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DIY 4TH OF JULY BACKYARD PARTY
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Lightning bugs, fields of lupine, and the smell of cooking on the grill can only mean one thing: it’s officially summer. And, after the spring we’ve had in Bar Harbor, we’re more than ready for sitting outside with some good food, great friends, and tasty drinks. What better time to do all of these things than with a fun, DIY 4th of July alfresco dinner on Mount Desert Island?

Whether you say 4th of July or July 4th, we’ve got a few ideas as to how you can throw a fairly simple yet fabulous backyard party. And, because we’re in good company with others who are also always in the mood to eat, we enlisted the help of a few BHCC employees and friends to show off their red, white, and blue spirit.

Executive Chef Matt Leddy and his wife, Meg (who is also our Operations Manager & Creative Assistant) played hosts and put together an afternoon of celebrating that had the perfect balance of simple and flair. And, it wouldn’t have been a summer afternoon in Maine without some wet, moody weather, precisely when you’re lighting the outdoor fire pit.

“Inviting people to your home can always be a little stressful,” Meg revealed when asked about how she and Matt put things together. “One way Matt and I avoid the stress is to break up our to-do lists so that we both have a manageable workload. The day of, I’m able to just focus on the party space – for this, it was the outdoors area - while Matt stays in the kitchen prepping food. He makes his prep list so that when guests arrive, we’re only cooking outside, so he can enjoy the party too.”

An important thing to keep in mind when planning your own backyard bash is to try and create a nice flow to your space. You want it to be easy for guests to help themselves to drinks and snacks while mingling and finding a place to perch while socializing. Matt and Meg had three main “zones”: the fire pit, the dinner table, and the deck. And make sure to look for ways to make your event unique to you. Do you have some funky, mismatched furniture that would make a great outdoor dining area? Not sure about a tablecloth, but you have a bin full of old newspapers that are screaming to be used? That collection of mason jars collecting dust in your basement could be perfect for drinks, sauces, flowers, or even paper straws for the bar. And, those old plates and utensils that are hidden at the back for your hutch could breathe new life into your DIY party.

And, don’t forget about decor. You don’t need to spend a fortune on flowers, plants, or decorations. Nine times out of ten, you can just head outside and take a look around. Do you have any flowers that you could clip or even some greenery or twigs that might look good in a vase? Boom = instant ambiance. Maybe you live in an apartment building where you don’t have access to outside treasures? Hit up your local Target or Reny’s to find some inexpensive but on point decorations.

“I cut some fresh lupines, the unofficial flower of Maine, from our yard and arranged them in a big mason jar and beer growlers from a local brewery,” Meg said. “After adding a few American flags to my potted plants and lupines, I really started to see the yard becoming a party space. I bumped up the kitschy-ness by arranging some cute American-themed sunglasses, beer koozies, and sparklers purchased from Target. Other than some crates we borrowed from BHCC, all the decor came from around our house. With any event, whether it’s a cocktail party for a client at BHCC or a backyard bash at home, I try to create little moments of pretty, Instagram-able spaces that make the event memorable.”

For an easy shopping catchall, don’t forget to check out your local farmers' markets - there’s always so many incredible vendors and menu items at the tips of your fingers! If you’re local, come visit us at the Northeast Harbor Farmers Market on Thursday, July 4th, from 9 am - 12 pm and snag some of our popular house-made sausages, terrine, and pate. And, if you’re not hosting your DIY party until the weekend after the 4th, you can catch us at the Acadia Farmers’ Market in Town Hill on July 5th from 3-6 pm. We’d love to help you celebrate!

 

MENU

 

RECIPES


Signature Cocktail - I Carried a Watermelon

A blend of agua fresca, rum, and Campari.

For the Agua Fresca

  • 4 cups fresh watermelon

  • 3 cups water

  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice

  • 1 tbsp sugar

  • 1 ½ cups of white rum

  • ¾ cup campari

Combine watermelon, lime juice, sugar, and 1 ½ cups of water in blender at high speed until smooth. Strain the juice into a large pitcher, add remaining water and stir.

Stop here if you would like a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage.

