Eleanor Pavloff has left the smog, traffic and "rat race" of her native Washington, D.C., for the clear, crisp air and quiet life of Deer Isle, Maine complete with faulty septic tank, gas in the well and a fire marshall who won't let her open her inn until she raises the doorways six inches.
She and her husband, George, a refugee from the federal bureacuracy, arrived in Maine this winter and bought a 1793 house in December, a house they have converted to the "Pilgrim's Inn," which will be ready to receive its first guests Memorial Day weekened. Joan Mondale, wife of the Vice President and a former student of Eleanor Pavloff's when she taught pottery in Washington, will officially open the inn that weekend. Plans for the ceremony remain uncertain: Mondale may "sprinkle champagne on the building, open a kiln or throw a switch to start a potter's wheel."
She will also be one of the first people on whom Pavloff can practice her quantity cooking. In addition to being a potter of some expertise, she is fine instinctive cook, who was "apprenticed" to her French father at age 5.
At 7 she was permitted to cook Sunday brunch for her parents and their guests, the centerpiece of the meal being French toast. Unfortunately Pavloff "made a pancake batter by adding flour and dipped the bread in it. I don't know whether this was a great culinary discovery," she said, "but the guests were most gracious, even asking for seconds. Suitably encouraged, I have been innovating ever since."
Recently Pavloff returned to Washington to give some of her friends a preview of what she will be cooking for paying guests in Maine. She stayed with the Mondales at the Vice President's residence, doing some of her preparation there, completing the cooking and serving the lunch at the home of another friend and former potting student, Lynn Horning. Among the guests was another permanent Maine resident, Mrs. Edmund Muskie.
If the morning at the Hornings' is any test, Pavloff should be able to cope with any eventually at the inn. She was working in an unfamiliar kitchen with unfamiliar equipment ("You don't have a decent knife in this place," she told her hostess); the oven broiled the parsnips when it was meant to bake them; Elena Pavloff, age 3, hadn't had enough sleep the night before and was demanding pots and casseroles in and out of the ovens and talked to a reporter about her plans.
The Pavloffs, who did not marry until she was 39 and he was 40, decided they didn't see enough of each other in their 6 1/2 years of marriage. And her husband said he didn't want to spend the next 20 years working for the federal government. Besides, Pavloff said, "I always wanted to live in Maine. So we sold our house and paid off all our debts."
They had summered there before, had a good idea about where they wanted to settle and decided on innkeeping as a way of doing more things together.
The house they purchased was built at the end of the 18th century as a private home for Ignatius Haskell, who also owned a saw mill on Deer Isle.His granddaughter, Rebecca, took in summer boarders in the 19th century. The house, which was nicknamed The Ark, has been in private hands for the last 16 years and the Pavloffs have spent the winter and spring renovating it so it will have 10 guest rooms. Pavloff said they have been working harder than they ever did in Washington, "but we were working together. It's our own venture."
The problem of the gas in the well has been resolved: They are hooking up to the town's water. The septic tank is being repaired and somehow or other Pavloff is certain she can convince the fire marshall that it would be destructive to raise the doorways in an historic house.
Asked how much help her husband could be since he has been doing consulting work both for the federal government and the state of Maine, Pavloff said: "He's nice to have around but he's not too much help."
An old friend, listening to the conversation, added a footnote with a laugh: "That's because she won't let him. She's a busybody."
According to Pavloff her husband is the administrative force in the family. She creates and he picks up after her. "I'm the scatterer; he's the gatherer," Pavloff explained.
"He'll keep the books, bartend and go the dump from June to September," when the inn is open for business. She will do the cooking, using recipes she has gathered from her travels to Europe, from her friends and her father in particular.
Pavloff says recipes are like the formula for a potter's glaze. They are only "the starting point. The master potter or chef shares a recipe of formula freely with students, expecting them to vary, develop and experiment."
Breakfast and lunch are included in the inn's rate of $30 per person a day. Others can make dinner reservations. While Saturday dinner will be lobster ("because that's what everyone expects to eat who goes to Maine") the food for the other evenings will be culled from pavloff's extensive collection, much of which is in her head. There will be no choice, just one meal a night, so that "it can really be done well."
