Core Foods: A raw bar, I actually want to eat.

I’m always looking around for two things:

1) Raw food that I can actually ingest that won’t make me want to punch everyone in the face as I’m eating it (Also known as, actually enjoyable food)

2) Portable food that I can take on the go when my toddler is having a morning melt down and I barely had time to wash my vagina.

As a “mother runner” or a generally swamped busy individual, anything that makes my life easier while being healthy and sustainable is a huge plus. And sometimes, I have time to make these items myself. I have really conjured up some highly enjoyable granola bars and protein bars that work well for keeping me full while maintaining my effort to lose weight. But lately, I just haven’t wanted to touch my oven for any reason what so ever. I don’t even want to look at it. The itch to bake just isn’t there. So, I thought, maybe it’s time to go on a world-wide web search for someone who will do it for me. Google led me to CORE Foods, a website that specializes in producing these bars which are completely raw, vegan and arrive right to your door in a neat little package. Their website has all sorts of amazing information on a healthier lifestyle: shopping lists, activities and reasons why their product is actually good for you. There are three flavors: Raw Almond Raisin, Raw Cashew Cacao, and Raw Banana Walnut. I was already sold but then I kept reading only to find out that these bars are meant to be a meal when consumed with two glasses of water. Pssssshhh. I thought. Impossible. With an appetite like mine and the running I’m doing, no deal. So I decided to put these little bars to the test. I ordered them and they arrived in literally two days; and that was only because I waited till after the morning deadline. They arrived cold, in little express package which I promptly placed in my fridge. The first one I thought, I would try before a 10 mile run. There’s no better test than that as far as I can see.

So the morning of my very early run I consumed the Banana Walnut which tasted like yummy, slightly spicy in a good way, banana bread. I gulped down my water, grabbed my running buddy and we hit the road. I kept waiting mile after mile for my stomach to grumble. But it didn’t. In fact, my run began at 7 and I wasn’t hungry till almost noon, where I consumed a big bowl of fruit and felt completely satisfied. Not only that but when my run was over, I felt as though I had enough energy to keep going. I didn’t because that would have been craziness but if someone was chasing me, I would have done alright. After that, I made these bars a normal part of my morning routine, sometimes adding a banana to the mix if I was feeling especially hungry that morning. Until the ultimate challenge came: my half marathon. I only consumed half, yes half, of the Cashew Cacao because my nerves were shot but that little guy kept me going for 13.1 miles. I didn’t stop for anything but water and a little Gatorade. Sure, I was a smidge hungry at the finish line but I think that’s pretty good considering.

Truly, it’s rare when a product is completely transparent and I have to say, these little guys definitely are. The label could not be anymore straight forward. The product holds up to all of its promises. And additionally, it actually looks like the ingredients it lists. There is no funk in these bars. No sugar. No crap. They are not candy bars pretending to be healthy. (Cliff Bars, Luna Bars, any bar they produce at the grocery store) Next time you are shopping, read some of the labels of these other bars you are buying: LOADED WITH SUGAR. And it comes in all sorts of interesting forms. Stop eating empty calories. Nourish your body the way it was meant to be nourished. Support this company and buy lots of bars. And don’t even go on about the price, your body is an investment. It’s time to start putting the money where it matters. Good food costs more. And by good food I mean, raw, sustainable, healthful, whole food.

Go check out this site: CORE FOODS, they will be a part of my morning and training permanently.

Mr. Gordon, you handsome devil.

I completely get that most folks think Gordon Ramsay is a douche. I mean, lets look at the data here. We have Hell’s Kitchen, which may or may not be on television anymore, I have no idea, which consisted of Mr. Gordon screaming at chefs until they have completely catastrophic mental breakdowns in walk-in’s or bathrooms while threatening to kill themselves on national television. Those who do something to his standards usually only get a strange nod which is actually more confusing than getting screamed at. And oh my god, your risotto was not to his liking???? You better run for cover kid because you are getting a sheet pan thrown at your face with a barrage of colorful British based swear words. Then there is Kitchen Nightmares, the American version which showcases Mr. Gordon tearing the assholes out of restaurant owners, while eating and choking/spitting out their food, while rummaging in their refrigerators and throwing moldy items in the trash, also while beeping out 90% of what’s coming out of his mouth. Lastly, there is the interesting media perception of Mr. Gordon which talks about how in love with himself he happens to be as well as his adventures in plastic surgery so his face can look perfect while tearing down every little last shred of hope in chef’s hearts across the globe. I mean, why would anyone like this guy? I understand why some people might not have a taste for this gentleman. He’s hard on the tongue. He’s difficult to digest. But for me, that’s all part of the allure because Mr. Gordon says everything out loud that I want to express to 90% of the people I deal with that either: cook at home, run a restaurant or those who claim to know everything about the culinary world.

