Archive | July, 2012

Ma Peche and Momofuku Milk Bar

31 Jul

 

I had a very good experience last time I was at Ma Peche, and it’s hard to believe it has been nearly 2 years and I still hadn’t taken Mike.   We had night plans in the neighborhood, so we made a reservation.  It wasn’t an easy task avoiding peppers last time, and this time proved to also be quite a challenge. Luckily, our waiter was helpful (if not a big miffed that I had such an obviously annoying request).

The menu has been changing lately, so here is a view of the menu that night:

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The space itself still has that kind of awe-inspiring look to it.  It just looks very grand and yet very welcoming.

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Mike started with the steamed bun that had lobster, maitake, and chicarron.  It was tasty but not memorable.

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We then tried the foie gras and it looked absolutely beautiful and tasted almost as beautifully!  It came with malt, papaya, and brioche and the papaya was just about the most perfect foil for foie gras I could ask for.  Yum.

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Can’t help but love the sense of design on the plate too.

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We then had the striped bass with mushroom, miso, and bone marrow.  It was quite tasty, though I’m not sure if I loved the bone marrow with fish combo.

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And the duck, with orange, pistachio, and rutabega. It was cooked perfectly, though I would have loved a bit more crisp in that skin and some extra sauce.

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And then we went upstairs to Milk Bar and tried ourselves some blondie pie (good but not great) and a milk shake that I cannot recall.  It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I don’t find anything I’m especially enamored with personally. I don’t know why, but I’m never as impressed by Milk Bar as I think I’m going to be. Pity.

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Overall, I would say my previous meal at Ma Peche was definitely better than this one, but you just can’t beat the impressiveness of this David Chang establishment.  I’m surprised I don’t hear more about it, since it’s in an area severely lacking in interesting places to dine (sans tourists). As for Milk Bar, I think I’m still in search of “my dessert” there.

Ma Peche Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Milk Bar Overall Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

 

 

Niles

24 Jul

 Number one area I am asked to recommend dining locations for: Penn Station/Madison Square Garden. Not an easy task… and mind you, I live in the area!  If you are looking to stick somewhere close to the train or the game, there just aren’t that many locations.  But there are a few gems.  Niles is one of them.

I have brought a number of clients here for breakfast, and it always delivers.  The room is stylish and has enough room between tables that you can have an actual meeting there.

Even the bread basket is elegant.

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My eating companion ordered the chocolate chip pancakes, which she very much enjoyed.

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I had their Eggs Benedict which came on a honey wheat English muffin with smoked salmon or Canadian bacon (I chose the salmon) and breakfast potatoes.  The English muffin was crisped enough that I could cut through it (a bit pet peeve of mine is when you can cut through the blasted things), the salmon tasted great, and the hollandaise was great.  

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Niles is a nice breakfast in a nice setting. It’s in a veritable wasteland of food options, so it’s a welcome restaurant and one I have and will revisit often. I wouldn’t call it destination dining, but if you need a breakfast spot near Penn Station, this is where to go.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Aureole

19 Jul

I ate at Aureole once for a work function, but since I was presenting and keeping clients happy, the food was not on my mind. I had been meaning to go back every since and finally made it there with a fellow foodie friend. It is very centrally located in a place where you just don’t expect great restaurants: 42nd Street right off of Times Square.  

I’m pretty sure we went with the $89 prix fixe. They have a pre-Broadway prix fixe that seems like a steal for 3 courses at $55 (5-6pm).

We started with an amuse bouche that I cannot recall the exact details on.

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My choice to start was the chestnut papparedelle with slow roasted veal breast, wild mushrooms, and pecorino.  This tasted like the earth and I absolutely loved it.  I have a special place in my heart for chestnut, and I kind of wished there were pieces (only because I’m selfish), but it was a very good dish.

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We also tried the wagyu beef carpaccio with shiitake, scallions, taro root, ponzo, and lavash.  This was perfectly complimentary in flavors, with the nice richness of the meat cut but the sweetness of the ponzo and with added depth from the shiitake.  Very nice.

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We also tried the branzino (my favorite fish) with fennel, dandelion, red onion, cashew, and citrus.  It was all sorts of perfection.  Cooked incredibly well and balances of flavors that were just fabulous.

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And we tried the prime ribyeye steak with roasted root vegetables, brussels sprouts, horseradish, and natural beef jus. It was cooked just right and the horseradish was faint enough that I hardly noticed it.

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A palate cleanser soon arrived and it was a nice little burst of fruit to get us ready for dessert.

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The desserts came out and they were pieces of artwork. Sadly, I didn’t write them down, so I can only guess.

This was something chocolate (I’m going to guess a lava cake) with delicious strands of pulled sugar on top. I remember this being rich but balanced.

