PS Planted peas, chard, spinach today...and finished a beekeeping class and found out I can't use a compass so don't think I shud be on the water alone in a kayak..disheartening to find out I am minus an understanding of magnetic and true north..my science teacher should have got a failing grade...later gator
Okay: So I haven't sent a restaurant review or tried any new recipes. (too busy shoveling) But, I made a commitment to send an article about blogging in general and the PI blog in particular to the Island Times. I've now completed a year's worth of blogs for my soon to published Jo the Clutterbuster website. I've also attended a social media workshop so can also include that in the article. I am ready to write.
It would be great if I could receive some comments from those of you who attended Cat's workshop and who are now blogging.You can talk about the pros and cons; why do it; what you enjoy or hate....anything related to blogs or social networking.
For those who are not blogging but just reading. I'd also like to include some comments or issues with blogging or how it works or doesn't work for you. (So guess you will have to blog after all:)
So...if you don't have money to go to a restaurant so you can write a review but have a need to express yourself--let's blog on blogging.
Thanks for your support...
- Current Mood: determined
Valentine's Day. Come and gone. I hope you had fun.
We didn't see any hearts on the island. But so many in town that we took a few to bring home.
h2olynne posted that it made the news.
A couple of places we saw had checkerboards of hearts on the windows. Dozens.
I know I shouldn't grump, but I'm sad...
I'd like to start doing local restaurant and other shop reviews, though I know there are many sites for that sort of thing. I'm hoping that I can find a few more Portland people who live here, and start building an online community in my city, and also I love reviewing things, secretly. (Seriously, if you want me to review something, leave a comment!) So here's the first, a double review--I hereby pledge that when I have something negative to say about a place, I will say something positive about another one to balance it out.
First, Paciarino on Fore Street. This is a Milanese Italian restaurant that makes its pasta fresh daily, has a beautiful rustic atmosphere, and a fantastic little shop with lots of bruschettas and sauces and kitchen supplies. I've been there for dinner and thought it was lovely, if a little to traditional for my tastes. The thing is, I'm an Italian woman. I can make Italian food at home, and I'm very good at it, so if I'm going to go out I want a little adventure. There is a whole lot of pomodoro sauce, that's all I'm saying.
Paciarino was part of a write up in the New York Times on Portland restaurants, for lo, we are a known foodie paradise. I just have to assume that reviewer didn't go there for lunch.
I went to lunch there yesterday. I walked in, only to be stopped at the counter by a waitress who showed me a blackboard and insisted I order while still standing there in my winter coat with my heavy briefcase over one shoulder. The place was empty, there was no reason to put me on the spot and make me stand there while she showed me dry pasta shapes. The menu only had five choices, four of which were a tomato-based sauce over plain pasta or cheese ravioli. The fifth was pesto ravioli with a butter sage sauce that unfortunately I know from experience I do not like--too much butter in anything is not at all to my taste, and drizzling butter on pasta is just kind of like ruining a nice lace tablecloth by coloring on it in yellow crayon to me. If you like butter sauces, I'm sure it's excellent, but I wasn't going near it. There was once small side salad available.
So I ordered tagliatelle bolognese, which I never do because I can and do make a killer bolognese sauce at home, but since she wouldn't seat me til I ordered, I was a bit flustered and taken aback. And it was the only thing with meat in it. I like to actually sit down and relax if I go to not-a-pizza-bar, and there was no relaxing here.
I asked for bread. The waitress brought me five small pieces the size of my thumb and a dollop of the same sauce my pasta would come in. Though the bread was fresh and truly delicious, there was so little of it I almost laughed. Then the pasta came.
I think it's easy to rest on the fresh pasta thing--fresh pasta is undoubtedly better than freeze dried and if you're making it every day I understand if that's your selling point. But you gotta dress it in something nice or it's just dough. In general, I think Paciarino could do with some experimentation, but seriously, how do you make bolognese disappointing? Well, don't use much meat, no salt, and don't even offer me parmesan of my own because it comes with the powedered stuff already on it (this is a high end restaurant with a cheaper lunch menu, but I still don't expect the powder, or at least I'd prefer my own shaker).
The very Ragu-like flavor was not exactly what I was hoping for. There was realtively little pasta on the plate and I left--fourteen minutes after entering--still hungry and feeling very strange about the whole thing, so markedly different from my pleasant dinner date there. I can honestly say I have never had such a poor, awkward lunch experience. It is the only Portland restaurant I've been to so far that I wouldn't call excellent.
On the other hand, Seaport Yarn is the best thing ever (and they have a store in NYC, guys, so check it out there! They also sell online.) and I might move in there. (See, long stringy things! It's a theme!)
