Food – The Portland Press Herald Tue, 24 Jan 2017 17:15:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Locally raised Maine meat is not in short supply Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 There is certainly enough local meat being raised in Maine to go around. The problem is that most of it leaves the state to be processed.

Analysts with the Reinvestment Fund, a public-policy driven lending institution based in Baltimore, presented findings of a recent study geared toward optimizing the state’s red meat supply chain to a packed house at the More Maine Meat Workshop held at the 76th Annual Maine Agriculture Trade Show in Augusta earlier in January. The bottleneck to getting more sustainable red meat on the menu in Maine is a shortage of meat-cutting facilities and butchering talent that can efficiently bring local beef, pork and lamb from the pasture to the plate here.

In the study, demand for local meat was based on USDA sales numbers. Supply was based on data pulled from a Dun & Bradstreet business registration of local farms. Researchers noted that supply was likely underestimated as many smaller farms are not included in those numbers. But even with the lowball estimate on the supply side, researchers found that the existing meat-processing facilities in Maine today can process only a third of the animals that local farmers can raise.

Ingredients for Christine Burns Rudalevige's Beef and Ale Pie.

Beef and Ale Pie is made with stewed beef and mushrooms. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

This statistic was not a surprise to the dozens of farmers in the room that day. The shortage of first-stage processors (ones that slaughter animals in certified facilities and butcher them into large primal cuts that then get shuttled off to second-stage processors that break them down into the steaks, chops and ground meat we buy) is a reality they’ve been working around for years. They do so by booking slaughter dates six months in advance at the dwindling number of Maine processing facilities or trucking their animals out of state to get the job done at an added cost to producers and the environment with no guarantee that the processed meat will make it back to Maine eaters. Having to transport the animals long distances causes them stress and gives farmers who care about how their animals die less control over their demise.

The study gave five potential locations (Chapman, Monmouth, Troy, Windham and Port Clyde) where additional Stage 1 meat-processing facilities could be located to, theoretically, relieve the bottleneck.

“But with the margins on meat processing so tight, you’d have to almost guarantee even more demand to have the cost of the new plants be feasible,” said Barry Higgins of Maple Lanes Farms, a beef producer and operator of a custom meat-processing facility in Charleston.

Christine Burns Rudalevige's Beef and Ale Pie.

The finished product, Christine Burns Rudalevige’s Beef and Ale Pie. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Farmer Nanne Kennedy of Meadowcroft Farm, a board member of the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society, said her group is working to build a brand that could certify that meat came from an animal that was born, raised and processed in the state. “Consumers want a guarantee they are in fact getting the local meat they believe they are paying for,” Kennedy said. She is working on a grant proposal for a pilot program that would use low-frequency RFID tags (which are attached to the animal’s ear and store information about birth, pedigree and location that can then be read electronically) to track and verify where an animal was reared throughout its lifetime. She anticipates the pilot would start this summer and is looking for farmers to participate.

If consumers are intent on buying more Maine meat, the industry must also address the need for more trained meat cutters, Higgins said. Filling these physically demanding jobs, which according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics pay between $14.90 and $16.30 per hour in Maine, is a constant struggle, Higgins said.

The ingredients for Beef and Ale Pie

The ingredients are all ready for making the Beef and Ale Pie. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Dr. Richard Brzozowski, food systems specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, stepped up to say the extension would hold a weeklong meat-cutting school in late April and would work with existing processors to tailor the curriculum to their needs. He was peppered with ideas ranging from preparation of hides to charcuterie food safety plans.

If the farmers, processors and food systems specialists have their way, more Maine meat will be available. It’s our job to try it – and keep on buying it – to support the systems needed for that part of the local agricultural system to thrive.

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


Christine Burns Rudalevige cooks the beef for her Beef and Ale Pie.

Christine Burns Rudalevige cooks the beef for her Beef and Ale Pie. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


This recipe is a labor of love, but it is also one that keeps on giving. The stew should be made ahead and cooled before it gets baked into the pie. The amount of gravy it makes cannot go into the pie as that would risk a soggy bottom.  Reserving a good portion of the gravy means you can serve it with bangers (sausages) and mash later in the week.

Serves 6, plus makes gravy for a future meal


1 ounce dried wild mushrooms

11/2 pounds of braising beef (buy whole piece and cut into 1-inch pieces)

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 large onions, roughly chopped

4 large carrots, chopped into large chunks

2 parsnips, chopped into large chunks

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

11/2 cups dark ale

11/2 cups beef stock

4 sprigs thyme

4 parsley stems

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup chopped smoky bacon

1 pound fresh button mushrooms, quartered


21/2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup lard or bacon fat, frozen and cut into pieces

5-6 tablespoons ice water

1 egg yolk, beaten, to glaze

To make the beef, place the dried mushrooms in a large measuring cup and cover them with 11/2 cups boiling water. Set aside for 20 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, reserving the mushrooms and soaking liquid separately.

Season the meat well with salt and pepper. Melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan and steaming the meat, brown the cubes of meat, then remove them to a bowl using a slotted spoon. In the fat remaining in the pan, add the onions, carrots, parsnips and garlic. Turn the heat down to medium and sauté until the vegetables soften, 5-6 minutes. Add the rehydrated mushrooms, stir and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour and sugar over the vegetables, stirring until the flour turns brown, 2-3 minutes. Return the meat, and any juices that have accumulated in the bowl, to the Dutch oven. Stir to combine. Add the ale, stock and mushroom soaking liquid, discarding the last few drops, which may contain grit.

Tie together the thyme sprigs, parsley stems and bay leaf with kitchen twine. Tuck the herbs into the stew and bring it to a simmer. Cover with a lid and continue to simmer on low heat until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

While the stew is cooking, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add the bacon and cook until the pieces are crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the fresh mushrooms and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and, when the stew is cooked, stir in the bacon-mushroom mixture.

Remove herbs from the pot. Cool stew completely.

To make the pastry, mix the flour, salt and pepper together in a medium-sized bowl. Using your fingers or a fork, cut fat into the dry ingredients until the coated fat is roughly the size of peas. Add enough ice water to make a soft dough. Knead the pastry lightly, and divide it into 2 disks, 1 about 1/3 larger than the other. Wrap and let disks rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. The pastry can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator or frozen for up to 1 month.

When you are ready to make the pie, heat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a flat baking tray in the oven. Grease a 9-inch pie dish and dust well with flour. Roll out the larger disk of pastry into a 1/4-inch thick round that will easily line the pie dish and have an overhang. Line the pie dish with it. Add the cool beef stew to the dish using a slotted spoon so that most of the gravy is left behind in the container. The filling will be slightly higher than the rim of the dish.

Roll out the remaining pastry disk into a circle big enough to cover the pie dish. Brush the edges of the bottom crust with egg yolk, then cover with the pastry lid. Trim the edges, crimp them together, then re-roll your trimmings to make a decoration, if you like. Make a few little slits in the center of the pie to allow air to vent, brush the top of the pie with egg yolk, place the pie on the hot baking tray, then bake for 40-50 minutes until golden.

Let the pie rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve warm with some of the reserved gravy.




]]> 0 ingredients for Beef and Ale PieFri, 20 Jan 2017 13:19:51 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Thousands of lobster rolls later, Eventide Oyster Co. still going strong Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 If you have ever witnessed a friend become famous, you know what a bittersweet experience it can be. As the world learns about how wonderful your friend is – as you start to see a familiar face appear in unexpected places online and in magazines – it makes you happy, and maybe even a little proud. Meanwhile, more and more people clamor for slivers of your friend’s time, and it becomes difficult to find ways for you to get together, until you eventually discover a new equilibrium between absence and affection.

It’s a lot like Portlanders’ relationship with Eventide Oyster Co., the bright, tightly conceived raw bar and small-plates restaurant that opened in mid-2012 and quickly became the well-deserved focus of both local and national attention. In addition to a 41/2-star review in this paper that “found little to fault” that autumn, chef/owners Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, along with co-owner and general manager Arlin Smith, were celebrated in Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2012. Then came the brightest spotlight of all: Taylor and Wiley were finalists for the James Beard Award for the best chef in the Northeast in both 2015 and 2016.

“We opened Eventide to be a small oyster bar for Portland, and that was our expectation. We thought it was going to be a little local spot. Our ambitions were pretty modest. Then it blew up on us, and it has been crazy,” Taylor said.

With national recognition come crowds, especially in summertime, when Portland bloats with visitors, nearly all of whom seem to wind up camped out on Middle Street, waiting for a chance to order one of Eventide’s legendary lobster rolls ($14). You can hardly blame them. Freshly picked local lobster, slick with sharp, nutty brown butter and lemon dressing, cascading over the edges of a housemade, split-top steamed bun is as good a justification for waiting 90 minutes in a line as any I can imagine.

The kitchen uses that same moist, airy bun – a kissing cousin of Chinese mantou – on its other rolls, as well. “In the summer, we have to make 400 of those every day just to keep up. It’s a painstaking process,” Taylor said. The pale steamed buns lend a soft chew to sandwiches, like one stuffed with crisp, deep fried oysters and topped with pickled onions, jalapeños and a smoked paprika tartar sauce ($7). Or a Southern-style buttermilk fried chicken bun ($7) filled with cole slaw, ranch dressing, and garnished with delicate, translucent strips of sweet-tart pickled watermelon rind that takes days to prepare.

All the same, extra effort differentiates Eventide from its competitors. It’s there in dishes like the simple-seeming, yet singular greens ($7), an ample bowl of Laughing Stock Farm mesclun, served with homemade pickled vegetables: onion, cucumber and Rapunzel-esque turnings of carrot and daikon. And if four types of fresh pickles isn’t enough, the salad is dressed with a vinaigrette made from toasted, pulverized nori sheets, soy, mirin and shallot oil. Each bite tastes at once of the earth and the sea, in perfect symmetry.

Even the half-shell selection reflects remarkable attention and care. Eventide is, as Taylor admits, “quite choosy” about the farmers they use and the oysters they purchase. Just as impressive, they are equally particular when it comes to training staff to describe them. During a recent visit, our server not only told us about the differences in flavor between winter and summer oysters, she was able to explain the differences among the seven Maine varieties and three “from away” (but still from the North Atlantic) available that evening. “She’s like a really good sommelier,” my dinner guest remarked. Then, pointing to the display of unopened oysters on ice in the poured concrete bar, said, “If there were a pearl in one of those, I bet she’d know exactly where to find it.”

She certainly guided our selection well that night, steering us toward a half-dozen ($16), including massive and meaty Browne Points; mineral, flinty Johns Rivers (both from Damariscotta); and a pair of Pine Points from Scarborough with a saline complexity that tasted the way a wet gravel road smells.

I generally like very little extra (or nothing at all) on my oysters, but I was won over by a punchy horseradish ice, as well as a more traditional red wine mignonette, with an ideal ratio of shallot to liquid that never masked the flavors of the oysters or their brine.

Likewise, when it comes to cooked seafood, Eventide manages to find a way to preserve essential flavors. The stuffed mahogany clams ($7) offer a good example, with chopped, deepwater Gulf of Maine quahog meat that shines through against a backdrop of bacon, butter, parsley and paprika, and a breadcrumb-crunchy texture that reminded me of Thanksgiving stuffing. It’s true in the Maine lobster stew ($14), where even through a gauzy screen of aromatic ginger, green chilies and lemongrass, fresh lobster always remains the focus of the hearty, chive oil-dotted bowl, rich with coconut milk and substantial chunks of maitake mushroom.

Then there’s the tender smoked mackerel ($11), balanced out, but never toppled by a cold salad of onion and bitter grapefruit. Or the restaurant’s gorgeous Tokyo-meets-Tennessee BBQ sablefish ($15), marinated in miso and served with braised collard greens and a dense, pan-fried sweet potato cake.

Asian influences appear throughout the menu, yet thanks to the kitchen’s steadfast obsession with putting seafood first, never feel overstated or forced. Taylor and Wiley’s comfort with those flavors has also undoubtedly only grown since sister restaurant The Honey Paw, an Asian noodle bar, opened next door in 2015, bookending Eventide with its fine-dining predecessor, Hugo’s. The three restaurants share owners, chefs and one huge, communal kitchen with a single walk-in refrigerator.

They also share pastry chef Kim Rodgers, whose tart and sparklingly spiced cranberry-ginger pie with soft, salted vanilla meringue ($7) was – despite a slightly overworked crust – refreshing and fittingly seasonal. It’s just this sort of dish that our bartender described to a local couple, out celebrating their anniversary with a few Eventide Manhattans ($10): “If you come in after the crowds disappear in November, we do things that will go away in March. The tourists, they never see them,” he said. “It’s our way of saying thank you for putting up with the lines, and to show you that we always still love Portland best.”

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, ME - JANUARY 18: A selection of oysters chill in the ice-filled well of large block of granite at Eventide restaurant in Portland. DINE OUT. (Photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Sat, 21 Jan 2017 18:09:30 +0000
Down East salmon also served during inauguration Fri, 20 Jan 2017 19:27:10 +0000 Maine lobster wasn’t the only Pine Tree State delicacy consumed by revelers at the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Farm-raised salmon from Eastport also made the menu.

Atlantic salmon raised at the Cooke Aquaculture farm in Eastport were hand selected and shipped to Washington, D.C., where they were smoked and served Thursday by the executive chef of the Blair House where Trump spent the night before his inauguration, according to a news release from the Maine Aquaculture Association.

“To have farmed salmon that were raised in the state of Maine served to President Trump, Gov. LePage and to those celebrating today’s inauguration, is a real honor and affirmation of our healthy, high-quality, sustainably produced farmed seafood,” said Sebastian Belle, the association’s executive director.

Cooke, which is based in New Brunswick, employs approximately 250 people in Down East Maine in its salmon farming operations.

Maine lobster was on the menu for lunch Friday following the swearing-in of the nation’s new president.

]]> 0 Fri, 20 Jan 2017 20:52:08 +0000
More Portland food trucks switch from diesel to dining rooms Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Clay Norris fell in love with Middle Eastern food when he was a poor, hungry culinary student in New York City. He’d get out of class late, and on his walk back to the train station, he’d grab a $3 sandwich from one of the many falafel carts.

Later, he worked with an Egyptian man in a French restaurant, and they would throw a Middle Eastern or Egyptian special onto the menu once in a while.

So it was a no-brainer that when he and his wife, Jenna Friedman, decided to open a food truck in Portland, they settled on serving Middle Eastern food. CN Shawarma, which advertised its food as “Arabian BBQ on wheels” when it debuted in June 2014, proved so popular that the developers building the new apartment complex at the corner of Anderson and Fox streets in East Bayside approached the couple and asked if they would be interested in opening a restaurant in the building.

Now Norris and Friedman are converting their beloved blue food truck into a 30-seat brick-and-mortar restaurant to be called Baharat. The restaurant is scheduled to open in mid-February.

“We were planning on running our truck longer,” Norris said, “but when we got the opportunity and found out what neighborhood it was in, we jumped at it.”

The owners of the Small Axe food truck knew from the start that they evenutally wanted to open a restaurant.

The owners of the Small Axe food truck knew from the start that they evenutally wanted to open a restaurant. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


At least eight food trucks in Portland have now converted, or are in the process of converting, into full-fledged restaurants. The most recent to announce their plans are Mami, which serves Japanese cuisine and is setting up shop at 339 Fore St., and Bite Into Maine, which is building out a small place at 185 U.S. Route 1 in Scarborough that will seat fewer than 20 people; it will also offer takeout for locals frustrated by waiting in the long lines of tourists at Fort Williams park in Cape Elizabeth, where the truck parks in summer. And it will serve as a commissary for their food truck.

Others that have made the transition are Small Axe food truck, now the East Ender restaurant at 47 Middle St.; the owner of the Love Kupcakes food truck has opened Baristas and Bites at 460 Fore St.; Mainely Burgers, which operates three food trucks in Maine, opened its first restaurant in Cambridge, Mass.; Hella Good Tacos started out as a taco cart and now has a stationary location at 500 Washington Ave.; and Urban Sugar opened its first brick-and-mortar location at Sugarloaf to feed hot doughnuts to cold skiers.


Serving food from mobile transportation has a long history in this country dating back to the chuckwagons of the Old West, and later ice cream trucks and lunch trucks parked at construction sites. The idea took a more sophisticated turn after the economy collapsed in 2008. Chefs began buying food trucks when they couldn’t get financing for restaurants.

The Bite Into Maine truck at Fort Williams Park. The owners plan to open a small place in Scarborough.

The Bite Into Maine truck at Fort Williams Park. The owners plan to open a small place in Scarborough. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Since that time, the number of food trucks in America has at least doubled, to about 8,000, with trucks in every state, according to Richard Myrick, editor-in-chief of Mobile Cuisine, a trade magazine for food trucks. Portland has 28 licensed food trucks (and 24 licensed pushcarts).

No statistics show how often a food truck becomes a restaurant because the industry is still too small for national agencies to track the numbers, Myrick said. But he thinks conversions are growing.

“People that have built their brands in food trucks are now getting approached by investors,” he said.

Modern-day food trucks are launched for a variety of reasons. They give aspiring restaurateurs a chance to “practice” running a food business and create appealing menu items that will draw customers. They help a chef build his or her brand and reputation before he invests his life savings, or a huge bank loan, into a full restaurant.

A potential restaurateur can get started in the business with a food truck for $50,000 or less, according to Myrick. (The average start-up cost for a restaurant in a leased space is $275,000, according to a survey done by “You’re also learning the hospitality side,” Myrick said, “which is something a lot of these chefs don’t necessarily have from their experience working in kitchens.”

Karl Deuben and Bill Leavy, owners of the Small Axe food truck, knew from the start that their final goal was a restaurant. But they also knew what they didn’t know – the business side. With the food truck, Leavy says, “We got to see directly how labor and food costs affected our bottom line.” Leavy said it was also “very important” to them to get their names out, and get out from under the wings of the well-known chefs they’d worked with before, including Masa Miyake and James Beard award winner Rob Evans.

Austin Miller and his Mami food truck. Miller and Hana Tamaki plan to open a restaurant on Fore Street in Portland.

Austin Miller and his Mami food truck. Miller and Hana Tamaki plan to open a restaurant on Fore Street in Portland. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Austin Miller, who owns Mami with his business and life partner Hana Tamaki, said their biggest eye-openers were learning to manage money and to brand and market themselves. They’d both worked in restaurants all their lives, but the money was never their own. The food truck, Miller said, “made it seem more real.”

“You don’t even realize small things, like going to the bank for change,” he said. “We have to fill the register with money. There’s so much that goes into it.”

How do you know when it’s time to make the leap to brick and mortar?

Like Norris and Friedman, Miller and Tamaki planned to turn Mami into a restaurant one day, but they weren’t yet seriously looking for a space. After they’d had their truck about a year and a half, though, their broker called and told them about a turnkey location on Fore Street, which used to house Mainely Wraps. They hope to open there this spring.

“It felt right when we went in,” Miller said. “It was one of those gut feelings.”

For Sarah and Karl Sutton, owners of Bite Into Maine, opening a small restaurant as they move into their seventh year of operation is “more of a next step in diversifying than an end game.”

Karl Sutton of South Portland runs the Bite Into Maine food truck with his wife, Sarah, and serves two lobster rolls to another customer at Fort Williams Park.

Karl Sutton of South Portland runs the Bite Into Maine food truck with his wife, Sarah, and serves two lobster rolls to another customer at Fort Williams Park. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Their Fort Williams food truck is their bread-and-butter. People line up for their award-winning lobster rolls even when it’s raining. But the business is seasonal, and they hope their brick-and-mortar spot will provide them with income year round. Karl Sutton called it an “easy, organic progression.”

“It’s a small takeout space, so it’s not overly ambitious,” Karl Sutton said. “We’re hoping to be able to make a little more income from it, and it’s not a huge build-out from scratch.”

They hope to open by the beginning of summer.


Transitioning from a food truck to a restaurant has other benefits. Menus can expand, offering customers more choice and chefs more opportunities to showcase their creativity.

Sarah Sutton said she and her husband will keep their menu Maine-centric, but they want to add a few things, and bring back some customer favorites from the early years of the food truck, such as pulled pork sliders with Maine maple chipotle barbecue sauce.

“It’s not going to be a huge menu, but it will be a little bit more rounded out,” she said.

Norris said the Baharat menu will feature kebabs, hummus and other spreads, falafel and a shawarma spit.

The future home of Baharat, which will serve Middle Eastern food, with a larger menu than CN Shawarma.

The future home of Baharat, which will serve Middle Eastern food, with a larger menu than CN Shawarma. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“There’s a lot of ingredients to explore and a lot of spices,” he said, “and the truck definitely limited us with what we could serve.”

The owners of East Ender, who were the first food truck owners in Portland to convert to a restaurant, had to bring certain menu items to their permanent location for fear of customer revolt.

“We definitely had to bring the burger over,” Leavy said. “We still serve it today in our restaurant. It’s very popular.”

Miller and Tamaki, who are keeping the name Mami for their restaurant, said they will add more traditional izakaya-style food (Japanese pub food) since they will “no longer be held back by the limitations of what the truck is,” Miller said.

That means hot pots, braised eel over rice, broth dishes, and ramen, which was not practical to serve from the food truck.

“You can’t really find to-go bowls for ramen,” Miller said. “It just doesn’t exist. You can’t really hand out nice big ceramic bowls of ramen and be like, ‘Can you bring that back when you’re done?’ ”


Expanded menus are nice, but moving from diesel to dining room also has its challenges.

“All of a sudden, you’ve got big rent and property taxes that need to be paid, which means that you can’t just have 50 to 60 tickets to make your nut for the day,” Myrick said.

The East Ender restaurant in January 2014.

The East Ender restaurant in January 2014. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Food truck operators-turned- restaurateurs have to find linen suppliers, decide on a uniform for the wait staff – and find a wait and kitchen staff, he said. They also have to find someone they can trust to manage the books, and manage the store when they aren’t around. Obviously, they need to find the right location, too. Deuben and Leavy said their biggest challenge was finding a good location that had the potential to make money.

Then there’s the question of what to do with the food truck? Myrick said some chefs keep the food truck to send to big festivals. Others keep the truck going but use the restaurant kitchen as their commissary instead of leasing a commercial kitchen to prep the truck food. And sometimes chefs sell their truck and don’t look back.

Deuben and Leavy considered keeping their truck for catering, but quickly changed their mind. “We were putting all our time and effort into building up this restaurant in a very competitive market, so having a peripheral vehicle that can break down, that requires maintenance, it just made sense that we sell the truck after we opened and were established here,” Deuben said.

Conversely, for Bite Into Maine, it would be business suicide to let go of their truck. In fact, they plan to buy a second truck that will be parked at Allagash Brewing Co. a few days a week.

Norris admits he has “emotional ties” to his CN Shawarma truck, and while he’s informally shopping it around, he’s not sure he’s ready to let it go. It will, he says, “come down to finances.”

Also logistics: “It’s not an easy thing to run a truck for a concert at Thompson’s Point,” Norris said. “You need to have four talented people out there who can move quickly and feed 400 people within an hour and a half. If I’m going to try and staff my restaurant, it’s not realistic to staff the food truck this summer.”

CN Shawarma debuted in Portland in 2014.

CN Shawarma debuted in Portland in 2014. Courtesy of Jenna Friedman and Clay Norris

Miller and Tamaki plan to hold onto their truck and continue taking it to breweries, catering jobs and concerts. Miller sees it as a promotional tool for their new restaurant.

“It will be an extension of us, and it will be easier because we’ll have the restaurant to store and prep food,” he said. “Instead of paying for a commercial kitchen, it’s our own kitchen and stuff we’re already cooking.”

Since 2011, city officials, local restaurateurs and would-be food truck operators have debated at length food truck regulations and whether Portland even needed the trucks at all. One argument in their favor was that they give entrepreneurs opportunities to test out restaurant concepts. Food truck owners say they feel vindicated by the number of trucks that are now transforming into restaurants. Miller notes that, especially in Portland, where lots of experienced chefs are behind the wheel, “There’s a lot of talent inside the trucks.”

]]> 0 Miller and his Mami food truck. Miller and Hana Tamaki plan to open a restaurant on Fore Street in Portland.Wed, 18 Jan 2017 15:51:18 +0000
Maine native heads west and finds success with vegan living in Los Angeles Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Amber St. Peter, a Maine native who now lives outside Los Angeles, is a rising vegan star.

She’s best-known for Fettle Vegan, a popular blog that she began in 2010, but her first cookbook, “Homestyle Vegan,” came out in November.

St. Peter, 26, contributes to the lifestyle website One Green Planet; she maintains a well-followed Instagram account, and she regularly works for LA-area food companies doing product shoots, recipe development and other projects.

Oh, and she and her fiancé, Alex Owens, occasionally host a pop-up vegan restaurant called Tacolepsy.

I caught up with her on an icy January morning in Portland. She’d taken a red-eye from LA into Boston, then driven to Maine. St. Peter was in town for a wedding, and she was wearing sneakers and no socks, though the temperature was well below freezing. We huddled over hot beverages at the all-vegetarian Dobra Tea in the Old Port.

She told me that she jumped at the opportunity when publisher Page Street called to offer her the book deal, though writing the cookbook meant leaving her day job as a nanny and chef.

