Food

Liquid Gold Returns to the Chesapeake Bay

Mid-Atlantic
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July 2017
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By
Susan
Elnicki Wade

If you like sweet rum and cokes, crisp martinis, or smooth bourbon on the rocks, you'll love sipping your way around the bay this season. The Chesapeake watershed is overflowing with new distilleries, and they're popping up so fast that it's hard to keep track. At the start of this summer, Virginia is home to 30 new distilleries, Maryland has sprouted 21 and Washington, D.C., claims eight, with many more on the way.

What's behind this booze bonanza? One factor is demand for drinking and eating local wares. Distillers of rum, gin, vodka, whiskey and other spirits are in step with the farm-to-table trend or, in this case, field-to-bottle concept. They blend together fresh ingredients such as sweet Maryland corn, grains from Northern Neck and Eastern Shore fields, and water filtered naturally through limestone springs. As a result, a diverse spectrum of local liquor is infused with rich taste profiles.

The local libation escalation is also in sync with the trend in craft cocktails that prompts restaurants to hand out house specialty drink lists along with food menus. To create unique recipes, bartenders are combing their home turf for local spirits and ingredients. In every corner of the Chesapeake, booze makers and shakers are teaming up to design idyllic regional pairings of homegrown liquor with bay oysters, seafood and meat.

Chesapeake history doesn't need to appear on a grand scale to capture the new liquor distillers' imagination. Many of them dip into their family recipe book or rekindle legends of bootlegging ancestors for inspiration.

Let's Have Another Round

Good news for our taste buds! A new generation of distillers has stepped up to the plate with a diverse array of local craft liquors, using high-quality ingredients and savvy market branding to revive boozy traditions of the bay's glory days. Some of our other favorite distilleries along the Chesapeake include:

SAGAMORE SPIRIT - BALTIMORE, MD.

Visit the only waterfront whiskey distillery in the USA! Sagamore Spirit, a start-up whiskey brand in Port Covington, opened its 5-acre whiskey distillery in April. The distillery campus features a 27,000-square foot processing building and visitors center and a 27,000-square-foot distillery building which is home to the world's only 40-foot mirrored finished copper column still. Sagamore Spirit is a 15-time award-winning whiskey brand and committed to putting Maryland back on the map as the premier distiller of Rye Whiskey. The vision for the brand started 22 miles from the distillery at Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Md. Owned by Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank, the farm sits on a limestone aquifer that naturally filters a unique water used to cut each bottle of Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey to proof. A restaurant is also slated to open on the distillery campus this fall.

Where to Dock: Tidewater Yacht Center at Port Covington (410-625-4992, tysc.com; 0.1 miles away)

BAD ALFRED'S DISTILLING (B.A.D.) - CHESTERTOWN, MD.

As a family-owned, boutique distillery in the heart of Chestertown, Bad Alfred's Distilling or B.A.D., as it's also referred to, uses grape-based spirits to make their vodka, gin and brandy. The distillery also sources local apples to concoct their apple brandy, and locally grown corn for their whiskeys.

Where to Dock: Chestertown Marina (410-778-3616, chestertownmarina.com; 0.3 miles away)

BLACKWATER DISTILLING - STEVENSVILLE, MD.

Keeping pace with its philosophy, Blackwater Distilling focuses on what's in the bottle, offering only the finest ingredients in their Sloop Betty Vodkas and Picaroon Rums. Blackwater Distilling prides itself on starting each distilling process with raw, natural ingredients nothing added or removed.

Where to Dock: Bay Bridge Marina (410-643-3162, baybridgemarina.com;1.6 miles away)

TOBACCO BARN DISTILLERY - HOLLYWOOD, MD.

As a true ground-to-grass distillery, Tobacco Barn Distillery grows all of their corn used in their bourbon and whiskeys on-site at the farm at the distillery. Ingredients that are not grown on site for products are sourced from Chesapeake farmers and suppliers. Tobacco Barn Distillery is also a huge proponent on protecting southern Maryland's environment-using a combination of solar, geothermal and heat recovery systems to supply electricity to their distilling facilities.

Where to Dock: Zahniser's Yachting Center (410-326-2166, zahnisers.com,9.6 miles away)

LYON DISTILLING CO. - ST. MICHAELS, MD.

