The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Food Wed, 28 Sep 2016 04:29:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Harvest those fall fruits ripe and store them for a dark day Tue, 27 Sep 2016 21:49:16 +0000  

“Ripe” is a term that’s used much too freely when it comes to fruits.

A plum is not supposed to taste sour like a lemon; that lemon-y plum is not ripe. Nor – and this is important – will it ever be.

Ripening can begin in a fruit’s “mature” stage, and when the fruit reaches the “ripe” stage, it’s best for eating. As it ripens, its color changes, the flesh softens, sugars increase and distinctive flavors develop. Apples, pears, kiwis, bananas, persimmons and quinces are some fruits that can ripen either on or off the plant, but to do so they must be mature before being harvested.

Whether a fruit can become delicious when ripened off the plant depends on the variety. For instance, summer apples generally taste best when picked dead ripe, but some “winter” apples (harvested late in the season), such as Idared and Newtown Pippin, taste best when they are picked mature and then ripen for a few months in storage.

A few fruits MUST be harvested when mature and then ripened off the plants. European pears, except for Seckel, are at their gustatory best only if ripened after harvest. Left to fully ripen on the plant, European pears turn mushy and brown inside.

Avocados also must be harvested under-ripe. Left to fully ripen on the tree, they develop off-flavors.

Now the important point: Many fruits do not ripen at all after being picked, so must be picked fully ripe to taste their best. Plums are in this group, as are grapes, figs, melons, cherries, peaches and more. Picked under-ripe, these fruits will still soften, and some of their complex carbohydrates may break down to sugars. But those changes are more akin to the first stages of rotting than the flavor changes associated with true ripening.

Late summer and fall bring on such an abundance of fruit that eating cannot keep pace with harvesting, so storage is necessary. Most fruits store best when kept cool and in high humidity. Cool temperatures slow the ripening of mature fruits, the aging of already ripe fruits, and the growth of decay-causing microorganisms. High humidity, as well as cool temperatures, slows water loss from fruits, preventing shriveling.

For most fruits (bananas and avocados are notable exceptions), optimum storage temperatures are near freezing, with relative humidity about 90 percent. The temperature in most refrigerators is between 35 and 40 degrees F, and the relative humidity in a frost-free refrigerator is 40 percent on the shelves and 70 percent in the crisper. That’s a bit too warm and dry, but it’s a convenient place to store a small quantity of fruit. An old-fashioned root cellar provides almost ideal low temperatures and high humidity.

In late fall and winter, you may find storage areas around your home where you can keep a few bushels of seasonal fruits, such as apples, in good condition. Invest in a minimum-maximum thermometer, and check the temperatures in your garage, attic, foyer and cellar. I move bushels of apples from my garage to my foyer and then to my cool basement as outdoor temperatures turn progressively colder.

For long-term storage, maintain humidity around fruits. Pack them in plastic bags with a few holes for ventilation, in dry leaves, or – my favorite method – in plywood boxes (which “breathe” with the fruits).

Remove fruit from cold storage some time before you are ready to eat it. Fruit that was picked mature but under-ripe may need to finish ripening, which occurs more rapidly at room temperature. Even fruit that is already ripe should be allowed to reach room temperature so you can appreciate its full flavor.

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Dine Out Maine: Corner Room can delight, but choose your night and meal carefully Sun, 25 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The table to my left is arguing with their server about a mistake on their bill. Every time she walks away, they try to enlist neighboring tables into their misery, but I work hard not to make eye contact. And then, as if cued off-stage by someone wearing a walkie-talkie headset, a different server cuts the tension by clattering dozens of pieces of silverware to the floor on the other side of our two-top. Pulling the corners of her mouth down with her fingers, addressing us as if we were a room full of pre-kindergarteners, she mugs: “Oops! Long night. Frowny facey!” This is Saturday night at The Corner Room Italian Kitchen & Bar in Portland, and it’s not even the weirdest part of the evening.

That came about an hour before, when we arrived, checked in at the reception stand and then came back for a table a little later, as instructed. Instead of being seated, we were asked to wait on the bench by the front door. “I know we told you 20, but it’s been a really heavy service, and everybody is really tired. So we’re just going to give everyone a chance to rest. You know, catch their breath before we seat you? Maybe 10 to 15 more minutes,” our host said. So we sat by the boot-scuffed front door and watched the big-screen television mounted over the bar for the next 20 minutes. When our host eventually returned with menus in hand, she asked, “Still want to eat?”

Considerably less than before, but we did.

Nearly seven years ago, our reviewer ate at owner and executive chef Harding Lee Smith’s (The Grill Room, The Front Room, and Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room) American-inflected Italian restaurant, awarding it four stars in a mixed review that lauded the pasta all’Amatriciana’s “simple greatness,” while warning that some dishes “can be simply too rich.” As I took my menu, I was eager to see what had changed.

With more than two dozen appetizers and salads (not counting 20 salumi and cheeses), several pizzas and main dishes and another dozen pastas, the restaurant’s menu is astonishingly lengthy. According to chef de cuisine Greg Wilson, this is because “Harding always likes a lot of options. He wants people to find something they like to eat when they come in.”

Several of the menu’s more appealing-sounding items are made on site from scratch, like a dark chocolate hazelnut torte ($9) an indulgent Nutella-chocolate treat, plated playfully to resemble an ice cream cone; or a blueberry compote with a warm lemon shortcake biscuit ($9) that the kitchen bakes to order and tops with gelato that is made with a crushing excess of vanilla flavoring.



The kitchen also makes three of its salumi ($7 each) options in-house: bresaola, pork lonza and duck prosciutto. These cured meats are salted for a few days and hung in the restaurant’s walk-in refrigerators, where they age for a minimum of six weeks. The lean, translucent pink lonza (also known as lomo) was excellent: sweet and a little nutty – the best of the three house-made salumi by a mile. The bresaola, sliced into rough curls with fringed ends, was far too dry, while the duck prosciutto came in stiff, jagged splinters and tasted more of old olive oil than cured meat.

Some pastas (all except linguine, penne, bucatini and the spaghetti used for side dishes) are also made in-house, including an exceptionally balanced and well-seasoned garganelli ($18 small, $24 large), served with goat cheese and a fresh, super-seasonal medley of corn, tomatoes, basil, summer squash and capers. Tremendously good and exactly the kind of vegetarian main dish that even an omnivore could love.

The bucatini with seafood ($25/$29), on the other hand, was dire. Inspired by a classic Mediterranean pairing of spicy sausage with shrimp, the pasta got a little rich, raisiny Spanish flavor from sherry. But with greasy semicircles of chorizo as tough as a chew toy and not a single piece of lobster (as listed on the menu) anywhere in the bowl, it was an oily, off-kilter mess of a dish.

The Cast Iron Chicken ($23), named after the pan used to first sear and then finish the bird in the oven, was another let-down. While the chicken was properly cooked and had a nice crisp skin (in places), the polenta, pan sauce and peperonata were undersalted and tasted powerfully of burned garlic. Bland and burnt are never a good combination, especially in a rustic, amply portioned main dish that our server described as “a big plate of food that you’ll want to eat all of.” I did not.

The similarly sizable salads had problems of their own. The bitter greens ($10) were a lively mix of radicchio, endive and arugula – a smart combination of aggressive and gentle bitterness. I assumed the roasted grapes would cut some of the harsher flavors with caramelized sweetness. But what I found on the plate were cold, whole red grapes each with a single, tiny blackened dot, as if the kitchen defined “roasting” as bringing the fruit in contact with a pinpoint of flame for no more than a microsecond.

The Corner Room’s chopped salad ($12), a “throwback to a classic Italian-American salad,” as Wilson described it, was a kitchen sink affair. The restaurant stretches (but does not make its own) fresh cheese curds, turning them into mozzarella that it cubes generously into the greens along with salami, chickpeas and tomatoes, and then tops with a too-herby oregano vinaigrette.

Both salads were much less interesting than their descriptions promised, and neither was nearly as good as the simplest on the menu: the Caesar ($10). With long, intact romaine leaves and a sparklingly acidic, lemony dressing to offset the flavor of rich white anchovies, this was a faithful and undeniably appealing version of an old classic.

The Corner Room's salumi plate

The Corner Room’s salumi plate

On both visits, we took advantage of The Corner Room’s decent selection of wines by the carafe, first opting for a plummy, soft Puglian Terremare Feudi di Guagnano ($9/glass, $22/carafe) that stood up well to the baked crespelle ($12), an underwhelming rolled Italian crepe filled with creamy ricotta and beef that was dried out on the ends. With our second meal, we opted for a spicy, oaky Dolomite “Cliffhanger” ($9/$21) to match up with a gorgeous prosciutto and arugula pizza ($18), baked in the restaurant’s stone deck pizza oven. I like my crust heavily blistered, but even a little underbaked, this pizza was still a salty, simply dressed delight.

I imagine it’s possible to create a road map to help diners navigate The Corner Room’s extensive menu and weather its inexplicably off-putting service stumbles – problems that made us feel as stressed out as our servers on a Saturday, then practically disappeared when we returned on a Tuesday. But I don’t need to. Squint your eyes just a little, and you’ll see the outlines of a fantastic Italian-American joint that serves great simple food: pizzas, seasonal pasta and a first-rate Caesar. Just ignore half (two-thirds, really) of the unnecessarily complicated menu and pray that you’re not in the dining room on a busy night.

Andrew Ross has written about food in the United Kingdom and 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

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New El Rayo Taqueria opens in downtown Portland Thu, 22 Sep 2016 21:53:36 +0000 The new El Rayo Taqueria at 26 Free St. is now open and serving breakfast burritos and other casual Mexican fare.

The restaurant is the new incarnation of the popular Mexican restaurant on York Street that closed almost exactly a year ago. The previous El Rayo was near the Casco Bay Bridge in a refurbished gas station painted in bright colors, and had lots of picnic tables for outdoor seating. The restaurant had to move because the property owner, J.B. Brown & Sons, moved ahead with its plan to build a five-story commercial and residential building and a two-story parking garage on the site.

The new El Rayo is in the former location of Papier, a card and stationery store. It has a 14-foot-high ceiling, a bar and a deck. For now, the restaurant is serving breakfast and lunch only, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. A dinner menu will be added soon, according to the owners.

Tod Dana, a co-owner of the restaurant, has said there will be no major changes to the menu, except to add breakfast burritos and more quick-serve options such as soups and salads for downtown workers looking for a fast meal.

A larger El Rayo is at 245 Route 1 in Scarborough.

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Ales and eats meet at annual Noshbow party Thu, 22 Sep 2016 15:26:20 +0000 0, 22 Sep 2016 11:26:20 +0000 Two Maine restaurants receive “Best of” awards Thu, 22 Sep 2016 00:40:31 +0000 Two Maine restaurants have recently won “Best of” awards.

Conde Nast Traveler this week named Eventide Oyster Co. one of “The Best Restaurants in the World,” calling it “the oyster bar of your dreams.” The magazine developed the list, which includes 207 restaurants around the globe, from the recommendations of chefs, foood writers and “most-in-the-know travelers.”

OpenTable, the restaurant reservation site, last week released its annual list of “Best Restaurants for Foodies in America,” and the only restaurant from Maine on the list was The Oxford House Inn in Fryeburg. The list was derived from the more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by OpenTable users for 20,000 restaurants in the United States and District of Columbia.

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Thai Green Pork Curry tantalizes with aroma and taste Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The scent of Thai curry cooking is very possibly one of the greatest kitchen smells ever.

Ingredients like lemongrass, chilies, garlic, ginger, coconut milk and spices like coriander and cumin all mingle to create a heady perfume that pulls people to the table.

There are as many versions of Thai curry as there are provinces of the country – perhaps as many as there are Thai cooks. Thailand is at the center of Southeast Asia, and its cooking has influenced and been influenced by the cuisines of many countries, from India to China.

While making your own curry paste is an interesting and rewarding experience, opening a jar of Thai curry paste is by far the easiest solution for a weeknight dinner. It’s available in the Asian section of supermarkets, and online.

Fish sauce is a traditional ingredient in Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisines. It is made from fermented anchovies or other seafood, and has a pungent smell, but when a small amount is employed in a recipe it adds a bracing, salty flavor that calls your taste buds to attention. If you like Thai food, you probably like fish sauce. Start with a small amount, and add more from there.

The sauce of this curry is fairly thin. If you want a thicker sauce, stir a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch into 2 tablespoons of water and add with the coconut milk. Either way, you’ll want to serve it with plenty of rice to soak up the delicious liquid.


Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vegetable or peanut oil

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 red bell pepper, slivered

11/2 cups chicken broth

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce

2 cups small cauliflower florets

4 cups cubed pork loin

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

6 cups hot cooked white or jasmine rice to serve

Lime wedges to serve

In a large pot over medium high heat, melt the butter with the oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the curry paste and ginger and stir until you can smell the spices. Stir in the bell pepper, then add the broth and coconut milk and bring to a gentle simmer (do not let the mixture boil or it might separate or curdle).

Add the fish sauce or soy sauce, and the cauliflower. Simmer for 5 minutes, until the cauliflower starts to become tender. Add the pork and the chickpeas and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 10 minutes, until the pork is cooked and the cauliflower is tender. Stir in the basil and lime juice and serve over the hot rice, with the lime wedges on the side to squeeze over.

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The magic of baking leads to spicy cake Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I love baking but until I was 16, our oven was just used as a place to keep big cutting boards and exiled frying pans.

My Indian parents were of a place and time where no one had ovens at home. All breads were flatbreads, like chapattis, which were hand-rolled and cooked on the stove and all cakes, if any, were either baked with the help of the village bakery or purchased.

Even now, ovens are rare across the whole of India because there’s never been much of a culture around baking, so baked goods are precious treats and baker’s skills are revered.

Having not grown up with baking, the first cake I made felt like real magic. Creating a goo out of eggs, butter, sugar and flour and watching it rise into something magnificent was very special to me and the total opposite of the way we cooked Indian food, by tasting, balancing and adjusting along the way.

Over time, classics became mingled with Indian spices and ingredients like cardamom, cinnamon and dates – as in this cake.

The dates add a lot of moisture, density and a caramel flavor to the sponge and the spices add sweetness and exoticism. Strictly speaking, the icing is unnecessary – a dusting of icing sugar would do – but the coffee butter icing gives it a special celebratory feel, which is, partly what baking is really all about.

Date And Cardamom Cake With Coffee Frosting

Soft dates are best for this cake as they’ll add to the moisture.

Serves 10


1 stick butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

11/4 cups dates, pitted

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

11/2 cups all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

A pinch of salt


6 tablespoons butter, softened

11/4 cups powder sugar

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1 tablespoon boiling water

Butter a loaf tin (approximately 9 x 5 inches) and line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Chop the dates and place them in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of water to the pan and bring to a boil over a low heat, stirring occasionally. When the dates disintegrate into a soft paste, take off the heat and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, add the butter and sugar, cream together, then add the eggs, mixing in one by one. Fold in the flour, baking powder, salt and spices and when folded, add the date mixture and mix well.

Pour the batter into the loaf tin and place in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave the cake in the tin to cool before removing.

To make the frosting, mix the coffee granules with a tablespoon of boiling water (no more or you’ll have wet frosting until the granules dissolve).

Add the butter and sugar and whisk until soft and creamy.

When the cake has cooled, remove from the tin and smooth the frosting over the top.

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The Maine Ingredient: Celebrate September’s bounty with versatile frittata Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In Maine, the real height of farmers markets – at least in the midcoast region where I live – is in September. The markets burst with bounty, and it gets even harder to resist buying way more than seems prudent. Somehow, my husband and I always seem to get through it in a week’s time without a problem, savoring every flavorful (and healthy) bite.


For the last month or so of summer, I make this – or a variation – about once a week. It’s a very forgiving dish, with many possible substitutions open to the farmers market shopper. You can use sliced fennel, or young turnips or kohlrabi, greens, beans, tomatoes – almost any vegetable. A bit of starch in the form of potatoes, leftover rice, or cubed bread adds body and substance, and ham contributes smoky, salty flavor. Serve with pickled beets and crusty country bread (from the farmers market!) and butter.

Makes 2 to 3 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional if necessary

1 small (about ½ pound) eggplant, unpeeled, cut in ½-inch rounds

¾ teaspoon salt, plus more to season eggplant

1 medium onion, sliced

2 small summer squash, any color (about ½ pound), sliced

1 red frying pepper (about 4 ounces), sliced

½ cup slivered ham or smoked sausage (optional)

About ¾ cup starch – cubed leftover potatoes, rice, or bread or pasta

About ½ cup torn basil leaves

5 eggs

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup shredded cheese, such as cheddar

Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet with ovenproof handle. Season eggplant with salt and cook over medium heat, turning once or twice, until softened and nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Add a tablespoon or 2 more oil to pan if necessary. Sauté onion, squash, pepper and optional ham over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tinged with brown and softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in cooked potatoes or other starch, layer eggplant over vegetables and scatter with basil.

Preheat broiler. Beat eggs with 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper and pour evenly over vegetables. Cover pan and cook over low heat, tilting pan and lifting up edges of frittata to allow uncooked egg to flow to the bottom, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Place pan in oven about 5 inches from heat source and broil until cheese melts and top browns slightly.

Cut into wedges to serve.


Pickled beets are one of those old-fashioned dishes whose goodness lies in its simplicity. These days, with pretty golden varieties and striped Chioggias in the mix, the resulting pickle is more beautiful and more delicious than ever.

Makes about 1½ cups

12 ounces (about 8 medium) trimmed beets, at least 2 colors if possible

Salt for cooking

2/3 cup cider vinegar

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup beet-cooking water or plain water

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup slivered onion

Cover beets with water, add salt, and cook, covered, until tender, about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel beets and cut into ½-inch dice. (Alternatively, wrap beets in foil and roast in a 375-degree oven for about 40 minutes until tender.)

In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar, water and salt to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Put beets and onion in a bowl, pour pickling liquid over and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to a week.

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

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Make brisket with no worries and all the flavor Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As the Jewish holidays approach, it’s time for many of us to think about brisket.

My sister who cooks for the Jewish holidays every year (and plenty during the rest of the year) recently admitted to me that she had never made brisket, that it intimidated her. How to make sure it’s flavorful? How to know how long to cook it? It all made her anxious.

This brisket recipe is straightforward, uses traditional seasonings and flavors, and results in a tender-but-still-sliceable piece of meat. Aside from setting aside a few hours for it to cook, it really takes little work. Don’t you just love a main course that you can ignore while you’re preparing the rest of the dinner?

Some recipes call for browning a brisket first, which is nice if you have extra time on your hands, but it’s not necessary for a perfectly tender brisket.

If possible, make the brisket a day ahead. This accomplishes several things: One, your main course is made and checked off the list. Two, you can scoop off any fat that has hardened on top of the sauce, resulting in a cleaner-tasting gravy. Three, cold brisket is easier to slice, and then you reheat the slices in the sauce. Four, the flavors have more time to meld and build (like soups and stews).

First-cut brisket means brisket with much of the fat cut off (but not all; you don’t want that). If you get a bigger piece of meat and want to cut it into two pieces, you can overlap them in the pot. In general, brisket is resilient.

Brisket is great served with mashed potatoes or some simple buttered noodles.


Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

11/2 teaspoons dried thyme

1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 first-cut beef brisket (4 to 5 pounds)

2 cups chopped onions

4 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

3 bay leaves

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup low-sodium beef or chicken broth

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in juice or puréed

1 cup red wine

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Place the olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to mix. Rub the mixture all over the meat.

Place the brisket, fat side up, in a large casserole or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Toss in the onions, carrots and bay leaves. Blend the tomato paste into the broth and then pour it over the meat and vegetables. Pour the crushed tomatoes and red wine on top. The liquid should cover the meat and most of the vegetables. Cover the casserole and bake until the meat is very tender, about 31/2 hours.

If you are serving the brisket the next day:

Let it cool and then put the entire casserole in the refrigerator. About an hour before serving, skim off any hardened fat, then take the meat out of the sauce and cut off any excess fat from the top of the meat. Slice the brisket across the grain, as thin or thick as you like, then neatly return the sliced meat to the sauce. You can let it sit at room temperature for an hour before reheating it, which will make the process go faster and the meat heat more evenly.

Place the pot over medium-low heat, and heat the brisket in the sauce until everything is hot. Alternatively, you may place the pot in a preheated 325 F oven until everything is warmed through, and the cooking liquid has reduced and thickened a bit. This will take about 30 minutes in the oven, maybe less on the stovetop. Adjust seasonings as needed.

You can serve the brisket in the casserole or transfer it to a large shallow serving bowl. Either way, remove and discard the bay leaves and sprinkle the parsley on top of the brisket, if desired.

If you are serving the brisket right after you cook it:

Remove the meat from the casserole and let it rest on a platter, loosely tented with aluminum foil. Let the cooking liquid and vegetables sit for about 15 minutes, then spoon off any fat that has accumulated. Place the casserole over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces a bit, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings as necessary, and remove and discard the bay leaves. Slice the meat neatly across the grain, return it to the pot.

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Five essential sauces for building new recipes Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Most sauces are designed to develop flavor over a long time, which is a nice idea if you have the time to keep an eye on the stove. Or you can whip up five sauces in under five minutes each, using just a lidded jar or an electric blender.

Even better, these sauces mix and match with one another or with other pantry staples in a variety of ways, so you can build new recipes: Add a spoonful of the marinara sauce to the coconut curry base to create an Indian-style curry sauce; toss chicken strips and root vegetables with the red wine vinaigrette for a quick marinade; or stir honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract into the Cashew Cream to make a sweet dip for sliced apples.


From Washington food writer and editor Kristen Hartke.

If you’re craving a quick curry, then start with this sauce, which provides a good base for both Indian- and Thai-style curry dishes. Mixing and matching ingredients allows you to create new sauces from a single base, and as your ingredient pantry grows, you can start to create richer curries with more depth of flavor.

Using raw onion in the basic sauce will give a slightly sharper flavor than is traditionally found in curry sauce, so sauté the onion with the ginger in a little oil first if you want to get a mellower flavor, then blend with the rest of the ingredients.

The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Makes 8 servings (about 41/2 cups)

27 ounces canned low-fat coconut milk (2 cans, shaken well)

1/2 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon seasoning blend, such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute

1 teaspoon chili powder

Combine the coconut milk, broth, ginger, onion, seasoning blend and chili powder in a blender; puree until smooth.


To make an Indian-style curry sauce (2 to 3 servings’ worth), combine 1 cup of the basic Coconut Curry Sauce, 2/3 cup Fast Blender Marinara Sauce (see recipe below), 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon curry powder and a pinch of sugar in a blender; puree until smooth. The yield is 12/3 cups. Cook in a saucepan over low heat for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop, then stir in cooked proteins, canned chickpeas or vegetables; cook for about 15 minutes while the sauce thickens. Serve over rice.

