Food – Press Herald Tue, 27 Jun 2017 10:20:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ‘Green Plate Special’ cookbook, based on Telegram column, wins award Mon, 26 Jun 2017 22:04:47 +0000 Christine Burns Rudalevige of Brunswick took home an award Friday from The Readable Feast food-writing/cookbook contest for “Green Plate Special: Sustainable and Delicious Recipes,” which is based on a weekly column in the Maine Sunday Telegram of the same name.

Her book, published by Islandport Press in May, won in the Socially Conscious category. It also earned an honorable mention in the category of Best Cookbook.

The awards were announced during a ceremony at the Boston Public Library, the second annual awards given by The Readable Feast – a program of the Boston-based nonprofit Let’s Talk About Food – that promotes New England cookbooks and food writing.

Rudalevige, a recipe developer and tester and a cooking teacher, was in excellent company; other winners included “Soframiz” by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick for Best Cookbook; “The Essential Oyster” by Rowan Jacobson for Single Subject; “Out of Line” by Barbara Lynch for Food Writing/Memoir; and “Black Trumpet” by Berwick resident Evan Mallett as Book of the Year. (Full disclosure: I was a judge for the 2017 awards but recused myself from voting on “Green Plate Special.”)

]]> 0 Plate Special columnist Christine Burns Rudalevige says her china cabinet is "sagging under the weight" of her collection of green plates. She buys them at "flea markets, wherever I see them" and gets help from her daughter Eliza, too, "a Goodwill shopper. She'll spend hours in there and find green plates for me."Mon, 26 Jun 2017 20:37:36 +0000
Greek dishes the big draw at annual Portland festival Fri, 23 Jun 2017 20:55:29 +0000 Diners headed for the annual Greek Food Festival Friday for spanakopita, kourabiedes and gyros at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland.

The three-day festival each year draws more than 10,000 visitors and includes live music and traditional dancing. It continues through Saturday.

Parishioner and volunteer Letslase Tesema prepares salads behind the scenes during the Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Demo Varipatis of South Portland, a member of the church for 50 years, fills orders for Greek fries. A sprinkle of oregano gives the fries their Greek twist. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Phil Sferes of Saco dresses a gyro while filling an order. The Greek Festival continues through Saturday. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Ouda Baxter of South Portland sits with family friend Marianne Mateosian, 3, of Portland as the youngster eats a Koulourakia cookie. Staff photo by Derek Davis


]]> 0, ME - JUNE 23: Phil Sferes of Saco dresses a gyro while filling an order at the Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Sat, 24 Jun 2017 14:46:17 +0000
Portland, Scarborough restaurant owners plead guilty to tax evasion Wed, 21 Jun 2017 18:51:55 +0000 Two southern Maine restaurateurs have pleaded guilty to tax evasion and have agreed to each pay more than $1 million in restitution in addition to serving time in jail, court records show.

As part of separate deals with prosecutors, Cynthia Brown, 57, the owner of J’s Oyster Bar in Portland’s Old Port, and John DiSanto Sr., 59, owner of Anjon’s Italian Restaurant on Route 1 in Scarborough, pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes on sales made at their restaurants.

Brown is expected to repay $1,077,045 in back taxes. DiSanto will be expected to pay as much as $1,159,655, according to court records, but the final tally on what he owes could change, said Thomas Hallett, who represents both DiSanto and Brown,

Brown is expected to serve at least four months in jail. If she does not meet a deadline to repay the money, her sentence will be increased to nine months, court records show.

Hallett said Wednesday that he expects the court to approve an extension of Brown’s deadline to pay, and delay her sentencing from July until October. Hallett also said his client has secured a loan in case she cannot earn enough during this summer’s busy tourist season to meet the repayment deadline.

“She’s already paid off about a quarter of a million dollars,” Hallett said. She hopes to pay off more using bar revenue to avoid borrowing as much as possible, he said.

Brown and DiSanto, along with DiSanto’s sister, Anna, 56, of Raymond, who operates DiSanto’s Restaurant in Gray, were indicted a year ago on the tax charges after the state cracked down on eateries suspected of withholding sales taxes.

The court records do not say how much Anna DiSanto allegedly withheld, but prosecutors allege it is more than $10,000.

Her case is still pending and was continued after her attorney, Daniel Lilley, died in March. She pleaded not guilty and is free on personal recognizance until her case is resolved. Anna DiSanto’s new attorney, Richard Berne, said in a phone interview that he was recently hired on the case and is not familiar enough with the details to say what direction it is headed.

No working phone number could be located for Brown, and she did not respond to a message left Wednesday afternoon at her restaurant and bar, which is a longtime landmark on the Portland waterfront.

A message left with someone at a residence listed for Anna DiSanto was not immediately returned, and a number for John DiSanto Sr. could not be located.

John DiSanto Sr. faces a maximum penalty under the plea agreement of nine months in jail, but the precise length of his sentence will be up to a judge, Hallett said. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 17.

The case of John DiSanto Sr. is more complicated, Hallett said, because part of his case was diverted into civil court. The amount the civil court ordered him to pay was less – in the neighborhood of $800,000 – but Hallett did not know the actual amount and said it was still unclear which amount he would be made to pay.

Hallett said the state revenue service had been lax in enforcing sales tax collection for seasonal restaurants until about 2012, when it clamped down and began examining restaurants’ books.

Last January, Christos Stratos, the owner of Christo’s restaurant in Sanford, was sentenced to eight months in jail for stealing $243,902 in sales tax he collected but did not turn over to the state. Stratos told Maine Revenue Service investigators that he thought it was common for business owners to under-report sales tax figures to the state.

The criminal statute allows investigators to probe into the past when they calculate an amount a business owner owes, Hallett said. It wasn’t clear how long the restaurants had been underpaying sales taxes to the state, except that it was a period of years.

“There is a lot of money involved in these cases where they go back a number of years,” Hallett said.

Anjon’s was put up for sale in December for a list price of $1.36 million, but Hallett said no one, to his knowledge, has bought the property.

Hallett also lamented the media coverage about his clients’ businesses at the peak of tourist season. “It would be so much better if these articles are to appear in October and November,” he said.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

]]> 0 Brown, the owner of J's Oyster Bar on the Portland waterfront, is expected to repay $1,077,045 in back taxes and serve at least four months in jail after failing to pay taxes on sales at the restaurant.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 22:56:23 +0000
Rep. Pingree recognized for sustainable food advocacy Wed, 21 Jun 2017 16:16:31 +0000 Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District and a longtime organic farmer in Maine, has been chosen as one of six recipients of this year’s James Beard Foundation Leadership Award.

The awards recognize people from diverse backgrounds who promote sustainable food systems. Past winners have included first lady Michelle Obama, Wendell Berry and Mainer Eliot Coleman. The foundation acknowledged Pingree for her support in Congress of polices that promote healthy, local food production and organic agriculture.

“This award is symbolic of all we’ve accomplished, but there is still much to do to improve our nation’s food system for every American to have access to healthy, sustainable food no matter their Zip code and to support the farmers and fishermen who drive our food economy,” Pingree said in a press release.

Other 2017 awardees are chef and author Dan Barber; Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems; professor and author Joan Dye Gussow; and Joann Lo and Jose Oliva, co-directors of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. They will be recognized at the foundation’s Food Summit in October.

]]> 0 Will Ritch... Congressional candidate Chellie Pingree.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 18:40:59 +0000
Old World consistency, New World adventure offer two approaches to wine-making Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Again, I find myself thinking about polarities, specifically tradition versus progress. It shows up everywhere – certainly in politics right now. There are – and have always been – two very distinct groups channeling two very distinct concerns. The traditional seeks to maintain the status quo. The progressive seeks to push beyond boundaries to make room for new possibilities. Both have their place.

Tradition is familiar and secure, and humans need it. Progress is full of possibility and creativity, and humans need it as well. Whenever one is privileged over the other, losses and gains ensue. Reckoning with those is the hard work of dancing between the polarities and living well.

The same division shows up in the wine world, evident in the New World/Old World dichotomy. Exceptions exist, but in this column, I’ll hold that stereotype because it will bring my thoughts into definition.

When I speak about the Old World, I am referring mostly to a handful of countries, including France, Italy, Germany and parts of Spain. In these countries, whole complexes of legally binding regulations dictate how wine should be made. I am most familiar with the French AOC (Appellation d’Origine Côntrolée) system.

Take for example Sancerre, an appellation in the Loire Valley, which has some of the strictest regulations in France. Which kinds of vines can be grown (sauvignon blanc and pinot noir), where those vines can be planted, how many grapes per acre can be grown and how and when these grapes can be harvested are laid out in great detail.

No matter how much a winegrower wants to plant chardonnay vines in the Loire and make wine from them and call it Sancerre, she isn’t allowed to. She can grow chardonnay, bottle it and sell it, but not as Sancerre. That wine would have to be called vin de table and would typically sell for much less than a wine designated Sancerre.

Sounds like a legal straitjacket, eh? Before you don your Che Guevara T-shirts and fly to France in protest, consider this: For hundreds and hundreds of years, the farmers in the Sancerre region have culled the wisdom that sauvignon blanc (and some pinot noir) are the grapes best suited to the soil and climate of the region. Future generations needn’t reinvent that wheel because the wheel is working pretty darn well.

Also, think about the security these laws provide for the consumer. Ever dropped some money on a California zinfandel only to discover that it tasted nothing like the previous bottle of California zinfandel you bought?

Very few of us want to risk a significant financial investment in a bottle we might not like, but that’s a pitfall present in a wine system that doesn’t regulate, at least to some degree, the quality of wine from particular regions.

You might not always like a particular Sancerre, but you can expect a reasonable amount of consistency from one producer to the next.

The risk to the consumer is reduced, in theory, by holding all producers to the same standards of viticulture. If tradition is nothing else, it offers consistency, and human beings crave consistency.

Until they don’t. Consistency can become suffocating.

The New World – the United States, Australia and, to some extent, South America – occupies the progressive end of the polarity. These countries have regulations, too, but they are less stringent.

Quick: How much pinot noir needs to be in a bottle of California pinot noir? 100 percent? Nope. 85 percent? Guess again. Only 75 percent of the wine in that bottle needs to be made from pinot noir grapes. The rest can be an admixture of any other varietal(s) the winegrower likes. Ever seen a really dark pinot noir? Something else is probably mixed in.

Similarly, if you buy a bottle labeled “Napa Valley,” you rightly assume that the wine came from Napa Valley. You’d be kind of right. Three-quarters of it did. The remaining 25 percent could come from Sonoma. Burgundians would cringe at the mere thought of blending the grapes of other regions into their wine.

Sounds a bit chaotic, doesn’t it? But before you traditionalists threaten to secede, consider this: The pioneering ethos of the progressives has its upside. It encourages experimentation and the development of an entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve drunk many atypical blends myself – the kinds that are, at least implicitly, discouraged in the Old World – that have been both delicious and thought-provoking. A more progressive wine system allows for such maverick experimentations. And we all like it.

You know you do. Think about the last time you were jolted out of your business-as-usual way of being by a brand-new experience that blew your expectations to pieces … in a good way. Progress offers the thrill of creativity, which humans crave.

Until they don’t.

If consistency can become suffocating, then creativity can produce anxiety. Luckily, you don’t have to choose. If you desire consistency and security, seek out a traditional winegrower.

When I’m looking to get exactly what I’m looking for, which is usually a Côtes du Rhone, I go with a traditional producer. National Distributors carries the wines from Chateau de St. Cosme, and their “Les Deux Albions” red is always spot on for my tastes.

When I need to get myself out of a rut, I’ll seek out a New World producer. One of my favorites is Sean Thackrey from California. SoPo Wine distributors carries his products and, in particular, his “Pleiades” red blend. The cepage, or blend of grapes, is kept secret every year (it’s a mixture of white and red grapes) and has never failed to challenge and thrill me. It’s a dance.

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


]]> 0, 20 Jun 2017 17:43:43 +0000
‘Citrus’ is a cookbook devoted to all things sweet and sour Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 “Citrus: 150 Recipes that Celebrate the Sour and the Sweet.” By Catherine Phipps. Quadrille. $29.99

My boyfriend, Sean, came home from the grocery store several months ago with a hand-held cheese grater.

To our frustration, we quickly discovered that little grater was not so handy after all. It worked fine on hard cheese and garlic, but grating a zucchini for bread was a mess. The tiny blades made grating soft cheese or long carrots a tiresome arm exercise. We came to envy the efficiency of my roommate’s large box grater.

It wasn’t until I picked up “Citrus: Recipes that Celebrate the Sour and the Sweet” by Catherine Phipps that I realized the source of our troubles. The little cheese grater is really a microplane zester. This mix-up is slightly embarrassing, but Phipps has helped me find a new purpose for this once-vexing appliance.

The 255-page book covers recipes from soups to sweets. Some hail from her parents’ home in Greece, while others invoke Japan with a hot and sour condiment called yuzukosho. There’s a recipe for dal with lemon or lime curry, and one for lime and chicken tortilla soup. As the book’s name suggests, citrus is the common thread. Every dish or drink includes some kind of lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or other tangy ingredient.

“I love all the individual flavours and aromas of citrus, and the fact that I can use them in a wide range of international dishes,” Phipps writes in the introduction. “Their progression, historically, from East to West means that few cuisines are forced to do without them.”

Phipps includes a short primer on different types of citrus, as well as basic instructions on how to zest, cut or juice the fruit. Despite her clear instructions, I felt overwhelmed by the sophistication of the book. While some recipes have accompanying full-page photos, other pages are dominated by text. Entrée recipes – like Szechuan Peppercorn and Orange Beef, Seville Orange-Spiced Duck, and Grilled Aubergines with Mozzarella and Yuzokosho – often require a long list of ingredients that might mean an extra trip to the grocery store. Many dishes have multiple components – a base, a rub, a sauce or dressing, a garnish or side.

But with my newly identified zester in hand, I decided to tackle Spiced Sea Bass with Citrus Butter Sauce. The cooking was messy with all the grating and juicing, but it required surprisingly little time at the stove.

I was worried the flavors in the rub would be overpowering, but the turmeric and cardamom added a lovely Middle Eastern note to the dish. The sauce was light, but it made everything on our plates come alive with lemon and orange flavors.

We often make sweet potatoes with dinner, so I tried a version glazed with clementines. It was a fresh take on our regular side dish – one I will certainly make again. The stickiness on the kitchen counter from the fruit juices was worth the delicious meal.

Sean has now purchased a real cheese grater, but I don’t think the zester is going anywhere.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Twitter: megan_e_doyle


The spicing here is fragrant rather than hot and has a vaguely Middle Eastern feel to it, so you could serve it with rice or couscous instead of chickpeas if you prefer.

Serves 4

4 sea bass fillets, skin on

1 tablespoon olive oil

30g/2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

Juice of 1 large orange

100 ml/7 tablespoons water

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, pounded

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric


350g/12 ounces spring greens, very finely shredded

350g/21/2 cups cooked chickpeas

Blot the sea bass fillets and lay skin side down on paper towels.

Combine all the rub ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the fillets. Press lightly.

Before you start frying the fish, cook the spring greens. Wash thoroughly, then put in a large, lidded saucepan without shaking off too much water. Cover and heat gently until the greens have wilted down and are just al dente – they should be a fresh, bright green.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. When hot, add the sea bass fillets, skin side down, and fry for a couple of minutes.

Flip over and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove from the frying pan and keep warm.

Add the butter, garlic, lemon zest and juice and orange juice to the pan. Turn up the heat and let the mixture bubble until you have a glossy, syrupy sauce. Pour into a jug.

Deglaze the pan with the water. Add the chickpeas and spring greens and stir to pick up any flavour residue. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the fish with the chickpeas and greens, and the sauce spooned over.

]]> 0, 20 Jun 2017 18:03:45 +0000
Four dips to make you the talk of the summer potluck Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 With the heat of summer here, or nearly so, it’s time to take a dip.

That is, it’s time to bring a dip to a summer picnic.

You could stir a packet of dried onion soup into a tub of sour cream, of course. It’s delicious, but everyone would know exactly how much effort you spent on them (none).

This year, make your own dip. It’s fun, it tastes great and it shows you care enough to mix the very best.

And the cool thing is, you can even make your own version of that ever-popular dried onion soup dip. Your friends and family will know it’s not the instant version because its taste is richer. Rounder. Fuller.

It only takes a minute or two longer to make than the pre-mixed one.

The next dip I made was also familiar, baba ghanouj. If you’ve never had baba ghanouj, think of it as a more sophisticated version of hummus.

The difference is eggplant. Baba ghanouj, which is also from the Middle East, uses grilled eggplant instead of chickpeas for its main ingredient. The grilling gives it a smoky flavor that appeals to a lot of people.

But not me. I prefer hummus to baba ghanouj precisely because it does not taste smoky. So when I made the eggplant-based dip, I simply roasted the vegetables in the oven instead of grilling them.

My next dip takes the flavors of Mexico and gives them a distinctly Asian vibe. chef Daniel Boulud came up with this recipe way back in 1993 and introduced the recipe in his first book, “Cooking with Daniel Boulud.” Avocado dip with sesame seeds is essentially guacamole (though without the garlic) mixed with a taste of dark sesame oil and topped with toasted sesame seeds.

The result is a more complex version of guacamole. The darkly mysterious sesame oil plays wonderfully off the brightness of the avocado and lime.

You might think it wouldn’t work, but it absolutely does.

My last dip, like baba ghanouj, was from the Middle East. Muhammara is perhaps more of a spread than a dip, but that amounts to nearly the same thing. Besides, it is wildly delicious.

Muhammara (the word means “brick,” because it is about the same color) is made from roasted red peppers and walnuts puréed together with olive oil into a coarse paste. But there is more to it than that – including pomegranate molasses, which is just about the best thing ever.

Homemade instant onion soup dip. Photo by Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via TNS


6 servings

4 teaspoons beef bouillon granules

2 tablespoons dried minced onions

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley or 11/2 teaspoons fresh parsley

16 ounces sour cream

Combine the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until ready to use. Place the sour cream in a medium bowl and stir in the dip mix. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour, and up to 1 day. Serve with potato chips and crudités.

Recipe by the Daring Gourmet


10 servings

2 or 3 medium eggplants (about 3 pounds total)

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup tahini

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 lemons, juiced

Salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub the outside of each eggplant with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place them in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet. Roast the eggplants until the skin has charred and the interior is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Peel and seed the cooked eggplant. Roughly chop the flesh and then transfer it to the bowl of a food processor.

3. Into the processor add the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste, along with a few teaspoons of cold water. Process the mixture to a coarse paste, adding a bit more water if needed to allow the mixture to blend.

4. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste and add optional smoked paprika for a smoky taste. Serve with wedges of pita or crudités.

Recipe by David Kamen of the Culinary Institute of America, via Epicurious

Avocado dip with sesame seeds. Photo by Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via TNS


4 to 6 servings

1 red bell pepper, split lengthwise, stem and seeds discarded

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

3 ripe avocados (about 1 pound), peeled, pitted and cut into chunks

Juice and zest of 1 lime

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon shallots, finely chopped

4 sprigs cilantro, leaves only, finely chopped

8 drops Tabasco sauce


1. Preheat the broiler. Place the pepper halves under the broiler skin side up. Broil them until the skin turns black, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the peppers from the heat, let cool, wash the skin off under cold running water and pat dry. Finely dice the roasted pepper and set aside.

2. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat or under the broiler, tossing often for 1 to 2 minutes until golden, and set aside.

3. Mix the avocados, lime juice and zest, sour cream, sesame oil, shallots, cilantro and Tabasco with a fork in a bowl. Add salt to taste.

4. Scoop the dip into a shallow serving dish or bowl. Shape the dip into a rounded dome with a fork and sprinkle the top with the toasted sesame seeds. Arrange the red pepper dice in a ring at the base of the dome. Serve with tortilla chips, country bread, cold, grilled chicken wings or as a dressing with steamed shrimp, lobster or stone crab claws.

Recipe from “Cooking with Daniel Boulud,” by Daniel Boulud

Muhammara (red pepper and walnut spread). Photo by Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via TNS


About 6 servings

1 large red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped scallions (3 to 4 scallions)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

3 teaspoons pomegranate molasses, divided, see note

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, divided

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

4 to 6 tablespoons bread crumbs

Note: Pomegranate molasses is available at Middle Eastern markets and international food stores.

1. To roast the pepper, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the pepper on a foil-covered baking sheet and cook 25 minutes, or until charred all over. Place in a closed paper bag or wait a couple of minutes and wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap. After 15 minutes, the skin will come off easily in your fingers. Remove and discard the stem and seeds.

2. Combine pepper, scallions, lemon juice, cumin, salt, 2 teaspoons of the pomegranate molasses, 1/2 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and all but 2 of the walnuts in a food processor and purée until mostly smooth.

3. Add 4 tablespoons of the bread crumbs and pulse to combine. If mixture is too loose to hold its shape, add the remaining bread crumbs and pulse again. Season to taste with salt and crushed red pepper.

4. Scrape into a bowl and make a well in the center with the back of a spoon. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the remaining 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes in the well. Crush the reserved walnuts between your fingers and sprinkle over the top.

Recipe by the New York Times, adapted from Ana Sortun

]]> 0 ghanouj.Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:23:21 +0000
Outdoor grilled ratatouille creates lovely summertime charm Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Ratatouille is a classic vegetable dish starring eggplant, zucchini, peppers and tomato that is deeply steeped in the culture of Mediterranean France. When I married a man from the heart of Provence, one of the first lessons I received from my new mother-in-law, Muriel, was how to make a proper ratatouille. (The other was how to pluck feathers from a newly butchered turkey, but that’s a story for another day.)

Turns out, my American sensibilities had me cooking a ratatouille far too long, making it a gloppy stew of indistinguishable mixed vegetables, a crime I’ve seen committed more often than not here in the U.S.

Muriel was kind in her rebuke, and showed me her way instead. The most important lesson was to cook each vegetable separately, to honor their individuality.

Moreover, the vegetables needed to be cooked in the same pan, in a specific order, so that the flavors would be built just right. (The order, in case you are wondering, is: eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion, tomatoes, and I use the acronym EZ-POT to remember.)

I was skeptical. But her version is easily the best I have ever eaten, so I follow it without fail, even if the rebellious part of me wonders if I dared to cook the zucchini out of order, would anyone really notice? But, why mess with genius?

Unless it’s BBQ season and I want to grill out! After years of following proper EZ-POT protocol, I decided to try an outdoor grilled version of ratatouille. A little summertime char on the veggies could be a good thing. And indeed it was.

The result was a tasty dish that was somewhere between a grilled vegetable salad (but not quite as acidic) and a traditional ratatouille (but not quite capturing that synergistic vegetable vibe). Still, a worthy summertime side dish in its own right.

Grilled ratatouille is a happy complement to any grilled meat or fish, and it’s hearty enough to be the main dish for vegetarians. And leftovers can be spooned on top of roasted potatoes, rice, a green salad, or even spread on toast, sprinkled with cheese and broiled for a quick lunch.


Servings: 6

2 small or 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch slices (no need to peel)

2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

1 sweet yellow or red pepper, cut into “cheeks” or quarters, seeds removed

1 medium sweet white onion, peeled, quartered with root intact (to keep it together)

1 pint grape tomatoes

Olive oil in mister


1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons high quality olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced

6-7 basil leaves, gently torn

Salt and pepper

Heat the grill to medium and lightly oil the grates. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and spray them lightly with the olive oil mister to coat. (If you don’t have a mister, pour a little oil in your hands and lightly hand-toss the vegetables in a bowl to coat them very lightly.)

Cook the vegetables on the grill until tender but not floppy, turning halfway through cooking time – about 12-15 minutes total for the eggplant, onion quarters and sweet pepper, 8-10 minutes for the zucchini and 2 minutes for the tomatoes.

