Monday, June 23, 2014

First Look at Slab Sicilian Street Food

Since Stephen Lanzalotta's firing from Micucci's Italian Grocery last summer, fans of his Sicilian slab-style pizza have been eagerly waiting to enjoy slabs shaped by his hands again. Shortly after leaving Micucci's, Lanzalotta announced he'd be opening a new restaurant with Jason Loring of Nosh Kitchen Bar. Immediately, everyone's minds started dreaming of outsized portions of fabulous Italian food the pairing would generate. 

Finally, the wait is over. Slab Sicilian Street Food is open in the old public market house on Preble St. and Cumberland Ave. The space used to be Scales, the seafood market and restaurant from Sam Hayward until 2006. The inside has a bar, several booths, and a view of the ovens churning out slabs in the kitchen. We were whisked through the space quickly on our way out to the large beer garden, so I didn't get a chance to take in the extensive renovation. 

The drink menu contains 20 taps, including several beers that were brewed specifically for Slab by local breweries (read more about them in my 'Collaborations and foraged finds,' article in the Portland Phoenix). There is a list of speciality cocktails and a short wine list. I enjoyed a glass of Italian rose for $1 off at happy hour ($6).

We started with the slaw ($6) and the salumi ($7). The slaw is a thinly sliced pile of carrots, fennel, green cabbage, golden beets, romaine lettuce, and a creamy orange-curry dressing (also available with a lime-anise vinaigrette). This menu item is a nice addition to the otherwise carb-tastic options.

The salumi comes with slices of Sicilian summer sausage, an herbed soft cheese spread, muffuletta relish (spicy olives, cauliflower, peppers, and carrots), and addictive crispy slices of Luna bread. Other starters include an orange sage hummus, served with Luna bread wedges and Focaccia with olives and oil. 

The pizze section of the menu is a slab-lover's dream. The traditional (i.e. the style available at Micucci's) hand slab is available, 1 lb. for $6. It also comes in larger portions, a half slab ($24) and a full slab ($48). 

The slab is just how you remember it (or know it at Micucci's), although the night we were there, the dough was a little under baked or under risen. Maybe it's a product of the new ovens or staff, but I'm sure it will be smoothed out shortly. The sauce is sweet, and the cheese is salty. 

Other than the traditional, there's a meat slab with pepperoni and pepperoncini ($4) and a sfinciuni with a spicy sauce, caciocavallo cheese, and breadcrumbs ($4). 

There's a sweets menu, including a cannoli, but we opted to finish our drinks and enjoy the warm weather on the patio. Slab opened just in time for summer and is bringing a much needed dining option to this part of town. If you weren't one of the many who hurried down as soon as they heard it was open, get to Slab, enjoy a drink on the patio, and don't miss the slaw. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

BBF Preserves: Honey-Sweetened Strawberry Rhubarb Jam + Dinner at Liquid Riot

It's almost strawberry season in Maine! I look forward to few fruits and vegetables seasons with the same enthusiasm as strawberries. Strawberries mark the beginning of summer and the change from vegetables that require little light to grow, like lettuces and radishes, to those that need hours and hours of full, strong sunlight, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. 

That strawberry season is just around the corner means I have to clean out LAST season's strawberry harvest from my freezer. It seems kind of silly to buy all the strawberries and then just keep them in the freezer for a year, doesn't it? But here's my secret (well, aside from loving a stash of hoarded fruit like a squirrel): I love making jam from frozen fruit. 

Using frozen fruit allows you to jam when it's not so hot in your kitchen or when you're not as busy as we all are in summer in Maine. Plus, you can pair fruits that aren't normally in season together, like my favorite, triple-berry jam (strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry) and strawberry-rhubarb jam. 

So I used about three quarts of frozen strawberries with some fresh rhubarb, purchased at the Portland Farmers' Market (recipe to follow). I had Sharon over to help and she brought 1-1/2 pints of honey - 1 pint from Overland Apiaries in Portland and a more mild-flavored 1/2-pint from Caledonia Spirits in Vermont. Together, the two types of honey added a nice flavor. 

