Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grazing on plant foods at Maine's Veg Food Fest

Maine's herbivores gathered yesterday for the annual celebration of plant-based cuisine that is the Vegetarian & Vegan Food Festival. Now in its sixth year, the event attracted hundreds of attendees and more than two dozen food vendors, vegetarian-focused businesses and animal rights nonprofits.

One of the most popular tables was staffed by Portland's premier vegetarian restaurant, the Green Elephant. Here co-owner Dan Sriprasert serves up free samples of fresh and fried spring rolls, while his team members offer up wontons, soy nuggets and stir fry.

The Vermont Soy booth also attracted a line with samples of tofu stir fry.

Maine Animal Coalition, the event sponsor, used a variety of donated products to create a Tofurky sandwich stand and a top-your-own baked potato bar, both of which attracted lines and positive reviews.

I enjoyed trying Dr. John's Brain-ola made by Little Lad's Bakery using Dr. John Herzog's recipe. Unlike other granolas, it's not coated in sweetener. We couldn't resit buying a bag to bring home.

David Homa who owns Kzeloumsen Permaculture Gardens presented a lush display highlighting his edible landscaping services. I love the fact that he included these gorgeous rocks in his design. He tells me he and Eli Cayer are cooking up an interesting project, which I hope to check out soon. If I get the scoop, I'll be sure to share it in my Natural Foodie column in the Portland Press Herald.

Once again, the festival proved to be another stellar event showcasing the diverse ways to enjoy plant-based meals in Maine. It's great to know that eating low on the food chain is so easy here in the pine tree state.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring sandwich with black bean tempeh

At yesterday's Portland Winter Market, Jaime Berhanu of Lalibela Farm offered me a sample of her latest experiment: black bean tempeh. Right away I was intrigued by the exotic black and steel color.

The flavor was mild and went well with the ginger-lime marinade I created. The texture is softer than soy tempeh, however, it crisps under high heat just like soy tempeh.

Black bean is the third sample I've tried, after navy bean and garbanzo bean. Jamie and her husband, Andy, are testing a variety of beans to see which one makes the best soy-free tempeh.

Each one's flavor reflects the bean it's made from while still offering the classic tempeh taste. Of the three, the garbanzo's texture was most similar to soy, but right now I'm feeling partial to the black bean.

After I let the black bean tempeh slices marinate for a couple hours, I cooked them on the griddle. Using toasted slices of a whole grain loaf I bought at the market, I served the tempeh with Raye's Mustard, mixed greens, fresh basil leaves, green onions and sliced red onions (my last storage onion from the fall). It was the perfect spring sandwich, and a wonderful testament to all the great food at the Portland Winter Market.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Portland Winter Market off to a busy start

The new indoor Portland Winter Market opened this morning to huge crowds. I heard from one of the vendors that shoppers started trickling in at least a half an hour ahead of opening time. You'll find a number of familiar faces from the Portland Farmers Market - including Freedom Farm, Thirty Acre Farm, Fishbowl Farm (above), Lalibela Farm and Sumner Valley Farm - plus a number of vendors new to the city.

The organizers of this market - who also organize the indoor winter market in Brunswick - have had a rough go trying to meet all of Portland's regulations and licensing requirements. Four vendors, including organizer Mother Oven Bakery, who intended to be part of the market couldn't get approval to be there today. Their exclusion happened after the city gave the organizers 24 hours notice that certain vendors would have to set up in the space yesterday for a health inspection. A coffee roaster that couldn't get city approval is there, but instead of selling coffee, the vendor is handing out free samples.

I'm hoping things can be worked out so everyone can be there next Saturday. Judging by the crowds, it seems clear that Portlanders want year-round access to local food.

The market runs every Saturday until the end of April from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 85 Free St.