Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Friends are the Best Teachers"

Greetings to all!

Last month Inn at Long Lake's "Sing-a-long" Evening on the weekend after Thanksgiving was very special.

I re-connected with Patrick Brideau, who was the Head Baker at Phillips Exeter Academy back when I was the Lead Dinner Chef. Patrick has left the Academy and now teaches culinary arts students in New Hampshire. He is a great mentor in my cooking career and I wanted to invite him and his lovely wife, Maureen, to the inn for this evening of music and fun. Patrick accepted.

In addition to Patrick and Maureen, I invited two dear friends of mine, Dick and Dianne, from Mount Vernon, Maine (up near the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine). The next week, of course, a visit to their house was in order for them to play hosts. They enjoyed listening to the music played by Charles Grindle (who is just so gifted on the piano & can play almost anything by ear!). Matthew, our resident theatre artist (and Front Desk Assistant) even graced us with a number or two ;-).

Patrick is a mentor that was patient, kind, and very real life in his teaching. It was my pleasure to thank him with a stay at the inn. During his stay here I realized what a cool guy he is and how much (as in the case of most friends) that growing together is a true test of a good friend. With your good friends you can ask when in doubt, expecting pure, honest feedback in a caring way.

The weekend was a memorable part of 2009, not for just me but for my guests. How interesting it was to see my "old friends" meet "new friends" that were guests at the inn!

Today, let's consider the individuals in our lives that helped us evolve in our careers, spirituality, and in depth of perception. Tell them. Honor their teaching always. You never know---they might very well be a continued source of enjoyment and enlightenment in your Life.

Your Maine Innkeeper,

Keith A. Neubert

Inn at Long Lake

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Family Christmas Day!! Yippee!!

I woke up early this morning to get ready for my family's Christmas celebration. My older brother is driving up with his wife, Nancy, and my nieces from Cape Cod (they celebrate with her side of the family on December 25th). A large storm is blowing up the East Coast & it will be starting in their home area by the time they get back home.

Yesterday I spent most of the day preparing food. My Mom is doing well from her Mom's passing earlier in the month and I wanted to help alleviate some of the holiday pressures. I made our family favorite, German Rouladen (braised beef rolls with bacon, onions, chopped dill pickles, and mustard--simmered in beef gravy). I also made a tasty Chicken Pot Pie. Mom is making her famous German Potato Salad, which everyone loves--YUM! A Very German Christmas!!!

My nieces, Brandy and Marina, love my Godiva Liqueur Chocolate Cookies so I made a couple dozen of those, too. Listening to holiday music is a great backdrop for preparing holiday food. It really put me in the mood!

I was supposed to head down to the Boston area to share some holiday cheer with my lady friend, Fay, but the coming storm is going to postpone our festivities. It will be back to the inn after my family's celebration. Maine is not supposed to get much snow. My friends, Jim & Cliff, are heading down to Virginia. They are heading right into the storm!! Cliff is a nurse and just got back from the Sudan (a little warmer than Maine in December) where he was working with Doctors Without Borders. I hope and pray they get where they are going safely!

Have a great weekend and if you are traveling please be careful. Will follow up after the weekend.



Naples, Maine

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holidays Spirits--Part II "The Basics"

Greetings, Blog Friends.

A chilly 4 degree morning paired with a steaming cup of coffee starts my day here in Western Maine. Brrrrr!

In preparing for your holiday gatherings I began in the last post writing about a basic bar set-up for entertaining....

Starting with the specific needs of your guests that you have inquired about, the basic liquors one should stock are the ones that have the most popularity. White liquors (clear in appearance) that are versatile with most mixers (juices, carbonated mixers) are vodka, gin, and rum. Here a Dark Rum (eg. Myer's Dark Rum) might be more seasonal (and a good match for eggnog). Tequila, another white liquor, is super for tasty Margaritas in the Summer but not in the colder seasons.

Dark liquors (blended whiskey, bourbon, scotch, brandy, etc.) are "warmer" this time of year. Have a couple of these on hand. Simple highballs (liquor + mixer) are made in a moment with these.

Cordials/liqueurs are taste specific (coffee, orange, almond, etc.) are popular and offer a virtual department store of flavors. These are wonderful for a Coffee/Cocoa Bar. Keep a few of the most popular on hand, too. Some of these can be useful and versatile in cocktails, or for sipping "on the rocks."

So...here is a basic bar list for your swinging party; the liquor brands are up to you, of course:

*Vodka (Stolichnaya, Grey Goose, Belvedere, Smirnoff--your choice)
*Gin (Tangueray)
*Rum (Bacardi light, Myer's Dark Rum)
*Whiskey (Canadian Club, Seagram's 7)
*Cordials/Liqueurs (Kahlua, Amaretto di Saronno, Vandermint, etc.)
*Wine & Beer

Don't forget little touches like enough glassware, swizzle sticks, cocktail napkins, and fruit (lime & lemon wedges, maraschino cherries, olives, orange slices) & ice and ice buckets (for white/sparkling wines).

