Food – Press Herald Tue, 20 Mar 2018 12:09:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 For TV food host Andrew Zimmern, Portland is the city of fatherly love Tue, 20 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000

Host Andrew Zimmern outside Duckfat in Portland last summer. Photo courtesy of Travel Channel

Usually when you see Andrew Zimmern hosting one of his globe-trotting TV shows, it’s all about the food.

But when a Portland-centric episode of his new show, “The Zimmern List,” airs Tuesday night, it’ll be largely about his dad.

“The whole episode is really an homage to him. I went to places that he first turned me on to,” Zimmern, 56, said Monday from his home in Minnesota. “It was a very poignant and personal episode for me. I think it’s one of the better pieces I’ve done for television.”

Andrew Zimmern at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset last summer. Photo courtesy of Travel Channel

Robert Zimmern, who died in 2015 at the age of 89, lived the last 10 years of his life near Portland’s Back Cove. The younger Zimmern came often to visit his father and his father’s husband, the painter Andre Laporte. Both were fans of good food and helped Zimmern discover the wonders of Portland’s food landscape.

“Before my father moved there the only restaurant I’d been to was Fore Street. But when they lived there it was like having an advance team for the show, finding all the best places for me,” said Zimmern.

The episode will air Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on Travel Channel. The new series focuses on Zimmern’s favorite food cities and favorite foods. He said Monday that Portland is “one of the places I consider home,” along with Minneapolis, where he lives full time, and New York, where he grew up and where his career as a chef took off. He also attended summer camp in Raymond as a youngster and says he continues to visit Maine at least a couple of times a year. When in Maine, he likes sailing, exploring beaches and taking drives through the mountains.

Zimmern is probably best known for his long-running Travel Channel show “Bizarre Foods,” where he introduces viewers to delicacies like buffalo heart or ant eggs. That show has been on since 2006. He says he was introduced to the pleasures of exotic food and travel by his father, who worked in advertising and took his son all over the world with him. “The Zimmern List” made its debut March 13.

For the episode airing Tuesday, Zimmern visited Maine last summer and spent a few days chowing on his favorite local foods. He grabbed a box of doughnuts at The Holy Donut in the Old Port, munched fries at Duckfat and also visited Miyake and Fore Street. He grabbed a whoopie pie at Two Fat Cats Bakery, but says he thinks that scene was cut from the episode because of time constraints.

Andrew Zimmern and his big box of doughnuts outside The Holy Donut in Portland’s Old Port last summer. Photo courtesy of Travel Channel

He also ventured outside of Portland for lobster, at Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown and Red’s Eats in Wiscasset.

He also filmed at Standard Baking Co. on Commercial St., a spot he’d visit daily when he was in town to see his father and stepfather. Zimmern said his stepfather was particularly fond of baguettes. Every day, no matter what he got for himself, Zimmern always bought two baguettes. During the filming, he talked about the breakfast treats he loves at Standard Baking Co., bought some and began walking out the door. When he got near the camera he realized he had also bought two baguettes, out of habit.

“I just started crying,” said Zimmern. “I was buying bread for people who were no longer living.”

His stepfather died less than a year before his father did, Zimmern said.

Zimmern also does business in Maine. He has worked with Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants in Litchfield to create spice blends for his online shop, inspired by places he’s traveled.

Andrew Zimmern samples fries with the staff at Duckfat during filming in Portland last summer for “The Zimmern List,” a Travel Channel show about his favorite foods and food cities. Zimmern’s father, who died in 2015, introduced him to Portland’s food scene. Photo courtesy of Travel Channel

While in Portland, Zimmern was impressed with how much the food scene has grown since he started coming here to visit his father, around 2005. At Duckfat, he asked lots of questions about the local cream, eggs, hogs and potatoes used to create the menu.

“It’s interesting that in a state so known for lobster, there are also some of the best cheesemakers and farmers,” said Zimmern.

A couple of weeks before his father died, Zimmern took him out to eat at Back Bay Grill. Robert Zimmern, who at that point was in a wheelchair and didn’t get out much, had been a regular there and considered it his neighborhood spot for great food. When they sat down, Zimmern’s father asked to say hello to the general manager, but he was off. Later in the meal, the general manager, called at home by staff, showed up to say hello and chat with his longtime loyal customer.

“That reminded me that it’s the people that make a restaurant special,” said Zimmern. “I keep going back to Maine because I love the people and because of the way the place makes me feel. And the fact that the food is spectacular.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: @RayRouthier

]]> 0 Zimmern outside of Two Fat Cats in Portland. He visited the bakery for an episode of the Travel Channel's "The Zimmern List" airing Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. Photo courtesy of Travel ChannelMon, 19 Mar 2018 23:33:44 +0000
New cheese shop coming to Portland in June Mon, 19 Mar 2018 21:38:25 +0000 A couple who are veterans of two famous American cheese shops – Cowgirl Creamery in California and Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts – plan to open a cheese shop in Portland early this summer.

The Cheese Shop of Portland will be located in a renovated shipping container at 93 Washington Ave., part of a new project from developer Jed Harris of Cotton Street Holdings to create new start-up spaces in the city for retailers.

Mary and Will Sissle, married just six months ago, said they decided to settle in Portland and start their business here in part because Mary is from Cape Elizabeth, but also because Portland is “such an amazing food town and there’s not a dedicated, cut-to-order full service cheese shop within the Portland city limits specializing in high quality cheese as their prime focus,” Mary Sissle said.

The closest dedicated cheese shop to Portland is The Cheese Iron in Scarborough, about eight miles from downtown Portland. K. Horton Specialty Foods, which sold many local cheeses in the Public Market House in Monument Square, closed last year after 18 years in business.

“Will and I have worked in the cheese industry approaching 10 years now,” she said, “and it has just always been something we’ve wanted to do, to open a shop of our own. We’ve worked in distribution, we’ve worked in the retail end of things, and it’s just been a dream of ours.”

The Sissles view the shipping container project as an easy way to jump-start their business on a small scale before, they hope, growing into a more traditional brick-and-mortar store. They plan to open the store in mid- to late June.

Will Sissle said the shop will focus on high-quality cheeses from all over, including classic European cheeses such as comté.

“It’s something that’s lesser known in the American market, where a lot of people know brie and camembert,” he said. “We want to have a focus on this big mountain cheese that has a lot of nuanced flavor and is versatile.”

The Cheese Shop of Portland will also carry local and regional cheeses, including goat cheese from Ruggles Hill Creamery in Hardwick, Massachusetts.

“Tricia Smith is the cheesemaker and herd manager of a very small pack of goats,” he said, describing the small creamery just west of Boston. I think right now she has 18 goats that she milks. They all have their own names, and she makes really cool, delicate goats milk cheeses, loosely based on French cheeses. We have an agreement with her that we will be the only people carrying it in Maine.”

Sissle said they also plan to visit a few Maine creameries, before committing to local producers.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 are 87 licensed cheesemakers in Maine at last count.Mon, 19 Mar 2018 20:31:57 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Sweet (sometimes too much so), whimsical New England-y small plates at Moxy in Portsmouth Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 The woman behind me at Moxy asked her question a few seconds after she accidentally set fire to a cloth napkin. She and her dining companion flapped the flaming rag through the air in a panic before eventually dropping it on the floor and stomping it into a smoldering mess. Everyone’s eyes were suddenly on them. Everyone’s ears, too, because we all heard her take a calming breath, then inquire with a laugh, “So, now that I’ve got your attention: How many of those dishes would you order again?”

Her friend waved a little smoke away and started tabulating plates on his fingers. I also saw diners at neighboring tables turn back to their food and boot up their own mental calculators.

When you think about it, the ratio of good-to-bad dishes is a pretty good metric of success for a restaurant that gives patrons a chance to taste many small plates over the course of a few hours, rather than just one or two larger items.

“We ate seven things,” our neighbor finally replied. “I’d probably eat four of them again.”

But knowing that chef/owner Matt Louis has been a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Northeast award an impressive four consecutive years running, that seemed like a low number to me – almost certainly one he would find disappointing.

Louis, who trained with Thomas Keller at Bouchon, The French Laundry and eventually at New York’s Per Se, returned to his home state of New Hampshire a little over a decade ago. After a stint at the Wentworth by the Sea hotel, he and local restaurant developer Jay McSharry opened Moxy in a quirky building in Portsmouth’s Historic District in May 2012. “I actually don’t know if there are any right angles in the entire space, but that just adds a lot of personality to it,” Louis said.

Exposed brick walls painted teal, orange and yellow add to the sense of playfulness throughout the restaurant and prime customers for an unorthodox perspective on small-plates dining. Louis calls his approach “Not Spanish. It’s modern American, with a focus on northern New England history, culture and foodstuffs,” and that’s an accurate enough description. He omits that, with close ties to local food producers, Moxy could just as easily be marketed as a farm-to-table restaurant.

But doing so might risk making the place sound too serious and strip away a little of Moxy’s carefully cultivated whimsy. You can see it in menu categories such as “one fish, two fish,” “clean plate club,” and “bigger & interactive.” It’s also there in occasionally kooky ingredient pairings that go a step too far, yielding tapas you can imagine being served in a carnival funhouse.

Take the cauliflower and carrots ($9), for example. When it arrives at the table, it looks like a straightforward, wintery roasted-vegetable dish made with local overwintered carrots, shaved Tomme cheese and boiled cider, a traditional New England reduction that makes a lively substitute for maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. But dig in, and you discover that every bite also smuggles in an unwelcome stowaway: chunks of an oat-and-pumpkin-seed crumble that tastes exactly like granola. It’s as if someone sprinkled cereal over dinner.

Bizarre contrasts also confuse the hasty pudding frites ($5), essentially fried polenta cubes topped with dueling swirls of molasses BBQ sauce and buttermilk ranch dressing – a combination straight out of someone’s pregnancy-cravings diary.

Or the still-crunchy multicolored Maine carrots ($6), drizzled with pink peppercorn vinaigrette and served in a clear glass bowl coated with an unattractive pink smear of whipped beet yogurt. The kitchen stirs shards of a buttery sunflower seed brittle into the carrots, offering extra crunch that the dish simply does not need. Worse, the brittle tips the equilibrium of the dish toward the too-sweet.

Unfortunately, an excess of sweetness diminishes several of Moxy’s dishes. In the chili pepper cornbread ($4), the restaurant’s homegrown pepper blend adds a hefty mule-kick of heat, but even that isn’t enough to counterbalance the sugar in the batter, not to mention the accompanying maple butter that tastes like cake frosting.

Perhaps the biggest misfire comes from one of the most promising dishes, the caramelized ricotta ($6). Here, Louis and his team take charred onions, top them with a quenelle of their outstanding housemade ricotta – smooth from the addition of heavy cream and a little wild from buttermilk – and serve them together with shatteringly crisp cornmeal crackers as thin as sheets of Airmail stationery. Had they left the dish there, it would have been one of the best items on the menu. Instead, they treat the ricotta like a crème brûlée, showering it with sugar that is torched into a candy shell. It’s overkill, especially with the sweet, softened onions already on the plate.

Even the restaurant’s most popular dish, short rib marmalade ($9), suffers a bit from too much sweetness introduced when the slow-braised beef is shredded and cooked down with shallots, sugar and red wine vinegar. Luckily, the elements still work together, more or less in harmony, thanks to savory components like pickled red onions and a pungent cow’s milk bleu cheese from Brookford Farm in Canterbury, New Hampshire.

Beef short rib marmalade, the restaurant’s most popular dish, features savory components like pickled red onions and a pungent cow’s milk bleu cheese.

The menu’s more savory dishes are, by and large, its most successful ones. One, the Misty Knoll Farms chicken thighs ($14), is a New England-style tribute to David Chang’s now-famous bo ssam lettuce wraps that he serves at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York. Whereas Chang’s wraps are Korean and sizable enough to feed three people, Louis’s are no bigger than a large appetizer and feature pan-seared chicken thighs, herbed crème fraîche, housemade hot sauce and crispy slivers of fried onion.

Another homage, Moxy’s mini red hot dogs ($11), made with local pork from Breezy Hill Farm in South Berwick, are a riff on traditional Spanish bocadillos, the small sandwiches that appear on practically every traditional tapas menu. “I figured, if we’re going to make little hot dogs for our bocadillos, and we’re a mile away from Maine, we should make them red,” Louis said. Served on miniature challah buns and dressed with local cheddar and a streak of bacon-and-Fresno-chili jam, they make perfect conceptual sense and, much more importantly, are a pleasure to eat.

Pastry chef Tyler Elliott’s chewy, molasses-flavored hermit cookie triangles ($8) also fit right in with Moxy’s efforts to anchor its dishes in New England history and tradition. Hermits used to be known for their ability to keep for weeks, or even months, but my dinner guest and I didn’t give Elliott’s a chance to showcase that particular strength. We polished ours off quickly with dripping spoonfuls of the accompanying spiced rum ice cream.

Still, when I think back to my recent meal at Moxy, one dish – probably the simplest thing I ate that night – stands out. Crispy, deep-fried Rhode Island calamari rings and tentacles dredged in buttermilk and breaded in a half-and-half mixture of corn starch and all-purpose flour ($8). “When I was doing my research for Moxy, I looked way back in time,” Louis said. “But for that dish, I had to look at modern times. It’s what (chef and New England food expert) Jasper White told me to do. Not directly, but through his cookbook.” Uncomplicated, as the best tapas usually are, and paired with a bracingly tart, chunky piccalilli, it’s a dish that I would very happily order again and again.

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

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

]]> 0 triangles are accompanied by a scoop of spiced rum ice cream.Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:38:13 +0000
Smuttynose Brewing Co. has new owner Fri, 16 Mar 2018 20:39:29 +0000 HAMPTON, N.H. – The Smuttynose Brewing Co. has a new owner a week after it was bought at auction for $8.25 million.

Runnymede Investments said Friday it bought the brewery from the Provident Bank for an undisclosed amount. The family-owned firm is five miles from the brewery in North Hampton, New Hampshire.

Runnymede teamed up with brewery executive Rich Lindsay, who has held positions with Samuel Adams, Tuthilltown Spirits, Night Shift Brewing, as well as consulting roles with startups in the alcoholic beverage industry.

Lindsay said there are plans to add personnel to Smuttynose’s sales team and invest in a canning line.

Smuttynose employs 66 people. The company said the brewery is capable of producing 75,000 barrels and generating more than $10 million annually. However, in the last year it has been running at 50 percent capacity.

]]> 0 Smuttynose Brewing Co. property in New Hampshire includes a restaurant located next to the brewery.Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:47:52 +0000
Plans underway to add one more to Portland’s craft brewery hub Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:36:31 +0000 Industrial Way may soon get another brewery. Josh Roberts of Oakland and several partners have applied for a license to open Definitive Brewing, a brewery and taproom, in a part of the city that is already a busy hub of craft brewing.

The brewery will be located at 35 Industrial Way, the former home of North Atlantic Scaffolding Co., and include “multiple outdoor patio spaces” with seating for 112 people, according to the application. The brewery does not plan to serve food, but will have space for food trucks. The target opening date is May 1.

Roberts’ partners include Michael Rankin, of North Yarmouth, and Michael Herrick of Billerica, Massachusetts. Dylan Webber, of Westbrook, will be the master brewer.

The Industrial Way area is already home to Allagash Brewing Co., Foundation Brewing Co., Geary’s and Battery Steele Brewing.

]]> 0, 17 Mar 2018 00:58:32 +0000
Much-loved restaurant owners who moved south announce their return to Maine Fri, 16 Mar 2018 13:03:44 +0000 Hoss and Mary are coming home.

Brian “Hoss” Coddens and Deena “Mary” Eskew, the former owners of a popular Old Orchard Beach restaurant that closed in April 2015 much to the dismay of legions of devoted followers, announced Thursday night they are closing their food truck in Key West, Florida, and returning to Maine. They plan to reopen a restaurant in southern Maine and are currently looking for a location.

“The love of Maine calls us every day,” Coddens said Friday morning. “We need to go back and reclaim what we once had.”

The couple closed their restaurant, Hoss and Mary’s, in April 2015. At the time, they said they wanted to move back to Key West, where they first met, and focus on a new challenge after operating a popular restaurant in a high-traffic tourist spot.

During their time in Florida, Coddens and Eskew survived Hurricane Irma, which devastated the Keys. They rode out the storm at a friend’s house and posted updates on Facebook as the storm bore down on the island. After the hurricane destroyed numerous homes and businesses, things changed in the Keys and the couple felt a stronger pull to return to New England, Coddens said.

“The hurricane changed the attitudes of a lot of people here,” he said. “It’s suddenly become real dog-eat-dog conditions down here as far as living and working.”

Hoss and Mary’s in Key West was operating out of a food truck parked at a marina, but those conditions were not ideal. Coddens and Eskew love interacting with customers, but that was difficult with the truck’s set-up. It was also 130 degrees inside the truck on hot days, he said.

The announcement that Hoss and Mary will return to Maine was cheered by fans who left more than 600 comments and 1,300 reactions within hours Thursday night.

“Well, once Mainers always Mainers I guess,” posted Rick Chalek. “Looking forward to seeing you guys again and jumping on a fried haddock sammie.”

Dozens of people suggested locations from Portland to Sanford. Others, who became fans once the food truck opened in Key West, said they were sad to see Coddens and Eskew leave.

“Our hearts have been emptied telling the people we love our goodbyes, but seeing our Maine love we get just fills it right back up,” Coddens and Eskew wrote on Facebook.

Coddens said they hope to open a restaurant with a similar setup to the one they previously ran in Maine. The menu featured innovative comfort food – heavy on burgers and cheesecakes – that fans often posted photos of online.

Coddens said he doesn’t know exactly when he and Eskew will be able to reopen in Maine, but they’re already considering several options and are encouraged by the number of people who have already reached out with suggestions for locations.

“The love that’s been continuously shown is really calling for us to come back there,” he said.

]]> 0 ORCHARD BEACH, ME - APRIL 26: Brian Coddens (Hoss) gives a kiss to Deena Eskew (Mary) as they put up the open sign for the last time at their Old Orchard Beach restaurant Sunday, April 26, 2015. (Photo by )Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:26:36 +0000
Portland baker named finalist for James Beard Award Wed, 14 Mar 2018 14:49:24 +0000 Alison Pray, co-owner of Standard Baking Co. in Portland, said she was “stunned” to be named a finalist for a James Beard Award Wednesday in the Outstanding Baker category.

“To be recognized by people you respect so much in your industry is above and beyond what you can imagine,” she said in a phone interview from Palm Springs, Calif., where she was enjoying a final day of vacation with her husband and bakery co-owner, Matt James.

“It really gives you a sense that you’ve done things right, that you’ve achieved what you set out to do – to make people happy,” she said.

Pray was a semifinalist last year for the award, one of the most coveted in the restaurant industry. Winners will be announced May 7.

Maine otherwise struck out in this year’s major categories, despite having 11 semifinalists, including five chefs up for the Best Chef: Northeast award. Boston chefs were heavily favored in that category this year, with four out of five finalists coming from restaurants in that city; the fifth is from Providence.

An independent volunteer panel of more than 600 judges across the country – including restaurant critics, food editors and past winners – chose the finalists in each category.

Pray, whose croissants, baguettes and morning buns have been favorites among Portlanders for years, will be competing against one of her own favorite bakeries, Sofra Bakery and Cafe in Cambridge, Mass. Other finalists are Black Seed Bagels in Manhattan, Bien Cuit in Brooklyn, B. Patisserie in San Francisco, and Publican Quality Bread in Chicago.  Five nominees are standard. When there are six, it reflects a tie in voting.

Allison Pray

Pray had her phone on mute when the announcement was made because it was early morning in California. She heard the news at about 8 a.m. California time, when Judy Paolini, a Standard Baking customer who also happened to be in Palm Springs, texted her.

“Then I started looking at my phone and seeing that we’d gotten phone calls and texts,” she said. The bakery called her just after she received a text with the staff’s congratulations.

Pray said she plans to attend the May 7 ceremony in Chicago and hopes to take as many of her staff with her as she can.

“I don’t want to leave anybody out,” she said, “so we have to figure out what we can do because it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I’m sure.”

Brandon Lee, a manager at Standard Baking, said the staff is as excited about the finalist nomination as the semifinalist ones, “the pastry department especially, because they work most closely with her, and they always step up their game and try to do things that are a little more interesting.”

The bakery was a little quiet Wednesday morning because of the storm, he said, but customers have been offering their congratulations ever since Pray was named a semifinalist in February.

The only other Mainer to be recognized this year was Erin French, whose cookbook “The Lost Kitchen” was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Book Award in the American cooking category.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, 15 Mar 2018 14:13:35 +0000
A meat-loving chef who went meatless for a year now goes gluten-free Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 Lots of people overindulge on New Year’s Eve, but on Dec. 31, 2016, Josh Berry took this annual culinary excess to a whole new level.

Berry, the executive chef at Union, the restaurant in Portland’s Press Hotel, had each of his sous chefs cook him an over-the-top meat dish. That night he chowed down on a veal porterhouse. He devoured some pork belly. And he wolfed a serving of lamb meatballs.

“We had this gluttony, Game of Thrones kind of meal that was all just meat,” Berry recalled.

On New Year’s Day, while still digesting that massive amount of meat, he took the big leap into vegetarianism. For the next year, Berry would let no meats, eggs, or bacon or beef fats touch his lips. “I couldn’t live without dairy, though,” Berry said. “I got most of my protein from yogurt, honestly. I’d eat probably two cups of yogurt a day, and lots of soy protein. But it was fun. It was a lot easier than gluten.”

Yes, Berry is once again a carnivore, but this year he is going gluten-free. When it comes to this new dietary challenge, the chef doesn’t mince words.

