Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

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.

Arrows’ chefs named 2010 James Beard finalist

March 22, 2010

Many are called, few are chosen sums up the 2010 James Beard award nominees from Maine. Although a number of Maine chefs and restaurants made the semi-final cut, only the talented duo of Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, from Arrows, in Ogunquit, made the final cut for Best Chef in the Northeast. Winners will be announced Monday, May 3.

Foodie news: Bourdain in Rockland

December 19, 2009

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain will be in Rockland in early January. He has reservations one night at a local restaurant (yes, I do know the date and the restaurant, but not telling). Lots of rumors have been circulating locally about Bourdain perhaps opening a restaurant here, but none with any substance. We’ll see, and I’ll keep you posted if my very reliable sources dig out more details.

Maine Heritage Village: Insta-Maine!

June 16, 2009

IMG_0852When I wasn’t looking, an insta-village grew on Route 1 in Wiscasset, just north of North of the Border. The brochure proclaims:

“Celebrating the way life should be…Come! Learn! Enjoy Maine’s only Heritage Village.”

Only problem is, the brand spanking new Maine Heritage Village has no heritage. It just appeared.

It’s a shed colony, with each masquerading as something vaguely historic: a schoolhouse, barn, even a lighthouse. All contain shops (Maine-made jewelry, crafts, art), mini museum displays (Maine Maritime Museum, Lincoln County Historical Association, etc.) or restaurants (burgers! chowder! lobster!). There’s a tractor pulling a wagon. And a lobster boat. But nothing seems related in any way to anything else other than sharing the same site.

“A one-of-a-kind experience. No admission fee.”

I admit I don’t get this place (not that I ever understood North of the Border, either, but that one looks quite normal, now), and I know I’m not alone. Everyone I ask about it just shakes his or her head and grimaces. It’s Insta-Maine! C’mon down and get yer fresh heritage! Yessuh!

At least it’s all free, unless you eat or buy. So go ahead, take a look. Then explain it to me. Please.

Johnny’s Bistro & Bar

February 4, 2009

I dined at Johnny’s, formerly Finch’s, the other night, and besides what Johnny referred to as a “hiccup,” it was a good experience overall. There have been a few renovations, namely the bar area has been enlarged and the room opened up, but the biggest changes are on the menu.

Johnny’s menu has four sections: appetizers and soup ($6-10), smaller plates ($10-13), salads ($8 or $12), and entrees ($18-19). I was dithering between a Morrocan chicken pie and the artichoke and spinach strudel, both small plates, and also eyeing the crisply slamon entree, when Johnny quietly approached our table.

“We have a hiccup,” he said, “and it’s my fault”. The hiccup was that the kitchen was running out of gas, so only soups and salads could be ordered.

Instead, I opted for a Caesar and a bowl of potato leek soup, finishing up with an almond tart. I’m a fan of Johnny’s Caeser salads because they’re traditionally prepared and are perfectly dressed. The soup wasn’t thick, but it was full of flavor. Still the soup and salad combo didn’t quite tide me over so we split a tart. My dining partner had the Mediterranean calamari stew, which he proclaimed quite delicious.

I’ll definitely return for the salmon–I saw it on a neighboring table, folks whose meals had been prepared before the kitchen hiccup. And perhaps that streudel. And I’ll return because Johnny is ever present in his restaurant and takes good care his guests. Anyone can get the hiccups.

More reasons to wail and whine

January 26, 2009

More sad news from Maine’s coast. The Oakland House, one of my faves, will not reopen this season.

Fourth-generation innkeeper Jim Littlefield, and his wife Sally, are returning the property edging Eggemoggin Reach, at the tip of the Blue Hill Peninsula, to a family compound, after having sold the Shore Oaks Seaside B&B and Boathouse Cottage into private family hands. The Rusticator Restaurant will not open this season, although they hope that someone will operate it and preserve it for future generations.

And another fire has destroyed yet another business in downtown Northeast Harbor. The Tan Turtle restaurant burned to the ground on Friday night; see this Bangor News story.

News and chews: Newcastle Publick House

June 20, 2008

We dined with friends at the Newcastle Publick House, the latest restaurant to occupy the cursed site on Newcastle Square, where Route 1A curves down and over the bridge onto Damariscotta’s Main Street. This one might just be the exception.