To the Agua Fresca, add the rum and Campari. Stir and serve!

Matt’s Yogurt and Turmeric Chicken

  • Whole chicken, either spatchcocked or in pieces

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt

  • ¼ cup turmeric

  • 1 tbsp onion powder

  • 1 tbsp garlic powder

  • 1/8 cup honey

  • ½ cup salt

  • ½ cup blended oil (vegetable oil)

  • ½ cup pepper

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Combine ingredients, smear over chicken, and allow to marinate up to 24 hours. Grill chicken until internal temperature at breastbone is 165F. Allow to rest for five minutes before serving.

Maine Lobster Bake

  • Lobsters

  • 5 ears of corn, shucked and cut in half

  • 1 lb of red potatoes

  • Fresh seaweed

Fill your large lobster pot 1/3 of the way with clean ocean water or (very) salty water. Once it comes to a boil, add some fresh seaweed, lobsters, more seaweed, and potatoes and boil for seven minutes. Add the corn and continue to boil for five more minutes. Strain and serve!

 
10 YEARS OF MEMORABLE MOMENTS
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As we enter the 10th year of what’s been a whirlwind ride at Bar Harbor Catering Company, I can’t help but look back in awe at the countless events and milestone moments that have occupied our calendars over the last decade. Most recently, our new sign that marks our new location in Bar Harbor! In honor of turning double digits, I’m sharing my top 10 most memorable moments, in no particular order.

1. Dana and Cassie

Dana and Cassie stand tall in my mind as one of our most memorable early Spring weddings. They say “April showers…”, but this May 2014 wedding was host not only to two of my favorite brides but also to one of our most epic downpours. It rained buckets, but these two fearless females grabbed their rain boots and didn’t let anything stand in their way of holy matrimony and one ruckus good time! Their photographer friend Erica Camille took advantage of the stormy skies and created stunning photos that would never have been possible on a “perfect” sunny day.

2.  Skye and Allen

9/10/11 is a date not easily forgotten and this fall wedding in Trenton was one for the books. Mother Nature gave us gorgeous weather and the decor was on point as Maine Season’s events Megan Gilpatrick worked her magic turning the bride’s family home into a wedding wonderland. The BHCC crew was even able to step in with sunflowers from our gardens when the family’s flowers didn’t bloom in time. We propped them up just in time for delighted squeals from Denise, the matriarch and mother of the bride. As the years have passed, we’ve watched the happy couple, Skye and Allen, turn from newlyweds to parents of twin baby boys and have had the pleasure of their company at a yearly wedding “revisited” private chef event at their home.

3. Lila and Dan

When Lila and Dan wanted to create a carefully curated elementary school inspired event in a local theatre to honor the time when they first met, we were excited to create a menu fit for the theme. We immediately set about to put spins on Lila and Dan’s favorite ‘90s lunchbox classics, (which also happened to be ours)! We started with a BHCC version of Lunchables, with house-made chicken terrine and parmesan crackers, red dragon cheese, and jam. “Tuna on Whitebread”, PB n’ J Tarts with Toasted Fluff, Cherry Milkshakes with Twizzlers Straws, and Malted Milkbread shortbread were all featured. For beverages, our bar manager Nick incorporated the couples’ favorite cocktail flavors to create “Teacher’s Pet” and “Lunch Milk,” served to guests from the venue’s ticket window.

4. Jenna and Steve

Many of our clients have become friends and friends have become clients, but catering your best friend’s wedding AND being in the bridal party isn’t something we experience every day. Our team killed it in the kitchen while I waltzed down the aisle (after an impromptu chorus of “Going the Chapel”) in what is my 4th most memorable moment. The waterfront wedding was a fairy tale fit for a queen and an Avenger (or two).

5. Laura & Brendan

Laura grew up summering on Great Cranberry Island, a small outer island off the coast of Mount Desert Island, and it was host to her and Brendan’s epic summer wedding in 2013. It was the first of what would become many outer island weddings for our company and let’s just say, no events give us as quite as much pride as one of these logistically challenging and undeniably stunning celebrations. Outer island weddings require a careful amount of planning where every detail, down to the last ice cube, must be considered. There are no bridges, so everything including food and people must arrive via barge, mail boat, or water taxi. Our favorite detail, however, had to be the bride killing it in her wedding dress and Bean boots.

