Sunday, December 6, 2009

another amazing meal at caiola's

the night before thanksgiving seth and i and my friends jasmine and chris from new york, dined at caiola's. i have previously raved about this place so i won't waste time telling you all the things i love about caiola's. i just need to tell you that i had the most amazing orecchiette and bolognese made with both pork and beef. the rich tomato sauce tasted like it had been simmering for hours and it clung perfectly to the little ear shaped pasta. it was one of those things you put in your mouth and think you could eat this and only this for the rest of your life. well, at least that is what i thought.

shopping local for the holidays

though my father can't stand it, i love love love christmas. i love the lights and the music and the family time. i can even love the snow this time of year. and while the truth is that i do end up consuming around the holidays, i love christmas despite all the consumerism. and i do my best to keep the gift giving simple and low cost.
i decided i was gonna do my best this year to do all my christmas shopping locally. so yesterday i headed into the old port around 2pm with flurries twirling around my head and enjoyed the multitude of other christmas shoppers. it was absolutely the quintessential holiday shopping experience and it definitely got me in the spirit. by 4pm my arms were weighed down with shopping bags, i had walked across town and back, and i had put a little money into my local economy.
so see what you can do to get into the spirit and find someone you love the kind of gift you can't get at the mall or online, in your town.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

boston eats, featuring wijm

yeah i know, i totally blew it on my one post a day challenge. what can i say -- it was totally exhausting and once i stopped posting everyday it was hard to even start back up. and seth and i hosted two of our friends for thanksgiving so i was very preoccupied with preparation. stay tuned for blogging about that epic meal and the doings with all the leftovers.
for now enjoy this boston eats video restaurant review seth and i did with my friend sarah when we were in boston in mid-november. it was at this really fantastic chinese restaurant. but i will let the clip speak for itself. hopefully there will soon be a boston eats visits portland!
shanghai gate
oh yeah sarah also recently did this review that i failed to post:
coast cafe

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

processed foods and depression

this blogging everyday thing is really hard. so i'm taking the easy way out tonight and pointing you to an interesting article about how processed foods and depression are linked. in reference to my last post this really makes a lot of sense to me. cuz i also treat a ton of depression and anxiety and naturally some of those folks who are eating mcdonalds every day are the ones i'm treating for depression.
going to be in boston for the next 4 days at a big primary care conference. maybe i will eat some great meals and blog about them...

Monday, November 9, 2009

its an epidemic

a large part of my job as a primary care provider is managing chronic health conditions. what that usually means is managing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high sugar before and after it results in diabetes. all of these conditions can, for the most part, be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle. yet they are some of the most common things i treat.
tomorrow i have two people on my schedule, each of whom i diagnosed with diabetes with sugars in the 400s. since an initial diagnosis of diabetes is made when sugars hit a mere 126, this means they have had untreated diabetes for many years. on top of that diabetes takes years and years to develop, all along causing irreversible damage to your body. for those of you that don't know, diabetes causes strokes, heart attacks, blindness, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, and its the leading cause of leg amputation. does any of that sound fun to you? it surely doesn't sound fun to me.
so its really hard for me to get why that guy on friday, who watched his dad lose limbs and then his life to diabetes, didn't really care when i told him he was on the verge of developing diabetes. he couldn't understand why he had a problem with his sugars, when he never ate lunch. but every morning, EVERY MORNING, he gets a sausage mcmuffin, coffee, and an orange juice from mcdonalds. he couldn't begin to wrap his mind around why orange juice was not a healthy choice for a person like him. even though i was reviewing many ways in which he could make positive changes to his diet he just kept saying, "i've never heard that orange juice was bad for you."
and here's another thing, if you weigh over 300 pounds, why would you argue with me that you get enough exercise walking around at work? you clearly don't get enough exercise. i don't solely blame these people though i do think some god dammed personal responsibility is in order here! i blame a society that makes the worst food the cheapest. that makes us feel that we are not satiated unless we are completely stuffed. that is set up for us to drive our cars everywhere instead of walking or riding bikes. that cuts physical education from schools.
if you are reading this right now you know i really like food and i eat a lot of it. i don't not exercise as much as i should but i do actually move my body on a regular basis. and i eat GOOD food! i think most of the food that my patients are eating is disgusting -- white bread! egg sandwiches from the gas station! mountain dew! without sounding like michael pollan i have to ask if these are really even food!
i don't want you to think i am a heartless care provider because i am not. but as the obesity epidemic is at the intersection of two things i am very passionate about, food and health, i can get a little worked up.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

fine italian food in ghana?

when i was living in ghana we would often take weekend trips to this amazing little beach about forty minutes outside of accra, called kokrobite. at this beach there was this amazing guest house run by a british woman and her ghanaian husband called big milly's backyard. it is the standard to which i have held all guest houses in foreign countries at which i have stayed. you had your choice of accommodations from free standing cottages, to rooms in a block, to spaces to lay your sleeping bag and a trunk to lock your stuff in. all bathrooms were shared, there was no running water, and unpredictable electricity. everything was situated around a open-air bar and the ocean was only yards away. everything you ate and drank was put on a tab, so you had to be careful not to have too good of a time or you may not have enough money come pay time. they cooked three meals a day there and you elected to partake in each of the meals. since there was very few other options in kokrobite at that time, most meals were eaten at big milly's, with a giant star beer to wash down the super fresh fish, and lots of young foreigners to trade travel stories with.

there was one other dinner option. an italian man named franco had decided to ride his motorcycle through west africa. when he landed at kokrobite he decided to stay and open and italian restaurant. he was just opening it the year i was living in ghana and each meal i ate there was progressively more refined. he set up a small kitchen hut and built tables under palm frond umbrellas. the first couple times i ate there he was both cook and waiter. but as both big milly's and his place became more popular he hired kids from the village to work with him.
my favorite dish was spaghetti al tonno. a simple dish of onions, garlic, tomatoes and tuna, it was just so delicious. franco used the locally canned starkist tuna in oil as a substitute for italian tuna in olive oil. the ghanaian version is heavy and fishy and gave the dish as strong and rich flavor.

i think about this pasta dish and those amazing weekends at kokrobite. through the internet i have been able to see how this small fishing village has grown and attracted more and more tourists. the good news is that there are just not that many tourists in ghana. i crave the taste of that dish and wish for it to take me back to those moments when i was 20 years old and living in such a foreign land as a foreigner.

about a month ago we went to dinner at paciarino and they had spaghetti al tonno on the menu. i ordered immediately thinking i was going to indulge in franco's pasta dish. in no was this rendition bad. the fresh homemade pasta had a great texture and bite and the sauce was tasty. but i could barley taste, see, or feel the tuna in the sauce. i just ended feeling like i had a great marinara sauce. and it left this place in my heart and stomach just aching for the real deal.

so recently, as i was perusing my father-in-law's cookbooks and i found a recipe for spaghetti al tonno in cucina ebraica, flavors of the italian jewish kitchen, i knew i had to make it. the final product this evening was exactly the soul satisfying dish i had been longing for. the hardest part of the whole thing is waiting for the water to boil. so try it out some night soon for an easy and delicious meal.

spaghetti al tonno

1 pound long pasta
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
12 salt-packed anchovies, filleted, rinsed and very finely chopped, or 24 olive oil-packed fillets (about one 3-ounce jar), drained and very finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 can (6 ounces) olive oil-packed tuna, preferably italian, drained and broken up
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
1 to 2 cups chopped canned plum tomatoes (according to the recipe this is optional but according to my memory totally necessary and i just used one 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes)
grated zest of 1 lemon (again optional in the recipe and i omitted it)
freshly ground black peeper to taste.

bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the pasta, stir well, and cook until al dente.
meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. add the onion and saute until tender and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. add the anchovies, garlic, and parsley and cook for 1 minute. and the tuna and capers and the tomatoes and lemon zest, and cook until warm, about 2 minutes.
drain the pasta and add to the sauce in the pan. toss well to coat, then stir for a minute or two to flavor the pasta with the sauce. sprinkle with pepper and serve immediately.

