food with friends

July 27th, 2012

dirty dishes


So many times I find myself wishing I had taken photos of that meal. Not necessarily because I want picture perfect images of things I’ve made (or am about to eat), but just because each meal has some little story that goes along with it, and sometimes I don’t remember them as well without the visual cue. But instead I have pictures of the dirty dishes. I inherited a habit from my Mother of rarely doing the dishes until the next morning (sometime even the next afternoon). I’m sure you are now shocked and horrified with us, but what can I say. The better the meal the less likely I am to want to clean right up after it. I get to it eventually, and we’re never actually unsanitary. Rdishes in the sinkight now our dishwasher is broken so it’s even slower than usual. I have to wash all those dishes by hand. sigh.


Yesterday we had our friends Rob and Nancy over for a leisurely meal on the patio. Yes, it was wet, but the actual rain held off until after we had finished our meal. We have a tent set up in the back and it works well to keep us dry as long as it’s not too windy. Dinner was a long drawn out affair. Just the way we like it. And yes, if you clicked through on the link you know that we cooked for Rob, a James Beard award winner. Phew, he was an easy diner.  They have always said to us, if there’s salt on the table they’re happy. So I made sure there was salt on the table.  And he did reach for it once.  I think I would have been much happier if he hadn’t felt the need for salt, but I do know that my taste for salt has calmed in the last little bit. Don almost always adds salt to my food, so I’m not hurt or anything.  Other than that, cooking for them was a dream. They eat everything and enjoy, without making a big deal out of it.  We finished a couple of bottles of wine and the conversation was lively and engaged.  The menu included popcorn (an appetizer staple at our house), grilled squid, grilled halibut skewers with bailah (a chickpea dish the morning afterfrom the new Ottolenghi book, Jerusalem), a chopped tomato and cucumber salad, flatbread and a raspberry, brown sugar lightning cake to finish.  It began raining about the time we were ready for cake. Don had lit a fire, so we moved the tent to the patio corner near (but not too) the fire and we happily ate cake, continued the conversation and watched the fire, while the rain came down.

I could probably title about a million posts ‘food with friends’.  A marvelous summer meal.




cooking over a fire

July 23rd, 2012


We went camping last week. Yes, camping. Hard for us to believe. Don was an Eagle Scout and my parents used to take my sister and I on various backpacking trips when we were too small to protest. So there is camping in both of our backgrounds. There has, however, been no camping in our lives in the past, what, 30 years? So it was a bit of a leap-of-faith for us.  This was car camping, so I can already hear some of you scoffing – that’s not camping! For us, it was camping. Sleeping on the lumpy ground in a sleeping bag and tent is camping.  Going in the car does mean that you can bring things that you might not if you had to carry it in on your back.  Can you say cast iron? We took full advantage of this fact and loaded up the car. Don had his condiment carryall, which he carefully planned out for a week – Siracha, mustard, tahini etc. I channeled our meals on vacation in the Carribean where the resources are slim. I pre-cooked a batch of farro and brought it in a ziploc.  Same with a batch of chickpeas. Ditto a double batch of home made pancake mix. We froze various proteins (chicken thighs/drumsticks bathed in garlic/olive oil/sumac, ground lamb and various sausages from Rosemont) which did double duty keeping the cooler cold and allowing us to bring a couple days worth of proteins. By the time we were ready to cook the chicken it had defrosted, but never gotten warm. I baked a big batch of chocolate chip cookies. They were good, but so were the s’mores, which we had to add bacon to…. I know bacon gets added to everything, but bacon s’mores were quite tasty.  You know we were going to eat well on vacation. It was a fun challenge to cook with limited tools. Liberating in a way that I always find restrictions to be. Some of the best dishes happen when you don’t have much in the larder.

