The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Food Mon, 29 Aug 2016 23:33:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Scratch Baking Co. to close for a week while it opens its new bakery Mon, 29 Aug 2016 16:39:20 +0000 Scratch Baking Co. in South Portland will close Sept. 6-12 so that it can move its bagel- and bread-making operations out of Willard Square and into the former Getty station on the corner of Sawyer Street and Broadway.

Scratch Baking Co.'s Willard Square store in South Portland will close for a week starting Sept 6. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Scratch Baking Co.’s Willard Square store in South Portland will close for a week starting Sept 6. John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

The Willard Square site will reopen Sept. 13, according to a notice posted for customers. While baking will be underway on Broadway, the “toast bar” where customers can purchase bagels to take away, or enjoy toast and bagels with a variety of toppings, will open in late fall.

Sonja Swanberg, co-owner of Scratch, announced in April that the bakery was expanding, an effort to provide some relief to customers tired of standing in long lines or frustrated by how early Scratch’s popular bagels sell out. Most mornings, customers arriving after 10 a.m. are left holding an empty bagel bag. Swanberg told the Press Herald in April that the new facility will produce at least 25 percent more bagels per day.

Nothing will change at the Willard Square location other than the baking of bread and bagels being moved off site.

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Esquire magazine names Portland among the 5 best cities for pizza Thu, 25 Aug 2016 18:57:54 +0000 Where can you get the best pizza in America? Esquire magazine has just put out a list and proud as we are of our city’s ability to punch above its weight when it comes to dining, still we are surprised to find Portland, Maine, in there with some of the nation’s pizza heavy hitters – New York; San Francisco; New Haven, Connecticut; and Providence, Rhode Island.

The magazine noted that Portland pizza “has been redefined by some truly gourmet options,” singling out for praise the pizza at Otto, Micucci Grocery and Slab.

Wondering who made The Worst list? Philadelphia and, surprisingly, Chicago, to name two.

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Where to dine with your dog in Greater Portland Thu, 25 Aug 2016 15:37:10 +0000 0, 26 Aug 2016 22:59:51 +0000 ‘The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East,’ may be a struggle in American kitchens Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.” By Chetna Makan. Photographs by Nassima Rothacker. Mitchell Beazley. $29.99

Never have I felt the truth of George Bernard Shaw’s witticism that England and America are “two countries divided by a common language” so forcefully as I did when baking from Chetna Makan’s new cookbook, “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”

Weighing ingredients was not the problem – I own a digital kitchen scale that records both ounces and grams so I can navigate amounts outside of the American cup system. I could also work out relatively quickly that their “plain flour” is our “all-purpose flour,” that “bicarbonate of soda” is “baking soda” and “double cream” is “heavy cream.”

A few minutes of internet sleuthing taught me that I could substitute granulated sugar for caster sugar (though some disagreement exists about whether or not it needs to be whizzed in the food processor first to make it finer) and that we Americans have no real substitute for golden caster sugar so I’d have to settle for more granulated sugar. I also knew “digestive biscuits” as one of those charmingly English unembellished cookies.

But was “plain dark chocolate” our semi-sweet or unsweetened? Did their “dessicated coconut” contain sugar? Why did so few recipes call for either salt or vanilla extract? And how the heck did the 2-pound loaf tin called for to make Black Sesame and Lime Cake relate to my own American standard 9 x 5-inch pan?

I was already scratching my head in puzzlement and frustration, wondering if I could ever bake the many intriguing pies, cakes and loaves in “The Cardamom Trail” that the stunning photographs had me lusting for, when I flipped the page to Raspberry Biscuits with Coriander Lemon Curd; the utterly alien “freeze-dried raspberry powder” lurking in the ingredients list stopped me cold.

I am an experienced home baker. So despite the language obstacles – the book was put out by a division of the British firm Octopus Publishing Group – I refused to be daunted.

“The Cardamom Trail” is the second of three cookbooks that have crossed my desk recently, all of them on the same theme – infusing Western-style baked goods with exotic spices, in other words pushing the baking envelope beyond cinnamon.

I reviewed “The New Sugar & Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking in June and will review the last in the trio this fall. “The Cardamom Trail” author Chetna Makan, Indian by birth, English by current residency, was a semifinalist in the popular British show “The Great British Bake Off.” This is her first book.

In it, she ranges from savory to sweet, from clearly Western cakes (though with Indian touches) such as Mango, Cardamom and Coconut Cake to clearly Indian foods, such as Spinach Pakoras and Rajma Paratha.

She sprinkles the book with practical information on the exotic spices in her baking arsenal, including tamarind, fenugreek and coriander. When it comes to our ubiquitous cinnamon, she brings an outsider’s perspective: “To the British, cinnamon is the quintessential sweet spice and most people have a jar of ground cinnamon in the cupboard for baking. I did not know of it until I moved to the UK. In India, my mother used whole cinnamon sticks, and only for savoury dishes.”

I tested three recipes from “The Cardamom Trail.” Each had its own translation challenges, yet I was really pleased with all three outcomes. Lychee Cake was moist, tender, floral and surprising. Black Sesame and Lime Cake had an equally lovely tender texture, and the attractive black sesame seeds that flecked the cake also gave it an appealing slight crunch.

Curry Onion Tart – imagine a quiche traveling to India and reinventing itself – was truly delicious with layered complex flavors, make that flavours.

I had specifically selected these three recipes because the language barrier in the directions and ingredients felt lower than with other recipes in “The Cardamom Trail.” Nonetheless, with each one, I had to wing it at times, adding extra cream, guessing at pan sizes, ignoring my misgivings about mixing methods.

I intend to take up Makan’s challenge – “experiment as I do and give your favourite bakes a new edge.”

But until the publisher translates this book to “American,” I would recommend it to only the most confident of American bakers.


This recipe comes from “The Cardamom Trail: Chetna Bakes with Flavours of the East.”

I wouldn’t have thought to put together lychees and caramel, but the combination turns out to be delectable.

Depending on the season, you can sometimes find fresh lychees at Veranda Asian Market.

Serves 10-12

400g (14 oz.) canned lychees

200g (7 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

150g (5 1/2 oz.) caster sugar, plus 4 tablespoons

4 large eggs

150g (5 1/2 oz.) self-raising flour

50g (1 3/4 oz.) ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder


100g (3 1/2 oz.) caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

40g (1 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, diced

4 tablespoons double cream


300ml (1/2 pint) double cream

200g (7 oz.) canned lychees (drained weight) or fresh peeled and pitted lychees, halved

Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F), Gas Mark 4. Grease 2 x 20 cm (8in) cake tins and line them with nonstick baking paper.

To make the cake, drain the canned lychees, reserving the syrup, then chop the fruit into small pieces and set aside. Cream the butter and the 150g (51/2 oz) sugar together with an electric whisk or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients and beat for 1 minute until thoroughly combined.

Fold the chopped lychees into the cake batter, then pour the mixture equally into the prepared tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centres of the cakes comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the reserved syrup from the lychees and add the remaining 4 tablespoons caster sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer until the volume of the liquid has reduced by half.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

When both the cakes and syrup are cool, brush the syrup over the cakes.

To make the caramel sauce, combine the caster sugar and measured water in a small saucepan and cook for 5-6 minutes until the mixture turns into a golden-brown caramel.

Stir in the butter and cook for another couple of minutes. Now slowly add the cream, stirring continuously.

Cook for a further 3 minutes, then set aside to cool.

To prepare the decoration, whisk the double cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cooled caramel sauce and fold it in.

To assemble, place the cake on a serving plate and spread half the flavoured cream on it. Sit the second cake over the cream and spread the remainder of the flavoured cream on top.

Decorate with the lychees and drizzle with some of the remaining caramel sauce.

This cake will keep, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Let it sit at room temperature before serving.

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The Maine Ingredient: What’s not to like about chowder and biscuits? Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I hope you’ll forgive me if I run a chowder recipe every so often. Since writing “Chowderland” (Storey Publishing, 2015), my chowder repertoire has expanded, and I make it more often than ever. It’s especially nice to have discovered or developed several summery chowders that showcase vegetables at the height of their season. This squash chowder is a case in point. An especially suitable accompaniment is Crisp Salt and Pepper Biscuits.


When your garden or farmers market overfloweth with summer squash – whether it be yellow crookneck or green or yellow zucchini or patty pan – make a pot of this quick, scrumptious chowder. Also included in this brew are late-summer long skinny peppers known as Italian frying or Cubanelle, and thin-skinned new potatoes. A handful of cheese enriches the soup and adds pretty color.

Makes 4 to 5 servings

4 ounces bacon, cut into ½-inch dice (about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons butter, plus more if necessary

1 large onion, sliced

1 red, green, or yellow Italian frying pepper (also called Cubanelle), chopped

2 tablespoons flour

1 (32-ounce) box shelf-stable chicken broth

2 cups half-and-half

1 pound red- or yellow-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, halved, and sliced (about 3 cups)

½ teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

1 pound summer squash (any type) cut into ½- to 3/4-inch slices or chunks (about 3 cups)

1½ tablespoons chopped thyme leaves

1½ tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Liquid hot pepper sauce

Cook the bacon 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. You should have about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot. Pour off any excess; if not enough fat, make up the difference with extra butter.

Add the 2 tablespoons butter and cook the onion over medium heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add flour and whisk until thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and half-and-half and whisk over high heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Add the potatoes and salt and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the squash, thyme and tarragon and continue to cook until the potatoes and squash are both very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the chowder from the heat and stir in the cheese. Return the bacon bits to the chowder and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the chowder sit at cool room temperature for at least an hour or, better yet, refrigerate overnight.

Reheat over low heat and ladle into bowls. Pass the hot sauce at the table.


Not your fluffy mile-high biscuits, these are designed to be less than an inch tall, with a crisp bite akin to a cracker. Black pepper adds a subtle kick and a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt is a lovely final fillip. There are several types of flaky sea salt, including Maldon salt, produced in England, which has soft flakes and is beloved by chefs for its pure flavor, absence of bitterness, and extreme saltiness.

Makes about 16 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in chunks

3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, cut in chunks

¾ cup cold whole milk, plus about 1 tablespoon for brushing biscuit tops

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a food processor, combine flour, salt, pepper, baking powder and sugar and pulse to blend. Distribute chunks of butter and shortening over the flour and pulse 8 to 10 times, until most of the shortening is about the size of peas. Slowly pour the ¾ cup of milk through the feed tube, pulsing until the dough begins to clump together. (To make by hand, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening and use your fingers to rub the mixture together until most of the shortening is the size of peas. Add the milk all at once and stir with a fork to make a soft dough.)

Turn out onto a lightly floured board, gather into a ball, and knead 5 to 10 times until smooth. Roll to a scant ½-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch cutter or a floured glass, cut biscuits and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Reroll and cut the scraps once. (Biscuits can be shaped up to 3 hours ahead. Refrigerate, loosely covered.)

Brush tops with the remaining 1 tablespoon milk and sprinkle with the sea salt. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until pale golden and risen. Serve hot or warm. (Can be made a few hours ahead. If making ahead, under bake slightly and reheat in a 400-degree oven for 5 minutes.)

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks. She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

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With watermelon and basil, peach and prosecco – soup’s on Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Hot soup is the quintessential comfort food, but there’s nothing more welcoming than a bowl of chilled soup during scorching summer days.

Cold soups combine a wealth of fresh, seasonal ingredients and flavors in a quick, no-fuss, simple meal.

“Soup is a four-season food that isn’t meant just for the cold days when you want to be cozy but also for the summer when you want something refreshing and easy and don’t want to turn on the stove,” says Julie Peacock, co-author of “The Soup Club Cookbook.” It’s a good genre of food – it’s an easy meal and way of combining lots of flavors in a bowl, she adds.

When we think of chilled soups the first thing that usually comes to mind is the renowned Spanish gazpacho – the uncooked tomato-based soup with raw cucumbers, peppers and onion. Despite the extra chopping involved, Peacock favors the concoction because the end result packs a bold, chunky bite of savory summer flavors.

Trendier variations have expanded the cold soup menu in recent times. There are savory purees including the classic vichyssoise crafted by Chef Louis Diat at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York in the early 20th century. Sassy, textured raw vegetable creations are on the list, while cooked then chilled soups are always a convenient option. And then there are the semi-sweet fruit purees and raw fruit-based soups served as desserts.

Cold soups are supposed to excite your appetite, not satiate your hunger, and therefore are served primarily as starters or accompaniments. Occasionally they can be the main attraction of the meal. “They are also a nice finisher and palate cleanser and can act as a digestif at the end of a meal,” Peacock says.

You can make a plethora of things with chilled soups, yet, to a novice it can still be a surprising sensation when tasting a cold soup, especially given the texture and fresh, uncooked ingredients, says Mikhail Istomin, marketing director at the Uzbek restaurant Kavsar in Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington.

The rule of thumb for cold soups is fresh ingredients, he says. Fresh kefir (liquid) and yogurt also are important when making milk-based broths, he says. Peacock stresses the importance of seasonal and high-quality ingredients when whipping up chilled soups. Moreover, it’s key to use citrus to bring that next level of zing, and be liberal with fresh herbs for that extra brightness. Add plenty of seasoning and don’t forget to factor in the time to chill the soup and allow the flavors to mingle, she says.

When it comes to combinations, there’s a world of possibilities. Peacock opts to combine vegetables and herbs such as cucumber and yogurt, tomato, basil and parsley; avocado, arugula and cilantro; or melon and mint. You can always turn your salad into soup with a mix of lettuces and herbs, thicken the puree with yogurt and top it with a colorful salsa. Combine sweet melons with vegetables and brighten the flavor with splashes of lime or lemon juice. Spike peaches with prosecco and cool mint or drown crimson berries in a pool of red wine. For a vegan approach, try a blend of bread, almonds, garlic, vinegar, water and olive oil.

Countries around the world embrace the cold soup tradition. Ukraine is proud of its sorrel soup, Russia is famous for its beet borsch, while Uzbekistan revels in its okroshka, a traditional mixture of raw vegetables served in a milk-based, tangy cold broth. It can be vegetarian or speckled with chunks of beef for a meaty version. In Pittsburgh, chef Tahmina Umaralieva of Kavsar serves an authentic family recipe of okroshka.

But regardless of country, technique or type of soup, plenty of seasoning is vital as cold soups tend to showcase a dull edge with flavors lessening in the cold, Peacock says. Amp up the taste of soups with a wide array of garnishes; top them with tangy vegetables, hard-cooked eggs, dollops of sour cream and seafood. Sprinkle purees with herbs such as mint, basil or dill, add a dash of citrus and toss in some toasted nuts. For a brave punch, finish the dish with a pinch of red pepper flakes.

You might want to avoid loads of animal fat or butter in cold soups as they tend to envelop your mouth in an unpleasant way.

Don’t be intimidated to make cold soups. “If you can make a margarita you can make a cold soup,” Peacock says. At the very least, get out of your comfort zone and try chilled soups. It will be a challenge, but you will be pleasantly surprised, Istomin adds.


I love watermelon, so having the watery fruit be the star of this soup was right up my alley. Although it’s called a gazpacho, the tomato shines faintly in the background leaving center stage for the watermelon.

Makes 6 servings

1 (5-pound) seedless watermelon, rind removed and flesh chopped (6 cups)

1 medium heirloom tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 limes

3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a blender or food processor, combine watermelon, tomato and olive oil. Zest one lime and squeeze juice; add zest and juice to the blender and puree until mixture is smooth. Pour soup into a large bowl and stir in the basil, mint, salt and pepper. Chill soup for at least 3 hours before serving.

To serve, pour soup into chilled bowls. Cut remaining lime into wedges and use to garnish the bowls.

Served cold or hot, this Ukrainian Sorrel Soup is a treat.   Dan Cizmas/Tribune News Service

Served cold or hot, this Ukrainian Sorrel Soup is a treat. Dan Cizmas/Tribune News Service


This recipe calls for sorrel, an herb that looks like arugula but has a somewhat sour taste. As I could not find it, I used baby spinach and added a few extra tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Although it’s called Ukranian Sorrel Soup, this soup is actually very popular in my native Romania, too. It can be served cold but it tastes just as delicious hot.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 pound fresh sorrel leaves, stemmed

1 bunch scallions, white parts and 4 inches of green tops, sliced

6 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock, or purchased stock

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 large egg yolks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 to 4 diced hard-cooked eggs, for garnish

1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, for garnish

Heat butter in a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Add sorrel and scallions and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until the sorrel wilts. Add stock and tarragon and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir sugar and lemon juice into the soup.

Beat egg yolks in a mixing bowl with a whisk until thick and light yellow in color. Slowly beat about 1 cup of the hot soup into the egg yolks so they are gradually warmed up, and then return the egg and soup mixture to the pot. Place pot over medium-low heat, and stir constantly, reaching all parts of the bottom of the pot, until mixture reaches about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. At this point it will begin to steam and thicken slightly. Do not allow mixture to boil or the eggs will scramble. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate soup until cold, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Adjust seasoning if necessary. To serve, ladle into bowls, topping each serving with diced eggs, sour cream and dill.

Note: The soup can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered. Stir well before serving.

Chilled Minted Peach and Prosecco Soup

Chilled Minted Peach and Prosecco Soup


Pleasantly fruity and sweet with a boozy punch of prosecco, this dessert is a palate cleanser. I loved every spoonful.

Makes 4 servings

2 pounds fresh peaches, peeled and pitted

11/2 cups dry prosecco

1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons agave syrup, plus extra if needed

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus extra if needed

4 sprigs mint

Chop peaches and put them in a 4-quart saucepan with prosecco. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until peaches are breaking down, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in mint and let cool.

In a blender or food processor, puree peaches with milk, agave syrup and lemon juice.

Refrigerate soup up to 4 days. Taste and adjust lemon juice or agave. Serve in bowls with mint sprigs.

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Fino and Manzanilla sherry are some of the finest, most beautiful wines in the world Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Editor’s Note: After five years on the job, Joe Appel will write his last weekly Portland Press Herald wine column on Sept. 7. We’ll miss his lyrical, provocative, funny and challenging column, and we wish him luck with other ventures.

I’m wondering how to bring this column, which I often think of as one contiguous conversation, to a fitting close. My last column will run in two weeks. But there is always something more to talk about.

Let’s spend our remaining time together exploring a couple of wine categories that in one way or another bend our conception of what wine is. They plead with us to develop a more flexible, open appreciation for what it can do. The most important thing wine does is show us it can always do more.

If we let it.

I used to study yoga with a teacher who taught pranayama, the practice of working with the breath to adjust and administer energy. A fellow student asked whether practicing the techniques presented any physical or physiological risks.

“None at all,” came my teacher’s answer, “since you’re not going to do it.” The implication was that the deeper, more central components of yoga practice consistently lose out to the aerobicized physical stretching regimens that have taken the modern middle class by storm.

So it is with fino and manzanilla, the dry fortified wines of Jerez-Sherry-Xérès and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, respectively. These are some of the finest, most intricate, most expressive, most beautiful wines in the world. They make most non-sherry wines seem jokey and insignificant by comparison. But you’re not going to do it. But you should. But you’re not going to. But there’s very little risk. Really.

Let’s do it together, beginning with the first impressions we’re likely to encounter upon taking a sip.

Fino and manzanilla are dry wines that are truly dry. It is rare – very, very rare – to find an unfortified wine, white or red, that inhabits the same universe of dryness as fino and manzanilla.

Conventional wines, even the ones that are fermented completely and are not overtly sweet, usually contain 1-3 grams of sugar per liter. This sweetness is directly related to the pleasure they provide, which depends upon the interplay between fruit and their other components. Dry sherry is made from grapes, usually palomino, but the action rarely has anything to do with fruit. That’s the first shock of it.

For fino and manzanilla, the lightest, freshest and driest of sherries, the next shock is that what substitutes for fruitiness is not the earthiness of other fortified wines such as Madeira or tawny Port, but oceanic salinity. Oyster shell, iodine, sea grass, brine and kelp are some of the most common tasting-note analogies.

Simplistically, pinot grigio is fruit plus acid, Bordeaux is fruit plus earth, Rhône is fruit plus spice. Fino and manzanilla are just the vast, broad sea.

That and yeast. Yeast plays a more crucial role in sherry’s upbringing than in any other wine, and dominates the taste sensations centrally. In the Jerez region of Andalucià, Spain, yeasts are permitted to grow into vast, complex colonies known as flor. Without flor, there is no fino or manzanilla.

Flor develops differently in each particular bodega (sherry winery), forming a thick “velo,” or veil, that protects the aging wine from oxidation as it consumes vast amounts of grape sugar.

The yeasty, sometimes sourdough-like tang in these “biologically aged” sherries is a direct sensory link to the action of the living yeast colonies upon the finished wine. Four distinct races of Saccharomyces yeasts can make up flor, but each bodega’s – and even each barrel’s – particular make-up is unique.

The biological aging to which fino and manzanilla are subjected also strips the wines of glycerol. This is why beyond the unique taste sensation of the wines, the mouthfeel is so shockingly pared down, naked and austere.

Any softness in the wines is merely hinted at, and the pinpoint tang of fortification – a bitter, piercing zip of alcohol – works as a sort of substitute for non-sherry wines’ acidity.

After the aging comes the “solera” system of fractional blending, in which multiple vintages are periodically moved to different barrels and different locations within the bodega.

The barrels are arranged in various groups called “criaderas,” or scales, each of which contains wine of a different age. As wine is removed from one scale – laws stipulate the maximum that can be drawn off each year – new wine is introduced.

Bottles are filled from the barrels closest to the ground in the oldest scale, which is called, somewhat confusingly, the solera.

Through years of moving through the solera system, the wines gain layers of complexity, juxtaposing and integrating the freshness and vibrancy of youth with the maturity and placidity of age.

A well-known wine importer has chosen as his motto, “Place over process,” a sentiment followed or at least appreciated by just about everyone professing to be serious about wine. Yet with sherry, it is the unique winemaking process that sets the wines apart.

Sherry is a blended wine, but the blend is of time rather than geographic location. Its motto may as well be, “Process in place.”

The Jerez region’s blindingly white chalky soil, the hot, arid home to very old and often pre-phylloxera vines of palomino grapes, brings the wines a certain sort of character. But it is the way a particular flor develops, the varying temperatures of different locations in each bodega, the nature of the barrels and the way a given producer blends together different wines through the solera system that determines the ultimate distinctive thumbprint of each wine.

In this way, sherry is the whiskey, rye or bourbon of wines.

All of this is a bare, summative gloss on how special sherry is. I haven’t even distinguished between fino and manzanilla, which are made similarly but in different locations that express slightly different categorical personalities. (Generally, manzanilla is somewhat lighter, more saline, less nutty, more delicate.)

Anyone interested in more practical information is directed to, and the extraordinary book “Sherry, Manzanilla and Montilla” by Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín. My approach today is a Hail Mary to just get you to try these wines, by evoking the different-ness of its world. One last way I’ll attempt to increase my odds is to talk about sherry with food.

Fino and manzanilla are not the world’s most versatile wines with food, but the matings that are successful have no equal, indeed are some of the greatest food/wine pairings that exist. They are so sophisticated, yet their sophistication is rooted in a celebration of snacking.

Fino or manzanilla with lightly brined green olives, hard sheep cheeses, some fresh goat cheeses, cured ham, oysters, boquerones (marinated anchovies), Marcona almonds pan-roasted in olive oil and salt, tomato salads (especially the peerless Spanish tapa pan con tomate), marinated vegetables – these are all Hall of Fame matches.

Foods that present insurmountable challenges to most wines – dishes with strong vinegar components, artichokes, asparagus – are set at ease by these sherries’ lack of glycerin and volatile acidity. Sushi and fried fish are brilliant as well.

Treat these fresh, delicate wines with care. Once they are opened, consume bottles within two or three days, unlike oxidatively aged sherries (olorosos, creams) which are stable for months. (That open bottle of Tio Pepe fino in your bar set-up was initially excellent, but by now has nothing of value to offer.)

