Posts Tagged Ribollita

Fall into Winter Favorites

As the temps drop my focus shifts to comfort food. The stewed and brothy. The ample and starchy. The earthy and rich. I scan menus for things I’d never consider in warmer weather. Cheesy noodles. Heavy sauces.

The Remedy. A wonderful cocktail at Kennebunk's 50 Local

I know, I know – I’m hardly alone in this. And, of course, restaurants embrace the season and showcase their heartier options. Never-the-less I humbly offer a little list of my four latest “fall into winter” favorites – two from here in Portland and two along coastal Maine.

And nary a one has meat!

Mushroom Tagliatelle
50 Local – Kennebunk
I’ve rarely tasted a better mushroom dish. Apparently, foraging fungi is a favorite pastime of chef David Ross and his 3-year-old son. It shows. Pungent earthy flavor and overtones of roasted garlic infuse every mouthful. Homemade tagliatelle pasta fresh and springy. Pecorino cheese adds a bonding creaminess.  While the mushrooms surely vary according to discovery, an online video of Ross shows him preparing the dish with black trumpets, hedgehog mushrooms, lobster mushrooms and chanterelles. Whatever the mixture, it’s truly marvelous. Dip in the restaurant’s thick and spongy focaccia bread and sip on a signature cocktail. It’s a cold weather meal to savor.

And, about that cocktail? If you’re like me and enjoy caramely liquors in the autumn and winter, don’t miss The Remedy – bourbon, cayenne simple syrup, lemon, and a gingered rim (see pic).

Ribollita – Portland
Okay, yes, this is their signature dish – available year round – but I only crave the hearty potage as late October arrives. Tuscany’s famous vegetable and bread soup is simmered to perfection at this Portland institution and warms me to my toes. As with everything that has peasant origins, the “from the earth” ingredients and basic presentation make Ribollita the ultimate comfort food. Pair it with the restaurant’s sizable Hearts of Romaine salad and a glass of Italian wine and you’ve got an affordable meal for around $20.

Shulte & Herr's spaetzle

Squash & Pesto Lasagna
Chase’s Daily – Belfast
We journeyed to the Midcoast for last Saturday’s Marshal Wharf Beer and Mussel Fest (totally worth the hangover) and – despite a swath of reserved tables – lucked into seats at Chase’s counter the night before. An acclaimed vegetarian breakfast and lunch destination, Chase’s only serves dinner on Friday’s. I’m hearby advising you to make reservations, stay the night and avail yourself of this lasagna. I’ve never, EVER raved about lasagna before. In fact, I didn’t even order it this time. I ate over half of Adam’s and have dreamed about the dish ever since. Layers of thin and crisped wide noodles housed “fresh from the farm” golden squash, spinach, cheese and a light pesto. Seemingly so simple, but stunning. A side of crispy kale also was spot on. On second thought, skip the reservation and sit at the counter. Soak in Chase’s “boho” vibe and enjoy the view of the kitchen.

Schulte & Herr – Portland
I’ve loved every morsel I’ve eaten at this new German gem, but the Spaetzle takes the prize for “things I really want when it’s cold and rainy.”  The pile of swirly egg noodles topped with chives may not look like much (see pic), but it’s a filling feast that will pleasantly expand your stomach and make you crave a nap.  Carmelized onions and ementhal cheese (a type of Swiss) shift Schulte & Herr’s version to the sweet side, so I advise balancing with the crisp cucumber salad doused with dill.

Blogger’s Note: Check out Kate’s list of Fall & Winter drinks at The Blueberry Files.

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Now that’s Amore!

Long, hectic days with high maintenance clients (you know who you are) drain my spirit and cripple my cooking abilities. Even boiling pasta seems a chore.

Those evenings, I lift my weary eyes from my computer and whine to Adam, “Let’s go to Ribollita.”

Always crowded with happy patrons, I’m amazed by how little buzz Ribollita garners.

Folks who wax poetic about the far reaches of Middle Street would rather blather on about Duck Fat next door. And who can blame them, really. I’ve done so myself!

Yet another lousy iPhone photo. Ribollita's gnocchi in the foreground -- osso bucco in the background.

I usually opt for the Roasted Chicken Puttenesca. The snickering 10-year old in me adores that “puttenesca” translates to “whore’s spaghetti.” Pasta of ill repute? Gotta love it.

In Ribollita’s version, housemade pappardelle ribbons are anything but sticky – yet they stick to the ribs like a Sicilian classic should. Fall-off-the-bone chicken, loads of garlic, capers, and kalamatas dance together in the artisanal red sauce and create a party. Each time, I struggle to suppress the “abbondanza!” bubbling up in my vocal chords.

Monday night, however, I strayed from the norm and ordered two things I had yet to try – the steamed mussels and the pan-seared gnocchi. Adam choose the veal osso bucco.

Steamed Mussels
An admitted mussel nut like me can be hard to please. I want ideal consistency and a creative, aromatic broth. Ribollita’s were shaky on the first part, solid on the second. Too chewy, small and slightly gritty, the mussels themselves were underwhelming. I ate a few, then grabbed the crusty Italian bread and turned my full attention to the broth. Pistachio butter cranked up the richness in this delicious, thoroughly original brew. Chunks of pistachio, a smidge of garlic and a healthy dash of salt tamed the butter’s sweetness. It took a while to regain my senses and shun the loaf. Nothing worse than filling up on bread – even if it is dipped in heavenly bouillon!

Pan-Seared Gnocchi
Gnocchi usually isn’t my bag. Mushy potato balls? Never understood the appeal. But the “pan-seared” part has always tempted and I finally gave Ribollita’s gnocchi a whirl. Smart move. Searing transformed the goopy texture – sealing the orbs in a crisp jacket of lightly fried flavor. Tossed with salty prosciutto and crisp pea pods, and topped with parmesan, the result was a super-hearty pile of perfection.

Veal Osso Bucco
This Milanese stew encapsulates what’s grand about Ribollita – simple dishes, wonderfully cooked, lovingly made. Osso bucco requires more patience than flair. It’s an amalgamation of veal shanks, mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery), red wine, stock, herbs (rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf, perhaps?) and hours simmering in low heat. Adam dug into the massive mound and pronounced it “exactly right – robust, braised to tenderness and unpretentious.” (Yes, he really said that.) Surprising me, he also raved on and on about the accompanying polenta until I finally scooped up a spoonful. Creamy, yet dense, and spiced with herbs, it slurped up the veal “gravy” – spawning a splendid savory pudding.

Now that’s amore!

Ribollita on Urbanspoon

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