Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Spritz Cookies & Happy Halloween!

This past weekend we tried a new Spritz Cookie recipe. It's from The Perfect Cookie. We had a few problems with these cookies, as you can see below:
The recipe said to use parchment paper. But when SP used the cookie press, the dough wouldn't stick to the parchment. So then he tried the silpats, and like our other spritz cookie recipe, the dough wouldn't stick on the silpats. So he decided to press out the cookies directly onto a cookie sheet. But he didn't use a non-stick cookie sheet. After the first batch cooled 10-15 minutes on the cookie sheet, as the recipe instructs, we tried to transfer them onto the wire cooling rack but they were stuck to the cookie sheet. Nearly every cookie broke as we tried to remove them.

Meanwhile, the second batch was in the oven, also on a non-stick cookie sheet. I didn't let those ones cool on the cookie sheet 10-15 minutes. I took them off right away and had success.

Then there was the third batch:
See the dark cookies? Those are from the third batch. The batch that was pressed directly onto a dark, non-stick cookie sheet. We were so annoyed with cookie failure that we forgot that cookies bake differently on dark, non-stick pans than light, not non-stick pans and we left them in a bit too long. They got very brown:
The surprising thing is, the dark brown cookies are really tasty. The second batch is quite tasty, too. The first batch crumbles are pretty good for just crumbs. This is a really tasty recipe, we just need to figure out the best pans to use and the best cooking time. On the light metal sheets, the cookies baked 4-5 minutes longer than the recipe suggests and did not brown nearly as much as the dark pan cookies. But those dark brown ones - those are the ones we're fighting over!

We'll definitely make them again. Probably at Christmas.

Recipe here.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sip of Europe

We spent one full day in Portland, ME which means we had only one lunch restaurant to choose but since we walked everywhere, it was decided by location. Happily, this little gem was on our walk from the Narrow Gauge Railroad to the Observatory: Sip of Europe. It's run by Yulia who is from Russia. She serves coffees and teas and crepes.

When we arrived, we took our time studying the menu and then ordered at the counter and found a table. Yulia brought over the above pictured treats: zephyr (or zefir/zephir). She told us it was a cross between a marshmallow & a meringue. That's exactly what it tasted like when we tried them. One second you're thinking, mmm, marshmallow, the next you're thinking, no, mmm, it's meringue. They were berry flavored and yummy.
Soon our crepes arrived. I ordered ham, mozzarella, and mustard while SP chose one with tomato, pepper, olives, arugula, spinach, pesto.
They were very tasty. I loved that mine had mustard seeds in it:
It was lunchtime and the crepes filled us up so we didn't try any sweet crepes, which I would have liked to do. The iced tea we had was very good iced tea.

We both really liked Sip of Europe and enjoyed talking with Yulia. She's a very nice person. We'd definitely go back and we wish Yulia well (I think Sip of Europe has been open for about 1.5 years).

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Suddenly it feels like fall. Last Sunday/Monday I was barefoot in the house. Now I have my feet tucked in socks and slippers and my toes are still cold. I'm drinking a lot more tea just to try to warm my hands. Last night the low was around 35. When we washed the sheets, we put the electric blanket on the bed and I used it last night. I already miss summer.

Mailbox update: several days after SP put up the new one, it was tipped forward. ? Great. A couple days later, it was tipped backwards. ? We later found out it was tipped back by a neighbor who saw that when it was tipped forward, it opened and our mail was on the ground, about to fly around the neighborhood. Great. So this past weekend SP had to re-do the mailbox. I hope it's fixed this time.

What We're Eating:

  • Grilled lamb kebabs, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, roasted tomatoes, and rice
  • Spinach-bacon-chicken pizza from Pizza Milano
  • Dessert: Eat'n Park Halloween cookies

What We're Watching:

  • Last weekend we watched The Mummy, just to see if it was really as bad as the critics said. Yes, it was. It was worse than they said. I give it 0 stars. 
  • I watched Patriot's Day. It was a pretty good movie, and made me cry, of course. Stupid terrorists.
  • TV is the usual. The only thing that stands out is the end of This Is Us and once again, I didn't cry. That's 2 weeks in a row of not getting teary while watching This Is Us.