Lyon Distilling Co. is the second distillery to open in Maryland in the past 40 years. Lyon's home is St. Michaels, a quaint historic town on the Eastern Shore. Co-owners Ben Lyon and Jaime Windon, both from distililng backgrounds, immerse themselves in handcrafting rum and whisky in old-fashioned Chesapeake style and now also vodka from Gray Wolf Craft Distilling, located within Lyon Distilling. Their recipes reflect the spirit of the bay and sweet flavors of the region.

Where to Dock: St. Michaels Marina (410-745-2400, stmichaelsmarina.com;0.4 miles away)

GEORGE WASHINGTON'S DISTILLERY - ALEXANDRIA, VA.

After leaving office, our first president ran one of the biggest whiskey distilleries in 18th-century America. George Washington's Mount Vernon estate was an ideal location with fresh water from the Potomac, a variety of grains and a grist mill already in place. In 2009, the old distillery was restored and is now yielding about 1,200 gallons, or almost 5,000 bottles, of unaged whiskey each year. With careful reconstruction, today the working facility produces only a small batch of spirits and is open to visitors from April to October.

Where to Dock: Alexandria City Marina (703-746-5487, alexandriava.gov/marina;9.8 miles away)

THE IRONCLAD DISTILLERY CO. - NEWPORT NEWS, VA.

In 2015, a distillery opened in a historic warehouse overlooking the site of a historic battle in 1862 and used the name Iron Clad Distillery to commemorate the maritime event. Printed on the labels of its small-batch bourbon whiskey is the newspaper headline that ran the day after the battle. With hopes of creating the finest small bourbon available, The Ironclad Distillery Co. aimed its efforts at producing only what it knew best whiskey. Created from local Virginia corn, wheat and rye, each batch of Ironclad Bourbon Whiskey is distilled in a stainless steel still and aged for two summers.

Where to Dock: Bluewater Yachting Center (757-723-6774, bluewateryachtcenter.com; 6.9 miles away)

Take a Seat and have a Sip

As you cruise around the bay this summer, stop by and visit the local distilleries. In addition to tours of their facilities, many of them have tasting rooms, pubs or restaurants that encourage you to sample their wares. To find locations along your travel route, go to Virginia Distillers Association (virginiaspirits.org/member/distiller-directory) or Maryland Distillers Guild (marylandspirits.org/distillery-map).

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Best Region for the Season

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Courtesy of Justine G

Lobster

New England and Canada are known as major lobster hubs along the Atlantic, and Maine is one of the most famous regions in the world for these mouth-watering delicacies. For the freshest catch, Maine's top lobster-loving towns include Rockland, Bar Harbor, Belfast, Georgetown, Harpswell, Kennebunk and Ogunquit.

Crab

More than 6,000 species of crabs across the world vary in everything from appearance to taste. For example, Maryland crab fans meticulously pick the meat from under the crab's shell, while in Florida, they split open the legs and claws for a tasty treat. To experience the best Maryland blue crabs, visit cities such as Baltimore and Annapolis, as well as Kent Island on the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore and Solomons Island in southern Maryland.

Habitat

crab - this or that - marinalife
Blue Crab | Courtesy of Pakhnyushchy

Lobster

Although they are mostly ocean creatures, lobsters do frequently appear on land and sea. They are omnivores and sometimes eat their own when confined or stressed. You can find them throughout the world's oceans in freshwater and brackish environments. Some of the most delicious species are caught in the Gulf of Maine and along coastal Nova Scotia.

Crab

Typically found in saltwater or brackish water, thousands of different crab species live in all of the world's oceans. Like lobsters, some are land-crawlers. Many solely live in the water and others inhabit the edges along rocks and sandy shores. The best crustacean havens for crabbing include Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. Florida stone crabs are found in southern waters in shallow, rocky locations including knee-deep seagrass beds and reefs.

Traditional Recipes

Lobster

The sweet taste of lobster pairs well with your taste buds in any variation. Cook it in a gamut of dishes from steaming, grilling or boiling, to chopped-up in a warm soup or cold salad. Some of the most famous classics include a New England lobster boil, baked lobster tail, lobster mac and cheese, creamy bisque and much more.

Crab

Pick-and-eat crab feasts are a beloved pastime across the mid-Atlantic region. Catch, steam, season, crack open and scarf down! Use a mallet to break the claws open and get the good thick meat. Two varieties of crab soup creamy or tomato-based are popular along the East Coast, as well as dishes such as crab dip, crab Rangoon, crab pretzels and best of all the world-famous Maryland crab cakes.

