Popovers (on the Square)!

Popovers have always held a special place in my heart.  We’ve had them for breakfast on pretty much every Christmas morning for the past ten years or so.

Here’s Mike making them this year . . .
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And my brother making them last year . . .
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(Funny that they both have the same expression and cooking stance.)

And my dad making them back in 2008 (he’s made them lots of other times, too). . .
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And Frank enjoying them back then . . .
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They are a glorious vehicle for lots of butter and jam.  They have to be hot though, to melt the butter.

We’ve made them so many times that I know they’re on page 42 of the red Betty Crocker cookbook.  My version of it anyway.

As many times as I’ve had popovers, I’ve never had them in a restaurant, so when we were in Portsmouth last weekend, we made sure to visit Popovers on the Square.  I’d been there before but didn’t notice whether they had popovers or not, so we walked by and looked at the menu the night before to make sure.

I still like our homemade ones much better, but the ones at Popovers on the Square were big and fluffy and still delicious.  They came with maple butter which was soft and creamy and sweet.  I’ll have to add that to our menu for next Christmas.

I was worried the restaurant would be packed on a Saturday morning, so we got there right when they opened, but there were actually just a few people in there.  I was excited to see that, even though you order at the counter and don’t have traditional wait service, they still had mimosas.

We enjoyed a nice view of downtown while we ate.

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They had a lot of other delicious looking baked goods, but we just stuck with the popovers.  One each was plenty for a light breakfast.

While we both really liked the place and had fun trying our first non-homemade popovers, if you only have one day to eat breakfast in Portsmouth, I would definitely try out The Friendly Toast or Colby’s instead.

As far as popovers, it seems like Jordan Pond House is the quintessential place to get them.  Even though we live in Maine, we’ve never been (that we really remember anyway).  We plan to remedy that, with a breakfast run, as soon as they reopen in the spring.

Race Review – Hangover Classic

Great name for a race, huh?  This one is becoming a tradition for us.  It’s a New Year’s Day race which seems like the perfect way to kick off the year.  We discovered it last year when we were looking for a 10K on that day.  It was going to be Mike’s first one.  There were a lot of 5K’s in the area but only a few 10K’s;  this Hangover Classic in Salisbury, MA and one in Lowell.  I’m not sure how we decided on the Hangover Classic whether it was the name, the free beer, or that it’s a bit shorter drive.  In any case, we had a great time in 2015 and decided to repeat this year.

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This was 2015, we didn’t take any pictures this year.

 

The race starts around 11:30, so we had plenty of time to get to Salisbury from Portland and were even able to sleep in a bit after seeing in the New Year the night before.  We had a glass or two of champagne but didn’t party too hard, so for us the race was Hangover Classic in name only.

There is also a 5K option which had more runners.  There’s also the option to do a quick plunge in the ocean from the expansive (and wintertime-empty) Salisbury Beach (there were a few crazy surfers out).  Mike and I didn’t go for that option, but it was interesting to watch the people who did.

The course is super flat, so it’s great for a PR.  Mike and I both managed to hit one this year.  In spite of that, I still came in 5th for my age group which is that same as last year.  I wanted some “hardware” even if just age group hardware.  They do give out nice glasses to the top 40 male and female finishers.  I was able to snag a glass, so that was cool.
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There’s a great after party at The Carousel Lounge with free beer and pizza and wall to wall people.  It seemed like everyone there knew everyone else which gave it a great vibe although we didn’t know a single soul.

My favorite part of the race was when I passed a guy about 0.1 miles from the finish, and he shouted out encouraging words to me.  I always wish I would think to do things like that in a race.

We enjoyed our post race, post PR high and after consuming our free beer and pizza made our way to Portsmouth, NH where we had booked a hotel for the night and had a great time restaurant hopping for both dinner and breakfast the next day.  More on that another day.

Hangover Classic Race Summary

Best Parts:

  • New Year’s Day Race!
  • Flat course
  • Great party atmosphere; before, during, and after
  • Cool glass for top 40 finishers (each male and female)
  • Cool long-sleeved cotton T (although both years, we signed up too late to get one, we did get a free pair of gloves)

Complaints

  • Slow start – it’s a big race.  Both races start at the same time at the same place.  Not that it ever really works, but runners were not encouraged to line up by time, so the start was clogged with walkers and runners who insisted on not only starting at the front but staying abreast of one another and really clogging up the first quarter of a mile or so.  I know I’m being a total running snob even bringing this up, and it probably added less then 15 seconds to my time, but it was annoying at the time.

Year in Review

It seems like it’s getting a little past the time to write a “Year in Review” post.  Only ten days into the new year and it feels like I’m already back into a nice routine.  The fun and craziness of the  holidays seems like a long time ago already.

We had one more thing to celebrate on Friday with our oldest son, Joe’s 20th (TWENTIETH!!!!!!) birthday.  Something about that number is making me feel really old.  We had a nice dinner at Otto’s on Munjoy Hill.  I love a good slice from Otto’s on Congress and definitely won’t say no to takeout, but having it fresh from the oven was glorious.

