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The blessing of the fleet

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A tradition of over 35 years, Rhode Island has honored its coastline laborers with a weekend-long event including a road race, seafood festival and diverse festivities on the weekend of July 28. Held in Galilee, it coincides with another fervently held tradition: drinking coffee milk. You think we Mainers are stubborn about how our lobster and chowder should be enjoyed? Ha! Rhode Islanders have been steadfast in how they make their coffee milk. Many believe that only Eclipse syrup should be used, while others think that Autocrat Coffee syrup is the only way to go, even though Autocrat bought out Eclipse in 1991. In 1993, the state senate even approved coffee milk as the official state drink of Rhode Island.

Let's take coffee one step further with a recipe my father made many times in the early 80s that everyone thumbed their nose up at then - but many chefs are blending sweet and salty together now.

Yankee fusion bacon

  • 1 lb. thick-cut bacon (10 slices)
  • 2/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 T. real maple syrup
  • 3 T. brewed coffee; even better with vanilla-flavored coffee
  • Fresh cracked pepper*

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment or waxed paper and set a flat rack on top. Lay bacon strips on rack, with edges touching. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, brewed coffee and maple syrup, stirring to blend. Brush the bacon with half of sugar mixture. Add coarse fresh cracked pepper lightly (or generously) over bacon.

Bake 15 minutes. Carefully turn bacon over and brush with remaining sugar glaze and cracked pepper. Bake until crispy, 10 minutes more. Caution - sugar glaze is very hot. Allow to cool for 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

*If you don't have cracked pepper but have whole peppercorns, simply lay the side of a large knife onto the whole peppercorns and using the palm of your hand, crush the pepper.

Up here in Maine, milkshakes are milk, ice cream and a syrup of some type. Milkshakes in Rhode Island are just that - milk you shake with syrup. When you add ice cream, it is called a coffee cabinet or coffee cab. Cabinet is a local term for frappe.

By the way, which coffee syrup won in a blind taste test in Rhode Island? The newest of coffee syrups: morning glory. Although touted as a premium syrup and a tad more expensive, many said it tasted exactly like coffee ice cream when blended with milk. With cane sugar, water and coffee and the first 3 ingredients, as opposed to high fructose corn syrup in both Autocrat and Eclipse, many thought that made the difference.

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