The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Food http://www.pressherald.com Sat, 28 May 2016 08:00:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.4 Taco the Town truck in Brunswick gets Mexican street food right http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/26/taco-the-town-truck-in-brunswick-gets-mexican-street-food-right/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/26/taco-the-town-truck-in-brunswick-gets-mexican-street-food-right/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 02:41:13 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=898131 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/26/taco-the-town-truck-in-brunswick-gets-mexican-street-food-right/feed/ 0 http://www.pressherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/135601_249046-20160518_eatandrun_3.jpgThu, 26 May 2016 22:41:13 +0000 Cocktail conference in Portland will get down to business http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/cocktail-conference-in-portland-will-get-down-to-business/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/cocktail-conference-in-portland-will-get-down-to-business/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894321 So you want to open your own bar? Yeah, you and everyone else in Portland.

“It’s the dream,” says Tawny Alvarez, an associate at Portland law firm Verrill Dana who often works with would-be Tom Cruises. “It’s (the movie) ‘Cocktail’ from the ’80s. Everybody’s going to start a bar, and it’s going to be wonderful living the life.”

Alvarez and some of her colleagues from Verrill Dana’s Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries practice group, along with James Sanborn of GHM Insurance in Waterville – “the beer insurance guy” – will be on a panel at a June 4 seminar, So You Want to Open a Bar? Let’s Talk Logistics! during the New England Cocktail Conference. The seminar will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Place Old Port. Attendance is free.

The conference, which runs from June 2 to 5, was formerly known as Rum Riots, but organizers decided to expand the event this year, adding more tastings and seminars, as well as welcoming bar-industry folk from all over New England.

Classes are both industry-focused (Become a Better Bartender) and designed for anyone who happens to enjoy a good cocktail, such as Hemingway and Rum. The Hemingway event will include Key West-inspired eats, tastings of Hemingway’s favorite cocktails and a talk by Carlton Grooms, head distiller of Papa’s Pilar Rum.

The conference will close with the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild Best Bartender competition, in which eight of New England’s best bartenders will compete for $500 and a Vitamix.

Briana Volk of the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, who organizes the conference, expects 600 to 900 people who work in the cocktail industry to come in from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Boston and Philadelphia. Volk said she hoped the regional approach would draw national attention to the “great work” that bartenders are doing here.

“Being up here and being a small state, it’s hard to get a lot of attention,” she said. “I like the strength in numbers showing there is this really amazing, flourishing cocktail community, not only in Maine but all around New England.”

Although the event is now called the New England Cocktail Conference, it will continue to be held in Portland every year, just before bartenders’ busy summer season, Volk said. All of the events – including ones on agave, Jägermeister and Glenfiddich – are open to the public. Some require tickets, others don’t.

“With every class we have, I have either the international or American brand ambassadors from those brands to represent them,” Volk said, “so it’s some of the people who are the best in the business and know the thing they are speaking about.”

Industry-focused seminars include High-Volume Bartending and Accuracy – costing just $5 – taught by two bartenders from the Clover Club in New York, “one of the most well-known and respected high-volume bars in the world,” Volk said.

Two sessions may be of particular interest to locals. A June 4 cocktail dinner ($60) called Grandpa Drinks at the Cumberland Club may satisfy the curiosity of anyone who has ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at the circa-1877 private social club on High Street. Nibble shrimp cocktails and sip Scotch or some forgotten classic cocktails – Brown Derbies, riffs on Manhattans and Negronis – in the former Men’s Lounge. “Things that are very true to the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” as Volk describes it.

Another event likely to capture the interest of cocktail enthusiasts is the $40 seminar on Day Drinking Done Right, focused on lower-alcohol cocktails and drinks more exotic than brunch cliches like mimosas and bloody marys. The event, which includes brunch and cocktails, will be held June 5 at Roustabout on Washington Avenue.

For the bar-envious, though, the highlight just may be the free access to legal help at the seminar So You Want to Open a Bar?

Opening a bar is not the same as opening, say, a shoe shop or hair salon, because it’s such a heavily regulated industry, Alvarez said. The Verrill Dana attorneys serving as panelists will speak about what it costs to open a bar, what to expect in the first year of business and the importance of developing relationships with state and federal regulators.

Alvarez said wannabe bar owners don’t always understand the complicated legal issues involved. What happens if the bartender serves someone who is under age? What if a customer drinks and drives and hurts someone? What if an employee drinks and sexually harasses another employee? What if someone breaks his nose in a barroom brawl?

“We know in this industry the overhead is high and the profit margins are low,” Alvarez said. “It’s our goal that we provide as much information to people as possible so they can make an educated decision about whether this is truly something that they want to invest their time and money into. It’s not scare tactics that we’re employing. We just want people to go in with their eyes wide open.”

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First comes love, then comes gourmet camping food business http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/first-comes-love-then-comes-gourmet-camping-food-business/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/first-comes-love-then-comes-gourmet-camping-food-business/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894336 KITTERY — Jennifer Scism and David Koorits’ relationship had a bit of a rocky start, but eventually they managed to introduce each other to their first loves – respectively food and the outdoors.

“To this day, the best meal I’ve ever had,” he now says of a seven-course tasting menu paired with wines that Scism, an award-winning chef, cooked for him early in their relationship. He’d never had anything like it.

Not long after that Koorits took Scism on her first multi-day hike. After lugging a backpack for the first time and setting up camp in the dark in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Scism recalled waking up in a pine forest. ” ‘Oh my god, this is beautiful,’ ” she told him.

Now, the business they built together incorporating their shared passions is poised to take off. Scism and Koorits are the cofounders of Good To-Go, a two-year-old company that makes gourmet dehydrated food – including Maine ingredients – for camping. To keep up with demand, the dehydrators run 24 hours a day and the company is expanding its plant.

“We sold 167 meals in April 2014,” Koorits said. “And now we’re selling 10,000 a month.”

David Koorits and Jennifer Scism started Good To-Go in Kittery. Scism is a chef who has cooked at four-star restaurants in New York and once beat New York chef and television personality Mario Batali on "Iron Chef."

David Koorits and Jennifer Scism started Good To-Go in Kittery. Scism is a chef who has cooked at four-star restaurants in New York and once beat New York chef and television personality Mario Batali on “Iron Chef.” Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

So far, they produce six meals, in single ($6.75) and double ($11.50) serving sizes: Classic Marinara with Penne, Indian Vegetable Korma, Pad Thai, Thai Curry, Smoked Three Bean Chili and Herbed Mushroom Risotto. All are gluten-free, and three are vegan.

The husband-and-wife team had been in business only three months when their Thai Curry won the 2014 Editors’ Choice Award from Backpacker magazine and later that year was named a Top Gear Pick by Gear Junkies.

Good To-Go products are now being sold by EMS and REI stores in 200 locations, and by an additional 200 to 250 independent retailers, including L.L. Bean and Kittery Trading Post.

L.L. Bean started carrying Good To-Go this past spring, according to spokeswoman Carolyn Beem, who added that it’s nice to be able to offer a product from a Maine-based startup. “It has started strong. It’s a unique offering and an upgrade from traditional camp food,” she wrote in an emailed message. “The staff was happy with the product offerings when they conducted taste tests. One of the comments was ‘tastes like camp food you actually want to eat!’ ”

Good To-Go isn’t profitable yet, the couple says, but if all goes according to plan, they hope it will be by the end of this summer.

COOKING BIGGER BATCHES

Koorits and Scism are overseeing an expansion of their bright yellow production facility on Route 1 from 1,800 to 3,000 square feet. When it’s finished in a few weeks, the new equipment will nearly double the number of meal packages they can produce each day to 2,200.

The undersized kettles in the kitchen will also double, from 40 to 80 gallons each to allow big batch cooking, and they’ll get new deyhdrators too, Scism noted on a recent tour of the space as she checked a tray of carrots, parsnips and beans destined for the vegetable korma.

The new facility will also let the couple add meat-based meals to their product line. “It’s the next step,” Scism said.

She adds that the meals will remain gluten-free because customers like it and “it’s not too limiting.” The company is also pursuing non-GMO certification, and they’re adding a small retail space so visitors on their way to enjoy the Maine outdoors can stop and pick up supplies.

Grety Melo packages Good To-Go gourmet dehydrated meals at their production facility in Kittery. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Grety Melo packages Good To-Go gourmet dehydrated meals at the production facility in Kittery. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

SUCCESSFUL RESTAURANT CAREER

Scism is a chef and sommelier who has cooked at four-star restaurants in New York and once beat New York chef and television personality Mario Batali on “Iron Chef.” She spent 24 years in New York, including more than a dozen as co-owner and general manager of Annisa in Greenwich Village with chef Anita Lo.

When she left in 2010 and moved to Maine, the New York Times took note, calling Scism “a fixture of the restaurant’s dining room in designer dresses and towering heels.”

By then she had met Koorits and was tired of working double shifts in the city so she could have long weekends at her second home in York. Koorits, a native of Montreal, was planning to go to nursing school when, in 2007, friends set him up with Scism. Scism is nine years older than Koorits, and at first she thought he was too young to pursue.

Their early romance was filled with awkward moments and cold shoulders. Eventually, she invited him to dinner at her house, where she grilled him on his food habits.

“I was like, ‘OK what are your allergies?’ ” Scism recalled in a voice that mimicked the skepticism she felt at the time. He told her he didn’t have any.

It went on: Her: Do you eat fish? Him: I love fish.

Her: Do you eat mushrooms? Him: I love mushrooms.

Things were looking up.

Dinner that night was seared halibut over potato puree with wild mushrooms and ramps. (As she recalled the dish, Koorits remarked: “She remembers our travels by food, and I remember them by adventure.” He remembers the Italian Alps. She remembers the bucatini all’amatriciana.)

Koorits had his own test. He had to be sure Scism was willing to give the outdoors a try. “That was really important to me,” he said. “That’s my passion.”

He asked her: What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from a road? She said something about the top of a ski mountain, and after he picked himself up off the floor, he took her shopping. They bought her $1,200 worth of gear and headed off for Crawford Notch in the White Mountains.

When the couple first started hiking together, Koorits would make food like cornbread, Annie’s mac-n-cheese/tuna combo and oatmeal. They’d bring fresh food for the first day on the trail and shelf-stable ingredients for the rest of the trip.

“It wasn’t until we had a plan to go out for a week that I said ‘I can’t eat Annie’s mac for a week,’ ” Scism recalled. She started to fool around in her kitchen with a dehydrator. “We took (the meals) out there, and they worked. It wasn’t done as a business idea at all.”

By 2013, Scism and Koorits were writing a business plan. A friend’s husband came up with the name Good To-Go.

They got advice from Jonathan King and Jim Stott, the founders of Stonewall Kitchen, who are good friends.

Koorits and Scism are expanding the Good To-Go production facility in Kittery which, among other things, will allow the couple to add meat-based meals to their product line. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Koorits and Scism are expanding the Good To-Go production facility in Kittery. Among other things, that will allow the couple to add meat-based meals to their product line. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

STARTING WITH QUALITY

Scism says she gets her best meal ideas when she is hiking and starts getting hungry.

The Good To-Go staff – 13, including herself and her husband – serve as taste testers.

She’d like to do a version of bibimbap someday, and longs to make a pho but can’t figure out how to “get that broth flavor without adding some weird flavor agent.”

Yes, backpackers could buy instant ramen, she acknowledges, “but the fact is what’s in our food is real food,” Scism said. “We start with the highest quality product that we can get.”

That includes parsnips and carrots from Northern Girl in Van Buren. To cut back on sodium in the pad thai, Scism replaces fish sauce with “a really awesome product out of Vietnam called fish salt.” When she needed dehydrated shrimp for the pad thai sauce, she found a Gulf Coast fisherman who catches and dries wild American shrimp, rather than sourcing them from Asia.

She’s working on an oatmeal product, which she has nicknamed “Hippie Oats,” that includes hemp, chia and sunflower seeds; and turmeric, cumin and nutmeg.

She field-tested it on a group of outdoor writers on Mount Washington a couple of weeks ago.

“They said, ‘Wow, this is not your average oatmeal,’ ” Scism said, “but they liked it. And I said, ‘Good, because I don’t want it to be your average oatmeal.’ ”

When they launched Good To-Go, there wasn’t much competition, Scism said. “That was then. Now Patagonia has a line of their own food,” she said. “So people have gotten the memo.”

Samantha Searles, director of market and consumer insights for the Boulder, Colorado-based Outdoor Industry Association, said while the association has no data around the growth of gourmet camping food, “We do know that consumers’ definition of outdoor recreation is changing, and with the rise of such activities like glamping, U.S. outdoor consumers want the ability to have some of the comforts of home with them when they recreate.”

Scism estimates that 80 percent of her customers are backpackers. The rest are people who eat their Good To-Go meal on a park bench during a lunch break – as a friend saw a stranger do recently. Scism and Koorits are thinking about tapping into that market with meals-in-a-cup that can be microwaved to eat at home or work.

Naturally, they dream of hitting the trail again themselves. Maybe a few stolen days in August, before or after the Outdoor Industry Association’s retail show in Utah?

For now, the business comes first. They are booked every weekend with meetings and store appearances.

“In the beginning stage, you can’t say no,” Scism said. “We have to keep pushing.”

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Maine Lobster and Asparagus Salad with Curry Vinaigrette http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/maine-lobster-and-asparagus-salad-with-curry-vinaigrette/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/maine-lobster-and-asparagus-salad-with-curry-vinaigrette/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894396 Primo chef Melissa Kelly’s lobster salad is a definite twist on a classic, as she dresses it with curry-flavored vinaigrette. Make the curry oil for the vinaigrette a day ahead so that the flavors can meld.

1/4 cup Madras curry powder

1 cup light olive oil

3 (1 1/4-pound) lobsters

1 pound pencil-thin asparagus

2 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, very finely diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

6 cups mesclun (about 6 ounces)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

1/4 cup snipped chives

Stir the curry powder with 2 tablespoons water in a medium jar to make a thick paste. Add the oil, cover tightly and shake to mix thoroughly. Let stand overnight. The next day, pour the curry oil into a clean jar, leaving all of the sediment behind.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the lobsters until bright red all over, about 12 minutes. Plunge the lobsters into ice water, then drain. Twist off the claws, crack them and remove the meat. With kitchen scissors, slit the tail shells lengthwise and remove the meat. Discard the vein that runs the length of each tail. Slice the tails crosswise 1/4-inch thick.

Bring a medium skillet of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Plunge the asparagus into ice water, then drain and pat dry.

Pour the Champagne vinegar over the shallot in a small bowl, and let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk in 5 tablespoons of the curry oil until blended. Add the red bell pepper and season the curry vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Toss the greens, cilantro and chives with half of the vinaigrette in a large bowl. Arrange the greens on a platter and surround with the asparagus. Top with the lobster, drizzle on the remaining vinaigrette and serve.

Make Ahead

The curry oil can be refrigerated for 1 month. The lobster meat can be refrigerated for 1 day.

Originally published in May 2001 Food & Wine

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Marinated leg of lamb with crunchy crust pleases a crowd http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/marinated-leg-of-lamb-with-crunchy-crust-pleases-a-crowd/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/marinated-leg-of-lamb-with-crunchy-crust-pleases-a-crowd/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894522 A showstopper on the table, this was one of the lushest and best-received roasts I have made in ages, with the layers of flavor and texture bringing everyone back for seconds.

The meat is seasoned with garlic, orange zest and herbs and marinated overnight. Then the roast is covered in a thick layer of mustardy panko breadcrumbs speckled with fresh parsley, which forms a fabulous crust. The crust falls apart a bit as you slice the lamb, but just scoop up the crumbles and serve them up with slices of tender, pink lamb.

If you don’t have a big crowd, you can definitely make this with a smaller roast – just adjust the rest of the ingredients down proportionately (and don’t make yourself too crazy with the math – the amounts are really guidelines. You’ll want to reduce the cooking time, too, aiming for an internal temperature of about 130 F for medium rare.

Or you can go for the better option: leftovers. We got lamb crostini, a shepherd’s pie and a lamb soup out of our big gorgeous roast. Not a bit was wasted. Just ask my dog.

HERBED LEG OF LAMB

Start to finish: Two hours and 45 minutes, plus overnight chilling

Servings: 12-14

LAMB:

1 (6-pound) boneless leg of lamb, rolled and tied

6 peeled garlic cloves

Zest from 1 orange

1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

CRUST:

1/4 cup Dijon mustard, coarse or smooth

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a food processor, combine the garlic, orange zest, thyme and rosemary. Puree, then add the olive oil and blend to make a paste. Smear the paste all over the lamb, place it in a container or deep bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Meanwhile, let the lamb sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Season the lamb with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, mustard and parsley, add the breadcrumbs and use a spoon or your hands to thoroughly blend. Press the mixture all over the top and sides of the leg of lamb, and place it in a roasting pan. Some of the panko mixture will fall off the sides; tuck it in underneath the sides of the lamb.

Roast the lamb for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 F and roast for another hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 130 F to 135 F for medium-rare.

Let the lamb sit for 20 minutes before slicing and serving warm.

Nutrition information per serving: 371 calories; 134 calories from fat; 15 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 145 mg cholesterol; 754 mg sodium; 10 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 49 g protein.

Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at themom100.com/about-katie-workman.

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Eggplant parmigiana a natural for the grill http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/eggplant-parmigiana-a-natural-for-the-grill/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/eggplant-parmigiana-a-natural-for-the-grill/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894288 This little gem combines my love of grilling with my endless search for new summer vegetarian entrees. Turns out that eggplant parmigiana is a wonderful candidate for the grill, cooking up quickly and cleanly. And – bonus! – grilling this dish not only requires less oil than the traditional recipe, it ends up imparting a smokiness.

For this recipe you want one of those big old-fashioned massive beauties. At the supermarket, make sure your eggplant’s skin is smooth and its flesh is firm.

You want to cut the eggplant into sturdy rounds about 3/4 inch thick. This allows each slice to hold its shape. A thinner slice would buckle under the weight of the tomatoes and crumbs. The slices also are salted, which seasons the eggplant and eliminates excess water.

Traditional eggplant parmigiana calls for tomato sauce, but here I went with fresh tomatoes to give the dish a fresher, more summery taste. Like the eggplant, the tomatoes are pre-salted to make them less watery and more deeply flavored.

Now, how to add the Parmesan to this grilled eggplant parmigiana? In the traditional recipe, the cheese is sprinkled onto the layered ingredients. But in this recipe there are no layers. Sometimes, however, the traditional recipe is breaded, and that opened up a door. I figured I could swap in panko crumbs for the breading, then add the Parmesan to the panko. Done!

To finish the dish, I topped off my eggplant slices with mozzarella and fresh basil

GRILLED EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA

Start to finish: 1 hour

Serves 4

1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds)

Kosher salt

3/4 pound plum or small round tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing on the eggplant

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese

6 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

Fresh basil, shredded, to garnish

Peel the eggplant, then slice it crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick rounds. Salt both sides of each slice, then set the slices aside for 45 minutes. Slice the tomatoes crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Salt both sides of each slice and transfer the slices to a rack to drain until the eggplant is ready.

Prepare a grill for medium heat, direct and indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill. For a gas grill, it means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-low, combine the 2 tablespoons of oil and garlic. Cook, stirring, until quite fragrant. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and panko. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the crumbs turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the Parmesan cheese, then set aside.

Pat the eggplant slices dry and brush one side of each slice with olive oil. Add to the grill and cook over the hotter side until the slices are nicely browned on the bottoms, 5 to 6 minutes. Brush the top sides with more oil, turn the slices over and grill until browned on the second side, about another 5 minutes. While the eggplant is grilling, pat dry the tomato slices.

Transfer the eggplant slices to the cooler side of the grill, then top each slice with enough tomato slices to just cover the top. Top the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the panko mixture, then divide the cheese evenly among the slices. Cover the grill and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the mozzarella is melted. Transfer 2 slices to each of 4 plates and top each portion with some of the basil.

 

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Bread & Butter: Move from island to Portland leads to rediscovery of dining – and cooking http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/bread-butter-move-from-island-to-portland-leads-to-rediscovery-of-dining-and-cooking/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/bread-butter-move-from-island-to-portland-leads-to-rediscovery-of-dining-and-cooking/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894294 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of three columns by Black Dinah Chocolatiers co-founder Kate Shaffer.

When I moved to Portland from Isle au Haut in June of last year my must-do list mostly consisted of one item: Go out to eat as often as humanly possible. After living in a place for close to 15 years where the only restaurant in town was, well, my own, I felt that even if I ate out every day for an entire year, I’d barely be scraping the surface of my long overdue training as a Maine-centric food lover.

My husband, Steve, and I – we own Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook and Isle au Haut – had the almost unbelievable good fortune of scoring an affordable apartment on Munjoy Hill when we moved here. But its one-room efficiency kitchen – with zero cupboard space – did not lend itself to the elaborate cooking projects I used to like to do in my spacious, fully stocked kitchen on the island.

So I left my library of beloved cookbooks behind, gave away most of the contents of my pantry to island neighbors, and gave myself over to enjoying the experience of other people’s cooking.

It’s not hard to find a fabulous meal in Portland, and I quickly found a few favorite spots: a walking-distance cafe to sip my Saturday morning cup over the crossword puzzle, a comfortable place to enjoy a solo beer, a couple of neighborhood bistros that promised reliably impressive meals when guests were in town.

In early September last year, just as the weather was starting to cool, and Portlanders were beginning to realize that summer wouldn’t last forever, I would come back to my apartment after work to find my upstairs neighbors enjoying evening drinks al fresco on the front stoop. Before long, I was joining them. And not long after that, I started to realize that even after working all day every day in the kitchen making chocolates, and despite access to so many fabulous eateries, I missed the pleasure of cooking in my own home. And I missed sharing my own meals with friends.

It’s no accident that I chose a career in food. I love to cook. I love to feed people. Food is how I move through the world, and in a lot of ways, it’s how I communicate. Steve jokes that he can tell what kind of day I had by what I make for dinner. And it’s a big part of how I introduce myself to new friends. Here, taste this. This is who I am.

By late fall, I limited my eating out to a weekly Friday-night splurge, and I began to instead frequent the neighborhood markets. I found several within walking distance of our apartment where I could pick up freshly baked bread, house-made pastas and super-fresh vegetables from nearby farms.

Shops on the Commercial Street wharves promised varieties of seafood outside my comfort zone of island lobster and halibut. I discovered that the winter farmers market was an easy walk downhill, and that the promise of the walk back uphill kept me from going overboard on too many leafy greens, or tiny potatoes, or varieties of beets and carrots, or fresh cheeses.

I began to train myself not to buy ingredients for a week, or even for the month (as was sometimes necessary on the island), but to buy just enough to make simple meals for a couple of days. Untethered from cookbook recipes and a cafe menu, I picked the ingredients that looked the freshest, or inspired an idea, or lent themselves to my small prep space and limited cookware.

I resisted the temptation to equip my kitchen with more pots and pans and baking dishes (there’s no room!), and instead let the tools I owned influence what ended up on our plates. I developed a system, a tiny mise en place, that both fit on my counter and kept our two kitties out of my prep. The meals that emerged were a new thing altogether, a new experience, a part of myself that I had not yet met.

And, to my surprise, I’m learning to cook. Again.

MELTED LEEKS ON TOAST, WITH CRISPY BACON AND POACHED EGGS

I love Sunday brunch. And, as it turns out, so does the rest of Portland. But if I’m not feeling like braving the lines at one of the city’s fabulous brunch restaurants, I’ll invite a friend or two to our apartment.

The leeks are the star of this dish, and while the bacon and the egg make it a meal, you could omit those, and simply serve the leeks on toasted slices of baguette for a spring appetizer. I use an Italian white for the bread.

Every ingredient in this recipe (except for maybe the wine) can be picked up at a Saturday farmers market, and quickly prepared for a simple Sunday brunch suitable for company.

Serves 4

8 slices bacon

1 pound spring leeks (or 1 large leek)

4 tablespoons butter

Pinch or 2 dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

Dry white wine, or water

4 large eggs

4 slices bread of your choice

4 tablespoons chevre (goat cheese)

Parsley, chopped

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the bacon on a cookie sheet and bake, turning over once, for 20 to 25 minutes, until it is very crispy. Drain on paper towels.

