Story by Jillian Bedell
I am definitely not cool enough to snowboard. I tried skiing once, and my feet got all tangled up and I fell to the ground getting off the lift. Ice skating is out due to weak ankles and an inability to look cute in a felt skirt. I thought luging was conducted with a big block of ice and a bottle of Jägermeister. I would consider the thing where you snow shoe or cross country ski, then shoot a rifle through the woods, but that might be something I saw in The Hunger Games and not, after all, an Olympic event.
My winter sporting options being quickly whittled down, I decided to play to my strengths: eating and drinking good things in the great outdoors. Which is the thought process that led me to shooting caviar while tubing down a mountain in the snow. This event has it all: elegance, sophistication, tiny fish eggs and a flask. It is the only form of athletics I am truly qualified to participate in, retaining my amateur status far too long so that I can compete for God and country, when the time comes.
Seacoast Adventure Snow Park in Windham is a fantastic place to while away the hours of a winter afternoon. There is a lift that takes you to the top of the hill, but in an effort to exert myself even slightly I hitched up my giant inner tube and started marching up and up. I was winded when I arrived at the summit, embarrassed that numerous eight-year-olds had lapped me, and in need of nourishment for body and soul. This is the moment when my true genius becomes clear.
Before driving out of Portland on Route 302 I made a critical stop for provisions on Commercial Street, at Browne Trading Company. I wanted to eat like a Russian: Romanov or an oligarch. I knew I needed caviar, and quick. My knowledge of caviar is based on theater
parties I attended as a kid, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Robin Leach, and this one time in college my husband went to The Russian Tea Room with his grandmother and told me about it.
For the neophyte who wants to learn a lot or a little about this rarefied product, talking to the experts at Browne is a must. It is such a sensual, sensational sensory experience, and tasting is essential, while gleaning a little information about fish farming and sustainable methods. This is not your 80s beluga. In fact, you can’t even get real beluga in the US, so don’t be fooled. That stuff comes from China. I hate to admit it, but all subtleties were forgotten as I careened downhill at high speed spoon-feeding myself tastes of the salty yummy luxury. There’s no time for toast points on the mountain.
Browne Trading Co.
Merrill’s Wharf, 262 Commercial St.
Portland, ME + brownetrading.com
Story by Jillian Bedell
Missing the old country is a common complaint for exiles who have defected from home. This longing in one’s heart may be more romantic or nostalgic than realistic, and yet, it does not make the ache any less palpable.
Food and Deli
529 Main St, Westbrook, ME
Whether you are an expatriate in need of comforting sustenance, bored by your options at Hannaford or looking for new and mysterious products to stock your pantry, get thee to Medeo European Food and Deli in Westbrook. Cyrillic lettering on packaging that, once deciphered, proved to be millet, a refrigerator case packed to the gills with caviar and herring, shelves stocked with sausages, tea, black rye bread, tarragon soda and smoked sprats (which are tiny fish) are interesting imports that lend insight into what real Russians might actually be eating right now.
2.St. Alexander Nevsky Church
15 Church St, Richmond, ME
The other option for total culinary immersion requires travel a little further into the frozen tundra, north of Bath as the crow flies, east of I-295 as it slouches toward Augusta, in the town of Richmond: once a thriving community of Russians, many of whom have since diaspora-ed elsewhere. Look closely - there are relics of its heritage hidden in plain sight. One such architectural clue is Saint Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church, where visitors are welcome to attend Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings and stay for lunch afterward. Talking small town politics and Eastern Christianity with the descendants of immigrants while enjoying home cooked food is an excellent way to connect with Maine’s living history.