Friday, November 30

Countercuisindustry

Maine's rife with ex-hippies - and the finest in dining here follow in the footsteps of the countercuisine. Hippie chic - simple, local, offal - is hip again this year, according to the wonk's over at the NRA (and no, not the gun-toting rifle association, the National Restaurant Association). "The list looks like the penciled manifesto taped to the wall of an Ashram teepee," GS says.

1. Bite-size desserts
2. Locally grown produce
3. Organic produce
4. Small plates/tapas/mezze
5. Specialty sandwiches
6. Craft/artisan/microbrew beer
7. Sustainable seafood
8. Grass-fed items
9. Energy drink cocktails
10. Salts (e.g. sea, smoked, colored, kosher)

Crabapple











Photo: jkirlin/Thing of the Moment

Buy Local or Buy Locally

On the grammar of geography, via Language Log, via se.

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Thursday, November 29

Plywood Report

The Village Cafe, on Newbury Street, prepared to die on Saturday, via TV. The Front Room apparently submitted a change on its business license to become "The Grill Room" at the same Congress Street location, via WoM. Mexico Lindo II opened on Forest Avenue, via PFM.

Melynda prepared to open the Elbow Room, the bar that replaced Awful Annie's at 189 Congress Street. Natasha and Steve, of Mims Brasserie, 205 Commercial Street, closed Natasha's but are still rumored to be minor league swingers, via WoM.

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Week in Review, Nov. 29

Reny's founder drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of pie (1) and holiday stress was linked to shopping at the mall (2). Sugar water, not birthday cake, was bad for schoolchildren (3), officials gave corn spraying advice (4) and a beet sugar manufacturer said, “We really think that consumer attitudes have come to accept food from biotechnology” (5). The inventor of Gatorade died (6).

Japan urged consumption of the Illinois state fish (7), wild ginger was in peril (8), and Aroostook county potatoes were paired with diver scallops (9). Jim Harrison, the nation's premier "nacho" writer, reviewed Bukowski (10) and Spanky's Pizza in Bangor smelled like cigar smoke (11). Chefs chronically served oversized portions (12) and a fitness buff said, "People gain about a pound of body fat a year as it is" (13).

Aquaculture petitioned to make farm-raised fish "organic" (14), the meaning of "fresh milk" was debated (15), and little science backed up the health claims of organic foods (16). High-end food blog photography was called "pastarazzi" (17). A bad case of the munchies led to an arrest (18) and and a horny guy compared sex and the development of pizza to orgiastic primates and Indian food (19).

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Uncle Billy's

Lunch at Uncle Billy's, at 653 Congress, via PPH.
The chili had both kick and bite. It satisfied my hunger and warmed me up... the roast beef sandwich, with peppers ($7.50). It, too, was hot - the peppers had some serious zip. The meat was tender and the bun soft and chewy. It came with a side of fries.

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Wednesday, November 28

Small stills

More on the burgeoning microdistillery movement, via NYT.

Freeport's Cold River Vodka, Lewiston's White Rock and Union's Back River Gin distill it legal, via Psst and Slash. Breweries can also make less than 30,000 gallons of the hard stuff for a small license fee but none have done so.

Does it matter that Maine has its own spirits? Does it matter that "The Champagne of Maine," Allen's Coffee Brandy, is made in Somerville, Massachusetts? Who cares where booze is from? Wine with origin, or terroir, imparts nuances in taste. You pay for knowing origins. The Times' Asimov says distilled drinks are less dependent on geography.

"No spirit is less site-specific than vodka, which almost by definition ought to be free of distinctiveness. The quest instead is for purity," via NYT.

CSF

Ready Seafood revisited, via TMS. Cost of a share: $2,995. Earlier Psst on CSFs.

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Meat renaissance, man

Forget that tofurkey. "It’s finally cool to be a carnivore," says Bill Buford, via NYer.

The meatheads mentioned - River Cottage's Fearnley-Whittingstall, Pied de Cochon's Martin Picard, and Pork & Sons' Stéphane Reynaud - advocate a gamey, wild, range-fed animal.

Vive le charcuterie! Now, what do we do about all those carcasses in the meat aisle?

