Thursday, December 15, 2005

So we are having a pot luck Christmas party on Saturday night and I have been too busy to think about it, much less decorate the house for the holidays. Its Thursday and I better get cracking. Since we are leaving for Christmas and going to Florida, we decided not to get a big tree, so sometime today between thawing pipes and making food I have to go cut a tree from somewhere. Anyway, decided to make my life complicated by making a buche de noel for the first time. My mom is a pro at these and hers are so festive. They are kinda corny, but do bring a smile to everyone's face when they see it, especially decked out with merangue mushrooms.

I'm not a fan of buttercream frosting, so I am going to make mine a bit more decadent and use parts of four different recipes and see how it comes out. I'm going to make an orange spice sponge cake, and make orange cream cheese frosting for the inside and a chocolate ganache for the frosting. The recipe is below and I will let you know how it turns out. Wish me luck.


1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
Powdered sugar

For cake: Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan or cookie sheet with sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter parchment. Whisk first 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.
Heat milk in medium saucepan over medium heat to 150°F. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in large bowl until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla and grated orange peel. Beat in flour mixture until just blended. Gradually beat in warm milk. Pour batter into pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Spread kitchen towel on work surface; cover with parchment. Sprinkle parchment lightly with powdered sugar. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen cake. Invert hot cake onto parchment. Peel parchment off top of cake. Starting at 1 long side and using towel as aid, gently roll up cake jelly-roll style. Cool.

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
16 oz cream cheese
juice of one orange and 2 tablespoons zest
1 stick butter
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For ganache
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

Make ganache:
Bring cream to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate, corn syrup and liqueur. Stir until mixture is smooth. Let ganache stand until cool and thick.
Whisk ganache just until soft peaks form (do not overmix). Spread ganache over roll. Using tines of fork, draw lines through ganache to represent tree bark. (Roll can be made 1 day ahead. Tent with foil and refrigerate.)

I also made merangue mushrooms to place around the outside: Wrap cookie sheet in foil and preheat to 250. beat 3-4 egg whites with a pinch of salt and a pinch of cream of tartar until foamy and soft peaks form. Add 1 cup sugar in 1 tablespoon additions (beat for at least 20 seconds between additions. After 1/2 cup of sugar then beat in dash of vanilla and keep adding sugar. After all sugar is in, beat for 8 minutes or so until you cannot taste the sugar crystals. Scoop into pastry bag with #7 tip and make 20 "stems" by slowly lifing bag as you squirt out merangues. Make caps by leaving tip just above cookie sheet and squeezing bag. Wet finger to push down peaks. sprinkle with cocoa and bake for over an hour at 250 until merangues are hard and peel off foil. Scrape out underside of "caps" slightly, fill with dark chocolate and then "glue" stem to cap and let harden upside-down.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Vicky had us over last night for beef tenderloin and Christmas tree decorating. The tenderlion, just roasted in the oven plain, was fantastic. We all marvelled at the fact that she got it at Hannaford! She had to ask the butcher for one, but he trimmed it out for her and tied it up and really picked out a nice one for her. Served with Bernaise sauce and asparagus, it was the perfect meal, I forgot how terrific a good beef tenderloin can be.

Greg and I had a wonderful time on Saturday meeting up with a Maine Foodie blog reader and her husband at 3Tides. They are from Georgia and just started looking around the area for houses because they want to move here. I think its a great idea to come in the winter to see what its really all about up here. I suggest you come back in the dead of January or February to get the Full Flava of our fair state.
Anyway, we had a really great time meeting them and hope they enjoyed our little corner of the world. I do hope my waxing poetic about 3Tides on these pages held up to scrutiny from the South lands. Ohhh and thank you for the peach salsa and the honey (which I've had with my tea these past several mornings!)

Thanks again and do come back


Saturday, December 03, 2005

So, I thought I'd get really fancy this year and make everyone truffles for Christmas presents. I figured that everyone thought truffles would be really special. Found several recipes and melded them together to make my own special recipe and went out to gather the ingredients. I was told that the coop in Belfast had really good chocolate for baking and cooking, so I went there and found some German semi-sweet chocolate with a 66% cacao blend. Since I was there, I also found heavy organic whipping cream to go along with the really expensive chocolate. When all was gathered, I found myself writing a check for $40 + !!!! Ahh well, it is Christmas you know.
I must say that making the truffle mixture is really easy, actually forming the truffles is the hardest part. I made two batches and called it a more truffles for this guy, especially since neither Greg, Tangie nor Vicky's eyes lit up in amazement over the taste.....they said they were delicious and pretty, but not a "spectacular!" or an "Oh my god these are amazing" among the bunch. Hmmmmmm.....Greg said his family loved the almond bark and the gingerbread the best out of all the Christmas eats I've sent...So I will make the frigging almond bark and send out both candy boxes to each of his siblings. I made enough truffles for 5 boxes..there are three different kinds: cocoa dusted, white chocolate dipped with dark chocolate drizzled on top, and bourbon dipped and rolled in almonds. The recipe follows:

11.5 oz good baking or eating chocolate at least 59% cacao
heavy whipping cream
various dips

heat 2/3 cup whipping cream to boil
chop chocolate and put in non-reactive bowl and pour cream over top

Stir clockwise from the center outwards with a whisk, but be careful not to beat the mixture. If it doesn'g get smooth, place bowl on warm burner and stir until smooth. Set aside mixture for 1 hour until chocolate is thick enough to hold a shape. Form truffles either by hand or with spoons and lay on parchment lined baking tray. Place in freezer for at least 30 mintues. Dip in various mixtures and chill.

Place in decorative foil cup and place in small candy boxes. They are beautiful to behold, but apparently my almond bark still takes the prize. Fa la la la la


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Greg and I decided to get out of the house last night and go down to 3Tides for dinner. It was pouring rain and so there was a quiet crowd gathered there. As I said before, there are some new menue specials there for the likes of us who don't eat seafood. A hot artichoke spinach dip and Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes caught my eye. Sarah recommended the meatballs and we also had a chicken quesadilla...they really are the best in town. While we were chatting around the bar, David brought our usuals over without our even ordering them...Have I said that I love 3Tides? We had appetizers with little Luna, who is 7 months old. She shared her organic fruit rice cakes with us, but I thought them rather sticky for my palette.
The meatballs and quesadilla arrived and Tom, the cook at 3Tides perfected getting the quesadillas extra crispy by baking them on a round pizza pan...this was the best one yet. Meatballs were good, and the mashed potatoes had a nice bit of ligonberry sauce on them, but the meatballs needed a bit more sauce to make them moist..all in all a great evening with old friends.
Today is Libby's birthday, so I have to make the dogs a liver cake for dinner...Perhaps I won't share that recipe with you!


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I just got the ultimate MaineFoodie type box from UPS today. Didn't know what was in it, so I opened it and found 15 fresh Persian limes wrapped in bubble wrap from my mom! They got to Florida to find all their fruit trees sagging with fresh Persian and Mexican limes and two kinds of oranges. Aside from making wicked margaritas, I'm taking suggestions for what to do with these juicy limes. (my sister got all the mexcan limes as she is a key-lime fanatic.) Personally, I'm thinking of great lime sorbet or perhaps a lime pie.

Ken wrote me to say that he got his mom to make him the pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving. Its best straight on a fork from the fridge several days after baking. My comment back to you Ken would be to get your mom to try this recipe for your next holiday gathering: I made it the day before Thanksgiving and put it in the fridge overnight and the depth to the soup was incredible. Don't let the ingredients scare you, the taste is out of this world.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup chopped carrot
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup ripe banana
1/2 onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove (or ground is fine too)
5 cups chicken broth (I happened to have homemade turkey broth that I used)
2 cups canned pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
i teasoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground corriander
1/2 teasppon dried sage (or a few leaves of fresh sage...makes all the difference)
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teasppon yellow curry
sprinkling of toasted pecans before serving
Melt the butter and add the next seven ingredients and sautee until the vegetables are soft. Add 1 cup of broth after 10 minutes or so and then take off heat,remove bayleaf, cool slightly and add vegetable mix to blender. Blend until smooth and put back in pot. Add the rest of the stock and all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring so as not to scald the milks. Let it slow boil on simmer for 10-20 minutes. If soup is smooth you are done, if not, let cool and reprocess until smooth. Best if made the day before, refridgerated and reheated.

Monday, November 28, 2005

While I was in Boston last week, friends took me to Finale next to the Park Plaza Hotel. When they said we were going there, I thought it was some great Italian family place with cannolis on the menu! It was actually conceived to be the final act for the theater crowd and as such has a very light food menu and a very heavy dessert menu. So, for about 10 bucks one can get a chicken ceasar that is small, but really good, or a gourmet pizza that is quite large and delicious. Other items are paninni sandwiches, other salads, etc. What people die for here are the desserts, some of which can cost upwards of $30.00. We split a dessert for two between three of us for $16.00 which consisted of their famous molten chocolate dish, hard cocoa brownie on the outside and delectible runny chocolate on the inside with three scoops of ice cream and chocolate sauce. It was a pleasant meal, though the place was a bit noisy and somewhat of a scene with a lot of younger patrons. If you want a good, quiet, hearty meal, this isn't the place for you. But for a hick from the woods of the Maine Coast, it was a treat!

Atmosphere: B

Jeez, so much to write about, that I dunno where to start. Well, lets start with Cafe Miranda in Rockland since its been on my mind recently. We went there last Wednesday at a friend's invitation so that we could have a pre Thanksgiving feast together before all going our separate ways for the holiday.