None of our kids have really caught our running bug, but Joe has done three races with us.  First the St. Brigid’s Harvest Hustle where he placed first in his age group.
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Then The Sea Dogs Mother’s Day 5K and finally The School’s Out 5K as a Lincoln Middle School alum.  Certainly more than I ever did before 20 (or even 40).

Anyway, back to the year in review, mostly I just want to document my stats.  I’m a total nerd about record keeping when it comes to running.  I want to track every tenth of a mile that I run.  I have a spreadsheet on Google Docs where I track every second spent running.  It’s a little thing, but I really enjoy entering the numbers in after each run.  I have formulas in it that track my total miles for the month, for the year, for my current pair of shoes.  It’s fun to watch those numbers change every time I enter a run.  I have every future run entered into it between now and April 18th.

My total mileage for 2015 was 2,280.8.  Not too shabby.  I hit my goal of 2,015 back in the middle of November and estimated that I’d be able to do another 350 before the end of the year – based on all my spreadsheet entries.  Unfortunately, I really fell apart running-wise in December.  I didn’t quit altogether, but I missed multiple days in a row which I hardly ever do.  I think it was good.  I was getting a little burnt out, and the days off helped me get motivated for a better January.  So far so good with 65+ miles this week.  Unfortunately, I’m skipping a long run today.  It’s pouring rain, and I’m just not feeling it.  This one day won’t kill me, but Austin’s not going to be pretty if I miss many more days.  It’s barely a month away!

I’m rambling – thinking out loud.  What are your goals for 2016?  I’m shooting for 2,016 miles this year but will hopefully get more.  How about races?  The only ones I’m fully committed to right now are the Austin and Boston Marathons.

Happy Running and Happy New Year.  Hope it’s not too cold, rainy, icy where you are.

Race Review – Portland Brewer’s Holiday Dash

Just a week ago today, we were running a fun race along the Eastern Promenade Trail.  I had harassed a bunch of my coworkers (and Mike) into joining me in running the 6th annual Portland Brewers’ Holiday Dash 5K.  We had a blast.  See?
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All the runners (and walkers) were in such a great festive mood.  The costumes were great, especially this guy dressed up as Ebenezer Scrooge.

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Photo Courtesy of Maine Running Photos

He was really fast, too.

It was the first time I dressed up for a race.

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Photo Courtesy of Maine Running Photos


My striped tights were pretty tame compared to the ugly Christmas sweaters and Christmas tutus I saw other people wearing.  I’m going to have to step it up a notch next year.

Rira’s was the home base for the race.  The day ended up being unseasonably warm, but it was still nice to be able to go inside (and use their bathrooms) while waiting for the race to start.  It was especially nice to be able to enjoy our free beers inside Rira’s after the race.  (Not exactly free – included with the $35 race registration fee – but still delicious.)

The start line was about a quarter mile away from Rira’s right where the trail first crosses the Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks.  We ran about a mile and a half out to just past the graffiti wall near the sewage treatment plant and turned around and came back.  It’s a pretty course with views of the ocean the entire time.  I even think the graffiti wall is cool.  Here’s a picture from a year or so ago.
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The artwork keeps changing.  And thank goodness there’s no snow yet.

Three of us set a PR which was really exciting.

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Photo Courtesy of Maine Running Photos

Actually, at least five of us set a PR, since it was a first time race for a couple people.  By the time we all finished the race, Rira’s was packed, but we managed to push our way up to the bar and get our beer.  The line for the brunch (also included in the entry fee) was all the way up the stairs, so we enjoyed our beers while waiting for the line to get a little shorter.

In the meantime, we started to see people walking by with their plates full of brunch food.  It didn’t look terrible but didn’t look worth the wait either, so we decided to move on to a less crowded place.  We hit up The Porthole and ended up having their backroom (used to be The Comedy Connection) all to ourselves.  I opted to drink my breakfast and had a delicious Bloody Mary, and we all had a great time chatting and joking reveling in our race accomplishments.

Overall, here are my thoughts on the race:

Best Parts

  • Great ocean view
  • Good location, easy walk into town
  • Festive mood
  • Having a warm restaurant as home base.  It was really crowded both before and after the race, but it seemed to actually run pretty smoothly.  The race directors and Rira’s had obviously worked out the process for allocating the free beers, checking id’s, etc.
  • Great photos by Maine Running Photos
  • Being able to see my friends on the out and back course

Complaints

  • The race web-site says that the race has “Automatic timing” which I took to mean chip timing.  It was timed by a timing company but was not chip timed.  It doesn’t matter a whole lot in a small-ish race (400 people in this one, so not that small), but I had told my friends who were doing their first 5K that it didn’t matter where they started because it would be chip-timed.
  • The race t-shirt was light blue.  I was hoping for something more Christmas-y (like red), since this was a holiday-themed race.
  • No age group prizes.

 

The Rest of the Weekend – Miyake

Now that this weekend is almost half over, I’m finally getting around to finishing up blogging about last weekend.  As if a lovely First Friday Art Walk wasn’t enough, we had fun plans on Saturday, too.  One of Mike’s students gave him tickets to a matinee Nutcracker performance at Merrill.

