El Molino

We were pleased to see a few of our favorite restaurants and food professionals featured on this year’s Find. Eat. Drink. Fifty. Maine’s own Piccolo was selected by Portland Hunt & Alpine Club owner, Andrew Volk and two of our favorite Durham restaurants, Mateo Tapas & Nanataco, are listed as well. Memorable restaurants from 2013 trips, El Molino Central (pictured above) in Sononma and Peche in New Orleans also made the cut. You can bet we’ll be consulting this list for future outings in the coming year, the Find. Eat. Drink. app is already one of our go-to apps while planning our trips.

Our friend, Graham, shared photos of his recent family vacation to Bald Head Island, located off the southern coast of North Carolina. BHI is an incredibly special place to Michael and I – a place we visited together often when we were living in Chapel Hill. Graham’s images perfectly convey the beauty of the island, even in winter.

We finalized some of the details for next month’s trip to Charleston and began mapping out the restaurants we’re hoping to try in three days. Our list is rather long (go figure) but I found this particular Charleston city guide from Helen Rice on Ann Street Studio to be pleasantly helpful. And just yesterday Ann Street Studio posted photos from the hotel where we’re staying, Zero George. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this getaway.

I was happy to see the folks at New England Outwear Co. featured on Tomboy Style this week. I had the chance to speak with them at the American Field Pop-Up in Boston this year and was quite impressed with their craftsmanship.

You’ll find the Mr. C Hotel in Beverly Hills on our rotating list of ‘hopeful reservations’ in the sidebar, thanks to this post from dustjacket attic, featuring the photographs of one of my favorite interior photographers, Patrick Cline.

Photo taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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Salvage BBQ
Salvage BBQ Tray

The food scene in Portland outdid itself once again last year with plenty of new openings and the continued excellence of many of the city’s existing establishments. And while we tried our best to continue eating our way through town, keeping up proved to be a very tough undertaking. It’d be almost impossible to list all of our favorites, but from our meals of the past year, here are a few of the memorable ones that stood out to the two of us.

Cocktails

Michael & Meredith: There’s no question that our favorite place for drinks this year was Hunt & Alpine. Between Meredith’s standby, the White Noise, and mine, the Chilton County and the Toronto, I don’t know that you could find many better drinks – anywhere.

Appetizer

Michael: More than one person insisted we try the melanzane – roasted eggplant, sicilian oregano, and smoked ricotta – at Piccolo. If you are one of those people, thank you, it was every bit as good as you promised.
Meredith: Whitney, a reader who commented on our Portland in 10 Bites post, became our new favorite person this summer when she suggested we try the hamayaki from Pai Men Miyake. The decadent crab & scallop dish quickly became a favorite of ours, too!

Entree

Michael: The salmon I ordered early this year at Bar Lola was hands-down the best dish I had all year. It’s easy to mess salmon up by trying to get fancy and forgetting the basics, but this fillet was simple, fresh, and seared to perfection.
Meredith: The pan-seared hake on black rice with carrots in a lemon butter sauce at The Well takes the cake for me!

Dessert

Michael: If you’ve talked to me at all about desserts in the past few months, you already know my answer to this one. The Wine & Cheese from Piccolo was one of the more creative and delicious sweets I’ve ever enjoyed, and I just can’t stop raving about it.
Meredith: One should always make room for a Duckfat milkshake! On a recent visit, the couple we were dining with started with one, and I think I might make that my own tradition.

Breakfast

Michael: When I want to start my day with an indulgence, I head over to Little Bigs, where I can’t stop myself from ordering half a dozen more donuts than I should be able to eat – and then I prove myself wrong, eating every last one.
Meredith: We count ourselves among the lucky Willard Beach residents who can smell the sweetness of Scratch Baking Co. right from our home. The croissants, bagels, almond cookies, scones, muffins – when you live across the street from a bakery, there’s not much you haven’t tried – are all on our regular rotation of morning treats.

Brunch

Michael: This one is a fun selection because of how unusual it is (especially for a brunch traditionalist like myself). The Okono Miyake at Pai Men Miyake is a pancake on savory steroids – pork, cabbage, scallions, and fried egg come together to make any buttermilk fan rethink their stance.
Meredith: We were so totally committed to the Southern-inspired brunch that Small Axe served one Saturday morning, that we happily sat right out in the rain while cleaning our plates. The succotash grits made me feel as though I was back down South!