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H20

The bottled water battle continues. In Maine, the Nestle-owned Poland Springs has been unpopular in Fryeburg, via PPH. But the company isn't as stupid as some others:
Evian has some ridiculous $20 bottle of water with a "special pouring top." Then there's is something called Bling H20, which is water in a bottle covered in Swarovski crystals, which makes me want to kill someone. Maybe everyone. And finally, there is Tasmanian Rain, rainwater that is captured with some magical rain-catcher in Australia. It claims to be "velvety, soft, and refreshing," via VV.

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Tuesday, November 27

Tenacious










Photo: Sarah Bruel/Salt

Monday, November 26

Sam Hayward Q & A

An interview with Fore Street's Sam Hayward, via CHOW. Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be another story about the barefoot chef, he's peppered with questions about whoopie pies, drugs, and James Beard. Hayward pronounces Italians "eye-talians," mentions the Foie Gras/Deer Deathmatches, calls "temple-of-gastronomy" designs "the kiss of death," and talks about why he left the life of a rock star:
I finally made a break and said, “I want a relationship with my wife, I want to live in one place, I don’t want to listen to the activities in the next hotel room.” And some of my close friends died. One I had been playing with since I was 12 died on the streets of London. He was on tour with Meat Loaf, and he went out on the town with our mutual buddy Huey Lewis. Huey went to bed and my friend was found dead the next day on the streets: choked on food. And we can go on with that. My very best friend died some years later. There’s a lot of sadness in that world.

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Sunday, November 25

Duck hunt

An intentional wild goose chase: Old-time duck hunting. That's changing.

The gentrification of the Maine coast and other factors have marginalized bird hunting here. There are far fewer hunters on Merrymeeting Bay today than there were in 1957, when Life magazine rated it one of the seven best duck-hunting destinations in the country. ¶Another factor in the decline is cleaner water, via NYT.

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In profile

Street & Co.

A review from Type A praises the consistency, not the atmosphere at Street & Co, 33 Wharf Street: "Fine dining it is not, but for the best selection of seafood that Portland has to offer, it's the place to go."

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Miyake

Masa Miyake makes a fine, affordable omakase, via PPH. This four-star review praises everything except the service.

The skinny: Go for raw scallop and raw quail eggs, sea urchin roe, Maine conch, and a seat at the bar.

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Saturday, November 24

The Fish

A recipe for roasted sea bass from Sam Hayward, of Fore Street. Accompanied by a poem by Billy Collins, via NYT.:

As soon as the elderly waiter
placed before me the fish I had ordered,
it began to stare up at me
with its one flat, iridescent eye.

I feel sorry for you, it seemed to say,
eating alone in this awful restaurant
bathed in such unkindly light
and surrounded by these dreadful murals of Sicily...

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Root Cellar


Vegetable storage tips, via KG.

Raw laws

A report on raw milk, via MTW, in which the head of the Maine Center for Disease Control says she wouldn't trust unpastuerized milk. "I wouldn't eat raw hamburger because of the risk of E. coli, I wouldn't drink raw milk as well."

An earlier Psst! on raw milk and cheese laws.

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Friday, November 23

Leftovers

Deering Center pizza parlor Siano's, at 476 Stevens Ave., gets profiled, via PPH. The site had been a proposed Dunkin' Donuts, via tB.

Also, Kate's Homemade Butter, in Old Orchard Beach, expands, via PPH. An earlier story here.

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Thursday, November 22

Is Buy Local going to buy the old Local?

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Salty dog

I always wondered why I felt like I had just emerged from a parched crossing of the Sahara without my canteen when I left Hugo's and Duckfat. The answer:
“I’ve often joked that I’m going to open up a cold meat bar and serve sea salt” as the only condiment, says Rob Evans, who is the chef/owner of Hugo’s restaurant in Portland. ¶Evans, who says he can eat sea salt like candy, is not alone in his love for this artisan treat, via TMS.
In fact, most craftsmen love fancy sea salt. But not Julia Child. Here's an except from a 1998 interview with David Nussbaum in Gastronomica:
DN: So the gourmets salts, sea salt from this lagooon or another...