If you're going to use honey in your jam, get a stronger flavored honey, so the taste comes through. Mild honeys will add sweetness, but the flavor will get lost in the relatively strong fruit flavors. 

Measured mashed strawberries

Of course I used Pomona's pectin; I've sung the praises of the versatile gelling ingredients many times before on the Blueberry Files (hot pepper jamlavender honey strawberry jam). Pomona's pectin is the only commercially-available pectin that allows you to use low/no-sugar or an alternative sweetener like honey. 

Pomona's can be found at Whole Foods Market in Portland and independent health food stores like Lois' in Scarborough or Royal River Foods in Yarmouth. And I saw it once at the Commercial Street Rosemont Market. 

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend friend Allison Carroll Duffy's branded cookbook Preserving with Pomoma's Pectin to help you understand the particulars of jamming using Pomona's. 

Mashed strawberries, chopped rhubarb coming to a boil

Honey-Sweetened Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Adapted from Pomona's pectin instructions
Yield: about 7 8-oz. jars

7 cups mashed strawberries
5.5 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups honey
2 tablespoons Pomona’s pectin powder
4 tablespoons prepared calcium water (included in Pomona’s pectin)

In a large stock pot, combine fruit and calcium water. Heat to a boil. Meanwhile, mix together pectin powder and honey in a bowl. When fruit mixture boils, add pectin-honey mixture and stir to dissolve. Bring back to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for one minute and remove from heat. 

Pour hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and add two-part lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. To freeze, let cool for an hour and move to freezer. To use, thaw in the refrigerator and once opened, use within two weeks.

Read more about our strawberry preserving session on Sharon's MaineToday blog, The Root

After our jam session wrapped up, Sharon and I were ready to eat. We went down to In'finiti Fermentation & Distillation to try their house-made beers. I got the White El Camino ($4), an easy-drinking corn lager brewed in collaboration with new restaurant, Slab.

Unfortunately, the bartender was immediately condescending to us - to the point where I almost wanted to confront him about it. If you're a bar on tourist-heavy Commercial Street, you're going to have to be a little more patient with people's questions about your beer menu.

We also ordered their pretzel with cheese sauce and a spicy IPA mustard. I feel like the food was a little hit-or-miss there for a while, so I was happy to enjoy this snack, as well as our kale chips. 

After we got our drinks, we were happy (namely because the bar filled up and we had a variety of bartenders for our drink refills). From a bar that is owned by the same people as Novare Res, I expected much friendlier service. 

After In'finiti, we headed to Central Provisions, where the bartenders and servers are always so nice and patient. We enjoyed some Greek rose and amazing marinated cheese curds at the bar while we waited for a table. 

Everything we ate was great as usual (maybe the carrots in the carrot salad were a bit tough), especially the bo ssam chicken entree. I splurged on a soft shell crab plate, over jalapeño, avocado and bacon. Being a Maryland-native, I know I am hard to please when it comes to blue crabs. I felt the delicate flavor of the crab was overwhelmed by the smoky ingredients - charred green onions and bacon. But I was still thrilled to be eating a soft shelled crab. Another true sign of summer. 

To learn more about the collaborative brewing efforts, as well as Slab, Portland's "it" restaurant for the summer, check out my Portland Phoenix column, "Collaborations and foraged finds," on stands now. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Memories of Cooking at Sea

My friend Jimmy just arrived in town on the tall ship Amistad. They're docked at Portland Yacht Service for some repairs (you can walk down to the boat during the day, but they're not offering public sails or tours), and I had a tour of the boat on Tuesday evening. 

Standing in the huge galley by the still-warm cast iron stove, nibbling on (OK, scarfing down) a slice of some phenomenal cake, I was reminded of my time on tall ships and all the wonderful memories I'd formed, thanks to those boats' galleys. That the best parties end up in the kitchen is a truism on land and at sea. 

