Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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.
The Brunswick Winter Market is one of the best, most diverse farmer’s markets in the state. Housed in the vast Ft. Andross space (November to early April), there are some 40 venders of all stripes who sell their goods.
Vendors include fishmongers, pastry and bread bakers, winemakers, coffee roasters, glass blowers, woodworkers, knife sharpening, furniture makers, prepared foods and the full roster of vegetables, meats, dairy and cheese from farmers who offer locally raised organic provender.
Indoors at the Brunswick winter
What makes Becky’s Diner so popular is its authenticity. To Portlanders and tourists alike it’s the salty symbol of the city’s working waterfront, no matter the prevaiing political or economic climate.
The diner also remains the common ground where summer tourists, lobsterman, lawyers, local politicians and business people come for the same thing: a solid, wholesome meal.
The food is always good and well prepared. Their chowders are hearty and full of local fish in a milky, zesty broth flavored with salt pork and thickened with potatoes. It’s where I go for a simple grilled cheese sandwich, or a no-frills burger and fries.
To the food purist, having homemade stock on hand is essential. For some home cooks, though, commercially made stocks are just fine and are readily available on the grocery shelves, from 7-Eleven's to more rarefied food emporiums. In fact, more and more specialty food stores offer their own brand of this kitchen brew. At Whole Foods, for instance, they have store-made chicken, beef and duck stocks frozen in pint size containers. Rosemont also makes their own chicken, beef and fish stock as does Auroroa Provisions. But they’re expensive.
Yet there’s something very satisfying—and economical--about making your own.The most commonly called for is chicken stock, a staple ingredient in many recipes. I offer two all-purpose chicken stock preparations—one that is quick and easy to make and the other requires a longer cooking time and will yield a rich stock good for complex sauces, soups and other preparations.
A rich, dark chicken stock
From a credible hamburger at Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen to a sensational lobster creation at Empire Chinese, it’s been an interesting week of some fine dishes at Portland area restaurants.
These very good eats happened at all hours of the day and night at some of our more highly regarded restaurants to the proverbial diners (no drive-ins) and dives.
Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen and Topside Tavern. I had lunch here after some serious shopping in Freeport. I didn’t want a big meal and Simpson’s burger listed on the restaurant’s huge menu sounded just right. It was described as being a burger from an old spot called Simpson's, which was on a back road to Portland from Freeport (pre Route 1?) It’s a 6-ounce patty with a delicious house-made relish, mayo and sautéed onions. It had great char and good beef flavor (Pineland Farms). For $6 it was a bargain.
It’s not the same as getting a cut and style at a school for student barbers where a bad haircut is not easy to fix. A meal, however, by chefs in training can have its finer and lesser moments.
This is what we discovered at the dining room of the SMCC Culinary Arts Center, which offers a somewhat idiosyncratic—but wonderful—learning restaurant created as an ongoing lab for the students to cook while they practice in a real-life professional setting.
The restaurant is open to the public for lunch only from Wednesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., reservations required. On Friday a buffet lunch is served.
What’s extraordinary about the dining room is the setting. It commands views of the ocean as good as the most sprawling estate along the nearby Cape Elizabeth shoreline. In fact, the entire campus is ringed by Casco Bay with phenomenal vistas of Bug Light, Cushing, House and Peak’s islands.