January 5, 2013
In a momentary lapse of reason last week, I asked Bernie Castle for a few lobsters to take up to Caribou for Steve’s family Christmas. I had forgotten that my sister- and brother-in-law won’t touch the things in any form–a fact that returned to my brain after Bernie left them for me in a fish crate down at the town dock. My heart was in the right place–I had wanted to bring up the best thing I could offer from our tiny corner of paradise–but my brain was slightly addled with overwork and the stress of holiday chocolate production.
So when we returned just before the New Year, the lobsters were still waiting in the submerged crate on the dock. I steamed them for our New Year’s Day dinner, and we ate them with macaroni salad and a fresh-baked baguette (a la Dindy). Washed down with a lot of water (in an ongoing effort to dilute the overindulgences of the night before), it was the perfect meal for the first day of 2013; simple, fresh, local and delicious.
I put the leftovers in the refrigerator, and began to muse about what to do with them the next day.
My husband often accuses me of not liking leftovers. It’s not entirely false. I don’t like leftovers when the original meal wasn’t all that inspired to begin with. The truth is, I like creating–cooking–more than I like just heating something up. But what I really really like, is creating something new and fabulous from leftovers. It’s challenging and fun and it’s something that demands originality, some risk taking, a bit of go-with-your-gut.
I know. I really live on the edge.
I had saved our shells for my usual lobster stock, but as the temperature outside plummeted below zero, the thought of something hot and full of fat and flavor seemed just the thing. So I got to work on a bisque. And, when the next day, I found that we had leftovers of that, I threw together a lobster mac and cheese to beat all lobster mac & cheeses. Below are the recipes for both the bisque and the pasta. Bear in mind that because I was working with leftovers (and whatever else I had on hand), my measurements of some key ingredients (such as lobster and bisque and cooked pasta) are rough estimates. Use your best judgement. Or hell, just throw caution to the wind and set a trend for a brand new year.
Serves 2, plus enough leftover to make the Lobster Mac & Cheese, below
Shells, bodies and meat from two cooked 1-1/2 pound lobsters
Any reserved cooking liquid from steaming, or up to 2 cups reserved cooking liquid if you boiled the lobsters
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 fresh ripe tomato, sliced
a couple pinches dried tarragon (unless you have fresh, then use a complimentary amount of that)
a couple pinches of dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry sherry
4 cups fish stock, lobster stock or bottled clam juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup-1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Break up the shells and bodies as best you can. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the shells and bodies and saute until the shells begin to brown. Add the onion, celery, garlic, tomato, tarragon, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns. Cook and stir until the vegetables begin to soften, then add the sherry. Bring to a boil and cook until almost all the liquid is reduced at least by half. Add the stock and reserved cooking liquid and simmer for about an hour.
Strain the soup through a chinois or sieve into a saucepan, pressing down on solids. Discard the solids. Simmer the strained soup until it’s reduced to about 3 cups, then whisk in the tomato paste.
Put the cornstarch into a small heatproof measuring cup and stir in a couple of tablespoons of the hot soup to create a slurry. Stir the slurry into the soup and boil until slightly thickened. Reduce heat, and add cream until the soup is the consistency you want. Stir the chopped lobster meat into the soup and serve.
Lobster Mac & Cheese
Leftover bisque–1 or 2 cups
3-4 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
About 4 cups cooked macaroni (or other pasta, such as penne, chiciocciole, farfalle, you get the picture)
cream, half-and-half, or whole milk
2 tablespoons bread crumbs from a slightly stale baguette
sea salt and black pepper
Heat the butter in a wide cast-iron skillet until it is very hot. Add the onion and saute until it softens and begins to brown. Add the flour and stir for a few minutes, then add the bisque. Whisk until the roux is completely incorporated into the bisque and the mixture is hot. Add the cooked pasta and assess how much more cream/half-and-half/milk to add. I like my pasta swimming slightly. Stir in the cheese, level the mixture in the skillet, top with the breadcrumbs and then pop into a hot oven. Bake until the dish is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are just beginning to brown.