6. Maine Coast Heritage Trust

When we were tasked with transforming an unused tennis court into a Rockefeller worthy party, we eagerly accepted the challenge. Using the Asian-inspired gardens as the backdrop, we created edible terrariums, a Cambodian beef station, and house-made waffle cones with pate and pistachios. The end result was a sunny August event complete with a few swoon worthy celebrity sightings.

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7. Sweet Details

Every event has it’s own unique personality that aligns with the vision of the couple getting married or the host. One of my favorite things about events are all the fun, personalized details that go into each and every one. Here’s just a snippet of my favorites!

We ♡ these handmade caramel favors and stamped favor bags by chef & Bride Brook.

We ♡ these handmade caramel favors and stamped favor bags by chef & Bride Brook.

Speaking of couples who make things, Cara and Will built, yes, built, this sailboat for their post-wedding adventures.

Speaking of couples who make things, Cara and Will built, yes, built, this sailboat for their post-wedding adventures.

 
Handmade Flag banners (and aprons!) sewed by the bride, Emily’s, super talented seamstress mother.

Handmade Flag banners (and aprons!) sewed by the bride, Emily’s, super talented seamstress mother.

8. Catersource

Working in the catering industry has afforded us some really amazing experiences, not the least of which is our annual excursions to Catersource. We anxiously await our trips each year to places like NOLA and Las Vegas and revel in the opportunity to immerse ourselves in catering, catering, and nothing but catering for several days straight. When our loved ones back home get tired of our ceaseless catering conversations, our friends at Catersource never tire of it, as they are blessed with the same affliction. We always come back refreshed and ready to take on the next season having learned, eaten, and socialized our way through each conference. We’re also especially proud to have been nominated for a few national awards there, although we jokingly refer to ourselves as the Susan Lucci of Catersource, having left empty-handed thus far.

9. Relationships

This one is not a single date or a moment or even an event, but rather a compilation of bonds and relationships that have been forged in the blank spaces between all of the goings-on: the moments between prep and event and planning and execution, the long hours spent driving and bouncing to our favorite throwback jams in our lovingly worn pick up truck, and the many times we reflect on what we just accomplished, together. These moments, which when strung together form the true identity of who we are as a company, a bunch of weird people who love food and Maine and sharing it with the people who live and visit here.

10. New Digs

No memorable moments compilation would be complete without the mention of our new home at 367 State Highway 3 in Bar Harbor. The purchase and renovation of the former convenience store during the winter of 2017 was tedious and time-consuming but made all the better by our trusted partnership with our favorite builder (and patient human) Jake Johnson, owner of J. Johnson Builders. Jake and his partner (and wife!) Rachel, transformed this once dark and dreary space into the light-filled production kitchen, tasting room, and office space of our dreams (and then some). It has hosted countless tastings, meetings, and is the epicenter of all of our crazy ideas and foodie fantasies, many of which come to life on the plates of diners at one of our many events.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mandy Fountaine is the Owner and Chief Culinary Officer of Bar Harbor Catering Company, lifelong Mainer, and lover of all things food and travel related.

CHEF BLOG POST: THAILAND ADVENTURES
Matt and his wife, Meg, at the Maeklong Railway Market.

Matt and his wife, Meg, at the Maeklong Railway Market.

It’s 94 degrees and sweat sits permanently on my brow as I dig into a giant bowl of steaming, brothy soup for breakfast. I’m not quite sure what I’ve ordered, but the line of locals queuing up for plastic bags of the old man’s broth confirms my decision to take a seat at the table and order a bowl for my wife and me to share.

The woman waiting on us brings out a massive pink bowl and sets it between us. Guay Tiew Naam Tok has a deep, beefy broth that gets its dark color from cow’s blood. It’s served with thin rice noodles topped with pieces of beef, sausage, and fresh romaine. On the table is an array of sauces and vinegar of varying degrees of hotness. We quickly realize that we’ll never be able to split a bowl of soup on this trip again for two reasons: not eating an entire bowl of this yourself is impossible, and soup like this is best enjoyed customized with the varying degrees of heat in the bottles on the table. Our trip to Southeast Asia has just started and the flavors have my brain in overdrive.

We wander the streets, meandering in and out of temples while enjoying fresh squeezed pomegranate juice (from a one-woman master class in breaking down the fruit-see video) and bites and beers as we traverse the city. Markets are abundant all over Bangkok, from flower markets to food markets filled with every whim. From fresh tropical fruit to live animals, the markets are filled with sights and smells that are a part of the true Thai experience. The most fragrant of these is the seafood market, filled with everything from fresh fish, razor clams, massive lobsters, prawns of every size, and of course, Nam Pla, or fish sauce.

Fish sauce, made from fermented fish, is one of the staples of Asian cuisine. It gives the ultimate umami that tangy, salty, sweet, and funky taste that we love so much in Thai food - and here it was, covered in flies, making my wife Meg turn a little green, and making me wonder how I can carry it in my backpack for the next four weeks…I didn’t get any Nam Pla that day.

Our evening was spent people watching on Khao San Road, the backpacker district of Bangkok. The street is lined with vendors selling elephant pants, North Face knock-offs, and street meat. We enjoyed skewers of chicken kidneys, hearts, and the surprisingly delicious Lā kị̀ (loosely translated to “chicken ass”), while people watching over Chang beers. We ended the night across the street from our hotel at the nightly sidewalk eatery with plastic stools and metal pop-up tables filled with locals and night owls. This quickly becomes “our place”, especially after the chef sits at our table our second night there and exchanges recipes, pictures on our phones, and has us tasting his “secret” pad thai sauce (“No ketchup in mine”), and brings us samples from his make-shift kitchen and we taste sauces and sampling bites. We had whole-fried frog topped with crispy fried shallots and a sweet and spicy sauce, stir-fried morning glory greens with chilis (our Thailand obsession), and his no-ketchup pad thai over the course of the Bangkok leg of the trip.

The following days in Bangkok we ate breakfast at the morning version of the sidewalk restaurant, this one occupied by multiple vendors. Pa Thong Ko - crispy fried-dough coated in raw sugar. Jok - rice congee with pork meatballs. And Oliang - thai iced-coffee, strong coffee over ice topped with sweetened condensed milk. We ventured into Chinatown to Kuai Chap Uan Photchana, the Michelin-recognized street food vendor slinging peppery noodle soup. Thick homemade noodles swim in a peppered pork broth topped with cut to order crispy pork. The spicy broth gives you a full-body sweat that does the trick to cool you off after beating the crowds that fill the streets of Chinatown before standing in line for 20 minutes to sit at a table. We venture back to our ‘hood and have a nightcap at “our place”, with the chef joining us to people watch in between manning his wok for the late night clientele.

One of our favorite Bangkok excursions was the Maeklong Railway Market, a market on top of a fully functioning railroad that vendors close up whenever a passenger train creeps its way past - four times a day, every day. Vendors lay out their wares, creating a mosaic of colors, textures, and smells as you make your way down a railroad track. We have fresh coconut water out of a newly-machete-ed coconut, street sausage, and rice and scallion pancakes coated in sauce flavored with, you guessed it, fish sauce and chili paste. Sensory overload sets in as you see vegetables, chilis, fruits, raw meat, fish, squid, sweets… sights, smells, sounds of bartering make it impossible to take it all in.

And then, the train comes. Vendors scramble to cover their wares and fold up the DIY tarp canopies that keep them cool in the afternoon heat, the crowd parts, and everyone presses against each other, scrambling to both photograph and not get run over by the train that is coming right at them. Now, THIS is a market.

