Posts Tagged ‘Portland’

Newsy bits and pieces from all over Maine

June 3, 2010

TONIGHT: It’s not too late to Eat for Pete’s Sake, a Humane Society of Knox County fund raiser to benefit homeless animals . See previous posting.

FREE! Don’t you love that word? The National Park Service has waived entrance fees to Acadia National Park this weekend, June 5 and 6, as well as Aug. 14-15, Sept. 25, and Nov. 1. Saturday, June 5, is National Trails Day, so go hike one of the park’s rehabbed classics in its honor.

CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION: “Winslow Homer and the Poetics of Place” opens at the Portland Museum of Art on June 5 and remains on display through Sept. 6. The exhibit, in honor of the centennial of Homer’s death, showcases PMA’s collection of about 20 watercolors and oils by the noted artist. It’s the first time since 1988 that all the works will be on view in the Charles Shipman Payson building. The museum owns Homer’s Prouts Neck studio, which is undergoing restoration and expected to reopen in 2012.

HUT, TWO, THREEMaine Huts & Trails has begun construction on its third full-service, back-country hut. This one’s about two miles below Grand Falls on the Dead River, and will be accessible by foot, bike, ski/snowshoe, and self-propelled boat .  “Construction of Grand Falls Hut, more than 15 miles of new trails and a spectacular 200-foot pedestrian bridge over the Dead River completes the first phase of our vision,” Herring said.

ISLAND ESCAPE: Nebo Lodge, on North Haven Island, has undergone a renovation and expansion, which included the addition of a new bar and fireplace, new deck and courtyard, new entryway, enlarged kitchen, expansion of two guest rooms. The lodge, owned by congresswoman Chellie Pingree, is open to the public for dinner. Its teamed with Equinox Island Transport to offer roundtrip transportation on the last two Fridays in June, and every Thursday in July and August. Depart Rockland, have dinner, and return the same evening; transportation is $20 pp. 

TWEET! Aroostook State Park is hosting a Birding Festival, Saturday, June 12. Highlights include: guided hikes led by seven of Maine’s top bird; birding by boat from Echo Lake; a live-bird demonstration of raptors; bird-house building for youngsters; and a group of artisan wood carvers demonstrating nature and bird carving. According to Park Manager Scott Thompson, this year’s festival emphasizes diverse birding experiences. “We’re here for more than just fishing and hiking; there’s a whole world of nature to explore and to learn how this park relates to Maine and the park system.”

FEELING BLUE? You might want to ink the Saddleback Bluegrass Festival on your calendar for the weekend of Aug. 6-8. Featured performers on Saturday include: The Jerks of Grass; Darol Anger, Scott Law, Sharon Gilchrist and Sam Grisman; The Stowaways; The Infamous Stringdusters; Mason Strunk; The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience; and The Del McCoury Band. Additional performances over the weekend will include The Mueller Family and Erica Brown & The Bluegrass Connection.

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Share our Strength Portland event a foodie must

June 2, 2010

Eat well and support a fine cause at Portland’s 2010 Taste of the Nation event on June 27, 4:30-8 p.m., at the Ocean Gateway Terminal. More than 25 of Maine’s top chefs will be dishing samples, wineries and breweries will be pouring wines and brews, and mixologists will be concocting cocktails all in a mission to help end childhood hunger. All ticket proceeds benefit Preble Street Teen Center, East End Kids Katering, Good Shepherd Food Bank, and Cultivating Communities.

General admissionickets are $95 advance /$125 at the door for  (yes it’s a splurge, but remember, this is a fund-raising event, and a chance to nibble your way through Maine’s best all under one tent). VIP tickets ($250 advance/$300 door) provide early access (3 p.m.), gift bag, and opportunity to participate in an auction.

Participating restaurants (Really, this is an amazing lineup, folks):

