Sunday, June 29, 2008

The first rule of beer revolutionaries

There's a revolution going on at Portland's newest hot spot. For the past month, Novare Res has been serving up more than 200 bottled beers and an ever changing selection of 25 beers on tap. And the food is amazing.

If you're an olive fan, you've got to check out this olive and bread plate. The green Provence olives are so fresh and flavorful I can taste the Mediterranean sun.

The menu is tiny and intentionally rustic, which means delicious, unprocessed foods. There are only four composed plates on the menu and both the olives and the legume & fennel salad are vegan. With these whole, hearty foods, owner Eric Michaud aims to replicate the European tradition of enjoying small plates of food while drinking.

This sexy goblet holds a Trappist beer called Koningshoeven Quadruppel. In the background is the empty bottle and glass of a Piraat beer and a glimpse inside the walk-in refrigerator. The Koningshoeven had a sweet, pleasing taste which evaporates from the palate as soon as it's swallowed.

The bartenders and waitstaff know the product well. Not only do they navigate dozens of stemware choices to find the perfect pair for each beer, but they have lots of fascinating details about the breweries and regions where all this frothy goodness comes from.

I apologize for this fuzzy photo.

But I had to include it to give you a flavor of the Novare Res beer club. It's called the Uprising, and Adam is in training to become a full-fledged member. What does he have to do to be initiated, you ask? Just drink 200 beers. That's all.

And while I don't have the stamina (or the stomach) to join this elite group, it does look like I'll have plenty of chances to enjoy these delicious olives and taste finely crafted beers in the coming months.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Meals from the market

At this time of year, I buy all my produce locally, and the bulk of it comes from the Portland Farmers' Market. The only exception I make is for little indulgences, like limes, which aren't grown locally, and absolute staples, like onions, that aren't available from Maine at this point in the season.

For leafy greens, berries and fresh herbs, I rarely settle for the road weary grocery store specimens. Instead I gorge on strawberries only hours away from harvest, just picked cilantro bursting with flavor and lettuce that stays fresh and crisp in the refrigerator for a week or more.

I've been amazed by this long shelf life more than once. This typically happens after I get overly excited by the market's vegetable bounty and buy more than the two of us can possibly eat in a week.

Of course, weeks when we go out to dinner four or five times don't help. (And who can blame us since we live mere blocks from the heart of Maine's renowned restaurant scene.) But these past few weeks, Adam and I have been doing our best to enjoy more of the old fashioned goodness of a home cooked meal.

Here's a peek at some of the things I've been whipping up, plus a quick recipe for a pickled beets.

Tempeh wraps with garlic soy bok choi and a radish salad.

Quinoa salad with sunflower seeds and soy sesame dressing.

Black bean enchiladas with micro greens and black olives.

Swiss chard and broccoli with shell pasta and sweet and sour beets.

Sweet and sour beets

4 cups beets, sliced
1 cup organic red wine vinegar
1/2 organic extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Maine maple syrup
salt & pepper to taste

Place beets in a vegetable steamer. (I don't peel mine, especially when the beets are tender and young.) Steam for 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of the beets) until fork tender. Remove from steamer and put in a shallow baking dish. Mix red wine, olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper together. Pour sauce over beets. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or more. Serve warm or cold. Serves 4.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

All's fair this weekend

With the added energy and daylight of the summer solstice upon us, Portland burst into party mode this weekend. Food lovers had a seemingly endless number of options. Adam and I spent the bulk of our time volunteering at the Bayside World Market & Fair.

Even with our fair commitments, we managed to get to the farmers' market early Saturday and came away with two grocery bags full of yummy veggies. I picked up many firsts for the season: gorgeous radishes (see above), baby carrots, beets and broccoli. Strawberries were plentiful and there was talk of even greater bounty this coming week.

On Friday night, we helped set up the market. Chris and Emily were all smiles as they put the finishing touches on the table set-up. They did an amazing job figuring out how to accommodate more than 100 vendors in the lovely Portland High School. They were assisted by an enthusiastic crowd of volunteers, who turned the historic building into a thriving market.

Thousands of people turned out to check out the merchandise.

Before the crowds arrived, we had a little fun during the Friday night set-up. You can't read it, but Casey is pricing that salad set for something like €219.47. Despite the lofty pricing schemes, Casey and Emily managed to sell most of their stuff. Which is sure to lighten their load as they head off on a new adventure in Houston, TX. All of us in Bayside are so sad to see them go. They've both been a tremendous asset to the community, and we can only hope their new Texas neighbors will appreciate them as much as those of us in the Bayside neighborhood do.

