Thursday, October 27, 2011

BBF Travels: I Ate New York.

I'll keep it short;  it was hard to experience all the wonderfulness of New York food, knowing that these things were hours away from my home.  I can imagine it's painful only to read about as well.

Smorgasberg, an awesome prepared and packaged food market in Williamsburg by the river.

Radegast Hall after shopping on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg (and the Bedford Cheese Shop).

Food trucks on every corner, this one Mexicue and their short rib taco.

Momofuku saam bar and milk bar (pork buns and compost cookies, finally!).

DeKalb Market with food stalls and tiny boutiques in converted shipping containers.  And yes, that is a chicken and waffle cupcake.  It rocked.

The sweet Rose Water Restaurant in Park Slope.

All so awesome and yet so far away. Actually, my wallet might be OK with that buffer...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall Cocktails

As the weather cools off, it's easier to go inside and have a drink, rather than frequent places I'd rather not be, but go to just because there's an outdoor deck. Fall sliding into winter provides an excuse to slow down, cozy up, and catch up with friends over cocktails, rather than shouting over live music.

Here's four places with great cocktails that I'm looking forward to revisiting now that the mercury is falling. Look to Appetite Portland for Dawn's recommendations of comfort food dishes to pair with your cocktails.

50 Local in Kennebunk recently served me The Remedy: Bourbon, lemon, cayenne simple syrup, and a ginger sugared rim. This drink complements the atmosphere of the bar, being both warming and elegant.

Also try the mushroom tagliatelle while you're there. Fresh, fat noodles with a creamy sauce, studded with a variety of mushrooms foraged by the chef is not to be missed.  Reminiscent of a mushroom stroganoff.

The Holier than Thou at Grace: St. Germaine, grapefruit juice, sparkling wine. I die every time I taste St. Germaine.  Its floral, slightly herbal notes always are paired with tart juices, sparkling wines, and infused simple syrups or vodka. And it always works so well.

Local 188's the Beekeeper: Cold River vodka & Honeymaker dry mead, splash of St. Germain is another fantastic combination (although beware the beekeeper- it's drunk making!).

Zapoteca offers tequila in many forms, from straight up to mixed well with fruit juices and liquors to make tart and sweet margaritas. Also not to be missed: the warming tequila caramel bread pudding.

So if you haven't seen much of me lately or finally want to connect, let's grab a cocktail around town sometime soon.  It's our consolation prize for not being able to sail, bike, wear bikinis, swim, and grill out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Shuck Truck at El Rayo

That's a $5 spread you see right there (including the happy hour beer).

El Rayo Taqueria has $1 oysters on Mondays, and today they had the Shuck Truck serving Cabin Cove Oysters from the Damariscotta River.

Oysters were briny, served with a salt-cutting red wine migonette.  Sold out fast, but the Shuck Truck will be back.  And hopefully we'll be seeing all manner of food trucks all over Portland soon anyway.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Italian Cold Cuts in Maine?!

Look what I found! An Italian cold cut sub! I stopped in Brunswick for lunch after teaching a canning class in Bowdoinham on Thursday and ate at the Big Top Deli. A strange little place, with super friendly service, and weird toasted sub rolls, but a big long line nonetheless.

I needed to look no further than the second cold sandwich to find what I wanted for lunch: a Classic Italian sub with Capacola, pepper ham, Genoa salami, bologna, provolone, pepperoncini, lettuce, tomato, onion, oil and vinegar. 
In Maine?!?  An Italian that doesn't mean ham and cheese on a split top hot dog bun??  I about fell over.  It's one food item I miss from the mid-Atlantic the most.

Other than the aforementioned weirdly toasted bun, it was pretty good!  But it was probably nostalgia and hunger that carried me more than anything else.

Anyone else eaten here?  It's kind of strange, right??

Friday, October 7, 2011

Slow Cooked Salsa Verde Pork Tacos

This recipe has an unlikely source: GQ.  But between the tantalizing pictures of piles of corn tortillas and a mess of slow cooked pork with tomatillo salsa and loads of jalepenos, I was drawn in.  And surprisingly, the recipe was so easy to make.

The best part about this recipe is that it's apparently impossible to screw up.  I know, I tried.

Did I mention I have a penchant for not thoroughly reading recipes?  I frequently reference a college boyfriend that made me cry after some harsh words delivered during a botched dinner prep.  What can I say?  Details like how long something takes usually escape me.

