Thursday, September 29, 2011

Veranda Noodle Bar - Big Bowl of Yum

I first discovered Veranda Noodle Bar purely by accident one afternoon with my husband. Since that deliciously fateful day, we've been back several times, and have always been thrilled with the quality of the food and the outstanding service.

Located on 14 Veranda Street in Portland, ME, Veranda Noodle Bar is tucked out of the way next to a Beal's Ice Cream, and across the street from Veranda Thai (owned by the same family). It doesn't invest in flashy advertising, and it's hard to spot from the main road. But, if you do happen to stumble upon this gem, you won't be disappointed. Each time we've been in, the restaurant has been comfortably full of local regulars who order their favorites confidently, spending little time having to contemplate the menu.

Our obsession began with Pho-fuh. More commonly known as Pho or Pha, this traditional Vietnamese noodle soup is incredibly seductive. Within the beautiful, giant, bowl you find delicious Pho broth full of rice noodles, thinly sliced beef and small homemade meatballs. A plate next to your Pho lies heaped with sprouts and fragrant herbs for you to add according to your personal tastes. Hoison sauce and Siracha add the finishing touch. You will not find a better Pho in the Portland area in my opinion, and I challenge you to try to get to the bottom of an extra large bowl - I've never been able to to it, no matter how starving I've been when I began it.

On this particular visit however, we decided to change it up. Instead of the Pho, we both opted for the Mi Vit Tiem, which is another soup that contains roasted duck thigh and yellow noodles. We also split an Appetizer Sampler and the Grilled Sliced Pork & Egg Roll Vermicelli.

I will admit - I'm fully addicted to the Appetizer Sampler, and have been for some time. While I can switch out the Pho, I can't let go of this sampler plate. This particular offering samples all of the Veranda Noodle Bar's most phenomenal appetizers - chicken and beef teriyaki, chicken wing, pork sugarcane, shrimp sugarcane, crab rangoon and egg roll, served with peanut sauce and their sweet and sour sauce.
The star of this plate is by far the pork and shrimp sugarcanes. These feature a tender, juicy, well seasoned "meatball" that is placed on a piece of sugarcane and grilled. Try it. You'll never look back.

Quickly following our appetizers, we were served our soup. The duck soup is accompanied by a plate of sprouts, jalapenos, and fragrant herbs much like the Pho

I'm ashamed to admit it, but the duck soup rivaled the space in my heart firmly reserved for the Pho. The roast duck was tender and not greasy, and the broth was a layering of flavors just as impressive. I dolled up my bowl and dove in with pleasure

The Grilled Sliced Pork & Egg Roll Vermicelli that followed was just excessive. No one could eat the amount of food we ordered. However, I knew from experience, this would all be delicious the next day as lunch. The Grilled Sliced Pork & Egg Roll Vermicelli is just not to missed, no matter what else is on the table. The first time we went to the Veranda Noodle Bar all around us we heard people ordering the "V8", which is this dish's number on the menu. Once I tried it I knew why it had such overwhelming popularity. The cool Vermicelli noodles and cucumber blend perfectly with the grilled pork and crispy slices of egg roll. You top it off with their signature sweet and sour sauce and magic!
So, as the cool weather rolls in, so ushers in more visits to the Veranda Noodle Bar. Nothing hit the spot better than a bowl of their soups on a chilly day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mead Making- The First Parts

My husband and I have enjoyed home brewed mead for a long time, and have often admired the brewing skills that have been cultivated  by some of our friends. My passion for this honey based libation finally spilled over into an ambition to try brewing a batch of our own mead at home.

After a lot of research and looking over various recipes, we settled on a method that seemed the easiest for a first time go. I downloaded an e-book at The Joy of Mead called The Easy Guide to Making Mead Sucessfully. The hubby and I read over the pages very carefully, decided this was something we could do, and set about gathering up the ingredients.

Since mead is a honey based beverage, I decided I needed to get a hold of the best honey possible. To do this, I ventured out to the madhouse that is the Saturday Portland Farmer's Market in Deering Oaks Park. Wading through the masses, I finally found Tom's near the end of the row. I have purchasesd Tom's honey at the farmer's market before and new it was high quiality, raw, and best of all, local. I bought the largest jar they offered, holding about 7 cups of wildflower honey.

Next stop was Maine Brewing Supply to get a few of the more technical pieces we needed. The gentleman behind the counter was fantastic and helped me gather up gallon jugs, airlocks, wine yeast, sanitizer and siphon hose. I was really pleased with how affordable these items were. I will definetely be visiting this shop for our future brewing adventures.

With the addition of an orange, some raisins and distilled water from the grocery store, we were ready to roll. My husband manned the pot as he warmed up the honey and water, and I got the wine yeast started.
The wine yeast was suspisiously slow, not nearly as active as bread yeast, so I fretted over it. When the honey mixture was cool enough and in the jug with the fruit, I tipped the small bowl of sluggish yeast down the funnel with extreme misgivings. We capped the jug off with an airlock, and according to the directions, if we did everything right, within a few hours we'd see bubbles in the airlock. If not, we had problems.

We put the jug in the basement in a safe dry and cool location and tried to stay away from it for a few hours. When the hubby finally went to check it, he raced back up the stairs to let me know there were bubbles, and things looked good. I guess the yeast was fine after all.

It's now been almost two weeks and the jug continues to show signs of happy, bubbly activity, and we are reassured that this batch should make it to full-fledged mead over the comming months. In a few more weeks we get to drain of the sludge and re-jug it to continue it's fermentation for another couple months. This is a very time consuming science project, but hopefully it will yeild tasty results.