Saturday, December 19, 2009

Linda Bean's Maine Lobster Roll: Perfect on Opposites Day

What a bunch of bullshit....

I was in a perfectly good mood tonight, hanging out in the kitchen at the Old Port Sea Grill. Drew mentions that Linda Bean's Perfect (fuck you) Maine Lobster Roll had opened today so we decide to do a little research to see how it matched up with the OPSG version (which is delicious).

This is before I knew, mind you, that Linda actually doesn't like the word "claw" because she thinks it's "scary." She prefers to call them "cuddlers (i've got something for you to cuddle with...)" As I type, I'm resisting the urge to break things.

It's located in the old Javanet spot, and has been re-done with pictures of lobsterman and a full bar. Who the hell would actually hang out and drink at this bar, I have no idea...

We purchased two "perfect (blow me)" lobster rolls (15.50/each) and a small lobster stew (7.95).

The lobster rolls were served on hot dog buns and tasted like frozen meat with dill. Absolutely disgusting. I've had very few lobster rolls that I've truly hated, and this was the worst.

Now let's talk about the "lobster stew." This gluey mess tasted like it was 70% sherry with a hint of frozen lobster meat. Everyone agreed that it was INEDIBLE.

The highlight of our meal were Mrs. Vicki's salt and vinegar kettle chips, too bad she had nothing to do with the rest of the food....

Honestly, I didn't have high expectations but using the term "perfect (suck it)" in the name aroused my curiosity.

Never Go Here.

Your Pal,


I'll leave you with a quick taste of N.L. in her review of Hugo's:

Short rib (23.00) gave way at the pressure of the fork intent on it's destruction.

I've got a fork with a certain someone's name on it....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Miyake Staff Meals - Part 1

In an effort to get my mind off the fact that I have to perform 6 songs as Meat Loaf (Clash of the Titans: Meat Loaf vs. KISS at the Empire Dine and Dance in Portland) tomorrow night, I’ve decided to compile a list of staff meals I’ve enjoyed at Miyake in the last 2 months. I’ve also decided to listen to “Parents just don’t understand” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince at an ear-bleeding volume. Anything to get Meat Loaf’s voice out of my fucking head.

This is truly one of the great perks of employment there, something I look forward to at the end of each shift. Every meal is served with a bowl of rice, and sometimes Shinji’s sushi rice if we’re lucky.

Gindara Saikyo Yaki (miso-marinated black cod) / Japanese curry over duck and short ribs.

Gallo (cock’s comb) pasta with motsuyaki ( berkshire pork intestines) and burdock root / Tai snapper head with potato in saffron broth.

Simple Churashi (rice, fish cake, fried bean curd, & nori) / Pork Milanese topped with egg & dashi omelette / Matsutake miso soup.

Teriyaki chicken in traditional Japanese style (soy & mirin) / Tempura of matsutake, scallop, and shrimp with daikon & ginger dipping sauce.

Mahbo Dofu (ground chicken with spicy Chinese black beans, scallions, ginger, garlic, chilies, and tofu) / Tempura of conch, matsutake, and scallop.

Katayaki Soba (crispy fried noodles with shrimp, scallops, and bacon) / Takoyaki (deep fried balls of octopus garnished with kewpie mayo, nori, bonito, and togarashi).
Interesting side fact: Takoyaki street hawker stalls are all run by the Yakuza in Japan.

Nira (stir fry of pork, eggs, Chinese chives, and onions) / Tripe Marinara

Spaghetti with shiso leaf pesto, shrimp, and anchovy / Chicken Milanese with creamy arugula salad.

Ginger pork / Hamayaki (in this case uni & saba mixed with rice and kewpie mayo then broiled)

Korean style cod stew with tofu / Ginger pork

Unadon (unagi & nori over sushi rice) / Pork toro with sambal oelek & cilantro.

Fusili Carbonara w/ matsutake mushrooms / Insalata Masa with pickled white asparagus

Pork meatball soup with bean threads & tofu / Gindara Saikyo Yaki (miso-marinated black cod).

Potato gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce / Insalata Masa / Tripe Marinara

Oyakodon (chicken and eggs in dashi) / Korean style soft tofu and cod stew.

Teriyaki chicken / Soba noodles in dashi + nato (fermented soy beans that are fucking disgusting) & rice.

Salmon with buerre noir / Insalata Masa / Ton jiru (pork soup)

Ragu of motsuyaki (berkshire pork intestine) & miso served over fusili with yam cake / Insalata Masa with sesame & wakame / Miso & daikon soup.

Masa Burgers (pork and ginger patties) with gorgonzola served with a red wine & ketchup sauce / Insalata Masa / Super Toro Roll / Kamo jiru (duck soup)

Pork katsu (breaded and fried) with Japanese curry / Rigatoni with scrambled eggs, bacon, and brussel sprouts.

Yasai-Itame (ginger pork toro with cabbage) / Insalata Masa / Oyekodon (chicken and eggs in dashi)

Katsu 3 ways (chicken, salmon, and scallop) / Miyake crab cake (the lightest, fluffiest, and most delicious crab cake I’ve ever had).

