Eat Maine Blog

Gonzo Brunch at Outliers Eatery, Portland

April 10, 2014

By: Joe Ricchio
Photography: Nicole Wolf

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Lemongrass

Posted on March 30, 2014

By Irene Yadao

Photographs by Sean Thomas

Specialization: Vietnamese food
What to Order: Beef banh mi, shrimp spring rolls, traditional goi, lemongrass coconut peanut delight
Price Average: $5 - 16

Winter hours (until Memorial Day):
Tuesday – Friday, lunch 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; dinner 4:30 - 8 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

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Pairing Wines Up at Natalie’s

Posted on March 26, 2014

By Joe Ricchio

Photographs by Nicole Wolf

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How It’s Done: Chef David Turin Reveals the Secret to his Success

Posted on March 14, 2014

By Joe Ricchio

Photographs by Nicole Wolf 

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Solo Bistro

Posted on March 10, 2014
By Irene Yadao
Photographs by Ted Axelrod Photography

Specialization: Contemporary New England bistro
What to Drink: Choose from a selection of classic and specialty cocktails. My pick is the Lemon Lavender Martini – lavender-infused simple syrup mixed with Hendrick’s gin and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
What to Order: Boar bacon burger, miso sake salmon, hake crepes, Bangs Island mussels, brown butter apple tartlet
Price Average: Appetizers $10; Entrée $18-28

Winter hours:
Tuesday – Saturday, lunch 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m. – close
Sunday brunch 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Summer hours:
Monday – Saturday, lunch 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m. – close
Sunday (dinner only) 5 p.m. – close

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The White Barn Inn with Chefs Cartwright + Kish

Posted on February 22, 2014

By Joe Ricchio

Photographs by Nicole Wolf

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New England Distilling: Booze made the old-fashioned way

Posted on February 22, 2014

By Joe Ricchio

Photographs by Nicole Wolf

Ned Wight and Joe Ricchio at New England Distilling.

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Smelting On a Frozen River in Bowdoinham

Posted on February 15, 2014

By Joe Ricchio
Photographs by Nicole Wolf


A winter night Bowdoinham gets very dark, very quickly. Often the only beacons of light are rows of smelting shacks lined up on frozen rivers. As my fishing party and I knock on the door to the “office,” which is not immediately discernable from any of the other shacks, to pay our rental fees, we are confronted by a man who, I can only assume, is the owner of the camp. He shines a flashlight on us before gesturing that we may enter, and once inside he sizes us up as we fork over $75.

“If you need football scores, I’ll be coming around every now and then,” he informs us and I remember that it is Super Bowl Sunday. Personally, the prospect of catching a barrel of smelts to take home and deep fry while drinking cold beer is far more appealing than any football game. From the office, the path to the shacks is a rickety, wooden dock, requiring the person in the lead to use a flashlight to guide the rest of the group to safety. Judging from small piles of provisions situated outside of each hut, I assume that they are occupied even though it is silent as death out on the river tonight.

My smelting companions are Josh Potocki and his wife Katie, who run 158 Bakery in South Portland in addition to their successful catering company, Bread & Butter, as well as photographer Nicole Wolf. Josh, being a consummate outdoorsman who has been fishing since he was old enough to hold a pole, seemed like the perfect guide for this venture. I had actually been smelting a few times before, but each time I neglected to pay attention to a single thing, so Josh’s expertise would be invaluable. Plus having him along allows me to really focus on what I do best in this situation – supply both the entertainment and the Irish whiskey.

In coastal Maine, smelting is a time-honored tradition, a perfect way to pass the time on bitterly cold nights, warmed by the small stoves in each cabin. Traditionally, there are two long openings in the floor that expose the icy water, where we are to hang a row of fishing lines. The most common bait used is the bloodworm, which must be cut into small pieces to accommodate the size of the smelts. Because I must protect my delicate hands so they will still be able to open the bottle of whiskey, I delegate the task of butchering the foul-looking creatures to everyone else in my fishing party (i.e. the photographer and Katie).

While humming the chorus from Metallica’s “Welcome Home Sanitarium,” Potocki baits the lines and the fishing begins. Smelts are a small schooling fish that spawn in fresh water rivers, but live their lives in the ocean. The most traditional way to eat them is battered and fried, and generally they are eaten whole – bones, head, and all. Because the stoves in the shacks get quite hot, I have brought along my beat-up wok. I figure that I’ll get a bit of peanut oil ripping hot, toss in the fish along with some chili paste, give a quick fry, and garnish with a dash of sesame oil. The goal was not to overcomplicate things.

As Josh routinely shakes the lines in an effort to tempt the fish, the rest of us get caught up in an increasingly loud conversation. I actually start to get a bit self-conscious about the other fishing parties overhearing us, so we send a few beers next door as a potential peace offering which, as I am informed by my designated messengers, Nicole and Katie, was “completely unnecessary because they love us.”

When we finally caught a fish, it was my duty to perform the traditional ceremony of biting the head off raw, which I’m glad I did because it tasted of nothing but fresh cucumber. Also, I felt that in this very primal act I completely balanced out my unwillingness to touch the worms earlier. From my mouth the fish goes straight into the nuclear-hot wok, and, as I had predicted, my simple preparation yielded delicious results. Everyone is able to have a taste, and though we didn’t have much more luck on this particular evening, I felt vindicated knowing that at least I’d had a taste of the freezing depths below the shack.

 

 

Little BIGS: It's all pastries + hand pies

Posted on February 6, 2014

By Joe Ricchio
Photographs by Nicole Wolf

You can forget everything you thought you knew about doughnuts…

James Murray Plunkett, Joe Ricchio, and Pamela Fitzpatrick Plunkett at Little BIGS in South Portland.

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