Serve with a fresh, green salad, and a super crispy Sauvignon Blanc.
October 16, 2012
Officially inviting you to a celebration of all things book in Bangor this weekend!
Most events take place right in downtown Bangor, and include treats like Thoreau’s Ktaadn, read by MPBN’s Rich Tozier and set to music composed by Don Stratton (Thursday night at the library); a keynote address by author Richard Russo (Friday night, at the Hammond St. Senior Center); and presentations by Maine authors all weekend long.
I will be on hand at the Bennett Gallery on Saturday at 1:30, with Yankee Chef Jim Bailey. I’ll have books and some sweet treats and Jim will certainly be ready to regale you with all things New England–including a wheel of cheese and some nice sliced ham.
Hope to see you there!
June 20, 2011
After the Boston Globe ran a very nice story on BDC last Wednesday (haven’t read it? Click here), I’ve had many requests for the recipe for our Schmoolie that author Amy Sutherland mentioned in her article. And here I thought that everyone would be thrilled with the Banana-Coconut Chocolate Swirl Bread from my upcoming cookbook. Wrongo!
So, here it is: in all it’s delicious, humble, bundled up glory.
3-1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. instant yeast
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1-1/4 cups milk, warmed slightly
3 roasted red peppers (I use the kind that come in a jar), diced
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 14-oz can quartered artichoke hearts
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
a handful of parsley, chopped
3 or 4 green onions, sliced
Combine the flour, yeast, salt, butter, sugar and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and knead with the dough hook for 10 minutes. Add more flour as necessary to create a soft, elastic bread dough. (You can also do this by hand, of course.) When done kneading, form the dough into a ball, and place it in a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with some plastic wrap or a towel and allow the dough to rise for an hour, or until it is doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, combine the roasted red peppers, feta cheese, artichoke hearts, olives, parsley and green onions in a medium size bowl. Set aside.
When the bread dough is ready, heat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the bowl and, on a lightly floured board, roll it out into roughly an 11″x18″ rectangle. Cut this rectangle into 8 smaller rectangles by cutting the dough in half, lengthwise; and then quartering each half.
Place about 1/4 cup of filling onto the center of each little rectangle. Use up all the filling.
Next, fold the corners of a rectangle of dough up over the filling; then the sides, and pinch together the edges to adhere. I always imagine that I am making a hobo bundle. Repeat this with each dough rectangle.
Place the bundles on an 11″x18″ cookie sheet, and pop them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the dough is golden and puffed. Serve them immediately, or, pop one in your pocket and go for a long hike. Schmoolies taste best when eaten under a tree, streamside, in the middle of a mossy island woods.
November 19, 2010
I don’t know how long ago it was that Bill Mayher and Ben Mendlowitz traveled out to the island to do a story on us for Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors. Long enough that, amid the barely controlled chaos of our growing company, I completely forgot about it. So when a fan posted a congratulatory note for the article on our Facebook page a few weeks ago, I got a jolt.
There is always a slight sense of unease whenever a new article on our tiny company is published. That people even want to write about us is always astonishing. A few years ago, while speaking with an executive editor at Martha Stewart Living Magazine, I looked out my window into my lackluster, winter-worn dooryard and felt slightly nauseated. The thought of a photographer coming and doing a photo shoot here scared the crap out of me. But not enough, it turned out, to drop everything and landscape my yard. They would just have to deal when they got here, I told myself. And then I got back to work.
The thing about editors in New York and California is that they are able to suspend a pervasive disbelief that a business like ours can exist on a tiny island in Maine. They believe, they come, and they see past the messy reality of running a business in a home in the middle of the woods in the middle of the ocean. They just see the magic; and that, in itself, is a beautiful thing. And, frankly, a huge relief.
But every once in a while, a writer comes through here and sees the mess, and the discordancy, and the un-romance of the whole situation. Bill Mayher was one of those people.
