Archive for the ‘North America’ Category

For all the Lobster in Maine

Jordan Pond, Maine (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

How much lobster is too much lobster? In Maine, the answer seems to be, there is no such thing. There, it is possible to eat a lobster roll for both lunch and dinner, to ceaselessly crack into the thick red hull of a crustaceous claw and swipe its soft, white meat through melted butter. You can cook your own live lobster, you can order it in chowders and stews, baked into pot pies, have it whole, halved, beheaded, even gnaw on frozen chunks nestled into butter-flavored ice cream – though I don’t know that it’s a combination I can recommend. You can have lobster any way you want it, and you can have it every day. And I did.

Maine lobster roll (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Lobster roll with mayo (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I love Maine, love its rolling mountains and crashing cold waves, the glacier-scraped rocks thick with barnacles and crushed shells, the way the low tide leaves vast patches of kelp exposed to the sun until the evening brings the salty water crashing up the shore. In late summer, I love the tenacious wild blueberry bushes full of tiny fruit that never hit the bottom of the bucket until the belly’s full, and the gentle, sweet smell of balsam fir that perfumes the forest and every Bar Harbor gift shop.

A pile of live lobsters (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
A feisty lobster (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Corn on the grill (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Sunset on Mt. Desert Island, Maine (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Wise old lobster (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Our house in Maine was on a sound, and I’d wake in the mornings to sun streaming in the windows across the water. From the back deck, you could catch brief bright flashes of harbor seals’ heads as they flicked up out of the ocean in play. Once, we canoed out to where we saw them in the water, navigating close enough that we could make out each quivering whisker and their alert eyes, wet and black as midnight pools.

A platter of lobsters (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Lobster roll in Bar Harbor (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Fresh boiled lobsters (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Sweet corn on the grill (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

On the Fourth of July, we spent the day in Bar Harbor, staking down a small patch of green at the waterfront for first-row firework seats. » Continue reading this post…

America and the Americans: Pineapple Mai Tai

Pineapple Mai Tais (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Everyone I’ve told about the cruise I went on in early January has asked me if I’ve read David Foster Wallace’s essay on cruising1. Yes, I have. And no, I don’t think there’s a cruise in the world that DFW would have enjoyed. It’s a tacky business, but in the best possible way. It’s like going to Oktoberfest in a dirndl and braids: You have to give yourself over to it. To the glitter and feathers at the evening show, the white pants and silk shirts, the poolside piña coladas, overpriced bingo games, the awkward audience involvement. You have to love it. And in return, it will love you back.

Meyer's Dark Rum and Añejo rum (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Mai Tai with lime (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

One of my favorite games has always been to pretend I’m someone else, to slip into another voice, another life. In fact, I was a theater kid long before I hit the stage. My grandma used to tell me how I’d stand in front of the mirror and practice crying, just so I’d be ready when real waterworks came in handy.

On a cruise, I get to pretend my life is always cocktails in the evening sun, that I’m in the habit of wearing cute skirts and high heels and bright red lipstick to dinner, that I keep my nails manicured and enjoy small-talk with strangers. I go to the sauna and to the gym and carry around a sparkling gold clutch as if I had anything more to keep track of than my little blue sea pass. There’s no internet to remind me of my responsibilities – or of my real life. All I can do is immerse myself in this alternate world. Yes, DFW, it’s a show. But if I’m already in it, I may as well live it up.

The ocean at Cozumel (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Pineapple Mai Tai Recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I spent a lot of time observing other people on the cruise, seeing small kindnesses in the buffet line and considerate gestures – and also moments of casual disregard for the crew’s constant service and hard work. » Continue reading this post…

Welcome to the Windy City: Girl & the Goat’s Magic Beans

Girl & the Goat green beans (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Chicago is the fittest city I’ve ever been to. Everyone’s always jogging around, decked out in fancy-pants sporting gear and neon sneakers or running shirtless along the beach. Which, by the way, I didn’t know Chicago had. I guess that’s what you get for growing up on the East Coast.

It’s amazing that everyone is so incredibly healthy, because Chicago also has incredible food. Maybe the Chicagoans have picked up on the trick of compensating for good eating with good workouts, a trick I seem to be unable to learn.

Chicago, reflected (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Good friends (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
A melting city (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I went to Chicago to meet up with two old, fabulous friends. Emma, Amy, and I met in 2007 in Australia while studying abroad and somehow, somewhere down the line became traveling pals. We’ve been to St. Croix, Las Vegas, New York – and now Chicago, a place none of us lives in and that isn’t really close to anything. But as I was going to a wedding in Ann Arbor, Michigan anyway, and Chicago is just around the corner, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to explore a part of the country I’ve never been to before and reunite my favorite traveling trio.

For me, friendship has never been about how often you see people, but what it’s like when you do. When the three of us get together, it’s as if all the time that’s elapsed between our last visit and the present has consolidated, sucked into some black hole. We don’t waste time with small talk, but pick up the conversation right where it left off.

Chicago in the bean (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A view from the architectural boat tour (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Chicago from the river (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

As much as we talked, we ate. We sampled extra tender pork loin with peppers and bone marrow salad at The Purple Pig, freshly-prepared sandwiches at Publican Quality Meats, and more donuts than I’d care to admit from Glazed & Infused. » Continue reading this post…

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful: Dark & Stormy Cocktails

Dark & Stormy (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Please forgive me if I’ve already started humming Christmas carols… I get the feeling that in Berlin, the weather goes from summer to winter without even a nod to my favorite season. This is not a city that does chunky sweaters and burnt sienna trees. It’s a city that does all leaves/no leaves. Tank top/parka.

And you wonder why this isn’t a country that has apple or pumpkin pie. They don’t even have a season for it. What do you expect?

