Happy New Year! I cannot quite wrap my head around the fact that 2014 is officially here already, but as is often the case with beginnings and fresh starts, I’m looking forward to all of the adventures that 2014 brings… especially the ones that aren’t even on our radar yet. So much of our travels revolve around our work schedules and are planned many, many months in advance, and while I’m unbelievably thankful to have the chance to experience all of those planned trips, there’s just something special about the slightly more spontaneous ones.
Our September trip to Sonoma is the best example of this – the days we spent there were easily my happiest days of 2013, but we didn’t start planning the trip until July. Wine country was a place we’d always dreamt of visiting, but somewhere we had no idea we’d be exploring at the start of the year. Things fell into place for us to book our trip just a couple of months out, and I’m so grateful they did.
Simply put, not knowing what the year holds for us just makes me all the more excited to get this year started. Thank you all for following along with these adventures of ours, big and small – we’re so happy that you do. Best wishes to all of you in 2014!Leave a comment
Meredith and my New Year’s celebrations are typically pretty low-key. A tasty new recipe for dinner, a glass of bubbly, and a movie normally have us in bed well before the ball drops, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This year, we decided to get creative with our New Year’s Eve drink and inspired by the kumquat sparkler in The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, we made our own clementine-infused gin (kumquats are hard to come by in Maine) and are looking forward to a slightly more flavorful drink to ring in the new year.
Clementine Gin + Prosecco
For the clementine gin:
adapted from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen
3 sliced clementines + 1 wedged clementine
1 750-ml bottle of London dry gin
2 pinches of kosher salt
Put the clementine slices & wedges in a quart-size mason jar and add the salt. Pour gin into the jar – you will have about 1/2 cup leftover gin; reserve and add to the jar as the clementine gin gets depleted. Secure the top on the jar and let steep for 24 hours at room temperature before using. The gin will keep for up to 6 months at room temperature. Use the slices or wedges for garnishes.
For the clementine sparkler:
adapted from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen
3/4 oz. clementine gin
1 slice gin-steeped clementine
5 oz. sparkling white wine (we used prosecco)
1 sage leaf
Rub the sage leaf around the rim of the glass and then lightly muddle it in the bottom of the glass. Pour the gin into the glass and add the clementine slice. Top the glass with sparkling white wine and enjoy!
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I don’t know about you all, but these past few days have more or less been an extension of the Christmas holiday for Michael and I – we’ve eaten so well, relaxed quite a bit, and most importantly, we’ve had the chance to catch up with dear friends. We shared a dim sum feast with one of our favorite families at Empire yesterday and today we met two more sweet friends for brunch at Hot Suppa.
As is often the case with us in the winter, we spent a good bit of time experimenting in the kitchen this weekend. First up – our clementine infused gin, which we’ll be sharing more about in a special cocktail post tomorrow. It was so easy and the finished product is so delicious, that we’re kind of hooked. We’re already brainstorming our next concoction! Our weekend dinners were just as tasty – risotto with lemon & mushroom and salade lyonnaise from this book. We capped off a rather indulgent weekend by putting our bourbon soaked cherries to good use atop homemade buttermilk ice cream with chocolate covered pretzels for dessert last night. Just as good as it sounds – trust me. After typing all of this out, I’m thinking we’ll be seeing lots of green juices and quinoa salads in our future for 2014. Or at least for the first week anyway…
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Taking advantage of the final weekend before the Christmas holiday, Michael and I spent the time eating well, finishing up our shopping, and hanging out with friends. Armed with bags of gifts after a productive morning in the Old Port, we met our friends, Cory, Robyn, and their newborn twins for a cozy afternoon brunch at Sonny’s. Then, to celebrate our successful shopping day, we came home and whipped up two milk punches before we settled in for an evening watching classic movies. On Sunday morning, we braved the ice to meet our friends, Betsy & Jon, at the museum to see the 20th century photography exhibit. After a leisurely stroll through the quiet galleries, we decided to refuel with some lunch at Duckfat. We spent Sunday evening cooking up a large batch of bourbon-soaked cherries, wrapping presents, and listening to our favorite Christmas carols.
We’ll still need to make some last-minute runs before Christmas, but it feels good to be in full swing for the holidays. We hope you’re all getting into that merry, festive spirit. Is anyone trying any fun new traditions or recipes this year?
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This year, we were invited to our first Obscure Holiday Cocktail Party, with other past and present Portland food bloggers. To say that it was a delightful evening of fun conversation, great cocktails, and delicious cheeses (paired by one of Maine’s two American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professionals) would be a complete understatement – we had an absolutely fantastic time!