JC [gaily]: Fuck 'em! Fuck 'em all! I think some people like to use those things becuase it makes them feel special. Like those olive oils that cost so much for a half-pint... Maybe there's some people that need them but I do not. And I think there's a lot of fussy fakery that goes on. I think you should rely on your own tastes and not be influence by sales pitches... Now, what shall we do next?

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Cranberry

Photo Tony Azios/CSM

Alice's

Alice, of the Stockbridge, Mass. restaurant, from the song by Arlo Guthrie, via NPR.

Week in Review, Nov. 22

Used vegetable oil was stolen from behind two Lewiston restaurants (1) and potato-derived plastics developed (2). "They taste like a potato, there are very few chips out their that actually taste like a potato," said a chip maker (3). In Presque Isle, the supermarkets did not stock Idaho potatoes (4).

Lobster season was off to a spotty start (5), the Coast Guard sent an urchin dragger back to port (6) and a lobster trap Christmas tree was built in Rockland (7). A union organizer said food for former millworkers turned "charity into solidarity" (8) and a woman who lost 300 pounds bought a mirror (9).

Haute barnyard chef Dan Barber talked to turkeys (10), President Bush pardoned May, a turkey, despite pleas to pardon a pig (11, 12), and the breast-leg debate led to minds in the gutter (13). Vegetarians saved turkey (14) and a vegan said Oreo-covered chocolate pizzas and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookies made Good Eats Boutique irrestistable (15). Salt, eggnog and 4,500-calorie meals posed health risks (17, 18, 19), and the risk of kitchen fires tripled (20).

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Wednesday, November 21

Damn normals

Jimmy Britt, over at the moon MaineToday, waits a half-hour for mussels at Local 188 - as if that's never happened before. The PR guy puts on an even sadder face after a tough rejection. Apparently, gingerbread subdivisions are more interesting than fancy editors or his fancy restaurants. The question "What do normal people eat?" really irks him:
I sat next some normals at Becky’s in Portland two weeks ago. Then I ran into some normals at FRESH in South Portland a few days later. Friday night I sat with normals at the Browne Trading Company and Eve’s at the Garden (a gBritt client) caviar dinner... Guess what I saw when I stopped for a bite at Sierra’a in Gorham, normals. Damn normals. Seems you can’t turn around without running into one, via JB.
The bottom line: Jimmy are not be normal.

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Rachel "$40 a day" Ray


More on food porn here and R. Ray's trip to Portland here .

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Bogusha's

One of the few places to go for smoked kielbasa and the fresh (red) kind upon request, Bogusha's, at 825 Stevens Avenue, gets profiled by The Phoenix.

Eva Gadek's homemade kielbasa could be saltier and garlickier. If I were Mort, the sausage grader, I'd give it a B.

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Road food

Plane fare, yuck! Pack-it-yourself, via NPR.

Homebrew

Rob Zimmerman of Maine Brewing Supply, 542 Forest Avenue, profiled in TMS.

Tuesday, November 20

Portland, Me. (1882)














Archival Photo Stefan Claesson/NOAA

Food on paper

The summer issue of Maine Food and Lifestyle, formerly Edible Coastal Maine, just released as its Holiday Edition. The paper edition includes Portland mentions in articles on peeky-toe crabs (Browne Trading), root-cellaring (Rosemont Bakery & Market), grass-fed beef (Fore Street), Napa cabbage (Aurora Provisions) and college dining (Oakhurst Dairy). No link.

Brunswick's Bowdoin College and Arnold Luce, of Luce's Meats in North Anson, also made FEED, a publication of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Aroostook County spud distributor Jim Cook quoted as a potato farmer in a Julia Moskin piece on Thanksgiving Day sides.

The latest Down East has a review of Bresca by Michael Sanders, via No Link Yet.

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Monday, November 19

Al-Amin Halaal

EAl-Amin Halaal Market, at 269 Saint John, gets a under-the-seat review from Zachary Barowitz, via tB.

Barowitz discusses MECA at the Islamic hangout with his art school buddy. He donates a couple bucks for Mecca. Besides funny, he's been there a bunch, knows about Musharraf dispatches blasting from CNN overhead and has tried everything but the Tang. He has the machismo for The Bollard and tries to cook camel. Too bad he can't order. "Whatever you have," he says, accompanied by a "throw-stuff-on-gesture."

