So this isn’t about Maine (though I did make this dish here in Maine and it will be in my cookbook) but more about photography and how just the right lighting, contrast and reflection can make a photo pop. The shine of the glaze fascinates me! The plums are roasted with honey and the skins give off this beautiful pink juice. They tasted great too, by the way…
Tiny crab cakes with mango salsa by Chow Maine in Southwest Harbor! Delicious little bites…
Of course in keeping with all things local, I stopped at the local farmers market today and picked up some Udderview goat cheese (this one, an Italian Torte layered with roasted tomatoes, pesto, goat cheese and crushed almonds). Yesterday I stopped at Chase’s Daily in Belfast and bought a beautiful, fresh bunch of purple basil. And then my cocktail? It’s Cold River Vodka (worth the splurge), orange juice, a dash of Limoncello, a splash of my basil simple syrup and garnished with purple basil. And of course, the colors are opposite on the color wheel and pair as well as the flavors!
One part Seawall coast – Acadia National Park
One part Maine Mussels
One part Cabernet
One part sun and 75 degrees…
My favorite product in Bar Harbor – Fiore Olive Oils and Vinegars. It’s a tasting room. It’s culinary inspiration. It’s art. It’s delicious! Every time I go in they have new products to taste. So I spent a short while thinking about how to use the Chocolate Aged Balsamic. And one of the wonderful staff members said that she’d been wanting to try it with the Blood Orange olive oil. And she was spot on, the combination was perfect! So I went home to make a dressing for a Baby Spinach Salad.
I started out wanting to use fresh cherries but my husband had just finished them! So I opted to soak some cranberries in a little of the Balsamic and the Vinegar for a couple hours. I toasted some walnuts, crumbled some goat cheese and tossed them into a bowl of baby spinach. I put the marinated cranberries in the salad, tossed on the oil and vinegar they’d been soaking in and added some coarsely ground fresh black pepper and a new salad was born!
Fiore just opened a store in Rockland that I understand has been doing very well, naturally. For many years I’ve been very particular about my olive oils, and I must admit, I’m completely hooked on Fiore’s and won’t buy any others!
While I was there, I purchased a nice gift box of a four pack variety for an upcoming closing gift – keeping it local!
THAT is what you do with leftover lobster!
Let me preface this post by saying that I did not have my good camera at dinner so this post is more about the descriptive foodporn than visual foodporn. It was, however, a stunning display for the senses. And molecular gastronomy. I felt like I was a judge on Top Chef.
Hugo’s is owned by Chef Rob and Nancy Evans and is a member of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Rob was a 2009 James Beard winner for “Best Chef North East” and previously worked at French Laundry in Yountville, CA and Inn at Little Washington in Virginia.
Portland is fast becoming quite a foodie town with numerous spectacular restaurants for such a small city. Each time I have to travel to Portland I tend to repeat a few of my favorites. But I had yet to try Hugo’s and decided it was time. After looking at the menu, we decided to go with the “Chef’s Blind Tasting” consisting of 6 courses. If you’re going to rely on the chef’s creativity and element of surprise, this is the place to do it. We were only told about each dish as it was presented. Thankfully we were given a copy of the menu after the meal; I would have had a difficult time remembering all details.
Here was our menu and my tasting comments:
Brought to the Table
Potato Biscuits with homemade butter
They were warm, flaky, perfectly salty. The butter was silky and melted immediately on the biscuit. In order to savor every morsel, I turned what should have been 1 or 2 bites into at least 4. We had to turn down our server’s offer of a fourth refill 🙂
Pemaquid Oyster with cocktail sauce
Here’s the first taste of molecular gastronomy. The cocktail sauce was a perfect little dollop atop the oyster, but it was contained in its own extremely thin skin, somehow. It seemingly burst open in your mouth offering the taste sensation at just the right moment, allowing you to first taste the oyster.
Citrus Cured Scottish Salmon and Fried Salmon Tartare with fennel and beet salad, horseradish and smoked salmon roe.
The large orange pearl roe was amazingly smokey and popped with flavor. The fried salmon was perfectly rare in the center with a hot and crisply fried exterior. Loved this dish.