Sailing to Catalina Island on Schooner Lynx - Jimmy's the ginger

When I started working on boats, I quickly realized that it paid off to be in with the cook. On my first schooner, I befriended the cook, Jesika, and as a result was always sent off to help her provision at the grocery store. We'd take a taxi or bum a ride from a friend of the boat (there's one in every port) and spend hours filling multiple grocery carts in the store. 

Back at the boat, we'd pass everything down the ladder into the galley, and I'd get to help her organize it. Everything had to be stowed meticulously to save space and so the cook can find what she needs for a meal. All of that work was vastly superior to boat maintenance or chaperoning an educational activity on shore with the kids. 

The main cabin of Schooner Lady Maryland - everything that can be sat upon also acts as storage for the galley

Jesika went to culinary school, worked in restaurants, and was an experienced sea cook, so everything she turned out was amazing. Seriously. Leftover night was my favorite, because I could revisit all of my favorite meals from that week all at once. 

She taught me to love yellow Indian curry with potatoes; her barbecue pulled pork was sweet and juicy; I still think of even the simple lunches of homemade naan bread, fried sausage slices, herbed yogurt dip, and a dish of sliced tomatoes and onions. 

Not all cooks make everything from scratch, only the smart ones

Lady Maryland is run by Living Classrooms Foundation in Baltimore and offers educational day trips during the spring and fall and extended live aboard programs for gifted and talented students during the summer. We sailed from Maryland to Massachusetts studying whales. 

At the time, the other two boats in LCF's fleet offered similar day trips during the school year, but couldn't accommodate students sleeping onboard for longer trips. So Mildred Belle and Sigsbee sailed around the Chesapeake Bay to various docks, with the kids and some of the crew camping ashore at night. 

Buy boat Mildred Belle anchored in a river off the Chesapeake Bay

The meal program onboard these boats wasn't as luxurious as Lady Maryland's. There was no paid cook, but rather a crewmember who would peel off from the morning's lessons to lay out lunch for kids and crew. Lunch was usually sandwiches, chips, vegetables, and fruit. 

Dinner was prepared ashore, with all of the kids pitching in on the prep, cooking, and most importantly, the clean-up. Meal planning was done by the crew (usually me, the educational coordinator, and the Captain), and after a summer of hot dogs and hamburgers, we started to get ambitious. 

There was that time I decided to make fried chicken for 20 on a camp stove. After several rounds of frying chicken, I grew tired of the hot splattering grease, and passed the tongs onto an intern. He took over the flipping and frying, and I prepared a plate and dug in. After the intern turned out a few rounds of chicken, a kid came over to me, holding a drumstick with a concerned look on his face. "Is this cooked all the way through?" he asked, holding out the chicken leg. His bite through the chicken flesh revealed a glistening, pink, raw interior. Oh dear. Back to frying duty for me. 

Kate Kana (L) and kids doing dishes on deck of Lady Maryland in New York Harbor

Cooking at the dock on a boat is much like cooking while camping. Cooking underway, however, is a completely different game. I've only ever been asked to fill in for cooks (given very specific instructions) while at the dock. The only food prep I've ever done while underway is getting a sandwich out of the refrigerator. 

Here's the galley of Lady Maryland when Jesika was the cook. Everything has its place and she knows where it all is. Rummaging through the galley when you're hungry is not an option. You can see the shelves have fiddles or lips at the openings, so nothing slides out. Pieces of seine twine are tied across the shelves so nothing tips over while you're underway (the picture below does not show the galley stowed for sea). 

The reefer or refrigerator is either a glorified ice box or actually acts like a real refrigerator with an air-cooled condensing plate. Reefers can get really ugly really fast, so a good cook keeps everything meticulously labeled, dated, and in very secure containers. She'll know just where everything is, so again, no random rummaging. In fact, I don't think Jesika allowed anyone but her, and sometimes me, to get anything out of the reefer. 