Moreover, finos and manzanillas are at their best within 12 to 18 months of bottling, and degrade relatively quickly thereafter. Some sherries now list bottling date, which is helpful; otherwise, you should gently ask your shopkeeper or bartender how long the bottle has been on the premises. (Unfortunately, it’s harder to find out how long the distributor was sitting on it before it got there.) I’ve found the wines to remain more-than-decent after that year-plus, but you won’t be getting their best.

Luckily for us, very little mediocre fino and manzanilla is even produced these days, much less exported to the United States. I am especially taken with the Bodegas Yuste “Aurora” Manzanilla ($17, 500ml), a silky balance of fresh apple, seawater and toasted almond.

The well-known “La Guita” Manzanilla ($16, 750ml; $9, 375ml) is lovely as well, with greener notes (apple, olive) and a slightly creamier texture.

For finos, I keep returning to the Emilio Hidalgo ($16, 750ml), which almost is Serrano ham, at once salty, robust, subtly smoky, lightly fatted, with the hint of a sweetness that departed long ago.

The Lustau Jarana Fino ($18, 750ml) is balanced and nut-flecked, with surprising length.

Dios Baco produces a range of sherries that lean toward the rich, aromatic and full-figured, and even their Fino ($25, 750ml ) and Manzanilla ($14, 500ml) fit that mold, their salty and floral aspects rather bold and satiny.

These are important wines. They are not oddities or gimmicks, though they might seem somewhat strange to a palate trained toward a limited set of expectations.

Their strangeness, actually, is a big part of why they are important. And yet their power is how natural and common their strangeness starts to seem, once you make them a regular part of your life. You won’t do it – unless you will.

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

]]> 1 Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:13:03 +0000
Edible Acadia: Chefs make massive cake to celebrate the centennial of Maine’s national park Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Mount Desert Island took 500 million years to make. The ingredients that formed it include molten rock, glacial ice and the natural forces of uplift and erosion.

Ryan Phillips’ version has taken about two weeks. His island is made of 30 vanilla sheet cakes, Rice Krispies, 50 pounds of buttercream frosting and 40 pounds of fondant.

Phillips, executive chef of Bar Harbor Resorts, and his pastry team have been hard at work – during the busiest part of the tourist season – creating an edible version of the island to celebrate Acadia National Park’s 100 birthday.

The 8-foot by 4-foot creation, being billed as “Bar Harbor’s biggest cake,” will be cut Thursday evening at a private gathering for guests of several Bar Harbor Resorts properties – Harborside Hotel, West Street Hotel, The Bar Harbor Regency and the Bar Harbor Club.

A chef works on details for a giant cake celebrating Acadia National Park's 100th anniversary. Photo by Mike Perlman

A chef works on details for a giant cake celebrating Acadia National Park’s 100th anniversary. Photo by Mike Perlman

A naturalist and Acadia park rangers will be on hand to talk about the park with kids.

“We really wanted to be part of the whole park celebration. That’s the whole reason people come up here,” Phillips said. “We wanted to be part of the community and do something to acknowledge the 100 anniversary.”

Designing the cake, he said, has been a “learning experience.” Neither he nor his staff had ever before made something so big.

“We do all sorts of different desserts, but it’s usually in the other direction,” he said. “Everything has shrunken down nowadays into a small scale. That’s what everyone wants – desserts shrunken down into one or two bites.

Not only will the island cake include landmarks such as lakes and ponds, the town of Bar Harbor, and of course Acadia National Park, it will show the actual geographic elevations of mountains and valleys.

Two layers of vanilla sheet cake will serve as both the base for "Bar Harbor's biggest cake" and as the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Mike Perlman

Two layers of vanilla sheet cake will serve as both the base for “Bar Harbor’s biggest cake” and as the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Mike Perlman

The baking team used topographic maps to figure out just how high Cadillac Mountain and other geographic features should be, then sculpted the hills and valleys out of a Rice Krispies mix that will be covered in fondant.

These elements will be laid upon two layers of vanilla sheet cake that will serve as both a base and as the Atlantic Ocean.

The cake base, baked and frozen last week, was made with 60 pounds of flour, 50 pounds of sugar, 300 eggs and 20 pounds of butter.

“We looked at the project and said, ‘Hey, what can we do that would be something that people would be wowed by?’ ” Phillips said.

Emily Kennedy has been working on sculptured pieces and figurines for two weeks. She has made a whale watch boat, humpback whales, lighthouses, outer islands and puffins.

All the elements will be assembled on Wednesday.

Phillips said finally cutting into his team’s island masterpiece on Thursday will be “gratifying” after all the long hours they’ve spent on the project inbetween making desserts for five restaurants and for summer banquets.

“It will be a relief,” he said.

Correction: A photo caption with this story was revised at 12:04 p.m., Aug. 24, 2016, to correctly spell Zack Brinker’s name.

]]> 0, 24 Aug 2016 12:06:00 +0000
For college-bound kid, Mom’s cooking becomes his own Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I spent the last 15 months attempting to teach my college-bound son to cook, and all I got was a lousy tattoo. Let’s be clear. I didn’t get the tattoo. And my son doesn’t think it’s lousy at all. He considers it an artful, expressive rite of passage for himself and a genuine tribute to me.

It’s a tidy, less-than-life-size outline of my favorite 10-inch chef’s knife. On his ribcage. Pointing to his heart. Don’t get me wrong. I get the sentiment. My first-born has permanently inked his devotion to my home cooking on his torso, after all.

But the basic tenet of my calculated cooking curriculum – which started with steaming, shocking and properly storing vegetables for weeklong-use; was supposed to have sailed through making pizza dough as a party starter; and be capped off with a lesson in cookware versatility with cast iron skillet cornbread – was to give Owen the skills and culinary confidence he’ll need to venture into kitchens unknown. The tattoo is a reminder, every time he takes off his shirt, that he’s still somewhat attached to my apron strings.

Cooking classes, like most of the homework Owen completed during his senior year at Brunswick High School, started off strong, fueled by good intentions. For example, in September, he became expert at using the oven to cook a side of skin-on salmon. He now knows he prefers the mild taste and silky texture of sustainably farmed local salmon to the stronger, less fatty but arguably better-for-you-and-the-earth wild variety from Alaska.

He learned the hard way that lining a half-sheet pan with foil covered in a skim coat of oil, before laying the fish cut-side down onto it, makes the job of flipping the fish once the broiler has bubbled up the skin for easy removal much, much easier. And he’s discovered that leftover salmon is a great breakfast item.

But his time in front of the stove was severely curtailed by soccer in October, the college application process in November, a successful basketball season that included tournament play through late February, and jazz band competitions in March.

The delays, going back to the homework analogy, resulted in panicked cramming in the kitchen starting in April, motivated by the prospect of a University of Chicago housing placement that included cooking facilities, the realization that dining halls aren’t open on Saturday nights, and the reality that Owen doesn’t want to use too much of his limited cash flow on food.

Owen's favorite mac-and-cheese goes into the pan. Joel Page/Staff Photographer

Owen’s favorite mac-and-cheese goes into the pan. Joel Page/Staff Photographer


As with many of the push-pull teaching moments I’ve experienced while parenting teenagers, the cooking lessons that did stick were the ones he actually wanted to learn.

He flat out refused to cook eggs because he doesn’t eat them. When we were whisking oil drop by drop into the mustard, vinegar and shallot that would eventually result in a basic French vinaigrette, he was so exhausted by the process that he asked for a stool. And he was less than gracious about making peanut butter buttercream so he could pull off his sister’s birthday cake if I couldn’t at some future point, because of his firm conviction that there is only one true frosting flavor: straight vanilla.

The skills he willingly mastered he did so because he was hungry for tasty food, copious amounts, mostly meat, acquired as cheaply as possible. Yes, I know, that’s the polar opposite of how sustainable food activist and author Michael Pollan says we should be eating for a better planet. Baby steps.

Owen prefers food writer Mark Bittman’s technique for making whole roasted (local) chicken a weeknight staple to full-on butterflying a bird to accomplish the same hour-long cook time. Bittman simply preheats a cast iron pan in a very hot oven, and severs the skin holding the legs and thighs close to the breasts so that when you place the seasoned chicken into the pan, the dark meat settles onto the surface of the hot pan and gets a jumpstart on cooking so that it’s done at the same time as the normally faster-cooking white meat.

Spatchcocking the chicken by removing its backbone so that it lies flat on a sheet pan means that Owen has to touch the raw bird more intimately than he finds comfortable. That said, he’s more than happy for me to butcher a chicken in this fashion as it produces crispier skin on the thighs, a favorite aspect of his favorite part of the bird.

To go with either roast chicken, Owen practiced making his favorite yellow rice. Sometimes from a Goya or Vigo pouch, sometimes from scratch using real saffron.

Certainly the homemade is better overall because you can taste more than just salt, he concluded. “But at this point in my life, it’s going to come down to price. When you tell me that saffron is the most expensive spice out there, I’m not feeling it,” Owen said.

He’s mastered the method for cooking both, because it’s one and the same: combine ingredients, boil, don’t stir, cover, turn off the heat, wait 20 minutes, fluff and serve. But the price differential for one cup, we calculated, was 39 cents for the processed stuff compared to $1.05 for the saffron-laced variety.

While he accepted that math on the rice front, my showing him how to use chicken bones to make stock that could then be used to flavor any rice dish, and pointing out that he was basically using free garbage to make something that would cost him almost $3 a quart in the store, didn’t add up in his eyes. Doesn’t that dried yellow powder in the rice mix have chicken flavor in it too, he asked. Clearly, my work is not done.


We’re covering tuition, dorm fees and an unlimited meal plan for his freshman year, but Owen’s responsible for buying the books he’ll need for each of the three quarters he’ll take classes running through next June.

So he knows he’s not buying a good steak to cook on his own anytime soon. But he’s also figured out I’m more likely to spring for things like that if there’s a lesson to be learned.

“I think I need to practice my grill marks on a ribeye, Mom,” he said one night in early August. It was a total “aha” moment for me in culinary school when the chef explained that if you place a steak on the grill at an angle pointing to 2 o’clock, wait three minutes, and turn it to 10 o’clock to sit for the same period of time, you get restaurant-quality marks.

Owen rejected my point that he could practice making marks on slices of zucchini, eggplant and summer squash just as easily at much less cost. But he’s rarely hungry for those items. I bought the steak because I am both a sucker and I know he’s not likely to be home for dinner at a regular clip for much longer.

If I had it to do over again, I’d have started my home cooking school 15 years ago. I stand by the lesson plan because I think it strikes a good balance between needing to feed a body, a soul and an extended family.

But I’ve come to understand as well that there needs to be more time built into the schedule for both a little less task-mastering by the teacher and more self-guided culinary exploration by the student.

For his final class, Owen asked to learn how to make my version of baked macaroni and cheese. I, of course, obliged, as it starts with a béchamel, one of the classic mother sauces I was more than honored to pass along to my son, who received it with gusto.

I’m totally OK with him admitting that he cooks out of hunger. If he wants to be reminded of how food can make a nostalgic mark on a person, there’s always the tattoo.

The finished product is perfect for a college freshman – or anyone. Joel Page/Staff Photographer

The finished product is perfect for a college freshman – or anyone. Joel Page/Staff Photographer


Owen has always preferred homemade to the boxed variety. This recipe has evolved to be more flavorful over the years as we’ve mixed and matched cheeses we’ve come to love along the way. Owen likes to make this dish with rigatoni as they are bigger than other dried shaped pasta, like medium shells, elbows, penne or rotini. But any of those other pastas will work just fine, cooked al dente so that the pasta has room to soak up a little cheese sauce.
Serves 6 to 8

1 pound shaped pasta
¼ cup butter plus more for buttering dish
¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
4 cups milk (whole is best but 2% is okay)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces yellow mild cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces Alpine cheese, grated
4 ounces stretchy cheese like Monterey Jack, grated
½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente, 9 to 12 minutes, depending on the pasta type. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the ¼ cup butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep whisking for about 5 minutes to cook out the floury taste. Make sure the mixture is free of lumps. Stir in the milk and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Combine all of the cheeses. Slowly add ¾ of the cheese to the sauce, a handful at a time, stirring after each addition. Season with salt and peppers. Fold the pasta into the mix and pour into prepared casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake the macaroni and cheese for 30 minutes until the cheese on the top has browned a bit and the sauce is bubbling up around the edges. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. She also writes the Green Plate Special column in Source. Contact her at:

]]> 9, 24 Aug 2016 08:52:29 +0000
Big J’s Chicken Shack opens on Thompson’s Point Wed, 24 Aug 2016 00:04:14 +0000 Big J’s Chicken Shack, the latest from Portland restaurateur Jason Loring, will open at 11 a.m. Wednesday on Thompson’s Point in Portland.

The fast casual eatery is at 4 Thompson’s Point Road, next to Bissell Bros. Brewing Co., so customers can order through a window in the brewery’s tap room and at Big J’s itself.

The restaurant will serve three styles of fried chicken: traditional (with a cheddar-chive biscuit and a pickle); Nashville hot – chicken so spicy that it’s served with a rubber glove; and Portland hot, a toned-down version of the Nashville hot. Also on the menu are chicken and waffles, two kinds of chicken sandwiches and sides such as Tijuana street corn, B&M baked beans and mac-and-cheese.

Loring and his business partners already own Nosh Kitchen Bar, Slab and Rhum, all in Portland.

]]> 0 Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:08:10 +0000
Northern Italian-inspired restaurant and wine bar opens in Portland’s West End Tue, 23 Aug 2016 23:55:52 +0000 Rossobianco, a wine bar and restaurant serving northern Italian-inspired food, opened recently in Portland’s West End and will have a grand opening in early September.

The restaurant, at 3 Deering Ave., is a collaboration between David Levi, the owner/chef of Vinland in Portland, and Colleen Callahan, who most recently ran the wine and beer program for Aurora Provisions and will serve as wine director at the new restaurant.

The chef de cuisine is Scott London, a Maine native who attended the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colo., and worked for several years at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder. London has also spent time in Italy interning at restaurants in the Friuli-Venezia Guilia region.

Rossobianco’s grand opening on Sept. 3 will begin at 5 p.m. with Italian bar snacks for $2.50 each. The menu will include arancini (fried risotto balls), fried bluefish with sweet onion, salume, Italian cheeses and fish rillette on toast.

The hours will be 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

]]> 0 Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:07:57 +0000
Despite positive reviews and storied location, Velveteen Habit closes Mon, 22 Aug 2016 19:37:43 +0000 The Velveteen Habit, the Cape Neddick restaurant that took over the 18th-century farmhouse and gardens once owned by Arrows, is up for sale and has apparently closed after just 16 months.

In a statement posted to Facebook, owner Ben Goldman said he had “made the incredibly difficult decision to close our doors.”

“Being such a large project, there were so many moving pieces that had to fall into place for us to ultimately meet our short term goals and subsequent long term aspirations for both the restaurant and the property,” he wrote. “Although many of those pieces have fallen delightfully into place over the last two years, some of those pieces continue to elude us.”

The restaurant and its nearly 4-acre property have been listed for sale for $1.3 million by the Lux Realty Group.

After a rocky start when it opened in April 2015, the restaurant recently seemed to be gaining its footing, garnering good reviews, including four out of five stars from the Maine Sunday Telegram, and national attention.

In April, executive chef Chris Wilcox was invited to cook a “Maine Farmhouse Supper” at the James Beard House in New York City. The restaurant also was featured in Food & Wine’s August issue, which urged readers to try “the outstanding cheese and homemade charcuterie plates,” as well as the shrubs, tart beverages made from heirloom apples grown in the restaurant’s orchard.

Goldman, a sommelier who worked on Wall Street for a decade before becoming a restaurateur, purchased the property in October 2014. He quickly set about renovating the farmhouse and turning it away from the fine dining decor and fancy tasting menus that award-winning Arrows was well known for. The restaurant opened in April 2015.

Goldman wanted a restaurant that was more accessible but still had an edge. He threw pig roasts and Oktoberfests during the shoulder seasons for the locals, but also hosted grand weddings and other private events.

Goldman expanded the famous Arrows gardens, adding honeybees and laying hens, with the goal of growing 85 percent of the restaurant’s produce.

Goldman did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday.

The restaurant’s last dinner service was Sunday. Weddings and other private events that have already been booked for the fall apparently will go on as planned, according to the restaurant’s online statement.


]]> 11, 23 Aug 2016 08:08:10 +0000
Garden herbs that bolt early still have plenty to offer Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Chef, slow food advocate and food writer Deborah Madison waxes poetic in the opening chapter of her “Vegetable Literacy” cookbook about the beautiful flowers a home gardener can enjoy as she looks over her patch of kitchen vegetables and passel of herbs at the season’s end.

In due time, these flowers are all well and good. They signal the point in the plants’ growth cycle when they are ready to produce seeds and ensure future generations of their species. But the abnormally warm and dry weather we are experiencing has many an herb in our area bolting early, leaving cooks and gardeners seemingly unable to experience their flavor for much longer.

No worries, folks. You can still enjoy your bolting herbs. According to Massachusetts-based herbalist Betsy Williams, backyard gardeners can pinch off the flowers from perennial herbs like chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, sage, tarragon and thyme; cut the plants back a bit; and give them a good watering. With that care, they will keep growing.

For annual herbs like basil, cilantro/coriander, dill and fennel, their one and only botanical job is to bear seeds; bolting signals the end of their growth cycle, so you need to use them before you lose them to seed (which really isn’t a loss, anyway, but a head start on next year’s garden if you save them).

Chef Ben Hasty of Thistle Pig in South Berwick uses bolted herbs to make flavored oils for marinating meat and mushrooms. And if the bolted herbs have made it to the seed production part of their life cycle, he uses them fresh to garnish plates of crudo (carefully prepared raw fish and meat dishes) for an interesting look and a pop of flavor.

Hasty also uses them in broths and braises because bolted herbs have the same flavor as non-bolted ones.

For a quick broth that will add great flavor to summertime soups, follow food writer Mark Bittman’s recipe for herb broth. He puts a small handful of rosemary, thyme or sage sprigs (bolted or not), a large handful of parsley sprigs, a few bay leaves, 1 or 2 crushed garlic cloves and a pinch of black peppercorns in a pot with 6 cups of cold water, then brings the pot to barely a simmer, steeps the herbs for 15 minutes off the heat and finally strains the broth before using it.

Williams puts the stems into Garbage Herb Vinegar and uses the flowers (especially those of Thai basil plants) to make flavored brandy by filling a quart mason jar with the blossoms, pouring in a pint of moderately priced brandy, 1½ cups sugar and ½ cup water, twisting on the lid and storing it in a dark, cool place for two to three months before she strains it and saves it for sipping around the holidays.

With the other flowers, she’ll chop them very finely if she has a small number and incorporate them into compound butters for slathering on bread, baked or grilled poultry and fish, and into dressings for both raw or cooked vegetable salads.

For a large number of blossoms, she suggests drying them, spread out on a pan in the sun. She then rubs them together to break them up, puts them in a jar labeled “Flower Power” and shakes them over cooked vegetables all winter long for a burst of summer sunshine.

CHRISTINE BURNS RUDALEVIGE is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at:

]]> 0, 19 Aug 2016 13:34:33 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Somerset Tap House serves perfectly average fare Sun, 21 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 At Somerset Tap House, there is no chef. Instead, you’ll find a restaurant overseen by a Whole Foods Market “Team Leader,” or rather, several Team Leaders, whose collective goal, I learned after speaking with two of them, is to deliver “great product” in “a new full-service concept.” So, essentially: good food and table service (with an extra helping of jargon), all inside a restaurant tucked into Portland’s Whole Foods Market.

Once you are inside the semicircular glass-enclosed dining space with its tall, tufted, nailhead benches, mid-century scoop-style bar stools and dropped, wood-paneled platform ceiling, it’s actually possible to forget that you are about to eat a meal inside a 46,000-square-foot retail colossus. The visuals and space planning both conspire to make Somerset Tap House feel like a separate entity with an identity of its own, and that’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, the illusion of separateness is a Potemkin village that doesn’t extend beyond the threshold of the pub. Despite a locked exterior entrance that leads directly into the parking lot, there is currently only one way in and out of the restaurant, and it is through a tangle of supermarket checkout lines. Jeff Gibson, Meat Team Leader and one of the senior Whole Foods staffers who designed the menu at Somerset Tap House, told me that this is not an accident. Officially, the company has concerns about people taking open alcoholic drinks out onto the patio and then through the entrance to the market. But when you consider that supermarket employees and shoppers (especially families) are, according to Gibson, the restaurant’s key target audiences, it makes a particular kind of corporate sense to close off any direct access and instead funnel everyone through the store.

I learned first-hand how powerful this commercial corralling can be when I visited Somerset Tap House with three adults and two elementary-school age children. When we arrived and made the longish walk past the Whole Foods tills, my guests began sketching out details of an unplanned, after-dinner supermarket excursion, improvising a shopping list that hit seven items by the time we arrived at the bar. As our harried server/host/bartender – the only front-of-house staff in the restaurant that evening – told us, “We don’t serve dessert, but the store bakery makes great cookies,” the kids quickly added ice cream, chocolate and some of those cookies to the list. And that is how the cost of our visit nearly doubled before we had even taken a bite.

With so many people at the table, we were able to order a very wide cross-section of dishes, beginning with a few solid starters, like the Bang Bang Cauliflower ($8), deep fried florets of panko, flour and cornstarch-breaded cauliflower with a crunchy exterior and soft, savory interior, served with a local (but not house-made) Schlotterbeck & Foss sweet chili sauce. Or the thick-cut, skin-on Belgian style pub fries ($5), cooked to order and seasoned with rosemary oil and parmesan. Our favorite of the appetizers was the grilled Caesar salad ($7), sprinkled with lots of cracked pepper and a crisp, rustic cornbread crumble. With the extra dimension of flavor from the sweet cornbread and smoky char on the romaine, we (and especially the children) didn’t even miss the anchovies.

We also shared a few less exciting starters, like a dreary hummus plate ($5) where the star of the dish was a mound of crinkle-cut potato chips dusted with outsourced DennyMike’s garlic and paprika-flavored Pixie Dust. Sadly, the hummus they were intended to liven up was a flavorless beige glob. And the oppositely problematic wings ($6 for 6/$10 for 12), made from antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken and prepared in two styles, Sriracha Buffalo (another DennyMike’s seasoning) and salt and pepper. Both varieties arrived still moist inside, but were adventurously overseasoned.

Perhaps most disappointing is that the kitchen’s enthusiasm with the pre-made spice mix is probably the biggest risk Somerset Tap House takes. Indeed, the sandwich list reads like the mathematical average of 100 standard American pub menus. If you asked the statistician Nate Silver to design a hamburger based on national polling, this is what you might get.

That makes perfect sense when you consider that every single plate has been workshopped extensively. According to Gibson, “There are lots of people who are involved in the project. So when you’re an executive chef in your own restaurant, you make your own decisions, whereas here, there are lots of sets of eyes on things to determine if they make sense, they follow the culture of the company, they represent who we are, and they help build the brand.”

With no single person’s creative vision to guide the menu, you wind up with perfectly average sandwiches like the grilled cheese ($7) on Whole Foods Market sourdough and filled with – no surprise – a blend of anonymous cheeses designed not to offend, rather than to delight. Or the lobster roll ($18), a standard mayonnaise and celery salt recipe, made with cryo-vaced lobster that, while local, tasted like it was a few thousand miles away from where it was caught.

The best sandwich we ate was a tofu sandwich ($10), featuring a slice of firm tofu crusted in (pre-made) Drum Rock Fis-Chic batter and fried to exactly the right crisp, golden doneness. Had the bottom bun not dissolved halfway through the meal, thanks to a careless layering of tomato, lettuce and pickles, this would have been a knockout. As it was, it was simply the only sandwich memorable enough to order again.

Other dishes were unfortunately below average, like chewy, flavor-free fish and chips ($16) or the poorly executed Somerset burger ($13) that came to our table blistered black on the outside and cold and raw at its center. Worst of all was a tragically overcooked grilled chicken sandwich ($9), burnt to a cinder and lubricated with chevre before being slid into a Whole Foods Market bakery sesame roll. It was so scorched that it was completely inedible to both the 9-year-old who ordered it and the grown-ups tasked with finishing it.

