First Bites: The Velveteen Habit

Some friends of mine recently moved to Berwick and mentioned enjoying a meal at The Velveteen Habit, a name I had seen crop up on Eater over the past few months. Admittedly, I knew very little about the restaurant or the food scene in general in that neck of the woods. My friends were throwing a housewarming party and VH was only 20 minutes away, so I saw the opportunity to kill two birds and break outside of my peninsula comfort zone. Located in Cape Neddick, the space was formerly occupied by Arrows for 25 years under the ownership of Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier. The four-acre farmhouse opened this past spring with Ben Goldman and Brent Bushong handling the remodel/management operations and Chris Wilcox at the helm in the kitchen.

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The front entrance at 37 Ogunquit Rd in Cape Neddick

View from the bar towards the first-floor dining room

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Ben greeted me and informed me that he had a table arranged but regretfully at that hour, I wouldn’t have much of a view of the property. I opted for the bar instead because I was leaning more towards limiting myself to an app and dessert before scooting to my friends’ party. The chicken liver mousse had an astringent quality to it, not quite as rich with umami as I’m used to experiencing. I am always terrible at budgeting my bread versus spread ratio, but the bartender picked up on this and asked the kitchen to replenish the biscuit before I even had the chance. The duck confit was incredible, perfectly cooked and very robust in flavor. I unfortunately found myself unable to finish parts of the cauliflower dish. I totally missed any hint of starchiness to the black rice as it was completely saturated with a pickling agent. One really nice aspect of their dessert menu is that half-portions are available, so that leaves some wiggle room to do some sampling. The dirty chai granita and pot de creme both had really nice layers of texture and flavors.

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Chicken liver mousse with almonds, black currant preserves, house biscuit

Duck confit au jus, sauerkraut, heirloom apples

Duck confit au jus & sauerkraut

Roasted cauliflower & heirloom apples over black rice

Roasted cauliflower & heirloom apples over black rice

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Pot de creme with Nutella, rye streusel, and sweet cream ice cream // dirty chai granita with salted caramel and thyme

While this is not something I normally include in my accounts of restaurants, their cocktail menu was laid out as such:

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I ordered the crabapple shrub listed at the bottom, which led me to believe that one would receive a soda unless specifically requesting shots with the respective price differences. It just so happens that the crabapple shrub is also an ingredient in the ‘Farmhouse 14 Shrub’ listed at the top. I clearly was not paying close attention to the bartender’s preparation and I drank it as I normally would any vinegar-based mocktail. When I received the bill, I questioned why the beverage charge was $12 instead of $4. The bartender stated he thought I had ordered the Farmhouse 14 cocktail. I was astounded I had finished the drink without detecting the booze by either taste or feeling its effects as an obvious lightweight. The rum was completely masked to my senses. Even though they adjusted the bill, I felt compelled to mention this service faux pas to serve as a precaution to potential diners who may have an allergy or are in recovery. Luckily, neither is the case for me and it did not result in any illness, but I do hold a certain amount of pride in maintaining a chem-free lifestyle.

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The liquid Trojan horse

While I never ate at Arrows, it sounded like Velveteen Habit had some big shoes to fill by taking over the space. I think it has great potential, but I do think this initial experience left some opportunity for fine-tuning. I look forward to getting a better glimpse of the grounds under sunnier conditions in the summertime. Velveteen Habit’s season ends on Sunday December 20th.

~NOMaste

First Bites: EVO Kitchen + Bar

I was both surprised and flattered to receive an invitation last month to a dinner hosted by EVO Kitchen + Bar.  While I’ve had the occasional restaurant reach out to say that they’d like me to stop by sometime, this was a slightly different circumstance as the table was reserved for members of the press. When I think of ‘the press’, printed publications and televised news are what come to mind, not necessarily Facebook and Instagram. The impact and utility of social media certainly shouldn’t be downplayed in this day and age, but I didn’t think a guest list of this nature would include someone like me who does this as a hobby and does not produce much writing at all. Regardless, I was honored to be in the company of reps from the Press Herald, Eater Maine, and Old Port Magazine as well as co-owner Casey Prentice. On a side note, Chef de cuisine Matt Ginn and I actually grew up in the same hometown. We were amused by the fact that our interests in food have grown exponentially since our high school days of being employed in a local grocery store.