While the bacon is cooking, halve the leeks lengthwise, and thinly slice the white and pale green parts into half rounds (reserve the dark green tops for stock, if you like). Place the sliced leeks in a colander and rinse away any dirt or grit.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the thyme, leeks, salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, adding a little wine or water to keep the pan moist and prevent browning, until the leeks are very soft – about 20 minutes. Taste them. When they are finished they should melt on your tongue.

Meanwhile, toast the bread, and spread each slice with a tablespoon of chevre.

When the leeks and the bacon are done, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Crack 1 egg into a tea cup, and gently lay it in the boiling water. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. Keep the water at a gentle simmer, to prevent the eggs from breaking apart. When the eggs are done (the whites cooked, the yolks still jiggly) lift them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels.

Spoon the warm leeks on the chèvre toast, top each with 2 slices of bacon and a poached egg. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley, and serve.

Kate Shaffer and her husband, Steve Shaffer, co-own Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook and Isle au Haut. Kate Shaffer is the author of “Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier.” She can be contacted at: info@BlackDinahChocolatiers.com.

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Languedoc no longer known for producing plonk http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/appel-on-wine-languedoc-no-longer-known-for-producing-plonk/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/appel-on-wine-languedoc-no-longer-known-for-producing-plonk/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894297 France’s Languedoc is a study in the untrustworthiness of tradition. The “tradition” of the Languedoc is an aggressive emphasis on quantity over quality, manifest in faceless co-operative production and an indiscriminate planting of vines whether or not the soil and climate are suitable.

The old order of Languedoc wine production led to its bulk-based nickname: the “wine lake” of France. “Plonk pond” works as well.

That old order remains, though in diminished form: EU incentives over the past decade have led to significant uprootings and a roughly one-fifth reduction in overall land planted to vines. Into the remaining, higher-quality sites have moved an inspiring number of new, younger winemakers who are determined to mine some of these ancient lands’ geological riches for all their worth.

The bread-and-butter vineyards that supplied France’s vast market in cheap plonk have generally been in the region’s flatlands. These are easy to farm mechanically (large tractors, irrigation when desired, lots of pesticides), and the exceptional fertility of the nutrient-rich soils guarantees high output. It is at the higher elevations, more nooked-and-crannied, more sensitive to changes in weather, with poorer soils rewarding fewer grapes, that the very good wines are produced.

(Very good is my less than official term for wines that will never gain enormous acclaim, but serve the vast majority of wine-drinking situations better than anything, better even than “great,” since “great” wines require more specialized circumstances for appreciation.)

The Languedoc’s very good wines are reasonably priced – I’ve never encountered a single wine from the area at large, good or bad, with too high a tag – and deliver surprising character, balance and satisfaction. The more Languedoc wines I drink and enjoy, the more respect I’ve come to have for the category of very good. For there are great Languedoc wines – the Pic St-Loup appellation most reliably their home – but the strength of the Languedoc, and the perhaps more lasting worth this younger, energetic generation seems to be eliciting from it, belong to the realm of the very good.

In general, I find this class of wines in named Languedoc appellations based on specific terroirs. Wines labeled “Pays D’Oc” or even “Languedoc AOC” (formerly “Coteaux du Languedoc”) can be fine, but in an overtly generic, simplistic sort of way. In the past I’ve written columns focusing on Minervois and Corbières; today we move east, to the central Languedoc appellations of Faugères and Saint Chinian, the region’s oldest winemaking areas.

These are home to higher elevation sites, often meteorologically and topographically challenging, their sun-baked warmth moderated by the necessary cooling effects of steady Mediterranean breezes. The soil, crucially, is mostly schist, a metamorphic rock of compacted planes, vertically oriented to allow for deep vine penetration and easy water flow. The grapes are usually the classic mix from the area, including grenache, syrah, cinsault, mourvèdre and carignan. Especially for the latter few varietals, old vines are crucial for quality; the good producers don’t ignore this fact.

The wines can take various forms, of course, but some softly offered generalizations are defensible. I’m most taken by Saint Chinian wines’ bracing cut and pronounced minerality, a metaphorical splash of cold water to any palate battered by the blunt, overcooked fruit that clunky, lower-tier Languedoc wines offer up.

Good Saint Chinian wines’ fruit, succulent and slightly caramelized, is unmistakably southern French, but their balancing attributes of salinity, heated cast iron and olive pull its spirit northward. Cool and warm play off each other, respectfully. This is especially true in the northern reaches of the appellation where the soils are mostly schist, as opposed to the denser clay-based soils of its south that produce more generous, girthy wines.

In Faugères, a bit farther north with soils more fully given over to schist and therefore even less fecund, the wines are sleeker, their fat more fully shed. These are the Languedoc wines for drinkers who usually favor the oxymoronically cool friction of Beaujolais, Piemonte or Mount Etna.

Beyond their regional verisimilitude, the wines mentioned below express the energetic, sharply etched profiles of contemporary wines made using low-intervention practices. They are all made by young vignerons who farm organically, and sometimes biodynamically, relying on native yeasts for fermentation and neutral vessels for aging, and bottling the wines unfiltered, with extremely low sulfur additions.

Consequently, the wines taste like they haven’t traveled far from the land itself; the elements read clearly. They are stylish but stripped down, almost steampunky, their inner mechanisms transparently conveyed. Whereas the older way passes off industrial product as populist, producing wines that feel as if they’re hiding something, modern small-scale Languedoc wines prize lucidity and poise. They disclose the raw elements that existed in this place before a false tradition was foisted on them.

One practical note: A surprising trait of all these wines is how dramatically – and positively – they shift over time once opened. In a couple of cases, the transformation is so great that I’d suggest not drinking them until the next day – not that you’d perish or anything, but you’d get only their initial, impulsive hints of flavor and texture. Twenty-four to 60 hours open is ideal, as the components find each other and meld.

Domaine Bordes “Les Narys” Saint Chinian 2013, $18

A primarily sand-based soil, with some schist and limestone, produces a relatively powerful, broad-shouldered Saint Chinian, with lots of raspberry and blackberry flavors resting on soft tannins. The sandy soil resists phylloxera and so hosts some vines that are more than 100 years old, planted to carignan. Those grapes and some grenache support majority syrah (all farmed organically), an infamously reductive varietal which in this wine results in a strange, dishwatery aroma upon first opening. But after 15 minutes that sense is gone, giving way to a racy iron minerality threading through the deep, pulsing fruit.

Domaine Canet-Valette Saint-Chinian 2013, $15

A somewhat wild aromatic character comes through, due in part to long-term cuvaison (extended contact during fermentation with stems, seeds and skins). This quality is tamed by a gorgeously silky texture after decanting, and luscious flavor extraction, the result of assertive pigeage (the “punch-down” of the cap of wine solids, to integrate their qualities into the juice). The blend of organically grown carignan, cinsaut, grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, all harvested on the late side, emphasizes flavors of forest-grown red fruit.

Mas D’Alezon Faugères “Le Presbytère” 2014, $18

A vivid expression of soil’s effect on wine, this schist-birthed beauty is what brought me to my Beaujolais-Faugères analogy: raspy feel in the mouth, with some tannic grip supporting a sleek, welterweight frame. The fruit flavors are more cranberry, alongside olive and scrub-brush notes, roasty. It’s a blend of 80 percent grenache with the remainder syrah and mourvèdre, all from biodynamically farmed vines more than 70 years old. These are fermented long and slow with native yeasts, then aged in cement tanks and used oak barrels, with just a hint of sulfur added at bottling. The longer it’s open, the silkier it gets.

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

soulofwine.appel@gmail.com

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Cookbook review: ‘Vegetarian India,’ by Madhur Jaffrey http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/cookbook-review-vegetarian-india-by-madhur-jaffrey/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/cookbook-review-vegetarian-india-by-madhur-jaffrey/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894303 “Vegetarian India.” By Madhur Jaffrey. Knopf. $35.

I like eating Indian food and I like cooking Indian food, so it’s no real surprise that I own three Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks and her terrific memoir, “Climbing the Mango Trees.”

Wikipedia credits her for “bringing Indian cuisine to the Western world with her debut cookbook (1973),” and that’s not much of a stretch. If you don’t know Jaffrey as a cook, you may know her as an actress. Her many film credits include “Six Degrees of Separation” and “A Late Quartet.”

Jaffrey’s latest book is “Vegetarian India.” There may be no better world cuisine to explore for interesting, varied vegetarian dishes. Her aim, she writes, is to take readers “on an adventurous ride through India, tasting the real vegetarian dishes that Indians eat in the privacy of their homes, in their local cafes and temples, at the parties they throw for each other, and at their wedding banquets and religious festivals.”

It’s nice to be a guest in Indian homes and at Indian parties, as Americans are unlikely to encounter this food at the typical Indian restaurant in the States. I can’t recall ever having seen beets on the menu of an Indian restaurant here; the book’s Punjabi-Style Beets with Ginger changed my perspective on the vegetable.

And how often have you run into a nice cabbage side dish at your local Indian eatery? Never, as far as I can remember, which is a pity. Jaffrey’s Stir-Fried Cabbage with curry leaves, hot green chilies and mustard seeds is “simple and delicious,” I scribbled in a note to myself on the recipe.

My favorite in the category of Indian Food I’ve Never Eaten Nor Even Imagined Before was the Fresh Peach Salad with lime, cilantro, salt and cumin. Yum! (And tasting to me like Mexico, too.) I paired it with Jaffrey’s Sri Lankan Chili-Fried Eggs, also excellent, on a cool spring morning, but if we get a muggy spell this summer, I know just what dish will revive me.

Shopping for the recipes in “Vegetarian India” may present a challenge to the Maine cook. Jaffrey makes no concessions to the unprovisioned kitchen; the recipes call for ingredients I haven’t found easy to obtain here, for instance poha (flattened rice), urad dal (a type of pulse), rice powder and fresh curry leaves. If I ever do find them (or get around to ordering them online), I will be all over Jaffrey’s chapter on breads and savory pancakes as well as her recipes for poha.

The recipes themselves are not difficult, but many are time-consuming. It’s imperative that you measure out and organize the many spices and chop the many vegetables before you turn on the stove.

With anything, including cookbooks, it’s a special pleasure when the whole package comes together: Good recipes. Good writing. Good looks. “Vegetarian India” hits the mark on all counts. The recipes are clear; the headnotes are practical, informative and interesting; the sidebars are useful. Add to these the beautiful photographs of food and of India, and home cooks are in for an adventurous – and delectable – ride.

FRESH PEACH SALAD

Make the salad just before eating it, Jaffrey says, as it gets watery as it sits. During her childhood in India, it was usually made from starfruit, bananas, roasted white yams or guavas, because peaches cost too much. Since I rarely find decent peaches in Maine, even during the season, and since mangoes were in the markets when I was testing this recipe, I made it with mango and banana slices.

Serves 2-3

2 ripe peaches, peeled and each cut into 10 to 12 slices

1/3 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds

1/8 teaspoon chili powder, or more as desired

1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste for the balance of seasonings, adding more of anything you wish.

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Surge in food festivals for plant eaters reflects lifestyle’s growth http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/vegetarian-kitchen-surge-in-food-festivals-for-plant-eaters-reflects-lifestyles-growth/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/vegetarian-kitchen-surge-in-food-festivals-for-plant-eaters-reflects-lifestyles-growth/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894315 Portland’s Vegetarian Food Festival, set for June 4, is among a rapidly growing number of similar festivals around the United States and the world.

A reported 4,000 people attended the first VegFest held in Nashville in early April. Vegetarian festivals took place on May 7 in New Hampshire, New Orleans and New York City. Earlier in the month, VegFest Los Angeles and the New England VegFest in Worcester, Massachusetts were held on the same day. Vegetarian festivals around the world include those held in London, Bangkok and Tel Aviv.

“We can’t keep up with up them there are so many now,” cofounder Charles Stahler of the Baltimore-based Vegetarian Resource Group said. The group’s website lists 37 such events, but Stahler admits the list is incomplete – the Portland event is one of many not listed.

Though they are often billed as vegetarian festivals, the vast majority – like the event in Maine – require that all food served be vegan, Stahler said.

The dramatic increase in the number of such festivals in the last 10 to 15 years reflects the increasing numbers of vegetarian food companies, vegan cookbook authors and plant-based physicians. “To me that’s almost a bigger story,” Stahler said. “There’s an infrastructure now.”

The Vegetarian Food Festival in Maine has grown since it began in 2005 in the number of attendees and exhibitors, according to Beth Gallie, president of the Maine Animal Coalition, which hosts the festival.

“We now get far more requests to be a speaker than we can accommodate,” Gallie said. “And there are many good films to show related to vegetarianism. Also environmental groups increasingly want to be exhibitors.”

Many festivals, including Portland’s, wrestle with finding a venue large enough to keep up. The Portland festival has a scenic location at the East End Community School, but the venue presents constraints, including limited parking, the small size of the school’s function space, the lack of an available commercial kitchen and scant foot or auto traffic nearby to generate walk-in attendance.

The cost to obtain temporary food licenses from the city – which prevents some potential food vendors from attending – is another hurdle the festival confronts each year.

As a result, the Portland event is a smaller festival, with a couple dozen exhibitors, a handful of speakers and one feature-length film presentation each year. Even so, it regularly draws 800 to 900 people.

Gallie said the festival has had four locations since it started. Festival organizers have considered moving again but have yet to find a better spot.

The tradition of vegetarian festivals stretches back to at least 1853, when the American Vegetarian Society (an organization that didn’t survive the end of the Civil War) held the New York Vegetarian Festival in Metropolitan Hall. The event was hosted by Horace Greeley, a presidential candidate, congressman and influential newspaper editor, and drew more than 300 attendees, including women’s rights advocates Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone.

The longest running vegetarian festival in North America, the Veg Food Fest, takes place in Toronto. The event, held over three days each September, is 32 years old and regularly attracts 50,000 people. It benefits from its venue in the city’s Harbourfront Centre, which sees steady pedestrian traffic.

David Alexander, executive director of the host Toronto Vegetarian Association, said the group’s first festival featured information booths and drew 100 people.

“The next year, someone said we should put the word ‘food’ in the name, and the vegetarian food festival was born,” Alexander said.

“This event featured 16 exhibitors, 10 cooking demos, three talks on veg issues and a screening of ‘The Vegetarian World,’ a documentary narrated by William Shatner. The new focus attracted 500 attendees.”

The move to Harbourfront Centre in the event’s early years allowed a big uptick in festival-goers, drawing 10,000 visitors by the 10th festival.

“We now feature 30 hours of informational programming, yoga workshops, music and over 100 vendors, including loads of food and beverage vendors,” Alexander said.

According to Stahler at the Vegetarian Resource Group, food is the key to a festival’s success. “There are always lines to get food,” he said. “And the longest lines are usually the vegan doughnut lines. That’s why people are going: to get food.”

The appeal of vegan food is now so strong that Los Angeles is hosting a Vegan Beer & Food Festival at the Rose Bowl in June for the seventh year in a row. While most vegetarian festivals are free, tickets to the typically sold-out LA event start at $50 and go up to $80 for VIP admission.

The longest running vegetarian festival on U.S. soil has been hosted in Boston since 1995.

“Attendance has grown so much that in 2009 we expanded from one day to a two-day festival,” said Boston Vegetarian Society President Evelyn Kimber.

This year, the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, scheduled for Oct. 22 and 23, is expected to attract from 15,000 to 20,000 people and vegan food vendors from across North America.

One area “where we have seen explosive growth,” Kimber said, is in the number of vegan cookbook authors eager to give talks and demos. There is a “bounty of fabulous, completely vegan cookbooks released every year,” she said.

Since the Boston festival began, Kimber said, it’s been exciting to see vegan options at local restaurants increase and to hear from people all over the country interested in starting their own festivals.

“All it takes is a small group of dedicated and enthusiastic activists to get things going,” Kimber said. Massachusetts now has two other vegetarian festivals, in Worcester and Northampton.

Likewise, Alexander said many vegetarian festivals have sprouted across Canada since Toronto held its first. He said the vegetarian landscape of the city has also changed dramatically.

“When we got started, there were just a handful of veg businesses in Toronto, and that’s grown exponentially since,” said Alexander. “Now we have vegan bake shops, pubs, cafés and over 80 veg restaurants.”

The camaraderie these festivals offer vegetarians is invaluable, said Gallie of the Maine Animal Coalition.

“Increasingly large numbers of people want to learn about vegetarianism because they want to help animals and improve their health and the environment,” Gallie said. “And getting together with those who are like-minded reinforces one’s commitment.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland.

She can be reached at:

avery.kamila@gmail.com

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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Dine Out Maine: Old Vines Wine Bar In Kennebunk http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/22/dine-out-maine-devoted-clientele-involved-staff-give-old-vines-stronger-flavor/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/22/dine-out-maine-devoted-clientele-involved-staff-give-old-vines-stronger-flavor/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=890091 Most restaurants operate in a top-down fashion, with the owners and the chefs positioned above all the other staff, making decisions about food, wine, service and even ultimately about when to close the place down for good. But there is something more populist in the DNA of Kennebunk’s Old Vines Wine Bar, something that tips the balance of power in the opposite direction.

You can probably trace this ethos back to the restaurant’s recent Lazarus-like revival. In late 2014, after the previous owner shuttered the place, two regulars, Jon Ellms and Rick Taranto, stepped in and bought the business themselves. They were not restaurateurs, but they pressed on and reopened a few months later, broadened the menu and eventually hired Joel Souza (formerly of David’s KPT and The Colonial Inn in Concord, Massachusetts) as their new chef this January.

“Rick and Jon didn’t want it to stop, so they just fixed the problem themselves. And they are here all the time, eating, getting their hands dirty working, helping set up events – anything and everything,” Souza said.

Indeed, the restaurant’s entire team has been part of its recent transition from a bar that serves light pub snacks to a fully realized small plates restaurant with an extensive wine and cocktail list.

As we discussed the wines offered by the glass with our server, he told us how they were selected: “Everyone on staff got together for three really long, really intense days of tasting and we chose what to serve by the glass together.” When I asked Souza about this democratic selection process, he added, “Here, everyone has a voice and maybe even their own steering wheel and can take things in the direction they want to. Everyone has their input.”

The system has worked particularly well for the list of white wine pours; there are super crisp sauvignon blancs (in two styles), chardonnays (oaked and unoaked), a gently floral and petillant Oregon pinot blanc blend ($6 for a 3-ounce pour and $12 for 6 ounces), and even an off-dry German riesling ($4/$8). There’s a white wine here to pair with just about everything on the broad menu.

Democracy has not been as kind to the red pours. We loved the bacony, unoaked Ique malbec ($4/$8) and the hearty, spice box-scented nebbiolo ($8/15), but among the cabernet sauvignons and massive, fruit-blasted red blends, found nothing by the glass on the lighter side.

That’s a shame, because several of the menu’s offerings, most especially the wonderful baby kale salad with terrifically stinky fromage forte and macerated cherries ($12), would have been superb matches for a glass of Beaujolais or Bardolino. To get a lighter red, you need to buy a bottle.

No matter what wine you select, there is a lot to like about the Old Vines menu. Dishes are mostly nominally French or Italian, but Souza takes familiar foods as a starting point and finds creative ways to “pack as much flavor as possible into a small plate and create something people haven’t seen before, or haven’t been able to try in Kennebunk,” he said.

Nowhere is this more evident than in his take on steak frites ($16), a juicy, grilled flatiron served with soft, almost poutine-like french fries sprinkled with pecorino romano and a watercress salad. And oh, that salad! Topped with petal-pink pickled onions and dressed with a lemon vinaigrette infused with horseradish – a clever reference to the traditional steak frites accompaniment – the greens practically incandesce with brightness.

Even on the cheese and charcuterie plates, we saw evidence of Souza’s big-flavor project in his extraordinary homemade giardiniera with sprigs of barely dressed pea shoots. Served alongside our order of fat-streaked duck prosciutto ($12) and toasty, semi-soft Ouleout cheese ($10), the pickle of red pepper, carrot and tiny cauliflower florets offered exactly the right fresh, tangy balance to the cheese and house-cured meat.

It’s easy to appreciate little touches like a bit of chunky texture to add interest in the lemony homemade hummus ($8), dusted with nostril-expanding za’atar and served with savory toasted pita triangles. Or the addition of just enough cinnamon to the roasted beet salad ($10) to conjure up images of Morocco. Or even the sticky toffee pudding ($7), baked in a ramekin so that every last serving comes with a tender center and a firm, chewy perimeter.

Some menu holdovers from the restaurant’s previous regime remain, such as Old Vines’ signature dish: the oven-roasted chicken meatballs ($12) – straightforward Italian-style fare served with a pomodoro sauce and basil chiffonade. On our visit, we found the meatballs to be a little overcooked and the sauce far too acidic – more like hot sauce – perhaps due to the white wine the kitchen uses in its pomodoro. At the same time, the meatballs themselves had an agreeable complexity, which Souza explained comes from the use of lots of marble rye bread in the panade that binds them. While this wasn’t a terrible dish, plenty of other, more interesting plates better represent what the kitchen is doing today.

But maybe keeping the chicken meatball as its mascot isn’t evidence of an identity crisis at all. Perhaps it’s humility acting as camouflage to keep too many tourists from filling up the little restaurant’s few dozen seats and crowding out the regulars.

That clientele still plays an important part in the collaborative evolution of the restaurant, candidly and frequently sharing thoughts on new menu items with Souza: “I’ve never had this level of feedback, and a lot of these guys have pretty refined palates. It makes me better at what I do because I can see what’s working and what isn’t really fast,” he said.

And considering that it was two of those very same regulars who saved the business and hired its innovative chef, it’s easy to see why everyone would want to keep a few seats open for them.

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:

andrewross.maine@gmail.com

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

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Allagash Brewing taps local ingredients for Sixteen Counties http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/19/allagash-brewing-taps-local-ingredients-for-sixteen-counties/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/19/allagash-brewing-taps-local-ingredients-for-sixteen-counties/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 02:37:09 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=888213 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/19/allagash-brewing-taps-local-ingredients-for-sixteen-counties/feed/ 0 http://www.pressherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/134832_682968-Sixteen-Counties-Tas.jpgThu, 19 May 2016 22:38:23 +0000 Sisters Gourmet Deli in Portland does it just right http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/19/sisters-gourmet-deli/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/19/sisters-gourmet-deli/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 02:31:46 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=888204 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/19/sisters-gourmet-deli/feed/ 0 http://www.pressherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/134820_497457-20160516_sisters-g2-e1463487810286.jpgThu, 19 May 2016 22:39:31 +0000 Solo Italiano opens in the Old Port on Thursday http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/solo-italiano-opens-thursday-night/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/solo-italiano-opens-thursday-night/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 20:34:36 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/solo-italiano-opens-thursday-night/ Solo Italiano, a new Italian restaurant at 100 Commercial St., will open Thursday at 4 p.m.

The restaurant replaces Ebb & Flow, which closed in March. Angelo Ciocca, president of Nova Seafood, still leases the restaurant space but is replacing Ebb & Flow, which served Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, with Solo Italiano, which will serve northern Italian cuisine.

The executive chef is Paolo Laboa, a native of Genoa who has been working in the United States for about 10 years. Most recently he was chef at Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa, Calif. Under his direction, the San Francisco Chronicle praised the place: “Bistro Don Giovanni seems to do everything well. …” Before that he worked at Farina in San Francisco. In 2008, Laboa won the World Pesto Championship in Genoa.

Solo Italiano will be open from 4 to 10:30 p.m. daily.

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Delicate flavor of white asparagus harmonizes well in elegant salad http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/delicate-flavor-of-white-asparagus-harmonizes-well-in-elegant-salad/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/delicate-flavor-of-white-asparagus-harmonizes-well-in-elegant-salad/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884607 Here in America we think of white asparagus as the pink elephant of the vegetable world – not even a rumor so much as a hallucination.

It actually has been a staple in Europe for centuries. These days, happily enough, I’ve been spotting white asparagus more often on our side of the pond.

White asparagus is white because the spears are never exposed to sunlight as they grow. Without sunlight, they produce no chlorophyll. Without chlorophyll, they don’t turn green. White asparagus is a little milder and more delicate in flavor than the green variety. It’s also rich in nutrients and very low in calories.

At the supermarket, the best white asparagus boasts the same attributes as the best green asparagus: a firm, smooth stalk and a tight top. While I am a fan of any kind of green asparagus – be it pencil-thin or thick as a carrot – thicker is better when it comes to white asparagus.

