A Hamburger Today
Portland, ME: Fore Street's Tomato Tart
This is it: tomato prime time, and I can't help but indulge. Every year I splurge on Sun Golds, snack on open-faced tomato sandwiches slathered with mayonnaise, confit pounds of plum tomatoes—and drip the sweet, ruby-tinted oil over just about everything. And I always make a reservation at Fore Street, because their tomato tart ($10), a long-running seasonal special, is one of my all-time favorite tomato dishes.
Theirs takes the form of tomato Tarte Tatin—not a new concept, but to the restaurant's summer diners, it's as exceptional as the wood-roasted mussels appetizer, and it's easily one of the best versions in New England. (To my mind, its only regional rival might be Barbara Lynch's Tomato Tarte Tatin at No. 9 Park—nowadays more easily accessed in her cookbook, Stir, than at the restaurant.)
Any decent tomato tart is going to be a seasonal offering, but this one is only on the menu when the restaurant can get local Jet Star tomatoes: a classic red, medium-sized variety that (I've read) peaks early (starting in July) and is known for its low-acid, clean flavor and resistance to cracking. I can't speak to why the kitchen uses—and has for years used—this particular variety, but I can attest to its virtues. It seems to be a pretty resilient fruit: As the tart bakes in the wood-fired oven, the tomato's skin shrivels but doesn't tear, and its flesh gets ultra-concentrated and more tomato-y without breaking down.
The other two components drive home the Tarte Tatin notion. The puff pastry crust—homemade, of course—is as flaky and layered as the croissants they turn out downstairs at Standard Baking Co., and it compresses into a buttery (but sturdy) cushion with each cut. And just as the dessert would be topped with ice cream or, more likely, a dollop of crème fraîche, melting across this savory version is an oval scoop of tangy fresh goat cheese that's been whipped up with chopped herbs.
About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Associate Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.