Food – Press Herald Tue, 22 Aug 2017 20:32:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dine Out Maine: Southwest Harbor might be the last place you’d think to look for delicious Mexican food Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 If you have eaten at XYZ in Manset, Southwest Harbor, chances are excellent that you were on vacation when you did. After all, the restaurant, run since 1994 by co-owners Janet Strong and Bob Hoyt, is open only a few months each year, from June until Labor Day, then on weekends until mid-October. It’s also adjacent to Acadia National Park, one of the state’s biggest seasonal attractions. Even the locals around here – on “the quiet side” of Mount Desert Island – are, more often than not, summer residents.

But whether or not you’re officially off the clock, XYZ has a sneaky way of making you feel as if you are. It starts when you turn into the driveway and make your way up a dusty gravel path, past a natural clearing in the woods. In an instant, the rest of the world feels impossibly remote. By the time you reach the restaurant’s entrance – guarded by a fiberglass donkey named Rebecca, posed amid coffee cans painted and filled with geraniums – the disconnection is complete.

Your sole obligation now is to chat with Strong, who runs the front-of-house, and choose either a simple XYZ margarita ($7.50), or a swank margarita “especial,” ($12), made with pure agave tequila and Cointreau. Either choice is a good one, and Strong, once the publisher of the Bar Harbor Times newspaper, will tell you as much in the affable, no-nonsense style she shares with Hoyt, the restaurant’s chef.

The couple started traveling to Mexico in 1983, where they “discovered what real Mexican food was,” according to Strong. Later, after her parents bought a house there, they met Juana Perez, a cook who taught them how to prepare the traditional regional dishes that eventually inspired the menu for XYZ. “It’s not nouvelle cuisine. What we do is more 1950s than 2020s,” Hoyt explained. “The biggest compliment I get in Mexico is when somebody says, ‘You cook like my grandmother.’ ”

A perfect example of this is XYZ’s take on a classic puerco verde ($26). The kitchen parboils, then bakes pork shoulders in a Oaxacan green tomatillo mole, florid with poblano chiles, allspice, garlic scapes and cloves. After four hours, the pork shoulders end up supersaturated with flavor and so tender that, as Hoyt says, “they just shred themselves.”

Even if you’re not in the mood for pork, you can taste a relative of that mole in the green tomatillo-based serrano chile salsa that is served with every meal. It and its companion, a smoky red, ancho-and-chipotle-based salsa, are intended to be spread on thin slices of baguette, rather than scooped up with tortilla chips. The absence of chips has become a bone of contention for some online reviewers expecting the sort of meal they might get from a drive-thru window, but Hoyt’s finely textured tomatillo salsas demand more than crunch and salt. They are at once so delicately herbal and so penetratingly garlicky, that only the softness – and more importantly, sweetness – of bread gives your brain enough time to parse the electric complexity of what your tongue is tasting.

XYZ’s pollo en salsa naranja ($26) also conjoins pleasure and pandemonium, this time through tart, aromatic orange and peppery heat. To achieve the effect, Hoyt simmers chicken thighs in a thick sauce made by blending orange peels, lime juice, ancho chiles and skinny, nuclear arbol chiles. The concoction works especially well to balance out the robust, fatty flavors of dark meat.

When my plate arrived, I caught sight of the garnish – a single, slender red chile tracing the meridian of the split chicken thigh – and wondered: Is this a promise or a warning? Five minutes later, as I blotted dots of perspiration on my forehead, then immediately went back for another bite, I realized the answer was both.

XYZ’s menu offers more than classic dishes. Hoyt is a confident cook who is not ashamed of mining inspiration from unorthodox sources, like a now-defunct El Paso restaurant whose recipe for “adobe pie” he pilfered and transformed into the XYZ pie ($8). On a base of crushed chocolate wafer cookies sit two layers of ice cream: one coffee and one butter crunch, separated by a layer of chocolate. A woman seated at the next table desperately swatted away the mosquitoes that had snuck in through the incompletely sealed patio screens, all the while entreating her boyfriend, “The pie! Don’t let them get on my pie. I need that!”

Hoyt also borrows occasionally from Mexican street cooking, as in the garish, puckery red cocktail sauce served with the Mazatlan shrimp cocktail ($10). “Nobody can ever figure out the fruitiness and effervescence, but it’s just equal parts ketchup and Orange Crush, blended with chile de arbol for heat,” he said. “It’s a sauce that comes from Mexican beaches, where they cook with the soda they have everywhere.”

A portrait of Janet Strong and Bob Hoyt.

He also improvises expertly with more traditional tools and ingredients, creating original dishes for the restaurant. Take the sopa de aguacate ($9), a chilled avocado soup with tequila and chile. You’ll find plenty of cold avocado soups in Mexico, but they are generally made with chicken broth and cream. XYZ’s is vegan. Hoyt exploits the lack of dairy and umami to showcase a frothy leanness of flavor from cilantro, citrus and white tequila.

Another outstanding original is the cazuelita de jaiba ($15), a five-ingredient “casserole” of Maine crabmeat, almost poetic in its spareness, yet arranged precisely into covert iambs and trochees of flavor from white onion, serrano chile and buttery Monterey Jack cheese.

Both the soup and the crab casserole appetizers appeared practically before our server finished jotting down our requests. That’s part of Hoyt’s system. From 5 a.m. until the late afternoon, he’s the only one in the kitchen, so his ability to satisfy a packed house relies heavily on advance preparation. He also knows exactly where to cut corners at negligible cost, which means that frequently, dishes are plated rustically – favoring taste over visuals.

It’s a smart trade-off, especially during the last two weeks of July and the month of August, when XYZ is filled to capacity every single night, and both Hoyt and Strong put in 15-hour days. Nothing about the summer feels much like a getaway to them. Instead, they bide their time until they can slip away southward for another off-season in their Oaxacan home. I like to picture them unwinding with a few margaritas “especiales” of their own while making notes on new flavors to introduce to Southwest Harbor next summer.

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and in New York, where he co-founded NYCnosh, a food website. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is an Internet researcher and higher education consultant.

Contact him at:

Twitter: AndrewRossME

]]> 0 get some last-minute love before being served.Mon, 21 Aug 2017 09:56:01 +0000
Uncle Billy’s Bar-B-Que coming back – to Portland Thu, 17 Aug 2017 21:51:25 +0000 Jonathan St. Laurent, once known as southern Maine’s “guru of barbecue,” is on his way back.

St. Laurent and his wife, Schyla, plan to open a new barbecue restaurant on Portland’s East End in November or December, according to a liquor license application filed with the city.

The application, which will be reviewed Monday, lists 166 Cumberland Ave. as the home of the new Uncle Billy’s Bar-B-Que. That address, at the base of Munjoy Hill, is the former home of the Bayside Variety convenience store.

St. Laurent is best known for the original Uncle Billy’s barbecue joint that opened in 1989 in South Portland, on Ocean Street next to the Griffin Club. After that restaurant closed in 1995, he opened more barbecue places in Portland and Yarmouth, but they were never as successful as the original restaurant.

In a letter accompanying the liquor license application, Schyla Laurent wrote that the new restaurant “will be a reincarnation” of the South Portland Uncle Billy’s, with a small outdoor dining area included.

A sample menu lists a variety of smoked meat sandwiches and “Squealin’ Shack Plates” made with pulled pork and chicken, tri-tip, brisket, sausage links, burgers, pork chops. Baby back pork ribs will also be served.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 St. Laurent hangs out of the back of the ShackMobile. Courtesy of Old Port Lobster ShackFri, 18 Aug 2017 10:21:24 +0000
Eat & Run: Noble’s pulled pork even impresses a Memphis transplant Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:40:33 +0000 0, 16 Aug 2017 11:40:33 +0000 A new place to sample mead Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:34:13 +0000 Maine Mead Works has opened its first satellite tasting room. The new spot is located at 8 Western Ave. in Kennebunk, next door to Federal Jack’s.

The tasting room opened July 1, according to Ben Alexander, the owner of Maine Mead Works, which has a meadery and tasting room at 51 Washington Ave. in Portland.

“We’re thrilled to have another direct to consumer outlet for what we’re doing. I think that’s been a key to our success, just getting people in the door to try something different.”

Maine Mead Works was founded in 2007.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, 16 Aug 2017 10:42:14 +0000
New food truck will serve Cambodian and Vietnamese street food Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:25:54 +0000 Nom Bai, a new food truck serving Cambodian and Vietnamese street food, will launch in Portland sometime in the next three weeks.

The truck is owned by Matthew Glatz, owner of the Salt Box Café, a “tiny house food truck” that serves breakfast and brunch on the Eastern Promenade. Glatz recently built a new food truck and has hired Sovanna Neang, who is of Cambodian heritage, to run it. The menu consists of Vietnamese sandwiches, charbroiled meat skewers and handmade rolls.

Neang previously worked at Sapporo, a Japanese restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland, and will write the menu for Nom Bai herself.

“Her menu is simple Cambodian and Vietnamese street food,” Glatz said. “They’re family recipes that have been in her family.”

Glatz said the truck will debut at a local brewery as soon as he gets his license from the city, “hopefully before Labor Day.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

Correction: This story was updated at 10:47 a.m. on Aug. 17, 2017 to correct the options on the menu.

]]> 0 Thu, 17 Aug 2017 10:49:11 +0000
Caesar salad bowls sold in Maine recalled by USDA Wed, 16 Aug 2017 12:27:38 +0000 WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is recalling thousands of chicken Caesar salad products sold at supermarkets throughout New England and New York state due to misbranding.

The USDA recalled more than 1,700 pounds of chicken Caesar salad bowls made by the New Jersey-based company Missa Bay LLC. According to the USDA, the products are labeled gluten-free. However, officials say croutons in the salad bowls are made with wheat which contains gluten.

The salad bowls were shipped to Cumberland Farms stores in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Mislabeled salads have a must-use date of Aug. 16.

]]> 0 Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:04:35 +0000
Apple Upside-Down Cornbread a sweet idea Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Cornbread has always had a bit of an identity crisis in our house: Is it savory or is it sweet? Does it replace dinner rolls or dessert?

This very dilemma may be what I love most about cornbread: It can go either way.

Usually, we veer more sweet than savory, topping corn bread and muffins with a quick homemade maple or honey butter, a welcome break from the pot of chili I often serve at the cornbread’s side. Sometimes, though, I’ll dabble in savory territory, adding actual corn kernels or smoky chipotle powder or chopped roasted poblano peppers into the batter. Either way, leftovers make their way onto the breakfast table the next morning, either spread with a bit of coconut oil and marmalade (sweet) or topped with a poached egg, black beans and salsa (savory).

Inspired by the gorgeous tarte tatins of France, lately I’ve been sauteeing up tart granny smith apple slices in a little butter and then covering them with everything from oven-puffed pancake batter to oatmeal-bar dough. When I decided to make my quick weeknight cornbread one evening, I had a few extra minutes to spare, so I sliced up the last couple of apples in the fruit basket and sauteed them to bake under the batter. The result looked more like a cake than a cornbread, which ended up being a huge plus with everyone in our family.

The buttery apple layer was thin, but kept the cornbread moist with its syrupy edge. Unsweetened applesauce adds tenderness without a ton of fat, while also adding a tiny bit of sweetness. Because most of the sugar is on the outside of the bread, it tastes sweeter than the few tablespoons of brown sugar might suggest. Which means I really could serve this cornbread for dessert.


Yield: 12 slices


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 large or 2 small granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt


1 cup cornmeal (fine or medium)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, or low-fat dairy milk

1 tablespoon melted butter (or olive oil)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter with the ginger in a medium saute pan. Cook the apple slices in the pan, until crisp-tender, about five minutes, stirring often. Add the sugar, cinnamon (if using) and salt. Cook and stir another minute, and then remove from heat.

Make a pan liner out of parchment: Trace the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan on parchment paper. Cut out the circle, and use it to line the inside bottom of the pan. Spray the whole inside of the pan with cooking spray.

Scrape the apple mixture, including the syrupy sauce, into the prepared baking pan, spreading the slices out along the bottom of the pan and set aside.

Make the cornbread: In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, brown sugar, milk and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir just until combined. Pour the batter into the baking pan, on top of the apples. Bake until the corn bread springs back when light pressure is applied with the fingertips, about 30 minutes. Let the cornbread cool for at least 30 minutes before inverting, removing parchment and serving, apple-side up.

]]> 0, 15 Aug 2017 17:23:50 +0000
Chef realizes dream of opening new Maine restaurant, but only after long nightmare Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 When chef Rebecca Charles opened Pearl Oyster Bar in New York 20 years ago, her dream was to one day return to Maine and open a sister restaurant here.

In February, that longstanding dream became a nightmare. A “Biblical nightmare,” Charles says. One that has her joking about finding a priest to perform an exorcism on her new restaurant, Pearl Kennebunk Beach, which finally opened Aug. 5 after a long string of bad luck. One that prompted her to gratefully accept the offer of a former employee to come in with burning sage and smudge the place.

Hey, it couldn’t hurt.

“I swear, it almost seemed at points that this building was just going to get swallowed up and sink into the ground and that would be the end of it,” Charles said.

“Kitchen Nightmares” is more than a dumb reality TV show. Chefs have their own real-life kitchen nightmares that stick in their memories from job to job, following them like a scar from the slip of a knife.

For Melissa Bouchard, chef at DiMillo’s on the Water in Portland, it is the Memorial Day weekend when a dishwasher motor broke. For Daron Goldstein, now a private chef in Northeast Harbor, it’s the time the fire suppression system went off – twice – in the kitchen of the southern Maine restaurant he was working in the day before Thanksgiving, when he was expected to feed 500 people. Sean Doherty, who has worked as a chef for more than three decades, can’t shake the embarrassment of having served undercooked chicken to both Norman Mailer and Oliver Stone.


Charles, perhaps, wins the award for the longest-running restaurant disaster. The chef worked in several Maine restaurants when she was younger, including the White Barn Inn, and her family has summered in Kennebunk since 1917. For years, she had her eye on the building that once housed the Grissini Italian Bistro. She tried to buy it three times before she finally succeeded.

It’s almost as if the universe were trying to warn her.

The building had its own parking lot – a big plus for a business that’s just a stone’s throw from busy Dock Square – but Charles also knew the old place was a potential Pandora’s Box of problems. The plumbing and wiring were out of date, and the kitchen was 40 years old. The main dining room was in solid condition but needed renovations to replace the what-were-they-thinking black paint on the walls and the dark stain that covered the original pine flooring.

She decided to tackle repairs and renovations in stages. Last spring, Charles focused on getting a smaller café-style restaurant, Spat Oyster Cellar, open downstairs.

Spat Oyster Cellar didn’t open until late September, and it didn’t make as much money as Charles hoped. In late December, business dropped off and she made the decision to close for the winter.

“I was planning on coming back at the beginning of March, and we were going to open in April,” Charles said. “I went back to deal with my other life (in New York), and the next thing you know, it’s mid-February, and I get a call from the real estate company next door: ‘There’s water coming out from underneath your kitchen door, and water’s coming out of the ceiling.’ ”

Charles, a New York chef with deep roots in Maine, poured her life savings into Pearl and the smaller café-style restaurant, Spat Oyster Cellar, downstairs. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Charles called the water company and they sent out someone to check on the place. A pipe must have burst, the water company informed her on the phone, so they would turn the water off.

“I figured OK, I’ll put in a claim and it will be, like, maybe $10,000 worth of damage,” Charles said.

But the next day, Charles’ neighbor called her again. Water was still coming out from the kitchen door. Charles and her neighbor decided the best thing to do was call the fire department, which was how Charles learned that the sprinkler system had malfunctioned – and the valve to turn it off was in the real estate company’s basement, locked with a padlock for which she did not have a key. (The restaurant and real estate buildings are separate, but part of the same condo association. For the first time, Charles learned that to reach the restaurant’s sprinkler system, hot water heater and oil tanks, she has to go through the real estate building.)

Everything but the main dining room was a total loss: Spat, the kitchen, the upstairs office. Contractors ripped out each ruined room on each floor, down to the studs, and removed all wiring and plumbing. The damage came to about $400,000. Luckily, Charles was “insured to the gills,” and she was also covered under the condo association’s insurance.

From April until mid-July, with tourist season well underway, the kitchen was rebuilt, along with the entire downstairs and the upstairs office. In the 80-seat main dining room, which includes a beautiful stone fireplace, the pine floors were returned to their original state, and the walls were painted in a color called Weimaraner (yes, the color of the dog’s coat).


Other chefs can relate.

Melissa Bouchard, chef at DiMillo’s, remembers the Friday night about four years ago when the motor running the conveyor belt on the restaurant’s dishwashing machine burned out. She was facing a Memorial Day weekend – one of the busiest weekends of the year – with no dishwasher and the likelihood of thousands of dirty dishes.

Rebecca Charles slices a lobster that will be used for a bouillabaisse in the (now dry) kitchen at Pearl Kennebunk Beach. The kitchen, office and downstairs café all needed to be gutted because of water damage, then rebuilt. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

She set up the the three-bay sink so some of the dishes could be washed by hand. They washed glassware at the bar, “which was difficult. You don’t really want to be bringing dirty dishes to the bar, in customer view, but we had to do that.”

Since the dishwashing machine itself still worked, they decided to try pulling the belt manually.

Everyone on the kitchen and dish crew lent a hand, “which was extremely laborious and tiring,” Bouchard said.

“I gave it a try,” she said. “I think I lasted a half an hour. We had some dishwashers who were doing it hour after hour.”

Daron Goldstein’s most memorable fiasco happened about four years ago when he was the chef at Clay Hill Farm in Cape Neddick.

It was the day before Thanksgiving. The restaurant had 500 reservations, and he and the staff were doing “heavy prep” with all 12 burners in the kitchen going. “We had about 200 pounds of mashed potatoes on the stovetop and numerous other things, along with at least 15 or 20 gallons of gravy,” he said.

Suddenly, at 11 a.m., the fire suppression system went off, spraying chemicals all over the food. There were no grease fires – it was a technical glitch. The restaurant called a company technician to come out and reset it, while the staff scurried to toss out the contaminated food, clean up the mess and call purveyors to try to buy more of everything. (Thankfully, the turkeys were in another part of the kitchen and survived unscathed.)

Goldstein and the staff made Thanksgiving dinner a second time. Then, at 4:30 p.m., the fire suppression system went off again. This time, recovery was more difficult.

“Now it’s getting late,” Goldstein said. “It’s 5 o’clock and it’s like, no way. There’s no way we could do it again. We were asking people if they had any gravy at home in their freezer.”

They gathered as much new product as they could and started cooking a third Thanksgiving dinner.

“We pulled it off,” Goldstein said, “but we ended up making just enough.”

Not every disaster can be blamed on faulty equipment. Sometimes, chefs have only themselves to blame. Take Sean Doherty, who has worked as a line cook and chef for more than three decades, in restaurants in Maine, Massachusetts, New York and California. Now he bakes at The Corner Room in Portland.

Doherty still thinks about an incident from one of his first jobs, lead line cook at the Waterville Country Club. The chef took a break one afternoon to play a round of golf and left Doherty in charge of cooking prime rib for 600 people attending a special event that night. Doherty made the mistake of pulling the wrong meat from the walk-in cooler, and instead being served prime rib, the diners got New York strips. “(The chef) took one look at it,” Doherty said, “and if looks could kill…” Doherty has also had troubles with chicken. About a year after the prime rib problem, he was working at the Harvard Bookstore Café on Newbury Street in Boston, a hot spot for hungry VIPs. Doherty sent out a chicken breast, and the customer sent it back because it was undercooked.

Someone on staff came into the kitchen and yelled at him: “That was Norman Mailer’s effin chicken breast. Refire!” Doherty recalled. “And I sent it out again undercooked.”

Doherty, who was about 19 at the time, admits he had no idea who Norman Mailer was. (He looked it up later and was properly mortified.)

He didn’t use lose his job over the incident, but he did get written up. And that wasn’t the end of his poultry predicaments.

Two years later, at a restaurant on New York’s Upper East Side, Doherty sent out a plate of undercooked chicken to Oliver Stone, who was a friend of the owner.

“I had to go out and apologize to Oliver Stone himself,” Doherty said. “He kind of got a kick out of it.”

Doherty hasn’t undercooked a chicken since.

The dining room of Pearl restaurant in Kennebunk. Charles’ problems didn’t end with water damage at the restaurant – she also dealt with interview no-shows, problems sourcing ingredients, and mounting costs. Staff photo by Gregory Rec


Charles’ nightmare couldn’t be quashed by the end of a shift or a heartfelt apology. Even after rebuilding, the problems kept coming.

She set a target opening date of July 4 for Pearl Kennebunk Beach, which turned out to be wishful thinking. Potential employees didn’t show up for interviews, and Charles had to fire a chef the day before the restaurant opened. She flew Andrew Sutin, her trusted sous chef at Pearl Oyster Bar in Greenwich Village, up to Maine that same day so he could help organize the kitchen.

She also had trouble sourcing affordable ingredients.

“Food, wine and beer are exorbitantly priced here, way more than New York, and I never expected that,” Charles said. “I didn’t research it, which was stupid on my part, but I never would have expected it. Everything is at least 10 percent more here.”

Now that Pearl Kennebunk Beach is finally open, Charles is worried about getting the restaurant, and Spat Oyster Cellar (which has not yet re-opened), through the lean winter months. Last week, she sold her apartment in New York and will use the money to bolster their winter bottom lines. She’s still flying to New York about once a month, but will now stay in a hotel a couple of blocks down from Pearl Oyster Bar.

Charles, who is 63, said she underestimated the energy it would take at her age to open another restaurant, let alone one with enormous problems, and she probably won’t do it again.

“I really have come close to losing it,” she said. “Opening Pearl 20 years ago, I was 42 years old, which is the right age to open a business. Even in New York, with $120,000 I was able to open a 21-seat restaurant. If I had lost everything, it wouldn’t have been that much. (The new restaurant) is an enormous investment. I put my life savings into it.”

Charles, who is sole owner of the restaurant, paid $1 million for the property alone. She estimates her total investment is $1.8 million.

