"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The First Annual Parker River Foraged Foods Dinner, or Melissa Gets Wild

You have to feel sorry for my friends sometimes. Why? Because I impose my wacky ideas on them, as much as I try to restrain myself.

My friend Alec Maxon is a wonderful chef and resourceful to the max. He's good at cooking EVERYTHING. His specialty, though, is bringing local foods into the mix, and I don't mean he trots down the street to Tendercrop Farm to buy their chicken.

I mean he digs clams, forages mushrooms, gathers wild ramps...that kind of thing. So when he asked me last summer for help marketing himself, of course I had a brilliant idea, of course!


That should be his name, and he should have a website, and this should be his pitch: "When the end of the world comes (not IF but WHEN)--will you be able to feed yourself? Will you be able to feed your family?"

And then he would have private foraging and cooking lessons for people who have bug-out-bags and gold buried in their back yard.

Well, I thought it was a brilliant idea but it turns out that Alec actually doesn't think civilization as we know it is going to come to an end. Still, if it does he would be a superb guy to hang around and not just because he's converted his truck to run on fryalator oil.

What he really wanted help with was getting the word out that he caters small parties. You will want him for that purpose, I promise. He's in Newburyport (or Newbury?)--anyway, north of Rowley on the Parker River, and THAT, my friends, is where he held his First Annual Wild and Foraged Foods Dinner.

(But wait! before I launch into this fabulous meal, here is Alec's contact info. Email him at amaxon100@gmail.com! He will cook tasty food for you and your friends and deliver it right to your door!)

OK, onwards--here's the menu:

welcome friends for foraged and wild foods feasting


Elderberry kir royale

Oregon white truffle vodka martini

Iced oregon black truffle vodka


Razor clam ceviche

Oysters on the half shell with red grapefruit mignonette, breakfast sausage bites

Edemame and white mountain matsutake mushroom salad


oysters Rockafeller

Milkweed and chevre eggrolls

Venison stew

Wild mushroom soup

Hake chowder

Venison satay

giant bean and fish fillet cassoulet, rampy crumbs


Elderflower pot de crème, elderberry and strawberry

Brown butter and white truffle macaroons

Mmmm. Let us begin.

Here's the Parker River and the view from Alec's little house.

Alec takes his skiff from here to dig clams on the mudflats. With these:

First things first, people--how about a drink?

This white truffle infused vodka was an experiment for Alec--I thought it tasted pretty good when it was ice cold (sort of piney and woodsy) but as it got warmer, it was a little strong. I moved on to an Elderberry Kir Royale, made with homemade elderberry "cassis" syrup. Which was so good I had two. (Curious about Kir Royales? Look here.)

Here's a little party prep--Alec putting the Venison Stew into a pan for the steam table:

Alec's friend Duncan (also an amazing chef) preparing Razor Clam Ceviche:

Party time!

Venison Satay:

Not really satay, more like grilled shish-ke-babs but the venison was SO tender. A little sea salt sprinkled on top...mm.

Oysters on the half shell...there were some fried breakfast sausage bits that went with these. I never saw the mignonette but I was doing a lot of talking and could have missed it.

Milkweed and Chevre Egg Roll--these were yummy little fried packages...Alec said that he would make a tomato dipping sauce to go with these next time.

Hake chowder...

This dish wasn't on the menu but must be mentioned: a fois gras bread pudding with cherries. Good lord in heaven was this thing amazing. Duncan made it, and I don't think it falls into the foraged category unless he raises geese. But I don't think he does.

Edamame and Matsutake Mushroom Salad...

Brown Butter and White Truffle Macaroons...I missed these too!

Elderflower pot de creme, with elderberry syrup and strawberry syrup. These were quite incredible. You might see a theme that my favorites involve heavy cream, and I would like to blame that on my Aunt Lottie who gave me a bowl of Frosted Flakes with heavy cream instead of milk when I was a wee little tyke.

So much food! And I didn't even get a chance to try some of it--missed the razor clams, oysters rockafeller and the cassoulet.

The company was likewise splendid and I heard as much Spanish and Italian as I did English. Restaurant owners, former restuarant owners, gourmet food purveyors, writers, people who are or have been in the food biz--friends, foodies all.

Already I'm thinking about what I could contribute to the next one--we live right by a field filled with "onion grass" that would make great compound butter. And of course we're right next to Dogtown, which is famous for its blueberries. And if I could just catch these squirrels that are in my bird feeders all the time they'd make a FINE stew because those little bastards are FAT.

Thanks for inviting me, Alec! As for the rest of you, email this man and improve your life!
P.S. Survivalists, you too--just don't call him Apocalypse Alec.

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