Sunday, March 30, 2008

Market tables up for grabs

Last year's first-ever Bayside World Market & Fair attracted more than 3,500 visitors and 100 vendors (offering everything from herbal tea and West African food to flea market goods and pottery). International music and dance performances entertained the crowds all day. This year's traditional market takes place June 21 at Portland High. Tables cost $30. Admission is free. You won't want to miss it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Give the earth an hour

Join me in holding our collective carbon breath tomorrow at 8 pm during Earth Hour. Switch off the lights, unplug the TV, light a few candles (non-petroleum, of course), grab a yummy wine and pick up a new book. It's that simple.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Crazy for napkins

I'm obsessed with cloth napkins. I have napkins for Christmas and the 4th of July and for tea parties and sushi dinners. I just love the colors and the textures, and the comforting weight of the cloth draped in my lap. To me, napkins are like seat belts -- I don't feel right without one.

Here's a peek at a bunch we use everyday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Signs of life at farmers' market

Today I spotted a promising sign. I saw it while in Monument Square picking up my pre-ordered veggies (including the world's most-amazing-pickles-ever) from Simon Frost at Thirty Acre Farm. Right next to him a farmer from Sumner, Maine had set up a tent with a display of eggs and meat. I haven't seen tents in the square since November. He told me he plans to come down each Wednesday, provided the weather stays mild. Simon said he might start doing the same.

Right now it's pretty slim pickings for veggies: carrots, potatoes, shallots, sauerkraut and kim chi. (By some miracle I scored the last jar of pickles.) But in the Public Market House, Horton's has amazing salad greens from Laughing Stock Farm.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Decision 2008: Portland, ME's indie heros

Portland is absolutely brimming with creative people and dynamic businesses that want to make positive change in our world. You name it, we've got it. Vegan chefs, green building supply companies, socially responsible marketing firms, eco-guide publishers, recycled products manufacturers and natural health practitioners. Heck, we even have an organic baby clothes boutique.

Of course, we also have tons of private citizens quietly composting their table scraps and biking to the farmers' market. The kind of folks who will only buy local (even if it forces them to live bra-free).

Which tells me Portland Buy Local has a tough job ahead. The independent business alliance plans to give out seven Portland Indie Biz Awards on May 22 at SPACE Gallery. But who's going to get them? That's where you come in. Nominate your favorite local businesses and local people by going to Then be sure to turn out May 22 for the hottest party in town.

Monday, March 24, 2008

At the sugar shack on Easter

Easter Sunday brought Maine Maple Sunday to Vacationland, which proved a perfect way to celebrate the change of season. We visited Royal Maple Syrup on the Back Nippen Road in Buxton, Maine. Matt Roy gave us a tour of the sugar shack's high-tech wood-fired boiler. He uses a reverse-osmosis process to lessen the boiling time, but still it takes patience to boil down maple sap that's at best 2% sugar. Thank god he does. Because his syrup is like a buttery tonic straight from the heart of Maine.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easy veggie homefries

Veggie homefries make a tasty brunch meal that can easily complement whatever else you plan to serve. For this meal, I used locally grown potatoes, carrots and shallots and seasoned it with Maine sea salt. Lots of other veggies taste great in these homefries, and I often throw in sunflower seeds and black olives. Because they're so yummy, I've been known to cheat and serve them for dinner too. Just don't tell anyone.

3 organic shallots, diced
1 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
6 small organic potatoes, peeled and diced
4 organic carrots, diced
1 package organic tempeh, cubed
3 cloves organic garlic, chopped
1 cup frozen organic broccoli
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
sea salt to taste
coarsely ground black pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a vegetable steamer and steam until fork tender. Meanwhile, place the tempeh cubes in a pot of simmering water, and let cook 10-15 minutes.

In a cast iron skillet, saute shallots in olive oil until translucent. Add carrots, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne powder, salt and pepper. Stir together. When potatoes are tender, add them to the skillet along with the tempeh. Add the broccoli to the vegetable steamer.

Cook until the potatoes get brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. When done, add steamed broccoli and serve. Makes enough for 4.

