Archive for December, 2011

Book-o-Rama: Odd Bits, Rock Stars, Feasts, Cooks and Bitters

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

The O-Rama writing team is finishing out the year with a series of gastronomical book reviews. With the generous help of our friends Don and Samantha Lindgren at Rabelais each of the bloggers was able to select a food book to read and review. If one of the titles below tickles your fancy stop by 86 Middle Street where you’ll an extraordinary selection of books on food, drink and gardening to select from.

The group has selected a book for just about any mood. Feeling contemplative, then read Jillian’s review of The Feast Nearby at From Away, or perhaps, you’d like to add some adventure to your cooking then read Dawn’s write up of Odd Bits and about her experience cooking a pig’s head. Looking for more basic instruction? then read about the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook or up your game a bit with Cook Like a Rock Star at, respectively, the Blueberry Files or Edible Obsessions. Easily my favorite selection this month is Vreylena’s pick of Bitters: A Spirited History. I just picked up my first bottle of Angostura to mix some Airmail cocktails (stay tuned for more on that next week) but am intrigued by the potential to use bitters in savory recipes as well.

Appetite PortlandOdd Bits by Jennifer McLagan

Best of all, McLagan makes every recipe sound manageable – be they challenging, day-long adventures or quick dinners. Many re-imagine the common with odd bits. Ravoli of Brains and Morels, for example, sounds simple and succulent. While copping to it as a way to sneak brain to the unsuspecting, she insists that the recipe also plays to calf brains’ rich texture. I’ve dog-eared that page for a future meal – if I can find brain anywhere in the mad-cow fearing US! read the full review

Edible ObsessionsCook Like a Rock Star by Anne Burrell

Her book has the usual suspects: favorite tools and pantry staples, as well as a guide to her lingo (fond=”Crud”; “BTB”=bring to a boil) and a lovely forward by Mr. Batali. When you get to the heart of it her recipes are mostly, and understandably, Italian influenced and pretty decent. Without a doubt, they are definitely geared towards those looking to graduate from easier cookbooks, but aren’t quite ready to put out a Thomas Keller level dish. There’s a whole chapter on homemade pasta, one of her specialties and one which I would have enjoyed if I had a pasta maker, but the recipes can easily be made and adjusted to use dried. Her ‘Piccolini’–or, as she calls them “My little nibbles”–recipes are some of the most interesting, especially the one for the Mortadella Mousse.
read the full review

From AwayThe Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

The Feast Nearby is a valuable little book for those of us who wish to recalibrate our days with the calendar, who want to stretch an overtaxed food budget in tough economic times, and who must begin again with hope and self-reliance, after years gone by without authenticity or reflection. It’s simply written, with a pleasant tone that is neither didactic nor long-winded. Ms. Mather is a wise aunt gently guiding us back to tradition, hard word and constancy, those things that keep us truly alive amidst change, grief and bafflement. In this handbook, the practice of canning is brimming with meaning; being mindful of what we eat is quite simply the onus of all of us. It teaches us how to retreat, how to retrieve our heritage of cooking and eating, and how to enjoy the journey of our lives, however painful and surprising. read the full review

The Blueberry FilesThe Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

And this is where Cook’s Illustrated and I fail to see eye-to-eye. Developed in ‘America’s Test Kitchen’ these recipes have been deconstructed and tested from the ground up. So if they tell you to use a shallot, that means they’ve tried the recipe with yellow onions, without shallots, etc. When they say shallot, they mean shallot. read the full review

Vrai-lean-uhBitters: A Spirited History by Brad Thomas Parsons

That’s not to say I’m not fond of it. On the whole it is a very good and thorough book that left me with a deeper appreciation of bitters than I had before. It covers enormous ground: historical background, tutorials on making your own bitters, a buying guide, extensive cocktail recipes, and a small selection of cooking recipes. The writing was engaging enough that it carried me from the Carthusian monks of the 1700s brewing Chartreuse through The Great Angostura Shortage of 2009-2010 with a minimum of eye-rolling. I not only have a better grasp of bitters, but I have ideas for how to use them in drinks and cooking.read the full review

This Week’s Events: Wine Tastings, Winter Market, New Year’s Eve

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Wednesday — a wine tasting is taking place at RSVP.

