Monday, October 31, 2011
We were a little bit behind the holiday this year. Normally the pumpkins would have been carved weeks ago and the toasty, roasty seeds would be a distant memory. But, with work, school and other general distractions, we didn't find our selves stabbing out stenciled patterns until last night.
My pattern this year was a nod to one of my favorite Pixar movies, Monsters Inc., which happens to have a sequel coming out next year. And the name, Mike Wazowski, is just fun to say.
The Missus, however, went a little more political with her pumpkin this year and chose the Guy Fawkes/Anonymous stencil. Her pumpkin came out very nice and had me declaring that we were going to Occupy Halloween. Maybe when the holiday is done I'll leave the pumpkin on the steps of Bank of America for shits and giggles.
Happy Halloween, kids.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
How about fail? Failure in the form of questionable green mold on the meaty side of the cheek. Taking the advice from Michael Ruhlman, whose book I've been using in Charcutepalooza, I listened when he asks you to ere on the side of common sense if you question it. So, I did.
In a few weeks I'll try again when the Missus gets some jowl from a co-worker who's getting ready to bring a few pigs to slaughter.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
I didn't know that I had been chosen to participate in the Peet's Coffee/Food Buzz Tastemakers program until the box arrived at my door. Inside, a 16oz tumbler and 2-12oz bags of their latest ground, medium blends: Cafe Solano and Cafe Domingo.
With the price of coffee skyrocketing over the past year, it was a grand treat for a cash strapped coffee drinker as myself. Their one request: Pair the two coffees with something that spoke of fall flavors.
It was easy when I had my first cup of the Domingo blend-a combination of three Latin American beans. The toasty, nutty notes would be perfect with chocolate. The Solano, however, was a bit richer and needed something creamy to cut through its full bodied flavor.
After a couple of weeks of switching off on these coffees, it finally hit me: Whoopie Pie. This IS Maine, after all. So, after a bit of poking around for filling ideas, I settled on a Martha Stewart/King Arthur Flour mash-up recipe to create a Pumpkin Whoopie Pie.
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup milk
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup canned solid pack pumpkin
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
2) To make the cakes: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla till smooth. Add the egg, again beating till smooth.
3) Add the cocoa, stirring to combine.
4) Add the flour to the batter alternately with the milk, beating till smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat again briefly to soften and combine any chunky scrapings.
5) Drop the dough by the 1/4-cupful onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving plenty of room between the cakes; they'll spread. A muffin scoop works well here.
6) Bake the cakes for 15 to 16 minutes, till they're set and firm to the touch. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pans. While still lukewarm, use a spatula to separate them from the pan or parchment; then allow to cool completely.
7) Prepare filling: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together cream cheese, butter, and confectioners' sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg; whip until smooth, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
8) Spread the flat side of half the cakes with the filling. Top with the remaining cakes, flat side towards the filling. Wrap individually, in plastic wrap, till ready to serve.
9) Yield: 8 large whoopie pies (about 4" dia., about 5 ounces each)
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Photo courtesy of the very talented Greta Rybus, who recently featured an interview with Bite Into Maine foodtruck owner, Sarah Sutton on her blog 'Who I Met.'
In 20 years, when someone decides to write about the food history and culture in Portland, Bite Into Maine will be mentioned. In fact, I believe the article on the Maine focused food truck, which appeared in The Portland Phoenix this past July, is the sole reason headway is finally being made to bring larger scale mobile food vending into the city. Because of Sarah's honest telling of the red tape and issues they endured dealing with the city, the conversation as to why they are absent from our food landscape finally started to be had. Now, because of the combined efforts of Creative Portland Corporation, along with the input from those in the community who support or wish to operate a food truck in the city, we are no longer asking if food trucks will finally come to Portland but, rather, when.
Across the board, the recommendations from CPC are more than agreeable and address everything from location to sanitation. Some of the specific recommendations are:
My one issue with the above is the first one mentioned, the 65 foot rule. In a town saturated with restaurants, I feel this one rule is a bit prohibitive. To my knowledge, there is no such restriction on brick and mortar establishments and their proximity to another, nor does there seem to be one on food carts. You can find vendors in Monument Square just feet from the entrances of other food establishments without issue. So, why restrict food trucks, which will already struggle to find room to park their vehicles, any more than necessary?
• Must stay at least 65 feet from brick-and-mortar restaurants.
• Can be no wider than 10 feet and no longer than 40 feet.
• May not operate where restaurants are prohibited by zoning, except they would be allowed in city parks and school-parking areas.
• Can park in public parking lots, but not garages. They cannot be parked overnight on city streets or in city parking lots.
• Must have receptacles for trash and recyclables and follow National Park noise guidelines of 74 decibels at 10 feet and 60 decibels at 50 feet.
