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May 29, 2008

Simple & Delicious Grilled Salmon

I am of the "keep it simple" school. If I have company for dinner, it is because I want to spend time with them, so I try to have everything ready and delicious with the hope that it will be memorable – which means that they ask for the recipe! This marinade, courtesy of my friend Judy, is wonderful on salmon and has become a staple of my summer entertaining. Just try it once and you’ll see why.

Marinade:
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
6 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon (reserve the other half for later) and allow it to sit for 10 or 12 minutes. Place salmon on hot grill, skin side down. Discard marinade the fish was sitting in. Grill 4-5 minutes. Turn with spatula and grill for another 4-5 minutes. The salmon will be a bit rare but will continue cooking as it sits.

Transfer to plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow fish to rest for 10 minutes. Remove skin and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Katherine Emory is a columnist for MF&L.

May 27, 2008

A Maine Farmers’ Market: Chocolates & Fiddleheads

It was opening day at the Rockland Farmers’ Market and I headed straight to the public landing to see who was there. It was like a block party, filled with old friends and familiar faces, plus some new vendors I was eager to meet.

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Kerry Altiero from Café Miranda was there with his line of piquant sauces and salsas. Kate and Steve Shaffer were sampling their exquisite handmade Black Dinah chocolates, and Judy Getman had a sumptuous display of artisan breads from Atlantic Baking Company.

I got reacquainted with Caitlin Hunter of Appleton Creamery who was introducing cultured butter made with organic cream from Caldwell Farm. I bought some tomato, pepper and basil seedlings from Josh and Ning Oxley from Rolling Acres Farm for my garden. (Now that all the cardboard is gone, I can start the hard work of tilling in compost, building the furrows, and setting out seedlings.)Jimnfiddles2621_3

But the big surprise of the morning was running into Jim Freyenhagen who was there selling his maple syrup and baskets of freshly picked fiddleheads. We had done a feature on “Froggy’s Sap Shack,” as Jim calls his place, in the 2007 winter issue, and we’d heard he may have retired from the sugaring business. Not so fast, as it turns out. Jim looks better than ever and he’s just as busy as he ever was.

Even though the morning was overcast and dark clouds threatened, the first farmers’ market of the season is the official beginning of summer, as far as I’m concerned. It couldn’t have been a brighter day.

The Rockland Farmers’ Market continues until mid-October on Thursdays, 9-1.

Merrill Williams is the publisher of Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

May 26, 2008

Maine Gardening Time Again

Maine winters are great, and one of the special reasons I enjoy living here. But after what we’ve just gone through, I’m glad spring is here – longer, warmer days mean that it’s time for gardening.

And that’s just what I’ve been doing recently, spending long days with our restaurants’ kitchen crews out at Grand View Farm in Greene. We’re busy getting ready for the growing season, preparing beds, planting potatoes, onions, herbs, greens and other vegetables, even putting up a large greenhouse that we’ll use to extend the season. 

I enjoy all of the different parts of gardening – choosing what to plant, deciding when and how to plant it, tending the garden through the summer, and the reward of harvest. We’re experimenting with some Italian varietals that we aren’t usually able to get, and look forward to seeing how they turn out in the months ahead. Stay tuned!

It’s nice to share this enthusiasm with the people I work with in the kitchen – we’re out there in the beds together, swapping stories, sharing ideas, pulling weeds and developing a better understanding of the food we eat. I firmly believe that spending time out at the farm makes all of us better cooks when we get back in the kitchen: we don’t take the food for granted, appreciate the hard work, commitment and long hours put in by our many local farmers and growers.

The farm will supply us with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs throughout the summer and into the fall. And it’s neat to pull something out of the ground in the morning and use it in the kitchen the same evening.

Call me biased, but I think Maine has some of the best people growing and producing some of the best food anywhere. We’re lucky to be able to turn to them for seafood, cheeses, poultry, meats and more.

Lee Skawinski is Executive Chef at Cinque Terre and Vignola restaurants in Portland.