 To make a Thai-style curry sauce (2 to 3 servings’ worth), combine 1 cup of the basic Coconut Curry Sauce, 2 tablespoons each of Cashew Cream and Quick Stir-Fry sauces (see recipes below), 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon sugar and Sriracha (to taste) in a blender; puree until smooth. The yield is 11/3 cups. Cook in a saucepan over low heat for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop, then stir in cooked proteins, canned chickpeas or vegetables; cook for about 15 minutes while the sauce thickens. Serve with rice or rice noodles and a slice of lime.


Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart.

Basic Red Wine Vinaigrette

Basic Red Wine Vinaigrette

A good vinaigrette goes a long way in the kitchen, whether you’re using it on fresh salads and sauteed vegetables or as a marinade for proteins. This recipe is as basic as you can get, and it’s perfectly fine to use different kinds of vinegar and mustard, add a touch of honey for sweetness, add fresh herbs or substitute lemon juice for the vinegar.

The vinaigrette can be refrigerated for up to 4 weeks. Shake well before using.

Makes 4 servings (1/2 cup)

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, minced


Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic in a mason jar. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Seal and shake well, until emulsified. Use right away, or refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.


Adapted from “Yum Universe: Infinite Possibilities for a Gluten-Free, Plant-Powerful, Whole-Food Lifestyle,” by Heather Crosby.

Cashew Cream

Cashew Cream

If you’ve ever wanted a creamy sauce but didn’t have dairy products on hand, then this is the next best thing. Made with raw cashews and water, this sauce has a nutty creaminess that is also extremely versatile. Thin it down further with water to create a savory base for macaroni and cheese, or mix in a little honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract to make a sweet dip for sliced apples.

This quick method calls for boiling the cashews for a few minutes to soften them, but you can also put them in a bowl, cover them with water, and let them soak in the refrigerator overnight.

The cashew cream can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes 10 servings (21/2 cups)

2 cups raw, unsalted cashews

1 cup cold water, or more as needed

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Place the cashews in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium; cook for 15 minutes, or until the nuts begin to plump slightly and soften.

Drain the cashews, then transfer them to a blender along with the 1 cup of cold water, the lemon juice and salt. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the blender, as needed.

If the mixture seems too thick while blending, add more water, one tablespoon at a time. Use right away, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.


From Washington food writer and editor Kristen Hartke.

Quick Stir-Fry Sauce

Quick Stir-Fry Sauce

Salty, tangy and lightly spicy, this is a great sauce to have in your repertoire when you need to pull together a fast meal out of whatever’s in the refrigerator. Toss it with leftover rice or noodles, vegetables and any kind of protein for an impromptu dish of fried rice or lo mein, or use it as a marinade for chicken, beef or tofu.

Add it to the Basic Coconut Curry Sauce with some Cashew Cream (see related recipes), a squirt of lime juice and Sriracha to give it a Thai-inspired flavor, or substitute it for that packet of dried seasoning the next time you mix up a late-night bowl of ramen.

The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 weeks.

Makes 20 servings (11/4 cups)

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

1 teaspoon vinegar

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine the soy sauce, broth, honey or agave nectar, vinegar, ginger and garlic in a mason jar. Seal and shake well, until incorporated. Use right away, or refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.


Adapted from a recipe at

Fast Blender Marinara Sauce

Fast Blender Marinara Sauce

It’s true that the most flavorful marinara sauces are cooked for hours in order to allow them to develop the richest flavors, but this quick sauce has a bright freshness that’s perfect with pasta or as a topping for a weeknight pita-bread pizza.

If you want to take some time to develop the flavor of the sauce, saute the carrot, onion and garlic in a little olive oil before adding them to the blender, then continue the recipe as written.

The just-blended, uncooked marinara can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. The cooked sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes 8 servings (4 cups)

1/2 cup chopped carrot (about one 6-inch carrot will do)

3 cloves garlic

3/4 cup chopped onion

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

1 teaspoon seasoning blend, such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the carrot, garlic, onion, tomatoes and their juices, seasoning blend and pepper in a blender; puree on low speed until all the vegetables are finely chopped.

Pour into a medium saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Use right away, or cool completely before storing.

]]> 0, 21 Sep 2016 08:18:39 +0000
Here’s a hot one: Krispy Kreme is opening three stores in Maine Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There are lots of things in life that some people just don’t “get.”

The humor of Carrot Top, for example. The fact that you should signal before making a turn. Donald Trump’s hair.

Add to that the allure of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Especially in the land of Dunkin’ Donuts, a New England-based chain that serves average-guy coffee and features the beloved Red Sox in its commercials, it’s hard for people to understand why Krispy Kreme doughnuts promote such a cult-like fervor. Not everyone likes the 190-calorie treats, but those who do don’t mind sharing stories of hunting for the “hot sign” along the highway – the sign at every store that, when it’s lit, signals that hot doughnuts are just coming out of the oven.

1067752_943319 boxes.jpgThese days, Krispy Kreme is a bit of a throwback to an era before doughnuts became “artisanal” and required more than a simple sugar glaze to make customers happy. Today, Maine is full of artisanal doughnut shops – The Holy Donut, Frosty’s and Tony’s, to name a few – but few Mainers have had the chance to try an original glazed Krispy Kreme.

That will soon change, thanks to Cort Mendez, a New Hampshire businessman who is opening three of the stores in Maine and four in New Hampshire under the franchise name NH Glazed LLC. The company announced last week that one of the stores will be in Auburn; construction is expected to be completed this fall. Other towns in the running for a store include Portland, South Portland, Bangor, Augusta, Windham, Brunswick, Biddeford and Kittery.

Sylas Hatch, a broker with NAI, The Dunham Group in Portland, is scouting out locations. He checks out potential spots, evaluating “a lot of different metrics” – like drive times and traffic counts – before turning possibilities over to Mendez for further review. The locations need to be big enough to hold the Krispy Kreme baking equipment, Hatch said.

1067752_943319 donutsbelt.jpg

Hatch tried Krispy Kreme doughnuts in Florida, so he understands what all the fuss is about. And he knows that the doughnut shops could provide an economic boost to some of the communities he scouts. Some towns have actually tried to lobby him, mostly smaller places that need the leg up. Edgecomb, for one, was one of the interested towns that contacted him, according to Hatch, “but it just doesn’t have the pull that we really need. We’re looking at all the big markets. I love it up there. It’s just not quite big enough for us.”

Here’s an idea: We recall a past invader from the north named Tim Hortons retreating back to its home territory in Canada last year. Surely vacant Tim Hortons spots would be a turnkey opportunity for Krispy Kreme, this invader from the South? Not necessarily, Hatch says. Those locations typically have deed restrictions that prohibit future tenants from selling doughnuts. “You’d think they wouldn’t care,” Hatch says, “but that’s pretty common in retail.”

While Hatch is searching for locations, Mendez has been training at Krispy Kreme franchises in Orlando and Las Vegas, doing everything from making doughnuts to learning how to repair and maintain the equipment. He was careful not to arrive hungry.

“Going into the doughnut shop every day and watching the doughnuts coming fresh off the belt required a tremendous amount of self-discipline to not overindulge,” Mendez wrote in an email from an overseas trip last week.

Fresh memories

The doughnuts are made from a flour mix that comes from the Krispy Kreme headquarters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Other ingredients are added on-site, Mendez said. If the doughnuts haven’t been sold by the time they are 12 hours old, they are either donated or thrown out.

That dedication to freshness is one of the things that hooks Krispy Kreme customers. Portland chef Damian Sansonetti, co-owner of Piccolo and Caiola’s, became a fan when he lived in New York City. Alysia Zoidis, owner of East End Cupcakes has fond memories of them, too, though it has been close to 30 years since she last ate a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut.

1067752_943319 hotsign.jpgIn her family, her mom was the food police, making sure Zoidis and her brother never consumed sugary sodas or cereals. Her dad was a different story. During summer vacation, they’d drive from her father’s home in Massachusetts down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to visit cousins.

“Once he got to a certain point and Krispy Kremes started showing up, my dad would just announce that if the hot sign is on, we’re stopping – no matter how late we were running, or how badly we wanted to get to our final destination,” Zoidas recalled.

Zoidis loved the light, airy doughnuts as a kid, but admits she probably won’t go out of her way for them when Krispy Kreme comes to Maine. She is more of a breakfast sandwich person these days.

Maine comedian Karen Morgan, who grew up in Athens, Georgia, also has cherished childhood memories of eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts and selling them for school fundraisers. Every year, a friend mails her a box of the doughnuts for her birthday. They are flat by the time they reach Maine, Morgan says, but she doesn’t mind. And earlier this year, she made a “pilgrimage” to the Krispy Kreme corporate offices.

“When I go home, I do not pass one without stopping,” Morgan said. “If the hot sign is on, I will eat a dozen. Not even kidding. A visit to Krispy Kreme is required on every trip down home.”

Will Mainers be converts?

But even such unbridled ardor won’t guarantee success in Maine. When the southeastern chain first tried to expand into New England in the mid-2000s, it was a bust. What makes Mendez think things will be different this time around?

“The reason Krispy Kreme fell upon hard times, not just in New England, but throughout the country, had everything to do with placing locations too close together as well as building facilities that were twice the size of the current model,” he said. “Since then, Krispy Kreme has been re-opening in many of the exact same markets that they struggled in some years ago.”

Nor is Mendez worried about competition from Dunkin’ Donuts. As he sees it, the slogan “America runs on Dunkin'” refers to its coffee, not its doughnuts. “Krispy Kreme is in the doughnut business,” he said.

Dunkin’ Donuts makes its doughnuts daily in central baking facilities throughout Maine and then delivers them to individual stores. But coffee is its biggest seller. According to Dana Reid, field marketing manager for Dunkin’ Donuts, about 58 percent of Dunkin’ Donut franchisee-reported sales for fiscal year 2015 were generated from coffee and other beverages.

1067752_943319 originalcut.jpgIndustry analyst Andrew Alvarez of IBISWorld says Dunkin’ Donuts’ real competition is Starbucks.

“By revenue, Starbucks holds 40 percent of the industry, so that’s the person to dethrone,” he said.

Dunkin’ Donuts claims about 22 percent market share. Krispy Kreme holds just under 2 percent of the market, just below Tim Hortons.

To increase its share, Krispy Kreme is adding menu items, including coffee-flavored snacks, as it also expands its reach – it has 130 new stores in development nationwide. In May, the company was purchased by JAB Beech Inc., a subsidiary of JAB Holding Co., which also owns Caribou Coffee, Keurig Green Mountain, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Intelligentsia and Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Many industry insiders are speculating about the corporation’s plans for the many brands now in its portfolio, Alvarez said, guessing that – contrary to what Mendez says – the company is about to expand its coffee menu big-time.

But our waistlines should be more worried about the doughnuts, which will soon be only a drive-thru away. And thanks to Krispy Kreme school fundraisers, little salespeople who are hard to say no to may soon start showing up at our doors.

God help us, they even have a Krispy Kreme rewards program.


]]> 31, 21 Sep 2016 08:52:33 +0000
A London vegetarian restaurant produces ‘Mildreds: The Cookbook’ Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As I flipped through a pile of new cookbooks that had just arrived in the newsroom, my eye went right to “Mildreds: The Cookbook.” The simple cover features a sketch of the restaurant that has been a vegetarian mecca in London since 1988, but the inside pops with bright photos of vegetarian and vegan dishes featuring fresh produce.

Although I love vegetables, I’m not vegetarian and my meat-loving husband most definitely is not. I hesitated: Would any of the recipes be a hit at my house?

A quick flip through the book assured me that, yes, we could get behind this one. Plus, the authors promise delicious vegetarian recipes for “simply everyone.”

Jane Muir opened Mildreds with the late Diane Thomas in Soho at a time when most places with vegetarian menus still had a distinctly 1960s hippie vibe. Mildreds focused on affordable, fresh and colorful international vegetarian food. Muir said she and Thomas deliberately stayed away from the brown food in earthenware pottery that was more common in vegetarian restaurants at the time.

The book’s introduction is written by Muir and chefs Daniel Acevedo and Sarah Wasserman, who also wrote the recipes.

“Nowadays, vegetarian cooking really is for everyone, whether you still enjoy tucking into a steak, or prefer a completely vegetarian diet,” they write. “Vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds have now taken their rightful place in the kitchen and have stolen the limelight.”

The recipes are grouped by course, but the appetizers – enticing dishes like stuffed baby eggplants and spring vegetable pakora – could also work as entrees. Vegan and gluten-free recipes are marked as such, and the chefs point out that many recipes that aren’t gluten-free can easily be adapted to fit food restrictions.

With the air taking on a bit of early fall chill, many recipes have been added to my to-try list: Black Bean Chili-Filled Baby Pumpkins with Toasted Coconut Rice, Wild Mushroom and Ale Pies, and a Wellington made with roasted portobello mushrooms, pecans and chestnuts in place of the standard beef.

I couldn’t resist the Lapsang-scented Mushroom Stroganoff. The description promises a fun twist on a classic Russian recipe with a slightly smoky taste from the tea. Which would have been great if I had been able to find the tea. It proved hard to find at grocery stores near my house, though some Portland tea purveyors, including Dobrá Tea and Whole Foods carry it. The recipe was still tasty without it – the dill was a great complement to the rich cream and earthy mushrooms – and I’ll be sure to buy the tea before I make the stroganoff again.



The recipe calls for corn flour, which is the British way of saying cornstarch. Lapsang souchong tea has an aggressive smoky taste, which adds complexity and depth to the stew that would normally come from the beef. Like the original dish, this stroganoff is quite rich. Serve with rice pilaf.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds mixed mushrooms (such as ceps, cremini and meadow), trimmed

Light cooking oil (such as canola, peanut and sunflower)

2 lapsang souchong tea bags

21/2 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons butter

2 onions, finely sliced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons corn flour

13/4 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup sour cream

1 bunch of dill leaves, chopped

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the mushrooms into even, bite-sized pieces. Drizzle a little oil into a roasting pan, add the mushrooms, and toss together thoroughly to coat. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender but have not yet begun to shrivel. Set aside.

Put the lapsang souchong tea bags into a bowl, cover with the boiling water and let stand to infuse for 4 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bags and set the tea aside.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and paprika and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the corn flour and stir together well. Pour in the tea and heavy cream, then stir in the mushrooms, mustard and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has begun to reduce and thicken slightly.

Add the sour cream and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the stroganoff is thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide between serving plates and scatter with dill.

]]> 0, 21 Sep 2016 14:46:28 +0000
Melon glams up deliciously with something sparkling Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Sparkling wine is my aperitif of choice. It’s light and refreshing, it pairs well with just about any starter, and those bubbles always put me in a good mood.

Occasionally, I will spring for a glass of French Champagne, but I find Italian prosecco, Spanish cava or an American sparkling wine does the trick just as well for, typically, a much lower price, making it possible to enjoy that effervescence in an everyday way.

It turns out sparkling wine also makes for a wonderful end to a meal, as a star ingredient in this easy, elegant, four-ingredient dessert. First you sweeten prosecco (or whatever sparkling wine you prefer) with a little sugar – just enough so it is lightly sweetened but not at all syrupy.

Superfine sugar is preferred because it dissolves quickly and easily, but if you don’t have any on hand you can make your own by putting regular granulated sugar in the food processor to grind it more finely.

Then add balls of sweet, juicy honeydew melon, and let the mixture steep in the refrigerator for at least two hours, so the flavors can meld and everything is well chilled. Spoon into cocktail glasses, shower with a fragrant, floral confetti of basil, and you have a grown-up dessert that is fresh, fun and glamorous.

It is one that is well suited to cap off a special-occasion meal but, like those tiny bubbles themselves, can make a regular day feel like a celebration.


If you can’t find superfine sugar, give your granulated sugar a good turn in the food processor.

The melon balls need to macerate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Makes 4 servings

1 cup prosecco (not extra-dry)

3 tablespoons superfine sugar (may substitute granulated sugar; see headnote)

4 cups (1 pound 7 ounces) honeydew melon balls, from one 4-to-41/2-pound melon

1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Pour the prosecco into a large bowl. Add the sugar and stir gently until it is dissolved. Add the melon balls and stir to coat evenly. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Just before serving, stack the basil leaves, roll them tightly and cut them crosswise into thin ribbons (chiffonade).

To serve, divide the melon balls and their liquid among 4 cocktail (martini) or dessert glasses; garnish each with about 1 tablespoon of the basil ribbons.

]]> 0, 21 Sep 2016 08:15:36 +0000
Which Maine heritage apples work best in your favorite recipes? Sun, 18 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 My favorite part of the Common Ground Fair is preservation pomologist John Bunker’s annual Apple Tasting. You’ve got to get there early to get a seat under the tent. But as the crowd gathers at its edges, a loaves and fishes kind of thing happens: everybody gets at least a sliver of each heirloom variety on offer and a chance to hear their stories told by Maine’s own apple whisperer.

Bunker’s apple joy is contagious. I just joined his cooperative Out on a Limb heirloom apple CSA through which, for $150, I will get a quarter bushel of rare, Maine apples (10 to 12 pounds) sourced from multiple orchards every other week through early November.

The point of the CSA is to provide a market for these old apples, which many growers don’t even bother to harvest for lack of retail interest.

“If we keep these growers happy, we hope that they will take good care of their old trees” and keep the heritage varieties alive for future generations, Bunker explained.

Cultivating biodiversity in any crop is protection from having a monolithic failure of any monocrop by pests and disease. But from a culinary standpoint, cultivating apple biodiversity means that cooks can have a wide variety of apple tastes, textures, tannin levels and times at which the apples ripen.

In all, I’ll get to sample over 20 varieties I could never find in the grocery store and might only see at a farm stand once in a blue moon. I will receive a mix of eating and culinary apples.

Uh-oh. How do I know how any of these apples will behave in the pan? I went looking for a few rules for fitting apple varieties I don’t know into recipes I do.

Yankee Magazine Food Editor Amy Traverso, author of “The Apple Lover’s Cookbook,” divides all cooking apple types into four categories. Firm-tart ones like Granny Smith, Gravenstein and Ida Red hold their shape when cooked, are best for cakes and pie and benefit recipes that require “a bit of acidity and bright flavor.” Firm-sweet apples like Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Ginger Gold, Honeycrisp and Jonagold work well in savory and sweet dishes that need firm, but sweet fruit. Tender-tart apples like Cortland, Macoun or McIntosh are best for soups and sauces. And lastly, tender-sweet Gala and Fuji apples suit quick-cooking dishes, dessert sauces and especially salads since neither tends to brown very quickly when sliced.

These apples are familiar because they (plus the ubiquitous Red Delicious) are the dozen best-selling in the United States. Traverso offers up a cheat sheet for how 48 more interesting but less common culinary apples (her favorites are the firm-tart Calville Blanc and firm-sweet Pink Lady, both of which are good options for her Pork and Apple Pie with Cheddar-Sage Crust, recipe below), line up in her categories as well.

Of the 123 apple varieties Rowan Jacobsen profiles in his book “Apples of Uncommon Character,” he only enthusiastically recommends about 40 for cooking. He says early summer apples should be eaten as the first raw tastes of apple season; that dessert apples (in the English sense of fruit being served for dessert) should also be eaten straight up; and that the bulk of what he calls keepers, should be taken fresh from the root cellar as a necessary dose of freshness in winter.

I cross-checked Jacobsen’s list with Traverso’s, looking for agreement on heirloom cooking apples and found only a baker’s dozen in common. Both authors agree that Arkansas Black, Ashmead Kernel, Bramley’s Seedling, Calville Blanc, Newtown Pippin, Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening, Rome, Roxbury Russet and Staymen Winesap apples would make great stand-ins for ordinary firm-tart Granny Smiths in cakes and pies. And they agree that Black Oxfords and Grimes Goldens can be used anywhere a recipe calls for a Braeburn. The Black Twig is the only one they agree upon as a tender-tart apple good for soups and sauces.

Understanding where the rest of the thousands of apples that grow in this region fall into your own recipes requires case-by-case research. The website maintained by Fedco Trees, an outgrowth of Fedco Seeds that is headed by Bunker, serves up an interactive chart ( depicting over 90 types of Maine apples, their flavor profiles, their best culinary uses and their seasonality.

Still, as the saying goes, there is no accounting for personal taste. So as you’re digesting virtual information about a new-to-you apple, take a bite out of the real thing to really understand how it might fit into your own favorite apple recipes moving forward.

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

]]> 6, 19 Sep 2016 06:07:37 +0000
Dine Out Maine: At Solo Italiano, there is magic in simplicity Sun, 18 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Three months ago, if you had asked me to predict at which restaurant I would eat jaw-achingly sweet blackberries – plump as a toddler’s thumb and picked that morning by our server as she walked through a South Portland park – I would never have guessed Solo Italiano. Vinland, sure. Maybe even Fore Street or Local Sprouts Café, but not a glass-and-exposed-brick Commercial Street venture, right in the swirling center of Portland’s tourist vortex.

If you’ve been to the Old Port recently, you might recognize the location as the high-profile corner spot occupied until March by owner Angelo Ciocca’s previous restaurant, Ebb & Flow, which was open for just over a year and didn’t develop a clear identity. Now, with a restyled interior that tempers all the metal and glass with purples and deep blues, it feels like a space that has come to celebrate its proximity to the water.

That’s just as true of the Ligurian menu that Genova-born Paolo Laboa, Solo Italiano’s executive chef and co-owner, has developed. Each section features seafood, from antipasti to secondi, not to mention an entire list of raw fish dishes, prepared in the restaurant’s open crudo kitchen. Even the thin and cheesy, Recco-style focaccia options include seafood.

“People in Maine really get fish,” Laboa said. “They’re used to being surrounded by beautiful seafood, and they want to eat it. I’m Genovese, I understand that. It’s a lot like where I come from, with a mountain in the back, then just the city, and then the sea.”

No surprise then that Laboa (along with his crudo chef, Jordan Rubin) is talented at using ingredients from the ocean. You can taste it in dishes like the Italian-Spanish carpaccio “gazpacho” ($14), an island of thinly sliced, buttery yellowtail surrounded by a lagoon of radiant yellow puree made from cucumber, tomato, bread, basil and garlic. Or the tender braised octopus ($18) with saffron-kissed, slow-cooked new potatoes, bottarga and chili flakes, which was a terrific take on a Mediterranean classic, despite needing perhaps another minute on the grill.

While seafood is a strength at Solo Italiano, it is by no means the restaurant’s specialty. Laboa, who previously helmed Farina in San Francisco, was the winner of the World Pesto Championship in 2008, and he makes sure to include his prize-winning sauce in several places, such as in the silk handkerchief (mandilli di seta) pasta ($22), where his classic basil pesto pops up as the star of the show. Indeed, it is not uncommon for Laboa’s pestos to be the best component of a dish, as with his dandelion version, served alongside a blended romesco-like tomato sauce underneath a too-generously salted fillet of halibut ($36). So too, in his take on orecchiette and sausage ($22), where Laboa takes a theoretical approach to pesto by pureeing not herbs, but blanched Stonecipher Farm broccolini stems and olive oil in order to distribute a vibrant green freshness through the dish. It’s a pity that the underseasoned housemade sausage did not add much to the pasta, because the components of this dish that did work were phenomenal.