Braised pork with Japanese curry / Insalata Masa with carrot & ginger vinaigrette.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pumpkin Beer Tasting: Don't Try This At Home

In an effort to understand how strangely excited people get for pumpkin beer season, Nolan (Beer Buyer, Dowenast Beverage) and I embark on an epic quest to taste several of the offerings on the market.
Showing up hungover to taste things that may be disgusting is not reccomended, but we are alcohol professionals.
We decide to start with the least promising of the bunch:

1. Shipyard Brewing Pumpkinhead - Portland, Maine
Me: This tastes like Shipyard Export that someone vomited pumpkin pie into. Quite possibly one of the worst things I've ever tasted. The level of excitement people have for this now officially makes me angry.

Nolan: It's like a Schlitz got raped with spices. It's awful. I guess we should have a dump bucket, huh?

2. Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale - Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Me: Tastes like a decent beer with pleasant pumpkin and spice notes. I think I like it. There may be hope for this tasting...

Nolan: You can tell by the orange color that they used real pumpkin. It actually has a good amount of hops and a nice bitterness.

3. Fisherman's Brewery Pumpkin Stout - Gloucester, Massachusets

Me: Very strong espresso flavor with very subtle pumpkin notes. I don't hate it or love it.

Nolan: I like it, but the spices may have been drowned out by the 2 initial beers we tasted. It's got a really nice dryness.

4. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - Milton, Delaware

Me: I love the way the fruitiness compliments the pumpkin and spice. I think this is my favorite so far.

Nolan: Very aromatic. It has the body to gracefully carry the spices, and a high alcohol content.

5. Shipyard Brewery Smashed Pumpkin - Portland, Maine

Me: Overpowered by cinnamon and alcohol, this beer is way out of balance. I also think it's making my stomach turn..

Nolan: Sorry Mr. Pugsley, too much corn syrup and too much alcohol make a bad base.

6. Clipper City Brewing Heavy Seas "The Great Pumpkin" - Baltimore, Maryland

Me: I like it, but I couldn't drink more than one. It's surprisingly good, being the sweetest of the bunch.

Nolan: Sweet and malty with heavy spices. Decent, but I'm still not ready to join the Mutiny.

Overall Rankings:

1. Dogfish
2. Heavy Seas
3. Smuttynose
4. Fisherman's
5. Smashed Pumpkin
6. Pumpkinhead

1. Smuttynose
2. Dogfish
3. Heavy Seas
4. Fisherman's
5. Smashed Pumpkin
6. Pumpkinhead

Saturday, November 7, 2009

100 Things a Customer Should Never Do -Part 1

After reading Bruce Buschel's "100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do" on the New York Times blog, my first reaction was "where did they find this arrogant clown?" When I thought about it more, however, It inspired me to compile my list of ways that one could be a better customer. Here are the first 50 - the next will be open for suggestions....

Things that restaurant customers should never do. Part one:

1. Assume anyone else enjoys your children as much as you do.
2. Not tip on the wine.
3. Insist on putting your bulky-ass winter coat on the back of a chair when we clearly have a coat rack.
4. Talk about your wine collection at home and what you paid for it.
5. Touch us, unless we hang out later and maybe sleep together.
6. Ask us to get you drugs when we don’t even know you.
7. Attempt to order something that’s not on the menu based on ingredients you see listed elsewhere.
8. Argue with us when informed that you can’t have something.
9. Assume you’re always right.
10. Use the “Can I take that to go?” or “I hated it!” joke when we clear your empty plate.
11. Get drunk enough that we need to cut you off. It’s uncomfortable for everyone involved.
12. Give your kids a bag of Cheerios to throw all over the fucking floor.
13. Show up for your reservation with a different amount of people without calling first.
14. No call, no show on a reservation.
15. Talk about “How much money you spend in here.” It actually makes you sound cheap and stupid.
16. Complain that your food is taking too long when you order a well-done piece of meat and no starter.
17. Try to speak restaurant lingo to impress us. You sound like an idiot.
18. Continue to talk when we’re clearly ready to tell you about the specials.
19. Make noises or faces that imply you don’t like one of the specials. Simply don’t order it.
20. Assume that because you see an empty table, it’s available. It’s called a reservation.
21. Try to impress us with what you know about wine. If you do this, chances are you don’t know shit.
22. Leave your fucking gift wrap everywhere after you have a birthday. We didn’t sign on for this.
23. Ask if you get something free for your birthday. What are you, five years old?
24. Assume when you tell us about an allergy that we don’t actually want to harm you.
25. Tell us that you’re allergic to something when you simply don’t like it.
26. Act like it’s our responsibility to fix one of your poor choices.
27. Spend a lot of money to impress your friends/date and not tip on it. If you’re going to be a big shot, follow through.
28. Tell us stories that never end. We have shit to do.
29. Go someplace where you’re out of your comfort zone and act like it’s our fault. There are plenty of other restaurants and servers for you to annoy the living shit out of.
30. Complain about vintages on what are clearly grocery store wines. Once again, you sound like a complete idiot.
31. Assume that when you order a bottle of wine and are poured a taste, it’s to see if you like it. False. It’s to check if the wine is flawed or not and that’s all. The only time this isn’t true is if the server aggressively sells you the bottle instead of your first choice. In this case, you have the option to say you don’t like it.
32. Take a mile when we give an inch.
33. Linger when you’ve clearly over-stayed your welcome.
34. Act like you don’t understand tipping because you’re from “abroad.”
35. Fill up on bread because it’s free.
36. Ask us to play music you want to hear. That’s why you have your house or apartment.
37. Tell us how to run our restaurant. Nobody is stopping you from opening your own.
38. Name-drop. Nobody cares….
39. Put your dirty plates on other tables, nothing makes us want to dump a drink on your head more.
40. Re-arrange tables or chairs without permission.
41. Complain about gratuity on a large party. If you don’t like it, dine in smaller numbers.
42. Complain solely based on the fact that you want something for free. We can see right through your bullshit....
43. Assume that entrees always come with a salad, and that salads always have a choice of dressings.
44. Assume that anyone gives a shit who you are or what you do.
45. Talk on your cell phone – I know, I shouldn’t even have to mention this but I do!
46. Piss all over the seat in the bathroom and not clean it up.
47. Have people join your table late, especially when they are only drinking. This takes up space not to mention is loud and annoying.
48. Assume that because you’re cold/ warm, everyone is.
49. Steal our fucking pens.
50. Take your signed credit card receipt – this is weirdly aggravating.