Your bar area (if outside your kitchen/food area) should be in a location where people can congregate and where you can tidy it up easily and oversee. Check in on all your guests for any strange behavior from over-consumption of alcohol. Remember: Responsible serving & drinking always. We need you and your friends around for 2010!

From Chilly, Beautiful Maine,

Inn at Long Lake
Naples, Maine

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas "Spirits"--What to Stock

Greetings, Blog Friends!

Winter has arrived in Maine. Two storms piled a fair amount of snow outside our doors in just the last week. Thankfully, warmer weather followed each outburst.

The holidays are on their way and I've already attended some wonderful parties. Seeing friends and family is one of the best parts about the holidays, of course! Getting ready for them can be a challenging endeavor, however...

Stocking your bar is an integral part of planning gatherings. Until the Baby New Year makes its happy appearance to give us "2010," I will endeavor to give you some basic advice & tips on simple beverage service during your festivities to make them even better!

So....what to stock? This is as simple, or as complex, as you would like it to be.

A couple of rules:

1). To stock a complete bar may not be cost-effective, or even prudent. While I am an advocate of stocking a variety of food & beverage items to inspire my hosting creativity, I advise that, in general house party cases, only stock what you will serve.

Based on this here are some tips for entertaining:

1). Ask your guests at the time of RSVP what it is they like to drink. With some luck they will usually give you a few choices (and usually joke "the expensive booze, of course!").

2). Have the basic liquor set-up (to be discussed in a future post)---and offer a "Specialty Cocktail" (or punch) that you can make up in advance. Name it after something fun--like "Snowball Cocktail" (hmmm...do they make glasses that look like snowballs??!!), or "Yuletide Grog." Or....simply make your favorite eggnog. This way you will be all set up/stocked with enough of the ingredients.

3). While it is nice to have a variety of spirits around, remember that non-drinkers must be accommodated. Coffee, non-alcoholic punch, or another "featured" no-alcohol can be created--and try something tasty and unique. How about a "Mrs. Claus Sipper" (someone has to drive the sleigh home when Santa's nose gets too red!! Hahaha.)? Being aware and prepared for responsible service is not only a gesture of hospitality, but a form of caring for your guests and friends!

4). Consider pairing your beverage choices around your menu. (Wine is, of course, an excellent choice--ask your local liquor man what is good and affordable.

I will post some more things to consider in the near future.

On another note: To all the lovely e-mails, phone calls, and cards I received over my Granny's passing, thank you so much. My Mom got wind of all of them. She extends her sincere "Thank You" to all.

Your Maine Innkeeper,

Keith A. Neubert
Naples, Maine
"The Heart of the Lakes Region"

Monday, December 7, 2009

In Loving Tribute: Clara Butler (1916-2009)

Hi, Blog Readers and Foodie Friends:
This weekend my family wished my "Granny," Clara Butler (my Mom's Mom), a beautiful journey to Heaven. The last few weeks have been challenging, especially for her and my Mom. I was able to bolt down to Massachusetts after Thanksgiving to let her know how much I loved her--and that she was, indeed, considered one of the best. It was one of the most touching experiences of my Life. The look of love in her eyes when she held my hand for (what we knew would be the last time) broke my heart, and opened it at the same time.
How blessed my Mom, my brothers, and I are to have had her in our lives for 93 years! My older brother, Bill, shared many lovely memories at the service. Among these were Christmas Eves, fun on the golf course, my Granny's awesome American Chop Suey (use a cast iron pan only, she revealed to me!), nights we all sat and watched the Lawrence Welk Show together. No matter how bad things would get chasing after 3 grandsons, my Granny never used curse words! Funny what we recall...
After my brother, I spoke about my feelings on "letting go" to the group. This is not the "I'm saying goodbye" type of letting go, more the confidence & conviction in your Faith that God will always provide you with answers to your troubling questions in time, even carry you when you feel that you cannot move forward. The strength to hold on to this knowledge is what my Granny showed me in her Life. There are things you can do in Life--but sometimes one must just offer it to God and know that perspective and Grace will come in time with patience and Faith.
My Granny was so happy for me when I assumed ownership of Inn at Long Lake. She knew it was a lifetime of dreams come true (and she always said: "The hard work will keep you out of trouble!") She enjoyed hearing about what was going on at the inn with all my projects, too. Heck---every time I make Hermit Bars at the inn she is thought of (she used to keep these moist, spicy raisin-dotted bars in a metal tin in her electric oven--just waiting for my visit with her! hehe).
My thanks to all my friends who supported me during this time! Thanks to the Merrimac Valley Hospice in Massachuesetts who were angels in the last days of Granny's life here on Earth, and to the staff of Lawrence General Hospital.
Granny, I will miss you, remember you, love you, and hold you near my heart forever. You are the best!!
Grandson #2 ;-)