Charles has taken to comparing herself with Sisyphus, the character in Greek mythology who is condemned to pushing a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, for all eternity.

“It’s just so much work,” she said. “It’s so overwhelming.”

But she has kept her sense of humor. She asked her bartender to create a cocktail called the Sisyphus: cognac, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, lemon and egg white.

You can toast to the end of the nightmare for $12.

]]> 0 Charles in the dining room of her restaurant, Pearl Kennebunk Beach, which opened Aug. 5.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:21:37 +0000
Pastis shrimp borrows flavors from southern France Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 This is my French-flavored version of peel ‘n’ eat shrimp. The sauce is delicious and warrants a whole baguette just for sopping up!

It’s one of those summer dishes that I make frequently for friends and family. The dish pays homage to one of my favorite places on earth, the South of France, where pastis was born.

The flavors of pastis – the anise-flavored aperitif from the south of France – and big, fat jumbo shrimp in the shell complement each other.

Ricard is the pastis brand most commonly available in the states, but if you can’t find it, you can use its cooking cousin, Pernod. Pernod is a useful kitchen staple, and is great paired with shellfish, chicken, mushrooms and spinach – anything that is good seasoned with tarragon.

I leave the shrimp in the shell to protect it from the heat, and because much of the flavor is in the shell. The shrimp can cook longer if left in the shell, absorbing more of the flavors of the fragrant sauce – plus, it is fun to peel and eat the shrimp once they are cooked.

I place the shrimp in the bottom of a gratin dish and pour a full-flavored potion of pastis, olive oil, garlic, fennel seed, green peppercorns, tarragon and coarse sea salt over it. Once the shrimp are soaked in the sauce, I place the gratin dish in a pre-heated grill or oven, and let them cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. You’ll know when the shrimp are done when they are curled up and pink. It is better to take them out a little under-done than over-done. The smell is intoxicating!

Serve the shrimp hot-off-the-grill in the gratin dish, and soak up the sauce with a loaf of crusty French bread.


Grilling method: indirect-medium high

Serves 6

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for shrimp

cup pastis (either Ricard or Pernod)

8 cloves of fresh garlic, grated

2 teaspoons fennel or anise seeds

2 teaspoons whole green peppercorns

cup chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for serving

24-26 jumbo shrimp or tiger shrimp in the shells (the bigger, the better, about 1.5 pounds)

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

Crusty baguette

If you prefer to cook this indoors, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together the oil, pastis, garlic, fennel, peppercorns and tarragon. Toss the cleaned and dry shrimp in a bowl with a little oil and the salt. Lay the shrimp in one layer in a shallow gratin dish or casserole (a Pyrex is fine). Pour the pastis mixture evenly over the shrimp.

Place the gratin dish in the center of the cooking grate (or in your oven) and cook about 15-20 minutes, turning the shrimp over once halfway through the cooking time.

Take the dish out of the grill or oven as soon as the shrimp are done. You know they are done when they are pink, their tails are curled and they are just cooked through. Do not overcook them.

Serve the dish family style on a table spread with newspapers or something that washes easily – this dish can get messy!

And don’t forget to sop up the sauce with a crusty baguette.

]]> 0, 15 Aug 2017 17:32:03 +0000
Serve grilled BLT salad with buttermilk dressing Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 When I first heard about folks grilling romaine lettuce, I was pretty skeptical. Lettuce is supposed to be crisp. Grilling would make it soggy. What’s the point?

Now, having tried it myself, I see the point. Grilling the romaine not only really amplifies its flavor, it also adds the same lip-smacking smokiness that grilling produces in any food. And all it takes is two minutes on the grill to get the job done.

For this recipe for Grilled BLT Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, the romaine is halved and grilled on just one side and then served as a wedge. This, of course, is how iceberg lettuce is served in the steakhouse (minus the grilling, but plus Russian or blue cheese dressing). Here the wedge is topped with the fixings of a BLT sandwich, including grilled bread. Does the grilling soften up the lettuce, as feared? Indeed it does, but only the wedge’s outside layer. Happily, the core remains crunchy.

Rather than slathering this salad with glops of too-rich mayonnaise, I’ve drizzled it with an herbed buttermilk dressing: two parts buttermilk to one part mayo. Most of the buttermilk to be found in the supermarket these days is low-fat, but I’ve recently discovered a whole-milk version, and if you don’t mind the extra calories, I highly recommend it.

The dressing’s one essential ingredient is garlic, but the other flavorings are up to you. Not a fan of tarragon or scallion? Use dill, chives, basil or oregano instead. Are there family members who don’t eat meat? Swap in smoked salmon for the bacon. Looking to move this salad from the side of the plate to its center? “Beef” it up by adding grilled chicken or shrimp. However you do it, you’ll discover, like me, the unexpected joys of grilled lettuce.


Servings: 4


1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic

3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion (white and green parts)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and black pepper


2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 slices bacon

3 slices rustic bread, crusts removed

Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing the lettuce and the bread

2 hearts romaine, halved lengthwise, leaving the cores intact

Preheat the grill to medium.

Make the dressing: In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients and whisk well. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Make the salad: In a colander toss the tomatoes with the salt and let drain while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crisp on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to drain and crumble when cool.

Brush the bread on both sides with some oil and grill the bread until toasted on both sides, about 1 to 2 minutes a side. Transfer to a rack, let cool and cut into squares.

Brush the cut sides of the romaine with oil and add the romaine to the grill, cut side down. Grill just until the romaine is lightly charred on the cut side, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the romaine halves to each of four plates, cut side up. Top each portion with one-fourth of the tomatoes, croutons and bacon; drizzle some of the dressing over each portion.

]]> 0, 15 Aug 2017 17:23:27 +0000
Eight new vegan cookbooks, well-suited for summer Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 In recent years, vegan cookbooks have rolled off the presses at an impressive rate, and 2017 is proving no different.

Many of this year’s plant-based books are particularly well-suited to summer when heat, visitors, parties and special events conspire to put extra demands on our kitchens.

The eight I highlight here meet the demands of summer while continuing themes we’ve seen in the past few years, such as an emphasis on whole foods, fast prep times and homemade pantry staples.

Drinks – particularly smoothies and now milkshakes – play a role in many of these books.

Certain ingredients – such as chickpeas, chia seeds, mushrooms, avocados and bananas – seem to be everywhere and are often used in novel or surprising ways.

Since vegan eating enjoys greater popularity outside of the United States, many of these works come from trendy cities in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

However, my first recommendation is from closer to home.

The New York City-based Reducetarian Foundation brings us one of this year’s most talked about food books with its collection of engaging essays from prominent thought leaders.

These essays tackle everything from psychology to science as they lay out a case for why all Westerners need to reduce – but not necessarily eliminate – their consumption of meat and animal products.

In this fascinating read on an intriguing trend, we learn how reducetarians are aware of meat’s toll and are taking meaningful steps to reduce the damage.

The term reducetarian is new, but the phenomenon is not.

Other names for this style of eating include flexitarian, semi-vegetarian and veganish.

No matter the title, these low-meat eaters are a driving force behind the continued upswing for vegan and vegetarian food and the related bounty of plant-based books. We should all toast reducetarians with our creamy vegan milkshakes and thank them for eating less meat.

“The Reducetarian Solution: How the Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing the Amount of Meat in Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and the Planet.” Edited by Brian Kateman. TracherPerigee. $16.

This thought-provoking book is more about ideas than recipe lists.

And its big idea is this: In order to stem climate change and curb chronic disease, individuals don’t need to try (and too often fail) to go vegetarian. Instead, the world’s affluent need to slash the amount of meat they eat by 10 percent or more.

The book introduces a new name for anyone pursuing meat reduction: reducetarians. It gives readers tips and approaches for cutting down on the amount of animal-based foods they consume each day.

Edited by the founder of The Reducetarian Foundation, this book offers a short recipe section (vegan, vegetarian and meat-based), while the heart of the work is the more than 70 short essays about the psychology, public policy, science, politics and practicalities of meat eating.

(Their brevity fits well with the busyness and interruptions of a Maine summer.)

The foreword comes from best-selling author Mark Bittman; other contributors include Paul Shapiro, Melanie Joy, Carol J. Adams, Peter Singer, Nick Cooney, Joel Fuhrman, Bill McKibben and James McWilliams.

As Andrew Winston summarizes in his essay about food industry trends: “The food business, our eating habits, and the earth are all changing in important ways, and these shifts are reinforcing each other. In the near future, the world of food will look much different from how it does today, and it will certainly include less mass-produced meat.”

“15 Minute Vegan: Fast, Modern Vegan Cooking.” By Katie Beskow. Quadrille. $22.99. Color photos.

Made for summer, this book keeps kitchen time to a minimum with standard time-saving techniques (canned beans, microwave ovens) alongside minimalist ingredient lists and maximized flavor combinations.

The author is a U.K. food blogger and vegan cooking teacher who shares the recipes she whips up after a long day at work.

There are plenty of fast, healthful recipes you’d expect, such as smoothie bowls, avocado toast and salad-in-a-jar, but the book also includes unexpected recipes for dishes that are typically more complicated but in these recipes are not, such as scones, gnocchi and pad Thai jay.

Desserts include salted chocolate mousse, plum and almond galette, and peanut butter blondie flapjacks. Another treat: The book is peppered with lovely hints of British English, such as courgette (zucchini) and punnet (berry box).

“Veganize It! Easy DIY Recipes for a Plant-Based Kitchen.” By Robin Robertson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $25. Color photos.

Ideal for those new to plant-based cooking, vegans who feed meat-eaters, and vegetarians who crave traditional dishes, this book features more than 150 recipes (six alone for vegan bacon) and offers many answers to the question of how to veganize American classics, from deviled hamish salad and maple breakfast sausage to pulled jackfruit BBQ sandwiches and fish and chips with tartar sauce.

Robertson is a prolific vegan writer with three decades of experience and more than 20 cookbooks to her name.

The book includes recipes for pantry staples (such as easy vegan yogurt, cheddary sauce, crispy crumbles, fudgy chocolate sauce, and aquafaba meringue), paired with recipes for how to use them (seitan gyros with tzatziki sauce, loaded baked potatoes, meaty-cheesy pizza, chocolate-covered Elvis ice cream, and lemon meringue pie).

“Cook Lively! 100 Quick and Easy Plant-Based Recipes for High Energy, Glowing Skin, and Vibrant Living – Using 10 Ingredients or Less.” By Laura-Jane Koers. Da Capo Press. $24.99. Color photos.

With its cool-toned photos of raw-focused recipes, “Cook Lively!” makes the heat of summer vanish.

Add to that cooling recipes like 30-second blueberry dream sherbet and lemon ice box bars. I say “raw-focused” because many recipes offer a choice of baking or dehydrating and some also include cooked beans and grains. Everything is gluten-free.

Koers is a Canadian food stylist and photographer whose ingredient lists tend to be short and rooted in raw cuisine. For instance, she smashes her avocado on cauliflower toast and makes “traditional spaghetti & sauce” from spiralized zucchini and raw tomato sauce.

The recipes include mains such as beet sliders, home-style fish sticks and cheesy burrito bowls, but the bulk lean toward breakfast and lunch, such as fluffy baked pancakes, holy crunch cereal, sweet cucumber salad and lentil corn chowder.

“Cook Lively!” includes recipes for a selection of pantry staples and a sprouting guide for lentils and grains.

“The Blossom Cookbook: Classic Favorites from the Restaurant That Pioneered a New Vegan Cuisine.” By Ronen Seri and Pamela Elizabeth. Avery. $30. Color photos.

Straight from the kitchens of the popular vegan restaurant’s multiple Manhattan locations, this book shares menu secrets alongside classic fine-dining, plant-based dishes.

It includes many of Blossom’s beloved menu items such as black-eyed pea cakes, tofu BLTs, seitan piccata, and fettuccine with alfredo cashew cream.

Like many restaurant cookbooks, it does include a few recipes with numerous steps and lengthy ingredient lists (autumn tower; trumpet mushroom scallops) but most of the recipes are more manageable.

The recipes include many staples of vegan cuisine (tofu scramble, hummus, Brussels sprouts) paired with veganized versions of traditionally animal-based dishes (grilled cheese, deviled eggs, calamari).

Indulgence is a driving force, so vegan butter and frying play a regular role.

A short dessert list includes German chocolate cake and peach cobbler.

“Smith & Daughters: A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan).” By Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse. Hardie Grant Publishing. $35. Color photos.

There’s so much buzz about the Australian restaurant Smith & Daughters that it can be heard on this side of the globe. Now the Melbourne hotspot has released a cookbook filled with its signature vegan dishes.

In the introduction (in all caps, no less), the authors declare “THIS IS NOT HEALTH FOOD,” because as in most restaurant cookbooks (see “The Blossom Cookbook” above), deep frying remains a favorite preparation technique and vegan butter a favorite ingredient.

With lots of influence from Spain, Mexico and South America, the book serves up recipes such as Brekkie burrito (“one of the all-time, most-coveted and favourite items on our menus”), chargrilled corn with chipotle crema and cheese dust, Brazilian slaw, jackfruit carnitas, Chilean shepherd’s pie, and paella.

“Smith & Daughters” offers only a handful of desserts – warm Spanish doughnuts, spiced Mexican flan – but a bounty of drinks, including smoothies and a long list of cocktails.

“Frugal Vegan: Affordable, Easy & Delicious Vegan Cooking.” By Katie Koteen & Kate Kasbee. Page Street Publishing Co. $21.99. Color photos.

Leaving aside gourmet ingredients and restaurant-level preparations, this cookbook uses basic plant-based foods available in average grocery stores to whip up simple, inspired dishes.

From the photographer and the recipe developer at the website Well Vegan, the book counsels bulk buying, coupon hunting, online shopping, batch cooking and seasonal buying for the best deals.

It features lots of budget-friendly pasta dishes, meal bowls and soups, including spaghetti with lentil meatballs; Thai peanut noodles; crispy Buffalo tofu bowl; warm fall harvest bowl; and miso greens soup.

A breakfast chapter offers sweet potato breakfast boats, pineapple scones, and pancakes with roasted bananas.

Sweets such as mini key lime pies, chocolate coconut cream puffs, and frozen chocolate banana swirl close the book.

“Guilt-Free Nice Cream: Over 70 Amazing Dairy-Free Ice Creams.” By Margie Broadhead. Hardie Grant Books. $19.99. Color photos.

Cool off with a whole book devoted to frozen bananas.

Written by the founder of the U.K.-based brand Nana Nice Cream, this cookbook (freezerbook?) keeps the prized plant-based recipe it sells “a heavily guarded secret” while sharing a plethora of other flavorful ways to prepare and serve blended frozen bananas (known as “nice cream” in the veg world).

The decadent recipes – Cherry Pops with Double Chocolate and Vanilla Magic Shell; Mango, Berry and Lime Nice-Cream Slice; and Pretty in Pink Popsicles with Edible Flowers – beg to be eaten when it’s hot out.

Now this cookbook isn’t strictly vegan – with a few recipes calling for optional honey and a few others eggs (I’m looking at you, waffles and gingerbread cookies) – but the majority of the recipes are plant-based (and experienced vegans will know how to sub out an egg).

In the heat of summer, these helpful techniques, ice cream insights and frozen banana ideas will be valued in any veg-friendly kitchen.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0, 15 Aug 2017 17:22:02 +0000
Dismissing ‘oakiness’ out of hand outs you as a wine novice Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 People seem to hate oak. OK, maybe not everyone, but most people I talk to about wine these days. Often enough, someone looking to buy wine will tell me that they will try anything but “oaky” wine, and when I recommend a bottle, one of the first questions people ask me, anxiously, is “Is it oaky?” Almost no other style of wine seems more universally deplored today than over-oaked wine – with the possible exception of sweet wines. And it’s no wonder. At its worst, a heavily oaked wine, especially when the oak is new and toasted, is like a sloppy makeup job or a botched plastic surgery: The effort to manipulate is so obvious that it becomes distasteful.

But using oak in winemaking should be primarily about enhancement, much like a beautifully done makeover. A good makeup artist knows the line between enhancing a client’s beauty and covering it up entirely. A good winemaker knows the line between enhancing her wine with oak and covering up the wine’s inherent beauty. The former is seductive, the latter borders on grotesque.

Do people really hate wines that have seen oak? I doubt it. To begin with, there is a spectrum of oak usage in winemaking and some of it is employed well. If you’re going to be selective about oak, it’s helpful to understand that spectrum so you can zero in on some helpful particulars. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself and whomever you buy wine from to ensure you’re being tastefully choosy – not ignorantly biased – about how much oak your wine has seen.

What kind of oak is this wine aged in? Wine is aged, mainly, in two types of wood. American oak imparts flavors of coconut and, sometimes, dill. French oak lends vanilla and baking spice flavors. You can decide which flavors you prefer and choose a wine based on the kind of barrel used.

 How new or used was the oak? If a barrel is brand-spanking-new it will, obviously, impart more oak flavors and aromatics to the wine it contains. Used barrels, usually after two or three uses, will cease to give off obvious oak aromatics. Do you want wine that tastes a lot like wood or not so much? The age of the oak matters.

 How long was the wine aged in oak? Obviously, the longer a wine is in contact with wood, assuming it’s new wood, the more it will taste like wood. Duration matters.

 How big was the wine barrel? As an example, smaller barrels, or barriques, impart much stronger oak aromatics than larger barrels, foudres. More surface area of the wine in a small barrel is in contact with the barrel than in a large one – which means large-barrel wines will absorb less oak than small-barrel wines. Size matters.

Putting these variables together means if you’ve got some chardonnay (aromatically neutral), and you house it in brand-new, oak barrels for 18 months, you’ll end up with a wine that tastes like warm baking spices and apples, or tropical fruits. On the other hand, if you have chardonnay that sees 12 months in thrice-used, American oak barrels, you’ll have a wine that tastes like tart apples, and citrus with hints of coconut. These are broad generalizations, of course; nonetheless, these questions will help you fine-tune your understanding of just how oaked you like your wines. When you know that, you’ll be better able to describe the kinds of wines you like to your local wine shop or sommelier. Perhaps even more importantly, you’ll avoid the most obvious indication of being a wine novice: the rejection of an entire class of wine simply because, once, you had a bad experience of one.

Now let’s put these ideas into practice, always a pleasant part of learning about wine. Here are two wines to try that illustrate these principles. One wine aged for an extended period in new American oak is Lopez de Heredia’s Vina Gravonia, distributed here by Mariner Beverage. The wine, made from an indigenous Spanish varietal called Viura, is quite aromatic with a plentiful bouquet of coconut. It’s a strange creature to be sure and not for everyone, but it is an exemplar of American oak barrel-aged wine.

The Flowers Chardonnay is a personal favorite. It’s aged in a combination of new and 1- to 2-year-old French barrels. The baking spices and apple aromatics are clear and obvious, but not overdone and sloppy. Pine State Beverage distributes the Flowers Chardonnay, and it’s sold, at least the last time I checked, at Whole Foods.

Bryan Flewelling is the wine director for Big Tree Hospitality, which owns three restaurants in Portland: Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honey Paw.

]]> 0, 15 Aug 2017 18:13:53 +0000
Mix cheesy eggs and ripe avocado for a yummy breakfast taco Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Long before I knew that the origin of breakfast tacos were a hotly debated topic, I was eating them and loving them. I had my first breakfast taco many years ago in Houston and have enjoyed many more in Austin, Texas. But, I am not about to give birthright credit to any particular city in because I am fairly certain that Mexican immigrants all grew up with their mother’s version of “breakfast tacos.”

The beauty of the tortilla is that it makes normal fork and knife foods like scrambled eggs (and pork barbecue, steak, fish, etc.), portable. And, regardless of where you had your first breakfast taco, if you are like me, you crave them and must make them yourself at home.

I am a “no beans and no rice” kind of girl and prefer my breakfast tacos like my favorite egg sandwich but rolled, or folded over in a flour tortilla. To me, the essential ingredients must be cheesy eggs, a dash of hot sauce and cool slices of ripe avocado. I love bacon and prefer to serve it on the side where it stays crisp – but feel free to add it into the eggs. Not many places add slices of avocado unless you ask for it, but for me, the avocado is what makes it a Tex-Mex breakfast taco instead of just eggs in a tortilla.

When I have tomatoes and white onions on hand, I add those to my cheesy eggs and I am one happy girl. I like breakfast tacos so much that I have been known to have them for lunch and or dinner as well.

The truth is that you can put any of your favorite cheese and egg add-ins in your breakfast taco. In Texas, the potato, egg and cheese combo reigns king as does the classic eggs and bacon. If you are a fan of chorizo, chorizo and crispy potatoes make a perfect match especially with some blistered poblano peppers thrown in for good measure.


Servings: 8

8 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and cooked, or serve whole slices on the side

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

8 (6-inch) flour tortillas, warmed on a griddle

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 small white onion, diced

1 medium tomato, diced

8 large eggs

1 cup white cheddar or Monterey Jack with jalapenos, shredded

1 avocado, thinly sliced for serving

Hot sauce

Cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain (do not pour off fat from skillet).

Using a large non-stick skillet, add 2 tablespoons of butter and onions to skillet and cook, stirring often, until translucent and tender, 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove skillet from heat.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a large bowl to blend; add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the nonstick skillet over medium heat and let melt. Pour eggs in evenly over the tomatoes and onions. Cook eggs, stirring occasionally to mix in onions and tomatoes, and scraping bottom of skillet with a heatproof spatula or fork to form large curds, about 1-2 minutes. Add cheese and stir to mix in and finish cooking. Do not increase the heat to cook everything faster or the eggs may burn.

Remove eggs from heat and mix in bacon or serve on the side.

Fill tortillas with cheesy egg mixture and top with avocado. Serve with hot sauce.

]]> 0, 15 Aug 2017 17:29:16 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Savor homestyle Somali cuisine at Mini Mogadishu Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Until I visited Portland’s Mini Mogadishu last month, I had never eaten at a restaurant with a throne. I’ve dined alongside a cross-sectioned yellow school bus, behind bars in a jail cell and on an opera balcony overlooking a life-sized model of a flying saucer – but those were all novelty interiors with no purpose other than to dazzle customers. Mini Mogadishu’s baroque wooden throne is a functional piece of décor, not just a wacky conversation starter.