We were camping with friends, because it’s more fun that way, and they brought all sorts of more experienced camper gear. Included in that category was a wood fired toaster. This is just a little perforated disc with a couple of pieces of wire that hold your bread vertical. It was an ingenious little tool that I greatly enjoyed using. I’m sure it was part of a well-equipped camp-side kitchen in the 19th century. There were a couple of propane stoves and our friend David brought his self-fired coffee-maker. A little twist of the gizmo and his French Press coffee pot had a heating element built into the bottom. Very cool.  I felt very clever for bringing pint size canning jars for drinking, because we could use them for both hot and cold beverages.  But that’s about as clever as I got.  It is true that everything tastes better cooked over an open flame. We pushed the picnic tables together and had a great feast. Summer is good!




book boards

June 30th, 2012

Boards are usually covered with dust jackets. Dust Jackets that can become fetishized by both the people who design the books, and the people who buy them. But under the jackets can be the most delicious boards that make me want to touch them. Below are a couple of examples…

86 middle street

June 27th, 2012

Our friends Arlin, Andrew and Michael from next door at Hugo’s have taken over the former home of Rabelais to create a fantastic raw bar in Portland: Eventide. We were honored to be invited to the friends and family night this past Monday. We couldn’t be happier to know that our old digs will host thousands of happy diners eating millions of Maine oysters starting this week. Please stop in and say hi to our friends, wish them good luck and have some oysters…!

friday afternoon

June 22nd, 2012


A pretty nice place to spend a hot Friday afternoon.  We’ll be open tomorrow, but beware La Kermesse.

solstice dinner

June 21st, 2012

late dinner

June 18th, 2012

cooking later


These long days of June always sneak up on me.  We’ve been eating later and later as the days stretch out and we try and take advantage of every minute of daylight. In the dead of Winter we would get home long after the sun had set. Eat dinner in the complete night. And while that was many months ago, the idea of it lingers in my head. It is just two days to the Solstice, the beginning of Summer, the longest day of the year. I want to soak in as much light as possible to store it under my skin for those months to come. Those months we won’t speak of just now.

I look at the clock when we are putting dinner on the table and it is 8:30, 9:00, sometimes if I get really ambitious it’s even 10:00.  I just had to make a tart of Chard and Cheese last week and only realized this was necessary at about 7:00, because there was so much light still in the sky.  I had thought it must be about 5:00.  It was a delicious simple tart from Nigel Slater’s Tender Vol. One, that went together quickly, but the tart shell had to chill in the fridge (so it wouldn’t shrink too much upon baking) for about a half an hour.  One thing led to another and we sat down to eat at about 10:00.  Don didn’t complain, luckily the tart was worth the wait, and we did snack on some cheese to tide us over.

The light of the long days plays tricks on my mind. I’ve got plenty of time to sow another row of beets before it’s time to make dinner. I like moving with the seasons this way. We eat by the calendar, why shouldn’t meal times be equally sensitive? Why not spend more time breathing in the fresh air, watching the bees do their thing, chasing after the groundhog (!)?  Dinner will happen when the time is right. Let all those time tables go, eat when it seems right, eat what tastes good, when it’s time to eat it. We will be celebrating the Solstice with some good friends, good food and a bonfire. Take this moment to slow down and soak the season in, it’s worth it.



backyard hens

June 5th, 2012

Rhode Island Reds

It has been very interesting to notice how hens are spreading through our countryside.  When we first got birds, back in 2008, only our neighbors across the street had them.  The other neighbors looked at us as some sort of throw backs.  But now when we drive down the road from home to work we see many many houses with hens scratching around the yard.  Everyday it feels like someone else has birds.  Is it because of the economy? Is it due to the rise in knowledge of what industrial food means in terms of quality of life, both for us and the chickens? I am a firm convert.  In fact eggs anywhere else just don’t taste as good.  I am an egg snob.  Happy to see others jumping on the bandwagon.



June 1st, 2012

June 2nd, 2012


Rabelais News   ~   June 1st, 2012

Chalk wall

Copper fish pot
Jonesing for some Rabelais talk? We have had a blog for years, but honestly we were desultory bloggers.  We spent more time talking with folks in the store than writing.  Now that we spend more time by ourselves, we still have plenty to say, so it goes on the blog. You can find our musings at Rumblings.  We’re going to be re-designing the blog in the near future, so let us know what you think of it now. We’d love some feedback.