Friday, November 6, 2009

hi bombay

i love love love indian food. every time i eat it i dream about the day when i will touch my feet down on the earth of the sub-continent. it is just so complex in its tastiness. much of indian food is very saucy and i love sauces. so much so that seth calls me a sauce whore. i'm really quite indiscriminate about what kind of sauce, i just want volume.
i also love to get indian food for take out and that's what we did tonight. i don't know why i love it for take out. maybe because it just seems so decadent to eat in your pajamas in front of the tv.
seth called and placed the order and i swung by on my way home from work. we have eaten at hi bombay many times before and i really enjoy the weirdness of watching bollywood on a plasma tv while eating saag paneer and drinking king fisher beer. tonight was the first night we have gotten take out from hi bombay and it was great.
we choose the malai kofta and the chicken saag, two of my stand-by dishes at indian restaurants. tonight, like all other times, i was not disappointed. i find it a little difficult to describe all of the nuances of flavors in indian food because it is so complex and layered. both dishes tonight were ordered medium spicy, which had a nice heat and left you with a lasting burn on your tongue. there was tons of chicken in the saag and it delivered that deliciously creamy spinach yum that i expect from a good saag. the malai kofta is a combination of these delicate veggie "meat balls" and a creamy slightly sweet, savory sauce.
it was a totally satisfying dinner at home, just as it always is in their restaurant.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

fennel and sausage risotto

try this great recipe for fennel and sausage risotto. i made it with store bought chicken broth and it really would have been better with a super flavorful homemade stock. its a very warm and comforting dish for a cool evening.

i'm anticipating a slip-up in my challenge tomorrow night cuz some friends are coming into town.

someday very soon the majority of us are going to be in favor of marriage equality.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


tonight after voting, seth and i went to celebrate democracy with a pint of beer and some fried food. and what better place for such a celebration than ruski's (212 danforth street)? ruski's really is a go to place for seth and i for many reasons. number 1: its awesome. number 2: two blocks from our house. number 3: real dive bar. number 4: good food. number 5: unpretentious.
in college i had my heart broken when brady's yatch club, our favorite local dive bar, got "discovered" and was over run with hipsters. this is not to say that there are no hipsters in ruski's, cuz there frequently are. but there are also lots of salty dog regulars. everyone sort of balances each other out so it never feels like a scene for any one group of people.
there menu is very extensive and i almost always have a hard time ordering because how can you decide between a burger, a calzone, or nachos? there are just too many choices. and while it is very basic cuisine and a very large proportion of the menu is fried, its good stuff.
tonight we decided to share the chicken tenders appetizer with ranch dressing and the sauerkraut hot dog. i have been wanting to order a hot dog here for ages but just haven't. i shouldn't have waited so long cuz it was great -- it was quite meat-a-licous and tasty. i think their dogs are a pound each so i was happy to share it with seth. i am obsessed with fried chicken so i have never met a chicken tender i didn't like. one of these days i'm gonna order the fried chicken dinner with four pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy. all for $8.95.
oh yeah -- pbr pints are $2.

Monday, November 2, 2009

slow cooking

last night i made my first slow cooker meal of the season: lamb shanks with white beans. this is something i usually braise on the stove top or in the oven. but we had plans to have a little happy hour over at jen and andrew's house and i knew that by the time we got home it would be too late to start a braised dinner. so the night before i went about searching for a good slow cooker recipe for this dish.
one thing i love about the slow cooker is the ease. i love the idea of throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot before work and coming home to a beautiful dinner. but this dish does not fit into that bill. because the shanks need to be browned and the onions and garlic need to be sauteed, it took me nearly 40 minutes to get everything in the pot. so it was much better suited for the sunday dinner meal category. by the time the 8 hours of cooking time was up, the meat had completely fallen off the bone and the beans were super tender. it really did turn out great andi told seth it was the definition of succulent.
but i promise you, if i make this dish again in march i will hate it. because that is the curse of the slow cooker. no matter what you cook or what you cook it with, by the end of the season, everything comes out tasting exactly the same. maybe it's just that by march i'm craving fresh, barley cooked veggies and light summer fare. my taste buds have just had enough of hardy, meaty, rich foods. but right now in november, it is exactly what i am craving and this dish really hit the proverbial spot.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

my challenge

november is national novel writing month. knowing myself, i'm not gonna write a novel. so i got thinking about something i could challenge myself to do, that i might also enjoy. and it hit me: i enjoy writing this blog but i wish i were better at it. so i'm challenging myself to write one post a day in the month of november.
i think it's gonna work out well because nba basketball season started this week and that leaves me a time with nothing to do. let me explain. seth and i watch a lot of tv. i've always liked tv and it really is the ultimate brainless activity for me. i have a job that demands a lot of my brain power, so when i come home after a long day at work i just want to relax in front of the tv. which is usually fine ... except for basketball season. seth loves nba basketball in general and the celtics in particular. he must watch every celtics game on broadcasted on tv. in northern new england that means 3 to 4 games a week. when i start to whine about how much basketball he watches seth reminds me of the three years i forced him to live in new haven, connecticut where there exists a celtics vortex and they only show new york and new jersey games.
so anyway, i'm gonna have a lot of time on my hands this month, even if i do follow through and learn how to knit this winter.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

oysters, i can't get enough of them

i feel like i have always eaten oysters but i'm sure that's not true. my earliest memories of eating them goes back to age 10 or 12. like many men, my dad loved to bbq. his signature dish was bbq chicken cooked over a charcoal grill. but i guess from time to time he liked to mix it up. so once or twice a summer he would take a drive out to tomales bay and stop into johnson's oyster farm and buy a bag of 100 oysters for something like $40. these were big meaty oysters that lacked the nuanced flavors that many east coast varieties have. and as you might be guessing from my lead in, we bbq'd them. threw them on the grill unshucked and let the heat pop them open, then pull off the top shell and smothered them in butter and bbq sauce. i remember one time my friend tam and i ate like twenty a piece.

at this point in my life i didn't know that people ate oysters raw and even after i found out that people did, i sort of thought that californians ate their oysters bbq'd and east coasters ate them raw. and i may have been a little right. for some of you uber foodies out there, when i mention tomales bay and oysters, you think hog island oysters. when i was a kid they were just a tiny fledgling company and they had yet to change the way people thought about california oysters. so we ate these mediocre oysters bbq'd because frankly they tasted better that way.

