Food – Press Herald Tue, 28 Feb 2017 02:39:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dine Out Maine: Salt Pine Social in Bath offers eclectic, playful approach to casual dining Sun, 26 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Everybody loves to play, but Eloise Humphrey does it for a living. At Salt Pine Social, the recently opened Bath restaurant that she co-owns with Daphne and Paul Comaskey (her twin sister and brother-in-law, respectively), she specializes in carefree, sometimes irreverent ways of expressing herself.

It starts with the space: a vigorously renovated former sheet metal workshop that features long, inviting custom banquettes that Humphrey has dressed Siberian dogsled-style with sheepskins from Wiscasset and furry, overstuffed pillows. There’s also a bar lighted by a mix-and-match array of colorful Moorish lanterns that bring to mind much warmer climes, especially when their light is reflected off the high-gloss crimson floor. Yet despite the eclectic design choices, both of the restaurant’s dining rooms still feel lean and a little Scandinavian – the way you might picture Pippi Longstocking’s first grown-up apartment.

Humphrey’s menu echoes the same restrained whimsy. Here, it spools out as an intricate game of make-believe she shares with her guests, where she recreates dishes that evoke memories of people and places dear to her. Take the bright and punchy British-style rollmops ($9), herring fillets pickled simply and served with toasted triangles of dense Danish rye, sweet butter, and pickled onions and carrots. “I was going to make grilled sardines, like I had when I was in Morocco, but the closest I could get was herring, and they were a little too big to grill, so I pickled them and made rollmops. I loved to eat them when I was in England,” she said, eliding one food memory into another.

There’s also a vanilla-freckled Meyer lemon panna cotta in passion fruit “soup” ($8), a tribute to Krista Kern Desjarlais (The Purple House), whose acclaimed former Portland restaurant Bresca once served a similar dish. “I never forgot it. I don’t know her recipe or anything, but it’s my ode to Krista Kern,” she said. As cover versions go, it is remarkable, with hits of fresh mint and a bracingly tangy tropical dice of papaya, pineapple, kiwi and mango that immediately erases any thoughts of snow falling outside.

Humphrey keeps her links to the past alive through her staff, as well. Recently, she brought in Jeff Kent – an old friend with whom she worked in New York 30 years ago – to act as a consulting chef, helping her stitch together a permanent menu that will take Salt Pine Social into the tourist season and beyond. He also seems to embrace her light-hearted tilt toward using memory as inspiration. Case in point: clam chowder ($6 cup/$10 bowl) from a recipe he learned as a young teenager, reproduced faithfully here, ground quahogs and all, save for one well-conceived upgrade, a house-made Tabasco-infused crouton.

There’s also the hacked chicken ($16), a whopping portion of intensely smoked thighs and drumsticks, all cleavered into three-bite pieces and served with a light, cornbread-like (and gluten-free) cheddar stick – a dish the two chefs used to prepare long ago, as they cooked side-by-side at Manhattan’s Arizona 206. Apart from the accompanying cowboy beans, which were confusingly undersalted and over-herbed with oregano, this was the sort of hearty plate I could imagine appearing in my own culinary reminiscences.

Only a few bistro classics on the menu possess no particular link to Humphrey’s past, like the sharp cheddar-topped organic hamburger ($16), made from ground short ribs and chuck from Caldwell Farms in Turner. Here though, she makes the most of an opportunity to create something special on a blank canvas. It’s a chance, as she puts it, “to play around a little with locally sourced food,” by smoking the superlative shallots from her friend’s off-the-grid farm in Brunswick and turning them into an aioli with a phenomenal depth of flavor.

It’s a trick she repeats – this time in the oven – by plating sweet, yielding slices of roasted Bosc pear along with grilled bread and a timbale of ultra-clean tasting, basket-aged local ricotta ($11). But even here, flashbacks creep in, this time germinating the idea for a syrup infused with rosemary and black pepper that is based on something she ate in a restaurant in Inverness, California 25 years ago. Its tiny needle pricks of heat and gentle piney sweetness animate every mouthful.

But the dish that best spotlights Humphrey’s singular talent at combining the ludic and the nostalgic is her Lebanese tomato salad ($10) with celery and fresh sheep’s milk feta. Inspired by a salad made by her friend, celebrated Dallas chef Sharon Hage, Humphrey builds complex, feathery layers of mint, basil, celery leaves and parsley, and pinions them to a framework of spice: cinnamon, coriander and sumac. “I loved her salad because the flavors were so alive, and they just really reminded me of my childhood,” Humphrey said.

There is perhaps no bolder, nose-thumbingly audacious move for a serious chef than to serve a raw tomato salad in February. But thanks to nearby hydroponic gardens in Massachusetts and Maine, she pulls it off. No, scratch that. The salad is so good right now – in the most inhospitable season of the year – that it compels you to look forward to the warm months, just to imagine what she will be able accomplish then. It’s the ultimate trickster gambit: Humphrey dazzles and distracts as she looks backwards for inspiration, while she forces you (lovingly) to do exactly the opposite.

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 ricotta with grilled bosc pears, grilled bread and rosemary black pepper syrup.Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:07:38 +0000
Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro in Rangeley a family affair Sat, 25 Feb 2017 22:40:45 +0000 RANGELEY — Food is a family obsession for Mike Kupstas.

Kupstas, 59, co-owner of the Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro in Rangeley, has worked in the industry since he landed his first job at McDonald’s at 16.

His wife and two adult children are foodies, as are their spouses. And every Sunday Mike and his brother Steve, his fellow Forks in the Air co-owner, hop on the phone to discuss the Sunday meals they are preparing for their families, bridging the 1,500-mile divide between Mike’s home in St. Louis, Missouri, and Steve’s in West Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro in Rangeley offers a menu that two brother-co-owners review every week. The bistro will participate in Maine Restaurant Week, which runs March 1-12. Courtesy photo

So when Kupstas and his family saw an opportunity to open up a restaurant on Main Street in Rangeley they knew they had to take it. They had fallen for Rangeley decades earlier. Kupstas started coming to the area when he was 6 years old and raised his two children on the region’s lakes and mountains.

“We had this vision that we could have chef-driven, very unique food with everything made from scratch that people would come for and respect even in a small tourist community like Rangeley,” he said.

Since the restaurant’s first year, Forks in the Air has been participating in Maine Restaurant Week presented by Maine Magazine, which runs March 1-12. The Rangeley restaurant is the only one from Franklin County participating in the promotion, which runs March 1-12, with most hailing from southern and coastal Maine.

The Kupstas’ opened Forks in the Air in July 2013 and unlike many local businesses, committed to keeping the restaurant open year-round to provide employment for staff and reliable, fresh fare for residents, second homeowners and visitors.

The restaurant boasts a rotating seasonal menu stocked with rustic comfort food like quail, duck or short ribs.

Head chef Payson Farrar said when it comes time to change the menu, he checks in with local farmers to see what they’re growing. As a rule, Farrar and Kupstas said Forks in the Air tries to source their meats, seafood and produce locally, bringing in eggs, carrots and other vegetables from local farms.

Kate McCormick can be contacted at 861-9218 or at:

Twitter: KateRMcCormick

]]> 0 to right are Steve Kupstas, co-owner; Karen Seaman, general manager; and Mike Kupstas, co-owner, of the Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro in Rangeley.Sat, 25 Feb 2017 17:53:17 +0000
UMaine launches website to help with specialty food products Sat, 25 Feb 2017 15:03:41 +0000 ORONO – The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is launching a website that it says will be helpful to food manufacturers looking to work in specialty products.

The website has information about Recipe to Market, which is an extension educational program that is designed for food industry professionals and aspirants who want to start specialty food businesses.

It also links to state licensing agencies, testing services and a commercially licensed kitchen that can be rented at UMaine.

Extension professor Louis Bassano created the website along with extension food science specialist and professor Beth Calder and extension economics professor James McConnon.

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Here is what’s replacing Joe’s Boathouse in South Portland Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:19:59 +0000 The new restaurant going into Spring Point Marina in South Portland, former home of Joe’s Boathouse, will be called 43North and will open in late May or early June, according to one of the partners developing the business.

Laura Argitis, owner of the Old Port Sea Grill, said the dockside, two-level 43North is named after the location’s latitude. The chef will be Stephanie Brown, who is now executive chef at the Woodlands Club in Falmouth. Brown previously owned Sea Grass Bistro, a small restaurant in Yarmouth that is now closed.

Argitis said Brown’s menu will change often and focus on American cuisine with French and Italian influences. Seafood will be a fixture on the menu.

Argitis is partnering with the owner of Port Harbor Marine, which operates Spring Point Marina, to develop the new restaurant, next to the Breakwater condominiums.

Joe’s Boathouse closed in late 2015 after 23 years in business, and the 35-year-old, one story building that housed it has been torn down.

]]> 0 Sat, 25 Feb 2017 08:43:59 +0000
And the nominees for best Oscar-inspired cocktail are … Thu, 23 Feb 2017 16:03:56 +0000 0 GIFT, inspired by ‘Arrival’ Mark Hibbard, Bramhall 1 1/2 ounces Gordon’s Gin 3/4 ounce Aperol 3/4 ounce combier orange, 1 ounce pineapple juice 3/4 ounce lime, 1/4 ounce warm spiced grenadine 2 dashes Dove Shanks orange bitters 1/2 egg white Angostura float Activated charcoal Image courtesy of Bramhall THE GIFT, INSPIRED BY ‘ARRIVAL’ Mark Hibbard, Bramhall 1 1/2 ounces Gordon’s Gin 3/4 ounce Aperol 3/4 ounce combier orange, 1 ounce pineapple juice 3/4 ounce lime, 1/4 ounce warm spiced grenadine 2 dashes Dove Shanks orange bitters 1/2 egg white Angostura float Activated charcoal Image courtesy of Bramhall MANCHESTER BY THE SHORE, inspired by ‘Manchester by the Sea’ Nicole Bates, Grace 1 ounce lavender infused Hardshore gin 1 ounce Galliano 1 ounce cocchi americano Burnt orange garnish Image courtesy of Grace MANCHESTER BY THE SHORE, INSPIRED BY ‘MANCHESTER BY THE SEA’ Nicole Bates, Grace 1 ounce lavender infused Hardshore gin 1 ounce Galliano 1 ounce cocchi americano Burnt orange garnish Image courtesy of Grace THE FIELD MEDIC, inspired by ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Adam Sousa, Sonny’s 1 1/2 ounces Vida Mezcal 3/4 ounce honey syrup 1 ounce fresh lemon juice 3 slices muddled ginger 1 dropper lava tincture (Dove Shanks bitters) Image courtesy of Sonny's THE FIELD MEDIC, INSPIRED BY ‘HACKSAW RIDGE’ Adam Sousa, Sonny’s 1 1/2 ounces Vida Mezcal 3/4 ounce honey syrup 1 ounce fresh lemon juice 3 slices muddled ginger 1 dropper lava tincture (Dove Shanks bitters) Image courtesy of Sonny's WALKER TEXAS RANGER, inspired by 'Hell or High Water' Trevin Hutchins, Rhum 1 ounce Johnnie Walker 1 ounce Vida Mezcal 1/2 ounce curacao 3/4 ounce lime 1 1/2 pineapple 1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup Image courtesy of Rhum WALKER TEXAS RANGER, INSPIRED BY 'HELL OR HIGH WATER' Trevin Hutchins, Rhum 1 ounce Johnnie Walker 1 ounce Vida Mezcal 1/2 ounce curacao 3/4 ounce lime 1 1/2 pineapple 1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup Image courtesy of Rhum GOLDEN GARAM MASALA, inspired by ‘Lion’ Matt Sherwood, Sur Lie 1 1/2 ounce Espolon reposado tequila 1/2 ounce Cardamaro 1/2 ounce persimmon shrub 1/2 ounce lemon 5 dashes Coastal Root Garam Marsala bitters Image courtesy of Sur Lie GOLDEN GARAM MASALA, INSPIRED BY ‘LION’ Matt Sherwood, Sur Lie 1 1/2 ounce Espolon reposado tequila 1/2 ounce Cardamaro 1/2 ounce persimmon shrub 1/2 ounce lemon 5 dashes Coastal Root Garam Marsala bitters Image courtesy of Sur Lie Thu, 23 Feb 2017 11:31:03 +0000 Nervous about ordering wine in a restaurant? Don’t be Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 There you are, sitting comfortably with your special one at a great table in a fantastic place, looking forward to a memorable evening. You open the wine list and your mood changes. Trying to make sense of it feels like to going to Mass in Latin. Every now and then you catch a glance of a familiar grape varietal, but by and large nothing is registering. You don’t recognize any of the producers, any of the varietals, many of the regions. You feel a prick of anxiety, wondering if you should even bother with wine. The last thing you want is to drop a lot of money on a bottle you won’t enjoy.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, you know how frustrating and intimidating it can be. Relax. There’s nothing shameful in not knowing the ins and outs of the bottles on a wine list. Most people don’t have the slightest interest in the technical aspects of winemaking. They don’t care how high above sea level a vineyard is located or whether it faces north-south or east-west. They probably don’t care about the length of the maceration period (what the hell is maceration?); what kind of trellising was used; or how (and why) oak was used to make the wine.

But if you don’t recognize one bottle out of a hundred, you better pray to Bacchus that there’s someone in the restaurant who does. I don’t give a damn about the details of proctological medicine, but when it comes time, I want a proctologist who does. In the context of the restaurant, this is where the sommelier enters the scene.

Even with a good sommelier, you are not totally absolved of responsibility: What you have to do is make a decision. It’s not the one you may think, namely what wine do I order? Rather, you have to decide what kind of wine experience you want and then you have to trust the sommelier to help you to have it.

I often begin by asking my guests whether they want their wine experience to be like a childhood “blankie” or a road map out of town. Both are different, but both are perfectly legit ways to orient to wine.

If the blankie metaphor resonates, you will probably want a wine that is comforting to you. Familiar. Delicious in a way that you’re used to. In this case, tell your wine guide about the kinds of wines that you usually drink and like. Drop some bottle names and ask him or her to find you a bottle off of their list that will fire on the same cylinders.

Now if you find yourself curious about the ‘road out of town’ metaphor, then you’re like countless customers I’ve met who like particular wines yet are tired of drinking those particular wines. They don’t come to restaurants to eat food they could cook at home, and they don’t come to restaurants to drink wine they’ve drunk the night before at home.

If you’re in this second group, you can help the sommelier exponentially by letting him or her know what you don’t want to drink, the kinds of wine you hate. For example, if you don’t like obvious wines – wines that offer very discernible aromas and flavors – let your somm know!

Any somm worth a damn will care only about what you are looking for. Sure, somms have their own preferences, but good ones won’t let these preferences spill over into forced prescriptions about what customers should and should not drink. They’ll have recommendations if you ask them what they would drink with the particular kind of cuisine being served, but they should use your preferences as their first reference point.

This customer-centric philosophy is my basic orientation to every guest. It stands in contrast to what I’ll call an “expert-centric” approach – where you might hear a somm “unrecommend” a wine that a guest has asked for because it isn’t what he or she would select. Being customer-centric doesn’t mean I don’t use my expertise. The opposite actually. A great deal of expertise is required to understand what someone wants and to find that exact experience for them. The point is, I am nobody’s appointed arbiter of taste. If someone wants a juicy Zin with their fluke, I’ll find them the sloppiest Zin on my list, deliver it and smile as I watch them enjoy themselves. Period. All guests deserve that. As hospitality professionals, we somms are here to take our cues from them.

Whether a restaurant has a 20-bottle list or, as is the case in the restaurant where I work, a 200+ bottle list, choices need to be made. Your job isn’t necessarily to know how to make the choice – it’s to help the person who does know guide you toward the thing you’re looking for. Facing a wine list with the expectation that you should know it all inevitably leads to frustration. Instead, just remember to ask yourself what you’re after: blankie or adventure, and let the somm take you there.

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, 21 Feb 2017 18:49:42 +0000
Maine chefs share their favorite restaurant dishes from the past year Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Maine Restaurant Week, which begins March 1, is the perfect time to visit all those places you’ve been meaning to get to, but haven’t had the chance.

And there are a lot of them, right? Sometimes it seems as if we hear about a new restaurant opening up every day in Portland. It’s hard to keep up.

Chefs can empathize. They’d like to see what other restaurants are feeding their customers, or just have a nice evening out, but they are busy in the kitchen several nights a week, or – like the rest of us – have other obligations that keep them from dining around town.

Take Niko Regas, the chef at his family’s Greek restaurant, Emilitsa. Before taking over kitchen duties and having a family, he used to eat out every night of the week. Now, with a 2-year-old and a 7-month-old at home, dining out is a real luxury.

Places he’s eager to try? Drifter’s Wife and Scales in Portland, and the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk.

“I haven’t been to Back Bay Grill in forever,” Regas said. “I’m dying to go back there.”

When chefs do switch roles and actually sit down to eat, it’s a special treat – and if they sample something especially terrific, they remember it. Who better to go to for advice on what to order?

So with Maine Restaurant Week just a week away, we revisit a favorite topic, asking local chefs about their most memorable meals over the past year. Chefs, like the rest of us, often flock to the buzzy new places, which may be why many of them are talking about Tipo, Chris Gould’s latest – it opened six weeks ago. And perhaps it was inevitable that at least one chef would mention the beef salad from Thanh Thanh 2 on Forest Avenue in Portland. If one dish could be proclaimed Portland chefs’ favorite, this would probably be it. As Josh Berry, executive chef at Union put it, “Nothing fancy about this salad. It’s just awesome!”

Here are the favorite dishes other Maine chefs singled out, served up by both phone and email:

REBECCA AMBROSI AND FRANK ANDERSON, chefs, Rhum Food & Grog and Big J’s Chicken Shack, Portland:

Ambrosi and Anderson are huge fans of The Honey Paw in Portland.

“Everything we have ever enjoyed there has always been on point,” Ambrosi said. “The way they develop flavors shows true skill and passion.”


Standouts? The house citrus-cured gravlax platter, the mushroom udon, and the wonton soup.

“Always enjoyed with a Strong Paw… or two…” Ambrosi said, referring to a cocktail made with tequila, mezcal, honey, lime and chile.

The couple also gave a shout out to the crab club sandwich (Maine crab meat, mayo, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes on Texas toast) at DiMillo’s on the Water, “always simple and delicious,” Ambrosi said. “We love sitting at the bar, enjoying a good martini and the view.”

STEVE CORRY, executive chef/co-owner, Five Fifty-Five and Petite Jacqueline, Portland:


“My son Seamus and I have been taking our new puppy to dog-training classes at Planet Dog every Monday evening and grab a casual bite to eat beforehand. I have to say that tops on our list is the BBQ selection at Terlingua. Whether it’s the brisket, pork shoulder or whatever they have that night, both of us really enjoy sharing this option with a few smaller plates to round things out.”

FREDERIC ELIOT, head chef, Scales, Portland:

Eliot fondly recalls a foie gras parfait he had at Central Provisions.

“I was expecting something very heavy and to be too much (even for someone like me who loves foie gras), but it was light and unctuous and had the consistency of a well-executed pot de crème. And the lemon gelée on top brought a touch of acidity to the dish that was very welcome. I ate the whole thing! Very well balanced and delicious.”

MICHAEL MacDONNELL, executive chef, Tempo Dulu, Portland:

MacDonnell moved to Portland to work at Tempo Dulu, but his wife and children stayed in the family home in the midcoast. The family sees one another one or two days a week.

“What I miss the most on the days we are apart is eating the meals my wife prepares together with my family,” MacDonnell said. “When I have free time and I’m looking for a meal in Portland, I tend to gravitate toward small family restaurants. I love Huong’s Vietnamese Restaurant on St. John Street. When I visit Huong’s, I have a mother and grandmother cooking for me. The children are there helping mom run the dining room. The food at Huong’s is as I remember it when their family was running their restaurant on Cumberland Avenue in the late 1990s. Their space is larger now, and the children are grown, but when I have a bowl of special combination beef noodle soup, I’m comforted. I feel closer to home.”

CHRIS GOULD, chef/owner, Central Provisions and Tipo, Portland:

Gould is another family man who goes out less now that daughters Lucy, nearly 2, and Jocelyn Paige – born just two weeks ago – are in the picture.


Gould likes to stop at Maple’s in Yarmouth on his way to work for a coffee and bagel. Maple’s bagels, he says, are “the best bagels I’ve had since I was in New York City.”

“My favorite bagel right now is the salt bagel with honey-rosemary cream cheese,” he said. “The combo of sweet and salty with the crunchy-chewy bagel is terrific.”

JOSH BERRY, executive chef, Union Restaurant, Portland:

Berry says that when Union was being built, “I think I ate at the Corner Room every day.” (The Corner Room is across the street from the hotel, and the hotel’s office was above the restaurant.) The restaurant’s mushroom pappardelle quickly became his favorite. It’s also the favorite of the hotel’s general manager, Berry said.

“It’s just so full of mushrooms, all different types,” Berry said. “It’s not heavy. They’re so consistent with it. Some chefs try to go crazy with food, or try to make things different just because they can. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

KARL DEUBEN AND BILL LEAVY, chefs/co-owners, East Ender, Portland:

“We recently had the pleasure of attending Tipo’s soft launch. (The restaurant opened on Jan. 11.) Standout dishes were the beef carpaccio and hand-pulled mozzarella. Both simple and delicious. Also very nice to see some familiar faces from back in our Hugo’s days.”


PAOLO LABOA, executive chef, Solo Italiano, Portland

Laboa, still relatively new to Portland, has discovered three restaurants near Solo Italiano that he loves to visit: Fore Street, Eventide Oyster Co., and Central Provisions. He’s also paid a visit to Chris Gould’s new restaurant, Tipo.

“I don’t have much time to go outside, unfortunately,” he said. “I’m always working. Fortunately, that means we’re still busy, even though it’s winter.”

At Fore Street, he enjoyed cod nestled in a broth that was “very warm and inviting. Very nice.”

At Tipo, he was happy to find the corzetti dish – made with pork sausage, squash, ricotta salata, pistachio and vincotto – because it reminded him of home. Corzetti is a pasta typical of Ligurian cuisine.

“For me, it’s nice and fun to see real Genovese on the menu,” Laboa said.

