gluttony, losing football teams, party food, superbowl, tailgating at home

Eat Your Losers

32 teams started their season with hopes and dreams of getting into this weekends Super Bowl. 30 teams had that dream end by the middle of January. My team, The Chicago Bears, saw that dream end in the middle of November with (another) injury to their Quarterback, Jay Cutler. So, yet again, I’m in the majority of football fans who will tune into the game, root halfheartedly for a team that they merely hate less than the other (as a New Yorker, I’m obligated to root for the Giants in this match up, though I severely question their chances of winning).

But, when it comes down to it, hasn’t the Super Bowl become more about the commercials,

ridiculous half time shows (Madonna? Really? Way to connect, NFL) and the food. It’s about the at home tailgate, with a cartoonishly large TV, some friends and enough alcohol or greenery to make you forget that your team utterly sucked this year. But, maybe I’m projecting.

So, this year, I’ve been thinking of a “losers” theme for the food–something to celebrate the ones that didn’t make it (and probably won’t again next year because of a questionable choice in QB’s. But, there I go again), while we watch the ones that did.

For Chicago Bears Fans:

(Photo from The Paupered Chef)
Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwiches

For New Orleans Saints fans:

Muffaleta

For Baltimore Ravens fans:

(photo from YumSugar)
Maryland Style Crab Dip

For the Pittsburgh Steelers fan

(photo from Accidental Hedonist)
Peirogis

For the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and San Fransisco 49ers fans:

(photo from TheNibble.com)
Homemade California Rolls

So, while you may not be celebrating your teams victories this Sunday, you can, at the very least, celebrate some of their hometown foods.

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burgers, elevation burgers, grass fed beef hamburgers, mall dining, south portland

Elevation Burger

Exactly a year ago, burgers became a focus of my life, at least for a few months. Then it seemed that there was talk of burgers all over internet food press. Maine also saw its first Five Guys open back in April. In May I even wrote:

I agree with Kate and her assessment that these rounds of O-Rama have gotten some of us(me) thinking about burgers more than ever.

But, after that, I only went out once for burgers (Five Guys) and was horribly disappointed–and mildly disgusted–with the food. It seemed my love affair with burgers was not meant to last long.

Then, last week, Arlington, VA, based Elevation Burger opened its doors in South Portland and it looked like I had reason to rekindle my burger pursuits. This was solidified when an invite went out from their PR person to several local food bloggers, asking us to stop by and try their food. Kate and I made plans, along with Kate’s roommate, A., to head out to Exit 3 this past Monday night and see what they were about.

The first thing you notice when you walk in is how open and bright the space is. To your right is an open kitchen, where you can watch the employees prepare the orders through a glass window. The other thing you notice right off is how happy, polite and generally nice the people working there are. They were patient with us when the three of us stood, overwhelmed and overstimulated at the counter, trying to figure out what to order from the foreign menu. They offered suggestions with things they had tried and enjoyed during their past week of training. Most employees at fast food places just kind of stare at you with ambivalence or contempt–or a mixture of the two–these employees seemed pretty sincere.

But, not only do their employees seem different than other establishments, but Elevation Burger seems to pride itself on being a bit different overall. Their mantra, “Ingredients Matter,” is backed up by their use of daily ground organic, grass fed, free range beef. They also use organic eggs and butter in their cookies and opt to fry their french fries in olive oil. They use bamboo in the flooring, sorghum table tops and as much renewable products in their restaurants. They’re the Anti-Golden Arches, it seems… but, not quite.

Yes, they use beef that is better for you(grass fed is lower in fat than corn fed), but you can get their Vertical Burger with up to ten patties on it (which completely defeats the purpose of eating meat that’s lower in fat). They have a cool, futuristic Coke soda machine, that was developed in South Portland (which dispenses the obvious selection of beverages sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup)

But, they also offer a line of local, all-natural sodas (the Maine Root Lemonade is fantastic, by the way).

They proudly tout their choices for better, higher quality ingredients than you find at your typical fast food burger hut, and they should. The owners, Mark and Christopher, who picked up our tab and sat and chatted with us for a bit, said that they give options to their customers. If you want a Coke, you can have one, if you want a healthier option, they have that, too.

They have a ‘lettuce wrap’ option for those not wanting, or able, to eat bread and, while the hamburger is the star, they also offer vegetarian ones. To be fair to Mark, I poked at him a bit about not using organic potatoes, non-HFCS sweetened ketchup and a few other devil’s advocate questions and he answered them all, honestly and to the point. I couldn’t argue, the man had my respect for just entertaining my questions.

But, for all the hype, the food politics and all the industry buzz words, was the meal any good?

I opted for the standard, “Elevation Burger,” which is a double patty burger, served on a potato bun with your choice of 11 free toppings (blue cheese dressing is extra). I had mine with lettuce, pickles and ‘Elevation Sauce,” a secret recipe tomato-y condiment. The burger still had a bit of pink to the middle of it, which we all were surprised and appreciative about. The overall flavor was good and the portion size of the burgers was decent enough (coming in, I’d guess, at around 7oz total). However, I did notice that, at the end, that the patties did get a little dry. But, that’s one of the side effects of using a leaner meat, you lose a bit of that juiciness.

The pickles were in slices and relatively sweet. I did manage to drag both of them out on the second bite, which kind of sucked. The ES was a bit like Russian dressing, minus the relish, though there’s apparently no mayonnaise in it. I liked the sweetness of it and thought they put just enough on without killing the taste of the burger. And, well, the lettuce was a bit of a throw away. I do, however, give them bonus points for the potato bun, which I absolutely love with any burger.

