Archive for July, 2011


It quickly becomes obsessive. I watched my mild-mannered family as they were drawn in, tossing the chicken-baited string out into the brackish stream again and again and again, eagerly waiting for the subtle pull of a nibbling crab.

The crabbing technique here is primitive: tie a chicken drumstick to a string and toss it in the water.  These carrion eaters will promptly start nibbling.  Typical crabbers are young families and threesomes of men enjoying a mid-afternoon beer.  Seagulls attend, coolly attempting to conceal their gluttonous motives.

A stronger pull on the string is the sign of another glutton: one of the huge snapping turtles who live in this stream, under the Madaket Road bridge.  (Yesterday morning we went to the Nantucket Natural Science Museum for the feeding of the “Carnivorous Critters,” and we learned that reptiles only need to eat about twice a week.  I’m convinced that these estuarial snappers are obese.)

Yesterday, my cousin Christa caught one crab.

We won’t be having any Maryland-style crab feasts, where bushels of Old Bay-seasoned crabs are heaped on the table and everyone steadily picks and talks and drinks for hours.

The fog rolls in…


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fish and berries

As soon as I posted that paean to Minneapolis, we left town, heading east to Vermont and Cape Cod.  We find big bowls of ripe berries wherever we go, whether it’s the beginning of blueberry and raspberry season or the end of strawberry season, every sweet bite must be savored or baked before they go bad or are replaced on shelves by their cardboardy California cousins.  We even discovered a secret cache of raspberries where they were least suspected, twining deep in the lilac behind the grill at my parents’ house.

I found myself repeating recipes that have long been summer stand-bys: panzanella, garlic scape mashed potatoes, blueberry buckle, to name a few.

One evening, we drove down I-91 through the gorgeous Vermont hills, where farmers were haying, kids were swimming in rivers, and everything was green, on our way to Saxton’s River, where we joined our friends Eric and Rachel and kids, and Chard and Liz for dinner.  When Chard and Eric get together, they like to get down to their Finnish roots and smoke a salmon in the backyard fire pit. The salmon had been brining overnight in whiskey and other seasonings, and while Eric chopped kindling, Chard conjured a fire out of the damp wood and curls of birch bark. He threw on some large sprigs of juniper, and then they laid on the home-made steel smoker. The smell was primitively delicious (and forced off the mosquitoes, which was a welcome side-effect).  Jack, Maddy, and Emmet rode their bikes up and down the block of Academy Road, which was busy only with other children, while the salmon cooked.  We also took a quick trip to Eric’s new studio–a spacious room in an old abandoned school–to see his new paintings.  They dance with pastel thrusts of color, then deepen into darker hints.

When the salmon was done, everyone gathered around for the ritual unpeeling of the smoke-blackened skin.

not so sure about it...

It was a fun evening.  We hadn’t seen some of these friends for several years, but we got right back into the groove.  Rachel was pregnant with Emmet that time, and now I’m the one with a bump.  As Gillian Welch sings on her new album (which I just downloaded): “everybody’s buyin’ little baby clothes… that’s the way that it goes…”

After a couple more delightful days in Vermont, we headed to the outer Cape, where we had a streak of hot sunny weather, and went to the beach twice a day.  Curtis greeted us the first night with gigantic lobsters, and sent us off on our last night with the freshest of striped bass.  We also went to Mac’s, on the pier in Wellfleet, where I had a crab cake sandwich.  Considering my state, I should lay off the fish for awhile.  When we got together with our friends Tom and Sarah, wine was offered and suhsi and raw bar spots recommended. When I reminded them I couldn’t have any of those delectables, Tom exclaimed with concern, “Wow, you have a lot of restrictions.”  I said, “no, not really. It’s just the things that I like!”

view from our table at Mac's

Jack at Mac's

And now we’re on Nantucket with my family.  This is a pretty nice kind of itinerancy…

cousins on the ferry

me and my sweet boy

I’ll leave you with a recipe–the one Curtis used for our last dinner.  The flavor combination was amazing, and didn’t overpower the striper at all.  (This is from the most recent issue of Food and Wine.)

Grilled Striped Bass with Indian-Spiced Tomato Salad

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped basil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 medium shallot, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice


1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

Four 6-ounce wild striped bass fillets, with skin

Freshly ground pepper

In a small skillet, toast the peppercorns and coriander seeds over moderately high heat until fragrant, 30 seconds. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool completely. Grind the peppercorns and coriander to a powder.

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the ground spices, basil, vinegar, shallot, ginger and sugar. Add the tomatoes and toss to coat with the dressing. Season the tomatoes with salt.

