edible obsession, food memory, soda, throwback soda, too much of a good thing

Edible Obsession: Pepsi Throwback

Ok, I’ll admit it right now… this post was intended to be done just about a year ago. It was football playoff time and I was watching whatever game I could get with our non-cable set of rabbit ears (this was before we were living the high life and had cable).

Then the ad came on, a mash up of old and new players, set to Bob Dylan’s ‘Forever Young‘. It was sentimental and well done and it made me want the soda. I was hooked.. I needed to have a can. Right then. This would hold no significance for me had I not gone without having a Pepsi(or Coke or Tab or RC Cola–the latter two were very popular in my house growing up) in over seven years. I swore off caramel colored soda, opting only for ginger ale or ginger beer or the more recent addition of the locally brewed Green Bee Soda.

So, my next jaunt out to Hannaford’s found a 20oz bottle in my basket. Actually, I think there were three and one Throwback Mountain Dew and the ‘Heritage’ Dr. Pepper for the Missus to try. Those two, according to her, were absolute shite. The Pepsi, however, was enjoyed. Highly. Not only were those bottles consumed but more were purchased. Until, that was, it ran out. Then we didn’t see it again until later in the summer while shopping @ BJ’s Wholesale. We bought a few cases, which lasted us well into the fall. And then it was gone again.

But, a year later, it’s back in time for the Superbowl. This time I found it at a Hannaford’s in Falmouth, which I went into while waiting for Harmon’s to open. I bought three cases and we’ve already gone through one–and since that initial purchase, the Missus has picked up yet another.

I do feel a bit of shame over this obsession. I know far too many soda addicts and knew that when I bought it chances were that it was going to turn into an obsession. But, there truly is a nostalgia factor for me. It does bring me back to being a kid, when soda was almost always in the house. The flavor of it is exactly the same and you can truly taste the difference between their use of High Fructose Corn Syrup in the regular Pepsi vs. the natural sugar in this one.

So, I’ll enjoy this obsession while it, and the NFL Football season, lasts. I’ll be waiting anxiously for both to return again in late summer.

baked beans, Gourmet, Local foods, lots of pork, pork

Tuesday’s Maple Baked Beans and Pork Belly

From The Gourmet Cookbook.

**I used local Jacob’s Cattle Beans from Green Thumb Farms, located in Fryeburg, ME. I also added about a tablespoon of prepared spicy mustard to it for a bit more bite.

**I rendered the bacon fat, lightly browning the pork, and then sauteed the onions in it before adding all ingredients.

What else would you serve with pork spiked beans other than pork belly? Using up the remaining pork belly I had from Thanksgiving, I cooked it up in the same style.

With this being my first attempt at baked beans since moving to New England, I’m going to say that they were a huge hit on a very cold evening. The beans were creamy and, because of the added acid from the mustard, not overly sweet.

alton brown, cheese, cheese for dinner, macaroni and cheese

Cheese Stash Mac and Cheese

The other night, like most nights, the Missus and I were rummaging through the kitchen for something to snack on at a later hour. As I do nearly every night, I said out loud the items found in our kitchen to her, whether they were truly snack worthy or not:

Shumai, bacon, pasta, butter, eggs, brownies, cereal, frozen corn, pancake mix, cheese, risotto, breadcrumbs…

I was stuck on the breadcrumbs and in my giggly fog I made a note to make a breadcrumb topped macaroni and cheese on my next day off. It worked out nicely as it happened to fall during a snow storm in Portland(again). As already stated, I love my cheese. At any given time, there are at least four in the fridge–before this was made there were ten.

