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Portland, ME in 2022


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Posted (edited)

Last week, Significant Eater and I took a nice, long drive. We spent two nights in Beacon, NY, and then on to Portland, ME for another 4 nights.  With thanks to the estimable @johnnyd for his input, as well as research conducted independently, we ate very well.  As a matter of fact, at one point I mentioned to SE that if we had restaurants in NYC,  like a few of the places we dined at in Portland, they'd become part of a regular rotation. Not just for the quality of the seafood, but practically all of the service was stellar, the places were comfortable and not crazy loud as they can be here, and the price/value was very good. 

 

The drive from Beacon (as it would be from our location on the lower east side) is long. Like 6 - 7 hours long, and we arrived at our airbnb right at check-in time, which worked out well. A beautiful little apartment, located in a mid-1800's house, in the lovely west end (with a private hot tub!).

 

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Now, when your first meal in Portland is at a Portland classic, and you're in Portland, you really need to start with:

 

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First of all, these literally were some of the best oysters I've ever eaten. (And yes, Tomales Bay, Hog Island, The Marshall Store are all good too, but I'd put these up against them any day).   Something to do with the freshness, I'm sure. Something to do with how well they are shucked, I'm sure. 3 varieties, all local...I could eat these daily.

 

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Apps followed...the roasted potatoes and squid knocked it out of the park. In the background, house-made gnocchi with a lamb ragu was also lovely...they had obviously gotten a lamb or two, as there were other lamb dishes as specials; they sounded great, but when in Rome Portland, it becomes necessary to eat fish...

 

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And this whole roasted black sea bass, with assorted mushrooms in a lovely, buttery sauce was my choice.  Do not pass up Fore Street and its gorgeous open kitchen with lots of fire, if you're ever in Portland and have the chance; I believe it's one of, if not the restaurant, which put Portland onto everyone's dining radar. Look at how beautiful this is!

 

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The next day, we started with breakfast at what is evidently a Portland institution, and judging by the crowd, mighty popular...

 

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Now Becky's was only a short walk from our Airbnb, but no one really told me about how hilly Portland is. It's not San Francisco hills, by any stretch of the imagination - but it's freakin' hilly, and we walked a lot - 4 to 5 miles daily, which is a lot for an old(er) person. Good way to burn off the calories, I suppose. So lunch was a no-brainer, at least to see what was up with their selection...

 

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2 of each of 6 varieties; once again, all from Maine. All delicious.  I didn't love the lobster roll here, though Sig Eater's fried oyster bun was good, so I'd say by sticking with oysters, you won't go wrong. (Those Basket Islands - whoa - big, meaty and briny for days!)

 

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Dinner Monday night was a bit of a challenge, since many places are closed, especially during the slow season. We walked, and we walked...

 

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This is an old F.W. Woolworth's on Congress Street.

 

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And this is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 300+ years-old home, located nearby.

 

One of the issues when traveling, at least if you're me, is the whole where the hell is a bathroom. In Portland, they make it especially difficult...

 

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As they evidently enjoying hanging their bathrooms off of cranes...

 

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And since I don't do well with heights...(to be cont'd.).

Edited by weinoo (log)
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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Posted (edited)

 Let me relate a quick story before continuing...so when we arrived at our AirBnB, we were greeted by our lovely host, who showed us around. There's a white noise machine, and supplied ear plugs, because, as he suggested, the area of Portland we were staying in can get quite noisy at times. Even the seagulls can be very noisy, evidently.

 

Earplugs?! White noise machines?!! We possibly live in the noisiest neighborhood (there's a fire station, a police precinct, a hospital, ambulance parking, and who knows what else within like 5 minutes of our apartment), in one of the noisiest cities in the country. However, there are very few seagulls, though crows can be loud at times...so we got a good chuckle from that!

 

On Tuesday, friends from Worcester, MA came up to spend a few days in Portland with us - they stayed at a hotel located less than a 10-minute walk away, which, other than the walk back uphill to our apartment, was great. But we started out the day with a drive up the coast, to Yarmouth, Maine, an old mill town established in the late 1600's. We visited this place...

