Discoveries

By special request my need for a true New York style onion bagel arrived at Rose Foods  this past Sunday.  Studded with onions and salt these were the true bagels of my youth growing up in New York.

A basket of onion bagels fresh out of the oven at Rose Foods

To me the onion bagel is iconic beyond all others.  Though the most universally popular is still the everything bagel, which I find too overwhelming, an ersatz plotz of disparate spices coating the most common bagel.

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Onion bagels  epitomize the New York bagel more than any other variety in the city known for its water-bath wonders.  Indeed growing up in New York Sunday mornings meant bagels for breakfast, with lox and cream cheese and sometimes white-fish salad or a whole fish of smoked sable.  We had the proverbial baker’s dozen, which included plain, sesame seed and onion.  Occasionally an egg bagel (with onions) was included in the mix and a few bialies, too.

Union’s basket of onion bagels

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My small soiree for Thanksgiving dinner  turned out to be one of the best I’ve made (modesty aside) because the menu was simple, the ingredients the best available from local sources.  And I didn’t have the stress of serving a  crowd.

The turkey was from Alewive’s Brook Farm. It’s not organic but as close as one can get without the labeling. These are birds that flock and peck in the open, eating whatever is on the ground.    And they’re so fresh: slaughtered on Tuesday, they’re available at the farm or at Wednesday’s Monumemnt Square farmers’ market.

When I picked up the bird at the farm I asked Jodie Jordan, the patriarch of the farm, how long does it need to cook.  Fifteen minutes per pound? I asked.  He shook his head, answering, ” I cook it until it’s done, no hard and fast rule.” Figure on 15  minutes per pound, more or less; just use an instant read thermometer to register about 165 degrees; remove, tent with foil to rest.

Local turkey

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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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