Saturday, November 19, 2011

New German Restaurant in Portland

Husband and wife duo Herr Herr and Steffi Shulte opened a new restaurant called Shulte & Herr at 349 Cumberland Ave.  It is a welcome addition to the upscale restaurant-rich, but European restaurant-poor city.
Serving breakfast and lunch they offer a nice variety  of authentic German cuisine.  The menu is not overly long which makes choosing easier and selections are explained so no prior experience with German is necessary.  Steffi waits tables and is at once your friend with exuberance for what she serves.  She even spent time with me thumbing through one of her favorite picture-laden cookbooks from the late 60's pointing out her favorite scenes.  Herr is the cook and bakes their own bread providing that extra touch of home cooking.

On my first visit I ordered the Bergmannkiez, named after a neighborhood in Berlin where Steffi is from.  The plate arrived with a colorful array of meats, cheeses, fruit and a homemade jam.  Immediately recognizable was Spanish Serrano ham and  chorrizo alongside a couple other cold cuts pared with a big slice of brie and parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  The plate was served with a  nice sized basket of breads and toast.  The coffee is strong and is the perfect accompaniment to the standout flavors of the plate.

The lunch menu offers traditional German bratwurst, sauerkraut, beer-braised beef and gulash.  Also on the lunch menu (I haven't tried lunch yet) is sauteed spaetzle, a type of egg noodle with caramelized onions, emmentaler cheese and chives.

The potato pancakes I ordered this morning were cooked to golden brown served with house-cured lox, horseradish sauce, capers and cornichon pickle.  I particularly like that the breakfast is not so protein-heavy as American breakfasts so often are.  To my surprise I even had room (barely) for a portion of apple strudel.  I scooped the added whipped cream into my coffee and enjoyed the combo while pursuing one of the German cookbooks available to patrons on a shelf.

The cozy atmosphere has only 7 tables which gives a feel of intimacy and Steffi has placed framed photographs of her childhood on the walls, one of which is of her mother as a child. Dishes range in price from $5 to $12 and if you have room for dessert, you may regret it, but you will leave well satisfied.

Breakfast and lunch at Shulte & Herr is served Tuesday through Saturday from 8 AM to 3 PM and brunch on Sundays during the same hours.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

White Halloween sung by Bing Crosby

What, you don't know that song?

I'm dreaming of a white Halloween
Just like the ones I've never known
Where the treetops glisten,
and children listen
To the trees breaking in the snow 

Trees haven't even lost their leaves yet, so the snow gets trapped in them and weighs them down breaking branches causing all sorts of havoc, like downed power lines.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Titanium Years

Who was it that said these are the Golden Years?  Just last week I went in for a minimially-invasive total anterior hip replacement and returned home with new body parts that are better than the old ones.   Hip replacements have become a ubiquitous topic these days with the emphasis on fast recovery.  The incision for this type of surgery looks a little like a slash pocket which is supposed to be over a "V" shaped void between two muscles which means the surgeon just pushes these muscles aside to get at the joint instead of having to cut through them.  Therein lies the speedy recovery.

My case is so similar to others it is hardly worth the discussion, but the experience of new things is what this blog is about, so on that criteria alone, it qualifies.  I've experienced hardly any pain or anxiety due mainly to the heavy drugs that ease pain and instill a general careless attitude.  The overnight stay in the hospital was a near Spa experience due to the friendliness and attentiveness of all staff and a private room.  I understand that hip replacements are a big money maker for hospitals and this one has it's own "Joint Replacement Center".  I even had a pneumatic leg messager that provided soothing (anti-blood clot) motion up and down both legs day and night.  The protocol is to use a walker for a week or so, then switch to a cane for a couple more weeks.  Back to work in two weeks is normal.

If you are wondering what or who decides when you need a replacement, the answer can be summed up as a team decision between you and your doctor.  My doctor never said "it's time", he only gave me information about my x-rays and the state of the joint from a clinical view.  I was the one who finally said "it's time" to him when I began not to want to walk downtown, ride my bike, and make audible pain sounds when first getting up from sitting.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Portland Jetport behind the scenes

Portland Jetport (PWM) had an open house for the newly constructed terminal addition yesterday.  The expansive check in counters will house Jet Blue and Delta until February when all airlines serving Portland will use the new 140,000 square foot facility.