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I know I ordered something with meringue (another one of my favorite things).  I remember really enjoying the flavors of this, but missing the firm crisp of the type of meringue I enjoy so much.

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And then out came petit fours.  Each was delicious in their own right, but I remember thinking extra fondly of the macaron and the watermelon thing. 

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I was really impressed by our meal at Aureole, not only because it was just that good, but also because it’s somewhat unassuming. It’s not a place I’ve heard talked about much, yet it’s right in the heart of the theatre district (a place I live near, work near, and play near often).  If you are looking for a pre-theatre meal, I think that $55 prix fixe is a great deal!

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Maine Cubed: Portland- Duckfat

17 Jul

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and so it was that we found ourselves back in Portland for lunch on our voyage back to the airport. We were racing to an appointment to do a tasting and tour at Allagash Brewery but decided we had just enough time to squeeze in a stop at Duckfat, a sandwich shop (specializing in fries and panini) that had been recommended to me by a few different people.

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The restaurant is small with a number of high top tables and bars around the kitchen to sit.

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It has a quirky personality with tiny pictures in the window that looks into the kitchen.

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And notice the magnetic poetry on the wall in the background of the below picture.

We ordered the fries with the truffle ketchup and boy oh boy were these good.  Perfectly crisp (thanks to the duck fat, I’m sure) and why I haven’t run into about a million versions of truffle ketchup to date, I do not know… but it was delightful.

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We kept an eye on time and quickly realized it was not on our side, so the waitress packed up our sandwiches to go.  We wound up gobbling them down in the car.

Mike got the pork belly with carrot, radish, pickled onion, cilantro & thai chili mayo. I took a mayo-less nibble and it was quite nice.

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I got the duck confit with caramelized miso mayo, bok choy & sweet onion. This was sensational. The duck was so tender and seasoned just right, and that caramelized miso mayo and onion added a perfect compliment of sweetness.

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Overall, I really enjoyed Duckfat. It’s unlike any sandwich shop I’ve ever been to and we really enjoyed it. I just recommend leaving yourself more than a few minutes to eat there!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

I was sad to leave Maine (as I always am) but I’m excited to say that we’ll probably be going back next month to explore wedding venues!

Maine Cubed: Boothbay Harbor- Mine Oyster

12 Jul

After our lovely whale watch and an incredible visit to Pemaquid Point (where we got engaged!), we decided to celebrate at The World is Mine Oyster, which received a write-up in the brand new Eater Maine. It was a Monday night and pre-season, but the sign said there was live music and we loves ourselves some oysters!

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We were celebrating, so we ordered 2 of every oyster they had (they were out of many, unfortunately).

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We made our way around the delicious tray and wound up especially liking the Glidden Point oysters (which came in 3 sizes!) from the Damariscotta River. And they weren’t lying about the “Jumbo” size! Check out these beauties.

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We were still a little hungry, so we got a basket of fried shrimp. We were expecting big shrimp, but these tiny morsels were fantastic. 

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They came with waffle fries, which Mike created quite the amazing concoction with fried shrimp on top of the waffle fries with some tarter and cocktail sauces.

Genius.

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Mine Oyster was a nice stop and a good celebration with all those oysters.  The menu is heavy on fried seafood, but everything we had was very good. It’s tough to judge a place based on raw food and fried shrimp, but I would say it’s a good choice if you’re in the area, but not necessarily a destination to pursue if you’re not close.

BoozeCarriage.com Review

10 Jul

I really enjoy blogging here at NYCNomNom, but free booze certainly makes it that much better!  BoozeCarriage contacted me with an offer to try out their service with a $50 credit.  Couldn’t turn that down! So now I will live blog the experience…

I browsed their website and first found it strange that wine and liquor were separate from beer. I checked out the beer page first and found they had an okay selection, with about a dozen craft beers on their list. None of them tickled my fancy, so I switched over to the liquor/wine page and dove into White: France.

Low and behold, two Vouvrays on the list! Our favorite type of wine is quite rare, so this was a lovely surprise.  I clicked on each one and sadly, there is no information about the wines. This seems like a great place to put in a quick blurb and some tasting notes. Hopefully they are working on that! Oh and no vintage? That’s a bit strange.

Prices seem reasonable, with most in the $12-$20 range and one coming in at $24.99.

Into cart: Remy Pannier Vouvray for $12.99

Went to try a Search and realized they had no Search.  Not loving the UI of the site or information therein, but hopefully this is a work in progress. I see that they have a way to rank it by review, but there are no reviews yet, so I have to assume I’m seeing a beta version.

Now to see if they have Russian River Chardonay.  White: California…

57 options… no vintages and no descriptions on where it’s from. I found Patz & Hall, the wine that started our Russian River Valley obsession, but it’s $40 and doesn’t specify what year. They had some $40 years, some $80 years, and some $20 years. Ehh… why not? Patz & Hall Chardonnay it is.