nowadays i wouldn't dream of bbq'ing an oyster. i'm a purist and will hardly put more than a squeeze of lemon on my oyster. one of the highlights of my wedding day was our raw bar. five or six years ago when we attended otis and marya's wedding in wellfleet, massachusetts (otis's home town) and i gorged myself at their raw bar, i swore that i would do anything it took to have a raw bar at my own wedding. well when your husband grew up on cape cod and one of his best friends is a salty lobsterman out of provicetown, all you have to do is ask. as our wedding gift, damian brought us bushels and bushels of wellfleets. seth's friends all took turns rolling up their sleeves and shucking oysters and clams so we didn't have to pay the catering company to do it. the only bummer was i had to do a lot of socializing and couldn't just slurp oyster after oyster down.

and one more thing i love about maine is the oysters! seth and i love to go into harbor fish market and see what awesome selection of oysters they have on any given day. the usually have 8 to 10 variety, with the majority being from right here in maine. and in truth the inspiration for this post was a recent article in the new york times about oysters in maine. we love to get a selection -- a few pemaquids, a few damariscottas, a few wellfleets -- and see how their flavors compare. it didn't happen last february, but this winter i swear i'm gonna make it into j's oysters for their free oyster happy hour at least once.

boston eats

my friend sarah has been making these restaurant review movies for the last year and they are really fun to watch. she lives in boston so she aptly named them boston eats but she does have some episodes in new york and we are gonna try to do one next time she comes up to portland. follow these links to check out her restaurant reviews:
mi tierra
building on bond
number 7

Saturday, September 12, 2009

we are (almost) all going green

i was in hannaford today and as i was checking out, i happened to look around and notice that EVERYONE who was checking out had reusable bags with them. it just made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to think how far we have all come. as i have mentioned previously, i remember buying a cloth bag at stop and shop in dennis, massachusetts and being told i was the first person to ever buy one.
but of course i'm not totally naive. i'm pretty sure that it's not like this every where. it definitely wasn't like this in new haven, connecticut one short year ago when we were living there. and i did see a kid (yeah he made me feel old because he had tattoos so i knew he was at least 18 but he for sure looked 13) bag his cantaloupe. really? i get that people want to bag their tomatoes or nectarine cuz you eat the peel. but a cantaloupe does not need its own plastic bag to make it home to your kitchen. it basically has its own container.
and yesterday i was at a medical conference and they were serving juices and sodas and waters in plastic bottles and there was no where to recycle them. the garbage was almost completely full of plastic bottles with just a few pieces of real garbage mixed in. i put my cranberry juice cocktail bottle in my purse and brought it home to recycle.

corn and tomitillos

here are a couple of recipes i made this weekend. both new. one for tomitillo salsa and one for corn bread. (okay so i actually wrote this post a few weeks ago but i was drunk when i wrote it so i wanted to read it over when sober before posting it and then i forgot all about it)

tomitillos were from the hampton farmers market across the street from my work. at that farmers market i was reminded of how lucky i am to live in portland and have such a rich farmers market two times a week. into the tomitillo salsa i added cilantro and jalapeno from saturday's farmers market and i added one ear of fresh corn to the corn bread, also from saturday's market.

i thought the corn bread could have used more fresh corn but the others eating it said the ratio was good with just one ear and had i added more it may have upset the balance. this is great moist corn bread. i have been looking for a go-to recipe for corn bread for a while and i think i found it.

the recipe for tomitillo salsa calls for roasting the tomitillos under the broiler for 5-7 minutes and then blanching them. they were quite soft and well cooked after broiling them, so i skipped the blanch. i also somehow decided that it was really spicy with half a jalapeno when making it. but then when i went to eat it, there was no spice at all.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

creating food memories

this past labor day weekend my friend brian and his fiancee lane visited us. brian and i spent 10 months together in ghana when we were 20 years old and juniors in college. we lived on the campus of the university of ghana, in legon, a town just outside the capital city of accra. we shared a lot together in those ten months and in remembering it, there are a lot of food memories. brian loves food. in ways that are different and similar to me, but he loves food. this vague memory came back to me of taking a long taxi ride to some unfamiliar corner of accra for pancakes. brian was in heaven and i think i remember him making some very homer simpson-like noises as he devoured his pancakes. as anyone who has spent an extended time in a land with very foreign food knows, the simple pleasure of a familiar food can be so very comforting.
he also frequently came to my dorm room for dinner of pasta with red sauce. living in the dorms in ghana was both similar and different to living in dorms in the us. there are cafeterias but they only serve lunch, so students set up make-shift kitchens on our porches to cook. on my wobbly table i would chop tiny onions and garlic cloves. i owned one pot and an electric hot plate that had only one setting -- very hot. once the onions and garlic were sizzling in the oil i threw in tomato paste, imperfect little fresh tomatoes, and lots of salt. when the sauce was done i transferred it to one of my few bowl and boiled water in that same pot for the pasta. i can't remember what i would do if the water wasn't running. take it from my bucket stored full of water for my bath? once the pasta was cooked and drained, i poured the sauce over it and heated everything up. brian loved it. and truly its really the basis for the marinara sauce i make today. i even considered making brian my much improved spaghetti and meatballs while he was here.
instead brian and lane wanted to treat us to dinner as a wedding gift. we chose fore street. i have been wanting to try this restaurant for some time but it just hasn't been in the budget. so when brian emailed me a list of restaurants to consider, i told him i was dying to try fore street.

our reservations were late: 9:30 on a sunday night. we decided to head over there a little early to have a drink and see if they could seat us early. we were in awe the moment we walked in. the decor with the exposed brick and open duct work and all the wood is just beautiful. the hostess said she thought a table would be available early and so we headed into the beautiful bar to get a drink to start. before our drinks even arrived our table was ready and the hostess let us know that our drinks would be brought to our table for us. we were seated at this amazing table right by the window with a view of commercial street and the harbor.
brian, lane, and seth all got special cocktails and i had a glass of shiraz. the wines by the glass were really reasonably priced and there were quite a few choices. brian picked out a great bottle of wine to go with dinner and he said that there were a lot of price points to choose from on the list of bottles.
for appetizers seth and i shared a beautiful salad of rocket and fresh tomatoes as well as a charcuterie plate with fois gras, duck sausage, and sweet breads. both were amazing. seth made an observation that the serving sizes on the charcuterie plate were perfect, because if you eat too much fois gras you are asking for a stomach ache. lane thought she really wanted to try some maine oysters but didn't want to miss something spectacular on the appetizer menu. so she asked the server for his favorite and he said he could eat the oysters any time of day. lane loved the beautiful briny and slightly sweet damariscotta oysters.
i actually ordered the pork chop for my main dish at first because i was so interested in the idea of a pig from berwick, maine. but then before the server could leave i changed my order to the pan seared duck breast. this was definitely the right choice for me. while i know my own pork chops probably don't compare to chef hayward's pork chop, it is something i can and do make a home. duck on the other hand is a protein that still scares me a little as a home cook. i love the dark rich meat and order it out when ever i can but i'm still a little shy about making it myself. this duck breast had a thick layer of fat that was seared crispy and was served with transcendent white beans that were firm to the bite and just kissed with the taste of sage (sorry to use such a word but the beans really did bring me to another level).
the meal was wonderful; the company was wonderful; and in the end this was one of our most memorable wedding gifts.

