Ep. 25: Classic New England Summer Shack Foods with Amy Traverso

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We can’t be the only ones who’ve idled away countless hours contemplating how lovely it would be to spend our summers along the New England coast. And since many of us will be armchair traveling this year rather than actually traveling, we’re bringing some of the iconic summer foodstuffs of the upper northeast to you, dear listener. Namely lobster rolls, fried clams, and the inimitable Maine blueberry. Here to regale you with tales of the iconic experience of each of these items is  food editor and cookbook author Amy Traverso. And if you’re so fortunate to be within a road trip of New England, well, you have your map of destinations below.

Renee Schettler Rossi's signature

Transcript

Renee: David, how are you?

David: Good, Renee, how are you?

Renee: I’m doing well. Although, I envy you being closer to the ocean this time of year.

David: I know, right? It’s one of the things you can do that’s not illegal, is you can be outside, and of course, the water’s right there. Yeah, I love the seaside in the summer, now for very different reasons than The One. The One loves it because he likes to be at the beach, he likes to be in the sun, he likes to be on the sand and watch all the boys walk by. Me, all I care about is where the nearest concession stand is.

Renee: Interesting.

David: When I was a kid, I could tell you directions of where to go, anywhere in the city, by where restaurants were. And in the summer, I could tell you where to go with different beaches, depending upon their concession stands or what shacks are near them.

Renee: Oh my God, I love that. Well, wait, what kind of shacks?

David: Well, specifically for me, fried clams. I’m a fried clam guy. I love that. I love clam cakes, but not as much as fried clams. You know what a clam cake is?

Renee: Clam cakes? No, I have no idea. That conjures really crazy images in my mind.

Photo: Fudio

David: I know. Okay. Well, there’s also clam pie. My mom used to make clam pie, which was a crusted pie with clams in the middle. Clam cakes are, imagine like a batter, like a Zeppole, but it’s studded with all kinds of chopped clams in there. And so that’s called a clam cake.

Renee: And it’s fried?

David: And it’s fried, of course,

Renee: Sort of like a hush puppy, but…

David: A clam hush puppy, if you will.

Renee: Okay. That helps me.

David: And this is later in life, not when I was a kid, but we would go to lobster pounds and get a lobster roll, which of course you and I have very different ideas to what lobster…

Renee: Very different ideas.

David: And we’ll talk about that later in the episode. I guess in the end, for me, it’s sand in my bathing suit and the waft of malt vinegar, that just bespeaks summer to me and the beach. I don’t know, call me crazy.

Renee: Crazy and maybe a little bit masochistic. That does not sound like summer to me, at least not my memories! And fortunately, we have someone else here today with us, who is from your neck of the woods, who maybe can cast some light on a different way to view summer.

David: I’m David Leite, the founder of the website, Leite’s Culinaria.

Renee: And I’m Renee Schettler, the site’s editor in chief.

David: And this is Talking With My Mouth Full. And as Renee said, we do have an expert here on all things summer comestibles, it’s Amy Traverso. Amy’s a fellow New Englander, senior editor at Yankee magazine, and the host of the PBS series, Weekends With Yankee. Welcome to the show, Amy.

Renee: Glad you’re here, Amy.

Amy: Thanks for having me.

A half-eaten dish of blueberry crumble with a spoon resting on top and a colander of fresh blueberries beside it.

Renee: Amy, we’re going to cut straight to it. Blueberry is undeniably summer season, especially in New England where you’re at. I remember seeing an Insta post from you last year, where you had been picking berries and you said it took you straight back to your childhood.

Amy: Yeah.

Renee: Can you tell us a little about that?

Amy: Yeah, so I grew up in Connecticut and there are these fruit farms in Glastonbury, Connecticut. It was a lot of Italian families that farmed this land and somehow resisted the temptation to sell to developers because Glastonbury is an upscale suburb of Hartford, a lot of it is developed into these large McMansions. In fact, now there are a few of them, there are little islands of McMansions in the farms somehow. But there are some really great fruit farms there, and so we would always go picking in Glastonbury. And it was apples, it was stone fruits, and it was blueberries. And then we’d go get our Christmas trees there, too. So having that bucket tied around your neck and just making your way down the row and eating half of them and taking twice as long to fill the bucket is such a pleasure.