Boat stoves are usually propane and are gimbaled, so they stay level while you're at sea. The stovetop has a railing around it, so your pots stay put, and burners have fiddles, or adjustable arms that hold your pots in place. Nothing like catching a hot pot of soup while you're underway. 

Lady Maryland's gimbaled stove - locking mechanism seen lower left corner of the oven

Boat ovens can be notoriously uneven with their heat and need frequent tweaking. Above, I'm helping to fix a temperature sensor on the stove with our captain. God only knows why I was involved in that - short of being one of two people who was allowed to touch anything in Jesika's galley, I certainly didn't know anything about repairing thermocouples. 

Coffee is a boat cook's most important duty - there should always be some prepared, doesn't matter the quality. Above, you can see the some silly setup in Baltimore: Mr. Coffee plugged directly into shore power. Charge the batteries? Pump out the bilge? Sure, that'd be nice. But is there hot coffee? 

On the schooner Lynx, our transits were much longer and, well, shittier, than anything I experienced onboard Lady Maryland. Our cook was an experienced, cantankerous man named Krunch. Krunch is a legendary West Coast sea cook; he sailed for many, many years on tall ships. He also apparently spent several years in a Thai jail for attempting to smuggle hashish out of the country. He told great stories, natch. 

The setup of Lynx's galley is a little strange - it's sort of half above deck, with a passageway down into the main salon where meals were served. There's also a window into the focsle, the cabin forward of the galley, which as a result of the level of the cabins, was at the very top of the focsle, about 8 feet up from the bunk below. 

This window from the galley into the focsle allowed us sleeping below to hear a constant stream of swearing from Krunch, starting at approximately 5am. It also allowed him to issue us an easy wake up call, some variation of "grub's ready, ya shit for brains." (He meant it in the most endearing way, of course.) 

It also illustrated the importance of tying everything down while sailing, even if you don't think it's possible for that object to move/fall over. One Mr. Coffee took a trip down to the focsle, through the galley window, during a long tack en route from Long Beach to San Diego. Fortunately, the bunk below the window was unoccupied on this trip, so no one had to sleep in coffee grounds that night. 

Caught making a bagel late night 

Despite his gruff attitude, Krunch was a great cook. His food was always hot and there was always plenty of it. All his meals were served with his chili scallion oil - a whole mess of dried red chiles and scallions fried in vegetable oil until crispy, then poured into a bottle and topped with more oil.

Now that I know more about food safety, I cringe at this condiment being stored at room temperature. But the crew of 9 men and I always moved through it so fast, it didn't have time to spoil. 

On long or rough transits, food is one of the only things that keeps you going (literally and emotionally). A cup of coffee or hot tea brought to you at the helm by the oncoming watch feels like a godsend. These little things make a difference when you're wet to your core. 

Serving meals in these conditions is no easy task. People are eating, sleeping, and working at odd hours, so there's no one time where all of the crew can eat together. Usually the cook will give instructions as to what's available to eat, and you'll eat after your watch, before retiring to your bunk. 

Meals usually consist of something simple, like a one-pot meal that can be kept warm on the stove. If you're not feeling well, there's always cereal, English muffins, and peanut butter and jelly. Below, you can see the black non-stick laid out on the table, which at least gives your bowl a fighting chance at staying on the table. 

I'll just have toast, thanks. 

Now we have a boat to sail in Portland's Casco Bay, where eating and cooking on board is much easier. It's more of novelty than a necessity. Detour is stocked with a galley fit for cruising: an ice box reefer, a small one-bay sink (now with running water!), a two-burner propane stove, a one-burner, gimbaled propane burner that holds a tea kettle (pretty nifty), and a grill off the back rail. 

Cruising in Casco Bay

We've grilled pizzas, fried bacon, and even scrambled eggs on the grill; it's pretty sweet. Mostly though, we just pick up a few Italian subs, fill the cooler with beer and ice, and we're off. Lunch can be had after the anchor's dropped, and we swim ashore to some island's sandy beach. Pretty luxe compared to the coffee-pot-in-your-bunk lifestyle.

