Potato Salad with Kombu

Welcome to another TLC Book Tour for The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino.  

About The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)

• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 12, 2018)

A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.

Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.

Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.

As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Terri-Lynne DeFino

Terri-Lynne DeFino was born and raised in New Jersey, but escaped to the wilds of Connecticut, where she still lives with her husband and her cats. She spends most days in her loft, in her woodland cabin along the river, writing about people she’s never met. Other days, she can be found slaying monsters with her grandchildren. If you knock on her door, she’ll most likely be wearing a tiara. She’ll also invite you in and feed you, because you can take the Italian girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey Italian out of the girl.

Find out more about Terri at her website.

What I thought:

I enjoyed this book immensely.  I am finding little time to read lately, so I was grateful that when I did squeeze in some reading time, I found myself curled up with this book.  The thought of a regal and exclusive place where the best of the writing world could live out their lives in comfort and elegance was appealing…as were the characters.

The central characters of Alfonse (with his past of excess) and Cecibel (with her past of pain and regret and sorrow) are rounded out with a true cast of characters.   There’s Olivia, a pot-smoking diva.   There’s Salvatore, the drag queen orderly.  There’s Switch another elderly former writer (and Olivia’s “gardener.”) There’s Judith, an editor extraordinaire that is fighting to retain her memory.  There’s Fin who could be a tragic character but chooses not to be.

DeFino creates Cecibel as Alfonse’s muse—“His muse. His golden monster. His Valkyrie” (182)—but it is really two others, Aldo and Cecilia, who become the real driving force for this cast of lost souls.  (I will leave you to figure how these two are the real muses of the novel.)

I want to be very careful about giving away anything in this tale.  The plot spurred me on, initially to see just what the past relationships were between the cantankerous old literary giants.  Then I became more interested in Cecibel.   I will say that the end of the novel and the introduction of what I consider a minor character threw me a bit and I am still a bit perplexed by not only her introduction but also the necessity for developing the plot line in this way.

Although The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) was entertaining and insightful, I wondered how I was going to tie food into this post and review.   The inhabitants of the Pen (their name for the retirement home) did have lots of tea (non-caffeinated) and a few cocktails were wistfully remembered by the patrons.    As one would expect, most of the food served in the home was bland.  I really didn’t see food playing a tremendous role in the book even though one of the characters becomes a chef.

Then, I checked my notes.   There was a plethora of food in the novel.  (If you’re interested, an almost definitive list is at the end of this post.)

I decided to focus on one line attributed to Aldo, the Navy-trained chef:

The nuances of that lowly potato when roasted rather than fried, when treated with butter and herbs and salt, opened up a world of flavor wherein food was consumed with the eyes first; it changed his whole perspective. (277)

That lowly potato indeed.  How can we dress it up?

Since there was a Fourth of July picnic for the residents, I decided to focus on a potato salad, something that might have been served at that picnic and something perhaps that Fin might have prepared for one of his wooing sessions on the beach with Cecibel.

Potato Salad with Kombu

From Blue Apron (and Blackened Ginger Pork Burgers with Napa Cabbage slaw & Potato Salad)

For a seaside picnic perhaps?  A unique spin on potato salad seasoned with kombu.


  • 1 1/2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 1/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 T. ketchup
  • 2 t. kombu (powedered or crushed)
  • 2 T. rice vinegar
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Fill a medium pot with water; add a pinch of salt. Heat to bioling on high.
  2. Add the diced potatoes to the boiling water. Cook 14-16 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Turn off the heat.
  3. Drain and place in a mixing bowl.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, kombu, vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Drizzle over potatoes and carefully stir to combine. Re-season with salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Serve at room temperature or chilled. (May be made ahead of time but keep refrigerated.)

Yield: 4

This salad was delicious and perfectly paired with the rest of the Blue Apron meal of Blackened Ginger Pork Burgers and a Napa Cabbage Slaw.


I am linking up with Novel Food (Simona at bricriole), Souper Sunday (Deb at Kahakai Kitchen) and Foodies Reads (Heather at Based on a True Story).


Food mentions and References from The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino:

  • Green Apples for Stewart (4)
  • Proposed date for burger and fries (9)
  • Tea, coffee, bourbon (11)
  • Lobster-bake lunch (32)
  • Hot dog stand (54)
  • Champagne nights (55)
  • Granola bar (63)
  • Picnic on beach (65)
  • Chef-speak (45)
  • Chopping onions (100)
  • Chamomile and peppermint tea (110)
  • Long Island Iced teas and hors d’oeuvres and Manhattans with steak followed by port and cigars (110)
  • Pies and fried chicken (113)
  • Glass of wine, some cheese and crusty bread (115)
  • Cognac (123)
  • July 4th picnic (126)
  • Celia’s less than delicious Christmas meal (128)
  • Mashed potatoes (147)
  • Malteds and egg creams (156)
  • Chocolate cake and cannolis (172)
  • “Popcorn. Twizzlers.  Huge, sugary sodas.” (183)
  • Tea time and mint (194)
  • Salmon cooked through (by a barbarian according to Olivia) (194)
  • Manhattans and gimlets at a Christmas party (198)
  • Hot cocoa at Woolworth’s (200)
  • New England Clam Chowder, Cecibel’s favorite (210)
  • Scotch and soda (225)
  • “the tension was like buttercream on a birthday cake” (240)
  • “a pot of Earl Grey and a tier of assorted cookies” (241)
  • Peppermint tea (247)
  • “a plate of fruit and cheese a bread” (249)
  • forbidden wine (251)
  • Russian Tea cakes (280)
  • Chicken Parm and sausage & peppers sandwiches (305)

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