David: Well, we’re in Roxbury, in Litchfield County, and same thing. We took Alan’s niece and nephews there when they were kids, we’ve gone, picked them, we just love it. But the thing that’s interesting is, of course, it’s that season, so out of our kitchen is a parade of cakes and pies and clafoutis, all kinds of things going out that are blueberry inflected. But not one of them has the famed Maine blueberry. So can you talk to me, first, what is the Maine blueberry as compared to regular blueberries?

What are wild Maine blueberries and why are they so darn famous?

Amy: Okay. So there are two kinds of blueberries. There are high bush blueberries, which is what most of us are used to eating and what we get at the store. And those are cultivated plants that have been bred. I have a high bush blueberry in a large pot downstairs in my yard. But low bush, Maine wild blueberries are an entirely different creature. And it’s so interesting because they require such specific conditions to grow, that it’s very difficult to plant them. It’s been done, but they are not an agricultural product that you can just cultivate on a farm. I was talking to the president of Wyman’s, which is the largest frozen blueberry company and they’re based in Maine, he described, it’s almost like a natural resource, like iron or oil. It’s there or it’s not. And all of these blueberry barons in Maine and in eastern Canada, are basically connected through this underground network of rhizomes. It’s almost like a giant organism.

David: Really?

Renee: Fascinating!

David: Wow!

Amy: Yeah. I don’t want it to sound creepy. It’s actually beautiful.

David: The blueberries that ate New England.

Amy: Yeah.

Renee: Well, there’s that fascinating TED talk about rhizomes and how they nurture one another underground.

Amy: It’s so fascinating, mushrooms and tree roots and rhizomes, they’re all really interesting if you want to get nerdy about it. So these blueberry barons have been around forever and they are machine harvested, but also by hand. They have these rakes that you’ll see around that part of Maine. And the landscape is a little bit desolate in these barons, blueberries are almost the only thing that will grow, they’re very exposed, they’re very far North, so it’s very cold and windy and the blueberries thrive there.

Amy: But the funny thing about Maine blueberries, I think, that’s hard, is they’re so delicious when you get them frozen, but they’re incredibly delicate and incredibly ephemeral. And so even if you stop at a little roadside stand on a random highway in Maine, you may wonder, “Well, wait, this isn’t so…” Because they fade so quickly.

David: What’s the big deal?

Amy: Yeah. They fade really quickly. So you have to have a great source to get the full impact of the flavor, they have to have just been picked. Otherwise, you just freeze them immediately and they’re actually better when you bake with them when they’re first frozen, because that sets the color of the berries.

Renee: For those of us who haven’t experienced the wild Maine blueberry yet, what is so special about them? They’re diminutive, yes. But what else?

Amy: Well, when they are very fresh, they have a more concentrated, intense flavor. So that is the beauty of them. But, I think that case gets harder to make as high bush blueberries are bred to have more and more intense flavor. It’s the same thing with apples right now, the new varieties, they’re like flavor bombs. But I think seeing them as an indigenous food with wonderful flavor and a way of life, I think adds just to the experience of eating them.

How do you properly freeze blueberries?

David: How would you freeze them? What’s the proper way for the small Maine blueberries?

Amy: Yeah. It’s similar to with the large blueberries as well, which is you want to lay them out on a baking sheet, a rimmed baking sheet, and freeze them in a flat layer because otherwise they’ll stick to each other and they’ll be ruined, it’ll be really hard to separate them for your baking. And then once they’re frozen, you can put them into a zip-top bag and keep them in your freezer for months. But you just want to do that initial freeze in a single layer on a tray.

David: And as soon as you get them, you want them fresh, fresh.

Amy: Yes. Yes. Very, very fresh. So, ideally, in Maine, you’re going to go to the farm or you’re going to be shopping at a farmer’s market that is coming right from the source, that morning.

Renee: And so obviously you want to really showcase these beauties, if you can get your hands on them.

Amy: Yes.

What are the best uses for wild Maine blueberries?

Renee: So what do you find are the best uses for them?

Amy: I do think pie is the best use for wild blueberries because they’re so small, you can load a lot of them into a muffin or certainly a crisp would be great. But there’s just something about the simplicity of the pie, the elementalness of the pie, where the blueberries are only competing with maybe a little bit of spice, maybe some sugar and lemon, but fat and flour, basically, I don’t want…

David: And everything goes well with fat and flour.