EVO is set within the footprint of the newly-constructed Hyatt Place on Fore Street. For months it sat empty, a jagged glass facade with a gravel floor. When I finally saw the signage switch from ‘for lease’ to ‘under contract’, I imagined that it would be for retail. Certainly one of the best possible spots in the city for foot traffic, but the size and unusual angles seemed like they would not be conducive to a restaurant. The Prentice Group certainly proved me wrong and pulled off an attractive and efficient use of the space. They literally rose to the challenge and built upwards to create a mezzanine dining platform, the only part of the restaurant with tables. The remaining seats are located at countertops lining the floor-to-ceiling windows or bordering the bar-kitchen area, so either way you are guaranteed an ideal spot for people-watching.

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View of Fore Street from the mezzanine level

wpid-20150626_215342_lls.jpgwpid-20150626_215524_lls.jpgwpid-20150626_215542_lls.jpgWhile EVO’s concept was still in development, the idea of a molecular gastronomy bar had been tossed around. They ultimately abandoned that idea in favor of a Mediterranean approach, hot on the heels of other Portland newcomers like Ebb & Flow and TIQA whose menus also draw influence from that part of the globe. Executive Chef Brandon Hicks was inspired by his travels abroad, his time at ilili Restaurant in New York, and more recently cooking for a Lebanese guest at Chebeague Island Inn where his execution of the dishes apparently gave the family recipes a run for their money. While EVO is using the small plate/tapas (or in this case mezze) model like many other places in Portland, they pride themselves on the versatility of the dishes. They are not only designed to be shared but also mixed together particularly items like the labneh, hummus, baba ghanouj, and various flatbreads. The ingredients and recipes may have foreign roots, but EVO is committed to sourcing locally whenever it can and is currently collaborating with five CSA programs.

Regretfully, I consider myself ill-prepared to break down my evening dish-by-dish. While I have done this in the past, my immersion in a meal is vastly different in a social setting. I do actually love eating with other people, but I do feel there is a level of distraction that comes into play compared to eating alone, which I’ve found to be a much richer and intimate experience. Furthermore, it’s never been really been my aspiration to become a reviewer. Even if my palate were finely-tuned (which it’s not), taste is entirely subjective, rooted in an individual’s memory, cravings, and genetics. I would prefer people take my reviews with a grain of salt and go find out for themselves. My sole goal with this account is to provide a visual first impression and get people through the doors of local businesses, inspiring them to try new things. I realize this may be a bit of a cop-out, but I felt I had to justify why so much more of my time is devoted to Instagram while the blog tends to be put on the backburner.

That being said, I greatly enjoyed my meal at EVO and I would not hesitate to steer diners in their direction. The stars of the evening for me were the meat courses. The duck meatballs, lamb loin, sweetbreads, and chicken livers were all stand-outs. I also greatly appreciated the bartender’s efforts to develop a selection of mocktails while the other guests were offered wine pairings. I think that EVO is a strong addition to both the growing Mediterranean niche and Portland’s food scene in general. They operate seven days a week with service starting at 5pm. They stay open Sunday-Tuesday until 10:30pm and Wednesday-Saturday until 12:30am.

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Baba ghanouj

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Yogurt, mint, cherry mocktail

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Pomegranate & lime mocktail

Fluke crudo with toasted barley

Fluke crudo with toasted barley

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Crushed walnut Muhammara: roasted red peppers, pomegranate seeds, radish, basil, scallions

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Tabbouleh herb salad: tomato vinaigrette, mint, cucumber, bulgur

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Duck meatballs: radicchio kabis, sour cherries, crispy duck skin

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Prawns with fennel, Aleppo pepper, cilantro, Arak

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Crispy sweetbreads with date molasses, artichoke, Aleppo pepper

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Sauteed chicken livers, walnut sibagh crackers, watercress, sumac

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Asparagus fatteh: pickled labneh, crispy garlic, pea tendrils

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Roasted lamb saddle: heirloom tomato shakshuka, harissa, sautéed okra

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Persian baklava with pistachio & rose blossom syrup

Semolina Mammoul: Pecan-filling, cardamom, fig marshmallow

Semolina Mammoul: Pecan-filling, cardamom, fig marshmallow

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Qamar El Din: turmeric cake, fennel pollen, apricot, semifreddo

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Achta: clotted cream flavored with rose blossom, candied nasturtiums, pistachio

~NOMaste

Summer grubbin’

While we’re roughly three weeks away from official summer, it’s probably safe to say Mainers are welcoming the rising temperatures with open arms after a relentlessly snowy winter. Warmer weather brings slews of tourists, a new harvest of ingredients, and of course fewer obstacles from Mother Nature which allows construction of new bars and restaurants to go more smoothly.