May 22, 2008

The Cardboard Garden, Part 3: The Big Reveal

With May weather getting warmer every day, I was itching to pull away the cardboard shroud that had covered my garden since January.

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I was skeptical that my experiment had worked at all. Was it guaranteed that grass and weeds that had spent the winter in darkness would really die, roots and all? Or would they be lurking beneath their cardboard blanket, rested after a long winter’s nap, and ready to burst into bloom?

I approached my garden warily, and was immediately outraged to see that a small clutch of dandelion leaves had found its way through two layers—landscape cloth and heavy packing cardboard—to emerge into the light of day. “Stinker!” I hissed at this unwanted survivor.

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Continue reading “The Cardboard Garden, Part 3: The Big Reveal” »

May 21, 2008

Playing in the Dirt

So here I am in Maine. A southern California-born boy who has lived everywhere from Iowa to Japan, who spent summers in my grandma’s kitchen in Louisiana – but who is nuts over the food coming out of the ground up here around my Maine home.

My first taste of locally grown foods was the field trip I had in first or second grade when I was living in Japan, and we went “sweet potato picking.” I remember marveling at the enormous size of the potatoes we were picking and taking home. I also like to think about the local man in Japan who would sell freshly roasted sweet potatoes to my mom from his cart that he pushed around.

As a person who loves food, growing up in southern California was a fantastic place to be since so much fresh, locally grown food was available year-round. I remember driving out to cherry, pear, and peach orchards and either picking the fruit, or buying it at unbelievable prices. My family would bring home baskets full of fresh fruit and my mom, would amaze me with all her preparation and preserving techniques. To me, that was dazzling, and when I saw her enjoy herself most in our kitchen.

Fast forward to me now in Maine, and to my thirst for gardening. Whenever I could, I’ve planted a garden. I seem to need to garden wherever I spend the most time. I’m starting a fresh vegetable garden at Solo Bistro now because it just seems like the natural thing to do. We use local sources for our food, of course, but growing my own little plot just seems to me to be a good way of supplementing our “food bin.” My garden that’s begun sprouting may be modest, but it will satisfy some part of my soul that needs to be outside and “playing in the dirt.”

Esau Crosby is the chef at Solo Bistro in Bath.

May 20, 2008

Maine Shrimp and Fiddlehead Pasta Recipe

Food lovers: Take note! Here is another one of Brian Beckett’s simply scrumptious, springtime recipes. This pasta dish melds a delightful pairing of two popular Maine ingredients: Maine shrimp with fresh, fiddlehead greens. The flavorful combination of herbs in Brian’s lemon butter delicately enhance these uniquely blended tastes of the Maine ocean and land. If you’ve yet to try fiddleheads, what are you waiting for? Your taste buds will stand up and applaud wildly for this one, cheering “Go Maine!” Be advised: Go get your fiddlehead fix now while the season is ripe!

Fiddlehead

Shrimp & Fiddlehead Pasta with Lemon Herb Butter & White Wine
Chef Brian Beckett
Thomaston Cafe

Repeat cleaning and cooking steps found in last fiddlehead post ("Fiddlehead and Feta Omelette").
Ingredients:
6 ounces Maine shrimp
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
4 ounces fresh fiddlehead greens
2 Tablespoons of herb butter (see recipe below)
Cooked pasta of your choice
1/3 cup white wine
Parmesan cheese

Herb butter recipe:
1 pound of softened butter, blended with:
1 teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons of Italian seasoning
2 Tablespoons of fresh parsley
1 teaspoon of garlic
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice

Saute  shrimp in olive oil. Add cooked fiddleheads when shrimp is ¾ done. Add herb butter. Let it melt and add the cooked pasta of your choice. Add white wine. Wine will cook off. Serve and top with parmesan cheese.