Dining with Orvis

Michael & Meredith: There are few things that make us happier than enjoying a good meal with our buddy, and sitting outside with him at The Well is possibly one of the best examples of this. Not only is there plenty of space for him to settle down, the staff loves to see him, and as I’m sure you’ll read elsewhere in this post, the meals are fantastic.

Lunch

Michael: Salvage BBQ serves heaping portions of delicious Carolina pulled pork, brisket, collard greens, hushpuppies, and Cheerwine. I’ll leave it at that.
Meredith: During our first visit to Empire the kitchen unfortunately ran out of the spinach dumplings, but we had it on good authority that they were the best of the dim sum dumplings, so we were determined to try them on our next outing. As predicted, the spinach dumplings moved to the tip top of my list of Empire favorites the moment I took my first bite.

Late Night

Michael & Meredith: When you’re looking for a late night bite, it’s hard to pass-up on a gourmet hot dog, tater tots, and brussels sprouts from Blue Rooster Food Co. In fact, the only part of that equation that isn’t a must is the late night – Blue Rooster is always delicious.

Food Truck Meal

Michael: Meredith and I built a Saturday morning tradition around Small Axe Truck bowls and Tandem Coffee, but in my book, no matter the meal, Small Axe can do no wrong.
Meredith: Applewood smoked bacon, maple mayo, green apples, and cheddar. Really, what more is there to say about the amazing Mainah Burger from Mainely Burgers?

Decor

Michael: The open space, natural light, and details like the hanging succulents make Empire Chinese Kitchen one of the more interesting new spaces in town. As soon as I walk through the door, I feel at ease in a place where I could stay awhile.
Meredith: Andrew & Briana Volk have done an outstanding job designing the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club. A clean, modern interior with dark wood accents, Eames furnishings, and details like the stamped leather drink menus and the map-printed house menus & coasters make their space on Market Street one of the best looking spots in Portland.

Experience

Michael: For my birthday this year, Meredith took me to Eventide for cocktails and oysters. The evening was an unforgettable one, filled with great food, drinks, and laughs.
Meredith: Having a meal at The Well is a special experience. You’re eating exceptional food in a unpretentious setting at a picnic table on a farm. While drinking a favorite bottle of wine (from your own collection), you can watch the colors change in the dusk sky, and have a delightful conversation with other friendly patrons. There’s nothing else like it.

Overall Meal

Michael: This is a bittersweet category, because when I think of my favorite meal, start to finish, from this past year, our dinner at the now-closed Bar Lola immediately comes to mind. Each course, from the pimiento cheese, to the seared salmon, to the almond tart was simply unbelievable.
Meredith: I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but until you’ve tried a meal at The Well, you’re missing out. We’ve never had a dish we didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and for not being a bakery, their bread is easily some of the best in town.

Sometimes with Portland food, it feels like a list like this can only begin scratch the surface. If you’re looking for more of our Portland favorites, we still stand by last year’s Best of 2012, and of course don’t hesitate to check out our favorite 10 dishes in Portland, Maine or our top 10 Portland brunches!

Also, a big thanks to our readers that made suggestions on posts, twitter, and facebook this year – a number of those restaurants and dishes (both in and out of Portland) found their way onto our radar, and quite a few became our favorites! If you have any suggestions for places we should visit or dishes we should try for this coming year, please leave a comment for us below!