Not so long ago I was in Bermuda. Now there’s another night/day contrast we can talk about. A brilliant, beating sun, pink sand, water so blue it seemed unreal. A perpetual sunburn on my skin, cold drinks on the deck of a ship. Somebody please remind me why I left.

Beach in Bermuda (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

While you can’t always take the island sunshine with you, there are some tokens of the beach that fit in a small bag. Gosling Black Seal Rum and ginger beer for one.

Dark & Stormies are simple, highball cocktails made with ginger beer and Gosling’s rum. And apparently yes, to make real Dark & Stormies you do need Gosling’s, as the drink is trademarked by the company, whose base is in Bermuda. It stands to reason then, that along with the Rum Swizzle, the Dark & Stormy is Bermuda’s national drink.

A Dark & Stormy is a beautiful drink. Sparkling, golden ginger beer topped with a jigger of rum that floats above the soda like a storm cloud. » Continue reading this post…

’Merica – A List of Things I Love

4th of July (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Stars and stripes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

burgers and corn on the cob (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Once upon a time, when I moved to Germany, I made a list of the things that I thought the Germans did better than anyone else. I think it’s important to love the place you are – but sometimes, when you’ve had one Hefeweizen too many and your belly has grown a döner-shaped hole, you miss the place you left. I’m spending two months of my summer this year in America, and doing my fare share of traveling. Now that I no longer live in the ancestral country, I’m finding that there are some things the Americans just do best.

1. Barbecues
The first in my holy grail of Bs: Barbecue. As a one-time Carolina resident, I love my pulled pork soft and buttery between my teeth, doused with spicy vinegar sauce, and topped with slaw. But don’t get me started on a slow-roasted brisket, so rich it simply melts away in your mouth (Fatty ‘Cue, I’m looking at you). At the end of the day, give me anything on an open flame – a sweat-greased grill searing fat from burgers, olive oil soaking into zucchini slivers, a dry rub fused into the crackling skin of chicken thighs – and I am in heaven.

Juicy burgers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

2. IPA
Many people are surprised when I tell them that one of the things I miss most about America is its beer (B grail #2). I usually have to hasten and add that I do not miss the beer that most foreigners associate with the United States, that watery piss-potion college students chug from red solo cups, but that I miss interesting craft-brewed batches unafraid of experimentation. I love talking about the taste and texture of beer and the community that grows around certain breweries. I miss sitting out on a deck in summer with a cold summer ale and I miss IPAs. » Continue reading this post…

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle: Cruzan Mojitos

The aging room (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Everything I might have learned on the rum tour I promptly forgot at the tasting session, where our Hawaiian shirt-bedecked tour guide shot generous splashes of Cruzan rum into plastic cups. Coconut, mango, guava, raspberry, some scary-looking molassesy black label concoction, cream rum… If only we hadn’t gotten there right before closing time. Though maybe that was for the best.

Cruzan rum is manufactured on a smallish plot of land on the western side of the island of St. Croix. The whole walking tour takes about fifteen minutes, from the office across a pebble-strewn lawn to an open warehouse with giant bins of fermenting alcohol, past a tower, storage facility, and trucks. The occasional chicken clucks past, and the whole operation looks more like grandpa’s moonshine still in the backyard than a legitimate rum factory which turns out something like 575,000 opaque, tropical cases of rum each year.

The fermenting house is really a raised platform built around large metal vats of water, yeast, and sugarcane in various stages of fermentation. The smell of raw alcohol sweetness, like mashed apples and burnt sugar, is overwhelming, especially in the heat.

From these vats, where thefermenting liquid spends about two days, the mash is transferred to a tall tower where it undergoes something called five-column distillation. In this process, the mash is pumped through a series of columns which remove aldehydes, esters, and other various trace compounds. This process also removes fusil oils, light oils formed during fermentation that accumulate during distillation and are often blamed for hangovers.

Barrels of rum (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
In the distillery (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We say, “So we can drink as much Cruzan as we want and not have a hangover?” Our tour guide says, “I’m not saying that.”

After fermentation and distillation, the rum is cut with rainwater and placed in handcrafted wooden barrels for aging. Around 23,000 charred oak barrels of maturing rum line the shelves of an extensive aging warehouse, where the rum just sort of hangs out for at least two years – and up to twelve – thinking about who it wants to be. » Continue reading this post…

Savannahrama

Boats on Tybee (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s not that I’m following Josh around the South, but after an uneventful, rainy graduation, I drove down to Savannah to spend a week with some friends (Josh included) on the sunny coast. Though uncharacteristically rainy (a graduation curse?), Savannah remains one of my favorite cities to visit.

I love the hospitality of the South, and the role food plays in welcoming people. Everywhere I went, it was, Hi, nice to see you again or Hi, nice to meet you, can I get you something to eat? Fresh fruit, white wine, pecan shortbread cookies first – and if a meal followed, it was always more than we could possibly eat.

I was there for the meal Josh described at the end of his post. Simultaneously crunchy and moist fried chicken, tangy okra stewed with tomatoes and corn over rice, firm yet buttery field peas, all finished off with a butter-flecked biscuit so light that wildflower honey just disappeared inside it. I may not be doing any research, but it seemed to me that despite the peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert, the most Southern part of the meal was the gossip bantered over the lunch table.

Apparently, so and so, who’s very wealthy and over such and such an age, is being courted by so and so who just met her two weeks ago, and so and so’s children are having so and so sign some papers. And so and so, who owns such and such, just sold this and that to what’s his name. Bless his heart.

Grill at the end of the world (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Savannah is definitely a foodie city, but it is a strange one. You can find everything from infused balsamics and olive oils from Italy to mass marketed celebrities like Paula Deen and the Girl Scouts (think cookies). And everyone has an opinion on what’s real Southern cooking. » Continue reading this post…