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20.07.2014 admin
When I was in middle school, an awe inspiring shipment arrived at our door in New Hampshire: an entire barrel full olive oil from Yithion, Greece. Maybe you have never been to a Greek Festival, but if you have seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, well,  it’s kind of like that. Greek festivals have been the place to go as long as there have been Greek people in this country.  Many Greeks emigrated to America in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. This year was exciting because Devon had never been to a Greek Festival, and it was the perfect event for him to experience both small town New Hampshire pride, and some “mother country” food. My parents came along, as did my childhood best friend Sara – who gets points here for putting up with my tourist-like camera-wielding action for the sake of my blog, even though she found it a touch embarrassing.
Food selections were mostly the classics: Souvlaki (charbroiled meat on sticks), or Pastichio (an ultra rich cross between mac and cheese and meat lasagna) or Moussaka (layers of baked eggplant, potatoes, and ground beef).
I went with a traditional Gyro (grilled strips of lamb and beef in a warm pita with cooling tzaziki yogurt sauce). The food was pretty great all around, except for Sara’s Greek salad, which suffered from being not much more than a massive plate of iceberg lettuce.
After our meal, we took a brief respite from eating to watch the children perform (8!) Greek dances. If you are special, you finish your cup, turn it over onto the saucer, wait until it dries, and then let someone read your dregs (akin to reading your tealeaves).
I will admit however, that by the time I arrived at the pastry station I had already been defeated, and it took all that was in me to even photograph the dessert.
Despite my protests, my mother had the foresight to purchase a few Kourambiethes and Amygdalota to go. For those of you fortunate to live in near proximity to a Greek Orthodox church, I urge you to check out the local calendar to determine when their Greek Festival will be held this summer, and GO.
We all have one type of food we crave no matter what our mood is, and for me, that’s Japanese food.
Over time I learned there were more exciting options than California rolls, and soon I moved onto Nabeyaki Udon (a rich broth filled with thick, chewy noodles and seafood and vegetables served in a cast iron soup bowl) and Beef Negima, (thinly sliced beef wrapped around scallions). Let’s face it, it’s not Nobu, but the food is a notch above your New England neighborhood sushi joint.
Being a tee-totaler of late, we didn’t order any drinks (I know, shame on me), but I did observe a fairly well stocked bar, and some excellently kitschy cocktail umbrellas. At dinner, my father ordered the Yaki Soba which was unctuous, not too salty, and generously topped with seafood. Although I’m not a “roll person”, the selections at Shio are creative and slightly more exciting than your average selection, using more traditional Japanese condiments such as plum paste, spicy kampyo (squash), or non-traditional additions such as cilantro, mango and fresh chile. I ordered my favorite fish preparation, Chirashi, which is assorted sashimi scattered over a bed of sushi rice. In the name of impartial research, Devon and I actually decided to go back to Shio for lunch, as the specials were quite reasonably priced. Lunch specials were served with miso soup and salad, both of which I could have done without. Although admittedly not as good as my Chirashi at the previous meal, the sushi was flavorful and lunch was a pretty good deal all around. After a long week on the road driving from San Francisco to New Hampshire, we were a bit zombie-esque but jumped at a chance to get out into the sunshine and find some good produce.
Despite pleasant pea-loving patrons, this was the location of scandal last year as some residents of Connors Cottage began complaining of early morning rooster crowing during market set-up.
For the next couple of weeks we will be staying with my parents in their home on the Seacoast and then we plan on moving to the Boston area. We hopped in the car and headed over Saturday morning farmers’ market with Devon in tow, who seemed slightly concerned at our level of general excitement. You can also get all manner of other fun things at the market, including flowers, leather products, lambskins, home made soaps and candles, Kit Cornell Pottery which Kit herself sells out of the back of her van, and these extraordinarily happy yarn balls.
Garlic Scapes are fairly versatile, and some of my favorite preparations are grilled, whirred into pesto, or chopped and used to impart a garlicky taste to stir-fries with some actual body and crunch. This recipe is for garlic obsessed, and preferably not to be served if you are aiming for romance later in the evening.
Put the garlic scapes, olive oil, pine nuts and salt in the food processor and process until fairly smooth – about 4 to 5 minutes, pausing every minute or two to scrape down the sides.