Friday, March 21, 2008

3 spots to find falafel in Portland, ME

I’m a huge fan of falafel and have been ever since I first discovered it in Syracuse. There was this awesome little Middle Eastern joint tucked away in an off-campus neighborhood. They sold six packs of falafel with a tahini dipping sauce. It became a major part of my diet, and has been ever since.

Here in Portland, these three restaurants keep me flush with falafel.

Silly’s falafel comes in a wrap with spinach, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and cucumber dill sauce. (The dill sauce has dairy, so I always sub it out for balsamic vinaigrette.) The falafel is crisp and chewy.

Greek Corner’s falafel comes in a puffy Syrian bread wrapped taco-like around shredded lettuce, tomato, onion and cinnamon-flavored tahini sauce. The falafel is crisp and formed in rolls rather than balls.

Spartan Grill’s falafel also comes in a warm flatbread with lettuce, tomato, onion and tahini sauce. The falafel is crisp on the outside and very moist inside. A signature wrapping technique keeps it all together while you chow.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Macro gossip

Green Elephant is planning to roll out a macrobiotic menu soon. Stayed tuned for details...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Fat Pack goes on a diet

Score a big fat point for all of us who understand the gastronomic pleasures of fresh vegetables and whole grains. Those of us who appreciate moderation and exercise. The brave among us who seek out rice and beans.

It seems the foodie elite (aka The Fat Pack) is catching on too. When these promoters of gluttony start blogging about tofu, you know we’ve come a long way.

What’s next?
Anthony Bourdain turns into a vegan? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring cleaning green cleaners

I've always admired Seventh Generation as one of the goods guys. The kind of business that gets it. A company that names itself after a guiding principle of the Iroquois Confederacy. And wraps itself in attractive green packaging.

I've been buying their products for years.

But today I learned that the Seventh Generation detergents (like this beauty sitting on my kitchen sink) have a nifty cancer causer tucked inside. Unfortunately, it's not the only supposedly green soap in this bind. According to tests performed by the Organic Consumers Association, Method, Earth Friendly and Planet detergents all contained 1,4-dioxane too. (The name even sounds scary.)

So bye, bye Seventh Gen. My household's switching to Dr. Bronner's.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Here’s a thick and tasty stew perfect for the holiday. I used locally-grown shallots, potatoes, carrots and rye flour. We ate it with butterfly toast points made with Big Sky Baking Company's Organic Whole Wheat Three Seed bread.

Hearty Tempeh Stew

3 organic shallots, finely diced
2 Tbsp. organic extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves organic garlic, diced
1 package organic tempeh
6 small organic potatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
3 organic carrots, cut into half rounds
1 cup organic frozen peas (fresh in season)
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup organic tamari sauce
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. organic coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried organic thyme
pinch of dried oregano and basil
1/4 cup organic rye flour

Saute shallots in olive oil until translucent in a large cast iron pot. Add garlic. Then cut tempeh into strips and then crumble each strip into the pot. Pour in tamari and deglaze pan. Add potatoes and vegetable stock. Add sea salt and seasonings. Cover and let simmer 10 minutes. Add carrots and cook an additional 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat and whisk in rye flour until broth is thickened. Add frozen peas and stir into steaming mixture. Let sit a minute or two (until peas have heated) and serve.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Good news for people who eat

Back in the 1970s when my parents went “back-to-the-land” and started the commune, we had a tough go peddling our organic veggies and free-range eggs. The farmers’ markets in Maine were best described as “fledgling” and most people were still in awe of the vast offerings of cheap food at the local supermarket. People wondered: Why bother buying local?

But as this story in today’s NYT’s Fashion & Style section documents, college-educated, 20- and 30-somethings are once again heading to the hills and tilling the soil. But this time they have economics on their side:

“the growing market for organic and locally grown produce is making it possible for well-run small farms to thrive, said Ken Meter, 58, who studies the economics of food as an analyst at the Crossroads Resource Center, a nonprofit advocacy group for local food initiatives that is based in Minnesota.”