There has been some grumbling that it would create unfair competition for restaurants but how? There's rumored to be a gelato shop opening right across the street from another in town without issue. I may find that a little uncouth, but it would normally be called 'healthy competition.' Again, I'm forced to ask, "Where's the difference?' More so, where is the perceived threat to established, sit down restaurants? Are you going to cancel your reservations at Grace because you spot a waffle truck up the street? Unless you're stoned, and the prospect of walking into a converted church may spark some regressed religious guilt, chances are that you're not. People, long before food trucks became 'a thing,' had no problem deciding on what restaurants to spend their money at based on a myriad of factors. Throwing food trucks into the mix changes absolutely nothing, except to increase choices. People will go where their wallets and stomachs lead them. It seems like an issue is being made where there truly is none.
So finally, it seems, that 'America's Foodiest Small Town,' has decided to wake from its slumber and not sleep through one of the trendiest of trends to sweep through American food culture. We may be a little late to the party, but at least we're getting there and, fittingly enough, we have a lobster roll vendor to thank for it.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
The Bollard's Dan Zarin nailed it in his final paragraph, when he said:
Until now, I hadn’t realized that the Portland restaurant scene was lacking a German breakfast-and-lunch café, but it turns out that’s precisely what was missing.Schulte and Herr is the most pleasant surprise to hit Portland in quite some time. While many have long since pined for better Chinese food, more authentic Mexican and less expensive Greek food (this is the Missus' personal wish), there was never a peep over the near void of hearty Eastern European fare (You can get some killer Perogis at Bogusha's Polish Deli on Stevens). Now, with our first visit to Schulte and Herr, I can't imagine Portland without it.
We were there for their first official Sunday Brunch (they've opted to close on Mondays instead) and nearly every seat was full when we were seated. Five mintues later, there would be people waiting. The space is small and understated, I think I had expected something more akin to other loud, garish German restaurants I had visited. I understood, when our food arrived, the room could be so subtle because the food would leave such an impact.
The Missus, who spent a couple of years in boarding school in Germany, took one look at the menu and said, "This is what I ate everyday for two years." She was happy the moment her eyes hit the page. You also have to remember that her family is Lithuanian, which has a similar 'meat and potatoes' culture. She's joked with her family that if you were to cut into any of them, sour cream would pour out. This is the food of her people.
No dish on the menu connected that together more than the special of pickled makerel with potato salad and beet sauce.
In Lithuanian culture, pickled herring is a staple of Kūčios. It was also the most glaring thing missing when we celebrated our first together last Christmas. Having never had pickled fish, I wasn't completely sure what to expect. But the first bite eliminated any fear and I eagerly flaked off greedy sections and devoured it with their wonderful beet sauce. The fish was neither too briny nor too fishy. The meat of the fish was just bright enough to cut through the richness from the naturally oily mackerel. An appreciated side of hearty German styled (obviously) potato salad made this is a generously portioned appetizer. That heaping plate was only $6 and more than worth every penny.
The Missus ordered the Bergmannkiez, a plate of various cured and smoked meats, cheeses, jam, bread and fruit. The cheeses were the only un-German elements of the meal, one a triple creme brie(I'm guessing Delice de Bourgogne from France) and the Italian Piave Vecchio, similar to the Hartkase or 'hard cheese.' But, in defense of the choices, these are both wonderful, contrasting cheeses that paired beautifully with the various smoked and cured ham and sausages on the plate(we both greatly enjoyed the peppered and smoked sausage). Also, Portland doesn't really offer much in the way of German cheeses outside of Limburger or Cambozola, so you can't really fault them. Not only were the meats and cheeses wonderful, but the homemade bread it was served with was even better. It was hearty and homey, and if they offered it, I would buy rye bread from them every week. I'm a sucker for a good rye bread with caraway and there's is the best that I've had outside of Boston.
But, as much as I swooned over the offerings that the Missus had in front of her, I was even more enamored with my choice of potato pancakes and house cured lox. This was actually another first for me as I am not one to order smoked or cured salmon instead of something with meat, but Dawn had raved on about it so much that I knew it shouldn't be missed. And it wasn't and I was so glad I took her recommendation. Like some of the best salmon I've had at Miyake, the dilly lox melted on the tongue under a slight dab of horseradish sauce. The pancakes were beautifully pan fried patties, crunchy on the outside and creamy inside, and added a bit of heartiness to the lightness of the salmon. Paired with cornichons, capers and radishes, every element of texture seemed to be represented and every bite was a different combination of elements. And every single one was greatly enjoyed.
With nearly everything made on site, and where dishes seemed pressed to reach above $10 a plate, Schulte and Herr is easily one of the best new restaurants in town, where people always seem to be calling for 'more bang for my buck.' The portions are generous, preparation simple and, most importantly, the food is good. Really, really good.