Fun Facts

lobster - this or that - marinalife
Lobster Dish | Courtesy of BDMcIntosh

Lobster

Lobsters actually have two stomachs and can detach a limb and grow it back during their molting cycle. Today, lobsters are among the pricier seafood selections and are considered a delicacy, but that wasn't always the case. In early 19th century New England, lobsters were so abundant that their shells were used as fertilizer and their meat was fed to pigs as scraps.

Crab

Crabs are typically an aggressive crustacean and often fight with other crabs and aquatic creatures. They can walk in any direction and mostly scurry sideways. Unlike lobsters that can live to age 100, Atlantic crabs only survive for three to four years. Dungeness Crabs from Alaska can live up to 13 years, and the Japanese spider crab has the longest lifespan of all its fellow crustaceans, often reaching 80 to 100 years old.

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Cruising the Great Loop Taught Us How to Cook
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nyc skyline - food - marinalife
Kate and her husband Tim

Before embarking on the Great Loop, my husband Tim and I lived in New York City, which helped prepare us somewhat for life on the water. We took our clothes to a laundromat, hand washed our dishes, and understood the challenges of living in a small space. But given it's one of the culinary capitals of the world, living in Manhattan didn't teach us how to cook. Since living on our boat, a 31-foot 1996 Camano Troll named Sweet Day, we had to change our relationship with the kitchen, which means we actually had to use it. Here's what we learned.

Be Creative with What We Have

While cruising the Great Loop, we imagined tiki bars and restaurants dotting the shorelines everywhere we stopped. This is definitely true in some parts. But more times than expected, we found ourselves nowhere near a place to grab a meal, much less a grocery store.This means we've learned how to build meals with what we have onboard. We also realized that as long as we have flour and a little butter, homemade tortillas can easily transform a couple sides into tasty tacos and easily impress neighbors at the next docktail party.

Rarely Waste Food

In the daily hustle of our lives in the city, we ended up wasting a lot more food than we'd like to admit. The opposite has been true while cruising. We typically buy enough fresh food for three to four meals, because that's all we can fit in our fridge. A home-cooked dinner is easily stretched to lunch the next day. And since we travel with our fridge, leftovers never get left behind.

No Need for Fancy Kitchen Gadgets

We have a small propane oven and a three-burner stove. We can use these with barely any electricity, making cooking underway and at anchor seamless. When we're plugged into a marina or if we run our generator, we can also use our microwave (when it's not being used as a food pantry).Some cruisers have Instapots and other gadgets, but our boat isn't set up to handle that amount of electricity. Plus, we don't have the space. So, we've had to learn (with a lot of practice) how to cook juicy chicken or tender salmon without the benefits of modern cooking technology.

Access Our Kitchen 24/7

One of the biggest (and underrated) benefits of cruising is that your stuff travels with you, including your kitchen. This means we can make a marinade while cruising and cook the chicken at anchor that night. Or knead a loaf of bread underway to make sure it's ready to bake the next day. Plus, you never have to worry about forgetting olive oil or spices when on a trip. Spending time and experimenting in the kitchen helps break up those long cruising days too, all while rewarding us with a tasty meal once we reach our destination.

Know the Steps Ahead of Time to Plan a Meal

One quirk of our galley is we can only run the oven or the stove, as our propane system can't support running both at the same time. As a result, it requires knowing the recipe and its steps in advance to ensure we have the right equipment and ability to cook the meal. If the meal is good enough to be part of the rotation, the steps become easier to remember the next time we cook it.

Learn What Meals We Can Make Quickly

Just like land life, there are days when we may feel excited about prepping and cooking a more time-intensive meal, and others when we're hungry, it's 7:00 p.m. and we just need to get something in our stomach. In New York, that meant heading downstairs for a slice of pizza.

lunch aboard - food - marinalife
Courtesy of Kate Raulin Carney

That doesn't work while cruising. Learning what meals take time (especially in Sweet Day's kitchen) and what meals can be thrown together quickly (hello mac and cheese and tuna fish) is extremely helpful. When we're stocking up on food, we make sure we have enough of those go-to meal items for those inevitable times when we just need something fast.To help you stock your galley, here are some of our favorite items:

  • High-quality all-purpose knife: Our Zwilling Santoku knife cuts pretty much everything we've cooked in the last year.
  • Dutch oven: This is perfect for baking fresh bread, making soups, rice and other meals. We store it in the oven while not in use.
  • Stainless steel French press: We didn't want to have to rely on electricity to make coffee, so our go-to is a sturdy French press. Plus, it's fun to get beans from local coffee shops.
  • New York Times cooking subscription: This app allows us to easily search tons of recipes and discover new dishes with ingredients we have on board.
  • Pre-cut parchment paper: I learned this from my dad. It keeps food from sticking to the pan and makes cleaning easy a big plus on a tiny boat, where you may need to clean the pan quickly to put another item in the oven.