For us, no outing into town is complete without some kind of food, so we decided to hit up Pai Men Miyake for lunch before the show.  I’d been there a few times and wanted Mike to try to pork buns which I love.  They’re a twist on the classic DimSum with the fluffy white bun but served more burger/sandwich style rather than the meat being all tucked away inside.  The serving-style isn’t the best part of the twist though.  That’s the tender, juicy, warm pork belly along side the cool mayonnaise and spicy relish.  I thought it would be totally up Mike’s alley, but it turns out he’s a traditional pork bun kind of guy.  No worries though, he managed to clean his plate, and we got plenty of other treats.
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Edamame is always such a great snack, so we started with that, and it was perfectly salted.  I had thought the Brussels Sprouts there were the best I’d ever had, and they were very good but not the ones I remembered.  Now, I’m thinking those were from When Pigs Fly in Kittery.  I’m going to have to go back now to figure this out!

Of course, we also had to try the cocktails.  Mike had warm sake which was perfect for a chilly day.  I had the Smoke & Roses cocktail which is kind of like a rose flavored margarita.  You’d think that drinking rose flavor would be weird, but it’s actually very delicious.  I had to have two.  It’s my favorite cocktail I’ve had in Portland so far.
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We were pretty full of appetizers but wanted to try one more thing so we ordered the Kimchi Pork Ramen.  Mike managed with the chopsticks quite well . . .
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but I was pitiful and had to ask for some American utensils.  My favorite part of the ramen was the egg with the crunchy little onion strings on top of it, but that all quickly got lost in the bowl thanks to my poor initial attempts at using the chopsticks.  I didn’t love the pork itself.  Mike thought it tasted like the meat from a New England boiled dinner.  He meant that as a compliment.  I agreed that that’s what it tasted like, but to me, that’s not a compliment.  Not my favorite dinner!

Don’t let that scare you away though.  The starters and the cocktails are excellent and the atmosphere is nice.
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You can sit at the long, two-part counter, or at one of the high tables for two across from it which is what we did.  I felt like we were in our own pleasant little world.  There are also quite a few larger tables in the front of the restaurant.  One of my previous visits there was for a co-worker’s going away party, and we fit 12 or so of us quite comfortably and had a great time.

After all that eating out, we decided we’d better do some of our own cooking on Sunday.  After our Figgy’s discovery on Friday night, Mike texted me from Addie’s basketball practice to tell me he’d had a revelation.  I was expecting a career change, a move, something life-changing (and maybe it was), but the revelation was that we should have fried chicken sandwiches for “football food”.  I was totally on board thinking we’d do takeout from Figgy’s.  Apparently that wasn’t what he had in mind.  He wanted to try making our own.  Not quite as easy and not as guaranteed to be good, but I was game.

I found a biscuit recipe on-line and sent Mike a grocery list while he picked up the chicken at Pat’s.  I made the biscuits and left the rest up to him.
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I had one with strawberry jam while I was waiting for the rest of the meal to come together. Not bad!

We used store-bought coleslaw and skipped the mashed potatoes and gravy, but they still came out pretty darn good.
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No breakfast run this weekend.  We’re getting ready for a Festivus Party at our house later in the week, and we have a race tomorrow – which actually does include brunch.  I guess we’re technically having a breakfast run after all.

Happy weekend.  Thanks for reading.

First Friday Art Walk, Figgy’s, and Otto’s

As great as it was to spend some time in Rangeley recently, it sure is nice to have a weekend at home, especially one with relatively few commitments now that Oireachtas is over.  We made sure to pack this one full of eating, running, and relaxing.

I ditched work a little early on Friday to get a much needed haircut.
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I think she cut off at least 8 inches, so it’s a big change for me.  Still getting used it it and trying not to think I look like a boy.

I still managed to beat everyone else home, so I had a few minutes to check out my just-arrived order from Amazon, more about that another day.

I was just starting to relax when Mike reminded me about First Friday Art Walk.  Most of the time, we forget that it’s First Friday and end up missing it.  I was feeling a bit lazy this past Friday, so I could have been convinced to skip it, but I’m so glad we went. It was the perfect time to go with town all decked out for the holidays.

We dropped our two still-at-home teenagers off at their respective places of employment and went on our merry way with our youngest, Addie, who is a veteran art walker.

We parked on the west end of Congress Street and started to make our way down toward the action.  We just happened to spot Figgy’s a few blocks from our car.
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I’d heard a bit about it, so we walked over just to check it out – for another time.  We weren’t going to get anything, since we were planning to get a slice from Otto’s once we got down that way.
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But the menu looked so good, we thought we’d just get a little biscuit to tide us over.
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We ordered “The Ay Ay Ron” (no idea why it’s called that).
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It turns out it wasn’t such a little biscuit.   Here’s some perspective with our favorite little photo bomber.
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It wasn’t little, but it was amazing.  The fried chicken was just perfect.  It had been flattened which I really like, so there’s an equal amount of “fry” with the chicken.  The breading (panko, I think – but very classic) was perfectly golden and crispy.  And the rest of the sandwich . . . wow!  The biscuit was one of the best I’ve had.  You could just taste the butter.  It was one of those messy, drop biscuits that has those bumps of delicious imperfection.  The coleslaw was a great cool contrast to the warm fried chicken, and the mashed potatoes and gravy were just over the top.  We managed a few, very messy bites before we realized this was not “walking” food.