More to come!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thanh Thanh 2, Happy Teriyaki, and Papa Johns....

I know i've stated several times on this blog how much I enjoy the Pho at Thanh Thanh 2 (782 Forest Ave, Portland - (207) 828-1114), but I've been trying to branch out and try other things on the menu as well. My friend Otis had suggested I try the Duck Soup, a huge bowl of broth with the whole leg falling off the bone and traditional pho garnishes. I wouldn't suggest eating it before you go to work, as I proceeded to do what I could only consider as "waddle" around Miyake for about 30 minutes trying to get things done. I also like the Bo Thai Chanh, a rare steak salad with lemon sauce, onion, basil, jalapeno, and peanuts. I definitely miss the BBQ pork at Houng's though....

Another recent obsession for me is the Korean food at Happy Teriyaki (630 Congress St Portland,(207) 771-2000). I ate there twice in one day last week because I just couldn't get enough, and I wanted to finish reading the People magazine they have from 2008. On my first visit I had the Bibimbap - a rice, egg, beef, and mushroom dish that arrived sizzling in a stone bowl. You mix the ingredients together with hoisin-ish sauce, and the rice on the bottom crisps up like good paella. That evening I had the pork, soft tofu, and kimchi stew, served with an egg poached in it and a side of rice. Later, I got really fucked up and ordered Papa Johns.

This was just one of the many late-night pizza adventures that me and my ever-expanding waistline get tangled up in. I've actually figured out how to force Papa Johns (207-878-9100) to make a decent pizza: you order thin crust with extra cheese and extra sauce followed by your favorite toppings. Avoid the garlic butter sauce that is neither garlic nor butter - you'll still wake up feeling shitty and dehdryated, but with less heartburn. Keep in mind that I only suggest Papa Johns for delivery between 12:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. If it's earlier go with Leonardo's or, if you're lucky enough to be within walking distance, Pizzeria Otto. I recently decided it would be a good idea to drink an $80 half bottle of riesling with my pizza at 2 in the morning, and why not? If you agree, I suggest:

2004 Hexamer Riesling Eiswein, Nahe, Germany 375ml (80.00 retail)
Brilliant acidity balances out the sweetness perfectly. Will age for a very long time if you've got the patience to not open it up when you get drunk late at night. The finish in this wine goes on forever, to the point where you may be unaware that you're making a ridiculous lip smacking noise while enjoying it. You can rest assured that any wine from Germany, Austria, or Champagne imported by Terry Theise (pictured, right) is going to be of excellent quality.

Another perfect pizza wine is:
2001 Taurino Notarpanaro, Salento, Italy 750ml (21.99 retail)Single vineyard negroamaro that epitomizes everything I like about Italian wine and S&M Porn - a little fruity up front with a nice amount of dirt and leather.

Kenny Shopsin - An American Icon

There really is nothing better than torturing the Commercial St. tourists who come into the store with death metal. I like to find out just how badly they want to purchase a 12 pack of Shipyard Pumpkinhead, or how much they're willing to endure while they figure out on their own that we don't carry pints or half-pints of booze to bring back on their fucking cruise ship. I like instructing the shithead who just left the humidor wide open to go and close it, while I stare at him like he has three heads. It's the little things I can do to fuck with the assholes who are so used to getting their way just because they are "the customer."

It's for this reason, among many others, that Kenny Shopsin is my new culinary hero. Not only is his style of cooking brilliant, but he has a refreshing attitude towards the general public that more people should adapt. His cookbook is called "Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin," and there is a documentary film about him called "I like killing flies." It's been a long time since I've read a cookbook from cover to cover, but this one sucks you right in. He currently runs his restaurant in the Essex St. market in New York City, and is famous for at times having close to 1000 items on his menu at once. I would strongly urge everyone to purchase the book and rent the movie (which is fun because Don and Samantha from Rabelais make a few appearances).

A couple of my favorite Kenny Shopsin Quotes:

"Pancakes are a luxury, like smoking marijuana or having sex. That’s why I came up with the names Ho Cakes and Slutty Cakes. These are extra decadent, but in a way, every pancake is a Ho Cake."