Another place where Laboa’s pesto genius played out to note-perfect effect was in his creative interpretation of a tomato and basil salad, reinvented as a dessert. His Caprese gelatos ($9) comprised one dairy-free scoop of fruity, fragrant tomato sorbetto and one full-fat, raw milk-based scoop of grassy, aromatic basil gelato, united not by mozzarella but by fresh whipped cream and a single drop of balsamic vinegar. It reminded me of school vacations when I would eat ripe, late-summer tomatoes off the vine while my father mowed the lawn nearby. Absolutely sublime.

There was something nostalgic, too, about the papardelle with lamb ragu ($23). Described by the menu as “an inconceivable local heirloom tomato sauce,” the ragu was made with ground lamb shoulder, sage, rosemary and juniper, and served on a bed of precisely al dente egg pasta, infused with mint. At our table, we were split on this dish. We were all captivated by the elaborate interplay of herbs, and while some of us loved the homey, rustic presentation that called to mind a very grandmotherly way of cooking, some of us wanted to see a little more cheffy technique, especially in a plate of pasta that cost upwards of $20.

I’ll admit, I was torn myself, until I talked with Laboa later and asked him about his vision for the restaurant. Real Italian recipes, like his family’s pesto, are what he cares about most, and if that allows him a chance to show off, that’s fine. If not, he’s OK with that, too.

“We buy a lot of stuff from farms that is already beautiful,” he said. “I just don’t touch the food too much, don’t overdo it, don’t overdress it. Let the food speak and give the flavors some freedom.”

That restraint is key. It’s what makes Laboa the kind of chef who will serve you a cold beet salad with sharp Gorgonzola ($11) and decorate the plate with nothing but lemon zest. Or send out a wobbly, barely set panna cotta ($8) and unashamedly skip ornate garnishes to present it simply, with a dozen perfect South Portland blackberries foraged by his front-of-house staff. He told me, “Those blackberries are what we’re about. Simple food, but we try to pay attention to all the details. Small things, they make a big difference.” And despite a few minor hiccups, it is precisely those tiny, magical elements, not the lurid Commercial Street pageantry you might expect, that make Solo Italiano such a welcome surprise.

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. He can be contacted at:

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

Molly and Rich Evans of Portland enjoy a drink after their meal.

Molly and Rich Evans of Portland enjoy a drink after their meal. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

]]> 1, 17 Sep 2016 20:38:48 +0000
There’s a new cocktail bar coming to the Old Port Fri, 16 Sep 2016 18:58:02 +0000 Portland resident Joshua Miranda plans to open a new cocktail bar called Proper Charlie’s in the Old Port in November.

The bar will be located at 26 Exchange St., once the location of Lovell Designs.

In a letter filed with his liquor license application, Miranda said he wants “to attract a more mature clientele back to the Old Port,” one that appreciates high-end and local liquors, as well as “contemporary techniques with a classic cocktail foundation in a chic, cosmopolitan atmosphere.”

According to a sample menu filed with the application, Proper Charlie’s cocktails will cost in the $10-13 range and have clever retro names, such as “The Tennessee Williams,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Tequila Mockingbird” and “Roman Holiday.”

The kitchen will serve bites such as smoked cod Scotch eggs and South Indian spiced beef.

Proper Charlie’s will be open from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily; the kitchen will be open until midnight.

]]> 5 Fri, 16 Sep 2016 19:46:57 +0000
Brian Boru: A familiar old friend in Portland Thu, 15 Sep 2016 15:32:31 +0000 0, 15 Sep 2016 12:46:14 +0000 Augusta culinary arts teacher to appear on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Wed, 14 Sep 2016 20:30:19 +0000 AUGUSTA — Heidi Parent just started her job as culinary arts teacher at the Capital Area Technical Center. But it’s possible she won’t even last the entire school year.

Parent, 35, is one of 18 contestants on the upcoming season of Gordon Ramsay’s reality cooking competition, “Hell’s Kitchen,” and the winner receives a one-year contract offer for $250,000 to be the head chef of a restaurant at The Venetian Las Vegas casino hotel.

“I don’t regret doing it, but I would never do it again,” Parent said last week in the center’s kitchen. “It was a lot of time away, and it was really stressful.”

So how did the former executive chef at Fishbones in Lewiston get on one of the most popular cooking competitions on television?

Parent was bored one summer day several years ago and decided to complete the show’s lengthy application because she was always home “watching and saying I could do better than that or what are they doing.”

She got a quick response from the show’s casting department, which invited her to an open call in Boston. She went through several on-camera interviews and was a standby contestant for season 15 before being chosen for season 16, which began filming in October 2014.

“We filmed in Los Angeles, but I can’t say how long I was out there,” Parent said. “But I can say that the show films for six weeks.”

Confidentiality aside, Parent said the experience of working for Ramsay was one she’ll never forget. She said the Scottish cooking icon was friendly and personable off-camera, when he had time to chat, but increased his energy when the cameras were rolling.

“He’s amped up, but it’s usually for good reason, like if somebody was really messing up,” Parent said. “He’d converse with us when he had time, but he’s so busy and there wasn’t a lot of down time.”

Parent has only been at the Capital Area Technical Center for a few weeks, but her students are already getting a feel for the kind of cook and teacher she is. Several said they are looking forward to seeing her when the show premieres on Fox at 8 p.m. Sept. 23.

“There are so many things she applies her skills to in the kitchen, but she’s also really good in the classroom,” said junior Jared Orio. “She explains every single detail so that when we do get into the kitchen, we know exactly what we’re going to do.”

Orio, in his first year in the culinary arts program, said he hopes to pursue cooking as a career.

“I can tell by the way she pushes us in class that she probably did amazing on the show,” Orio said. “It’s crazy seeing her here helping us and then on a TV show. I can’t wait.”

Juniors Blake Robbins and Daria Murray both said Parent has an attitude and personality that makes the day fun. Murray said she’s hands-on and gives a lot of examples, and Robbins said Parent is funny and crative.

Parent took over for Charles Izzy, who ran the program in Augusta for 28 years, and he told Parent to make the program her own. She reorganized the classroom and made the kitchen more like what students would see in the real world, and she’s continuing to get more comfortable as a teacher.

Most of Parent’s students are in their first year in the culinary arts program, so she had to start with the basics of safety and sanitation before moving to knife skills. Working with students at different levels has its challenges, Parent said, so she wants to make sure everyone is on the same page.

“I’ve got students that never got past making cereal with milk, but others come in and show me pictures of the pies they made the night before,” she said. “So I’m still figuring things out, but as long as there is structure, there won’t be any problems.”

Assistant teacher Valerie Arbour, who has been at the center for 19 years, said Parent’s doing a great job with the kids because she gets her point across with a sense of humor.

“She’s going to be on national television, she’s got the tattoos and the kids look at her like she’s one of them,” Arbour said.

Parent, who is married with three children, including two teenage stepchildren, said the teaching schedule suits her family life better than being an executive chef. Her husband, Paul, works in trucking, and Parent said there were many days when the two wouldn’t see each other at all.

“I’m definitely taking a pay cut, but having weekends off and working only 185 days instead of more than 300 is going to be really nice,” she said.

However, if she wins “Hell’s Kitchen” and moves to Las Vegas, all bets are off.

“I hope she doesn’t win,” Arbour said. “I’d hate to have her leave to go to Vegas and run a kitchen for a quarter-million-dollar salary. But I would totally understand.”

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

]]> 0, 14 Sep 2016 20:26:20 +0000
‘The Modern Preserver’ gets creative with canning Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The Modern Preserver: Jams, Pickles, Cordials, Compotes and More.” By Kylee Newton. Countryman Press $25.95

Canning is not fun. With all of the attendant preparation, sterilization of jars and sweating over a simmering pot often in the height of summer, canning is labor.

What is fun is having canned, possessing the finished product, pretty jars sitting on a dark shelf as the temperature dips and scarcity replaces splendor, that satisfaction equivalent, as the “Joy of Cooking” puts it, “only to a clear conscience or a very becoming hat.”

“The Modern Preserver” by Kylee Newton presents a very different view. Here, canning is color and flash, preservation for an all-at-once age. A celebration not so much of capturing the seasons – Newton briefly describes the importance of using produce at its peak and wasting none of it – but of the alchemy of blending flavors to create something new and capturing that thing, like a sprite, in a jar with a vacuum seal.

Newton, a New Zealander who has lived for years in London, where she sells her homemade creations as Newton & Pott, encourages readers in the introduction to play with fruits and vegetables that are grown around the world and are now more accessible than ever.

“Let travel influence your ideas, spin that flavor wheel and try out new and interesting combinations,” she writes.

This is not your guide to canning local produce. Here recipes are offered for Beets and Orange Chutney, Roasted Pineapple and Coconut Sweet Pickle, Apple and Sage Butter, and Passionfruit Curd.

Yet, I did go to Newton’s book looking for ways to make the most of what’s ripe in my garden right now. Her recipe for homemade ketchup may be sedate, but it excited for me for its simplicity. She adds apples for sweetness, making this a perfect recipe for right now in New England, when local tomatoes and apples are abundant.

The bag of raspberries in my freezer are bound for Chocolate and Raspberry Jam. And I’ve earmarked Blueberries In a Pickle and Rhubarb and Prosecco Jelly, for when the seasons come around again. (Call me old-fashioned.)

Newton spends just two pages on sterilization and food safety. Her recipes generally recommend pouring hot contents into well-sterilized jars and sealing, without the extra step of processing the finished jars in boiling water or a pressure cooker. Lots of people have done it that way for many years, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that method isn’t enough to absolutely prevent botulism.

Use “Modern Preserver” for its many tantalizing recipes. For a guide to the basics of food preservation, try the “Joy of Cooking.”


Makes 4-5 17-ounce bottles

Newton writes that the key to thick ketchup is steeping the tomatoes in salt as long as possible, for at least three hours, and draining well. (I left them to steep overnight.) She recommends eating this with fish and chips, burgers (duh), or “anything else you like eating with ketchup.” Which, with this recipe, might be everything.

To make the spice bag, wrap the spices in a small piece of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine.

4 pounds tomatoes (preferably vine)

1 tablespoon salt

1 pound apples

1 pound onions

1 cup raw granulated sugar

11/4 cup distilled malt vinegar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground allspice


1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon whole cloves, lightly toasted

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp chili flakes

Roughly chop the tomatoes, place in a large bowl and gently stir through with the salt. Leave to steep for at least 3 hours. If you don’t want tomato skins in your ketchup, blanch the tomatoes to remove the skins before chopping and salting.

Meanwhile, peel, core and dice the apples, and peel and roughly chop the onions.

Drain off the excess salted liquid from the tomatoes and prepare the spice bag. Put the tomatoes and spice bag, along with all the other ingredients, in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and bring to boil.

Simmer and stir steadily for 1 hour until the mixture has thickened and reduced by around a third.

Remove the spice bag and leave to cool then use a food processor or a food mill to blend the mixture to a smooth sauce-like consistency.

Return the sauce to the pan and bring to boil once again, simmering and stirring for another 20 minutes, skimming off any scum on the surface as it reduces.

Remove from the heat once it is as thick as you want it.

Using a funnel, ladle or pour the ketchup into warm, dry sterilized bottles.

Gently tap the bottom of the bottles on a hard surface to remove any air bubbles, then seal.

Can be eaten immediately but best left to mature for 2-4 weeks before opening.

Keeps for up to 6 months to a year unopened. Once opened, refrigerate and eat within 4 months.

]]> 0, 14 Sep 2016 08:43:12 +0000
With tomatoes at their best, think beyond the BLT Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 While we all have access to tomatoes in even the depths of winter, the words we use to describe them sound like other names for disappointment – mealy, bland and sad. But describe an encounter with the best summertime tomatoes, and suddenly it sounds as if you’re reliving some steamy affair – luscious, sumptuous and messy.

The best summertime tomatoes have a super juicy interior with a taste that hovers from sweet to acidic to, most importantly, savory. You probably think I’m joking, but tomatoes contain a high proportion of glutamic acid, which also lends Parmesan cheese and soy sauce their oddly meaty powers. Kind of amazing, no?

As an American, I make sure to eat my fair share of BLT sandwiches; when done right, it is a nearly flawless creation. But it’s not the only word on tomatoes and bread. There’s a wide world of options out there, and making the slightest adjustment to the bread or the fat used completely changes the result. The only rule is to keep things simple.

Let’s start with the obvious. We’ve all heard of bruschetta, right? At its simplest, the base recipe is nothing more than toasted or grilled slices of bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and salt. If you’re using great bread, this can be satisfying, if a tad boring. But add tomatoes to the mix and maybe some torn basil, and now you have one of the most ubiquitous appetizers on earth. The crunch of the bread contrasts with the soft chopped tomatoes, with the garlic heat coming at the end.

In northern Spain, they also serve a toasted bread and tomato dish called pan de tomate (or pa amb tomaquet in the Catalan language), but while the ingredients are extremely similar to bruschetta, the dish differs dramatically. Instead of neatly chopped tomatoes and a pop of bright green basil, cooks drag a halved tomato across the toasted bread, saturating the slice and leaving a trail of pulp and seeds in its wake.

Compared to bruschetta, it’s a messy, unkempt sight. But it’s immensely satisfying, perhaps even more so than the Italian version, because of the mix of crunchy toasted bread and the soft tomato-soaked interior.

If you prefer your sandwich more handsome, follow the example of Denmark’s meticulously composed open-faced sandwiches, called smorrebrod. Though topping options are nearly limitless, they all start with a firm foundation of grilled or toasted rye bread spread with butter. One of the simplest is to pair sliced tomato with hard-cooked egg and watercress. You could stack all the ingredients on top of each other, but Nika Hazelton, in her book “Classic Scandinavian Cooking,” suggests placing eggs on one side and tomatoes on the other, with watercress neatly positioned on top. Be as fiddly as you like.

The result certainly looks much neater, but if you’re using plump summertime tomatoes, each bite is still adequately messy. The sliced egg adds a creaminess, while the tangle of watercress lends a pleasing peppery bite.

Not all tomato sandwiches need to be toasted. In the southern United States, tomato sandwiches are usually built on untoasted, pearly white bread. While the softness of the bread seems destined to buckle under the juicy tomato slices, a healthy coating of mayonnaise helps protect it. What kind of mayonnaise? According to Southern cookbook author Virginia Willis, store-bought brands are actually the traditional way, with the regional brand Duke’s being mentioned often, though Hellman’s works, too.

Honestly, I quite enjoyed the sandwich I made with Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise, though that will seem sacrilegious to some.

Regardless of which recipe you try, the tomato sandwich should be unreasonably messy, necessitating a nearby stack of napkins for backup. That part of the sandwich crosses all borders.

Pan de tomate is a simple way to savor the flavor.

Pan de tomate is a simple way to savor the flavor.


Makes 2 servings

1 large tomato

Salt and pepper

2 slices rustic bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 clove garlic, peeled, sliced in half

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

10 fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped

Chop the tomato, discarding the core, and transfer to a bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well; set aside for 10 minutes.

Heat a broiler to high. Place bread slices on a baking sheet; transfer to the top rack of the oven underneath the broiler. Cook until bread is well toasted on top, about 2 minutes. Flip and toast bread on the other side, about 2 minutes. Remove and immediately rub one side of both slices with cut side of the garlic.

Spoon the chopped tomatoes over the garlic-rubbed side of both slices of bread. Drizzle each with olive oil; garnish with fresh basil.


Makes 2 servings

2 slices of rustic bread, sliced 1-inch thick

1 clove garlic, peeled, sliced in half

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 large tomato, cut in half

Salt and pepper

Heat a broiler to high. Place bread on a baking sheet; transfer to the top rack of the oven underneath the broiler. Cook until bread is well toasted on top, about 2 minutes. Flip and toast bread on the other side, about 2 minutes. Remove and immediately rub one side of both slices with cut side of the garlic.

Drizzle both slices with olive oil. Take a tomato half and firmly rub it on the top of one slice of bread, leaving some of the pulp and seeds behind, but not the skin. Repeat on other slice. Season with salt and pepper.

Tomato and egg smorrebrod

Tomato and egg smorrebrod


Adapted from “Classic Scandinavian Cooking” by Nika Hazelton.

Makes 1 serving

1 slice dense rye bread

1 tablespoon softened butter

1/2 large tomato, core removed, sliced

1 hard-cooked egg, shelled, sliced

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup fresh watercress

Heat a broiler to high. Place bread on a baking sheet; transfer to the top rack of the oven underneath the broiler. Cook until bread is well toasted on top, about 2 minutes. Flip and toast bread on the other side, about 2 minutes. Spread one side with butter.

Place slices of tomatoes on half of the bread. Place egg slices on the other. (You can also build egg and tomato slices one on top of the other.) Season with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Top with watercress.


Makes 1 serving

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 slices white bread

1 large tomato, core removed, sliced thickly

Salt and pepper

Spread the mayonnaise on one side of both slices of bread. With one slice facing mayonnaise-side up, add a tomato slice and season with salt and pepper. Continue adding tomato slices and seasoning them until the whole tomato has been used. Top with slice of bread facing mayonnaise-side down. Slice sandwich down the middle and serve.

]]> 0, 14 Sep 2016 08:16:44 +0000
Pasta salad goes everywhere without losing any appeal Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I am on the road for work fairly often, and although my teenage daughter and husband can surely fend for themselves while I am away, it puts me at ease knowing I have left them with a couple of prepared dishes in the refrigerator.

This pasta salad is one I make again and again at my daughter’s request, whether I am heading out of town or not. She typically digs into it when she gets home from school, famished after volleyball practice, but I have dubbed it the Lunch Box Pasta Salad because of the way it holds up in a cooler pack, making it an ideal midday meal for toting to work or school.

I use whole-grain pasta (specifically fusilli, because its corkscrew shape ensnares all the flavorful salad ingredients), but you could use any short shape: farfalle or penne, for example.

The salad is chock-full of chopped, colorful vegetables – bell peppers, broccoli and tomatoes – along with diced, fresh mozzarella cheese.

The dressing is a classic combination of extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and a touch of garlic.

But what makes this salad most unique and serviceable is what it doesn’t have. There is nothing in it that becomes soggy or unappealing after several days in the refrigerator or hours in a lunchbox.

Instead of dicing a large tomato, which quickly becomes mealy mush with refrigeration, I use grape tomatoes, which are firm enough to hold up beautifully.

The bell peppers and broccoli retain their crispness, and I use dried herbs to avoid unappealing, oxidized, wilted leaves.

It’s a salad that I am confident will make it into regular rotation in your home, as it has in mine.


This colorful pasta salad, full of vegetables and fresh mozzarella cheese in an herb-garlic vinaigrette dressing, earns its name for being an ideal meal to tote to work or school.

Makes 4 servings

8 ounces whole-grain fusilli pasta

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 small clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced

1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

1 cup cooked, chilled, coarsely chopped broccoli

6 ounces fresh, part-skim mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-to-1/2-inch dice

Cook the pasta al dente according to directions on the package. Drain, then transfer it to a large bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon of the oil and allow it to cool completely.

Whisk together in a small bowl the remaining 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of olive oil, the vinegar, oregano, basil, garlic, salt and black pepper to form a dressing.

Add the bell pepper, tomatoes, broccoli, mozzarella and dressing to the pasta, and toss to combine.

Krieger blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at

]]> 0, 14 Sep 2016 08:16:47 +0000
For plant-eaters, lots to discover and devour at Common Ground Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Richard Tory offers an easy solution to this season’s bounty of fresh vegetables and foraged mushrooms: Reduce them.

The organic farmer and longtime mushroom proponent will lead two all-vegan classes demonstrating how and why to make homemade broths and reductions at this year’s Common Ground Country Fair.

The annual celebration of local, organic food is hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and takes place Sept. 23 to 25 in Unity. Last year marked the highest attendance ever, with more than 65,000 visitors.

Tory has made homemade broth for a long time, while reductions are a more recent passion.

“I was into making vegetable broth with all the ends of stuff and then I started experimenting with mushrooms,” Tory said. “I finally realized you could reduce it all the way down so it’s like a syrup. No salt, no fat – just the mushroom essence. It is an unusual taste.”

A retired social worker, Tory runs Shooting Star Farm in Canaan and is a vegetarian who leans vegan and macrobiotic. He’s been foraging for mushrooms and leading mushroom-hunting workshops and walks for decades. Tory also is a familiar name on the Common Ground roster, yet this is the first year he’s offering a class on broths and reductions.

His broth-making process begins with three quarts of water and “about 10 cups of chopped-up things” – assorted vegetables, mushrooms, broccoli stems, garlic. He does the same with a mix of only mushrooms.

He boils the broth for roughly an hour and then strains out the solids. This creates about a gallon of flavorful vegetable or mushroom broth. If he keeps cooking the broth for another 30 minutes or so, it reduces to about a cup of syrup bursting with umami flavor.

“It’s sweet and very rich and it almost tastes like beef,” said Tory, who first embraced vegetarianism in 1971 on a Maine commune. “Not that I remember beef very much.”

Tory is fond of the “intoxicating aroma” that fills his house as this broth reduces. He uses the resulting reduction to drizzle on vegetables and grains or as a base for soups and sauces.

“You almost want to drink it off by itself,” Tory said.

He stresses that cooking mushrooms is important, as it neutralizes any bacterial contamination and makes the mushrooms easier to digest. “If you do have a problem with (mushroom) digestion, you’re not going to have a problem with the broth,” Tory said.

Tory’s classes are among 650 workshops, talks, performances and other events taking place at this year’s fair. Find a complete schedule at Educational displays, hands-on demos and exhibitors related to agriculture, environmental concerns, social and political action, energy and shelter, health and healing, crafts, herbs and folk arts can be explored across the fairground. The Exhibition Hall features judged entries of organic vegetables, fruits and flowers.

But the draw for many is the food. Now in its 40th year, the fair features two huge organic farmers markets at each gate and two sprawling food courts on either side of the grassy common.

Fair staff closely vet the food to make sure every ingredient used is certified organic. (Rare exceptions are made when a particular ingredient can’t be obtained anywhere as certified organic.)

Unlike conventional agricultural fairs, the Common Ground provides a robust selection of vegan and vegetarian options.

This year, vegan choices include falafel, black bean tacos, samosas, wraps, baked potatoes, fried mushrooms, veggie burgers, channa masala and eggplant sandwiches.

At last year’s fair, Heiwa Soy Beanery, based in Rockport, won the blue ribbon for the most unusual food: its vegan tofu fries. Heiwa will be back again this year.