The picnic tables looked kind of inviting, but not on a cold December night.  We decided to walk the two blocks back to the car and stow the biscuit for later.  It wouldn’t be the same cold, but I wanted to savor it with a knife and fork at my kitchen table.
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On to the art walk . . . My favorite stop was the She-Bear Gallery which had a bunch of Holly Meade wood block prints.  There was a great little Christmas banner in the window which I loved and had also happened to notice on my run that morning.  Unfortunately that was not for sale.  (I asked.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.)  We also really liked the Holly Meade “New Years Eggs” print which would be a great gift for my dad or sister who together raise egg-laying chickens.  (Sorry, Dad and Maggie, not in my price range.)

Addie’s favorite stop was Coast City Comics.  They had everything you could imagine from a full-sized Storm Trooper outfit to a tiny Adventure Time Key Chain (which Addie scored) to a Tyrion Lannister figurine to old arcade games and pinball machines in the back.

We finally made it to Otto’s which was a relief because after a few free glasses of wine at the various galleries, I really needed to use their bathroom.  We usually just get a slice and move on, but this time, we found a seat on the Enzo’s side and got to relax
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and goof off in the warmth for a bit.
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It was margarita and mashed potato, bacon, and scallion along with a couple glasses of wine for Mike and me, and cheese with a lemonade for Addie.
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We saw this cool truck on our way out.
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We continued down Congress to check out the Christmas Tree in Monument Square.

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Addie took a turn with the camera.

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The tree was beautiful, but I also love all the other lights they put up around town.
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Addie liked the Santa hats on the Time and Temperature building.
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My favorites were the ones on meca
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and by The Eastland.
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More weekend eating coming soon . . .

Want to run with me today?

I’m doing a 16-miler, but you can join me anywhere along the route.

Sixteen miles is about where it gets intimidating for me.  It’s where I draw the line and carry my pack with water.  I have a love-hate relationship with the damn thing.   I need it, and it enables me to carry other things, too; my phone, some Gus, my debit card (in case of emergency bakery stop), my gloves that I always end up stripping after a mile or two.  BUT, the sound of the water sloshing DRIVES ME CRAZY!!!  Does anyone else have this problem?  Is it me?  Is it my pack?  Should I just always use headphones on my long runs, so I won’t hear it?

Unlike many people, I love an out-and-back.  Well, I don’t love the out, but I do love the back.  I tell myself that I’m just going to do 8 then come home.  For some reason, that’s seems different from telling myself that I’m going to do 16.  I’m always in a much better mood after the turnaround.

So back to our run together, we had a great conversation on the way out about Christmas; shopping, traditions, etc., random running stuff, and the like.  Now we’re finally almost on the way back.

I’ve run past Fort Williams Park and Portland Headlight hundreds of times.  I don’t know why it never occurred to me to actually run into Fort Williams Park, but that’s what we’ll do today, and of course it’s gorgeous.
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This is the first view we see as we come into the park.  Promising . . .

We crest a nasty hill and are treated to this view.  Not bad.Untitled

Let’s not think about running back up this steep hill we’re enjoying running down.

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Finally, we’re at the lighthouse.  Let’s stop our watches and walk around for a bit.
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Not sure the iPhone does justice to the most photographed lighthouse in the US, but we’ll do our best.
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Better keep going.  Oh wait, here’s another good view.

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Wow, there’s some other interesting photo ops and more tourists and locals walking their dogs than I would expect this early.  Let’s wait until we’re on the way back though for any more pictures.  It’s crazy to be stopping every 30 seconds.  Let’s try to get to mile 8 in the park.

Whew, finally hit mile 8.  Let’s do just a tiny bit extra, just in case, then turn around.  Here’s one of the creepy military thingies.  I’m sure it was busy and not creepy in its time.
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Here’s another great view of the lighthouse on the way back.  You can see another lighthouse on the right.  In my sailing days, I probably knew what it was called.  Bird-poop Light, I think.

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Time go go back up that nasty hill.  No worries, more great views at the top.
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Nice excuse to stop to catch our breath for another picture.

Okay, time to get serious and quit stopping every few minutes.  We have at least a couple of miles until the next photo op.  Well wait, there are some pretty nice Christmas decorations.  Oh, and my favorite fancy house along the route.  No, stop (well don’t), let’s have some discipline.

A couple miles later, we arrive in Williard Square.  As usual Scratch is busy.
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Do we want to stop there for a treat to bring home?  Or go off the route a bit for Portland Patisserie?  Or hit up our regular stop at Tandem?

Nah, let’s keep going.  Mike’s taking some time off to nurse his hurt knee, so I’m sure he’ll have the mimosas waiting for us at home.

We’re at about mile 11 now, should we have that other Gu?  Let’s wait and see if there’s a gazillion ducks at mile 12 then decide.  The ducks were there on the way out but only 4 stragglers on the way back.  Not worth taking the phone out.  We’ve stopped enough already.  Let’s totally forget about the Gu and admire the view back into Portland.
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Alright, fine, we can do without the Gu. Only a little over 3 miles left, and we’re climbing back up to the bridge. Let’s stop and take another picture of Portland.
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One more little climb, and we’re on the bridge.
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Once we’re halfway across, we can look at the Time and Temperature building to see how hard core we are for running in the cold and estimate when we’ll get home. Wow, it’s already 45 degrees. We were hard core for starting at 27 degrees though. Due home around 10.