ThursdayHavana South is holding their monthly wine night event, and there will be a wine tasting at Browne Trading.

Friday — there will be wine tastings at Rosemont on Brighton and at Aurora Provisions.

Saturday — the Winter Farmers Market is taking place.

New Year’s Eve — restaurants have started announcing their plans for New Year’s Eve. Here are the ones I’ve heard about so far. Oh and by the way, everyone and their cousin wants to go out on New Year’s Eve. Early reservations are ESSENTIAL.

  • Back Bay Grill, $85 4-course dinner
  • Bar Lola, $55 7-course dinner
  • Bibo’s Madd Apple Cafe, $45 3-course dinner, there are 5-6 options to choose from for each course
  • Bresca, $85 5-course traditional Hong Kong New Years menu on both December 30th and 31st
  • David’s, will be open and serving the regular menu plus some specials
  • David’s 388, your choice of 2 different prix fixe options
  • Figa, $85 4-course dinner with complimentary glass of champagne
  • Five Fifty-Five, $60 3-course dinner in the bar, $90 5-course dinner in the restaurant
  • Grace, $70 5-course menu
  • Havana South, $55 dinner with optional wine pairings
  • Local 188, prix fixe dinner, call for details
  • Local Sprouts is holding a New Year’s Eve Bash serving their standard menu
  • Old Port Sea Grill will be open serving their usual menu
  • Pai Men Miyake, $35 3-course dinner with your choice of appetizer, ramen and dessert
  • Petite Jacqueline, $65 4-course dinner
  • Ribollita will be open offering there standard menu plus some specials
  • Sea Glass, $65 4-course menu
  • Sea Grass Bistro, $65 4-course dinner
  • Sonny’s, prix fixe dinner, call for details
  • The Salt Exchange, $65 4-course dinner with glass of sparkling wine or cider
  • Zapoteca, $60 5-course dinner with optional wine pairings
  • Last year these restaurants also had New Year’s Eve dinners. I haven’t seen an announcement from them yet but it’s a fairly safe bet that they will have a NYE dinner options this year too so give them a call: Bull Feeney’s, Cinque Terre, DiMillo’s, El Rayo, Events on Broadway, Fore Street, Frog & Turtle, Paciarino, Season’s Grille, The Farmer’s Table, The Grill Room, Vignola, Walter’s and Zackery’s.

For more information on these and other upcoming food happenings in the area, visit the event calendar.

If you are holding a food event this week that’s not listed above, publicize it by adding it as a comment to this post.

Review of Bresca

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

From Away has published a review of Bresca.

Bresca wasn’t one of the first restaurants we tried in Portland, primarily due to its good reputation; we knew that it would always be there, and that we’d have plenty of time to circle around and get to it eventually. You should not make that mistake. Go, now, for the panna cotta, one of the single finest dishes I have yet tasted in Portland; it’s reason enough to get you in the door. We feel foolish for having waited so long, moronic for having wasted so, so many low-expectation dinners in restaurants that weren’t Bresca. It may be the only restaurant you need. We knew dinner there would be a special event; what we didn’t expect was that James Beard award-nominated chef Krista Kern Desjarlais would create one of our most memorable dining experiences to date, offering imaginative, exquisitely-prepared, expertly-balanced dishes that would tease us, delight us, and set an entirely new standard for what a meal out should be.

Review of Flask

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The Maine magazine blog has published a review of Flask.

The “starter course” is a vegetarian chickpea soup simmered with warm Indian spices and fire roasted tomatoes. Nolette makes all of her stocks from scratch, and as I dig in I find that the grilled garlic butter pita on the side is a better method of delivery than a spoon, but force myself to use a bit of self-control, seeing a lot of food in my future.

Interview with the Lindgrens

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Find. Eat. Drink. has published an interview with Don and Samantha Lindgren, owners of Rabelais.