“We take the tofu and cut it up into a french fry crinkle cut because it’s classic and fun, and the crinkle cut brings a smile to people’s faces,” Heiwa owner Jeff Wolovitz said. “We soak the tofu in a saltwater brine to add extra flavor and to allow it to crisp up. Then we deep fry. You get this nice crisp outside and this creamy, custardy inside.”

The fries come with either a sesame-garlic or a cranberry ketchup dipping sauce.

Dessert is a little trickier for vegan fairgoers. One classic Common Ground Fair sweet choice is the Pie Cone, and the ones with only fruit fillings are vegan. And vegans who eat honey can try a new dessert vendor this year. The Ice Cup booth run by Sara Moscoso of Swanville will serve a powdery shave ice flavored with a cold-pressed mixture of strawberries or blueberries sweetened with honey.

“When I traveled to Nicaragua, I got into the shave ice they make there,” Moscoso said. “I came home and researched all the different ways different countries have of shaving ice.”

Her investigation led her to purchase an ice shaver from Japan that makes shave ice eaten “with a spoon rather than a straw.”

Tory points out that while Common Ground is much more veg-friendly than typical agricultural fairs, “it’s not a vegetarian fair” and notes that sensitive plant-eaters will need to sidestep the grilled meat booths just as they would at a conventional fair.

The difference is this fair is much more welcoming to vegetarians of all stripes.

“If you’re a vegan, it’s all there,” Tory said. “The farmers market, the herbs, the talks and a lot of information. And if you don’t eat animals but just like to look at them, it’s fabulous.”

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 1, 14 Sep 2016 08:16:43 +0000
Bread and Butter: Joys and sorrows of the staff revolving door Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Wiley, chef and co-owner of Eventide Oyster Co., Hugo’s and The Honey Paw, all on Middle Street in Portland, is the second chef to contribute to our occasional chef-written series, Bread and Butter. This is the first of his three columns.

I’m not going to whine about how hard it is to hire good cooks, because enough ink has been spilled on the subject already. Cooking is hard work, it eats up a lot of time, and it isn’t for everyone. But as part owner of three restaurants in Portland – Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honey Paw – I can say with authority that staffing sure is hard.

A lot of cooks have quit our restaurants over the years. We’ve fired a few people for dangerous, insane or illegal behavior, but for the most part, cooks leave of their own volition. We’ve had people leave our kitchens and change careers entirely; frequently these folks need more time with their families and a more “normal” work schedule. Or they finally succumbed to the siren’s call of insurance adjusting, I’m not sure which.

Occasionally, cooks quit because they don’t like the job. Earlier this summer, in an unforgivable display of cowardice, a cook walked out the door without giving any notice on a very busy Saturday afternoon – he melted a plastic container by accident, and was embarrassed. You should hear the Hugo’s cooks talk when his name comes up.

On the other end of the spectrum, fantastic cooks like Dane Newman, who had worked for us for almost three years, move to Seattle for their partner’s career, no matter how much begging I did – or how much I slandered the Emerald City.

In some cases, the best thing to do is to shoo people out the door. Since in this industry, cooks aren’t in it for the money, learning is part of the salary. If we come to a point where we don’t have much left to teach cooks, it seems like the right thing to encourage them to find a new job where they can grow and learn.

However it happens, it’s always painful to lose a staff member with whom you’ve shared a lot personally and professionally. I can’t imagine that rehashing “Game of Thrones” around the water cooler in an office setting forges the same kind of deep bond that challenging prep days and busy services at restaurants can.

In fact, people in restaurants become so close, so dependent on each other that many chefs behave like disowned parents when valuable cooks leave.

But such behavior is childish and short-sighted. We’ve been lucky enough to rehire cooks regularly. We’ve hired Teen Wolf (Ian Driscoll, who started at Hugo’s and needed a haircut, hence the nickname) something like three times, maybe because we got a him a gift certificate to Eleven Madison Park (one of New York City’s best restaurants) when he left the first time. Or maybe because we treated him like a human being.

I’m interested to see if Nick Nappi ever comes back. We presented him with a gilded Gray Kunz spoon. If that’s not a symbolic parting gift, I don’t know what is. (Gray Kunz, for those of you not in my world, ran the four-star Lespinasse in New York for many years. And he designed a special spoon for chefs to taste, portion and sauce.)

We’ve been lucky enough to have cooks work in the building while they are working toward opening their own restaurants, such talents as Anders Tallberg (eventually, he opened Roustabout) and Chris Gould (Central Provisions). Right now, Brant Dadaleares is helping us out in the pastry department (and pulling the occasional shucking shift at Eventide) as he works toward opening his dessert bar.

It is a privilege to have such dedicated professionals staff our restaurants. We provide them a source of income and a place where they can keep their knives and skills sharp before their own spots open, and they set a high standard of professionalism in our kitchen. I’m not so deluded as to think that they’re working for us to pick up new recipes from the likes of me. But I am thrilled that they serve our kitchens’ culture by inspiring and teaching greener cooks.

It’s funny, people want to believe that all restaurants have one artistic genius, the brilliant chef, from whose noggin springs – like Athena from Zeus – inspired and delicious dishes. This is not the case. At least not for us.

When I try to be frank with our guests about where the ideas and food come from, I get the sense they think my explanations are false modesty. That’s not it at all: A lot of really talented and hardworking people work in our restaurants, and everything is a collaboration.


This dish is a real crowd-pleaser. You can bake it as a big log or pack it into the same kind of pan you might use for meat loaf, or you could make it into little meatballs.

Serve this with pitas, a red onion and tomato salad, grated cucumbers in a yogurt dressing, some leaf lettuce, and maybe a little hot sauce on the side.

2 pounds ground beef (90 percent lean)

1 tablespoon Diamond Kosher Salt

1 onion, minced

5 garlic cloves, minced

5 parsley sprigs, minced

1 mint sprig, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper (sweet paprika is a reasonable substitute)

1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Combine salt and dry spices with the ground beef.

Allow to cure in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

After curing period, transfer mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.

Paddle on low for 5 minutes.

While the mixer is running, add garlic, onion, parsley and mint.

Choose your shape – logs, meatloaf or meatballs.

Arrange schwarma mixture on a baking sheet, and bake until golden brown and delicious. Internal temperature should be 155 degrees F.

Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Arrange your delicious Grecian buffet, and slice schwarma as you like it.

While you bask in the adulation of your friends and loved ones, look skyward and whisper, “Thank you, Chef Ben Groppe.”

]]> 6, 14 Sep 2016 08:16:38 +0000
USM ready to get students started in Maine’s food scene Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The University of Southern Maine is launching a food studies program next spring to provide a broad, liberal arts-style education in food and offer at least 30 paid internships a year to students who want to try working in food-related businesses or anti-hunger organizations in Maine.

The $720,000 program will be paid for by the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, a public-private partnership that promotes economic development through Maine’s public universities. It will roll out over the next three years, starting with an undergraduate minor in food studies next spring, followed by undergraduate and graduate internships in fall. In spring 2018, graduate certificates in food studies will be available, as well as master’s level electives offered through existing graduate programs in business and social work.

“One of the things we’re going to emphasize is bringing local and national speakers to campus on a regular basis,” said Michael Hillard, the economics professor who first proposed the program two years ago. “We’re going to have good funding for that.”

Food studies programs are cropping up all over the country, especially in places where there is a rapidly growing food economy and a larger culture interested in local foods, ethically produced foods and issues such as sustainability and food insecurity. Maine has all of this, Hillard noted, plus “an incredible entrepreneurial business culture that’s producing the unbelievable restaurant industry we have in Portland and the microbrewery scene.”

The hope is that the food studies program will help bring all of these diverse parts of the food economy together and, at the same time, provide food-related businesses with a better-trained workforce to help build the state’s food system, which many see as a powerful new economic engine. The program would also help USM’s bottom line by attracting students who are passionate about food and social justice.

“Food studies” has been defined as the interdisciplinary study of food systems. Nutrition professors have already embraced this concept, Hillard said, understanding that they can’t fight diabetes and obesity while totally ignoring the economics that contributes to such illnesses.

Hillard and others involved in creating the program are working this week at a retreat to develop the curriculum. The project has drawn the interest of some national leaders in the food studies field who will be at the retreat to guide the process and act as mentors. Tim Griffin, director of the Agriculture, Food, and Environment Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, will attend, as will Molly Anderson, who helped develop the food studies program at the College of the Atlantic and is now doing the same at Middlebury College in Vermont.

The program eventually will have three full-time faculty, a program director and an administrative specialist. Five existing faculty members, including Hillard and sociology professor Cheryl Laz, also will teach classes and an advisory board will oversee everything.


The curriculum is still in the planning stages. Food studies students will receive a “big picture” grounding in food systems that integrates the natural and social sciences, such as economics and geography, with the humanities, including food history and the anthropological study of food. There will be agricultural courses and courses about nutrition and social justice. A typical course might be similar to one that Hillard is teaching already – the Political Economy of Food – in which his students critique the way the nation’s corporate food system works.

Students also would have access to applied courses teaching professional skills that would, for example, help an entrepreneur run a food business or teach a fisherman how to keep better books.

Two visiting scholars will jump-start the food studies program next spring. Ardis Cameron, who taught American and New England Studies at USM before the program was eliminated in budget cuts, will collaborate with the Maine Humanities Council on a lecture series bringing nationally known speakers to campus. The other scholar is Kristin Reynolds, a food systems researcher and educator at The New School in New York who has just published a book called “Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City.”

More than 30 people have applied for the program director position, which will be filled in October, and word has gotten out about the new faculty positions, two of which will be advertised later this fall. The third faculty hire will happen next fall. It will have a focus on food security and will be a shared position with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service.

Hillard said the quality of applicants for the program director position has been “really off the charts.”

“I have great confidence that we’re going to have a great applicant pool,” he said.

A group that is designing a food studies program for USM discusses plans over lunch at Isa Bistro on Portland Street. The effort is under the direction of Michael Hillard, right, and includes, from left, Mary-Elizabeth Simms, Jo D. Saffeir and Ali Mediate.

A group that is designing a food studies program for USM discusses plans over lunch at Isa Bistro on Portland Street. The effort is under the direction of Michael Hillard, right, and includes, from left, Mary-Elizabeth Simms, Jo D. Saffeir and Ali Mediate.


Just two years ago, the university was slashing programs and laying off 50 faculty. Why this expansion?

“It has a lot to do with having good leadership and stable enrollments, since we’re so tuition-dependent,” Hillard said. He said the current administration has stabilized finances and enrollment, and the school is now thinking about how to regroup and invest in new things.

The food studies program has the support of Nancy Griffin, the new vice president for enrollment management who came to USM from Johns Hopkins University. According to her research looking at SAT data published last year, 133 college-bound seniors in Maine and 245 in New Hampshire indicated interest in an academic program related to food studies.

In a memo on enrollment projections for the food studies program, Griffin estimated that, after four years, USM could expect an enrollment of 40 to 80 undergraduates and 20 to 40 graduates students.

“That translates into roughly $1 million in tuition revenue if we have modest success,” Hillard said.

Nationwide, demand for food studies courses is high. Most schools are finding there are at least two applicants for every opening in food studies programs, according to the USM proposal, which states: “There is no doubt this gap will be filled by some Maine-based educational institution; the question is simply when and by whom?”

Jonah Fertig, a board member of the Maine Farm & Sea Cooperative, notes there are agriculture programs and culinary arts projects all over the state, and the food studies program could be a good way to connect them and provide professional development for people who work in the food world.

“There’s all these different roles people play in the food system,” he said, “and we really need to recognize those, connect them together, and be able to provide that institutional support to grow our food system here in the state.”

Kristen Miale, president of the Good Shepherd Food Bank, agreed. “There’s so much going on in Maine’s food system, from producers all the way to food insecurity, and it’s been largely fragmented,” she said. “There are so many different groups talking, and so many councils and meetings, it can make your head spin. This might provide some cohesiveness to it all.”

Academically, there’s no place for a student seeking a master’s degree in food studies to go in Maine. When Amanda Beal, president of the Maine Farmland Trust, wanted to pursue graduate studies in 2009, all of her options were out of state. She eventually enrolled in the well-regarded Tufts program.

“If there had been an option closer to home,” she said, “knowing that I wanted to continue my work in Maine, I likely would have taken full advantage of it.”

Beal thinks having a food studies program in Maine could also help keep graduates here after they earn their degrees. While she returned to Maine, “many of my classmates relocated to Boston for grad school and then moved on to jobs in other places from there.”


Caroline Paras, a community and economic planner at the Greater Portland Council of Governments, was invited to be on a committee examining the proposal, but admits that she didn’t even know food studies was an academic discipline before getting involved. She thinks all of the options offered by the program, including the graduate certificate, “really opens up the market of potential students.”

“It will appeal not only to students who want to get into the food world, but also professionals – well, professionals like me, to be honest,” she said. “I’ve been looking at Boston University’s gastronomy program.” Paras, who has been working with more food entrepreneurs lately, thinks professionals would use the food studies program to beef up their skills or as a stepping stone to a new career in food.

She is less sure about national appeal, although USM is planning to market the program nationally.

“Without a Ph.D. program or a standalone bachelor’s degree, I don’t think the offerings are strong enough to attract someone to come to Maine for this program,” she said.

Hillard foresees a time when food studies will become a full academic program with a degree, but launching such a program is costly, risky and takes time.

Fertig cautions that this new program shouldn’t just become a vehicle for creating “a new class of food system academics.” It needs to provide scholarships, internships and other forms of financial support for the people who work in the fields and on the boats to make sure the program is relevant out in the real world.

“The reality is our food service workers, farmers and fishermen are underpaid and overworked,” he said, “and we need to create opportunities for them to participate in a program like this.” Such workers would be able to both sharpen their business skills and learn more about the philosophical underpinnings of subjects such as sustainability.

The internship program will be funded by a separate $120,000 grant from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, enough to at least partially fund 30 internships a year. The hope is that employers will contribute something to an intern’s paycheck as well, which would make the money stretch further.

Many University of Southern Maine students already work close to full time (many of them in restaurants) while going to school full time, Hillard said, and most don’t live at home or in dorms. So offering unpaid internships seemed unrealistic, he said.

Miale is excited about getting access to interns and a better-skilled workforce more familiar with issues of food insecurity. She expects that Good Shepherd will double its staff in the next 10 years. “We always joke that no one majors in food banking,” she said.

Another advantage is having students available to do research.

“A huge hole in this work is the lack of good data and research behind it,” she said. “Food insecurity is tracked by the USDA once a year at the national level, yet we do virtually no data collection at the state level other than what we do with our network of partners, and because of our lack of resources, we need to do a better job.”

In preparing its proposal for a food studies program, the university examined the structure and curriculum of more than 20 food studies programs around the country, and reviewed programs and coursework in Maine to be sure there would be no duplication.

As a result, food studies students will learn business skills from USM business professors and will take nutrition classes through the University of Maine in Orono.

“One of the things we’re going to develop is an exchange program,” Hillard said. “If they have students up there who would like to become farmers but they would like to study policy for a semester,” those students will come to USM.

Fertig said the intention of the new program is community engagement, which means connecting the academics with what’s happening on the ground. He hopes that will help build a food system that is not only connected but “rooted in values as well – rooted in sustainability, in equity and local ownership.”

]]> 2, 14 Sep 2016 08:16:40 +0000
Thurston’s Wicked Good Burgers on Forest Avenue closes Tue, 13 Sep 2016 20:24:36 +0000 Thurston’s Wicked Good Burgers, 699 Forest Ave., served its last hamburger Sunday night, the chef announced on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Thurston’s, which opened in 2014, was known for its Angus beef burgers, frozen custard and gluten-free options. The restaurant used as many local ingredients as possible, including buns from Botto’s Bakery and dairy from Oakhurst, and produce from local farms. “Thank you all for visiting Thurston’s Wicked Good Burgers and Frozen Custard over the last two years,” chef Eric Schilly wrote on Facebook. “I wanted to let you all know that at the end of business hours today, 9:00pm, we will be serving our last burger. Thank you for all your support.”

Contacted by phone Tuesday, Schilly said he was re-evaluating the situation and was “not 100 percent sure” whether the restaurant would re-open elsewhere. He said he’s been looking for a new location, but has not yet found the right fit.

“Right now, it just wasn’t performing the way we wanted it to,” he said.

Customers did not seem willing to wait for a burger cooked to order, and because the restaurant purchased so many of its products locally, prices were higher than at fast-food hamburger joints. Thurston’s was more upscale than McDonald’s, for example, but not so upscale that it could serve wine and beer.

On top of that, the location was facing road construction next year that would have interfered with customer traffic.

Thurston’s is owned by Fred Thurston of Conifer Industries in New Gloucester. Thurston could not be reached for comment.

Thurston’s donated many of its profits to groups that help wounded veterans.

]]> 8, 14 Sep 2016 08:16:41 +0000
New pub opening in Yarmouth next week embraces comfortable role Mon, 12 Sep 2016 21:55:22 +0000 Yarmouth is getting a new pub called the Owl & Elm, scheduled to open at 365 Main St., next to Handy’s Market, on Sept. 20.

Yarmouth residents Sean Ireland and Caitlin Henningsen leased the space, previously occupied by You Wanna Pizza Me, from Scott Dugas.

“The pub is a place for everyone to share a family meal, catch up with an old friend, meet new friends, enjoy a game, listen to music, grab a drink or just stop in to say hello,” Henningsen said in a news release. “We hope to provide a space that is comfortable and familiar, a place that you can call your own.”

Two chefs have been hired to run the kitchen. Rocco Marzelli, formerly of Nosh Kitchen Bar in Portland, and Matthew Dorr, formerly of Hot Suppa in Portland, will produce comfort food with a contemporary flair, made from scratch, for the pub. Dishes will include pub classics such as seafood stew, sliced steak, mac-and-cheese, chicken pot pie, fish and chips, and French onion soup, according to Henningsen.

The Owl & Elm will be open daily from 4 to 10 p.m. Starting Columbus Day weekend, brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

]]> 13, 13 Sep 2016 06:32:16 +0000
Dine Out: At Salt in Vinalhaven, chef offers contemporary dishes, riffs on French bistro classics Sun, 11 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Every year, thanks to the arrival of ferries teeming with “summer people,” Vinalhaven’s population swells from about 1,200 to nearly twice that number. Year-round island residents are resigned to it, and although they see the economic benefit to hosting visitors, that doesn’t mean they have to like it.

Many avoid the sleepy commercial strip in town as much as possible, and, as one islander told me, “We just work and sort of hide out from July until the end of August. But it makes you crazy after a while, and you have to cheat sometimes. You end up going out to eat at least a few times in the summer.” And at Salt – a 40-seat, upscale and mostly French contemporary bistro housed in a centuries-old former pharmacy – the kitchen is ready for them.

To be fair, executive chef and owner John Feingold (formerly of Daniel in New York and Spring in Paris) is ready for all diners, including summer people. “In June, it’s probably 80 percent locals getting their licks in before the season, and then it flips in August and then drifts back,” he said. A tidal ebbing and flowing of customers seems just about right for a seasonal restaurant in one of the biggest lobstering communities in the nation, one that supplies Salt with exceptionally fresh seafood that frequently goes from ocean to plate in a matter of hours or minutes.

Salt’s strongest dishes are the ones that take full advantage of local ingredients, like the phenomenal lobster papardelle ($28), made with housemade egg pasta, bias-cut asparagus and English peas, and a simple saucing of red pepper flakes, garlic, pepper and olive oil. If I hadn’t read the menu, I might have thought this was an Asian dish, with wide, translucent noodles rolled out so thinly that they resembled knife-cut chow fun, plenty of peppery heat and tons of umami in the savory yet surprisingly light sauce. As a backdrop for juicy chunks of superb Vinalhaven-caught lobster, the lively, uncomplicated pasta was exactly the right choice.

Local Beets Done Five Ways ($12) were also an excellent showcase for local foods – this time from the ground, not the sea. Some of the beets were grown on the island’s own Sparkplug Farm, and some were hyperlocally sourced, “from a guy down the road with a garden in his yard. We call them East Main Street beets,” Feingold said. Although the dish dips a toe into the treacherous waters of molecular gastronomy with its beet “caviar” spheres and slightly too-gelatinized beet foam that reminded us of a 1970s Jell-O dessert, the real stars of the plate were the lavender poached beets, just floral enough to amplify the sweetness of the vegetable’s purple flesh. The earthy sauteed greens and a magenta impasto of beet paint, not to mention a generous grind of fresh pepper, brought the dish together in a way that made sense and, most importantly, tasted fantastic.

With the beets, we particularly enjoyed sipping the slightly astringent Harbor Fizz ($11), a gin-and-blueberry cocktail flavored with lemon juice and finished generously with Prosecco. It was our favorite beverage of the evening, followed by a grassy and occasionally too-tannic Tuscan Carmignano Capezzana ($37), and an homage to Maine: the Salt Elixir ($11) made with Moxie soda, Fernet Branca, lime and orange. It’s hard not to root for a cocktail made with the state’s official soft drink, but when you blend two complex concoctions (Fernet and Moxie), what you get is a tastebud overload, where bitter gentian and mentholated herbs dominate as the strongest flavors. Imagine dissolving a Ricola cough drop and lime juice into a Dr. Pepper, and you’ll get a sense of this ambitious cocktail’s peculiar character.

Unfortunately, drink service took a very long time, as did plate clearing. At one point, we sat at our small two-top table with cocktail and wine glasses, amuse bouche plates, a bread plate and appetizer plates, all crowded up, cheek by jowl, until our main dishes arrived with nowhere to set them. To her credit, once our server (who was still learning the ropes) figured out what was going on, she apologized and joked, pointing at the apothecary cabinet running the length of the wall behind us, “If those drawers still worked, we could just skip busing the tables and shove the extra dishes inside!” We had to laugh.

The food, too, hit a few bumps here and there. We found the Dream Dates ($9) appetizer, made with a tart, funky blue cheese mousse and a smear of balsamic reduction to be overpoweringly sweet to eat on its own, even with smoky bacon and a peppery nasturtium flower to cut through what Feingold himself called “the painful sweetness of dates.” The plate was also overgarnished with in-season pea flowers that obscured, rather than accented the dates beneath them.

Our seared Barbary Duck breast ($27) was cooked just beyond medium rare, and ended up a little tough. On the other hand, the simple, classic French Puy lentils, cooked in a mirepoix and stock and served alongside, were outstanding, as was the single tiny confited tomato that lent a much-needed sweetness to the dish. But not quite enough. It made us think that we should have taken our server’s earlier advice and used the apothecary drawers to stash one of those smoky dates to eat later on with the duck.

I was also struck throughout our visit that nearly every other table was ordering dessert. Perhaps, I thought, because it was early August, so many of our fellow diners must be summer people cutting loose on vacation. No matter – we couldn’t be outliers, so we chose, at our server’s “hands down” recommendation, the chocolate pot de crème ($9) with a caramel swirl and pleasingly bitter cocoa nibs. Intensely rich and topped with a quenelle of boozy, bourbon-infused whipped cream and a sprinkling of fine black Icelandic lava salt, the chocolate custard was faultless.

