Posts Tagged ‘Hugo’s’

A must-attend for Maine foodies

May 5, 2009

Ready for a delicious evening? A dozen of Maine’s top chefs, including 2009 James Beard Best Chef in the Northeast winner Rob Evans, of Hugo’s, are participating in A Taste of the Nation. This fund-raiser for Share Our Strength Southern Maine will be held in the ocean-front dining room at Southern Maine Community College on June 18.

In addition to Evans, participating chefs are:

• Lee Harding Smith, The Grill Room

• Larry Matthews Jr., Back Bay Grill

• Jeff Landry, Farmer’s Table

• David Turin, David’s

• Steve Corry, Five Fifty-Five

• Lee Skawinski, Cinque Terre

• Lawrence Klang, Natalie’s

• Mitchell Kaldrovic, Sea Glass

• Earl Morse, Eve’s at the Garden

• Jay Vilani, Local 188

•Brant Dadaleares, Fore Street

Tickets, $75 and $125, include all food, drink, and live entertainment.  Proceeds support organizations such as Preble Street, East End Kids, Cultivating Community, and Maine Equal Justic Partners.


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Portland’s Fore Street 1 of 5 contenders for Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Restaurant award

March 23, 2009

Well here’s another feather in Fore Street’s toque. Today the Portland restaurant was named a finalist in the extremely competitive Outstanding Restaurant category of the James Beard Foundation awards . No Northeast limitation on this doozie: Fore Street is one of five national finalists for the honor. Chef/owner Sam Hayward has already won Best Chef in the Northeast honors.

If judged by company one keeps, Fore Street is foremost in foodie minds. Hayward and partner-owners Victor Leon and Dana Street have some formidable competition for the coveted award: Babbo (Chef/Owner: Mario Batali, Owner: Joe Bastianich, New York, NY); Boulevard (Chef/Owner: Nancy Oakes, Owner: Pat Kuleto, San Francisco, CA); Highlands Bar & Grill (Chef/Owner: Frank Stitt, Birmingham, AL); and Jean Georges (Chef/Owner: Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Owner: Phil Suarez, New York, NY). Like I said, formidable.

Three other Maine chefs are in the Beard limelight. Among the five chefs vying for Best Chef in the Northeast are Rob Evans, of Hugos, in Portland, and the Clark Frasier/ Mark Gaier duo, of Arrows, in Ogunquit. All have been in this position previously. They’re up agans, Michale Leviton, of Lumierre in West Newton, Mass.; Tony Maws, of Cragie on Main, in Cambridge, Mass.; and Marc Orfaly, of Pigalle, in Boston.

Winners will be announced at the annual awards gala on May 4.

Restaurant Week addendum

March 12, 2009

If you didn’t get out for Restaurant Week Maine or didn’t get to every restaurant you wanted to try, the good times and wallet-friendly fixed-price three-course menus are continuing. A handful of restaurants are continuing their Restaurant Week Maine specials. Call the restaurant for details.

In Portland: Blue Spoon, Bresca, Cinque Terre, Evangeline, Eve’s Five Fifty-Five, Hugo’s, Peppeclub, and Pom’s Thai Taste.

Also: Johnny’s Bistro, in Falmouth; Le Garage, in Wiscassett; Lily’s Bistro, in Rockland; Robinhood Free Meetinghouse, in Arrowsic; and SeaGrass Bistro, in Yarmouth.

I made it to an old favorite, Ribolitta, on the last official night of Restaurant Week. The menu drew my dad and I in with the promise of an authentic Caesar and a mushroom risotto with duck confit. When we arrived, we were also presented with the regular menu, along with the news that the duck confit had been replaced by sweet Italian sausage. Still intriguing, then I glanced at the menu and my eyes zeroed in on osso buco. My dad fell for the cannoli.

Dad began with the Caesar salad, I prefaced my meal with a salad comprising romaine lettuce, walnuts, Gorgonzola, and pancetta. Both were more than generous servings. Mine was presented as a heart of romaine, and it was a bit unwieldy; I would have preferred it broken into bite-size leaves and tossed. But, no question it was delicious.