Amy: Exactly. So I just don’t want a lot of competition for those blueberries.

Renee: I love that.

Amy: Yeah. So I would use them, and I love pie in general, so I really do prefer them that way. Now a high bush blueberry, a crisp, a muffin is where I would go. But those blueberries are so precious, I just love them in a pie.

Renee: Yeah.

David: What about preserves? Are they good in preserves?

Amy: Excellent. And in that case, there is that textural advantage of being small and almost like little caviar. So yeah, it’s so good in preserves. Yeah, you’re right, thank you for reminding me of that because that’s the other way I would do it.

What is the perfect lobster roll? (Spoiler: A contentious topic here at LC!)

David: Oh, wonderful. Now, another New England summer treat is lobster rolls. Now Renee and I are absolutely polar opposites when it comes to lobster rolls. So before we get into that fracas, we’ll tell you why and what that’s about, Amy Traverso, what is the perfect lobster roll?

Amy: Oh my God, I have such strong feelings about this.

David: As I do, too.

Amy: Okay. So this is going to be a throwdown.

David: Come on.

Amy: I did a trip a few years ago with my family, where we rented an RV and we drove the entire Maine coast, from the border to Canada, looking for the best lobster rolls.

Renee: Oh, that’s fantastic.

Amy: So I put in the time, I put in my 10,000 hours.

Renee: Are you listening, David?!

David: I am, I’m listening.

Amy: So here are some of my principles. A cold lobster roll can be a beautiful thing, but the lobster meat should never sit in mayonnaise for more than the three minutes, it takes to get it from the kitchen to you. I also am completely against lettuce and most additions in any lobster roll. And I think that the split-top bun is the best bun, with one exception. And I do think being closer to the water makes a lobster roll taste better, but, you know, not everyone can have waterfront property. So the best lobster roll I had in Maine, and we all know the lobsters are moving North, so that’s where the most freshest lobsters are, was at a place called McLoons, which is in South Thomaston. It is not only the most scenic, charming, gorgeous, little iconic lobster shack of your dreams, but they treat mayonnaise like a condiment, which is what it is.

Amy: So they spread it on the inside of the bun and then they put the meat in there and it’s just the right amount of mayonnaise and it’s just the right amount of butter on the bun and they work together but nobody’s canceling the other one out.

Renee: Interesting.

Amy: And I love a buttered lobster roll, but my issue with Maine buttered lobster rolls, is they tend to use cold meat and the butter congeals on the meat as soon as it hits. So the butter may be warm when it’s ladled in there, but then it’s very quickly getting gross. And yet, for hot buttered lobster rolls, so often they take fully cooked lobster meat, and then they toss it in a pan with butter and then they cook it more and then it starts to dry out. So I love this place in Connecticut called Lobster Landing, which is in Clinton, and the owner, he has dissected every element of the lobster roll. Am I going on too long because I’ve really thought about this a lot?

Renee: Not at all!

David: I’m rapt, I’m rapt.

Amy: So he parcooks the lobster in this broth that is essentially just a little bit of salted water in which lobsters have just been cooking for hours, just poaching, the most gentle, gentle cooking, but before they’re fully cooked, takes that meat out and puts it in the pan. So delicate, such low heat, so that when you get that lobster roll, it’s perfectly cooked. And even though he uses a special roll that’s made in Vermont, which is not a split top hotdog bun, I give him so much credit for his care and his attention to detail, that I accept that bun even though it’s not a split top.

David: It’s not a split top.

Amy: Okay. So there’s my position.

Renee and David simply can’t agree (on lobster rolls)

David: That’s your position. Well, Renee and I are definitely different. I believe a lobster roll should be served cold, with just a little bit of mayo. I do not like, are not a fan of the hot butter lobster rolls. To me, it just seems like that’s lobster, with butter and bread. And so I like the cold and Renee, you can…

Renee: I prefer the warm lobster, but as you said, perfectly cooked, right? I mean, there’s nothing worse than something as beautiful as a pristine and exquisite lobster that’s been sitting around and it’s soggy…

Amy: Drying out.

Renee: It’s overcooked. Exactly.

Amy: Crispy at the edges.

