Rabelais Books, Portland, Maine, ME, Samantha Hoyt Lindgren, Don Lindgren, Food, Wine, Fine Wine, Lifestyle, What to read, Where to buy books, Best Book Stores, Where to shop, Portland’s Best Book Stores, Bookstore, Book Shop, Chef Recommended, Insider Recommendations, Where to drink, Where to eat, What to read


Q & A with Book Store Owners Samantha and Don Lindgren

Q. Why Portland?

A. Don: The idea for the business came from Portland. We had backgrounds in books and food, but it was Portland itself, and its food scene that gave us the idea. We wanted a shop that was integrated with a community, and the food community seemed like it had it going on.

Q. What are your thoughts on the "There's an App For That" mentality towards technology melding with the book world?

A. Don: We’re not Luddites, we own iPhones and an iPad. I frequently look at electronic books online – mostly from academic sources for early texts. But I think the rush for publishers, the food media and much of the public, to expect an app with every book release is just stupid. I read an interview with the authors of the new Eleven Madison Park cookbook, which I think is a terrific book, but the interviewer lost sight of the great new book in front of herself, and kept asking about the possibility of future apps. It’s like sitting down with Scorsese and asking when the video game is coming out.

Samantha: I guess there will come a day when devices will be so cheap and disposable that getting them covered in bacon fat won’t be a big problem. But from my perspective, cooking is a hands-on craft and working with an electronic device is foreign to that experience. Pages, even sauce spattered pages, are preferable to screens for me. It may be cliché, but I like going to a recipe page and seeing some remnant from my last visit.

Q. Your antiquarian collection is impressive. Explain a little bit about the importance of these books? Do you consider them art or the result of a craft?

A. Don: It wasn’t long after the era of printing in the West began with Gutenberg that people were publishing cookbooks. And before the printed books, there were manuscript cookbooks. You can go all the way back to Babylonian cylinder seals (that’s 3500 years) and at each point the books are a reflection of one of humankind’s most essential activities – eating. Around eating everything else happens: social groupings, agriculture, travel, commerce, sometimes war. A cookbook from any time can tell you an awful lot about the place and time in which it was written and printed. And scholarship about food is an expanding and still quite young activity, so there is still so much to learn. I also find it fascinating to see how people in other times and places used foodstuffs we’ve forgotten.  

Samantha: Or are rediscovering with great fanfare.

Q. Cookbooks with recipes are important, but Rabelais covers so much more than that. I notice you lean toward the antique liquor books. I think they are sexy, so do a lot of folks in the restaurant industry. What do you think is the allure?  

A. Don: We have one of the largest collections of rare cocktail books for sale in the country and we carry all the related areas, like soda fountain books and antique distilling manuals. There are loads of reasons they’re sexy. For one thing, you can actually make yourself an 1880s, or 1920s, or 1950s cocktail with only a bit of expense for the odd ingredient or two. You can’t do that with a 19th century wine book. And cocktail books really reflect their eras more than most books, from the art deco books of the twenties, to the ‘Mad Men’ books of the 1950s and early 60s and beyond. The graphic design, the social mores, the books are little time capsules.

Q. I love what the British do with cookbooks, especially The River Cottage collection. Why are they so good at what they do?  

A. Don: We love the British books too. I think they have a different relationship with food in their history and a different relationship with food personally. Americans spent much of the 20th century trying to squeeze food into the science and economy box, and now they’re trying to bring it back out. But it’s a much more normal thing for the British to draw on their history in a contemporary book, and for the food to be taken as very personal. Also, the British publishers have been very open to interesting design approaches to cookbooks, from simple and elegant (think Fergus Henderson’s books) to elaborate and fanciful (think Heston Blumenthal’s).  

Samantha: They also approach cooking as a completely natural and instinctual thing to do. Once you get past Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s introductions you really feel like he’s just giving you advice on making dinner. Unlike the French, the British books are very casual. They assume you know how to slice an onion, so they are just offering up more ideas on what to cook. I’m sorry for using horrible self-help term, but the British books are empowering. Anyone can understand a glug of olive oil or a handful of herbs as direction. I never feel intimidated by these books. Inspired, yes, but intimidated? No.

Q. M. F. K. Fisher or Richard Olney?  

A. Don: For me, Olney, because they’re cookbooks, not food writing. And when it comes to food writing, I’m an Elizabeth David fan.

Samantha: Laurie Colwin.

Q. You are both excellent cooks and gardeners. What was in your garden this past season? And did you do any canning this year?   

A. Don: We each take care of a different part of the garden. I do the fruit trees, most of which are still young to be bearing much, but this season we got some apples and a few sour cherries, and we hope next year will bring quinces and possibly pears. I’m also growing hops, which is going to some local chefs and brewers, and wormwood, which goes to someone I know with a still. But Sam’s the real gardener.

Samantha: To be brutally honest, I am in some sort of a gardening rut. I often have the best intentions in the spring and then by the time August rolls around I lose steam. This year, I did well with my peas, which may be one of the most satisfying vegetables to grow and eat. But my potatoes had some nasty scour on their skins, and they came out football-size. And I couldn’t get my beets or my carrots to germinate. The weather has been pretty wonky the past couple of years, I think it’s been throwing me off my game.  

Q. You have been busy traveling and attending book fairs--but when you are home, what's cooking? And who's cooking?

A. Samantha: We both cook, although I am the workhorse, it’s been a long day and we need something tasty quickly without too much thought to cook. We love a good roast chicken, which we eat for days: the dark meat when it comes out of the oven; a breast the next night in some sort of a pilaf; another breast for a curry and then the bones etc. make a soup. I have been on a curry kick. If we’ve got coconut milk in the house, I can pull together some bastardized interpretation of a soupy basmati rice-worthy dish with whatever is in the fridge.  

We have a half a pig in the freezer, so we do a lot of pork chops/braised greens/roasted potato dinners. We both love a good steak simply prepared, maybe some mashed potatoes (or celeriac) and a green salad. There is an Asian slaw that I get to craving in the dead of winter, when I need something fresh, that goes great with any grilled protein: cabbage/carrots/almonds/scallions/cilantro/garlic. Don makes great burgers. And there is this Asian soupy rice thing he does with Maine shrimp and an Asian pesto made with cilantro/mint/chiles/garlic and fish sauce.

Q. Least favorite culinary trend and why?

A. Don: Not a trend in itself, but the speed at which ideas and concepts get churned, due to social media -- Twitter in particular. How can people even begin to see if an idea is worth thinking about or trying, if the next idea arrives in their inbox within ten minutes. I guess ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder] is my least favorite culinary trend.

Sam: I totally second this. Going back to my opinion that cooking is a craft, how can you partake, engage and enjoy your craft if you are already moving on to the next trend? Slow down and enjoy your food. Any trends worth following will still be there when you’ve finished your meal.


Portland - Maine

Recommended By

- Chef Krista Kern Desjarlais (Bresca)

- Chef Erik Desjarlais

- Stella and Guy Hernandez (Bar Lola)


Samantha and Don’s recommendations for the books you should be reading and where you should be eating, drinking and shopping in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London.



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Introduction by Chef Erik Desjarlais

There are very few food and libation focused bookstores in the world that can rival that of Rabelais in Portland Maine. They are more than just a cookbook store. Essentially, what Samantha and Don Lindgren offer at their space on Middle Street is a tremendous guide to doing things right and leading a happy life. Lining the walls and tables are books about food, wine, liquor, gardening, history and honeybees. 

From modern agrarian books about starting seeds and maintaining a garden, to antique farming books about livestock, to the entire Ferran Adria collection, they currently stock the books that will cover every foodist and hedonists’ bases.

