September 12, 2012

Soup to Nuts: New Maine-centric cookbooks earn place in pantry

These are heady times for the local food scene. Case in point: Three slick new Maine-authored cookbooks.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Tara Smith sifts flour into a brownie mixture at Standard Baking Co. in Portland. “Standard Baking Co. Pastries” by Smith and Alison Pray is due out on Oct. 15. The book features many of Standard Baking’s most popular items with photography by Sean Alonzo Harris.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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From the cooks at Standard Baking comes Triple Chocolate Cake.

Sean Alonzo Harris, from Standard Baking Co. Pastries, reprinted with permission from Down East Books

Additional Photos Below

Oliver hopes that her new book will teach people that they need to cook to please themselves, not the Food Network or Bon Appetit, and to remember that there is often no right or wrong way to prepare a dish.

"A lot of recipes are extremely elastic," she said. "There's not going to be anybody coming in and reviewing your dinner and putting it in the paper and giving it three stars. You only have to please yourself and your family."

"MAINE HOME COOKING: 175 RECIPES FROM DOWN EAST KITCHENS" by Sandra L. Oliver (Down East Books, $29.95). Published Sept. 1


MARGARET HATHAWAY was as surprised as I was to discover that the nearly 50 Portland restaurants she profiled in her new book were all located right on the peninsula – and all are within walking distance of each other.

If there were ever any doubts about how spoiled Portlanders are when it comes to access to good restaurants, "Portland, Maine Chef's Table" will erase them. Not only are the restaurants in this city incredibly abundant, they are also mostly chef-driven and serving local foods.

"The craziest thing was that pretty much everyone does" focus on local foods, Hathaway said. "At some point with the head notes, you feel like you're being repetitive: 'Local foods from the chef's own farm.' A good five or six restaurants, the chefs were the actual farmers."

Karl Schatz, Hathaway's husband (and partner in Ten Apple Farm, where they raise dairy goats), took the photographs for the book.

The fun thing about a book like this is learning little tidbits about local chefs. Steve Tuggle, the chef at Taco Escobarr, for example, used to be personal chef to several of the Green Bay Packers. Who knew?

Then there's the pleasure of seeing how the chefs make some of your local favorites. The guys from Otto Pizza, for example, explain how to make their famous mashed potato, bacon and scallion pizza, and the brothers who own Emilitsa give up their moussaka recipe.

Some of the offerings appear a little out of reach for the casual home cook, even though Hathaway tested many of them with friends who love to spend time in the kitchen. A Figa recipe, for one of its most popular dishes, calls for a wild boar shoulder. And how many people have the sausage stuffer that's need to make Grace's Coast of Maine Cassoulet? Nevertheless, it's entertaining to read about how the chefs prepare these dishes. (And Figa chef Lee Farrington says you can substitute beef for that wild boar.)

Hathaway says she loved learning about the chefs and hearing their stories about how they named their restaurants or fixed them up.

"People have such love and heart that goes into naming their restaurants and creating the space. I love that," she said. "When you meet them, you wouldn't think they have this very tender side. It makes me want to go to these restaurants and support them even more because there are real people and real families attached to them."

The couple also noted that none of the chefs bad-mouthed any of their colleagues during the production of the book, which is something you might expect to hear in a larger city. The environment in Portland is more collaborative; the competition is friendly, not cutthroat.

Schatz said he thinks it is, in a way, a reflection of the city.

"I think part of the reason so many of these restaurants have been able to succeed is they have customers who get that feeling when they're at the restaurants," he said. "It's not just good food, it's good feeling."

"PORTLAND, MAINE CHEF'S TABLE: EXTRAORDINARY RECIPES FROM CASCO BAY" by Margaret Hathaway (Lyons Press, $24.95). Published Aug. 21


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

Twitter: MeredithGoad


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Additional Photos

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Standard Baking's Rustic Apple Tart.

Sean Alonzo Harris, from Standard Baking Co. Pastries, reprinted with permission from Down East Books

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