“You’ll never get a good party going without giving things a bit of a push. It boils down to the same formula most times: good setting; good food, good drink and plenty of goodwill, as is right at this time of year. “

Michael Smith
It’s warm. It’s a relief.  It has been a bit rainy, but then that’s Spring in Maine. At least this is seasonally appropriate warmth.  The Winter passed pretty uneventfully in terms of cold, the grey gloom can be oppressive nonetheless. When it finally warms up consistently all I want to do is get outdoors.  So what happens when the temperature rises?

Well, green things get planted in the ground.  Our peas are about a foot tall, the taters are a good four inches up, and the first crops of carrots and beets have emerged.  The tomatoes were planted last night. We’ve already had a salad or two of greens and our volunteer cilantro is quite out of control this year. A bed full of greens was planted last weekend, as well as one of shell beans, and a teepee full of pole beans. In the fragrant department we have planted all sorts of smelly stuff: Mignonette; Sweet Peas; Lemon Gem Marigolds; Alyssum and, coming this weekend, the Roses!  We like to spend a lot of time outdoors on our patio during the Spring/Summer/Fall seasons so it’s nice to have a green space to surround us.

The other thing that happens when it gets warm is that we eat outdoors as often as possible. The grills get a good work out, as does the picnic table.  We had folks out last weekend and the menu included stinging nettle pancakes, local asparagus (not ours yet), artichoke gratin, and grilled calamari.  A slightly eclectic menu, I’ll give you that, but tasty nonetheless.  The grilled calamari is one of my new favorite ways to cook those creatures. I do love me some fried calamari with tartar sauce, but honestly hate cooking with all that oil.  What do you do with the oil when you’re done cooking?  Cooking the wee beasties outdoors, lightning fast on the grill is a very close second for me.  And way cleaner.
RC Fish squidI found this recipe in The River Cottage Fish Book, another in the brilliant series from the British author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. We’ve been  importing the book from the U.K. for a few years, but now the title is available from an American publisher, Ten Speed Press (who published The RC Meat and The RC Cookbook), and we’ve got a pile of them here on one of the metal tables.River Cottage Fish  Also newly in stock is the new Mugaritz book from Spanish chef Andoni Luis Aduriz.  Published by Phaidon, who brought us The Silver Spoon and a number of Ferran Adria cookbooks, this is a lovely tome full of truly inspirational, and aspirational, food. Andoni is a bright innovative chef, part of the breed of Modern Spanish chefs who push the boundaries of the kitchen, and the plate. The restaurant’s website is phenomenal, we so need to go back to Spain… Also in stock is Sandor Ellix Katz’s new The Art of Fermentation, which expands greatly from his classic Wild Fermentation, for all you fermenting types. This weekend is unfortunately forecast for a ton of rain, so there won’t be much outdoor cooking going on at our place.  But if you get the bug for a new cookbook, come visit Biddeford.  We’re here Saturday from 11:00 to 5:00. We’ve got loads of inspiration for both the cooks and the gardeners.

A brief clarification of our hours.  The doors are officially open on Saturday, and then by appointment for the rest of the week.  That means if you really need to get a look at the new Mugaritz book and can only get down on Tuesday, give us a call.  If we are here, you can come on down. Chances are pretty good that we can make arrangements for a visit.  We are still carrying the best and the brightest modern in-print cookbooks from past and present.


fine books on food, drink, farming & gardening


2 Main Street  #18-214  Biddeford  Maine  04005  207 774 1044

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dough nut day, 1836

June 1st, 2012


National Doughnut Day was created by Congress after successful lobbying on the part of Adolph Levitt, Chairman of the Doughnut Corporation of America. But doughnuts have been with us a long while. Here’s a recipe from  Mary Randolph’s Virginia Housewife (an 1836 printing). It’s an important book, the first regional American cookbook, and to some, the “most influential American cookbook” [Karen Hess]. Mary Randolph did include recipes from beyond Virginia and the South, like this one, for Dough Nuts, or Yankee Cakes.