Our time in Thailand ends in the Krabi Province on Railay Beach, a by-boat-only section of the southeastern peninsula of Thailand. After arriving by long-tail boat, we take in the breathtaking scenery surrounding us. For every meal, we dine on char-grilled seafood, gai yang (bright red BBQ chicken) and Changs, living the beach bum lifestyle. We hiked and swam in the Indian Ocean by day, and by night drank Thai beers and SangSom rum and coke, served in a bucket with two or ten straws, depending on the crowd. As we sat at our favorite bar on the beach, The Jam Rock Bar, enjoying a playlist being curated by a Thai man named Moe dressed as Slash, we knew this was going to be hard to beat.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Leddy is BHCC’s Executive Chef. After working for seven years at an intellectual property law firm in NYC, Matt made a massive career change and attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Providence. Named one of the Five U.S. Sous Chefs To Watch by Forbes, his talent and incredible work ethic have kicked things up a notch in the BHCC kitchen. When he’s not whipping up new recipes from his “book of spells,” he loves to get outside and hike around Acadia National Park.

OYSTER SHUCKING ADVENTURES
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Bar Harbor Catering Company staff embarked on an oyster shucking adventure last night with a class at Bar Harbor Oyster Company (BHOC) where Mount Desert Island (MDI) natives and BHOC founders, Joanna and Jesse Fogg, put on a quite a show, from start to finish.

As we approached the side yard where the class was taking place, a fire crackled in the outdoor chimenea, offering a warm welcome, but also, warding off the ever persistent black flies. Bosun, a massive Greater Swiss Mountain dog, boomed hellos as he proudly showed off a bone he was carrying around like a trophy, stopping every so often for a neck or head scratch. We milled about, introducing ourselves to those we didn't know, and then settled in at tables set up along the deck, anxiously awaiting the moment when we'd dig into some oysters.

For me, this class was a big deal. And, not because I hadn't shucked oysters since my days working on the Olde Port Mariner Fleet in Portland, Maine. No, it was because I hadn't eaten an oyster in more than 20 years and tonight I was going to try to let go of the judgment that I've held onto for so long of these little mollusks. Not only would I shuck, but I would also eat an oyster. And, maybe more than one.

BHOC specializes in Bar Harbor Blondes, which spend three years growing on their 22-acre farm at the mouth of Mt Desert Narrows. This farm is very close to one of MDI's biggest saltwater marshes and the cocktail of warm, cold, fresh, and salt water creates the perfect conditions for abundant phytoplankton to thrive, one of the Blondes' favorite things to snack on.

You might be thinking, "What does an oyster farm look like?" For BHOC, their farm consists of moored floating cages that are similar to a lobster trap in construction. Water at the surface is warmer, and the plankton more plentiful, which allows the oysters to filter feed and grow. To aid in the growth process, Joanna and Jesse regularly flip the cages to expose the oysters to the sun and a bit of a drying out phase. This ensures that the shells are bleached, and doesn't, as I thought, mean the oysters are dying a slow death. Apparently, oysters are very resilient, and this drying process doesn't negatively affect them. More importantly, though, this process ensures that all the gear and the oysters are clean from bio-fouling. After 24 hours, the cages are returned to the water and back to their feeding positions.

When winter really sinks its teeth in at the end of December, BHOC drops all the oysters and their cages to the ocean floor. The cold water has an important job in the growth of the oyster - it prevents the shell from growing but it continues to develop and enhance the flavor and texture of the oysters.

The cold weather is also important when it comes to shucking. Not only do the winter months help produce a lovely, well-manicured oyster, but it also makes the shell exceptionally strong, which in turn, makes it easy to shuck. And, what's hidden inside is something that, up until yesterday, I always thought was rather appalling. In reality, it's the perfect morsel of delicious, briny, salty meat. And, when you add a couple of additional accents, like mignonette sauce or lemon or garlic, you won't be able to stop yourself. No, seriously. I ate at least 20 of them, and I feel absolutely no shame.

I'm by no means an expert shucker (yet), but I think I did well, as did the rest of the BHCC staff. We had a fun night, met some new friends, and ate A LOT of oysters. My favorite: when Joanna put the oysters on the grill with a little manchego cheese and an herb pesto.

The best part? They sell their oysters out of their garage - by reservation or on an honor system. And, you'll definitely be on your honor if you have Bosun reminding you that there's someone watching.

 

AUTHOR

Heather Anderson is our new Director of Creative Director & Event Planner. She loves Maine, writing, photography, a good outdoor party, and now, oysters.