Monday, September 7, 2009

there really is something in the bread

i knew we had great bakeries in this town and i have spent time extolling their virtues in a previous post. but its always nice to see portland's bakeries getting some real recognition in the form of a great review in bon appetit magazine.
there are also little blurbs about the great breweries, seafood, and just great food we have here in portland.
credit to portland food map for posting these links.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

guarenteed good meal

there are two places that seth and i go to on a regular basis and we know we will always get a good meal. and i have never written about either of them! in the portland food blog-o-sphere, both restaurants have gotten their fair shares of reviews, but let me tell you why i love caiola's and the port hole.
the port hole was the first restaurant i ever ate at in portland. one very raining march day, seth and i rolled in to portland to check the city out for the first time, and marya and otis took us here for lunch. i was immediately charmed by the rustic ambiance. i'm sure i got the haddock sandwich, which is served with a home made tarter sauce on fresh baked foccica bread and fresh cut french fries on the side. i'm sure i got this because it is something i order fairly regularly. they also have the most amazing fish chowder i have ever had. last night when seth and i shared a bowl it had huge chunks of haddock and was flavored with fresh herbs. for my main course last night i went with the angus burger and it did me right, though it was a little over done for my ordered temp of medium rare. i also love and adore their grilled salmon wrap served with greens that get deliciously wilted by the heat of the salmon. the atmosphere can vary widely depending on when you show up. in the middle of winter, there is nothing better than brunch with the fire going (is the fire still there after the remodel?). during the summer the deck is where its at, and you can usually find a table out there if your are in for breakfast or brunch or dinner on a week night. then there is the madness of friday nights and weekend late afternoons and evenings.
caiola's is a west end gem and my favorite restaurant in portland. we were also introduced to this place by otis and marya (they inspire us to be better foodies!). i have been here countless times for brunch and just a couple of times for dinner. i have never put anything in my mouth at this place that i didn't love. the last time we went in for brunch i ordered the lobster benedict from the specials menu. it was your typical bene with lemony creamy holindase and topped with sweet morsels of lobster meat and chantrel mushrooms. the meatyness of the mushrooms was an amazing combination with the lobster, fooling the mouth into thinking there was more lobster than there really was. seth and i frequently order the eggs tostada studded with little nuggets of chorizo. if you go for dinner it is an absolute must that you order the antipasto plate as this is likely the most awesome antipasto you will ever have, with roasted and marinated veggies, bean salads, and cured meats, usually including some breakfast sausage. it may sound strange but it is so right. the decor is simple but gorgeous, in what i think you would call french country. there is a wonderful patio out back that is so enjoyable on a summer morning with a bloody mary.
so there they are. my perspective on two of portland's great restaurants. since i just ate at the port hole last night maybe i will head to caiola's this weekend.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

street and co.

well i am a married woman now and i am hoping to have some extra time to get back into this blogging thing now that i'm not planning a huge party. once i have a little space from it i plan on writing about tips for an 'affordable' dyi wedding. but for now i will return to a topic i'm quite passionate about -- eating food!
we didn't take a honey moon and spent a little too much time with family and friends after the wedding for my taste. don't get me wrong, i love these people and under any other circumstance i would have been thrilled to spend this time with them. but all i really wanted to do was be alone with seth. so once we got back to portland we decided to use some of our wedding cash on a nice meal out. mostly at marya and otis's recommendation, and because seth cannot get enough seafood, i choose street and co.
we had reservation at 7:15 last sunday night and i was a little surprise to arrive to a very full restaurant. we were seated immediately in the middle dining room where the open kitchen is located. as seth likes to always face the entrance, he also got the view of the kitchen. the room was wonderful and warm with exposed beams and brick walls. the atmosphere is casual with the wait staff in white shirts and khaki shorts. its the kind of place you can go dressed up or dressed down and enjoy really great food.
seth doesn't really drink wine these days so he ordered a plisner urkel and i asked the server to bring me a glass of her favorite white of the by-the-glass menu. i don't remember what it was but it tasted great and went well with all our varied food choices.
we started with two 'tastes': bresaola in olive oil and lemon and maine crab stuffed egg. these tastes were perfect for the two of us to have just a bite of each. the bresaola's saltiness was contrasted perfectly with the bright tartness of the lemon juice. it surprised me that seth wanted to order the stuffed egg, because it was really just a fancy deviled egg, something he is not a fan of. but we both enjoyed it as an exceptionally delicious deviled egg.
unfortunately the appetizers came a little too quickly and i didn't feel like i got to savor my 'tastes' quite enough. but they were so delicious it didn't really matter. we ordered the local squid cooked with chorizo and a red oak lettuce salad with home cured bacon, fried shallots, and a cherry vinaigrette. the squid was mind-blowingly tender. i really didn't know it was possible to get squid to be so tender. the salad, ordered mostly because of the home cured bacon, was also phenomenal with generous amounts of bacon and those amazing fried shallots.
maybe because our appetizers came so quickly, there was kind of a long lag before our entrees came. seth ordered one of the specials. this seemed a little funny to me because they change their menu daily, so isn't everything really a special? but in any event he devoured his seafood stew in no time. really i don't think i had a chance to even try it, he ate so fast. i ordered the grilled whole lobster served over linguine with butter and garlic. when it came i was sort of disappointed that it was really just lobster, pasta, butter, and garlic. but once i dug in i realized that there was really nothing else this dish needed. the soft shelled lobster was split right down the middle which allows for removing all of the tender morsels of meat with ease. the juices of the lobster mingled into the garlicky butter to elevate each bite of pasta to so much more than just noodles and butter.
by the end of this feast we had no room for dessert. we sat and digested a bit while i had a cup of excellent coffee. the meal was amazing and special as a post wedding meal should be.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

another bakery to love

my friend jen just introduced me to a new bakery in portland. its called katie made bakery and katie has actually been in business for nine years but just opened up a retail space. its super cute with just a few window seats to sit and sip your coffee, eat your amazing baked good, and watch the traffic go by on cuberland avenue. they are serving pre-made sandwiches for lunch and katie can bake you a cake to order for you next special event.
its worth a trip to the east end just to check it out and eat a decadent brownie or out of this world peanut butter cookie.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

cape cod travel series, part 1

i have been spending a lot of time on line recently doing wedding stuff and it leaves me with little energy to blog. one thing i have been doing is putting together my wedding website with lots of cape cod tips for all the guests from out of town. i figure since i pay for the website and i will soon stop paying for it and lose all that hard work that i would transfer the info over here so that its accessible in perpetuity.
seth grew up on cape cod and we spend a lot of time out there. i started visiting about a year into our relationship, so nine years ago, and i just fell in love. as a california girl i really only had limited exposure to the east coast and virtually no exposure to new england, even though my mom grew up in south eastern massachusetts. i remember being initially struck by the sizes of people's yard and the fact that there was a lot of grass and no fences. i love cape cod like a second home and i am so excited to share it with all of my family and friends for our wedding.
so here is what i will call the first entry of my cape cod travel series. i plan on adding a bunch of info about great places to eat and i will post that here too, if i get around to it.

To the Beach!
As the cape is surrounded on all sides by water its no surprise that going to the beach is what most people do when on the cape. In addition to ocean beaches and bay beaches there are also dozens of ponds if you are more into fresh water. Follow the OnCape Beaches website to all of your beach info needs.

Out on the Water
There are lost of different opportunities to get out on the water on Cape Cod. I've never done it in all the time I have been visiting the cape but i can only imagine its a lot of fun! The Lobster Roll Cruises goes out of Sesuit Harbor in East Dennis. Think sunset cruise with a lobster roll! Hyannis Whale Watchers Cruises and Provincetown Whale Watch are good if you want to see those big mammals!