Things to do with Garlic Scape Pesto: you can eat this stirred into pasta (just loosen it a little bit with some pasta water), or serve it with fresh pita or little crackers.
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The closest I’ve come is Istanbul (not the same, I know), where my Grandmother (half Greek) lives with her Greek Orthodox Icons hanging prominently next to her Jewish Hamsah (hand icons), next to the Turkish Boncuk (blue evil eye).  I will proudly claim my different lineages, particularly when food is involved. Seriously – when that movie came out, every one of my Greek and Middle Eastern friends went to see it with their entire families, and it was like watching reality television. In an April, 1897 clipping from the New York Times we already see public announcements:  “Greek Festival Here. Nicks is located in a rather unassuming place right next to the Portsmouth High School and has been around for over 80 years.
Both Devon and my mom thought this was a good idea as well, so we ended up getting three of the same thing.
The other failure was the breaded deep fried french fries which came out of a bag and were sopping in oil. These are essentially fried balls of dough, dipped in honey, and coated with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Here, all sorts of trinkets, t-shirts, and **phenomenally tacky** cds were for sale, along with a food market and tasting pavilion (in case you aren’t full yet, and would like to try some Greek honey or cheese to prime your stomach for round three).
Greek pastry is so much more than the sad, oversweet baklava that you can find mass-produced for coffee shops. New England isn’t exactly the hotbed of Japanese cuisine, but when I was growing up, we happened to have a good little Japanese restaurant in town called Sakura.
I finally moved onto the Omakase chefs’ favorite sushi – and “please, hold the cooked shrimp”, because I wasn’t interested, thank you. I’ve been going on the gastronomic tour these past few weeks, eating at all the old haunts, and making a list of the new ones.
Two weeks in my hometown away from the big city and I really needed my Japanese food!!  When triple digit temperatures actually made the idea of raw fish in a blissfully air conditioned environment a necessity, we came back two days later.
This isn’t the type of place you’d be casually charmed to stop in after strolling by, you kind of have to know about it. It filled my sushi cravings, used relatively high quality fish that wasn’t bland, and took greater care in plating. Having grown up with a sibling that wouldn’t have touched raw fish with a ten foot pole, the relative variety of non-sushi options makes this more family friendly for those who haven’t yet hopped on the bandwagon. The Dumpling Soup was a warming bowl of rich mushroom broth with little meat dumplings, scallions, mushrooms and vegetables (and was much better than the miso soup).
My mother had the Rob Roll, which I’m fairly sure was named after someone named Rob, but immediately brought to mind the Urban Dictionary connotation of being very good at something unexpectedly after drinking a lot of booze. This rendition was quite satisfying, and I found myself enjoying everything except for the imitation crab, which I could generally do without.
Interestingly, while the typical Seacoast lunch crowd is made up of women, we were surprised to see a crowd of mostly business men in button downs and slacks – clearly Shio is the place to be for a work lunch. While I generally like carrot ginger dressing, serving it ontop of iceberg lettuce pains me.  Devon ordered the sushi platter, which came with five pieces of sushi and a California roll, and I ordered the Sushi and Sashimi combo.
The Portsmouth Farmers’ Market is held in the parking lot of the city municipal complex and Connors Cottage Senior Housing building.
The first thing I noticed was that finding a parking spot was remarkably easier than doing the same in San Francisco. Usually, we circle around the entire market a few times to survey everything, chat with friends, and plan our meals. I haven’t decided about the beets yet, because although I prefer them roasted, the idea of cranking up the oven in 90 degree heat seems a little silly.
I feel like if you got a few of these and strung them up at a party, everyone would have a wildly good time. When they are plentiful, I like to buy them and chop them into inch-long pieces to freeze as well. I first tried Garlic Scape Pesto at Stearns Farm which was pretty straightforward but added some basil. You don’t want to skimp on this step, because if the pieces of scape are too big, they may taste too strong.


I get a small commission if you purchase something from that link and this helps cover hosting costs (I use DreamHost and have been a happy customer since 2009). Perhaps Greek people just know how to throw a better party, but this happens to be one of my favorite festivities on the Seacoast. The Grecian national fete will be celebrated in this city to-day, with services in the Greek Church, at 340 West Fifty-third Street.” Granted, at that time there was a holiday attached to the festival, and now mostly, summer seems a good enough reason to celebrate.
The festival started about thirty years ago, and I’ve been going fairly regularly for over a decade. I’m always particularly impressed by the kids who have been enlisted to do this, because I myself would have died of mortification. Unlike your typical boardwalk or amusement park fried dough, Loukoumades are surprisingly airy and light. Greek pastry is a centuries old miracle of tweaking and finesse, resulting in perfect little bites of sweetness, richness, fluffiness and crunch.
It wasn’t the best Japanese food, yet it was the place that opened my heart to an entire regional cuisine. If you aren’t the type of person immediately put off by neon sushi signs and a “Big Lots” next door, you’ll get rewarded by a pleasant looking restaurant interior. Devon’s Chicken Katsu was lightly breaded with a great crunch, and avoided the typical katsu pitfall of being too greasy. I particularly enjoyed the variety of tsukemono (pickles), there were three beyond the standard pickled ginger. Unfortunately, one of said businessmen spent twenty five minutes prodding his sushi with a chopstick, and left abruptly, but not before rudely telling the staff he was in a hurry, and wasting his entire meal. Just walking around, taking everything in and breathing, I immediately start dreaming of the possibilities in the kitchen, and spend less time worrying about being in a foreign place. Fortunately, the majority of the farms at the farmers’ market are small, family run, and environmentally conscious. Garlic scapes are not to be found anywhere in California markets because hard-necked garlic is primarily found in colder climates. But, I like this recipe because it keeps the flavor cleaner and yet adds both oil and butter, which seems a little bit fancy, but nicely complements the strong garlic taste of the scapes. Nice to meet you!The Second Lunch is a (mostly) food blog by Sam Tackeff about recipes, food writing, ingredient hunting, travel, healthy living, fitness, and everything in between. When I finally make it there I will gorge myself on olives and feta, wild horta greens, and fish from the sea, and I will be very, very happy. One can get meat on a stick, meat in a wrap, copious amounts of desserts, and very strong coffee.
However, I found out another Japanese restaurant opened in its absence when my mother started texting me photos of elaborate sushi rolls. Shio has nice big tables, a sushi bar, and traditional tatami rooms, where you can take off your shoes and sit on cushions.
It also tasted superb when I ate the leftovers at 11:45 pm, and was awarded my extra stamp of approval. Even though San Franciscans complain of the cold summers, this apparently does not qualify.
We ordered Dolmathakia (stuffed grape leaves) in olive oil to share, although I ended up sneaking most of them.
The evening crowd is mainly families, although we saw a few dates, and it can get quite busy. The food options at the Portsmouth market are mostly bakeries, a few tea companies, a maple syrup company which has maple cotton candy, Applecrest serving up apple cider donuts (see below), a few pastured meat farms with breakfast sandwiches and sausages, and an Indian food stall.
It was a long saga that ended fruitfully in several years worth of some of the best olive oil to touch my lips.
I assure you, even the most pristine first cold press olive oil tastes even better when it is from your own families’ grove.



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