espos room

Some restaurants age well.  Others just get old.

Consider then what makes such a restaurant as Espo’s so inexhaustibly disappointing.  Yet it’s always full.  Lines of diners out the door are panting to get in for its family fare of ersatz Italian-American cooking in a setting that’s meant to look like a trattoria but is really nothing more than a glorified pizzeria with table service.

Espo's famous meatballs

Espo’s famous meatballs

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forget about chopping hard-boiled eggs for salad; this tool cubes it perfectly.

In a world of exotic, expensive and irreplaceable kitchen gadgets, one has eluded me for years.  I remember it from my childhood as something that my mother used to make an unremarkable egg salad for sandwiches.  But because of its proficiency in dicing hard-boiled eggs it resulted in the perfect consistency.

It was a sort of grater that was a rectangular piece of stainless steel with half-inch square holes through which she pushed hard-boiled eggs to achieve perfectly cubed pieces of yolk and white to make into the proverbially homey egg salad.

The grater

The grater

I’ve looked for it casually for years in kitchen stores without much success.  But I longed for it and I’m not sure why it took me so long to do an internet search.  I can’t remember the search words that I used but the search phrase must have had the word “grater.”

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The Jonathan Borofsky exhibition on now at CMCA

I spent 24 solid hours in Rockland earlier this week for three reasons: to stay at the uniquely stylish 250 Main Hotel; to visit the very compelling Center for Maine Contemporary Art and to dine at the town’s newest restaurant, Sammy’s Deluxe.

Scenes from Rockland, clockwise: the Plaza at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art; dining room at Sammy's Deluxe and the lobby at 250 Main Hotel

Scenes from Rockland, clockwise: the Plaza at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art; dining room at Sammy’s Deluxe and the lobby at 250 Main Hotel

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caiolas-front

The most significant, obvious differences in the newly acquired Caiola’s are two-fold: Its long-running chef and owner, Abby Harmon, who has been considered one of Portland’s most creative chefs, has departed the scene—temporarily, probably—selling the restaurant to one of Portland’s most accomplished chefs, Damian Sansonetti and his wife, pastry chef Ilma Lopez , who are stepping into Caiola’s spotlight while maintaining their fabulous Piccolo.

Brunch specials of the old Caiola's: Clockwise: pancakes, Hot Brown, Bird's Nest, special French Toast

Brunch specials of the old Caiola’s: Clockwise: pancakes, Hot Brown, Bird’s Nest, special French Toast

What they do and how they do it will be closely watched.

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hope pizza chorizo

Where do you go when you’re on a Maine island 12 miles out to sea to wind down the week that was on Friday night?  On North Haven, the several year-old Calderwood Hall is the place to be for some of the finest pizza anywhere on the Mid Coast, even if it is on an island.

Friday night at Calderwood Hall, North Haven

Friday night at Calderwood Hall, North Haven

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hope turner room

Certainly the Turner Farm barn dinners held on Thursdays throughout the summer are a heavily attended event.  Diners come by boat from the Mainland on a special transport and summer residents and visitors reserve their spots early where the barn can accommodate nearly 100 enthusiastic diners.

The farm table is set for some 60 diners at Turner Farm

The farm table is set for some 60 diners at Turner Farm

Over the years I’ve been to many of them, and this one being held in the first week of July was somewhat different from past experiences. Besides the brisk weather, with requisite Maine fog and temperatures never rising above the 50s, the barn remained cozy and inviting.

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hope dinner

At last Saturday’s farmer’s market on North Haven, there was a wealth of produce, meats and cheese to stock up on.  There was also a table filled with home-baked pies and cakes; but since I was extensively doing my own baking, I didn’t choose any of those luscious looking desserts even though they were all very tempting, especially the chocolate cream pie (center).

Standout vendors at the market included a selection of pies; Sheep Meadow's wonderful honey and lamb and display of yogurt and flowers from Turner Farm

Standout goodies at the market included a selection of pies, Sheep Meadow’s wonderful honey and lamb and display of yogurt and flowers from Turner Farm  

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hope cottage brown's

Summer in Maine and the dawn comes early and dusk comes late, especially on an island such as North Haven where time and space are so precious.  Island life has its idiosyncrasies, too,  such as a glitch in my internet and phone service hookup under the shaky hands of Fairpoint Communications.  Keeping in touch here to share my North Haven diary has been tricky business.

Daily rites of summer begin on North Haven Island: (clockwise: trimaran anchored in the Fox Island Thoroughfare; the daily departure from the North Haven Ferry and scenes of the Saturday farmer's market, the first of the season

Daily rites of summer begin on North Haven Island: (clockwise: trimaran anchored in the Fox Island Thoroughfare; the daily arrivals on the North Haven Ferry and scenes of the Saturday farmer’s market, the first of the season

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pjnew bar 3

Briefly noted is the opening of Petite Jacqueline in their new location at Market and Milk streets where owners Michelle and Steve Corry reconfigured their Portland Patisserie into two spaces.  The café is ramped down significantly, but the great pastries from pastry chef Catherine Cote-Eliot are served at both the café and the restaurant.  The rest of the space is devoted fully to dining, and the look is chic and divine.

PJ's new look at the bar and at table

PJ’s new look at the bar and at table

You wouldn’t recognize it from the original café space since the long room is now chock-a-block with white-clothed banquettes and tables with the fabulous floor to ceiling windows overlooking the picturesque cobblestone portal of the Portland Regency across the street.

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strawberry pie on a plate2

According to local farmer’s it looks like a great season for strawberries. And Maine is fortunate to have a long growing season with the additional crop of the ever-bearing variety that yield berries well into the fall.

Glorious Maine strawberries

Glorious Maine strawberries

It’s surprising that more Maine farmers who cultivate strawberries don’t choose to grow the ever-bearing variety. One explanation is that the farmers need the time and wherewithal for other crops because strawberries need a lot of care. The season for this variety is after the initial crop of June-July berries.  Beth’s Farm Market in Warren  is one of the biggest growers; this is the place where you’re assured strawberries as late as the first frost.

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