Renee: Not to be overdramatic, but it’s a little bit horrifying, right?

David: Yeah.

Renee: But just perfectly cooked, gently poached, and then just a drizzle of butter, just for that kind of salty…everything’s better after a bath in fat, right?

David: Yeah. Mayonnaise is fat, too. There’s something about the coldness or the coolness of a cold lobster bun with mayo that I just, oh, I just love that. I just love that.

Amy: Yeah. And look, I’m team both. As long as they’re done properly, I really do love both of them. And another great thing about this place McLoons—and it’s not the only great place—but they will do a half-and-half roll. So you can do a half mayo, half butter.

David: Oh my. So you get half, they cut it right in half?

Amy: Yeah. They cut it in the middle, yeah.

David: Wow. Now that’s special. That’s worth going to.

Renee: I respect someone who can see both sides of the conversation.

David: The best of both worlds. I have to check them out. Very good.

Amy: Yeah.

What kind of bun is best for lobster rolls?

Renee: Let’s talk a little more about that bun, though, because not all of us can get the top split bun. So if we’re going to try to do a lobster roll at home, those of us who are armchair traveling here, what qualities do you think we should look for?

Amy: I would look for, one type of New England style bun that you can get, I think, more widely, at least in the Northeast and maybe all along the Eastern seaboard, is the potato bun, which potatoes make most baked goods better. Certainly potato donuts are the best donuts.

Renee: Absolutely.

Amy: And so potato buns are great and they do have that very soft, fluffy, kind of tooth, I hate the word toothsome, but they have a toothsome quality to them. So if you could do that and then just hand slice the sides, because the whole point of it is that the sides, they don’t have a crust. They’re open, the middle of the bread. And so they can then sit in a frying pan and absorb some butter and get crisp, that’s the whole point of it. So if you can just remove the sides of a regular hot dog bun, then you could get that effect.

Renee: Noted.

David: And I think, do you have any brands that you like?

Amy: It’s funny, I was just talking, I actually don’t think you need to get fancy. I think Vermont Bread Company makes very good potato buns. That’s what I usually buy at home for hamburger buns and things. I mean, just cheap split-top buns are great.

Renee: Does the job.

Amy: Freihofer’s

David: I haven’t thought of Freihofer’s in years. Oh my gosh.

Amy: I know, the Freihofer’s outlets.

David: Remember the cookies, the Freihofer’s chocolate chip cookies.

Amy: Yes, totally.

David: Down memory lane over here. I forgot all about those.

Amy: I think we had very similar childhoods, David. Just slightly different ethnicities.

A paper basket filled with golden fried clams

Which are better? Whole-belly fried clams or clam strips?

David: Thinking about now childhood memories, my biggest and most important childhood food memory is fried clams. I wrote that article in the New York Times about it and every time I go home in the summer, I must have fried clams. So tell me, are you a strip girl or are you a whole belly girl?

Amy: All right. Well, now it’s time for some confessing because I have only recently, in my 40s, come to appreciate the fried clam. I grew up…

David: The beauty that is the fried clam.

Amy: I feel like I didn’t have an authentic…my sister liked them, but she only liked the strips. I feel like, okay, what are you eating if you’re only eating the strips?

David: Exactly.

Photo: Ezume

What in the world are clam strips?

Renee: Okay. I have to interrupt here. I grew up in a landlocked state. Can you talk to me about the difference between the strips (above) and the bellies? Educate me.

Amy: David, you have the longer pedigree here.

David: Okay. Supposedly, the strips are the clam, a steamer clam without the belly, but in almost all cases, like at Howard Johnson’s and a lot of other places, it is a much larger clam, very, very big, that they would cut into strips. So it wasn’t even a steamer. And that’s what they would deep fry. It was a very sweet thing, but they added stuff to make it sweet. A whole belly clam, is a steamer clam, that’s shucked and then it’s put into usually either buttermilk or condensed milk, and then put into some sort of dry concoction. Some people use flour, some people use cornmeal, some use a combination of both, and simply deep-fried. And the belly just bursts with this sweetness and this brininess, and there’s a slight, slight, slight iodine-y quality, weirdness that just comes through. And honest to God, it is sex on a plate. That’s what it is, it’s sex on a plate.

Renee: Amy, you agree?