BoozeCarriage has a promise that anything on their site will be delivered, for free, in 30-60 minutes. You have the option to add a tip to the delivery-person, which I appreciate since I don’t always have small bills handy.

The check-out process is easy enough, but when entering my code in for the credit, it only displays a small note but still shows the total cart amount in the box.  I hesitantly hit the button to proceed and hope that the credit goes through. Payment information on the next page shows I’ve only been charged for the amount I went over on the credit. Phew!

Order placed at 8:35pm…

By 9:35pm, can I really have wine in my hand without any planning ahead of time?

My mind wanders… Party runs out of wine, no need to run to the liquor store, order from BoozeCarriage! Come home from a bad day and really need a scotch? No worries! BoozeCarriage is there for you.

My pondering is interrupted by a phone call.  It’s less than 5 minutes after I place the order and a nice gentleman is informing me that they are out of Patz & Hall but they DO have another Chardonnay from Napa that is on sale for the same price.  Hopefully it really is a $40 Chardonnay!  I find it listed on the site (Grgich Hills Chardonnay) for $42.  Fingers crossed it’s good.

I’m disappointed by this, but the customer service is good enough that I’m not too upset.

9:10pm: Doorbell rings… but it’s our dinner instead (Thai food… a good pair with our white wine!)

9:17pm: Doorbell Take 2… SUCCESS!  The wine has arrived. Ordered just 40 minutes ago. Not too shabby!

And they are chilled! Even better.

9:19pm: Wine is open. Thai food is set. Life is good.

We try the Chardonnay and yup… it’s damn good.

Thanks BoozeCarriage.com

Full disclosure: BoozeCarriage.com reached out to me and provided me with a $50 credit to try their site with the purpose of reviewing it.  The review I have posted is reflective of my honest opinion about the experience.

Maine Cubed: Boothbay Harbor- Dockside Grill

10 Jul

Our trip to Maine concluded with a visit to Boothbay Harbor, a town on a peninsula about an hour from Portland.  I heard it was beautiful, but a bit too crazy during peak season, so I was happy to be there when it was just before the high time.  We decided to take a Whale Watch on Cap’n Fish’s. We looked it up on our GPS and wound up at the hotel instead of the actual whale watch, but luckily they also sold tickets. We asked them for a recommendation on where to have breakfast, and they sent us to a property behind the hotel on the dock called Dockside Grill.

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A sign on the door sited apologies that they were closing early, about an hour later than the current time. We got in and realized that this meant they were out of a lot of items on the menu.  But we’re not picky!

The inside was a very casual diner atmosphere, almost greasy spoon-like.

Mike got the Meat and Cheese omelette and said it was “an omelette.”

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They were out of everything I wanted but I wound up getting a lobster omelette (that came with cheese that I believe was swiss) and some pepper-less potatoes.

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I actually really enjoyed mine. Only in Maine do you pull up to a random diner and get an entire hunk of claw in an omelette. Mine was a wee bit watery, and if not for the lobster quality itself it would have been a pretty average omelette, but you can’t resist this.

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Overall, it was a fine breakfast, but if I hadn’t taken pictures of it, I probably wouldn’t have even remembered we ate there.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

As a sidenote, we had over 15 sightings of whales on the Whale Watch later that day, as well as a seal sighting and just an incredibly wonderful time.

Maine Cubed: Wiscasset- Red’s Eats

5 Jul

There are few places in Maine as “famous” as Red’s Eats.  It is a small stand on Rt. 1 in Wiscasset that serves lobster rolls known far and wide. I have seen lines that are over an hour long.

We were looking for lunch on our way up the highway and noticed that the line was only half a block long (very good by Red’s standards). So we found some parking and hopped on.

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Their lobster roll is known for having an entire lobster’s worth of meat inside and made the “authentic” Maine way with lobs of meat on a toasted hotdog bun. It comes with butter or mayo on the side to dip in.  The “authentic” lobster roll is a point of contention, with some people saying it needs 1 leaf of lettuce and/or some mayo mixed in, but Red’s is really all about the meat.

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You step up to a window and suddenly notice that there are about a million people inside this little shack

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We ordered the fried clams along with our lobster roll.

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The clams were quite delicious. Juicy and flavorful with a decent crisp on the fry. Some were a little soggy, but overall it was a good dish of food.

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And then the lobster roll. You can even see the bun under there through all the lobster meat! And you will notice that there is a tail on either side.  Very good on the lobster meat, but I just always prefer a steamed lobster I crack myself to a roll.

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I’m glad we stopped at Red’s, but I can’t say I’m itching to go back. I can’t say it was the best lobster roll I’ve ever had, but it was very good.