"Customers in this country have been raised to believe that they are "always right." Their neuroses are coddled and their misbehaviors tolerated for their patronage and their money by every restaurateur in America. But not by ME. My approach at Shopsins is the exact OPPOSITE of "the customer is always right." Until I know the people, until they show me that they are worth cultivating as customers, I'm not even sure I WANT their patronage."

This place is first on my list the next time I'm in New York.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Harvest on the Harbor - A Marginal Alternative to Staying in Bed

I usually don't go off on things like this, but I just couldn't resist with this one - The Harvest on the Harbor.
My biggest complaint with this bunch of bullshit is that it's for profit. The Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau makes money yet they go out of their way trying to get people to donate products and services. They make it seem like you're really making a difference if you volunteer, like they really need you. Fuck them.
Donations and Volunteering are fine if it's for a CHARITY event. They try to convince people that "It's really great exposure that your business will greatly benefit from." This is completely untrue, and the kinds of people that you actually DO get are just plain awful.
This "Taste of Maine" is sponsored by Hannaford Supermarkets, Samuel Adams, and Constellation Brands (peddlers of some of the most soulless garbage wine out there, such as Blackstone, Ravenswood, and Clos du Bois), among others..
Apparently such prestigious food publications as People Magazine have called HOTH "One of the best ideas for a fair this fall."

All they want to do is book Hotel Rooms.....

Save your money. Go out to restaurants and give it directly to the business owners, so you can make sure it reaches the people who deserve it.

----------long pause with lots of deep breaths-------------------------

Sorry to any of my friends who are involved, this is just how I feel. I'm also irritated that I have to carry a bunch of these crap wines at the store because supposedly people will be "just dying to get their hands on them after they taste them at the event." I sense a special Harvest on the Harbor SALE BIN in my future...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Press Herald Strikes Again - The Corner Room

Corner Room Offers Pasta Perfection at Affordable Price
Translation: With Books, You Can Be Whatever You Want To Be!