Melanie Hyatt is an editor at Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

May 19, 2008

A Stalk of Gentility

From a historical point of view, we at our house are being very genteel these days, what with the eating of so much asparagus. Our patch is about 17 years old, and we can tell that it is beginning to wobble in orbit, but still fine green stalks are there for the taking, both for dinner every other night and for freezing.

Two hundred years ago, asparagus was the territory of the well-to-do and genteel who had the time, and mainly the labor, to plant it, and then wait a while as it occupied valuable garden space until it bore sufficiently to begin cutting. Simmered and served on toast, actually in the 1700s and early 1800s, asparagus was cooked until tender but not mushy. Mushy came later in the 1800s as cooks, fearful of fairly newly discovered germs, thought it wise to cook almost anything very well.

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I have become such a maniac about eating asparagus fresh that I treat it like corn — get the steamer hot first, then go pick the asparagus. Please note that I do not ever, ever buy out of season so-called fresh asparagus so our own is a much anticipated, gratefully received, and celebrated vegetable. We ate the first few stalks almost reverently, and now as the stalks are more numerous, I make asparagus risotto, or a warm asparagus and pasta salad with parmesan on it. We even eat it with breakfast in an omelet.

Sandy Oliver, Food Historian, Author, MF&L columnist: The Way Things Were

May 18, 2008

Foods We Really Miss?

Jim Bazin: I’ll pick Arepas (ah-ray-pas). What’s that, you say? It’s a cornmeal patty (much like an English muffin, but made with corn). My father was born in Caracas, Venezuela and immigrated to the U.S. with his family at a very young age. Thankfully, he maintained his taste for some of his native foods, and I was fortunate to be exposed to arepas at an early age. They are one of those foods that you can enjoy so many ways (warm and slathered with butter, or as the basis for myriad sandwiches that can be stuffed with cheese-vegetables-meats). What I truly miss the most is the taste of a warm and heavily-buttered arepas in the morning, with a fresh cup of coffee or tea. If you get to try arepas, I’ll bet you can’t eat just one.

Sean Chung: I ate naeng myeon just about every week when I lived in Seoul. This popular North Korean noodle dish is  served cold, a braid of thin buckwheat noodles in a long simmered  beef broth filled with crushed ice or ice cubes that comes topped with slices of mild radish kimchi, tender beef brisket, slices of sweet Asian pear and half a hard-boiled egg. I like to intensify the mild flavors with the vinegar and hot mustard that usually accompany it. To me, it’s the perfect food poem to summer.

Katherine Emory: Anything fried! My roots are Southern, need I say more?

Melanie Hyatt: I miss my grandmother’s homemade root beer, her homemade chocolate ice cream, my Mom’s homemade french fries, and all the things my dad used to grow in the garden. I guess it’s the people, times, and  memories I miss more than the foods, come to think of it.

Merrill Williams: French bistro fare. As a student in Paris in the sixties, I could only afford a sandwich for lunch so I’d seek out the most modest sidewalk café in the quartier. My favorite choice was the ubiquitous “sandwich jambon au beurre,” a fresh baguette smeared with European butter and stuffed with sliced ham. The other day, I ventured into the Pastry Garden in Rockland, and ohmigod, there it was on the menu: jambon au beurre. I pounced, and savored every fatty bite. The only thing missing? Une biere blonde to go with mon sandwich.

Random thoughts from the staff at Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

May 17, 2008

Two Dinners at The Dames

What does the chef eat for dinner? Here are two frequent favorites at Casa Dame.

Bread and Broth

One of our most endearing of suppers came out of necessity in our early days of juggling both of our culinary school schedules, full-time jobs, and not a lot of cash. Bread and broth is still served at least once a week.

Take two soup bowls and cut up some old bread and place in bowls. In a saucepan, sauté two cloves of minced garlic in good olive oil. When it has browned, add 1 quart chicken or veggie stock and bring to a simmer. Then add whatever is on hand: a diced tomato, red pepper, shredded leftover chicken, duck, crispy pancetta, a handful of chopped parsley or whatever herbs are on hand. Pour broth over bread, and add a little freshly grated Parmesan or crumbled goat cheese, sprinkle with sea salt, and enjoy! A satisfying Dinner for Two for under $3.00!