Light a grill or heat a grill pan. In a shallow baking dish, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the rosemary. Season the bass with salt and pepper and coat the fillets with the rosemary oil. Grill the bass over moderately high heat, skin side down, until nicely charred and crisp on the bottom, 3 minutes. Turn the bass and cook until just opaque in the center, 3 minutes longer.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to plates. Set the bass fillets on the tomato salad. Spoon the tomato dressing over and around the fish and serve.

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We’ve lived in Minneapolis for a month now.  We spent the first 9 days in our new place without furniture, which was interesting.  In fact, it was surprising how quickly we adapted to living with minimal stuff.  But don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into a sermon about the importance of living with less.  I’m glad to have a couch to sit on, pots and pans to cook with, and 200 pairs of shoes to choose from.  (Well, no, sadly, I’m actually limited to a few pairs of Birkenstocks, since that arthritic toe joint has flared up again.)  What made that first week of camping out on hardwood bearable was the thrill this city buzzes with when it’s summer time, the lakes and parks, and the amazing food spots we’ve discovered.  There are great grocery stores, fun farmers’ markets, and countless hip cafes, coffee shops, bistros, patisseries, and pizzerias. (According to some survey that was cited in the Star Tribune last week, Minneapolis is the hipster capital of the country. I bought a $3 cup of hipster-made coffee at our neighborhood farmers’ market and thought it was so-so.)  Our favorite place to eat out is the pizzeria we went to on our first night here, which is just a block and a half away: Lola. They have an enormous, round, beautiful, shiny, copper wood-fired oven in which they cook thin-crust pizzas topped with only the best ingredients.

They also have the tastiest soft-serve vanilla, which you can get between cookies, unadulterated, or with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.  The latter tastes like a vegetal twist on caramel, which is novel and delicious.

One night, instead of having pasta bianca, we went uptown to Lucia’s, where Peter had mussels served with this delicate chive-flower-sprinkled crostini:

And after our things finally arrived (but before our kitchen was fully functional)…

to celebrate we went to another fantastic bistro, Cafe Maude, where Jack ordered a kids’ cocktail called “Rubber Ducky,” which is topped with a Peep!

I think it’s love.

And, let’s see, how many times have I been to Patisserie 46? I’ve already lost count.  Our first time there was also something of an occasion. We met up with my college friend, writer Emily Sohn, whom I haven’t seen since graduation!  She lives here with her husband Gabe and adorable son Zach.  After some morning pastries and perfectly executed cappuccini, we walked slowly to the closest park, where the little boys stripped down to their shorts and splashed around in the wading pool.  The first time I tasted Patisserie 46’s delicate pastries was the week before, when I found their stand at the Fulton Farmers’ Market, which is close to home.  While I ate a cherry & almond-topped brioche and drank my hipster coffee, Jack, in the mood for more savory fare, waited in line at Chef Shack for a brat with mustard.

I also bought two heavy bags of produce: a gigantic head of oak leaf lettuce, English peas, baby bok choy, new potatoes, kale, cucumbers… I forget what else.  We’ve been eating very well.

A few days later, when my parents came to visit, (in addition to eating at Lola and Cafe Maude, and then Cafe Ena) we visited the Mill City Museum, which is really the museum of flour.  We learned about the central role of flour in the growth of Minneapolis, and stood for what must be our oddest family portrait.

Notice anything peculiar about me? Yes, that’s right, I’m pregnant.  The little girl is due November 2nd, and is squirming and wriggling away as I write. Jack is so excited.  When I asked him to take a belly picture, he took me quite literally, and cut off my head:

Jack has been busy playing with his new neighbor friend.  They wanted to have a lemonade stand, and the only lemonade I had was the pricey Trader Joe’s organic. Their customers commented, they said, on how delicious the lemonade was.  No crystal lite on this corner!

Another day, we went to Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream on Upton Ave., where they make their own small batches of uniquely flavored gelato-like ice creams.  The first time we went, I got cinnamon.  Next time they had salted caramel. Mmmm… is all I can say.  They have back-garden seating, which feels Berkeley-like, and a big iron turtle to crawl on.

It’s been a busy, happy, well-fed month.  And even though I haven’t touched on it much here, I have been doing some cooking.  But it’s summertime cooking: quick, a little lazy, conducive to warm nights. Last night, I mixed up a pesto for our ravioli using basil from the pot on the front stoop and peas from a local farm. The peas gave it a bright color and sweetness that was a refreshing change from the basil pesto I usually make, which always contains the evidence of an over-zealous garlic pusher. If only I could extend the evening with a few glasses of rosé….  Instead, I’ve been reading Clarissa.

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