Fortunately, some excellent local beverages were available to help bolster the adults’ appetites, including a toasty, chocolatey Burnside Brown Ale ($6), and a fruity, very hoppy Wanderlust Farmhouse Ale ($6), both from Portland’s Foundation Brewing Company. Those, plus a few glasses of vibrantly floral Le Charmel rose ($9), made the meal of largely characterless pub grub much more pleasant. When I asked our overtaxed server if the market sold those same beers and wines for people to take home, he told me, “Not everything, because the store has a different alcohol license. But we have a lot of what you ate in the store,” as if our entire meal had been a demonstration of how to cook with Whole Foods groceries.

Later, in both my conversation with Gibson and a casual chat with a Whole Foods cashier on another visit, I heard about the restaurant’s upcoming plans to link Somerset Tap House more tightly with the supermarket’s prepared foods business, a move that promises to distribute menu decisions across an even wider range of senior employees. Consequently, it also seems destined to make the food even more blandly average and dependent on pre-made ingredients and sauces – not to mention very likely to involve at least one more corporate Team Leader, just for good measure.

Burnside Brown Ale is among a rich selection of local brews.

Burnside Brown Ale is among a rich selection of local brews.

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 and on Twitter @AndrewRossME.

]]> 0, 22 Aug 2016 08:02:52 +0000
Beyond bad puns, Bob’s Burgers Burger Book has inventive recipes Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book: Real Recipes for Joke Burgers” by Loren Bouchard, recipes by Cole Bowden. Universe Publishing, $19.95

Fans of the cult animated sitcom “Bob’s Burgers” know to watch the chalkboard behind the fictional burger joint’s lunch counter every episode to catch the burger of the day.

The creations, ostensibly by Bob, the owner of the financially struggling family-run burger joint, is inevitably a cringe-worthy pun – the type that elicits a groan, rather than a chuckle.

Bob’s creations evoke common popular culture tropes like “Hummus a Tune,” “Human Polenta-Pede,” “Baby you can Chive my Car,” “A Leek of their Own,” “The Sound and the Curry,” and “Onion-tended Consequences.”

The writers of the show never intended anyone to actually cook the burgers, but tried to style them in a way that would seem palatable if they showed up on an actual menu. But sometime during its eight-season run, one enterprising fan, Cole Bowden, took it on himself to re-create the joke burgers and post the recipes on his blog,

As these things tend to do, the blog was turned into a book, with recipes from Bowden and original art and writing by show creator Loren Bouchard and the show’s writing staff.

The resulting book, with more than 70 burger recipes, is geared toward fans of the show. It is debatable whether you’d find it in the cooking or humor section of your local bookstore.

But behind its hokey writing, bad jokes and cartoon illustrations are a number of inventive, fun and delicious burgers. The first section of the book describes how to mold and cook a standard burger, and the recipes build from that base. The kaleidescope of toppings and combinations will likely alienate burger purists, but those willing to take a step beyond basic 1/4 pound of ground beef with lettuce, tomato and onion won’t be disappointed.

My wife and I have both spent hours binge-watching “Bob’s Burgers,” so the recipe collection seemed like it would be a nice addition to our kitchen bookcase.

Since we’re both fans of Indian food we went with the Every Breath You Tikka Masala Burger. The standard burger is topped with masala rice and fresh basil, served with a side of spicy potatoes and peppers.

Because there were only two of us, I halved the recipe and decided to use ground beef instead of the suggested lamb.

On its face, the four-part recipe for the meal seems involved and time-consuming (like many of the other recipes in the book) but most of the ingredients are basic. I made the rice and a simple masala sauce out of sautéed onions and garlic simmered with canned plum tomatoes, spices and a healthy dollop of yogurt stirred in to give it creamy body. I stirred some of the sauce in with the rice and cooked four burgers in a cast iron pan on the stove top, then toasted sesame-seeded bus in the same pan.

We constructed each burger with a bun, patty, rice, then fresh basil. We also opted to add sliced red onion and a healthy smear of mayonnaise to bind everything together. The potatoes were parboiled, tossed in a pan with sautéed peppers and roasted in the oven, then combined with the remaining masala sauce.

The result was delicious. The spices in the rice didn’t overpower the perfectly cooked burger, and the basil and red onion added a welcome fresh bite. What’s even better, the rice masala was the right consistency so it didn’t spill out the sides of the bun while we were eating, a problem I had anticipated with the recipe.

The bottom line? “The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book” doesn’t ask to be taken seriously but shouldn’t be ignored as a guidebook to unexpected, quirky burger creations.


Makes 8 burgers

2 cups basmati rice

3 large potatoes, diced

4 sweet peppers, finely diced

1 hot chili pepper, seeded and finely diced

2 tablespoons butter


1 large onion, coarsely diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 (14.5-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon garam masala

1 cup yogurt

2 pounds ground beef or lamb

8 buns

Fresh Thai basil leaves (1 cup)


1. Don’t skip this step. Rinse your rice until the water runs clear, then let it soak in clean water for at least 30 minutes.

2. Bring 31/2 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the rice and stir. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until done (until all the water is absorbed and the rice is moist but not sticking to the pot).


1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Cover the potatoes in a large saucepan with water and season with salt. Bring the potatoes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until tender.

2. In a large oven-proof frying pan, sauté the sweet and hot peppers in 1 tablespoon of butter until the chili pepper heat hits your eyes and your kitchen smells delicious.

3. Drain the potatoes and add them to the pan with the peppers. Sprinkle with a generous amount of paprika and bake for 20-30 minutes (or until the sauce is done and you are ready to eat.)


1. Sauté the onion over medium-high heat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter until translucent. Add the garlic.

2. Add the tomatoes and their juice to the onions and keep the mixture at a simmer. Add in the cumin, curry powder and ginger. Wait for the tomatoes “to sweat” – a fancy cooking term for when they start to release their liquid, you can see the liquid sort of pool up in a lighter color. When this happens, add the salt and garam masala.

3. Let the mixture reduce for about 10 minutes, and then remove from heat. Give it some time to cool.

4. Add the yogurt and mix it up. The yogurt will curdle but you didn’t ruin anything! You’re still a good person and this is totally safe to eat. It just means the yogurt is in contact with the acid, it’s not like curdled milk. Mix enough masala with the rice so that it is saturated but not soupy; reserve remaining masala for the potatoes.


1. Form 8 patties, season both sides with salt and pepper and grill or cook the burgers as you normally would.

2. Toast the buns, then build your burger; bottom buns, burger, masala-rice mixture, basil leaves, top buns.

3. Pour the remaining masala over the potatoes and serve on the side.

]]> 0, 17 Aug 2016 07:53:13 +0000
Doctors throw party to accentuate appeal of Earth-friendly food Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 I’ve been to my fair share of parties, and The Taste for Change was the coolest I ever attended.

While the all-vegan party had many must-haves of a hip soiree, its true coolness came from its low carbon footprint. Held in late July at O’Maine Studios in Portland and hosted by the Maine chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility in conjunction with Delicious TV, the event had the express goal of illustrating how our food choices affect climate change.

Not only was all the food vegan at this sold-out event, but much of it was made from organic or local ingredients and all the waste – including napkins, plates, cups and cutlery – was composted by Garbage to Garden.

As soon as I walked through the open garage doors into the industrial space, I was surrounded by food. One minute I was being handed a slice of Flatbread pizza, the next deciding whether to try a Green Elephant banh mi sandwich or a Terra Cotta Pasta veggie dumpling. Or maybe a Pai Men Miyake futomaki?

Fourteen restaurants and food vendors donated to the event.

“We highlighted vegan food because we know that meat and dairy production plays a large role in contributing to climate change,” said Karen D’Andrea, executive director of the Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine chapter.

Another purpose of the event, she said, was to show party-goers how easy and delicious it can be to add more plant-based meals to their lives.

“You don’t have to go, ‘Today I’m done with meat,’ ” D’Andrea said. “It’s not like giving up smoking.” A gradual or partial approach is fine, she said.

Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine counts 3,000 physicians and health-care professionals as members, and D’Andrea said its membership is all over the map when it comes to their personal eating habits. However, whether vegans, meat-eaters or somewhere in between, D’Andrea said all the organization’s members are interested in lowering the carbon footprint of what they eat.

Not only did the party tempt with seemingly unending vegan hors d’oeuvres, the festivities included three cooking demonstrations in the facility’s media kitchen.

Elizabeth Fraser of the Girl Gone Raw cooking school on Munjoy Hill led the first demo, showing how to make three varieties of nice cream using frozen bananas and a high speed blender (see recipe).

She was followed by Toni Fiore, the host of the Maine-produced PBS cooking show “Vegan Mashup,” who demonstrated how to make a tuna-free salad with artichoke hearts and chickpeas. (Find the recipe in Vegan Kitchen, Press Herald, June 11, 2014.)

Fiore urged audience members to “start shifting to some of these foods,” and she spoke about her deep concern for the state of the oceans and endangered fish like tuna. “Understand what’s happening on land with animal agriculture is seriously impacting our oceans,” Fiore told the crowd of onlookers.

The final cooking demonstration featured Kirsten Scarcelli of Plant IQ showing the crowd how to make Super Easy Beans without any oil; the group advocates a diet with no oil.

“Even though we’re not cooking with oil, it’s not sticking,” Scarcelli told the audience as she sauteed peppers, onions, corn and black beans. She later added that once you switch to cooking without oil “you really don’t miss it.”

The other thing no one missed was the meat.

“The food is excellent and the cause is very important,” Dr. Bruce Taylor told me. “As a physician I’m very concerned about the quality of our food and water.”

Taylor pointed out that climate change enables communicable diseases (and the creatures that spread them) to migrate north and it worsens air pollution, which is highly linked to diseases such as stroke.

“We’re in a vicious cycle with the way we produce food,” Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine board member Dr. Daniel Oppenheim told the crowd. “We need to find ways to eat lower on the food chain.”

The party’s final event was the Climate Cake Contest, judged by yours truly, Portland Press Herald food writer Meredith Goad and Fiore. Three gorgeous vegan cakes were brought out and we had the tough task of deciding whether the chocolate cake from The Cookie Jar, the chocolate peanut butter cake from Ice It Bakery or the lime-Bacardi coconut cake from Love Cupcakes should be awarded top marks.

After much tasting and consulting, we all cast our votes for the Love Cupcakes creation.

As Goad said, “It’s like having a key lime pie in a cake.”

No one complained that the moist and flavorful cakes lacked dairy or eggs. And when the party wrapped up, all that was left were a few crumbs for the compost bin.

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0, 17 Aug 2016 08:53:17 +0000
A new media company wants to bring bolder flavors to America’s kitchens Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 On Sept. 8, Christopher Kimball will begin his nationwide “Culinary Mystery Tour” right here in Portland – a live event intended to help launch his new multimedia food venture, Milk Street Kitchen.

The founder and until last year face of America’s Test Kitchen says the show will be heavily oriented toward the audience, meaning lots of taste tests and Q & A’s, along with whipping egg whites, playing with Jell-O and maybe, Kimball coyly suggests, just maybe, one of the silly costumes he was known to wear on his former “America’s Test Kitchen” TV show. (Remember Carmen Miranda? The bright banana? The giant cut of steak?)

Portland is the smallest city on Kimball’s tour, which will mostly go to big urban centers such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle. So why Portland? Perhaps it’s because Kimball visits here a lot during the summer – he lives in Boston and his in-laws live just north of Portland. He recently tweeted photos of the fish sandwich at Eventide Oyster Co. and of the apricot scone at Standard Baking Co. He’s also eaten at Hugo’s and Central Provisions.

“There are so many places (in Portland) that are wonderful,” Kimball said. The restaurant scene in the city is “actually almost better than Boston in many ways. It’s more interesting. Boston has some great food, but I’ve just found the food (in Portland) to be really amazing.”

Kimball developed America’s Test Kitchen into a media empire, which today encompasses two TV shows, two magazines, a radio show, podcast, websites, online cooking school and a robust cookbook division. Last year, he surprised home cooks everywhere when after nearly 25 years he abruptly left the business that had made him a household name. He is starting over with Milk Street Kitchen. (His final episodes as host of the “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Cook’s Country” TV shows will air through the end of 2016.)

America’s Test Kitchen is known for its rigorous testing of recipes and techniques. The 65-year-old Kimball jokes that he stood on a TV set for 25 years watching someone chop onions, trying to look interested. Milk Street Kitchen is the result of that bored TV host’s own personal transformation in the kitchen, when he started experimenting outside his comfort zone and stopped being handcuffed by technique.

Milk Street Kitchen, another multimedia empire in the making, is based on the idea that home cooking needs an infusion of bolder flavors, fresh ideas and new ingredients from around the globe; the concept is quite different from his original idea for America’s Test Kitchen, which focused on the most traditional of American food, such as apple pie and pot roast. Such changes are already happening in supermarkets, cookbooks, food TV and restaurants, Kimball (and anyone with a pulse) has observed. Just as fashion and music have been inspired by a variety of cultures, Kimball says, other cultures and cuisines are being opened up to the American cook through what he calls “the new home cooking.” It’s not, he says, just about cooking ethnic foods. Think Thai-style coleslaw or Asian chicken noodle soup.

“This is not really about me cooking Thai food or Cantonese or Moroccan food,” Kimball said. “It’s just about finding techniques and combinations of flavors, or ways of thinking about cooking to expand the repertoire. I’m not trying to cook somebody else’s food. Here’s the difference: Instead of going in the kitchen and taking an oatmeal cookie and making it 45 times, I’m starting somewhere else in the world to learn from somebody and listen to what they have to say and trying to figure out how I can adapt that back here.”

Kimball said his own cooking started to change three or four years ago, when he started reading and cooking from a lot of different books “and I realized I didn’t know as much about cooking as I thought I did.” One of his biggest inspirations was the work of Yotam Ottolenghi, author of “Plenty” and “Jerusalem” (the latter with Sami Tamimi), known for blending ideas and ingredients from different cultures. Kimball also got lots of practical advice from people around the world he had on his radio show. “I started hanging out with some people who cook this way as well,” he said, “and I just found the food cleaner, brighter, bigger flavors, and just a lot more interesting.”

American food, for example, doesn’t “do bitter” well, except for maybe some Southern cooking with greens, “but the rest of the world loves bitter,” Kimball said. Bakers and pastry chefs are experimenting with salty and sour tastes in their desserts, he added. Earlier this summer, Kimball traveled to London to film one of his first Milk Street Kitchen TV shows with Claire Ptak of Violet Bakery.

“She’s thinking about not just sweet, but sweet, salty, bitter,” Kimball said. “She uses rye flour, which has got kind of a bitter note to it. When you think about it that way, her baked goods are much more interesting because they are more complex. They’re not harder to do, they’re just more interesting.”

Maine food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins says she has a lot of respect for what Kimball did with Cook’s Illustrated. He wasn’t driven by trends, and was rigorous about not accepting any advertising.

“I think the death of the food media in this country has been advertising,” she said, “and he stayed out of that completely.”

She’s more skeptical about Kimball’s desire to bring bolder flavors to American food. While there is “a real resistance” in American kitchens to any cuisine that is not familiar to home cooks, she said, many of those bolder flavors are already here – it all depends on how you define “American cuisine.”

“You can’t say American food is meat and two vegetables on a plate, and one of those vegetables is potatoes,” Jenkins said. “You just can’t do that any longer. German-American cuisine is full of sour flavors. It’s a very reductive way to approach American food, I think.”

Like America’s Test Kitchen, Milk Street Kitchen will have a public television show, magazines, cookbooks and a digital platform. Unlike America’s Test Kitchen, it will also have a hands-on cooking school, in a building at 177 Milk St. in Boston that is undergoing a million-dollar renovation.

If the setups seem similar, Kimball insists they aren’t. There’s “nothing inherently competitive” about having media properties, he said, adding that it’s tough to be in food these days without having a presence on television.

“I wouldn’t be interested in doing this if it were just more of the same,” he said. “I really am excited about this. I think the editorial gestalt or idea behind it is quite different. It’s not a test kitchen. We’re not making a recipe 45 times. We’re not testing cookware. We’re not rating food products. We’re not doing the whole Consumer Reports thing. I think (America’s Test Kitchen) does a great job of that, and I have nothing more to add to that.” While America’s Test Kitchen today has a couple hundred employees, Kimball said, Milk Street won’t ever have more than 50, among them his wife Melissa Baldino, who used to produce the television shows at America’s Test Kitchen.

“We want to keep it focused and very personal so I can get my hands on stuff and get closer to the creative part of the business. People here might argue whether that’s a good thing or a really bad thing,” he said, laughing.

J.M. Hirsch, former food writer for the Associated Press, is one well-known name (to regular readers of American newspaper food coverage in the last 15 years), who is joining the team as editorial director. Kimball said the company will announce another couple of “notables” joining the team in the fall.

Asked to assess what the last year has been like, Kimball noted that in just eight months he’s raised money for Milk Street Kitchen, put together a staff, supervised a $1 million renovation and started work on a new TV show, magazine, radio show and cooking school.

Beats retirement.

“You get to a point in life where you think it’s going to be one thing, and it’s something totally different,” Kimball said. “Then you realize, actually, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”

]]> 3, 17 Aug 2016 10:23:19 +0000
Use of old bread in panzanella a gift of good sense from Italy Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 File this under “everything old is new again” – panzanella, the Italian bread salad, is a harmonious marriage between old and new. Leftover stale bread added to vibrant summer produce leads to a winning seasonal dish.

The “old” of panzanella is further linked to the Italian tradition of using up leftovers. With all due respect to the more recent – and vitally necessary – emphasis on reducing food waste around the world, Italians have been making do with leftovers for centuries. Day-old risotto becomes arancini (fried rice balls), last night’s spaghetti transforms into a breakfast pasta frittata and squishy grapes find new life as high-gravity grappa.

Bread is especially well-suited to Italian leftover reincarnation. Besides, bread and other baked goods are in particular need of creative recycling because uneaten bread is a major component of food waste.

In his book “American Wasteland” (Da Capo Press, 2010), Durham, N.C., blogger, journalist and food waste expert Jonathan Bloom reported that supermarkets waste a lot of bread: “Bread and baked goods are by far the most commonly wasted foods at supermarkets.”

All the more reason to find reuses for this daily staple, and the Italians are on it. For example, old loaves show up in Italian soups like ribollita (bread, bean and vegetable soup) and pappa al pomodoro (bread and tomato soup), and milk-soaked bread or bread crumbs are used in meatballs.

Appreciation for the particular charms of panzanella is so old it was documented in ancient literature. Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio mentioned “pan lavato,” or washed bread, in his 14th-century opus “The Decameron.” Florentine Renaissance poet and painter Agnolo di Cosimo, otherwise known as Bronzino, waxed poetic about the salad in the 16th century:

“He who wishes to fly above the stars / dip his bread and eat to bursting / a salad of chopped onion / with purslane and cucumbers / wins every other pleasure of this life / consider if I were to add some basil / and rocket.”

Yet, for all its romantic associations, panzanella has quite humble origins. In her book “The Classic Italian Cookbook,” doyenne of authentic Italian cuisine Marcella Hazan brought the rustic salad down to earth: “This salad was originally the poor man’s dinner in parts of Tuscany and Rome.”

So what’s “new” about panzanella? A lot! The salad has undergone a bit of a renaissance since the Renaissance. You’ll notice that Bronzino’s recipe does not include a single tomato because tomatoes were not introduced to Italy until the 1500s. However, today’s panzanella recipes often contain that New World ingredient.

Also, early panzanellas were not made with the cubed, toasted bread popular in recipes today. They were made with saltless Tuscan country bread that was soaked in water, squeezed and added to the salad to give it additional heft. (This method of reviving stale bread was apparently popular with ancient Italian mariners, who liked to dip their dried-out chunks in sea water before eating.)

The wet-bread method is not as popular today, perhaps in part because it’s not easy to find the authentic Tuscan bread that works better when soaked. While Hazan acknowledges the authenticity of the wet-bread technique in her book, she said, “I much prefer this version, however decadent it may be, in which the waterlogged bread is replaced by crisp squares of bread fried in olive oil.”

Really, every dish of panzanella has new elements because it incorporates the freshest produce available. If you’re lucky to have your own garden, your salad will have fresh-from-the-soil cucumbers, just-picked tomatoes and scissor-snipped basil. If the farmer’s market is your source for produce, your panzanella ingredients are likely to be very recently harvested from the farm. The latest and greatest from the vegetable patch or vine (or fruit orchard) are just the things to extend the life of your mature bread in panzanella form.

One last note: A lot of recipes recommend that the longer the salad sits, the better it gets. However, you don’t want the salad to sit so long that the bread gets soggy. It should still have some structure to it when it’s time to eat. And most panzanellas are best served the day they’re made.

However, if you find yourself with last night’s tomato panzanella in your fridge, you can experiment with making gazpacho out of the leftovers by whirring an extra tomato or two with the salad in a food processor. Yet another way to make the old new again – it would make an Italian grandmother proud.


This classic tomato panzanella recipe is the updated version with summer tomatoes and crouton-like bread cubes. Feel free to experiment: Use different kinds of breads and vegetables, stir in cheeses like mozzarella, parmesan or feta or add other new ingredients like olives, capers, hard-boiled eggs, pine nuts or whatever else you like in a salad. In a pinch, a store-bought balsamic or red wine vinegar dressing may stand in for the homemade vinaigrette. Inspired by an Ina Garten recipe.

Makes 6 servings


One regular clove or 1/2 of a large clove of garlic

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 grinds black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil


4 cups of 1-inch bread cubes cut from a loaf of leftover rustic French or Italian bread (roughly half of a large loaf)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

4 small or two medium-sized ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cucumber peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes

14 basil leaves, divided

Salt and pepper to taste

Make the vinaigrette: Mince garlic as finely as possible, then smash it against the cutting board with the side of the knife. Place in a bowl with the vinegars, mustard and salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until all of the oil is incorporated. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Let vinaigrette sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before adding to the salad.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Toss the bread cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil; add more oil if needed to coat the bread cubes thoroughly without drenching them. Spread the cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the bread is crispy like a crouton. Let the bread cool.

Make the salad: Mix tomatoes, cucumber, onion and bell peppers in a salad bowl. Slice 10 of the basil leaves into thin ribbons and add to salad. Add 2 tablespoons vinaigrette to salad and let sit for 15 minutes. Add the bread cubes and the remaining vinaigrette, mix everything together and let sit for at least an hour or up to 4 hours in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Right before serving, top the salad with the remaining four basil leaves cut into ribbons.


Though it retains some of the elements of the classic recipe (tomato, onion), panzanella gets an even newer spin with this cornbread version. The texture is rather crumbly, similar to a Thanksgiving cornbread dressing. Feel free to substitute your favorite cornbread recipe, or you may use store-bought cornbread, but keep in mind that the recipe works best with a cornbread that’s not sweet.

Serve this as a side dish for grilled meats like ribs, pork chops, turkey or chicken. Unlike other panzanellas, this dish tastes great the next day – it just might need to be freshened up with extra dressing and salt and pepper.

One note: If you don’t want to grill the corn, you can prepare it as you like. The dressing recipe makes about a pint, which is more than you need. It will keep for five days in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 to 8 servings


2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

3/4 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons lime juice

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped chives

3 to 4 dashes hot sauce

4 grinds black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt


2 small or 1 medium-sized ripe tomato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped

2 ears corn

1 (8.5-ounce) box cornbread mix, prepared, or 5-6 cups of leftover cornbread, cut into ½-inch cubes

5 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Make dressing: Place garlic, buttermilk, lime juice, mayonnaise, cilantro, chives and hot sauce in a food processor and finely chop. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Let dressing sit in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

Mix tomato, onion and jalapeno in a salad bowl. Add a tablespoon of spicy cilantro dressing to the vegetables and mix. Let vegetables sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Grill the corn on a hot grill for 10 to 15 minutes until the corn is charred all over. Let corn cool, then slice the corn off the cob and add to the vegetables.