Beanie Weenie Casserole

I have not met a chef who does not have an affinity for charcuterie. In its simplest form, it’s the marriage of the forgotten art of good meat loaf and the lowly hot dog.

Chef Bryan Dame has a few weaknesses: good pate, foie gras, sea urchin roe, Dolphin chocolate bars and his love of hot dogs – in any form be it hot, cold, alone, or on a bun, but his most favorite of all is Beanie Weenie. This crazy casserole that I make frequently for him and his friends is a kid-at-heart favorite. This mess of yellow cheese, baked beans, hot dogs, and egg noodles is surprisingly good and is truly comfort food.

Although I do not boost this to be my most thoughtful creation, it is quick, easy, and friendly.

In a large bowl, mix 1 package of hot dogs sliced in rounds, 1 large can of B&M baked beans, ½ pound cooked egg noodles, 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (bright yellow or orange for effect), 3 large squirts of ketchup, and 2 squirts of mild mustard. Pack into a baking dish. Take a small bag of  BBQ potato chips, crush, and sprinkle over top to form a crust. Cover casserole with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove foil and briefly brown chips. Then serve piping hot with a nice, chilled rose or a couple of cans of Pabts’ Blue Ribbon. A fulled bodied Rose is to Hot Dogs what Sauternes is to seared Foie Gras.

Enjoy !

Chef Bryan Dame & Natasha Dame of The Edge restaurant in Lincolnville.

May 16, 2008

Leek Appreciation

Everything’s happening at once now. The azalea outside the kitchen window bloomed just as the hummingbirds returned—or was it vice-versa? Asparagus is on the dinner plates every night. The little hoophouse (last year’s Mother’s Day gift) is a sea of greens. But it’s the leeks that have gained my renewed appreciation this year.

A couple of weeks ago, while visiting my daughter in Montreal, I decided to make potato-leek soup for us and, not having purchased leeks in years (since they grow in my garden), I went into sticker shock at the checkout. I thought the price was a whopping $1.49 per pound; it turned out to be a whoppinger $1.49 per leek! Canadian! And these were somewhat tired-looking, old, non-organic leeks.

Come to find out at the Camden Farmers’ Market last week that that’s not an unusual price—but the farmers’ overwintered, freshly-dug, organic leeks looked a lot cleaner, crisper and whiter than those in Montreal (known, otherwise, for its abundant fine food).

So, how fortunate that we had such a good snow cover last winter: The dozen or so leeks that I didn’t get around to digging in late fall are still in the garden, ready for some spring soup, spiked with a little sorrel, perhaps. (I’m really excited about the beautiful ‘Red Veined’ sorrel that Johnny’s sells and that I’ve just started growing)

How fortunate, too, to have a little flat of leek seedlings, started on the windowsill in February, to plant out this spring. I will have to leave some in the garden this fall to overwinter—maybe under hoops covered with double layers of row cover, a technique that Eliot Coleman suggested trying with various crops at last year’s Common Ground Country Fair.

Jean English is the editor of MOFGA’s, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.   

Marshmallows, Then and Now

Among those of us who enjoy working in the kitchen, the ecstasy of it all can sometimes break out in agony. I’m talking about recipes that flop.

There were the eggs that curdled in three tries at the same recipe. That recipe had such promise – it sounded so good, it worked so well until the part about curdling – that I had to keep trying, until I was finally defeated. It was something baked, that’s all I remember, because I wanted to forget. Not knowing what it was, I can’t be tempted to try it again.

Then there was the two-ingredient dessert, an elegant, delicious, surprisingly simple thing I learned from my mother-in-law, a gourmet cook long before everybody with a pepper grinder claimed that status. She grew artichokes. She pickled walnuts from her own tree. She entertained. Who would ever guess that her Coffee Jelly (a fancy rendering of "gelatin") consisted of one pound of plebeian marshmallows melted in two cups of strong coffee?

