Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer--Why do we resist when each has its beauty?

That was me, just a few weeks ago, kicking and screaming that leaves were changing and the deep green of August was mellowing into a colorful fall too soon.  Today, I am marveling at the great color, the crisp 59 degrees on a sunny day, and enjoying pumpkins and squash and all things autumnal.
Assistant Innkeeper Duncan's 2013 masterpiece

Why do we resist?!  From apple blossoms in our orchard, lilacs along the driveway, lillies in the garden, geraniums and begonias in the pots, all giving way to sedums and mums, color and blooms show up and delight us again and again.  We had pretty, edible flowers and pea shoots for our breakfast plates and chives and mint and thyme from our herb garden all season long.  We bought greens and tomatoes and peppers and herbs at the farmers market along with our bacon and summer sausages and local cheeses.  We have such bounty in the Blue Hill Peninsula.

So many guests entered our doors--more than ever, in fact (which is a reminder that if you have a favorite room and you know when your vacation will be next year, call right now and make your reservation.  You will be assured to get the room you want for the nights you want, at this year's prices.  I just hate it when we can't accommodate you). And so many marveled at the charms of Blue Hill and Castine and Stonington, appreciating Acadia National Park, even traveling as far as Campobello, Camden, and Baxter State Park for interesting side trips.
Our chickens laid beautiful eggs all winter long,
and all summer long, delighting us and guests

We had Jake and Duncan in the kitchen this year, to very delicious results.  Duncan's blueberry muffins are the very best ever and Jake made croissants that, I swear, were actually from France!  An afternoon treat we've like for a few years now is Coffee Squares--made from ingredients you are likely to have in your cupboard right now.

Coffee Squares
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup hot coffee

1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted butter
Cold coffee

In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.  Into a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking powder. Alternately add the flour mixture and the hot coffee to the creamed mixture.  Mix well and pour the batter into a 9-inch square pan.  Bake in a 350 degree over for 30 minutes.

Into a small bowl sift together the confectioners sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Pour in the melted butter and add the cold coffee one tablespoon at a time, mixing well, to make a spreadable frosting.  When the cake is completely cool, frost.

Serves 9.

Chef La Mason took beautiful ingredients and made amazing dinners.
We'll have her back next summer, don't worry!
We like to share the good stuff with you.  This summer that included dinners crafted by La Mason with wines paired by our favorite wine distributor.  This was La's last dinner menu this year:  Yellow Birch Farm beet and whipped feta salad with anchovies, lemon, parsley and Tinder Hearth bread crumbs; Palmer Hill potato gnocchi and a romesco sauce with Blue Zee Farm red peppers and sauteed squash; Five Star Nursery peach soup, with mascarpone panna cotta; breaded haddock with a Morgan Bay Farm radish, celery, and herb salad; chocolate layer cake with a chocolate almond salted caramel sauce and coffee ice cream...  If you want to be emailed with her schedule for next year, send me a note, sarah@bluehillinn.com.

Stonington, late afternoon, late fall
I use TripAdvisor frequently when I travel--I've discovered tiny hole in the wall restaurants, fabulous hotels, and interesting outings.  The inn has received some truly blush-worthy reviews.  I'm always so happy to read that we are creating an experience people really enjoy.  The historic inn, the charming seaside town, Duncan and Jake's great breakfasts, Diana and India's careful housekeeping, Lorna, Brenna, and Jessica's super service--everything comes together and creates "a wonderful get away."

One of my favorite blueberry barrens, Rte. 15, Penobscot, late spring
Have you liked us on Facebook yet?  Check out our page--we try to link to great Blue Hill photos and happenings.

And now we've come to the quieter season, when we close the red doors of the main building and welcome guests to the Cape House.  The Suite continues to inspires "Wow!"s with its cathedral ceilings, wood-burning fireplace, and private deck under the willow tree.  The Studio is stocked with art supplies and books and features a large sunny bedroom and a cozy kitchen.  We leave them both stocked full of goodies for your breakfast and snacking and are available to help you make the most of your visit, whatever the season.  We have a great selection of maps, guidebooks, restaurant menus--everything you need to make good decisions during your time here.  This time of year we are making suggestions for where to see the best color, get the biggest or smallest pumpkins, and where to find a lobster dinner. Now that I've finally accepted it's fall, it seems to be the prettiest fall ever with a lot of color coming early but staying gorgeous.  Or is it just the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that make this time of year so delicious?!

If you've been planning to come to Blue Hill, don't put it off.  Call us, book your room, come see what everyone loves.