Amy: The belly has a mousseline texture, it is somewhat sexual, like a cooked oyster, it’s almost like a mousse. In my defense, I had food poisoning as a child from a fried clam when I was very young, I was very sick. So yeah, so that was a lifelong aversion, but now I get it. And I admire kids, I was a kid who ate escargot, I loved escargot, so I like kids who eat weird food. And if you’re not from a fried clam place, it is a weird food.

David: It’s very weird for a lot of people. Absolutely. I do agree with that. Yes, it is. So now, are you a strip or a whole belly?

Amy: I mean, I’m a grownup, David. I mean if you’re going to eat fried clams you have to eat the…

David: You got to have the whole belly.

Amy: Yeah.

Where are the best New England clams?

David: Okay. I agree with you. So now, let’s talk a little bit more. Are you more North Shore Ipswich area or are you more Cape Cod? Because to me, fried clams don’t exist outside of Massachusetts, which is where I grew up. I know it does, but those are the two big areas.

Amy: Well, the best clams, I do think, come from that great salt marsh around Ipswich and the North Shore, it actually goes all the way up to New Hampshire, but there’s something about…so in general, I believe that the best clams come from mudflats, rather than sandy flats. And there’s just more primordial stuff that’s flavoring, there’s more life in a mudflat than in a sand flat. So, unfortunately, we have this problematic green crab invasion, where these pesky crabs from the Mediterranean are eating all the babies and we’re losing our clams, our Ipswich, our North Shore. They’re still there, but not in the numbers they were, so they have to be protected and we’ve got to figure out ways to harvest these green crabs. But anyway, yeah, there’s just something about the quality of that meat that is unbelievable.

David: No, I’m so glad to hear you say that because really, clams from mudflats just really have so much more flavor, they’re so much more alive and they just can’t compare to the ones in Cape Cod. And I’m sorry, Cape Cod listeners, I’ve been saying this for years and years and years, but I do prefer them from up there. So now, if we’re looking at your Weekends With Yankee, which is your PBS show, you’re in season four now, I believe, right?

Amy: Yeah, yeah.

Where are the best places to go for fried clams?

David: Okay. And so let’s talk about some places to go. You’ve talked a bit about places to go for the lobster roll. How about for fried clams, your favorite fried clam places—and we certainly can go back and forth on that—and also where to go to get the best blueberry pie in New England.

Amy: Okay, good. All right. So for fried clams, so the story and a lot of food stories are apocryphal, but the story of the fried clam is that it was invented in Essex. Lawrence Woodman, whose nickname was Chubby, invented the clam. He was making potato chips, somebody said, “Why don’t you throw some clams in there?” In early, it was 1916, according to the story. So Woodman’s fried clams, you have to give them that credit, but across the street is JT Farnham’s, And I think theirs are great, too. So I’m not being a politic, I don’t want to offend anybody, I actually like both of them and they’re both in the right place to be getting quality meat.

Amy: On Cape Cod, I think PJ’s in Wellfleet, does fried seafood so well. And I think they make one of the best stuffies in the world, which is a stuffed quahog, which is a big clam. So good. Not the only good one, but I really like that one. In Rhode Island, I like Flo’s and Amaral’s in Warren, Dune Brothers in Providence, I think is really all about the quality. Okay. I want to hear yours now.

David: Well, you’ve named my second, third, and fourth choice, but you didn’t name my number one choice…

Amy: Oh and The Clam Box.

David: …which is, The Clam Box of Ipswich. Number one. Chickie Aggelakis, that’s the owner, Chickie Aggelakis, I love her. And to me, I’ve always had incredible, incredible clams at The Clam Box. They change the oil twice a day, in the morning, and then they stop, right after lunch and then they change the oil again. So it’s always fresh.

Amy: Oh, that’s so important. And it’s also the cutest darn building in the whole world. It looks like a clam box.

David: Looks like a clam box.

What do you put on fried clams?

Renee: What do you put on your fried clams? I mean, are you guys purist? Do you just want the simple, crisp texture, contrasted with that, we’re not going to mention it, interior, right? What do you put on? Do you put tartar sauce? Do you put vinegar? How? What?