 

Quote

The Yarmouth History Center, run by Yarmouth Historical Society, is located beside the train trestle above, having moved from the third floor of the Merrill Memorial Library in 2013.[20]

 

and I snapped a picture of the old train trestle...

 

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using a silly app on my phone; it automatically puts date, time, and location right on the picture.

 

Dinner with our friends on their first night in Portland was fun.  Yes, we started off with oysters (but without a picture), once again deliciously fresh and crisp and briny.  We all shared a few appetizers to start, including these great squid:

 

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There was also a less photogenic, yet no less fantastic, smoked mackerel paté, and a few salt-cod fritters. But on to the mains, where my buddy had...

 

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this most wonderful grilled fresh bluefish - with a couple of fried baby artichokes thrown in for good measure. I got what I'd wanted...

 

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A gigundo (like close to 2 lbs.) expertly steamed lobster. With a shell so hard, I could barely crack parts of it, even though they start it in the kitchen before it's sent out. Shit, even the coleslaw was good! (I don't recall getting around to the corn muffin). There was other food, but who cares after the squid, lobster, mackerel and bluefish? Scales - part of the same restaurant group as Fore Street, so unsurprisingly great service and food. Would return in a nanosecond.

 

Wednesday was cold, windy, rainy; in other words, perfect coastal New England weather, and great for some lighthouse viewing.  No less than 6 lighthouses are located within a short drive of the city of Portland (Maine has close to 60 lighthouses!). 

 

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I mentioned it was cold, windy and rainy...

 

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Which looked like this...

 

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And one more (with raindrops on my lens)...

 

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And a few more from around town...

 

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Lunch this fine, rainy day was at another diner, this one more hipster-based, called Dutch's. Bake their own sourdough, nice sandwiches, etc. etc. I can recommend it, and dinner as well, which was at Central Provisions - a place we'd visited on a previous Portland trip. And a place where I failed to take any noteworthy pix.

 

The drive home on Thursday went well; that is, until I reached the NYC limits. From the Triboro Bridge, it took me an hour to go about 8 miles, as if the return home trip isn't annoying enough.

Edited by weinoo (log)
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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I love, love, love Portland.  And once left Acadia something like two hours early in order to permit time to get me a bowl of the Eventide chowder before a flight out.

 

Thank you for sharing this, I'm going to try to get there before next winter.  I need all that food you posted.      

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3 hours ago, SLB said:

I love, love, love Portland.  And once left Acadia something like two hours early in order to permit time to get me a bowl of the Eventide chowder before a flight out.

 

Thank you for sharing this, I'm going to try to get there before next winter.  I need all that food you posted.      

 

We added it to that list of New England cities/towns we really like...each different, yet with a bit of a common thread:

 

Gloucester/Cape Ann

Burlington

Provincetown/Cape Cod

Portland

even Providence though a lot bigger than the others

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Nice photos of a lovely town.   We took my niece up there for college tours pre-Covid and had some really good meals.  We did not eat there, but I have the Eventide cookbook.  Their crab cake recipe has become my go to.  

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18 hours ago, weinoo said:

I don't know if these were on our lunch menu...what's their recipe call for?

 

So I am an idiot.  I was confusing the Eventide cookbook with the Row 34 cookbook.  In my defense, I was avoiding the side of the house where my cookbooks are due to extreme noise related to bathroom renovations.  I do have the Eventide cookbook, and in the quiet before the workers arrive this morning, I checked to see the Eventide book has a crab cake recipe.  It does not.  There is a recipe for a crab roll with yuzu kosho mayonnaise.  I have not tried it, but am happy to share the recipe if it interests you.

 

 

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1 hour ago, liamsaunt said:

There is a recipe for a crab roll with yuzu kosho mayonnaise.  I have not tried it, but am happy to share the recipe if it interests you.

 

When you get a chance, I'd like to see the Row 34 Cookbook's recipe for crab cakes. 

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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The thing to get at Eventide is their Lobster Bisque. As you move the spoon through it, little dots of paprika oil pop to the surface. I met one of the chefs outside for a smoke and he said they coat the bottom of the bowl in paprika oil before adding the bisque. Between the heat of the Bisque and the customer's spoon, everything starts exploding. Looks really cool, and it's delicious.

Eventide is part of three restaurants - Hugo's, Eventide and Honey Paw - all in the same building, and share one big kitchen in the back. Hugo's, ran by J.Beard award-winning chef Rob Evans for many years, sold the place to three of his cooks, who formed Big Tree Hospitality. I especially like Honey Paw's innovative Asian fusion dishes that use local ingredients, and the fact you can actually get a seat in the Summer.

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"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I wonder if it's lobster bisque that I'm remembering; does it have a teeny hint of green curry (as in, bringing NYC-basic Thai food to mind)???  

 

I don't remember it being creamed though, which I think is what makes bisque, "bisque".  In fairness, I may not be remembering exactly everything, because it was a vacation sandwiched between awful work-crush; so, you know, drinks . . . .

 

But whatever it was, that's what I had en route to Acadia, and then broke camp way early to get some more of on the backside.  

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On 5/4/2022 at 5:55 PM, weinoo said:

We added it to that list of New England cities/towns we really like...each different, yet with a bit of a common thread:

 

Gloucester/Cape Ann

Burlington

Provincetown/Cape Cod

Portland

even Providence though a lot bigger than the others

Any New Hampshire insights?  I'm trying to get myself back to the Whites in the next year, and I like to bookend my Very-Good-By-Comparison Camp Food with Very Good Restaurant Food.

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1 hour ago, SLB said:

Any New Hampshire insights?  I'm trying to get myself back to the Whites in the next year, and I like to bookend my Very-Good-By-Comparison Camp Food with Very Good Restaurant Food.

 

Friends of ours got married in Jackson, and it's a cute little town.  Others live in Freedom, NH.  However, that's as far as my insights go...I've got nothing on food, and every time my friends in Freedom post about food, it's from Portland!

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I do seem to recall the Lobster Bisque recipe has morphed a couple of times since the Paprika version. I have not eaten there since before the pandemic. In fact, I had been denied a seat 3 or 4 times before that and basically gave up trying to go anymore. Strictly a friends-from-out-of-town destination now, I can open my own oysters just fine, and at 1/5th the cost.

 

Something that should be on visitors radar is https://grossconfectionbar.com/dessert-restaurant-and-bar/   right on Exchange Street down a few steps in a bricked former bank vault restored by the chef/owner.  In spite of the awkward naming convention, chef Brant is a highly skilled dessert chef who has staged in many high-end locations. Check it out.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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57 minutes ago, johnnyd said:

I have not eaten there since before the pandemic. In fact, I had been denied a seat 3 or 4 times before that and basically gave up trying to go anymore. Strictly a friends-from-out-of-town destination now, I can open my own oysters just fine, and at 1/5th the cost.

 

Well, not necessarily taking into account the point of going to a restaurant, but yeah - I get what you mean.  

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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23 hours ago, weinoo said:

 

Well, not necessarily taking into account the point of going to a restaurant, but yeah - I get what you mean. 

 

Indeed. One pays for the experience as a whole, not just the menu. That's why Fore Street is Fabulous and I will pay whatever they ask. I don't have the same love for Eventide, but that's just me - doesn't mean it's bad because I don't care for it as do others.

 

Sheez, Weinoo, you got me all excited to go out in this town again!

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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23 hours ago, johnnyd said:

 

Indeed. One pays for the experience as a whole, not just the menu. That's why Fore Street is Fabulous and I will pay whatever they ask. I don't have the same love for Eventide, but that's just me - doesn't mean it's bad because I don't care for it as do others.

 

Sheez, Weinoo, you got me all excited to go out in this town again!

 

I definitely perceive Eventide as a decent place to go for lunch, provided I wouldn't have to wait.

 

I'm sorry I missed izakaya and his sushi place as well.  When we come back, I'm hoping Portland Hunt & Alpine Club has reopened under its new ownership, because I expect it will be very good.

 

And if you knew what we have to put up with to go out in this city...

Edited by weinoo (log)
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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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