Nothing says Sunday like pancakes

I grew up eating pancakes on Sunday. My dad made the Finnish kind that are thin and about the size of a sand dollar. I love continuing the tradition today. Adam whipped up these beauties this morning using my egg-free recipe. Being in Maine, we use locally grown blueberries and drizzle the steaming stacks with Maine-made maple syrup. Yum!

Multi-Grain Blueberry Walnut Pancakes

1 1/2 cups rice or hemp milk
3/4 cup organic whole wheat flour
1/2 cup organic rolled oats, loosely ground in a mortar & pestle
1/4 cup organic whole grain corn meal
1/4 cup organic dehydrated cane juice (or other minimally processed sweetener)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen organic wild blueberries (use fresh in season)
3/4 cup organic walnuts, ground in a mortar & pestle
1/4 cup flax seeds, ground in a mortar & pestle

Mix wheat flour, oats, corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add walnuts and flax seeds. Mix in milk and them blueberries. Heat cast iron skillet to medium high. Pour a 1/4 cup of batter on and flip twice, making sure it's golden brown on both sides. Makes approximately 12.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where to eat vegetarian in Portland, Maine

As a vegan and a food writer who works for a weekly magazine in this foodie city, I get asked all the time about the best places for vegans and vegetarians to chow down. In general, I’ve found that Portland restaurants are really waking up to the growing number of people (vegetarian and not) who want to eat plant-based meals. So you won't be left with a bowl of white rice at most restaurants. But if you're looking for more than one veggie option, here are my top 10 picks:

1. Green Elephant-This is Portland's only all-vegetarian lunch and dinner spot and is located in the Arts District.
2. Silly’s - Casual spot in East End with diverse menu and robust selection of vegan fare.
3. Pom's Thai Taste Restaurant & Noodle House - Huge selection of Thai dishes, noodles and sushi, make sure to order the vegetarian white sauce. Located in Arts District.
4. White Heart - This hipster lounge in the Arts District serves up amazing food at reasonable prices. The drinks are killer too.
5. Pepper Club/Good Egg Cafe - Portland's oldest vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurant. Located in East End.
6. Flatbread - A Northeast pizza chain, this eatery (right on the waterfront in Old Port) offers organic and vegan options.
7. North Star Cafe -At the base of Munjoy Hill, this East End coffee house + live music spot has great veggie sandwiches and soups.
8. Fat Baxter’s - East End market and store with emphasis on local and organic. Sandwich counter offers yummy veggie food.
9. Artemisia - Studio District dinner spot with tasty vegetarian options.
10. Mesa Verde - Located at 618 Congress St. in the Arts District this Mexican restaurant offers organic food, vegetarian options and amazing smoothies. (Sorry, they don't have a website.)

Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

As one of those annoying people who’s always reading four or five books at the same time, I can never resist buying another one. “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” by Micheal Pollan (author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) is one of the newest in my “can’t wait to read it” pile. The slim tome caught my eye at Rabelais Books with this cover slogan: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds reasonable to a vegivore like me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Let vegans eat cake

With vegan chocolate cakes like this one sold at the bakery just down the street, I’m in vegan wonderland here in Portland, Maine. These organic Belgian chocolates from Divine Treasures (vegan of course) make the living easy too. Thanks Adam! Best birthday present ever.

It’s been a crazy week with parties every night. Thank you everyone for all the laughs and the birthday wishes! Can't wait for next year.

Tonight we’re off to dinner at Pom’s Thai Taste & Noodle House. The food is always fabulous. And the company is too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Easy vegan dinner party dish

The other night I didn’t have much time to throw together a dish for a dinner party. So I whipped up this hearty winter salad.

White Bean & Walnut Salad

3 cans cannellini beans, rinsed
1 jar kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half
3 Maine carrots, shredded
1 1/2 cups crushed walnuts
6 springs of thyme, leaves removed from stems

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.


