drunken noodles, pad thai, red bean ice cream rocks, Thai-o-rama

Thai-O-Rama Pt. 4–Pom’s Thai Taste

Finally, some decent Thai Food. After 2 rounds of questionable meals (and a missed round at Kon) I’m back on the moped for another round of the glorious Thai-O-Rama with my fellow interweb bloggers.
This round brought us to Pom’s Thai Taste, on Congress, on a rainy Monday night on the way home from work. After the Mrs. had her bad shrimp experience at Bangkok we had been laying off the thai for a while (except for uber-treat that was Boda a few weeks back) but our meal at Pom’s brought us quickly back to the happy place that Thai tends to send us to.
While the interior is very obviously ‘Thailand meets Ikea”–from the tables to the wall hanging wine rack–it is also one of the cleanest and simplest interior. Overall the dining room is bright and cheery without the feeling of being campy or gaudy. The food also falls into the line of pretty simple and straightforward (and if you’re still finding it not so, there is a little cheat guide to basic Thai food on the inside of the front cover of the menu).

Our meals started off with a pair of Thai Iced Teas and these are some of the best we’ve had along the way. An ungodly neon orange color laid way to a slight bitter/slight sweet concoction that didn’t make our teeth ache as some can overdo the ‘sweet’ aspect of the drink. Our only complaint of this was that it took about 10 minutes before our drink/dinner order was taken after we were seated and, well, we were never asked if we wanted a refill during our dinner. R. dug the service, while I felt it could have been a little more present.

Apps ordered were fried spring rolls and Kra-Tong Thong, pretty much staples where ever we can find them. While the spring rolls were pretty meh, the Kra-Tong have never disappointed, slightly spicy and crunchy, they come nicely paired with a slightly sweet cucumber chutney–which I believe is just nom pla, sugar, chili, garlic and cucumbers.

Entrees ordered were Drunken Noodle w/Chicken(my standard and listed as Pad Khee-Mao) and Pad Thai. While my dish was earthy and rich with a mild oyster sauce base, the Mrs. was given one of the most mild versions of Pad Thai we’ve encountered. Ok, it was bland as if no seasoning was present at all. When it was first set down in front of her, she kept saying “This smells odd”, but after a few sniffs it was determined that the smell was the presence of the scrambled egg in the dish and there was a lot of it. With no hints of an acid of any sort, lime or lemon or any spice, her dish was greatly helped by the addition of tamari that was served with three other sauces brought to us by our waitress. I opted for the hottest of the four to add to mine, to lift the flavor a bit, and was met with pure thai chili fire that burned in the best of ways.

Needing something to squelch the fire that was setting my tongue ablaze, we opted to order a few desserts to bring things down a bit and we weren’t disappointed in our choices of Thai rice pudding and Red bean ice cream.

Both dishes were beautifully and playfully plated and a wonderful ending to the meal. I, especially, loved the little bits of red bean that was scattered in the ice cream like chocolate chips.

Overall, the Pad Thai was the most mediocre part of the meal but was saved by some table side seasoning. This meal was a nice reminder that there is some great, approachable Thai closer to home than we normally travel to out for. It’s easy to see, based on the environment and quality of food how Pom, the owner of three Thai places around the area, has built herself a nice mini-empire of restaurants. The best of the three we’ve had so far.

Poms Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

bbq, food ignorance, skinny cart bbq

Curb Side Cart Style BBQ

I am going to claim ignorance here: I know not a good plate of BBQ.

Growing up in NY, Dinosaur BBQ in Rochester, was the best known in the area and sat a few hours west. What we had was OK. There may have been a red sauce slathered on top of chicken or ribs but it was not the BBQ that will cause fist fights across state lines in the south. What I grew up with, and what many still call BBQ, was grilling. Because I never enjoyed the sickeningly sweet bottled sauces my family bought or that our neighbor made, I never really got into liking ‘BBQ’.

Since moving to Maine, I’ve been to two places over time: Buck’s Naked in Freeport and Norm’s East End Grill on Middle Street. Both were nice, though Buck’s was preferred because of the option of adding sauce to my liking. However, I walked away none the better versed on things from the world of char.

So, when Kate and I decided to grab lunch at Ron’s Skinny Cart BBQ I had no preconceived notions or expectations. And, when you visit the barely-hanging-on-shack

you leave it all at the window. Ron is an animated man, a nice wink and a smile with every word that flows from his mouth as he quickly heats, slathers, stuffs, wraps and hands over your sandwich. The bottles of water and cans of soda hang out in brightly colored buckets dangling under the day’s menu and hours.