Inexpensive Italian classics are a draw at the Corner Room, the third of restaurateur Harding Lee Smith's three Portland restaurant "rooms." Smith's Front Room on Munjoy Hill and the Grill Room just doors away both have a history of crowds. At the Corner Room, which opened in early July, the pasta is mixed, extruded and boiled into a state of toothsome resilience. A dish such as bucatini all'Amatriciana makes it clear why this room, too, fills up with customers.
The Pasta is mixed, extruded, and boiled as opposed to mixed, formed into marshmallows, and cooked over an open campfire
We are like the shepherds of Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast of central Italy, consoled by this spicy pasta dish after watching over their flocks in high meadows. Living in an economic landscape of precipitous declines, we need some plated courage to face the future.
We are like the plate-mailed Calormen of Narnia as we ready for battle. Our peasant wives have slaved over this mighty dish in hopes that we may be granted the strength (and dexterity, charisma, wisdom, constitution + intelligence) needed to lead us to victory over the Orcs and Trolls we will surely face in droves on this day of days..
Here's more: Cotechino ($13), part of an appetizer that is a meal in itself, is a thick pink sausage traditionally enjoyed on New Year's Day and made with pork, cloves and nutmeg. Three browned slices are served under two fried eggs, both on top of the creamiest, fluffiest polenta in Portland.
Still hungry for more? The creamiest, fluffiest(?!) polenta in Portland is ALSO part of an appetizer than is a meal in itself. We are unsure of it’s involvement with New Year’s Day festivities but rest assured that both of your eggs are on top of your Cotechino, which is on top of your polenta.
The polenta is made with milk, water, cheese and butter along with corn meal, according to our perfectly attentive server, who asked the kitchen what went into it. And, while delicious, that polenta presents one problem at the Corner Room, where some dishes can be simply too rich.
I have chosen to provide you with the ingredients for the polenta, one of which being polenta – You’re welcome. Chef Smith would love to hear about your own results at home. You can contact him at any of the three rooms, the best time being during dinner service around 7:30 pm.
Foccacia had so much olive oil in its making that its base was saturated. It was gilding the lily, frosting the frosting, to dip the oily stuff into the olive oil in the dish on the table – not that we didn't. Rosemary and salt flavored that spongy bread.
It was slappin’ the salami, jibbering the kibber, saluting the bishop, diddling the hoo-ha, and jazzing me-hoff to dip my oily stuff into the oily olive oil in the dish on the table in the dining room in the restaurant on the street corner in the city of Portland in the state of Maine.
A second problem, encountered in a side dish of garlicky wilted spinach ($4) served with a heck of a lot of green-tinted olive oil, was too much salt.
Technically this would be the third problem, after the “heck of a lot of green-tinted olive oil.”
The bartenders will be happy to relieve any thirst you might have.
I can think of a few ways.... sorry. The bartenders here are not like other bartenders who delight in watching you cry out in a raspy, parched voice for a “drink of any kind – even toilet water will do!”
Head bartender John Myers, recent subject of an affectionate profile in Down East Magazine, is Portland's master of historic cocktails. His champagne cocktail ($9) fuses bitter Aperol and Angostura with a sugar cube that slowly dissolves in the base of a champagne flute filled with Prosecco. Curved over the rim, a twist of orange peel added its own bitterness tempered by a sweet scent.
So, a PROSECCO cocktail rather than a CHAMPAGNE cocktail
The wine is less exciting than the cocktails and pricey by the glass. Trappolini Orvieto ($10) from Campania, Italy, refreshing and crisp, is poured from a little carafe that holds four ounces. Baroncini Messere Chianti ($8) is a light-bodied, mild red. A larger carafe of each, about three glasses, is $19 and $18 respectively, a better deal. Bottles are even less expensive, $27 and $22 for the two mentioned here.
You could spend $18 on a large carafe, or spend less getting the bottle for $22. Orvieto is in Umbria, and Trapollini is in Lazio. Rather than tell you anything about the wine list as a whole, I’ve decided to focus on these two. These are the prices. You probably shouldn’t stray from these choices, because you’re supposed to always order Chianti at an Italian restaurant. That’s a rule that everyone knows, whether or not you prefer your Chianti to be “light-bodied and mild.” Whatever. The cocktails are more exciting anyway..
The elegant room holds fluted columns supporting a floating cornice, which sheds light on the ceiling above it. Wood booths are fitted with ornamental cushions made with pretty silky piping or brocade. But happy diners can make the room loud.
Melancholy diners, on the other hand, are more pleasant to be seated near. I enjoy sipping my wine accompanied by the soft weeping sounds coming from the next table. I recommend that when you ask for a table, you request to be as far from the happy diners as you can possibly be. In my experience, columns have held a room, as opposed to the other way around. The magic cornice sheds light on the celing above it, not below it.
Salads favor mild dressings, and when they flavor bitter greens ($8), radicchio and arugula as in my version – tossed with walnuts, raisins and pickled onion with grated Pecorino – that was the best choice.
When I was approached about allowing the restaurant to prepare my version of this Italian classic, I knew they had done their research. They clearly knew it was “The Best Choice.”
In a salad of mild arugula and milder goat cheese setting off cubed red and pink beets ($8), a little red wine vinegar could have added a welcome dimension.
Maybe they should have mildly consulted me for my mild version of this mild salad as well..
Served with garlicky aioli and tomato sauce were pale gold rings and squiggly tentacles of small squid ($10). They alone needed a touch of salt, just at hand in a little bowl, along with ground pepper in its own miniature dish.
I keenly identified the pale golden rings and squiggly tentacles as the body parts of a squid, a small one at that. I knew that they alone, nothing else, needed a touch of salt. Luckily I found seasonings at hand in a small bowl on the table in the dining room in the restaurant. I imagined the decorative glass snowballs at Christmas as I whimsically flung the tiniest pinch into the air and watched it coat the small squid like new fallen snow.
The bucatini all'Amatriciana uses hollow tubes of pasta to lighten a sauce built on sauted guanciale – cured pork cut from the jowls simmered with red pepper, garlic and red sauce and sharpened with grated Romano. Perfectly balanced, the dish reveals the Italian genius for simple greatness.
The soothing light at the end of your bucatini tunnel is just a freight train heading your way. Also, that seems like an excessive process for making guanciale.
Other pasta dishes might reveal the same thing, this time with wild boar ragu or served alla carbonara or with sausage.
They might reveal the same thing, or they may not. Alas, reader, I cannot always be the say-all, end-all. You need to come in and find out for yourself. You need to unlock your personal Narnian Calorman and find out what moves you back to jousting atop fiery red dragons or lightning-ridden blue dragons. Take a look. It’s in a book. You can find your own personal reading rainbow. Or maybe you could review books.
The secondi or second course list, served from 5 p.m., comes traditionally after the pasta, but most include a starchy side like beans, polenta or potatoes. Veal saltimbocca ($15), two lightly browned cutlets of tender veal in a light salty sauce made with Madeira and veal stock, wore a bit of prosciutto and fontina. Acrid fried sage was an edible ornament to avoid. Polenta offered its milky contrast.
I was surprised by the Saltimbocca’s decision to wear prosciutto and fontina, especially with that cap of acrid sage. Top designers had offered Veal S. the milky contrast of the polenta, but to no avail. Honestly, Veal Saltimbocca looked a little trampy bordering on dumpy and, I hate to say it, cheap. Also, "Secondi" is Italian for "Second." Fun.
One pizza, heaped with arugula and gossamer slices of prosciutto ($16), required rearranging as we pulled the crisp slices out from under the fresh leaves and then tried to pile them on top as they scattered with each crunchy bite. Abundant garlic and Grana Padano flavored the crust. The margarita with tomato, basil and mozzarella and any other pizza would no doubt be easier to eat.
One look at this fucking disaster and I knew that this simply wouldn’t do. Out came my hungry little digits and I started re-sculpting the dish. Halfway through we became aware of the mess we had made. Hysterical laughter gave way to throwing the toppings at one another. The other pizzas, we concluded, would be easier to eat but not nearly as much fun.
Panna cotta ($6) had a grainy texture in its creaminess; three fat blackberries seemed disappointingly little fruit to go alongside. But fig and almond cake ($6) was superb, its texture tender and coarse and full of bits of dried fig. The pleasantly dry Italian cake is surely best enjoyed with coffee, like the cappuccino ($3.25) and decaf ($2.25) – tasting too good to be decaffeinated – that perfectly ended one of two dinners.
The fig cake was inexplicably full of figs. “The Cappuccino” and “The Decaf” are not to be missed, because so many Italians drink cappuccinos after dinner. The decaf was so good that I felt like I was in one of those Folgers Crystals commercials where they tricked the diners into drinking shitty coffee. Regardless, it ended my dinner perfectly. The other dinner was complete after using the restroom.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jamaican Dinner

After touching down a few nights ago as a category 5 disaster for "Pizza Night at Joel's," I can now confirm that Hurricane Ricchio has quieted down to a light rain tonight. A bottle of late night wine from the gas station calms my nerves enough to actually enjoy a clear thought and recollect the goings on from last week's Jamaican dinner.