“Gluten-free sucks way worse than vegetarian,” he said. “It’s horrible. But it’s taught me a lot in a couple of months already about the struggle that someone with celiac (disease) must have.”

Berry has long wanted to experiment with his diet so that he could get firsthand experience of what it’s like to live with food restrictions, and could embrace the trend of meatless meals. He figured the exercise would help him improve the menu choices at the restaurant, too.

Many people experiment with vegetarianism, trying it for a week or a month or a year; then they either make a commitment or revert to their old ways. But it’s different for a chef, who must worry every day about the quality of food – all of the food – going out to his customers. Before the food hits the table at Union, typically the cook on the “station” that made it tastes it, then the sous chefs, then Berry, all checking that a dish is cooked and seasoned properly. It wasn’t until the fall of 2016 that Berry felt his kitchen crew’s palates were trained well enough to leave the tasting of the restaurant’s meat dishes to them.

Matt Duley, Union’s executive sous chef, says he was surprised when Berry announced his plans, “but at the same time I could understand his reasoning. If you’re not on a strict vegetarian diet, you might not understand vegetables the same way someone who is vegetarian or vegan would.”


Berry doesn’t remember what his first vegetarian meal was, but he does know that he gained about 8 pounds during the first month of his no-meat year. That’s because he made the rookie mistake of substituting carbs and sugar for meat. He ate loads of pasta and breads, and stacks of grilled cheese sandwiches. By February, he realized he wasn’t incorporating enough vegetables into his diet, and he started kicking off his day with juices and smoothies rather than coffee. (He didn’t give up coffee altogether.) He also started experimenting with tofu and other plant-based products.

One of his early go-to foods was a mock tunafish salad. Berry would dry a block of tofu really well, then grate it on a box grater, push it through a fine-mesh sieve, or chop it fine. Then he’d add a little sour cream, celery, onion, fresh dill and shallots.

“The guys hated it,” Berry said of his staff. “They’d say ‘This looks disgusting, chef.’ I called it tofuna.”

While Union is not a vegetarian restaurant, Berry began developing new meat-free options for diners. For the spring menu last year, for instance, he cooked some local carrots sous vide in bulgogi spice, then charred them on the grill. Tofu puree added protein and softness to the dish.

A vegetarian and gluten-free dish of roasted chickpea falafel with roast cauliflower, Harissa aioli and plumped flamed raisins at Union. Chef Josh Berry of Union went completely vegetarian last year and then decided to go gluten-free this year. He says trying out these dietary restrictions gives him a better understanding of his customers’ needs. He’s added some new items to the Press Hotel menu as a result. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

He also made “mushroom bacon” by slicing portabellas, marinating them in Liquid Smoke and soy sauce, then smoking and roasting the mushrooms.

“It didn’t taste like meat, believe me, but it was a cool mushroom condiment,” Berry said. “So we experimented. There were a lot of epic failures, but some things worked out well.”

About 10 out of every 100 guests at Union are vegetarian, Berry said, and another five or six have other dietary restrictions. Berry always tried to have one vegetarian item on the menu even before his experiment, but during his vegetarian year he decided he wanted to be able to pull the meat off any of the dishes on the menu and make them vegetarian by substituting tempeh, tofu, falafel or panisse (chickpea fries that are popular in France and Italy). Thus the popular Casco Bay Cod entree that’s been on the menu since Union opened – served with littleneck clams; soy brown butter; bok choy; and lap cheong, a Chinese fermented sausage – became tempeh with bok choy, soy brown butter and smoked portabellas.

One of the most difficult dishes he tried was lentil gnocchi made without eggs. He ground red, beluga and French lentils, then had to figure out how to blend them, how much water to add, and how to boil them without having them disintegrate.

“We finally figured out something that actually worked, that would hold its shape in boiling water, and it worked out great,” he said. “We put it on the tasting menu and it was awesome. But that started out as lentil dust.”

Other challenges: Berry was invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York last March. His two sous chefs and his executive sous chef got the job of ensuring the three animal proteins on the menu – clams, duck and lamb – were properly prepared.

He also had to deal with a lot of ribbing from his staff: “Chef, you should have tried this, it was great.” “Hey chef, there’s one last piece of bacon. You sure you don’t want it?”

“On the down times, they tried to sabotage me at every moment possible,” Berry said, laughing.

Even on his very first day. That day, Union’s pastry chef, Dave Robinson, made some egg-free, gluten-free apricot muffins. Berry always tastes the gluten-free muffins – the restaurant has a daily gluten-free option – but as soon as he took a bite, “Dave looked at me and said, ‘it’s apricot and bacon.’ I’m like, really? The only time you’ve ever put bacon in these muffins, and it’s the first day I’m ever going vegetarian in my life?”

A broccoli and kale salad with optional salmon. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

But the staff also supported Berry, making suggestions for vegetarian dishes. Sometimes –if there were, say, hidden bacon fat in a dish – they kept him from eating things he shouldn’t.


What did Berry miss the most during his vegetarian year? Eggs. And fried clams, which he will have to give up for his gluten-free year as well.

His most difficult moment, however, came when Union’s pastry chef was heating beef fat for Yorkshire pudding.

“That roasting beef smell was wafting through the whole kitchen,” Berry said, “and I said ‘Matt, I’ve just got to go for a walk right now. I’m having one of those days, man, I’ve just got to get out of here for a second.’ ” Berry says although he was sorely tempted many times during the year, he never knowingly cheated.

About six months in, Berry and his physician started planning how the dietary challenge would end. His doctor cautioned him that he should ease back into eating meat. Start with just eggs in January, he suggested. In February, add chicken and fish.

Berry followed his doctor’s advice, eventually. But first, he broke his meat fast on New Year’s Day with a few bites of prime Kobe steak prepared by Duley. The next day, he ate a slice of bacon. It was only after those two indulgences that he switched to mostly eggs. The first week, he only ate egg whites.

Jan. 1 marked not only the final day of Berry’s vegetarianism but also his first day of gluten-free living.

“It’s funny because last year at this time I was ballooning up, and now I’ve probably lost six pounds,” Berry said, because he no longer tastes the cakes, breads and madeleines the restaurant serves.

Berry hopes that going gluten-free will give him ideas for how to avoid bad gluten-free pastas. He has already replaced the flour he used in some dishes with rice flour, which is gluten-free. Robinson, the pastry chef, is experimenting with different brands of gluten-free flour, too.

Most people who come into Union asking for gluten-free food do not have celiac disease, Berry said, but he is already gaining an appreciation for how difficult it is for people who are gluten-free or gluten-intolerant to eat in restaurants.

So what else did Berry learn after a year as a vegetarian and two-and-a-half months of gluten-free eating?

Reading labels more carefully gave him a better understanding of what goes into America’s food.

While he likes locally made tofu, Berry says mass-produced brands sold in grocery stores have “no flavor.” And he hates seitan: “It tastes like saturated cardboard.”

His “proudest moment,” he said, was realizing how he could rely on his staff to step up to the challenge. Berry said his chefs now have a greater sense of ownership over the restaurant’s menus because they were writing more of them. “I really saw the team blossom.”

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Josh Berry garnishes toasted chickpea falafel with roast cauliflower at Union. The dish is vegetarian and gluten-free. "We experimented," Berry says of creating dishes while he's tried on various dietary restrictions. "There were a lot of epic failures, but some things worked out well."Tue, 13 Mar 2018 22:47:59 +0000
It might take a second look, but ‘Poole’s’ can bring the diner feel to your table Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000

“Poole’s: Recipe and Stories from a Modern Diner.” By Ashley Christensen. Ten Speed Press, 2016. $35

There is something quintessentially American about eating at a diner: The close proximity of other customers. Watching cooks in action. Spinning on a vinyl upholstered stool.

For me, a good diner requires multiple visits to get a true sense of the food, the vibe and the clientele. Then, with credentials confirmed, they become favorite and frequent haunts.

Similarly, it took several trips inside the pages of “Poole’s: Recipes and Stories From a Modern Diner,” before I grew comfortable. The nearly 300-page book is much more than a quick flip through a litany of recipes. This is Beard Award-winning chef Ashley Christensen’s loving ode to her Raleigh, North Carolina, diner; her philosophy on modern comfort food; and an essay on why she calls her patrons “guests,” not customers.

Chapter titles like Counter Snacks, Vinaigrettes, and Bowls & Such at first glance lacked clarity, and I wished there were more pictures of the finished dishes. But when I learned Christensen uses “vinaigrette” as a synonym for salad, I caught on. Her four go-to recipes for quick and flavorful oil and vinegar combinations also helped. I can vouch for the deliciously simple Bibb Lettuce Salad. The Pork Ribs with Mustard Sorghum Sauce, from the Counter Snacks chapter (think appetizers), were another hit with my own guests.

Taking the time to read Christensen’s story is worthwhile. My copy of “Poole’s” now has sticky notes dotting each section. The book is written in a witty, whimsical manner that encourages adventurousness in the kitchen. Whether it was something as simple as learning why spices should be scattered from eye level (more even diffusion) or making a tarragon-infused white wine reduction, I felt my skills improving.

Maybe that’s why I opted to test drive the Caramelized Onion-Tomato Soup with Jarlsberg Croutons. My previous soup experience begins and ends with a can opener and a heat source. This recipe called for two pots, the aforementioned tarragon reduction, a combination of patience and timing, more salt than I’ve ever used in my life, and the faith that combining two classic soups was even a good idea.

Sure enough, I learned a few things, like:

Four cups of wine is greater than one standard bottle.

Two pounds of thinly sliced onions barely fit in the skillet to start but after cooking ended up not even covering the surface.

They must use really large serving crocks at Poole’s because this makes way more than six servings.

Two days later my house still smells like onions.

And, as the three empty soup crocks on my table proved, this recipe produces a rich, flavorful soup that can stand as a meal.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

Twitter: SteveCCraig


Serves 6

1/2 cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic, crushed

2 (28-ounce) cans diced organic tomatoes

Sea salt

2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil

2 pounds yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 6 cups)

4 cups dry white wine

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

6 to 7 whole sprigs tarragon, leaves intact

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard


1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil

1/2 baguette, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup grated Jarlsberg (any nutty, melty cheese, such as Gruyère, would work well here)

1. In a large Dutch oven, combine the olive oil and garlic. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and 2 teaspoons sea salt and increase the heat to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes; the tomatoes and garlic will be falling apart and the flavors will be cohesive.

2. Meanwhile, in a high-sided sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions and 2 teaspoons salt. Turn the heat to high, stirring frequently. Once the pan is hot (about 1 minute), reduce the heat to medium and cover; cook, covered, for 20 minutes. When you remove the lid, lots of moisture will escape and the onions will have begun to caramelize. Cook, stirring, until the onions are thick and deep brown. Transfer the onions to a bowl and return the pan to high heat.

3. Add the wine, vinegar and tarragon. Cook until the liquid has reduced down to become thick and syrupy. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

4. Strain the tarragon infusion into the stewed tomato mixture, discarding the solids. Stir in the caramelized onions, mustard and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 20 minutes.

5. While the soup is simmering, make the croutons. Line a plate with paper towels. In a large skillet over high heat, heat the oil. When it shimmers, add the baguette slices in an even layer; when they begin to turn golden on the bottom, add the butter, turn the heat down to medium, and swirl to coat. Fry the bread for 3 to 4 minutes on one side, until it is dark, golden brown. Transfer to the paper-lined plate.

6. Stack three croutons in the center of each of six ovenproof soup bowls, placing a small pinch of cheese between each layer. Ladle the soup around the stacks of bread to fill the bowls. Sprinkle a last pinch of cheese in the center of each bowl. Place the bowls under the broiler and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve.

]]> 0, 14 Mar 2018 03:15:34 +0000
Ecumenical and tasty – a dish for Easter or Passover Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 With spring just down the road, you’ve likely already figured out the main dish for the feast accompanying whichever of the two big seasonal holidays – Easter or Passover – you celebrate. Leg of lamb and glazed ham are Easter favorites. Braised brisket or roast chicken land on many Passover tables. But no matter which way you roll, Shredded Sweet Potatoes with Dates and Pistachios is a tasty side dish that’s a great way to round out the menu.

The easy part of this recipe is that it takes just 5 minutes to cook on top of the stove. And because the oven is going to be hogged for hours by the main dish you’re roasting, on top of the stove is exactly where you want it to cook. But sweet potatoes are dense, you say. How can they become tender in 5 minutes? Well, it’s a snap when you shred them before putting them in the skillet.

Like many of us with a food processor, you might have long ago stashed the box it came in – the one containing all the slicing and dicing blades – on the top shelf of a closet. Now’s the time to pull it down, dust it off and pull out the grating disk. Then simply peel the sweet potatoes, cut them into chunks that fit into the processor’s feed tube and grate away. You’ll be done in about 5 minutes.

The pistachios contribute crunch – and some complementary flavor – to the sweet potatoes, but feel free to use your nut of choice. The dates contribute a nice jammy sweetness, but if you’re not a fan, just leave them out. Before the meal is over, you may find this side dish earning a place nearer to the center of the plate.


Servings: 6

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely shredded, preferably using the grating disk of a food processor

Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/3 cup toasted chopped pistachios

1/3 cup chopped dried dates

11/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons shredded fresh mint

In a large skillet cook the onion in the oil over medium heat, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and a hefty pinch of salt, increase the heat to medium-high, cover, and cook, stirring, occasionally, until the potato is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the paprika, pistachios, dates, lemon juice and mint; add salt to taste.

]]> 0, 13 Mar 2018 15:32:59 +0000
The signs are everywhere – vegan mac and cheese is having its moment Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 If my 5-year-old ruled the world, he’d eat vegan mac and cheese every day. We compromise at once a week. He doesn’t know it, but we’re living in a golden age for plant-based mac and cheese, where the once fringe riff on the dairy-based dish is poised to take a leap into the mainstream.

I see the signs everywhere.

In February, the 2018 World Vegan Mac ‘n Cheese Championship went down in Baltimore for the third year with thousands in attendance. Vegan soul restaurant The Land of Kush took first place from a field of 27 entrants with its baked mac and cheese.

This past fall, a new Whole Foods opened in Denver and drew media attention for its mac and cheese bar and its inclusion of a vegan choice. Closer to home at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, dining staff warn students to be patient on nights they serve tofu mac and cheese because “the dinner line is out the door.”

Here in Portland, vegan mac and cheese can be found on menus that cater to millennials, including Local Sprouts Cooperative and Silly’s (where it’s called the Vegan Strikes Mac). Health food stores and better-stocked supermarkets across Maine sell vegan mac and cheese as a mix in the pasta aisle and as a frozen meal.

Yet it’s the dish’s popularity among home cooks and bloggers that signals big things for vegan mac and cheese. Recipes for the plant-based comfort food fill cookbooks and flood the internet. (A Google search of “vegan mac and cheese recipe” returns more than 12 million results.)

The ingredients in these recipes range from cauliflower and butternut squash to cashews and cultured vegan cheese. Nutritional yeast (called “nooch” by vegan insiders) is a common thread.

For example, chef Christy Morgan uses butternut squash, tofu, tahini and nutritional yeast to create a vegan mac and cheese in her 2011 cookbook “Blissful Bites.” And cookbook author John Schlimm’s 2013 “The Cheesy Vegan” devotes a whole chapter to mac and cheese recipes, all of which use blends of cultured vegan cheeses, either made at home with Schlimm’s recipes or store-bought.

In Jennifer and Nathan Winograd’s 2011 “All American Vegan” cookbook, the mac and cheese recipe blends store-bought margarine, cream, cream cheese and cheddar cheese – all vegan versions – to form the sauce.

Tofu is the heart of the vegan mac and cheese recipe in the 2007 classic “Veganomicon,” while the recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s vegan cookbook, released last year, blends nutritional yeast, tomato paste, cauliflower and cashews.

Miyoko Schinner, the mastermind behind vegan cheese brand Miyoko’s Kitchen, shared a recipe for mac and cheese dry mix in her 2015 “The Homemade Vegan Pantry.” To make it, she pulverizes cashews, nutritional yeast, oat flour and spices in a food processor. This dry mix can be stored in the pantry, then combined at mealtime with water or plant-based milk to make a sauce.

I’ve tried and enjoyed many of these recipes, but as a group, their one drawback is the time it takes to prepare them. With a hungry 5-year-old at my side, I needed a recipe I could whip up for lunch. So, I created my own vegan mac and cheese dry mix that is as quick to make as the grocery store box variety and produces a creamy and flavorful (but not too flavorful) sauce designed for young tastebuds. I use nutritional yeast and spices for flavor and a mixture of soy milk (which is high in protein) and flour to create a creamy texture.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my son does.


Be sure to use plain soy milk, not vanilla flavored.

Serves 4

8 ounces whole wheat pasta, uncooked

11/4 cups unsweetened soy milk


6 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Finely ground black pepper, to taste (optional)

COOK PASTA: Place 21/2 quarts of water and 1/2 tablespoon of salt in a medium-sized pot and bring to a rapid boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander and set aside.

MAKE DRY MIX: Combine the dry ingredients mix and set aside.

MAKE SAUCE: After draining the pasta, return the pot to the stove over medium-low heat and pour in the soy milk. Slowly, add the sauce mix ingredients and whisk constantly for 3 to 4 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Stir in the cooked pasta, turn off the heat and mix the sauce and pasta together with a large spoon until the pasta is covered in sauce. The sauce will continue to thicken as you combine it with the pasta. Serve hot.

HOW TO SERVE: Make your mac and cheese a meal by topping it with:

Steamed peas

 Steamed broccoli

 Greens sautéed with garlic and tamari

 Crumbled smoky tempeh or other plant-based bacon

 Sliced hot peppers (pickled or fresh) and hot sauce

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0 homemade vegan mac and cheese is as quick to make as a box mix.Tue, 13 Mar 2018 15:40:43 +0000
The Wrap: Sunny restaurant news amid another nor’easter Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 Let’s start off with something to make you feel better about this third nor’easter that’s just slammed our coast. Seasonal restaurants and food shacks are starting to announce their 2018 opening dates, which means spring is nigh. Red’s Dairy Freeze at 167 Cottage Road in South Portland re-opened last week during the previous nor’easter, and The Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth announced it will be open every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. beginning March 31.


Big news this weekend from Little Bigs, the little South Portland bakery at 340 Main St. that makes hand pies and pastries. After hinting for a couple of weeks that change was coming, owners James and Pamela Plunkett announced Saturday that Sunday would be their last day before closing for five weeks for rest, renovations and re-dos. They will re-open May 1. Clearly, I was not the only one who panicked at the news: When I arrived at the bakery on Sunday morning for one last treat, the shelves were almost empty. Daylight savings be damned, the Little Big locusts had swarmed in and inhaled almost everything. I still managed to put together a selection of favorites – a breakfast calzone for now, a chicken hand pie for Monday lunch, a potato-crusted egg pie for the freezer.

The Plunketts had considered moving, but, as Pamela explained to me Sunday, they decided instead to figure out a way to make their Cash Corner location work better for them and their customers. A local couple who were regulars offered to invest in order to keep the bakery in the neighborhood.

Now the Plunketts plan to spend April expanding the kitchen (a new walk-in freezer is in the works, and hopefully a dishwasher since they’ve been doing all their dishes by hand), and adding better signage, fresh paint, and a walk-up window for placing orders.

James added that new menu items are in the works, such as bento-style boxes for lunch and dinner. They expect to expand hours, staff, and the catering portion of the business, too.

Best of all, come May customers may no longer have to call up the Plunketts to set aside their favorite items, for fear they will sell out early.


If you were one of the 10,000 people who called The Lost Kitchen in Freedom April 1 last year seeking a reservation, you may – or may not – be in luck. Chef/proprietor Erin French has announced a change to the way her restaurant will handle reservations, and we can’t decide if the new lottery system makes sense or just makes it harder to grab one of the 40 seats available nightly from May through October.

Under the new system, would-be diners must mail in cards between April 1 and April 10 with their contact information. On April 11, her staff will randomly draw names until all the reservations are taken – the staff will work with the lucky customers either to reserve the day and time of their choice, or find something else that works for them. Anyone who doesn’t get a reservation can be put on the restaurant’s wait list.


If you’ve been looking forward to having dinner at Artemisia Cafe, at 61 Pleasant St. in Portland, you’d better hurry. The restaurant announced last week that its final day of dinner service will be Friday.

Artemisia, owned by Celia Bruns, has been West End fixture serving lunch and brunch for about 18 years; in 2013, it added dinners, with Guy Frenette serving as the evening chef.

No reason was proffered for the change on the restaurant’s Facebook page, except that “all good things must come to an end.” Perhaps the arrangement has simply run its course.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 PORTLAND, ME - DECEMBER, 2: Pamela Plunkett makes cookies using handmade springerle cookie molds at Little Bigs bakery Friday, December 2, 2016. (Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Tue, 13 Mar 2018 15:57:34 +0000
Beer and brownies: A delicious St. Patrick’s Day treat made with Maine stout Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:00:00 +0000 An offhand line in a story in these pages last week about Biddeford’s happening food scene happened to mention Stacy Cooper’s Banded Horn Stout Brownies with Bailey’s Ganache, a treat she created last year for St. Patrick’s Day. The sweet brought to mind that annoying jingle for Wrigley’s Doublemint gum: Take one good thing (beer, specifically local beer), add it to another good thing (brownies) and “double your pleasure, double your fun.” (Now we can’t get the damn song out of our head.)

We knew we had to have that recipe. Cooper, the owner of Biddeford’s Biscuits & Company, was kind enough to share it.

But first things first:

Fudgy or cakey?