In my young-wifey days and later too, I made Coffee Jelly to crown many a meal of, say, Austrian Veal Goulash and Noodles, Paprikasalat, and some side dish or other; I was a devoted disciple of this mother-in-law and tried to imitate her dinner party triumphs.

But time passes, and products change. After sharing that recipe in print recently without retesting it first – I hadn’t made it in ages, but how could one go wrong with two dumb ingredients? – I was horrified to hear that the wondrous dessert had morphed  into a gummy, icky-sweet creature that nobody liked. Eventually we learned from the marshmallow manufacturer that those puffy little critters are now made by an extrusion process that requires a different formula.

So we retooled too, told everybody to cut the marshmallow component to ten ounces and leave the coffee at two cups. Now they’re happy. But for me, that dessert is a thing of the glorious past, when marshmallows were molded, not extruded. It’s all over between us.

Karyl Bannister writes and illustrates the newsletter Cook & Tell, published ten times a year.   

May 14, 2008

Bowdoin Organic Garden – A News Update

I’m new to the posts – my name is Katherine Creswell, and I manage Bowdoin College’s organic garden (affectionately called the BOG). A brief program synopsis: we have a little over an acre to grow on; three-quarters of the land is on the property of Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick, and the other portion is on campus. All the food we grow goes directly to the dining halls. The program consists of myself, in a full-time, 7 month/year position; a student intern who works June-August; and dozens of student and community volunteers. This is my fourth season at the job, and, like previous seasons, we’re busier, bigger, and more ambitious than last year.

The season is well underway at the garden, having started outside earlier than any other season. At the campus garden, where the soil warms up faster and is loose sandy loam, we have the greens mix seeded and growing (beet greens, spinach, arugula, rainbow chard, siberian kale, mizuna, mibuna, red mustard and lettuce mix), the early root crops sprouting (yaya and sugarsnax carrots, chioggia and detroit beets, easter egg radishes and hakurei turnips), and peas a-climbing. Our 2 year old blueberry bushes survived a harsh winter and are full of new growth.

The big field is surprisingly dry and friable, considering it is a heavy clay loam. We have a brand new portion of the field dug up for planting hot crops this season, allowing us to leave a portion of the other field to rest under PVO (peas-vetch-oats). We just spread and disced in 28 yards of beautiful compost. In the unheated greenhouse, we have lettuce heads, herbs, brassicas (lacinato kale, green magic and de cicco broccoli, farao and red express cabbage) and flowers emerging. In the heated greenhouse we have endless flats of tomatoes (peacevine, matt’s wild, black cherry, cosmonaut volkov, striped german, crimson sprinter, rose de berne), eggplants (swallow), peppers (jimmy nardello’s, early jalapeno) and curcurbits (raven, parthenon, new england pie, marketmore, carnival and delicata) covering every available bench.

New this season, we’re working on ordering two bicycle trailers to transport produce and supplies between the big field and campus, a distance of 2.5 miles that we’ve previously borrowed trucks for. We just got our budget proposal approved, so now we’re trying to narrow down our choices from 7 qualified manufacturers to one winner! We just bought our own rototiller, which will hasten things along tremendously throughout the season. We also are in the midst of planting a brand new strawberry patch (cabot, sparkle and earliglow), and just finished planting 200′ of asparagus (purple passion and jersey supreme).

We hope to have our first harvest before the seniors leave for good, in 3 weeks. Personally, I’m dreading when the students leave, because the campus adopts a hollow empty feeling and student volunteers are noticeably absent in the fields. I also can’t wait until my summer intern starts to ease the work load!

Katherine Creswell manages the Bowdoin College Organic Garden.

May 13, 2008

Your Favorite Spot in Maine?

