Archive | June, 2012

Maine Cubed: Camden- Grand Harbor Inn

28 Jun

I did a lot of searching for hotels in Camden and really wanted to stay at the Grand Harbor Inn since we saw it being built on our kayak tour 2 years ago and it looks beautiful. But rooms were just out of our price range for a weekend getaway.  So I booked a night at the Lord Camden Inn, a very recognizable inn on Main Street with blue awnings, that happens to be the sister property of the Grand Harbor Inn. We checked in and headed up to our room… only to find that it was still occupied.  Luckily, the person wasn’t IN the room at the time, but I walked in and thought it just wasn’t cleaned, only to turn around and find car keys and credit cards on the shelf (scary).  

We went downstairs to the front desk, told them what we found, and without missing a beat the woman at the desk made a phone call and confirmed that “Room #11 was open.”  She apologized and very professionally told us that we were being upgraded to their sister property, the Grand Harbor Inn.  How on earth my luck came in at this moment, I have no idea, but it was some fantastic luck.

We went down the street and checked in. The woman at the desk gave us a personal tour of the room and pointed out some lovely features.

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We also had a large flat screen TV and a fireplace (which we turned on, even though it was warm).

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The bathroom was something else. Beautifully designed with a great jacuzzi tub…

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… and this… this pièce de résistance… the shower.  

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8 streams and all of them movable. I put this on very hot and basically had a back massage from the shower.  This was freakin’ heaven.

The hotel is on the harbor and just a short walk away is my favorite view.

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It’s a narrow harbor with beautiful boats in it. It always looks like a postcard.

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And as we sat there and took in the view, a loon (my favorite bird) made an appearance right in front of us.  

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Heading back to the hotel that night, after eating at The Pearl, we found our bed beautifully turned down.

The bed was probably the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. I thought the bed at Pomegranate was comfy, and I thought Westin Heavenly Beds are comfy, but they didn’t hold a candle to this cloud.

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This hotel doesn’t have a breakfast facility, so you fill out a card the night before and they bring room service up to you. It’s included in the room price.  We had a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit with yogurt and croissants.  Fresh coffee and juice.

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And we had “the worst view” in the hotel, with only a partial harbor view from the balcony, but it was still absolutely gorgeous.

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We had a phenomenal stay and that strange accident that brought us here was just kismet.It was easily the best hotel I have ever stayed at, and I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at some lovely places while traveling on business.

Our stay made a fan out of me and next time I’m in Camden, I know it will be worth the extra money to stay here again.   And hey… we might just be in the area to get married next year. I’m sure it would make for a lovely honeymoon suite!

Maine Cubed: Rockland- The Pearl with The Next Food Network Star Contestant Chef Michele Ragussis

28 Jun

We had read about Michele Ragussis, a contestant on the Next Food Network Star’s current season, was spending her summer as the chef of The Pearl in Rockland, ME. (Randomly, we wound up here for a beer before our dinner at Primo 2 years ago).

I think they updated it since then, but it is still a very picturesque location out on the water. No matter what angle, every photo of it looks like a postcard.

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We started with our customary raw oysters. These were great and nice and fresh. (And you can’t beat $1 oysters!)

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Mike then tried the Lobster with Lemon Cream over linguini. I was worried this would be too lemony or too creamy, but instead it was a perfect balance of both.  Very nice dish.

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I got the special fish of the day, which was a red snapper with a peach saffron sauce and a potato cake.  The fish had a slight crisp and the sauce was sweet and a perfect compliment. The potato cake was like a giant, gourmet tater tot with perfect seasoning.  Comfort food but more refined.  And that sauce… oh that sauce. I asked the waitress to explain the sauce to me, and she said that she could just go get the chef… Well ALRIGHT! 

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Chef Ragussis came by a bit later and was more than happy to talk to us.  She was beyond welcoming, friendly, and genuinely excited to be there.  She told me that the sauce was actually made with peaches that she just received from Martie Duncan, another contestant on the show.  And let me tell you, they were special peaches!

We talked to Chef Ragussis about the show and why she decided to go to Maine. Turns out she knew the owner from a previous job and was excited to spend a summer in Maine before the results of the show.  The restaurant gave her the flexibility to return to the show when she’s needed. This season has a twist, where audience vote will decide the winner for the first time.  

As we were leaving, Chef invited us back the following night when they would be screening the show live and doing a tasting.  We were planning on heading out of town directly after a sunset schooner cruise that night from Camden, but we had to pass Rockland anyway, so we said “what the hell!” How often do you get the chance to watch a show with a contestant and sample their food?

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The secret ingredient on the show that night was chicken liver, so we got a chance to sample the version she made on crostini.

