Monday, October 05, 2009

R.I.P. Gourmet

I was saddened to learn that Gourmet magazine will cease publication this fall, another victim of the advertising drought affecting print media in particular.

Until I got a free offer to use mileage points to subscribe, I had never so much as looked at the magazine, thinking it was way too hoity-toity for me. And certainly there is that element: reviews of high-end restaurants I'll never dine at, spreads about fancy and fanciful dinner parties. But there were also a lot of down-to-earth articles, reviews and recipes. Ruth Reichl's total love of good food infused every page, and the photography was gorgeous -- truly food porn. I was impressed enough to renew as a paid subscriber.

It's quite a statement that a magazine with nearly a million circulation can't survive today.

Guess Not

Friday, October 02, 2009

Everything But The Kitchen Sink?

In this early-60s parody, Allan Sherman reminds us of a time before it was common to have multiple ethnic/international restaurants in even the smallest towns in America.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kosher Dill Pickles

When I left New York City in my early 20s, it was difficult to find Jewish food outside of major cities. As mentioned recently, you couldn't even find a decent bagel in Portland, Maine. So, good kosher-style brine pickles were definitely not in the picture. Now, you can find brands such as BaTampte and Bubbies in Whole Foods and other stores around the country.

Back then, my wife found a recipe for brine pickles in the New York Times, and I still use it. I just made my best batch ever. The key, in my opinion, is to use fairly small cucumbers, and have all the cukes in the batch be of a similar size. They should be close to cylinder shape and not teardrop shaped. I think this batch is so good because I found some really small cukes at the farmer's market.

My pickles with a couple of Nathan's Famous

Kosher Dill Pickles

24-30 small/medium pickling cukes (more if they're really small)
4 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 dried hot peppers (I use Szechuan peppers!)
3 bay leaves
12 sprigs fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried dill plus 1 teaspoon dill seeds
2 quarts water
1/3 cup kosher salt

Dissolve salt in water (you can heat the water first to help the salt dissolve, but then let it cool).

Put spices in bottom of a crock (I use an earthen crock, but I assume some other kind of ceramic container would do. Not sure if it matters, but I would avoid metal; I'd use plastic before that.

Cover spices with cukes.

Pour salted water over.

Try to keep air out by. I have a plate whose circumference is just smaller than the crock's, so fits nicely on top of the mixture. I then seal the top with plastic wrap.

Keep in a cool, dark place.

Pickles are generally done to a hearty half-sour in 7 days. The smaller they are, the sourer they'll be. I have not found with this recipe that leaving them longer gets them full sour -- they just start to disintegrate.

When you retrieve the crock, you may see some mold. As carefully as you can, remove it with a spoon or however you can. It should not affect the taste of the pickles. If any mold has touched the pickles you can rinse them off, but be sure to remove all mold that may be in the liquid.

Put the pickles in containers or jars.

Strain the liquid as well as you can and pour over the pickles so they are covered.

Store in the refrigerator. Pickles are usually good for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Another visit to the Lobster Shack at Two Lights

Watching the waves while waiting.

Clam basket and a mini blueberry crumb pie.

The best lobster roll I've ever had!

There are many great waterside places for lobster in Maine, and truthfully, I've only been to a handful.

After a visit to the spectacular Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, we continued down the road apiece to the Trevett Country store overlooking a cute little harbor between islands.

And there, we had the most overstuffed lobster rolls I have ever seen. The picture below was taken after I picked off a number of bites so the meat wouldn't just fall out of the bun. Just a hint of mayo and a little lettuce.

Thank G-d for Mister Bagel

When Barbara and I moved to Portland, Maine from Brooklyn in 1977, the hardest adjustment was the food: really bad pizza and no Jewish deli or bagels.

We lived on the second floor of a 3 floor building with one apartment per floor (photo), typical in New England. About a month after we moved in a sign was erected at the abandoned gas station across the street: "Coming soon, Mister Bagel." We couldn't believe it.

Mister Bagel was founded by Brooklyn transplants Rick and Gail Hartglass. They have a great Super (everything) bagel and even have bialys, which are difficult to find outside New York. It's still my favorite bagel place anywhere.

And since 1977, I've been grateful for Mister Bagel.

Becky's Diner, Portland, Maine

Every time I visit Maine, I meet Micah for breakfast at Becky's on the Portland waterfront. According to their sign they serve lunch and dinner, but I've only been there for breakfast.

Typically, I won't eat pancakes out because I hate faux maple syrup, but Becky's offers the real thing. Of course you pay for it.

We both had the Hobson's Wharf Special with blueberry pancakes:

Onions are optional with the home fries, so ask for them. The pancakes were just chock full of wonderful Maine blueberries. Those low-bush "wild" berries have a much more intense flavor than regular blueberries.

I usually try to take a picture of the food before I eat it, but we were too hungry, so here we are later:

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Rock 'n' Roger's, Salem. OR

Driving south on Oregon I-5 at lunchtime, I approached Salem and decided to eat at the Burger Basket again. Guess I forgot which exit to take and I ended up on Market Street and quickly spied Rock 'n' Roger's.

It has a more authentic feel than some other 50's style diners like Johnny Rockets, because it's not as slick and has a local feel. Before Ray Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers, all those places were local.

I had their basic burger and it was excellent -- better than the place I had been looking for! Very fresh toppings, and plentiful: sliced onion, shredded lettuce, tomato and special sauce. The fries were hand cut and very reminiscent of In'n'Out. I didn't have a shake, but I think they are popular -- the blender was going the whole time I was there.

Here's my burger plate and Coke:

Schnitzel Schnandwich

Driving through Coos Bay, Oregon, hungry at lunchtime, we were fearful of not finding anyplace we wanted to stop at. Then Sarah spotted this sign:

Perfect! It was the Blue Heron Bistro. She had the bratwurst sandwich and I went for the Schnitzel Schnandwich. It was delicious, and the warm German potato salad was fantastic. One great feature of their menu is 6 ounce beers. I rarely have a beer at lunch, but the short beer was the ideal accompaniment. I had a Spaten Optimator, a dark bock beer.