Friday, October 25, 2019

First Look at CBG


CBG, the revamped Congress Bar and Grill, opens today. The longtime Portland favorite closed this summer and was purchased by Jason Loring and Mike Fraser, who have also worked together to reopen Bramall and Roma, two other Portland institutions. 

The new space has a similar feel to the former bar, with wood paneling replacing the red walls. The signature red and yellow checked linoleum remains, but has been buffed up. Retro beer signs, modern lighting, and taxidermy dot the walls, and a large portrait of the characters from The Big Lebowski looms over the dining room from the rear wall. 


Most of the booths are gone, replaced with tables, and the wall that seperated the bar from the dining room has also been removed, in its place a wide high-top table that has bar stools at both sides. 

The drink menu is similar to Bramhall's, with signature cocktails that skew towards quirky. I had the 5 Hours West of Los Angeles, with rum, applejack brandy, dry curaƧao, fernet branca, pineapple, and lemon. A. tried The UFO with rum, coconut cordial, cucumber, lime, pineapple, and sesame oil. 


The food menu ranges from pubby—wings, smash-burgers, and baked mac and cheese—to global: tempeh larb salad, falafel and feta plate (perhaps a nod to Congress Bar and Grill's hummus plate), and ramen. The bar also introduces an upstate New York classic, the garbage plate, to Maine with a hearty serving of French fries and American chop suey topped with a fried egg, hot sauce, onions, and spicy aioli. 

We enjoyed wings ($12 for 6), riblets ($14 for a small order), Caesar salad ($12), steak frites ($17 for a small), and the chicken noodle paitan ($14). The crispy French fries that accompany the steak are made in-house, and I'm still regretting sending the leftover paitan with my husband for his lunch (I was feeling generous!). 




CBG will undoubtedly fill the same needs Congress Bar and Grill did—a meal before a show at the nearby State Theater, a happy hour spot, a late night nightcap, a casual date night. Open 11am to 1am every day, there's no excuse for you not to stop into the new CBG and check out the changes for yourself.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

BBF Preserves: Tomato Jam and Garlic Pear Preserves

It's the best season (in Maine) for food preservation: when summer meets fall. Late September has the best crossover between our favorite late summer foods and those early fall stars. With this extended warm streak we've been having in Maine, it's still not too late to preserve some summer foods (namely tomatoes), and this tomato jam is a really easy, quick project to throw together. 


For experienced tomato preservers, I'll say one thing to convince you to make this recipe: it doesn't involve peeling tomatoes. Those of you who know what a b*tch that step is will be sold. 

My mom sent me this recipe via her cousin, and I had to check it against a reliable canning source to make sure it was properly acidified and heat processed before I said I'd can some for her. I found the recipe nearly verbatim on Food in Jars (tomato jam), where it's apparently one of Marisa's most popular recipes. 


The jam is much sweeter than ketchup and can be used on turkey burgers, sandwiches, meatloaf, cheese boards, with roasted vegetables like sweet potatoes or served with black eyed or crowder peas (that recommendation comes from the cousin in Georgia).

Tomato Jam
Adapted from Food in Jars

5 lbs. tomatoes, finely chopped (do not peel)
3-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup bottled lime juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon red chili flakes

Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Stirring regularly, simmer the jam until it reduces to a sticky, jammy mess. This will take between 1 and 1-1/2 hours, depending on how high you keep your heat.

When jam has thickened, remove from heat and ladle hot jam into hot 4-ounce jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe rims with a clean, damp paper towel. Apply two-piece canning lids and adjust screw bands until fingertip tight. Process in boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

Remove from water bath and allow to cool. Check for seals, and then store jars in cool, dark place for up to one year.

Yield: 12-16 4 oz. jars


The second seasonal recipe I recently made is a roasted pear and garlic preserve. Sounds strange, is absolutely delicious. The garlic is sweetened by roasting and its savoriness offset by the roasted pears and sugar.

Of course, the primary way to eat it is alongside some sharp cheddar cheese or soft goat cheese, but it's also good on toast, according to my mother-in-law.

Roasted Pear and Garlic Preserves
Adapted from the The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving

1 garlic bulb
4 pounds ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
4 tablespoons Ball Classic Pectin
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400*F. Cut off pointy end of garlic cloves, and wrap garlic in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking oil and surround with pear pieces. Bake for 25 minutes.

Turn pear wedges over and sprinkle with 1/4-cup of sugar. Bake for 15 more minutes (or until soft) and remove from oven. Place garlic back in oven, directly on rack, and bake for 15 more minutes.

Meanwhile, place pear pieces in a large non-reactive pot and add water. When garlic is done, remove cloves from peel and add to pear-water mixture. Mash with a potato masher until coarsely chopped. Stir in vinegar, pectin, thyme, salt and pepper, and remaining 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring often.

Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims with a clean, damp paper towel. Apply two-piece canning lids and adjust screw bands until fingertip tight. Place in a boiling water bath canner and boil for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

Remove from water bath and allow to cool. Check for seals and then store jars in cool, dark place for up to one year.

Yield: 4 8-ounce jars

Please see USDA and National Center for Home Food Preservation for more resources on proper canning procedures.