Wanna get Scrod? Well, you could at Durgin- Park in Boston’s Faneuil Hall.
Or at least you could while it was open. It closed 3 years ago at the age of 193!
You could also get abused by their surly waitresses…famous for it and seemingly having some fun with it too. Call them terribly rude, but they have a reputation to uphold!
The restaurant began in 1827 as a small dining room in a market house near the waterfront. It grew over the years becoming more recently ,a multi-level extravaganza featuring the Gaslight Bar and a comedy club. It operated continuously until the pandemic did it in .It was a hallmark of traditional Yankee cooking.
Once a “must-see” on any tour of Boston, and a long time family favorite of tourists and many local families alike including the Boston Cabots, it sported a menu unique both in it’s inclusiveness and in it’s adherence to tradition. They’ve enjoyed a fiercely devoted following over the generations for their Yankee cooking and large portions.
Known initially as a seafood restaurant , they also featured nice hand cut steaks, dry-aged prime rib and New England favorites such as Yankee Pot Roast,corn bread and baked beans. Their Indian pudding was scrumptious and practically unchanged since Colonial times, except for the vanilla ice cream.
Of course there was lobster and all manner of seafood…but the only nod to a vegetarian was called humorously “The Bale Of Hay”. A vegetarian at the time of my visit I had to laugh…four different vegetables and a potato made up the plate. But kudos to them for offering it. It wasn’t notable but it wasn’t bad.
The property is now owned by a restaurant group and there is talk of a re-opening using some of their original staff …fingers crossed for another round of good natured abuse and fresh fish.
Now that my father has passed, I have to dig a little deeper for fans of our family fruitcake, he and I loved it the best. I suppose it’s almost time to Kick the Fruitcake!
Every year I’d make him a couple of large ones for Christmas, heavy with rum and studded with all manner of fruits and nuts
I think this family tradition all started with my Great Aunt Marie, who was Austrian and a fantastic baker. She was a sister of my Grand dad’s on my father’s side and, boy, did they love good food!
Dad used to tell us stories of living as a boy in Europe. He loved the sour cherry pies, and farm fresh food, the big vegetable garden at the house where he grew up. This house was in a village near the edge of a forest in Austria. He loved to tell of the mornings he got lucky and was able to hop on the back rail of a horse drawn sleigh, bells jingling, to get him to school on time. He was perennially late and that never changed. But he was never later to dinner.
Both his Mother and Aunt were terrific cooks and bakers. Often Aunt Marie would bake well ahead for the holidays and bury her fruitcakes in powdered sugar until the proper day arrived. They do keep very well, being well imbibed with spirits and stay surprisingly moist for a long period of time. They were savored judiciously due to their richness. She also made a special pepper cookie called Pfeffernuise, literally “pepper nuts” which us kids loved to dunk when she made them for us a generation later. Hard as rocks, but full of flavor!
My Dad’s Mom,who loved to visit me in Maine, used to describe my 1970’s lifestyle as similar to the way they lived back then. She described Christmas in Austria with a deep dark forest, hooting owls in snowy fir trees, the sound of snow sliding of their peaked metal roof and chickens to feed. The prized Christmas goose for the table was her domain. Her job was to catch and kill it and prepare it for roasting. She made her own feather beds.
The picture I still have in my mind is chalet-like, one of extreme coziness: prosperity, honest work, a full larder and a beloved dog by a roaring fire.
My father kept the memories of these women and this life alive and passed them on to me, which is why I’ll make fruitcake anyway this season…for remembrance.
Mingle the bold colors and 1980’s vibe of the past with a eco-sensibilities and the concern for sustainability so prevalent with today’s couples and you’re on trend for this season and next. Maybe GREEN is the new and predominant color?
Here at Laura Cabot Catering, we enjoy allowing the season’s bounty to drive a menu. What ingredients are “of the moment”? What feels appropriate to the time, occasion and place? Are their elements of shared experiences or travel the wedding couple would like to employ? How can we infuse a menu with terroir, or a real feel of the land and or sea?