The most delicious part of the fair came in the form of the huge selection of food. More than 20 vendors hailing from nations as wide-ranging as Sudan, Poland and Vietnam, served an enticing array of good eats. These vegetable somosas from Passage to India and the fresh spring rolls from Nakornping Thai were super tasty.

In the afternoon, we managed to take a quick trip over to USM to check out the Maine Animal Coalition's 4th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival. We showed up while most people were in the auditorium listening to Paul Shapiro speak. Since we were pressed for time, we passed on the talk and instead checked out the tables and sampled some food. The serving tray in the lower left hand corner holds tangy soup shots from the Pepper Club. We also enjoyed ployes from the Bouchard Family Farm in Fort Kent and chocolate pie from The Green Elephant in Portland. We got the last of the Green Elephant samples (and they'd already been back to the restaurant once to get more food).

Back at the Bayside World Market & Fair, we had the chance to check out Ayperi perform her hypnotic belly dancing. Little did we know this would be an interactive performance.

She asked for volunteers to join her on the stage and learn how to groove belly dance style. No one moved. Then Portland's leading blues man Samuel James jumped up on the stage. He even helped pressure Adam and Casey into getting up there too. They were awesome! Pretty soon we were all out of our seats doing crazy moves like scooping ice cream with our hips. It was hysterical!
The night concluded with a bunch of us grabbing dinner and drinks down at G&R DiMillo's. This extra dirty martini (with my favorite Cold River Vodka) was the perfect way to cap off a fun day and another successful festival.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bowled over

I love the noodle bowls at Pom's Thai Taste and tonight I created my own version. I had lots of farmers' market goodies on hand, such as sugar snap peas, bok choi and cilantro. And I'm super psyched to still have a supply of Maine garlic from last year's harvest.

When I was down at Whole Foods, I picked up a block of the handmade tofu from The Bridge, located in Middletown, CT. I sliced it up and created a quick marinade by tossing on a dash of this and a pour of that.
Tofu marinade

1 Tbsp. organic olive oil
3 Tbsp. organic soy sauce
2 Tbsp. organic toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. Captain Mowatt's Pineapple and Papaya on Fie-Yah

Pour over tofu in baking dish and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I created a a broth for the noodle bowl.
Noodle broth

1 Tbsp. organic olive oil
2 Tbsp. finely diced organic onions
4 Tbsp. organic soy sauce
3 Tbsp. Maine maple syrup
1 Tbsp. organic red miso
1 Tsp. organic vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

Heat oil and add onions. Saute over medium heat until translucent. Add soy sauce, maple syrup, miso and Worcestershire sauce. Stir for 1 minute and then remove from flame.

At the same time, I was making the stir fry and the noodles.
Thai Noodle Bowl

2 Tbsp. organic olive oil
3 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 organic sweet onion, sliced in strips
1 head of organic bok choi
1 cup of organic sugar snap peas
15 oz. organic tofu, cubed and marinated
4 oz. thin rice noodles, soaked in boiling water and drained
fresh organic cilantro, coarsely chopped
noodle broth

Add olive oil and garlic to stir fry pan and place on high heat. Stir for about 1 minute (careful not the burn the garlic) then add onions and stir 2-3 minutes until translucent. Add peas and bok choi and stir 1-2 minutes. Add tofu and stir 1-2 minutes, until heated through.

Add noodles to a deep soup dish. Pour on the broth and then add the stir fry. Top with cilantro. Serves 2-3.

We finished the meal with a dish of the brand new coconut milk ice cream in mint chocolate from Purely Decadent. Thanks to Chocolate Covered Vegan for the heads-up on this creamy treat!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Stalking the wild ginger

When I was a kid, I gave this patch of wild ginger a wide berth. I feared snakes and spiders and ever other creepy-crawly waiting beneath those heart-shaped leaves. I didn't care to expose my bare ankles to such unknown depths. No way.

I never once walked through it.

Which is probably a good thing. Today wild ginger is listed as threatened by the state of Maine. This patch was much smaller 25 years ago and has slowly swelled to its present size. Unlike dandelions or plantain, wild ginger doesn't just fling its seeds around everywhere. So when it's wiped out by construction or human activity, it won't show up elsewhere in the neighborhood.

