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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Unfortunately, the weather last week foiled our plans to travel to North Carolina for Thanksgiving with our families, but with a few last minute adjustments and preparations, we were able to celebrate a wonderful holiday together, successfully filling out an unexpected weekend home.
Since we missed the chance to pre-order our usual Thanksgiving turkey from Whole Foods, Meredith and I read through some holiday issues of Food & Wine, Bon Appétit and Martha Stewart Living, and decided to try our hand at the New England Express punch, roasted acorn squash, carrots and greens with dilly bean vinaigrette, and rich and creamy mashed potatoes.We made our turkey from scratch, and after a brunch with good friends, we spent the day cooking, dancing, drinking, and eating – just the way every Thanksgiving should be spent! We even finished the day off with Meredith’s oh-so-delicious apple crisp, thanks to this recipe from Martha.
On Saturday, we took a day trip to New Hampshire (more to come), where we did some shopping and hiking with Orvis, and on Sunday we braved the rain to make a trip to our local Christmas tree farm to partake in one of my favorite new holiday traditions. After we dried our tree out, we decorated our home for the holidays, aided by some holiday tunes from James Taylor, Ella Fitzgerald, and Elvis Presley. Afterward, we cozied up on the couch under the tree and watched Meredith’s favorite holiday movie – Love Actually.
It’s crazy to think that last week our plans for the holiday and weekend were completely different than how they played out, but after a weekend of laughter, adventure, good food, and good company, it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend a few days away from work.
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Design*Sponge shared a roundup of their favorite winter city guides, including two of our favorite winter towns in the west, Aspen & Jackson Hole. While Burlington is on the list, we think Stowe would make a perfect addition. Read more about last year’s trip to Stowe with Orvis here.
In an attempt to inspire people to “celebrate the stuff [they] already own,” Patagonia has launched their Worn Wear campaign today, highlighting the quality of their clothing and the stories those clothes tell. If you have a chance over the holiday weekend, give the Worn Wear film a watch – it’s definitely worthwhile, especially on a weekend largely devoted to buying new things.
We think these bacon chocolate snacks from Jennifer Chong are pretty brilliant.
I was already planning on including these photos from Loch Creran, Scotland by Vanessa Jackman in today’s Weekend Reads, but seeing the black lab mid-way through the post sealed the deal. Seriously, how amazing does Scotland’s Argyll county look?
Another one of my favorite photographers, Jen Huang, recently shared the photographs she took from her honeymoon in Ireland. Breathtaking.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend, friends! We hope you’re still eating lots of delicious food and taking it easy with the people you love.Leave a comment
Last week, the first shipment (of hopefully many many more) from the Scribe Viticultural Society arrived. Scribe was one of our favorite wineries from our recent trip to Sonoma, and although we had other bottles shipped home, the Viticultural Society was the only ‘wine club’ we joined. We loved Scribe for its setting, its story, and of course, its wine, and since it’s impossible to find their wines anywhere near home, we jumped at the opportunity to have six of their pinots, cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays, and limited production bottlings shipped quarterly to our front door. Another perk of the Viticultural Society are the pick-up parties they throw, where members are invited to the winery to enjoy an evening of food, fun, and libation (check out this cool video from a past pick-up party). Meredith has been daydreaming about a return trip out to California for one of these parties, so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we share some more Scribe pictures.
Since the weather this week has canceled our travel plans for Thanksgiving, we’re looking forward to popping open our first Scribe bottle tomorrow. Surely it will be a hit.
We hope you have a wonderful holiday with plenty of good food and drink! If you have any suggestions for your own favorite Thanksgiving bottles, we’d love to hear them.
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Orvis & I were left to our own devices this weekend while Michael was in London for a work trip. Despite missing him a great deal, we managed to have quite a fun little weekend. It started off with a cozy Friday night dinner at Petite Jacqueline with my friend, Betsy, followed by a fantastic hike in Robinson Woods the next morning with our pal, Julia. I used Saturday afternoon to get a jump on my holiday shopping, purchasing gifts for family members from three of my favorite stores in the Old Port – Folly 101, 2 Note Perfumery, and Blanche & Mimi. Later that afternoon I put our eucalyptus branches to good work, sprucing up various parts of the house, including the mantel of our newly wallpapered fireplace.
Although I considered not running Sunday’s Turkey Trot when I woke up and saw that it was five degrees with the wind chill, I’m so glad I didn’t listen to myself – it was easily one of the chillier runs I’ve ever experienced, but nothing compares to the high of finishing any type of race. Plus, I used the run as an excuse to indulge in my new favorite winter lunch – tomato cognac soup from Aurora Provisions with bits of toasted bread and globs of pimiento cheese from Scratch Baking Co. So good.
We’re off to pick up Michael from the airport soon – have a wonderful week, friends!
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