  1. 5 year Vintage Gouda
  2. Beryl Marton Trempherbe Garlic and Herb
  3. Provolone
  4. Sweet Grass Dairy “Green Hill”
  5. Pineland Farms Pepperjack
  6. Pineland Farms 2 year cheddar
  7. Parmigiano-Reggiano
  8. Cave Aged Gruyere
  9. Rolf Beeler Appenzeller
  10. Alp and Dell Cheddar

I went with #6, 8-10–a nice cheddar/alpine combination. I found it very surprising, as I was prepping the cheese, that the Alp and Dell–only aged 3m–was crumbliest of all the cheeses. I bought it purely for a mac and cheese because of it’s bright annatto colored flesh, but it was used sparingly more for it’s color than for either flavor or body. As it turned out, it barely even melted when added to the top before baking. The alpine cheeses listed are both in my top 10 of favorites for winter eating–sadly, I have a top 10 cheese list for just about everything.

The recipe I went with was Alton Brown’s Baked Mac and Cheese and it definitely was the best that I’ve made in a long time. Not only was the consistency wonderful, but the flavors of the cheese(salty, nutty and slightly sour), garlic, onion and mustard really complimented each other. It was served along side a nice bloody rare spoon roast. Perfect eating on a snow bound day.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni (I used penne)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika(I had none and added garlic instead for flavor)
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar (4oz 2yr; 3 oz Appenzeller; 3 oz Gruyere; 2 oz Alp and Dell)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter.

Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. **I didn’t have mustard powder, but ground some seeds up along side some dried garlic flakes to make the powder.
Make sure it’s free of lumps.
Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika.
Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg.

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish.

Top with remaining cheese.Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat.

Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

A side note to my love of cheese and of football:
I have a bet going with a friend from Wisconsin that my beloved Chicago Bears will defeat her Green Bay Packers this coming Sunday. I’m cautiously optimistic about the game, but I have already found the closest specialty shop near to her in case Cutler messes up(again).

The wager: I win, I get a pound (or half, we haven’t decided) of Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve Extra Aged. I lose, then she gets the deemed amount in the form of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar aged @ Jasper Hill Farms in VT.

Go Bears.

Macaroni and Cheese on Foodista

a reason to eat caramel, chocolate cookies, martha stewart rules the world, munchies

Cookie Bar Recipe Mash-up

This recipe (which I used for panning and oven baking time/temp)
This recipe (which I used for ingredient measurements and prep)

These ingredients (a tip of the hat to Kate’s Momofuku Compost Cookie without the salt attack)

(plus some Marshmallows I forgot to add into the photo)

Marshmallows were folded into the dough, while the caramels were cut into 1/8ths and scattered on top before baking.

And they formed these wonderful little caramel pockets that snapped a bit when you bit into them..

..While the marshmallows stayed nice and gooey..

Bar Bliss.

burger-o-rama, burgers, falmouth, harmons lunch, perfect onions

Burger-O-Rama pt1: Diners and Sandwich Shops

A bit of a back note to this, A asked us what our 2011 O-Rama theme should be, just around the same time that all of Portland was at a stand still with our first snow storm. Rational people lost their minds and it took many over an hour to get across town. Like many connecting events, people posted their disgust over the weather on facebook. Joe Ricchio was one that I noticed in my feed, stuck in the middle of the storm. An hour later, after his post of disgust at the snow and the drivers, he posted:

I’m currently having a cheeseburger at 555 that is so good, I had to tell a lot of people immediately. Seriously – do yourself a favor here…

And there it was. Burgers… what a better idea for a theme. One singular dish with a ton of interpretations, which should make for a wider and, hopefully, more enjoyable review series for our readers. Joe planted a craving in my head and I passed it along to the group. So, if you have issue with this series, blame Joe. In fact, do it in person… he’ll love that.

But, on to our new task: Burger-O-Rama. The rules are a bit different this time kids. Instead of A. picking the restaurant we go to, or deferring to us for a suggestion, we’re going by theme like “Diners and Sandwich Shops”–the theme of this first entry–“Upscale,” “Alt-Burger,” etc. I believe he has about 6 different themes, with a V-day wild card thrown in there for an early break. So, with these theme months, all based upon burgers, it’s in the hopes that we open up the scale of the restaurants reviewed. My “Pub Burger” choice will probably be a different than Dawn’s or Malcom’s. It’s a win/win for both writer and reader (hopefully).

Now, burgers are a bit of a sacred thing to some, like a sports teams or caffeinated beverage. For me, they have always made me think of my mother. She is a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of lady with very singular likes and a few simple rules:

  1. Food can’t touch.
  2. It can’t be spicy.
  3. All components have to be identifiable upon first glance.

Fair enough. On the rare occasion, like her visit to Maine this past October, she does have her palette and mind blown. She’s probably still plotting a way for me to ship her Caiola’s Homemade Pop Tarts and Gelato from Maple’s Organics. But, if my mother knew she were going to leave this world tomorrow, I am 99.9% sure that a hamburger or cheeseburger would be her last meal. Oh, and there would be a hot fudge sundae to end it all. I mentioned the new ‘O-Rama’ theme to her and she said back, “Oh, I was just thinking of a cheeseburger. I know what I’m having for dinner tonight!” My mother is a burgerholic. But, don’t go mucking it up with weird toppings, fancy rolls or any meat outside of beef. She is a purist.

So, Mom came to mind when I was looking over the list of places on A’s site. There were a few places I considered, like Steve and Renee’s, Becky’s and Artemisia Cafe. But, I wanted simple. I wanted the burger that would live up to my mom’s strict scrutiny. So, I said “Fuck it,” and ignored the list all together. Instead, I took the 15 minute drive out Washington Avenue, just beyond the Portland/Falmouth border, to Harmon’s Lunch. And there, in a very non-descript building, sits probably the best burger in Southern Maine.

Harmon’s is no frills–seriously, I’m sure there will soon be a sign hanging declaring frills unnecessary and bothersome. See, for those who haven’t been in, there are signs everywhere reminding you that this is just a lunch counter and your bullshit will not be tolerated. An example reads:

New record: 2/23/2009 2 people tying up a 4 person table with others waiting to sit. 2 hr 3min–Please have some consideration.

They take no gruff(and no credit cards–this is CASH ONLY, kids). In fact, I was a bit scared to take any photos for fear of being sassed out the door. Don’t go there asking for medium rare or ketchup or a gluten free roll because you will probably be told to read one of their other signs:

This is not Burger King. You do not get it your way. You get it my way or you don’t get a damn thing.

And, you know what? You don’t need it any other way but theirs. After 45 years doing this, between two different owners, they’ve got it down and chances are, if given too many options, we’d just ruin their perfect burger.

I’ve only ordered a burger one way from them: Loaded. Diced, perfectly caramelized onions, mystery red relish, mustard, meat and plain hamburger bun. Simple enough and insanely inexpensive to boot. But, let’s dote a little more on the burger, shall we? All of the components make this easily one of the best balanced burgers I’ve had because Sweet+Savory+Acidic=Satisfying. You would think that the burger, a quite respectable patty–cooked medium–all on it’s own, would be lost somewhere under all of the toppings, but it’s not. And the plain bun? It too serves a purpose, acting as a sponge for the greasy goodness and toppings that will, despite your valiant efforts, be running down your chin within a few bites. I found myself, alone at the table, giggling as I went through napkin after napkin trying to clean myself up.
And what’s a burger without it’s companion of fries?

Hand cut, fried to order and served hot in their little cardboard home. They, too, are just exactly perfect the way that they are. If there was salt on them, it was extremely light and barely noticeable, which was fine by me. There is ketchup at each table, if you so desire, but popping them in after every bite of burger was enough to sauce them up a bit. It’s nice knowing that these were not taken out of a bag delivered from SYSCO and that they put as much attention into their fries as they do their star burgers.

And how much, sans beverage, did this cost? Around $4.50. For the price of a Venti Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks, I had a lunch that kept satiated until dinner. A double patty, double toppings or cheese will cost you a wee bit more but it still puts it at the best deal in, or rather near, town for such a satisfying lunch. Something else mom would approve of.

Harmon's Lunch on Urbanspoon

Want to read about some other burgers, visit the O-Rama gang and their reviews here, here, here, here, here and here.

dinner on a thursday, green spark farm, jordans farm, scratch baking co, winter csa, wood fired bread

Across the Bridge Meal

CSA’s, or Community Supported Agriculture, are something that I have wanted to participate in for the past few years, but living the better part of the month from paycheck to paycheck, it’s hard to drop one large amount of bills at one time. Also, I don’t want 10# of squash dropped on me in the summer–mostly because the Missus isn’t a fan–and don’t want to see the food go to waste. However, after reading about the Winter CSA from Cape SoPo Winter Share in the Press Herald, I found this more doable. Sure, there isn’t much that you can’t get at the Portland Winter Market, but this allowed me to order from vendors I had never heard of before–like Cranky Rooster(seen below)–and to support Green Spark, one of the participants, in the ‘off season’ as I do frequent their stand in the summer at the Deering Oaks Market.

The process is simple: go online to their site, place your order, get your number and pick it up either at one of the farms listed or at their designated drop spot for that cycle. I also didn’t have to worry about parking, getting shoved out of the way while someone wanted to rummage through the potatoes or arrive to find out the vendor was sold out of eggs. It was easy enough and all could be ordered from the comfort of my cozy apartment.

It also got me over to South Portland and gave me an excuse to pop in to Scratch Bakery–somewhere I hadn’t been since our cupcake tasting in November. So, on a much needed day off, I ran errands and cooked a simple, somewhat local-centric, meal.
And here is a bit of that and some of the goods picked up yesterday:

Like most local eggs, these blow away anything you can buy at the local grocery stores. The yolks are plump, orange and LARGE. If I ever come back as a chicken, I want to live on this farm and eat what they’re eating–which is probably better than many people I know.

Luce’s Breakfast Sausage. Not really much to say except I’m excited to have a morning off with the Missus to make us some breakfast with this.

I will openly admit my bias on this one. Nate is a friend and a bread enthusiast who built his own wood fired brick oven in his yard. When he told me he was selling his bread and bagels through the CSA, I knew it was the first thing I’d order.

It had a gorgeous crumb to it, made a great base to our open-faced rib eye french dip and made even better french toast the next day.

These potatoes came from Green Spark and Jordan’s farm–Swedish Peanut and French Fingerling–and were tossed in some garlic, rendered bacon fat and ras el hanout and roasted for around 40 minutes @ 400.

Rounding out the meal was something green–as in sauteed beans with some bacon. It was a meal of happiness and comfort and took all of an hour and a half to throw together.
And then there was dessert. Walking into Scratch, I thought maybe I’d pick up another cupcake or something of the like but, there it was:

A homemade Funny Bone. Get the F out. For those that remember, my last encounter with the mass produced variety of this treat didn’t go so well (though it did manage to get me a few hits for people looking up flavored lubes). And, well, I won’t even compare the two. This was chocolate peanut butter awesomeness. It was rich, gooey and made my stomach hurt after but I didn’t much care. I fell into a chocolate contentment coma and there I remained for the rest of the night.
Which, that would have been fine if I didn’t also buy a:

Banana Cake with Hazelnut Buttercream. You want to talk overkill? This whole meal, with all of it’s parts put together, was overkill. While I really, really enjoyed the cake part of this one, the buttercream didn’t have much of a flavor outside of butter. The hazelnut was kind of there but the buttercream just coated the tongue too much to really enjoy it. So, we just separated the frosting from the rest of it and just enjoyed the cake, which turned out to help cut a bit of the richness from the Funny Bone (which is odd to even say that cake helped lighten other cake). Either way, I want another one of those Funny Bones. Now.

**edited to correct information regarding the name of the CSA. Thank you to Josh for posting the correction on PFM.

Scratch Bakery on Urbanspoon