Friday, June 6, 2014

At last, lilacs!

Hors d'oeuvres at the inn
The blooms are behind—I’ve never thrown open the red doors of the inn without armfuls of lilacs taken from right outside.  Never have the purple chive heads been so stubborn to open.  And yet, the tulips, tossed in at the last minute in the fall, cheerfully greet guests and we do have chives to snip onto the gorgeous eggs my chickens are laying (and they are laying!).

Our favorite restaurants are opening:  We got to Stonington last week and discovered that Devin Finigan at Aragosta has started curing meats.  She even has a lobster sausage!  I can tell you from first hand experience that the lobster ravioli is better than ever. Guests who went there last night raved about the lobster po'boy and the view.
Wines and meats at Aragosta

I haven’t gotten to Whale’s Rib yet—I’m holding out until I have time to play some petanque on the court there before dinner.  In Castine, the Pentagoet Inn’s dining room is open to rave reviews from guests as is Jack’s Passport Pub, certainly the coolest in the area.  Although, the Deepwater Brew Pub has undergone a bit of a transformation and the brewery barn in back is amazing!  They open tomorrow night.  We had a guest at breakfast this morning say that her dinner at Arborvine last night was one of the best meals of her life!

A new shop just up the road from the brew pub, Mae’s, opened last week with lots of home furnishings to drool over.  Handworks Gallery, another quick walk from the inn, is under new management but with lots of the favorite artists returning.

Here at the inn we’ve been undergoing beautification projects.  What started as a wallpaper tear down in room 1 ended with the whole inn getting insulation blown in which lead to the repainting of the whole outside (or that’s the plan anyway.  The coastal weather sometimes wreaks havoc with outdoor projects).  We're lucky to have a great crew of painters and carpenters--they've turned into consultants for guests with questions about their own DIY projects!

Wendy, the talented owner of Mae's
We’ve had great talented folks stay with us.  Penny Conti at Tunkables absolutely delighted me when she sent me a present after a recent stay.  Just a few short days after she and her husband checked out, I received a wee package in the mail.  She had inscribed vintage, charming hors d'oeuvres utensils with "Blue Hill Inn"!  They are impossible to photograph; you just have to come see them.

And we have just hosted Andrew Phalen and his lovely wife.  Andrew is the son of the first potter at Rowantrees Pottery, and he wrote a book about the pottery, Following the Brick Path.   He recently wrote a book about his father and published another, Doors and Passageways in Eisenstadt, with his photographs and text.

 Susan Bryant Caron, an amazing jeweler, stayed with us and had me coveting her bangles.  You can see them here

Between Blue Hill Books, the Meadow of Blue Hill, the Barnacle, Three Wishes, the wine shop, Cynthia Winnings Gallery, Blue Hill Bay Gallery, and others, plan on shopping when you visit us!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fall, that bittersweet time...

We adore Blue Hill in the autumn--the Foliage Festival, the crisp days, the apples--but Dan the Flower Man brings his final bouquet and we know that the end is in sight and we feel sad.  A highlight of our week is seeing Dan or his wife Leslie come through the door with a big bouquet for the inn. 

Do you know we have free guest passes to the local YMCA?  It's just big enough, staffed with knowledgeable helpful folks, and very convenient.  A gentleman asked if he could walk there from the inn.  "Well, that would be a great start to the cardiovascular portion of your workout."

The beet salad from Aragosta in Stonington
Fall always means more time to read (and time to get back to the YMCA myself).  A delightful guest, Welles Brandriff, gave me a copy of his books, A Secret in the Shadows, and Born to Soar.  I thoroughly enjoyed A Secret and now it's back on the shelf at the inn.  Born to Soar is still on the bedside table but I'll let you know when you can borrow that one, too.  Mr. Brandriff uses his own experience as an Air Force captain stationed in Okinawa to guide his writing.  Sandra Paretti's The Magic Ship is a fun historical romance set in Bar Harbor in 1914.  Candlemas Bay by Ruth Moore delighted me as well.  This is a story of generations of a Maine fishing family, told from varying viewpoints with details that feel spot on for this area.  Have you read anything good lately?  I do have to tell you a story about a guest who visits with his wife almost every year.  He mentioned over breakfast that he was halfway through a book when he checked out last year--it had an orange cover, it was about dogs and fighting...   Did I know which one it was, as he was looking forward to finishing it. After a few questions, I was able to go right to the shelf and find it for him.  His page was still marked!