Amy: Okay, well, I’ll go. Okay, I’ll go first. So for me, it’s a squeeze of lemon on the belly part and tartar sauce on the strip part, if I’m going to have tartar sauce. But the belly is so complex and interesting, it’s either plain or maybe a squeeze of lemon. And then, if I’m craving tartar sauce, which is maybe 30% of the time, I would then only use it for the strip.

David: For the strip. That’s interesting. I agree with you with the bellies. I never dip the bellies into the tartar sauce, but I do like it on the strip part. But I like a lot of malt vinegar.

Amy: Oh, nice.

David: And then if I really am craving malt vinegar, I’ll do it on the French fries and I’ll douse them in malt vinegar and a lot of salt. Oh God, it just is something that is so quintessentially New England and so quintessentially my childhood. And so that’s what I…ketchup, doesn’t belong anywhere near a fried clam plate. Does not belong.

Renee: I respect that.

Photo: Ted Axelrod

Amy: And to your credit, you did not even mention ketchup, Renee. I wouldn’t want to….and the other place in Maine, there’s a few good places, but Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery, there’s a very touching story, which is a whole other thing. But basically Bob’s does its clams in two styles and one style is Lil’s style, because she was an employee who once had her own restaurant. She had a very particular idea about how clams should be made.

David: I heard about this.

Amy: Do you know this?

David: Yes, yes.

Amy: And so finally the owner relented and said, “Okay, Lil, we’ll make them your way and we’ll make them my way and people can choose.” And she had such fans that they would…and then she was on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and so she became kind of famous and people would come to the restaurant. And for the last year or two of her life, she was a celebrity and people would line up and get…and she was so proud that her style of clams had seen the light and people had come around. I like them both. Lil’s, I’m trying to remember the specifics now, but I believe Lil’s are soaked in the condensed milk.

David: Condensed milk. Yeah, I think so. Yeah.

Amy: They’re both really good.

David: And have you heard of the Sea Swirl in Connecticut?

Amy: Ooooh no.

David: Yeah. And then what they do, which is fascinating to me when I was researching the article, is they snip the snout almost all the way down, so you don’t have that chewy snout. I know, Renee, right? Ouch. And they snip the snout. And so it’s not so much of a tough, chewy bite for some people. Thought that was interesting.

Amy: This is making me so happy talking about these foods.

Renee: This is making me so hungry!

David: And you’re not even a fried clam girl.

Amy: Right, right. I’m a late convert. I’m like, who’s the Saint? Is it St Paul, St Peter, who had the conversion on the road to Damascus?

David: There has to be a saint of fried clams somewhere. And then what about your pics going through your research for the show and also for Yankee magazine, for your travel issue that’s out. What about blueberry pie?

What are you favorite places for blueberry pie?

Amy: Okay. So there are four, five places that I would list.

Renee: I love your top lists. This is great. You’ve got everything all aligned.

Amy: So in Maine, which is the first place you would go, there’s Helen’s in Machias, which is blueberry country. And that place is legendary, it’s been around forever. And there’s a blueberry festival every August, which I’m guessing will be modified or maybe canceled this year, which is awful. And then Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland, is excellent. Excellent. In fact, we visited there with the show and it was so good. Also Tandem Bakery in Portland, when they make it, it’s not an everyday item, but when they have it, it’s very, very good. And so then moving south in Massachusetts, I love the blueberry pie, which is more of a high bush blueberry, it’s not going to be the wild blueberry, at Marion’s in Chatham, Massachusetts. I love all of her pies. It’s a pie restaurant, it’s in a coastal town, it’s all the different fruits. They’re all great. And the blueberry pie is excellent. And then in Cambridge, Mass, or some actually, technically in Somerville, Petsi Pies is terrific. Terrific. So yeah, those are my favorites.

Renee: So there’s your roadmap, David.

David: Yeah. Yeah. This is fantastic. So one thing I wanted to ask you about blueberries, since we’re back on it, how are Maine blueberries in ice cream? Would you do that?

Amy: Yes, absolutely. I would take frozen Maine blueberries. Yeah, I would churn them into ice cream.

David: Would you cook them first, so they’re not just frozen?

Amy: Oh yeah, I don’t really like hard bites in ice cream. That’s just a personal thing. So yeah, I would puree them in. I have a recipe actually on our website, which is newengland.com, for a lemon, sorry, a blueberry lemon sour cream ice cream, that is so phenomenal. It’s like this tanginess and the fruitiness altogether is a great combo.