I often get all the ingredients (uh, mostly) and then stumble over some detail like, "braise for an hour or until the meat can be easily pulled apart" when I start to prep the recipe.  Minor details that then cause dinner to be served at 9pm or that recipe to be totally shelved until the weekend.  Not a good time to be 'hangry.'

And while that happened with this recipe, I felt like I could shorten some steps and still get the desired results (maybe I'm missing something out of this world by skipping the hour-long "slow fry" step, but oh well).

So this recipe is adapted from a GQ recipe and meshed with one from Joy the Baker for a weeknight dinner.  Adapted because I think the original is more of a weekend project, when it can have lots of time to slow cook.  But I skipped the "slow fry" step (WTF is that anyway?) and just braised.   The meat still fell apart tender and was friggin' delicious.  And sinus-clearningly spicy.  Yahoo.

Slow Cooked Salsa Verde Pork Tacos
Adapted from GQ and Joy the Baker

3 lbs. pork butt, trimed of any excess fat and cut into 1-1/2" cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
3 lbs. tomatillos, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, diced
1 large spicy jalepeno, diced
1 large sweet potato, cubed
salt and pepper
corn tortillas
cilantro (optional)

Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil and meat.  Brown for about 10 minutes, until you've got some nice char on the meat.

Reduce heat to medium, add more olive oil (a few turns around the pan) and then add in onion, garlic, and pepper.  Sautee for a few minutes and then dump in tomatillos.  Add 1/2 cup water.  The meat should be fully submerged; add more water if it's not.  If you have salsa verde on hand (like I did), add one pint (16 oz) of salsa.

Cover the pot and simmer stew for about an hour, maybe more.  While the meat is cooking, toss the cubed sweet potato with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 400*F.  Mine took about 20 minutes; not very long, so keep an eye on them.

Test the meat after about an hour; when it pulls apart easily, it's done!  Shred with two forks until it's a nice mush of tasty, spicy, Tex Mexi goodness.  Serve in heated corn tortillas with cubed sweet potatoes, garnished with cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.

Easily makes 12-15 small tacos.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dinner at Zapoteca

Note: Zapoteca closed permanently in June 2017. 

My recent dinner at Zapoteca, the new, fine dining Mexican restaurant on Fore St., was a mixed bag.  Let's break it down short and sweet.

Pro: Drinks

Left to right, the blood orange margarita, a regular margarita, and a guava 'rita.  All tasty, all served from a friendly bartender, and different levels of sweet to suit your tastes.

Con: Noise level

We sat in the dining room back towards the kitchen on a Saturday night at 9pm.  And it was so very loud.  I had trouble hearing my company and the server.

1/3rd Pro: Ceviche trio

The Ceviche Veracruzano, a whitefish marinated in lime juice with jalapenos, olives, tomatoes and avocado was great.  The other two in the trio, a Maine shrimp and a lobster, weren't anything to write home about.  Neither are a traditional ceviche in that the meat is steamed rather than 'cooked' from the acid in the dish (Anestes actually pointed this out to me) and needed salting.

Pro: Guacamole

'Nuff said.

Pro: Enchiladas

At $17 a dish, the enchiladas drew all of us in for our entrees.  Above is the one I ordered, a Maine crab and chipotle shrimp with a creamy green chile sauce.  The refried black beans were also tasty and the arugula and pickled red onions were a bold garnish.

The Enchilada de Puerco or pork with caramelized onions was pretty spicy; it almost made my sister's face melt off (or maybe that was all the tequila?), but it had great flavor if you could get past the heat.

Amy's vegetarian stuffed poblano peppers (stuffed with mushrooms, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds) was so tasty she reportedly didn't even miss the meat.

Pro: Mexican Chipotle Chocolate Torta

I am not a big fan of dense chocolate desserts, so when the ladies sprung for this, I didn't expect to be all that into it.  But the spicy chocolate, topped with candied orange peels and almonds was a surprising flavor combination that really got my attention.

Con that ended up being a pro: Classic Vanilla Flan

Look beautiful, tasted awful.  Such a disappointment, as custard desserts are my favorite.  But when I alerted the server (who was so great throughout the whole meal), he zipped back into the kitchen to try one, quickly seconded my assessment, and removed it from our bill.

Since the enchiladas at Zapoteca are the cheapest entrees (the others being more in the $25-$30 range), I think the role this restaurant will fill best in my dining repertoire is drinks and apps/dessert with friends.  Best to sit at the lively bar and sample the great tequila and drink menu and share some nosh, rather than struggle to be heard in the dining room for a full meal.