I remember the moment that he actually saw the kitchen around him, and actually heard what I was saying.
“So, let me get this straight,” he said, putting down his notebook. ”You developed your recipes by using feedback from lobstermen and carpenters?”
“Yup,” I said. ”It’s not like I have a celebrity chef living next door. Plus, these are our customers. It makes sense for them to like it, right?”
He shook his head again, and then, “Now don’t get offended, but are you guys trust-funders?”
I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants.
I think sometimes it takes a person who lives practically next door to see the whole picture. And it takes a writer–one like Bill, who can live next door and also pretend that he doesn’t–to see the magic amid the mess.
When I finally got a hold of a copy of the magazine and read it–in the rain, in my car, in the parking lot of Mr. Paperback in Ellsworth on a recent trip off-island–I was struck, and truly touched, by how much Bill “got it.”
When we started BDC, we didn’t start at ground level, but below that–in the soil. We didn’t bootstrap; we planted. That isn’t to say we did everything right. We didn’t. But the health of our soil–our community–allowed us to recover from our mistakes and move past them. Really, Bill says it best, and I encourage you to go out and get a copy of the winter issue of Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors. And not to read about BDC, necessarily, but to get a glimpse into the magic of the writers mind; his ability to not see past the mess, but to see it, and see the beauty in it.
“…even with some hard service…and a couple of good breaks along the way, it is doubtful that the success [Kate and Steve] have found would have been possible without another component: an enduring community.”
–Bill Mayher, from “Black Dinah Chocolatiers: A Shingle and a Dream.” Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors, issue 112
On the east side of the island, there is a lovely inn run by my friend and culinary comrade, Diana Santospago. While Diana is much more than just her inn, the Inn at Isle au Haut is a perfect manifestation of Diana’s many talents. Because there are no other restaurants on Isle au Haut, the inn offers three delicious, fresh, and beautifully presented meals every day, accompanied by some of the best shorefront scenery in the world. So good, in fact, that the Inn at Isle au Haut was just listed by Yankee Magazine as one of Maine’s top ten “Dinners with a View.”
Here is Diana’s choice for Mother’s Day breakfast:
“Baked Pancake with Berry Sauce and Melted Ice Cream is my choice for a breakfast recipe for your blog for a couple reasons. First, it’s practically foolproof for kids(with Dad’s help of course)to make for Mom for that special breakfast in bed, and it’s totally yummy.
First make the sauce.
- 1-1/2 cups of fresh or frozen raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries or a combination of any or all. (If using fresh berries, mash half of them.)
- 1/3 cup sugar or honey
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
Combine the berries, sugar/honey and zest, tossing gently. Let sit at room temperature until the berries release their juice and the sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, scoop out about 1 cup of good quality vanilla ice cream and set aside to melt.
- 2 eggs
- 1 C. milk
- 3/4 C. all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt pinch of cinnamon
- 1 T. unsalted butter
Here’s where Dad comes in!
Preheat a cast iron skillet in a 425-degree oven. Beat the eggs. Add the milk, flour salt, and cinnamon and mix well. Add the butter to the skillet. When melted, pour in the egg mixture. Bake for 15 minutes then lower the heat to 325 degrees and bake until puffed and golden-about 6-8 minutes. Slide onto a serving platter, slice into wedges, spoon on the berry sauce and drizzle with the melted ice cream.”
March 1, 2010
Bert Bingham called the other day wondering if I was interested in scallops from Art Beal, a fisherman in Stonington. Here,they sell them by the gallon or the quart, and if you are lucky enough to buy them off the boat and get them into your freezer, then you can have fresh-from-the-sea tasting scallops until next January.
I bought a gallon from Bert and two gallons from Louise and haven’t had this many scallops at my disposal since I worked at the inn. Then, they were the size of filet mignon, and I’d grill them lightly, serve them with a spicy, slightly thinned Spanish romesco sauce, fresh watercress and call it dinner. Nothing fancy, but for guests that had never had a scallop this close to the source, it was pretty much life changing. I count myself in that category.