Once you get it home, slice off the bottom half-inch of each spear, then stand the entire bunch up, cut-side down, in a glass or narrow pitcher filled with a few inches of water. Cover the tops with a plastic bag and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook them. This little trick, which works equally well with green asparagus, will keep them fresh longer.

White asparagus has a tough bitter peel. Unlike green asparagus (which I only peel when it’s more than a 1/3 inch thick), white asparagus must be peeled. Otherwise, it’s very hard to chew. Because white asparagus tends to break easily, peeling these guys requires a little extra care. You want to lay each spear on the counter. Then, using a vegetable peeler, peel it from just below the tip to the end of the stalk. Also, white asparagus takes much longer to cook than its green cousin.

I tried both steaming and boiling the asparagus and, surprisingly, found no difference in taste. I’d worried that boiling it might leave the spears waterlogged, but as long as you pull them out of the water when they’re tender, that isn’t really a problem. Lightly salting the water is key, though. The asparagus absorbs the salt, which points up its flavor, making it taste more asparagus-y. Salting it after you’ve cooked it will not have the same effect.

Given the relative subtlety of the flavor of white asparagus, I recommend pairing it with similarly subtle ingredients, ones that will harmonize with – but not overwhelm – the asparagus.

For this elegant salad, conceived as a treat for Mom on Mother’s Day, I teamed the white asparagus with an orange vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts and aged goat cheese. If you can’t find white asparagus, don’t sweat it; this recipe will work just as well with the green or purple (but cook them for less time).

ASPARAGUS WITH ORANGE VINAIGRETTE, TOASTED HAZELNUTS AND AGED GOAT CHEESE

Makes 6 servings

⅓ cup orange juice

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup vegetable or canola oil

2 pounds fresh white asparagus, the bottom ½ inch discarded and the spears peeled from just below the tip down the length of the stalks

1 cup fresh orange segments

2 ounces crumbled aged goat cheese

⅔ cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts

Chopped fresh dill, chives or tarragon, to garnish

In a small saucepan over medium, simmer the orange juice until it is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Add the shallot, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper. Whisk until the salt is dissolved, then add the oil in a stream, whisking. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high, bring 3 inches of salted water to a boil. Add half the asparagus and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender (take one out, cut a piece off and taste to determine doneness). Transfer the spears to paper towels to drain, then cook and drain the remaining asparagus in the same manner.

On a large platter toss the asparagus gently with two-thirds of the dressing, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer the asparagus to plates and top each portion with some of the orange segments, cheese, nuts, herbs and a little of the remaining dressing.

Sara Moulton is the host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years.

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Maine feels glow of golden era for extraordinary wine access http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/appel-on-wine-maine-feels-glow-of-golden-era-for-extraordinary-wine-access/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/appel-on-wine-maine-feels-glow-of-golden-era-for-extraordinary-wine-access/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884373 World wine consumers are enjoying a Golden Age, with easier access to a broader spectrum of better made and more interesting wines than at any other time in history. But unlike other recent revolutionary advances in access – in information, music, literature, visual art, taxicab service – the world of wine isn’t quite flat. It still deals with a physical product whose costs of production vary wildly. It still needs to be moved around, and because it’s alcohol, there are all sorts of legal restrictions to navigate.

The Golden Age is not the same everywhere. Maine, with a small, scattered population mostly rural and suburban, suffering under jurisdictional procedures still tainted by Puritanism, is definitely not a modern-day Athens. Maine oenophiles who seek new and unfamiliar wines and full immersion in what this endlessly diverse product can express, sometimes feel walled in.

But less and less. A wave of new wines, some brought to the United States by established importers newly distributing in Maine and others from recently launched importers, has arrived here. And a few Maine distributors are working harder than ever to bring in wines from the West Coast that have evolved past the caricaturishly blowsy, bombastic profile of Big America.

A reminder: No wine from another country can be sold in the United States without routing through a three-tier system, which includes the producer who makes the wine, the wholesale “distributor” who arranges with the winery to ship wine here and the “retailer” who sells the wine to the customer. To get you all good and confused, note that these terms are slippery. Some states, including Maine, add an additional tier: the state distributor, who provides logistics and sales support to retailers and restaurants. In such states, the original three-tier “distributor” gets called an “importer.”

I’m not alone in arguing that one of the better ways to discover new wines is to follow importers. When you encounter a wine you enjoy, note the importer (usually listed on the bottle’s back label) and seek out more of her wines. Any retailer can help you with this. Importers are people, with particular prejudices and tastes. If you enjoy that importer’s Côtes du Rhône, you’ve got a better than average chance of liking his Rioja.

The exciting news about so many of the extraordinary wines now available in Maine is that while the importers operate on a very small scale (1 to 3 employees), the state distributors operate on a relatively large one. That’s right, it’s the big guys who are pushing the envelope hardest right now.

As recently as five years ago, a compelling (if controversially incomplete and one-sided) Maine Magazine article claimed that our state’s smaller, more nimble distributors (Crush, Easterly, SoPo, Devenish, Mariner) were a priori more trustworthy for good wine, since their founders were wine lovers, while the larger distributors (Nappi, National, Pine State, Central) were run by corporate bean-counters. The little guys were finding boutiquey, idiosyncratic, passionate importers to work with. According to the story, the biggies were using their market power (fueled by beer sales) to push mediocre, generic wines that satisfied distant multinationals.

This was never an accurate picture, but telling consumers to look for a small Maine distributor’s name on the 15-cent deposit sticker provided a useful framework for steering them toward good, small-production wines.

Now, though, the name of the distributor is far less meaningful, because capitalism worked: The little guys changed the rules, and now the big guys are playing the game. The game favors curiosity, openness to new flavors, commitment to cultural diversity, and a fierce defense of balance and grace in wine, over power and sheen. If we, as wine drinkers, play this game well, we will be partly responsible for improving not only the character of wine culture in Maine, but also the future of responsible winemaking worldwide.

For the vast majority of these importers have distinct points of view, which emerge from an engagement with the most pressing issues in agriculture and economics today. Their emphasis is on organic farming or at least drastic reduction in pesticide use, and wines made with minimal technological and chemical intervention.

The wines themselves are supple and lithe, with balanced alcohol levels. They are often (though not always) from less well-known regions, since the Big Bs – Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello – have been largely priced out of relevance by international richies who boost overall prices as they amass trophy cellars.

Pricing on the small-importer wines generally is based on unconventionally tight margins, transparently represented, with often limited supplies meant to sell quickly in a few markets. Translation: The wines are here, but sometimes not for long.

Schatzi Wines is a two-year-old import company begun by Kevin Pike, a longtime driving force behind Terry Theise’s exceptional portfolio of German, Austrian and Champagne wines. Pike formed the company with the Rheingau’s esteemed Johannes Leitz, and now imports a small selection of wines from France, Austria and Germany. Seek out the spicy, toned Altenburger blaufränkisch; savory pinot noir from Heger; and benchmark rieslings from Spindler and Leitz.

Langdon Shiverick is a larger, longer-standing importer, some of whose portfolio is just now available in Maine. I’ve been delighted by so many of these wines. Try the full-bodied, fleshy Samuel Billaud Chablis; a waxy, floral white Côtes du Rhône from Domaine de la Solitude; the charred, licorice-tinged, negrette-based wines of Fronton’s Domaine le Roc; an earthy, pure, biodynamically farmed Chinon from Béatrice and Pascal Lambert that comes in a 3-liter box; and a gorgeously spicy but surprisingly delicate Vacqueyras from Domaine du Terme.

Jenny and François is a well-respected importer of expressly “natural” wines: no chemical herbicides, only indigenous yeasts, handpicking, little or no filtration or sulfites, etc. I am not a natural-wine Kool-Aid drinker, but the Jenny and François wines I love have this enthralling softness, transparency and depth. The Clos Siguier Cahors is surprisingly light, fresh and silky for the appellation. The Gaspard pinot noir is from the Loire Valley’s Saint Pourçain, vinified semi-carbonically, vibrant and ripe. The Domaine Binner riesling from an esteemed biodynamic producer in Alsace stands on its own, one of the two or three most exciting new wines I’ve tasted all year: creamy, calm and plungingly deep, fully dry, intense, respirating, confident.

Serge Doré has been importing for 20 years. I’ve only recently become acquainted with his portfolio, and have fallen quite hard for several Bordeaux. The Château de Francs Côtes de Francs is dominated by cabernet franc, structured but with a creamy, milk chocolate lusciousness. And two white Bordeaux, at opposite ends of the spectrum: the Château la Grande Métairie Entre-Deux-Mers Blanc is an unbeatable, mouthwatering weeknight wine, playing sauvignon gris and muscadelle off the sauvignon blanc with style. The white Château de Portets Blanc from Graves is at another level entirely, a wine of majority semillon with some sauvignon blanc that ages in oak after six months of bâtonnage (lees stirring). It drips with fig, peach and honey, sensually overpacked, yet acidity is strong, the wine is dry and the finish is clean; simply incredible.

Don’t get caught up in the tasting notes. The memorable aspect here is that many Maine people are working harder than ever to create a vital, progressive culture for wine love in our state. You and I ought to work just as hard to explore the abounding options.

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

soulofwine.appel@gmail.com

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Seafood lovers get help finding the good stuff http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/seafood-lovers-get-help-finding-the-good-stuff/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/seafood-lovers-get-help-finding-the-good-stuff/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884388 A new cookbook and an updated guide lead through New England’s seafood shacks and markets.

Just in time for summer, two seafood-centric books are out to help guide you through the crowded landscape of lobster shacks and seafood markets in New England.

Both are by Mike Urban, a food and travel writer based in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

Mainers may think they know the lobster shacks that dot the Maine coast, but the revised and updated version of “Lobster Shacks: A Road-Trip Guide to New England’s Best Lobster Joints” – previously published in 2012 – will open your eyes to many you may never have stumbled across.

Half of the book is dedicated to Maine lobster shacks from Kittery all the way up to Eastport, where relative newcomer Quoddy Bay Lobster (founded in 2007) makes its own smoked lobster pate.

It’s interesting to read about the history of some of the shacks, and while this isn’t a cookbook, recipes are sprinkled throughout. In the back, an index sorts the shacks into types – most romantic shacks, shacks with dock or deck dining, shacks with great architectural design, and so on.

Urban’s newest project is “The New England Seafood Markets Cookbook: Recipes from the Best Lobster Pounds, Clam Shacks, and Fishmongers.” The book includes about a dozen Maine seafood markets, including the best-known markets in Portland. The markets and their recipes are not sorted by state, so it takes a little hunting to find those from Maine, but that’s OK.

With this book, availability of ingredients is more important than location. Who really cares if that luscious-looking lobster Benedict recipe originates in Rhode Island, as long as Maine lobster can be used in the dish?

The book is divided into many sections that go beyond Soups and Chowders, Lobster, and Cod and Haddock. Some of the more interesting recipes can be found under Seafood Cakes, Grilled Fish, Flounder and Sole, and something called New England Exotica. That last category includes recipes for Easy Baked Maple-Glazed Arctic Char from City Fish Market in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and Corned Hake and Potatoes from Fisherman’s Catch in Damariscotta.

884388_695222 Lobster Shacks Guide.jpg

Half of this book is dedicated to Maine lobster shacks from Kittery all the way up to Eastport. Courtesy photo

You’ll want to keep both of these books handy this summer – one in your car for when you hit the road looking for a lobster dinner, and one in your kitchen.

BACON-BOURBON SCALLOPS

From “Lobster Shacks: A Road-Trip Guide to New England’s Best Lobster Joints” by Mike Urban

Portland Lobster Company regularly rolls out this tasty dish as a special.

Serves 2-3

1 pound fresh jumbo scallops

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces thick-cut bacon (preferably apple wood-smoked or similar), chopped

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup chopped shallots

3 ounces bourbon

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

Lightly sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan on high heat until almost smoking. Add the scallops and bacon to pan and sear scallops quickly, about 30 seconds on each side. Do not lift or move scallops while searing. Remove scallops and set aside.

Add garlic and shallots to the now-empty pan, and sauté until they soften. Add bourbon, and carefully ignite to burn off alcohol. Once the flame subsides, add the brown sugar, heavy cream and 11/2 teaspoons of the fresh parsley. Reduce the sauce until the desired consistency is reached. Pour the sauce over the jumbo scallops and garnish with 1/2 teaspoon remaining parsley.

Clam Shack Seafood Market in Kennebunk keeps presidential swordfish stocked and ready for whenever President George H.W. Bush calls. The market has a decades-long relationship with the Bush family and their Walker’s Point staff, who are loyal customers. This recipe was handed down by longtime Bush family chef Ariel Guzman, who adapted it from a family friend’s recipe. Clam Shack Seafood has adapted it slightly.

PRESIDENTIAL SWORDFISH

From “The New England Seafood Markets Cookbook: Recipes from the best lobster pounds, clam shacks, and fishmongers” by Mike Urban

Serves 4

4 swordfish steaks, 6-8 ounces each

MARINADE

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried onion

1/2 teaspoon dried garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/4 teaspoon dried coriander

2 cups mayonnaise

1/3 cup lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the spices and herbs. In a larger bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add the herbs and spices to the mayonnaise mixture, and stir until smooth.

Place the swordfish steaks in a large, resealable plastic bag. Pour in the marinade, and move around the contents of the bag to make sure the steaks are covered and coated thoroughly. Refrigerate in the bag on a plate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the outdoor grill. Grill the swordfish steaks over high heat for about 2 minutes per side, anticipating flare-ups from the marinade. The steaks will be ivory colored and golden brown around the edges when done.

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What can you add to granola? Whatever floats your oats http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/what-can-you-add-to-granola-whatever-floats-your-oats/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/what-can-you-add-to-granola-whatever-floats-your-oats/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884424 Making granola is dead simple and ridiculously satisfying: You mix, bake, stir and then feel terrific about yourself and the pile of crunch you pull out of the oven.

It isn’t the same as hacking Oreos, ketchup or Sriracha at home. That stuff is difficult, and perfection is tough to achieve. But granola? A cinch! What you make at home will not just be as good as what you typically purchase, I can guarantee it will be better. Fresher, too.

And, best of all, it will be exactly what you want. Don’t like raisins? Skip ’em. Love cashews? Add ’em.

Notice, I didn’t say it would be cheaper. Good artisanal granola, made with excellent ingredients and no difficult-to-pronounce additives, is expensive in the stores and only slightly less expensive to make at home.

Savings might not be the prime reason to go DIY, but there are others: Homemade granola is fabulously delicious, pure and bespoke; the process is easy, fun and an all-around feel-good; and the cookielike bites that you can also make from the mix are both adorable and tasty.

Perhaps this explains why, developing the accompanying recipe for you, I worked through what must have been a field of oats and now have six quarts of granola in my pantry.

You probably can make granola with something other than oats, but oats are the usual backbone of the mix. If you are gluten-intolerant, make sure that you buy gluten-free oats.

And everyone should look for old-fashioned rolled oats. Instant or quick-cooking ones won’t produce the texture that’s such a big part of why we love granola.

Takeaway tips:

 The real musts in granola are oats, some kind of oil and a sweetener. For this granola, I use just three tablespoons of coconut or olive oil and a mix of brown sugar and honey. I’ve seen recipes without or with just a token amount of sugar, but I think it’s nice to have something sweet to play off the earthy flavors in the granola and the salt, which I consider a necessity as well.

 Once you’ve got these basics, just about everything else is up to you – the bespoke part. I like granola that has half as much nuts and seeds as oats, so I add pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a mix of whatever nuts I have on hand, which are typically almonds, pistachios and pecans. Although I suggest you chop the nuts, you don’t have to; I’ve seen great granolas made with whole nuts, but I think those are better for snacking than for breakfasting or sprinkling over yogurt.

In the accompanying recipe, I’ve added a few fun ingredients: millet and flax for crunch; wheat germ for depth (if you’re gluten-free, just add more oats); large coconut flakes for beauty, flavor and chew; vanilla to round all the flavors; and cocoa powder for surprise. The combo is great, but you can mix it up by adding spices, if you’d like, or omitting some of the crunches. You can even leave out the cocoa, but why would you want to?

Because I’m a big fan of dried fruit, I add it to the granola, but at the very end, so that it doesn’t get baked. Again, use what you love: snipped apricots, pears, figs, dates or apples (use scissors to cut the fruit into bite-size bits), golden or black raisins, cherries or cranberries. The key is to make sure the dried fruit is moist, which is kind of oxymoronish, but important. Shriveled fruit is hard to eat and harder to enjoy. If yours isn’t moist, give the fruit a good soak in hot water, pat it dry and then stir it into the just-baked granola.

If you want to make my Granola Bites – granola mixed with brown rice syrup, pressed into muffin tins and baked until they’re super-crispy and puckish (think round energy bars) – spoon out the three cups of granola you’ll need to make them and add the fruit to what’s left in the bowl. Fruit baked into the bites has a tendency to harden and get overly browned.

Play with the recipe and let me know what you add – or subtract. This is definitely a make-it-your-own project.

DORIE GREENSPAN’S COCOA CRUNCH FRUIT AND NUT GRANOLA

Makes 14 servings (6½ cups to 7 cups)

To make Granola Bites, you’ll use 3 cups of the baked granola and omit adding any dried fruit. See the variation, below.

Packed in tightly closed containers – humidity is granola’s foe – the granola will keep for at least 1 month. The Granola Bites will be good for at least 1 week.

¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar

¼ cup honey

3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil

2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick-cooking)

1 cup mixed chopped nuts, such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts

½ cup hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds

½ cup hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons wheat germ (may substitute old-fashioned oats)

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons millet (optional, but nice for crunch)

1 tablespoon flaxseed (optional)

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut

½ cup moist, plump dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, cherries, snipped apricots, apples and/or pears (see note)

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 325 degrees F. Have two 9-by-13-inch Pyrex baking dishes at hand. (If you have only metal pans, line them with parchment paper.)

Combine the brown sugar, honey and coconut oil or olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, just until the sugar dissolves.

Combine the oats, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, wheat germ, cocoa powder, millet and flaxseed, if using, and the sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the warm oil mixture, add the vanilla extract and stir, preferably with a flexible spatula, until everything is evenly moistened. Scrape the mixture into the baking dishes, gently spreading it out evenly. Bake on the upper and lower racks for 20 minutes, then stir, making sure to dislodge any bits that may have stuck to the baking dishes. Rotate the baking dishes top to bottom and front to back, stir and bake for 20 minutes.

Stir once again, but this time stir in the shredded or flaked coconut. Bake for 5 minutes or until the coconut is very lightly toasted; the total baking time should be between 45 and 50 minutes. Scrape the baked granola into a big bowl, then stir in the dried fruit.

Once the granola comes to room temperature, use your hands to break up the clumps that will have formed.

VARIATION: To make Granola Bites, preheat the oven to 300 degrees (instead of 325). Use baker’s spray to generously grease the 24 wells of two standard-size muffin pans. Combine 3 cups of the baked granola (without dried fruit), ½ cup of brown rice syrup and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a mixing bowl, stirring to coat evenly. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin pan wells, using the bottom of a jar or glass wrapped in plastic wrap to compact the granola. Bake (middle rack) for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans front to back halfway through, until the syrup, which will have bubbled, has settled down and the bites are deeply golden. Transfer the muffin pans to wire racks to cool for 5 minutes, then use a table knife to pop the bites out. Place them on racks to cool to room temperature before serving or storing.

NOTE: While the granola is in the oven, check your dried fruit. If it’s not soft and plump, put it in a bowl, cover with very hot tap water and let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Right before you’re ready for it, drain the fruit and pat it dry.

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Yes, homemade corn tortillas can be excellent and easy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/yes-homemade-corn-tortillas-can-be-excellent-and-easy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/yes-homemade-corn-tortillas-can-be-excellent-and-easy/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884430 You can wrap just about anything in a freshly made corn tortilla, hot off the comal or griddle, and it’ll be wonderful.

Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

In another lifetime, when I was in my 20s and living in L.A., I made fresh tortillas all the time. I had a cheap aluminum tortilla press and a cheap aluminum comal (tortilla griddle); I’d picked up both in a Mexican grocery. You could buy a bag of masa harina (dried, powdered masa) just about anywhere.

I was in a serious carnitas phase: I’d fallen in love with Diana Kennedy’s version in her landmark cookbook “The Cuisines of Mexico,” and I’d make that with salsa verde cruda and guacamole and a big pot of pinto beans to serve on the side.

A few years after that, in the early ’90s, I lucked into meeting Kennedy, and we got into a discussion about corn tortillas. I’ll never forget her expression when I told her I was in the habit of using masa harina to make mine: I might as well have told her I was a regular at Taco Bell. She was scandalized.

She insisted that masa made from nixtamal – corn kernels cooked in a solution of lime (calcium oxide) and water – was the only legitimate masa. I knew all about it from her book, but when I’d gotten to the part of the two-page process that said, “Meantime, crush the lime if it is in a lump, taking care that the dust does not get into your eyes,” I stopped reading.

With Kennedy, I tried to defend my position, arguing that tortillas freshly made from masa harina are way better than anything you can buy at the store. “Better to buy masa at a tortilleria in your neighborhood,” she countered. But I was living in New York City at the time, and there were no tortillerias anywhere near my ‘hood.

The conversation seriously deflated me (this was my Mexican cooking hero!) and I lost some of my joy for tortilla-making.

That’s why last summer, when a review copy of Alex Stupak’s cookbook “Tacos: Recipes and Provocations” landed on my desk at work, I was delighted when it fell open to the following: “In Defense of Masa Harina.”

“A warm tortilla prepared with harina may not hit the same celestial notes as one made with fresh masa,” it said, “but it is still an absolute revelation if all you’ve ever tasted is reheated, store-bought tortillas. There’s irrefutable value in that, so I stand by it.”

Well, of course, I’ve tasted many a fabulous tortilla made from fresh masa, but I still think the ones made from masa harina (all you need to add is water!) are pretty darn good. And once you get the hang of it, making them is easy – easier than making pancakes, in fact, because the dough is just harina and water.

Once again, I’m hooked. Let’s get this taco party going!

CORN TORTILLAS

Makes 12 tortillas

1 cup masa harina

1 1/8 cup warm water

In a large bowl, pour the water over the harina and stir with a wooden spoon until the masa is moistened, then knead it together until it holds in a ball. It should be moist but not sticky; it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s not moist enough, add a little more water and knead again; if it’s too moist, add a little more harina and knead. Cover with a damp towel.

Place a two-burner griddle over both burners, or use two cast-iron pans. Heat one over medium-high heat and the other over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut a large piece of plastic: I find the very thin crinkly grocery bags from the supermarket work best. Fold it in half, open your tortilla press. You want it to line the bottom, with the fold lying against the press’s hinge, with the other half covering the top.

Roll a ball of masa about the size of a golf ball (maybe a wee bit smaller) and put it in the center of the bottom of the press. Making sure the plastic will sandwich the ball, close the press and pull the lever down gently. Open the press, lift the plastic with the tortilla, open your palm, lay the tortilla flat in your palm, peel off the plastic and place the tortilla on the less-hot part of the griddle or less-hot pan. Cook it for 15 seconds.

Use a metal spatula to flip it over onto the hotter side of the griddle or hotter pan and cook it for 30 seconds. Flip it again, still on the hot side, and cook for another 10 seconds, then flip a final time and cook 10 seconds more, at which point it may puff a bit. Place it in your tortilla basket if it’s to be eaten immediately or very soon, or better yet, in an insulated fabric tortilla warmer, which can keep it warm for more than an hour.

Soruce: Cooks Without Borders

QUICK TACO FILLINGS

So, what to fold into those warm, handmade tortillas?

Have a couple of good salsas on hand, like an easy-to-make roasted salsa verde, a store-bought salsa roja or homemade pico de gallo (diced onion and tomato, chopped cilantro, minced serrano or jalapeño chile, a little salt, a big squeeze or three of lime).

Set out bowls of any or all of the following: lime wedges, guacamole, crumbled queso fresco, sliced avocado, cilantro leaves, sliced radishes, chopped olives, chopped white onion, sliced scallions, sliced or diced cucumber.

For the fillings, let your imagination go:

 Pick up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket.

