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Posts posted by CSASphinx

  1. Hello Gang,

    I'll be in Chicago for a couple of days at a conference. I'll by flying solo, so if I don't meet like-minded food hounds during the day, I'll be venturing out on my own in search of tasty bites.

    What I'm interested in are good restaurants that provide the full menu at the bar and a restaurant where serving folks at the bar is a regular part of what they do, not an after thought.

    In New York, I've had great luck at places like Babbo, where once seated you can enjoy a good meal and make new friends on either side of you.

    One thought I had was to go to Avec, since the communal dining there would be similar, but any other suggestions would be welcome.

    Blue 13?

    Graham Eliot?

    Looking for vibrant bar scene and exceptional food.


  2. About 15 years ago, I went to a wedding in Friendship and the reception was held on an island a couple miles from town.

    Roughly 120 guests were ferried to the island by a couple of local lobstermen who secured floats on either side of their boat and bedecked them with lawn chairs for the ferry passengers. Piloting a lobster boat with wings and then landing it--twice (once on each side) was not a simple feat, but pulled off expertly.

    Once on the island, the back area of the house had been prepared by the local company putting on the lobster bake. Big pits of hard wood had been fired up and mounds of fresh seaweed lay at the ready.

    While the guests sipped drinks and had appetizers, the crew built the layers of seaweed, canvas, steamers, potatoes, corn on the cob and lobsters, finally dropping the last canvas on top and settling everything in for a good steam.

    When all was ready we lined up for our goodies. When I had finished, I naturally, when it comes to lobster and steamers, found I had room for a bit more.

    The SECOND lobster I had that day was the best I'd ever tasted. Perhaps it was the friends and perhaps I was a bit tipsy, but no matter. For this lobster, I think for having stayed in the pit for longer than the others, had developed a slight smokey flavor. Still moist, still sweet, with that little hint of smoke. Honest to God, I can still taste that lobster, reaching back all those years.

    Pure heaven.

  3. Ah, Hello Portland, egulleteers...it has been some time since I've posted, but I simply find that I must:

    For on Thursday night, my wife and I and two other couples made our first visit to Evangeline.

    Ummmm. WOW!

    We had a raucous and deliciously good time, thanks to the wonderful food and a couple stellar wines delivered by Joe, I think it is, whose hands we left it in to choose for the table. Two bottles of Burgundy (I WISH I could remember what it was) and one bottle of Spann Mo Mo. Only one of our party was drinking the Spann and was suspiciously quiet about it for some time, until someone snagged a sip and soon was pouring a taste for everyone while my friend complained that we were all drinking "his" wine.

    I was going to order the Cervelles de veau, but finally settled on duck foie (since I'm a foie maniac) served in a small Mason-type canning jar with toast points and pickled veggies. Very tasty, but the serving size was absolutely huge. I think I may have had a little more than a third of the foie. When I jokingly asked if it was served in the jar so I could take it home, our server said no, but she'd gladly pack it.

    For my entree, my wife and I split the poussin. Peas on one side, carrots on the other with a mustard sauce. Simple (but also not so simple, if you know what I mean) and perfectly cooked. Strangely, because it is not my habit, I was so involved in my dish, that I didn't shamelessly beg for tastes of other people's dishes, though the friend across from me had a near "Harry Met Sally" moment when she had her first bite of the duck and I was able to snag a couple of oysters on thing slice of cucumber from my neighbor's Skate dish.

    I think next time we go, I'll need to call ahead to get the folks to employ the prominently displayed duck press.

    For dessert, I had the strawberries and rhubarb. Crunchy. Creamy. Sweet and just a little tart. While I like my desserts I little less sweet, I know I'm not in the mainstream around here. Trust me, this is the tiniest of a complaint and based more on my preference than any flaw in the preparation. This had fantastic rhubarb flavor and made me miss the big rhubarb patch my parents had in the garden when I was growing up. Another at my table who also had this dessert, said that when he was a kid, they would take raw rhubarb, peel it and eat it after dipping it in a bowl of sugar.