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And eat her clam chowder.  This clam chowder was quintessentially New England. Big chunks of clam and great flavor and texture.

We then had the Pearl Stuffies which were clamsstuffed with Michele’s private recipe. I talked with Chef Michele for a bit about whether they had peppers, and she said they did but just a little bit. I asked her if they were worth having an itchy mouth for, and she said yes, they were. So I tried it. It was very good but my mouth was VERY itchy.

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We ended with a brownie that had homemade whipped cream and butterscotch sauce on top. Turns out, Michele only made the cream and sauce, which is funny since I liked both of those but didn’t think the brownie was anything special.

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We had a lot of fun talking with Chef Ragussis and then watching the show. The food was really great, and that peach sauce will be a thing of my dreams for years to come.  The bites during the screening weren’t as good as the meal the night before, but it was fun to be able to sample what was being cooked on the screen. I know I have thought to myself about a million times that I wish we had taste-o-vision. Well this was as close as you can get!

I was entirely impressed with how much she interacted with the customers, answered questions, and was generally just a cool person to hang around with.

She has my vote!

As does The Pearl.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Maine Cubed: Portland- Pomegranate Inn

26 Jun

 When we were in Portland, we decided to stay at a quaint, quirky Bed & Breakfast called the Pomegranate Inn.  The Inn itself was like being in a very eclectic museum.  Our room was the “small” room but it was plenty large enough, with a beautiful design, super comfy bed, and lovely bath. Perhaps it’s because we’re New Yorkers who are used to small size, but I was surprised that this room would ever be considered small. We loved it! Here are some pictures of the inn itself.

In the morning, we went downstairs for breakfast in the lovely dining room.  Our hosts greeted us and we grabbed some coffee and checked out the menu for the morning while our food was prepared.

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The port wine poached pear was awesome. And the blue cheese could not have gone better with it.

But then the cheese blintz souffle came out… HOLY COW.  This was as delicious as it was beautiful, if not more so.  The bacon was crisp (the way I like it) and it had absolutely delicious peaches.  The souffle itself was a cross between a fluffy pancake in texture and a blintz in flavor.  Sensational.

This dish was so inspired that I actually wound up buying the innkeepers cookbook, The Art of Breakfast. If you love beautiful works of art for breakfast, this cookbook is great.


We absolutely loved our stay and wished we could have stayed longer.  I highly recommend this B&B to anyone staying in Portland, ME.

Maine Cubed: Portland- Petite Jacqueline, Beal’s Ice Cream, and Shipyard Brewery

26 Jun

Mike and I embarked on a long weekend to Maine just this past weekend. It wound up being the most perfect trip, made even more perfect by the fact that we got engaged!  I am on my way to being Mrs. Nom Nom.

This is now the third trip I have blogged about on NYCNomNom, including Mike and my first trip together 2 years ago, and my family trip that took place 2 years ago but just made it to the blog recently.

I found an amazing JetBlue deal of $75 off our tickets (thanks to a post from DealsWeLike), which brought our round-trip tickets to less than $70 each. SCORE! It meant planning an extra trip in a time of year FILLED with trips (I just got back from LA, we will be going to Ithaca next week for a cousin’s Bar Mitzvah, and then we’re embarking on a huge trip for 2 weeks to Italy, Switzerland, and France next month). We flew into Portland, where we spent a day, before going to Midcoast Maine and then spent 2 days in the Boothbay Harbor area.

One thing I love about Portland, Maine is that you can land and be in town in less than 30 minutes. So even though we landed at 6:45, we had time to check-in, walk around town, and spend a half hour during free Fridays at the Portland Museum of Art, before our 8:30 reservation at  Petite Jacqueline.  I had read about Petite Jacqueline because it was a semifinalist for the James Beard award in 2012 for Best New Restaurant.

Inside it is a cute bistro style restaurant and there is some outdoor seating in a patio.

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They also have a bar.

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And a direct view into the kitchen.

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We started with oysters.  These were good, but I wouldn’t say they were outstanding.

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But then we had the foie gras. This had candied hazelnuts and a chestnut puree.  HELLO!  It was probably the best foie I’ve had. Perfectly seared, fatty but without being greasy, and all the right flavors to go along with it.

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Mike chose to go with the daily special (it was Friday): Choucroute Garnie.  This was a french sauerkraut with a pork sausage and a crispy porky potatoey thing (perhaps a croquette?) Whatever it was, it was all very good.  It came with mustard in many ways, but even I, a mustard hater, enjoyed the dish very much.

