The vacations of my childhood always began in the mystical, pre-dawn hours of the morning. To this day, setting out on the road before sunrise lends a nascent thrill to even the must mundane chore. This has rubbed off onto the Hobbits. Bug, my dawdler, will even put some steam into his morning routine if he thinks that doing so will get us on the road before the sky begins to lighten.
I remember rolling out of bed very shortly after pulling up the covers to sleep. It wasn't that we had such a tight schedule to meet that we would leave so early, but that my parents--my mother in particular--couldn't sleep for the excitement of the outing. This sort of thing seems to be generationally contagious. We had no difficulty wrangling everyone--a task I frequently refer to as "herding cats"--into their seat and we were off.
Too Guy was our cruise director, having planned this entire outing. I nestled into my pillows and promptly went back to sleep, the familiar profiles of this neck of the Shire having exhausted its charms for me. The Hobbits dove into some backseat vidoes, breaking a long, parentally-imposed media fast. No "are we there yets?" here. Heh.
Everyone was suitably impressed when we drove up to our accommodations. The Hobbits swarmed the playscape while I donned decontam gear and tackled the kitchenette. The toaster was the first prisoner of war to be confined to the upper reaches of the cabinetry and I sandblasted the counter top. I washed all of the remaining contents of the cabinets and hung up the Certificate of Inspection. We were in business. A quick pot of pasta and a bottle top opener and...et voila...dinner is served!
Is there any vacation attraction that can rival the lure of a swimming pool? All of Bar Harbor spread before us--or at least a nice chunk of shoreline--and these Philistines want to swim in the pool. What can I tell you? I try. I really do. While they were distracted by the possibilities of cannonballs, Tool Guy played lifeguard and shooed me away to indulge in some "me" time. I slunk away to the Jack Russell Steakhouse, beckoning me from across the street. They never missed me.
Dining out alone can be like slow dancing by yourself: a bit awkward and self-concious. So I brought my own dinner companion. A book. I presented myself to the hostess, anticipating "a booth, in the back, in the corner, in the dark." What I got was the garret at the top of the stairs. All to myself. Is there any felicity in the world equal to this? I admired the original woodwork, the eyebrow windows, authentic glazing and interior plaster work finished in a singular shade of glistening orange. Funky, but it worked.
Not much on the menu was gluten free, but hey, does one come to Bar Harbor for aught other reason than to eat lobster? So I ordered fries as an appetizer--and didn't ask what they were fried in--followed by grilled asparagus and lobster with butter. And solitude. Sheer bliss.
Back at the room, Tool Guy and I tag teamed. While he went to the Jack Russell and duplicated my order, much to the amusement of Adam, our server, I took the Hobbits on an expedition to scale the not-insubstantial shoreline rocks. We scrambled over monstrous boulders, foraged for mussel shells and vacated crab exo-skeletons, and examined the bladderwrack that ebb tide had exposed. Too cool.
The next two days were crammed with a sailing cruise, window shopping, and hiking in Acadia National Park. The Hobbits tumbled into bed, sun-pinked and satiated. At night, when the fog would roll in, we would briefly rouse at the low tones of an incoming fog horn. Yep. We're in Maine.
My farewell dinner at the Jack Russell felt as if it needed a crowning finish. The only gluten free item for dessert was creme brulee. Mmmmm. Don't mind if I do. The first bite infused me with the inspiration for my next the inspiration for my next expedition into Cooking Dangerously.
Casein Free Creme Brulee
8 egg yolks
1 cup thick coconut milk/coconut cream
3 tsp. maple sugar sugar
2 T vanilla extract
Maple sugar for sprinkling
Heat sugar and coconut milk/cream to boiling in heavy sauce pan. Add vanilla extract to eggs and gently incorporate. When the coconut cream is boiling, pour a small amount into the eggs to "temper" them, stirring continually. When the eggs have mixed with the coconut milk/cream, pour the rest of the hot milk into the mixture. Now pour into ramekins or molds and place in a chaffing dish or, for those on a Lobelia Baggins budget, a cake pan. Since my life is lacking in the politer refinements of polished society such as ramekins, I opted to use silicone muffin forms as the container in which to make the creme brulee. Fill the dish or pan with boiling water to about halfway up the mold/ramekin. Place the entire assembly into a 325* oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until center is almost set. When cooked, remove to a clear surface and sprinkle maple sugar over the tops. Return to the oven, now set on broil at 500*. Keeping a close eye for carmelizing--in my kitchen that would be called "smoking"--let broil for 5-7 minutes or until desired degree of lava has been achieved. Brace yourself for the oooooohs and aaaaaaahs.
As a vacation, it was, as all vacations are, too short. The Hobbits brought home from sand from Ogunquit's beach; I refrained from doing any foraging in Acadia, a feat that I want recognition for. The wild roses were extraordinarily tempting. (Does anyone know of a commercial source for these?) Lots of memories. Princess declared it to be her best vacation. Fortunate, that, especially being her only one.
Here's to the next one!