food

Food For Thought

So I know this is supposed to be a food blog, but I’m sure you’re all stuffed from this holiday weekend! So instead of feeding your tummies I thought I’d feed your minds with some steaming, hot insight.

This summer is a pretty big one for me, marking some big mile stones, anniversaries, and lasts! It’s been 2 years since I graduated high school, I’m half way through my college education (already yeesh), it’s my last summer living at home with my parents, and the summer before I leave to study abroad in Florence, Italy for a year. All of this has got me feeling a little nostalgic and a lot anxious and nervous for what the future may hold. These feelings have pushed me to take this summer as a chance to adventure, explore, and take advantage of every opportunity that peaks my interest (and that I can afford on my college, part-time retail job budget). I’ve hiked new trails, fell in love with a city, done stand up paddleboard yoga, gone to some amazing concerts, and have even set the date for tattoo number 2!

I’ve also gotten the opportunity to catch up with some friends who really put into perspective for me how much can be achieved if you have enough desire, drive, and passion. All it really takes is going out there and working for what you want. It may take long hours, dedication, and some times a little hustling. But to get to a place doing something you enjoy, and enjoying the life you live it will all seem worth it. I am starting to learn that it may not be the “American Dream” equivalent to whatever industry you’re in, but it is achievable and there are so many opportunities to have fun along the way, so why not make the most of it?

For everyone out there who has no clue what they want to do with the rest of their lives, or for the people who thought they knew but were totally wrong (which is okay! It means you’re a living, breathing person…not a mindless robot!) trust your instincts and go after what you’re passionate about. Leave no rock unturned or question un-asked, and always try the food without smelling it first!

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Portland, ME for Foodies

Since moving back to New Hampshire for the summer I’ve been itching to get back to that urban atmosphere, so when I saw the kickass forecast for the past few days I knew it was the perfect opportunity to give that itch a good ol’ scratch. Said itch was scratched by the amazing city of Portland, Maine. Now, most people outside of the New England area hear Maine and think moose, snow, and “that’s pretty much Canada isn’t it?”. Well, to those people I say you are doing yourself a huge injustice by missing out on all this great state has to offer, but I also say more for the people who recognize its awesomeness. Portland is about a 45 minutes drive from the ME/NH border and is nestled onto a peninsula along Casco Bay. Portland has always been a popular summertime tourist attraction due to its great ocean views and activities, however in the last 10 years or so the city has really come into its own and become a budding cultural epicenter (and possibly home of the original hipster, but don’t tell Brooklyn or Portland, OR). Unique shops and restaurants began popping up on every corner and started to fill up every block. They even have their very own Urban Outfitters (the true stamp of a trendy city, HA HA HA). But let me get onto what I know you all came here for, THE FOOD!

First off there is such a variety offered from your staple seafood joints, to Indian, to organic/ Farm to Table, and American fusion style cafés. I had the pleasure of spending 2 whole days wondering the city while visiting some friends, and I can honestly say almost every little neighbor has its own handful of exciting edibles. I unintentionally ended up eating my way through Portland tasting a plethora of iced coffees, soup (Kamasouptra), freshly made smoothies (Maine Squeeze), pizza, cakes, doughnuts, gelato, and a pretty impressive breakfast sandwich (Mister Bagel). Portland is also the perfect size in which you can walk practically anywhere, but as a result of my constant walking (and Portland’s variety of elevation) I didn’t get the chance to photograph everything I ate! Peep what I was able to capture on camera before I so gracefully stuffed it into my face, below.

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Honey Baby Latte- Local Sprouts Co-Op

The Honey Baby Latte from Local Sprouts Co-Op on Congress St, is the perfect marriage of aromatic, nutty coffee and cinnamon, nutmeg, and local/organic honey. For someone with a killer sweet tooth ,like myself, this drink was the perfect balance of sweet and bitter. I got it iced because, well it’s Portland in the summertime, and it was amazingly refreshing!

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Vena’s Fizz House

This is actually the one spot I regret not ordering from before I left, but let me tell you I WILL be back! Vena’s Fizz House on Fore Street, is a super-innovative mixology shop & soda fountain that pumps out both alcoholic and non, uniquely flavored beverages. The retail section also has probably one of the widest varieties of cocktail fixings, paraphernalia, and mixes outside of a kitchen supply store. My favorite item is stored in the back inside a large, opened up china/buffet cabinet. These beauties are called Infusion Kits, and are mason jars filled with dried fruits, herbs, and spices that come with a recipe simply recommending what liquor to pair the contents with. There was such a wide variety of flavors that I couldn’t choose just one, but I assure you I’ll be picking some up to try in the very near future!

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Apple, Bacon, and Red Onion- OTTO Pizza

I also had to stop and grab lunch from OTTO Pizza because what’s a trip to Portland without it, right? I am  going to spare you the details on my one slice, which was a sweet and savory, perfectly crunchy slice, and tell you to just get your ass there and try any of their amazing and constantly changing flavor combos for yourself (in fact, if you’re staying in town for a few days I would suggest getting a whole pie or 2!). OTTO makes such a killer pizza with simple and fresh ingredients, it’s comparable to NYC pies that have won over my heart the past 2 years. There are tons of locations throughout Portland and Boston, so just get there already!