Tricky topic, "favorite spot;" either you’re in the confessional or you’ve joined the Chamber of Commerce. But if favorite means "I go there all the time," a top candidate would be the weekly farmers market in Rockland. It’s on Thursdays from 9 to 1 at the public landing and that’s a big part of what makes it a standout. First class produce, meat, cheese and baked goods are (fortunate us!) pretty much a given at any Midcoast farmers market, but because Rockland’s is right next door to the harbor, you can look up from buying a box of fragrant local strawberries – or perhaps a restorative pastry – and there in the background is a frieze of boats and the beautiful deep blue sea.

Writer and editor Leslie Land writes about gardening and food.   

Fiddlehead and Feta Cheese Omelette Recipe

When I was growing up, Saturday nights at our house meant Mom making homemade pizzas. On Sunday mornings we would often have leftover chopped peppers, onion, meats, and cheeses in the fridge, and I would use those to create special omelettes for my little brother, Brian. He’d gobble them up and I’d feel like Julia Child.

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Brian is now the chef at the Thomaston Cafe and has become the cooking inspiration of the family! Here is one of his most popular recipes for spring:

Fiddlehead & Feta Omelette
Brian Beckett, Thomaston Cafe

4 ounces. fresh fiddlehead greens
¼ cup of milk
3 eggs, beaten lightly
Butter
1 ounce feta cheese

Clean fiddleheads by rinsing them. Snap off the ends of the stems. Then, blanch in seasoned boiling water. Cool immediately in ice water. Mix ¼ cup of milk with 3 eggs. Heat skillet with butter, add eggs and the fiddleheads. When almost done, add the feta cheese.

Melanie Hyatt is an editor at Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine .

May 12, 2008

Nibbles on the road

A food writer gets to eat a lot. And when faced with so many amazing options, why limit yourself to what you are officially researching? A few gustatory highlights that are not related to the piece I am working on … but could be in the future:

  • Down a few miles off Rt. 1 in N. Waldoboro, garlicky pickle lovers rejoice. This now includes me. Morse’s reubens — piled with fresh corned beef and their signature kraut — are worth every drippy slurp. Just be sure you have enough napkins. And that you can fight your father for a bite.
  • Giant U-10 scallops over grilled pattypans at Fuel in Lewiston. This is enhanced by a giant, crisp martini from their very sexy bar. Sit there, especially if you have a hard time eating in the dark.
  • If you like jerky, smoke and fish — and have superhuman jaw strength — try a bag of smoked teriyaki cod jerky from Smokin Annie’s. Easy-to-access one-hand-on-the-wheel snacking.
  • Maine crab and avocado salad, fried clams and a pint of Allagash White at the Portland Lobster Co. on Commercial Street in Portland. I think we were lucky to come before the crowds. The space on their deck overlooking the pier provided a great Mother’s Day backdrop, and there was enough room for the dog to get a drink too before we continued our walk on one of the many waterside trails around town.   

Jessica Strelitz is a contributing writer to Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

May 11, 2008

What Does the Chef Eat at Home?

I love this question because it the one I am asked the most, as the host at The Edge and the wife of Chef Bryan Dame. The simple quick answer is “whatever I feed him.” Honestly, after 12 hours in front of a stove, most chefs do not have the ambition to cook dinner.

Food is our life and is not taken lightly at Casa Dame. We talk about, read about, watch TV about, we buy from producers we know and trust, chef hunts, we grow vegetables, tour farms, pet live stock that will be dinner in a few months, and get up crazy early to go to the fish exchange. We buy oddities on the Internet, forage for wild foods, always seek out the best markets when visiting cities and there is always a fresh loaf of homemade bread on our kitchen counter.

Yes, we do enjoy and I make beautiful romantic meals like the perfect roast chicken with buttery mashed potatoes; poached halibut over braised leeks; filet crusted with gorgonzola, shallots and parsley in a red wine reduction; homemade sushi; hand rolled pasta, and, yes, all of the classic sauces do grace our dinner table, but we reserve those meals for nights off and special occasions.

