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Archive for July, 2009

Yesterday was one of those days that just turns out right.  We all piled into the car our friend A calls “Old Yeller” and drove over the Oakland Bay Bridge into San Francisco at a few minutes before noon.  Soon we were on Market Street and trying to decide where to go.

Marketst

Then, remarkably, I recognized a street corner, and we were headed to Zuni Cafe for lunch.

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After perfect pizzas grilled in the wood burning oven, we ran the only real errand of the day:  a trip to Roland Feller’s violin and cello repair shop to buy a string for A’s cello.

cellos

cello2

cellos1

The rest of the afternoon was spent window shopping on 24th Street and walking on the pier.

boatbuilding

nobarbeques

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We ended the day with dinner by the water at The Slanted Door.

slanteddoor

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105 degrees is just too hot for Portland in the summer.  Fortunately, we were able to escape to the cool, foggy Bay area for the next few days.

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Our friend has an amazing house that he has built (and is still building) himself.

aatwork

Last night after we arrived, we made dinner

tombasilsalad

and sat out on the deck enjoying the view.

armandsdeck

Perfect.

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lobster, $4.99 a pound

[Updated at end:  August 22, 2009]

On one of the first afternoons I was in Maine I drove past my favorite lobster supplier, Taylor Lobster in Kittery.

taylor

This unprepossessing spot was source of lobster for many great dinners at our house (one of which is hilariously described by my talented friend Steve Almond in the short essay collection Death by Pad Thai).

lobstapadthai

Lobster Pad Thai

Taylor Lobster also supplies lobster to many local restaurants and grocery stores.

taylorlobster

While the price of lobster is always lower in Maine than in other states, I was shocked by how inexpensive lobsters were this summer.

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A price this low for the public means that lobstermen (there are women who trap lobsters as well, but the language hasn’t caught up with them) are getting as little as $2.35 a pound at the dock.  Newspapers and local radio stations were reporting that lobster fishers were considering what is referred to locally as a “tie-up,” a controversial form of protest which involves leaving boats at the dock for as long as necessary to force the price of lobster higher.

lobstersign

I probably don’t need to tell you that the work of pulling traps is rugged; lobster boats are small, the sea is often rough, and the weather can be exceedingly nasty.  Trap wars and other territorial disputes are not uncommon and current low prices only make these disputes thornier.

Survival in downeast Maine (on islands and along the coast) is intimately tied to the complex life history of the American lobster (Homarus americanus) and to the long and complicated history of the lobster fishery along the northeast coast (one of the best books about both of these topics is The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson).

Lobstering is also not without environmental controversy; trap lines are thought to be a risk to endangered north Atlantic right whales.  Some suggest that cutting the number of traps would solve this problem and at the same time increase the catch.

Maine lobstermen have survived for years by regulating their own industry (the Maine Lobsterman’s Association was formed in 1954 to support this effort) and I am sure they will weather this storm as they have weathered storms in the past.   I hope that the cost of this one is not the loss of a way of life that has shaped life along the Maine coast for so long.

Update: Well, the Matinicus shooting and lobster fishing crisis have made it to the New York Times almost a month after it was news in Maine (and on this blog!)

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the perfect game

It happened last week while I was in New Hampshire.  White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle took the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays for a total of 32 minutes and pitched a perfect game.   It was the first perfect game since Randy Johnson pitched one for the Diamondbacks in 2004.

A perfect game is both a no hitter and a shut out.  In a perfect game, a pitcher faces 27 hitters and retires them all in order.*  In a perfect game, no one from the opposing team reaches the bases on hits, on walks, on errors, as the result of catcher’s interference, or after being hit by a pitch.

A perfect game doesn’t happen often.  In fact, there have been only 18 perfect games in the history of baseball.  Eighteen.  In a sport where 30 different teams each play 162 games during the regular season every year, that makes a perfect game something worth noticing.

A lot of people noticed.  People also noticed that DeWayne Wise, center fielder for the White Sox, preserved Buehrle’s perfect game with an incredible catch at the wall in the ninth.

Today Mark Buehrle will take the mound again for the White Sox.  The chances of his pitching another perfect game are pretty slim.  I don’t think that matters.  For me, nearly every baseball game is perfect.

beaversgame

*thanks T

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relish

Enjoy, take pleasure in, savor.  All words that perfectly describe the experiences I have had when eating at restaurants owned by my two friends Christine Prunier and Linda Robinson.  Given that, it is particularly appropriate that they have changed the name of their current restaurant (previously known as Margaux) to relish, a word that means all of those things.

relishsign

A former regular at Margaux, after arriving in Maine last week I made my way to relish as soon as I could.  Located in the same cozy building at 404 Main Street, South Berwick, Maine where Margaux was housed, relish is freshly painted inside and out, with new furniture, lighting and an updated menu.

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Chris and Linda call relish an “upscale gourmet diner” which is a phrase that fits the fresh seasonal menu like a deerskin glove would fit my hand.

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I started my meal with the appetizer special — a smoked trout salad with maple bacon, red onion, mango and buttermilk dressing.  The plate arrived mounded with greens and smoky, salty, shredded trout; flavors and textures that were perfectly balanced by the sweet, crunchy maple bacon, cool slices of mango and just the right amount of light, tangy dressing.

table

For my main course I settled on the Porcini Mac ‘n Cheese, described in typically succinct prose on the menu as including “three cheeses and truffled bread crumbs.”   Every bite was a mouthfilling rush of perfectly prepared pasta, rich creamy cheese, substantial porcini mushrooms and freshly toasted breadcrumbs earthy with just the right amount of truffle oil.  I guess it would be hard to put all of that into a description on the menu.

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For dessert I chose the light and fresh angelfood cake with housemade tropical fruit compote; a perfect ending to a memorable meal.

cups

In addition to great food, Chris and Linda have a full bar and a list of thoughtfully selected and reasonably-priced wines by the bottle and by the glass.

glasses

It makes me sad that I live too far from South Berwick to be a regular at relish; I’ll be thinking of all of you eating there, though.

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maine beach walk

It would have been a real mistake to leave Maine without a long walk on the beach.  I made it there on my last afternoon.  We started on Seapoint Beach,

seapoint

made our way to Crescent Beach where the waves were a little bigger,

crescent

and the rocks a little more varied.

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After the beach, we wandered inland over Gerrish Island

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and back to the car.

mailboxes

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not same truck

Some things are still the same, even after a year away.

notsametruck

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