Sailing on tall ships taught me how important systems are on a boat. Big boats are like an organism. In order to keep everyone healthy (again, literally and emotionally), everything has to have a place and everyone needs to do their part to make sure things are in their place - whether you're talking about the boat itself, a pencil at the navigation table, or the Sriracha for a meal (never misplace the Sriracha).

Now that I'm a recreational sailor, I'm free to implement whatever systems on board my boat that I see fit. I still clean the boat and the dishes the same way I learned on tall ships. But the difference is late night snacks are encouraged, everyone's allowed in the galley, and if we're not having fun anymore, we'll just head for shore.

Note: for tips and recipes for cooking at sea, see cruisers Barb and Stewart's blog Harts at Sea, where Barb is chronicling their adventures. She has a great section for Galley Tips and Recipes.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Portland Food Signings, Flea Bites, and Timber Steakhouse Peek

Thank you to everyone who attended the launch of Portland Food: the Culinary Capital of Maine at Sherman's Books last Saturday! We certainly packed out that bookstore. Special thanks to East End Cupcakes and Dean's Sweets for donating treats for the singing, and to Josh Christie for securing local goodies from Standard Baking Co., Rosemont Market, and Pineland Farms. 

Munjoy Hill News writer Carol McCracken featured a nice write-up of the afternoon and my book. Friend Sharon Kitchens also blogged about Portland Food, for Huffington Post Taste. 

I'm having another singing at Books-a-Million in South Portland, next Saturday, June 14th from 2-4pm. Come and pick up a signed copy of Portland Food for your dad!

Photo by Carol McCracken
This weekend is predicted to be full of beautiful weather with plenty of food and drink events. Tonight is the first Flea Bites of the season - a food truck clustering down at Portland's Flea-for-All from 6:30-9:30pm. Participating food trucks are Bite Into Maine (event organizers), Mainely Burgers, Mainely Treats, Wicked Good, Urban Sugar Mobile Cafe, Fishin' Ships, and El Corazon.

I have, for some unknown reason, really fixated on Fishin' Ships. They seem really nice, they use local, sustainable fish species, and they rock a lot of nautical puns. It's like their marketing is tailored to me. So they'll be there, with a menu of fish fried coated in different flavored batters, served with creative dipping sauces.

From Fishin' Ships facebook
BUT, I am also really looking forward to trying Mainely Burgers. This truck is run by two current college students, so we had to wait for their semester to finish before it could launch. I hear the burgers are some of the best in town. 

And then there's my old favorite, Bite Into Maine. I just didn't get lobster rolls until I had one of theirs. They're full of the perfect amount of meat (you find yourself eating extra lobster meat, rather than empty hot dog bun), and the buns are so nice and buttery. Wish me luck trying to either eat all of that for dinner or narrowing it down to one. 

I checked out Timber Steakhouse for happy hour yesterday and ordered this Campari and bourbon cocktail (it has a name - something on their speciality cocktail list) at the suggestion of friendly bartender Henry, formerly of El Rayo Cantina. I asked about the Negroni and said, oh but it comes up... (I didn't want an 'up' drink), and he said, no, it doesn't! It comes however you want it! Love it. 

Timber is from the guys who own the North Point, and their friendliness and dedication to the customer's experience continues to show. The restaurant has been completely redone (unrecognizable as the Oriental Table) and features a bona fide steakhouse menu - creamed spinach, wedge salad, and large-and-in-charge meats. I just ate a side of potatoes gratin by myself - great happy hour snack, huh? It was that kind of day. It was fabulous, and I'm looking forward to trying Timber's wagyu burger ($16). 