The woman behind the counter, the one with henna-stained hands who speaks conversational English, will take any newcomer into her kitchen and explain the green hot sauce and fresh anjera. It's friendly and, like Hamdi, the more often you go, the less expensive things become, generally $8 to $10.

The meat-filled samosas, clearly the best of EAl-Amin, are only available during fasts - and Ramadan ended with Eid ul-Fitr last month. Barowitz colonizes the place: He went "native" and the chicken wasn't "exotically prepared" - as if that's prerequisite.

The halaal market also regularly serves spaghetti and Tang. Barowitz chews his hardest. Agreed, the goat meat's sometimes gnaw-the-bone-tough. Steaks can be stringy but the basmati rice with black peppercorns is rarely dry. More on Somali cooking via Alexander Lane.

The bottom line: A welcome review for overlooked cheap eats.

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Micro-Thanksgiving












Cranberry magnified 600X. Photo by Wired's Mike Davidson, via se.

Friday, November 16

Agenda

Greek Pastry and Bread Sale, held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday November 16 17, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Pleasant and Park, via PPH. Photo: John Ewing

Order a Mim's Brasserie gift certificate at Natasha's before November 25, when the Exchange Street restaurant closes via tF, and get an extra 10%, according to a sign posted there.

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Thursday, November 15

Farm Bill

Digital television, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, medical malpractice, protecting children from online predators and issuing drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants.

What's this got to do with food? It's all stalling the Farm Bill, via USAT.

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La Familia

“Oh shit!”

- The kitchen staff, overheard via TMS.

Week in Review, Nov. 15

A 20-year old cow had been credited with making $22,000 worth of milk (1), prices rose to close $5 a gallon for milk (2), and an unidentified passagenger lost cookies at the PWM baggage claim, causing an evacuation of the airport (3). A crew member on the Portland-based scallop dragger, Teresa Marie III, severed his hand (4).

Hunters sold "rattling bags," Bleat-in-Heat deer calls and T-shirts saying, "Vegetarian— an Old Indian Word for Poor Hunter" (5). "It appears the population is down drastically worldwide compared to what it once was," said an urchin expert. "There has been a gold-rush approach around the world." (6).

Police found Hitler's dinnerware during a pot bust (7), wild game was served (8) and a man lacked air-conditioning, a condition that prevented him from eating out at Ribollita in the summer (9). Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry's, said he might name an ice cream for Democratic hopeful John Edwards called "Captain Courageous Crunch" (10). Twenty-eight residents turned out for elections in Matinicus because of bad weather and the doughnuts (11).

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Wednesday, November 14

Natural v. conventional

What is "natural"?

7Up is natural. High Fructose Corn Syrup is natural. One scientist and policy wonk says, "The ‘natural’ thing has always been such a morass,” via CD.

So, what about all those things at Whole Food Markup labelled "conventional"?
Don't let anyone see you buying this, or you'll forever be associated with bridge games, Norman Rockwell paintings, and missionary-style sex in the minivan parked in the cul-de-sac, via McSweeneys IT.

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Oyster

A Geography of Oysters author Rowan Jacobsen comes to One Longfellow Square, Nov. 28 from 6 - 9 p.m. for a Slow Food benefit. $15. Local growers and a UMaine expert, Dana Morse, will speak too. Jacobsen, also a ghostwriter for The Viagra Alternative, recently spoke to NPR.

Hopefully, they'll discuss why November, December and January (and other months with the letter "R") were said to be the best time for oyster consumption. In a 1964 memo from the Fish and Wildlife Service, experts debunked this as myth. This year, the New York Times' Marian Burros took on the task in an April article.

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Tuesday, November 13

Locavore

From the Oxford University Press blog, via 3QD:

The 2007 Word of the Year is (drum-roll please) locavore.

"Locavore" was coined two years ago by a group of four women in San Francisco who proposed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. Other regional movements (including Maine) have emerged since then, though some groups refer to themselves as "localvores" rather than "locavores."

One runner-up: bacn, or email notifications that are slightly better than spam.