Fold the cornbread into the vegetables (mixture will be crumbly). Add 1/4 cup dressing until incorporated. Add additional dressing if needed until the salad is slightly moist but the cornbread is not drenched. Fold in bacon crumbles and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Let salad sit for 15 minutes before serving.


The dessert take on this ancient salad is similar mostly in concept, but not in ingredients or even general execution. Peaches and blueberries taste great together, but the dessert would work just as well with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, nectarines or plums. Also, leftover angel food cake would be a fine substitute for the pound cake. Makes 4 servings

4 cups leftover pound cake, or one thawed 10.75-ounce frozen pound cake, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

4 tablespoons melted butter

4 ripe peaches

3/4 cup blueberries

2 teaspoons sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon


1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel

2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place metal mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for the lemon whipped cream.

Toss pound cake cubes with melted butter. Spread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl with water and ice. Score the bottom of the peaches with a paring knife.

Carefully place peaches in the boiling water. After about 40 seconds, remove the peaches from the hot water and place immediately in the ice bath to shock them. After about 1 minute, remove the peaches from the ice water. Peel the peaches, then cut the peaches into 1/2-inch cubes.

Place the peaches in a bowl with the blueberries. Add sugar and lemon juice to the fruit and stir thoroughly. Place the fruit in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes until you are ready to assemble the dessert.

Once you are ready to serve, prepare the lemon whipped cream with the chilled metal bowl and beaters. Combine heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon peel and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat to soft peaks. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Rewhisk before using.)

Divide the pound cake cubes into four dessert bowls. Spread the fruit over the pound cake, then top each serving with lemon whipped cream. Serve immediately.

]]> 0, 17 Aug 2016 07:58:04 +0000
Tomatoes are stars of BLT as a chilled soup Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Everyone knows Joyce Kilmer’s love song to trees – “I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree.” That’s the way I feel about tomatoes. Accordingly, Chilled BLT Soup puts the “T” in BLT. Yes, there’s bacon and lettuce, and some toast, too, in the form of croutons. But the star of this show is the tomato in its season.

How do you know whether you’re buying a good tomato? To start, pick it up. It should feel heavy, which lets you know it’s ripe and juicy. Then take a whiff of the stem end. It should smell strongly like … a tomato. Once you get it home, store it on the counter, out of the sun. If it’s not fully red, just leave it alone. It will continue to ripen at room temperature. Refrigerating it kills the flavor and the texture.

You want to salt your tomatoes ahead of time, before you cook them, a step that helps to concentrate their flavor. First salt the large tomatoes, which form the base of the soup. Then salt the quartered tomatoes, which provide crunch.

Do not seed the tomatoes. If you do, you lose a lot of the jelly surrounding the seeds – and that jelly is where the tomato essence lives.

On the chance that you’ve somehow underrated tomatoes before, this deeply flavorful and refreshing soup will show you what you’ve been missing.


Makes 4 servings

3 pounds large tomatoes

Kosher salt

2 cups 1/2-inch bread cubes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 slices bacon

1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Black pepper

1 cup shredded romaine

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Core and cut the large tomatoes into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. In a large bowl toss the wedges with 1 teaspoon salt and set them aside for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, on a large rimmed sheet pan toss the bread cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil until they are well coated. Sprinkle them very lightly with salt and toss again. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven until they are golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Set them aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. When the bacon is cool, crumble it and set it aside.

In a strainer set over a bowl, toss the cherry tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let them drain for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise with the garlic, the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the tomato juice from the drained cherry tomatoes and stir well.

Working in batches, transfer the tomato wedges and their liquid to a blender and blend until very smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the sherry vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cherry tomatoes and chill the soup until it is cold.

Spoon one-fourth of the soup into each of four soup bowls. Drizzle each with some of the mayonnaise and top with the bacon, the romaine and the croutons.

]]> 0, 17 Aug 2016 07:58:05 +0000
Take right veggies, add some zingy sauce and roll with it Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 A single game-changing ingredient can turn summer salads into festive finger food that is sure to elicit oohs and ahhs at a beach or backyard gathering: rice paper rounds, also called spring roll wrappers.

They are widely available on the international aisle of larger grocery stores and in Asian markets. Working with them always feels a bit magical to me. They come in a package, dehydrated and brittle, looking like thin sheets of almost-opaque plastic. But a brief dip in warm water transforms them into pliable, sheer wrappers for creating tidy bundles of whatever chilled fillings you can imagine.

Here, I went with the most brilliantly hued garden vegetables I could find: carrot, watermelon radish, bell pepper and red lettuce leaves, along with fragrant fresh basil and mint, a cool crunch of cucumber, and plump, pink shrimp. It’s important to have all the ingredients lined up and ready before you begin, because a softened wrapper needs to be filled before it gets too sticky and hard to handle.

And because the ingredient you add first will be visible against the sheer wrapper, I recommend starting each roll with a different component, so you get the full spectrum of color and variety facing up on your serving platter. Be sure to serve the rolls with the accompanying dipping sauce.

Although the wrappers are the ingredient that loads the bases, the tangy-sweet-spicy sauce is the mouthwatering hit that brings it all home.


Makes 4 servings (8 rolls)

The rolls may be prepared several hours in advance; cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate in an airtight container. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in advance.


1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon chili sauce, such as Sriracha

1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce

1 scallion (white and green parts), thinly sliced


8 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, cooked and chilled

16 medium fresh basil leaves

16 medium mint leaves

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1/4 cup thinly sliced radish, cut into half-moons, preferably watermelon radish

1/4 English (seedless) cucumber (unpeeled), sliced thinly into half-moons

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into matchsticks (julienne)

3 red leaf lettuce leaves, spines removed, torn into large pieces

8 round rice paper wrappers (about 6 inches in diameter)


Whisk together the rice vinegar, honey, lime juice, chili sauce, fish sauce and scallion in a medium bowl until they are well combined and the honey is dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).


Slice each shrimp in half lengthwise.

Line up the remaining basil and mint leaves, carrot, radish, cucumber, red bell pepper and lettuce in separate bowls.

Fill a 9-inch or larger pie plate with very warm water that is not too hot to touch. Place a rice paper round in the hot water and soak for no more than 15 seconds – just until it is pliable and the pattern on the surface of the rice paper is barely visible. Transfer to a clean work surface, making sure to lay the softened round flat.

Layer some of each of the ingredients onto the center of the round, then roll it up, burrito style, tucking in the sides as you go.

Place the finished roll on a plate and cover with a damp cloth or paper towel. Repeat with the remaining rice paper rounds and filling ingredients, starting each roll with a different filling ingredient on the bottom, so a different color ingredient is showing under the translucent rice paper wrapper for each roll.

Serve with the dipping sauce.

]]> 0, 17 Aug 2016 07:57:59 +0000
Portland Hunt & Alpine Club owner named to best mixologist list Mon, 15 Aug 2016 22:38:02 +0000 Andrew Volk, owner of Portland Hunt & Alpine Club, has been named one of the country’s “Best New Mixologists” by Food & Wine magazine.

Altogether, 10 mixologists were honored, but nearly all of the others are working in much larger cities, such as New York, Chicago, Boston and Houston.

The editors of the magazine noted that Volk specializes in “carefully constructed” drinks such as the Green Eyes (gin, Chartreuse, lime and egg white), paired with Scandinavian-influenced foods.

Volk, a New England native, and his wife and business partner, Briana, opened the little cocktail bar at 75 Market St. in 2013, after moving back here from the West Coast. Just one year later, Bon Appetit columnist Andrew Knowlton named Portland Hunt & Alpine one of the “5 Best New Cocktail Bars in America 2014.” That same year, Volk won a 2014 Coastal New England Rising Stars Award from

And in 2015, Portland Hunt & Alpine was a semi-finalist in the Outstanding Bar Program category of the James Beard Awards.

In a short Q & A, Volk told Food & Wine that the “coolest cocktail name” he’s ever come up with is Cardomomagin – a blend of Scotch, lemon, cardamom syrup and hard cider.

]]> 3, 17 Aug 2016 07:58:06 +0000
No-sweat way to extend pleasure of summer tomatoes Sun, 14 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Tomato plants are loving the exceptionally hot summer weather we’re having. And I am loving the extra tomato-y sweetness brought to my table courtesy of the drought conditions we’re having in Cumberland County.

But prolonged periods of days well into the 80s, coupled with growing concerns over water usage, make me less than keen to spend hours first blanching tomatoes to remove their skins and then canning them in a water bath on my stove in my steamy kitchen.

To that end, I am spending this week’s column on the benefits and beauty of freezing almost-whole, meaty plum tomatoes instead of stuffing them into jars.

The term “plum” encompasses several varieties of tomatoes, all of which grow in an elongated, oval shape, and are harvested in August and September, October if we’re lucky here in Maine. The Roma is the overarching title for the solid orangey-red variety, but among the many cultivars included in that category are Pozzano, Pomodoro and Pony Express.

Also making an appearance in the markets where I shop are orange-and-yellow striped (the Speckled or Striped Roman), orange with greenish-purple tops (Ukrainian Purple) and full-on yellow (Yellow Gold Roma or BHN 901) tomatoes.

Plum tomatoes have fine skins, thick flesh and reduced amounts of pulp, traits that allow them to hold their shape when preserved and cook down for sauces faster than other varieties. And they freeze really, really well.

I have two pet peeves about store-bought canned plum tomatoes: chunky cores that don’t break down in my sauce and rolled-up shards of unremoved skins that get stuck in my teeth.

I avoid my first peeve by pulling out my multi-purpose melon baller and scooping out the core from the stem end of as many rinsed plum tomatoes as I have on hand. I spread the cored fruit on cookie sheets and freeze them. Once they are frozen solid, I put the tomatoes in freezer bags or more environmentally-friendly airtight containers, admiring as I do so the sound of the fruit banging together, which reminds me of the solid clack of the cue ball sending an eight ball into a corner pocket for the win.

When I preserve plum tomatoes in the freezer, the annoying skin issue is seemingly magically taken care of on the thawing end of the process. To use the frozen tomatoes, I remove them from the freezer in the quantity I need (for every 2 cups of tomatoes called for in a recipe, you’ll need about 8 medium-sized plum ones) and run them very quickly under warm water so the skins – which crack because the tomatoes’ flesh expands when frozen – simply slip off.

Freezing tomatoes is one of those happy green-eating happenstances. I conserve water and fossil fuel-driven energy without ever having to break a sweat.

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

]]> 1, 14 Aug 2016 14:54:55 +0000
Waterman’s Beach Lobster in South Thomaston closing for good Sept. 4 Fri, 12 Aug 2016 22:51:20 +0000 Waterman’s Beach Lobster, a popular, family-owned lobster pound in South Thomaston and winner of a James Beard America’s Classic Award, is closing for good Sept. 4, the owners have announced.

The sisters-in-law who run the business day-to-day say they are simply ready to retire after 30 years. The lobster pound is on property that’s been in the family for more than 150 years, so they will not be selling the building or the business.

“We’re not selling the business because we don’t want our name to go downhill,” said Sandy Manahan, whose mother, Anne Manahan, launched Waterman’s in 1986. (Waterman was Anne’s maiden name.) “We’re not sure that everybody else would have the same care that we have had with this business. And we’re not selling the building because it’s in the family.”

The family started the business after building a wharf and finding they had a lot of leftover lumber. They decided to build a little lobster shack overlooking Penobscot Bay.

“It was quiet,” said Lorri Cousens, Manahan’s sister-in-law, who is married to Dave Cousens, the president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “There weren’t many people who knew about it. It was word of mouth. And it just grew and grew. We’ve enlarged it and added some picnic tables and won some awards and got national attention, so it’s pretty crazy at times.”

In 2001, Waterman’s won an America’s Classics award from the James Beard Foundation. The award, according to the foundation, goes to regional restaurants that have “timeless appeal” and “serve quality food that reflects the character of their communities.”

Manahan works the window and Cousens steams all the lobsters. They have a staff of 10 who help them pick lobster meat. The menu, including the lobster roll served on a hamburger bun instead of a split roll, has mostly stayed the same. Waterman’s is BYOB and cash-only, so tourists with credit cards must march down to the general store a few miles away to use an ATM.

Customers bring their dogs and walk on the beach. The restaurant has a space set aside where kids can play with beach toys.

The family made the decision to close three weeks ago, and announced it on Facebook this week. A sign has also gone up at the restaurant. Customers’ reaction was swift and sad.

“I’ve had some ladies cry,” Manahan said. “I’ve had people beg. It’s sad. A lot of families have a lot of memories here. They come here because they feel close to somebody who’s passed who loved this place, or (they have) family memories with their kids growing up.”

The women say that while they will miss their customers, they are ready to have some Maine summers all to themselves. Cousens said that her lobsterman husband typically arrives home around 12:30 p.m. each day, while she doesn’t get home until 8:30 or 9 p.m. They want to be able to do some fun things together while they’re still young, she said – go paddle boarding, or attend a boat show.

]]> 2, 12 Aug 2016 18:51:20 +0000
An Italian lawmaker wants to make it a crime for parents to feed their kids vegan diets Thu, 11 Aug 2016 16:18:07 +0000 It may soon become a crime for Italian parents to keep their children from indulging in the country’s legendary meats and cheeses by restricting them to vegan options.

An Italian lawmaker proposed a bill last week that would punish parents with imprisonment for raising their children on “dangerous” vegan diets, which the legislation compares to domestic abuse.

“I have nothing against vegans or veganism as long as it is a free choice by adults,” the lawmaker, Elvira Savino of the conservative Forza Italia party, told Reuters Wednesday. “I just find it absurd that some parents are allowed to impose their will on children in an almost fanatical, religious way, often without proper scientific knowledge or medical consultation.”

Offending parents could be sentenced to at least a year-long stint in jail for restricting their children to a vegan diet, according to the BBC. If the child becomes sick or injured because of the diet the sentence rises to four years and again to six years if the child dies.

The legislation contends that many parents don’t know how to add nutritional supplements to their child’s vegan diet because they never consult medical professionals. Vegans don’t eat animal products, including dairy, eggs, meat, fish, honey and animal fats.

“These children are literally underfed, put in mortal danger from unwary parents who have decided to follow a philosophical movement,” the proposed law, in Italian, reads.

But veganism itself isn’t necessarily dangerous to children, the American of Nutrition and Dietetics points out. It just takes extra work.

“Well-planned vegetarian and vegan eating patterns are healthy for infants and toddlers,” according to its publication, Eat Right. “Time and attention are necessary to help young children, vegetarian or not, get all the nutrients they need for normal growth and development.”

Britain’s National Health Service recommends vegan and vegetarian children get two or three extra portions of vegetable proteins or nuts every day to make sure they’re getting enough protein and iron.

The proposed law comes after multiple Italian infants were hospitalized for undernourishment after reportedly being fed vegan diets.

In July a malnourished baby was hospitalized because his parents kept him on a vegan diet without any nutritional supplements. At 14 months old, the baby weighed only slightly more than a 3-month-old should. The baby was removed from the parents’ custody. A month earlier, a 2-year-old girl on a vegan diet spent several days in intensive care for vitamin deficiencies and low hemoglobin levels. In 2015, an 11-month-old with vegan parents was also treated for severe malnutrition.

If enacted, the legislation wouldn’t be the first time the Italian government has stepped into its people’s kitchens. Last year, an Italian court ordered a vegan woman to feed her son meat at least once a week after her divorced husband complained he wasn’t getting enough nourishment, according to the Local. Earlier in 2015 a father was sentenced to nine months in prison after forcing his teen daughters to maintain a strict diet of whole grains, cereals and vegetables because he thought they were too fat.

Savino’s proposal will be discussed by parliamentary committees before it is debated in Italy’s lower chamber later in the year, according to the BBC. Simultaneously, other Italian lawmakers have proposed laws that would make vegan and vegetarian options more common in the country’s eateries.

]]> 5, 11 Aug 2016 12:23:51 +0000
Tune into summer Olympics with Brazilian shrimp casserole at hand Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 As the world turns its attention to the host country of the Olympic Games, I’m reminded of a trip I took to Brazil 20 years ago with my friend, chef and cookbook author Christopher Idone.

Idone was so enamored of Brazilian food that he had written a wonderful cookbook, “Brazil: A Cook’s Tour” (Clarkson Potter), for which I was the editor.

We traveled through Sao Paulo, Rio and Bahia, and all the recipes over which we had pored on manuscript pages were suddenly there in real life, 3-D, red with dende oil, crunchy with manioc flour, aromatic with coconut milk. There were rich Feijoadas, creamy Tutu a Mineira, hot and cheesy Pao de Queijo.

Brazil’s combination of Indian, African and European (mainly Portuguese) cultures is visible in the ingredients, techniques and dishes of the country.

In more recent years, an influx of Japanese, Lebanese, North American, Chinese and other immigrants has continued to enrich the culture and food with new influences.

One of my favorite dishes was Camaroes com Palmito, or Casserole of Shrimp and Hearts of Palm, which we encountered in Rio de Janeiro. Two of the most appealing foods ever are nestled together in a tomato-tinged, brothy, one-pot dish, fragrant with scallions, cilantro and parsley.

Christopher and I continued to cook and eat together after our trip to Brazil. He died just months ago, having introduced a whole lot of people to a whole lot of cuisines, including Brazilian.

This recipe is adapted from his classic book.


Makes 8 servings

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, chopped

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

10 large ripe plum tomatoes, roughly chopped (juices reserved)

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

4 scallions, white and most of the green, trimmed and chopped, divided

2 pounds extra-large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 (14-ounce) cans hearts of palm, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Hot cooked white rice to serve (about 6 cups)

Heat a large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

When the pan is hot, add the flour and stir until it starts to turn light beige, about 2 minutes.

Turn the flour out of the pan onto a plate.

In the same pot, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onions, and saute until slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the bell pepper and garlic, and sauté until the vegetables are all tender, about 4 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices.

Partially cover and bring to a simmer. Adjust the heat so the tomatoes keep at a simmer, and cook for another 10 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are soft and soupy.

Add the broth and return the mixture to a simmer. Stir in half of the parsley and half of the scallions.

Add the shrimp and hearts of palm to the pot with the tomato broth mixture, season with salt and pepper and stir.

Sprinkle the flour very gradually over the cooking shrimp and tomatoes, stirring constantly, until all of the flour is incorporated.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and the shrimp are almost cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the remaining parsley and scallions, and the cilantro, and cook for 1 more minute.

Serve over white rice.

]]> 0, 09 Aug 2016 17:27:58 +0000
Maine Ingredient: Nothing beats baking for bringing out best in blueberries Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Ahhh, blueberry season. Isn’t it the best? When wild blueberries were designated the Maine state fruit in 1991, there were really no other contenders. I eat them every day during their brief season – sprinkled on my breakfast yogurt or cereal, added to my salad at lunch, and eaten by the handful after supper. As great as they are in their raw state, it’s in baked goods that blueberries really come into their own, releasing some of their flavorful juices and contributing their gorgeous color to pies, muffins, cobblers, cakes, quick breads and pancakes.


These really are The Best Muffins – chock full of blueberries, enough butter to make them taste just the right degree of rich, and the perfect amount of sweetening, including some brown sugar, which adds a subtle dimension of flavor.

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

⅓ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

¾ cup whole or low-fat milk

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Generous 1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well or line with paper liners and spray liners with cooking oil spray.

Set a medium-mesh sieve over a large bowl and measure flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt into the sieve. Use your fingers or a wooden spoon to push mixture through the sieve. (This removes any lumps from brown sugar and blends the dry ingredients.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and melted butter. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until flour is moistened. (Do not overmix or the muffins will be tough; batter should still look slightly lumpy.) Fold in the blueberries. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups.

Bake until the muffins are pale golden brown and springy to the touch, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing. Serve warm.



Pie is wonderful, but somewhat time consuming, whereas cobbler is simple and straightforward and takes under an hour to make and bake. In this one, a touch of cornmeal adds a hint of golden color and a pleasing gritty crunch to the biscuit topping. You can roll out the dough to make a one-piece topping as I suggest here, or cut out rounds or other shapes with a cookie cutter, or simply drop the unrolled dough onto the top of the fruit for that nice bumpy “cobbled” effect.

Makes 4 to 6 servings


1 tablespoon softened butter for the dish

5 cups low-bush Maine blueberries

½ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest and 2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in about 10 pieces

⅓ cup whole or low-fat milk

Lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter a shallow 1½-quart baking dish such as a deep pie plate or 8-inch-square dish.

In the prepared dish, combine blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla, and stir gently to mix. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes to start berries releasing their juices. Remove dish from oven.

For the dough, in a food processor combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and pulse to blend. Distribute butter over flour mixture and pulse until butter chunks are about the size of peas. Dribble milk through feed tube, pulsing until flour is moistened and dough begins to clump together. (To make by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl, work the butter in with your fingertips, and stir in the milk with a large fork.) Transfer to a lightly floured board, knead a couple of times to bring the dough together, and roll or pat out into the approximate shape of the top of your dish.

Trim edges if necessary so topping is slightly smaller than the dish; then crimp edges with your fingertips or a fork. Place over the berries and cut several deep slashes to let steam escape. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon of sugar.

Return dish to the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until biscuit is golden and fruit is bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream or ice cream.

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

]]> 0, 09 Aug 2016 17:34:54 +0000
‘The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook: Volume 2’ offers winning recipe for burger buns Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook: Volume 2.” America’s Test Kitchen. $26.95

Since my daughter-in-law became gluten-sensitive more than a year ago, it’s been a challenge to find gluten-free alternatives to serve with family meals.

To date, the store-bought, gluten-free products I’ve served have been met with comments such as “too dense,” “like cardboard” and “I’m not a fan.” I’ve also gotten feedback delivered via a face so horribly contorted that words weren’t necessary.

Trust me, I get it! I’d find it difficult to content myself with a celery stick while watching others enjoy favorite foods that are no longer part of my diet.

It all came to a head recently at a barbecue, where I served store-bought, gluten-free hot dog rolls that turned out to be the texture of a Styrofoam pool noodle. Exasperated with the pre-made options, I turned to the folks at America’s Test Kitchen, who recently published a second volume of gluten-free recipes, “How Can It Be Gluten Free 2.”

The cookbook begins with a 35-page tutorial on the science of gluten and its role in developing baked goods, while offering tips for creating gluten-free flour alternatives. It gives strategies for using binders, hints for troubleshooting recipes and reviews of gluten-free store products. This section is especially helpful in explaining how different ingredients and techniques affect the outcome of recipes, as shown in plentiful side-by-side comparison photos. (I was momentarily transported back to junior high science class, where I naively wondered when I would ever need to use chemistry in daily life.) It’s worth reading this section carefully before you get into the kitchen and begin cooking.

“How Can It Be Gluten Free 2” offers a varied selection of 190 recipes for breakfast, comfort foods and desserts, every single one of which is front-loaded with commentary explaining what the test kitchen tried – and whether it worked or didn’t. I focused on baked goods because this is where gluten-sensitive folks tend to struggle.

Also, baking is notoriously exacting, and when baking gluten-free goodies, there is even less room for error; the book’s meticulous instructions and photos are a big help. Recipes include brioche (yes! brioche!), yeast doughnuts, bagels, graham crackers (hello cheesecake!), pizza dough and dumplings.

First, I put together the “all-purpose flour” mixture called for in many of the book’s recipes. It’s a pricey blend of white rice and brown rices and potato and tapioca flours. The book also lists measurement changes for cooks who prefer to use store-bought gluten-free flour blends.

Then, using my homemade mix, I made hamburger buns. For DIY types, this recipe offers a step-by-step tutorial for making 4-inch round aluminum foil molds that help the buns hold their shape as they rise and bake. It’s extra work, but which do you want to eat – a Styrofoam pool noodle or a tender hamburger bun? Some things are worth the effort.

My first batch of buns was dense and dry and had a chemical aftertaste. The recipe said I’d need those tinfoil collars to hem in the loose dough as it rose, but my dough was as solid as a new container of Play-Doh.