First I have to say that its a loooooong drive to Rockland for dinner. But we've enjoyed Miranda before and were looking forward to our return. We all settled in and were given menus, which read like novellas and take about as long! I am always wary of restaurants that have such a profusion of things on the menu. I went the easy route, picking two appetizers, ceasar salad and asian dumplings. Greg had fried oysters and something called "the best thing on the menu", which when he ordered it, I thought, "thats a lot of cheek to order the best thing on the menu when you are being taken to dinner." Little did I know it was an actual item on the menu. Mary had chicken paprikash and Vicky had baked haddock. Quite possibly the best dish was Greg's fried oysters in an oyster sauce. They were passed around and everybody raved. The dish was small, having only 6 oysters, so it didn't last long. My ceasar was shot over with way too much lemon, so that was the only thing I tasted, which was too bad because it looked really fresh and had some nice parmasan shavings on it. Greg said his best thing on the menu was terrible, luke warm and tasted too much of uncooked, bottled minced garlic, which stayed with him alllllll night. My dumplings tasted like they were precooked and then warmed over as they were a bit hard, the sauce though was out of sight, very spicy and tongue numbing. Mary said her paprikash was just like her grandmother used to make in the old country (Frankly I didn't know they used paprika in Ireland) and Vicky was very pleased with her fish. The company made the dinner and the atmosphere was warm and cozy. All in all a good solid B-

I called a client yesterday about an unrelated matter and the first thing she said to me was..."you gave me that almond bark recipe two years ago, is it the right one?" I told her it was (wink wink) and all was right with the world! Don't worry fuzzbe, I wasn't so devious two years ago and yes, you did get the right recipe (wink, wink, nod, nod).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

So, am I a bad person? A neighbor asked me for my recipe for almond bark recently. Both she and her daughter pestered me for a month for it and I started thinking that they were going to make it and sell it along with the Christmas Wreaths that they make and sell around town.
Everyone tells me how good mine is and I've often thought of doing the whole cottage industry thing and making it for sale in my kitchen, so I don't want to give the recipe away to everyone.

So, I gave them a recipe for almond bark, but it wasn't the one I use! I have neighbor guilt now. I figure if they are good cooks, they'll figure out their own version and I should just leave it at that, for that is what I do.

Monday, November 14, 2005

who needs a deep fat fryer? I don't! I finally got the fried chicken breast recipe pretty well down pat last night.

What I did with boneless chicken breast was to pound them flat like scallopini then soak in egg and dredge in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper garlic and red pepper.

I heated a saute pan until hot and then added an inch of vegetable oil and got it hot but not smoking. I added two breaded breasts at a time and let them cook until golden...I tell you, there is nothing better then fresh hot juicy fried chicken, specially when there is no bone!

Thinking about Thanksgiving recipes this week. We are not hosting this year, so I really don't have to make too much. Perhaps the spiced pumpkin soup though.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Been asked to post my butternut squash soup recipe, so here it is in one form. I've experimented with it and depending on whether I want something quick and healthy for lunches or something a bit richer and fancier for parties, I change the recipe accordingly.

For a quick healthy soup:

saute one leek or a medium yellow onion in about 2 tblspoons butter and a bit of olive oil
add minced garlic to taste (one or two cloves)
add one peeled and cubed butternut squash (use a vegetable peeler for best results or purchase the already peeled and packaged version at the grocery
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
two teaspoons ground sage or fresh sage from your garden
1 cubed apple( skin on for fibre)
let saute for about 10 minutes and then add chicken or vegetable broth to just cover the vegetables. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

Take off heat and let cool before transferring to blender. Blend until smooth and return to pot
heat and serve.

If you want something a bit richer for parties, ditch the apple and add 1 cup carrots, cook and blend. After returning to pot, add 1 cup parmesan cheese heat, pour into bowls and swirl in a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche. Top with fried sage leaves (dredge leaves in flour and fry in vegetable oil until crisp)

We had one of our winter pot roasts last night. I got a great cut of pot roast meat at Graves in Camden and salt and peppered it, dredged it in flour, browned it in a pot with sauteed leeks and then added a 1/2 cup of port, 1/2 cup of bourbon, and about a cup of water to the pot and brought to a boil, adding minced garlic to the fray and then letting it simmer for four hours. Served with roasted cubed butternut squash that I put in a roasting pan with chicken broth and salt and pepper and roasted for a bout 45 minutes until tender. mmmmm

We then treated ourselves by going out to 3Tides for drinks with Vicky. David set down their new special menu which contains all sorts of great things to eat, including garlic mashed potatoes, pasta bean and herb soup, spicy hot crab and lobster dip, and lots of new pizzas and sandwiches. Sounds perfect for the long winter months.
We got talking to David about Vodkas and before we knew it, he had set up a Vodka tasting for us with two grain vodkas and three potato vodkas, including a new high end potato vodka, Cold River, that is distilled and bottled in Freeport, Maine.
Here are the results:

Potato Vodkas:
Chopin: a bit of biting aftertaste, somewhat sour to my palette, doesn't mix well with cranberry
Luksusowa: strong but smooth, perfect for sipping
Cold River: The smoothest of the potatoes, but has a hint of butterscotch and vanilla flavors at the end that I didn't find enjoyable. Mixes well with cranberry, but the expense makes it not a great choice as a mixing vodka.

Grain Vodkas:
Belvedere: Very smooth, my favorite after Luksusowa. Chilled and straight up, this is a winner
Grey Goose: Certainly, the strongest taste, not so smooth, clearly the loser of the bunch. Mixes very well though.

Thanks again to David and Sarah at 3Tides for a great evening. As I say, its so nice to walk into a bar or restaurant and know not only the owners, but a lot of the patrons as well.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hey everyone, this has been a very busy week for me, been to Boston twice and Portsmouth once on different auction ventures. Waste of time if you ask me. After all of that I bought a single stoneware jug for a client....hohum!

Needless to say, I haven't been out to eat or cooking too much. It is soup season, so I had the chance to make my butternut squash and apple soup last week. Bit of ground sage in it and I was good to go. Greg hates soup, but I'm sure you all know that by now if you read everything on this site. The squash soup recipe is on here somewhere.

Am off to vote today. Remember if you live in Maine and have the will to no on 1.

Vote no on 1 and help end discrimination in Maine.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Last night we had a great evening with our punny friend Mary out at Seng Thai in East Belfast. The food delicious as always, the atmosphere is certain to foster comments from the peanut gallery what with the sparkley paintings on velvet and such. But the biggest enjoyment at Seng Thai is the presentation of the food. Thai Chicken arrives in a pineapple boat with carved carrot rose blossoms. The curry comes in a pretty covered blue and white dish and that makes the food taste that much better. We're still at hot level number 4, not daring to go to a five yet.

Afterwards, we stopped by our favorite watering hole to chat with our friends David and Sarah at 3Tides. There was a nice crowd, including little Luna's grandparents who were feeding her cereal when we got there. A nice night out on the town to recharge our batteries.

Tonight we are making pot stickers and taking them over to Vicky's house where we will imbibe lots of steamed stickers and carve our pumpkins. I also need to make a few loads of almond bark for the hospital halloween party as well as for the 6 tricksters we get.

Tune in tomorrow foodie fans and you'll hear about making stickers.

Thanks for keeping the ad clicking alive. We are a long way from a group ice cream run, but we'll get there.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

For those of you who wanted to learn more about how the Haute for Hospice show went, click on the link for coverage of the event. The picture of the cute guy at the end is Greg...he thinks most of you probably envision him the size of a beach ball what with all the stuff I feed him!

I'm making dog cookies again today using leftover pork, an apple, oatmeal and carrots, binding with an egg. I realized how desperately I need to go restock the kitchen as I have no garlic or parsley to add to the mix.

Hope they like it...smells pretty good to me.


Keep on clicking up there, only make $3.90 so far this month.
So, I read in the paper today that the Lookout Pub in Belfast is reopening with two new owners, young women in their early 20s, one of whom bartended at the old place. Good for them! They plan to be a family oriented restaurant during the day, serving lunch and dinner and then a bar at night after 9pm. The new name will be the Lookout Bar and Grille (is that grill or grilly?). Gone will be the martini bar upstairs and the beergarden outside, which is great news as that was probably a big money loser for the old Lookout. I never understood why it was called the lookout though, since all the look out on is the back of 3Tides restaurant...oh sorry, 3Tides isn't a restaurant, its a bar with food.
So I say. good luck to the new and improved Lookout bar and grille. We'll be in soon to take it on a "taste drive". Oh, my slides are splitting from that one.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Wet winter weather is here! I can't believe I can see the islands and the bay already now that the leaves have not only fallen off the trees, but seemingly run screaming from their branches to the ground. Anyway, its time for a bit of tea in the afternoons in front of the fire and what better to accompany a bit of constant comment tea than this delicous Lemon Rosemary Tea cake. Its a bit like pound cake with a distinct rosemary taste. I was down visiting my aunt several weeks ago and she served this for dessert after dinner with a plum sauce...its also good warm or even toasted in the oven. I have someone coming to see a painting next week and I might just make a loaf of this to put them in a good enough mood to buy it :-)
Thanks AJ!

Lemon Rosemary Tea Cake
(with olive oil and buttermilk)

4 cups flour
1 T baking powder
½ t salt
4 t lemon zest
4 t dried minced rosemary (more if fresh) 2/3 cup light olive oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 ½ cups lowfat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Oil 2 9x5” loaf pans, or equivalent.
Thoroughly combine flour, baking powder, lemon zest, rosemary and salt. In a large bowl or electric mixer, beat oil and sugar until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until mixture is pale yellow.
Add 1/3 flour mixture to eggs, then half of buttermilk, stirring to blend. Add remaining buttermilk, stirring, then 1/3 more flour mixture, then stir in final 1/3 . Spread in pans and bake until golden, and sides of cake pull away from edge of pan (50-55 min?)