Maine Shrimp Flan with proscuitto dashi, scallion and shrimp toast
This was a small bowl of warm flan beneath a floating layer of flavorful broth and tender Maine shrimp; a small bowl of big flavor. The shrimp toast was light and airy with again, lots of flavor.
Casco Bay Cod Cheeks and Tempura Fried Cod Tongue with roasted cauliflower, capers and brown butter.
This was one of the dishes that most surprised me (tongue??). The cod cheeks were lightly pan seared and were tender, flaky and very fresh. But the tongue? I didn’t know what to expect. That happened to be one of my favorite bites of the evening. It was like eating perfectly tempura fried butter, it was that good. It melted the second it hit my mouth. Can’t explain it, only that I was WOWED!
Roasted Duck Breast, Duck Leg Pancetta and Cured Foie Gras with farro, candied spaghetti squash and warm spice gastrique
This duck was beautiful in all preparations. A duck trifecta. The winter spices really complimented the dish without too much sweetness.
Shelburne Farm 2 Year Cheddar with poached raisins, verjus gelee, caraway lavash
This was a cheese course served two ways – shaved aged cheddar as well as a whipped cream-like cheddar, with a reduction of sorts drizzed on top. The raisins and verjus were a great compliment to the sharp cheese.
Lime Semi Freddo with vanilla infused buttermilk with rum roasted pineapple and anise hyssop
Can I please have seconds? This was a fabulous flavor explosion – an absolute mouth party! The roasted pineapple was so intensely flavored and contrasted so nicely with the smooth lime semi freddo. This should be a new gourmet ice cream flavor. Maybe Rob and Nancy should look into it…
This is one restaurant where it’s not about eating because you’re hungry; it’s about appreciating the art of food and the science of cooking and how some creative chefs combine the two.
Next time, I will bring my Canon D40 to properly document the event.
This was a collaboration between @kimswan, @candacekaru, @lesliecottrell and myself (@danamoos) – (aka The Danforth Divas) we wanted to hold a “Tweetup” but not at a bar or restaurant, but somewhere that I could prepare brunch and fulfill my foodie needs (as well as many of our foodie friends’ needs!). Kim offered the venue and Candace and Leslie offered to help in the kitchen. It was a chance for us to spend time with friends and meet some new ones IRL or F2F (in real life or face to face in Twitterspeak). Thanks to everyone, it was fabulous!
Try this simple and elegant dish…
A friend of ours dug these beauties up for us the other day and we decided to make traditional, simple clam chowder. We first steamed the clams, removed them from the shells, gave them a rough chop and set them aside. We strained the cooking liquid through a coffee filter sitting in a chinois (fine mesh strainer) to remove any sand. We then chopped up a few potatoes, onions and celery and sauteed until soft; add the reserved cooking liquid, some milk (we used half and half and 1% milk but you could just use whole milk) and cook on medium heat for about an hour. This isn’t a thick, roux based soup, it’s a natural milk base, the real New England way. Toss in the clams and simmer for 10 more minutes, add freshly cracked black pepper and serve. I’ll try and hold out eating the leftovers we froze until the first snowfall!
For this light and refreshing “Sangria” I used a Grenache Rose and Club Soda (ratio of 3 to 1), the juice of half of a lime and a hefty splash (who measures?) of Limoncello Liquor. Shake, pour over ice and enjoy!
A Simple and Elegant Fruit Dish – an inspiration from a visit to Manzanillo, Mexico. Papaya, Mango and Strawberries with Basil Simple Syrup and Fresh Lemon: allow the papaya and mango to fully ripen; cut into small chunks, toss with the juice of 2 lemons and the zest of the lemons. Add in a handful of sliced strawberries. Gently mix.
2 Cups white sugar, 1 1/2 cups water, 3 tablespoons corn syrup – bring slowly to a boil over medium heat. Add a large bunch of finely chopped basil and reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Toss with the fruit and allow to meld in the refrigerator at least a few hours before serving. It looks like a sunrise served in a tall glass.