Since the cookbook lists ingredients by weight and measure, and I use a “dip and sweep” method to measure ingredients, I wondered if humidity was to blame for the outcome. (Maybe I’d learned more in science class than I thought, though perhaps I should have paid more attention in math class – this culinary experiment was starting to add up to a lot of money!) Too far in to quit, I made one final investment. I bought a food scale, then retested the recipe.

It turns out that the 12 ounces of weighed flour called for in the hamburger buns amounted to far less than the 2⅔ cups called for by measure. I noticed the difference immediately when mixing the ingredients. Though the second batch started off very wet, a 5-minute beating time allowed the flour to absorb the liquid and resulted in the cookie-doughlike texture the recipe sought.

A taste of the batter revealed the same chemical aftertaste as before. Undaunted, I continued with the recipe and one hour later, I was rewarded with a tray of hot, fluffy hamburger buns. Ignoring the recipe instructions, I immediately tore off a chunk from a roll for a taste.

Ooohhh … it was tender and delicious, with no unpleasant aftertaste. I slathered the rest of the roll with butter and finished it, thinking that these could be the perfect substitute for dinner rolls at Thanksgiving. Though their texture is heartier than classic store-bought hamburger rolls, for gluten-sensitive folks, they are a great alternative.

The next day, a leftover bun was still pillowy soft and delicious. I smiled as I tossed the other leftover buns into the freezer, ready for my next barbecue.

1006795_681432 how can it be gl.jpgATK ALL-PURPOSE GLUTEN-FREE FLOUR BLEND

24 ounces (1⅔ cups) white rice flour

7½ ounces (2¼ cups) brown rice flour

7 ounces (1⅓ cups) potato starch

3 ounces (¾ cup) tapioca starch (flour)

¾ ounce (3 tablespoons) nonfat milk powder

Whisk together ingredients and store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to three months or freeze for up to six months.

Bring to room temperature before using.


You can find powdered psyllium husk at many health food stores.

Makes 8 rolls

18 ounces (2¼ cups) warm water (110 degrees)

2¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

12 ounces (2⅔ cups) ATK all-purpose gluten-free flour blend

6 ounces (2 cups) oat flour

3 tablespoons powdered psyllium husk

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. As soon as oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Create the bun molds using aluminum foil: Cut a piece of foil 13½ inches long for each mold, folding in half, lengthwise, then in half again until the strip is about 2-3 inches wide; shape each of these into a 4-inch ring, stapling a few times to hold its shape.

Place on baking sheet and spray insides lightly with nonstick spray.

Combine warm water, yeast and one teaspoon of the sugar; let sit until bubbly, about five minutes. Whisk in eggs and butter.

Using a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle, combine flours with remaining dry ingredients.

With mixer on low, slowly add wet ingredients, scraping down mixture in bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium and beat until sticky and uniform, 5-6 minutes. Dough will resemble cookie dough.

Working with half-cups of dough at a time, shape each into a rough round using wet hands, and place each into a foil collar. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in oven to proof for 10 minutes; do not let plastic wrap touch oven rack.

Remove rolls from oven and allow to continue rising at room temperature for 20 more minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees, remove plastic wrap and bake rolls for 35 to 40 minutes.

Transfer rolls to wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Split rolls can be wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to two days, or freeze for up to one month.

If frozen, microwave at 50 percent power for one minute, then toast until golden.

]]> 0, 10 Aug 2016 16:00:19 +0000
Chorus of spices makes this tandoori chicken sing Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Poached, chilled chicken breast is a protein-packed blank canvas that’s primed to take on just about any palette of flavor and texture you can conjure.

This chicken salad recipe makes the most of that invitation. Its dressing, inspired by a tandoori marinade, is spiked with big, bold flavors: garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric, cumin, salt and both black and cayenne peppers. The spices are forward and exciting, but they work harmoniously without being overwhelming. Plus, they impart not only flavor, but also color and texture to the dish.


Makes 4 servings

Serve over lettuce with lemon wedges, or with crusty bread.

The chicken needs to be poached, drained and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 days, in advance. If you’re making the chicken salad in advance, wait to add the cilantro until just before serving.

1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even ½-inch thickness

2 cups no-salt-added chicken broth

Water, as needed

1 teaspoon cumin seed (may substitute ½ teaspoon ground cumin)

1 small clove garlic

¼ teaspoon salt, or more as needed

½ cup plain low-fat yogurt (not Greek style)

2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger root

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

½ English (seedless) cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices

⅓ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Arrange the pounded chicken breast pieces in a single layer in a large skillet; it’s OK if the pieces overlap slightly. Add the broth and enough water to cover by about an inch. Cover and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, then immediately remove from the heat; let the chicken sit in the liquid, covered, for about 10 minutes or until it is just cooked through.

Transfer the chicken to a container with a tight-fitting lid, discarding the liquid. Cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to 3 days).

Toast the cumin seed in a small, dry skillet over medium heat; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, just until fragrant and lightly browned. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and crush the seeds a bit; or transfer to a cutting board and use the flat side of a chef’s knife to do the crushing.

Mince the garlic on a cutting board, then sprinkle with the salt. Use the flat side of a chef’s knife to reduce the mixture into a pastelike consistency.

Whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add the ginger, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, the crushed cumin seed and garlic-salt paste, stirring to form a smooth dressing. Taste, and add the cayenne pepper, if using.

Cut the chicken into bite-size chunks and place in a mixing bowl, along with the cucumber and cilantro. (See the headnote above, regarding the cilantro.) Pour the dressing over and toss to coat. Taste, and season lightly with salt, as needed.

Serve chilled, or at a cool room temperature.

]]> 0, 09 Aug 2016 17:02:54 +0000
Give ’em slab pie, and watch your status skyrocket Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Hello, dog days of summer – a time for potlucks, cookouts, family reunions and pool parties. By their very nature, these gatherings are dependent on the guests’ generosity and collective enthusiasm and on, by my reckoning, three key types of contributors: the pick-up artist, the one-dish wonder and the showstopper.

Happy to provide critical essentials, the pick-up artist buys chips or drinks or cold cuts, slaws or salads, cookies or paper goods.

The one-dish wonder arrives with the same tried-and-true platter no matter the occasion. In my neighborhood, Mr. Bishop’s meatballs are legendary: sweet, tangy, perfectly sized. If I went to a gathering and didn’t see them, I would be bereft.

The showstopper is competitive to the core; in a potluck guest, this is by no means a negative quality. As hosts, we count on the sensational contributions from our friends the showstoppers. These are the guests of whom we can ask, “Will you bring a vegetarian dish that will feed a crowd?” Or, “Do you have a dessert for 25?”

A slab pie can put you in the showstopper class. For a winning dessert in the glorious fruit-filled months, nothing beats pie; slab pies are easily transportable and can yield 24 to 36 pieces, so they are a crowd-size contribution. Part pie, part giant Pop-Tart, a slab pie is for crust lovers. It’s easy to serve and easy to eat.

And, as it turns out, easy to make. Even though I am an experienced pie maker, I once feared slab pie. I wasn’t sure I could roll out the dough large enough to cover a rimmed baking sheet. I thought transferring it from the floured counter would be nightmarish.

I’m going to tell you straight: It wasn’t bad. The trick is using plenty of dough. And any patchwork on the bottom crust won’t show.

For my first attempt, I made three standard batches of pie-crust dough, using 1½ batches for each layer. The result was skimpy in the pan. A slab pie needs a significant crust. For the next attempt, I upped the quantity to four batches. The crust was sturdy, not too thin, with plenty of flaky layers, well crimped and pleated at the edge to hold back the flood of fruit juices once the pie started to bake. Every subsequent iteration has only gotten easier. As with so many kitchen techniques, practice really does make perfect.

I like a slab pie with a top crust, as opposed to a streusel topping; it’s a far sturdier option when you’re serving on paper plates. With peaches or apricots, a top crust protects the fruit from overcooking and keeps the filling juicy. And if that top crust tears as you get it situated, steam-vent slashes cover a multitude of sins.

Lattice or other decorated lids are the bailiwick of the showstopper. Go ahead and get fancy.

While four cups of fruit will make a plump nine-inch pie, a slab pie requires a generous six cups. My preference is for a tart taste, using scant sugar, but add more sugar if you prefer a sweeter filling. Herbs and spices added while the fruit macerates can serve as counterpoints to the fruits’ flavor.

Freeze the unbaked pie for an hour, or overnight. Starting with cold pastry in a blazing-hot oven means more flakiness in the bake. The egg wash and sprinkling of sugar help burnish the top; a nicely browned slab pie looks best.

Traveling with a hot pie is never a good idea. Allow plenty of time to let it come to room temperature – about 2 hours – just to be safe. Although it’s fine to make a slab pie the night before the party, I’m a fan of baking the morning of any event. The pie will taste fresher, and the crust is going to retain the snap and flake that will set this dessert apart.

Go ahead. Strut into the potluck, head held high. You’ve got a showstopper dessert.


Makes 24 to 32 servings

You can crumble almond paste over the fruit filling for a sweeter, richer pie. Leave plenty of time to cool the pie so the filling will firm up before slicing. If apricots are hard to come by, use plums or peaches instead.

You’ll need two 13-by-18-inch baking sheets; the ones that come with a plastic cover are quite handy for transporting.

The fruit needs to macerate and the pie crust dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight. This pie is best eaten the day it is made, but wrapped well, it makes a superb breakfast.


4 pounds apricots, slightly firm (see headnote)

1 cup sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

Three 3-inch sprigs of lemon verbena (optional)

¼ cup cornstarch

12 ounces almond paste, crumbled (not marzipan; optional)


5⅓ cups (22 ounces) flour, plus more for the work surface and rolling pin

16 ounces (4 sticks) unsalted butter, diced and frozen

1 cup ice water

2 pinches kosher salt

2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream, for brushing

2 tablespoons sugar, for sprinkling

FOR THE FILLING: Cut each apricot in half, remove and discard the pit, then cut each half into 3 or 4 slices. Combine the apricot slices, sugar, lemon juice and lemon verbena, if using, in a glass or ceramic bowl. Stir well to begin to dissolve the sugar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.

FOR THE CRUST: Lightly flour a work surface. Combine half of the flour and half of the butter in a food processor; pulse about 10 times or until the butter is reduced to small pieces. Add ½ cup of the ice water and a pinch of salt. Run the processor just until dough just comes together in a ball. Transfer to the work surface and shape into a block that’s about 6 inches by 4 inches by 2 inches. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight. Repeat with the remaining flour, butter, ice water and salt.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Make room in the freezer (or the refrigerator) for the baking sheets. Flour a rolling pin and re-flour the work surface; then mark off a space about 20 inches by 15 inches (use tape or place salt and pepper shakers at the four corners). This is your guide.

Roll out one brick of dough out to a final size as close to the guide as possible.

Don’t worry if the dough splits or tears; it will patch easily. Roll the dough up around the pin and then drape it over one of the baking sheets, letting it fall into the corners and edges. Working quickly, lightly press the dough into the baking sheet, trimming (with kitchen scissors) as needed to leave a 1-inch overhang of dough; transfer the baking sheet to cold storage. Repeat with the second brick of dough.

When you’re ready to bake, use the first chilled bottom slab pie shell. Discard the lemon verbena, if using, from the fruit mixture and add the cornstarch, stirring until well incorporated. Pour the fruit and every bit of the sugary syrup into the bottom crust and push it around until evenly distributed. Sprinkle the almond paste over the fruit, if using.

Invert the second chilled slab pie dough over the filling; you no longer need that second baking sheet. Fold and tuck in the dough overhang on both bottom and top moving all the way around the pan, then go back around to decoratively crimp the edges. Cut slits in the top crust (to allow steam to escape). Brush with the milk or cream, then sprinkle with the sugar.

Place the pie on the middle rack of the oven; immediately reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 55 minutes or until the fruit juices are bubbling and the crust is toasty brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 3 hours before serving.

VARIATION: If apricots are unavailable, peaches or plums work beautifully in this slab pie. While apricots and plums have a tender, edible skin, the peel on a peach is tough and fuzzy. To remove the peach skins, score a shallow “X” in the bottom of each piece of fruit. Carefully drop in batches into a pot of boiling water; blanch for 30 seconds, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a bowl of ice water to cool. The peels will then slide right off.

Cut the fruit into about 8 or 10 chunky pieces per peach and 6 or 8 per plum.

]]> 0, 09 Aug 2016 17:06:35 +0000
Oregon winemaker dials it up to 11 with ‘Spinal Tap’ tribute Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Off the top of my head, here’s what’s important to me in wine: classicism, intelligent experimentation, riesling, the expression of place, textures, German wine, transparency, a reduction in human manipulation without a denial of the necessity of human manipulation, grape varietals that do best in cool climates, secondary characteristics, meals, a certain strangeness, grace, modern individuals conducting conversations with longstanding traditions, references to “This Is Spinal Tap,” nutrition, crazy aromatics, conscience, poetics.

The “Spinal Tap” thing is perhaps not as central as the other factors, and I would not continue drinking a wine I didn’t like just because it bore some reference to that brilliant genre-shifting movie. But it can’t hurt. Some people drink the wine smothered by Nicki Minaj’s branding, others buy the Brangelina rosé, there’s Red Sox wine and Jerry Garcia wine. I was already fascinated by the wines of Teutonic Wine Company when I came upon the one named after a “Spinal Tap” line, and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me want to know more about the winery and its human agents.

Teutonic Wine Company makes wines in Oregon. You’ve probably heard of Oregon. Perhaps you’ve drunk pinot noir from Oregon, and perhaps (often with less justification) pinot gris. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to drink chardonnay from Eyrie Vineyards. Whatever your relationship with Oregon wine, it’s likely to have hewn more or less to the narrative that the state takes a more restrained approach to pinot noir and other “Burgundian” varietals than its southern neighbor. Oregon as middle ground between Burgundy and the United States.

Teutonic Wine Company has very little to do with that narrative. As its name implies, Teutonic is motivated by a love for wines from countries that speak German. That’s because the small number of people behind Teutonic love German wines, specifically those from the precipitous slopes that line the Mosel River. But they live in Oregon. So rather than falling in line with just about everyone else making wine (or a buck) in Oregon, they’ve embarked upon a much steeper, unstable path.

“I don’t live in the Mosel,” Teutonic’s driving force, Barnaby Tuttle, told me. “I can’t live in the Mosel. But there are probably 400 wineries in the Willamette Valley (Oregon) saying they’re ‘Burgundian.’ How is that any more valid than me saying I’m making Mosel-style wine here?”

Tuttle makes gorgeous riesling, but given the breadth of wines available from Teutonic, it’s more accurate to say that all the wines are informed by what makes German wines unique: scintillating transparency, delicacy mated to drive, aromatic expressiveness restrained by precise palate delineation, allegiance to terroir over any particular market-tested profile, and balance, balance, balance. This is evident regardless of whether you’re drinking the welterweight gewürztraminer; a subtle, foresty pinot noir; or a bracing, gulpable, vin-de-soif pinot meunier. Or, of course, if you favor the floral muscat of Recorded in Doubly 2015 ($22). (Teutonic has other Spinal Tap-inspired wines, but Recorded in Doubly is the only one now available in Maine.)

“The New World is still in its infancy when it comes to wine,” Tuttle said. “The more we experiment, the more quickly we’ll figure out what we’re good at, what makes sense.… How long did it take to figure out the right grapes in Burgundy, or in the Mosel?” (Answer: centuries.)

The Tuttles (Barnaby’s wife, Olga, works alongside, as do assistants Alex Neely and Gus Wahlstrom) are playing around to see what works. They’re longtime rock ‘n’ rollers and so probably more comfortable than most with utilizing failure to produce success. They make a straight-up chasselas (native to Switzerland), a silvaner (Mitteleuropean), plus rosé and all sorts of other stuff. I’m guessing that 10 years from now (first commercial vintage was 2008) the line-up will be quite different.

Teutonic’s play is serious, administered according to serious principles. Tuttle has classified these as Old and Cold, High and Dry, Wood and Wild. Except for one, each wine is sourced from a different single vineyard, situated at high elevation and planted with old vines (at least 30 years of age, mostly ungrafted). High elevation means a colder climate with less reliable ripening, and to increase the challenge, all of the vineyards Teutonic works with are dry-farmed (no irrigation). This situation demands that grapes be harvested riskily late, and “ripen more from the soil than the sun,” according to Tuttle.

Old vines and dry-farming force roots to work hard and drive deep, efforts immediately recognizable in the layered intricacy of the wines themselves. The thorough physiological ripeness of the grapes is respected through the fermentation process, which is carried out in neutral oak (Wood) and only with native yeasts and a pied de cuvée (a yeast starter generated by grapes from the vineyard: Wild).

After the winemaking there are wines to be drunk, and I’ll take over the sloganeering from here: Teutonic wines drink Slow and Low. Supple and quietly insistent, they are approachable, lovable even, but their details don’t come out until well into your meal, well into the evening, and (if you can restrain yourself) even well into the second or third day the bottle is open. They unfold. They are as Low in overall volume as they are in alcohol – around 11 percent for the whites, low-13-ish for the reds – content to integrate with your life rather than steal its force.

A perfect example is the Crow Valley Vineyard Gewürztraminer 2014 ($28). Gewürztraminer is not typically known for subtlety and quiet integration. The wildly perfumed, exotic three-ring circus of most gewürz usually begs to be sipped apart from a full meal (other than Indian), and no one on Earth has ever drunk more than a glass of it at a time. The Teutonic Gewürztraminer, on the other hand, is flat-out crushable, sidling up to all sorts of meals like besties. For me the wine shone with a simple sauté of summer squash, thyme and tomatoes with crumbled blue cheese, a perfect foil to the tangy acidity, herbal notes, and delicate, chiseled stoniness of the wine. But you could grill shrimp or cobble a curry or bake a galette and find similar harmony. Forget everything you know about gewürz (lychee, tropics, potpourri); this is an 11-percent alcohol wine for adults (who know how to have fun).

That wine, like the Recorded in Doubly – which used to be called Jazz Odyssey, yet another Spinal Tap reference, and is a spicy, peachy 11-percent muscat from 38-year-old vines in Willamette’s Wasson Vineyard – does bring up another aspect of the Low story. It’s low in alcohol in part because there is a kiss of residual (unfermented) sugar in the wine. In sane cultures, wines (and foods) that achieve a balance between acidity, alcohol, fruit and sugar are called “good.” A synonym is “balanced.” Anyone who uses a made-up word such as “sweet” to describe them is letting theory outpace practice, not to mention letting prissiness outpace pleasure.

Tuttle told me, “When I do tastings, some people ask me about RS (residual sugar) numbers, but that’s never the ordinary drinkers, who just like the wines. It’s only the restaurant wine buyers who ask, and ask about ‘how to sell it’ since” the wines are not utterly dry. I will translate the diplomatic Tuttle’s anecdote thusly: Shut up, forever, please, about sweetness in wine. Drink the wine and examine whether you like it. Unless you drink fino sherry exclusively, you don’t even actually like “dry” wines as much as you think you do.

Anyway. The Bergspitze Laurel Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($37) is extraordinary. It’s like pinot noir straight from a coniferous forest, laced with black fruits, or maybe black-skinned fruit with red flesh, expressing a touch of cola, not at all smoky and big like so much Oregon pinot. It is silky and long and rustic-serious. It is, actually, like some excellent southern-German pinots I’ve drunk, which is to say both pinotlike and not-quite-pinotlike.

The Borgo Pass Pinot Meunier 2014 ($36) is, somewhat strangely, more recognizably pinot-noirlike than the Pinot Noir. Pinot meunier is best known as a blending grape in Champagne, rarely made into a single-varietal (not to mention single-vineyard) still red wine. Acidity is noticeably higher than in the softer Pinot Noir wine, and overall this wine’s comportment is brighter, lighter and higher-toned, its fruit aspect more straight-up red.

Like all great German wines, Teutonic’s are tremendous values considering the hard work that produces them. Remember: high, cold sites; single-vineyard-sourced fruit; native-yeast fermentation; late-harvested; slow élevage. Wines with these flavor and aroma profiles that cost half as much are one-eighth as fun to drink, one-sixteenth as elegant, one-sixty-fourth as interesting. And a dial that only runs from 1 to 10 is not quite enough to amplify their songs.

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

]]> 0, 09 Aug 2016 17:29:34 +0000
The popover stopover of Maine helps feed the hungry Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTHWEST HARBOR — On most weekdays between 7:30 and 11:30 a.m., you’ll find Larry Stettner holding court on the patio of the Common Good Soup Kitchen & Cafe, located in a 1930s-era brick building in the middle of town, next to the post office. He’s the one looking dandy, with a white goatee and a straw boater with a red-and-blue hatband.

On a sunny Thursday in early August, a man strolls up with his daughter and they glance from the donation box to the food table, wearing smiles and slightly puzzled expressions that say they aren’t quite sure what to do next.

Sensing they are new, Stettner halts another conversation and rises to greet them: “Hey folks, have you been here before? Well, welcome to the Common Good. My name is Larry. What brought you here? Did you see our sign? Were you just walking by?”

The man says friends told him about the place.

“OK,” Stettner continued, “so the deal is we serve fresh, hot popovers, we serve oatmeal, we serve juice, we serve coffee, hot chocolate, homemade butter and jam. You take as much as you want, eat as much as you want, have as much fun as you possibly can, and donate whatever you care to donate on your way out, because we do this to support our soup kitchen in the winter.”

Stettner, the acting director of Common Good, hands them a sheet that explains what this unusual little cafe is all about, then points them in the direction of the popovers.

Ah yes, those popovers. Jessica Stewart, the kitchen manager, and the volunteers who work with her bake between 400 and 600 of the light, hollow, eggy rolls daily. On weekends, that figure can rise as high as 700.

Larry Stettner greets patrons arriving at the Common Good Soup Kitchen & Cafe. Stettner is acting director of Common Good, which began in 2009 as an "anti-soup kitchen" and hit on its popular popovers two years later. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Larry Stettner greets patrons arriving at the Common Good Soup Kitchen & Cafe. Stettner is acting director of Common Good, which began in 2009 as an “anti-soup kitchen” and hit on its popular popovers two years later. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Popovers are the signature item at the soup kitchen’s daily summer brunches, where the crowd is about 80 percent tourist, 20 percent local.

Anyone can eat here, and what you pay is up to you. Just leave whatever you can afford in the donation box. If times are hard, don’t worry about leaving any payment at all.

The allure of popovers is strong on Mount Desert Island. So strong that Common Good raises a surprising $35,000 every summer just from their sale. All of the “profit for a nonprofit,” as Stettner puts it, is used to fund the soup kitchen’s winter meals – a lunch of soups, salads and casseroles on Thursdays, dinner on Saturdays and brunch on Sundays. The staff also packs up food to send home with guests whose cupboards are empty, and they deliver food to residents who are hungry but can’t leave home.

Most Mainers associate popovers with the Jordan Pond House in Seal Harbor, where they have been served to summer tourists for decades, along with a spot of afternoon tea. The Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor sells them, too, some with fancy toppings like red pepper cheddar and chocolate sauce. Stewart considers the Asticou the cafe’s biggest rival (in a friendly way, of course) for tourist dollars.

The popovers’ popularity arises from customers’ fond memories of their mothers baking them as a Sunday treat, Stewart says, and from the fact that scoring a popover in Downeast Maine is like finding a beignet in New Orleans. It is one of those foods, like Thanksgiving pumpkin pie or Memphis barbecue, that is tightly linked to memory and place.

And then there’s the way they look and smell.

“It feels luxurious and extravagant even though it’s just eggs and milk,” Stewart said.

Common Good has taken this indulgent, airy roll and, over the past five years, transformed it from a quick culinary trick to keep the organization’s head above water into a social service workhorse that feeds hundreds of needy Mainers annually and brings people from all economic walks of life together for food, music and fellowship.

A patron deposits money into a donation box at the cafe. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A patron deposits money into a donation box at the cafe. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Stewart’s morning begins at 5:30 a.m. in the Common Good commercial kitchen, where she will eventually fill 32 popover pans two-thirds full with thin batter.

Stewart has no cheffing experience, but she cooked for large groups when she was involved in social justice work through the Catholic Worker Movement. A lot of people think popovers are complicated, but there’s really no trick to them, she says – just make sure the oven is hot and the batter is thin.

