Ted likes to joke that we live 15 minutes from the eighth wonder of the world … L.L. Bean. But I’m being totally serious when I say that about the same distance in the other direction is another wonder—the culinary mecca that is Portland, Maine. Anyone who has even a passing interest in food has no doubt heard about the high concentration of superb restaurants in this pint-sized city. We’re often asked to name our favorite, which is a tough if not impossible call, but among the Portland restaurants we truly love is Sur Lie.
Among the most significant improvements I’ve made to Ted’s life are two introductions: to Maine, and to gin. Like every WASP girl of my generation, my first real drink was a G+T, and my freshman year in college (when the drinking age was 18), my roommates and I practiced being grownup by having gin and tonics every evening before walking to the dining hall—we kept the empty seaglass-like Gilbey’s bottles lined up on the top of the living room bookshelf as decoration. Eventually, I graduated from Gilbey’s (still a perfectly fine gin), to Tanqueray (ditto), to Bombay Sapphire, my all-around favorite for what I continue to believe is the most perfect cocktail, especially on a warm summer day.
It’s one of those technically spring-but-feels-like-winter Saturdays when I itch to be outside, but the outside doesn’t seem to want me. A wan light—bright but not quite sun—highlights the starkness of the bare trees. Although a few warm days have melted some of the snow, more than a foot of it remains on much of the landscape, packed hard with a crusty top that tricks you into thinking you can walk on it, until the next step plunges you knee deep. It’s too icy for taking the dogs and going snowshoeing, so I resorted to tromping around the yard, collecting sticks and surveying the broken tree branches that we’ll have to cut down when the snow is finally gone, while throwing balls for Dixie and Mavis. They’re those bright orange Chukka balls—easy to see on the snow unless they sink, which they did today, prolonging the hunt. The happy result: two now-sleeping pups.
Everyone knows the mint julep is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby. But what do horse-racing fans drink at the other two events in the Triple Crown — The Belmont Stakes and Preakness? We had no clue until Maker’s Mark asked us to join their “Trifecta Challenge” by coming up with a Maker’s-based version of The Black Eyed Susan – a fruity cocktail named for the flowers used in the blanket that traditionally drapes the Preakness winner.
Those of us who choose to live in Maine are not supposed to complain about the winter. It’s considered bad form, almost like asking a lobsterman how many traps he has or saying “chowdah” when you clearly don’t have a Maine accent.
We moved here from New Jersey three years ago this month knowing full well that the winters would be longer, darker and possibly harsher, but any discomfort would be worth it for the gorgeous summers, clean air, lack of traffic and myriad other benefits of living in this special place.