Kittery, Maine

Kittery is this special place, 45 minutes South of Portland, and about 90 minutes North of Boston. I sort of stumbled upon it when I got a job at a scratch bakery called Beach Pea. Soon after that it became my home, and then I realized how much I loved it. It is a coastal town, with a road that winds along the ocean and tumbles out onto a sand dune beach. It's rustic.  The people there are making things: music, food, art, houses, sculptures. There is a community there, and an entrepreneurial atmosphere. 

Yesterday I made some cookies. Pistachio-chocolate chunk biscotti. I was trying to recreate one of the incredible treats from Beach Pea. The bakery is just over the Route 1 bridge from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I worked at "The Pea" for a year as a barista, with a short stint as a cake decorator. It's sort of tucked-away, at least from most of the tourists who flock to Kittery for the outlet malls (which is all I knew it for as a kid) or to Portsmouth for the boutiques. It's easy to miss even driving past it, despite it's large sign. It's set back from the road a bit and looks like a small house from the outside. But the locals are onto it, and there's often a small crowd on the porch in the morning, waiting for it to open. 

 Beach Pea makes everything from scratch, and they do it really well. Not many other places in the area make homemade croissants or baguettes or buttercream. 

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They make two kinds of biscotti there. Well, sometimes three, but mostly just two. Lemon-ginger and dark chocolate chunk with pistachios. (The sometimes one is pistachio and dried cherries). They are softer than most biscotti, which is why I actually liked them and why I snagged so many of the broken pieces that we wouldn't be able to sell. I'd stash them away for a quick snack and then take a bunch home to share. Biscotti is usually brittle, crumbly, and almost hurts your mouth to eat. Theirs are soft, still crumbly and totally dunkable. Because biscotti is always best with coffee or hot chocolate. I got hooked.  

 For these I used this recipe but substituted dark chocolate chunks for the dried cherries and oat flour for all-purpose. Mine didn't come out nearly as good as Beach Pea's, but at least I got my pistachio-and-dark-chocolate fix! 

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 I now live on the other side of the country, but Kittery still feels like a home to me. It really is something to walk into a cafe or a restaurant and know you will end up chatting with a friend, and seeing many other familiar faces. New England is beautiful, but I rave about Maine. If you've never been, it's a great summer getaway (or winter one if you're really brave). Kittery and Portsmouth are bustling with great restaurants to try; there are beaches and outdoor movies and hikes not too far away.

If you do pass through Kittery  (even just for the outlet malls- no shame there), you must stop at The Black Birch. Maybe I'll write another post about this place sometime, because it is my ultimate favorite restaurant. It's full of good people, amazing food, and expertly crafted cocktails. The atmosphere is classy but casual: I always describe it as cozy, as though I'm at a friend's cabin. But a really nice cabin. They have an impressive beer list, but don't be intimidated. They'll talk you through it, and they won't be snobs about it either. Also, they have a garden (!!), a lovely outdoor dining area, and solar panels on their roof. They're doing it right. Three cheers for Maine! Can't wait for my next East Coast visit.