By 6:30 a.m. on this morning, volunteer Don Whalen is outside raising umbrellas the color of orange, raspberry and lime sherbet over about 14 tables. The picket fence that encloses the gravel-covered patio is lined with Adirondack chairs.

In the kitchen, a buzzer goes off, signaling that the second batch of popovers is ready. It takes 40 minutes for a batch to bake, and on weekdays they make about five batches. The baked popovers, some of them impressively puffed up, sit on a big counter in their still-warm pans. They look like dozens of miniature chef’s hats.

Sometimes there is entertainment. A ukulele group plays on Sundays, a local band on Wednesdays and a guitarist on Saturdays. On other days, summer visitors may grab their own guitars and play for free, as a man from New York did recently before donating $100.

As she baked, Stewart talked about the need for a soup kitchen in an area that has been known for decades as a playground for the wealthy and for tourists.

“People would be surprised at the level of poverty on the island,” she said. “For one thing, the cost of living is quite high here. We have a lot of elderly people, and we have a lot of people who are unemployed or underemployed in the winter.

“Most of our jobs here are service industry,” she continued, “and there aren’t pension plans when you work in the service industry. You don’t retire with a 401K when you’re a house cleaner.”

Common Good doesn’t know exactly how many people it helps every year, mainly because that would mean asking questions when patrons come in for a meal. The group has sacrificed statistics in favor of letting go of the shame or stigma of asking for help.

“This is a region where, culturally, it’s hard for people to ask for help,” Stewart said.

This is truly a grassroots operation. Stettner, a retired psychology professor and competitive croquet player, says he was never the kind of person to volunteer for anything before he got involved with Common Good. “I got pulled into this by my friend Bill,” he said.

The cafe in Southwest Harbor has an outdoor seating area where patrons can serve themselves. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The cafe in Southwest Harbor has an outdoor seating area where patrons can serve themselves. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Bill is Bill Morrison, a chef who has since left the area but started this whole thing in 2009 by delivering homemade soups to his less fortunate neighbors. He recruited Stettner, who called it the “anti-soup kitchen” since the food came to the people who needed it.

Eventually the group moved into the old restaurant at the Seawall Motel, where they decided to tap into the summer population of the island to raise money for their winter meals.

The restaurant had wi-fi, which attracted tourists from the nearby campground. That first summer, Morrison and Stettner sold them coffee and scones baked by a volunteer.

The next summer, they expanded, making it a small cafe. They barely broke even.

“We were about to fold in November 2011,” Stettner said. “We had no money in the bank. We told our landlord at that point that we couldn’t pay the rent.”

Then, in fall 2011, Common Good tried holding a Sunday popover brunch using Stettner’s own popover recipe. It was a shot in the dark, but it worked. They made more than $1,000 on brunches, total, that fall.

The following summer, they stuck with the popovers. One person made them. A buzzer let the baker know when a customer walked in. “That’s how slow it was,” Stettner said. But the popovers continued to deliver: That first day, Common Good took in $85 in donations.

The Seawall restaurant was torn down last year, and Common Good moved into a commercial kitchen at 19 Clark Point Road offered at an attractive rent by a local business.

The patio can hold up to 100 guests and an indoor dining rooms holds 50, which is a good thing since attendance at the brunches has grown every year, mostly through word of mouth at campgrounds, flyers posted at local businesses and recommendations from hotels and inns.

The soup kitchen does not actively pursue any grant funding, Stewart said, but occasionally a summer resident affiliated with an organization will funnel money their way. Mostly the organization pays for its programs through the sale of popovers. It takes no money from the government.

“These kind of places should be in every community,” said Jim West, a retired schoolteacher from DeLand, Florida, who eats breakfast at Common Good at least four times a week. “It takes the energy of somebody like Larry and the vision that he has. It’s a great model. And it doesn’t have to be popovers, it could be cereal and scrambled eggs.”

The cafe's popover brunches are a favorite of residents of Southwest Harbor as well as visitors, most of whom hear about them through – what else? – word of mouth.

The cafe’s popover brunches are a favorite of residents of Southwest Harbor as well as visitors, most of whom hear about them through – what else? – word of mouth.


A few early birds always show up before 7:30, but generally during the week the crowd grows until it reaches a peak around 10 a.m.

The serve-yourself line starts with coffee and juice, then popovers. A separate table offers oatmeal, honey and containers of homemade cinnamon-honey butter and maple-walnut butter. A small cooler stocks blueberry and strawberry jams, made every two weeks from local organic berries. (The family that grows the berries volunteers at the soup kitchen during the winter.)

Buzzing around the tables, replenishing glass and silverware, and wiping up messes is Amy Trafton, an experienced volunteer who is working as a paid dishwasher for the soup kitchen this summer. Trafton and her 17-year-old son, Zachary, moved to Trenton a couple of years ago and started volunteering at Common Ground as a way to meet people.

Trafton’s Apple watch tells her she sometimes walks six miles while working a brunch.

“The volunteers truly do a little of everything,” she said. “When it gets crowded – and it gets crowded – you’re running around making sure everything is stocked. Coffee is almost a full-time job, just keeping it replenished.”

By 8:30 a.m. the space has filled with a few dozen patrons, and the line for popovers is growing. A little girl picks up a popover and giggles. “These are so big!” she says.

At another table, a mother asks her son who has just snatched a popover, “Is this your second or third?”

He avoids the question by answering, “It smells so good!”

The idea of “leftover popovers” seems crazy in this atmosphere, but it does happen. Leftovers are held as an “emergency supply” for 24 hours, Stettner said; after that, one of the volunteers takes them home to feed her pigs.

Kim and Tim Brown from Morgantown, Pennsylvania, and their dog, Cinnamon, are sitting quietly at a table. This is their first time here. They heard about Common Ground from the man they’re renting from in town. The day before, they enjoyed popovers at the Jordan Pond House – “a lot of them,” Kim Brown said, laughing. They pronounced the Common Good popovers “delicious” and said it made them feel good to know they were supporting an important cause.

It was also the first visit for Karen Larmon of Dallas and her boyfriend, Brian Lawhorn, who lives in West Virginia. Lawhorn found Common Good on Trip Advisor.

“We love the idea of it,” Larmon said.

“That’s the whole reason we came,” Lawhorn added.

Like the Browns, the couple had already tried popovers at the Jordan Pond House. “I think these were better, really,” Lawhorn said. “These are fluffier. They’re definitely bigger.”

That’s the kind of reaction Stettner likes to hear. Ask him what he gets out of doing all of this, and he replies, “pure joy.”

Then he goes back to work.

“Hey, folks, have you been here before?”

]]> 1, 10 Aug 2016 14:40:21 +0000
How to make the Common Good Cafe popovers Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Common Good Cafe bakers recommend warming the batter to room temperature before pouring it into the popover pan. Though many recipes recommend preheating the pan, unless it’s very cold outside, they say you needn’t bother.

The staff at the cafe has baked thousands of these popovers, so believe them when they say you will be successful “just about all the time” once you get the hang of their technique. Positive thinking helps, they say.

To ask questions or share photos of your beautiful popovers, email

Makes 6 popovers

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups milk

2 large eggs (½ cup beaten eggs)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Put flour and salt into a bowl. Add milk and mix together gently, by hand or with a mixer set to low. Beat eggs separately. Mix the beaten eggs into the bowl. The batter should have the consistency of heavy cream. A few small lumps or bubbles are fine.

Grease the baking cups of a popover pan or muffin tin with cooking spray or brush with shortening. Take care to grease the bottom, as that is where popovers tend to stick.

Pour batter into each baking cup, filling it two-thirds full. Place the filled pan on a medium-high oven rack leaving room for the “pop.” Bake for 20 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake 18-20 minutes more.

Do not open the oven door while the popovers are baking.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the popovers cool. Serve with butter and/or jam.

]]> 0, 09 Aug 2016 17:09:46 +0000
Maine’s food economy gets new blueprint for expansion Tue, 09 Aug 2016 22:37:05 +0000 Fishermen could borrow marketing ideas from farmers, and access to working waterfront would be improved. Farmers would learn better financial planning, and landlords might get tax incentives to offer garden space to their tenants.

Those are a few of the ideas contained in a new report that’s designed to serve as a blueprint for expanding Maine’s food economy.

The Maine Food Strategy, a broad collection of people, businesses and organizations that work in food production, reviewed more than 200 reports and conducted over 200 interviews to set priorities for strengthening Maine’s food system and making it a robust part of the state’s economy. The report, released Tuesday, is called “The Maine Food Strategy Framework: A Tool for Advancing Maine’s Food System.” The organization itself, as well as the report, gets support from nearly a dozen local and national funds, trusts and foundations.

“From my perspective, one of the things that came out of the report that was really important was this need to bring together our resources more effectively,” project director Tanya Swain said. “Some of the ideas are pretty straightforward, and they really have to do with the fact that we already have some great talent and resources and organizations working on food systems and issues and opportunities. It’s about how do we take what we have and really bring it together and focus it.”

The goals outlined in the report are wide-ranging:

• Increase market share of Maine foods, both locally and internationally.

• Help food-related businesses manage growth and change.

• Boost the incomes and benefits of the people who work in food production.

• Develop public policies favorable to farms, fisheries and other food producers.

• Address the issue of hunger in Maine.

Reading the 29-page report to the end may feel like a finish line, but “a lot of people are looking at this as a starting point,” said Joshua Stoll, founder of and a member of the Maine Food Strategy steering committee.

“What is being presented in this document is a set of goals, and in those goals there are a set of underlying ‘how do we get theres,’ ” he said. “That’s the piece that’s really exciting. This creates a blueprint for moving these ideas forward that people from all over Maine have been thinking about.”

Part of the new report deals with improving data sharing among different organizations. While some businesses might balk at handing over proprietary information, sometimes sharing data makes sense, according to the report’s authors.

“We have a number of public sector organizations that are trying to promote food systems and farms, and they’re all collecting data from farms,” Swain said. “One of the challenges for small businesses, of course, is if they want to participate in those opportunities they have to be giving their information multiple times – very similar information – to a lot of different places. One suggestion that came up was looking at how we might be able to streamline some of that data collection between organizations.”

Similarly, organizations that fight hunger in Maine are talking about conducting some client surveys together so they don’t duplicate one another’s work, said Sara Trunzo, director of the farm food bank Veggies For All and a member of the steering committee.

The report touches on a huge number of topics, including the traceability of seafoods, farmers’ best management practices, the marketing of seafood through community-supported fisheries, and financial training for sustainable agriculture, farm and fishing businesses.

Partners and stakeholders who helped develop the report will come together at the end of the month, and the project’s subcommittees will reconvene at the end of September. Then the group will hold a statewide food summit Dec. 2 at the University of Maine’s Wells Conference Center in Orono.

“People say it’s great to eat, fun to get local food, but at the end of the day it’s also about strengthening the local Maine economy and creating new economic opportunities and it being part of the economic engine that is Maine,” Stoll said. “This is not just about tomatoes and carrots and scallops.”

]]> 0, 10 Aug 2016 11:08:13 +0000
Overly tempted at farmers market? Here’s how to use it all. Sun, 07 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Farmers market wooden tokens and portable point of sale systems have wreaked havoc on my already challenged sense of staying inside the lines of my food budget. As the market stalls overflow with gorgeous summer produce, I want it all. Each type of slicing tomato; every bouquet of herbs; all the lovely heads of lettuce; yellow, green and purple beans; peak of summer corn; experimental melons; bright berries by the quart; radishes and baby turnips in all sizes; and chili peppers running up and down the Scoville scale.

You see my problem? As recently as five years ago, I was kept in check by the cash in my wallet, as credit cards were useless at farmers markets. But electronic payment systems have enabled my eyes to become bigger than my family’s collective stomach on any given market day.

Rather than heeding my husband’s fiscal warnings to buy only what we can eat until the next market day, I have developed four kitchen behaviors to make sure that none of the extraneous produce that lands here goes to waste.

Firstly, take the time on market day to prep produce for longer-term storage. Herbs look artfully trendy sitting in a mason jar on the counter. But they will last much longer if you wrap them loosely in a clean flour-sack towel and store them, labeled (I keep masking tape and a Sharpie on the kitchen counter) in the very front of the vegetable crisper. Don’t wash the herbs until just before you want to use them, as water will hurry decomposition.

Lovely lettuces should get washed, torn into pieces and twirled in the salad spinner before they, too, are wrapped and stored, for easy salad pickings.

For heartier greens like kale and chard and edible leaves that come attached to any root vegetables, it’s best to remove the leaves from their stems in bite-sized pieces (save the stems for green smoothies or to be chopped and sautéed). Wash and spin them dry and place them front and center in the refrigerator so that every time you open the door, your mind registers the sub-conscious message of “USE ME”!

That subliminal message brings me to breakfast, my second secret weapon for using up produce. Berries, breads and eggs are obvious morning mealtime items. But you can also train yourself to use any kind of market bounty for breakfast. I started by grating surplus tomatoes on toast for my daughter and graduated to greens sautéed in reserved bacon grease sitting under my fried egg and/or next to my toast, another easy way to routinely green up breakfast. If I’m cooking to impress overnight guests with little effort, a savory Dutch baby (see recipe) gets herbs and greens into eaters early in the day.

Thirdly, I make sure eggplant, bell peppers, summer squash and zucchini get eaten throughout the week by grilling them en masse on market day. Firing up the grill just once conserves energy, and having the vegetables already cooked means they can easily be included in lunchtime sandwiches and quick dinners.

And finally, I put up a few jars of something. For many people, preserving the summer bounty conjures up long, hot days in a steamy kitchen preserving gobs of stuff. But it simply doesn’t have to be that big of a production. Three jars of pickled beets or dilly beans takes fewer than 45 minutes to pull off and are just as welcome on a gray February day as any big batch jar would be.

CHRISTINE BURNS RUDALEVIGE is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at:

]]> 0, 06 Aug 2016 23:18:40 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Even at 17 years old, reliable Local 188 maintains its creative spark Sun, 07 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 “Long in the tooth” is a phrase that sounds as if it should have something to do with food, but doesn’t – like a flavor that fades out in a slow coda, lingering on your tongue and maybe wearing out its welcome by a few seconds. Instead, the term is just a colorful way of saying “old.” It’s how a friend of mine described Local 188 when I told her I was going for dinner one night recently, adding that the restaurant had been part of the Portland dining scene “for centuries.” Well, since 1999 at least, when Executive Chef Jay Villani opened the Spanish-influenced restaurant as the first of his trio of restaurants that now includes Sonny’s and Salvage BBQ.

After 17 years, Local 188 has also been written about more than a few times. Three and a half years ago, the Press Herald published a four-star review that praised the “impossibly intense” smoked chicken and the savory pumpkin bread pudding, calling the meal “among the most interesting and satisfying in town.”

But even in the short span of a few years, Portland’s food scene has snowballed into something larger, more complex, and certainly much more competitive than it was. Which makes it all the more amazing that a teenage restaurant like Local 188, with its shabby chic décor, mix-and-match light fixtures and tin ceilings, still sees lines of patrons waiting to eat brunch on weekends, and still manages, according to Villani, to seat more than 160 people on a typical Friday or Saturday night.

Some of that popularity comes down to booze: Local 188 might be a restaurant, but its beverage program feels more like it comes from a bar. Typically, you’ll find an entire dozen draft beers, along with a carefully considered, mostly Old World wine list and some gorgeous cocktails, like the bittersweet The Fever ($11), which, with homemade blood orange-infused gin, made an excellent aperitif.

Another reason for Local 188’s longevity is Villani’s management style. He still shows up at the restaurant every morning. For weekend brunch service, he also cooks alongside his young staff, whom he views as one of the restaurant’s biggest assets. Referring to himself as their spiritual guru and advisor, he uses his team’s zeal to keep the restaurant (and especially its menu) fresh. “These days, it’s about the kids in the kitchen. I want them to take their ideas and make what they enjoy eating and not to think if it’s going to be a hit or a miss. I tell them, ‘You make something new you believe in, that you really love, and I’ll be right behind you,’ ” Villani said.

One place where this approach has paid dividends is on the dessert menu, where you’ll find a strawberry shortcake with a chèvre and parsnip panna cotta ($8), or pastry chef Pat Tubbs’ literally named take on a Black Forest cherry dessert, the Bosque Negro ($8), a dense triple chocolate brownie dripping with slow-melting charred vanilla ice cream and dotted with deep red pickled cherries. Tubbs ties sweet and savory elements together with a Spanish-accented sherry pastry cream, soft raisin fruit jellies that echo aromas in the sherry, and a sprinkling of fried pine nuts that have been tossed in paprika. There’s a lot going on here, but apart from needing a little more vanilla char flavor in the ice cream, it all comes together in this remarkably inventive dessert – even the plating, which is aptly Picasso-esque.

It’s no surprise that presentation matters at Local 188 when you understand that it was originally a gallery, with tapas and wine offered as a way of attracting potential art buyers. Today, you’ll find murals and paintings on the walls, but also clear attention to the visual in dishes like the super-tangy, clean and simple white anchovies ($5), made in-house, but served in an open anchovy tin – a sly reference to both Magritte and Warhol, one that subverts expectations of what’s inside. Villani got the idea for the presentation on a tapas-eating trip to Barcelona he took with some of his Local 188 chefs, where they ate “really fantastic canned products served at the table in their tins,” he said.

Anchovies also showed up in a brown butter vinaigrette that topped the charred asparagus salad ($8) with shaved manchego and saffron croutons, a dish that, our server accurately remarked, “tastes like a backyard barbecue.” It also paired wonderfully with a slice of the very straightforward, if slightly underseasoned, traditional Spanish tortilla ($8) a thick omelet of sorts, made with layers of potato, bell pepper, cheese and scallion, and plated with a thick smear of a perky garlic aioli.

Another old standard, the classic paella ($28) needed a little tweaking. While we adored the fresh chourico (a Portuguese version of chorizo that is chunkier and a little more fatty) made for the restaurant at Salvage BBQ, as well as the intense tomato flavor, we couldn’t get past the rice. Good paellas soak up saffron-rich broth in thirsty, sponge-like quantities because they start with short-grained and starchy Bomba rice (or, in a pinch, Arborio). When all the broth is gone, the supersaturated grains at the bottom of the pan form a savory, crunchy bottom crust called “socarrat” that is as important to the dish as the clams and saffron – mostly because it is addictively tasty. Instead, our paella was made with a medium-long grain canilla rice that remained a little wet and consequently never developed the crispy socarrat, even after we had devoured the excellent seafood, chicken and grill-marked sausage. Switch up the rice, and I’d wager that this becomes one of the best paellas in the region.

By some distance, the star of our meal was the North Spore oyster mushrooms in a smoked brisket vinaigrette ($9). The sleight of hand worked by combining an ultra-concentrated beef sauce with grill-seared mushrooms gave this dish the illusion of meatiness, as if every salty, smoky bite were orders of magnitude richer than it actually was. The plate also illustrated yet another reason why Local 188 is still in business: its blend of creativity and frugality. That sauce I couldn’t get enough of? It’s made with jus left over from the weekend’s brunch brisket hash. “Everyone squawks about buying local, but when you do it (like in those mushrooms) there’s a compression and you have to make up costs somewhere. It’s a fine line making money on a restaurant these days, so we try to use every single thing. But only if it actually tastes good,” Villani said.

That he can make thriftiness this appealing says something important about Villani’s success running restaurants. It’s not enough just to be an inspirational boss or a creative cook with lots of ideas, or even to present artistic, visually compelling plates to diners. Those things help, certainly, but what really matters is that you’re thinking about all of a restaurant’s complicated moving parts and can keep them working together smoothly, even if the machinery is 17 years old. May we all be half this good when we are getting a little long in the tooth ourselves.

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

Contact him at:; Twitter: @AndrewRossME

]]> 2, 05 Aug 2016 17:06:49 +0000
Portland wine bar is one of Bon Appetit’s 50 best new restaurants Wed, 03 Aug 2016 15:39:17 +0000 Portland wine bar Drifters Wife is on Bon Appetit’s list of this year’s 50 best new restaurants.

The East End wine bar is one of nine restaurants named in the Northeast category, including five in New York City.

Brooklyn defectors Peter and Orenda Hale first opened a wine shop called Maine & Loire before opening the bar in the same location on inner Washington Avenue, where there’s been a surge of new dining options.

Bon Appetit said Drifters Wife “effortlessly nails that date-night wine-bar vibe that city dwellers know so well.”

The food magazine will narrow the list of 50 to its “Hot 10” on Aug. 16.

In 2014, Portland restaurant Central Provisions, which was one of the magazine’s 50 best new restaurants along with Palace Diner in Biddeford, went on to make the top ten list.

Last year, the East Ender and Tandem Coffee + Bakery were among the top 50.

]]> 1, 03 Aug 2016 18:02:08 +0000
Carrots go from zzzzz to zesty after a visit to Morocco Wed, 03 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Serving a couple of vegetables every night at dinner is a great strategy for families with picky eaters.

Offering young kids a choice (“Would you like green beans or parsnips or both tonight?”) gives them a small but important sense of efficacy, while also helping to demystify ingredients that are served (non-threateningly) at the table. And for the rest of us, eating a couple of vegetables with each meal is a great opportunity to get in the variety of nutrients that keeps us healthy.

But two vegetables a night adds up quickly, and we can find ourselves a little lost for creative preparations, especially when time is short.

One of my favorite ways to cook veggies quickly (even thicker root veggies) is the pan-sauté/steam method. It’s quick and melds the best of sautéing (a little fat and flavor) and steaming (speedy cooking without bland boiling).

Start by adding a little fat to a sauté pan. I love coconut oil for the healthy benefits and slightly nutty and exotic notes it adds to the veggies, but any neutral oil will do.

Sauté the veggies for a couple of minutes, adding in whatever spices or aromatics you have around the house that your family loves. You can go simple with shallots or garlic or more complex with curry paste or Chinese five-spice powder.

Next, add liquid – water, broth, citrus juice – and cover to steam for a few minutes. Once the veggies are crisp-tender from the steam, uncover the pan and allow the liquid to evaporate, leaving the veggies in a tasty and simple glaze. Top with some kind of acid – lime juice, or tangy plain yogurt both work well with a variety of flavors.

And the final touch? Something crunchy (like pumpkin seeds or chopped nuts) and something fresh like chopped basil, cilantro or mint. The perfect veggie plan for weeknights.


Makes 4 servings

1 pound baby carrots, peeled and greens removed

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

3/4 teaspoon ras el hanout (Moroccan seasoning)

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


1/4 cup plain Greek lowfat yogurt

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons toasted chopped walnuts

Torn mint leaves for garnish

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the mustard seed in coconut oil until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cumin, ras el hanout, paprika, granulated garlic and stir. Add the carrots and salt and stir to coat carrots with spices, and cook until the spices are deep in color, stirring, about 3 minutes.

Then deglaze the pan with stock and lime juice. Cover the pan and let steam for 3 minutes, then uncover and cook until liquid evaporates, another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile make the sauce by mixing yogurt, lime juice, smoked paprika and salt in a small bowl. Lay the carrots on a platter and spoon some yogurt over the carrots. Top with walnuts and mint leaves to serve.

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

]]> 0, 03 Aug 2016 08:13:07 +0000
Grilled lamb: Minimal prep yields maximum flavor Wed, 03 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 This recipe sounds, looks and tastes fancy, but it takes only a few steps of preparation and some simple assembly.

It’s one of those recipes that demands the best ingredients you can afford; it will make a difference. You can also use rib lamb chops, which are a bit pricier.

Play around with the herb and lettuce mixture. Any assortment of tender lettuces and fresh herbs will be lovely atop the rich grilled chops and tender, smoky onions. Grilling the lemons with the lamb and onions caramelizes them, and the juice you sprinkle over the finished dish will have a nice hint of smokiness.

You can let the onions and lemons sit in the marinade at room temperature for an hour or so, or in the fridge for up to 2 days for more flavor.

If you have a vegetable grilling grate, use it. Otherwise, even if you use a wide grilling spatula, you might end up sacrificing a few of the onion rings to the grilling gods.


Serves 5

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, preferably white balsamic

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 large yellow or Vidalia onions

3 lemons, halved crosswise

10 loin lamb chops, about 1-inch thick

2 cups baby arugula

1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

Combine 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the white wine, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper in a shallow baking dish. Peel the onions and cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Place them in the baking dish along with the lemon halves, turn to coat with the marinade (it’s fine to stack the onion slices) and set aside.

Brush the lamb chops with 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil, generously season with salt and pepper, and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium/medium-high.

Grill the onions and the lamb chops for about 8 minutes, about 4 minutes on each side, so that they get nicely browned on both sides. Turn the onions with a grilling spatula (you can use a spatula or tongs for the lamb). At the same time, grill the lemons cut-side down for about 5 minutes. The internal temperature of the lamb chops should be 130 degree Fahrenheit for medium rare.

Remove the chops and lemons from the grill and let sit on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, move the onions to a cooler area of the grill or turn the gas down, and let them continue to soften while the lamb and lemons sit, watching carefully to make sure the onions don’t burn.

While the chops sit and the onions finish cooking, place the arugula and parsley in a medium bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss.

Place the lamb chops and onions on a serving platter. Pile the arugula and herb salad on top. Place the lemon halves on the side so people can squeeze them, or squeeze the juice yourself all over the meal and serve immediately.

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

]]> 0, 03 Aug 2016 08:13:09 +0000
How to make a salad that everyone wants to eat Wed, 03 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There was a time when the word “salad” referred to little more than a pile of iceberg lettuce. It was ornamentation, sometimes doused in a sickly-sweet, carrot-colored dressing described, inexplicably, as “French.”

No one then may have actually wanted to eat a salad. It was punishment, a self-flagellation for all the truly delicious things we had been eating, for the jiggle we were slowly accruing. If you threw in a couple of cherry tomatoes and a few croutons so stale they resembled moon rocks, you could tote one of those travesties to a summer potluck, and people would practically thank you for bringing something healthful.

Then, something happened. A trend that traces right back to the produce aisles and to the boom in farmers markets, places where vegetables such as sweet potatoes, mache, turnip greens and ramps have turned up anew.

We have more ingredients within our reach. We also have more notions about how we might prepare them: Should we grill or spiralize? Go raw or serve our vegetables slightly warm?

Amid all that change, the pallid pile of lettuce and bacon bits went out. Complexity is in. And a modern salad can require as much thinking – and, occasionally, cooking – as an elaborate main course. These days, it often is the main course. If your salad making skills haven’t quite kept pace, one could hardly blame you.

“When you have all these ingredients, that’s the hard part,” says Michael Stebner, culinary director for the salad chain Sweetgreen, which dishes up bowls with as many as eight components, some of them as labor-intensive as spicy, blackened broccoli or baked falafel. We all wonder, he says, “How am I going to compose a salad that isn’t confusing?”

Here’s how: Follow these tips from Stebner for upping your salad game.

Pluck one or two in-season vegetables to be your salad’s stars.

Homing in on a few main flavors will help keep even an elaborate salad grounded. Let the season dictate what those flavors should be.

“Don’t go to the market expecting to find something, and, if you don’t find it, your plans are ruined,” says Stebner. Choose what’s sprouting up all over the markets you frequent. At the height of summer, it might be sweet corn and tomatoes, which Stebner picked to demonstrate how to compose a summer salad. Whatever you choose, however, it will taste better when it’s in season.

More about seasonality: When the market is spilling over with vegetables at the height of summer, fight the urge to turn on the oven and, say, roast sweet potatoes. “This time of year, for me, it’s about not cooking,” Stebner says. If you’re using in-season vegetables, they will be at their ripest and sweetest, and you can absolutely eat them raw, with a hint of seasoning. “The ingredients do all the work,” Stebner says. (Worthy exception: making use of the grill and your stockpile of briquettes to blacken corn, chilies or, if you’re feeling really rock ‘n’ roll, romaine lettuce.)

Once the weather turns and you’re staring down piles of cauliflower, potatoes and Brussels sprouts, by all means, turn on the oven and roast them, and season heavily. “In the winter,” Stebner says, “you’re going for deeper, more rich flavors.”

You’re going to need some inspiration.

You’ve arrived at the most confounding moment in salad making: What do you add now?

Having a game plan helps, and how you arrive at it varies. Maybe you want to tweak a Caesar salad, or channel the flavors of shawarma. Or you can let the market guide you. Stebner likes to heed the old farming proverb “what grows together, goes together”; it’s why he chose to pair corn with tomatoes, because both reach their peak at roughly the same time of year. It also explains why, in the chillier months, crunchy beets pair so perfectly with winter citrus such as grapefruit and blood orange.

You can also look for cultural inspiration in the ingredients you have on hand. Stebner kicked around a faintly Italian theme that would pair his market finds with basil and a burrata or mozzarella cheese. But then he grabbed a few sweet peppers and avocados, and his concept changed. He reached for chewy, mild halloumi cheese and then could see he had in hand exactly what he needed for a meatless dish with a tinge of Latin American influence: a marinated corn salad with peppers and avocado.

Layer in textures and flavors.

Now it’s time to pile in chewy and crunchy elements and herbs that will add spice, acid, sweetness or creaminess to your salad.

Proteins such as chicken and tofu can turn a side salad into an entree, but so can wheat berries, farro and quinoa, which pack protein, iron and a nutty flavor.

For a funkiness that complements bitter lettuces and sour vinegars, Stebner frequently turns to goat cheeses. “We’re looking for umami, we’re looking for richness. And cheese is going to give you that,” he says. But for his corn salad, he used halloumi, a mild, buttery Mediterranean cheese that becomes chewy when tossed into a grill pan. It adds a warm element to Stebner’s cool, mostly raw salad.

For creaminess, bypass ranch dressing and try wedges of ripe avocado. There are myriad ways to add something crunchy, too: Toast almonds or even tiny kernels of raw quinoa in a dry pan until they’re golden, and toss them in. Or throw in chia seeds, which won’t add flavor, Stebner says, but will pack a nutritional punch.

With the tomatoes, corn and peppers going into his salad raw – they’ll contribute that crunch – Stebner lightly marinated them, giving them an hour to soak in a bath of vinegar and oil. Another pro tip: He blended some smoked salt into his dressing to add a faint taste of the grill without having to sweat over real flames.

Stebner suggests using a few almost imperceptible sprigs of in-season herbs such as basil, mint, tarragon and parsley; they, too, can add zip to your greens.

Practice your knife skills.

Because raw onion slices the size of the rings of Saturn have no place in your salad.

To make sure every bite has an ideal mix of flavors, cut or tear your ingredients so they’re about the same size, says Stebner. Thinly shave a radish to temper its punch. Dice that onion.

No thick, orange cubes of cheddar cheese, no enormous hunks of roasted Brussels sprouts, no cherry tomatoes tossed in whole. Bite-size cuts will play nicer together.

Kale is (somehow!) still trendy. But not every salad should be a kale salad.

“Lettuce is a main player in a salad,” says Stebner.

He suggests considering flavor and texture when deciding which greens will best complement your starring ingredients. Arugula is flavorful, all peppery bite. Mesclun, tender and neutral. Iceberg is earthy, if otherwise lacking in flavor, but it can provide crunch the others don’t.

If your main ingredient is sweet, as with Stebner’s corn salad, or if you’re making a peach or watermelon salad, arugula’s savory qualities can spice things up. In the raw corn salad, it adds “an herbal, peppery flavor that is going to go against the sweet, ripe flavor of the corn,” says Stebner. “It’s my favorite, because it has so much flavor and so much character.”

And when you’re working with stronger flavors, such as roasted vegetables, and mushier textures, reach for crunchy, mild greens such as gem lettuce and romaine.

OK, now throw in a little kale.

Or better, watercress, chard, or mustard or beet greens.

A salad isn’t an either-or equation. If you’re worried that your delicious salad is also shaping up to be a nutritionally vacuous one, slipping in a few healthful vegetables won’t turn it into a macrobiotic yoga meal only Gwyneth Paltrow could enjoy. Stebner advises mixing up your lettuces, cutting a crowd-pleasing spring mix with a few ragged leaves of kale. The easy-to-digest greens will help the healthful ones seem a little more palatable to your salad-averse friends, plus they can add texture to your salad: In Stebner’s corn salad, arugula brings flavor, but its leaves can quickly go limp. He adds butter lettuce, a sweet, crisp green, to amplify the volume and add bite.

Don’t pile on.

It’s a salad, not a three-ring circus. It’s entirely possible to have too many crunchy, salty and smoky elements doing back flips for any one player in your salad to make an impression. “Adding more ingredients doesn’t improve the flavor, and too many can make it muddy and confusing,” says Stebner.

Make your dressing at home.

Bottled dressings are convenient, but a basic homemade dressing takes only a whisk and a few ingredients probably already on your shelves. Stebner makes a pantry-friendly dressing by mincing garlic to release its flavor and blending it with sherry vinegar, smoked salt and olive oil. “Sherry vinegar is more nuanced,” says Stebner, preferable in the summer to the overused balsamic. In the fall, he suggests trying apple cider vinegar. (It will play nicely with a tart fall apple salad.) To help emulsify the dressing so the oil and vinegar are combined into one rich mix that won’t separate before you’re ready to toss it all together, he loves using an immersion (stick) blender.

n Now, break out the tongs and toss. And keep at it till every leafy green appears coated.

Now is not the time to fret about calories or to defer to your aunt who asks for dressing on the side. Your salad is ready when every element is dressed. Says Stebner: “It doesn’t have to have a ton of dressing. If it’s mixed well, it does the work.”


This Latin American-inspired salad ups the ante on the ripe, sweet quality of summer vegetables by marinating them briefly. Adding a smoked salt to the dressing imparts a subtle grilled flavor.

To save a cooking step, buy precooked quinoa or wheat berries.

To augment the salad’s Latin American inspiration, add a tablespoon of chopped cilantro.

Adapted from a recipe from Michael Stebner, culinary director at Sweetgreen.

Note: The vegetables need to marinate for 1 hour ahead of time.


2 small sweet chili peppers in various colors, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 poblano pepper, seeded and cut into thin, bite-size pieces

1/2 pint (3/4 cup) cherry tomatoes, each cut in half

Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

One 6-ounce piece halloumi cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 head butter lettuce or Bibb lettuce, washed, dried, and cut or torn into large pieces

4 cups packed arugula, washed and dried

Flesh of 1 large, firm avocado, cut into bite-size chunks

1 cup cooked, cooled quinoa

1 cup cooked, cooled wheat berries


1 large clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon smoked salt

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad: Combine the sweet chili peppers, poblano pepper, tomatoes, corn, sherry vinegar and oil in a medium bowl. Season with a pinch each of kosher salt and pepper; toss gently to incorporate. Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the dressing: Combine the garlic, sherry vinegar, crushed red pepper flakes (to taste) and smoked salt in a mixing bowl. Gradually drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly, just long enough to lightly emulsify the dressing.

Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Add the halloumi; cook for about 30 seconds on each side or until browned in spots. The texture should be firm and slightly chewy. Let cool slightly, then cut into bite-size pieces, about the same size as the avocado and cherry tomatoes.

Combine the butter lettuce and arugula, avocado, pan-grilled halloumi pieces, wheat berries, quinoa and the lightly marinated vegetables in a large serving bowl. Gradually pour in the dressing, adding just enough to coat; toss well. (You might not use all the dressing.)

]]> 0, 03 Aug 2016 08:13:10 +0000
Ployes find a new audience – vegan eaters Wed, 03 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Ployes may have a meaty history, but this traditional regional food is steadily gaining vegan street cred.

Made from buckwheat flour, wheat flour, salt and a leavening agent, ployes are a griddle cake associated with the French Acadian communities of eastern Canada and northern Maine. Though traditionally eaten with chicken stew, hot dogs and other meat-based meals, ployes have been embraced by Maine’s vegan community.

They’re also a familiar part of Maine’s natural-food scene. Most health food stores stock the mix made by Bouchard Family Farms in Fort Kent. At Local Sprouts Cooperative Cafe in Portland, the Bouchard Family Farms’ ployes show up on the breakfast menu as a vegan pancake. (The addition of water turns the dry ingredients into a batter.)

They’re a unique Maine product,” said Leslie Hogan, who is a worker-owner at Local Sprouts. “The fact that they are vegan and cholesterol-free and sugar-free and contain no eggs or dairy is also appealing to a lot of our customers.”

Local Sprouts, which focuses on local foods, has served ployes since it opened six years ago, Hogan said, adding, “I don’t think we could take them away.”

Far beyond Portland’s vegan-friendly cafes, Janice Bouchard in Fort Kent said, “We feel the vegan love.”

Bouchard, an owner of Bouchard Family Farms, said the company has brought its ployes to vegetarian festivals in Portland and Boston, where it’s “amazing how many people were attracted to ployes and wanted to know more.”

Here in Maine, many people rely on a packaged mix to make ployes and, in fact, Bouchard Family Farms is often credited with keeping the tradition of ployes alive in the age of microwaves and drive-thrus. I myself grew up in Litchfield with two working parents, who adopted the mix when Bouchard Family Farms introduced it in the early 1980s. Ployes began showing up at our dinner table, stacked and topped with maple syrup, fruits and nuts as a “breakfast for dinner” treat.

A new Maine-made ployes mix is scheduled to hit the market in late summer or early fall. Vassalboro-based Fiddler’s Green Farm is launching a certified organic ployes mix made with Maine-grown tartary buckwheat flour.

“It’s a heritage flour more traditional for northern Maine than the Japanese buckwheat flour that has a larger presence in the market,” said Robert Ericksen, miller and manager at Fiddler’s Green. “The tartary buckwheat’s got a little bit more of a yellowish color, and it’s a lighter flavor.”

Fiddler’s Green, which mills and packages organic porridges, baking mixes and other bulk foods, distributes locally through Crown O’Maine Organic Cooperative and New Hampshire-based Associated Buyers. It also does a brisk trade online, much of it with out-of-staters. Because of its customer base, the company plans to market the product as a flatbread mix, a term Ericksen said is “more accessible to people who don’t know what a ploye is.”

“Up to this point, it’s been a cloistered regional food,” he added.

The Fiddler’s Green team hopes the wording will help broaden the geographic appeal of ployes.

“I like a hearty breakfast, and not eating eggs can be a challenge,” said Beth Gallie, a vegan who has eaten ployes for more than a decade. “Ployes are great because they are tasty, nutritious, very easy to make and do not require eggs.”

Gallie is president of the Maine Animal Coalition, which hosts the annual Vegetarian Food Festival in Portland.

Karen Coker, a vegan and a founder of the Portland-based educational group Plant IQ, likes the pancake’s nutritional qualities.

“Ployes appeal to plant-based eaters because they’re free of eggs and dairy,” Coker said, “and they appeal to Plant IQ’s members because they’re also free of added oil, which we strive to avoid because it’s so calorie-dense and has little nutritional value.”

Plant IQ is a local group associated with the 2015 documentary “Plant Pure Nation,” which advocates for an oil-free, plant-based style of eating.

“Buckwheat is high in essential nutrients and an important group of antioxidants called bound antioxidants,” Coker continued. “Ployes are a great alternative to white flour pancakes and flatbreads, especially when topped with fresh fruits or savory vegetables, instead of loaded with sugary syrups.”

Jennifer McCann of Washington state includes a recipe for ployes in her book “Vegan Lunch Box Around the World: 125 Easy, International Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love!” as part of her Canadian menu, which also features maple syrup, vegan Canadian bacon, steamed fiddleheads and dried blueberries.

“They’re already vegan, so I didn’t have to do any substituting or veganizing,” McCann said, “and they’re wonderful rolled up and packed with a container of maple syrup for dipping or some baked beans for an on-the-go breakfast or lunch.”

Traditionally, ployes are cooked without flipping them, which creates the distinctive air holes on top, similar to French crepes or Ethopian inerja bread. McCann lets the batter sit for 30 minutes before cooking, as many crepe recipes also suggest. The Bouchard mix sits for just five minutes before it is cooked.

At Local Sprouts, the ployes can look either more puffy and pancakelike or more thin and crepelike, depending on who is cooking and the culinary tricks they employ, Hogan said. But no matter who is behind the spatula, she assured me, Local Sprouts isn’t “making your grandma’s ployes.”

Instead they’re making Acadian Ployes Pancakes, vegan.

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


This recipe comes from “Vegan Lunch Box Around the World: 125 Easy, International Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love!” by Jennifer McCann.

Makes 8 ployes

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Sift the flours, baking powder and salt together into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add 1½ cups cold water and whisk until smooth. Add ½ cup boiling water and stir to combine.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter sit for 30 minutes. Toward the end of that time, begin heating a nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.

Pour ⅓ cup batter onto the hot, ungreased skillet. The batter should be the consistency of cake batter and should spread out on its own to form a thin, round ploye 6 to 7 inches across. If it’s too thick, add extra water to the mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Cook without turning until the bottom is crisp and the top is dry and dotted with large holes, about 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet and serve. Repeat with the remaining batter.

]]> 1, 03 Aug 2016 08:13:11 +0000
Too often overlooked, Italy’s Bardolino humbly wields power Wed, 03 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 For the wines of northern Italy’s Veronese plains, misappraisal reigns. Amarone, though complex and challenging to produce, is awarded undue reverence and fails on occasions other than the rare and sumptuous (at which it must be much older than it is usually served). Fine Valpolicella swaps the concentration and ballast of its prestigious cousin for acidity, gentleness and grace, but of course, all that is considered rather too inconsequential, and so to the “lesser red wine” über-category it goes. Ripasso aims to strike a balance between Amarone’s intensity and Valpolicella’s freshness, but too often is subject to fussy interference in the cellar and emerges overpainted.

Meanwhile for the whites, Soave gets 1/84th the respect it deserves as a serious, multitiered beauty. But perhaps lowest of all on the totem pole, and most egregiously overlooked, is Bardolino. Not even my most trusted resources for wine ampelography and geography, respectively Ian D’Agata’s “Native Wine Grapes of Italy” and the “World Atlas of Wine” by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, afford it more than a passing sentence. In Robinson’s “The Oxford Companion to Wine,” the Italian wine specialist Walter Speller opens the Bardolino entry with the gently damning, “generally modest but attractive light red wine.”

Well, yes, precisely. And isn’t that pretty much the best thing to be? Every once in a while I want to spend time with people who are incomparably brilliant, stupendously beautiful or absurdly funny. Most of the time I want to spend time with people who are generally modest and attractive. Bardolino is a humble wine with an immediate, unique character: cordial, sleek and satisfying, brought to shimmering life slightly chilled, its touches of deep fruitiness offset by high acidity and higher refreshment.

Like all great modest, attractive wines, Bardolino is unobtrusive if that’s what you need, culinarily helpful and quietly charming without overstatement, but simultaneously interesting and solicitous of deeper attention if you’d prefer. Think of it as a good Lambrusco without sweetness or bubbles. (Actually, some Bardolino wines capture a touch of the CO2 that naturally results during fermentation, introducing a very light fizz.) It’s Lambrusco-good with casual, salty dishes – salumi, fried veggies, a hunk of cheese – or burgers and other simple foods from the grill. Tomatoes with olive oil, salt and fresh basil are a beautiful match.

The appellation of Bardolino lies northwest of Verona, hugging the eastern banks of Lake Garda. To the north lie the cities of Trento and Bolzano, and then Austria. Travel east from Bardolino and you arrive in Valpolicella. As in Valpolicella and Soave, Bardolino has a Classico zone to distinguish it from the broadened area established to produce more denominated wine. But unlike in Valpolicella and Soave where the Classico areas benefit from hillside vineyards, Bardolino Classico and Bardolino both lie on a flat plain and so the distinctions of terroir play a relatively small part. What matters most is grape-tending, and the degree to which a given vignaiolo (vintner, or more precisely, wine-grower) resists the temptation of the appellation’s high production limits.

The grapes grown for Bardolino are the same as for Valpolicella: corvina, rondinella and molinara, with tiny additions of others every once in a while. Much Valpolicella emphasizes corvina, the blackest of the triumvirate and the one most capable of endowing the wines with intensity – though I’d debate whether intensity in Valpolicella is a worthy aim. For Bardolino, then, whose nature seems to rest most comfortably in lightness and freshness, excessive corvina is a risk, and the wines I enjoy most employ more of the under-esteemed molinara.

Not that any of us, any time soon, are going to start asking about molinara numbers in the Bardolino wines we seek. The more salient issue in blends is the overall character of the wine, and within its circumscribed realm Bardolino offers variety. This expresses on the palate as color of fruit: red, purple, black. Whichever, a good Bardolino will be lively on the tongue, with subtle notes of spice and salt and a citric piquancy. Whether you choose one emphasizing vibrant red-berry, tangy August plum or surprisingly luscious black cherry, the wine should dance. Gracefully, never showily – or if you prefer, modestly and attractively.

Fasoli Gino “La Corte del Pozzo” Bardolino 2013 ($18) is a spot-on expression of Bardolino in the lighter, redder vein. This is all the more surprising given that the estate, certified organic since 1984 and practicing biodynamic farming since 2006, produces this wine from majority corvina grapes. But the soft-touch viticulture and vineyards’ proximity to the cooling effects of Lake Garda render corvina in a paler mode. Red grape, Rainier cherry, wild strawberry are the fruit notes. A touch of spritz, medium weight, flowers, balance.

How about an outlier that remains true to type? For that try Le Xi Terre Bardolino 2014 ($14), which blends sangiovese with the region-specific mix, darkening the wine’s overall personality. The winery keeps yields low with intelligent vine-training and assiduous pruning, and emphasizes freshness and delicacy through slow, gentle pressing of the harvested grapes. Black-cherry fruit is up front, in a surprisingly rich, almost luxurious package that remains sleek and medium-bodied, with high tangerine acidity. There’s a touch of the sweatshirt-and-rubber quality that some people appreciate in pinotage, of all things. But the way the wine adds surprising flavor notes – clovey spice, lobster broth – to the usual Bardolino presentation, all in a 12.5 percent alcohol bundle, is unique and hard to resist.

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

]]> 1, 03 Aug 2016 08:13:13 +0000
Daunting at first, ‘Good Things to Drink with Mr. Lyan and Friends’ offers simple cocktail recipes Wed, 03 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 My first impression of “Good Things to Drink” was that it was pretentious and impractical.

Flipping through the pages, it seemed the recipes were either insultingly simplistic (who needs instructions for making a gin and tonic?) or something that I can’t imagine anyone actually following, other than a bartender at a fancy cocktail lounge – someone like Ryan Chetiyawardana, a celebrated mixologist from London, known by his nickname, Mr Lyan, and the author of this cookbook.

I don’t know about you, but I am not about to bake up some eggplant chips as a garnish for drinks for me and a couple friends.

I picked up the book in the hopes of finding a punch or some other large-batch drink to make during my upcoming vacation, either for entertaining or to keep in a pitcher for whenever I felt like a fun, refreshing cocktail.

I figured there had to be something suitable within the inch-thick hard cover. A quick look through the index, where the book is broken down into several sections from “Market Fresh” to “Winter Feasting,” led me to “Summer Social Sips,” which sounded exactly like what I was seeking.

There was a recipe for a punch that seemed promising, but the main ingredient was apple juice – not my favorite. The following two recipes showed pictures of refreshing-looking drinks in pitchers with lemon rinds, both made with scotch, also not my first choice.

Then, there was a section within the section called “infusions.” I figured I would’ve had to start making these a month in advance, but that wasn’t the case.

It can be a bit of work preparing the infusion for Grapefruit and Rosemary Gin with Ginger Ale, but it's well worth the effort.

It can be a bit of work preparing the infusion for Grapefruit and Rosemary Gin with Ginger Ale, but it’s well worth the effort.

The recipe for grapefruit and rosemary gin with ginger ale used some of my favorite flavors and didn’t require that I purchase ingredients like green chartreuse that I’d never use again.

Making the infusion seemed simple enough too, with the booze needing just a few hours in the fridge to infuse. In a weeklong vacation, I could find time for that.