In our kitchen is a battery of equipment that would make Escoffier proud. Our pantry houses seven types of vinegar, six kinds of flour, and an astounding amount of condiments, but the truffle oil is right at home in the fridge with Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.

The rules of dinner are simple: easy preparation, made from scratch—fresh, local when available—nutritious, and the most of every dollar. I’ve been known to spend a king’s ransom on a pound of fair trade coffee but otherwise I am an incredibly savvy and thrifty shopper.

So what does that translate to on the plate? Many seasonal soups and stews, lots of fresh vegetables, pounds of salad, a cheese plate with fruit and bread, grilled foods, tofu eight ways, omelets with a variety of filling, falafel, loaded baked potatoes, tacos, banana pancakes, grilled cheese plain or dressed up, and plenty of whole grains and beans.

The most important rule to dinner is that it should be leisurely and shared.  Simple, tasty and together.

Chef Bryan Dame & Natasha Dame of The Edge restaurant in Lincolnville.

May 9, 2008

The tastes of Maine

I’ve logged more than 500 miles in 2 days on assignment checking out Maine eateries that have stood the test of time. While I work on this story (which should be in the magazine later this summer), here are a few rules for a Maine food road trip:

  • Pace yourself. Do not start out with a breakfast sandwich at the airport in Baltimore. You may think you are hungry, but it will likely be overwhelmingly disappointing and take up unnecessary space in your stomach. Especially when the next meal you are faced with involves the option for amazing corn muffins.
  • Take a map. Even if you lived in Maine for 18 years and your family has lived in the state your entire life — living in another state for eight years where driving 5 miles takes 45 minutes twists your sense of time-distance to an unrecognizable state.
  • Bring your own soundtrack, because where you’re going, the radio becomes very limited. Mine so far has been: Miles Davis, Dave Matthews, Stevie Wonder, Indigo Girls, Springsteen & Wilco.
  • Watch your fuel. If gas is offered to you by the car rental agency at $3.55 per gallon — buy as much as you can — especially when "on the street" you will not see it below $3.68 per gallon for 2 days. Also, ask if you can buy extra to sell on the side of the road when you are running low on funds due to overconsumption of blueberry pie. Note: This is not recommended, as it is: 1) dangerous, and 2) who wants to drive around in a car that smells like gas?
  • Pay attention. Don’t check your BlackBerry while driving down a road with moose warning signs. This is guaranteed to bring moose out of the woods.
  • Get out of the car and move around. Walking 100 yards down Route 1 looking for a diner does not constitute exercise when you are eating 4 (large) meals a day. 
  • Remember, it’s May in Maine. It may be 80 degrees today, but tomorrow it will be 40 and raining. Eat outside if you can an enjoy it while it lasts.
  • If it looks good, try it. The next place may not have Hermits (nutmeg! cinnamon! raisins!). What is wrong with me!?)
  • Talk with everyone. From owners to bussers, everyone has a story and it’s always much more interesting than yours.
  • Eat at the counter. Ask what other people are eating. Eat that. And bring some home for family.

Jessica Strelitz is a contributing writer to Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

May 8, 2008

Spring Dandelion Salad

Last night, we headed to Suzuki’s Sushi Bar in Rockland to satisfy a sushi jones that we could no longer ignore. As always, the sushi was excellent, but we didn’t expect to be blown away by a special item on the menu: a spring dandelion salad.

Created by Yuki, who is known for her extraordinary desserts and her inventive use of seasonal ingredients, the salad was delightful. The dandelion greens were about as local as you can get: Joe Steinberger, who owns the restaurant with his wife Keiko, picked them himself. That’s when Yuki took over. She garnished the greens with very thinly shaved Vidalia onions and fresh tuna tartar, then dressed the salad with a vinaigrette of oil and rice wine vinegar blended with yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, shiso, a Japanese herb, pickled plums sweetened with some sugar, and finely ground white sesame seeds.

Followed by sushi rolls made with fresh crab and raw salmon, and a small bottle of Hyorei Junmai Genshu sake, the meal was a highlight.