On Laboa’s wish list: Lolita, Drifters Wife, and Street & Co.

SHELBY STEVENS, executive chef, Natalie’s, Camden:

Stevens and her husband, Chris Long, are co-executive chefs at Natalie’s, which is located in the Camden Harbour Inn.

“Chris and I really enjoy Chase’s Daily in Belfast, a vegetarian breakfast spot with a really great menu and morning program that includes some of the best coffee in town,” Stevens said. “I always get their fun pastries, and the staff is so warm and welcoming.”

Chase’s Daily is a semifinalist for a 2017 James Beard Award in the Outstanding Restaurant category.


MATT GINN, chef, Evo Kitchen & Bar, Portland:

When Ginn gets a chance to go out to eat, he goes for pasta.

“As long as I can remember, a big, flavorful, satisfying pasta dish has been my favorite food,” he said. “Anything from ramen at Miyake to carbonara at Piccolo, I love them all. I recently had a very memorable rye cavatelli with pork ragu, mascarpone, and Calabrian chili sauce at Tipo, which was absolutely delicious. I will be going back for more. But the dish that I have ordered the most has to be the braised rabbit garganelli at Isa.” Isa is a bistro on Portland Street.

“Every time I get it, it is very well executed and consistent,” Ginn said.

NIKO REGAS, chef, Emilitsa, Portland:

Regas is still thinking about the short ribs he ordered at a restaurant down the street from Emilitsa, Union in the Press Hotel.

“I’m a sucker for short ribs,” he said. “I still can taste it right now. (It was) a raisin glaze over potato cream emulsion. There was crispy garlic sprinkled on top with roasted shallots and a rosemary ash. It really stuck out with me. The glaze was what hit home for me. It was perfectly cooked. The portions were great.”

Regas says the dish reminded him of Greek cooking, which sometimes uses raisin marmalade.

BRIAN ANDERSON, executive chef, Congress Squared, Portland:

“I recently went back to Fore Street after not going in for a while and had an amazing meal. There was an apple pie dessert with cheddar cheese, and freshly spun, custard-style ice cream that was unreal. A real nod to the old school, but done perfectly and probably the best thing I have had in a restaurant in some time.”


SAM HAYWARD, founding chef, Fore Street, Portland:

Hayward’s choice for best plate is a dish of wide ribbon pasta he enjoyed at Solo Italiano in December.

“I can’t recall the name of the pasta shape, probably a regional name I wasn’t familiar with,” he said. “It was served with a delicate pink tomato ragu with pieces of roasted mushrooms throughout. I loved the smoky-meaty sauce, of course, but the standout attribute was the pasta itself – very thin, expertly rolled and cooked. In fact, I remarked to the server that I thought it was perfect, a word that doesn’t fall from my lips very often. It was a complete knockout, not for tweaky innovation or flight of fancy, but because of the authoritative perfection of the cooking. Best pasta I’ve had in Maine in some time.”

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Maine Restaurant Week: A look at fundraisers, walking tours, competitions Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Restaurant Week began in 1992 in New York City as a way to promote the city and its food during that year’s Democratic Convention; restaurants offered three-course lunches for $19.92. The event soon spread to other cities, other states, even other countries. Maine held its first restaurant week in 2009. This year 72 restaurants from 22 communities in Maine are participating in the event, which runs from March 1-12.

Participating Maine chefs are offering multi-course dinners for a range of prices: $25, $35, $45 and $55, not including beverages, taxes and tip. Some restaurants will also serve special lunch deals starting at $15. Reservations are recommended.

For a list of restaurants and menus, go to



WHAT: Ten local restaurants vie for the title of Breakfast Champion. A ticket buys you a taste of all their dishes, and you get to vote for your favorites.

WHEN: 7:30 a.m. Feb. 28

WHERE: Sea Dog Brewing Co., 125 Western Ave., South Portland

HOW MUCH: $25. This event is a fundraiser for Preble Street Resource Center, a social services agency that provides food and shelter for the homeless.

TICKETS: Search for “Maine’s Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off” on


WHAT: Local bartenders compete for your vote for best cocktail.

WHEN: 3-5 p.m. March 3

WHERE: Sonny’s, 83 Exchange St., Portland


TICKETS: Search for “Cocktail Competition” on


WHAT: A celebration of coffee. Enjoy different roast levels and brew methods while savoring treats made by local bakers and pastry chefs. Includes tastes of coffee beer (yes, there is such a thing), a coffee cocktail, and last year’s Restaurant Week award-winning cocktail.

WHEN: Noon to 2 p.m. March 5

WHERE: Coffee By Design, 1 Diamond St., Portland


TICKETS: Search for “Maine’s Perfect Pairing Challenge” on


WHAT: Self-guided cocktail and paired bites walking tour.

WHEN: 2 p.m. March 12

WHERE: Various restaurants and bars throughout Portland


TICKETS: Search for “Spirit Quest” on



WHAT: Benefit concert for Preble Street featuring Armies, members of Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds, and The Working Dead.

WHEN: March 3. Doors open at 8 p.m., music starts at 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Portland House of Music, 25 Temple St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $22 in advance, $27 day of show. VIP tickets cost $50 and include a 6:30 p.m. meet-and-greet with Dave Gutter and Anna Lombard (of Armies) with food, a Q&A, and a private performance, all at Kimmy’s, 1366 Westbrook St., Portland.

TICKETS: Search under “events” at


WHAT: Matt Ginn, executive chef at Evo Kitchen & Bar, will be cooking at the James Beard House in New York City on March 6. Too far to go for dinner? You can still experience the menu at this preview dinner.

WHEN: 5-10 p.m. March 2

WHERE: Evo, 443 Fore St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $75, with an optional $25 wine pairing

TICKETS: Call (207) 358-7830.

]]> 0, 22 Feb 2017 09:04:51 +0000
With ‘Posh Eggs’ on your shelf, you’ll never lack for egg cookery inspiration Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Posh Eggs: Over 70 recipes for wonderful eggy things.” By Lucy O’Reilly. Quadrille Publishing Limited. 176 pages. $19.95.

If you don’t already appreciate the versatility of the simple egg, you will be the time you’ve finished flipping through “Posh Eggs: Over 70 recipes for wonderful eggy things.”

“From providing reassuringly humble treats to something very, very posh, without the mighty egg, our culinary lives would be infinitely poorer,” Lucy O’Reilly writes in the introduction.

Eggs are a staple in my kitchen, but I rarely experiment with new ways to serve them. There are only so many ways to make fritattas and scrambled eggs interesting, so I was excited to get my hands on “Posh Eggs.” Nearly every recipe appeals to me: the egg foo yung and egg drop soup, the traditional Greek lemon and egg soup, the salmon quiche with pink peppercorns.

O’Reilly, a U.K.-based freelance food stylist and writer, opens the book with the most basic and helpful instructions on how to boil, poach, scramble and fry eggs, though this book may be a bit of a challenge for an inexperienced cook. The recipes are presented in a very straightforward way and some are simple – including the classic retro canape deviled eggs – but others take more skill in the kitchen, like the twice-baked crab souffles topped with crème fraîche and Gruyere. Many of the recipes will appeal to people who appreciate complex flavors, like in the Turkish Menemen. O’Reilly says the “simple yet gutsy” baked egg dish is best serve straight from the pan with warm flatbreads for mopping and dipping.

I’ll admit that I often choose cookbooks with my eyes (at least initially) and have a hard time inspiring myself to try a new recipe that doesn’t include photos. For me, “Posh Eggs” was a visual delight. The photos, by Louise Hagger, may be among the most beautiful I’ve seen in a cookbook.

I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the photo of the Israeli Green Shakshuka, and not just because the dish was plated on a stunning vintage Catherineholm platter I lusted over. The shakshuka looked luscious: a bright orange yolk dusted with pepper and nestled on a pile of greens scattered with bright green sprigs of dill and bright red chilis. The dish was easy to prepare, and packed a big flavor punch. The yolk added a nice richness to complement the sweet onion, salty feta and olives and crisp greens.

The book is divided into five sections based on type of eggs: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and desserts and drinks. I found the Green Shakshuka in the lunch section, but really I’d eat that for any meal of the day. Or maybe twice in a day. This recipe will now be in regular rotation in my kitchen.

I prepared the shakshuka as instructed by O’Reilly, but didn’t use the optional sumac (which would given it a pleasingly sour wallop). It wasn’t available at my small local grocery store, but should be available in bigger stores or specialty shops. O’Reilly suggests using purple kale if you come across it to add an extra pop of color to the already bright dish.

Green Shakshuka Photo by Louise Hagger


Serves 2; takes 25 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

2 ounces mixed shredded greens such as kale or chard (any thick stems removed)

4 ounces baby spinach leaves

3 tablespoons double (heavy) cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1.5 ounces black and green pitted olives, roughly chopped

2 eggs

2 ounces feta

Handful chopped parsley leaves

Small handful dill sprigs

1/2 red chili pepper, finely sliced

Pinch of sumac (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a small frying pan, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over a low heat until softened. Stir in the garlic and spices, and continue to cook for a couple minutes. Add the shredded greens and season well. Cover and cook for 1 minute, then uncover and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Add the baby spinach, folding through to wilt the leaves.

Stir in the cream, lemon juice and olives. Make 2 depressions in the vegetables and crack your eggs into these. Crumble over the feta and scatter with the herbs and chili. Season the eggs with the sumac and salt and pepper, then cook gently for 12 minutes or until the egg whites have set. Serve in the pan at the table.

]]> 0 ShakshukaTue, 21 Feb 2017 18:29:20 +0000
Veggie-focused spin does a Cincinnati chili one better Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 This recipe is a loose interpretation of a true Cincinnati chili, but that richly spiced meat dish is a loose interpretation of chili to begin with, so I figure it is OK that I am tapping into the same spirit of inspiration and innovation here.

The warmly spiced and fragrant flavor of the Midwestern classic is at this recipe’s core. Mine is made with lean ground beef or turkey, cooked low and slow with tomatoes and what might seem like just about every spice in your cupboard: chili powder, paprika, allspice, cinnamon, cloves and more. After a minimum of an hour, the ingredients seem almost melted, and a deep, mole-like savory-sweet flavor develops.

But whereas the typical Cincinnati chili is soupier and often served ladled over spaghetti, this one has the chunky-thick texture you typically expect when you think “chili” – plus a more vegetable-focused spin, as it is served over ribbons of spaghetti squash. I make mine a “five-way,” as they call it in that Ohio city: topped with beans, chopped onion and shredded cheese for a crowd-pleasing and healthful comfort food meal that just may become a new classic.


The chili can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Makes 4 to 6 servings (about 6 cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large white or yellow onion, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 pound ground beef or ground turkey (90 to 93 percent lean)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon unsweetened natural (not Dutch-process) cocoa powder

2 teaspoons sweet or mild paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more as needed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 bay leaf

One 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes, plus their juices

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses

1 spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds)

1 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained (from one 14-ounce can), for garnish

1/4 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese, for garnish

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper and beef or turkey and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with the spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic.

Whisk together the chili powder, cocoa powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and cloves in a small bowl, then add to the pot; cook for 1 minute, stirring, until fragrant. Add the bay leaf, the tomatoes and their juices, the water and molasses, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, use a sharp knife to cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds (reserve for another use or discard, as you wish). To cook the squash in the microwave, place one half, cut side down, in a microwave-safe baking dish with about a half-inch of water; microwave on high for 5 to 7 minutes, until the squash is tender. Repeat with the other half of the squash.

(Alternatively, you can roast the squash halves in a 400-degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, cut sides down, in a baking dish with about a half-inch of water in the dish, until tender.)

Transfer the cooked squash to a cutting board and allow it to cool slightly, then use a fork to scrape out the squash flesh into spaghetti-like ribbons. Transfer to a bowl, draining off any excess liquid, and cover to keep warm.

When ready to serve, discard the bay leaf from the chili. Taste, and add a bit more salt, as needed. Place the squash in a serving dish or divide among individual bowls or mugs. Ladle the chili over the squash. Garnish with the kidney beans, cheese and red onion.

]]> 0, 21 Feb 2017 18:37:25 +0000
Shrimp cooked in romesco tantalizes Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 As memorably as I’ve eaten away from home over the years, there’s no restaurant, anywhere, that calls to me like Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, where for four glorious years in the 1990s I covered the food scene for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Judy Rodgers, Zuni’s longtime minder and chef, is mostly to thank for the many fond memories. Before she died in 2003, too young at 57, she wrote “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook” (2002, W.W. Norton). Of the hundreds of cookbooks on my shelves at home, hers would be the first one I’d reach for in a fire. Not only is it a scrapbook of sorts of a time and place I cherish, it’s also a master class in how and why good cooks do what they do.


As Judy Rodgers noted in her headnote for this recipe, the flavor of the sauce improves with a day’s refrigeration. We’ve streamlined a few steps, thanks to the availability of prepped ingredients that weren’t around 14 years ago. But be advised that the recipe does call for several pans.

The sauce needs to sit for 30 minutes (in the saucepan).

Adapted from Rodgers’ “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook” (W.W. Norton, 2003).

Makes 4 servings

About 1 cup mild-tasting olive oil, or as needed

1 thick slice (11/2 ounces) chewy white country bread, torn into several pieces

3 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste

1 dried ancho chili pepper, stemmed, seeded and soaked for 1 to 2 minutes in boiling water

1/2 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) blanched almonds

1 ounce (1/4 cup) skinned unsalted hazelnuts, toasted (see note)

1/2 cup drained, coarsely chopped fire-roasted tomatoes

1 teaspoon assertive red wine vinegar, preferably Spanish (as a substitute, may add a few drops of sherry vinegar to another red wine vinegar)

1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton), or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon mild paprika, or more as needed

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1 cup no-salt-added chicken broth, seafood stock, water or a combination

3 tablespoons dry white wine

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

About 11/4 pounds peeled, deveined large or jumbo shrimp, preferably American wild-caught (tails on or off)

12 ounces fresh spinach

Water (optional)

FOR THE SAUCE: Line a plate with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Pour the mild-tasting olive oil into a medium skillet to a depth of 1/2 inch; heat over medium heat. Use a small piece of bread to test the temperature; once the oil barely sizzles around the bread in the skillet, add the rest of the bread. Fry for a total of 2 to 3 minutes, turning as needed, until golden on both sides.

Combine the garlic, the rehydrated ancho chili pepper, the cooled fried bread pieces, almonds and hazelnuts in a food processor. Pulse to a moist paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the tomatoes and pulse a few times, then add the vinegar, smoked paprika, mild paprika, 1/4 cup of the extra-virgin olive oil and a good pinch of salt; pulse just to combine, forming a thick sauce.

Taste, and add salt or paprika as needed.

Spread the sauce in a small, shallow baking dish; roast (middle rack) for about 8 minutes or until the surface has darkened, with occasional brown flecks.

Meanwhile, heat the broth, seafood stock, water or combination of those liquids, plus the wine, in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the just-browned romesco sauce base until well incorporated. Cover, and turn off the heat; let it sit for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion and a couple pinches of salt; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent.

Stir in the rested romesco sauce; once it has warmed through, add the shrimp and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook gently for 6 to 7 minutes, turning the shrimp over, until they are opaque and cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the spinach and season lightly with salt. Use tongs to turn the leaves until just wilted and bright green.

Divide the spinach among individual plates.

If the romesco sauce seems too thick to spoon over with the shrimp, stir in a little water. Spoon the shrimp and sauce over each portion of spinach. Serve right away.

NOTE: Toast the hazelnuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant, shaking the pan often to prevent scorching. Let cool completely.

]]> 0, 21 Feb 2017 18:43:17 +0000
Annie Mahle is back with her second ‘Sugar & Salt’ book Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 At 21, newly minted college graduate and Michigan native Annie Mahle tacked left. She needed an advance degree to make a career for herself in psychology, “but I could not make myself look at Ph.D. programs, take the tests.”

“I knew I needed to take a break from school,” she continued. “I said, ‘I am going to travel. I am going to learn how to sail and I am not calling home for money.’ It’s the first time I made an intentional decision about my own life that didn’t have to do with anybody else’s desires for me.”

She came to Maine, where she found work on a windjammer. In short order, she fell in love with Jon, the man who would become her husband. And she fell in love with cooking. Thus is one’s life course charted.

Today, Mahle and Jon Finger, co-captain the J.&E. Riggin and their teenage daughters serve as crew. Every summer for the last 20, they have sailed the schooner in and around Penobscot Bay, with Mahle cooking lavish meals (local eggs, homemade breads, curried lamb and lentil stew, homemade pies…) over a wood stove for as many as 30 vacationers. Winters, the family lives in Rockland. Over the years, Mahle has written cooking columns for the Portland Press Herald – The Maine Ingredient and Sea Food – and she recently self-published her second cookbook in the series, “Sugar & Salt: A Year at Home and at Sea.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: When did your interest in cooking develop?

A: I didn’t start being interested in food, really interested, until I came out to work on the windjammers, and I saw pies and jams being made by hand. The more I saw things at their origin, made from scratch, the more interested I became in well, how do you make your own vanilla? How do you make mustard? How do you make sauerkraut? And they taste so different! It wasn’t until I came to Maine did that ignite a food curiosity and lifelong investigation into this.

Q: You’ve just written your third cookbook. Do you use cookbooks yourself?

A: I use cookbooks as inspiration. I have a lot of them. The books I buy now are very niched – fermentation or pasta making by a master or sourdough bread. Things where I want to delve deeper into a particular subject. I love looking at general cookbooks and old cookbooks, but I don’t use them in the way that I used to.

I’m sort of constitutionally unable to follow a recipe at this point. I’m always thinking, ‘Oh, interesting, I wonder if I just tweaked it here, how would it be better or what would happen?’ The other thing is that’s something that I have to do, because on the boat there are numerous times when I thought we had enough of some ingredient, but I used it to cook something else, so I’m constantly substituting one ingredient for another because I can’t go to the grocery store and get it.

Q: Do you have a favorite cooking task?

A: I love to make bread. Bread is baking. It can be very precise. At the same time you are dealing with a live organism. You need to be really present when you are making bread.

Q: Some people say there is a divide between bakers and cooks. Do you think so? Which do you consider yourself?

A: Bakers are people who feel most satisfied following the rules. They are more precise, more accurate. Cooks are more fluid, more creative, more flexible but then not always consistent. I am definitely a cook. That doesn’t mean you can’t do both if you know that about yourself: I know for sure the things I have to do the same every time (when I am baking) and the things that I can change.

Q: So now tell us about a kitchen task you don’t like so much.

A: (Long pause.) It’s really nice if I have somebody cleaning up after me.

Q: What advice do you have for someone cooking on a boat?

A: Keep it simple. Stay organized. And remember cooking for your family is always more nourishing than a machine cooking for your family. There is soul in that. There is heart in that. Honor the effort and the care.

Q: What are the most important provisions to stock on the boat?

A: I always have extra of the basics – flour, butter, sugar and eggs. I never leave the dock without 1½ to 2 times what I need of those ingredients. With the basic ingredients, if I am missing something else, I can still make something.

At home I would never be without greens and eggs. To me, an egg is such an elegant protein, and we have our own chickens so they are the freshest eggs you can possibly have.

Q: Do you cook differently on land than at sea?

A: Not really. The biggest difference is that I’m not cooking for 30 people. At home, I have the hardest time paring down the amount we would eat. And we don’t have a dog so that doesn’t help, either. I suppose the other thing that changes in the wintertime is we eat more simply.

Q: Wait a minute! I thought you have no electricity on the boat? That’s not different?

A: (Loud, long laughter) That’s a good point. It’s funny – I make that transition so seamlessly it doesn’t even occur to me. I cook on a wood stove on the boat, so the biggest difference is I don’t have to get up at 4:30 a.m. at home to light the wood stove. (More laughter.)

There are a lot of things you can do to control the heat of a wood stove, but like baking bread, wood heat or heat from a fire is an alive being. It ebbs and it flows and it needs tending. It definitely needs paying attention to. I love it. I love the smell of it. I love the warmth of it. I love the glow of it. I love that stove and the flavor that I can evoke from it.

And at the same time, I am grateful to have a gas oven at home when I am just cooking for three or four people. On the boat, cooking is my full-time job, well, one of 10 jobs, whereas at home cooking is not nearly as central to my daily life. It’s a part of, mixed in with, writing and taxes and balancing the checkbook.

Q: I’m curious about the title of your cookbook series – “Sugar & Salt: A Year at Home and at Sea.” Where did that come from?

A: My life is spent on the ocean for half of the year, so that’s the salt, and then on land the other half of the year, so sugar – sugar cane. These are really basic ingredients that are part of our palate, the palate of life and the palate of food.


Annie Mahle says this is one of her favorite recipes in her new book, the second in the series “Sugar & Salt: A Year at Home and at Sea.” We interviewed her just as a blizzard was bearing down on Maine. “This is just about the exact time of year and circumstances that I made that recipe,” she told us.

To get refrigerated eggs to room temperature, place the eggs in a bowl of warm water while you prep the rest of your ingredients. If the hot pasta doesn’t set up the eggs, try returning the pan to the residual heat of the burner – without turning it on.

Mahle likes to serve the carbonara with her Beet, Pear and Cranberry Salad with Shaved Asiago.

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound spaghetti

4 large eggs, room temperature

6 ounces (about 3/4 cup lightly packed) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 ounces prosciutto, sliced into 1/4-inch strips

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/2 cup minced fresh Italian parsley

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Several grinds fresh black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions.

Beat the eggs with a fork in a small bowl until they are frothy. Add the cheese to the eggs and beat again to mix. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the prosciutto and sauté for 1 minute. Add the garlic and remove the pan from the heat. After a minute, add the parsley.

When the pasta is done, drain it and immediately add it to the skillet with the prosciutto and garlic. Add the egg mixture, season with the salt and pepper, and gently but quickly incorporate all with rubber-tipped tongs or a wooden spoon.

The process of mixing the pasta should take less than 1 minute. Serve immediately with extra grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper.


Also from Mahle’s new book, this salad and the dressing below.

