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!
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.
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!
Do as I say, not as I do…(famous words from my parents and many). Well, next time I want pizza, it’s OUT for me, meaning carry OUT or eat OUT! Last night I decided I wanted to make pizza at home. It was a comedy of errors.
I’ve had pizza stones for years, but never a pizza peel (a device used to build the pizza on and then transfer to the hot stone in the oven). A peel just seemed like one of those tools you’d buy and use once a year? I always assumed I could substitute something for it. Hmmm…don’t use flexible mats (mistake #1)… Hmmm…no corn meal for dusting the peel (so that the pizza would easily transfer to the stone and not stick)…this was mistake #2…never assume (mistake #3)….(mistakes will be referenced throughout this post)
First, I bought fresh dough from a local market. It smelled wonderful, all puffy and yeasty. I cut the dough ball into two and then I began to attempt to stretch it. That’s when it went downhill. Oh the laughing was great (husband laughing AT me), the stretching was not. He asked “what shape are they supposed to be?”… I have a new appreciation for pizza makers, particularly those who toss them up in the air and make it look effortless. So we each took a dough ball and worked on stretching the dough. So what to use to build the pizzas on? Well (because I didn’t have a pizza peel) I assumed I could use the plastic flexible cutting mats (mistake #1 and #3) thinking that if I dusted them with flour instead of the corn meal that I didn’t have (mistake #2) that I’d be able to slide the pizzas off of the mat onto the cooking stone (again, mistake #3, assuming). I had fresh mushrooms, pepperoni, Applewood smoked bacon (that I cooked earlier in the day), Ricotta, fresh mozzarella, freshly shaved Parmesan, and roasted tomatoes (that I cooked earlier in the day). Hmmm…no tomato paste in the pantry, only canned tomatoes…(mistake #4, not having a shopping list). So I pureed the roasted tomatoes, added the garlic, a can of drained tomatoes, seasonings, but it was still a little too thin for pizza sauce. I needed a touch of tomato paste…so no choice but to reduce the sauce. When the sauce is eventually thick enough, I start building the pizzas. In the meantime, the stones are in the oven on 450 degrees getting nice and hot. What’s that smoke??? (mistake #5, not ensuring that the oven is PERFECTLY clean before high heat – one tiny little drop of food on the bottom not visible to the naked eye and with the high heat, you’re going to get smoke). Eventually the smoke burned off, with the help of a great Bosch oven hood, and we were good to go. So my husband pulled the oven rack out for me to slide the pizzas onto. But the pizzas don’t want to slide. Why? Because they’re STUCK. Why? Because I had no cornmeal (mistake #2) and because I chose to use a floured plastic flexible mat instead of waiting until I bought a pizza peel (mistake #1). Um, now what? close the oven and let’s try and lift the edges of the now heavily topped pizza and get more flour under the dough in hopes that it would slide. But no go. Was it the olive oil that we drizzled on the dough before topping them or the sauce that soaked through the tiny holes in the poorly stretched dough? Who knows, who cares, all I know is that I have a big mess on my hands and I reallllly wanted pizza. I wanted this homemade pizza. Hmmm…maybe we’ll fold it up like a Calzone and just cook it that way? Okay, so that’s what we did with one of them. Rolled it up and dropped it on the stone. But I was determined to put the other one flat on the stone. Or so I tried. But when it looked like a big mess of toppings and wet dough, we couldn’t really tell what was what, it was that bad. So after putting the mangled pizza on the stone, I tried my best to salvage what still appeared to be dough, cheese and toppings and get it all into place, cover with more cheese and get it in the oven to cook. At this point I just really gave up on the whole photo blogging the recipe thing. Now I just wanted to eat! Well, the Calzone style pizza looked nice, but the inside dough didn’t cook at the same pace as the outside! So while the other pizza was cooking, we cut off the edges of the Calzone and although they were done, the toppings were all in the middle. We put it back in the oven. We took the other flat pizza out. Okay, it tastes pretty good, but looks like a mess and it’s still too doughy. The photo of the flat pizza doesn’t show how bad it really looked and I should have taken a picture of how it looked all completely mangled before cooking it. I have to hand it to the cheese. Cheese covers a lot…Needless to say, we didn’t keep the leftovers and I am NOT making pizza at home again. Unless I get a pizza peel…
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!
My Quinoa Salad was inspired by a trip to the Bar Harbor Farmers Market this past weekend (every Sunday during the summer. Gorgeous produce from all over the area, well beyond Bar Harbor. The shallots really caught my eye because they had no dry skins like we see in large markets. The heirloom tomatoes (which are THE only ones I buy whenever I can) were gorgeous in all colors.
So I chopped orange cherry tomatoes, shallots, cucumbers, shallots and yellow peppers while my Quinoa (purchased at A&B Naturals) was cooking (soak in water for 15 minutes, in a fine mesh sieve or strainer, then bring to a boil, cover and lower to simmer and cook for 15 minutes).
Then when the Quinoa was cool, I added the vegetables, julienned fresh basil, tossed in a nice amount of crumbled feta and made a light dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and salt and pepper and tossed with a fork to fluff. A delicious, healthy snack, lunch, or salad full of protein!