Starting a little too close to cocktail hour, I gave it just two hours before giving it a taste. I was worried the flavors wouldn’t have fully infused but I was wrong. I was also worried the ginger ale would overpower the infusion. Wrong again.

What I got was a deliciously refreshing cocktail with a flavor all its own. If I hadn’t known the ingredients in it, I probably could not have guessed them. I had a second serving of the infusion with tonic instead of ginger ale, as the recipe offers as an alternative, and that made for another distinctly flavored drink.

As with all the recipes in the book, a second preparation was proposed. It used the flesh of the grapefruit in addition to the peel but warned that the drink’s fuller flavor could get old quick. Even with just the peel, I found the infusion to be pretty bold.

Surprised by the simplicity and success of my first recipe, I started reading the cookbook more closely. In his introduction, Chetiyawardana notes that the recipes should act as inspirations and needn’t be followed to a T. It hit me that the recipes were the opposite of what I had initially thought. They were fairly simple ways to make very impressive cocktails. A breakdown of essential bar equipment at the beginning of the book shows no huge investment is needed to become a home barkeep.

And there’s sure to be something to fit anyone’s tastes and time constraints among the dozens of recipes that incorporate various ingredients and require different levels of commitment – which, for the most part, is less than I would have thought.

Soon, I was considering whipping up a quick rhubarb syrup for the next one.


3 grapefruits

100g/4oz sugar

2 sprigs rosemary

1 bottle London dry gin

Cubed ice

Chilled ginger ale, to finish

Grapefruit, to garnish

Zest the grapefruit using a peeler.

Add the peel along with the sugar, rosemary and gin to a large jar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Allow to infuse for a few hours (or up to a day), then strain through a sieve. Store in the fridge.

To serve, fill a highball with cubes of ice and add 2 shots of the infusion. Top with chilled ginger ale, stir and add a slice of grapefruit.

]]> 0, 03 Aug 2016 08:43:12 +0000
Food festival pays homage to Maine’s revered (and reviled) red hot dog Wed, 03 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Last winter, in a building designed by famed Maine architect John Calvin Stevens, a group of dedicated residents of Dexter sat down to brainstorm about revitalizing their beloved town, with the primary proposed means being a summer festival enticing enough to have out-of-towners flocking to Dexter.

Earlier attempts at fundraising festivals in this former mill town smack in the middle of the state included a Western theme and the prosaic “Dexter Days.” They were fine, but didn’t draw the crowds: hundreds, not thousands. The Dexter Revitalization Committee agreed that food was always a good draw. Rockland has the Maine Lobster Festival (which starts today and is celebrating its 69th year). Dexter didn’t have any particular affiliation with any one food. But then again, neither did nearby Dover-Foxcroft, which started its Maine Whoopie Pie Festival in 2009 and by 2015 hosted 8,000, nearly double the town’s population. The group mulled until committee member Diane Parola stepped into the creative breach.

“I brought up the idea of red hot dogs,” Parola said.

There was resistance on the committee.

“Some people said, ‘I hate red hot dogs, I don’t want to do it.’ ”

But the group began to come around as Parola explained how the red hot dog holds a special place in Maine food culture. Only one company in Maine still makes them, W. A. Bean of Bangor, but people all across the country have fond memories of grilling these hot dogs – so lurid in color that ketchup looks sedate next to them – over campfires on summer nights in Maine.

And even if some people judge them disgusting, consensus is never easy. People have biases, often for the wrong reasons. The very man who had commissioned this John Calvin Stevens building, now home to Dexter’s only hotel, the Brewster Inn, was one of Dexter’s most famous residents, Ralph Owen Brewster, first a governor then a senator of Maine whose early political career took off with the support of the Ku Klux Klan. During his last days in power he worked alongside his pal Joseph McCarthy, the most famous anti-red politician in American history. That this plot to celebrate the red hot dog was hatched in his former home might be poetic justice.


Dexter’s decision to go ahead and start planning the festival, which premieres Aug. 13, was a lucky one, timing-wise. Sean Smith, the director of marketing and sales for W. A. Bean, said he had just started talking with Bangor City Councilman Ben Sprague about “doing a red snapper thing in Bangor” when he got a call from Parola.

She, and Dexter, seemed a lot further along in their planning, so even though Bangor does have that claim to being home to the last manufacturer of red hot dogs within the state, Smith was happy to say yes to Dexter.

“It’s a really under-appreciated part of the state if you ask me,” Smith said. “To be honest with you, in Bangor we’ve already got enough going on.”

W. A. Bean is donating 200 pounds, some 2,000 of its Red Snappers to Dexter (and more if they are required). At least 150 of those dogs will be placed in front of the 10 participants in a red hot dog eating contest during the one-day festival. The others will be sold in a red hot dog-only food tent. The condiments will likely include chili as well as the standards. Over 35 vendors and crafters have already signed up for the festival, so red hot dogs won’t be the only food. Just don’t look for any other kind of hot dog on sale; that’s forbidden.

The festival will also feature a cooking contest, not entirely oriented around red hot dogs, which some festivalgoers may be grateful for. Contestants will compete for the best red dogs dish, also the best baked bean dish and pie made with Maine fruits.

Admission is free, but sales from all those donated hot dogs, along with corporate sponsorship, will go into a fund for town revitalization projects.

“We’re not trying to make a killing,” Parola said. “But we hope that the concept is going to bring people in.” They’re dreaming of a crowd of between 3,000 and 5,000.


One of those attending will be Mike Labbe, a Gardiner man who writes the blog Hot Dogs of Maine. Labbe was unaware that the festival was happening until a reporter reached out to him, but said he definitely plans on going.

While working on an as-yet-unpublished book, Labbe investigated the origins of the red hot dog. According to Sean Smith, W. A. Bean has been making the Red Snappers since 1918 (the company also makes and packages Rice’s red dogs). But Labbe said his research turned up an informational booklet put out in the early 1990s by Jordan’s Meats, formerly of Maine (sold to Tyson in 2005 and now a subsidiary of Kayem) that puts the origin of the red hot dogs even earlier, before the turn of the 20th century.

Charles and Richard Schonland, whose father was running a successful meat business in Massachusetts, started Schonland Brothers in 1891 on Fore Street in Portland. By 1895 they had moved to Union Street.

“It was the sons that moved to Portland that made theirs red,” Labbe said. “And they dyed them so that theirs would look different.” At least initially: “Everyone followed suit.” In 1935, Jordan’s Meats bought out the Schonlands and continued the red hot dog tradition.

While W. A. Bean does make a “colorless” (i.e., brown) version of its Red Snapper, Labbe remains true to his childhood preference.

“When I was a kid my dad always got me the red ones, and I was fascinated by them.”

What’s the difference, beyond the color?

“I do think they taste different,” Labbe said. “I don’t know. I think the red ones taste better.”

Some of this may have to do with childhood nostalgia. Janice Brown, another amateur historian who has written about hot dog history on her blog, Cow Hampshire, remembers eating red hot dogs on Saturday nights in the 1950s while she and her family watched television. Her dad worked at a meat company in Manchester and brought the dogs home with him.

“We ate them on paper plates and watched ‘The Lone Ranger’ on TV,” she said. “They tasted great. That is why people get these warm fuzzies about certain foods.”

At least two members of the revitalization committee have yet to find out about the distinct flavor of the red dogs for themselves. Parola has an allergy to red dye, so she’s off the hook. But Mark Stephens, who is the owner and proprietor of the Brewster Inn and a member of the revitalization committee? Not so much.

He was one of the less enthusiastic members when the red hot dog idea was broached. He’s never had one. As an Englishman, who settled in Dexter in 2007 and began restoring the inn, he prefers a “proper sausage sandwich, served with English bacon and tomato ketchup.”

Although he admits to having his doubts about the red hot dog concept, he has gotten on board. “I said, ‘Sod it, why not? Let’s go for it. If there’s a Black Fly Festival (in Milo in June), why not red hot dogs?’ ”

He even has two groups of guests, one from Florida and the other from New York, intending to attend the festival (and yes, do other sightseeing in the state, as well). He’s ready to dive in.

“I will eat a red hot dog at the festival,” Stephens said. “I will venture down there and find the best-looking red hot dog I can find. And it will excite me.”

Correction: This story was revised at 7:36 a.m., Aug. 3, 2016, to correctly identify Mike Labbe, who writes the blog Hot Dogs of Maine.

]]> 2, 11 Aug 2016 13:54:00 +0000
Hero sandwich shop in Monument Square closes after 5 months Tue, 02 Aug 2016 17:37:11 +0000 Hero, the sandwich shop at 30 City Center co-owned by Todd Bernard of Empire and the owners of Otto, closed abruptly Monday after having been open just five months.

A sign posted on the door announced the closing and thanked customers for their business. The shop had opened on March 4 during the First Friday Art Walk.

Eric Shepherd, spokesman for the Otto restaurant group, confirmed that the closure is permanent.

“The partnership and the concept just didn’t pan out like we had hoped,” he said. “The location wasn’t performing at the level it needed to to keep going, so we just made the decision to close it.”

Shepherd said the Otto group will now focus on getting its new location at 250 Read St. open. The pizza restaurant has been planned for months but the opening has been delayed while owners Mike Keon and Anthony Allen worked on other projects. Shepherd said they are now hoping to open in late August.

The new Otto will have more booth seating and a dozen taps, more than any other Otto location, Shepherd said.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 9 Tue, 02 Aug 2016 14:55:46 +0000
Dine Out Maine: At Nosh Kitchen Bar in Portland, size matters Sun, 31 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Ask a group of New Yorkers or Yiddish speakers (or both) what they think of when they hear the word “nosh,” and you’ll get a surprisingly good consensus. Mostly, they’ll say the word describes snack food of some sort, almost never a full meal. As a verb, it describes an activity in the gray area between nibbling and casual grazing.

But you don’t have to know what the term means when you walk into Nosh, in Portland’s arts district, because the restaurant helps you out with a definition printed on the front door. It’s a good idea, even if it doesn’t prepare you for what you’ll encounter inside, in the arched dining room that still retains plaster work from its first incarnation as a movie theater. Incongruous with the delicate ceiling is a heavily branded bar with local beers on tap, along with three televisions (all tuned to different channels), high tables with elevated wooden banquette seating and a partly open kitchen that looks like a place where a DJ might spin the music that blares throughout the echoing space. Nosh is, in a word, loud.

But that fits with at least part of chef/owner Jason Loring’s vision for his restaurant. “Lots of the complaints we get are about the loudness. But boisterous is what we’re looking for,” he said. “We want it to be a place where if someone breaks a glass or smashes some plates, it’s not a big deal. You won’t even notice.”

High volume also seems to be a natural match for the menu’s overarching focus on high-concept extreme hamburgers, including one constructed from two thick slices of Sicilian pizza (from another Loring restaurant, Slab) and one that uses two entire doughnuts in place of a bun. Or the Nosh Mac ‘N Stack ($15), an American cheese-coated beef patty sandwiched between two leaden, deep-fried squares of compressed macaroni and cheese that look like and have the heft of paving tiles. We found the macaroni to be well-seasoned but very dry, a necessary concession to the process required to get it to retain its shape until it is served.

At the same time, the beef itself was outstanding, as it was in both the Nosh Burger ($12), a breakfast-style hamburger with blue cheese spread and a fried egg on top, and the classic (but still oversized) Cheese Burger ($10). Nosh’s executive chef Noah Leether has a real talent for keeping patties moist and just a little pink inside. Sadly, the impressive grill technique simply gets lost amid the attention-sucking spectacle of a monster truck of a burger.

Nosh wasn’t always like this. When it opened in 2010, the restaurant served what Loring describes as “lots of fish, pickled items, homemade charcuterie, vegetables … a couple of burgers too, but it was a lot like tapas,” a menu very much in tune with the name. Soon after, Loring saw an episode of “Man vs. Food” and thought it might be fun (and a good marketing strategy) to put what he describes as a “ridiculous” burger on the menu. With that, the practically libertine Apocalypse Now Burger ($21), a beef, pork belly, foie gras and bacon behemoth, was born. It wasn’t long before Nosh attracted attention for its towering hamburgers, including from the very television program that inspired the new sandwich.

It also wasn’t long before the equilibrium of the place shifted dramatically, away from vegetables and seafood, away from smorgasbord-style spreads of small items, evolving toward jumbo sandwiches with their own gravitational field, like the foot-long spicy shrimp po-boy ($14), which, stuffed mostly with shredded lettuce and topped with six tempura-battered (and soggy) shrimp, somehow manages to feel too large and stingy at the same time.

Even though the change in focus fit with Loring’s plan to run a casual, late-night eatery, he was a little discouraged by the rejection of his original offerings. “But I got a quick business education out of it: Sometimes customers don’t know they want something until you put it on the menu, and the restaurant just flowed in that direction,” he said. “I wasn’t going to fight it. Ultimately, I’m fine with it, but it took a little getting used to.”

A few reminders remain of what the old Nosh must have been, like snappy, sour Maitland Mountain Farms spicy pickles ($4) and a well-conceived, if not perfectly executed Mediterranean plate ($15) of mezze with nutty and slightly sweet falafel, tender and oniony Israeli couscous salad, alongside characterless pitted olives, bland hummus, and wedges of grilled naan that desperately needed another brush of oil.

There is a lot on the menu that also feels perfunctory, like the serviceable if undistinguished Reuben sandwich ($14), a tuna avocado toast ($13) made with tuna salad and Mexican cheese that tastes like a dry, open-face deli-style tuna melt, and both of the desserts we tasted when we visited. The Betty Ford Brownie Sundae ($8) was a mass grave of a dessert, where seemingly anything in the bakery from which Nosh outsources its sweets – from an Oreo and chocolate chip brownie, to vanilla ice cream, chocolate ganache, dulce de leche and peanuts – was squashed unceremoniously into a bowl and buried in whipped cream. On my next visit with two college-age friends, I tasted another slice of that same brownie (as well as the same ice cream and peanuts), this time folded inside in a “churro” taco ($9) that was really just a fried white flour tortilla sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

Yet the menu has some bright spots. Some of the most successful post-evolution dishes balance greasy elements with brighter flavors, like wonderful sweet potato tater-tot “nachos” ($11) that feature garlic sour cream and marinara-like ranchero sauce, or the best dish I ate at Nosh: crisp, savory polenta fries ($12) made with cheddar cheese and topped with a fresh, green jalapeño sauce, arugula and slices of vividly spicy Fresno chilies. These still have all the appeal of bar food without the excess of a fat-upon-fat gut bomb.

After both visits to Nosh, I left puzzled about its intended audience. Surely anyone sensitive to noise won’t feel welcome, nor will anyone watching their LDL cholesterol (or waistline). My millennial friends enjoyed the vibrancy of the place, but commented that the appealing ideas often suffered from spotty execution. Another remarked that Nosh reminded her of somewhere she might have gone while in college.

And suddenly, I saw clearly what Nosh has become. Today, there is no salmon, no bagels, no whitefish, no black-and-white cookies, nothing with pastrami – very little that is traditionally “noshy.” What the restaurant does have instead is whopping portions of bar food, steroidal burgers with ludicrous buns, and a booming sound system – like a restaurant that could fit right in next-door to a big land-grant university, a place where overexcited undergrads go before a big fraternity party. These days, perhaps it should be called Rush rather than Nosh.

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 and on Twitter @AndrewRossME.

]]> 14, 01 Aug 2016 22:19:42 +0000
When making a batch of pesto, think ratios, not recipes Sun, 31 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 There are few days when I don’t have time to talk about food with anyone who happens to ask. At the dentist’s office last week, I put down the mind candy People magazine was offering to chat with the receptionist about pesto.

“It says on the label not to heat it up. Can I bake with it? It’s kind of expensive and I don’t want to waste it,” she said.

The short answer: certainly. The warning was likely meant to stop cooks from simmering the commercial paste in a saucepan, a process that would turn the basil black and the cheese clumpy and erase the pesto’s bright, summery taste. Those conditions don’t apply if pesto is one of the layers in your summer vegetable lasagna.

You can control for basil oxidation and cheese congealment if you make your own, I continued. You can blanch the basil or mix it with parsley to keep the color vibrant and you can hold back on the cheese until you’re sure the pesto is bound for the pasta bowl.

Can you give me a recipe? I could, but it’s more sustainable to think of making pesto as a ratio-based operation so you can create as many dishes as you’d like with the ingredients you have on hand (or need to use up) at any given time.

Most people think of pesto as the classic Genovese combination of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and grated cheese traditionally pounded to a paste with a mortar and pestle. But in truth, it’s just a means by which you can preserve the fresh herbs abundant at this time of year with a variety of other ingredients into a mixture that can be tossed with everything from agnolotti to ziti and slathered on anything from crusty bread to grilled crustaceans.

Ratios are generally expressed with the largest quantity first and move on down the line. Recipe ingredient lists are generally written in the order in which they are used in the recipe first, and according to descending quantities second. So this ratio recipes pulls a bit from both structures and goes something like this: 3 cups to up to 1 cup; to 1/3 cup; to 1 garlic clove; to 1/2 cup; to 1/2 cup; to taste. Easy as paste, I say.

The first component is always going to be the herbs (basil, cilantro, mint, oregano, parsley, thyme) and greens (arugula, beet greens, chard, kale, mustard greens, spinach) in some combination. You’ll need 3 loosely packed cups altogether of these.

Many pestos contain a secondary flavor component – mainly a sweeter one like corn, peas, roasted red peppers or sun-dried tomatoes. I hold these elements to 1 cup to keep fresh herbs as the stars.

Next, the nuts. Pignoli (the Italian word for pine nuts) are traditional, but expensive because it’s a pretty arduous process to take the seeds from the pine cone and then shell them. While no nut is wholly sustainable given their water requirements and travel times to Maine, walnuts, pistachios, almonds and pecans as well as some seeds like pepitas and sunflowers work well in pesto, too. You’ll need 1/3cup. Toasting releases their oils, thereby boosting the flavor for a relatively small volume.

The pungency of pesto comes from the garlic, but how strong your clove is will vary. I start with 1 large one and move up as I need to, but I rarely do.

All of these ingredients get mashed together (using a mortar and pestle if you’ve got a big one or a food processor if you don’t), before 1/2 cup oil – traditionally olive oil if your herbs are strong but you can use more neutral ones if your herbs are more timid – gets processed in next.

You taste the pesto at this juncture, adding lemon zest and juice to lighten its taste if necessary and a pinch of cayenne if it needs heat.

Only add the cheese – 1/2 cup of a grated hard one – if you are going to put the pesto in the refrigerator and use it up within a few days. If you plan to freeze it – and you can do so for up to six months – it’s best to do so without the cheese; ice cube trays are great for this job. Add 1 tablespoon of cheese to every cube of thawed pesto when you use it, whenever that may be.

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

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In Wisconsin, goat farming up ‘by leaps and bounds’ Sat, 30 Jul 2016 21:23:48 +0000 PIPE, Wis. — Wisconsin has long been as one of the nation’s leaders in cow dairies, farm after pastoral farm tucked into the state’s rolling hills. It’s earning another milk laurel in the face of increasing demand for goat cheese and milk: the most dairy goats in the U.S. That distinction will only stand to increase when two of the largest goat dairies in the world soon begin operating in northeast Wisconsin.

It’s something Larry and Clara Hedrich didn’t expect when they started raising dairy goats in the 1970s as a hobby. They now milk 800 dairy goats, make award-winning cheese from cow, sheep and goat milk and boast enough capacity to process triple what they currently do.

“We’re competing in our farm here in Pipe, Wisconsin, with the world,” Larry Hedrich said.

Dairy goats feed at LaClare Farms near Pipe, Wis. Larry and Clara Hedrich started raising dairy goats in the 1970s. They now milk about 800 goats and make award-winning cheese sought by chefs, immigrants and other consumers.

Dairy goats feed at LaClare Farms near Pipe, Wis. Larry and Clara Hedrich started raising dairy goats in the 1970s. They now milk about 800 goats and make award-winning cheese sought by chefs, immigrants and other consumers.

The growth in Wisconsin – as well as California, which is No. 2 in goat- and sheep-milk sales – is due to both existing infrastructure and growing appreciation for goat milk in the U.S. Chefs are using it more frequently, consumers are seeking out its unique taste and growing immigrant populations from places like East Africa and Latin America are looking for the familiar products, according to Norm Monsen, dairy economic development consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

But there’s a lack of research and goat-specific products, like medicine or feed, which can be problematic for farmers who are turning to the emerging market.

Goat milk in the U.S. is used mostly for cheese, retail sales of which reached $142 million this year, up 8 percent from $131 million in 2015, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. The quality of Wisconsin’s goat milk products is on the rise, too, occasionally winning awards over cheese made from cow’s milk.

“There’s been nowhere near the amount of milk produced as is needed,” Hedrich said, noting that some cheesemakers ship in frozen curds from Europe and import raw milk from Canada to fill the gap. “Our plant has been running starved for milk since we opened.”

Wisconsin farmers have been trying to catch up. There are 267 licensed goat farms – more than double from 2004, when there were 126, state agriculture officials said. And the dairy goat herd has increased 70 percent since 2002, from 25,900 to 44,000. Wisconsin had almost $12.9 million in sales of goat and sheep milk in 2012, the most recent statistic available.

Larry Hedrich holds cheese produced at LaClare Farms. "We're competing in our farm here in Pipe, Wisconsin, with the world," he said. U.S. retail sales of goat cheese reached $142 million this year, up 8 percent from 2015.

Larry Hedrich holds cheese produced at LaClare Farms. “We’re competing in our farm here in Pipe, Wisconsin, with the world,” he said. U.S. retail sales of goat cheese reached $142 million this year, up 8 percent from 2015.

California’s 39,000 goats trail only Wisconsin, and it had the second-highest sales of sheep and goat milk in 2012, at $12 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The market is growing by leaps and bounds,” said Vicki Tonn, president of the Wisconsin Dairy Goat Association. “I can’t see it reversing. I can’t see there being a surplus.”

But whereas cow dairies have extensive research and lots of university experts to offer advice, there’s not a single person at the University of Wisconsin who’s dedicated to dairy goats. The lack of research can lead to greater obstacles for farmers when their goats fall ill or they want to expand or try a new practice. It also means goat dairies largely face the same regulations as cow dairies, even though they’re different animals.

“I think it’s really a shame,” said Dave Thomas, an animal sciences professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who focuses on dairy sheep. “The dairy goat industry is large enough in the state to deserve some research and outreach expertise, but there is none.”

Some hope the advent of the two large dairies in northeastern Wisconsin will change that by encouraging more research and providing a model for others to follow.

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Nina’s Variety in Falmouth gets fast food right Fri, 29 Jul 2016 21:36:20 +0000 ]]> 0, 30 Jul 2016 08:58:48 +0000 Munjoy Hill may be changing but the Front Room isn’t going anywhere Thu, 28 Jul 2016 15:26:58 +0000 0, 28 Jul 2016 11:27:23 +0000 Buck’s Naked BBQ closing Old Port location Aug. 20 Wed, 27 Jul 2016 21:54:42 +0000 Buck’s Naked BBQ & Steakhouse in the Old Port will close Aug. 20 and be replaced with a sports bar.

The barbecue restaurant at 50 Wharf St. is owned by Wendyll and Alex Caisse, who said they’ve decided to concentrate their efforts on their other two Buck’s locations, in Freeport and Windham, which are “super busy.”

The Wharf Street lease will be taken over by Mark Deane of Portland, who plans to open a new sports bar there called Mark’s Sports, according to papers filed with the city. There is a year left on the lease.

Deane is a businessman behind other Old Port night spots, including Mark’s Place and Pearl Tap House, both on Fore Street.

Buck’s opened its Portland location four years ago. In a news release, the Caisses said they planned “to evaluate and explore the marketplace for more strategic locations for the family-friendly concept.”

The staff was notified of the closing in early July; some employees will be moving to the restaurant’s other locations. Al Brown, operations manager of the Buck’s Naked BBQ restaurant group, said the company would give “full pay and bonuses to all who facilitate a smooth ending.”

Mark’s Sports, which will serve pub-style food, has set a target opening date of Sept. 1.

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