So many things I cannot resist at the farmer's market--River Wind Woolies is one.  Robin makes the most useful, colorful woolen things.  Today's splurge--angora fingerless gloves.  Sticky buns from Millbrook Bakery is another irresistible item but you don't have to wait for farmers market day--there's now an actual cafe in Sedgwick where you can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner depending on the day, or just a sticky bun.  Smith's Smokehouse, where our bacon comes from, has summer sausage and smoked cheeses and great jerky.  Luckily you can order online from them.  I often see Chris Leith at the market--I was wearing one of her gorgeous scarves the other day.  You can visit her website anytime and she has a beautiful studio as well. 

We've been delighted to welcome Cynthia Winings and her gallery to Blue Hill. She's closed the door for the season but bRoz Somer, Buzz Masters, Tom Curry...
e sure to look for her opening in the spring.  She's working with a great bunch of artists, including
Cynthia Winings

Grid Modulation  Book with box: birch, found metal, turpentine
transfers, colored pencil. Anne-Claude Cotty
We went to a great Pecha Kucha at the Opera House.  If you haven't heard about this yet, you must look into it!  The format of 20 images with 20 seconds on each lends itself to a kaleidoscope of inspiration.  Among other presenters in Stonington were Ellen Booraem, on the process of creating her latest novel, Maureen Farr on her latest artistic endeavors and her new gallery space, Deer Isle Hostel on growing and preserving food of all sort, and Anne-Claude Cotty on her latest artist work and book making.  Anne-Clause and I are planning a book making workshop this fall.  Let me know if you would like more details.

If you haven't planned some fun fall reading and creative activities, do it now!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bittersweet, fabulous August on the coast

The magic of August comes in packages big and small.  Once I took an evening kayak ride in East Blue Hill where a whitetail buck welcomed us in and then shooting stars filled the skies and bioluminescence filled the seas.  If you haven't experienced the delight of paddling among the sea fireflies, make plans now!  Both Castine Kayak and Old Quarry Ocean Adventures can set up trips for you.
Leslie's 2014 calendar

We adore the sunflowers we get from Dan's Flower Farm but they are friendlier with autumn than with summer so are bittersweet in their beauty.  Dan and his artist wife Leslie Anderson are both so talented. I picked up her 2014 calendar at the farmers market the other day.  You could order a copy online

The Blue Hill Fair is a late August favorite, of course.  Antique tractors vying for record pulls, sheep dog trials, live music, pig racing, a lumberjack show, harness racing, even our own Idol show.  I take my responsibility as innkeeper and guide to the area very serious--I sampled funnel cake, Bianco's Italian sausage, a bloomin' onion--all so I could report to you that, really, it's all good fun fair food!  I also recommend the lobster rolls and crab rolls, the shortcake, the caramel apples...  The Northeast Historic Film organization goes to the fair, too!  We watched some old footage and then bought a movie about Maine lumberjacks for the inn.

View from the Ferris wheel

Have you heard about the Retreat at Betsy's Cove? The amazing Isla Miller has created a beautiful space for all sorts of retreats, corporate to personal.  When you gather people together in a magical place, miracles do happen.
The Retreat at Betsy's Cove

We are looking forward to the Maine Open Lighthouse Day, and the Foliage, Food, and Wine Festival.  If you are, too, make sure you have your reservations in place.  With the lovely foliage, and a busy fall, we often book up.  If you reserve now, you're sure to get the room you want--the Suite with its fireplace and cathedral ceilings, room 3 with all that sunshine, room 9 with the slanted ceilings and the skylights...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lodging since 1840...

Each spring the lilacs and the chives welcome us back to the inn.  We have a plump purple bush shading the kitchen window that always blooms earlier than the French lilacs along the driveway--with a heavenly scent, of course.  Our kitchen herb garden brings on the chives all by itself so even if planting slides low on the to do list, we still have a bright green sprinkle for the scrambled eggs and soon the peppery purple flowers will find their way onto plates as well.

The farmers market opened at the fairgrounds this weekend, and all our favorite folks were there.  We got bread from Millbrook Bakery (and, full confession, a sticky bun, too), Indian food from Christian, lovely kale from Blue Zee Farm; chorizo, summer sausage, and bacon from Smith's Smokehouse, and burritos from El El Frijoles (and sampled their mango salsa).  Take advice from me:  go hungry!  You can even go before you've had coffee because Janet at Millbrook Bakery has big tasty carafes of java. 

Newcomers included Sarahndipity Bakery (a Nutella pecan tart ought to be illegal--illegal!  So delicious) and Fire Brick Pizza, who drive with the brick oven right behind their car.  They can make you a pizza to order super quick and mine was perfect.  And it's not just food--wooden animals, jewelry, scarves, wooden bowls, and cutting boards.