Maine Cubed: Lincolnville- Cellardoor Winery

3 Jul

We stumbled on Cellardoor Winery by accident on our trip 2 years ago and really enjoyed it. Upon posting about returning to Maine on the NYCNomNom Facebook page (Are you a fan? You should be!), one of Mike’s (AKA Mr. Nom Nom) friends mentioned that she had recently moved up there and was working at this very winery.  Small world!

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Since we visited 2 years ago, they have started producing their own wines and have expanded their tasting room and added a few facilities.  But the original beautiful structure remains.

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As do my favorite stools.

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We decided to do 2 separate tastings since they had a special going on for Father’s Day to do a wine and chocolate tasting. We started with the general tasting and enjoyed some wines off their list.  We especially liked the Serendipity, which is a dessert wine made with Maple Syrup, and Triology, a really nice red.

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They have a little market space in the middle, where we picked up some artichoke pesto (which was sensational on pasta when we got home).

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They have some great looking (and tasting) cheeses.

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The new room features some local art.

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And a large tasting bar.

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And tasting room.

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With a nice kitchen setup to offer grub.

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Their chocolate pairing partner for the day was Sweet Marguerites.  We tried a number of delectable bites with delectable wine. We tried their malted bacon chocolate, which was superb.

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Green Tea and Ginger. Good flavor and went well with the wine.

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Force Noir. A very well balanced dark chocolate.

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And Fleur del Sel caramels that came with big pieces of macadamia nut. Another awesome bite.

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We really enjoyed our entire experience at Cellardoor, and it’s a great place to stop if you’re in the area (Midcoast Maine: Lincolnville). They also are one of the very few wineries that offer free tastings, which made me more inclined to try more, and therefore buy more.

Maine Cubed: The NYCNomNom Guide to Eating Steamers and Lobster

3 Jul

Eating Lobster and Steamers is an art form, but an easily mastered art form. I have been eating this fantastic meal since I was a kid, and I have taught many a friend how to get the most out of their meal. So without further ado, here is the NYCNomNom Guide to Eating Steamers and Lobster.

Step 1:

Go to Maine.


(this is the spot we got engaged: Pemaquid Point Lighthouse)

Step 2:

Find yourself a lobster “shack” in the middle of nowhere, preferably on a beautiful body of water.  Waterman’s Beach Lobster in Spruce Head is a fine choice. (I also like Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast and Beal’s Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, but there are plenty of options all along the coast)

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Step 3:

Choose lobster and steamers from the menu.  A 1 1/4 pound lobster and 1/2 pound of steamers is usually the perfect amount for 1 person. The typical “dinner” comes with some form of potato chips and butter, and depending on your location, a piece of corn or a roll. (Steamers are another name for Steamed Clams)

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Step 4:

Choose a picnic table and soak up the sea breeze while you wait. (Tip: Bring a jacket. Even in mid-summer, being on the water in Maine is a chilly enterprise).

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Step 4:

View your clams, but not for long, that sea breeze will cool them off quickly.

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Step 5:

Choose your clam and remove it from the shell (sometimes it requires a little tug to remove it from the “foot,” which is the bit of clam left in the shell when you yank it out).

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Step 6:

Identify the “sock” which is the uglier portion of the clam (yes it’s all ugly, but the sock is the ugliest) on the stem-like portion of the clam and remove it.  It will roll off the tip of the clam (it is impossible to avoid this sounding like a condom reference, so just accept that you are taking an ugly condom off a clam and move on).

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Step 7:

Hold clam by the stem-like portion and dip it into the briny water (if supplied). This helps remove any sand that may be remaining on the clam.

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Step 8:

Continue your stem holding and dip it in the melted butter then shove the whole thing in your mouth and chew. Yes, they are an acquired taste.  A taste worth acquiring. Keep eating.

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Step 9:

Turn sites to lobster. Break off the smaller legs on the underside of the lobster and suck lobster meat out like they are straws. Also remove meat from the claws (shoulders up) and the tail (twist it off the rest of the body).  You can eat everything except the body and head (and advanced lobster folks know that there are even some hidden pockets of meat in there!) If you have trouble getting into anything, use the nut cracker and poky stick to achieve lobster greatness.

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Bonus Step:

Once you have mastered the art of removing your lobster from its shell, challenge yourself to lobster greatness by trying to remove the claws of the lobster in full.

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Super Secret Bonus Step:

Do not tell anyone I told you this. I will deny that I do this to my grave so keep your lobster eating trap shut. But there is nothing quite like ending your lobster meal by dipping your potato chips in the now lobster infused butter.  Thank me later.

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And in the end, you will be a mess. You will be sticky (they usually provide you wet naps) possibly sliced up from sharp pieces of shell (you will heal) and thinking to yourself that you have never worked so hard for a meal that someone else prepared. It is worth it.

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I hope you have enjoyed your tutorial.  Now have you booked your trip to Maine yet?