“They are sort of in between, which is what I like,” Cooper said in a telephone interview. “The best of both worlds. I think they probably fall a little more on the cakey side, but I don’t know. They seem like a good blend of both.”

Compromise. We like that. America could use more compromise these days.

Does she dye them green for St. Patrick’s Day?

“No, we don’t,” Cooper said decidedly. “We might sprinkle some green sugar somewhere. We’re very homey and very rustic in our presentation. I don’t do a lot of crazy things in presentation.”

We like that, too. We like our brownies, um, brown.

At her cafe, Cooper is a big booster of local ingredients, and Banded Horn is also based in Biddeford. While beer in brownies sounds unorthodox to us, Cooper reminded us that the combination of stout and chocolate is a tried and true one.

Stacy Cooper pours the batter into a cooking pan as she makes beer brownies at Biscuits and Company in Biddeford. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Her own background is English and Scottish, by way of Canada, so, she said, “I’m not terribly attached to St. Patrick’s as a holiday, except that it’s inspiration to make something that’s Irish-inspired.” Other items that have appeared on past Biscuit & Company’s St. Patrick’s Day menus include Irish soda bread (made with Maine grains) and Guinness beef stew. This year, St. Patrick’s is celebrated on Saturday.

How did a biscuit maker become a brownie baker, we asked? “I’ve always baked,” said Cooper, the daughter of a passionate home baker (her mom) and an excellent home baker/cook (her dad). Also, we agreed, brownies and biscuits have an affinity for one another. “Homey. Everybody likes them. They are easy to throw together,” Cooper ticked off. “There are lots of different versions of both. And you can’t really go wrong.”

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or at:

Twitter: PGrodinsky


Recipe courtesy of Stacy Cooper at Biscuits & Company. Any stout will do, Cooper admits, “the darker the better.” But she prefers her hometown Banded Horn stout. If you use salted butter in the brownies, reduce the salt called for in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon.

Yield: About 16 brownies

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup cocoa powder, plus 1 teaspoon for dusting the pan

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup Banded Horn Stout beer

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Beer brownies from Biscuits and Company in Biddeford. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, lightly beaten



1 cup dark chocolate chunks

1/2 cup heavy cream

2-3 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur, such as Bailey’s

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper extending it over two edges 1 to 2 inches to make a sling. Grease with butter or spray lightly with cooking spray. Dust with 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, turning and tapping the pan until the entire surface is lightly coated with cocoa; tap out any excess cocoa powder.

Whisk together the flour, 2/3 cup cocoa and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Whisk together the sugar, stout, oil, butter, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl until the sugar begins to dissolve and the mixture is foamy. Stir in the combined dry ingredients, one-third at a time, stirring well with each addition.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and smooth it to the edges. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out mostly clean – a few moist crumbs are OK – don’t overbake. Cool the brownies in the baking pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan using the parchment sling and continue to cool on a rack.

Make the ganache while the brownies are cooling: Microwave the chocolate and the heavy cream for 30 seconds, stir well and allow the chocolate to continue to melt. If any unmelted chunks remain, microwave another 10 seconds and stir well until the cream and chocolate meld. Add the Irish cream and stir well. Cool completely; the ganache will thicken. Stir to loosen and spread thickly on cooled brownies, allowing the ganache to drip over the edges.

Gild the Lilly:

If you want to go all out, make an Irish Cream Drizzle by combining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar with 1 tablespoon Irish cream. Adjust with more liqueur or sugar as necessary for a good drizzling consistency. Drizzle over the frosted brownies and allow to set 15 minutes. Cut brownies into squares. Slainte!

]]> 0 brownies from Biscuits and Company in Biddeford.Tue, 13 Mar 2018 16:12:15 +0000
Want to eat at this exclusive restaurant? You’ll have to mail a postcard Mon, 12 Mar 2018 13:43:25 +0000 Most restaurants are constantly on the hunt for new technology to handle day-to-day business such as reservations. The Lost Kitchen in Freedom is taking a step back this year, asking diners to mail in their reservation requests for the 2018 season.

The 40-seat restaurant in an old mill in Freedom, owned by Erin French, usually starts taking reservations for May-October seating at midnight April 1. Last year, 10,000 phone calls inundated the restaurant’s reservation lines in just 24 hours, fueled by a lot of glowing national press coverage that had come French’s way. This year, French is asking diners to mail in a 3-by-5 note card with their name and contact information between April 1-10. On April 11, her staff will begin randomly selecting cards, and those who are chosen will get a phone call from the restaurant to set up their reservation. Cards will be drawn throughout the week until all seats are claimed for the season.

“The response from last year’s reservation process made it clear that the request for seats now severely outweighs what we will ever be able to provide,” French wrote in a note explaning the new system on her website. “We never wanted a reservation system that entailed staying up for all hours through the night on the phone, miserably hitting redial over and over again, but that is what it had become. Let’s not do that again this year.”

French wrote that she wanted to make the reservation process less stressful, with “no busy signals, no full voice mailboxes.”

“Here at TLK we are old fashioned, we are simple, we are slow, we are Mainers,” she said. “We prefer human contact over computers and pen & paper over keyboards.”

The new system does, however, come with some new rules. For example, since April 1 falls on Easter Sunday, French will allow cards to be postmarked on March 31. Cards postmarked earlier than that, however, will not be included in the drawing. Cards received after April 11 will also be disqualified.

Other rules: Don’t send more than one card. And don’t include a heartfelt, handwritten message describing why you want to eat at The Lost Kitchen so badly. The staff might enjoy reading such pleas, but they will not be swayed.

And if your card isn’t drawn, don’t give up hope – there’s always the waitlist.

For complete instructions, go to

]]> 0, olives and other nibbles are served at The Lost Kitchen in Freedom before the meal begins.Mon, 12 Mar 2018 23:43:27 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Ignore the oversalting, and there’s plenty to like at Musette Sun, 11 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 Lighting matters. It’s usually not the first thing out of people’s mouths when they talk about a restaurant – that’s food or service – but people do notice, especially when they encounter a dark dining room. Often, you can tell when a restaurant has made things a bit too dim when you spot diners surreptitiously pulling out their cell phones to use them as flashlights to read the menu. Musette in Kennebunkport’s Cape Porpoise village is not one of those restaurants.

With full-wattage pendant lights dangling over every table, ceiling spots and an interior design scheme that favors light wood cladding and white paint, Musette’s dining room is incandescently bright. “It’s like a surgical theater,” one of my dinner guests remarked. “Does anyone look good at night, under this much light?” another wondered aloud, adding, “I think I would have worn something different if I had known.” Perhaps we all should have figured it out earlier, because Musette’s exterior, with a powerful floodlight and three, lighthouse-worthy sconces, can be seen half-a-mile down Route 9 – possibly even from space.

Until 2016, the well-illuminated building was familiar to locals as the home of The Wayfarer, a popular local diner-style restaurant. When former White Barn Inn executive chef Jonathan Cartwright and his business partner Travis McKenzie took over and opened Musette in July last year, they kept nearly everything about the décor the same, right down to the giant placard over the wooden lunch counter stenciled with the former restaurant’s name.

“We didn’t buy the name with the transaction, so we changed it to Musette, to the dismay of many locals. As long as they don’t make their checks out to the Wayfarer, I’m fine,” Cartwright said.

The restaurant’s name does not refer to a little muse, but instead to a bag of food handed off to cyclists during a race. “They grab it as they go, sling it over their shoulder, put the food in their pockets and then get rid of the cloth bag it came in,” Cartwright told me.

Cycling, it turns out, is how McKenzie and Cartwright met. The two have also created a luxury bicycle tourism company that plans vacations across the country, including in southern Maine. Musette acts as the home base for that particular trip. “We’re trying to bring the café together with our cycling and cycle tour company. We want it to be welcoming to sports people,” Cartwright said.

With the front-of-house still run by zany and colorful Bert Austin, a beloved fixture in this space for the better part of 30 years, they are off to a great start making the restaurant hospitable to everyone, regardless of whether you know your calipers from your derailleurs.

Strangely though, apart from the restaurant’s name, there really are no indications, visual or otherwise, that Musette has any link at all to cycling. The menu certainly does not announce itself as part of a training-friendly regime, with plenty of hearty dishes like a Wayfarer holdover: haddock chowder ($9), prepared with substantial chunks of pan-seared fish and undercooked cubes of potato. The evaporated-milk-based soup is sweeter than many chowders, not to mention pale yellow and a little tangy, thanks to a white-wine deglaze of the haddock pan.

Indeed, several of Musette’s dishes seem to be foods more geared to chopping firewood and hibernating – plates like tender but oversalted braised short rib ($26), served with hard-seared, apple-and-bacon-glazed root vegetables, crunchy fried onions and red wine sauce, all over a bed of exceptional whipped potatoes.

Or a side of deep-fried crispy broccoli in a sweet-and-spicy sauce ($6) made from reduced soy sauce and ponzu. It was also far too salty, as was the cavatelli with sautéed portobello and oyster mushrooms ($18). While the pasta itself was cooked al dente, the excessively savory combination of melted Fontina, sherry sauce and grated Parmesan made this plate hard to finish.

Another indulgent dish is the Classic Burger ($12), a pre-ground, pre-formed beef chuck patty, topped with the salt-walloping combo of Tabasco-infused bleu-cheese mayonnaise, bacon, pickles and cheddar cheese. I loved the grilled brioche bun and crisp, fluffy French fries (the least heavily salted component on the plate), but my patty was cooked nearly well-done and crumbled apart as I ate.

Cartwright himself acknowledges that the burger is out-of-step with serious exercise, or at least, not the sort of dish you’d want to discover in your own musette. “It’s the ultimate burger after a 100-mile ride. I only eat one of these if I’ve done that,” he said. “It would be a little bit of a welcome home for me.”

Personally, I’d rather celebrate feats of heroic pedaling with dessert. Very likely, I’d choose a slice of Musette’s Bee Sting cake ($10), a riff on a German Bienenstich, made with layers of melon sponge (that our server told us were “really soft vanilla cake”) and yeasted honey cake, crème pâtissière, walnuts and a generous drizzle of honey. Imagine the flavors in an ultra-rich, sticky-sweet baklava, something that, as one of my guests noted, “you have to eat with black coffee,” and you’ve got the idea.

I also might opt for the dark chocolate mousse ($8), served frosty-cold with fresh raspberries, whipped cream and a disc of special chocolate bark prepared by Cartwright’s daughter. “My littlest daughter Yasmeen is 11 and fancies herself a pastry chef,” he said. “It’s something she makes at home. She puts granola left over from the morning service in there along with chopped cranberries, then spreads it and sprinkles cocoa nibs on top.” Dishes like this make it hard to skip dessert at Musette.

I certainly wouldn’t, if I were cobbling together my own perfect Musette meal. One dish that would undoubtedly make the cut is the roasted free-range chicken breast with herbed butter, Brussels sprouts and cinnamon-spiced sweet potato purée ($23). On a chilly evening, I can think of little more satisfying than spearing a piece of each of the elements on the tines of my fork, swabbing it through the amber pan jus and popping it into my mouth.

Another dish I’d include is the panko-breaded seafood cake ($10), a thrifty starter that tastes anything but. “It’s actually made with the trimmings of whatever we have in at that time of the season and whatever we’re featuring on the menu. Salmon, crab, lobster …” Cartwright said. Plated with a dab of whole-grain mustard remoulade, a ruffle of micro-greens and long, dangling shreds of coleslaw dressed in housemade mayonnaise, it’s a striking dish. Turn it one way, and it’s an appetizer; turn it another, and it resembles a mixed-media collage of a jellyfish, drifting weightlessly with the tide. My table mates and I took turns snapping Instagram-worthy photos of the plate before we tucked in – all of us grateful in that moment that we did not need a flash.

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

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

]]> 0 is in the building formerly occupied by The Wayfarer in Cape Porpoise.Fri, 09 Mar 2018 16:35:51 +0000
Recipe: Roasted (or grilled or broiled) oysters with maple syrup and chipotle butter Sun, 11 Mar 2018 08:00:23 +0000 Chef Sam Hayward told me that in the early days at Fore Street, a local oyster collector found some huge Belon oysters near Cundy’s Harbor in Harpswell. They were really tough to open while live, so he roasted them for just a few minutes until the shells popped open as the slightly cooked oyster released its tight grip. I followed that advice with the big, ugly oysters I found recently at Gurnet Trading Company, which were also foraged from Cundy’s Harbor. Once their top shell is removed, the oysters get a dollop of this compound butter. A minute in the cooling oven melds the butter and the oyster brine into a sauce without overcooking the oyster.

Makes 24 roasted oysters

24 live oysters, scrubbed

4 ounces unsalted, room-temperature butter

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons minced chipotle chili in adobo sauce

1/2 teaspoon lime zest or very finely minced cilantro

Pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange oysters flat side up on a large (11 by 17 inches) baking sheet with sides. They will fit tightly against each other, which is a good thing as they steady each other so that not too much of their liquor spills over onto the pan. Place the oysters in the oven and roast until they open just slightly, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven. Shut the oven off.

While the oysters are roasting, use an electric mixer (or a wooden spoon and a lot of elbow grease) to combine the butter, maple syrup, chipotle, lime zest or cilantro and salt into a smooth paste.

Once the oysters have popped open and you’ve removed them from the oven, use an oyster knife to fully remove their top shells. (I wear a glove on my non-knife-wielding hand as the shells are hot.)

Dollop a half-teaspoon of compound butter into each open oyster. Place the pan back into the cooling oven to just melt the butter, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with crusty bread to sop up any of the buttery, briny sauce that sits in the pan after the oysters are gone.

]]> 0 dolloped with maple-chipotle compound butter.Thu, 08 Mar 2018 17:14:56 +0000
Congdon’s to expand its food truck park in Wells, add a beer garden Wed, 07 Mar 2018 15:48:25 +0000 Congdon’s Doughnuts in Wells is expanding its food truck park this spring with as many as 10 trucks each evening, a beer garden and patio.

Congdon’s After Dark began last year with three trucks, including its own, parking outside the well-known breakfast and lunch spot after it closed for the day.

This year, the park will be open on weekends starting in May and nightly starting in mid-June with trucks serving everything from seafood and steak subs to falafel and gelato, according to a press release from Congdon’s.

ShishkaBerry’s will be one of the new food trucks in Congdon’s expanded food truck park this spring. Courtesy of Congdon's

A beer garden will serve two beers made with Congdon’s pastries – honey dip doughnuts and maple bacon fritters – in collaboration with Barreled Souls Brewing Co. in Saco.

The park will also have activities and theme nights.

“Everyone loved the food trucks we brought in last year and we’re so excited to expand and diversify the options this year,” Congdon’s owner Gary Leech said in the press release. “The new beer garden, with our own beers, will be a great addition as well. We can’t wait for the season to start!”

]]> 0, 07 Mar 2018 12:15:14 +0000
Serve white bean soup with dumplings for a hearty winter meal Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 They say that everyone complains about the weather – winter especially – but no one ever does anything about it. Well, here’s something you can do that will make you feel much better. Cook up a big hot bowl of Italian soup for dinner, garnished with homemade – and idiot-proof! – dumplings.

Basically, this is a white bean and vegetable soup flavored with pancetta and garlic. It’s thickened by pureeing a few cups of the cooked vegetables and stirring them back into the pot – one of my favorite ways to thicken a soup because it’s so simple. It also avoids dulling the soup’s flavor, which is the problem that crops up when flour or cream is used to do the job. Afterward, you’ll stir in some fresh lemon juice as a brightener. This is another of my favorite soup tips.

The pancetta makes its appearance as a supporting player, not the star of the show. If you’d like, you can swap in bacon instead. (Both meats are cured pork from the belly. The difference? Bacon is smoked. Pancetta is not.) And you’re welcome to leave out the pork altogether.

The dumplings are comfort food and making them is, as mentioned, a fail-safe proposition. You start with fresh breadcrumbs, which require nothing more intricate than pulsing fresh slices of bread in a food processor. (One slice turns into about 1/2 cup of crumbs.) Then just combine the crumbs with eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. You can roll the “dough” into balls and cook them right away, but the work is easier if you park it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes beforehand.

How to round it out? I recommend a nice green salad. Did someone mention winter? You’ve neutralized it.


Servings: 4

2 large eggs

2 cups fresh white or whole-wheat breadcrumbs

2 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces chopped pancetta

1/2 cup medium chopped onion

1 cup medium diced carrot

11/2 cups medium diced fennel

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Two 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed

4 cups chicken broth

8 ounces baby kale, spinach, or chopped larger greens of your choice

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or to taste

Kosher salt

Black pepper

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in the crumbs, cheese and sage. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes. Roll into 12 balls.

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon. Leave all the fat in the pan, add the onion, carrot and fennel, and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat, until very lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add the beans and the chicken broth to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add the dumplings to the pot and simmer, covered, for 8 minutes.

Transfer 2 cups of the solids with a little of the liquid to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the puree to the pan. Add the kale and pancetta and simmer, stirring, until all the greens are wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice; salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into 4 soup bowls and spoon 3 dumplings into each bowl.

]]> 0, 06 Mar 2018 17:04:18 +0000
Slow-cooker pork is the only way to go Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 Slowly cooking a big hunk of tough, inexpensive meat isn’t just the best way to cook this cut of meat. It’s really the only way.

Most tough cuts of meat come from the hardest working parts of the animal, and therefore have a lot of collagen. This collagen needs to be broken down and converted to gelatin for the meat to become tender, and that is accomplished by low and slow cooking.

Here, if you want to rub the meat with the spice rub the night before and leave it loosely covered in the fridge overnight, the dry rub will season the meat a little more deeply. But this isn’t a heavily seasoned roast, so it’s a step that you can skip if you don’t have time or fridge space.

This meat can be eaten just as it is, with any kind of starchy side from mashed or roasted potatoes to rice to orzo or another pasta. Or you can make it into tacos by wrapping the meat in warmed, soft corn or flour tortillas and adding in whatever feels right: avocados, shredded cheese, a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream, salsas of any kind, fresh cilantro leaves, pickled onions, fresh onions, chopped tomatoes, shredded zucchini.

You could also use this meat in enchiladas, burritos or any kind of Mexican-inspired casserole. Finely shred it and add to huevos rancheros? Pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce, perhaps?

There is no such thing as leftover slow-cooker pork. There is only another brilliant pork dinner waiting to happen.


Serves 12

3 tablespoons brown sugar, light or dark

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika, hot or sweet

1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (5-pound) boneless pork butt roast

1/2 cup dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, garlic, oil, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Rub it all over the roast. Place the roast in a roasting pan, preferably in a wire rack. Add the wine.

Cook on low heat for five to six hours, until it has a nice crust and the meat is falling-apart tender.

Remove the roast from the oven and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Use a fork or two to shred the meat into nice-size pieces.

]]> 0, 06 Mar 2018 17:12:35 +0000
The Wrap: Portland’s Paciarino restaurant will occupy former Zapoteca space Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 This tip came in just in time for The Wrap’s deadline: Later this spring, Paciarino will move its restaurant a block down Fore Street in Portland into the building previously occupied by the Mexican restaurant Zapoteca, which closed in June.

Enrico Barbiero, who owns Paciarino with his wife, Fabiana de Savino, confirmed Tuesday that they are opening with an expanded menu at 505 Fore St., and will use their current location at 475 Fore St. to expand the retail space where they sell their pastas, sauces and imported Italian foods. Paciarino has been at its current location since 2009.

At the new space, which they are leasing, they will continue to serve the current Paciarino menu, Barbiero said, but he plans to add brick-oven pizza, risotto, arancini, gnocchi and other items. All ingredients will come from Italy, he said.

The restaurant will remain open during the transition, and Barbiero said they hope to open in the new location at the beginning of May.


My dinner at Elba started with a delicious, intensely flavored mushroom tea. My favorite small plate featured warm crab with soft scrambled eggs and two kinds of carrots, and dessert was a stunning blend of flavors and textures – salted pistachio meringue with Meyer lemon and balsam fir.

Does this sound like food from Biddeford? It is now – ever since former Salt Lake City chef Bowman Brown, a perennial James Beard semifinalist in the Best Chef: Southwest category, rode into town. How on earth did he end up in sleepy downtown Biddeford? I asked him just that during an interview last week for today’s Food & Dining cover story (see C1) on the city’s food and restaurant scene.

Turns out Brown lived in Kittery when he was attending culinary school in New Hampshire, about 12 years ago. When he sold his Salt Lake City restaurant, he took a year off and then decided to explore returning to New England. He had been to Palace Diner with his parents, and that’s about all he knew about the little city. But, he added, “I kind of got the vibe that this was a cool place to be, especially since it was affordable.”

Now Bowman is running his new restaurant while working on his longtime dream – transforming a 1725 farmhouse in Nottingham, New Hampshire, into an inn and restaurant. He lives on that property and commutes about an hour to Biddeford every day. He told me he just couldn’t stomach the idea of working for someone else after so many years of successfully going it alone.

Here’s hoping Elda sticks around. Bowman, who opened the restaurant just in time for the slow winter months, says he’s encouraged that Elda appears to be getting busier with every passing month.


Andrew Zimmern is coming back for a second helping of Maine spices.

Last year the food TV personality asked Christine Pistole, owner of Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants, a certified organic spice company in Litchfield, to create spice blends for his online shop that pair food from with places he’s traveled. Now he’s asked for five new blends.

Northwest Missouri, part of the Jesse James Trail, inspired the Hillbilly Heat Spice Blend, which is a mix of paprika, garlic, onion, basil, pepper, oregano, thyme, white pepper and cayenne that’s good for campfire cooking. As someone who is descended from true hillbillies, however, I respectfully object to the name. Why not call it the Outlaw Blend?