“It’s from a wedding we had recently. The bride gets to sit up there,” said our server, dressed in track pants and loose-fitting sandals that plipped and plopped each time he shuffled in sleepily from the kitchen. “We do so many parties and weddings. I don’t know if it’s going to stay, but maybe.” He shrugged, then deposited our drinks on the table: cool, freshly pressed watermelon juice ($3); mango juice ($4) so thick with puréed fruit that it could have qualified as a smoothie; and a clear glass of hot, cavity-inducingly sweet Somali tea ($1), spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.

As my friends and I sipped our drinks and decided what to order, it was hard to stay focused on the menu. Our gaze kept moving up from the plastic-covered white tablecloth, past the matching ruched chair covers, to the dozens of colorful tapestries pinned overhead to divide the space and soften the glare from fluorescent lights. Suspended next to garish paper lanterns and fans, they transformed the ceiling into an upside-down, Technicolor stage set straight out of an Annette Funicello movie. Very festive.

According to Abdisalam Yousuf, one of the cooks and son of chef/co-owner Nimo Saeed, the restaurant’s evolution into a site for celebration happened naturally. “It really wasn’t planned that way. When we got the space, we realized that it was really large, bigger than we thought. My mom and her friend (chef/co-owner Halimo Mohamud) have been part of the Somali community here for 16 or 17 years, and people just started asking them if they could hold events here. We’ve done weddings, gatherings, even a city council event,” he said. “But the food is home-style cooking. It’s the kind of lunch or dinner you would get at a Somali person’s house.”

If you have never eaten Somali food before, it is, like many cuisines today, a bit of a melting pot. There are components like tender brown lentils and flat, crepe-like bread (aanjeera) that will remind you of foodways from Eritrea and Ethiopia, neighboring Horn of Africa countries. Others, like blistery, charred japaati and basmati rice will bring to mind Indian and Pakistani cooking. And for an extra twist, Somali cuisine has found a way to embrace its less-than-sanguine colonial past through tomato sauces and pasta.

At the same time, Somali cooking possesses its own unmistakable identity, building flavors through slow simmering and flamboyant use of spice blends called xawaash that derive most of their punch from cardamom, turmeric, coriander and cinnamon.

Order any of the meals that include beef suqaar ($13 a la carte, or $25/$45 as part of the shared plate for two or four people), and you’ll get a perfect encapsulation of Saeed and Mohamud’s take on Somali home cooking. Here, steak is cubed, then stewed with onions and umami-intensifying Maggi, before being fried off in vegetable oil, finished in the oven and served with thin spaghetti and/or basmati rice done in an onion-and-clove scented, pilaf-style. The result is beef with a bright, floral complexity of aromas and tastes. I couldn’t stop eating it, even though the meat was a bit overdone.

Chicken thighs prepared the same way ($12 a la carte) were even better (if similarly overcooked). I have this dish to thank for one of my new favorite bites: strands of thin spaghetti, slick with chicken fat and vibrating like guitar strings from ripples of green cardamom, cumin and sautéed onion.

Both dishes, as well as the shared plates, come with a tiny steel bowl of green chili sauce, a puree of jalapeño, garlic, salt, cucumber and lime. It wields sharp, glass-like points of fire, but these are brighter and cool down quicker than the dark red intensity of Eritrean and Ethiopian berbere.

On the slow-roasted, cilantro-marinated lamb shank ($15 a la carte), a dab or two of the jalapeño sauce adds a sparkling layer of acid and spice to the tender meat. As an ingredient in the Somali chili ($15 as part of the Somali aanjeera platter), it underlines and italicizes the sweetness of stewed tomatoes.

A shared plate for two with rice, pasta, hilib (lamb), chicken and beef suqaar. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Both the Somali chili and its companion dishes – a garlicky, mineral sauteed spinach and brown lentils simmered all day in a housemade vegetable stock – are best when scooped up by hand in a torn strip of aanjeera, a golden brown-surfaced soft pancake that is the third cousin to Ethiopian injera. By creating structure with fermented oat flour in place of teff, Somali aanjeera gives up some of its relative’s sponginess in exchange for a darker color and sweeter, nuttier flavor.

“We eat it as a snack. Or for breakfast,” our server said, gesturing to the basket of aanjeera, then pointing at my glass, “With tea sometimes.” I could see why immediately. It had the toasty, indulgently carb-y appeal of simple comfort food.

At the same time, each round of aanjeera on our table displayed a subtle flash of elegance: a perfect, pale spiral puff where the batter was ladled, then expertly coaxed from the center to the perimeter of a hot griddle. Modest, yet special – the kind of dish equally suited to nibbling during an ordinary morning at the kitchen table, or at a fancy banquet, seated on an ornate throne.

Correction: This story was updated at 5:15 p.m. on August 17, 2017 to correct the restaurant’s hours of service.

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and in New York, where he co-founded NYCnosh, a food website. He and his work have been featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio and in The New York Times. He is an Internet researcher and higher education consultant. Contact him at:

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

]]> 0 photos by Brianna Soukup Annie Baron pours a cup of tea as she and Stephen Piwowarski get ready to eat their aanjeera, a golden, soft pancake served with chili, spinach and brown lentils.Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:16:50 +0000
Making pasta’s the new focus for Roxanne Quimby Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 GOULDSBORO — About five years ago, Roxanne Quimby looked around Raven’s Nest Farm, the 25-acre place she has owned in Gouldsboro since 2002. She wanted to participate in the local food movement ramping up around Maine. She had eggs. She had kale.

These are hardly unique items on Maine farms. Quimby, however, had a few other, more ephemeral things. Thanks to having sold Burt’s Bees (estimates are at more than $300 million for the personal care products line), she had the time and money to travel to Italy to study pasta making, an excellent way to add value to farm products like eggs and kale.

Quimby also had the desire to help build the local economy in this summer place she’d come to love, a peninsula just Down East from Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park where jobs are scarce even in the summer, and particularly in the winter when nearly everyone clears out but the lobstermen. Maybe she could add a few.

Roxanne Quimby

“That was a big part of it,” she said on a recent July afternoon in the commercial kitchen of My Pasta Art, the company she’s positioning for a growth spurt.

In the background, one of the three pasta machines (big, bigger, biggest) she imported from Italy emitted a steady whine along with squiggles of beet-colored pasta formed in a shape called campanelle.

“Isn’t that pretty?” Quimby asks, pointing out the frills on the side of the almost lilac-colored pasta as her pasta maker, Kelli Grover, caught the finished pieces on a drying tray. “To me it looks like a little Cinderella skirt.”

When she started this pasta business, it was a farm stand, farmers market kind of venture, fresh pasta only. These days she’s expanded from just “short cuts” (like tubular pastas) to “long cuts” (long skinny pastas like bucatini), and she’s selling dry as well. She’s talking about the company maintaining its local feel, but expanding into a brand that would be recognizable throughout the Northeast. “Mid-Atlantic to Maine,” she said. “That would be a nice little local market for us.”

My Pasta Art will be represented at four trade shows this year alone, and the wholesale orders that come from those trade shows make up the bulk of the company’s sales. But Quimby also sells to local restaurants and a few retail outlets, like John Edwards Market in Ellsworth and Tiller & Rye in Brewer. Even as she says “mid-Atlantic,” one gets the sense that she could easily move that line south, or west. Really, once you get to Maryland, why not push through to Virginia, or the Carolinas?

In person, Roxanne Quimby gives the impression of being both resolutely practical and, incongruously, almost dreamy. As if her gears whir as steadily as those pasta machines, turning out ideas as fast as pretty pasta.

Because the third reason for this pasta business – and the five or six other Gouldsboro-based enterprises she’s working on – is that Roxanne Quimby cannot stop making and selling things: ideas, places, pasta.

“In a lot of ways, the size of the business isn’t what she is after,” said her son Lucas St. Clair. “It is this transaction. She loves making something and having someone else like it enough to want to spend money on it, whether it is a dollar or a million dollars.”

Kelli Grover checks the cut on an Italgi pasta machine while making fresh Gigli pasta at Raven’s Nest Farm in Goulsdboro. Staff photo by Derek Davis


You’ll notice there’s no recent photo of Quimby accompanying this story. Quimby is no J.D. Salinger, hiding out in a remote New England town. But when she had St. Clair take over the role of family spokesman and advocate in the effort to turn the family’s massive land holdings in Maine’s North Woods into what is now the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, she decided to stay out of the limelight – and while she was at it, the camera’s gaze, as well.

Often, this can be handy. Once she was sitting at the Bangor airport, waiting for a flight, listening to the people next to her talking about “Roxanne Quimby.” She said they were describing her alleged intentions to shut down hunting and keep all the locals out of the woods they’d always considered theirs. They clearly thought she was awful. She thought about turning to them and announcing, “Hey, I’m right here!” Instead she kept quiet in her seat. She shook her head and smiled over the memory.

Gouldsboro doesn’t offer much anonymity, given the population (1,737 in the 2010 census), but as St. Clair puts it, “if she needs her space, she can get it.”

But she likes talking to people. About a minute after she sat down to lunch at Corea Wharf Gallery & Grill, owner Joe Young strolled by with a topic he wanted to discuss. What if the Island Explorer that ferries people around Acadia, including the new campground on the Schoodic Peninsula, could make a run down to Corea? It goes as far as Prospect Harbor already, he reasoned. Would she be willing to help him lobby for that? It would help his business – which Down East magazine named the best lobster shack in Maine in 2016 – and it would also reduce the number of cars on the road, he said.

Quimby listened and nodded and seemed unfazed by being pitched an idea over lunch. Young felt comfortable pitching her; it could be good for her as well. Ultimately, when Quimby gets the campground she bought in the fall of 2016 – Ocean Woods Campground, a beloved institution that closed and that many feared would be developed for homes – up and running again, campers could hop the bus down to the wharf.

Plus, the millionaire next door is not only approachable, he trusts her opinion.

“Obviously, she knows her way around business,” Young said.

Quimby particularly likes talking to people at markets. One of the formative experiences that shaped her as a businesswoman was selling hot dogs on Revere Beach in Massachusetts when she was a child, making change for her grandmother.

“Baba was like her favorite person in the whole world,” St. Clair said. “And she learned so much about being a merchant from her. And that, in a lot of ways, set her on this course.” It’s what makes her drive down to Belfast to the Saturday market in the new United Farmers Market of Maine and sit behind a booth, hand-selling her pasta.

“That is the merchant in her,” St. Clair said. “She wants to see what people’s reaction to say, a pasta with poppy seeds in it is.” This back-and-forth with customers, and really, Quimby’s constant curiosity, is a large part of what made Burt’s Bees – now owned by The Clorox Co. – so successful.


Pasta isn’t the only thing Quimby is cooking up in Gouldsboro. She’s been quietly working at ways to bring tourists into the area, which she calls so beautiful it’s almost “outrageous.” She considers it underappreciated by the public.

“People just don’t get past Ellsworth,” she said.

There’s the campground, a 113-acre property that operated as a campground until 2009, when it went into foreclosure. It features beachfront and has many loyal fans who followed the saga of its closure, possible sale on the auction block and then rescue from development by Quimby. She paid an undisclosed amount in a bank sale, right before a scheduled auction. The campground is being restored and should be open next year.

Quimby also owns a number of homes around the Gouldsboro area that she’s restored and is renting out on Airbnb. “I think we have nine of them now,” she said. Part of the reason the Schoodic Peninsula hasn’t seen many tourists is that it lacks places for them to stay. The new 93-site campground that is part of Acadia is changing that, and so are Quimby’s “restoration projects.”

“We have 260 nights sold in July and August,” she said. “The whole town, you can see, has picked up.”

She even took part in a beautification project involving buying two properties with some serious Beans-of-Egypt-Maine style trailers on them and turning the land they were on into a meadow.

But she’s not looking to turn her summer community into the next Bar Harbor.

“I am hoping that we can have a little controlled growth,” she said. “This place is so down and out in the winter.”

Grover checks the cut of gigli pasta that has come out of an Italgi pasta machine. This batch included beet juice. Staff photo by Derek Davis


Quimby makes chocolates as well, truffles that the chef at Saltbox in Winter Harbor serves as a trio with port. (Saltbox has another Quimby connection; she persuaded chef Mike Poirier to move from a tiny location in Hancock into the former site of the restaurant St. Clair ran there in the early aughts, Mama’s Boy Bistro). Chocolate-making is tricky, though, so that’s unlikely to turn into major venture. “It is very precise work.”

Pasta, though, pasta has a simplicity she admires. When she traveled to Carasco, the town near Genoa where the company that makes her machines is based, she was surprised to learn how easy it was.

“In the first half hour of class they told us what kind of flour to use, what machine to use and what the formula was of flour to liquid,” she said, sounding slightly disappointed at the lack of a challenge. “And I realized, that is all you need to know.”

With the local food movement fomenting back home in Maine, she thought about how strange it was that Americans almost entirely eat pasta made in Italy, that travels long distances. “It just seemed like, ‘We could do that.’ ”

She found a good source of semolina flour in the Great Plains, and the rest of the ingredients she could produce in Gouldsboro. Originally, she planned to make only fresh pasta. She’d encountered enough people who had given up on making fresh pasta at home – because, well, the work, the mess, the uneven results – to believe there would be a demand for it.

The dry pasta (which for My Pasta Art is her fresh pasta carefully dried and packed to travel) seemed like a logical next move. Now she’s considering adding ravioli to the line. But the notion that it stay “local” is important to her: Maine jobs, mostly Maine ingredients and Maine-made.

Of course, the woman who made a fortune off beeswax may not have a normal sense of what a “nice little” business is. Lucas St. Clair says he has learned to not make predictions about his mother’s next move, but he suspects his mother’s pasta company will go bigger than she expects.

“Only because she is unbelievably fearless,” he said.

Case in point, the name My Pasta Art. Quimby’s pasta has a beautiful website by that name, and that’s the name on the packages, but standing at the worktable in the commercial kitchen that once was a falling-down shed, she studies the purees of vegetables and the containers of eggs, and says that this particular name might not stick, even several years in.

“It is sort of the working name right now,” she said.

Conventional wisdom would be that consistent branding is a key part of business. St. Clair said he’d be terrified to change the name of a business he was running. But not his mother. “She doesn’t think twice about it,” he said. Burt’s Bees made dog biscuits and fruitcakes and sold seeds at various points, he said; his mother was experimenting.

Musing about the name, Quimby sounds almost like someone debating what color couch to buy for her living room, She’s no dilettante, though. For her, the bottom line remains essential in her new venture even if some might argue that for one of the most successful business people in Maine’s history, it doesn’t have to be. When St. Clair was running Mama’s Boy Bistro she was unimpressed with how little money he was making. “She would say, ‘Your profit margins are terrible,’ ” he remembered, laughing. “And I would say, ‘I am actually doing pretty good for a restaurant.’ ”

“It took me awhile to figure out what Burt’s Bees’ name was going to be,” Quimby said. “It took awhile to evolve into a storyline that differentiated the product from everything else out there.”

This story then, the story of the Maine-made pasta, is still being written.

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0 Grover, above, works as a pasta maker for Roxanne Quimby, left, wrapping bucatini pasta into nests as it comes out of an Itagli pasta machine at Raven's Nest Farm in Goulsdboro. After selling Burt's Bees, Quimby studied the art of pasta making in Italy.Sat, 12 Aug 2017 22:07:16 +0000
From Israel, an ‘ultra-kosher’ single malt whiskey Sat, 12 Aug 2017 01:44:59 +0000 TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel has been known as the land of milk and honey since Biblical times – but the land of single malt whiskey? One appropriately named distillery is trying to turn Israel into a whiskey powerhouse.

Smooth, honey-brown whiskey is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Israel. However, at the Milk & Honey Distillery, rows of casks proudly stamped “Tel Aviv” hold liters of the stuff.

The country’s first whiskey distillery is preparing to release Israel’s first single malt whiskey.

“It’s a young whiskey,” said Eitan Attir, the distillery’s CEO.

Attir says the brew is aged for three years and two months in virgin oak and old bourbon barrels at the company’s renovated former bakery in a rugged industrial area of south Tel Aviv.

“It’s complex for its age,” he said. “The taste feels like more than three years, more like seven or eight and again the story is much more important in this case. This is the first ever single malt whiskey that any distillery has released from Israel.”

Although wine has been produced in the Holy Land for millennia, and modern Israeli wines have gained international renown in recent years, whiskey production is new to the country.

Milk & Honey was founded in 2013 and began distilling small experimental batches of whiskey a year later. One hundred bottles from their first cask of single malt were set to be sold at an online auction starting Friday.

Whiskey is universally acceptable for religious Jews to consume, Attir says, and Milk & Honey’s drink is “ultra-kosher.”

“We don’t work on Saturday, we don’t work on Yom Kippur or Passover,” he said. “And we want to symbolize our being Jewish or Israeli and then we called it the Milk & Honey Distillery.”

The single malt was made in Israel from start to finish, according to the company’s website, though the ingredients, barrels and equipment were imported from the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere.

The warmer climate in Israel allows for a speedier aging process in the barrel than whiskey made in colder climates, according to Ran Latovicz, an Israeli whiskey connoisseur and bar owner.

“In colder climates like Scotland or Ireland, whiskey usually ages for about seven to 10 to 12 years before it’s even bottled because (it is) just the way, you know, it gets to its full potential,” he said.

The distillery believes it is well-positioned to ride a wave of growing international interest in new world whiskeys, like rising stars from Taiwan or India, and hopes this initial offering whets the appetites of aficionados everywhere.

“There’s a huge demand nowadays for whiskey from other places around the world – new world whiskey. There’s more than 70 countries now with a minimum of one distillery and one of them is Israel,” Attir said.

Gal Kalkshtein, Milk & Honey’s founder and owner, said he hopes that once the whiskey starts getting shipped abroad in 2019, it will create a buzz for Israeli whiskeys.

“We want to be recognized for our quality, not the gimmick,” he said.

]]> 0 barrels are seen at the Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv, Israel.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 21:56:10 +0000
Trattoria Fanny in Portland closes, a victim of timing and location Wed, 09 Aug 2017 21:09:39 +0000 Trattoria Fanny, a casual Italian restaurant at 3 Deering Ave. in Portland, has closed.

Chef/owner David Levi, who also owns Vinland on Congress Street, announced the closure on the restaurant’s Facebook page Wednesday afternoon: “Friends, we will miss serving you. … For a brief moment, we had something beautiful here. We will miss it dearly.”

Trattoria Fanny opened a year ago as Rossobianco, but closed in November so owner David Levi could make changes in its format, staff and menu. It re-opened in February as Trattoria Fanny. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Trattoria Fanny had somewhat rocky beginnings. It opened a year ago as Rossobianco, but closed in November so Levi could make changes in the format, staff and menu. It re-opened in February as Trattoria Fanny.

The restaurant was named after Levi’s grandmother, Fanny Levi, who was born in Milan in 1908. It served traditional Italian food at affordable prices. Dinner entrees all cost under $20.

“It’s not food as art, or food as idea,” Levi told the Maine Sunday Telegram’s restaurant critic in May. “It’s food as food, and food as culture. A trattoria is supposed to be a place with no pretension, no frills, like an Italian version of a diner.”

Reached by phone Wednesday at Vinland, Levi said he got “fantastic feedback” on the food, and called the restaurant’s natural wines program “exciting.” But Trattoria Fanny couldn’t overcome issues of timing and location.

“At the end of the day we were a very small, very bootstrap operation, and we had a hard time getting the word out,” Levi said. “I think a lot of people just didn’t know that we were there. There are a lot of options in town, and there’s not a whole lot of foot traffic over there.”

Levi said he still thinks the Bramhall neighborhood is a promising one for restaurants, but he got there a little too early.

“It was starting to happen,” he said. “It just didn’t happen fast enough.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, ME - MAY 24: Trattoria Fanny in Portland Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Thu, 10 Aug 2017 10:12:04 +0000
Oprah-branded soups, side dishes to hit supermarkets Wed, 09 Aug 2017 18:14:54 +0000 NEW YORK — Oprah Winfrey is headed to the supermarket aisle with her own line of refrigerated soups and side dishes.

The media mogul teamed up with food giant Kraft Heinz to launch the line after creating a joint venture earlier this year.

The new brand, called O, That’s Good!, will offer comfort foods with added vegetables, such as mashed potatoes with cauliflower mixed in. A broccoli cheddar soup has butternut squash to replace some cheese.

Some of the side dishes under the O That’s Good brand.

“This product line is real, delicious food with a twist,” Winfrey said in a statement Wednesday.

Kraft Heinz Co. said the new brand has no connection to Winfrey’s deal with Weight Watchers and won’t mention the weight loss program on its packaging. Winfrey bought a 10 percent stake in Weight Watchers two years ago and appears in its ads.

The Oprah-branded soups and side dishes, priced below $5 each, will come to some supermarkets this week and be available nationwide by October.

]]> 0, 09 Aug 2017 23:17:12 +0000
Pop-Up Challah Shop pops up on Fridays Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:45 +0000 Daniel Heinrich has worked at Lumiere restaurant in Boston. He’s been the bread baker at Tiqa, a Mediterranean restaurant in Portland, and has cooked at EVO and Petite Jacqueline.

Now he’s the administrative coordinator at Temple Beth-El, but he has not left his food skills behind. Heinrich has created a Friday “Pop-Up Challah Shop” at the Portland synagogue, where he makes 20 pounds of kosher challah every week. Proceeds support the synagogue’s programs.

Here’s how it works:

The ordering deadline is end of day Thursday. You can place orders by email, phone or Facebook. Email or call (207) 774-2649 ext. 201 and leave a voice mail.

 Customers who are not members of the synagogue must pay upfront. A 1-pound loaf costs $3, and a 2-pound loaf costs $5.

 Pickup is between 1 and 3 p.m. Fridays at the Temple, 400 Deering Ave. (entrance on Wadsworth Street). Loaves can also be picked up at 5:30 p.m. at the start of services.

 The Pop-Up Challah Shop will also be at the grand opening of the Jewish Community Alliance at 1342 Congress St. from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 10, where Heinrich plans to sell peanut butter-and-jelly and Nutella-banana sandwiches on challah rolls.

