Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ina Here We Come!

In 1999, in what seems like another life, I enrolled at The French Culinary Institute in New York City. To help me prepare, I bought the professors' cookbooks: Alain Sailhac, Andre Soltner, and Jacques Torres had all published best-selling books, and it seemed like a great idea for me to learn their secrets and techniques. I was excited, intimidated, and busy practicing when my then-boyfriend proposed. Would I move to West Virginia with him?  

What about hanging out with the best of the best in the culinary world? What about that?? Well, I will always have to wonder, because off I went to West Virginia, and my husband and I are still happily married with two beautiful children and a puppy. No regrets, although I think Jim might regret not having a wife who is professionally trained in French cuisine.  

Now I am older, wiser, and firmly grounded in the belief that since I have Ina Garten, I don't need Jaques Torres and company. My sister's mother-in-law, whom I have known almost my whole life, gave me my first Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and I will forever be grateful to her. Ina Garten shaped the way I cook more than any other single force. From her, I learned that a wonderful dish does not need to be complicated; it just needs to be prepared with the freshest ingredients and a firm understanding of basic culinary techniques.  

Tomorrow, I am off to see Ina in person. She will speak at Boston's Symphony Hall, and if I can wrestle my way to the front of the line, I will get my picture taken with her. I'd like to hang it in the front hall of the Inn, where I have put into practice everything she has taught me. About a year ago, I overheard someone in the front parlors say, "I can't wait for dinner. I hear the food here is amazing."  It was one of my proudest moments. Thanks, Ina.

Monday, September 15, 2014


The Summer of Augie is coming to a close. Our now-5-month-old puppy defined the summer of 2014 for my whole family, and we have loved (almost) every second of it. Everything we did and didn't do was determined in large part by where Augie would be while we were or weren't doing it. So, no long, luxurious days at Popham Beach; Augie couldn't stay home alone for that long. No long weekend at The Claremont Hotel; they don't allow dogs. No sleeping in; Augie needs to go out.

But Augie makes us smile, and he makes everyone else smile, too. We love that even the most dour-looking, passerby softens and smiles with Augie's wag.  Now he is becoming a fixture on the quad at Bowdoin, where I take him on early afternoon walks to keep him from wondering where Helen and Charlie have gone. My 9- and 11-year-olds have gone back to school, and Augie is feeling a bit blue. The oohing and ahhing of the Bowdoin students has made him feel a little better.

As we transition into the start of yet another new school year, which resonates particularly strongly for those of us who live and work in a college town, Augie is a good reminder of how to approach life: be full of joy when you wake up in the morning--it's another day!  

And it's another day and another season at The Brunswick Inn. We are happily getting to know the Bowdoin freshman class and their families; our event business, both on- and off-site, continues to grow; our Plain Jane Granola, which has been such a successful part of the Inn for more than 5 years, will hopefully be coming to a market near you in the next couple of years; and The Brunswick Inn Provisions, a spark of an idea, is coming into clearer focus.  We will keep you posted!

In the meantime, I'm trying to smile and wag when I get up each morning.

Monday, August 4, 2014


There's a lovely St. Louis couple who stay at the Inn frequently--their daughter is a student at Bowdoin.  Almost every time they come, they make the journey north on Route 1 to Rockland to dine at Primo.  I would be amazed by this dedication if I were not a restaurant junkie. After all, it's almost two hours each way.  Instead of being amazed, I've always just been jealous.

Well tonight it's my turn!  To celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary, my husband and I are headed north ourselves.  It will be our first Primo experience.  Chef Melissa Kelley is the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award winner of the American Express Best Chef: Northeast Award. She also received this award in 1999, making her the first 2-time winner of the same award. Her farm-to-table dining is recognized nationally, and I am somewhat ashamed that I have lived in Maine since 2003 and have never gone.  One more piece of evidence to show how tough it is to get to all the jewels that Maine has to offer!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Live Well

When you live in Maine, you live well.  Life here is solid and simple, and the pace is slower than most places.  Sometimes there are moments when I feel this sense of wellness very palpably, and the most recent moment happened at Live Well Farm.  For Grey's Anatomy fans, this is significant: Patrick Dempsey's mother owned Live Well Farm not long ago.

The new owners have transformed the property, which is just a quarter of a mile from our home in Harpswell, into an event venue with sleeping accommodations for about a dozen people. Both the barn and the house can seat many for a meal and celebration.  My favorite feature in the barn is a piece of driftwood lovingly reclaimed from Popham Beach and transformed into a twinkly chandelier.
My kids, my new puppy, and I went to the farm for the Harpswell Fire and Rescue Full Moon Barn Dance a few weeks ago, and that live well feeling was palpable.  The evening air was clear and cool as dogs and puppies leapt joyfully and got into a fair amount of mischief concerning potato chips and hot dogs; fiddles played as the moon rose; friends and neighbors sipped icy beer and plastic cups of red wine and caught up on the local gossip; kids ran through fields and tried their hands at badminton.
Patty and Scott Ruppert have done an amazing job with Live Well Farm, and we wish them well as they grow their new business.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Going Upbeat

Five years ago, The Brunswick Inn began a wonderful relationship with the Bowdoin International Music Festival.  We are now the official Inn of the festival, so many of our summer guests are either faculty or the parents of festival students.  We love welcoming them: they fill the house with music!
Linda Chesis
Linda Chesis

This year we are pleased to host flutist Linda Chesis as a guest at the Inn once again.  Linda is the founder and artistic director of the Cooperstown Summer Music Festival and is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music.  She will be an artist-in-residence for weeks one and four of the festival, and we look forward with great anticipation to her performance of Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp this Wednesday evening.

The Inn is the sponsor of this year's Wednesday Upbeat! performance series, and we are excited to be trying something new after four great years of sponsoring the Monday Night Sonata series.  Join us after the performance each week for an opportunity to meet the artists and other members of the festival community while enjoying complimentary hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar.  We're going Upbeat!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Congratulations Alane!

This past Saturday night I had the pleasure of catering Alane Callahan's wedding to Ken Crowe.  Alane has worked at the Inn for 3 years and has taken over the event planning for that ever-expanding part of the business.  She has mastered the art of discovering just what a guest envisions for a party and creates the perfect plan to help realize that vision.  She did an amazing job for her own wedding--the decor at the Mere Point Yacht Club was spectacular, and the feel of the entire event was intimate and easy-going with special surprise details at every turn.  I loved the ball jars labelled with the names of all the children lined up with red-striped straws for sipping lemonade.  I loved the twinkling white lights that lined the rustic beams of the ceiling.  I loved the food she chose: tapas in honor of Ken's Guatamalan heritage.  Guests feasted on fire-roasted salsa and fresh guacamole; skirt steak and roasted potatoes with aioli; skewers of prosciutto-wrapped melon, black olives, manchego, grape tomatoes, and chili-lime chicken bites; and paella. I loved the skiff filled with ice-cold beer.  I loved that they splurged on a can't-sit-still 8-piece dance band.  And after my work was done, I really loved the mojito, muddled to order with real lime and fresh mint.  Best wishes, Alane and Ken.  May your life together be as beautiful as the moon that rose over your reception.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Unsung Heroes

Teacher of the Year Sarah Borofsky
          with her husband Jacob at the Inn
In two days, my husband will retire after 40 years of teaching and administrating in independent high schools. We will celebrate with family and friends at the Inn, not only to acknowledge his transition into what I hope will be a well-deserved rest but also to acknowledge his incredible dedication to a profession that was neither lucrative nor glamorous.  He taught because he loves to teach; he taught because he loves high school kids.  "They're funny," he would often say.  "And they're honest."  No small things.

In the May 11th issue of The New York Times, Steve Almond wrote a wonderful piece about what we worship and honor today.  "Americans worship athletes and moguls and movie stars, those who possess the glittering gifts we equate with worth and happiness. . . . We might be willing to watch a drama about a meek high-school science teacher, but only if he degenerates into a homicidal meth tycoon."  Funny not only because the concept of Breaking Bad was absurd, but funny, too, because of what it says about American values. 

So because they do not get the credit they deserve, I tried to find a way to say thank you to the teachers out there who tirelessly take our youth into their hands and try to help them find their passions and their strengths and who thereby have our future in their hands as well.  Congratulations, Sarah Brokofsky, Cumberland County Teacher of the Year.  Sarah and her husband will enjoy a weekend at the Inn as our guests.  If we had a red carpet, we'd roll it out for her.