Sunday, June 26, 2011

Portland Greek Festival

The Greek Food Festival was this past Thursday through Saturday. And yes, that's the title of it.  I like that they don't try to make it about any other aspect of the culture than the food.  We're just here for the loukoumades.  

My friends live right across the street from the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, so every year they have a party at their house. It's genius, because you can slip across the street, make a beeline for the gyros, and then return to your beer and game of Cornhole.

While the tent is a festive place, with music, and lots of socializing, I'm just here for the food.

It's like Sophie's Choice in there, deciding what to order. Fortunately, you can do like I did and just get one of most everything.  With the Greek fest happening once a year, why pick?

But my favorite is the gyro.  Hands down.  Soft pitas, warm beef, and a ridiculous amount of tzatziki.  The only thing I would like is fries inside, like they do in Greece.  But in Greece, they wouldn't have given you a bathtub of tzatziki to go with your gyro, so it's a fair trade.

And the baklava, ohhh, the baklava.  Why didn't I get a stockpile?  Who are these Greek grandmothers making this stuff and how do I get to know them?

And it's actually OK that I can't get loukoumades more frequently than once a year.  These donuts, covered in honey, nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar are to die for.  They disappeared way to fast.  And being right across the street was dangerous, as we were tempted to go get 4 more orders.

Should I start going to the Greek Orthodox Church as a ploy to get more Greek pastries?  I'm not above that, you know.  But see you next year, Greek fest!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Can It Foward Day: August 13, 2011

Get ready, kids.  Canning season is upon us.  Strawberries are coming out at the markets, Pick Your Own fields are opening, the Cape Elizabeth Strawberry Festival is this weekend.

Don't know where to begin?  Take a canning class with me (only $10 and locations around Southern and mid-coast Maine).  Then, practice with your friends, especially on August 13th, so you can be a part of Can It Forward Day.

If you're someone who likes to learn from the Internets, check out my How to Can Dilly Beans post or tutorials on the National Center For Home Food Preservation's site.

Happy canning, and please share what you plan on putting up this summer!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Novare Res Japadogs

red snappy dogs.  nori.  pickled ginger.  kewpi mayo.  sesame seeds.  wasabi.  beer. 

oh yes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

BBF Travels: the Squealing Pig in Provincetown

I was in Provincetown, Mass on Cape Cod last weekend, for the first time since I sailed there on a boat with kids. I was excited to do all the things that looked fun the first time around, but that I hadn't been able to partake in. Namely, drinking.

On my first visit, fresh off the boat, we see an underground bar called the Foc'sle. Being boat nerds, we were so excited to come back and try it. So when I found a gallery called the Foc'sle in P'town this time around, I thought I'd ask the guy about the bar. (OK, and oddly enough, this Foc'sle gallery is owned by the Rogues Gallery guy. Small world!)

He pointed me to the Squealing Pig and told me some confusing story about owners and signs and this place. I was slightly confused, but the takeaway message was go drink beer and eat oysters there. I'd already scoped this place as some place I'd like to hang out. Oysters? Belgian beer? I'm there.

So we stopped in for a happy hour bite (before returning later for the Stanley Cup game 6 and 'Gansetts). My mom, my friend A. and I ordered up pints, a dozen Wellfleet oysters and a bowl of fries dusted with Parm and truffle oil.

Is there anything better than those three things in a nice bar with the people you love? I think not.

Our first half dozen of local Wellfleets was served with cocktail sauce with lots of fresh horseradish. The next half dozen, we got with wasabi, ginger, and soy sauce. The second batch of toppings was amazing, complimenting the oysters, rather than overwhelming them like cocktail sauce tends to do.

I was so tempted to put this pint glass in my purse, but was a good girl and did not (it has the Squealing Pig logo on the other side). 

This is the summer brew, a hefeweizen from Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis. I'm really starting to get into hefes, and this one is a great summer seasonal. For me, summer beers can taste too filtered and devoid of taste. But this one was rich, yet light, and full of hefeweizen flavors.