Serves 4 to 6

8 cups (about 8 ounces) lightly packed spinach

2 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

Pinch kosher salt

Several grinds fresh black pepper

1 recipe Beets with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 pear, cored and sliced thinly

1/4 cup dried cranberries

2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) shaved Asiago cheese

Toss the spinach with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large salad bowl. Add the Beets with White Balsamic Vinaigrette. Top with the pear slices, cranberries and Asiago. Serve immediately.


Makes about 3 cups

1 pound small to medium beets

1 tablespoon good quality extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

Pinch kosher salt

Several grinds fresh black pepper

Trim the root tips and greens from the beets and wash well. Reserve the greens for another use.

Cover the beets with salted water in a medium stockpot and bring the water to a boil. Boil until the beets are just tender, 30-35 minutes, and drain. Let the beets cool until you are able to touch them. Peel. Cut into quarters or smaller.

Toss the beets with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium-sized bowl.

]]> 0 Mahle in her kitchen at home in Rockland. Mahle has recently self-published the second cookbook in her "Sugar & Salt" series.Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:15:54 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Rediscover the pleasures of hash for breakfast, brunch or supper Wed, 22 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Sometimes I’ll go months without making hash, and then I suddenly remember its pleasures and take off on a hash riff, making not just the corned beef classic, but using clams or leftover chicken or turkey or other meat.

Hash used to have a less than stellar reputation as an odds-and-ends kind of dish, but now it often makes an appearance on high-end restaurant menus, usually for breakfast or brunch. I love it for supper.


You can use fresh chopped hard-shell clams and their liquor here, of course, but chopped pasteurized clams, either fresh or frozen make a delicious hash, and even canned clams will do. Include about 2/3 of a cup of the clam liquid in your hash mix. Serve with a grape tomato salad and warm cornbread.

Makes 3 to 4 servings

1¼ pounds all-purpose or russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 2-inch chunks

6 slices bacon, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

12 ounces partially drained chopped clams, fresh, thawed frozen, or canned

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup chopped parsley

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water to cover until just barely tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain. When they are cool enough to handle, cut into ½-inch dice.

In a very large, heavy (preferably cast iron) skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon bits with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour off excess grease, leaving about 3 tablespoons of drippings in the skillet. Add the onion and green pepper and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Stir in the reserved bacon, potatoes, clams, thyme, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring well once or twice. Stir in the parsley, raise the heat to medium-high and cook uncovered, flattening the hash and turning it over in sections as it browns, until it is browned and crisp, about 10 more minutes.

Serve directly from the pan.


This is the perfect vehicle for using up leftover roast chicken or turkey, or you can make it with rotisserie-roasted chicken from the deli. I’d suggest a salad of dark leafy greens and whole wheat rolls as accompaniments.

Makes 3 to 4 servings

4 cups diced, cooked, unpeeled red-skinned potatoes

4 cups (16 ounces) diced cooked chicken or turkey

1 cup thinly sliced scallions

¾ cup sweetened dried cranberries

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 2 teaspoons crumbled dried

¾ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

½ cup half-and-half or light cream, plus 2-3 tablespoons

3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Toss together the potatoes, chicken, scallions, cranberries, sage, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Drizzle on the ½ cup cream and toss to combine well.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a very large, heavy (preferably cast iron) skillet. Add the hash mixture, spreading evenly and pressing down with a spatula. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, uncovering to stir well every 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, and cook uncovered, stirring often, until the hash is crusty and rich golden brown, about 10 minutes more. If the hash seems too dry, add the additional tablespoon of oil to the pan.

Just before serving, stir in the remaining 2-3 tablespoons of cream. Taste, add more salt if necessary, 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 PORTLAND, ME - FEBRUARY 26: Chef Matt Tremblay (cq) of Sea Dog Brewing Co. presented this dish of prime rib hash with a fried egg and truffle Hollandaise served on a biscuit at the Incredible Breakfast Cook-off at Sea Dog Brewing Company in South Portland Friday, February 26, 2016. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Wed, 22 Feb 2017 10:48:51 +0000
Rudy’s of the Cape will now be known as … Tue, 21 Feb 2017 22:04:04 +0000 Rudy’s of the Cape, a Cape Elizabeth restaurant that has been feeding diners on Route 77 for 50 years, is changing its name to Bird Dog Roadhouse.

Rudy’s, located at 517 Ocean House Road, went through a major transformation in 2015, four years after Paul Woods bought the restaurant. He replaced the old building with one considerably more upscale, and he updated the menu. Now it feels as if the name Rudy’s is “less relevant,” Woods said, and has “run its course.”

“We’re very gratified by how people embraced the new restaurant,” he said. “This is just an identity change for us, something that really captures some of the great things we’re doing and separates us from the old.”

Might & Main, a Portland design firm, worked with Woods on the new name and re-branding. Woods chose the name Bird Dog after he read it somewhere and liked it. The restaurant’s new logo features a retriever with wings and the phrase “We’ve earned our wings!” Woods and operations manager Alli Welch selected “roadhouse” because they felt it conveyed the spirit of the place, a restaurant that “invites everyone in from the main road for great food, drink and service.”

Woods will launch the new name officially on Friday during lunch. The restaurant will feature specials all weekend, and raise money for the Pond Cove Parents Association, which, in turn, raises money for Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth.

]]> 0 team at the Bird Dog Roadhouse, formerly known as Rudy's of the Cape, shows off its new sign.Tue, 21 Feb 2017 18:44:08 +0000
To save the planet, eat more dried beans Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Canadian seed saver Dan Jason believes pulses – the edible seeds of plants in the legume family – can save the world.

Pulses are easy to grow, store indefinitely, are simple to prepare, and are nutritionally dense and protein rich. This message is not new. People around the world have been cultivating and consuming pulses for over ten thousand years. And in the early 1970s, Frances Moore Lappe famously advocated for eating more beans (and other meat-free meals) as a way to help the earth in her best-selling “Diet for a Small Planet.”

But in the age of global warming, Jason says it’s a missive that needs to be reiterated. He’s in good company: the United Nations General Assembly designated 2016 as the International Year of the Pulses in recognition of the crucial role they will have to play in a healthy future for the earth and its inhabitants.

In his latest book, “The Power of Pulses,” Jason explains that pulses – such as dried beans, lentils and field peas – all come from plants that leave an ultra-light ecological footprint. They require less water and fewer pesticides to grow than fresh vegetables do. Pulse plants pull nitrogen from the air and convert it to nutrients they need to grow, leaving the soil healthier.

Here they are: the most popular bean (the yellow eye) cooked at Maine church suppers, according to the University of Maine Folklife Center. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

According the USDA, American farmers have increased the amount of pulses they grow from 4.6 billion pounds in 2013 to an estimated 6.3 billion pounds last year, an average yearly increase of about 12 percent But the average American’s consumption of pulses has increased by just 3.5 percent annually, from 6.7 to 7.4 pounds during that same time period. We export more pulses than we eat by far.

Jason says the five pulses that grow best in North America are peas, beans, chickpeas, favas and lentils. I am pushing only the ones easily grown in Maine: dried beans. But Jason’s easy steps on how average eaters can help empower pulses to both heal the earth and nourish its inhabitants still apply.

• As restaurant patrons, order the cheapest thing on the menu. It’s likely the beans. This will encourage more bean-based options in the future.

 Gardeners can grow pulses as a simple, but rewarding, crop that gets planted in late spring in a plot with lots of sun, harvested when your fingernail can no longer make an indentation in the seed, and completely dried in their pods before the pulses are threshed out of them. Finding seed to grow more pulses is as easy as setting aside a few of your favorite dried heirloom beans before you drop their brethren into the pot to cook. (Or you can buy dry beans seeds at Fedco.)

 Consumers can pester grocery store managers to stock shelves with local beans. You have to go only as far as the local Hannaford to find two-pound bags of State of Maine Jacob’s Cattle, Yellow Eye, Soldier and Red Kidney beans grown at Green Thumb Farms in Fryberg. These varieties are used in traditional baked beans (see recipe), but also work well in soups, salads and stews.

Buyers can also pick pound bags up at farmers markets, where a growing number of vendors offer dried local beans at this time of year as a way to earn steady cash during the winter. Or you can mail order them from the Freedom Bean Company in Albion, where Tony and Helene Neves have been growing beans for 40 years. They have hand-picked the varieties they say make the best baked beans (Kenearly Yellow Eye), the best stewed beans (Jacob’s Cattle, especially with venison), best bean hole beans (Marafax), the best bean brownies (Soldier’s. ) and the tastiest bean gravy (Vermont Cranberry).

The options for cooking with beans are as endless as they are interesting, Jason writes. The trick to their ability to save the planet lies in having more people put their fingers on pulses more often.

Maple mustard yellow-eyed beans served on toast and topped with a fried egg. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

According to the University of Maine Folklife Center, the yellow eye is the most popular bean cooked at Maine church suppers because of its clean, mild taste. This recipe is an amalgamation of several recipes I’ve seen in community cookbooks. Since there are always leftovers, serve them for breakfast on toast with or without an egg on top.
Serves 8
1 pound yellow-eye beans
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup Maine maple syrup
1/4 cup granulated maple sugar
1 tablespoon coarse-grain mustard
1 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 pound thick-sliced smoky bacon, roughly chopped

Sort beans to pick out stones. Soak them in cold water overnight. Drain and rinse the beans.

Place the beans in Dutch oven with 2 quarts water, the onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and vegetable oil. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until just tender, 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the age of the beans (older beans take longer). A good test for doneness at this stage is to scoop up several beans in a spoon and blow on them: if the skin starts to peel off, they’re done. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, maple sugar, mustards, ginger, salt and 1 1/2 cups of the reserved bean cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat until it thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.

Return the beans and cooked onions to the Dutch oven. Nestle the onions cut side up into the beans. Push half of the bacon pieces into the beans and spread the rest of the bacon on top of the beans. Pour the maple syrup sauce over the beans. Cover the pot and bake for 6 to 8 hours, adding more of the reserved bean cooking liquid, 1/2 cup at a time, if the beans become dry.

Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to thicken the sauce. Discard the bay leaf before serving hot.

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

]]> 0 mustard yellow eye beans.Fri, 17 Feb 2017 13:11:21 +0000
Maine Restaurant Association names its Chef of the Year Fri, 17 Feb 2017 02:51:39 +0000 Josh Berry, executive chef of Union Restaurant at the Press Hotel in Portland, has been named 2017 Chef of the Year by the Maine Restaurant Association.

Berry will be feted at the group’s annual banquet on March 28 at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland’ along with the association’s other honorees. Jonathan West of Jonathan’s Restaurant in Ogunquit will be Restaurateur of the Year.

Berry will be cooking at the James Beard House in New York City March 22. The theme of the dinner, which is nearly sold out, is “Modern Maine.”

]]> 0 Thu, 16 Feb 2017 21:52:52 +0000
Maine Restaurant Association criticized for letter supporting Puzder for labor secretary Wed, 15 Feb 2017 23:54:03 +0000 A letter of support for controversial labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder sent by the Maine Restaurant Association to Sen. Susan Collins has left a bad taste in the mouths of association critics, who say the organization has become too anti-worker.

It was partly concerns by both political parties about Puzder’s positions on labor issues that sank his nomination late Wednesday, when he withdrew from consideration for the labor post. But the restaurant association’s letter called him “uniquely qualified and an exceptional choice to lead the Labor Department.”

Andy Puzder’s nomination to be labor secretary got support from the Maine Restaurant Association, but the chair of the association’s board says the directors never voted on it. Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster

Steve Hewins, president of the restaurant association, said he and Director of Governmental Affairs Greg Dugal made the decision to send the letter to Collins on Feb. 2 at the request of the National Restaurant Association. Getting the board’s approval was not required by the organization’s bylaws, he said.

The restaurant association is a lobbying group that represents 490 members who work in the restaurant industry and 470 innkeepers.

The Maine People’s Alliance called it the latest in a long line of anti-worker positions taken by the restaurant group, such as fighting an increase in the state minimum wage.

“There’s obviously a lot of issues with this nominee,” said Mike Tipping, communications director for the Maine People’s Alliance, before Puzder had withdrawn his name. “The ones that are most important to us is he has taken anti-worker stances – against minimum wage, against paid sick leave, against overtime protections – and that his restaurants have had so many violations of the laws that he is now nominated to oversee. So for the Maine Restaurant Association to call him an exemplar of their industry is really galling.”


The alliance posted a piece about the letter on its website Tuesday, and Portland restaurateur Michelle Corry, who chairs the restaurant association’s board of directors, posted a response on her Facebook page because she was being flooded with phone calls from people upset by the position the association had taken.

In the response, Corry – who with her husband, Steve, co-owns Five Fifty-Five, Petite Jacqueline and the Portland Patisserie and Grand Cafe – said she had no knowledge of the letter and that the board had not voted on it.

“Much like I run my businesses, the association normally tries to remain out of national politics, especially when it pertains to specific individuals,” she wrote. “I am not, personally, happy that this decision was made without my knowledge or consent …”

In an email Wednesday, Corry said again that she had “absolutely no idea about the letter or that we were even considering such a thing.”

“It is way too important of an issue to make any moves without knowing the feelings of majority of board members, at the very least,” she said. “The association is a very large and diverse group, so we may not always agree, but we need to have a conversation about who we are supporting and why, and get a general feeling about how this will affect the association’s members.”


Hewins said he and Dugal felt that someone like Puzder, who is in the restaurant business, would better understand the needs of the restaurant community. Puzder is CEO of the company that owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast food chains. Hewins said he was aware of the controversy surrounding the nominee, but decided the endorsement could be pulled if they didn’t like what they heard at Puzder’s confirmation hearings.

“What could possibly come out in the hearings that would change the kind of glowing recommendation that they just gave him?” Tipping said. “This wasn’t a milquetoast endorsement, it was full-throated.”

Hewins said the restaurant association typically does not endorse political candidates, “but a labor nominee is different.”

“I don’t mind taking heat for a decision that I made,” Hewins said, “and I’m aware of the allegations against the nominee – which I don’t like, by the way – but purely from the standpoint of running a restaurant association, having a restaurant person in there was the thing that allowed me to write a letter to Sen. Collins to support the nomination.”

Hewins and Corry both said the issue will be discussed at the next board meeting on March 1. The board will consider changing the bylaws to require board approval of such decisions.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Puzder is the second of President Trump's picks whose nomination has raised questions over their hiring of household workers.Thu, 16 Feb 2017 08:38:57 +0000
Maine chefs, restaurants nominated for coveted James Beard Awards Wed, 15 Feb 2017 17:20:10 +0000 A dozen Maine chefs, restaurants, bakers and brewmasters have been named semifinalists for prestigious 2017 James Beard Awards.

Brian Hill, pictured in 2015 at Francine Bistro, is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Northeast. Staff photo by Whitney Hayward

Among the semifinalists are five Maine chefs nominated in the Best Chef: Northeast category. They are Brian Hill of Francine in Camden, who has now made the list eight times; Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley of Eventide Oyster, who are semifinalists for a third time; Ravin Nakjaroen of Long Grain in Camden, who made the list twice before; and Keiko Suzuki of Suzuki’s Sushi Bar in Rockland, who was also nominated last year.

Cara Stadler, chef/owner of Tao Yuan in Brunswick and Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland, is once again a semifinalist in the Rising Star Chef of the Year category, which covers chefs age 30 or younger who are “likely to make a significant impact on the industry for years to come.”

The James Beard Awards are the most coveted in the restaurant industry. Anyone can nominate someone to be a semifinalist in 21 categories; this year, the semifinalists were chosen from more than 24,000 entries. The list will now go to an independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges across the country – including restaurant critics, food editors and past winners – who will narrow it down to five finalists in each category. Finalists will be announced March 15.

Marinated bluefish at Drifters Wife in Portland. The restaurant is nominated for a James Beard Award in the Best New Restaurant category. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Maine restaurant industry professionals made a respectable showing this year. In addition to the Best Chef and Rising Star Chef awards, Drifters Wife in Portland is nominated in the Best New Restaurant category. Chase’s Daily in Belfast and Fore Street in Portland are perennial nominees in the Outstanding Restaurant category, which requires that a restaurant be at least 10 years old.

Ilma Lopez of Piccolo in Portland is an Outstanding Pastry Chef semifinalist, and Alison Pray, one of the founders of Standard Baking Co., is up for Outstanding Baker.

Wine, beer and spirit professionals from Maine made the semifinals as well. Portland Hunt & Alpine Club is nominated for Outstanding Bar Program, while Rob Tod of Allagash Brewing is once again up for Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Professional.

After the finalists are announced in March, the judges will vote again to choose the winners. Winners will be announced May 1 at the James Beard Foundation Awards Gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Last year, several Mainers were chosen as finalists, but none came home with the award.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 chef Cara Stadler says eliminating tips will allow her two restaurants to offer better pay to cooks and other back-of-house employees.Thu, 16 Feb 2017 12:42:04 +0000
These bars give lemon lovers a chocolate twist Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Up the game on lemon bars by using a chocolate crust instead of the usual all-purpose flour one.

The holy trinity for a lemon bar crust is flour, butter and sugar, usually powdered sugar as granulated sugar can produce a brittle texture, giving it a shortbread taste and feel.

There’s nothing wrong with that tried and true recipe, but how about amping the flavor and giving the crust some chocolate love that would still have a buttery goodness about it?

It’s easy to scoff and say lemon bars are for rookies, since all it takes is to whisk egg yolks, cream cheese or heavy cream (if you want it creamy), sugar or sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and lemon zest together, pour the mixture into a crust and then bake. And voila, you have a citrusy treat.

But take a pause, and keep a few guidelines in mind.

It’s best to crush the cookies with a rolling pin so they are a combination of crumbs and bits to form a sturdy crust to shoulder the weight of the filling. The crumbly mixture needs to be firmly pressed into a baking pan evenly so that it is compact. This helps prevent the crust from crumbling when cut. Then it needs to be baked for about 15 minutes at 325 degrees. The crust needs to stay crisp even after it’s topped with the filling.

I prefer if the bars are not cloying sweet and instead have a bright fresh lemon flavor and plenty of pucker power, so I add finely grated lemon zest to the smooth filling.

A colleague grows a dwarf Meyer lemon tree in a container, and I used the smooth-skinned, juicy, sweet and fragrant fruits of his labor to bake the bars. He said his lemon tree took eight months to bear eight fruits. I kicked myself for “wasting” them in the bars as Meyers generally are not in the least sour, and the ones I used were not tart enough for the bars. They would have received the deserving accolades in a vinaigrette instead.

One way to ensure that squares come out in equal sizes is to first cut the entire square in half and then cut into smaller equal-sized squares.

If you are a lemon-head and a chocoholic, look no further than the lemon chocolate bars.


These creamy, zesty bars are a refreshing addition to any spread, and they come together in no time.

Makes 16 bars


2 cups crushed chocolate cookies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted


1/4 cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened

3 egg yolks

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/4 cup powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lay two sheets of parchment paper in an 8-by-8-inch baking pan; set aside.

Prepare chocolate crust: Combine crushed cookies and melted butter. Press crust mixture into the bottom of prepared pan.

Bake crust for about 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make filling by whisking together cream cheese, egg yolks, condensed milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Let mixture rest for a few minutes to allow some of the air bubbles to rise to the surface.

Pour filling into warm crust. Place pan back into oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling has set.

Remove from oven and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.

]]> 0 up the flavor of lemon bars and give the crust some chocolate love.Tue, 14 Feb 2017 18:04:24 +0000
Small neighborhood groceries in Portland offer local fare, gourmet specialties Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 When Teddy Houghton heads home after a 10-hour day at work, most evenings he stops by Rosemont Market’s Yarmouth store, which sits just 100 yards from his residence.

The store sells fish from Harbor Fish Market, which Houghton likes because it means he doesn’t have to drive to Portland to get the freshest seafood for dinner. It also stocks his favorite sauvignon blanc.

Joe Fournier outside of the space that will become A&C Grocery on Washington Avenue in Portland. Fournier hopes to open the market, named after his children, later this month. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

“I stop there almost every night and I grab some fish,” said Houghton, who is a master electrician with ReVision Energy. “They also have good cheeses. And the people are so awesome. They’re wicked friendly and helpful.”

Upscale neighborhood grocery stores like the Yarmouth Rosemont offer modern shoppers a taste of nostalgia while at the same time giving them what they want – locally sourced, organic foods and gourmet specialty items that sell at a small premium. Customers can get in and out quickly, or linger as they chat with friends or quiz the staff about the sourcing of the chicken in their basket.

Rosemont Market, established in 2005 but now with five locations, was a local pioneer in this business model, along with Aurora Provisions, which has been around even longer. Then came places like The Farm Stand in South Portland (2014), Otherside Delicatessen in Portland (2015), and Bow Street Market in Freeport, which was founded in 1946 but expanded in 2011, its modern store, according to its website, “built on the memories of what food shopping used to be.”

Pete Sueltenfuss carries a pig from the cooler at Otherside Delicatessen, which opened in 2015. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Now the Portland area is experiencing another little growth spurt. In December, Andrew and Briana Volk, owners of the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, opened Little Giant, an upscale market in Portland’s West End that will complement the restaurant they plan to open next door. Just a couple of weeks ago, Pete Sueltenfuss opened a second Otherside location in the West End. And Joe Fournier, who worked at Rosemont for six years before becoming a partner in The Farm Stand, plans to open his own neighborhood grocery, A&C, on Washington Avenue sometime next week.

Are we seeing a “hipsterization” of the traditional neighborhood market that sells six-packs and Maine Italians?

No, Fournier says. Rather, his new place represents a “rediscovery” of the neighborhood market, the kind he remembers being on every block when he was growing up on Munjoy Hill. Fournier considers John Naylor, one of the founders of the Rosemont markets, to be a mentor. That, combined with his past experience cooking in restaurant kitchens and his two-plus years at The Farm Stand, has shaped the philosophy he’ll follow at A&C (named after his children), which is located on the border between the Munjoy Hill and East Bayside neighborhoods.

A worker checks produce in a cooler at Rosemont Market & Bakery in Portland in a photo from 2014. Staff photo by Whitney Hayward

“I only want to sell food that I know the source of,” Fournier said. “I want to know as much as I can about the food that I’m selling.”

In addition to stocking groceries, he’ll have a full deli and selection of prepared foods.


