The Portland, ME Edition: Rosemont Market & Bakery, Can I Please Take You Home Now?

It’s probably fair, Rosemont Market & Bakery, to say that you had me at hello.

photo-3photo-1First (chance) encounter: You were pointed out to me by my friend and host, who is also an infinitely knowledgeable all-things-Portland guide, as we walked past on our way to brunch up the street at The Front Room. We stopped; I had to go inside. I made a quick circle, noting the cheese case, the crates of local blueberries and the New England beer selection. I knew I would be back.

photo-4Second (intentional) encounter: Sure enough, I found my way back, all by myself, later that day. I came with the intention (guise?) of picking up a few some things to make a light crab salad with my prized Harbor Fish Market purchase — that sweet, sweet crabmeat from Wood’s Seafood (Bucksport, ME) — while my friend/host/infinitely knowledgeable guide went training for her triathlon. Instead, I fell head-over-heels for the price point and the boutique-ness of the wine nook, fawned some more over the fresh, locally-grown (and so cheap!) produce, and end up accidentally buying dinner:

photo-5$6, qt. of homemade gazpacho
$2 French baguette, baked in house
$1.49 head of locally-grown bibb lettuce
$0.99 bunch of fresh chives

+
$12.99 giant bottle of La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Luberon Blanc (nothing fancy, a blend of Rhône varietals, but I’ve seen a 750 ml costs this much in New York, so on principle I had to buy the magnum)

It’s not really cooking, but my friend/guide /host’s exuberant roommate asked me what I did, so here’s the recipe: Doctor up the gazpacho with chopped green onion, fresh crab, a healthy drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and pepper. Ditto for the salad, except that I substituted a little Goddess Dressing (Kraft) for the olive oil. Serve with sliced, buttered and oven-toasted baguette points that make the kitchen smell oh-so-good. Pour wine heavily.

photo-7Third (spontaneous) encounter: Sure, I was thinking about you. But little did I know that I’d be back so soon. And then the roommate said, “Let’s walk up and get pastries from Rosemont!”It was said exuberantly.

Um, twist my arm. And this is how I discovered the Sandwich of Sunshine. Yes, literally, that’s what it’s called. The description on the (hand-written) index card goes on to read: “Local sun dried tomato goat cheese, Black Kettle Farm romaine, orange melon and a fruit salad of white peaches, watermelon, mango, basil and lemon yogurt” ($5.50). What? (Befuddlement.) No way. (Denial.) Wait a second … (Illumination breaking). Yes, yes, yes! (Discovery.)

photo-2Fourth (missed) encounter: I intended to stop by one last time on Sunday afternoon to pick up a souvenir, one of the large, plastic Rosemont-labeled spices (which are actually from some spice place in New Hampshire — the pickled fiddleheads would have meant having to check a bag).

I had been vacillating between the mulling spices, the pickling spices and the multi-colored rainbow sprinkles, because how long would it take me to get through 6 oz. of dried dill? (Which begs the question, why would it take me any less time to get through that giant container of sprinkles?)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it back before Rosemont shuttered for the night. Sigh. This is not the first or the last time that I’ve wished I could pack something large and immoveable into my carry-on.

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Monday: Birthday Dinner Gone Gonzo (aka the “Cheese Three Ways” Post)

There are few things more enjoyable in the world than sharing a meal with close friends, when everyone makes the time in their respectively busy lives to actually be present, and eat and laugh and tell stories and simply enjoy each other’s company.

photo-3… Which makes my birthday dinner at Gonzo in the West Village just about perfect.

It wasn’t the original plan: Earlier Monday morning I found out that Brooklyn Bowl — the new, LEED-certified, 16-lane bowling alley in Williamsburg with a full menu by Blue Ribbon (where I was going to have a small fête) — was closed Mondays.

I needed options, stat. My research skills kicked into high gear, and I ended up with a list of options that included everything from all-you-can eat/drink rip tips (which are excellent) and domestic draft beer at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ ($15.95) to a 3-course, $35 prixe fix meal at Sojourn in the Upper East Side that includes a wine pairings.

In the mix, from my friends at winedanddined.com:

Gonzo (W. 13th nr 6th Ave) is offering 2 for 1 pizzas on Monday nights and from 5-7 on Saturdays.