1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar 4-6 T fresh lemon juice

Stir glaze until smooth and spread on warm loaves. After cooling, turn out of pan. Alternatively, remove loaves and cool before spreading icing on all sides. You may need more glaze.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

Between repainting the bathroom yesterday and working the phone lines with clients, I had to squeeze in a pumpkin cheesecake for potluck tonight. The bathroom is still a mess and I gave up after one wall. Its a whole new color scheme to cover up the horrible mistake we made with the color last time. We wanted something bright and cheery because the bathroom was so dark....then we cut the trees down in the front of the house and low and behold, we had sun...and a tacky paint job! We are going a bit more conservative this time with a wall color called Shiloh which is a soft pebble gray with bright white trim and a sage green floor. Speaking of sage, probably you didn't log on to hear about my color choices for the bathroom. What follows is the recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake. What I did here was combine my favorite NY cheesecake recipe with one for Pumpkin, the results are a light and tasty dessert that gets raves.

Preheat a slow oven at 325
excessively butter a 9-10" round springform pan
crumble 2-3 cups of ginger snaps (I ground them in my little food processor)
line the bottom of the pan with the crumbs and press them into the sides of the pan for the crust (I only press them about 1/2 way up the sides of the pan so that there is a nice contrast to the color of the pumpkin cake and the crumbs when you take out of pan)

In a large bowl combine
1 lb cream cheese and 1 lb ricotta (my secret cheese for cheesecakes) softened and using a spook or a mixer, combine until light and fluffy
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon each of ground cloves and nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger or allspice
pinch of salt

Then add 6 eggs, room temperature, one at a time until mixed thoroughly

Fold in 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 lb sour cream

Pour into springform pan. I find that I usually have more batter left over and luckily I have a tiny spring form pan so I can make a little one for Greg. I've learned to do this because he'll always bug me to have a little piece just for him. I'll be doing things around the house and I'll hear this voice behind me "can I have a piece of cake?" "why can't we just take a cheese log to potluck and leave this here for me?" Its cute and makes me laugh, but now I can say, I made one just for you!

Anyway place in the center rack in the center of the oven and bake for one hour. Without opening the door, turn oven off and leave cheesecake in oven to dry for 2 hours. take out and cool completely, (top may crack, which is fine) and chill overnight.

You can serve it plain or with a topping such as fresh cranberry sauce or glaceed pecans, candied orange peels or sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Alright, the pressure to post more is getting to me!!!! Found this cake recipe on Epicurious and it sounded decadent and impressive enough to serve to Greg's mom for her birthday this year. The caramel-milk chocolate frosting is to die for. Everyone was moaning over it! Better the second day, so you might want to make it a day ahead. There is a ton of frosting to use and it gets nice and hard when the cake is chilled.

Chocolate cake with milk chocolate-caramel frosting.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract ( I was out and used bourbon)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 cup lukewarm water

24 ounces good milk chocolate (Dove or imported), finely chopped
3 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cups whipping cream

For cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Sift Flour and next four ingredients together in bowl. Using electric mixer or by hand, beat brown sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla or bourbon. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions. Beat in 1/2 cup lukewarm water.

Divide batter among prepared pans (about 2 1/3 cups for each). Smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Cool completely in pans on racks. Invert cakes onto parchment (cakes are delicate). Peel off parchment on bottom.

For frosting: Combine milk chocolate and bittersweet chocolate in large bowl. Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 10 minutes. Carefully and slowly add whipping cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over low heat until any hard caramel bits dissolve and mixture is smooth. Pour caramel over chocolate; let stand 1 minute to allow chocolate to soften, then whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth. Chill chocolate-caramel frosting until completely cool, about 2 hours. (or freeze bowl if you are pressed for time) Let stand 1 hour at room temperature before continuing (or microwave a bit to melt)

Using electric mixer, beat frosting just until color resembles milk chocolate and frosting is easily spreadable, about 1 minute (do not overbeat or frosting will become stiff and grainy). If necessary to correct graininess, set bowl with frosting over saucepan of simmering water for 10-second intervals, whisking just until frosting is smooth and spreadable.
Place 1 cake layer on platter, flat side up. Spread 1 cup frosting evenly over top. Top with second cake layer, flat side up, pressing slightly to adhere. Spread 1 cup frosting over top. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake, swirling decoratively.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I've been ordered by Greg to post here tonight. Currently, Greg is in the kitchen sopping up the leftover sauce I made for my chicken fried pork chops with a german pumpernickle cocktail bread that I found at Renys.

I got three thumbs up for dinner tonight, one from Greg and one each from Vicky and Mary who both happened to stop by around 5:30 to see "what was up." What was up was two hungry females sniffing around for a dinner invite!

Anyway, my skeleton for dinner was a load of boneless pork chops, some swiss chard that I need to use, and an acorn squash. I halved the squash scooped out the seeds and placed both halves flesh side up in a roasting pan with about 2 inches of water in the bottom. I placed a bit of butter and salt and pepper in each half and roasted them at 350 for an hour.

I decided to chicken fry the pork, so I trimmed the chops, beat the crap out of them with a wooden mallet to flatten them, dredged them in a mixture of flour, ground sage, cayanne, salt and pepper and then added them to a skillet with hot hot vegetable oil (almost to smoking hot) and fried on each side for about 3 minutes a side.

While that was going on, I sauteed chopped leeks with garlic and olive oil and then added the swiss chard and let it wilt down and "marinate " on low until time to eat.

After the pork was done, I removed the chops, drained off the oil, and then scraped the scrapings off the bottom the pan, added butter and about 1/2 the remaining dredge flour with spices to make a rue. I had some nice strong homemade chicken stock in the fridge that I added to make a sauce, then placed the pork back in the sauce and made sure they were covered.

The pork was very juicy and had a great spice to it. Greg is still in the kitchen searching for leftovers.

Even if you don't try the pork, try the chard, it is one of my favorite easy vegetables and everyone will be really impressed.


Friday, October 14, 2005

So this morning was clean the fridge morning. We've had so many people here over the last week that there was a ton of stuff just sitting in there waiting to be made into something.....I thought, "time to make dog cookies" I took left over roast beast, some old celery, and some left over broccoli spears and ground them up in the cuisineart. Then had some left over lobster stock to temp the puppies, so I threw that in. Add lots of oatmeal, a bit of peanut butter and an egg and mix well. Drop onto cookie sheet like peanut butter cookies and flatten with a fork for best results. I baked at 300 for a while and then dropped it to 200 to dry the cookies out and now the pups are enjoying a rather lovely rich, natural dog treat. They are doing the happy dance in front of the kitchen as I type.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I came home from being out on the road for several days to find Greg and his parents and our house guests sitting down to a big lobster dinner. When they were finished, I put the shells in water and set the water to boil with a few bay leaves, some garlic, and some celery salt. I boiled it for about an hour and then reduced the liquid somewhat.

Found a recipe for lobster bisque where I took the shells out of the water, crushed them up and sauteed them in oil, adding onions, and a 1/2 cup of coniac and sauteeing until brown. T hen adding a head of garlic, a few carrots, celery, one sliced up tomato, tarragon, thyme, and 3 cups of the lobster water...(I then reduced the lobster water in the other pot by about 2/3rds and added this to the pot as well.) I simmered the whole for over an hour and then strained and set back onto boil while whisking in a can of tomato paste to thicken it. I took it off the stove to cool and then put it in the fridge for the day to meld the flavors. Right before serving I added cream and dissolved corn starch and set to slow boil again to get the flavors going. It got rave reviews, though I don't know how it tastes personally. I served it from Greg's mother's birthday dinner along with roast chicken, broccoli, and chocolate cake with milk chocolate caramel frosting.

So, the Hospice show went really well. I made the pork tenderloin sandwiches by roasting these mammoth tenderloins with rosemary and garlic and then slicing them very thin, placing the slices on a platter and then pouring the juices overtop and refrigerating the platter until we were ready to assemble the sandwiches. The night before, I had wisked garlic and lemon juice together with mayo and then combined that with a homemade pesto to create a wonderfully fragrant, light pesto aioli sauce.

Needless to say, there were no sandwiches left after the party.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

So my whole plan for food for the Haute for Hospice event went out the window yesterday when I walked into Sam's Club in Bangor. Vicky has a Sam's membership and since I said that I would buy the soft drinks and water for the show, plus the fact that Greg's parents and friends are coming for a whole week, I thought I would stock up. I forget that Sam's has great meat and fantastic prices. Where else will you find 90% lean hamburger for $1.96 a pound...of course you have to buy 9 pounds of it! So, Sam's was running a special on pork tenderloin in 7 pound roasts. I decided to get two, grill them, and then make pork tenderloin sandwiches with a garlic pesto mayonaise for the show. I got 100 little rolls so I can make 100 little sandwiches. I also got cheese and fruit and crackers as an emergency side hors d'ourevre just in case. More food will be provided by area restaurants, but in case one cancels last minute, I want to have a backup. Its a control issue!


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Greg came home from the grocery store the other day proudly toting a 6 pound pot roast that he wanted me to cook for sandwiches. I took one look at it and said to myself, "thats a great piece of roast pot roasting for this baby!" Not being a red meat cooker, I googled what to do with a top round roast. I decided to go with the Italian beef roast, which made the house smell great all evening.
Though James Beard told me not to put the roast in a pan without a rack, and NEVER add liquid to the pan for fear of steaming the meat...I threw caution to the wind and decided to go my own way.
I took the roast and slathered it in olive oil, cut slits in the top and shoved in fresh garlic, and then peppered the hell out of it with both black and red pepper. Added some garlic powder and then rolled the whole thing in oregano. I put the beast back in the roasting pan and then added 1/2 a cup of red wine and 2 cups of water, with about 1/2 a cup of chopped onion. It took approximately 3 hours to cook at 325. When done save the juice and put aside
I let the beast set and then shoved it in the fridge, but not before cutting off a few tasters for the dogs and me. I'm supposed to slice it thin and then soak the slices in the juice and reheat in the oven....its pretty tender, I made a sandwich out of it with cheese and it was excellent.

