Down East 2013 ©
When I told my friends that I was going to move to Maine, they consistently replied, “Aren’t the winters horrible?”
I always retorted, “Don’t be silly Mainers know how to manage weather!”
This was a naïve statement. I had only been to coastal Maine in July and August. Summer is when paradise descends on the rugged coast and mountains of Maine. A summer afternoon spent on a schooner, kayaking tidal rivers or sipping cocktails on a deck belie what is to come in the four bitter months that follow Thanksgiving.
In spite of my lack of experience it turns out I was right. Pure luck. Yesterday, a day with a forecast of 12- to 15- inches of snow, is a case in point. We had a cooking class scheduled at Cellardoor Vineyard and chefs Lou Ann and Jason Wharton of Call Me Ishmael Catering were driving from Fryeburg — 132-miles away.
On Saturday, when the snow was merely a forecast, Lou Ann and I spoke and she said, “Let’s not cancel; it’s only snow.”
As it turns out, weather forecasters in Maine have an uncanny ability to be right — and it’s more than pure luck. Starting at six in the morning I expected to get a phone call from Lou Ann with a change of mind.
That call never came.
Our barn is a great place to be regardless of weather. A snowy day is particularly beautiful. The trees become coated and the flakes often fall in a silent reverie of accumulation. Once every ten or fifteen minutes a slide of roof bulk falls to the ground in front of the barn doors, creating a mound of snow that tops bogs and muck boots alike.
Jason and Lou Ann arrived ten minutes before the class rather than the anticipated two hours early. They came fully prepared for a class of twelve. Within minutes of their arrival, five students came in. In spite of the weather they were in good spirits and anxious to get started. The remaining seven never came. It was the kind of day that you could easily talk yourself into staying in the house with a book or a series of old movies. I’m so glad the handful of hearty souls decided to venture out.
We’ve had many classes at Cellardoor, but yesterday’s was special. Special is hard to quantify; it could have been the mutual effort to get out, the easy camaraderie that came from the intimacy of the group or the ease that Lou Ann and Jason displayed as they explained the recipes to us.
We started with Nori Rolls, fresh ingredients arranged and folded into a tight roll. It turns out the flip of the wrist is the key to a compact roll that holds. When the roll is sliced and plated you get a small work of art that can be eaten in two bites. We did herb crusted petite racks of lamb sliced into perfect chops also two bites of wonder. Lou Ann placed a platter of fresh tomatoes, vibrant red and yellow peppers and fresh herbs on the baker’s table in the kitchen in preparation for Not Your Mother’s Stew. The colors were exaggerated by the gray skies and constant snowfall. The mixed smells of the dishes presented were a heady mix of comfort and simple joy.
At Cellardoor we like to share our experiences and we are sorry if you could not be here.
We want to share the recipes from Call Me Ishmael  with you. May your kitchen be filled with the simple pleasure of fresh ingredients melded into dishes of comfort for you and your family.
Lee Heffner is the vice president of operations for Cellardoor Winery, where she helps ensure guests are offered a full experience, with an emphasis on wine, food and culture. The next Cellardoor cooking class will be held February 8 and will feature Valentine Chocolates with Nutmeg Foods.