1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Dash of balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. Maine maple syrup
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (I like Raye’s)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
Few thyme leaves
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
Maine sea salt

Pour vinegars in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in salt a few pinches at a time until you achieve the right balance (not too salty, not too much acid). Then whisk in remaining ingredients. Pour over the salad, stir and chill for at least an hour.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dark Chocolate Sorbetto

I can’t get enough of the dark chocolate sorbetto at Maple’s Organic Gelateria. It’s sinfully delicious. Especially when it’s paired with a fruit sorbetto, such as raspberry or strawberry. It’s torture to pass by their shop. (Which I have to walk by whenever I go to Videoport.) Whole Foods sells Maple’s dark chocolate sorbetto at its gelato bar too. Fortunately, when I’m in Whole Foods, the sorbetto is just one temptation among millions, so I hardly even noticed it. But the gelateria is nearly impossible to pass without stopping in. Sometimes I even buy a pint. If you go, beware the potential for addiction.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cookbook Notes: Vegannomicon

“Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook”
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

Whether you’re a herbivore or an omnivore looking to add more plant matter to your diet, this cookbook is a must-have. Packed with how-to info -- from making seitan to cooking quinoa -- it’s a kitchen bible that will whip you into a veggie cooking frenzy. The hosts of “The Post Punk Kitchen” and the authors of “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World,” Moskowitz and Romero fill the book with wit and sass. These ladies are no militant vegans (the kind who love to lecture and moralize). Instead their chatty tone makes me want to do strange things like roll sushi and cook risotto. It even inspires. It inspired me to modify Veganmonicon’s Tempeh Shepherdess Pie and create ...

Potato Pot Pie

This is an ideal dish for an icy Maine winter night.

4 baking sized potatoes (6-8 red potatoes), diced with skins on
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup plain hemp milk
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. Boil potatoes for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and return to pot with garlic, hemp milk and olive oil. Mash until creamy. Season with spices, salt and pepper. Keep warm as you finish filling.

Pot pie filling:
2 Tbsp. (or more) extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup fresh (or frozen) peas
1 package tempeh
1/3 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
2 cups water
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup whole-grain flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper

Break the tempeh apart into crumbles and add to a cast-iron skillet with the tamari, water and half the oil. Cover and allow to boil for 10 minutes. Take off the lid and continue cooking if liquid still remains. Once the water is evaporated, drain the tempeh in a colander. Use the same skillet and add the remaining oil and saute the onions until translucent. Return the tempeh to the skillet. Saute for a few more minutes, then add the vegetable broth and the flour. Stir until well mixed. Add the carrots, and turn off the heat. Add the peas and then pour the filling into a casserole dish. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top and bake for 20 minutes.

NOTE: Since I like my mashed potatoes with nutty bits of peel still intact, I tend to dice them small and boil them peels and all. If this grosses you out, feel free to peel ‘em. I’m also a fan of crunchy carrots. Even when they’re cooked. If you like yours on the softer side, cook them for 5-10 minutes before turning off the heat and mixing in the peas.

Urban vitality

I’ve wanted to live in Portland ever since I was in middle school and my parents first brought me and my sister down to the fledgling Old Port to go shopping. Exchange Street was stilled paved with cobblestones back then and, like today, dotted with funky gift shops and eclectic restaurants. All I cared about were the stores that sold stickers. They were offered on rolls and in strips, and I particularly loved the Toots, Mrs. Grossman’s and Boynton’s (I still think they're funny, even today).

But outside the neighborhood bordering Exchange Street, things got sketchy, quickly. My dad’s office, just a few blocks away at the corner of Commercial and India, was considered a rough part of town. Now there’s a gorgeous new cruise ship terminal, the Ocean Gateway, next door. We never went to Congress Street--there were porn theaters and god knows what else going on up there. Now it’s called the Arts District and is arguably the hottest scene in town.

I definitely never walked a mere three blocks into Bayside, where today I type these words. Of course, this neighborhood is changing too, with new apartments, offices and a ginormous Whole Foods. Since we moved in, we’ve brought our own changes, planting trees and removing trash. But back in the 1980s, this area was blighted from decades of young people fleeing the city for the suburbs and hinterlands.

Thank god we’re coming back to our senses and bouncing back to the city. I’m excited that Bayside is developing and more people will be able to experience Portland, Maine’s creative urban vitality. It’s a treat. And I’m willing to share.