Since we’re somewhat new to the create-your-own-cocktail game, Meredith and I did a little experimenting and settled on what we’re calling a Holiday Julep. Similar to our springtime staple mint julep, it’s two parts bourbon to 1 part simple syrup, shaken over ice. To add some holiday flair, we muddled some citrus with bourbon cherries, and opted for a thyme simple syrup over the usual mint or regular simple syrups. To garnish, we candied some lemon peel, added a few more bourbon cherries (because who wouldn’t want some more of those), and a sprig of thyme. I’m pretty proud of how it turned out, but after tasting some of the other cocktails at the party, I can’t wait to start experimenting for next year’s event.
2 oz. bourbon (Woodfood Reserve is our favorite for a julep)
1 oz. thyme simple syrup (we made the syrup used in this punch)
1 lemon slice
1 candied lemon peel
3 bourbon-soaked cherries
1 sprig of thyme
Muddle a lemon slice together with the simple syrup and two of the bourbon cherries in a cocktail shaker, add ice and bourbon. Shake and serve over ice. Garnish with a candied lemon peel, a cherry, and a sprig of thyme.
As an added bonus, we highly recommend the cheese that Shannon chose to pair our cocktail with – the Oma, a washed-rind, Tomme-style cheese. After sampling these cocktails with their masterful pairings, you can count that I’ll be seeking out Shannon’s advice the next time we’re at Whole Foods.
To see the other cocktail recipes and cheeses from the evening, Kate at The Blueberry Files posted an excellent write-up and our new friend, Vrylena, shared a cute drawing & recap of the evening on her blog as well – both worth checking out!
Also, in the spirit of delicious cocktails, we wanted to mention that Thrillist named The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club one of the 33 best bars in America. If you haven’t dropped by, we have it on good authority that their winter punch, a Swedish glögg, is a wonderful, warming winter cocktail!
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It’s definitely the holiday season – homes are decorated, presents are getting wrapped, TV specials are being queued up, and in Maine at least, we have quite a bit of snow on the ground. This year, we thought we’d share a few of our own favorite signs and traditions of the holidays. What are some of yours?
Michael: The James Taylor Christmas Album
Meredith: Ella (Fitzgerald) Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
Michael: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Meredith: Love Actually & Holiday Inn.
Michael: Every year for Christmas, my family gets together a few days before Christmas Eve to make pierogi, a tradition from my mother’s Polish side of the family. After an evening of rolling, boiling, and cooking, you really appreciate those pierogi on Christmas Eve.
Meredith: We make seafood for Christmas Eve, and the mussels from that meal are my favorite of the holiday.
Michael: Apple cider with a little bourbon.
Meredith: Egg nog!
Michael: Russian Tea Cookies or anything with icing on top.
Meredith: Spritz cookies.
Michael: There’s something so enjoyable about hunting for, finding, and cutting down your very own Christmas tree.
Meredith: Opening pajamas on Christmas Eve!
Meredith & Michael: After years of spending the Christmas holiday with our families in North Carolina, we were treated to a snowy first Christmas in Maine last year, which made the day that much more special.
Michael: Our new bottle brush polar bear ornament that reminds us of our favorite black bear, Orvis.
Meredith: The magnolia leaves we brought back from North Carolina on our mantel.
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As soon as our lovely friend, Li Ward, released the coffee table book she created with her business partner, Brittany Bang, I bought two copies – one for our own collection and one for a giveaway. If you haven’t already heard about it on blogs like Design*Sponge (!), the book, Rescue Pets of Boston, is beautifully executed and features the most charming photos of rescue animals throughout the city of Boston. Michael and I are longtime fans of Li’s vibrant pet imagery & whimsical calligraphy, so it’s especially exciting for us to own a copy of the book that combines our friend’s talents. Boston is a city near and dear to our hearts, which makes us even happier to share the book with Map & Menu readers. Plus, 100% of proceeds from the book will be donated to animal-related charities – incredible, right?
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Last weekend, we attended our first of the annual Obscure Holiday Cocktail Party with a number of other food bloggers and friends in town. We had a fantastic time sampling six deliciously creative cocktails, getting to know some of our fellow Portland bloggers, and celebrating the season. Meredith and I created a “Holiday Julep” that we hope to be sharing with you in the next couple of days.
Saturday, we kicked the day off with a Small Axe and Tandem breakfast, and then a little bit of shopping around town. We dropped in to see the well designed and selected gifts at More & Co.‘s shop, followed by the Black Parrot holiday pop-up shop, where a handful of mid-coast vendors gathered to talk about their goods, brands, and inspiration. Meredith picked up a beautiful bag from Farrell & Co. and we found a few new colorful ornaments for our tree from Where Do You Go To (WDYGT). Afterwards, we grabbed our first White Hot Chocolate of the season from Bard and dropped in on our favorite ladies at 2 Note Perfumery for some general merrymaking.