Lunchtime lull at Lolita

During the week, I work down on Commercial Street which is a blessing to have my pick of the culinary litter in the heart of the Old Port. I tend to rotate through Walter’s, Blue Rooster, Paciarino, occasionally Miyake and Central Provisions. I was asked to diverge from my one-block radius and head over to Munjoy Hill to give Lolita’s lunch service a whirl. I very much enjoyed my experience, but unless you work in the East End, I personally didn’t see it an ideal option for an hour break. That mostly had to do with me losing a few minutes getting to/from there, even with a car. The weather was certainly nice enough to walk, but again, not entirely realistic under the time crunch. Both the kitchen and bartender were efficient in their preparations, so it was not related to service. It’s just not quite the vibe that I get for a place like Lolita. I would much rather order a couple of plates and nurse my mocktail. Savor the scene and lose track of time, not inhale my food and bounce. My meal was very satisfying and also very spicy from start to finish. The cayenne-ginger mocktail, a couple of rogue shishito peppers in the mix, and the yogurt with a kick all gave my upper lip a Bikram-worthy workout. I was crestfallen when I had to jet out of there while the prospect of dessert was being pitched to me. I would return in a heartbeat to hang out midday on a weekend. Lolita is open daily (except Tuesdays) from 11a-11p. Owners Guy & Stella Hernandez are also celebrating their opening anniversary on June 1st, a fun opportunity to check them out if you haven’t done so already or perhaps as an overdue revisit.

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Lunch specials rotate daily, but remain at a cool $10 pricepoint

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Speck, arugula, tomato aioli on sourdough with side of shishito peppers

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Radicchio, duckfat-roasted potatoes, spiced yogurt

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Temperance (alcohol-free) drink: lemon juice, ginger juice, cayenne, ground turmeric, Urban Moonshine bitters

Staple ‘junk’ food: burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream

I’m simply at a loss for words regarding these three items. I hope pictures will suffice.

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The “Palais Royale” double-cheeseburger at Palace Dinner in Biddeford

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Bacon-wrapped dog with house hot sauce, avocado, scallion, garlic aioli at Dutch’s

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Khulfi (sweetened condensed milk, cardamom, pistachio, saffron) from Mt. Desert Ice Cream

Food truck season

Not that cold weather ever deterred the loyal lunch crowds for El Corazon, but with more plentiful sunshine, both new and old food trucks are emerging from the garages.

  • Cannoli Joe’s made its debut at this year’s Street Eats & Beats.
  • Fishin’ Ships has come out of hibernation and CN Shawarma has returned to the peninsula after a season at Sugarloaf.
  • My truck girlfriend Rosie is currently M.I.A.
  • I saw PB&ME post something recently, I went to track them down, and inadvertently crashed a ticketed event…behold the power of social media!
  • Austin Miller is aiming to launch his Japanese food truck Mami within the next month.
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Fish tacos with cilantro, mango-poblano salsa, spicy aioli from Fishin’ Ships

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El Corazon, newcomer Cannoli Joe’s, and The Muthah Truckah parked along Spring Street

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One of CN Shawarma’s treats: Lebanese yogurt, honey, cherries, cinnamon-sugar pita

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Cannoli Joe’s Sicilian and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel varieties (out of his array of 39 rotating flavors)

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Fried peanut butter & jelly with coconut creme fraiche from PB&ME

Vinland hosting more pop-ups

Back in March, I had the pleasure of dining at Vinland where their former sous chef, Ryan Quigley, returned to the kitchen to present his own vision of cooking. Chef-owner David Levi told me he had other guest chefs peppered throughout spring and summer on Tuesday evenings. I received an invitation from the current chef de partie, Chris Newton, for his “Cabbage Head” event. His menu was inspired by Eastern European/Jewish cuisine and like David, also seems very committed to sustainable local sourcing of ingredients.

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Salad (micro-arugula, begonias, violets) with ramp dressing

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Beet borscht with fresh dill & sour cream

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Potato-tarragon-chive latke with beet purée

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Honey-lavender ice cream with candied violets

First imPRESSions at Union

Incidentally, one of the Vinland servers whom I had just seen the night before also splits his time here, so it was cool to have a familiar face to guide me through uncharted territory. Beautiful restaurant and common areas of the hotel (hopefully someday I’ll make it to the roof!). An elegant blend of the Press Herald history with modern design. Pasta dish was a standout, perfectly al dente and the dehydrated olives were explosive on the palate. Dessert was so incredible that I almost re-ordered it, but I exercised restraint…for once.