 Stop by your favorite barbecue joint and buy some sliced brisket or pulled pork.

 Use leftover steak. Toss it in a hot skillet or grill pan, then slice it in medium-rare strips for bifstek tacos. They’re great dressed with chopped onion, cilantro and any kind of salsa.

 Boil some pinto beans for vegetarian tacos. Just soak beans overnight, drain, cover with water, toss in half a peeled onion (or a whole one), a couple cloves of unpeeled garlic, fresh thyme or oregano, dried or fresh bay leaves. Bring to a boil, lower heat, then simmer till they’re tender. Add salt to taste when they’re done.

 Pick up some shelled and deveined shrimp from the supermarket and toss them on the grill. Or grill fish fillets.

 Leftover braised short ribs make great tacos, too. So do leftover stews (beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken), pot roast, chops, leg of lamb.

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At Deering High School, the band plays on with a revived cookbook http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/at-deering-high-school-the-band-plays-on-with-help-of-revived-cookbook/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/at-deering-high-school-the-band-plays-on-with-help-of-revived-cookbook/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884451 In 2010, within the span of three months, three different people gave Gil Peltola stained and spotted copies of a 1947 cookbook called “Cooking to Beat the Band.” One had come from a yard sale, one from cleaning house, and one from a Medford, Massachusetts, woman who had participated in an exchange concert with the Deering High School marching band in 1948.

They were thoughtful gifts, considering that the old cookbook had been a fundraiser for the Deering High School band, put together by the “Band Mothers Club,” and Peltola is the current music director at the school.

“They just thought I would like to have it,” Peltola said, “but by the time I got the third one, I started to think that somebody’s trying to tell me something here, that I probably need to try to do something with this.”

Peltola, with the help of two seniors who are also band members, started working on a new, expanded edition of the cookbook to raise money for the music department. The spiral-bound, revised edition, which sells for $15, has a purple cover in homage to the school colors (purple and white) and contains about 200 vintage recipes, heavy on cakes, cookies and desserts. Whimsical illustrations by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s are sprinkled through the pages. In the back are 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band – including numerous marinades from Peltola, who loves to grill outdoors.

Natalie Veilleux, a member of the band, chorus, jazz band and hand bell choir, launched the project before she graduated last year. This year it was picked up by senior Sophia Morin, a member of the chorus and hand bell choir. Last week, Peltola and Morin met in the Morins’ newly renovated kitchen to make one of the classic recipes from the book – porcupine meatballs, a Depression-era recipe that uses rice to stretch the family meat supply. The rice is mixed into the meatballs and cooked in tomato soup and hot water, and as the rice cooks and expands, it pokes out of the meatball like porcupine quills.

As Morin mixed the meat and rice, and Peltola chopped celery and onion to add to the meatballs, Morin described the challenge of tracking down all the old advertisers – the ones who still exist, anyway – so she could ask them to advertise again in the new edition. Most have gone out of business, but the ones that were still around, she said, wanted to re-run their vintage ads. The ad for Oakhurst Dairy, for example, ran on page 130 of the original cookbook, just beneath a recipe for Lobster Stew, and says “We suggest that you use Oakhurst rich milk & cream in the above recipe.” In the back of the book, where the modern recipes are printed, it runs below a recipe for cornbread. An old ad for B&M Baked Beans includes a drawing of Portland Head Light and a photo of an 18-ounce glass jar of baked beans.

Other 1947 advertisers still in business today are Vose-Smith Florist – whose original ad reads “A good cook deserves the finest/Send her flowers from Vose-Smith Co.” – and Roy’s Shoe Shop on Stevens Ave.

Vintage recipes in the book were illustrated by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s. They appear in the updated version, which also contains 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band.

Vintage recipes in the book were illustrated by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s. They appear in the updated version, which also contains 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band.

Peltola and his students have been so busy re-creating the cookbook they haven’t had much of a chance to actually cook from it. They have their eye on many of the old desserts, though, including the Vermont Maple Cake with Maple Syrup Frosting. They chose the Porcupine Meatballs as a demonstration recipe because it was contributed by Esther Huff, one of the women who worked on the original book with Ethel Pettengill, president of the Band Mothers. The two women wanted to use the book to raise money to pay for new marching band outfits.

Peltola said many of the recipes are very like those his mother used to make. “I hope people realize that even though the recipes are 1947, they are still very viable and very good recipes,” he said.

There are classics like Swiss Steak, Lobster Newburg, Potato Pancakes, Salmon Croquettes and Tuna Fish Casserole (made with the obligatory can of mushroom soup and topped with potato chips). Green Tomato Mince Meat sounds interesting, too. And the book is also full of delicious-sounding cakes, cookies and other desserts.

But other entries might give younger generations a stomachache just looking at them. Some call for canned meats and seafood. And oh, the things they jellied in 1947. Jellied Tomato Salad, inexplicably made with both strawberry Jell-O and tomato juice, got its kick from horseradish and onion. Jellied Beet Salad required lemon gelatin, beet juice and canned beets. And then there’s the Jellied Meat Salad contributed by Ethel Pettengill, a shimmering mold of gelatin embedded with canned corned beef or ham, hard-boiled eggs, Miracle Whip and chopped celery, onions and pepper.

The last 35 pages of the cookbook contain the recipes contributed by faculty, staff, students and parents of today. One has to wonder: In another 69 years, will Red Velvet Cupcakes be the Yum Yum Date Roll of 2085?

The 1947 cookbook is written out by hand, most of it by Beverly Pettengill Parsons, who is a member of the class of 1949 and the daughter of Ethel Pettengill. With a little sleuthing, Morin was able to track down Betsy Parsons, Beverly Parsons’ daughter and Pettengill’s granddaughter, who once taught at Deering. “Her mother is still alive,” Morin said. “She said her mother is just so happy (the cookbook) was re-created.”

A page from "Cooking to Beat the Band."

A page from “Cooking to Beat the Band.”

Beverly Parsons is now in her mid-80s and lives in Indiana. Peltola asked her to write an introduction to the new book:

“Long ago high school memories carry me back to gathering around the big dining room table in our Read Street flat and copying my mother’s recipes, among others, while my friend Lois Hunter cleverly created a drawing to accompany. How thankful we are that as our generations delight in the joys of making music, we relish knowing that other parents and loved ones are using this little book and cooking to beat the band.”

Because many of the recipes are written in cursive, Morin wonders whether students of her generation will be able to read it; most students are no longer taught cursive writing. Hunter’s illustrations, on the other hand, are quaint and fun to look at. A Christmas cookie recipe is written within the outlines of a Christmas tree. A queen wearing a crown and ball gown illustrates the Queen Bread Pudding. A little bird sings “Cheerio” next to the English Crumb Pie.

“Look at the picture that goes with this angel food cake,” Peltola said, pointing to a praying angel surrounded by stars. “Isn’t that sweet?”

The introduction to the book notes that the Deering High Band was originally formed in the early 1930s and was made up of 35 “inexperienced students.” The Band Mothers Club was organized in 1936 and raised money for uniforms and instruments so the band could compete in regional competitions. By the time the cookbook was published, the band had grown into a 100-piece unit, including 90 musicians, seven majorettes and a three-person color guard.

Today, according to Peltola, the band is back down to about 30. There hasn’t been a band booster club for years, and Peltola hasn’t done any other fundraising in the 13 years he’s been teaching at the school, but the band has marched along nevertheless.

“Our budget is decent at Deering for the music department,” Peltola said. “I haven’t been able to splurge, but I’ve been able to get certain things that I need to run the program. This is going to help me do some things a little above and beyond.”

That includes buying supplies and taking the kids on a trip to an amusement park sometime next year. Some parks give discounted rates to school music programs that play and sing during their visit, he said.

“I want to try and do something with the kids to make them happy and keep them in the program,” he said.

Peltola ordered 200 copies of the cookbook and so far has reached out only to current and former faculty, staff and students to sell them. They’ll also be for sale at the school’s spring concert May 25, where there will be a special guest. Esther Huff’s son, a 1950 Deering graduate who is now 87 years old, still plays the tuba. He will be in town and has accepted an invitation to play with the band.

The whole project, Morin said, from gathering new recipes to contacting former students, “kind of makes you feel good inside.”

And the porcupine meatballs? They were fine, if woefully underseasoned. Everyone in the kitchen threw out ideas for jazzing them up and bringing them into the 21st century, bridging that 69-year-old generation gap with herbs and spices.

_______________________

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 3 p.m. on May 18, 2016 to correct that Betsy Parsons, not Beverly Parsons, once taught at Deering.

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Emphasis on healthier food prepares Portland firefighters to do a tough job http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/emphasis-on-healthier-food-prepares-portland-firefighters-to-do-a-tough-job/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/emphasis-on-healthier-food-prepares-portland-firefighters-to-do-a-tough-job/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884490 I was really just looking for distraction from a tiring kettlebell circuit, but soon I was deep into a Q & A about food with my trainer. That’s nothing new. As a dietitian, I’ll talk food and nutrition with pretty much anyone who is interested (and he is). This time, however, I was the one asking the questions.

You see, Ryan Thomson’s “real job” is driving a ladder truck as a firefighter/EMT at Portland’s Rosemont Station (Ladder Company No. 303), and I was curious.

I’d assumed that firehouse meals were a never-ending rotation of heavy meat dishes: meatloaf, chili, BBQ pork, with nary a fresh fruit or vegetable to be seen. But according to Thomson, the primary cook for his shift, my perception was very outdated.

“When I first came here about five years ago, it was alfredo everything,” Thomson said. Now, rich sauces are saved for special occasions, and the meals have become progressively healthier.

Truth be told, that stick-to-your-ribs fare never worked well. Such foods tend to make people feel tired and act sluggish – not exactly what you want in a firefighter.

What’s more, according to Rosemont Station Capt. Christopher Goodall, heart attack has long been the leading cause of on-duty death among firefighters, and poor diets put firefighters at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

“This job involves sudden and extreme physical exertion, the stresses of emergency situations and the added weight of about 50 pounds of protective gear and clothing,” he explained. “Not having the right fuel makes the job that much more difficult.”

Josh Corbin, a firefighter and paramedic at the station, credits the lighter food with helping him feel good and perform better both on and off the job. “When I eat better, I sleep better, have more energy and can wake up and get going more easily,” he said

Portland firefighter Ryan Thomson prepares healthy wraps for the crew at the Rosemont Station on Stevens Avenue. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Portland firefighter Ryan Thomson prepares healthy wraps for the crew at the Rosemont Station on Stevens Avenue. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Thomson said the firehouse cooks aim for a reasonable balance of lean protein, carbohydrates and some healthy fats (avocados are a favorite), relying on lean meats and poultry, seafood and lots of vegetables.

“Ryan does a great job of making the meals as healthy as possible while still making them taste appetizing,” firefighter/EMT Clayton Copp said. Making tasty meals is essential, of course, because healthy food is only helpful if people eat it. Thomson’s go-to techniques for boosting flavor without lots of fat and calories: plenty of garlic, jalapeño peppers, fresh ginger, dry rubs and judicious use of soy sauce.

Timing enters into it, too – the crew preps as much of each meal ahead of time as possible, cutting down the time required for cooking when the team is hungry and has a rare moment to sit down together.

A healthy menu starts with the right ingredients, which means smart, efficient shopping. Firefighters shop at their local markets (you’ve probably seen them at your store), usually on their way back to the station after a call, and they don’t have a lot of time.

The crew’s typical strategy: peruse the produce department for what looks good, see what’s in the meat and seafood departments at a reduced price and then quickly come to an agreement on the day’s menu.

“The five of us fund our own daily food budget with $13 apiece, which covers both lunch and dinner for all of us, so deals are essential,” firefighter/EMT David Gain explained.

Despite time constraints, the firefighters have been reading food labels more carefully in the last year; it helps them know which foods best support their eating goals.

“Right now I’ve got the guys looking out for added sugars – that’s our latest focus,” Thomson said. The fact that sugar lurks in unexpected places – in condiments, even in lunch meats – has been eye-opening to the crew. For dessert, they try to have fruit, but admit it’s hard to turn down the cookies that show up at the station, gifts from grateful citizens.

Bulking up a dish with lots of vegetables is a favorite recommendation of dietitians, and a technique regularly employed at the station, both to make the food more healthful and to help stretch the budget. Getting protein on the cheap through the use of more beans and leaner (often less expensive) cuts of meat is another way they economize and support their heart-healthy eating plan.

For lunch, the firefighters focus on wraps and salads – where their typical roasted turkey or chicken can be stretched with lots of produce packed in. The wraps are also quick and easy to make and eat, and they hold well if a call interrupts the lunch hour.

Vegetables show up again at dinner. “We make it a point to eat a salad or vegetables at most meals,” Corbin said. The meal is filled out with broiled fish, lean grilled steak or roasted chicken and a healthy carbohydrate like brown rice or a slice of whole-grain bread.

Although weight control isn’t the main focus, Thomson and Corbin say they have both lost weight since the Portland Fire Department has put more emphasis on healthier eating.

Fitness is increasingly a priority, too. The commitment to firefighter wellness recently prompted the department to support the certification of six firefighters as Peer Fitness trainers (an internationally recognized certification of the American Council on Exercise). Now firefighters on every shift can get fitness and nutrition guidance from the trainers.

More exercise; smart shopping; a practice of label-reading; advance meal prep; clever flavor enhancers; and a diet with more vegetables, less rich food and healthier fats – all of these practices from the firefighters’ food regimen are useful to home cooks, too.

As for the firefighters, staying healthy and fit not only cuts down on injuries and helps contain health-care costs, it also benefits the firefighters and, by extension, the communities they serve. We can all get fired up about that.

Kitty Broihier has been a registered, licensed dietitian for over 25 years. She holds a master’s degree in nutrition communications from Boston University and runs her consulting company, NutriComm Inc., from South Portland.

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The Maine Ingredient: Find a little love in your hearts for chowder ‘from away’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/the-maine-ingredient-find-a-little-love-in-your-hearts-for-chowder-from-away/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/the-maine-ingredient-find-a-little-love-in-your-hearts-for-chowder-from-away/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884499 I know, these are not Maine specialties, but I recently spent a couple days eating around Rhode Island, and am in love with the delightful and delicious quirkiness of the food.

In addition to red chowder and clam cakes, other idiosyncratic dishes specific to the Ocean State are coffee milk, chow mein sandwiches, “cabinets” (milk shakes), johnnycakes, doughboys (fried dough), fried calamari and pickled banana peppers, and stuffies (baked stuffed clams).

Then there is the whole arcane vocabulary surrounding Rhode Island frankfurter preparations, including “weiners all the way,” a special small veal and pork frank topped with chili meat sauce, chopped onions and celery salt.

ROCKY POINT RED CHOWDER

This recipe is based on the red chowder that was served at Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick, Rhode Island, from about the 1920s through the ’50s. Although the park is long closed, the chowder lives on in the memories of those who loved it. This recipe is a composite of what I found in my research. Don’t turn up your nose at the tomato soup – it’s authentic, and adds not just color and flavor but also some thickening power and a touch of sweetness.

Chopped hard-shell clams can be found fresh or frozen in the seafood section of most supermarkets. This chowder is especially great with fried clam cakes, of course!

Makes 4 servings

4 ounces salt pork or bacon, cut into ½-inch dice or ground in the food processor (about 1 cup)

3 tablespoons butter, plus more if necessary

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups bottled clam juice

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

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

3 cups chopped hard-shell clams with their liquor

¾ cup condensed tomato soup

1½ teaspoons paprika

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cook salt pork with the butter in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until crisp and the fat is rendered, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cooked bits with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and reserve. If you don’t have 5 tablespoons of fat in the pot, make up the difference with additional butter.

Add onion and cook over medium heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add clam juice, 3 cups water, potatoes and Old Bay. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add clams, tomato soup and paprika and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Since the clams, clam juice and tomato soup are salty, the chowder may not need more salt.) Let chowder sit at cool room temperature for at least an hour or, better yet, refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Reheat over low heat, ladle into bowls, and pass reserved pork bits (reheated in the microwave) for sprinkling on the chowder, if desired.

CRISPY CLAM CAKES

Clam cakes (also known as clam fritters) are traditionally served in Rhode Island and South Coast Massachusetts as an accompaniment to that region’s clear or red chowders. This mixture is proportioned exactly right – a high concentration of chopped clams suspended in a batter that fries up light and crispy.

Makes approximately 3 dozen fritters (6 to 8 servings)

1 egg

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

¾ cup bottled clam juice or clam liquor drained from clams

¼ cup milk

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt, plus more if necessary

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup finely chopped drained hard-shell clams (½ pint)

Vegetable oil for frying

Malt or cider vinegar or lemon wedges

Liquid hot pepper sauce

Whisk egg and oil in a small bowl until blended. Whisk in the clam juice and milk. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in egg mixture just until blended and stir in clams. The batter should be consistency of thick cake batter. Adjust by adding a little more flour or liquid as necessary.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven to 370 degrees F, until a drop of batter sizzles when dropped on the surface. Dip a teaspoon into the oil (I use a long-handled iced tea spoon), spoon out 1 rounded spoonful of batter, drop into the hot fat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, turning once with tongs, until puffed and golden.

Taste this first fritter for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to the batter if necessary. If the fritter seems dense, add a bit more liquid. Continue to fry cakes, a few at a time, until all the batter is used. Drain on paper towels.

Pass vinegar or lemon wedges and the bottle of hot sauce to season the clam cakes before serving.

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

facebook.com/brookedojny

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Genetically modified foods safe, study finds http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/17/genetically-modified-foods-safe-study-finds/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/17/genetically-modified-foods-safe-study-finds/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 01:45:42 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/17/genetically-modified-foods-safe-study-finds/ WASHINGTON — Genetically manipulated food remains generally safe for humans and the environment, a high-powered science advisory board declared in a report Tuesday.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded that tinkering with the genetics of what we eat doesn’t produce the “Frankenfood” monster some opponents claim – but it isn’t feeding the world with substantially increased yields, as proponents promised.

With the line between engineered and natural foods blurring thanks to newer techniques such as gene editing, the 408-page report said, regulators need to make their safety focus more on the end-product of the food that’s made rather than the nuts and bolts of how it’s made.

The report waltzed a bit around the hot political issue of whether genetically modified food should be labeled. The study’s authors said labels aren’t needed for food safety reasons but potentially could be justified because of transparency, social and cultural factors, somewhat similar to made-in-America stickers. That stance was praised by some environmental and consumer groups, but criticized by some scientists as unnecessary because the food poses no unique risks.

There’s no evidence of environmental problems caused by genetically modified crops, but pesticide resistance is a problem, the report said. Farms that use genetically modified crops in general are helped, but it may be a different story for smaller farmers and in poorer areas of the world, it said.

Most of the modified plants are soybean, cotton, corn and canola; in most cases, genetic tinkering has made them resistant to certain herbicides and insects. When farms switched from conventional crops to the engineered varieties, there was no substantial change in the yield compared to non-engineered food. Production in general is increasing in agriculture, but U.S. Department of Agriculture data don’t show that genetically engineered crops are increasing at a higher rate, despite experimental results suggest that they should, the report said.

“Farmers in general are gaining,” with less pesticide use and a bit higher yield, academy committee chairman Fred Gould said at a Tuesday news conference.

The nuanced report first said it is important not to make sweeping statements on genetically engineered foods, which it called GE. Still, “the committee concluded that no differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts.”

The committee chairman Fred Gould said his team examined anew over 1,000 studies.

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Salty Sally’s Bar & Grille will open in June on Congress Street http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/17/salty-sallys-bar-grille-will-open-in-june-on-congress-street/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/17/salty-sallys-bar-grille-will-open-in-june-on-congress-street/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 20:08:49 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/17/salty-sallys-bar-grille-will-open-in-june-on-congress-street/ Chef Dave Mallari has leased the Portland restaurant called 953 Congress Street – the American bistro formerly known as the Dogfish Cafe – and plans to reopen it as Salty Sally’s Bar & Grille.

Mallari said he was meeting with the staff of 953 Congress Street on Tuesday afternoon to offer them positions at Salty Sally’s.

“Hopefully no one will lose their jobs when we come in,” he said.

For years, the Dogfish Cafe occupied the space, which is at the corner of Congress and St. John streets. After that cafe closed, another one opened briefly, and then it became 953 Congress Street.

Mallari said 953 Congress Street, which is owned by Ted Arcand of the Dogfish Co., will stay open until Memorial Day weekend. Mallari will start the transition to the new restaurant June 1. He’ll go before the Portland City Council on June 6 to request his liquor license and, if all goes well, will have a soft opening June 17. The restaurant will open to the public June 18.

Mallari owns Pig Kahuna – a catering company – and The Sinful Kitchen, a breakfast/brunch restaurant on Brighton Avenue. He said Salty Sally’s will be “very casual” and have a full bar with four taps.

“We’re looking at upscale pub food,” Mallari said. “We’re trying to keep it simple and still offer the gluten-free options we have at The Sinful Kitchen.”

A draft menu includes lots of simple dishes such as burgers, hot dogs and mac-and-cheese. But there are also, in a nod to Mallari’s Filipino heritage, lots of island-themed choices – Crispy Fish Tacos, Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Tuna Poke, and Tequila Lime Pork Belly Skewers.

“Basically, the menu is everything I want to eat,” he said.

Initially, Salty Sally’s will be open for dinner only. Hours will be 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, and noon to 12:30 a.m. on weekends. Eventually, it will open for lunch during the week, Mallari said.

 

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Brea Lu Cafe closes on Forest Ave. after ‘devastating’ fire http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/16/brea-lu-cafe-permanently-closed-on-forest-avenue-after-devastating-fire/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/16/brea-lu-cafe-permanently-closed-on-forest-avenue-after-devastating-fire/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 18:04:16 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/16/brea-lu-cafe-permanently-closed-on-forest-avenue-after-devastating-fire/ The Brea Lu Cafe at 428 Forest Ave., damaged by a Valentine’s Day fire, will permanently close at its current location, the owner said Monday.

Christian DeLuca said he is searching for a new spot to reopen the restaurant, which has been on Forest Avenue for 30 years and serves only breakfast and lunch. He’s found one space that looks promising but won’t disclose its location until he signs a lease. “I’m moving Brea Lu to a new spot – that’s it,” DeLuca said. “Plain and simple. We’re doing what we do now, just moving somewhere else.”

If the location he wants works out, the new Brea Lu will no longer be in Portland but will be “very close,” DeLuca said, hinting that it would be just outside the city limits. The possible new site used to be a restaurant, but it needs a lot of cosmetic work, DeLuca said. It has the potential for outdoor seating and parking “which was a big problem for us (on Forest Avenue) and a big complaint from our customers.”

Brea Lu, a popular hangout for students from the University of Southern Maine, was located in a small brick building adjacent to the apartment building where the fire broke out on Feb. 14. No one was hurt in the fire, which was not considered suspicious, but the restaurant’s equipment was ruined. DeLuca said he’s been “in limbo” the past three months, waiting for the space to be rehabbed, and he was released from his lease two days ago.

DeLuca said the personal impact of the fire has been “devastating.” DeLuca said his grandfather first brought him to the restaurant when he was a child, when it was called the Hall of Fame Cafe, and he became a regular through high school. After he graduated, DeLuca moved away from Portland for 20 years. When he came home for visits, “that would be the first place I’d go.” He bought the restaurant in 2007.

DeLuca had his first date with his wife, Anna, there, and he proposed to her there. When his daughter was born with a hole in her heart and needed two open-heart surgeries, the Brea Lu gave DeLuca a place to go and be comforted.

“If I didn’t have the Brea Lu, I probably would have gone crazy,” he said.

Now the restaurateur is getting similar comfort from customers who have flooded the business’ Facebook page with thousands of supportive comments. Some of them have offered to help find a new location, or paint the new restaurant once DeLuca has chosen a spot.

“Our customers are aching to come back,” DeLuca said. “We get people who went to USM and they bring their families back, saying ‘I used to eat here when I was in college.’ ”

DeLuca said the new Brea Lu will have about 50 seats, compared with 44 in the original location. He had recently received a liquor license so he could serve Bloody Marys, Irish coffee and other brunch-style cocktails, and he plans to build a bar in the new location so that can continue. The new place may have “a handful of taps” as well, DeLuca said.

