Maple syrup in July
Maple syrup in July. Seems like a fish out of water to New Englanders used to associating maple with the first days of spring – cold clear nights and warm sunshine coaxing the sap to rise. It’s a process thing, not the product that disassociates maple from this season (which is not to say we don’t enjoy maple syrup on wild blueberry pancakes as much as the next guy.)
Yet seeing maple syrup – for summer visitors to take home — promoted at farmers’ markets and roadside stands, made us think of other examples of Yankee forethought and preparedness as hallmarks of what we do here on the Midcoast of Maine.
Chatting with Executive Chef Eric Flynn the other day, he talked about buying fifty flats of fresh local strawberries. Some for enjoying now in their ruby-throated prime as the season’s shooting stars of flavor. All too soon gone. But, ah! He freezes a good portion of those berries for dishes yet to come.
Front desk manager Luis Zambrana considers what business-school types would call “management by walking around” to be one of the joys of his job. Away from the Front Desk, where encounters are “all business,” when he greets guests around the property, he likes to share the secret: “Have a glass of wine, read a book, take a nap. Take time to enjoy what true ‘nothing’ feels like.” Suggestions that start the process of forgetting the outside world exists until someone cheerfully reports , “’Nothing’ is good!”
Grace Graning, newly arrived Events Manager has already learned that a properly- set table in 88 has the forks lined up to just the right position by the plate. She said “I’m in sponge mode. Spruce Point Inn is so beautiful because everyone cares so much. You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
Sonya Dearborn, F&B Director, finds the dynamic of pitching in across what might be departmental silos to be empowering. “We make the stage as perfect as possible,” she said. “But this is a play without a script.” Because the process of making memories means sharing experiences with guests, from anticipation through fond recollection.
Prepping the canvas – understanding the process it takes – to help paint “oceanside memories made in Maine” happens year-round in places where summer must be envisioned in the winter. When pastry chef Ashley Wiencek auditions in a blizzard – during a heat and power outage (try coaxing bread to rise from that!) – while conjuring up her grandmother’s recipe for the carrot cake she made for the first time in the fourth grade.
The process anticipates, in Chef’s words, “what those who come to Maine expect – with a creative twist that continues to entice.” A product, Betsy Pard, banquet manager observed, “That’s driven by every single one of us.”
Maple syrup in July. Gallons of preparation boiled down to a cup – or a vacation — full of the sweetest, most authentic Maine. What could be more delicious?