It was packed last night, and it was easy to see why. The food’s good, the portions are decent and the prices are affordable. It’s pub fare that rises above the usual. Many of the foods are sourced locally–and these are noted on the menu. And the restaurant grills meats, seafood and veggies over a wood fire. Best of all, this chef obviously knows his way around the kitchen.

Our party of four had two orders of fish and chips, one order of bangers and mash, and one order of grilled scallops. All were perfectly cooked. The ale-battered haddock was light, the fish moist inside the crunchy coating; the fries crisp–okay, I like them this way, Tom thought they were overcooked. The bangers were three large imported Irish sausage accompanied by garlic mashed (really, more smashed) potatoes. The four wood-fire grilled scallops in a honey-butter sauce were accompanied garlic potato mash and the day’s grilled veggies. None of us left a morsel on our plates. While the desserts were tempting, we opted to head over to Round Top Ice Cream to test the gelatto instead (very good).

Servers are young and enthusiastic. There are a few service issues to work out–it seemed understaffed–but the place has been open only a few weeks, and again, it was packed. Better yet, these kids knew when they’d been away from a table for too long, and always apologized for the absence. It would also help if some sound-absorbing materials were added to the dining room–it’s quite loud, when busy; almost too loud for regular conversation. But then again, it’s a pub.

Nitty gritty details: It’s open daily for lunch and dinner, serving in the bar/lounge, adjacent dining room and outside patio. Prices range from $6 for a wood-fired grilled cheese with veggies or BLT to $24 for a rib eye. Most prices are in the teens. What I really liked was that base prices were low, but there were options to “upgrade.” For example, we could have added fried oysters to our fish and chips for an additional $6 or you could add pastrami-smoked salmon to the applewood-smoked bacon in the BLT for $3. Go tonight: The special is a fresh lobster roll, served warm or cold, for $13.

Oh, and there’s a mug club and sometimes evening entertainment. Yup, looks like this one’s a winner; i know we’ll return. Cheers!

Bar Harbor’s Havana worth the splurge

June 2, 2008

Friday night, we moseyed up to Havana, this time joined by a friend. The spring menu—which will be changed shortly—is worth making a special trip to enjoy. We started with a roasted bell pepper salad and mushroom spring rolls, the latter a menu fixture, and with good reason. The former should be, too. Delicious, was the report from my friend.

Next course: one Argentinean-style skirt steak, with smoked sea salt seasoning and a papaya chimichurri and Peruvian potato salad topped with thinly slice onions ($28)–very good, not outstanding; one lobster paella with chicken and chorizo, made with dark meat chicken and smoky Spanish chorizo stewed with saffron risotto and topped with Maine shrimp, mussels and lobster ($36)—really fabulous, with a smoky flavor and kicked by the chorizo, I’d order it again; and one orange soy-glazed black cod, pan-seared Alaskan sable fish glazed with an orange soy reduction and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and fire-roasted corn salsa over a seasoned long grain rice ($28)—my friend said she’d return again and again for this fabulous dish.

Presentation on all was, as usual, excellent; service was outstanding. For dessert, we split one dish of Mexican chocolate ice cream (made by Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream–more on that in a later post), served paired with fresh pineapple, which helped cool the heat. My ultra-foodie friend and I agreed that Havana retains its status as one of the island’s top restaurants, although prices are certainly creeping higher and higher. So far, it’s worth the splurge.

Having it my way, at Cafe This Way, in Bar Harbor

June 1, 2008

Thursday night, we went to Café This Way, tucked behind the Alternative Market (follow the painted footsteps), just off Mt. Desert Street, across from the Village Green in  Bar Harbor. This place has always been a favorite of mine for ages, and it still delivers. Over the years, both the food and the decor have evolved from recent-college-grad funk to an eclectic style with an eccentric edge. It’s maturing, but isn’t losing its youthful exuberance.

We didn’t even make it past the appetizers pages on the menu, choosing to cobble together a dinner from the hot and cold selections: crab cakes with tequila lime sauce; Maine seafood spring rolls (don’t miss these); Caesar salad; and grilled halloumi cheese over artichokes, olives and peppers. All accompanied by a toothsome French bread complemented by honey butter. Sweet!

Acoustical fabric hangings on the ceiling have toned down the noise level–a good thing, and last year’s addition of a garage-door fronting on the porch provided a way to cool the restaurant down, but rolling up the door and letting in the fresh air. Nice. On a really warm night, try to snag a table on the porch.

Cafe This Way also serves breakfast/brunch.