There is a lot to buy on cape cod! If you are into antiques this will be a dream come true for you as you cannot throw a stick without hitting a antique shop. A drive along route 6A would be a perfect shopping outing! Eden Hand Arts has beautiful jewelry and is the original home to the cape cod ball bracelet and have quite a cult following. They don't actually have a website but the link I included has some pictures of their lovely jewelry. Seth grew up going to the Brewster General Store. And while it used to be a little more functional and a little less touristy, it is still fun to get a bag of penny candy and relax on the benches out front. Lemon Tree is just a nice collection of shops, including great chocolates, beautiful pottery, and a great kitchen shop.

Hiking and Biking
Okay, so Cape Cod is virtually flat so their won't be too much strenuous hiking but there are lots of places to take beautiful walks and nice mellow bike rides. And don't think bike rides are out of the question just because you don't have your bike. You can rent bikes right at the Rail Trail in Brewster at Rail Trail Bike Shop. Nickerson State Park is right in Brewster and also has lovely ponds for swimming and fishing. The OnCape website has hiking and biking cape wide.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

winner winner chicken dinner

i love fried chicken. i have a lot of favorite foods but when it really comes down to it, my most favorite foods in the world are pizza, french fries, and fried chicken. if i had to eat one food for the rest of my life it would not be any of these three, but at least one would be part of my death row meal.
like so many foods i really love, i have a history with fried chicken. i can still see my mom shaking her chicken legs and thighs in no more than flour before frying them up for dinner. we used to go to this restaurant called zim's when i was a kid that was little more than a fancy denny's. but they had the best fried chicken wings, which we called drumettes for some reason (little drumstick?). we used to go there every christmas day for a number of years and all order those drumettes. my mom would try to replicate these delicious bits of fried goodness at home with ranch on the side for dipping. i am a total sucker for chicken fingers and fried chicken sandwiches, both with ranch dressing too.
i have needed a good fried chicken recipe for a while. seth makes chicken cutlet schnitzel which is dammed good but just not the same as picking up a piece of fried chicken in your hand and taking a bite. so a while back when everyday food arrived with a recipe for rosemary fried chicken, i didn't hesitate to make it. i have made it three or four times now and i just made it again last night. it is so good and so simple! i love it cuz you don't have to stand over a hot stove and fry the chicken all the way to doneness. you just get a nice crust on it and let the oven finish it off. its worth it to let the chicken marinate in the buttermilk for a few hours and you must use extra rosemary. i use just thighs cuz they are so meaty and delicious and the skin fries up really nicely.
if you love fried chicken like i do, cook this dish up in a hurry!

is there such thing as a free lunch?

i think that if you read this blog you get the idea that i love food. and there is one type of food i really love -- free food. one of the perks of being a health care provider is that you can take advantage of pharmaceutical company sponsored dinners. these meals do involve a lot of ethical questions but for the most part i choose to ignore those questions and just focus on the free meals at really great restaurants.
since i work on the seacoast of new hampshire these restaurants are in portsmouth and last week i found myself at jumpin' jays fish cafe listening to a lecture on smoking cessation in primary care. while i love a free meal i only go to topics i am interested in and smoking cessation happens to be a strong interest. with cigarette smoking increasing ones risk of all causes of death by 5,000 percent, i wouldn't be doing my job as a nurse practitioner if i didn't discuss quitting with my patients, and i do at every opportunity.
but this is really suppose to be more of a restaurant review than a post about health care so let me return to the restaurant at hand. i have wanted to try jumpin' jays for a while and i was excited that a good restaurant and a great topic were being offered together. the way these things work is like a prix fixed meal. this evening we had a choice of appetizer, salad, main, and dessert. the service is always quite wonderful and they start you out with a glass of wine the minute you walk in the room. they serve the appetizer and salad while the lecture is going on and dinner and dessert are served after.
i started out with the maine crab cakes served over baby greens and a wasabi remoulade. the cakes were almost all crab, spiked with kernels of sweet corn, and accented wonderfully with the spicy wasabi remoulade, which was a lot like spicy ketchup-mayo, but tasty all the same.
for my salad i went with the straight up caesar. i am a true caesar connoisseur as my mom makes one of the best most garlicky, anchovy-y caesars i have ever had. and i have to say that jumpin' jays caesar was pretty great. i find that many restaurants don't put a lot into their caesars, which tend to just be romaine lettuce with packaged caesar dressing. the dressing is usually thick and tangy without enough saltiness. but the caesar this evening was dressed perfectly with a dressing that really pulled in all the flavors of a true caesar. it did not come with anchovies but the dressing tasted like they were in there.
for my main i had the pan seared diver scallops served with a garlicky spinach and mashed potatoes. they were cooked well though they weren't really hot when they reached me and the serving portion was huge. yes this is a good thing but after an appetizer and a salad, not to mention two glasses of bordeaux, i was stuffed and couldn't finish all of my scallops.
being as full as i was and in the interest of getting back to portland at a semi reasonable hour, i left without waiting for dessert.
the lecture was surprisingly good, though of course all about the smoking cessation drug chantix. i tend to think its kind of funny that pharmaceutical companies think that by giving you free food and pens and boxes of tissue that you will actually prescribe their drugs more. but the reality is, if it didn't work they wouldn't spend their money on it. i for one am not swayed by the freebies and i always try to prescribe generic drugs to save my patients money. the trouble is, chantix really is the best drug for quitting smoking, its very expensive, and there is no generic.
and here is where the ethical question comes into play for me: if the pharmaceutical companies didn't pay for all these fancy dinners, or sponsor the doctors who give the lectures, would they be able to offer their drugs to consumers at a more reasonable price? but like i said before, i choose to focus on the free meal.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


i was just going to write a little post about artichokes when i checked mark bittman's blog to find a post about artichokes. the march issue of saveur had a great article about artichokes in which the author (david plotnikoff) summed up, more eloquently than i ever could, my childhood experiences with artichokes: "the big, meaty artichokes on my family table were served in an unpretentious style: steamed, pulled apart leaf by leaf, each leaf dipped in melted butter or best foods mayonnaise and pulled through clenched teeth to scrape away the flavorful flesh, until all that was left was the succulent heart." like the author, artichokes were commonplace on my family dinner table as a kid growing up in california. it wasn't until moving to the east coast that i realized how strange this strangest fruit really is. multiple times, when buying artichokes at the supermarket, i have been asked by the checker and other customers what they are and how are they cooked and eaten. they make me think of my mom and her obsession with best foods mayonnaise.
my cooking is pretty tame when it comes to preparing artichokes. though we eat them quite frequently, it is usually prepared as they are above. i do make this amazing turkey and artichoke stuffed shells that i can't get enough of. i substitute the ricotta for tofu, which i do in every recipe that calls for ricotta. its a great easy way to get some extra soy protein and i swear you can't tell the difference. i also prepare the recipe with whatever red sauce i feel like making. most recently we started buying big jars of marinated hearts at bj's and throwing them on pizza and in pasta.
the saveur article mentions that while most artichokes come from california there is a farm in maine that grows artichokes! four season farm in brooksville, me is run by barbara damrosch and eliot coleman. they have a farm stand that is open from 1-5 pm, Monday through Saturday, June 16 through September. it will definitely be on of my summer day trips to pick up some artichokes! and i am going to be adventurous and try some new artichoke recipes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