Speaking of wine, I had a very nice paella at Cleonice the other night.  I tried a Pares Balta Blanc de Pacs.  Springtime is a traditional time to fall in love and I have.  I'm hoping to add this wine to the inn's cellar and could then share it with you over hors d'oeuvres.  It would pair nicely with the focaccia and chevre we're enjoying tonight, or the bacon wrapped dates from the other evening.

PomPom, before she was a rooster!
The baby chicks we fell in love with, and suddenly had to keep all 27
"Your chickens do good work!" a guest commented at breakfast the other day. He wasn't referring to the new chicks because they are still awkward teens and not yet laying but I really want you to meet them, if you haven't already on Facebook.  Did I mention that PomPom is a rooster?!  I ordered 25 Araucana chicks to be delivered this winter, so we'd be getting eggs by June.  We received 27--25 Araucanas, 1 white crested black polish, and 1 white chicken.  About three weeks ago, PomPom, the black polish, started to get screechy and now!  Full on cockadoodledoos!  Luckily the chicks live about a mile from the inn so, rest assured, the comfy beds and great night's sleep are unaffected.  Breakfast, however, will soon include beautiful green and blue eggs from PomPom's flock.

I get such a kick out of the history of the inn and trying to put the pieces together.  One local historian, William Hinckley, reported that, "This was the scene on Aug. 3, 1861 of the 95th birthday party for Edith (Wood) Hinckley, the third white child born in Blue Hill, which was attended by 111 of her descendents."  Another Hinckley, Mrs. Fannie, an innkeeper/owner for many years in the late 1800s, was said to have remarked "that she lived in a town where there is plenty of good spring water, and there is no need of anything stronger."  Well, our spring water is still plentiful and good but we are happy to serve wine and spirits and even a local beer or two, in addition to good, old water.
PomPom and his flock

Lots of restaurants are opening for the season--Buck's, the Lookout, the Whale's Rib, Deep Water Brewing, the Pentagoet but of course the one we are anticipating most is Chef Devin Finigan's new venture, Aragosta.  Yes, Chef Devin has her own place now so won't be cooking at the inn.  While we will continue to offer breakfast to our guests and the public, we won't be offering dinners this year except for a few special events, like El El Frijoles returning during the Foliage, Food, and Wine Festival in October (no, it isn't too early to reserve a seat for that).

Black Dinah truffles delight us all, I have to admit.  Have you tried them? Did you hear the news? Truffles are the new pillow chocolate here at the inn.  When we say we want to pamper you, we aren't kidding.  If you're planning to come visit, check our availability calendar and make a date.  It's going to be a very busy summer and we want to be sure you get your favorite room.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The chicken or the eggs?

videoI've turned into that person who you dare not ask, "What's new?" or "How's your spring going?" because I will tell you all about our new baby chicks and I will show show you the videos, as many as you can bear.

We've been committed to local eggs from the get go but getting enough can be a challenge.  We had a neighbor with a small flock who, mid-summer 2012, wanted to give them away.  "Pick me, pick me!" I begged. And she did. And suddenly we needed a coop and a run and a primer on chickens.  

Thanks to Derek at Camden National Bank, I was armed with a great chicken book.  And with the iPhone and Facebook page, I was ready to keep everyone uber informed.  They grow so fast!  I think by early June I'll be showing off the gorgeous eggs in the dining room.  The new chicks are Araucanas and will lay blue and green eggs! 
One of the new chicks is a white crested black polish chicken.  We named her Pom Pom.  I'm fairly certain our eggs will be beyond delicious this year!

The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook, by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman, is out!  They take you "from the garden to the table in 120 recipes" and scads of lovely photographs.  You can get it from Blue Hill Books or from  Barbara and Eliot's website.

This time of year you can see what Four Season Farm has to offer at the Saturday farmers market held at Mainescape in their big greenhouse.  Vendors change week to week but Mia is almost always there with soup and noodles, Nostrano smokes ribs and has delectable rosemary salmon, Tinder Hearth has bread and croissants, Smith's Smokehouse has sausages, Bucklyn Coffee has, well, coffee, and on and on.  Pork, raw foods, candy samples, vinegar, wreathes, baskets, sea salt...  Sometimes the knife sharpener is there.  I mostly go to see if there are any puppies...