When I looked over, toward the bay window where a tin shark hangs menacingly, I saw a local business owner whom I had spoken with several times during my two-week visit, polishing off a serving of the very same pot de creme. So much for my theory about dessert. He saw me, waved a greeting (everyone waves to everyone on Vinalhaven), and gave a thumbs-up as he pointed down at his dish. Clearly, it wasn’t just summer people who appreciated what John Feingold and his sous chef Dudley Irwin were doing in the kitchen. “I always want to share what I love with lots of people, but no matter what month it is, my most important customers are the people of Vinalhaven,” Feingold said. “When I look around the room and see a sixth-generation fisherman coming back for another piece of Stilton, now that’s a home run for me.”

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, 12 Sep 2016 18:50:11 +0000
For healthy, forgiving cooking, try a foil pack in the oven Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Social media tells me that in part of the country, kids are already back to school. And so we are teetering between the lazy days of summer and the impending promise of crisp, cool air, long sleeves and the desire to fire down the grill and turn on the oven instead.

This is the perfect time to talk about one of my favorite shoulder-season cooking strategies: the foil pack. Place thinly sliced veggies with a little marinade or vinaigrette in a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and fold shut into a packet, pinching the edges, and this handy little guy will be equally delicious whether cooked on the grill if you have a hot fall day, or in the oven, if you’re already in pumpkin latte weather.

Add some fish or chicken, and you’ll have a full meal, all packaged and pretty in individual servings, a presentation that thrills dinner party guests and kiddos alike. Foil packet cooking is healthy – little fat is needed to accomplish tender, flavorful results.

And packet-cookery is incredibly forgiving – you basically can’t overcook a foil packet. A few minutes extra in the oven won’t ruin packet-fish like it would dry out a fillet cooked on the stovetop, grill or even just roasted directly in the oven. As a mom of four, I appreciate that kind of weeknight-meal flexibility.

Try my foil-pack fish tacos to master some of the basics, like layering the ingredients in order of how quickly they cook – the bottom will cook more quickly since it will be touching a direct heat source.

Fish tacos are an excellent summertime favorite to take with us into colder weather. I love using cod because it full of healthy fats which feed your brain, your heart and make you feel full, but it’s available frozen year-round. And these packets do great with frozen fish – no need to thaw before making.

Happy fall indeed.


Makes 4 servings

Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 fillets of cod (or other fish), frozen, about 4-5 ounces each

1 yellow onion, sliced thinly (about 2 cups)

2 sweet peppers (red, yellow, orange), sliced thinly (about 2 cups total)


2 cups chopped or sliced cabbage

1/4 cup plain Greek lowfat yogurt

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 chopped green onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Chopped tomatoes, for garnish (optional)

Salt and pepper

8 corn tortillas, for serving

Cubed avocado, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, mix together the lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, cumin and granulated garlic.

Cut four 12-inch by 12-inch pieces of heavy-duty foil. Dip the fish into the marinade and set aside.

Toss the onion and peppers in the marinade to coat, and divide among the foil squares. Place the fish on top of the onions and peppers.

Toss the tomatoes into the marinade and then place on top of the fish, along with any remaining marinade. Close the foil up into packets, crimping the edges together.

Place on a baking sheet and bake until fish is cooked through and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Subtract 10 minutes if you use fresh fish.

Meanwhile, mix together all the ingredients for the spicy slaw topping.

Serve one foil packet per person, along with corn tortillas, slaw for topping and avocado if desired.

]]> 1, 07 Sep 2016 08:16:23 +0000
Local restaurant server and finance expert work together to rethink flatware Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 David Muise talks about utensils the way other people talk about art or their favorite piece of furniture. To him, a fork is not just a vehicle for getting a bite of meatloaf into your mouth.

“The question I always ask people is – regardless of what you think of our flatware – are you using some sort of flatware that speaks to and of the person that you are, in relation to how you view your food culture and the food choices that you make?”

Muise and his friend and business partner, Bill Todd, have designed a new line of ceramic flatware that they say will change the way you eat and think about food. Stainless steel is old school. Gone are the teaspoon and salad fork, replaced by a combination teaspoon-tablespoon and a fork that can both stab a steak and pick up a pea. Their flatware – the line is called Certine – does not have traditional flat handles. Certine handles are triangular, in an attempt to make them more ergonomic.

The explosion in food culture has led to innovation in almost every part of the dining process, from the way people get their food to the way they prep it. One thing that has not changed much in the past century, Muise argues, is “the part you stick right in your mouth.”

Oddly enough, Muise and Todd came to their interest in flatware separately, then bonded over happy hour at David’s restaurant in Monument Square.

Muise, who was working as server at David’s Opus 10, remembers an evening when he was setting the tables and suddenly realized that nearly everything in front of him, from the butter dish to the dinner plates, were made of ceramic. As he laid down the flatware, “it seemed odd and out of place that I would be putting down these metal instruments.”

But it was just a passing thought.

Bill Todd, left, Rachel Rodrigues and David Muise, co-founders of Certine flatware, at Casco Bay Cutlery in Freeport.

Bill Todd, left, Rachel Rodrigues and David Muise, co-founders of Certine flatware, at Casco Bay Cutlery in Freeport.


Then one day when he was visiting with Todd, who works in finance in Portland – this was five years ago – Todd told him how he had been eating a stew made with cherry tomatoes and andouille sausage when he had a terrible experience.

“I had dental work and a regular spoon and fork,” Todd recalled. When he took a bite of the acidic stew, “I tasted the fork, and I didn’t like the taste. When you have amalgam fillings and nickel and acid, you create a battery in your mouth. And I thought, why can’t we have (ceramic) spoons like we have in Asian restaurants?”

Todd started researching and brainstorming with Muise, who has been involved in entrepreneurial projects before, and the two set about finding out what kind of ceramic mixture they would need to manufacture their own cutlery. They started thinking about design.

The last innovation in forks, Muise notes, was in the early 1800s when they went from three tines to four tines. “This is complacency,” he said. “And it’s also profitability. You can manufacture a fork made out of steel for dirt cheap.”

One of the big issues they wanted to tackle was taste.

“For some people, it’s noticeably metallic or bitter” to eat with a stainless steel utensil, Muise said. “When your food, the metal, the unique pH balance of your saliva and or any dental work you may have is interacting with food, your fork or your spoon becomes, in essence, the final arbiter of flavor.”

Sarah Coffin, head of the product design and decorative arts department at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, said the same rationale has long been used for silver, “that the taste is benign.” Although stainless steel is said to be “pretty neutral,” she said, “I don’t happen to like (it) very much in terms of eating off it. I do think it does slightly” impart a taste. And it turns out there is precedent for ceramic cutlery: Knife and fork handles and entire spoons were sometimes made of porcelain a few hundred years ago, she said, but “they rarely survived.”

There’s also the issue of the transfer of heat and cold. Put a metal spoon into hot soup, and within seconds the spoon is really hot and the soup is cooling, Muise and Todd say. Similarly, ice cream sticks to stainless spoons, like a tongue on a frozen flagpole.

Hold up a utensil at home, and you’ll see lots of microabrasions and perhaps some pitting on the stainless steel, which can affect texture and provide hiding places for bacteria.

For months, Muise worked nights as a server, and spent his days reading scientific journals, working on designs and contacting manufacturers. He consulted with a ceramics expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the inventor of the ceramic baseball bat. It was a time, he recalls, of “going down through so many rabbit holes, in terms of materials.”

Certine flatware is designed to change the way you eat and think about food.

Certine flatware is designed to change the way you eat and think about food.


Once they had their ceramics formula, they had to find a place to manufacture it and make their cutlery. They discovered that the bulk of consumer ceramics is manufactured in China, where it has a 3,000-year-old tradition.

“That was pointed out to us numerous times by ceramics experts in this country,” Muise said. ” ‘Did you ever think about making it in the birthplace of ceramics, China?’ ”

That’s how Certine flatware came to be made in Shenzhen, where a region of the city is known as “Ceramic City.”

Muise and the Todds (Bill Todd’s wife, Rachel Rodrigues, is a business partner) have applied for provisional patents on both the ceramics-making process they developed and their designs. The project is entirely self-funded.

There are only three pieces to the Certine set because, Muise said, “we were interested in sustainable dematerialization, which in essence says if you’re using a material that’s a commodity try to use less of it, but get more function out of it.” Muise muses that the only reason to keep a set of five pieces is tradition.

The Certine spoon can hold as much as a tablespoon, but it is tapered at the top so it can fit into, say, a yogurt container. The fork has two interior piercing tines and two shorter exterior tines, making it a combination of a salad and dinner fork. The fork also has a rounded shoulder that creates a fulcrum for people who like to cut their food with their fork.

The cutlery is much smoother than stainless steel – no more microabrasions – and can only be scratched with diamond or boxite, Muise said. The flatware, especially the fork, can break if misused – don’t try prying open cans or dropping the pieces from a great height – but for normal daily use, it is very durable, he said. “The knife and spoon are pretty tough,” Muise said.

Todd and Muise have made their own little discoveries after switching over from stainless steel to smooth ceramic. Todd says he’s been most surprised by the difference in the way he eats desserts – no more licking cake frosting off a fork (although some people might like that little chore). He says his children now refuse to eat ice cream with anything other than a ceramic spoon.

The business partners have also discovered some markets for their product that they did not expect. Muise has heard from many people who have nickel allergies and only use wood or bamboo utensils. And he donated some flatware to the Dempsey Center in Lewiston after learning that some people who receive chemotherapy sometimes get a condition that makes everything taste bitter and metallic.


Muise and Todd are planning some dinners at local restaurants to showcase their flatware, including a ceramics showcase of sorts at Piccolo later this month and a “tabletop takeover” at Vinland in November. Details to come.

They’ll also have a booth at Harvest on the Harbor.

One set of Certine costs $39.95; a set of four is $159.60. This clearly puts it in the premium flatware category, but Muise and Todd don’t mind. It can be purchased from their website, on, and at Casco Bay Cutlery & Kitchenware in Freeport; Now You’re Cooking in Bath; the Good Table in Belfast; and Rooster Brother in Ellsworth.

Muise said that ultimately he and Todd would like to see their flatware in every specialty kitchen store in the United States. They would also like to expand to Europe soon.

Hundreds of years ago, people carried utensils with them, and their quality demonstrated their own refinement, Coffin said. Over subsequent centuries, people were concerned with flatware, designing utensils and dishware that reflected contemporary food trends, buying lavish silver sets. Today, we’re often harried and eating on the run, and so “Nowadays, I think people don’t think about it as much.” But she liked the idea of a product that could return people’s attention to flatware. Utensils are such a personal item. “It is about the only thing one puts into the human body other than a medical device,” she said.

Muise readily admits that most people don’t care that much about what flatware they use.

“At this point,” he said, “this product is for the type of people who make dinner reservations before they make hotel reservations, because if you don’t get the dinner reservations you’re probably not going to that town. It’s for people who go to buy foodstuffs three or four times a week as opposed to one time a week. It’s for the kind of people who take more pictures of their food than they do their children or their pets. It’s ultimately for the kind of people who are thinking about genuine interaction with their food.”

Food editor Peggy Grodinsky contributed to this story.

]]> 10, 07 Sep 2016 09:09:55 +0000
In ‘Cooking with Loula, Greek Recipes from My Family to Yours,’ the recipes satisfy Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Cooking with Loula, Greek Recipes from My Family to Yours.” By Alexandra Stratou. Artisan New York. $29.95.

The first thing that struck me about “Cooking with Loula, Greek Recipes from My Family to Yours,” was its physical appearance: no spine binding and a partial cover. I hadn’t even cracked the cover and I was already intrigued – congrats to the marketing team for making this cookbook stand out in a tsunami of niche cookbooks!

But like a romantic infatuation that fades with time, this cookbook’s charms – from its gorgeous photos to broad range of recipes – slowly morphed into a trying-too-hard-to-impress distraction.

Random essays and free-form poetry were something to get past. Recipes organized by weekdays, Sundays, holidays and traditions made for a fun initial flip-through, but made choosing between side vegetable dishes later a frustration.

And not to dumb it down, but I would have appreciated a pronunciation guide for the many, many Greek dish names, so I could serve them up with aplomb, instead of a paler description: “Here’s some … Greek beef stew.” (Hunkiar Beyendi) “And some … custard pie!” (Galaktoboureko)

Recipes have rambling, poorly written, introductions (“I have found that if I am to be at peace, I must have a multidimensional relationship with food, just as it was in my home, and many other Greek homes, when I was growing up,” the jam tart entry starts. It goes on: “Pasta flora seemed like an appropriate recipe to accompany these thoughts as the lattice design on top that separates the jam into squares reminds me of the way I, and other humans, often sort our life into boxes.”

I dunno about all that. Sometimes a jam tart is just a jam tart.

For sheer over-the-top imagery, the moussaka recipe says: “If moussaka represents Greece only in one’s mental capacity, then we must let go of it as an emblem. Perhaps the deconstructed identity of a modern-day Greek man or woman lies deep in the center of a moussaka.”

But, like these descriptions, I digress.

The recipes themselves satisfy, with easy-to-follow instructions and range from everyday go-to dishes to complex holiday affairs. As a weekend-warrior chef, I appreciated the inclusion of recipes for basic sauces and purees that I can use in multiple dishes but overall, I felt like this cookbook made me work to hard to get to its strengths. Ultimately, the intimate tone of the writing and rambling additions made it seem more of a self-published vanity press product than a professionally edited cookbook.


Serves 4 to 6, Time under 3 hours

One 16-ounce (500 gram) bag dried white beans

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, grated

2 carrots, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 small celery stalk, sliced

Salt and pepper

1 bay leaf

Red chili flakes

Place the beans in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Coat the bottom of the same pot with a thin layer of oil and place over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent, add the tomato paste and then add the parboiled beans. Stir well to coat the beans in the oil, and add the celery. Cook for 5 minutes, allowing all of the flavors to blend.

Add water to cover the ingredients by about 1 inch, along with a large pinch of salt and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer gently for 1½ to 2 hours. The beans are ready when they are so full of water that they want to burst. Taste and adjust the salt. Add pepper and chili flakes to taste. Remove the bay leaf and the garlic if you see them swimming around still intact.

Serve in a soup bowl, with some leaves of baby lettuce, Taramosalata (cod roe dip,) smoked herring, black olives, feta and fresh bread.

]]> 0, 07 Sep 2016 07:59:02 +0000
Trying to get to the essence of wine with a final, goodbye column Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For someone who often overthinks, writes too long and usually has one more comment to wedge in before sign-off, I’ll try today to be brief. I’m saying goodbye, and drawn-out goodbyes are maudlin. This is the last regular column I will write for this newspaper so, in a sense, good-bye. But not completely. (And come to think of it, I don’t think you should count on me being brief.)

I don’t want this to end. I have loved writing here about wine (and will continue to write wherever and whenever I can). My exit is bittersweet, and my reasons have nothing to do with lack of joy in doing the work. Mostly, the consistency of a weekly obligation has grown grinding and has come to impinge on work and family obligations. The man who sits on two stools never feels entirely comfortable. You get it, I’m sure.

I’m grateful to this newspaper for granting me the space, and to my gracious, insightful editors, whom most of you don’t know to credit. I’m especially grateful to everyone at the Portland Press Herald who essentially let me write on whatever topic I wished, in whichever way I wanted. (One of the advantages to writing about a subject that’s mystifying to most people but less so to yourself is you get a freer rein. Engrave it on my columnist-headstone: “He Knew Maybe a Bit More than I Did.”)

Funny story: My favorite piece I ever wrote for this paper is the single one that never got printed, because my editor thought (rightly) that it was totally unpublishable and inappropriate. It was a 1,000-word single-sentence reverie on one of the most vibratory, magical wineries in the world, Château Musar of Lebanon. The wines make my heart stop, and I wrote the piece before it started again.

It was my favorite to write, though not my favorite to read and I’m sure you’d agree. But it mattered a great deal to me personally. I think that what matters a great deal to me personally has often provided both the worst and best of what this column offers. Too much subjective half-understanding, perhaps. But also maybe an expression of how to live with wine, which could act as a beacon for wine experience that no amount of fact-based journalism and tasting notes can provide.

How to live with wine is to feel it, to burrow yourself into it and let it burrow into you. To collaborate with it rather than demand of it, to resist the urge to demean it as a commodity. I’ve said that before, in various ways. I’ve said a lot of things before in various ways, and that’s another reason this feels like a good time to quit.

I don’t know how many more ways to say essentially the same small set of things I say each week:

 Wines are expression of place and time, not grape or brand.

 Seek out small-scale wineries.

 Demand that the person selling you a wine knows the details of what went into making it.

 Follow good importers.

 Low alcohol levels are best.

 Pay attention to texture over taste.

 Indigenous yeasts matter.

 Soil is the single most important factor.

 Drink riesling, chenin blanc, cabernet franc, Chablis, Beaujolais.

A few other things from time to time. If you read this column regularly, you knew my shtick.

I will always value most highly a subjectivity born of true feeling. I will always subscribe to a sort of Observer Effect of wine: It has no importance without me. I cannot escape myself. My intention in this space was not (entirely) to inflict my particularity on you, but rather to goad you into presenting your own subjectivity; to challenge you to arrive at a wine in full presence. I never felt quite right offering a Buyers’ Guide, though it’s perfectly reasonable for the majority of readers to want one above anything else.

Feelings drive us whether we know it or not. I don’t know if I was “right” about anything I put in this space, but I tried to pack it as full as I could of wines that moved me. It’s the survival of the emotional aspect of wine that gives me most concern. The buyer’s-guide mode, pragmatic advice, is crucial for leading all of us through such an infinitely complex subject. But that mode is too dominant.

Even if the false objectivity of the point-score approach to wine reviewing is on its way out (and it is), what has dethroned it is a facile, feelings-free subjectivity. The enthusiasm arms-race and ego-driven look-ma world of social media, both general (Instagram/Twitter) and vinous (Delectable/Vivino), threatens a reductivity as fierce as 1998-era Robert Parker.

Despite that trend, excellent, probing, deeply felt wine writing abounds, though like excellent, probing, deeply felt wine, it is half-hidden – or more precisely, half-smothered by the louder, more obvious sort of approach. There are many exceptional blogs and websites, a couple of great podcasts, a few terrific printed journals. In that context, it is especially admirable that a daily newspaper such as this one feels it worthwhile to publish writing on wine. Not many daily newspapers do that anymore. Culture mags such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic, with more money, more pull, more exposure and more opportunity, have dropped the ball almost completely.

Which is an enormous shame given that wine’s most profound, lasting significance is to true culture rather than consumer culture. True culture grew up with wine. Wine is both parent to and child of true culture. A column I wanted to write but never got around to was a profile of the London molecular-gastronomy cocktail bar that has recently introduced a line of “wines” that are produced chemically, without grapes. They just did the research and punched in the flavors. How does such a phenomenon alter our notion of what wine is? How does it help us confront who we are? Is it a subversion of wine’s eternal truths, or a Hugely Meta statement on how easily we can trick ourselves? The postmodern toothpaste is out of the authenticity-seeking tube. Will it get the purple stains off my teeth?

The list of columns I wanted to write here but ran out of time for is long. I wanted to write about lagrein, and brettanomyces, and Mallorca. I should have written a lot more about Greece. I wanted to write about granite and schist, for heaven’s sake! It’s in a sense exciting (not to mention, for many readers, probably a relief) that whoever picks up this mantle will not write these, but will generate an entirely new list.

The list of columns I never wanted to write is equally long. I should have written those first. New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Super Tuscans. The best central California red blends. Viognier. Pinotage. The wines of Maine. My failure to pursue topics that personally bored (or repulsed) me, or challenged my cherished principles, is the dark side of leading from the heart. That is, maybe I didn’t make my obligation to my readers enough of a priority.

We did OK, though, you and me. And I doubt we’re through. I’ll find ways to keep haranguing you, as long as you don’t spend a lot of energy trying to hide. Just don’t avoid unfamiliar wines. Don’t be afraid of a little sweetness. Don’t drink cabernet sauvignon. Don’t be a stranger. And drink with your heart.

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

]]> 0, 07 Sep 2016 10:08:20 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Do yourself a flavor and roast tomatoes Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 At last, they’re here in abundance, and in all manner of shapes and sizes and colors. What heaven! Here’s a lovely recipe for gently cooked ripe tomatoes layered with buttered garlic crumbs, as well as instructions for roasting them, which concentrates and deepens their incomparable flavor.


To make fresh bread crumbs, tear 4 to 5 slices of good-quality white bread into pieces and whir in a food processor.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

4 cups fresh bread crumbs or Panko crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

2 tablespoons snipped chives

1 large garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon salt, plus additional for sprinkling

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for sprinkling

5 tablespoons melted butter

6 large ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced about ½-inch thick

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, oregano, chives, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle butter over crumb mixture and toss to combine thoroughly. Spread about half the mixture out in a shallow 2-quart baking dish, such as a 9-by-11-inch dish, and press down firmly to make an even “crust.” Bake in the preheated oven until golden, about 10 minutes. (Crust can be baked a couple hours ahead and held, loosely covered, at cool room temperature.)

Arrange a layer of sliced tomatoes over the crust, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Repeat until all tomatoes are used, finishing with a top layer of crumbs.

Return the casserole to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the tomatoes just begin to soften, their juices have started to run and the crumbs are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Some recipes call for several hours in a slow oven, but I find that an hour or so at 350 degrees F does the job perfectly. You can use any type or color tomato, but plum tomatoes are the meatiest and produce the most substantial result.

Makes about ¾ cup

6 to 12 plum tomatoes (or other types), about 1½ pounds


1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Core tomatoes and cut lengthwise in quarters if small, and in eighths if large. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and arrange tomatoes cut sides up in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and dribble with a small amount of oil.

Roast in the preheated oven, without turning, until the tomatoes soften, give up their juice, and are caramelized on the bottom, 1 to 1½ hours, depending on size. Grind black pepper over.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze.

Here are some serving suggestions for your Oven-Roasted Tomatoes:

 Spread French bread croutes with goat cheese, add a small smear of pesto, and top with a tomato for an hors d’oeuvre.

 Fold roasted tomatoes in half and skewer on toothpicks with small wedges of mozzarella and a basil leaf.

 Layer country bread with thinly sliced sharp cheddar cheese and top with a thin slice of red onion and roasted tomatoes for lunch.

 To boost flavor of almost any other sandwich, (turkey, cucumber, avocado, roast beef, chicken, etc.), add a layer of roasted tomatoes.

 Soften garlic in a small amount of olive oil; add heavy cream and simmer until reduced by one-third. Coarsely chop roasted tomatoes and add to the cream with a handful of torn basil. Toss with hot pasta and pass grated pecorino cheese.

 Sauté zucchini, a sliced sweet pepper and sliced onion in olive oil until caramelized. Add coarsely chopped roasted tomatoes to heat through. Sprinkle with crumbled feta and serve with crusty country bread.

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 Sep 2016 12:15:21 +0000
Grilled greens – and reds – gain silky texture and deeper flavor Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I have been playing around lately with grilling wedges of greens, with delicious results. When they meet the grill, varieties such as romaine lettuce, napa cabbage and endive retain their crisp, quenching essence, yet they yield to the heat just enough to gain a softer, more luxurious texture, more savory flavor and an appealing, smoky char.

Radicchio, although red, certainly qualifies as a grill-friendly “green,” and both its royal color and pleasantly bitter flavor deepen beautifully during grilling.

Prep is minimal, and the technique applies across the board: Just quarter the head lengthwise, so each piece retains a bit of the core to hold it together on the grill. Then brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and grill for two to three minutes per side.

You can serve it just like that or with your favorite salad dressing, as a first course or alongside whatever protein you might be firing up.

In the accompanying dish, I paired grilled radicchio with fresh, sweet cherries to counterbalance the vegetable’s bitterness and match its dramatic, dark red hue.

The fruit is the base of a vinaigrette made in the blender with balsamic vinegar (for additional sweetness and dark color), a little chopped shallot and extra-virgin olive oil.

To get the most vivid effect, the dressing is poured onto serving plates or drizzled onto a platter, then topped with the char-grilled radicchio wedges, scattered with fresh cherries and showered with chopped chives.

It is a salad that is as tasty and healthful as it is out of the ordinary.


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

Makes 4 servings

20 sweet red cherries, pitted, each cut in half

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 medium heads radicchio (about 6 ounces each)

2 teaspoons finely chopped or cut chives

Combine 12 of the cherries (24 halves), 3 tablespoons of the oil, the balsamic vinegar, shallot, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the 1/8 teaspoon of pepper in a blender; puree until smooth. (Some flecks of cherry skin will be visible.) Transfer the dressing to a container or serving bowl.

Remove and discard any wilted or tough outer leaves from the heads of radicchio, then cut each head lengthwise into quarters, so each quarter retains a piece of the core to keep it together. Brush the radicchio lightly on all sides with the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the radicchio wedges until softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes on each of the three sides.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining cherry halves into quarters.

To serve, spoon about 2 tablespoons of the dressing onto individual salad plates, or drizzle or spread it on a platter. Top each salad plate with two wedges of the grilled radicchio, or arrange them all on the platter. Scatter the quartered cherries on each plate or on the platter, then garnish with the chives.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

]]> 0, 07 Sep 2016 08:17:00 +0000
What saved the 1970s from a purely polyester legacy? Culinary breakthroughs Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The ’70s were the decadelong equivalent of March. It came in like a lion and went out with a mirrored disco ball.

In between was a national malaise and a long, national nightmare. It was the best time for movies and the worst time for fashion. And we were more concerned about the price of oil than the fact that, for two full years, we had both a president and a vice president who had not been elected to their positions.

We got out of Vietnam, but we got into polyester.

In the culinary world, though, things were not that bad. In the ’70s, people began to think more seriously about eating for their health; the health-food fad began in earnest and has yet to fade away. Yogurt became popular, and so did granola.

Two culinary events in the ’70s changed forever the way we look at food.

The iconic restaurant Chez Panisse opened in Berkeley, California, in 1971, eliminating the stuffiness previously associated with fine dining and igniting a revolution of cooking with the best possible, local ingredients.

The other cuisine-altering event was the 1977 publication of “Moosewood Cookbook.” One of the best-selling American cookbooks of all time, “Moosewood Cookbook” moved vegetarian food from something of a punchline into a viable and even popular way to cook (though “Moosewood” author Mollie Katzen, who originally self-published “Moosewood” in 1974, gives more credit to Anna Thomas, who came out with “The Vegetarian Epicure” in 1972).

So for my culinary sojourn through the 1970s, I turned to my favorite recipe in “Moosewood Cookbook,” Hungarian Mushroom Soup. I had remembered liking it, but I did not recall just how staggeringly rich and filling it was.

As the book’s recipes often did, this one calls for tamari or soy sauce to create an earthy, umami flavor to make up for a lack of meat. A shot of lemon juice, too, brightens the taste.

The soup has the expected mushrooms, onion, stock and milk, plus a hefty dose of paprika and dill for that authentic Hungarian piquancy. It also has lots of butter and sour cream – health food may have come into its own in the ’70s, but plenty was still being served that wasn’t healthy.

Like Quiche Lorraine. Quiche Lorraine was everywhere in the ’70s; any luncheon was bound to have it. And why not? With a filling made from eggs, cream and shredded cheese, it is basically a custard set inside a tart shell – with bacon.

Sales dipped dramatically after the 1982 publication of the book “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche,” but maybe it is time to bring them back up again. It’s hard to get any better than cheesy custard, crust and bacon.

Every bit as ubiquitous as Quiche Lorraine in the ’70s was, perhaps surprisingly, guacamole. Although it had been available in certain places for decades, when the country as a whole discovered it in the ’70s it suddenly became a part of every summertime gathering.

Because everyone makes pretty much the same guacamole as everyone else (some use garlic powder and onion powder, some don’t), I decided to go back to the basics with mine.

I made it without lime juice. That may not be the 1970s way to do it, but apparently it is the authentically Mexican way.

And I have to say I loved it, even though I am also a huge fan of limes. With just five ingredients (avocados, serrano chiles, cilantro, chopped onion and salt), this limeless version really lets the avocado flavor shine through. With guacamole, the avocado should always be the star.

The ’70s simply would not have been the ’70s without crepes. Crepe restaurants sprang up all around the country, most notably the Magic Pan, a chain that was owned by Quaker Oats throughout the decade.

The great thing about crepes is you can use them for practically everything. Their popularity soared when people realized they could be used to make a fancy presentation of leftovers, but they are also great with vegetables, chicken or seafood – try any of these with a simple white sauce. Just add a little sugar to the batter for dessert, and fill them with ice cream, whipped cream, or jam.

Or just eat them fresh off the pan, as I did. Well, some of them.

Finally, I made a big pot of pasta primavera, which, I was surprised to learn, was invented in the 1970s, in New York City. Its actual origin is a matter of some debate, but it is universally agreed that it came to prominence in 1976 with the opening of the famed Le Cirque restaurant in New York.

A 1977 recipe from Le Cirque in the New York Times sealed its popularity. It became the dish of the moment, the dish of the hour, the dish of the decade.

I made the version as originally printed in the Times, and it was so much better than any other version I’ve had that it was like eating a different dish. This one has the cascade of vegetables that you would expect (broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, peas and pea pods – I used sugar snap peas) plus some ingredients that you might not.

Butter, for one, and heavy cream. Plus, Parmesan cheese, lots of olive oil and toasted pine nuts.

All this time, I have thought of pasta primavera as a healthy meal, but no. It may not be good for you, but it tastes amazing.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup, from "Moosewood Cookbook."

Hungarian Mushroom Soup, from “Moosewood Cookbook.”


Yield: 4 servings

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, divided

2 cups chopped onion

12 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 teaspoons dried dill

2 cups stock or water, divided

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup chopped parsley

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add onions, and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt, dill, ½ cup of the stock or water, tamari and paprika. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for a few minutes. Add the milk and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until thick.

Stir the mushroom mixture and remaining 1½ cups stock or water into the milk mixture. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Just before serving, add salt and pepper to taste, lemon juice, sour cream and, if desired, extra dill. Serve hot, topped with freshly minced parsley.

Quiche Lorraine always satisfies.

Quiche Lorraine always satisfies.


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more

3 eggs, divided

¾ cup grated Gruyère cheese

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup milk

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Black pepper, to taste

3 slices bacon, finely chopped

Chopped chives, to garnish

Place flour, butter and salt in a bowl; using your fingers, rub together until pea-size crumbles form. Add 1 of the eggs and 1 tablespoon ice-cold water; stir until dough forms. Briefly knead until smooth; form into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Whisk together remaining 2 eggs, cheese, cream, milk, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Cook bacon in a small skillet over medium heat to render its fat, about 12 minutes; drain on paper towels until cool. Add to egg mixture. Set filling aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into a 13-inch circle; transfer to an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing into bottom and sides. Trim excess dough; chill for 30 minutes. Prick bottom with a fork; cover with parchment paper, fill with dried beans or pie weights, and bake until set, about 20 minutes.

Remove paper and beans; bake until light brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees; pour filling into crust. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes; garnish with chives.

– Adapted from Saveur

Hold-The-Lime Guacamole is a soothing, salty treat.

Hold-The-Lime Guacamole is a soothing, salty treat.


Yield: About 2 cups

1 or 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, finely chopped

¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

¼ cup white onion, finely chopped

2 large ripe Hass avocados

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Combine chiles, cilantro and onion in a large bowl. Just before serving, halve and seed avocados, scoop out pulp and mash pulp into chile mixture with a fork until just combined. Season with salt and serve immediately.

– From “Epicurious,” by Nils Bernstein


Yield: 8 servings (16 crepes)

1 cup cold water

1 cup cold milk

4 large eggs

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Cooking oil or more butter

Whirl water, milk, eggs, salt, flour and melted butter in a blender at high speed for about 1 minute. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Set a small nonstick or cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat and brush lightly with oil or butter. Just when it begins to smoke, immediately remove from heat. Hold the pan with one hand and pour a scant ¼ cup of batter into the middle of the pan with your other. Quickly tilt pan in all directions to run batter all over bottom of pan in a thin film, pouring back any batter that does not adhere to the pan.

Immediately set pan over heat and cook for about 1 minute. The crepe is ready for turning when you can shake and jerk it loose from bottom of pan; lift an edge to see that it is a nice brown underneath. Turn the crepe and cook for about 30 seconds on the other side. Slide the crepe onto a plate and continue with the rest of the batter, greasing the pan lightly each time it seems necessary.

If you make the crepes in advance, it is best to stack them between layers of waxed paper or foil to prevent them from sticking together.

Roll crepes around a filling of creamed fish, meat, vegetables or leftovers. If desired, cover with a white sauce, sprinkle with cheese and brown in the oven before serving.

– From “The French Chef Cookbook,” by Julia Child

Le Cirque's Spaghetti Primavera

Le Cirque’s Spaghetti Primavera


Yield: 4 servings (or 6 to 8 appetizers)

1 bunch broccoli

2 small zucchini, unpeeled

4 asparagus spears

1½ cups green beans

½ cup fresh or frozen peas

¾ cup fresh or frozen pea pods

1 tablespoon peanut, vegetable or corn oil

2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms


Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon minced hot red or green chili, or 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes

¼ cup finely chopped parsley

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon minced garlic, divided

3 cups tomato cubes, cut into 1-inch dice

6 basil leaves, chopped

1 pound spaghetti

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons chicken broth

½ cup heavy cream, or more

½ cup grated Parmesan

⅓ cup toasted pine nuts

Trim broccoli and break into florets. Trim off ends of the zucchini. Cut into quarters, then cut into 1-inch or slightly longer lengths (about 1½ cups). Cut each asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Trim beans and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Cook each of the green vegetables separately in boiling salted water to cover until crisp but tender. Drain well, then run under cold water to chill, and drain again thoroughly. Combine the cooked vegetables in a bowl.

Cook the peas and pods; about 1 minute if fresh; 30 seconds if frozen. Drain, chill with cold water and drain again. Combine with the vegetables.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat the peanut oil and add the mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cook about 2 minutes, shaking the skillet and stirring. Add the mushrooms, chili and parsley to the vegetables.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan and add ½ teaspoon of the garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook about 4 minutes. Add the basil.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet and add the remaining ½ teaspoon of garlic and the vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring gently, until heated through.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until almost (but not quite) tender, retaining a slight resilience in the center. Drain well.

In a pot large enough to hold the spaghetti and vegetables, add the butter and melt over medium-low heat. Then add the chicken broth and half a cup each of cream and Parmesan, stirring constantly. Cook gently until smooth. Add the spaghetti and toss quickly to blend. Add half the vegetables and pour in the liquid from the tomatoes, tossing over very low heat.

Add the remaining vegetables (but not the tomatoes). If the sauce seems dry, add 3 to 4 tablespoons more cream. Add the pine nuts and give the mixture a final tossing.

Serve equal portions of the spaghetti mixture in soup or spaghetti bowls. Spoon equal amounts of the tomatoes over each serving. Serve immediately.

– From Le Cirque restaurant, published in the New York Times in 1977

]]> 0, 07 Sep 2016 12:51:01 +0000
Howard Johnson’s diner in Bangor closes, leaving just 1 more Tue, 06 Sep 2016 20:00:19 +0000 BANGOR — When Bruce O’Handley, a Canadian now living in Bangor, heard that Tuesday would be the last day the Howard Johnson’s restaurant on Odlin Road would be open, he couldn’t miss his last chance to experience this fading piece of Americana.

“How retro is it here? Look at that milkshake machine,” he said, sitting at the counter soaking it all in before he paid his bill. “Look at the stainless steel, the wood paneling. You walk into places like this, and it’s a time machine.”

The Bangor Howard Johnson’s served its last plate of eggs Tuesday, which leaves just one HoJo’s in the entire country – in Lake George, New York. The New England-based chain was founded in 1925, and in its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s more than 1,000 restaurants were scattered across the country. Maine had several, with locations including Wells, Falmouth, Naples, and two in Portland.

Regulars, HoJo’s fans and the simply curious filled the diner-style stools, booths and tables to say goodbye in a gathering that felt something like a wake for an old friend. Thank-you cards with personal notes from customers were taped above the pass window at the kitchen, where Julie Jewett and April Pickering put out plates of waffles, French toast, scrambled eggs and pancakes as fast as they could. A large bouquet of sunflowers with three Mylar balloons sat at one end of the counter, a bouquet of lilies at the other.

The breakfast surge began around 6 a.m. as it usually does, said Julie’s mother, Kathe Jewett, 68, who has worked at the restaurant for 50 years, ever since it opened in 1966. The Bangor police arrived first, followed by local firefighters.

“They come usually every Monday, but Monday was a holiday, so they came today,” said Jewett, who hugged customers as they left with a friendly “See ya, dear.”


Ever since the owners of the restaurant (who also own the Howard Johnson Inn next door, which will remain open) announced that the restaurant was closing, it’s been getting four times the usual amount of business, Kathe Jewett said. Still, at no point in the morning were all of the 150 seats filled – not even close – an indicator of the trouble the restaurant has had appealing to modern-day customers living in a world of fast-food and newer chain restaurants. Indeed, the Bangor eatery looked a bit down on its luck, with carpet that was worn and soiled in spots and other signs of inattention.

Howard Johnson’s restaurants served up comfort food and 28 flavors of ice cream to a whole generation of baby boomers who kept their eyes peeled on family road trips for the chain’s distinctive architecture; the look, including an orange roof and turquoise spire, was designed by 20th-century modernist Rufus Nims.

Once the largest restaurant chain in the United States, “HoJo’s” is still referenced on TV shows such as “Mad Men” and has hundreds of hardcore fans. Walter Mann, a Connecticut man who runs the fan site, said he still gets emails every day from people wanting to know where they can buy the chain’s famous clam strips, chicken croquettes, and the candy and ice cream that they remember eating as kids. He has to disappoint them; the licensing for the chain’s food, he said, belongs to the Wyndham Worldwide Hotel Group, which has not yet revived any of the old products.

The irony of pining after a restaurant that they haven’t supported in years is not lost on HoJo’s fans. They are like people who appreciate a good Sinatra tune on occasion, but listen to Katy Perry on a daily basis.

“I think today, especially, people long for simpler times,” Mann said. “Whether it’s an old restaurant or old movie or old song, it brings you back to a different time when things were simpler, and you didn’t have to worry about things like terrorism and nasty politics.”


The Bangor restaurant does not have the distinctive orange roof, but it still has the old freezers where the 28 flavors – including peppermint, macaroon, and maplenut – once pleased children and adults alike. Most of the freezers are broken, so the restaurant now serves just one flavor – vanilla. Vintage Howard Johnson posters are displayed on either side of a modern flat-screen TV.

Dick Smith of Bangor enjoyed his usual meal at the counter – scrambled eggs and eggs over easy, served with an English muffin. He’s been eating at Howard Johnson’s since he was a kid, and at this particular one since it opened the ice cream bar. He now has a full head of gray hair, but can still remember how much he loved the hot fudge sundaes. He visited the Bangor restaurant three or four times a week for the eggs and the company.

“Usually I see someone I know,” he said.

Smith’s reaction when he heard the place was closing? “Holy mackerel!”

“I’m getting old,” he said. “I’m getting sad, anyway.”

Don Bohus of Dixmont came to enjoy his last plate of eggs Benedict and home fries, with a side of corned beef hash. He’s 60 years old now, but grew up on HoJo’s and Big Boy. He moved to Maine from Ohio in 1979, and had his very first meal in Maine right here, so he thought it appropriate to visit one last time.


Judy Richards of Orrington and her sister, Nora Maynard, brought Richards’ 7-year-old granddaughter Alleia for a last serving of her favorite chocolate chip pancakes after a morning swim.

“We’re sad that it’s the last day,” Richards said. “We’re trying to figure out where to go” next.

Richards said they liked that all three of them could eat for $22. Everything on the menu costs under $10, except for the steak and eggs. The original Howard Johnson’s menu included items such as a cream cheese and olive sandwich for 15 cents and an egg malted milk for 25 cents.

Kathe Jewett moved around the dining room quickly but with precision, never stopping as she cleared tables, delivered platters of food and handed out checks. As she moved around the counter and back to the kitchen area, her shoes made noise on the sticky floor.

Jewett was nervous about talking because every time she paused to reflect, her eyes filled with tears.

“It’s so hard to say goodbye to everyone,” Jewett said. “It’s just so sad.”

Jewett said she’ll retire now, and told one customer she hoped to sleep in on Wednesday. “It’s all about the people,” she said, summing up her time there. “We’ve had such wonderful, wonderful customers.”

Mann, of, said hope remains that someone might purchase the licensing from Wyndham and revive the restaurant brand.

“The problem, though, is that as the chain was allowed to die on the vine, there’s really a whole generation and then some who don’t know Howard Johnson’s as anything other than a place to sleep,” he said. “That’s really sad, and that’s going to be a momentous thing for someone to overcome if anybody ever was able to relaunch the brand.”

For now, the only place New England fans will find the restaurant is in the rearview mirror.


]]> 20, 07 Sep 2016 13:23:15 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Is Five Fifty-Five having a temporary lapse or a bigger problem? Sun, 04 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Editor’s note: An incomplete version of this review was inadvertently posted last Sunday.

I spend a lot of time with college professors. When I hear them complain about how hard it is to work in a “publish or perish” system, cranking out articles and books until they earn the permanent job security of tenure, I smile inwardly. They have no idea how bad it could be.

For restaurateurs, the pressure appears similar – every month (or more) they have to create new menus, refresh their dining spaces, perfect dishes and come up with a thousand creative ways to beguile a fickle public. But there is no such thing as tenure for a restaurant, no safe harbor where they can relax and coast on previous successes, especially in a city like Portland, where competition has grown fierce. A restaurant must always invent, reinvent, promote, and then rinse and repeat. It never stops.

For an upscale establishment like Five Fifty-Five, where diners spend significant amounts of money for a meal, the pressure is even more intense. When he and his wife Michelle opened the restaurant in 2003, chef and co-owner Steve Corry found very little competition in the category and quickly built a loyal following. Along the way, they scored some seriously impressive accolades for their local, seasonal dishes, including a Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef award in 2007.

Some signature plates, like the truffled lobster “mac & cheese” ($33) have been on the menu for more than a decade. In her 41/2 star review from 2012, our then reviewer called the dish “legendary,” with a clever blending of homey and luxe components. On one recent visit, we were wowed by another stalwart, the simple, yet exceedingly good striploin ($34), cooked precisely to medium-rare and daubed with a lively, dazzlingly green chimichurri sauce. Steaks, one server told us, “are always in style here.”

But as the dining scene in Maine evolved, so has Five Fifty-Five. “We already filled the special occasion niche, but we didn’t want to get pigeonholed,” Steve Corry said, describing the opening of the restaurant’s more casual, bar-focused adjoining Point Five Lounge, and the conversion of the restaurant’s third floor into a private event room. “But with the food and the space, we’re always trying to stay current,” he said.

You can spot the restaurant’s push toward innovation in dishes like the baby kale salad with grilled watermelon and shaved coppa ($10). The addition of pistachios, pickled watermelon rind and couscous, not to mention a lime-juice-and-yogurt dressing, make reference to the culinary world’s newfound, Ottolenghi-fueled embrace of Middle Eastern ingredients and techniques. And while we found the inspiration clear, there were just too many things going on in this dish, too many contrasting elements shouting for attention in every bite. The incorporation of something grilled, something pickled, something starchy, and something cured seemed like a strange mutation of a bridal tradition, rather than a recipe for an appealing salad.

This is not to say that Five Fifty-Five can’t get excess right sometimes. In its similarly maximalist New England scallop entrée ($32), the kitchen pairs four impeccably grilled scallops with a warm salad of blanched cherry tomatoes, green onions, peas, pea pods, pea shoots, corn and shishito peppers. Whew.

Seared New England scallops

Seared New England scallops

Here though, the ingredients are barely manipulated, their flavors stitched together loosely with lemon thyme. And because they are, as Steve Corry called them, “a showcase of the best of what’s coming out of the ground right now,” their inclusion makes undeniable sense. Quite simply, this is August on a plate, and it is extraordinary.

Pastry chef Yazmin Saraya’s work was also precisely matched to the season and very enjoyable, particularly her riff on peaches and cream ($10). With its tender roasted peach half and contrasting dots of vibrantly orange peach-and-apricot puree and pale honey anglaise, along with a scoop of cardamom ice cream, the plate resembled a whimsical, confectionary version of a Twister board. Also excellent, her dense, almost fudgy corn cake ($10), which could have been improved only by eliminating the sour grilled corn kernels underneath the quenelle of gorgeous cajeta (caramelized condensed milk) ice cream.

Peaches and cream

Peaches and cream Photos by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Other dishes, tasted over two visits to the restaurant, were generally successful in places, with a few baffling errors of composition, execution or both. Our Carbonara-like spinach fettuccini with crispy pancetta and local mushrooms ($14 small/ $27 large) came topped with a jiggling raw egg yolk, which gave the presentation a certain concentric symmetry. But the yolk should have been blended in with the house-made pasta (and some pasta water) before serving, because rather than creating a silky, lushly emulsified sauce when pierced, the runny yolk just puddled at the bottom of the bowl, adding nearly nothing to the dish, even when stirred into the rapidly cooling pasta. Worse, the whole dish was underseasoned and tasted mostly of the oil that had been used to sauté the mushrooms.