    But I digress. Evangeline, is a very, very welcome new restaurant on the Portland scene. Congratulations to Chef Erik, his crew and everyone else who is involved.

    I can't wait to go back.


  4. I absolutely love this thread, as I've been a Manhattan advocate (literally converting friends and acquaintances to its wonders) for the better part of the last seven years.

    Unlike a lot of folks, this was not something handed down from an elder in my family, rather the starter (and ender many hours later) of a night out with some former publishing colleagues, one of whom was half a generation older than I.

    I occurs to me that discussing THE single best Manhattan, is akin to people discussing what their favorite colors are, and that, I think, is the beauty. A little more bourbon or rye here, more or less vermouth, two shakes, four shakes, six shakes (!!) of bitters all create a different dance among the flavors here.

    But make no mistake: As Sam pointed out in an earlier post, a Manhattan is bourbon or rye, Italian vermouth and bitters. End of story.

    Unfortuantely for me, being from Maine, we have slim pickings when it comes to good vermouth and that means I'm stuck with M&R Rosso which probably explains why I like my Manhattans heavy on the spirit side, 3 to 1 and even 4 to 1 spirit to vermouth.

    I found the note about the 2-2-2 Manhattan interesting as I have been blending bourbons for my Manhattans almost since the beginning, though to be truthful, this began as a way to economize getting some better bourbon into the drink without going broke ( I drink A LOT of Manhattans). My "house" Manhattan, currently, is equal parts Jim Beam and Knob Creek 3 to 1 ratio to vermouth, two or three shakes of bitters depending on how full the bitters bottle is.

    I like this better than an all Knob Creek mix, but I sitll keep the flavor profiles of the blend in the family, if you will. The idea of using Blantons never ocurred to me, as mentioned in an earlier post, but I think that is because it is one of my favorite sipping bourbons and has lots of different flavors all by itself that I wouldn't want to potentially hide. Still, I'm intrigued

    Like others, I have tried some variations, even adding a drop or two of Cointreau (since the only bitters I have is Angostura) and that made a great counterpoint, but it's not something I do on a regular basis. If I want orange flavors with my bourbon, I'll make and Old Fashioned, thank you very much.

    My biggest pet peeve about this cocktail, however, is how poorly they are made in restaurants and bars, where I would hope ANY kind of bar training would START with this as the cocktail to mix well. One night I stopped a rather young and mightily misinformed bartender with a loud "WHAT are you DOING?" as I saw him trying to pour some maraschino cherry juice into the mix. In general, the Manhattans I get while out are either too watery, too sweet or have not the slightest hint of bitters within miles--or any of the combination of the three.

    Enough of my rambling, I could go on for hours about this fabulous cocktail. And here's a nice BUMP to the topic.

  5. The last thread on this subject is a couple years old. Any recommendations? We ate at Fore Street a couple of years ago and it did not live up to our expectatiions. We love Duck Fat for lunch, so maybe Hugo's?

    Sorry to be late to the party with this, but I'm not sure which thread you are referring to being a couple years old...There is the ongoing thread "Opinion of food in Portland, ME" (sorry, my hyperlink function doesn't seem to work rigth now). Which seems to flow with a lot of good information compiled over teh course of two years.

    Perhaps its a bit unweildy, now that it stretches 11 or more pages, but anyhow, here's a--by no means complete-- selection of places in town where I think you'd get good food.

    <deep breath>

    Hugo's, Cinque Terre, Vignola, Yosaku, the Front Room, Bresca, Duckfat (for lunch), Caiola's, Five Fifty-Five, Rachel's L'Osteria (insanely huge portions) and Street & Co.

    I'm sure I've overlooked some, and also didn't include others where we either haven't been, or haven't been recently (such as Back Bay Grill).

    Again, hope this doesn't hit too late.

  6. Sorry this is late, but I'd say that Juanita Bananas is your best bet for high-end food on Culebra.

    There's also not much chance of getting touristy food there, as the rest is pretty basic.