We walked in last week and babymonkey said: "This is like Cat's own yarn store." And it's true. They carry a lot of funky, sparkly art yarn which I love, in addition to all the usual suspects. They have a nice selection of Blue Heron metallic DK, which is my favorite yarn ever and if family or friends are reading this and wonder what to get me for gifts--any color of that yarn rules my school. I discovered Seaport because I was looking for Blue Heron online and realized the store I was browsing was actually in Portland. It has a mildly terrible location--but perfect for us, as it's right next to the ferry.
They also carry a whole mess of locally-cast pewter buttons that are just beautiful--and since I make a lot of things that need buttons, I'm always frustrated by how few LYSs carry any interesting ones. And if all that wasn't enough, the wonderful woman who runs it said casually that if we just called in she'd put our yarn order on the ferry for us.
Yarn. Sparkly yarn. Delivered to our island. My total store loyalty was won. And since Portland hosts a phenomenal seven yarn stores in the downtown area, that's saying something.
The yarns are all beautifully organized and easy to browse, there are three rooms, one full of pattern books and fun fur type yarns, the main room with the rest, and the back room, where they have a nascent knitting group on Thursday nights from 5-8. The store stays open til 8 as well on Thursdays, which is awesome for 9-to-5ers.
We really would like to take over this group, as right now it's only the owner, one other woman, and us. It's perfectly situated for our issues with the ferry and we love it. I don't know many local knitters, but I'm putting this out there in hopes that some local or semi-local folks will join us in building up a group full of young(ish), awesome folks! Anyone? Bueller?
They also have free wifi (what? what yarn store does this?) so you can bring non-knitters and we can all chill. If we can get even one new person to next week's group through this post, I'll bring homemade cookies. I'll even teach you to knit, if you're local and don't know how.
You can give me a call at 5132183949.
Thanks to Cat for the recipe idea. I don't like to cook, unless I'm really in a mood, so I don't really have a bank of yummy ideas. Mine would be more like- "Here's a recipe for when it would just be downright embarrassing not to bring something- making it isn't too painful and no one has died from eating this."
I am, however, really excited about a recipe I found a few years ago. Not excited enough to make it, mind you, but pretty excited to share in the hopes that one of you will make it and that it will be the answer to a really big Peaks Island problem....
Sixty years ago the Army planted a problem on Peaks Island. To hide the recently-constructed Battery Steele they 'relocated' topsoil to the top and planted stands of Bamboo (Japanese knotweed) and Bittersweet- fast growing ground covers. Boy, what a success! Those two species now choke out much of the growth in our interior land- and each of us has stories to tell about the ongoing battle in our own yards to fend off these relentless invaders.
Once, while researching for a presentation at the community center for PILP, I ran across a recipe to use Bamboo/Japanese knotweed in a cake. Apparently, if you pick it in the spring when the shoots are young, it behaves and tastes much like rhubarb.
Could this be our answer? Peaks Island is just lousy with great cooks- couldn't we eat our way out of this mess? On the mainland there are strawberry festivals and blueberry festivals and lobster festivals and clam festivals- why don't we plan a bamboo festival??? Google for yourself, and I'd be happy to taste test whatever recipe you try---
For this recipe, you’ll need to harvest Japanese Knotweed stalks at the “wild rhubarb” stage, which typically shows up around the end of April in the Boston area. Look for stalks about 18-24 inches long, select the fattest stalks you can (at least 3/4 inch in diameter – they’re easier to peel that way), cut at ground level, lop off the top cluster of leaves and bring the stalks home. Once you’ve got them home, peel the very outer layer (which is stringy) off of each stalk; Japanese Knotweed stalks are hollow, though, so don’t peel too deeply or all you’ll have left is the hole. You can eat the peeled stalks raw if you want (their tart, juicy, crunchy texture and flavor is somewhat like that of a Granny Smith apple), or just chop them up for use in the recipe below or just about any other recipe calling for rhubarb.
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup plain applesauce
- 4 firmly-packed cups peeled Japanese Knotweed stalk pieces (chop or knead the peeled stalks into small pieces <1” long)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- powdered sugar
Beat eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until blended. In the meantime, mix the flour, baking soda and spices together in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, then add the applesauce, knotweed pieces and walnuts and mix until blended. Pour the batter into the greased baking pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350ºF for one hour, then remove from the oven and cool on a wire drying rack. Dust the top with powdered sugar. Serve warm or cold. Makes 15 good-sized servings. Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for use in the next few days or frozen for longer storage.
Lynne (also posting on my blog- don't know how to get them to speak to each other yet....)
My wife and I have been living on the island for about six months now. We came in on the tail-end of the tourist season and got to watch the spectacular exodus of the seasonal residents and we boarded-up, hunkered-down and braced ourselves for life on this island in the depths of winter. I've carried a snow-shovel to Hannigan's on a grocery run, lost a bicycle in the snow and worried my way through snowfall power outages. Most of the locals I run into recognize me on sight and I have almost begun to consider myself a bit of a local.