The party was held at a house on the East End that seemed more like it was built for Hobbits to inhabit than people, which prompted Dietz and I to get most of the cooking done at our house beforehand. He decided to make codfish and ackee with salt pork cracklings, and I opted for jerk chicken.
I called Dan Perron up at Sumner Valley Farm the Monday beforehand and ordered 3 chickens to be brought to the Wednesday farmer's market in Portland. These birds are well cared for (the guy actually prays to each chicken before he slaughters it), and the flavor is incredible. The next step was to score some Jamaican Allspice (Pimento) wood to smoke the chickens. We found and ordered a bag for about 25.00 (the guy also threw in a apron, which made me look like I worked at the Jamaican Home Depot). This jerk chicken recipe is time consuming but WELL worth it as it was the best I've ever had...

The Marinade:

3 yellow onions, chopped
1.5 cups scallions
6 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3 tsp salt
6 tsp sugar
4 teaspoons ground Jamaican allspice
1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
4 habaneros, seeded and chopped (be careful when touching any of your 2000 parts later)
4 tsp black pepper
10 tblsp Chinese light soy
3 tblsp vegetable oil
3 tblsp good cider vinegar

grind everything into a paste. Resist urge to eat marinade because it smells so fucking good.. Break down and marinate chicken overnight.

To make the chicken:
Pull the chicken out of the marinade, reserving for basting. Soak the allspice wood chips in warm water.
Build a low fire in a charcoal grill with a combination of hardwood charcoal and allspice wood. Hold the temperature at 225 degrees. Place the chicken pieces on the grill, skin side down. Cover the grill and cook the chicken, turning and basting every 20 minutes or so for about an hour and 20 minutes. Add allspice chips whenever the smoke dies down. Stand directly in the smoke to make your skin and clothes smell like delicious allspice wood. It's done when the flesh feels firm and the juices run clear when pricked with a fork.

As far as Dietz's dish, I'm not sure the exact method he used but it was amazing. You can get canned Ackee at the Bodega Latina and I would reccomend Harbor Fish for salt cod. Ackee is one of the most bizarre fruits I've ever eaten, as it resembles scrambled eggs.

The hostess of the party, Laura, had ordered ox-tails from the Meat House in South Portland to make a stew. They were the biggest I'd ever seen, and ended up needing an obscene amount of time braising (until the next day) to reach their full potential - proving that sometimes it pays to get fucked up and forget to turn your slow-cooker off..

Now I know it's a Jamaican party, but I hate reggae. It actually makes me angry, which seems to amaze most people. Nikki tries without success to find a reggae track that I like, even though I insist that I'm doing ok "just ignoring the music." Finally she asks me what song I want to hear next and I make her play "Still of the Night" by Whitesnake. My mood improves immediately. We progress to "Return of the Mack" by Maurice Marks and that "Baby when we're grinding" song by NEXT. I let her play a few more of her own before I declare that it's officially "Sean Paul Time." All the girls seem to appreciate the way my shirt smells like allspice wood..

For drinks we kept it pretty traditional: Guiness Punch (Guiness and sweetened condensed milk), Red Stripe, and Planter's Punches made from Appleton's Rum, the recipe as follows:

2 parts rum (preferably Appletons)
1 part orange juice
1/2 part sour mix (homemade)
2 orange slices
1 count grenadine
dash bitters

muddle all of the ingredients in the shaker, add ice, and shake violently. pour contents into a highball glass and garnish with a delightful green cocktail umbrella. Pound drink and place delightful green cocktail umbrella in your hair and smile coyly at whoever will appreciate it the least. Become defensive and make another drink, pounding a red stripe whilst compiling the ingredients. Have some more jerk chicken..

By the way, I decided that I'm going to be Roseanne Barr for Halloween.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Corn Soup and While I'm At It, Deathmatch Grow! Kill! Forage! Revisited

This recipe was published last year in Maine Home & Design to accompany their feature on Deathmatch: Grow! Kill! Forage! It was probably the most challenging theme we've had, as every ingredient you used had to be grown, killed, or foraged by the chef, or you had to know the person who did. We had to go so far as to make our own salt, and never did figure out where the fuck to get any black pepper (short of going to India). As far as booze went, you had to personally know the winemaker or brewmaster to open it at the party.

This Deathmatch, although a great party, definitely encountered a lot of problems:

1. Too many people, several being uninvited.
2. For the first and only time, there was a shortage of food. This was partly because of too many collaberations - we had 14 chefs but only about 7 courses due to the challenge of the theme.
3. A wildly ambitious menu printing concept that never happened.
4. I found out that a full keg of hard cider is more cider than anyone would ever, ever need.
5. We killed the fucking microwave by rendering leaf lard in it for 4 hours.
6. 2 courses failed, which had never happened.

