Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vignola Whole Hog Dinner

This is my next to the last post before I'm off to Europe, where I hope to post regularly about anything that catches my eye. I'm sure there will be food involved somehow. I have a lead on a restaurant kitchen in Paris and hoping to do more in Prague and Budapest. 

But for today it's back to Vignola for their Whole Hog Dinner, which happened on the 18th ( I've been a little lazy in editing the pictures ).  It all started earlier in the month when I received a call from Chris (one of the chefs at Vignola) asking if I wanted to stop by and shoot the dinner. I replied yes, but I also was interested in how they prepared the pig and could I be there for that as well. So the following week I stopped by one afternoon to watch Chris butcher one of the animals that the Vignola/ Cinque Terre kitchens get from a Vermont farm on a regular basis. When I arrived the two halves of the pig were already laid out on a table in the basement cutting room.
Now in addition to the different parts of the animal that they prepare on site the day of the dinner, they bring in  specialty items as well.

The big day arrives and the ovens are full and prep work needs to be done.
The staff needs to know what their serving and how to answer question about cooking and sauces. What better way then to taste it all!
The printed menu runs to 26 items: 
1 Amuse
9 Antipasti
3 Paste
8 Mains
4 Contorni
I thought it was very interesting that the kitchen would freelance off the printed menu at times to satisfy various patrons pallets, bringing a different sauce to an antipasti or main adding greens to a course and putting portions of several plates together on the fly. The whole was rather overwhelming and I would guess their might have been an huge for salad for the next few days by some customers. From the number of dinners that came to the kitchen window with rave comments it seems to have been a huge success! I got to see it all and taste some as well, the crowd was large and continued to come in for dinner paste 10:00. For those of you who want more go here. Look on the right for the Vignola Whole Hog Dinner set.

As I mentioned above my wife and I are going on a little vacation work trip to Europe. I booked my last hotel just this morning.  Dog sitter is in place. Euros arrived and only a few details remain to be ironed out!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Restaurant Week / Sunday / Dimillo's

What's left to be said about DiMillo's Floating Restaurant, it's the face of the Portland waterfront, it's served more food to more people since it first opened it's doors in December of 1982 then any other establishment and there isn't anyone in 2nd place.  Two Lobster special ! Sunday it was $19.95. When I was aboard taking my pictures I ran into a lovely couple I had seen (and taken pictures of ) at the Portland Museum of Art's Cold River Vodka Kickoff Bartender Bash on Monday night. They had been to a different restaurant every evening and were having drinks and dinner at the bar.  I'll bet they weren't alone in engaging in this 10 day foodathon!  DiMillo's booked in at the $20.10 level and one possible combination would have been the next three images: Sauteed Mussels Dijon, Lobster Ravioli Pomodoro, Chef's Coice Cheescake. An additional four bucks got you the Crock of French Onion Soup.

DiMillo's is running their Restaurant Week menu for the entire month of March!

With only three days left, lets ask the question... What's the best meal you've had this week? Click on my profile and email me your favorite restaurant, lunch or dinner, $, $$ or $$$ and include a first name and city/town. If you took pictures send me a small/medium size file and maybe I'll use it in a post...

DiMillo's Floating Restaurant
25 Long Wharf
Portland, ME

Phone: (207) 772-2216

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Restaurant Week / Saturday / Foreside Tavern / Sea Grass Bistro

Saturday for the first time I'm shooting in two restaurants after dark and they couldn't be more dissimilar.  One the Foreside Tavern is a family oriented roadhouse style eatery on Route 1 in Falmouth. The other the  Sea Grass Bistro is an American style bistro with Asian, French and Tuscan influences, in Yarmouth, with some of the prettiest food I've seen this week. The Foreside Tavern, much larger had a waiting line as I left to go to the Sea Grass which had a wait when I arrived. Now the photos in order.
Oh yeah, they make their own donuts!


At the bottom of the Sea Grass's Restaurant Week menu they gave a shout out to their local suppliers: 
Harbor Fish, Royal River Natural Foods, Sid Warner, New Leaf Farm, Rosemont Market, Pat's Meat Market & Market Fresh Produce

Restaurant Week 2010 is now past the half way mark, what are you waiting for?

SeaGrass Bistro
30 Forest Falls Drive
Yarmouth, ME
Phone: (207) 846-3885

Foreside Tavern
270 US Route One
Falmouth, ME
Phone: (207) 781-4255

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Restaurant Week / Friday / Back Bay Grill

Back Bay Grill, one of the most praised, longest running high end eateries in the city and one of the tightest most frenetic kitchens I have ever tried to shoot in!  Chef Larry Matthews was accordingly reluctant to let me into his very limited space. At first frustrated at my peripheral location in relation to the food (action!) and dazzled by the speed and ballet like motion of not only the 3 person kitchen but also of the wait staff and even the dish washer, who had to constantly whisk away each fry pan as it had served its purpose, only to be returned minutes later to be used again; I hung back waiting my way in.  After observing the natural flow of things for 25 minutes I asked if it was possible to move to the far side of the work area, where I would be next to the salad and dessert prep station, but still some way from the center of action.

However I had noticed a dead spot by the support pole that stood in the middle of this tiny space and as nature abhors a vacuum, I thought I might fill it. Biding my time I spent another 20 minutes or so focusing on the salad/dessert station and eyeing the movements of its master, who with a half step or at most a step all the while moving in a continuous 360 degree circle between mini cooler and shelf,  produced plate after plate of mouth watering courses. But my main target was of course the GRILL and Chef Larry Matthews, so seeing his back turned I ventured closer and when the ever increasing volume of orders consumed his full attention ( and away from myself)  I moved in! And then would dart away,  only to return for a longer visit.
Finally standing as if one with the pole (dead spot) in the middle of the action, he spoke to me, but not shoe me away.  Now I was getting somewhere...

I've eaten several meals at the Back Bay Grill with never a bad experience and Restaurant Week offers the perfect opportunity to try fine dining at a great price. But hurry as it ends on March 10th.
I'm coming back with and without my camera!

The Back Bay Grill
65 Portland Street
Portland, Maine
tel. 207-772-8833