Portland Hunt and Alpine Chilton County Cocktail
Portland Hunt and Alpine Chilton County Cocktail
Portland Hunt and Alpine White Noise
Portland Hunt and Alpine White Noise
Piccolo
Piccolo Melanzane
Pai Men Miyake
Pai Men Miyake Hamayaki
Bar Lola Salmon
Bar Lola Seared Salmon
The Well at Jordan Farm
The Well at Jordan Farm Seared Hake
Piccolo Portland Maine Dessert
Piccolo Wine and Cheese
Duckfat Milkshake
Duckfat Milkshake
Little Bigs
Little Bigs Doughnuts and Hand Pies
Small Axe Brunch
Small Axe Lowcountry Brunch
Pai Men Miyake Brunch
Pai Men Miyake Okono Miyake
Dog Friendly Portland Maine
The Well at Jordan Farm with Orvis
Cheerwine
Cheerwine at Salvage BBQ
Empire Chinese Kitchen Lobster Dumplings
Empire Chinese Kitchen Dumplings
Blue Rooster
Blue Rooster Food Co. Hot Dogs
Small Axe Food Truck Lunch
Small Axe Food Truck Lunch
Mainely Burgers Food Truck
Mainely Burgers Food Truck
Empire Chinese Kitchen
Empire Chinese Kitchen
Hunt & Alpine Club
Portland Hunt & Alpine Club
Portland Hunt and Alpine Club Menu
Portland Hunt and Alpine Club Menu
The Well at Jordan Farm
The Well at Jordan Farm
Eventide Oysters
Eventide Oysters
Bar-Lola-Corn-Cakes
Bar Lola Pimiento Cheese and Corn Cakes
Bar-Lola-Quail
Bar Lola Quail
The Well at Jordan Farm
The Well at Jordan Farm Butternut Squash Risotto
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SoLo Farm and Table

Seeing that we’ve shared a number of memorable meals over the past year, we decided to break up our favorites of 2013 with those we ate while traveling and those we ate at home in our own hometown of Portland, Maine. While it’s nearly impossible for us to select just one dish or dining experience per category, we managed to create the following list of the best food (and drinks!) from our travels we had in 2013. Hopefully the selections below will come in handy when planning your own upcoming culinary adventures!

Cocktails

Michael: It’s pretty hard to beat America’s oldest cocktail from a bar named after the drink, in its own hometown. Having a Sazerac at the the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans seemed to be about as authentic as one can get.
Meredith: Our friends Samantha & Graham surprised us by calling ahead and purchasing our drinks for my birthday at Lantern in Chapel Hill. The Junebug I ordered was not only a delicious Pimm’s cocktail, it was one of the more meaningful drinks I enjoyed all year long.

Appetizer

Michael: The Lousiana crab with heirloom rice at Coquette turned out to be one of my favorite dishes from our entire trip to New Orleans. Simple ingredients with powerful flavor put Coquette at the top of our dinner list for any return trip to the area.
Meredith: Eating heirloom salads during the height of summer is one of our favorite patio pastimes, but doing it with the style, creativity, and flavor that SoLo Farm & Table adds to the equation made me forget the comfort of our own backyard and savor every bite.

Entrée

Michael: While planning this list, it surprised me how quickly the traditional assortment of nigiri and one tekka roll from Rockland’s Suzuki Sushi came to mind. We enjoyed a number of fantastic meals this year, but sushi from Suzuki was wonderfully fresh and perfectly prepared – opening my eyes to a while new level of sushi addiction.
Meredith: Not only was the raw yellowfin tuna on sticky rice with avocado and pickled jalapeno I had at Barndiva my favorite entrée of the year, it was easily the best dish I ate all year long. Quite a statement given the list of places we visited, but absolutely true!

Dessert

Michael: This was a toss-up between two dishes from the same lake-side location. My apple cranberry pie and the sizable portion of Meredith’s almond and berry boo cake (that I commandeered for the betterment of Map & Menu) from Bresca and the Honey Bee were two of the tastier sweets from our non-Portland travels this year.
Meredith: We stopped by The Blue Pig twice in three days – once on our way into New York City and once on our way home to Maine. The creative homemade flavors of ice cream served inside this whimsical blue cottage were a memorable discovery for the two of us!

Brunch

Michael: Eating pancakes and doughnuts like a local at Camden’s Boynton-McKay harks back to a small-town simpler time that anyone in their right mind could easily get used to.
Meredith: A meal at Peels has become somewhat of a regular thing for us when we’re in New York and I couldn’t be happier about this little unintentional tradition of ours. During our most recent trip I sampled the shrimp & grits for brunch – another delicious dish at the southern-inspired favorite.

Lunch

Michael: Durham sure has changed in the 5 years since we graduated from school in the area, and nowhere is that more evident than Mateo Tapas downtown. I can’t imagine that you could go wrong with any item on the menu, but a lunch of tapas including the huevo diablo spanish deviled egg was a pretty excellent meal.
Meredith: I liken our lunch experience at Barndiva to our meal at Le Jardin du Quai in Provence – there’s something so luxurious about enjoying a leisurely lunch outdoors while traveling.