One of the special features of the expansion is the geothermal heating and cooling system that employs over five miles of underground deep-well piping to bring constant temperature circulating water to sub-floor cooling in summer and heating in winter.  The combination of sustainable construction allows for application to the LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) council for "gold" status.

A couple more elements that caught my attention  were the easily accessible connection centers for power and electronics charging right at the departure seating.  In the bathrooms I noticed the Dyson -think vacuum cleaners- hand driers that produce a strong "blade" of air that actually forces the water from your hands like a scraper.  I first experienced these in Europe and they are fast and efficient.

What I didn't expect was a behind-the-scenes tour of the baggage system that the public normally never gets to see.  Baggage transits a maze of conveyor belts after going through huge x-ray machines where each piece is scanned in "slices" like a Cat Scan where TSA agents monitor contents for suspicious items.  If something is suspect, the bag is automatically ejected from the conveyor and directed to an inspection area where agents open and inspect the bag visually.  Only about 3 percent of bags are flagged for visual inspection.  Further along the line scanners read the destination baggage tags and direct each bag to the correct plane loading area. 

County Fair

Couldn't stay away from the Cumberland County Fair again this year.  It's a rather small one even though Cumberland County has the largest "city" in Maine (Portland).

Of course the lights and action of the midway are a draw, but so is the greasy food!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cheeky Squirrel Attack

My next door neighbor Seth was yelling "Daniel, Daniel, come look".  "There's a squirrel in your car!"  It was Sunday morning and I had parked the car on Friday after work with the back windows cracked maybe 2 inches as I often do to let the heat out.  Indeed there "he" was gnawing and scratching at the window trying to get out.  Looking at the damage done, I would guess he was locked in there since Friday evening.  Besides the damage seen here in the pictures of the arm rest and headliner, there are gnaw marks on each of the defroster vents and hard plastic areas around the windshield.  I do not have a picture of the beast since when I opened the doors he was just a grey streak and anyway, you know what a grey squirrel looks like.

He pulled tissues out of the holder and tore them into little squares. He read a magazine in the back seat, then shredded it into long strips.  He opened my coin tray but decided that quarters would be too heavy to deal with.  Like rats, squirrels poop anywhere (and they look like rat poops) and pee with abandon.  I had to vacuum the car and wipe down the peed-on areas to quell the rat cage smell.

Today I've disassembled the door panel to see if I can have an upholster shop repair the arm rest.  The head liner I've just tucked back into itself... good enough.

Moral:  Keep your windows up if squirrels live in your neighborhood.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Croquet on the Prom

The lazy days of summer found me on the Western Promenade with friends recently playing the Victorian game of croquet on a long stretch of lawn in front of a row of Victorian houses.  The Western Prom is a neighborhood park along a precipice overlooking the Fore River Estuary and the Portland airport and off toward the west.

We played several games and walkers along the sidewalk stopped to watch and comment.  It is a nice way to be out on a summer day in the neighborhood.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Last of the Blueberries

I was fortunate to arrive at the blueberry stand to find today will be the last day of sales.  Not realizing the season was ending, I've put off buying my years supply to freeze for many weeks.  It is actually someone's garage posing as a road-side stand where a huge walk-in refrigerator keeps the boxes of picked blueberries fresh.  Hey, its Maine and we specialize in blueberries.  How can you go wrong at $2.25 per pound?

It is somewhat of a task to pick out the stems and leaves, but easy enough if you spread them out on a baking sheet a little at a time and rake through with your fingers.  No need to freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet so they won't stick together.  If they are relatively dry, just bag them in gallon zip-lock freezer bags and freeze.

I bought 20 pounds this year and have two gallons in the freezer, made a pie and six baby pies, and still have about 4 more pounds to clean and freeze.  I want to publicly thank whomever invented self-cleaning ovens.