I'm going to have a taste test today and see if this might be appropriate to make into sandwiches for the fashion show this weekend. Ever been to a party and they have those tiny roast beef sandwiches? I love that! hmmmmmm...thats an idea.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

We drove over to Deer Isle yesterday to deliver a blanket for a client. The drive was stupendous and the leaves over that way are turning a bit faster than they are here on the mid-coast. We had to find the Goose Cove Lodge (thank you reader for setting me straight on the name), which was a very cool place, down a long dirt road at the end of the earth it seemed. The view was spectacular from what I could see of it. What a place with cabins nestled in the woods and a small main lodge. Anyway, there was a wedding there yesterday and we just delivered the blanket for the bride and groom and took off. (This from a reader who shares all sorts of restaurant tidbits and recipes with me: [Its a ] great place with a decent chef.)

We decided to stop in Blue Hill for lunch and went into the first place we found, The Blue Moose. Whether it was late or just a slow day out of season, we were one of only two tables in the place. It was pretty sterile and generic, with art for sale on the walls and pine tables and chairs. The menu looked good and I chose the Chicken salad with raisins and toasted pine nuts on rye. Greg had something called the gobbler which was essentially turkey, cheese, and lettuce and tomato wrapped in a tortilla with guac and sour cream. Typical sandwich place. Service was overly attentive and the ginger smooshy (as opposed to ginger snaps) cookies we got for the car were great.

Atmosphere was a definite C
Service was an A
Food was a B

Its comfort food season again! For me that means using heartier vegetables with dinner. Last night we had chicken breast, floured, seasoned and browned in butter and olive oil and then simmered in lemon juice until tender and juicy along with fresh butternut squash and spinach. For the squash, I took a vegetable peeler and removed the skin, chucked the whole squash on a plate in the microwave for about 2 minutes to soften and then cut, deseeded and cubed it. The whole went into a pot with about 1/4 cup water, olive oil, a tablespoon butter, and salt, pepper, ground sage, garlic, and just the tiniest amount of brown sugar. I then simmered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender. The result was a very flavorful, hearty and healthy vegetable alternative. Mmmm mmm good.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

I finally had lunch at Chase's Daily in Belfast yesterday. I have always resisted for some reason. I'm not a big fan of trendy organic food places that look like they should be in Easthampton rather than in Belfast, Maine. But, friends of my parents dropped by and I had to take them somewhere, so I figured we should go there. I watched with bemusement as this ultra conservative guy perused a menu that included black beans and rice, hummus sandwiches, and omlets with tofu. Both Ed and his very cool wife, Milly, had the tomato and mozzerella sandwich. I had the black beans and rice with a side quesadilla, cause followers of this stream of food nonsense know that I like quesadillas. Ed and Milly loved their sandwiches, commenting that the baguettes were extremely fresh and good and the tomatos were perfect. I thought the beans and rice was great, if a bit too heavy on the cilantro. But it came with grated cheese, tomatos and a side of salsa. The quesadilla on the other hand was awful. I think the tortillas were microwaved and they used goat cheese for the filling...and while thats fine for some people...gimme a cheese with some heft and a bit of spice and make sure the quesadilla is extra crispy or take it away! was nice to know every other person who walked in the door and the space is pleasing and has some great atmosphere and people watching. Overall, I'd give the food a B+/A- (didn't you hate getting this grade is school...looking back now, it was such a control issue thing...if the teacher had liked you better, you would've gotten the darn A- free and clear) and the atmospehere an A. Great service too.


Monday, September 26, 2005

my vintage bottle of French vinegar sold for over $200 on Ebay. Someone is going to be kinda mad if they ever open this one. BUT, Ebay will only allow us sellers to auction the collectable bottles and their labels rather than the wine itself as auctioning wine is against their policies. And, quite frankly, I started the auction at $9.99 with no reserve so its not like I ever though the wine would get up to that price! (Can you tell I am struggling with seller's guilt? Not so much that it stopped me from offering the buyer the second bottle I have for the same price)


I've made $10.00 from these ads at the top of the page..thanks
So our neighbor's son wedding was great. It was in their backyard under a tent behind their 1797 Federal house with a fantastic view of the Bay. It was catered by a local caterer in Belfast, Trillium. They had a full bar and served apple cider martinis which were very tasty. The passed hors d'oeurves were vegetarian sushi which were passable and crab and avacado quesadillas, which looked wonderful, but yours truly didn't have any, and Greg was having too much fun to notice. There was also a cheese and fruit bar and an oyster bar...very swanky.

Dinner was a buffet with lamb kabobs and scallop kabobs. The lamb was really tender and lean though a bit cold. Greg said the scallops were lukewarm and a bit underdone. There were also big fresh orange and red tomato slices with purple basil which were great and colorful and the most memorable part of the dinner. We also had salad and rice pilaf.

The cake was gorgeous, five layers of square marble cake with a super smooth icing and small wine grapes and currants spilling over the sides, but the icing tasted too much like butter and the cake itself was hard...I guess you need that to make something so pretty. I always want my cakes to be moist, so they are always lopsided!

Anyway, we had a fabulous time. Food was secondary (can you believe I said that?) or even third on the list after the '80s cover band to which everyone danced


Saturday, September 24, 2005

My cousin Grace is an amazing entertainer. Everytime the ole family gets together, someone has the hutzpah to get Grace to have the party. I wish she would say no sometimes because she spends hours handmaking everything...not that I mind, but I can think of a thousand better things to do with my time than baking and cooking for my cousins! Seriously, if I lived where the gatherings tend to be, I would just put out a bottle of vodka and some cheese and get out of the way, lest I be trampled by the booze hounds in the clan (that would pretty much be my immediate family)

Anyway, dear Grace sent me the following recipe to try for the Haute for Hospice show cocktail party. Its what everyone wants in a dessert, butter, sugar and some chocolate.

12 whole(double) graham crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans

Place crackers in jelly-roll pan so that bottom is completely covered.

Melt butter and sugar together, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes exactly. Pour syrup over crackers, sprinkle with nuts.

Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Cool only slightly before cutting.

Makes about 48
Note: I've experimented with finely grated chocolate added to syrup on crackers before nuts; delicious too.

I made peanut butter cookies last night after Greg's incredible grilled pork suppah. They are extremely easy and taste great:

1 cup natural peanut butter (super chunky)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar or splenda
1 tblspoon butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon flour

Combine ingredients, mixing after each addition and then form into balls and place on cookie sheet. Flatten with tines of a fork and place in preheated (I made the mistake of putting a small batch into a preheating oven and the bottoms burned) 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool on pan and then transfer to mouth.


Friday, September 23, 2005

oh, by the way, my bottle of vinegar....I mean, uhh, Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1965, is up to $112.50 on Ebay...shhhhhh


Took the day off today to hang out with the hippies and the mules at the Common Ground Fair. We met my sister Ann there and had a great time going through all the craft booths and watching the mules and the work horses. Lunch on the fly was cheese and sausage calzone for me, fried clams for Greg (suprise suprise) and a sausage on a stick for Ann. She was pretty popular at the fair, being a green soul herself, seemed like everyone knew her. We went apple tasting and learned all about the different flavors apples take on depending on when you harvest them. That was kind of cool.

Got back to house guests we don't know who are staying with us during a neighbor's wedding weekend. They went out on the town with the wedding party while we are staying in. Greg is grilling a pork loin which he split in two and stuffed with fresh rosemary and garlic, tied up and threw on his grill. We still pretend its summer up here, so I cut up some garden fresh zucchini into strips and tossed it with salt, pepper, garlic, and butter then wrapped it in foil for the grill. Damn thats good. We are hunkering down for the second half of Empire Falls, the movie, which so far is pretty close to the book. Rich Russo lives down the street and taught at Colby when I was thats my brush with fame for the day.

Come back on Sunday when I'll tell ya about the food from the wedding.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

so, I am now getting hit with at least a spam comment a day. I've had to institute a word verification command so that only humans can leave comments. Sorry about this folks. Leave it to a few bots to ruin it for the rest of us.

Greg and I went to dinner down at 3Tides last night so that we could get our David/Sarah/Luna fix for the week. It was a perfect evening, we got there early so that we would beat the rush and have time to chat with David and Sarah, which is always a great time.

Greg and I talked about the "haute for hospice" show and he thought I should make the sweets for the cocktail party before. There will be enough other food from area restaurants, but nobody is appealing to the sweet teeth in the crowd. I'll prolly make lemon squares with shortbread crust, toffee bars, and these brown sugar and graham cracker cookies that my cousin made the other weekend that were out of this world......mmmm can't wait for that sugar high.

Seth :-)
I have a bottle of 1965 Chateau Lafite Rothschild up for sale on Ebay this week. My parents purchased a case of it in Bermuda in the 60s and the stuff is awful! I can't even cook with it cause it tastes so bad. We've tried to decant bottles over the years for special occasions and there is just no drinking it. We even let it "breathe" overnight and all it is still good for is filling water ballons. My parents think its because the sail back from Bermuda was so hairy that the wine kept moving with every movement of the boat. I think it was just a bad year, and apparently the wine collectors on Ebay know that too, since it hasn't gotten above $9.99 yet. Other bottles of vintage Chateau Lafite are selling for hundreds....leave it to my parents to buy the worst vintage from that winery in decades!


