The Weekly Whisk - 11/15/22

Musings from a foodie…

The Benefits Of A Proper Diet – The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported on a study revealing – to no surprise from the medical types – that there are a lot of health benefits that accrue to those individuals who cut back on highly processed foods (e.g. foods with lots of sugar, salt, and additives…AND, more importantly, if you replace these foods with fruits, vegetables, seafood, whole grains, beans and nuts – life was better and longer. Specifically, those who consumed the more nutritious diets were 14% less likely to die of any cause compared to those who consumed the less nutritious diets. So, the adage – that I am reminded of every day by my constant companion – “six cups of fruits and vegetables a day” – holds true. By the way, the study included about 74,000 people who were followed for over two decades. Data doesn’t lie…

Now, Back To The Best Places For Eating – We had some visitors to Maine recently who were checking out college programs for their son in Maine up near Portland. We decided to meet them half-way in Kennebunkport at a place we’d not visited since before the pandemicOcean Restaurant [ * * * * * ]. It’s a delightful bistro that overlooks the Bush Compound at Cape Arundel. We ran into George H.W. and Barbara several times in the past when they stayed at the compound. Barbara was always focused on friends or family and George was always waving and saying “Hi” to all of the patrons. But, beyond the Bushes – the view is an extraordinary view of coastal Maine. In fact, arriving early is a must so that you can sit on the veranda, watch the ocean and take in the quiet peacefulness of the evolving Maine evening.

Regardless, we thought that after the long pandemic it was time to again check out how Chef Peter Rudolph is doing. The menu changes regularly and is offered as a “Tasting Menu” inclusive of three choices: “First”, “Main”; and, “Dessert”. On the night we visited, it started with a Baba Ghanoush and a side of Israeli couscous with light salsa. The Main was a dish of Scallop-Shrimp-Lobster seafood in a celery root puree and a dab of tomato sorbet. It was incredibly tasty. We then had a choice of dessert so we each went with something different. My dinner buddy had a Tropical Dream salad of various fruits with a cream dressing and I had the Milk chocolate with salted caramel – traditional but wonderful nonetheless. BTW – a little chocolate on the six cups of fruits and vegetables is allowed 😊…

Both the view and food make this one of the obligatory stops if you happen to be in Maine. Chef Peter is continuing the traditions and adapting to the new realities of dining out. I’m going to head there again for one of those special occasions and, you should too… Check it out: 208 Ocean Ave, Kennebunkport, ME 04046 – 207-967-4015.

The Weekly Whisk - 10/17/22

Musings from a foodie…

My usual approach to The Weekly Whisk is to provide you with a review of my favorite restaurant of the past couple of weeks. When I was traveling all the time that was a good approach. However, COVID-19 changed things a bit – even on the culinary front. This time, I wanted to regale you with two of my favorite – incredibly simple – recipes that I’ve used in the last week to local acclaim. They are both seafood related but wonderful additions to your culinary considerations and, simple, Simple. SIMPLE.

First up are Sauteed Scallops [ * * * * * ] – uh, uh good! In a flat sauté pan, add ¼ cup of olive oil and ½ stick of butter. Turn to low heat to melt the butter. Once melted, turn the heat to medium high for several minutes. When the butter starts to bubble, place the scallops individually into the oil-butter mixture. Heat the scallops for 4 minutes. They will brown on the downward side. Flip them at 4 minutes and cook for an additional minute. Serve immediately!! And, of course, enjoy. BTW – have the rest of your dinner items ready to serve… That’s it and it’s that simple…

Second up is just as simple = Sauteed Shrimp [ * * * * * ]. Dust your peeled shrimp with Martha White’s Corn Meal (Fine Grind – made in Jackson, TN). It may be difficult to find for the Northerners in the crowd. I’ve not tried other brands but anticipate that any “fine grind” corn meal will work. Now, “dusting” means just that!! Don’t get the shrimp too covered otherwise the taste will be overwhelmed with the cornmeal. Melt a stick of butter (no olive oil needed for this one). Place the butter on medium high and when the butter bubbles, cook the shrimp 4 minutes on each side. Then, serve immediately. Don’t forget to have all of the other dinner items ready to serve. Again, very simple, Simple, SIMPLE!! Forego all of the sauces. The shrimp will be tasty just the way they are…

The Weekly Whisk - 9/20/22

Musings from a foodie…

As many of my readers know, I’ve been traveling across the USA for the last two (yes, 2) months in a 24 foot recreational vehicle (RV) touring the Upper Midwest as we visit old friends and colleagues. It’s been a wonderful experience – one that makes you stop and thinking about how and what you spend your time on? Whether or not you’re still making a difference in your chosen field? Why you went the directions you did? Did they all work out? If not, why and what could you have done differently? And, if you had it to do all over again – would you approach life the way it has come about for you, your family, your friends, your colleagues and those in the world for whom you have a care instilled in your soul…

It has been a trip of a lifetime – not to some exotic area but to all of the places where I lived, grew up and became what I am today. It’s been quite a journey – and, it’s not over yet. There is more to do!! But, in the meantime, let’s get back to food or, one of my favorite topics. As we crisscrossed the Upper States, the number of front door & back door restaurants we’ve experienced have been many. Here are just a few of my favorites from the last couple of weeks.