Don't let anyone tell you pie is not good for breakfast!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Island Party

This weekend I was invited to an island party in Downeast Maine.  My next door neighbor Seth is the grandson of Robert McCloskey who wrote several children's books which are quite well known in New England.  Seth attended Maine Maritime Academy and was having a gathering of friends from school.  His family owns Scott Island, a small private island off the coast of Deer Isle.

How nice it is to relax at an island getaway where the world can't get to you.  Seth's mom, Sal was a wonderful hostess and everybody pitched in to help with food preparation not the least of which was beach steaming 30 lobsters and brined grilled corn-on-the-cob.

One gets a good idea of how much forest land there is in Maine on a 3 hour trip north of Portland..... and there is another 3 hours driving on up to Nova Scotia!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fireworks over Casco Bay

It was estimated that "tens of thousands" attended the annual 4th of July fireworks show last evening.  There was a comedian doing stand up and the Portland Symphony Orchestra before hand.  The symphony also played to a programmed display, but I couldn't hear it from my vantage point.

Since I abhor crowds I've never attended until this year.  My spot in the scene was away from the central crowd gathered on Eastern Prominade at a little strip of grass sourrounding the back cove.  There were people there too, but not a big crowd.  I spread out a plastic tarp (there was a thunder shower at 4 PM) and a blanket on top of that.  I brought a picknic of KFC and a magazine to read before the show.

It was the most interesting fireworks show I've ever seen because of the fog.  As the first showy explosions went aloft, you could see the tails of the rockets disapear into the fog.  They would explode and just to top half was visible.  Within just a couple more explosions, the fog dissapated as if the heat of the fireworks was melting away the moisture of the fog.  It happend again midway through the show, but this time the streamers went up, disapeared in the fog, then shot out above the fog layer to explode. 

The City abandoned the fireworks display for lack of funds, but several city businesses have taken up the cause and shown that private business supports our fair city.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sounds of Summer

Now that the weather has warmed enough to keep my bedroom window open, I once again enjoy the early morning sounds of a city that travels.

The first thing I hear, since I am an early riser, is the Amtrak Downeaster's horn when pulling out of the Portland Station at 5:45 AM heading for Boston.  It is a convenient way to get to Boston if you don't need or want to drive.  With five departures daily you can easily do a round trip in a day.

Shortly after the train leaves, the Casco Bay Ferry boat departs the ferry terminal going to Peaks Island. It is a distinctive whistle blow of longs and shorts that only mariners would know as "departing".  Lots of folks live on Peaks and the other 5 islands the ferry services, so there is always activity at the ferry dock. Islanders come to Portland to work, play, and buy groceries which the stores deliver directly to the dock.  The ferry takes cars and passengers and has a special "deflector" on its hull that pushes all the lobster trap buoys out of the way as it runs right over them!

Finally at 6:00 AM the first plane rushes off from Portland Jetport to far off places.  Since the Jetport is actually in the city no flights are allowed until 6:00, so hearing the first jet of the morning is a gentle alarm that is always spot on time.

I love the sounds of travel because they remind me that one day soon I'll be hearing them while actually in the plane, train, or ferry going my own way.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The 15 Minute Celeb

Dear Readers,

My recipe for chiles rellenos appears this month (June 2011) in Cooking Light magazine.  The website lists only the recipe while the magazine article is a 3-page spread.

It was a fun process submitting my recipe.  They asked for a short bio and a picture.  The editing was done tastefully (pun intended), and we worked together to tweak the recipe to better suit the magazine's readers.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cheap Eats #3, Asmara

Experience the Tastes and Customs of Eritrea in Portland, Maine

Your host at Asmara first brings warm, lemon scented wet towels on a decorated tray to wash your hands before your meal. Eritrean food is eaten with your hands and fingers (no silverware).  The meal is carried to the table on a large, colorful mosob, and served on injera, a flat, unleavened, spongy bread made from teff flour. Pull off a piece of injera and scoop the food, rolling it up almost tortilla style. My dining companion, Iris, ordered chicken in yellow curry sauce, and birsen, a red lentil stew which was mild on the spice scale, but very tasty.  I had a savory lamb stew in spicy sauce with turmeric and garlic with a side of tsebi hamli, which are stewed collard greens.