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

only 7 cents today.....sigh
Big score today at Marden's in Waterville. I hopped in the car with my Harry Potter book on disc...all 36 disks worth and headed off to Gardiner to an auction preview. Decided after looking at a lot of junk to head to Augusta and see if I could find some food for Sebastian to help his allergies. He sits around all day and licks his paws and shakes his head 'cause his ears are itchy. We switched the dogs' food to Wellness brand, which is wheat free, but it still makes him itchy. I ended up with potato and duck kibble from Nature's Balance which is hawked by Dick Van Patten of "Eight is Enough" fame. Anyway, since Waterville is only about 24 miles further, I wanted to check out the new Mardens and had to go up to Colby for some museum business.
When I got to Marden's they still had Nature's Balance for 1/2 price, so I bought about 6 months worth for the pups. Sebastian seems to be less itchy when he eats it. Normally, a 30 lb bag costs $40.00! These were $19. I did my happy bargain dance and loaded up eight of the bags in my cart as people stared with bemused expressions.

By now you are wondering what this has to do with PEOPLE food, aren't you? Well, after that I went up to the museum and ended up having lunch with some of my friends who work there. They took me to the coffee shack II on Kennedy Memorial Drive, right past the Black Stove Shop. Its a groovy small deli where you can order sandwiches, or burgers and dogs, or get donuts and coffee. Super nice people and good food. I ordered a chicken salad on marble rye (there were three choices of chicken salad and I had the regular as opposed to the cranberry walnut or some other kind) I was asked if I wanted it pressed, which means grilled in a sandwich press...a delighful way to toast the bread. My friends each had a reuben and a pressed cheese sandwich which they liked very much. For dessert we split a key lime and white chocolate chip cookie...a great way to end a fast lunch.

Everything was very nice....B+ all around.

I'm off to Gardiner to an auction preview today to look at a chest of drawers for a client in Chicago. I told you the other day that if I went south on Rte 1, I liked to stop at Megunticook market....if I go out Rte 3 from Belfast to Augusta, I love to stop at the Mobil station in Belfast across from Dairy Queen to get a muffin for breakfast. Its hard to belive, but I think the Mobil station has the best muffins in town, and I just love a great muffin. Most places use almond extract to make their muffins, and this is one of the biggest mistakes one can make. Almonds and blueberries just don't mix very well. The almond extract gets in the way of any fruit taste the muffin might actually have.

Remember that episode on Seinfeld about muffin tops? I completely agree....the rest of the muffin is just filler, but the muffin top is pure gold!


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

psych, you guys made me a buck eighty-five yesterday! Another two months of this and Google sends me a check for $100.00. I'll take you all out for ice cream---though by then it will almost be December and the ice cream places will be closed. Hmmmm.....I'll make holiday candy then and send it out as a nice thank you to all my loyal foodie readers.


So, I caved....mea culpa, mea may have noticed the google ad bar at the top of the Maine Foodie page here. It essentially crawls through my posts and adds relavent ads to the bar in hopes that readers will click and click and click some more. There are actually some very interesting recipes and other foodie related ads...I tell you this because when you click on one of the four ads up there and then click on any of the content from that ad, I get a tiny amount of cash...the more you click, the fuller my piggy bank becomes.
For instance, someone clicked on the content yesterday and I received 7 cents. wooo hooooo
Now, if all 49 people who visited the site yesterday clicked on, I could potentially realize...hmmm, lemme get the calculator out....$3.43 cents. not too shabby for the foodster here...In a few years I could have enough cash to dine at the Edge in Lincolnville but not drink!

So click away up it for the foodster.

P. S. I am still trying to come up with something yummy and cold, or at least room temp to serve to the 200 partygoers for the "Haute for Hospice" show. Perhaps just a ham.....mmmmm.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Sometimes when I'm travelling south from Northport during the day, I time my trip so that I can stop at Megunticook Market in Camden. I love taking the back way from here to Rte 90 and winding my way around Megunticook Lake on Route 52.
The market makes great fresh sandwiches and they have a wonderful salt foccacia that is perfect with roast beef and chedder. If I happen to pass by during breakfast, the market also has a great bakery in the front. Its one of my favorite secret places to go when traveling around on my own.....come on, you all have them too, right?

Sorry to leave you all hanging about the Lobster Vichyssoise saga, but I had to go down to NY to help my parents move out of their house.

So, when last we heard, the completed recipe was ready for the fridge and needed an overnight to chill. The next day, I fed it to Greg and our neighbor who stopped for dinner and the overwhelming response was that it was too salty and the taste of curry was too much. That said to me that the stock was much too strong and needed diluting, so the next day I made a full batch of potato leek soup and combined it with the already cold vichyssoise. Greg was going out to play mah jong with the girls, so I made him take it along and reviews were great. Everyone thought it was wonderful. But, after all that I don't think I'm going to make it for the Hospice benefit for several reasons: 1. I can't taste it myself 2. Its cold 3. its not easy to make 4. its not an easy "finger food" to pass. Back to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!


Sunday, September 11, 2005

I'm a pizza snob. There, I said it. I grew up with New York pizza: thin crust that was perfectly chewy and soft, just the perfect amount of sauce and great cheese. We folded the big slices to eat them. My mom used to pick me up from school on Fridays (we had 1/2 days on Fridays) and we'd go to Marios for slices. Those were the days. I lived in Chicago for 10 years and hated the pizza there. The thin crust was the best in Chicago and when you would get a pizza delivered, it would be a round pizza cut into squares...go figure!
When we moved to Maine, I didn't think about the pizza....visions of insulation and cords of wood dominated my thoughts instead. But when we first decided to go for pizza there was nowhere to go! I mean there is Pizza hut, but, yuck! Then there is Alexia's on Main Street in Belfast. I never thought a place like that could go downhill until I went there before going to the movies the other night. What a dump this place has turned out to be. At 6pm on a Friday night, it was dirty; pretty filthy actually. All I wanted was a slice of cheese and what they had available looked like it was cooked hours before and shoved into that plexiglass display case. I mean, this pizza was old! I think also that the kitchen in restaurants that are dirty should never be seen, yet at Alexia's, the kitchen is right there and you can just tell that the people running the place were not really into cleanliness. So, thats all I have to say about Alexia's. The rating system here is easy: F F F F across the board.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

so, whodda thought, the lobster stock made with the bodies and water with a bit o' wine was "lobsterier" to coin a Gregism than the stock I put all the fancy stuff I combined them and reduced. seven lobsters gave me about 1 quart of stock! The way I'm going, how many lobsters am I going to need to feed 200 people a shot of soup? Oh David!!!!!! :-)

Anyway, Greg was so happy to be bothered by me wanting a taster. We went through all the phases. I got a mite pissy when he dunked his beer bread into the boiling stock and left a floater!

After the stock was reduced I melted a quarter stick of butter and added some olive oil into a pot and shoved in one leek, and two honkin large Yukon Gold taters, cut up. The I decided to separate that mixture so I could experiment and to one I added some curry powder and left the other plain, save for some fresh nutmeg, sea salt and ground pepper. I sauteed the mixtures for a while and then slowly added stock to both. When the taters were tender, I blendered them and got a smooth, thick mixture...not what I want to try and pour into two hundred shot glasses.

To stem the flowability problem, I addded the rest of the stock...yikes thats a lot of stock for two potatoes. Greg tasted both and pronounced the curry infused soup the best, "hands-down" I then combined the two, added a bit more curry and stirred over low heat until heated through.

When I hurried out to the road with a sample for a passing neighbor, her comment was "its different...tastes like a lobster tamale with curry....not my cup of tea" Well, shoot! we'll see what becomes of it tomorrow after its had time to chill and meld.

Perhaps I'll just make little peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead

Thanks to David from 3Tides, I have seven good sized lobster bodies cut into small pieces simmering on the stove right now in a brew that makes Greg's head swoon and my stomach do flip flops! I'm making lobster stock....something I will never taste as I am allergic to shell fish. The smell makes me queezy, but Greg said it was pure heaven, so I'll take his word for it.

David told me that most he has checked for making stock do so without using the head sack of the lobster...some of the sites I checked with also say to discard the head and innards before beginning, so I played it safe and snipped off the legs and the little sand digger claws and added those to the claws and the tails in a big pot with all sorts of other good junk and it has to simmer for at least an hour. I put the bodies in another pot and .....are you ready for this?.....tell me how spoiled my dogs are......I'm making them a bisque for dinner out of the bodies!

So, into the lobster stock pot goes:

1 stick butter
3/4 yellow onion chopped
2 medium leeks
3 stalks celery
3 cloves garlic
3 types of fresh herbs: sage, thyme, and lemon balm
sea salt and pepper to taste
all get sauteed until lightly brown
3 cups vegetable stock
the cut up lobster with drippings from shells
enough white wine and water to cover shells (i used almost about 3/4 bottle of wine, but then again, I'm a lush)
also added a bit of tomato sauce I had left over from lunch (optional)

So thats what simmering so far.
I've decided to try making curried potato leek soup with the stock to see how that is first and then go experimenting from there.

I'll let you know how it ends.
Thank you David!


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Greg is organizing a fashion show to benefit the local Hospice Volunteer organization. HE has enlisted the help of some local restaurants to provide nibbles for the cocktail party before the show. He asked me to make something if I want and I've thought about concocting a cold lobster vichyssoise and serving it in small shot glasses. I have to come up with a recipe, so I should experiment soon. I will keep my faithful fans (you know who you are) posted on the experimentation. My main concern is whether to make it chuncky or smooth.....any thoughts to that? I'd appreciate some comments.
Well, it happened again....Greg and I ended up driving around aimlessly, trying to figure out where to go have a cheap and cheerful meal at about 7:30 last night. We decided to try Oriental Plaza, the Chinese restaurant in East Belfast. We used to go to Oriental Plaza when it was located in the Main Street Market shopping center in Belfast. When walking in there, one could be transported to any Chinese restaurant around the country. It was surreal, because the interior decor was almost identical to the Chinese place we used to frequent in Chicago. NOW. the Plaza is located in the old Blueberry Bay restaurant/diner on Route 1. The seating area is huge and you still think that you are in a IHOP style restaurant save for the black Chinese coromandel panels on the walls. The booths and lighting fixtures are still blue and its a pretty funny experience.