Woo hoo. Finally back in Portland.
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Ugh. Coming back up State is harder than usual. Should have had that Gu.

Aaah. Finally at the top. My dang phone is too sweaty to take a picture, so we spend at least a minute fidgeting with that. Don’t know about you, but I’m not minding the break at this point.

Finally get the phone working and take a picture of Longfellow himself all decked out for Christmas.  Last chance for Tandem.
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Now we just have 2 miles left and great downhill stretch down State St.

Aaah, Home Sweet Home.
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Come on in for a mimosa. (My favorite recipe is Contadino Sparking Pinot Grigio from Trader Joe’s with a splash of grapefruit juice.)
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Thanks for joining me! You in for next week?  It will be a much shorter run at Portland Brewer’s Holiday Dash 5K, and you can join me for real. There are still openings.  There will be brunch and lots of beer.  You can’t go wrong!

An Improvised Breakfast Run – Dutch’s

We hadn’t really discussed doing a breakfast run this weekend.  I was too full from Thanksgiving to really even think about going out.  Saturday morning, it was pouring rain, and I was lazy, so I skipped my run altogether.  It stopped raining fairly early, so Mike ended up rallying and heading out.  I could have, too, but my mind was made up.  I felt guilty, as I always do, but not too bad, since I did run every mile that I had planned to run in Rangeley in spite of the grueling hills.

We didn’t plan to run together on Sunday.  It’s usually a long run day for both of us (but it never seems to be the same distance), and I feel like it’s best to focus on that and not make it a more casual breakfast run.  Just the same, we were missing our breakfast runs, so we came up with a plan to just meet up for coffee at Black Cat.  Sounded great Saturday night before we went to bed.

Then, apparently, we woke up hungry because we started thinking about a more substantial breakfast from Bayou Kitchen.  We’ve been there what seems like hundreds of times in our ten years in this neighborhood but still haven’t written a review.  In addition to waking up hungry, I woke up unmotivated.  I had planned to run 18, and I knew Mike was going to run 13, so I figured it would just simplify everything if I also did 13.  So the new plan was set for BK.

We set out on one of my favorite routes which goes over the bridge into SoPo, along the Eastern Trail for a while, past Scratch Baking Company (another great breakfast option), and to Portland Headlight.  6.5 miles gets us to the gate of Fort Williams.  (It takes you past a Hannaford at about 3.5 miles in case you need a bathroom break.)  Mike was setting a nice pace, a little faster than I would have liked, but I was looking forward to pouring over the stats when we got home.   He always seems to want to sprint up the hills.  What is UP with that?!

At about mile 10, his knee really started to bother him, and I could feel him slowing down.  I didn’t slow down much though because, usually when I do, he speeds up again which drives me nuts.  Finally, after about a mile of that, I decided we needed a new plan and suggested we stop for breakfast in town (we were just coming back across the bridge) rather than try to go all the way to Bayou, so he could rest the knee for a bit.  Ohno Cafe seemed like it would be the closest and the most likely to be open – it was still pretty early – so we headed that way.  Unfortunately, they were closed for vacation.  We’ve been wanting to try Caiola’s, so we (well I) swung by there next.  At this point, Mike was really slowing down, so I ran up ahead to check the hours, no luck.  Next we headed to Longfellow Square figuring something there must be open.  LFK, nope.  Local 188, nope.  Then the lightbulb moment, Hot Suppa, of course!  I knew they opened early.  They were open, and it was nice and warm in their vestibule, but after spending a few minutes consulting our  phones for other options, we decided we didn’t want to wait (they were estimating 30 minutes).  Finally, we figured out we could go to Dutch’s!  While still in the warmth of Hot Suppa, I consulted my phone to make sure they’d be open.

Aaah, finally getting to sit down.
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I know I’m making it sound like this was our last choice, but Dutch’s is by no means a last choice breakfast destination.  We’d just been looking for the closest place to sit down.

We’ve actually been to Dutch’s quite a few times now.  The first time I had been lured in by a Yelp Reviewer who poetically said something to the effect of their home fries being like hash browns and tater tots getting married and having beautiful square children.  That’s no lie.  The home fries, hash browns, whatever you call them are amazing; crispy, crunchy on the outside and soft and potato-y in the middle.  The first time I went I had the breakfast burrito which is stuffed with those, eggs, cheese, and a bunch of other good stuff.  It was my first time having chimmichurri sauce which I thought was heavenly (not for you cilanto haters though).

Our youngest daughter was with us when we went, and she really wanted pancakes.  They didn’t exactly have pancakes, but they recommended the griddle cakes they use for the MacDutch breakfast sandwich.  OMG, those were so good, much more substantial then a pancake (as you might imagine if you’re going to use it for a sandwich) with just a bit of greasy crispness (what’s a nicer, GOOD, word for greasy?  because it was greasy in a good way – buttery maybe?) and these little crunchy surprises of sweetness on the top.  Turns out those were little maple sugar candy kind of things.  She didn’t eat all of her griddle cakes, so we took the rest home, and I took a delicious bit every time I walked by until they were gone.