The french fries were met with mixed reviews. We all loved the shoe string, bistro cut of the fries, but Kate and A. weren’t overly thrilled with the taste of them. I liked them more than I thought I would because you don’t generally associate frying french fries with olive oil, that’s something more for vegetable or peanut. But, probably because of the cut of the fry, it allowed them to crisp up at a lower temperature without becoming soggy and limp. They were also nicely salted and stood up to being dipped into the Vanilla milkshake I ordered. Which was funny because the milkshake was probably the least enjoyable piece of the meal for me. I think that my problem was the ice cream. I just straight out didn’t like it. Too sweet, maybe? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I just wasn’t a fan.

Now, what I noticed and liked most about my meal, was the fact that I didn’t feel overfull or generally gross after it. I didn’t have that fast food sheen from the fries or that weight in my stomach from the burger. For me, the mall area is always a bit of a wasteland of really bad chains (we’ll usually stop at Chia Sen when we’re out in that general vicinity) and the quality that Elevation Burger brings is a much needed, and appreciated, relief.

Elevation Burger on Urbanspoon

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artemesia cafe, Breakfast and brunch, brunch in Portland, ME, neighborhood gems

Artemisia Cafe

There aren’t many “off the beaten path” or “hidden gems” in Portland. So much of our dining scene exists between Commercial and Cumberland, in the main sections of town. But, there are a few unassuming places–like Ohno! Cafe and Caiola’s–that are tucked away in cute little neighborhoods. Artemisia Cafe, located on Pleasant Street, is one of those gems and I’m lucky to call it my neighborhood spot.

During the week, Tuesday through Friday, they’re only open for a quick window of time (11am-2pm) where they serve up a variety of soups, sandwiches and salads, with a daily special written on the large chalkboard that occupies nearly the entirety of the back wall.

The space is well loved and homey, with throw pillows in the booths for a little extra, comfortable cushion. There’s a small bar and waiting area, but during the week the restaurant is relatively quiet. Come the weekend, though, expect a 20+ minute wait for a table.

Their brunch, for me, ranks up there with Schulte and Herr and Caiola’s. Again, since it’s right in our neighborhood, it’s hard to resist popping over on a lazy Sunday morning.

They’re opened longer hours on the weekend (9am-2pm), thankfully. The brunch menu is no longer than most places in town and they offer the usual eggs and bacon, french toast, four different types of Eggs Benedict, Huevos Rancheros, fruit bowls and, my favorite, Biscuits with Sausage Gravy.

How good are those biscuits (pictured above)? Even my mom, ever the picky eater, loved them the last time she visited and my sister, who joined her, hounded me until I went over and asked them for the recipe for their gravy. Out of respect for the restaurant, I won’t post it here, but I will say that it’s not your typical sausage and gravy mix. Think of it more like a bechamel, thickened with a variety of cheeses and large chunks of Italian sausage. And the chef definitely doesn’t skimp on the amount of sausage, either, which some places do. Ladle that goodness over two house made flaky biscuits and you have yourself a breakfast of champions or just a really good cure for a horrible hangover. Oh, and just to make it even better, they throw in two eggs(your choice) and a side of home fries. All for just $9.50.

But, not only is the food wonderful, the service is too. There’s a blonde waitress (please forgive me for forgetting her name at the moment) who is ever present in the dining room and always on her game, even on the days when she seems to be the only one and waist deep in the weeds. She’s nice, cheerful and always engaging. Basically, she’s the embodiment of everything I could ask for in a server. We’ve had her as our waitress nearly every time we’ve gone in and she has been all of that and more. I’ve never seen her flinch or lose her cool when dealing with a loud, probably still intoxicated, table or a family of four whose children have decided to finger paint with the maple syrup. She definitely makes our time their much more enjoyable and kudos to for being one of my favorite servers in Portland.

So, when you’re looking for a spot to pop out to brunch this weekend, consider forgoing the usual haunts and take a trip to my neighborhood and stop in to Artemesia Cafe and, for the love of God, someone try the Sausage and Biscuits.

Artemisia Cafe on Urbanspoon

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getting paid significantly less than what they're asking, how desperate are you for a job?, ridiculous job ads in Portland

I’ll Just Leave This One Right Here

Barista/Baker/Social Media (Downtown Portland)

Downtown coffeehouse seeks part time (1-3 days/week) team member. Coffeehouse experience NOT necessary. But, you should come in a package that features a big smile, absolute honesty, integrity, and a desire to do your best and constantly grow and improve. This position is not just about pouring coffee and waiting on customers. This is an opportunity to use your skills to help grow a cool, local coffeehouse with a mission. Here is what you are going to need to land this job. You will either need baking experience or significant social media experience. If baking, tell us what you bake and how creative you can be in a very small kitchen. If social media is your forte, you will need to be very active and experienced with using social media, including Facebook,Twitter, and Foursquare–all three. The primary responsibility of this position is to help customers. But, in between customers, our team members use their talents to help build and become a meaningful part of the business–be they baking, graphics, or marketing. Starting salary is $8.00/hour–plus tips–with regular reviews based upon job performance and meeting company goals. Staff discounts. Some benefits after six months. More after a year. First step? Please send your resume. You get bonus points if you can tell us in 10,000 words or less just how much you would like to work for us. However, the bonus points only count if you can impress us with your baking, graphics, or social media experience. Be sure to let us know whether you are currently working, and if so, full or part time, as well as your availability and when you can begin. Please note: this position requires at least one full weekday or two half-weekdays.

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haribo gummi bears, teeny tiny people, teeny tiny people on food

Teeny Tiny People: Haribo Gummi Bear

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