Whether you end up at a posh happy hour or eating fish and chips from some newspaper, I hope you have a great, beautiful summer weather weekend! 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Where coffee reigns supreme

Originally published in the Portland Phoenix on May 21, 2014

Coffee By Design's new spot in East Bayside 
Portland makes it onto many lists for its food and drink scene; some of the accolades are noteworthy (like Bon Appétit’s “foodiest small town” in 2009), while others are forgettable (namely the ones comparing our Portland to the other Portland). But the results of a Men’s Health study recently made us take notice: Portland is the number one coffee-loving city in the United States. To create these rankings, the study surveyed households in 100 major metropolitan areas, considering the number that own coffeemakers and buy coffee; the amount spent on coffee; the number of coffee shops per capita; and the number of individuals that drink five or more cups a day. Though that last number may be less important than you’d think — according to Maine author Murray Carpenter in his recent book Caffeinated, as a country, we’re drinking less coffee today than our grandparents were.

Rather, the recent proliferation of coffee houses and roasters in Portland points to a growing appreciation for a quality cup of coffee rather than a high quantity of it. Recently, the coffee industry has entered what is described as its “third wave;” the first wave being the introduction of widespread consumption of coffee in our country in the 1950s and ’60s. First wave coffee companies sought to maximize profits, in part by creating demand for their product as part of a daily ritual. Second wave coffee is the movement most of us are familiar with and saw the rise of differing roast levels, publicized countries of origin, and espresso drinks.

Coffee houses embracing a third wave philosophy now pay close attention to every step of coffee production, from growing to harvesting to roasting to brewing. Vien Dobui, Tandem Coffee’s wholesale accounts manager, explains that producers have only started growing coffee with an eye towards quality in the last 10 years. Much like wine, coffee grown in different parts of the world expresses different characteristics based on the climate and soil. Coffee roasters are now paying more attention to these flavor subtleties and roasting beans accordingly.

The way coffee professionals evaluate the quality of coffee beans is a standardized smelling and tasting ritual called ‘cupping.’ Cuppings help coffee wholesalers determine if beans are worth buying and coffee roasters determine to what degree to roast coffee beans, among other things. The cupping process aims to control as many variables as possible, so one tastes only the flavors inherent in the coffee beans, rather than those imparted by the roasting process. Tandem Coffee offers cuppings to the public to help coffee aficionados (or wannabes) learn more about coffee flavors.

I attended a cupping at Tandem Coffee in an attempt to expand my limited knowledge of my own coffee preferences. While I always brew coffee at home and enjoy several cups throughout the morning, I don’t pay much attention to the pedigree. Beyond rejecting a very dark roast, I had no inkling whether I’d prefer a Kenyan coffee to a Columbian. The day I attended Tandem’s cupping, Vien Dobui prepared four samples for us to try. Two were roasted by Tandem’s owner Will Pratt: a Costa Rican and an Ethiopian coffee. Another Ethiopian varietal was sent to Tandem as a sample, and the fourth was a natural Ethiopian coffee from Seattle-based Slate Coffee Roasters.

The cupping was attended by a small group of regulars, both young and old. I was graciously welcomed into the group and shown the routine. First, we sniffed the dry coffee grounds. Dobui then meticulously poured hot water over the grounds, allowing them to steep. We rotated around the table, bending to sniff the brewing coffee. After it was steeped, we selected silver-plated spoons to “break the crust,” or swipe our spoons through the floating coffee grounds to release the aromas trapped beneath. After the second round of smelling, Dobui removed the floating grounds and the tasting began.

We were encouraged to violently slurp up our coffee (Dobui demonstrated with the most vehement of sips) to aspirate the coffee over all of our taste buds. Because I was concerned with choking on hot coffee in front of strangers, I stuck with a more modest slurp. For about 20 minutes, we circled the table, taking repeated sips of coffee. Different flavors become more pronounced as the coffee cools, so an extended tasting allows you to experience a range of aroma and taste.

While sipping the four samples, my thoughts went like this: “Hmm, tastes like coffee... also tastes like coffee... yup, coffee again... Woah!” The fourth coffee tasted radically different due to the processing method. The Ethiopian coffee from Slate was naturally processed, meaning the fruits of the coffee plant, called “cherries” (inside of which you’ll find the “bean” or seed), are dried in the sun rather than mechanically pulped and then dried. The resulting coffee frequently is full of berry flavors; this one tasted like someone had infused it with blueberry syrup.

