Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happy Hour at Hot Suppa! and New Otto Expansion

Hot Suppa! is mostly known for its Southern style brunch, with great biscuits and sausage gravy, crunchy hash browns, grits, and fried green tomatoes. There is frequently a long wait, as this restaurant is small and cozy, with about 35 seats. 

They started serving dinner a while after they opened, and while their jaunty Mardi Gras-themed sandwich board advertising happy hour has always caught my eye, I've never been in for anything other than weekend brunch.  

So the perfect storm was created after my friend Phil and I realized they serve poutine. We've become obsessed with eating this French Canadian dish of french fries covered in brown gravy and cheese curds. 

$1 oysters and cocktails ('The Dude' for Phil, a White Russian with Allen's Coffee Brandy- his fave, and a Hurricane for me) cleansed our palates while we waited for our happy hour selections. Hot Suppa's happy hour features $1 off all drinks and a selection of appetizers at smaller portions and lower prices. 

The poutine was the star of the show, with crispy fries that yielded to a potato moosh under the hearty gravy and stringy cheese curds. I could have eaten another plate of this, although I would have regretted it, since it was very rich.  

The calamari ($5) was good, with a cornmeal crust and served over a garlicky, basil pesto aioli, grape tomatoes, and sliced scallions. The St. Lois style ribs fell short, being dry and tough. 

While I think the prices are a little steep (our tab with 2 cocktails, 2 beers, and the aforementioned food was $52- is that expensive or am I just cheap??), the $1 oysters and poutine are well worth a visit at happy hour. 

After happy hour, I swung by the soft opening of Otto Pizza's newly expanded space at 567 Congress St. (the downtown location). The new space fills the former Wild Burrito space and is a mirror image of  Enzo. 

Of course, the Otto aesthetic is present with white subway tile, exposed brick, and reclaimed dark wood as paneling. My boyfriend and friends did the construction, so it was nice to see the space cleaned up and full of pizza smells and happy customers, rather than trash cans, sawdust, and building materials. 

The space probably doubles the seating capacity at this location, so many more people will be able to relax and enjoy a slice and a beer. 

Stay tuned for more poutine reviews around town; please leave suggestions for good versions (I know Duckfat, obviously), and maybe Otto will make a poutine pizza?? 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I don't know about you, but I'm experiencing holiday food fatigue. In catching up on my food blog browsing, I'm most drawn in by new recipes that are lighter and don't involve cranberries or baked casseroles. 

So after a long weekend of fried things at Amigo's, wings at Binga's, and every vegetable that I ate being covered in Cream of Mushroom soup, I had kale salad for lunch. 

But I need to break my own rules to tell you about this cheesecake for a few reasons. One, I have a hard time with baking, and usually mess something up somewhere (see all the failed Bakers' Challenges). But this cheesecake came out great! Second, while this cheesecake is technically Thanksgiving-related, it would be perfect for any of your holiday potluck needs. 

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker

For the crust:
2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies (one 10 oz. bag was plenty)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar*
6 tablespoons butter, melted

*I forgot the sugar and the crust came out tasting fine!

For the filling:
4 packages 8 oz. cream cheese (32 oz. total), at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 15 oz. can pumpkin
2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350*F. Double wrap a 9" springform pan in heavy-duty aluminium foil. Mix together crust ingredients and press into pan. I pressed it in just the bottom, but the photos in the recipe I used show it up the sides too, so your choice. Bake crust for 6 to 8 minutes, until brown (hard to tell, it's already brown!). Set aside.

Boil a kettleful of water to use in water bath.

Mix cream cheese, sugars, and pumpkin together in a large bowl until smooth. You can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer.

Add remaining ingredients, except eggs, and stir until combined. Add eggs one at a time, stirring until fully incorporated in between each egg. Be careful not to overmix or cheesecake might come out tough. Pour into pan. Place pan in a large roasting pan and fill roasting pan with boiling water until water is halfway up springform pan. This water bath method of baking will help cheesecake bake fully, while staying moist and prevent cracking.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes (I did one hour exactly). Turn off oven and let cheesecake stand for one hour more. Remove and let cool on a cooling rack. Refrigerate overnight.

Serve with whipped cream or caramel drizzling sauce!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Local Turkey Guide 2012

Thanksgiving seems to have come awfully quick this year - I just read the casual phrase, "for the holiday dinner next week." Wait, what? NEXT WEEK?? Since I'm hosting dinner for friends this year, I'd better get my menu plan on. 

So if you too are planning a Thanksgiving meal in the Portland, Maine area, here are your turkey options:

Turkeys available at the Commercial St., Congress St., and Brighton Ave. locations

Rosemont, being the purveyor of all things local, has turkeys from Mainely Poultry, located in Warren, that are free range and cost $3.99/lb. They also have organic, pasture raised turkeys from Serendipity Acres in N. Yarmouth at $4.69/lb. Birds are available in 13-16 lbs., 17-20 lbs., and 20 lbs. and up. 

You need to order your turkey by this Saturday, and they're available for pick up the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. 

2 Somerset Street

Whole Foods has several options for turkeys: free-range from Jaindl Farms, plain at $2.49/lb., brined at $2.99/lb., herb-rubbed at $2.99/lb, and organic at 3.99/lb. Birds are available in an 8-20 lb. range. 

The birds are antibiotic and hormone-free (hormones are prohibited by law in raising turkeys), raised on vegetarian feed, and given an "enriched environment" to live in. You can watch a video of the turkeys hanging out through the Jaindl Farms website. 

They also offer a free range bird from Koch's Turkey Farm, which is a certified humane farm. The turkeys are 10-24 lbs. and are $3.99/lb. 