Bakery

Michael & Meredith: Meredith seemingly fell in love with the town of Healdsburg as soon as we drove into it, but my feelings weren’t a lock until after a tasty lunch at Shed followed by an awesome cupcake (or two) and some macarons from Moustache Baked Goods.

Off the Beaten Path

Michael: When Meredith suggested a walk along the Mississippi to breakfast, I don’t think either of us had the 2.5 mile trek in the hot New Orleans sun that it took to get to Elizabeth’s in mind. That being said, our breakfast was well-earned and delicious, and the food and quirky decor of Elizabeth’s is more than worth the visit – just take our advice and grab a cab.
Meredith: Driving in and out of Clifton, we kept passing by a darling ivy-clad little market at an intersection in the country. It immediately piqued our interest, and it wasn’t long before we stopped into the well-branded Salt Artisan Market to see what this market was all about. They had literally just opened the doors for business and we had the chance to talk to one of the owners quite a bit about her plans for the market’s future. Salt is a perfect place to grab a sandwich or salad to go, or pick up a cheese plate for a picnic on one of the many hiking trails.

Experience

Michael: On our final evening in Sonoma, Meredith and I grabbed a tasty pizza to-go from Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg and then headed to the overlook at Lake Sonoma for a picnic. Although it was a little windier than we anticipated (almost knocking us over a few times), the laughter-filled meal, gorgeous sunset, great pizza, and delicious wine easily made this my favorite meal of the year.
Meredith: Shed was so much more than a delicious lunch in an inspired setting – the people who work there seemed to genuinely love both what they do and the food they serve. I was impressed with everyone we came into contact with while there, and of course browsing the beautiful collection of specialty food items and kitchen wares after a tasty meal only added to the Shed experience.

Decor

Michael: Eating outside at Barndiva seemed like the perfect blend of California and a garden in Southern France. From a small café table under the arbor, we enjoyed a delicious meal in the perfect California climate.
Meredith: I fully expected to love everything about The Butcher’s Daughter before we even walked through the door, after seeing the branding of the juice bar & cafe all over Pinterest was what first put The Butcher’s Daughter on my radar. What’s not to love about a bright white interior accented by punchy colors and eclectic furnishings?

Overall Meal

Michael & Meredith: Driving almost an hour away from our hotel was an easy decision to make when the destination was South Londonderry’s SoLo Farm & Table. Pretty much the sole impetus for our entire overnight trip to Vermont, each course of our meal left a large smile on our faces. Fresh, local, seasonal, and prepared just-right, I think we’d both make the trip again in a heartbeat.

We’d love to hear some of your stand-out dishes or dining experiences from 2013 in the comments below. In the past, your suggestions have certainly steered us in the right direction while planning our own trips.

Lantern Chapel Hill

Sazerac Bar

Barndiva

Suzuki's-Sushi-Rockland-ME

Bresca and the honey bee

Bresca and the honey bee pie

Ice Cream at the Blue Pig

Lunch in Charlottesville

Boynton-McKay-Breakfast

Boynton-McKay-Camden-Maine

Peels Brunch

Mateo Tapas

Mateo Tapas Patatas Bravas

Moustache Baked Goods Healdsburg

Moustache Baked Goods

Elizabeths New Orleans

Lake Sonoma

Shed Healdsburg CA

Shed Healdsburg

The Canteen Provincetown

The Butcher's Daughter NY

The Butcher's Daughter

Butcher's Daughter

Salmon at SoLo Farm and Table

 

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The Salt House Inn Branding

I’ve been looking forward to sharing our Best of 2013 posts since we published the previous year’s last January! Here’s a glimpse as to what helped make 2013 such a memorable year of travel for the two of us. Thank you all for following along with these adventures of ours. We hope they come in handy when planning your own future trips.

Overall Aesthetic

Michael: I think that both Meredith and I would agree that Provincetown’s Salt House Inn was one of our favorite surprises of this past year. Every detail of the inn seemed to be carefully thought out, and there was hardly an inch of the property that didn’t adhere to it’s creative, yet minimal, cottage aesthetic.
Meredith: While I find myself increasingly drawn to modern design (see bathroom pick below), the classic country feel of the Bedford Post Inn with touches like its clawfoot tubs, exposed beams, vine-covered pergolas, & flagstone walls embodies nearly every aspect of my dream home.