I've been dining out on your behalf again--I know how important it is to know what's happening in the area, even during this quiet season.  The Factory Tavern, in Stonington, has opened! Friends and I had a delicious pre-theater dinner recently and loved the elegant yet comfortable space, the Stonington harbor view, the service, the food--even the fancy specials card that one of the owners makes (and you can shop for something similar at their wine and fun things shop, the Clown, right down the street from the Tavern).
by Katy Allgeyer. You can see more at her website.
Rumor has it the new chef at the Brooklin Inn is great but we had to go to El El Frijoles' supper club instead.  If you aren't on their mailing list or friends with them on Facebook, you must sign up now or you'll never find out about supper clubs in time to actually get a spot.  And chef Michele just gets better and better.

We wished the Bagaduce Music Lending Library a happy 30th birthday recently.  Have you ever been? What a treasure!

Wanting to plan your Maine vacation around seeing great art?  Here's a super list of galleries and museums put together by the Maine magazine.  It's not complete--no Courthouse Gallery or Jill Hoy--but has a lot of my faves, like the Barter Family and the Turtle Gallery.

If you're planning to come to Maine this summer, make your reservations now! We are busier than ever and looking forward to a great 2013.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy 2013!  What a start to the new year we've had--over a foot of fluffy snow and days and days of full on sunshine. Folks have been ice skating, snow shoeing, sledding, and cross country skiing.  (And there is nothing wrong with participating in outdoor activities in order to justify hot chocolate with marshmallows!)
Blue Hill Bay, early morning

Some people think Blue Hill gets sleepy this time of year and it's true we slow down but it means we finally get time to get together with friends we haven't seen.  We also get to head back to favorite restaurants--the Arborvine (oysters!), Brooklin Inn (just in time for fresh local scallops), BarnCastle (for me it's always a toss up between the ribs or one of their pizzas or a homemade soup), and back to 66 for a cheeseburger. 

A guest was just delighted with the Blue Hill's YMCA and wanted to be sure others know about it--and this was before more machines were added.  There's no need to skip your workout just because you aren't at home.  If you're coming to Blue Hill from a New England state and you're already a Y member, you can even bring your card for free access to our Y.

Trail support donated by Charlotte Podolsky
I went into the inn the other morning just after a fresh two inches of snow and saw that a small deer had beat me to the inn!  Right across my path to the back door were delicate hoof prints!  I'm not sure if the family in the Studio that night got a peek or not.  In the past we've had a buck traipsing about the back yard as well.

Before we got all this gorgeous snow, some friends and I hiked out to Barred Island.  I was delighted to see that my friend Charlotte had sponsored the trail upkeep.  Although she's back in New York, I felt as though she were with us on the hike.  If you'd like to donate to trail support, contact the Island Heritage Trust or the Blue Hill Heritage Trust.  A goal for myself this year is to stop returning again and again to my old favorites and try exploring new trails.  Perhaps by the time you visit, I'll have new "favorites places in the whole world" to recommend.

Rackliff Pottery
I do recommend all my guests visit Denny and Margaret Rackliffe's pottery.  Their showroom is next to their studio is next to the finishing room is next to the wheel and the pile of clay!  They are such treasures of Blue Hill.  We're starting to design a Blue Hill Inn-Rackliffe Pottery egg cup--something that will show off the beautiful shells of the Acaucana chickens I'm planning to have this summer.  Wait--I'm counting my eggs before they've been laid!  The day old chicks will arrive in early February so that come May we'll have plenty of fresh--very fresh!--local--extremely local!--eggs for your breakfast.  In the past we've had brown, cream, and white eggs but now, with the expanded palette, I plan to offer soft and hard boiled eggs as an option so you can see how lovely the egg shells are.

Lobsters, rendered by Francis Hamabe
Speaking of lovely, the Blue Hill Library always has art on display upstairs.  The work of Francis Hamabe, who has long connections to Blue Hill, graced the walls in December, thanks to Jennifer Mitchell-Nevin.  Friday night is the opening reception for Katherine Greene's show.  Perhaps we will see you there?

One place to see just about everyone is at the Saturday farmers market at Mainescape.  You can get a Bucklyn cappuccino, a Tinder Hearth croissant, the most delicious vegetables from Four Season Farms, a scrumptious noodle dish from Mia, even local sea salt to put on the jalapeño bagel! We gather in the greenhouse and on a sunny day, it's fabulous!  O, did I mention there's a puppy?! A friendly, tiny, lick-you-in-the-face furball.  Photos to come!

Blue Hill Mountain from across the bay
But now it's time to head back outside, snow pants and snow shoes in hand, to explore another area along the coast here in Blue Hill.