]]> 0, 09 Aug 2017 07:05:10 +0000
Short glossary of Jewish food Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:45 +0000 APPETIZING PLATTER — A platter filled with toppings for bagels, such as whitefish salad, smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes, sliced onions, dill and capers.

BABKA — A sweet yeast cake usually filled with chocolate or cinnamon.

BIALY — Round, flat, chewy rolls with a depression in the middle that is traditionally filled with onions or poppy seeds.

CHALLAH — Rich braided egg bread made for the Sabbath or holiday meals.

GRIBENES — Chicken cracklings produced from rendering chicken fat, aka schmaltz, with caramelized onions.

HAMANTASCHEN — A triangle-shaped pastry eaten at the Jewish holiday of Purim; common fillings include prunes, cherries and poppy seeds. It’s said, among other stories, to resemble Haman’s hat; in the biblical story of Esther, the evil Haman plotted to kill all the Jews.

KNISH — Hearty, savory pastry snacks with assorted fillings, such as potatoes, onions, kasha and meat.

LATKE — Fried potato pancakes eaten at Hanukkah and served with applesauce and sour cream.

RUGELACH — Flaky crescent-shaped cookies most often filled with cinnamon, raisin and walnuts.

]]> 0 Tue, 08 Aug 2017 19:25:23 +0000
Jewish cooking and baking classes Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:04 +0000 WHEN THE Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine surveyed its members to find out what kind of programs they wanted, cooking classes came out near the top. So the alliance will be holding a series of classes this year and next taught by Margaret Hathaway, a cookbook writer who raises goats at Ten Apple Farm. Hathaway is teaching classes on vegetarian Jewish cooking, Jewish baking, and baking challah. Everyone is welcome, though members pay less for the classes.

WHERE: Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine, 1342 Congress St., Portland

TO REGISTER AND FOR MORE INFO: Wait a week and then go to or call 772-1959. The information on the classes has not yet been posted online, but will be shortly.

— Meredith Goad

]]> 0 Tue, 08 Aug 2017 19:40:10 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: One sandwich to rule them all – the classic Maine lobster roll Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 It’s the height of lobster season, and if you’re lucky, you have leftover picked-out meat from a lobster feast. In my 2012 book, “Lobster!,” I suggest several ways to use it; the easiest and most direct is to make a sandwich. Here is the formula for a classic lobster salad roll, and the recipe for a deluxe lobster club, perhaps the most magnificent sandwich of them all.


This mayonnaise-based salad is the most common lobster roll filling. Note the absence of any additional seasonings, which lets the pure, sea-fresh taste of lobster meat shine through. New England-style top-split hot dog rolls are ideal for lobster rolls because the crustless sides can be butter-grilled to crispness, while the interior remains soft so that the lobster juices can soak into the roll. If top-split rolls aren’t available, use conventional hot dog rolls, grilling the crusty top and bottom, not the interior. Potato chips and coleslaw are the right sides. For 4 rolls, either buy picked-out meat or cook three (1½-pound) lobsters and remove the meat.

2 to 4 servings, depending on appetite

4 rolls

2 cups cooked lobster meat (about 12 ounces), cut into chunks no smaller than about ¾ inch

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/3 cup mayonnaise, plus more if necessary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 top-split frankfurter rolls

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Toss the lobster with the lemon juice in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and stir to combine, adding more if necessary to moisten the salad sufficiently, but do not overdress. Season with salt and pepper, going easy on the pepper. Refrigerate until ready to make the rolls.

Heat a cast-iron griddle or large heavy skillet over medium heat. Brush crustless sides of the rolls with melted butter and cook on the griddle, turning once, until both sides are golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.

Open rolls and spoon in the lobster salad, heaping it high. Serve immediately.


The original lobster club sandwich on brioche was created several years ago by a New York chef. It was a brilliant concept, which I have taken one step further with the addition of the saffron mayonnaise. If you’re not partial to this pungent spice, you can skip it, of course. The number of bread slices depends on the size of the loaf. Challah is often shaped into a long braid, so you may need to double up on the number of slices.

2 servings

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled

3 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus additional for spreading

1 cup chopped cooked lobster meat (5 ounces), from one (1½-pound) lobster

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 slices bacon

6 or more thin slices brioche or challah or other rich egg bread, lightly toasted

Several leaves of crisp lettuce, such as romaine

1 medium-large ripe tomato, sliced

Combine the vinegar and crumbled saffron in a small saucepan. Heat gently for 1 to 2 minutes, using the back of a spoon to help crush and dissolve the saffron. Whisk the saffron vinegar into the 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise. Toss the lobster meat with the saffron mayo, season with salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate. (Can be made up to 4 hours ahead.)

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Spread some mayonnaise on 1 side of each of the toasted bread slices. Layer on lettuce, then the lobster salad, and sandwich with a second slice of bread. Layer on tomato and bacon and top with a third slice of bread.

Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally, skewer with a toothpick to hold the layers together, and serve.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

]]> 0, 08 Aug 2017 18:20:50 +0000
Discovered at a Maine pig roast: The hot sauce dreams are made of Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Hot sauce is, hands down, the most complicated, sexiest, immersive, electrifying, suspenseful, powerful, intriguing and thoroughly satisfying condiment in the world. Personified, it would be the ultimate bon vivant, arm slung over your shoulder as you exit the bar at closing, full of enthusiastic suggestions about where to go next.

I would not call myself a hot sauce connoisseur, and I have zero interest in the Scoville scale or growing my own ghost peppers. What makes me happiest is the life-affirming, distinctive taste of an off-the-charts spicy, deeply flavorful hot sauce, and while I haven’t met one I’d refuse, a select few have taken their place high above the rest.

Each has been discovered in its own appropriately dramatic way – a steamy and volatile relationship with a man from Guadalajara when I was 20, a second-story Hokkien restaurant in Kuala Lumpur with my husband on our first trip to Asia, and finally an event I used to believe existed only in my daydreams: a pig roast.

Even just two and a half years ago, it would have been beyond my wildest imagination to find myself at a neighborhood pig roast – with its sense of community; chatter and music that lasted well past dark; and vibrant, messy, delicious dishes brought by people arriving from all directions. Recently, a close friend said to me about me and my husband, both transplants from New York: “You’re not neighbor people, are you?”

Enter Jill Duson’s Hot and Spicy Slather. I met Jill’s hot sauce before I met Jill. (Jill Duson, who, it happens, is a Portland city councilor.) I spotted the bottle among at least 20 gracing one of the picnic tables, and went for it on sheer, primitive instinct. I have many favorites about Jill’s concoction, but the first is that it is not, in fact a sauce; it is a slather. When it comes to food, slathering is always good. The second is that it isn’t too sweet, the most common – and valid – complaint about any hot sauce. But here’s where it starts to go from really good to mind-altering.

Jill’s slather starts at the back of your tongue. A surprise tanginess, almost like tamarind, lifts like a fog off the rich darkness of the base. And just like that, you’re in, fully committed to the journey. What follows is an intense, almost charred heat – a mix of jalapeño and habanero – that lingers just long enough, then a burst of flavor, like the lid being lifted suddenly from the pot, and there, in that moment, it all comes together. The gentle acidity of the cider vinegar, the dark molasses, tempered by the Worcestershire, the sweet onion, the comforting yellow mustard, the light-as-air tomato puree.

Jill’s slather achieves what few hot sauces do: balance. Light and powerful, familiar and unique, present but not overbearing, sophisticated but not fussy, easygoing but full of depth.

Jill Duson’s Hot and Spicy Slather – one of the luckier chance encounters I’ve had since moving to Portland. And the pig roast? Try to snag yourself an invitation. Too many tastes there to write about for just one Bite.

Anna Stoessinger lives in Maine with her husband, Keith, her son, Henry, and their dog, Bess. She is a writer who works in advertising. She can be contacted at or on Instagram: @astoessinger.

Jill Duson’s Hot and Spicy Slather – tangy, hot and not too sweet – achieves a balance not all manage to attain. Photo by Anna Stoessinger


Duson likes Mohlok Grub Rub and says the sauce is best if allowed to rest overnight before using it.


1/2 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, chopped

3-4 cloves whole garlic

1 medium whole jalapeño pepper

1 small whole habanero pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon of your favorite barbecue rub, or salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the vegetables in single layer on a small baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil, plus the rub or salt and pepper, and toss; roast for 30 minutes. Place in small smoothie container or a blender and purée.


1 cup tomato puree

1 cup ketchup

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons dark molasses

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 tablespoon your favorite barbecue rub or 1/8 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and stir in the vegetable puree. Gently simmer the mixture until it is dark and thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a glass container and refrigerate. When you’re ready to use it, smear generously on smoked or barbecued meat.

]]> 0 Duson's Hot and Spicy Slather – tangy, hot and not too sweet – achieves a balance not all manage to attain.Wed, 09 Aug 2017 16:56:11 +0000
Traditional Jewish deli food sees a revival in Portland Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 It was the day before Rose Foods’ official opening, and while the baker and chef at the new Jewish deli on Forest Avenue kept busy in the kitchen, owner Chad Conley worked with handymen on last-minute fixes. “Welcome to the neighborhood!” read the note on a bouquet of flowers in the window, sent by a local resident.

During a break in which Conley explained how he developed his bagel recipe, a man walked in and tried to order one of those bagels.

“We’re not actually open,” Conley told him, and the man apologized, saying how “psyched” he was to have a Jewish deli in the neighborhood. Similar scenarios repeated themselves several times over the next hour.

It was, perhaps, a symptom of a larger appetite in Greater Portland for traditional Jewish foods like the ones on Conley’s menu – smoked fish on bagels, mile-high pastrami on rye, matzo ball soup, latkes, herring plates, and appetizing platters.

Daniel Heinrich, who works at Temple Beth El in Portland and bakes challah weekly at the synagogue, said the idea of a New York-style deli feels “a little forced” in a small town like Portland, but “I have to say, anybody who makes their own chopped liver and gribenes is OK in my book.”

Conley isn’t the only food entrepreneur trying to fill this particular niche, although most are doing it in smaller ways. Union Bagel in Portland makes bialys on the weekends. Just a stone’s throw away, Atsuko Fujimoto bakes babka on Fridays at Ten Ten Pié. Out on Brighton Avenue, Elise Richer makes knishes at Tin Pan Bakery, and Audrey Farber is baking traditional Jewish breads at the Fork Food Lab. In North Yarmouth, the smoked fish topping on Krista Desjarlais’ Montreal-style bagels delights customers who used to live in New York.

These local interpretations of traditional Jewish foods are happening against a larger national backdrop: the revival of the Jewish deli. And this is a renaissance that you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy.

In Portland, probably the best known Jewish deli in recent memory was George’s, which was then followed by Full Belly Deli. When Full Belly Deli closed, then re-opened and closed again, lovers of a good Reuben, chicken soup, and brisket mourned the passing of a tradition – and of a good nosh.

Mainers’ appetite for Jewish food is surging just as more places where they can find it, like Rose Foods in Portland, appear on the scene. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Now it looks as if these food traditions may have new life.

Audrey Farber, founder of the one-woman Bubbe & Bestemor’s Baking Company, is baking Eastern European Jewish breads such as babka, challah, bialys and deli rye. She sells her breads at Rose Foods, Portland Food Co-op and Town Landing Market in Falmouth. Farber grew up in a large Jewish community in New Jersey before her family moved to Maine when she was 12. She says it’s hard to find these traditional breads in Maine made with the same kind of flavor and experience as those baked in a community with a strong Jewish identity.

“I wanted to do them in my own way,” she said, “the way I remember them being, and the way my parents remember them being.”

But occasionally she also gives them her own twist, filling babka with Maine ingredients like blueberries and rhubarb, for example.

Farber will expand her menu during the Jewish holidays, making rugelach for Hanukkah, a round challah with raisins for Rosh Hashanah, and hamantaschen for Purim.

At Tin Pan Bakery on Brighton Avenue, Elise Richer makes challah and an occasional batch of knishes filled with Maine potatoes. Richer’s father was Jewish, and she is raising her children Jewish. Richer has also baked hamantaschen, which she says only her Jewish customers recognized, and she plans to experiment with other knish fillings, such as buckwheat or broccoli and cheese.

“We definitely have some regulars who like our Jewish stuff,” Richer said, “but we definitely get some people in who say ‘nish.’ They don’t know that it’s ‘ka-nish.’ But they’re very intrigued. You put potato in something, most Mainers, their ears sort of perk up.”

The fresser pastrami on rye at Rose Foods with a can of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda. That’s right. Celery-flavored soda. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Toby Rosenberg, a food lover and longtime Portland resident who is a member of Congregation Bet Ha’am in South Portland, raves about Richer’s knishes, saying they are “as delicious as any knish I’ve had anywhere.”

“I love smoked fishes,” Rosenberg added, “but we don’t really have good smoked fishes here in Maine.”

In fact, Krista Desjarlais, owner of The Purple House in North Yarmouth, sells smoked salmon, gravlax and whitefish caviar as toppings for her Montreal-style bagels. Desjarlais grew up in Westport, Conn., outside of New York City, which has a large Jewish community and “great” Jewish delis.” She says when she first opened the small restaurant (closed until October), she served chopped liver and two types of herring, and whitefish was in the works. But those items didn’t sell well, and fans of her former Portland restaurant, Bresca, begged her for more of the creative style of food she’d served there. Her current menu still honors some Jewish traditions, food which has attracted “tons of regulars,” she says, mostly former residents of the New York/New Jersey area.

But Desjarlais predicts that Conley’s decision to go “all in” will pay off. “He’ll do gangbusters there,” she said.


The growing interest in traditional Jewish foods is happening elsewhere, too, Farber notes. Los Angeles, she said, “is a huge hub of modernist Jewish baking, really weird stuff like mac-and-cheese-stuffed challah.” In places like Atlanta, San Francisco and New York, young Jewish Americans are not only embracing but also updating the staples that graced their grandparents’ tables, opening modern delis where they put a 21st century twist on pickled herring and gefilte fish. Several culinary threads tie this renewed interest together.

“As these really cool ethnic foods start to become part of our culture, I’m not surprised that these Jewishly cultural foods, the Eastern European foods, are becoming popular too,” said Rabbi Carolyn Braun of Temple Beth El.

David Freidenreich, director of the Jewish Studies program at Colby College and associate director for the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, agrees, noting that there’s “a tremendous rise in ethnic foods across the board,” and that today’s consumer is simply “taking advantage of the richness of the ethnic options that are out there.”

The renewed interest also aligns with the rediscovery of traditional food production methods that are being used today by artisanal food entrepreneurs. Those methods, Freidenreich said, “were never really lost, they just went out of style.”

“The traditional Ashkenazi pickles and smoked fish, all of that seems to tie in nicely with the hipster foods,” said Margaret Hathaway, a goat farmer and food writer who will be teaching Jewish cooking and baking classes this coming year at the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine. “Everyone’s curing stuff and has crocks of fermented things.”

Hathaway, a transplant from Brooklyn, converted to Judaism when she married, and she is an active volunteer in the local Jewish community.

“But then also there’s that (Yotam) Ottolenghi-style, Sephardic-style Jewish food that’s so clean and herby and citrusy, that also seems to be all over Instagram,” she said. Ottolenghi is an Israeli-British chef whose cookbooks are a best-selling phenomenon; he is part owner of several delis in London.

The Monday Morning bagel sandwich at Rose Foods comes with chopped liver, egg, pickles and gribenes. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

As Portland grows and changes, people are moving here from New York and other large cities with communities that have strong Jewish identities who miss the old-fashioned Jewish delis and bakeries they left behind, Freidenreich said. Others miss the good Jewish-style foods that used to be available here.

Portland’s Jewish commmunity was once concentrated on the peninsula and home to lots of kosher markets and bakeries. Rosenberg, who moved to the city in 1975, remembers a string of markets and delis along Cumberland Avenue. That year, according to the Documenting Maine Jewry website, there were 3,500 Jewish residents in the city. By 2007, according to a Jewish Community Study sponsored by the Jewish Community Association, there were 8,350 Jewish people living in Cumberland and York counties, which represented 2.2 percent of the total population.

The Ocean Avenue building that now houses Tipo, an Italian restaurant, was once Pennywise, a Jewish market that was kosher in the back and non-kosher in the front. Susan’s Fish-n-Chips on Forest Avenue was a kosher bakery owned for 52 years by Rebecca Rice, the daughter of Russian immigrants.

“Sometimes I think Mrs. Rice would turn over in her grave at the fried clams going into the fryolater now,” Rosenberg said. (Shellfish is not kosher.)

Today, people who keep kosher in Maine don’t have nearly as many local resources, and Freidenreich doubts the days of plentiful neighborhood kosher markets will return anytime soon.

“Let’s face it, the vast majority of American Jews don’t care about kosher or not kosher,” he said. “The majority of American Jews don’t define Jewishness in terms of religion at all. Jewishness is primarily a matter of ancestry and culture, and food has always been central to what it means to live Jewishly.”

Rose Foods owner Chad Conley works during the breakfast rush on Thursday. Staff photo by Ben McCanna


Chad Conley, who also co-owns the Palace Diner in Biddeford, originally wanted to open a simple bagel shop in Portland. But as he planned the new business, he felt it needed a stronger identity to make it more interesting and fill a niche that was “clearly missing here.”

Conley used to live in New York, so he’s familiar with Jewish delis there, and his wife, Rachel, is Jewish. (Rose Foods is named after her great-grandmother. The Uncle Leo bagel sandwich on the menu, Conley coyly suggests, may or may not also be named after a real person.) Conley talked with owners of delis in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and New York to get advice on how to shape his business – including a retail side that sells Jewish cookbooks and a few groceries. He also visited a Toronto bagel shop, Schmaltz Appetizing, “that I really fell in love with,” basing his chopped liver and gribenes sandwich on theirs. “I wanted to have a place that served that sandwich,” he said, laughing.

There were a few other menu items Conley considered absolutely essential, if he were to call his place a Jewish deli: Matzo ball soup, for one, and a huge pastrami sandwich on rye. He’s making his own whitefish salad from scratch.

One of Conley’s biggest hurdles has been sourcing ingredients. His caviar comes from Browne Trading Co. here in Portland, but other items – smoked sable and smoked salmon – have required regular shipments from New York. He’s brought in Dr. Brown’s sodas, a staple in Jewish delis, stocking black cherry, cream soda, ginger ale, and Cel-Ray – a celery soda.

Conley’s chef, Matt Jatczak, moved here from Chicago, where he spent the last eight years working in Italian restaurants. Working in a Jewish deli, he jokes, means cooking with “a lot less olive oil and a lot more chicken fat.”

Conley knows that customers, especially transplants from New York, will compare Rose Foods to a classic New York City deli.

“There will be some people who grew up in New York who eat our bagel and will say ‘You call this a bagel?'” Conley said. “But that’s not we’re going for. We’re going to create our own thing, as long as it’s delicious.”

And that is what makes this new wave of Jewish cooking and baking different. Yes, it tastes good and is well made, but it’s not just a nostalgic throwback.

“It’s making food for everybody,” Freidenreich said.

Correction: This story was updated at 10:15 a.m. on August 11, 2017 to correct the spelling of the director of the Jewish Studies program at Colby College.

]]> 0 Farber brushes egg wash onto challah at Fork Food Lab. Farber, of Bubbe & Bestemor's Baking Company, moved from New Jersey to Maine when she was 12 and strives to bake Jewish breads "the way I remember them being."Fri, 11 Aug 2017 10:16:18 +0000
‘Feeding a Family, A Real-Life Plan for Making Dinner Work’ lives up to its title Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 “Feeding a Family, A Real-Life Plan for Making Dinner Work.” By Sarah Waldman. Roost Books. $29.95.

It’s the busy parent’s quandary, unfolding several times a week: Rule No. 1: Fix healthy meals for the kids. Reality No. 1: Amid kid chaos, it’s easier to just throw together stuff from the fridge or heat up something from the freezer.

This is how I’ve ended up with more than a few fish stick or omelet dinners and even peanut-butter waffle sandwiches (I’m not proud of that moment!) with a side of cucumber slices or corn. They aren’t the worst meals ever, but not exactly the kind of meal I want my kids to grow up on.

Sarah Waldman knows what I’m talking about. That’s why she penned a cookbook with a parent-friendly approach in “Feeding a Family, A Real-Life Plan for Making Dinner Work.”

She starts out with the premise that pulling together a home-cooked healthy family meals can be tough, so the cookbook is organized with suggested meals, broken down by seasons.

It’s a simple format – 10 “meals” per season with each meal having two main items and sometimes a suggested dessert. Each meal unfolds like a novella: a picture of the entire meal, beautifully plated; a description of why Waldman picked that recipe, the recipes themselves, each with helpful “for baby” and “tomorrow’s dinner” suggestions. “For baby” is a variation on the recipe that works for the youngest eaters, and while most simply suggest pureeing or dicing the food, it’s a great reminder for parents that they don’t have to overthink what to feed baby – just a less spicy, smoother/smaller version of what’s on mom and dad’s plate!

The “tomorrow’s dinner” is another great feature. I made a sesame noodle dish that was lovely the first day – and turned it into the base for a miso soba noodle soup the next day (adding fresh tofu), and it didn’t feel like leftovers – more like an entirely new dish.

As for organizing the meals around the seasons – this worked for me, particularly because our Maine seasons are quite pronounced. I want to hover over a stove in the winter, making a chicken tortilla soup, or a one-skillet chicken with barley, chard and mushrooms. But come summer, we’re rolling in from a day at the beach, a bit tired and still battling 90-degree temperatures in the house. No stoves for me! I’ll gladly decamp to the backyard, to grill pizza or zucchini, beef, and halloumi cheese skewers with chimichurri sauce and serve up berry-based desserts.

Another great feature in the cookbook is the “kids can” note on each recipe. It suggests how the kids can help prepare the meal, from smashing a fritter mixture with a potato masher to skewering tuna for the grill.

It should be obvious by now that I really liked this cookbook, which is clearly geared for the novice or someone looking for a practical, not a challenging cookbook. The cookbook itself is a pleasure to peruse, with an understated style. The layout and presentation of the recipes is unfussy and crisp, with lots of white space for notes and maybe a smear of blueberry from an eager helper eventually.