“It took me from a part-time blogger to full time,” St. Peter said. “Being a full-time blogger is fun, and I hope I can do it forever, but there are months when I make a lot of money and others months when I make no money. It’s still a tricky balance. Summers are tighter and holidays are better.”

St. Peter grew up in Whitefield and graduated from Hall-Dale High School. After school she enrolled at the University of Maine at Orono, but it wasn’t a good fit and she soon left. A visit to a friend in southern California convinced her to move there, where she met Owens, went vegan and started her blog.

“Originally it was a way to show my mom and dad that this is a healthy diet,” said St. Peter, who as a teen had dieted and didn’t always have a positive relationship with food. “I started the blog so I could put up recipes and my mom could see it had nutrition.”

Soon her mom wasn’t her only fan.

Last spring Erin Wysocarski, who blogs at the vegan site Olives for Dinner, interviewed St. Peter and wrote: “I especially love how Amber takes all of the fuss out of cooking, and just gives us warm and welcoming dishes.”

St. Peter discovered that as traffic on the site grew “even if it wasn’t a great recipe or photo it was getting shared and pinned because it was vegan. So I realized if I had a great recipe and a great photo, it would really get shared.”

Fettle Vegan is now known for both, as well as being on-trend in terms of both ingredients (think jackfruit, cauliflower and chickpeas) and dishes (fig + almond chia oat pudding; San Pedro style fish-less market tray; and shredded kale and Brussels sprouts salad).

For her book, “Homestyle Vegan,” St. Amber “veganizes” traditional comfort foods and baked goods. The book has 80 recipes – the vast majority of them new. Each is paired with an appealingly composed and styled photograph. Among the Maine-influenced recipes are apple cider donuts, lobster-mushroom bisque, creamy corn chowder, blueberry crumb cake, needhams (see recipe) and pumpkin whoopie pies. The book contains no recipes that call for tofu or faux meat. St. Peter told me that she is allergic to soy, and avoided recipes with plant-based “meats” because she was concerned readers in rural areas might have trouble finding them.

As we talked over tea, St. Peter noted a big difference between the vegan culture in Maine and in LA. Portland has vegan options, she said, but such choices are far fewer elsewhere in Maine. By contrast, when St. Peter is in California, she can get a smorgasbord of vegan meals delivered to her doorstep.

“If we want to go out, there are hundreds of vegan places,” St. Peter said, going on to list some of her favorites, including fellow Maine native Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food + Wine in Venice (“It’s like the next level of food”); Crossroads in LA where she met Alicia Silverstone (“the nicest restaurant I’ve ever been to”); and Seabirds Kitchen in Costa Mesa, where she and Owens held their engagement party (“my family was blown away”).

With all-vegan eateries firmly entrenched in LA’s restaurant culture, St. Peters said the next trend appears to be all-vegan restaurants that “don’t say anywhere they’re vegan.” An example just opened near her home: an all-vegan cinnamon bun bakery that doesn’t advertise itself as vegan.

While St. Peter has a keen eye for food trends, she is less sure what her own future holds.

“This whole business is such a weird thing,” St. Peter said. “I don’t know where I’ll be in five or 10 years. Maybe blogging will be out of style and Instagram won’t exist, but I think a food focus will always be important to me.”

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


Recipe from Amber St. Peter’s “Homestyle Vegan.” “Whether you’re sick with a fever or a broken heart, this soup is the answer,” St. Peter writes in the book. Leftover soup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen and reheated as needed.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium onions, chopped

4 medium carrots, thinly sliced

4 celery stalks, thinly sliced

6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

2 quarts (2 L) vegetable broth

8 ounces (227 g) whole-wheat rotini noodles

1 cup (200 g) cooked chickpeas

Salt and pepper

Chopped fresh parsley

Crackers or bread

In a cast-iron Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

Add the garlic, onions, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaf and sauté until the veggies are softened, but not browned.

Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil.

Once the soup is boiling, add the noodles and chickpeas and cook for about 8 minutes, until the noodles are almost completely cooked (they’ll continue cooking in the water). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from the heat and serve with freshly chopped parsley and salty crackers or bread.


Recipe from Amber St. Peter’s “Home Style Vegan.” “Growing up in Maine meant eating potatoes with almost every meal,” she writes in the book. “They’re a huge crop for the state, and I still eat them several times a week. I LOVE potatoes! Any way you cook ’em, really. I can’t remember the first time I had needhams, but I remember the first time I realized I could make them at home, from scratch, using only vegan ingredients.” Leftover candies will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator and indefinitely in the freezer.

Makes 20

2 cups (260 g) powdered sugar

¼ cup (75 g) plain mashed potatoes

1 tablespoon (6 g) vegan butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

¾ cup (68 g) unsweetened, finely shredded coconut

½ pound (227 g) vegan chocolate chips or chopped bar chocolate

1 tablespoon (11 g) coconut oil

Using a large saucepan with a glass bowl or another pan over the top, create a double boiler. Pour the powdered sugar into the glass bowl, creating a well in the middle. Add the mashed potatoes, butter, vanilla and salt to the well, gradually stirring in the powdered sugar until a smooth paste forms, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded coconut. Pour the mixture into 20 small candy molds or form it into a large, 1-inch (2.5-cm) thick square on a baking sheet. Place the candy molds or baking sheet in the freezer to harden, at least 20 minutes.

While the candies harden, use the same double boiler method to melt together the chocolate and coconut oil. When the candies have set, pop them out of the molds (or, if using the baking sheet method, cut into 20 equal squares). Dip each square into the melted chocolate mixture, coating it completely. Place the coated candies onto a baking sheet in the refrigerator or freezer to set, about 1 hour. Enjoy!

]]> 0, 17 Jan 2017 22:49:46 +0000
‘Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice’ offers unusual, delicious recipes Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking.” By Malika Ameen. Roost Books. $30.

The premise of “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking,” a new cookbook by Malika Ameen, is made clear in its title. And as advertised, the book is filled with intriguing recipes, also pretty pictures, that made me excited to get the book off my shelf and into my kitchen: A Winter Citrus Galette is enlivened with cumin; Indian rice pudding is topped with tamarind caramel; Pomegranate-Milk Chocolate Scones (as if that weren’t exotic enough) are sprinkled with rose petal sugar.

The five chapters are divided by flavor profile, such as “Floral & Aromatic” or “Complex & Mysterious.” The top of each recipe, in delicate rose-pink ink, lists the name of the spice, or spices, that Ameen, who is of Pakistani heritage, wants to highlight.

I tested five recipes and was tempted by many more. Golden Semolina Friands were baked in muffin pans greased with tahini, not butter. The idea is brilliant! It gave the edges a haunting, wonderful crunch. The little cakes themselves were dressed up with black sesame seeds and golden raisins and had a winning moist and chewy quality. The Best-Ever Honey-Glazed Corn Muffins may not have been the best ever, but they were pretty darn good, at once moist and fluffy with a spiced glaze – cayenne, cumin and smoked paprika – that lent excellent contrast. I liked the Chocolate-Hazelnut Clouds, too, meringues with cocoa nibs and a hint of cardamom.

But while the Four-Spice Ginger Cookies tasted good, they were flat as newsprint, though I followed the instructions to the letter. And though the Luscious Pineapple and Honey Squares were tasty, they weren’t worth the trouble. They were a lot of trouble.

Which brings me to my two complaints, big complaints, about “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice,” one of three books that came out last fall on a similar theme. (The others, also reviewed by the Portland Press Herald, are “The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking” and “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”)

Ameen is a professional chef who cooked at many restaurants and also ran her own. Perhaps she forgot that home cooks lack kitchen staffs and often must wedge baking projects into busy lives. To give just one example, and I could give many, here is her process for making those pineapple and honey squares.

First, the cook must cut a fresh pineapple into 1/2-inch cubes, drain them on paper towels and toss them with sugar. Then she must set a cast-iron pan over high heat for 3 minutes (setting off my smoke alarm), and brown the cubes in two batches, 6 to 7 minutes per batch, individually turning each and every cube to brown on all four sides. Then it’s time to put together the batter, which calls for sifting the dry ingredients and using caramelized honey, which must be made beforehand by boiling honey over high heat for six minutes.

The recipe requires a baking pan, a bowl to hold the raw fruit, a skillet to brown the fruit, a second bowl to hold the browned fruit, a third bowl for the dry ingredients, a fourth bowl to combine spices and coffee, a saucepan to make the caramelized honey, and a fifth bowl for whisking the eggs. By my count that is eight pots and bowls for a single cake.

There was another significant problem with this recipe and more than a few others in “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice.” The pineapple squares called for 70-75 minutes of baking. In my oven, which is calibrated correctly, they took 45 minutes. Likewise, the Golden Semolina Friands: The recipe instructed 35 to 40 minutes baking; mine were done in 20 minutes, plus the yield was off. A recipe for Apricot Almond Financiers told readers to use a mini-muffin pan, but the photograph shows they were baked in boat-shaped barquette molds. The recipe for Sesame Semolina Date Bars refers to the “spiced espresso-date filling.” In fact, the espresso is in the dough, not the filling. The instructions for slicing citrus crosswise are omitted from the Winter Citrus Galette.

These mistakes – and more – made me wary of “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice,” much as I liked its premise as well as some of the recipes I did try and the sounds of many that I didn’t. Baking is expensive and can be laborious. Before I embark on a new recipe, I want some assurance that neither my money nor my time will be wasted.

Where were the recipe testers? Was the editor asleep on the job or just stretched dreadfully thin as the publishing industry reels in the face of grave digital threats? Whichever, it’s a shame. “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice” is a book I’d like to have been able to recommend without reservation.


1139257_61960 muffins.jpg


Recipe from “Sweet Sugar, Sultry Spice: Exotic Flavors to Wake Up Your Baking” by Malika Ameen. The recipe says it makes 12 friands. When Food Editor Peggy Grodinsky tested it, her yield was 11. Also, though it calls for a baking time of 35 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees F, Grodinsky found they were done after just 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. The recipe below has been amended to reflect those changes. If you do not have fine semolina, you can substitute Cream of Wheat.

2 tablespoons cold tahini

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 cup fine semolina (not semolina flour)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the tahini evenly onto the bottom and sides of 11 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan and place in the freezer.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the sesame seeds, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Remove the pan from the freezer and sprinkle each cup with the sesame sugar, making sure to coat the cups evenly. Return the pan to the freezer until needed.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 2 tablespoons of the butter and the turmeric. Once the butter is melted, stir to combine and cook until foamy, about 1 minute. Add the remaining butter and reduce the heat to low.

Heat until the butter is melted, then transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and allow to cool.

Into a large bowl, sift the semolina, flour, baking powder, the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. When the butter is cool, add the milk, water, and vanilla and whisk together. Add this mixture to the semolina mixture and whisk until just combined and lump free. Stir in the golden raisins.

Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown, firm to the touch at the edge but just a bit soft in the center. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edges of the muffin cups to loosen the friands, then turn them out onto the wire rack to cool fully.

]]> 0, 17 Jan 2017 17:26:37 +0000
Big flavor and nutrition, not to mention ease, make broccoli rabe a go-to green Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 If you have been eyeing the bunches of broccoli rabe in your grocery store but passing them by because you are unsure how to cook this vegetable, here is your official cue to pick some up and discover something powerfully delicious and healthful.

The accompanying recipe is like Broccoli Rabe 101: a basic preparation all cooks should have in their back pockets to serve as a side for just about any Italian-style main, from pastas and pizzas to chicken piccata; to be piled on panini; or to be chopped and cooked into frittatas.

Broccoli rabe, also called rapini, is a more intensely flavorful, even more nutrient-packed cruciferous cousin of regular broccoli. Despite its name and appearance, it’s not a type of broccoli but is more closely related genetically to turnip greens. Broccoli rabe has a mustardlike bitterness that becomes a mouthwatering taste dimension once mellowed by blanching the vegetable briefly before sauteing it with garlic in olive oil.

That’s all it takes to make this dish, which is an Italian restaurant standard and a staple in my home.

Although I typically avoid boiling vegetables in favor of steaming them – the more contact with water they have, the more water-soluble nutrients are lost – I make an exception for broccoli rabe. Steaming doesn’t temper the bitterness quite enough for my taste. Just a minute in boiling water followed by a brief ice-water bath does the trick, and it is a step you can conveniently do several days in advance.

Interestingly, salting the water helps prevent nutrients from leaching out by creating a more even osmotic balance, but some salt will then be absorbed, so if you are watching sodium, cooking the broccoli rabe in unsalted water is fine. Either way, I figure you get more nutrients from a deliciously tasty vegetable eaten with abandon than from one that’s not. This recipe is definitely the former, and a classic for a reason.

The broccoli rabe also can be blanched, cooled, drained and refrigerated up to 4 days in advance.


Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons sea salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon

1 large bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced

Generous pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of salt. Fill a large mixing bowl with cool water and ice cubes. Line a large plate with a few layers of paper towels.

Trim off and discard about an inch from the ends of the broccoli rabe stems, then add the vegetable to the boiling water. Once the water returns to a boil, cook for 1 minute, then use tongs to transfer the vegetable to the ice-water bath just long enough to cool it completely. Transfer the vegetable to the plate.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring until it is just beginning to turn golden. Add the blanched broccoli rabe, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the crushed red pepper flakes; cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetable is warmed through and tender.

Serve warm.

]]> 0 rabe with Chinese take-out chicken.Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:32:19 +0000
Quick bok choy can help draw you out of a cooking rut Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 If you tend to fall into cooking ruts, one easy way to snap out of it is to check out the holiday calendars of different cultures. Next up on my list of inspirations is the Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year.

I love cooking Chinese and Asian food all year, but certain foods carry symbolism in Chinese culture and are intrinsic parts of this holiday.

Many of the new year’s foods are associated with luck and prosperity. Long noodles symbolize longevity; the word for “orange” in Chinese is similar to the word for “gold,” thus signifying wealth, so that fruit is commonly presented and shared (the round shape also signifies fullness); fish is served whole, to symbolize a strong year to come, start to finish; and green foods are equated with money.

It takes just a few ingredients – garlic, ginger, soy sauce, hot chili sauce – to turn a variety of vegetables into a delicious Asian side dish. Because my husband is knee-deep in love with bok choy these days, that was the vegetable I picked to create my prosperity-green vegetable dish.

Bok choy is available in cute baby versions, but for this dish you can use the inexpensive bigger bunches. Look for it in well-stocked produce sections or Asian specialty stores.

This dish has a nice amount of cooking liquid, so serve it over rice alongside a main course.

I’m under no illusions that money equals happiness, but I do know that this green dish makes my family happy, and that’s a rewarding feeling. Wishing all of you lots of luck in the Rooster New Year.


Serves 6

2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 pounds bok choy, trimmed, sliced into 1-inch pieces, and rinsed

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot chili sauce

Place the sesame seeds, if using, in a large stock pot or braiser (this will seem silly, but you will use the same pan to cook the bok choy). Heat the pan over medium heat, stirring frequently until you can smell the sesame seeds and they turn a bit more golden in color. This will only take 2 or 3 minutes; watch carefully that they don’t get too brown. Turn the seeds onto a small plate and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in the same pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and the ginger and stir for 1 minute until you can smell the aromas. Add the bok choy (it’s OK if it’s still a bit damp) and stir for another 2 minutes, then pour in the chicken broth, soy sauce and hot sauce, and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook the bok choy for about 8 minutes, until it is tender, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a serving bowl with its cooking liquid and serve hot, with the sesame seeds sprinkled on top if desired.

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

]]> 0, 17 Jan 2017 17:38:43 +0000
Fresh lemon, garlic suit rich salmon – as does a simple parsleyed side Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Lemon and garlic add a fresh and flavorful sauce to salmon fillet.

The secret to perfectly cooked salmon is to sear it first in a skillet and then finish the cooking in the oven. It should come out soft and juicy and a little translucent in the center. It will have some carryover cooking once it is off the heat. Look for wild caught salmon.

The tartness of the sauce is a perfect balance for the richness of the fish. Fresh parsley adds color and flavor to the whole wheat spaghetti side dish.


Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3 ounces white wine

Olive oil spray

3/4 pound wild caught salmon fillet

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix lemon juice, garlic and white wine together in a bowl. Set aside. Heat a nonstick skillet that is oven-proof over medium-high heat. Spray with olive oil spray. Add the salmon and sear 2 minutes, turn and sear 2 minutes. Pour the lemon sauce over the salmon and place the skillet in the oven for 5 minutes or until the salmon starts to flake. This is for a one-inch-thick fillet. For 1/2-inch-thick fillet, sear 1 minute on each side and 3 minutes in the oven. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.


Makes 2 servings

1/4 pound whole wheat spaghetti

2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and boil 8 minutes. Remove 2 tablespoons pasta water to a bowl and add the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Drain the spaghetti and add to the bowl. Toss well. Sprinkle with parsley.

Linda Gassenheimer is the author, most recently, of “Delicious One-Pot Dishes.” Follow her on Twitter @lgassenheimer.

]]> 0, Byrne seasons a fillet of salmon for Salmon Au Puy, a French dish.Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:45:04 +0000
Meatballs come alive with Southeast Asian flavors Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Though students at The Culinary Institute of America face a seemingly endless to-do list, central to their course work is recipe and menu development. At the CIA, food is life, and even the best-managed restaurant is nothing without flavorful, exciting, and innovative recipes.

A recent standout is this recipe for Hanoi Pork Meatballs with Hoisin-Peanut Dipping Sauce, which is ideal if you’re hosting friends and family for the big game.

Bursting with the flavors of Southeast Asia, like garlic, ginger and bright herbs, these meatballs are an easy make-ahead option that will stand out among the usual party favorites. The sweet hoisin-peanut dipping sauce will remind you of other meatballs you may have simmered in your slow cooker, but with a little something special and unexpected.

If you love the flavors in these meatballs, why not put your own spin on the recipe? You can replace the pork with turkey for a leaner appetizer to balance out those beers. Or, for a more substantial dinner, form the mixture into burger-sized patties and serve them on buns. You can top them with the dipping sauce, more fresh herbs, and pickled onions for some zing.

This year’s big game is being held in Houston. And even though you might think of Houston as BBQ central, it’s actually known to have some of the best Vietnamese restaurants in the country – so this recipe will help your guests feel like they are right in the middle of the action.


You can service Hanoi pork meatballs hot, with toothpicks and a bowl of dipping sauce.

You can serve Hanoi pork meatballs hot, with toothpicks and a bowl of dipping sauce. Phil Mansfield/CIA via AP


Servings: 5 (Makes 15 meatballs, 3 per serving)

Non-stick cooking spray, as needed

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon canola oil

5 cloves minced garlic

21/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

3 minced scallions

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

11/2 tablespoons chopped Thai basil

11/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

11/2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 teaspoon sriracha

1/8 cup whole milk cottage cheese

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon lime zest

1 pound ground pork

Hoisin-Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Oil a rack for a sheet tray with non-stick cooking spray. Place rack in sheet tray and set aside.

In a medium-size saute pan, heat both oils over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and scallions.

Sweat until aromatic and soft (about 5 minutes). Remove from pan, and allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl, add and combine all remaining ingredients except for the ground pork and dipping sauce. Mix all of these ingredients together until completely combined.

Add the ground pork and mix lightly until all the ingredients are lightly incorporated. Be careful not to over mix the meat, as it will result in tough meatballs.

Scoop or form mixture in 15 11/2-ounce balls and place them onto the oiled rack.

Cook the meatballs in the preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature has reached 155 degrees F and the exterior is golden brown.

Serve meatballs hot, with toothpicks and a bowl of the Hoisin-Peanut Dipping Sauce to dip.


Serves 5

3/4 cup hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

]]> 0 can service Hanoi pork meatballs hot, with toothpicks and a bowl of dipping sauce.Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:52:14 +0000
Dine Out Maine: If Toroso’s food pleases, ’tis the seasoning; if it doesn’t, ditto Sun, 15 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 A few hours after returning home from dinner at Toroso, in Kennebunk, I had a vivid, Technicolor dream about it. Maybe it was the tart and tropical, margarita-like Smoke on the Water cocktail ($12), or maybe it was the drama of inching home on the highway in the season’s first white-out snow conditions that set my brain racing full tilt right before sleep. Regardless of the cause, when I woke in the morning, I couldn’t stop laughing at one lingering dream image: being greeted and seated by a chatty octopus with the head of a bull.

My overactive imagination was not completely responsible, either. Toroso’s logo features this same fantasy hybrid, which executive chef and owner Shannon Bard calls “The Octobull,” designed to reference both the seafood served in restaurants across Spain, as well as the brawny, iconic bovine that has become shorthand for the country’s very identity.

The name of the restaurant, too, means something along the lines of “strong, like a bull,” and captures the boldness that Bard aspires to in the restaurant’s menu of mostly Iberian-inspired small plates.

Toroso has been in the works for quite a while. It started in 2011, when Bard, who also runs Portland’s Zapoteca, completed a five-week stage (short for stagiere, a brief kitchen internship) at Arzak – a modern, three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Basque country. But it wasn’t until this past spring, after traveling to Seville, that she put her ideas into a coherent perspective, just in time for Toroso’s opening in late July.

Bard’s adventurous approach is built on the primacy of flavor above all else and rejects geographic restrictions in its interpretation of tapas. “Spanish food is not something that’s really defined by borders, so it gives me room to be creative,” she said.

One example is her golden, charred cauliflower with garbanzos and green beans ($8), served in a nutty, garlicky romesco aioli – very traditionally Spanish. But the cauliflower itself is dusted with an aromatic Moroccan ras el hanout, a bewitching blend of cumin, cinnamon, ginger and coriander that reflects the North African influence on cooking in southern Spain.

That same Moorish spice blend also appears, perhaps excessively, in the otherwise excellent cod loin with clams ($25), one of Toroso’s three entrée-sized plates. Here, it infuses a stew of chickpeas, tomatoes and baby kale, made loose by the liquor that weeps out as the clams open on the stove.

As agnostic as Bard is to the culinary boundaries of place, she is equally so with her approach to flavors.

In some dishes, she interjects unexpected components, like savory cured egg yolk that she grates like hard cheese over a conical stack of slick, plancha-seared asparagus ($9). As I dipped tender, grill-marked green asparagus spears (the menu lists both white and green as part of the dish, but we were served only green) into hazelnut romesco and dabbed shavings of cured egg yolk off the plate, I could not focus on my conversation. All I could do was eat.

Toroso’s flavor risks do not always pay off this well. A dish of crispy, milk-soaked fried eggplant slices, drizzled Andalusian-style with honey ($9), was far too sweet and heavy-handedly sprinkled with finely chopped rosemary. Plated on slate with a single marigold and a lost-looking amaranth flower loitering beneath three overlapping discs of eggplant, the dish resembled a strange, Henry Darger-esque reimagining of the Olympic rings.

Bard’s version of pan con tomate ($6), probably the quintessential tapa – toasted crusty bread rubbed with garlic, fresh tomato, and topped with olive oil and salt – fell similarly short. This time, because of omissions.

Paella de Mariscos made with calasparra rice, Spanish sofrito, chorizo, lobster, mussels, manilla clams, shrimp, arugula, garlic parsley oil and lemon wedges at Toroso in Kennebunk.

Paella de Mariscos made with calasparra rice, Spanish sofrito, chorizo, lobster, mussels, manilla clams, shrimp, arugula, garlic parsley oil and lemon wedges at Toroso. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Toroso’s skimpy version ditches the garlic and literally whittles the foundation of the dish, the bread, down to a cracker-like thinness. The Backyard Farms tomatoes puddled on top in a sweet, chunky gel were excellent, even in the middle of winter, but they bled into the meager slices of toast, making them soggy seconds after they were set down on the table.

Seasoning issues also crop up in a few places across the menu at Toroso. Some dishes, such as the previously mentioned cauliflower and the honeyed eggplant, were heavily oversalted. Others, like the blistered shishitos/Padróns, referred to on the menu as “Moorish style peppers” ($5), were undersalted to the point of oily blandness. At a tapas restaurant, that’s a missed opportunity, because savory, occasionally fiery Padróns are meant to trigger a thirst for another glass of wine, something Toroso offers in abundance.

Thanks to a temperature-controlled, vacuum wine dispensing system set up in its classically Spanish tiled bar, Toroso is able to pour more than two dozen wines by the glass.

Most are, as you might expect, Spanish, like a ripe and citrusy Marques de Caceres rose ($15). The few exceptions include a gooseberry-tart Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand ($13), and an award-winning Stags Leap Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon from California ($10 for 2 oz., $16 for 4 oz.), which is nearly impossible to find by the glass elsewhere.

And if the prices for these glasses seems high, don’t be put off: Toroso’s pours are lavish.

Albondigas de cordero, a hot tapas plate of seared lamb meatballs served in oxtail jus and sherry cream at Toroso.

Albondigas de cordero, a hot tapas plate of seared lamb meatballs served in oxtail jus and sherry cream. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

There are also two sangrias ($10 for a glass/$20 for a pitcher) on the menu, including a white version made with pear and cucumber, and a red, flavored with orange and thyme – a profile well suited to partner with rich dishes like the staggeringly pleasurable lamb albondigas ($11). Plated uncomplicatedly, with three tender meatballs in a shallow ladling of sauce made from sweet sherry and foie gras, this plate perhaps best showcases Toroso’s ability to present audacious, sophisticated flavors in an elegantly simple format.