Meanwhile, make the dressing: Whisk together lemon juice and red wine vinegar in a small bowl, and drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to make an emulsion. Add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste, and an additional tablespoon of water if needed to make more sauce.

As the vegetables are removed from the grill, chop the onion (the inside may not be fully cooked and that’s OK), and cut the rest of the veggies into nice-sized cubes, and place in a large bowl.

The pepper skin will be charred and can be kept or removed.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables while still warm and toss gently. Add the fresh basil leaves to the vegetables, and stir. Adjust salt and pepper for seasoning and serve, hot, room temperature or chilled.

]]> 0, 20 Jun 2017 17:07:44 +0000
From that first bite of fries, Saco’s Rapid Ray’s has reliably fed Mainer’s spirit Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 When I think now of Rapid Ray’s in Saco and the perfect simplicity of its summery food, my thoughts turn to a bitter winter afternoon many years ago, a Volkswagen bus, and the perfection of hot, salty french fries.

The mid-1970s VW bus that putt-putted me through my childhood in Kennebunkport was blue with a white roof. I loved to sit in the passenger seat and slam eight-track cassettes of The J. Geils Band and The Police into the stereo, then crank up the volume knob.

When my brother and I sat in back, we slid seatbelt-less along the bench seats as my boozy stepfather skittered around sharp bends, grinding the gears. At the drive-in, we parked parallel to the screen, slid open the side door, and watched the movie sprawled in sleeping bags.

But that bus was most memorable for what it lacked: because it had been retrofitted with a Porsche engine, the heater-boxes did not align and it had absolutely no heat. Driving around in the winter, it was often colder inside the bus than it was outside.

Ray’s traveled in a mobile-home-sized truck in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Rapid Ray's Facebook page

My brother and I sat in back with a wool blanket over our legs like some strange 1970s version of a horse-drawn sleigh ride and watched frozen breath curl from our mouths. The bus seemed to suit the chaotic state of our tumultuous little family unit.

Just as our hippy mom made questionable transportation decisions, her vegetarian cuisine choices were also a little too back-to-the-earth for a couple of active young boys.

My brother and I suffered through after-school snacks such as unsalted peanut butter on rice cakes or celery with cream cheese. Our birthday treat was an anemic but much-anticipated trail mix of salted peanuts, raisins and M&Ms.

It’s this combination of cold VW bus and home’s culinary shortcomings that makes my memory of the first experience at the burger and dog mecca of Rapid Ray’s so unforgettable.

I can’t recall exactly how old I was (perhaps 8 or 9 at the most) or why we were in Saco that afternoon (likely department store sale shopping), but I do remember my brother and I were being more trouble than usual (which is, trust me, really saying something). My brother was punching me under the blanket while I complained loudly, and both of us were whining about the chill in our fingers and toes.

My mother, still just in her 20s but already exhausted by us, offered something she rarely if ever offered: a deal. If my brother and I could keep our hands to ourselves and behave, she said, we could stop at Rapid Ray’s for a treat.

Back then, Rapid Ray’s was still a food truck, though it had graduated from the tiny roach-coach-style lunch wagon with room enough for just Ray himself to a mobile home-sized truck and a small crew of a handful.


Rapid Ray’s through the years. It opened in 1953 at a time when food trucks meant cheap fare for the working class. The Saco landmark has been at the corner of Main Street and Pepperell Plaza since 1986. Photo courtesy of Rapid Ray's Facebook page

My brother and I scrambled out of the VW and stood in the glow of Ray’s order window. The cold air was cut by the hot, heavenly odor of frying meat. We must have known intuitively that a grilled burger or steamed hot dog was out of the question, because we asked for two large orders of french fries.

In what seemed like mere seconds, a small, topless rectangular cardboard box with two paper cups of fries arrived in the order window. We snatched it up and scurried back into the bus, shrieking with joy like seagulls around an open bait barrel as we squeezed little piles from ketchup packets into the box.

The fries warmed our mitten-less fingers and the salt exploded on our tongues. I can still hear the satiated silence of that ride home.


Years later I came to understand Rapid Ray’s as the institution it is to this day.

In 1953, when Rapid Ray’s opened, food trucks meant inexpensive eats for the working class, and the then-thriving Biddeford/Saco mills provided an endless supply of hungry workers.

One can only imagine what founder Ray Camire would make of some of today’s precious, often expensive food trucks, or the very idea of buying an artisanal cupcake from one.

Since 1986, Ray’s has been housed in a seatless, diner-inspired building on the corner of Saco’s Main Street and Pepperell Plaza. Ray’s is the very definition of a “landmark,” which is to say locals orient outwards from it, as in: “Yeah, they opened a new bike shop, up Main Street, same side as Ray’s,” or “That pub is in an old mill, down the hill from Ray’s, opposite side.”

When I was a teenager, Rapid Ray’s was THE late-night oasis after the food-desert of the Kennebunks shuttered tight for the night. Sometimes a group of us would caravan over in multiple cars.

Joshua Bodwell shows his daughter Elona old photographs of Rapid Ray’s at the popular fast-food spot in Saco that once delivered inexpensive food to mill workers in Biddeford and Saco. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

I’d order a double cheeseburger, french fries and chocolate milk, and the man at the counter shouted “Big One, fry and a choc!” Moments later, a man beside the man who’d taken my order would ask, “What’s on your Big One?” then slather my burger bun in seconds with ketchup, mustard and relish using tongue depressors bobbing in condiment containers.

My friends and I would stand with our boxes of food at the little ledges across from the order/pick-up window and eat and watch.

Customers smiled and laughed, made small talk with the men working the counter, greeted each other like old friends. And they ate: they scarfed down cheeseburgers and onion rings, devoured clam and cheese dogs. I swear, I have never seen so much chocolate milk consumed by adults as I have at Rapid Ray’s.

One night, a few brazen gulls waddled in through an open door and made quick work of every scrap of spilled food. Most nights, barflies staggered in for a fix of salt and grease after last call in a nearby tavern; they’d slur through an order, hand over a few crumpled bills, then silently wolf down their food.

The air at Ray’s always felt charged, but never threatening.


Ray’s started as a food truck in 1953, but since 1986 it has stood in a seatless building on Main Street. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

These days, in the moments I crave fast food, I know what I’m really craving is Rapid Ray’s – it is, I imagine, the closest thing I will ever experience to McDonald’s when it was still owned and operated by the McDonald brothers themselves, before Ray Kroc got his greedy hands on the business and turned it into a real estate empire that happened to sell frozen burgers.

I don’t crave Rapid Ray’s for a high culinary experience, or even a quick, convenient bite. I crave it for something more than sustenance: comfort. And when I’m there I am buoyed by the glut of what is lacking in so many other dining establishments: authenticity.

How those Rapid Ray’s french fries tasted on that winter afternoon of my childhood in the back of an unheated VW bus is, to be honest, somewhere out beyond the manmade limitations of written language.

I can say, though, that when I think back on those particularly difficult years when my mother’s and stepfather’s drug-and-alcohol-fueled marriage was faltering and tenuous, I remember those french fries as a rare transcendent moment of unguarded happiness.

Joshua Bodwell is the executive director of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. He is currently working as the series editor of a three-volume edition of the collected short stories of Andre Dubus.

]]> 0's started as a food truck in 1953, but since 1986 it has stood in a seatless building on Main Street.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 19:34:30 +0000
Fresh from the farm: Maine takes lead in ‘food sovereignty’ movement Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill into law that affirms the rights of cities and towns to regulate local food production, making Maine the second state in the nation to allow consumers to buy directly from farmers and food producers regardless of the state and federal licensing and inspections that would otherwise apply.

With the passage of the law last week, Maine becomes a leader in the so-called food sovereignty movement that promotes freedom of food choice for consumers who are willing to forgo some food safety regulations.

Food sovereignty revolves around a sort of “handshake integrity,” said Heather Retberg, a Blue Hill farmer who has been a leader in the movement. It means that a neighbor can pop by Quills End, the farm that Retberg runs with her husband, Phil, and pick up raw milk even if the Retbergs do not have that milk inspected and licensed by the state. If that neighbor trusts the Retbergs, the neighbor can buy directly from them.

If the Retbergs have veal calves and want to sell the meat directly to a consumer, they can do that too as long as the neighbor knows the story behind that milk or veal, and understands the risks involved in buying products that have not been vetted by state inspectors.

Blue Hill in Hancock County, where the movement first gained steam, is among the 20 towns across Maine that already have approved local food sovereignty ordinances. The bill that passed last week, L.D. 725, will essentially recognize the right of those towns to enforce their own food regulations, and the decisions of any other municipalities to do the same.

In 2015, Wyoming passed the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, which allows transactions among producers of what the state calls “homemade food” – produced in a kitchen that is not licensed, inspected or regulated – and “the informed end consumer.” The Maine and Wyoming laws are far from identical, but they speak to a desire for a more old-fashioned – some would say libertarian – approach to buying food.

LePage’s signature on the law proposed by Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, came as a welcome surprise to advocates for food sovereignty.

“I ran for office because of food sovereignty,” said Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop. “Food sovereignty means that the state of Maine will recognize, at last, the right of municipalities to regulate local food systems as they see fit.”

Hickman, who also is a farmer and owner of a small bed-and-breakfast, had proposed similar legislation four times before handing the baton over to Jackson.

“Timing is everything,” Hickman said. “It seems that everything was aligned for this to happen.”

The Department of Conservation, Agriculture and Forestry, which oversees many of the inspection programs, including those for meat and dairy, said it is reviewing the legislation to determine the implementation issues that need to be addressed.

Things are unlikely to change, or change much, at farmers markets throughout the state because farmers markets are heavily insured and licensed independently from the municipalities where they are held.

“Most markets will be unaffected,” said Leigh Hallett, executive director of the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets.

But the Maine communities that have approved local food sovereignty ordinances can function almost as islands where a farmer can drop off a gallon of raw milk and a consumer can ask for a chunk of that delicious cheese made in an unlicensed facility.

Since 2011, when Sedgewick, population 1,200, declared itself food sovereign, the number of Maine towns passing local ordinances to take back regulatory control over locally produced food has steadily increased. And with it, so has the interest in getting affirmation from the state that there would be no interference with newly established local laws. The bill signed by the governor had the support of the Maine Municipal Association.

“Let the local people decide,” said Garrett Corbin, legislative advocate for the Maine Municipal Association. “That is kind of our mantra.”

That perturbs some in the Maine food community, who see this as a dangerous path that could put consumers at risk. The Maine Cheese Guild opposed the bill, and former president Eric Rector was one of the people who testified against it. He called the signing of the law a “big win for the deregulation crowd.”

It’s too early to say what the actual impact will be, Rector said. But he sees increased risk to both consumers and to the Maine cheese industry as a result of dairy products being “produced and sold to the public without any testing whatsoever.” That increases the risk that someone will get sick from “Maine cheese” and that this thriving food industry will be tainted by something that happens outside the regulated sector, he said.

Rector believes it will be hard for consumers to grasp the concept that there is state-regulated cheese and also municipally approved cheese.

The movement is not about dodging food safety issues, advocates say. It’s more about keeping small farms alive. Retberg was disheartened by a visit from a state inspector in 2009. He told her that although the Retbergs were using a licensed facility to butcher meat birds, since it was licensed to a friend and not them, their birds weren’t legal for sale. The Retbers were deflated; they’d recently made the transition to full-time farming and no longer had a supplemental income that might have helped them pay for their own licensed facility.

“The department just moved the goalposts,” Retberg said. “And when that happens, you either stop or the rules have to change.”

Rather than stop, she began working on changing the rules. And she found that quickly, she had support in the community, starting with a neighbor who very much wanted to be able to buy those meat birds, regardless of where they were slaughtered.

Retberg also had a powerful advocate in Hickman, whom she called “a champion for our cause.”

He says he ran on this cause, prompted by his own experience with state regulators, who told him, starting in 2009, that the business practices he’d been engaged in at his B&B, including making cheese and yogurt for his bed-and-breakfast customers, and letting customers at the farmstand know they could buy it from the house, were no longer acceptable unless he added a specific facility for those products, separate from the area where he prepared, say, breakfast.

“The department came around and said, ‘You can no longer serve your own yogurt,’ ” Hickman said. “If all of this sounds surreal, it is all true.”

The other towns that have declared themselves in control of their local food systems include Alexander, Appleton, Bingham, Brooklin, Brooksville, Canton, Freedom, Greenwood, Hope, Isle Au Haut, Liberty, Livermore, Madison, Moscow, Penobscot, Plymouth, Solon and Trenton. The city council in Rockland considered a food sovereignty ordinance this winter and opted instead for a resolution endorsing growth, sale and consumption of local foods.

One place that hasn’t declared food sovereignty? Winthrop. Which means Hickman still has to keep that yogurt to himself.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Charles Eichacker contributed to this report.

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

Twitter: MaryPols

Correction: This story was revised at 7:20 a.m., June 21, 2017, to correct the spelling of Heather Retberg’s name.

]]> 0 Robbins finishes up work Tuesday evening at River Valley Farm in Canton, which he owns with Carole Robbins, his wife. Carole Robbins said she has heard about the new food sovereignty law, but they plan to keep selling their beef the way they have been, after inspection.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 07:22:32 +0000
Kids can get hooked on fish when it’s wrapped up in a taco Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 A good fish taco is in a class by itself. My kids tried their first in a beachside restaurant in Florida, and suddenly the world of tacos had a new category. And as any mother will tell you, when fish comes in a form your kids can embrace, that’s a beautiful thing.

Sometimes the fish is fried (fabulous), sometimes it is grilled (also fabulous), and easiest and most accessible of all, sometimes it is pan-seared (still, fabulous).

And the best part of cooking fish for tacos? If it falls apart when you are sauteing or flipping it, who cares? You’re going to flake that sucker up anyway.

This recipes calls for any white, flaky fish, allowing you the flexibility of seeing what’s freshest where you are shopping. Don’t be shy – talk to that fishmonger. He or she will be only too happy to tell you what to buy.

The fish in these tacos is topped with a chopped vegetable salad that adds brightness and crunch. Use flour or corn tortillas, whichever you prefer, but do take those extra few minutes to warm them up in a skillet so they soften and get a bit more flavorful.


Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 (6-ounce) filets tilapia, cod, barramundi or other flaky white fish

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 radishes, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into thin half-moons

1/2 red onion, cut into wedges, then slivered

1/2 cup chopped fennel

1/4 cup chopped olives (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

8 (6-inch) flour or corn tortillas

Crumbled queso fresco to serve

Heat a large heavy skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium high heat. Add one tablespoon of the oil. While the oil is heating, sprinkle both sides of the fish filets with the coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Sear the fish for about three minutes per side, until browned and cooked through.

Transfer the fish to a plate and break it into small chunks. Tent with foil to keep warm. Wash the skillet out.

While the fish is cooking, combine the radishes, cucumbers, red onion, fennel, olives (if using), lemon juice and the remaining tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Return the clean, dry skillet to medium high heat and cook the tortillas for about 20 seconds on each side for flour, 45 seconds on each side for corn, until lightly browned in spots and softened. Stack them on a plate.

Serve the tortillas with the fish and the vegetable relish, along with the queso fresco on the side.

Let everyone assemble their own tacos.

]]> 0 2016 photo shows flaky fish tacos in New York. This dish is from a recipe by Katie Workman. (Laura Agra via AP)Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:41:37 +0000
Tabbouleh with a Greek spin is cool for summer parties Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 This is a Mediterranean twist on a classic Middle Eastern bulgur wheat salad, with very approachable flavors. It can be served as a side dish or a main course, and even as part of a creative appetizer or meze spread.

It’s also a great portable dish, perfect for bringing to a potluck or serving outside for a Fourth of July get-together.

In this recipe, the bulgur “cooks” by soaking in liquid, absorbing fresh lemon juice along with the water. That really brightens up the earthy flavor (know going in that you need two hours to get the bulgur soft).

It’s a great dish to keep in the front of your mind during the summer months when ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and fat bunches of herbs are readily available. This recipe is adapted from my second cookbook, “Dinner Solved!”

Greek tabbouleh salad. Photo by Todd Coleman via AP


Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

11/2 cups bulgur wheat

13/4 cups hot water

Finely grated juice and zest of 2 lemons

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, finely minced

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

3 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves

1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 seedless cucumber, diced (peeled or not, your choice)

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup crumbled feta

1/3 cup slivered Kalamata olives

2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano

Pour the bulgur into a large bowl and add the hot water and lemon juice. Stir and cover.

Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours, until the bulgur has absorbed all of the liquid, or place it in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Add the lemon zest, olive oil, onion, garlic, parsley, mint, and salt and pepper to the bulgur and combine well. Stir in the cucumber and tomatoes. Add the feta, olives and oregano, and toss gently to combine.

]]> 0 tabbouleh salad.Tue, 20 Jun 2017 17:15:57 +0000
Arundel farm soon to roll out its vegan, organic, local-food meal kits Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Jen Kugler isn’t the primary cook in her Kennebunk home, where her husband, Jeff, takes the lead in the kitchen. Yet at least once a week she needs to make dinner for her husband and three children, and on those nights she admits to feeling “at a complete loss.”

But this winter she participated in a focus group and test drove a locally sourced, organic, vegan meal kit called BEEP Box, which is being produced at Frinklepod Farm in neighboring Arundel. The experience, Kugler said, was eye-opening.

“Meal kits made it easy for me to do the cooking,” said Kugler, who is a vegetarian. Her husband and kids occasionally eat chicken. Kugler said the BEEP Box focus group exposed her family to new recipes and flavors.

Many national and regional companies sell meal kits, which consist of pre-cut and measured ingredients with recipes. One BEEP Box serves two, costs $20 and can be made in 30 minutes or less.

“We learned that our 5-year-old loves beet falafel,” Kugler told me. “Who knew? I never would have thought to serve that, and even if I had, I probably wouldn’t have made it because it would have seemed an overwhelming task to take on with three small children racing around. With the BEEP Box it was ready quickly, and I felt like we were eating out at a restaurant.”

Flora Brown, who with her husband, Noah Wentworth, has farmed the all-vegetarian and organic-certified Frinklepod Farm for six years, is weeks away from selling the plant-based meal kits from the farm store and, later, offering them for delivery.

“The idea grew organically from a combination of figuring out what is the best way to add value to the produce we grow,” Brown said, “and hearing from customers who want inspiration for what to cook.”

Brown and her staff give out recipes and preparation advice from the farm store, but she can see customers want more. The target market includes people who want to eat locally sourced, whole food but lack time or confidence in the kitchen.

The BEEP Box is scheduled to formally debut once the farm’s commercial kitchen is complete and has the necessary town approvals. The kitchen is part of a two-story, energy-efficient building named The Pod that’s nearing completion on the edge of the farm fields. Solar panels will supply all the electricity as well as power the farm’s irrigation system and other buildings.

Since Wentworth is both the head builder and chief farmer, construction of The Pod is (not surprisingly) behind schedule. So is the roll-out of the BEEP Box. But Brown and Wentworth, who owns Evergreen Building Collaborative and has built energy-efficient, passive-solar homes for two decades, expect the kitchen to be in business by July.

The Pod will house Frinklepod’s winter farm store, a community meeting room, a propagation greenhouse, a climate-controlled crop storage area, an apartment for farm apprentices, a farm office and a flexible space that can offer cooking classes at night and serve as the floral design studio for the farm’s wedding and event work during the day. In the past, Frinklepod cooking classes were held at the New School in Kennebunk.

The Frinklepod Farm store will sell the meal kits, which will be prepared in a commercial kitchen in the building under construction in the background. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

The building is fossil-fuel free, which means convection ovens and burners in the kitchen. Other high-performance features include triple-glazed windows and a heat pump for heating and cooling. Frinklepod raised $18,000 on a crowd-sourcing site to help pay for the new building.

Brown and her crew will put together the BEEP boxes, chopping veggies, making sauces, mixing spices and portioning out ingredients.

The delivery region will stretch from Saco to Wells, to start. Customers will choose among such options as smoky pepper fajitas; Singapore noodle stir fry; and chickpea and kale burgers with a Mediterranean summer salad.

Andrea Simoneau of Arundel also participated in the BEEP Box focus group. Simoneau works long days and comes home too tired to cook. She said the BEEP Box allowed her to make fresh meals with limited effort.

Wondering about that BEEP name? It’s an acronym that stands for “because everyone eats plants,” Brown said, adding “but most of us could use a little help eating more of them.”

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0 Flora Brown, left, with help from apprentice Mary Jo Scott, is launching a meal kit company called BEEP Box next month from Frinklepod Farm in Arundel. The kits, featuring local food that's organic and vegan, will sell for $20.Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:01:33 +0000
Dine Out Maine: If you don’t yet know of Northern Union chef Romann Dumorne, you should Sun, 18 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 In the beginning, there was ramp soup. Two years ago, chef Romann Dumorne, then head sous chef at 50 Local in Kennebunk, came up with the idea for a layered, potato foam-topped concoction as he prepared for a one-night guest gig at a nearby restaurant. He played around with strategies to add complexity: grinding charred ramp leaves to lend smokiness; pickling ramp bulbs for acid and texture; and rapidly chilling blanched spinach so he could color his purée a riotous shade of golf-course green. And it was good.

So good that guests went out of their way to rave about it, even pulling him aside to let him know how much they enjoyed it. “It was by far the thing I got the best reviews for. I thought, ‘If I can do this – pull off a menu that’s all mine, start to finish – and get such great comments, I need to move on to show what I can do in the kitchen,'” he said. Almost immediately, Dumorne found Lauren and Matt Wickert, who were gearing up to open a wine-focused, small-plates restaurant called Northern Union on Ogunquit’s woodsy Shore Road. He cooked a meal for them, including the ramp soup, naturally, and began his next chapter.

Three seasons later, his menu has evolved considerably, incorporating new ideas and flavors into an eclectic repertoire bracketed by rock-solid, mostly French techniques. But that extraordinarily lush ramp soup still appears on the menu ($6) whenever the foraged wild leeks are in season. “I’ve put it on there every season since we opened. I think it represents my cooking style and how far I’ve come and the reasons I am where I am,” he said.

Another of Dumorne’s signatures is preparing everything in-house, from crème fraîche, to pickles, to a thin tagliatelle that he sautées with meaty planks of king oyster mushrooms, cured egg yolk and fiddleheads ($22), all tossed in a piquant spring garlic cream sauce.

The portion may not be huge, but it is satisfying, not to mention versatile enough to pair with several of Northern Union’s intelligently selected, wide-ranging wine offerings, like the citrusy Purato white ($8), a blend of pinot grigio and Sicilian Catarratto grapes. It works equally well with the medium-light Baileyana Pinot Noir Firepeak 2014 – not sold by the glass, but thanks to a Coravin system that allows the restaurant to pour any wine on its large menu without ruining the bottle, available by the half-bottle ($24 for approximately two large glasses).

Even though the restaurant makes a virtue of its attention to wine, its cocktails are also imaginative and clever. There’s a seasonal strawberry-rhubarb mule ($11), made with vodka, vinegary homemade fruit shrub, ginger beer, and a sumac-and-ginger gummy candy garnish that bar manager Tim Yee makes himself. Even better is the Joggling Board ($11), a completely unorthodox blend of Cocchi Americano, vodka, Persian dried limes and matcha, poured into in a coupe glass frothed not with egg whites but aquafaba (flavorless whipped chickpea liquid). Take a gimlet and strand it on an island for a few centuries like one of Darwin’s finches, and this is how it might evolve.

A little of that same eccentricity runs through the interior of the restaurant, which is broken into several rooms, each with its own theme. There’s a blue-walled, cottage-style dining room; a mid-century modern lounge with starburst light fixtures and tree-stump stools; a vast glass wine wall next to a subway-tiled bar; and a cozy, eight-person room featuring an old typewriter and a wall of antique books. Not every space articulates well with every other, but the disconnects create a sense of age, making the space feel like a home that was decorated slowly, over a span of decades.