Certainly wine is known for terroir, but how about oysters, for instance. The waters which sustain them also give them unique mineralogy and flavor and here in Maine we are blessed with so many expert growers and sea farmers. I feel the same way about seaweed and use it judiciously in my cooking and presentation.
Along the same line, the carrots grown in my gardens taste much different that those from a different farm. Supporting our boutique farms is a passion of mine personally and I love to incorporate this into my wedding menus.
Speaking of trends, I have noticed discussions on the re-emergence of bows in wedding couture, but unless we’re discussing farfalle pasta I am not including them in the menu conversation. I do see a renewed uptick of interest in grazing tables. Super sized and elaborate charcuterie boards with antipasti elements are a specialty here at Laura Cabot Catering. Also, small plates are seeing a comeback and are such a fun way to taste many things as well as mingle without getting overly full.
For my ideas on a larger scale crowd pleasing menu that checks all the boxes, I’ll use an example of a wildly popular menu we presented at a Fall island wedding event this past season. It features a raw bar with Islesboro oysters and Gulf shrimp representing the two domiciles of this particular family I was serving . We also had charcuterie as a stationed appetizer.
Passed items were varied to include some seasonal aspects (butternut, late season spinach) as well as dietary concerns such as Veganism and an allergy to tree nuts.
We offered a plated salad course, which served to upscale “the feel” of more service with an eye to budget and coupled that with rustic breads and butter, always a good way to “break the ice” with dining table companions.
The buffet, which was a two sided affair to move the crowd gracefully, offered three entrees, a bespoke heritage herbed pork loin roast with Demi glace and morels, an “airline” chicken preparation, topped with Caponata (optional) and a vegetarian, gluten free and vegan Ratatouille (Parmesan on the side). Sides were a mixed rice pilaf, local parsley potato and a medley of seasonal farm vegetables. I find that creative and hearty side dishes are one way to satisfy many different diets and tastes and preferences. We’ve also deliberately moved to the use of very good oils for cooking and finishing our foods as another way to please our very discriminating clientele.
Although this next season marks our fortieth at Laura Cabot Catering, every season brings it’s lessons, trends, challenges and triumphs. And we love every bit of it and all the wonderful families we have yet to serve.
“Imagine there’s no hunger. It’s easy if you try.”
John Lennon wrote those words decades ago. It’s more relevant now than ever. The gap between those who have and those who have not has never been greater. Climate change is only making it worse, the feeling is urgent. These changing times are wreaking havoc in so many fragile communities and food systems all over the world.
I’m a believer in positive thinking and envisioning our blue planet as an ecosystem that can benefit from elevated intention and, of course, deliberate and focused action. Gratitude has a place in this. Being grateful not only helps those around you to feel love, it creates abundance. Creative thinking will find the solutions for hunger and replace it with the mindset of abundance and the systems needed to support this.
Love makes a difference and can guide our actions. Raising vibration sounds scarily hokey, but I think it works. This means taking the high road mentally and spiritually and it’s not always easy. It begins at home and with ourselves in the most mundane of ways. We can get snagged and stuck in all manner of negativity…until we see it for what it is…then, and only then, can we affect change.
Once we know we’re in a neutral place, rather than a loaded one, we’re free. Free to act responsibly, creatively and to serve others. Karma Yoga. Free to feel deeply, create deeply and connect deeply with others. Which ultimately serves us and our relationships pretty well. It’s then easy to see how interconnected we all are. That feeling of connection is something I believe we all seek. It is understanding, tolerance, happiness, contentment and satisfaction over fear, illness and separation.
If everyone could do this, we’d all be making better decisions in our microcosm and in our larger world, our macrocosm . We’d realize the action, the pathway, which is uniquely ours to effect goodness. Why not seek out a charitable organization that truly works for people in need rather than it’s administration and donate? There are exhaustive lists available on the better ones to choose. Shine a light on an issue near to your heart, be it the ocean or the air, hunger in Afghanistan, or in your community. Dance with children or create a reading circle for elders, learn about hospice….or even learn to meditate!