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I got the Boeuf Bourguignon (which will always remind me of Julia Child). I’m a big fan of any slow cooked pot roast style meat, so this was right up my alley. The meat was cooked perfectly, the sauce was great, and the potatoes tasted so damn potatoey that I squealed.

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Overall, I understand why this restaurant got a James Beard nod.  Their food is very French without being the slightest bit pretentious. We really enjoyed our meal here.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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It was a tough call to not have dessert at Petite Jacqueline, but we knew this was our only night in Portland, so we made a beeline back to our favorite ice cream parlor: Beals. We literally made it just as they were locking the door. Phew!

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They have a large selection of flavors.

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Mike went with Rum Raisin and Moose Trail.

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I chose Moose Trail and something with chocolate covered pretzels and caramel.

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We enjoyed it as much as the first time!

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The next day we walked around Portland and then went to Shipyard Brewery for their video tour and tasting.  They only do full brewery tours on Tuesdays, but every other day they have a video tour where they tell you about the history of the brewery as well as their part in bottling and distributing of many other local brews.  They have all the beers they have manufactured on a wall beside the viewing room.  The video was interesting and short (which was good, we’ve done a lot of brewery tours and they start to feel very similar after a while). The best part of this tour was the tasting. We got to taste about 10 beers and had our choice of a few to taste, so Mike and I would choose different ones and try each others. We probably sampled about 15 brews by the end.  And let me tell you, they make some GOOD BEER. But we fell in love with the Applehead Ale, which tasted like apple pie. Trust me on this one. I just hope they start distributing it down here in NYC!

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Gosh I love Portland.

Bacon Bash 2012

23 Jun

Today, we went to the first Bacon Bash.

Overall, I think it was a reasonable attempt at a first event, however, the space got VERY crowded at some points and it was set up in a weird way. It also looked a lot like a night club (including the thumping music… which was actually kind of fun).

There were only a handful of tables with bacon tastings, and each table had a number of tastes on it. Most tastes ran out before the end of the 2.5 hour session, and they still had 2 full sessions left today!  I have to hope they had reserves for the next 2 sessions.

Everyone’s favorite bite was the black peppered bacon brittle from F. N. Puffin.

For the full album, go check out NYCNomNom’s Facebook page! I live posted from the event, so you can see all the fun as it happened.

Maine Take 2: River House in Portsmouth, NH

18 Jun

One nice thing about road tripping to Maine from the TriState area is you drive right through Portsmouth, NH. Portsmouth is a beautiful town where you could probably spend a full vacation if you want to. In my family, however, it has always been a stop along the way.  We would get out of the car after about 5 hours driving up from Jersey, and as kids we went to the Children’s Museum to play before having lunch in town.

Now, as an adult, we skip right to the lunch and spend some time walking around the town. There are a number of restaurants lined up along the water, and this time we decided to try River House.  It has beautiful views and it’s great to be able to sit outside.

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And dream about the houses across the water.

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And watch the boats and the bridge. It’s really quite lovely.

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Their menu is extensive and varied.

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We started with the warm lobster artichoke dip. Lobster and artichokes are 2 of my favorite food, so I was thrilled.

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And I loved that it came with big ol’ chunks of lobster in it.

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We also tried something on a skewer.  I wish I remembered what this was… but 2 years later, it has evaporated (and we already know about the fate of the notebook I bought).

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One person in our party got The Cowboy Burger, which was dusted with Cowboy Ranch seasoning, chargrilled, topped with spicy Pepper Jack cheese on a toasted Brioche roll, finished with crisp onion straws, and a side of their house made Chipotle ketchup. He really enjoyed this burger.

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We also got a swiss burger with sweet potato fries.

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And my sister and I split The Tall Ships Plate, which was a 6 inch sweet Maine lobster roll on a grilled brioche bun with a cup of chowder and some sweet potato fries.

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The lobster roll was made the way I like it… on a roll with plenty of butter, one leaf of lettuce, and big chunks of lobster that weren’t drowning in mayo.  It was very good, but I can’t say it was the best I’ve had.

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The chowder was hearty and flavorful, but so creamy that I think we only had a few bites each.

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This is a good restaurant to satisfy a lot of different palates (they even have a gluten free menu now!) with gorgeous views and very good food. We really enjoyed ourselves here, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with the beautiful weather and views.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Maine Take 2: DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant- Portland

15 Jun

In Portland, restaurant options are growing leaps and bounds every day (I hear it’s grown a lot in just the 2 years since I’ve been… looking forward to finding out TONIGHT!)

But one restaurant has been there as long as I can remember (Wow! 1954 according to their website): DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant.

Yes.. floating. (But only floating since 1982… Happy 30th Anniversary of floatation!)