Renee: What about making a, like you said, cooking down the wild blueberries to almost a syrup and then making a swirl throughout, maybe a sweet cream ice cream?

Amy: Do you remember how Baskin Robbins had, they had an ice cream flavor called, it was a baseball-themed ice cream and it had a boysenberry swirl in it. Do you know what I’m talking about?

David: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. This was a long time ago, right? Yeah.

Amy: Yeah. Anyway, sorry. But something like that, where you’d have that concentrated swirl of blueberry in a creamy base, would be so good.

David: You know what would be really great, is having a cheesecake ice cream, with the blueberry syrup and chunks of graham cracker crust with the butter in it.

Amy: Oh my god. So good.

David: Do you think that’d be great?

Amy: Yes.

David: I’m getting very hungry.

Renee: I think I want that for the site, David. Now you’ve got to develop that.

David: Amy, would you come on again?

Amy: I would, I love this. In fact, I got to tell you, my 12 year old is completely unimpressed with my career, but I just said, “Oh, I’m going to be recording a podcast.” And they said, “What? You’re on a podcast?” He was like, “You’re on a cool medium for once?!” So thank you for that.

David: Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today, Amy, we really appreciate it.

Amy: It was great thanks.

Renee: Really a pleasure.

David: Amy Traverso is senior editor at Yankee magazine, cohost of the PBS television series, Weekends With Yankee and the award-winning author of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, which we covered, actually, in an earlier episode of this very podcast years ago. You can find Amy at Yankee magazine’s website, newengland.com, where you can access their summer travel issue with Yankee, bringing that incredible sounding blueberry lemon sour cream ice cream recipe. You can also find Amy on Instagram at @AmyTraverso.

A friendly Zoom Iron Chef competition during the pandemic

David: We have a very special segment today, our brand spanking new correspondent, Emily Schario, tells a story of turning her weekly Zoom call with her friends, into a bit of pandemic culinary competition. And the results are…well we’ll let her tell you.

Emily: This is what cooking with my friends during a pandemic sounds like:

Emily: I just stepped on a Brussels sprout head. That hurt really bad.

Madison: I’m not microwaving this chicken.

Maggie: You got to step up your game. I have a dessert.

Celine: Oh, man, I got my phone in my tuna fish.

Emily: Our weekly Zoom calls were feeling a little stale. So to spice it up, I challenged them to a Zoom Iron Chef competition. The rules are very simple. You have a 40-minute free Zoom call to cook and plate your dish. And you can only use ingredients in your kitchen. Now we may not be professional chefs, but we are a scrappy troop of Food Network wannabes who love to eat. So with our laptops on our counters and our recipes on hand, we started cooking.

Emily: In five, four, three, two, one, go!

Celine: Oh God. Oh, it really did change. Okay. All right, let me get my stuff. Oh, I hate this. I’m so nervous.

Emily: Based on the recipes they chose, my friends are living, breathing proof that you are what you eat. There’s Maggie, the overachiever.

Maggie: Alright, so I’m making pork tenderloin, that’s been marinating in a lemony type sauce, with potatoes. And then I have gluten-free, sugar-free brownies.

Celine and Emily VA: Damn.

Emily: There’s Emily VA, the nostalgist.

Emily VA: I’m going to make carbonara. Spaghetti carbonara. We’ll see how it goes.

Emily: There’s Celine, the modernist.

Celine: Technically, the official name for what I’m making is tuna salad. But wait, there’s a twist. I’m not going to tell you yet, but I’m doing a couple things to it to make it fun and cute.

Emily: And then there’s last-minute, Larry, or in this case, Madison.

Madison: I’m going to make some lemon garlic chicken drumsticks. However, I do want to say, I just read the recipe and it was like, marinate overnight or for two hours. And I was like, I’ll just throw it in a bag for a little bit.

Emily: We were only a few minutes in and things were already off to a rough start. There were tears.

Celine: Scallions are making me cry. I feel like that’s so pathetic.

Emily: There were dogs.

[Dog barking]

Maggie: We don’t bark.

Emily: And there was sabotage.

Emily VA: I put my colander in the sink for my pasta, walk away, come back, and Celine has thrown pickle scraps in it. Pickle scraps!