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Seared tuna, puffed rice, ponzu glaze, scallion, teardrop peppers

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Pappardelle pasta with ricotta, prosciutto powder, kale pesto, dehydrated olives, lemon zest

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Pôt de crème with chantilly cream & Himalayan salt, espresso madeleine, ‘Whoopie Pie’ macaron

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~ NOMaste

Piccolo Strikes Back

Sorry for being as sluggish as a Hutt about posting this. We’ll just pretend it was deliberate as today is the 35th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back‘s release. Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez once again created an elegant meal fit for a Jedi; neither clumsy nor random in its preparation. The ration kit was an awesome mix of brine and spice. I’d be pretty happy fighting on the front lines for the Alliance with that kind of chow. I had to skip the deviled egg course, but Damian was kind enough to put together roasted brussel sprouts with pickled mushrooms for me last minute. The squid dish was incredibly tender, not Chewie chewy, which can easily be a turn-off with the protein. As a caution to my egg intolerance, the squid ink aioli was not included and I did get the (bad) feeling that I was missing out on something. The Sausage a la Taun-taun was a crowd-pleaser last year and I was delighted that it made another appearance. The Vanilla Hoth Balls were so light and airy, it seemed like the treat would be just as appropriate on Cloud City. The sculpted chocolate Jawa was super playful and delicious. In fact, I was somewhat relieved my tablemates were getting full because it basically meant that I was able to enjoy it in its entirety.

While the evening is a wonderful homage to George Lucas’s films, the food could certainly stand on its own. There are a million ways you could go with cooking for something like this. As Damian has said in other interviews, he’s chosen to take the more elevated route with the cuisine. He is a life-long Star Wars fan, but also a chef who takes his craft seriously. He and Ilma are really able to take their talent and passions and fuse them seamlessly into something really special that I will continue to look forward to year after year.

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“How you get so big eating food of this kind?”–Yoda

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All about that base, about that base, NO REBELS!

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Egg alternative: brussel sprouts & pickled mushrooms

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Deviled egg with anchovy & anise yogurt

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Squid over tater tots (Blue Rooster cameo?) sans ink aioli

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A real-life Luke (Aberle, sous chef) cutting open the pig stomach to reveal sausages cooked within

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“Jawa in the Dessert” also Hoth Snow Balls with liquid nitrogen (not pictured)

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I find your lack of salt disturbing…

If Portland existed in the Star Wars universe…

Image Courtesy of 501st New England Garrison/Mandolorian Mercs on Instagram

Image Courtesy of 501st New England Garrison/Mandolorian Mercs on Instagram

I have been reflecting upon the amazing meal I had Piccolo this time last year. It surpassed all my expectations both as a foodie and as a Star Wars fan. Damian and Ilma could serve us the exact same thing and I’d be over the battlestation moon, but I have a feeling that they will outdo themselves once more to create a memorable evening without the need for Jedi mind tricks. I am not ashamed to fly my geek flag high today. Happy Star Wars Day and May the Fourth be with you!

Hoth: Mt. Desert Ice Cream

Ithor (a planet of herbivore pacifists): tie between Green Elephant Bistro and Local Sprouts

Yavin 4/Massassi Temple: Grace

“Wretched hive of scum and villainy”: Wharf Street

Cloud City: Top of the East/C-2

Jabba’s Palace: Local 188 for the palatial couches & live music. Though probably more likely to find frog leg snacks at Petite Jacqueline?

Endor: LFK, since beards are probably the closest thing we have to Ewoks?

Coruscant: the “empire” of Honey Paw/Eventide/Hugo’s

Mos Eisley Cantina: Vena’s Fizz House, it’s the only bar quirky enough where I can actually imagine Modal Nodes’ music playing

The Death Star: NOSH, for annihilating arteries in a single bite

Dirty Thirty Dish Crawl: Portland and New York #belated

So apparently all the cool kids are going to Brooklyn, but guess what? I was there before either of them and now it appears I’m the last to post about it. Womp womp. Anyway, not that much of my babbling is relevant two months later, so you’re probably better off just scrolling on down to the pictures…