May your winter and New Year be filled with crystalline clarity, love and grace.
Remember, a moment of stillness can be very illuminating!
Another pandemic Christmas is upon us. No traveling to speak of this year.So I’m finding my Food Safaris at home.
Not seeing many friends is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! I, for one, am falling out of the habit of seeing people, friends that used to be part of almost daily life. It’s even starting to feel normal. While some folks are “getting back to life” despite the Delta and other new variants of the Covid virus, I’m feeling content and yes, even blessed, to be healthy, without want, and able to help others in my community. Gratitude that my town wasn’t hit by a tornado or under flood waters.
This is not a time to be complacent but to give of ourselves and our resources to make the world a better place, starting at home. To say thank you to the people who we may sometimes take for granted. To help love, feed and shelter hungry animals. To give a gift or a toy to a child that otherwise may do without. To enrich a global village with a gift of livestock.
So again this holiday season it is a Safari inward to ask ourselves a few questions, challenge our reactions, and to travel out of our comfort zones, which is the only home many have.
May Christmas Spirit speak to you wherever it is that you worship.
Another Thanksgiving has passed, the snow in Maine came right on time. It’s been another moment of tough decision for people, making as yet a new variant of the Covid virus rocks our world. I chose to stay close, although I am longing for a feeling of connectedness with family.
I was fortunate to be invited to a small Friendsgiving in my neighborhood at Mike and Charlottes’ house.
My friend Charlotte and I are considered a couple of the better cooks in town, so it was indeed a feast for which we were all grateful. I brought the turkey, a locally raised gem…..and the gravy, green beans too. Charlotte made an oyster pan roast ( divine!), and lot of thoughtful side dishes.
Mike chose the wines for each course and we all made pies, a tart Tatin, custard, pumpkin and pecan rounded out the night. We ate and laughed until we all felt like footballs, finishing with a nice Port. We took time for Grace.
Honestly, although I missed my family and extended family of friends there is an abundance of goodness most everywhere in my life, and energy enough to help others in need, which is a year round opportunity, if we’re mindful enough to see it.
Let’s enter into this Holiday season with Yankee ingenuity, even if some store shelves are bare and gas costs more than we’d like it too, a mindful attitude, and full hearts for the many, many things that are right in our lives.
Stay safe and help others when opportunity presents.
In the wild world of catering, the summer catering season was the enthusiastic predecessor to the extended reality of the current covid surge. A few quick and hopeful months of thinking we could gather and celebrate “normally”. That maybe we’d seen the end of “this.”
At Laura Cabot Catering, we were fortunate to enjoy a full schedule these last few months, with a complement of different sorts of events, and many weddings. Eager brides and grooms gamely wearing their “Mr. and Mrs.” matching face masks. People tentatively in a group, revelry taking the edge off.
People hugged, then worried. Family-style dinner service was out of style. Our individual appetizer boxes became very popular. Buffets sported plexiglass sneeze guards and eco-ware took center stage as the washing up of china dishes became less popular and no one wanted to touch someone else’s glass. Branded masks became a thing and folks who had waited a year or more finally were able to have scaled back versions of their parties.
Now that the catering season in Maine is in the rear view mirror, and kids are back in schools where covid is alive and once again spreading, we have to wonder what the next season will bring.
If the number of inquiries pouring in is any indication, it will be rock and roll! We hope without face masks.
In the north country, spring foraging is one of life’s little pleasures.
The earliest greens that can be enjoyed come right out of the meadows, like early dandelion greens or from along Maine’s riverbanks. Now, per riverbanks,I’m talking about fiddleheads. Just after the dandelions go to bloom come fiddlehead ferns. Fiddleheads are the tightly furled shoot of the ostrich fern, reminiscent of the scroll on an instrument, are usually just right to harvest around Mother’s Day. At my restaurant, the Pine Cone Cafe, it was the most requested Mother’s Day treat and we always had it on our brunch menu in May as a rich quiche.
