The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Food Fri, 29 Jul 2016 05:29:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Munjoy Hill may be changing but the Front Room isn’t going anywhere Thu, 28 Jul 2016 15:26:58 +0000 0, 28 Jul 2016 11:27:23 +0000 Buck’s Naked BBQ closing Old Port location Aug. 20 Wed, 27 Jul 2016 21:54:42 +0000 Buck’s Naked BBQ & Steakhouse in the Old Port will close Aug. 20 and be replaced with a sports bar.

The barbecue restaurant at 50 Wharf St. is owned by Wendyll and Alex Caisse, who said they’ve decided to concentrate their efforts on their other two Buck’s locations, in Freeport and Windham, which are “super busy.”

The Wharf Street lease will be taken over by Mark Deane of Portland, who plans to open a new sports bar there called Mark’s Sports, according to papers filed with the city. There is a year left on the lease.

Deane is a businessman behind other Old Port night spots, including Mark’s Place and Pearl Tap House, both on Fore Street.

Buck’s opened its Portland location four years ago. In a news release, the Caisses said they planned “to evaluate and explore the marketplace for more strategic locations for the family-friendly concept.”

The staff was notified of the closing in early July; some employees will be moving to the restaurant’s other locations. Al Brown, operations manager of the Buck’s Naked BBQ restaurant group, said the company would give “full pay and bonuses to all who facilitate a smooth ending.”

Mark’s Sports, which will serve pub-style food, has set a target opening date of Sept. 1.

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Bake-ahead egg cups combat morning scramble Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When it comes to healthy eating, good intentions and willpower can only take us so far. That’s why I believe strongly in making the healthy choice the easy choice, especially when it comes to morning decisions.

Spending a little time to set myself up for success makes a huge difference in my ability to stick to my healthy living plans. For instance, I set out my workout clothes the night before, so rolling out of bed and into them is a no-brainer. Should the extra 15-seconds that it would take for me to open the dresser drawer to grab my exercise clothes be the thing that derails an entire workout? Perhaps not. But alas it does. For me, anyway.

Same thing can happen when it comes to food. When I’m hungry and in a rush, I’m far more likely to grab just anything that will fill my belly. But I’ll absolutely eat a healthy protein-filled breakfast if it’s all prepped and ready to go.

In fact, my whole family eats better when I invest a little time cooking and stocking my freezer with my own version of “fast food.” One of our favorites is the morning egg muffin, which is essentially scrambled eggs baked up in muffin tins.

I make a dozen or two on weekends to keep in the freezer and in less than two microwave minutes, we have a weekday breakfast that is chock-full of filling protein. My secret: I use two eggs to get some of that luscious fat, flavor, and color from the yolk and then load up on serious-protein egg whites.

Use whatever veggies you have on hand, and don’t be shy about loading up – even my two pickiest kiddos love these little guys! Make several flavors when you find eggs on sale, and you’ll have a veritable morning buffet of protein for weeks. No last minute drive-thrus to stave off the hunger on the way to work.


Makes 12 servings

1 link turkey Italian sausage, about 3 ounces, crumbled

1/2 red pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped onion

1 tablespoons flour (all purpose or rice flour both work)

1 1/2 cups baby spinach, washed

2 eggs

3/4 cup egg whites (about 7 egg whites)

1/4 cup lowfat milk

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a saute pan, cook the sausage over medium high heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and chopped onion and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour and stir in.

Chop the spinach and stir into the pan, and cook another minute for spinach to wilt. Remove from heat and allow to cool a few minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites and milk until pale yellow and smooth. Stir in the sausage mixture and cheese.

Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray. Spoon the mixture into the tin. Bake until eggs are firm but not dry, about 15 minutes. Let cool in the muffin tins for 10 minutes before removing and allowing to cool on a baking rack.

Eat right away, or freeze in a resealable freezer bag. Label well! To microwave for breakfast: Wrap in a paper towel and heat on 70 percent heat until hot, about 90 seconds, depending on microwave strength.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is the author of the cookbook “Supermarket Healthy.”

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The Maine Ingredient: Elegant summer fruit and vegetable hors d’oeuvres ready in an instant Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Summer fruits and vegetables are delicious unto themselves for sure, but I also like to add a bit of richness when using them raw as pre-dinner hors d’oeuvre. Here are three examples of just such combinations, which I hope will inspire you to create your own permutations for similar pre-dinner nibble.


This is a lovely riff on the by-now classic watermelon and feta salad, and the picks are as pretty to look at as they are delicious to eat. You can assemble the picks up to about two hours ahead, store them loosely covered in the refrigerator, and place them on their bed of oil and vinegar at the last minute. You’ll need toothpicks to make this recipe.

Makes about 32 picks

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

6 ounce chunk of feta (not crumbles)

About 1 pound watermelon

Small rosemary sprigs (about 3 leaves each)

Freshly ground black pepper

Pour oil and vinegar on a serving platter and tilt to coat platter.

Cut feta into ½- to ¾-inch squares. Slice watermelon, remove rind, and cut into same size squares. Pierce cheese with toothpick, add watermelon square, and stand upright on platter. Continue with remaining cheese and watermelon. Garnish each with a rosemary sprig, and grind black pepper over all.


I can find at least three brands of salmon mousse (sometimes labeled as “salmon pate”) at my supermarket. Typical ingredients are cream cheese, chopped smoked salmon, sometimes cream and various seasonings. Some brands (usually the less expensive products) are looser and runnier than you want for this recipe, so try to get one with some body and plenty of delicious smoked salmon flavor. If you don’t have a pastry bag, simply spoon or spread the mousse onto the cucumber rounds. Taste the mousse; if it already contains dill or another herb, you may not want to add the chopped dill.

Makes about 24 canapes

1 long English seedless cucumber

1 small (7-ounce) container good quality smoked salmon mousse

2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill, if desired, and dill sprigs

Freshly ground black pepper

Use a fork to score cucumber down its length all around its circumference. Cut into ¼- to ½-inch slices, thick enough so they can be picked up by hand. Arrange on serving tray.

Mash mousse with a fork to soften a bit if necessary and stir in dill, if using. Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe a 1- to 1½-teaspoon rosette onto each cucumber round. Grind black pepper over and garnish each with a dill sprig. Refrigerate until ready to serve to firm up mousse. (Can be made about 2 hours ahead.)


Rich, soft-ripened triple crème St. Andre cheese is the perfect foil for sweet-sharp bell peppers, and its buttery texture allows for easy spreading. A restrained garnish of thyme leaves or blossoms adds interest and a complementary flavor.

Makes about 30 canapes

1 red bell pepper

¼ pound St. Andre, left at room temperature for a couple of hours to soften

Tiny thyme leaves or small blossoms

Cut pepper into strips about 3/4-inch wide. Use a small blunt knife to spread a teaspoon or so of cheese into center of each pepper “boat.” Arrange on serving platter and garnish with thyme sprigs. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 hours.

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.” (Storey, 2015). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

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Unexpected guests? Impromptu picnic? With these wines on hand, you’ll always be ready Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In summer, I lose it. The lonely, forced focus of winter finds its fractured rival now, with competing claims from the habits of work, the temptations of play, the fluctuations of family schedules, the preparations for hosting and visiting. I receive the season’s default greeting, “How’s your summer going?”, as a taunt, a test, an invitation to disappoint and a portal to sorrow.

Pairing wine with food is a petty concern compared to pairing it with emotional condition. What are the wines for a state of fragmentation? What could support me in efforts to connect with other people? What do I want around the house to smooth out the edges exposed by the gamut of situations that summer presents?

Unexpected guests with expected demands, an impromptu picnic on the beach, a kayak trip that ran late, a mini-block-party that arose out of a driveway basketball game, expected guests with unexpected demands. Summer – especially in a place like Maine that is so identified with summer – calls on us to be more watery: fluid, streamy, tidal.

The simplest general principle I use to prepare for uncontrollable circumstances, to take a liquid approach to liquid, seems surprisingly difficult for most people to execute. It’s to have several bottles of wine (let’s say four, at least, each different from the other) in the house at any one time. Some crazy proportion, 97 percent or so, of wine in this country is consumed the same day it is purchased.

I’m not – not now, anyway – proposing you arrange a cellar and begin to age wine. I’m just suggesting you place a small box somewhere in your house with four or six or eight bottles of wine. No temperature control is necessary; just keep the box out of direct sunlight and extreme heat. Most Maine basements are a bit cooler than upstairs. If you have room in your fridge, pop a couple of the non-red bottles there. (Remember that sparkling wine, in its thicker bottles, requires more time to get cold.) Filling your box requires an upfront outlay of $100 or so, but after that there’s no opportunity cost. Just replace the bottles you open.

Call this box your wine quiver, or golf bag, or toolbox. Whatever your chosen metaphor, the idea is to consider what is appropriate. The idea is to free yourself from last-minute mechanical wine buying, to engage in a process of conscious selection as you encounter the situation ahead: how the menu is coming together, who will be joining you, how you’re feeling. Once you have choices to make, you make choices. And once you make choices, your sensitivity and insight are called into action. In all-over-the-place summer, a wine toolbox is especially useful.

Mine has a few non-negotiable criteria. Each wine should be interesting for wine enthusiasts but inviting for people who don’t care; should be a conversation piece if the conversation wants to lean that way but unobtrusive if not. It should offer some, but not too much, cause for notice. Something on the label should be widely recognizable (the name of a grape, or a part of the world), or if not the label itself should be really cool-looking. If the label isn’t cool-looking, the wine itself should be cool-looking (a red that’s kind of pink, a white that’s amber). It should be versatile for all sorts of food, therefore made with a light touch, most specifically little to no oak, none of it unused.

And I know I started this column on a kind of bummer note (who opens a wine article by linking summer with sorrow?), but the wine should offer some sort of expression of joy. It should all but jump out of the glass. Wine provides a buzz so we think it’s inherently joyful, but that’s not so. Too much wine is heavy and depressing. Too many wine writers are as well. Touché, and here’s what’s currently in my toolbox:

 A better-than-average white wine from Vinho Verde. The Maria Papoila 2014 ($14) and Mica 2014 ($17) are my go-tos. Crunchy mouthfeel, acidity like broken glass, lime juice over peaches. What everyone loves Vinho Verde for, amplified and multiplied.

Pietradolce Etna Rosso 2014 ($19). Sicily’s Mount Etna is where some of the world’s most exciting winemaking is taking place right now. Many of the great Etna reds are expensive (deservedly). The Pietradolce isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s a terrific value: so true to form, with the unique character the nerello mascalese grape presents when grown on volcanic soil. The lightness of Burgundy, the intensity of Tuscany, the grip of Beaujolais. It’s all mouthwatering coolness and bittersweet, and sure to impress all your summer pals.

• Speaking of Beaujolais: Beaujolais. Open the Dupeuble Beaujolais 2014 ($18) to dispel any lingering doubts about Beaujolais as a serious wine with more pure pleasure per ounce than any other red wine on Earth. It’s refined, silky, ravishing. It melds seamlessly into anything from grilled steak to fish cakes to picnic sandwiches.

• Bubbles. In a season where celebrations are always impromptu, a chilled bottle of sparkling wine is primary. Prosecco is obvious, but I often turn to Spain’s Cava instead, especially one made in the traditional style perfected in Champagne, where the secondary, effervescence-producing fermentation takes place in the wine bottle itself rather than large tanks. The Mestres 1312 ($17) is exceptional in every way, with everything done by hand (from the harvesting of grapes to the riddling of the bottles as they age in the cellar), and two years of aging on the lees before disgorgement. The wine is supremely fine, lovely and precise, and quite dry (drier than most Prosecco and even than most Cava), with a comparatively softer, less explosive effervescence.

• Sweet bubbles. A sparkling wine with pronounced sweetness serves a different, albeit crucial function. With certain foods – dessert, or spicy – they are extraordinary. But good sweet sparklers, which contain salty, acidic and bitter components along with the sweet, cover all by themselves the full flavor spectrum that a dry wine needs help from food to present. Therefore, like a good cocktail a sweet sparkling wine can stand alone, no menu required.

For these times, the white Moscato d’Asti 2014 ($15) and red Brachetto d’Acqui 2014 ($19) from the all-organic Marenco winery in the Strevi area of Piedmont, Italy, are where I turn. Alcohol below 6 percent, and terrific integration of floral aromas, cherry and dried peach notes with a restrained sweetness. Pure joy, and the ideal common ground for wine geeks and newbies.

• Actual malbec. We swim in malbec. Much of it is, for me, the “heavy and depressing” sort of wine I insulted a few paragraphs back. This typical modern style, most prominent in Argentina, seeks a perfectly plush, innocuous personality, a huge mouthful of strawberry-jam fruit tricked out with the vanillin quality from small new-oak barrels. An increasing number of Argentine wines buck this trend, but it’s easier to find characterful, edgy malbec blends from the Loire and Cahors regions of France.

In Cahors, Fabien Jouves is a mad scientist of naturally produced malbec. He ferments biodynamically farmed grapes in large cement tanks, which then age for six months in a 50/50 mix of used-oak barrels and cement. His à Table Rosé 2015 ($18), a wildly aromatic blend of malbec and merlot, should be thought of more as a chillable summer red than a rosé proper. The fruit aspect is the deep, baked strawberry you’d find in a pie, without a pie’s sweetness, ending with the cocoa bitter finish both these varietals possess. It’s simple in the best possible way, clean and true, with a round, balanced yumminess that you, your friends, your family, your co-workers and all your splintered summer selves can agree on.

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be contacted at:

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Better food becomes par for Maine golf courses Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 You’ve just wrapped up 18 holes of golf and are ready for a cool drink and something to eat. Something light – maybe fish?

Ten years ago, if you were playing at Riverside Municipal Golf Course, you had to settle for a hot dog or a burger. Today, fish-loving golfers dining at the Riverside Grill can choose from among roasted mussels, beer-battered lobster bites with tequila honey mustard sauce, Maine crab cakes and a fried fish sandwich made from local haddock. And they can enjoy their meals on a new deck, watching the sun set over the fairway.

Two years ago, a golfer playing at the Biddeford-Saco Country Club would have had only basic pub fare to choose from – burgers and fries, sandwiches and paninis. Now the private club, which has 500 members but keeps its restaurant open to the public, offers more sophisticated specials, too, including grilled swordfish with lemon-dill butter over jasmine rice.

At York Golf & Tennis Club, which hosted the Maine Amateur Championship a couple of weeks ago, the chefs are running a scratch kitchen, making their own sauces, grinding their own burgers and smoking their own meats. A hungry golfer at the members-only club can eat an upscale entree, like Sesame-Miso Seared Halibut with Sushi Rice, Pickled Vegetables, Corn and Pea Shoot Salad. Or maybe come back on homemade pasta night.

The nation’s food revolution has come to one of its most popular pastimes. Golf courses, especially those in southern Maine, are upping their culinary game to satisfy golfers who are ever more knowledgeable about food – as well as long-suffering non-golfing family members who just want to sit in the clubhouse and enjoy a small plate of deep-fried Brussels sprouts with a glass of good wine.

Turning out better food may or may not help the clubs’ bottom line, but it does keep folks coming back for more – more golf, and (if you are at the York club) more Porcini- and Chili-Rubbed Veal Porterhouse with Cheddar Polenta and Roasted Tomato and Arugula Salad.


Upgrading golf course food is “a big trend right now,” said chef Justin Lamore, food and beverage manager at the Biddeford-Saco Country Club, where membership costs $2,000 plus $876 in annual dues. Lamore was the longtime chef at Joseph’s By the Sea in Old Orchard Beach before being hired away last year to elevate the golf club’s pub menu. He is also a golfer. “A lot of golf courses never even offered food,” he said. “Golf does make you hungry, and a lot of the golf courses are starting to realize that generating revenue from just the golf itself is great, but why not try to build repeat customers and offer them something that will keep them there longer?”

Whitney Reid, founder of Reid Consulting Services, a Phoenix-based golf and country club consultant, said private golf clubs nationwide have been upgrading their food and beverage menus for the past three to five years.

“Honestly, I think it’s the younger members who are really pushing it into clubs more than anyone,” she said. “The upper end of the millennials that are joining clubs, they have expectations for food and beverage to be more along the lines of the local restaurants, and they’re bringing the global trends that you see on menus everywhere – organic, gluten-free, farm-raised.”


Even as the quality improves, most places are keeping it casual, Reid said. Small bars and large fine dining areas are out; casual dining and larger “social bars” are in. The number of pub remodels going on at clubs across the country right now is “astonishing,” she said.

The Riverside Grill in Portland once outsourced its food, and served mostly fast-food burgers and hot dogs. Then the city took over the restaurant and, three years ago, the place underwent a major renovation, from studs to menu, with the help of local chef Steve Quattrucci.

Quatrucci created mouthwatering entrees such as poached Casco Bay haddock with zucchini chips, and English pea ravioli, dishes that drew in non-golfers to eat. But he did not stay long, and neither did the menu. Customer feedback indicated the restaurant had over-corrected on both the style and price of the food, according to Ryan Scott, golf course general manager. Portland golfers didn’t want fancy entrees, Scott said, “and they’re our core clientele.”

But they did want good quality, well-prepared food.

The kitchen is now under the direction of chef Andrew Peters, who tries to satisfy not only golfers but also new non-playing customers from surrounding neighborhoods.

“The restaurant definitely adds to the experience here at the golf course,” Scott said. “When you sit out on that deck, you don’t even think you’re in Portland because of the views. Some of the sunsets are unbelievable.”

The Riverside menu is now a mix of small plates, classic sandwiches, soups and salads, flatbreads and sliders. On a recent weekday, two couples sat on the deck enjoying the late afternoon sun. Inside, the dining room was mostly empty because of the hour – most people were still on the golf course – and a bit dreary; its color scheme is brown, brown and more brown. A television over the stone fireplace aired a golf tournament.

An order of a fried fish sandwich and onion rings arrived quickly. The fish was nicely cooked – hot and crispy outside, moist inside – and the dish cost just $11.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Woodlands Club, a private golf club in Falmouth where membership costs $5,000, plus about $5,000 in annual dues. Here, the menus change every three weeks and the summer kitchen staff of 21, under the direction of executive chef Stephanie Brown, produces stunning food. The club may serve as many as 400 meals in a busy day, not including special events.

A typical dinner from Brown’s latest menu, served recently in the lounge where the TVs were tuned to sports, started with a dozen fried Damariscotta oysters with yellow Bloody Mary mignonette. Next came a simple but dazzling heirloom tomato salad, served with warm pistachio-crusted goat cheese, fresh basil and white balsamic syrup. A $25 entree of Baked Halibut with Cucumber Watermelon Salsa, Summer Green Beans & Roasted Corn Kernels was immensely satisfying and healthful, too.

“Food is a very important part of the environment here, from the hot dog all the way up to the tenderloin,” Brown said.

She sees her role as keeping the membership happy. Not long ago, a golfer requested that she make a “dork burger” – a burger made from duck and pork. Brown not only created one, it became one of the club’s most popular items.

Keeping members happy is what it boils down to, Reid said, a task that has become more challenging as life and work styles change and club memberships become multi-generational.

“It’s no longer just a place where Dad goes to play golf,” she said. “Dad is looking for a place where his whole family can enjoy the club.”


Reid runs a daylong food and beverage training “boot camp” open to golf clubs nationwide to help club employees understand shifting member expectations and how to handle generational differences from a food service perspective.

Ray Stuchbury, executive chef at the Portland Country Club, a private club known for its excellent food, said members seem to want more eating options now than they did 20 years ago. Members who bring in guests for a round of golf tend to sit down and eat at a table, he said, while two buddies playing together will grab a hot dog or sandwich and get back out on the course. “It seems like we have more than one membership. There’s five or six,” he said. “There’s families, older people who don’t want change, younger people who want change every time they walk in.”


Food is an important part of creating the new social atmosphere club members are looking for, Reid said, and clubs must evolve by developing “more exciting” food-and-beverage related programs, such as wine and craft beer tastings.

The 80-seat restaurant at members-only York Golf and Tennis transitioned to a scratch kitchen using whole foods about three years ago, according to general manager Gregg Lindsay. The kitchen roasts its own chickens for chicken salad, grinds it own burgers, and smokes its own pastrami. A couple of weeks ago, the club held a wine tasting with Spanish wines and tapas, and before that, a pig roast. On weekends, the menu includes some higher-end specials. Food events are often accompanied by family-oriented activities, such as lawn games.

The food and beverage operations at golf courses usually are not expected to be big money makers, Reid said. Traditionally, restaurants, pubs and snack bars have been considered amenities that add value to a club membership. But at Biddeford-Saco, where the pub is open to the public, Lamore is already seeing a financial windfall from the changes he’s made in the club’s food service: His department’s earnings are up $23,000 from last year. The added revenue, he said, will help keep annual membership dues down.

“We do want to create a profit to put back into the club,” he said. “But if we break even, that’s OK. I’m able to produce a quality product at a really reasonable price, which keeps people coming back.”

Even at the most exclusive clubs, paying attention to food can affect the bottom line.

“We’ve had an increase in our dining sales continuously, last year and the year before, and this year we’re exceeding last year,” said Brown of the Woodlands Club.

But one thing is clear, no matter how prestigious the golf venue: The humble hot dog isn’t going anywhere.

When golf season rolls around, even the Portland Country Club fires up the hot dog steamer.

Some things will never change.

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Belgrade Lakes club’s Lobster BLT makes the cover of Golf Digest Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Even golf clubs that don’t serve refined entrees sometimes have a dish they are known for. For instance, the Brunswick Golf Club is known for its burgers, according to Nancy Storey, executive director of the Maine State Golf Association.

And in July, the Belgrade Lakes Golf Club’s Lobster BLT, served at the snack bar on a toasted ciabatta roll, landed on the cover of Golf Digest. It’s included in the magazine’s “Golfer’s Guide to the Best Halfway-House Grub in America.”

The Belgrade Lakes snack bar sells more hot dogs than anything else, but its Lobster BLTs have become so popular people call ahead to reserve them, and they’re usually sold out by 11 a.m., according to Margi Evans, an employee of the club.

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Indian condiments bring on both fresh taste and memories Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 One of the best things about coming home after school in southern India was the array of amazing snacks my mother made for me on different days: green chutney and tomato chutney tea sandwiches; crudités of seasonal vegetables with a tangy yogurt dip; a crunchy salad with fried goodies, potatoes and onions, dressed with a lovely cilantro chutney; chapati flatbreads rolled in cheese and a sweet and tangy relish.

After I grew up and moved several thousand miles away, my method of shunning loneliness and banishing a homesick feeling was to throw together a quick chutney or relish and use it as a dip with pita, tortilla chips or some store-bought baby-cut carrots and celery sticks. It would sometimes morph into a spread for a grilled cheese sandwich or become the topping for a mix of chopped veggies. Occasionally I would spread the chutney on a chapati or tortilla, throw in some vegetables and cheese and make a wrap out of it. It would make a fabulous accompaniment for those quiet times when I just wanted to look through photo books or read old letters and cards.

Gradually, those chutneys (a blended texture) and relishes (distinct textures) evolved. I started playing around with different combinations of the main ingredients alongside what was available locally and seasonally. My yogurt-based raita contained avocado, an uncommon ingredient in the Indian dishes of my youth, or a combination of red onion, carrot and jalapeño.

During graduate school days, I used whichever ingredient was the cheapest. As a young wife and a new employee, I paired my chutneys with interesting flavors, herbs and spices that were local to the area I lived in. As a mom, I introduced flavors such as mango and pineapple that I knew my children would love.

Over the years, the chutneys and relishes that have become go-to favorites have had common characteristics in spice and tang. I like the artisanal look of them, which is to say they rarely come off as manufactured, gooey or saucy. The little surprises – a seed here and a chunk there – charm and tingle the taste buds.

Many of them are better when made ahead of time. Some of them sit well in a refrigerator for up to three days. I even freeze some of the blended chutneys in small condiment jars for a couple of weeks and defrost them just before serving. Any which way, they add color and pizazz to the table.

The accompanying recipes are some of my family’s favorites. Their flavors are intense and bold. They are a fabulous accompaniment to grilled vegetables and proteins. Try tossing a potato salad or sweet potato salad with one of these chutneys. Use the relish as a topping for burgers and sandwiches.

Another simple way of serving them during the summer, besides those mentioned above, is to toast some herby flatbread and top it with fresh greens, grilled veggies and tofu, then garnish with your chutney or relish of choice. That’s a perfect wrap.

Tomato and Garlic Scape Chutney

Tomato and Garlic Scape Chutney Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post


Garlic scapes add a spicy crunch to this pinkish chutney, but if they’re out of season, regular garlic cloves will suffice and bring a slight bite.

This is wonderful as a dressing for a potato salad or as a spread for a grilled sandwich. Also use it as a topping for grilled vegetables and proteins. The tomato paste is optional but adds a lovely color, creaminess and more-intense tomato flavor to the chutney.

The chutney can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

12 servings (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

2 medium (11 ounces total) vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped

4 full stems garlic scapes (may substitute 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon agave nectar

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon tomato paste (optional)

Combine the tomatoes, garlic scapes, salt, cayenne pepper, agave nectar, lime juice and tomato paste, if using, in a food processor. Pulse to the desired consistency.

Use right away, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.


This fruity relish is wonderful on burgers and flatbreads. It is also great as a dip for pita and chips. Try different variations by replacing the pineapple with mangoes, grapes, plums or a seasonal tart fruit.

The relish needs to be refrigerated in an airtight container for at least 2 hours before serving. It is best served the same day it’s made.

12 servings (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion (optional)

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

1 medium jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (seeded, if desired, for less heat)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon honey

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine the pineapple; red onion, if using; cilantro; jalapeño; cumin; coriander; salt; honey and lemon juice in a mixing bowl, tossing until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.


This a healthful and wonderful creamy sauce with rich flavors. Try it in wraps and as a dip for a crudites platter. The raita also makes a great dressing for chopped salads, coleslaws and potato salads.

For those who love the flavor of avocados, feel free to double up for a more intense avocado flavor.

The raita can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; place plastic wrap directly on the surface.

8 servings (makes 2 cups)

Flesh of 1 large ripe avocado

1 cup plain low-fat Greek-style yogurt

1/4 teaspoon jarred, pureed ginger or fresh peeled minced ginger root

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch sugar

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped mint leaves

1/2 teaspoon good-quality powdered harissa

Mash the avocado in a mixing bowl. Add the yogurt, ginger, lime juice, salt, pepper and sugar, mixing until well combined.

Stir in half of the mint and half of the harissa. Transfer to a serving bowl; garnish with the remaining mint and harissa.

Avocado-Ginger Raita

Avocado-Ginger Raita Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post


Chewy and bright-tasting, this unusual chutney makes a great dip or a spread for avocado toast.

Try stirring 1 tablespoon of the chutney into 1/2 cup of buttermilk to make a fresh salad dressing.

Coconut milk powder (not the same as coconut flour) is an optional ingredient here; it adds another layer of coconut flavor, and it is available at health food stores.

The chutney needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days, before serving. It can be frozen for up to 1 month.

14 servings (makes a generous 13/4 cups)

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and coarsely chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 packed cup desiccated (dried) unsweetened grated coconut

1/4 teaspoon black mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

1 to 2 medium serrano peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek-style yogurt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon coconut milk powder (optional; see headnote)

1/4 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro, for garnish

Toss together the apple, lemon juice and salt in a mixing bowl; let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Combine the desiccated coconut, black mustard and cumin seeds, serrano pepper (to taste), yogurt, oil, garlic and coconut milk powder, if using, in a food processor or blender; add the apple mixture and puree until fairly smooth and thick.

Transfer to a serving bowl; garnish with the cilantro.


This chutney is not for the faint of heart; its flavors are intense and bold. Spread a thin layer on a thick slice of bread and make a grilled cheese sandwich. Add a tablespoon of the chutney to a cup of cream cheese, whip well and use as a dip or as a spread for fresh sandwiches. Spread it on a flatbread, add toppings and make a spicy grilled pizza.

This recipe features jaggery, a naturally processed sugar made from the sap of sugar cane or palm trees. It is available at Indian markets.

The chutney needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days before serving.

4 to 6 servings (makes a scant 1/2 cup)

2 cups packed, chopped cilantro leaves (1 3/5 ounces)

1 large jalapeño pepper, coarsely chopped (seeded, if desired, for less heat)

1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seed

1 heaping teaspoon tamarind paste

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon jaggery or dark brown sugar (see headnote)

Combine the cilantro, jalapeño, 1/4 teaspoon of the cumin seed, the tamarind paste, salt and jaggery or brown sugar in a food processor or blender; puree until fairly smooth.

Transfer to a serving bowl; just before serving, sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of cumin.

Visi Tilak, a Massachusetts-based freelance writer, blogs at

Twitter: visitilak

]]> 0, 27 Jul 2016 08:08:03 +0000
Cookbook Review: ‘Simply Ramen: A Complete Course in Preparing Ramen Meals at Home’ Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Simply Ramen: A Complete Course in Preparing Ramen Meals at Home” by Amy Kimoto-Kahn. Race Point Publishing, $22.99.

Don’t be deceived by the title. There is nothing simple about “Simply Ramen.”

This is a cookbook for the ramen purist, someone willing to devote days to prep in their home kitchen to make steaming hot bowls of the rich, fatty broth and noodles in the Japanese tradition.

The book, by Amy Kimoto-Kahn, is not for the rainy day enthusiast. It’s not for the casual umbrella shaker, stepping off a wet Portland street into Pai Men Miyake hoping to sip beer while gazing through steamy windows for five minutes before a nap-inducing bowl arrives with chop sticks and spoon.

Scott Dolan/Staff Writer

Scott Dolan/Staff Writer

In short, this is not a book for me. But it was a lot of fun figuring that out.

For the uninitiated, let me start by saying that the ramen in Kimoto-Kahn’s beautifully laid-out primer has nothing to do with the four-for-a-dollar cellophane packets of instant noodles in the grocery store.

Each complete ramen meal recipe in Kimoto-Kahn’s book is built on several other base recipes, many that require being made a day or more in advance. Each base recipe calls for dozens of ingredients, some obscure, to yield a complex mix of textures and flavors, from rich meat broth to crispy greens with a mix of savory-sweet toppings and elastic noodles just firm enough to keep from getting soggy in soup.

The book’s cover photo, Oven-Broiled Karaage Curry Ramen, caught my attention from the start. I always like to make cookbook cover recipes. In the photo, the dish looks simple and delicious: a deep, mint-green bowl of golden broth is filled high with noodles, tender-looking chicken, garlic chips and a perfectly halved soft-boiled egg. Arugula leaves and green sheets of nori stick out over the bowl’s edge.

But by the time my girlfriend and I finished shopping for the ingredients, with our bill already over $100, I began to lose heart. Between us, we had assembled all but one of the ingredients, Golden Curry, a boxed curry mix that my editor later informed me is a staple of Japanese instant home cooking.

Walking home one evening from work downtown, I stopped in Sun Oriental Market on Congress Street and quickly located the missing ingredient.

The photo on the box of Golden Curry looked nothing like the beautiful cover photo of Simply Ramen. The “food” shown on the Golden Curry box looked like gelatinous slop, a glistening brown mucous-like liquid I might expect on the lowest grade of wet dog foods.

While at the store, I sent my girlfriend a picture from my phone of the Golden Curry. Here’s an excerpt of our actual text message exchange:

Me: “It has MSG”

Her: “Ugh”

Me: “What should I do?”

Her: “God, it looks disgusting”

Me: “It’s revolting”

Needless to say, I walked out of the store empty-handed. My girlfriend ended up making her own curry powder from an online recipe that looked infinitely more palatable.

The Oven-Broiled Karaage Curry Ramen recipe is actually five recipes, two required and three optional. (Each of the soup recipes in the book requires making one of four soup bases.) Our recipe required a miso base, which we made on the first night. Kimoto-Kahn says it takes 45 minutes, but it took us more than two hours to make and even more time to clean up. The recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of bacon fat. We didn’t have enough (who would?), so we made up the remainder with coconut oil, which “Simply Ramen” suggests as an alternative. When we finally tasted the soup, the coconut oil was overpowering.

We skipped three other steps because we ran out of time: making the ramen noodles (an estimated three-hour task), marinating half-cooked eggs (1 1/2 hours plus two days in the refrigerator) and making batches of garlic chips (under 10 minutes, in theory).

Both my girlfriend and I have full-time jobs that often require us to work late. By the time we finished cooking on the second night and set two bowls of finished ramen on the table, it was nearly midnight.

At first bite, we were both delighted. We were beyond hungry, and it seemed so good. By the third and fourth bite, we found the dish overpoweringly salty and far too rich. Neither of us finished our bowls, and days later, we threw out the leftover miso base. We knew it was wasteful, but neither of us could face more of it.

The karaage, which is the broiled chicken, was the star of the dish. I would make that alone again and again.

But we were baffled by the overall ramen recipe. Why would a writer who outlined each step so meticulously and required so many expensive ingredients then just throw in an instant curry mix? It makes no sense.

In the future, when the rainy day hankering hits, we agreed we’ll save ourselves the effort and the money. We’ll just head to Pai Men Miyake in Longfellow Square.

Our experience, through, cooking from “Simply Ramen” for two intense nights was worth the one-time effort and even the disappointment. If not great soup, at least we came away with a great story.

— Scott Dolan

Photo courtesy of Race Point Publishing

Photo courtesy of Race Point Publishing


I found the Golden Curry at Sun Oriental Market in Portland.

Serves 6

Preparation time: 1 hour, plus time to make Ramen Soup Base, Ramen Noodles (optional), Marinated Half-Cooked Egg (optional) and Garlic Chips (optional)

1 cup (235 ml) shoyu (soy sauce)

1 cup (200g) sugar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated ginger

¼ cup (60 ml) mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)

1 pound (455 g) chicken thighs

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup (32 g) cornstarch

1 box Golden Curry (Japanese instant curry)


1½ lemons, quartered

Roasted sesame seeds, for garnish

1 bunch arugula (or Japanese mizuna lettuce)

3 sheets nori (seaweed), quartered (2 squares per serving)

1. Add shoyu, sugar, garlic and ginger to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, remove from heat and add mirin. Let the mixture cool at room temperature.

2. Rinse and pat dry chicken thighs and cut into bite-size pieces.

3. Add chicken to medium-sized bowl and cover with marinade. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 1 hour.

4. Heat sesame oil in medium-sized skillet one medium-high heat. Add red onion and sauté until charred around edges. Set aside.

5. Set oven rack at top of the oven and preheat the broiler.

6. Drain excess marinade from bowl of chicken and sprinkle chicken with cornstarch until all the pieces are liberally coated.

7. Place the chicken on a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure that no pieces are touching.

8. Broil for about 6 minutes, then flip and broil for an additional 5 minutes or until they are crispy and brown. Watch closely so they do not burn, as ovens will vary.

9. Set aside chicken on a wire rack to cool.

10. Boil a pot of water for the noodles. In a separate saucepan, combine 2 1/4 cups (530 ml) Miso Base (see recipe), 12 cups (2.8 L) of chicken or vegetable stock and 6 Golden Curry bouillons squares to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer until it’s ready to serve. Note: It’s 3 tablespoons base to every 1 cup (235 ml) chicken or vegetable stock. Use about 2 cups (475 ml) soup per serving. Right before serving, crank it back up to boil.

11. Boil the noodles – if fresh, boil for about one minute; if packaged, boil for about two minutes. As soon as they’re done, drain well and separate into serving bowls.

12. Pour 2 cups (475 ml) soup over each bowl of noodles. Top with pieces of chicken karaage, sautéed red onions, arugula, marinated half-cooked egg and garlic chips. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and slip two nori sheets into the broth. Squeeze lemon juice over the top just before serving.

986806_834490 broth.jpg


Serves up to 12

Preparation time: 45 minutes

1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and cut into large dice

½ onion, peeled and cut into large dice

½ apple, cored, peeled and cut into large dice

1 celery stalk, cut into large dice

3 garlic cloves

½ cup (120 ml) bacon fat (recommended), ghee or coconut oil

2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided

1½ cups (340 g) ground pork

2 teaspoons fresh ground ginger

1 teaspoon sriracha

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon kelp granules (optional but not recommended)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground sesame seed paste or tahini

¾ cup (175 ml) shiro miso (white miso, which is lighter and sweeter)

¾ cup (175 ml) akamiso (red miso, which is darker and saltier)

Low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock – 2 cups (475 ml) per serving based on the number of servings

1. Add the carrot, onion, apple, celery and garlic to a food processor. Pulse into a fine chop. If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop these ingredients by hand.

2. Add the bacon fat and 1 tablespoon sesame oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the finely chopped fruit and vegetables and cook until the onions are translucent and the apple is tender, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes. When done, turn heat down to medium-low.

3. Add the ground pork to the cooked vegetable mixture. Cook for 8-10 minutes until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the ginger, sriracha, soy sauce, kelp granules, apple cider vinegar and salt. Incorporate well.

4. Return the entire mixture to the food processor and pulse until pork is finely ground. If you don’t have a food processor, then use a potato masher or wooden spoon to break the mixture into very small pieces in the skillet.

5. Add the sesame seed paste and the miso to the ground pork mixture and mix well. It should have the consistency of a thick paste. Your base is done.

6. Bring the Miso Base and chicken or vegetable stock to a boil (depending on the number of people you are serving, use the ratio of 3 tablespoons Miso Base to 1 cup (235 ml) chicken or vegetable stock). Lower heat and let simmer until it’s ready to serve. Use about 2 cups (475 ml) soup per serving. Lower heat and let simmer until it’s ready to serve. Right before serving, crank up the heat to boil the soup.

7. Pour 2 cups soup (475 ml) over each bowl of noodles. Top each bowl with desired toppings.

]]> 1, 27 Jul 2016 08:07:58 +0000
Co-chefs will take the helm at Scales Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:08:13 +0000 With Mike Smith, the executive chef at Scales, leaving the waterfront restaurant to work in the kitchen at chef Chris Gould’s new venture on Ocean Avenue, who will steer the ship at Scales?

Frederic Eliot, who has been working as a sous chef at Scales, and Travis Olson, the pastry chef, will take on Smith’s duties together, according to Eliot.

Eliot is still hoping to head his own French restaurant someday and has been working with Jason Loring and his business partners in Fifth Food Group on that project. But that’s likely to be months away.

Smith and his wife have been hired by Chris and Paige Gould, the owners of Central Provisions on Fore Street, to work at their still-developing Italian restaurant located in the former Borealis Bakery & Bistro at 182 Ocean Ave. in the Back Cove neighborhood. The Goulds plan a menu of wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, housemade pastas, crudo and salads. Their still-unnamed restaurant is expected to open in December or January.

]]> 0 Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:07:50 +0000
Two of Portland’s top chefs will team up to open Italian restaurant off the peninsula Mon, 25 Jul 2016 23:09:59 +0000 Mike Smith, executive chef at Scales, one of Portland’s hottest new restaurants, says he is leaving after just five months to work at a neighborhood restaurant that Chris Gould, chef/owner of Central Provisions, plans to open off the Portland peninsula this winter.

Gould and his wife and business partner, Paige Gould, have purchased the former Borealis Bakery & Bistro at 182 Ocean Ave., where they plan to open an Italian restaurant specializing in Neapolitan pizza, handmade pastas, crudo and salads. It will include takeout. Smith and his wife, Robyn Luongo Smith, who works at The Honey Paw, are longtime friends with the Goulds – both chefs worked for well-known Boston restaurateur Ken Oringer before moving back to their home state of Maine. Smith will be chef de cuisine at the Goulds’ new restaurant, which does not yet have a name, and his wife will serve as general manager.

Smith said while “Scales is great,” the job ultimately did not fit his personality.

“I took the job because I really love cooking seafood. I wanted a challenge, and I had never worked with Sam (Hayward) and Dana (Street) before,” he said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity where I could learn a lot, and I did. I learned a ton. I don’t think (leaving is) a negative thing. It’s just a transition.”

Street, co-owner of Scales, did not return a phone call seeking comment about Smith’s departure.

The Goulds own the new Italian place, but Smith said he and his wife will be limited partners.

“We moved back to Maine to settle down and do our own thing, but we don’t have $2 million to open a restaurant,” said Smith, a native of Old Orchard Beach. “It just seemed like a natural partnership to build with them. We’ve been offered a personal stake in the business that will grow over time. We have a vested interest in its success.”

Central Provisions has received national attention for its sophisticated small plates and hip atmosphere, but Chris Gould said his new Italian place will have a “much more neighborhood vibe.”

“I think it’s time for the restaurants to expand past the peninsula,” Gould said. “There’s plenty of people in Back Cove and North Deering that don’t want to drive into the Old Port to go to a nice restaurant.”

Gould hopes to have the place open by December or January. He will be adding a bar and banquette seating along the walls, and has plans for a communal table. The space, once used to bake breads, already has a brick oven for pizza.

The casual restaurant will serve dinner to start, then add weekend brunch. The menu will offer some dishes meant to be shared, like Central Provisions, but that’s where similarities end.

“The pastas, we’re going to do full and half portions,” Gould said, “So you can get two or three different pastas if you want, or you can get a large bowl of one.”

Erik Hanks, the sous chef at Central Provisions, will move into a chef de cuisine role there so that Chris Gould can oversee both businesses daily.

“I’ll still be in the kitchen every day, 100 hours a week, but hopefully more in a role of overseeing and helping other people come along to grow in their careers as well,” Gould said.

Smith said Italian food is “probably the first cuisine I fell in love with,” and he looks forward to working in “a neighborhood joint that’s not on the peninsula and cooking for Portlanders all the time, who appreciate everything.”


]]> 5, 25 Jul 2016 19:24:29 +0000
Got a part-time food business? You can rent this commercial kitchen by the hour Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:27:32 +0000 WHITEFIELD — When Stephen and Milva Smith purchased the Country Farm Restaurant building on Mills Road in 2008, they converted part of the building into apartment units and a commercial space available to lease, but they had no idea what to do with the restaurant’s kitchen.

“It was trashed and it was unused,” Milva Smith said.

The couple left the space untouched and unoccupied for quite some time before slowly converting it into a commercial kitchen and business incubator called Food Forge that can be rented by anyone who has a need for a large-scale food operation without the financial or regulatory hassles that come from building one themselves.

“We did some research and looked around, and we saw an interesting space in Washington, D.C., which, on a really large scale, is what we envision for our space,” she said.

The Smiths, who live down the street from the property, said there are regulatory and financial burdens that come with trying to open something like this. Not everyone wants to spend or can afford $200,000 to build one of these kitchens, especially if they just have an idea for a product they’d like to explore.

“I’ve gotten a call recently from a baker who bakes out of her home kitchen, but she wants to be able to approach places like Whole Foods and local markets, but she needs something on a larger scale than what she has at home,” Milva Smith said. “Those are the kinds of people calling us.”

Milva Smith feeds a llama called Dolly as Stephen Smith watches at Food Forge.

Milva Smith feeds a llama called Dolly as Stephen Smith watches at Food Forge.

Her husband said the Whitefield area is the center for a back-to-the-earth, organic movement, and the couple felt there was a need for kitchen space so people could not only harvest food from those local farms, but also have a place to process it locally. They have a commercial food processor license from the state, which allows many foods to be prepared in the kitchen and re-sold.

Stephen Smith, who by day is a trial lawyer for Lipman & Katz in Augusta, credits the Sheepscot General country store down the street from Food Forge for reinvigorating the farming community in the area.

“They opened a new chapter in Whitefield, and we hope that something like this can keep it going,” he said.

Because the couple, who have four children ranging from 3 to 14, already owned the building, there isn’t a lot of pressure to immediately fill the space and make money. Most of the equipment came with the purchase of the restaurant back in 2008, so the Smiths haven’t put too much new money into the venture.

Food has always been a big part of Milva’s life, and growing up in an Italian family, it became a passion. Her parents came to the U.S. from Italy in the 1960s, and her father, Donato Ferrante, was an original co-owner of an Amato’s Italian sandwich shop in Portland, where she spent much of her childhood.

She and her husband owned Giacomo’s Italian Groceria in Bangor, but it was difficult to run the business with a growing family, so they now lease it.

Stephen Smith knew how important food was to his wife from the beginning.

“When I first went to her mother’s house, there was a very beautiful meal on the table, and it was so delicious that I had thirds,” he said. “Then I learned that there were four more courses coming. It’s her vernacular, and I’ve really come to appreciate it.”

The couple hopes the family’s love and passion for food translates into a successful venture that offers not only commercial cooking space, but cooking classes and space for events and other projects.

The building, which also includes two apartments and a hair salon, sits on the front of several acres of farm property the Smiths own.

The kitchen is fully equipped with everything a baker or chef would need, including a commercial-grade stove and hood, multiple sinks, a convection oven, meat slicer, stainless steel work tables and granite presentation tables among many other pieces of equipment. During the tour, the Smiths showed off the kitchen equipment, much of which was covered up by the client currently using the facility, and explained where they hope to see the venture go in the future.

“I want to get to the point where we have a lot of different people making a lot of different products,” Milva Smith said. “We just want to get people in here and tell them what we do.”

The kitchen is available to rent for $125 for a five-hour block that must be used within a 30-day period. The event space, which has enough seating for 30, can be rented for $125 per day, and the business offers rentals of glassware, dishware, utensils and other party and event supplies.

]]> 1, 25 Jul 2016 11:44:28 +0000
Dine Out Maine: The Velveteen Habit excels at fresh uses for garden bounty Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. Our original plan was to drive down to Ogunquit, take in the summertime afternoon views as we made our way along the cliffs on Marginal Way and eventually zip over to The Velveteen Habit for dinner. But it had been drizzly and damp since morning, and our GPS had other plans for us, sending our car through miles of winding back roads in Cape Neddick as the sun slowly broke through the gray.

A beet salad with strawberries, ricotta and olives at the The Velveteen Habit in Cape Neddick. Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

A beet salad with strawberries, ricotta and olives at the The Velveteen Habit in Cape Neddick. Photos by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

But by the time we pulled into the parking lot of the farmhouse restaurant, the evening was bright, and we could see nothing but mist rising up from the expanse of green in the gardens behind. Everything, even the air, seemed alive.

It felt like a shame to go indoors, just as the weather was breaking, but we did, and followed our host to a long, open dining room with Windsor chairs and benches and rough beams crisscrossing the ceiling. From our table, and from just about any table in the room, we had a view of the four acres of gardens. “Feel free to take your wine glasses and head outside, if you like,” our server told a couple at a neighboring table. They didn’t hesitate. A few minutes later, as we drank a tart, herbal Sage It Isn’t So ($13) and bittersweet, frothily layered Rhubarb Sour ($13), we saw them pass by our window, wandering along the back of the house.

Even though The Velveteen Habit has been open only since 2014, its farmhouse and gardens have a reputation that stretches back more than two decades, when the beloved, James Beard Award-winning Arrows stood on the same spot. It’s easy to see how such a site would be appealing to a new buyer, even if it had stood vacant for two years: “We looked all over for the right property and redid everything inside, took it down to studs,” owner and beverage director Benjamin Goldman said. “Outside, we fixed up a lot of neglect, and now we have a working kitchen farm, honey bees, maple trees and apple trees. We use everything we can in the restaurant.”

Like their homegrown beets, which executive chef Chris Wilcox roasts, quarters and serves with sliced strawberries and ricotta in a salad ($12) he tops with a salty and unexpectedly crunchy olive topping. The olives get their surprising texture from slow dehydration, a trip through a spice grinder and then a quick massage with toasted panko breadcrumbs that distributes dark nicoise flavor and color throughout the mixture – exactly the right counterpoint to the sweetness of the root vegetables and summer berries.

Or the sugar snap peas that, along with discs of magenta watermelon radish, add crunch and lightness to broth-glazed gnocchi ($14) that sit atop a clever near-pesto made from radish tops, shallots, parsley and vinegar. The whole dish chirps with bright acidity, offset by nuttiness and umami from grated pecorino.

Should you decide that a few sugar snap peas aren’t enough for you, you can order a bag of them (or whatever seasonal produce the restaurant has too much of) to take home for $5 a pound. When we asked our server about the peas, he urged us to try them, telling us how popular they are. “And if it helps, you can imagine me with a sunburn and a straw hat when I bring them to you,” he joked.

If The Velveteen Habit’s farm gardens are like most home gardens, it won’t be long before zucchini is on the menu as a take-home option. It has already made its way into dishes like the pan-seared halibut filet ($34), served with sunflower seeds, roughly crumbled cornbread and marigold mint leaves and flowers. And while those zucchini medallions should have been hit with a little more acid or an extra lashing of the gorgeous green garlic puree, this dish was a joy – in part, because of the spicy, phenolic, grapefruity marigold mint that made eating halibut feel like a new experience.

Above: Jeff Bell enjoys a dinner with friends at The Velveteen Habit in Cape Neddick. The restaurant in an old farmhouse has four acres of gardens out back. Left: A beet salad with strawberries, ricotta and olives.

Jeff Bell enjoys a dinner with friends at The Velveteen Habit in Cape Neddick. The restaurant in an old farmhouse has 4 acres of gardens out back.

It’s not just the herbs that evoke uncommon sensations, either. Our glass of Domaine Philemon Fer Servadou ($12), made from a red wine grape grown in the southwest of France, tasted rough-and-tumble tannic, but exploded from the glass with aromas that reminded me of blowing up gargantuan Super Elastic Bubble Plastic balloons as a child.

The Fer was also a perfect wine to drink with Wilcox’s brined pork chop, served with toasted farro and fresh peas ($35). It was especially hard not to love the creamy grains, which get their risotto-like texture not from cream, but from a portion of the stock-softened farro itself that Wilcox blitzes into a paste and adds back to the pan. “We try to do things without crushing dishes with ridiculous amounts of butter and fat. I want people to feel satiated, but not gross. And if you make the farro this way, you can eat more of it,” he said.

Actually, I would have happily taken a second helping, having enjoyed the farro a little more than the chop itself, which while well-seasoned, was overcooked by a minute or two.

The Velveteen Habit in Cape Neddick is housed in a home built in 1765 and has four acres of gardens.

The Velveteen Habit in Cape Neddick is housed in a home built in 1765 and has 4 acres of gardens.

Feeling unstuffed did leave me with an appetite for dessert, however. Our table opted to share the soft, brown-butter scented “madeleines” ($6), which are actually financiers (with almonds replaced by pistachios) baked in a madeleine pan. The texture added by the crushed green nuts was excellent, but the batter was just a bit too sweet and overshadowed the nuanced pistachio flavors. Still, an easy fix to make in an otherwise very agreeable dessert that was just the right size to top off the meal without requiring us to find the next notch on our belts.

Satisfied but still mobile, we took our overdue ramble through the gardens, now golden in the twilight. Seeing what was starting to ripen made me wonder aloud what would be on the menu in a week or a month, and mostly made me want to come back out into the countryside to find out.

It’s true that The Velveteen Habit is out of the way for most people, but that is part of its allure – the grounds and the food both make it worth a detour, even if you happen to visit on a day that keeps you from a stroll along the nearby coastline.

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

]]> 1, 23 Jul 2016 16:57:51 +0000
‘K Food’ redefines Korean home cooking Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “K Food: Korean Home Cooking and Street Food” by Da-Hae and Gareth West. Mitchell Beazley, $24.99

On first impression, “K Food” looks like a cookbook with a boldly Western take on Korean fusion food. It’s sprinkled with photos of Korean street scenes and markets, wrapped in blue and red geometric designs, and filled with recipes like Kimchi Mac ‘n’ Cheese or K-fries, french fries topped with bulgogi beef, kimchi, pickled chiles and sour cream. The subtitle, “Korean home cooking and street food,” seemed a bit off point.

But, as Gareth and Da-Hae West tell it, their cookbook is reflective of the new Korean food, evolved to suit the many Korean migrants who moved across the globe in the late 20th century, often traveling back to their homeland – or that of their parents or grandparents – again and again, carrying with them the food traditions of their ancestors and of their acquired homes.

These recipes don’t simply borrow the bold flavors of Korean food for dishes that please the sometimes blander palettes of eaters in America or in the U.K. The Wests present very traditional Korean dishes alongside recipes that have become newly popular in Korea and more that they’ve dreamed up themselves, inspired by changes in the country where Da-Hae was born.

While honeymooning in Korea, she introduced her husband to a fast-food staple in Korea: the bulgogi burger. A standard beef patty, that American food icon, is marinated in the sweet and tangy flavors of traditional Korean BBQ.

Back home in the U.K., the couple started developing a recipe for their own bulgogi burger. The idea for their Korean food trailer company, Busan BBQ, was born when they hit on something so delicious that Gareth West ate three burgers in one sitting, the story goes.

It’s easy to see why. After the patty is cooked and just before it goes on the bun, the burger is dipped in a traditional marinade of soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, sugar and fruit juice (Asian pear juice is typical but here they use apple juice). Thickened slightly, the sauce soaks into the bun enough to be delicious but not soggy.

For even more flavor, the burger is topped with onions quick-pickled in a mustard brine and with Ssamjang Mayo.

Ssamjang is a loose paste that is sweet and spicy, typically used to add a kick to barbecued meats wrapped in lettuce leaves with rice and other toppings (“ssam” meaning “wrap”).

The Wests note that the sauce also makes a good dipping sauce for raw vegetables. Mixed with mayo – not a traditional Korean ingredient – it is especially versatile. The spread takes a plain, old turkey sandwich to a whole new level.

Recipes for common Korean dishes (mandu, japchae, ramyun) are included in about equal measure as the more fanciful ones (Corn on the Cob with Kimchi Butter, Yuja Cheesecake, Kimchi Bloody Mary).

The Wests’ kimchi jjiggae, a stew made with “extra-mature” cabbage kimchi and pork belly, is simple and delicious.

They also include a list of essential Korean ingredients, starting with “jang,” pastes or sauce made from fermented soybeans.

Most of the ingredients – including gochujang, a red chile paste – can be found in a traditional grocery store. The rest almost certainly can be found at one of Portland’s Asian markets.


Makes about 1 cup

1 tablespoon doenjang (Korean soybean paste)

1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean red chile paste)

1/2 a scallion, trimmed and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1 cup mayonnaise

Put the doenjang, gochujang, scallion, garlic, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and sesame seeds in a bowl and mix together well, to make the ssamjang.

Reserve all but 2 teaspoons for another occasion.

In a bowl, mix the 2 teaspoons of Ssamjang with the mayonnaise and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil.

Serve or keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

]]> 0, 20 Jul 2016 14:44:47 +0000
Plentiful plant-eating choices in a crowded field of cookbooks Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Picking a vegan cookbook used to be easy. There were so few on the market and no guarantee your local book shop would stock even one. If you chanced upon a vegan cookbook, you bought it. Easy.

Contrast this to today, when so many vegan cookbooks are being published, the cup hasn’t just runneth over, it has flooded the kitchen. Whether you want something hot off the press or tried and true, bookstores now have multiple shelves devoted to the books. As a result, picking one is much more challenging.

Amazon lists 5,775 vegan cookbooks in its catalog. Two years after it was published in 2014, vegan cookbook “Thug Kitchen” remains on Amazon’s top 100 best-selling books list.

“We’ve noticed a lot more vegan cookbooks,” said Martha Holmberg, CEO of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, which presents prestigious cookbook awards each spring. She says the growing number of vegan cookbooks reflects the growing number of people eating – but more importantly – “exploring” plant-based foods.

These explorers are the key to vegan cookbook sales, since surveys find full-time vegans account for no more than 3 percent of the U.S. population. These non-vegans who eat vegan food – and buy vegan cookbooks – are often called flexitarians, semi-vegetarians or veganish.

Matthew Lore, publisher at The Experiment, a small press in New York City, said many parents today cook more healthful food than what they grew up eating, which “means an ever-growing market for books on cooking healthfully for the whole family.”

The Experiment regularly publishes vegan cookbooks. In 2011 it published the best-seller “Forks Over Knives,” based on the vegan documentary of the same name, followed in 2012 by the bestseller “Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook.” Together the two titles have sold an impressive 735,000 copies, according to Lore.

Lore said the books and the film “raised so many consciousnesses all at once,” and created even more people seeking plant-based recipes and cookbooks.

At Boston-based Da Capo, an imprint of Perseus Books and a long-time publisher of vegan cookbooks, editorial director Renee Sedliar first witnessed the gathering strength of the vegan cookbook category in 2005 with the publication of “Vegan with a Vengeance” by Isa Moskowitz. It was re-issued last year.

“Isa really brought vegan to the fore,” Sedliar said. “She and her partner in crime Terry Hope Romero showed that vegan food wasn’t about denial or ‘dirt sandwiches.’ ”

Moskowitz and Romero have written many vegan cookbooks, solo and together. Next year, Da Capo releases a 10th anniversary edition of the duo’s “Veganomicon” from 2007, which continues to be a top seller today.

Lore first published a vegan title in 2002 when he was with the Avalon Publishing imprint Marlowe & Company. It was Amanda Grant’s “Fresh and Fast Vegan.”

“Very few vegan cookbooks were being published at the time,” Lore said. “As you know, the category has exploded since then.”

Because the market is now so crowded, most new vegan cookbooks have a narrow focus on a particular cuisine, food preparation technique, type of dish or specific ingredient. The quality of today’s vegan cookbooks is also up and many – with high-quality paper, attractive design and beautiful photographs – are now worthy of a coffee table spot. For further proof of the market’s abundance, I need look no further than the teetering stack of vegan review copies growing on my kitchen counter.

So we’re back to the problem at hand: Which vegan cookbook to pick?

To help you sort through the bounty, here’s a peek at my summer reading list plucked from my stack of review copies.

When you need a laugh with a side of spice, go for “The Taco Cleanse: The Tortilla-Based Diet Proven to Change Your Life,” by Wes Allison, Stephanie Bogdanich, Molly Frisinger and Jessica Morris (The Experiment, $17.95, trade paperback, full-color photos). It is a spot-on roast of cleanses and detox diets but with actual recipes for every vegan taco dish ever invented – or at least close.

With the attitude that “Today I am smart enough to choose a taco-based lifestyle,” the book lays out a plan for eating tacos three meals a day, and, of course, taco journaling. Along with cheeky references to “vibrations” and “taco scientists,” the book dishes up recipes for corn, wheat flour and plantain tortillas.

Then come an inventive array of plant-based taco fillings, such as beer-battered portobellos, minimalist nacho cheese, blue corn-chip crusted tofu and quick chipotle beans for imperfect people (which uses canned beans and canned chipotle because the cleanse “isn’t about perfection, it’s about eating tacos). Finally, the book serves up both conventional and unusual taco dishes, such as tater tot-cho tacos; supreme “bacon,” scramble and cheese tacos; and inspiring churro-waffle tacos.

A handful of margarita and sparkling water recipes finish off the book. This book is a must-have for taco lovers, vegan or otherwise.

The only logical chaser to such a cookbook is “Soupelina’s Soup Cleanse: Plant-Based Soups + Broths to Heal Your Body, Calm Your Mind and Transform Your Life,” by Elina Fuhrman (Da Capo Long Life, $24.99, hardbound, full-color photos). No tongue-in-cheek here. Instead the soup recipes (and the soup delivery company by the same name) were born when the author was diagnosed with cancer and seeking a way to heal.

The book advocates primarily cooked, organic soups and urges readers to stop counting calories and start counting nutrients.

Before the recipes, Fuhrman ladles out health information, including sections on Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, folk remedies and healing foods. Her cleanses feature soup at each meal and vegetable broth garnished with fresh herbs for snacks. The recipes cover much ground, with pureed soups highlighting a prominent ingredient – such as fava bean, kabocha squash, asparagus or yellow tomato – and chunkier concoctions, such as lentil soup, quinoa chili, mushroom leek soup and bok choy vegetable soup.

The book wraps up with a selection of recipes for broths and raw soups. The book’s extensive health information will appeal to those in need of healing.

My next pick isn’t a cleanse, but it is certainly on trend in that it dives into the popularity of meal bowls. “Vegan Bowl Attack! More than 100 One-Dish Meals Packed with Plant-Based Power,” by Jackie Sobon (Quarto Publishing Group, $22.99, hardbound, full-color photos) is the work of the Vegan Yack Attack blogger, who happens to be a food photographer.

Her basic bowl formula is grain + vegetables + protein + sauce, but her recipes go far beyond the basics. Think: biscuit nacho bowl, “fish” taco bowl, aloha bowl, meze fusion bowl, orange cauliflower soba chow mein bowl and seitan satay bowl with peanut sauce. Sobon’s recipes also include soups (tempeh stout chili), appetizers (baked onion rings with barbecue and smoky tahini sauces), breakfast (loaded potato breakfast bowl) and dessert (mint chocolate chip doughnut sundae).

Versatile vegan sauces, including cheezy cheddar, quirky marinara, smoky tahini and date caramel, round out the recipes. The book has little introductory material so is best suited to cooks ready to dive into the recipes.

“V is for Vegan” by Kerstin Rodgers (Quadrille, $29.95, hardbound, full-color photos) takes a more comprehensive look at vegan food, offering a number of vegan recipe standbys, such hummus and cheesy popcorn, while adding many unique, unusual dishes, such as beet pelmeni with herb and walnut filling and smoky salmorejo with basil oil.

The cookbook is the latest from the blogger and chef credited with launching the pop-up restaurant movement in Britain. It includes extensive information about ingredients and even a short history of veganism, which traces its roots to ancient Greece.

Rodgers includes recipes for many vegan pantry items – from vegan Parmesan to coconut whipped cream to pickled watermelon rind. The book’s British pedigree is visible in dishes such as light-as-air crumpets, but overall the recipes have an international flair. Both new vegans and those more familiar with the diet will appreciate this cookbook.

When feeding kids is part of your daily game plan, “The Plantiful Table: Easy, From-the-Earth Recipes for the Whole Family” by Andrea Duclos (The Experiment, $24.95, hardbound, full-color photos) is this summer’s best pick. Written by a blogger and mom living in South Florida, this book is spot-on for families wanting to put more vegetables on their kids’ plates.

The introduction provides plenty of tips and tricks (such as dice small, let the kids help, and limit sugar) and the recipes follow suit, dishing up everything from sourdough French toast with roasted fruit to lentil fritters and empanadas.

There is a whole chapter of smoothie recipes and even two recipes for making homemade dog food. (Both this book and “V for Vegan” include a section on toast toppings. I imagine it won’t be long before someone publishes a book dedicated to vegan toast.)

Parents will appreciate this book’s wholesome, plant-strong comfort food crafted to please picky palates.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0, 20 Jul 2016 15:55:37 +0000
Blueberry pie is a slice of heaven Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “At the appointed hour, my husband and I gather around the stove to take the pie out of the oven. The crust is lightly browned, looking neither tough nor chewy. The thick purple berry juice bubbles around the edges – a good sign according to my pie man. We stand and gaze down at the thing in a moment of awe. My pie is done. My pie.

“Suddenly, I long for an inviting windowsill on which to let it cool. I long to shoo away mischievous neighborhood youths with my apron: ‘Now you boys get away from there. That pie’s not for you.’ I long to flaunt this pie before my friend who made the dare. I long for a church supper, a bake sale, a family dinner, so someone could ask what I brought and I could smugly say, ‘pie.’

“But there are none of these opportunities. There are only the two of us, and the two of us will sit down in the blue twilight of this coming summer evening, as couples have sat down to countless blue twilit Maine evenings for generations, and top off supper with blueberry pie. And the pie will be fine.” — ELIZABETH PEAVEY

Originally from “Maine & Me: 10 Years of Down East Adventures,” Down East Books, Camden. (c)2004 Elizabeth Peavey. Excerpt and photo from “A Gateless Garden: Quotes by Maine Women Writers,” edited by Liza Bakewell, photographed by Kerry Michaels, $24.95. This May, the book won the Maine Writers and Publishers Association award for Best Anthology of 2016.

]]> 0, 20 Jul 2016 08:08:45 +0000
Italy’s white wines offer more flavors than you think Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Italy is the most vertically oriented wine-producing country in the world. From the northern tips of Alto Adige and Valle d’Aosta to the heel of the boot in Puglia and Sicily’s lower corners, runs a taller spectrum of diverse wine regions than anywhere else. Chile and Argentina come close in kilometers, but the relative immaturity of those nations’ wine cultures and relative sameness of their climates and geology put them behind Italy.

The geographic length of a nation is not a much cited influence in discussions of wine, but it’s crucial to understanding what truly accounts for why a wine produced in one spot on Earth is different from others. Wine is a lens of soil, climate and culture. Nothing affects those factors more than their orientation to the equator.

It’s why pinot grigio from Friuli is refreshing and aromatic while pinot grigio from Sicily is an abomination; why Valtellina nebbiolo is so haunting but Tuscan (or French) nebbiolo doesn’t exist. It’s also why I, like many others, hardly consider “Italy” a single country, but instead a collection of dozens of states jammed together by political factors during the 19th century, which culminated in the country’s 1861 unification.

Luckily, the more than 1,000 (or 500 or 2,000, depending on which ampelographer you trust) extant native Italian grape varieties growing in hundreds of denominations have not been similarly compressed into one ill-fitting moniker.

I’m guessing the multiplicity of vineyard latitudes is the primary reason I have (unintentionally) focused more of my wine writing on Italy than anywhere else. There’s just more variety – of grapes, soils and microclimates – and therefore more mystery in which to lose myself. Against which, though, since the mystery of mysteries is that the mystery makes a hidden sense, a certain logical correlation starts to emerge: Wines from the north generally, taste cooler, more etched, more aromatically intense. Wines from the south swagger more, are fruitier and riper, and more generous.

And in the center lie … something else. The reds – Tuscan to Abruzzi – are much loved, are indeed many wine enthusiasts’ first and last love in Italian wine: succulent, spicy, hearty, warming, as in Brunello and Montepulciano.

It’s the white wines of central Italy, though, that I’ve lately come to appreciate anew. While these wines are not unknown in this country, especially to people who have traveled there, they play second fiddle to both their red counterparts and the great whites of the north. The number of names, collectively as spellbinding (or confusing) to us as the varietals of Greece or Portugal, is dizzying: vernaccia, verdicchio, vermentino, grechetto, pecorino, passerina and many, many more.

Years from now, if I remain dogged, I will be able to identify the particular attributes of each of these respective grapes. For now, I treat them as a staff of docents at a well-run museum: individuals, yes, but with a collective aim to expose the aesthetic heritage their museum was established to support. The white wine varietals of central Italy have a similarly collectivist orientation: to exalt a coherent geographical character.

My comprehension of this character is intuitive, hard to put into words, I-know-it-when-I-see-it. It’s the weight of any wine that first registers with me, and the weight of a true central Italian white wine is, well it’s central: sturdy but not loose, almost fatty the way a nicely marbled piece of meat is, a gravelly note in its voice and a calloused thickness to its handshake.

As for taste, I could twist myself in knots compiling adjectives, but what it comes down to is bitterness. That is the underlying force in the great white wines of central Italy. The underlying force of northern Italian whites is acidity (refreshing, electrified, high-toned); in southern whites it’s sweetness (ripe, soothing, satisfying).

From a public-relations perspective this is unfortunate, since the connotations of bitterness are decidedly less inviting than acidity or sweetness.

Most wine people who pick up on that component in a wine are (legitimately) afraid it won’t translate well, so they tend to employ euphemisms or evasions in describing it: almond skin, black licorice, tar, thyme. I’d rather just remind myself that bitterness is sensed on the tongue for a reason, just as sweetness, acidity, saltiness and savoriness are there for reasons. Sometimes we know the reasons, sometimes we don’t.

Bitterness is crucial, interesting, balancing; it adds to a wine’s complexity and elicits the individuality of its other aspects.

There are surely chemical, geological, perhaps climatological causes of the thrilling bitterness in white wines from Umbria, the Marche, Tuscany. I hope a doctoral student somewhere is working on this. Me, I just enjoy drinking the wines and continuing to discover the deeper connections between place and product.

Here are a few standouts, all of them vinified only in stainless steel: distinctive wines from the fulcrum of an infinitely diverse “country.”

 La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica 2014, $22. Most people familiar with whites of the Marche know Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi, from the coast, producing relatively fruity, easygoing wines in distinctive hourglass-shaped bottles. Matelica, the smaller, more mountainous region inland, produces wines of far more substance and structure, capable of surprisingly long aging. Verdicchio has been genetically linked to garganega, the noble white grape of Soave. This makes sense given Soave’s well-known bitter-almond and lemon-pith character, which Verdicchio di Matelica carries as well. But that’s along with a flinty trait too, and La Monacesca even presents the slate-touched, kerosene-like aspect (see how many permutations of bitter there are?!) of steep-slope dry German riesling. A really extraordinary wine, for your table and cellar.

 La Spinetta Toscana Vermentino 2014, $20. This wine is like an admirable marriage, where two distinct personalities manage to simultaneously converge and retain individuality. How can a wine be both intense and delicate? How can its dryness resemble the crunch of a rye cracker while its fruit suggests ripe pink grapefruit? How can elegance pack such a punch? The vermentino grapes are organically grown and biodynamically farmed, by a modernist winemaking legend of both Tuscany and Piemonte.

 Arnaldo-Caprai ‘Grecante’ Grechetto 2013, $19. Moving east to Italy’s geographic center in Umbria, where the majority of grechetto is grown, we find this bitter marvel from a winery best known for its severe, long-aging (and themselves quite alluringly bitter) red wines from the sagrantino grape. The ‘Grecante’ is a languid and nutty white, chamomile-tinged and fennel-flecked, from the Colli Martani zone ordinarily considered the most favorable hills for the varietal to grow. The wine’s fruit is subtle; complex stone and seed aspects predominate.

 Argillae Orvieto 2014, $14. The only blend in this small selection, the ubiquitous trebbiano combined with grechetto, malvasia di candia, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Ordinarily I find such kitchen-sink mélanges of indigenous and “international” varietals too indistinct to be illustrative. But in this Umbrian wine, they express the essence of their home, in refined subcategories of bitterness: woodsmoke, blood orange, the wax in honeycomb. The wine’s assertive sting pierces its waxy fullness, as if it’s not exactly out to please anyone but ends up pleasing.

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be contacted at:

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Changes are brewing in SMCC’s culinary arts program Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Culinary students entering Southern Maine Community College this fall will choose from a different menu of coursework and lecturers as the school’s culinary arts and hospitality management departments undergo major restructuring. Those changes include a new and unusual arrangement in which the college will share resources with the University of Southern Maine’s tourism and hospitality program.

“We’ve been linked with them since they started, but we’ve forged new links, including sharing a faculty member,” SMCC President Ronald G. Cantor said. “And that person is someone who has experience in hospitality and the culinary industry.”

The changes are being made in response to declining enrollment at SMCC and a series of “some very candid talks with industry leaders” over the past year, Cantor said.

Those restaurant industry leaders have urged that SMCC’s culinary arts and hospitality programs be revamped to better reflect today’s job market, where students are as likely to work aboard a cruise ship or in a new hotel as in an Old Port restaurant. They also say the school’s program needs updating, with more emphasis on farm-to-table dining and other food trends, such as sustainability, international cuisine and new cooking techniques.

“The common theme that they told us is that we have not kept up with the times,” Cantor said.

A decade ago, the culinary arts program at SMCC was growing fast; the program offers a two-year associate’s degree and dates back to the 1950s. Its increased numbers were attributed to several factors: enrollment in the entire school tripled soon after it became a community college in the fall of 2003. Also, the program benefited from a declining economy that sent many people, including older students, back to school.

But in the past five years, enrollment in the culinary arts program has dropped to almost half of its peak in the fall of 2011. That year 252 students were enrolled. By 2013, the number had dropped to 231, and last fall enrollment fell to just 137. School officials blame some of the decline on the large number of potential students who go directly into the workforce, especially in Portland, where restaurants jobs are plentiful.

To address these concerns, SMCC has gone from four full-time instructors to two. On Aug. 1, Maureen LaSalle, the former director of the Alfond Center, Events & Wellness at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, will become a shared faculty member. She will teach two courses each semester at both SMCC and two courses at USM. She will also become the chair of the SMCC Culinary Arts Department, replacing former chair Geoffrey Boardman, who had been at SMCC since 2008.

LaSalle is not a chef, but she has experience in food and beverage management, hotels and events management in jobs that involved many chefs, says Tracy Michaud-Stutzman, head of the Tourism and Hospitality Department at USM. Part of LaSalle’s job will be to pull culinary arts and hospitality “together into a working department,” she said.

Culinary arts student Chauncel Berry adds nuts to a carrot cake she made for a four-course meal in 2010 that was open to the public.

Culinary arts student Chauncel Berry adds nuts to a carrot cake she made for a four-course meal in 2010 that was open to the public.

Michaud-Stutzman said she believes the shared faculty/department arrangement is a first within the University of Maine system. “I believe we are pioneers,” she said. “We are, at the very least, unique.”

USM offers a tourism and hospitality bachelor’s degree, within which are different concentrations, including a culture and culinary one.

“We don’t train chefs, per se,” she said, adding that the program does offer classes on culinary tourism and food writing with a focus on culinary and beverage management. “So students coming from the SMCC culinary program can matriculate right into a bachelor’s degree within that concentration.” Under the new program, SMCC students who decide to go on to a four-year degree can jump right into taking junior-and senior-level courses at USM.

“It makes a really nice transition for those students coming out of high school who weren’t ready for a four-year institution,” Michaud-Stutzman. “They can do two years there. It’s less expensive for a lot of students, too.”

Similarly, students at USM who want to learn basic culinary skills will be able to take classes at SMCC. Or they might visit SMCC’s South Portland campus to manage a dinner or some other event.

USM’s hospitality program, which is just four years old, has been growing by about 25 students per year, according to Michaud-Stutzman. The school just graduated its first four-year class of 20 students. Enrollment in the fall will reach 85-90 students, she said.

SMCC would like to see its enrollment rise again, school officials say, but for now is focusing on meeting the needs of the students and the industry rather than numbers.

David Turin, a chef who runs restaurants in Portland, South Portland and Kennebunkport, is one of SMCC’s industry advisors, and says the restructuring is “a pretty hot political issue.”

As SMCC’s enrollment has dropped, Turin said, the school’s response has been to cut programming, eliminate teachers, and delay maintenance and renovations.

“And now they’ve set out on this path where they’re going to have a head of department who’s not a culinarian, which I think is a mistake,” he said.

Turin also believes the Peter A. McKernan Hospitality Center at SMCC is vastly underused, but with the right investment could become a premiere hotel and restaurant facility run by students and open to the public – what he calls a “bed sheets, not spreadsheets” approach. Such arrangements in other places, such as the Culinary Institute of America “are a major money-making proposition for the school, which allows them to command a lot of support in the community and the regions where they’re located.”

The center is already a venue for conferences, weddings and other events. It has eight guest rooms and its own executive chef. SMCC’s hospitality management students already do internships there, but Cantor said more internships are planned that will better integrate the culinary and hospitality programs.

What Turin is suggesting, though, is a major renovation and shift in focus that would require culinary students to work at the center to get hands-on experience.

“The real tragedy to me is the McKernan Center is perhaps the most viable, fantastic facility that any hotel school could ever ask for, right on the ocean, ” he said. “This gorgeous facility is right next to the culinary school, and they should be in a symbiotic relationship.”

Turin also suggests that the culinary school update the dining room where it serves lunches to the public, which “looks like it’s in a time warp,” and invite local chefs to guest lecture in classes in order to help keep the curriculum up to date.

Some curriculum changes have already begun. Last year, instructors started integrating “buy local” and “farm-to-table” concepts into one class. Students were trained in sourcing local and sustainable foods, and starting last fall they began offering twice-a-semester public luncheons featuring those foods.

Overall, Turin sees the culinary arts school as “an unbelievable asset that the state has been neglecting financially.” He wants to see it succeed, and despite his concerns he still recommends the school to young cooks, including one of the line cooks who works for him at David’s KPT, his restaurant in the Boathouse Waterfront Hotel in Kennebunkport.

Brian Livermore, 18, of Biddeford has been a prep and link cook at David’s KPT for nearly a year, but plans to attend SMCC’s culinary program in the fall.

Livermore said Maine needs a good, affordable culinary school because Maine has so many hotels and restaurants. Not everyone can afford to go to Johnson & Wales or one of the other larger, better-known culinary schools on the East Coast, he said.

In-state tuition at SMCC is $2,760 per year, plus about $1,000 in fees. Out of state tuition is $5,520 plus fees. (Tuition is set by the Maine community college system.)

In Livermore’s case – he’s already got a lot of hands-on experience in the kitchen – he thinks the hospitality coursework at SMCC will be a good addition to his culinary education.

“I am excited about it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be so much fun.”

]]> 8, 20 Jul 2016 08:08:36 +0000
Herbed salmon atop greens a fitting summer dish Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 It’s amazing how the weather dictates what we want to eat, isn’t it? Even if you’re not consciously trying to cook with the seasons, you want braises and stews when it’s cool out, and food that is lighter and brighter when it’s warm.

This decidedly warm-weather salmon is bathed in an olive oil and herb mixture and cooked at a fairly low temperature to give it a very tender texture. Then it’s perched on a pile of spring-y greens – you can use any baby lettuce mix you like, or create your own. Mix that with a pile of additional fresh herbs and toss with some fresh lemon juice and good olive oil.

Would I eat this in November? Sure. But I am craving it now.

Sometimes I like salmon to be browned and crispy, but in this case I was going for a more delicate, poached texture so the herbs would retain their color, and the whole dish would be soft and gentle. Summer is peak season for wild Alaskan salmon, which has a more pronounced salmon flavor than farm-raised; I used Coho salmon here, with a deep, rich, reddish-orange color. Grab it when you see it.

Serves 4



4 6-ounce salmon fillets

5 scallions, white and light green parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh dill sprigs

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt, plus more to taste


2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt to taste

6 cups baby salad mix, or a mix of purslane, butter lettuce, Boston lettuce and mache, for example

1/2 cup whole fresh parsley leaves

1/4 cup sliced chives

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray, or lightly oil the pan. Place the salmon fillets in the pan.

In a small food processor, blend together the scallions, 1/3 cup olive oil, dill, 1/4 cup parsley leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread the mixture over the salmon, and bake for about 16 to 18 minutes, just until the salmon is barely cooked through and flakes easily. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, until just warm.

For the salad, in a large bowl, mix together the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus salt to taste. Add the lettuces, 1/2 cup parsley leaves and chives, and toss. Divide the salad among 4 plates and place a piece of salmon atop each pile of greens, removing the skin if you wish. Serve while the salmon is warm, or at room temperature if you prefer.

Katie Workman is the author of “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at

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Granola bars rely on dates and honey for sweetness Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Once upon a time, my Indian grandma was left in charge of packing school lunches for my sisters and me. We were sent off to school with some potato curry and a garlic chutney so fierce my eyebrows twitched on the bus all the way to school and I couldn’t bear to open the Tupperware in fear of what might be unleashed on my friends.

After that, I outlawed traditional Indian food in my packed lunches, setting my mother free to get creative with Anglo-Indian dishes that became family favorites.

This granola bar using dates, coconut and peanuts is among the recipes she created. It doesn’t use sugar, instead relying on dates and honey as sweeteners. The dates add a lovely fudgy texture and the oats and peanuts give slow release energy which will keep your kids (and you) going for a few hours. Cinnamon and ginger, in a nod to India, are used in small amounts to add a hint of warmth and extra flavor.

Mum used to make it in big batches on a Sunday and fill the house with the most divine smells, which would creep under the door while I was doing my homework. For the rest of the week, I’d look forward to packed lunches knowing what I was going to get.


Serves 16

10 tablespoons butter, unsalted

1 cup dates, pitted and chopped

1/3 cup honey, plus more to drizzle

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 cup desiccated coconut

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped

Grease and line an 8-inch square baking pan and pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Add the butter, dates, honey, coconut, ginger and cinnamon to a deep saucepan and heat over a low flame until butter and honey melt, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the oats and chopped peanuts until mixed, then spread evenly into the baking pan. Pat the top down with a spoon to smooth the top and drizzle top with honey.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until brown and firm on top. Cool before cutting into squares.

These bars will keep for up to a week in an airtight tin.

Meera Sodha is an Indian foods expert and author of “Made in India: Recipes from an Indian family kitchen.”

]]> 0, 20 Jul 2016 08:08:40 +0000
Try tempura-like batter for fried zucchini flowers Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Zucchini flowers are perfect for stuffing. In the following recipe, the flowers are filled with cheese before frying. The result is a creamy, flavorful filling and a supercrisp crust.

For years, my go-to deep-frying batter has been made of roughly equal parts beer and flour. But I wanted the batter for this dish to be crisper, more like tempura, so I added seltzer and baking soda and swapped out half of the flour for cornstarch. Unlike flour, cornstarch has no gluten, which ensures a thinner, more delicate coating that nonetheless holds its shape.

You’ll want to mix the batter just before using it to prevent the bubbles from evaporating. Combine the dry ingredients and park them on the counter while you prep the blossoms and begin to heat the oil. When the oil is almost up to temperature, add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix the batter quickly. Take care not to rip the petals while stuffing the flower with cheese, then close the open end of the flower by twisting the petals like a New Year’s Eve party popper. The cheese should stay put and not leak into the oil.

Choose a pan with deep sides and fill it with no more than 1 1/2 or 2 inches of oil. Make sure the oil has a high smoke point. Use a deep-fat thermometer to keep track of the temperature and try to maintain it at a constant 365 F. Depending on the size of your pan, fry no more than three or four stuffed blossoms at a time. This will ensure that the temperature of the oil neither drops nor bubbles over the top. If the temperature begins to creep up, pull the pan off the flame and/or add a little cool oil. Transfer each batch of fried blossoms to a paper towel-lined sheet pan, sprinkle lightly with salt and keep warm in the oven while you fry the rest.


Serves 4

12 squash blossoms

1/2 ounce coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 ounce mozzarella, cut into 12 cubes

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (2 3/8 ounces)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup ice-cold beer

1/2 cup ice-cold seltzer

Vegetable oil for deep frying

1 cup marinara sauce (homemade or your favorite store brand), heated

Basil sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 200 F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with a double layer of paper towels.

Working with one blossom at a time, carefully separate the petals to expose the inside of the flower and the central stamen (on a male plant) or pistil (on a female plant). Using small sharp scissors cut out as much of the stamen or pistil as possible to make room for the cheese. Put about 1 teaspoon of the Parmigiano-Reggiano in the cavity; top with a chunk of mozzarella. Twist the petals gently to enclose the filling; set aside the stuffed blossoms.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, cornstarch, soda and salt. In a large, deep saucepan heat 11/2 to 2 inches of oil over medium high heat to 365 F. When the oil is at around 325 F, combine the dry ingredients in the bowl with the beer and the seltzer; stir the mixture until it is combined well but with a few lumps remaining.

Working with three or four blossoms at a time, dip them in the batter, coating them well and letting the excess drip off. Add them gently to the 365 F oil; let cook for 30 seconds. Using tongs, gently turn them over. Cook until they are golden, about 1 to 11/2 minutes, turning them once again. Transfer the blossoms to the rimmed sheet pan using a slotted spoon, sprinkle with kosher salt and keep warm in the oven while you batter and fry the remaining zucchini blossoms.

To serve, spoon one-fourth of the marinara sauce into the bottom of each of four soup bowls, arrange three fried blossoms on top and garnish with a basil sprig.

Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”

]]> 0, 20 Jul 2016 08:08:41 +0000
Mango, fresh tuna make a perfect match Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Ripe, sweet mangos are at the height of their season. They make a great accompaniment for pan-seared fresh tuna. Simply saute the tuna and top it with this mango salsa for a quick summer meal.

It takes a few minutes to cut a mango into cubes. Here’s an easy method. Stand the mango on the thick end and cut it in half on each side sliding the knife down the side of the stone. Run a large spoon around the edge of the flesh and scoop it out. Cut the pulp into 1/4-inch pieces. Do this over a bowl to catch the juices.


Makes 2 servings.

1 cup mango cubes

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon canola oil

3/4 pound fresh tuna steaks

Cut mango in half around the pit. Hold the mango with cut side up. Scoop out pulp with a large spoon. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces. Mix lime juice, honey, cilantro and jalapeno pepper together. Toss with mango. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sear tuna for 2 minutes. Turn and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste on the cooked side. Sear second side 2 minutes for a half-inch thick tuna steak. For a 1-inch tuna steak, lower heat and cook 2 more minutes. Remove to two dinner plates, spoon salsa on top and serve.

Linda Gassenheimer is the author of “Delicious One-Pot Dishes.”

]]> 0, 20 Jul 2016 08:08:39 +0000
Put those pea pods to good use Sun, 17 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I am coming late for dinner as far as garden-variety English peas are concerned.

While area farmers tell me I’ve only got one more week, maybe two, to buy these highly seasonal gems, I am just now answering the question I ask myself every time I spend an hour – sometimes meditatively, sometime begrudgingly – liberating an always disappointing number of peas from their voluminously fibrous pods. What can I do with these spent cases besides using them to fill my 5-gallon compost bucket? Though I’ve woken up to the wonders of composting, it still seems like a waste of good produce.

If I were a kitchen apprentice in a luxe restaurant in the south of France, in addition to breaking the stem of the pod, pulling the strings down the length of its sides, pressing the pod between my thumb and forefinger to open it, and pushing out the individual peas, I might then use a razor-sharp knife to carve out the pod’s vellum, the tough, parchment paper-like inner lining of the pod, before blanching the pods so they can once again be used to carry peas – these ones cooked in a butter sauce – to lucky eaters.

But I am in my own midcoast Maine kitchen and the shelling of said peas has already tried my patience, so my pea pod options are various forms of liquification. I can make a broth to provide sweet, mossy green undertones to dishes like Triple Pea Risotto (see recipe); an army-green chilled soup for hot summer evenings; or an emerald-green puree that adds a pop of color to anything from ricotta cheese bruschetta to trendy summer cocktails.

Like the peas themselves, which start to lose their sweetness the moment they are plucked from the vine, the pods should be either used or frozen within hours of shucking for best flavor.

To make broth, place the pods, strings and stems into a large pot. Cover them with cold water. Place the pot over medium high heat until it starts to boil. Reduce the heat, simmer for 30 minutes, cool, strain and store as you would vegetable broth.

To make soup from the pods from 2 pounds of purchased English peas, sweat 1 finely diced sweet onion and 3 chopped garlic cloves in 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pot. When the aromatics are soft, add 1/4 cup of dry white wine, the pods and a teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring until the pods are bright green. Add 4 cups of broth (pea pod if you have it) and 3 sprigs of thyme. Simmer the soup for about 30 minutes until the pods are soft. Use an immersion blender to partially break down the pods. One ladleful at a time, push the soup through a food mill or a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. At this point, Julia Child would stir a bit of cream into the soup – follow her lead if you like. Chill the mixture completely before seasoning with grated nutmeg, black pepper and a drop or two of hot sauce.

To make the puree, blanch pods in batches in boiling salted water until they are bright green (30 to 60 seconds). Use a standing blender to puree the pods with a bit of the blanching water and strain the solids. Chill the puree immediately to preserve its eye-popping color.

With any of these solutions, the solids still end up in compost bucket, but the volume will be reduced by more than half and the pods’ flavor preserved for future use.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at:

]]> 0, 18 Jul 2016 08:29:41 +0000
Dine Out Maine: A wine writer and a restaurant critic go to a bar … Sun, 17 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Even though their natural wine shop, Maine & Loire, opened first, 18 months ago, co-owners Peter and Orenda Hale always planned to build a wine bar in the shared space. “But we were expecting a baby and couldn’t do it all at once. On a totally selfish level, we chose the store because we kept asking ourselves, ‘What are we going to drink?’ ” Orenda Hale said. Once their son was born, they were able to turn the front two-thirds of their high-ceilinged Washington Avenue storefront into the charmingly chic restaurant, Drifters Wife.

Knowing that wine informs so much of the Drifters Wife experience, I wanted to visit with someone with a passion for the stuff, someone for whom wine is a polestar. So I brought along the Press Herald’s wine writer, Joe Appel. We dined at Drifters Wife and decided to organize this review with questions and answers that reflect our conversation as we drank glasses of savory Domaine Dupasquier 2012 rosé ($11) and unfiltered and stone-fruit scented Caneva da Nani “Col Fondo” ($11).

Ross: What’s your impression of the wine selection at Drifters Wife (both bottles and glasses)?

Appel: I love the list overall, because it has so obviously been put together according to one criterion above all others: the personal passions of the people who run the place. You don’t have to be really into wine to see that they’re not taking the obvious route, with prestigious names, bottles that are easy to sell, etc.

The Hales’ “wine ethics” focus on organic or similar-practice viticulture, the use of native yeasts and small-scale production. They’ve chosen wines that are expressive, that offer themselves up undoctored, that teach us something new about the world. That’s noble. Also, it takes a lot of guts to fill a list with names of producers that are this unfamiliar to the majority of the area’s wine drinkers.

I’m grateful for how reasonably priced the wines are. There are some incredible values there, whether you’re paying $34 a bottle or $84. As a wine retailer myself, I’m acutely aware of many bars’ and restaurants’ obscene mark-ups, often on far inferior wines to the ones at Drifters Wife, meant to trick customers into paying a premium for lifestyle ego massage. The wine prices at Drifters Wife are intended to get people to try new things. Again, noble.

I’d like to see Drifters Wife add more of the New World wines from the new generation of vintners in the United States, Australia and Chile, among other places, making extraordinarily distinctive wines, with the viticulture and wine production taking place according to the same “natural” principles the Hales hold dear.

Also, the strength of the list is its bottles. The by-the-glass list is short, and I haven’t noticed enough of the offerings rotating as frequently as they could. This is meant to be a wine bar, not a full restaurant, and the majority of wine that is consumed there is by the glass. It’s frustratingly tantalizing to see such a deep, varied list of bottles but not easily be able to sample its true breadth.

Appel: At most restaurants, the role of the beverage program is to support the food menu; reasonably or not, liquids are seen as secondary. At Drifters Wife, that relationship is inverted. How do you see the connection between food and wine at Drifters Wife, and what do you think of the food?

Ross: Before I arrived, I thought that the balance between attention paid to food would be about 20:80, in favor of wine. But when I read the evening’s menu and started eating, I very quickly realized that it’s much closer to 50:50, maybe 40:60, but overall, very even.

One thing that makes this parity of attention clear is the fact that executive chef Ben Jackson (formerly of Diner and Reynard in New York’s Wythe Hotel) changes the eclectic, mostly modern American menu very frequently, sometimes every single night. This quicksilver approach means he can’t put together a stagnant menu comprising wine bar greatest hits, like quiche and salmon salads. Instead, Jackson challenges himself every day to be adventurous and innovative – incredible, when you stop to consider that his entire kitchen is made up of an oven and two induction burners.

A great example is his revelatory, ultra-tender beef tongue, served with bitter local puntarelle greens and farro ($17). Jackson marinates the tongue in a salt-free bath of spices for 24 hours, then cooks it all day in a low oven, seasons the deeply flavored broth, and adds roasted aromatics, plus, in Jackson’s words, “just about any herb you can think of,” such as basil, parsley and mint. It may sound like a haphazard process, but it is not; the flavors and textures are clear and precise.

Even more impressively, the balance of fat (beef tongue is surprisingly fatty), pungent aromatics, and bite from the puntarelle sets up an ideal backdrop for a range of wine pairings. While eating this dish, we both drank a lemony, mineral Chasselas (Dominique Lucas Quintessence, $48 for a bottle), and every once in a while, I snuck in a few sips of that rosé I mentioned earlier; both yielded different, equally compelling experiences.

For me, this is one of the things Jackson does best: He produces creative dishes that adapt to the context of the wine you drink with them, yet they never feel like neutral options.

I also love how the entire team rejects a doctrinaire stand on pairings: “We trust Ben to do what he wants. If you have good enough wine and good enough food, it’s pretty rare that you’d screw it up,” Peter Hale told me.

Ross: What are the complications and hurdles in building a wine list for a restaurant like Drifters Wife, especially in light of its focus on natural wines?

Appel: Here in Portland, the Hales are building something from close to the ground up. That’s dangerous; you risk sending people somewhere else to get a beer or malbec. Not all the wines at Drifters Wife are funky, super mineral, limpid to the point of nudity or wild-tasting, but many are. The challenge is making the connection for people between these wines and the food, beer and cocktails they already like. The challenge is to show people that, actually, these wines are closer to what wine has been historically than what they might be used to.

Ross: What should diners be on the lookout for at a place like Drifters Wife – wines or styles they might find nowhere else?

Appel: Well, the list of wines they might find nowhere else, or only in one or two other places, is long. But my first suggestion overall would be to seek out the wines of unfamiliar colors – orange wines, vins jaunes, some of the more interesting rosés. Also, the sparkling wines are great in ways that are both unconventional and immediately gratifying and delicious.

One of the most dramatic set of differences that wines made “naturally” exhibit is interesting textures, rather than flavors. So, explore the many white wines on the list that achieve levels of tannin and viscosity ordinarily associated more with reds. Ask whoever is working to point you to some of these. Peter, Orenda and Alexis (our server) are not only enthusiastic about their wines, they have the rare ability to describe them in quite precise, useful ways.

Appel: What sort of dining experience do you think works best for someone visiting Drifters Wife? Is it more suited to solo or couples’ dining than a group, or vice versa? Does it function as a place to go for a full meal?

Ross: It’s easy to picture yourself at Drifters Wife with a date, snacking on broccoli florets glazed with preserved lemon and golden raisin vinaigrette, and dipped in briny anchoide ($8), or sharing a crisp Red Russian kale salad with buttery, crunchy brown breadcrumbs ($8). I can definitely see myself doing the same while sitting at the bar, sipping a glass of the Pierre Olivier Bonhomme Le Telquel ($12) – a very softly tannic Touraine gamay blend, full of berry and spice.

But I think small groups of three to six diners would fare equally well, especially because with an increase in head count comes opportunity to explore the exciting list of bottles, even the more expensive ones, such as the legendary Domaine Tempier Bandol ($86), a gorgeously structured mourvedre blend with just enough cinsault in the mix to send up tiny sparks of anise as you drink.

In terms of constructing full meals, I don’t see Drifters Wife as being different from most small-plates restaurants. Even with only eight menu items, there’s a breadth of size, flavor and type of dish – from bluefish and cucumber marinated in apple cider vinegar, basil and dill ($11) that reminded me of the filling from a perfect whitefish salad bagel, to an unmissable dessert, the malabi pudding with strawberries ($8). This simple Middle Eastern milk pudding is also another example of Jackson’s genius for not getting in the way of the wine; the pudding is calibrated to be sweet but also just savory enough (thanks to a little Maldon sea salt) that it doesn’t coat your palate and leave you unable to finish any leftover wine. You really can have your dessert and drink it, too.

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, 16 Jul 2016 19:08:47 +0000
Pulled pork and pickle chips aplenty at Bubba Frye’s in North Berwick Fri, 15 Jul 2016 03:02:26 +0000 0, 14 Jul 2016 23:03:06 +0000 Bill passed by Congress to require GMO labels on food falls short, critics say Fri, 15 Jul 2016 01:41:03 +0000 Despite being opposed by Maine’s entire congressional delegation, a bill to create a national labeling policy for foods containing genetically modified ingredients is headed to President Obama’s desk after a decisive 306-117 vote Thursday in the House of Representatives. The White House has said Obama will sign it.

The bill, the third piece of GMO labeling legislation to come before Congress in 2016, will pre-empt the Vermont law that took effect July 1. It also will essentially toss Maine’s hard-fought – and tougher – labeling law, signed by Gov. Paul LePage in 2014 but on hold because it required all surrounding states to be on board, into the dustbin.

“It’s a huge disappointment, clearly,” said Ted Quaday, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, known as MOFGA, which was instrumental in getting the 2014 law passed. Congress was “hoodwinked,” Quaday said, by lobbyists for the big food companies, biotechnology companies and trade associations.

Groups like MOFGA have been fighting for decades to require transparent labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms. GMOs are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA. While farmers have always selectively bred plants, this manipulation is done in a lab, speeding up the process and creating certain traits, such as resistance to herbicides, and potential for higher yields, although recent research has suggested the latter is in question.

The Food and Drug Administration’s position is that these foods are safe, but the majority of consumers still want to know if their food contains GMO ingredients.

The food, farm and biotech industries – which includes GMO giant Monsanto – have spent $192.8 million to influence federal GMO labeling legislation and for other issues since 2013, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group, which favors labeling. More than half of that has been spent in the past year alone. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents food manufacturers, has hired 34 lobbyists since 2014 exclusively to advocate for anti-GMO-labeling legislation, the group found.

The end result, critics said, is the just-passed bill that is confusing and less stringent than legislation proposed by 17 states. Groups like the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association favored the bill, as did the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which called it a “win-win” and praised its bipartisan nature.

“Republicans and Democrats found consensus on the common ground that a patchwork of different state labeling laws would be a costly and confusing disaster for the nation’s food supply chain,” Pamela G. Bailey, the association’s president and CEO, said in a written statement.

But Maine’s delegation – Sen. Angus King, an independent, Sen. Susan Collins and U.S. Rep Bruce Poliquin, both Republicans, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, found consensus in opposing it.

Before the House vote Thursday, Pingree spoke against the bill, calling it “a complicated solution to a simple problem.” One of her chief complaints is that manufacturers have the choice of using a quick-response digital code on a label that would require consumers to scan it with a smart phone to find out specifics about which ingredients are derived from GMOs.

“An average 12-year-old will tell you this is an obsolete technology,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the labeling advocacy group Just Label It and also chairman of Stonyfield Farms. “Really, all consumers want is a simple disclosure.”

Pingree called for a list in “plain English” that would be available to all consumers, the way labeling is handled in other countries, including most of Europe, Japan and “even China,” she said.


Critics also say the federal legislation allows food manufacturers flexibility on labeling. In addition to text or the digital code, an as-yet-undetermined symbol would be allowed.

The Vermont law requires that items be labeled “produced with genetic engineering,” and many manufacturers have begun making the transition to text on the labels. Whole Foods, a major player in the upscale supermarket arena, set a goal in 2013 for full GMO labeling by 2018.

Even as Congress has debated labeling and lobbyists have worked against it, Campbell’s Soup Co., General Mills, Mars, Inc., Kellogg and ConAgra are introducing or have introduced labeling on packages of products containing GMOs. Dannon will label all GMO ingredients in its yogurt products by December 2017.

That may mostly be a response to public demand. In multiple polls, conducted on behalf of groups such as Just Label It and independent studies for publications such as Consumer Reports, more than 90 percent of respondents said they believe foods with genetically modified ingredients should be labeled as such.

Hirshberg thinks that “smart and responsible brands, the ones that don’t want to get into trouble with consumers,” will move ahead with text labeling.

He also said there may be a “silverish” lining to passage of the bill.

“The fact that we got anything at all is a sign of progress,” he said. “Commercial agricultural interests still control much of our (food) policy.”

Lawmakers from rural states overwhelmingly supported the legislation, including some Democrats up for re-election in contested races. Republicans were overwhelmingly for it, siding with agriculture groups that said it was needed to bring more certainty to farmers who grow genetically modified corn and soybeans.


Now that the bill has passed, critics are gearing up for the next phase in the GMO saga, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture begins what will be a two-year rulemaking process.

“People are not going to give up and walk away just because Congress passed a goofy law,” said Quaday, the MOFGA official. “There is a long rulemaking process ahead and we will do everything we can to engage in that process.”

The federal legislation encompasses some foods that were exempted from the Vermont law, but it also allows the USDA to determine how much of a “bioengineered substance” must be present to require a GMO label. If that threshold is high, advocates are likely to be further disappointed. But Hirshberg, who plans to be back in Washington next week to continue his work with Just Label It, takes a philosophical approach.

“Even I have to admit, our state bills still exempted 42 percent of food. They weren’t perfect. The truth is, we had a solution that was only covering about half the food,” he said.

The food industry says 75 percent to 80 percent of foods contain genetically modified ingredients, most of those corn- and soy-based. The bulk of the nation’s genetically engineered crops are eaten by livestock or made into popular processed food ingredients such as cornstarch, soybean oil or high-fructose corn syrup.

Soda contains massive amounts of corn syrup, but would not be labeled under the legislation. Most sugar beets grown in the U.S. are also genetically modified. Only a handful of genetically engineered fruits and vegetables are available in the produce aisle, including Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash, and some sweet corn.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg contributed to this report.


]]> 62, 15 Jul 2016 00:00:29 +0000
Critics say federal bill to require GMO labels on food falls short Thu, 14 Jul 2016 19:24:30 +0000 WASHINGTON – Consumers wanting to know if their foods contain genetically modified ingredients will be able to find out for the first time.

Congress sent legislation to President Obama on Thursday that would require most food packages to carry a text label, a symbol or an electronic code readable by smartphone that indicates whether the food contains genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs. The Agriculture Department would have two years to write the rules.

The White House says Obama will sign the bill, which would pre-empt a Vermont law that took effect this month. The House passed the legislation 306-117 on Thursday.

Senate approval came last week over the strong objections of Vermont’s congressional delegation. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch argued that the measure falls short, especially compared with the tougher labeling requirements in their state. While the bill gives companies the three options for labeling, the Vermont law would require items be labeled “produced with genetic engineering.”

“If there is an acknowledgement about the right of a consumer to have access to information, why not give them the information in plain and simple English?” asked Welch on the House floor.

Advocates for labeling and the food industry, which has fought mandatory labeling, have wanted to find a national solution to avoid a state-by-state patchwork of laws. The food industry supports the legislation, which was the result of bipartisan Senate negotiations. But many advocates do not, arguing that many consumers won’t be able to read electronic labels and that there aren’t enough penalties for companies that don’t comply.

While there is little scientific concern about the safety of those GMOs on the market, advocates for labeling argue that not enough is known about their risks and people want to know what’s in their food. Among supporters of labeling are many organic companies that are barred by law from using modified ingredients in their foods.

The food industry says GMOs are safe and the labels could mislead people into thinking they aren’t. But several companies started to label their foods anyway as Vermont’s law went into effect.

Vermont’s Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin bemoaned the congressional action.

“It’s a shame that Congress chose to replace our standard with a weaker one that provides multiple ways for the food industry to avoid transparent labeling,” he said in a statement.

Republicans and lawmakers from rural states overwhelmingly supported the legislation. Agriculture groups have backed it, hoping it will bring more certainty to farmers who grow genetically modified corn and soybeans.

“The clock has run out, my producers need certainty and an interstate commerce nightmare will shortly ensure if we don’t pass this bill,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

Genetically modified foods are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other plants or animals inserted into their DNA. While farmers have been selectively breeding plants for centuries, this manipulation is done in a lab, speeding up the process by transferring a gene from one plant or animal to another. The engineering is done to create certain traits, like resistance to herbicides.

The bulk of the nation’s genetically engineered crops are corn and soybeans that are eaten by livestock or made into popular processed food ingredients such as cornstarch, soybean oil or high-fructose corn syrup. Only a handful of genetically engineered fruits and vegetables are available in the produce aisle, including Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini and squash and some sweet corn.

The food industry says 75 percent to 80 percent of foods contain genetically modified ingredients – most of those corn and soy-based. The Food and Drug Administration says they are safe to eat.

The legislation encompasses some foods that were exempted from the Vermont law, but it also allows the Agriculture Department to determine how much of a “bioengineered substance” must be present to require a GMO label. Labeling advocates say many foods wouldn’t be labeled if the department sets a high threshold.

Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington and David Gram in Vermont contributed to this report.

]]> 3, 14 Jul 2016 20:30:47 +0000
Lewiston’s Fuel restaurant is offered as prize in essay contest Thu, 14 Jul 2016 14:16:24 +0000 The owner of Lewiston’s most upscale restaurant is offering the business, a two-bedroom condo and $20,000 in cash to the winner of an essay contest.

Eric Agren, who opened Fuel restaurant 10 years ago during the revival of the city’s downtown, said he is looking for a passionate entrepreneur who will embrace both the restaurant and the community to take over the operation, which Agren valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. The winner of a 300-word essay contest will become the new owner of the 7,000-square-foot restaurant on Lisbon Street and all of its contents, from the stoves and walk-in coolers to the wine and liquor inventory to the recipes themselves, the event space known as Sidecar, and the two-bedroom, two-bath condo where Agren lived when he opened Fuel.

Agren decided to “pass the torch” through an essay contest rather than simply putting the restaurant up for sale because he thought it the best way to find just the right person to take over his biggest project to date.

“Fuel is the biggest thing I’ve done and it means a lot to me, and to the community,” Agren said. “We want to give the right person the best chance we can to step in and be successful right off the bat. Breaking into the restaurant scene is difficult. The idea is to give someone the chance to live out their dream without going into debt to do it.”

Applications are due by Oct. 14 if submitted by paper, and Oct. 17 if submitted online. There are rules about how to apply – full contest details are at – and a $150 nonrefundable application fee meant to help Agren reach his targeted sale price of $1.2 million. With that sale price in mind, Agren reserves the right to cancel the contest if fewer than 8,000 people apply, although he said he would probably award the prize if the applicant number comes close to his asking price. Applicants will receive a full refund should Agren cancel.

Several attempts to sell property via an essay contest have popped up in Maine in the last few years, including current proposals to win an upscale home in West Bath and an inn in Ogunquit. But the most controversial involved the Center Lovell Inn, a contest last year that prompted a Maine State Police investigation over how the contest was handled and how the winner chosen.

Agren hopes to avoid any controversy. Three anonymous judges chosen by Agren whom he will only describe as people he trusts will whittle down the applications to 20 finalists. Agren has asked the judges to look for someone who has an interest in both the restaurant and the property, but the final decision on who makes the cut will be up to them. Those judges will then choose three new judges unknown to Agren to pick the winner from among the finalists, as well as a first and second runner-up in case the winner were to refuse the prize. The winner will be chosen between Oct. 25 and Nov. 30.

While he would like the winner to live in the condo, because he thinks that shows a real commitment to the area, and make a long-term investment in Fuel, the contest rules do not prohibit flipping of either property. Agren believes that a new business owner shouldn’t be hemmed in by pre-existing conditions, and that if it didn’t work out, better that the new owner sell to someone else than allow the restaurant to fizzle out. The restaurant building alone is assessed at $325,000 by the city.

The rules also make no mention about continuing to employ the same staff, although Agren said he thinks the new winner would be crazy not to keep the award-winning staff intact.

The restaurant, which seats about 80, created a stir when it opened in March 2007, offering fine dining in a city that carried a blue-collar reputation from its heyday as a mill town. The menu offers classic French fare like beef bourguignon and coq au vin, as well as down-home entrees such as mac and cheese and ribeye burgers. A 2011 Press Herald reviewer of the restaurant said her meal ranked among the top of restaurants she had sampled recently, and Fuel has won a number of awards from Wine Spectator, Open Table and Yankee, Maine and Downeast magazines.

Agren said the winner ought to be an entrepreneur with a love of food, but doesn’t need to have restaurant experience to be considered. Applicants from Maine are welcome, but no one from away will be turned away.

In the application rules, Agren makes reference to international applicants, so he is obviously hoping the judges have a wide array of talent to choose from. But there is “amazing talent” right here in Maine, especially in Portland, that would likely leap at this opportunity to own their own restaurant, he said.

The winner cannot be a current or former employee of Fuel or Marche, a restaurant Agren opened across the street and sold about two years ago, or a close relative.

Agren decided it was time to turn Fuel over to someone new a few months ago. He described himself as a “serial entrepreneur,” and said he needed the time to pursue his next big project. He won’t say exactly what that is yet, but made it clear that he planned to stay in the Lewiston-Auburn area, and that he is not pulling out of the community he calls home. He also plans to be eating at the new Fuel regularly, so he will stick around for a month to help the new owner learn the ropes and keep the dining experience on track.

The one thing Agren will promise, however, is that his next venture will not be a midcoast restaurant to challenge Fuel in the upscale dining market.

]]> 13, 14 Jul 2016 23:44:34 +0000
Scheurebe is relatively rare, certainly in Maine, but worth getting to know Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Woe unto the unfamiliar wine with a familiar personality. It’s like that sweet-natured kid in high school you kinda had a crush on, but his acne was tough or her punky garb said “don’t talk to me,” so you drew closer to the ones with more conventional outward dispositions or looks, only years later recognizing that they were boring, uncaring, aggressive.

The jerky jocks hog the hallways. I’ll momentarily engage the privilege of the dispossessed to criticize them – amped-up California pinots and malbecs damaged by excessive time in small new-oak barrels – for dominating wine’s limelight, for luring us into a falsely narrow spectrum of choices.

We all know what happened to the acne kids, the punky kids, the put-upon, awkward, bookish kids, the software dorks: They grew up to create the most engaging art, the most imaginative companies; to propose the most interesting sociological questions and philosophical inquiries; to raise the best children.

And so it may be one day, I pray, for scheurebe. Scheurebe is the new friend you make in your senior year, once you’ve outgrown your petty cliquishness and have the confidence to hang out with whomever you damn well please.

Wines with unconventional names or origins want what everyone wants – to be loved, to love – but they require a tender attention few of us remember to employ consistently. Subconsciously, we assume that a wine with a name that’s difficult to pronounce, or from a region not dependent on romantic-getaway tourism, will itself be difficult to enjoy. Moving past that erroneous association is a pretty good definition of maturity.

The scheurebe grape was first bred by Dr. Georg Scheu (“rebe” means “vine”) in 1916, a cross between riesling and – wait for it – bukettrebe, which itself is a cross between silvaner and schiava, the latter also known as vernatsch or trollinger.

The intention of the cross-breeding was to produce something riesling-like but higher-yielding and easier to ripen fully. Its relative rarity is due to its general … let’s call it Deutschkeit, but also to an inaccurate association with sweet riesling, as well as the unfortunate fact that it excels in the same soils that riesling does, and riesling takes marketplace priority in the vineyard.

Scheurebe is pronounced “SHOY-ray-beh” (or abbreviate to “shoy” if you like, as many geeks do), and it’s a white wine grape from Germany. I’m sorry about those facts, but get over it. Practice saying its name twice and you’re there; it rolls off the tongue more easily than “pinot grigio” or “sauvignon blanc” or “nero d’avola.” As a wine, it slides over the tongue way more pleasurably.

Scheurebe could, in fact, be thought of as effortlessly expressing, though with better developed umami character, much of what we appreciate in those better known varietals I just listed: aromatic intensity, precision and length, fruity disposition offset by bitter and herbal notes, balance of sweet/salty/spicy/sour.

A noted importer of scheu- rebe wines and vocal proponent for their particular charms, Terry Theise, has accurately if somewhat indecorously used an adult-themed analogy to help orient us within the context of German wine. If riesling is a somewhat conventional, missionary-style sexual experience with the lights on, the metaphor goes, scheurebe is quite the opposite: lights off, rules disregarded, limbs askew, etc. There are references to the kama sutra and “something more pagan” than riesling; scheurebe as riesling’s “evil, horny twin.”

Let me put it another way: Scheurebe’s flavors are immediately recognizable and delightful, but the wines are not completely “clean.” I mean that they’re not scrubbed of suggestions – of a sort of sultry, sweaty, lusty, curvaceous all-in humanness lacking in so many sterile, neutered modern wines. Scheurebe is mildly lewd, though irresistible to all but the most prudish.

Or I could come at it from a different wine direction and say that despite the lack of genetic relation, scheurebe is sauvignon blanc’s kinder, more generous, more fun twin. Like sauvignon blanc, it must walk the middle path, for it is sour and distasteful when picked too early, or rotten-fruity when sideswiped by botrytis. Like sauvignon blanc on the rare occasions when it is picked appropriately (or as some call it, “late”), it is exuberantly aromatic, mouth-filling, weighty with steady jolts of acidity. Like sauvignon blanc, it often presents the character of grapefruit and green herbs.

Unlike sauvignon blanc, it has additional components of musk and red grape, sometimes even raisin. Unlike sauvignon blanc, it forms wines versatile enough to be appropriate matches for Asian dishes, fish sauce and fermented foods as well as summer-inspired meals with lots of green on the plate.

Here’s the 13th way of looking at this particular blackbird: Other great white wines usually appeal most thoroughly to the mind, and even the spirit. Such is the realm of white Burgundy, riesling, Alsace generally, aged white Rioja, Savennieres. Most of those wines, especially when young, have a focus and even austerity, which develop directly into breathtaking intellectual grandeur. I’ve never had such an experience with scheurebe, though I adore it, for scheurebe, at its zenith, appeals primarily to the body. Its pleasures are sensual, felt in tremulous rumblings, toes curling. They are tingly, not brainy; they are what your high school classes could not sway you from grasping that life was really about.

In my job as a wine retailer, my experience with scheurebe has for years now followed a dispiriting cycle. I taste the wine and thrill once more to its exotic, sexy sheen. I buy a few bottles to put on the shelf, excited to nudge customers toward trying it out. Said customers demur. I reply, “Really, you sure? Let me describe it a different way …” Still a lukewarm response. The bottles stay put.

I move them to the box where the wines that don’t sell go, at 15 percent discount. (By the way, hot tip: Such boxes are often a shop’s treasure trove, since they house the wines the wine-buyer loves but are too weird-seeming to sell.) A few months or a year later, I taste the wine again, and optimistically buy a few more to put on the shelf, to be ignored once more by the majority of consumers.

Well, their loss. You and me, we know better. We look beyond the superficial. We go to the prom with someone who is going to be so much fun that it’s almost – but not – too much fun.

As you might imagine, the streets of Maine do not exactly run knee-deep in scheurebe. In fact, one of the more interesting ones available here is from Austria, not Germany, where the grape is known as sämling 88 (“sämling” means “seedling,” and 88 was Dr. Scheu’s code for the vine he crossbred to create the grape). However, the ones you can find locally avoid the pitfalls and exalt the potential. Enjoy your senior year.

Strauss Sämling 88 Classic 2013, $18. The pale green color belies the exotic, quiet intensity of this Austrian wine. Moderate yellow grapefruit flavor will pull in the lovers of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, while the subdued musk and lychee notes will tempt aficionados of dry Alsatian gewürztraminer and muscat. Vibratory acidity, a dry finish, and 11.5 percent alcohol – not to mention a screw-cap Stelvin enclosure – make this an outstanding summery picnic or boat wine.

Geil Bechtheimer Scheurebe Kabinett 2014, $18. This vintage was outstanding for scheurebe, a legendary year according to the grape’s master growers, when ripeness and acidity came together perfectly. I’ve experienced it significantly more viscous and tropical in the past, but prefer this vintage’s nimbleness. Geil bottles two versions, this spicy off-dry wine (9.5 percent alcohol), and a Trocken (dry) not available in Maine. Both are bottled early to preserve some natural CO2, reflected here in a lovely slight effervescence that helps balance out the touch of sweetness. It’s more lavish than the Strauss, suggesting not just currants but herbs fried in brown butter – a hint for how to sauce the trout you should serve it with.

Joe Appel is the Wine Buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be reached at:

]]> 0, 13 Jul 2016 13:11:44 +0000
Pitting Standard Baking Co. against baking standards Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Alison Pray judges her own breads using Michael Kalanty’s bread chart.

I wanted to take sensory scientist Michael Kalanty’s bread chart for a road test. Who better to be in the driver’s seat than Alison Pray, co-owner of Standard Baking Co. and one of Portland’s best-known bakers?

Pray said she thinks it’s a great idea for people to become more interested in and educated about bread, just as they are about wine and coffee. A system like Kalanty’s would make it possible “for people to have that more elevated sense of what they’re eating and why,” Pray said. “I’d always hoped for something like this in the bread world.”

Pray has tinkered with bread tastings before, both as a judge at bread competitions and as a test baker for University of Maine grain scientists who evaluate a variety of grains and ancient wheats. In baking competitions, judges evaluate for taste, aroma, crumb and “suppleness” – a term that means moistness to professional bakers. For the research tests, she evaluates the strength of the dough in the bowl, its mixing and shaping characteristics and ultimately its baking properties, such as color, texture and volume.

But that’s all for the benefit of professional bakers, not casual eaters.

I thought it would be interesting for Pray to evaluate her own breads, so I brought three Standard Baking loaves with me: A demi-baguette; a loaf of Maine 5-Grain made with rye, spelt, millet, oats and flax; and a dense rye loaf known as Vollkornbrot.

Before we started sniffing and tasting, Pray wanted to go over the chart in detail, looking at the vocabulary Kalanty uses to describe flavor and grain character.

Michael Kalanty (pictured at top) used his background as a sensory scientist to develop the chart above, which attempts to help bread lovers identify the flavors they experience.

Michael Kalanty’s bread chart

Reading over the descriptors for a complex grain character, she said: “Green olive? That’s an interesting flavor note that I hadn’t though of. Flint? I’m not sure what that is, but I think of, like, smoky.”

Pray, like Kalanty, says the fermentation process brings out the flavor of the grain. While adding ingredients such as sugar, nuts or olives to bread can add a lot of flavor, she said, “the plainer, simpler breads – just flour, water, yeast and salt – that’s how you can judge their skill as a baker because it’s all about their ability to understand and control fermentation.”

First up: the classic Standard Baking baguette. Pray held a large slice up to her nose and squeezed, letting the aroma shoot into her nostrils – the same technique she uses when judging a baking competition. I followed suit.

“It smells buttery to me,” I said.

“I love that term because it comes from the sweetness of the grain and the fermentation,” Pray said. “Those are the dairy notes. But I also find it sweet rather than sour.”

Then we tasted the crumb, chewing with our mouths open, as Kalanty instructs. To Pray, the grain character came off like cooked oatmeal and yeasty Champagne, two of the descriptors under Moderate Grain Character on Kalanty’s chart. Oatmeal always tastes sweet to her, she said, and Champagne is usually a bit sweeter than other wines.

“There’s a bit of acidity to this, but I don’t find it an overwhelming acidity,” Pray said.

Next came the crust. I tasted “popped grains” and “nutty,” and Pray noted that at the bakery, they always describe the crust as nutty. That would put the crust in the “Toasty” category on Kalanty’s chart.

“It’s much less sweet than the crumb,” I observed, “so I think we could say the crumb is Sweet/Dairy and the crust is Toasty?”

“I love that!” Pray said, giving me a high five. “That’s how we’re going to describe the baguette from now on: Sweet dairy flavors in the crumb and toasty, nutty characteristics in the crust. This is fun.”

A loaf of Maine 5-Grains, a sourdough bread, baked by Standard Baking Co.

A loaf of Maine 5-Grains, a sourdough bread, baked by Standard Baking Co.

On to the Maine 5-Grain, which is a naturally leavened sourdough.

I took a bite of the crumb and immediately tasted vinegar and a bit of lemon, which put it into the Sour/Fruity category. Pray picked up cooked whole grains, cooked dried beans and green olive, which put it in the Complex category for grain character.

The crust, we agreed, lies somewhere between “Roasted” and “Toasty.” It’s definitely malty, and tastes something like a dark beer. Pray compared it to baked pasta with crusty cheese bits on top.

Finally, the rye loaf. It’s thick and chewy. Perfect for an English ploughman’s lunch or with smoked fish and horseradish cream, like a Danish smorrebrod.

“It’s not your typical profile of bread,” Pray said, “but in so many cultures this is their bread.”

We started with the crumb, as usual, and got a clear green apple flavor, especially in the long finish, or aftertaste, that comes with this bread. The grain character is Complex, with finishing notes of flint. Pray detected some fruitiness and a little bit of dairy. She noted that the bread undergoes a long fermentation, but it’s done in stages. When the baker can control the acidity like that, it brings out more of the dairy flavor.

“I feel like I’m eating cheese with it already,” I said.

Finally, we tried the crust, and Pray paused for a moment, looking away from Kalanty’s chart because she didn’t want to be influenced by it. She said it tasted like dark, bitter chocolate, and once she said it I immediately agreed. The crust falls mostly in the Resinous category, but there’s a little bit of Sweet, too.

“I would add woody to that, and I guess that’s where the aged basalmic comes in,” Pray said, referring to the aged balsamic vinegar in the Resinous category of the chart.

Another important point of agreement: Upon tasting the bread, we both immediately craved a bottle of Allagash Black.

]]> 0, 13 Jul 2016 09:05:00 +0000
Tess Ward’s ‘The Naked Cookbook’ is haphazardly organized but worth a look Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The Naked Cookbook” by Tess Ward. Ten Speed Press, $24.99

This is the story of someone who chose a cookbook by its cover and then regretted the cover, but not the cookbook.

“The Naked Cookbook” is the work of Tess Ward, a London-based food blogger who previously wrote “The Naked Diet.” The “naked” in the title refers to her belief that it is best to eat “food in its most naked form,” meaning fresh and not processed. This is not new, of course. The era when people ate and fed their families casseroles made of Fritos, hamburger and cream of mushroom soup (Hi, Mom!) is long past.

Also long past is the time when you could name a cookbook, say, “The Joy of Cooking,” and call it a day. You must now have, it seems, an angle. Ward promotes nutritious “naked” eating based on some vague generalizations and her own health history.

“The Naked Cookbook” is divided into seven chapters: raw, pure, stripped, bare, nude, clean and detox. The detox chapter is really about detoxing but the other chapters are filled somewhat haphazardly. The “pure” chapter contains a recipe for ginger porkballs and the “bare” one has lamb meatballs. If there is a rationale behind this, I couldn’t find it.

The greatest weakness of this book is its cover. In keeping with the nude theme, this book seems to have been published with almost nothing on it. The cover is made up of what looks like the cardboard stiffening of most bound books and it has no spine. Just taking it home with me bruised and marked the cover. If something spilled or spattered on it (I am a messy cook), the cover will either melt away or, at the very least, lose its trendy, edgy design and appear not clean and pure but unkempt and possibly unhygienic.

All this nitpicking can be set aside, however, when you cook from this book. Many of the recipes appealed to me. They are, for the most part, simple and fast. I was tempted by a Prune + Bitter Chocolate Frozen Ricotta dessert and a salad of Tomatoes with Capers, Almonds + Herbs, but settled on the Green Cauliflower “Couscous” with Pumpkin Seeds.

Two small warnings: This recipe requires a food processor (or a cook who is willing to reduce a head of cauliflower to tiny bits by hand). It also calls for fava beans, which I was unable to find. I substituted shelled frozen edamame, which I boiled for a few minutes before using. They worked very well.


Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, stem and florets, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

2 garlic cloves, chopped

7 ounces thawed frozen or cooked fresh fava beans

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

2 handfuls of mixed herbs (such as mint and basil), minced

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Scant 1/2 cup crumbled soft goat cheese

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the cauliflower in a food processor and process to a fine couscous- or ricelike texture, in batches if you have a small food processor.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet, add the garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden. Add the cauliflower, tossing it to coat with the garlic oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until heated through. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the fava beans, pumpkin seeds, herbs, lemon juice, goat cheese and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss until mixed. Season with salt and pepper to taste and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm.

]]> 0, 13 Jul 2016 08:32:46 +0000
If potluck is a competition, here are ways to clinch the win Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Potluck is a competitive sport, at least when it’s done right.

You go to a potluck and you check out the competition. Gail brought some sugar cookies – that’s good, but it won’t be good enough. Gabe made some fried chicken. Everyone likes fried chicken, but no one ever raves about it. Danielle contributed a store-bought carrot cake.

Store-bought? Please. It’s like she didn’t even try.

And then you uncover your dish. You can tell by the delight in some of the guests – and the green-eyed jealousy in others – that you’ve done it. You’ve won the potluck.

It’s a good feeling.

All it takes to win a potluck is a little bit of time and a little bit of effort. If you use the right ingredients, you’re halfway there.

Most potluckers throw something together quickly at the last moment or they make it on the cheap. If a cookie is made with margarine instead of butter, you can be sure it is never going to win.

To truly impress at a potluck, especially if you know that other guests also realize it is a competition, you have to make something that looks as good as it tastes. And that is why, for my first blue-ribbon potluck dish, I turned to the best-looking potluck dish I have ever seen.

It was invented by my wife. We were going to a garden party, which is to say a party for gardeners, and everyone was encouraged to bring a dish with a garden theme. My wife brought a Garden in a Pan.

The bottom layer was refried beans, to represent the dirt. Placed on top of it were colorful rows of chopped vegetables, sour cream, cheese, salsa and guacamole to represent rows of plants.

When scooped up with a tortilla chip, it all made for a delicious, fresh, Tex-Mex dip. It’s kind of like a seven-layer dip, but horizontal.

I stayed with the idea of a healthful dip with my next dish, tzatziki. A bright-tasting Greek sauce made from yogurt and cucumbers, tzatziki is best known as the topping to gyros. But it goes well with any grilled meat, with shrimp or with baked potatoes.

And for the purposes of a potluck, it also goes well with crudités. Simply serve it as a dip along with carrot sticks, celery sticks, sliced red pepper and cherry tomatoes, and the other guests will appreciate how much you are looking out for their health and happiness.

If you’re truly trying to win at potluck – or if you know someone else is also trying to win – you may have to spend some money. And that means … shrimp.

Shrimp cocktail won’t cut it. Everybody knows shrimp cocktail. Everybody loves shrimp cocktail. But shrimp cocktail is too ordinary.

If you’re going to win with shrimp, you’ll have to go big – like the big flavors you find in Spiced Shrimp.

The flavors are actually simple: garlic, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, olive oil and lemon juice. But when you put them all together and make sort of a paste to cover the shrimp, that’s when you get something notable.

The original recipe from The New York Times called for the shrimp to be grilled. And you could certainly cook them that way, if you really wanted to show off. But simply sautéeing them in a pan is easily good enough to secure a victory.

Bold flavors are the key to another sure-fire winner, too. When spiced nuts are done right, they tend to be addictive. The combination of salt and sugar and nuttiness makes them too good to pass up.

If you bring Rum-Glazed Pecans to a potluck, they are almost certain to be the first thing finished. With a satisfied smile (but only if you keep it to yourself), you will notice the other guests going back to the bowl again and again and again.

Why? Well, you begin with pecans, which you toast to a fragrant crispness. Then you glaze them with a combination of melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla and dark rum. When they are still sticky, you toss them in a combination of granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.

These are flavors made for one another. Make sure you grab some for yourself before they are all gone.

For one last dish to impress, I made a South Carolina standard, Country Captain Chicken. This is chicken slow-cooked in a tomato-curry sauce. It is a warming, homey dish, the kind of dish the other guests will think about for days.

It is also easy to make. It does take a lot of ingredients, but most of the cooking is done in a slow cooker. You just set it and forget it.

When the other guests ask you for the recipe, be sure to hand it to them with all the modesty you can muster. Winners never gloat.


Yield: 12 servings

1 1/2 (16-ounce) cans or 2/3 (31-ounce) can refried beans

1/2 cup guacamole

1/2 cup salsa, drained

1/2 cup shredded Mexican-style cheese

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup sliced black olives

1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper

Chives, optional

Spread the refried beans evenly across the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Make thin rows lengthwise down the pan of guacamole, salsa, cheese, red onions, sour cream, tomatoes, scallions, olives and orange peppers, to resemble a garden. If desired, cut chives in half and stick them in clumps between rows to look like a fence or other plants. Serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe by Mary Anne Pikrone


Yield: 16 servings

1 English cucumber about 12 inches long, peeled

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt, see note

1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Note: For best results, use full-fat (whole milk) Greek yogurt. Two percent fat is acceptable, but do not use nonfat yogurt.

Grate the cucumber into a mesh strainer. Sprinkle with salt and let sit in the sink or in a bowl to sweat out the moisture for 30 minutes. Squeeze out as much of the remaining moisture as you can with paper towels.

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, dill, olive oil and vinegar. Add the strained cucumber and stir until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Store in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours to allow the flavors to combine. Serve with crudites.

Recipe adapted from OMGFood

Spiced shrimp will deliver a kick to your potluck.   Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Spiced shrimp will deliver a kick to your potluck. Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 large clove garlic

1 tablespoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon paprika

3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 to 2 pounds shrimp, peeled

Lemon wedges

Mince garlic with salt; mix with cayenne and paprika, then make into a paste with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and lemon juice. Smear paste on shrimp.

Put the remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick pan or 2 tablespoons in a large regular pan, and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until done, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on their size. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold, with lemon wedges.

Recipe adapted from the New York Times

Rum-glazed pecans make a great potluck food.    Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Rum-glazed pecans make a great potluck food. Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Yield: 8 servings

2 cups unsalted pecans

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or 3/8 teaspoon table salt)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon rum, preferably dark

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the pecans evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Toast until fragrant and the color deepens slightly, about 8 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. Transfer the baking sheet with the nuts to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, combine the granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice in a medium bowl; set aside.

Bring the rum, butter, vanilla and brown sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Stir in the toasted pecans and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the nuts are shiny and almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 11/2 minutes.

Transfer the glazed pecans to the bowl with the spice mix; toss well to coat. Return the glazed and spiced pecans to the parchment-lined baking sheet to cool. The nuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Recipe from “Cook’s Country Best Potluck Recipes”


Yield: 6 servings

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped coarse

1 green bell pepper, stemmed and seeded

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

5 tablespoons tomato paste

1 (9-ounce) jar mango chutney, such as Major Grey’s

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons Madras curry powder (see note)

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Note: Basic curry powder turns bitter after 6 hours in a slow cooker, but Madras curry powder will not.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes (you may have to do this in batches). Cool the chicken slightly on a plate, remove and discard the skin, and transfer the chicken to the slow-cooker insert.

Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet and return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth and tomato paste and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Simmer until thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the chutney, garlic, curry powder, paprika, thyme and cayenne. Pour the mixture into the slow-cooker insert, submerging the chicken in the sauce.

Cover and cook on low until the chicken is tender, about 6 hours. Turn off the slow cooker, remove the lid and gently stir the sauce to recombine. Replace the lid and let sit for about 15 minutes to thicken the sauce before serving. If serving at a potluck, tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding the bones. If serving for dinner, serve over rice.

Recipe from “Cook’s Country Best Potluck Recipes”

]]> 0, 13 Jul 2016 08:44:44 +0000
Bread lovers, like wine connoisseurs, now have a chart to describe the flavors of a loaf Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Butterscotch, toffee, chocolate, molasses. Green apple, grapefruit, lemon and vinegar.

If you’ve never used these words when talking about bread, Michael Kalanty hopes to change that.

The first set of flavors describe a sweet crust, as opposed to a fruity one with hints of fig, raisin and stewed fruit. The second set describes the flavor of the crumb, the soft interior of the bread. It’s a sour/fruity crumb as opposed to a sour/dairy one, which he says tastes like fresh cheese, plain yogurt, buttermilk and aged cheese.

Michael Kalanty (pictured at top) used his background as a sensory scientist to develop the chart above, which attempts to help bread lovers identify the flavors they experience.

Michael Kalanty’s bread chart

Kalanty is a bread baker, sensory scientist and certified master taster from San Francisco who has developed a bread-tasting chart similar to the wine wheels used by oenophiles to describe the aromas and flavors in their wine glass. He’ll be at the 10th Annual Kneading Conference and Artisan Bread Fair July 28-30 in Skowhegan, teaching a class in which he’ll lead conference goers through the process of evaluating bread.

Just as wine lovers and serious coffee drinkers use certain vocabularies to express what they are experiencing as they imbibe, Kalanty wants to give bakers and bread lovers terminology so they can develop their palates and enjoy bread on a whole new level “instead of just saying, ‘Oh, I like this.’ ”

If you have words to describe the aroma and taste of bread, he continued, “then you can build your own bank of flavor memories and be able to recall what that baguette was the you had in Montreal that time, and why you liked it the way that you did. Was it the crust? Was it the crust versus the crumb? Was it the way the crumb soaked up the latte foam? What was it about that particular experience that struck you?”

Kalanty got the idea for the chart through his work as a sensory scientist and certified master taster at ChefsBest, a business that trains panels of chefs to judge grocery store food products in blind tastings. The ones that rise to the top are awarded a “ChefsBest” label that is similar to a chefs’ version of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Kalanty has been a ChefsBest taster for nearly 15 years. Many private food corporations have their own internal group of sensory scientists and tasting panels who help them develop new products and update old ones. They spot new flavor trends – think sriracha on everything – and figure out how to incorporate those flavors in new products.


Tristan Noyes, executive director of the Maine Grain Alliance, said the group invited Kalanty to the Kneading Conference because he’s “been nationally known for quite a long time.”

Kalanty studied math and art history in college before turning to bread baking. He was an artisan bread baker at the California Culinary Academy for 11 years and a craft bread instructor for almost six years at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of San Francisco.

“Michael brings 20 years of baking and cooking experience, and has been able to really influence artisan bread baking on a number of different levels, from being a bread baker himself to being a really well known culinary instructor,” Noyes said. “He was even named Chef Instructor of the Year for Le Cordon Bleu.”

Kalanty has written several books on baking, including one, “How To Bake Bread,” that has a cult following across the United States, Noyes said.

To become a Certified Master Taster for ChefsBest, Kalanty first had to pass a “palate acuity test,” a preliminary vetting process that identifies palates that are likely to be successful as trained tasters. The test, he explained, measures a person’s ability to detect basic tastes (sweet, salt, sour, bitter) and basic textural concepts such as adhesion (sticking to the teeth when chewed), cohesion (forming into a ball when chewed), and richness (perception of fattiness). It starts with three food samples placed in front of the taster, and the taster has to pick the sample that’s different from the two others.

Michael Kalanty

Michael Kalanty

If you are like most of the population and get only a third of your responses correct, you will be thanked and shown the door. If you get, say, 70 percent correct, your palate may be deemed worthy of training.

The next step involves a longer training called a “palate calibration” with a panel of experts. Working on a 15-point scale, the taster-in-training evaluates characteristics such as bite, crunch, chewiness, loudness of crunch, saltiness, and even how a food sticks to your teeth, Kalanty said. Then the taster’s evaluation is compared with the panel’s. For example, say the taster is evaluating a potato chip for saltiness and gives it a score of 13 out of 15. But the panel thinks that 9 is the correct number.

“What that tells the newbie is ‘OK, I’m running a little fast here on that, I need to throttle back,’ ” Kalanty said. “It helps you bring your perceptions in line with everyone else. I liken it to when the Hardy Boys set their watches for midnight. You’re basically turning a person’s sensory perception and ability to speak of that into a machine.”

Kalanty has tested products from Tofurky to Jelly Bellies to Pez candies. These days he guides panels of chefs through the process. If the chefs tell him a product sticks to their teeth, it’s Kalanty’s job to ask: “How much does it stick to your teeth? Does it stick to your teeth like a bagel does, or more like peanut butter does?”


It was while doing this work that Kalanty discovered that perceptions about bread flavor and texture were “different across the board.”

He started working on his “Aroma and Flavor Notes for Bread” chart with the help of Ann Noble of the University of California-Davis, who teaches wine sensory evaluation and developed the Wine Aroma Wheel. (He’s working on a separate chart for texture.)

The flavor of a bread, Kalanty says, comes from the combination of a wheat strain and its terroir. Flavor is enhanced, and new flavors develop, because of the choices the baker makes during the fermentation process. To taste these flavors using the chart, chew with your mouth open, aerating the bread as you chew because, Kalanty says, “the flavor happens retronasally – in the back of your mouth, up towards roof of the mouth and out your nose.”

Always start with the crumb, Kalanty says, “because that’s where the flavor of the fermentation comes through. That speaks directly to the intention of the craftsperson.”

The crust is next, and it’s more flavorful by nature, Kalanty said.

“The crust is the brûlée part of the crème brûlée,” he said. “It’s the end slice of the brisket.”

As the proteins in the crust break down into amino acids and starches break down into various sugar combinations, “these things recombine in as many ways as you can throw 10,000 dice,” Kalanty said. “As these caramelize light, medium and dark, they take on all of these different flavors. So the same bread dough fermented this amount of time versus that amount of time will bring different colors and flavors into the crust. That’s where the fun really happens.”

The end result of developing your bread palate may be that you learn to pair breads more wisely with your meals, Kalanty says. If you taste raisin in a crust, that loaf might go well with roast pork and grilled peaches, for example.

But at the very least, Kalanty hopes people will take his chart, visit different craft bakeries in their communities and learn to talk about bread using a new language.

“It’s like art appreciation in a way,” he said. “Each of these craft bakers is an artist.”


]]> 0, 13 Jul 2016 09:11:21 +0000
Tenth Annual Kneading Conference in Skowhegan expected to attract more than 250 people Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For the 10th year, bread fiends from all over the country will gather in Skowhegan this month for the annual Kneading Conference, sponsored by the Maine Grain Alliance.

The Maine Grain Alliance works to preserve “grain traditions,” from milling to artisanal bread-baking. The conference brings together farmers, bakers, chefs, researchers and others interested in growing, milling and baking local grains.

This year’s conference will be held July 28-29 at the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds and features more than 50 workshops. Food, including several farm-to-table meals, is included in the $325 cost. Preregistration and prepayment are required.

The keynote speaker will be Amy Halloran, author of “The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf” (Chelsea Green, 2015). Workshops include “Building an Earthen Oven,” “Beginner Techniques for the Home Baker” and “Artisan Techniques for Wood-fired Baking.”

Speakers include food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who will talk about pasta, and representatives from Allagash Brewing, Rising Tide Brewing, Bigelow Brewing and Blue Ox Malthouse, who will discuss “The Rise of Local Grains in Maine’s Craft Beer. For a complete schedule, go to

The conference will be followed on July 30 by the annual Artisan Bread Fair, which is free and open to the public, and also at the fairgrounds. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., attendees can buy artisan bread and related products from more than 60 vendors, watch wood-fired oven demonstrations and speak with professional bakers.

]]> 0 Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:41:29 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: From pizza to pesto to jewelry, garlic scapes are versatile and tasty Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Scape” is an old botanical term for a stalk that rises from a root. Garlic scapes ascend through the leaves of the plant and then twist into a curl or coil topped by a seed-like bulb.

If left to develop naturally, the garlic plant will throw all its energy into the flower, but when the scapes are harvested in full curl, they themselves are edible – crisp and delicious, with a milder flavor than a head of garlic.

Find them at your local farmers market, and then try this easy garlic scape pizza or the lovely green pesto sauce, or use the scapes in one of the other ways suggested below.


Plain or rosemary focaccia makes a great quick pizza base, but you can also use store-bought prebaked pizza rounds or raw dough.

Serve with a tomato and sweet onion salad for a quick, light and delicious supper.

Makes 2-3 servings

One (12-inch round) focaccia (homemade or store-bought), sliced horizontally

8 to 10 garlic scapes, depending on size

5 to 6 tablespoons good olive oil, plus additional if desired

2/3 cup fresh goat cheese

1/3 cup shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

½ cup torn basil leaves

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place bread rounds on baking sheet, arrange garlic scapes overlapping on focaccia, drizzle with olive oil, dot with goat cheese and scatter with shredded cheese.

Sprinkle hot pepper flakes evenly over the top and strew with basil leaves.

Bake in the preheated oven until cheese softens and garlic scapes are crispy and tinged with brown, 10 to 15 minutes. If scapes aren’t brown enough, turn oven to broil for a couple of minutes. Cut pizza in wedges, drizzle with a bit more oil if desired, sprinkle with sea salt, and serve.


Toss this pesto with hot pasta, using some of the cooking water to thin the sauce, dollop on boiled potatoes or spread on chicken sandwiches. Pine nuts are the classic choice, but you can also use walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds.

Makes about 1 cup

¾ cup coarsely chopped garlic scapes

½ cup packed parsley sprigs

1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup pine nuts

½ cup good olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, food processor or mini-processor, pulse together scapes, sprigs, cheese and nuts. With motor running, drizzle in oil and process to make a slightly coarse paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This pesto will stay bright green for several days in the refrigerator or can be frozen.

Other ways to use scapes:

 Brush scapes lightly with oil and grill until blackened on edges. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a dribble of balsamic vinegar.

 Press into the tops of steaks, hamburgers or meaty fish such as swordfish and grill.

 Add chopped scapes to omelets, frittatas, and tomato and other pasta sauces.

 Finely mince and stir into fresh goat cheese or cream cheese.

 Add to flower arrangements.

 Wear on the wrist as beautiful fragrant jewelry.

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.” (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

]]> 0, 13 Jul 2016 14:29:35 +0000
New food delivery service comes to the midcoast Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Two Brunswick chefs have launched a new business delivering food to summer tourists visiting the region.

Eileen Hornor, chef/owner of The Brunswick Inn, and Ali Waks-Adams of Butter+Salt Pop-Up have launched Park Row Provisions, which will deliver prepared foods and provisions to customers in Brunswick, Harpswell, Bailey Island, Orrs Island, Cundy’s Harbor and surrounding areas. Selections include a cold fried chicken picnic, gazpacho, lobster salad and fresh pastas made by Tim O’Brien, chef at Enoteca Athena. Local products such as Balfour Farms yogurt, Standard Baking breads, Bisson’s bacon, Wicked Joe Coffee, and fresh eggs and produce will also be available. Deliveries will be made on Saturday and Wednesday.

The idea for Park Row Provisions came from Waks-Adams, who once vacationed here herself and didn’t like spending her time off shopping for food.

For more information, call (207) 994-2124 or email

— Staff report

]]> 0 Wed, 13 Jul 2016 08:41:58 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Zapoteca in Portland gets some things very right Sun, 10 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Shannon Bard is a chef who cares about precision and order. You can see it in the perfect disk of chunky guacamole ($8) she serves at her Fore Street stalwart, Zapoteca. Rather than scoop a loose, sloppy lump of crushed avocado, tomato and onion onto a plate, she carefully shapes it with a steel ring mold and presents it like a miniature planet around which freshly fried tortilla chips orbit.

It may seem like a cheap trick, but on a rectangular plate, her plating shifts your attention away from the crisp and delicate chips to the real star of the show, the cilantro-scented, hintingly bitter guac. “When you have a big pile of something on your plate, I don’t think it looks right. I don’t think it’s appealing. I really like uniformity,” Bard said.

While that sounds like something a molecular gastronomist might say, primly tweezering microgreens onto a white saucer of infused foam, Bard’s expression of uniformity isn’t at all stark and clinical. And that hasn’t changed since the Maine Sunday Telegram last reviewed Zapoteca in 2011, two months after it opened. In her four-star review, our then critic remarked on the kitchen’s thoughtful use of ingredients, and noted that the restaurant is “not overly formal, nor is it working hard to be hip.”

Indeed, just check out the dark, exposed brick walls that run the length of the restaurant – there is an organic sense of tidiness here, broken up (or maybe highlighted) by a few long, mismatched mirrors and punched-tin light fixtures.

In the El Pepino margarita ($10) as well, we found a clean, almost symmetrical balance among flavors of muddled cucumber, citrusy Gran Gala and young plata tequila. Floating on top were three cross-sectioned slices of jalapeño so thin they could have been shaved with a razor, giving the cocktail a pleasing hit of slow-percolating heat.

Unfortunately, not all of Zapoteca’s gestures towards precision work out this well. In her interpretation of pork carnitas ($24), Bard serves pulled, slow-roasted pork not as a mound of shreds, but as a pressed brick of meat that has been seared in pork fat on a flat-top grill.

This pressing and second cooking yields a great shape, exterior color and crunch, but has the unintended consequence of removing moisture and completely drying out the pork. Even combining bites of the carnitas with the sensational accompanying pickled onions, black beans and lively red tomato chili sauce failed to resuscitate the meat.

Similarly, the generous half-chicken in mole sauce ($23) suffered from dry patches throughout. In particular, the edges of the chicken meat were dry and even chewy, especially in places where there was no skin, like along the fleshy portion of the breast and drumstick. Given that Zapoteca’s mole chicken involves a slow confit in duck fat, coriander, black pepper and thyme, the dryness came as a surprise. That is, until I learned that the chicken was cooked two more times before serving: Once involving a pan-sear to give it color, and then a turn in the wood oven to give it a smoky flavor and crispy skin (and if the skin still is not crisp enough, there’s an optional third firing with a blowtorch).

As I sampled the still-tender meat from the center of the thigh, dipped in Bard’s intoxicatingly aromatic Oaxacan mole sauce, it was hard not to think about missed opportunities. This dish might have been superb had the kitchen limited itself to one re-heating.

Nevertheless, the mole was such a darkly complex take on traditional flavors it would be tempting to order the dish again, if only for the sauce.

One very nontraditional dish, the cauliflower steaks ($9), pan-sauteed with mild black garlic, and served with tangy pasilla oil and a smoky-sweet chipotle-raisin sauce, found its way onto the menu after Bard made a visit to a Mexican food conference in San Antonio.

“I always wanted to do an interpretation because there’s a huge vegetarian population here, and plus, my husband (Zapoteca co-owner and manager Tom Bard) is a huge cauliflower fan,” she said.

We loved the combination of textures and the sear on the florets, but couldn’t get past the lack of salt, which made the bright, peppery flavors in the sauces taste disappointingly like Mrs. Dash.

The jalapeños rellenos ($9), with their simple, intentionally soft egg-white crust were much better. Bard and her team fire-roast, peel and de-seed jumbo jalapeños, fill them with freshly grated local Pineland Farms cheese and deep fry them until the cheese is melted and the exterior is just past golden.

If the heat from the pepper is too much for you – and it varies from pepper to pepper and from tip (least hot) to stem-end (eye-watering) – there are cooling chunks of tomato and avocado, along with Mexican crema and black bean-tomato sauce on the plate.

Zapoteca's Veracruzano halibut ($28) is made with green olives, capers, raisins and diced tomato, with thick slices of pickled carrots and jalapeños. Below, Diners place their orders during a busy dinner hour. The cilantro-scented guacamole, bottom, is shaped with a ring mold for serving.

Veracruzano halibut  Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

If you’re on the hunt for spicy heat, our favorite plate of the night, the Veracruzano halibut ($28) offered plenty of it. Served in a pan sauce made from green olives, capers, raisins and diced tomato, the dish had an almost Sicilian personality, but the thick slices of piquant pickled carrots and fiery pickled jalapeños gave the whole thing a distinctly North American accent.

Not only was the halibut cooked beautifully, but the grilled tomato slice sitting atop the fillet added an extra dimension of sweetness, as well as another subtle element to balance out the other high-amplitude flavors.

As we enjoyed a duo of flans ($9) – one respectable, if slightly overset vanilla flan and an outstanding, caramel-and-cream fig flan – we couldn’t help but notice a different sort of amplitude taking over the dining room; what began as a relatively quiet meal had devolved into a struggle to be heard and understood across the table.

Much of this clamor came from boisterous (and possibly overserved) sports fans at the bar. The defeated-looking floor manager tried to convince them to keep their voices down, but the restaurant was already filling up, noise reinforcing itself in increasingly unpleasant layers.

When our very friendly server stopped by our table, mouthing an inaudible thank you as she set our bill on the table, I was struck by the disconnect between the careful discipline and order present in so many of Zapoteca’s dishes and the deafening racket of the dining room.

But in the end, perhaps that’s what the well-stocked tequila bar is there for – to help you embrace a little sonic entropy on a wild Friday night. Because after all, there are some things you just can’t control.

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

]]> 3, 19 Jul 2016 11:52:07 +0000
Two more restaurants planned in downtown Portland Thu, 07 Jul 2016 01:05:21 +0000 Two more restaurateurs have applied for licenses in downtown Portland, hoping to bring “exotic meatballs” and fast-casual Asian fare to the city.

The Portland Meatball Co. would be at 104 Exchange St., the former location of Pierre’s Electronics Store. Noah Talmatch, who also owns the Timber Steakhouse and Rotisserie next door (as well as The North Point on Silver Street), says in documents filed with the city that his new restaurant will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week, including brunch on Sunday.

The menu will include “exceptional homemade pastas, sandwiches, soup and of course, exotic meatballs and pizza.” A sample menu listed a variety of unusual meatballs that included wild pheasant with wild Maine blueberries and blueberry truffle sauce; wild boar and blue cheese with cherry drizzle; Asian pork with chilies and plum hoisin sauce; and lamb merguez and harissa sauce.

The decor, Talmatch says, will be New England-style farmhouse with booth and table seating and “a small but inviting bar.”

Hours are expected to be 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., and the target opening date is Sept. 18.

Jie “Jamie” Ming Liang of Westbrook plans to open 66S Fusion at 425 Fore St., next door to Gelato Fiasco. The quick-service Asian menu will feature sushi, teppanyaki grill, ramen noodles and an Asian meat bun.

]]> 5 Wed, 06 Jul 2016 21:16:27 +0000
Elizabeth Knowlton shares her old family favorite fish chowder recipe Wed, 06 Jul 2016 08:00:19 +0000 Elizabeth Knowlton has adapted the recipe from her grandmother’s 1934 edition of “The Boston Cooking School Cook Book.” She says the chowder only gets better the longer it sits in the refrigerator (within reason), which lets the flavors meld. She suggests either making it a day ahead, or the morning of the day you plan to serve it for dinner.

Serves 6

3 slices thick bacon, chopped

2 leeks

1/2 medium onion, chopped

Salt and pepper

2 cups bite-sized pieces red potato

2 cups chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 (15-ounce) cans Bar Harbor brand fish

1 pound haddock, cut into small pieces

4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

2 cups whole milk

Render the bacon in a 4- to 6-quart, heavy-duty soup pot or Dutch oven, then set the bacon pieces aside; leave 2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat in the pot and discard the rest.

Keep the white root end of the leek, discarding all but 2 inches of the green tops and any funky outer layers. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise, and then slice the halves into quarters. Then slice the leeks thinly crosswise and rinse the pieces thoroughly.

Saute the leeks and onion in the reserved bacon fat until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the potatoes, carrots and celery to the pot and stir. Pour in the fish stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the parsley and thyme, and stir. Add the haddock to the pot, cover and simmer on low another 10 minutes.

Before serving, add the whole milk and heat through. Sprinkle each serving with some of the reserved bacon.

]]> 1 Tue, 05 Jul 2016 16:37:34 +0000
Raising a giant baby on a vegan diet Wed, 06 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This week, we turn Vegetarian Kitchen into Vegan Kitchen. In recent years, the American diet has emphasized whole grains and vegetables more and more, at the same time de-emphasizing large hunks of red meat. Even if not labeled “vegetarian,” many of our stories in the Food & Dining section reflect this trend. Couple that with the fact that columnist Avery Yale Kamila is a passionate vegan deeply interested in telling stories about veganism, and we decided to narrow the focus of her column.

“Wow! He’s big.”

Since my son was born three years ago, I’ve heard this phrase repeated by friends, family and strangers alike. How tall he is and how quickly he’s grown surprised me too, since some of the very limited research on vegan pregnancy points to the babies being born slightly below average in weight.

However, a couple of studies contradict that, pointing to vegan babies having a higher birth weight. With such scant data, I figured he had a good shot at being average.

In fact, my giant vegan baby was born a very average 7 pounds, 15 ounces. But at 22 1/2 inches long, he was considered tall for his age.

His birth weight put him in the 50th percentile, yet by 1 month he was in the 90th percentile, and since then he’s hovered at the 95th percentile or above for both height and weight.

In practical terms, this meant he was wearing size 24 months clothes at 6 months old. (So much for what I thought was a two-year stockpile of organic cotton clothing.)

His healthy growth rate may be relative – consider my husband, who at 6 feet, 3 inches towers over me. But as T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. of the Center for Nutrition Studies frequently reminds people, genes don’t act alone.

In his influential 2006 book “The China Study,” Campbell writes: “Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed.”

So how did I end up with a giant vegan baby?

Blame it on plant-strong, organic food.

Not only has my grass-fed (as my aunt calls him) 3-year-old never tried chicken nuggets, cow’s milk, tuna chunks or animal parts of any kind, he’s never eaten artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives. He’s missed out on trans fats, dietary cholesterol and high-fructose corn syrup.

No one will be surprised that he’s never laid eyes on a Twinkie. But I’ve also never fed him Cheerios. (Yes, I am that hard-core of a health food mom.)

As a result, when my health food kid recently spotted goldfish crackers spilled on the ground at a festival, he didn’t recognize them as food. (Score!) The closest he’s gotten to candy is a vegan Clif Bar. The only birthday party cake and ice cream he knows is the organic, vegan variety.

You know me, I always buy organic, but when eating out or visiting family and friends, organic food isn’t always an option. In those cases, I steer him away from corn, soy, wheat and peanuts. All four crops can contain heavy amounts of applied glyphosate (commonly sold as Roundup) and other pesticides linked with the die-off of our crucial digestive microbes.

Turns out, my son is quite interested in these bacteria – or “creatures” as he calls them – and the whole, fibrous foods they like to eat and talks about them frequently. (“Mommy, do my creatures like kale?” “Yes, honey, they love kale.”)

By 6 months, my son didn’t yet know about these creatures but he was ready to start solids. So I got out my food mill, food processor and tiny glass storage containers.

First I gave him bits of soft foods, such as banana and very ripe fruits. Then I pureed single foods, such as millet, green beans and plums. Once he was used to purees, I moved onto combinations, including mujaddara (lentils, rice and caramelized onions); squash and garlic soup; roasted root vegetables; and maple-tamari glazed Brussels sprouts (that one didn’t go over so well, but I haven’t given up).

Soon he wanted finger foods, which meant cooked beans, cut fruit, steamed vegetables, whole grains, tofu cubes, whole wheat toast squares and bits of homemade falafel and veggie burgers.

When he was around a year old, I started introducing nuts, beginning with crushed-up versions and moving onto the softer, whole nuts such as walnuts, pecans and cashews.

By the time he was a year and a half, he began eating whatever I was making for dinner, with some important modifications.

Onions must be pureed rather than diced in all veggie burgers. Soft tacos must not contain anything other than beans and salsa. Two different foods shall never touch each other on the plate. Ever. And any lettuce or raw vegetables will remain untouched (if not contemptuously brushed off the plate and onto the table, OK, floor).

Speaking of vegetables and leafy greens, I have three favorite tricks: smoothies, soups and stir-fries.

A green smoothie is a 100 percent guaranteed way to get leafy greens into picky kids. I typically use kale or spinach (sometimes lettuce or chard), frozen, light-colored fruit (bananas, mangos, peaches, pineapple), ripe bananas (if I didn’t use frozen) and juice or water.

Soup is another excellent way to get green-averse eaters to consume some verdant vegetables. Every soup I make comes with a generous leafy green garnish – spinach with French lentil, cilantro with chili, and kale with Tuscan white bean.

I chop the greens fine, stir them into my son’s bowl before it reaches the table and when my son says, “Can I have mine without the green stuff?” I reply, “That’s how it’s made.”

He eats it anyway.

Stir-fry is another convenient pathway for getting all manner of vegetables into my little vegetarian, who is still learning to like vegetables. Kale, cabbage, carrots and broccoli stand up well in stir-fry. I always add baked tofu.

Like many a parent before me who has stir-fried for the preschool set, I’ve learned to do a minuscule dice.

When it comes to snacks, 99 percent of the time he enjoys fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts. Dates are his favorite, and I always make sure I have some in the cupboard. I never leave home without a container of homemade trail mix.

About once a week, my son enjoys more processed snacks, such as Little Lad’s Herb Crackers, whole-grain muffins and organic spelt pretzels.

Lunch is typically leftover soup, veggie burgers (which I make and freeze) or sandwiches (such as hummus or cultured cashew cheese on whole-wheat bread, pickle on the side. No lettuce!).

Then there is the humble PB&J, a lunchbox staple especially dear to plant-strong families. With a quality whole-grain bread, natural, organic peanut butter and jam without refined sugar, I suddenly have a kid-pleasing, nutritious and totally portable lunch.

To get him to lunch, we pack in some serious nutrition during breakfast.

Each night before I go to bed, I soak 1 cup of whole oat groats in 3 cups water in a pot on the stove. In the morning, I turn the flame on medium high and boil the oats for about 30 minutes with the lid off until most of the water is absorbed and it’s a creamy porridge.

Then I add in the following superfoods: hemp seeds, crushed walnuts and ground flaxseeds. All three offer many health boosts, among them the beneficial fats, all nine essential amino acids and vital trace minerals (including magnesium, phosphorous and zinc) packed into a tiny seed.

From there, I add different flavor combinations, such as cinnamon-raisin, blueberry-raspberry and strawberry-soy milk. I always add Maine maple syrup.

Other hallmarks of my son’s diet include organic, unsweetened soy milk, daily fermented foods and home-cooked beans soaked in seaweed and nettle. (My son counts red beans and rice and mujaddara among his favorite foods.)

Eating vegan has a number of upsides, not least of which is the fact that he’s never had an ear infection or suffered constipation; both are linked to dairy consumption. His hair and nails are thick and glossy. He has tons of energy. And he doesn’t recognize candy in conventional grocery stores.

He also asks unusual questions, such as – when we’re passing the meat section in the grocery – “Mommy, are those dead animal parts?”

This fall he starts preschool and from there it will be the junk food-saturated world of kindergarten and grade school. Snack cakes, candy, meat and dairy will become more visible and real.

In the meantime, my child continues to grow. At 3, he’s already wearing sizes 5 and 6.

Of course, feeding a child organic, plant-based foods won’t guarantee a giant vegan baby. But it will give any child a head start in a world steeped with too many foods that harm rather than help.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 26, 05 Jul 2016 23:17:03 +0000
Fish chowder brings back memories of an unconventional grandmother Wed, 06 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BATH — Elizabeth Knowlton waited at the stove for the chopped bacon to start sizzling. It would add flavor to and also be the finishing touch for her grandmother’s fish chowder.

The chowder is a thin broth of fish stock and whole milk filled with chunks of haddock, carrots, celery, leeks, onions and potatoes.

The recipe comes from the 1934 edition of “The Boston Cooking School Cook Book” by Fannie Merritt Farmer, which Knowlton inherited from her grandmother, Dorothy Wellington Britt. The book, stained from decades of use, sits on the kitchen counter at the Inn at Bath, which Knowlton owns, while she cooks.

Knowlton starts explaining the tweaks and shortcuts she’s made to the original recipe, such as substituting bacon for salt pork and adding chopped carrots and celery to give the chowder a little color. Rather than make her own fish stock, she uses canned Bar Harbor brand fish stock, “which is actually good and means you’re not dealing with heads and tails and stuff like that.”

This fish chowder is one of Knowlton’s favorite dishes, but not just because of how it tastes. When Knowlton was a little girl visiting her grandmother in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, her grandmother always made the chowder to welcome her, serving it from a big pottery urn.

“I loved the ritual of arriving for the weekend and the fish chowder would be on the stove,” Knowlton said.

Later, Knowlton’s mother made the soup in her electric skillet. Knowlton learned how to make the chowder at an early age, taught by her mother and grandmother. But Britt may have learned the recipe straight from the source. Sometime between graduating from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and marrying her husband, Albert, a humanities professor, Britt attended Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery in Boston.


Fannie Farmer was born in Boston in 1857 and learned to cook as a teenager. After overseeing her family boarding house for some time, she enrolled in the Boston Cooking School, and eventually she ran the place.

Farmer wrote a lot of cookbooks, but her best known is “The Boston Cooking School Cook Book.” It was an immediate best-seller and has since gone through 13 editions, the most recent in 1990. In the book, Farmer promoted standardized measurements, eliminating such charming but imprecise recipe instructions as a chunk of butter the size of a walnut or a teacupful of sugar.

In 1902, Farmer launched her own school, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, which was like a culinary finishing school for young women like Dorothy Wellington Britt.

Britt was born in Boston in 1893 and was a proper lady, like her name. She learned how to cook and sew, but dressed casually most of the time in her trademark blue jeans with braided hair wrapped around her head.

“She would have called this Baaath, where we are,” Knowlton said, drawing out her a’s into a long ahhh sound. “She had this great, very Brahmin-y Boston accent, not the typical Boston accent. I lived in Montana, and she called it Mahn-tahn-ah.”

Britt may have had a conservative upbringing, but she held tight to her free spirit. After she married, she lived for a time in New York City, where she became a painter. She sold some of her work, but her bread and butter was an interior design business she founded. After stints in Illinois, where Albert Britt was president of Knox College, and California, where he taught at Scripps College, the couple moved back to Massachusetts.

Once, when her two children were still little, Britt and her husband left them in someone else’s care and went out West to travel on horseback through the Canadian Rockies. “Who does that?” Knowlton said, marveling at her grandmother’s ahead-of-her-time adventures. “Who does that now?”


Britt left behind more than two dozen small, handwritten journals dating back to 1907, most of which now belong to Knowlton. (Every grandchild received the journal from the year of their birth; Knowlton kept the rest.) Most cover a single year, although one details a trip to Italy Britt took as a girl with her Aunt Ella. An entry in 1947 notes she woke up early at 6:30 a.m. to finish some ironing. She kept note of how much she paid for dinners and a corset, and she listed books she read and movies she saw.

Knowlton likes to skim through the diaries occasionally, seeking out historic dates. On Nov. 22, 1963, Britt wrote: “Started cleaning house when Van (a neighbor) phoned. Pres. Kennedy shot! Radio on til dinner while cleaning.”

Knowlton recalls a summer day in the 1970s when she canceled her plans to go to the beach after learning that her grandmother – then about 80 years old – planned to board a bus to Seabrook, New Hampshire, to take part in a nuclear power protest. Knowlton asked to tag along, “and so we hung out together.”

“(Nuclear power) was often a big topic of conversation at our dinner table,” Knowlton said, “so she just went to learn about it. I was blown away that she was doing it.”

When Britt died in 1996 at age 103, her obituary called her “a talented painter as well as an organic gardener and an early promoter of natural foods and vegetarian cooking.”

“She loved vegetable gardening, and she loved to cook,” Knowlton said. “Every night, all summer long, we’d just have stuff out of the garden.”

Britt did not talk about Fannie Farmer’s school much, Knowlton said, but she always referred to the iconic cook as “Miss Farmer.” Britt tucked notes, scribbled in tiny handwriting, into her copy of the cookbook marking her favorite recipes. The notes, which remain in the book, are her shorter, “cheat sheet” versions of Farmer’s recipes, Knowlton said.

One note goes with the lobster bisque, which may well be Knowlton’s least favorite dish of her grandmother’s. Whenever the family ate lobster, Britt would save the “lobster bones” to make bisque.

“She’d start it at 5 in the morning,” Knowlton recalled. “We’d be sound asleep. And the smell of the lobster bones just boiling …”

It wasn’t exactly appetizing at the eggs-and-toast time of day. Plus, she made the bisque with powdered milk and water.


Even the smell of fresh beets at a farmers market can bring back memories for Knowlton. Her grandmother and aunt were both avid gardeners who summered in Blue Hill, where Knowlton visited them every year. Both women were acquainted with back-to-the-land gurus Helen and Scott Nearing, who also lived in the area.

“My grandmother got some top onions from the Nearings, and then gave some to my dad, who then gave some to my friend Betsy’s father,” Knowlton said. “Betsy, 10 years after that, moved to Montana, and her dad gave her some from that same batch.”

Betsy’s onions eventually died, but by then she had spread them around to her own friends. About 10 or 15 years later, Betsy was walking through a friend’s garden in Helena and the friend pointed out some of the Nearing top onions. When Betsy’s son returned to Maine to go to college, she sent along some top onions for Knowlton, descendants of that original Nearing plant.

“Isn’t that a great story?” Knowlton said. “So now they’re here. I had them at my house down the street, and when I bought the inn I dug them up and brought them here.”

Just as the onions tied generations of gardeners together, Knowlton’s grandmother was the person who held the family together. Though she was often unconventional, she also loved and protected her family “like a mother bear,” Knowlton said.

“She was a real solid person in all of our lives,” Knowlton said. “She was glue for the family in many ways. Not matriarchal so much, but she was totally predictable all the time. You knew she would be there for you.”

After Britt died, Knowlton asked for the cookbook, both for sentimental reasons and because she wanted it for her cookbook collection. Britt kept most of her recipes on note cards, which were claimed by one of Knowlton’s sisters.

Knowlton returns to “The Boston Cooking School Cook Book” for basic recipes, which she then plays with in her own kitchen, as she has with the fish chowder, her favorite from the book and one she says has held up well.

“My sisters and I all make it now, and we’ve worked on the adaptations of it,” including a pesco-vegetarian version, Knowlton said. “We make it without the bacon and with olive oil. Leeks instead of a lot of onions.”

But her love of the book goes much deeper than a single recipe. The fact that she can still hold something that her grandmother held, and see her distinctive handwriting in the notes she tucked into its pages, is priceless.

]]> 5, 06 Jul 2016 08:45:52 +0000
Food decisions have changed; so could choices about what we drink Wed, 06 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Several weeks back I wrote a column about the possible links between wine consumption and headaches, which I used as an opportunity to contemplate the inverse: the underlying links between wine consumption and health.

To continue the conversation, I’d like to explore how wine might complement specific dietary regimens that place a premium on health. In contemporary Western society, a variety of such diets – vegan, gluten-free, caveman, the list goes on – have become bewilderingly common. First, some historical perspective:

As far as we know, wine was first produced more than 8,000 years ago, in areas we rarely consider now to be central to wine culture: Armenia, the Caucasus, then later, China, Phoenicia, Iran and elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. The wines of these ancient cultures (likely aromatized, sweet, aggressively doctored), drunk with their respective cuisines, were a far cry from the matches we moderns shortsightedly call “classic”: Barolo and truffles, Rhône with a roast, Muscadet with oysters, riesling and Vietnamese take-out, cabernet with a ribeye.

Nothing we think of as “classic” really is. Everything shifts, detaches, reforms. And since wine is a part of cuisine, when cuisine – not just the food we eat, but how we eat it – changes, wine does too. Or should, or can. What was wine? What is wine? How does wine respond to the other changes in our culture, our cooking, our understanding, our desire?

Cuisine has changed dramatically over time – revolutions wrought long ago by trade and migration, and more recently by canning, refrigeration and industrial agriculture – and wines have been produced differently in response.

But we find ourselves, right now, in another era of radical transition. What’s driving it is not so much industry or commerce as it is information. With cross-cultural fertilization occurring instantaneously, a beguiling variety of ideas is available to all of us, quantum style.

The refinement of international transportation and commerce lets us rather easily buy whatever we know to exist.

What we eat used to be determined by the limiting forces of season, climate, geography, family, tradition. Northern Italian cuisine relies on butter and cream much more than the olive oil of that country’s South, for powerful reasons. But now, whether we live in Verona or Naples, Trenton or Napa, we have as much connection to one given fat as to another. I know as much about coconut oil and ghee as I do about olive oil.

We can do whatever the hell we want. Our cuisine becomes more borrowed and more shared, more experimental and untethered.

It seems that the meals we (and our ancestors) used to eat were more about integration, amalgamation, a blurring of edges. One plate held various components that were expected to enter the eater’s mouth more or less simultaneously.

Intense, full-bodied sauces predominated, spreading their comforting glaze over everything on the plate. Things were baked inside of other things. All was expected to come together.

The wines for these meals were themselves sumptuous and seamless, their synthesis deepened by close companionship with oak barrels and many years of aging.

Look at how we eat now. Many small plates, each a study in precision, distinction and singularity of flavors. A micro-green here, a pickled seed there, a wisp of smoky spice beneath. The intensity in a successful contemporary dish comes from each ingredient heightened, rather than from a cooking process that subsumes the parts into the whole.

And now, for many reasonably wealthy Westerners, eating is increasingly about supporting health. We understand the dangers (to self, society, other creatures, planet, often all at once) of excessive simple sugars, rampant pesticide use, mass-slaughtering of animals, insufficient vegetable nutrients. Because we can afford to, both financially and psychologically, we pay attention to the effects of particular foods on our own physiological and emotional states.

Let’s call the variety of dietary disciplines to which many Westerners now willingly submit one form or another of attentive eating. Whether vegan, dairy-free, raw or Paleo, attention is being paid. “Attentive” should not imply “better.” I’m not suggesting that a restrictive diet is (or is not) more righteous, nutritive or otherwise correct than an omnivorous one.

But once people start paying attention to what they eat, and start saying “I eat a lot of this and I don’t eat that,” the culture changes. Beyond the practical effects – challenges at Thanksgiving, not to mention every night at dinner if your family members or other companions don’t share your precise perspective – the emotional as well as physiological state of your eating shifts. If your orientation toward wine doesn’t adjust as well, you’ve stopped paying attention.

I’m not saying you should quit your favorite Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or malbec or pinot grigio just because supper is a deconstructed Caesar salad or vegan banh mi. But do consider how the wine you drink could reflect what you’re looking for in your food.

In my column on headaches, I suggested finding out more about the possible additives and environmental effects of cheap, mass-produced wines. So, that’s one thing: If your concerns about the environmental effects of industrial meat production have led you to vegetarianism, for example, stop drinking corporate wines that have similar ecological outcomes.

More fundamental than philosophical alignment, though, is what the flavor profiles of your preferred cuisine ask for. Our Armenian forefathers did not have this luxury. They cooked what they could cook, and they made rudimentary wine, which was intended primarily for spiritual purposes; maybe some people got to drink it with supper, but not likely.

It might be worthwhile for someone to name 10 wines perfect for a Paleo diet, as long as the rationale for the listings were provided. Or perhaps go at it from a different angle: Valpolicella is a lovely wine for tomato-based pasta sauces; how might Valpolicella be incorporated into a gluten-free diet?

I’d prefer to make a few simple observations: The way most of us eat today is lighter, more varied and more supple than the way we used to eat. Flavors are more delineated, and more of us are familiar with a wider variety of herbs, spices and other ingredients; therefore the dishes we actually turn out are more complex, and reflect more cross-cultural influences.

We want to emerge from our meals feeling energized and more alive, not sunk into the leaden stupor brought on by a combined large protein and large carbohydrate.

For such eating, whether it excludes animal products or emphasizes them, whether it trades stove heat for pickling or operates entirely out of a fire pit, the most suitable wines will be lighter and more supple than the “great” wines of past generations. Flavors will be clean, the wines’ characters almost translucent in their ability to express directly. Suppleness and delineation are the name of the game; power and impressiveness are out.

As always, the best guides to particular wines are informed shopkeepers and restaurant servers. But you may want to mention my (somewhat well-informed but also somewhat arbitrary) shortcuts to help them guide you:

• Soil type in which the vines grew: granitic or volcanic?

• Fermentation process: cement-tank, native yeasts?

Aging process: More cement, stainless steel, or large used oak (new oak has the greatest effect on wine flavor, while the effect from oak that has held wine of previous vintages is either minimal or neutral; also, the larger the vessel, the less wine is in contact with the oak and therefore the less its effect).

• Weight: alcohol 12.5 percent or lower?

• Whites to consider: chenin blanc, riesling, Tuscan vermentino, Chablis.

• Reds to consider: gamay, cool-climate syrah, blaufränkisch, refosco.

• Other color to consider: orange (white wines made as if they’re reds; column forthcoming).

• Regions to consider: Friuli, southwestern France, Basque Spain, Sicily, Beaujolais.

• Obnoxious but useful rule: no cabernet sauvignon; yes cabernet franc.

• Fail-safe: brut nature (sparkling wine with no sugar added).

The foods you choose to eat reflect the world you wish to inhabit, and maybe help create. Your wines are next.

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be reached at:

]]> 0, 05 Jul 2016 16:53:31 +0000
Roasted tomatoes deepen gazpacho flavor Wed, 06 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I could eat quarts of gazpacho all summer long. When I set about making this version, the goal was a gazpacho with great, fresh tomato taste, but even deeper flavor.

The solution was simple: roast the tomatoes first.

The sweet, layered result is well worth the slight extra hands-off time it took to bake them. If you feel like your tomatoes are perfect, skip the roasting and get right to the chopping.

You can use peppers that are all the same color, but the blend of hues won’t be as varied. You also can swap in one green pepper; some people love their slightly more bitter flavor.

In a perfect world, all of the vegetables in a gazpacho might be finely diced, and look pretty and symmetrical. I don’t happen to live in a perfect world, and I happen to love my food processor, so I just use that to pulse the vegetables in batches so they chop evenly. Is it as pretty as dicing? Nope. Does it taste as good? Yup.

What to do with all of that extra time? I’m sure you’ll find something good.


Makes 6 to 8 servings

12 plum tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 seedless cucumbers, skin on, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 red orange pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

6 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 to 3 cups tomato juice

3 tablespoons white wine, champagne, or white balsamic vinegar

Hot sauce to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, or lightly oil the sheet.

Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them cut side up on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle them evenly with the olive oil and the vinegar, and then sprinkle them with the sugar and salt. Roast them for about 45 to 50 minutes, until they are lightly caramelized and starting to collapse.

Add half of the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion and scallions into the food processor. Pulse to chop the vegetables as finely as you would like them in the finished soup. Turn the chopped vegetables into a bowl, and repeat with the remaining vegetables. Add half of this batch of chopped vegetables to the bowl, and then let the food processor run for about 20 seconds until the remaining couple of cups of vegetables are pureed. Add those to the bowl.

Add the tomato juice and vinegar, as well as hot sauce to taste. Stir, and adjust the salt and pepper as desired. Refrigerate the soup for at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days. Serve chilled.

Katie Workman is the author of “The Mom 100 Cookbook.”

]]> 0, 05 Jul 2016 16:48:57 +0000
Head to farmers market with a strategy for canning Wed, 06 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 After years of over- and underestimating, I finally know how many quarts of tomatoes we’ll use in the course of a year. I’ve learned to double up on the raspberry jam. Even the most delicious peach preserves go partly uneaten, but we’ll finish all the peach pie filling. Seven different chutneys could be too many.

Those are among the lessons learned. Beyond the seasonal time crunches of preserving – sour cherries are here and gone! – it’s important to be organized and tactical, and to put up only what you’ll eat or give away before it expires.

Once I have my wish list for the summer’s planned canning, I strategize at the farmers markets, too. I talk with producers about the food they’re growing, about the harvest, the weather, pests. Such chats inform my preserving plans.

When a farmer can tell me exactly when his raspberries will be ready for picking, I block out the closest weekend day to make jam. When possible, I email ahead to place an order; the farmers I buy from appreciate that.

By mid-season, farmers’ stalls are chock-full. So that’s the best time to shop around for gluts, seconds and imperfect fruits and vegetables at reduced prices.

Buy in quantity whenever possible. Learn to think in pounds, flats, boxes and lugs. I purchase in quantities based on specific recipes and have committed those amounts to memory: 3 pounds of fruit for jam, 5 pounds of vegetables for pickles, never less than 25 pounds of tomatoes at a time.

If you can get out of the city, you can find better deals. In rural areas, farm stands and pick-your-own farms can offer even greater values. Grab some friends and go picking. Speaking from experience, it’s remarkable how quickly three people can pick 45 pounds of blueberries.

Remember, preserving goes beyond canning. Freezing is an excellent way to store foods for winter, as is dehydrating. Whichever technique you choose, the effort takes time and money, so put up only foods you love and foods you will share with your family and friends.

In the meantime, give the accompanying recipe a try. It makes dependable dill pickle chips that are crisp, bright, sassy and ready for your summer cookouts. Make this the summer you put at least one home-canned food in your cupboard.


These vinegar-brined pickles are crisp and tangy, and stack on a burger just like they should.

Use a mandoline to cut the best-looking, slimmest chips.

The glory of these pickles doesn’t end with the chip. When the snappy pickles are gone, there’s always a pickleback: a shot of pickle brine served with a shot of whiskey.

Only pickling cucumbers, often called Kirbys, will work in this recipe.

You’ll need a mandoline; a bubbler (or non-metallic knife); a tall, deep pot with a rack; and four 1-pint jars with new lids and rings.

The cucumbers need to brine for 8 hours. The pickles need to cure in a cool, dark spot for 1 month. They can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

Makes 4 pints

3 1/2 tablespoons) kosher salt

11 cups cold water (nonchlorinated)

2 pounds pickling cucumbers (see headnote)

4 stems fresh dill, preferably with seed heads (may substitute 2 tablespoons dill seed)

2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed

2 cups distilled white vinegar

4 cloves garlic, root ends trimmed

Combine half of the salt and 8 cups of the water in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Stir well to dissolve. Add the whole cucumbers, and place a plate on top of them to keep them submerged. Brine in a cool spot for 8 hours.

Drain and rinse the cucumbers; dispose of the brine. Remove and dispose of a small slice from both ends of each cucumber. Use a mandoline, or a very sharp knife and a steady hand to slice the cucumbers 1/8-inch thick.

Divide the cucumber slices among the four jars. Divide the dill and mustard seed among the jars.

Bring the remaining salt, the remaining 3 cups of water, the vinegar and the garlic cloves to a boil in a 3-quart nonreactive pot over medium-high heat. Pour the hot brine over the cucumber slices, adding one garlic clove to each jar and leaving 1- to 2-inch of head space. You may have brine left over; dispose of it.

Run a bubbler, chopstick or non-metal knife around the inside of the jar to remove the air bubbles from the brine. Clean each jar rim with a damp paper towel, place the lids and rings on the jars, and finger-tighten the rings. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

Lift the jars from the boiling water, keeping them upright, and place them on a folded towel. Let them cool for several hours, then remove the rings, test the seals and wash the jars well before labeling. Let the pickles cure in a cool, dark spot for 1 month. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Note: Water-bath canning safely seals high-acid, low-pH foods in jars. The time for processing in the water bath is calculated based on the size of the jar and the consistency and density of the food.

For safety’s sake, do not alter the jar size, ingredients, ratios or processing time in any canning recipe. If moved to change any of those factors, simply put the prepared food in the refrigerator and eat within a month.

Cathy Barrow is the author of “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving.” She blogs at:

]]> 0, 05 Jul 2016 16:29:54 +0000
‘Lorena Garcia’s New Taco Classics’ Wed, 06 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Lorena Garcia’s New Taco Classics.” Celebra. $29.95

When I was growing up, taco night meant seasoned ground beef, chopped tomatoes, a little cheese and shreds of iceberg lettuce in a store-bought crunchy shell.

Taco nights were always my favorite and still are, but I now find myself gravitating toward the more creative and flavorful street-style tacos that have finally made their way to restaurants and food trucks in Maine.

Looking for a way to spice up Taco Thursday at Casa Graham, I turned to “Lorena Garcia’s New Taco Classics.” I’m glad I did.

In an engaging introduction, Garcia, with whom I was familiar from her appearance on “Top Chef Masters,” describes how the street foods of Latin America “welcome you with a warm hug” and describes her earliest memories in the kitchen with her mother.

“Dishes tell stories. Sometimes those stories echo the beats of a particular place or culture, and sometimes they echo a mix of beats,” she writes. “And when we explore the culinary beats we share in Latin America and the Caribbean, we must pay homage to the taco.”

Garcia does indeed pay homage to the taco and inspires her readers to do the same. She shares recipes that do not require hours of labor at the stove and are meant to be “accessible, shareable and celebration-worthy, even on a weeknight.”

The book itself is a feast for the eyes, with plenty of bright photos of colorful dishes. Each recipe is explained in easy-to-follow steps that make preparation seem easy, even for the more complex dishes.

The chapters are grouped in four sections: base, toppings, fillings and sides. The recipes are made for pairing and sharing and are easily tailored to your cravings and any occasion.

Recipes range from salsas to slaws to tostadas topped with roasted meats and veggies. I was tempted by a lobster guacamole until I realized it called for six lobster tails, quickly putting that into the “most expensive guacamole ever” category for me.

After a long debate with myself about what to try first, I settled on Cuban-style pork. The bite-size pieces of pork, marinated in a citrus-garlic-herb mix, are topped with peppery smothered onions and served atop a warm corn tortilla (I went with store-bought this time). Though the onions were a tad too peppery for my taste – I’d reduce the pepper next time – the marinade won me over. I think it would be great on grilled chicken as well.

I’ve already decided my next dive into “New Taco Classics” will be to make the roasted beef and potato tostada and, if I’m feeling ambitious, to make my own tortillas.


Makes 8 tacos

8 soft corn tortillas

1 recipe Cuban-style pork

1/4 cup cilantro sprigs

Lime wedges


1 pound pork loin, cut into bite-size pieces

8 whole garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

Zest of 1 whole lemon

Zest of 1 whole orange

2 tablespoons vegetable oil


1 tablespoon butter

2 cups white onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon celery leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh black pepper


1. In a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag, place pork loin cubes, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon and orange zests. Set aside and let pork marinate for at least 21/2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove pork from refrigerator and remove excess marinade from pork cubes.

3. Heat saute pan over high heat. Add vegetable oil and pork to the pan. Saute pork cubes until they are seared, about 2 minutes.

4. Spread browned pork cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and set saute pan aside for the moment. Place the baking sheet in the hot oven and roast the pork chunks for 10 minutes.

5. Turn the oven to broil and cook the pork at the higher heat for 5 minutes, until golden brown.


1. In the saute pan, add butter and onions and saute over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

2. Squeeze lime juice over the onions and add vinegar, remove pan from heat. Finish with celery leaves, salt and pepper.


On a warm corn tortilla, place the pork chunks and top with the smothered onions. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and a lime wedge.

]]> 0, 05 Jul 2016 16:46:51 +0000
For summer baking, let your grill take the cake Sun, 03 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 So I baked a cake on the grill. Not because my oven was broken, but because I am never keen to crank up my oven when the outside temperature breaks 80 degrees and was wondering if the grill might help keep my kitchen cool as my husband’s birthday approaches.

My grill is powered by propane gas and my oven by natural gas, both of which sit at the lower end of the carbon emissions scale than charcoal and electric grills as well as electric ovens.

The difference in environmental cost of using them on an hourly basis is negligible. But since I typically fire up the grill most summer nights anyway, turning on the oven seems redundant. And preheating the grill takes less time than getting my oven to reach 350 degrees F. And since as the oven bakes the cake it heats the house – a condition I value highly nine months out of 12 – I am always tempted to spend more energy on the electric fans to cool it down.

Given these factors, the greener option for my summertime baking is on my patio rather than in my kitchen.

If you’ve not thought about using your grill to bake, you’ve plenty of company. According to a study conducted by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, only about 4 percent of Americans have used their grills or smokers to make desserts regularly in the past five years. And the study doesn’t discern s’mores from grilled peaches from triple fudge brownies.

But Eric Davis, the organization’s spokesman, was upbeat about the future of grilled desserts. “The rule of thumb is simple: If you can bake it in your indoor oven, you can bake it on your charcoal, gas, electric or wood pellet grillor smoker,” said Davis. The only difference between the oven and the grill, he argued, was that the latter will give you a better flavor.

Armed with Davis’ enthusiasm, I whipped up a vanilla cake batter (my husband Andy’s birthday cake is always a Boston cream pie) and gave it a go. It worked, sort of.

The cake was lopsided, with a burnt bottom and a slightly beefy finish.

Given the output, the lessons learned from my al fresco baking experiment are many.

Firstly, don’t skip the prep. Clean the grill really well with a wire brush before you switch from savory to sweet. While most times you won’t be cooking directly on the grates (unless you’re trying to bake biscuits on the grill), the grill top is down while the baked goods cook to completion and the flavors from barbecued chicken and seared steak left on the grates burn off as the cake bakes. Those smoky flavors circulate and get locked into the goods for better or worse.

Secondly, take the grill’s temperature. Mine has a handy thermostat on the outside of the cover. I used a second meat thermometer lowered through the vent hole to make sure the outside sensor was accurate.

If your grill’s like mine, whose flame tends to creep up, check the temperature a couple of times as your dessert bakes to make sure it hasn’t also crept up, and adjust the gas flow accordingly.

And finally, diffuse the heat further so that the bottom of your baked goods are not charred before the top is set. I have a three-element setup on my grill, so I can turn the middle one off to even out the heat around the pan rather than have it directly beneath. Davis says for two-burner gas grills or charcoal ones, it’s best to concentrate the heat on a single side, and place your baking pan over the other.

There are purpose-built grill diffusion plates on the market that help to further spread the heat evenly, but I don’t bother with those.

Instead, I lay an old aluminum baking sheet across the grill. It does the trick as long as I understand that it will be unfit for baking future cookies in the oven or on the grill.

With a better handle on the nuances of grill-baking, this year’s birthday Boston cream pie is going to be the coolest yet.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at:

]]> 0, 01 Jul 2016 08:02:17 +0000
Dine Out Maine: At Red Sea, comfortable chatter, excellent Ethiopian food go together Sun, 03 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I once asked my friend Ababa why she thought her region’s cuisine – perhaps more than any African cooking except Moroccan – had become so popular in the United States. “That’s easy,” she responded, “Ethiopian food is like that terrible cheese pot you all eat here.” “Fondue?” I asked, bemused. “Yes. You can’t eat that without being social. Our food is the same way. It forces you to talk, but it tastes a lot better than a bowl of cheese,” she said.

Regardless of how you feel about melted Gruyere, she had a point. It’s nearly impossible to imagine sitting in silence around a big common platter of thick vegetable stews and meats, tearing rough, irregular pieces of spongy, slightly sour injera bread and eating with your hands. Talking, whether to ask permission to dip into the lentils or to grab the one lonely, sauce-kissed hard-boiled egg, is as much a part of the meal as the dishes themselves.

No surprise then that Yemane Tsegai, co-owner and manager of Washington Avenue’s Red Sea Restaurant in Portland, is a big proponent of dinnertime chatter. “It’s how you keep your culture from generation to generation or share your culture. You eat, you talk,” he said. The meter-wide family-style platters of finger food prepared by his wife, co-owner and chef Akbret Batha, certainly grease the wheels of conversation in the garish but cheerful, six-table yellow dining room, especially if you happen to be visiting with someone who has never eaten Ethiopian or Eritrean food before.

But all the conversations at Red Sea aren’t about novelty – there is just as much to say about the quality of the food, which is, on balance, very high. Batha is at her best with her spiciest dishes, made with her own personal spice blends, including both dry and wet versions of traditional berbere. Compounded from cumin, jalapeño, garlic and Ethiopian black cardamom (along with a few other secret ingredients), Batha’s berbere sings with nutty, smoky flavors and stings with arrow points of fiery heat.

In her beef sambusas ($5), crispy, deep-fried triangular parcels of phyllo-style dough filled with ground beef and onion, berbere comes through with every bite, never letting you forget that you’re eating something exponentially more interesting than hamburger. It is a shame that Batha uses “only a tiny bit” of her bespoke blend in the lentil version of the same dish; the starchy legumes need more of a jump-start if they want to compete with their beefy cousins.

Batha’s spice mix is also the star of her tsebhi birsen, a loose red lentil stew that is served on its own ($12) or as part of the colossal vegetarian sampler ($26) which purports to be for two people, but could easily feed three, especially when you factor in the delightful homemade injera that both sits beneath and accompanies every plated meal in the restaurant. If you’re not a fan of peppery heat, the sampler includes several milder dishes, such as an outstanding alicha ($12), featuring slow cooked cabbage and chunks of potato and carrot. The tumtumo ($12), a thick yellow lentil stew, is also mild – but perhaps too close to the border that mild shares with bland. That said, there’s plenty of flavor in the sampler’s other two dishes, okra lightly stewed with tomatoes and garlic ($12), and hamli ($12), a blend of mustard greens and kale, simmered with a knockout combination of jalapeño, garlic and peppers.

While Red Sea offers plenty of vegetarian options, its concise menu also features meat and fish dishes, like the filling and massively portioned lamb fitfit tibsi ($14), a dish made from sauteed minced lamb and berbere that is finished by crushing pieces of injera into the mix. There is something very meta about eating a lamb-and-bread stew with torn strips of yet more bread.

Several of the restaurant’s meat dishes also rely on a shared mother sauce of red peppers, wet berbere, onions and a harvest’s worth of tomatoes – a sauce that simultaneously borrows from and thumbs its nose at Italian culinary traditions introduced during the occupation of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Amazingly, using a common base for many items does not lead to the monotony or uniformity of flavors you might expect. “We can use the same sauce but make it taste very different because of two things: the flavor of the meat and the way we cook with the sauce,” Tsegai told me. In the tsebhi dorho ($13), chicken drumsticks and thighs are simmered slowly in a bath of the mother sauce until they are cooked through but still juicy. The result is rich, with a strong acidity from the tomato, and wonderfully messy, so be sure to have an extra few strips of injera waiting – this is not first-date fare.

Our favorite dish of the evening, the perfectly flaky Eritrean-style haddock ($13), began with the same base sauce, but expanded into a more sophisticated layering of flavors, from gentle, green astringency to a clear, spicy heat that was much more pronounced here than in the chicken. It’s hard to imagine a better way of connecting the best of the North Atlantic to the Horn of Africa, especially when you realize that this remarkable dish comes out of a kitchen the size of a minivan.

When my companions and I started winding down our meal, Tsegai (who is the restaurant’s only server, as well as its manager) checked in, but never hurried us along, never pushed us to order the restaurant’s only dessert, baklava ($4). Perhaps because, after two years helming Red Sea, he understood better than we did that we would continue to chat and nibble away at what remained on the platters in front of us – especially the injera, which soaked up more sauce and got better and better with every passing minute. Meals at Red Sea, it seems, happen at their own leisurely pace, and when you’re finished with your food, you don’t rush things. You do what comes naturally – you talk.

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: @AndrewRossMEv

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Sala Thai on Washington Avenue to close in July Wed, 29 Jun 2016 18:54:37 +0000 Sala Thai, a popular restaurant for take-out in Portland’s North Deering neighborhood, is closing in July.

According to a letter to customers posted on the doors and at the bar by owner Jiraporn Thanop, the landlord has sold the building at 1363 Washington Ave., which is near the corner of Washington and Allen avenues. The restaurant’s last day of business will be July 16.

An employee said Tuesday night that a Taco Bell will be replacing Sala Thai, and the Thai restaurant will not be re-opening in a new location.

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Marinating salmon in juice makes a delicious difference Wed, 29 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I try to get fish on my family’s table two or three times a week. The research describing the incredible heart and brain benefits to eating fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, is compelling.

Many home cooks shy away from making salmon, thinking it is too strong or fishy. With a few tips, you can be on your way to restaurant-quality salmon dishes.

First tip: Buy salmon straight from the fish counter. Because it is so perishable, the fish counter will often have gorgeous wild salmon on sale. The fish should smell like a salty ocean, not “fishy.” Buy it and make it the same day.

Second tip: Use high heat, and don’t overcook. The longer salmon cooks, the stronger the flavor, so a quick high-temp cook will keep the flavor mild, making outdoor grilling an ideal method for salmon cookery.

Cook to medium rare for best results – the interior of the salmon should be still pink and moist, not completely opaque, and certainly not dry enough to be “flaked.”

Last tip: try marinating the salmon to balance the flavor. Even a simple marinade of a little lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper will make a noticeable, if subtle, difference in the final result.

My secret ingredient for salmon marinades is pineapple juice, which adds both a little sweetness and a touch of acid, both ideal for a good flavorful soak. Once you try this simple recipe, you’ll be grilling salmon all summer long.


Serves 4.

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1/4 cup chopped green onion

1/4 teaspoon Sriracha, or other hot sauce

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

4 (5-ounce) fillets wild salmon

Parsley and lemon slices for garnish, optional

Mix the pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger, green onion, Sriracha and oil in a medium bowl. Place half the marinade in a small bowl and set aside. Place the salmon fillets in the medium bowl and coat well with the marinade. Marinate for 20 minutes or up to 12 hours.

When ready to serve, heat the grill to medium high. Grill the fish until just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, heat the reserved marinade in a small sauce pan until simmering. Spoon on the cooked salmon to serve. Garnish with chopped parsley and sliced lemon, if desired.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook “Supermarket Healthy.”

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Be sweet to your heart by cutting down on salt you’re eating Wed, 29 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 If chips, pretzels and salted nuts are your go-to snacks, you’re certainly not alone. Over 60 percent of snackers opt for something salty when given a choice, according to the consumer research firm Mintel.

But salty snacks are only part of the reason the average sodium intake in this country is over 3,400 mg per day. That figure is substantially more than the 2,300 mg – or roughly 1 teaspoon of salt per day – the Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. government recommend for people age 14 and older.

Years ago salty items were on the “foods to avoid” list, but only for people who already had high blood pressure or kidney disease; bad kidneys aren’t great at filtering out sodium, so it accumulates in the body.

Like some other dietary components, say cholesterol or fat, that occupy a constant place on the nutritional concern pendulum, health issues with sodium are associated with excess consumption – though not getting enough sodium can also be dangerous.

The pendulum swung over to fat as the villain for a while, but came back to sodium when researchers discovered that some people are more “sodium sensitive” than others – that is, their sodium consumption triggers bigger reactions in their blood pressure than in the rest of us. Accordingly, the pool of those who should be concerned about sodium grew to include older people, African Americans and people with heart disease or diabetes.

Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling for food manufacturers and restaurants to commit to helping lower the country’s collective sodium intake by voluntarily cutting their use of salt in processed and prepared foods. The FDA “guidance” is in draft form, and still open for public comment.

Salt is not inherently bad – it’s the main way we get its component electrolytes – sodium and chloride – which we need, in small amounts, for good health. Sodium is involved in regulating the body’s fluid balance, the transmission of nerve impulses and muscle function.

Luckily, humans are hardwired to detect salty tastes through the sensory cells of our taste buds.

The downside is that, because it attracts water, sodium increases the body’s blood volume, causes the heart to have to work harder to circulate all that blood, and raises blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure, called hypertension, strains blood vessels and organs, and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

It’s true that salt is ubiquitous in the American food supply, but the consumption of a diet that’s high in salt is not unique to Americans. Around the world people consume more than adequate amounts of sodium.

Some estimates put our physiological needs around 1,500 mg sodium per day, with average consumption actually somewhere between 3,000 to 6,000 mg of sodium per day; that’s the amount found in about 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 teaspoons.

The new FDA proposal has the potential to make a widespread impact on sodium consumption, and the two-phase plan is aligned with what health authorities like the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been advocating for years. The United States isn’t alone in these efforts; other countries have seen some success in sodium-lowering public health initiatives and regulation.

The FDA plan, if it goes through, is years away from full implementation, so if you’re a member of an at-risk group noted above or just want to bring your salty diet down a notch, a do-it-yourself sodium reduction plan is in order.

Your first inclination is to take the salt shaker off the table, stop salting the pasta water and go buy some Mrs. Dash. Those are fine to do, but not super effective. Why? About 75 percent of our sodium intake comes from the processed foods we eat, and from restaurant meals, which is precisely the reason the FDA came up with the new sodium guidance. Do you see the theme here? When convenience goes up, usually sodium does, too.

Stop looking for salt in all the wrong places and put your efforts where they’ll make the biggest dent in your sodium intake.

Research shows that the biggest contributors to Americans’ sodium intake are: bread and rolls (seems odd, but we eat a lot of bread and rolls, so it adds up); cold cuts and cured meats; pizza; poultry items such as frozen nuggets and strips and chicken injected with a brine solution; commercial soups, canned as well as dried noodle types; and sandwiches, including hot dogs. I’d add to that, commercial salad dressings, cheese and sauces/condiments.

First and most obvious – eat fewer of these items. Make a move toward a less processed diet. Cook more homemade foods – salad dressing takes just a few minutes to make, and we typically use less salt when we cook than is added to commercial processed foods.

When shopping, get in the habit of seeking out lower-sodium versions. Look for the words “unsalted,” “no salt added” or “low sodium” on product labels.

Now for the second area of sodium attack: Restaurant food – especially at fast food and casual chain restaurants – is notoriously salt-laden. For specifics on super-salty menu items take a look at the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s website, which has a list of restaurants’ highest sodium items.

Maine Restaurant Association president and CEO Greg Dugal says the association will be educating and encouraging their members to voice their opinions and concerns about the guidance to the FDA. The association includes mom and pop, chain and fine-dining restaurants.

“There is a fine line between offering customers what they want to consume – flavor-wise – and the potential definition of healthy choices,” Dugal said. “What seems obvious to the FDA may not be practical for restaurant owners to execute.”

Fine-dining establishments are less of a target for the FDA’s plan, which is probably appropriate given that they aren’t a staple source of food for most people’s diets. And then of course, there are the chefs.

“I wouldn’t expect many chefs to volunteer their menus to be boxed in by nutrition guidelines that could stand in the way of their creativity,” said Mark Loring, owner of Saltwater Grille in South Portland. “Our goal – and that of our chef – is to please the palates of our customers. A good chef doesn’t have to load up a dish with a lot of salt to do that.”

So, limiting restaurant meals, take-out, pizza deliveries and visits to the prepared foods bar at the supermarket, along with a steady elimination of salty processed and convenience foods is now your plan. One last tip: if you give your taste buds a break, they’ll get used to savoring less salty fare in a few weeks.

Kitty Broihier has been a registered, licensed dietitian for over 25 years. She holds a master’s degree in nutrition communications from Boston University and runs her consulting company, NutriComm Inc., from South Portland.

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