Food Road Trip; Portland, Maine in Summer

Friday's Daily Bread, at The Standard Baking Company on Commerce Street, Portland, Maine

Friday’s daily bread, at The Standard Baking Company on Commercial Street, Portland, Maine

To mark my 58th birthday, Elisa and I hit the road early and set our sights on Portland, Maine. Portland, for a city of its size, has an amazing food scene, and we like food. It seemed like a match made in heaven. When we left Rindge in the morning it was raining, but the forecast for Portland was for a dry, but overcast day. It rained for most of the two and a half hour drive, but as we got within twenty miles of the city the rain stopped and that was the last we’d see of it.

The Standard Baking Company

Some time ago, we had watched a pair of documenties on PBS, A Few Good Pie Places, and a second, A Few Great Bakeries. Each documentary featured an interesting assortment of bakeries from around the United States. The one on pies featured a Portland bakery called Two Fat Cats Bakery, and the documentary on bakeries featured The Standard Baking Company, located on Commercial Street across from the waterfront. Continue reading

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Concert Review: The David Bromberg Quintet

David Bromberg

David Bromberg

When David Bromberg comes to New England, the question usually isn’t whether to go see him play, but rather which venue to see him at. This time through, David played a pair of dates in Massachusetts, first at Fall River and then in Rockport, and then he wound up the New England leg of his tour in Plymouth, New Hampshire. We chose to see him at the Shalin Liu Performing Arts Center in Rockport because with its unique architecture and siting, it is perhaps our favorite music venue in all of New England.

David Bromberg is touring primarily with his quintet these days, which consists of bassist Butch Amiot, who has been playing with Bromberg since 1981; drummer Josh Kanusky; guitar and mandolin player Mark Cosgrove, who is equally at home with both electric and acoustic guitar; and fiddle player Nate Grower, one of the finest fiddle players I’ve ever seen. As Bromberg often shares with his audience, he never works from a set list, so his shows are, from night to night, musically unique and extremely diverse.

A few minutes after 8pm the band took the stage and Continue reading

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Concert Review: Inti Illimani

Inti Illimani at the Shalin Liu Peformance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts

Inti Illimani at the Shalin Liu Peformance Center, Rockport, Massachusetts

For a couple of years now we have wanted to go to a concert at Rockport’s beautiful new Shalin Liu Performance Center. Finally we made it earlier this month to see the famous Chilean music group Inti Illimani perform there on October 14.

My wife first saw Inti Illimani perform back in the 1970s in Italy, where the band spent much of their time while in  exile from Chile during the time Pinochet was in power, and she took me to see them back in the 1980s in Somerville, Massachusetts. I remember at the time that the music I listened to was absolutely captivating, so I was very much looking forward to seeing them in Rockport after so many years.

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Boston Tall Ships Commemorate War of 1812 Bicentennial

The Lynx (USA); Privateer Replica, built 2001, Rockport, Maine

The Lynx (USA); Privateer Replica, built 2001, Rockport, Maine

The Tall Ships are in Boston celebrating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. My wife’s mother is visiting us from Italy, and as a belated Mother’s Day present, we took her to Boston on Saturday, June 30 and went on a harbor cruise to view the tall ships from the water. We took advantage of a trip that was organized by the Rindge Recreation Department that included transportation and the cruise for a very nominal fee.  We arrived at Faneuil Hall well before the scheduled cruise, and had time to walk around a bit and have a leisurely lunch and do some people watching at a restaurant with outdoor tables. The weather on Saturday was beautiful, although the temperature did climb into the 90s.

Once the cruise was underway and we were out on the water, the ocean breeze was a refreshing change from the more stifling heat in Boston itself. I’ve seen the tall ships when they’ve visited Boston before, but never Continue reading

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Fathers’ Day, Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Bistecca alla Fiorentina on the Wood Grill

Bistecca alla Fiorentina on the Wood Grill

I don’t have a formal bucket list, but if I did, at the top would be a visit to Panzano, so I could experience eating the beef of Dario Cecchini, arguably the world’s greatest butcher.

I first read about Dario in the Bill Buford book Heat, and later saw segments of a couple of different cooking shows (Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, and David Rocco’s Dolce Vita) that featured his butcher shop and restaurant.

Traditionally, Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a thick, bone-in porterhouse made from an Italian cattle breed, the Chianina, which is the largest breed of cattle in the world. Due to a lack of supply of Chianina beef in Italy, Dario imports beef from a similarly large breed of cattle that is raised in Spain. His instructions for cooking Bistecca alla Fiorentina are simple: The cut of steak needs to be four fingers thick. On the hearth of a wood-fired oven, sear each side for five minutes, and then finish cooking the meat standing on end, on its bone, typically for another 15 minutes.

I don’t have access to Chianina beef, but I do have a wood-fired Grill (thanks, Elisa!). Our butcher at the local Market Basket was more than happy to slice us off a ‘four-finger’ thick Porterhouse, so on father’s day, we Continue reading

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Rendering Leaf Lard or Beef Suet

Antique Leaf Lard Tin

Antique Leaf Lard Tin

I’ve been using processed lard in my Vodka Pie Crust Recipe for several years because I get a more flaky crust than I do when using butter or shortening. But store bought lard is partially hydrogenated to extend its shelf life. Using commercially available lard simply is not as good as using lard that you render yourself. And when we’re talking lard, we’re talking about leaf lard, which comes from the fat that surrounds the kidneys of the pig. Kettle-rendered Leaf lard, sold in metal buckets, was a kitchen staple in the first half of the 20th century, and was most likely your grandmother’s (or great-grandmother’s) fat of choice when making pie crust, unless her preference happened to be beef suet.

I have recently moved from buying partially hydrogenated store bought lard to buying leaf lard from a farmer and bringing it home and rendering it. Using rendered leaf lard in my pie crust has definitely made a difference and I’ve been extremely pleased with the results. For this Thanksgiving, I’ll be switching things up a bit and using beef suet instead of leaf lard, because some of our Thanksgiving guests do not eat pork. But as far as the rendering process goes, it is the same for either lard or suet.

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Apple Picking in Northern New England

It’s the time of the year when New England apple orchards put out their ‘pick your own’ signs and New Englanders pack up their families on the weekend and go in search of the ultimate apple picking experience. Here’s an admittedly arbitrary sampling of orchards to visit in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts.

New Hampshire

Alyson's Apple Orchard, Walpole, NH

Alyson’s Apple Orchard, Walpole, NH

Alyson’s Apple Orchard (Walpole, NH) is a can’t miss picking destination in New Hampshire’s Connecticut River Valley. Their pick-your-own orchards are open until Halloween and they also have a very nice farm stand.

During the fall they have several events, including a Chili Contest, Pumpkin Carving Demonstrations, an Heirloom Apple Tasting, and a Halloween Costume Contest. Their website, among other things, lists which varieties of apples are being picked on a particular weekend.

Alyson’s offers Continue reading

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Dave’s Chili Con Carne

Chili, for most Americans, contains beans. This is a little odd, because as anyone who has been to a Chili competition can tell you, fillers such as beans, pasta, or rice are simply not allowed. This is pretty much consistent no matter what organization is running the competition.

My recipe adheres to the rules; not a bean nor a scrap of pasta to be found. If you haven’t tried making a traditional homemade Chili, this recipe is a great place to start. As written, it has just enough heat for you to notice, but not enough to make you suffer any life-threatening physical maladies. Let me know what you think! Continue reading

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