Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Out to Eat: Jacqueline's Tea Room

I recently visited Jacqueline's Tea Room, a lovely little house in Freeport, Maine, where for $23.75 per person, you get a pre-set four-course menu and all the tea you could possibly drink (from a selection of about seventy varieties!).

Jacqueline sets the tables with teapots, cups, saucers, and plates from her extensive personal collection.

Grammy came along for the first time. White wrought iron, floral prints, and pearl-bedecked crystal chandeliers make up the little-girl's-fantasy decor.

For Dan and I, this was the second visit. On display throughout the house are books, stationery, scarves, jewelry, and of course, tea implements, all of which are for sale. You can also purchase any of the dozens of teas on the menu.

We started with scones. Here's a delicious almond scone with clotted cream and lemon curd. Strawberry-raspberry-cherry jam was also available.

Next came the tea sandwiches. Clockwise from the top: chicken salad, peach and ginger, salmon roll, cucumber with lavender. All were tasty, but this was the best chicken salad I've ever had: bedecked with cranberries, almonds, and celery, and held together with something that didn't quite taste like mayonnaise (a plus, since I am not a mayo fan). The peach and ginger was delicious, too, and could have easily been included on the pastry plate.

And what a pastry selection it was! Clockwise from top left: nut cakes with caramel, chocolate-cherry cake, jam tarts with Earl Grey cream, and almond macaroons with passion-fruit curd. The maraschino cherry baked in a chocolate cupcake was my least favorite; it's a cute concept, but the flavor was just not as interesting as anything else on the plate.

Both Dan and I agreed that the nut cake was the best. The texture was moist and incredibly velvety, and the caramel was just right.

For the final course, a touch of berry sorbet graced with a nasturtium. In the cooler months, instead of ending with sorbet, the meal begins with a cup of soup. By this point we were absolutely stuffed; between the three of us, we'd gone through at least six pots of tea.

Having been twice now, I can definitely say that I love Jacqueline's Tea Room. It's the perfect place for a bridal or baby shower or just a special treat!

Jacqueline's Tea Room is open Tuesday through Friday and every other weekend, with seatings at 11am and 1pm. Reservations required.

Jacqueline's Tea Room
201 Main Street
Freeport, Maine

Monday, September 29, 2008

Out of the Box, Week 14

I'm back! I apologize for the posting drought. After a frustrating month of borrowed cameras, I finally got a new camera and will resume regular posting. These tomatillos came in the box on week 14 (September 19th). I've always been intrigued by tomatillos - their brilliant color! the contrast between smooth skin and papery husk! - but I've never actually tried them. Once again, this CSA has expanded my boundaries.

The weekend the tomatillos arrived, Dan and I went back to Maine for our niece's birthday party. We got in late after picking up my little brother Zach and his girlfriend Maria from the bus station. As I unpacked the CSA box, we all stood around the kitchen chatting. When I pulled out the tomatillos, Maria, who's from Texas, got very excited. She described the flavor as like a tomato, but more tangy and sour - as though infused with lime. This description fueled my excitement, as lime is one of my all-time favorite flavors. If the acid weren't so bad for my teeth, I would eat a whole lime every single day.

I took Maria's advice and decided to use the tomatillos for a green salsa. I was surprised to find the tomatillos were much more firm than tomatoes, but it gave the salsa a nice, chunky texture without too much juice. I husked and sliced three tomatillos and threw them in the mini-Cuisinart with an onion, a jalapeno, a few cloves of garlic, and a squirt of lemon juice. The result was delicious, but way too hot! My mistake was throwing in the whole jalapeno (and some seeds) without testing it first. I've made salsa before with the same kind of jalapeno and found it too mild; I forgot that every pepper can be different.

I first served the tomatillo salsa with burritos filled with brown rice, black beans, and chopped heirloom tomatoes, covered with some cheese and baked in the oven. Because the salsa was so hot, we could only use a little bit at a time. However, we had plenty of leftover beans and rice, so we ate that for lunch a few times with the green salsa mixed in.

While the tomatillo salsa was great, and I would definitely like to experiment more with tomatillos in the future, there was another surprise benefit to this experience. As I went to throw away the waste - tomatillo husks, garlic peels, onion skin, and jalapeno seeds - I suddenly saw a beautiful combination of colors and textures in my hands, and decided a photo shoot detour was necessary before heading to the trash can. Here's a few examples. Now am I crazy, or is this beautiful?

More husk photos here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I finally opened my Etsy shop! Earrings by me, artwork by my mother. Check it out:

Buy Handmade


Monday, September 8, 2008

funk update

Remember the funk? Sleep, fresh air, and veggies are a wonderful combination. I felt and looked infinitely better after my weekend detox. My skin got better in less than a day and has stayed above par since then.

Time may not heal all wounds, but it sure helps lousy spice cakes. The applesauce spice cake that was so terrible when I made it tasted much better the following day. It just needed time for the flavors to develop. Now that I know this, the recipe is definitely in my keeper pile.

catching up

There are always a few meals that, for whatever reason, don't make it on the blog during the week I make them. They linger in the corners of my memory, haunting my "to blog" list, and are borne ever farther back by the waves of new photos in my Flickr photostream. They are perfectly good meals, decently photographed, so there's no reason not to post about them. So now, when I don't have regular access to a camera, is actually a perfect time to sweep the corners and post the pieces that I've missed.

This was a fantastic and satisfying veggie-only dinner from week 10. I made a simple red sauce from mushrooms, onions, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, and rosemary, and I served it over faux-fried eggplant. Tasty as it is, I don't fry eggplant (or much of anything, really) - most of the time, fried foods just aren't worth the calories to me. I'd rather have ice cream. So my favorite way to prepare eggplant (and zucchini) is to fake-fry it: I dip the sliced veggies in milk or plain yogurt, then in bread crumbs (seasoned with herbs and sometimes parmesan cheese) and bake them in the oven at 375 for 20-30 minutes. The result is unbeatable - all of the crispiness of fried eggplant (or zucchini) with none of the grease. In this case, I also served corn on the cob and sliced cucumbers.

One of my favorite vegetables this summer is yellow squash. It's a new favorite for me; while I liked it alright before, for some reason this summer I just can't get enough of it. I especially love the teeny, tiny baby squashes we've received so often in our CSA box; they are awesome raw - crunchy yet tender. The larger ones usually end up grilled, with peanut sauce and other grilled veggies, or sometimes very lightly steamed. Several weeks back, I decided to experiment with the squash and use up several pantry items at the same time.

I ended up with this tasty, if a little strange, concotion: sliced squash, sauteed and sprinkled with balsamic vinaigrette, tossed with Wacky Mac and feta cheese. I was inspired in part by recipe that I stumbled across for pan-seared balsamic squash; since my squash was only lightly cooked and not seared, I'm not sure it quite stood up to the balsamic. Maybe it's just me, since I'm actually not a big fan of balsamic vinegar in general. But the feta worked nicely with both the squash and the balsamic, and Dan enjoyed the dish. Luckily, he's pretty easy to please.