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Sweet Potato Donut w/ Ginger Glaze- The Holy Donut

Since Portland is no stranger to the innovative food scene, of course they have an eclectic doughnut shop cutely named, The Holy Donut. What makes their doughnuts extra-special and unique is their potato base which gives the doughnuts a more fluffily, cake-like consistency (which I prefer). They had so many unique flavors to choose from, from dark chocolate sea salt to Allen’s coffee brandy. I went with the Ginger Glazed Sweet Potato. It had a clean, almost carrot cake like flavor, was not super fried or greasy, and had a refreshing finish with the ginger glaze. Definitely recommend this spot on Exchange Street for when you’re craving that little extra somethin’!

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Iced Coffee & Nectarine Coffee Cake- Katie Made Bakery

I picked up my last little snack before laying out at the Eastern Promenade from Katie Made Bakery on Munjoy Hill. It was later in the day but this little bakery was still pumping out fresh baked goods and pastries. I landed on a piece of nectarine coffee cake and an iced coffee. I had never seen a coffee cake quite like this one. The top of the cake was more crust-like than crumbly, and I was nervous the cake would be dry as a result, but I was pleasantly surprised! This little cake was flavorful, moist, and chocked full of sliced nectarines. I could definitely see Katie Made being up there on my go-to list of places off Portland’s beaten path.

Upon this last trip I have truly fallen in love with the city of Portland, Maine. It has so much to offer and seems to just be built for exploring! I’m looking forward to spending my last summer in New England discovering this beautiful city and all of its food and adventure.

 

***If you absolutely cannot make it up to Portland (which I find rather hard to believe because this place is totally worth the trip) many of these bangin’ eats are available to be shipped practically nationwide! You can also find Vena’s Fizz Shop Infusion Kits on Etsy!**

Mediterranean Shrimp Tacos

So the other night I was really craving fish tacos. Like real, soft tortilla, fall apart in your hand, West Coast tacos. But I have yet to master the art of cooking a mean fish/ not really sure what fish is best for fish tacos/ on that college budget. So I opted for the shrimp that was already in my freezer, and I wasn’t feeling a Mexican vibe. I wanted something crisp and refreshing, so I hopped on the internet and found the answer to my cravings in Mediterranean shrimp tacos! I skimmed through a bunch of recipes. I don’t usually follow once recipe in particular because I like to put my own personal spin on the dish, ya know? Now onto the fun stuff!

My dad always told me to get all the prep work done first and out of the way, so it’s one of the few golden rules of cooking I live by. It really makes the whole experience more enjoyable and run more smoothly. So, while the shrimp were a-thawing I prepped the marinade and salsa.

Marinade

  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil
  • chopped parsley
  • chopped basil
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped garlic
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste

Salsa

  • red onion
  • cherry tomatoes
  • oregano
  • splash of marinade

I marinade the shrimp for only a few minutes. Its important to pay attention because shrimp are one of the weaker proteins and will start to break down if marinaded too long especially in something acid like lemon juice. Sauté for 3-5 minutes on Med-High heat. Get a small sauce pan, or any flat bottom pan, warm on Low heat to heat up your tortillas. I used corn, but would recommend flour, only because the hold up better to all the good stuffins. Garnish with whatever you think will make it look pretty! I stayed in the the Mediterranean realm and went with sliced avocado, bean sprouts, and parsley.

Voila! Here we have a great version of seafood tacos that are really accessible on a college budget, and not too hard on the eyes.  This was also made with simple, healthy ingredients that you can find at your local grocer, bodega, or even better, the farmer’s market. Happy creating!

Bistro Cassis Restaurant

Bistro Cassis is a lovely French bistro on the Upper West Side. The atmosphere is delicate and absolutely delightful with tulip chandeliers and an intimate, but not cluttered, dining room (which is quite the accomplishment in NYC). I went for Sunday brunch, which I believe is the only brunch they serve (You can also visit them for lunch & dinner every other day of the week). I’d highly suggest a reservation because it fills up rather quickly around noon. The service was impeccable and the knowledge of the staff was impressive and comforting in a city full of different fare.

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I ordered the Brie toast with fig jam and a poached pear salad. Decadent and sweet you’d think, right? Well, not quite! The crostini was perfectly toasted and had a nice crunch under the oozing, melted Brie. I sliced up the poached pear and put it on top, which gave the dish a nice, clean finish.
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For my main course I had the tuna tarare wrapped in a thinly sliced cucumber, with honey mustard, ginger, and citrus flavors. I was hooked on the texture alone. So smooth and almost buttery. There were capers and chopped green onions in there as well to balance out the sweetness.
Other delightful dishes:
– Croque Monsieur
– Crab & Avocado salad
– French onion soup