SIMPLE FLOUR TORTILLAS

Here's our go-to recipe for an easy batch of tortillas. Some of our favorite ingredients for stuffing inside are pantry staples black beans and rice or roasted sweet potatoes with a charred scallion crema (Greek yogurt, mayo and scallions charred on a hot skillet).

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup room temperature butter (Can also replace with shortening, lard or vegetable oil)
  • 7/8 to 1 cup of hot water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Add the butter (if you're using vegetable oil, add it in step 3). Use your fingers to work the fat into the flour until it disappears.
  3. Pour in the lesser amount of hot water (plus the oil, if you're using it), and stir briskly with a fork or whisk to bring the dough together into a shaggy mass. Stir in additional water as needed to bring the dough together.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead briefly, just until the dough forms a ball. If the dough is very sticky, gradually add abit more flour.
  5. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Round the pieces into balls, flatten slightly and allow them to rest, covered, for about 30 minutes.If you wish, coat each ball lightly in oil before covering to ensure the dough doesn't dry out.
  6. While the dough rests, preheat an ungreased cast iron griddle or skillet over medium high heat, about 400°F.
  7. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into a round about 8 inches in diameter. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Fry the tortilla in the ungreased pan for about 30 seconds on each side. Wrap the tortilla in a clean cloth when it comes off the griddle to keep it pliable. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
  8. If you have leftovers, allow them to cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic and store in the refrigerator. Reheat in an ungreased skillet or for a few seconds in the microwave.

Recipe is from King Arthur Baking Company, kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/simple-tortillas-recipe. To follow Kate and Tim Carney's cruising adventures aboard Sweet Day, go to lifeonsweetday.com or @lifeonsweetday on Instagram.

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Dock and Dine on Long Island Sound
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Lobster pot restaurant - dock and dine - marinalife
Lobster Pot Restaurant | Needpix

WHERE TO EAT WHEN YOU'RE CRUISING into unfamiliar harbors often feels like an insurmountable problem, especially along the Northeastern Seaboard. While looking around Long Island Sound to create a guide to its gastronomic offerings, we realized that this region hosted so many great dining options that it merited a two-part series.In this issue of Marinalife, we present a delicious sampling of the Connecticut Shore's waterfront establishments that feature fresh seafood and local cuisine. Stay tuned for our summer edition when we tour the culinary treasures along the Long Island New York Shore.

West to East on the Connecticut Shore

MAMARONECK, NY

La Piccola Casa Ristorante

Dock at Nichols Yacht Yard and treat your crew to great Northern Italian cuisine in an historic house on the waterfront with terrific harbor views. (facebook.com/LaPiccolaCasaRistorante)

STAMFORD, CT

The Crab Shell

For waterfront dining at Harbor Landing Marina, savor excellent seafood and local favorites. Also check out the outdoor bar with a crab shack and live music. (crabshell.com)

NORWALK

Sunset Grille

On the dock and right near the fuel dock at Norwalk Cove Marina, guests can enjoy gourmet seafood offered at a lively seasonal, outdoor venue. (sunsetgrille.net)(Note: Dozens of restaurants are accessible from Norwalk Cove Marina or Rex Marine Center (via the Cove/Rex shuttle) or from the Norwalk Town Dock.)

BRIDGEPORT

Dolphin's Cove

Located at Dolphin's Cove Restaurant & Marina and an easy spot to meet crew coming by Rt. 95 or the Port Jefferson Ferry, this family-oriented eatery offers a wide array of dishes from the sea and land and a kids' menu. (dolphinscovect.com)

Captain's Cove Seaport Restaurant, Bar & Marina

Nested in the waterfront on Black Rock Harbor, it serves battered and fried seafood and shellfish, and has a decent kids' menu. Check out lots of attractions in the area. (captainscoveseaport.com)

STRATFORD

Outriggers

Located at Brewer's Stratford Marina, this restaurant presents fine dining in a casual atmosphere. Sample fresh fish and other seafood delights prepared to order. (outriggersrestaurant.com)

The Chowder Spot This food truck at the boat launch ramp in Stratford Harbor dishes up the ultimate in casual grub with a fantastic waterfront view.