In preparation for Sunday’s big snowstorm, we made our favorite loaded baked potato soup and spent Sunday inside, sipping on eggnog and watching movies. Although we didn’t leave the house on Sunday, we had plenty of fun playing with Orvis in the yard, and are looking forward to some snowshoeing at some point this week!
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We’re very excited to share our second Holiday Gift Guide, once again inspired by the places we’ve visited over the past year. Each of the shops featured has an online store, which we highly recommend perusing. Of course, don’t forget to take a look at last year’s guide as well – we’re still strong supporters of those fantastic merchants.
I’m in love with the Bywater Stripe scarf I picked up at their New Orleans shop and I’d be hard pressed to find someone on my list who wouldn’t love a bright, cheerful Peskir. Michael thought the texture and color of the Weaver’s Delight fabric would make a great blanket or throw. Each of the organic, handwoven pieces is gorgeous and unique, and will undoubtedly last for years.
I’d be content to receive anything from this darling boutique. (Ahem, Michael.) I loved the Margaret Elizabeth earrings I bought on our trip so much, I came home and ordered another color. And who wouldn’t love this Brass Elephant Ring Bowl?
A good bottle of wine is, in my opinion, one of the very best gifts one can give, and pretty much any bottle from Scribe would fit the bill nicely. We’d recommend one of their Pinot Noirs or the uniquely tasty Skin Fermented Chardonnay.
I’m really hoping Santa remembers to include a few (or a few dozen) of the Black and Tan Caramels in my stocking. It’s a big statement to make, but of all the sweets we picked up while traveling this year (and when you’re with me, that’s plenty) the creamy chocolate-dipped salted caramels from Tout de Sweets that we stumbled upon on our trip to Vermont were the very best.
Michael’s hoping to find one of the Tamworth Lyceum mugs under the tree this year from our delightful day trip to New Hampshire. He’s had his eye on similarly-styled mugs for a while (with the granite splatter), but with this mug, would have a story to share with his coffee. Although any item in their selection would be great, the Hella Slignshots and the Otter Messer knife stand out as unique items for the “backwoods gentleman” on your list.
The coffee at Tandem is about more than just a caffeine high (although it’s a big plus). Michael and I have begun to view a restaurant stocking Tandem as a sign of an establishment that knows how to pay attention to the details, and any bean from their selection is practically guaranteed to help you begin to really appreciate the flavors inside your morning cup of joe. A perfect stocking stuffer, no?
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog you would, like us, jump for joy at the thought of receiving any gift from Shed, the cafe & market in Healdsburg, CA that had me considering a cross country move mere minutes after walking through the doors. Bellocq Teas make for a lovely gift, but how awesome is the Mexican Olla De Barro for making frothy hot chocolate?
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Since our travel plans for Thanksgiving were cancelled due to the weather, Meredith and I found ourselves with an unexpected free weekend and thus, an opportunity for another Map & Menu day trip! So when the people at the Tamworth Lyceum reached out to us about visiting their shop, we did a little research about the store and the area, and felt that it would be the perfect fit for a Saturday drive. It’s rare that Meredith and I take a trip, however short, that doesn’t revolve around food in some way, but the opportunity to visit the Swift River with Orvis and get some holiday shopping done at the same time felt like the perfect way to spend the day.
The Tamworth Lyceum isn’t exactly what you’d expect to find in a small rural New England town like Tamworth. Its branding, aesthetic, and highly curated selection of foods and wares seem fit for a shop in Brooklyn, but after watching numerous people come filtering in to grab a coffee, running into friends, and staying to chat for awhile, you realize that it’s less about the products they carry and more about the community space they’ve created. Don’t get us wrong, the selection of American-made home goods, outdoor gear, and specialty foods (many sourced locally) are more than worth the trip (as evidenced by the bags in our living room), it’s just that you could fit right in with nothing more than a cup of coffee and some time to kill.
Hemenway State Forest
The folks at the Lyceum recommended that we take Orvis to the fire tower on Great Hill for a short hike with an awesome vista reward. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the trail to the fire tower and the Big Pine Natural Area that we had already planned to visit are simply two halves of the same park – Hemenway State Forest. If you just want to visit the fire tower and take in its breathtaking panoramic views of the region (the tower itself is open to the public), park on the west side of the forest at the intersection of Great Hill and Hemenway Roads, and make the short trip up the backroad to the tower. Although the views from the tower are hard to beat, the grandeur and power of the Swift River and gigantic white pines on the other side of the park offer another spectacular setting. It’s hard to believe that both are just minutes apart, and even in winter, both delivered amazing natural beauty and have us wanting to return again once the weather gets warmer.
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