I ended up liking the hash brown thingies that were in my burrito so much that I wanted to just get those the next time I went back, but I also wanted to have those griddle cakes again.  What to do?  There were four of us there that time, so I convinced the crowd that we should have a breakfast appetizer of the loaded hash browns – kind of like nachos with hash browns instead of chips.  This was the only thing I didn’t love at Dutch’s.  The cheese sauce was a white version of the stuff you’d get on your nachos at the movie theater.  I’m definitely not above that and have eaten my fair share of it, but on the hash brown beauties at Dutch’s, I wanted real, sharp, cheddar cheese.  We all found ourselves eating around the cheese sauce.

For my “main course”, I did end up getting the MacDutch.  I wanted those griddle cakes again, and they were every bit as good as I remembered.  The inside of the sandwich was good, too, but definitely not as memorable as the bread.

This, most recent time, the croissant sandwich on the specials board caught my eye, but as I stepped up to the counter to order, this gorgeous creation caught my eye.
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I just had to have it – a brioche cinnamon bun – and it was so worth it.  The pastry to cream-cheesy frosting ratio was just right.  The middle – always the best part, right? – was perfectly ooey and gooey and frosting-y.

Mike remembered my delicious burrito from our first visit and didn’t even seem to consider the rest of the menu before ordering that.

They have a nice website whose pictures will make you drool.  If you’re like me and need some time to digest the menu (ha ha pardon the pun), I suggest you check out their menu on-line before you go.  (You order at the counter vs. having a server come to the table.)  Then you can focus on the specials board (every time I’ve been they’ve had 5 or 6 specials) and weigh your options.

I was a little surprised the first time I walked in.  The interior is quite spacious and spartan.
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It’s not what you would call a cozy restaurant, but I’m thinking they must do a strong take out business during the work week so probably need the space for a long line.  They have a cool old-style, postcard-like mural on one of the walls, and the bathroom is wallpapered with old Maine Gazetteer maps.  The decor is very down-to-earth, similar to Bayou Kitchen and Sinful Kitchen.

It’s not in the best part of town, but it’s across the street from Slab, so it’s in good company.  There’s a countertop at the window facing Preble Street where you can sit and watch the world go by.  You may have some of Portland’s less fortunate stop and stare in the window not realizing you’re sitting there.
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Back on the running side of things, I started to think even my cut back mileage was at risk when Mike started hinting at taking the bus or a cab (or uber if we were cooler, younger) home.  I usually bring a second set of clothes to change into when we go on a breakfast run – or at least a shirt – so I don’t freeze to death as my sweat starts to get cold.  This time I didn’t.  I was freezing, so I was anxious to finish up breakfast and get home.  The idea of a warm cab was very tempting (waiting for the bus in the cold, not so much).  I decided I’d eaten all the cinnamon bun brioche I possibly could and would warm up a lot faster if I just started running again – probably in the time it would take for a cab to arrive.  Besides, I really didn’t think I could stomach wimping out on a breakfast run like that.  (No offense, Mike.)  Seemed like a slippery slope to start down.

Mike and I agreed that he would get a coffee and have a long, leisurely breakfast while I ran home to get the car.  I managed to get 14 miles in, and he managed to limp out of the restaurant to the car (and has run a few times since), and we can still say we’ve never not gotten ourselves home after a breakfast run.

Thanks for reading.  Happy eating and running.

While the Cat’s Away . . .

Mike just wrote a great post about Oireachtas weekend which, for us, has always been the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I took our daughter down for the first seven or eight years, so Mike has taken over for me for the last few years.  There’s always a lot of stress leading up to it; rehearsals every spare minute, costume prep, and bleeding money for fees, wigs, tights, socks – you name it, but there’s nothing more stressful than actually being there with thousands of stressed out girls and their often more stressed out mothers.  Not having to go is priceless.

After spending the last few weekends engrossed in Irish dance, I was so excited to have a free weekend ahead of me.  Because I really know how to party, I went crazy in the kitchen preparing for Thanksgiving from morning until night.  The only other thing I did was run.  I ignored my poor son who was quite content to play video games in his room, have a break from the girls, and visit me occasionally for a snack.

Friday night, I made my favorite granola which I only finally remembered to start eating yesterday.
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Good thing it lasts a long time.

I also made this really yummy farro and roasted grape salad – not for Thanksgiving – but just because I wanted to.
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I’d been intrigued by the idea of roasting grapes since reading this Smitten Kitchen post a while ago (still haven’t tried that recipe).
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I think it was one of my favorite things I made the whole weekend.

Saturday, I decided to stay in bed as long as I wanted, since I didn’t really have to be anywhere.  I was on the road for a run by 6:15.  Isn’t that always the way?  When you can sleep late, you don’t?  Anyway, I was excited to get back to the kitchen and continue my baking spree.  I made bagels (including these healthy ones for after the holidays),

bialys (isn’t that weird how the onion filling turned pink?  I wonder if that’s normal or if it’s the pink Himalayan salt I used.  I can’t remember if that happened last time I made them),
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pizza dough,
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and these rosemary olive oil rolls.
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I was disappointed in them at first, but I think that’s because I ate one right out of the oven, and it probably had a bit more cooking to do.  They were perfect on Thanksgiving.  I stuck everything in the freezer, so it would seem nice and fresh when we got to Rangeley.