Now, my love for Mr. Gordon also comes from his softer side, the side I see on BBC America. Mr. Gordon also has a Kitchen Nightmares show on BBC, however, it is run in a completely different fashion. Everything about him on this show is parallel to what we see on the American version, only he is there to teach, nurture and guide, rather than cause chaos. The American version is obviously about the ratings and apparently, Americans like to watch people crying in a bathroom stall while begging for their mommy, I mean, it’s ridiculous. On the BBC version the viewer gets to watch Mr. Gordon work closely with young chefs, finding their strengths and playing off them. He takes them to local farms, butchers and fisherman to learn about buying local and sustainable products when possible. He introduces them to new techniques and badgers them only when they are being inconsiderate little shits and completely deserve it. There is a sweetness to him when success is achieved which really lends me to believe that the angry portion of Gordon is more of a showcase thing than a real thing.

All of this being said, I have never purchased one of his cookbooks. Never really wanted to. Most of what I see him cook on television, I wouldn’t necessarily want to eat, regardless of how entertaining he is at the time saying things like: “You chippy idiot!” But, when I saw him on the cover of his new book, I felt compelled to look inside. He appeared humble and gracious. It made me curious. And I knew, from page one, I wanted this book.

In this book, he is straightforward with all of his thoughts and opinions. He addresses the home cook who is passionate but  just starting out as well as the over zealous home cook who has one to many gadgets. He states boldly that he’d rather be an under equipped doer than an over equipped poseur, which I personally love. People think to make great food you must have one of everything and the best of everything, Mr. Gordon is saying: no, no, no. It’s not about how you look or what you spend, it’s about the experience you have and the food on the table. The recipes all sound divine. I must have marked every one. It’s rare that I will love a cookbook from start to finish but this one really measured up. The food is simple but elegant and he emphasizes the importance of buying within your means, which is wonderful. Most chefs spout off ingredients that would wipe out one’s paycheck. In addition to the recipes, the writing is fresh and it sounds like Mr. Gordon. I was sitting in bed reading but I felt like I was transported into a conversation with him. There doesn’t sound like there is a lot of editing here and to me, that’s heaven. It feels raw but good.

Mr. Gordon, I’m proud of you man, this is a nice move for you. It’s a book I will treasure in my humble home kitchen, with only a few gadgets.

I urge you all to pick it up and give it a read.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful start to their week. Hopefully today will be filled with bright spots in honor of those that were injured & lost in last Monday’s tragedy.

My heart will be filled with thoughts of Boston today.

xoxo

 

Scratch Bakery: A little slice of amazing.

Scratch Bakery: A little slice of amazing.

I have been on the search for a bakery to fall in love with for sometime. The type of place where you know people just labor over sheets and sheets of pastry. The type of place where there are neat little piles of pastry scattered over a countertop. A place where everything looks as though it was hand-made. There is something about a place where the pastry case plays a limited role that just sings to me. I feel like I am in another country. A divine jaunt into a French countryside where croissants rule and brioche is wildly available. Walking into Scratch Baking Co. hit all of these elements. The moment I opened the door and took a giant whiff of the air, I knew, I had found something really special. And obviously, I’m not the only one, as the place was packed. This place isn’t a secret. The word is out. On-line, reviews were everywhere, they spoke of one of a kind bagels and truly wonderful coffee. Just looking at the website made me die to take a gander in real life, but the reviews from real folks, none of which were bad, really sealed the deal for me. I needed to go. I needed to see. I needed to eat.

Yes, you guessed it. I broke my no sugar rule. I HAD TO. I mean, I had to. I just had to.

The kids, husband and I took a drive over Saturday morning. It was about a half an hour from my house, long way you say? No, not even, I would drive to the ends of the earth for this place. As busy as it was inside, we were lucky enough to score a front and center parking space and there was definitely more to spare. Upon first glance inside, after the kids stormed the place, I noticed there were only a couple of bagels left. My heart sank a little. Oh no, I thought, this is what I came for, but no worries, they were full again within seconds. Like an answer to a magnificent prayer, this lovely lady came in this white apron and filled the bins right back up. Even after this divine occurrence, I actually ended up ditching the bagels because once I caught wind of everything else, those little rounds just couldn’t compare in my eyes. There were so many options and I felt like I was pulled in a bazillion directions, I mean, kids were screaming, people were moving, my husband looked confused. But then, I saw them, the gorgeous plate filled with “Bear Claws” (almond croissants) which looked unlike anything I have ever seen in Maine.

