Archive for the ‘City Snapshot – Portland ME’ Category
Once a homely fishing town and a well-kept secret, this city has in recent years been outed as a real Foodie destination. So yeah, I’ve been there a few times.
This snapshot points you to a gathering of my flava faves and a couple poseurs to stay away from.
First, the Faves:
- Street & Company | www.streetandcompany.net | Upscale Contemporary American Seafood
- Duckfat | www.duckfat.com/ | Fries Cooked in Duck Fat, Vanilla Shakes with Crème Anglaise | Read My Review
- Portland Lobster Company | www.portlandlobstercompany.com | Awesome Lobster Roll, Best Steamers in Town, Local Beer, and Live Music on the Docks
- Micucci Grocery | www.micucci.com | New England’s Best Slice of Pizza | Read My Review
- Bard Coffee | www.bardcoffee.com | Solid Roastery and Café
- Shipyard Brewery | www.shipyard.com | Tour the Brewery, Drink Lots of Beer Samples
- Standard Baking Company | www.forestreet.biz/en/Other-Restaurants | Baller Croissant, Killer Breads, and Amazing Pastries
- The Front Room | www.thefrontroomrestaurant.com | Portland’s Best Brunch
- The Porthole | portholemaine.com/| The Best Dive Bar in Town Has Good Food Too
- Pai men Miyake | www.miyakerestaurants.com | Food from Further East than Eastern Maine – P.S. Try the Pork Belly Bun
- Harbor Fish Market | www.harborfish.com | …And when you’re done, take some fish home from here
Browse the gallery below for some snapshots of goodness devoured at said eateries:
Now, here are a couple Flops:
- J’s Oyster | Yeah, I know Bourdain came here, but it’s overcrowded and mediocre
- Bresca | Overpriced for what you eat, and there’s better food in town | Read My Review
With the busy summer season behind us and the Fall air blowing in, you might want to consider a weekend getaway to this eaters paradise to gorge on all of the above.
So, how does the fair city of Portland do it, you ask? Are their chefs better? Their kitchens more pimped out? Their eaters more discriminating? Their ingredients fresher?
The answer, my friends, washes up on shore with each Maine baby born from the salt of the Atlantic ocean.
Location: Portland, ME
The Foodie: Does Not Recommend
OK, I hate to be the whistle-blower.
We’re not talking shady accounting at Enron here but there is some questionable stuff going on in the kitchen at Bresca…
Don’t get me wrong, they are serving up some technically well-executed food here that is certainly tasty. Highlights for us were the escargots and the honey-glazed duck with roman trading spices over soft mascarpone polenta. The pasta with crab, basil, mint, chive, evoo and citrus was nice as well.
But the food is not cooked as well as the books.
For the overall cost of our meal here, we found the portions rather small, and the dishes lacking a bit in overall flavor. I mean, wouldn’t it have been nice to have a generous hunk of crab in our pasta? Or couldn’t we have gotten more gusto out of our chorizo and gorgonzola stuffed dates?
Or wouldn’t it have been nice if:
- The bread on our table was from Standard Baking and not Whole Foods?
- The pasta was home-made and not dried?
I mean shit – how can I trust that the ‘local’ honey in our app was for real? Who knows if our evoo was legit or from Trader Joe’s?
Over and over at Bresca – stuff that sounded heavenly on paper ended up falling flat on our taste buds.
Like corporate scandals, Bresca looked too good to be true.
Location: Portland, ME
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Man, I’ve been dying to review a spot called Duckfat forever. I mean, from a consumer perspective, what’s not to like about this brand? Slap this name on anything and I’ll buy it. Marketeers out there, consider the following billion-dollar sellers:
- Duckfat Body Wash (from P&G): Smell like a duck. Mustafa can handle the ads.
- Duckfat Car Wax: Pimp your ride with duck wax. Ladies will follow the scent.
- Duckfat Luxury Handbags: Gucci F*ck off. Nothing spells style like the rich goodness of duck…
The list could go on and on…but here we’re talking about a spot up in Portland by this name that serves, among other greatness, Maine potato fries cooked up in Duckfat. My experience here is summarized by the following deep poem constructed using the fridge-magnet fun in front of us:
Does the duckfat make any diff. on the fries? You might ask…First of all, the technique on these babies is amazing Belgian-style double-fried perfection. The fries are uniquely rich and flavorful which you will notice along with a duck-like fullness in your stomach upon completion. Order the aioli for dipping.
Beyond amazing duckfat fries, consider their Tahitian vanilla gelato shake that subs milk with crème anglaise. Pure Genius. As if that wasn’t enough, add a couple Marshall Wharf Tug Pale Ale (Belfast, ME) and you’ve come close to the most positive version of the afterlife imaginable.
My love for the Duckfat brand was so pronounced after our meal here that I tried convincing our server to talk to the owner about opening a location right here in Boston. I think we settled on the Harvard Sq. area as the best location. Look for them here someday, and thank Nick when you have your first encounter with the duck. Peace.
Location: Portland, ME
The Foodie: Strongly Recommends
Bold statement, I know. Read on to find out why I worked up the balls to make it.
Pizza. The lifeblood of American families, one of Italy’s best gifts to this part of the world, countless variations, etc etc. Let’s just say this planet would not be the same without it.
Personally – I love this stuff in all its forms, deriving the same pleasure from a gourmet slice as a greasy triangle from a Greek-owned sub shop. Just God’s gift to man is all.
I’ve come to appreciate spots like Upper Crust, Cambridge One, Pinocchio’s, and Leone’s in my local ‘hood, but never did I expect to find the best of the best hidden on a quiet side street in Portland, Maine.
At the repeated suggestion of a dear friend, we decided to hit Micucci on a recent visit. Here’s how ordering a slice at this place works:
- Enter, then navigate through shelves and freezers housing premium Italian goods
- Pass the wine section, bang a left up the stairs into an area with industrial-sized packaging of tomatoes, anchovies, pasta, and more.
- Hit another left into the back room and look for the “rack.” They place slices on paper plates just sitting there for the taking. You wonder: “Do I pay now or later?” or “Can I just take a slice without some angry woman coming at me with a rolling pin?” Forget your worries and grab as many pieces as you like to enjoy. Figure out the rest later.
- Reference the delectable image above to see what you’ll be in for.
I could devote another 1000+ words to the flavor packed into this morsel of goodness. I do not know exactly how they do it, but here’s my take on how this ended up being New England’s best piece of pizza after just one slice:
- The first element you notice is that the dough/bread is this amazingly bubbly, soft, chewy, heavenly creation somewhere between focaccia and an orgasm.
- Second, you feel this perfectly-balanced sauce that is on the sweeter side pop inside your mouth and burst with tomato-y flavor accented with oregano and spices.
- Third – the final element in the trifecta of greatness in pizza – the blend of cheese stretches through your palate and ties everything together with a loving touch.
Beyond that – the secrets of why this slice makes the top of the list are hidden in the salty mists blowing off the Atlantic into Portland and over the Maine-iacs who call this place home.
Believe you me – Micucci in itself is worth a 2 hr. drive up to Portland from Boston. Don’t think it will be worth it? Take another look at the pic above.