At first, pizza didn’t sound quite right. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. It was the perfect renegade birthday dinner — going gonzo at Gonzo. A girl can’t ask for much more on my birthday than a literary pun that’s this sweet.

photo-2Plus, the grilled, thin-crust pizzas are unique in the city, a culinary gift from the late chef Vincent Scotto. Oblong, ultra-thin and piled high with premium toppings in complex, sometimes exotic, flavor combinations, they’re certainly unlike any pizza I’d ever had.

I’ll be back to try the pizza with watermelon listed as a topping, but for a first taste we stuck with the classics:

(top) Sausage pizza, topped with ricotta cheese, roasted red pepper puree, romano & bel paese cheeses.

(bottom) Wild mushroom pizza, topped with chanterelle, shiitake & oyster mushrooms, caramelized onions, taleggio, romano & bel paese cheeses.

photo-1We also shared a large meat-and-cheese tasting platter ($25), my picks (counter-clockwise from top left): Capicola, Prosciutto di Parma, Cacciatorini with fig & fennel jam; taleggio, pepper pecorino (center), giant basket of grilled bread slices (not pictured). Few things make me happy like a good meat and cheese plate, maybe a glass of prosecco to go with — oh wait, had that, too.

Prosecco was as much a through-line to this lovely meal as was the cherished company and … of course, the cheese.

That thing with a candle up top? Brown sugar cheesecake. It’s a cheesecake purists will appreciate: a slightly different, darker sugar taste (molasses?) comes through, but the flavors aren’t so radically changed as if whole candy bars are thrown in, a la Cheesecake Factory. It’s really, really good. My one critique? With the circular shape, you get less buttery, gram-cracker-y crust.

TIP: The pizzas are definitely larger than our server let on — don’t let them up-sell you. Go with a group and share a mix of the cicchetti, Venetian-style small plates ($7-$11), or maybe a couple of appetizers, plus the pizzas. Two-for-one pizzas makes group dining that much more affordable — and fun.

The Minnesota Edition: This Is How a Sunset Cocktail Soiree Is Done “Up North”

I had the good wait, scratch that.

photoI had the excellent fortune of being at the lake the same weekend that neighbors of ours were hosting one of their much-anticipated sunset cocktail soirees. They happen only once or twice a summer.

I was informed: “Dear, it might be called drinks and hors d’oeuvres, but really, it’s enough for dinner.”

(I’m not sure my grandmother would appreciate this association, but for a few years I attended post-work media functions with exactly that same question on the line: What would they feed us, and would it be enough?)

Anyhow, these parties are really excellent. They begin about 5 o’clock in the evening, and wind down well past sunset. This year, I found myself puffing on a Montecristo white label cigar with an intimate group of about eight, and we sat around the fire, talking and smoking as the last light of day slipped away. It was lovely.

photo-5I didn’t take photos of all the food, but in my mind, the highlights were the baked salmon — Copper River salmon out of Alaska, I was told, along with the requisite (and I’m better for it) background story. Just outside the frame of this photo is a basket of small pumpernickel (or rye) toasts, which you smeared the cream cheese on, added a heavy slice of the salmon, and sprinkled with the capers, if you dared. Delicious.

photo-3And there was a cheese plate; I’m fairly certain that was peanut butter on the cheese plate. I don’t know more about it than that — I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it — although, at some point, I’m sure I had several slices of both the brie and the Monterey pepper jack, and a handful of grapes.

photo-1Then there’s this circular dish. I could figure out the part about the onions, the tomatoes, the bacon … the white base layer completely mystified me. Yogurt? Sour cream? Cream cheese? It doesn’t fit any of flavor profiles of the usual suspects.

The answer: Later, I found out this dish is called a “BLT Dip” — given the Google search results for “BLT Dip,” apparently I’m behind the curve — and the white layer is a blend of sour cream and mayonnaise, maybe a little garlic salt. Which makes perfect sense.

BLD Minnesota Edition: Colombian-Style Corn Pancakes in the Most Unlikely of Places

photo-8When someone takes you to one of their favorite breakfast spots and says, “I get the pancakes every time” — get the pancakes.

Or a pancake, as the case may be, if the pancakes are anything like the giant, larger-than-your-face-sized pancakes at Maria’s Cafe in the Franklin neighborhood of Minneapolis, which are stuffed with seasonal fresh fruit or local and Colombian favorites, like wild rice, plantains and corn. At $2.95 per pancake, it’s a hellofa breakfast, and cheap, too. (Throw in a side of bacon or a fried egg, $1 ea., for good measure).

photo-11photo-12The traditional corn pancake, sprinkled with cotija cheese ($1.50), is about as savory and actually nourishing as any pancake I’ve ever had. The sweet corn taste, plus I think they use a little bit of cornmeal in the batter, strikes the same sweet/savory balance as a corn tamale … and the sticky, scoopable corn mash served at Acapulco‘s weekend brunch buffet. Oh, yes. (Which, I never realized, is a distinctly Southern California restaurant chain.)