Greg is standing here telling me to put in the review that the bathrooms are sticky and there is no way to get out of the bathroom without turning the handle on the door, so wear long sleeves. In my own terms, its the type of bathroom that makes you flush the toilet with your foot.

So onto the food. It was plentiful, thats for sure. We had an order of Orange beef and hot chicken curry. The amount of food that arrived would have fed four to five people, so the value was there. The curry they used tasted old and generic. It was certainly not "hot," the way I ordered it. The orange beef was really not very flavorful, but the beef was tender and tasted good. Vegetables were fresh, but as I say, the taste is not as good as Seng Thai down the street.
On a Saturday night at 7:30, there were only three tables of diners, which doesn't bode well for the place. I think most people in the know would rather go to Seng Thai, and thats where we will be headed in the future if we want Chicken curry again.

Food: C-
Service: D
Atmosphere: D
Cleanliness: F


Saturday, September 03, 2005

I have a new way to do a roast chicken that makes it wonderfully tender and juicy, and use the herbs in my garden to a wonderful effect.
As you've heard me before, we love little chicky night in our house because it means we can have curried chicken salad the next day for lunch and then have chicken soup sometime later in the week.

Anyway, I thoroughly wash and dry the chicken and then stuff the inside with fresh sage and rosemary...not really stuff, but put a big bunch in there. Then I drizzle olive oil all over the top and liberally sprinkle sea salt and pepper all over it, and put the while thing in a roasting pan with high sides and roast for approximately 2 hours on 350. The salt and the herbs really flavor the chicken so well and it comes out all tender and amazing. yummm

A friend gave me a bunch of blackberries the other day so I made a lemon blackberry tart to go with the chicken....I decided to use Splenda as the sweetener and it turned out ok, but there really is nothing like good ole sugar!

Hey all, been on the road a lot lately. Just back from Chicago where I had lunch with a client at a hip downtown restaurant called NAHA. Its a huge space for a Chicago restaurant and in the space of the old Gordon's, a place my ex-boss used to take us to celebrate work accomplishments. When Gordon closed and left Chicago, he moved to Camden where he became increasingly bitter about life and disparaged people who lived here as unsophisticated. We had Gordon to dinner here one night and he regaled us with tales that are too sordid to type about! Well, ole Gordon moved on and moved to New Zealand to become a Sommolier...good for Gordon.
Anyway, I digress...NAHA was a great place for lunch. I had the best Rustic Chicken Ceasar salad that had lightly seasoned roasted potatoes, juicy chicken, shaved parm, oil cured tomatos, garlic crutons and wonderfully fresh greens. My client had the roasted chicken salad with Crimson Raisins, Pine Nuts and Fava Beans. By Chicago standards for lunch, it wasn't pricey at $14.00 a salad. We were good and had water and nothing else and got out of there for $32.00. The decor was very swanky, done in muted chocolate suedes and grays. The service was fantastic, I had someone pour water for me evertime I took a sip from my glass. I loved it.

Everything gets an A here.


Monday, August 01, 2005

I went to the grocery store on Thursday and there were great deals on meat everywhere. Greg has to have meat at dinner because of the protein. I never ate much meat at night before we met, because I never wanted to cook it, and frankly, working for a museum just didn't pay me enough to eat meat all the time.

So, I snapped up all these meat specials and brought them home to freeze. Last night I took out a beautiful pork tenderloin to cook, but decided that we weren't going to eat all of it, so I cleaved it into thirds and then made pork medallions with what we were going to eat. I then ground fresh pepper over all of them, and marinated in a mixture of fresh leeks, red wine, soy sauce and white pepper. I sauteed the mixture in butter and olive oil and added baby asparagus on top to just steam until done.

When ready, I took out the meat and the vegetables and then added a bit more butter, flour and redwine to make a very colorful sauce for the top of the meat . It was pretty good.

Money saving tip at the grocery store:

In this day and age of really expensive cold cuts, I have decided that the sliced turkey one gets at the deli counter for $6.99 a pound, just isn't worth it. Instead, I try to get a fresh turkey breast in the meat section of the deli, doctor it up with fresh herbs and spices, whatever you like, and then roast it in the morning before lunch. We get a good three days worth of meat out of it and then I can use the carcass to make broth from. Its a much more economical way to serve lunch. I just bought a 6 lb turkey brest for $1.49 a pound and it isn't processed, doesn't have as much water injected into it as the pressed turkey you get at the deli counter and it is much healthier for you.

Hey all, here is a recipe that had everyone cheering with their mouths full at dinner the other night...that is between gulps of water to put the fires out in their mouths! Every once in a while we have taco nights with homemade filling, refried beans, corn or whole wheat tortillas, cheese and fresh tomatos. Its easy and fun and entertaining. A meal that one can make with the kids or friends gathered in the kitchen. Everyone gets to help chop and such.

Greg wanted tacos the other night, but I didn't have ground beef or chicken ready to go. Decided that we could try Sausage tacos! I had a roll of ground hot sausage that I browned and doctored up a bit...I tell you it was an instant success.

1 lb of hot ground sausage
medium chopped onion
either a package of taco seasonings or:
dashes of ground red pepper, chili powder, couple of fresh cloves of garlic, salt and pepper cilantro, etc.
chopped tomato
chopped lettuce if desired
grated cheese...we use whats on hand, usually a brick of chedder
heated refried beans

Put it all together and have fun!


Thursday, July 28, 2005

We had roast chicken last night for dinner...its Sebastian's favorite (for those of you who don't know, Sebastian is a BIG black beast of a giant schnauzer, weighing in at 115 lbs) I made it with a rub of fresh rosemary and sage from the garden and stuffed the inside with oranges and onions. Also made a white wine risotto and sauteed brussel sprouts for Greg (yuck) and lima beans for me...mmmmm Anyway, Sebastian has a routine when I roast a chicken that he never does with any other meal...he lays outside the gate to the kitchen while its cooking and just sniffs the air and moans every once in a while (we have chicken a lot, just cause I love it when he gets into his groove thang). When we carve it up, he whines outside the gate because he thinks he should be the one to get the first taste. He and Libby (Our other giant schnauzer and David's favorite pooch) usually get snacks after dinner. Last night however, we ate dinner while watching a movie while it thundered and poured rain outside. Sebastian hates thunder and he skulked off to a dark corner of the bathroom to wait it out.....or so I thought. When I got back to the kitchen, the gate had been opened and the chicken carcass was nowhere to be seen...the roasting pan however, was right where I'd left it on the counter. Sebastian was asleep on his back, paws in the air, in the corner of the kitchen...with chicken grease all over his beard! I was amazed that he ate the whole carcass, leaving only the onion from the inside as evidence. I am still worried that the cooked bones will harm him. I stayed up late into the night watching to make sure that he didn't get sick, choke, etc. I fed him ice chips to cool his throat, but he just went about his business and contentedly went to sleep with his head under our bed. He seems fine and perfectly normal this adverse effects yet. I hope he'll be ok.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hey all. Well, I can finally say with some assurance that summer is here on the midcoast. How do I know? We have to wait for tables to clear at the local eateries! (Actually, I know because my roses are in full swing.

Anyway, you didn't come here to hear me wax poetic about my garden. Greg and I decided to drive to New York on a whim last week to get some errands done and have some business meetings. On our way down, we stopped at Moody's Diner in Waldoboro for breakfast. Now, I usually stop at Moody's in the wintertime on my way south and get a cinnamon roll to go and they come out all warm from the kitchen. I hardly ever stop for a full mea, but Greg likes his eggs and toast in the morning, so we stopped. By 10am, the place was packed! Hardly an instate license plate in the lot (locals eat early and are probably out by 7). Our server was really in a state when we got there and was really not interested in taking our orders. But she did. I had a sausage and cheese omlet with toast and Greg had a burger. The portions were enormous, but the omlet wasn't done and they charged me .60 cents extra for the cheese even though the omlet was listed on the menu for one price. Greg got soggy fries and a kind of dry burger...two things he can't stand. We did get a cinnamon roll to split and that was good, but they are much better in the winter months.
All I can say is never have that much sugar and plan to drive another 6 hours...I was so sleepy!

Back to work...this job thing does get in the way of blogging, now doesn't it.

By the way, thanks to the readers who recommended my blog on That was very cool. I love chowhound and used to have a link to it somewhere on my blog page...hmmmm I am not the most technologically saavy dude around, so I'll have to work on getting that back.

Oh..the ratings for Moody's


Sunday, June 26, 2005

After several exhausting days working on the house...NEVER start 4 projects at once......we had the age ole debate about going someplace local that is "Cheap and Cheerful." Where the hell would that be! Tonight we have a candidate for that very spot. A place that we never even thought to try since they've been open after a remodel. Whooda thought that Willy World right here in Northport would be so excellent for the Cheap and Cheerful type of meal. So the place is now called "David's @ Willy World" complete with a pool table and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
David was slammed and only had one server when we got there, so after a short wait, David came by himself and took our orders for wine and Mike's Hard Lemonade (beer and wine coolers are available too) as well as for Fried Haddock for Greg and the Cheeseburger with sweet potato fries for me. How delightful the food was! Perfectly crispy fries, moist quarter pounder with creamy cheese and a lightly battered and fried fresh haddock that was perfectly cooked on the inside. The decor is suitable, lots of nautical things to look at, fishing nets and paintings of ships on log roundels. Since there was a wait, David told us to make ourselves at home at the salad bar and then brought warm bread and soft salted butter, our favorite! Both David and his server were very attentive and really served the large crowd well. There are three tables outside and more inside where we were. Greg and I mentioned that we wanted to play miniature golf and David went and found us clubs and balls...we don't think anyone has used the course in awhile. Free icecream after dinner was the best treat.
This is really the perfect antidote to some of the other places in town that are getting a bit tired.