That semi-disjointed aesthetic also runs perfectly parallel to Dumorne’s menu, where you’ll find beef and pork meatballs, smoked for three hours and then simmered for another in a turmeric-infused ancho chili barbecue sauce ($5), eliding into David Chang-inspired Taiwanese-style pork buns ($12). Dumorne prepares the delightfully doughy buns letting them rise four times before steaming, then fills them with a housemade pickle of red cabbage and carrots, a cast iron-seared slice of sous-vide pork belly, and a little drizzle of that same barbecue sauce. On the meatballs, it’s just a tiny bit too sweet, but on the crisp, chewy bun, it is superb.

Another pork dish, a roasted tenderloin with pea and mint puree ($27), brings together unexpected elements like roasted Hakurei turnips, toasted wheatberries and a mostarda-marinated grilled apricot. Absurdly, they all make a wacky kind of sense on the same plate. I only wish that the tenderloin had been as salted with as much caution as it was roasted.

Fortunately, mistakes at Northern Union are rare, even in risky, high-wire dishes like the earthy beet sponge cake ($9), torn into craggy, coral-like forms surrounding a stark white quenelle of housemade yogurt sorbet. To make the cake, Dumorne salt-bakes beets, sweetens and reduces their juice, then uses both components to make a batter that he aerates in a siphon gun before preposterously microwaving it for 30 seconds in a pin-pricked paper cup. It feels crazy just to write those words, but the dessert is phenomenal, especially with a sprinkle of toasted macadamia nut crumble and a few droplets of wobbly rhubarb gelée.

Karen Mathis and Rob Love enjoy a glass of wine by a picture window at the restaurant and wine bar Northern Union in Ogunquit. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

All through my meal, I got the impression that I was witnessing something special: a young chef who, after three seasons running his own kitchen at Northern Union, has grown confident and skilled enough to assemble a polished menu of seemingly unrelated dishes – ones that, implausibly, snuggle up companionably next to one another. Whether it is late spring and ramp soup is on the menu or not, get to Ogunquit to taste Romann Dumorne’s cooking soon, before his undeniable talent carries him into the next chapter of his career. He’s ready.

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 Murphy family from Scarborough digs into a meat and cheese plate.Sat, 17 Jun 2017 18:04:11 +0000
Portland restaurant Zapoteca ends its 6-year run Wed, 14 Jun 2017 19:51:38 +0000 Cookbook author and chef Shannon Bard announced suddenly Wednesday that the Fore Street restaurant Zapoteca she and her husband, Tom, owned in Portland is closed for good.

Shannon Bard

“As our children enter their last years of high school and first year of college, our priorities have changed,” Bard wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon. The mother of five noted that her children “have sacrificed so much to let us follow our dreams in the restaurant industry” and that she and her husband want to spend more time with them.

The Bards opened Zapoteca six years ago. They still have two restaurants, Toroso, the Spanish tapas place they opened in Kennebunk just last year, and Salud, the bistro in the same building, as well as a cooking school and catering company (also named Salud).

She was unavailable for further comment Wednesday.

Bard published her first cookbook in 2015, “The Gourmet Mexican Kitchen,” which celebrated the Mexican food she prepared at Zapoteca. She made a name for herself with frequent television appearances on shows on the Food Network, including the series “Beat Bobby Flay.” (She did not.)

She cooked at the James Beard House in New York in 2014, and the foundation described Zapoteca then as “an unlikely oasis of vibrant Mexican flavor in the hardy wilds of Maine.”

]]> 0 place their orders during a busy dinner hour at Zapoteca. Right, guacamole is made with jalapeno, avocado, cilantro and onion, and served with tortilla chips.Thu, 15 Jun 2017 07:58:53 +0000
No reopening: Outliers restaurant is out of business Wed, 14 Jun 2017 15:20:20 +0000 Fans of Outliers who may have been hoping the popular York Street restaurant was just on its usual spring hiatus will have to move on to other hot eateries; the restaurant is closed for good and owner Peter Verrill Jr. has listed the building with CBRE | The Boulos Co.

“It’s probably a family-based decision more than anything,” said Charles Day, the Boulos broker working with Verrill on the sale.

The asking price is $1.4 million. A leasing arrangement of $8,000 a month is also available.

Day said the building, which looks out over the Fore River, has been quietly listed since January. Chef Harding Lee Smith, who owns The Front Room and several other Portland restaurants, had contracted to buy it but elected to drop the deal after 90 days, Day said.

Verrill, who opened the restaurant in 2013, did not respond to requests for comment but Day said he doesn’t expect him to open another restaurant.

“Right now I think he is focused on being a dad,” Day said.

The restaurant comes with all furniture, fixtures and equipment, Day said. “It is basically a turn-key offering. Someone could be up and runing in a matter of 60 days, I think.”

]]> 0, 14 Jun 2017 23:00:59 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Mussel chowder + kale salad = nice dinner for company in June Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 This is a lovely meal for a June evening in Maine, when the weather is warm but not yet hot. Add a basket of good chewy artisan bread and something chocolate for dessert and you’ve got a fine company dinner.


Mussels are great in so many ways – they are plentiful, inexpensive, beautiful to look at, and delicious – plus these days, since most are farm-raised, they don’t need much scrubbing or debearding. I love making chowders with whole, intact bivalves if possible, because they make such a lovely broth. This lightly curried brew is meat-free and is flecked with carrot, leek, and yellow pepper, making for a chowder that is beautiful to behold.

4 to 6 servings

3 pounds mussels

2 cups dry white wine

5 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1¼ pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3¾ cups)

¾ teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 leek, cleaned and thinly sliced (white and pale greens parts only)

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 cup heavy cream

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Scrub the mussels, and pull off beards if necessary. Combine mussels, 4 cups water and wine in a large pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, shaking the pot to redistribute the mussels, until they open, 4 to 6 minutes, depending on size. Use a slotted spoon to transfer mussels to a bowl, discarding any that do not open. Set aside 16 mussels in their shells and shuck the rest. Pour mussel broth into a bowl, leaving any sediment behind in the pot, and set aside for at least 30 minutes, then measure out 4 cups, again leaving any sediment behind. The mussel broth will be a steel gray color. Add water if necessary to make 4 cups. (Mussels and broth can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Heat butter and oil in a large heavy soup or Dutch oven pot. Add potatoes and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add carrots, leek, bell pepper and shallot, and cook, covered, over low heat until all the vegetables are almost tender, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add reserved mussel broth, bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are fully tender, about 5 minutes. Add cream and the shucked mussels and simmer gently for 3 minutes to blend flavors. Season with pepper and more salt if necessary. Let sit at cool room temperature for at least an hour or, better yet, refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, add reserved mussels in their shells and reheat over low heat. Ladle into bowls, making sure that each serving contains at least 2 mussels in their shells, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.


This salad is best made with the tender baby kale that is now being sold with the other packaged lettuces in the supermarket. If you can’t get it, the smooth-leaved lacinto (sometimes called lacinato) kale is usually more tender than the curly variety. Cut it crosswise into fine slivers.

6 servings

1 small shallot, finely chopped

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 cups (about 5 ounces) baby kale, torn into bite-size pieces, or thinly sliced kale leaves

1 cup halved grape tomatoes

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

Whisk together the shallot, vinegar, oil, honey, salt, and pepper in a small bowl or covered container. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Combine kale and tomatoes in a salad bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss gently. Add the cheese and toss again. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and serve.

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

]]> 0, 13 Jun 2017 18:02:08 +0000
Portland’s Vinland is a 100 percent local restaurant – except for the drinks Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of three columns by chef/owner David Levi of Vinland and Trattoria Fanny, both in Portland.

Vinland is not a 100 percent local restaurant. We don’t serve 100 percent local products. We serve 100 percent local food. The drinks? Nope. Same mission, different form.

After the first installment in this series on May 24, I won’t waste time on why it’s “OK” to offer French wine but not fresh lemons. It’s not about what’s “OK.” It’s about being mindful and being intentional.

I love Dante, but from a distance. Unlike my grandmother Fanny, for whom I named my restaurant in the West End, I’m not Italian. I read Dante’s Italian for his music, but rely on the translator for the meaning. What does this have to do with the drinks at Vinland? Everything.

Timm Bielec, the bar manager at Vinland, makes a Pine Gimlet on Saturday. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

The forms I’ve chosen for Vinland’s food and drinks programs are interpretations of our mission, translating theory into practice. Dante chose a poetry form called ottava rima, which has eight-line stanzas. It works really well in Italian, because the language is rhyme rich. English is rhyme poor. Translating Dante to English demands a different form. Different forms work in different contexts.

Cooking with all-local ingredients is like writing ottava rima in Italian. It works, bringing resonance to what we create. Forcing the all-local form on the beverage program would be like forcing ottava rima on English. It’s a straightjacket. The product suffers. We don’t do it.

We offer locally made brews, including beer, cider, mead, and kombucha. Our natural wine, organically grown and wild-fermented, is mostly French and Italian. We buy ethically produced coffee and tea from The Speckled Ax in Portland and Little Red Cup in Brunswick. Our spirits are distilled from Maine to the Hudson Valley, New York. Our cocktails combine these elements with otherwise all-local ingredients. Citrus and cane sugar are out, rhubarb and honey are in. The form is a springboard for surprising, delicious products, geared to pair with the liveliness of our food, which so often incorporates elements that are wild, fermented, raw.

I didn’t always think about form for Vinland’s drinks program. But one day, in the months leading up to opening day, my friend Hugh Redford challenged me. We’d been meeting for months, brainstorming and testing cocktails (tough job). One day, amid the mixing and tasting, Hugh said, “Why not use all-local booze?” It was a bold idea. No Campari? But I couldn’t deny that our previously imagined program suddenly seemed like a missed opportunity, a mere afterthought. Could Vinland afford to miss an opportunity to be daring, creative, unique? To more thoroughly showcase and support small businesses in Portland and New England? How could we?

The seed was planted. Now our drinks program had a form. Yes, we would have wine and beer, coffee and tea. I wouldn’t want a restaurant without them, and neither would you. The drinks program wouldn’t be all local, but it would be as local as possible without denying ourselves the drinks we love. We’d source everything from local producers; small, passionate distributors; organic farmers; or natural winemakers.

Enter Alex. Alex Winthrop was Vinland’s original bar manager, a position he held for nearly two years before training and then handing the reins to his capable successor, Timm Bielec. Alex and I looked to the wild. He harvested chokecherries after his lobster boat shifts in Harpswell, while I foraged wild bay laurel at Willard Beach.

A friend with a black walnut tree offered us his harvest, and Alex studied the tradition of making a digestive liqueur called nocino with green walnut fruit. We pulled together a dizzying array of wild and cultivated herbs, fruits, fungus, and roots. Soon, the Amore Amaro was born, and it’s been reborn each year since, with an ever growing array of ingredients. It’s a signature Vinland product and every bit a product of our form.

Alex looked to the apothecary tradition as inspiration. Timm has only heightened the focus on medicinals, including fungi like chaga and reishi, roots like ashwagandha and turmeric. You see, Timm is a magician. “There are those who call him… Timm.” Joking aside, from his years of deep study of spirituality, Timm brings a palpable awareness of how the properties of the ingredients, as well as the processes we employ, affect us on the level of spirit, as well as body. Sure, it’s boozy and fun. But is it crazy to also design cocktails that are physically and spiritually healthful? From Chartreuse to Fernet, that’s how the great liqueurs of Europe were born.

Timm Bielec garnishes a Pine Gimlet, one of Vinland’s cocktails, with white pine needles. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

The Vinland wine list owes everything to a mad Belgian in Sicily. Seven years ago, my oldest friend, Adam Eisenberg, brought me a bottle of cloudy, barely red wine called “Contadino,” Italian for “peasant farmer.” It was my introduction to the wines of Frank Cornelissen, and it changed my life. It was strange, vital, compelling, wine meets kombucha, but also bright and supple. This was real wine, and all the dull, manufactured wines I’d once grudgingly accepted were dead to me. I was in love.

Just after we opened, Frank’s importer, Zev Rovine, came to Vinland to host our first wine dinner. After a fun and boozy dinner, he startled me by pulling out a pen and saying, “David, I don’t want to be an (expletive), but your list isn’t all organic. Let’s go through it. We’ll have to open another bottle.” So we cracked a Chenin from Jean-Pierre Robinot, and went to work. Overnight, half the list was gone, either not wild fermented, heavy on sulfur, or “industrial organic.” At 3 a.m., a tipsy Zev sabered a bottle of Peteux Blanc from Domaine Octavin after only nine or 10 knocks with a knife. The list was reborn.

They say that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings might set off a tornado, weeks later, across the globe. Every decision sets in motion unimaginable consequences. But trust in this: when we approach everyday questions as opportunities for innovation, consciously veering off well-trodden paths, making decisions shaped by commitments rather than defaulting to habit, we unleash an army of butterflies. I’m biased, but Vinland’s cocktails are truly unique, and the all-natural wine list has few parallels. Are we an all-local restaurant? You bet we’re not. But those semi-local drinks and non-local wines are products of the land, of the real passion of real people. They complement the all-local food while furthering the mission. It’s no afterthought. It’s an equal partner in this Vinland cuisine.

Pine Gimlet

Recipe from Vinland chef/proprietor David Levi. Find a recipe for Condensed Yogurt Whey with our May 24, 2017 Bread & Butter column.

Handful of white pine needles


Condensed Yogurt Whey (or lemon)

Barr Hill Gin

Set aside a few white pine needles for garnish, then place the remainder in a pan with dense, honey-sweetened yogurt whey (or lemon-water) and keep at a low simmer until strong, with balanced sweetness and sourness, about 1 hour. Chill and mix to taste with Barr Hill Gin. Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with the reserved fresh white pine needles.

]]> 0 Bielec, the bar manager at Vinland, makes a Pine Gimlet on Saturday.Tue, 13 Jun 2017 18:23:07 +0000
The title says it all: ‘Spanish Made Simple: Foolproof Spanish Recipes for Everyday’ Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 “Spanish Made Simple: Foolproof Spanish Recipes for Everyday.” By Omar Allibhoy. Quadrille. 208 pages. $24.99

When we hosted an exchange student from Kyrgyzstan for a few months this past year I never thought to try and make any meals from her culture. She liked all things American, especially the food. But this August an exchange student from Madrid, Spain, will come to live with our family for the school year, and with the help of “Spanish Made Simple, Foolproof Spanish Recipes for Everyday,” I’m hoping to expand my repertoire and make some Spanish meals. While total immersion in another culture includes food, a familiar meal once in awhile can be comforting to a teenager far from home.

The cookbook was written by Omar Allibhoy, a Spanish chef and a celebrity of sorts in England where he is known as the “Antonio Banderas of cooking.” (He got the name from no less a personage than celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.) Allibhoy has seven Tapas Revolution Bars & Restaurants across the United Kingdom. Americans often use “tapas” as shorthand for appetizers or small plates, but in Spain tapas are more than that – they are an integral part of the culture and social life, and they vary widely by region. “Spanish Made Simple” offers recipes for tapas, as well as all sorts of other Spanish food, with an emphasis, as the title declares, on quick and simple.

The cookbook, a hardcover, is divided into nine sections beginning with De Aperitivo, translated as “Nibbles,” and ending with Postres y Dulces, or “Desserts and Sweet Treats.” In between are chapters for meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, salads, soups and rice. Not every recipe has a corresponding picture, but plenty do – artsy photos of colorful food in ceramic bowls and plates set on rustic wooden tables. Allibhoy prefaces every recipe with a personal note describing the dish, his experience with the meal, or tips on serving it. The recipes range: There are typical tapas, such as patatas bravas; Spanish staples, such as paella; and more unusual dishes, like chilled Gazpacho de Sandia, a gazpacho that blends watermelon in with the more familiar tomatoes.

I was leafing through the pages to pick a test recipe, still just in the Nibbles section when Empanadillas de Queso y Espinaca piqued my interest. Allibhoy writes that he grew up eating these – in English they are Pastry Parcels Filled with Spinach, Raisins and Goat Cheese – but that they are traditionally filled with tuna, red peppers and tomato. He writes that this vegetarian version is popular in his restaurants. The combination of ingredients, notably the garlic and raisins, makes for a tasty burst of flavor. After you roll out the dough – which, by the way, is the easiest dough recipe I ever made – the recipe instructs you to cut as many circles as you can using a saucer as a template. I used a five-inch biscuit cutter, which worked well. For the pastries to turn crispy it took me 15-18 minutes, longer than the given time of 10 minutes. The filled pastries were a big hit, however; the kids already have ideas for what they would prefer inside these hand pies. If the goal of “Spanish Made Simple” is to get more people to eat Spanish food by providing easy-to-make recipes, it’s already a success in my house, with the added bonus of getting more cooks in the kitchen. ¡Buen provecho!

Empanadillas de Queso y Espinaca (Pastry Parcels Filled with Spinach, Raisins and Goat Cheese)

Serves 8 as a tapa


75 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil

175 g (11/3 cups) all-purpose flour

A pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten


5 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons raisins

200 g (scant 4 cups) baby spinach

50 g (2 ounces) goat cheese

A pinch of salt

A pinch of white pepper

2 tablespoons heavy cream

To make the dough, pour the oil and 75ml (1/3 cup) of water into a saucepan over a high heat and bring to the boil. Take off heat and add the flour and salt, stirring vigorously for about 1 minute, until fully mixed. Allow to cool a little, then knead for 1 minute. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick and cut out as many circles as you can using a saucer as a template. Re-roll the scraps to make more circles. Set aside.

Pour the olive oil for the filling into a large frying pan and gently fry the onion over medium heat for a good 20 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and raisins and fry with the onion for a further 5 minutes. Add the spinach, crumble in the goat cheese and season with the salt and pepper. Let it all wilt and melt for a couple of minutes and then add the cream. Don’t leave it over the heat for longer than 2 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so that it becomes easier to handle.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/ 400 degrees F/ gas mark 6.

Spread the pastry discs over the worktop and add a tablespoon of the filling to each one. Brush all around the edges with the beaten egg, then fold each one over to make semi-circles. Use a fork to press the edges together to seal. Brush each empanadilla with more egg and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden and crispy.

]]> 0, 13 Jun 2017 18:11:59 +0000
Grilled salmon shines with miso and lime juice Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Salmon season has arrived, and the markets are brimming with gorgeous wild varieties like King Salmon and Coho, which are perfect for grilling, poaching or even simply cooking in a lightly-oiled pan.

With summer here, fire up the barbecue and master the grilled salmon – it’s an incredibly versatile blank canvas that you can use in everything from light salads to heady curries to spicy tacos. And grilling salmon is quite easy, as long as you follow the rule to pull it off the grill just a minute before you think it’s actually done.

Coat salmon fillets with a little oil, salt and pepper, and cook until the salmon is almost opaque; “cook until flaky” is bad advice that will leave your salmon overcooked and strong-flavored.

One of our summertime favorites is Easy Summer Miso Salmon, which pairs miso with refreshing lime juice to create something between a creamy sauce and a citrus vinaigrette.

Miso, or fermented soy bean paste, adds a ton of savory flavor (“umami”) and depth, while the lime juice keeps the recipe bright and summery. There’s garlic and ginger for flavor, but the shallot keeps the flavor more Californian than Asian, although you could certainly add soy sauce, Mirin (Japanese wine) and chopped cilantro if you wanted to. Serve with brown rice, grilled veggies or a bunch of vegetable “noodles” for a filling and healthy summer supper.

Miso paste comes in various colors, with white and yellow being the mildest varieties, and perhaps the most widely available ones at the local supermarket.

Keep a container of miso in the fridge (it lasts for months), and you can try adding a spoonful to soups, stews, dressings and dips, or even just stir it into a cup of boiling water and add a splash of soy sauce and rice vinegar for a warming quick broth.

Miso is low in calories, and offers a little protein and a smattering of minerals, including sodium, so you won’t likely need additional salt when using miso paste. Try this week’s recipe and add two new tools to your repertoire: grilled salmon and miso.


Servings: 6


11/2 pounds wild Alaskan salmon fillet, such as King or Coho

1 teaspoon neutral oil, like olive or grapeseed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


1 tablespoon olive oil

2 shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger

3 tablespoons white miso paste

1 teaspoon raw honey

1/4 cup lime juice (or lemon juice)

3-4 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the grill to medium and lightly oil the grates. Rub the salmon all over with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cook the salmon flesh side down first, (skin side up), until almost cooked through, about 7-10 minutes total, flipping halfway through. (Internal temperature will be about 140 F, and it will rise to 145 F as it rests.)

Meanwhile, make the sauce (or can be made in advance): heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small saute pan and cook the shallots until tender, about three minutes. (Sprinkle with a little splash of water if needed to keep shallots from browning.) Add the ginger and garlic and cook another minute. Add the miso paste and mix with a wooden spoon for another minute or two, or until very fragrant and the miso paste begins to deepen a little in color. Remove from heat, cool a minute, and then place in the blender with the honey, lime juice, water, mustard and black pepper and blend until smooth. Add extra water if needed. Spoon the miso sauce onto the hot salmon and serve with brown rice or veggies.

Chef’s Note: The sauce can be made into a salad dressing by thinning with more water and lime juice.

]]> 0, 13 Jun 2017 17:29:39 +0000
Starving for Father’s Day food ideas? We’ve got some Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Father’s Day can be a challenge.

How many grilling tools does one man need?

Sure, gift cards to his favorite restaurant are nice, but they can seem a little impersonal, and besides – haven’t you done that a million times before?

My own foodie father is approaching 90 years old, so I have been through five decades of Father’s Days and have done it all: restaurant gift certificates, beer brewing kits, bottles of good gin, lobsters flown in to Tennessee, where he lives, as a surprise. If your father appreciates good food and drink and lives in Maine, and you are struggling to come up with a gift, consult my list of ideas. If my own father lived here, these are the things he would want to do. (He loves beer, and he loves oysters. Easy peasy in a state crawling with breweries and bivalves.)

Whatever you do, do something. Your dad won’t be around forever; show him you love him now.


Even better, make your destination a surprise.

Point the station wagon toward Union and head north on U.S. Route 1 to the annual Father’s Day party jointly thrown by Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery and Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery.

Start at Savage Oakes, where you can grab a plate of farm-raised beef and pork barbecue and sample (and buy) artisan cheeses from State of Maine Cheese Co., Coppertail Farm, and the ME Water Buffalo Co.

Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegars will be there, and Stone Fox Creamery will be making ice cream. Savage Oakes will offer wine, local beer and signature cocktails. The Maine Antique Tractor Club will have lots of its equipment on display, sure to delight machinery-mad dads everywhere.

Next, drive 5 miles through the countryside to Sweetgrass Farm Winery, where Appleton Creamery will be sampling and selling its award-winning goat cheeses. Bring lawn chairs: At 2 p.m. Lauren Crosby will sing songs from her new album, “Back River Beauties.” (Back River also happens to be the name of Sweetgrass’ excellent gin.)

Goat cheese from Appleton Creamery. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

On your way home, stop at Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro for a slice of pie. It’s right at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 220, the road to Union. How convenient!

WHERE: Savage Oakes Vineyard and Winery, 174 Barret Hill Road, and Sweetgrass Farm Winery, 347 Carroll Road, both in Union

WHEN: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: At Savage Oakes, admission is free, but barbecue, drinks, beer and glasses of wine will be individually priced. The wine tasting costs $3. Admission is also free at Sweetgrass Farm. A $5 tasting fee (includes the glass) applies for wine and spirits tastings. The concert is free.



Does your father love food, but doesn’t know how to cook? Would it be helpful to have a chef in the kitchen to teach him (and maybe you)?

Patty Roche to the rescue. Roche, an instructor at the Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School in York, will be teaching a Father’s Day cooking class called “Man of the Hour” on Sunday. She’ll teach both of you how to prepare an elegant dinner menu, then you’ll get to eat it.