If you’d rather daydream about a sunnier place while you’re cooking, try the Aztec Chile blend, or The Sun & The Sea Spice Blend, inspired by the Amalfi Coast.

The food must have greatly improved in Poland since I was there in the 1980s, before glasnost, when food was simple, scarce and really bland. I remember lots of potatoes and pork. And then there was pork and potatoes. You get the idea. The Polish Pantry blend – smoky paprika, onion, garlic, caraway, allspice, thyme, marjoram, mushroom, cayenne, pepper and bay leaf – is good in stews and soups, or as a rub for all that pork.

(Fondest memory of Poland: successfully smuggling in a Rolling Stone magazine. Scariest memory: watching the flight attendant pound the decrepit turboprop airplane’s door shut with her shoe on a flight from Gdansk to the port city of Gdynia.)

Zimmern doesn’t mention exactly where he saw the Northern Lights, but the Northern Lights Seasoning is supposed to be good on wild game, fish, chicken or pork.

The blends sell for $8 each and are available only on the Shop Andrew Zimmern website.


Anna Connolly and Travis Colgan, who opened Abilene on Deering Avenue in Woodfords Corner three years ago, announced on their website and Facebook page that they will be closing at the end of the month.

Their children have reached school age, and they want to adjust their lifestyle accordingly, they say, adding they may do some catering instead.

The New American restaurant featured dishes such as pasta, baked stuffed haddock and crispy chicken cutlets.


Adam Powers and Jeremy Rush, in their application to open a new Elsmere BBQ at 476 Stevens Ave. in Portland, said they hope to open May 1.

“Just as we have embedded ourselves in the community of the Willard Beach Area of South Portland, we intend to do the same for the Deering Center Community in Portland,” they wrote in a letter accompanying the application.

Their new restaurant will be in the former location of Siano’s.

]]> 0 place their orders during a busy dinner hour at Zapoteca. Right, guacamole is made with jalapeno, avocado, cilantro and onion, and served with tortilla chips.Tue, 06 Mar 2018 17:35:29 +0000
‘Nutritious Delicious,’ from America’s Test Kitchen, lives up to its title Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 “Nutritious Delicious.” By America’s Test Kitchen. $29.99.

“Nutritious Delicious: Turbocharge your favorite recipes with 50 everyday superfoods” aims to help you get the most out of what you eat and make every calorie count in delivering nutrients to your body. Published recently by America’s Test Kitchen in Boston, the book focuses on recipes with nutrient-dense ingredients.

It begins with plenty of information on ways to build a more nutritious recipe by substituting or adding healthy ingredients in otherwise basic recipes. For example, it suggests that cooks use plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise, meaty portobella mushrooms with intensely flavored smoked paprika in place of bacon, and wheat pasta or – even better – a whole grain like farro – for white pasta. Such ideas continue throughout the pages of the book: recipes call for adding pureed pumpkin to waffles, or replacing all-purpose flour with oat flour (made by grinding oats to a powder). Altogether, these ideas add up to a smart and useful aspect of the cookbook.

The first 30-plus pages of “Nutritious Delicious” are packed with nutritional information: lists of vitamins and minerals, their benefits, and the foods where they are commonly found; a list of 50 foods that contain the most nutrients; and a list of spices and herbs that are known for their antioxidant properties.

The recipes start with breakfast dishes that have uncommon combinations of grains, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, eggs and fish. The many colorful photographs exude the healthiness of these meals. From the steel-cut oatmeal with carrots, cherries and pecans to the fluffy omelet with smoked salmon and asparagus, to the flourless nut and seed loaf, each recipe is chock-full of health-giving ingredients. These recipes prove that breakfast really can be the most important meal of the day.

The 20 recipes that make up the breakfast section are followed by sections on Lunch, Main Dishes, Vegetables and Sides, Snacks, Dessert. Most of the recipes in “Nutritious Delicious” are vegetarian, but several include fish, turkey or chicken, and even lean beef. The descriptive recipe titles – such as Cod in Coconut Broth with Lemon Grass and Ginger, and Pesto Farro Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Artichokes – indicate for the cook the major ingredients involved. Each recipe is followed by information on its calories, fat, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

My family makes a lot of blueberry muffins, and we consider ourselves connoisseurs of this baked treat, so when I spied a recipe for Whole-Wheat Blueberry-Almond Muffins, I gravitated toward it. I’m glad I did. The toasted almonds were a great complement to the blueberries and made for a distinctive sweetness. The texture was perfect; even with whole wheat flour, the muffins were moist and didn’t crumble. As we were running low on vanilla, we used almond extract instead, which – for us almond lovers – only increased the muffins’ delicious flavor.

America’s Test Kitchen has compiled creative, appetizing – and healthy – recipes that made “Nutritious Delicious” a big hit with our family.

Angela King-Horne is a wonderful cook and the community advocacy coordinator for Bicycle Coalition of Maine.


Makes 12 muffins

1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup organic low-fat buttermilk

2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 large organic eggs

1/4 cup expeller-pressed canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or almond)

11/2 cups blueberries

Excellent source of manganese

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 12-cup muffin tin with canola oil spray. Pulse 1/4 cup almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped, 4 to 6 pulses; transfer to large bowl.

2. Add whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup almonds to now empty food processor and process until well combined and almonds are finely ground, about 30 seconds; transfer to large bowl.

3. In separate bowl, whisk buttermilk, sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla together until combined. Using rubber spatula, stir buttermilk mixture into almond-flour mixture until just combined (do not overmix). Gently fold in blueberries.

4. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (cups will be filled to rim) and sprinkle with reserved chopped almonds. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out, 16 to 18 minutes.

5. Let muffins cool in tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and let cool 10 more minutes before serving.

]]> 0, 06 Mar 2018 17:56:51 +0000
Onion Beer Bread, with a 12-ounce bottle of brew as the star Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 A larger-than-usual crowd meeting up at your house for dinner? This Onion Beer Bread would add a lot to the menu. It’s delicious, of course, but it’s also very easy to whip up. Unlike more conventional breads, this one doesn’t involve yeast or require multiple risings. And except for the rosemary, you probably have all the ingredients in the house.

The dough is a basic mix of flour, sugar, salt and leavener combined with your choice of beer, topped with buttery onions, garlic and more butter. The result has a very moist and tender crumb.

Fair warning, though – this dough is thick and sticky. It will look like nothing but a lumpy mess when you put it in the pan and spread it out. Twenty minutes later, after it’s been baked, it will be transformed into enticing, golden, glistening bread.

The best gizmo for spreading the dough in the pan is a baker’s tool known as an offset metal spatula, but a rubber spatula will also get the job done. Whichever you use, grease it by dipping it into the onion butter mixture so that it won’t stick to the batter as you spread it. And, by the way, the surface of the bread doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth. This is rustic bread.

Onion Beer Bread will make your whole house smell heavenly as it bakes. I recommend serving it right out of the oven, but it’s still darn tasty at room temperature or even cold.


Servings: 12

1 stick butter

2 cups thin sliced onion rings (about 1 medium onion)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

360 grams (about 3 cups) unbleached flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon table salt

One 12-ounce bottle beer (your choice)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the butter, onion and garlic in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish and set the pan in the oven while it is preheating (keep an eye on the butter; it might brown a little which is fine, but don’t let it get too brown).

In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the beer and stir just until it is mixed. The dough will be sticky and heavy.

When the butter is melted, pour the butter, onion rings and garlic into a bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon of butter in the baking dish. Using a pastry brush coat the bottom and the sides of the baking dish evenly with the butter. Spoon the bread dough into the pan and spread it evenly. Divide the onions over the top of the dough and drizzle the melted butter and garlic over the onions. Sprinkle the rosemary evenly over the dough.

Bake the bread in the upper third of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a skewer when inserted comes out clean. Cut the bread into 24 squares and serve right away.

]]> 0, 06 Mar 2018 18:09:12 +0000
Ahead of a screening of ‘Hummus! The Movie,’ we offer a recipe for hummus Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 My mother entered her hummus phase sometime in the mid-1970s. From that time on, hummus with veggies launched just about every party at the Grodinsky household. For years, I lobbied against its inclusion on the Thanksgiving appetizers table, because it offended my sense of culinary cohesion. The dip, I felt strongly, had no place on a menu of turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

My culinary perspective hasn’t changed, but if my mom wanted to make it today (she doesn’t cook much anymore), I’d happily give in. Thanksgiving, I’ve come to understand, is meant to bring the family together – from curmudgeonly uncles and crazy aunts to sullen teens, Sanders supporters and Trump backers – and my conviction extends to their wrong-headed food demands.

Hummus plays a unifying role of sorts in Israel, too, according to the documentary (or at least to the very funny, lively trailer for) “Hummus! The Movie,” which will be showing on Monday in Portland as part of the Jewish Film Festival. According to publicity material, the film “celebrates the lives and work of some of Israel’s finest hummus makers – Christian, Arab and Jewish. While politics and religion may divide them, they are united in their passion for making and serving extraordinary hummus.”

If the trailer is any indicator, the film will:

1) make you very hungry

2) persuade you to never ever buy lousy, supermarket hummus again or – God forbid! – hummus from a vending machine

A “hummus restaurateur” at work in Israel in a scene from “Hummus! The Movie.” Courtesy of Maine Jewish Film Festival

To help you avoid those wretched plastic tubs of a dip that these days seems as American as, well, bagels, we reached out to Tiqa restaurant owner Deen Haleem and new chef Gaetano Ascione to send us their recipe for hummus. The recipe came from Haleem, whose background is Palestinian, but these days Ascione oversees the kitchen, so Haleem handed him the phone. Ascione admitted right off the bat that he came late to hummus – he grew up on the Amalfi coast – but added that, as an Italian, he is very familiar with chickpeas. He proceeded to list a number of classic Italian chickpea dishes, and he told us about an interesting practice at olive oil tastings that we’d never heard of before: Between sips of different oils, tasters snack on boiled chickpeas, “like a sorbet, to cleanse the palate of the different flavors of olive oil.”

According to Deen Haleem, owner of Portland’s Tiqa, hummus made with dried chickpeas improves freshness and quality. Photo courtesy of Tiqa

Ascione, who has done some serious globe-trotting, spending time in kitchens in Switzerland, Singapore, South Africa, India, Miami, Chicago and elsewhere, first tasted hummus at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, then came to know it better when he lived in New York, which has both Jewish and Arabic populations.

“Hummus you cannot really have a recipe,” Ascione told us. “It’s like a curry – it’s not just a powder you go into the supermarket and buy. Hummus changes from family to family, from region to region, from state to state. It’s not something you can pinpoint.”

It’s the sort of food, he continued, that prompts people who were raised on regular helpings of hummus to complain, “It doesn’t taste like my grandmother used to make it.”

“There is no such thing as the best hummus in the world,” he continued. “The best hummus in the world is the one that everybody makes and is his own.”

Use Tiqa’s recipe as a jumping-off point.

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or at:

Twitter: @pgrodinsky


Recipe courtesy of Tiqa restaurant in Portland. Tiqa proprietor Deen Haleem says using dried chickpeas improves the quality and freshness of the hummus. He adds that hummus is best eaten warm, just after it’s made.

8 ounces dried chickpeas

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup tahini

About 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Extra-virgin olive oil and paprika, to serve

Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large pot (the chickpeas will swell) in about twice as much water as beans.

The next day, drain the chickpeas, then add a generous amount of fresh water to the pot. (If you like, add 1 teaspoon salt.) Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to a fast simmer and cook until the chickpeas are very soft and can be easily crushed by your fingers. The timing can vary, depending on the age of the beans. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking water.

Put the chickpeas in a blender or food processor and add a small amount of the water they were boiled in. Blend and continue to add the reserved cooking water until the chickpea mixture is the texture of molasses. Add the garlic, tahini, lemon juice and spices and blend until the mixture is very smooth with no lumps of any size. Taste and correct the seasonings.

Serve the hummus on a plate. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.

]]> 0 "hummus restaurateur" at work in Israel in a scene from "Hummus! The Movie."Wed, 07 Mar 2018 10:57:32 +0000
Newcomers, changing tastes energize Biddeford food scene Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 BIDDEFORD — Alec Rutter and Kim Chaurette spent last Thursday afternoon with their hands covered in flour, shaping the dough that would become the next day’s bagels. They didn’t plan to stop until they had made 600.

If Friday morning was like most other days, Rutter and Chaurette, the young owners of Rover Woodfired Bagels & Pizza on Elm Street, likely sold out of all eight varieties of bagels they make in their converted gas station/auto body shop/convenience store. They run the only bagel bakery in town and, it seems, the town is hungry for bagels.

A few blocks away, next door to the Biddeford Smoke Shop, 25-year-old Jackie Hardin and her fiancé, Bryan Casale, 28, were readying for their second weekly pasta night at their cozy new trattoria, Yeto’s, which serves a fusion of Southern and Italian comfort food in a funky dining room that includes a custom mural and tables made from reclaimed wood and old auto manufacturing parts. The menu ranges from classic Southern mac-and-cheese to penne alla gin made with locally distilled gin.

At their downtown apartment, Jon Phillips and Briana Campbell, a couple in their 40s who moved to Biddeford from Brooklyn, New York, less than two months ago, planned their new café and coffee roasting business, which they have already named Time and Tide Craft Coffee Roasters. They are searching for space to lease on Main Street, and plan to serve pastries and breakfast tacos, as well as coffee, when they open in early summer.

Things were also buzzing over at the old Pepperell Mill, where Jacqui DeFranca and Jonathan Denton scooped up ice cream flavors like Earl Grey and Brown Butter Crunch at Sweetcream Dairy, one of 16 food-and-drink-related businesses that have moved into the mill’s carefully carved out industrial spaces in recent years.

Make no mistake, Biddeford’s downtown still looks, well, tired. Walk down Main Street and you’ll see a lot of papered-over storefronts with “For Lease” signs in the windows. But things are starting to change, thanks in no small part to the town’s nascent food and restaurant scene, which is slowly but surely growing. As newcomers move into old mill buildings that are being renovated into apartments and commercial spaces, and into upper-floor apartments on Main Street, the demographics are changing in this town of 22,000 – and the community’s tastes are changing, too.

“People know burgers and they know pizza, but now there’s a place in town that has pizza with pears on it and burgers with blue cheese,” said Delilah Poupore, executive director of Heart of Biddeford, a volunteer organization working to revitalize downtown. “You can’t get a seat on a weekend night because they’re so popular, and they’re drawing people from a 25-mile range.”

Bowman Brown, a former Salt Lake City chef and six-time James Beard Award semifinalist who opened Elda, an upscale, seafood-centric restaurant on Main Street in early December, says 15 to 20 percent of his customers come from communities just north or south of Biddeford – business he’ll need if his higher-end restaurant is to succeed. He knows his style of food – small plates with focused, intense flavors – doesn’t appeal to everyone in this former mill town, so he needs to make the restaurant and its menu approachable; the prices range from $3-$7 for a small bite, such as a pair of cod-and-potato croquettes, to $18 for roasted diver scallops with spinach and seaweed. The most expensive plate, grilled duck with apple and celery root, is $22.

Biddeford, he said, is “a little bit more gritty compared to Portland and Portsmouth, but I think the city is making some improvements. I don’t mind being on the fringes. I like the idea of carving out my own little space for myself.”

Brittany Saliwanchik, the beverage director at Elda, sets up a table before service. Elda joined Biddeford’s growing food scene in December. Staff photos by Brianna Soukup


Poupore says the city’s culinary shift began about five years ago, when Elements started selling books, coffee and beer. Palace Diner, which has received national attention, opened soon afterward, followed by Biscuits & Co.

Just two doors down from Elda on Main Street is Cowbell Burger Bar, which opened in June 2016. The owners are Alex Markakis, former general manager for the Old Orchard Beach Surge professional baseball team, and Jim Albert, owner of Jimmy the Greek’s in Old Orchard Beach. Cowbell is a kind of microcosm of Biddeford itself, a blend of the old and familiar and the new. Inspired by the famous “Saturday Night Live” “I gotta have more cowbell” skit featuring Christopher Walken, the restaurant serves 25 specialty burgers (including waygu beef and bison) and has 25 beers on tap. Every burger is branded with a C – a horseshoe turned on its side – to make it Instagram-friendly, Markakis says.

“I was looking at my clientele at the (Cowbell) bar one day, and it was all women drinking wine,” Albert said. “The light bulb went off, and I said ‘Hmm, I think a wine bar would work here in Biddeford.’ ”

So, eight months after opening Cowbell, he and Markakis opened Uncorked Wine Bar across the street.

Then, Martini’s on Main, a cocktail bar that stays open until 1 a.m., opened in October.

Still, the city won’t run out of restaurant space any time soon. Mayor Alan Casavant says there’s “a huge hunger for more restaurants here.”

“There’s more to come as people begin to recognize that there’s been a paradigm shift in the community from the old mill town stereotype to something that’s more interesting and diverse and exciting,” he said.

When Casavant eats at a restaurant he likes in another town, he leaves behind his card with the owner or chef and implores, “We’d really like you to come to Biddeford.” When he meets food entrepreneurs, he tells them that if they have a product that people like, “they’re going to make some money here.”

The 16 food businesses at the Pepperell Mill include Portland Pie Co., Sweetcream Dairy, Banded Horn Brewing, Round Turn Distilling, and Big Tree Hospitality, the restaurant group that owns Eventide Oyster Co., which has a commercial kitchen and a business office there. These businesses represent roughly 12 percent of all the commercial tenants in the mill’s buildings, according to Megan Higgins, director of leasing for the mill. Coming soon, she said: a seaweed farming/processing business.

The city’s efforts at urban renewal are attracting other entrepreneurs and artists to the campus as well, such as photographers and a glassblower.

Other factors laying the foundation for the “promising” food scene are a revitalized winter farmers market and an influx of restaurant industry workers, said Don Lindgren, owner of Rabelais, a bookstore in the mill that specializes in antiquarian books about food and drink.

“There are a lot of people who are now living in Biddeford who are people who used to be living in Portland and are now part of the food community – cooks and chefs and other food producers,” he said. “And then there are cooks and chefs who cook in Portland but live in Biddeford because of price and convenience.”

A new local foods market, Part & Parcel, is expected to open soon next to Biscuits & Co., he added.

Jacqui DeFranca makes a milkshake for a customer at Sweetcream Dairy. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup


Even before its mini-renaissance, Biddeford was known for some of its more casual spots, places like Pizza By Alex, a family business on Alfred Street that has been around since 1960; Reilly’s Bakery; and George’s Sandwich Shop on Franklin Street, where you’re guaranteed to get an authentic Maine Italian. The new competition won’t push them out, Poupore predicts.

“These are kind of like religious institutions in town,” she said. “Don’t mess with those. They’re beloved.”

Both old timers and newcomers say more businesses in town will mean more business for everyone.

“We don’t get the frequency we used to get,” Andy Mantis, nephew of the founder of Pizza by Alex, said, “but still the volume is pretty strong.”

Stacy Cooper, owner of Biscuits & Co., says she has noticed a lot more foot traffic recently at her restaurant, and more interest from people living in other towns. “The more people who are walking around eating and playing in Biddeford, the better it is for everybody,” she said. “You can’t eat biscuits every day, you can’t eat pizza every day.”

Darren Case, owner of Round Turn Distilling, which started distilling Bimini Gin in June 2015, says Maine’s beer industry has already proven that competition fuels growth. He views the new Stone Fort Distillery (a maker of vodka and whiskey that just opened last weekend) as “just one more thing to give people a reason to come to Biddeford – or, if they already live here, to go out.”

All the new options are leading to collaborations among the businesses, such as pairing cookies made by Rover Bagels with ice cream from Sweetcream Dairy for artisanal ice cream sandwiches. Biscuits & Co. made brownies for St. Patrick’s Day with Banded Horn Stout.

Case and his wife grew up in the Kennebunks, but moved to Brooklyn in 2009. They didn’t see themselves being “long-term New Yorkers,” but it was a visit to Maine Craft Distilling in Portland that got them thinking about moving back and opening their own place. They explored Portland first, but couldn’t find a space they could afford that felt like a part of the community. And the Kennebunks were out because of high costs and the seasonality of the market there.

On a whim, Case phoned the Pepperell Mill in Biddeford. It was close to where he grew up, and close to the strongest market for his product – Portland. When he saw “all this endless, raw space” zoned for industrial use, and realized he had a built-in market of people moving into the mill’s residential units, he was sold. He has since opened a tasting room that has become “a de facto cocktail bar” that helps boost his bottom line.


Other newcomers tell similar stories. DeFranca and Denton, the owners of Sweetcream Dairy, moved to Biddeford, Denton’s hometown, from New York a year and a half ago, after exploring potential locations for their ice cream shop in both Portland and Freeport. Rutter, a Maine native, and Chaurette moved their bagel business here from Salem, Massachusetts, because they wanted to live somewhere a lot of other people in their age group were moving.

“We really liked the thought of being part of a community that’s just starting to really change over,” Chaurette said. “We’re hoping that Biddeford will get to the point like Portland, where you can come out, park your car and actually make a day of it.”

Coffee roasters Phillips and Campbell, who spent the last two summers vacationing in a beach house in Saco, moved to Biddeford from Brooklyn in mid-January. They drove around Biddeford one day and were “struck by the potential of it,” Phillips said. “We wanted to be somewhere where there’s a lot of room to grow.”

They knew they’d made the right decision when they walked into Pop’s Tavern one day, a little apprehensive about how the locals would react.

“They were super warm to us,” Phillips recalled. “Frankly, one of the things that swayed us to move here was how friendly people were when we went to have a beer one afternoon.”