Almost being the key word.
For all that I've been baptized in the trials and travails and hopes and joys of island living, I've still got one hurdle separating me from full immersion.
I can't catch a ferry to save my immoral soul.
I really just don't understand it! I have atleast a dozen Casco Bay Lines schedules floating around - in my desk, in my backpack, several in my coat pockets - and have most of the departure times memorized. And yet I still can't get to the dock on time. No matter when I leave the house, I either arrive half an hour early, freezing in the shelter as I watch the Machigonne II churn its slow way islandward, or I arrive exactly 25 seconds too late and get to watch the same boat flee from me, apparently MUCH faster on the return trip. Splitting the difference and getting there on time? Does not happen.
I envy catvalente and justbeast, who seem to move in some kind of enchanted time bubble that synchs perfectly with the ferry schedule. Anytime I walk with them, I always find myself bundled and packed, standing by the front door, shouting imprecations for them to HURRY UP! We'll miss the ferry! And they take their time, unnaturally calm and collected, a small smug smile on their faces. And then they stroll to the docks with me practically dancing around them with impatience, checking and re-checking the clock on my cell-phone. But everytime - EVERY BLOODY TIME - we arrive at the dock JUST IN TIME. Not a second too early, not a second too late. The last time I walked with justbeast, my foot came to rest in the boarding queue LITERALLY at the moment that the crew called for boarding. It is EERIE, and completely incomprehensible to me. I feel like a child watching adults go through the esoteric motions that turn groceries into food, or pilots the car from one place to another. It seems so EASY to them, but it's a skill and a knowledge that I simply can't grasp.
Of course, it might simply be a personal curse. My first experience with Peaks Island was missing a ferry. After fifteen hours of hard driving and a few emergencies with the tarps on the truck, T. and I arrived at the Casco Bay docks with MINUTES to spare for the last car ferry of the day. We got in line, rushed in and bought our ticket and minutes later... were turned away as the thirteenth vehicle in line for a ferry that could accomodate 12. We parked the truck in the garage, all of our worldly possessions bungeed on the back and ripe for the stealing, while we waited an hour to catch the next passenger ferry to our new home. It was an inauspicious start to our life on Peaks, and it still haunts me.
Either way, as curses go, it's not so bad. Here on the island side, I can usually sit and enjoy a cup of coffee at the Cafe while I keep an eye out for the boat. And on the mainland, there's RiRa and Flatbread as convenient perches to wait. Worst case scenario, the CBL atleast has a heated lobby with relatively comfy benches.
If I can't get on or off the island on time - and I can't, it seems - atleast I can console myself with coffee and beer and good company.
It was a fun evening. For the most part illustrators work alone, so it’s always a lift to spend time with peers, talking about work and what’s new with you?
Going to town is an everyday occurrence for a lot of people on the island. The boats run often enough to satisfy most people. But there are hidden costs to living life by the boat. The ferry schedule can have a subtle effect on a person’s behavior. There’s a constant calculation of how much time is left ‘til the boat. Is there time for one more errand, or will that be one errand too many? There is either time to kill or no time to waste.
I headed off to the meeting on the 3:45 boat, because the 5 pm boat would get me there late. I arrived in town with almost an hour to spend before the meeting. Not quite long enough to take care of any far-flung errands. I bought a book of tickets and spent some time at our town car, in the parking garage next to the terminal, strapping a repaired tire for the island car to our cart so that I could take it back to the island after the meeting. I wanted to have it ready to grab because the ferry would be leaving just 15 minutes after the end of the meeting.
You know how gatherings like that are. You think you’re leaving but you’re really saying goodbye to people, paying your share of the tab, finding your gloves. Then you have to bolt for the boat. People who know islanders understand and expect it, or at least put up with it. Have you ever been at an event in town...a concert, movie, party...and seen 8 or 10 people suddenly get up at the same time, put on their coats, and rush out? Islanders.
Then there’s the cart. Often derogatorily referred to in other locales as “granny carts” or “little old lady carts”, they go with the territory here, and few are the people who can manage life without one. They carry for us all the necessities of life that can be stuffed into or strapped onto them. The rest...must be sent as freight.
I illustrated the last cover of the island phone book. (Jamie did the cover of the most recent.) I worked with the idea of weathervanes that say something about island living. Here are two...
I hustled out of the meeting without saying goodbye to everybody, on time. I dashed across the pier and up the stairs to the third floor of the garage to the car to grab the tire. Back down in the elevator, to the gate, dragging my trusty cart onto the boat. Made it.
Just another night on the town, with my spare tire.
I’m also posting this on martybraun