Confession: Before I moved to Maine and took a job as a cook at the Keeper’s House, I had never before in all my years working in restaurants or experimenting at home, cooked a lobster, a piece of haddock or halibut, or a single scallop. My potential Maine employers really should have asked me these things right off, but I’m glad they didn’t. I’ve lived much of my life trial by fire–and though I don’t recommend it–it’s turned out alright so far. A thick skin, a well-developed ability to laugh at oneself, and grace under completely humiliating conditions are essential.
I remember the first time I served lobster at the inn; I was filling in for Deena, the regular Sunday cook. I had practiced killing live lobsters by steam all week at home, and had disassociated myself enough that I could do it while keeping a relatively tight reign on my facial expressions. You have to remember: I’m a California girl, through and through. I had become a vegetarian when I was 10, and was a card carrying member of PETA by the time I turned 13. Sure, that was all a long time ago, and I’ve been totally omnivorous for years now, but killing lobsters was a totally new activity for me, and I wanted to make sure I could do it without flinching.
Turns out my biggest mistake that night wasn’t the fact that I insisted, much to the embarrassment of my native Maine co-workers, on saying a little prayer of thanks to the little lobster souls that went of up in steam; it was the fact that I served them with a delicate champagne buerre blanc (in place of melted butter), and an artistically stuffed tomato (rather than potato salad).
Louise, who was the prep cook and dishwasher that night–and who, clearly, was not won over by the latest non-native installation in her kitchen–rolled her eyes as I whisked butter into my champagne and shallot reduction and said, “Seems like a pain in the ass when melted butter and a wedge of lemon has been good enough for the last 20 years.”
Okay, so Louise and I didn’t always see eye to eye in those days, but I took her well-learned advice to heart that night, and by the time the Keeper’s House closed in October of 2005 we had stripped down “lobster night” to it’s barest New England roots–a dinner of lobsters, corn and mussels layered with rockweed, cooked in a single steel pot over an open fire on the rocks at the base of the lighthouse. And served on paper plates with coleslaw and potato salad–paper cups of congealing butter on the side. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
My battle with the scallop wasn’t so hard fought, unless you count how much crap my neighbors give me for the way I pronounce it (see title, above). It’s hard to ruin a good scallop, and even in my inexperienced hands, they gave us some great dinners at the inn. Lately, I’ve been enjoying them tapa style, with other small dishes, in lieu of dinner. And every once in a while, I catch myself saying it the Maine way, and am always shocked when no one notices.
Here’s that recipe for the Romesco I mentioned at the top of this post. It’s my adaptation of Spanish kitchen goddess Penelope Casa’s recipe in The Foods & Wines of Spain. And given that it’s March 1st, and not July, the scallops are seared rather than grilled. Instead, I’ve pan roasted the tomato and the garlic to get that nice charred flavor.
Maine Scallops with Romesco Sauce
- 2 dried New Mexican chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 1 c. water
- 1/2 c. red wine vinegar
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 2 slices French bread
- 1 large tomato
- 2 oz. blanched almonds, lightly toasted
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 lb. sea scallops, rinsed and dried, hinge muscle removed
- a large handful of roughly chopped fresh watercress
Rehydrate the dried chiles by placing in a saucepan with the water and the vinegar, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.
Heat a large skillet over high flame, and toss in your unpeeled cloves of garlic. Pan roast until the skins are charred and the flesh is soft. Remove from pan and allow to cool. Add olive oil to hot skillet and pan fry the bread until golden on both sides. Remove from pan. Add whole tomato to hot skillet and pan roast until skin is blackened and blistered, and juice begins to ooze out of the fruit. Remove from pan and allow to cool.
Peel the garlic, remove the stem end from the tomato and peel that too. Place all ingredients in a food processor, including any remaining juices and olive oil from the skillet. Whir until the mixture resembles a slightly chunky paste. Add a little extra olive oil and salt to taste. Set aside.
Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Wipe down the skillet, smear with a thin layer of olive oil and heat over a high flame. When the pan is very hot, sear the scallops, a few minutes on each side and so they are golden and slightly caramelized. Deglaze the pan with a generous splash of sherry, madeira or white wine, and continue to cook scallops until they are slightly firm to the touch, but with a fair amount of give in the center. Remove the scallops to a clean plate heaped with the watercress, add any remaining juices in the skillet to the Romesco–and thin the sauce to your desired consistency. Serve the warm scallops with the Romesco on the side.
February 12, 2010
Last week: We’re on week five of what we’ve been fondly calling the “Martha Stewart Effect,” and we’re starting to run out of things. Things like boxes, packing material, greeting cards, chocolate–and for brief periods each day–my sanity. I haven’t brushed my hair in more days than I can remember, there is a stack of forgotten thank you cards from Christmas sitting blank on my desk upstairs, and the pile of laundry has reached epic proportions. Meanwhile, NECN News has called to remind us that they are coming out on Tuesday to shoot a segment on how romantic our life is. Steve is obsessively tracking orders for our dwindling supplies, and then finally comes to me and says that we’re going to run out of packing material before Monday.
Sunday: We run out of packing material. It’s nearly 9:00 pm, and Steve has just packed the last Monday morning shipment and placed it on one of the towering piles in the middle of our living room. Earlier in the day, Steve had a brainstorm and called our friend Paul in Portland. Paul owns the house down the road from us, and, recently laid off, has been looking for an opportunity to get out to the island and take care of a few things. Steve provides the opportunity in the form of delivering a supply of packing material. We go to bed early that night, thanking our lucky galaxies.
Monday: Paul shows up on the late boat, packing supplies in hand. He jumps into the fray. Steve is up until 3 am packing orders. I’m up at 5, paying bills and tempering chocolate. Life is very romantic. Meanwhile, we’ve sold our last greeting card, and have orders for dozens more. Fed Ex shows the package in Bangor, to be delivered on Tuesday. We breathe a sigh of relief. We’re gonna make it.
Tuesday: NECN shows up on the morning boat. I don’t have time to take a shower, but I’ve brushed my hair and put on lipstick. They shoot half the day while Steve and I work madly to fill the last of the Valentine orders. They’re easy going and fun and the weather is beautiful, so they’re stoked. We’re stoked because the greeting cards are out for delivery and it’s only 1 pm. No problem.
Tuesday, 4 pm: I’ve taken Amy and Dave from NECN to the late boat, and jump aboard to get my greeting cards. But the greeting cards aren’t there.
Wednesday: Steve crawls into bed around 4:45 am; my alarm goes off at 5. The romance is killing me. I drink my coffee amid a canyon of boxes in the living room. At 7:45, I deliver the last of the boxes to the boat, and hop aboard. In Stonington, I intercept our order of delinquent greeting cards, and head off to Lily’s cafe to grab breakfast. By 10 am, I’ve rented a room at the village motel–the only place in town with internet access–and am handwriting the last 30 love notes to be included in our last shipment for Valentine’s Day. UPS is due to pick them up at the dock at noon, but I’m trying to make my handwriting legible. If you’ve ever seen my handwriting, then you know this is no small task. And I’m still jacked on coffee.
At noon I’m in the frigid waiting room at the dock, taping up the last order.
That night, Steve catches the late boat off island and we rendezvous at the motel where I’m waiting with pizza and beer. We talk and laugh into the wee hours, reveling in our brief escape from the phone, and then we pass out from exhaustion.
Thursday: 7 am and we’re on the morning boat back to the island. By 9, Steve is answering the phone and tracking customers’ orders, Dede is happily packing up the last of the assortments in the kitchen, and I’m planning production for Easter.
January 27, 2010
I know. It’s weird. We’re in MSL magazine. You just gotta check it out to believe it.