vietnamese penicillin

last weekend seth started to get a scratch in his throat. he was craving something that would soothe his sore throat and warm his insides. he knew what he needed, and it was pho. that delectable noodle soup that is eaten morning, noon, and night in the country of vietnam and is conveniently accessible in portland, maine.
now we usually hit up thanh thanh 2 but we have been meaning to try huong's downtown at 349 cumberland ave, so off we headed on foot. it was just after noon when we entered the tiny restaurant which is in serious need of a face lift. the eight or so tables are dominated by a large try of asian condiments. the walls and ceiling are a sad shade of white and of course there is the requisite collection of vietnamese kitsch decorating those sad walls. the menu is limited, only a few pages of classic vietnamese fare. but i never hold it against a place when they do a few things really good, and this is just what huong's did.
we started out with the fresh summer rolls with shredded pork, and incarnation i had never tried before, and i have had my fare share of summer rolls. they were wonderful, fresh and salty, complex and simple all at the same time. needless to say, we both ordered the pho, seth choose the beef pho while i stuck with the chicken. they were awesome! i love adding in the extras: fresh basil, mung bean sprouts, unidentified leafy greens, and fresh lime. i always add some hot sauce and hoisin to my steaming bowl to get just the right kick.
i carefully eyed the table of vietnamese diners to see the way they consumed their pho. in their right hand they held the chop sticks and in the left the soup spoon, which both ladled broth into their mouths but also aided the chopsticks in scooping up the solids.
the meal was a deal, as vietnamese should be, topping out at around $20 with tip. i remember this one place in the south end of boston that charged like $15 for a bowl of pho and all i could think about were the suckers that paid that much when the could have gotten a better, cheaper bowl in chinatown.
the pho did the trick in soothing seth's throat but unfortunately he still ended up with a full blown head cold and i inevitably started to feel that scratchy tickle in my own throat the following tuesday. as the day progressed i knew there was only one thing that would help my raw throat -- pho! seth did not complain when i suggested we hit up thanh thanh 2 for dinner that night.
on a side note, thanh thanh 2 is one of the reasons i decided portland was the town for me. i really thought i would love portland even before i visited but i truthfully envisioned myself stocking up on pho in boston's chinatown to store in my freezer for just such an occasion. so when seth and i first came to visit portland, on a very rainy weekend in early march, and marya and otis took us to thanh thanh 2 for dinner, i knew i had truly found home.
this time we started out with the fried egg rolls which are always delicious but a bit hazardous. they are so good yet served directly from the fryer and so i always burn my tongue in my hurry to consume their goodness. again i choose the chicken pho with the biggest difference between huong's and thanh thanh 2's being that the latter serves it with sliced jalapenos and less unidentifiable leafy greens. as always i loaded in the spicy and by the end of the bowl felt my sinuses clear and my throat soothed. seth branched out this time and ordered the thanh thanh mi vit tiem, a whole duck leg soup with yellow noodle and chinese broccli. otis has been raving about this bowl of soup for some time and seth felt it lived up to the raves. its pretty similar to pho, except its served with yellow noodles instead of rice noodles and there are more vegetables cooked in the broth.
as much as i consider myself to be a very adventurous eater, i only order two things at vietnamese restaurants: chicken pho and bun (rice noodles not in a soup) with grilled pork and hopefully egg rolls. its not that i am not willing to try new things, its just that these two dishes are so delicious and i don't want to be disappointed with something not as good. a lot of the time i look around at what other people get and it sort of looks like chinese food to me. if i wanted chinese i would get chinese, so i always order my standbys. there is one exception and that is when i have the pleasure to dining at pho viet huong on mulberry street in manhattan, where i always order the grilled beef and paypaya salad. it is always on the special menu and it is literally the food of the gods. if i had to choose one food to eat for the rest of my life this would be it. i have ordered grilled beef salads off of many a vietnamese and thai menu but none has ever compared to this one.
so i would like to say that eating the pho last tuesday healed me and i woke up wednesday a new woman. but i can't. my sore throat never did turn into a full blow head cold, but it did linger for quite a few days. in any event, we are lucky as hell to live in this northern new england city and have such awesome vietnamese food so readily available. seth and i suffered through three years in connecticut with only a few month window of good vietnamese food. so get out and enjoy these great options in the almost endless array of ethnic food in portland.
and someday, as portland food coma pleads, we may actually get some decent mexican in this town.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

stimulating the economy with a staycation

i have had this fantasy for a long time about secretly planning a trip to some tropical island and surprising seth with it. its a fantasy i can't make a reality yet but i did try to come close.
back in early february i was checking out the weekly email from travelzoo about great travel deals, when i noticed a special at the inn by the sea in cape elizabeth. this small hotel sits right on crescent beach state park, one of my favorite beaches, and the deal was really great! i thought, i can book this hotel for seth's birthday on march 6th and surprise him with it. so that's what i did, and i almost made it all the way to his birthday without telling him. i thought he needed something to look forward to so a week before his birthday i told him about the surprise.
let me just talk about how amazing this deal really was. the price for a fireplace room for one night was $129. i know this is a splurge but this room is $300 to $400 in the summer. and it was truly a beautiful room. the whole place was redone in june 2008 and it is comfortably luxurious. the bathroom was obscenely huge with a glassed-in shower the size of my whole bathroom at home. we had a view of the ocean from our room, a plush king size bed, a comfortable sitting area, and a huge flat screen tv.
when i was making the reservations i check out the hotel restaurant, sea glass. the menu looked great but it was a little spendy so i figured i would find some place nearby to dine. around the same time i was checking out the list of restaurants participating in maine restaurant week, which just happened to coincide with seth's birthday weekend. and there it was: sea glass was participating in restaurant week. for $30.09 per person we could get a three course meal! so i made reservations.
the dining rooms is quite small, which creates an intimate feeling with the warm furniture and over sized chairs. we were presented with both the restaurant week menu and the regular menu, which allowed us to see what a deal we were really getting. most of the entrees at the sea glass are around $25 so to get a 3 course meal for $30 is really amazing.
for our first course i choose the beet and spinach salad and seth picked the lobster bisque. my salad was delicious with both red and gold beets and what the menu termed a "snow" of goat cheese and smoked bacon. seth really liked his lobster bisque but felt that by the bottom of the bowl the tarragon oil overpowered the other flavors.
for our main courses i choose the grilled gaucho steak frites with chimichurri sauce and seth had the maine seafood paelle. i think the cut of steak was a new york strip grilled to a perfect medium rare. i love when i can get a steak that has a little char on the outside but still manages to be pink and juicy on the inside. the frites were amazing and quite reminiscent of duck fat fries in the flavor but not shape. i'm a big fan of chimichurri sauce, but i did think this one could have used a little more brightness. though i'm not sure i am one to comment as the chef is argentinian (once grilling season starts i will share my recipe for chimichurri). the paelle was slightly modified from the regular menu with the omission of lobster, but seth love it just the same. it contained all native seafood with maine shrimp, wild mussels, local clams, and calamari. seth could not stop raving about the smokiness the chorizo added.
for dessert i got the flourless chocolate souffle cake and i talked seth into getting something different in the vanilla creme caramel. the chocolate cake was absolutely decadent and dense. i like the creme caramel which was basically a flan served with this amazing passion fruit sorbet, but seth didn't care for it.
they have a full bar at the sea glass but seth went with a couple of local beers and i had a glass of wine. they don't serve beer on tap but they do have a good selection of beers in bottles. their wines by the glass selection was decent and well priced. our server was great -- efficient and helpful and never left us wanting for anything. all in all it was a great meal and i would recommend that people go out of their way to dine at this unassuming hotel restaurant in cape elizabeth. a couple of weeks ago i did notice they were doing a weeknight special of three courses for $25 but i don't see it on the website now.
after dinner we headed back up to our room to do what seth most wanted to do on his birthday night: watch the celtics play the cavaliers on that big screen tv. the next morning we lounged around our room for a couple of hours, drinking the coffee by design coffee supplied with the coffee maker in our room. seth said it was his best birthday ever.
i made the statement to seth that we were stimulating the economy with this little indulgence. and that got me thinking that spending money right now is kind of a charitable act. so if you have a little extra money, go spend it on yourself and feel good about it! and even if you don't have extra money right now keep you eyes open for specials at the inn by the sea in coming winters as it is surely worth the splurge.