This is a sampling of some of the dishes she served at lunch which she plans to make this summer. The Pavloffs can be reached at 207-348-6615.
A SCOT'S GARLIC SOUP (6 servings) 1 medium onion, thinly sliced 5 to 7 cloves garlic, mashed in garlic press 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 green pepper, diced 1 large potato, peeled and diced 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 1/2 teaspoon dried basil 4 cups beef broth 1 pound can tomatoes For garnish: chopped parsley, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and garlic croutons.
Brown onion in oil; add garlic and cook until garlic is soft. Add green pepper and potato. Add parsley, basil, beef broth, tomatoes and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked but firm.
Serve with chopped fresh parsley, parmesan cheese and croutons which have been fried golden crisp in olive oil and garlic. ELEANOR'S POTATOES (4 servings) 4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced paper thin 2 medium onions, sliced paper thin 1 pint sour cream 1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, grated 1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated Salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder to taste 1/4 cup cream or half and half
Grease a 2 1/2 quart casserole. Spread one tablespoon of sour cream in bottom. Cover with thin layer of onions, then thin layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder. Repeat layers of sour cream, onions and potatoes with seasonings, reserving some sour cream for top. Mix remaining sour cream with cream, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder to taste and pour over casserole. Top with grated cheeses. Cover casserole and bake at 325 degrees for 2 to 3 hours, until potatoes are soft. Remove cover for last half hour. If a little too juicy, raise temperature for that last half hour. FRITZ GRITS (8 to 10 servings) 4 cups boiling water 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup quick grits 4 tablespoons butter
3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 4 eggs, separated
Cook grits in boiling salted water 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Stir in butter, cheese, slightly beaten yolks and Worcestershire sauce. Beat whites separately and fold into grits mixture. Pour into buttered 2 quart casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. PILGRIM'S PARSNIPS (8 servings) 2 pounds parsnips 2 tablespoons honey 2 to 3 tablespoons butter Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
Peel parsnips and cut slice off tops and bottoms; halve parsnips. Place them in shallow casserole in a single layerand spoon on honey. Dot with butter; season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350; turn parsnips and bake 30 minutes; turn again and bake another 30 minutes or until parsnips are tender. BELGIAN ENDIVE ALA SUISSE (4 servings) 8 small Belgian endives 2 tablespoons butter 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1/4 cup water 8 thin slices ham 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour 1 cup white wine Salt and pepper to taste Pinch nutmeg 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
In shallow pan place endive and dot with 2 tablespoons butter; add lemon juice and water. Cover with wax paper and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, until liquid has been reduced by half. Then bake at 400 degress for 30 minutes.
Drain liquid from endives and reserve. Wrap each endive in ham slice and replace in casserole. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan and stir in flour until smooth. Off heat stir in wine, reserved liquid, salt; pepper and nutmeg. Cook slowly until mixture thickens. Stir in cheese and heat slowly until cheese melts. Spoon over endives; bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees until brown and bubbly. STRAWBERRY GRANITA CAKE (8 servings) 1 pound cake (9x5 inch loaf pan) 10 ounce box frozen strawberries, defrosted and partially drained Grated peel of one orange 2 tablespoons orange juice 1 tablespoon orange liqueur 1 quart vanilla ice cream, appx. (softened) 1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped, optional
Prepare cake by slicing off about 1/4 inch of top. Carefully remove center of cake leaving about 2-inch shell on sides and bottom or enough to hold granita filling. Place strawberries, orange peel and juice and orange liqueur in blender and blend at high speed to make smooth mixture. Fill the scooped out cake with the blended strawberry mixture (granita), reserving a small amount for the top. Place the top slice back on the filled cake and anchor with toothpicks at each corner. Working quickly, ice cake with about 1/2 to 3/4 inch softened ice cream. Top with remaining granita. Freeze several hours or overnight.
To serve, remove toothpicks and cover with whipped cream, if desired. Decorate with fresh strawberries, if available and slice.