Sunday, April 20, 2014
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.
There’s a lot of justifiable PTL cooing over a great many new restaurants that have taken root in Portland’s ascendant dining scene. And they’ve been reported on in glowing terms, by yours truly included. The names are now very familiar: Piccolo, Boone’s, Hugo’s, Eventide, Central Provisions, Empire Chinese, Vinland, Petite Jacqueline, Miyake Diner, et al.
But I’ve begun to wonder about our older establishments, the ones that started off as rising stars way back when. Are they teetering on the down low as the newcomers garner all the attention or are they as good as ever?
From my view they are our core dining options too, ones that have, if anything else, given our city its reputation as a mecca of innovative dining. The only difference now is we have so much more from which to choose.
Now is the time for spring lamb. Many farmers are offering pastured lamb now, though after butchering they generally freeze the lamb right away. Rosemont Market will have it fresh from their suppliers such as Straw Farm and others who they deal with directly buying the whole animal for nose to tail butchery.
One of my favorite preparations is for lamb stew, and the recipe I offer here has been one that I’ve made for many years. It’s cooked in a light tomato-based sauce; you can use fresh tomatoes when they’re in season but the canned or package variety produces very admirable results. I like the Pomi brand in the sealed containers. Pomi and San Marzano tomatoes are available in some supermarkets and at Whole Foods.
The best cuts for lamb stew are either shoulder or neck bone or a combination of both. If you don’t want to deal with the neck bones, then just use a boned shoulder. Have the butcher cut it into 2-inch stewing pieces.
If you haven’t chosen a potato kugel recipe to serve for Monday night’s first night seder, consider this recipe from the inimitable Arthur Schwartz (aka The Food Maven), noted New York cookbook author, food writer and maven of all things culinary.
What makes his so different is that he uses 12 whole eggs in the mixture, creating a potato pudding that is light and high rather than the usual leaden, gluey kugel traditionally made.
One of the results of chronicling as I do the ups and downs of our flourishing restaurant world is that I don’t often have the time to go to restaurants that had always been my personal favorites. When I visit a restaurant it’s often the target of a future review. Now that isn’t a bad thing necessarily especially if the restaurant is terrific.
That means I always have my camera with me and my recording app ready on the iPhone to record my tasting notes.
But just the other day I was at the bottom of Congress St. where at the base sits Saeng Thai House, that little family-run restaurant where grandmother, mother, daughter, father and other relations prepare these wonderful little meals of typical home-style Thai cooking.
Chicken Scarpariello is one of those classic Italian-American dishes that is totally delicious, easy to make and offers the convenience of being a one-pot preparation.
The dish is prepared like a fricassee, and the flavor profile is based on vinegar, wine, chicken stock, onions, garlic, green pepper and pickled and roasted sweet peppers.
While the recipe given here calls for a small fryer (about 3 pounds) it also works very well to use a duo of Cornish game hens. The smaller pieces are easier to handle and the dish cooks up rather quickly. You can also double the recipe using the fryer, to serve more people.