Poupore said she wouldn’t have thought that a place like Pop’s Tavern would be attractive to newcomers, “but it shows that the people who are drawn here, it’s not just for what’s new but also for the authentic. This is a working-class town that has built itself on its creativity, on its ability to survive, whether that’s Reilly’s Bakery – they’re on their fourth generation of owners – or a super innovative chef like Bowman (Brown). Both exist here, and it’s that combination that’s drawing people.”

The city has plenty of room for more diversity in restaurants. Cooper thinks Biddeford needs more middle-of-the-road places, neither too casual nor too upscale. She has been trying to fill that niche herself, offering monthly three-course, fixed-price dinners at Biscuit & Co. that usually sell out.

“In the next five years,” Cooper said, “I think we’re going to see just a surge of interesting places.”

]]> 0 Brown, chef-owner of Elda, preps a batch of Meyer lemons for service in the restaurant's open kitchen. Elda joined Biddeford's growing food scene in December.Wed, 07 Mar 2018 12:26:36 +0000
Paciarino restaurant moving into former Zapoteca space on Fore Street Tue, 06 Mar 2018 17:03:27 +0000 Later this spring, Paciarino will move its restaurant a block down Fore Street in Portland into the building previously occupied by the Mexican restaurant Zapoteca, which closed in June.

Enrico Barbiero, who owns Paciarino with his wife, Fabiana de Savino, confirmed Tuesday that they are opening with an expanded menu at 505 Fore St., and will use their current location at 475 Fore St. to expand the retail space where they sell their pastas, sauces and imported Italian foods. Paciarino has been at its current location since 2009.

475 Fore St. Google photo

At the new space, which they are leasing, they will continue to serve the current Paciarino menu, Barbiero said, but he plans to add brick-oven pizza, risotto, arancini, gnocchi and other items. All ingredients will come from Italy, he said.

The restaurant will remain open during the transition, and Barbiero said they hope to open in the new location at the beginning of May.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, 06 Mar 2018 14:10:38 +0000
Recipe: Really Crispy Roasted Potatoes Sun, 04 Mar 2018 09:00:12 +0000 This recipe is adapted from one in Nigella Lawson’s Christmas cookbook. They are very crispy on the outside but light and fluffy on the inside.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons rendered beef, chicken, duck, goose, lamb or turkey fat

2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 2-inch long, 1-inch wide wedges


2 tablespoons semolina or finely ground corn flour

Place fat in a baking dish and place the dish in the oven. Turn the oven on to 450 degrees F.

Place potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the potatoes.

The potatoes will be par-cooked by the time the fat is smoking hot. Pour the potatoes into hot fat and sprinkle semolina flour over the top. Toss the potatoes so they are well coated with fat and semolina and are a bit banged up (this will help with the crispiness).

Place the baking dish back in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Use a spatula to turn the potatoes. Cook for another 15 minutes until very crispy. Serve immediately.

]]> 0 roast potatoes.Thu, 01 Mar 2018 20:29:44 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Some dishes sing with Indian flavors, others stumble at Taj Sun, 04 Mar 2018 09:00:00 +0000 If you didn’t know better, you might think of South Portland’s Taj as a single restaurant: a no-frills, strip-mall storefront in the Clarks Pond neighborhood. But inside, several conflicting personalities are waging a campaign for control.

Come at lunchtime and you’ll spy chafing dishes of curries and rice lining the back wall of the ochre dining room, all part of a cheap-and-cheerful buffet that is filling, but not much more than that. When night falls, Taj reveals grander ambitions as it transforms into a full-service, “Indian & Indo Chinese” restaurant. Yet even the restaurant’s dinner menu belies an uncertain commitment to its stated culinary focus. Amid dozens and dozens of mainly South Indian dishes is a comically brief Indo-Chinese section. Population: two dishes.

One is fried rice ($9.99), and the other is Hakka noodles ($9.99) a dish based on Chinese lo mein. With stir-fried shredded cabbage and carrots, onions and an egg scrambled into the mix, the dish looks and tastes, disappointingly, exactly like fried rice, only prepared with wheat noodles in place of rice.

If you’re committed to searching through the overly expansive menu, you will find other dishes with a Chinese connection, but only a few. One is gobi Manchuria ($7.99), a cracklingly spicy appetizer of cauliflower florets dredged in a chickpea flour batter, then deep-fried and tossed in soy sauce, ketchup, chili powder, ginger and garlic. A mixed-vegetable ($8.99) and chicken ($8.99) version of the same dish round out Taj’s perfunctory selection of Indo-Chinese offerings.

Moreover, as good as the gobi Manchuria is, the purely Indian version, gobi 65 ($7.99) is better. Here, those same deep-fried florets of cauliflower get lacquered with a tangy sauce made from chili, lime juice and chef/owner Latha Guntaka’s housemade yogurt. The balance between cooling dairy and fiery heat is fantastic.

For the capsaicin-phobic, Guntaka and her kitchen staff generally do well moderating spice to accommodate individual preferences, although nothing I have tasted at Taj was spicier than a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto.

Some of the restaurant’s dishes are mild by design, like chana masala ($9.99), made with chickpeas stewed in tomatoes, garlic-ginger paste, coriander and cumin. Guntaka leaves a little al-dente bite to her chickpeas – a nice touch that keeps the dish from going mushy.

And as well as the chana masala pairs with a scoop of basmati rice or a torn shred of blistered garlic naan ($2.99), still steaming from the kitchen’s own tandoor (clay oven), its ideal companion is batura, a puffy, Punjabi fried bread.

Batura dough is like a quick bread brioche: It is enriched with clarified butter (ghee), but leavened with yogurt and baking soda rather than yeast. When flattened rounds of dough hit hot oil, they inflate instantly to the size and shape of a volleyball. Inside, the texture is moist, and even a little sticky in places, with tiny cells designed to capture fragrant, tomato-rich sauce from the chickpea stew (sold together with one batura as “Cholle batura,” $8.99).

Another appealing combination plate is the idli vada ($5.99), an appetizer featuring a cup of curried lentil sambhar, two chutneys (coconut and tomato) and a pair of starchy items: one lentil-flour doughnut flecked with cilantro leaves and two steamed idli. Made from a fermented batter of puréed softened rice and skinless lentils, idli are spongy and stark white. Think of them as a triplex cross between a dumpling, a dinner roll and a madeleine. Taj’s are yielding, yet tightly structured – perfect for dipping and sopping.

On my second recent visit, I used one of the idli to mop up the excess sauce from an order of Chettinadu chicken ($11.99), a complex Keralan dish of slow-simmered, boneless strips of chicken in a coconut-milk-thickened sauce spiced with oniony asafoetida and fennel seeds.

While some dishes, especially the homier traditional ones, reveal Guntaka’s keen ability to layer flavors without muddying them, other dishes fall along a spectrum of variable success. Some, like kheer ($2.99), a thin rice pudding bulked up with broken vermicelli, tapioca pearls, chopped cashews and a few golden raisins, forfeit all subtlety with a throat-clutching overdose of cardamom.

Others, like lamb saag ($12.99), made with chunks of lamb shoulder simmered with yogurt and fresh spinach, come to the table undersalted and bland. When one of my dinner guests asked our server for more information about what was in his saag, the server replied, “Meat and spices.” Indeed. That same unhelpful response could be used to describe practically any entrée, made in any city on Earth over the past 4,000 years.

South Indian dishes dominate the menu at Taj, with a few Indo-Chinese offerings. Staff photos by Derek Davis

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only service issue I encountered at Taj. As I walked in one evening, I spotted another server spritzing down a tabletop with a spray bottle – in the process misting the salt and pepper shakers with chemicals and enraging a diner seated downwind. “You’re getting me and my food!” the freshly sanitized woman cried out in exasperation, before making a hasty exit and leaving behind her leftovers.

I might have left myself, but I wanted to taste one of the Hyderabadi biryanis, one-pot dishes built on a foundation of spiced basmati rice. They’re important enough to Taj that they get a dedicated section of the menu. So I took a seat and ordered the bachi dum biryani ($12.99), a dish only available Fridays through Sundays, thanks to chicken that demands an 18-hour marinade in yogurt, turmeric, onion and ginger. “Sometimes it is finished (sold out) in one night,” the marauding spritzer told me. “But we have it tonight (a Friday). Me, I like it better on Sundays. The chicken is nicer.” Wait too long, he seemed to say, and you risk missing out.

But, as I discovered after a few forkfuls, that’s not the only risk associated with the dish. Hidden among the long grains of golden rice were several paper-clip-sized shards of razor-sharp chicken bone, released when the long drumstick was split before cooking. Yes, cutting the bone allows the marrow inside to impart a meaty depth to the rice, but this careless butchery was a potentially disastrous mistake. A spiky slice of shattered bone could seriously injure someone. Not wanting to be that particular someone, I set my fork down and ordered another helping of fiery fried cauliflower. The vegetable-oriented version of Taj was one I liked – and trusted – a lot more.

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

Twitter: @AndrewRossME

]]> 0 Manchuria is a vegetarian appetizer.Sat, 03 Mar 2018 15:55:38 +0000
Sure, monkfish look scary, but they’re darn tasty – so says your friendly fishing industry Fri, 02 Mar 2018 13:02:16 +0000 Now serving sea monsters.

That’s the message from members of the fishing industry, environmentalists and regulators who are trying to persuade U.S. consumers to eat more of a particularly weird-looking creature from the deep – monkfish.

Monkfish have been commercially fished for years, but recent analyses by the federal government show the monster-like bottom dweller can withstand more fishing pressure. However, U.S. fishermen often fall short of their quota for the fish.

A lack of reliable markets for the fish and convoluted fishing regulations make it difficult to catch the full quota, fishermen said. Nevertheless, the U.S. government is upping harvesters’ limits for monkfish for the next three years.

This . . .

Can become this  . . .

Monkfish Cheek with Dulse-Shiitake Emulsion, Seared Shiitakes, Spinach, and Sunchokes. Philip Guerette Photography

Some New England fishermen switched to targeting monkfish in recent decades when traditional species such as cod began to decline, said Jan Margeson, a Chatham, Massachusetts, fisherman who made such a switch himself. He said the availability of monkfish represents an opportunity for the industry.

“It is healthy. We can’t even catch the quota,” he said.

Monkfish, also known as goosefish, are predatory fish that camouflage themselves on the ocean bottom and can grow to be about 5 feet long with a gaping maw and uneven, jagged teeth.

But proponents often say the taste and texture of its flesh is similar to lobster. And monkfish, which is often sold as a whole fish or as steaks of tail meat, frequently is more affordable than some other kinds of domestic seafood.

Tails typically sell for about $7 per pound at New England fish markets where popular items such as lobsters and flounder sell for $10 per pound or more.

The fish is brought to shore from Maine to North Carolina, with most coming to land in Massachusetts.

]]> 0, 02 Mar 2018 10:13:39 +0000
BlueFin chef’s Lobstah Hash is breakfast champ at Restaurant Week cook-off Wed, 28 Feb 2018 15:23:05 +0000 Chef Tim Labonte, whose pork belly waffles smoked the competition at the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off in 2014, took back his crown Wednesday.

Labonte, who works at BlueFin, the newly rebranded restaurant in the Portland Harbor Hotel, won this year’s cook-off with his Lobstah Hash – lobster served with chervil-infused mascarpone and root vegetable-and-corn hash.

The cook-off, held at Sea Dog Brewing Co. every year, fed a sold-out crowd a selection of drool-worthy, sweet and savory breakfast dishes from a dozen local chefs, including blueberry buckle with orange nutmeg cream and house smoked bacon maple syrup from Black Tie, a Portland catering company, and marinated Ora King salmon on a mini Kennebec potato dill roll with truffled honey from Tiqa restaurant in Portland. The public tasted samples of each dish and then voted for a winner.

The event kicks off the 10th annual Maine Restaurant Week, which starts Thursday and runs through March 12. All of the proceeds from the cook-off will be donated to Preble Street’s Teen Services, a nonprofit that provides shelter, meals, clothing and crisis intervention for homeless and runaway youth.

]]> 0, 28 Feb 2018 12:43:52 +0000
Explore Dalmatia, and try a less familiar Mediterranean cuisine Wed, 28 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 “Dalmatia: Recipes from Croatia’s Mediterranean Coast.” By Ino Kuvačić. Hardie Grant Books, $40.

Seven years ago, I quit my office job, sublet my apartment and caught a flight to the Balkans for a four-month ramble with the love of my life.

One of the highlights of that trip was the two weeks we spent hopping along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast – swimming in crystal-clear turquoise water, touring medieval coastal towns and basking in unrelenting sunlight. We also found open-air markets full of fresh produce, amazing homemade olive oil – sold in plastic Coke bottles – and plenty of cheap wine.

If you don’t know where Dalmatia is, you’re likely not alone. The region sits on the southern end of Croatia’s Adriatic coast, facing Italy to the west. The craggy, dry coastline dotted with hundreds of islands has long been a popular summer destination and gets mobbed by tourists every year.

One of the downsides of shoestring travel is that fine dining is mostly out of the question. We ate well in Croatia, but unfortunately missed indulging in Dalmatian specialties like black (squid ink) risotto and seafood. Another downside of traveling in tourist-rich places is that good food is either wildly expensive or unavailable – most menus I remember offered a choice between boring pasta, pizza and salad.

Thanks to chef Ino Kuvačić’s elegant book “Dalmatia: Recipes from Croatia’s Mediterranean Coast,” I can now get some of the tastes I missed right in my own kitchen.

Kuvačić is originally from Split, Dalmatia’s largest city, where he studied to be a chef before moving to Australia about 20 years ago and opened his own Croatian cuisine restaurant in Melbourne in 2014. The recipes in the book are traditional dishes that came from Kuvačić’s family, a long line of farmers and wine merchants.

“My father’s ancestors were proud Croatian farmers, working the dry Dalmatian land, which consists mainly of rock and only a little soil,” Kuvačić writes in the introduction.

“They weren’t able to produce much, but what they lacked in quantity, they made up for in quality and flavor.”

Dalmatian food incorporates common Mediterranean elements like fresh seafood, pasta and raw vegetables, with central European and Turkish flavors – think hearty stews and grilled meat. Some of Kuvačić’s recipes might be familiar, like mussel pasta with red sauce; marinated and pickled sardines; or Dalmatian silverbeet – Swiss chard and potatoes. As Kuvačić points out in his introduction, vegetables and seafood feature prominently in Dalmatian food, as do two ubiquitous parts of any Croatian meal – olive oil and brandy.

Most of Kuvačić’s recipes use fairly common ingredients with light seasoning – often salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Some of the seafood and meat recipes call for sourcing forethought – it may be tricky to find cuttlefish ink, fresh sardines, lamb kidneys or partridge – but in most cases, ingredients can be found at any supermarket.

Instead of trying Kuvačić’s take on pašta fažol – one of my favorite soups of beans, pasta and meats – I decided on the slightly more elaborate Stuffed Eggplants Dubrovnik-style. Stuffing anything can seem complicated, but I found the preparation, layering breadcrumbs, meat, tomato sauce and fresh herbs into eggplant cavity quick and easy. I reattached the eggplant tops with toothpicks and had to cook the four stuffed vegetables in two separate batches, because I didn’t have a pan large enough to hold them all at once. The resulting dish was fantastic. The eggplants were soft and flavorful, but still firm enough to stay intact and keep the savory stuffing inside. The tomato sauce blended with the eggplant liquid, creating a rich, deep-red sauce. It was one of the few times I can remember when a dish I prepared looked just like the cookbook photo.

My success with the stuffed eggplants makes me want to try more from Kuvačić’s book, and helped transport me back to long, lazy days of bright sunlight and tranquil Adriatic seas.

Peter McGuire can be reached at 791-6325 or at:

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire


Serves 4

4 eggplants

2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs

50 milliliters (3 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil

100 grams (1/4 pound) ground beef

1 egg

50 grams (1/4 cup) grated Parmesan or similar cheese

100 grams (1/4 pound) prosciutto or ham, finely diced

2 cups Dalmatian tomato sauce (recipe follows)

1 bunch basil, chopped

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper


14 ounces large ripe tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon chopped chili

1 tablespoon sugar, optional

To make the eggplant, cut the tops off the eggplants and set aside. Using a knife and spoon, hollow out the centers of the eggplants, leaving 1/2 inch of flesh around the edge. Season the eggplants inside with salt and let them drain upside down for about 30 minutes; they will lose some bitterness that way.

In a frying pan over medium eat, saute the breadcrumbs in the olive oil until golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and set the crumbs aside to cool.

In a bowl, mix the minced beef with the egg and cheese and season well.

Grease the insides of the eggplants with olive oil and start filling them first with breadcrumbs then some of the beef mixture, some prosciutto and a tablespoon of Dalmatian tomato sauce. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Keep filling the eggplants in this order evenly (you should end up with three or four layers of each ingredient). When all the eggplants are filled, replace the eggplant tops.

Place the filled eggplants in a saucepan greased with olive oil. Add the remaining tomato sauce, 1 and 1/3 cup water and drizzle with olive oil.

Cook over low heat for about an hour and serve.

To make the sauce, bring salted water to a boil in a large sauce pan.

Score the tomatoes at the base with a knife and blanch them for a couple of minutes. Peel the skin off the tomatoes and discard. Cut the peeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.

In another saucepan over high heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil for a few seconds, making sure it doesn’t start to color. Add the tomato and chili and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about one hour. It is very important to make sure the sauce is cooked on low heat, never going above a gentle simmer. If the sauce is cooked at too high a temperature, it will change the flavor and taste a bit dull. Adjust the seasoning and add the sugar if the tomatoes taste too acidic.

]]> 0, 27 Feb 2018 17:13:41 +0000
There is plenty for vegans at this year’s Maine Restaurant Week Wed, 28 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 A new eatery in Brunswick with a vegan-strong menu has tied its opening to Maine Restaurant Week, the 12-day annual meal deal event kicking off Thursday.

“We’ve attracted a fair amount of plant-eaters,” said Oaks & Maple Cafe executive chef and owner David Barter. Oaks & Maple is located at Brunswick Landing in the space formerly occupied by New Beet Market, which Barter purchased in October and ran while developing the new concept.

“One of the complaints at New Beet was, ‘not enough vegan,’ ” Barter said.

In contrast during restaurant week, the Oaks & Maple lunch menu offers a three-course vegan meal for $16.95. It is part of Barter’s campaign to make the restaurant known for “really good vegan food.”

It is just one of many participating restaurants showing off their vegan skills during this year’s popular dine-out event.

While cities such as Baltimore and Portland, Oregon, now have dedicated vegan restaurant weeks, here in Maine our statewide event has included vegan and vegetarian food since it began 10 years ago.

During the 2018 event, at least 40 of the 68 participating restaurants that had signed up by press time are offering vegan dishes and at least 56 are offering vegetarian options. These menus are easy to spot since the event website has a search feature for both.

Barter is hoping his vegan kumara cakes, which are the size of a small crab cake and made from sweet potatoes and spices (Kumara is a New Zealand word for sweet potatoes), will help him win the hearts of plant-based diners.

“Everything in them is trying to offset the sweetness of the sweet potato,” Barter said. “Away from pumpkin-ey.”

The cakes come with a bright dipping sauce made with cashews and coconut milk and flavored with basil.

Potatoes of another kind are highlighted on the restaurant week menu at Emilitsa in Portland’s Arts District. Its special event menu features two vegan potato dishes: skorthalia and fassolakia meh patates. The first is a classic Greek dip made from potatoes and garlic (one of three vegan appetizer choices), and the second is the vegan entree choice.

“A lot of people in Greece eat this on a daily basis,” Emilitsa executive chef Niko Regas said about the fassolakia. “It is very straightforward. It’s organic green beans and new potatoes. There’s a little wine as well to give it sweetness.”

Emilitsa’s meal deal costs $35 for a three-course dinner.

At Evo Kitchen + Bar in the Old Port, the restaurant week menu allows diners to try any three items from the regular menu, which features 10 vegan dishes. These plant-based options include lentil soup, stuffed grape leaves and root vegetable hummus. According to manager Karina Richardson, many of the restaurant’s vegan dishes are best-sellers.

“Chickpea fries are very popular, and the falafel is always really popular,” Richardson said. “The muhammara is a really good choice if people are into hummus. It is made with roasted peppers and walnuts and pomegranate molasses. It’s totally vegan and approachable like hummus.”

But if you plan to order all plant-based during restaurant week, take note that Evo’s $45 meal deal price assumes diners will order at least some of the higher cost meat and fish dishes, rather than all lower-cost vegan options. As a result, it’s less expensive to pay the regular a la carte price for vegan dishes. Richardson told me via email that vegan patrons should tell the server they want to “order off the regular rather than the MRW menu.”

Oatmeal pudding brûlée will be Sue Lie’s vegan dessert during Maine Restaurant Week. Photo courtesy of Sur Lie

Sur Lie on Free Street in Portland faced a similar pricing dilemma with its restaurant week menu that also assumes customers will order the expensive meat-based dishes. At press time, the tapas restaurant was working on options to ensure patrons who order all-vegan still get a deal.

For restaurant week, Sur Lie offers four dishes for $35 from a menu that includes four vegan dishes and a number of vegetarian dishes that can be converted to plant-based. One unique vegan dish is their oatmeal pudding brûlée, where the sugar is burned as it would be on a crème brûlée.

“The oatmeal pudding is an homage to my maternal grandmother’s go-to breakfast for us,” Sur Lie chef Emil Rivera told me. “The original recipe uses milk and cinnamon but we substitute the milk with coconut milk and we add cardamom in addition to the cinnamon. The profile is pretty aromatic and comfortable.”

