Residents of Munjoy Hill got a Christmakwanzakkah present early this year in the form of Fat Baxter’s East End Market. Its opening is similar to another popular gift this holiday, the iPhone: small, sleek, and infinitely useful.
Sweet Potato $1.80
Green Pepper $1.15
Red Pepper $1.08
Jalapeno Pepper $0.72
2 Cans Tomatoes $3.98
1 Can Black Beans $1.09
2 Tecate Beer Tall Boys $4.18
Flour Tortillas $2.19
Fat Baxter’s East End Market | 88 Congress Street, Portland | 207.773.7888 | Sun-Thurs 7 am-9 pm; Fri-Sat 7 am-10 pm
Fat Baxter’s is located on Congress Street, near the crest of the Hill. As Portland and the surrounding area gets inundated with bigger and better-than-the-last-one megastores, it is refreshing to see the thoughtfulness put into a small space like Fat Baxter’s. Also, in recent years the Hill has seemed to attract conscientious eaters: vegetarians, vegans, locavores (there’s that word again), and those who detest those big-box stores as a matter of principle. Fat Baxter’s provides for all of these people in such a meaningful way, it’s hard to imagine the Hill without it.
A major point of interest at Fat Baxter’s is the kitchen located at the back of the store. Stephanie Pooler is at the helm of the prepared foods and catering, an aspect of the business that is enjoying great success already. The selections from their sandwich and salad menu are so enticing that your twenty-spot expedition might just stop right there. Why worry about preparing food when you have tarragon crab salad, prosciutto, roasted turkey, and marinated tofu to pick up and run with?
The cold weather asks for comfort food, but your body asks for a counterpoint to the excess of the holiday season. Chili is easy to prepare for those with more than their fair share of hustle and bustle going on, and Fat Baxter’s makes it apparent that vegetarian is a specialty. Their veggie protein options include a variety of beans, tofu, and soy sausage. After piling canned tomatoes, tomato paste, black beans, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, and a selection of green, red and jalapeno peppers into the basket, it’s time to take stock. How much will this eat from our twenty-spot? It comes down to a call between the veggie sausage and beer. You can’t have chili without beer, so that takes care of that. For herbs and spices, Fat Baxter’s has a collection of seasonings that are sold in “dimebags” for ease and affordability.
The prep for this is quick and easy. If tofu is your bag, wrap in paper towels and press until most of the water has drained. Scramble over medium-high heat until browned and then set aside. Chop the sweet potatoes, onions, and peppers into half-inch chunks, and finely dice the jalapeno and garlic. In a large pot, heat some olive oil over medium heat, adding the vegetable chunks and jalapeno. Season with salt, pepper, and pinches of ground cumin, crushed red pepper, and dried oregano, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic after the veggies begin to soften, as garlic burns easily and becomes bitter. Once the sweet potatoes are cooked through, add the canned tomatoes, beans, and tofu, and reseason. To achieve stewiness, add some tomato paste and thin with small amounts of water until the desired consistency.
Fat Baxter’s has flour tortillas that would serve as a terrific accompaniment to the chili and are right within the budget at $2.19. And, in the spirit of stretching a buck, the Tecate “tall boys” are of ample size to split between several people and still have some to add to the chili as a secret ingredient.
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