One of the friends we were eating with “always” gets the fresh raspberry pancake. And so what do I order? Eggs. (cue cricket noises/silence.)

photo-10

Yep, eggs. Maria’s Colombian huevos pericos, to be exact: “Three scrambled eggs with diced tomatoes, white and green onions, special seasoning and chopped with cheddar cheese. Served with tortilla, homemade salsa.” ($7.50)

The eggs were decent, if a little bland (looking and tasting). The best thing about the eggs is that they were improved upon with the fresh salsa and two types of cheese (I added some cotija cheese, as well).

Luckily, my dining companions were as interested in my eggs, as they’d never deviated so far from the menu and wanted to try them, as I was in their pancakes, and we shared and ate amicably.

I’m generally terrified of pancakes and their great potential for dryness and lack of character. The fact that I’ve had pancakes two weeks in a row, well, that probably hasn’t happened since I was under the age of 10 and my Dad was in the habit of making Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes for us on the weekends.

I think the key to these two successful pancake endeavors is the adding in of stuffs, fruit and otherwise. In fact, I’m on the lookout now, for more …

TIP: Maria’s Cafe serves breakfast all day. Sweet.

Breakfast: $2 Gordita Discovery Post (aka “the Las Poblanitas for Breakfast!” Post)

I never realized that there was an the original thing that Taco Bell was mimicking when it introduced the gordita to its menu however many years ago (speculation: greater than three years, less than 10).

photoIn fact, I never knew that the gordita wasn’t entirely a Taco Bell invention until, famished at 11 a.m. and needing a break from the usual neighborhood suspects, a tiny thought popped into my head: I wonder if Las Poblanitas does breakfast?

Hmmm …

The answer: Yes, yes they do. And, like the majority of the lunch options I’ve tried here, it’s damn cheap and good.

However tempted I was by the $1 breakfast burrito ($1!!), I had to have a gordita, just to put this whole Taco Bell inventing-the-gordita fallacy to rest. (For the record, Taco Bell’s gordita is basically a taco, wrapped in a second, thicker, soft pita-taco shell.)

photo-1photo-2 So, what does a $2 gordita consist of? As Las Poblanitas does it, a gordita begins with a lightly-fried pita pocket made out of corn masa — think, the softness of the masa part of a tamale, but pita-thin, with browned exterior, plus warm tortilla chip smell. The shell is then stuffed with chicken or pork, warmed, and further stuffed with some cojita cheese, lettuce, the diced onion, cilantro and tomato mix.

All in all, a really satisfying savory snack. Toward the bottom, as the fillings taper off, I topped off the rest of it with a good shake from my desk-size Cholula hot sauce (yes, really).

Sunday: Meet the Rolls-Royce of Lamb Chops (aka the “FreshDirect Discovery” Post)

Flown in from the sheep-rich plains of Australia, these flavorful, juicy chops have just a hint of earthiness and a velvety texture. These are the Rolls-Royce of lamb chops. Leaving the bone in lends a flavor boost that stands up to seasonings and marinades. But lamb loin chops are great with just a little salt and pepper. …
photo-4I couldn’t put it better myself. In my humble opinion, these little charmers — essentially, they’re little lamb t-bone cuts — don’t need a single thing, other than some olive oil and a few minutes under the broiler.
I didn’t do the cooking tonight, but I will be signing up for FreshDirect so I can order them myself. The petitness of the cut, the huge flavor, so reasonably priced — this is meat I can manage. (The exact inverse reaction I had walking into Whole Foods a few weeks ago, all geared up to buy a porterhouse steak (on sale), until I got to the butcher counter, saw its size and lost my nerve.)
photo-3Anyhow, the lamb loin chops (sliced into strips) were the last and crowning bit to a lovely salad that, as I describe it, couldn’t decide from whence it came: spinach, a sweet balsamic glaze, Feta cheese from Greece, sprouts and sprouted beans, Australian lamb, proper English mint sauce.
It was pointed out to me that the Greek are a big fan of lamb, but I wasn’t buying this salad as a wholly Greek-inspired salad. It had a little bit of everywhere, and I mean that in the most complimentary sense possible.