But in the mean time, I thought I’d pontificate a bit on the nature of well-laid plans. (Is that supposed to be well-layed? They both just look wrong. Anyhoo…)
When the editors at Martha Stewart contacted us way back last winter, and started tossing around the idea of featuring our business in the magazine, I was totally against it. I mean, I didn’t actually TELL anyone that, but secretly I just knew that there would be no way that we could keep up with a projected response from the magazine’s 24 million readers. Even if just 2% of those readers gave us a little jingle (this is the percentage that the editors say respond to these types of articles), that’s 480,000 phone calls. And even if just half of those phone calls placed an order, that’s 240,000 boxes of truffles. If the average order is an 18-piece box, well, you can do the math, but it’s more fun if I do it: that’s almost four and a half million truffles. Nuh-uh, I thought. No can do.
And then our friend Lyn stopped by, and I confessed my dilemma. She looked at me as if I were speaking in tongues and in her no-nonsense, listen-to-me-you-idiot-i’m-the-captain-of-this-boat kind of way, told me that you don’t say no to that kind of opportunity and that she would come pack boxes and tie ribbons and ship packages when the time came. I told her that I’d hold her to it.
Fast-forward to October 2009. An editor calls from MSL and informs us that they’ve bumped the article up to the Feb. 2010 issue (rather than running it in the summer). I’m still working out of the home kitchen, dipping every truffle by hand, by myself. We’ve got two new fabulous employees, but between batches, I ask Steve to call Lyn and tell her she’s got plans for January and February. The editor tells me also that the story focuses on our Farm Market Collection, and will we have enough of those if there is a run on them as a result of the story? This, I tell her with great confidence, I have planned for. Not a problem.
And it was true. Last summer, at hours of the night that I should have been sleeping, I instead spent processing cases and cases of raspberries and blueberries. I labored days over ginormous bouquets of mint, picking leaves and drying them night after night on racks in my oven. When September rolled around, instead of catching up on a summer of bookkeeping, I went apple-picking in the light of the moon. I roasted crates of pumpkins and other gloriously orange winter squashes; I boiled down the last of season’s maple syrup into buttery caramel; I stirred warmed goat cheese into summer honey.
Our first peek at the story came in the January mail. If you’ve seen the article, then you know it’s beautiful. In fact, I still can’t believe it. If you’ve seen the article then you also have seen the big, wonderful, eye-catching photo of an entire tray of brightly colored chocolate frogs. You probably commented on these frogs; it’s hard not to. They’re really, really cute.
But we don’t have any. They’re not available until the spring, because, well, they’re frogs. Right now, in pretend chocolate nature land, these frogs have buried themselves in a puddle of chocolate mud, waiting for the chocolate god to turn up the temperature on the big chocolate melter so that they can swim around in the little chocolate pond, have chocolate polywogs and sit around and gossip on chocolate logs.
I’m only telling you this, because you, like many many many of the other 24 million readers of MSL magazine, might be tempted to pick up the phone and call us to ask us why you can’t find the cute chocolate frogs featured in the Feb issue of MSL magazine on our website.
Well, that’s why.
But hey, did I mention we have a lot of Farm Market Collections?
January 12, 2010
My first home on the island was a tiny, 6′x12′ wood building humbly named “Matt’s Shack.” It had two windows, one twin bed, a tiny desk and chair, one small shelf for books and 4 rough hooks for aprons and clothing. It was named for my employers’ son, but since I had never met him–and wouldn’t for many years–I renamed it based on my own experience. In May of 2001, it officially became “The Spider Shack” for the lively population of arachnids to which, along with me, it provided shelter.
The Spider Shack sat atop a tiny foundation of island granite; the edge of a spruce forest on one side, and a cascading cliff to the Atlantic Ocean on the other. One tiny window framed a salt-smeared view of the Robinson Point lighthouse, while the other looked up toward the lightkeeper’s henhouse–which, that summer at least, housed nothing but adolescent roosters.