It’s important to be certain of a few things: One, make sure you have the right fern. The wrong one can make you sick. Two, be sure your harvest comes from a very clean area, waterside. There is no sense in eating wild food if it’s not from a clean area. Three, never take it all. We want to replenish the wild areas as the plants presence there serves many purposes, not just ours. Don’t trespass. Don’t eat this fern raw. All that said, fiddleheads have long been a part of a Maine spring and are good in stir fries, quiches, pickled, and so on.
This is a little story about when I was six. My mother was a PA farm girl, studying for her nursing degree in Philadelphia, my Dad a city boy from Philly. He was recently out of the Army and at Temple University on the GI bill. When their worlds collided, they married. Back then there was a huge push towards something new, Suburbia!
My father bought into a brand new development called Cherry Hill, a sweet little house on a decent sized lot with lots of unspoiled woods and meadow around back. Formerly, and remnants still remain, it was rich farmland and horse country. The Garden State, right? We lived there until I graduated high school.
My early days were spent helping my Mother and Grandmother hang out laundry, iron dad’s white shirts, make mud pies and top them with flowers. I should have had an inkling then that food would be my passion.
When Granddad visited with Grandma the focus changed to foraging over housekeeping or making pies. “Hunting” for dandelions was what he called it. One fine spring day, much like this day in May, with Mother’s permission we set out the back door, down the hill to the creek, forged it and up the hill we went into a meadow. I remember it well, although it wasn’t long for this world, as it was earmarked to become a row of upscale track housing. Sadly, it was the last time I recall my grandfather too, as he got sick and passed away fairly soon after.
But then he was hale, handsome and hearty and hell bent on a sack of greens to bring home for my Grandmother, Laura’s hot dandelion greens with bacon. And at that time, the meadow, ringed with old growth trees, was awash in daisies in bud and loads of dandelions before their flowers showed.
Grandpa George showed me how to identify the greens. With his sharp jack knife, he’d pop them out of the ground by the root, also being good to eat, clean them in the field so as not to bring dirt into the kitchen… and Grandma did the rest. I remember those greens done up Pennsylvania Dutch style, cooked until bright green, then dressed with a sharp hot bacon vinaigrette. Grandma called them a Spring tonic.
It was an acquired taste but we loved everything about cooking something we’d “hunted” for… and we still do.
Imagine yourself in Paris on an early spring day, it’s drizzling and the streets are slick with a warm rain…the kind of rain that gentles spring flowers to pop into view. The trees are just greening, small leaves unfurling. You’re on the street, looking at maps with a few student/friends. You’re all seeking a culinary adventure. It’s mid-day and everyone’s hungry.
I was a culinary student at La Varenne in the early 1990’s, one of just a few women in the class. The women in training together became fiercely close as a way of combatting the overwhelmingly male atmosphere. We were hell bent on our success and on wringing the most out of our time in an eternal city. Especially in the realm of culinary experience.
Imagine that one of you has “heard of a place” …it’s been so many years that I now can’t recall the name of it. We strike out to find it. We arrive, the restaurant is gilded in a Belle Epoque way, yet seems acessable and full of diners. There are cute older couples intent on their meals and each other. Fancy ladies with their little dogs….formidable looking waiters who have made a career of this. We’re seated, it’s a miracle. Whoa, looks like we’re going to spend some money but it’s going to be memorable.
We ordered Cremant and a seafood tower, way before they were hip. One friend had a Salad Riche with foil gras and spring greens, heaven on a plate! Another, a lamb stew with spring onions, while a potted canard was another excellent choice. I had Lapin, or the rabbit, presented stewed in the style of a recipe I’ve shared, (See Seasonal Recipes – Lapin a la Moutarde) with turned vegetables (French kitchen “busy work”), young carrots and green chives. A perfect blend of warming and spring thinking.
Ah, April in Paris… a student then, and really, still a student of life.