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

mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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Craft distillery in Gardiner hoping for federal job creation grant http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/15/craft-distillery-in-gardiner-hoping-for-federal-job-creation-grant/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/15/craft-distillery-in-gardiner-hoping-for-federal-job-creation-grant/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 00:13:22 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/15/craft-distillery-in-gardiner-hoping-for-federal-job-creation-grant/ GARDINER — When Dave Tomer describes what he and his partners are doing to get their business up and running, one thing becomes abundantly clear: You can’t start a distillery by accident.

Tomer is one of the partners behind the Sebago Lake Distillery, which is seeking a federal job creation grant to help get the craft distilling business launched in Gardiner.

On Wednesday, the Gardiner City Council authorized federal workforce training and job creation grant applications to be submitted on behalf of Sebago Lake Distillery, as well as Commonwealth Poultry and Central Maine Meats.

With the $90,000 being sought through the Community Development Block Grant program, the distillery plans to create three jobs, and it would be able to do it far sooner than it otherwise could.

“It’s very much a chicken-and-egg process,” Tomer said last week. “You can’t get a license for a distillery without a facility, and you can’t get a facility without capital.”

What that means is that Sebago Lake Distillery has to secure everything it needs before it can receive its license, and only then can it produce the first drop of spirits.

The outlay is enormous. Tomer and his partners have signed a five-year lease on 463 Water St., the former Water Street Grill building. They have ordered the still, which could take six months to build and is expected to cost more than $100,000. That doesn’t include the boiler required to heat the still, and that can run between $40,000 and $50,000. Then there’s the cost of ingredients and bottling.

“Then you need employees, so any type of grant or loan you can get in advance is helpful,” he said.

Putting this all together, he said, including meeting the federal and state license requirements, is a daunting task.

But he and his partners — who have collaborated with him on other business ventures — think the risk is well worth taking.

“The craft distilling business is where the craft brewery business was 15 years ago,” he said. He thinks there is the same potential for growth and market development.

When it came to finding a home for the distillery, the partners considered buildings in several central Maine locations, but settled on Gardiner.

“Gardiner has been phenomenal,” he said. “A lot of towns and cities don’t have foresight and haven’t committed economic development people. It’s easier when you have a champion.”

Dan Davis, who is the master distiller in the enterprise, is familiar with southern Kennebec County, he said. They knew that the Gardiner/Hallowell area is considered up and coming and that tourists like it.

“It’s a cool area,” he said, and he considers that spirits, particularly those made in a Maine-made still with Maine-sourced ingredients, will compliment Gardiner’s food hub identity.

“We hope to have a tasting room and be able to pair our spirits with meats and cheeses,” he said. “We see the need and the desire to have that there.”

Patrick Wright, who is the economic development coordinator for Gardiner, said a convergence is emerging in Gardiner.

“Businesses are recognizing what a fertile place Gardiner is for opportunity, and the city is getting a lot more comfortable with the CDBG program,” he said. “The growth in craft/local food and beverage is an intentional component of our economic development strategy, and we are happy to be able to support these hard-working entrepreneurs.”

 

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Dine Out Maine: The Treehouse http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/15/dine-out-maine-the-treehouse-is-a-cozy-charming-other-worldly-space-with-pretty-good-food/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/15/dine-out-maine-the-treehouse-is-a-cozy-charming-other-worldly-space-with-pretty-good-food/#comments Sun, 15 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=879222 The Treehouse’s front-of-house team may very well be the happiest restaurant staff in town. Here’s how I know: When we arrived for our reservation, my friend told the host his name. “Hey guys, this is William!” she announced to the servers nearby. “Nice to meet you,” one replied. “Glad you came in tonight,” another said, smiling genuinely, taking our coats and asking, “So you haven’t been here before? Can one of us give you a tour of the place? I love it here – it’s amazing.” Such Disney-level enthusiasm is normally enough to make me wary, but once she started guiding us around the dining room, I realized: She wasn’t wrong.

Across the second-story space, woven tree boughs create arches that stretch from rough-hewn posts, outdoor string lights cast a warm, crepuscular glow, and vibrant green leaves from what must be a hundred living plants make the room itself seem impossibly like it is in the middle of a growth spurt. The outdoor deck, open when the weather is good, evokes the same kind of woodsy fantasy – you half expect to catch sight of a fairy.

Greg Gilman, the chef, owner, and – no surprise – former sculpture student, crafted the surreal space using materials salvaged from an old barn in Gorham. “It’s my baby. It’s like my art,” he told me, adding, “By the time someone walks up the 12 or 13 steps to the restaurant, they’ll forget they came in off of Stevens Avenue. The space is transforming.”

Despite names that match the fanciful room, our cocktails were not transformational. The Pearls and Buoys ($9), a bittersweet spiced rum drink, was not quite sweet enough, possibly due to the use of Orleans aperitif as an inexact substitute for Campari. The Crows Nest ($10), a coconut and tequila sour frozen cocktail, was significantly better, although not as satisfying as a well-prepared margarita might have been.

If the cocktails were a little uninspiring, the wine list was just the opposite. The wines by the glass represent a solid bunch of decently priced, New and Old World pours, but if you feel like having more than a glass or two, check out the short list of bottles. Here you’ll find fantastic values, including four wines under $30 – a real steal on unique bottles sourced from a small importation company. We tested the lower limits of the list, opting for The Bean ($23), a Stellenbosch Pinotage with a toasty, mocha nose and tons of pleasant ripe, black cherry flavor. Nothing subtle about this wine, but as I sat drinking it in such an outrageous dining room, that seemed like a feature, not a flaw.

The wine was also a great match for the juicy pork tenderloin ($19), with its garlic-and-herb crust and blueberry-ginger glaze, as well as the super savory wild mushroom flatbread ($10). The combination of goat and Romano cheeses, caramelized onion, and New Hampshire shiitake and king oyster mushrooms felt like a throwback to the autumn, but in the best possible way.

As successful as some of the dishes were, we did witness one real stumble. The pan-fried Brussels sprouts ($6) were undercooked and wet, mounded into a soupy balsamic-soy pool that hid slices of soggy bacon. For those with unhappy childhood memories of eating vegetables, the sprouts should probably come with a trigger warning.

Thankfully, the rest of our meal underscored Greg Gilman’s talents with seafood, especially the Maine crab cakes ($12), two tender patties stuffed with so much fresh crab meat, they barely held together – exactly the delicate structure a good crab cake should possess. When I asked Gilman about the cakes, he told me that they contain only four ingredients, which represents a sea change from the way he once made them. “I dated a woman when I lived on Peaks Island – a witch. Her son once showed me a voodoo doll with pieces of my clothing on it, and I think she bewitched me, because my crab cakes changed after being with her. They became really simple,” he said.

The similarly straightforward warm three-fish salad with littlenecks, shrimp and mussels ($18) required no magic in its preparation. The light seafood sauté with its flavors of shallot, lemon and peppery arugula can be eaten as a shareable appetizer or as an entrée for one person. Despite the greens not being dressed before serving, it is still easy to imagine enjoying this salad outside on the deck in the summertime.

Three Fish Salad at the Tree House Cafe

Three Fish Salad at the Tree House Cafe

And it’s a pretty safe bet that Gilman will keep this, or a similar dish, on the menu throughout the year, because, as he told me, he always tries to include three or four entrée-sized salads on his menu. He loves a simple salad-plus-protein combination himself (and eats one at the end of every shift when he cooks). Also, salads give him an opportunity to play with prepping garnishes. “I cut every single one to order. I like that crisp look – not something you’d even notice unless it was done wrong, but I like salad plates to look organic, not manipulated,” he said.

It is no surprise whatsoever to hear that a cook (Gilman is self-taught and refuses to call himself a chef) with such a strong visual sensibility would take the time to plate his food in a style that mimics the natural, almost wild, design of the dining room. That untamed aesthetic extends to other aspects of the restaurant as well: “I create a space that the crew gets to come play in. We all get to do what we love to do and they make up their job as they go along,” he said. Somehow, improbably, it all works – the staff seem happy and the dining room is nearly full every night. So what if normal rules don’t apply at The Treehouse? That’s exactly what makes you want to come back.

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:

andrewross.maine@gmail.com

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The Salt Box Cafe serves creative breakfast and lunch from a mobile tiny house http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/12/salt-box-cafe-serves-creative-breakfast-lunch-mobile-tiny-house/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/12/salt-box-cafe-serves-creative-breakfast-lunch-mobile-tiny-house/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 17:37:35 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=877542 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/12/salt-box-cafe-serves-creative-breakfast-lunch-mobile-tiny-house/feed/ 0 http://www.pressherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/134426_457407-20160506_EatRun_0009-e1462882442383.jpgThu, 12 May 2016 13:37:35 +0000 ‘Paleo Perfected’ by America’s Test Kitchen http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/cookbook-review-paleo-perfected-by-americas-test-kitchen/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/cookbook-review-paleo-perfected-by-americas-test-kitchen/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874386 “Paleo Perfected” by America’s Test Kitchen. $26.95

I’ve long been conscious of the in-your-face carbohydrates, like rice, pasta and potatoes, but around the beginning of the year I started to make a concerted effort to also avoid the ones that are otherwise considered healthy, like apples, chickpeas and yogurt.

One plus side of a low-carb diet – on top of filling up quicker and feeling lighter – is that you’re supposed to eat more fat, so I don’t have to hesitate before topping something with cheese.

The downside is that it takes a bit more creativity to put together a complete meal. There are only so many times you can eat zucchini “noodles” or cauliflower “rice.”

Luckily, the popularity of the paleo diet – which largely overlaps with a low-carb one – bore books upon blogs of new recipes. “Paleo Perfected” by America’s Test Kitchen is the best compilation I’ve seen, complete with pictures for every recipe.

While it does sport those zucchini noodles on the cover and suggests serving dishes over cauliflower rice, the recipes in the book offer ways to infuse flavor into those foods that I never would have imagined.

Herbs, spices and shallots can turn ground-up cauliflower into a curried version of the fake rice, and zucchini noodles can be used to replace pasta in more ways than under red sauce. With tahini and sesame seeds, they can turn into a Asian noodle salad, or they can take the place of egg noodles in chicken soup.

Soups are one of the meals I found easiest to adapt to a low-carb diet. Usually, all it takes is leaving out an ingredient and, most of the time, I didn’t miss it.

Although I eventually gave up a strict adherence to the diet, that trick has stuck with me.

While many southwestern chicken soup recipes call for rice, black beans or corn, along with tortilla strips on top, the one in “Paleo Perfected” packs all the flavor without the carbs, or corresponding calories. The heat from the spices and the jalapeño is balanced by the toppings – coolness from the avocado, acid from the lime and freshness from the radishes and cilantro.

Since I don’t have a slow cooker, I simply seared, then simmered the seasoned chicken in water until it was ready to shred, then used that water as the base for the soup, with some store-brought broth added. (The recipe calls for the book’s paleo chicken broth, which is just water, chicken, olive oil, salt and bay leaves, all strained.)

Although many of the recipes in “Paleo Perfected” call for ingredients that I imagine only dedicated paleo followers will have, like coconut aminos and tapioca flour, there are many good suggestions, from stuffed mushrooms to garlicky Swiss chard, that would make for healthier appetizers to serve to carb-conscious guests or more well-rounded meals for dieters sick of grilled chicken salad.

SLOW-COOKER SOUTHWESTERN CHICKEN SOUP

For the paleo broth the recipe calls for, I used water from cooking the chicken and some store-bought broth. I did not use a slow-cooker. Instead, I seasoned the chicken and seared it in oil in the bottom of a saucepan, then covered it with water and simmered it until it was cooked through. I then added the flavored onion-chile mixture to the pot, and I skipped step 2. On the stovetop, I cooked my soup for another half-hour.

Serves 6-8

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, chopped fine

1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded and minced

Kosher salt and pepper

3 tablespoons tomato paste

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1½ teaspoons chipotle chile powder

8 cups paleo chicken broth

3 (12-ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 tomatoes, cored and chopped

2 avocados, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

4 radishes, trimmed and sliced thin

½ cup cilantro leaves

Lime wedges, to serve

1. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, jalapeño and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cumin and chile powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup broth, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the skillet; transfer the mixture to slow-cooker.

2. Stir remaining 7 cups broth into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 3 to 5 hours on low.

3. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-sized pieces using 2 forks; discard skin and bones.

4. Using wide, shallow spoon, skim excess fat from surface of soup. Stir in zucchini, cover, and cook on high until tender, about 30 minutes.

5. Stir in shredded chicken and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top individual portions with tomatoes, avocados, radishes and cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

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On a trip to Italy, mom plots to improve son’s palate http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/on-a-trip-to-italy-mom-plots-to-improve-sons-palate/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/on-a-trip-to-italy-mom-plots-to-improve-sons-palate/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874395 About two minutes after we settled into the van taking us to our hotel in the hills above Florence, I reminded my 12-year-old son of what I’d told him earlier about Italy: virtually everything we’d eat would be superior to what we had at any establishment in the States. Including my kitchen.

All it took was some sharp turns on streets lined with golden stone buildings and a glimpse of silvery olive orchards on the hills and I was drunk on Italy, rhapsodizing about the wisteria in full bloom and the food we’d soon be eating.

“I don’t really know why it all tastes so good,” I told him. “Maybe it’s the ingredients, the preparation. Or the water, the earth. I mean, even celery tastes better.”

He was looking out the window at some soccer advertisement, or maybe trying to catch a glimpse of the Duomo, which he’d excitedly spotted during our descent to Florence’s airport. Either way he was not paying much attention to my propaganda. He already had a sense of my not-so-secret agenda: I saw Italy as an opportunity to expand his eating repertoire.

Dolan is not a particularly picky eater but he’s not as open to new tastes as I’d like. Before he was born, I’d traveled to Venice with my pre-teen nephew several times and watched in fascination as the young Matt gobbled down bowls of pasta e fagioli, a thick, nourishing soup of beans and pasta of limited visual appeal, and platters of tiny shrimp mixed with lemon and diced arugula. A chef once emerged from the kitchen, curious to see who this sophisticated child was who had vacuumed up two plates of pasta with a ragu of duck, goose and liver. Matt ate fish soup, deep-fried olives and never, ever whined for an Italian version of chicken tenders.

That’s what I wanted from Dolan during our two-week tour of Florence, the towns of Cinque Terre and Venice. Gastronomical gusto.

We had an agreement, the two of us. For him every day there would be pizza, pizza I’d assured him would blow Otto (sorry) and my pizza (made with the Mozza cookbook’s excellent recipe) out of the water. Gelato, too, every single day. But he had to willingly try new things as well.

WE OPEN IN PIZZA

After unloading our bags at our pensione, we walked up a country road toward Fiesole, where I had lived for a year as a very small child. It was afternoon, we’d come in on the overnight flight and he was starving, so I had no intention of holding him to his promise yet. We plopped down at the first open trattoria that would take us. No consulting guidebooks, no asking for recommendations. I offered him some of my prosciutto and mushroom pizza but he was far too busy scarfing down his margherita to bother. It was “fantastic,” he told me, without complaining about the basil on top of it. Score one. We adjourned to the gelateria next door, ordered the usual combo we get in Maine, chocolate and lemon, and stood in the warm piazza eating it.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“Gelato Fiasco has a lot of catching up to do,” he said.

So sorry Gelato Fiasco, which we adore and will continue to patronize incessantly. But the Italian standard is the Italian standard.

He ate pizza at each of our lunches out in Florence, including a meal at Da Nuti, the pizzeria my brother and I adored when we lived in Italy as children. I watched him plow through more than a dozen pizzas. For our last lunch in Florence, at a more upscale place filled with Italian families, I told the waiter to bring him a secondi (main course) of grilled pork ribs to follow his margharita. From the look of the pizza, I suspected it was exceptional, but Dolan proved it by wrapping his arms protectively around the plate and barely speaking until it was gone. He liked the ribs, but that pizza became the gold standard.

Staff writer Mary Pols hoped a two-week trip to Italy would expand son Dolan's palate. Mary Pols photo

Staff writer Mary Pols hoped a two-week trip to Italy would expand son Dolan’s palate. Mary Pols photo

WE NEXT PLAY ZUCCHINI

A buffet breakfast and family-style dinner was included with our room rate for our pensione. My sister, who had stayed there many times, had told me the food was very good, but I worried that we’d be confronted with some meal that Dolan wouldn’t touch. That first night he did balk at the beautiful little slices of grilled swordfish, but a first course of pasta with a simple tomato sauce meant he wouldn’t starve. The saltless Tuscan bread startled him, but he gnawed through a few pieces at every meal anyway.

Vegetables were a special mission for me. He eats broccoli happily, tolerates beans and resists almost everything else. I get that. I wouldn’t eat beets until I was past 30 and shamed into trying them because I was at Chez Panisse and you don’t say no to anything that comes out of that kitchen. The next night I beseeched him to try a gently cooked zucchini tossed in oil and herbs along with the excellent pork and potatoes. “You promised,” I reminded him.

When I was a child, lucky enough to be living in Italy for a year, I’d experienced the joys of stopping at the rosticceria with my parents and driving home digging my hands into the bag for chunks of rosemary roasted potatoes and perfectly fried zucchini, a vegetable I’d previously considered disgusting. Since then I’m not sure any other zucchini has lived up to those, which entered my own repertoire and have never left it.

So I held my breath. He ate the one, but was unmoved. Perhaps he was distracted by making a slow-motion video of my sister eating pork and posting it to her Facebook page without her knowledge.

THEN ON TO GELATO

Desserts presented few problems, whether a chocolate mousse cake or a bowl of sweet strawberries dressed lightly in lemon. But gelato ruled the day. Roughly half my photos of Dolan in Italy are of him either clutching up a “coppa” (cup) or a “cono” (cone) of Italian ice cream, which is low on fat and high on flavor.

By the time we reached Cinque Terre, the five Ligurian towns just south of the Italian Riveria, I’d relaxed so much I was allowing him to double his daily gelato ration. I’d sit on the beach, alternating reading with gazing out on the crystalline blue waters of the Mediterranean, hand him a few euro and tell him to go scout gelaterias. There were only taxis and municipal vehicles on the streets in Montorosso, the first town we stayed in, and it was gloriously safe to let him wander and discover Italy on his own.

His confidence grew from getting his own gelato, so by the fourth day into our stay on the Ligurian coast, after he declined my offer of a yogurt and fruit breakfast, I handed him a 10-euro note and suggested he run down to the store that sold seven or eight different varieties of pizza made on focaccia, another speciality of the region. He returned about five minutes later, empty-handed.

“Were you too nervous to order?” I asked.

“No,” he said, slightly indignantly. “I already ate it.”

OUR NEXT JUMP IS PARMA

In Cinque Terre I ordered whole plates of anchovies served slightly marinated with slices of lemon and dishes of gnocchi with pesto, both Ligurian specialties, but I wasn’t about to push either on him. I wanted him to have something to eat as a primi (first course) before the simple pastas with meat or tomato sauce he wanted so I started ordering him prosciutto di Parma and melon. He generally regards prosciutto with the suspicion of one who prefers his pig in bacon form. But he loves melon.

The thing about children, or at least the ones I know, is that a drop in blood sugar and the resulting hunger, can make for a very bad mood. I’m not beyond taking advantage of these moments of desperate hunger to get a child to try something like prosciutto. It worked. But by the time I handed Dolan a speck (ham) and brie sandwich on a train from Bologna to Venice, my heart was no longer in the battle of experimentation. It was the only option the train café offered that seemed remotely close to something he’d eat. I just wanted him to hang in there until we met my family for pizza at our favorite neighborhood joint in Venice.

By then I was no longer sure why – or if – it mattered to me that he fall in love with zucchini or try white asparagus. As the spring scenery flew by the window of the train I asked myself if this was truly about my impulse to want him to have the best, richest time or whether I hoped to massage my parental ego in some way.

I knew this though; he was having such a good time. He’d trucked up and down steep hills, listened to me talk politics in terrible Italian, gotten soaked through to his socks in Corniglia during our one rainy day in Cinque Terre, and he’d fallen in love with the Duomo. What more could I ask of a 12-year-old?

On our last day in Italy he had a slice of pizza for lunch. Then we had a gelato. We clutched each other in joy throughout our gondola ride. Then I got him another slice in the late afternoon while I ate cicchetti (Venetian finger food) outside a wine bar. At our last supper, he ordered pizza. Then we each had another gelato. La Dolce Vita.

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Riesling? RIESLING! Is anybody listening? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/riesling-riesling-is-anybody-listening/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/riesling-riesling-is-anybody-listening/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874419 Part two of the old koan: If I’m walking in a forest and a tree falls, and I hear it but no one else does, has it made more of a sound than if I hadn’t been there? Sound is vibration received, but don’t I need to recognize that vibration in communion with someone else in order for it to matter? And what if there are other individuals in this forest, and every once in a while each of them hears a tree fall, but no one else is close enough to anyone else to hear the same tree?

Obviously, I’m thinking about riesling. For while I know that other humans wander the riesling forest, I don’t encounter them much. Whenever a stately wine falls in this forest and issues its celestial tones, I hear it, oh do I hearken! But once the vibrations dissipate, I need to ask whether the wine really resounded at all, for with whom might I share it? What did I actually hear? Am I mad?

This is an outlandish introduction, and seems even more off the mark when one considers that riesling is one of the most popular white wine grapes in the world. F’real! Wine geeks love it, even if the cultural love affair of the 2000s has waned somewhat. Lay drinkers order it in restaurants. Self-concerned sophisticates will admit to appreciating a dry Alsatian one (which of course has nothing at all to do with an assumption of French over German cultural authority). Every once in a while someone in a wine shop makes a beeline for the rieslings, though in my experience usually for the cheap, obvious, clumsily sweet ones.

So sure, plenty of people drink riesling. In larger urban hubs than I frequent, they get riesling tattoos. But in my neck of the woods, riesling is not much discussed. In my neck of the woods, riesling needs continually to be presented, fought for, defended, explained. Yes, still. Riesling happens, but invisibly and inaudibly. The hands-down greatest below-$20 white wines in the world (and above-$20), bursting with Van Gogh color and Bach resonance, as under-appreciated in their lifetime as … Van Gogh and Bach.

This is because of sweetness, or more accurately the perception of sweetness, as both flavor sensation (“Ugh, this tastes as terrible as all the delicious sweet foods I adore!”) and cultural trope (“Only sandpaper for this tongue, dah-ling, sweetness is for the peasants”).

Not all riesling is sweet. Not all riesling is sweet. Not all riesling is sweet. In Austria, Australia and France there are many extraordinary riesling wines and barely any are sweet. Even Germany, the ancestral home of riesling, is in the midst of a radical transition from majority sweet rieslings to majority dry. I love dry rieslings. I love dry rieslings. I love dry rieslings.

But my true and deepest love is for rieslings – German rieslings, specifically – that are not quite dry. Nor are they sweet. The rieslings I most adore, the rieslings I will scream about in the following paragraphs just in case you’re somewhere in this same forest and can hear me, are rieslings whose answer to “Is it dry or sweet?” is “Yes.” In a world where binaries are increasingly irrelevant, these rieslings occupy a sort of third gender; they could use any bathroom at all and not upset a soul. They high-wire sweet, tart, mineral, leafy, juicy. They are, to paraphrase Tom Waits, “sharp as a razor, soft as a prayer.” They do everything you want a young wine to do, backwards in high heels.

Great off-dry rieslings hint at sweetness the way an October apple does: suggestively, secretly. Everything you love about simple, pure, balanced foods – a creamy, lime-laced guacamole; honey-lemon tea; sole meunière; an Alpine cheese; a spring roll – all such irreducible, perfect Saint-Exupéry basics – is in these wines. “Off-dry” is a strange but fitting description, and there’s a German word for it, kind of, about which more in a moment.

First, let’s touch on “dry” German riesling. Global climate change has allowed riesling vineyards in Germany – which after all are some of the coolest, most extreme, high-latitude vineyards on Earth – to produce drier wines than in the past. Briefly and over-simply: In general, warmer seasons lead to riper grapes, which can be fermented fully to make dry wines, whereas in the past when cooler seasons didn’t bring grapes to complete ripeness, fermentations were halted so that remaining sugar could offset those grapes’ extremely high acids.

This climatological development has dovetailed with a perception among the mainstream German wine community that an increasing number of internationally informed wine drinkers, both within Germany and without, prefer wines with no perceivable sweetness. Therefore, more and more German rieslings, especially at the upper reaches of price (which are still absurdly low next to wines of comparable quality from other countries), are fully dry.