Their rare and antiquated book collection is mind-boggling, to say the least. I love to stare through the glass at the limited selection they keep at the shop, and I when I do, I immediately shove my hands in my pockets like a well behaved six-year-old in a Limoges shop, so I don’t get my grubby digits on them. 

Don Lindgren has immersed himself in rare books since the 70s. A dip into the music business eventually led him back to books. After owning a rare book shop in Manhattan’s Chelsea, he and Samantha made the pilgrimage to Alfred, Maine, to forge a gentleman’s farm and to live the good life.  

Samantha has led what she describes as a “peripatetic career.” She danced with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, with the highlight being the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. After many years as a photographer and photo editor at Forbes, New York, Life and People magazines, she dove pastry bag first into the Culinary Arts, landing a pastry apprenticeship at the restaurant Craft after school. 

When they landed in Maine, they immediately fell in love with the vibrant restaurant community in Portland, and decided to open Rabelais in the spring of 2007.



Books | Top 5 Favorite Books Released This Year (2011)

Mourad: New Morroccan by Mourad Lahlou

The San Francisco-based chef offers a detailed, technical, and yet personal look at Moroccan food. A master class.

The Art of Living According to Joe Beef by David McMillan & Frederic Morin

A collage of a cookbook that breaks out of the traditional mold. From the Montreal restaurant of the same name, known for making visiting chefs very comfortable.

The Family Meal by Ferran Adria

An El Bulli book that home cooks can actually cook from. A great book for dinner party cooking, as all of the recipes have ingredient quantities and yields for small and for large parties.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

A delicious and simple book of ice cream making that does not involve a custard base. The flavors are inventive and fun without being trendy.

A Cook’s Year in a Welsh Farmhouse by Elizabeth Luard

A beautiful meditative book from the well-respected, and well-traveled, food writer. The recipes are seasonal and simple, following the course of the Welsh garden year.

[See details / buy the books.]

Books | Favorite British Cookbooks

Nose To Tail Cooking by Fergus Henderson

The language that Henderson uses is unlike most any other modern book. He actually writes his recipes. A joy to read and to cook from.

Week In Week Out by Simon Hopkinson

Eminently cookable, yet amazingly sophisticated modern British food, assembled from the best of the author’s weekly newspaper columns.

The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

Possibly our all-time favorite go-to book. Slater's whole approach appeals to us so thoroughly, from his casual yet careful approach to preparing a meal to his magnificent vocabulary and the inviting photography.

Honey From A Weed by Patience Gray

Gray led a peripatetic life following her stone sculptor husband from one rock strewn Mediterranean locale to another. Her life was simple and hard, but there is poetry in the food and in the recipes.

The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Once you get past Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s introductions you really feel like he’s just giving you advice on making dinner.

Good English Food by Florence White

White, the founder of the English Folk Cookery Association, was an early proponent of English historical and local cooking. This book looks at 500 years of English recipes she thought were worth saving. She was right.

French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David

All of Elizabeth David's books are gems, but this is our favorite, with her sharp wit and attention to historical and culinary detail on every page.

[See details / buy the books.]

Pantry items | Top 5 Most Used Pantry Items At Home

- Tiparos Fish Sauce [buy some]

- Canned Tomatoes

- Almonds

- Sumac or Cumin

- Coconut Milk.



Portland, ME | For Beer & Seafood

Samantha: Portland really doesn’t do that New England seafood thing very well. It’s all over the place in the rest of the state but here, the food is much more interesting.  

The Lobster Shack At Two Lights | Bresca

Photo Credit: Find. Eat. Drink.

The Lobster Shack At Two Lights

Samantha: If our “from away” friends insisted on lobster, I would take them to The Lobster Shack at Two Lights in the summer months.

Bresca | Hugo’s | Miyake

Samantha: If I could sway their choices, I would take a visiting friend to some of Portland’s jewels: Bresca, Hugo’s or Miyake to name our top choices.