A standard meal rings in at $13 which, while not "cheap", is a viable alternative to the heavily advertised restaurants in town. Asmara, named after the capital of Eritrea, has no website.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cheap Eats #2

Becky's Diner is an institution here in Portland, Maine. In the Diner's 20 year history she has undergone several facelifts and remodelings and this summer hosted Guy Fieri for a filming of his Food Network show "Guy's Big Bites".

I went down to the waterfront this morning at 5:30 to see who'd be there eating before going out lobstering. Waitresses greeted all comers by name and chatted about the day's planned activities.  It's a sort of community coffee club kind of place.  If you had the time or inclination to drop in often, you'd become one of the regulars.  One waitress remarked that "Old Sam" had missed 2 days in a row of coming in and asked if someone would go and check on him.

My breakfast of French toast, link sausage, and coffee cost $11.36, not particularly cheap, but the friendly down home atmosphere must be worth something.  If you don't go early on a Saturday or Sunday,  morning there will be a wait.  She is very popular.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cheap Eats in Portland Number 1

Here's the question: Does a cafeteria qualify as belonging in the category of  "Cheap Eats in Portland"?  I say it does for a couple reasons. First, cafeterias are often cheap and provide decent but not gourmet food and second, this is my blog and.......

My first entry is the cafeteria at Maine Medical Center, which you may now be saying to yourself eeuw, that's creepy.  But why is the idea of eating at a hospital cafeteria any more creepy than any other cafeteria?  Perhaps there are sick people upstairs, but the hospital "cafe" is for the visitors, not the patients.  You won't be sitting next to someone with oosing sores or coughing tuberculosis spores into the mashed potatoes.

Anyway, my plate of orange chicken with fried rice and a salad-by-weight only cost $7.  Beat that!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cheap Restaurnats in Portland, Maine

It is often quoted that Portland has more restaurants per capata than any other city except perhaps New York.  On a recent web count there were 89 restaurants listed in Portland alone, not including nearby burbs.  Seems like a lot for a "city" of 65,000 doesn't it?

Of that list only three had menus for under $15.  Now that seems out of whack to me.  With this many restaurants, there have to be more cheap eats than that.  And as it turns out, there are.  The "list" only identifies establishments with web sites, so there may be an equal number of chow houses that are run by mom-and-pops, immigrants, or low budget/low overhead joints that serve good food at low prices.

With the urging of my friend Michael, my quest is to identify and quantify as many of these "under-the-radar", lost, or forgotten little gems as possible in a city that exalts the big guys and lets the rest flounder in obscurity.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

House Votes to Make Whoopie Pie State "Treat"

AUGUSTA — The Maine House approved  the whoopie pie as the state "treat" today while giving a nod to the state's blueberry industry by making the blueberry pie the state's official "dessert."

The measure was approved 107-34 but required a second reading before going to the Senate for consideration.

If you've been following Maine politics lately, this is a welcome reprieve from reporting guffaws by our newly elected Governor.  Unfortunately, taxpayers are paying politicians to spend time deciding about state treats and desserts.

In a game of one-upmanship in the whoopie pie debate, a Maine radio station is teaming up with a whoopie pie maker to create a 500-pound-plus version of the chocolate cakes stuffed with creamy frosting with the sole aim of outdoing Pennsylvania's 250-pound confection.

Sorry, folks.  I won't be going to the mall on Saturday to cover this event.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Potholes on Mine Roads

Massive pothole leads to accidents on I-95

One vehicle flips, two collide, five are damaged and traffic backs up for three miles near Augusta.

Several vehicles were damaged but no one was seriously hurt Friday in a multi-vehicle accident caused by a 15-foot-long pothole in a southbound lane of Interstate 95.  One person was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. At least five vehicles were damaged. Two other SUVs collided, and the pothole caused flat tires and damage on at least two other vehicles.