The wines I’m most excited about, though, are not quite this. They bear the relatively recent German designation of “feinherb,” which literally means … no one knows what it literally means! And no one specifies what it figuratively means, though off-dry is close enough. This is good. The overly complicated German wine hierarchy, including but not limited to the prädikatswein designations of kabinett, spätlese, auslese and so on, are simultaneously too prescriptive (they’re based on must weights) and too vague (some spätlese wines are drier than Sancerres and others sweet enough for dessert).

Feinherb has for the most part replaced the designation “halbtrocken,” which means half-dry and specifies residual sugar volumes of 9-18 grams per liter. Feinherb wines (which, either maddeningly or poetically depending on your disposition, are sometimes labeled as such and sometimes not) are in practice quite close to halbtrocken, though the grams-per-liter sugar volumes can be higher. Perfectly clear, yes?

Just seek off-dry wines, since most truly dry wines are truly too dry, acid and bitterness overly prominent. You actually much prefer off-dry, though you probably haven’t been calling it that. What you enjoy in a slightly oaked chardonnay, fruity pinot grigio, New Zealand sauvignon blanc or even red Côtes-du-Rhône for heaven’s sakes – that touch of fruity charm amid other amenable traits – is given effortlessly, and with infinitely more verve and intrigue, in a feinherb riesling.

The great gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin famously wrote, “The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.” The same ought be said of the discovery of a new feinherb riesling. And now, in spring 2016, the sky is alight, and Maine’s corner of the German riesling forest is flush with new growth. We have before us an astonishingly broad selection of spectacular wines, all under $20. The QPR (quality-price ratio), as the suits call it, is ridonculous.

So much so that I will expend not a single specific adjective on any of the following wines. They are all inspiringly excellent. They are so carefully made, so expressive, that particular tasting notes would be almost offensive. Some are from the Mosel, some the Mittelmosel, some from the more southern Pfalz region. Some are from the 2015 vintage, some are from earlier. It matters – riesling is after all the truest, most vivid communicator of geography, geology and chronology of any grape – but in order for you to begin, it doesn’t matter. These are all perfect, you can afford them, and you will love them. See ya in the forest.

Von Winning “Winnings” Riesling 2015, Pfalz. Doesn’t say “feinherb” but it’s a feinherb. Heart-soaringly charming. $15.

Heinrich Spindler Riesling Trocken 2015, Pfalz. “Trocken” means dry, but at 11.5 percent alcohol this wine has a faint hint of sweetness. Let’s call it the dry side of off-dry. $17.

Sankt Anna Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett Feinherb 2014, Mosel. “Kabinett feinherb” is the usual German thing: overexplained attempt at precision, leading to confusion. Pay little heed. It’s 11 percent alcohol. It’s delicious. $19.

Fritz Haag Riesling Feinherb 2013, Mosel. Older, which is likely the reason it breaks the $20 barrier. Like all of these, it could live another 10 years, easy. $22.

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rosemont Market. Contact him at:

soulofwine.appel@gmail.com

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Bread & Butter: For Black Dinah Chocolatiers, adjustment from island life is under construction http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/bread-butter-chefs-on-the-job-for-black-dinah-chocolatiers-the-move-from-tiny-remote-isle-au-haut-to-comparatively-bustling-westbrook-has-been-continues-to-be-an-adjustme/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/bread-butter-chefs-on-the-job-for-black-dinah-chocolatiers-the-move-from-tiny-remote-isle-au-haut-to-comparatively-bustling-westbrook-has-been-continues-to-be-an-adjustme/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874431 EDITOR’S NOTE: This week, we inaugurate a periodic Food + Dining column in which we ask Maine chefs to share recipes and give us firsthand accounts of their lives in the food business. This is the first of three columns by Black Dinah Chocolatiers co-founder Kate Shaffer.

It’s an ordinary Thursday afternoon in Westbrook. I am sitting at my desk at Black Dinah Chocolatiers’ new facility on Main Street, typing up production notes for the coming week, when a major earthquake startles me out of my chair (and my glass-walled office) and under the nearest door frame.

I’m alone, so am only slightly embarrassed when I realize that it’s not actually an earthquake, but rather the army of road equipment that is tearing up our parking lot, pounding the earth into submission. The corner of Main and Bridge streets – our corner – is undergoing a major facelift, which includes two new bridges over the river, new sidewalks, new roads and a new parking lot. The construction explains the daily flashbacks I’m having to my California childhood, and also why the usual steady stream of customers to our sweets shop, which is attached to our factory, has slowed to a trickle.

I know that it will be over in the next couple of weeks and ultimately that the construction will bring us more business. And in a funny way, the earth-shaking demolition and re-building is an apt metaphor for my own life: I feel blasted from my own foundations, blown away by how much things have changed in the last 10 months.

Our new facility is 4,200 square feet of brand-new, state-of-the-art, squeaky-clean materials, and it’s beautiful. But it’s a far cry from where Black Dinah got its start – my husband Steve’s and my tiny flagship location on remote Isle au Haut, 3 1/2 hours north of here and 45 minutes out to sea. This time of year, a staff member might arrive with heaps of fresh-caught halibut, and we’d share a lunch of it on our café’s sun-dappled deck, serenaded by migrating birds and wood frogs, amid budding maples, the stream burbling behind our café. No matter how shiny and new the stainless steel and copper are here in Westbrook, they can’t compete with that.

I might be romanticizing. Running a growing business from a beautiful but remote outpost like Isle au Haut is no small feat. We started making hand-crafted chocolate confections from our island kitchen in 2007. After receiving widespread press and a few national awards, we expanded our production, moved it to a dedicated facility on our island property and hired our neighbors to work with us. Before long, the business outgrew the new space. And the romance of our location, which sometimes attracted new customers, began to frustrate them, too.

“Why aren’t you in stores in southern Maine?” I can’t tell you how many times I heard this question from someone reluctantly paying shipping on a small order to a Portland address. Or, “Why are you so hard to find?!” from an over-heated summer tourist stumbling through our café door. Not to mention our own island-based frustrations – high overhead, shipping delays because of bad weather, the pure physical stress of lugging our ever-growing number of supplies on and off the mail boat. The move to the mainland last June was the right, the inevitable, decision. Still, my heart aches every day for Isle au Haut.

I am shaken from my thoughts by another round of pounding from the parking lot, and then surprised by a tentative “Hello?” from someone in our retail store. I walk in from my adjacent office, and face what feels a lot like a scene from the past: a somewhat bewildered-looking customer, his face tinged with frustration. He throws up his hands. “You were easier to find on Isle au Haut!”

Shaking off life’s little ironies is second-nature for the small business owner. I fight the momentary urge to sigh, defeated, and instead, smile, and offer my customer a sample. The chocolate placates him as he savors what he has presumably made the arduous journey to Westbrook to find. I apologize for the construction, and 15 minutes later, he leaves like so many of our island customers have in the past: laden with chocolate and proud that he successfully navigated his way to this secret spot in the wilds of Westbrook.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. We want to continue to grow our business, and the new location will let us do that. What took us one, sometimes two weeks on the island, can now be done in a single day. Specialized equipment and much more space account for some of the time savings, but most of it is sheer logistics. In Westbrook, we have easier access to materials, to shipping, to fresh ingredients and to labor. It’s a dramatic game-changer.

After almost a year here, though, I’ve realized that in many ways, we’re starting the business all over again. There’s the expected – dealing with bigger spaces, bigger numbers, new and different challenges. But there’s also this sense of newness, that ever-present parent-of-a-newborn-fear that if you leave your baby alone for even a single second, something is bound to go wrong. The need to constantly nurture, feed and build. And the knowledge that there is, again, a very long road ahead of us.

Kate Shaffer, in Black Dinah Chocolatiers's homier space on tiny, remote Isle au Haut. Courtesy photo

Kate Shaffer, in Black Dinah Chocolatiers’s homier space on tiny, remote Isle au Haut. Courtesy photo

Hopefully.

The bewildered customer today isn’t alone. I hear his story several times a month. And when the Fed-Ex or UPS guys chide us for being so hard to get to in the middle of all this construction, we smile and nod, and stop ourselves from whining, “Yeah, but you should have seen where we USED to be!” The truth is, I feel lucky to be here. I feel lucky that our crew takes such care with everything they make. I feel lucky that they, too, recognize the value of the space they work in. Every single one of us knows what it took to get here. But every once in a while, Steve and I come home from work and wonder if we’re up to the challenge. It’s then that I remember the island spruce needles and twigs we built a company out of in the first place, and say, “Hey, babe. We’ve already done the impossible.” Haven’t we?

Kate Shaffer and her husband, Steve Shaffer, co-own Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook and Isle au Haut. Kate Shaffer is the author of “Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier.” Kate Shaffer can be contacted at: info@BlackDinah Chocolatiers.com

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How does a vegan chef working with a non-vegan menu manage? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/how-does-a-vegan-chef-working-with-a-non-vegan-menu-manage/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/how-does-a-vegan-chef-working-with-a-non-vegan-menu-manage/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874440 Vegans don’t eat cheese, milk, eggs, meat, fish or seafood, or any other product that comes from an animal. Given the constraints, is it even possible for a vegan to serve as a chef in a non-vegan restaurant? Apparently, yes.

I tracked down and spoke with three vegan chefs who are working in Portland to ask them how they manage it. (A fourth who was on extended holiday in London eluded me.) Among the challenges they face: Needing to taste animal products before they send dishes out of their kitchens, career limitations and the contradictions between strongly held personal beliefs and professional ambitions.

A lifelong vegan, Mark “Wiz” Czemerys didn’t set out to be a chef. And certainly not a chef in a non-vegan restaurant. But after he was laid off from a desk job during the recession, spent time touring the country playing in a punk rock band and then returned to Maine looking for a job, he happened to meet a kitchen manager who was hiring. The kitchen manager offered to interview him.

“I went in, and here I am six years later,” Czemerys said, describing how he landed his job at Silly’s in Portland’s East End.

Meanwhile, at David’s Opus Ten in Portland’s Monument Square, there is actually a specific position for a “vegetarian chef de cuisine,” who is responsible for that restaurant-within-a-restaurant’s vegan tasting menu, as well as the vegan and vegetarian dishes on the larger David’s menu. Vegan Rocky Hunter holds the job. He is expected to help where needed in the busy kitchen, which means he also prepares non-vegetarian dishes.

In Hunter’s experience, vegan chefs are more prevalent in other parts of the country. After culinary school, Hunter worked in Denver and Portland, Oregon; the latter is a famously vegan-friendly city.

“When I moved to Maine, I was a pretty rare bird,” he said, adding that here it’s more common to find vegan chefs in casual restaurants than in fine-dining establishments such as Opus Ten.

“I’ve always been up-front about (being vegan),” Hunter said. When he interviews for jobs, “I say, ‘Look, treat it like a food allergy.’ It might be a deal breaker for some (restaurants), but I’ve done pretty well.”

Silly's chef Mark "Wiz" Czemerys cooks housemade tempeh sausage, which is an ingredient in many of the restaurant's breakfast dishes.

Silly’s chef Mark “Wiz” Czemerys cooks housemade tempeh sausage, which is an ingredient in many of the restaurant’s breakfast dishes.

His resume includes stints at Silly’s and Local Sprouts Cooperative Cafe. Unsurprisingly, local restaurants with vegan-friendly menus – including both Silly’s and Local Sprouts – are where I found Portland’s vegan chefs.

Although Czemerys is the only vegan staff member at Silly’s now, the restaurant has had others in the past, he said: “Vegans do gravitate toward working there.”

But even at a vegan-friendly establishment like Silly’s, vegan cooks need to eat animal products.

“At most restaurants, if you’re sending out food, they want you to taste it,” explained chef and vegan Cady Frazier, who has worked in a number of Portland kitchens, both vegan and non. “It’s one of those things that’s part of the job,” she said. These days, Frazier is chef at the Catherine Morrill Day Nursery in Portland.

Since Portland has only a handful of entirely vegan restaurants, vegan cooks in the city face a tough choice, Frazier said: “You either need to choose if you’re a vegan or a chef, as far as work goes.”

Frazier has chosen chef, but she brings a distinct vegetarian flair to her job. Each week, the Catherine Morrill menu includes all-vegetarian breakfasts and snacks and two or three vegetarian lunches, such as lasagna with butternut squash and spinach, homemade baked beans, falafel and lentil vegetable soup.

“Vegan isn’t really possible because of the USDA guidelines and funding,” Frazier said. “All of my soups are vegan, but I serve them with a cheese stick or with shredded cheddar cheese on top to count as a USDA protein.”

She uses less meat than is standard, substituting black beans for part of the ground beef in taco filling and swapping lentils for half of the ground beef in her sloppy Joes. “I try to make the meat dishes a little less meat-centric,” she said.

Frazier samples all her dishes.

“I do taste meat and dairy,” said Frazier, who described a taste as “a tiny bite.” “I’m working with kids, and I don’t want to risk sending out a meal that is no good.”

When she worked in a bakery, the need to taste every batch wasn’t as necessary, she said. She’d taste “the recipe the first couple times until I had a solid understanding” of it and after that she relied more on “smell and color” for quality control.

Hunter, at Opus Ten, says that to minimize the amount of meat and dairy he needs to taste, he often prepares food differently than a chef who eats meat might.

“I have a team of (meat-eating) co-workers I trust a lot,” said Hunter. “I’ll ask them, ‘What do you think? Too acidic? Too salty?’ ”

 

Silly’s owner Colleen Kelly, who built her busy restaurant in large part by catering to vegans, vegetarians and those seeking dairy-free and other non-mainstream foods, said she is proud to have a vegan chef in her kitchen. Yet she admits the job presents extra challenges for vegans.

Speaking of Czemerys, Kelly noted that “the first time he cracked an egg was on my line.”

While many vegans would recoil at the idea of working with animal products, Czemerys said he doesn’t dwell on it, preferring to focus on his contributions to producing tasty, plant-based dishes.

“A lot of people say, ‘You’re vegan. How do you work in a place that isn’t completely vegan?’ ” Czemerys said. He responds to such questions by pointing out “it’s impossible” for anyone to be 100-percent vegan in a “society that isn’t vegan.”

“If I go to Whole Foods and buy vegan food, I’m still purchasing from a company that sells meat,” Czemerys continued, adding, “I can’t change the world, but I can change my world.”

Still, the day-to-day work life of vegan chefs at non-vegan restaurants is filled with tasks that would be difficult for your average vegetarian.

“I work with meat and dairy every day,” Hunter said. “Yesterday, I went upstairs and butchered sirloin for a couple hours. It’s something I think about a lot in my personal life.”

Frazier, too, has been forced to reflect on the contradiction between her personal beliefs and the requirements of her profession. Like Hunter and Czemerys, Frazier is vegan for ethical reasons.

In wrestling with the tensions inherent between her work and her beliefs, Frazier said she justifies having to taste meat and dairy on the job by realizing that her doing so doesn’t add to overall animal suffering or pollution, “because I’m tasting food that will get sent out anyways.”

Perhaps counterintuitively, Frazier, Czemerys and Hunter say their work allows them to feed more vegetarian food to more people. For instance, Opus Ten recently switched from offering a vegetarian tasting menu to offering a vegan one.

“All the meat stuff is kind of a means to an end,” Hunter said. “It’s what allows me to entice people onto the path of veganism with phenomenal vegan food.”

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

avery.kamila@gmail.com

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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New York chef to open oyster bar and restaurant in Kennebunk http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/well-known-new-york-chef-to-open-restaurant-in-kennebunk/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/well-known-new-york-chef-to-open-restaurant-in-kennebunk/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 23:44:34 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/well-known-new-york-chef-to-open-restaurant-in-kennebunk/ Rebecca Charles, chef/owner of Pearl Oyster Bar in New York City, has purchased the former Abbondante Trattoria & Bar in Kennebunk, fulfilling a longstanding dream of owning a restaurant in Maine.

Abbondante, an Italian restaurant located at 27 Western Ave. in the Lower Village, had been run by chef David Ross and his wife, restaurateur Merrilee Paul, in partnership with the Kennebunkport Resort Collection since May 2013. Ross and Paul closed the place last fall to focus on their other businesses, 50 Local and Owen’s Farmhouse.

Charles plans to open a 25-seat oyster bar called Spat Oyster Cellar in the downstairs part of the building, where there’s a small dining room with a fireplace and stone patio, in July. The large dining room upstairs will open sometime in the fall.

Charles, reached in New York on Tuesday, said she is also building a new home in Maine and plans to move here over Memorial Day weekend. She’ll spend the whole summer in Maine, then once the new restaurant opens she’ll split her time between Maine and New York City.

Charles, whose small restaurant in Greenwich Village brought the love of the lobster roll to New York City, has long ties to Maine – her family has summered in Kennebunk since 1917 – and visits here often. In the 1980s, Charles worked as a chef at the Whistling Oyster in Ogunquit and at Cafe 74 and the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, where she was executive chef. Even after moving back to New York in 1987, she visited often with family summering in Maine.

Charles said she’s wanted to open a restaurant in Maine since 1997, the same year she founded Pearl Oyster Bar, and she’s been trying to buy the Abbondante building for four years. She reminisced about her time hanging out there in the 1980s, when the restaurant was called Grissini and had “a lovely feel.” Now she owns it herself, which she says “feels weird” after putting in many bids over the years and always being turned down.

“I wanted this to happen when I was in my 50s,” she said. “I’m now 62 and opening another restaurant. But it’s been such a longstanding goal, I knew if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.”

Charles said she may call the new place Pearl, but more likely it will be Pearl North. “It will have the trappings of the Pearl Oyster Bar menu, with a lot of the same dishes,” she said.

But Pearl Oyster Bar is “a very small restaurant” with a limited menu, and it only serves beer and wine. The Maine version of Pearl will have a total of 150 seats, so Charles won’t be sticking strictly to her menu of elevated seafood – she’ll also serve meat, poultry and pasta, and will have a full bar.

“I’m very happy to be getting back to cooking meat because I never saw myself as a seafood cook,” Charles said.

Charles has already hired two sous chefs who will run the restaurant when she’s in New York. Richard “Ricky” Penatzer has worked at Fore Street, Grace and the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, in addition to Pearl Oyster Bar, Charles said. Jonathan Bagley previously worked at Pier 77 and Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant in Kennebunkport.

Spat Oyster Cellar (spat is the term used for baby oysters) will likely be open year-round.

Charles said she doesn’t think the food scene in the Kennebunk region “has ever really gotten what it deserves,” and she’s looking forward to contributing to it herself.

She promises: “I won’t blow it.”

 

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It’s a buffet of food trucks at Street Eats & Beats http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/buffet-food-trucks-street-eats-beats/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/buffet-food-trucks-street-eats-beats/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 21:21:04 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874674 Food trucks, beer and live music will be featured at the third annual Street Eats & Beats event from noon until 5 p.m. at Thompson’s Point on Saturday.

Tickets, available at eventbrite.com, cost $10 in advance and include one beer ticket, which will be handed out at the door. Tickets sold the day of the 21-plus event cost $15 and don’t include a beer ticket.
Gritty’s will serve the beer, while Tito’s Handmade Vodka will serve drinks.

Nearly 20 food trucks will be on site, including El Corazon, Maine-ly Meatballs, The Maine Tater, Cannoli Joe’s, Kabayan Philippine, Rolling Fatties, Fishin’ Ships, Trolley Dogs, Urban Sugar and Love Kupcakes.

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Experts talk farm-to-cocktail at panel discussion Thursday http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/experts-talk-farm-cocktail-panel-discussion-thursday/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/experts-talk-farm-cocktail-panel-discussion-thursday/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 21:19:26 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874677 The Portland Museum of Art and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association will host a panel discussion called “The Cocktail and Its Earthly Origins” at 6 p.m. Thursday at the museum.
Tickets cost $15, or $10 for museum or MOFGA members, and include a cocktail tasting.

The panelists will be Joel Alex of Blue Ox Malthouse, Topher Mallory of Split Rock Distillery and Kit Paschal of Roustabout, an Italian restaurant on Washington Ave.

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Buy an iced coffee May 25 and help hospitalized kids http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/buy-iced-coffee-may-25-help-hospitalized-kids/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/buy-iced-coffee-may-25-help-hospitalized-kids/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 21:17:36 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874671 Buy an iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts on May 25 – which the company has dubbed Maine Iced Coffee Day – and the Dunkin’ Donuts Business Owners of Maine will donate $1 to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center.

It’s the same deal that’s been offered every Maine Iced Coffee Day for the past four years, and so far the event has raised more than $180,000 for the hospital’s teacher program, which helps school-aged patients stay connected with their classmates, teachers and schoolwork. Dunkin’ Donuts has pledged to raise $250,000 over a five-year period to permanently endow the program, which is intended to help give the children a sense of normalcy while they are in the hospital.

To donate, buy any size or flavor of iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts on May 25.

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Tom Brady’s cookbook sells out fast – even at $200 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/tom-bradys-cookbook-sells-out-fast-even-at-200/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/tom-bradys-cookbook-sells-out-fast-even-at-200/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 17:54:34 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/10/tom-bradys-cookbook-sells-out-fast-even-at-200/ FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It looks like a $200 price tag couldn’t keep Tom Brady’s fans from gobbling up the Patriots quarterback’s new cookbook.

The “TB12 Nutrition Manual” features 89 recipes and is described on the four-time Super Bowl champion’s website as being printed on 100-pound text paper with covers made from natural wood that include laser etching.

Brady has posted a picture from the book on his Facebook page, calling it “another step toward achieving your peak performance.” Recipes include avocado ice cream and carrot cake.

The book can be taken apart and expanded. The description on the site says anyone who buys it will receive additional pages with new or modified recipes.

It’s listed as sold out and a note says more may be available early next month.

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Snack bar maker Kate McAleer named Tory Burch Foundation Fellow http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/09/snack-bar-maker-kate-mcaleer-named-tory-burch-foundation-fellow/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/09/snack-bar-maker-kate-mcaleer-named-tory-burch-foundation-fellow/#comments Mon, 09 May 2016 16:47:52 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/09/snack-bar-maker-kate-mcaleer-named-tory-burch-foundation-fellow/ Kate McAleer, owner of the craft snack bar business Bixby & Co. in Rockland, has been named a Tory Burch Foundation fellow, a designation that comes with a prize of $10,000 and a trip to New York to visit with the famous designer.

McAleer was one of 10 winners selected by the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition for women entrepreneurs, and is the only winner from New England.

The $10,000 prize is a business education grant, McAleer said. “I’m considering a couple of different programs I would attend to develop more knowledge on how to grow my business,” she said.

The fellowship also includes a three-day workshop at Tory Burch Headquarters and the opportunity to pitch for a $100,000 grant.

McAleer, who said her win is “really exciting for Maine,” has a degree from New York University and a certificate in pastry art and culinary management from The Institute of Culinary Education in New York.

In 2015, the U.S. Small Business Administration named McAleer the Maine Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

McAleer founded Bixby & Co. in 2011. The company makes snack bars for the natural candy market that contain three to five times more protein and fiber and 30 to 50 percent less sugar than other candy bars. The bars are made without corn syrup, palm oil, artificial flavors, preservatives or additives.

The bar called “Nutty For You” was a national 2016 Good Food Award winner for best confectionery product.

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Let go of the eco-guilt and start composting, already! http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/08/green-plate-special-let-go-of-the-eco-guilt-and-start-composting-already/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/08/green-plate-special-let-go-of-the-eco-guilt-and-start-composting-already/#comments Sun, 08 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=867447 I typically get flustered by reading the Urban Dictionary. Referring to this online resource typically means I’ve uttered an innocent, old-fashioned phrase that’s recently been twisted into a double entendre by crude modern culture standards and everybody sitting around the table discussing the locution, no matter which generation, ends up blushing.

Not so with The Urban Dictionary’s explanation of ecoguilt: “The feeling you get when you could have done something for the environment, but consciously made the decision not to.”

As we become more aware how even the little steps we take render a carbon footprint – either light or heavy – the opportunity for this acute green guilt rises. Social scientists say this self-flagellation is the by-catch of eco-consciousness.

It can strike you when you walk past the sign at the grocery store that reads “Did you remember your reusable bags?” It can arise as you sit in your idling car listening to an NPR story on warming oceans. And, it can present itself when you notice your morning banana is sporting a “From Guatemala” sticker.

