Saturday, August 2, 2008

Anniversary Dinner in York, Maine

Every year for our anniversary we try to get away for at least one night, but the last couple of years we’ve expanded to two nights. Maine is my favorite place to visit, partly because I love it there and also because we spent our honeymoon in Bar Harbor. Even two days isn’t enough time for us to drive all the way to Bar Harbor, but we’ve discovered the beaches on the southern coast of Maine are quite lovely.

This year we returned to the Dockside Guest Quarters in York, Maine. We first went there three years ago and it is one of the most peaceful places I have ever stayed – even in the height of summer. Most rooms have a deck with the most gorgeous view. This was ours:

Since we are trying to be more budget conscious, I reserved a room with a kitchenette. It was only $30 more a night and I figured we would more than make up for that cost by fixing our own dinners instead of eating out at the (very nice) Dockside Restaurant right on site.

On the way up, we stopped in Weymouth at the Hilltop Steak House Butcher Shop and picked up some filets. Steve shops here all the time, but it was my first visit. The prices were so good, I vowed we would be buying all our meat here from now on. Seriously, everything was about half the price of what I normally pay.

With our steaks in the cooler we headed north. For the rest of our meal, we stopped at Hannaford Supermarket and picked up some salad greens, mini mozzarella balls, tomatoes, fennel, shitake mushrooms and some local mussels.

Our kitchenette had a two burner stove, mini-fridge, sink and microwave. There was even a small table for two, perfect for romantic dinners. It was like camping – the ultimate cooking challenge. We discovered it is not only possible to cook gourmet meals, but fun. The trick is to eat in courses and keep it simple. We weren’t sure how well the kitchen would be equipped so we brought our lobster pot, a large sauté pan with cover, a chef’s knife, a small cutting board, two lobster crackers, olive oil, salt and pepper.

The kitchen was much too small for two people to cook, so Steve did most of the cooking. Who needs to eat out when you have a personal chef at your beck and call? I sat at the little table and made salads and kept him company.

First he made mussels with fennel, garlic and tomatoes, cooked in a little white wine. The recipe was inspired by a similar dish we ate at Zephrus Restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard the week before. They were absolutely scrumptious. The mussels were small and tender and the broth was briny and tasted like the sea. We sopped it up with some crusty bread and reserved some for the next night’s dinner.

Then I did the dishes and we sat on the deck watching the boats in York Harbor turn pink as the sun set behind us. For dinner, Steve sautéed the steaks with the shitake mushrooms and we had the salads I made. Simple, but delicious!

The Recipe:

Mussels With Fennel, Garlic and Tomatoes

3 tablespoons butter
1 large fennel bulb
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup dry Italian sausage, sliced
2 pounds mussels
Juice of half a lemon

Cut the top off the fennel bulb and reserve some fronds. Thinly slice fennel. Melt butter in large sauté pan. Add fennel and garlic and sweat them over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add wine, sausage, tomatoes, lemon juice and fennel fronds. Wash mussels and examine to make sure they are all closed and have no cracks. Discard any mussels that don’t close when you flick them with your finger. Add mussels to broth, cover, and simmer until open, about 10 minutes.

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