When I was growing up, cheese in our household was almost exclusively of the processed variety. Some even came out of a jar, like yellow glue. Grandma and Grandpa would have the real stuff – Colby longhorn or a bitter Swiss, mostly. It wasn’t until I was off on my own after college – and in the ashram, especially – that I discovered how marvelous natural cheese could be.
Here are ten favorites.
Cheddar. These days, we rely on Cabot. Mild to sharp, it’s all good.
Calef’s. A general store in a neighboring town makes its own, starting with rat trap but extending into cheddar. The roasted garlic and wasabi variations are special treats here, especially after picking apples.
Mozzarella. Lovely stringiness for pizzas and French onion soup.
Parmesan. Grated on soups, pastas, and salads, of course, but also delightful with eggplant.
Feta. Let’s start on salads for a Greek twist.
Baby Swiss. Especially when made by nearby Amish cooperatives as I learned living in Ohio.
Provolone. Love it on sandwiches, hot or cold.
Gruyere. Uncork a wine, too, and open the crackers.
Kittery, Maine, is a few miles downstream from where I live. It’s also across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, which is loaded with eateries – maybe as many per capita as Manhattan.
For much of its existence, Kittery has been pretty blue-collar. It’s home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – the U.S. Navy’s oldest continuously operating yard – and now tasked with the upkeep of nuclear submarines. It’s also home to a lot of lobstermen.
When I first came to New Hampshire, the Kittery Grange Hall was the scene of a monthly contradance – both the grange and the event now ancient history.
Oh, yes, and its strip of discount outlet stores along U.S. 1 is a major tourist attraction. Seriously. As is the adjacent sprawling Kittery Trading Post.
But with Portsmouth booming and the cost of its retail space skyrocketing, Kittery has been undergoing a transformation. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Wallingford Square, which used to be a gritty cluster of bars around one of the shipyard’s two gates. Today it’s been rechristened Kittery Foreside and is the center of some enterprising fine dining and food sellers.
Here’s what you’ll find.
Anneke Jans. Upscale trendy dining with a devoted following. It’s the culinary anchor.
Rudders Public House. Specialty: Kittery Fried Chicken.
Lil’ s Café. Crulers, anyone?
AJ Wood Grill Pizza. Get the picture?
Anju Noodle Bar. For that Asian touch.
Wallingford Dram. Artisan cocktails in “that walk-in closet, timeless gem of a bar,” as one critic describes it.
The Black Perch. Duck-gravy laden pontine.
Festina Lente. Rustic Italian.
Authentic India. As it says.
Tributary Brewing Company.
Nearby is the Beach Pea bakery, the best baguettes around, and Loco Coco’s Tacos, with its wonderful fine Mexican cuisine.
I stuck two rotting potatoes in the ground and got eight pounds in return.
Not a bad investment, is it?
Well, I stuck them in two old planters with just a covering of soil at the bottom late last spring and kept covering them as the stems and leaves shot upward. Didn’t take long for the entire container to be full. Three or four months later, in early September, the lush foliage went kaput, and it was time for harvest.
Have you ever eaten truly fresh potatoes – the kind picked just an hour or two before cooking? It’s a revelation. Roasted, they’re so creamy and sweet. Melt in the mouth, if you nibble at the oven. By the time they get to the table, they’re getting some firmness … but, oh, they’re still heavenly.
You don’t have to visit Maine or Idaho or even live there to discover what this means.
At the risk of being considered a prude, I’ll have to admit I’ve rarely been fully comfortable in a bar. Could it be a reflection on my tea-totaling upbringing? Still, I can think of places I’ve loved to listen to jazz or even read poetry to an appreciative audience.
The developments in my novel What’s Left, by the way, parallel events in at least one restaurant/bar I’ve heard related. And then there is an old church a few towns over that has a respectable history as a launching pad for hot musical acts. I’ve had some memorable musical experiences there, come to think of it.
Back to the book. Nothing seems to escape their notice as they anticipate changing their core business. Here’s how another passage stood in an earlier draft of my novel:
Our Taverna presents its own challenges. Under Papou Ari and Papou Perry, it’s been largely an afternoon refuge for retirees who are joined by tradesmen quitting their shifts. But it’s never developed as a destination for older students or faculty, who have gravitated to an English pub across from our Hoosier Dog House.
Barney senses the Taverna might attract a younger late-night crowd as the original clientele thins out. Plenty of up-and-coming musicians would be eager to play for us if the Taverna stays open later – and, as we discover, stay busy to the end, most nights.
Oh, I’m so glad Cassia stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy. She really can have a hard-edge reality.
So as we put the Taverna together? What would most attract you to a nightspot – live music, big-screen sports action, the crowd itself, a quiet corner for conversation, a dart board or pool table? Something we’re overlooking? Is there someplace you especially enjoy? Tell me about it, pretty please. Imagine ourselves sharing a drink.