It always hits me at the end of a family meal when my mother-in-law drops hints about composting. We’ve been having this discussion since 2007, when she put all the inedible but compostable scraps from one dinner we had while living in the United Kingdom in a bowl on my counter. I promptly put the bowl out under a willow tree for the fox who frequented our lovely English garden.

That’s right, folks. I, like you I am sure, have a dirty little eco-illogical secret. I’ve routinely bucked the composting trend. I’ve countered my mother-in-law’s pleas with a concerted effort to use every kitchen scrap possible in soups, salts and secondhand leftover concoctions. And I argued that since growing things that require good compost is not part of my skill set, the act of composting itself is a waste of both time and energy for me. But the real reason I haven’t composted is the fear of a fruit fly infestation in my happy place: my well-kept kitchen.

Given the propagation of sleek-looking countertop composting pails in kitchen shops, most of which come with a charcoal filter that fights odor and fruit flies; my request on this Mother’s Day for my children to help me build and fill our first raised bed garden; and the sheer ease with which one can compost with the help of local services like We Compost It! and Garbage to Garden, there is no longer any way I can avoid feeling guilty about not composting.

There comes a time in the cycle of guilt (I was raised Roman Catholic and am now a practicing mother, so I feel qualified to speak to this point) where you have to either let it go or let it motivate you.

The only thing left for me to do now is to show off my new bucket the next time the in-laws come to dinner.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at cburn1227@gmail.com

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Dine Out Maine: Woodford Food & Beverage in Portland http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/08/dine-out-maine-woodford-food-beverage-in-portland-is-an-emphatically-american-bistro-that-travels-the-world/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/08/dine-out-maine-woodford-food-beverage-in-portland-is-an-emphatically-american-bistro-that-travels-the-world/#comments Sun, 08 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=869469 When you stand at the bustling Woodfords Corner intersection and look at the funky, glass-fronted building with the zigzag roofline, what you see says a lot about you and your relationship with Portland.

If you have a long memory of the city, you might remember this spot as where the original Valle’s Steak House stood for several decades, packing in hungry crowds long before the restaurant’s triple-gable roof makeover. If you can’t recall quite that far back, perhaps you remember the mortgage company (and more likely, its gigantic clock) that stood there. Or, if your Portland memories are all recent ones, you may think of 660 Forest Avenue as what it is has been for the past three months: the home of Woodford Food & Beverage.

Birch Shambaugh and Fayth Preyer, the restaurant’s co-owners, are responsible for the building’s most recent transformation from cubicle farm to fresh, neat dining space with white wall tiles, leather banquettes, and a chunky, well-stocked bar. Importantly, the thoughtful renovation also retained key architectural features to anchor the room to its rich local history. “The building’s unique geometry strongly influenced how we approached the build,” he said.

Executive chef Courtney Loreg’s menu echoes this approach, curating culinary influences to produce a deceptively simple take on American brasserie fare. Loreg, who cooked at Fore Street and Bresca, said, “There’s a little bit of French, a little Italian – others too – but in the end, it is definitely still an American style of cooking.”

Nothing says American more than the portions – even normally small dishes like appetizers and salads arrive in quantities large enough to share. The apple and cheddar salad ($9), for example, tossed with endive and ribbons of fennel is substantial enough to make a light meal. Better still is a beet salad ($9) with the surprising addition of subtly sour preserved cherries to a base of crunchy radicchio, feather-light goat cheese mousse and tender roasted beets. Cherries and beets together? Reserve judgment until you taste – this is a combination that works, tying together several strands of flavor and texture in every forkful.

Even the burger ($16) is a foodie Rorschach test – nodding to Jewish cuisine (the brisket), Southern cooking (the grilled Vidalia), and modern Japanese baking (the toasted sesame bun, fresh from the ovens of nearby Ten Ten Pié in Portland). Add in the perfectly crisp and gorgeously seasoned French fries, redolent with a spice mix that includes ground fennel seed, and you end up with a dish that tastes exotic but feels very much like home.

We also fell in love with both of the shank dishes. The braised pork shanks ($21) bathe in a brothy stew of white beans, bacon and thyme. It is easy to overcook a foreshank, but Loreg keeps her braise long and slow. It’s a trick she repeats with braised lamb shanks ($28), nestled into a bed of soft yellow polenta and coated in a sweet and spicy glaze that derives its flavors from simmering dates, tomatoes, and smoky ancho chilies for hours. Both versions showcase Loreg’s talent for designing a menu that borrows flavors from many places, while always speaking the language of comfort food.

Braised Pork Shank with white bean stew at Woodford Food & Beverage, above.

Braised Pork Shank with white bean stew at Woodford Food & Beverage. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Even the familiar roast chicken ($21) takes on a subtly exotic character when it is served with a harissa, yogurt and honey sauce. This is an outstandingly juicy half-bird that stays so moist because, according to our server, the kitchen “puts butter everywhere you can fit butter – on the skin, under the skin, everywhere.”

It seemed like a sin to visit a restaurant on the same site as the venerable Valle’s without ordering a steak ($22), and we were glad we did. The tangy balsamic marinade accents but never intrudes on the flavor of the expertly grilled tri-tip sirloin, and the classic horseradish cream accompaniment gives the dish a serious kick. Donald Valle himself might have appreciated this excellent steak.

The sirloin was served with enough French fries to feed two or three people, and we sat long after the other plates had been cleared, nibbling at the still-warm fries. “At this restaurant, I’ve learned never to take away a plate with French fries still on it,” our server said, as we finished the fries and our carafe of the house Côtes du Rhône ($34).

A bottle of table wine, Les Embruns 'La Croix des Saintes', Sable de Camargue Rose, France 2015. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

A bottle of table wine, Les Embruns ‘La Croix des Saintes’, Sable de Camargue Rose, France 2015. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

That carafe of wine merits a little attention of its own. The star of the restaurant’s impressive beverage program is the list of 10 house wines offered by the glass, half-liter and liter, and served tableside from bottles labeled, modestly, “Table Wine.” If the rebranding seems purposefully understated, what is inside is anything but. We enjoyed a frothy, apple-scented Italian Prosecco ($8/18/32) on our first visit – a light meal – and then opted for a fleshy and robust Austrian Zweigelt ($8/18/30) to go with another dinner featuring lots of burgers and steaks. Offering a few wines by the carafe is a traditional brasserie move, but pouring an international range is a clever twist that gives the diner options that parallel the menu’s breadth.

Dessert options change frequently, and portions are (no surprise) substantial – a bonus for tables wanting to share sweet treats like the toasted Fuji apple crisp with honey and sea salt ice cream ($8). We devoured every bite of the sticky, crunchy crisp and would have asked for another scoop of the ice cream if we didn’t have another dessert on its way. The buttermilk panna cotta ($8) came flecked with vanilla bean and announced itself with a seductive jiggle. A cranberry coulis swirled atop offered zippy balance to the cream and buttermilk; together, every mouthful conjured up both Cape Cod and Capri.

Connections like these are no accident. Woodford Food & Beverage’s mission seems to be to evoke and reference its many influences while connecting them back to something meaningfully local. At its core, it is an American bistro, but what you taste when you visit will say as much about the world as it does about Portland.

Brisket burger, smoked bacon, grilled sweet onion, dijonnaise, cheddar cheese blend, house made pickle, sesame bun served with fries and aioli. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Brisket burger, smoked bacon, grilled sweet onion, dijonnaise, cheddar cheese blend, house made pickle, sesame bun served with fries and aioli. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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:andrewross.maine@gmail.com

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. on May 10, 2016 to correct the restaurant’s dinner hours and reservation policy.

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In Vermont, fans of shiitake-farming mushroom http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/07/fans-of-shiitake-farming-mushroom/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/07/fans-of-shiitake-farming-mushroom/#comments Sat, 07 May 2016 23:20:27 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/07/fans-of-shiitake-farming-mushroom/ MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — Spring in Vermont means muddy roads, the return of green to the landscape, farmers planting crops … and Shiitakepalooza.

About 100 people gathered at the Eddy Farm in Middlebury on Saturday to help two mushroom growers prepare logs for next year’s crop and to learn how to grow their own shiitakes.

At the sixth annual event, volunteers inoculated logs with shiitake spawn that will sprout mushrooms in about a year. Participants get to take home a log for their own crop of mushrooms, considered by fans to be superfood.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the volume and value of sales of mushrooms and the number of growers have increased each year from 2012 to 2015.

Most mushrooms are grown indoors in sawdust, but log-grown shiitakes sell for $16 to $20 a pound in the Northeast, making them a viable additional source of income or hobby for farmers and woodlot owners.

And more people are catching on to the art and science of growing them. The number of shiitake growers with at least 200 logs in production or an indoor commercial growing area rose to 216 in 2014-15 from 179 in 2012-13, according to the USDA.

Growing them on logs can make for a lot of work at certain times in the cycle, so any extra hands are appreciated. That was partly the origin of Shiitakepalooza.

“The inoculation aspect of it is definitely very labor-intensive, which is why setting up a few assembly lines and getting as many people involved really makes it fun,” said Nick Laskovski of Dana Forest Farm in Waitsfield, who sells about 500 pounds of mushrooms a year, primarily to local restaurants.

Katy Marshall and Ryan Baxter, of Swanton, showed up Friday to learn more about the growing process, joining other friends and family of growers Andy Bojanowski, of Eddy Farm, and Laskovski.

Once the logs are inoculated, they sit for a year before they’re dunked in cold water or shocked. Weeks later, they yield mushrooms. The logs can be shocked again eight to 10 weeks later for another crop, Laskovski said. They then are rested for another year before the process is repeated again, he said.

But the logs only last about five years before they start to deteriorate, so growers continually add logs to their operation. Laskovski has about 1,000 and is shooting for more. But he says there’s a fine line between how much he can manage on his own with a full-time job.

“Shiitakepalooza will help my … log backup,” he said.

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For Mother’s Day, a chat with mother-daughter Mediterranean cooking experts http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/chop-chop-for-mothers-day-we-chat-with-mother-daughter-mediterranean-cooking-experts-writer-nancy-harmon-jenkins-and-chef-sara-jenkins/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/chop-chop-for-mothers-day-we-chat-with-mother-daughter-mediterranean-cooking-experts-writer-nancy-harmon-jenkins-and-chef-sara-jenkins/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=863924 In the case of cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins and her daughter, chef Sara Jenkins, the chestnut didn’t fall far from the tree. Aside from cooking, writing and a deep curiosity about “why food becomes the way it does,” as Sara Jenkins puts it, the pair share a love for their olive farm in Tuscany, especially the picnic table set under two ancient chestnut trees with a view down the valley into Umbria. “We’ve been feasting around it for 40 years,” Sara Jenkins said.

With Mother’s Day on our mind, we spoke with the mother-daughter culinary dynamo, Nancy Harmon Jenkins calling in from Camden, where she lives, and Sara Jenkins from New York City, her home of many years. Mom is a 13th-generation Mainer and an expert on the cooking of the Mediterranean, with eight cookbooks (and two non-food books) to her name. Daughter is the chef of two beloved Manhattan eateries – the sandwich shop Porchetta and the pasta-centric Porsena – and is set to move to Maine next month with her husband and 9-year-old son to open a Mediterranean restaurant in Rockport. She is also the co-author of two cookbooks and a former columnist for The Atlantic website. Mother and daughter recently collaborated on their first book together, “The Four Seasons of Pasta.” Our conversation touched on picky eaters, chowder and which of the two is the better cook.

Q: Nancy, was passing on your love of food to Sara intentional, the way my mother wanted her children to learn a musical instrument?

NHJ: No, not at all. I think it came about as a result of our living in so many places. I’ve always had this theory that the way to get into another culture is through its food. We lived in Spain twice. We lived in Paris. We lived in Beirut. And we lived in Hong Kong, all before we ended up in Italy, and in all of those places food was very important. (Her former husband was a foreign correspondent.) Sara and her brother always went out to eat with us. A lot of the time we spent on the weekends was around a big table full of food. That’s just what you do in those parts of the world. She grew up with good tastes in her mouth.

Q: But did you teach her to cook?

NHJ: People always want to think that Sara learned to cook by standing at her mother’s knee in the kitchen, and she didn’t. I think you learned more from Mita than you did from me, didn’t you Sara? Mita was our Italian neighbor and she was, in effect, the Italian nonna, grandmother, of my children.

Q: Did Sara hang around you in the kitchen when she was young?

NHJ: She mostly had her nose stuck in a book. She was a picky eater, we always say that.

Q: Any advice for the parents of picky eaters?

SJ: They should chill out. As long as your kid is eating healthy foods, who cares?

Q: Sara, are you teaching your own son to cook?

SJ: I take a tact with my child that my job is to see what he is interested in and encourage that, as opposed to impose my interest. But he’s a really picky eater. He likes pasta with tomato sauce. He likes fruits of every kind. He did have a Tibetan nanny as a child, so he’s really into dumplings. That’s probably the most exotic thing he eats.

Q: So, Sara, if you were a picky eater, when did you begin to enjoy food?

SJ: When I came back to the States when I was 15 years old. I had never thought much about what was put in front of me. I came back to boarding school in Maine. I was just appalled. I remember ordering a pizza in Bethel and being really puzzled. It wasn’t a pizza the way I thought of pizza.

Q: How was it different?

SJ: I think I ordered tomato pizza and what I got was a pizza with slices of plum tomato. That wasn’t what I meant. I probably meant pizza margherita. It didn’t occur to me that there was any variation on what I ordered. So you’re standing there wondering “What’s the problem? What did I do wrong?”

Q: Had you lived in Maine before?

SJ: No.

NHJ: But they came back every summer.

SJ: My aunt always says we were trained to demand lobster the minute we came over the state border. But when you live in Maine, it’s not as though you eat lobster on a daily basis.

NHJ: Although my mother was a great one for handing out lobster whenever the occasion demanded it. We used to have lobster for Thanksgiving. We used to have lobster for Christmas. Lobster for birthdays. I think my mother just loved lobster and loved any occasion to eat it.

Q: Nancy, were you pleased Sara became a chef?

NHJ: Very much pleased. I was a little bit surprised because she trained as a photographer and worked as a photographer. She really had a natural feel for the kitchen and the restaurant kitchen in particular. She had found her métier. And I think a parent is always happy when a child has found her métier. It means you can stop worrying about them a little bit.

Q: How about your son? Does he cook well?

NHJ: He’s a very good cook, but (disapproving tone) he’s a vegetarian.

Q: So that’s a bad thing?

NHJ: It’s kind of limiting. But he’s a very good vegetarian cook.

Q: What is your favorite dish of Sara’s?

NHJ: I just love the anelloni with lamb sausage and greens. I think it’s a fabulous dish. (See recipe.)

Q: Sara, what did your mother teach you about food and cooking?

SJ: I learned her respect for ingredients.

Q: Did she encourage your love of food and cooking?

SJ: No, not necessarily.

NHJ: You didn’t think I encouraged you?

SJ: I don’t think you discouraged me. But I just kind of took off with it. You were supportive.

NHJ: Yeah, certainly was. Still am.

Q: Do you have a favorite dish of your mother’s?

SJ: Oh yes, her chowder.

NHJ: Clam or fish or corn?

SJ: Lobster.

NHJ: It probably is Sam Hayward’s recipe for lobster chowder.

SJ: No, you’ve been making it much longer than that.

NHJ: That’s true. But Sam has sharpened my technique.

Q: Who is the better cook?

NHJ: She is far and away a better cook than I am. Which is not to say that I am a bad cook. She is speedy in the kitchen. She is focused in the kitchen. Things don’t fail her the way they fail me.

SJ: Honestly, I would agree.

NHJ: That you’re a better cook?

SJ: It’s not that you’re not a great cook and you don’t make fabulous delicious foods, but I have better skills. I do it professionally.

Q: What sparked your collaboration on “The Four Seasons of Pasta”?

SJ: It was (former New York Times food writer) Molly O’Neill. We wanted to do an e-book with her. It never came to fruition.

NHJ: She wanted us to do 25 winter pastas. So we did them. (The e-book) never came to anything, but there we were with these recipes. We thought, why not do spring and summer and fall? And we did, and we sold it to an agent and there we were on the road to fame and fortune. More fame than fortune, I’m afraid.

Q: How did you handle the mechanics of writing together?

SJ: Some recipes were very much mine, some were very much Nancy’s. Some we discussed. I always tell everybody that you didn’t want to make the pasta con sarde with sardines because you didn’t want people having to clean the sardines.

NHJ: I didn’t think you could get sardines. Here even in the capital – what used to be the capital – of sardine country, you can’t get them. But you can get them in New York, I guess. It’s a Sicilian traditional dish, and I think it’s wonderful. I’ve made it in Italy, but I’ve never made it here in the States.

Q: So did you include the sardine recipe in the end?

SJ: Yes, yes, we did.

Q: Sorry, to end with a bit of a snoozer, but I’m thinking readers will want to know. What are your favorite restaurants in Maine and New York?

SJ: I would say Long Grain (in Camden).

NHJ: Yes. Long Grain. And there is Bagaduce Lunch in Brooksville. It depends what you are looking for. Fore Street and Primo are still two great restaurants we have in Maine. My favorite restaurant in New York is, oddly enough, Porcena.

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Chef burnout: Some find new life outside Maine’s all-consuming food scene http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/life-after-chef/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/life-after-chef/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=863939 Even now, after years spent building a successful designer handbag business, Natasha Durham sometimes slips into restaurant lingo.

“Eighty-six the new buck leather,” the former restaurant chef will call out to her staff, who are more at home with fashion than with food. Or “We’ve got 15 of the old gold satchels all day.”

Durham once owned three Portland restaurants – Bintliff’s American Cafe (now Bayside American Cafe), Natasha’s and Mims Brasserie – but after 17 years in the industry, she hung up her apron and walked away from the kitchen. Then she poured herself into building her fashion business, working chef-like 16-hour days. It’s not just the hours and professional vocabulary that are similar. Durham considers both fashion and food creative endeavors, and they each satisfy her artistic leanings in different ways.

“My mise en place is not perishable,” Durham said, referring to the textiles she uses in her new business as a chef would refer to ingredients laid out in the kitchen and ready to be cooked. “All I’ve ever wanted is to have all the beautiful ingredients and then not to have the stress of wondering what’s going to happen to them in the next 24 hours.”

Food magazines are chock-full of stories about talented young chefs yearning to show their chops in the kitchen and work their way up to executive chef. Maybe they’ll even own their own restaurant one day. But sometimes, though we don’t hear about it as much, life happens in the reverse. Talented chefs walk away from their stations, sometimes with scarcely a look back. And, like Durham, they end up in a completely – or at least somewhat – different place.

Former Portland chef Erik Desjarlais now sews leather goods for a living and has his own shop in Freeport. Gallit Cavendish, whose impressive resume includes stints at Daniel and the Waldorf Astoria in New York City as well as Chase’s Daily in Belfast and the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, became a farmer in Bowdoinham. Lucian Burg worked at Chez Panisse, Zuni, and other restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area for 30 years before moving to Maine in 1990 and becoming a book designer.

Barton Seaver, who opened seven restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area, is now living in Maine and working on ocean sustainability issues with the National Geographic Society and Harvard University. Jeff Landry, former chef/owner of The Farmer’s Table on Commercial Street and a veteran of several other well-known restaurants, went to work for Native Maine Produce after his restaurant closed. Most recently, after his last chef gig at the Royal River Grill House in Yarmouth didn’t work out, Kevin Cunningham of Lewiston decided to leave restaurant work so he can spend more time with his family, including his brand new baby daughter. He hasn’t entirely cut the cord yet: He’s working day shifts at a casual seafood restaurant in Freeport, frying clams and making lobster rolls, until he finds something else.

At least one industry expert says that as more alternatives to running a kitchen become available to chefs, more chefs are taking them.

“When you’re the person making the first pot of coffee in the morning, and you’re there through dinner service, it’s trying,” Cunningham said. “It ruins marriages, it ruins families. Your kids don’t know their dad. It’s not what I wanted. It is what I thought I wanted.”

Natasha Durham started her store Rough & Tumble in Norway after founding three successful restaurants.

Natasha Durham started her store Rough & Tumble in Norway after founding three successful restaurants.

ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS CHEF

Natasha Durham never dreamed of being a chef; she got into the restaurant business on a whim.

The daughter of a fashion designer, Durham moved to Maine when she was in high school and attended the Maine College of Art. She wanted to be an entrepreneur – anything artistic would do. One day in 1993 she saw that Bintliff’s was for sale and she thought to herself, “That would be a fun job.”

It was a steep learning curve. “I didn’t know how to turn the stove on,” she recalled. “It was primarily a brunch house when I purchased it, and I didn’t know how to flip an egg. I only knew one thing: that I could work harder than anyone else.”

Her gamble paid off. Building on Bintliff’s success, Durham went on to open Natasha’s (first on Portland Street, then relocated to Exchange Street) and then Mims. The bigger the company got, the more Durham took on a management role and the less interested she became. Seventeen years after she flipped her first egg, she got out.

“I really loved cooking, and I still do,” she said. “I really wanted to try something different. I began to not see myself doing this at 50, and thinking ‘Well, what else can I do?’ ”

Durham loves working with “gorgeous ingredients,” whether that’s 10 pounds of diver scallops or 1,000 square feet of Italian lambskin. During a year-and-a-half sabbatical funded by the sale of Mims, Durham made herself a handbag out of some vintage textiles. She got compliments on the bag, so she made more. She discovered Etsy.com, and a new business, Rough & Tumble, was born, based out of Norway. She now has 25 employees and, just before the holidays, opened a second store in the Old Port.

Just as Durham used her creative skills to transform her career from cooking to fashion, Burg used his to become a book designer and form his own company, LU Design Studios in Portland. Burg worked summers as a chef on Vinalhaven Island from 1984-91. His wife is from Maine, and when they moved here permanently in 1990, he continued working in restaurants, but as a waiter, not a chef. Gradually, he realized that unless you own your own place, restaurant work is “a young person’s game in our society.” For Burg, it had become a grind.

He learned digital skills working for local food photographer Russell French. Then he started working with a book designer and discovered he loved it.

“It’s great now,” he said. “I’ve got weekends and nights and vacations, and I don’t have to cover peoples’ shifts. I don’t have to work a million hours and come home sweaty at 2 in the morning, which was great when I was young. Now that I’m older, I’m so glad I’m not doing it anymore.”

Erik Desjarlais at Evangeline, formerly on State Street in Portland. Below: Desjarlais is now a seamster making knife rolls and other chef gear. He has his own shop in Freeport.

Erik Desjarlais at Evangeline, formerly on State Street in Portland. Below: Desjarlais is now a seamster making knife rolls and other chef gear. He has his own shop in Freeport.

STOP THE WHIRL, I WANT TO GET OFF 

For Durham and Burg, changing careers involved a long period of self-reflection. For others, things happen more quickly.

For people whose identities are tied closely to being a chef, a sudden transition can be brutal. Erik Desjarlais, who owned the well-regarded Bandol on Exchange Street and later Evangeline in Portland’s Longfellow Square, still remembers how painful the initial days and weeks after he closed Evangeline were.

“It’s like cutting off a leg,” he recalled. “After 20 years of doing it nonstop, it’s all I knew. I don’t know what else to really compare it to – breathing, I guess.” Desjarlais and his wife had just had a baby, so he focused on taking care of his daughter. He says it took a few months to get his “head straight” and find a clear path to a new career as a seamster making knife rolls, aprons and other chef gear.

Kevin Cunningham has worked in the food business since he was 14 washing dishes at a local restaurant. He went on to earn a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales and a bachelor’s degree in food service management. Over the years, he worked food management jobs at Fenway Park, the Boston Convention Center (where he put in such long hours he often slept on a fold-out couch in his office) and the University of Southern Maine. He also gained a reputation for being the go-to guy for opening a new restaurant. His dream, though, was to be head chef at a fine dining restaurant where he wouldn’t have to step aside once it was open.

But when he actually starting landing such jobs at places like Marche Kitchen and Wine Bar in Lewiston and Royal River Grill House in Yarmouth, he found the work sucked all the joy out of cooking.

“When I got there, I wanted to be at home with my kids,” Cunningham said. “I had changed as a person, but also the industry has dramatically changed.”

