August 2017

The world of cobblers has many variations: biscuit, pastry or crumble toppings.  Then there’s the batter- dipped cobbler in which a simple batter is prepared and the fruit of choice is added on top.

The batter is put into a baking pan where a good amount of butter has been melted in the oven until both the dish and butter is hot so that when you add the batter it swells up; then you add the fruit and bake.

Peach cobbler

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I wonder who really misses Joe’s Boathouse, the rough and tumble waterfront restaurant that was so popular for years at South Portland’s Spring Point Drive, at Port Harbor Marine.  Maybe at one time, when Greater Portland’s dining public was not so discerning, it passed for a decent meal out.  But now  North 43 Bistro is in its place—a remake so remarkable that you wonder if are you still in South Portland.  Housed in a 2-story boxy building, the contemporary space is right out of an Elle Décor spread of  modern cool.  Its grays and browns only seem to accentuate the water views through the large plate glass windows on the water.

While under construction in early June, North 43 was taking shape (photo courtesy of The Forecaster).

In fact, the entire dining experience is so pleasing that you wonder why there aren’t more restaurants like this dotting Maine’s 3,000 miles of coastline.

The chef and co-owner is Stephanie Brown with restaurateur Laura Argitis (Old Port Sea Grill).  Brown came on the dining scene many years ago with her restaurant Sea Grass, which operated in Yarmouth for 8 years.  Then she moved on to become the executive chef of the Woodland’s dining room for some years until this opportunity came along.

First floor dining room

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With our farmers’ markets going full force rippling with tomatoes, corn, berries, fruits and every kind of harvested vegetable able to grow well enough in our climate, I look specifically at what I can use to make this–the quintessential summer cobbler with fruit, berries or a mixture.

Defining what a cobbler is can be tricky business.  In strict culinary parlance, it’s basically stewed fruit topped with a kind of drop-biscuit dough and baked.

Two types of peach cobbler: crunchy (left) and classic


But what also doubles in cobbler-speak are preparations like pandowdy, grunt, slump and sonker, which is a deep-dish pie unique to North Carolina country cooking.

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It’s a long time coming for the Roma Café to be resurrected  to full glory since its glorious past and ignominious decline (circa 1920s to 1980s).  Its latest iteration (and one hopes it lasts for generations) is led by chef Anders Tallberg (formerly chef and co-owner, Roustabout), Mike Fraser (Bramhall Pub below the restaurant) and Guy Streitburger (also of Bramhall).  The latter has had a long, steady rise from bus-boy/waiter at the original Cinque Terre where he often left you with the refrain “excellent.”  I think he still  expresses that lilting phrase, but, in any case, he’s a delightful young man whose restaurant visions have brought him here flawlessly.

The building, 767 Congress, is owned by Burt’s Bee’s founder and woman of consequence, Roxanne Quimby who might also be the wealthiest woman in Maine from her savvy maneuverings of making lip balm into a mega industry.  When she bought the building, she gave it her gold-plated touch.  She turned the old Roma kitchen into a masterpiece that could easily have served the fabled kitchens of wordly-wise gloire.

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This is a brief note on one of most intriguing, finely tuned food establishments that’s just begun its orbit around Portland’s daring-do dining circles.  Rose Foods at the site of the former BreaLu Café space on Forest Avenue strives to be both a bagel shop and Jewish deli, a surprising creation from the white- bread hands of noted chef Chad Conley who’s cooked in some of the top restaurants in New York and Portland and has created the inimitable Palace Diner where his tuna melts and flapjacks are legendary.

The ordering line at Rose Foods

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