A Summer Weekend in Portland, Maine

>>  Friday, August 01, 2014

I always feel like summer goes by so quickly here in Boston. It takes forever for the weather to get warm, and when it's finally warm, it's a mad dash to take advantage, as much as possible, of the beautiful weather.

June was a blur to me. After intensely plowing through my 31 posts in 31 days in May, I took a break the first half of the month before heading off to the Canadian Rockies for a week with Bryan's family (Highly recommended. I think still it's one of my favorite places on earth). In July, the weather finally  became truly warm. Just two weeks ago, we found ourselves surprisingly free one weekend. Sort of at the last minute, we decided to spend a weekend in Portland, Maine, one of the few nearby cities that we'd never visited (and everyone kept telling us we had to go if we loved food, craft beer, and the ocean.)

After finding some last minute hotel rooms in Portland with Bryan's numerous hotel points, we tentatively made plans to drive there Friday night. As soon as I finished volunteering at the Boston Rescue Mission Friday evening, we left Boston at 9PM sharp and arrived in Portland right around 10:30PM.

Yep, when you leave that late, there's no traffic!

We had less than 48 hours in Portland. We knew we had to make the most of our time there.

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Crispy Basil Smashed Potatoes

>>  Wednesday, July 30, 2014

One fun side benefit of being a member of the Siena Farms CSA is that I get a weekly newsletter from the farm describing all the goodies in that week's share. Oftentimes Ana Sortun, chef-owner of Oleana, Sofra, and Sarma (and wife of the farmer who runs Siena Farms), will share some of her favorite recipes in the email.

Last week, the smashed potato recipe caught my eye.

It looked so simple, yet she said it was one of her favorite ways to enjoy the fresh taste of "fresh-dug" potatoes, which first appeared in our share last week.

The newsletter also said that a potato's sugars will turn to starch pretty rapidly within a week, so we if really wanted to enjoy our fresh dug potato flavor, we needed to eat the potatoes "right away"!

I immediately put down the newsletter and got to work.

I decided I was going to eat those potatoes that night.

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Foto Ruta - Photography Workshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina

>>  Saturday, July 26, 2014

This is the ninth post in the Hello Argentina Series detailing my week-long trip in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Other posts include Hello ArgentinaLa CabreraLa RamblaEmpanadas, Tamales, and Beer, Oh My!Cabanas Las LilasBuenos Aires - Three Most Famous Ice Cream ShopsChilaElena, and Oviedo.

Happy Weekend!

This post is a little different from my typical posts.

The focus is not on food. It's about another one of my passions - photography.

I didn't get into photography until much later in life, unlike those around me. My sister, in fact, got into photography in high school. She had an SLR way before I did (of the film variety!), and even in college, Bryan got an SLR and started taking really nice photos during our university years (of which I'm really thankful now! It's really nice to have high quality photos from that era of my life).

Me, I didn't get into photography really until this food blog began. It's sort of embarrassing for me to look back at my photos from those early days, though I keep the posts there as a reminder to myself of how far I've come.
_X1C7392.jpg I've never been formally trained. I've never taken a class, workshop, or anything to learn this skill. I have no patience for books or instruction manuals, so I just learn by experimentation. Thankfully, digital photography has made that much easier (and cheaper!).

During our week in Buenos Aires, I ended up having several days by myself while Bryan was at his work conference. Unlike in Japan, where I felt perfectly comfortable exploring the city by myself, I didn't feel the same way about Buenos Aires. I'd heard about the petty crimes.  My general lack of knowledge and familiarity with the city made me more nervous and thus more cautious.

So what did I do? I signed up for various tours led by English-speaking people. My favorite one turned out to be a day long photography workshop in Buenos Aires with Foto Ruta.

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Crispy Oven Baked Beet Chips

>>  Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I have an awful weakness when it comes to a certain snack.


I just can't say no to them.

Typically, I'm pretty disciplined when it comes to steering myself away from unhealthy food. I never, ever get any sort of candy bar from the vending machine at work. If there's leftover cake in the kitchen area  - no matter how delectable it looks - I won't be tempted by it. I can easily stay away from chocolate, and in general, most sweets.

But there's something about chips that I just can't resist. It's the fact that it's almost healthy. After all, it comes from a vegetable, right? You could argue it's not as processed as any of those cakes and cookies.
And for some reason, in the late afternoon when I'm starting to get just a little hungry (or "peckish" as my British colleagues would say), I always want chips.

I want something savory, something that feels like it could actually stave off those hunger pangs for just a few more hours. Plus, I just love chips for that satisfying crunch.

A few years ago, I was thrilled to discover you could make chips out of almost anything (a sneaky way to pack in those nutrients!). One of my favorites (and something I still make on a regular basis), is oven baked kale chips. I also tried baking all sorts of other chips in the oven, like taro chips, sweet potato chips, and even sunchoke chips.
Last week, I got my first shipment of these beautiful beets from my CSA with Siena Farms. As I was pondering how to use up the beets before the weekend (since I was leaving on a short trip), it dawned on me to try making chips out of these as well.

Oh my goodness, they were fantastic.

Even Bryan approved, and couldn't stop eating them at dinner. In fact we ended up polishing off the entire batch of chips (uhh, I guess that means we ate 10 beets between us (!))._DSC8080.jpg

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Ivan Ramen (Gotham West Market, New York City)

>>  Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This is the fourth post in the Quick Spring Weekend to New York series. Other posts in this series include Le Bernardin, Lunch Tasting MenuBoulud Sud, and A Voce Columbus.

I've been curious about trying Ivan Ramen for ages.

Though it only recently opened in the US, Ivan Ramen has been in Tokyo since 2007. I read about it a lot while doing research for my various Tokyo trips. What's funny is, the chef-owner of this crazy popular ramen place in Tokyo is actually a Jewish guy from Long Island who got into ramen "on a whim."

Ivan Orkin moved to Japan to teach English after graduating from college. While there, he met and married a Japanese woman. They moved back to the US so Ivan could study at the Culinary Institute of America. They had a child, and his home life became full of Japanese culture. He spoke the language at home. He watched Japanese TV shows.

Tragedy struck when his wife miscarried their second child and suddenly passed away soon after.

Distraught, Ivan felt that he had lost everything.

Years later, on one of his extended trips to Japan, he met and fell in love with another Japanese woman.
They got married and settled in Japan. Ivan, living out a normal life as a stay-at-home-dad, started to get restless. He began experimenting with ramen, taking a crash course and then teaching himself the rest.

He opened his first restaurant in 2007.

It became a hit in Japan, with long lines of hungry Japanese people willing to wait hours to try his rule-breaking, unconventional interpretation of ramen (think flavors like "four cheese ramen" or a soy milk based dipping broth). It was shocking that a foreigner, gaijin, could pierce and conquer Japan's obsession with ramen.

After opening up several successful locations in Japan, Ivan decided to move back to the US in 2012, partly to be closer to family, but also to challenge himself to open up his restaurant in New York, his home.

Lucky for us, that means we no longer have to fly across the globe to get a taste of this famous ramen that has taken Tokyo by storm.

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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