Emily: But after a few sips of wine…

Maggie: Is anybody else drinking? Everybody should have a drink in their hand while they’re cooking these gourmet meals.

Emily: And a few reassuring smells…

Madison: The lemon already smells really good.

Emily: We started to get the swing of things. Most of us were relying on leftovers that were on the verge of going bad.

Celine: I’m trying to put anything that will also make tuna taste good, but I have no clue if it’s going to taste good or not. So I’ll get rid of stuff, I just don’t know if it’ll be in my stomach or the trash at the end of this.

Emily: And some of our food was straight up expired.

Madison: So decided to go with the Pillsbury, side note, they expired months ago.

Emily: Expiration dates are suggestions.

Maggie: No. Expiration dates are for the weak.

Emily: But that didn’t stop us from using it. As we sipped our cheap wine and baked our expired Pillsbury Crescent rolls, the time began to get away from us.

Emily: All right, ladies, there are 10 minutes left.

Madison: What?! Oh god.

Celine: 10 minutes? Okay. Now I actually have to move fast.

Emily: With only a few minutes to spare, some of us were running into last-minute pickles…

Madison: Okay. So I just checked on the chicken and I’ve never seen chicken look like that. It looks like it’s bleeding. There’s just deep maroon red stuff coming out of the top.

Emily: While others were marveling at their meals…

Celine: It’s a little tuna family. These guys are kinda cute. Have a tuna mommy and daddy.

Emily: And by the grace of the Zoom gods, we all somehow finished on time.

Emily VA: I’m done. I’m done. I’m done. I did it in time.

Emily: Celine scored high marks on presentation as she plated little bites of her tuna salad on small cucumber slices.

Celine: Oh these kind of slap, as far as tuna salad can go.

Emily VA: Oh yeah, I would give Celine’s a 10 out of 10.

Emily: While Emily’s classic carbonara was a hit with her roommates…

Emily VA: This is goopy carbonara in the style of The Sims Three. And I put some pancetta on top of it and I’ve plated it on a nice black plate, so the spaghetti really sticks out.

Maggie: Dang, this sounds fancy. That’s nicely done.

Emily VA: Thank you, everyone. I’m sweating.

Emily: And as everyone oohed and aahed at each other’s dishes, it almost felt like we were all in the same kitchen. For the Talking With My Mouth Full podcast, I’m Emily Schario.

David: This podcast is produced by Overit Studios and our producer is the ever-sunny, Adam Clairmont. You can reach Adam and Overit Studios at overitstudios.com. And remember to subscribe to Talking With My Mouth Full, wherever you download your favorite podcasts. And if you like what you hear and want to support us, please leave us a review and rating on iTunes. Chow!

Renee: Chow!

Comments

  1. Oh! Such memories!

    I grew up on the Hudson River but, since my father was from ME, we visited every Summer back in the 50s and 60s.

    I can well remember just stopping the car because there were blueberries growing in a roadside field. They were so delicious and the fact that they were available just for an alert eye made them all that much sweeter.

    Today I have high bush blueberries planted in my SoCal backyard. They’re pretty good because they’re there and I can pick them ripe but they’ll never compare with those wild roadside berries we gorged on.

    We never did anything more than pour some cream on them and eat them from the bowl. Yum!

    As for lobster rolls, it’s *totally* the buttered and toasted roll that makes them what they are. Alas! those New England style rolls aren’t available to us out here. My preference is some very thinly sliced celery for the flavor and the texture and a *light* mayo coating.

    And OH! those belly clams!!! I went back to ME a few years ago and ate all the clams I could sample from York to Belfast. I just didn’t get that luscious surprise burst of belly in a single batch. Are they saving it for someone special or going for some generic strip aesthetic? Whatever. I had looked forward to that for months and left the state so downcast.

    I did, however, have some awesome food in Portland! Far more upscale than steamed clams on the beach or lobster in my jeans with what seemed like a tablecloth tied around my neck but just as memorable.

    1. Rainey, you are an eater after my own heart. I grew up on Massachusetts’s South Coast, and while I don’t remember blueberry bushes on the side of the road, I do remember wild blackberries. Oh my, were they good! Sorry to hear you had small or no bellies on your last trip. That’s a catastrophe!

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