Back Bay Grill (Larry Matthews, Honorary Chef)
Bresca (Krista Desjarlais)
Cinque Terre/Vignola (Lee Skawinski/Chris Geer)
David’s (David Turin)
The Edge (Bryan Dame)
El Camino (Eloise Humphrey/Daphne Conaskey)
Evangeline (Erik Desjarlais)
Eve’s at the Garden (Earl Morse) Morse is no longer at Eve’s, and according to my source, Eve’s has canceled participating.
The Farmer’s Table (Jeff Landry)
Five Fifty Five (Steve Corry)
Fore Street (Sam Hayward, Honorary Chef)
Francine Bistro (Brian Hill)
The Front Room/Corner Room/Grill Room (Harding Lee Smith)
Hugo’s (Rob Evans, Honorary Chef)
Local 188/Sonny’s (Jay Vilani)
Lily Bistro (Lynette Mosher/Robert Krajewski)
Miyake (Karl Duber/Masa Miyake)
Natalie’s at The Camden Harbour Hotel (Lawrence Klang)
Primo (Melissa Kelly /Price Kushner)
The Salt Exchange (Charlie/Martha Bryon)
Sea Glass at Inn by the Sea (Mitch Kaldrovich)
Standard Baking Company (Matt James)
Stonewall Kitchen (Patty Roche)
Swan’s Way Catering (Stacey Glassman)

A Cold River night at Walter’s

May 29, 2010

I love the new Walter‘s, and I’m not alone. When I met a friend there on a Wednesday evening in early May, I didn’t expect to need reservations, but I should have made them. The place was mobbed. We were fortunate when a table opened in the lounge area, and we were able to snag it.

The old Walter’s feasted on the Old Port’s retro 1980s brick-walled  fern bar meets urban Victorian vibe; the new Walter’s redefines urban chic in Portland. It’s sleek, casual, comfortable, and decorated with contemporary flair; for once, brick is not the defining element.

What hasn’t changed is the food. Walter’s still turns out excellent fusion fare, melding Mediterranean, Asian, and Caribbean flavors with a Maine accent, and presenting them with flair.  (You nonfoodies need that translated? Damn good food crafted from eclectic ingredients you might not be familiar with but will come together in a happy dance on your tastebuds; not only that, but when it arrives, it looks too good to eat).

On Thursday, June 3, Walter’s is teaming with Cold River Vodka on a multi-course affair. It opens with a cocktail hour featuring Cold River drinks paired with passed appetizers, then continues with a four-course dinner ($75 per person, plus tax/gratuity).

Jeff Buerhaus, Walter’s owner and executive chef, is designing the evening’s menu to feature Cold River Vodka in select dishes, while Walter’s Bar Manager Steve Lovenguth will present attendees with a specially created array of Cold River cocktails.  One guest, drawn at random during the evening, will win a gift basket full of items from Maine Distilleries and Walter’s.

Menu highlights include:

• pastrami-cured duck breast appetizer

• roasted spring lamb chop

• vodka-based pasta dish with crumbled Greek farm cheese

• blueberry vodka cheesecake for dessert.

Cold River specialty cocktails include the Nor’easter, featuring Cold River’s Blueberry Vodka and HoneyMaker Blueberry Mead, and the Far East River, made with lemongrass-infused Cold River vodka and ginger liqueur.

In a nod to the evening’s culinary focus, Walter’s and Cold River Vodka will make a joint donation to the Maine Restaurant Association Education Foundation, which provides scholarships to deserving students pursuing post-secondary degrees in Culinary Arts or Hospitality Management programs. Nice touch.

And take it from me, when you go, whether for this event or on another night, do make a reservation.

Bar Harbor food faves opening in Portland

April 30, 2010

One of my summer pleasures is having dinner at Havana followed by a scoop or two of some outrageous flavor at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream. This summer, I won’t have to travel to Bar Harbor to do so. Both Havana and MDIC are opening outposts in Portland. According to MDIC’s Facebook page, it plans to open in May (according to Portland Food Map, it’s at 51 Exchange St.). Havana South is targeting a June opening for its Wharf Street location. Next thing you know, Acadia will opening a section of the park in the city (only kidding).

Grazing through Portland: Asmara

April 29, 2010

Asmara has been on my must-dine list for a long time, and I finally stopped by for dinner the other day. Now I didn’t dine in, as I had a long drive ahead of me and I was running late already, but I did pick up an appetizer and entree to go, after chef/owner Asmeret Teklu assured me it would reheat nicely in the microwave.

Asmara is hidden away on Oak Street, in the block between Congress and Free. It’s a small, storefront restaurant, quite unassuming, yet quite welcoming. Teklu is pretty much a one-woman show, and she greets visitors with a warm smile. The restaurant itself is quite pleasant, decorated with photos, baskets, and other artifacts complementing the Eritrean cuisine.

Did you raise an eyebrow on that one? Eritrea edges the Red Sea in eastern Africa and is bordered by Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti. Once part of Ethiopia, it gained independence in the early 1990s after a prolonged struggle. Not surprisingly, the foods are similar. Asmara is the country’s capital.