Monday, February 23, 2009

gwyneth and me, lifestyle gurus

when i decided to start this blog WAY back in november 2008, i specifically chose a vague sort of name so that i could write about whatever i wanted to. i didn't simply want it to be a food blog; i didn't simply want it to be a blog about being a nurse practitioner; i wanted it to be able to grow with me and my changing interests. as my readers know jenner's mind is usually on food, but maybe it won't always be like that.
then i read an article about gwyneth paltrow in the style section of the new york times yesterday and i finally realized what this blog really is. just like gp i am trying to sell my lifestyle brand! i talk about food, i talk about eating out, i talk about health, i talk about the environment -- it's a lifestyle people!!! gwyneth's got goop, and i've got wijm (if you didn't figure it out -- where is jenner's mind).
so while martha and oprah might be watching out for gwyneth, gwyneth better watch out for me! if you haven't already, check out goop. its, um ... interesting.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

7 to 10 days

think of this posting as a public service announcement.

the average cold lasts seven to ten days. "colds", which in health care we call upper respiratory infections or rhinosinusitis, are caused by viruses. viruses can make you very sick. influenza, or the flu, is a virus and people are made very sick by this virus. viruses do not respond to antibiotics, only bacterial infections do. you are not less sick just because you don't need a antibiotic. you need to take care of your self. rest and fluids will do more for you then all the over the counter cold medicines combined. yes you are contagious and if i give you antibiotics you will not be less contagious, because as i just said, viruses do not respond to antibiotics.

save yourself money, save your health care provider time, and save many people from being exposed to your illness by not going to 'the doctor' when you have a cold. if you find yourself sick after 10 days or getting sicker after about 7, then you can head to your 'doctor' because you may now have a bacterial infection. this sometimes happens because your immune system gets run down from fighting a virus and all that snot in your head is the perfect breading ground for bacteria and wham you have a bacterial infection on top of your virus. this happens more often in people who smoke or have depressed immune systems. so quit smoking, eat well, and get eight hours of sleep a night!

the best thing to do for a cold is to not get one in the first place!!!! so again, take care of yourself! wash your hands like crazy in the winter, especially if you are around kid cuz they are little germ vectors. take more vitamin c -- i swear by emergen-c. i truely believe that one of the reasons i rarely get sick is that i eat garlic and onions in just about everything. they are both in the allium family and contain antiseptic, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial chemicals.

when i feel something coming on i drink a lot of tea and water. many 'hippy' brands of teas (traditional medicinals, yogi tea) make great concoctions for respiratory health and to sooth sore throats. peppermint tea is very good for respiratory health. to clear out those stuffed sinuses do a facial steam: pour near boiling water into a big glass bowl and tent your head over it with a towel and breath in the steam. if you have it, put five drops of a menthol-y essential oil (tea tree, peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus) and benefit from their antiseptic properties.

i know this is a little different from my usual food-obsessed posts but i'm pretty passionate about health too and i'm a little sick of seeing my patients for colds! and its not even march.

the perfect bagel

i have to start this entry by stating that i am not from new york city and so i'm a little more flexible than some about bagels. as mentioned before, i grew up in calfornia eating A LOT of bagel, almost all from marin bagel co. or noah's bagels. in santa cruz, where i went to college the bagelry put out some amazing combinations of toppings and flavored cream cheese that make my mouth water just thinking about them. with this said i love new york bagels and a trip to the big apple is incomplete without indulging in a chewy poppy seed bagel from one of the thousands of delis that puts out great bagels. and while my standards may be more lax than others, i still would rather not eat than have one of those pieces of bread in the shape of a bagel that many supermarket have in their bakery section and call bagels.
so after driving by many times and seeing an ad in the bollard for 158 pickett street cafe, claiming to be the home of the best bagels in the world, seth and i finally stopped in. its a super cute little cafe that has sort of a cabin-y feel to it. i was a little annoyed that their menu on the wall had no description of the items. am i just suppose to guess what is in or on each bagel and sandwich? i scanned the counter area looking for a printed menu with more detail but to now avail. so i decided to just go with the standby, poppy seed bagel with cream cheese, tomatoes, and red onion, but they were out of poppy. onion was a fine substitution.
in my mind i was wondering how this bagel would come out: open face or sandwich style? seth and i found a tiny little table, i got a cup of water in one of their reusable water cups, and i checked the place and the people out while we waited for our bagel. a few minutes later a very good looking guy with piercing blue eyes came over to our table with our bagel, served open face. first point in their favor as this is the way i think a bagel should be served. each bagel half was topped with a perfect schmear of cream cheese -- not too little not too much. two thinly sliced tomato slices and thin slivers of red onion sat on top of the cheese. the bagel was finished off with fresh cracked black pepper and big crystals of salt. after a couple of bites i realized there was also a drizzle of olive oil.
in my mind it was perfection. the bagel was light yet chewy with a good flavor all its own. the toppings were dispersed over the top of the bagel perfectly as to allow one to get a little of everything in each bite. but not overwhelming like when some places cut the onions too thick and all you taste is onion. it would have all been complete with just the salt and pepper but the olive oil really pushed it over the top.
all in all, i don't know if this was the best bagel in the world or even the best bagel i have ever had. but it was a great bagel and may be the best bagel in the portland area if not maine. and yes i have been to mr. bagels, a good bagel but not a great bagel.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

a little peruvian beach action in maine

seth did it again. he made an amazing creation utilizing sweet maine shrimp. this time it came in the form of cebiche (also known as ceviche). seth and i fell in love with cebiche while traveling along the pacific coast of peru and one bite of his maine shirmp cebiche brought my right back to an open air restaurant in huanchaco. a good cibeche can't be simpler with lime juice, cilantro, red onions, and salt as your only seasonings. this dish warmed me up on a cold february night in portland, maine.