Q. What are your thoughts on the “There’s an App For That” mentality towards technology melding with the book world?
A. Don: We’re not Luddites, we own iPhones and an iPad. I frequently look at electronic books online – mostly from academic sources for early texts. But I think the rush for publishers, the food media and much of the public, to expect an app with every book release is just stupid. I read an interview with the authors of the new Eleven Madison Park cookbook, which I think is a terrific book, but the interviewer lost sight of the great new book in front of herself, and kept asking about the possibility of future apps. It’s like sitting down with Scorsese and asking when the video game is coming out.

Three Sons Eviction

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

This week’s Forecaster reports that Three Sons Fish & Lobster has received an eviction notice from their landlord Great Maine Wharf LLC.

Last month, Three Sons, Chase Leavitt & Co. and Fresh Atlantic were served with eviction notices by their landlord, Great Maine Wharf LLC.

The letter said, “For safety reasons, you must vacate the building where your business is located, effective immediately.”

Review of Moran’s Market

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

The Press Herald has published a review of Moran’s Market.

Here’s another way to judge a market: If it prices food by the pound instead by some predetermined serving size, you know you can bulk up. At Moran’s, the hot bar costs $4.75 per pound. I loaded up a pound-and-a-quarter of some of the best home-cooked food you can find for this price anywhere in Portland.

Today’s paper also includes the latest edition of the What Ales You beer column.

Review of Back Bay Grill

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

The Golden Dish has published a review of the Back Bay Grill.

But I’m intrigued by another first course offering: pork rillettes. This pate-like dish is rich with spices and pork fat, an utterly luxurious creation that bespeaks flavor. The accompanying house-cured pepperone lay like shingles on a pristine plank along with a round of fruit mostarda, alive with mustard syrup  that also complements strips of pancetta — all of which is a perfect swathe for the crisp wands of rosemary crostini.

Interview with Chef Desjarlais on Bresca Day

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Chubby Werewolf has published an interview with Krista Kern Desjarlais about the new lunch service she’s launching at Bresca.

Despite a very busy schedule, Chef Desjarlais graciously agreed to sit down with me in advance of the launch of Bresca Day and answer some questions. Over the course of a very enjoyable hour or so, we discussed Bresca’s roots, the “celebrity chef” culture so pervasive on television these days and the ability of your average toddler to out-demolish even the most crazed high-on-bath-salts lunatic. Somewhere along the way, we also managed to talk about Bresca Day. I can neither confirm nor deny rumors that several minutes of the interview may have been spent by a teary-eyed Yours Truly, begging for a lunchtime version of those braised beef cheeks. But here’s what I can tell you…

According to the interview lunch service at Bresca will 11-2 and will initially be offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Review of Schulte & Herr

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Eat Here. Go There. has published a review of Schulte & Herr.

Mark raved about his beef sandwich and after being afforded just one small taste I realized why. It was absolutely the best roast beef I have ever put in my mouth. The bun was spread with beautiful brown whole grain mustard and served with a side of horseradish. The mixture of the mustard and horseradish was incredible. It was a splendid choice on his part and I was slightly jealous of how amazing it was.

Fort Williams Liquor Laws & Winter Markets

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Today’s Press Herald includes an article on the growing number of winter farmers markets in Southern Maine,

“Probably the busiest market in the state right now is Brunswick, and Portland’s not far behind,” said Lauren Pignatello, who runs the Swallowtail Farm micro-dairy in Coopers Mills, and helped launch both the Brunswick and Portland winter markets.

and a report that Cape Elizabeth may repeal the ban on alcohol in Fort Williams Park. If all goes well perhaps we’ll be able to enjoy a glass of pinot grigio next Summer with a lobster roll from the Bite into Maine food truck.

Holiday Eating Survival Guide

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

An article in today’s Portland Daily Sun advises readers on “How to relish the season without adding holiday pounds“.

You wake up puffy and your tongue feels like a giant saltine. After 12 rounds with the snooze button, you flop to the ground and wheeze out a few guilty sit-ups and a push up before the sugar shakes start in earnest. You inhale the festive pastries (they’re for my roommate!) that ended up in your purse after the office party. You vaguely recall a meticulous wrapping job involving one-ply napkins and toothpicks so why is there a frosted explosion at the bottom of your sparkly bag?

