Lunch at Duckfat, Portland

Duck Fat restaurant Portland Maine

The weather in NYC has been jumping around from sunny and 70-degrees, to windy and under-30 degrees, and I know I’m not alone when I say STOP TOYING WITH MY EMOTIONS AND GET ON WITH SUMMER!

With May less than two weeks away (where did April go!?) my friends and I are all FINALLY getting down to serious summer-planning business. Last summer we had the most magical weekend in Maine, so that’s highest on all our to-do lists. We stayed in our friend’s family’s summer-house, which is secluded on its own little island, complete with a hammock, tree-house, kayaks and flat rocks perfect for outdoor cooking and sunset-admiring. We arrived late on a Friday night and spent all of Saturday sprinting around on the dinghy, drinking boxed wine straight from the bag (see above), eating lobster rolls, saltwater taffy and fudge, swimming in the chilly water, and just generally enjoying the summer, the sun and each other’s company.

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We had to leave all too soon, the next afternoon, in order to get back to NYC in time for work Monday morning (we got in around 1 or 2 AM Sunday night, after a ten-hour drive, and I was at work by 9 AM Monday morning, but it was totally worth it!).

On our way out of Maine that Sunday, Maggie, our friend Tanner and I stopped in Portland for lunch at a restaurant I’d heard about (we’d already been on the windy roads for an hour by then): Duckfat.

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Duckfat is a small restaurant that calls itself a “sandwich shop” but serves much more than that: soups, salads, milkshakes, donuts, craft beverages and duck-fat-fried-French-fries, all made with locally sourced ingredients. They even make their own craft sodas, which I always love since I don’t really drink the artificial variety. I had the “All Maine Tonic,” with honey, maple, raw cider vinegar and chaga (keep reading to see more of their original beverages).

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Of course, our mouths were already watering just looking at the menu. Maggie and I decided to split two panini; here is the first.

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Paska [Russian Easter Bread], Minneapolis

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Usually Russian Orthodox Easter falls later than regular Easter, but this year, both fall on the same day: today! Last year I visited my family in Minnesota and my grandma and I made paska, traditional Russian Easter bread. I’ve made this every year since I can remember, and have always used her recipe, but never had the chance to make it with her so this felt truly special.

making pascha bread

Above is my recipe next to my grandma’s recipe card. My version I transcribed on my mom’s neon orange Apple iBook, back when using Microsoft Word was an exciting activity in and of itself. I still remember my grandma reading her recipe to me over the phone as I typed (and later probably obsessed over choosing just the right font).

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Unfortunately, I put this post off until the very last-minute because I just couldn’t find my recipe anywhere (I’m sure it’s around here somewhere, among the various paper piles of recipes and articles that I tend to accumulate). But if you’re interested in making your own version, there are plenty of great recipes online. My grandma’s will just have to remain a family secret!

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The “What I Ate Wednesday” That Never Was

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Allow me explain the title of this post: often I begin to take pictures of what I eat, and then in the rush of the workday, I forget that I’m documenting for What I Ate Wednesday. These are the pictures from those fragmented days.

Above is a snack I ate pre-jog: watermelon radish on buttered semolina toast, with sea salt. This is one of the simplest yet most beautiful and delicious things I’ve made, and I highly recommend it. Just don’t tell anyone what it is until after they’ve taken a bite; Kiyo and Zan both thought it sounded gross, but when Kiyo tried it he loved it.

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This is beef gyoza that I picked up from Dean & Deluca after a doctor’s appointment, on my way back to the office. They weren’t as good as fresh dumplings, but they were still good for packaged food.

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The work lunch I’m loving most lately is stuffed bell peppers. I cooked up quinoa in vegetable broth (to give it extra flavor) and mixed in frozen kale. Then I stuffed it into a pepper and topped it off with pepper jack cheese. Cheap, easy and delicious!

NYC kebab

Mik and I stopped at a Turkish kebab place before an evening at the Comedy Cellar. This is my chicken kebab on super soft home bread, with lettuce, tomato and sauce. It was so good I almost ate the entire thing, and it was pretty big.

WIAW chocolate peanut butter hemp toast

Lastly, an early morning pre-yoga snack: toast with Peanut Butter & Co.’s chocolate peanut butter and hemp hearts.

Dinner at Vesta, Astoria

Vesta beet appetizer

I’d heard from various friends, colleagues, books and blogs that Vesta is arguably THE best restaurant in Astoria. It’s a bit out-of-the-way, and there are so many great places to eat in Astoria, so after living here for almost two years, Kiyo and I had still never gotten to it.

When we left St. Thomas, on a Tuesday a few weeks ago, we skipped lunch and figured we could each just eat a Johnny cake (similar to fry bread) at the airport before our 3-hour flight (my personal tradition). However, our hearts sank and our stomachs growled when the only restaurant in the airport served the very last Johnny cake to the woman RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME IN LINE, and then informed the rest of us that they had no intention of making more. So, Kiyo and I split an unsatisfying hot dog and fries, and later my last Quest bar. By the time we arrived back in New York and drove out of JFK, we were both famished and craving something real, something good. Since we’d left almost no food in our apartment before the trip, we knew we’d have to pick something up or go sit down. And since we were already in the car, and we take all meals very seriously, I figured it was the perfect time to try Vesta.

Vesta pasta special

The first picture is the appetizer that we split (and devoured in five seconds): baby beets, beet green pesto, pickled stems, roasted garlic yogurt, and candied pistachio crumbs. This dish made me realize that I’ve thought way inside the box when it comes to beets. The pickled stems were perfect, the tangy, thick yogurt with the sweetness of the beets was amazing and the pistachios gave it just a bit of crunch and added another flavor component. I absolutely loved this dish.

We decided to order a pizza and an entrée to split as well; we knew we would want leftovers to take to work the next day, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about shopping or cooking once we finally got home. For our entrée, we chose a pasta special: orrachetti with sausage, cheese and greens (I believe it was chard or kale but I forget). Kiyo ate his half right away, and admitted that he was reluctant to hand it over to me. It was so good he just didn’t want to have to share! I agreed, this was an amazing pasta dish.

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