After that first season–comprising of a chilly wet spring, a foggy summer, an inky black fall–I allowed myself the reward to rename the shack: it became the Zen House, a half-hearted testimonial to my, often breathless, perseverance to live with that which I feared most.
That first summer, living with my eight-legged nemeses and the 4 am crowing of prepubescent roosters was the self-inflicted pinch I gave myself to ensure that it all wasn’t a dream. These things certainly kept things in perspective, but did nothing to dilute the magical quality of my new part-time home. Even after 14 hours on my feet in the inn kitchen, I would take a walk in the woods, or go sit on a rock, or just go lay on my tiny mattress in the Zen house, and wonder wonder wonder how I got so lucky.
When Steve took a job as a carpenter on a house-building crew with an island contractor, and we decided to live out here for that summer, I worried that my weekly work sojourns, would become just another job, in another place, for another little while. After a lot of footwork, phone calls and letter writing, I traded in my meditative shack at the lighthouse, for a 12′ X 10′ “landboat” atop a secluded blueberry barren at the north tip of the island. Our new home boasted a few more luxuries than my previous one: a tiny kitchen fitted with a garden hose to serve as a sink faucet, a broom-closet sized indoor outhouse, and a loft that just barely fit a double sized futon and a few crates for clothing. Steve and I stripped our belongings down to the barest minimum. I developed an uncomplicated weekly laundry system, where I would bike our dirty clothes 3 miles to the lighthouse, use their washing machine, then bike them back wet and hang them on our own line.We also had a phone and internet access, a tiny garden, and a sky full of stars. I still worked 14-hour days, splitting them into two parts so that I could come home in the afternoon to walk my dog. But to this day, it was the best summer of my life.
We lived in the landboat for two seasons, April through November, spending our first winter in a rental on the west side, and by our second Christmas on the island, we had moved into a year-round home just 1/2 mile from the lighthouse. And though, 6 years later, I still love my life here, I still fear that someday I will get used to it.
Every New Years, our friends Alan and Kristen, who now spend the bulk of their winters in Massachusetts, return to the island to host a small potluck. Dinner is usually followed by an impromptu concert with Alan, Kristen and Kristen’s daughter’s family. This year, Kristen’s 3-year-old grandson joined the music-making on Alan’s full size drum set, stealing the show like drummers can–with a passion for making all the noise they want to, tempered by an almost preternatural sense of rhythm. After the show, and as we all donned scarves, hats and boots to venture home in the snow that had been falling for 3 days straight, Kristen asked me how I enjoyed her grandson’s playing.
“How do you get used to that?” I asked, still feeling totally blown away by the tiny drum prodigy now squirming restlessly while his mother laced up his boots. Kristen just smiled, glowing faintly with pride.
But, really, I was serious. And as I navigated my truck through roads deep with snow back to the west side, I realized that little boy had awakened fresh in me the elusive sense of wonder that I am so afraid to lose.
I stopped as long as I dared by Kennedy’s boat house to gaze through the blizzard at the inky dark harbor. No, I thought, this isn’t something you get used to.
June 26, 2009
Well, it’s a testament to the impact this recent publicity has had on our business that I’m just now getting around to posting this – just as the issue is about to leave the stands.
In any case, we’re thrilled at our recent appearance in Gourmet Magazine, and I hope that if you don’t already have a copy, that you go out and grab one, flip immediately to page 42 and read about writer Georgina Gustin’s trip to Isle au Haut and the Black Dinah Cafe last summer. Here’s an excerpt:
On a remote island off the snaggletoothed coast of Maine, the only edible luxury you ould expect to find is lobster. Last summer, however, I hopped the mail boat to Isle au Haut–a sprawling hump of spuce-covered granite with just 65 year-round residents–and found a crooked sign at the edge of a dirt road leading, improbably, to chocolate truffles containing orange-blossom nectar and ganache infused with Earl Grey tea.