I had some anxieties about having to finally part ways with my 20s earlier this year, but as an individual without any chemical vices, that really only left me with one coping mechanism: eating. I decided to indulge myself (well, more than usual) locally and also during a brief overnight to New York City. It just so happened that this year’s milestone celebration fell on Fat Tuesday, so my spree of gluttony seemed especially appropriate. My original plan was to hit up Two Fat Cats for some king’s cake that I had seen them promoting ahead of Mardi Gras. Alas, I never made it to India Street because once I realized Dutch’s was on my immediate walking path and they had whipped up their own king’s cake, laziness prevailed. I managed to get the last one but the traditional plastic baby baked inside had already been claimed, so no birthday coronation for me. It was a pretty substantial piece of pastry leaving some concern of hitting my caloric peak far too early in the day. I can hear you all boo and hiss at me right now, but I did go to Starbucks to redeem my complimentary annual reward and ordered a tiramisu latte. While it didn’t exactly hold a candle to Paciarino‘s version of the dessert, I’m not really one to gripe about a freebie. I then meandered from the top of Exchange Street to the bottom to push the limits of my caffeinated sugar rush. One Holy Donut probably would have been sufficient, but I bought two so I could properly arrange play with my food to exhibit my age. I felt I was continuing to handicap my stomach with heavy carbs, so I hit up Central Provisions for some soup & salad. This was my feeble attempt to convince my body there was some semblance of healthy food in the mix. The last edible I was entitled to as birthday boy was across the street at Gelato Fiasco. I simply could not justify getting anything larger than a treat size, though I did have them double up on flavors. I waddled back to my apartment and took a very uncomfortable nap. It got to the point that I had to text my friend Kate from Vinland to bump my reservation at her pop-up event because I still wasn’t feeling up to it. She was super thoughtful and took the time to make me a pie though, so I absolutely had to attend to honor her efforts. I’m really glad I did because the dip set and banh mi with headcheese (euphemism “pork terrine”) were freakin’ delightful. Like a champ, I finished out the night by downing that whole apple galette too.

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Dutch’s: cinnamon roll King’s cake edition

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Barista doodles make me happy.

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Holy Donuts of the cranberry & lemon varieties

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Central Provisions: roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, feta, seasoned with Ras el hanout

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Central Provisions: tomato soup

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Gelato Fiasco: Red Flannel Whoopie Pie and Caramel Brownie Bits

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Dippin’ duo: cashew & za’atar spice duqqa and rosemary-white bean

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Headcheese banh mi

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Apple galette for one

My birthday present to myself was seeing Sharon Van Etten concert in Brooklyn with a friend from college. I took the bus to Boston and had some lousy pizza at South Station which I did not feel was worth documenting. I think my body was still in recovery mode from the previous day because I didn’t end up going to the snack car at any point. I met my friend as she got out of work and her plan was for us to check out Fette Sau in Williamsburg. Customers seemed entitled to having their backpacks, purses, and shopping bags strewn about the picnic tables (think a much smaller version of Salvage BBQ). We spent most of our time just holding our food, craning our necks in search of free space, and trying to swoop in before the other displaced diners. Barbecue served on a tray isn’t really conducive to eating while standing unless you have counter space, which only existed as the bar and was also full. When we finally snagged some seats, my friend and I shared the pulled pork, sausage, and brisket which were all really tasty along with the selection of sauces at the table. Their cornbread, however, was doughy and inedible. The performances by Sharon and her opener Leon Bridges were fantastic, the crowd however was anything but. They put me in too foul of a mood to get around to trying the venue’s pierogies.

My friend had a job interview the following day, so I had to fend for myself for a few hours before catching the train back to Boston. My friend suggested I check out Doughnut Plant for my breakfast fix. The peanut butter & jelly donut was a revelation. I don’t know how it hasn’t reached the peninsula yet…Leigh Kellis and/or Urban Sugar, nudge nudge. I initially wanted the tres leches flavor, but discovered I didn’t have any lactose probiotic on-hand. I went on a frantic errand to CVS to buy some because I had a lunch reservation at noon and zero intent of limiting myself to dairy-free options. I had booked at Butter without realizing it was also Restaurant Week in New York, so that was a nice prix-fixe surprise. My primary motivation for eating there was because I have been starstruck since realizing the owner, Alex Guarnaschelli of Chopped fame, has been following my Instagram account (P.S. she seems particularly fond of Taco Tuesday posts at Local Sprouts). I ordered the endive salad, the porgi, and orange pound cake. I tacked on an order of veal meatballs and also sunchokes. Endive salad wasn’t necessarily the most exciting course, but I kind of learned my lesson the day before. I was ordering on strategic value more than hedonistic value. I also caught a piece of bone in my whitefish, but other than that I was very pleased with the food, service, and atmosphere. While I wish I had some more time to try a couple more places down there, it is comforting to know that somewhere on the peninsula there is always a good meal waiting to be had. New York, I like you, but Portland…I like you like you.