“The sherry and the foie add a little bit of maturity to the dish. It’s an adult version of the meatball,” Bard explained.

Similarly, the citrus-infused Crema Catalana ($9) – a largely faithful rendition of Spanish crème brûlée – looked unassuming when it arrived. That is, until I took my first bite, and brazen curlicues of anise and clove twined their way down my tongue, spreading like ivy across my entire mouth. This, I thought, was a dessert with flavors to remember.

I wonder now if it wasn’t those lingering hints of spice that made me fall asleep, only to dream of dinner with a garrulous Octobull.

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 or on Twitter @AndrewRossME.

]]> 0, ME - JANUARY 12: Jessica O'Rourke, left, and Tony Smith dine at Toroso in Kennebunk on Thursday, January 12, 2017. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)Mon, 16 Jan 2017 13:19:56 +0000
‘Chicken soup’ sold in Maine recalled because of mislabeling Fri, 13 Jan 2017 18:46:01 +0000 LYNN, Mass. – Federal officials say a Massachusetts company is recalling more than 3,000 pounds of chicken soup due to misbranding and undeclared allergens.

The federal Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says Kettle Cuisine’s 24-ounce cups of “Mom’s Chicken Soup” with a “use by” date of Feb. 17 is actually Italian wedding soup with meatballs.

The recalled items were sent to Whole Foods Market stores in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Health officials say the soup’s unlabeled ingredients are known allergens and could harm those who consume them.

The products have the establishment number “P-18468” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

There haven’t been any confirmed reports of allergic reactions to the mislabeled soup.

The Lynn company didn’t respond to requests for comment.

]]> 0 Fri, 13 Jan 2017 18:05:58 +0000
Mainely Wraps to reopen in South Portland on Thursday Thu, 12 Jan 2017 00:37:09 +0000 Mainely Wraps will open Thursday morning at 7 in its new location at 1422 Broadway in South Portland, according to owner Naphtali Maynard.

Hours will be 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The new location will serve breakfast, including Union Bagel Co. bagels and Swift River Coffee.

On opening day, the restaurant will give out as many as 500 $10 gift cards. Other giveaways include catered lunches and one prize of free wraps for a year.

Mainely Wraps moved out of its Old Port location last fall.

]]> 0 Wed, 11 Jan 2017 19:54:50 +0000
David’s Restaurant to close while it updates decor, systems Thu, 12 Jan 2017 00:33:02 +0000 David’s is getting a facelift.

The popular restaurant in Portland’s Monument Square will close Monday for renovations and redecorating, according to chef/owner David Turin.

Turin said he expects the restaurant to re-open during the first week of February, with more updates continuing behind the scenes through the beginning of May.

Turin said the redesigned restaurant will have “some whimsical modern industrial design elements,” including hand-forged artisan iron work, decorative etched stainless steel, reclaimed wood, new lighting and a refreshed open view into the kitchen.

The renovations will also solve ongoing issues the historic building has had, such as draftiness in winter and poorly functioning air conditioning in summer. Customers have complained about the restaurant being too smoky during busy times because of poor kitchen ventilation, according to Turin, and that will be fixed as well.

Finally, the restaurant’s computers are being updated, so customers will be able to split checks.

]]> 0 Thu, 12 Jan 2017 06:10:08 +0000
Olive oil cake with prune jam and whipped ricotta Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:59 +0000 This recipe is adapted from Evan Mallett’s book “Black Trumpet: A Chef’s Journey Through Eight New England Seasons” (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016) and is printed with permission from the publisher.

Makes one (8-inch) cake. Serves 12.

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 3 or 4 oranges)

2 1/2 cups sugar, divided

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1/4 cup brandy

1 1/2 cups olive oil

Zest of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons ground anise seed
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan.

Combine the orange juice and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a small pan over medium heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a medium bowl and set aside.

Whip the eggs in a stand mixer (using the whisk attachment) on medium speed for 1 minute. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups sugar and whip on medium speed until dissolved, about 3 minutes.

Pour 1/4 cup of the cooled orange syrup, along with the milk, brandy and olive oil, into the egg-and-sugar mixture; whip on low speed until incorporated. Add the zest, anise seed and salt, and mix just until combined. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the batter, mixing just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and bake on the middle shelf for about 11/4 hours, until the cake is dark golden brown, it’s set in the middle, and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let the cake cool to room temperature and brush with the remaining orange syrup before slicing into 12 pieces. Serve with Prune Jam and Whipped Ricotta (both recipes follow).

TO SERVE THE CAKE:  Place a slice of cake on a dessert plate. Dollop some Whipped Ricotta on top, sprinkle with chocolate shavings, and serve with a spoonful of Prune Jam. Repeat with the remaining slices.


Mallett says the recipe was tested with plums dehydrated in-house, but that store-bought prunes will work.

Makes 12 portions

8 prunes

4 dates, pitted

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup red wine

2 tablespoons apple brandy

2 tablespoons honey

Zest of 1/4 orange

Combine all the ingredients in a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the pan. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times, stopping often to scrape down the bottom and sides. Continue pulsing until the ingredients are fully incorporated and smooth.


Makes a little more than a pint.

2 cups whole-milk ricotta

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip the cheese on low speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until combined.

]]> 0, 23 Jan 2017 11:38:59 +0000
Garden tomato soup with shellfish and saffron cream Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:40 +0000 This recipe is adapted from Evan Mallett’s book “Black Trumpet: A Chef’s Journey Through Eight New England Seasons” (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016) and is printed with permission from the publisher.

Serves 8


4 pounds paste tomatoes, cored, rough-chopped

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons plus 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup medium-diced Spanish onion

1 cup medium-diced celery

1 cup medium-diced carrot

12 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup vegetable stock

Pepper, to taste

16 cherrystone clams

3⁄4 cup white wine

40 mussels

16 medium white shrimp, peeled and deveined


1 clove garlic

1⁄2 teaspoon saffron

1⁄2 cup cream

Pinch salt

In a nonreactive pot, combine the tomatoes, basil, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the salt; simmer, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes. Strain the tomato mixture through a mesh strainer or china cap into a bowl, pressing on the solids with a ladle to capture all the liquid. Place the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, olive oil, and remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a heavy-bottomed nonreactive pot and cook for 15 minutes, until the vegetables have begun to soften. Add the strained tomato mixture and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until it thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth, adding up to a cup of vegetable stock to thin the liquid, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper as needed.

Meanwhile, place the clams and the white wine in a separate pan with a lid and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and shrimp, cover again, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer 3 minutes, or until all the clams and mussels are open.

MAKE THE SAFFRON CREAM:  Slice the garlic lengthwise into seven or eight thin slices. In a hot, dry pan over a high flame, add the garlic slices and cook 1 minute. Add the saffron and toast 10 seconds. Add the cream and salt and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer 2 minutes and strain through a mesh strainer.

FINISH THE DISH:  When you’re ready to serve, heat up the tomato soup and the shellfish separately. When it’s hot, pour the tomato soup into bowls, dollop the Saffron Cream in the middle, and arrange the seafood around the periphery of the bowl.

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 11:39:01 +0000
Winter root veggie potpie Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:24 +0000 This recipe is adapted from Evan Mallett’s book “Black Trumpet: A Chef’s Journey Through Eight New England Seasons” (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016) and is printed with permission from the publisher.

“Many cooks will prefer to make one large pot pie with this recipe and serve sloppy slices instead of individual pies,” Chef Mallett says.

Makes 10 (eight-ounce) individual pies


12 ounces all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

1⁄2 cup ice water


1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in double the volume of water

3⁄4 cup unsalted butter, divided

1 medium-sized celery root (about 1 pound), peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces

4 Red Bliss potatoes, scrubbed and cut into eighths (1-inch pieces)

1 cup pearl onions, peeled

3 medium carrots, cut into obliques (quarter turns on the bias, 1⁄2 inch thick)

3 baby white turnips, quartered

1 pound parsnips, cut into obliques

1 bulb fennel, halved, cores removed from each half, sliced 1⁄2-inch thick

8 ounces parsley root (optional)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1⁄2 quarts vegetable stock

1 tablespoon chopped fresh winter savory

1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground coriander

1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

1 sweet potato (about 1 pound) peeled, quartered lengthwise, and chopped into 1-inch pieces

8 ounces fresh black trumpet mushrooms

1⁄3 cup raisins, soaked in 1⁄2 cup orange juice for 30 minutes


1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

MAKE THE BRISÉE DOUGH: In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt three to four times. Add the butter and pulse ten times, counting one to two seconds per pulse. With the motor running, add the ice water in a slow drizzle. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and, handling it as little as possible, mound into a disk, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to a few days.

MAKE THE POTPIE: In a large pot, add the chickpeas and four times the volume of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the chickpeas are al dente.

Melt 1⁄4 cup of the butter in a medium round high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the next eight ingredients including the optional parsley root, if you like, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies begin to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the veggies, melt the remaining 1⁄2 cup butter in the pan, and whisk in the flour, creating a roux.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the stock and the next six ingredients, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 7 minutes. Add the browned vegetables, sweet potato, and black trumpets, and simmer until fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the chickpeas and add along with the raisins and simmer 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Place 1 cup filling in each of ten (8- to 10-ounce) individual baking dishes or ramekins. Divide the dough into ten (1 1⁄2-ounce) balls. Roll out each dough ball to 1⁄4 inch thick and cut with a 4-inch biscuit cutter. Lay the pastry rounds over the top of the filling, tucking the ends into the baking dish. Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl and brush the top of the dough with the mixture.

Score the crust with three slashes and place the baking dishes on a baking sheet. Slide into the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes and serve.

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 11:46:37 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Shellfish hors d’oeuvres are a snap to make Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 While we’re all still somewhat in the party mood (Twelfth Night gatherings are quite common in Maine), here are a couple of stylish and utterly delicious shellfish hors d’oeuvres that can be assembled ahead and cooked at the last minute.


It’s scallop season, and I think these meaty beauties are an ideal hors d’oeuvre. Their rich taste (and their price) combine to make them a perfect one-bite treat. The scallops I’ve been getting are so large that they can be cut in half before receiving their bacon wrap, but if the ones you get are smaller, just leave them intact.

Makes about 30 pieces

1 pound large sea scallops

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound thin-sliced bacon

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Half a lemon, cut in wedges

1135840_120263 scallop.jpg

Remove side hinge from scallops and cut the scallop in half around circumference. Combine oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add scallops, stir to coat, and refrigerate while the bacon cooks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the bacon in half crosswise, peel slices apart, and arrange in a single layer on 1 or 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until the bacon is about three-quarters cooked, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour off rendered fat.

To assemble, wrap each scallop around its circumference with a bacon slice. Secure with a toothpick and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. (Can be assembled up to 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake the scallops until the bacon crisps and the scallops are cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Arrange on a serving platter and sprinkle with parsley. Squeeze a couple of lemon wedges over the scallops and garnish platter with remaining lemon.


They sometimes call this “barbecue shrimp” in New Orleans, though it never goes near an open fire. Maybe it’s the red-tinted sauce. You can use shrimp in their shells the way they do in the Big Easy, which guests peel and eat by hand (supply lots of napkins!), or use peeled shrimp with tails on or off. Pick up by tails to eat or serve with toothpicks.

Makes 25 to 30 pieces

1/2 cup olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

11/2 teaspoons crumbled dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon fresh

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound large shrimp, 25 to 30 count

Heat the oil in small saucepan or skillet. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper. (Can be made a day ahead.)

Pour the sauce over shrimp and marinate for 2 to 4 hours. Preheat broiler.

Lift the shrimp out of the sauce and arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil about 5 inches from heat source for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cooked through. Meanwhile, bring the remaining sauce to a simmer. Arrange the cooked shrimp on a platter, pour the sauce over, and serve hot or warm.

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 can be contacted via Facebook at:

]]> 0, 10 Jan 2017 17:23:56 +0000
Portsmouth chef fuses ethnic influences with New England cuisine Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 PORTSMOUTH — Whenever people ask Evan Mallett what kind of food he serves at his restaurant, Black Trumpet, he can never give them an easy answer.

The chef’s food is an interesting blend of ethnic influences layered over a backdrop of New England cuisine, and made with as many local ingredients as possible, a reflection of Mallet’s devotion to the farm-to-table creed – a devotion also on display in the restaurant’s farm/garden, his promotion of heirloom seeds and his interest in foraging.

On a recent, chilly winter evening, pots of fish stock, rabbit stock and veal demi-glace simmered on the stovetop in the restaurant’s small kitchen. Mallett cut up a heritage breed New Zealand white rabbit from a Maine farm for his Mountain Paella – chicken mole meatballs, chorizo, rabbit, snails and mushrooms simmered with Spanish rice. Behind him, two cooks shelled peanuts for an experimental dish, Mallet’s take on West African peanut soup, an African-Mexican hybrid containing okra, onions, garlic, Berbere spice mix, chiles, cilantro and Nantucket bay scallops.

Mallett, 48, gathers much of his inspiration not from fancy food in expensive restaurants, or from celebrity chefs, but from other cultures’ food traditions. He is always on the hunt for new flavors.

“The most memorable meals, the ones I can still taste, aren’t ones that had hundreds of ingredients that were touched by 20 different people before they came to my table,” he said. “It was the ones that were made with heart and soul elementally by people who loved what they were doing. I can cite a restaurant I just ate in in Montreal called Foxy, where everything is made with fire, either on a wood grill or in a brick oven, and the food was just perfect. I would take a meal like that any day over one that’s 24 courses of fabulousness that looks great on camera.”

To answer that frequent question – what kind of food do you serve? – Mallett recently published his first cookbook, “Black Trumpet: A Chef’s Journey Through Eight New England Seasons.” Each of the four seasons is divided further into early and late spring, early and late fall, etc. The book targets “the ambitious home cook,” Mallett says, but he tested recipes over more than nine months to make them as accessible as possible. Still, he knows that not everyone will want to shop for and cook with, say, rabbit.

Mallett, a Boston native, also tells his own story in the book, along with sharing profiles of some of his favorite farmers and fishmongers. He regrets that he does not have any kind of “traceable food heritage” or one of those quintessential chef stories about falling in love with food while he was cooking with his grandmother. Though the family couldn’t afford expensive restaurants, his father used to splurge on them occasionally to mark the milestones in Mallett’s life. Those experiences gave him an appreciation for the hospitality industry, he says, “but there was never this epiphany that I really want to be a chef.”


Mallett attended seven different colleges but never got a degree. He was an English major and French minor, then abandoned both to study marine biology. He was living in the Washington, D.C. area in his early 20s when he began working in restaurants to help pay for school. He parked cars and cleared dishes before a chef coaxed him into the kitchen. Mallett got just far enough along to get a taste for the work before he decided to focus on completing his studies.

His interest in marine biology waned, however, as his interest in writing grew. Mallett moved home to Boston and started writing about food. He was a staff writer at Improper Bostonian, and freelanced for several Boston newspapers and magazines. It’s no surprise, then, that “Black Trumpet” is better written than most other cookbooks. Take, for example, Mallett’s description of New Englanders as “hardy as parsnips, our wills stronger than the roots of the sugar maple…”

“My exposure to food increased exponentially with writing about food,” Mallett said. “One of the perks of being a food writer is exposure to so many different styles and influences and ethno-culinary traditions and farms and food sources and things like that. I became really driven by those connections.”

He returned to cooking professionally in 1998, after he and his wife, Denise, shared an unforgettable meal of rabbit and pappardelle at Lindbergh’s Crossing, a bistro and wine bar located in a two-centuries-old ship’s chandlery on the Portsmouth waterfront. The location, 29 Ceres St., was the former home of the legendary Blue Strawbery restaurant. The rabbit and pasta, Mallett recalled, “was breathtaking and soul-warming enough to trigger that desire to return to the kitchen.”

Chef Evan Mallett prepares rabbit for dinner in the kitchen of his Portsmouth, N.H., restaurant, the Black Trumpet. "I'm pretty adamant about sourcing from within New England, and from New Hampshire and Maine whenever possible," he says.

Chef Evan Mallett prepares rabbit for dinner in the kitchen of his Portsmouth, N.H., restaurant, the Black Trumpet. “I’m pretty adamant about sourcing from within New England, and from New Hampshire and Maine whenever possible,” he says. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The couple was living in Concord at the time and thinking of starting a family. Mallett’s grandfather lived in Portsmouth and was ill. The dinner at Lindbergh’s Crossing helped tip the balance, and they moved to Portsmouth, where Mallett landed a job at Lindbergh’s Crossing. He worked there, and later as sous chef at its sister restaurant, Ciento, until 2001.

That year, a perfect storm hit: Terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, Mallett’s wife lost her job, and Ciento closed. The couple had a newborn daughter to support, so when a job offer in San Miguel de Allende, a city in central Mexico, came along (courtesy of a flamenco guitarist who had played at Ciento), the Malletts jumped at the opportunity. Mallett knew only “eight words of very vulgar kitchen Spanish” when he arrived, but within six months found himself conversant in the language.

They were looking, Mallett explained, for “a decompression, a sabbatical, and it was a perfect escape. I ended up working just as hard there as I have anywhere. … It still, today, informs the way I cook.”

They stayed for nearly two years and still return once a year.

When Mallett’s former employers in Portsmouth invited him to return, he and his wife moved back and bought a home in Berwick, where they still live with their two children, Eleanor, 16, and Cormac, 13. Mallet became executive chef at Lindbergh’s Crossing. Three years later, the owners asked the couple to take over the restaurant. They agreed, and transformed the restaurant, which had served cuisine from the south of France, into the Black Trumpet.

Denise Mallett, while a co-owner, did not work there on a day-to-day basis until the recession hit, and her husband credits her with the restaurant’s survival. (She is now back to her own career, working for a Portland firm that researches socially responsible investing.)


The cozy downstairs dining room at Black Trumpet peers out over the harbor at sidewalk level. Guests can see the riverfront and the Fort Macon tug standing guard – an even better view is available in the upstairs dining room. Downstairs, where the kitchen is located, the long, narrow dining room is filled with small copper-topped tables and huge, dark, wooden beams stretch across the ceiling. The narrow fireplace hasn’t worked since the 1800s, according to a server. Along one old brick wall is a long shelf filled with wine bottles; below them, a line of photographs of fish, seaweed and, of course, black trumpet mushrooms. Shortly before opening for the evening, Mallett brings out a pot of shrimp and meatball gumbo for the staff meal and explains the additions to the night’s menu, which are listed on a chalkboard that sits on the fireplace mantel.

A meze plate holds a trio of tastes, including veal Bordelaise, an achiote-rubbed tenderloin, and a creamy beef empanada. The achiote spice blend is house-made – the Mallets also own a spice store called Stock + Spice next door. The tenderloin is seared rare and served with a dab of crème fraîche. Sampling the plate reveals how the spices build in heat, from left to right. It’s a warm heat that complements the food, never overwhelming.

Among other items on the chalkboard are pork rillettes made with a mulefoot hog’s head from Washington County, Maine. Small plates include local oysters Bienville, and the fish for the evening is local dayboat cusk. The menu includes a wide variety of small and medium plates. Entrees range from $19-$32.


Over the years, Mallett has earned a solid reputation as an advocate for what he calls the “Good Food Revolution” and for using only the freshest, local foods.

“I’m pretty adamant about sourcing from within New England, and from New Hampshire and Maine whenever possible,” he said.

Mallett sits on the boards of Slow Food Seacoast and the Chef’s Collaborative, a national nonprofit network of chefs and food professionals dedicated to food sustainability, access to good food, and building a better food system.

Black Trumpet has its own garden, which began as a raised bed in a community garden on the grounds of Strawbery Banke. Today it’s a three-quarter-acre organic plot at Meadows Mirth Farm in Stratham, 10 to 15 miles from the restaurant. It has spawned another food system-building project called the Heirloom Harvest Project, co-founded with Josh Jennings, the owner of the farm.

“Feeding our guests from our garden is a nice story to tell,” Mallett said, “but a more important story is the food heritage that we are curating and disseminating, literally. The heirloom plant varieties that we grow there are, generally speaking, endangered or approaching extinction.”

Once a year the Heirloom Harvest Project shares heirloom seeds with local farmers, for free, and connects them with chefs. Rare varieties that have been targeted by the project include Roy’s Calais flint corn, Longpie pumpkins and Gilfeather turnips.

Kathy Gunst, a food writer and cookbook author from Berwick, calls Mallet “driven, creative and obsessed with learning about, and supporting, local farmers and the food they grow.”

“He has an almost childlike wonder, in the best way, about the food world around him,” she said.

Gunst occasionally dines at Black Trumpet and has taken part in one of Mallett’s other projects, the annual “Take a Bite Out of Appledore” eco-culinary retreat on Shoals Marine Laboratory at Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off Portsmouth and Kittery. Mallett co-founded the event, a weekend of foraging, education in ecology, and good food, then later invited his longtime friend and mentor Sam Hayward, co-owner of Portland’s Fore Street and Scales restaurants, to help. (Hayward began his own culinary career on the island in the mid-1970s.)

Guests explore and collect edible plants with biologists, trawl for groundfish in the lab’s research vessel and snorkel in tide pools for intertidal shellfish. Hayward said he and Mallett had only a limited idea what edible plants and marine species would be available when they first arrived on the island, “and yet, somehow, every meal was a buffet of literally dozens of species.”

“Evan embodies much that I wish all food professionals would share,” Hayward said. “He cooks from a deep well of generosity, the basis of hospitality. His curiosity is limitless. He’s one of the few chefs I know who studies the natural history of the creatures and plants we cook and serve. He’s an observant naturalist and a habitual forager. He’s a tireless experimenter. And as a collaborator, he’s incredibly inclusive and open to the suggestions of those working with him.”

Mallett says the opportunity to talk about foraging and ecology with a captive audience was “a once-in-a-lifetime possibility” that he couldn’t pass up. “I am exponentially more educated by that experience than I am an educator.”

“The most surprising thing that’s happened is learning about the adaptability of species to adverse conditions because the Isles of Shoals sees that more than most places in our region,” he said. “The harshest storms, the most severe droughts. This last year, there was a species of plant that flourished because of the drought that would normally have been dormant.”

He used that plant, red goosefoot, to make a salad that was “a better salad than any spinach has ever made.”

Consider it one more lesson learned about an ingredient that grows in New England – an ingredient that, when it makes its way into Mallett’s kitchen, will likely find itself enhanced by flavors from another land.

]]> 0 Mallett at Black Trumpet restaurant in Portsmouth, N.H., and his eponymous cookbook (below), which was published last year.Tue, 10 Jan 2017 23:07:40 +0000
Recipe for beer-infused Super Bowl sliders one for the win column Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Big provisions are required to watch the big game, and nothing’s more substantial than a burger, even in its mini-form – the slider.

Indeed, if you plan to serve a variety of dishes for the Super Bowl, sliders are more sensible than the full-sized guys. But they happen to be a little trickier to cook than a standard-issue burger. The slider’s size makes it tough to put a nice crust on the outside while ensuring that it doesn’t overcook on the inside.

These sliders are adapted from a burger I used to make at a bar in Ann Arbor, Michigan, called the Del Rio – my first job as a cook. Dubbed the Det Burger, this marvel was dreamed up before I landed at the Del Rio by a cook named Bob Detweiler, who christened the creation after himself. The heart of the original version was a quarter-pounder topped by “the Det mix” – canned mushrooms, canned olives, grilled onions, freeze-dried green peppers and slices of cheese.

But there also was a secret ingredient: beer. The Det Burger was steamed in beer. If it wasn’t quite “the burger that made Ann Arbor famous,” it was undeniably a city-wide favorite.

A generation later, I assembled the same winning combo of ingredients – though in a fresher form – and then focused on the cooking process to make sure that these mini-burgers ended up both juicy and crusty. There are a few key points to preparing Beer-Steamed Cheese and Mushroom Beef Sliders.

First, the sliders need to be about 3/4 inch thick, not only so they don’t overcook, but also so you can fit all of them at one time into the skillet. Second, the skillet needs to be large, a 12-incher. If you don’t have a skillet that big, use two smaller ones and cook six sliders in each. And third, whichever skillet you use, the oil must be heated until it’s almost smoking. At the start, you want the burgers to sear, not steam, which is what will happen if the pan isn’t hot enough.

At first, the sliders will be crowded together in the skillet, but they’ll shrink down as they cook, giving off fat and juices in the process. You deglaze the pan with beer, of course, which mingles intimately with the fat and juices released by the burgers to create a delectable pan sauce.

I recommend spooning some of this liquid onto the buns before sliding in the burgers, but my son proposes a more extravagant way to roll: Pour the sauce into ramekins and invite your guests to dunk their sliders into it between bites. Whatever happens onscreen, you’ll be winning at home.


Start to finish: 50 minutes

Makes 12 sliders

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion

3 ounces mushrooms (white, cremini or shiitake), finely chopped

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons finely chopped pitted green olives

2 tablespoons finely chopped, drained, canned green chilies

3 ounces sliced sharp cheddar cheese, broken into 12 equal pieces

11/2 pounds ground beef, shaped into 12 sliders, each about 3/4 inch thick

Ground black pepper

1/3 cup beer

12 slider buns

In a large (at least 12-inch) skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onion to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of the oil to the pan, the mushrooms and a hefty pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid the mushrooms give off has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the onion. Reserve the skillet.

Add the olives and chilies to the mushroom mixture and stir well. Set aside.

Return the skillet to high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and wait until it is almost smoking. Meanwhile, season the sliders on one side with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the sliders, seasoned side down (it will be a little crowded in the pan), and cook them until they are just browned on the first side, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the top side of each with salt and pepper, turn the sliders over and cook for another 2 minutes.

While the sliders are browning, top each slider with a heaping teaspoon of the mushroom mixture, dividing all of the mixture among the sliders, then place a piece of cheese on top of each. Quickly pour the beer into the pan, all around the sliders, cover the pan and steam for 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the sliders sit in the pan for another minute to let the cheese melt completely. Spoon some of the liquid in the skillet onto the tops and bottoms of the buns, transfer the sliders to the buns and serve right away.

Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”

]]> 0 Cheese and Mushroom Beef Sliders.Tue, 10 Jan 2017 19:05:51 +0000
Sheet-pan salmon supper keeps diet resolution afloat Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 So let’s get right down to it: If healthy eating is complicated and time-consuming, we will lose interest before Valentine’s Day has arrived. That’s why sheet-pan salmon suppers are so terrific – they take minutes to make, and yet the healthy fats in salmon are filling. Today’s recipe features salmon alongside super-quick-cooking asparagus, which tastes sweet and less grassy when roasted. This incredibly simple recipe will keep the 2017 healthy menu rotation on track.

Sheet-pan suppers are perfectly quick for weeknight eating, and versatile enough that you can swap out ingredients to match your tastes and your fridge. Don’t have salmon? Use sea bass or cod, no problem. Just pay attention to the cook times, particularly as you swap out veggies – you may need to pre-cook hardier vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower. (Tip: You can do a quick microwave steam to par-cook slower-cooking ingredients like potatoes before placing them on the sheet-pan.) You can even use frozen fish fillets for this recipe if you add a little cooking time (use an instant meat thermometer to check for doneness).

Since my daughter is gluten-sensitive, I use almond flour for a bit of bread-less breaded texture on top of the salmon, but feel free to use crunchy panko breadcrumbs if you prefer. Herbes de Provence is my go-to dried herb blend, and it can be found now in most well-stocked grocery stores, and is a worthy little splurge. Otherwise, use a mix of dried oregano, marjoram and thyme and the results will still be delicious.

A final weeknight strategy: you can prep this whole dinner ahead of time on your sheet tray and stick it in the fridge. Then, when you get home, pop the whole thing into the oven for a dinner that is even faster than microwaving a frozen lasagna. You’ll save both time and calories, and who couldn’t use that in 2017?


Servings: 4

4 fillets salmon, skin removed, about 5 ounces each

1/3 cup almond flour or almond meal (can substitute panko bread crumbs)

11/2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence (or dried oregano or thyme)

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 bunch of asparagus, cleaned and trimmed, about 1 pound

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Lemon wedges for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pat the salmon dry gently with a paper towel.

On a small plate, mix the almond flour, herbs, garlic, lemon zest, half the salt, and pepper with a fork until well-blended. Sprinkle or brush the lemon juice even on top of the salmon fillets. Dip the top of the salmon fillets into the almond flour crumbs, gently pressing them into the top of the fillets, evenly dividing the almond flour and herb mixture among the fillets. Place the fillets on the sheet pan. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil and remaining salt. Place around the salmon fillets. Cook until salmon reaches 135 internal temperature and asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

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

]]> 0 sheet-pan supper of salmon and asparagus.Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:58:58 +0000
Bread and Butter: Bakery has been open just 2 days, so, of course, the power goes out Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re sorry to say we profited by chef Krista Kern Desjarlais’ misfortune. Her new restaurant, The Purple House in North Yarmouth, which opened on Dec. 28, lost power soon after. Not good. We asked her to write about the experience. Since writing this column, Desjarlais tells us that though she increased her bagel production by 50 bagels per day this past weekend, she still sold out by 9 a.m. Saturday and 9:40 a.m. on Sunday, so she’s planning to go up again. Desjarlais also owns the seasonal Bresca & the Honey Bee in New Gloucester. Bread & Butter is an occasional chef-written series that runs in Food & Dining.

One step forward, two steps back.

“I can’t believe you’re out of bagels before 10:30 a.m.!!” These are words I never expected to hear on day two, ringing out like a gong and sending waves of anxiety through my body. I smiled – at that customer and everyone else who showed up over the next two hours – as I explained again and again that the 200 bagels we’d made had sold out in just two hours.

As that crazy shift came to a close, I decided we’d close for the next day, Friday, in order to try to catch up. We’d make Friday a prep day, tripling our par for Saturday, restaurantspeak for increasing the number of items to be produced per shift. I vowed to myself that when the weekend came, we would be ready.

What we couldn’t prepare for, it turned out, was Mother Nature’s wrath upon the region on Dec. 29-30. The events that unfolded that night would culminate in multiple trash bins filled with a majority of our prep.


Buzz buzz… buzz buzz… I can see a flash of light from the flip side of my phone while I’m lying in bed. I pick up the phone and stare at the screen. It’s a text from my security company. They’ve detected a power outage at The Purple House as of Friday, 3:18 a.m. I take in the information, then roll over and go back to sleep. The power will come back on soon, I tell myself, so don’t stress out.

When I do get up, the world outside my bedroom window is awash in a frozen, glistening white wave of snow. The storm passed in the night. It’s beautiful, but I don’t let myself linger. I need to get out the door and begin work. I quickly check the Central Maine Power (CMP) website for outage information and learn that all of North Yarmouth is without electricity. I am supposed to meet my staff at 9 a.m. It has now been five hours since that security company text. I’m starting to worry, but I’m determined to get to The Purple House – I live in New Gloucester, exactly 17 minutes’ drive away – and fix any problems as soon as I shovel out my car. All will be well.

I never make it to the bakery, let alone to my driveway. Instead, I lie down on my daughter’s bed (she’s already gone to school) in the warm morning sun, curled up on my side and battling a sinking feeling that on top of the power outage, I am coming down with the dreaded stomach virus that is surging through schools and the neighborhood. I text my staff to delay our prep since we don’t have power. I also delay deliveries. I console myself that the food and doughs will be fine as the coolers run very cold and that without power, the room they are in will stay cold, too. Thankfully, I’ve got power at home, so I linger in my daughter’s ever sunny bed, comfortable and warm, while my health sinks steadily downward – like the temperature at The Purple House.

At noon, I check the CMP website again. Still no power.

Normally, I would make myself get up and drive to the bakery, and I’d push all our fish and meat into the snowbanks, if that’s what it takes. But I can tell that today is not going to be a normal day for me. By 1 p.m., the virus has overtaken me.


Meanwhile – and I know I sound like a broken record – there is still no power at The Purple House. By 3 p.m., I’ve canceled prep day. The power is still out, and the sun is starting to sink on the horizon, dragging temperatures into the teens and soon presenting yet another flurry of things to worry about.

Buzz, buzz… buzz, buzz… Oh god, why is everyone texting me today while all I want to do is lie here and try to survive this virus? It’s Derek, the coffee roaster I work with from Massachusetts. He’s seen my Instagram post from that morning about losing power, and is concerned, very concerned, that the drip coffeemaker tank (price tag: roughly $1,200) will freeze and crack in a frigid, unheated room overnight. He’s worried the espresso machine tank (price tag: roughly $7,500) will suffer the same fate.

I tell him I am too ill to drive. I further tell him that if the power isn’t restored soon, I will find, I will have to find, a way to get to the cafe. Unless I drain the tanks and water lines, I risk facing huge and expensive plumbing and equipment repairs. Derek tells me to hold tight. Maybe it isn’t absolutely necessary yet – I can put it off until later tonight. He rings off. I refresh the CMP website: still no power in North Yarmouth. I sink deeper into my pillow, hoping later doesn’t come too soon.

6 p.m. I’m in full viral meltdown with simultaneous upheaval, a 102 fever and chills and shakes. Thoughts of losing the food and the equipment have melted into a hazy dream that I’ll revisit once I can actually see and think clearly. The phone buzzes – again – and I’m gently reminded by Derek that we are approaching “DEFCON 1” time. To save the equipment I’ll need not only to get out of bed and drive to North Yarmouth but somehow to pull myself together to be a capable plumber. I obsessively check CMP again. No power. It has been 15 hours and even though it’s cold outside, our fish and meat are goners. I am looking at a major loss at this point. (Insurance won’t cover them until I hit my deductible.)

I stay where I am and drag a blanket up over my head.

Time flies when it feels like your guts are spilling out all over the bathroom floor. Not a pretty picture. But by 11:20 p.m., I can finally keep down ginger ale and catch my breath. I refresh CMP, and while The Purple House doesn’t yet have power, a message now appears next to the address. It reads: “11:30 p.m. December 29, power to be restored.” This is clearly the wrong date, but I take it as a good omen and proceed to do the only thing I can manage: I pass out for the night.

When I awake Saturday morning, I am still sick, but the power at The Purple House has been restored. I am exhausted and have a low-grade fever, so I’m not driving anywhere anytime soon. Fortunately, my husband Erik is able to help out today, and he drives over to The Purple House to check on things. The heat is on! So though the food is history, the equipment is saved.


The virus lasts the weekend. By Sunday night, I feel well enough to eat again – also to dread what I will find at the bakery on Monday.

When coolers go down and time has passed, sorting through their contents feels like a forensic exercise. You remove everything, unwrap it and assess. What survived? What did not? Some things are obvious, like wilted herbs or sliced vegetables. Proteins – meat and fish – are too risky to keep. These go straight into the trash, no questions asked. It turns out that the rest, like hard cheeses and such high-acid preparations as pickles and preserved lemons, have survived the outage; luckily, my coolers never warmed up that much, and there are no signs of warmed-then-cooled-again food, which is highly unsafe.

But we have lost daily preparations, like chopped chicken liver, hummus and a few soft cheeses as well as all of our gravlax, smoked salmon, smoked hake and fish roes. My doughs from Thursday are also a loss and must be started all over again. I pause to tend to my sourdough starter, which has sat unhappily for four days waiting to be fed. And I make a list of all we have lost and all we need to prep before we can open later in the week.

Barely a week ago, we opened our doors at Purple House for the very first time. Just like then, we begin anew.


“This kept me alive once I could stomach more than ginger ale,” chef Krista Kern Desjarlais said after suffering a terrible stomach bug. Use all organic ingredients if possible. “You may have survived this terrible stomach virus like I did and now your body and soul are fully cleansed to start the new year, so why ingest a bunch of pesticides?”

Serves 1

2 cups chopped kale

1 cup chopped green cabbage

1 piece apple, quartered, seeds removed

1 piece carrot, chopped

1/2-inch piece ginger root, peeled

1 cup chopped spinach

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Add all the ingredients to the jar of a powerful blender. Pour in ice-cold spring water until it reaches the top of the vegetables and fruit. Blend until the mixture is completely liquified. Do not strain. Drink immediately and feel good about doing something good for your body.

]]> 0 YARMOUTH, ME - DECEMBER 9: Krista Kern is in the process of opening a new cafe, The Purple House. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)Wed, 11 Jan 2017 10:43:46 +0000
Food and Dining dispatches Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 PORTLAND

Restaurant openings include Tipo today and Sichuan Kitchen, gradually

If all goes well, Tipo, the much-anticipated new restaurant from Chris and Paige Gould, will open today at 4 p.m.

The Goulds, owners of Central Provisions in the Old Port, announced in July that they had purchased the former home of Borealis Bakery & Bistro at 182 Ocean Ave. in Portland and planned to open an Italian restaurant there serving pizza, pasta and salads.

Mike Smith, former executive chef at Scales in Portland and former chef de cuisine at Toro in Boston, will be chef de cuisine at Tipo.

According to Chris Gould, Tipo will be open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Brunch will be offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday beginning in February.

In other recent notable openings, Sichuan Kitchen at 612 Congress St., opened its doors last week, but apparently ran into a few glitches that kept hours uncertain and forced the restaurant to close on Monday for repairs. It was to reopen Tuesday with hours from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., but a note on the restaurant’s website suggests checking its Facebook page for “tentative open hours” and updates on its grand opening celebration, which has not yet been scheduled.

Sichuan Kitchen is owned by Qi Shen, who told the Press Herald about her dream for the restaurant last April.


Mom, daughter to give cooking classes featuring Mediterranean, Maine food

Mother-daughter team Nancy Harmon Jenkins and chef Sara Jenkins will co-teach a series of winter cooking classes at Sara Jenkins’ Rockport harbor restaurant, Nina June, located at 24 Central St.

The classes will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. every other Tuesday and include cooking demos, hands-on lessons and a three-course meal based on what the class prepares, with a glass of wine.

The first class, Maine in the Mediterranean, is scheduled for Tuesday and will use Maine seafood in Mediterranean dishes with spice. Other classes will cover pasta; olive oil in a healthy Mediterranean diet; Mediterranean greens, grains and beans; a Mediterranean spring feast; and eating local in Maine.

The classes cost $150 apiece (plus tax), or three classes for $400. A $40 down payment reserves a spot in a class, with the balance due at class time. Call the restaurant at 236-8880 to sign up or read more details at

— Staff report

]]> 0, 10 Jan 2017 17:51:38 +0000
‘Grain Bowls’ offers keys to blending healthful ancient grains into modern diets Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “Grain Bowls: Bulgur Wheat, Quinoa, Barley, Rice, Spelt and More.” By Anna Shillinglaw Hampton. Photography by Victoria Walls Harris. Hardie Grant Books. Paperback. $19.99.

“Grain Bowls: Bulgur Wheat, Quinoa, Barley, Rice, Spelt and more,” a new cookbook by Anna Shillinglaw Hampton, makes you feel healthy just by reading the recipes. That wholesome, healthful feeling is furthered by the photos that accompany each recipe. Shot by Victoria Wall Harris, the photographs show the separate ingredients on the lefthand side of the page followed by the finished grain bowl on the right.

A grain bowl, Shillinglaw writes, is a convenient way to make ancient grains a part of modern-day diets. By combining whole grains with vegetables, fruit, meat or seafood, and topping the bowls with dressings or sauces, grain bowls can be complete nutritious meals.

The cookbook is divided into four sections: salad grain bowls, vegetarian grain bowls, meaty grain bowls and dressings and toppings. Every recipe serves two and almost all of them give a time of 15 minutes at the top of the page. In a quick glance, the reader might think the grain bowls can be whipped together in 15 minutes. Don’t be fooled. Actually, the recipes all call for cooked ingredients. The 15 minutes time refers to the assembly of those pre-cooked foods.

The front of “Grain Bowls” provides cooking times and tips for the different types of grains. My son Henry chose the Sweet Potato & Black Rice vegetarian bowl for us to try because of its colorful presentation. The rice, sweet potatoes and pickled red onions in the bowl each needs at least 30 minutes to cook, or in the case of the last, to brine. Making the Dijon dressing and slicing red cabbage are additional steps in preparing this meal. Also, heads up: Shillinglaw, who is British, gives the ingredients measurements in grams (with conversions to ounces, not cups, in parentheses). Still, it was worth the time as this grain bowl made for a delicious meal. The crispy red cabbage combined with the nutty black rice, the creamy roasted sweet potatoes and the tangy pickled red onions created a mouthful of distinct yet complementary flavors.

In addition to the nutritional benefits that come with eating more grains, they’re also economical. The variations and combinations for grain bowls seems endless in this collection of recipes; the range of low-cost meals is a bonus.

“Grain Bowls” promotes good quality, healthy food. Bear in mind that the key to using these recipes is advance preparation, but as most cooks know, good food is worth the planning and effort.



I doubled the recipe to make enough dinner for a family of 4.

Serves 2

120 g (4 oz) red cabbage, finely sliced

2-3 tablespoons Dijon Dressing (see recipe)

Pinch of salt

250 g (9 oz) cooked black rice (100 g/ 31/2 oz uncooked)

250 g (9 oz) sweet potatoes, diced and roasted

15 g (1/2 oz) Pickled Red Onions (see recipe)

Freshly ground pepper

Toss the cabbage with 1 tablespoon of the dressing and the salt. Massage the dressing and salt into the cabbage to tenderise. Divide the black rice, sweet potatoes and cabbage evenly between 2 bowls. Top with Pickled Red Onions and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Season with black pepper.


Makes 150 ml (5 fl oz)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

125 ml (4 fl oz) olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the honey, mustard and lemon juice together in a bowl until smooth. While whisking, slowly add the oil until the dressing comes together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Makes 400 ml (13 fl oz)

230 ml (8 fl oz) apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 bay leaf

11/2 tablespoons granulated (raw) sugar

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 large red onion, finely chopped

Heat the vinegar, salt, bay leaf and sugar in a pan over medium heat, stirring until dissolved. Add the peppercorns. Put the onions in a 400 ml (13 fl oz) jar and pour the hot pickling liquid over the top. Let chill for 30 minutes, then store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

]]> 0 by Victoria Wall Harris/Courtesy of Hardie Grant BooksTue, 10 Jan 2017 21:29:12 +0000
Two restaurants get new lease on life in Richmond Tue, 10 Jan 2017 00:53:47 +0000 RICHMOND — Two restaurants are getting new lives in this riverfront town.

The Railway Cafe at 64 Main St., which closed abruptly before Christmas, will reopen on Jan. 24 as Kimberly’s Restaurant and Lounge.

The Village Cafe at 164 Main St. opened the day after Christmas in a space that had been occupied at one time by a Chinese restaurant and more recently by the Anything Go’s Cafe.

The women behind these businesses say they both have a lifelong interest in restaurants and are excited to be putting their own stamp on them.

For Kimberly Travis, who is taking over as manager at Kimberly’s, reopening the restaurant is a chance for her to see a lot of people she’s known over the years working in that same space.

Travis, 37, had worked for Chris and Therese Acord when they owned and ran the restaurant. When the Acords sold the business, Travis said she worked for the new owners for a time, too.

“This is something I have dreamed about since I was about 15,” she said, when she first started working in restaurants. “How can I not take the opportunity?”

Between now and the opening date, Travis said she has a lot of cleaning to do.

As the Railway Cafe, the restaurant served a selection of American food. Travis said Kimberly’s will serve the same type of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, preserving the core of the traditional menu and adding some new dishes.

“We’re excited for Kim,” Chris Acord said. “We think she’ll do a fine job.”

Kimberly’s Restaurant and Lounge will be open Tuesday through Saturday from breakfast through dinner. On Sundays, the restaurant will close at 2. It will be closed on Mondays.

Susan Campbell credits Jack Baker with fueling her restaurant dream. Baker, who died in December, had operated restaurants throughout his life, including Baker’s in Richmond.

“He was my mentor,” said Campbell, 54. She worked for him at Baker’s for two years and followed him to the Golden Oldies Senior Center, helping him with the once-monthly senior breakfasts and senior dinners, eventually taking them over.

Like Travis, the restaurant bug bit her at 15, and nearly four decades later, after working her way up to managing and supervising, she has her own place.

The senior citizens who have praised her cooking encouraged her to open her own place.

Friends and family helped her over about six weeks to remake the space, painting the walls, adding curtains and building a counter that’s low enough so that senior citizens can sit there comfortably.

Campbell’s menu will also be a selection of traditional American food for both breakfast and lunch, and she’ll be serving breakfast all day.

Opening on the day after Christmas was a calculated move. She said she figured the holidays were done and people would be tired and looking for a place to eat, and it worked. She served 70 people that day.

Campbell said the Village Cafe is open 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.


]]> 0 and Kimberly Travis will open Kimberly's Restaurant and Lounge in the space that used to be the Railway Cafe near the tracks in Richmond.Mon, 09 Jan 2017 20:12:27 +0000
Portland restaurant Roustabout closes abruptly Mon, 09 Jan 2017 23:45:32 +0000 The owners of Roustabout, the Italian-American restaurant at 59 Washington Ave., announced Monday evening that it had served its last plate of pasta.

Owners Anders Tallberg and Kit Paschal, who opened the restaurant in 2015, posted a statement about the closing on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“The past fifteen months have been filled with challenges, excitement and reward. We consider ourselves fortunate to be part the vibrant restaurant community in Portland Maine,” the statement said. “However, it is with deep disappointment that after dinner service on Sunday January 8th, we have closed our doors for good.”

The note did not say why they were closing, and Tallberg and Paschal did not answer their phones Monday night. Roustabout had 75 seats and an 18-seat bar.

]]> 0 Mon, 09 Jan 2017 18:49:53 +0000
Coming soon: Another place to feed your oyster habit in Portland Mon, 09 Jan 2017 22:47:08 +0000 A Massachusetts oyster farm that owns oyster bars in Massachusetts and New Hampshire will open a retail store and fast casual eatery on Portland’s Washington Avenue this year.

Island Creek Oysters, based in Duxbury, Massachusetts, plans to open a retail shop and restaurant at 123 Washington Ave., just a couple of doors away from Oxbow Brewing, the company announced Monday. The new business is expected to open sometime between April and June.

The news comes almost exactly a month after Portland’s Eventide Oyster Co. announced plans to expand to Boston; they are developing a second Eventide restaurant on Boylston Street.

Island Creek Oysters plans to sell both Massachusetts and Maine oysters, said spokeswoman Nicole Kanner. Island Creek already sells Maine oysters, she said, and this outpost in Maine will allow the company to work with smaller Maine oyster farms that don’t have the ability to distribute their product.

Skip Bennett, the founder and owner of Island Creek Oysters, is also a partner in Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston’s Kenmore Square and Burlington, Massachusetts, as well as Row 34, an oyster and beer bar with locations in Boston’s Fort Point and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Island Creek Oysters supplies fresh oysters and clams year-round to more than 600 chefs across the country, and sells 9 million oysters annually around the world. The company also runs a direct-to-consumer online store where shellfish can be purchased.


]]> 0, 10 Jan 2017 11:56:42 +0000
Farmer wants you to decide: Which taste better, carrots from Maine or California? Mon, 09 Jan 2017 22:05:55 +0000 Farmer Stewart Smith recently bought 500 pounds of California carrots, even though he has a warehouse full of perfectly good – and he thinks definitely better – carrots he grew at Lakeside Family Farm in Newport. And he’s giving the California carrots away.

It’s a test. For shoppers and for Lakeside’s product. Every 3-pound bag of Lakeside carrots sold in select Hannafords around the state – and also handed out at the Maine Agricultural Trades Show Tuesday through Thursday in Augusta – will contain some extra weight in the form of two of those California carrots. It’s not a blind test; the California carrots will be held together with a rubber band and the package is labeled to let consumers know they’re getting a something extra in the bag.

Smith and his wife, Sarah Redfield, are banking on their carrots, though maybe not as pretty as the California product, tasting so much sweeter and fresher – the latest harvest came out of the sugar-producing cold Maine ground in late November – that the consumer will be moved to demand their local grocery store to stock Maine produce whenever possible. And to send feedback to Lakeside via its website or Facebook page.

If they taste the same, the farmers at Lakeside think they’re still making a point about carbon footprints, buying local and keeping family farms in business. This year, sales to local supermarkets haven’t been as good, and they think that’s wrong.

“Even if Maine carrots tasted just like California carrots,” Redfield said. “Maine consumers should still be going to their store to say, ‘We want Maine carrots, beets, potatoes,’ all the crops that Maine farmers have in storage right now. Because if we don’t buy these things, they’re going to end up as pig food.”

Smith, an economist and former Maine Commissioner of Agriculture, is a nationally recognized proponent of agriculture in the middle, the mid-sized family farms that are so threatened in today’s marketplace. They’re big enough to sell wholesale versus at farmers markets, but they don’t produce enough to always reliably fill the warehouses of chains like Hannaford the way bigger farms can.

The idea for a consumer taste test came about when Lakeside was considering new packaging for its 2-pound bags of carrots last year. They went to their local Hannaford and bought every brand there was so they could examine the packaging. “Then we had all these stupid carrots, and it’s not like we didn’t have our own carrots,” Redfield. So they started putting the carrots out on a plate side-by-side with Maine carrots in a blind test.

“And the Maine carrots never lost,” Redfield said.

What started out as a joke then turned into this year’s clever marketing gimmick, prompted in fact by a 35 percent drop in the farm’s carrot sales to supermarkets this season. Lakeside carrots are being sold in Hannaford stores in Brewer, Kennebunk and Westbrook, as well as two locations in Bangor (the Broadway and Airport stores) but on the whole, Redfield said, Hannaford has bought fewer carrots from them.

Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom said there was not an easy way to track whether there was a decline in the chain’s overall purchasing of Maine carrots and if so, why that would have happened. But Hannaford isn’t cutting back on local produce, he said in an email: “For example, we sold 200,000 cases of Maine broccoli and cauliflower during the 2016 growing season, an increase of 16.5 percent over the previous year.”

Hannaford carries mre than 6,000 branded products from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York. Some products that appear as Hannaford or Taste of Inspiration private bands also are grown and produced locally, Blom said.

Redfield wasn’t trying to criticize Hannaford specifically. Nor does she care only about carrots.

“I say the same thing about potatoes,” Redfield said. “There is no reason I have to go to Whole Foods in Maine and see Montana potatoes. I don’t want to see that. I agree that it’s easiest for these stores to get these things out of their warehouse instead of locally, but we Maine consumers should be saying, ‘These taste better. And they have a carbon footprint of about an hour.’ “

]]> 0 from Snell Farm.Tue, 10 Jan 2017 01:01:50 +0000
Butterfly weed takes top honors in the plant world Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 A perfect plant does not exist, but Asclepias tuberosa, commonly called the butterfly weed, comes close. If the native of the eastern United States tolerated shade – which it doesn’t – it would be perfect.

Still the long-lived herbaceous perennial comes close enough to perfect that the Perennial Plant Association named the butterfly weed its Plant of the Year for 2017.

All members of the Asclepias family support bees, hummingbirds and butterflies – and are essential for the survival of the monarch butterfly. Asclepias tuberosa is the best behaved in polite company.

“Butterfly weeds is a perfect selection for full-sun meadow or prairie gardens, as well as formal to semi-formal urban gardens,” the association said in naming the winner.

My regular readers know this, but I’m including it for those who were drawn in to this column by the pretty picture and catchy headline. Pollinators – a group that includes bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds – are in trouble. The population of monarch butterflies – which require Asclepias plants for food and laying eggs – is way down. Honeybee colonies are collapsing. Native bees – of which there are more than 270 species in Maine – are also struggling. Part of what home gardeners have to do to help pollinators – without which we cannot produce most fruits and vegetables – is to plant more native, pollinator-friendly plants.

The butterfly weed fits the bill perfectly.

“The butterfly weed is native, attractive, very tolerant of poor soils and pretty undemanding to grow,” said Mary Mixer, a plant grower at Skillins Greenhouse in Falmouth.

The plant produces bright blossoms – usually orange, although they can be red or yellow – on 3-foot stems, and spreads about 2 feet wide. Each flower has five petals that hang down and five upright petals called hoods, the Perennial Plant Association said in its announcement. I never looked that closely, but I intend to when ours bloom next spring.

Butterfly weeds bloom from early spring to mid-July and produce a small fruit, also called a follicle. In a formal setting, gardeners are advised to cut off the spent blossoms to promote a second bloom later in the year and prevent reseeding, but if you are going for a natural-meadow look, let it seed. In either case, it is best to leave the plant standing through the winter and cut it down in the spring.

Young plants produce a single stem, but as the plants age they send up side shoots.

Asclepias tuberosa is hardy to Zone 4, which includes all of Maine except north of Houlton in Aroostook County.

Unlike other Asclepias varieties, tuberosa makes an excellent cut flower – in part because it lacks the free-flowing sap that the other kinds have. You should cut the flower when more than half the flowers are open, because they won’t continue to open once you put it in a vase.

You can plant the butterfly weed either as a plant grown in a nursery or with seeds, but Mixer recommends buying plants. Online instructions for planting seeds say you have to cold-condition the seeds and then start them inside to get flowers next summer. You can plant seeds next spring, but the seedlings look inconspicuous and can be damaged, and you won’t get flowers the first summer.

Because mature plants have a deep taproot, they don’t transplant well – so choose the location carefully.

A spicebush swallowtail butterfly feeds on Asclepias tuberosa, a favorite of bees and hummingbirds too..

A spicebush swallowtail butterfly feeds on Asclepias tuberosa, a favorite of bees and hummingbirds too.. Heflin

The plant has few disease or pest problems; monarch butterflies will chew on the leaves but usually not strip them, as they do with other asclepias. Deer usually leave asclepias alone.

If you want to go all out in helping monarch butterflies, also plant the two other asclepias varieties native to Maine. Common milkweed, or Asclepias syriaca, grows 5 to 8 feet tall, depending on location, in ditches and fields, has large pods of seeds with silky attachments that blow them from place to place. They were everywhere on untended properties when I grew up in Farmington, but I don’t see them as often now – which might be one of the reasons that monarch butterflies are suffering. If you do get monarchs, the leaves will be stripped. It might not be attractive, but it means the plant served its purpose, and it will come back the following year.

If you have a shadier site with moist soil, try Asclepias incarnata or swamp milkweed. It has pink blossoms from June to October and grows up to 5 feet tall.

The butterflies will thank you and butterflies are, as I have read, the flowers of the air.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

]]> 0 weed, or Asclepias tuberosa, is the Perennial Plant Association's Plant of the Year for 2017.Thu, 05 Jan 2017 19:17:50 +0000
Winter vegetables can be a delight at the dinner table Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 At this stage of the industrial food game, we’re all pretty used to having fresh berries, crisp bell peppers, greenish string beans, pink tomatoes and skinny asparagus bundles packed into produce aisles come January. But most of us also know full well that nature intended these to be tabletop treats in Maine only when the weather doesn’t require we don both L.L. Bean under- and outerwear.

Bypassing these perishable goods trucked in from California, Chile and Mexico doesn’t have to be a sacrifice. Reposition the proposition as a celebration of cellared root vegetables and hearty winter squash; an embracing of sweet storage apples and tart local cranberries, or an exploration of just how many different ways you can use a head of cabbage in a single week.

If you look at it from a culinary technique point of view, fruits and vegetables naturally available to Mainers this time of year – via both winter farmers markets and in growing numbers as local produce sold in mainstream supermarkets like Hannaford and Shaw’s – are tailor made for comforting wintertime casseroles, stick-to-your-ribs stews, cinnamon-scented cakes and pies, and low and slow braises that make wintertime eating so wonderful.

Personally, I tend towards ragouts for accommodating cold weather vegetables that make their way home with me. Ragout is a semi-slow-cooked French-style stew made with meat or fish and vegetables — or even just vegetables – that can be eaten on its own or bulked up with an interesting starch like fried polenta, couscous, spätzle, or noodles made with a local flour.

While I’ve provided specific weights and measures for Honey Mustard, Sweet Potato and Cabbage Ragout, pulling off a winter vegetable ragout is really more about the process than the recipe. The secret centers on layering flavors. You start with cooking chopped root vegetables – carrots, fingerling potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, turnips or yams – in a deep Dutch oven with equal amounts olive oil and butter and a sprinkling of salt. You cover the pot, and when those become just tender, you push them to one side and add an equal weight of quicker cooking winter vegetables – cauliflower pieces, quartered Brussels sprouts, shredded cabbage or sliced mushrooms – with a bit of butter, a glug of oil and pinch more salt. Spread these vegetables across their half of the bottom of the pan to brown nicely before stirring in aromatic vegetables like onions, shallots, leeks or garlic and letting them soften and mingle their flavor with the longer-cooking ones.

At this point, you’ve spent about 40 minutes prepping and cooking the vegetables. You can choose to cool the ragout off and store it for use later in the week when you need dinner on the table in 10-minutes flat. Or you can finish it immediately with a flavor-boosting sauce comprising two parts citrus juice to one part each vinegar, local sweetener and distinctive flavor agent such as zest, mustard, rosemary or dried chilies. At this point, I also add a smattering of even quicker cooking bright green vegetables to visually brighten the dish, such as arugula, shredded kale or chard, or spinach or frozen peas. If you are serving the ragout over a starch of some sort, loosen it here with a warm cup of good vegetable stock, a good stir and five minutes resting time.

Whether you eat the ragout immediately or save it for later in the week, trust me, you’re not going to miss those unseasonable vegetables at all.

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

]]> 0 on a chopping spree for Honey Mustard Sweet Potato Ragout.Fri, 06 Jan 2017 10:10:14 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Owl & Elm in Yarmouth gives pub grub a good name, mostly Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Pub food often gets a bad rap. I blame language for at least part of the problem. First, there’s the lamentable harmony of the rhyme between “pub” and “grub,” one of the least appetizing culinary adjectives. Then, there’s vocabulary: The words we use to talk about pub food (hamburger, nachos, French fries) come from a lexicon shared by its louche yet seductively popular third-cousin, fast food. It’s an unfortunate association, because when prepared well, pub dishes are actually closer to classic home cooking – more family dining room than freeway drive-thru.

At Owl & Elm Village Pub in Yarmouth, chef Rocco Marzilli’s goal is to connect diners to the homier aspects of this style of cuisine: “I serve comfort food, food that people recognize, but with just a little twist. We want to make you feel like you can come in and relax and feel like you’re at your house, like you’re sitting at your own kitchen counter,” he said.

With long, cushion-covered pew benches, a custom bar illuminated by boxy, steel-framed pendant lighting and a wall-mounted LED television, it might not look (or sound) much like a traditional home kitchen, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the crowds of regulars who fill the boisterous restaurant nearly every night.

On one recent visit, I found a remarkably age-diverse group of customers, who ranged from a young family with children nibbling on complimentary (and overworked) rosemary biscuits, to a geriatric couple seated next to me, sipping sweet and smoky Upper Village Manhattans ($11), deep in an unexpected conversation about Lady Gaga’s new album. It felt like the entire town of Yarmouth was out for dinner.

According to Marzilli (who previously cooked at Nosh and Hot Suppa! in Portland), that’s not far from the mark. “We are a family-friendly pub, but we get everyone from the community,” he said. “There is even a core group of regulars who walk here a few times a week.” Undoubtedly, they are motivated by avoiding the hunt for a parking space – a tricky prospect here – as much as by not driving home tipsy in a section of town known for its avid attention from police.

Still, it’s hard to decline a drink at Owl & Elm, with six New England beers on draft, like slightly sharp and citrusy Pepperell Pilsner ($6) from Banded Horn Brewing in Biddeford, or Black Hog Brewing’s caramel, porter-adjacent Granola Brown Ale ($7) from Oxford, Connecticut. Just as tempting are the beers by the bottle: a more geographically eclectic list that even includes a few options from Europe. On the other hand, the list of wines by the glass seems absent-mindedly conceived, and includes a few letdowns, like a thin Leese-Fitch pinot noir ($8) and an almost sugary Tavo pinot grigio ($8).

Keith Johnson, co-owner of Owl + Elm, pours a Banded Horn pilsner during a busy weeknight shift.

Keith Johnson, co-owner of Owl & Elm, pours a Banded Horn pilsner during a busy weeknight shift. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

That’s a shame, because a few dishes on the menu, like the Maine stew ($25), an almost deconstructed bouillabaisse of mussels, haddock and half a lobster, would work as well with a glass of wine as with a pint of beer. Piled high into a too-small bowl, the stew was really more of a modern art installation of seafood and garlic toasts wading in an inch of flat, unbalanced lobster stock. More than anything else, this dish – and especially the simple broth – lacked acidity, which could have come from pureeing the chunky smoked tomatoes into the stock, or even simply adding lemon juice before serving, rather than relying on diners to season the dish themselves with a shouldn’t-be-optional lemon wedge.

Seasoning was also a problem in the fire-roasted jalapeño poppers ($8), stuffed with a cream cheese mixture and drizzled with honey. Lacking anything even resembling peppery heat, these were crunchy and a little bit smoky, but mostly just forgettably bland. Curiously, the best thing on the plate was its garnish, a finely-sliced red cabbage and carrot slaw, tossed with a sparklingly lemony vinaigrette – easily good enough to hold its own as a stand-alone menu item.

Fortunately, the crispy browned, broiled buffalo cauliflower ($7) was better, packing a decent amount of the heat promised in its name, offset well by a creamy, but not overwhelming, gorgonzola sauce. It was especially good eaten between bites of the restaurant’s house-made, Northern cornbread: sweet and a little springy, with the tight crumb of a wheat-and-cornmeal quick bread, and served as part of the bread service.

When our server told us that the cornbread was one of her two favorite items at the restaurant, I understood why. The other – a generous trifle ($8) made with crushed Oreo cookies, a cream made from peanut butter and whipped cream cheese, and messy lashings of chocolate syrup – she assembled herself, then delivered to our table. It was, as she had described, satisfying and a little salty: “just what you expect but a little different.”

That same description could easily apply to the Corner Burger ($13), as well. With a ground chuck patty and a brioche bun, it resembles a typical pub hamburger, but Marzilli deploys his slaw skills here again, replacing traditional vegetable toppings with a marinated lettuce-tomato-pickle slaw, an addition that gives the burger a tangy complexity – not to mention a super sloppy footprint on your plate, table and lap.

Steak fries at Owl & Elm.

Steak fries at Owl & Elm. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The kitchen uses the same cut of beef in its steak fries ($12), a rectangular plate of crisp, golden, well-seasoned French fries, bisected by a chunky line of luxuriously tender, slightly sweet slow-braised chuck. “We cook it low and slow with honey, ketchup and Coke. Put it in the oven and let it go until it just pulls apart with tongs. It takes all day,” Marzilli said. No matter what those familiar ingredients might suggest, this is the opposite of fast food – the sort of dish ideal for savoring alongside a pint of local lager, and just maybe a first step toward rehabilitating the reputation of pub grub.

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 or on Twitter @AndrewRossME.

]]> 0 Owl + Elm, 365 Main St., Yarmouth, is a family-friendly pub that's popular with locals.Sun, 08 Jan 2017 17:04:22 +0000
Pocket squares are an alternative to ties Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Fashion blogger Laura Michaud taught herself how to sew. When she started working on mastering seams and corners, she realized she was actually making pocket squares – those stylish pieces of fabric men tuck into a suit jacket pocket to add a little flair.

Voila, a business was born.

The Maine Square website launched 10 months ago and features a plethora of pocket square designs by Michaud, who usually caters to women. “Men need some more fashion opportunities, especially Maine men,” she said.

Pocket squares tucked into a nice casual jacket help a guy step it up a notch. For men who hate wearing ties, pocket squares are a godsend. “Skip the tie,” Michaud says, “and you still look very polished.”

Michaud’s squares come pre-folded into a one-point fold, or consult her website for tips on more elaborate folding. She also offers monogramming and embroidery – think embroidered hockey sticks, or a football. (Monogrammed squares are popular groomsmen gifts.) Designs that are customer favorites include lobsters, pine trees, deer and anchors.

The pocket squares are available online only, and cost $25-$28. Monogramming is $10 extra, embroidery $20 extra.

]]> 0, 05 Jan 2017 18:52:07 +0000
Catbird Creamery in Westbrook is closed and for sale Thu, 05 Jan 2017 19:38:08 +0000 Catbird Creamery in Westbrook has closed indefinitely, and the owner says the business is for sale.

The ice cream shop and wholesaler is famous for exotic flavors such as Furious George – a concoction of caramelized bananas, dark chocolate chips and hot pepper. Other favorites included salted chocolate, brown sugar vanilla, strawberry balsamic, green tea ginger and tamari caramel. Open year-round, the company made small batches of gourmet ice cream using local ingredients.

When the business announced its closure on Facebook in November, ice cream lovers reacted with dismay. In an email Thursday, CEO Corey DiGirolamo described the decision as a personal one.

“We dedicated a large part of our lives to building Catbird Creamery and as a young family the commitment to both became too much,” DiGirolamo wrote. “We are selling the business and are hoping someone who has more time to commit to it will find this a great opportunity.”

DiGirolamo, who runs the shop with her husband, Andrew Warren, did not provide any further information about the sale of the business or when it might reopen.

Catbird Creamery started production in a friend’s sandwich shop in 2010, selling ice cream to local restaurants and specialty stores. In 2011, the business moved to a storefront in downtown Westbrook and began serving scoops as well. In 2015, an Indiegogo campaign helped the shop move to a larger space at 861 Main St. in Westbrook.

Fans of the business extended beyond Maine. Last year, Yahoo Food named the Catbird Creamery No. 15 on its list of the best ice cream shops in America.

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

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

]]> 0 Warren displays some of the ice cream flavors served at the Catbird Creamery in Westbrook in 2014.Thu, 05 Jan 2017 20:31:19 +0000
‘Power Greens Cookbook’ offers no-nonsense approach to cooking with greens Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 “The Power Greens Cookbook: 140 Delicious Superfood Recipes.” By Dana Jacobi. Ballantine Books, New York. $22.

Here’s a dead obvious way to kick- start your New Year’s resolutions, even if you don’t want to diet: Eat more greens.

Dana Jacobi is here to help you out, with “The Power Greens Cookbook.” It’s a no-nonsense, fresh take on the many, many non-shake ways to eat your greens.

I loved that the book started out with a “Let’s be real” section on how these greens can be bitter, tough, take time to prepare and tricky to cook. Jacobi walks through specific strategies to reduce bitterness and preserve texture – like short-cooking the greens in a small amount of boiling water and then chilling them quickly under cold running water.

In another section, she focuses on 15 power greens, from arugula to watercress, and gives a tutorial on what each is, what to look for when buying it, how to store it, techniques for washing, prepping and cooking it, and a “top five” ways to use it. This section alone is worth buying the whole cookbook for me, since I frequently stand in my grocery store contemplating the exotic, only to grab the bok choy – again – and some broccoli. Maybe some kale or spinach to throw in a blender.

No more. I’m stuffing the pork loin with broccoli rabe and steaming salmon in a cabbage leaf.

The recipes are divided into courses, but I found what was listed as a main dish could easily be a side, and vice versa.

The “serves 4” kale salad I made got wiped out by two people, but one was a growing 12-year-old, so take that into account. The dishes are not elaborate, which I liked, and the kale salad worked with a mix of tender greens with the counterpoint of crunchy pine nuts and sweet raisins.

So here’s my resolution: 2017 will be the year of the greens in my house. – NOEL GALLAGHER

1132462_639835 kalesalad.jpg


Serves 4

Vegan and gluten-free

½ cup golden raisins

2 bunches Tuscan kale (8 to 10 ounces each), center veins and stems removed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped (½ cup)

2 to 4 anchovy fillets, optional

¼ cup pine nuts

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons dried currants

1. In a bowl, soak the raisins in ¼ cup hot tap water until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a covered, large saucepan, boil 8 cups of water over high heat. Add the kale, pushing it into the water with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the kale is tender to your taste. Drain the kale in a colander, then run cold water over it while swishing with your hand until it feels cool, 30 seconds. Gather the kale and squeeze it to remove excess water. Coarsely chop the kale and pull it apart; there will be about 4 cups.

3. In a deep medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until it is golden, 6 minutes. Mash in the anchovies, if using. Stir in the kale until it looks shiny. Add the raisins, pine nuts and 1¼ cups water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has evaporated and the kale is very tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the kale to a serving bowl. Sprinkle on the currants, and serve. Leftovers keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Cook’s tip: For broccoli rabe, use 1 large bunch (1½ pounds) Short-cook for 4 minutes before braising. Spinach and chard do not need short-cooking.

]]> 0, 04 Jan 2017 08:21:13 +0000
Concern over climate change fueled meatless movement in 2016 Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Now in the rearview mirror, 2016 was a year when vegan food drove deeper into the mainstream.

James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger filmed climate change public service announcements urging viewers in the United States and China to eat less meat. Tom Brady launched a line of raw, vegan snacks that quickly sold out, and Oprah Winfrey pledged to go meat-free one day a week and encouraged her fans to join the Meatless Monday movement, too.

We certainly see it here in fresh vegetable- and health food-saturated Portland. In June, the city was named No. 10 on the VegNews list of the 12 Best Towns for Vegan Living. Meanwhile in New York City, Google trend data revealed 2016’s top searches for “Near Me” and “Nearby” were for vegan food and juice bars.

And while the Big Apple has been a vegan hot spot for decades, I noticed the mainstreaming appeal of plant-based foods in many of the year’s newspaper headlines, including “Dallas is the next destination city for vegans” (Dallas Morning News); “Eating Vegan in Northeast Ohio has Never Been Easier or More Scrumptious” (Cleveland Scene); and “City-County Council Passes Meatless Monday Resolution” (Indianapolis Recorder).

Local papers weren’t the only ones picking up on the country’s new appetite for plants. National publications were filled with stories related to veganism, vegetarianism and plant-based eating this year.

For instance, an April headline in the Wall Street Journal asked (and answered): “What’s the Latest Course in Preschool? Vegan Food.” (Helsinki, Finland, for example, started a vegan meal pilot program at 20 day-care centers.)

Food & Wine reported on “Why 2016 Is the Year to Surrender to Vegan Cheese.” The story cited the rise of cultured, artisanal plant-based cheeses and a new crop of nut-based cheese brands including Miyoko’s Kitchen, Treeline and Riverdel.

In my view, the most significant event of the vegan year happened in March. That’s when these three upstart cheese makers joined other plant-based dairy, meat and egg brands to form an industry trade group called the Plant Based Foods Association. The group’s stated goal: “a fair and competitive marketplace for businesses selling plant-based foods.”

They’re asking a lot. Since the animal farm lobby dominates federal agricultural and nutrition policy, it could take decades of lobbying – if not longer – to wipe out all the current inequities that range from subsidies to lax pollution controls to school lunch milk requirements. Yet the fact the vegan market sector has annual sales of $5 billion and is now large enough to stand up and speak with a collective voice bodes well for 2017.

“The industry in the past has been kind of niche-y,” said Michele Simon, a San Francisco-based food policy attorney and executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, which also has offices in Washington, D.C., staffed by Elizabeth Kucinich, wife of former presidential hopeful and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio). “What’s really happened in the last two years is the industry has grown up and is reaching out to mainstream consumers.”

We saw this in May when Whole Foods began carrying Beyond Meat’s very hamburger-like veggie burger in the meat department. The Beyond Burger patties debuted in the Whole Foods in Boulder, Colorado, and sold out within an hour.

Retail product placement is among the areas the Plant Based Foods Association is working on while gearing up for the more daunting task of leveling the playing field in federal agricultural policy.

“It’s no accident that a sausage from Hillshire Farm costs less than a Tofurky sausage,” Simon said.

Even in the face of the sausage-to-sausage cost differences (and bearing in mind that beans and rice are always more affordable than meat), shoppers and policy makers around the globe had an appetite for plant-based foods in 2016.


In May the U.K.’s Vegan Society released the results of a survey that found the number of vegans in Britain increased 360 percent in the past 10 years.

In northern Italy, the mayor of Turin launched a campaign to brand the city as a “vegetarian city,” complete with a tourist Veg Map, vegan “chop” sandwiches and plant-based education in the schools. The plan is supported by the city’s environmentalists, animal rights champions and more than 30 plant-based restaurants, but opposed by the city’s butchers – no surprise there.

At the same time, a controversial bill was introduced in the Italian parliament proposing jail time for parents who feed their children vegan food. And while the vegan-jailing bill garnered international headlines, other less talked about bills under consideration in Rome aimed to boost the availability of vegan food.

Staying in the legal realm, Ontario, Canada, rang in 2016 with ethical veganism recognized as a class protected from discrimination by the province’s Human Rights Commission. Then in the fall in Ottawa, Ireland’s former president Mary Robinson told a youth summit to reduce meat consumption and go vegetarian or vegan to lower carbon emissions.

With the arctic melting at an alarming rate, climate change was on our minds in 2016. And more and more people discovered the connection between eating animals and greenhouse gas emissions.

In the U.S., the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics updated and revised its 2009 position paper on the nutritional soundness of vegetarian and vegan diets to add information about the greater sustainability of plant-based foods.

A study out of Oxford University in November found that a 40 percent tax on beef would compensate for the climate damage done in the rearing and killing of cattle and could cut consumption by 13 percent. No doubt the Danish Council of Ethics took note of this research, since this past year 14 of the 17 council members recommended the country enact a climate tax on beef.

This is why I found 2016 so encouraging: We’re now living in a world where countries consider enacting taxes on meat. It’s no longer just a vegan’s dream but a realistic policy proposal. It’s clear the world is shifting.

This shift is spelled out in the 2016 Global Food & Drink Trend report from market research firm Mintel, which said plant-based meat and dairy products would continue to grow in “appeal to the everyday consumer, foreshadowing a profoundly changed marketplace in which what was formerly ‘alternative’ could take over the mainstream.”

I spoke with Billy Roberts, a senior food and drink analyst at Mintel and asked him about this shift and what it will mean. He said the impact will show up everywhere from home kitchens to restaurants to grocery stores.

Roberts said that in years to come, more supermarkets could follow Whole Foods’ lead and consider shelving plant-based products in “the meat section or butcher shop alongside traditional meat and poultry products. Similarly, if and when more plant-based proteins are incorporated into more frozen meals, expect to see those alongside their traditional meat-based counterparts in the frozen cases.”

The changing marketplace is most visible in the diets of people in their 20s and 30s. Roberts said 49 percent of that age group eat plant-based meat and dairy products every week. Older people aren’t eating as many vegan meat and dairy items as young people are, but they are eating more than they ever have before.

“The growth in consumption rates appears to have been largely, if not entirely, the result of flexitarians incorporating these dishes into their diets more often,” Roberts said.


Even the traditional beef and butter bastion that is the Culinary Institute of America is urging chefs to make a course correction on their menus. In 2016, the culinary school, in conjunction with Harvard University, prodded chefs and food service managers to replace red meat with plants in a campaign called the Protein Flip.

The schools tout the move as “the single most important contribution the food service industry can make toward environmental sustainability.”

In May, Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google’s parent company, named six game-changing tech trends currently in play. Plant-based protein took the No. 1 spot.

Investors also favored vegan companies last year. Many plant-based brands gained new backers, and the West Coast vegan chain Veggie Grill raised $22 million in investment capital to fund a nationwide expansion.

This past summer saw the establishment of an investor education initiative called Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return. So far, institutional investors with more than $1 trillion under management have agreed to join the campaign and pressure major international food companies to plan for the inherent risk of industrial meat. And by “plan” they mean, “replace it with plants.”

With such campaigns afoot, it wasn’t a huge surprise when meat industry giant Tyson Food bought a 5 percent stake in Beyond Meat. Vegans generally weren’t thrilled to hear this news, but to me it shows that Tyson is seeing the same road signs we are.

And it wasn’t just meat alternatives getting a plant-based bump in 2016. Seed company Burpee reported that its new Meatball eggplant (marketed as a meat alternative) not only sold out but sold better than any other eggplant variety in its 140-year history.

All of these events offer reasons to be optimistic about 2017.

The trend forecast at the meat-loving James Beard House in New York City predicts this year will bring menus with less beef and more vegetables. “Even at the Beard House, we’re seeing vegetables take the spotlight,” the James Beard Foundation editors said, “whether it’s showcasing a regional specialty like leather britches (where beans taste suspiciously like bacon), or presenting a vegetable centerpiece.”

In the less rarefied world of the grocery trade, plant-based foods are even more common than they are at the Beard House.

According to the Global Mintel Food & Drink Trends report: “In 2017, the priority for plants will drive an acceleration in new products and marketing that casts plants in starring roles.” The report notes that since 2010 there’s been a 25 percent increase in vegetarian claims on new products and a 257 percent rise in vegan claims.

“Clearly, not only are these products more widely available, but consumers are taking note that these products do exist,” Mintel analyst Roberts said. “This penetration is likely only to continue, particularly as food developers hone and refine their offerings to mimic meat and poultry even better than they already do.”

Where is this road going to take us in 2017?

If we use the past year as a guide, 2017 will bring us to a world where plant-based food is more widely available than ever before and eating vegan is the normal rather than the alternative thing to do.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0, 04 Jan 2017 08:21:09 +0000
Bread and Butter: First-day jitters as The Purple House cafe opens in North Yarmouth Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of two columns from chef Krista Kern Desjarlais, owner of Bresca & the Honey Bee in New Gloucester and The Purple House in North Yarmouth, which opened Dec. 28. Bread and Butter is an occasional chef-written series we publish in Food & Dining.

I wake at 4:30 a.m. and silently glide through my chilly house, not even pausing to slide up the shade as the impending dawn has yet to raise an eyelid in this wee hour of morning. My dog, who normally follows me out of bed, has thought better of it today. She wags her tail briefly, then falls back to sleep with a soft huff. My two cats lie curled up in a chair in my office, merely perking up their ears as I pass through on the way to the kitchen.

As usual, I cannot force myself to sit down, so I eat my breakfast while standing in front of my kitchen sink. Unusually, I have to force myself to eat at all – a bowl of granola and some juice.

I am readying myself for what will be the first day that my new restaurant, The Purple House, will be open to the public.

A baker’s life can be a lonely one. Bakers push against normal sleep patterns and often work alone and in silence in the hours before dawn. But it is a life that suits me, apparently, as I have come in and out of it over my long career. Like all things in our lives, baking has a rhythm. Once you find it, that rhythm can lead you into a beautiful discourse with the doughs and the oven. You can find yourself working seamlessly and producing mass volumes as a sole engineer. Today, though, as I ready the bakery for its first day, I struggle to find that rhythm.

Opening time is 7 a.m. It’s 6 a.m. now. The fire is lit and the doughs are resting. This morning I will need to finalize the savory side of the kitchen, too, not something I’ll have to do at this hour once the restaurant gets going, and also start rounds of pastries I hope to serve later in the day. Under normal circumstances, this is not a daunting task, but my nerves are on edge. And, of course, that’s when mistakes happen – like overboiling (and ruining) a batch of bagels so I need to throw them out, or knocking over my spoon bain marie (a small container that holds my sauce spoons and a bit of water), thus covering my prep sheets with a gloss of cold water and turning the fresh ink of my “to do’s” into a stream of useless, blurry black lines.

6:30 a.m. and Sean, my barista, has arrived and started the coffee, filling the air with the smell of morning. Tom and Jason soon follow. They will work the savory station and build the orders for bagel sandwiches, salads and pizza as we move through the day toward lunch.

The young men are calm and prepare their stations with ease, but I can’t shake my first-day jitters. To make things worse, the fire is lagging today, and the temperature is not yet quite up to 550 degrees, where it needs to be to create the thin crust and oven spring for the bagels.

I should have been in earlier to account for this, but waking at 4:30 a.m. was early enough for my body and brain. Any earlier, and I’d be reliving my days as the sole baker at the Sonesta Hotel in Portland, formerly the Eastland and now the Westin.

In those months, I had to arrive at work at 3:30 a.m., which meant waking at 2:30 a.m., getting dressed and running from my apartment on Park Street to the hotel to prepare and bake off all the pastries and breads for the entire hotel as well as any scheduled banquets. I was tired all the time. Really, really tired.

Krista Kern Desjarlais sweeps the steps at her new cafe, The Purple House in North Yarmouth.

Krista Kern Desjarlais sweeps the steps at her new cafe, The Purple House in North Yarmouth. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

7 a.m. is fast approaching. This is it. The beginning. And I don’t have any baked goods ready!

At 7:10 a.m., I can see the handle turn and the door open. We say hello to our very first customer, an older gentleman who is bundled up against the freezing morning air. He enters quickly, smiles and asks for a menu and coffee. Sean obliges with a smile of his own, hands the man a fresh cup of drip coffee and begins the conversation of what we have to offer – later today.

There will be bagels; house-smoked and -cured fish; many spreads, toppings and finishes; pastries that will be displayed beside the cash register; and all sorts of items planned for lunch.

Baking has a rhythm, Krista Kern Desjarlais says, and once you find that rhythm, you can strike up a great partnership with dough and the oven.

Baking has a rhythm, Krista Kern Desjarlais says, and once you find that rhythm, you can strike up a great partnership with dough and the oven. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The gentleman smiles and says he’ll be back for a bagel. The clock is moving quickly now, and a few other people have noticed cars in our parking lot and are stopping in for coffee. Some of them wait until the bagels finally emerge from the oven, around 8 a.m.

Customer No. 1, the bundled-up gentleman, returns as promised and orders a traditional bagel sandwich with smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, onion, dill and capers, to go. Tom prepares this quickly, as Jason and I tend to more bagels that are baking in the oven. Before I can even turn my head to say thank you and goodbye, he is heading out the door. As he leaves, another new face slips in.

The sun has started to rise in earnest as I greet a few more customers and thank them for their well wishes. Its warm glow mimics that of the flames in the oven. And just like that, after many months of hard work and preparation, The Purple House is open. Day one is underway, full of hope and my quest to find my baker’s circadian rhythm, which beats against the 9 to 5 workday norm.


Recipe courtesy of chef/owner Krista Kern Desjarlais.

4 cups rolled oats

2 cups sliced almonds

1/2 cup flax seeds

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup hemp seeds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 cup coconut flakes

All organic if possible! Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, grease the paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Then combine the following:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 oz water

1/4 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Pour the combined wet ingredients over the combined dry ingredients and toss everything together to coat the oats mixture.

Spread the granola on the sheet pan. Bake, stirring often until evenly golden, for 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove and cool. Store in an airtight container.

Serve with milk of choice or over local yogurt or just toss in your mouth and enjoy!

Optional ingredient: 1 tablespoon instant ground espresso (Medaglio d’Oro brand) added to granola as it comes out of oven before it cools. Just sprinkle on and stir to combine evenly.

I don’t drink coffee anymore, but while I’m adjusting my internal clock to my new baking schedule I’ve been tempted to toss a spoon full of instant espresso in the milk I pour over my granola. Whatever works, right?

]]> 0 Kern Desjarlais sweeps the steps at her new cafe, The Purple House in North Yarmouth.Wed, 04 Jan 2017 08:51:41 +0000
If eggs are coddled, they’ll be good with everything Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Like kale and quinoa, kimchi and anything charred, the egg is having its moment. The hashtag #putaneggonit turns up close to 60,000 times on Instagram.

Put an egg on a salad of bitter greens, some hash, Brussels sprouts, toast, rice, ramen or a ragout, and that dish’s appeal goes up. Way up. Eggs have a knack for making just about anything look farm-to-table: A runny yolk is a shortcut to rusticity and charm.

But the egg can also be refined and ready to take its place next to a flute of champagne, which is where these coddled eggs were when we celebrated New Year’s Eve in Paris.

When you buy eggs at a Parisian cheese shop, they are never refrigerated (once refrigerated, they’re “dead,” says our French cheesemonger), are most often “bio” or organic, and are labeled with either their “fresh-until” date or, my favorite, their “extra-fresh-until” date.

Extra-fresh eggs are the ones you get if you want to eat them raw. I know, because I was once ready to buy them when the cheesemonger asked what I was going to use them for. Hearing that I was provisioning for cake baking, he took the eggs out of my hands and told me to save my money, because “extras” cost a little more.

When I make these coddled eggs in Paris, I spring for extra- fresh eggs; when I make them in America, I buy organic eggs.

In both places, lightly cooked, or coddled, eggs are voluptuous, even if they take only 15 minutes to get on the table.

This version of coddled eggs is a little ritzier than the ones I’d make for an everyday meal. They’ve got sauteed mushrooms and herbs forming a cushion on the bottom of the coddling cup. Whether you put more mushrooms on top of the eggs before you sashay into the dining room is up to you. (I always do.)

What makes coddled eggs so luscious – and as right for breakfast as for the start of a fancy-pants dinner – is their consistency: The whites are just set, and the yolks run the instant the tip of a spoon touches them.

That they welcome other ingredients and flavors just adds to their allure.

I love mushrooms and eggs, but eggs go with just about anything, from truffles, caviar and smoked salmon (maybe even all together) to roasted peppers (think Western omelet; also think hot sauce) and soft cheeses.


Use large-size organic and/or local eggs, and bring them to room temperature before you cook them. (The cooking time for the accompanying recipe is based on room-temp eggs.)

 Because you’ll be eating your eggs with a spoon, chop the mushrooms (or whatever else you choose to go under the eggs) into small pieces.

There are cups made specifically for coddled eggs (they usually have tight-sealing lids, and the setup is made to go into a water bath), but I prefer to use heatproof ramekins, canning jars or souffle, custard or espresso cups. The best size is 4 to 6 ounces.

 When you spill the egg into the cup, it’s important that the yolk remain intact. To make sure there are no mishaps, crack the egg into a bowl before pouring it into the coddling cup.

 You can assemble everything – mushrooms, egg, spoonful of cream on top – up to the night before. Keep the cups tightly covered in the refrigerator, then bring them to room temperature before coddling.

 The eggs are cooked in a steamer. You can use any steamer with a flat bottom, the straining insert in a pasta pot, or a grill/cooling rack set into a skillet with a lid.

 How quickly the eggs coddle will depend on the cups, how much water you’ve got under them and how much steam is in the pot. I’ve given you a range of 5 to 7 minutes, but check a minute before and don’t be discouraged if your eggs take a minute or so more.

 The eggs are done when the whites are just set and the yolks are still runny. Remember, the eggs will cook a tad more between pot and table (residual heat), so undercooked is better than over-.

 Lightly buttered toast points or batons (“soldiers”) are good for dipping.

Dorie Greenspan's Earthy Coddled Eggs. Like kale and quinoa, kimchi and anything charred, the egg is having its moment.

Dorie Greenspan’s Earthy Coddled Eggs. Like kale and quinoa, kimchi and anything charred, the egg is having its moment. Goran Kosanovic/For The Washington Post


4 servings

You’ll need a steamer basket and individual 4- or 6-ounce ramekins or glass canning jars.

If you plan to double or triple this recipe, use a larger vehicle for steaming.

MAKE AHEAD: You can assemble the eggs (including the cream) and keep them covered overnight in the refrigerator. Bring them to room temperature before cooking.

Fine sea salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for the ramekins

2 tablespoons minced mixed herbs, such as chives, tarragon, parsley and/or dill

4 ounces cleaned, stemmed and trimmed mushrooms, mixed or all one kind

Freshly ground white pepper

2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar or dry white wine

4 large organic (and/or local) eggs, at room temperature

4 teaspoons heavy cream

Toast points or batons (“soldiers”), lightly buttered, for serving

Set up a steamer. If you have a Chinese bamboo steamer, that’s great; you can even use a pasta pot that has a pasta-strainer insert. Ideally, you want a steamer with a flat bottom, so that you can rest 4 cups on it. If you don’t have a steamer, you can set a cooling rack in a deep skillet with a lid.

Fill the steamer pot with salted water (leave space between the water and the steaming rack) and heat so the water is barely moving.

Use some butter to grease the insides of four souffle, ramekin, custard or other heatproof cups. The ideal size is 4 ounces (more for looks than anything else), but cups between 4 and 6 ounces will be fine. Lightly sprinkle the inside of the cups with some of the minced herbs.

Coarsely chop the mushrooms, making them the right size to eat from a teaspoon.

Melt the tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once its bubbling has slowed, add the mushrooms. Season lightly with salt and pepper; cook until the mushrooms are almost tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the vinegar or wine and cook until it evaporates.

Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and stir in some of the remaining herbs. You want to reserve a few pinches of herbs to top the eggs when they’re cooked.

Divide the mushrooms among the cups. (If you’d like, you can hold back a few mushrooms to top the eggs.) Carefully break 1 egg into each cup, taking care to keep the yolk intact. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then spoon 1 teaspoon of cream over each egg. (Try to leave the yolk exposed, but it’s not necessary. At this point, the cups can be covered and refrigerated up to overnight.)

Place the eggs in the steamer, cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. It’s hard to give an exact time, because it will depend on how much steam you have beneath the eggs, the thickness of the cups and the temperature of the eggs. You want the whites to set and the yolks to remain runny, so test with the tip of knife after 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the cups from the steamer; top each egg with herbs and mushrooms, if you’ve saved some. Wipe the bottoms of the cups dry, place them on saucers and serve right away with the toast points or batons.

Nutrition per serving (using white balsamic vinegar, without toast): 120 calories, 7 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 200 mg cholesterol, 340 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

]]> 0 Greenspan's Earthy Coddled EggsWed, 04 Jan 2017 08:21:11 +0000
‘So bovine’: Maine singer-songwriter Denny Breau’s pot roast strikes a chord Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 ‘I brought the whole cow,” Maine singer-songwriter Denny Breau says with a big laugh. He wolf-whistles behind my kitchen counter as he unwraps a bloody and impressive 5-pound hunk of beef.

It’s mid-December, and I’ve invited Breau over to cook me a pot roast, an invitation sparked by a happy chance encounter with his charming, bluesy tune, “Pot Roast.” I’ve also assembled a last-minute gathering for later in the day, since the song extols the virtues of feeding the dish to company:

“Pot roast for all your guests.

Pot roast, why not feed them the best?

Pot roast, and I’m feeling blessed

‘Cause if you think you are through I could finish the rest

Of your pot roast.”

We have filled out the menu under Breau’s direction with mashed potatoes (with sour cream and butter), string beans (plain) and coleslaw. “That’s my traditional pot roast meal,” he says, adding about the last, “There’s just something about mayonnaise that goes with everything.”

Pot roast is more than a meal to Breau, whose family is Maine music royalty – his parents were country music singers who recorded for RCA Victor, his late brother Lenny, a renowned jazz guitarist; Denny himself started performing in his teens and was inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004. Pot roast is memory and nostalgia, too.

We have just one hour to get the roast into the oven. The roast will take three hours to cook, more or less, and dinner – or maybe dunch, since we’ll be eating at the unconventional hour of 3:30 p.m. – cannot be late because Breau has his own engagement that evening. He is singing a Christmas concert at One Longfellow Square in Portland with fellow musicians Dave Rowe and Phil House.

Guests are coming. There’s a lot of food to make, music to discuss, dishes to wash and a table to set. I am anxious. “Stress!” I text my boss.

Not Breau.

He arrives before I return from grocery shopping – we divvied up the list beforehand. I grab a shovel and attempt to de-ice the front steps ahead of him. He deposits the roast, also a bottle of Kitchen Bouquet, a packet of Lipton Onion Soup and a partly consumed cup of McDonald’s coffee in my kitchen, then he comes outside to shovel my stairs and walkway. I like him already.

Side dishes included mashed potatoes, green beans, cole slaw and, of course, mushroom gravy.

Side dishes included mashed potatoes, green beans, cole slaw and, of course, mushroom gravy. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


At 11 a.m. Breau is unwrapping the meat, competently chopping onions and garlic into big chunks and unscrewing a bottle of cheap supermarket red. (“You don’t need to go nuts about the wine because it’s just going to go into the gravy,” he’d instructed me.)

Precisely 22 minutes later, about the length of time it would take him to run through “Pot Roast” four times, the roast is in the oven.

The house smells fantastic; it will smell exponentially better as the afternoon goes on.

“It’s pretty easy,” he says. “It’s not rocket science by a long shot.”

The recipe is in Breau’s head. He eyeballs the amounts, measuring nothing.

“This much of that and that much of this,” he says. Come winter, he makes pot roast every two to three weeks – “it’s in the rotation” – though these days his wife and daughter are on special diets, so cooking for the family is a challenge.

Breau has been making pot roast since he was in his 20s, and at 64 years old, he’s had plenty of time to practice. It started out as his mother’s recipe, but early on he modified it to suit himself.

“My mom would never do it with Lipton Onion Soup or wine,” he says. “She always just did it very straight with water and onions. Bland. Bland. I like things that pop, and it’s pretty hard to get a pot roast to pop. It’s the gravy that pops. Put that on the meat? Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm.”

Did I mention that he will be making mushroom gravy this afternoon?

Breau’s mother died 2½ years ago at age 92, and whatever one might say about her cooking – and Breau has plenty good to say about it, too – no one could knock her singing: Breau, who grew up in Auburn, is the son of country music singer Betty Cody, whose song “I Found Out More Than You Ever Knew,” reached No. 10 on the Billboard country chart in 1953, the year after Breau was born. His father is Harold Breau, a guitarist and vocalist who toured with his wife as Hal Lone Pine.

If Breau found his mom’s pot roast bland, his mother – whose recipe for tourtiere Breau makes to this day – had nothing but good to say about his.

“She loved it. There isn’t anybody that doesn’t. I’ve never had anybody say, ‘This sucks!’ ” Breau says. “She loves the song, too. She was my biggest supporter for sure.”

From left, Press Herald copy editor Charmaine Daniels, Food and Source Editor Peggy Grodinsky, Dave Rowe, Stacey Guth and Gillian Britt gathered to try Denny Breau's pot roast.

From left, Press Herald copy editor Charmaine Daniels, Food and Source Editor Peggy Grodinsky, Dave Rowe, Stacey Guth and Gillian Britt gathered to try Denny Breau’s pot roast. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Like the recipe, the song evolved. It started out some 10 years ago as a song about “being roasted on pot,” Breau says a little sheepishly, “and then it migrated into what you are hearing.”

A pretty big shift.

“That is a big transition,” he agrees. “I was just going with the flow, with what was happening that day. … But it didn’t get past maybe two or three lines before it turned into the pot roast song.”

In answer to my next question, he says, no, he was not making pot roast when he dreamed up the song. He wasn’t cooking anything. “I was just sitting at the camp (in Peru), looking out at the lake and these lyrics started falling in.”

“Most of my good songs are very spontaneous and spill right out,” he says, then apologizes for sounding boastful. “Pot roast fell right out.”

You can hear that in the song. It’s playful, funny and easygoing, like Breau himself, at least in our short acquaintanceship. My favorite lyric – “so bovine” – turns out to be his, too. It’s what gets the song going, he says, reciting “So bovine. Dinner on a dime. Favorite wine. It lends itself to words that would rhyme that would make sense for the chorus.”

He says he borrowed “bovine” from a Cormac McCarthy song, which he proceeds to sing. ” ‘Cows. Got big brown eyes. Cows. Got tasty thighs. Cows.’ I think he says ‘bovine’ in there somewhere.”

The song “Pot Roast” mostly, but not entirely, mirrors what happens in Breau’s kitchen when he cooks one. It diverges in two respects. First, the song goes like this:

“Keep your turkey.

You can keep your hams.

Cranberry stuffing, candied yams.

For when that next holiday comes rolling around,

For me, baby, it all comes down to pot roast.”

But Breau says he doesn’t actually eat pot roast over the holidays. His family’s Christmas meals are more traditional. “The meat pies (tourtiere). The spiral ham.”

“I wouldn’t be offended to eat a pot roast for Christmas by any stretch,” he adds.

Then there’s the matter of the Crockpot. The lyric says, “We all love the kids and the wife, but it’s that Crockpot that’s calling me home tonight.”

In fact, Breau makes pot roast in a Dutch oven, getting it started on the stovetop with a good hot sear, finishing up in the oven with a long, slow braise.

“I hardly ever use it, but I own one,” Breau says of the Crockpot. “Once in a while we’ll bust it out to cook something or other.”

With the song, he took a little poetic license. “I couldn’t say it’s the oven calling me home tonight,” he says. “Or the Dutch oven. It doesn’t have the same …” He stops mid-sentence. Crockpot, he goes on, “is much more poetic. It rolls off the tongue much more. It just sounds better.”

Breau is not a prolific songwriter. He thinks he’s written 150 to 200 songs, all told. “Most songwriters have thousands,” he says. “Some guys can go to Nashville, and they can pump out song after song after song all day long. With me, it’s maybe one or two or three a year pop out. And that’s it. And if I force it, it doesn’t sound good.”

He amends himself. “It may sound good, but it’s not pleasing to my sense of ‘What are you trying to say? What are you trying to convey?’ ”

Does he plan to write another food song?

“No. This is the only one. This is the only one!” Breau repeats himself and laughs. Laughs long and loudly. “Isn’t that enough?!”

His more recent songs are more reflective, he says, and if he’s learned one thing over decades of songwriting, it’s that simplicity works best.

“Don’t make the lyrics too thought-provoking,” he cautions. “Don’t make the chords so hard that nobody can play them or hear what’s going on. Just say what you got to say.”

The same line of thinking applies to what he likes to cook and eat. Breau describes himself as a “comfort-food kind of guy.” He likes shepherd’s pie, hamburg pie, hot dogs, fried haddock, fried scallops, a baked dish he ran into once in Vinalhaven called red top that involves layers of mashed potatoes, ground meat and corn, all topped off with a can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup.

“The meals that make me the happiest are the meals that my mom used to make me when I was a kid,” he says. “For instance, when I make American chop suey, let’s say. It brings me back to a wintry day when I’m 8 or 9 years old. The wind is howling, and we’re out sliding, having a ball. Just not a care in the world. You walk into the house and the smell of that cooking is like ‘Oh man!’

“Now when I prepare those kinds of dishes, those memories all flood back. Just like when you hear a certain song.”

Denny Breu's finished pot roast on a platter, awaiting a hungry diner.

Denny Breu’s finished pot roast on a platter, awaiting a hungry diner. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


The pot roast is coming along nicely, but the clock is ticking. Breau flips the roast, and returns it to the oven. While it finishes up, he puts together the cole slaw and the mashed potatoes.

He is in an unfamiliar kitchen, but that doesn’t faze him. He pauses to make goo-goo eyes at my cat, who is sitting on top of the refrigerator watching the proceedings with interest. He snacks on the cabbage hearts and insists I try one, too. “The best part of the cabbage,” he says. I wonder if he likes the crunch, which has a fine musical sound.

The guests trickle in – musician Dave Rowe and his girlfriend and “social media guru” Stacey Guth, Portland-area publicist Gillian Britt and Portland Press Herald copy editor Charmaine Daniels. Breau is an acquaintance of a few hours; Rowe and Guth are strangers to me. Britt and Daniels know only me.

We’re a motley crew, united solely by the fact that our schedules allow us to dine in the warm belly of a winter’s Tuesday afternoon.

By meal’s end, we are also united by pot roast. “So sublime,” according to the song. Not only that, it has the power to pry open belt buckles, loosen tongues and warm hearts.

The conversation meanders from Donald Trump to the history of spiced meat to an electronic keyboard that shut itself off to great hilarity in the middle of a recent performance.

Breau and Rowe – another avid cook – tell us how they used to trade recipes when driving from gig to gig on tour. Rowe theorizes that all chefs are frustrated musicians and all musicians are frustrated chefs.

There is a lot of pot roast – this particular rendition has soared to “the top of the pot roast charts,” Daniels declares – and a lot of laughter. We’re not friends yet, but we think we could be.

Daniels starts talking about the tourtiere she noticed recently at the concession stand at the Franco Center in Lewiston. Have you tasted tourtiere, asks Rowe, who grew up in Auburn. “It’s the most delicious thing ever.”

“Really?” Daniels says.

“For me it is,” Rowe says.

“Except,” Breau says definitively, “for pot roast.”


Breau doesn’t follow a recipe. It’s all in his head, so, like his cooking, this recipe is relaxed and casual, the measurements a bit of a guess. Adjust it depending on the size of your pot roast. We made a 5-pound roast for 6 people and had plenty of leftovers.

1 to 2 yellow onions
2 cloves garlic
10 ounces white button mushrooms
5-pound chuck roast
Generous handful flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 quart beef broth
3/4 to 1 cup cheap red wine
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Kitchen Bouquet

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Chop the onions and the garlic roughly. No need to be fussy because “after 3 hours at 350, they are pretty much history,” Denny Breau said. “You can cut them anyway you want.” Slice the mushrooms thickly and set all the vegetables aside.
Shake the pot roast in a bag with flour.