A friend of mine brought me some freshly dug clams from his property today. I used about 3 dozen Cherrystone (which aren’t a native clam but apparently they can be found if you know where to look).
I sauteed 1 onion, 4 garlic cloves (I use a zester to grate the garlic, extracting the oils), sweated until soft, added 1 cup of Sauvignon Blanc and then added the clams and covered for about 10 minutes. I took the clams out of the pan, removed the clams from the shells and rough chopped them. I added about 1 cup of heavy cream to the cooking liquid and let it reduce by about half. I added the chopped clams back in with a couple tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley and a dash of saffron and let it cook for a couple minutes. I added al dente linguine and tossed with some fresh grated Parmesan, freshly grated black pepper and served over some baby spinach. Bon Appetit!
Boil for 5 minutes, then submerge in ice to stop the cooking. Break the shell in various spots, drizzle with melted butter, cook face down on a medium grill for 10 minutes; flip them over, continue to baste with butter another 5-8 minutes (making sure to get some char on the shell) and enjoy! You'll be amazed at what it does to the texture. TENDER!
Had a side of grilled vegetables with Farfalle tossed with sauteed garlic and shallots in butter and cream. Oh, and throw in some parmesan and chunks of lobster!
This is a savory cheesecake. It’s more of a cheese dip, but holds together like a cheesecake. Talk about the perfect appetizer for cocktail hour? I needed to bring an appetizer to a dinner party – and decided to make this Mushroom and Caramelized Shallot Cheesecake with 4 cheeses and a touch of fresh baby spinach. It is out of this world! It can be a side dish, an appetizer, or a light meal with a salad and glass of wine.
So here’s the recipe:
In a mixing bowl, combine 3 twelve oz. packages of room temperature cream cheese, 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Mix until creamy. Add 4 eggs, incorporating one at a time until combined.
Saute 4 large shallots until slightly browned. Add 16 oz. of sliced mushrooms – I used Cremini, but any will do. Add 1 teaspoon Worcestershire and a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper. Saute until they’re all fragrant and caramelized. Remove a third of the mixture and set aside. Add 1 cello-package of fresh baby spinach to the pan and cover. Cook for a couple minutes and then remove from heat. Let cool a couple minutes.
Chop or shred 2 cups total of the following cheeses: white cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyere or Swiss, and Manchego (the Gruyere or Swiss and Parmesan are a must). Add to egg/cheese mixture.
Fold in spinach and 1/3 of the mushroom and shallots and mix well.
Spray an 8 or 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray and coat lightly with breadcrumbs.
Pour cheesecake mixture in and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Then add remaining shallot and mushroom mixture to the top, toss another handful of shredded Parmesan and freshly ground pepper on top and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let cool for 1o minutes before slicing.
Note: the mushrooms and shallots are not necessary – they were my adaptation of this recipe. The original as it was given to me used 1 package of frozen and thawed/drained spinach and none of the shallots or mushrooms and was absolutely delicious as well. Feel free to put your own twist on it!
Serve with crusty bread or crackers and enjoy!
Greek yogurt with local Maine honey and raspberries…
There are many of us who feel food is art. Food inspires art. Food inspires life. Food inspires well-being. And natural foods are often a thing of beauty thanks to Mother Nature…
Just came back from Beal’s Lobster Pier…paid $6.17/lb for 1 1/2 pound lobsters…not bad, considering Filet Mignon is $16/lb, Strip steaks around $12/lb, Salmon usually $10/lb, and just plain chicken up to $5/lb…you get my point…
We only bought four (well, quite often we’ll buy eight so we have leftovers for lobster bisque, lobster rolls, Lobster Louis salad with avocado)! Okay, so I appreciate that I’m fortunate to live in this amazing state and can enjoy truly FRESH lobster pulled from the ocean, not the tank!
I think we’ll simply enjoy them steamed with drawn butter (add a dash of sherry) along with a nice Caesar Salad and glass of Sauvignon Blanc…for me it doesn’t get much better!
Lobster tidbit: each Maine lobsterman is allowed up to 800 traps