[See details.]

Favorite Cities | Favorite Meals

Barcelona | Inopia

Samantha: Barcelona, would have to be Albert Adria’s now closed Inopia. We went back three times while we were there, modern tapas excellently prepared in a lively room with servers who knew what they were serving and liked their job. We had only one meal in Barcelona that was not excellent. We were continually impressed by the quality of ingredients, attention to detail and the push-pull between a great tradition and the techniques of modern execution.

San Francisco

Octopus at La Ciccia | The Hamburger at Zuni Cafe

Photographs courtesy of La Ciccia | stu_spivack [flickr]

La Ciccia

Don: At the far end of Noe Valley’s Church Street, past Chris Cosentino’s marvelous Incanto, and Celia Sack’s Omnivore Books, is an almost tiny Sardinian restaurant called La Ciccia. Celia and her girlfriend Paula and I shared an intense meal prepared by the husband and wife chef/owners. Octopus stew, Sardinian flatbreads, sea urchin tomato and cured tuna heart, and lots of Carignano and Cannonau wines to chase it all down. Delicious.

Zuni Cafe

Samantha: We had a transcendent lunch at the Zuni Café a couple years back. We squeezed a reservation in before our flight back East. The sun was streaming through the windows, our server spoke just loudly enough to be heard, didn’t give us her name, knew the menu and the wine list backwards and forwards. We had a lovely half-bottle of Vouvray. I couldn’t actually tell you exactly what we ate, I don’t remember the details, but I can tell you all of it was delicious. I hold that meal in my heart.

[See details.]


Moro | St. John Restaurant

Photo Credit: London Chow [flickr] | Find. Eat. Drink.


Samantha: Last March, we were in London and had a couple of fantastic meals. I had my favorite fish preparation ever at Moro: some sort of walnut and yogurt sauce on top of a perfectly grilled filet of snapper.

Ottolenghi | Nopi

Samantha: Lunch at Ottolenghi in Notting Hill and then a dinner at their newly opened Nopi. We are huge Ottolenghi fans. For me, Middle Eastern cuisine is comfort food, and he does it soooo well.

St. John Restaurant

Samantha: Our dinner at the St. John in Spitalfields held the most delicious Brown Bread ice cream and a pork cut I am unfamiliar with, but that was lip-smackingly delightful. And all this when we were thirty minutes late for our reservation, because we had misjudged the distance from from our hotel. They were so gracious. We were so embarrassed.

[See details.]

Off The Beaten Track

New York | Grand Sichuan

Samantha: On 24th and Ninth Avenue -- real Chinese, minimal service, always a wait, don’t linger or they will literally take your table away from you. We try and hit them up every time we’re in the city.

[See details.]

Norwood, MA | Seema’s

Don: I just had a great Pakistani meal there. The place was very quiet, but they brought out dish after dish of well-prepared, tasty food. I was thrilled by how good it was.

[See details.]


Swish By Han

Photograph courtesy of Swish By Han

Swish by Han

Don: We both really liked the oddly named Swish by Han, a Korean place. The ingredients were fresh and everything was well-prepared -- a bit inventive, but still grounded in flavor. The crowd was young and the music loud, but we went back twice.

[See details.]


Interviewed By Erik Desjarlais


Old Port

Specialty Book Store -- Food & Wine

86 Middle Street

Portland, ME 04101

T: 207.774.1044





After Work Libation Of Choice

Maker’s Mark | Aperol Sprtiz | Bulleit Bourbon

Samantha: In the winter, a Maker’s Mark Manhattan. In the summer, it’s an Aperol Spritzer from Roxanne Dragon of Hugo’s.

Don: Bourbon -- I’m fond of Bulleit and red wine, right now Cab Francs (there’s a Rabelais connection, you know).

[See details.]


Details of Samantha and Don’s recommendations for the books you should be reading and where you should be eating, drinking and shopping in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London.