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Saturday, November 10

Portland Grocery Store

The bahn mi sandwich. Take two.

Portland Grocery Store, at 164 Cumberland Avenue, isn't cream of the crop. But they have $2 sandwiches, cans of Coke and kim chi. What else do you need? A phone card. They've got those, too. Pretty much the cheapest calls to Asia - and the cheapest lunch in town.

It comes at a cost. Some of the cha lua's on the chewy side. The white roll gets toasted. Sometimes that means the entire sandwich goes in the toaster, shredded carrots, cilantro and all.

The store, which has undergone some changes in management, seems to have cleaned out some of the grain moths. It still has a sharp edge. Smoking is permitted out back, possibly encouraged.

Inside, there's a table and a television next a half-empty pallet of Heinekens. A little inexplicable but not a bad sign altogether. Ditto the Vietnamese sandwiches.

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Friday, November 9

Fat Baxter's

The hilltop market with its penny-candy, beer, toothpaste and not-so-fat dog named Baxter, at 88 Congress, gets reviewed on eclectic decor and three lines about its prepared food:
Both sandwiches were very good, with fresh ingredients. The combination of apples, cheese and prosciutto in my sandwich was especially satisfying. The soup was also tasty, via PPH.

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Expensive beer

In case you missed a report a couple weeks ago, about the rising cost of hops and hence the rising cost of microbrews, the Press Herald rehashes the story today with Shipyard on draft, via PPH.

Thursday, November 8

Week in Review, Nov. 8

"Just because you've rolled horse manure in powdered sugar doesn't mean you have a doughnut," said a Farm Bill lobbyist (1). The replacement of trans fats in Oreos still fattened Americans (2) and the nation's bees travelled to California to pollinate almond groves (3). Cargill recalled beef at Hannaford (4) and a state board may reverse a ruling that permitted genetically modified corn (5).

Blueberry farms expanded (6), a procrastinator planted garlic (7), Lewiston's Three Olives Vodka sold for an undisclosed amout (8), and a brewer said, "I really like making beer" (9). Police released a lobsterman caught with child porn (10). Boston travellers discovered a Biddeford diner (11), diplomats found Maine urchins at a market in Japan (12) and Maine sportsmen wanted licenses for hunters from away (13).

Chefs studied water-soluble polymers and hydrocolloids (15). Marco Pierre White resents critics "who know less than he does about food" than he, Thomas Keller doesn't have time for bloggers, and a former Times food critic called himself a "necessary evil." (16).

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Wednesday, November 7

How to guide to turkey

1. Find a heritage breed turkey, via NE and PPH.

2. Go to Wal-Mart, buy a gun, take a nap, shoot some wild turkey, via Chowhound.

3. Do the same old thing year after year, via NYM.

4. Glom on someone else's feast, via Serious Eats.

5. There's urban chickens, via NPR. Next year, backyard turkeys?

Dan Ipock/NYT

The Frog and Turtle

Phoenix reviewer evokes Stephen J. Gould with a recent review of The Frog and Turtle, 3 Bridge Street in Westbrook, formerly Chicky's.
I was glad to see the fatty, bumpy, tender skin left on my duck. Skin more than anything else defined the original separation of amphibians like frogs and reptiles like turtles. Reptiles, with their thick, tough skin and hard-shelled eggs, first claimed a foothold for animals on dry land. Frogs, with tender skin in continual need of moisture, and their wet, delicate eggs, still have one foot tethered to the wet old world, via tP.
Nope, the new Uffa! doesn't serve frog legs or turtle soup. But, from the sound of things, the dissociative drug scene is thriving.

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Tuesday, November 6

Plywood

Good Eats Boutique, a cheese cakery and dessert bakery, plans to open November 11 at 463 Stevens Avenue, across from Siano's. Mary "Miss Pearl" is at the spatula.

Maine Brewing Supply recently started dealing yeast, hops and glass carboys at 542 Forest Avenue. Next door to the Great Lost Bear, the 540s on Forest Ave are the best place for beer in Portland.

Still no word on who's cooking what downstairs at the Empire Dine & Dance, planned to open within two weeks at 575 Congress Street. Jazz being booked upstairs.