The cannoli and osso buco were both fabulous. The latter was served with the richest, creamiest polenta I’ve ever had. I’ll definitely go back for it again. Actually, given the serving, I would have had leftovers for lunch the next day had I remembered to take them with me when I left the restaurant. Grrrr.

Bottom line: I’ve always enjoyed Ribollita. The service is professional, the white-tablecloth decor inviting without being stuffy. The tables are a bit tight, but the space is small and broken up into smaller areas, so it doesn’t feel confining. And the food? Well I’ve never been disappointed. It does Italy proud.

Maine chefs and restaurants earn Beard nod

February 14, 2009

Once again, Maine chefs and restaurants have gained national attention in numbers that are proportionately far greater than its population. Check out the list of Maine-based semi-finalists for the James Beard Foundation’s annual awards. Nominees will be announced March 24, with the awards gala slated for May 4.

And the semi-finalists are…

Outstanding Chef: Sam Hayward, Fore Street, Portland, ME

Outstanding Restaurant: Fore Street, Portland, ME

Best New Restaurant: Emilitsa, Portland, ME

Best Chef Northeast: (Wow! five out of 20 are Maine chefs)

Penelle Chase, Phoebe Chase, Megan Chase, and Ted Lafage, Chase’s Daily, Belfast, ME

Rob Evans, Hugo’s, Portland, ME

Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, Arrows Restaurant, Ogunquit, ME

Rich Hanson, Cleonice, Ellsworth, ME

Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden, ME

Haven’t had a chance to try these restaurants yet? Better make plans now, before the rest of the state/region/nation starts booking the tables. Many are participating in RestaurantWeekMe.

Grazing report: Portland

September 26, 2008

After walking Portland from Munjoy Hill through the West End and Congress down to Commercial, I’m convinced there’s truth to that oft-cited (but never substantiated) statistic that Portland has more restaurants per capita than any other city save that other one by the bay. Really, I swear I couldn’t walk more than 25 yards, if that, without passing yet another café, java joint, pastry shop, restaurant, convenience store, take-out, ethnic eatery, or other food palace. And even many of the seemingly run-of-the-mill spots had intriguing menu options. Portland is definitely not a city in which to be on a diet.

Here’s the report:

Hors d’oeuvres: Eve’s at the Portland Harbor Hotel. Sat at the bar and nibbled my way through a tasting of the fried oysters, kobe meatballs and a crabcake. My fave: the oysters, crisp, tender, flavorful, moist. Nice blend of texture and flavor. The renovation of Eve’s has made it a much nicer, more inviting, actually quite cozy space. Very easy to relax there and not want to continue out, but Back Bay Grill called (see earlier posting).

Breakfast: Mim’s, outside on the patio, which is a perfect place for people watching. I timed it just as the folks from the docked cruise ship were beginning to explore the town. Breakfast was good, it could (should) have been great. I ordered the pain perdu, a French toast made with brioche and served with local maple syrup. Two pieces arrived, one was perfect, the other was charred black and had that icky burned taste. The waitress brought a second piece to replace that one, but that piece, too, had bits of char on it and that off taste. No reason for that, someone just wasn’t paying attention.

Lunch: The Grill Room, on Exchange Street, one of the city’s newer spots and a sibling of The Front Room. Cobb Salad, unique presentation, with fried egg, chicken confit, blue cheese, served on fresh greens with vinaigrette dressing. Excellent. Nice mix of warm and cool. Refreshing take on a classic. My first time here, and I liked the restaurant’s vibe.

Dinner: Hugo’s. The redo, elegant yet casual, with a nice bar and lounge area open to the dining room, done in coppers and bronzes; soft, inviting, no longer any trace of stuffiness. Service remains professional, attentive yet friendly. And the menu is far more approachable. Sure, if you want to splurge on the five-course tasting menu, it still exists, but other far-more wallet-friendly choices are available, served in modest, tapas-style portions—perfect for smaller appetites.