Fournier is convinced that people are tired of the big-box retail environment and the stress that comes with shopping in such places, so he also wants A&C, with its smaller footprint, to be “a place for the community to come and rub shoulders and say hi to each other, and have a conversation about their lives – what they’re cooking for dinner, what they’re having for breakfast. I want part of the experience to be a social experience.”

Pete Sueltenfuss feels the same way about his two stores. He worked as a chef in several restaurants around town before opening the first Otherside in the old Quatrucci’s Variety.

Sueltenfuss notes that he and his staff are on a first-name basis with a lot of their customers, a “hospitality-forward approach” that appeals to him. “I really enjoy talking to people about how they’re going to cook their steak and why, rather than why they should like the way that I cook their steak for them,” he said.

His new place, located in the old Vaughan Street Variety, is, like the first, a combination butcher shop, deli and grocery, although Sueltenfuss is focusing a little more on prepared foods in the new store. Instead of selling customers local pork chops to take home and cook, for example, he’s stuffing a pork loin with sausage and spinach, then tying it up like a roast. All the customer need do is turn on the oven.

“We source most of our stuff from the state of Maine,” Sueltenfuss said. “We do all of our own butchering and processing.”

Peter Larkin agrees that many customers today are looking for more out of their neighborhood market than a 2-liter bottle of soda and a bag of Doritos. Larkin is president and CEO of the National Grocers Association in Arlington, Va., an organization that represents independent supermarkets, including neighborhood and specialty grocers. While he does not believe the growth of such markets is a huge trend just yet, “we couldn’t agree more that consumers are very much into knowing where their food comes from.”

And consumers have more choices than ever as to where they buy their locally sourced groceries, he said, whether it’s a bargain-priced big box retailer or the little corner store.

The size of grocery stores is getting smaller, Larkin added, and grocers are trying to provide experiences that make shopping feel less like weekly drudgery, citing independent stores in the Midwest that are serving brunch and churning their own butter.

“People are saying yes, we can provide a better, more intimate experience in a smaller footprint rather than trying to have every single possible size and shape of every mustard that was ever known to man,” Larkin said.

Produce, much of it organic, on display at Bow Street Market in Freeport in 2011. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


Houghton, the Rosemont Market fan, can identify with that. In addition to the convenience of shopping right in his neighborhood, he likes avoiding the bright lights of the traditional supermarket “where you’ve got to walk six miles to find what you want and stay out of the middle of the store because that’s all the crap.”

And he doesn’t mind paying a small premium. That said, local “gourmet” grocers are trying to get away from the public perception that everything in their store costs more. Sueltenfuss said one of his customers told him they had purchased roast beef at a much larger store for $18.99 per pound.

“We source our beef from Maine and it’s $12.99 a pound,” he said. “It’s always been very important to me that everyday food can be local food as well. It doesn’t need to be something that you save up for, or something that’s a special night out.”

Penny Jordan, a partner in The Farm Stand in South Portland, said she doesn’t consider her store gourmet, “and it’s not a high-end market.” The Farm Stand has a butcher, and it sells locally raised meat, poultry and produce, and a few groceries as well. In addition to attracting shoppers from local neighborhoods, customers come from Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and Portland.

A pork schnitzel sandwich being prepared at Otherside Delicatessen in 2015. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

“We try to price things so an array of customers can afford to shop there,” Jordan said.

The small market movement has been so successful that Jordan thinks some parts of Portland – she names Munjoy Hill and the West End – are on the verge of saturation.

“What’s challenging is people are targeting certain neighborhoods, and there are multiple businesses targeting the same neighborhood,” she said. “What I worry about is we’re going to hit that point, just like all of the farmers markets, where you’re going to spread the customer base so thin that eventually you’re not going to be doing the volume of business that you need to do.”

An upside for the consumer? Larkin said that because the industry is “fiercely competitive,” as more neighborhood specialty markets open, market forces will drive prices down.

Fournier’s attitude toward more competition is: Bring it on.

“If someone opens up across the street from me, that just means I have to work harder and be better,” he said. “I’m not concerned about it, I welcome it.”

]]> 0 cases stocked with food at Aurora Provisions, a Portland institution.Wed, 15 Feb 2017 10:44:44 +0000
‘Fresh Fish’ is just the seafood guide a flatlander needed Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Fresh Fish: A Fearless Guide to Grilling, Shucking, Searing, Packing and Roasting Seafood.” By Jennifer Trainer Thompson. Storey Publishing. 352 pages. $13.30.

Those glossy fish eyes were staring up at me, and I was staring right back.

I have spent most of my life hundreds of miles from any saltwater body. Since graduating college in Indiana, however, I have moved progressively east until Casco Bay is just outside my front door. I know what to do with poultry or beef in my kitchen, but when it comes to gills and shells, I’m a fish out of water.

My boyfriend, Sean, however, has spent his entire life on the East Coast. He’ll place an order for fresh mussels and a cup of clam chowder before I’ve even read the menu. My first meal with his family in New Hampshire included a lesson on how to cook and crack open a lobster.

So there I was at a fish market in Portland, face to face with a glistening dead haddock, emboldened only by the copy of “Fresh Fish: A Fearless Guide to Grilling, Shucking, Searing, Packing and Roasting Seafood” in my bag.

I had turned to Jennifer Trainer Thompson’s cookbook for advice on how to prepare all the fresh seafood in my new neighborhood. She reassured me I could cook Sean’s favorite seafood dishes – and more.

“Fish is sort of weird looking (never mind the bivalves),” she wrote. “It’s slippery. And those eyes: you don’t see eyes staring at you when you buy or are served cow. Let’s get over it. Fish and shellfish are superfoods – lean, one of the world’s most protein-rich foods, good for your brains and your heart. They are remarkably easy to roast in the winter, pan-fry in the fall, stir-fry in the spring, and grill year-round.”

As the title promises, Thompson covers all types of seafood and all manner of preparing it – it’s a big book, 350 pages. The recipes – 175 of them – are divided into chapters like “Things with Shells” and “Things that Swim.” Thompson includes instructions for hosting a lobster-clambake on the beach, plus recipes for side dishes and desserts to accompany the main course.

Directions are clear and concise. As someone who has scratched her head at the fish counter, I was glad to see many recipes included suggestions on substituting one type of fish for another.

The required ingredients often included kitchen staples like rosemary or paprika, and many main courses required less than a half-hour to prepare and cook. I’ll definitely be flipping through the pages again in search of a quick meal.

The pages are full of glossy photos and stories of seaside life – some educational, most simply entertaining. A close read of these passages helped me find tips on grilling fish, cleaning clams and buying a whole fish from a market.

While many individual recipes mentioned the best season for the fish at hand, I could have used a guide for what to buy at different times of the year. The kind folks at Harbor Fish Market directed me to fresh Maine haddock, though I shied away from a whole fish in favor of fillets.

A recipe for Panko-Crusted Skillet-Cooked Haddock with Red Beans and Rice sounded comfortingly similar to chicken dishes I’ve made, but I found the end result lighter and more refreshing.

As I cooked, I was already marking the recipes I wanted to try next. Some, like wood-roasted native striped bass, require more ambition than I have – and equipment I do not own, like a smoker. But most dishes look doable at my stove or backyard grill. The sole en papillote – whitefish baked in parchment paper – seems easier to cook than pronounce.

I’m saving the clam chowder recipe for a snowy weekend when I want a warm meal. Maybe I’ll get really bold and try the seaweed sushi roll.

And as Sean reached for another helping of haddock, I thought, maybe I’ll bring the whole haddock home next time.



1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 small yellow onion, diced,

2 (15.5-ounce) cans red beans

1/2 cup white wine or water

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for skillet

2 teaspoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 haddock fillets, approximately 1/2 pound each

Lemon wedges

Hot rice, for serving

1. To make the beans: Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the beans, wine, tomato paste and oregano, stirring to combine. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes while you start the fish.

2. To prepare the fish: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a dry cast-iron skillet, spread the breadcrumbs in a single layer and bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Place the crumbs in a wide, shallow bowl and toss with parsley, oil, butter, salt, paprika and pepper. Brush the skillet with oil. Press both sides of each fillet into the crumbs, and then lay the fish flat into the skillet. Press any remaining crumbs on top of the haddock. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the fish flakes when lifted with a fork. Serve on a plate with lemon wedges.

3. Stir the beans one last time, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with rice and the fish.

]]> 0, ME - OCTOBER 4: Christine Burns Rudalevige makes fish sticks with Brunswick resident Laura Franz and her children Charlie, 6, and Henry, 3. A haddock lays on the table before Christine fillets it. (Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Tue, 14 Feb 2017 22:34:24 +0000
Bread and Butter: Crafting a wine list is more complicated than you may think Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of two columns from Stella Hernandez of Lolita Vinoteca + Asador in Portland.

Putting together our wine list for Lolita was the closest I’ve come to understanding what writers do. It’s less mechanical than you’d think. You have to choose your story line, craft that story, and then there’s the continual editing process. When I gave my first draft to a friend to review, I felt as if I were handing off my first novel. I had handed over something very personal.

Of the thousands of wines available in Maine (and the others I continue to pine for…), I had to find a way to make our list make sense. I bristled at absolutes – it should be all Old World or all organic or all whatever. Our menu at Lolita is broadly Mediterranean in focus, from Spain to Portugal to North Africa and then east to the Middle East.

We needed wines that complemented the food, so the bulk of our list was – and is – focused on French, Italian and Spanish wines. But we are also a vinoteca – a wine bar (or wine library, as I like to think of it). To me, that means we need to cultivate a list that makes diners comfortable with, and curious about, tasting new things.

I’ve always seen our by-the-glass list as a way to coax customers into trying a new wine. It’s like my husband (and business partner) Guy used to say about some of our small plates – you might be frightened off oxtail as a big, imposing entree but willing to try a small plate for just $9. Or maybe it’s like a first date as opposed to a relationship; glass pours are a great way for customers to experiment without the commitment of a full bottle. Since we opened in 2014, we’ve poured Zweigelt, my beloved Chenin Blanc, Lagrein, Frappato and other less well-known grape varietals by the glass. Our staff is well-trained to describe them, and customers can, in a small, safe way, get out of their comfort zone.

To get to the 80 bottles now on our list, I started with a draft list of more than three times that number – about 250 bottles. (Roughly 80 seemed like a happy medium between not having enough options or variety and having too many.) Clearly, I had a long way to go. After more than a little research, I chose to organize the list by style of wine, not region or varietal. For a more casual environment such as we have at Lolita, I find that having a traditional multi-page wine list organized by country of origin is limiting.

Stella Hernandez, owner of Lolita restaurant on Congress Street in Portland, said the process of creating a wine list gave her new appreciation for what writers do. Staff photo by John Ewing

We look at it more in terms of broad categories – crisp, aromatic, rich. Within each of those categories, I had to find a way to provide enough variety, not to mention value. It’s much easier to create a stellar list of blockbuster wines – cult producers, rare bottles, highly rated wines. A $500 Burgundy can be an exquisite treat, but it’s not an investment most people make casually nor one that’s available to most of us. At Lolita, my goal was to find the hidden gems – smaller producers, less familiar regions and wines that punched way above their weight class. I like to joke that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find these princes.

Then there’s our “Wild Things” category. That might be about a quirky producer – a winemaker who makes a brilliant Riesling from a centuries-old winery and who loves partnering with punk rock bands for marketing. Or it might be a unique expression – a New World field blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Gewürtrazminer – yes, please. Or it could be a wine that’s incredibly opulent – sometimes huge is awesome. They all have to be delicious, but they don’t all have to be pricey or typical.

Last is our “Le Coup de Foudre” catgory. It’s a phrase I adore – love at first sight. It’s the one you can’t necessarily explain – it’s just, sigh, about emotion. One of the wines we picked was from a winemaker I met while in Italy last year. He came back his holiday to his tiny winery a few days after Christmas just to give us a tour. His pedigree was tremendous – the great-grandson of a historic wine-making family whose grandmother took the vineyards she inherited and created her own winery. He walked us through his cellar and showed us his tanks and barrels, and talked about his wine-making process, all with his dog tagging along. He poured us his wines in a little tasting room with a wood-fired stove. These wines were technically gorgeous but they were also, now, personal.

It’s so easy to forget that wine is made by people. It’s not a mechanical process. The vast majority of our wines are hand-harvested and made in a manually intensive way. It’s not just a bottle on a shelf, it’s someone’s work. And when you connect those things, sometimes it’s love at first sight.

Maybe that’s how to best explain how our list finally came together. We chose each wine for its unique appeal. And, like my mom says about her children, I love them all equally.

Stella Hernandez is co-owner and wine director at Lolita Vinoteca + Asador. She is also a certified sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers program.


I’m not usually a fan of chicken liver mousse, but it’s something my husband really loves. On a recent trip to Florence, we discovered a version like the one below, which is so unique and has gone a long way toward changing my mind! You can stay in Italy and pair it with a lovely Chianti, like the Castello di Farnetella Chianti Colli Senesi. Or, if you want to try something new, I suggest a pretty Cabernet Franc from the Loire, like the Charles Joguet Chinon “Cuvée Terroir.”

Yield About 2 dozen toast points

1 pound chicken livers

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed

2 tablespoons toasted walnuts

1 tablespoon capers

4 sage leaves

1/2 cup white wine

Toast, for serving

With a paring knife, trim off any sinew and/or blemishes from the livers. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a pan large enough to hold the livers in a single layer, warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic to the pan and gently sauté until aromatic, 3-4 minutes. Increase the heat to high. Add the livers and cook until well browned on both sides. Add the anchovies, walnuts, capers and sage leaves. Deglaze the pan with the wine and continue to cook until liquid is reduced and thick.

Transfer the mixture to the food processor and pulse until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with grilled toast points.

]]> 0 Hernandez, co-owner of Lolita restaurant in Portland, with Lolita's wine list, which she wrote herself.Tue, 14 Feb 2017 18:15:54 +0000
To fight sickness or even a broken heart, a soothing stew works wonders Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Some cooks head to the kitchen at the first sign of those in need, a bit like firefighters who rush to answer emergency calls. Homemade food can help when a friend is ill, a heart is broken, a new neighbor has moved in or a relative has welcomed home a new baby. In such situations, I turn to one recipe that is spirit-building and tummy-warming: lamb stew.

Although it is humble, a stew can achieve greatness. What is boeuf bourguignon but stew with a fancy name? A thick gravy cloaks large pieces of tender meat surrounded by hearty vegetables that burst with flavor. It brings comfort.

My first piece of advice is to ignore those packages of pre-cut “stew meat” in the grocery store. Generally, the pieces are too small and will disintegrate into nubs – not the least bit satisfying. Ask the butcher to cut the meat into 2-inch cubes or 4-by-1-inch strips. Alternatively, buy whole cuts and do it yourself. For this stew, I use lamb shoulder and a lamb shank. The latter adds flavor and lends a velvety texture with its bone, marrow and collagen.

Use a heavy pan that can take the heat, and brown the meat until it is suitably crusted. That deep color will tint the all-important gravy. The onions, too, need to brown significantly. Because small and sweet cipollini onions are more widely available, I was inspired to use them instead of the pearl onions I typically reach for. Any onions can be a pain to prep, but all the peeling is worth it for this stew.

Pour in a wine such as malbec, merlot, cahors: opulent choices for the gravy base and equally suitable in a glass alongside. This stew can stand up to a hearty red.

In my recipe, some vegetables cook with the meat, while others are added at the end. Potatoes cannot take the hours of cooking called for, so boil them separately and stir them in along with the peas, which go in minutes before the dish is done. But carrots and celery, which flavor both the meat and the gravy, benefit from a slow, burbling bath. Abundant herbs are tied into a bundle that includes star anise, which subtly echoes some of the spice notes of the wine.

Give this stew time. Two hours in the oven or about eight hours in the slow cooker will yield a beautiful, satisfying meal. If possible, give it a day’s rest in the refrigerator so the flavors can get to know each other.

Serve it to those who are recovering. This stew tastes as if it’s good for just about anything that ails them.


In addition to the stove-top-and-oven method, this stew can be done in a slow cooker; see the variation below.

The sweetness of small, whole cipollini onions is particularly delicious here. But if you can’t find them, use pearl onions, which won’t take as long to brown. Frozen/defrosted pearl onions will work in this recipe.

Serve with a green salad and warm dinner rolls.

Like all slow braises, this stew tastes even better the next day. Leftovers can be spooned over pasta or rice or thinned with broth for a soupy version of the original. The base stew freezes like a dream. Don’t freeze the potatoes and peas, but rather wait to add them when reheating.

Makes 12 servings (3 quarts)

2/3 cup flour

11/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 lamb shank (1 to 11/2 pounds total)

21/2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder (excess fat trimmed), cut into 2-inch chunks

12 ounces cipollini onions, root ends removed (see headnote)

6 medium carrots (trimmed), scrubbed well and cut crosswise into 1-inch chunks

3 ribs celery, cut crosswise in 1/2-inch slices

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Herb bundle, tied with kitchen twine (10 parsley stems, 6 thyme stems, 2 rosemary stems, 1 bay leaf, 1 whole star anise)

3 wide strips lemon peel (no pith)

2 cups robust red wine, such as malbec or merlot

4 cups no-salt-added chicken or veal broth

10 to 15 tiny red potatoes or 8 to 12 medium red potatoes (11/2 pounds total)

11/2 cups fresh or frozen petite green peas

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment to fit just inside the pot.

Place 1/3 cup of the flour on a plate or in a shallow bowl; stir in 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper.

Heat the oil in a large (5-quart or larger) Dutch oven or a big, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the lamb shank and brown well on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Keep the pan over medium heat.

Use paper towels to pat dry the pieces of lamb shoulder. Coat the meat in the seasoned flour, then add it to the hot pan, taking care not to crowd the pan. Brown the pieces on all sides, then transfer them to the bowl holding the shank.

Add the cipollini onions to the pan and brown them well, turning them at least once; this should take about 10 minutes. Add the carrots, celery and butter, stirring to coat as the butter melts into the oils in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of flour over the vegetables in the pan, stir well and cook until the flour begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the herb bundle, the strips of lemon peel and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.

Slide the lamb shank and pieces of lamb shoulder, plus any accumulated juices, into the pan. Pour the wine over everything and turn up the heat, bringing the wine to a boil and cooking off the strong alcohol smell, 3 to 5 minutes once it’s boiling. Add the broth and return to a boil.

Cover the stew with the parchment paper (placing it directly on the surface) and then cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Transfer to the middle oven rack and cook until the meat is tender, 11/2 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and add a big pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook until tender, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the potatoes’ size. Drain.

Once the stew is finished, discard the herb bundle and strips of lemon peel. (If the star anise has slipped out, be sure to search for it; nobody wants to bite into that.) Remove the lamb shank from the stew; detach the meat and return it to the pot in chunks. Discard the bone.

Add the cooked potatoes to the stew, then stir in the peas, which will cook through with the heat of the stew in a minute or two. Taste, and add more salt and/or pepper, as needed.

Serve piping hot, in shallow bowls.

VARIATION: To make this stew in the slow cooker, follow the directions above, browning the shank and flour-coated meat, then browning the onions, and cooking the alcohol off the wine. If you have a slow cooker with a saute function, those steps may be accomplished in the slow cooker. Combine the meats, onions, carrots, celery, seasonings and broth (everything except the potatoes and peas) in the slow cooker. If you have a dual-heat slow cooker, bring the stew to a boil on HIGH before reducing the heat to LOW; cook for 7 to 9 hours, until the meat is tender. Remove the shank from the stew and take the meat off the bone, cutting it into chunks before putting it back in the slow cooker. Add the cooked potatoes and heat for another few minutes, until the potatoes are warmed through, then stir in the peas.

]]> 0 lamb stew requires two hours in the oven or about eight hours in the slow cooker.Tue, 14 Feb 2017 18:00:31 +0000
Updated ‘China Study’ has clear prescription for plants, not pills Wed, 15 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 The first edition of “The China Study,” the book that helped propel plant-based eating into the mainstream, was released 12 years ago. After selling more than 2 million copies, inspiring the documentaries “Forks Over Knives” and “PlantPure Nation,” influencing dozens of cookbooks, spinning off a guide book, sparking a grassroots network of plant-based groups and launching a plant-based certification program at Cornell University, an updated edition hit bookstores just before New Year’s.

Like the first edition, this expanded edition is written by scientist T. Colin Campbell and his son Dr. Thomas M. Campbell. The book’s structure and much of its prose remain the same and its scope continues to be broad, including the research in China from which the book draws its title, along with the findings of a variety of studies – ranging from lab research and patient studies to wide-ranging epidemiological investigations – that show a strong relationship between eating mostly plants and health. The updated edition features refreshed statistics and new research that validates the original claims.

If you’ve read “The China Study” or seen the films, you know the elder Campbell spent decades at Cornell University conducting nutrition research, including his work that discovered cancer in lab animals can be turned “on” and “off” by adding or removing dairy protein from their diets, and his cancer investigation in China that found a strong link between animal-based eating and cancer (which in 1990 the New York Times called the “Grand Prix of epidemiology”). What he uncovered caused him to radically reassess what he and his family were eating and ultimately to write “The China Study” and the 2014 bestseller “Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition.”

The younger Campbell co-wrote the initial book. In the time since, he completed his medical studies and was appointed director of a plant-based medical practice called the Program for Nutrition in Medicine at the University of Rochester in upstate New York.

The hardcover edition of “The China Study” has gone through 21 print runs, and the paperback has been printed 45 times, according to Jennifer Canzoneri, marketing director at Dallas-based publisher BenBella Books.

Canzoneri said the book was not an overnight best-seller. Rather it picked up speed over the years. In those same years, the elder Campbell lectured widely, including in Portland in 2011 at the annual banquet of Mercy Hospital’s attending physicians. The book was well-known in health food circles by then, and later that same year the airwaves were filled with reports of former President Bill Clinton’s adoption of a vegan diet to reverse his heart disease. He often mentioned “The China Study” in interviews.

“The success of the book took us a little by surprise,” Thomas Campbell told me by phone from his office in Rochester.

He recalled being rejected by a number of publishers before BenBella decided to take a chance on the manuscript. BenBella publishes a full catalog of vegan and vegetarian books.