Along with the glee we in Maine exhibit when the winter snows start to melt come other problems..... potholes and the "mud season".  While cold winter snow and ice keep our roads intact, but still not smooth, the minute the ice melts we get potholes.  They start with just a crumble or two of asphalt coming loose from the roadway.  Because of frequent resurfacing, it seems the new top layer doesn't stick to the original roadbed, so that once it starts to deteriorate, the process happens very fast. When roads are not resurfaced, the potholes are simply filled which also doesn't stick to the underlayment and often crumbles apart during the summer.

I have been avoiding these potholes going to and from work for several weeks and it becomes second nature to either hug the centerline or drift over to the right where I know by heart the bad spots are.  It's an expensive and dangerous problem.  This year when I had my mandatory yearly vehicle inspection, I had to replace a ball joint in the front steering.  We just chalk it up to another inconvenience in payment for the grandest summers in the land.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How Do You Find the Lowest Airfare?

People often ask "what airfare search engine do you use to find the best deals"?  My answer is "Ugh, I hate searching airfares because no one site lists them all".  This has never been truer than now since airlines are starting to pull their agreements with our familiar search engines like Orbitz, Expedia,, and others.  The issue is that these booking sites charge the airlines for listing their prices and airlines would prefer customers to visit their own website to book.

It's not a huge issue for me since I have my own procedure for searching airfares that does not involve booking with the discount websites.  I have been burned by Expedia when I bought a ticket to Europe and when I got to LAX, the ticket agent informed me that in the time since I booked the flight an extra leg had been added to the itinerary and my ticket did not include the extra leg.  Bottom line I was denied boarding and phoning Expedia and American only resulting in both saying it was the other's fault.  It made my arrival in Athens a day late where I was to pick up tickets and meet clients and escort them through Greece and Turkey.  My friend Bob had a similar problem with Travelocity when the airline and booking site both claimed it was the other's fault.

Here is what I do:  I use the discount sites to get an idea of what prices should be and what airlines fly the route I need, then I go directly to the airline's websites to search for lowest fares depending on day and time of travel.  Sometimes I go to my arrival city airport website to see what airlines serve that city.  Then I start narrowing down by number of stops, time of day, type of equipment used, etc.  This is all very time consuming, but I have much more control over the process than booking with a travel agent or an on-line discount site.  Travel agents are valuable allies and the ultimate time savers who do much of the work I've just mentioned, but you are not guaranteed the rock-bottom lowest price..... they only have so much time to invest making bookings that yield them just a few dollars commission.

If you have a good relationship with a travel agent and your bottom line is price, they can book through a consolidator (also known as "bucket shop") that are not available to individuals.  These companies buy blocks of seats far in advance for a discount, then are able to sell them at lower prices.  You'll pay an agent service charge of around $25, but your flight (major cities only) will be about the cheapest you'll find.

So to boil this down, your airfare price will largely depend on how much time and energy you put into the search.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Montreal in Winter

I will be making a quick weekend visit to Montreal over the Martin Luther King Weekend with a couple friends.  It's about a 5 1/2 hour drive from Portland, so it should be a nice little getaway from cold to colder!  Average temp in January there is 13 degrees.  If that's too cold for you consider this:

Did you know that Montreal has second city right underneath it? Underground City (also called La Ville Souterrain or RESO) is a huge complex of connecting shops, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, museums and much, much more.
1. With more than 19 miles (30 km) of tunnels throughout a twelve square kilometer (4.6 sq mi) area of downtown, Montreal’s Underground City is the largest underground complex in the world.

2. Underground City links and contains more than 200 restaurants, 1700 shops and 30 movie theaters. There is more to see and do here that can be achieved in one day!

3. It is easily accessible from just about anywhere in the city. It is connected to 10 metro stations and there are more than 120 exterior entrances.

4. It connects with many great tourist attractions like Old Montreal and Olympic Park

5. With more than 500,000 (this must be for summer) visitors a day, Underground City is a great place to people watch.

6. There are great photo opportunities around every corner.

Photo of an Underground City Pedestrian Tunnel, Montreal Canada © Paul Lowry
7. Because of its location, Underground City is a great place to explore in any kind of weather.