winter dishes. You can use canned pumpkin, but roasted pumpkin has a different and (I think) superior flavor. When sugar pumpkins are available, they are inexpensive and very delicious. I encourage you to use them if you can.

This recipe uses sampe as a thickener (see the notes). I think it brings a great flavor and texture, but if you can't get sampe, don't fret. The recipe is very forgiving, and it rewards exploration.  

Old Colony Club Twelfthnight 2017

Le Grand Aioli

The Old Colony Club of Plymouth hosts a magnificent Twelfthnight Gala on the Saturday closest to January 6th, the twelfth night of Christmas. These events pack the house and we set out the finest goodies!

We enjoyed a series of courses over the evening, with different themese to each of three rooms and passed hors d'ouevres in between the courses.

Here's what we had:

Cheeses

Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog (California), "Red Cow" Parmigiano-Reggiano (Italy), Brillat-Savarin and Brie (both France), Cabot two-year aged Cheddar (Vermont)

undefinedCharcuterie

Crudites

a beautiful green and white assembly in the Red Room, and a magnificent Le Grand Aioli in the Snug

Cold Poached Salmon

Seafood

Roasts

Pate en Croute

Pate en CroutePate en Croute is nothing more than a pate baked in a crust, but it looks fabulous! The first trick is to find a mold - after that, the rest is easy.

All you do is line the mold with pastry and then bake the pate. The melted fat stays inside, topped up with aspic. You can make this with the Pate de Campagne but I think the pastry treatment deserves a finer pate like the one below.

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