Similarly, the pork chop with braised Stonecipher Farms kale and collards ($28) had some real high points. Chief among these (and most important for the dish) was a faultlessly grilled chop, sourced from Bucksport, and topped with a splendidly tangy barbecue sauce made from cider vinegar, tomato paste, caramelized onion and whiskey. We also loved the delightfully smoky braised greens, but we were disappointed by the skimpy serving of just a few leaves – a cruel tease that made us grab a menu to see if they were offered as a side (they were not). The real problem on the plate, however, was the local yellow eye beans, which were undercooked, a few actually still almost raw.

Occasionally, the kitchen duffs an entire dish, like the blackberry salad ($10) with ricotta salata, which featured fat ribbons of fresh cucumber and local greens, dressed in a broken, underflavored garlic scape vinaigrette and crunchy, unripe (and frankly terrible) blackberries sprinkled throughout.

I found these problems all the more surprising in light of what I had heard from a friend who once worked as a line cook at Five Fifty-Five. He told me recently how talented Steve Corry was at running his kitchen, especially expediting orders: “If a dish showed up on the pass with any mistake – literally any single flaw – he would send it back without ever getting angry, and get the cooks to do it right.”

But when I later learned that the Corrys’ attention has been pulled recently to their other big project, the re-opening of French bistro Petite Jacqueline in a new space in the Old Port, I started to see the meal’s problems in context. Without Steve’s expediting skills and eagle eyes on every plate, some errors were bound to slip past.

So too with service, which, along with an extensive and beautifully considered wine list that includes many bottles under $30 (and one for $21), is Michelle Corry’s domain. At turns inattentive, uncoordinated and occasionally bizarre, service felt much too casual for a restaurant at this price point. We sat with only a wine list – no menus – for nearly 10 minutes on one visit. On another, one server introduced herself to us and took drink orders using a fake British accent, and another startled a neighboring table finishing dessert by elbowing one diner and interrupting their conversation to quip, “Butter and sugar sure do taste good together, don’t they, folks?”

And that’s a shame, because we saw evidence of impressive cocktail knowledge from one of our servers, who not only knew what went into both the refreshing, minty Cucumber Rickey ($12) and the too-sweet, gin-based Martinez ($12), but offered us suggestions for two similar drinks we might enjoy, as well as directions for how to make them at home. Had she been behind the bar, I’m pretty confident we wouldn’t have received an improperly strained Martinez that arrived with sizable chunks of ice floating on its surface.

It is hard to say if the meal’s problems point to a temporary (and easily fixed) lack of focus, or if they signal bigger, more endemic issues. Regardless, Five Fifty-Five has an exceptional reputation to uphold, and as hard as it is to see it struggle even briefly, and as much as we might want to let it use its well-earned stature as a crutch, that isn’t how things work. Getting things right at every single service is the only way to keep an increasing number of sophisticated, ambitious rivals at bay.

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

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

]]> 3, 03 Sep 2016 21:36:00 +0000
New England’s apple crop will be smaller this year Sat, 03 Sep 2016 18:40:04 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. — Unlike last year’s bumper crop for apples in New England, this year’s batch is a bit smaller for many farmers as they struggle with abnormally dry and drought conditions.

There are still enough apples to go around at most pick-your-own operations, some of which opened this holiday weekend. But some farms are not offering that this year and are taking their apples directly to market. Even before the dry weather, higher-than-normal temperatures in February and March, followed by a cold spell in April, challenged the crop.

Lorraine Merrill, New Hampshire’s Commissioner of Agriculture, said fruit and vegetable growers have the capability to irrigate their crops and have kept a steady supply.

Farmers in northern New England have fared better than those in the southern part of the region, because they received more rain.

“By the grace of God, we still have a nice crop out there,” said Dan Hicks, owner of Sunnycrest Farm in Londonderry, New Hampshire, which opened its pick-your-own operation this weekend. The farm is located in an extreme-drought area of the state.

In southern Maine, the Giles Family Orchard in Alfred opened this weekend with early varieties. Overall, the size of the crop and the size of the apples are good, so everything looks great, said Frank Boucher, one of the owners.

But knock on wood, he said.

“We never count our blessings until they’re all inside the building, because a hurricane or heavy wind could come along. Mother Nature can throw anything at us between now and October,” he said.

In Brentwood, New Hampshire, Laurie Lossigian, who runs Apple Annie’s Orchard with her husband, said the early warmth this year followed by the April cold caused some damage. “We can’t do pick-your-own because apples we have are higher in the trees, so the frost took more of the lower apples.”

In Vermont, Steve Justis, executive director of the Vermont Tree Growers Association, estimated the state’s crop will be down about 15 percent from last year’s bumper crop, but it’s still a little early.

The hot weather may be causing some apples to drop off trees early, said Greg Burtt, who with his wife owns Burtt’s Apple Orchard in Cabot, Vermont. The 10-acre pick-your-own orchard has gotten plenty of rain and some early varieties are ready for picking, he said.

“They’re growing pretty big for us,” he said of the apples.

The dry weather has affected Massachusetts and Rhode Island, too. In Rhode Island, apples are available a bit earlier than in previous years. Jon Clements, a fruit specialist at the UMass Extension, expects the Massachusetts crop to be about 15 to 20 percent below average. He said that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because in years when Massachusetts orchards overproduce, they are sometimes left with an excess of apples that they can’t sell.

George Krivda of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture said “it’s not scientific,” but people feel when the apples are a little smaller, “they become more flavorful” because the fruit becomes more concentrated.

He noted that Connecticut was affected differently by drought conditions. The northern part of the state experienced very little rain deficit, compared to the southern part of the state.

“Each orchard could tell its own story based on its own micro-climate,” he said. “It’s case-by-case. There is no black and white, universal answer.”

]]> 0, 03 Sep 2016 14:43:19 +0000
These fall festivals are for the dogs Sat, 03 Sep 2016 18:12:32 +0000 0, 03 Sep 2016 14:13:45 +0000 ‘Tipo,’ new Back Cove neighborhood restaurant, to open in December Fri, 02 Sep 2016 16:50:26 +0000 Chris and Paige Gould, owners of Central Provisions in the Old Port, have named their new restaurant in the Back Cove neighborhood Tipo, according to the liquor license application they filed with the city.

The Italian restaurant, which will be located in the former home of Borealis Bakery & Bistro at 182 Ocean Ave., will serve pizza and pastas, and it will have a raw bar.

The Goulds announced in July that they had purchased the Borealis building. They’ve brought on their longtime friends, Mike Smith and Robyn Luongo, to be chef de cuisine and manager of Tipo, respectively. Smith is the former executive chef of Scales.

“After running our first restaurant, Central Provisions, for over two and a half years, we have found that the majority of our customers are from away,” the Goulds wrote in their application. “We are hoping to provide the

Back Cove community and the surrounding areas with a neighborhood spot to stop for a wood fired pizza, homemade pasta dish, and a small selection of beer, wine, and Italian inspired cocktails.”

According to the sample menu included with the application, the raw bar will serve oysters on the half shell, fluke and Spanish mackerel crudos, and local beef carpaccio. Pizza varieties range from a simple margherita to lamb sausage and clam pies. Pastas include a rye cavatelli with pork ragout and a squid ink tagliatini with tomato, sea urchin and bread crumbs. Garlic knots, octopus, foie gras, artichokes and cherrystone clams all will be prepared in the restaurant’s wood oven.

The target for opening is December.

]]> 2 Fri, 02 Sep 2016 20:27:32 +0000
What to do if the neighbor leaves a bag of zukes on your porch Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When a friend gave me a 20-pound box of zucchini, I was in an upper ring of Zucchini Heaven.

First, I dug through my mother’s old Farm Journal canning book and made a double batch of what are basically zucchini bread-and-butter pickles, a little sweet, with the fragrance of celery and mustard seeds.

From another canning book, I followed (loosely) a recipe for zucchini chow chow. Then I had to get really creative.

It turns out zucchini works for every meal of the day. For a Saturday breakfast, we had zucchini pancakes from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.”

I squeezed out excess liquid before mixing in the other ingredients and let the mixture sit a few minutes before forming the cakes. It was a quick and easy breakfast with a little low-fat yogurt on the side.

At lunch, we put some of those zucchini pickles and relish on our sandwiches. (I also love to grill a couple zucchini cut into quarter-inch slabs, which I can keep in the refrigerator for salads during the week.)

I searched through the kitchen gadgets at TJ Maxx until I found a spiralizer, one of those cutters that turns vegetables into curly strands, for less than 10 bucks. That opened up vast possibilities for dinners besides the standards.

One night, we had a simple zucchini salad, cut in spirals and tossed with fresh lemon juice and a little olive oil.

The crowning dinner event was Zucchini Pad Thai, with spiralized zucchini standing in for the noodles. A quick sauté softened them without making them limp and unappealing. A sauce came together easily with natural peanut butter (which I substituted for the ketchup called for in the recipe), fish sauce and a few other ingredients I always have on hand. I crisp-fried some tofu as a protein and we enjoyed a tasty, nutritious dinner.

And what’s dinner without dessert? I whipped up a zucchini cake, similar to carrot cake: shredded zucchini, spices, chopped nuts. It calls for a cup of oil, but dedicated gleaner that I am, I had some mashed banana in the freezer. (I never let those mushy Costco bananas go to waste!) I substituted a 1/2 cup of mashed banana for half of the oil. It made a rich, tender cake that lasted well.

This weekend, you can sneak those zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch if you’d like. But if you keep them for yourself, there’s plenty you can do with them.


Makes 6 to 7 pints

4 quarts sliced, unpeeled zucchini

1 quart onions, sliced

1 quart distilled white vinegar

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup salt

2 teaspoons celery seed

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon ground mustard

Place zucchini and onions in a large, heatproof bowl. Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a large pot or Dutch oven.

Bring to a boil; pour over zucchini and onions and let stand 1 hour.

Fill a deep pot with a rack with water and bring to a boil. Wash 6 to 7 pint canning jars well and fill with hot water. Wash rings and new canning lids.

Return the zucchini and onion mixture to the pot, bring to a boil again and cook for 3 minutes.

Pour the hot water out of the jars and divide the zucchini and onion mixture among the hot jars. Immediately top with the lids and rings.

Using tongs, lower the jars into the boiling water bath and process for 5 minutes. Use tongs to remove the jars and place on a dish towel.

Let stand until cool, then check to make sure the lids are sealed.


Makes 2 servings

About 2 medium zucchini

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 pound firm tofu, sliced

3 large cloves garlic, minced or crushed

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin

3 green onions, sliced

1 large egg

About 2 cups bean sprouts

1/3 cup roasted peanuts

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

Few lime wedges for serving (optional)


2 tablespoons rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste

3 tablespoons peanut butter

1 teaspoon packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 small red chile, sliced

1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce, or to taste

Make the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, fish sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and chile garlic sauce. Set aside.

Cut the zucchini into noodles or long pasta using a vegetable spiralizer or sharp vegetable peeler.

Heat a large pan on medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add zucchini noodles and cook 2-3 minutes or until tender. (Don’t overcook. The zucchini should be slightly crunchy.)

Let the noodles rest for about 3 minutes to allow as much moisture as possible to release. Remove the noodles from the pan and drain.

In a small skillet, heat about 2 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu slices and cook about 4 minutes, until it’s brown and releases from the skillet. Turn over and cook on the other side.

Remove to a plate, cut into cubes and let stand.

Wipe out the pan you used for the zucchini, then reheat on medium high heat. Add the remaining olive oil and garlic. Cook the garlic until soft, about 30 seconds.

Add the tofu and cook, turning, until crisp on both sides.

Add the bell peppers and green onions. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until tender. Add the egg and stir in with the vegetables until the egg is cooked.

Return the zucchini noodles to the pan, stir in the cooked tofu and add the sauce. Cook about 1 minute, until heated through. Stir in bean sprouts.

Serve topped with roasted peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges.



2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon (or use a mix of spices such as allspice and nutmeg)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)

2 cups (from 3 or 4 zucchini) grated zucchini (squeeze out moisture before measuring)

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)


3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan or a loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

Beat the eggs on high speed with an electric mixer until frothy. Lower the speed and beat in the sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla and lemon zest (if using). Stir in the flour mixture a third at a time. Stir in the zucchini and chopped nuts and/or raisins.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Frost the cake and serve.

]]> 2, 30 Aug 2016 17:50:36 +0000
‘America’s Best Breakfasts’ uses day’s first meal to take readers on tour of the country Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “America’s Best Breakfasts: Favorite Local Recipes from Coast to Coast.” By Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman. Clarkson Potter. $23.

There’s little better than indulging in a top-notch breakfast from a favorite diner – except maybe indulging in that same breakfast in the comfort of your own home, while wearing fuzzy slippers and plaid PJs.

“America’s Best Breakfasts: Favorite Local Recipes from Coast to Coast” gives you that opportunity. In this attractive soft-cover book, writers Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman break the country into four geographic regions: The West Coast and Pacific Northwest; Northeast and Mid-Atlantic; Midwest; and the South. They also include two bonus sections at the back: one with several pages of Bloody Mary photographs from the writers’ travels to breakfast spots, the other on How to Get Perfect Eggs Every Time. Although the Northeast section doesn’t include any Maine eateries, the first recipe in the West Coast section is for Lobster Scrambled Eggs. Definitely something I can fall in food-love with.

The cookbook has an abundance of delicious-sounding and wide-ranging recipes – from malawach (Yemenite fried bread) and pozole to graham cracker waffles with marshmallows and Nutella and Creole file gumbo. As a group, the recipes reflect the breadth of 21st century America. But my favorite part may have been reading the brief overviews included with each recipe. These describe, in text and photographs, the towns and cities where the diners, bakeries, coffee shops and food trucks are located, as well as the restaurants themselves.

The recipe I tested, for instance, originated in a Florida restaurant, and the description with it almost gave me the feeling of being in Miami, while I preheated my oven in Maine. That recipe, for Morning Glory Muffins, was described as a local favorite at Panther Coffee shop, where baker Cindy Kruse provides the baked goods. The description in “America’s Best Breakfasts” sold me: “Cindy Kruse hand delivers her scrumptious pastries; get there early or these morning muffins will most definitely be sold out.”

Muffins are typically a hit-or- miss breakfast item in my kitchen. I’ve often found they are too dry or I mess up an easy blueberry muffin recipe by adding too many berries. But I was confident after reading the first few lines of the ingredients list that the end result would be moist. And it was. The recipe gave me plenty of guidance, so despite my uneven track record, these muffins turned out really well.

The recipe also gave instructions on how to wrap the muffins individually and freeze them for up to three months, a helpful tip that I appreciated because leftovers – especially leftover muffins – are a favorite in my family of two.


This recipe is from “America’s Best Breakfast: Favorite Local Recipes from Coast to Coast.” The instructions call for making the muffins in larger than typical muffin tins, yielding 12 large muffins; I used the standard size tin and made 24.

2 cups grated carrots
1 apple, peeled and grated
1 (14-ounce) can crushed pineapple, squeezed of excess liquid (1 cup drained)
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup golden raisins
3 large eggs
1½ cups sugar
1½ cups vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the carrots, apple, pineapple, coconut, walnuts and raisins. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the sugar until smooth. Whisk in the oil and vanilla.

In a third, large bowl, stir the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the carrot-apple mixture to the batter and fold with a spatula until just combined. Divide the batter among the muffin liners and bake until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 minutes.

]]> 0, 30 Aug 2016 22:56:08 +0000
Food historian to speak at Tate House Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” The phrase is old, arguably still relevant and perhaps never more apt than in Colonial times. At 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13, renowned food historian and Maine resident Sandy Oliver will speak at the Tate House Museum in Portland about the centrality of the kitchen to the Colonial household.

“The economy, health, and hospitality of the early American household depended largely upon the capabilities and energy of the woman or women who ran the operations centered in the kitchen,” a press release about the talk says. Among the jobs that began (and never ended) in the kitchen were cooking, preserving, child care, health care and keeping the family dressed.

Oliver is the author of “Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Food, at Sea and Ashore, in the Nineteenth Century,” among other books.

The lecture costs $12 ($10 for museum members). The Tate House kitchen, part of the talk, is small, so space is limited to 25. Reserve by calling 774-6177 or emailing The museum is at 1270 Westbrook St.

]]> 0 Tue, 30 Aug 2016 15:12:20 +0000
Skin contact – in wine-making – turns an ordinary white into a tantalizing orange Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In some sense, the choice of subject for today feels momentous for me. This is my penultimate review for the Press Herald, and I’m not going to go out with a review of Riojas crianzas or a rundown of New Zealand sauvignon blancs, because there’s too much of the partial there.

I’d like to keep my eye on the whole now, and strangely enough my sightline will be through what appears at first to be an exceptionally slender niche: orange wine.

Such is the nature of contemporary wine culture’s diversification that orange wine will strike some readers as an already outgrown trend, others as some newfangled notion that they now need to appear knowledgeable about, still others as badly made white wine. To a different group it might be an entirely new category they’re right now hearing of for the first time. The truth encompasses all of these.

Orange wine exists on the same spectrum that includes all the other wines made from vitis vinifera grapes. There is wine we call white, wine we call red, wine we call the French word for pink. And wine can come in other colors: vin jaune, for instance, a deeply yellow-hued wine, traditionally from France’s Jura region, made in a manner quite similar to sherry.

There is also orange wine. Orange wine, like white, red and pink, is made from grapes that are crushed and then fermented. Orange wine is a white wine that is treated like a red.

Red wine production entails leaving the juice of crushed grapes in contact with their reddish skins for some time, usually seven to 28 days, before being pulled off the solids to finish fermentation.

White wine production eliminates skin contact: crush, strain and ferment the untinted juice.

Rosé is the vinification of red-wine grapes as if they were white-wine grapes: Separate the juice from the skins no more than a few hours after crush.

Orange wine simply goes in the opposite direction: Crush the white-wine grapes but leave the juice to macerate on the skins and pulp as if it were a red, for a week to a month – or, in the case of amphora-aged orange wines, for many months and even years.

An orange wine is so called because of the color that results from this treatment, specifically the lignin present in grape seeds. No flavor or color of oranges is added. Indeed, a hallmark of orange wines is the absence of any of the additives too often involved in producing mass-marketed whites, rosés and reds. And “orange” can denote so many different qualities – a color, a fragrance, a fruit, a flower – that some enthusiasts prefer to call the wines “amber” or simply “skin-contact” or “skin-fermented.”

Whatever the name, these wines are not made in outer space and zapped down to Earth, nor are they some sort of affront to “traditional” or “normal” wines.

Actually, although modern-day orange wine is only about 20 years old, true orange wine production dates back to some of the first wines ever made, roughly 5,000 years ago in the Caucasus.

So, orange wine might seem strange, but it’s as normal as anything else. Yes, it’s rare. Yes, the flavors are extraordinarily distinctive, and to a palate habituated in certain ways a skin-fermented amber wine will be a provocation.

But if you’re anything like me, searching via wine not just for new discoveries but for new ways to be a discoverer, you will welcome these as one of the surest wine-related paths to a more open mind. And the good ones are not only delicious; they are revelatory. You will marvel at the totally new, beautiful qualities they express.

They have a unique power to stay with me, to haunt – and frankly, to ruin me for the vast majority of whites, rosés and reds that taste weak-willed and one-dimensional by comparison.

Contemporary orange wine has its origins in northeastern Italy’s Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and its neighbor, southwestern Slovenia’s Goriška Brda. There, pioneers such as Gravner, Radikon, Kabaj, Movia, Batič and many more have drawn inspiration from ancient Georgian winemaking practices, in which white-wine grapes were (and still are) fermented and aged in large clay amphorae known as qvevri (“kev-ree”).

These days, wines made in an “orange” style may be fermented and aged in a variety of vessels (wood or clay, often open-topped until aging begins), though they must allow for communication with oxygen rather than the anaerobic and temperature-controlled environment afforded by stainless steel. Only native yeasts ferment the grapes.

The varietals may vary, but some of the common ones are ribolla gialla, chardonnay, riesling italico, malvasia, nosiola and pinot grigio (when made farther south in Italy’s Veneto, the pinot grigio wines are sometimes called “ramato,” or “copper”).

The more that modern orange wine becomes established as a legitimate category, though, the more experimentation. From California and Long Island, N.Y. to Australia, Croatia and Austria, white wine grapes are fermenting longer and longer on their skins.

As you sip an orange wine, absorb it on at least two levels: taste and texture, starting with the latter. The long, slow, natural fermentation and aging lend exceptional richness and body to the wines, while the extended contact with the grapes’ phenolics endows the wines with striking, fascinating tannins.

Some orange wines can almost be chewed, while others are elegant and silky. They age well, they appreciate decanting, and they ought to be served at the temperature reserved for reds (high 50s).

Notice the savory, umami quality. Notice the sheer intensity. Though each amber/orange/skinny wine is different, I’ve never drunk a quiet one. You are in the presence of redness in everything but color.

Flavors are bonkers, at least compared with what we’re used to. I often sense the character of tea – sometimes the floral sweetness of Darjeeling, other times the bracing earthiness of a Chinese black. The wines, all dry, also recall non-sweet versions of sweet foods: baked apple, honey, spiced pear, nut cake. Then, too, totally other tastes: sourdough, orange peel (yes, really), cider, incense. And more. Always, with these wines, more.

Some of the wines bear such extravagant complexity that they can be treated as meditative aids, but they also present some of the best of all vinous partners to food.

Smoked foods work brilliantly. Boldly spiced curries, North African and Ethiopian dishes, fermentation-rich cuisines such as Korean, and serious meats all are complemented and ennobled by these bold, probing, multifaceted wines.

Those are some of the practical facts of orange wines. There is also metaphysical significance to appreciate. For one, orange wines represent the full, unvarnished truth of white wine grapes.

The more of them I drink, the more I ask myself, “Who ever decided that the ‘conventional’ way to make a wine from white grapes was to separate the skins?”

Ordinary white wines are inherently partial; they omit part of their own story. A skin-fermented wine from “white” grapes restores a fuller degree of respect and love for those grapes, by aiming to paint a more comprehensive portrait.

I also feel the power inherent in a wine that is simultaneously very old and very modern. By drinking traditionally made skin-fermented wines, I am reaching back toward wine’s true origins, and forward toward a time when wine can free itself from limitations imposed by fear masquerading as tradition.

On a final practical matter, there are wines to try, but in Maine (as in most places), not many of them. The following list is of skin-fermented wines I like very much that are generally available here. But if you catch the bug, make sure you continually ask around: Several Maine distributors (especially Devenish and Crush) sometimes bring in very limited-edition wines in small quantities.

Search out the Meinklang Graupert Pinot Gris, Kabaj Rebula, Channing Daughters Ramato, Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium Ruscum, Vie di Romans Pinot Grigio, Cornelissen Munjebel Bianco, Mont de Marie Anathème Blanc, and the single-vineyard Sancerres of Sébastien Riffault. Most of these are in the $20-25 range, a couple cost a bit more. (But Gravner is $100).

Additionally, certain more established wineries produce their “whites” in a style that because of skin-contact time and general character could be classified as “orange”: Spain’s R. Lopez de Heredia and Lebanon’s Château Musar, to name the two most obvious.

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

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Fork Food Lab: Where food enterprises get cooked up Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As Christina Morrison busily went about making sweet potato hush puppies and black bean-and-corn cakes in the Fork Food Lab in Portland last week, she couldn’t believe her luck.

As a young cook, she watched a lot of food TV and used to drool over the celebrity chefs’ well-stocked kitchens. Now, working as director of operations for her father’s catering business in their new space at Fork Food Lab, that old feeling has come back.

“You walk in here, every day you feel like you’re on a movie set,” said Morrison, whose family owns Have Chef Will Travel, a catering company based in South Portland. “It’s shiny. It’s beautiful. There’s every piece of equipment you could want.”

On Sept. 27, the 6,000-square foot Fork Food Lab will celebrate its grand opening in West Bayside. But its first clients are already hard at work in the privately owned commercial kitchen incubator and tasting room. The $1.5 million food lab is the creation of Neil Spillane and Eric Holstein, two young entrepreneurs who hope their project will help propel both Maine’s food economy and the dreams of local entrepreneurs who want to scale up their businesses and see their pies, sauces, sports drinks and puddings on every table.


The lab’s clients – there is space for 45 food businesses – pay a monthly membership fee ($500 part time, or $800 full time) for access to the lab’s main kitchen, its “equipment library,” and an adjacent tasting room, where the public will be able to sample their products and provide feedback. Members will also get expert help with marketing, legal questions and advice and regulatory hurdles.

Although Maine has other shared commercial kitchens, food entrepreneurs here say they have had a tough time finding one that is affordable and fits their needs.

Morrison and her chef father, Brad Morrison, had been working out of a church kitchen, but they were “bursting at the seams,” she said, and in desperate need of more cool storage. She searched for a year for a larger commercial kitchen with the equipment they needed before she heard about Fork.

Fork Food Lab offers a number of amenities that aren’t found at traditional commercial kitchens. It will be open 24-7. It will be staffed from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., and it will have card readers so members can come and go as they please. Got a sudden inspiration for a new cookie at 2 a.m.? No problem.

The facility also has a loading dock. The staff will receive shipments of ingredients and put them in storage so the members don’t have to worry about being on site when food they’ve ordered has arrived. Sourcing ingredients with other members should help keep costs down.

No other commercial kitchen in Maine offers the flexibility and state-of-the-art equipment that Fork Food Lab does, according to Shelley Doak, executive director at the Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association.

“There are other makeshift-type facilities that have come and gone over the years, but this is so unique right from the get-go,” Doak said. “This gives you a first step at scaling up without a huge investment because you don’t have to sign a huge lease for six months or a year.”

Christina Morrison of Have Chef Will Travel catering company works in the shiny new kitchen.

Christina Morrison of Have Chef Will Travel catering company works in the shiny new kitchen. Photo by Madison Gouzie/Fork Food Lab


Although such kitchen facilities are rare in northern New England, they are bubbling up all over the national landscape.

In 2013, a group of business consultants produced an industry snapshot of kitchen incubators in the United States. That study, updated this year by American Communities Trust, a community development organization, showed that between August 2013 and March 2016, the number of kitchen incubators in the United States grew to more than 200, an increase of more than 50 percent. Of the 61 facilities surveyed in the study, 82 percent reported increased revenue over the past three years, and 84 percent are breaking even or making money.

The report says that while kitchen incubators were once considered “a post-recession fad” that would fade away as the economy recovered, in fact the kitchens are becoming “larger and more sophisticated.”

Before they teamed up to launch Fork Food Lab, Spillane was the CEO of Urban Farm Fermentory, where he managed the shared kitchen used by businesses such as Bomb Diggity Bakery and Maine Pie Line, and Holstein was the co-owner of the The Marshmallow Cart.

Each had experienced firsthand the struggles involved in launching a food business.

They raised money for Fork Food Lab through federal and local grants, private investors and a Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $34,000. The partners credit a $100,000 USDA Local Food Promotion Program Grant with providing them the seed money they needed to get investors’ attention.


Anyone can sign up to use Fork’s facilities – food truck operators, restaurant cooks, caterers. The Portland restaurant Bruno’s has signed on to make its pastas and sauces in the space for retail sale. But Holstein says most of the current members are home cooks who hope to begin or scale up commercial production of products. “They were getting large orders and they needed something immediately,” Holstein said.

A fledgling company called Gert and Lil’s searched four years for just the right kitchen space before joining Fork Food Lab. The owner will be making gluten- and dairy-free organic puddings that can be eaten frozen. (Look for chocolate to be the first flavor.)

Myranda McGowan of Fayette has been making almond milk for herself and her family for about two years and now hopes to launch an almond milk business, The Whole Almond.

Her milk contains just two ingredients: sprouted organic almonds and water. Eventually, McGowan wants to branch into flavors – chai-flavored almond milk for fall, blueberry or strawberry for summer.

All will be vetted by the public at Fork. The tasting room, she says, is “the number one reason I chose the Fork Food Lab.”

Another draw for McGowan and others is the idea of collaborating with fellow food producers. McGowan’s almond milk, for example, is already being considered as an ingredient in a new gelato flavor by Gelato Fiasco.

Gelato Fiasco has a space next to the downstairs tasting room where its employees will be testing new flavors and equipment, holding gelato-making classes and developing new products like gelato ice cream sandwiches and cakes.

Joshua Davis, co-founder and CEO of Gelato Fiasco, said it’s the company’s philosophy to deepen its relationship with customers, and attract new customers, through experiential and experimental endeavors. Fork Food Lab fits right into that, he said.

“We’re kind of thinking of it as our Epcot to our Magic Kingdom,” Davis said.

Last Thursday, the company was testing a new freezer/display case and experimenting with new flavors and different natural emulsifiers and stabilizers.

“We’re working on a goat milk flavor using a local farm,” Gelato Fiasco’s director of perfection (that’s really her title) Lila Wilmerding said, “and an almond milk-based, dairy-free flavor using the almond milk that’s made upstairs.”

Co-owners of Fork Food Lab, from left, Eric Holstein and Neil Spillane stand in their new kitchen incubator in Portland's West Bayside.

Co-owners of Fork Food Lab, from left, Eric Holstein and Neil Spillane stand in their new kitchen incubator in Portland’s West Bayside. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


Upstairs is a large kitchen filled with convection ovens, refrigerators, bowls, pans, whisks of every size and much more. Everything you see, Spillane says on a tour of the space, is owned by the lab, and its use comes with membership.

Spillane said he came to realize the high cost of equipment when he worked at Urban Farm Fermentory.

“Even a little 30-quart mixer like that,” he said, pointing to a mixer, “you’re talking about $4,000, which is not insignificant for a startup. That’s a decent chunk of change.”

Spillane said he and Holstein put together the kitchen with the help of a consultant and equipment lists from other culinary incubators.

One of their last purchases was a top-of-the-line oven that knows when a piece of chicken is done and automatically adjusts the temperature so it doesn’t overcook.

“It’s hooked up to water so you can actually steam vegetables in it, but it can also dehydrate and suck humidity out of the oven, so you can make jerky,” Spillane said. “It’s fully programmable.”

For Morrison, who was using the shiny new equipment to prepare her hush puppies and black bean-and-corn cakes, the fancy oven was just icing on the cake. The Fork kitchen is now her happy place.

“I didn’t know I was dreaming of this,” she said. “I didn’t know it was possible.”

Correction: In a previous version of this story, a photo of Christina Morrison of Have Chef Will Travel was credited to the wrong photographer. The photo was taken by Madison Gouzie of Fork Food Lab.

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Pros share their secrets for mouth-watering veggie burgers Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 With Labor Day weekend almost here, so too are the waning days of backyard cookouts. There is no time to waste. Let’s brush up on our homemade veggie burger skills so we can close the grilling season with our best vegan patties yet.

Veggie burgers are having their moment. Seemingly everyone from high-profile chefs, such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten andDavid Chang, to fast food restaurants, such as Wendy’s and White Castle, have added them to their menus.

Last year, GQ magazine bestowed its 2015 Best Burger of the Year title on the veggie burgers from Superiority Burger in New York’s East Village, and Grub Street recently penned a report headlined “Why Veggie Burgers Are Poised to Be the Country’s Most Exciting New Burgers.”

To help regular home cooks compete with trendy Manhattan restaurants and celebrity chefs, I reached out to a few veggie burger experts. The keys to a memorable plant-based burger, they said, are choosing the right ingredients, combining them to maximize texture, and preparing the burgers properly. Which, come to think of it, are the keys to pretty much all cooking.


Toni Fiore, who lives in Cumberland and hosts the PBS cooking shows “Vegan Mashup” and “Totally Vegetarian,” makes veggie burgers at least once a week. “It’s endless how many varieties of veggie burgers you can do,” Fiore told me.

Her cookbook, “Totally Vegetarian: Easy, Fast, Comforting Cooking for Every Kind of Vegetarian,” offers three vegan burger recipes, including a beet burger that came from vegetarian cookbook author Didi Emmons. “She had one of the first beet burger recipes,” Fiore said. “We didn’t realize back then how important it would be.”

Since then, beets have become a familiar veggie burger ingredient. Beyond Meat uses beets in the pre-made veggie burger it has recently begun selling in the meat department at Whole Foods Market. The burger is marketed to non-vegetarians as a veggie patty that “bleeds.”

Other commonplace veggie burger ingredients include various grains, beans, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, tomato paste and onions.

Fiore said when she is working from other people’s recipes, she wants to see nuts and grains that will offer “something to chew on. If I don’t see nuts or things that are going to give me a good texture I will modify the recipes and add them myself.”

Miyoko Schinner, who wrote “The Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples,” suggested another benefit: “Nuts add richness and the fatty sensation without added oils.”

Fiore also regularly incorporates yesterday’s soups, pastas, rice or vegetables into today’s veggie burgers.

“It’s a good way of using leftover foods,” Fiore said. “And the flavors are so intense. I use leftover soup. I whiz that in a processor and mix in other things.”

Italian Herb Burger adds some spice to the veggie burger scene.

Italian Herb Burger adds some spice to the veggie burger scene.


Beans, grains and mushrooms don’t naturally adhere to each other, so vegan burgers need something that can hold them together. Bread crumbs, flour or vital wheat gluten can all serve that purpose.

In “Grilling Vegan Style: 125 Fired-Up Recipes to Turn Every Bite into a Backyard BBQ,” writer John Schlimm variously uses white or whole wheat flour, oats and vegan egg substitute to bind his veggie burgers.

In “The Homemade Vegan Pantry,” Schinner uses vital wheat gluten. She created her recipe for what she calls a Real Burger more than 20 years ago for her former San Francisco restaurant Now and Zen.

“I was really proud of myself when I thought of adding gluten flour to hold it together, since I hadn’t seen that in burgers,” said Schinner, who these days is known for her cultured vegan cheese company Miyoko’s Kitchen. “There weren’t many veggie burgers around back then. Most of them were tofu, bean or grain-based and were often mushy or dry and tended to crumble and fall apart.”

“I wanted a burger that would not only hold together but was juicy and chewy and without added fat,” she added. “So the idea of raw, ground mushrooms came to me. They create the juiciness of the burger, and the gluten flour holds it all together.”

For eaters who are allergic to wheat, she suggests ground flax or chia seeds to bind the patties.


In addition to using nuts and grains, both Fiore and Schlimm recommend pulsing veggie burger ingredients in a food processor to achieve the best texture while making the ingredients stickier.

“I always tell people: ‘Don’t use the process button, use the pulse button,'” Fiore said. “If you use the process button, you have hummus or mush.”


Both Schlimm and Fiore chill their burger mixtures before cooking, but when it comes time to make them, the three cooks I interviewed each takes a different tack.

Schinner’s Real Burger is baked. Schlimm’s recipes are either broiled or sauteed in a skillet and then finished on the grill. To make her patties crispy on the outside, Fiore dredges them in flour or cornmeal, then cooks them in a skillet. She does so over medium-high heat for a good sear, because as she pointed out, “the longer you cook a veggie burger, it loses moisture and falls apart.”

And as both veggie burgers and veggie burger eaters proliferate, we can all agree that no one wants a veggie burger that crumbles as it cooks.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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Farm leftovers to be used to feed 5,000 in Portland Tue, 30 Aug 2016 21:00:00 +0000 On Oct. 7, a coalition of groups concerned about hunger will feed stew made from left-behind produce to thousands in Portland.

At harvest time, farmers and food lovers celebrate the season’s bounty coming out of the fields. But often, too much of that bounty is left behind in the field, wasting food that could feed the hungry.

Now a large coalition of Maine groups concerned about hunger is bringing attention to the issue by organizing volunteers in southern Maine to glean produce from local farms. Their efforts are intended to ensure that fresh produce can get into the bellies of the people who need it instead of rotting in the field.

Produce is often left in farmers’ fields because mechanical harvesters cannot pick up all fruits and vegetables; also, pick-your-own farms may have leftover fruits because customers don’t pick trees and bushes thoroughly.

On Oct. 7, the coalition of groups plans to serve thousands of bowls of free hearty stew to the general public in an event called Feeding the 5,000. Some 2,500 bowls will be dished up in Monument Square in Portland, with the remainder going to schools, local companies and hunger prevention programs that serve people who rely on donated food for their meals.

The event, the first of its kind in Maine, is part of a global campaign spearheaded by Feedback, an organization based in London that has held similar events in more than 40 cities around the world.

In the last year, the issue of food waste has received much attention both nationally and internationally. In the United States, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has proposed a bill intended to eliminate food waste in part by changing sell-by labeling laws.

“We’re the smallest city to do this by far, so getting 5,000 people to eat our food is going to be a lot more challenging,” said Sarah Lakeman, the Sustainable Maine project director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

The event is intended both to educate the public about food waste and to create an organizational structure for future gleaning efforts. The meal won’t use any food destined for local food pantries and soup kitchens.

Local organizers of the project include the Cumberland County Food Security Council, Healthy Acadia, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Garbage to Garden, which has been recruiting volunteers for a Food Recovery Crew that is part of the Maine Gleaning Network. Other participants include the Portland Food Co-op, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the city of Portland and Maine Farmland Trust.

In addition to feeding people in Monument Square, Lakeman has been speaking with schools and companies such as L.L. Bean, Unum and Idexx about taking a pot of stew to serve their students and employees. Any leftover stew will go to Preble Street Resource Center in Portland, which feeds the hungry.

Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth is among the local farms that has agreed to let volunteer gleaners pick their fields. Most farmers simply turn unharvested produce (which, if imperfect, supermarkets frequently reject) back into the soil, “but I think their preference as well as ours is that it get eaten,” said Jim Hanna, executive director of the Cumberland County Food Security Council.

“There is no coordinated gleaning effort in southern Maine at this time,” Hanna said. “Right now most efforts are through the Cooperative Extension, and they don’t have the volunteers they can mobilize at the spur of the moment.”

After the produce is gathered and two days before Feeding the 5,000, more volunteers will peel and chop produce for the stew at a “disco chop party” at the new Fork Food Lab in West Bayside. There, speakers and guest chefs will talk about the issue of food waste and do cooking demonstrations.

Among those who have signed up to help are David Levi of Vinland and Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley of Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honeypaw. Others! coffee shop in Monument Square has offered to make a sorbet out of melons or other fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste.

To learn more about the event, or to volunteer, keep an eye on the Feedback website,

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Scratch Baking Co. to close for a week while it opens its new bakery Mon, 29 Aug 2016 16:39:20 +0000 Scratch Baking Co. in South Portland will close Sept. 6-12 so that it can move its bagel- and bread-making operations out of Willard Square and into the former Getty station on the corner of Sawyer Street and Broadway.

Scratch Baking Co.'s Willard Square store in South Portland will close for a week starting Sept 6. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Scratch Baking Co.’s Willard Square store in South Portland will close for a week starting Sept 6. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

The Willard Square site will reopen Sept. 13, according to a notice posted for customers. While baking will be underway on Broadway, the “toast bar” where customers can purchase bagels to take away, or enjoy toast and bagels with a variety of toppings, will open in late fall.

Sonja Swanberg, co-owner of Scratch, announced in April that the bakery was expanding, an effort to provide some relief to customers tired of standing in long lines or frustrated by how early Scratch’s popular bagels sell out. Most mornings, customers arriving after 10 a.m. are left holding an empty bagel bag. Swanberg told the Press Herald in April that the new facility will produce at least 25 percent more bagels per day.

Nothing will change at the Willard Square location other than the baking of bread and bagels being moved off site.

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Esquire magazine names Portland among the 5 best cities for pizza Thu, 25 Aug 2016 18:57:54 +0000 Where can you get the best pizza in America? Esquire magazine has just put out a list and proud as we are of our city’s ability to punch above its weight when it comes to dining, still we are surprised to find Portland, Maine, in there with some of the nation’s pizza heavy hitters – New York; San Francisco; New Haven, Connecticut; and Providence, Rhode Island.

The magazine noted that Portland pizza “has been redefined by some truly gourmet options,” singling out for praise the pizza at Otto, Micucci Grocery and Slab.

Wondering who made The Worst list? Philadelphia and, surprisingly, Chicago, to name two.

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Where to dine with your dog in Greater Portland Thu, 25 Aug 2016 15:37:10 +0000 0, 26 Aug 2016 22:59:51 +0000 ‘The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East,’ may be a struggle in American kitchens Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.” By Chetna Makan. Photographs by Nassima Rothacker. Mitchell Beazley. $29.99

Never have I felt the truth of George Bernard Shaw’s witticism that England and America are “two countries divided by a common language” so forcefully as I did when baking from Chetna Makan’s new cookbook, “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”

Weighing ingredients was not the problem – I own a digital kitchen scale that records both ounces and grams so I can navigate amounts outside of the American cup system. I could also work out relatively quickly that their “plain flour” is our “all-purpose flour,” that “bicarbonate of soda” is “baking soda” and “double cream” is “heavy cream.”

A few minutes of internet sleuthing taught me that I could substitute granulated sugar for caster sugar (though some disagreement exists about whether or not it needs to be whizzed in the food processor first to make it finer) and that we Americans have no real substitute for golden caster sugar so I’d have to settle for more granulated sugar. I also knew “digestive biscuits” as one of those charmingly English unembellished cookies.

But was “plain dark chocolate” our semi-sweet or unsweetened? Did their “dessicated coconut” contain sugar? Why did so few recipes call for either salt or vanilla extract? And how the heck did the 2-pound loaf tin called for to make Black Sesame and Lime Cake relate to my own American standard 9 x 5-inch pan?

I was already scratching my head in puzzlement and frustration, wondering if I could ever bake the many intriguing pies, cakes and loaves in “The Cardamom Trail” that the stunning photographs had me lusting for, when I flipped the page to Raspberry Biscuits with Coriander Lemon Curd; the utterly alien “freeze-dried raspberry powder” lurking in the ingredients list stopped me cold.

I am an experienced home baker. So despite the language obstacles – the book was put out by a division of the British firm Octopus Publishing Group – I refused to be daunted.

“The Cardamom Trail” is the second of three cookbooks that have crossed my desk recently, all of them on the same theme – infusing Western-style baked goods with exotic spices, in other words pushing the baking envelope beyond cinnamon.

I reviewed “The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking in June and will review the last in the trio this fall. “The Cardamom Trail” author Chetna Makan, Indian by birth, English by current residency, was a semifinalist in the popular British show “The Great British Bake Off.” This is her first book.

In it, she ranges from savory to sweet, from clearly Western cakes (though with Indian touches) such as Mango, Cardamom and Coconut Cake to clearly Indian foods, such as Spinach Pakoras and Rajma Paratha.

She sprinkles the book with practical information on the exotic spices in her baking arsenal, including tamarind, fenugreek and coriander. When it comes to our ubiquitous cinnamon, she brings an outsider’s perspective: “To the British, cinnamon is the quintessential sweet spice and most people have a jar of ground cinnamon in the cupboard for baking. I did not know of it until I moved to the UK. In India, my mother used whole cinnamon sticks, and only for savoury dishes.”

I tested three recipes from “The Cardamom Trail.” Each had its own translation challenges, yet I was really pleased with all three outcomes. Lychee Cake was moist, tender, floral and surprising. Black Sesame and Lime Cake had an equally lovely tender texture, and the attractive black sesame seeds that flecked the cake also gave it an appealing slight crunch.

Curry Onion Tart – imagine a quiche traveling to India and reinventing itself – was truly delicious with layered complex flavors, make that flavours.

I had specifically selected these three recipes because the language barrier in the directions and ingredients felt lower than with other recipes in “The Cardamom Trail.” Nonetheless, with each one, I had to wing it at times, adding extra cream, guessing at pan sizes, ignoring my misgivings about mixing methods.

I intend to take up Makan’s challenge – “experiment as I do and give your favourite bakes a new edge.”

But until the publisher translates this book to “American,” I would recommend it to only the most confident of American bakers.


This recipe comes from “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”

I wouldn’t have thought to put together lychees and caramel, but the combination turns out to be delectable.

Depending on the season, you can sometimes find fresh lychees at Veranda Asian Market.

Serves 10-12

400g (14 oz.) canned lychees

200g (7 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

150g (5 1/2 oz.) caster sugar, plus 4 tablespoons

4 large eggs

150g (5 1/2 oz.) self-raising flour

50g (1 3/4 oz.) ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder


100g (3 1/2 oz.) caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

40g (1 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, diced

4 tablespoons double cream


300ml (1/2 pint) double cream

200g (7 oz.) canned lychees (drained weight) or fresh peeled and pitted lychees, halved

Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F), Gas Mark 4. Grease 2 x 20 cm (8in) cake tins and line them with nonstick baking paper.

To make the cake, drain the canned lychees, reserving the syrup, then chop the fruit into small pieces and set aside. Cream the butter and the 150g (51/2 oz) sugar together with an electric whisk or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients and beat for 1 minute until thoroughly combined.

Fold the chopped lychees into the cake batter, then pour the mixture equally into the prepared tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centres of the cakes comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the reserved syrup from the lychees and add the remaining 4 tablespoons caster sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the volume of the liquid has reduced by half.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

When both the cakes and syrup are cool, brush the syrup over the cakes.

To make the caramel sauce, combine the caster sugar and measured water in a small saucepan and cook for 5-6 minutes until the mixture turns into a golden-brown caramel.

Stir in the butter and cook for another couple of minutes. Now slowly add the cream, stirring continuously.

Cook for a further 3 minutes, then set aside to cool.

To prepare the decoration, whisk the double cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cooled caramel sauce and fold it in.

To assemble, place the cake on a serving plate and spread half the flavoured cream on it. Sit the second cake over the cream and spread the remainder of the flavoured cream on top.

Decorate with the lychees and drizzle with some of the remaining caramel sauce.

This cake will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Let it sit at room temperature before serving.

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