Heat the olive oil and the butter in a Dutch oven. When it’s very hot and the butter is melted, add the roast and sear it on all sides. Getting a good sear is key to a good pot roast, Breau said.

Pour in the beef broth – Breau likes no-salt, no-fat broth – and the red wine. Stir in the soup mix, and grind in black pepper. “Lots of pepper,” Breau said. “We add copious amounts of pepper. You just can’t get enough pepper.” Add the apple cider vinegar, a natural meat tenderizer, Breau said.

Place the onions and garlic on top of the meat, so their juices run down the meat as it cooks.

Once the liquid in the pot boils, cover the pot and put it in the oven. Cook about 11/2 hours, then flip the meat and stir the onions that were sitting on top of it into the liquid. Cook another 11/2 hours or so, adding the mushrooms about 30 to 45 minutes before you are done, “depending on how al dente you want them.”

When the meat is done, move the pot roast to a platter to rest with a little tin foil over it to keep it warm.
Start on the gravy. If the meat juices are greasy, defat them. Next, stir up the stuff at the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.

“What people don’t do when they make pot roast is they don’t scrape the sides when they are done to get all of that crunchy stuff into that juice,” Breau says, vigorously scraping the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven. “That’s where all the flavor is.”

Amp up the color of the gravy with “just a touch” of Kitchen Bouquet. “Some people use a little bit of coffee to do that,” Breau said.

Now make a slurry from the cornstarch and a little water. It should be thick, but not so thick it would hold a spoon upright.

Add the slurry to the meat juices. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring all the while, then immediately drop the heat to medium and cook a few minutes until the gravy thickens. After the pot roast has had a chance to rest, slice it and serve with the mushroom gravy.

LEFTOVERS? Lucky you. Here are two ways to use them. Breau combines the leftover mashed potatoes, gravy and a bit of chopped meat for a hash. He forms the mixture into patties, crisps them up in a frying pan, and serves an egg on the side. “Yum. Yum. Yum,” he said.

Or, as Breau sings in “Pot Roast”: “And if you’ve got anything left, you make a fricassee.” Which is pretty much what musician Dave Rowe suggested: Cook up carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes and pearl onions and add the vegetables to the leftover gravy. Thin the mixture with Guinness beer and add cut-up leftover pot roast. “You get a second dinner,” Rowe said. “That’s a stew waiting to happen.”


]]> 0 Denny Breau talks with guests eating a meal of pot roast with gravy and mashed potatoes he cooked at the home of Food Editor Peggy Grodinsky in Portland. Breau's song "Pot Roast" pays tribute to a dish that inspires happy memories for him.Mon, 09 Jan 2017 14:50:34 +0000
K. Horton Specialty Foods, a fixture of the Public Market House in Portland, will close Tue, 03 Jan 2017 21:16:05 +0000 Kris Horton, owner of K. Horton Specialty Foods, works Tuesday evening at her shop in the Public Market House on Monument Square. Horton will close the shop, after 18 years in business.

Kris Horton, owner of K. Horton Specialty Foods, works Tuesday evening at her shop in the Public Market House on Monument Square. Horton will close the shop, after 18 years in business. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The cheese and food specialty shop that has anchored the first floor of the Public Market House in Monument Square for a decade is closing.

Kris Horton, owner of K. Horton Specialty Foods, announced on the store’s Facebook page Monday that the store would close and operations of the market “will be handed off to the good people at Kamasouptra,” which occupies an upstairs booth.

Horton has owned the specialty shop for 18 years and worked with William Milliken, owner of Maine Beer & Beverage, to open the market space in 2006, when the Portland Public Market, about a block away, closed. The market has become a fixture of downtown Portland, drawing a large weekday lunch crowd of high school and college students as well as office workers.

“We feel very lucky and honored to have worked with so many amazing employees and customers throughout the years,” Horton’s Facebook message reads. “To all of our loyal customers throughout the years, we have been happy to serve you. We will miss you and thank you so much for allowing our business to thrive. The Public Market House will live on.”

Horton said her decision to close her shop, which typically featured between 150 and 200 different types of cheeses from Maine and across the world, was not an easy one. But Horton said her husband is retired and they wanted to spend more time together.

“I recently married my sweetheart and we have things we want to do,” said Horton, who turned 60 last year. Horton said she wants to enjoy the rest of her life, and being tied to the daily obligation of running a business was not how she wanted to spend it. “Every day is precious and I feel as though I have used my days well. It’s time to move on.”

Her departure will mark the end of an era in leadership for the Public Market House, which has served as an incubator for small start-up companies. Horton teamed up with Milliken to help foster small-business growth.

Horton said Milliken sold Maine Beer and Beverage to the Bow Street Market in Freeport in November, before he retired. Now it will be up to the owners of Karmasouptra to manage and lead a new group of entrepreneurs.

Cheese is on sale at K. Horton Specialty Foods in downtown Portland as the owner prepares to close the shop.

Cheese is on sale at K. Horton Specialty Foods in downtown Portland as the owner prepares to close the shop. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Pho Co., a new restaurant featuring Vietnamese cuisine, which opened Dec. 7, has a booth on the second floor. Owner Hoamg Nguyen said he chose the location because of its “diversity” and because he saw a need for what he has to offer.

“I knew this area was missing authentic Asian cuisine,” Nguyen said. “Business so far has exceeded my expectations.”

The Public Market House has several tenants, including Big Sky Bread Co., Ameera Bread, which is new, and Granny’s Burritos.

When Bill Spear of Portland found out that Horton was leaving, he sent Horton an email that said “Nooooooo!” Spear has been visiting her shop once a week for more than a decade. He’s skeptical that her taste in exotic cheeses can be replicated.

Horton said she is confident her space – on the first floor at the main entrance to the market – will be filled, but she said it’s unlikely that another cheese specialty shop would operate there.

“It’s a sweet spot. It will be filled,” she said.

Horton said that in the past she would stock more than 150 different cheeses from Maine and countries across the globe, including New Zealand, France and Italy.

Each slab or chunk of cheese has been marked with a tag that contains a brief description of the cheese and where it was made. A former art teacher, Horton said she enjoys educating consumers as well as her own staff.

One tag explains that Bleu de Basques is cheese made in France from sheep that graze in the Pyrenees mountains. It has a rich, sweet and silky taste.

Another brand of cheese called Sea Smoke is made at Sunset Acres, a Maine-owned farm in Brooksville. Sea Smoke was described as the “holy grail of cheese” by Robert Elder of the Chicago Tribune, Horton said. Sea Smoke is a 9-ounce dense and creamy mold-ripened cheese with three layers of ash.

“What’s been important to me is that I try to demystify the cheese. I want to make it understandable and accessible to everyone,” Horton said. “I try to break down the barriers.”

The Public Market House at 28 Monument Square is owned by Bill Chen of Portland, according to Horton. There are condominiums on the third and fourth floors, above the first- and second-floor shops.

A cash-only clearance sale began Monday. K. Horton Specialty Foods will operate during its regular business hours until it closes sometime in middle to late January.


]]> 0;lkj;lkj .... PORTLAND, ME - JANUARY 3: Kris Horton, the owner of K. Horton, at her shop in the Public Market building on Monument Square. Horton announced that she will be closing her cheese and provisions shop that has been open for 10 years in its current space, and 8 years at a prior location. (Photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer)Wed, 04 Jan 2017 07:50:20 +0000
Homemade pretzels are just one of the ways you can recycle pickle brine Sun, 01 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 Pickle brine is not an insignificant substance.

According to Pickle Packers International, Inc., a trade association for the pickled vegetable industry, Americans consume more than 2.5 billion pounds of commercial pickles each year. Even before you start counting the ones we pickle at home, we’re still talking about 20 billion pickles annually, folks.

All of which have been sitting in a brine comprising some combination of water, salt, sugar and spices, a mixture most of us don’t think twice about dumping down the drain. Being resolute about using up used pickle brine across your culinary repertoire is a small, but significant, step to take for a greener new year.

Based on the eight jars of pickles in my cupboard, I estimate a quart jar can hold 10 large, 16 medium or 24 small pickles. Once the pickles, regardless of their size, are gone, each of the jars is left with 1¼ to 1½ cups of what you can now think of as liquid flavor.

You can drink it, especially before and after a tough workout, when it can help relieve muscle cramps (thanks to the sodium and vinegar) and help replenish electrolytes, which renders expensive, plastic-bottled, sugary sports drinks unnecessary. Given that it is the day after New Year’s Eve, I can also offer up pickle brine as a hangover cure.

If you are taking it straight up, sipping is the right approach. A big chug might not sit well in your tummy. You could always strain the brine into Popsicle molds and freeze it if you need to further monitor the speed at which you take it in.

Pickling expert Marissa McClellan, who wrote “Food in Jars,” “Preserving by the Pint” and “Naturally Sweet Food in Jars,” says you can use spent pickle brine to make more pickles – but only if you are making a batch of refrigerator pickles. And we’re not just talking about cucumbers; you can quick-pickle sliced red onions, grated carrots, hard-boiled eggs, garlic, artichoke hearts or any other soft vegetables. McClellan warns that once a brine has been processed in either a water bath or a pressure canner and has sat in a jar on the shelf with a batch of pickles submerged in it, the acidity of the brine will not likely be high enough to make a new batch safe to store unrefrigerated.

Cathy Barrow, whose book “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry” guides cooks through sundry ways of using every bit of the canned goods in your larder deliciously, suggests using pickle juice to brine chicken. A basic brine – essentially a salt-and-water solution with optional flavorings – tenderizes meat and allows it to absorb the flavored liquid. If you want to cut the sourness, add a little brown sugar. If you want only a hint of pickle, cut the brine with an equal amount of water.

You can use pickle brine anywhere you’d use vinegar, such as salad dressings, marinades and barbecue sauces. You can use it – albeit in shorter measure – in a dirty martini instead of olive juice or to tart up a Bloody Mary, swapping out the celery garnish for a pickle spear, of course. And you can use a dash of pickle juice anywhere a heavy or flat-tasting dish need a bit of zip – like when you’re boiling a pot of potatoes, mixing up meatloaf, baking macaroni and cheese, steaming vegetables or making hummus.

The one Internet-fueled idea I found hard to swallow was using pickle juice to make bread. The recipes I read recommended a 1:1 swap with warm water used in standard bread recipes. I wasn’t thrown off by the potential taste – I thought that would be great – but I worried the acid would diminish the bread’s rise. In fact, it doesn’t. My homemade pretzel dough rose to twice its size in the expected 90 minutes. And the finished product was soft, chewy perfection with a pleasing tang that allowed me to forgo my usual mustard on the side.

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


]]> 0, ME - DECEMBER 20: Green Plate Special. What to do with leftover brine in the pickle jar. Make pretzels. )Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:51 +0000
If you like Li’s Chinese Food Cart in Freeport, get a seat at her restaurant Wed, 28 Dec 2016 15:09:59 +0000 0, 30 Dec 2016 14:54:04 +0000 Eight Maine restaurants earned 4 stars from food critic Andrew Ross in 2016 Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:21 +0000 0 poached lobster tail.Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:59 +0000 Maine’s 16 most memorable places to eat in 2016, from burgers to octopus Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 One of the things that gives me the holiday blues is when I pick up a magazine to read its “Best Restaurants of the Year” edition, only to discover that what they really mean to say is “the best restaurants that opened this year.” I don’t believe that new automatically means good. So this is not that kind of list.

What follows are my top picks in several categories that reflect what I saw, smelled and tasted over the past calendar year in Maine. Some come from fine dining, and some from little takeaway spots across the state. But all of them represent food memories that have stuck with me – some of which I hope will linger far beyond the closing hours of 2016.

The marinated bluefish at the Drifter's Wife, 63 Washington Ave., Portland.

The marinated bluefish at the Drifter’s Wife, 63 Washington Ave., Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Best restaurant

Drifter’s Wife, Portland. Inspired by their passion for natural wines, Peter and Orenda Hale have created something unique in a bright, yet cozy storefront in the former Nissen Bakery building. It started with their wine shop, Maine & Loire, at the back of the space. Then, this year, they launched the second phase of their project: Drifters Wife, a wine bar with a broad, but discerningly composed list of many of those same natural wines, available by the bottle or glass.

What makes Drifters Wife unusual is that it possess two equally admirable strengths: its wine and its food. The fulcrum of this balance is chef Ben Jackson’s extraordinary skills with a few induction burners and a small oven, from which he produces some of the most captivating dishes I have eaten in Maine. Like glistening and flaky hake with hardy, housemade sauerkraut, parsnip puree and salted hake, all based on a flavor profile inspired by Hungarian hangover remedies. Or beef tongue that has been marinated in a spice bath for 24 hours, cooked low and slow until it just barely holds together, then sliced thinly, on the bias, and served in its own concentrated broth with bitter puntarelle greens and farro.

It is also impossible to get tired of dining at Drifters Wife. It re-introduces itself anew with each visit, thanks to an evolving wine list and a menu that changes every week, and sometimes even every day. If you haven’t been yet, go.

"The food we serve here at The Lost Kitchen reflects me and reflects this part of Maine," chef-owner Erin French says.

“The food we serve here at The Lost Kitchen reflects me and reflects this part of Maine,” chef-owner Erin French says. Courtesy photo

Best single meal I ate

The Lost Kitchen, Freedom. In a converted mill, off the beaten path in Freedom, Maine, chef Erin French makes magic for 40 people a night. After you have bought a bottle of wine downstairs, at the shop run by her mother, a team of servers and French, herself (there is little distinction here between front-of-house and back-of-house) deliver simple, seasonal appetizers like delicately salted late autumn baby carrots and glossy grilled sourdough bread slices to each table.

Everyone in the dining room eats at the same time, after French stands at the threshold of the dining room, clinks a wine glass and, like a kitchen griot, shares the story of the evening’s menu – a menu that changes by the day. The atmosphere and communal, personal service makes you feel like a guest at a dinner party, but one with superlative food, like a delicate carrot soup poured at the table around three loose, steaming mussels, an insanely decadent fried, confited duck leg that practically volunteered itself off the bone, and seared scallops with thick, savory, almost polenta-like parsnip puree. At $95 per person before wine, tax, and tip, it is not cheap to eat at The Lost Kitchen, but it is worth every dollar and every minute on the road to get there.

HONORABLE MENTION: A carbohydrate-fest of a breakfast at Palace Diner in Biddeford that included their nearly weightless, lemony flapjacks and a slice of salted brown butter banana bread.

Best single dish I ate

Octopus a la plancha with “Purgatory” beans, kale stew and sage oil at Primo in Rockland. It probably helps that I ate this as part of a reunion meal with a good friend, in a toasty warm dining room, on one of the coldest nights of the year. But there is no denying that chef/co-owner Melissa Kelly knows how to grill seafood as well as any Iberian, and knows how to pair it with exactly the right accompaniment – even if it is Italian. In this case, a thick, Laziale stew of tiny white beans and kale, simmered with bay leaves and sage.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Hardwood-smoked, spice-rubbed barbecue spare ribs at Hot Suppa! in Portland, and deceptively plain-looking, but floridly complex and spicy khao mun gai at Thai Esaan in Portland.

Trays full of freshly made pastries at Ten Ten Pié on Cumberland Avenue in Portland.

Trays full of freshly made pastries at Ten Ten Pié on Cumberland Avenue in Portland. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Best baked good

Korvapuusti from Ten Ten Pié in Portland. Atsuko Fujimoto is an ultra-competent baker who creates superlative versions of just about everything she attempts, from sesame-sprinkled hamburger buns, to macarons, to hand pies. But my favorite of all the wonderful things she has baked this year is her version of korvapuusti, Finnish cinnamon rolls, with golden, cardamom-scented dough scrolled around a sweet, buttery cinnamon filling, and sprinkled on top with crunchy white pearl sugar.

HONORABLE MENTION: Yarmouth-based Night Moves Bread + Pie’s malty and moist country sourdough, made from local wheat and fresh-milled rye (available at The Farm Stand in South Portland).

Best cocktail

Owner and head bartender Nathaniel (Nan’l) Meiklejohn’s noir-themed L.A. Story at The Bearded Lady’s Jewel Box in Portland. It’s a dark cocktail with rye, cardamaro, walnut liqueur, sherry and intensely bitter Elisir Novasalus that gives the drink a bite alongside some herbal sweetness.

HONORABLE MENTION: Portland Hunt & Alpine Club’s Roman Stinger, made with dry vermouth, Campari, lime and agave syrup.

Biggest shock closing

The Velveteen Habit in Cape Neddick. We’ve heard of going out on top, but this is ridiculous. Just shy of a month after garnering praise from Food & Wine magazine, as well as a well-deserved four-star review in this paper, Ben Goldman and his team shuttered the farmhouse restaurant for good.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Rossobianco in Portland. Almost exactly three months after opening, Vinland’s David Levi seemed to have all the kinks ironed out in his modern Italian restaurant on Bramhall Square, when he suddenly pulled the plug to reboot the business. Levi plans to open a newly named restaurant in the same space this February. Waterman’s Beach Lobster in South Thomaston. After 30 years and a James Beard award, we’re very sad to see the Manahan sisters retire.

Biggest disappointment

When it opened this summer inside a historic brick-and-granite building known as the castle in Deering Oaks park, Tiqa Café & Bakery was perfectly positioned to become part of the Saturday experience of visiting the Portland Farmers’ Market: Spend an hour shopping for flowers and tomatoes, and when your feet start to hurt (or when you’re loaded down like a burro with berries and basil), walk to the end of the market for a sandwich or dessert. But Tiqa rapidly became a victim of its own success. Crisis-level understaffing led to interminable wait times for food – I stood for nearly 40 minutes one Saturday, waiting for a cashier to remove a slice of baklava from a case and put it on a plate.

Bosque Negro, a triple chocolate brownie dessert with charred vanilla ice cream and pickled cherries at Local 188 restaurant.

Bosque Negro, a triple chocolate brownie dessert with charred vanilla ice cream and pickled cherries at Local 188 restaurant. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Best dessert

The Bosque Negro at Local 188 in Portland, with its sweet-savory combo of a triple chocolate brownie, charred vanilla ice cream and puckery pickled cherries. Pat Tubbs’s festive, painterly presentation makes this dish look like something right from Señor Guillermo Wonka’s factory.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Caprese gelato at Solo Italiano in Portland – an after-dinner take on a sweet, tre colore salad, with one scoop of aromatic basil gelato and one scoop of berry-sweet tomato sorbetto, all tied together with fresh whipped cream in place of mozzarella.

Best side dish

(TIE) Brussels sprouts with tangy fish sauce vinaigrette from Pai Men Miyake in Portland. Tunisian carrot puree with cumin and lemon from Lolita in Portland.

Best lunch

(TIE) A warming bowl of Hakata-style ramen from Suzukiya in Portland, the charred escarole with almond vinaigrette (technically an appetizer, but large enough to eat on its own) from East Ender in Portland.

HONORABLE MENTION: A bento box from Ten Ten Pié in Portland, especially if it comes with the extraordinary shiso-flavored potato salad.


Best pizza

The thick, puffy take on Sicilian pizza at Slab in Portland.

HONORABLE MENTION: Rose’s Italian Restaurant in Windham.

Best burger

The rapturously messy Dirigo Burger, served on a housemade potato roll from Dirigo Public House in Yarmouth.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Standard Gastropub in Bridgton, Woodford Food & Beverage in Portland and the Palace Diner in Biddeford.

Best spot for a romantic dinner

(TIE) Piccolo in Portland, Salt in Vinalhaven.

Best lobster roll (high season)

Bite Into Maine in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth.

Best lobster roll (year-round)

Eventide in Portland.

Best place to wander if you’re not sure what you want to eat

It’s still not much to look at, but you’re bound to find something tempting on Washington Avenue in Portland, where in quick succession, you’ll encounter a diverse array of excellent dining options from traditional Eritrean and Ethiopian stews at Red Sea, vegetarian-friendly comfort food at Silly’s with a Twist, small-batch barbecue at Terlingua, updated and upgraded red sauce classics at Roustabout, refined bistro food and natural wine at Drifters Wife, and, if you’d rather sip your meal, a smoothie from Flying Fox Juice Bar.

Andrew Ross writes the Dine Out Maine column that runs each week in the Audience section of the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be contacted at and on Twitter @AndrewRossME. Find this story online to see which restaurants Ross gave four stars in 2016.


]]> 0 Negro, a triple chocolate brownie dessert with charred vanilla ice cream and pickled cherries at Local 188 restaurant.Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:53 +0000
Cookbook review: ‘Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Beer Lovers’ Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 “Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Beer Lovers.” By Christian DeBenedetti and Andrea Slonecker. Photography by John Lee. Chronicle Books. $24.95.Everyone knows that beer and pizza go together, and it’s great to have a bowl of something salty in front of you when tossing a few back. But after that, commonly known culinary pairings for America’s favorite adult beverage drop off pretty quickly.

The newfound, seemingly insatiable demand for craft beer is changing that. High-end beer dinners and suggestions for food pairings on bottle labels still aren’t as common as with wine, but they aren’t hard to come by either.

It’s no surprise then, there is a steadily expanding catalog of cookbooks focused on connecting the best things to eat with a galaxy of beer styles.

“Beer Bites” is a solid, if slightly intimidating, entry in the category. Recipes lean heavily toward finger foods meant to be shared, broken into six themed chapters like “hoppy and herbal” and “malty rich and sweet.” Each recipe is paired with a specific style of brew and a handful of suggested pairings.

While the book has a few entries that are instantly recognizable – fish and chips, bratwurst, Bavarian soft pretzels – many had me scratching my head wondering where to even buy the ingredients – fried burrata sandwiches with blood-orange tomato soup, for example.

I ended up choosing gougere beef sliders with a dry Irish stout because it seemed to match the bitterly cold near-solstice evening I cooked. The gougeres, tiny cheese puffs made with eggs, butter, milk and gruyere, came out a little flat, but the tiny burgers were delicious nonetheless, especially topped with quick-pickled shallots and mayo. And, unsurprisingly, a Guinness Foreign Export washed them down easily.

The dish was fine, but in the future, I plan to experiment with the book the way the authors suggest – picking a few recipes, grabbing some friends and cracking open some nice bottles or cans to share.


Gougère Beef Sliders


Makes 4 to 6 servings


1/4 cup milk, plus more for brushing

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into cubes

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Pinch of ground pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, room temperature

3 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded


2 large shallots, thinly sliced

3/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


11/2 pounds ground beef

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 teaspoon ground pepper

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

Dijon mustard, finely shredded iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise for serving

1. To make the gougeres: Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter two rimmed baking sheets.

2. Combine the milk, water, butter, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour using a wooden spoon. Return the pan to the stove top and turn the heat to medium. Beat the dough vigorously with the spoon until it is smooth and glossy and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about one minute. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in one of the eggs. When the first egg is completely incorporated, add the second egg, along with half the cheese. Stir vigorously to combine.

3. Drop tablespoonfuls of the dough on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 11/2 inches apart. You should have 12 mounds. Brush the tops lightly with milk and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until puffy and golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back in the oven halfway through.

4. To make the pickled shallots: Put the shallots in a small bowl. Add the vinegar, sugar and salt and stir well to mix. Set aside at room temperature to marinate until pickled, about 30 minutes.

5. To make the beef patties: Combine the beef, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl and stir gently to combine; do not over-mix. Form the mixture into 12 small patties, again being careful not to handle too much. Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, just until it begins to smoke. Add half of the burger patties and cook, turning once, until browned and crispy on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat to fry the remaining patties.

6. Cut the gougeres in half horizontally and spread the bottoms with mustard. Position the burger patties over the mustard and top each with a big pinch of lettuce and pickled shallots. Spread the top halves lightly with mayonnaise and place over the sliders. Serve immediately.

]]> 0, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:54 +0000
The Maine Ingredient: Informal yet inviting buffet lets you start the year relaxed Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The menu for a New Year’s Day open house might look like this:

Assorted cheeses with crackers and pear slices

 Crudité platter with curry dip

 Lox on mini-bagels with scallion-lemon cream cheese*

 Big bowl of cashews

 Blue corn chips with pico de gallo salsa

 Spiral-sliced glazed ham

 Mini-potato rolls

 Party rye

 Custard mustard sauce*

Chopped green cabbage and red apple salad*

 Dessert spread of leftover Christmas cookies and sliced pound cake

As you can see, this is a relaxed, informal, fairly non-labor-intensive buffet, one to which items could easily be added or subtracted – if guests insist on bringing a contribution, for instance.

Most of the ingredients/dishes can be bought or made ahead. Buy a spiral-sliced ham (so tasty and so practical), which you can bake in the morning, glazing with a mixture of brown sugar and apple juice for the last half hour or so. The ham – in fact, all the food – can sit out at room temperature for the duration of the party.

The custard mustard sits beside the ham, along with mini potato rolls and/or party rye bread, so guests can make their own little sandwiches, and a pretty platter of cookies and sliced pound cake graces a side table next to the coffee. Happy New Year to all!

(* recipes included)


If you run out of time, simply put out the components in bowls and invite guests to assemble their own canapes.

Makes about 36 canapes

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

¼ cup finely chopped scallions or chives

9 plain small bagels

6 ounces very thinly sliced lox or other smoked or cured salmon

About 1 tablespoon drained small capers

Coarsely ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, lemon juice and zest, and chives. Stir well to blend. Let stand at least 30 minutes to blend flavors or refrigerate for up to 2 days. Return to room temperature before using.

Split each bagel in half, then cut each half into 2 pieces to make 4 canape bases from each bagel. Spread each piece with about a teaspoon of flavored cream cheese, top with a thin piece of salmon, and press a couple of capers into the cream cheese. Grind pepper over the top. Arrange on a platter. (Can be assembled up to 3 hours ahead; remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.)


This sauce is so yummy that people have been known to eat it plain, with a spoon.

Makes about 1½ cups

¼ cup Coleman’s dry mustard

½ cup distilled white vinegar

¼ cup dry white wine or vermouth

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, vinegar and vermouth. Cover and let soak at room temperature for at least 6 hours or overnight.

In the top of a double boiler or in a stainless steel bowl set over simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt. Whisk in the mustard mixture. Cook over barely simmering water, whisking every 5 minutes or so, until sauce thickens to consistency of a thinnish mayonnaise, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally as it cools. (Sauce will thicken as it cools.) Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate for up to 3 days before using.


If you can find a cabbage with loose dark green outer leaves, reserve leaves and use them to line the serving bowl or platter for a pretty presentation.

Makes about 20 buffet servings


1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon celery seeds


1 medium-large head green cabbage

1 cup dried currants

¾ cup chopped red onion

3 crisp red-skinned apples, such as Empire

To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. (Can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

To make the salad, cut the cabbage in half, remove core, and shred in a food processor or by hand. Toss in a large bowl with the currants and red onion. Toss with enough of the dressing to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 8 hours.

Up to 3 hours before serving, core the apples and coarsely chop; stir into the cabbage mixture, adding more dressing if necessary. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Spoon onto a rimmed platter or bowl and serve.

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

]]> 0 awe-inspiring portal to the former Chestnut Street Church, now the entrance to Grace. At right, a cheese plate at Grace features Medalion (Maine), Mimolette (France) Asher Blue (Georgia) along with Marcona almonds, raisins-on-the-vine, pickled green strawberries, and housemade crackers.Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:15:00 +0000
Recipes you’ll be glad to have on hand Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Having one or all of these recipes on standby is the entertaining equivalent of Bullwinkle the Moose’s “watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!”

There’s something here for everyone – cocktail snacks, a handy dessert and satisfying entrees – and all of them can be made in advance.

Olives with citrus zests and fried herbs. Refrigerate these for up to a week.

 Enchiladas with chili gravy. This has real-deal, Tex-Mex flavor. The multipart recipe can be accomplished over a day or two.

 Sweet potatoes with chicken and lemon grass. Surprisingly satisfying and bright-tasting, with fairly few ingredients.

 Orange-scented olive oil cake. The recipe yields two 9-inch rounds; they can be frozen for up to a month. To make it a chocolate cake, melt 3 ounces of coarsely chopped dark chocolate with 2 tablespoons of warm almond milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Cool slightly, then add to the egg-sugar mixture and proceed with the recipe.

Sweet potatoes with chicken and lemongrass.

Sweet potatoes with chicken and lemongrass. Photos by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post


This thin-brothed stew is homey yet flavorful enough to serve to holiday guests. It was inspired by the Hmong community in Minnesota, whose cooks tend to use simple ingredients.

The Hmong top the dish with an optional, lightly salted mixture of chopped Thai chilies, fresh ginger and cilantro, which we really liked in testing.

The stew can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Prepare the chili pepper topping just before serving.

Adapted from “Smashed, Boiled and Baked (and Fried, Too!): A Celebration of Potatoes in 75 Irresistible Recipes,” by Raghavan Iyler (Workman, 2016).

Makes 4 servings

1 pound sweet potatoes

2 stalks lemongrass

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (trimmed of visible fat), cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup water

1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns

Steamed white or brown rice, for serving

Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Peel the sweet potatoes and rinse them under cool water, then cut them into 1-inch cubes, submerging them in the bowl of water as you go.

Trim the ends of each lemon grass stalk to yield a tightly layered middle section that’s about 3 inches long. Use the flat side of a chef’s knife to smash the section, then cut that in half lengthwise, discarding the tough outer layer. Cut the halves into thin strips, then into small pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the chicken and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until it loses some of its raw look.

Drain the potatoes, then add them to the pan along with the cup of water, the lemon grass, salt and cracked peppercorns. Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through.

Divide the stew, including the broth, among bowls filled halfway with rice.

For the optional topper, stir together 10 to 12 thinly sliced red and/or green Thai chili peppers (not seeded), 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger root, 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro and tender stems, and a small pinch of coarse kosher or sea salt in a small bowl. Use some of the mixture to top each portion of the stew.

Olives with citrus zests and fried herbs.

Olives with citrus zests and fried herbs.


You’ll be happy to have these on hand when folks drop by for cocktails or a glass of wine.

The mixture can be refrigerated (without the garlic) for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Adapted from “A Recipe for Cooking,” by Cal Peternell (William Morrow, 2016).

Makes 12 servings (3 cups)

1 orange

1 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

20 sage leaves

20 rosemary leaves

1 small clove garlic (unpeeled)

1 pound mixed olives, such as black Niçoise and green Castelvetrano

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Use a vegetable peeler to cut 5 or 6 wide strips of zest (total) from the orange and lemon.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil, sage, rosemary and garlic; cook for about 20 seconds or until the herbs stop sizzling. Turn off the heat.

Stir in the olives, citrus zests and the crushed red pepper flakes, then transfer to a deep bowl. Use a Microplane grater to grate the remaining zest from the orange and lemon directly into the bowl. Stir to incorporate.

Serve warm. Or cool, discard the garlic, cover and refrigerate.

Enchiladas with chili gravy.

Enchiladas with chili gravy.


Think of this as a kit: a spice blend, a sauce for coating the tortillas and a killer gravy you’ll be glad to have on hand. The components can be made on different days, and all are great to have around.

The recipe makes more chili gravy than you need here, but you’ll be happy to have it on hand, for topping tostadas, scrambled eggs, chilaquiles and more.

The chili gravy can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. The spice blend can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month. The tortilla sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months. Defrost completely and stir to re-blend before using.

Adapted from “The Enchilada Queen Cookbook: Enchiladas, Fajitas, Tamales, and More Classic Recipes from Texas-Mexico Border Kitchens,” by Sylvia Casares with Dotty Griffith.

Makes 4 to 6 servings (12 enchiladas)


11/2 cups chopped white onion

5 cloves garlic, smashed

31/2 cups water

1/4 cup cooked ground beef, crumbled

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup flour

2 cups no-salt-added beef broth

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons Tex-Mex Holy Trinity spice blend

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper


7 dried guajillo chili peppers, stems and seeds removed

2 dried arbol chili peppers, stems removed (no need to remove seeds)

13/4 cups water


Twelve 6-inch corn tortillas

4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, plus 11/4 cups for sprinkling

1 cup diced onion (optional)

FOR THE GRAVY: Combine the onions, garlic and 1/2 cup of the water in a blender on high speed; puree until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a small saucepan; add the beef and 2 cups of the water. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Use a large spoon to skim off and discard any froth on the surface; repeat two or three times as needed. Also, use the spoon to break up clumps of meat for a smooth consistency. Remove from the heat.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, reduce the heat to low; add the flour, stirring constantly to form a smooth roux. Cook for several minutes, until it develops a light brown color, then remove from the heat.

Heat the broth and the remaining cup of water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until heated through. Meanwhile, whisk together the chili powder, salt, Tex-Mex Holy Trinity spice blend and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. Stir that mixture into the broth mixture, whisking until smooth.

Gradually add the cooked beef and chili powder-broth mixture to the roux, stirring constantly so it’s lump-free. Stir and cook over low heat for 5 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is almost as thick as ketchup. The yield is about 5 cups. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before using.

FOR THE TORTILLA SAUCE: Rinse the chilies with cool water, then place them in a medium saucepan with the 13/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour the cooked chilies and their liquid into a blender or food processor; puree for about 1 minute, until smooth. Strain the pureed mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. The yield is about 13/4 cups. Cover and refrigerate until chilled before using.

FOR THE ENCHILADAS: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking oil spray.

Place the tortilla sauce in a wide, shallow bowl. Dip the tortillas into the sauce one at a time, coating both sides and shaking off any excess. Stack them on a plate. You’ll have sauce left over; strain out any pieces of tortilla before pouring it into a clean container to cover and refrigerate.

Working with one at a time, place about 1/3 cup of the cheese down the center of each tortilla. Roll the tortillas and place them, seam sides down, in the baking dish. Repeat until all the tortillas are filled, arranging them in a baking dish with barely any space in between.

Pour 1/4 cup of the chili gravy over each enchilada, then sprinkle evenly with some of the remaining shredded cheese and the onion, if using. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbly. Garnish with a little more cheese before serving.

To make the Tex-Mex Holy Trinity spice blend, combine 3 cloves of garlic, 11/2 teaspoons of cumin seed, 11/4 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns and 1 tablespoon of water in a molcajete, mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Process until the garlic is a smooth paste and the spices are finely ground. The yield is about 4 teaspoons. Transfer to a small airtight container; refrigerate for up to 1 month.


This is the one cake that can see you through the holidays: It’s easy to assemble and serve, and it freezes well. Pastry chef-instructor and cookbook author Nick Malgieri likes to use pure olive oil rather than extra-virgin here, because it has a less assertive flavor.

You’ll need two 9-inch round cake pans with sides at least 2 inches high.

Serve with orange slices and a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream or orange sherbet.

The cakes can be double-wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before serving.

From pastry chef-instructor and cookbook author Nick Malgieri, who credits the recipe to Fritz Blank, chef-owner of the now-defunct Deux Cheminées in Philadelphia.

Makes 16 to 20 servings (two 9-inch round cakes)

11/2 cups pure olive oil, plus more for the pans (see headnote)

3 large navel oranges

3 large eggs

21/2 cups sugar

11/2 cups whole or low-fat milk (may substitute nondairy milk)

21/2 cups flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use some of the oil to generously grease the 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Grate the zests from the oranges over a mixer bowl (from a stand mixer), then use a knife to completely cut away the remaining skin and pith from the oranges. Cut the fruit into 3/8-inch-thick round slices; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Add the eggs to the mixer bowl, whisking by hand until well blended. Whisk in 1 cup of the sugar, then seat the bowl on the stand mixer and secure the balloon-whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until very light. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Whisk in the oil by hand, in a steady stream, followed by the milk. (You can also do this with the mixer on low speed.)

Stir together the remaining 11/2 cups sugar, the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl, then whisk that mixture into the egg mixture in three separate additions, whisking smooth after each addition.

Divide the batter equally between the pans. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the cakes are well risen, deeply golden and firm in the center when pressed with a fingertip.

Transfer the cakes (in their pans) to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Run a table knife around the edge to loosen the sides, then invert to unmold and turn them right side up again, placing them on the racks to cool completely.

Cut into wedges and serve with the orange slices, plus other accompaniments, as you wish.

]]> 0 potatoes with chicken and lemon grass.Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:58 +0000
Make New Year’s Eve food festive by adding champagne to risotto Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Even though risotto is a simple rice dish, I associate it with special occasions.

A northern Italian rice dish cooked in broth to a creamy consistency, risotto is most often served as a first course. But in the U.S., we serve it as a side or a main course.

It most always includes butter, onions and wine. I have made white wine risotto with spring peas and crab meat and red-wine risotto with caramelized shallots and mushrooms. But I never thought about making champagne risotto until my friend and fellow chef, Bob Blumer mentioned it to me.

I immediately knew that champagne risotto would have to become my New Year’s Eve staple – it’s comforting on a cold night and easy to prepare while talking and drinking with friends. And it’s the perfect choice for an at-home celebration.

Bob makes his risotto with asparagus, which is out of season right now. I opted to make mine with one of my favorite ingredients, mushrooms – any kind of mushrooms work, or a mixture of wild mushrooms. The combination of garlic, shallots, butter, champagne, Parmesan and thyme is so rich that this recipe is excellent with button mushrooms and only gets better with more interesting mushrooms.

My favorite two mushrooms are meaty morels and chanterelles. And since it is New Year’s Eve, why not splurge with champagne and chanterelles?

The key to risotto is setting up two pots, one for the chicken stock and the other for making the risotto itself. Keep the chicken stock warm so it is absorbed quicker and doesn’t “shock” the risotto as you stir it in, little by little.

1129591_298663 risotto.jpg


Makes 2 dinner portions or 4 side dishes

2 large shallots, chopped (about 1/3 cup)

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons butter, divided

4 ounces mixed chopped mushrooms (a generous cup of cooked mushrooms)

1 cup champagne

32 ounces unsalted chicken stock

6 sprigs of fresh thyme, divided

1 generous cup Arborio rice

1 generous cup Parmesan cheese, grated

In a heavy-bottomed medium-size (about 6 quarts) pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Immediately add shallot and garlic and stir for 3-4 minutes, or until the shallot is translucent and beginning to brown around the edges.

Add rice to the shallots and garlic and stir vigorously for about 30 seconds until all of the rice grains are coated in oil. Let rice toast in the pan for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and let melt. Season butter with salt and add mushrooms. Let cook down until lightly sauteed and set aside.

In a second pot (about 4 quarts), warm chicken stock and 1/2 cup of champagne over medium-low heat. Add about 4 whole sprigs of thyme to infuse the stock.

Add the remaining 1/2 cup of champagne to the rice mixture and reduce heat to medium. Add in the sauteed mushrooms. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Use a ladle to add 1/2 cup of the hot chicken stock to the rice. Stir frequently. Each time the stock is almost fully absorbed, add another 1/2 cup. Continue stirring and adding stock until rice is creamy yet still a little firm to the bite. (It may not be necessary to use all of the stock.) The total cooking time should not be more than about 25 minutes. To keep the rice slightly creamy, don’t wait until the last ladle full of stock is totally absorbed before pulling it off the heat and serving.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the reserved thyme (leaves only) and the Parmesan cheese. Continue stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Season with a touch of white pepper and salt if desired. You shouldn’t need to use much salt, if any.

Serve in flat bowls with a sprig of thyme.

]]> 0, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:56 +0000
Finger food that won’t make your guests pop their buttons Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The holidays may be peak season for elaborate, tradition-steeped dishes, but they are also a time when most of us feel overwhelmed and could use something fast and fabulous to take the edge off the stress of entertaining. This finger food answers that call beautifully, and it’s healthful, to boot.

It flashes with festive color, with creamy white goat cheese on crispy shards of pita that become a canvas for a confetti of ruby-red pomegranate seeds, green pistachios and mint: ingredients that give you creamy, crunchy, fruity, fresh, sweet and savory at once in each bite.

Making the pita toasts requires minimal effort from start to finish, and it’s something you can pull together at a moment’s notice because you can prep most of the elements several days in advance.

To make the toasts, you slice whole-grain pita into rounds, brush them with olive oil, cut them into wedges and bake just until crisped. Making them at home this way yields a top quality, ultrathin, crisp whole-grain chip, but store-bought pita chips would work if need be; just get the unsalted variety.

You can also take advantage of another healthful convenience option and pick up a container of pomegranate seeds (arils) rather than deal with the whole fruit. Toast and chop the pistachios ahead, and mix the honey-lemon drizzle; all you need to do once guests arrive is chop some mint, spread, sprinkle, drizzle and serve.

1129594_96866 toasts.jpg


The combination of colorful ingredients in this festive finger food is as tasty as it is attractive. But the real beauty of the dish is that nearly all the ingredients can be prepped in advance, so it can be pulled together at a moment’s notice, making entertaining a breeze.

Feel free to substitute store-bought, unsalted baked pita chips, if you prefer.

The pita toasts can be baked, cooled and stored in an airtight container at room temperature a day in advance.

8 servings

11/2 tablespoons shelled, unsalted pistachios

2 whole-wheat pitas, about 6 inches in diameter (see headnote)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

4 ounces plain fresh goat cheese (chevre), at room temperature

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (arils)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pistachios on a small baking sheet and toast for 7 to 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

Meanwhile, slice the pita pockets in half so each forms 2 rounds (for a total of 4 rounds). Place the pita rounds on a cutting board and brush them with oil. Cut each round into 6 wedges, to create a total of 24 wedges. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet; bake for 5 or 6 minutes, until crisped and browned. Let cool completely.

Stir together the honey and lemon juice in a small bowl.

When you’re ready to serve, spread goat cheese on all of the toasted pita wedges, arranging them on a serving platter as you go. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds, mint and pistachios, then drizzle with the honey-lemon mixture and serve.

]]> 0, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:55 +0000
More consumers ignoring marketing, looking at food ingredients Wed, 28 Dec 2016 03:41:06 +0000 For years, health advocates have urged the public to read the ingredients and ignore the marketing. For years, consumers have ignored the health advocates.

But lo! It looks as if they’re finally listening.

Food purchases are less driven these days by what’s written on the front of the box than what’s listed as ingredients, said Andrew Mandzy, director of strategic insights at Nielsen. Some consumers aren’t even reading so much as they are counting: About 61 percent said that the shorter the ingredients’ list, the healthier the product.

Health professionals are happy to see the shift. “The overall trend of a more-educated consumer is excellent,” said Sharon Allison-Ottey, doctor, health educator, and author of “Is That Fried Chicken Worth It?” “Just being aware of what you’re eating leads you to eating less.”

Front-of-package claims such as “low-fat” and “excellent source of vitamin C” are starting to lose their magical powers, Nielsen data show. Sales of items marked for lower fat content are down 1.2 percent in dollar value over the past five years. For “fat-free,” sales are down 2.7 percent.

One claim, at least, seems to still work: “natural,” an unregulated and therefore meaningless term. Sales for such products are up 4.2 percent.

But Nielsen also created a separate category with its own, narrower criteria. For that category, market researchers took a closer look at ingredients, store placement (is it in the “Natural” aisle?), and the rest of the brand. Anything USDA-certified organic, for example, was in; anything with genetically modified organisms or artificial or synthetic ingredients was out. The growth in that narrower category was nearly triple the growth in the broader one, at 11.2 percent.

But as consumers pay closer attention to ingredients, they may be getting a little too zealous, avoiding some that are largely harmless. Sales of products blaring that they are gluten-free are up 11.8 percent over the past five years, and soy-free sales are up 29.8 percent. But health professionals don’t recommend that average Americans cut either ingredient.

Among the healthiest foods are fresh fruits and vegetables. Growth in sales of these items from the perimeter of the supermarket outpaces those from the center of the store, Mandzy said.

]]> 0, 03 Jan 2017 09:14:52 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Big J’s gets Mainers fired up about fried chicken Sun, 25 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Hot chicken is having a moment – and not an entirely uncomplicated one. Without much advance notice, the spicy, cayenne-blasted take on fried chicken went from regional Tennessee specialty to national phenomenon, all in the span of a year or two.

But you cannot talk about a dish that got its start almost a century ago in Nashville’s segregated, African-American neighborhoods without acknowledging that many of us are arriving very late to the hot chicken party, and that decades of institutionalized racism is part of the reason.

It may be an uncomfortable thing to confront, but it’s important, because sometimes, foods commonly viewed as discoveries have actually been hiding in plain sight for years. (I’m looking at you, pho, hummus and quinoa, just to name a few.) Don’t forget, too, that 2016 kicked off with Beyonce’s proud announcement that she’s got hot sauce in her bag (swag), so it feels as if there is something inescapable about Nashville-style hot chicken finally getting its long-overdue turn in the spotlight.

In Portland, we have Jason Loring, chef and owner of Big J’s Chicken Shack, to thank for giving the dish a star turn on the menu of his new Thompson’s Point restaurant. Bookended by Stroudwater Distillery and Bissell Brothers Brewing, the space features just a few long, communal, wood-and-chrome tables abutting a feature wall made up of wood planks and corrugated metal. Between those details and the subway-tiled wall by the register where you order your meal, it’s an acoustically bouncy room that gets noisy when it is crowded.

But really, you’re not supposed to treat that space like a traditional dining room. Loring’s plan (and that of his neighbors) has always been to encourage diners to use the distillery and brewery as their home base, with Big J’s as a conveniently located source of snacks. “We’re not really a full-service restaurant. People get confused, but that’s just supposed to be a waiting area,” he explained.

At both other businesses, as well as at Cellardoor Winery, servers will take orders for food from Big J’s and deliver it to your table along with your beverage. This works well both in theory and practice, with one notable exception: I consider myself a pretty lenient grownup, but even I would think twice before taking a child for a meal in a distillery.

If I did have a little one in tow, I would very likely head directly for Big J’s version of the modern child’s perfect food: chicken tenders. Like all the chicken at the restaurant, except for the panko-crusted cutlet on the delightful Mugsy’s Friend Cat-su sandwich ($7), the chicken tenders can be ordered in three styles: traditional, Portland Hot and Nashville Hot. The traditional-style tenders were coated in a lively, peppery breading that delivered great crunch, with an irregular surface that seemed precision-engineered to absorb the funky, tangy coconut sweet and sour dipping sauce. Disappointingly, the breast meat inside was dry, cooked just a bit too long.

Tenders or a grilled chicken breast also come with Big J’s salads, such as the Asian Cobb ($11), a colorful, mostly Japanese remix of the classic chopped salad, featuring avocado, bacon, wasabi peas and a soy-tinted hard-boiled egg. The salad comes with a creamy garlic dressing slicked reddish orange with crispy chili sauce, making this Cobb substantial and satisfying, not the passive-aggressive effort at a salad you might expect from a fried chicken shack.

Other sides range in quality from overcooked and chewy thick-cut sweet potato fries ($4), to one of the single best items on the menu: a creamy, curry-flavored slaw made from shaved Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, raisins and apples ($4 small/$7 large) – good enough on its own to make a vegetarian happy to join you for dinner.

All the same, Big J’s is really all about hot chicken. Perhaps the best way to try it is by ordering a Single Wide assortment ($16), with four pieces of chicken (two dark and two white meat).

My dinner guests opted for two pieces prepared Portland Hot-style, and two prepared Nashville Hot-style. While the menu describes the Portland Hot as “a toned down version of the Nashville Hot,” which is purportedly so hot that it is served with a rubber glove, the two are distinct in flavor, texture and appearance – more like third cousins than siblings.

Both versions are fried with a sweet, formidably crunchy crust that comes off the meat in large pieces, like a suit of plate armor. No matter how different this may sound from your idea of what fried chicken should be, a heavy-duty crust is not a bad thing. First, it protects the chicken inside, which regardless of style, we found to be moist, steaming hot and fully cooked. Second, it creates a crisp shell that can withstand sitting out for quite a long time without going soggy. Loring calls it “indestructible.”

He and his senior staff, Rebecca Ambrosi-Riker and Frank Anderson, designed their recipe to blend flavors from Southern fried chicken with the muscular structure of Korean fried chicken. They certainly got the texture right, because three hours and a cool-down in the refrigerator after my visit, the Portland Hot thigh I took home paradoxically tasted even crunchier than it did in the restaurant.

Still, the sweet, sticky, almost candy-like coating – much more Pusan than Portland – is unexpected. “The first time I ate here,” a fellow diner collecting a take-out order said, “I didn’t know what I was eating. But I keep coming back.”

Just as surprising, but for completely different reasons, is the scarlet-and-brown Nashville Hot. The spice blend – heavy on the cayenne, chili powder and garlic, and basted onto the chicken with lard and brown sugar – finds its way onto every soft surface of your mouth in a microsecond. Taking your first bite is like getting stung in the mouth by a scorpion.

The accompanying rubber glove (which I did not receive with my order) should provide a hint as to the intensity of the fiery assault, but a quick look around at other patrons reveals that there are still people who feel ambushed by the level of spice. They are the ones patting their brows with napkins and coughing as the Scoville units ratchet up in the backs of their throats.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Nashville-style chicken is all about daredevil dining; after your mouth acclimates to the peppery heat, other layers emerge – salt, umami and rich golden amino flavors. Each subsequent bite is a little less about fire, and a little more about giving in to a seductive complexity that keeps you eating long after your lips are numb and your fingers stained orange.

If you need something to cut the heat, starch helps. The chicken boxes are served with either Robinhood Meetinghouse cheddar chive biscuits or sliced white bread, and it’s hard to recommend one over the other, because the square-cut biscuits (also available in a box of two for $4) tasted fine, but were too dense and undercooked in the center.

Another option is to order your hot chicken as part of the chicken and waffles ($11). Here, an aromatic and lemony whipped citrus herb butter and Maine maple syrup are served with weird and wonderful Hong Kong-style waffles, with thin, lacy edges and a honeycomb pattern of puffy, half-walnut sized “bubbles.”

While these waffles don’t hold syrup well (there’s nowhere for it to nestle), they taste fantastic, with almost no sugar at all, which allows them to cut the sweetness of the Portland Hot. They also give your tongue a little respite from the fire of the Nashville Hot chicken – a dish that will keep enticing you back to Thompson’s Point with its tractor beam of pleasure and pain, even if you, like much of the world, never knew it existed until now.

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, 24 Dec 2016 19:10:16 +0000