Portland Dishcrawl Review PLUS a Discount!

A few months ago I was contacted by Mary from Dishcrawl Portland. Dishcrawl is much like a pub crawl, but with restaurants. At each event, ticket holders visit four restaurants in one night, sampling each restaurant’s specialties and meeting the chefs or owners. They aim to create a community by bringing Portlanders together with chefs and restaurants. Since I love Portland and I love food, I was pretty excited at the opportunity to give it a try. In May I joined the group and had a great time. Luckily, there’s another event scheduled for June 11 and two sweeter salt readers can receive a 25% off discount – woo hoo! Just enter “sweetersalt” to get 25% off at www.dishcrawl.com/backtooldport.

The first stop on our crawl was at The Porthole. Locals may remember this restaurant closed under dubious circumstances a little while back, but they are newly re-opened and renovated with new ownership and and a fresh menu. I was suuuuuper impressed by the food we sampled, which included a fish taco, lobster roll, and homemade veggie burger. The food was fresh and tasty, and the chef made sure to let us know their dishes are made with local ingredients whenever possible. I’m definitely looking forward to returning.

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The second stop was at a food truck, which is definitely a big trend just starting to hit Portland.

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Gusto’s Italian Food Truck offers seafood, meats and vegetables served in a crispy pizza cone, topped with savory sauces. We tried a mini pizza cone called the “Carne Piquante” which featured roast beef, crispy onions, spicy queso, and pepper jack. This definitely falls into the “fair food” category for me. It was pretty heavy and rich, but it was a yummy guilty pleasure.

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The third stop was at The Merry Table, a French restaurant and creperie. I had been before, but it had been a few years, so I was excited to see what they had to offer. We sampled a crostini with goat cheese, mushrooms, and truffle oil, a “crepe cake” with seafood, egg, and tomato, as well as a curried lamb crepe. All three dishes were delicious, with a bit of a twist – yum.

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The last stop was dessert at Gelato Fiasco. I’m no stranger to this local gelato maker, so I was happy as a clam to chow down on some delicious frozen treats. I was feeling pretty full after all the delicious eats, so I kept it light with sorbetto – raspberry cantaloupe and lemon.

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If you’re intrigued by Dishcrawl, and want to give it a try on June 11, make sure to enter “sweetersalt” to get 25% off at www.dishcrawl.com/backtooldport. Only two discounted spots are available – so sign up early!

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Day of the Dead

If you follow my instagram or twitter, you may have bore witness to my vacation in February. Ross and I flew to LA, spent a few days seeing the sites, then drove to San Diego. From there, we made our way to Kauai. It was, in a word, fantastic. Excellent vacation. In any case, I knew I wanted to splurge a little on something in LA. It’s not every day that I find myself in Southern California, so I figured I’d indulge in something I wouldn’t typically spend a lot of money on. You know, like a bejeweled day of the dead sweatshirt.IMG_7180

I spent far too much on this ridiculous thing, but when in Rome I guess? I kind of love it.

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Skinny jeans: Urban Outfitters:
Sweatshirt: via Kitson
Dark green leather jacket: L.L. Bean Signature
Black quilted purse: vintage, thrifted
Silver sandals: Jeffrey Campbell

The other downright ridiculous element of this outfit was a steal. Jeffrey Campbell wood sandals found at… wait for it… MARDENS! For non-Mainers, Mardens is a haven of ridiculously cheap surplus goods. These babies were $11. I’m in love.

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Sometimes you’re just in the mood for stone encrusted skull faces and silver wood heels. Well, at least I am. Have you made any treat yo’ self purchases lately?

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Voting is Live in the American Lamb Pro-Am!

Hi all! I posted earlier this week with my recipe for Caribbean Roast Leg of Lamb with Mashed Yams and Mango Salsa. Well, voting in the American Lamb Pro-Am is live!  There are a total of 12 participating bloggers – 7 from Boston, two from Portland and three from Providence – who have posted recipes on their blogs. The top four vote-getting Boston bloggers, the top blogger from Portland and the top blogger from Providence will be paired with a chef from their city and compete at the BostonChefs.com and American Lamb Board Pro-Am on May 19th in Boston.

