Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer Vacation 2011: My Bi-Coastal Adventures

This summer has been SO MUCH DIFFERENT from the hellish nightmare that was my life this time last year. In fact, to make up for that grueling ordeal, I decided that I needed a DOUBLE vacation this year!

The first trip was with my beloved roommate, Cyd, over the last week of July, all the way to the easternmost point of the U.S.A.--Downeast Maine. We stayed in a cute, dog-friendly cottage on Little Kennebec Bay near Machias, Maine, and day-tripped to Lubec and Eastport and to Campobello Island and several "saints" in New Brunswick, including Saint Stephen, Saint Andrews-by-the-Sea, and Saint George. It was truly lovely and relaxing, and we basically ate our own weight in fish and seafood!

There were too many yummy things to blog about concisely, but I can report that the BEST LOBSTER ROLL IN THE WORLD can be found at Red's Eats in Wiscasset (the meat of a whole lobster in one sandwich, served with mayo and drawn butter on the side--well worth the hour wait!), the BEST BLUEBERRY PIE IN MAINE can be found at Wild Blueberry Land in Columbia Falls (cheesy-looking place, but stop for the baked goods), and when you've finally had your fill of seafood, the BEST HOMEMADE OLD WORLD SAUSAGE can be found in Machias at Joe Parisi's (he's 89 years old and makes 100 pounds of sausage a day in his basement--bring a cooler to transport some yumminess home with you).

Less than three days after returning home from Maine, I was on a plane headed west. The first part of my Northwestern Tour was Boise, Idaho, to reunite with some wonderful folks from college. Sadly, one of our dearest mutual friends died unexpectedly in March, and we thought it would honor Sonny to gather together and reconnect with one another in his memory.

Then for the latter part of my adventure, I rented a car and drove to Falls City, OR (near Dallas, which is near Salem) to visit with one of my best friends, John, and his partner, Keith, who have recently opened a wood-fired bread bakery and now pizzeria, too! I simply had to see the business (and the dream!) in action. Sadly, I was only there for a couple of days, but as usual, I ate SO incredibly well while I was with the boys.

Here's a sampling, if you will, of our menus:

1) When my friend, Mike, and I arrived Sunday evening about 7:00pm, Keith and John pulled in right after us, looked around the kitchen and whipped up the following spread for dinner: zucchini, carrot and onion fritters with Mexican crema, panzanella made with bread from their bakery and local mozzarella, mixed greens with homemade balsamic vinaigrette, also radicchio salad with a couple of different grated hard cheeses, and sliced, roasted potatoes with olive oil, muscato vinegar, and Maldon sea salt. I literally could only finish two-thirds of what was on my plate! And it was the kind of savory and satisfying vegetarian fare that made you not even miss the meat.

2) The next day, we ended up over in Newport at the coast, and we pulled off on the side of the road and had a magnificent picnic on the bluff overlooking Nye Beach. The luncheon fare included a cheese platter (dill Havarti and Brie), mixed Greek olives, an assortment of Keith and John's breads (ciabatta, blue cheese, caramelized onion, and basil fougasse, three cheese and garlic loaf) with olive oil and aged balsamic to dip in, local shrimp and smoked salmon, spicy fish tacos, and outrageous brownies (Ida Garten's recipe). Just a simple spread...tee hee.

3) That evening, we headed back to The Bread Board for their fabulous wood-fired pizza. Their thin bubbly crust was honestly the best I've ever had, and all four of that night's varieties were delicious, including classic margherita, pepperoni, summer squash/roasted fennel/sundried tomato, and housemade lamb (merguez) sausage/caramelized onion/feta. YUM!

4) The night before Mike and I had to leave, John and Keith threw a big potluck/cookout party on their INCREDIBLE back patio so that we could meet the locals and also to say goodbye to one of their employees at the bakery who was moving to Thailand. Boy, did those folks come through with some AMAZING food! And of course, it was all homemade and homegrown, or at least organic and locally sourced. Among many others at the party, we had the breadmakers, two groups of winemakers, cheesemakers, and one family that raised heritage pork. Cool, huh? Gotta love the fertile Willamette Valley!

I have a few great dishes from the party to share, but this post is already too long, so I'll save that for next time. As much fun as I had travelling over the last couple/few weeks, I am happy to be home! I intend to sleep until the fall semester begins...all too soon. (Sigh.)

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