Sunday, pretty much the same routine except I must have been getting kind of burnt out.  I didn’t take nearly as many pictures.  This time, I made bacon and chopped up some scallions for our favorite mashed potato and bacon pizza.  It was really mostly for our first night at Rangeley, but Frank and I each had a sample pie.  I made salted caramel sauce for a delicious looking carmelita recipe which was to be my substitute for pecan pie.  Later, I actually made the carmelitas.  I almost wasn’t even going to make them, but they were so good (and easy) that I made another batch when we go home.  I also made a couscous salad which originally started out from this bulgur salad recipe.  (I know that would be healthier but I love the way those little pearls of couscous feel in your mouth.)

Finally, I worked up my nerve to make an apple pie.  I’m not sure I’ve ever really make a pie before.  I’ve made quite a few galettes (or maybe quite a lot – without looking, I can tell you the recipe I use is on page 702 of The New Basics cookbook) and a few chicken pot pies but never anything where the crust was really going to be the main focus.  I really wanted it to be good.  I didn’t have any shortening, so I googled “all butter pie crust recipes” and was happy to see that Smitten Kitchen was one of the first sites to come up on my search.  I love the way she writes.  She seems so practical and down to earth but her recipes have an element of fun to them – some kind of nice twist – that makes them interesting.  I followed her recipe and her tutorial for rolling out the dough, and I’m happy to say it was a success.  (No twists there, just a perfect, traditional pie crust which is exactly what I wanted.)
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At home, I didn’t bake it but stuck it in the freezer for an hour or two then pulled it out and put it in plastic wrap and back in the freezer.  Even though Mike was under strict instructions to bake it before he put in the turkey (while I was picking up our oldest son in Vermont), he completely forgot, and we didn’t put it in until after we’d eaten.  It had been thawing in the fridge all day, so it worked out just fine.  It didn’t need any additional baking time after having been frozen.

It was really great having all that food prepared, so I didn’t really have to do anything on the actual day.  Mike makes all the stars of the table anyway; the turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the gravy.  I thought it would be nice to have at least one green thing, so I made an adaptation of this salad.  The pomegranate that I had brought with us turned out to be really gross on the inside, so I want to try it again when I actually have all the ingredients.

The only thing I didn’t make that I want to try is this cranberry salsa.

Thank you all you great food bloggers for the great recipes!

Whew, I do love to bake, but after that, I’m not quite ready for any Christmas cooking baking marathons.

Are you going to the Woodford Food & Beverage Neighborhood Mixer tonight?  We were thinking of it but waited too late to get tickets.  Arggh!  If you go, let us know what you think.  So excited to have another restaurant coming to our part of town.

Honey Paw Review – Lunch-ish Run

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Once again, our daughters’ dance practice conflicted with our breakfast run desires, so we had to adapt.  Years ago, I had investigated places to eat lunch in Portland on the weekend and came up kind of short.  Flatbreads, which I like, was available and that seemed to be about it.  Fast forward 10 or so years later, and the options were happily plentiful.  For many of Portland’s hip restaurants, lunch is a great option.  It’s usually a bit less expensive and definitely less crowded than the dinner scene.

We got up later than we had planned (again, up with the sun did not happen) but managed to squeeze in a run before having to drop the girls off at dance.  We were then left with each other, one son, one cat, and one dog.  Having burned some calories and not eaten breakfast, we, very uncooly, searched for a place that opened at 11:00, the earliest honorable time to eat lunch (and/or have a non-breakfast-related breakfast adult beverage).  Luckily, most places we looked into did open at 11:00.  We’d been wanting to try The Honey Paw for awhile, so we decided on that.  Not wanting to leave our son out, we invited him to come along, and he was game (although I’m still harassing him, with little success, to write a guest blog post on his thoughts of the restaurant).

We ended up having a GREAT time being tourists in our home town.  The Honey Paw was awesome.  Although, I must say, I’m a little worried about writing this review, since I’m DEFINITELY not a professional, and there was some controversy about that fairly recently.  We were the first ones to arrive at the restaurant, so, obviously, we had our choice of seating which is actually quite interesting at The Honey Paw.  You have your choice of the bar,
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something like a bar along the window facing Middle Street,
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and a ginormous table in the middle of the restaurant, so definitely a family-style dining experience provided you’re not the only family there.

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Of course, we ordered a drink right away.  I was impressed that the cool, hip-looking (probably world-reknowned) bartender started mixing our drinks before the waitress even finished taking our orders.  (We were the only ones in there, and I know he overheard, but still, cool.)  I ordered something called the “Lapsang Fizz”.  (Have I mentioned that I like my bubbles?)  It had bourbon, lemon, lapsang souchong (which I assume is some kind of tea), egg white, and soda.  I’ve been hearing about egg whites in cocktails for a while.  I was intrigued and wanted to try it.  It was delicious, but the fizzy cocktails are never as fizzy as I would like.  Mike ordered a Strong Paw as I predicted he would, but I’ll let him blog about that, and Frank ordered a fancy root beer.

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Once we had the drinks figured out, lunch was a bit more challenging.  I had read other reviews that recommended the brussels sprouts, so that was a no-brainer.  They were delicious.
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I loved the shredded potato-chip like topping, but I have to say Miyake still has the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever had.  We ordered a few other appetizers; the duck skewers which were so amazing, we had to order another plate of them, and the fry bread which was actually my favorite and brought me back to our decades-ago visit to The Four Corners, but gourmet-ized.
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We were getting a bit full by then but still wanted to try some of the entrees.  Mike and I struggled to decide between the Wok Fried Rice Noodle and the Vietnamese Pork Meatball Soup to share.  Frank struggled, in general, with the unusual-ness of the menu.  He’s an adventuresome eater (he loved the duck), but this was a bit extreme for him.  I tried to sell him on the Banh Mi special, but he was hesitant about its Chicken Liver Mousse condiment.  He settled on the Vietnamese Masa Corn Crepe.

I loved our Wok Fried Rice Noodle.  I’m not usually a big shellfish fan, but the mussels in it were delicious and reminded me more of nice, tender calamari.  Oh shoot, now I’m reminded that there was squid as well, maybe it was actually squid I was eating, no I’m sure it was a mussel.  The squid was good, too.  Honestly, I wish I remembered the sausage part better, but the noodles themselves were AMAZING, nice and broad with such a wonderful, savory flavor.
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Frank’s crepe, though, was the high point of the meal for me.  The crispy, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth crepe was an orgasmic experience.  That would have been enough in itself, but the melty, farm butter put it over the edge.  The crepe itself was so good that I really didn’t even care about what was inside it.  That said, the smoked chicken and piccalilli filling would have been delicious as a dish on its own.  When we go back, this will be what I order, without hesitation.  It was a special, so I hope it’s available.
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We don’t usually order dessert.  I mean, it really doesn’t make sense for breakfast, but I saw the dessert menu first, and since, Mike and I were splitting a meal, I though we might actually have room.  I’m not such a big ice cream fan.  I know, I’m weird.  The walnut cake, however, was calling me.  Anything that has an ingredient called “white chocolate butter cream” is not to be missed.  And believe me, that was not a misnomer.  I was impressed that they didn’t even bother to call it frosting.  I mean is frosting really anything but butter and sugar?  This was more butter than sugar, and I liked that they didn’t bother to try to hide that.  You might think that would be way too rich in a cake, but the blueberry, pear jam cut the richness perfectly.  So, so good!  I would go back and just get that because after the delicious meal and splitting it three ways, we still couldn’t eat the whole thing.  Why, oh why, didn’t I bring the leftovers home?

The food was so good, that it could have been in a mobile home, and it wouldn’t have mattered, but the atmosphere of the restaurant was really great, too.  The sink in the bathroom was the coolest the boys had ever seen.  The interior of the restaurant was bright and cheerful.  It did begin to fill up as we ate, but being stoic, shy New Englanders, no-one opted to sit close to one another.  I could see it getting friendlier later in the evening, later in the drinking.  A very cool feature is that they had this cool D.J.-type booth, so the background music was all vinyl.  I’ve since learned that they have some events where that is featured.

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We had a super fun time at the restaurant.  It just had such a nice, relaxed aura that we just really enjoyed ourselves.  Mike and Frank did some kind of Star Wars trivia game that was, of course, above me.
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Part of our plan of the day was to visit a local shop called Nomad’s.  I had run by there recently and noticed that they had Icebreaker, Ibex, and Smartwool in their window.  As it gets colder here, we’re wanting to wrap ourselves in more and more wool, so I was curious to see what this place had.  They really had a great selection including our favorite wool socks, Darn Tough, but it was a bit pricier than I’ve seen on-line.  Mike did buy a cool Ibex hat and some Outdoor Research gloves.  I had the same version last year in mittens which I heartbreakingly lost at a comedy show.  They didn’t have any Icebreaker base layer shirts in my size, so the saleslady steered me toward Ibex which did look great but were surprisingly a lot more expensive.  I opted to buy one on E-bay instead.

After that, we swung buy LeRoux Kitchen (which I remember being Whip & Spoon, do you?) because I had seen on Facebook that they were doing a Thanksgiving meal tasting.  It was beyond our expectations.  We could have skipped lunch and had this one for free.  The was a generous taste of tender turkey, mashed potatoes (that weren’t as good as Mike’s), stuffing, a nice Kale salad, and an interesting tomato thing.  To top that off, there was a wine tasting.  They had a bubbly rose which I loved and bought to have on our Thanksgiving.

Finally, we topped off the day with a stop to Gorgeous Gelato.  We normally hit up Gelato Fiasco but wanted to try out their across-the-street competitor.  As I said, I’m not a big ice-cream fan, so I’m not sure I can make a fair comparison, but I do think Fiasco has more variety.  In any case, Gorgeous was delicious, and it was warm and cozy in their home while Mike and Frank polished off some scoops.

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We finished up our Portland adventure just in time to pick the girls up for dance.

Thanks for reading.  Happy running and dancing.