He found it difficult to hire talented, hard-working and loyal staff. At the same time, he discovered that the expectations of restaurant owners have changed. He was spending way too much time in meetings.

“Now we have people out there who are not from the biz, and they’re looking at spreadsheets,” he said.

Worst of all was the impact on his family life.

Now Cunningham is making half the money he used to, but he and his wife finally had the date night they’d put off for five years. He’s home by mid- to late-afternoon and has dinner with his family every night.

Chef Mark Wright, chair of the American Academy of Chefs at the American Culinary Federation and department chair of Hospitality Management at Erie Community College in Buffalo, N.Y., said that as other options in the food industry proliferate – hospitals and other institutions, as well as grocery stores, are hiring more trained chefs – more cooks are opting for work other than overseeing a restaurant kitchen. And, as was probably always the case, older chefs get burned out and leave.

“I don’t think people realize the stress and the mental and physical work that needs to be done every day,” he said, “and you’re only as good as your last meal.”

Wright himself missed his own sister’s wedding because he had to work. “I don’t know if my mother ever forgave me for that,” he said.

Kevin Cunningham holds his 6-week-old daughter, Bailey, as his wife Jill pushes their son Jameson 2, on the swings at their Lewiston home. Cunningham was the executive chef at The Inn at Brunswick Station.

Kevin Cunningham holds his 6-week-old daughter, Bailey, as his wife Jill pushes their son Jameson 2, on the swings at their Lewiston home. Cunningham was the executive chef at The Inn at Brunswick Station.

‘IF YOU THINK YOU SHOULD DO IT, YOU PROBABLY SHOULD’

None of the chefs interviewed for this story had serious regrets about their career change, though some miss certain aspects of their old lives.

For Desjarlais, it’s “the physical act of cooking” and “the tactile sensation of working with food.” He doesn’t cook much at home, except for occasionally roasting a chicken. Now the man who used to wax poetic about his French duck press has different priorities: “I get excited about tacos,” he said.

Cavendish doesn’t miss the kitchen because she still cooks regularly for her family at her home on Fishbowl Farm, even making her own puff pastry. She’s taught her 5-year-old daughter good knife skills. But she does miss the availability of ingredients she had as a chef – vanilla beans by the pound, saffron by the tin. “I have nice pots and pans,” she said, “but I don’t have eight burners.”

Lucian Burg said he misses the social energy of restaurant work, where colleagues often come to feel like family.

Now he works by himself, and “I have to force myself to get out in the world and go to things instead of just working, working, working,” he said. “That’s been the downside.”

Also, “I can cook any cuisine in the world, still,” he said, “but I’m not a spot-on cook like I used to be. I have to look at cookbooks a lot more than I used to.”

Desjarlais has advice for chefs who are considering leaving the business: If you think you should do it, you probably should. And don’t be afraid.

“I know a lot of younger guys have it in their head that ‘This is all I can do. This is all I know,’ because they’re so into it and so dedicated to it that they couldn’t even imagine leaving it. When I was younger, that was in my head: Life is cooking, and cooking is life. And that’s really not the way it is.”

Now, he has finally let go.

“People still refer to me as a chef,” he said, “and no, I’m not. I’m not a chef. I don’t have a kitchen.”

And he’s fine with that.

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Compelling rosés could entice more of us to drink pink http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/appel-on-wine-compelling-roses-could-entice-more-of-us-to-drink-pink/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/appel-on-wine-compelling-roses-could-entice-more-of-us-to-drink-pink/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=863966 Now that pink wine does not need to be apologized for, now that everyone knows the “blush” wines and white zins of yesteryear bear no resemblance to today’s good, dry rosés, we can talk about the ones that are interesting.

Interesting rosé tastes like something other than a white or a red wine. That sounds obvious, but so much pink wine presents as a white that has had a bit of watermelon or strawberry essence added to it. That’s my complaint about far too many wines in what is rosé’s most market-friendly category: cinsault-heavy southern French rosés, usually from the geographically vague, but it’s got that magic word in its name, Côtes de Provence.

At the other end, there are darker rosés – often Spanish rosados (or “claretes”) from garnacha and tempranillo or Italian rosatos from native southern varietals – that taste like overripe pinot noirs lightened by a couple tablespoons of lemon juice.

The nice thing about such generic-tasting rosé, when it’s well made (which is often), is that it seems ideal for our current cultural and culinary moment.

First of all, unless you’re afflicted by a debilitating degree of machismo, a glass of rosé instantly signifies – to the eye, to the tongue – luxury and contentment without a high price. It’s an approachable, non-oppressing indulgence.

Alcohol is usually on the low end and a quenching sort of acidity presents, so you can go on drinking it, with or without foods of various kinds. It’s great with most cheeses that haven’t aged very long, fish, salads, platters of dips and spreads, salumi, olives, anchovy pizza. It offers glimpses of red wine’s beloved traits – tannin, depth of fruit, viscosity – without allowing these to intrude on its primary purpose, which is to refresh.

Lastly, decent dry rosé doesn’t demand much intellectually. I’m sure that no matter how much you’re already into pink wines, you don’t know as much about any of their cépage (blend of grapes) or region as you would deem useful if the wine were white or red. You’re probably guided mostly by a certain color – light pink sells, dark doesn’t – and that’s it.

For what seemed like an eternity, the general disparagement of rosé was so maddeningly inexplicable and so widespread that my first reaction would be to make sure the pink wine I put in someone’s hands was innocuous. Other wine professionals I know, in retail and restaurants, have similar recollections of their behavior.

The assumption latent in how we promoted rosé was usually, This person is clearly very sensitive and believes that wine must look a certain way regardless of how it tastes, and rosé is so dangerous it’s probably against the law to serve in some states, so Do No Harm. In other words, hand someone a bottle containing a wine that is neither red nor white, make sure it’s got a squeeze of acidity and a dash of fruit, don’t let it have too much flavor, be sure that if the drinker were blindfolded they’d think it a white. It should cost $9.99.

Also like others, I often explain rosé as a white wine made from red-wine grapes. That is, red grapes are crushed but the skins are left in contact with the pulp for just a few hours, rather than the days or weeks they would take to tint a wine red, after which a white-wine vinification takes place.

Some of the character of red wine comes through: red fruit flavors, especially, and a rounder mouthfeel. Other factors of a red – prominent tannin, earthiness, weight – are usually left behind.

This pithy characterization is useful for showing that rosé exists on a spectrum from white to red, rather than being some weird, artificial-seeming third category. But the pithiness seems no longer so necessary, since 2014 happened and then 2015 happened.

Momentum had been building – people were drinking rosé in public before the past two summers – but still, the exponential rise of rosé-drinking recently has been shocking. Especially in 2015, rosé was everywhere: crowding the by-the-glass lists, taking up increasing amounts of cooler space in shops, peeking out of picnic bags, default host gifts for parties, in an ice bucket near the grill.

This trend is likely to continue in the spring and summer of 2016, hallelujah. May the easy, life-affirming style of rosé-drinking persist to the end of time.

Sometimes, though, just every once in a while (let’s say twice a week), I want to drink exciting, interesting, cool, memorable rosé. I want to move past that white-in-red’s-clothing mode. Give me the juiciness, the acidity, that outsized refreshment that feels like a warm sun and a cool breeze and a small platter of summer fruit. Yes. But also give me something distinctive, something pushing past the pleasantries. Set me at ease and make me smile, but hold my attention.

Interesting rosé looks like it will be up to this request in 2016. Usually when rosé wines enter the market in early spring, they’re not yet ready to drink with pleasure. The acidity hasn’t settled, and the entire wine seems too tightly wound. They need a couple of months to settle, to integrate the red-wine and white-wine attributes.

This year, though, many of the 2015-vintage wines I’ve tasted have been compelling and well-integrated right out of the gate. The ripe fruit is very present, the textures are creamy, the acidity is knit into the fabric rather than feeling screened-on.

Here are several I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks, and which I’m excited to follow through Thanksgiving and beyond.

 Channing Daughters Cabernet Sauvignon Rosato 2015 ($22) is one of several scintillating rosés from this pre-eminent producer on Long Island’s South Fork. Cabernet sauvignon is underrated as a grape for rosé (I also love the soft, herbal cab rosés, both still and sparkling, from Austria’s Steininger), but when handled delicately the tannins create a taut but pliant structure like a spider’s web. The Channing Daughters is wonderfully aromatic, with a slight effervescence to offset the vivid, chewy fruit.

 Guéguen Bourgogne Rosé 2015 ($15) is a beautiful expression of pinot noir: incredibly lovely wildflower aromas, a toothsome earthiness, lime-like acidity. Its balance, medium body, suggestive flavors and firm structure offer so much of what I want in a non-boring, non-lite rosé.

 Montenidoli Canaiuolo Rosato 2015 ($19) disregards any preference you might have for a delicate, airy rosé. This is muscular, intense wine, and gorgeous to boot. A minority grape in Chianti reds, canaiuolo here becomes mushroomy and forested. The acidity and textural heft are in impressive balance. (Very little of this wine makes it to Maine each year. It’s around, but you need to ask around, and quickly!)

Others on my short list:

 Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare 2015 ($15), Randall Grahm’s Cali-fied take on a southern France rosé, employs grenaches both rouge and gris as well as other grapes: plump fruit, but with leafy, tomato-from-the-garden flavor preeminent.

 La Spinetta’s deep Tuscan rosé 2015 ($20) combines sangiovese and Brunello’s bold cousin prugnolo gentile to make one of my favorite pink wines every year. Tangy, foresty, spicy and bold.

 Midsummer Cellars Grenache Rosé 2015 ($24), Napa-born, is big and viscous, but grenache’s candy-red profile exists only on the nose; taste is all dry: dried strawberries, dried herbs, dried wood.

 Matthias Dostert “Rosay” ($13) is listed without a vintage though this is its current release. It’s from the old, rare German roter elbling grape, and at only 11 percent alcohol, issues a delightful touch of sweetness to offset copious funky, soil-based aromas and flavors.

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

soulofwine.appel@gmail.com

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Maine Ingredient: Be a sweet baby and start Mom’s day with a Dutch treat http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/maine-ingredient-be-a-sweet-baby-and-start-moms-day-with-a-dutch-treat/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/maine-ingredient-be-a-sweet-baby-and-start-moms-day-with-a-dutch-treat/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=863972 A Dutch baby – basically a cross between a pancake and a popover – is such a fun thing to make for breakfast or brunch on Mother’s Day. If breakfast, serve it with some crisp bacon, sautéed Canadian bacon or smoked salmon on the side; if brunch, add a beautiful spring salad to make it a meal.

APPLE DUTCH BABY

Simple and easy to put together, the pancake puffs impressively in the oven like a soufflé. It begins to deflate almost immediately, so serve it quickly!

Makes 4 servings

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cups cored, peeled and sliced medium-tart apples such as Macoun or Gala

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 eggs

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk, whole or low-fat

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar for sifting over top

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In an 11- or 12-inch skillet, preferably cast-iron, with ovenproof handle, melt the butter. Spoon out 2 tablespoons of the butter and transfer it to a large bowl. To the remaining butter in the skillet, add the apples. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and continue to cook until sugar dissolves and lightly caramelizes and the apples are tender, about 5 more minutes.

Break eggs into the bowl with reserved butter. Add salt, milk and vanilla, and whisk well to blend. Place flour in a sieve, sift over the egg mixture and whisk gently but thoroughly until combined.

Spread apples out in an even layer in the bottom of the skillet and pour batter over. Bake in preheated oven until pancake is puffed and golden and crisp around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.

Sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar and serve immediately, cut in wedges. (Remember that the skillet handle is hot!)

LEAFY GREENS WITH STRAWBERRIES, SMOKED ALMONDS AND CHEVRE

A lovely spring salad combo – leafy greens, sweet-tart strawberries, smoked almonds and tangy goat cheese – that pairs perfectly with the Dutch baby. It’s too pretty to toss, so arrange the salad on a large shallow platter or on individual plates and pass the dressing on the side. Substitute one of the bagged mesclun mixes if you prefer.

Make 4 to 5 servings

WHITE WINE VINAIGRETTE:

¼ cup white wine vinegar

1 medium shallot, minced

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

SALAD:

4 ounces (4 cups) baby spinach

1 small head frisee or other similar greens (about 5 ounces), torn into bite-size pieces

½ cup coarsely chopped smoked almonds

1½ cups sliced strawberries

1/3 cup goat cheese, broken into 1/2-inch clumps

For the dressing, whisk together vinegar, shallot and Worcestershire in a small bowl or plastic container. Whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Put spinach and frisee in a salad bowl and toss to combine. Scatter nuts, strawberries and cheese over the top. Serve dressing in a small pitcher on the side.

Brooke Dojny’s most recent cookbook is “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and is on Facebook:

facebook.com/brookedojny

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Cookbook review: “Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two” http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/cookbook-review-comfort-and-joy-cooking-for-two/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/cookbook-review-comfort-and-joy-cooking-for-two/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=864026 “Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two.” By Christina Lane. The Countryman Press, 2015. $24.95

I had notions of romantic dinners and candlelight when I picked up “Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two,” but as I flipped through it, I had a hard time getting into the mood.

I kept bursting out laughing instead.

Maybe I’ve been cooking for too many people for too long to appreciate author Christina Lane’s niche market of “for two” cookbooks (she also wrote “Dessert for Two”), but I kept thinking these recipes require a lot of time for not much payoff.

And once I saw the recipes that way (16 ingredients, prep and oven time of about an hour – for two carrot cake muffins?) I couldn’t unsee it. “Thanksgiving Dinner for Two?” “Two Mugs of Hot Chocolate?” “Two Mugs of Eggnog?”

Do people really cook this way? Haven’t you ever wanted leftovers to take to work the next day?

And then there was the one recipe where I think I actually snorted out loud: “Baked Bacon,” which is, er, putting four strips of bacon in the oven. Lane’s thoughts? “So meaty!”

I almost felt bad about my cynical take on the cookbook, but I lived alone for decades, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with small-batch meals. This cookbook, despite its beautiful pictures and high quality production, takes a decent concept and doesn’t quite deliver. The recipes are either unnecessary (I’m good with hot chocolate and bacon, thanks) a bit too precious (“Homemade marshmallows”) or seem like something you would automatically double even if you were serving only two people.

But I do see the wisdom of small-batch sweets – sometimes cooking dozens of cookies at a time is too much. So I went with the gingersnaps, which Lane says is a favorite family recipe: “I loved anything my grandmother made, but these cookies have to be my all-time favorite.”

The snaps were great, but next time I’m doubling the recipe.

SOFT AND CHEWY GINGERSNAPS

Yield: 1 dozen cookies

1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

1 large egg white

2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium-size bowl, beat together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the egg white and molasses and mix well.

Add the remaining dry ingredients on top and beat until just combined.

Have ready a shallow bowl filled with extra sugar for rolling the cookies.

Roll tablespoon-size chunks of dough into 1-inch balls. You should get about a dozen cookies. Roll each cookie in sugar. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes.

Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will be very soft, but they will firm up as they cool.

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Dear diet diary: Recording what you eat is a smart step toward better health and weight loss http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/dear-diet-diary-recording-what-you-eat-a-smart-step-toward-better-health-and-weight-loss/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/dear-diet-diary-recording-what-you-eat-a-smart-step-toward-better-health-and-weight-loss/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=863909 When I told my students that I have been tracking what I eat, religiously and with the help of a food tracking app, for more than three years, the looks on their faces ranged from disbelief to something I perceived as pity (“she has nothing better to do?”).

I was introducing the food journaling concept to them. Basic nutrition classes, like the one I teach at Southern Maine Community College, frequently assign students to keep track of everything they eat or drink for three days and then analyze that information.

When I was in college, that meant looking up every food or ingredient in a big nutrient analysis book and doing lots of math to figure out each day’s nutrient and calorie totals. After that, we examined our results and strategized ways to improve our typical dietary intake.

The exercise is still a good one. Far from being “busy work,” keeping a food journal can be very helpful for improving diet quality and assisting with weight loss.

“Keeping track of one’s food intake helps people focus on their health goals, makes them more aware and keeps them honest about what they are eating,” says Amy Baker-Joyce, a registered and licensed dietitian who counsels clients at a Falmouth outpatient nutrition practice.

Multiple studies back up the efficacy of food journaling for weight loss assistance in particular. One 2012 study found that women who consistently used some type of food journal for the first six months of the yearlong study lost more weight (about 6 pounds more) than those who didn’t journal; even those who kept the journals for only 70 percent of the time lost more than the non-journaling study subjects.

Weight loss isn’t the only reason to track one’s food intake. Macronutrients – the carbs, protein and fat in foods – are easily monitored on food journaling apps and websites, where the information comes across in colorful graphs and charts.

A healthy balance of “macros” is the focus for 19-year-old Michaela Olsen. “For me, it’s less about reaching a certain calorie goal,” she said. “My goal is to lower my carb consumption and increase my protein to get a better balance. This is the most helpful function of my food app.”

Old-school food journaling, with a simple notebook and pencil, still has its place – especially for keeping track of simple things, like how many glasses of water you downed or how many servings of fruit and veggies you’ve eaten that day. But these days people are much more likely to get computerized assistance.

Websites like sparkpeople.com, myfooddiary.com and fitday.com offer users much more than a tracking mechanism. You’ll find a plethora of information and tools such as recipe nutrient analysis, exercise tracking, progress charting, tailored meal plans, goal setting and sometimes an online support community.

Many of these tools are free, though for additional perks like online coaching or consultations and support from a site’s registered dietitians, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee. (MyFoodDiary runs about $9 a month after a free trial week, and a SparkCoach costs the same, while around-the-clock online support and consultation with an actual registered dietitian on FitDay costs about $95/month.)

If you’re looking for a good-quality, free site that’s loaded with tools – but no coaching – check out the USDA’s SuperTracker site (supertracker.usda.gov).

Don’t want to be tied to your computer? Mobile apps are popular food tracking tools because they’re convenient, and many are free, too (though you’ll often be subject to in-app ads and upgrade prompts).

When Gorham resident Susan Graham-Rent noticed friends and family were using diet diaries and successfully losing weight, she started tracking her food and exercise on a phone app. She credits the LoseIt! (loseit.com) app with helping her reach her target weight several years ago, and she is going back to it now after noticing the scale inching upward following a broken leg and some health issues.

“My original goal with the app was to become accountable for my consumption and lose weight. It helped me to do that,” Graham-Rent said.

Using a food tracking app also is handy for giving yourself a diet checkup, especially if you feel you’re getting off track, dietitian Baker-Joyce said.

Despite the convenience of online and mobile food diet tracking options, people still face challenges using them. Entering foods into a daily diary can be tedious (it can be hard to find specific foods in the databases, for example, and entering information for a home-cooked recipe can be tricky).

Some apps now allow users to scan a food label’s barcode, which can make finding that food in the database easier, but this is handy mostly for more processed foods purchased at the market.

Accuracy can be problematic, too – your own and the database’s. People tend to make mistakes when estimating portion sizes they’ve consumed, so their daily food tally can be way off.

Errors are especially obvious in databases where users contribute information. Does your “one bowl” size match my bowls at home? Sometimes, they are overly optimistic, like saying 1 cup of homemade mac ‘n’ cheese – with hamburger added – contained just 250 calories.

What about eating out? Most apps are populated with information from typical chain and fast food restaurants, which is fine if you eat at those places, Graham-Rent says, “but not if you’re hitting up one of Portland’s wonderful restaurants.” In those situations, you may want to select simply prepared foods and do your best to estimate portion sizes when you enter items into the app.

Some people find that tracking their food intake in any way leads them to become focused on food in a way that feels obsessive and unpleasant. “I caution people about this,” Baker-Joyce said. But for many people, food journaling – on paper, a website or a smartphone – can provide a better awareness of food intake and a place from which to start making positive changes.

No matter how you decide to track your diet, Baker-Joyce says a consult with a registered dietitian can be useful if you have specific nutrition or health goals.

Kitty Broihier has been a registered, licensed dietitian for over 25 years. She holds a master’s degree in nutrition communications from Boston University and runs her consulting company, NutriComm Inc., from South Portland.

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This Mother’s Day, consider an especially delicious roast bird http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/this-mothers-day-consider-an-especially-delicious-roast-bird/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/this-mothers-day-consider-an-especially-delicious-roast-bird/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=863915 Ever since my parents came to England in 1972, my mum has had a wild love affair with roast chicken.

The only thing she loves even more is her family and unfortunately for her, my dad is a vegetarian. So for 41 years now, her opportunities to turn the oven on, throw caution to the wind and put a beautiful bird in to roast have been limited. She’s simply too loving a wife to torment my dad like that.

That’s why every Mother’s Day, there is only one thing that we will cook: tandoori roast chicken. But this isn’t just any old roast chicken; it is one worthy of a feast. It has all the merits of a normal roast chicken, flavorful crispy skin, butter-soft meat and largely fuss-free prep, but it is much more elegant and celebratory.

The chicken is made tender with a marinade of yogurt and lemon juice, then enlivened with earthy cumin, garam masala, ginger and garlic. Once the ingredients have been blended into a paste, all that’s needed is a quick rub down and rest (the chicken, not you) before it goes into the oven, leaving you free and out of the kitchen.

It’s the only time of the year we force our father into the kitchen to help with the sides (supervised, of course). But given that there are plentiful greens around this time of year, they are quick and easy, too. We love to serve this with spring’s finest asparagus, peas and spinach, a little lime pickle, toasted naan bread and some crisp white wine.

All of this fuss-free cooking allows us more time for a relaxing family lunch together. Until we need to tackle the washing up, that is.

TANDOORI ROAST CHICKEN

You will need a blender to make the marinade. I like to marinate the chicken first thing in the morning to give it time for the flavors to mingle.

Makes 4 servings

4-pound whole chicken, giblets removed

3 green serrano chilies, roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic

1 thumb-sized piece ginger

1 tablespoon garam masala

1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds

3/4 teaspoon hot paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)

2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

Line a roasting pan with foil, then place the chicken in the center.

Combine all remaining ingredients except the yogurt in a blender, then puree until reduced to a fine paste. Mix in the yogurt. Rub the yogurt mixture over all parts of the chicken, then refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 350 F.

Roast the chicken, not covered, on the oven’s middle shelf for 40 minutes. Baste the chicken with any juices in the pan, then lightly cover with foil.

Roast for another 40 minutes, or until the meat reaches 170 F at the thigh and 165 F at the breast. Remove the chicken from the oven, leaving it covered, and set aside to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

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Maine chef wins the opportunity to create a three-part Web series http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/maine-chef-wins-the-opportunity-to-create-a-three-part-web-series/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/maine-chef-wins-the-opportunity-to-create-a-three-part-web-series/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 23:44:26 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/03/maine-chef-wins-the-opportunity-to-create-a-three-part-web-series/ Erin French, chef/owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, has won second place in a cooking challenge sponsored by American Public Television. Her $250 prize will be used to fund a three-part Web series to air on CreateTV.com this summer.

The Create Cooking Challenge received hundreds of entries that were judged on culinary knowledge, ability to present ideas clearly, telegenic appeal and presentation. The finalists were chosen by Chris Kimball of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country; Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table; Jacques Pépin; Sara Moulton; Chef Irie (“Taste the Islands With Chef Irie”); and Cynthia Fenneman, president of American Public Television.

French and the other contestants submitted two-minute videos showcasing a particular recipe for the judges. The grand prize winner was Jaime Isobe of Brooklyn, N.Y., who illustrated multiple ways to serve braised beef shanks, including over pasta and in tacos. He received $1,000 to finance a 10-episode Web series for CreateTV.com.

French’s entry, which can still be viewed online, was titled “The Sweet Life in Maine: Making baked beans and enjoying maple season.”

“Loved her stove and her kitchen and she is very personable/charming,” Kimball commented. Pepin called French “very telegenic.”

French’s 40-seat restaurant, located in an old grist mill, has won raves from critics and food magazines, which makes getting reservations a challenge. French was a semi-finalist for a James Beard Award this year in the category Best Chef: Northeast, and plans to publish a cookbook featuring recipes from her restaurant next spring.

Amy Gulino Kayne, a private chef who lives in Portland, also entered the contest and was one of 16 other winners singled out by the judges, although there was no prize money involved. Her video featured a roasted cauliflower bite with tahini sauce and dehydrated onion dust.

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