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Pulled pork, sausage, brisket

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Vegetarians, I cast thee out!

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How Brooklyn does brisket

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PB&J

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Cashew-orange blossom dough seed

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Roasted sunchokes with lemon & peppered pecans

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Kohlrabi, pear, endive salad with smoked almond vinaigrette

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Seared porgi with charred Romaine & sun-dried tomato pesto

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Veal meatballs with oven-dried tomatoes, preserved lemon, fresh herbs

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Charred orange pound cake, vanilla ice cream, and honeycomb

~NOMaste

Vinland presents Mothers & Thieves pop-up dinner

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Mothers & Thieves is a chef couple comprised of Ryan Quigley and Tavis Potter. I first met Ryan while he was a sous chef at Vinland and we developed a friendship via Instagram and he graciously provided some glimpses into his creative process. I had another chance to try some of his preparations in Cambridge at his current employer Puritan & Company while Tavis interns at Harvest as a pastry chef. The two of them were given free reign in David Levi’s kitchen for the evening, meaning they did not have to adhere to the restaurant’s vision of only utilizing ingredients native to Maine or its gluten-free standard (unless specifically requested).There was also a novelty to it that was kind of fun to because they were in David’s playground and totally breaking the rules. They held two seatings, a four-course and a seven-course, and being the proverbial pig that I am, I chose the latter. I apologize that I did not take more extensive notes because it was a social event as well, so I didn’t quite get to have an intensively pensive experience as when I dine alone. There were definitely more components than what the menu lists and I’m sure Ryan & Tavis mentioned some unusual techniques but my memory is simply at a loss. I really loved the presentation of all the food and it was delicious to boot (the duck course being a stand-out). Ryan and Tavis both have a few weeks left with their current employers before they head off to Central and South America on a series of stagiaire gigs. Throughout the month of May, Vinland plans to host guest chefs every Tuesday night, so be sure to keep an eye on their social media as details become available.

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Dubbed “The Dexter” course

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We referred to this as the Mardi Gras dish based on the aesthetics, but it truly was like a festival for the mouth.

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Rooibos bubble tea with vanilla & candy cap mushroom foam

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Ginger-infused tapioca pearls

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Coconut milk panna cotta

~NOMaste

There is no right or wrong answer…

The more plausible choice is the one that I happen to run with, but I honestly can’t say for sure if that is the true secret to keeping svelte at the belt.

First Bites: Tao Yuan – Brunswick, ME

My dearest readers, I assure you I have been eating well, but the writing aspect has clearly suffered, so I do  want to apologize for the lapse in blog entries. If you have not already done so, my best suggestion is that you follow my dining exploits via my Instagram account as it gets updated on a 24-48 hour basis. Even if you do not have Instagram downloaded on your smartphone or tablet, you may still access the pictures from the website.

The following pictures are from my dinner at Tao Yuan earlier this year, which unbeknownst to me, happened to be their last evening of service before going on a winter hiatus. Their staff is back in action as of February 4th. While I’ve personally enjoyed all of my meals at BaoBao Dumpling House, I’m aware of feedback that other diners felt the menu is too limited or they expected baozi to be served due to its namesake. For those guests, I feel as though Tao Yuan may align more closely to what they had in mind. I opted for the chef’s tasting menu at the recommendation of the bartender and he was right on the money. I urge you to take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the menu that Chef Cara Stadler has prepared because it’s really something special and I have great faith you will not be disappointed. I was so impressed by the progression of flavors, textures, and presentation from start to finish. Portions and pacing were all spot-on as well, so thankfully I didn’t feel like a stuffed pig by the end of it. If you ever find yourself in the Brunswick area, do not neglect a visit to Tao Yuan!

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Pemaquid oyster with lemongrass mignonette (my FIRST half-shell experience by the way!)

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Beef tenderloin, spinach, miso vinaigrette, satsuma orange, mushrooms, rice chili crisp

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Tuna poké with micro greens and cuttlefish chips

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Pork steam bun and Shao Mai (pork, shrimp, water chestnut, shiitake)

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Soup dumpling

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Wok-fried cauliflower with bacon, scallion, garlic, soy

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Scallops with Hong Shao pork terrine, fennel, crimini mushrooms, imperial jus

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Seared duck breast (sorry I cannot recall the other components)

Opal basil granita

Opal basil granita

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Flourless chocolate torte, toasted coconut sorbet, bing cherrry gastrique