Food: A
Service: A+
Atmosphere: Suitable to cheap and cheerful: B+

Willy World is just South of the Blue Goose in Northport on Rte 1. For three drinks, Fried Haddock and a burger, the bill was $27.00 and change...not too bad for dinner and drinks out on the "town."


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Greetings from searingly hot, windy, and rainy Florida. I came down here for my mom's birthday, even though it is terrible weather and I hate this type of humid heat...but, parental guilt works so well on me! I got the "You don't really want to come down here, you should make the trip" and then the next sentance was the killer "but I would love it if you would come down".

Aannnyway...we went out last night and had a fabulous meal at a local place I've never been to and we got talking about having Whispers at the old Whisper Inn in Sarasota. The first one I had was with my grandmother years ago and we got schnokered on them. If you've never had a whisper, you should. They are decadent and delicious. Usually served in a big martini glass, the whisper is a delicate balance of ice cream and booze....mmmmmm, two of my favorite things. The recipe has always been a well-kept secret until the advent of the internet. I hereby give to you the recipe and urge all the drinkers out there to serve this as a party favor at least once.

1 oz kahlua
1 oz amaretto
1 oz vodka
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Mix in blender...not too much ice, the trick to the whisper is to make it smooth, like a thick chocolate shake.


Friday, June 10, 2005

oops, well a perceptive reader emailed to tell me that I had excluded most viewers from posting comments because of the settings I had chosen for the site.....stupid me, thats what I get for being a complete techno moron. I have changed the settings so hopefully, you'll be able to comment on my scathing reviews and tell me how totally off base I am!

Seth (posting from my window overlooking the Gulf of Mexico as we wait for tropical storm Arlene to arrive in Florida.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

There is not much choice in dining establishments for a Sunday night in Belfast. We aimlessly drove to town while considering our options last hut? naw.....Darby's?...probably closed and the fries are limp.....ok, lets see whats up at Seng Thai. We've eaten at Seng Thai a number of times and it was always good, but never "wow!" so we were kind of lacklustre about the whole thing. I do have to say that we left feeling "Wow, that was an excellent meal." Hooray for our team, we cheered ourselves up on a Sunday night with food out!

So, we get to the Thai shack on Rte 1 in East Belfast and the place is packed with cars. Nowhere even to park....I finally squeezed in next to a few cars and we went in expecting to wait a while because the place is appeared that everyone came in separate cars and ate together, because there were empty tables to spare...another good sign.

So Greg looks at me and squinches up his face and says "I'm SO hungry...I'm starving!!!....Lets get lots of food!" We ordered the crispy potatos and the chive dumplings to start....the potatos came out first and they were slices of sweet potatos dipped in tempura batter and deep fried and came with a nice peanut sauce. The presentation was divine, even down to the radish cut into a rose blossom. The potatos were fresh and excellent and I highly recommend them. Next to come out was the plate of four chive dumplings. The flavor was good, but I was expecting something different and couldn't get passed the texture, which was a bit slimy. Greg loved them and raved about them. We ended up leaving one of the dumplings behind.
I was in the mood for spicy, so I had the chicken in hot basil leaves extra mouth was on fire for the rest of the night....loved every bite! I need to figure out how to make that at home...damn! Greg had the garlic chicken which was very fresh...even down to the fresh A+ in my book. We cleaned out plates and shared a bowl of ginger ice cream....a perfect evening.
One piece of advice though...stick with the American red wines...the Thai one that they advertise is not as good as the other wines they serve.
A new coat of paint would serve this place well.

Food A for excellent
Service A-
Atmosphere: Kind of a dive on the inside. Could do with spruceing up. But we loved the sparkles on a lot of the pictures! B for the sparkles!


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Seems that tasting restuarants are all the rage in New York now. When I was there two weeks ago, I ended up going to two very different places, one was fairly middle brow on the upper East Side, close to the apartment that I use when Im there and the other was down near Gramercy Park in a very chi-chi part of town. The tables were about three inches apart in this place, and at the end of our meal there (I was taken there by a client) we were asked to vacate our table for the waiting customers at the door! I've never seen anything like it.

The first place I went to with Greg near the apartment was called Fig and Olive on Lexington and 64th. It is a small place, serving wine only, with the cool added attraction of a long communal eating bar in the center of the restaurant. When we sat down, our server brought us four different olive oils and bread, with a side of figs. The menu offered two ways of ordering. One could either get a variety of tasting appetizers such as cheese, vegetable, or meat plates or toasted crostini with a variety of toppings to spoon on. OR one could order more filling meals to share that were more like lunch portions. We decided to just order the whole first menu minus the meat tray. Crostini toppings included roasted red pepper, a confit of different colored tomatos, an eggplant caviar, and other things I can't remember. Cheeses were mostly hard and sharp but with a gorgonzolla and a goat cheese added in, the vegetables were mostly hip, New York style things like roasted leeks, chard, etc.
I know we got out of there pretty full for under $60.00, which is very good for two people in New York City.

I'll talk more about the other place when I can remember what the name of it was.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Good Pizza

Well, last night I think I made a really perfect pizza. I've been experimenting over the last couple of years with sauces and crusts and toppings, but I really liked what we came up with last night. I've tried to make a healthy crust with a mixture of cornmeal and oat flour, but the dough just doesn't rise and the pizza ends up tasting like yeast! I then tried cornmeal and whole wheat flour and the same thing happened, so I went back to plain old whole wheat flour and only let it rise once for a single pizza and twice for two pizzas. I also just dispensed with making sauce all together because after watching the pizza makers in NYC...if you love pizza, you know that NYC has the best pizza ever made. Someday, I will apprentice myself to a pizza maker in NY and find out exactly how to make their crust. is what I did:
You'll need a pizza stone...never thought they worked until Vicky gave me one for my birthday...thank you Vicky!

for the crust:

1 cup hot tap water (not too hot)
2 packs yeast

dump the yeast in the bottom of a bowl and sprinkle the hot water overtop let stand ten minutes until frothy.

2 cups whole wheat flour
couple of dashes of sea salt
crumbled rosemary leaves
perhaps some oregano and or garlic powder
olive oil

Fresh tomatos (with basil when the season hits)
chedder or monteray Jack cheese
and your favorite toppings

Put ingredients except olive oil in a bowl and pour ready made yeast mixture on top. Stir together with a fork until dough comes together. It should be dry. Add 1/4 cup olive oil as needed over dough and begin kneading dough in the bowl with your hands. Dough should come together in a ball at this point. I keep my dough in the bowl and knead it for several minutes, adding more olive oil as it gets sticky. Don't over knead! When it feels right, cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and a tea towel and place in a warm spot (I have this nifty warmer burner on my oven that I use sometimes) and let stand for about an hour or until doubled.

If you want to make two pizzas: After the dough has doubled, punch it down, halve it with a dough blade and let the two doughs rise for another hour.

Spread olive oil on your pizza stone and dump dough in the middle, pushing and pressing it to the sides and corners...if your dough doesn't cooperate, let it sit for a couple of minutes on the stone and it will rise again for you enough to push and prod some more.

Cover dough with a sprinking of olive oil and a dash more sea salt for flavor, cover with tomatos and your favorite toppings (last night was spinach and sausage) and then your favorite cheese..we use either monteray Jack or chedder most gives the pizza that much more flavor. There is a great jalapeno chedder that works wonders. Pop in a 400 degree oven on a lower shelf until the cheese is golden brown.

I can't believe we ate the whole thing!


Saturday, May 28, 2005

So you'd think with all this weather to slit your wrists by, that I would have time to sit inside and update the Mainefoodie blog. Sigh.....more excuses, excuses, excuses....I just haven't gotten around to telling you about the great meal we had at Francine's in Camden. Well, if I don't lose this post before publishing, you'll hear about it right here. I want to thank all the people who have emailed me to tell me what they like and don't like about the Mainefoodie blog. I have registered all your suggestions and decided that I will continue anyway I want. After all, it is my blog. I guess I should think a bit harder before posting my review about a new restaurant in Belfast on the Village Soup letter board. I got raked over the coals on that one! At least it let me know that people are awake out there.

So Mainefoodie has been busy with other writing projects and client hand-holding lately. But I resolved to sit here and write down some thoughts about Francine's, so here goes:
Francine's, Camden Maine
A wonderful friend and neighbor took Greg and me to Francine's the other night for dinner as payback for watching her house and watering her plants over the winter. Very nice payback if you ask me. Greg and I have stopped into Francine's on numerous occasions to see if we can get a table, but were always turned away. Its a very small place, on a back street in Camden across from where the old YMCA was. It opened about two years ago. We got there right on time for our 7:30 reservation and had to wait by the door for almost 30 mintues for our table. Since the place is small, Greg acted as the doorman because he had to stand right in front of the entrance!
The walls are painted a dark chocolate brown and are devoid of most decoration except for a few mirrors. Lots of glowing candles around and a bar with about 6 seats. The smells from the kitchen that night were a mixture of garlic and favorite!
We finally sat down and were left to our own devices for about 15 more mintues before our server came over with menus and asked what we wanted to drink. The menu looked great, lots of seafood (unfortunately for me) and some delectible looking turf food. I stared with the spinach soup with porchini mushrooms. The soup was incredible, being broth based instead of cream based, which one would expect. Greg and our friend shared appetizers of a whole soft shelled crab, battered and cooked, served on a bed of celery root and a special of roasted oysters, which they said was out of this world. The presentation was wonderful and raves were given all around.
Main courses were: steak frites for me which was beautiful and seasoned perfectly. The steak was butter soft and beautiful. Greg had a halibut steak and our friend had the tuna...both of which were moist and tender. I haven't had a meal this good locally in a very long time. We skipped dessert as there were other hungry looking souls waiting for our table.
My only adverse comment besides having to wait would be the decor. I like clutter, so the place felt a bit bare to me with nothing on the walls. The atmosphere was better than any of the restaurants in Belfast though.
Food: A+
Atmosphere: A-
Service: B+ (It seemed like our server's first day)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Hey food fans! Maine Foodie has been on the road for the last week or so, and there is lots to tell. So we should have some great posts here over the next few days. But first, I want to back up to a few weeks ago when Greg and I met my sister and her friend down in Rockland at the Park Street Grille for drinks. Greg and I were starving, so we ended up staying for food. The margaritas were very good, but pricey at around $7.00 per. The food was average, I had a chicken quesadilla and greg had the chimichanga. His was dry, but there was some good flavor. Mine was a lot of food, but not as good as some that I have had in the past. This one was a bit soggy, which can happen. If I go to a place a second time, I usually ask for extra crispy on the outside. I am still searching for that elusive, fantastic, quesadilla that I used to get in Chicago at the Mexican joint we frequented. Anyway, with booths lined up against the windows, the Park Street Grille is a nice place to meet after work for a round or two. We had a great time and the server was really nice. I'd recommend the place for drinks and appetizers.
Atmosphere: B
Food: B-
Service: A