The menu starts with a watermelon, cucumber and feta salad. The entrée is beef Wellington with spinach, blue cheese and wild mushrooms. Sides are red bliss mashed potatoes with mascarpone and fresh herb butter, and roasted asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and served with grilled lemons. And for dessert? A Texas sheet cake sundae with whipped cream, dark chocolate sea salt caramel sauce and toasted pecans.

WHERE: Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School, York

WHEN: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

HOW MUCH: $65 per person


If your father is interested in both food and world affairs, delay your Father’s Day celebration by two days and take him to the World Refugee Day Cooking Class and Dinner. Chef Lindsay Sterling and Parivash Rohani, a refugee from Iran, will lead the class, cooking chicken with pomegranate-walnut sauce with saffron rice and mint-cucumber salad.

“We all cook together,” Sterling said. “People really like participating, and it’s really fun socially. It’s a good way to meet other people.”

Afterward, the class sits down together for a candlelit dinner and a discussion about different ways to help refugees.

“I know I’m not the only one that feels completely heartbroken when I read the newspaper about what’s happening to people in so many countries around the world,” Sterling said. “This dinner was an opportunity for me to brainstorm with people and come prepared with information about ways people can help.”

If that class doesn’t fit your schedule, Sterling will teach at least one “Immigrant Kitchen” class a month through the fall, winter and spring. Buy a gift certificate at, and she will tuck it into a Father’s Day card and mail it to your father for you.

WHERE: Fork Food Lab, 72 Parris St., Portland

WHEN: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday

HOW MUCH: $43.75 per person



If your dad loves oysters, drive him up the coast to oyster nirvana – the Damariscotta River, where millions of Maine’s delectable oysters are grown. Damariscotta River Cruises is offering a Father’s Day special: Fathers sail free when accompanied by a paying guest.

The cruise is the Oyster Farms & Seal Watching Tour, a two-hour excursion that will take you halfway down the river to view seven oyster farms. While you’re learning about the state’s oyster industry, you can buy dad local oysters from the on-board raw bar.

“The scenery is great, the setting’s great,” said Dana Morse, a Maine Sea Grant researcher who works on shellfish aquaculture at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center in Walpole. “The boat’s really comfortable, and the people that operate it – Chip and Olga – they’re just great hosts. They know a lot about the river. They know a lot about the oyster farming, for sure, and they make it fun. I’ve been on that tour a couple of times, and it’s a blast.”

If you want more oysters and fewer seals, plenty of other cruise options begin in July – just buy the tickets and put them in a Father’s Day card. The Oyster, Wine and Champagne Tasting Cruise costs $60 and comes with a wine expert on board. The company also runs an Oyster, Wine and Sake Tasting Cruise. A $55 Beer and Oyster Tasting Tour features Oxbow Brewing Co., and you’ll learn how to shuck oysters and pair them with beer.

WHERE: Damariscotta River Cruises, 47 Main St., Damariscotta

WHEN: Father’s Day cruise sails at 2 p.m. Sunday (Rain date: June 25)

HOW MUCH: Fathers sail free, other adults pay $30 and tickets for children under 12 are $15.



I know from personal experience (nephew, brother-in-law) plenty of men who love to don a lobsterman’s apron, pull up traps and become a lobsterman for a day. They can do so on a Lucky Catch cruise. Three daily cruises run in summer – one takes you to Portland Head Light, one to Halfway Rock to watch seals, and one to Whitehead Cliff – and all involve pulling lobster traps and learning about the crustaceans. During the one-and-a-half-hour cruise, you’ll learn how to pull up a trap, and band lobster claws without getting your fingers pinched off. You’ll be instructed on the state’s lobster regulations and then put that knowledge to the test, measuring the lobsters you catch and throwing back those that are too small to keep. Lucky Catch experts will teach you about the lobsters’ life cycle and by the time you’re back on land, you’ll be able to tell a male from a female.

Lucky Catch lobster cruise Capt. Dave Laliberte holds a freshly caught lobster in June 2016. Staff photo by Carl D. Walsh

At the end of the cruise you can buy any lobster you caught at wholesale price and either take it home or have it cooked for you at the Portland Lobster Co.

Another fun part of this cruise, if you’re a local, is meeting tourists and seeing them enjoy the life and landscape we too often take for granted. There’s nothing like watching the reaction of a 5-year-old the first time he or she comes face to face with Maine’s favorite wiggly food – and dad may enjoy that pleasure as much as you.

WHERE: Long Wharf, 170 Commercial St., Portland

WHEN: Four to five tours each day, including Father’s Day

HOW MUCH: $35 for adults

INFO: or at Long Wharf


Many local craft brewers offer tastings and tours of their facilities, and they always have plenty of swag for sale.

Say, for instance, your dad’s favorite brewery is Allagash. Sign him up for a free tour at the Portland brewery, followed by a free tasting. Allagash offers four 3-ounce pours to anyone who visits, and the beers change every day, including some you can only get at the brewery.

Since the brewery tours and tastings are free, save your money to spend on a cap or T-shirt. Allagash even sells their logo on bow ties, belt buckles, socks, soap (yes, soap made with beer), dog leashes, and a cookbook. If Dad is not into swag, buy him a few six packs.

If Allagash is not your dad’s favorite, drive up to Newcastle to visit Oxbow Brewing Co.’s brewery in the woods. Or challenge him to a game of corn hole at Rising Tide Brewing at 103 Fox St. in Portland, where you can take a tour, then treat him to lunch from the Fishin’ Ships food truck while you listen to live music from Native Isles.

WHERE: Most Maine breweries offer tours. The Allagash tour is at 50 Industrial Way, Portland

WHEN: Tours at Allagash are offered every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. They last about an hour.

HOW MUCH: Tours and tastings are free at Allagash.

INFO: or 800-330-5385


If your dad’s a free spirit who doesn’t like adhering to schedules, pack a picnic lunch and head out to one of Maine’s beautiful state parks. The parks are free on Father’s Day, starting at 9 a.m., for anyone with a Maine license plate.

William Wordsworth called picnics “rustic dinners on the cool green ground.” The nice thing about a picnic is it can be ultra casual, or you can dress it up with a few amenities from home – flowers, a tablecloth and real silverware. Since this is dad’s day, try to stock up on his favorite foods, or special items he loves but doesn’t buy for himself very often. Pay a visit to The Cheese Iron in Scarborough and pick out an array of fancy cheeses and charcuterie. Strawberries may be ready for picking this weekend, too. Or visit your favorite gourmet sandwich shop and let them do the sandwich prep.

Is your father the nostalgic sort? If he pines for the fried chicken his grandmother made, see if anyone in the family can give you instructions and surprise him with a taste of his childhood.

Don’t forget to bring along a frisbee, a backgammon board, or a good book.

WHERE: Maine’s state parks, although not all are participating – Baxter State Park and Scarborough Beach State Park are among a handful of parks that will still be charging fees.

WHEN: Sunday




How about a leisurely Father’s Day walk through the Old Port, sampling and learning about whiskey from experts you meet at four stops along your route?

A whiskey and cocktail walk takes place in the Old Port on Sunday – or maybe take dad on a Sunset Wine Sail on Casco Bay. Staff photo by John Patriquin

On Sunday, Erica Archer of Wine Wise will lead a tasting and walking tour where you and dad will learn about rye, bourbon, Scotch and Irish whiskey. You’ll get tasting tips and learn how to read labels. Bartenders will teach you a few tricks and whip up a classic Manhattan or other whiskey-based cocktail – you’ll learn how to mix four drinks in all, and the cocktails will be paired with food.

If that class sells out, or your dad is more of a wine guy, Archer, who is a sommelier, is also leading a two-hour Sunset Wine Sail on emerging Spanish wines that leaves from the Maine State Pier Sunday at 6 p.m. You’ll sail on the 74-foot sailboat Frances and get gorgeous views of Casco Bay while simultaneously taking a wine class. Tickets cost $75 at

WHERE: Ticket holders for the Whiskey & the Cocktail Walk will be advised where to meet for the first stop of the tour.

WHEN: 2:45-5 p.m. Sunday



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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 cheese from Appleton Creamery.Tue, 13 Jun 2017 23:53:12 +0000
Mushrooms reach pinnacle browned in butter, spiked with sherry, cradled in crust Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Raw is a brilliant state for lettuce, for talent, for truth. Not so much for mushrooms.

Uncooked, the mushroom is edible, but barely. It offers a spongy bite of bland. How the naked mushroom sneaked onto the salad plate – and why – remains a mystery.

Hunched and humble, the mushroom needs coaxing. Browned in butter, spiked with sherry and cradled in a crisp crust, it reveals its tangle of tastes: woodsy, wild and worth the wait.


Makes: 8 servings

1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

1/2 pound plain mushrooms, such as white button and cremini, cleaned, chopped

1/2 pound fancy mushrooms, such as oyster, shiitake and maitake, cleaned, chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1/4 cup sherry

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese

Truffle salt, if you have it

1. Roll: On a lightly floured surface, roll out chilled tart pastry to about 1/8-inch thin, and fit into an 8-by-10-inch rectangular (or 10-inch round) tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim edges. Prick with a fork. Line with foil. Freeze, 1 hour.

2. Soak: Douse dried mushrooms with hot water. Let soak, 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and chop.

3. Brown: Heat oil and butter in a wide skillet over medium. Add shallots and cook, 2 minutes. Add both types of fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until mushrooms turn soft and fragrant and many have browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme and rehydrated mushrooms; cook, 30 seconds. Turn up heat, pour in sherry and scrape up browned bits from the pan bottom. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

4. Mix: Whisk together yolks and cream in a large bowl. Stir in cheese and cooled mushrooms.

5. Bake: Set frozen tart shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a 400-degree oven and bake until shell begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Peel off foil. Scrape in mushroom filling. Bake until filling has set, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with truffle salt. Enjoy warm.

CRISP TART PASTRY: In the food processor, buzz together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup corn flour and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Drop in 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut up. Pulse until largest lumps are the size of peas. Pour in ice-cold water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and pulse until dough clumps. Pat pastry into a rectangle, wrap in waxed paper and chill, 1 hour.

]]> 0, 13 Jun 2017 17:57:42 +0000
Mainely Custard expanding in southern Maine Tue, 13 Jun 2017 22:27:54 +0000 Mainely Custard, a Freeport institution known for its ultra-creamy frozen custard (that’s ice cream with eggs) and soft serve, will open a second shop in Kennebunk in July, co-owner Rebecca Gagnon said.

The date is still to be determined, but the location will be 2 Morning Walk Lane in Kennebunk, a mini-plaza that includes art galleries.

“We have a target date, but we are not telling anyone that because we are afraid we might not make it,” Gagnon said. “Because we just closed on Friday with the property so it is kind of a mad scramble to get all the certificates.”

Gagnon has owned Mainely Custard on Route 1 with her parents, Lisa and Jim, since 2015, although she worked at the ice cream and adjacent Classic Cookout for about eight years with the previous owners, Deb and Roger Bowdoin. She said the Gagnons started considering other locations last winter and fell in love with the Kennbunk location.

They’ll be bringing the daily flavors and eggy frozen custard with them – chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, their best-seller – as well as the soft-serve, which gets its richness from a 10 percent milk-fat milk, she said. In the future, they may also sell pizza. “But that is in the very far future,” Gagnon said.

– Mary Pols

]]> 0 Tue, 13 Jun 2017 18:37:41 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Top of the East has promise, but its views outshine dining Sun, 11 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 When it opened 90 years ago this week, it’s a safe bet that nobody expected Portland’s Eastland Hotel to become famous for two things: a red-lettered sign punching its cocky closed caption through the city’s skyline, and an ironically tenuous sense of its own identity.

The historic Arts District hotel, now the Westin Portland Harborview, has had some ups and a generous share of downs. But through several tough decades, it found a way to survive by aligning with a Zsa Zsa-esque string of partners. Once it was a Sheraton, later a Sonesta, a Radisson, and today it is part of the Starwood group. Change is as much a part of the hotel’s DNA as its iconic sign.

It also never seems to stop. As recently as four years ago, the rooftop lounge, Top of the East, was gutted and remodeled, losing elderly furnishings while adding two times the square footage and new floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the town. With chill-out music playing overhead, a gargantuan wall-mounted television and filament-style LED Edison bulbs mounted naked in a grid pattern across the ceiling, the room feels nothing like it must have when it opened in 1963.

But even with some welcome updates, it’s still not clear exactly what the space wants to be. Among the satin pillows and blocky, modern sofas are round, tempered glass tables and inexpensive-looking rectangular four-tops that resemble a style of bland, indestructible conference center decor that was popular 20 years ago. A chrome-rimmed communal table looks as if it was stolen from the set of an ’80s sitcom. The view may be even more panoramic than before, but the room does not seem to understand its own era.

The cocktail list doesn’t help. With a focus on what Brian Anderson, executive chef and director of food and beverage for the hotel, describes as “classic cocktails in a modern lounge with a 1960s, 1970s feel,” the drinks seem as mismatched as the interior design. The High Street Sidecar ($13) – made with rum in place of cognac, along with Grand Marnier and lime juice – is a sweet-tart pleasure to drink, even though the substitution actually makes it a daiquiri. Then there’s the Cynar margarita ($15), a drink that tweaks tradition with bitter, artichoke-based Italian amaro. It’s a classy, layered cocktail perfect for slow-sipping: totally on-trend for 2017, yet at odds with the classic theme of the list.

The menu, while generally focused on small, shareable plates with just a few larger-format options, further confuses any sense of cohesion. There are contemporary appetizers like weirdly sweet-tasting chipotle-spiced deviled eggs ($11), enriched with crème fraîche and served in an indented, egg carton-like plate that makes retrieving them a slippery chore. Or dry, oversized and oversalted bacon meatloaf sliders ($14) on panini-pressed brioche buns. If you weren’t thirsty enough to order one of the lounge’s pricey cocktails when you walked in, a few bites of either of these dishes will solve that problem.

These issues echo many of those identified in 2011, in a three-star review in this paper. Our then-reviewer praised some of the cocktails, but flagged the lack of balance and technique in many of what she described as “underwhelming choices” among the overpriced, lackluster small plates.

Shift to the larger dishes on offer today, though, and you start to see Top of the East’s promise. The seared yellowfin tuna entrée ($23) turns out to be a chilled, artfully deconstructed salade niçoise, with bitter frisée, blanched asparagus tips and sushi-grade tuna sourced from Harbor Fish Market. It’s all brought together by a lively tomato vinaigrette striped onto the plate with heavy impasto. The dish looks and tastes like the kind of plate you’d expect to be served on the rooftop of a swank historic hotel.

The 16-hour short rib ($19) is even better. Anderson and his team sear the beef and cook it slowly at 220 degrees F for just shy of a full day, then reduce the juices into a thick glaze and serve the rib over roasted root vegetables. “It’s the same concept as a pot roast,” Anderson said. But sprinkled with a crunchy, savory rosemary breadcrumb topping and plated with a bittersweet tangle of microgreens, this tender roast brings together high and low elements with deftness and finesse.

The classy Cynar margarita. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Nevertheless, Top of the East struggles to maintain an aura of sophistication in more than just fits and starts. I visited twice over the past month. On the first visit, during a clear night when you could sit and watch what seemed like every wharf and jetty in the harbor, the lounge was jumping and service was brusque. “If you really have to sit by a window, you can just push the dirty glasses to the side, and someone will probably come get them,” a server told me. On another visit, a foggy evening when I had to squint to make out the contours of Robert Indiana’s “Seven” sculpture across the street, things were a lot quieter. Yet an unoccupied neighboring table sat with dirty glasses and dishes uncleared for more than half an hour.

Those new LED bulbs, while trendy and warm, cause a few problems of their own. The color value of the light washes out food, making greens look muted and reds look brown; even with intelligent, creative plating, dishes never look as good as they should. The lights also produce a distracting high-frequency flicker. It’s not bad enough to cause a Pokémon cartoon seizure, but it does create a strobing effect you can see when you move your hands. And when booze is in the picture, fewer unsettling visuals are always best.

It’s almost as if there’s a conspiracy afoot to encourage patrons to look out the windows and ignore what’s inside Top of the East: décor, service and much of the menu. That stratagem works when it’s nice outside, but what happens when the weather does not cooperate? The solid cocktails are a good place to start, but it’s clear that stronger cooking is where the restaurant’s next evolution needs to be. Brian Anderson said it himself when describing the how he would like to see things progress: “We don’t want to overwhelm Top of the East with food, and we don’t want to make food the focus, but we do want it to be able to stand up next to the drinks.” Right now, that mission remains only half-accomplished, but it’s a change worth making.

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 artful seared yellowfin tuna entrée.Mon, 12 Jun 2017 05:32:53 +0000
Specialty doughnut shop opens in Monument Square with 400 giveaways Thu, 08 Jun 2017 19:38:39 +0000 Ari Modugno and Melissa Selvon hadn’t slept in two days, but they woke up Thursday morning and made more than 400 doughnuts. Then they gave them all away.

Modugno and Selvon are the owners of HiFi Donuts, the shop that opened Thursday in Portland’s Monument Square, in the site previously occupied by Hero, a sandwich shop.

Casey Kelley works behind the counter Friday morning at HiFi Donuts. Staff photo by Julia McCue

Modugno is a Portland resident and Selvon is a recent transplant. The couple met when they were managers at the Dandee Donut Factory, which has several locations in Massachusetts and Florida. They fell in love and decided to open their own shop together.

Modugno said HiFi sells three kinds of doughnuts: French crullers; Biere, a yeast-raised doughnut made with a sourdough starter “which is something she and I invented together;” and Sour Cream Cake, which he described as “a traditional, old-fashioned doughnut.”

“It’s very rich and moist,” he said, “and it’s very crackly and crunchy on the outside.”

The doughnuts sell for $2 apiece, or three plus a coffee for $6. Seven doughnuts cost $11, and a baker’s dozen goes for $22.

HiFi also sells coffee, chai, tea and hot chocolate. Modugno said they spent months researching coffee beans and decided to sell a Colombian mild- to medium-roast from George Howell, one of the pioneers of specialty coffee in the United States, based in Acton, Massachusetts.

“We also do an espresso roast through him, which is more medium-bodied,” Modugno said. “He buys straight from the farm, and he micro roasts in Massachusetts and has very limited distribution. We might be the first shop in Portland with George Howell.”

HiFi is open 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 30 City Center.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, 09 Jun 2017 10:27:26 +0000
When can you start picking strawberries? Wed, 07 Jun 2017 17:22:34 +0000 Strawberry farmers say all of the recent rain in southern Maine probably won’t harm their crops, but the cool weather could make the strawberry harvest late this year.

“For us, it looks like a good crop year,” said Bill Bamford of Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth. “There are lots of blossoms. Some of our very early ones, we’ve got some small berries and it looks like a good crop, but it’s certainly not going to be early.”

Earl Bunting, who grows strawberries at Dole’s Orchard in Limington, said the farm normally opens to pickers around June 15, and the latest it’s ever opened is June 26. This year, he said, “I think we’re going to be close to that 26 number.”

His plants started blooming around May 18-20, and it takes about 30 days for an open flower to become a ripe berry.

“This cool weather has got to be slowing them down,” Bunting said. “It’s not so much the rain, it’s the cold.”

The future of the crop will depend a lot on whether it keeps raining, and how much it warms up.

“If the rain continues, we’re going to have a pretty mushy strawberry season,” said Caitlin Jordan of Alewive’s Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth.

Farmers are using more fungicides on their berries this year because of the rain. Without it, Bunting said, the strawberries could potentially become “little gray fuzz balls.”

The National Weather Service in Gray is forecasting mostly sunny skies for the rest of the week, except for some scattered showers Friday and Saturday. A significant warm-up is expected beginning Sunday and continuing into next week.

“I’m hearing 80 degrees next week,” Bamford said. “If we get a string of weather that was warmer than average and it stayed warm at night, so they’re growing 24 hours a day rather than 12 hours a day, we could play catch-up pretty quick. It’s the nature of the beast.”

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Patriquin/StaffPhotographer. Monday June 24,2013. Pick your own strawberries have started at Maxwell's Farm in Cape Elizabeth where this year's crop should last for up to three weeks.Wed, 07 Jun 2017 19:53:37 +0000
Those who eat meat at home increasingly like to order vegan Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 For 10 years, Vanessa Helmick worked as a waitress and listened patiently whenever diners reeled off long lists of needed alterations to menu items. She doesn’t want to be that customer.

“I don’t like being the person who modifies the dish so much that it annoys the chef,” said Helmick, who lives in Portland.

But here’s the rub: She’s allergic to dairy, and even when she carefully questions wait staff about any milk lurking in a dish, too often she ends up eating some forgotten drops, maybe hidden in the sauce or slipped into the salad dressing, and paying the price afterwards.

As a result Helmick, who is an omnivore, told me she is “more comfortable going to a vegan restaurant.” In Maine, which has only a handful of all-vegan restaurants, she frequents veg-friendly eateries and orders vegan dishes, which never contain dairy products.

Turns out Helmick isn’t the only non-vegan ordering vegan restaurant dishes.

According to the most recent Harris Poll commissioned in 2016 by the Vegetarian Resource Group, 37 percent of Americans regularly order vegan and vegetarian meals when dining out. This is striking since the same poll found only 3.3 percent of Americans are full-time vegetarians and vegans.

The Northeast – and presumably Maine although the survey wasn’t broken down by state – is home to the country’s highest concentration of full-time vegetarians, clocking in at 5.4 percent of the population, according to the survey. A whopping 42 percent of people in the Northeast report regularly ordering vegan and vegetarian meals at restaurants.

For years, chefs and restaurant owners across Maine have told me how their vegan dishes are being snapped up by meat-eating customers. So I decided to investigate further. What I discovered is a sizable group of people who eat meat at home but order vegan meals when they dine out.

Lelia Zayed is a member of this tribe who, like Helmick, has a dairy allergy. She also doesn’t like asking for menu modifications and regularly orders vegan dishes.

“We have so many great kitchens in this town,” said Zayed, who lives in Portland, “and I like to experience a dish exactly as the chef intended. With a dairy allergy, that can be tough to do. When I order vegan options – because they were designed to be dairy-free – I experience the complete dish just as it was meant to be enjoyed.”

Judy Paolini, who lives on Long Island in Casco Bay, said she doesn’t mind asking for simple modifications – such as leaving off the sauce, cheese or mayonnaise – but the results are often “really dry” and she regrets missing the “full experience” of the menu item. She prefers ordering vegan. Paolini, who is lactose intolerant, has avoided dairy for 42 years, but she said it has only been in the last 10 years that ordering vegan has become a regular option for people like her. “If it says ‘vegan’ next to it, I’ll order it,” she said.

Suzanne Madore of Saco doesn’t have a dairy allergy but she too regularly orders vegan dishes in local restaurants.

“I’ll usually order vegan because other options on the menu feel too heavy or too much,” Madore said. “Often, the vegan option just sounds delicious, and it often is. I’m also not a meat eater that demands meat and dairy at every meal.”

Jenna Smith of Portland, who describes herself as “a meat-loving omnivore,” orders vegan when dining out because her family of four is committed to eating meat only from local, organic farms and farmers they know.

“Occasionally we find ourselves at a farm-to-table restaurant that has local meat on the menu,” Smith said. “I certainly consider it. But I’m so comfortable ordering vegan meals when out that I just stick with it.”

The Vegan Meltaway, a vegan grilled cheese filled with tomatoes and caramelized onions at Silly’s in Portland. Staff photo by Derek Davis

One veg-friendly restaurant whose owners have thought a lot about the trend is El El Frijoles, a burrito spot in Sargentville. Chef Michele Levesque said in the past four years the number of customers ordering vegan and vegetarian dishes has doubled. “I don’t think they’re hardcore vegetarians at home,” Levesque said, “but when they eat out, they’re concerned about meat and the quality of meat.”

Michael Rossney, who owns El El Frijoles with Levesque, said the restaurant attracts the sort of customer who understands the realities of modern food production.

“A lot of people ask, ‘Where does your meat come from?’ ” Rossney said. He explains that their pork comes from a cooperative farm in Quebec and the chicken is antibiotic-free but “comes from away and is mass-produced.”

At this point, Rossney said, about half of those who ask “are happy to have the Quebec pork” and the other half “go ahead and order one of the vegetarian options.”

Work is gearing up for the end of mud season and the return of full food service later this month at the four lodges that make up the Maine Huts & Trails network in western Maine. Operations manager Sarah Pine anticipates her staff will once again accommodate hikers who eat meat at home but opt for vegan meals while on the trail. Pine said the trend has become more visible in the last three years, also attributing it to dairy allergies and concerns about the quality of meat, as well as a desire to reduce the quantity of meat eaten.

“They think the vegan option is a safer option instead of mystery meat,” Pine said. “They are also concerned about the environmental impact of meat.”

Pine said some hikers request vegan meals ahead of time and then change to the meat-based dish after they arrive and learn that Maine Huts & Trails sources its food locally.

One of Portland’s best-known veg-friendly restaurants is Silly’s at the base of Munjoy Hill, where owner Colleen Kelley also has seen rising numbers of non-vegans ordering vegan. Just a few years ago, non-vegans were highly skeptical, she said, but the public has become more open to trying vegan food. Also, meat-eaters at Silly’s often order vegan when dining with a vegan, Kelley said, “so sharing can go on.” But dairy allergies are the biggest driver, she said: “It takes the guessing out of it for lactose-intolerant people.”

Helmick, the former waitress who is allergic to dairy, travels often for work. She finds plentiful vegan options on the West Coast and few in the South. Overall, she said, the picture is bright.

“There are so many more options now,” Helmick said. “Because in general people are opening up to the idea of vegan.”

Correction: This story was updated at 6:29 a.m. on June 7 to correct an inaccurate headline.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0 Helmick feasts on a Vegan Meltaway, a vegan grilled cheese filled with tomatoes and caramelized onions at Silly's in Portland.Wed, 07 Jun 2017 06:29:57 +0000
‘Leon Fast and Free’ searches globe for gluten-free, dairy-free recipes Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 “Leon Fast & Free: Free-From Recipes for People Who Really Like Food.” By Jane Baxter and John Vincent, Octopus Books USA. 304 pages. $29.99.

The first time I ever tasted Eritrean food was at a little place in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco. I lost my mind a little I loved it so much. The communal plates, the heady spices transforming the lentils and lamb and chicken falling apart in wraps of sour injera bread – it has been a favorite in the decades since I discovered the East African cuisine.

It never occurred to me to try it at home. But a red lentil stew and injera recipe were among the global recipes I found in “Leon: Fast & Free, Free-From Recipes for People Who Really Like Food.” It’s the latest of seven cookbooks from Jane Baxter and John Vincent, the pair behind the 45-plus Leon restaurants in the United Kingdom, specializing in healthy fast food, that have sprung up since 2004.

As they point out, this cookbook works for those “eating clean” in some fashion, or just interested in good food. The happy coincidence of good and healthy food isn’t rocket science – many of the recipes in this cookbook are naturally gluten-free or dairy-free, while others offer substitutions such as cashew creams and nut-based milks. All of the recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free and refined-sugar-free, and symbols indicate whether recipes are also low in glycemic load, low in saturated fat, Paleo, nut-free, vegetarian, vegan or contain added natural unrefined sugar.

Within a few minutes of flipping through the recipes, though, I’d completely forgotten about the “free-from” theme. The recipes simply looked delicious – spicy baked dal squares, butternut squash corn cakes, Brazilian feijoada soup. There’s nothing about “Fast & Free” that makes a cook think she’s skimping on anything.

As with the other Leon cookbooks, the quality of the cookbook itself was impressive. It has sturdy pages, helpful cooking tips that don’t overwhelm the recipe itself, and pictures that are both eye-catching and useful of nearly every dish. A quartet of photos accompany the recipe for prosciutto, porcini and leek lasagna, guiding the reader through prep, layering and presentation views of the dish. A helpful fold-out four-page guide suggests an ideal kitchen cupboard, broken down to explain the thinking behind each item. Almond milk, it notes, works well with sweet and savory dishes and can be heated for sauces, while chestnut flour is less well known than other gluten-free flours but is sweet, rich and intense. Everything in their “cupboard” can be purchased online, the authors note.

Hunting for the ingredients for the Eritrean/Ethiopian recipes was part of the adventure. The signature spice – berbere – isn’t to be found at any local grocery stores, according to the owner of Asmara, a local Eritrean restaurant, so she sold me about a cup of berbere out of the kitchen on a busy weekend night. Several recipes online teach how to make your own berbere, which includes a dozen-plus spices. For those who want to control the heat, by either leaving in chili seeds or not, a home blend might be a good way to go.

The teff flour for the flatbread, known as injera, was also a challenge. Full-grain teff sold by Bob’s Red Mill was available at Whole Foods, but not the flour. I switched gears to use whole wheat flour, and online sites recommend buckwheat or any number of other flours as a substitute.

The recipe for the injera isn’t traditional, dropping the fermenting process that traditionally takes days. Instead, it uses vinegar for tang, and while the final product looked and tasted OK, it didn’t have the distinct “sour” taste that comes from true fermentation. A bit of online digging found alternative injera recipes that called for yogurt, and since the red lentil stew turned out more fiery than expected, I just put a dollop of yogurt on injera along with the lentils.

Problem solved! A bit more sour, and a cooler mouth feel.

The red lentil stew filled my kitchen with wondrous smells as it bubbled along, but a warning – the recipe calls for cooking a cup of lentils in only 1/4 cup of water, which wasn’t nearly enough. I ended up using about 3 cups in the usual 1:3 ratio for cooking lentils. The consistency was perfect in the end.

This is probably one of those dishes that I’ll leave to the experts in the future, but I expect plenty of other choices in “Fast & Free” to keep me busy this summer.


Gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, low saturated fat, nut-free, vegetarian, vegan, no added sugar.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1 cup teff flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar


1/2 cup cold water

Rice bran oil, for greasing

1. Blend the yeast with the warm water. Mix with the flour and set side for an hour. Whisk in the baking powder, vinegar, salt and cold water so you have a thin batter.

2. Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle. Grease the pan using a cloth or piece of paper towel dipped in the oil. Ladle a little of the batter onto the pan and spread out either by using the ladle or tilting the pan.

3. Cover the pan for a minute to steam, uncover, then cook for another 3 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the batter and serve.


Gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, low glycemic load, low saturated fat, nut-free, vegetarian, vegan, no added sugar.

Our reviewer found she needed to use 3 cups water, not the mere 1/4 cup called for here.

Serves 4

2 onions, chopped

2 tablespoons rice bran oil

1/4 cup berbere (Ethiopian spice mix)

1 tablespoon grated ginger root

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup red lentils, rinsed well

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1. In a large pan, cook the onions in the oil for 10 minutes. Add the spice mixture, ginger and garlic and cook for another 3 minutes.

2. Add the lentils and stir well to combine. Pour in the water and bring to a simmer, then cook for 30 minutes, until the lentils have gone slightly mushy. Season with the salt and serve with the Ethiopian flat bread.

]]> 0, 06 Jun 2017 17:08:20 +0000
Ramadan fasting can give energy to the body and spirit Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Ramadan disrupts my life in the best way possible. It’s the only time of year my family sits together every single day for a month to eat dinner, called iftar. It’s the only time of year that my husband and I also have breakfast (suhoor) together, every day for a month. We wake up at the same time. And under dimmed lights, he eats his naan bread and kefir cheese, I eat my overnight oats. When the baby manages to stay asleep, we actually have uninterrupted conversations. It’s a beautiful thing.

Growing up, often as the only Muslim in my class, people would ask me why I was fasting. My answer was simple: We fast because we want to feel for those who are less fortunate; we fast so that we remember how blessed we are.

It’s a simple and understandable answer, but there’s also something deeper. The core reason I fast is that I believe that is what God has asked of me, as a means to increase my faith and draw nearer to my soul.

Ramadan takes attention away from the physical and focuses it on the spiritual, which is often ignored the rest of the year. The pangs of hunger are a reminder that I am much more than my physical self.

Over the past week of fasting, several of my colleagues pointed out that I seemed much more calm. I’m still racing to cross off lines from my to-do list. Yet somehow I also manage to pray and meditate every day – early in the morning before the sun rises, twice when I come home from work and twice before I go to bed. It’s something I rarely manage to do any other time of year. This is why I need Ramadan.

Fasting, as it happens, is also good for the body. To find out more about that, I spoke with Mark Mattson, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University and chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. According to his research, he says fasting can be beneficial mentally as well as physically when it’s done the right way.

Q: Can you tell me what happens to the human body when it’s deprived of food for 16 consecutive hours?

A: We’ll start with a typical Western eating pattern, which is three meals a day plus snacks. Every time you eat a meal, the energy – mainly glucose – goes into your liver and is stored in the form of glycogen. And that liver energy is always tapped into first. It is essentially never depleted in people who eat three meals a day unless they do extended, vigorous exercise. So when you fast for 10 to 12 hours, at that point ketones are produced from fats. Ketones serve as a very good energy source for cells throughout your body and brain. In fact, many labs are finding, ketones have a number of beneficial effects on the brain, including enhancing learning and memory and a kind of an anti-anxiety effect or antidepressant effect.

So now it’s 16 hours a day of fasting during Ramadan – that’s enough to flip a metabolic switch and elevate the ketones, at least for approximately four hours. But if you exercise toward the end of the day’s fast, that gives a further boost to the ketones. We’ve done studies with animals where we look at their brain function, learning and memory and if we combine fasting with exercises there’s kind of an additive boost in terms of optimizing or enhancing brain function.

Q: So fasting in Ramadan is a good thing, then?

A: I’ve had a few Muslims in my lab, and one in particular didn’t exercise much. He gained weight during Ramadan because of overeating in the evening. So, from a scientific standpoint, during Ramadan it would be better not to overeat during the evening. And if you’re already exercising – keep exercising.

What we are finding in our human studies is that it actually takes several weeks at least for your whole system to adapt to this new eating pattern. The first week or two, probably a lot of people will be irritable and ornery. Some people have headaches, particularly women for some reason. We don’t know why.

Coming back to a scientific perspective, it’s important to keep hydrated. I know that during Ramadan this year, Muslims don’t eat or drink for 16 hours. I would suggest it’s better when you drink.

Q: Drinking liquids in the daytime is not really an option. Is there a way to ensure Ramadan observers can keep hydrated?

A: I think for the eight hours you’re not fasting, if you can get in eight cups of liquid, that would be good.

Reem Akkad is senior producer for The Washington Post’s original video team.

]]> 0 boys read the Quran during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in Kabul. Muslims throughout the world are marking the month of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, during which devotees fast from dawn till dusk.Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:44:16 +0000
Date cake a sweet ending for a Middle Eastern-inspired meal Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The next time you’re looking for a sweet end to a Middle Eastern-inspired meal, try a no-bake dessert that’s a standard among Iranian cooks. A pair of small helper’s hands can stuff walnut pieces into tender pitted dates – which form the cake’s base – while you stir up a roux until it’s the color of toasty caramel.

The roux, aromatic spices and finally a crumbly blanket of pistachios go on top; once they’re set, the cake’s ready to go.


A soft pitted date works best for this recipe; in testing, we used the deglet noor variety, available at Trader Joe’s stores.

18 to 24 servings

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

3 packed cups pitted dates, preferably deglet noor (about 1 pound; see headnote)

1 cup safflower oil (may substitute 16 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee)

2 cups flour

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 cup shelled, coarsely ground raw pistachios

Toast the walnuts in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan so they don’t scorch, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Let cool.

Line the bottom of a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or a springform pan with parchment paper.

Use the walnuts to stuff each date, arranging them in the pan in a single layer as you work; this will take 15 to 20 minutes, and it should be easy to do because the dates have been split.

Heat the oil in the same skillet you used to toast the walnuts, over medium heat. Gradually add the flour, whisking constantly, to form a smooth and thick roux. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, whisking all the while, until the roux is a light mocha color; it picks up color especially in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar, until it has dissolved.

Carefully transfer the roux (it’s molten hot!) to the pan; use an offset spatula or table knife to smooth it evenly over the dates, making sure they are completely covered. Immediately sprinkle the cinnamon and cardamom evenly over the roux, then top with the pistachios, to cover completely.

Let the date cake sit for at least an hour or two before serving. (It can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 4 days.)

When ready to serve, remove the ring from the pan. Cut the cake into 18 to 24 squares or diamond shapes (edges and bits left over are for the cook).

TIP: The freshness of the walnuts is key here. Best bet: Buy them at a Middle Eastern market, where the turnover is quick.

]]> 0 Date CakeTue, 06 Jun 2017 17:35:11 +0000
It’s time: Forget the old prejudices and give Gamay a chance Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The year was 1395 and Duc Philippe le Hardi of Dijon was incensed. Not for the usual reasons politicians get incensed, either. He was furious about a grape. So furious, in fact, that he promulgated an official ban of the “bad and disloyal variety Gaamez” grape (today we call it Gamay) because of its injurious effects on many who drank wine made from it.

He went on to claim that those who drank Gamay “were infested by serious diseases” and that the grape “is full of significant and horrible bitterness.” His edict ended with an order that all farmers remove their Gamay vines within five months.

Many subsequent bans of Gamay were ordered – in 1567, 1725 and 1731. Thank Bacchus the farmers disobeyed, because I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy that delicious glass of Beaujolais last night had they heeded the ban.

Here’s the skinny on Gamay, why you might overlook it and a few wines to try if you’re willing to change your position.

Beaujolais, where Gamay is grown, principally, is a small wine-growing region just south of Burgundy in eastern France. It’s a hop, skip and a jump northwest of Lyon. About 46,000 acres of vines are planted around Beaujolais, 45,000 of which are Gamay. If anyone knows how to work this grape, it’s the growers in Beaujolais; they’ve had centuries to perfect their techniques, and they haven’t been distracted by other varietals.

The growers have broken up their wines into three major categories. Wines labeled simply “Beaujolais” usually come from the southernmost part of the region, where the topography is uniformly flat. They tend to be simple and delicious in their youth, but they rarely have the staying power to make it past a few years.

Wines labeled “Beaujolais Villages” mainly come from the middle part of the region, which shows some topographical variance: its higher elevation sites have different kinds of subsoils, each imparting something different to the grapes that grow in them.

About 46,000 acres of vines are planted around Beaujolais, 45,000 of which are Gamay. Gaelphoto/

Finally, wines labeled with the names of specific appellations, like Morgon, Fleurie and Chiroubles, are known as Cru Beaujolais and usually come from the northernmost part of the region. There are 10 crus in all. These are the most sought after wines of Beaujolais. They can age gracefully; I’ve drunk some that were over 15 years old that were still alive and had years ahead of them.

Gamay growers have had a rough go of it ever since Duc Philippe had them in his crosshairs some six centuries ago. They flailed around through 300+ years of state-sponsored agricultural edicts and bans. Not easy. They have grown up under the enormous shadow of Burgundy, sort of like growing up with a brilliant, good-looking, athletic and popular older sibling.

Beaujolais has been overlooked for other reasons, as well. The Beaujolais Nouveau phenomena – oceans of fruity, very simple wine that are rushed to market in late November every year – hasn’t done wonders for the reputation of Gamay.

Producing things en masse tends to suck the soul out of those things. Some Beaujolais Nouveau is the factory widget of the wine world – without distinction. Unfortunately, for most of the public, Beaujolais Nouveau is their first and only impression of wine made from Gamay. If all I ever got to drink from Beaujolais was the Nouveau stuff, I would definitely conclude that the region had no interest in making serious wine.

One other reason that wine drinkers often overlook Beaujolais is that few are looking for lightness as a wine experience. In the 10 years I’ve sold wine, I’ve come to conclude that people who seek lightness are in the minority, by far. To put it another way, I sell far more endomorphic than ectomorphic wines. Loud wines demand – and get – lots of attention, just like their human counterparts, while wines that whisper, well, they’re easy to discount.

So, tonight, tomorrow or whenever you find yourself hunting for a bottle, put Gamay in your crosshairs. Here are a few wines that punch above their weight:

Raisins Gaulois, Mathieu LaPierre, Beaujolais, 2016 (National Distributors)

This is an everyday drinker; it’s both much less expensive and less complex than the other two I suggest below. It’s light without being invisible, and red fruit and peppercorns drive its flavor profile. It’s the kind of wine you can drink out of tumblers and Mason jars, especially when slightly chilled.

Morgon, M. LaPierre, Beaujolais, 2015 (National Distributors)

This is more serious Beaujolais. Some even consider it a benchmark Beaujolais, one that other wines are judged by. The fruit gets quite a bit darker and riper in this bottle than in the Raisins Gaulois. Tannins – the compounds found in the skins and seeds of grapes that give your mouth that dry, sandpapery experience – are markedly more present in this wine than in the other two Beaujolais suggested here, which is typical for Beaujolais from the Morgon cru.

Régnié, Nicolas Chemarin, 2015 (Wicked Wines)

Another cru Beaujolais. Reds from this cru tend to exhibit a softer, more elegant structure. The tannins are lightly present and soft, while the aromatics reveal strawberry and graphite. It is a supple yet chiseled wine.

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

]]> 0, 06 Jun 2017 18:00:55 +0000
Maine food festivals serve up more than lobster this summer Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Mainers love good food, and in the summer they love to celebrate it.

Lobster, blueberries, potatoes, even that love-it-or-hate-it soda known as Moxie – Maine has long shared its affection for such bounty through summer food festivals. This year, three new festivals will be joining the mix, all in southern Maine.

The Down East Lobster Roll Festival, July 8 at Thompson’s Point in Portland, is a long-overdue tribute to Maine’s favorite sandwich and will include a “World’s Best Lobster Roll” competition.

The other festivals will be less traditional. As Maine has grown more serious about food and where it comes from, its food festivals have followed suit. Two of the three new events will be digging deeper, offering more than sampling and sunburns.

Maine Fare is back this month, after taking last year off. Once a two-day festival held in Belfast, the re-imagined Maine Fare offers six food-related events throughout June, which started with a sold-out tasting tour at Portersfield Cider in Pownal on June 4. Other events, scattered over southern midcoast Maine, include a daylong, nose-to-tail butchery workshop in Freeport and Brunswick, a farm tour and cheese-making demonstration in Whitefield, and a boat trip down the Damariscotta River to visit oyster farms (and eat a few oysters too, of course).

Organizers at the Maine Farmland Trust took a break last year to reconfigure the festival, which had become so big in Belfast they felt that their message was getting “watered down,” Ellen Sabina of Maine Farmland Trust said.pth of content and education, and it’s hard to do when you’re also trying to create something that’s really fun and that attracts all ages,” she said. “With this approach, we’re hoping to give people opportunities to really dig a little deeper into more intimate, hands-on settings and be talking directly with producers and people that are deeply involved in the topics that we’re presenting this year.”

Sabina said the organization also liked the idea of having a “roving food event” with activities moving from place to place, highlighting different regions and producers.

Maine Fare will conclude on June 25 with a “collaborative dinner” at The Freight Shed in Bath. Chef Sam Hayward and a team of chefs will prepare a four-course meal, and each table will be given a food-related topic to discuss. The other chefs will be Nate Nadeau, chef de cuisine at Fore Street; Josh Potocki of 158 Pickett Street Café; Eloise Humphrey and Daphne Comaskey of Salt Pine Social and El Camino in Brunswick; and Ben Hasty of Thistle Pig in South Berwick.

The Portland Food Launch and Festival, which will be held June 22 at Thompson’s Point, will combine serious daytime education sessions for food entrepreneurs who are trying to launch a business with the fun of an evening food festival.

The event, sponsored by the Greater Portland Council of Governments, Fork Food Lab and Norway Savings Bank, is an outgrowth of Portland’s federal designation as a food production cluster, and will show entrepreneurs how to navigate “the finance ecosystem for food,” explained Caroline Paras, community and economic planner at the council.

“It’s a daylong event with something for everyone,” she said, “but the morning and afternoon are really focused on helping food entrepreneurs and existing food businesses scale up to the next level, so it has a totally different audience than the typical food festival.”

Paras said two announcements will be made at the event. The first will be new branding –”Greater Portland Sustainable Food Production Cluster” is a mouthful – that will be more “aspirational and descriptive.” The more meaty disclosure will be the creation of a new standalone food manufacturing revolving loan fund that will offer low-interest loans to food entrepreneurs. Crystal Deering-Robichaud, owner of Beacon Blessings in Oxford, can’t wait to attend the “scaling up” workshop. She recently quit her job in a dental office to focus on expanding her business. Deering-Robichaud raises 400 organic chickens on her farm each year, sells eggs, and produces a line of jams, jellies and barbecue sauce that she sells online and at five weekly farmers markets. She is building her own commercial kitchen, and hopes to add pork and maple syrup products to her food line soon.

Workers tend to strawberries in the fog at Maxwell’s Farm, one of several Cape Elizabeth farms that participate in the annual Strawberry Festival. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

“I am definitely at that point where I could utilize just a little bit of extra mentoring, or maybe coaching,” she said.

After networking all day, Deering-Robichaud will be able to mingle with her peers at the evening food festival, which will feature 40 Maine food vendors. Yes, the public can sample (and taste 11 local craft beers), but the point of the event is to show support for local food businesses, Eric Holstein of Fork Food Lab said.

“A lot of them are tiny businesses that could never afford to do something like an Old Port Festival,” he said. “They’re just starting out, maybe launching their product for first time, and this is their first attempt at showing their products to the world.”

Local crafters will also be represented, dishing up food-themed work – think knives, and salt and pepper shakers, and even a little art. Kids will be able to participate in a scavenger hunt and make animals out of fondant, while their parents take a trip on a virtual reality lobster boat.

Hungry for more? Here’s information on the aforementioned food festivals as well as many others scheduled for this summer.


WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 29

WHERE: Skowhegan State Fairgrounds

HOW MUCH: Free admission, but parking costs $3

WHY GO: If you’re not one of those people who is terrified of carbohydrates, this is the event for you. It’s the finale of the annual Kneading Conference, which attracts talented bakers from all over the country. At least 60 vendors will be selling their breads, pastries, baking tools and books.



WHEN: Pig roast and lobster bake from 6 to 9 p.m. June 23; strawberry festival from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 24

WHERE: Pig roast and lobster bake at Shady Oak Farm, 30 Fowler Road, Cape Elizabeth; strawberry festival at Maxwell’s strawberry field on Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth

HOW MUCH: $35 for the pig roast/lobster bake (sells out fast); strawberry festival is free

WHY GO: Great way to celebrate strawberry season, with food, music, and – of course – lots of strawberries. The menu for the June 23 dinner includes lobster, pork, salad, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes, appetizers, coffee, lemonade, and dessert.



WHEN: July 10-15

WHERE: Manson Park, Pittsfield

HOW MUCH: No admission fee

WHY GO: “Egglympics” contest for kids, quiche and cheesecake contest, and the World’s Largest Frying Pan


A customer gets a refill during the ChiliFest in Wells in this photo from 2011. Staff photo by Derek Davis


WHEN: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 26

WHERE: 136 Post Road, Wells

HOW MUCH: Free admission

WHY GO: It’s true, we’re not in Texas, but you’ll be surprised by how many Mainers are serious about their chili. The festival doubles as Maine State Chili Cook-Off, sanctioned by the International Chili Society.



WHEN: Noon-5 p.m. July 8

WHERE: Thompson’s Point, Portland


WHY GO: The $100 VIP tickets that buy all-you-can-eat lobster rolls at the World’s Best Lobster Roll competition have already sold out, but you can still purchase “traditional Maine food and drink” (including a lobster roll) from vendors and listen to live music with the general admission ticket.

ONLINE: lobsterroll


WHEN: 2 to 5 p.m. July 1

WHERE: 42 Case Road, Winthrop

HOW MUCH: General admission $5, VIP admission $15 (includes tour, tasting, glass and 8-ounce pour)

WHY GO: Limited edition Summer Berry, made with blueberries and raspberries.



WHEN: June 5-10

WHERE: Various venues

HOW MUCH: Grand tasting (noon to 3 p.m. Saturday) costs $65

WHY GO: The Art of Dining dinners, in which well-known chefs prepare dinners in private homes, are sold out, but you can still sample food and wine at the grand tasting, or go to one of several cocktail parties.



WHEN: Aug. 18-20

WHERE: Many events are held at the Centre Street Congregational Church, 9 Centre St., Machias

HOW MUCH: Some events are free, some are not. Costs vary.

WHY GO: Blueberry farm tours, blueberry cooking contest, all you can eat fish fry, blueberry pie eating contests, and the annual Blackfly Ball. Also, while it’s not exactly “Hamilton,” every year the community puts on a “blueberry musical comedy.”



WHEN: 1 to 5 p.m. July 29

WHERE: Thompson’s Point, Portland

HOW MUCH: $49 general admission, $6 VIP admission, and $20 designated driver

WHY GO: If you love Maine beer and can go to only one craft beer event this year, make it this one, Maine’s biggest brewfest. Ticket includes unlimited beer samples, taster glass, beer school classes and live music. Food trucks will be on site.



WHEN: Workshops on June 11, 18 and 24, and a “Food for Thought Dinner” on June 25

WHERE: Various locations (see website)

HOW MUCH: $85 for the June 11 butchery workshop; $30 for the June 18 cheesemaking workshop; $50 for the June 24 Damariscotta River trip and oyster tasting; and $95 for the June 25 dinner.

WHY GO: Are you the sort of person who makes your own kimchi and lies awake at night worrying whether the grains used in that bread you ate were grown sustainably? This festival is for you – people who are serious about food and want to have hands-on experiences.



WHEN: Aug. 2-6

WHERE: Harbor Park in Rockland

HOW MUCH: Opening Day admission $1 adults, children 11 and under free; admission Aug. 3-6 $8 adults, $2 children age 6-11, children 5 and under free; active military personnel who show ID get in free.

WHY GO: Seafood cooking contest, carnival rides, and lobster, lobster, lobster.

ONLINE: mainelobster


WHEN: July 8-16

WHERE: Fort Fairfield

HOW MUCH: Small entry fees for activities and contests

WHY GO: Mashed potato wrestling (“Mash your opponent in our russet ring and claim the title of Top Tater!”), potato picking contest, tater tot eating contest, and five (count ’em, five!) Miss Maine Potato Queen pageants.



WHEN: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 12

WHERE: Dexter

HOW MUCH: No admission fee

WHY GO: Sure, they look disgusting, but they taste pretty good. Join in the eating contests, then try not to throw up running the inflatable obstacle courses.



WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 24

WHERE: Various locations in Dover-Foxcroft

HOW MUCH: Admission $5; children 12 and under free

WHY GO: Thousands of whoopie pies for sale, including 25 cent samples.



WHEN: July 7-9

WHERE: Lisbon, Maine

HOW MUCH: No entry fee, but bring cash to enter contests, buy food, drink and Moxie gear such as hats and T-shirts

WHY GO: A chance to mingle with Moxie fans from all over the country. Enter the Chugging Contest or Moxie recipe contest (Moxie Candied Bacon Cheeseball, anyone?), or watch the parade.



WHEN: Aug. 11-13

WHERE: 291 West Main St., Fort Kent

HOW MUCH: No admission fee, but bring money to spend.

WHY GO: This festival, which includes ploye-eating contests, ploye wrestling, and lots of ployes for sale, is held in conjunction with the Fort Kent International Muskie Derby. Canadians across the river in New Brunswick join in with their own activities. The highlight of the festival is the making of the World’s Largest Ploye, which in past years has reached 12 feet in diameter. It requires 15 bags of charcoal to heat the metal pan and takes 50 pounds of ploye mix to make the giant snack.



WHEN: 5-9 p.m. June 22

WHERE: Thompson’s Point, Portland

HOW MUCH: $15 with alcohol; $10 without alcohol; $5 kids

WHY GO: Earn bragging rights as the first in your circle to try some of Maine’s newest food products.



WHEN: Aug. 19-26 (coincides with the Union Fair)

WHERE: Blueberry Acres, Union Fairgrounds, Union

HOW MUCH: Early bird admission $8 (before 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, or before noon weekdays); all-inclusive admission $12 (includes unlimited midway rides, music, contests and shows); family day admission $10 on last Saturday of fair

WHY GO: Your tongue will definitely turn blue if you enter the pie-eating contests and the competitions for best pie baker, best blueberry muffin and best blueberry dessert. And don’t miss the Maine Wild Blueberry Queen pageant.


Blueberry cake on sale at the annual Blueberry Festival in Wilton. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans


WHEN: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 4-5

WHERE: Various locations around Wilton

HOW MUCH: Free admission, and lots of free activities, but some events, such as road races, have entry fees

WHY GO: Blueberry Bazaar, blueberry pancake breakfast, Blueberry Bake-Off and Chili Contest



WHEN: Aug. 12. Starts with 6 a.m. blueberry pancake breakfast, ends with 5:30 p.m. parade

WHERE: Various venues in Winter Harbor

HOW MUCH: No admission fee

WHY GO: Lobster dinner, lobster boat races, parade.



WHEN: July 21-23

WHERE: Various venues around Yarmouth

HOW MUCH: Free, but bring money for food, drink and crafts

WHY GO: Clams, lobster rolls, oyster shucking contest and the festival’s famous lime rickeys.


]]> 0 cake on sale at the annual Blueberry Festival in Wilton.Tue, 06 Jun 2017 23:29:41 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Latin American flavors shine at Woodhull in Yarmouth Sun, 04 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The summer after I graduated from high school, I started having recurring dreams. Not exactly nightmares, they were florid, gaudily colored and full of pointless action. But what was most memorable about them is where they took place. Each one began in a school library that, impossibly, was also part of a floating amusement park. I awoke every morning feeling disoriented and more than a little unmoored.

When I told a friend what was happening, she confessed something similar was going on with her. “I bet it’s because we’re leaving home soon. I think the dreams will stop when we figure out where we’re going,” she said. And she was right. That autumn, I had my last imaginary adventure shelving books underneath the roller coaster. I have hardly thought of them since. That is, until last week, when I stepped inside Woodhull Public House.

Located in a low-slung Yarmouth office park, in a building whose graying cedar shakes and brick walkway are right out of Maine central casting, Woodhull feels like the last place you’d expect to find surfboards, a ukulele and a floor-to-ceiling, 1960s photographic mural of people splashing around in Oahu’s Waimea Bay. But wait. Unfocus your eyes and look again – the way you might at one of those maddening Magic Eye prints – and you’ll see something else entirely: rough, reclaimed wood cladding one wall; a set of vintage wooden skis in the vestibule; and a chalet-style wall of chunky beer mugs behind the bar. “The vibe goes back to my love of the ocean with all the surf things, and (co-owner Katie Abbot’s) love of the mountains with lots of Sugarloaf stuff,” explained co-owner and general manager Seth Balliett. “When you step in, you step out of Maine, like you’re on vacation somewhere reminiscing about adventures you went on.”

This dislocation isn’t at all unpleasant, even if it does not prepare you for your next surprise: the menu. In choosing “global street food” as its theme, Woodhull rejects the entire concept of a culinary perspective, replacing it with a focus on dishes that are linked only by how and where they are eaten. Liberated from culture and geography, the kitchen is free to offer items from Jamaica, Japan, India, Mexico, Korea, even the United States, among others. If it’s available from a cart or a street vendor somewhere on the planet, it’s fair game.

The table settings reinforce the theme. Instead of plates, diners eat off of square, utilitarian, deli paper-lined aluminum trays. Balliett explains that “even though we use cotton napkins, we try to find a balance between nice and comfortable, so we give it a little down-home feel with the trays. We’re not a white plate kind of place.” It’s clever, but the trays create problems. The paper gets soggy quickly, and after a few dishes, disintegrates and rips into pieces that hitchhike, unwelcome, onto your food.

That goes double for wetter dishes, like slaws or the Thai papaya salad ($8) with crisp green beans, housemade shrimp oil, “gourmet tomatoes,” (really just heirloom tomatoes), shaved papaya and peanuts. Overall, a fresh, light salad, but with a dilute, too-mild “som tam” dressing that was undersalted and tasted as if it had been prepared by someone terrified of fish sauce.

Similarly, the hanger steak skewers ($10) were grilled to just the right temperature and consistency – not too rare, not too chewy. Missing was any hint of flavor from their day-long marinade in lemongrass, ginger, soy and garlic. Had I not read the menu description, I would have guessed they were plain, unobjectionably prepared strips of grilled beef.

Both dishes fit a broad pattern: Asian flavors are not Woodhull’s strong suit. It’s true of the Indian kulfi ice cream sandwiches with homemade brown-sugar cookies ($6), too, that tasted tinny and of excess saffron. Or the shishito pepper skewers ($6), featuring small, mild green peppers grilled over very high heat. The trouble here was with the Japanese “tar sauce” that chefs Matt and Rachel Chaisson make by slow-simmering gallons of tamari, sake and mirin with ginger and vegetables, until it leaves just two quarts of sticky basting sauce. Unfortunately, the cloying tar sauce caramelizes too quickly on the grill, leaving the peppers underdone and not very blistered.

Another long-bubbling sauce, this one made of Korean gochujang chili paste, tamari and ketchup, is used to baste bite-sized pieces of chicken thigh for the ginger chicken skewer ($6). On my recent visit it, like the heavily reduced sauce for the shishitos, was too sweet, overwhelming the flavor of the skillfully grilled chicken.

One exceptional Asian fusion plate was the Korean BBQ beef taco ($9) with thin slices of hanger steak, gochujang mayonnaise and shreds of pickled carrot and daikon. Here, a robust, mango-infused bulgogi-style marinade excavated something primal and hematic from the beef – a flavor balanced out by grainy sweetness from the housemade soft corn tortilla.

Don’t underestimate the importance of those rough-looking tortillas. Twice every day, the Chaissons and their team grill and stack fresh batches for the next service. Woodhull’s menu even features a step-by-step description of the preparation method. “For us, they are as much of a main attraction as the (taco) fillings. Not every one is perfectly round. You’ll get little creases and bumps, but they have a flavor that store-bought ones don’t,” Matt Chaisson said.

The decor themes at Woodhull Public House range from Hawaiian surf to Sugarloaf chalet. Staff photos by Jill Brady

As much as the kitchen struggles with Asian dishes, it pulls off strong, confident versions of nearly every item inspired by Latin America. Case in point: a splendidly simple-looking taco filled with brawny black beans ($4) slow-simmered with cumin, onions and garlic. Even better is the one loaded up with tender roasted cauliflower; a tart, pepita-thickened romesco sauce; basil; and cotija cheese ($5).

Even without the boost from a soft corn tortilla, Woodhull’s Mexican flavors shine. The Baja rice bowl ($8), with steamed jasmine rice, roasted-corn salsa, red cabbage slaw and house-pickled jalapeños, achieves an impressive, multidirectional balance of tastes and textures.

It’s also here that the menu takes a few well-calculated risks, such as in the aspirationally named “fritter mountain” ($6). “Really, it’s more of a fritter bump,” one of my dinner guests said under her breath so our attentive server wouldn’t hear. But when it comes to quick-fried corn patties mounded with beans, red cabbage and garlic mayo, size really doesn’t matter. What counts is the smoky, earthy tang from the pre-roasted corn, amplified in every bite by corn salsa and a sprinkle of chipotle salt. A fantastic dish.

If the fritter mountain’s grandiose name doesn’t match its modest size, that seems perfectly in line with Woodhull’s efforts to befuddle the diner’s sense of space, place and expectation. There’s a puckish playfulness here that can honestly be a lot of fun. But the overly eclectic menu seems to have pulled the restaurant a bit off course, especially with chefs who possesses dominant strengths in one cuisine. I don’t know if the way forward requires skis or a surfboard, but I do know that there’s a lot of promise at Woodhull, as long as it can figure out where it’s going.

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 bowl with avacado, salsa verde chicken and fried egg.Sat, 03 Jun 2017 20:18:08 +0000
Bread and Butter Wed, 31 May 2017 19:47:47 +0000 0 YARMOUTH, ME - DECEMBER 9: Krista Kern is in the process of opening a new cafe, The Purple House. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Thu, 15 Jun 2017 15:23:55 +0000 Source Wed, 31 May 2017 18:57:00 +0000 0, 14 Jun 2017 17:37:17 +0000 Recipes Wed, 31 May 2017 16:39:45 +0000 0, 15 Jun 2017 15:24:08 +0000 Boston chef Barbara Lynch tells us about writing a memoir, latest accomplishment in a life full of them Wed, 31 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Boston chef Barbara Lynch’s life story, chronicled in her recent memoir “Out of Line,” reads like a classic rags-to-riches movie. The tough-as-nails heroine – with moxie to spare – grows up in the projects in South Boston, a gritty Irish Catholic neighborhood where notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger is just another neighbor. Her father dies of alcoholism when she is a child, and her stepfather isn’t much better. Her sister gets hooked on drugs. Lynch herself is wild: she lies; steals – including a city bus once, which she rolls through the streets as a prank; struggles with high school and eventually drops out.

From this most unpromising start, Lynch gradually teaches herself how to cook and, through many twists and turns, and setbacks and triumphs, both personal and professional, she eventually reaches the heights of the culinary world. Today, she owns seven highly regarded restaurants in Boston, including No. 9 Park, B&G Oyster and Menton. She and her restaurants are the recipient of three James Beard awards, and she holds a coveted Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef designation. Earlier this year, she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Yet, as she makes clear in “Out of Line,” a story that gallops along in unadorned language with energy and verve, Lynch never forgets where she came from. The book ends with six recipes for elegant food of the sort she is famous for cooking, dishes like Parmesan Souffle with Porcini and Chanterelle Sauce. Amid the fig sauces and vin santo cured chestnuts, though, one recipe stands out: It is for Irish soda bread. We spoke with her by telephone last week ahead of an upcoming visit to Maine. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why did you want to write a memoir?

A: Oh I didn’t. I had to Google “memoir” to know what it was. There was an article in The New York Times business section about me: How does this woman do it – run so many restaurants – without an education, with no formal training? She didn’t graduate from high school. From there, an agent from New York City came out and hounded me for about a week to write a memoir. I really thought about it. I thought, I guess she is right. It could be an inspirational story. If I can (make) it, anyone can do it, if they have the passion and the drive.

It was hard (to write). It’s like you have to relive it in a way. Thank God I kept a lot of journals. It ended up being great timing, because of where we are in the world. It’s a hopeful book. It’s not a self-help book, but it’s a very inspirational book.

Q: Meaning it’s not a hopeful time in the world?

A: Exactly. For immigrants, for small business owners, for the American dream. And I think (the book) is especially helpful for woman.

Q: I had a writing teacher once, a famous memoirist, who would tell her students to know what we were NOT writing, what we were leaving out. Are there things you left out?

A: No. I didn’t get that advice. Maybe I should have. (A big belly laugh).

Q: Did you ask permission from the many people portrayed in the book? Has anyone been unhappy – or happy – with how they were described?

A: No. So far, so good. Honestly, I didn’t really care. [Expletive] it. Sorry. They can write their own memoir. You got to be honest.

Q: Did you read other food memoirs before you got to work on your own? Which ones did you like?

A: I think the only memoir I’ve read was Katharine Hepburn when I was younger. I wrote her a 7-page letter. I think I was 8 at the time, no, 10.

Q: Did she write back?

A: No. I’m sure she couldn’t even read it. “I love your clothes. I love pets. If you are ever in Boston, come visit me.” (she laughs). I wrote one to Doris Day, too….

Barbara Lynch, in apron, cooked a feast for friend and fellow chef Sara Jenkins, in blue, at Jenkins’ wedding in Tuscany. “That dinner proved that I was talented enough to cook for anyone,” Lynch says. Photo courtesy of Sara Jenkins

Q: Chefs today of your caliber have restaurants around the globe, in Paris, in Hong Kong, in Vegas, in L.A. Why have you stayed in Boston?

A: I need to be part of the history, or part of the community. I don’t feel like I could live anywhere else really. I could open one in Europe, but I’m not a Vegas girl. What the hell would I do there? Vegas isn’t my cup of tea. I can’t just put my name on it. I’ve got to see it through, beginning to end.

Big fish, small pond? I like it in Boston. I know the one-way streets. I know where I can park my car. I get to have a life here. I think if I worked in New York City – tough grind.

Q: What advice would you give a young chef today?

A: Any young chef has to have a vision. They have to come to me with a notebook and a vision. Then I can help. If they come to me with a blank stare, no way. It’s not going to work that way. And have passion.

Q: It’s clear you’ve a ton of passion, but you’ve been at this a long time. Does the passion stay?

A: It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t go away. If I don’t cook for a few days, I’m just dying to cook.


CHEF BARBARA LYNCH will cook a dinner in Maine next week with Nina June chef/proprietor Sara Jenkins. The two chefs worked together, and were friends, as young women at Michela’s restaurant in Boston. In the 1980s, Lynch, who is today greatly celebrated for her Italian food, visited Italy for the very first time with Jenkins, an experience she writes about in detail and hilariously in her new memoir, “Out of Line.”

AT THE CONCLUSION of that weeklong trip, Lynch writes, “Though I couldn’t speak the language, in just a week, I’d tuned in to entirely new frequencies of tastes, smells, sights, and sounds. My connection to Italy was so visceral and intense that I felt I’d discovered my true spiritual home.”

LATER, LYNCH COOKED a wedding feast for Jenkins in Tuscany, an adventure she also details in the book and credits with greatly boosting her then shaky self-confidence, writing, “that dinner proved that I was talented enough to cook for anyone.”


WHAT: Author dinner with chefs Barbara Lynch and Sara Jenkins to celebrate the publication of Lynch’s “Out of Line.”

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Nina June Restaurant, 24 Central St., Rockport


INFO: or 236-8880.

ALSO: A special menu based on Lynch’s visits to Tuscany with Jenkins, who grew up there in part. Lynch will sign copies of her memoir, which will be for sale at the meal.

Correction: This story was updated at 1:38 p.m. on May 31 to correct the spelling of Katharine Hepburn’s name.

]]> 0 chef and new memoirist Barbara Lynch.Wed, 31 May 2017 13:40:26 +0000
‘The Night Kitchen,’ a new musical by Mainer John Burstein, is set behind the scenes at a restaurant Wed, 31 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 A year and a half ago, Lincolnville resident and actor/producer John Burstein was asked to help raise money to renovate the kitchen of Knox County Meals on Wheels. Committee members kicked around ideas, and Burstein – who is nationally known for his children’s character Slim Goodbody – volunteered to write and perform a sketch at a fundraising cocktail party.

Since they were raising money for a kitchen, it wasn’t much of a leap to set his skit in one. The skit was some 25 minutes long, with seven actors – including Burstein and his wife – and five songs that he wrote himself. It was set in an imaginary kitchen, where pots and pans, cutlery and wedges of cheese came to life.

“It was a lark,” Burstein said last week speaking from the auditorium at Portland Stage and squeezing in an interview between consultations with his lighting designer. “It was just a lark. But people loved it.”

The party raised about $14,000 and out of that sketch grew “The Night Kitchen,” a two-act musical that played in Camden for two performances last winter and opens in Portland on June 6. Over time, the show has grown and changed. It lost the character of President Trump demanding that tacos be banished. It lost a bit about a milk carton who is distributed to seniors every day by Meals on Wheels but makes an executive decision that the clients would prefer a nice glass of chardonnay. It gained more characters, more songs and a plot. It lost none of its exuberance or whimsy. (The similarity of the name to Maurice Sendak’s book, “In the Night Kitchen” was not intentional, Burstein said. At the same time, “I decided, on balance, a cultural touchtone isn’t a bad thing,” adding that both his show and the book have elements of the fantastic.)


“The Night Kitchen” incorporates burlesque, vaudeville, Keystone cops humor and likable, hummable tunes with smart, sometimes sly lyrics. Burstein cites Danny Kaye and Al Jolson as big influences. In one scene, the chef sings a poetic ode to a butternut squash. In another, a frying pan with aspirations to sauté and flambé tells her troubles to Dr. Pepper: “I am tired of being treated like an ordinary pan. There is so much more I could be trying. I was born for more than frying.”

Elizabeth Freeman, left, and CarlaRose Dubois rehearse a scene from the show. The restaurant setting was a natural for Burstein, whose father was an attorney for the New York State Restaurant Association and a friend of famed restaurateur Vincent Sardi. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Charmingly cheesy jokes are interspersed with more serious moments where the audience gets to see – and hear – the rhythm of a restaurant kitchen, its pleasures and its very real stresses, too. (Hear it, in syncopated songs like this: “Cut thin – mince, dice/Pound well – add spice/ Just so – precise/Chop once – chop twice/Strike match – stir rice/Chill well – on ice/Oh yeah – that’s nice.”)

The restaurant scenes at times ring so true that after watching a rehearsal last week, I was certain that Burstein a) had owned a restaurant, b) had worked in a restaurant (what aspiring New York actor hasn’t? Burstein, 67, moved to Maine from Manhattan two decades ago), or c) regularly dined out.

Wrong, mostly, on all counts.

“I’m not a foodie,” he said. “My wife is a wonderful cook. I don’t cook. I make scrambled eggs and omelettes and spaghetti and that’s about it.”

Moreover, he’s a decades-long vegetarian and a recent vegan. Vegetarians, he added, think about food much of the time because they have to. (He admitted to a two-week lapse, “The Bacon Episode,” some years ago when he was touring and eating breakfast at Waffle House restaurants most mornings.)

Burstein does have a few restaurants on his resume, but he wasn’t waiting tables or flipping burgers. He launched his career when he was about 14 with a paying gig playing guitar at The Spice of Life restaurant. He fancied himself – he laughs – the Donovan of Long Island.

Burstein gives a hug to actress CarlaRose Dubois as she feigns devastation after receiving a little constructive criticism during rehearsal of a scene at Portland Stage on Friday. Staff photo by Derek Davis

So to write “The Night Kitchen,” he mostly did what he always does, he said – a lot of research. Burstein read deeply, googled widely and hung out in local kitchens, scrutinizing the action and grilling the chefs and restaurateurs about their challenges. He says the chef character in the play is loosely based on Brian Hill of Francine Bistro in Camden. James Hatch, of Home Kitchen Cafe in Rockland, surprised Burstein by wanting to talk with him about his dishwashers: “They work harder than anybody else, and they get paid the least.” After that conversation, the show’s dishwasher character grew in scope and sympathy. When Annmarie Ahearn of Saltwater Farm in Rockport told him about having to keep burgers on a menu because customers demanded them though the chef was sick and tired of making them, that made it into the show, too.


Burstein didn’t get all the details right. He says after one performance, a chef came up to him to say how much he’d enjoyed the show, and proceeded to critique the actors’ knife skills. Or lack of them. They’d failed to make a claw shape with their hand while chopping vegetables, a position that keeps cooks from slicing their fingers.

There was something else that Burstein said gave him extra insight into restaurants, and it’s an analogy he makes explicit in “The Night Kitchen.”

“Running a restaurant is a lot like producing a show,” he said. “They produce every night, and they have their patrons, and they serve their fare, and they put out their playbill, which is the menu. And they have their director, the chef. And he’s also the producer. And like a director, these chefs are under enormous pressure.”

John Burstein reacts during rehearsals of “The Night Kitchen,” a musical he wrote and composed about a restaurant kitchen, using both real and imaginary characters. “As a kid and into my teens, we went to restaurants all the time.” Burstein says. “Maybe that’s part of where ‘The Night Kitchen’ came from?” Staff photo by Derek Davis


Burstein knows whereof he speaks. As Slim Goodbody for four decades, traveling the country to perform and making countless television appearances on “Captain Kangaroo” and in his own shows, Burstein has always written, acted, sung and produced his own material. The character wore a signature unitard painted with body parts – many adults still remember it from their childhood – and taught kids about healthy living through skits and music. For “The Night Kitchen,” he serves as writer, composer, lyricist, producer, director, promoter, chief bottle washer – and he acts in the show, too, playing an impresario character of sorts who bookends the plot. To transport the set from Camden to Portland, he rented a U-Haul and drove it down himself. (Portland Stage is not producing “The Night Kitchen”; Burstein has rented the theater for the show.)

Ask him how he does it all, and he’ll tell you he has a lot of energy and a lot of experience, and then quickly deflect. Burstein praised by name his many collaborators – the lighting designer; the orchestrator; the set and costume designers; the musicians and the actors, who are from Portland and New York City. To Burstein’s regret, the orchestra isn’t live. “What energy that would bring to the show!” he said. But it was simply too complicated and expensive to use live musicians. Instead, he hired seven Portland musicians and recorded them playing the show’s tunes. During performances, actors sing to that recording.

As with the Camden show, 100 percent of the proceeds from the Portland show will go to charity, Burstein said, in this case to Preble Street in Portland, which provides shelter and other resources for the homeless.

The show exudes goofy good cheer. “It’s really important at this time, and probably at any other time,” to make people laugh, he said. “But if I can marry that to a cause that helps benefit people beyond the moment of the play, that’s even better.”

Adam Ferguson rehearses a number at Portland Stage on Friday. Staff photo by Derek Davis

His hopes for “The Night Kitchen” are success in Portland and “a whole bunch of money” for Preble Street. After that, he’d like others to take the show on the road, using it, as he has, to raise money for nonprofits. But, “if you’re asking me about my dream?” he said. “I would love somebody to help me bring this into Boston or into New York City. We’ll take it to the next level.”

To help reach his fundraising goals, Burstein reached out to Fore Street’s Sam Hayward earlier this spring. He asked Hayward if he’d be willing to gather a group of chefs to watch a 20-minute preview of “The Night Kitchen.” The idea was, if they liked what they saw, they’d talk the show up among the food community, encouraging ticket sales. David Turin, chef/owner of David’s restaurants in Portland, South Portland and Kennebunkport, was among the handful who attended the private showing. Turin showed up as a favor to Hayward, but he wasn’t exactly eager.

“We were sitting right there in the comfy chairs in the bar (at Fore Street). It was about noontime. It was an extremely small audience. There was just 8 feet between the front of my chair and the performance. I thought it was going to be a little awkward,” Turin recalled, “but it wasn’t awkward in the slightest. (Burstein) is a tremendous performer. It really felt like, to me, he had a real intimate understanding of what it was like to be in the business, from the owner’s perspective or the chef’s or the bartender’s or server’s.

“I am a little embarrassed to say this – that there were a couple of parts that really evoked a tremendous amount of emotion from me, because the texture of it was so authentic to my own experience,” Turin continued. “I love the business. I’ve been in it for 35 years, but it has been a roller coaster. The scene where the chef is sitting at the bar, fretting over the pressures and where all the money is going? It sounds like me every night after work. For 35 years. This show really resonated.”

Correction: This story was updated at 12:57 p.m. on May 31 to correct the spelling of Brian Hill’s name.

]]> 0 Burstein, creator of the "The Night Kitchen," works with Lauren Scheibly, left, and Ferguson at Portland Stage. Burstein spent four decades portraying Slim Goodbody, a nationally known children's character, on "Captain Kangaroo" and other shows. But, Burstein says, "I've reached a point in my career where doing Slim Goodbody has run its course. Not that I don't like doing it, but it doesn't have much juice for me anymore."Wed, 31 May 2017 12:57:25 +0000
‘Naturally Sweet’ shows how to cut back on sugar without sacrificing flavor Wed, 31 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 “Naturally Sweet: Bake All Your Favorites with 30% to 50% Less Sugar.” America’s Test Kitchen. 336 pages. $26.95.

Sugar is the worst. That’s the word now in our world of health and nutrition. While that world has a tendency to seesaw enough to cause whiplash (anyone else remember eating more to weigh less 20 years ago in the Dean Ornish days?) sugar as bad guy sure seems credible in obesity-filled America. The U.S. Department of Agriculture even changed its guidelines in 2016, recommending we cut our sugar intake roughly in half. That would be from about 22 teaspoons of day to 12 teaspoons. We’re not talking teaspoons stirred into coffee either; sugar is an additive in many foods you wouldn’t expect (ketchup) as well as many you would (soda).

But sugar is also the best, right? It’s problematic. A family member gave up sugar (and gluten) more than a year ago and looks dazzling, but in my household such fortitude has proven difficult. Which is why I snapped up America’s Test Kitchen’s “Naturally Sweet,” with its promises of ways to “bake all your favorites with 30% to 50% less sugar.” Maybe moderation would be more manageable. And thanks to all those alternative offerings (from evaporated cane juice to Stevia and agave), the sugar aisle has become truly confusing,

The introductory sections of “Naturally Sweet” are filled with great explainers, including a graphic that shows just how refined sugar gets refined, including two stages of chemical “clarification.” It details why it doesn’t work for some recipes to say, simply half the amount of refined sugar (texture and moisture changes) and offers clear descriptions for the cellular differences between glucose, fructose and sucrose. The authors also explain why they ruled out some alternatives to classic granulated white sugar, such as Turbinado or Stevia, as good baking options. What we’re left to work with is Sucanat, coconut sugar, date sugar, maple syrup and honey. I bought the first two, grateful to finally understand that they are (Sucanat, available at my local health store, is made by “extracting the juice from sugar cane and then beating it with paddles to form granules” and coconut sugar, available at my local Hannaford, is “sap from the flowers of the coconut palm” boiled and beaten in a similar fashion).

“We set the bar pretty high for ourselves with this book,” the authors of “Naturally Sweet” write, and it shows in these sections. While I was disappointed that I had to go online to be reminded of the definition of “Dutch-processed cocoa” (seemingly for the 478th time in my life), everything else I needed was right there, delivered in a friendly tone and seriously informative; a chart that shows equivalent measures for granulated sugar, Sucanat and coconut sugar will be very handy for converting some of my own recipes. I was eager to see, no, to taste, what that bar looked like in food form.

I made three desserts, starting with a chocolate pound cake made with Sucanat, Dutch-processed cocoa powder and milk chocolate. It was bitter, a little dry and shockingly easy to resist. I threw a cocktail party and plopped the cake in the middle of the table full of finger food. The morning after, only one or maybe two slices had been taken. Fail. Then I made a rice pudding using local maple syrup (19 grams of sugar versus 32 grams in the original recipe). With some fresh fruit on top of it, I liked but didn’t love it. Next up, a dark chocolate pudding with Sucanat. The “Naturally Sweet” version of this pudding contained 20 grams of sugar, as opposed to 31 grams in the original recipe. No one is getting skinny on this – particularly not with that directive to stir 5 tablespoons of butter in at the end – but it was as delicious, easy to make and decadent seeming as any chocolate pudding I’ve ever had. I’m glad I baked on past that unsuccessful chocolate pound cake; this book might be a game changer for us.

Press Herald Staff Writer Mary Pols says the dark chocolate pudding is “as delicious, easy to make and decadent seeming as any chocolate pudding I’ve ever had.” Photo courtesy of America's Test Kitchen


Reviewer Mary Pols used Dutch-processed for the cocoa, half and half instead of heavy cream, and chocolate chips for the chopped chocolate because those are what she had in her pantry.

Serves 6

1/4 cup Sucanat

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

3 large egg yolks

21/2 cups whole milk

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk Sucanat, cocoa, cornstarch and salt together in a large saucepan. Add cream and egg yolks and whisk until fully incorporated, making sure to scrap corners of the pan. Whisk in milk until well combined and smooth.

Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbling over entire surface, 5-8 minutes. Off heat, add chocolate, butter and vanilla and whisk until melted and smooth.

Strain pudding through fine-mesh strainer into bowl, place lightly creased parchment paper against surface and refrigerate until cold, at least four hours. Whisk pudding until smooth before serving.

]]> 0, 30 May 2017 17:41:18 +0000
For heavenly banana bread, vegetable oil is praiseworthy Wed, 31 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Everyone makes banana bread. And most people love it. A good friend of mine always makes it with chocolate chips because her family will eat anything with chocolate in it. I grew up with my mother making banana bread with butter and pecans, and I thought it was very good until I accidentally created the world’s best banana bread a few years ago.

Here is a little background: Anyone who bakes knows there are butter cakes and oil cakes. I put butter in most of the cakes I bake, but my Grandmother’s Apple Cake is made with vegetable oil and is always the crowd favorite. So I decided to see how banana bread made with vegetable oil would taste versus my mother’s butter recipe.

I was visiting my sister in Houston, and her twin daughters wanted to bake with me. I passed out three bowls, one for each of my nieces, and one for me, and divided the recipe into three parts. Natalie mashed the bananas with most of the sugar and the vanilla, Olivia measured and whisked the flour and remaining sugar with the other dry ingredients, and I blended the eggs and the vegetable oil.

We added toasted walnuts for taste and texture. Of course, they smelled heavenly as they baked. But once the loaves were out and cooled enough to taste, it was a whole new world.

There was even caramelization all the way through the loaf which is significant because many banana bread loaves are darker on the bottom than the top.

Dry banana bread is also a common complaint and this was the opposite of dry. Best yet, the loaf stays moist and flavorful for days.

I love to toast a slice on day 3 or 4 and eat it with a thin spread of peanut butter on top.

Anyone who bakes is familiar with butter vs. oil cakes. We take that concept and apply it to banana bread. Associated Press/Richard Drew


Use 8 x 4 x 2.5 -inch loaf pans. Disposable aluminum pans work well.

Makes 2 loaves, 10 generous slices in each

3 large and very ripe, “brown” bananas (you can use 4 small bananas)

11/2 cups granulated white sugar, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla

13/4 cup all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 large eggs

3/4 cup all-vegetable oil

1-2 cups toasted walnut halves, coarsely chopped plus more halves for decorating

Flour and oil baking spray

Toast walnuts in the oven at 250 F for about 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool. Set oven to 325 F.

Meanwhile, mash bananas with a fork and add all but 1/2 cup of the sugar. Mix and add vanilla. Continue mixing until the mixture is completely smooth.

In a separate large bowl, measure flour and stir with a whisk or fork to aerate. Place 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl. Add baking soda, salt, cinnamon and whisk well.

In a third bowl, mix eggs and oil with a blending fork until emulsified.

Using a fork, mix eggs well with the flour mixture. Add banana mixture to the egg-flour mixture and stir with a fork until completely combined. Add chopped walnuts and pour batter into prepared loaf pans, using a baking spray so the bread doesn’t stick to the pan. Decorate top with walnut halves.

Bake for about 60 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let sit in the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Served warm or cooled.

]]> 0, 30 May 2017 17:50:45 +0000
Whether green or white, asparagus is a rite of spring Wed, 31 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 For me, there’s no more secure harbinger of the exodus from winter than the oh so welcomed gift of a bundle of tender asparagus stalks from a dear friend who has been nurturing her asparagus bed for many years. A perennial, asparagus takes a few years of cultivating before it will yield its tasty rewards. It is worth the wait.

If we were transplanted to the climes of Europe, we’d welcome the arrival of asparagus, especially the white asparagus, with fanfare ranging from exuberant festivals to the crowning of asparagus royalty. There is perhaps no other country that values this healthful, mildly flavorful vegetable than Germany.

There is no other vegetable more revered there during spargelzeit, which translates to asparagus season in German. Spargel is served as a main course with boiled potatoes on the side, all topped with melted butter (spargel mit butter). Unlike the white asparagus found here, the stalks in Germany are as thick as a thumb.

“As apples mark the fall season, nothing epitomizes spring like the revered white stalks of spargel!” So began a homepage article in The article notes that the “average German enjoys the delicate flavor of this tender spring vegetable at least once a day.” In fact, many home cooks own a special asparagus steamer pot which is either tall and slender or shallow and oval-shaped.

Sandy Feather, an extension educator with the Penn State Extension office and former garden columnist, said white asparagus is white because it is grown in the absence of light under mounds of soil so the spears do not have the opportunity to undergo photosynthesis.

She said green asparagus is a comparatively easy crop. Aside from having to wait about three years to let it grow, the plants will yield a harvest for about six weeks and the bed will remain productive for up to 40 years.

Mary Ellen Camire, a fellow with the Institute of Food Technologists based in Chicago and a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine, studies both the “sensory evaluation” of foods as well as their nutritional content.

Likening it to a vampire’s storied aversion to light, Camire said this “vampire vegetable” requires a vegetable peeler. “It’s has a thicker skin than we’re used to with the green asparagus,” she said, noting that the variety probably became more thick-skinned because of its immersion in soil. She described the taste experience as “gentler and creamier.” My two daughters, who both spent a year in Germany, added juicier. I would add a bit “nuttier” in flavor.

She said there has not been a lot of testing of white asparagus for nutritional quality but noted it is assumed that it is very similar to green asparagus – which means it is a powerhouse of vitamins and a good source of antioxidants.

In fact, in my experimentation with the cooking of green asparagus, it is adequate to snap off the woody bottoms of green asparagus with the common trick of holding the stalk at each end (not the very tip, but rather the meatier ends of the spear) then bending and allowing the stalk to snap at its natural breaking point. Only if the stalks are especially thick do they require peeling.

The same was not true with white asparagus. I found after several go-rounds that white asparagus stalks remain tough, even with excessive cooking. A vegetable peeler should be used, stroking the stalk from the top down, to essentially peel the spear. This can be a challenge with the store-bought varieties from Peru, which are slender. But, stripping even a little of the stalk made the vegetable more delicious.

When picking asparagus, select firm, straight stalks with closed, compact tips. Both green and white asparagus may have a purplish hue at the tip and this is OK.

If not using immediately, wrap the stem ends in moist paper towels, pop into a plastic bag or wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Prepping the stalks involves washing and snapping off the woody ends at their natural breaking point. If using white asparagus, use a vegetable peeler to shave away the “skin” a couple of inches below the tip. This technique is not necessary with green asparagus.


The underground root system of asparagus is a network of fleshy storage roots with small feeder roots that absorb water and nutrients. The storage roots are attached to an underground stem called a rhizome; taken together, storage roots and a rhizome are commonly referred to as an asparagus crown. Often, the crown is purchased for starting plants, although seeds can be used, too.

When the soil is warm and moist, buds arise from the rhizome and grow into edible spears. If they are not harvested, spears continue to develop into attractive, green, fernlike stalks (brush). Photosynthesis in the brush of the mature plant produces essential nutrients that are moved down to the storage roots where these reserve supply energy for spear production in the following growing season. For these reasons, the bush must be allowed to grow and be protected from insects and diseases.

Asparagus does poorly in soil with a pH level below 6.0 After the first growing season, asparagus plants do not require frequent irrigation because of their deep and extensive root system. Plants must be allowed to develop an adequate storage root system before the first harvesting season. Harvesting the brush during the first growing season stunts the plants and can permanently reduce yield. In the second year, when the first spears emerge in spring, snap off the upper green and tender portion of all tight spears 7 to 10 inches long.

One 40-foot row of 5-year-old asparagus will yield about 10 to 25 pounds of spears during the average season which usually ends at mid-June.

From “How to Grow Asparagus” from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, courtesy of Sandy Feather of the Penn State Extension office.


Fresh mushrooms can be used instead of jarred ones. But make sure to cook them down a bit so the resulting liquid from the cooking process doesn’t make the dish sloppy. I chose to use white asparagus with this dish and tossed black sesame seeds on top for some color contrast. Warning: I found that the white asparagus is not as attractive on the plate as green. But, it was scrumptious.

Serves 6

1 pound of asparagus (white or green)

1 (4-ounce) jar of sliced mushrooms, drained

2 tablespoons of butter

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, toasted

Prepare asparagus (snap for green, peel for white) then cook in a small amount of boiling salted water in a covered pan until crisp-tender. Time depends on your preference and the thickness of the stalks. Drain well.

Transfer to a microwave safe oblong dish and add mushrooms, butter and lemon juice. Heat through in the microwave. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Adapted from “Better Homes and Gardens All-Time Favorite Vegetable Recipes” by Doris Eby (Meredith Corporation;1977)

Green asparagus with classic hollandaise sauce. Photo by Karen Kane/Tribune News Service


A nice hollandaise is a classic accoutrement to asparagus. Because of the color contrast, I served it with the green asparagus. Remember not to overcook the hollandaise; you’ll know it’s done when it is thick enough to coat a metal spoon.

Serves 4 to 6

For hollandaise:

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup boiling water

11/2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon of salt

Dash of cayenne pepper

In top of a double boiler, beat egg yolks with a wire whisk until smooth.

Gradually add the butter, a little at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.

Gradually add water, again beating thoroughly with the wire whisk. Place top of double boiler over simmering water in base. (Water should not touch the top pan.) Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Do not overcook as sauce will curdle.

Gradually beat in lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Spoon over the cooked asparagus.

Adapted from McCall’s Cooking School, McCall’s Publishing Co.


It’s often said that less is more, and fresh asparagus proves the point. In this bare bones recipe, asparagus gets seasoned with salt, pepper and cheese, and yields a delectable result.

Serves 4

11/2 pounds of white and green asparagus

1 tablespoon olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste

1/4 cup of Parmesan-Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare asparagus by trimming tough stalks and removing ends.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss asparagus with olive oil; season with coarse salt and ground pepper.

Spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with cheese.

Roast until asparagus is tender and cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes.


]]> 0 asparagus with classic hollandaise sauce.Tue, 30 May 2017 17:03:06 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Delicious taste makes weeknight pasta supper a potential party meal Wed, 31 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 This is a quick pasta supper that works well on a weeknight, but is also special enough to serve to guests. The tomato and olive salad and creamy green and white pasta complement each other perfectly.

Add a basket of sesame-seeded semolina bread and a small dish of excellent olive oil for dipping to complete the meal.


Goat cheese makes a quick, creamy sauce, pancetta adds its salty bite, and asparagus and peas stud the white pasta with green. If you cannot get pancetta, use prosciutto, or, for a vegetarian option, leave the meat out altogether.

Serves 4 to 5

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 ounces diced pancetta

1 pound slender asparagus

8 ounces sugar snap peas

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh sage

½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

4 ounces fresh goat cheese

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

1 pound bucatini or other strand pasta

3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

1 cup frozen green peas

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil and cook pancetta over low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving drippings in pan.

Cut off tough bottom stems of asparagus and discard. Cut tips into 1-inch lengths and slice stalks into ½-inch lengths. If sugar snaps are large, cut in half on the diagonal. Add asparagus, sugar snaps, sage and pepper flakes to skillet and sauté over medium heat for about 3 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove pan from heat and add goat cheese, scallions and lemon zest.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Scoop out about 1½ cups cooking water and reserve. Drain pasta and add to skillet. Over low heat, toss with tongs until goat cheese melts, adding enough cooking water to make a creamy sauce. Return pancetta bits to the pasta, add Parmesan and peas and toss to incorporate. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


Salty olives add their assertive flavor to this salad, which is as beautiful as it is delicious.

Serves 4 to 6

About 4 ounces arugula leaves

1½ pounds (6 medium) ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced

One quarter of a sweet white onion such as Vidalia, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped imported black olives

About 15 basil leaves

Spread arugula out onto a rimmed platter. Arrange tomatoes and onion, overlapping, over the arugula. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whisk vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Whisk in oil and stir in olives. (Can be made up to a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Spoon dressing evenly over the salad, garnish with basil, and serve.

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

]]> 0, 30 May 2017 17:15:12 +0000
Local entrepreneurs planning Yarmouth’s first craft brewery Tue, 30 May 2017 22:08:25 +0000 Yarmouth may soon get its first craft brewery.

Yarmouth entrepreneurs Brad Moll and Frank Grondin announced Tuesday that they plan to open a small-batch craft brewery and restaurant called Brickyard Hollow Brewing Co. at 236 Main St., now the home of Anthony’s Dry Cleaners. The 2,100-square-foot brewery will seat 60 indoors and an additional 30 on its patio. The business takes its name, according to a press release, from a muddy, flood-prone valley that once divided the town before it was filled in with black ash from a nearby paper mill at the turn of the 20th century.

The restaurant at Brickyard Hollow will serve traditional pub fare.

The Yarmouth Planning Board is still reviewing the brewery plans, but Moll and Grondin, who is also part owner of Handy’s Market and Cafe on Main Street, said they hope to open in late fall, after the building is completely remodeled.

A full-time brewmaster will be starting soon, along with a chef and general manager.

]]> 0 Tue, 30 May 2017 18:15:05 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Trattoria Fanny’s chef keeps it intentionally, intelligently simple Sun, 28 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 David Levi doesn’t care how you pronounce the name of his new Portland trattoria, as long as you’re talking about it. For the record, he chose the name to honor his grandmother, a flamboyant character who, along with her husband, fled Milan to escape Mussolini’s fascist regime in 1938. Her name was Fanny (rhymes with “La KNEE”). “She was a brilliant woman, charming and elegant – and also a competitive runner who just happened to hang out with opera singers. I didn’t get to spend many years with her, but I grew up with the recipes she passed on to my parents,” he said.

Levi is also the chef/owner of nearby Vinland, a strictly conceived, philosophy-driven fine dining restaurant that sources 100 percent of its ingredients, from sirloin to salt, from the local area. Trattoria Fanny, on the other hand is all about traditional, casual Italian cooking: “It’s not food as art, or food as idea. It’s food as food, and food as culture,” as Levi describes it. “A trattoria is supposed to be a place with no pretension, no frills, like an Italian version of a diner.”

That folksy perspective informs the uncomplicated interior, sketched out in off-white walls and dark wood that Levi salvaged from his family’s 18th century farmhouse in upstate New York. His is an intelligent species of simplicity, though, one achieved through a little well-deployed sleight of hand. Take the induction cooktop-powered open kitchen – with no whoosh and rumble from gas burners, it is so quiet that it almost fades into the rough-hewn woodwork. Or the long, 16-seat, lacquered communal table, fitted with chairs on one side and bar stools on the other. You might never notice it, but that asymmetry cunningly erases the awkward step-down that runs along the equator of the room.

Similarly, Roman Executive Chef Siddharta “Sid” Rumma sneaks a few of his own quiet flourishes onto the menu, transforming a humdrum Northern Italian rice salad ($8) into a quintessential warm-weather dish, full of golden raisins, red peppers, capers and torn shreds of mint. It’s also visually arresting – a perfect circle of pignoli-topped Black Venus rice (Riso Nero Venere) on a stark white dish – something you might be served if Robert Longo were working the pass.

There is also a subtle artistry in Rumma’s contorno (side dish) of garlicky, wine-sautéed oyster mushrooms ($6), plated diagonally into an organic, curving form that resembles clustered flower buds on a wilting stem. It is, at once, somehow both modest and gorgeous.

Not all of the menu’s embellishments are visual, though. Take the addition of toasty brown butter to the roasted cauliflower with capers, anchovies and thyme ($7). It lends a magnificent, saturated savory intensity to a plate that is, technically, just a side dish. If I were a pescetarian, I would order two (OK, maybe three) servings of this and a glass of wine, like the fruity, delicately fizzy Santa Giustina Bonarda red ($8), and consider myself very lucky.

Actually, eating that way isn’t too far off the mark from what Rumma and Levi have in mind for visitors to Trattoria Fanny. Rather than follow the typical American template of creating composite main dishes made up of some kind of protein and a few small accompaniments, entrées are generally served plain. If you want side dishes, you order a few contorni. Staff do sometimes forget to alert guests to this rather important detail, as happened to a woman at the next table to me. When her lonely-looking monkfish with beurre blanc ($19) arrived, she glanced down at her plate, then back up to her grandson and asked, “Did I do something to make them angry?”