This place would fit right in in Portland, but since Ptown has a little more eccentric bent, it seemed like a rarity to me. I was so happy to have found it (and just two blocks from our place on Commercial Street!), and was totally won over.

"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."

Squealing Pig on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ice Cream-o-rama

The June O-Rama installation has a summer theme: gelato and ice cream, and so I stopped by Bard Coffee to try Gelato Fiasco's gelato affogato.

I'm happy to have had the chance to try Brunswick-based Gelato Fiasco.  It seems I'm always hearing about all the great things in Brunswick, but since I'm loathe to leave Portland, I've yet to experience El Camino, Lion's Pride Pub, Frontier Cafe, or Great Impasta.

So I love to see a local vendor offer Gelato Fiasco, so I can stay in my Old Port comfort zone, yet taste some great gelato.  Since Saturday was a rainy, blah day, I went with salted caramel affogato (with a shot of espresso poured over it).

You can see the sea salt caramel on the left in the above photo, next to Grape Nuts (bleh, that flavor is lost on me).

But the salted caramel affogato was awesome.  Caramel (salted or not) can be a little cloying, but the bitter espresso flavor balanced out all the sugar.  Every now and then a little salt came through after a satisfyingly crunchy grain.

And Bard Coffee is so fantastic.  Everyone there is so friendly, patrons and staff alike.  And on this particular day, Pete Miller was there with his acoustic guitar and his band mate with an upright bass.  I curled into a leather sofa, listening to the great music, sipping/spooning my concoction, being so happy to be home in Portland.

The Gelato Fiasco on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Portland Fermenting Workshops

Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food preservation, and lately, there's been a resurgence in the popularity of fermented foods.  Many people are interested in the taste and health benefits, but don't know how to ferment successfully.  Fortunately, nature does the work if we provide the right conditions for fermentation. 

If you're interested in learning how to ferment and taking home a quart of started veggies, check out the Fermentation Workshop Series I'm teaching at the Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland.  Our first class is kimchi, next Wednesday night.  For $20 you'll receive 2.5 hours of instruction and take home recipes, fact sheets, and a quart of started kimchi.

In the meantime, check out the batch of kimchi I started in preparation for next week's class.  I am following the recipe from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz and it takes about a week to fully ferment.  In case you've never had it, kimchi is a spicy Korean condiment.  It's slightly sour, tangy, and spicy.  And it's a great way to use up all the random vegetables in your fridge or leftover from your CSA share (you can add green beans, peas, seaweed, Jerusalem artichokes, etc).

To start, I brined all of the vegetables (Napa cabbage, carrots, and radishes) overnight in a strong salt water brine- which helps to soften the vegetables.  The next day, I drained them, reserved the brine, and tasted them.  They were unpleasantly salty, so I rinsed them well.

Then I finely chopped up one large shallot, half a yellow onion, two Serrano peppers, and three garlic cloves.  I also grated three tablespoons of ginger (which is a lot of ginger!).  This spice paste is where you can make it as spicy as you'd like.  You can add more of any of the above ingredients, as well as green onions and leeks.

I mixed the spice paste and the sliced vegetables together well and packed them tightly into a quart jar.  There was a bit of brine emerging from the vegetables, but not enough to cover them, so I added in some of the reserved brine. 

Then I weighted down the vegetables with a water-filled 12oz. canning jar and placed it on a plate to catch any brine overflow.  I'll leave this on the counter (at about 68 degrees F) for a week and then move it into the fridge for longer term storage.

Check on your fermenting veggies daily; taste them (with clean hands!), and make sure they are fully submerged below the brine. Any exposed veggies will be vulnerable to mold.

Right now, the salt is inhibiting any toxic microbial growth (aka the nasties), and in a few days, the bacteria lactobacilli will begin to produce lactic acid through the fermentation reaction.  Once the bacteria have used up all the sugars and starches, the process will be complete and the acidity level will make the product safe for long term storage (4 to 6 months in the fridge).  If I wanted to, I could heat-process this product in a boiling water bath, but that would kill all the gut-friendly organisms (aka probiotics).

