The Great Lobster Pig Out

One of my very favorite things to eat are fried clams but rarely do I find them worthy of eating. For one thing, if they are just the strips without the bellies, they are more batter than clam. Only if they are steamers (aka piss clams) so they won't have the right texture variation from plump juicy to crisp chewy. And if the place uses a low grade commercial oil for frying and doesn't change it often enough, the fried clams become all but indigestible. I have found one place in the world that makes fried clams exactly to my taste--The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport Maine (see below for contact info). (Actually this was a discovery of my eating partner in crime Elizabeth Karmel of Grill Friends). I have driven miles to get there from wherever part in Maine I find myself. Sadly and obviously fried clams can't be shipped, but to my delight, The Clam Shack has just started shipping their lobster roll kit! It is shipped overnight in Styrofoam, with icepacks, and despite the 90 degree weather it arrived in perfect condition--the ice still frozen and the lobsters, even the Styrofoam, smelling only of that dreamy briny/sweet sea-breeze aroma.

The kit includes one pound of whole lobster tails and claws which I couldn't bear to cut into smaller than 1-inch chunks. Also included are 6 excellent top- split hot dog buns that are baked side-by-side, the better to absorb the butter I brushed on them after pulling them apart and before lightly grilling them. Mayonnaise is also included in the kit but I prefer to make my own lemony version (see recipe below). These lobsters deserve it.

All in all the kit produces a near effortless and glorious repast. This kit is designed for 4 to 6 people, assuming one will serve other things such as coleslaw or, as they do in many restaurants, french fries. But I decided that I wanted to indulge in nothing but lobster rolls and to invite two special people to share this luxury with us. Since I started my soon-to- be published book I have invited no one to dinner as the dinning room table became progressively stacked with equipment, ingredients, and unread publications not to mention the box loads of other such things filling the living/dining/work room area. But this windfall lobster kit deserved and prompted a major reorganization effort. I didn't have to think hard to decide on the guests: Fellow cookbook authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, with whom I've been exchanging e-mails over the past several years, and who recently became wine (and food) editors of the Washington Post. I've been suggesting, via e-mail, a pot luck supper, reasoning that none of us would ever have time to go the whole nine yards and that we all should, nonetheless, make the time to get to know each other better--and of course over something good to eat. (After all, we had only ever met one time, several years ago, and had never even talked on the phone--but I knew that once we got together it would be like old home week! Great as the internet can be, there's something to be said for the contribution of a physical presence!)

The pot luck component of our dinner was the lobster kit. I made dessert (surprise!) and Karen and Andrew brought 4 bottles of wonderful wine, including a 20-year-old Taylor Fladgate tawny port when I mentioned how much Elliott loves port. After asking them if it was o.k. just to have the lobster rolls for dinner, and they replied that they had already eaten a salad that week, I joyfully upped the lobster order to 1-1/2 pounds. In between blissful bites of lobster roll, using our fingers to poke in mayo swathed chunks that threatened to escape the slim buttery rolls, and drizzling on more and ever more lemon mayo, we made a small dent in four live's worth of catch up, and then returned all the main course silverware to the kitchen, unused. We all agreed that it was the most decadent lobster roll we had ever tasted. And it worked beautifully with both the Lucien Albrecht brut rosé and the glorious Delamotte champagne blanc de blanc 1999 But the pairing of the night was the Dolce dessert wine, with its mellifluous golden grace notes of pineapple and caramel playing against, or should I say with, the bitter orange/caramel golden charlotte. I swear it made me envision angels playing harps in heaven. (Next book.....)

Karen and Andrew left at midnight to get ready for a marathon in Central Park which they never ended up running due to being too happy to contemplate getting up at 7 am! I didn't have to run a marathon--I lost 2 pounds lugging boxes all over the apartment! It was well worth it on all counts.

Notes on Composing the Lobster Rolls: You can make the mayo several days ahead and refrigerate it. It's best to do it by hand (with a whisk). Be sure to have all components at room temperature. Don't use more olive oil than called for or it will separate.

Shortly before serving or up to two hours ahead and kept chilled, cut the lobster into chunks and toss it with 2/3 cup of the mayo. Pour the remainder into a gravy boat to add at the table. Just before serving, heat a grill or large cast iron griddle or skillet over medium heat. Brush each side of the rolls with melted butter, preferably clarified. (You'll need about 1/3 cup in all) Grill or fry for about 2 minutes per side, just until golden brown, watching carefully so as not to over-brown. Cram as much of the lobster as possible into each roll and serve at once.

Lemon Mayonnaise: 1 yolk 1/4 teaspoons dry mustard zest of one lemon 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/16 teaspoon sugar pinch cayenne freshly ground pepper 1/2 cup safflower or canola oil 2 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil

www.theclamshack.net On The Bridge Kennebunkport, ME 04046 207-967-3321 (Open May through October)

The Best Thing to Happen to Blairstown in 30 Years: Gourmet Gallery!

this year's students at blair academy are about to get an education beyond the usual prerequisite college requirements. they are about to find out what real food tastes like. there is a new game in town and it's called the gourmet gallery. located at 31 main street, a few doors down from the post office, a quick drive by would reveal a rather unassuming little place but oh the food! word travels fast in small towns and the lovely lady at silverlake farms down the road (where i get my produce) told me the sandwiches are so good there are lines outside. but in truth, i first discovered the existence of the place, a mere 15 minutes drive from our weekend home in hope, at the fancy food show in new york beginning of july. i noticed a few ladies at my booth with badges that identified them as coming from blairstown. of course i had to tell them that i am a neighbor. mother and daughter, anita and lori siegel, run the gourmet gallery and do much of the cooking and baking. lori had tried out restaurant work when the café in hope opened about 9 years ago, starting as a cook and baker. i remember noticing how suddenly the desserts were exceptionally good. anita moved to blairstown with the plan to paint full time. but when daughter lori decided to open the take-out restaurant it became a joint effort immediately, putting their heads together with many ideas. the menu offers a wide selection of fresh sandwiches, paninis, and wraps, baked goods, and superb gelato in many flavors. the mango had little pieces of fresh ripe mango and the vanilla version tasted amazingly of my favorite eurovanille and tahitian combined. the menu is constantly changing and it is immediately apparent that only the finest and freshest quality ingredients are used in everything. the coffee of the day was from guatamala and i was astonished to discover that it was the best coffee i've experienced outside of my own home perhaps ever. for lunch i ordered one of the daily specials--the "pulled pork with tangy sauce and special cole slaw." special indeed--i've had pit master's pulled pork and this was the best i've ever tasted complete with crunchy bits from the outside of the barbequed pork. the sauce was perfectly tangy-sweet. it was more than enough to share with my husband. the little side dish i chose, the red bhutanese rice with dried cherries and scallions was inspired. i felt as though i had landed in paradise. cup of gelato in hand, i walked further down the street in the drizzle (what else is new this summer) to introduce myself to herman shoemaker, the owner of the local bookstore "booknest." i was hoping he'd carry at least one of my books to give me an excuse to come back to sign them and for more tastes at the gourmet gallery! i hesitated to write about them as they're crowded enough already! after all, i don't come from new york for the weekend in the country to wait in lines. but i want to do everything in my power to support local excellence. and the siegels tell me that one day they hope to expand into the store next to them. for now they have a nice outdoor space on the other side with tables and umbrellas. gourmet gallery is open tuesdays through saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for lunch and afternoon coffee, specialy teas, and ice cream . if you come, you're likely to see me standing in line!

A Side Trip to Heaven--Tojo's in Vancouver!

During the few days of IACP in Seattle last week of March, TIm Bennett Product Manager of Gold Medal Flour (who was the inspiration behind this blog) and I skipped out and drove all the way to Vancouver to experience some of the most creative, spectacular and delicious sushi of our lives. We had the added pleasure of meeting Travis Smith and Susie Gardner of Hop Studios, the designers of our blog, who happen to live in Vancouver.This is my 5th visit to Tojo's and I warned Tim to eat nothing beforehand because it's impossible to say no to just one more of Tojo's beyond description creations. One of the most interesting and demanding of his culinary feats is to create a sushi that is hot on the inside and cold on the outside. He gently but firmly commands you to use your hands (because touch is part of the experience) and eat it immediately. There is sake and there is sake and the finest quality, served cold in bamboo containers is a world apart from the ubiquitous hot sake one often encounters. We made it back to Seattle safely and by 10:30 and with only one eye-opener stop for coffee on the way. By the way, it seems that anywhere coffee is served in the state of Washington, it is strong, mellow, and never bitter. See six more photos below (on the full post page).

DSC_9630.JPG DSC_9617.JPG DSC_9618.JPG DSC_9619.JPG DSC_9623.JPG The photos were taken by Travis Smith with his fancy camera.