Asmara (the restaurant) serves its dishes in the traditional way, on injera, a spongy bread made from unleavened teff flour. This bread is used as an eating utensil: You break off bits and use it to grab the main dish, which is usually a tsebhi, a stew of peas, lentil, and red pepper. It’s available vegetarian style or with chicken, beef, or lamb.

Each entree ($9-14) is accompanied by a salad and choice of vegetable (red lentil stew in red pepper sauce, collard greens and kale in a mild yellow sauce, or cabbage, carrots, and potatoes in a mild yellow sauce).

I ordered a beef sambusa appetizer ($1.95 each), which comprised ground beef, pepper, and onions wrapped in dough and deep fried, as well as the alitcha deho, (chicken stew), which came with three chicken drumsticks and a hard-boiled egg in a curried yellow sauce, accompanied by the collard greens and kale. Since I was taking it to go, the red lentil stew was substituted for the salad.

Three-plus hours later, I nuked everything, and the most enticing aromas, exotic yet familiar, filled the kitchen. Tom and I easily split this one dish, with enough leftovers for a generous lunch the next day. It was so delicious, Tom wanted me to figure out how to make it so we could have it more often.

If you dine at Asmara, beverages available include fresh-sqyeezed lemonade, mango juice, soft drinks, African sweet tea, African coffee, homemade iced tea, beer, and a homemade honey wine. Another possibility is a traditional coffee for four, during which coffee beans are roasted at the table.

Dessert choices are few, but the ligamat—fried dough balls seasoned with salt, sugar, cayenne pepper, and oil, and served with a maple syrup dipping sauce—definitely caught my eye.  Next time—and there definitely will be a next time—I’ll dine in and end with that.

Grazing through Portland: Merry Table Creperie

April 28, 2010

Open the door to Chef/owner Jean Claude Vassalle’s the Merry Table Creperie, and step into an intimate country French bistro. It’s easy to be charmed here: Low ceilings, pine floors, and gold brick walls adorned with artsy posters provide a Provencal tone in the cozy bar and seating areas; soft music and French conversations linger in the background. It’s the perfect set for Vassalle’s fare.

True to the name, crepes are the specialty, although other items are available. Although tempted by the French onion soup, a standard on the menu, and the soup du jour, potato and leek, I skipped a first course and set down to deciding which crepe to order.

That’s not an easy task. After see-sawing between salade de crevettes (and open-style crepe with greens, shrimp, tomato, artichoke, bell pepper, asparagus, and house Dijon dressing), saumon (Boursin cheese, smoked salmon, red onion, eggs, capers), cordon bleu (chickent, ham, blue cheese, Bechamel), and poireaux (braised leeks, wild mushrooms, goat cheese), I opted for the latter. (Crepes run $9-13)

My poireaux crepe was elegant in its simplicity and absolutely divine. The accompanying small salad of greens, dressed in the house Dijon vinaigrette, provided the perfect counterpoint. While big eaters might find the servings on the small side, I found it to be the perfect proportion.

My tablemate had the jambon fromage (Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese), and was equally pleased.

And of course we split dessert. Dithering between the Suzette (made with sugar, butter, orange, and Grand Marnier) and the chocolate, I asked our waitress for her advice. “Chocolate,” she replied with decisive finality. One mouthful, and we understood why.

At lunch, sandwiches, paninis, salads, and a daily special (yesterday’s was coq au vin), are available, but not at night. When the weather cooperates, there are outdoor tables on Wharf Street’s cobblestones.

Note: Twice a month, Merry Table hosts French language tables, a wonderful way to learn, practice, or brush up on your conversational skills.

C’est bon!

Grazing through Portland: Breakfast at the Porthole

April 10, 2010

I love the Porthole, a retro, unfussy dineresque joint hanging over the Custom House Wharf: faded signs, more-faded linoleum, an old pot-bellied stove (replaced by a far more efficient gas one), an upright piano, hospital-green paneled walls, a counter full of salty character (and often, characters).

One neighboring table was spread with papers and Blackberries, signs of a biz deal in progress; at another, two middle-aged men were reliving their high school glory days; by the window, two women were holding a gab fest; a young family filled the street-side table; and a pair of bewildered, fearless tourists had snagged the aisle table between the front door and the deck door, in case they decided to make a quick escape. Still a bit too cool for the deck, but soon (somehow, I’m okay with inhaling diesel boat engine fumes and the pungent aroma of bait along with my blueberry pancakes).

And the food? Hey, it’s breakfast, and this isn’t a fancy schmancy place (well, except for the lobster Benedict or the creme brule French toast). Good, relatively cheap (you’re on the waterfront) basics—think biscuits and gravy, buttermilk pancakes, corned beef hash—outnumber those surprises. Yet even here, like nearly everywhere in the city, the menu touts that it supports local farmers and producers.

Waitress arrived at the table with a smile, menus and coffee pot in hand. I kept it simple with poached eggs and one of the homemade biscuits. Eggs were perfectly poached; that 75¢ biscuit turned out to be a gigunda masterpiece. Yeah, the Porthole is my kinda breakfast joint. One of these days I’ll have to return for the all-you-can-eat, Shipyard Beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips.

Grazing through Portland: Evangeline

April 8, 2010

Earlier this week, I enjoyed a $30 three-course fixed menu (available only on Monday night) at Evangeline. Easy to understand why Chef Eric Desjarlais (who teams with his wife, Krista Kerns Desjarlais, of Bresca, on this Monday night special) is increasingly gaining national attention for his French-inspired fare crafted with locally sourced ingredients.

I was a fan back in Desjarlais’  Bandol days (his former, heavily French restaurant on Exchange St.), but  I like Evangeline, in the Arts District, even more: well trained servers and white-tablecloth dining, but decorated in a light, playful style, so casual, not stiff. Result is an inviting, comfortable space that encourages lingering. My seat had a direct eye-view to the back and into the kitchen (I think it’s a plus to get a peek into the kitchen, and I like it when there’s the confidence to provide it, not hide it).

Meal began with a teaser, a gougere, a mouthful of cheese-accented pastry air; followed by crusty bread. I had the most amazing endive salad, made with endive, Roquefort, pear, and pistachio crumble; then confit duck legs with lentils du puy, wilted rainbow chard, and duck jus (a bit salty, but then I always find duck confit salty, so it must be my tastebuds, not the chef’s). I would have liked a bit more chard, but the duck portion was more than adequate. Grand finale: warm bose pear crumble with mascarpone ice cream; easy to see Krista Kerns Desjarlais’ hand in this light and delicious dessert. Equally easy to understand why both chefs are gaining national attention.

Grazing through Portland: Nosh Kitchen Bar

April 7, 2010

First, apologies for the long absence. Since returning from Churchill, Manitoba (and gaining more than 100 degrees in the process, from 44 below to 70+ above), I’ve enjoyed a couple of days of stellar skiing at Sugarloaf (yes, there’s still plenty of snow in them thar hills), and working on a few assignments. Which is how I found myself in Portland for a few days. I’ve been grazing my way through the city, so I’ll begin to catch up on lost time and lack of posts with some quick restaurant notes. For the record, I’m currently on a Concord Coachlines Boston-bound bus that’s outfitted with power outlets at ever seat, has free Wifi, and is showing a movie (yes, free pretzels and water, too).

Nosh: A delicious new Congress Street addtition to the Arts District. Very relaxed atmosphere, long slate bar on one side of the room, copper-topped tables on the other. Entry wall of windows opens to a small seating area with leather couch and chair grouping. Open prep area with blackboard menu at the back. Very contemporary vibe. Oh, and free Wifi, too.

Now let’s talk food: menu comprises sandwiches, burgers, and salads, then expands at night with themed plates. And let’s not forget the fries–I had the salt-and-vinegar version accompanied by the very chunky blue cheese sauce. Yup, these will definitely suffice if I can’t get to Duckfat. My sandwich, confit tuna with an avocado/red onion/tomato/caper spread, and a cuke, served with half a snappy dill pickle, was quite tasty and extremely filling. Service was friendly and efficient (really, what more does one want?) I can see this will be an especially popular spot during First Friday Art Walks. Prices begin around $8.

Dairy-free, gluten-free truffles

March 23, 2010

Dean’sSweets has created two new non-dairy and gluten-free truffle flavors for Passover. The hand-dipped truffles, made without dairy products or grains, are available in orange and coconut and will only be available until April 1. All Dean’sSweets truffles are made without preservatives or nuts (or nut products). Now you might think Dean’sSweets has taken all the fun out of truffles, but you’d be mistaken.