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Our dining experience at Hugo’s in Portland, Maine…more than just #foodporn…

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 🙂

Amuse Bouche
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.

1st course
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.

2nd course
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.

3rd course
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!

4th course
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.

5th course
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.

6th course
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.

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Now that’s #Foodporn…Maine’s white meat…


Finishing my #Chocolate experiment for you #Foodies



Recipes from our Danforth Gourmet Brunch Tweetup

By request, we’ve decided to post our recipes from our recent social media brunch. Here are my contributions:

Papaya, Mango and Strawberries with Lemon and Basil (an inspiration from a trip to Manzanillo, Mexico)

Allow 1 Caribbean papaya and 3 mangoes to fully ripen; cut into small chunks, toss with the juice of 2 lemons and the zest of the lemon. Toss fruit with about a cup of the syrup. Cut a pint of strawberries and set aside in a separate container. Add the strawberries to the mixture only a couple hours  before serving (the strawberries tend to soften too much if left in syrup too long).

Basil Syrup:

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.

Steamed, Chilled Asparagus with Curry Aioli

Steam asparagus until tender crisp. Drop in ice bath to stop the cooking, dry and set aside. For the aioli, mix 1 cup mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon of Rose’s sweetened lime juice and 2 tablespoons yellow curry powder, a dash of salt and pepper and mix well. Refrigerate both several hours. The aioli is best when made a couple days before serving.

Grapefruit Brûlé with Vanilla Bean Creme

This fruit course was one we served at our inn. It’s really a simple combination of delicious flavors.

Remove a thin slice off each end of the grapefruit (preferably Ruby Red) and stand on end. Cut the rind off right down to the fruit, leaving no pith. Cut into thick slices and place on a heat/flame proof dish (if you skip the FLAMEPROOF dish, I’ll save that for another post; do as I say, not as I do!). Top with a good tablespoon of vanilla creme, light brown sugar and torch until dark brown and bubbly. The sugar will harden almost immediately. You know you have done it correctly if you tap on the sugar and it sounds like you’re tapping on thin glass.

Vanilla Bean Creme:

1 pint sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (available at several gourmet purveyors), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup white sugar, dash of half and half to thin slightly.

Egg Roulade filled with Leeks and Parmesan topped with Lobster in Sherry Butter

This is a recipe that I just cannot bring myself to put out there for the world to see. It was supposed to be featured in Gourmet Magazine before the magazine sadly published its final fabulous issue. Of course had that taken place, I would have gotten used to it being out there…but now you’ll just have to DM or email me. Or just come to our brunch tweetups to enjoy the dish 🙂


A glimpse at our Danforth Gourmet Brunch Tweetup

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!

 


What’s for Breakfast? Eggs En Croute…

Try this simple and elegant dish


Authentic, homemade New England Clam Chowder

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!