After our tasting had concluded, we then shared our thoughts on the various flavors we detected. Tasting descriptors are notoriously wacky, but the ones I heard were relatively tame. Many found the Costa Rican roasted by Tandem to contain caramel flavors; Dobui explained caramelized sugar flavors are created by a darker roast. Other descriptors pertained to the acidity of the coffee (typically fruit flavors), the body (any flavor other than fruit), and the mouth-feel.

Determined to continue my coffee flavor education, I headed to the Speckled Ax on Congress Street and ordered two different kinds of coffee to taste side-by-side. When I explained my project to the barista, she exclaimed, “Oooh, you’re one of us!” which made me laugh. She selected a Kenyan and a Columbian coffee, described as tasting of, among other things, “cola” and “pineapple,” respectively. I detected neither, but did taste a noticeable difference between the two. The Kenyan coffee had a tomato-like acidity, while the Colombian expressed a pleasing sweetness as it cooled. The baristas continued to check in with me at my perch at the bar to discuss the coffees’ characteristics.

Coffee By Design’s new space on Diamond Street in East Bayside offers plenty of room to sit and contemplate the flavors in your mug. The staff plans to offer regularly scheduled public cuppings this summer; in the meantime, their attentive staff is happy to recommend a coffee for your palate. The barista recommended a sweeter, nuttier-tasting Peruvian coffee, because I drink my coffee with cream. I tried it straight up first and appreciated the lighter roast, what CBD calls their “peak” roast. This light roasting style allows the flavors of the coffee to shine, rather than being dominated by a darker French or Italian roast. This new location is a mecca for coffee geeks, with multiple high-tech brewing methods and a station for creating your own blend of coffee beans for home use.

At Bard Coffee, store manager Brittany Feltovic prepared me two Kenyan coffees: one naturally processed and one washed. The natural coffee tasted very different than the one I’d experienced at Tandem Coffee, but I couldn’t quite articulate how. Feltovic coached me, saying she tasted “juicy lime,” rather than the more common berry flavors, but no matter how hard I thought of a key lime pie or a margarita, I didn’t quite get there.

Unlike wine, coffee’s flavor differences are subtle. When drank side-by-side, coffees certainly taste different, but identifying those fruity, buttery, and smoky flavors requires an experienced palate. The cuppings at Tandem Coffee provide the perfect environment for training your taste buds, while Portland’s many coffee houses offer ever-expanding options for finding your favorite flavors. Look for a second location from Tandem Coffee this summer at 742 Congress Street in the West End.

Tandem Coffee Roasters cuppings | 122 Anderson St, Portland | Fridays at 12 pm | 207.899.0235

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Blue Rooster Food Co. Guest Chef Hot Dog Series

A recent post by Chubby Werewolf reminded me that the guest chef hot dog series has started at Blue Rooster Food Co. on Dana Street in Portland. In an "I can always eat a hot dog" moment, I stopped by the sandwich shop yesterday afternoon for the Tao Yuan Dog ($6). 

From Chef Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan in Brunswick and the upcoming BaoBao Dumpling House in Portland, this bacon-wrapped dog is topped with kimchi, cilantro mayo, and ssam sauce. It's funky, slightly spicy, and full of umami flavors. 

This dog is available until Thursday, and then it will be replaced by Ricky Penatzer of Hunt & Alpine Club's version. Illustrating how well-connected he's becoming after a short time in town, Blue Rooster Food Co.'s owner, Damian Sansonetti's future guest chef line up includes Steve Corry of Five Fifty-Five, David Levi of Vinland, Jason Loring of Nosh, Mike Wiley of Hugo's, and Rob Evans of Duckfat. 

According to Chubby Werewolf, a hot dog appreciation club card will be available - if you eat all 13 hot dogs, you'll get a prize at the end of the summer. A portion of the proceeds go to Good Shepherd Food Bank.