    I will say that El Eden is great place to go for lunch and a sandwich. I also like the burgers at the roadside bar El Batey.

    Friends ate last year at the Fox's Lair and said it was good, there's apparently a new Tex-Mex place downtown near Heather's pizza place and, even though it is not the best one you'll ever have, I love the Cubanos at El Patio (near the airport).

    There's something about making my way through a fresh Cubano on Flamenco Beach sipping an ice cold Medalla that's just feels so perfect.

  7. I'm assuming this includes tax, tip and alcohol?

    2 lunches:

    A. Jean Georges.  figure $75 apiece to get a good sampling.

    B.  Yasuda.  figure $50 apiece (start with the $24 lunc and then add some pieces ala carte).

    so we're $250, $750 to go.

    A.  Babbo.  pasta tasting menu.  about $60.  after a couple quartinos of wine and tax and tip?  you're out $250 total.  $500 to go.  (alternative?  Esca..one of the two best seafood restaurants in the city.  $65 tasting menu with $35 paired wines.  same total)

    B.  Momofuku Ssam Bar.  you can go crazy for $80 apiece.  $340 to go.

    C.  Eleven Madison Park.  or the tasting menu at WD-50.  that'll use it up.

    that's what I would do.

    You're quick on the draw Nathan, thanks.

    Eleven Madison is one of our favorites but we haven't been in some time. So perhaps WD-50 (We've never been)

    Oh, and something I should have added. We are both very casual folks and prefer that places where we dine not to have even a SNIFF of attitude.

  8. OK...So I've accepted, grudgingly, that with our budget this year, Per Se is probably out, as it would take more than 50 percent of our alotted food $$.

    But seriously, I'd love to see how some of you NY e-Gers would design a three dinner, two lunch visit to your city.

    Extra points for not filling us up (too much anyway) on lunch.

    So, no holds barred, we eat pretty much anything. Or anything good.

  9. Opinions are funny things...I like the space at 555 better than Cinque Terre. That said, they are somewhat similar--open kitchen a few tables downstairs and a few tables upstairs with a view to below.

    It's been some time since I've been to Cinque Terre, though I've always found the food there to be top notch.

    Many here know how 555 is my favorite place, all around, in Portland. It should be noted that if it has been some time since you came to Portland, that 555 added a lounge next door, where people can get small bites and a drink either before, or instead of dining in the main room.

    Also in the past year their wine list has greatly expanded AND (this is something I've wished for for some time) Steve, the chef, is branching out from the tried and true and is spreading his wings.

    Recently seen on the menu were wild boar, rabbit and char..OK I know char isn't ALL that different, but it's one of my favorite fish.

    The good news is, from the list of finalists, you won't go wrong. As others have mentioned, Caiola could easily be tossed into that list, as well.

    The only thing that stuck out to me was that if you will absolutley go to Street & Co., then Fore Street is eating from the same "family" of restaurants. Kinda like going to Manhattan for a few nights and only eating at Danny Meyer places...

  10. What a great thread!

    I'm afraid I've been tied to heavily to the Jim Beam faimly of bourbons and it's time for me to spread my wings a little. Unfortunately in Maine it can often be difficult to find what I'd like to.

    That said, I've been a big fan of Knob Creek for going on five years now. It's also my bourbon of choice when I want to knock someone's socks off with a Manhattan. There's just something about the spice in that bourbon combined with the sweetness of the vermouth and the the complexity of the dash of bitters that really turns my crank.

    When I'm mixing for myself i usualy go equal portions Knob Creek with Jim Beam white. What the heck! They're from the same family.

    I've also noticed many people mentioning how hot Bookers is. Well, it IS that. Perhaps I'm blasphemous for suggesting this, but I've often enjoyed glasses of Bookers on the rocks and I really enjoy how the taste changes and I can detect different flavor notes as the water increases in proportion to the bourbon. By the end, I feel like I'm drinking nothing but an alcoholic caramel drink. YUM.

    Basil Hayden's I wasn't particulary fond of. Enjoyed the couple of bottles of Woodford's I've had.

    But to me, the best borubon I've yet to taste was the bottle of Blanton's I got as a Christmas gift from my wife two years ago. Wonderful and varied spice notes.

    Alas, it was gone far too soon.

    But enough of that...time for me to find a source for some Eagle Rare.

    Oh, and for the record, though I know many people here put it in their top 5, I've never been a big fan of Makers Mark. A bit cloying for my taste.

  11. When i was last there, eons ago,

    I think that pretty well sums it up

    You know an eon is only 7 hours? :wink:

    But seriously Ed, :shock: what's in the menu at Barbarosa? is it local fare? :wub:

    Well it's been a good four years since anyone has popped anything in this thread so this will give it a huge bump! ;-)

    Seriously, we will soon be leaving for our third year on Culebra and things sure have changed when it comes to food there even in that short time.

    Food is one of the things we always look forward to on Culebra (the fact that we share a house with the executive chef of Maine's Cape Arundel Inn, notwithstanding)

    A small store near the airport makes great Cubanos, El Batey has one of the best burgers anywhere (or maybe it just tastes great with the Heineken after a day at the beach).

    Now, just atop the hill near the ferry terminal is Juanita Bananas, a delicious high-end restaurant that plays on the island flavors and other cuisines. It would easily be a contender and successful in any city.

    For lunchtime fare Try El Eden deli, it has very good sandwiches, salads and the like. Or just try the foodstands at Flamenco Beach--a beach that will knock your socks off with its beauty.

    And yes, the aforementioned Barbara Rosa's is still in business, though now at a different location.

    Granted, Culebra is what many would consider a "downscale" island experience (which is why we like it so much), but as long as you don't expect white linen (or terribly prompt service) there is plenty of good food to be found.

    I'll report on my eatings there during my upcoming stay.

  12. We ate at 555 Congress Street last night and the food as well as the service was excellent, but my 3-chop rack of lamb was extremely small for $32.95. I guess I need to take my business back to Fore Street where the prices are less, quantity is more, and the food is just as good.

    Well if quantity is the deciding factor, then by all means Fore St. is the place to land.

    That said, I still believe the food and service are much more refined at 555 than Fore St., James Beard award notwithstanding. Similarly, I wouldn't use quantity as my judge when discussing the food at Hugo's.

  13. I'm afraid there might just be such a thing as a bad lobster roll: Not so fresh, not plentiful, lettuce & tomato; frozen fries; on a croissant, no less!


    I did qualify my statement with plenty of fresh lobster! :laugh: The lobster roll that isn't is certainly a disappointment. I wouldn't actually mind a croissant if it was a good one and, again, the lobster was fresh and plentiful. :wink:

    It must be my 40 plus years as a Mainer...but my lobster "roll" made with a croissant?

    That's simply....well...*misguided*

  14. hi, i am stopping through Portland on a Friday morning on my way up to Bar Harbor from Philly (sorry to be such a tourist) i am planning to load up on fresh produce and such at the market, and was wondering what would be the best place for breakfast.  i was thinking the front room, any other suggestions? i am looking for fresh, creative, and of course, delicious. price/atmosphere unimportant, thanks

    Speaking of breakfast...is the second coming of The Good Egg operational yet at the Pepper Club? and if so, has anyone been?

    I still remember those delicious whole grain pancakes that would fill an entire plate, with a dollop of Maine blueberry compote. The Good Egg is also where, as a then mid-20-something person, I had my first cup of coffee. I figured it smelled so good I just had to try it.

    It's been two cups a morning ever since.

  15. I had wanted to try 555 anyway so it worked out well for me and on driving up through on Congress St. and me pointing the restaurant front  out... Nancy saw the space and thought it looked good so we went... I remember this space as being a book store from when I lived in Portland years ago... I don't remember the name of the bookstore.

    skeeter, the space where 555 is now (before it was the restaurant Aubergine) was called Raffles Cafe and Bookstore.

    I liked that place.

  16. Ok...so it's been a while since I've been here. But I can't resist adding a couple

    the "Steak and Cheese" app. at 555

    A still-warm molasses donut from Tony's

    Oysters with cream and Pernod from Michaela's (I miss that place)

    creme brulee from Back Bay Grill

    Fried clams from Susan's Fish and Chips


    My wife's Lemon cheesecake with animal cracker crust and topped with lemon curd

  17. I know a couple of us have discussed this in person to a certain degree, but looking for some more feedback and suggestions.  Where does one go in the greater Portland area for a properly made cocktail?  Any specalities or house drinks worth mentioning?  So and so at (Bristol Lounge, ex.) makes a great Negroni variation.

    I have tried Una without much success.  Seemed popular but I think that attitude was more important than anything being mixed.  Bartender(s) didn't have or understand the need to use fresh citrus juice.  A raised eyebrow and sigh, combined with a maybe I can go squeeze some for you when I get some time.

    Also, what I have noticed is almost a comical "quick shake" w/ the Boston set-up in a few popular Old Port establishments.  Literally, one short vertical motion and then a poured out the contents of the latest fruity vodkatini of the moment.  That wouldn't even remain cold in two minutes or take in any water component from the shaking.  Beats me, but it looks like the barman/barwoman are putting more effort into smoking cigarettes outside or talking on their cellphone.  By all means, you can do both as long as you like when you are off work, not when there is a bar three-deep of thirsty patrons trying to give you their hard-earned money.  A little more effort would be appreciated and discard the nonchalance.

    Well, I love Manhattans and it's gotten to the point for me that I don't order the drink out anymore, since I can make it much better myself. Drives me crazy when they ask "Do you want bitters in that?" It's like when I'd find myself at a friend's house years ago and I'd ask what he could make, and he'd tell me he had stuff for a Gin & Tonic, then would bring me gin, tonic and ice. No lime. Argh!

    That said -- and it WAS a while ago -- I had a great Manhattan prepared by a woman bartender at the Portland Sea Grill a year ago Christmas.

    She even left the shaker and strainer nearby for me drain out the overpour...

  18. Olive oil....you should have popped into the above-mentioned Miccucci's and you would have had your pick of sizes....we get the big tins, but there are plenty of smaller-sized bottles. Spanish, Italian, some Greek too, I think.

    Ah, blueberries.

    I, too, used to pick great big buckets at my grandparents place in Bridgton, Maine out in the field. Lots of them...this a few months after we ventured out for wild strawberries (enough for my grandmother to make a couple dozen jars of wild strawberry preserves -- YUM!)

    She'd serve these over plattar, a crepe-like, thin, eggy pancakes. She'd also make blueberry preserves and we'd have it on the plattar when the wild strawberries ran out.

  19. Everyone posting here either living in Portland or planning a trip to Portland, I hope you realize how lucky you are: Portland, already a dynamic scene, is still on the upswing, it hasn't reached anywhere near its full potential yet, there's this hip, edgy vibe that blends well with the tourists and the shopping and yet ties in the older neighborhoods--and that doesn't happen everywhere. This visit, it struck me there was a lot more development going on over on the East side near Hugo's--I wandered by a new bakery/patisserie space, not officially opened yet, maybe called Fat Cats--my memory now is really weak--but I think they sold some pies at Standard Baking. Going east down the Hugo's street there was this stuck-in-time Italian grocery--Grimaldis or Grucini or ? (a little help here...) I hadn't noticed before and a BBQ place and Ribollita and Duckat, which we did not get to go to after all for their fries--I misread when they opened and just couldn't wait an hour. This is going to be a happening culinary scene, a nice mix of old and new, high and low. And you can park right out front.

    What we ended up doing was 555 for brunch one day and Hugo's for dinner on another. I've had so many perfunctory brunches in NH that I was determined not to have another one, so we took a gamble, and a drive, to Portland. My impression of 555? Very committed, very professional, very strong service that wasn't rushed--in a relaxed neighborhood atmosphere--I was impressed they had 4 cooks in the kitchen for brunch even though only that little area on the ground floor was open--and everything we had was perfect, especially the hangar, the grilled caesar, and a bunch of cheeses, my favorite a double cream quebec cheese.  I can't recommend this place enough, it's less expensive than you'd expect, it's welcoming rather than stiff, and I'm definitely going for dinner next time.  I drank a nice microbrew at this brunch but peeked at the wine list: first impression it didn't seem anywhere near as interesting or well-chosen as the Hugo's list.   


    Thanks for this. I haven't been able to check the site for some time and was getting a bit cranky with the tone of the early posts in this thread.

    The Italian grocery you're thinking of is called Miccucci's. Great place. We make special trips there just for the deli counter (Reggiano is a staple for us at home and it's the only realiable place in town to get it -- cheese offerings at the Public Market notwithstanding. Still it makes me miss Models Market, a real old world place I visited as a kid at Christmas time....I think it probably closed 10 years ago. Anyone who watches local news should note that it was owned by the father and grandfather of Channel 6 sportscaster Lee Goldberg.

    Also, while I understand how with only one night in town you would choose Hugo's, please do yourself the favor of getting to 555 for dinner next time you are here. I know I'm an old saw regarding them, but Hugo's aside, I think they do the best job overall in town.

    My only complaint recently would be that the menu seems a little stagnant. But I believe that is due to the fact that repeat business in Portland is even more important than in other cities, most people here tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to challenging their palate (my wife included), and heck, if you have an entree that consistently sells well, it doesn't make that much sense to take it off for something else....one of the realities of Portland.

    That said, I still think the chef, Steve Corry, is talented enought to stretch his wings a little more than he does.

    But this is a very, very small complaint. It is still my favorite place to go in town.

    As for Mims...yes, that used to be a lot of different things and I can't rmember the name before it changed, but the focus was Caribbean food, I believe. But I haven't been to Mims as I've heard mixed things. Of course this is all hearsay.

    Other places of note, and I think some have already mentioned them: Uffa; Katahdin; Local 188; Dogfish is interesting but more as a lunch place, I think; Pepper Club; and an odl favorite Back Bay Grill, which honestly we haven't been to all that frequently lately, though my impression was the menu was becoming less staid and more ambitious.


  20. I'm desperately tired of the pitiful selection of jarred cherries here in Maine. Nonetheless, I slip one nasty red cherry into my Manhattan each time I make one and always wish I had something better.

    Now with fresh cherries arriving daily at the local farm stands and supermarkets, I've decided I will make my own.

    The problem: I haven't the slightest clue what to do.

    So anyone who has cured their own cherries for drink garnishes, please feel free to share your ideas.

    Extra attention will go to those that include some kind of bourbon in the recipe.



  21. A few of the restaurants in the about.com page johnny listed no longer operate and while it gives you an idea of a few places to try in Portland, it misses a lot of interesting places....like Local 188 or the newly-revitalized katahdin or my personal favorite, Five Fifty-Five.

    For lunch, I'd go for something out of the way, Like the Dogfish Cafe on the corner of Congress St. and St. John. Out of the way, but a good little spot.

    Not exactly sure how far North (or Downeast) you are planning to drive, so I guess timing is everything.

  22. A good place to both see AND eat is found at TWO LIGHTS, just outside of Portland in Cape Elizabeth. When you see the entrance to Two Lights State Park, bear left and head to lands' end where you'll find another light house and the estimable Lobster Shack for food.

    Also, closer to Portland is the Portland Headlight at Fort Williams Park. A picture postcard Maine scene, made famous by early 20th century painter Edward Hopper, the vantage of the mouth of Portland harbor from here is stunning.

    I hope the weather breaks for your trip.

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