HOUSATONIC RIVER

(between Stratford and Milford on the Connecticut coast)

clam chowder - new england dock and dine - marinalife
Clam Chowder | Wikimedia Commons

Joey C's Boathouse Cantina & Grill

Raise a fork to an all-around good menu with Mexican specialties, as well as local seafood, vegan and gluten-free options, and a large outdoor deck. (joeycsboathouse.com)

Riverview Bistro

Enjoy excellent seafood and classic dishes in a graceful venue overlooking the Housatonic River. Find a nice, secluded bar and lovely banquet room. (riverviewstratford.com)

Knapp's Landing

Located right on the water with a wonderful menu to match the view. Choose from a variety of seafood dishes ranging from clam chowder to lobster ravioli accompanied by a good raw bar. (knapps-landing.business.site)

MILFOD

After docking at Milford Landing Marina, a one-block walk takes you to lots of great dining choices including:

Archie Moore's

Serving craft beer in a rustic atmosphere since 1898, the pub's regular patrons come for the casual vibe and nibble on the famous buffalo wings. (archiemoores.com)

7 Seas

Open for lunch and dinner and specializes in New England-style lobster rolls and fried seafood in a casual setting. (7seasmilford.com)

Stonebridge Restaurant

American fare, fresh seafood and great appetizers. Take your pick of seating in a formal dining room, lively pub or outside on the deck. (stonebridgerestaurant.com)

SBC Restaurant & Beer Hall

Enjoy the neighborhood bar groove with handmade cocktails, local craft beer and farm-fresh American dishes at the end of the Wepawaug River. (SBCrestaurants.com)

BRANFORD

Dockside Seafood & Grill

Located at Safe Harbor Marina at Bruce & Johnson's. Casual nautical atmosphere with extensive menu of seafood, pasta, and lots more. (docksidebranford.com)

Stony Creek Brewery

Head all the way up river and dock at the brewery for craft brews with a view, cocktails and hot pizza. (stonycreekbeer.com)

Nellie's

Experience casual waterfront dining on a large patio on the Branford River with a good grilled seafood menu mixed with SoCal and classic New England cuisine, topped off with craft cocktails. (nelliesbranford.com)

CLINTON

Lobster Landing

Located right on the water in Clinton Harbor, it's rumored by Yankee Magazine to have the best lobster roll in New England. (facebook.com/LobsterLandingLLC)

Rocky's Aqua

Known for its classic New England seafood and steak dishes, plus a nice waterfront view. (rockysaqua.com)

WESTBROOK

Liv's Shack

Located at the site of the former BOOM restaurant at Pilot's Point Marina and specializes in hot buttered lobster rolls, fish tacos, hamburgers and more. (livsshack.com)

Bill's Seafood

A short walk or dinghy ride brings you to Bill's at the Singing Bridge. The seafood shack serves fried fish, lobster rolls and chowder on an outdoor deck. Kids love to throw French fries to the gulls and ducks. (billsseafood.com)

OLD SAYBROOK

Fresh Salt

Enjoy fine dining of locally sourced produce, seafood and meats at the Saybrook Point Resort & Marina for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (saybrook.com/eat-drink/fresh-salt)

Note: Head up the Connecticut River to discover other interesting restaurants such as The Griswold Inn in Essex (griswoldinn.com) and The Blue Oar in Haddam (blueoarct.wixsite.com/ctrestaurants) where you can BYOB, tablecloth and candles.

NEW LONDON

Fred's Shanty

Locals love this classic destination for seafood take out with picnic tables on the water. (freds-shanty.com)

Fisherman and lobsters - ne dock and dine - marinlaife
Fisherman and lobsters | Osvaldo Escobar on Unsplash

On the Waterfront Restaurant & Bar

Relax in casual elegance while dining on Italian-influenced seafood and steaks with stellar views of the Thames River. (onthewaterfrontnl.com)

Muddy Waters Cafe

Come here for coffees, baked goods, and breakfast or lunch options. It's home of the famous Love Salad, a generous Italian antipasto-type salad with garlic bread. Closest access by water is at the dinghy dock by the town moorings. (muddywaterscafenl.com)

Note: Visit the eastern end where Long Island Sound meets Fisher's Island Sound. In Fisher's Island Sound, head up the Mystic River to find Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (abbottslobster.com), Red 36 (red36ct.com) and lots of restaurants in downtown Mystic by the Bascule Bridge. Also explore Stonington's many culinary offerings including Breakwater (breakwaterstonington.com) and Dog Watch Café (dogwatchcafe.com/cafe).

Read More

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