Tidbits for December 23

Posted Dec. 22, 2009, at 5:33 p.m.

Hometown celebration — If you’re looking for a gourmet way to celebrate the end of 2009, look no farther than your hometown. A number of local establishments have dinners and celebrations planned for the big night. At Fiddlehead Restaurant on Hammond Street in Bangor, the regular menu plus a number of New Year’s Eve specials will be offered 5-10 p.m. At Havana in Bar Harbor, a prix fixe dinner, priced at $49 per person, includes four courses — and will be the last time you can eat at Havana until it reopens in the spring. Lily Bistro in Rockland also will offer a prix fixe dinner 5-10 p.m. For $50, a five-course meal is available — and for $75, a five-course meal plus wine pairings is offered. In Eastport, home of the famed Sardine drop at midnight, the Rose Garden Cafe, Happy Crab and Pickled Herring are offering dinner specials and entertainment. Finally, the brand-new Unbridled Bistro on Main Street in downtown Bangor will offer a prix fixe dinner, beginning at 5 p.m. — but despite the fact that, as of Tuesday afternoon, it had not officially opened, Unbridled already has filled up its New Year’s Eve dinner reservations. How’s that for buzz? Give your local restaurant a call to ensure a spot.

Fruitcake for naysayers — If you’ll recall, last year the Bangor Daily News held a reader contest, looking for the best fruitcake recipes. We felt it was in the holiday spirit to give a little respect to the much-maligned delicacy. Our winner last year was Isabelle Walsh, of Kenduskeag, whose luscious fruitcake is a family recipe. We think it proper to print it again, to show naysayers just how good fruitcake can be.

Isabelle Walsh’s Fruitcake

1½ cups unsweetened applesauce

1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple

1½ cups sugar

½ cup canola oil

1 egg

2 tablespoons molasses

3½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup raisins

1 cup walnuts

1 cup red candied cherries

1 cup green candied cherries

Mix together the applesauce, pineapple, sugar, canola oil, egg and molasses. Mix together 3 cups of the flour and spices, and add that mixture to the liquid ingredients. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of flour over the nuts and fruits, and fold that into the other ingredients. Pour into one greased tube pan or two 5-by-9 loaf pans. Decorate top with walnut halves and candied cherries. Bake at 325 degrees for 1½ hours or until toothpick comes out clean. Keeps well in refrigerator for up to six weeks.

Gone nutty — It’s two days before Christmas, and you’re still looking for one last thing to give out. Food gifts are always appreciated — unless there’s a dieter on your list — but cookies and other baked goods often are overdone. Try something a little different and make crispy baked nuts — it’s extremely simple, and you can put your own spin on it easily. To make, beat two egg whites in a mixer until foamy. Add a teaspoon of salt and ¾ cup of sugar, as well as the spices of your choosing. For a warmer, holiday taste, try cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Try curry powder and black peppercorn for an Indian-flavored mix, and wasabi powder and ginger for a Japanese-inspired taste. For a savory, Chex Mix-like taste, try Worcestershire sauce, paprika and cayenne pepper. Use as much or as little spice as you’d like, but be sure to taste as you go to make sure it’s not too strong. After you’ve mixed your sugar, salt and spices in well, add in 6 tablespoons of melted butter and the nuts. Use 1½ cups each of three different kinds of nuts of your choosing, for a total of 4½ cups of nuts. Spread the nut mixture on a baking pan, and bake at 325 for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the nuts are crispy and browned. Allow to cool completely. Package and serve as you wish, and have yourself a nutty little Christmas.

Tidbits is hungry for news about local food products and events. Send your Tidbits by mail to: Bangor Daily News, attn: Tidbits, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329; by fax to 941-9476; or by e-mail to tidbits@bangordailynews.net.

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