Yet it was a completely approachable elegance: I felt like I was flipping through a good home cook’s old-fashioned recipe box, with helpful handwritten notes off in the margins about possible substitutions or next-day uses. It has a forgiving tone – a recipe for grilled flatbread pizza notes that “yes, sometimes my kids just eat grilled pizza dough and pass on all the colorful vegetable additions, but such is life”– and a best-friend vibe that comes across in the introduction to a recipe for slow cooker gyros: “This is the dinner for your busiest night of the week ….”

I pulled together the sesame noodle and tuna dinner at the end of a long, lazy summer Sunday, urging two kids into showers, fixing a broken fishing pole and doing a load of laundry. Because that’s what a normal day looks like for a lot of us.

And the meal delivered – easy to put together, healthy, and a hit with the family. The leftovers delivered too, twice: as lunch for three kids headed off to day camp, and soup for dinner.

Now I have no excuse for not keeping the waffles in the freezer, even on a busy night.


Serves 4 to 6

Two (8.8-ounce) packages soba noodles

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

2 bunches bok choy, trimmed and sliced into thin ribbons

1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced

¼ cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

2 garlic cloves, shaved on a microplane

11/2-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and shaved on a microplane

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

Toppings optional: sesame seeds, sriracha sauce

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Boil the soba noodles for 5 minutes or until tender, then drain them and set aside.

While you wait for the water to boil, heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a medium saute pan set over medium-high heat. Cook the bok choy and pepper, stirring constantly, until wilted and slightly charred, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add the warm noodles to the bowl and toss well. Top the noodles with the vegetables, sliced scallions and sesame seeds, if using. Serve with sriracha sauce and cilantro-lime grilled tuna.


If you’re not a big fan of cilantro, fresh basil works well, too.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 2 limes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1½ pounds sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1-inch cubes

4-6 wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 10 minutes

In a shallow dish, whisk together the oil, cilantro, lime juice, a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Add in the tuna cubes and toss gently to coat the fish on all sides. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. You don’t want to leave the tuna in the marinade too long, as the acid in the lime juice will start to “cook” the fish.

Skewer fish, tightly packing skewers. Reserve remaining marinade in the container.

Put the skewers on the grill and brush them with some of the reserved marinade. Grill the skewers for 2 minutes, then flip them, brush them with more marinade, and grill for another 2 minutes. The outside of the fish should have deep grill marks, while the inside should still be pink and rare.

Remove the skewers from the heat and brush them one last time with more of the reserved marinade, then serve.

]]> 0, 08 Aug 2017 17:35:31 +0000
You’ll love panko-crusted fish with tzatziki Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Any flaky white fish would be perfect in this recipe. You just want a mild, moist fish, which then will be encased in a crunchy coating, and a base for the flavorful, creamy and crunchy sauce. Serve this up with some steamed or sauteed green beans to round out the plate.

Tzatziki is one of the most classic Greek sauces, served with everything from pita (as a dip) to lamb to seafood. It’s a refreshing mix of cucumber, garlic and yogurt, and then the options broaden. You can add any number of fresh herbs, such as dill, oregano, mint, parsley, even the fronds of fennel bulbs. You can swap out the garlic for shallots, or another member of the onion family. Olive oil is often added for a bit of richness, and there is usually some sort of acid, like lemon juice or vinegar, to give it a little kick. I added some chopped fennel to this version because I love its anise-y flavor. The amount of garlic is fairly light; add more if you wish.

Different cultures have their own versions of cucumber yogurt sauce, and if you like tzatziki, it’s worth digging in deeper. And if you like tzatziki as much as I do, you may want to make extra to serve up with pita chips the next day, or perhaps dollop it on a piece of grilled chicken or a chop. Leftover roasted meat thinly sliced and piled into a pita with tzatziki makes a great makeshift gyro.

Tzatziki is best eaten within a day of making it, as the mixture can start to become watery from the cucumbers.


Serves 4

1 small cucumber

1/2 cup minced fennel

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

4 (6-ounce) fillets barramundi, tilapia, haddock, halibut or other mild, firm-fleshed white fish

Freshly ground pepper to taste

2 eggs, beaten

11/2 cups panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic

11/2 cups plain Greek yogurt

Peel the cucumber. Slice in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Grate the cucumber using the large holes on a box grater, or the grating blade in a food processor. Toss the cucumber with the fennel and salt, and place in a strainer over a bowl or in the sink.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place the egg and panko into two separate shallow bowls. Stir the parsley into the panko.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Dunk each fillet in the egg, so that is it well coated, then dredge each filet in the panko mixture. Place the coated fillets in the hot oil and saute the fish for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through and golden brown. Transfer the fish to a paper towel-lined plate.

Use your hands to squeeze the cucumber mixture to press out any extra liquid, then place in a medium bowl. Add the mint, oregano, lemon juice, garlic and yogurt. Stir well, and add pepper and any additional salt as needed (remember the cucumbers and fennel were salted at the beginning).

Serve the fish hot, with a spoonful of tzatziki on the side.

]]> 0 December 2016 photo shows panko-crusted fish with tzatziki in New York. Tzatziki is one of the most classic Greek sauces, served with everything from pita (as a dip) to lamb to seafood. It’s a refreshing mix of cucumber, garlic and yogurt. (Laura Agra via AP)Tue, 08 Aug 2017 17:58:17 +0000
Can’t get a reservation at ‘The Lost Kitchen’? Console yourself with these Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 A reservation for Erin French’s 40-seat restaurant in Freedom is harder to snag than the attention of a waiter in the weeds, but you can make the chef’s simple and sexy mussels at home. The recipe is from her first cookbook, released in May, called “The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine” (Clarkson Potter).

Yeah, they’re sexy. Just five ingredients, two of which combine forces to release a seductive and heady aroma. The high heat of an uncovered pan opens the bivalves’ shells, and a toss of sizzling butter and lime juice coats the juicy, almost roasty-tasting mussel meat. French suggests sharing them straight out of the pan.

The mussels you buy should be glistening. Immerse them in a bowl of water and ice cubes for 30 minutes before you cook them; lift them out of the water to avoid reintroducing any grit. If you’re not going to cook them right away, rinse them in very cold water and refrigerate in a loosely covered bowl. Chilled mussels should be shut tightly; if any of them are not, or have broken or cracked shells, discard them.


2 servings

Choose a variety of culinary lavender that has complex floral notes, such as Hidcote, Buena Vista or Betty’s Blue. Find fresh at farmers markets or plant nurseries, or order dried lavender (on the stem, for easy removal) online.

Make sure you have some crusty bread for sopping up the pan juices.

Directions: Heat a large, dry cast-iron skillet over high heat. Once it’s quite hot, add the mussels, spreading them in a single layer. Scatter the rosemary and lavender over the mussels. Cook, undisturbed and uncovered, for 11/2 to 2 minutes, until the mussels’ shells begin to open.

Toss the cubes of the butter around the pan; as soon as you hear them sizzling and see them foaming, shake the pan to distribute the melted butter. Continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes, moving the pan, until the mussels have fully opened. Remove from the heat.

Squeeze the juice from the lime halves over the mussels. Serve right away, in the skillet, discarding any that have not opened.

]]> 0, 09 Aug 2017 10:55:45 +0000
Serve blueberry pie with a cinnamon French toast crust Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Here’s a ridiculously simple summer dessert – the happy marriage of blueberry pie and French toast with a little cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. It’s perfect not only for blueberry lovers, but also for those home cooks who consider themselves dessert-impaired.

For all of their wonderfulness, blueberries can be unpredictable, even in season. Some are sweet as candy. Others are tart enough to make your whole head pucker. Naturally, then, whenever you plan to make a recipe with blueberries, you have to start by tasting them. If the batch at hand is too sweet, ratchet up the acid in your recipe. If they’re too tart, add more of the sweetener.

My favorite blueberry sweetener is maple syrup. The two go beautifully together. But be sure that your maple syrup is robust. Until just a few years ago, the strongest-tasting maple syrup was labeled Grade B. But then the labeling system was changed. Now your eyes should be peeled for the words dark or robust on the label. In general, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor.

The filling is thickened with cornstarch, which has a tendency to clump up. Prevent clumping by carefully mixing the cornstarch into the berry-and-maple-syrup mixture at the start of the recipe, then give it a second vigorous stir two-thirds of the way through the baking period.

One of this recipe’s bonuses is its versatility. Evenings you can serve it hot, right out of the oven, topped with whipped cream or ice cream – and call it dessert. Mornings you can serve it cold, topped with yogurt – and call it breakfast. Either way, you’ll find it delightful.


Servings: 6

4 cups blueberries

1/3 cup dark maple syrup

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

21/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon table salt

2 large eggs, beaten lightly

1/3 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 slices homemade-style white or whole-wheat bread, crusts discarded

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate toss the blueberries with the maple syrup and the lemon juice. Combine the cornstarch and the salt in a small strainer and sift the mixture evenly over the blueberries. Stir the blueberries gently, using a rubber spatula until the cornstarch is dissolved and evenly distributed. Cover the pie plate with foil and bake the blueberries on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes. Take the dish out of the oven, lift up the foil and stir the blueberries gently with the rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the dish to mix everything well. Cover and bake another 10 minutes.

In a bowl combine the eggs, milk and vanilla. Cut the bread slices in half diagonally. In a small bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon. When the blueberries are done, remove the foil and working with one bread half at a time, dip the bread in the egg batter, until it is well moistened but not soggy, letting the excess batter drip off and then place the slice on top of the blueberries. Continue with the remaining slices and the remaining batter, arranging the slices in an overlapping decorative pattern. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the bread slices and bake the pie for 12 to 15 minutes or until the bread slices are golden brown. Serve right away topped either with the ice cream or the whipped cream.

]]> 0, 08 Aug 2017 18:58:20 +0000
Maine brewers, bakers and chefs sample bread and craft beer Sun, 06 Aug 2017 23:25:55 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — “Oh dear, bread and beer; … if I were rich, I wouldn’t be here” may be part of an old Irish drinking song, but on Wednesday it was serious business.

The science of the crust and crumb came face to face at the Miller’s Table Cafe at the Somerset Grist Mill with the aroma, texture and finish of the hops and the malt — bread and beer — all made from Maine grains.

 Drawing on decades of success pairing wines with certain foods, the idea behind Wednesday’s “Beer-Bread Pairing and Ideation Session” was to have expert brewers, bakers and chefs sample bread and craft beer options to see how they go together, said Darryll White, of Sidney, a consultant for Amber Lambke’s Maine Grains. He said he and Lambke attended the New England Craft Beer Summit in Portland in March and came home with lots of ideas.

“One of the presentations talked about the explosive growth in the craft brew industry in Maine, but they also expressed some concern looking forward about potential market saturation — more breweries opening than can be supported by the demographics,” White said.

One potential strategy was the concept of pairing craft beer and food, he said.

Enter Michael Kalanty, of San Francisco, a renowned sensory scientist, baker and author who facilitated Wednesday’s daylong ideation sessions, tasting six beer samples and three bread samples, taking notes and presenting observations — blind, with no labels — at the end.

Brainstorming later in the day posed simple questions: What pairing patterns did the panel find in the six beers and three bread types presented, and which samples had the most potential?

Sessions began Wednesday with group palate calibrations of samples provided by the six invited brewers and six invited bakers. The six beer styles included a pilsner, a pale ale, an India pale ale, a Belgian style golden strong ale, a German wheat lager, and a stout. Breads included pretzels, crackers and multi-seed bread.

Each of the panel participants was given a bell jar of water and a red “spit cup” to cleanse the pallet after each taste to “keep a fresh mind about you,” Kalanty said. “Your pallet is reset to zero.”

Each panel member also was given sheets of paper and a secret two-digit code to take notes anonymously on score cards, which will be examined for a final report by Kalanty. All of the beers were identified only by a colored dot, again for anonymity.

“The whole idea is that people have preferences. If you see anything with a label on it or anything like that, throw a flag on the play,” Kalanty told the group.

Panel members were looking for aroma, body, texture and flavor of each beer and how they coupled with the bread offerings. Participants smelled the beer, held it up to the light, sipped and swished the liquid around in their mouths one beer at a time, with lots of discussion. Words such as “sweet,” “floral,” “herbal” — even “noble” emerged.

Matty Johannes, of Baxter Brewing Co., liked the “hop taste” of one of the samples. Branch Rothchild, of Allagash Brewing, spoke of the texture, the bubbles and the finish.

“We wanted to do it in a way that was credible and as scientific as possible, but obviously there’s a lot of psychology with trying to manage sensory input,” White said. “Among our general goals is (to see if we) can categorize certain foods or certain flavors or certain textures that could be produced in a bread format to be paired with certain styles of beer.”

White said tasting rooms at some Maine breweries don’t have kitchens, so bringing prepared or packaged bread products from off the site could unite the tastes for an overall new experience.

“If we create what is perceived as value by the food or the beer industry, that’s a stepping stone,” White said. “This is exploratory, but we’re trying to do it scientifically. It’s a systematic, methodical approach.”

White said all the information collected Wednesday will be gathered for a final report by the end of the week.

On the baking side of Maine Grains at Wednesday’s program, Kerry Hanney, of Night Moves, a small baking business in Portland, said her bakery uses all local grains so they fit right in with all the brewers.

“It’s great to be a part of this. We’re all using a lot of the same grains, so it’s interesting to see the flavor coming together from two different types of fermentation,” Hanney said.

Lambke, who purchased the stone-and-steel 1897 former Somerset County Jail in 2009 and turned it into a grist mill and the seat of Maine Grains, told the gathering she and others met Kalanty at the 2016 Kneading Conference.

“He did a presentation on the sensory analysis of bread,” Lambke said. “He is one of the first bakers to try to put a vernacular together on how to discuss crumb and crust and the full depth of flavors that you can experience in bread. Our goal here on behalf of Maine Grains is we’ve got an emerging movement around trying to use more local grains in both bread and beer.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

]]> 0 Kalanty, author and sensory scientist, introduces himself to the blind taste test participants Wednesday at Maine Grains in the Somerset Grist Mill in Skowhegan, which used to be a jail. The tasting occurred in what used to be the recreation yard.Mon, 07 Aug 2017 09:01:01 +0000
Purple House will remain on October-June schedule Fri, 04 Aug 2017 20:42:41 +0000 The Purple House, a nationally known cafe in North Yarmouth that makes wood-fired bagels and pizza, house-smoked fish, salads, sandwiches and home-made ice-cream, will remain on a seasonal schedule for the foreseeable future, according to chef/owner Krista Desjarlais.

Desjarlais announced in late June that the Purple House at 378 Walnut Hill Road would close for the summer and reopen in October because she had trouble finding workers for her summer business, Bresca & the Honeybee, an upscale snack shack at Sabbathday Lake. The cafe opened for business late last December.

“To get the cooks out here are almost impossible,” she said in a call from the snack shack. “The wages have increased – Portland is paying people $14, $16, $17 an hour for line cooks with basically no experience because they’re short on help. To get someone out here for a couple of months at $10 an hour – because that’s what I can pay – it just didn’t happen.”

Desjarlais also decided to limit her snack shack menu to home-made ice cream and desserts at Bresca & the Honeybee this summer. She said she was putting in 100 hours a week maintaining both businesses before she scaled back.

The Purple House will remain on an October-through-June schedule, closing July through September, Desjarlais said, adding that she is open to going back to a year-round schedule if the staffing situation changes “or if one day I no longer own the beach business.”

Earlier in August, the Purple House was named one of the 50 finalists for Bon Appetit’s annual list of “Best New Restaurants in America.”

This summer, Desjarlais is pouring all her creativity into the snack shack’s ice cream (and occasional pastries on weekends), churning out flavors such as Maine blueberry and an ice cream made with Allagash’s 16 Counties beer dotted with maple pecans. Desjarlais said she’s also making new flavors for kids this summer. “Hot Lava” is colored a dark slate gray with food-grade coconut ash, and has strawberry caramel, white chocolate chunks and dark chocolate buckwheat cake mixed in. Boo Berry – a strong vanilla base with fresh blueberries and marshmallow cream folded in – is a take on the cereal. Desjarlais then stirs in organic crushed flower petals from Thailand that “turn it a pitch-perfect blue naturally.”

“It ends up being completely silly,” she said, “but people love it.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Desjarlais sweeps the steps at the Purple House in North Yarmouth last fall. It was named one of 50 finalists for Bon Appetit's "Best New Restaurants in America."Fri, 04 Aug 2017 20:09:57 +0000
Hawaiian-style sushi restaurant coming to South Portland Thu, 03 Aug 2017 21:18:08 +0000 A new Big Fin Poké is coming soon to South Portland. It’s the second location for the Westbrook restaurant specializing in Hawaiian-style sushi.

The new restaurant will be in the space that had been occupied by the Plaza 29 convenience store at 29 Western Ave., across from the Olde English Village apartments.

Owner Jimmy Liang announced the new restaurant on the Big Fin Poké Facebook page and said he will post an opening date soon.

Poké is a raw fish salad made of cubed, seasoned fish served in a bowl with a variety of other ingredients, such as edamame, seaweed and shredded ginger. Poké has been a party and grocery store staple in Hawaii for decades, but in recent years has become a wildly popular mainland dish.

The original Big Fin Poké , located at 855 Main St. in Westbrook, opened last winter. In the spring, Liang told Maine Sunday Telegram restaurant reviewer Andrew Ross he had plans to turn it into a chain.

]]> 0 Thu, 03 Aug 2017 21:58:00 +0000
The Mediterranean diet works – but not if you’re poor, study finds Thu, 03 Aug 2017 16:31:06 +0000 We’ve long heard that the Mediterranean Diet is how all of us should eat. The diet, inspired by the coastal cuisine of such countries as Greece, Italy and southern France, is characterized by its abundant portions of fruits and vegetables, frequent meals of fish and poultry, use of olive oil and spices for seasoning, and red wine in moderation. Red meat and butter are limited, and grains are mostly whole. The diet has been studied for its effects on heart disease, weight loss, cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. And it’s arguably a more pleasurable way of eating than, say, the strict Paleo and Ketogenic diets, or the faddish but not necessarily effective low-carbohydrate diet.

But it won’t work if you’re poor.

That’s the latest finding from a team of Italian researchers, who studied 18,000 men and women over a four-year period. They found that the Mediterranean Diet reduced the risk of heart disease by 15 percent – but only for people who made more than approximately $46,000 a year. There were no observed cardiovascular benefits for people who made less than that amount.

The study, which was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, also found that highly educated people – who may be likely to have higher incomes – did better on the diet, in part because they selected a wider variety of vegetables and were more likely to eat whole grains. The more varied a person’s diet is, the more types of nutrients they consume. Highly educated participants were also more likely to buy organic food.

The study “found that higher-SES subjects tend to consume more organic vegetables which can contain higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentrations of cadmium and a lower incidence of pesticide residues, as compared with conventionally grown foods. We might then speculate that the quality of the bundle of foods that make up the MD actually differs across SES.”

So, it doesn’t just matter that you adhere to the tenets of the Mediterranean Diet – it matters what kind of foods you pick within its framework, how that food was grown and how you prepare it. The findings will inevitably contribute to the ongoing discussion of food inequality, or how access to healthful food is a tenet of social justice.

We have long known that poorer Americans lack access to nutritious food and full-service grocery stores. They are more likely to rely on processed or fast foods. One recent study found that this nutritional gap is widening. “Price is a major determinant of food choice, and healthful foods generally cost more than unhealthful foods in the United States,” that study said. It also found a link between education and healthy eating, suggesting that programs to teach low-socioeconomic status people how to choose and prepare cheap healthy meals – and the benefits they can derive from such choices – are important.

And that’s what the Italian research team’s takeaway is. “These results support the need to adopt more effective strategies aiming to reduce socioeconomic disparities in health, not only by promoting the adoption of healthy eating patterns but also by facilitating access to foods with higher nutritional values,” they wrote.

]]> 0, 03 Aug 2017 21:29:13 +0000
Judith Jones, 93, longtime Knopf editor who signed Julia Child Wed, 02 Aug 2017 23:56:41 +0000 NEW YORK — Judith Jones, a consummate literary editor who helped revolutionize American cuisine by publishing Julia Child and other groundbreaking cookbook authors, worked for decades with John Updike and Anne Tyler and helped introduce English-language readers to “The Diary of Anne Frank,” has died at age 93.

Jones, who spent more than 50 years at Alfred A. Knopf before retiring in 2011, died early Wednesday at her summer home in Walden, Vermont. Her stepdaughter, Bronwyn Dunne, said she died of complications from Alzheimer’s.

Few better embodied and lived out the ideal of a life in New York publishing than the slender, refined Jones, whom Tyler once praised, both a person and as an editor, as “very delicate and graceful, almost weightless.” Jones worked at one of the leading publishing houses with some of the world’s most beloved authors. She thrived even as Knopf evolved from a family-run business to part of the international conglomerate Bertelsmann AG.

Moviegoers would learn about her in “Julie & Julia,” the 2009 film starring Meryl Streep as Child and featuring Erin Dilly as Jones. In the early ’60s, she signed up the then-unknown Child and “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” a landmark release that caught on again decades later thanks to “Julie & Julia.” Tyler, however, thought the movie “stupid” because of a scene in which Jones backs out of a dinner at an author’s home because it’s raining, something the real editor would never have done.

In an email Wednesday, Tyler wrote that Jones “was both an astute and gifted editor and a remarkable human being.”

Jones was herself an author and gourmet who collaborated on several cookbooks with her husband Evan Jones, contributed to numerous food magazines and wrote the memoir “The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food,” published in 2007. The year before, she received the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, a fitting prize for Jones, who published Beard and was a close friend.

Jones’ husband died in 1996. They had two children and two stepchildren. In recent years, she kept a blog,, and wrote the book “The Pleasures of Cooking for One.”

The daughter of an attorney, Jones was born Judith Bailey in 1924 and grew up in Manhattan. She majored in English at Bennington College, worked as an editorial assistant at Doubleday and by her early 20s was a reader for Doubleday in Paris. Among her early achievements was finding a masterpiece amid the rejects: “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which had been published in Europe.