Soooooo…..

VOTE SWEETER SALT!

(you know, if you wanna)

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Voting ends next Friday, April 26 at 5pm. Yay! If you’re interested in buying tickets, click here.

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Caribbean Roast Leg of Lamb with Mashed Yams and Mango Salsa

When I was contacted by BostonChefs.com and the American Lamb Board about participating in the 2nd American Lamb Pro-Am on May 19 in Boston I was excited to say the least. As part of this challenge I was provided with a leg of lamb and asked to come up with an original recipe that will go up against other New England bloggers in an online contest. There are a total of 12 participating bloggers – 7 from Boston, two from Portland and three from Providence – who have posted recipes on their blogs. The top four vote-getting Boston bloggers, the top blogger from Portland and the top blogger from Providence will be paired with a chef from their city and compete. If you want to buy tickets for the event, click here.

VOTE SWEETER SALT!

So! There’s your background. On to the nitty gritty. Since spring is a little slow in coming this year in New England, I knew I wanted to pair the leg of lamb with some bright, fresh flavors. My mind wandered to the Caribbean – I’m talking jerk seasoning, sweet and creamy yams, and bright and spicy mango salsa. There, I’m already feeling a little warmer.

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This plate transported my taste buds straight to Jamaica. Sadly we had snow showers on Friday, so they were shocked back to life shortly thereafter. But! For a little while at least, I could imagine sunny skies and warm beaches. The jerk-infused, robust flavor of the lamb is met with slightly sweet, creamy mashed yams, and spicy, tart flavors from the mango salsa. The acidity from the salsa and sweetness from yams break right through the richness of the meat – yum.

Now, let’s get cooking.

Caribbean Roast Leg of Lamb

Ingredients
One 7-8 pound boneless leg of lamb
Jerk seasoning (see below)

To start, prep your lamb. I was provided with a 7-8 pound boneless leg of lamb. If you’re working with a smaller cut, just adjust your timing. Trim fat to no more than 1/4″ thick and score the fat by making shallow cuts over with the top of the meat using the tip of a small knife knife. I made a grid pattern. Now, make your jerk seasoning.

Jerk Seasoning

Ingredients
1 tbsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. kosher salt

1.) Combine all of the spices except for garlic and salt in a small bowl, make sure they are thoroughly mixed.
2.) Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic and kosher salt to form a paste.
3.) Add the rest of the spices and mix to combine.

Slather the jerk paste all over the meat. I made sure to get into the cut marks, and on the inside as well. Place the meat into a large roasting pan with a rack insert. Here’s how she looks at this point.

IMG_7193Allow it to sit out for 30-45 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 350*F. Roast for 1.5 hours and check the temperature. It should read 130*F at the center of the meat.  If it isn’t fully cooked, try another 15-30 minutes and check the temperature. Mine took a total of two hours. Once it reaches 130*F, let it stand for 15 to 25 minutes. The temperature will rise to about 140°F for medium-rare.

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While the lamb is roasting, prep your sides. You can also do these up to one day in advance.

IMG_7212Caribbean Mango Salsa

Ingredients
2 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and chopped into 1/2″ dice
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped into 1/2″ dice
4 scallions, green part only, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of one lime
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

1.) Heat a large fry pan to medium-low heat. Add the olive oil.
2.) Saute the red pepper, scallions, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno until softened, 3-4 minutes.
3.) Stir in the mango, lime juice, salt and pepper and cook for one minute. Let sit at room temperature, you’ll serve it with the lamb at room temperature.

Mashed Yams
* Serves 4-6. If you’re feeding a crowd, double or triple this recipe

Ingredients
2 pounds of sweet potatoes / yams, peeled and diced into 1″ chunks
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)3 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1.) Add enough water to a large pot to fill half-way. Add the sweet potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil.

2.) Once boiling, remove the cover and allow to cook until fork tender, about 20 minutes.

3.) Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Add the butter, milk, allspice and salt. Use a potato masher to mash. I used a food processor because I wanted mine very smooth, but you could skip this step.

4.) Keep warm until the lamb is ready.

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Now, if you like what you see (you know you do!) make sure to vote starting April 17. If you’re a New Englander, check out the American Lamb Pro-Am on May 19 in Boston – should be a fun event.

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Mexican Meatball Soup

Though Spring has kinda, sorta sprung around these parts, it is still pretty cool in the evenings. The perfect solution for cool spring weather? A festive soup that is at once soul warming and bright and cheery.

Side note: you know what else is soul warming and bright and cheery? My Giovanni Rana giveaway. You have until Wednesday at noon to enter!

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If you’re ready for fish tacos and margaritas on the porch, but the weather man is predicting temps in the 40′s and drizzle – go make yourself some soup. You’ll feel better about life. Sweet potatoes add flavor and viscosity, and tender turkey meatballs and bell pepper create texture. Salsa and chipotle pepper add spice and acidity. That creamy, delicious avocado? The cherry on top.

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Mexican Meatball Soup

Ingredients

Meatballs:
1.25 pounds lean ground turkey
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. smoked sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. canola oil

Soup:
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 bell pepper (any color), cut into bite-size chunks
1.5 cups salsa (I used a spicy chipotle salsa)
3.5 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken stock
minced chipotle to taste
salt and pepper to taste (adjust to how salty your salsa and stock are)

Optional toppings: avocado, grated cheese, sour cream, cilantro, etc.

1.) Pre-heat a large pot to medium heat. Add canola oil.

2.) Combine all meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Roll into 1″ meatballs. In batches (I did two) brown the meatballs in the pot for about 1-2 minutes on each side, flipping with tongs. You don’t need to worry about fully cooking them because they will be simmered later. Once they’re browned, remove to a plate covered with a paper towel.

3.) Add your green pepper to the pot and saute for about 3-5 minutes, until tender-crisp. Remove from the pot.

4.) Add the stock and sweet potato to the pot and raise the heat to high. Cook until the sweet potato is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Once cooked, lower the heat to medium-low and puree the sweet potato and stock using a blender (in batches) or an immersion blender. Blend until smooth.

5.) Stir in the salsa and chipotle pepper. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning. Add the bell pepper and meatballs to the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes until flavors are combined and the meatballs are fully cooked.

6.) Serve with toppings of your choice.

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Giovanni Rana Pasta Giveaway

Remember when I posted a tasty little recipe for Baked Ravioli with Pesto, Artichokes, and Chicken Sausage last week? Well, good news! Giovanni Rana, who supplied me with the pesto and artichoke ravioli, is offering a giveaway to sweeter salt readers!

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Enter to win the artichoke ravioli, spinach and ricotta ravioli, the fettucine paglia e fieno, basil pesto, and marinara. Just leave a comment below with your favorite pasta dish. For an additional entry: tweet, facebook, or share any which way your please. Just leave a separate comment letting me know. The giveaway closes on Wednesday, April 10 at 12:00pm EST. The giveaway package will be overnight shipped to the winner directly from Giovanni Rana. Make sure to leave your email address so I can get in touch.

Check them out on Facebook (Giovanni Rana Pasta and Sauces) and Twitter (@GiovanniRanaUSA).

Good luck!

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Cinderella Shoes

I received an L.L. Bean gift card from my mother-in-law for my birthday in February. Me being me, I wasn’t about to buy something outdoorsy and practical like, say, a pair of hiking shoes or a tent. No, no! I picked up a pair of slippers and some cute little kitten heels that look like Cinderella’s glass slipper. Practical I am not.

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Brown skinny pants: H&M (years ago)
Navy print top: via SWAPmaine
Tan cardigan: Forever 21
Sunglasses: Banana Republic (via Marshall’s)
Shoes: L.L. Bean Signature

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So I’m trying this new thing where I actually style my hair from time to time. Crazy! On this particular day I let it air dry, straightened my bangs (I always do this), then used a large barrel curling iron on a few pieces throughout my hair. I was feeling like Tammy Taylor, from Friday Night Lights, all day. She’s my hair idol.

Do you have a hair idol? I just want her perfectly styled, but not toooo styled, golden mane of amazingness every day.

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