Positive things about it:

1. We rented wine glasses and tables. You can get perfectly adequate wine stems from one stop party shop for 55 cents apiece. Much better than destroying your own stemware.
2. We filled the bed of a pickup truck with ice and booze. Thanks Josh.
3. We made Nick the official Deathmatch Sommelier. His "reserve corner" around the other side of the house was a big success.
4. Lots of pretty girls.

5. Potocki's green butter.
6. The party was largely outdoors, sparing the house the kind of epic damage it recieved from "Last Meal."
7. Never at any point was I in my underwear squrting hot mayo in anyone's mouth.

For more info, check out John Dennison's reportage of the glorious event, with pics and lists of ingredients and beverages here

Anyway, this was what I came up with for the party - I've modified it to the version I made last night, without the restrictions of the theme.

Corn Soup with Candied Bacon and Chives

1 Tbl. Olive Oil
1 Small White Onion, Diced
2 Shallots, Diced
5 Garlic Cloves, peeled
3 Fresh Chilis - Preferably Cherry Peppers, Sliced
3 Cups Fresh Corn Kernels (About 6 Ears - Get your lazy ass out of bed early on saturday morning and go get it, and most of the other ingredients, at the farmer's market)
1 lb. of the Bacon they sell at Rosemont Bakery.
Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 Quart Whole Milk
1 1/12 Tbl. Ancho Chili Powder (we dried and smoked our own chilis - it's worth it)
1/2 Stick Butter or more........
Salt + Pepper
Chives, chopped for garnish
Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
1. Make the candied bacon. Lay all of the strips on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Sprinkle each with brown sugar and bake until golden and crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain and chop up. You'll probably eat most of it before the soup's done.
2. Heat half of the oil and butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add Half Of the onion, shallots, and garlic and cook for 4 minutes.. Then add Half Of the corn and fresh chilis and cook for 3 minutes more - stirring frequently. Transfer contents of the pan into the food processor and add 1 cup of the milk. Process to a smooth puree. Now pour the puree through a mesh strainer to remove the skins of the corn (I like to use the back of a ladle to work it through). Repeat this step with the other half of the onion, garlic, shallots, corn, and chilis.
3. Return the pan to medium heat and pour the puree in, whisking frequently as it comes to a simmer. Be careful not to burn it at this point like I often do. Stir in the remaining milk, as well as the smoked chili powder, and simmer for a few minutes more. Add the cream, taking care the soup doesn't get too hot or it will break. Season with salt (I like alot of it but maybe that's why I have such high blood pressure) and pepper. Garnish with the candied bacon and chives. Serve.

Note: All soups get better overnight - and candied bacon is good for everything.

photos by Irvin Serrano or Jon Leavitt or John Dennison (I can't remember)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

13 Things I've been Doing Instead of Posting on the Blog

As I sit down after work with a bottle of Bogle Merlot that I purchased at Cumberland Farms ten minutes ago, I realize that I haven't posted in a very, very long time. I will also take this opportunity to tell you that Bogle is my go-to when the only stores still open are gas stations..

It's been quite a shit-show lately. To illustrate this point, In the past month I've:

1. Gone on an epic drinking bender that culminated in me almost being fired from two jobs in one day. It's amazing how much you can throw away in such a short period of time.

2. Started waiting tables at Miyake every Monday and Thursday. I've been working in restaurants my whole life and this is an entirely different experience than anything i've ever been a part of. It's amazing, just being routinely exposed to the kind of things that Masa and Shinji do - plus they make an amazing staff meal at the end of every shift.

3. Severely burnt my lip because I'm a fat drunk fuck and I couldn't wait for the Freschetta (topped with pepperoni and napalm) pizza to cool off. The problem with lip injuries is you have to force the story of how it happened on every person you see so they don't assume it's herpes.

4. Started doing a food feature in Maine Magazine, the first of which will be in the October issue. I've been prohibited from using the word fuck or referring to food in a graphic and erotic manner. Needless to say, I spend a lot of time staring blankly at the screen trying to figure out what to write.

5. Tracked down a life-size Billy Dee Williams cardboard cut-out advertising Colt 45 and the slogan "Works every time." It sits proudly in my living room and never fails to scare the living shit out of me when I come downstairs in the middle of the night to get something.

6. Made Braised Pig's Heart and Belly in the style that Chairman Mao enjoyed it most. He once said that "those who do not like chilies can never be revoloutionaries," so I made it so hot that my stomach revolted against me within an hour of consumption.

7. Managed to actually fuck my mouth up by eating too many atomic fireballs, which was awful and kind of embarassing. This severely inhibited my enjoyment of several amazing bottles of wine while watching "Young Guns 2."

8. Drank 5 bottles of wine on a Sunday and then did the world's most amazing intepretive dance to "Flash Gordon" by Queen. I was sore in all of my 2000 parts the next day..

9. Started watching Top Chef: Las Vegas. I have to admit, it's much better than last season. Gail Simmons makes me want to cut myself, and then Padma makes everything ok with the world again.. My prediction: Michael Voltaggio - He seems to have the best grasp of the Glad Family of Products and knows that the best soups start with Swanson Broth.