i heart mark bittman

in honor of valentine's day, i will admit i love mark bittman. if you happened to catch any of the episodes of the disappointingly boring spain: on the road again, then you know that mario batali, gwyneth paltrow, and that hot spanish chick all call him 'bitty.' oh bitty, you have such a way with food.
i have owned his cook book how to cook everything for a good 8 years now but i have only recently truly embraced it. it so amazing to think about something you want to cook, check the index, and there you find the perfect recipe for your meal.
this happened tonight actually. in a recent post on his blog, bitten, bitty shamed me into giving up canned beans for dried beans. so with a bag of dried cannellini beans calling my name from my pantry, i decided i wanted to make something with sausage. i checked out how to cook everything and before i knew it i was eating tuscan white beans and italian sausage. the dish was as simple as it sounds but in truth this is bitty's MO. simple food cooked simply and deliciously.
the cookbook has even converted seth who usually refuses to cook from a recipe. now i have come home on numerous occasions to find one of bittty's dishes waiting for me to consume. so if you don't already own it, go out right now and buy the tenth anniversary edition of how to cook everything.
(no i was not paid by the mark bittman omnimedia corporation to write this.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

bag lady

i know it may be cliched to say but californians care more about the environment. and as i was born and raised in that state i have had a consciousness about the environment almost as long as i can remember. so when this new craze of going green popped up a few years ago, i was both excited and a little scared that it was just a fad. i also decided to challenge myself to find ways that i could be more green. this is when i decided to be more diligent about plastic bags.

no, i'm not talking about plastic shopping bags, i've been on the tip for years. i have used reusable bags grocery shopping since i started shopping for myself. i remember just a mere seven years ago, as i purchased a cloth bag in stop and shop, being told by the checker that i was the first person he had ever sold a bag to. seth has had a shtick for year where he tells the bagger his girlfriend is trying to save the world. i also have an obscene collection of reusable bags, and seth in fact calls me a bag lady, though my bag problem has grown significantly.

any person who is diligent about using reusable shopping bags knows that you still end up with a shit load of them because you forget to bring one into target or you don't speak up quick enough when they bag your one item at the convenience store. so that is one of my other ever growing collections of bags.

what i am talking about being more diligent about are all the plastic bags that everything we buy comes in. the plastic bags for produce at the supermarket, the plastic bag for my loaf of bread, the plastic bag for my frozen fruit, the plastic bag for my ball of pizza dough, the plastic bag for my slivered almonds.... the list just keeps going. and then there is the plastic wrapping and the plastic containers, and the plastic bottles, and the plastic forks. our world is fucking plastic and what is a girl who is a hippy at heart suppose to do?

i rinse them all out, dry them on my large aloe plant, recycle them, reuse them, or repurpose them. this creates another collection of bags. there is the collection of bags that are still strong enough and clean enough to be reused. and then there is the collection of bags that need to be recycled. portland is amazing about recycling (another reason why i love this city) but they don't recycle plastic bags at the curb. so every month or so, i bring my mammoth collection of need-to-be-recycled bags into hannafords or whole foods to recycle them.

of note i actually went to grad school with a woman whose father invented the plastic soda bottle. as you can imagine her family is super rich. she is a sweet person and i wouldn't want to wish ill will on her family, but maybe daddy should have to pay for some of the mess he has made.

one of my other new environmental challenges has been to get rid of all toxic house hold cleaners. the garden of eating blog has a great section on this if you want to take this challenge.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

asian home cooking

as i have mentioned before, seth really loves asian food, and i am a pretty big fan myself. so we have been cooking up some yummy asian food at home. seth recently made this awesome thai curry he has been making for years and i tried a new recipe for pork meatballs from this new cook book we got call food lovers vietnamese, a culinary journey of discovery. both recipes follow.

red or green chicken curry:
heat 1 oz oil and 2-3 tbsp red or green curry paste for one minute
add 3/4-1 lb cubed chicken until brown
add 1 cup coconut milk and 2 cup water, bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes
add veggies (tomatoes, snow peas, shitakis, etc.) cook 5 minutes
add 1 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tsp brown sugar, 2 tsp grated lime rind, 1/2 cup basil
toss well and season with salt and pepper to your liking
serve with basmati rice

this past time seth made this dish he used maine shrimp in addition to chicken. the shrimp worked beautifully. any protien really would. my only complaint about this amazingly flavorful meal is that the curry is never as thick as the ones you get in thai restaurants. in looking at the recipe it may be because you add so much water. cutting back on the water a little may help to thicken it. we also always use low fat coconut milk which probably changes the consistency a little. i'm sure we have tried to thicken it with corn starch before, but i can't remember how it turned out.

vietnamese pork meatballs (nem nuong):
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1lb coarsely ground pork
1 head tender lettuce, leaves separated
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced into half-rounds
12 or more fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp vegetable oil

put fish sauce and sugar in a bowl and whisk until sugar is completely dissolved. stir in shallot and garlic, and season with pepper to taste. add ground pork and mix together thoroughly. cover and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.
pinch off about 1 tbsp pork mixture and shape into small meatballs.
arrange lettuce leaves, carrots, cucumber, and mint leaves in individual piles on a large platter.
heat oil in a nonstick skillet, then add meatballs and cook, rolling them around, for 5 minutes, or until golden all over.
to eat, put meatball in center of lettuce leaf with carrot cucumber and mint leaf. wrap up and dip in your favorite sauce.

i served the meatballs with a super simple peanut sauce made by mixing equal parts water, hoisin sauce, and peanut butter. i also make a quick nuoc cham by mixing fish sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, garlic, and thai chilies. both sauces were also from food lovers vietnamese.

the meatballs were delicious. the sugar sort of caramelized all over the outside so even though they were quite savory they had this delicate sweetness to them. we ate them as dinner but they would also be a great appetizer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

indulgences in fat

for a while seth and i have been wanting to try the strangely named restaurant duck fat. but knowing that any restaurant with such a name would be an indulgence, we had to wait until we had a little extra cash. with some money burning a hole in our pockets we decided what better day to splurge than some random wednesday in the middle of january (in fact it is not so random a day in that we have a new president today, but this isn't really a political blog so we will stay away from that for now).
from our home in the west end we walked down to that foodie corner of portland, nestled between old port and the east end, which houses duck fat. it is so named because they use duck fat to fry their french fries. and oh what french fries they were! it is no hyperbole to say they were the best french fries i have ever had. it is rarely a french fry i meet that i do not need to salt, but these were perfectly seasoned, not only with salt but with little bits of fried garlic. we opted for truffled ketchup and garlic aoli as our dipping sauces. they were wonderful complements to the fries and quite ample portions. this is a lot for me to say, because as seth points out, i am a sauce whore.
they have a nice selection of panini, salads, and soups and today seth and i both went for panini. i had the tuna melt with provolone, capers, tomato, and cornichons. seth was a little skeptical at my selection but was pleasantly surprised to taste the deliciousness. this was no ordinary chicken-of-the-sea tuna melt, no doubt made with high quality canned tuna in olive oil (i don't know this for sure but its what i like to think for my $8.75 sandwich). it was salty and crispy and perfectly filling. seth went for the long island duck confit panino which he loved very much. the waiter suggested that for a mere $2.50 more he could add goat cheese. seth opted not to add it as the sandwich was already$9.50 but said that he did think the goat cheese would have been great addition. he thought their panini were wonderfully thin and commented on how it is difficult to find a panino with the right bread to filling ratio.
the service was excellent and even though you order at the counter the attention was better than table service at many places. with a tip commensurate with the fine service, our bill was just over $30. a bit of a splurge for a mid-week lunch for two. but as they are open until 9pm every night but sunday, it would be an affordable dinner. they also had some signs up about an awesome happy hour featuring a pbr tall boy and a small french fry for $5. sounds like a very happy hour to me.