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Last night was one of those nights where I kept opening the fridge, hoping something delicicous and interesting would appear as if by magic. All that was there was ground turkey, some frozen sausages, and an old head of purple cabbage.....mmmmmmmmm. After yelling upstairs and asking Greg what he wanted for dinner, he said "make meatloaf!" Now I know to some, this might not sound delicious or interesting, but to the two of us, meatloaf is excellent. Turkey loaf on the other hand is kind of gross. So when all you have is ground turkey and sausage, you make turkey sausage was pretty darn good.

1lb of ground turkey
four sausages with casings removed, or ground sausage
1/2 cup of oatmeal
several dashes of Louisiana hot sauce
1 egg
a few pinches of oregano
a few dashes of soy sauce

combine all ingredients in a large bowl and dig in with both hands to knead together. when fully combined, shape the loaf and place on a broiler pan in a preheated 350 degree oven.
Bake for at least 30-45 minutes until firm and done.

The other thing we had in the kitchen was an acorn squash that had been around for a few weeks. I took my vegetable peeler to the outside skin then cut the squash in half and scooped out the seeds. Added a pat of butter or two to the wells, salt and peppered them and shoved them in the oven in a shallow pan filled with water. The squash was done when the meatloaf was ready and it was soooooo good.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Pineapple upside-down cake
Ok, I know what you are all thinking..Oh my god, I haven't had that since my mom made it in the late '50s! I know you're thinking that because two people made that comment to me after I served it at dinner the other night.
It all started after our friend Sarah gave birth last week to little baby Luna, who was a month early. Sarah adores pineapple upside-down cake and so I thought I would try a recipe I found at For one, the recipe called for dark rum...mmmmmm and B, the cake is baked in cast-iron skillet (probably my favorite kitchen tool). I took the recipe and tweaked it just a bit.
When I took the cake out of the oven, Greg almost flew down the staircase from his studio and kept badgering me about making him one too. He actually wanted me to cut the cake in the shape of a crescent moon (not because the cutest baby in the world is named Luna, but because he wanted to eat the center!) He pouted and stuck out his bottom lip and wondered why I never made him cake anymore.....I told him when he gave birth, I would make him a pineapple upside-down cake!
Anyway, he pressured me to make another one for him and then agreed to share it with friends who came over for dinner....I have to say that the cake is amazingly rich and moist. Its a reat treat if you like pineapple. Its pretty easy to make too, and will impress all your friends.
One note....This recipe call for sugar, though I used Splenda for the body of the cake and brown sugar for the top and didn't really see any difference in taste.

For topping
I medium can of Dole pineapple chunks in juice (drain juice and reserve for later
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

For batter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
reserved pineapple juice
2 tablespoons dark rum for sprinkling over cake

Special equipment: a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet

Preheat to 350 degrees
melt butter and brownsugar in skillet and cook for about 4 minutes until blended and completely melted. Take off heat and allow to cool slightly. Spread chunks of pineapple even over the butter sugar mixture.

In a large bowl, sift dry ingredients (I normally never do this because I don't want to dirty another bowl, but you might want to)

Cream butter and sugar together and add eggs one at a time making sure they are completely incorporated. mixture should be nice and thick. Add vanilla and rum. Alternately add dry ingredients and pineapple juice and mix until fully incorporated. Pour batter over butter sugar mixture making sure it spread evenly.

Cook in oven for between 30- 45 minutes depending on how hot your oven cooks. Test cake at 30 minutes for optimium moistness. If test comes out dry, pull pan out of oven and let sit for 5-7 minutes. HERE IS THE PART THAT SEEM HARD BUT ISN"T You might want to do this over the sink.

Take a cake plate that is larger than the skillet and invert it over the top of the skillet. Holding both the skillet and the plate firmly together...flip...cake should transfer to plate. Put chunks back in place and serve warm or at room temp.


Saturday, April 30, 2005

Papa J's Wine & Lobster Bar, East Belfast
After hauling wood around all day so that we were sore and crabby, Greg took me out on a date last night, sweet boy that he is. We decided to try the new restaurant that opened in East Belfast yesterday. I'd read about it in Village Soup and it sounded interesting. I knew there wouldn't be a lot on the menu for me since it bills itself as a lobster bar, but we decided to try it.
The restaurant opened up in the old Fat Boy's Diner. It promises great water views, but the windows overlook the RV resort, which is fine for right now since there are no patrons in the resort, but come summer, thats what you'll see when you look out the windows, a sea of shiny metal and lots of lawn chairs. So anyway, the interior has been spiffed up and we give them an A for effort there. A nice deep red wall color greets you in the foyer upon arrival, there are different shaped and colored lampshades over each of the tables, and two dining areas, both with televisions tuned to sporting events (strike one for a wine bar). Unfortunately, I felt that we were in a restaurant that was trying really hard not to be a diner, but failed. It tried to be cozy, but was a bit cold for me...floors painted a flat grey, diner tables with ugly abstract painted designs in mauve and gold, and wierd posters tacked to the accustical tiles on the ceiling. Just not the atmosphere for a place that calls itself a wine bar.
Service was very friendly and our server was so attentive. While they cleaned a table for us by the window, we were waiting out front and several people smiled and asked if we were being helped. The wine list was extensive and the prices were very reasonable. The red wine glasses are huge and fit nicely in one's hand. The owner came over to pour Greg's wine, but didn't welcome us until Greg asked if he was the owner. The first pour of wine was a bit small to the point where we looked at each other because it was noticeable. Greg wants me to mention that if you call yourself a wine bar, and you have enormous wine glasses, you should please your customers by filling the damn thing up more than a 1/4 full!! He said he'd even pay more for a better pour. My stoli on the rocks came in a small stemmed glass crammed with ice. I hate small rocks glasses primarily because I am a big guy and have large hands.
Menu was brought out to us on a chalk board and most everything was seafood. Besides seared sea scallops, lobster stew and clam chowder, the appetizers were standard bar fare..mozzerella sticks, wings, and jalapeno poppers, which I was dismayed about...have something a bit more original. I must say the prices are very reasonable. I chose what I thought said Penne Chicken (12.95, but no pasta arrived with it, so I think it had something to do with being pan fried. Greg had the 1 1/4 lb lobster for 14.95. Each came with a salad of greens with tomatos, red peppers and purple onions. We chose the house dressing of balsamic and roasted garlic vinagrette which was excellent. A lovely looking basket of warm herb bread came out with the salads. The bread smelled great, but was completely tasteless. I think it was bread machine bread which has a tendancy to be really flat tasting...whoever made this bread forgot to put in the salt to unify the flavors. The lobster arrived and Greg said it was really sweet and perfectly cooked. He had a great time tearing into it and ate every bite. My chicken came out next with a side of garlic mashed potatos. It was a boneless breast with a lemon caper sauce on top., (no capers to be found though). I carved into it and found that it was undercooked and still pink in the middle. I asked the owner, who stood at a bar table next to us with his friends all evening, to have it cooked a bit more because it was still pink in the middle and he looked at me and said "so you want it well done?" and I immediately said, "well, I'd like it cooked so its not raw in the middle." when it came back, it was cooked through and was really tasty. The caper sauce was actually sweet onion garlic and lemon that was really nice. The garlic mashed potatos were good, needed to be a less dense. They were unceremoniously plopped on my plate with an ice cream scoop, reminding me of institutional food. I was served my white chicken and white potatoes on a white plate with no garnish or side fact, no vegetables were offered at all. Even though the food was good, there needs to be a bit of creativity on the plate if one wants to be a wine bar and not a diner.
Desserts were lemon merengue, apple or bluberry pie and we passed, craving something a bit more in keeping with a nicer meal, some chocolate confection or rich cheesecake (we stopped at Darby's on the way home and split carrot cake and another drink.)
We got out of there for about $50.00 for four drinks and dinner. Not bad at all. I do think it will be a total tourist draw in the summer. One thing I have to mention that really got to us was the acoustics in the place. It might have just been the loud people at the bar, but we could hear every word and every laugh coming from every corner to the point that it was annoying as hell. A couple of single women at the bar were flirting with a guy and they were shouting and laughing this really shrill laugh that grated. Maybe a carpet to deaden the voices.
I left liking the food, but not the restaurant itself. I wanted more from a place that bills itself as a wine bar. Wine bars should have jazz piano playing softly in the background, should be dark and cozy, should have white tablecloths and waiters in white aprons. Perhaps I am expecting too much, because this is the way wine bars are in the big city. Papa J's is essentially a diner with good food lamely disguised as a restaurant.
Atmosphere: B-
Food: B (would have been higher save for the uncooked chicken, lack of vegetables and bad bread)
Service: A