“One day my boss said, ‘Oh, will you get rid of these books and write some letters,'” she explained in a 2001 interview with The Associated Press.

“I curled up with one or two books. I was just curious. I think it was the face on the cover. I looked at that face and I started reading that book and I didn’t stop all afternoon. I was in tears when my boss came back. I said, ‘This book is going to New York and has got to be published.’ And he said, ‘What? That book by that kid?!’ “

Jones joined Knopf in 1957 as a reader of French translations. The company, run by founders Alfred and Blanche Knopf, was eccentric and old-fashioned, where women were warned against attending meetings because strong language might be used. She soon became an editor, her early clients including John Hersey, Elizabeth Bowen and a promising young author named John Updike. His first book with Knopf was “Rabbit, Run.”

“Alfred got on the telephone with John and said, ‘You’d better come right away.’ He said to me, ‘I don’t think you should attend the meeting; the language may be a little raw.’ Of course, I had seen the language,” Jones said. “We did an expurgated edition and every subsequent printing put a little bit back and now it’s all there.”

Jones was among the first to realize that World War II soldiers returning from Europe might be ready for more sophisticated cuisine. Jones herself was admittedly spoiled by the food in Paris. In the 1950s, she found the bread in New York so tasteless she baked her own at home.

Jones’ most famous discovery was Child, a middle-aged American chef in the early ’60s who, like Jones, had returned to the states after living for years in Paris. She and co-authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle were seeking a publisher for a cookbook (later titled by Jones “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”) which had been rejected by Houghton Mifflin. As recounted in her memoir, Jones was soon convinced that “this was the book I been looking for” and thought Child’s recipe for “boeuf bourguignon” worthy of the best dishes in Paris.

“I wanted my food to have the French touch, to taste ‘soignee,’ not just indifferently cooked,” she later wrote. “But there was no book that really taught me how, that is, not until ‘Mastering’ came along.”

Jones treated food like literature and literature like food; both were sensual pleasures. She disliked some of the health food books – “A tablespoon of butter!” Jones told the AP in mock horror. “You’re going to die!”

]]> 0 JonesWed, 02 Aug 2017 20:44:12 +0000
Explosion of smoothies in Portland looks like healthy trend Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 If the two juice bars now under construction in Portland open as planned, the city will have at least eight independently owned smoothie shops by the end of this year. Up from a single one a decade ago.

Add in the many local shops offering smoothies as a sideline (such as Jet Video, Greenlight Cafe, Coffee ME Up and Black Cat Coffee), then consider Whole Foods’ prominent juice bar and the fast-food places selling smoothies, and it’s clear Portland residents are drinking more fresh-pressed and blended fruits and vegetables than ever before. “It’s turned into the cool thing to do,” said Alex Vandermark, who owns the Maine Squeeze Juice Cafe.

This national health food trend first showed up in Portland in 2007 when Maine Squeeze Juice Cafe began slinging smoothies in the Old Port. A Public Market House outpost for Maine Squeeze followed in 2012 after the company was snapped up from the original owner by Vandermark, who has a chain of similar shops called The Juicery in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Then in 2014, nut milk, juice and smoothie bowl shop Blake Orchard Juicery opened on Exchange Street.

Last year, Flying Fox Juice Bar opened in the East End and Farm Truck Juice opened in the West End. Last month, Portland Pulp opened in the Arts District near Reny’s.

“In our area of town, there was nothing healthy to eat,” said Portland Pulp owner Alanna York. “And in the wintertime, the Public Market House (where Maine Squeeze is located) seems a million miles away. We’re not in a touristy part of town. We’re as busy in the winter as we are in the summer. There are lots of offices here and lots of people walking around, and we’re here to feed them something better than burgers.”

Located in the storefront of the Head Games Salon building, Portland Pulp was created by salon owner York and partner Chris Sawyer, who works in insurance. York said the shop aims to serve the salon clients and the immediate neighborhood, which includes the offices of MaineHealth and Diversified Communications, along with the Portland Museum of Art and the Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine. In addition to smoothies and juices, Portland Pulp sells chopped salads and the occasional lettuce wrap.

Two more juice bars – one in the West End near Park Street and the other on Forest Avenue near the Great Lost Bear – are planned.

Of course, Portlanders are not alone in our love of smoothies. Juice bars overran the West Coast long ago and took New York City by storm in the last few years.

“It is a niche market, but one that is growing,” said Anne Mills, manager of consumer insights at restaurant industry research firm Technomic, based in Chicago. “These concepts appeal strongly to millennials as they meet millennials’ demands for healthy options that can be consumed on the go.”

Mills said “juice bars emerged relatively recently and are growing rapidly” making it tough to predict whether Portland (population 67,000) can sustain this many smoothie sellers.

“Time will tell if the demand is there to support this many,” Mills said.

Vandermark is optimistic.

“My assessment is yeah, there’s definitely room,” he said, provided each location has enough foot traffic. For instance, Roost House of Juice opened in 2012 and then closed a couple years later, possibly a victim of lackluster foot traffic in the spot now occupied by Sur Lie restaurant, Vandermark said. He added that the slow arrival of the national juice bar trend in Maine is due to our winters, when cold weather stifles sales. “In the Northeast, you have to be very careful and have low overhead because of those winters,” he said.

A strawberry rhubarb smoothie, a blueberry spinach almond smoothie and a kale lemon juice are all on this summer’s menu at Flying Fox Juice Bar. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

Birch Hincks who owns Flying Fox Juice Bar on inner Washington Avenue agrees with Vandermark that winter is tough and regulars are the lifeblood of a smoothie bar. She said her customers skew younger and female, but her regulars also include older people and men, alongside recent immigrants, construction workers – such as a loyal crew from the Portland Water District – and commuters from Falmouth.

“I really like the idea of a neighborhood-style juice bar,” Hincks said. “I think Portland’s big enough to sustain that.”

When she lived in Colorado 10 years ago, Hincks said juice bars were everywhere and she is glad to see Portland cozying up to the trend.

“The restaurants in town are amazing but they’re on the richer end of the food spectrum,” Hincks said. “Portland as a whole city is turning on to the health food wave that has been popping up around the country over the last 10 years.”

On the west side of town, Joe Loeman recently transitioned the Farm Truck Juice cooperative into a nonprofit to allow him to accept donations and provide smoothies and juices to community groups. In addition to charitable work, Farm Truck continues to sell juices, smoothies and coffee to the public. It recently started offering pay-what-you-can coffee, and Loeman said some people pay up to $10 per cup so others can take a free coffee, no questions asked.

Somewhat similarly, Portland Pulp has a glass-front refrigerator called the Karma Cooler, filled with packaged smoothies and salads. People in a hurry can grab lunch, put exact change in a box and leave, without waiting in line.

“I’m always in a hurry,” York said. “I want something where people can throw cash in a box and go. Hopefully the Karma Cooler will keep it honest so we can keep it going.”

Beyond generosity and trust, Portland’s juice bars share other traits, such as ingredient lists, menu items and a fondness for local produce. Most are vegetarian or vegan. Others emphasize organic ingredients. Many also sell coffee. Juiced, which has a spot in Hallowell, applied to the city for a liquor license to sell Prosecco at its planned juice bar on Forest Avenue.

When I asked Mills at Technomic if juice bars might some day reach the saturation level of coffee shops or breweries in Portland, she pointed to the firm’s 2016 beverage report, which shows 62 percent of adults regularly drink coffee while only 17 percent drink smoothies and 10 percent regularly drink fresh-squeezed juices. The report tracked only nonalcoholic beverages.

“While there is a growing market for juice bars, these concepts are more of a niche than coffee shops and breweries,” Mills said. “I don’t see them reaching the prevalence and popularity of Starbucks.”

But Loeman at Farm Truck sees a positive feedback loop every time a new shop opens; the more juice bars there are, he thinks, the more people try smoothies and juices, creating more potential customers. “I’d rather have more juice shops than less,” Loeman said. “I’d rather see a juice shop than a fast food shop.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be contacted at:

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0 strawberry rhubarb smoothie, a blueberry spinach almond smoothie and a kale lemon juice are all on this summer's menu at Flying Fox Juice Bar.Tue, 01 Aug 2017 17:46:36 +0000
Pair salmon with beans, and you’ve got a hearty summer supper Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Sometimes, it’s just too hot to turn on the stove. The key is to stock up your kitchen with “healthy convenience food” that doesn’t require any heat, such as fresh produce, canned beans, canned fish and small boxes of pre-cooked legumes found in the prepared produce section.

You can throw together a hearty meal in minutes without breaking a sweat. Sure, you will pay an extra dollar or two for steamed lentils, for instance, but if having a well-stocked fridge keeps you from hitting the drive-thru even once, then you’ll come ahead financially (and nutritionally).

Canned salmon is one of my favorite healthy fast-foods. When it goes on sale, you can stock up the pantry with a few cans of it, making wild salmon downright inexpensive.

Not only is canned salmon full of protein (12 g grams of protein per 2 ounces of fish) and omega-3 fatty acids, but it actually has more calcium than its fresh counterpart, since the small bones stay in the meat (and go unnoticed; remove any large bones, however).

Pair the salmon with beans or legumes plus some chopped fresh vegetables and vinaigrette, and you’ve got a dish hearty enough for a summertime supper. And it will keep nicely in the fridge, so you can graze on this fiber and protein filled salad for a day or two no problem.

This recipe was inspired by my favorite bagel toppings – red onion, tomato, capers, salmon and a hint of smokiness in the vinaigrette, which elevates the canned salmon into a little wink at lox. The flavors marry into a surprisingly complex dish, never hinting at the fact that this recipe is of the 5-minute-dump-stir-and-serve variety.


Makes 6 servings

21/2 cups cooked lentils

2 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 11/2 cups)

1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)

1/4 medium red onion, chopped

3 tablespoons capers

8 ounces canned wild salmon, large bones and skin removed

1/4 cup lightly chopped dill leaves

1/3 cup Lemon-Dijon vinaigrette, recipe follows

Salt and pepper

Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette:

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon water

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Mix (or layer) the lentils, tomatoes, onion, cucumber, capers and salmon in a large salad bowl or on a platter. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, smoked paprika, lemon juice, vinegar and water until smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to make an emulsion.

Season with salt and pepper. Pour 1/3 cup of the dressing over the salad. Top with the fresh dill leaves. Toss and enjoy. Serve on leafy greens, if desired. Will keep for two days in refrigerator, in covered glass container.

]]> 0, 01 Aug 2017 17:59:51 +0000
Digital dining making Maine restaurants more efficient Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Paige Gould recalls her early days hosting at Central Provisions, the popular Old Port restaurant she co-owns with her husband, chef Chris Gould.

The line of customers waiting to get in was always ridiculously long in July and August, “an onslaught of people,” Gould says.

“I didn’t have a chance to breathe in between people,” she said. “It was just person after person after person after person.”

Software, it turns out, was her salvation.

Today, Gould relies on a waitlist app from Cake, a software program that helps restaurants manage tables and seat customers more quickly. She collects a name and number from each party as they arrive, then sends them on their way so no diners linger at the front of the restaurant while they wait for a table – they can go get a drink instead, or maybe do a little shopping in the Old Port. As soon as Gould sees a group of people leaving a table, all she has to do is press a button, and the app sends a text to the next party on the wait list. They have about 10 minutes to return to the hostess stand and claim their table.

“It frees everybody up not to have to wait at the restaurant,” Gould said.

New technology, from simple apps that speed up the ordering process to robots that help busy bartenders make Jell-O shots, is making inroads into the restaurant business. But with concerns over the cost and the impact on customers’ dining experience, embracing some of these changes may take time – especially in smaller, independently owned restaurants like most of those in Portland.

A 2016 survey by the National Restaurant Association shows that when it comes to using technology, more restaurateurs consider themselves lagging than leading edge. It’s no surprise, then, that a quarter of those surveyed said they planned to devote more resources to technology in the coming year.

Nationally, franchisees and chains are way ahead, offering services such as tabletop ordering (Chili’s, Red Robin, Applebee’s), online ordering and delivery (Denny’s), self-service touch screen kiosks (Panera, McDonald’s), and voice recognition for ordering via online apps and the drive-thru (Starbucks, Domino’s).

McDonald’s is installing self-service kiosks in 2,500 restaurants this year; the restaurant on Gorham Road in South Portland is the first McDonald’s in Maine to have them.

It’s taking longer for some of this technology to trickle down to smaller, independently owned restaurants, and for good reason, says Aaron Pastor, an independent consultant who helps Portland restaurants figure out what kind of software would work best for them. Often new technology is just seen as “one more expense,” Pastor says, and it can be hard for smaller restaurants, especially, to see the benefits – even with a program that costs just $40 a month.

Gould says the waiting list software used at Central Provisions costs just under $60 a month, but prices for restaurant software can vary widely. She recently was contacted about new software that is basically “a cloud-based filing cabinet”; it tracks inventory and invoices, and can pay bills and write checks. The system started at $150 for 100 invoices and cost 75 cents for each invoice thereafter.

“I think you would find yourself very hard pressed to find people who would be willing to spend this much money for this kind of product,” she said. “A lot of this technology that they’re coming up with is helpful, but a lot of times it’s superfluous information. If you’re actually paying attention to what’s going on, you already know these things.”

Pastor says what he sees most locally is restaurants grabbing the “low-hanging fruit” of technology – programs that improve the way things are run behind the scenes, such as a scheduling system used by Bayside Bowl in Portland. Using these programs, cooks and servers can simply check their phones to see who’s working, ask for a shift change, or request time off.

Staff illustration by Michael Fisher

“It’s a good way to communicate with all your employees at once, instead of a text chain or sending emails,” Pastor said.

Pastor also recently helped Bayside Bowl with event-booking software that takes deposits online and performs other tasks that “removes time and stress off the catering managers’ plate.”

Pastor says before adding any new technology, restaurants should first ask themselves two questions: One, does it improve internal communication, and two, does it improve the diner’s experience?

“If I don’t think it’s going to do either one of those,” he said, “then I shouldn’t be thinking about it.”

Although the restaurant association’s survey shows that a third of restaurants now have their own smart phone apps – an easy way for customers to order a meal from anywhere – there are also challenges that come with the apps: Will it work well with the restaurant’s existing electronic management system? What if the staff is suddenly overwhelmed by a lot of incoming take-out and delivery orders?

Locally, Otto has an online ordering app, as does Big J’s Chicken Shack at Thompson’s Point. Otto’s app allows you to earn rewards and track your order, much like the popular Domino’s pizza tracker that follows your order from prep to delivery.

In the case of Big J’s, the app was designed for the restaurant by the same company that designed their electronic point-of-sale system (the place where sales are made), according to Justin Roig, operations manager for 5th Food Group, the restaurant group that owns Big J’s. When a customer places an order, the app puts it directly into the Big J’s system, and the order prints out in the kitchen. When the order is ready, a front-of-house employee clicks a button and the system texts the customer that their order is ready for pick-up.

“It’s almost entirely removed of human interaction,” Roig said. “The only interaction between the customer and the front-of-house person is handing it off to them and asking them if they need more napkins.”

While the app allows customers to order take-out from anywhere, Big J’s has seen the biggest benefit right at the restaurant, which is directly adjacent to Bissell Brothers Brewing Co.’s 250-seat tasting room. Big J’s has a pick-up window that looks out over the tasting room so Bissell customers can order food with their apps while enjoying a beer.

“They have all of our menus on their tables,” Roig explained. “You can be sitting there getting beer and decide you want food, and instead of having a server, you just go on your phone and order food and then walk over and pick it up at the window.”

Big J’s customers benefit, he said, from fewer errors in orders since they are ordering themselves; also, they don’t have to wait in a long line to get their food. For the restaurant, it means more orders are possible without having to hire more staff.

Paige Gould says they had tried a different ordering software at Central Provisions that enabled the restaurant to experiment with digital tableside ordering. Each server was given an iPod touch that sent orders directly to the kitchen, cutting out the time they otherwise would spend walking back to the computer across the room to enter the order.

“Cutting out those couple of minutes every single time, it adds up,” Gould said. “It means the orders are getting to everybody faster. It also means that there’s less likelihood for mistakes.”

Unfortunately, the program still had too many glitches, so the restaurant dropped it. But the biggest drawback?

“A lot of people thought that the servers were being extremely rude and were playing on their phones,” Gould said.

Gould said she “loves the concept” of digital tableside ordering and would try it again. But she would never use the tabletop tablets like some of the big chains do.

“I hope you don’t ever see that go into the small business places,” she said, “because the whole point of small business is you are able to have that personal touch.”

Customers like that personal touch too – although they might be willing to give it up for a robot that makes Jell-O shots.

]]> 0, 02 Aug 2017 12:05:21 +0000
Would I like fries with that? Digital ordering and table service at McDonald’s Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — Two elderly couples out for frappes and fries were guided away from the counter and toward two new digital ordering kiosks at the McDonald’s on Gorham Road in South Portland. They balked, as if a poisonous snake had suddenly appeared before them.

But before long, they were putting in their orders via the kiosks’ touch screens as if they were tech-savvy 15-year-olds. Then they took a number and retired to a table to wait for a McDonald’s employee to bring them their food.

Blaine Campbell, at McDonald’s with his wife, Joan, confessed the reason for his initial hesitation: He doesn’t own a computer “so I’m easily confused.” But once he got through it, he said, the digital ordering experience was “great.” His wife called it “simple and fast.”

“I think the delivery’s a nice touch,” Joan Campbell said.

The Gorham Road McDonald’s is the first in Maine to install the kiosks, and has been using them since last week. The chain announced in June that it would roll out the new technology in 2,500 restaurants by year’s end and combine it with table service. The South Portland restaurant, owned by James Nygren, is planning a special event Thursday to officially launch the new program.

Each of the two kiosks is double-sided, so there are four “order points” that customers can access, though customers can still order at the register if they prefer.

“You can get table service from the front counter too,” said Bonnie Shaw, an area supervisor for McDonald’s. “We want them to know they can still do that because some of them have been a little shy about (ordering from a kiosk).”

Here’s how it works: A host or hostess – another new, permanent addition – greets customers as they come in the door and suggests they try one of the new kiosks. The touch screen guides customers through the McDonald’s menu and gives them options to customize their order. They can order their burger without pickles or ketchup, for example – or even without any meat (which apparently happens more often than you’d think). Ordering a soft drink? Choose no ice, or press the “extra” or “easy” buttons if you want more or less ice.

After ordering, customers pick up a plastic “table tent” with a number on it and enter the number at the kiosk so the staff will know where to bring their food. The table tents are outfitted with Bluetooth technology so employees can check an online map in the kitchen to see which zone their customers are sitting in. Then it’s time to pay and pick a table.

Customers aren’t expected to tip their servers. Any tips left behind will be donated to the local Ronald McDonald House, Nygren said, or some other charity.

When McDonald’s announced the kiosk program, critics questioned whether employees were being replaced by technology and would lose their jobs. Nygren said he has actually expanded his lunch staff from 14 to 18 employees to account for the new greeters and extra coverage behind the counter. “You went from five order points to nine,” he said, “so you have nine orders coming back at one time.”

Shaw said the employees like the changes because they’re “not just stuck behind the counter for that 8-hour shift.”

Nygren said under the new system, customers still get quick service, there are fewer errors in orders, and congestion at the counter is relieved. But the main benefit, he said, is standing out and being a step ahead of the competition. He’s counted 52 other businesses within walking distance of his restaurant that serve food, from Olive Garden to Hannaford to convenience stores.

“Everybody’s selling food to go nowadays,” he said. “It’s not just restaurants, it’s all the nontraditional places.”

]]> 0 Road McDonald's owner James Nygren demonstrates functions on a new ordering kiosk.Tue, 01 Aug 2017 18:23:16 +0000
This burger is delightfully, devilishly hot Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Some good ground beef, preferably not too lean (when making burgers, fat is our friend), and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper is all you need to make a fine burger most days. But on some other days, you might want a burger with a bit more zing, more interest, more panache.

Some days might call for a deviled burger.

Shallots, mustard, chili sauce, hot sauce – just a little bit of these ingredients turn plain burgers into “can I get this recipe?” burgers. If you are looking for more heat, just increase the amount of dry mustard and/or chili powder.

Note that this recipe calls for ancho chili powder, a ground spice made of 100 percent ancho peppers. It’s available in the spice section of most supermarkets. This is different from a general chili powder, sometimes called chili blend or chili seasoning, which contains a mix of ground chilies, garlic, cumin, oregano and maybe additional spices. But if that blend is what you have on hand, it will still make a burger with portfolio.

These burgers, like all burgers, can easily be made into a cheeseburger, using whatever cheese you like, from cheddar to Emmental to provolone to blue cheese to a good old slice of American cheese. The seasonings in the meat take well to a variety of cheeses, from pungent to mild. It’s a question of whether you want to keep pumping up the flavor or just add some meltiness to the equation.

Instead of ketchup on top, you might also try a bit of the chili sauce. A slice of sharp onion keeps the flavor ratcheting upwards.

Bring it, you say? Oh, it’s on.


Makes 6 large burgers or 8 medium burgers

2 pounds ground chuck (80-20)

2 tablespoons chili sauce

2 tablespoons finely minced shallot

2 tablespoons minced parsley

1 tablespoon jarred horseradish, squeezed well to remove excess liquid

1 tablespoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Sliced or crumbled cheese, if desired

6 split burger buns


Ketchup, mustard, chili sauce





Form the patties: Place the chili sauce, shallot, parsley, horseradish, mustard, chili powder, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir to combine. Add the meat. Use your hands to lightly but thoroughly mix the seasonings into the meat. Divide the beef into six or eight even portions, and use your hands to form even, round patties, about 3/4-inch thick. Use your fingers to press a small indentation into the middle of each patty.

Make the burgers: Place the patties on the grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until they are cooked to your liking. During the last minute of cooking, place the cheese over the burgers, if desired. Also place the buns on the grill and let them toast lightly, if desired.

Place a burger on the bottom of each bun, and top as desired. Place the bun top over the burger and serve.