My mother washed a plant and a bit of root after I picked it for dinner Saturday night. Adam and I were up at Sunshine Farm for a Father's Day weekend visit, before traveling to Adam's parent's home the following day for more celebrations. Our Saturday dinner included a wild salad, and my mother took us on a tour around the property looking for edibles.

I couldn't resist grabbing a few of these late-season dandelions growing in a shady spot (see the moss?), where they never bloomed. I picked the still tender, less jagged leaves.

This bright green clump of lamb's quarters self-seeded itself (as in does every year) in one of my mother's gardens. A common plant often found in disturbed soil, it is a sweet, delicate and delicious addition to salads and stir fries. My mother harvested some of these baby lamb's quarters the night before, so we only took a pinch.

We added in a few chives and red clover blossoms and had quite the garnish for our salad. I took the mixed greens, the micro greens and the dill I bought at that morning's farmers' market and topped it with these wild treats and a few sunflower seeds.

When I made my red wine vinaigrette, I added a few pieces of finely chopped wild ginger root, which gave it an added zing.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Strawberry days

Is there anything as delicious as a freshly picked strawberry? If there is, I can't recall it right now because my head is swimming with the utter swoon inducing taste of the first-of-the-season Maine strawberry.Yup, we just came back from the farmers' market, where we picked up one of the last pints of strawberries. The only reason we managed to get some was because instead of our typical Saturday morning routine of me laying around in bed until 9 am, then getting up to take a shower, get ready (leisurely, as my husband would say) and finally make breakfast before heading off to the market (which means we don't get there until about 11:30) we rolled out of bed and headed straight for the market.
We picked up a bunch of things, other than the to-die-for berries. Among our purchases: sugar snap peas (another first for the season), cilantro (which Daniel Price from Freedom Farm tells me helps rid the body of heavy metals), bok choi, red lettuce, fresh dill, blueberry raspberry jam and micro greens.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Eat your food

A leading investigative journalist of the culinary variety, Michael Pollan returns with characteristic charm and candor in his latest book "In Defense of Food." After stirring the foodie pot with his influential "Omnivore's Dilemma," Pollan comes back to answer the central question that drives his four meal quest. "What should we have for dinner?"

The answer comes emblazoned on the cover. Meaning you don't have to buy the book to gain the benefit of his Zen-like advice: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Even though that's everything you need to know right there, I highly recommend buying the book or checking it out from your local library. Whether carnivore, omnivore or herbivore, you're sure to find this book fascinating. Especially if you've already read "Omnivores."

At it's heart, this concise manifesto explores the politics of food. Pollan paints a bleak picture of how relaxed labeling laws, adulterated food and the psuedo-science of nutritionism (Low Fat! Now with added antioxidants!) have proven to be a leech on public health.

His strategies for eating well in a world of industrial food are both practical and adventurous. Some of it even seems counterintuitive at first, such as his advice to avoid foods that come with health claims. Follow his advice and you'll find yourself firmly in the ranks of the ethical eaters, which I wrote about in this week's edition of Switch Magazine.

Should you be near Portland, ME on Wednesday, June 18 and want to join a discussion about the book, head over to Rabelais from 6-7:30.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sauté 3 ways

I'm a huge fan of green vegetables, especially whenever I can score them fresh from the farm (like this pac choi I got at the farmers' market). However, I never boil them and only rarely use my steamer. My favorite way to prepare greens is a simple garlic soy sauté. Here's how:
Garlic soy sauté

5 cups fresh baby rainbow chard (or whatever green you have on hand)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Organic extra virgin olive oil
Organic soy sauce

Heat a stir fry pan or wok over medium high heat and add a Tbsp. or so of oil. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Then add greens and a few shakes of soy sauce. Stir the greens until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes enough for 2.
This technique works for all sorts of veggies, including fiddleheads (above) and broccoli. The flavor is absolutely amazing for a recipe so simple.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hot cereal + cool lake

This is the view I opened my eyes to this morning: Green dappled sunshine spilling into our bedroom. A cool lake breeze swept through an open window and the bird song encouraged us to drift back to sleep. By the time we finally pulled ourselves out of bed, we were thinking about our favorite breakfast of oatmeal and tea.
Whenever we spend time at Sunshine Farm, I pack a few pantry staples. I can always find a use for things like walnuts and sea salt. Popcorn is another favorite treat to whip up while hanging out at camp. But we we weren't interested in popcorn for breakfast. We wanted oatmeal.
Adam lit the ancient gas stove with a wooden match, and I filled a pot with the pristine spring water that flows from the taps at Sunshine Farm. I set the water and oats to boil and, after a couple hands of cards, the oatmeal was ready to go. These sweet blueberry dishes that my mother stocks in the Middle Cottage kitchen made the perfect complement for this blueberry infused porridge.