Bathroom

Michael: The soaking clawfoot, room-sized walk-in shower, and heated marble floors at the Bedford Post Inn top my list. It’s no coincidence that Meredith is now coveting many of the same features for our own bathroom down the road.
Meredith: Maybe it’s because we live in such an old home, but I’m always fond of staying in hotels with super modern, minimal bathrooms – it feels so luxurious to me. The bathroom at h2hotel in Healdsburg fit the bill perfectly with clean lines, wooden accents, and subtle colors.

Toiletries

Michael & Meredith: More often than not, I forgo packing away the leftover toiletries from our travels, but there was hardly a second thought to scrounging up every last item of the Malin Goetz rum products at the Mondrian Soho in New York.

Dog-Friendly Experience

Michael & Meredith: Hands-down, our experience with Orvis at the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville was one of the highlights of our travels this year. After a long drive down from Maine, Orvis couldn’t wait to stretch his legs on the property’s wooded trails and take a quick dip in the lake. The staff seemed to genuinely love his presence, and staying in one of the cottages on the property dissuaded any fears of Orvis disrupting other guests (or possibly the other way around). The town of Charlottesville and its surrounding area was also pleasantly dog-friendly, with plenty to do for our entire family.

View/Location

Michael: A colonial estate, set on 100 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, during a springtime visit to Charlottesville made the Clifton Inn one of the more enjoyable settings from our travels this year.
Meredith: The expansive coastal views from the Ocean House are pretty tough to beat – even during a cold New England winter, the beach was stunningly beautiful.

Breakfast

Michael: I almost couldn’t believe it when Kevin, the innkeeper at the Salt House Inn, told us that the breakfast included in our stay was of his own creation. The spread could’ve easily rivaled any of the breakfast or brunch restaurants we visited this year, and items like the zucchini, tomato, basil, goat cheese, and onion frittata, the strawberry vanilla waffle trifle, or the bourbon caramel-glazed pineapple upside down cake almost singlehandedly convinced us to stay another night.
Meredith: Regrettably, there are times we drive right past the exit for Hotel Fauchère en route to North Carolina, but we’ve never once driven through Milford, Pennsylvania without daydreaming about the breakfasts at Hotel Fauchère. I emailed Michael a photo of the homemade yogurt when Orvis and I stayed there in May while he was in Italy, and believe it or not, he was the one.

Hotel Restaurant

Michael & Meredith: Although not the primary restaurant of the Ocean House, our back-to-back meals in the property’s cozy Winter Garden were two of our favorite meals of the year – hotel or no hotel. While all of our dishes were fantastic, the pièce de résistance was somewhat surprisingly the Caesar salad, a menu item that we’d typically overlook, but enjoyed so much that we’ve ordered more than our fair share since returning to Maine in hopes of finding one only half as delicious.

Amenity

Michael: We enjoyed the art at the Ocean House so much that we saw fit to git it its own post. Although it’s probably not a typical ‘amenity’, exploring each floor and the gallery downstairs was a delightful way to pass the time when the weather outside wouldn’t cooperate.
Meredith: Hotel bikes are some of the most fun perks of any hotel, and I particularly enjoyed exploring the town on two wheels with the bicycles from our hotels in Healdsburg.

Interaction with Hotel Staff

Michael: The staff at the Clifton Inn was delightfully welcoming and helpful. When we found ourselves looking for suggestions of different places to eat and things to do in town, they spent a considerable amount of time walking us through their own favorites. And as I mentioned above, they seemed to really take to Orvis (a lot easier said than done when you’re worried about what a 90lb. dog could do to your guestroom), and obviously one of the best ways to get on our good side is through our furry friend.
Meredith: From the time we arrived, through the correspondence we’ve shared with them after our visit, the innkeepers at the Salt House Inn were absolutely wonderful. One of my favorite memories from our short trip to Provincetown was when we ran into Kevin, one of the innkeepers, at the Canteen (his recommendation) while we were eating dinner. Another guest from the inn stopped by to chat with us as well – a true testament to Kevin’s infectiously warm & friendly personality (and great taste in food)!