]]> 0, 01 Aug 2017 17:10:11 +0000
Up your taco game with shrimp, crispy baked tortilla shells Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 From taco trucks to Mexican restaurants, tacos are just about everywhere these days. And why not? A taco is exactly as handy, versatile and filling as a sandwich, and crunchy to boot. Lots of folks dream of making these fried corn tortillas at home, but some pull up short at the prospect of having to deep-fry them. The solution? Don’t fry them. Baking will bring tacos to crispy perfection and allow you to shape them into shells in the process.

That said, I discovered while developing this recipe for Crispy Shrimp Tacos with Cole Slaw and Chipotle Cream that not all corn tortillas are created equal. Some are thick-ish and some are thin-ish. Some are drier and some are moister. Given that there’s no way of predicting these qualities in the brands you buy at the store, you just need to pay attention to the tortillas as they bake and adjust accordingly. Some brands will require more time than others to become crispy.

Before being baked, the tortillas need to be steamed a bit so they don’t crack when you shape them. Then you brush them very lightly on both sides with oil (or with vegetable oil spray, if you prefer), drape them directly over a bar of the oven rack and bake them until crispy. (See recipe for details.)

I recommend baking them in two batches of four tortillas each because when you open the oven to shape them, the oven temperature drops. If you’re shaping all eight at once, the temperature will drop a lot and the tortillas will take forever to crisp.

The shells can be made ahead and parked in a bowl at room temperature. Then you can turn to the preparation of whichever fillings you want. (Here I propose coleslaw, grilled shrimp and chipotle cream.) When the dinner bell chimes, just set out all the fixings and let people dig in for themselves.


Makes 4 servings

Eight 6-inch corn tortillas

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing the tortillas

1/4 cup mayonnaise (low-fat if you prefer)

1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream

1 teaspoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce

1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce from the can

1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

3 cups finely shredded cabbage

1 cup coarsely shredded carrots

1 cup thin strips red bell pepper (about 1-inch long)

1 pound medium shrimp (31/35), peeled and deveined

1 firm ripe avocado, cut into cubes

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Wrap 4 tortillas in foil and heat them on the middle shelf of the oven until they are pliable, about 5 minutes (or wrap them in a moist towel and microwave them for 30 seconds). Remove them from the foil, brush them lightly on both sides with the oil and carefully (so as not to burn yourself) drape each tortilla over a metal bar on the middle rack of the oven so that the sides of the tortillas are hanging down and bake them for 5 minutes. Open the oven, and using tongs, lift up the tortillas, spread them open a bit by pulling the two sides apart (they will still be pliable), and bake them on the rack for another 3 to 5 minutes or until they are crispy all over. Prep and bake the remaining 4 tortillas following the same procedure.

Meanwhile in a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, chipotle, adobo sauce and 1 teaspoon of the lime juice and stir well. Add salt to taste and about 1 tablespoon water or enough to make the sauce pourable.

In a medium bowl combine the cabbage, carrots, red pepper, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and salt to taste and toss well.

Preheat the grill to medium. In a medium bowl toss the shrimp with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and salt. Thread the shrimp onto skewers (preferably double skewers) and grill them, turning them once for 2 to 3 minutes total or until just cooked through. Transfer to a serving bowl.

To serve: Put all of the components of the tacos – the shrimp, coleslaw, avocado, chipotle cream and cilantro – onto a serving platter and let your guests build their own tacos.

]]> 0 for crispy shrimp tacos with cole slaw and chipotle cream.Tue, 01 Aug 2017 17:21:03 +0000
How is a wine drinker to know if a particular wine is worth the price tag? Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Is it really worth it?

Her question took me by surprise, an indication there was something to it. It’s a question I have flirted with for some time but hadn’t yet articulated an answer to it.

I was in the middle of a wine pairing on a recent Saturday night and was explaining a thing or two about an older, old-vine white Burgundy. When I mentioned that white Burgundy are among the most expensive white wines in the world, she stopped me.

“Is it really worth it?” she asked.

My response tumbled out without my thinking about it: “It really depends upon the kind of person you are.” Her face scrunched up, indicating she’d found my comment more vexing than it was clarifying. I riffed my way through the best answer I could give in the moment, but it’s a question that is so frequently asked I think it warrants a full explanation not just to her, but to all wine drinkers.

Here are the kinds of things to consider before you commit a substantial portion of your paycheck to a bottle of fermented grape juice.

When people ask, “Is it really worth it?” what they really mean is, “Am I going to enjoy this bottle of the expensive stuff?” The answer is twofold: First, understand the reasons this wine is expensive. And, second, figure out if you care about those reasons enough to buy it.

Some wines are expensive because they are rare. Some wines are expensive because a celebrity owns the vineyard where the wine is made. Some wines are expensive because the winemaker just spent millions of dollars on a state-of-the-art facility where she’ll be making her wine, and she needs to pay down some of the loans. Some wines are expensive because the winery has an impeccable, centuries-old reputation for making great wine. Suffice it to say, wine may be expensive for any number of reasons, some of which may seem more worthy to you than others.

It is certainly true that a wine can be expensive because the price reflects the care and fastidiousness of the winemaker as well as the complexity level of the wine. For most of us, this combination of factors might seem the most justifiable reason to spend on a special bottle. Yet even if you were holding this very bottle in your hands and deliberating over a purchase, it still doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy drinking it. This is because, in all honesty, most people cannot, and do not want to, develop the skills to detect subtle nuances in wine. The extra expense, which is reflected in the extra care, will be lost on these drinkers.

Let’s say one evening you find yourself poised in front of an expensive bottle of wine at the shelf at your local wine shop. A substantially less expensive bottle of wine, one you’ve had before and liked, is right next to it. Torn, you find yourself asking the same question the diner asked me about white Burgundy, “Is this really going to be worth the extra $50?” That’s the logical question. You want to know if that extra 50 bucks is going to mean that you’ll enjoy the expensive bottle that much more.

But it’s the wrong question. The question you should ask the person who runs the shop is, “Why is this bottle of wine so much more expensive than the one right next to it?” If that person knows the answer, then you decide if you think those reasons are important enough to you to justify the expense. If that person doesn’t know the answer, my recommendation is that you don’t buy the more expensive wine simply because it’s more expensive and you want something special. It’s too much of a gamble to throw up a Hail Mary and hope you score. If the owner doesn’t know, stick to what you know.

So, yeah, it’s an individual decision. That said, here are a few bottles to which I’d give a resounding “yes!” if asked whether or not they are worth it.

I’ve written about Sean Thackrey wines several times before in this column. His red blend, Orion, has delivered ample complexity and enjoyment every time I’ve had the good fortune to drink it. It comes from the Rossi Vineyard in Napa, California, which was planted with multiple red varieties in 1905. As Thackrey himself notes, “No one knows what’s in it.” Some years it is composed of Syrah and Petit Sirah. I’ve smelled black and blue fruit, menthol, black pepper, tar and something reminiscent of steak sauce. It is both fascinating and delicious. South Portland Wine Company distributes all of Thackrey’s wines.

Liquid Farms, a small winery located near the Santa Ynez Valley in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, produces many stunning Chardonnays that are well worth their cost. The winemakers have worked in some top-notch Burgundy wineries and are trying to channel the Old World-style Chardonnay in the cooler California climate of the Santa Rita Hills. Of their two Chardonnays, the Golden Slope – named in homage to the wines of the Cote d’Or – calls to my mind the great white Burgundies of Chassagne-Montrachet and St. Aubin. Hints of baking spices and cooked apples with dashes of nuttiness make it seem more like a dessert than a drink. It is, consistently, one of the sexiest and most alluring Chardonnays from California. Crush Distributors brings this beauty to Maine.

I would remiss if I didn’t mention a Champagne. One I have never regretted buying is René Geoffroy’s Rosé de Saignée, Premier Cru. It is one of the rare rosé Champagnes made in the Saignée method, a process that leeches more color from the Pinot Noir grape skins during maceration. It smells like a field planted with roses, raspberries and strawberries and is seductive in the extreme. That extended maceration period ensures that its texture isn’t flimsy. Rosé de Saignée has the structure of Pinot combined the with the raciness of Champagne. It’s haunting in the best way and is, most definitely, a hallmark wine.

Bryan Flewelling is the wine director for Big Tree Hospitality, which owns three restaurants in Portland: Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honey Paw.

]]> 0, 01 Aug 2017 17:26:23 +0000
‘The Pho Cookbook’ an invitation to conquer the pressure cooker Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 “The Pho Cookbook.” By Andrea Nguyen. Ten Speed Press. 168 pages. $22.

For my first test drive of Andrea Nguyen’s “The Pho Cookbook” I brought out the biggest gun in my kitchen; the pressure cooker. If I was going to tackle a kind of food I love but find mysterious, in a I’ll-never-pull-that-off kind of way, I figured I might as well use a piece of equipment I find mysterious and, even with several years of experience canning with it, somewhat daunting.

Besides, in her recipe notes for “Pressure Cooker Chicken Pho,” Nguyen described this Vietnamese version of chicken noodle soup as the one she’d come up with in an effort to mimic her mother’s old-fashioned version, but without all the hours of simmering. I could have made one she described as “simple and satisfying” (40 minutes) but it called for store-bought broth, and I wanted more of a challenge. Plus, recently I’ve been tinkering around with turning my own homemade chicken broth into pho. Winging it, in other words, and the mixed results (OK, not great) convinced me I needed a real recipe. Out of all the 50-plus recipes in this book (including some for sides and other Vietnamese treats like sweet coffee), this one seemed best built for my harried lifestyle. Nguyen lists it with a handful of other “fast and fabulous” phos and said it would take only about 90 minutes total.

I didn’t get the bird into the pressure cooker until 7 p.m., and the bowls landed on the table just before 9. Given that I was multitasking by making pizza for my resident picky eater (who doesn’t eat soup unless it’s made from melted chocolate ice cream), Nguyen’s estimate was a good one. Moreover, she delivered on her promise of “very good results in little time” in a major way. This pho, from scratch and in a rush, tasted completely authentic and utterly delicious.

“The Pho Cookbook” is a slim book, but rich on photos of everything from street life in Vietnam to the funky broth ingredients an American home cook might not be familiar with, like cassia bark or seasonings ranging from fish sauce to Chinese yellow rock sugar (“the go-to sweetner for many pho cooks”). There’s also a handy photo labeling the six kinds of rice noodles Nguyen suggets for her dishes. It includes a history lesson about pho and even a pronunciation guide for those of us who have been bastardizing it by ordering “foe” instead of “fuh.” Among the things I learned from Nguyen’s engaging and accessible introductory chapters: Pho has only been around about a century, and the conjecture that the name comes from “feu,” referring to the French pot-au-feu, is unproven. In short, this book covers all the bases and could serve like a “Pho for Dummies,” but goes beyond that, offering a chance for non-novices to deepen their expertise.

Proof that a recipe makes all the difference: I have felt my way through plenty of improvised dishes based on recognizing flavors in professional versions. But it would never have occurred to me to put an apple, a Fuji to be precise, into the broth. Or maple syrup (which serves as a substitute for those who don’t want to hunt down the rock sugar). I used a 5-pound plus chicken and skipped the muslin-lined straining process, but otherwise didn’t vary the recipe. It doesn’t dictate how you garnish yours, but I served mine with bean sprouts, wedges of lime, fresh basil and a squeeze bottle of siracha, just the way I typically get it at a Vietnamese restaurant. (Nguyen has separate sections devoted to preparing bowls and garnishes). This soup serves four, although it was so good that in our case it fed just two, very heartily and happily. This cookbook is going in the permanent collection, and it is going to get very splattered.


Very lightly adapted from “The Pho Cookbook” by Andrea Nguyen. Nguyen said her technique of cooling the chicken in water gives a “silky” quality to the cooked flesh; she was right.

Serves 4


1 rounded tablespoon coriander seeds

3 whole cloves

Chubby 2-inch section ginger peeled, thickly sliced and bruised

1 large yellow onion (10 ounce), halved and thickly sliced

8 cups water

1 (4-pound) chicken

1 small Fuji apple, peeled, cored and cut into thumbnail-size chunks

3/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro sprigs

21/4 teaspoons fine sea salt

11/2 tablespoons fish sauce

About 1 teaspoon of organic sugar or 2 teaspoons maple syrup


10 ounces dried narrow flat rice noodles

About half the cooked chicken from the broth

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, leafy tops only

1/2 small yellow or red onion, thinly cut against the grain and soaked in water for 10 minutes

2 thinly sliced green onions, green parts only

Put the coriander seeds and cloves in a 6- to 8-quart pressure cooker. Over medium heat, toast for several minutes, shaking or stirring, until fragrant. Add ginger and onion, stir until aromatic, about 45 to 60 seconds, to coax out a bit of flavor. (A little browning is OK).

Add 4 cups of water to arrest the cooking process. Put the chicken in the cooker, breast side up. Add the apple, cilantro, salt and remaining 4 cups of water. Lock the lid in place.

Bring to low pressure over high heat on a gas or induction stove, or medium heat on an electric stove. Lower the heat to maintain pressure, signaled by a gentle, steady flow of steam coming out of the valve. Cook for 15 minutes or, if your cooker only has a high pressure setting, for 12 minutes. When done, slide to a cool burner and let the pressure decrease naturally, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to avoid the hot steam.

Let settle for 5 minutes before using tongs to transfer the chicken to a bowl; if parts fall off in transit, don’t worry. Add water to cover the chicken and soak for 10 minutes to cool and prevent drying. Pour off the water, partially cover, and set chicken aside to cool.

While the broth is cooking, or cooling, soak your rice noodles in hot tap water until pliable and opaque. Drain, rinse and drain well. Pull the chicken apart and skin it, reserving half of the chicken and all of the skin for another use. Skim fat from the broth, strain it. Discard the solids. You should have about 8 cups. If you’re using right away, season the broth with the fish sauce, maple syrup and extra salt as needed. When all your garnishes are ready, assemble the bowls as you please, heating up the broth if necessary, and then pouring it over the chicken, noodles, herbs and other garnishes, which you have divvied up into 4 individual bowls.

]]> 0, 01 Aug 2017 17:39:30 +0000
Fine-dining restaurant Solo Bistro to close at end of summer in Bath Tue, 01 Aug 2017 22:25:27 +0000 Solo Bistro, a fine-dining restaurant in downtown Bath, will serve its last meal Sept. 2 after 12 years in business.

“We’re ready to move on,” said Will Neilson, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Pia.

The Neilsons are selling both the restaurant and the building it’s in on Front Street. The building is listed for $825,000.

Neilson, a corporate lawyer-turned-restaurateur, said the property has been on the market only 10 days and he already has a lot of interest, including potential buyers from New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The Neilsons moved to Maine from New York in 2000 and bought an investment property on Front Street. The building already had a restaurant, but it failed about a year later. The couple thought Bath had room for a high-end restaurant, and sought one in their building to add value to their investment. They spent a year trying to persuade someone to open another restaurant there, with no luck.

In June 2005, they opened their own, although neither had any restaurant experience.

“We said, ‘How hard can it be?’ ” Neilson recalled, “and we had a chance to find out. It was pretty hard.”

Solo Bistro serves a contemporary menu of small and large plates, using local, organic ingredients and serving such dishes as fisherman’s stew and lamb ragout. Neilson said now that Bath “seems to be blossoming a little bit with restaurants” – Salt Pine Social just down the street from Solo Bistro is the latest – it seemed a good time to move on.

“What that means for us is the winters become more difficult to survive with more competition, but at the same time, because those other places are opening, Bath is becoming a more attractive place to live and invest. So it’s a good moment for us to cash in our investment, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Another factor: The Neilsons live in Arrowsic and just saw their youngest child graduate from college, so they are now empty-nesters. Neilson said he’s likely to continue his involvement in local politics – he ran unsuccessfully for the state Legislature last year – but he wants to start taking it easy.

“I’d be happy to be done with the building and the restaurant,” he said, “and retire to my house and bake bread and eat with my wife and friends.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Solo Bistro restaurant on Front Street in Bath.Tue, 01 Aug 2017 20:26:45 +0000
Two Maine restaurants finalists on Bon Appetit’s list of best new ones Tue, 01 Aug 2017 19:08:49 +0000 Two Maine restaurants are on Bon Appetit’s list of 50 finalists for its annual “Hot 10” Best New Restaurants in America.

Nina June in Rockport, owned by New York City and Maine restaurateur and chef Sara Jenkins, and The Purple House in North Yarmouth, owned by chef Krista Desjarlais, both made the list.

Sara Jenkins, left, and Nancy Harmon Jenkins, are the mother-daughter co-authors of “The Four Seasons of Pasta.” Sara Jenkins owns Nina June, which has made Bon Appetit’s list of finalists for best new restaurants. Photo by Michael Harlan Turkell/Courtesy of Penguin Random House

The magazine described Nina June as the “fantasy vacationland restaurant where Maine meets the Mediterranean.”

“The stunning kitchen, farmhouse tables, and open shelves lined with cookbooks – you don’t just want to eat here; you want to live here,” Bon Appetit editors Andrew Knowlton and Julia Kramer wrote.

The Purple House was cited for its “much hyped” bagels, such as the “za’atar-dusted Montreal-style bagel with (cultured, organic, made-in-house) horseradish-dill cream cheese and gravlax.” But readers were also encouraged to try Desjarlais’ wood-fired desserts, such as the “crisp-edged hazelnut buckwheat financiers dotted with juicy gooseberries.”

The Purple House is closed for the summer while Desjarlais tends to her other business, an upscale summer snack shack, Bresca & the Honeybee, on the shores of Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester. It will reopen in October.

The Bon Appetit Hot 10 winners will be announced Aug. 15.

]]> 0 Kern Desjarlais outside The Purple House in North Yarmouth.Tue, 01 Aug 2017 21:45:46 +0000
Pricey, nitrogen-infused coffee winning devotees in southern Maine Tue, 01 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000

Tom Marlow prepares kegs of cold-brewed coffee infused with nitrogen at Portland’s Fork Food Lab. The brew is smoother and creamier than other coffees, fans say, and the cold water extracts more of the beans’ sweet flavors. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Dave Mallari wasn’t too sure at first about adding nitrogen-infused coffee to the menu at The Sinful Kitchen, his small brunch restaurant on Brighton Avenue.

He started by ordering just one 5-gallon keg a week of the specialty coffee, which is infused with nitrogen gas and served chilled on tap, like beer – sometimes straight up, sometimes with added ice. Now, eight months later, he can go through four kegs a week. He’s also stocking to-go cups to serve the customers who have gotten hooked on the brew and pop in first thing in the morning.

The Arabica Coffee shop on Free Street has been selling nitro coffee for just two to three months, and already sales of the drink account for an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the shop’s total sales of iced coffees. Demand is so great that the shop often runs out.

“For something that’s brand new for us and we haven’t put a lot of leg work into advertising it, that’s fantastic,” said Andy McClure, the shop’s manager.

It wasn’t that long ago that cold brew coffee became the new, hip drink in coffee bars all around the country. Now that cold brew is mainstream (you can get it at Dunkin’ Donuts) a subset of that category, nitro coffee, is fast becoming the new favorite among coffee drinkers who like specialty brews and trying something new – and who don’t mind paying $4 or more per 16-ounce cup.


It’s still too early to predict whether nitro coffee taps will eventually make their way into every corner store, but the National Coffee Association is impressed with the drink’s performance so far. This year, for the first time, nitro was included in the association’s 2017 National Coffee Drinking Trends Report. The report found that 3 percent of those surveyed who drank coffee in the previous week had downed a cup of nitro. That doesn’t sound like much, but the NCA called it “a strong debut.” (Regular cold brew clocked in at 11 percent.)

Portland has become a haven for nitro coffee lovers, helped by startup brewer White Cap and Exeter, N.H., wholesaler Nobl Coffee. The brew is said to be sweeter than other coffees and, with its thin layer of foam, resembles a dark beer. Staff photo by Derek Davis

What’s the appeal of nitro coffee? With its rich, dark color and thin layer of crema, or foam, that forms on top, nitro invites comparisons to Guinness beer. Fans say the taste and texture are smoother and creamier than other coffees, and it’s a little sweeter, too. Most people find no need to add cream or sugar to a nitro coffee.

“It’s so smooth, and you can actually taste the nuances of the coffee, the chocolatey caramel undertones,” said Jill Dutton, co-owner of The Cheese Iron in Scarborough, which sells Rwandan Reserve and Namaste Chai nitro coffees from White Cap Coffee, a start-up nitro brewer working out of Fork Food Lab in Portland.

The Cheese Iron started selling nitro in May and is already going through two kegs a week; sales have eclipsed the shop’s hot coffee.

The brewing process, whose origins are unclear, creates the drink’s more subtle but satisfying flavors.

“Since you’re not putting hot water over grounds, you’re not changing the chemical nature of the oils in the coffee,” said Tom Marlow, co-owner of White Cap. “The cold water has a higher propensity to extract the more sweet flavors from the coffee beans and less of the bitter, astringent type of flavors that you might associate with a cooled down cup of hot coffee that’s been sitting on the desk a little too long.”

White Cap brews with beans roasted by another Portland startup, the Rwanda Bean Coffee.


In Portland, the market for nitro is going nuts, thanks largely to White Cap and Nobl Coffee, a wholesaler based in Exeter, New Hampshire. The two brewers are selling their nitro to local businesses as varied as Bayside Bowl, the Portland Food Co-op, Otherside Delicatessen, Ri Ra and, of course, coffee shops such as Arabica and Coffee By Design. Many of these spots are selling growlers of nitro as well.

“When it’s a hot day, we have to order more because it will totally sell out,” said Mary Alice Scott, community engagement manager at the Portland Food Co-op, where a Columbian brew and a Madagascar vanilla bean coffee are on tap.

White Cap’s Marlow, who is an engineer with a law degree, and his partner Ben Graffius, a merchant marine captain, launched their business last September out of Fork Food Lab. They’re now servicing nine locations in southern Maine and plan to create a larger brewery and tasting room on the Portland peninsula later this fall. Marlow said the new nitro brewery will be “modeled around a brewery, but it’s in essence a different kind of coffee shop.”