Another free range bird comes from Plainville Farms in Pennsylvania, and is all-natural (no artificial ingredients, flavors, etc.), fed a vegetarian diet, and antibiotic free at $2.99/lb in a 8-30 lb. range.  

295 Forest Ave.

Hannaford offers the most variety of brands and prices: 

Marval, $.49/lb., 13-21 lbs.
Hannaford Brand, $.69/lb., 10-21 lbs.
Shady Brook Farms, $.99/lb., 14-15 lbs.
Butterball, $1.29/lb., 11-21 lbs.
Butterball "All Natural," $1.99/lb., 11-20 lbs.
Nature's Place Organic, $2.49/lb. 

Marval and Shady Brook Farms are both owned by Cargill, the highest grossing privately held company in the world. I try not to go too far down the rabbit hole while researching the treatment of turkeys for this post, but I didn't have to read very far to think that these are not the types of people I'd like to be supporting while enjoying my 'things-I'm thankful for' dinner. 

Hannaford Brand and Nature's Place meats are difficult to find any source information about, other than on the store's website

And Butterball, well, Butterball employees have been convicted on felony charges of animal cruelty twice this year. OK then. 

Route 1 in Falmouth

I thought I'd be nice and include Shaw's, even though I hate it, and it's not in downtown Portland. But maybe you're unfortunate and live near one. 

They have two options - Butterball again for $1.29/lb. and Jeannie O at $.69/lb. Jeannie O is produced by Hormel Meats, which is the number 2 turkey producer in the country, second to Cargill. My brief google search reveals multiple instances of antibiotic-resistant salmonella contamination in their meat. 


87 Marginal Way

Trader Joe's turkeys are $1.99/lb. brined or $2.49/lb. for a Kosher bird. Their range of sizes is from 12 to 22 lbs. and are vegetarian fed, free of antibiotics, and the Kosher designation means the poultry was prepared under rabbinical supervision. 

While Trader Joe's is famously secretive about their product sources, the Empire Kosher wiki page says that their products are distributed to Trader Joe's. So maybe that's their source? Apparently Kosher standards are stricter than that of the USDA and require a cage-free environment. 

Phew. Overwhelmed yet?

Rated by price, highest to lowest:

1. Serendipity Acres Organic, $4.69/lb. available at Rosemont Market
2. Mainely Poultry, $3.99/lb. available at Rosemont Market
3. Plainview Farms heirloom variety, $3.99/lb. available at Whole Foods Market
4. Jaindl Farms Organic, $3.99/lb. available at Whole Foods Market
5. Jaindl Farms brined, herb-rubbed, $2.99/lb. available at Whole Foods Market
6. Jaindl Farms plain, $2.49/lb. available at Whole Foods Market
7. Trader Joe's store brand Kosher, $2.49/lb.
8. Nature's Place Organic, $2.49/lb. available at Hannaford
9. Butterball "All Natural," $1.99/lb. available at Hannaford
10. Trader Joe's store brand brined, $1.99/lb.
11. Butterball, $1.29/lb. available at Hannaford and Shaw's
12. Shady Brook Farms, $.99/lb. available at Hannaford
13. Jeannie O at $.69/lb. available at Shaw's
14. Hannaford store brand, $.69/lb.
15. Marval, $.49/lb., available at Hannaford

So, assuming that you're not out to get a 15 pound turkey for less than $10 (ew), I think that the birds from Whole Foods strike a nice balance. Their meat is traceable to it's source, their farms are inspected and certified by a third party, and they mean doesn't contain any antibiotics, hormones, or animal byproducts.

I wish I could afford to buy a turkey from a Maine farmer, as I trust them, and my dollars will support our local agriculture. Frankly, researching the source of my animal products is becoming exhausting. I want to trust the companies, but really, it's so hard to tell by reading their marketing glop.

At the grocery store today, I turned away from the lettuce heads, as a sign warned me that they had been subjected to "post harvest treatments." (Creepy.) Seeking organic lettuce, I found a sign recalling bagged spinach due to an E.coli outbreak.

What is going on? Why must it all be so difficult? I am looking forward to cooking a meal with my lovely boyfriend to serve to our friends, of course, but already the sourcing of ingredients is stressing me out. At least my local farmers' market will supply most everything I'll need.

Thanks for reading my rant, and I hope you weigh in with what turkey you're getting, how much it was, and why.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Eventide Oyster Co. Review

Photo taken this summer 

Everything you've read about Eventide Oyster Co. is true. The raw bar, run by Hugo's owners, is in atmosphere, what Hugo's is not - light, loud, free-wheeling. 

The food is deconstructed, small bites giving way to full flavor when taken together. It makes you think, this is what they're talking about, those glossy magazines that gush over hip new places in cities that you've never visited, places you can't afford. 

But it's happening here. I am hearing this server, in my town, talk to me. I shall order these dishes. 

Smashed in the corner, next to my friend of the cupcakes, who brought me "the best chocolate chip cookies in the world," (they were), as the brewer of the beer I was drinking waved to my boyfriend as he carried an empty keg by, I felt like all was right in my world.

And if it feels like I'm name dropping, I am. This is not my beauitful house. But yet it is. This is my town, this is Maine, this is where these things come together, and it feels sincere.

And you can go too.

Fried Oyster Bun, tartar, pickles $7

Cured Arctic Char, Fried Bagel, Creme Fraiche, Pickled Onion $10

Fried Salted Hake, Chipotle Creme, Fried Tortillas, $10

Uni, pickled rice noodles, horseradish, $10

Eventide Oyster Co. 86 Middle Street, Portland, Maine