In 2005, the book didn’t really fit into an existing market category, Campbell said. Diet books were on store shelves, he said, but no books that offered science-based nutrition research.

BenBella Publisher Glenn Yeffeth said when he first read the manuscript he was “immediately captivated.”

“The book was very compelling, and the abundance of scientific studies supporting their conclusions was a feature, not a bug,” Yeffeth said. “I think most readers are tired of diet books based on opinion rather than established science.”

“The China Study” not only sells well, but it, and the related films, have led to dozens of cookbooks. (Neither Thomas Campbell nor T. Colin Campbell have a financial stake in the films or the cookbooks, although they have written forewords for some of the books.)

These days, it’s become something of a family affair: Nelson Campbell (also T. Colin’s son) produced the “PlantPure Nation” film and his wife, Kim Campbell, wrote “The PlantPure Nation Cookbook,” published in 2015, and “The PlantPure Kitchen,” released last month.

BenBella will release “The China Study Family Cookbook” this spring, which is written by Deb Sroufe and edited by LeAnne Campbell, T. Colin’s daughter. Her other related cookbooks include “The China Study Cookbook,” “The China Study All-Star Collection” and “The China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook.”

The current Amazon top 20 list of best-sellers in the vegetarian category contains eight books related to “The China Study” or the two films.

Thomas Campbell told me in addition to writing “The China Study Solution” in 2015, he has used the research to create a medical practice that dispenses plant-based meals in place of pills. Campbell and his colleagues offer consultations to people with a range of conditions, from diabetes to cancer.

Patients supply their goals, and Campbell helps them generate a plan. He also offers a seven-day intensive program, complete with cooking classes, at a nearby spa; and an eight-week intensive program.

Campbell and his father both know the University of Rochester practice is an outlier and that most hospitals have a long way to go before doctors know how to use diet as medicine; societal resistance to the scientific evidence they present for plant-based eating is among the book’s themes.

In the updated chapter on heart disease, as in the rest of the book, the acronym WFPB appears often and stands for whole-foods, plant-based. The Campbells write that, since the first edition was published, “there has been virtually no serious discussion in the cardiology community about the possible use of dietary interventions” even though “a WFPB diet can prevent and treat heart disease.”

Meanwhile, the evidence that this approach works continues to build. This is clear in the revised edition, where statistics have been updated and new medical research added.

For instance, the updated edition includes information on the recent prostate cancer work of Dr. Dean Ornish. Known for his work reversing heart disease using a plant-based diet, Ornish conducted a randomized trial of 93 men with elevated PSA scores (a marker of the slow-growing disease) who chose to monitor the progression of the disease rather than seek traditional treatments. Ornish divided the men into two groups, with one group prescribed a plant-based diet and stress reduction and the other group prescribed the standard “watchful waiting” care. The study was published in 2005 in the Journal of Urology, and has been updated many times since then.

The Campbells write that after one year, the vegan group saw a decline in their PSA scores compared to the traditional group. Even more remarkable, only 5 percent of the dietary change group needed conventional cancer treatment after two years compared to 27 percent of the men who were in the standard care group.

The Campbells write: “Every doctor should tell every man with prostate cancer to stop consuming dairy immediately and embrace a WFPB diet.”

Another new section reviews the evidence that has accumulated in the past decade linking meat and dairy-heavy diets to diseases of the mind, including Alzheimer’s. “Memory loss, disorientation, and confusion are not inevitable parts of aging, but problems linked to that all important lifestyle factor: diet,” the Campbells write in the updated book.

The last section of the book provides an overview of the cultural, corporate and institutional barriers standing in the way of more people learning that common diseases can be prevented and reversed by eating a diet centered on whole plant foods.

The barriers, Thomas Campbell told me, are beginning to crack. He cited the increasing number of research-heavy books about plant-based diets and increasing attendance at national plant-based medical conferences. Campbell also mentioned subtle but important shifts in institutional language.

“If you look at the executive summary in the recent dietary guidelines, the term plant-based was used all over,” Campbell said. “That would have never occurred 10 years ago.”

I’ll be curious to see where the next 10 years bring us now that this expanded edition of “The China Study” is on the market.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0 Chip Cookies.Tue, 14 Feb 2017 22:33:44 +0000
Chef David Levi’s Italian restaurant reopens as Trattoria Fanny Tue, 14 Feb 2017 05:21:35 +0000 David Levi has reopened Rossobianco, his restaurant at 3 Deering Ave., under the name Trattoria Fanny.

The restaurant is serving a simpler, more affordable menu than Rossobianco, and is named after Levi’s grandmother, Fanny Levi, who was born in Milan in 1908. Dinner dishes are all under $20, and include seafood stew in tomato broth and a veal cutlet with prosciutto and sage. Lunch will be served five days a week starting Wednesday. Most lunch plates are in the $8-$10 range and include dishes such as lasagna with meat sauce and béchamel, and a paté of salt-cured cod on toast.

The restaurant’s chef is Siddharta Rumma, whose family had a restaurant in Italy. Rumma has also worked at The Corner Room in Portland, and he helped open Eataly Boston.

Trattoria Fanny accepts reservations only for parties over six.

Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, and dinner hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Levi also owns Vinland, a restaurant that focuses solely on local foods, at 593 Congress St.

]]> 0 Levi has complained about reviews of his Portland restaurant on Yelp.Tue, 14 Feb 2017 10:57:10 +0000
FoodCorps is doing its part to get kids to eat their vegetables Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 WALDOBORO — Alexis Zimba-Kirby has just walked a half-dozen middle schoolers through making a simple beet salad.

Lessons were learned on both sides. One, shallots are like onions, but not as spicy. Two, beets are a source of sugar. And three, when trying to get kids to try something new, patience is key.

Summer Wasilowski, 12, has tried couscous, ground cherries and squash during her time in the school’s Outsiders Club – she’s even started making couscous at home – but she eyed the cilantro in the beet salad with skepticism, and when she forced herself to taste it, she looked as if her BFF had just dumped her.

“It kind of tastes like pool water,” she said.

Nevertheless, Wasilowski said she might try cilantro again sometime, “if I have something to drink after it.”

Small victories. That’s what Zimba-Kirby lives for in her job as a FoodCorps service member in Maine. Her mission is to connect kids to healthier foods through cooking, tasting, gardening, nutrition education and developing a school culture that values healthy food choices. That means getting the students at Medomak Middle School, where pizza and chicken burgers are the top-selling lunches, to try a bite of beet salad.

“I’m always amazed at how picky our kids are,” Zimba-Kirby said. “So many of these kids will only eat two or three things. So any time a kid will try something, even if they don’t like it, for me that’s a win.”


FoodCorps is a national service organization affiliated with AmeriCorps that places its service members in high-need areas where schools are an important part of the nutritional safety net.

Including Zimba-Kirby, a dozen FoodCorps members are stationed in Maine this school year, working with schoolchildren and with school food service staff to make food more appetizing and healthy.

This month, the FoodCorps foot soldiers in Maine are:

 Holding cooking classes at two Portland elementary schools.

 Preparing a lunchroom hummus taste test at Lewiston High School, with an eye toward adding the spread to the school lunch menu.

 Preparing a free community dinner at Troy Central School to open up a conversation about food and health.

 Leading fifth-grade “Sprout Scouts” at the Albert S. Hall School in Waterville in planning the school garden and designing seed packets.

 Taking a field trip to Aldermere Farm in Rockport to see the Belted Galloway cattle.

The activities are all small steps toward a long-term goal. As Cecily Upton, a co-founder of FoodCorps and a resident of South Portland, put it, “We came into being as a health organization trying to address kids’ connection to healthy food and hoping that by establishing really good habits early, they would be less likely to have that link to disease and have a longer, more productive life.”

So far, the program appears to be on track. It’s still too early to evaluate its impact on long-term health problems such as obesity and diabetes, so the organization measures its success by examining the consumption of healthy foods. Results just in from an external evaluation done by researchers at Columbia University, Upton said, show that at 20 FoodCorps schools around the country – Portland’s Riverton School among them – children are eating three times more healthy foods during school lunch than they did before FoodCorps entered the picture.


FoodCorps got its start in 2010 – Maine was a founding state. It grew out of a discussion at a Kellogg Foundation conference in California. Upton, who was there and now works in FoodCorps as vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships, remembers it this way: When the opportunity came up to discuss new ideas, another conference attendee, Curt Ellis, raised the idea of using public service organizations such as AmeriCorps to address some of the gaps he saw in food and health systems. Ellis now serves as chief executive officer of FoodCorps.

About a half-dozen people from the conference ultimately committed to getting something started.

“The idea was that we had seen tremendous amounts of enthusiasm from college-age people in our own spheres of work who were eager and excited to do work in food,” Upton said. “They had been exposed to new ideas around food systems and food justice at their college or university, and they were graduating and didn’t see a lot of opportunity to pursue that professionally.

“And then there were quite a number of projects happening in schools trying to get kids reconnected to where food comes from, how to grow it, how to cook it, how to enjoy it, really exposing them to those basics,” she continued. “Parents, community members, volunteers were excited about it, but couldn’t necessarily sustain it, and the schools couldn’t sustain it on their own, so there was a real human resource gap there.”

The group secured initial funding from AmeriCorps and the Kellogg Foundation, and spent the next 18 months planning.

During FoodCorps’ first year, the 2010-2011 school year, 50 service members were sent to 10 states, including six to Maine. This year, 215 service members are working in 18 states. There are no immediate plans to expand to other states, Upton said. But FoodCorps would like to invest more heavily in the states that already have programs and to double the number of its service members over the next few years.

FoodCorps attracts lots of young people who are eager to establish a career in food. The organization’s members and staff like to joke that nabbing a spot is as competitive as getting into Harvard. As many as 1,000 people apply for those 215 service member positions.

Zimba-Kirby thinks one reason is that “the time is right for food and social justice. All those things are kind of hip.” Also, she added, “it’s still really hard to graduate with any kind of humanities degree and get a job.”

Though FoodCorps is open to people of all ages, from high school graduates to grandparents, scan the photos on the organization’s website, and it’s clear that the majority are fresh-faced young adults. Many have college or culinary arts degrees, Upton says. More than half serve in their home states. They get an annual stipend of $17,500, plus a $5,815 education award that can be used to either pay off student loans or fund further education. (FoodCorps fundraises to cover 70 percent of the program costs. Another 20 percent comes from federal AmeriCorps grants, and the remaining 10 percent is provided by the service areas, which pay $6,250 each to host a FoodCorps member.)

After a week of intensive training, service members are sent into the community. While FoodCorps members are granted a lot of freedom to develop programs, they’re also handed tools that the organizations knows will work – things like taste testing and a “Harvest of the Month,” two programs that introduces a new fruit or vegetable to children each month.

FoodCorps instruction is coordinated with classroom lessons, Upton said, “so it’s really integrated into what the students are learning, and it feels like a real benefit to the teacher and not an add-on that they have to take time out of their day for.”

If a math class is working on fractions, for example, the FoodCorps member might drop in to talk about measuring ingredients for recipes. If a science class is learning the parts of a plant, school garden work will take that into account. Students studying history and culture might plant heritage seeds in a pioneer garden.

Members must spend 1,700 hours total in up to three schools over the course of the year, said Vina Lindley of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, who manages the state’s FoodCorps program. “A lot of them go above and beyond that, really,” she added.

At the Albert S. Hall School in Waterville, service member Sam McClean is helping the kids plan a school garden this month, as well as organizing a taste test of a spelt grain salad. “We would not be able to do what we’re doing without FoodCorps,” Hall school teacher Mary Dunn said.


Shana Wallace, a 23-year-old service member based in Lewiston, moved to Maine from New York to attend Bates College. Before signing up for FoodCorps, she had already helped manage a farmers market, worked in commercial kitchens and on a farm. She says she joined FoodCorps because she wanted to marry her love of food with her love of children.

Wallace works with mostly immigrant children who come from backgrounds where food is associated with survival.

“Many of my students come from very food-anxious environments,” she said. “They don’t associate food or growing food or eating with any sort of joy or excitement.” She tries to change that, hoping to instill in them the importance of trying new things, and the value of enjoying food.

This is her last year with FoodCorps, which limits members to two-year terms. Through FoodCorps, Wallace said she has “really fallen in love with working with children and teens.”

There’s the girl who doesn’t like to eat onions but has grown so confident chopping them in cooking classes she refuses to let anyone else do it because “it’s her job now.” And then there’s watching the children who have never cut a banana before and think it’s fun.

“I’ve seen so much growth in so many of these children,” Wallace said. “It’s been such a joy to work with them. I think this is the community I want to work with for the rest of my life.”


By her own admission, Alexis Zimba-Kirby used to “hate kids.” Now she is realizing that she loves to teach.

In Waldoboro, where she teaches students of all ages (though primarily elementary and middle schoolers), her days are flexible and varied. She works with the health teacher when the lesson is nutrition, and with the science teacher when the class is studying soils. When she landed a grant to pay for a hoop house for the school garden, Zimba-Kirby discussed erecting it with the principal, the maintenance staff and the school board. Lately, she has been reviewing the results of a survey she designed and implemented on school lunch with the superintendent and the district’s nutrition director.

An Iowa native, Zimba-Kirby minored in food studies at New York University and is now studying for an online master’s in sustainable food systems. After college, she cooked for a time at the former Saltwater Farm restaurant in Rockport, where the kitchen’s local sourcing fueled her interest in becoming a farmer. She hopes her FoodCorps experience will make her more attractive to employers; she’d like to continue to work in food systems while she and her fiancé save up to buy a farm.

At a recent meeting of the Outsiders Club at Medomak Middle School, a half-dozen students painted signs for the school’s garden while they planned what to plant. Zimba-Kirby, wearing a FoodCorps T-shirt with a bunch of carrots on the front and the words “Try Things” in bright orange and yellow on the back, scribbled crops on a white board.

“OK, let’s figure this out,” she said. “Potatoes – do we want potatoes?”

“Yes, potatoes!” exclaimed 12-year-old Dante Paton, a seventh-grader who fell in love with the “sweet and delicious” ground cherries the club planted last year.

Eventually, the list grew to include radishes, kale, spinach, peppers, winter squash, ground cherries, carrots, turnips, melons, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, beets, beans, broccoli, cauliflower and peas.

“Our school garden is pretty much a free-for-all,” Zimba-Kirby said. “Kids can go into it whenever they want and eat whatever they want.”

Zimba-Kirby especially likes the gardening aspect of the FoodCorps program. “We have kids here who are homeless,” she explained. “We have kids here who are on free or reduced lunch, kids who I know don’t get enough to eat and can’t just go to the grocery store and buy whatever they want. So for them to be able to think about growing their own food in the future and having some way to do that can really be an empowering experience – to realize that they can take control of one of their basic needs when they don’t have control over so many things in their lives right now.”

Zimba-Kirby holds monthly taste tests in the cafeteria. This year, she has fed her students parsnip chips, local apples picked by members of the Outsiders Club, and black bean and corn salsa. (The cafeteria has trouble getting the students to eat any beans, she said. She is hoping to help remedy that).

Then there’s that beet salad, which 14-year-old Ben Noyes, who recently discovered he likes kale, gobbled up. Paton would barely even look at the beets, but he threw up a white flag, offering to take a bowl of the salad home to his dad and reassuring Zimba-Kirby that “I normally love the food you do.”

She wasn’t falling for the flattery. She reminded him that he couldn’t possibly know if he likes beets without trying them.

“Dante, I will give a bowl for your dad if you’ll try one little bite from it,” she said. “If you hate it, then you hate it.”

“And if I throw up, it’s your fault,” Paton countered.

He took a microscopic bite.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “That tastes disgusting.”

But he tried it. Small victories.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Medomak Outsiders Club's raised bed garden awaits warmer weather in spring.Fri, 10 Feb 2017 11:36:46 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Schulte & Herr’s homey German food is a home run Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 In an unguarded moment a few years ago, a well-known television chef told me something he probably shouldn’t have.

I was covering a food event where he was promoting his new, over-the-top New York restaurant, serving guests microscopic spoonfuls of shrimp and grits on tiny plastic plates. Chef had also brought along an assistant. She apparently had one job: Keeping him “hydrated” with plenty of samples from the vodka sponsor in the next booth. So by the end of the evening, when I asked about his new menu, he was rather well-lubricated. “I make two kinds of food: the stuff you want to eat when you’ve been drinking, and stuff that makes you want to drink more. I’m in the restaurant business. It’s all about booze,” he said, punctuating his confession by popping a piece of shrimp into his mouth and flashing his veneers.

It’s no secret that many restaurants rely on alcohol sales to boost their profit margins, or even to keep them afloat. But there is a downside: When you can charge diners two, three or even five times the wholesale cost for a bottle of wine, food can become a lure for the thirsty, not an end in itself.

BYOB restaurants have no such cushion. They live and die by the strength of their menus, and there’s a purity of purpose in that. It’s also risky, which is why it is so rare to see a place like Portland’s Schulte & Herr, still thriving without a liquor license nearly seven years after it opened.

In the 24-seat West Bayside dining room, you will not find an oompah band, beer steins or rosy-cheeked, bedirndled bar maids. Here, the soundtrack is a little moody: The Beatles and downtempo classic rock, shading into The Black Keys and CocoRosie – but all in perfect alignment with co-owner Steffi Davin’s description of the place as “more mellow, quaint and not rowdy.”

She and her husband, chef Brian Davin, who are often the only two staff members in the restaurant, work hard to build a sense of coziness on a nondescript block that needs it badly. “We want to make a gathering place that feels like you’re at a family member’s house – a place where you feel like you’re with friends, an intimate place,” Steffi Davin said.

Look around at Charles Alden’s oil paintings of German street scenes hanging on the whitewashed, paneled walls; the plainly tiled floor (no rugs); the indirect lamp lighting and even the dishware, like a 1970s coffee mug that recalls the muted colors and big geometrics of DDR design. It really is homey here.

The menu, featuring hearty (but not necessarily heavy) dishes from across Germany, amplifies the gemütlich vibe with several dishes that represent Steffi Davin’s childhood food memories. Her fondest two are here: extraordinarily good palm-sized pancakes made from potato and onion, grated together and bound with egg and flour, then shallow-fried until just crisp ($5 served with naturally sweet applesauce and sour cream, or $11 served with house-smoked salmon and capers). In her four-star review from 2012, this paper’s reviewer raved about them. It’s easy to see why.

The other, Rheinischer Sauerbraten ($21), beef served with cinnamon-scented red cabbage that her mother served every Christmas, is the Platonic ideal of tender, boneless pot roasts. Marinated for three entire days in red wine, vinegar and mirepoix, then braised for several hours and finished with brown sugar and raisins, the marbled shoulder cut tenderizes languidly as it makes its own sweet-sour gravy.

That gravy is not to be wasted, so Brian Davin serves the sauerbraten with something to sop with – buttery pan-fried Servietten (napkin) dumplings that he prepares by fashioning a log from moistened bread. He poaches it, lets it cool and slices it into discs that he pan-fries to lend color and a nutty flavor. “They’re like fried bread pudding, but savory,” he said.

I was unprepared for their lightness, just as I was by the same quality in the Schweine schnitzel ($18), pork loin pounded as thin as a poker chip, then dredged in egg, coated in breadcrumbs and flash-fried. It wasn’t just the texture that took me by surprise, but the skillful use of just a few seasonings: only salt, pepper and lemon juice in a balance calculated out to the 10th decimal place. On one plate, an object lesson on simplicity and execution for every chef in town.

Seasonings were equally superb in the roasted local bratwurst ($15), a mace-and-ginger flavored sausage served with a mild sauerkraut sauteed with bacon and aromatic juniper berries. Or the Zwiebelkuchen ($7) a quiche-like, Gruyere-topped onion custard made with sultry Spanish onions that have been softened at a glacial pace (over an hour, but never browned) and baked in a flaky, savory pâte brisée crust. Or even the tangy potato salad ($4) with roughed-up red potatoes, cornichons, red onion and bacon – a classic for good reason.

The evening’s only missteps were minor ones. Like a vegan chocolate cake ($6) with dark chocolate icing, a patchy middle layer of raspberry jam, and an optional (not-so-vegan) dollop of whipped cream. The dessert tasted lovely, but should have come out of the oven a minute or two earlier to keep the outside edge as moist as its center.

Or the Schwäbische spätzle ($14) – short, rustic-looking egg noodles pan-fried with Emmenthaler cheese until just a little crusty, like the browned top and sides of homemade macaroni and cheese. Here, there was not enough of the irregular, dumpling-like noodles and perhaps a bit too much cheese. In fairness, on a freezing day in February, a little cheese overload might be a feature, not a flaw. Either way, a bite of mandolin-sliced cucumber in dill vinaigrette offset the spätzle’s extra richness.

It’s the kind of dish that would have gone wonderfully with a zesty white wine, like the Berger 2015 Grüner Veltliner we brought with us. I have seen the same bottle on local wine lists for upwards of $45, but thanks to the awkward placement of Schulte & Herr’s original bathroom – a quirk that, until it was relocated recently, prevented the restaurant from seeking a liquor license – it cost us $16.

There is no way around it: BYOB allows diners more affordable access to better wine. It also opens up a much greater range of pairings than any single restaurant could provide, even with a massive wine and beer program. I’ll go a step further: I’d wager that not having a liquor license has made Schulte & Herr a better restaurant. Without the extra profits from alcohol, the Davins are, by necessity, more attuned to the quality of every bite of food. And it shows.

They are also free to take chances. Nothing radical – this is still traditional German cooking – but you can see a little of that abandon in dishes like a complex, acid-forward smoked trout salad with sweet pickled beets, matchsticks of radish, vinaigrette-dressed potatoes and arugula ($9). “I’ve never had a salad exactly like that, just all the tastes of Germany on one plate,” Brian Davin said. It’s also an outstanding plate of food with an eclectic combination of flavors that would probably stump even the best sommelier. But hey, the Davins are in the restaurant business. It’s not all about booze.

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 potato salad.Sat, 11 Feb 2017 16:57:39 +0000
Farmers, cooks and food pros learn how to make masa from Maine-grown flint corn Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 The word “nixtamalization” is a mouthful, for sure. But the process – which involves cooking and steeping dried corn kernels in an alkaline solution like limewater before hulling them – increases how much protein, calcium and niacin (vitamin B3) a body can pull from a mouthful of maize, and reduces toxins that can make stored grain go bad.