“We’ll have multiple flavors of the nitro brew,” he said. “We’ll also have hot coffee available because some people just like to have hot coffee. But from a nitro perspective, we’ll be doing tasting flights so you could get a few (coffees) of different origins and have some basic food to pair with that. Basically what we want to do is take that experience that you get at a brewery tasting room and do it similarly for coffee.”

Nobl Coffee was founded two and a half years ago and distributes nitro coffee throughout New England. The company has been pushing hard into Maine, says owner Connor Roelke, because Portland has “one of the hippest food scenes in the area. It’s right behind Boston.”

Tom and Lindsay Marlow agitate a keg of cold-brewed White Cap Coffee at Fork Food Lab. The brewing process makes for a more nuanced flavor. “Since you’re not putting hot water over grounds, you’re not changing the chemical nature of the oils in the coffee,” Tom Marlow says. White Cap uses beans roasted by another Portland startup, Rwanda Bean Coffee. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Roelke had fewer than 10 Maine accounts last year; over the past year his Maine business has ballooned to 30-plus accounts.

Roelke uses beans from a dozen different New England coffee roasters, including Portland’s Coffee By Design. He has also installed nitro taps in all of the Coffee By Design cafes. Alan Spear, co-owner of Coffee By Design, says sales of nitro coffee have “just exploded” for his company.

The Coffee By Design in Freeport, for example, goes through 40 kegs of cold brew in a busy weekend, he said, and half of that is nitro cold brew.

While most people enjoy nitro on its own, one advantage of the brew is it can be used in more creative ways than traditional iced coffee. The staff at The Sinful Kitchen is using nitro to make specialty cocktails, such as a boozy mochaccino and an espresso martini that’s made with nitro cold brew, Baileys Irish Cream and vanilla vodka, garnished with espresso beans.


At LB Kitchen on Congress Street, which has been serving nitro for two months, the coffee is going into “wellness mocktails,” such as the hibiscus cold brew sparkler, which is made with homemade hibiscus syrup, nitro coffee and sparkling water. Co-owner Bryna Gootkind says she plans to release similar new drinks one at a time. Next up: a coffee-based lemonade.

“Pairing coffee with citrus totally changes the profile of both coffee and citrus,” Gootkind said. “It becomes something that is delicious and sort of familiar because you’ve had them both, but something happens with the two of them together.”

You can still get a cup of “plain” nitro coffee there, too, for $3.50 per 16-ounce cup, a relative bargain.

Nitro coffee costs more because of the complex brewing process, which requires a much higher coffee-to-water ratio, Spear says. Cold brews can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours (at Coffee By Design, it’s 24 hours) to prepare, and need five pounds of coffee to make just five gallons.

Nitro coffee is good not only for coffee shops’ immediate bottom lines, but for their long-term health. At a time when consumers can buy coffee anywhere, including in cans in the grocery’s refrigerated aisle, specialty coffees like nitro help lure customers back to the comfy couches of local coffee shops.

“It’s very easy for people to make quality coffee at home now,” said McClure, the manager at Arabica. “You can go anywhere and find coffee. Portland is a particularly saturated town as far as coffee shops, too. Doing something like this gives you an edge.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Marlow prepares kegs of cold-brewed coffee infused with nitrogen at Portland's Fork Food Lab. The brew is smoother and creamier than other coffees, fans say, and the cold water extracts more of the beans' sweet flavors.Tue, 01 Aug 2017 14:33:41 +0000
Interactive map: Find a farmers market Fri, 28 Jul 2017 16:16:49 +0000 Maine has an incredible number of farmers’ markets and the next few months are peak season for fresh, local fruits and vegetables.

Click on a circle to view details about each market.



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INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @c_milneil
]]> 0, ME - JULY 27: Monique Lefebvre picks out flowers at the Portland Farmers Market at Monument Square. (Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer)Fri, 28 Jul 2017 13:11:09 +0000
Name, recipe of Coke Zero will change Wed, 26 Jul 2017 23:10:22 +0000 NEW YORK — Coke Zero is getting revamped as Coke Zero Sugar.

The new name is intended to make clearer that the drink has no sugar, and a new recipe is intended to make the drink taste more like regular Coke. The company isn’t specifying what it’s changing aside from saying it tweaked the “blend of flavors.” It says the drink will use the same artificial sweeteners.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. says the new cans and bottles, which will incorporate more red like regular Coke, will start hitting shelves in August.

Fans who like Coke Zero just the way it is took to social media, with some people joking about stockpiling the current version or referencing the history of New Coke. Others asked the company to please reconsider, and Coca-Cola’s social media team was busily responding, saying they’re hopeful that people will love the new version.

The push behind Coke Zero comes as Americans continue moving away from Diet Coke, which was introduced in the 1980s and has its own taste that’s different from Coke. Coke Zero was introduced in 2005 and is intended to more closely mimic the flagship cola.

Coke Zero has generally been marketed to sporting events that skew to a male audience, while Diet Coke has been marketed to audiences that skew female, says Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest. Both drinks are listed as having no calories.

Coca-Cola in the past has blamed the declines of Diet Coke on concerns over the aspartame used in the drink, though the ingredient is also used in Coke Zero, which has enjoyed growth globally.

James Quincey, CEO of Coca-Cola, says people haven’t always understood that Diet Coke and Coke Zero have no sugar.

“It may surprise you to learn, but it’s true,” Quincey

Coca-Cola notes that the newer version of Coke Zero has already been launched in some other countries. That may allay concerns that the revamp won’t go over well with fans, such as the infamous 1985 rollout of “New Coke,” or PepsiCo’s more recent recipe change for Diet Pepsi. PepsiCo had removed aspartame, which it said people didn’t like. But then it brought back a version of Diet Pepsi with the artificial sweetener after sales fell.

]]> 0 Zero Sugar, with its tweaked "blend of flavors," will start hitting the shelves in August.Wed, 26 Jul 2017 23:02:40 +0000
Pasta with sauteed kale and bread crumbs satisfies Wed, 26 Jul 2017 08:00:00 +0000 There are lots of varieties of kale on the market. They start appearing now and stay seasonal all through the winter. You can play around with any and all of them in this recipe.

You also can use other dark greens, like mustard greens, collards, Swiss chard – even chopped broccolini or broccoli rabe. Spinach is another option, but cook it for only about 4 or 5 minutes or it will probably get a bit too soft.

There are plenty of pasta and greens recipe out there, but this one is elevated and made super-amazing by the topping of Parmesan-infused fried fresh bread crumbs. And a smidge of anchovies and red pepper flakes.

I always rush to mention that if you have people at the table who think they don’t like anchovies, you should conveniently leave out that little nugget of information when describing this dish. But leave out the information, not the anchovies. (Unless you’re serving a vegetarian, then full disclosure is in order).


Serves 6

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus extra for drizzling

1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided

4 oil- or salt-packed anchovy filets, rinsed and minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

2 pounds kale, thick stems cut off, rinsed well and roughly chopped

1 pound spaghetti

Juice from 1 lemon

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and season generously with salt.

Meanwhile, heat half of the 1/3 cup oil in a very large, deep skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper, and toast them, stirring frequently, until the bread crumbs are light golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add half the garlic and cook and stir for one more minute, until you can small the garlic. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the toasted crumbs to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Pour out any remaining oil and wipe out the skillet with paper towels (carefully!). Return the skillet to medium heat, and add the rest of the 1/3 cup oil and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining minced garlic, the anchovies and red pepper flakes, and stir for a few seconds. Then add the kale and 1/4 cup water (if the kale is damp from rinsing it, skip the additional water), partially cover the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the kale is fairly wilted and tender.

While the kale is cooking, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Remove 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Add the pasta, half of the reserved cooking water, and the lemon juice to the pan with the wilted kale, and toss to combine well (use the pot you cooked the pasta in if that works better size-wise). Add more cooking water if the mixture seems dry. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

In a small bowl, stir together the toasted breadcrumbs with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.

Transfer the pasta and kale to a serving bowl or to individual plates, and top with the Parmesan bread crumbs. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, and serve hot or warm. Let people give their servings an extra drizzle of olive oil if they wish.

]]> 0, 25 Jul 2017 17:59:13 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Ah squash, our love for you is blooming Wed, 26 Jul 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Blossoms from any summer squash – zucchini, patty pan, yellow crookneck – are deliciously edible, with a sweetly herbaceous flavor. Harvest them just after the sunny yellow blooms pop open and use the blossoms in this summery pasta dish or dip them in batter and shallow-fry.


Skinny beans mimic the pasta shape and complement the vegetal flavor of the squash blossoms. If they are fatter than about ¼-inch, slice the beans in half lengthwise. Herbs add dimension, lemon adds brightness, and Pecorino contributes its salty richness to a dish that is the essence of summer garden. To complete the meal, serve a tomato salad and a basket of seeded Italian bread.

Serves 4

4 tablespoons butter, softened

8 to 10 squash blossoms, coarsely chopped, plus a couple of blossoms for garnish

10 ounces spaghetti or bucatini

A large handful of thin green beans, trimmed (about 8 ounces)

A small handful of thin yellow wax beans, trimmed (about 6 ounces)

1/3 cup chopped scallions

¼ cup torn basil leaves

3 tablespoons shredded or grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine butter and chopped squash blossoms. Set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 6 minutes. Add beans and cook until pasta and beans are al dente, about 3 more minutes. Scoop out and reserve 1½ cups of pasta cooking water.

Drain pasta and beans, return to warm pot, and add blossom butter, scallions, basil, cheese, lemon zest and juice, stirring until butter melts. Add most of reserved pasta water and stir again until most is absorbed, adding more if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to plates or serving bowl, garnish with squash blossoms, and serve. Pass more grated cheese at the table.


I don’t deep-fry much at home any more, but every now and then I need to make an exception. These delicate fritters – which are “shallow-fried” in less than the usual amount of oil – are a once-a-season treat.

Makes 12 hors d’oeuvres

12 squash blossoms

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water, or a bit more if necessary

1 tablespoon minced fresh herb – basil, thyme, chives, or sage

Vegetable oil for frying

Sea salt for sprinkling

Rinse blossoms, inspect to remove any insects, and set upside down, umbrella-like, on paper towels to drain.

In a bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Whisk in water and minced herb to make a batter. Set aside while preparing to cook.

Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large deep skillet to 350 degrees. (A drop of batter will sizzle when oil is ready.) Check batter. It should be consistency of thick cream; if too thick, add a tablespoon or so more water.

Dip blossoms in batter, letting excess drip off, and fry in hot oil, 3 or 4 at a time, turning once, until golden, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and serve. Eat with fingers.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

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Former Yarmouth teacher finds a new calling in the mashed potato business Wed, 26 Jul 2017 08:00:00 +0000 As a schoolteacher for 22 years, Renee Rhoads was used to planning, multitasking, organizing and problem solving.

Now that she’s making mashed potatoes for a living, things haven’t changed much.

“It’s very similar, except I’m not getting any parent emails,” Rhoads said. “And it’s really nice to hand someone a plate of mashed potatoes with yummy food on it and say ‘Here, enjoy your meal’ and not ‘Hey, your kid is not doing his homework.’ ”

This is Rhoads’ first summer running her mashed potato business; she’s doing so out of her 1972 Shasta trailer, which she has affectionately named Spud. She left Yarmouth Elementary School at the end of the school year after teaching fourth grade there for nine years. Before that, she taught in New York City public schools for 13 years.

One of her first gigs with Spud was catering the retirement party for Betsy Lane, the former principal of Yarmouth Elementary School. Lane said there’s no doubt that Rhoads leaving the classroom is a big loss, “but you watch: She’ll turn it into something fabulous along the way, as far as teaching people something.”

Usually when a fresh food truck rolls into town, it’s a young chef or wannabe restaurateur behind the wheel. The leap from 46-year-old fourth-grade teacher to food truck operator seems more unusual. No demographic statistics are available for the food truck industry, according to Richard Myrick, editor-in-chief of Mobile Cuisine magazine, which tracks other industry trends and statistics. But he estimates that nearly 60 percent of food truck operators come from the food service industry.

Rhoads may not be a chef, but the path to her new career is not as unlikely as it sounds. Her grandmother taught her to cook, and when she was 13 she went to work as a bus girl in a local Greek restaurant. That began a long waitressing career at restaurants in Connecticut and Boston. “When I graduated from college, I said ‘I’m never doing this again,’ ” Rhoads said, laughing.


She never went back to restaurant work, but her love of food stayed with her. She’s tried to pass along that love to her students by baking with them, managing the Yarmouth school garden, and raising a few chickens on Yarmouth school grounds. Every year, wanting her students to be mindful of their blessings, she took them to the food drive run by a local church.

Rhoads, who lives in Falmouth, tries to follow a diet that is dairy- and gluten-free. At a concert at Thompson’s Point last summer, she noticed how busy the food trucks were – but everything they served “was on a bun or loaded with cheese.”

“That was when the seed was planted,” she said. “I was thinking it might be time to do something new. I was feeling a little burnt out. I’d never taught anywhere for nine years, and I needed a change.”

Almost everyone fantasizes about career change at some point, but usually it takes more of a push to transform the daydreaming into action. After all, career transitions like the one she envisioned can mean pay cuts and loss of health care. In Rhoads’ case, she says she never would have made the leap if her husband hadn’t been able to add her to his health plan. She’s definitely taking a “huge” pay cut, but said she doesn’t care, if it means leaving the “stress and pressure” of teaching behind.

“I am not a fancy person,” she said. “I drive old cars. As long as I can pay my bills, I’m happy.”

For Rhoads, the prod she needed to make this major transition came from an exercise class she took that was built around Roller Derby-style skating. She loved it so much she tried out for Maine Roller Derby and now skates under the name D. Tension. (Get it?) The women she skated with were from all walks of life, which she said taught her she could do anything – even wear sparkly spandex – and still be the same person, still be happy. Without that push, she said, she’d still be grading papers.

Renee Rhoads places a pinwheel on the back of her 1972 Shasta Compact camper, affectionately dubbed Spud, while setting up outside Austin Street Brewery in Portland. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

“You’re with all these women who take risks,” she explained. “They’re willing to do anything. Roller Derby teaches you ‘Hey, you get knocked down, you just get back up.’ It was such a confidence builder.”

When Rhoads found Spud on Craigslist, a Roller Derby buddy offered her a barn to store it in over the winter. She worked on it on weekends, painting it and installing a four-bay sink. Rhoads estimates she spent $10,000 on the project over 10 months, including $3,500 for the trailer and $1,000 on the sink.

Meanwhile, she began talking about making a life change to friends and co-workers. Gabe Gordon, another Yarmouth fourth-grade teacher and a friend, says Rhoads is “a real go-getter” and “one of the most creative people I know.” He wasn’t surprised Rhoads was ready to try something new, “but I was surprised that she was going to do a food truck.”

“She’s an amazing educator,” Gordon said. “She’s the type of teacher that gets to know each individual kid and gets to know their strengths and really helps them excel in their classroom. … I would imagine she would take that same passion to the food truck business.”

Betsy Lane says she, too, knew Rhoads was ready to move on, but was “really floored” when she heard the teacher was setting aside her red pen for a chef’s knife. Rhoads has a “tremendous gift” for growing things and teaching kids how to cook, she said, “but the food truck idea just made me howl. Who else but Renee would come up with something like this?”

For advice, Rhoads turned to Jenna Friedman, co-owner of the CN Shawarma food truck and the new Bayside restaurant Baharat. Rhoads said she’s just sent Friedman “another ridiculous, gooey thank-you email” for their long meeting over a cup of coffee.

“I’m just so grateful to her because she gave me so much advice and information,” Rhoads said. “She gave me all of her contacts. She showed me what a catering contract looks like.”

Rhoads scoops mashed potatoes into a bowl amid the half-dozen crockpots she uses in her camper. She is developing new recipes, including chicken mole; cioppino; and potato pancakes with Maine-smoked fish, dill crème fraîche and capers. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Originally, Rhoads planned to serve only gluten-free and dairy-free food, but her 18-year-old son (she also has a 13-year-old) put the brakes on that, calling it a “horrible” idea. He was also the one who suggested she make mashed potatoes like she used to when they were boys: Swedish meatballs on a bed of mashed potatoes. She’d tell the boys, “Here’s your bird’s nest. You’d better eat it before the birds hatch.”

And so she began putting together a menu featuring thick, satisfying Maine mashed potatoes with toppings like shepherd’s pie, pulled pork BBQ and curried chicken.


At first, Rhoads peeled every potato by hand – she goes through at least 200 pounds in a week – but after she, her husband, and her sister-in-law spent 24 hours peeling potatoes for a local festival, Rhoads bought a $700 potato-peeling machine. “You don’t start a snow removal business with a freakin’ shovel,” she told her husband. “I’m buying the machine.”

Rhoads has a half-dozen crockpots in her trailer, and slow roasts meats in them the night before she parks in a park or at a local brewery.

One recent Monday, when Rhoads was scheduled to be at Austin Street Brewery at noon, she rose at 6 a.m. to peel potatoes and make a batch of her shepherd’s pie topping. Then she ran to the store to pick up some last-minute items.

“I’m usually in panic mode,” she said. “And every time I go out, I usually make some kind of mistake. I’m like a first-year teacher, and you just don’t know what you’re doing.”

It’s also been tough to figure out how much to make, although food truck veterans tell her that’s a common conundrum, no matter how much experience you have. Once, at Bunker Brewing, she sold out in two hours and missed hours’ worth of sales. Now she packs extra ingredients so she can make more batches if she needs to. Leftovers go to her family.

Rhoads arrived at Austin Street a little late, and hurried to set up. Wearing Bermuda shorts and a summery blue embroidered blouse, her hair held back with a wide hairband, she brought out her Mashed sign, a chalkboard menu listing the day’s selections – all priced at $9, except for the vegan and vegetarian versions, which are $7 – and a green-and-white pinwheel that attaches to the trailer. She heaved a small generator out of her car and got it running.

Rhoads set up a small metal table for napkins, forks, business cards, a bouquet of fresh flowers, a big bottle of hot sauce, and her potato kitsch – three ceramic potatoes she found at Goodwill, one for tips, one to hold business cards, and a larger one with a lid that she uses to sell Needhams (Maine’s potato-chocolate candy) on days that aren’t sweltering. Two potato-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers also made an appearance.

Pulled pork barbecue in a nest of mashed potatoes with slaw, pickles and cornbread from the Mashed food truck. Rhoads’ other toppings include dishes like shepherd’s pie and chicken curry. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Rhoads donned a yellow apron imprinted with a potato cartoon. She pulled her cash box out of the oven, and brought out two jars of garnishes from her garden – a bunch of lavender and some lemon balm. (She uses the eggs from her Easter Egger hens to make meatballs and cornbread.)

The first two customers approached the trailer just after 12:30 p.m. Mike Marzilli and Ben Corriveaux, co-workers from a nearby store, were first-timers.

“I’ve been following her on Instagram for a while,” Corriveaux said, “and always kind of wanted it, wanted it, wanted it.”

On this day, Rhoads didn’t worry about running out of food. She served plenty of customers, listening to music or a podcast whenever it was slow, and ended up working until 7 p.m, which made for a 13-hour day, compared with her former 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. school day. Still, she says she comes home from the food truck with energy to spare, “whereas when I’m teaching I could take a nap every afternoon. It’s so draining. It’s just so intense. You have to be on the entire time you’re at school – at least to do a good job you do.”

One difference, she says, is fewer distractions. No kids saying they can’t find their pencils. No e-mails from parents. No Yarmouth youngsters worried about getting into Harvard. “I want kids to be making potatoes, not worrying about where they’re going to college when they’re 9 years old,” she said. “It’s nuts.”

While she misses her students, Rhoads has no regrets. So far business is good. She’s hoping to break even by the end of summer, and is making plans to winterize the trailer. She is developing new recipes, including chicken mole; cioppino; and potato pancakes with Maine-smoked fish, dill crème fraîche and capers. A binder with all her recipes is covered in scribbles.

“This is me trying to make vegetarian sausage that’s gluten free,” she said, pointing to one particularly messy page.

Rhoads says she has no aspirations to open her own restaurant. “I just like to do fun things,” she said, “and I like to make people happy.”

]]> 0 Renee Rhoads places a pinwheel on the back of her 1972 Shasta Compact camper, affectionately dubbed Spud, while setting up outside Austin Street Brewery in Portland.Wed, 26 Jul 2017 15:06:39 +0000
Simply delicious: Grilled zucchini over ricotta-smeared bruschetta Wed, 26 Jul 2017 08:00:00 +0000 “Adulting” can be pronounced two ways: with dripping sarcasm or bristling scorn. After all, adult is best unadulterated. Either you can hoist a credit score, fix a flat and fold a fitted sheet, or you can’t.

Disqualifying many. I’m happy to soothe the unruly heap of shorts and slacks. Sheets: No. They leap out of the dryer tangled into vicious knots; best to ball and shove in a deep closet – one that locks.

Recently, a friend (OK, the Internet) explained a calm approach: Stack up the four corner points. Ignore the antics of the springy elastics. While they’re busy roughhousing, sandwich them into a square as neat and smooth as ricotta on white bread.

The first time I worked this trick, I dropped the neat, white square on the dining room table for everyone to admire. No one did. So I swapped it out for ricotta on white. It was tastier than laundry and nearly as adult.


Makes 2 open-face sandwiches

1/2 cup olive oil, about

1 fat clove garlic, mashed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 small (1/2-pound) zucchini

2 slices country or sourdough bread

SEASON: Pour oil into a small bowl. Drop in garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper. Let rest at least 10 minutes.

MIX: Stir together ricotta, thyme and lemon zest in a separate bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

SLICE: Trim zucchini. Use a mandoline or a vegetable peeler to slice the long way into 1/4-inch thick strips.

BRUSH: Paint the bread on both sides with the seasoned oil. Paint the zucchini strips on both sides with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

GRILL: Prepare a medium-hot grill. Grill bread and zucchini strips over direct heat until bread is crunchy and zucchini is bright green at the edges and striped with grill marks, about 2 minutes per side for both.

BUILD: Set bread on each of two plates. Schmear with ricotta. Top with grilled zucchini. Grind on more pepper and drizzle with a bit of the oil.


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