10. Decided to get an upside-down cross made out of bacon tattooed on my back.

11. Stumbled upon Ricky's Diner in Bridgeton on my way north to bartend a wedding, and had one of the best bowls of clam chowder I've ever had. It's one of those places that you gain 5 pounds every time you eat there but it's so fucking good so who cares? Also, 302 seems to be an ideal place to hit a yard sale and mingle with old people.

12. Discovered that I kind of enjoy wearing eyeliner. I feel like it walks the line between glam, goth, and totally gay. Plus it makes my eyes look amazing..

13. Become aware of the importance of cooking rice the right way, even though it's much more time consuming.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Drinking at Bars in Asian Restaurants # 2 - Asia

I don't think I've ever had a worse food hangover than this past tuesday morning.... the morning after Asia.

Welcome to drinking at bars in Asian restaurants. This is a series of posts where Myself, Dietz, and several other "Alcohol Professionals" descend drunkenly upon unsuspecting and usually family-oriented Asian restaurants and proceed to drink as much of their booze as we can while indulging in whatever the fuck they have.

In the first post we were pleasantly surprised by how good Kon Asian Bistro was. Clearly, we let our luck get to our heads...

I decided that Kon was too "high brow" for what we were trying to accomplish. We needed to slum it, I wanted Pu-Pu Platters goddamn it, and umbrellas in my drinks. Asia (Millcreek, South Portland) seemed to be perfect. Our companions for this venture were: Nolan (Beer Buyer, Downeast Beverage), Drew (Manager, Old Port Sea Grill), Kelly (Avid Drinker), and Sarah (Avid Drinker).

Asia's sign immediately sets the tone. On one side there is an image of a boy wearing a coolie hat holding a fish, and on the other is an identical image that portrays the boy to be badly burnt. We drank recklessly before we arrived. Once again I perceive myself to be blacked out, so I fire up the voice recorder on my phone. Unfortunately, there were only 4 seats at the bar and 6 of us, so we settled for a table in the "lounge."

Our waitress, Sue, seemed only mildly amused with us at first, which would progress into mildly annoyed. We order two scorpion bowls and a volcano bowl to start, with plans to conquer the entire drink list shortly after (zombies, suffering bastards, pearl harbors, etc.).

With drinks ordered I start my campaign for ordering three Pu-Pu platters, my argument being that the menu says each is "for two people." I meet strong opposition, even from Dietz, and am forced to settle for two. I drunkenly declare that the bar is not made of magic, like Kon, but rather out of Howie Mandel. What the fuck I meant by that, I'm not quite sure.

3 flaming bowls of liquor arrive at the table. The scorpion bowls actually taste pretty good, although we decide, in our inebriated state, that there's not enough booze in them. We frantically blow out the fires to preserve what we can of the Bacardi 151 used to ignite them.

I'm having a pretty good time at this point, though Dietz tries to rain on my parade by saying that the food is going to put us in a "hurt locker." Drew suggests that if I get any louder, I may need to go sit in the "time out chair," sans my scorpion bowl, for five minutes. Listening to the recording is starting to make me cringe at the sound of my own voice. I yell at the speaker for myself to stop interrupting people.

The Pu-Pu platters arrive and we seem to have had our fire privileges revoked, as there was just an unlit Sterno in the middle. We also get an order of steamed dumplings, which no one comments on so I'm assuming were pretty forgettable. The chicken fingers, wings, barbeque pork, fried shrimp, and beef teriyaki are all on par with any other run-of-the mill Chinese-American restaurant. The crab rangoons, however, were fucking awful. They had minimal filling and resembled over-cooked fortune cookies.

After destroying the Pu-Pu platters I declare, for the first of about 10 times, that I feel like "I'm going to die." There's actually video footage of me talking about having trouble breathing and feeling like I was "about to die." After Dietz and I polish off the bowl of liquor, I decide that i'd like a Pina Colada. Sue was completely indifferent when I expressed my disappointment about the lack of umbrellas in my drink, and I can't blame her.

Things really went downhill when the entrees showed up. My orange chicken was actually pretty good, but that was the only one that was passable. The worst offender was Nolan's sweet and sour pork, that was barely cooked dough around some grayish meat with pineapple syrup and maraschino cherries. Dietz's Hunan beef and Kelly's Hunan chicken were almost as bad. I point to the TV and loudly announce "Well, thank god the game's on!" Talk begins of the possibility that I may, in fact, die before this meal is over.

Nolan tries to get me to eat some of his bullshit pork, and I decline. Everyone appears to be running out of steam at this point and I suggest we order snifters full of 151. Thankfully, everyone ignores me.

The subject matter of our conversation begins to cause bar patrons to leave. I express that I'm proud of this fact, and Sarah suggests that it may have been when I was talking about someone being "gang-fucked by Neanderthals." I declare that it's time to end this recording. We all toast to our Asia experience and we get our check. I invite Sue to come play Big Buck Hunter at Howie's with us after, and she declines. Our bill comes to around 200 dollars, and my fortune cookies are stale. Oh well, time to go to a bar.

I last for about 2 drinks and 5 horrible rounds of Big Buck Hunter at Howie's (295 Off-Ramp, Washington Ave.) before I need to be taken home. I'm in bed by 11.