Dusty Dowse, director of education and resident baking adviser at the Maine Grain Alliance, says the slightly nutty, somewhat mineral-like flavor of nixtamalized whole corn kernels (called mote, hominy or posole) or ground meal (wet masa paste or dried grits) is pleasantly unique, a driving force behind corn being prepared in this fashion for over 3,000 years in the Americas.

In the baking kitchen lab at Southern Maine Community College earlier this month, Dowse walked three dozen farmers, scientists, bakers, food manufacturers and home cooks through the nixtamalization process and subsequent grinding of the mote into masa. Lynne Rowe, owner of Portland’s Tortilleria Pachanga, who is well-versed in nixtamalized corn as she uses it to make thousands of tortillas weekly, oversaw the communal exercise of making piles of them from several varieties of corn grown in Maine.

Tortillas that originated as dried dent and flint corn. Photo courtesy of Christine Burns Rudelevige

The workshop was part of the Maine Grain Alliance’s continuing initiative to reinvigorate the state’s corn crop by positioning it as so much more than cattle feed. These corns differ from the sweet variety we eat off the cob as a vegetable in the height of summer, because they are inedible unless they are processed by nixtamalization or dried and ground into meal.

The most common heritage corn product found in Maine that we humans can eat is cornmeal, which is simply finely or coarsely ground flint corn. A growing number of growers and millers offer it, including Fairwinds Farm in Bowdoinham, Maine Grains in Skowhegan and Songbird Farm in Unity. The plan, as explained by the alliance’s executive director Tristan Noyes, is to build a market for value-added products made from heritage corn varieties grown in Maine so that local farmers will find it worth their while to cultivate those varieties.

“If we lose the corn, we’re all going down the tubes,” said corn keeper Albie Barden of Norridgewock. Barden offered everyone in the room 12 Darwin John kernels, the multicolored Indian corn variety that can be traced back to the Iroquois, so we could all try our hands at growing heritage corn ourselves.

Ingredients for polenta include cornmeal made from flint corn, stock, cream, cheese and butter. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

To make the masa, Dowse prepped 2 pounds each of dried dent (standard field corn that gets its name from the small indentation at the crown of each kernel) and Garland variety flint corn, which was donated by Barden. He simmered each batch of corn in a solution of 3 quarts boiling water, 1/2 cup slaked lime and 2 teaspoons salt for 20 minutes. Then he let the corn steep overnight.

The next day, students took turns washing the mote, removing the individual skins by rubbing the kernels round and round a colander and rinsing them multiple times in bowls of cold water so the skins and other inedible bits floated off the top. Attendees used a hand mill to grind the mote into masa, rolling the wet corn paste into golf-ball sized portions, then using wooden presses – which Rowe bought in Mexico – to flatten them into rounds. They then cooked the tortillas on an ungreased griddle.

From start to finish, the process took some 12 hours. Perhaps only a zealot would do it at home. But through the workshop, the Maine Grain Alliance hopes to seed a bigger market by demonstrating to local culinary influencers ways to use Maine-grown flint corn.

As points of reference, attendees also made tortillas from commercial masa harina (masa paste that has been dried and very finely ground) and run-of-the-mill all-purpose wheat flour. I am pretty sure the organizers knew they’d stacked the tortilla tasting so that we’d all prefer those made from local corn. But to seal the deal, Dowse made a pot of posole chili to fill the corn tortillas.

Most of the tasters I spoke with went away sold on the renewed value of growing – and eating – heritage corn in Maine.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at: cburns1227@



Christine Burns Rudalevige adds corn meal to stock while making polenta. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

I first ate grits while living in England in 2007. I’d befriended a woman named Weezie Boiles from Birmingham, Alabama, who landed in the East Anglian city of Norwich, as did I, due to our husbands’ academic pursuits. She was astounded I’d never had Southern grits, telling me that my Italian heritage’s polenta just didn’t cut it. While my Nonna made her cornmeal mush with just salted water, Weezie’s had cream, butter and cheese – and the secret ingredient, ground nixtamalized corn. I didn’t have true grits again until I went to Charleston two years ago. I’ve yet to find raw grits here in Maine, but I have adapted my family’s polenta recipe to Weezie’s richer technique, which certainly does justice to the local, heritage variety cornmeal I can readily get my hands on. I make the mush with a mix of smoked cheddar and local Alpine cheese.

Serves 4

3 cups vegetable stock
11/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
11/4 cups dry, stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup grated semi-hard cheese


2 slices bacon
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds mussels, rinsed and debearded
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley

To make the mush, combine the stock, salt and pepper in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and bring the liquid to a rolling boil over high heat. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, stirring constantly. Lower the heat to medium and continue to stir. Cook until the polenta is soft and creamy, 12-15 minutes. Stir in the cream. Take the pot off the heat, stir in butter and cheese. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Cover to keep warm.
To make the mussels, fry the bacon over medium high heat in a large pot until browned, remove it from the pan and drain well on a paper bag. Chop the cooled bacon and set it aside. Add the onion and garlic to the hot bacon grease. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add the mussels, wine, tomatoes and lemon juice. Stir, cover and steam until the mussels open, 4-6 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened. Stir in the parsley and reserved bacon. Serve over warm mush.

]]> 0 and cornmeal mush.Fri, 10 Feb 2017 11:34:51 +0000
Freeport author nominated for prestigious culinary award Fri, 10 Feb 2017 22:59:40 +0000 Freeport resident, award-winning chef and author Barton Seaver has been nominated for an International Association of Culinary Professionals Award for his latest seafood cookbook, “Two If By Sea: Delicious Sustainable Seafood,” published by Sterling Epicure.

The book, which contains 150 recipes, is nominated in the “Food Matters” category. It is his fifth book.

Seaver is a well-known advocate for the environment, especially the oceans and sustainable seafood. He is a National Geographic Society fellow and director of the Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

]]> 0 Fri, 10 Feb 2017 17:59:40 +0000
Recipe: Southern Greek-style chicken and rice pilaf Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:00:39 +0000 Bill Doukas says it’s OK to use chicken parts that have already been cut up by the grocery store, but that “would not be considered traditional for this Mediterranean dish.” When he makes the dish, he includes the back of the chicken, because the bones, skin and dark meat yield a tasty chicken stock. The back needn’t end up on the final platter, he said.

If you prefer a stronger tomato flavor, as Doukas’ paternal grandmother did, add 6 ounces more tomato paste (for a total of 12 ounces). Doukas sometimes “splits the difference” and adds 1 1/2 cans, or 9 ounces, tomato paste.

Serves 4 to 8

1 large whole chicken, about 5 pounds
1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more if needed
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 ounces tomato paste
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon
4 cups long-grain rice

Using a sharp knife cut the chicken into pieces: First cut off the wings, legs and thighs. Next, separate the back from the breasts.

Split the breasts lengthwise and cut them transversely for smaller pieces. Dry all the pieces.

Chop the onion into pieces, about 3/8 inch by 3/8 inch.

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onions and chicken parts, skin side down. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the exposed side of the chicken. When the cooked side has turned golden brown, about 10 minutes, flip the chicken and season the second side with salt and pepper. Saute 3 to 4 minutes on the second side. Add more olive oil if necessary to assure proper sautéing. You may need to brown the chicken in batches, or in 2 pans, to avoid overcrowding, thus steaming, the chicken.

While you are browning the chicken, add 14 cups of water to a large Dutch oven or kettle. Thoroughly whisk in the tomato paste and the bouillon and bring the liquid to a boil. You want the stock to come to a boil just about the time the chicken parts are fully browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken parts directly from the sauté pan to the Dutch oven. Transfer the now well-cooked onions and cooked bits from the base of the pan to the stock, as well. (If you pour a little of the stock into the large skillet and scrap the bottom vigorously with a spoon, then return the stock to the Dutch oven, you will get all the bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet, which carry much of the flavor.)

Reduce the boiling tomato stock to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, covered. Using tongs, remove the chicken pieces and place them in a ceramic dish or bowl, covering with foil to keep the chicken warm. You will need only 6 to 7 cups of the stock to cook the rice. Save the remainder for another use or add more rice in a roughly 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice ratio if you like.

Return the stock to a boil, stir in the rice, turn the heat down to a simmer and cover the pot. The rice should be done after about 15 minutes.

Serve the rice with the chicken.

]]> Greek-style chicken and rice pilaf made by Bill Doukas.Tue, 07 Feb 2017 18:50:22 +0000
Recipe: Avgolemono soup (egg-lemon) Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:00:02 +0000 Bill Doukas says that different cooks prefer varying amounts of rice, chicken and lemon, but this recipe is a good starting place.

Also, he warns that avgolemono is “a delicacy” and “quite sensitive.” It does not reheat well most of the time, nor can it last long periods of time over heat. It is best to serve it promptly.

Serves 8 full bowls

2 pieces bone-in, skin-on chicken, 1 dark and 1 white, such as thigh and breast
2 teaspoon chicken bouillon
6 large eggs
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ cups long-grain rice
Salt and pepper

Place the chicken parts in a large kettle with 12 cups water and chicken bouillon. Bring to a gentle boil, cover, and then reduce to a medium heat for about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside. Strain the stock with fine-mesh strainer and return to the heat, allowing a gentle boil.

Separate the eggs into whites and yolks in 2 small metal bowls. Beat the egg whites until frothy. Beat the egg yolks until creamy and add to egg white bowl. Transfer the beaten eggs into a large metal bowl. Very gradually add the lemon juice to the eggs, pouring it down the side of the bowl while stirring continuously.

Turn the heat off under the chicken stock and add 1½ cups rice (Alternatively, leave the heat on and cook the rice in the simmering stock until nearly done, then start tempering the egg mixture). Using a ladle, lift a scoop of hot stock out of kettle (avoid the rice grains) and very slowly pour the liquid down the side of the bowl into the egg-lemon mix while also whisking continuously. Gradually repeat this with a second ladle full of hot stock, stirring. Add a 3rd, 4th, 5th, and so on of the stock, always stirring. You can pick up the pace with each ladle transfer. When the stock pot is three-quarters empty, stop, and pour the contents of the bowl into the kettle. Gently stir.

If the egg did not curdle, you have succeeded in making this soup!

Dice the cooked, cooled chicken meat into small cubes and add to the soup. Test to see if the rice is cooked. If not, continue to cook the soup at a very gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more lemon juice if you like.

]]> 0, ME - FEBRUARY 2: Avgolemono Soup made by Bill Doukas at his apartment in Portland. Both dishes were family favorites at home and with customers at Doukas' grandfathers restaurant, Bill's Café, that he opened at Longfellow Square in the 1930's. (Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer)Tue, 07 Feb 2017 18:51:36 +0000
Homemade Valentine’s candy shows love for body and soul Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 This recipe is a luscious way to celebrate your love, or at least your love of chocolate, in a way that loves you back.

It has just four easy-to-find ingredients, each lending its own sensuous element and remarkable health benefits.

Rich, dark chocolate, with its intoxicating melt-in-your mouth quality; a touch of fragrant grated orange zest; a generous helping of crunchy almonds; and chewy, sweet-tart dried cherries all bring a considerable dose of health-protective antioxidants along with their flavor. The almonds and cherries add essential nutrients and longer-lasting satisfaction, to boot.

Making this candy is almost as easy as eating it: Just melt the chocolate, stir in the zest, pour into a parchment-lined pan and scatter with the fruit and nuts. (You could swap in any nut and dried fruit you like or have on hand.)

Let the candy set in the refrigerator for an hour, then break it into pieces.

It’s a simple, but delightful, Valentine’s Day gift that is good for your heart in every sense of the word.


Makes 24 pieces

This luscious candy is not only easy to make, it’s also good for you. It’s loaded with health-protective antioxidants and essential nutrients, for a treat you’ll love that loves you back.

1 cup whole, skin-on almonds

12 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (60 to 70 percent cocoa solids, or bittersweet)

1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1/3 cup tart dried cherries (coarsely chopped if they are large)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pleat a 22-inch-long piece of parchment paper lengthwise to make a 9-inch-wide strip, then fit it into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish like a sling, pressing the paper into the corners to line the bottom and the 2 short sides of the pan. (The paper should overhang the two short sides.)

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet; toast in the oven for 7 or 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let them cool.

Place about three-quarters of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot with a few inches of barely bubbling water (over medium or medium-low heat). Heat, stirring, until the chocolate has melted.

Transfer the bowl to a folded dish towel on the countertop. Add the remaining chocolate, stirring until melted, then stir in the orange zest.

Pour that chocolate into the lined baking dish, and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly. Scatter the toasted almonds and dried cherries over the top, then refrigerate for 1 hour, just to set.

Remove the chocolate from the baking dish and discard the parchment. Cut or break up the bark into 24 pieces that are about the same size.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

]]> 0, 07 Feb 2017 17:23:37 +0000
Amped-Up Beef Stroganoff makes eating at home feel fabulous Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Primed to romance your certain someone on Valentine’s Day? Nothing says “I love you” more persuasively than a home-cooked meal. This one-pot noodle dish, a variation on beef Stroganoff, is the ideal messenger.

Although the roots of the classic recipe are certifiably aristocratic – a French chef working for Count Pavel Stroganoff, a Russian, created it in the early 1800s – beef Stroganoff was being treated pretty roughly in America by the 1960s. At that time, when “convenience” trumped every other value, home cooks loved being able to whip up a fancy main course using canned gravy, canned mushrooms, canned minced onions and canned roast beef.

We’re gonna treat it with a little more respect in this recipe for Amped-Up Beef Stroganoff. To start, the basics remain unchanged – thin slices of beef fillet topped with a sauce of fresh mushrooms and sour cream, all of it ladled over noodles. But I’ve beefed up the umami – and intensified the taste – with dried mushrooms, tomato paste and Dijon mustard. Also, we cook the noodles in the sauce, which makes them that much more delicious.

Ideally, your steak of choice will be beef fillet – it is Valentine’s Day, after all – but if you don’t want to splurge, you can swap in less expensive cuts. And if you can’t find dried porcini, you’ll be fine with dried shiitakes or a mix of dried mushrooms. In truth, any dried mushroom packs a one-two punch, contributing not only itself, but also the savory liquid generated when it’s rehydrated. That mushroom liqueur makes a lip-smacking base for any sauce.

What to serve alongside this love offering? A nice refreshing salad involving citrus will provide the perfect contrast. And don’t forget the stagecraft! Set a proper table with cloth napkins and mats, a candle or two, and a bottle of robust red wine.

Amped-Up Beef Stroganoff Photo by Sara Moulton via AP


Makes 2 servings

11/2 ounces dried porcini, rinsed

11/2 cups low-sodium beef or chicken broth

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces filet mignon cut into 1-inch cubes

Kosher salt and black pepper

1/4 cup finely chopped shallot or onion

4 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms (white, cremini, exotic or a mix)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons fresh thyme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon flour

1/3 cup dry red wine

4 ounces egg noodles

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

In a small saucepan combine the porcini mushrooms and the beef broth and bring the mixture just to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mushrooms steep for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer, reserving it, and chop the mushrooms.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the meat with salt and pepper and add it to the pan. Sear the meat quickly on all sides and transfer it to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallot to the skillet and cook, stirring until softened; add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Add the garlic, thyme, tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add the red wine, reserved broth, 11/2 cups water, the chopped porcini and the noodles to the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are just al dente, about 10 minutes, adding additional water if necessary to keep the noodles partly submerged. Stir in the sour cream, Dijon and lemon juice; adjust the seasoning if necessary. Add the beef and beef juices and simmer just until the meat is heated, about 1 minute. Serve right away, sprinkled with the parsley.

]]> 0 Beef StroganoffTue, 07 Feb 2017 17:44:30 +0000
Bread and Butter: At Lolita in Portland, wine is a conversation, not a monologue Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of two columns from Stella Hernandez of Lolita Vinoteca + Asador in Portland.

“Snotty Somm.” That’s one sommelier’s tag on social media. (She’s actually one of 236 master sommeliers worldwide and, by all accounts, an amazing wine professional.) Even if it’s meant to be self-deprecating, it does give me pause every time I read it.

Until recently, I wore the title of sommelier a bit ambivalently. It made me think of stiff, stuffy types who wanted to make you feel inadequate. Or nearly the opposite – really talented people I knew who had spent decades learning about wine, taking exams and being consummate hospitality professionals.

Despite all the work I was doing to learn about and sell wine, when customers at Bar Lola (my husband Guy’s and my first restaurant) would ask me if I were the sommelier, I’d balk. I’d say, “I’m the one who picked the wines” – and leave it at that.

As I head into the 11th year of owning my own restaurant (and more before that as a server), creating wine lists and serving wine to countless people, I’m starting to get more comfortable with the idea of being a sommelier. But on my own terms.

Back in 2006, Guy and I laid out a hospitality model for our businesses. Our goal was that, as one guest so lovingly put it, “You leave with a great sense of well-being.” That takes more than food, and more than wine. It’s about leading with genuine hospitality – a quality that seems to be on the wane. It sounds easy, but that’s deceptive because true, welcoming hospitality is really quite difficult to pull off across a whole crew night after night after night. To work, it has to be part of the fabric of the place.

Wine is a key piece of it. At Lolita, we work hard to train our staff so they can help guests find a wine that works for them. Our staff isn’t there to sell customers the most expensive bottle we have or to foist their favorite wine on customers.

Also, I always try to have a story ready to tell about a wine. (Selfishly, the story helps me remember the wine, too.) Something about the winemaker, or maybe why I think that particular bottle goes well with that particular dish.

Trust me, most people don’t care how long a wine was on the lees or whether it uses whole cluster fermentation. While those things are part of what I might research in picking a wine for our list, or learning about wine generally, unless you’re really into geeking out about wine, information like that is not going to get you excited about drinking it. To me it’s a sign of poor training when a wine professional tries to show you how smart he or she is. That’s not the point. Selecting something to drink should be a conversation, not a monologue.

My job is making sure people find something they will enjoy, and it’s a huge compliment when a customer says, “We trust you. Pick something for us.” If a customer is a wine enthusiast and actually does want to discuss details, I’m happy to do that, too. The guest leads the way. In the back of my head, I still hear the voice of my first real mentor trying to show me that there are no absolutes. He always said, “A good wine is a wine you like to drink.”

At Lolita, people often ask why we use “vinoteca” in our name and what it means. Literally, it means wine collection. In my head, I think of it as a wine library. Most of our wine is displayed on shelves that line the restaurant’s side walls. True, because we’re so small, it’s also our only storage.

We see the wine as an equal and important complement to the food, and I’m always looking for an opportunity to offer more opportunities for diners to try new wines. Recently, we started offering a wine flight on Thursdays: Three wines, chosen to pair together in some way. They might feature the same grape varietal but from producers in three different countries. For example, we might have pinot noir from Oregon, one from Burgundy and a third from New Zealand. Or three wines from a specific region – on a recent Thursday, we had a flight of Lebanese wines.

Then on Mondays, we do tapas, and with them we feature four wines that aren’t currently on our list. The pours are inexpensive – $5 each, and they come with a tasty bite from the kitchen. These opportunities are meant to be fun, a chance for diners to taste and compare and maybe find a new love. It’s wine, not heart surgery.

(Curious about what the “Asador” in our name means? It generally refers to cooking over an open fire.)

At this point in my career, I’ve passed two exams and am happy to wear my certified sommelier pin. In addition to working more than full time, I studied for months to earn that pin during the only free time I had – 3:30 to 6:30 a.m. four days a week before our son woke up for school. I did blind tastings at lunch with anyone I could find to join me. A bazillion flash cards later, I booked a hotel, flew to Florida and spent a day trying to make my hands stop shaking so I could pass the service exam portion without dropping a full tray of champagne flutes. Apparently, I answered enough questions about obscure terms and wine-making details correctly.

I’m still deciding whether or not to keep going and study for the next exam – it’s like a full-time job to get to the next level. But even if I don’t, I won’t stop reading, tasting or trying to make myself a better professional. I’m okay with calling myself a sommelier now, but it’s an ongoing project.

Stella Hernandez is co-owner and wine director at Lolita Vinoteca + Asador. She is also a certified sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers program.

]]> 0, 07 Feb 2017 22:52:31 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Turkey tacos in soft, warm tortillas are a crowd-pleaser Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Soft tacos are now probably more popular than hamburgers, and they make an ideal family supper, as well as – with quantities multiplied – wonderful informal party fare.

Tacos fill all the requisites: easy to make, versatile (each taco can be personalized), healthful and the ingredients are not pricey. Plus they’re delicious!

Shun those stale-tasting pre-fried packaged taco shells and opt instead for fresh tortillas, either warmed over a gas flame or in a microwave.

Add refried beans – homemade or good quality from a can – if you’d like a little something more on the plate.


Makes 4 servings


3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound ground turkey

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons good-quality chili powder

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


8 to 10 corn tortillas

2 cups shredded “Mexican cheese blend” (Monterey Jack and cheddar, with queso fresco or other fresh Mexican cheeses included), or shred your own

2 cups thinly sliced red or green cabbage

1½ cups good-quality red or green salsa

1 large avocado, peeled and cut into large dice

1 cup sour cream

About 3/4 cup cilantro sprigs

Lime wedges

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, turkey, oregano, cumin and chili powder and cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently and breaking up the turkey with the side of a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce and 1 cup water, along with red pepper flakes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered over medium to medium-low heat until the sauce is reduced and the filling is of a spoonable consistency, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring the tortillas to room temperature. Put all the garnishes in bowls so people can serve themselves. If you have a gas stove, turn one burner to medium. When the grids are hot, place a tortilla directly over flame and cook until flecked with black. Turn with tongs and cook the second side. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, piling them on a plate and wrapping with foil or plastic wrap to keep warm.

(Alternatively, place tortillas in a pile on a plate, cover and heat in a microwave.)

To serve, reheat the filling and transfer to a bowl. Pass the tortillas and invite guests to add fillings and toppings of their choice.