Oaks & Maple in Brunswick is offering another notable vegan dessert during restaurant week. The individual tarts showcases the restaurant’s ground-in-house peanut butter, which is mixed with coconut milk and thickeners, and rests on a crust of dates, peanuts, walnuts and pistachios, “and then it’s straight-up chocolate ganache,” Barter said. The tarts are “not very big but they’re very rich.”

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

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

]]> 0 Kitchen + Bar is putting root vegetable hummus on its Maine Restaurant Week menu.Tue, 27 Feb 2018 16:46:31 +0000
Maine Restaurant Week: 3-course meals, special events for diners Wed, 28 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 Maine Restaurant Week kicks off Thursday and runs through March 12. Between sampling the custom three-course meals that many local restaurants will offer (See menus at, do check out a Maine Restaurant Week special event, too:


WHAT: Local chefs, bakers and confectioners incorporate Coffee By Design coffee into their creations, and you get to eat them.

WHEN: Noon to 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Coffee By Design, 1 Diamond St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $30 in advance, $35 at the door

TICKETS: brownpaper


WHAT: A self-guided cocktail and paired bites walking tour that takes participants to restaurants and bars in the Old Port and Congress Street Arts District.

WHEN: 2 to 5 p.m., March 11

WHERE: Old Port and Congress Street bars and restaurants

HOW MUCH: $45 in advance, $50 at check in

TICKETS: brownpaper


]]> 0 Tue, 27 Feb 2018 16:42:42 +0000
‘Maine Eats’ exhibit in Portland digs into evolution of state’s cuisine Wed, 28 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 If you love a good Maine Italian sandwich, here’s your chance to really get into it. Literally. “Be” the sandwich. Cover yourself in condiments. Take a #sandwichselfie.

The Maine Historical Society on Friday launches a major new exhibit on Maine food called “Maine Eats: The Food Revolution Starts Here,” and one of the displays is a life-size soft sculpture of a ham Italian sandwich that visitors can lie down in. The sandwich, made at the College of the Atlantic just for this exhibit, is one of several interactive displays designed to tell the state’s food story in more creative ways.

The silly foam Italian, in addition to perhaps making you hungry, is intended as a hook to grab your more serious interest in the history of the sandwich, which was invented at Amato’s on India Street in 1902.

“Maine Eats,” which encourages people to look at local food differently and more deeply, is the most comprehensive – and longest-running – food-related exhibition the historical society has ever cooked up. It won’t close until Feb. 9, 2019, and between now and then visitors can feast on programs featuring local chefs, well-known food writers, and thought leaders who are helping to shape Maine’s food economy.

“Some of us are foodies, some are not, but I think it’s a topic that everyone can relate to,” said Steve Bromage, executive director of the Maine Historical Society. “We wanted to get at that personal connection – how does food provide meaning and connection in our own lives? – but we also wanted to step back and look at how significant it is to the economy of the state. If you look at economic development, the food sector is clearly going to be a really important one. And how does sustainability impact that? If you look at environmental change, part of that is what does the landscape look like, but part of that is what kind of food we can produce and what happens with the lobster and blueberries and everything else?”

The exhibit is also the culmination of experimentation the museum has done in recent years with different ways to present material to the public, according to Bromage. In addition to showcasing photographs and objects from the historical society’s collection, the exhibit will tell about 60 “food stories” from Kittery to Presque Isle. Both digital (#maineeats) and in-person recipe exchanges will be available – a hunter, for example, has contributed a recipe for mincemeat – and visitors are encouraged to bring in their own recipes to share. At the “food smells of Maine” station, visitors will sniff infused essential oils and guess what it is they’re smelling. (Yes, one of them is lobster.)

A Rosemary brand blueberries label from about 1916. Photo courtesy of the Maine Historical Society


Lobsters, blueberries and potatoes are often “the usual suspects” in discussions of local foods, and “Maine Eats” is no exception. Look for a 1993 comic book called “Lobsterman: Maine’s First Superheroes” featuring Lobsterman and his faithful sidekick Clamdigger (one of Bromage’s favorite items in the exhibit). Wild blueberry growers have contributed blueberry rakes, and the Presque Isle Historical Society sent potato tags and other items from an old wooden chest that served as the mobile office of Edwin Parkhurst, a well-known Aroostook County potato farmer.

In “Maine Eats,” these iconic foods are the jumping off point for delving into other local foods – everything from poutine to baked beans – and linking Maine’s past with its present. A 1924 venture to raise trout in the state will be covered in the exhibit, accompanied by a piece from food writer Barton Seaver on aquaculture and “the future of fish in Maine.”

Old Nep, a lobster trapped in Eastport in 1925, weighed over 30 pounds. Photo courtesy of the Maine Historical Society

A contemporary corn basket made by Passamaquoddy artist Geo Neptune will link the story of the Corn Mother, the first woman in the tribe’s creation story, with issues that are relevant today.

“It’s telling a very ancient story about Corn Mother, who sacrificed herself as a living person in order to feed her people,” said Tilly Laskey, the curator in charge of the exhibit. “The piece that Geo made is called GMO Corn Basket. The corn basket has all different sorts of colors in it because that’s what happens to corn when it gets genetically modified. It becomes something different. That’s the contemporary reality of what happens to our food as it gets modified.”

Other stories will cover Wabanaki food sovereignty, describing the ancient cultivation methods and seed-saving practices that are once again being embraced by modern tribes, and the evolution of the Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment in Freeport. The Wolfe’s Neck Center began as an organic farm in the 1950s “at a time when people didn’t really know what organic farming was,” Laskey said. In addition to telling the story of its original owners, Lawrence and Eleanor Smith, the exhibit will describe the farm’s current foray into “carbon neutral farming,” Laskey said.

“We can’t show every story about Maine food – that would be impossible – so what we’re trying to do is show really engaging stories from individuals.”

There will also be engaging pieces that stand on their own, such as colorful food labels and two prints titled “EAT/DIE” from artist Robert Indiana’s private collection.

Bromage said “Maine Eats” will borrow more extensively from other collections than previous exhibits have done, bringing other perspectives from around the state into one place. It’s a byproduct of the growth of the Maine Memory Network, which now has 270 organizations as members, all sharing their collections online – and now in Portland, for this exhibit. From the Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum comes a colorful painting of flowers done by a German prisoner at Camp Houlton, a POW camp that operated at the Houlton Army Air Base from 1944 to 1946. More than 1,000 POWs lived at the camp, and many of them were sent to work in the potato fields, where they became friendly with the locals, Laskey said.

In 1945, three prisoners gave the flower painting as a wedding gift to John D. Willard, a camp guard, and his bride-to-be, Marion Corneil. On the back of the painting, the inscription reads “For a happy marriage.”

“Maine Eats” includes stories about food in Maine today. In the photo above, Halima Mohamed, Ahmed Baraki, Hassan Barjin and Muhidin Libah garden in plots near Lewiston in 2017. An online component of the project collects personal food stories and recipes. Courtesy of Muhidin Libah


“Maine Eats” will also connect local foodies with a new section of the Maine Memory Network called “My Maine Stories,” where users relate their personal stories on a variety of topics. The historical society has created a food section on the site where people can share their food stories and recipes. Already on the site, for instance, are stories from Fred Wiseman, a retired professor who collects heirloom seeds once used by local indigenous peoples; Kim Smith, who writes about making potato doughnuts with her grandparents in Hodgdon (and includes a recipe); and Brian J. Theriault, who writes about his 95-year-old father, Edmond Theriault, a prolific picker of fiddleheads.

Laskey has her own food story, one about how the ham Italian sandwich soft sculpture came to be. (No, it doesn’t belong to Amato’s, a sponsor of the exhibit.) Years ago, Laskey saw a similar sculpture at the Chicago History Museum. It was a hot dog bun that visitors could climb in to “become” a Chicago hot dog, she said, “and then you throw in pickles and onions and other things that a Chicago hot dog would have on it.”

Maine Historical Society’s new exhibit on Maine food called “Maine Eats: The Food Revolution Starts Here,” includes a life-size soft sculpture of a ham Italian sandwich that visitors can lie down in. The sandwich, made at the College of the Atlantic just for this exhibit, Courtesy of College of the Atlantic

“People were taking pictures and having so much fun with it,” Laskey said, “and I just thought it was such a good way to engage people with a subject and get them thinking more deeply about it with a fun hook. As we were talking about this exhibition, that idea kept surfacing.”

By coincidence, the design firm the historical society hired to help plan “Maine Eats” was the same person who had come up with the idea for the Chicago museum. He still had all the drawings, and suggested that the historical society adapt them to an Italian sandwich.

Take a #sandwichselfie, and you’ll have a fun food story to tell, too.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Maine Historical Society on Friday launches a major new exhibit on Maine food called “Maine Eats: The Food Revolution Starts Here,” and one of the displays is a life-size soft sculpture of a ham Italian sandwich that visitors can lie down in. The sandwich, made at the College of the Atlantic just for this exhibit,Wed, 28 Feb 2018 14:17:05 +0000
Honor the theatrics of Oscar night with a dramatic dessert Wed, 28 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 We called up Tuscan Table pastry chef Patrick Jones last week to ask if he would prepare us a suitably dramatic treat to eat while watching the Academy Awards on Sunday. He chose Bananas Foster, a New Orleans classic, which we think is apt on several counts: For one, any dessert that gets lit on fire counts as dramatic in our book. Add to that, New Orleans has been the setting for many a Hollywood film, and Mardi Gras alone demonstrates that the city knows how to put on a show.

Not that you need an excuse to make Bananas Foster.

Patrick Jones, pastry chef at Tuscan Table in South Portland, adds bananas to a sauté pan as he prepares Bananas Foster on Monday. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

“It’s a showstopper,” said Jones, who came to South Portland’s Tuscan Table two months ago after seven years making pastry at Aurora Provisions in Portland.

Except for the rum, you may have all the ingredients you need to make it on hand. And given that Bananas Foster is just five minutes work, if that, you could fix the entire dessert during a commercial – or during one of those interminable thank-you speeches from someone you never heard of in an Oscar category you couldn’t care less about.

Jones’ own career took a dramatic turn when he was 40. He’d been working in the fitness industry, managing a gym in Chicago, when a close friend died. The friend, long a fan of Jones’ home baking, had suggested for years that Jones become a pastry chef.

So at 40, Jones traded his barbells for baking sheets and enrolled in pastry school. “I believe in the yin and yang of life,” he joked about switching from a job that emphasizes physical well-being to one that emphasizes butter and sugar.

He spent two years studying baking and pastry at Kendall College in Chicago, but he didn’t actually enter the culinary field until he moved to Maine seven years ago. “I don’t know why. I just didn’t.” His eventual career change proves, he said, that “I don’t think you are ever too old to ever change the path you are going down.”

On Sunday, Jones will be rooting for “The Shape of Water,” which, with 13 Oscar nominations, leads the pack this year. “It’s so theatrical. It’s so quirky. It’s so beautiful,” he said. “I saw it two weeks ago. Wonderful. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted it to keep going.”

Which is often how we feel about eating dessert.

Peggy Grodinsky can be contacted at 791-6453 or at:

Twitter: PGrodinsky

Have a pan lid handy when you prepare Bananas Foster, in case you need to quickly extinguish the flame. Staff photo by Gregory Rec


Recipe courtesy of Tuscan Table Pastry Chef Patrick Jones. Be sure you have the ingredients measured and ready to go – the bananas peeled and sliced – before you start to cook, as the dessert will come together very quickly. While the addition of banana liqueur is nice, Jones says Bananas Foster is still “super delicious” without it.

Serves 4

Cooking time: 5 minutes

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup banana liqueur, optional

4 firm bananas, cut lengthwise and then in half again

1/4 cup dark or light rum

4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Place the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a sauté pan over medium high heat.

Add the optional banana liqueur once the brown sugar mixture is bubbling, if using.

Add the bananas cut side down into pan. Sauté the bananas for 45 seconds and then flip and sauté for 45 more seconds.

Take the pan off the heat and add the rum. Place the pan back over heat and cook to allow alcohol to heat up. Once the alcohol is hot enough, ignite it by using a long match or carefully tilting pan toward the flame. Please stand back as a matter of safety and have a pan lid handy, if needed to clap on the pan and extinguish the flame.

Continue sautéing until the flames totally dissipate. This signals that the alcohol is completely cooked out.

Carefully remove the banana slices, divvy up and place around the ice cream scoops. Pour the hot caramel mixture over the ice cream.

Serve immediately.

]]> 0 have ignition: Bananas Foster alight at the Tuscan Table in South Portland.Tue, 27 Feb 2018 17:02:33 +0000
Crank out mini pizzas at your next big bash Wed, 28 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 If you want to wow your gang during an Oscar viewing party, game day, or a movie-watching or Netflix-binging session, mini pizzas are a great way to go.

And no need to make this an all-day project; there are plenty of shortcuts to take. You could make your own pizza dough, but you could also buy it at the supermarket or a local pizzeria. You could make your own tomato sauce, but you could also buy a jar.

Then all that’s left are the toppings. You can prepare as many as you like, and then mix and match them on the pizzas.

Another thing that makes these pizzas easy: All of the toppings are uncooked. Chopping them finely allows them to cook quickly in the time it takes for the rest of the pizza to bake.

How much of each topping you’ll need for a batch of pizzas will depend on how many options you’re working with. You won’t need more than a pound of cheese total for one batch of mini pizzas (20), and 1 cup total of the toppings will surely suffice.

Don’t overload the pizzas with sauce, cheese or toppings – you don’t want things slipping and sliding off. These pizzas are meant to be just two-bite little affairs.

The cornmeal on the baking sheet serves two purposes. One, it adds a little crunch and texture to the bottoms of the little pizzas, and two, it helps them come off of the pan easily.

If you haven’t turned your oven to 500 degrees in a while, or ever, it might feel like a strangely high temperature. It’s OK. The high heat will cook the dough base quickly, resulting in as close to an approximation as possible of that chewy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside dough that you get in actual pizza joints, with their eyebrow-singeing hot ovens.

Slight caveat: These get inhaled pretty quickly, so count on at least four per person – more if my family is coming.


Makes 20 pizzas (about five servings)

1 pound store-bought or homemade pizza dough

1 cup tomato sauce (such as a simple jarred pasta sauce)

Cornmeal for sprinkling

Shredded mozzarella

Other shredded or crumbled cheeses, such as feta, cheddar, Monterey Jack, smoked mozzarella, fontina, gouda, Swiss-style cheeses

Finely chopped red onion

Finely chopped bell peppers or roasted peppers

Finely chopped tomatoes

Pepperoni, thinly sliced crosswise (or try different kinds of salami or cured meats)

Chopped fresh oregano, or dried oregano

Red pepper flakes

Bring the pizza dough to room temperature in a bowl, draped with some plastic wrap.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. If you have parchment paper, line the baking sheets with that. Lightly oil the baking sheet or the parchment, or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the parchment or baking sheet lightly with cornmeal.

Divide the dough in half, and then each half into halves again. Then divide each quarter into five pieces. This way your pizzas will all be close to the same size. Use a rolling pin to press each piece of dough into a flat circle about 2 inches in diameter and 1/8-inch thick; you can also press with your fingers, but a rolling pin is easier). Place them on the baking sheet and let sit for about 15 minutes.

Spoon about 1 teaspoon of sauce onto each round, spreading it almost to the edges. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the cheese(s) of your choice over the pizzas. Top each one with 1 to 2 teaspoons of toppings, choosing the combo you like best. Sprinkle the pizzas with oregano and/or red pepper flakes as desired.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is cooked through, and the cheese is melted and starts to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving platter, and serve hot or warm.

]]> 0, 27 Feb 2018 17:39:48 +0000
Historic Brunswick building to house new steakhouse Mon, 26 Feb 2018 22:14:31 +0000 A historic Brunswick building built as a hotel in the mid-1800s will become an upscale steakhouse and venue for community events this spring.

Chef Dirk Yeaton said he and his business partners hope to open The Odd Duck, as it is tentatively called, at 11 Pleasant St. in mid-May. The investors in the project are John Stadler, father of well-known restaurateur Cara Stadler, whose Asian restaurant Tao Yuan is located right down the street, and Becky Marcos and Wayne Bartlett, owners of the Lighthouse Variety & Deli.

The restaurant will have two connected dining rooms on the first floor, Yeaton said, one for serving brunch six days a week and one for dinner. The second floor, which the owners are calling “the mezzanine,” will have a grand piano for live music and a separate bar called “The Conference Room” – actually in an old conference room – that will seat 20 to 25.

The third floor – which has “big, beautiful hardwood floors,” Yeaton said – will be designated “the Grand Ballroom.” It will have table seating for about 120 people and, with a new stage, will “host great bands,” he said. The new owners envision that floor as a community space that could be used for everything from private dinners and business meetings to dance classes.

Twice Told Tales, the used bookstore run by the Friends of Curtis Memorial Library, will remain in the basement of the building but after renovations will have its own separate entrance, Yeaton said.

Yeaton most recently worked for Marcos and Bartlett at the Lighthouse Deli. Previously, he worked at The Sinful Kitchen and Salty Sally’s in Portland, the Pig + Poet in Camden, and as a “grill sergeant” at Kendall Jackson vineyards and winery in California, pairing food and wine. Portlanders may remember him as the chef/owner of the Blue House Cafe on Brighton Avenue, which closed in 2008.

At the Odd Duck, Yeaton said, “I’ve got a much bigger kitchen, so I’ll have all the storage and refrigeration I’ll need to do some upscale home cooking with a twist.”

The restaurant will have a chef’s table for private parties, guest chefs, demonstrations and wine tastings, Yeaton said.

While the partners in the restaurant collectively felt that Brunswick needed a steakhouse, Yeaton said the Odd Duck will be “a steakhouse that isn’t just steak.” He plans on serving dishes such as local lamb, lobster and farm-fresh vegetables when they are available. “I’ll even have vegan dishes,” he said. “We’ll have plenty of options for those who aren’t carnivores.”

Yeaton plans to buy meats and produce from local farmers; additionally, Marcos and Bartlett plan to develop a farm for the restaurant on 26 acres they own in Brunswick, with farmers living on site. The farm will include some commercial lavender fields.

Yeaton acknowledged that it will be tough to find enough sources of local beef to satisfy the needs of a steakhouse. He said he’s been talking with Massachusetts-based Kinnealey Meats, which has contracted with several Maine meat producers, about sourcing as much local meat as possible through them. Yeaton said he envisions a wide range of prices on the menu, from a couple of affordable steaks under $20 to a tomahawk steak for $70 or more for the rare guest who wants one.

Much of the restaurant’s interior will be crafted by Maine makers, including a family table in one of the dining rooms made of Maine heritage wood. Bench seating in the breakfast dining room will be made by local woodmakers, and come with cushions made by local sailmakers.

“Rather than go through national vendors,” Yeaton said, “we want to do local as much as possible.”

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Marcos and Dirk Yeaton are owners of The Odd Duck, a steakhouse opening in BrunswickTue, 27 Feb 2018 14:43:21 +0000
Breakfast and lunch spot opens in Portland’s Bayside Mon, 26 Feb 2018 22:01:43 +0000 Tally’s Kitchen at Bayside, a casual new breakfast and lunch spot, opened Monday at 84 Marginal Way. Owner Julie Taliento Walsh, a Portland native, says on her website that Tally’s will serve an assortment of “simple, delicious and affordable” sandwiches, ciabattas, salads, wraps, breakfast sandwiches and baked goods.

We haven’t had a chance to try them, so we can’t comment on “delicious.” They certainly look affordable, though, with sandwich prices ranging from $2.75 for a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich to $5.50 for chicken salad or a BLT.  Salads are in the $4.25 to $7 range.

Tally’s Kitchen will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and closed Saturday and Sunday.

]]> 0 Mon, 26 Feb 2018 17:01:43 +0000
Dine Out Maine: Enjoy homey, Italian-American classics at Lena’s in Portland Pottery Café Sun, 25 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 When I opened the door to my Chicago apartment one April evening, I found my neighbor, Francesca, standing there, cradling a dish the size of a truck tire. I recognized it immediately. It was her pasta bowl: white porcelain decorated with tiny painted roses and crazed inside with spidery lines the color of strong tea. Once, the bowl had been her mother’s, and before that her grandmother’s. I had seen it in action several times, when I joined her for weekend dinners along with her two young children, husband and, more recently, her father-in-law, Tom.

“I need you to keep this for me for a while. Put it on top of your refrigerator. No, better yet, under your bed. Someplace safe,” she urged. “I came home from work tonight and caught Papa Tom soaking his disgusting feet in it. I ignored it, but then I heard him cleaning out his pipe by whacking it hard against the side of the bowl. So it needs to go into hiding.”

“If I put it under my bed, Zucchini (my cat) will probably sleep in it, and that’s the only place it’ll fit,” I warned.

“A little cat fur, I can live with. But old-man toes, no way,” she said, grimacing and gently handing over the bowl.

I thought about Francesca and her bowl over and over again as I ate a Sunday family-style meal ($16 for adults, $10 for children) at Lena’s Italian Comfort, a new restaurant inside the Portland Pottery Café on Washington Avenue. Here – in a space designed to showcase beautiful platters, plates and mugs – what you eat from becomes almost as much of a focus as what you’re eating. “The gallery is all decked out in handmade pottery. But it’s a lot like being in someone’s kitchen, with hutches and shelving, just like you would find in a home,” said Lisa Bonarrigo, the co-owner of both businesses.

My guests and I duly took note of the dishware as we dunked complimentary, housemade garlic knots stuffed with sweet roasted garlic into a hand-thrown ramekin, filled to overflowing with chef Brian Grossman’s house red sauce.

His thin, onion-free sauce, which forms the base of all the kitchen’s other tomato-based sauces, is lighter than the chunky marinara you might expect from a red-sauce Italian restaurant. “My goal is for the sauce to really highlight the flavor of the San Marzano tomatoes,” said Grossman, owner of the Farm to Coast Mobile Kitchen, and previously a sous chef at both Custom Deluxe in Biddeford and Abbondante in Kennebunk.

Indeed, his pomodoro-like sauce is intensely fruity, and it pairs especially well with red wines with a little tannin, like the remarkably inexpensive Viña Laurent cabernet sauvignon from Chile ($24 for a bottle), or Circa Toscana Rosso (also $24).

As with most items at Lena’s, wine is served in handcrafted pottery. My three guests and I drank ours from four mix-and-match, glazed clay tumblers, which were lovely to look at, but a terrible choice for sharing a bottle of wine. It is impossible to see how much is left in someone’s glass without picking it up – and good luck pouring equitably, when each charmingly handmade cup holds a different amount of liquid. Perplexingly, water is served in regular glass tumblers.

A side of pasta at the Sunday supper was simple but wonderful – and above all, huge.

In other situations, pottery made a wonderful choice for plating. Particularly, the main dishes, which were all delivered on mottled gray and white chargers, each slightly different from the next. And while all the tomato-sauced items looked great against such a background, it was the daily special of house-made butternut squash ravioli with pesto ricotta, pickled red onions and crisp pork belly ($18) that benefited most. The pale, baby-chick yellow of the pasta sheets, the petal pink of the onion and the spark of green from fresh basil – all set against the earthy tones of the plate – brought one thing to mind: springtime. A welcome distraction on a frigid February evening.

The ravioli also offered perhaps my favorite bites of the night, balancing creamy ricotta and indulgently fatty meat with the brisk acidity of pickled onion. That said, the dish is a little bit of a unicorn among the more classic, Italian-American staples at Lena’s; it feels like a plate from a different restaurant.

More typical of the permanent menu fixtures are lasagna and three Parmesan entrees, each of which is also available as part of the Sunday evening family-style meal. I tried all four during a recent visit.

Of all the mains, two were standouts. First, the lasagna ($16), made with handmade pasta sheets layered between ladlefuls of beefy bolognese sauce that has been spiced up with crumbled Italian sausage. It’s a classic for good reason. Then, the meatball Parmesan ($18), with moist, golf ball-sized, pure beef meatballs held together with a gluten-free-breadcrumb panade – our table’s unanimous favorite.

The eggplant Parmesan ($18), made with fat discs of salt-sweated, panko-breaded eggplant, was also enjoyable, thanks to an incredibly soft center that Grossman achieves by finishing the dish over very low heat. However, the trade-off to that long, steam-generating final phase is that the breadcrumb coating loses nearly all of its crunch.

Overcooking was also a problem in the chicken Parm ($18), a simple breast breaded with panko, fresh parsley, oregano and basil that is first pan-fried, then finished in the oven. Sadly, on my visit, the breast was tough and sat mostly uneaten at a table of four avid poultry fans.

Moreover, service, while warm and solicitous, was occasionally an issue. We were overcharged for a bottle of wine, and when we ordered one dessert – a pair of quite decent house-made, lemon-ricotta cannoli ($8) – to share, we were served and charged for two portions.

Cannoli at Lena’s Italian Comfort in Portland

At almost any other restaurant, I’d chalk that up to a misunderstanding, but at Lena’s, all the signs were there that our party was stuffed to capacity. The four of us only managed to make it through one of the two high-sided bowls of honey-balsamic-dressed mesclun salad ($10), each wide enough to hold a fully inflated beach ball. The rest made its way to our ever-growing cornucopia of leftovers, waiting to be boxed at the end of the night.

The lasagna made with handmade pasta sheets, sausage, ricotta, basil and mozzarella was a standout. Staff photo by Ariana van den Akker

Abundance and a sense of bottomless portions are part of the experience of the Sunday family meal at Lena’s, and not by accident.

When co-owners Bonarrigo and her husband, Chris Bruni, sat down with Grossman to plan the menu, the overarching concept for Sundays was always “big portions of food on big platters,” according to Bonarrigo. Nowhere is that more true than in the Sunday supper “side” dish of pasta served alongside mains (and available a la carte for $5). When our server arrived at the table, she wobbled, nearly unable to support the weight of the gargantuan bowl overflowing with skeins and tangles of simple yet wonderful pomodoro-dressed spaghetti. I (and my guests) happily ate the surplus all week.

As I did, I thought of my old friend Francesca, and the meal we shared when Papa Tom eventually moved out. That night, in celebration, she made a nearly identical dish of what seemed like pounds and pounds of lightly sauced pasta tossed with basil leaves. Her children and I each took a few strands of thin spaghetti from the newly reclaimed porcelain bowl and tasted them. “You can barely taste the toes,” I announced. She laughed and replied, “Well, I hope so, because you’re going home with the leftovers.”

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

Twitter: AndrewRossME

]]> 0, ME - FEBRUARY 18: Dine Out: Lena's Italian Comfort in Portland on Sunday, February 18, 2018.Sun, 25 Feb 2018 17:05:22 +0000
Squire Tarbox Inn in Westport Island is sold Fri, 23 Feb 2018 16:54:36 +0000 The new owners of the Squire Tarbox Inn on Westport Island say they will be keeping the inn’s restaurant open, but are not sure if it will be ready for the upcoming tourist season.

“I think the opportunity is here for a really good farm-to-table restaurant,” said Lisa Dalton, a designer and contractor from Houston who just bought the inn with one of her clients, Michelle Adams. “That’s what we want.”

Dalton and Adams purchased the 12-acre property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, from Veronica and Mario DePietro for $658,500. It includes frontage on Squam Creek and a small working farm with chickens and vegetable gardens. Food & Wine magazine has named the Squire Tarbox dining room the coziest restaurant in Maine, calling it “as much of a getaway as they come.”

The DePietros had owned the inn, which dates from 1763 and 1820, for 16 years.

Dalton said she and Adams are already looking for a new chef (Mario DePietro did the cooking when he and his wife owned it), and whether or not they find one will largely determine if they open this summer.

“We don’t want just anybody,” she said. “We want it to be the right person.”

If she’s unable to find a chef for the approaching season, Dalton said she may ask DePietro, who is staying in the area, to cook dinner a couple of nights a week, or continue his “pizza nights,” which he had been offering every Monday.

“We may do a Mexican night because we’re from Texas,” Dalton said, suggesting that smoked fajitas and fish tacos could be on the menu.

Dalton and Adams both live in Houston, but Dalton and her husband own a home in Boothbay, as well as several vacation rentals in the area. She found the Squire Tarbox Inn while searching online for another property to buy.

Dalton’s son and his girlfriend will move to Maine for a year to work on design updates to the inn, including updating all the bathrooms.

Dalton said she wants to turn the inn into a wedding venue because “I’ve got a great old barn on the property.” She hopes to start hosting weddings regularly in 2019.

The interior of the inn should be ready for guests by June 1, she said.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Squire Tarbox Inn on Westport Island has been sold, and its new owners say they plan to keep the restaurant – named "the coziest" in Maine – open.Sat, 24 Feb 2018 07:32:56 +0000
Portland Wine Week slated for June Thu, 22 Feb 2018 16:25:18 +0000 Local sommelier Erica Archer announced Tuesday that she’s launching Portland Wine Week this summer, a summer wine festival that will be held June 18-24.

Archer is the owner of Wine Wise, a wine education events company, and the festival will include her signature sunset wine sails, wine education walks in the Old Port and wine education classes. Archer also plans to take advantage of Portland’s reputation as a great restaurant town by featuring restaurant wine dinners and a “passport tour” of local restaurants and their wine lists.

Among the 17 events in the works are six wine dinners: a night of rosé at Sur Lie; a focus on the new release and library wines of Channing Daughters winery at Hugo’s; a southern Italian white wine and seafood pairing at Scales; an evening of natural wines at Piccolo; a tour of Burgundy at Lolita; and an exploration of Spanish wines at Chaval.

Archer is also planning a meet and greet with an Austrian wine expert at Central Provisions; a pasta-making and wine pairing class at Solo Italiano; a wine pairing lunch with Bangs Island Mussels at Scales; and an historical wine list exhibition and talk from Don Lindgren of Rabelais Books.

The week will end with a gala: Cabernet & Cabaret: a Celebration of Red. Five local female chefs, including Ilma Lopez of Chaval and Piccolo and Krista Kern Desjarlais of The Purple House, are on board to create the food for the event, while Circus Maine is scheduled to provide entertainment. Proceeds from the gala will benefit Portland’s Preble Street Teen Center. Find updates and more information at

]]> 0, 22 Feb 2018 09:28:39 +0000
Two Fat Cats prepping a new location in South Portland Thu, 22 Feb 2018 14:25:02 +0000 This is the kind of confidence that you’ll only find in cats. Two Fat Cats, the popular India Street bakery in Portland, is opening a second location in South Portland, in a spot where another bakery closed after about a year in business.

Stacy Begin, owner of Two Fat Cats, confirmed this past weekend that she has just signed a lease at 740 Broadway, the former home of Fernleaf Bakery’s second location. (Fernleaf’s original bakery and coffee shop is in Saco.) Begin hopes to open at the new location in April.

The storefront on Broadway is sandwiched between Tuxedos on Broadway and a Supercuts. There’s a drive-thru for the Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the same development, should you want a Bahama Mama smoothie to go with your Two Fat Cats whoopie pie.

The plusses? Plenty of parking and access to the bakery’s great blueberry pies without having to cross the Casco Bay Bridge.

]]> 0 Restaurant Week's Dessert and Coffee Pairing Stacy Begin, owner of Two Fat Cats Bakery, stands next to her offering of Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Irish Bailey buttercream frosting and a whisky ganache drizzle. (Photo by Margaret Logan)Thu, 22 Feb 2018 09:25:02 +0000
Here’s your guide to all that Maine Restaurant Week has to offer Thu, 22 Feb 2018 04:37:09 +0000 0, 01 Mar 2018 06:10:31 +0000 World championship lobster competition hopes to get back on a roll Wed, 21 Feb 2018 14:27:38 +0000 The Lobster Roll World Championship is coming back to Thompson’s Point this summer, but with a new name and some changes intended to help avoid last year’s PR disaster.

Last year, the Down East Lobster Roll Festival, sponsored by Down East magazine, was overwhelmed with ticket holders who paid $10 to get in and then had to wait in long lines at a single lobster roll truck to buy food. Then a thunderstorm rolled in and swept everything away. At least those who purchased $100 VIP tickets to watch the “World’s Best Lobster Roll” competition indoors stayed dry and ate plenty of lobster.

This year, the Lobster Roll World Championship will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on July 7. The event will focus solely on the championship – which means no more $10 tickets – and all ticket holders will be able to sample the 10 finalists’ lobster rolls and vote for their favorites. A judge’s ticket, which includes the sampling and voting, costs $99. The $250 VIP tickets also give access to a VIP lounge with an open bar, a cocktail hour meet-and-greet with the winners from 4 to 5 p.m., drinks, dessert, a gift bag, a VIP entrance and free parking. All tickets will be sold online, in advance.

To enter the contest, chefs must submit a recipe along with a story that explains why their lobster roll is the best. Down East magazine will announce the 10 finalists on May 1. The winner of the event will be featured in Down East magazine and get a cash prize. To buy tickets or get details on entering the contest, visit

Last year’s winners were Ben and Lorin Smaha of Freshies Lobster Co. in Park City, Utah. We know, we know. It sounds like a chef from Michigan winning a Mardi Gras food festival, but relax – Ben Smaha grew up in Cape Elizabeth.

]]> 0 fierce thunderstorm hit the Down East lobster roll festival Saturday at Thompson's Point in Portland.Wed, 21 Feb 2018 10:19:27 +0000
The Wrap: Here’s your latest Maine restaurant news Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000  

This is the kind of confidence that you’ll only find in cats. Two Fat Cats, the popular India Street bakery in Portland, is opening a second location in South Portland, in a spot where another bakery closed after about a year in business.

Stacy Begin, owner of Two Fat Cats Bakery, is ready to expand to South Portland. Margaret Logan photo

Stacy Begin, owner of Two Fat Cats, confirmed this past weekend that she has just signed a lease at 740 Broadway, the former home of Fernleaf Bakery’s second location. (Fernleaf’s original bakery and coffee shop is in Saco.) Begin hopes to open at the new location in April.

The storefront on Broadway is sandwiched between Tuxedos on Broadway and a Supercuts. There’s a drive-thru for the Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the same development, should you want a Bahama Mama smoothie to go with your Two Fat Cats whoopie pie.

The plusses? Plenty of parking and access to the bakery’s great blueberry pies without having to cross the Casco Bay Bridge.


Ol’ Blue Eyes has apparently left the building. Crooners & Cocktails, the bar and restaurant at 90 Exchange St. in Portland where customers were serenaded by recordings of the Rat Pack, has closed and the space is for lease. Owner Chris Harris did not return a request for comment.


You can tell spring is near when restaurateurs start announcing opening dates for their new spots. Justin and Danielle Walker announced this week that their eponymous Cape Neddick restaurant, Walkers Maine, will open March 10. The folks at Black Cow, the burger place going into the old Sonny’s spot in Portland, hint on social media that they are about a month away from opening.


Local sommelier Erica Archer announced Tuesday that she’s launching Portland Wine Week this summer, a summer wine festival that will be held June 18-24.

Archer is the owner of Wine Wise, a wine education events company, and the festival will include her signature sunset wine sails, wine education walks in the Old Port and wine education classes. Archer also plans to take advantage of Portland’s reputation as a great restaurant town by featuring restaurant wine dinners and a “passport tour” of local restaurants and their wine lists.

Among the 17 events in the works are six wine dinners: a night of rosé at Sur Lie; a focus on the new release and library wines of Channing Daughters winery at Hugo’s; a southern Italian white wine and seafood pairing at Scales; an evening of natural wines at Piccolo; a tour of Burgundy at Lolita; and an exploration of Spanish wines at Chaval.

Archer is also planning a meet and greet with an Austrian wine expert at Central Provisions; a pasta-making and wine pairing class at Solo Italiano; a wine pairing lunch with Bangs Island Mussels at Scales; and an historical wine list exhibition and talk from Don Lindgren of Rabelais Books.

The week will end with a gala: Cabernet & Cabaret: a Celebration of Red. Five local female chefs, including Ilma Lopez of Chaval and Piccolo and Krista Kern Desjarlais of The Purple House, are on board to create the food for the event, while Circus Maine is scheduled to provide entertainment. Proceeds from the gala will benefit Portland’s Preble Street Teen Center. Find updates and more information at


First, a series of successful restaurants, followed by a James Beard Award. What’s next? Why, a cookbook, of course.

Andrew Taylor, Mike Wiley and Arlin Smith, owners of Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland and Boston, have signed on with the Massachusetts-based literary agent The Lisa Ekus Group to write an Eventide cookbook. The restaurateurs have completed a book proposal with Boston Globe correspondent Sam Hiersteiner and are in discussions with publishers, according to Sally Ekus.

Eventide was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Restaurants in 2012, and Taylor and Wiley last year won the James Beard award for Best Chef: Northeast.

The three men also own Hugo’s and The Honey Paw, both in Portland, and a second Eventide in Boston.


The Lobster Roll World Championship is coming back to Thompson’s Point this summer, but with a new name and some changes intended to help avoid last year’s PR disaster.

Last year, the Down East Lobster Roll Festival, sponsored by Down East magazine, was overwhelmed with ticket holders who paid $10 to get in and then had to wait in long lines at a single lobster roll truck to buy food. Then a thunderstorm rolled in and swept everything away. At least those who purchased $100 VIP tickets to watch the “World’s Best Lobster Roll” competition indoors stayed dry and ate plenty of lobster.

This year, the Lobster Roll World Championship will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on July 7. The event will focus solely on the championship – which means no more $10 tickets – and all ticket holders will be able to sample the 10 finalists’ lobster rolls and vote for their favorites. A judge’s ticket, which includes the sampling and voting, costs $99. The $250 VIP tickets also give access to a VIP lounge with an open bar, a cocktail hour meet-and-greet with the winners from 4 to 5 p.m., drinks, dessert, a gift bag, a VIP entrance and free parking. All tickets will be sold online, in advance.

To enter the contest, chefs must submit a recipe along with a story that explains why their lobster roll is the best. Down East magazine will announce the 10 finalists on May 1. The winner of the event will be featured in Down East magazine and get a cash prize. To buy tickets or get details on entering the contest, visit

Last year’s winners were Ben and Lorin Smaha of Freshies Lobster Co. in Park City, Utah. We know, we know. It sounds like a chef from Michigan winning a Mardi Gras food festival, but relax – Ben Smaha grew up in Cape Elizabeth.


Tickets are also on sale for this year’s Kennebunkport Festival, which will be held June 4-9. Chefs who have agreed to host Art of Dining dinners – small dinners held in private homes – include Portland chefs Josh Berry of Union, Rian Wyllie of Little Giant, Guy Hernandez of Lolita, Matt Ginn of Evo Kitchen + Bar; Avery Richter of the Black Tie Co.; Adam Flood of Grace; Harding Smith of The Rooms; and Emil Rivera of Sur Lie. Pierre Gignac of Ocean Restaurant in Kennebunkport, Romann Dumorne of Northern Union in Ogunquit, Joseph Shafer of Earth in Kennebunk, and German Lucarelli of Ports of Italy in Boothbay are among the other Maine chefs participating.

Art of Dining tickets don’t come cheap; they cost $195. But the dinners offer an intimate experience, giving diners the chance to get up close and personal with a chef and get inside some pretty special private homes, too. You snooze, you lose, apparently: Two dinners are already sold out, and several others have only a few tickets left.

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 22:26:00 +0000
Try pork stir-fry bundled in lettuce Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000

Ground pork is cooked with a sauce of rice vinegar, black bean sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil and – a departure – chipotle chiles.Throughout the year, I cook off-the-cuff versions of favorite dishes, such as chili, pizza, beef stew, roast chicken and vegetable soup. I employ subtle variations, inspired by dining out or ingredients and condiments on hand. Never the same dish twice.

Same goes for a dish I first made more than three dozen years ago as a young test cook for Cuisine magazine: Minced quail in lettuce leaves. The recipe was part of a feature on the cuisine of Hong Kong.

In those pre-Instagram days, the late food writer, Roy Andries de Groot, captured his eating/research trip to Hong Kong with copious photographs and notes. My co-workers and I were charged with transforming those notes into magazine-friendly recipes that matched the photos. We tested all manner of dim sum, soups, fish, fried rice and even beggar’s chicken wrapped in lotus leaves and clay.

I still cook many of those dishes, but the one I return to time and time again is that quail dish. It’s a simple stir-fry of minced meat flavored with soy sauce and sesame oil. The golden stir-fry gets wrapped in crisp, chilled lettuce leaves, which cut the richness and add a fresh crunch.

Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, in her “Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking,” tells us that wrapping foods in lettuce leaves originated in China’s Guangdong province. Lettuce, a symbol of new life and growth, even hangs over the doorways in Guangdong during the Lunar New Year.

The method of wrapping foods in lettuce, Yin-Fei Lo says, has spread far beyond one Chinese province. Indeed. We now see dozens of variations of that dish in Asian restaurants all over this country. The internet has hundreds more – from authentic versions to diet-friendly blandness. The fillings morph from minced quail or squab, to chicken, shrimp, squid, vegetables and assorted mushrooms.

A recent brunch at Dai Due Butcher Shop & Supper Club in Austin, Texas, featured yet another version: wild boar with winter vegetables, crunchy radishes, lime and chipotle. Exciting – especially with the drizzle of a chipotle sambal and a tangy wild game syrup. Everything gets rolled up in Boston lettuce. Amazing.

Thus inspired, I knew my home version would morph again. This time with coarse ground pork and oven-roasted vegetables.

The ingredients are not expensive, the cooking is easy and several steps can be done in advance, so this lettuce-wrapped pork proves a perfect dish for a crowd. For a smaller group, you can cut the recipe in half, but just know that leftovers are delicious and versatile. I reheat them in deep bowls in the microwave and then serve the bowls topped with a fried egg and a generous squeeze of hot sauce.

There’s quite a bit of chopping to do, so this recipe is a good excuse to practice your knife skills. The chopping does not need to be exacting, since everything gets mixed together in the end. Use a large cutting board, stabilized with a piece of wet paper toweling underneath. Run your knife over the sharpening steel a few times to keep the knife sharp – a dull knife can dangerously bounce off the vegetables and nick a finger.

Like most stir-fries, the higher the heat the better the browning and flavor build. You can cook the pork in a well-seasoned wok, but work in three or four batches to get nice golden edges on the meat. Alternatively, I use a very large (14-inch), deep nonstick skillet and can cook all the pork at one time. Use two skillets if you only have small ones, so you promote browning.

I serve the warm stir-fry with Boston lettuce or small romaine leaves and pass a spicy-sweet dipping sauce. A scoop of coconut rice can be enjoyed alongside or tucked into the lettuce as well. Alternatively, for appetizers, set out a bowl of the warm pork filling (no rice) with spears of Belgian endive or pita crisps. The filling also tastes great tucked into a warmed pita pocket or lightly toasted flour tortilla.


Makes: 8 servings

Ground turkey, lamb or finely diced chicken thighs work well here too. So does shrimp – just reduce the cooking time in Step 5 to 5 minutes. You can prepare the recipe through Step 4 up to several days in advance; refrigerate the items covered.

