Over the course of our past nine years, the most frequently asked question that I have been asked, hands down, is: “Why did you call your restaurant the Blue Paddle Bistro?”
I mean, literally, hundreds of folks have inquired, and always — I suspect — hoping for a clever or sexy reason. And, truth be told, there is no smoking gun, if you will, on why Chef Phoebe and I chose our name. There’s just not one ah-huh moment but a collaborative number of little things out of both our pasts that made it a simple decision.
I grew up in northwestern New Jersey in an old stone house built in 1710. The windows were literally 2 feet in depth. As a little girl, I often sat on one of the sunniest sills, legs curled up, doing my homework or watching my mom play her Martin guitar. Always folk songs of the era. Our home looked northwesterly over a huge field that ran along the Musconetcong River and part of the home’s stone foundation was abutted up to a steep hill on the south side. Interestingly, there were no windows on the north, save one tiny portal right under the top eave in the pitch of the house overlooking the field. Any attacks would come from this direction, my Dad had explained. Our town was called Changewater.
It was here that I learned to fish and canoe. My dad had an old aluminum Grumman canoe. He’s taught me how to maneuver the vessel around the rocks and portage when necessary. I loved those days hanging out with him. Just the two us. Later, when we moved out to Colorado so that dad could assume the editor role at a daily newspaper; we were lucky enough to get a home right on a little lake that overlooked the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Every morning that I could, I’d drag that old Grumman down to the shore and launch it in pure silence as all the wildlife took refuge in the reeds. Camera and paddle in hand, I couldn’t have been more content.
Phoebe, on the other hand, spent her summers in the Adirondacks. Keene Valley, to be exact. Her family was fortunate enough to have one of the old camps on the Upper Ausable Lake. It was there that she found herself gliding along the immense, quite eerie at times, pristine lake in her family’s guide boat. A beautiful vessel that she was able to master without flaw. She, too, learned to fish and became very passionate for fly fishing.
Years later, after our time with Noonies Delis came to a close, Phoebe went off to New York City and I found myself managing a wooden canoe company and traveling all over the continental United States showcasing our gorgeous wooden boats at sportsmen and log home shows.
Fast forward to 2005. Time to pick a name for our little bistro.
One day as we were painting a wall in our dining room, we both looked at each other and literally declared at the same time: “What’s it going to be?” We both love the water, we both adore canoeing, we live on an island surrounded by water and we wanted a logo that would be easy to recognize.
I blurted out: “How about the Blue Paddle Bistro?” Blue for water, paddle for the love our sport and bistro because it implies simple, unpretentious food. Plus, two crossed paddles on an oval makes for a fairly simple, identifiable brand.
Phoebe looked at me, smiled and said: “That’s it, Mandy.” We both chuckled. What took months of throwing out names came down to what we love and are passionate about. It was simple in the end.
The Blue Paddle Bistro, … The Paddle for short.
And, in keeping things simple, here’s Phoebe’s no-nonsense recipe for crab cakes.
Mandy Hotchkiss and Phoebe Bright are co-owners of the Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero.
Chef Phoebe’s crab cakes
- 1 pound crab meat
- 1 bunch scallions (medium chopped)
- 1 red pepper (medium chopped)
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ¾ cup mayo
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 1 lemon whole squeezed
- A few dashes of tabasco (depends on how hot you like it)
- 1 cup panko crumbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Mix all the ingredients together except the oil.
- Make into patties.
- Get pan hot with the oil.
- Brown crab cakes on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side)