Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fresh Pasta & Crappy Mexican Food

I thought of writing a review of the new Taqueria in Portland, but had second thoughts. Mexican food is different here than in CA, so its not my place to judge. This is Maine, that is California.

In any case, "Taqueria" implies a no-frills low-budget place to get filling Mexican tacos, burritos, and other cheap food. I knew our new taqueria failed that score when my too-sweet margarita arrived with a blue plastic swordfish stuck in the drink. A true taqueria wouldn't even serve a margarita... only beer. My fish taco was,well, a little too sweet for my taste. It had a sweet dressed coleslaw inside. Eric and I shared a side of guacamole and chips. Fortunate for me there was a bottle of hot sauce on the table because everything was pretty bland to my California-raised taste buds. In fact when ordering at Thai restaurants I have to order a couple notches hotter than their hottest hot-scale number.
We just had to order a dessert described as "rice-crispy square with papitas and Cotija" (pumpkin seeds and sharp, crumbly goat cheese). It was a description just too bizarre to pass. This shared dessert was restaurant made with carmel instead of marshmallow and pumpkin seeds. They must have been out of cotija. It was really sweet, but not as bad tasting as it sounds.

Eric and I sat at a picnic table outside in cool breezy weather next to a chimeria with a crackling fire. It was kind of cozy and we could see just a sliver of the bay with sailboats appearing for seconds at a time.

The tab including tip for 2 drinks, 2 fish tacos, 1 chips & guac, 1 rice-crispy square = $40

I won't grade it, but my thoughts of what a"taqueria" should be doesn't match what I experienced.

A couple weekends ago I gave a pasta making demonstration for Carol, a friend of Michael's who has had this pasta machine for 35 years and never used it.

She was needing a refresher and I needed to regain my abilities making an egg noodle dough. Italian pasta can be made with or without eggs. I most often opt for the richer recipe.

There are just 2 tricks to pasta making... getting the dough the right consistency, and separating the strands to air dry before boiling.

We succeeded with the dough, but serving seven people, we needed a good pile of fettuccine and had no effective way of hanging the strands.
In the attempt to keep our batches from sticking together we laid them out with flour between layers. This worked only marginally well. We had clumps after cooking, but good enough nevertheless.

Our sauces were San Marzano tomato with kalamata olives and garden fresh pesto. Carol made a huge salad and the wine freely flowed.
It's such fun to cook with friends!
And thanks to Jim for grabbing the camera!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Casco Bay, Portland & Newport, RI

Casco Bay is the large bay that encompasses a long coastline and includes several, well a lot of islands. The port of Portland is part of this larger bay. One sunny Sunday morning recently I paddled along the city's coastline to see what I could see. Here is the rather unsightly hi-rise condo that has killer views over the bay.

One of the 50 or so cruise ships expected this year in port. This tiny one boasts being able to get into small, less touristed moorings.

Old pilings from a long ago burned down pier still stand sentinel beneath the Observatory built in 1807 to view the bay's horizon to hearken the arrival of ships in order to call workers to the docks to unload supplies and operate fish processing plants.

The Cat Ferry, a high-speed catamaran, services Nova Scotia several times a week transporting vehicles and passengers on a 5 hour crossing.

Labor Day in Newport was a pleasant get-away only 3 hours from Portland.

A co-worker asked me along and we stayed with her sister who lives just steps from the water. Small piers make it possible
to get out over the water.
A day at the beach was something I haven't done for a long, long time. The lifeguards were kept busy going after swimmers who ventured out too far. Newport itself was really packed with the last of the tourists of the season, but nevertheless enjoyable to see. When we toured the "mansions" up on the hill, I thought "big houses", but in reality, they really are mansions with grounds as large as parks and gardens to match. There were some very wealthy folks at the turn of the century from New York who found this area to be a suitable summer get away.