  • Cows & Co. – [ * * * * * * ] This farmstead is located in central North Dakota just east of Bismarck, the state capitol. It was started by a nurse five years ago as a “part-time project”. When asked, Why? She told me that her parents were from The Netherlands and moved to the USA when she was five years old. Growing up on the farm, their family regretted the lack of good quality and available gelato as well as gouda cheese – two products that almost always rate a “superior” on any taste testing. So, she set about with her Dad’s set of cattle to create the tasty gelatos and wonderful gouda cheese that have come to serve as a central feature of Cows & Co. The gelatos (on the date of our visit) featured 20-some different flavors (Blueberry, Chocolate with dark chocolate chips, and Cherry are my favorites) AND, gouda cheese in four different aged categories ranging from young, medium, aged on to ultra-aged. We purchased one from each category and the gouda cheeses did not make it out of North Dakota. The gelatos made it to South Dakota but we had purchased five different flavors. BTW – the owner is a nurse and up until this year was working full- or part-time at area hospitals and clinics. Due to the success of Cows & Co., however, she’s set aside her health care career and is now focused solely on the products. Finally, they still do not have a delivery service in place. However, when we spoke with her about the need for such capability she indicated her awareness and intends to make it a higher priority in the coming months. So, check ‘em out!! It’s some of the best Gouda cheese this side of the Atlantic and the gelatos make going to bed a lot easier… BTW – I’m giving Cows & Co a “six star” rating because of the entrepreneurial spirit of the young woman who started the company BUT ALSO for the taste of their gouda = the best I’ve ever had!!
  • State Game Lodge – [ * * * * ] If you’re interested in a more exotic menu with an upscale thrust AND you happen to be out in South Dakota for a visit to “The Faces” or “The Crazy Horse Monument”, you definitely will want to check the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park. We did a bit of sharing at this one and it was an ooh la la experience. I started with a Caesar Salad and aged parm and crispy truffles. It was the type of salad that prepares one for the next step! I followed that order with the Elk Osso Bucco which I was a bit reluctant to consider at first since elk has a meaty taste different that most other primes. But, it was cooked to perfection with a traditional Osso Bucco sauce. It was accompanied by an even better dish, the Buffalo ravioli. The ravioli were cooked and the accompanying truffle cream sauce were perfect additions. To meet my quote of “6 cups of fruits and vegetables” a day quota which has been mandated by Suzanne, I also ordered sauteed spinach with cranberry and pecans (Darn, I missed the quota that day 😊). She order the Buffalo Tenderloin which was fabulous and cooked to perfection as a “medium-rare” along with a bevy of mixed sliced vegetables and a mushroom risotto side dish. All-in-all, it was a wonderful meal outside the traditions of the Midwest norm. It you get to SoDak and are touring out west – you will definitely want to consider a stop at the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park.

The Weekly Whisk - 8/1/22

Musings from a foodie…

Tips From The Experts For Starters – Since beginning my two month mobile trip across the Upper Midwest with Suzanne, Toto and Lole it’s become clear that my culinary experiences will be “mooching” off of friends than eating out. So, I’m going to shift a bit for the most popular portion of my blog – “The Weekly Whisk” and discuss food but also other culinary findings. For starters, the James Beard Foundation recently announced their picks recently announced their picks for the 2022 James Beard Awards. Make sure you check out the listing of awards as it will serve as a guide for any culinary experiences you may want to encounter as you travel throughout the USA this coming Fall. For starters, the 2022 “Top Restaurant” of the year is Chai Pani, [* * * * * *] based in Asheville, NC. The dining experience based on everything I’ve read is outstanding along with the Indian culinary experience. I can’t wait to visit – which will be down the road. BTW – the wait list is long so if you’re headed to Asheville, plan ahead! And, the “Best New Restaurant” is Owamni in Minneapolis, MN. The approach of the restaurant is to offer up indigenous bird, fish and game culinary delights accompanied by indigenous plants, farm varieties and local produce. It’s a very unique menu that especially calls out the traditional foods of Native Americans from the Upper Midwest. I can’t wait to travel to Minneapolis and check it out.  

Moochdocking and More – As noted, we’re on a mobile trip across the Upper Midwest visiting friends, family and local sites. Due to my culinary interests, everyone that we are visiting seems to be pulling out all of the stops for meals. I’m coming up with some great ideas for home cookin’. Our friends and family are really going all out. I’ll be posting recipes and so far, they’ve all been exceptionally good [* * * * and * * * * *] quality. The only problem is that most of the meals were prepared by friends and unavailable to culinary explorers. That’s why I’m attempting to post as many recipes as possible. Enjoy!! Here’s a brief overview of the culinary delights so far:

Day 1:                   Shrimp & Feta / Caesar Salad / Peach Tart

Day 2:                   Breakfast was an absolute delight with one of my favorite Greek dishes, Spanakopita. It was accompanied by Fruit Salad and an assortment of breakfast offerings. For dinner we had a traditional steak on the grill. It was accompanied by plain rice and a special Grilled Butternut Squash glazed with maple syrup. We finished off the evening with a Blueberry Cobbler made with Michigan Blues!

