Food quote of note

"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience"…Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Great Outdoors Really Is Great!

So, I've been saying for a few years that I wanted to go camping....yes, you heard me right, in the outdoors with a tent and no electricity - that kind of camping.  I'd never been camping - so, it seemed like one of those things I needed to add to my repertoire.  After all - I like the outdoors!  I'm not really sure why (well, actually I am) but many of my friends were actually quite skeptical about the concept of me, a sleeping bag and the great outdoors - Oh Ye of Little Faith! 

Well, write it down - Hell has officially frozen over - and I, Crystal Leach, have camped!  As a matter of fact, I not only camped - I had a great time!  We went up to the mountains of North Carolina for a beautiful fall weekend at Montreat Campgrounds with our dear friends Susan and Lawrence - it was the perfect introduction to the wonderful world of camping. 

My best friend Susan with her husband Lawrence and son
Ladson - they are old pros at this camping thing, so they brought
most of the gear and, quite honestly, did alot of the work!

We had the perfect campsite - under a canopy of trees and right
beside a stream.  My husband Guy, of course, is right
at home in the Great Outdoors.

Here it is, our little home-away-from-home for the this really a 2-person tent?

I know - hard to believe - but, I did it!  This is me emerging from our tent on
Saturday morning - I even got a few hours of sleep on my
air mat and sleeping bag!

So - the great thing about being such a camping weenie, is that, quite frankly, I didn't really have to do a thing on this trip - everyone was so shocked that I actually made it camping that they cut me quite a bit of slack when it came to camping duties.  It worked out quite nicely for me - although I have this sinking feeling that I won't be so lucky on our next trip.  When I emerged from our tent that first morning, I was greeted by a roaring fire that my husband had made and the aroma of breakfast cooking on the Coleman Stove.   Susan and Lawrence have this camping thing down - they have all the equipement and a system for making all sorts of yummy camping cuisine. All that fresh air can sure make a girl hungry - and, lucky for me, the DuBose's were up and ready with a Cowboy Breakfast.

It appears my husband is quite good at making campfires - who knew?

Susan and Lawrence have mastered cooking in the great outdoors!

Ahhh...the smell of freshly pressed this is my kind of roughing it!

Our cooler was stocked with all of the camping necessities, including Diet Coke
and Pine Street Market Bacon!

YUM!! For some reason it just seems ok to eat a big-old-bunch of bacon when  you're camping...especially when it's been made in a cast-iron skillet.

After a leisurely and filling morning around the campfire, we headed into the nearby town of Black Mountain for the local Farmer's Market.  It was a gem of a market - filled with local artisans selling everything from flowers to goat's milk soap to cheese to eggplant.  I was especially thrilled to find some of the artisanal producers here at the market that I have encountered in some of Atlanta's food shops - especially the great folks at Looking Glass Creamery.  It was a beautiful morning - sun was shining and the leaves were just staring to turn - a great celebration of Fall in the North Carolina Mountains.  We strolled, sampled and bought some things to take back to our campsite.

We spent the afternoon enjoying the Great Outdoors - hiking just enough to enjoy the beautiful scenery but not enough to get really sweaty!

Susan opted out of the hike and took a nap in the hammock strung
between the trees - yes, I promise, she's in there!
We ended our day with a quiet evening around the campfire my
Nature Boy husband built for us.  Of course, marshmallows soon made an appearance.

On our second night we were awakened by this really loud sound - RAIN - yes, you heard me -- RAIN - pounding down on our little tent!! And, I'm not talking a little shower - I'm talking RAIN - loud, hard, and wet!  At first I was a little worried - but, thanks the magic of LL Bean, our tent held out the water and we made it through the night dry and warm.  While our campsite was a little wet in the morning, we were relatively unscathed by the rain and enjoyed our camping breakfast around the fire.   Hard to believe, but our camping weekend was over and it was time to pack up and head home.

So, I DID IT - I CAMPED - hard to believe, but it's true!  I know that much of the reason I had such an enjoyable time was that my husband and my camping sherpas, Susan and Lawrence, set me up for success.  All in all, it was a relaxing and enjoyable weekend - full of the beautiful sights and sounds of the North Carolina Mountains, shared with some of my favorite folks in the whole world - of course I had a great time!   