Merrill Williams is the publisher of Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

May 6, 2008

What Happened to Home Cheesemaking?

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I have no childhood memories of eating homemade bread. It’s not that my Mother dislikes cooking, as she often shares with me a new recipe she is trying, I think she just had her hands full raising four children while working as a Registered Nurse. No memories of my Grandmother making bread either, however, her fresh pan-fried Rainbow Trout— she and my Grandfather caught in a local stream— I remember well, along with raspberries from her garden and fresh spring rhubarb, with which she always supplied a small dipping bowl full of granulated sugar. Yum! What an amazing concept for a young boy; dip that sour stem into enough sugar—and I mean load it up—and it actually tastes good. So the question becomes; when did bread making fall out of favor, or was I merely brought up in a family with limited culinary interest?

I bring up bread since it is far more likely that the average person will have an experience with bread making in the family kitchen than a memory of cheese making at home. Unfortunately, both of these processes of fermentation have all but disappeared from the home kitchen of the 21st century.

Continue reading “What Happened to Home Cheesemaking?” »

May 3, 2008

A Mainer’s Guide to Happiness, Part II

More thoughts to ponder as you consider what matters to you, how you might have lost sight of it all, and how you may attempt to get it back. Let your mind retrace the steps of sustaining memories of your past. Build a sandcastle again. Take a walk in the rain with an umbrella, splashing in all the puddles. Smile and let the world wonder what you’ve been up to. Whatever you do, just don’t lose sight of what matters.

  1. Garden. I remember as a little girl wading through rows of vines, stalks, and climbing trellises in our back yard. My dad was an avid gardener. I remember one year he read a book on square-foot-gardening, which was all the rage at some point in the 80’s, and we had rows of neat little nailed together square foot boxes plotted out in our back yard. It was a pleasure growing our own pumpkins to carve for Halloween, eating fresh peas in the pod right off the vine, and enjoying our own grown salads fresh at the dinner table. Nothing tastes better than home grown. If you can, grow it. Yourself.
  2. Spend more time with family and friends. Let’s face it, none of us is going to be around forever. Let the people you love know it. Don’t wait. Spend time with them doing things you both enjoy. The memories will be long cherished. Live now.
  3. Haunt and revisit the places that inspire, sustain, and heal. One of my favorite places is the ocean. I love it there for the salty breeze, the feel of the gritty sand beneath my feet and between my toes on a hot afternoon, and the opportunity it provides to satisfy my collector’s heart. I go there for the shells and sea glass. I go there for the natural relaxation it provides, and I go there for the chance to get away from the hectic, overdone days of my life. And I am never disappointed or feel I’ve wasted my time for having gone there. Enjoy nature again.
  4. Draw and paint. These are gifts I have been wasting by putting other “priorities” first. I guess re-prioritize my life would be a good addition to this list, too. I used to love losing myself at my art desk loaded with charcoals, pastels, watercolors, oils, different types of paper and canvases and brushes and…wow, I miss it. I spent teenage summers capturing flowers and fruit, seascapes, landscapes. I won awards at local fairs for my artwork. What happened? Who knows? Just get it back.
  5. Just Breathe. Now I know this sounds like an odd statement to make, but there is a lot of stress in this world. I’ve done yoga, and one of the greatest benefits it teaches is how to live in the moment. We’re all too worried about tomorrow, what might happen, or the past and what has already happened. Take 10, deep-cleansing breaths twice daily. Sit in a quiet place when you do this, and close your eyes. Forget about having to do something, having to be somewhere, just sit there and focus on the breath. The world doesn’t teach us that it’s ok to be alone with ourselves, quietly.

How did I allow life to become so non-inclusive of all the things I love? I guess things that are big get lost in the background of our lives sometimes, replaced by the mundane, smaller necessities of living. In an effort to bring those sustaining backdrops back to life, take a few minutes to remember what you love, and why.

Melanie Hyatt is an editor at Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine .