Maine and food have always gone hand in hand, Wherever you go, the south, mid-coast, down east, central, mountains, lakes region, wherever you end up you can get a better than expected meal.
If only to prove my point, Portland was named by Bon Appétit Magazine as their 2009 best small foodie town in America (per capita, only San Francisco and New York out rank Portland in moneys spent in restaurants).
Our trip generally involved doing what we always do when we travel, eat, shop, walk, and eat some more. Wednesday night took us to the Great Lost Bear for dinner with family friends. This is a great bar/restaurant with 69 beers on tap and a large menu full of delicious American style dishes (including many veggie options). I cannot talk about “the bear” without mentioning the cheese fries. They are the best. That is a fact. Leave it alone.
Thursday was Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful food filled day with turkey and all the trappings. We have lemon cheesecake and pumpkin pie for dessert, and promptly fell asleep on the couch.
Friday started off rainy but that wasn’t going to stop us from our culinary walking tour of Portland. This is a great way to spend a few hours and learn about the city and the scene. After living in Maine for years I still learned a few things in between some delicious snacks and sips. First stop was at Old Port Wine Merchants & Cigar Shoppe (a nice selection of wines – a must shop if you like port).
A few doors down we were introduced to Vervacious. This place had us at hello. A boutique full of finishing salts and rubs inspired by Caribbean street food and North African spice blends, and other exotic and exciting spreads and drizzles. Did I mention they had handcrafted cocoas with orange rinds, sambuca, and vanilla beans?
Next stop was the Public Market House to taste various cheeses and authentic Maine whoopie pies. We stopped by for a quick snack and shop at the Stonewall Kitchen company store (sure they are everywhere now, but they were in Maine first). From there we made our way across to Dean’s Sweets for some homemade truffles with fun chocolate covered indulgences such as pumpkin, sea salt caramel, cayenne, and lemon zest. A brief stop at Harbor Fish Market to visit some lobsters and nosh on smoked trout and then to our final destination, Gritty McDuff’s for some home craft beer. Not a bad way to spend a few hours – and all before lunch. Down the street to the Porthole for chowder, fish and chips and onion rings.
Nap time came and went and we were off again, downtown to Grace. Housed in a retrofitted church, this is a fun destination restaurant to smacks more of New York or San Francisco in décor, but the freshness of the food was all Maine.
Saturday we had to take a break. So we stuck to thanksgiving leftovers and visiting friends.
On Sunday we did some light shopping at Rabelais, a purveyor of cookbooks, new and rare from around the world. Wrapping up our delicious weekend we landed at Fore Street. Often cited as the best restaurant in the city, Fore Street is going to be one of those meals you want to remember for a while. This is a restaurant that was named in 2002 as number 16 in Gourmet Magazine’s Top Fifty Restaurants of the United States. In 2004, Chef-partner Sam Hayward was named Best Chef: Northeast by the James Beard Foundation (Maine has 6 or 7 JBF award winning chefs and restaurants – three in Portland). Charcuteries, terrines, duck, pork loin, apple cobbler, frozen mousse tort, and lots of good wine, should generally help you paint a mental picture.
Following this meal, we went home slept fast and got to the airport for a 6:00 am flight back to reality.