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, 07 Feb 2017 18:08:24 +0000
At Indian restaurant in Brunswick, Maine transplant finds a taste of home Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 I have lived in the United States for 13 years now, moving around from Virginia to Michigan to Ohio and now Maine. Every time I land in a new state, I find myself missing – not the last place I moved from – rather, my hometown, Lucknow, a city of nearly 2.2 million people in India.

Last fall, I moved to Maine. Every time I mentioned to Ann Arbor friends that I would soon be moving there, people responded with a single word: “Lobsters!” So that was my picture of Maine food before I got here. (Lobsters are found in some of the fish cuisines of India, mostly in coastal towns, but while I have eaten prawns, I’ve never eaten lobster in India.) In the small town of Brunswick, Maine, my new home, with a population of just 20,000 people, I had little hope of finding a good Indian restaurant – if I could find one at all.

About a month after I’d moved here, I was walking in Brunswick when I noticed a sign: “Bombay Mahal.” An Indian restaurant! The door opened and out came a whiff of turmeric and other spices that instantly plunked me down in India.

I stood there inhaling the aroma and thinking how it was funny that growing up in India, I was surrounded by such smells no matter where I went: my own home, someone else’s house, on the street – there were very few places you wouldn’t smell food being cooked. But I never paid attention. Yet those same smells make me yearn for home when I’m 10,000 miles away from my family, my countrymen, everything familiar.

I walked in. The place was filled with people, eating amid the wooden elephant heads on the wall, square multicolored cutouts of saris hanging from the ceiling, and the din of Bollywood music, spoons clinking against plates and the murmur of conversation, English conversation. Not a word of Hindi being spoken. The decorations were charming, but a little over the top. It seemed like the restaurant was trying too hard to look Indian. And not a single customer was Indian. The place was busy so the food must be good, I thought. But would I like it?

It wasn’t unlike an American going to an American pizza place in a small-town India, and finding the locals gorging on pizza. It’s obvious that they like the pizza sold in that place, but does the pizza taste like it does back home? Growing up in India, I had eaten hundreds of so-called burgers, but it wasn’t until I came to America that I learned the burger was actually a meat patty; in India, a burger is some kind of stuffing, usually potato, between buns.

I stood awkwardly at the entrance to Bombay Mahal until an Indian man materialized, smiling. Did I want to eat, he asked. I wasn’t hungry and I hadn’t planned on eating out. But I told him I’d just moved to Brunswick for my wife’s work, and that I was happy to find his restaurant. I promised to come back soon.

I didn’t keep my word, though. Several months went by. I mostly forgot about the place, and when it did cross my mind, I was stuck on the idea that the food there wouldn’t be the same as at home. Something told me that the food he was serving was supposed to be Indian, but it wasn’t Indian.

Deepak Singh at Bombay Mahal in Brunswick. Photo courtesy of Deepak Singh

I’ve had several American friends who traveled to India complain that the food was too spicy. I’ve seen with my own eyes when their faces turned red, their eyes watered, and they gasped after eating spicy food in India. But the Americans who were eating Indian food in Brunswick showed no such symptoms. I wondered why.

Then came a dark and dreary Saturday when India was on my mind. I was homesick. It was lunchtime. I found myself walking to Bombay Mahal.

The place wasn’t busy. I took a plate and filled it with chicken curry and aloo baingan (an eggplant dish). It was a buffet, something that you only find at wedding feasts in India, rarely in restaurants. Maybe the buffet is an American concoction – a way of showcasing Indian food to people who didn’t grow up eating daal, curry, naan and samosas.

I wanted to eat my meal with naan, but I didn’t see any. “We are cooking fresh naan,” the owner told me. Ecstatic to hear that, I sat down. It had been a long time since I’d been able to eat fresh naan. Right on cue, a few minutes later, the bread arrived. I took a bite of the curry – the chicken was tender and the spice just right. The eggplant tasted just right too, especially when eaten with the fresh-from-the-oven naan.

But my favorite dish was the rice pudding, kheer. Desserts often disappoint me in Indian restaurants in the United States. They are usually too sweet or not sweet enough. But this time, I easily put away two entire bowls of kheer. Milk and rice and raisins and almonds were deployed in perfect proportions. A good way to tell that, my mother once told me, is when the kheer drips off your spoon smoothly – neither too fast nor too slow. As I spooned it up, I wondered if it was actually as good as it seemed, or was it seasoned with longing for home? Maybe a bit of both.

The experience got even better when the owner came over and asked me – in Hindi – if I was enjoying the food. It had been a long while since I had spoken the language. He told me he was from the state of Punjab in northern India. I told him I grew up in Lucknow, in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, and that I moved to America after getting married. Although I’m not from Punjab, I told him, people always think I’m Punjabi because of my last name. We laughed and talked for several minutes – all in Hindi. I forgot, for a few magical minutes, that I was far from home.

The Bollywood music that was pouring out of speakers wasn’t my favorite. But in Brunswick, among the smells of familiar spices, the sari cutouts and the elephant heads, the music was lullaby to my ears. After about an hour, I left, feeling lucky to have found an Indian restaurant in small-town Maine that was a perfect ensemble of smells, atmosphere, food and service.

I felt welcomed. I’d found a place that felt like home.

At least for a few moments.

Deepak Singh is a Brunswick resident and the author of “How May I Help You?: An Immigrant’s Journey from MBA to Minimum Wage.” He tweets @deepakwriter.

]]> 0 Singh at Bombay Mahal in Brunswick.Tue, 07 Feb 2017 18:17:22 +0000
‘Leon Happy Salads’ offers clear recipes, borrows from many cultures Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Leon Happy Salads.” By Jane Baxter and John Vincent. Conran Octopus Limited. $19.99.

Who knew salad was so exciting?

I’ve long been a fan of the green stuff, but sadly my repertoire was mostly limited to topping my greens with cut-up vegetables or throwing in some grains or chicken.

With the already well-thumbed “Leon Happy Salads” cookbook on my shelf, those days of blah side salad are over. The recipes are divided up into the ways you might eat a salad, not the ingredients, which worked really well for me. Looking for a classic? There’s the Nicoise, fattoush and Waldorf salads. A salad to go? The “lunchbox” recipes are perfect to take to work. Or maybe it’s the weekend or dinner, and you need a centerpiece-worthy dish – check out the “food for family” and “food for friends” chapters.

The latter recipes are more complex, but worth lingering over – a paella deli salad with prawns and peppers – or a Mexican salad that involves roasting the corn and peppers on a grill before combining everything into the salad itself.

The recipes borrow from many cultures, and cover a range of seasons. A warm red cabbage salad for winters, and a fig, radicchio and pomegranate salad that sings of summertime.

“Happy Salads” is the latest in a series of cookbooks from business partners and couple Jane Baxter and John Vincent, cofounders of healthy fast-food Leon restaurants in England.

I liked the Eurocentric language of the cookbook, with measurements in grams, and recipes listing “courgettes” for zucchini and “aubergine” for eggplant. A distinction is made between runner beans and French beans, and one Italian chicken salad recipe called for five ingredients I had to look up: Puy lentils, rocket (it’s arugula here,) Coppa di Parma, Grana Padano and mostarda (a mustardy candied fruit condiment.) It should have been annoying – and I won’t be finding any mostarda in Maine – but it actually made me feel quite Continental as I hummed my way around the kitchen.

The cookbook itself is attractive, with lush photos on each page, clear and simple instructions and tips on how to swap out or supplement ingredients for a different take on the recipe.

And since it’s salads not soufflés, the recipes have a casual, confident approach to amounts – a handful of mint here, a bunch of spring onions there.

I tried out the Original Superfood Salad, a favorite at Leon among customers – on the menu since they opened in 2004. In addition to getting my greens with the broccoli, cukes, peas and avocado, the final dish had a wonderful mouthfeel – the crunch and texture of the broccoli and cucumbers were balanced by the smooth feel of avocado and couscous – a swap for the recommended quinoa that I prefer.

The French vinaigrette dressing – one of a dozen-plus in the back of the cookbook – was delicious but baffled me: The first ingredient was “1 sweet potato, peeled.” Huh? A quick online search revealed it was an error, so mind the gap (in accuracy) in the early editions of the book, and dive in and get happy.

The Original Superfood Salad Photo courtesy of Conran Octopus Limited


Prep time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 5 minutes. WF/GF/V

For toasted seeds: Toast 50 percent sunflower seeds, 25 percent sesame seeds, 25 percent golden linseeds – that last is what we call flaxseed on this side of the pond.

Serves 2

2/3 of a head of broccoli, cut into bite-size florets, stalks peeled and sliced

120 g (4¼ oz) frozen peas, defrosted

¼ of a cucumber, cut into slim batons

100g (3½ oz) good-quality feta, crumbled

½ an avocado, cut into pieces

100 g (3½ oz) cooked quinoa, cooled

A small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

A small handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons Leon toasted seeds (see headnote)

3 tablespoons French vinaigrette

Put 2 cm (1/4 inch) of hot water into a saucepan with a pinch of salt and cover the pan. Once it’s boiling, drop in the broccoli and put the lid back on. Drain after 3 minutes, then run the broccoli under cold water to take all the heat out and keep it good and green. Now build your salad in layers: Broccoli, peas, cucumber, feta, avocado, quinoa and finally the herbs and seeds. Dress the salad just before you eat it.


Whisk together:

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/2 clove of garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons water

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon maple syrup

]]> 0 Original Superfood SaladTue, 07 Feb 2017 17:19:07 +0000
A bowl of Greek Revival: Portland family’s egg-lemon soup recipe a culinary heirloom Wed, 08 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Bill Doukas rigorously whipped the egg whites, then the yolks, for his avgolemono – a delicate Greek egg-lemon soup that can be tricky to make – and then combined them in a big silver bowl.

He painstakingly drizzled freshly squeezed lemon juice and hot chicken stock into the bowl, ladle by ladle, being careful not to curdle the eggs.

The egg mixture went into a pot and heated slowly on the stove. While a small bit of rice cooked in the warming broth, Doukas chopped chicken to add to the pot just before serving.

But his 88-year-old uncle – Doukas’ biggest critic in the kitchen – just couldn’t wait. An impatient Petros Panagakos ladled out a bit of the soup to sample. He hadn’t eaten this family specialty, he said, since his wife died a few years back.

“Whoooaaa, very good William!” Panagakos exclaimed after eating a couple of spoonfuls. His eyes lit up. “Four-star rating. But my mother still gets five stars.”

The Panagakos family has firm ties to Portland, including the city’s restaurant community, but their roots go back to the Peloponnese islands in Greece. Panagakos’ father, Vasos Panagakos, came to the United States in 1923 with $60 in his pocket. Doukas said no one knows why Vasos, who started his life as a shepherd, came to this country, but he suspects it was because adventure called.

“I’ll bet America was very attractive,” Doukas said.

Vasos Panagakos got here just in time.

“They halted immigration in 1924,” Panagakos said, noting similarities to today’s political climate. “Only 100 Greeks were allowed to come into the country. And he was able to get in in 1923.

“It was terrible,” he said. “People, they were against the Greeks, the Italians. My dad was lucky to have come in when he did.”

Bill Doukas and his uncle, Petros Panagakos, make Greek favorites at Doukas’ apartment in Portland. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

The avgolemono soup that Doukas made in his Portland apartment, above the King of the Roll restaurant at the corner of State and Congress streets, is a culinary heirloom that’s been handed down through the generations, along with another favorite family dish, southern Greek-style chicken and rice pilaf. The family’s versions of these classic Greek recipes go back at least as far as Doukas’ grandparents and probably further. The chicken and rice pilaf is a good Sunday dinner to enjoy before watching football, Doukas said.

The pilaf is one of those dishes that is a little bit different from family to family, and even within each Greek family, depending upon who makes it. Members of Doukas’ family use different amounts of tomato paste, for example, and Doukas added chicken bouillon to his version. His brother Andrew swears by cooking the pilaf in one pot.

The soup is a little more finicky, but the flavor is amazing and it suits any season. A bowlful will warm you in fall and winter, but it is light enough to feel like a refreshing spring or summer treat as well.

Vasos Panagakos initially settled in Dover, N.H., where the mills provided plenty of work. Eventually, he opened a restaurant with a partner, later selling his share and moving to Portland. Doukas speculates that his grandfather was attracted to the Greek community in Portland.

The family – Vasos Panagakos married another young Greek immigrant – owned two restaurants in Portland 70 to 80 years ago, back when, Uncle Petros estimates, 80 to 85 percent of the city’s restaurants were run by Greek immigrants. Vasos opened Bill’s Café (Vasos translates to William) on Congress Street in 1937 or 1938 in the place where Boda is now.

A fire destroyed the Panagakos family restaurant, Bill’s Café, in June 1945. They rebuilt and opened Longfellow Restaurant in the same spot. The building today houses Boda restaurant. Portland Press Herald File

“He very seldom had Greek dishes, interestingly enough,” Petros Panagakos recalled. “But the family, which lived upstairs, we always had our Sunday meals and they were always Greek cuisine. One of the most popular ones was the chicken pilaf.”

The menu at Bill’s Café featured American standards such as steak, chops, liver and turkey. Customers could enjoy an entrée of chicken croquettes, along with soup, dessert and coffee for just 95 cents.

One night in 1945, at 1 a.m., Petros awoke to a smoky room and heard his brother Nick urging him to get out of the building. Nick then ran back into the building to rescue their little brother, Panayote. The family living upstairs – nine people – made it out safely before flames enveloped the building.

“We all got out and watched the place burn down,” Panagakos said.

(In the 1950s, Nick became the city hall reporter for the Portland Press Herald. Doukas has hanging in his apartment a large black-and-white photo of Nick interviewing two unidentified starlets who happened to be visiting the city.)

The family rebuilt and about a year later opened Longfellow Restaurant on the same spot.

“It was probably the most modern restaurant in Portland at the time,” Panagakos said. “It had a big lobster at the top of it. It was about 6 or 7 feet high, and it was neon. It lit up. And it was really an eye-catching thing.”

Today, immigrants from places like Africa and the Middle East face prejudice when they come to the United States. In the 1940s and 1950s, Panagakos said, Greeks and Italians were the targets. Doukas remembers that his grandfather was friends with Joseph L. Discatio, the founder of Joe’s Smoke Shop next door to Bill’s Cafe.

When Discatio needed hot water, Doukas said, his landlord, who was “kind of tough on him” because he was Italian, refused to provide it. Discatio turned to Vasos Panagakos for help.

“He came over to my grandfather’s restaurant, and he gave him all the hot water he needed to run his operation,” Doukas recalled.

After 10 years or so in business, Vasos Panagakos retired. He wanted his son to take over, but Panagakos said that after so many years of filling in at the last minute for the chef, the waiters, the dishwashers – he had to quit his high school football team because he was always missing practice – he had soured on the restaurant business.

Fast-forward to the 1980s, when Panagakos’ sister bought the whole block, including the 1858-era building where King of the Roll is now. Doukas, who had been working as an engineer, and his mother, Rita, opened a restaurant there called the Longfellow Café on Thanksgiving Day 1981. After Doukas’ mother died, he changed the name to The Trojan Horse, where he served Greek, Moroccan, Portuguese, Turkish and Middle Eastern food. Around 1991, he returned to engineering. The spot became Shalimar of India, then the Bombay Club, and finally King of the Roll. Doukas and his brother, Andy, inherited their mother’s property. Doukas lives above King of the Roll, while his brother lives above Boda.

Doukas still enjoys cooking. He said he makes the chicken and rice pilaf every three weeks or so. The pilaf was the one Greek dish that was often served in the family’s restaurants. Panagakos recalls that when he lived in Crete, working for NATO in the late 1950s, it was the meal locals would bring over when they’d come for a visit, along with a selection of Greek pastries.

Doukas has been making it himself since he was a college student at Miami University.

“If you get a chicken for a good price, you can make the whole thing for $6,” he said. “No wonder college students and the fathers and mothers of immigrants liked it.”

Making the dishes today, Doukas said, ignites his taste memory, and he remembers what it was like when he was 4 or 5 years old and his mother or grandmother served him this family comfort food.

It also makes him feel more connected to the man who began his life as a shepherd in the hills of southern Greece.

]]> 0 Panagakos tucks into traditional Greek avgolemono soup at his nephew Bill Doukas' apartment in Portland.Tue, 07 Feb 2017 22:51:02 +0000
Café Crêpe is coming to Portland’s Public Market House Tue, 07 Feb 2017 17:07:40 +0000 A new crepe eatery will open in Portland’s Public Market House in March, taking over the space that was formerly home to K. Horton Specialty Foods, which closed in January.

Lauren Brinkmann, owner of Café Crêpe in the Freeport Public Market, said she has considered opening a second location in the Public Market House three times, but she had hoped for a first-floor space. When the K. Horton’s spot opened up, she said, she jumped on it.

Brinkmann said she plans to add seating for at least a dozen in the large space. The menu will be similar to the one at 20 Bow St. in Freeport, which features a selection of savory and sweet crepes.

Brinkmann also owns a food truck that serves crepes at events at Thompson’s Point, farmers markets and private parties.

Anyone interested in employment opportunities can email her at

]]> 0, 07 Feb 2017 12:54:18 +0000
Co-owner of Palace Diner to open Portland restaurant Tue, 07 Feb 2017 16:57:30 +0000 Chad Conley, co-owner of Palace Diner in Biddeford, confirmed Tuesday that he will be opening a new restaurant at 428 Forest Ave., the former location of BreaLu Cafe.

The BreaLu served only breakfast and lunch and was a popular hangout for University of Southern Maine students. It was destroyed last year in a Valentine’s Day fire that began in an adjacent apartment building. No one was injured in the fire, but the restaurant’s equipment and much of the space was ruined. The BreaLu Cafe re-opened last year at 9 Cumberland St. in Westbrook.

The opening of the new restaurant will be welcome news to fans of Palace Diner, which is thought to be Maine’s oldest diner and which Conley and business partner Greg Mitchell reopened in 2014 to criticalacclaim.

The Portland restaurant is a solo project for Conley. He said the space is still being restored, and he doesn’t expect to open until early summer. Saying he still needs a few weeks to work out the details, he declined to reveal the name of the new restaurant or discuss the menu, other than the fact that it will serve breakfast and lunch only.

]]> 0“We want to put as much effort into a corned beef sandwich as we would in a $30 dinner at Hugo’s,” says Chad Conley, the new co-owner of the Palace Diner in Biddeford.Tue, 07 Feb 2017 16:00:02 +0000
Folding leftovers into dumplings shows love for planet Sun, 05 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Filled dumplings are a cross-cultural waste-not-want-not culinary wonder.

Most gastronomic traditions have them on the menu, whether they are called pierogi, ravioli, potstickers, maultaschensuppe, momos, khinkali qvelit, kreplach, wontons, buuz, manti, pelmini, samosa, gyoza, jiaozi, runsas, tiropitakia, mandu, kroppkakor, pelmeni, pastelle or coxinhas.

Dumplings are cheap staple foods made up of a simple dough and flavorful fillings. They get assembled en masse, frozen and then are boiled, steamed or pan-fried any time a tummy grumbles or extra guests arrive for dinner.

And they are a great way to dispatch the bits and bobs in your refrigerator to create something much tastier than compost. Sustainability-minded cooks can fit dumplings into their rotation of use-it-or-lose-it techniques alongside clean-out-the-fridge pasta sauce, spare vegetable frittatas and creatively topped pizzas.

But as with all of these practices, cooks must be open to the distinct possibility that replicating a particularly good batch of dumplings in the future might be impossible because the combination of ingredients – say half a red onion, four frozen shrimp, a spare sausage link, a shredded carrot, two tablespoons kimchi and the last bit of fresh ginger – may never be on hand in the same quantities again.

I regularly line up for lunch at Bao Bao in Portland, where Chef Cara Stadler is very precise with her dumplings’ flavor profiles (the lamb, black bean and chili are my personal favorite). At home, I fill all kinds of dumplings with all kinds of things.

Typically I run with Asian-like ones because I keep flavor-boosting condiments like hoisin, sriracha, black vinegar and sesame oil in the pantry to make the filling pop against the dumplings’ neutral dough. That said, if you’re blessed with your Babushka’s pierogi dough recipe or your Nonna’s fresh pasta know-how, these no-food-waste dumpling guidelines still apply. You’ll just adjust them to the taste profile of your heritage accordingly.

Making your own dough (see recipe) is a rewarding, albeit time-consuming, process that gets shorter with each extra set of hands you can rally. But if you’ve only got two hands and need a quick fix, do yourself a favor and buy round dumpling wrappers in the frozen section of most Asian grocery stores. You can include any ingredient you want in a dumpling filling, but it’s best to combine them all in a food processor so there aren’t any big chunks of any particular ingredient dominating any one dumpling. One cup of filling will make 12 to 15 dumplings.

Pre-cook any animal protein you want to include in the filling. This step means you can taste the filling safely before wrapping it in dough to make sure you like it, and it helps prevent any food safety issues down the line.

Use either raw or cooked vegetables based on what your leftovers look like, but none should be watery, as you don’t want the filling to weep out of the seams or make the dough soggy. If yours spreads out at all on a spoon, add bread crumbs a tablespoon at a time until it holds together.

Make sure the flavor of the filling really pops so the finished dumplings aren’t bland. My favorite flavor-boosting combination includes one teaspoon each of something sweet (hoisin, honey, brown sugar), sour (citrus, vinegar), pungent (minced garlic, ginger) and a liquid spice (hot sauce).

Be diligent about your dumplings’ seal. A busted dumpling is a bummer. Not as bad as food waste, mind you, but not as neat and tidy as creatively cleaning out the fridge can be.

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

]]> 0 are a great way to use odds and ends in your refrigerator to create something new and tasty.Fri, 03 Feb 2017 12:19:56 +0000
Dine Out Maine: At Portland Meatball Co., the balls often strike out Sun, 05 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Halfway through my first visit to Portland Meatball Co., I finally got my timing right. By ducking my head precisely every 2 1/2 minutes, I could dodge the rotating green lasers beaming a planetarium-worthy representation of the galaxy across the ceiling – and more to the point, directly into my eyeballs. It gave the meal a certain tidal rhythm though, one that repeated for nearly an hour: Eat a little. Chat. Duck.