That said, there are one or two entrées that include their own extras, like octopus ($18), served with rough, slightly undercooked potatoes. The kitchen braises the Spanish octopus in a regionally appropriate “kind of ‘sangria liquid’ we make with water, red wine, carrot, cinnamon and pear,” Rumma said. Unfortunately, after it is seared to order, some parts of the octopus end up dried out, some mushy and yet others rubbery.

On a recent visit, I also encountered occasional seasoning problems. An appetizer of brown-skinned polenta wedges ($7) and baccala mantecato (a whipped mousse of salt-cured cod) was, by some miracle of overzealous soaking, bland and undersalted. On the other hand, guanciale-striped spaghetti alla carbonara ($13), despite the clever tweak of using a single, perfectly proportioned local duck egg in place of two chicken egg yolks, was salty in the extreme.

Riso nero salad. Staff photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

It’s hard to imagine that those dishes came out of the same kitchen that prepares a world-class rigatoni ($13) with a slow-braised oxtail tomato sauce underscored by the racy astringency of cocoa powder. “You get it especially in central and southern Italy. It gives something bitter to go against the freshness and sweetness of tomatoes in the sauce,” Rumma explained.

And while there’s nothing quite so complex about the dessert menu, it does feature an excellent torta della nonna ($6), a short, sweetcrust pastry shell filled with a lemon-infused pastry cream, punctuated across its surface with apostrophes of toasted pine nuts. Fittingly for a restaurant that so actively explores Levi’s relationship to his family’s Italian roots, the dessert’s name means “grandmother cake,” and as Rumma says, “It’s the most typical sort of dessert you get for a Sunday lunch with grandma. Everyone does it differently, but it is always simple.” Fanny – no matter how you pronounce her name – would very likely approve.

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 with potatoes.Sun, 28 May 2017 14:19:29 +0000
Portland tech startup Forager receives $70K of funding from CEI Wed, 24 May 2017 20:14:14 +0000 Portland-based tech startup Forager said it has received an additional $70,000 of funding from Coastal Enterprises Inc.

David Stone, who previously co-founded digital gift-card provider CashStar Inc. in Portland, launched a new company in March called Forager1 LLC to develop a digital procurement platform for local food producers and the retailers who sell their products. The company’s goal is to accelerate the growth of the local food economy and make locally sourced food more widely available.

The company said Tuesday that the new funding from CEI brings total investment in the startup to $1.1 million. CEI is an economic development group based in Brunswick that specializes in agriculture, fisheries and rural areas.

“Our goal is to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises and shared prosperity in Maine and across the country,” said Gray Harris, CEI’s senior program director for natural resource sectors, in a news release. “We are thrilled to invest in Forager, whose mission and focus on accelerating our local food system aligns so well with our goals.”

In March, Forager’s technology was rolled out in New England and New York state, with the eventual goal of expanding nationwide. At its launch, the company already had been up and running on a trial basis for several months and had about 100 Maine food producers and 10 grocers, food co-ops and wholesalers using it, according to Stone.

“Since our launch in March, we are already witnessing considerable success with our customers across the state of Maine, and with CEI’s support, we will continue to remove the friction from local food sourcing,” Stone said. “We know that local food can make a fundamental difference to the health of our environment and our well-being, and we want to fan the flames of a local food revolution.”


]]> 0 Wed, 24 May 2017 20:35:27 +0000
Culinary team moving from Earth to Cape Neddick Wed, 24 May 2017 20:05:38 +0000 Chef Justin Walker and restaurant manager Danielle Johnson Walker have purchased the Cape Neddick Inn Restaurant and will be leaving Earth at Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport at the end of the 2017 season.

Justin Walker said their new restaurant will continue running as usual through the summer, while he and his wife finish their final season at Earth.

“Our plan is to keep all the staff” at Cape Neddick, which is in York, he said. “We will close eventually for renovations, and we will have more detailed information about that when we get closer to that time.”

Tim Harrington, a founding partner of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, which owns Earth, said in a statement that he and the other partners are “incredibly proud of all that Earth at Hidden Pond has accomplished with the Walkers, and are excited about what’s on the horizon for our restaurant. We’re thrilled about Justin and Danielle’s new project.”

Harrington said the company’s executive team has been in discussions with potential replacements for the Walkers and will have an announcement soon about who will take over the kitchen at Earth.

Before landing at Earth, the couple worked at the legendary Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit. For the Walkers, who are married and have a young son, the choice to strike out on their own was “a lifestyle decision,” Justin Walker said. They want more of a work-life balance.

“We wanted to leave Earth for a number of reasons, but the No. 1 reason was to be closer to our home, to utilize our farm more,” he said. “We’re really excited about the possibility of incorporating more of our farm into what we do on a day-to-day basis in the restaurant. We’ll have more control over hours, more control over overall operations.”

The couple live on a farm just four miles from the Cape Neddick Inn, and their son will be able to take the school bus right to the restaurant’s front door.

The restaurant (which is not actually an inn) will serve dinner year round and brunch on Sundays. Walker will meet with the current chef, Matthew Souder, next week, but said he doesn’t foresee any immediate, major changes in the menu – although the couple will, eventually, put their own stamp on the place.

“We’re not going to just make Earth there,” he said. “It’s going to be something a little different than what we do here.”

Walker said the food would be local and seasonal, with lots of shareable plates, both large and small. He said he wants to serve a variety of good, “wholesome” food at “reasonable prices.”

The Walkers closed on the deal Monday. The Cape Neddick Inn’s previous owner, David Heavner, bought the place in 2007 and did a complete renovation, adding a fieldstone fireplace to the formal dining room. He also landscaped the entire two-acre lot.

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

]]> 0 Thu, 25 May 2017 12:42:34 +0000
Broccoli and blue cheese are made for each other in a creamy salad Wed, 24 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 It’s (almost) the season of backyard barbecues, picnics and outdoor potlucks. We gather with friends, or simply migrate to the backyard picnic table for family dinner, and that has me craving the classics: grilled meats, veggies and some creamy starchy sides like macaroni salad.

Today, I have the perfect solution for scratching the creamy-side-salad itch while actually getting in some seriously healthy raw veg. Win-win.

Creamy Broccoli and Blue Cheese Salad stretches just a smidgen of silky-and-satisfying mayonnaise with some low-fat Greek yogurt, and the resulting salad is creamy, but not cloying.

Blue cheese brings a nice sophisticated hit of flavor, and there is just enough to add complexity without being so overboard that kids won’t eat it.

Well, most anyway: one of my four kiddos deemed this salad “too bluecheesy” for her palate, but I claim 75 percent as a victory here. Because a little blue cheese goes a long way, you get a lot of flavor for your cheese calorie, but feel free to swap for a milder cheese like crumbled feta or even shredded sharp cheddar.

The bulk of the salad, though, is brilliantly healthy raw vegetables: broccoli, thinly sliced cabbage and shredded carrots.

Halved grapes add the perfect touch of sweetness that takes the salad almost to a slaw, and pairs perfectly with the tangy blue cheese and red onion.

You can spend 10 minutes breaking down your own florets, chopping cabbage and grating carrots, or spend an extra dollar to buy them prepped in the produce aisle.

Either way, the salad takes minutes to make, and it holds up well for a couple of days in the fridge. Which means leftovers can be brown-bagged for lunch the next day no problem. And, you can feel great about having a plethora of one of the most touted health foods out there: simple raw broccoli.


Servings: 6


4 cups small broccoli florets (raw)

1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup shredded red cabbage

1 cup red grapes, sliced in half

1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles


1/4 cup lowfat plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoon light mayonnaise

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 small garlic clove, finely minced or pressed, or 1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/4 teaspoon (or less or more) hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place all the salad ingredients into a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and taste for seasoning.

Pour the dressing onto the salad and toss. Best if chilled for an hour before serving to allow flavors to marry.

]]> 0, 23 May 2017 16:53:32 +0000
‘King Solomon’s Table’ is chock full of fascinating information, global recipes Wed, 24 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 “King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.” By Joan Nathan. Knopf. $35.

“King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World” is a big, handsome volume that, like writer Joan Nathan’s previous works, is both authoritative and engaging. If she hasn’t 100 percent cornered the American market on Jewish cooking, Nathan is unquestionably its reigning queen.

Here, she adheres to her usual research method: She travels around the world, steps into the kitchens of Jewish cooks – typically home cooks – shares their food, listens to their tales and brings the recipes (and stories) back to her own Washington, D.C., kitchen to translate them for American cooks.

Nathan has written 11 hefty, thoroughly researched cookbooks, and her energy and curiosity never flag. In “King Solomon’s Table,” we trail her from England to India, France to Italy, Greece to Morocco. We meet Iraqi and Hungarian cooks, Colombian and Danish cooks, Cuban, Georgian and Israeli cooks.

We run into famed chefs like Jean-Louis Palladin and Michael Solomonov, famed rabbis like Moses Maimonides, famed biblical verse from the Song of Songs and Genesis. The recipes reflect Nathan’s globe-trotting and her wide-ranging scholarship, from the brisket, challah and rugelach that I grew up with in a suburb of Philadelphia in the 1970s to the Cashew Nut Strudel with Guava and Lime and the Sri Lankan Breakfast Buns with Onion Confit that I decidedly did not. Even with the less exotic (to me) recipes, Nathan adds many interesting twists. She mixes fennel seeds with the more usual poppy and sesame seeds that coat her challah; she fills a babka with exotically spiced quince; she makes latkes out of sweet potatoes and serves them with Yemenite hot sauce (zhug).

Some of the recipes are threaded with sorrow. Nathan asks a Parisian Jewish chef why putterkuchen, or butter crumble cake, is his favorite. “I think about my grandmother, who I never knew,” he says (she died in a concentration camp, Nathan writes). “It is not the taste I am searching for but the memories.”

Wherever Jews went – and they went everywhere – they brought their food with them, adapting it to the ingredients, traditions and seasons of their new homes. In the introduction to “King Solomon’s Table,” Nathan writes “A Brief History of Jewish Food” comparing that shape-shifting to a bagel:

“A mass of flour, water, salt, and yeast is combined to form a dough; and so too Jewish cuisine has been created, using ingredients and techniques local to its people. As the dough is rolled and stretched, so the people, and their cuisine begin to spread. New ideas, new foods and new recipes are picked up along the way. Eventually, the rope is tapered at the end; the recipes and techniques at one end seem quite different from the other. But then, with a twist of a wrist and a pinch of the fingers, the beginning and the end of the rope are united – the cuisine goes back to its roots, simultaneously, incorporating the new tricks learned along the way and enriching other cuisines.”

I tested three recipes from “King Solomon’s Table” and look forward to trying many more. The Tahina Cookies knocked it out of the park, winning over even many doubters. “They taste like a cross between a peanut butter cookie and a Russian tea cake,” a non-sweets-eating colleague said as she devoured her third cookie.

If the Roman Ricotta Cheese Crostata with Cherries or Chocolate (or both, as I did) had a little too much filling to fit into my tart pan, it was definitely too much of a very good thing. And the Socca (Chickpea Pancakes with Fennel, Onion and Rosemary), made a reasonably fast (though you must schedule time for the batter to sit), tasty and attractive dinner for two.

I already owned several of Nathan’s cookbooks when I picked up this one. Uniformly excellent as her cookbooks are, I was certain I didn’t need to add it to my personal collection. I was wrong.


From Joan Nathan’s “King Solomon’s Table.”

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, or 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil

1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar

1 cup (135 grams), plus 2 tablespoons flour, sifted

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (120 ml) tahina (tahini)

1/4 cup (20 grams) blanched and peeled almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter or oil and sugar. Mix in the flour, salt, and baking powder, then the vanilla and the tahina.

3. Roll the dough into balls about the size of a large marble and put on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Press an almond in the center of each, slightly flattening the cookies.

4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until lightly golden and beginning to crisp.

]]> 0, 23 May 2017 17:31:53 +0000
Bread and Butter: Vinland chef David Levi works to build a coastal Maine cuisine Wed, 24 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Editor’s Note: This is the first of three columns by chef/owner David Levi of Vinland and Trattoria Fanny’s, both in Portland.

“Restriction” is a word I sometimes hear when people first hear about our concept at Vinland, where every ingredient in every dish is local. I counter with two words: “form” and “mission.” To be clear, Vinland is a restaurant, not a concept. At the most basic and real level, it is a place to eat, drink, enjoy company, relax, be delighted and have fun. Like any restaurant. So what makes this restaurant unique? Actually, a fair number of things, but they all boil down to form and mission.

When you go to a Chinese restaurant, do you ever wonder “where are the tomatoes?” Does Mexican food miss out on cranberries, Lebanese food want for miso, Indonesian food suffer for lack of rye?

The world gives us so many beautiful flavors, so many exciting colors, aromas, textures and great ingredients, each one delightful in its own way and – here’s the crux of it – each in its proper context. The best Japanese food in the world does not need olive oil. It’s not a restriction. It’s a form. Every cuisine is a form.

At Vinland, we’re working to build a cuisine of place, of this place, from the ground up.

Oh, it ain’t no way

(Ain’t no way)

It ain’t no way

(Ain’t no way)

It just ain’t no way, baby

One night, not long after Vinland opened, my sous chef, Kate, and I realized, to our horror, that we were out of yogurt whey, only to crack up when we heard Aretha Franklin singing “Ain’t No Way” overhead. Ain’t no whey? At Vinland, yogurt whey is our lifeblood. We have no lemons, so we use whey for a similar sour effect. Our commitment to local food is total, right down to the salt. As far as anyone can tell, we’re the only such restaurant on earth, which “is something. It’s definitely not nothing,” in the words of an old friend.

Without commonplace ingredients like olive oil, cane sugar and lemon, understandably, our cuisine might sound “restrictive.” Restriction, after all, defines form. But it’s not the purpose or effect of form. The purpose is to inspire. The effect is beauty.

A good form resonates with the meaning of the work, whether it’s a plated dish, a painting or a song. A good form provides room for expression and exploration, never inhibiting so much as forcing our imaginations into twists and turns that they might not, otherwise, have taken.

With all due respect to the mighty Mississippi, there are more beautiful rivers in the world, rivers that twist and turn and cascade around and over more dramatic landscapes, rivers that face the “restrictions” of boulders, cliffs, mountains and canyons. Rivers like the Saco, the Kennebec, the Androscoggin and the Penobscot.

A bad form is constrictive, like a dam, impassable to salmon and kayaks alike, dulling the imagination and boring everyone. Before I opened Vinland, I spent years considering whether 100 percent local ingredients in coastal Maine would be a fun and meaningful form for crafting a cuisine of place.

Chef David Levi carries a local hen of the woods mushroom into Vinland, one of his two Portland restaurants. Staff file photo by Gordon Chibroski

No whey? Now that would be a problem. Yogurt whey, the sour, yellow-blue liquid that is strained out of yogurt to get “Greek” yogurt like Chobani, is a by-product, an obscure one at that. But the sour flavor is delicious, and by reducing it 90 to 95 percent, it’s almost like citrus. Except that lactic acid is more mouth-watering than citric acid, and even more useful.

So while the sharp component in our food at Vinland sometimes comes from rhubarb, apple vinegar, cranberries or sorrel, condensed yogurt whey (the omnipresent “CYW” in our recipes), is our staple. It goes in our sauces, our desserts, our cocktails, and as a finishing touch on our fish and meat. How do we cook without lemon? How does anyone else cook without CYW? It is a gift of our form.

Maine is the home of ployes, the buckwheat crepes that are a staple food to the Acadian French. Our version pushes the crepes toward Ethiopian injera bread. We nudge it in that direction by fermenting the buckwheat batter with live yogurt whey, then making flat, spongy ployes by foaming the batter out of a whipped cream maker straight onto the hot griddle. It’s Acadia meets Addis Ababa, a meeting that could only happen in Maine.

Or take our fermented oat pizza. Oats, a staple to the Irish and Scottish, are a huge part of Maine’s heritage. Pizza came with the Italians, another great presence in Maine. These little pizzas, which happen to be gluten-free, are fun because they’re so tasty, but they’re also a good example of how our cuisine uses its form as a way to bring together the food traditions of Maine’s diverse people. Cuisine of time and place.

At Vinland, our mission is not our form, and our form is not our food. But they’re all of a piece. I’m not a very religious guy, but my spirituality is centered on one Hebrew phrase: tikkun olam, “heal the world.”

Is that too hokey? But it’s true. We’re here to do our small part to heal the world. Despite our imperfections. Despite the myriad compromises the world demands. The mission keeps our compromises in check. The form keeps us honest.

During my two-month stage (or culinary apprenticeship) at Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, the team there, then in its eighth year, faced a service the likes of which they’d never done. A flat seating. A buyout dinner. Forty-three people at once.

“Isn’t this very ambitious?” the wine director warned at the team meeting.

“This is a very ambitious restaurant,” replied Matt Orlando, the chef de cuisine.

Vinland is, in our own way, also a very ambitious restaurant. It is an ambitious form and an ambitious mission, which produces an ambitious cuisine. Why do less? Why not try to heal the world? And why not have some fun while we’re at it?


Recipe from Vinland chef/proprietor David Levi.

To strain yogurt, drape a large cloth napkin, similar cloth or cheesecloth over a colander set in a deeper bowl. Pour in the yogurt and let it strain until the yogurt is thick – allow at least six hours. Save the yogurt as Greek yogurt or what used to be called “yogurt cheese.”

Cook down the liquid whey in a pan on the stove until it is tan and viscous and at least 90 percent reduced by volume. The higher your burner, the faster the process, but be sure to keep your eyes on it as it gets nearer to done.


Recipe from Vinland chef/proprietor David Levi.

You will need a kitchen scale to make this recipe. Like most chefs, Levi measures in weights, which allows for more precision. You’ll also need a Vitamix or another high-powered blender. Levi uses ghee (clarified butter) to make these custards; we call for ordinary butter here. He recommends parsnips harvested after a couple hard frosts, “when they are sweetest.” The recipe calls for raw eggs, which will be partly heated by the warmth of the whirring blender, but if you are sensitive to raw eggs, this is not the recipe for you.

Serves 5

400 grams parsnip, thoroughly scrubbed, in chunks

200 grams butter

200 grams cold egg yolks

120 grams cold honey or maple syrup

50 grams condensed yogurt whey, chilled (see recipe)

60 grams ginger root, scrubbed

30 grams fresh turmeric root, scrubbed (or a heaping teaspoon of ground turmeric)

5 grams salt

Maple sugar, ground ginger, to serve

Gently roast or steam the parsnips until they are very tender. Chill.

Melt the butter.

Add all the ingredients, except the melted butter, to a Vitamix or a similar high-powered blender. Blitz briefly at maximum speed, then pour in melted butter. Continue to blend until the ingredients are silky smooth and fairly hot, hotter than a hot bath but cool enough to touch. Refrigerate the custard overnight. Serve with a dusting of maple sugar and ground ginger.

]]> 0 David Levi carries a local hen of the woods mushroom into Vinland, one of his two Portland restaurants.Wed, 24 May 2017 15:36:06 +0000
At Portland’s VegFest, enjoy the food and learn how it helps the planet Wed, 24 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Lowering one’s carbon footprint is all the rage, but few of us consider our nitrogen footprint.

Val Giguere would like to change that.

Giguere, an environmental engineer from Wells who works in the wastewater field, will speak about “Food Choices and Your Nitrogen Footprint” at this year’s VegFest in Portland.

In her 11:15 a.m. talk, she’ll outline how nitrogen pollution enters and alters our environment and how it’s tied to what we eat. She gave me a quick preview: As with carbon pollution, animal farms are the leading source of nitrogen pollution, Giguere said.

When nitrogen is loose in the environment it causes what scientists describe as a nitrogen cascade, where each atom of nitrogen contributes to a sequence of events, including climate change, acid rain, smog formation, ozone depletion, toxic algae blooms, ocean dead zones, forest dieback and groundwater contamination.

“The biggest source of nitrogen that is going into the environment is the new (petrochemical) fertilizer we’re making to put on fields to feed animals,” Giguere told me.

The other top source of nitrogen pollution, according to Giguere, comes from the 1 billion tons of animal manure piling up in the U.S. each year. This dwarfs the 18 million tons of human waste generated in the U.S. each year, she said.

The nitrogen pollution from animal farms comes from “the quantity of waste and the fact that there is no treatment for animal manure,” Giguere said. On factory farms, lagoons of waste surround the barns and the contents are periodically sprayed raw – without composting or treatment – onto the fields. These lagoons are prone to rupture during flooding.

In contrast, the Clean Water Act mandates human waste be treated in a septic tank system or wastewater treatment plant.

Other sources of nitrogen in the environment include urban stormwater runoff, burning fossil fuels and food waste.

So where does nitrogen lurk in food? Giguere explained that nitrogen equals protein. The bulk of nitrogen pollution comes from human consumption of meat, Giguere said, and “because people are eating way more protein than they need to, it has exacerbated the number of animals being raised for people to eat.”

The programming for this year’s VegFest includes food, exhibitors and two other talks.

At 1 p.m. Karen Coker and Kirsten Scarcelli, the Portland-based founders of Plant IQ, will discuss “Thriving on a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet.” Scarcelli, a certified holistic health coach, will give an overview of the science behind a plant-based diet and then discuss the foods people eat when they follow a whole-food, plant-based diet, which differs somewhat from a vegan diet.

“We’ll wrap up with some practical tips on how to transition and find support,” Scarcelli said, “And we’ll share online resources, books and cookbook suggestions.”

At 2 p.m., Boston-based author Casey Taft takes the stage to talk about the subject of his new book “Millennial Vegan.” The millennial generation, now 15 to 34 years old, accounts for almost half of all vegans.

Wastewater engineer Val Giguere will talk at VegFest about the link between meat consumption and the nitrogen pollution harming the environment. Photo courtesy of Val Giguere

In the book, Taft, a psychologist, uses his conflict prevention and resolution skills to guide new vegans through the obstacles of modern life.

“I am incredibly impressed by young people who go vegan despite all of the barriers to doing so,” Taft wrote me in an email. “I run the Vegan Publishers’ Facebook page and regularly get messages from young vegans who describe various struggles, ranging from difficulties in getting along with parents, to being forced to eat animals despite their ethical beliefs, to dealing with bullying at school for being vegan.”

The festival features more than 30 exhibitors and vendors, including Flying Fox Juice Bar, Hippy Cakes Vegan Bakery, Heiwa Soy Beanery, Frinklepod Farm and Delicious TV (handing out samples of Miyoko’s Kitchen plant-based cheeses).

Lunch, for sale in the cafeteria area, features vegan salads and sandwiches from the Portland Food Co-op, Terra Cotta Pasta and Chow Maine.

The annual event is sponsored by the Maine Animal Coalition and typically attracts close to 800 people to the LEED-certified energy-efficient elementary school overlooking downtown Portland.

Maine Animal Coalition president Beth Gallie said festival organizers work to make sure the event offers fresh experiences every year.

The significant growth in vegan cookbook authors and practitioners of plant-based medicine in recent years has meant that getting new speakers for VegFest each year is easy, Gallie said.

“We try to have new food items every year to keep it interesting,” Gallie said, adding that the VegFest lunch always showcases vegan dishes available at Portland area restaurants.

Since all of the food will be vegan, the festival’s nitrogen footprint will be low and festivalgoers can leave with a full stomach and a clear conscience.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


WHAT: VegFest, hosted by the Maine Animal Coalition, the 13th annual festival features speakers, vegan food, plant-based exhibitors, veg-friendly vendors and a raffle of veggie goodies.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 3

WHERE: East End Community School, 195 North St., Portland

HOW MUCH: Free admission


WHAT ELSE: Track your own nitrogen footprint here:

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