So I bought two, one for Miles and one for me. My husband got a slice of lemon poppy something bread. Emma chose a chocolate croissant and for the road to Massachusetts later on, I purchased a loaf of their vegan banana bread. Most likely, if left to my own free will I would have bought: ten loaves of bread, sixteen bagels and one hundred of their little luscious chocolate cakes. But in this one instance, toddler tantrums did come in handy because little Miles got me out of there before I could do any real damage. I sort of ignored the lady at the cash register because of this ridiculous melt down that was in fact occurring but I did notice her completely warm smile, adorning offer of an extra bag and willingness to not judge my obnoxious two-year old. That to me, is worth a million bucks. Thanks check out lady, you were super nice. 🙂

The food lived up to the hype. That bear claw was the best thing I have eaten in a long time and after almost 9 miles logged in the books running the night before, I felt as though it was amply deserved. I savored every bite of the crispy but not too crunchy exterior. I licked up every morsel of almond paste that ran perfectly throughout. And I thoroughly savored every single bit of chewy, moist interior that just complemented the exterior perfectly. Miles sat happy for three whole minutes. Emma didn’t speak for five minutes. Josh and I argued about not getting coffee but who cares, it didn’t take away from my bit of happy. Later on, while visiting with my mother in Boston, we enjoyed the banana bread with coffee which was perfectly done.

It’s a place I will escape to often. It’s a place I will dream about at night. Bakeries like this one are hard to come by and I couldn’t be happier I stumbled upon it. When you care about the craft, it shows, and these people obviously care a lot.

Scratch Baking Co.

416 Preble St.

South Portland, ME

207-799-0668

The Magical Wine Shop

The Magical Wine Shop

wine and cigar shop

Since moving to Maine three years ago, there have been some lonely days. And there have been some really wonderful days. I think it’s inevitable to miss home. The places. The faces. The smells. There is something about Boston that just fills me up inside. Now that I visit Boston only on rare occasion, I have searched Portland for trinkets that make me feel like home. Small tokens that brighten up my day. Give me a little boost. A couple of years ago, I found a place that has yet to be topped in my list of favorite places: Old Port Wine & Cigar on Commercial St. It’s not even the beautiful shop or the fantastic selection that I marvel at, although they are pretty spectacular, it’s the gentleman who greets me that I can never seem to stop smiling at. He’s warm. He’s kind. He’s jolly. He’s got this magical energy that is undeniably charismatic. When he speaks of something he loves, his eyes light up and his body moves in such a way, that you want to experience whatever he is telling you about. He makes me feel something when I go in that is beyond replaceable. He makes me feel like home. It’s a strange thing really but his personality makes that shop one hundred percent. We have spoken about South Africa and he showed me his collection of photographs from his trip, we have laughed about driving in Italy and how it’s a near death experience and he has been generous with my children when they probably didn’t deserve it. (Being crazy kids in a wine shop and all) And as you probably have guessed I don’t actually know his name, I don’t think I have ever asked. I will make it a point next time. But he is the only one in there every time I go to visit.

I usually browse the shop in a mere few moments. He knows when to leave me be and when to come and interact. He has shown me so many amazing wines that I can not stop drinking. And he’s basic about his attitude with wine: “It’s grape juice, just drink it.” I like that he has never sold me an out of reach expensive bottle but rather recommends casual drinking wines that are just delicious. He’s always willing to tell some anecdote about a wine that fascinates me or show my husband and I something really interesting. On my birthday last year he sold my husband a bottle of wine from Italy and he told him to keep it untill Emma gets married (she’s 7). That feels very special and sentimental to me. It makes me love that bottle of wine, gives me a reason to hold on to it and something to look forward to. His selection can not be beat. You could drop a grand in there if you wanted to or twenty bucks. I usually come out with 4-8 bottles and spend anywhere from $100 to $250. The bottles he recommends always come with a reason, “This wine is made my monks.” Ok, sounds pretty cool to me.

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We live in a world where everyone turns a blind eye. Money is a driving force. In this shop, it’s about the experience. They nurture the customer in such a pleasant way that you don’t want to buy from anywhere else. My last time in the shop was six months ago and this man recognizes me and says “It’s been a long time.” How amazing is that? But here is the thing, I haven’t bought wine from anyone else in that quantity. It may have been a long time but this is my place. This is where I feel good. And I’m going back there when I need to re-stock, when I feel like I just want some more wine, when I just want to leave with a smile. There is no where else that will get my money. Every business should take a page from this shop’s book.

I advise you all to go there and experience the magic for yourselves. You certainly won’t regret it.

Old Port Wine & Cigar

223 Commercial St.

Portland, ME

(207) 772-WINE

The Grateful Bread: I am NOT grateful.

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In my afternoon adventures today, I stumbled into The Grateful Bread, a cafe and bakery right in the heart of Windham. This establishment has been here for about a year, however, I never go. I was burnt the first few weeks of opening and vowed never to return. I gave them a really decent shot at first out of sheer desperation. I mean there literally is nothing else around here. We have a Dunkin’ Donuts but the intelligence of the staff is equivalent to a piece of poop. I mean some mornings I feel as though I should drive up and say: “just give me whatever you feel like today”, because that’s what I end up with. Anyways, in my first few visits at The Grateful Bread I purchased: stale muffins on numerous occasions, iced coffee with literally no ice, iced coffee that was just hot coffee poured over ice, the wrong breakfast, almost an hour at the door on Sunday waiting to be acknowledged with not so much as even a smile and half hour waits for something like a latte. It got to be too much. I felt like I was dating a boy who was just not that into me, so I had to make the choice to walk away. And I did. And I haven’t looked back. Until today. I really wanted a latte and so I decided just to give it one last try. Perhaps things have changed. Maybe the growing pains have been worked out. Or maybe, just maybe they fired their entire staff.

Nope, when I walked in I was greeted by the same gentleman that always greeted me. And he greets me in a way that makes me feel like I should be so lucky as to get to dine at such a fair establishment. He’s too casual, too cool, too much of “I don’t actually give a shit.” He’s always knee-deep in conversation with some hapless young lady and every time I try to correct him about the way he is making my beverage, he stares at me like: “Really lady?” But here is the thing, guy whose name I don’t know, you don’t make my shit right: EVER. And if I wanted to take four dollars and throw it into thin air, I would just go and throw it into thin air. I’m not asking for the world here people. This is a tale of a very simple lady asking for a very simple thing: Large iced non-fat latte. They have all the tools to do it right. Why can’t they just do it right? Today I received a whole milk, virtually no coffee,  literally two melted ice cubes latte. I basically paid four bucks for a cup of milk. Isn’t there someone who owns this place that can teach these overpaid teenagers how to make a coffee right??? Let me get back there, I’ll do it. And for free.

Let’s move on to the cupcakes, which I bought three of, actually I wouldn’t even refer to them as cupcakes. I purchased three hockey pucks that were doused in sugar and some color. Hard to the touch. Crunchy to the taste. Stale. Gross. $2.50 a piece and just entirely a waste of money. I actually didn’t buy the cupcakes to eat. After spotting the condition of my iced latte (I should just call it iced milk, that’s not actually iced), curiosity got the best of me and I decided I had to know: do they taste as yucky as they look? Verdicts in folks, they do. To boot, I found the place to be dirty, not well-kept, the pastry cases were empty and everything that was in them looked lost. I have noticed the decline of cars in the parking lot over the past few months so I have to wonder, has everyone else in Windham finally caught on? It was a nice pipe dream, but this place is just a total disappointment.

I just want to know, does anyone who works there have the qualifications to be running a bakery? And if they do, did their life instructor leave out the always taste your food rule?

Now many people may be reading this and thinking, what a complete douche. If you feel that way, fine. Doesn’t bother me one bit. This is my first time writing anything negative about a food establishment and it won’t be the norm on this blog but today I just reached my sick and tired point. I work too damn hard to waste my money on a place that claims to be good and just does not care. It’s absolutely ridiculous. If you are going to invest your money in opening a bakery, do it right, please, or leave it to people who know what they are doing. If I was ever-blessed with the opportunity of having my own bakery, people would swoon at the pastry cases. They would drool over the cake stands filled to the brim. They would lavish in the organic, locally sourced ingredients that were put together to create beautiful music. Everything would look pretty, clean and neat all the time. And I would treat every customer like they were my first. It would feel like Paris with thoughtful luxuries throughout the store: fresh flowers, gorgeous napkins and intricate teacups. People would feel like they were treating themselves beyond their means even though the prices would be completely reasonable. Baking is love. Coffee is lust. And if you are going to make bold promises, you better deliver.

Also, I hate their logo. So much.

If someone would just give me a good cup of coffee, I would not be so angry. Promise.

Hugs and kisses people. Sleep tight.