Many factors help make a meal special, yet place is the one most often overlooked. You may be scratching your head about that comment — what does a sense of place have to do with food?Plenty.
We don’t eat with one sense, after all. All of our senses — and many of our memories — are in play when we cook and eat. Smells and colors evoke memories of our mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens. Whipped egg yolks beaten to creamy yellow can bring to mind the Easter dress your sister wore when you were ten. The earthy smell of mushrooms can stir up memories of walks in the woods with your grandfather. The sizzle of a sauté pan can suggest a breakfast where everyone lingered at the table for hours. Atmosphere becomes an integral, inseparable part of the five senses and memory often proves time and place to be as important as taste, smell, and touch when we share a meal.
On April 26, Cellardoor Vineyard and The Edge, two of the most scenic locations in the Midcoast, joined forces to offer a special cooking class and dinner. Edge chef Bryan Dame and manager Natasha Dame led the class in the barn kitchen of the vineyard.
Our first lesson was lemon curd. Bryan and Natasha began the course preparation by mentioning the laying hens the couple raise for the restaurant’s many egg-based recipes. Eight farm-fresh eggs were cracked into a bowl and whisked over hot water. The egg mixture was bright — almost orange — and Bryan explained the freshness of the eggs leads to a brighter color. After a few minutes of whisking the eggs were transformed to the yellow of French butter. Next we prepared rosemary shortbread and a scant half-teaspoon of rosemary added a hint of intrigue and surprise to a tasty standard. The scent of rosemary led to talks about the oceanfront gardens at The Edge, which is perched above commanding, rocky shoreline in Lincolnville.
The guests in the class were divided between those who had visited The Edge and those who wanted to go. Those of us lucky enough to have spent a summer evening on the patio, or a fall Sunday night sampling gourmet pizzas, regaled the others with our experiences. Soon, the atmosphere of The Edge was as present and persistent as the walls and warmth of the two-hundred-year-old barn we were sitting in for the class overlooking the vineyard.
Bryan’s menu took advantage of spring asparagus and mushrooms; butter was in abundance. Seared sirloin with braised veal cheeks and a freshly made steak sauce was the main dish. The sauce was a flavorful accompaniment — robust enough to stand on its own, but subtle enough to be an accent rather than the top note.
The class left the kitchen and gathered in the barn loft around an old hand-hewn farm table. We waited to be spoiled by numerous plates of food we learned how to prepare throughout the class. Of the fourteen people at the table each person knew at least one or two others when they sat down. Although there were some unfamiliar faces, we soon found ourselves sharing stories of places to visit, like the new exhibit at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, and stories of travels, books, and expectations for upcoming art events like Pop the Cork and the Maine in America Celebration.
Before we knew it, desert was in front of us. The dish we first made as a class hours before helped end a delightful afternoon. The shortbread had been transformed into the base of an elegant confection. Dollops of lemon curd and a crown of meringue topped the crisp, slightly savory shortbread. Every plate was a visual treat and the desert was both beautiful and heartfelt. Bryan swirled the hobo symbol of welcome, the logo for Cellardoor, in bright raspberry sauce on each plate. It was a thoughtful, creative gesture and melded the elegance of The Edge with the hominess of the vineyard and reminded us, yet again, atmosphere is a vital ingredient to memorable meals.
Recipes for the dishes are posted on the “featured Recipe” page of this website along with the Selected wine pairings.