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Taste of Maine

We spent a long weekend in Maine not too long ago with our dear friend Mason - what a great time!  I love Maine - the trees, the water, the down-to-earth Mainers wearing their muddy LL Bean boots and flannel while they walk their dogs - and, of course - I love the FOOD!  Maine is a great place for a foodie - in addition to the amazing seafood you can also find a wide array of delicious fresh produce, artisinal meats and cheeses and any number of interesting eats.  We tried to get in as many outdoor activities as we could - but, when we weren't enjoying the beautiful Maine landscape, we were enjoying their delectable food.  Here's a quick slice of our most recent visit to Maine....

We started our weekend with a visit to the SabbathDay Lake Shaker Village - founded in 1783, this is an active community of Shakers and a working farm .  (I know, this seems like a very old folks kind of stop, but trust me, it was really very interesting!!)  Not only did we get to tour the Shaker Village and learn about this very interesting slice of American history, we bought apples from the Shaker orchard and actually pressed our own cider!  It was a VERY MAINE experience!

Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to Maine without a Lobster Dinner.  Each year we go to the Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster Company for the freshest of lobster.  It sits right on the dock  in South Freeport and, like most of Maine and its' inhabitants, Harraseeket is a very unassuming and functional place - nothing fancy - just fresh lobster pulled right out of the water and cooked when you order it.  It's a little messy - but, oh so good!! 

And - talk about a real New England experience - we spent our Saturday night at a Barn Dance!  Had a great time at the Wolf's Neck Farm Harvest Dance - lots of boots, plaid, good music, bales of hay and a great campfire! 

The next day we headed up the Coast from Freeport, stopping at some lovely, quintessential Maine towns - Brunswick, Bath, Camden, Wiscasset.  The day was slightly overcast, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the charming towns, beautiful coastline and, of course, some great seafood for lunch.

One of our favorite stops was Beth's Farm Market, in Warren Maine.  We had been to Beth's on a previous visit and knew we had to stop there again - a true farm stand with an amazing collection of Maine's harvest as well as some homemade treats like jams and jellies, apple cider, cheddar cheese, and apple crisp.  A little rain didn't keep us from enjoying all of the shapes, sizes and colors of  Maine's fall bounty - I wanted to take one of everything home with me in my suitcase!   

The next day we headed North to drive what is considered one of Maine's best Leaf Loops - up to Skowhegan, almost to Jackman (which means almost to Canada!), along the Kenebec River and Moosehead Lake.  While the weather was still a little overcast, the colors were amazing - what a lovely way to spend an autumn day!

Too soon it was the last day of our trip! We woke to a beautifully sunny and warm day and decided, of course, to spend it outside.  We headed to Pineland Farms, a 500-acre local farm that is dedicated to "Connecting the Community to the Land".  We were able to stroll the grounds and gardens, visit the barns and pet the calves, observe local workers make their award-winning cheese in the creamery and enjoy that same cheese in our lunch.  It was a great day and a great visit. 

We reluctantly headed to Portland to catch our flight home.  We stopped by the Portland Headlight, the lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth. 

One of my favorite foodie finds of the trip was Scratch Baking Company - a truly neighborhood place located in South Portland, not too far from the lighthouse.  Our friend Mason recommended we stop there for lunch because he knew it would be "my kind of place" - and OH WAS HE RIGHT!! I love everything about this place - from its quaint storefront, to its stacks of fresh baked bread to its homey soup, sandwich and dessert recipes made with great local and fresh ingredients - it had great food and it was full of heart!  The local kids were stopping by for a cookie on their way home from school while their parents picked up something for dinner (wine, bread, cheese, dessert).  You could tell this was someplace special...and you could see that the owners of Scratch were indeed accomplishing what they set out to do...

    From the Scratch website..."changed the name to describe our mission of providing quality products with personality that reflect the joy and bounty of every season.  We continually refine what we learn, and how to best grow our business to reflect our ideals; combining great food and neighborhood spirit. The environment you will find is personal, welcoming and good natured.... our goal is to throw a party every day."

Our visit to Maine was great and this was a special way to end it -  I was totally inspired by what I saw, what I tasted and what I felt in that small neighborhood bakery.  Like all of Maine I had seen and experienced on our trip - it was fresh, simple, hearty and authentic.