Rob Evans GQ

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Chef Rob Evans shared his list of favorite places to eat and drink in Portland with GQ. Petite Jacqueline, Boda, Otto Pizza, Emilitsa, Miyake, Gorgeous Gelato, Novare Res, Bresca, Sangillo’s and Fore Street all made the cut.

Under Construction: Crema

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Construction is proceeding at 9 Commercial Street on the future home of Crema the new coffee shop/bakery owned by Art Bannister and Cathy and John Walsh from Arabica.

Review of Pai Men Miyake

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The Maine magazine blog has published a review of Pai Men Miyake.

It would appear that Pai Men has finally found its identity, and now lives in harmony with Miyake on Fore Street. Each restaurant offers an entirely different experience, and if it’s been awhile since you’ve dined at Pai Men, I urge you to see these changes for yourself. It is also worth noting that the kitchen now remains open until midnight Monday through Saturday, and nothing is better after a long restaurant shift than noodles and meat on a stick.

Review of Cobblestones

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Edible Obsessions has posted a review of Cobblestones.

Perfectly peppered and tender Pastrami was definitely the star, cut thick and piled generously on the rye. And, c’mon, who in their right mind DOESN’T like Marbled Rye? If that’s you, then you’re no friend of mine. The onions were a bit of a throw away for me, though they did add a nice sweetness against the biting whole grain mustard.

This Week’s Events: Sparking Wine Dinner, UFF Workshops, Winter Farmers Market

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Tuesday — award winning sommelier Scott Tyree and Bar Lola are collaborating on a Sparkling Wine Dinner, and the Urban Farm Fermentory is running a mushroom growing workshop.

Wednesday — a wine tasting is taking place at Old Port Wine Merchants.

Thursday — the Urban Farm Fermentory is teaching a kombucha brewing class, the Great Lost Bear weekly showcase is featuring beer from Bray’s Brew Pub, and there will be a wine and cheese tasting at the Public Market House.

Friday — a wine tasting is taking place Rosemont on Brighton.

Saturday — a second wine tasting is taking place at Rosemont Market and it’s the first Winter Farmers Market of the season.

Sunday — the maiden voyage of The Corner Room’s new Sunday Brunch service.

For more information on these and other upcoming food happenings in the area, visit the event calendar.

If you are holding a food event this week that’s not listed above, publicize it by adding it as a comment to this post.

Review of Bresca

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Vin et Grub has posted a review of last month’s Rocky IV Estonian wine dinner at Bresca.

A decadent softened quails egg topped with American caviar was a nice and cool way to start off the evening.  Despite the cold serving temperature and it’s slight conflict with the texture of the quail’s egg, I was more than pleased with the dish as a whole.  The caviar added the right amount of saltiness and the potato countered that flavor with it’s smokey flavor.  The creamed ruby chard was the highlight of the dish in my opinion- beautifully soft, slightly warmed, and borderline ambrosial, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to prepare chard.

Drinking Culture

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

An article in Sunday’s Boston Globe reports on “Maine’s new drinking culture”. John Myers, Hugo’s, Blue Spoon and the Urban Farm Fermentory are all mentioned. (via Edible Obsessions)

John Myers, a traditional saloonist and cocktail historian, tends bar at The Grill Room, a steakhouse with a wood-burning grill in the center of the Old Port here. Myers, looking like a Wild West gunslinger with his wool vest and bushy beard, stands in the lamplight – a sommelier of cocktails ready to shake or stir.

Review of Saeng Thai House

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Saeng Thai House received 4 stars from a review in today’s Maine Sunday Telegram.

Saeng Thai House is an easily overlooked Portland treasure. The employees are friendly and knowledgeable, and their attention to the smallest details is impressive. Enjoy the food either in the cozy dining room or at home on your couch. If you are craving good-value, fresh-tasting Thai cuisine, start at Saeng Thai House. (And make sure to try the noodles. Barry White is optional.)