On my second visit, I chose a better seat in a different lemon-yellow booth in the kitschy, completely empty dining room. As we finished our retro cocktails – a lemon pear cooler ($9) that tasted like spiked canned fruit cocktail syrup, and a bracing, bitter Negroni ($8.50) – one of my guests touched my jacket and said, “Look, you’ve got dots of green light crawling up your blazer towards your …” Out of habit, I ducked.

Although you might never guess it, judging by the laser light show and the eclectic, country antique store decor, Portland Meatball Company is a new sibling of the chic and polished Timber Steakhouse next door. Both are owned and managed by Noah and Dan Talmatch, and both share an executive chef, Christian Bassett, who has split his time between the two businesses since the newer restaurant opened in October.

“Noah used to say there was no good meatball restaurant around, so we took the idea and ran with it. Our theme is American traditional cuisine with some ethnic background to it, and at a budget price.” Bassett said. In practice, that translates to a menu whose regional influences are largely Italian-American, with a rotating selection of dishes inspired by a broad range of cultures.

For better or worse, the kitchen is at its best when it sticks to classic Italian-American flavors. Case in point: the 3-ounce House Balls, made from house-ground beef, pork and veal, and seasoned with parsley and garlic. Each of the four times I tasted them, they were juicy and tender, whether served on their own as part of the 5-Ball Sampler ($12), or as part of another dish, like the classic meatball sub ($10.95), a hefty sandwich finished with melted mozzarella. Here, the meatballs were infused with tomato and garlic from a long simmer in Bassett’s sweet, homemade marinara.

In the Pasta & Balls ($16), the house meatballs were the best item on the plate – soft enough to yield with gentle pressure from a fork, but firm enough to provide some contrast in texture to the sticky, heavily oversauced spaghetti.

Unfortunately, the more adventurous meatballs seemed to get progressively worse as they drifted farther out of the orbit of the Italian-inspired house ball. A pure-beef, sun-dried tomato ball was perfectly pleasant, with a nutty richness from a pine nut pistou. And a Tex-Mex taco ball, another all-beef affair, was fragrant with lime zest and cumin, if perhaps a little tough.

Then, the chicken meatball, made from dark and white meat chicken, with an offensive, giblet-like odor and livery flavor that made it inedible, even if drowned in marinara or that evening’s gruel-like queso sauce. Or the duck meatball: a bland, dense, coral-colored sphere with what Bassett described as a “Korean flavor profile” of tamari, orange marmalade and cilantro. It wouldn’t have been out of place on a billiard table.

For the title of the worst ball of all, we had a draw. First was the Veggie Chick Pea. “Poor vegetarians,” said my dinner guest, as we broke through the ball’s sooty, black crust into a wet interior that brought to mind hummus-flavored baby food. Versus a surprise contender, brownie balls ($7.25) – an idea from the restaurant’s dishwasher – a greasy, structurally unstable chocolate dessert that was still frozen inside (despite an obvious attempt at a flash defrosting in the microwave), served bobbing in a harsh, acidic raspberry reduction.

“Did you enjoy it?” our server asked, with an apologetic shrug and a heartbreaking glance down at our practically untouched dessert bowl. It wasn’t her fault, so we lied and said we were full from the pizza we had eaten earlier.

While it’s true that we did order an outsized slice (a quarter of a 16-inch pizza) of duck prosciutto pizza ($9), I think she probably noticed that we left most of that, too. Flavors that might have balanced one another beautifully in a salad – soft goat cheese, thinly sliced cured duck, pine nuts and sweet-tart dried cranberries – were out of alignment and far too sweet on a pizza.

The crust didn’t help matters. On both this slice, as well as a meat sauce and meatball-based Lots of Balls pizza ($10) I sampled on another visit, the crust was doughy, with a floppy, rubbery texture reminiscent of refrigerated leftovers. With a deck oven cranked to 625 degrees Fahrenheit and a ceramic pizza stone, Portland Meatball Company has everything it needs to do better than pale, underbaked pies.

On the other hand, the kitchen managed to achieve great char on the zucchini and yellow squash in the couscous salad ($9.25), a bright, fresh-tasting layering of grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, goat cheese and sliced white onion. A Mediterranean hodge-podge, it was a well-conceived dish full of plump (if sticky) balls of Israeli couscous that fit right in with the restaurant’s theme.

It was also the best of the three salads we tasted – certainly superior to the stingy rotisserie chicken salad ($9.75), with discs of canned black olives and insipid thousand island (not the bleu cheese dressing listed on the menu). Or the similarly skimpy dried blueberry salad ($9), missing any trace of the mozzarella advertised and doused in an industrial-strength balsamic vinaigrette.

The salads, like nearly everything I ate at Portland Meatball Company, seemed to have been rushed out of the kitchen, unexamined and, more importantly, untasted. Yet rather than focus on badly needed quality control for the restaurant’s few remaining customers, the kitchen staff wandered distractedly in and out of the desolate dining room throughout both of my visits, until inevitably declaring the restaurant closed more than an hour early.

Through it all, our first server remained hopeful and upbeat, despite signs of an unsatisfactory meal that even she could not ignore. “Next time, maybe try coming in a little earlier?” she proposed. Then, gesturing at our unfinished plates, she said, “I think it might be all about timing.” With that, she dislodged something in my memory. I looked up at the orbiting green constellations on the ceiling, and suddenly remembered: It was time to duck.

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 5-Ball Sampler.Sat, 04 Feb 2017 19:47:54 +0000
Maine food and beverage sellers win big when Patriots play in the Super Bowl Sat, 04 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Nobody in Maine roots harder for the New England Patriots than businesses that benefit financially from the team’s Super Bowl success.

Establishments that sell food, beverages, party supplies, team gear and memorabilia said the Patriots’ appearance in a Super Bowl provides the same economic boost as a major holiday. Those businesses include supermarkets, pizza delivery joints, alcoholic beverage sellers, sports bars and party supply stores.

Gineal Davidson, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Massachusetts-based Shaw’s supermarkets, said the Super Bowl is a boon to grocery retailers because it increases sales across all areas of their stores.

When it involves the Patriots, that just takes things to another level, she said.

“If you have a hometown team like the Patriots … with a huge fan base like they do in New England, people just get a little more excited,” Davidson said.

That excitement translates directly into dollars, representatives of area businesses said.

The biggest element of the Super Bowl sales boost is food and drink, and it’s all about comfort food, alcohol and snacks. Think wings, ribs, pizza, beer, wine, party platters, chips, salsa and guacamole.

John DeRienzo, manager of the Shaw’s in Falmouth, left, and assistant manager Brad Spencer tidy up a display of soda and snacks Thursday. Supermarkets say a Patriots’ appearance in a Super Bowl provides the same boost as a major holiday. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

“We more than double our avocado sales during Super Bowl week,” said Hannaford supermarkets spokesman Eric Blom. “We sell more than 320,000 avocados during Super Bowl week.”

But that’s just the beginning. Hannaford stores in Maine will sell up to four times as many chicken wings as usual and 10 times the normal amount of frozen pizzas.

“It’s a big snacking event,” Blom said.

Nationally, Super Bowl viewers are expected to eat 1.33 billion chicken wings this year, according to the National Chicken Council. They will make guacamole out of roughly 105 million pounds of avocados, according to the California Avocado Commission, and wash it down with about $1.2 billion worth of beer, according to survey firm Nielsen Co.

Isaac Stroe, the “beer nerd” at Maine Beer & Beverage Co. in Portland, said the Super Bowl provides a major boost in sales for both premium local beers and the bigger national brands.

“When the Patriots are in it, people are definitely going to go even more nuts,” he said.

Stroe also expects that some Super Bowl fans will add cannabis to their list of game-day consumables following voters’ passage of its legalization for recreational use in November.

“Now that things are legalized, people will probably pack a super bowl,” he said, referring to marijuana pipes.

Tripp Corson, an assistant deli manager at Hannaford in Falmouth, takes freshly made wings from the oven Thursday. The store expects to quadruple its wings sales for this Super Bowl Sunday. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

It will be awhile, however, before any businesses see a direct benefit from marijuana consumption. The first retail stores won’t open till at least February 2018.

Not surprisingly, restaurants that sell pizza and wings also see a significant increase in business when the Patriots make the playoffs.

Amber Hathaway, general manager at Leonardo’s Pizza in Portland, said the restaurant prepares more wings and pizza dough and brings in extra staff to handle the higher volume. She said the boost in sales is typically 10 to 15 percent.

“If the Patriots are playing, we see a bigger increase than if they’re not playing,” Hathaway said.

Eric Shepherd, director of marketing and communications for Otto pizza in Portland, said dine-in business decreases by about 30 percent during the game, but that it is offset by an increase of up to 65 percent in take-out and delivery orders.

“At our locations where we offer delivery – nine of 12 locations – about half of our sales on Super Bowl Sunday will be delivery orders,” he said.

The biggest seller for Otto on game day is typically its mashed potato, bacon and scallion pizza, Shepherd said.

“It’s comfort food, especially during the winter months, and it goes especially well with a good local craft beer,” he said. “Although it’s new this year, we expect our Sriracha chicken and avocado pie to be a big seller for us this Sunday.”

Will Mac stocks produce at Hannaford in Falmouth on Thursday. Super Bowl viewers will make guacamole from 105 million pounds of avocados. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Binga’s Stadium in Portland is expecting a packed house inside its sports bar and big take-out business for its wings and other menu items, general manager Elena Corliss said.

“It actually affects us more for take-out,” she said. “We do a ton of catering and take-out (for the Super Bowl).”

The sports bar will be full, but Corliss said it’s always full for Patriots games, and that only so many people can fit in the place, as large as it is.

“We fill up all our tables anyway for a Patriots game,” she said. “It can’t get any crazier than it already is.”

James Tarsetti Jr., owner of Paper Party House in Portland, said he gets his Super Bowl boost from selling banners, catering trays, plates, bowls, cups, napkins and utensils. Having the Patriots in the big game will keep the store busy right up until Sunday, he said.

If you’re hoping to pick up such items with the Patriots logo on them, you’re already too late, Tarsetti said.

“If they even get close to the playoffs, that stuff sells out fast,” he said.

Davidson, the marketing executive at Shaw’s, said another big sales boost will come if the Patriots win the game, in the form of team-branded jerseys, T-shirts, hats, mugs and other products.

“If the Patriots win, that provides a whole other opportunity,” she said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

]]> 0 Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Snacks and Patriots' balloons are on display at Shaw's in Falmouth.Sun, 05 Feb 2017 16:08:58 +0000
Trade that Bud Light for a local beer this Super Bowl Sunday Thu, 02 Feb 2017 15:19:50 +0000 0, 04 Feb 2017 15:38:23 +0000 Still looking for a Valentine’s dinner reservation? Thu, 02 Feb 2017 02:11:18 +0000 The culinary and hospitality students at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland will prepare and serve a seven-course Valentine’s chef’s tasting menu on Feb. 11 at the McKernan Hospitality Center.

The dinner costs $100 per couple. Overnight stays are also available for special rates at the Spring Point Inn, located at the McKernan Center.

To make reservations or for more information, call 741-5672 or email

]]> 0 Wed, 01 Feb 2017 23:05:01 +0000
Washington Avenue’s first Japanese restaurant opens Thu, 02 Feb 2017 00:34:12 +0000 Izakaya Minato, a new Japanese restaurant owned by Elaine Alden and Thomas Takashi Cooke, opened Tuesday at 54 Washington Ave. in Portland.

“Izakaya is a style of dining and restaurants that are very popular in Japan,” Alden told the Press Herald last year. “They’ve been compared to gastropub or tapas.”

Cooke grew up in Tokyo. He and Alden moved to Portland from San Francisco, where they worked at a sushi restaurant called Tsunami.

Izakaya Minato will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant will be closed on Sundays.

]]> 0 Wed, 01 Feb 2017 20:26:22 +0000
Portland bakery has some of the best croissants in America Thu, 02 Feb 2017 00:29:39 +0000 Standard Baking Co., a local favorite for more than 20 years that has also received plenty of national attention, recently received two new honors.

In January, Food & Wine magazine named the bakery’s croissants to a list of the “Best Croissants in America.” The piece also noted a new croissant flavor now on the bakery’s menu, a pistachio frangipane croissant sold Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Standard Baking was also recently named one of “The 16 Best Bakeries in America” by

]]> 0 Wed, 01 Feb 2017 20:27:35 +0000
Hot pretzels and cheese dip will have crowds cheering your name Wed, 01 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 It is easy enough to put out bag after bag of chips during a football-watching party, or any other gathering for that matter. And it’s not much harder to go the extra step and put those chips into an actual bowl … you know, if you’re feeling classy.

But how about making a 15-minute snack that will have the crowds calling your name from the stands (or, in all likelihood, from the couch)?

A hot pretzel served up with a creamy, cheesy dip is the kind of food you would be thrilled to happen on and buy at a stadium.

But you can easily find these soft pretzels in the frozen aisle of your supermarket, and they heat up quickly in the oven. While you are heating the oven and baking the pretzels (which take less than 5 minutes!), you can stir together a quick cheese-and-beer dip for dunking. And while you are stirring you can imagine the expressions of happiness that will greet you when you plunk down this platter of hot pretzel goodness.

If you have a big crowd and want to make a larger batch of pretzels, double the dip recipe and keep it warm in a slow cooker. It can also be gently reheated over low heat in a saucepan if it starts to thicken up too much.


Serves 12

2 (13-ounce) boxes of frozen hot soft pretzels, 12 pretzels in all

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup milk, preferably whole

3/4 cup good beer

2 teaspoons brown mustard

Sriracha or other hot sauce to taste

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar

Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Prepare the pretzels according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and beer, then increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the mustard and Sriracha and cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes.

Whisk in the cream cheese until it’s melted, then add the cheddar cheese in several batches, whisking until each batch has melted before adding the next. Serve hot, with hot pretzels.

Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.”

]]> 0 soft pretzels with hot cheddar cheese beer dip.Tue, 31 Jan 2017 17:57:53 +0000
Food dispatches: Super Bowl party at Oxbow in Portland and Hugo’s reopens after break Wed, 01 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Super Bowl party features pig roast and Oxbow brews

Still looking for a good Super Bowl party? Oxbow Brewing Co. and Big Tree Hospitality, owners of Hugo’s, Eventide and The Honey Paw, are throwing an event called Oxbowl, complete with a whole pig roast, at 49 Washington Ave. in Portland from 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Bar snacks and pork will be passed around while guests watch the game on a big screen.

Tickets are $30 and are available through

Hugo’s returns after annual January break

Hugo’s will reopen tonight after having been closed for the month of January for its annual break.

The restaurant at 88 Middle St. in Portland will be open for dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays in February and March, with the exception of Valentine’s Day.

Call 774-8538 for reservations, or visit

– From staff reports

]]> 0, 31 Jan 2017 18:21:33 +0000
Maine chefs travel the globe to taste, learn and bring ideas home Wed, 01 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Last week, instead of sleeping after a long night of service at Grace in Portland, executive chef Adam Flood found himself up at 2:30 a.m., calling L’Astrance, a restaurant in Paris that has three Michelin stars. L’Astrance takes reservations only by telephone, between 9 and 10 a.m. Paris time.

“I tried calling for 15 minutes,” Flood said, “and all I got was busy signals.”

Flood is planning a two-week trip to France and Italy in May, just before another busy summer restaurant season in Maine begins. He is one of many chefs who take time off in winter and spring, when their dining rooms are not as busy, or are being cleaned or renovated, to travel and taste a little of what the rest of the world has to offer.

The trips satisfy more than just a chef’s appetite for good food, although simply eating a variety of dishes is always a major goal. They also benefit customers because chefs return home filled with new ideas for expanding their menus and ways to make their food more authentic.

Cara Stadler, right, of Tao Yuan and Bao Bao Dumpling House, takes a shanxi noodle-making class in Beijing.

Cara Stadler, right, of Tao Yuan and Bao Bao Dumpling House takes a shanxi noodle-making class in Beijing. Photo by Patrick Morang

“This will probably influence my menus for years to come,” said Flood, who plans to dine at three restaurants with three Michelin stars while he’s away, spending up to $1,000 on a single meal for himself and his French-speaking girlfriend.

In January, Joshua Amergian tagged along to China with his boss, Cara Stadler, chef/owner of Tao Yuan in Brunswick and Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland, to not only sample the cuisine he prepares as chef de cuisine at Bao Bao, but to get a better understanding of how Stadler makes some dishes and why she makes them a certain way.

As for Stadler herself, she travels every winter when Tao Yuan closes down for a month to “go explore and keep my mind open.” It’s a good way to see where the classics come from, she said, and to better understand the foundations of a particular cuisine.

“I consider it essential,” she said.

Last year, Stadler traveled to Spain, Italy and France. The year before that, she went to Japan, Vietnam and Thailand. Everywhere she goes, she searches out the best places to eat, from the dining room of an innovative chef to street vendors.

“I’m a super food tourist,” she said. “I spend a lot of my time doing a lot research about where to eat.”

Dave Mallari, owner of Sinful Kitchen and Salty Sally’s in Portland as well as a catering business that specializes in pig roasts, has traveled twice this winter (once in November, once in January) to the famous “Pork Highway” in Puerto Rico. Along the stretch of PR-184, Mallari hoped to gather a little Caribbean influence to add to his pig roasts, which he offers in southern, Hawaiian or Filipino styles.

“It’s basically miles of pig roasters, one after another,” he said.

Bo Byrne, executive chef at Tiqa, traveled with the owners and manager of the restaurant in January to the Middle East, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv and Jericho.

A spice market in Jerusalem's Old City visited by a group from Tiqa in Portland.

A spice market in Jerusalem’s Old City, visited by a group from Tiqa in Portland. Photo by Patrick Morang

“What we were hoping to do was sample the cuisine and find what we were doing right, what we were doing wrong, what we needed to do to make our cuisine more authentic,” Byrne said.

No matter what their goals, chefs find that winter is the perfect time for travel. Mallari’s catering business, for example, slows way down in winter.

He and a friend visited several pig roasters, including El Rancho Original, the first pig roaster to settle on the Pork Highway, and a beautiful place in the mountains where they had to get help ordering because the staff’s English was limited. Mallari raved about the carne frita, a fried pork shoulder dish in which the pork is marinated, then slow roasted and deep fried.

“There are these little cubes of fat and meat that just melt in your mouth,” he said.

He noted that the mojito marinade used in Puerto Rico is similar to Filipino style, but uses more garlic, orange juice and lime juice to tenderize the meat.

Mallari said not only will he add some of the dishes he discovered to his catering operation this summer, he’ll try to incorporate some at his two restaurants as well.

“There were these ceviche nachos that were just out of this world that would be perfect for Salty Sally’s,” he said.

He’ll add a cilantro creamed corn sauce, used on eggs Benedict, to the menu at the Sinful Kitchen.

A cilantro creamed corn sauce in Puerto Rico may show up on eggs Benedict at Sinful Kitchen in Portland.

A cilantro creamed corn sauce from Puerto Rico may show up on eggs Benedict at Sinful Kitchen in Portland. Photo by Dave Mallari

Stadler and Amergian traveled for two weeks to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

In a Beijing restaurant, they discovered a way to make use of the pulp that’s left after making tofu. (Stadler’s restaurants just recently began making their own tofu.) Yangyou madoufu, which looks something like hummus, is made from scraps of tofu and fried pickled mustard greens, topped with a drizzle of lamb fat and chili oil.

“It’s so delicious,” Stadler said, “and I forgot about it, because it’s been so many years since I’ve been back and I had that specific dish.”

Stadler planned to add that dish to the menu last weekend for the Chinese New Year, along with jianbing, a savory crepe made on the streets of Beijing that she said is sold in New York but not much beyond.

Amergian said his most memorable dishes from the trip were a “straightforward” but “breathtaking” chicken and rice, a roast goose and, from Hong Kong, lightly battered prawns served with fried tea leaves.

“I would never have thought to use tea leaves as part of the dish,” he said. “It was nice and fresh and smoky from the leaves. It was a perfectly balanced dish.”

A tofu skin salad with cucumber, carrots and herbs in China.

A tofu skin salad with cucumber, carrots and herbs in China. Photo by Josh Amergian

Amergian said all the meals he had on the trip reminded him of homemade comfort food.

“Just looking at the way they paired food, I had a million ideas running through my head,” he said. “I love doing steamed buns, and I was just thinking to myself, ‘How could I turn this into a bun?’ ”

Byrne said he learned several ways to make Tiqa’s menu more authentic. For example, the restaurant now serves a mezze plate with items arranged hot to cold. In the Middle East, the mezze “took over the table,” Byrne said.

“It wasn’t one plate with some stuff on it. It was 12 plates that took up all of the space,” Byrne said. “It was a more communal style of eating that was really fun.”

He also found some dishes he would like to add to his menu, such as maqlubah, which means “upside down,” at a restaurant called Eucalyptus in Jerusalem. The casserole is cooked in layers, with meat or vegetables on the bottom and rice on top, then flipped over for serving.

The trip proved to Byrne that some of Tiqa’s dishes, such as the hummus and the sumac-roasted chicken, are “pretty good.” Byrne said he realizes that just spending a few days in another country doesn’t make a chef an expert on the cuisine. That’s one reason chefs keep traveling from year to year.

Mallari said he hopes to return to Puerto Rico annually and he is considering more travel, to South America and Central America.

Jianbing, a popular street food in China.

Jianbing, a popular street food in China. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Flood, the chef at Grace, is looking forward to spending three days in Paris, a night in Alsace, then on to the Burgundy region and Marseilles.

“I learned how to cook in a French restaurant, so I have the utmost respect for that cuisine,” he said. “It’s pretty much where I started, and so I want to go there and experience it.”

He’ll end with a couple of days in Italy’s Tuscan region.

“I hope that I have no idea what I’m getting into,” Flood said, “and that my mind is going to be blown at every meal that I have.”

Amergian’s advice for chefs who are considering travel is to go for it.

“It’s a great way to see another culture,” he said, “but it’s also a great way to become a better chef and have a better understanding of the food you are making.”

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Josh Amergian of Bao Bao Dumpling House prepares jianbing – a popular street food with a crepe-like outer wrap. Amergian recently returned from China, where he developed an affinity for the dish, shown below.Tue, 31 Jan 2017 22:50:53 +0000