Discoveries

If you’re planning to visit the East Bayside Portland indoor winter farmer’s market, which has been held at 84 Cove St. for several years, remove it from your GPS.  The building, which resembled a dude cave more so than a farmer’s marketplace, is no more as we know it. The location has indeed changed–but no one knows for sure where it will be held.

It’s still scheduled to open on Saturday, December 2, for the 2017-2018 season.  But an entry on the Maine Farmers’ Market website lists the site as TBD.

It’s not clear why the market organizers left their Cove Street space, except that the lease held by Swallowtail Café and the farmers’ market is being taken over by Taproot Magazine.

The tables at the year-round Swallowtail cafe at Cove Street

One reason might be pure economics regarding the tenancy on a 12-month basis.  The market operated there for 5 months along with Swallowtail’s Café and Market Place, which might not have been viable   economically to keep as a year-round space. Read more…

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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To many Portlanders, the Saturday summer Farmer’s Market held at Deering Oaks is sacrosanct.  That’s why I can’t understand why the market gets upstaged—at the same time and place–by the yearly Festival of Nations.  Couldn’t that event be held on a Sunday and not interrupt the coveted farmer’s market?

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Enterprising bagel mavens in Maine should flock to flagels, a flattened version of a bagel that some connoisseurs consider the best in class. In fact, the New York Daily News proclaimed in an article last year that these were the best and tastiest of the bagel world.  I wonder why they’re not more popular here?  The name doesn’t roll off tongue and could be mistaken for a social faux pas that invariably happens in a packed room.

Montague Street (Brooklyn) flagels

The point is there’s a bit of bagel mania across the nation with major cities trying to earn top honors in comparison to the standard bearer of the greatness of New York bagels.  I’m from New York and indeed I miss those specimens , which are as easily available as a pack of chewing gum. What’ makes them so good?  The common conception is that it’s because of New York’s pure water (not so pure anymore) and boiled in so-called artesian pools.  I think they’re good because they’re made with chutzpah, the kind dredged from the old  Red Hook.

Excellent bagels sandwich at Cafe 158

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A sure sign of spring, with summer to come, is the opening of Portland’s Deering Oaks outdoor farmers market.  It’s a sigh of relief that the glories of Maine summer weather are in the wings.  Still,  at this time of year the park is barely greening up, with the trees struggling to leaf out and the grass panting to become a rich green.

The sign “No” refers to more parking restrictions at the park;  the remains of a big oak; the lineup of vendors on one side of the road and cut flowers like daffs trickle in for now

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Few, if any, of our restaurants in the Portland area could be called precious. But then walk into The Purple House in North Yarmouth and the Zeitgeist of this culinary Zen den dazzles discreetly.  You ponder, Am I in a place where I’ll have a spot of coffee, bagel, pastry or a sit-down meal in this exquisite little spot with its communal harvest table and open kitchen with aromas that tantalize?

The Purple House and the wood for the oven that gives the bagels their distinctive crispiness

From early morning until 11:00 AM you’ll literally join a crowd who are already jamming this charming café for the Montreal style bagels that owner/chef Krista Kerns Desjarlais has hand-rolled and baked in the brick wood oven, which imparts a very particular patina to America’s favorite breakfast bread.  (And, for now, don’t be surprised to see another star chef, Jason Williams, of The Well at Jordan’s Farm, giving a helping hand in the kitchen.)

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One dairy product that hasn’t reached the artisanal crowd at farmers’ markets is local organic cottage cheese.  That you can rarely find it might be reason enough.  For a while Lauren Pignatello of Swallowtail Farm and Creamery used to offer her farm-made cottage cheese.  I loved it for its marvelously creamy texture and its inimitable tang and sweetness from cultured raw milk.  I would buy it at the farmer’s market each week along with Swallowtail’s prized Greek Yogurt. I didn’t use the curds for anything fancy as in baking or other dishes but rather found it a great snack, swiping a spoonful or two when the mood struck to relish the purity of flavor that this simple curd cheese displayed. It’s also not very fattening and has loads of protein and calcium making it the ideal food for healthy eating.

Hood Dairy's Original Cottage Cheese

Hood Dairy’s Original Cottage Cheese

Alas she stopped making it.  “Too much trouble, not enough time (or money in it).”

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Friends had suggested that we try this restaurant for dinner, just slightly out of the city limits.  So we went to it last Sunday night to walk into a dazzling space that I’d been to many times before–pre-New Look. Wow.  It was packed with what looked like neighborhood locals of this affluent suburb of Portland.  The menu has lots to offer and of the four dishes we had most were excellent, especially one of the best lobster stews around.

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I would be exaggerating if I said that Maple’s Bakery and Gelato on Route 1 in Yarmouth is a bagel body-double for South Portland’s bagel superstar, Scratch Baking.  What’s true is this: Essentially the Maple’s bagel is to Yarmouth what the bagel is to South Portland’s Scratch Baking.  Both make great bagels. Go to Maple’s on a Saturday or Sunday morning and you’ll walk into its small shop packed to the rafters with morning-bagel enthusiasts. Like Scratch, Maple’s runs out early.  They make about 300 to 400 bagels per day on weekends and 200 to 300 daily during the week.

Maple's Bakery and Gelato; toasted Maple's bagel enjoyed at home

Maple’s Bakery and Gelato; toasted Maple’s bagel enjoyed at home

I’ve driven past the Maple’s shop on Route 1 many times and have wondered if this was the same Maple’s who scooped up the organic ice cream market way back when Maple’s founder Kristi Green opened her ice cream shop on Forest Avenue about 10 years ago. There she produced small-batch ice cream using local and organic ingredients.

Maple's is the place to be on weekend mornings; Maple's chicken pot pie

Maple’s is the place to be on weekend mornings; Maple’s chicken pot pie

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The Harvest on the Harbor festival began anew this year, with its two new principles in charge, Stefanie Manning, the marketing and circulation manager at the Portland Press Herald (and whose husband is Tom Manning, owner of The Miss Portland Diner) and Gabrielle Garofalo, a New York City media consultant who owns Gabrielle Garofalo Inc. Consulting & Creative Energy.  These two have changed it all around.  For better or worse?  Were the crowds as robust as before when the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau ran the show all these years?  In fact, it was run very well.

Sustainable Seafood Dinner at O'Maine Studios

Sustainable Seafood Dinner at O’Maine Studios

What was notably different were several events that bit the dust.  The fabulous Buñuel-esque style feast that had played in prior years on the stage of Merrill Auditorium was replaced by a barn-style dinner in the cavernous space of O’ Maine Studios where a dinner of sustainable seafood was the centerpiece.

Crowds piling in, Lobster Tasting at 58 Fore St.

Crowds piling in, Lobster Tasting at 58 Fore St.

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