Luckily, just behind the parking lot next to Skinny Cart, there sits a log that nicely subs for a bench. And you’ll probably need to sit to eat this because it’s not an easy sandwich to dig into.

You have two options:
Attack it quickly and with generous napkins
Eat is slowly and wear it broadly on your clothing.

Lightly charred, but gorgeously pink, beef is more than generously doused with a homemade sauce, added bacon and caramelized onions. While the meat and onions were great, the sauce reminded me a bit too much of that dreaded childhood BBQ. A hint too sweet and a bit too heavy with the black pepper, I would have liked about half of the sauce that was there. After having the sandwich that I brought home for her, which included a horseradish mayo that I would have loved to have tried, the Mrs. echoed the issues with the pepper of the sauce. But, for the both of us, this doesn’t dismiss the fact that it was a damn good sandwich, especially for the price.

Cart side dining on Washington Ave.

Skinny BBQ Cart on Urbanspoon

fun things with bacon, mashed potato pizza

Bacon and Mashed Potato PIzza

I have heard so many good things about the Mashed Potato Pie @ Otto’s on Congress, that I decided to make a home version last week for St. Paddy’s Day instead of the typical boiled dinner.

I used a Rosario Pizza Dough(Bristol, ME) as my base, set into a 12″ lightly oiled cast iron skillet. I preheated the oven to 500 and dropped it to 400 just before the pie went in and baked it for about 30 min.

The irish-style bacon could be substituted w/pancetta.

Left over Irish cheeses were used as the substitute for mozz.

The second round of bacon was thick cut, in house double smoked from Whole Foods.

Scallions and chives

Mashed red/yellow potatoes(with Kerry Gold butter and milk); mixed in chives/scallions and porky goodness

Spread out pizza dough, laid down a base of the grated cheeses and strips of bacon

topped it all with remaining greens and pig

Pre-oven–topped with more cheese after this photo was taken

Post oven

Plated with a wayward piece of bacon.

I’ll be making my way over to Otto’s soon enough to try their version to compare but will definitely be making this recipe again.

Bacon on Foodista

burning myself on purpose, ghost pepper, hot hot hot, obsessing

Edible Obsession: Ghost Pepper Salt

Top 5 Uses for Ghost Pepper:

5) Cooking–naturally as has been shown again and again on Man V. Food.
4) Tear Gas–a good alternative to hand grenades! (see wiki entry at the bottom)
3) Heal Stomach ills
2) Defense against Elephants(also see wiki entry)
1) Mix it into a salt so that I may walk by the jar, stick my finger into, lick it off and get my momentary fix of tongue masochism.

Thank you Gryffon Ridge, from Dresden, ME, for creating such a wonderfully sadistic salt blend.

cheese, cheese plate, using my cheese words again

Saturday Afternoon Cheese Plate

Sealed up and starting from the upper left:
Noble Hill Reserve–Hahn’s End Creamery, Maine
Havarti in Beeswax–Swallowtail Farm, Maine
Dubliner with Irish Whiskey–Kerry Gold, Ireland
Golden Ridge–Hahn’s End Creamery, Maine
Dubliner with Irish Stout–Kerry Gold, Ireland

Wonderful, ‘new to me,’ small farmstead cheese maker from Maine. Cream cheese like spreads were also offered. Can be found at the Portland Winter Market.

My absolute favorite creamery in Maine. Hard to find, though worth the trouble, I was absolutely in love with them from the first taste of their ACS winning Eleanor Buttercup. Their cheeses can be found @ K. Hortons and Aurora Provisions, these were purchased directly from their table @ the Winter Market.

Havarti waxed with bees raised on site @ Swallowtail.

From the top:
Dubliner with Stout: Slightly nutty, grassy and hint of oats. This one seems a bit younger than the year it’s aged. Texture is much creamier than the regular Dubliner and the Dubliner w/Whiskey.

Dubliner with Whiskey: Caramel is the most prominent flavor I get off of this one. The milk is sweet and nutty. Flavor profile is definitely more up front than the last and the texture feels a bit drier.

Noble Hill Reserve: I’m not even sure what style of cheese it’s meant to be but, if I were betting on it, I’d peg Gouda. Creamy, but dry enough to crumble, it was like eating a raw cow’s milk version of the Vermont Sheperd. Each bite carried that wonderful raw milk ‘dance’ that lets you know what you’re eating is still alive and evolving. This was my favorite on the plate.

Swallowtail Havarti: My best comparison to this cheese is somewhat of a baby swiss. This cheese had a very distinct sour, but not spoiled, profile that lingered throughout eating. With the unique rind of natural bees wax it, not surprisingly, paired best with the honey from Slovenia(which is worth searching out. Ours was a gift from the Mrs.’ cousin).

Golden Ridge: One of the most complex cheeses I’ve ever had, I was completely enthralled with it. While I thought it was just your basic brie/camembert style cheese it bared a nuttiness, a Cashewieness specifically, that took me by surprise. Yet there were also profiles of mushroom and creme fraiche. I would pay a good price to get a bootlegged raw milk version of this.

Serving on Foodista

can't eat anymore, Evangeline, finale, love of lists, restaurant week

33 dishes, 5 restaurants, 3 days, 2 people–Day 3 pt. 2–Finale

March 6,2010-late reservation
–Solo w/Kate and Roomie of Kate(Amy)
3 Courses for $30.10–Unofficial RW participant

First Impression: A reading from a MySpace blog entry from 2008:

What a better way to celebrate a birthday then eating all of the aforementioned? Ok, I’m sure there are better… but, I couldn’t think of one this year. I’m in love with a restaurant. No, that’s not really doing it justice. I’m in uberlust with a restaurant. I can’t stop thinking about the food…. seriously, it’s frightening. We went to Evangeline on our birthday(last tuesday)…and I still can’t get it out of my head.

This was my first impression of Evangeline and it still holds…only now I’m a little less of a fucking dork about it. Every time the Mrs. and I are able to make it in, I turn into a fat kid at Friendly’s. I am Augustus Gloop when I walk into this restaurant. Thankfully for me, the full menu wasn’t offered or I probably would have passed out at the table from a full blown coma… I have no restraint there. And, truthfully I’m ok with that.

Cervelles de Veau
:Crispy calf’s brain fritter • Cabbage • capers • Brown Butter • Bacon

Steak Frites: Roasted Culotte Steak • Creamed Spinach • Glazed pearl onions • Frites and Mayo

*Cheese: Jasper Hill Farms Caspian w/Sultanas, Local Honey

Dessert:Valrhona Chocolate Semifreddo • Pistachio Praline

My good FIF(friend-in-food) Kate did a wonderful summation of the steak in her review, so I will point you in her direction for any interest in that. I will disagree with her on the dessert as I loved the drier texture of the semi-freddo and the lightness it carried. The pistachios added a bit of nutiness and, truly, how can you go wrong with any dessert that starts out with the word “Valrhona Chocolate”?

Now, where my true desire, and highlight of the meal laid, was in the small dish of crispy calves brains. This, and the bone marrow, have been constants for me here and not once have I been disappointed. In fact, I would say that this time around was the best yet. The complexity of flavors(smoky, salty) married with the array of textures(crispy, buttery) are not easy to come by, as I recently learned while reading a recipe breakdown of the dish. A new found appreciation was found after reading that.

Breakdown: Ambiance: There are few restaurants in Portland more beautiful than Evangeline. Like Bar Lola, there is just something about the place that makes me feel comfortable the second I walk in the door. I absolutely love the wood used throughout the entire space, the mirrors that adorn the left side wall and the slightly open view of the kitchen. It is also one of the few white linen places where I’ve heard the Grateful Dead playing lightly in the background (the other was Bresca and “Stagger Lee” just the night before).

Service: Always impeccable and professional. While you could see the staff was getting antsy as we lingered at our table, they never directly made us feel rushed.

Food: Consistent as always without a single misstep in the courses. Again, I would have liked to have seen more than the RW menu offered but, perhaps it was for the best. The food fog weighed on my head (and, my god, my poor heart) by the time the last forkful was taken.

*This wasn’t a piece of Caspian… this was a whole Caspian, like it was a challenge… and I blinked.


So, the days are done. A spread out, three day over stimulation of a multitude of senses which, for the great majority of the time, were exceedingly wonderful and, for the best of moments, just exactly perfect. Truthfully, by the end of this I was ready to be done.
One thing that I noticed is that 3 of the restaurants didn’t officially participate in RW; 1 we didn’t even utilize the RW menu and the last had a different menu than what was listed on the RW website. So, what’s the moral of the story kids? Don’t use RW as an excuse to get out there, just go out and eat.

Top 5 Dishes:

5) Caramelized Banana Napoleon–Bresca
4) Beef Panaeng–BODA
3) Heritage Pork Belly–Bar Lola
2) Cervelles de Veau–Evangeline
1) Uni Pasta–Bresca

Evangeline on Urbanspoon
daring cook challenge, risotto, roasting, something new

Daring Cooks Challenge: Risotto

This month’s Daring Cooks Challenge, comes in the form of: Risotto. Like last month’s ‘Hummus’ challenge, the base left a lot of room to play with flavors.
Over the course of a couple of weeks I made two variations, jumping off the base recipe around step 6 and taking a few tips from Mario Batali’s “Molto Italiano”

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

The Basics:

Risotto Base

olive oil 2 fluid oz 60 ml
1 small onion, quatered
rice 14 oz 400g
Any type of risotto rice will do. I use Arborio but the recipe itself says Vialone Nano. Another to look for is Carnaroli.
white wine 2 fl oz 60 ml
chicken or vegetable stock , simmering 2 pints 1 L


1. Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the oil then discard. (We diced ours and left it in as we like onion).
2. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.
3. Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.
4. Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don’t actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.
5. Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.
6. Repeat Step 5 making sure to leave aside approximately 100 ml. of stock for the final step. .
7. Repeat, save 100ml for the final stage.
8. Once you are at this point, the base is made. You now get to add your own variation.

The first attempt was done with a rich homemade roasted chicken stock, Carnaloni rice, Parmigiano-Reggiano and peas. It was served with a roasted Rouge Poulet and a Coq Au Vin pan sauce.

After all of this time cooking, I’m actually kicking myself for never having made risotto before now. The recipe was extremely user friendly and the rich roasted chicken stock that I made gave the rice such depth that would severely be lacking in the second incarnatoin:

Dungeness Crab and Asparagus Risotto

The stock, quickly made with some of the shells of the crab, was extremely bland, even with the addition of Parm, Cappuccetto and minced, blanched asparagus. A very expensive ‘Meh.’ on my part…

Awesome, Bar Lola, beginning of the end, carmel fairies and pork belly dreams

33 dishes, 5 restaurants, 3 days, 2 people–Day 3 pt. 1

March 6, 2010Early Reservation

Bar Lola
3 courses for $30.10; We opted for 5 courses as this was the better value than the RW menu, 2 more courses for only $6 more pp. The best thing? It’s available All the Time!!!

First Impression: There is just something very comfortable about walking through the threshold of Bar Lola. Whether it’s the lighting in the bar, the warm reds in the dining room or the sincere greeting of Stella at the door, Bar Lola is just an extremely welcoming restaurant. At times it did get a bit noisy, but never jarringly so.

Ceviche: Maine Shrimp,House baked crackers with Sparrow Arc Chiles
Cheese Plate:Winnemere/Cabot Clothbound Cheddar; both aged at Jasperhill Farms in VT.

Truthfully, if I could have ordered both dishes myself, I would have. I managed to only sneak away one bite of the lady’s ceviche, something I never order out enough, before she had quickly eaten it all. While she was a little puzzled by the baked cracker, as it wasn’t tremendously crisp, I thought it was wonderful and used a small bit of it to pair with the Winnemere. The last time I was in at Bar Lola I also had the Cabot Clothbound(trust me, it’s above and beyond any Cabot branded cheese on the market), but this one had a little more of a horseradishy bite, a profile found in nicely aged cheddars. The Winnemere, however, was a bit younger than I prefer because it just gets smokier and more complex as it ages out. That is not to say it wasn’t a good piece of Winnemere, because every one is a good one.

Fresh Citrus Salad: With watercress and Endive
Warm Fingerling Potato Salad: with house cured bacon and bacalao

The Mrs. ordered the citrus salad merely in order to compare it to the one she had the previous evening at 555. This was the complete opposite of that one. More simple, better dressed and, as she noted, bearing more than two segments of citrus this was greatly enjoyed. While hers was light and crisp, mine played like a warm German potato salad on fatty, salty steroids. The dressing was slightly tangy and the bacalao was a really nice touch that I haven’t seen before in this type of salad.

The Mrs. and I: Heritage Pork Belly with Crispy Spicy Slaw x2

Oh, this was good. This was beyond good. This was an amazingly well cooked pork that was just greasy enough to make you feel slightly naughty about eating it and secretly wanting more. Actually, my favorite part was shaving off a bit of the fat and running it through the slaws dressing. Now, if they would only make this in a larger portion…

Pasta: Handrolled Pasta with Ricotta, Caramelized Onions and roasted red peppers
Daily Fish: Monkfish with Broccolini, capers and brown butter crutons

The Mrs. had an immediate wrench thrown into the works when we were told that the lamb dish listed was not available. Having had steak the night before, she opted for the pasta dish, which truthfully we hardly ever order out. While she found it nice, and I found the flavors to be nicely balanced, she did actually comment that the sauce was a bit on the oily side. She thought the same of mine, though I didn’t share her sentiments. I thought the brown butter, from the croutons, that dressed the plate was just enough. The monkfish was nicely cooked and the broccolini made me feel better about not having anything else green the entire meal.

The Mrs.:Caramelized Banana Napoleon with Pastry Cream and Chocolate Sauce
Me:Salted Carmel Tart

While I had coveted her dessert the night before, I was reigning sweets queen at the end of this meal. Rich, thick, salted caramel served inside of a brownie, masquerading itself as a simple tart shell, I wanted to command every diner in there to order that for dessert. I’ll admit it, I’m a carmel whore. I make sea salt caramels for gifts just so that I can eat any unfortunate slight mistakes. I’ll wake up, when it’s in my house, and eat a piece before I even start the morning coffee. I f’ing love it and we both raved about this dessert. Needless to say that her lovely Napoleon never stood a chance.

Ambiance: Very comfortable and romantic; my partner noted that you could definitely pick up Stella’s influence in the front of the house. While seating did feel a little tight, we never quite felt like we were being smothered by other patrons–like the lovely couple from the Carolinas who were raving about Opentable.com. Seriously, they were lovely and this proper southern woman nearly lost her shit over the pork belly. It was actually a tad bit precious.

Service: It was nice, very well dressed, but a little distracted the Mrs. thought. The room filled up within a half-hour after our arrival, so his casual demeanor that started the meal got shaken pretty early one. And, well, she also was a little pissed that he never once asked if she wanted another beer. That and our coffee arriving after we were 3/4’s of the way through our desserts did make us feel a bit forgotten. But, again, he was very, very sweetand I never got around to asking where he had gotten that shirt from.

Food: The food was wonderful. The plates were consistent and well presented. What I like most about the menu is that it feels very grounded, like a collection of dishes you’d try to make yourself at home. In fact, that reminds me… I need to see if Guy will part w/that Spicy Slaw recipe.


Bar Lola on Urbanspoon

555, restaurant week, trying new restaurants

33 dishes, 5 restaurants, 3 days, 2 people–Day Two pt. 2

March 5,2010–late reservation

Five Fifty-Five: Our 1st trip to this much lauded Portland restaurant.
3 courses for $40.10

First Impression: Very loud, very chaotic and very crowded. Space seemed about 3x bigger than restaurants we’re use to dining at. Menu on the door, save for the entree and soup app. choice, was very different from the one listed on the RW website. Items listed below lack the most detail of all the reviews because I didn’t write down the information from the menu and, again, am working from fuzzy memory.
This review will be a bit different because the experience was different then the ones previous and the ones ahead.

1st Course
The Mrs.: Citrus Salad
fresh goat cheese, seasonal citrus, pistachios, baby greens, champagne-pomegranate vinaigrette
Me: Veal Carpaccio: Mache, vinaigrette, pickled shallot

The Mrs: Steak, brioche and great hill blue bread pudding, Brussel Sprouts
seared pepper-crusted local diver scallops… aromatic fennel-potato puree, glazed pearl onions, organic baby carrot-vanilla emulsion

Almond Financier
Dark Chocolate Tart

I’ve really tried to figure out what went wrong during this meal. It started on an off foot, with reservation issues and just never got better. So, to simplify things, I’m going to start and end the review with the ‘Breakdown.’

Ambiance: The layout of 555 is beautiful. Dark, rich woods and we were lucky enough to be seated at the upper tier, lending us a great view of the open kitchen and the odd placement of the women’s room right outside of the open kitchen. Very odd indeed. We were happy when we were seated far from the house-style bass music that was thumping in the lounge. We were deep in a line of people that seemed to have been waiting a bit for their tables and we found ourselves awkwardly getting pushed closer and closer to tables in the lounge as people came in and out.

Service: As I mentioned, it’s definitely a larger setting and crowd than we’re use to, so the frantic energy that seemed to be emanating from the waitstaff made us feel kind of edgey. Yet, while it seemed like the waitstaff was a bit in the weeds, I did see a flawless setting of apps and entrees to a table of 14+ next to us. Kudos to their waitress and the rest of the staff as it was executed like a ballet. Our waiter was fine, but definitely seemed more pleasant when he would take a moment to relax at our table side. We felt bad for him and can’t really blame him for a forgotten glass of wine.

Food: So, this is why we were here, right? From coworkers and friends I had heard mixed things about their experiences with the food here: Under seasoned, overcooked, decadent and creative. I didn’t know what to expect, but whatever expectations I lightly held I can easily say that they were not equaled. Our biggest problem was over seasoned, which plagued both the apps and the entrees. The desserts were odd, mine weirdly textured and hers “off” in flavor.

In the end our experience left us highly unimpressed.


Five Fifty-Five on Urbanspoon