2 medium golden potatoes (8 ounces total), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 medium-large turnips or section of a Daikon radish (about 8 ounces total), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 large eggplant, trimmed, cut into ¾-inch pieces


Expeller pressed canola oil or safflower oil

1 large (1 pound) sweet onion, quartered, very thinly sliced

4 tablespoons sugar

1/2 pound thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps or cremini mushrooms

1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup Asian black bean sauce with garlic

2 tablespoons fish sauce or tamari soy sauce

1 teaspoon pureed chipotle in adobo

1 teaspoon dark Asian sesame oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons peeled minced fresh ginger

2 pounds coarsely ground pork

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup very thinly sliced small or halved large radishes

3 green onions, trimmed, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 or 4 heads Boston lettuce or 2 heads small romaine, separated into leaves, rinsed, patted dry

Sweet and spicy dipping sauce, see below

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put potatoes and turnip onto a large baking sheet. Put eggplant onto a second baking sheet. Toss each sheet of vegetables with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 or 2 tablespoons oil. Bake in the upper third of the oven, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables are tender and golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven.

2. Meanwhile, cook onion in 1 tablespoon oil in a very large (14-inch) nonstick skillet (or work in 2 smaller nonstick skillets) over medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar; continue to cook, stirring often, until richly browned, about 10 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add mushrooms and another 1 tablespoon oil to skillet; cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the onions.

4. Mix vinegar, black bean sauce, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, fish sauce, chipotle and sesame oil in a small bowl.

5. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet, along with the garlic and ginger. Cook and stir, 1 minute. Add pork; cook, stirring and breaking up the pork with a spatula into small crumbles, until cooked though and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in vinegar mixture; cook 2 or 3 minutes more to coat the pork thoroughly. Stir in roasted vegetables and the onions and mushrooms.

6. To serve, sprinkle carrots and radishes over the pork, and stir gently to mix them in. Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro. Pass lettuce leaves to use as wrappers for the mixture. Drizzle each packet with the sweet and spicy dipping sauce to taste.

SWEET AND SPICY DIPPING SAUCE: Mix 1/4 cup each agave syrup and unsweetened rice vinegar with 1 to tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or soy sauce) in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves. Stir in 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. Use at room temperature within a week or so.


Makes: 6 servings

2 cups medium grain rice

1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 slices fresh ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Put rice into a colander and rinse under cool running water. Put rinsed rice, coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, garlic, ginger and salt into a medium saucepan. Stir well. Heat to a simmer over high heat. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to very low. Cook until rice is nearly tender, 15 to 17 minutes.

2. Fluff with a fork and put the lid back on. Let stand off the heat for 10 minutes. Fluff again, and fold in the cilantro.

]]> 0 pork is cooked with a sauce of rice vinegar, black bean sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil and - a departure - chipotle chiles. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS)Tue, 20 Feb 2018 21:42:23 +0000
Here’s how you can make gnocchi extra special Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000

Extra means more, as well as more than more.

Tired of sidekick duty, chiming in on extra special and extra clean, extra is going solo. “She’s extra,” adults should note, means excessive.

Snide isn’t a full-time gig. Extra still works its day job, cheering on adjectives, redoubling the efforts of nouns. It notes that gnocchi, delicious solo, are extra delicious paired with extra elements, like spicy greens, toasted mushrooms and truffle salt. The combo adds up to more than the sum of its parts. In a word, it’s extraordinary.


Makes: 3 servings


1 large (3/4 pound) russet potato, scrubbed

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground nutmeg

Up to 1/2 cup cake flour


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup sliced white mushrooms

2 teaspoons rosemary, fresh or dried, chopped


3 ounces baby arugula

Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Truffle salt

Parmesan cheese, in a chunk

1. Bake: Stab potato twice with a sharp knife. Bake at 425 degrees until tender when squeezed, 55-60 minutes. Alternatively, zap tender 5-6 minutes. Halve baked potato and press through a potato ricer. Discard skin.

2. Mix: Drop yolk onto potatoes, scatter on 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grates of nutmeg. Stir with a fork, just to combine. Sprinkle on 2 or 3 tablespoons flour, and mix gently to form a soft dough, adding flour as needed – you may only need half the flour.

3. Roll: Divide dough in four. On a floured surface, roll each portion into a 3/4-inch-thick rope. Slice crosswise into 1-inch segments. Flip pieces over a fork, tines resting on table. Roll each gnocco down the back of the fork, pressing lightly, to imprint grooves.

4. Boil: Drop gnocchi into simmering salted water in batches. Gnocchi will sink, then, in about 1 minute, float. Count 10 seconds. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and cool on a kitchen towel.

5. Sizzle: In a wide skillet, heat butter and oil over medium. Slide in gnocchi and mushrooms; sprinkle with rosemary. Toss until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Pull out with a slotted spoon, and toss with half the vinaigrette.

6. Plate: Toss greens with vinaigrette to taste. Heap on each of 3 plates. Spoon gnocchi and mushrooms on top. Sprinkle with truffle salt. Carve on some Parmesan curls. Enjoy.

Vinaigrette: Let 2 tablespoons chopped red onion mellow in 11/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar for 20 minutes. Whisk in 11/2 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes and a little garlic mashed with salt.

]]> 0, 20 Feb 2018 21:37:10 +0000
Can a healthier angel food cake still have flavor? Sure. Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000

A lemon and vanilla bean angel food cake in Bethesda, Md., from a recipe by Melissa d’Arabian. Photo by Melissa d'Arabian via AP

Is there anything dreamier than the tender crumb of a light-as-air angel food cake? I’ve loved angel food cake ever since I first tasted it as a child.

In the ’80s, low-fat became the “healthy” battle cry, and angel food cake came into vogue, with no fat weighing it down, but plenty of white processed sugar fluffing it up. In fact, fat-free-but-sugary baked treats were practically a diet fad unto themselves for well over a decade. Of course, modern science (and let’s just say it: common sense) tells us that we could all benefit from cutting down on processed sugar.

So how to re-create the angel food cakes I adored as a child without throwing our blood sugar levels out of whack? Today’s recipe is the solution.

First, I cut the sugar down by about 25 percent over typical recipes and it worked great. Secondly, I skipped purchasing “superfine” white sugar, and tried less-processed organic versions. I pulsed the coarser sugar in the blender to make it powdery-fine. (It’s still sugar, but even baby steps toward healthy eating count!).

Instead of using super-starchy, lower-protein cake flour, I pulsed up regular flour in the blender to mimic the lightness. Also, I made the cake in a loaf pan, which resulted in us eating smaller slices versus tube pan versions by some visual trick of nature that I don’t fully understand, but have proven multiple times with my own family.

For flavor, since I’m not a huge plain-sugar fan anymore, I added lemon zest and lovely-speckled vanilla bean. I served it with a quick lemony glaze made from Greek yogurt. (You can consider this optional, if you are an angel food cake traditionalist.) Or, try a slice of this cake with a tiny square of dark, bitter chocolate for a perfect pairing.


Servings: 12

2/3 cup organic sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod

2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup egg whites, from approximately 7-8 eggs

1/4 teaspoon table salt

3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

GLAZE (optional):

1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup organic powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 F (310 F if using convection heat).

Place the sugar, zest and vanilla bean in a dry blender and pulse until well-blended and sugar is fine and fluffy. Pour about half the sugar into a small bowl and set aside. Add the flour to the remaining sugar in the blender and pulse again a few times to create a fine flour mixture. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on medium speed just until frothy (under a minute). While mixing, carefully add the fine sugar (without the flour) to the egg whites, a tablespoon at a time. Continue beating the eggs until soft peaks form. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, place a sifter or sieve over the bowl and sift in half the flour and sugar mixture, and fold gently five or six times with a rubber spatula.

Sift in the remaining flour mixture and gently fold until no flour streaks remain. Scrape batter into a standard sized ungreased loaf pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until top is golden.

Remove from oven and place the loaf pan upside down, resting on two cans on the counter to cool (upside down, not touching the counter) completely (45 minutes).

Once cooled, remove the cake by sliding a knife around the edges of the cake. Whisk the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and drizzle on the cake when serving, if desired.

]]> 0 lemon and vanilla bean angel food cake in Bethesda, Md. This dish is from a recipe by Melissa d'Arabian. (Melissa d'Arabian via AP)Tue, 20 Feb 2018 22:03:27 +0000
What’s your (guilty) food pleasure? Go ahead and enjoy it. You’re not alone. Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000

Ben Hasty of Thistle Pig restaurant in South Berwick holds some of his favorite snacks: Kettle Brand Jalapeño Potato Chips, Fox Family Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips and Late July Snacks Green Mojo Multi-Grain Tortilla Chips. “I love chips. If I open the bag, I come close to finishing them,” he says. Above and top: Staff photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Like a lot of other chefs, Ben Hasty of Thistle Pig in South Berwick lists on his menu the local farms where he buys fresh, unprocessed beef, pork and vegetables. He serves only sustainable seafood. He even has a special “Stay on Track Menu” dedicated to helping his customers keep their New Year’s resolutions with healthy dishes such as a Super Greens Salad and a Spicy Quinoa Bowl.

But put a bag of potato chips in his hands, and Hasty is suddenly powerless.

“I love chips,” he said. “If I open the bag, I come close to finishing them.”

Hasty and other chefs, it turns out, are like the rest of us. They’re human. They talk a good game when it comes to eating great food and avoiding processed junk, but they almost always have at least one guilty pleasure – that snack food or bad-for-you meal that they just can’t resist. Some have even (gasp) been through fast food drive-thrus.

A few find their fixations embarrassing. Take Niko Regas, the chef at Emilitsa in Portland, and Dave Mallari, chef/owner at The Sinful Kitchen in Portland, who both confess to having a thing for Americanized Chinese food. Oh, the horror.

“Normally I don’t tell people this, but…” Regas begins before revealing his love of extra-spicy sesame chicken with a side of beef teriyaki skewers.

Mallari goes all in, visiting all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets where he doesn’t have to wait to order and “some of the dishes are really good.”

“I usually go in dressed like the Unabomber, with a hoodie and sunglasses, so that no one sees me eating there,” he joked.

For Sara Jenkins, chef/owner of Nina June in Rockport, a guilty pleasure break from her classic Mediterranean-style food is a classic grilled cheese-and-tomato sandwich made with white bread and Kraft American singles. But most of the guilty pleasures Maine chefs will admit to are just what you’d expect – salty or sweet treats, or that winning trifecta of salty, sweet and crunchy.

Judy Donnelly, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Nutrition Works in Portland, said when you think about the foods that people crave, such as ice cream and potato chips, they are foods that stimulate the sweet, sour and salty taste bud centers in the mouth. “They’re quick, they’re easy and they taste good,” she said.

Chefs, she noted, understand how to capitalize on these flavor proclivities, turning even salads into bursts of flavor that include, for example, tangy vinaigraitte, sweet candied walnuts and salty feta cheese.

Nothing is wrong with occasionally indulging in guilty pleasures, she said – within limits.

“We don’t have to be perfect eaters,” Donnelly said. “I do think we have to take care of ourselves and eat foods that are going to be protective of our health.”

A lot of Maine chefs have a sweet tooth. Jake Smith at Black Birch in Kittery says his weakness is Oreo cookies – and not the double-stuffed kind, or the flavored ones, just regular Oreos. “I don’t buy them anymore, but if they end up in my house I will eat the entire package in one to two days,” Smith said. “With a glass of milk, of course.”

Guy Hernandez, chef/owner of Lolita in Portland, says he has no willpower when it comes to doughnuts.

“I am hard-pressed to pass up on a basic glazed doughnut and a black cup of coffee,” he said, “even at a sketchy rest area or gas station.”

His mother-in-law buys him little powdered doughnuts from the grocery store “because she heard a story about me eating a whole bag when I was little. I resist them as long as I can, but when I get home after work and the whole family is asleep, their siren song is often too much,” Hernandez said.

Other chefs favor salty snacks. Clay Norris, chef/owner of Baharat in Portland, is hooked on Goldfish crackers, which he says are the perfect size and crunch, and have just the right amount of salt. And Hasty isn’t the only chef with a predilection for salty chips. James Beard Award winner Melissa Kelly, owner of Primo in Rockland, is obsessed with the salt-and-vinegar variety. The brand is important, too, she says: They must be Lay’s Kettle Cooked.

“I can eat them until my tongue is raw,” she said. “Embarrassing.”

Another James Beard Award winner, Mike Wiley of Hugo’s, Eventide Oyster Co. and The Honey Paw in Portland, once mentioned that his favorite snack is Andy Capp’s Hot Fries, which are sold at gas station convenience stores. Two years later, his love for them has not diminished. Indeed, it has only grown.

“I’ve recently fallen prey to the siren’s call of Andy Capp’s Cheddar Fries,” he said, calling it “more of a low-octane snack food than the Hot Fries, although I love them both.”


Jeff Buerhaus, the chef at Walter’s in Portland, couches his chip cravings in the guise of doing a good deed. A longtime employee collects old and limited edition food packaging, so whenever Buerhaus goes shopping, or when he travels, he is on the lookout for “unique, funky or limited chips.”

Fox Family Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips, one of Ben Hasty’s favorite snacks. Hasty is the chef/owner at Thistle Pig restaurant in South Berwick. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

He enjoys presenting his finds, and sharing the contents of the packaging with his staff before weekend service so the employee can have the remains for his collection. Buerhaus’ favorites are always changing, he says, but over the years he has found – and eaten – truffle chips, poutine chips, garam masala-flavored chips made by Lay’s for the Indian market, cheeseburger and hot dog chips, and “guess the flavor” chips. The “golden chalice” of chips, he says, is a bag of the limited edition, rainbow-colored Doritos that Frito-Lay came out with in 2015 to raise money for an organization that helps LGBT youth.

Hasty’s favorite chips are Late July Green Mojo tortilla chips, Fox Family BBQ potato chips, and Kettle Buffalo Blue potato chips. When paired with salsa, Hasty said, a chip is “honestly kind of like the perfect bite. It excites your palate, and it’s a change of flavor from what you’ve been tasting throughout the day” in the restaurant.

Sometimes guilty pleasures are borne of childhood memories. James Beard Award winner Sam Hayward, who is a co-owner of Fore Street and Scales in Portland, names ice cream as his.

“My father grew up on a farm in western Kansas, and his family regularly cranked their own ice cream, rock-salt-and-crushed-ice style,” Hayward said. “All through my childhood, his homemade ice cream was a regular summertime weekend treat for our family and friends.”

David Levi, chef/owner of Vinland in Portland, also has a thing for ice cream, as well as peanut butter, licorice and dark chocolate. (He doesn’t feel guilty about that last one, though.) But what he yearns for most is the Austrian rum cake, or Punschkrapfen, of his youth, when he lived in New York City and had access to German and Austrian bakeries.

Evan Mallett, chef/owner of Ondine Oyster & Wine Bar in Belfast and Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, spends his days breaking down heritage hogs and cooking with heirloom beans, foraged mushrooms, and local dayboat fish. But when he gets a craving, it’s for tub cheese. Raised by a single mother who never put potato chips, candy bars or sodas into his lunchbox, Mallett would come home after school, get the tub cheese out of the refrigerator, grab a box of Stoned Wheat Thins from the pantry, and chow down.

“That was my hour of sin before my mother would get home from work,” Mallett said.

Today he prefers Squire Mountain tub cheese, which is made in Standish. But now that he is 49, he is trying to end his love affair with the stuff “because I was turning into a tub of cheese,” he said.

Mallett confesses that he once went through a Burger King drive-thru (and also proudly notes that although he adores Mexican food, he has never been to Taco Bell). Driving up I-95 with his kids, who had been fed, he could not quell his own hunger and was “famished.”

“I pulled off at a rest area and into a Burger King,” he recalled, “and ordered a Whopper Jr., which was the ‘thing’ when I was young and with my grandparents. That was my crack cocaine.”

Biting into the burger, he said, “took me back to that same peak of adrenaline, just wanting to shove the entire thing into my mouth.”

His young daughter scolded him, pointing out that eating the fast-food burger “was against everything I ever stood for.” She needn’t have worried because her father learned his lesson: He spent the next hour trying to get rid of out-of-control hiccups triggered, he says, by the sodium and other stuff in the burger.

Cara Stadler, chef/owner of Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland and Tao Yuan in Brunswick, uses a drive-thru on road trips, but she’s not loyal to any particular brand. “I did have a problem in China at KFC,” she said. “They sell egg tarts, and they are so delicious and so unhealthy, but so cheap and good.”

Steve Corry, who owns Five Fifty-Five and Petite Jacqueline in Portland, goes through the McDonald’s drive-thru once a year with his two sons to re-create a favorite childhood memory – drinking a minty green Shamrock Shake, which is available only around St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, Corry (a proud Irish-American) orders the same thing: A Shamrock Shake and a McKinley Mac, a secret menu item “which is essentially a Big Mac made with quarter pounder patties instead of the small ones.” (Who knew?) He also gets a large order of fries with no salt. Then he oversalts the fries “so that I can dip them in my shake and enjoy the sharp contrast.”

“My kids seem to add something new to their order every year and walk out feeling as miserable and yet as happy as I do,” Corry said. “It should be noted that my wife does not partake in this debauchery as it does not appeal to any of her sensibilities. But hey, it’s once a year and a tradition of overindulgence that I am sure would make at least some of my Irish ancestors proud!”

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

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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Cookbook review: ‘Plant-Powered Protein’ delivers Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:00:00 +0000 “Plant-Powered Protein Cookbook.” By the editors of Vegetarian Times. Globe Pequot. $28

Who hasn’t felt the pressure to forgo meat and instead use plant-based protein in their meals? Good for the planet, the pocketbook and your health.

In our house, we have several meatless meals every week, but I stand in awe of the growing number of friends who have adopted vegetarian or vegan lifestyles.

It’s a bridge too far for me, having grown up in a real meat-and-potatoes home. Sunday dinner always meant a roast of some kind, served with mashed potatoes and gravy. The rest of the week you could find meatloaf, Swedish meatballs, Shake ‘N Bake pork chops, shepherd’s pie or fried chicken on the menu.

But there’s also a preponderance of heart disease and diabetes in my family, so for the past 20 years or so, I’ve been serving meatless meals.

The desire to expand those offerings is what drew me to “Plant-Powered Protein Cookbook,” a product of Vegetarian Times.

The book offers an easy-to-understand primer on plant-based proteins, naming the five superstars (legume and beans; whole grains; nuts and seeds; soy and seitan; and eggs and dairy) and then their attributes. It also explains simply the connection between protein and fiber, protein and energy and the importance of protein in your diet.

Once all the science is covered, the reader is introduced to a rich array of recipes. The organization of the cookbook is easy to follow, starting with smoothies and snack foods, then salads, soups, sandwiches, entrees, condiments and desserts. The index makes it easy to look in your pantry (Hmmm, lentils and canned tomatoes), then find a recipe using those ingredients.

The editors at Vegetarian Times know how to make food look appealing. Each recipe is accompanied by an engaging photo, some of which made me salivate.

Artichoke-Potato Medley, a constellation of richly colored roasted vegetables, made me add “2 10-oz. boxes of frozen artichoke hearts” to the grocery list posted on my fridge. Butternut Squash & Greens Kuku, an Iranian egg dish, is next on the must-try list. And a luscious-looking Tofu Creme au Chocolat promises to be as decadent as traditional pudding, but with fewer calories, half the carbohydrates and more protein.

In fact, it was a photo of Curried Red Lentil Soup that made me pause and check for the necessary ingredients in my pantry.

Outdoor temperatures in the teens helped as well. There’s nothing I like better in the winter than a hearty stew and crusty bread. In addition to heart disease and diabetes, I think my family has had a long association with peasant fare.

The meal was easy to make. I’m guessing most folks have the ingredients in their pantries.

And it was delicious. Real stick-to-your-bones food, infused with the flavors of India but not in any kind of overpowering way.

The editors note it is even better the second day, after the flavors have had more time to mingle. I agree.

And a bonus: The meal is both vegan and gluten-free, so it’s a fabulous choice if you’re hosting a gathering where there might be guests with dietary restrictions.

Carol Coultas can be contacted at 791-6460 or at:

Curried Red Lentil Soup

Curried red lentils soup with lemon Photos courtesy of Globe Pequot

Vegan and gluten-free.

Serves 6

2 cups red lentils sorted, rinsed and drained

1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth

1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

4 celery stalks, finely chopped (11/2 cups)

2 large carrots, finely chopped (11/2 cups)

2 cloves garlic minced (2 teaspoons)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Bring lentils, vegetable broth and 4 cups of water to a simmer in a large pot. Skim away foam that rises to the top. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic; simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add cilantro, curry powder and cumin, and cook 20 minutes more, or until lentils are soft. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and stir in lemon juice.


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Peanut allergy treatment showing signs of success Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:12:38 +0000 The first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. A company said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut flour helped sensitize children to nuts in a major study.

Millions of children have peanut allergies, and some may have life-threatening reactions if accidentally exposed to them. Doctors have been testing daily doses of peanut flour, contained in a capsule and sprinkled over food, as a way to prevent that.

California-based Aimmune (AIM-yoon) Therapeutics said 67 percent of kids who had its treatment were able to tolerate the equivalent of roughly two peanuts at the end of the study, compared to only 4 percent of others given a dummy powder.

The study involved nearly 500 kids ages 4 to 17 with severe peanut allergies. They were given either capsules of peanut flour or a dummy powder in gradually increasing amounts for six months, then continued on that final level for another six months. Neither the participants nor their doctors knew who was getting what until the study ended.

About 20 percent of kids getting the peanut powder dropped out of the study, 12 percent due to reactions or other problems.

The results have not yet been reviewed by independent experts, but will be presented at a medical meeting next month.

The company plans to file for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the treatment by the end of this year, and for approval in Europe early next year.

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