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I’m pretty sure I have never been in this restaurant, but it looks exactly as you would think you would remember it. Somewhere between a cruise ship and lake cabin.  And we were the youngest people in the restaurant by at least 20 years.

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The menu is large, with a focus on seafood (as it should be).

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We started with an appetizer of angel hair spaghetti with scallops, shrimp, and artichokes.  This dish really just focused on the ingredients, but the ingredients were very good, so we enjoyed it.  

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We also had some burgers and a pizza.

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Both of which were fair.  Nothing special, but not too bad either.

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I also picked up this handy dandy little notebook that came with a pen. I wrote down all my notes about everywhere we dined throughout the trip, and decided to keep it with me to continue taking notes for the blog. There are always delays between dining and writing, and with my swiss cheese memory, I thought the notebook would help.  And then… in typical Sara form… I forgot where I put the notebook when I came back. Go me.

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DiMillo’s is a classic place. I wouldn’t say run there, but it’s a fine choice for a unique experience of dining, literally, on the water. You may want to wait a few years though, until your hair turns grey, so you can feel like you fit in a little better. And if you’re in Portland, I’d say hit up one of the restaurants we went to on our earlier trip like J’s Oyster or Fore Street.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Maine Take 2: The Quarter Deck, Bar Harbor, ME

15 Jun

Somehow, in just 4 days on our August 2010 trip to Maine, we managed to stop in Portsmouth, NH, spend time in Blue Hill, explore a bit of Portland, and make our way up to Bar Harbor.  I was ambitious back then (ok… I’m still ambitious… with just four days this time around we’re flying into Portland and spending 1 night there, 1 night in Camden, then 2 nights in Boothbay Harbor. Who says vacation requires being sedentary?)

On our trip up to Bar Harbor, we stopped at a classic restaurant right on the harbor, Quarterdeck. Fine dining is not exactly the mantra of Bar Harbor, and the Quarterdeck doesn’t make any promises of being fancy.

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But it sure has some absolutely gorgeous views.

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Right there in the center is my favorite ship, the Margaret Todd, a 4 masted red sailboat that I’ve been on twice and loved every moment.

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Some menu perusal…

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We started with some cocktails, mostly of the blueberry variety.

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All were quite good!

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And one of our favorite Maine breweries: Allagash.

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We started off with the calamari, which were nice and crispy but not overly interesting.

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We also split some crab cakes, which were decent but nothing to write home about.

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I got some coconut shrimp, which I was a big fan of.  Flavorful, succulent shrimp with a crispy coconut shell.  

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We got some burgers, which were… fair.

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And a very fresh salad.

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Is the Quarterdeck a phenomenal restaurant… well no.  But the views are exceptional, the service friendly, the food good enough.

It’s a really great place to grab a drink and watch the world pass by.

Total Noms: 6.5 out of 10

Maine Take 2: Table, A Farmhouse Bistro- Blue Hill

14 Jun

On our family trip to Maine in August 2010, we rented a cabin in the Blue Hill area and had a great time exploring the more remote parts of the beautiful peninsula. By far, the highlight of the food we tried was at Table, A Farmhouse Bistro. We had an absolutely fantastic meal there, but upon searching for a link for this restaurant, I have discovered that it has sadly closed.

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I cannot explain how sad this makes me, as Table was fantastic for food, aesthetics, and service.

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I absolutely loved the interior, and I hope the restaurant that replaced it has maintained the beauty of this rustic yet updated design.

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Here was the menu:

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And some of our food…

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We even tried a bottle of wild blueberry wine, which was surprisingly very good

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But it was really the lobster risotto and lobster mac and cheese that were fan-freakin-tastic. Over-flowing with big hunks of lobster and great flavors across the board.

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What a shame that this place has closed!

Maine Take 2: Wild Blueberries

14 Jun

A few months after going to Maine and blogging about all our Nomming adventures, my father and sister decided to take a trip back to our favorite state.  I was between two jobs so, at the last minute, I joined them.  This was nearly 2 years ago, and these drafted posts have sat in my Drafts folder since then. At first I was avoiding posting so much about Maine back-to-back, and then time just got in the way.  I cannot believe these are back from August 2010!

We are embarking on another trip to Maine this weekend, so I figured it was time to update!

First things first… if you are going to Maine, find yourself a roadside stand advertising “Fresh Maine Blueberries” and make sure you stop.  We wound up buying huge containers of these and munching on them throughout all our trips, including on our way home.

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They are smaller than grocery store blueberries, and packed with more flavor and bit of extra sweetness.

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There ain’t nothing like them!

And if they happen to be selling some jarred wild blueberry jam, I recommend you don’t pass that up either!