Overall Experience

Michael: Our entire trip to Sonoma was one of the more memorable adventures we’ve taken together, and the two hotels where we stayed (from the same family), h2hotel and Hotel Healdsburg, greatly added to that experience. Set in downtown Healdsburg, they were the perfect jumping off points as we explored the town and the rest of wine country, and splendidly comfortable places to rest our weary wine-filled heads at night. The contrasting style and elegance that both properties offered were a delight, and I don’t know that any other hotels quite accented our travels from the year in the way that these two did.
Meredith: Every single aspect of our (all too short) stay at the Salt House Inn was truly fantastic. We found ourselves constantly impressed by Kevin & David’s attention to detail, which both minor and major, were certainly what made the inn stand out in my mind months after our summer visit.

Daydreaming about a future trip yet? Check out our 2012 Best of Hotels post for more travel inspiration, and if you’re planning a trip to Maine, don’t forget to take a peek at 10 of our favorite inns published in the Guardian this fall.

Ocean-House-Watch-Hill

Ocean-House-Watch-Hill-Powder-Room

Ludwig-Bemelmans

Ocean-House-Bathroom

Ocean-House-Watch-Hill-Winter-Garden

Clifton Inn

Tulips at Clifton Inn

Clifton Inn Dog Friendly

Clifton Inn Pool Charlottesville

Hotel Fauchere Dogs

Hotel Fauchere Breakfast

Hotel Fauchere Room

Bedford Post Inn New York

Bedford Post Inn

Bedford Post Inn Bathroom

Bedford Post

Salt House Inn Provincetown

The Salt House Inn

Room 3 at Salt House Inn

Mondrian Soho Bathroom

Mondrian Soho

Mondrian Soho NYC

H2 Hotel Healdsburg

H2 Hotel Bathroom

Hotel Healdsburg Pool

Hotel Healdsburg California

Hotel Healdsburg Bikes

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Marianmade Farm

We sure set the bar high for winter weekends during this first one of 2014 – it’ll be a tough one to beat! On Friday afternoon, after Thursday’s snowstorm, the fun began when we met one of my college roommates and her boyfriend for a long, laughter-filled lunch at Duckfat. Fantastic fries & fun friends are always a wanted distraction from the coldest of winter days.

The following morning, Michael and I packed our snowshoes, Orvis, and some snacks, and headed north to my family’s cottage in Wiscasset. We had two picture perfect days to snowshoe around the farm and even ventured out onto the beautiful, frozen Sheepscot River for the first time. Taking a break from the snowshoeing, we found that sipping milk punches, reading, and napping by the fire were every bit as enjoyable for us as our adventures in the snow.

Yesterday evening we decided to take advantage of our location and Primo‘s last dinner service until April, and enjoyed another fantastic meal at the renowned midcoast restaurant – this time at the walk-in counter. After a deliciously filling meal of brussels sprouts, meatballs, cassoulet, polenta with roasted vegetables, and a caramelized banana cream pie, we headed home to watch the Downton Abbey premiere by the fire – a delightful end to a delightful weekend. It’s back to work for now, but you can bet that this week will be filled with plenty of winter weather getaway day-dreaming!

Winter Sheepscot River Maine

Snowshoeing in Maine

Michael and Orvis

Sheepscot River

Marianmade Farm Wiscasset

Orvis at Marianmade Farm

Skookum Dog Collar

Frozen Sheepscot River Maine

Orvis's Shadow

Sheepscot River Wiscasset

Primo Rockland Maine

Caramelized Banana Cream Pie Primo

A Map & Menu Weekend, Dog Friendly, Life, , , , Permalink 10 Comments - Leave a comment

Lake Sonoma

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!

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Clementine Gin Cocktail

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!

Clementine Cocktail

Clementine Infused Gin

New Year's Eve Cocktail

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Buttermilk Ice Cream with Pretzels

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…

Clementine Gin

Empire Chinese Kitchen Dumplings

A Map & Menu Weekend, LifePermalink Leave a comment

Milk Punch

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?

Sonnys Portland

Bourbon Soaked Cherries  Duckfat

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Winter Julep Cocktail Recipe

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.

Holiday Julep

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!

Holiday Cocktails

Holiday Julep Cocktail Recipe

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