If you'd like to get your hands clean (heh) with me to learn more about this process, I hope to see you at the Ferm next Wednesday. Registration can be taken online through the UFF's Skills Classes page, and there are plenty of other fermented topics to explore all summer long.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Maine Foodie Tours

I have a new summer gig that I'm excited to share with you - I'm a guide with the Maine Foodie Tours in Portland!  These tours are a lot of fun whether you're a local or from away, and the best part, of course, is that you'll get to hang out with me for 3 hours. 

The tour I'm guiding is a 2-1/2 hour walking tour of the Old Port. We'll stop into local merchants and sample their products, while learning about the history (culinary and otherwise) of Portland and the food industries that drive our state economy. 

And as you can see from the above picture of samples at the Vervacious stop, you get a wide variety of Maine-made products, including seafood, sweets, beer, mead, and cheese. 

The tour covers about 1.5 miles in town and really highlights what makes our town and state so special.  Not that I've seen them all, but I feel like few towns do as good of a job integrating local products with the tourist and service economy. 

On the Maine Foodie Tour, you get a chance to learn about these industries (cheese, blueberries, craft beer, potatoes, seafood) while sampling the final product in a locally-owned shop. I mean, it doesn't get much better than that, right? 

And you get the chance to watch a grown man play with a plastic lobster- where else can you find that?  (OK, don't answer that question- I know the answer.) 

And I'll admit that the first time I heard of the tour, I was a little apprehensive. Like, have you ever been on a duck boat tour? Sure, they show off the great city we live in, but I wouldn't be caught dead on one. 

But after a few minutes on the Foodie Tour, I knew that this was something I could own and be proud of.  I'd love nothing more than the opportunity to show off the rich cultural and culinary scene in Portland to both visitors and locals who seek to learn more about their hometown. 

And for $41, you get a sample at each 7 stops, and 2 1/2 hours of edu-tainment. In addition to the walking culinary tour, there's a trolley tour and a walking chocolate tour of both Portland and Freeport.   

So if you're looking for something to do when you visit Portland this summer or a unique way to entertain those out of town guests, check out the Maine Foodie Tours and maybe I'll see you on a tour! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

BBF Travels: Cappy's Chowder House, Camden

Ed. note: Cappy's Chowder House has closed.

This past weekend I went camping in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island.  Much fun was had, from campfire-side beer drinking, to lawn sports in Bar Harbor, to an aborted, but still fun, hike (due to the fog/mist).

Fortunately the weather cleared for the second half of the weekend, as we toodled back down the coast.  We stopped in Searsport to get our thrift on and in Camden to say hi to my sailor friend Ryan, who had just come back in from a windjamming sail on the Lewis R. French.  

He gave us the local scoop on the best pizza in town, but it being Memorial Day, it was closed (OK, Memorial Day and lunch time). So we hit up Cappy's Chowder House, a place I'd been for happy hour fried food and beers.

And while we were a bit miffed by the tourist prices, we had a good lunch. I went all in for the haddock Reuben with curly fries. It was delicious. A bit intense, but with Morses' sauerkraut, fried fish, and melted cheese, you can't really go wrong. It even reheated well the next day for a leftover lunch.

A. had the fish tacos, a much-needed redo after our weird fish taco burritos in Bar Harbor (Gringo's, I'm looking at you). 

And while not pictured, S. and K. had an amazing looking peanut butter chocolate pie and the 'Common Ground' burger, a veggie burger, respectively. We enjoyed some local brews (me a Shipyard Summer and A. a special Shipyard brew made for Cappy's). And of course, everyone was really nice to us, and we caught this awesome face full of nautical crap on our way down the stairs.

This place makes a great drinking hole and a stop for fried food, but be prepared to leave about $3-$4 more dollars behind than in a local joint, since they're working the tourist angle.