Greek Yogurt — Under There Somewhere

I’m down in Cincinnati today, meeting friends for breakfast at the Maplewood. You order at the counter, sit down, and wait for the food to be delivered. I got the Greek yogurt, figuring it would be a nice, light, nourishing choice. This enormous bowl is what I got.

I’m guessing there’s some Greek yogurt somewhere under the blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, seeds, honey, granola, and kiwi fruit. Kiwi fruit? It’s a new take on an old favorite.

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Toasting Regionality

One of the great things about traveling to different parts of the United States is the chance to experience the differences that exist from one region to another.  Whether it’s mountains versus seacoast versus rolling prairie, odd local food favorites, or curious accents found only in one part of the country, the intrepid traveler strives to check out, and appreciate, the unique aspects of different sections of our large and diverse country.

Regionality was once in danger of being lost, back in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, with the rush toward sprawling national brands, like McDonalds and KFC and WalMart, that used the power of economies of scale and familiarity to put a lot of local concerns out of business.  But the tide seems to have turned, and craft beers are leading the way.

Wherever you go — whether it’s Asheville, North Carolina, or San Antonio, Texas, or the Pacific Northwest, or Columbus, Ohio — small local breweries are creating their own unique brews, with labels and brands that typically celebrate some element of local culture.  Even better, these entrepreneurs of the suds have been able to convince local pubs and grocery stores and gas stations to carry their offerings.  Boosters are touting their successful local breweries as examples of the special qualities of their communities and how small concerns can thrive in their business-friendly towns.  And virtually every sizable city and town lays claim to being one of the premier craft beer settings in the country.

Our recent trip to Maine was no different.  New England generally, and Maine specifically, offer a lot of local beers that you simply can’t find here in the Midwest.  I felt honor-bound to sample some of the distinctive offerings we found in restaurants and at the grocery store — it’s one of the duties of the intrepid traveler, in my view — and all of them were good.  A particular favorite was Allagash White, a light, fizzy, crisp beer that went especially well with a steaming bowl of haddock chowder and oyster crackers on a rainy day.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try the Smiling Irish Bastard, but I did get a kick out of the name and the label.

It’s interesting that breweries have become a source of distinctive local pride, and it’s a trend that is good to see.

Companion Of The Airwaves

We drove back to Columbus from Maine yesterday.  It’s about a 15-hour drive, down through Maine — which, like Florida, seems to go on forever after you cross the border and get all excited about finally being there — New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and finally into Ohio.  We hit some bad Thanksgiving weekend traffic in Massachusetts, and a little rain in western New York and northern Pennsylvania, but other than that it was clear sailing and a long day.

hermosa_3a1f3cda-8075-4d6b-b6be-9e716983c7eeOn the way, we listened to the radio on Sirius XM.  We listened to the Ohio State-Michigan game, as announced by the Michigan radio network announcers, who are pretty funny (and cliche-prone) if you’re an Ohio State fan, and when the Buckeyes pulled out a victory and the deflated announcers whispered the final few plays it helped to energize us for the rest of the drive.  We listened to some classical music.  We listened to the Beatles channel, which featured celebrities explaining and playing their “Fab Four” favorite Beatles tunes and got us talking about what would might pick as our “Fab Four” — a pretty impossible task, if you think about it.  We listened to some sports talk radio, and the Auburn-Alabama game, and some big band music on the Siriusly Sinatra channel.

I like long-distance driving and always have.  Part of the reason for that is I just like listening to the radio.  Imagine what long drives would be like if you were just driving in silence for hours!  But the radio is a good companion, a conversation-starter, and a reason to unlimber those vocal chords and sing “Here Comes The Sun” when some unfamiliar celebrity selects it as one of their Beatles favorites.

Radio is old technology by modern standards — popular radio is approaching its 100th birthday — and consequently we take radio for granted, but what would highway travel be without it?

Low Tide

Along the coastline, there is high tide and there is low tide. Everyone plans and configures their buildings and docks and decks for high tide, when the ocean majestically sweeps in, leaving everything awash and bobbing on the water. (That obviously makes sense, of course, because if you designed everything for low tide you would find your careful designs underwater or afloat at high tide.)

But I prefer low tide, because it lets you see the soft underbelly of the coastline communities. The buildings built on stilts. The bottom of the bay. The algae lines on the piers. And the floating docks, sadly left high and dry.

Low tide gives you a peek at reality.

At Settlement Quarry

You’d expect an island with a town called Stonington to have an old, abandoned quarry somewhere. But, since most quarries are low-lying places — the whole point of quarries being to dig down into the ground, of course — you wouldn’t expect to find an old quarry atop a hillside, with a commanding view of more than a dozen islands. But that’s what you get when you venture up the trail to the Settlement Quarry on Deer Isle.

Settlement Quarry is one of a number of sites that the Deer Isle preservationists have turned into cool hiking jaunts. It’s an easy stroll up the old Quarry road, and once you reach the top you can admire the view, then take another trail through the surrounding pine woods. We chose the path that wound in and around the impressive piles of castoff granite, which are slowly returning to their forest state, with pine trees sprouting from the crevices.

With the breeze off the water, and pine trees everywhere, you’ll just have to look at the photos and imagine how fresh and crisp the air smelled.

End Of The Season

The lobster season in Maine is over for the year. Those tasty crustaceans get a break for the holidays — and a chance to grow and replenish before next year’s season rolls around — and as a result the Maine countryside is awash in yellow. That’s because the old-fashioned wooden lobster traps you see in some seafood restaurants have long since been replaced by these bright yellow, metal traps, which are a lot more durable. The traps are all removed from the water during the off-season and are stacked just about everywhere.

Maine lobstermen and lobsterwomen work very hard, even during the off-season Along the coast you see enormous pick-up trucks, the lobster fisherman vehicle of choice, carting mounds the yellow lobster traps from dockside to workshop, where they will be examined, one by one, and repaired over the off-season. Our neighbor here has 500 of the traps, which he says is the legal limit. The traps are neatly stacked on pallets, and he uses a front loader to maneuver them into his workshop for repair. They’ll keep him busy this winter.

Seagull Over Stonington

Kish and I took a brisk morning walk today. It is a fine, glorious day, with a bright blue sky and seagulls wheeling overhead.

Being a Midwestern landlubber, seagulls still intrigue me, with their downy white feathers and aerial acrobatics, but the locals pretty much loathe them. They tolerate seagulls because the tourists expect to see them — what’s a port town without seagulls? — but they know seagulls are trash-eaters that like nothing better than picking at a dumpster for spoiled food and then coating your lobster boat with rank seagull poop. The outward appearance of seagulls is a lot more attractive than the actual reality.

Seagulls are kind of like Hollywood that way.