Day 3:                   The next morning we went to the Old School Café [* * * * *] and it was a fabulous bistro!!. They offered up a Salmon Benedict for me that was absolutely fabulous primarily because of the care given to the Hollandaise Sauce. However, the piece de resistance was their fresh Cinnamon Rolls. Oy Vey!! They were the best one’s I’ve had since the days of Grandma. I’d go back there in a micro-minute if I were in the area = Naples, New York – and, as we visit our friends again – I’ll make sure we stop in.

Day 4:                   We were on the road and took advantage of our stop-over to microwave some leftovers. A repeat of the Spanakopita (from breakfast) and Butternut Squash (from dinner) provided a great way to start the day…

Day 5:                   One of my weaknesses from my days in North Dakota is fresh Northern Pike Whitefish. My mentor and his Sous Chef remembered and prepared an absolutely wonderful Roasted Whitefish with Lemon, Sesame and Breadcrumbs dusted with Oregano and Thyme. The recipe calls for Za’tar as an alternative. It was completed with a Lemon Zest and accompanied by Salad & a Baked Potato. The best of the best was left to last where our friends had purchased a fresh Cherry Pie from the local market made with seasonal Michigan Cherries. I haven’t had pie like that since my days with Grandma who always based a fresh Apple and Cherry pie when we visited their home in Nebraska. These cherries were sweeter than anything Grandma ever had but – that’s those Michigan Cherries!! They are special

Day 6:                   We had a mixed Mushroom Lasagna, Salad and Fresh Corn on the Cob – my favorite vegetable with only butter and salt. They made extra corn just for me and my appetite!! Then, following dinner we had a delightful Biscuit Tortoni, an Italian dessert made with Ice Cream, almonds, Amaretto liqueur. If you go to the site above, you’ll find the recipe. My friends even made a second one to “share”. Boy – this Moochdocking thing is quite wonderful…

I’ll continue to monitor the culinary pleasures of moochdocking and, if I find any culinary specialties and/or restaurants you should check out while traveling the Upper Midwest – I’ll report them out. My hope is that all of my readers are having a good summer…that you’re all fully vaccinated and scheduling your boosters 😊…that Russia will finally go home…that we can get back to making health care better, more equitable and more affordable for people throughout the USA – as well as the world! Enjoy the waning days of summer…

The Weekly Whisk - 7/6/22

Musings from a foodie…

Comparison Shopping on The Foodie Front – This past week presented a unique opportunity for our household. Since my wife – Suzanne – was retiring, we decided to celebrate with some friends at two stellar restaurants that we’ve visited in the past on consecutive evenings. The back-to-back dinners allowed us the opportunity to do a bit of comparison shopping on the foodie front. The only issue is that these dinners will require a visit to Southern New Hampshire and Maine. First up was Otis Restaurant [******] a small bistro located in Exeter, New Hampshire. I originally met the Chef, Lee Frank, when he worked with Jason Canty – the owner of Anneke Jans – in my hometown of Kittery, Maine. Just before the pandemic hit, he was extended the opportunity to open his new place and use his 20+ years of experience. We were lucky enough to get reservations at the Chef’s Table (which I highly recommend) so that we could observe all of the prep and serving in real time. The process is a five-course menu with two fixed options for each course. When I say “fixed”, they are very accommodating to the dietary needs of their customers. For example, we had a gluten-free member in our party and they were able to offer the entire menu under those constraints. Each night, they offer up a variety of OUTSTANDING preparations. In fact, while I know I’ve been a bit constrained in my culinary exploits due to the pandemic, I will submit to my readers that Otis Restaurant is the BEST restaurant I’ve experienced in the last 4+ years. If you get to this neighborhood – for either the summer or the fall foliage months – make it a plan to stop by Otis Restaurant. Tell ‘em “Kevin sent me” and maybe they’ll give an extra dollop of something. 

The next night we visited the White Barn Inn [*****] which is always at the top of every culinary explorer’s list of places to visit in New England. It was as good as always!! I have no complaints. The preps on all of the portions were wonderful. The seafood was cooked to perfection. The service was outstanding but…but…but…it was no match (in my estimation) for Otis Restaurant. Perhaps it was the presentation along with the food prep that pushed me over the edge – along with our friends – in support of Otis Restaurant as the better of the two options. Nevertheless, the back-to-back comparison of these two outstanding restaurants provided a unique view into culinary excellence. Use the above hyperlinks for locations and contact information.

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