What I'm Reading:

  • I read Bad Little Falls and am anxious to request books #4 & #5 but I need to read the other 2 books I have first.
  • I finished the recent food magazines, all about Thanksgiving. I've never been a big Thanksgiving meal person. The only 2 things I really like/look forward to are my grandma's stuffing and apple pie. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Black Cherry & Chocolate Linzer Cookies

I love my grandma's Linzer Cookie recipe (or, as she called them, Ischl Tartlets). I've been making grandma's ischl tartlets since I was 13 or 14 years old. SP & I usually we make them every Halloween and Christmas. But this year for Halloween, we tried a new linzer recipe from The Perfect CookieBlack Cherry & Chocolate Linzer Cookies.
These are a little more work since you put chocolate and preserves between the cookies. SP was in charge of rolling and cutting out the cookies. I baked, cooled, and then assembled them.
Lightly browned solid bottoms, lined up and ready for step one:
Melt chocolate and spread on the bottom cookies. Let the chocolate set before proceeding. It seemed to be taking a while for the chocolate to set. I didn't want chocolate oozing off the cookies or a chocolate-preserves mess, so I put the chocolate topped cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to set the chocolate.
The recipe doesn't say to heat the cherry preserves like my grandma's recipe says to heat the raspberry preserves. We did anyway. I find it makes it easier to spread the preserves if they're warmed a bit.
After spreading on the preserves, top with cookies with cutout middle. I sprinkled the finished cookies with powdered sugar before layering them between sheets of parchment paper in a cookie container. We kept the container in the refrigerator since it was a pretty warm week and would get out the cookies we wanted for dessert when we sat down for dinner. That way they had a good 1-2 hours to warm up.
These are really good. The cookies have a hint of cinnamon which goes nicely with the chocolate & cherry flavors. They kept for 6 days in our refrigerator.
These cookies are totally worth the effort. They are a definite make again.

Recipe here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Scales Restaurant

Our second, and last, dinner in Portland, ME was at Scales. It was within walking distance of the hotel, accessible, along the water, and we were able to get a reservation.
Our table wasn't ready when we arrived, so we waited in this area, near the large scale.
And near potential dinner. Lots of fish and lobster on ice/in tanks, waiting to be chosen.
The main dining area has huge windows that let in a lot of light. Sadly, we we were not seated in this area but instead up a few stairs in the bar area. I was a little sad because I would have preferred being near a bright window with a view of boats/water to in a bar area against a half wall blocking my view of the windows and main dining area.
Beverages: wine, a chardonnay for me and rose for SP.
Here's what we ate:
This is not on the online menu so I have to try to remember what it was. It's been over a month since our trip so my memories/details are a little fuzzy. I think it was heirloom tomatoes with feta (? goat cheese?) and herbs (basil? mint?). I remember it being really tasty.
When we were there, I think this was a special - ? Online it is Smoked Bluefish Paté (pine nuts, olives, capers, green garlic, toast). I think that description is a little different than what we had because I would not have ordered it if I had known it contained green garlic. I am not much of a fish person, but I do really like smoked bluefish pate ever since I first tried it years ago at the Grand Concourse. This was yummy.
We also shared Crab Fritters (peekytoe crab, tartar sauce, radishes). Yum. Crispy exterior, crabby, creamy interior, tangy sauce.
A hint to our dinners.
For the first time ever, I ordered a whole lobster for dinner. Steamed Maine Lobster (cornbread, coleslaw, drawn butter).
SP ordered the same. I was intimidated. But SP is a good husband. He cracked my lobster for me and fished out all the meat then did the same for his lobster. For his troubles, I gave him my cornbread, which he loves.
The lobsters were yummy. I'm not sure I'd order a whole lobster again. It's a lot of work, and messy (for SP!). Sadly, Scales didn't have a lazy man's lobster kind of dish, which is what I ordered on my previous trips to Maine.
Surprisingly, we had room to share a chocolate dessert. I have no idea what it was, no memory at all, other than not a brownie and not a lava cake. It was tasty and just the right size for what we wanted.
We also both ordered coffee.

We both liked Scales a lot. Everyone was friendly and helpful from the hostess/greeters to our server to people who cleared plates/brought food. Our server was terrific and took time to answer my questions. The food was yummy. We'd go back.

Scales Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, October 23, 2017

Butcher and the Rye

The new season of Broadway shows started this past week and for show #1's dinner, we decided to go to Butcher and the Rye. Despite saying it is one of our favorite places, we realized we had not been there in 14 months. We were surprised, but after thinking a bit, we remembered that the last time we were there, we were a little disappointed. The Brussels weren't as good as usual, the Sunday gravy didn't seem to have much lamb in it, the cauliflower was a little too crunchy (which meant when I speared a floret, it didn't spear and instead shot off my plate in all its fiery orange-red harissa glory onto my cream colored blouse), and all of our small plates arrived within 5 minutes of each other which was overwhelming. We were in & out in 45 minutes that time.