Blueberry walnut oats

2 cups water
3/4 cup organic steel cut oats
1 cup organic walnuts, crushed
1/4 cup flaxseeds, crushed
1 1/4 cup organic wild blueberries
2 Tbsp. Maine maple syrup

Add water and oats to pot and cook on high, uncovered, until it boils. Then turn down the heat to a simmer and place the lid slightly askew on the pot. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the water is fully absorbed. Add the frozen blueberries, stir and then put the lid back on for another 2-3 minutes. After crushing the walnuts and then flaxseeds with a mortar and pestle, add each to the oats. Add the maple syrup, stir and serve.
And when we start the day with these blueberry oats, we're ready for any adventure life might throw our way (as Adam demonstrated with this flawless cannonball off the end of the dock).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Seeing red

With sweltering summer heat spreading over Maine today, it's the perfect time to sip a fruity drink. Here's a martini that combines two of my favorite red fruits: raspberries and pomegranates.


3 oz. organic pomegranate juice
1 oz. Cold River Vodka
1 oz. pomegranate liqueur
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
4 frozen raspberries

Combine ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with raspberries.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Spice in your Art Walk

“Sun Dried,” by Stacey Cramp

Tomorrow's my favorite day of the month--First Friday Art Walk. It's always a wonderful way to score free wine and yummy nibbles, while checking out amazing art. Adam and I plan to stop by the annual (and most likely the last) Polaroid Auction at SPACE Gallery. This is an excellent (and very affordable) opportunity to pick up tiny images shot by some of Maine's leading photographers.

If you're headed for the East End of town, go see "Spices of Life" at Rabelais books (a foodie book lovers dream store). I checked out this photography show by Stacey Cramp yesterday and it's beautiful. She documents the food ways of remote villages in India, which remain largely untouched by our fast food nation.

You can find the complete Art Walk lisitngs here or pick up this week's copy of Switch magazine, where we have the full map.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Market rain

Today's farmers' market in Monument Square was blanketed by a constant drizzle. Even so, a steady stream of shoppers stood in line to make purchases during the lunch hour when I stopped by.

Lettuce and green leafy vegetables (particularly of the baby variety) were plentiful. I picked up scallions, red lettuce, mixed baby greens, radishes and baby rainbow chard. Afterward, Adam and I grabbed lunch from the Spartan Grill inside the Public Market house (yes, it's true, I'm addicted to their falafel).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Blueberry blues

We ate these exquisite locally-grown blueberries all winter. I found them at the Whole Foods down the street. Grown in Washington County, Moon Hill Farm Organic Blueberries are the most heavenly berry I've ever bought from a freezer case. Juicy little packets bursting with the sugary tart taste of summer in Maine.

But then one day they were gone. Sold out for the season.

Which I guess isn't surprising considering the quantity I was buying them in. I add a cup to the steel cut oats I make each morning. And they're always a welcome addition to desserts, smoothies and pancakes.

Good thing July and blueberry season is right around the corner. Then I'll be able to pluck them straight from the low-bush blueberry patch at Sunshine Farm. Until then I have fond memories of Moon Hill to help me ward off the frozen blueberry blues.

Monday, June 2, 2008

My weekend crush

I made my first sojourn of the season up to Sunshine Farm this weekend for my uncle's 50th birthday celebration. It was a wonderful party, and it was such fun to see so many of my relatives. My uncle looked great, and I can't believe how quickly my little cousins are growing up!

Before I left, I grabbed a handful of lemon balm from one of my mother's herb gardens. This member of the mint family has to be one of my all-time favorite herbs. Lemon balm's smell is heavenly and its flavor is the essence of summer. We often use it in iced teas and you can rub it on your skin to keep mosquitoes away. Because I was headed back to the city, I tucked it in my bag knowing it would be the perfect addition to a cocktail.

I used an organic Santa Cruz tangerine soda as a mixer, but freshly squeezed lemon would work well too.

Lemon balm crush

2 sprigs lemon balm
1 Tbsp. Maine maple syrup
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. rum
1/2 of a can of organic citrus soda

Add one sprig lemon balm and maple syrup to glass. Muddle the lemon balm briefly. Add the Cointreau, rum and soda and stir. Fill glass with ice and garnish with the remaining sprig of lemon balm. Enjoy!