The Arctic char proved why Chef Rob Evans is a master; it blended tastes and textures, color and temperatures on one small plate. The crisply skinned char topped a bed of seaweed slaw that had the flavors of a seaweed salad but was not as assertive. Paired with it were fingerling potatoes topped with smoked trout roe and horseradish, yum. Accompanying it all were a side of delicate biscuits served with a farm-fresh butter that was beyond delicious.

Dessert: Bresca. I walked in an snagged a counter seat and ordered a raspberry financiere and the Bresca blend tea. It’s my first time in Bresca, but it won’t be my last. This is one of, if not the best, desserts I’ve ever tasted. Oh my. The almond tart was made with raspberries and garnished with both fresh raspberries and sugar plums, then topped with a healthy dollop of crème fraiche gelato. I swear, if I hadn’t been in a public place, I would have liked the plate; it was that good. And the Bresca blend tea is fabulous as an after-dinner tea, and with its gentle vanilla overtones, it complemented the financiere.

Breakfast: The Porthole. After all these years, I still love this place. Sure, it’s been gussied up a bit (and the prices reflect the waterfront location), but that ole green vinyl still peeks through. I like that the waitresses greet the locals by name, but still make the occasional diner feel at home. I like that on a sunny day I can sit on the wharf, but on a chilly one, I can hope to snag a table by the gas fireplace. No, my French toast wasn’t as snazzy as that at Mim’s, (but it wasn’t burned), nor was the syrup the real deal or the OJ fresh squeezed, but everything was good and I left happy and full. Really, what more does one want from breakfast?

Lunch: Artemesia Cafe. This little spot on Pleasant Street is such a treat. Nothing too fancy, but really good salads and huge sandwiches. The atmosphere is city neighborhood cafe with a fresh, bright, welcoming feel. Comfy booths, a few tables, a bit of funk in the decor. It also serves breakfast, and has great baked goodies, and it knows how to present tea. A good loose tea served in a tea pot.

And for home: I picked up a sampling of goodies to cobble together for dinner at Black Tie Bistro, a bottle of wine at Micucci’s, and cookies (chocolate chip pecan and lemon shortbread) at Two Fat Cats. Tomorrow, back to reality.

If Beard did poutine

March 26, 2008

The annual James Beard Award nominees for Best Chef in the Northeast include three familiar Maine faces: Rob Evans of Hugo’s, in Portland, and Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows, in Ogunquit. All are repeat nominees.

Frankly, I think if the judges visited Evans’ other restaurant, Duckfat, and washed down a bowl of poutine with a “$5 dollar” shake, he’d win Best Chef in the Country. But these awards aren’t about order-at-the-counter places; they’re about the places few of us can afford to dine outside of an ultra-special occasion.

Evans is trying to change that at Hugo’s, though. When it reopens, he promises it to be more local friendly, with a la carte as well as set menu choices. Yay! And of course, Gaier and Frasier also operate MC (MarkClark, get it?) in Perkins Cove. That, too, is a tad pricey, but the view alone is worth it, and you can order from the bar menu in the dining room.

But about that poutine. I know, I know, what the heck is it? It is probably the least healthful thing you can eat–my arteries start to close down simply when I say the word, poutine (pron. poo-teen).

Classic poutine is simply French fries, smoothered with gravy and topped with cheese curd. Duckfat, of course, uses its fabulous fries, which are double-fried in duckfat and seasoned, then topped with homemade duck gravy and Silvery Moon Creamery cheese curd. Yes! Add a chocolate shake and I swear I can feel my heart constrict as my thighs expand.

Only poutine that may rival it–if only the fries were crispier and tastier–would be that at Stoneham Ski Area’s Feu Follet Restaurant in Quebec (about 20 minutes north of Quebec City), where the fries are topped not with gravy, but demi-glace; not cheese curd, but chevre; and, the piece de resistance: foie gras. Like I was able to go out and ski after devouring that.