I am happy to say that this visit was a much better experience. Our server paced the arrival of our many small plates and they were again so yummy that we ate way too much, waddled home, collapsed on the couch in a food coma, and fell asleep.

Drinks (pictured above): I started with Rosé All Day (Belvedere vodka, rose, strawberry, lemon, sparkling rosé) and SP had a Dancing Mushroom, which was on the cocktail specials list. It was a rye bourbon, I think, and I think the rim had tiny bits of dried mushroom on it. My rosé drink was so darn good. It'd be way too easy to drink 4-5 of them!

Here's what we ate:
Crispy Octopus Special, with fried chickpeas and other stuff I forget but oh my gosh I am a huge fan of fried chickpeas these days.
Why do Brussels never photograph as anything other than black blobs? Brussels (brown butter, dill, parmigiano reggiano, preserved lemon aioli). So. Good. Crispy. Dilly. Lemony.
As if I'd not order the Hand Pulled Burrata (plums, watercress, extra virgin olive oil, vincotto, pine nuts). Cool, creamy cheese.
Crispy Pig Wing (Thai chili sauce, pickled mango salad, peanuts, cilantro). Such tender, delicious piggy. Oink.
Time for more cocktails! Kentucky Tea Party Punch (Jim Beam Double Oak, Pimms No. 1, Orange Pekoe Tea, Lemon, Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters)  for me and Glasgow Shandy (Auchentoshan American Oak, Apricot, Lemon, Sage, Full Pint White Lightning) for SP.
Cauliflower (roasted farro grain, romanesco, baby carrots, pine nuts, brown butter, harissa yogurt). Oh this is so good. This is one we fight over it's so good. We attack with gusto and scrape the plate clean. And this time, no florets shot onto my shirt.
Mac N Cheese (taleggio, fontina, goat cheese, cheddar, parmesan). Look at those golden bread crumbs on top. OK, yes, I had a huge bowl of mac & cheese last weekend that gave me 3-4 lunches last week and yes, we ate pasta and meatballs for 4 dinners the week before that and yes, there I was, ordering more mac & cheese. But it's so creamy, and this blend of cheese is so good.
Sunday Gravy (tomatoes, lamb neck, olive oil, ricotta, warm country bread). One of my favorite dishes ever. Love the grilled bread. Love the lamb in red sauce. And this time, lots of lamb and lots of cheese in that bowl.
Pasta is filling and we wanted dessert, so we brought a little more than half the mac n cheese home, and a generous spoonful of the lamb. That way, we could enjoy Apple Fritters with maple ice cream. I don't remember the rest of the description. I just remember apple fritter goodness and ice cream that was smooth with a lovely, not overwhelming maple flavor.

I am shocked and a little horrified at how much food I ate! But it was all so good. The cocktails, too. Butcher and the Rye is one of a very few places I'll order a cocktail because they are so well executed. To me, a lot of places serve overly sweet or too weak/too strong cocktails. Butcher and the Rye gets them just right. Our server was great, too. I was surprised to see we were there 2 hours but that's because he did a great job of pacing all our small plates. I'm looking forward to our next visit.

Butcher and the Rye Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Holy Donut

Portland, OR has Voodoo Doughnuts. Portland, ME has The Holy Donut. Of course we had to check out The Holy Donut when we were there.
We first wandered past at night, when it was closed, so we weren't able to actually see donuts. Or eat them. But we knew exactly where to find them.
The next morning, SP went to get our donuts. These donuts are potato donuts. According to their site,"Adding mashed potatoes gives the donuts a delicious moist texture that makes them just melt in your mouth." We were intrigued. I don't think we'd ever tried potato donuts.
Look at all the donuts. So may donuts. Supposedly something like 20 flavors are available at the start of each day.
Of course SP went a little overboard. Six donuts for the two of us. Our flavors: old fashioned, cinnamon sugar, Maine apple, Allen's Coffee Brandy, maple, fresh lemon.
I tried the lemon one first and it was so tasty. Lemony and a delicious moist texture, as promised. My other favorites were apple and coffee brandy. It took us 2-3 days, but we ate all the donuts. Definitely worth the calories, sugar, and cost. I wish we'd had a little more time in Portland for more Holy Donuts.

The Holy Donut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato