Friday, August 30, 2013

Sitting Outside

Labor Day weekend means the end of summer in Maine - in other places, it's summer hot until at least mid-September. But our beach days are winding down and I've been sure to make the most of this fine stretch of late August weather we've had by sitting outside a lot. 

I made it to Willard Beach in South Portland a few days in a row, where it actually was hot enough to warrant a dip into the ocean (when does the water ever get warm?? Never? Oh.). 

We sat outside at Hadlock Field and watched the Portland Sea Dogs stage a great late comeback, but ultimately lose to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. I ate a hot dog, drank a Baxter, and stayed for the (really long) fireworks show. 

Every Sunday, I've been sitting out on our sailboat. Here's the dinghy loaded to the gills for our latest overnight trip. There's always a lot of (too much?) beer and rum, more cold water swimming, and antics involving someone(s) falling out of/swamping the dinghy when we go back to shore. But the sailing has been nice lately. 

Happy hours lately have had a outdoor mandate, satisfied by the decks of Portland Lobster Company (fortunately no music this time - while I love the live acts that play there, it gets too loud to talk!), The Thirsty Pig, and Hot Suppa

I was happy to get back to the Pig - I haven't been in a while. I had a New Englander hot dog which comes with baked beans and slaw on the dog. Delish. 

While I was sitting outside on the beach again (this time in North Carolina), the zucchini was growing. We came back to this beast, hiding beneath the giant leaves. 

After getting as much 'posing with a giant vegetable as a prop' mileage out of it as we could, it was shredded to make 4 loaves of zucchini bread, all with a different combination of walnuts, chocolate chips, and orange juice/zest. I used this Food52 recipe

Make the most of your Labor Day weekend - I'll be... well, you know. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Local Nuts - The Gilded Nut Snack Co.

You've been warned: the following post contains the repeated use of the word "nuts." If you're prone to fits of giggling or making "that's what she said" jokes, this might be difficult for you to read (or fun for that matter!). 

My friend N. sent over some nuts for me to try; she works at local branding company Pulp + Wire who recently took on John's Nuts (oh Lord, here we go) as an account for a branding and packaging makeover. Now called The Gilded Nut Snack Co. and packaged in some sharp looking boxes, John's spice-coated pistachios come in four flavors: habanero heat, Mediterranean herb, salt and pepper, and original. 

John and his Gilded Nut Co. are from the San Francisco Bay area, but he had the good sense to move to Portland, Maine. The pistachios are sourced in California, but the spice and olive oil tumbling bit takes place here in Portland. 

Having never seen flavored pistachios in the first place, I was impressed with the idea - and the taste as well. Encouraged by package instructions to suck the shells for more flavor, I found the Mediterranean herb blend to be my favorite and the habanero heat to have a slow, building heat that was eventually too much for me, but boyfriend A. loved them. 

The Gilded Nut Snack Co.'s pistachios can be found locally at gourmet snack and gift shops like LaRoux Kitchen, Black Tie Catering Co., and The Cheese Iron in Scarborough (see Store Locations for more details). Pick some up, see for yourself how they're an unexpected departure from regular pistachios. 

Just for fun, a before and after shot of John's Nuts/The Gilded Nut Snack Co.'s packaging, courtesy of Pulp + Wire

And insert your own nut joke here! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Homemade Cronuts

Since there are people out there who still haven't heard of a cronut (ahem, Jenner), let's start at the beginning. The cronut is the creation of NYC baker Dominique Ansel and is described as half-donut, half-croissant. These pastries are so popular in New York (well, everywhere, but you can only get them in New York), that people begin lining up before 6am to attempt to score a cronut. (Read Cronut 101 if you think that sounds like a pleasant way to spend your morning in New York). Madness. 

Really, the ideal way to eat a cronut is fresh out of the fryer, after NOT standing on line for 2+ hours, and as breakfast to start your day at the beach. I saw this perfect storm coming months ago when I signed up for my family's annual week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina: stepfather (expert fried dough maker) + sister's friend Dr. T (bringer of the fryer) = cronuts. 

While the cronut recipe is proprietary, making croissant dough, shaping it like a donut, and frying it was close enough for me. There's also pastry cream and glaze involved in Ansel's cronuts, but I just went with granulated sugar as a topping. Keepin' it simple, folks. 

The dough is a laminated dough, which means that cold butter is folded into it and refrigerated between folds. This technique keeps the butter from becoming incorporated into the dough and creates those signature flaky layers. I followed the butter croissant recipe from Gourmet via Epicurious. 

I then rolled the dough out to 1/2" thick and stamped out donut shapes and holes with Buck's excellent cutter set. By this point, there was a lot of people hovering around the kitchen. 

Finally, the most exciting step: the frying. Dr. T's fryer was perfect for cranking out 3 cronuts at a time (with a few holes for good measure). They didn't take long to fry up to a perfect golden brown, expanding their crispy layers as they sizzled. 

With a sprinkle of sugar they were ready. Need I tell you they were delicious? It should be obvious by now. I hate to say anything bad about donuts, but they really are missing the flaky edges of a croissant. Despite this dough being more work than donut dough, it was totally worth it. If you make the dough the night before like we did, then in the morning, you're left with just the frying and all the glory. 

I was then declared the cronut queen and used my title to curry favors for the rest of the day (like beer refills while in the pool). I highly recommend it. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wannawaf Review

Ed. note: Wannawaf closed in October 2013. Their Boothbay Harbor location is open seasonally.

Wannawaf opened recently in Portland's Monument Square in the space that was Cobblestones (a sandwich shop). It's in the sort of forgotten end of the row of restaurants on Monument Square that starts with the Spartan Grill and ends with Shay's. People seem to fail to notice that there's a coffee shop (Other's) and another business on the end down by Longfellow Books

Apparently Wannawaf's other location in Boothbay is successful (hence the expansion to Portland), but I have my doubts about this waffle and ice cream shop making the transition from touristy Boothbay Harbor to Portland's business/lunch crowd in Monument Square. I've heard the waffle shop is empty a lot, as it was when I stopped in for lunch on a Friday. 

Apparently I have trained my friends well, as Professor A. made sure to tell me after his visit that they have chicken and waffles and so he thought of me. Chasing the dragon that is District's chicken and waffle, I went to try Wannawaf's version. 

The waffles are made with the ingredients mixed in, in this case small, breaded bites of boneless chicken. I opted for maple syrup as my one included topping and added sriracha hot sauce. For $7, I received a paper boat with 4 triangles of waffles that disappeared pretty quickly. 

The chicken to waffle ration was a little low, compared to when the chicken is served on top of the waffles. So while it was good (the fresh herbs sprinkled on top were a particularly nice touch), it didn't make my list of places I'd be returning, as my waffles didn't fill me up for long. For $7, I could have bought a Granny's Burrito in the Public Market and had to retire to the couch for the rest of the afternoon. 

So Wannawaf seems to be more for the "stop in with the kids for the afternoon and buy a round of ice cream; get it served over a waffle if you wanna be silly" set. I am not in that set and I don't know if that will be enough to sustain them in Portland. Time will tell, I guess.