Awful Annie's got a fresh coat of blue paint for JR D'alessandro's place, the less than snuggly Elbow Room at 159 Congress Street. Spring Street, which has been closed for renovations, will become flask lounge next year. At 29 Wharf Street, there may soon be a Passage to India.

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Milking it

The Feds say raw milk is bad. It contains bacteria. Last week, two California cheesemakers were arrested on felony cheesemaking changes for producing 375 lbs of bathtub cheeses, via SVBT.

In Maine, exporting raw milk is illegal and the sale of raw milk is prohibited in restaurants, via Mofga. New Federal rules may put a damper on fresh cheeses, banning raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days, via SFC.

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Root of all recall

The media makes food scary. Not so, says a report by the American Scientist.

The root of the recalls: More food outside the home. More centralized distribution. More human handling. More imported foods. And less bacteria. "Some scientists believe that the proliferation of antimicrobials and antibiotics is partly to blame."

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Monday, November 5

Public Market

"It will put Portland on the food map, and grow the awareness of local food." A new public market named for James Beard.

Not for Maine. For Portland, Ore.

But any new public markets will get some tough questions after the shuttered market here, via AP.

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North Star Cafe

In addition to reviews of sandwiches named for astrological signs, there's some ranking on the hippie rank at the North Star Cafe, 225 Congress Street, via Type A:

The smell of "human humidity" socked me in the face when I entered the restaurant. Even some ceiling fans might do the trick...just something to circulate the air.

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Brian Boru

A fruitfly that jumped ship, overcooked halibut, dry burgers, spoiled Shiraz. That's the winning combination for a 3-star rating at Brian Boru, 57 Center Street. Look out. Things are about to change.
"In the next year or so I definitely want to get rid of some of the more pub-like food and bring in some more of the upscale food. I'm trying to bring it back up," said the chef, via PPH.

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Sunday, November 4

Barred Rock














Photograph by Elizabeth Atterbury.

Farm bill

Michael Pollan weighs in on the Farm Bill:
Senator Tom Harkin said, “This is not just a farm bill. It’s a food bill, and Americans who eat want a stake in it.” Right now, that stake is looking more like a toothpick, via NYT.

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Saturday, November 3

Fall back

Daylight Savings reverts on Sunday. Why does "fall back" fall after Halloween? Big money chocolate makers, aka The Candy Lobby, via NYT.

Friday, November 2

Beans and sardines

Opening for Peter Buotte's plein-air watercolors of the Beach Cliff sardine factory in Prospect Harbor, Maine's last cannery. Buotte actually canned these paintings. drawing room gallery, State Theatre building, suite 532, Nov. 2 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Food along the art walk, via a somewhat user-unfriendly mashup. An earlier guide to art walk fodder, via tB.

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Thursday, November 1

Winter CSA

Winter's coming. The growing season is kaput, via PCS. Fewer vendors have been coming to the Farmers Markets, and the market will likely be finished by Thanksgiving.

But there's still a possible "Winter Share CSA" with weekly deliveries of rutabegas, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, kale, and bacon, via NE.

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Week in Review, Nov. 1

"There are 3.5 billion word of mouth conversation daily," said a marketer named Miracle, "and food is the number one discussion topic" (1). Five penny-candies sold for 17 cents at Fat Baxters (2), a barn fire killed cattle (4) and searchers failed to locate a lost Deer Isle lobsterman (5). Ailwife populations appeared to be ailing (6).

Costumed penguins and Smurfettes participating in a "trick-or-drink" outnumbered Lewiston police (7). "If the cracker is threatened, the troops will rally," said an islander who saved the Nabisco Pilot Cracker 10 years ago (8). Tomato greenhouses expanded (9) and a starch shortage might put a damper on plastics derived from potatoes (10). "I'm happy to be from Maine, but I'm a lot weirder than anybody else," said a Spamelot performer (10).

Whole Foods Market eyed a second location in Scarborough (11)."Indian food is like crack to me," said a Haggerty's reviewer (12) and another man, who was called "bro," related Freud, La Familia and mass murder (13). A vegan said the Green Elephant aims to tread lightly on the earth (14).

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