Friday, January 11, 2013

(Food and Drink) Adventures in Maine!

I'm still trying to catch up with everything after the holidays and getting back to work.  So more on my race training plan (10 miler in march..ahh!) and recent cooking adventures to come soon.

But, let's back up first. Portland, Maine! I was surprised with a trip to Portland over New Years. Our days consisted of walking through snowy Portland, eating, drinking, and more eating. Such a great foodie city! Tons of independent restaurants, cafes, and bars, with a lot of them focusing on local ingredients. I'm not going to include ever meal we had, but I'll focus on the highlights.

We took the train from Boston. It had snowed the night before, so it was a beautiful snowy ride through New England.
Ocean views from the train

Our first stop was Duckfat Restaurant for lunch. It is a cozy little restaurant that was filled to the brim with customers. We waited for about 25 minutes and then got a seat at the counter. Their speciality is their Belgian style french fries cooked in duck fat. Holy amazing! And you get to pick from their many dipping sauce options. We decided on the Aioli and Sweet and Spicy Mustard Mayo. So rich and delicious. 
They tasted as good as they look.

For my main course I got a salad. It was one of my favorite salads ever. Thinly sliced brussel sprouts and romaine, pickled leek, apple, Parmesan cheese, and a lemon herb vinaigrette. I got a duck egg on top. It was so fresh and crunchy, and all the ingredients played off each other so well. 

Salad Heaven!
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the city. It is filled with cute boutiques, pubs, and great ocean views.  That night we headed to Boda for dinner. It was recommended by the waitress at Duckfat. It was delicious modern Thai, with lots of "tapas" like options. We got great spicy Thai wings, mussels in curry, and a pad Thai. It was too dark for photos unfortunately.

Day 2 included more walking and city exploration, a trip to Shipyard Brewery (pumpkin beer heaven!), and a visit to Maine Mead Works. This is a hidden gem. They showed up around the facility and described the ancient method they use to make the Mead. We also tasted a bunch of their meads, including a seasonal spiced mead and a cranberry mead. Fabulous and they were so friendly.

Mead it up!

In between this all, we went to Micucci's, which was recommended by a friend. From the outside it looks like a non descript brick building. When you walk in you are suddenly transported to Italy. Think old school Italian, including a deli and every Italian shelf ingredient you can imagine. And everything was big! Giant jars of tomatoes, olives, oil, and any other item needed for an Italian feast. In the back you stumble upon what we came to Micucci's for....Pizza! There is a little room in the back with a window that serves their famous Sicilian pizza slices. There was already a line waiting for the next batch of traditional, handmade, Sicilian pizza. Apparently lots of people come to Micucci's for the famous pizza. After about 20 minutes, the slices started appearing in the window. I only had a bite (because of the cheese) but it was incredible. The crust was doughy, garlicky heaven. And the sauce consisted of huge, chunky tomatoes. A must have in Portland!
One of the many giant size food jars
Yes, that is one slice. It didn't fit on the plate.
More exploring for the rest of the afternoon, including many wonderful bookstores! The big New Year's Eve dinner was upon us. The trip was planned around this New Year's Eve dinner at Fore Street. My Fiance made a reservation here 4 months ago after it was recommended as the best place to eat in Portland by all his friends who had been there. It was INCREDIBLE! The food was fantastic, and the overall experience was even better(which says a lot since the food was delicious). Just being in the restaurant alone and exploring the menu was an experience in itself. 
Open Kitchen...the chefs at work!

I couldn't get pictures of the food because of lighting, but it was DELICIOUS! Sweetbreads and a roasted half chicken, with fabulous veggies and sides. The best way I can describe the restaurant is like a rustic version of "Kitchen Stadium" from Iron Chef America. The completely open kitchen was the center of the restaurant, and the tables surrounded it. It was like watching a cooking show during dinner. I was in heaven! Their speciality is local and seasonal ingredients, which were on display in their "crisper room".  It was so cool to look into, and it was right in the middle of the restaurant. They also specialize in wood grilled (there's a big brick oven) and spit roasted meats and fish. The menu is 2 pages long and is created each day based on what is available. I can't even imagine how they create that every day. It was an epic menu. 

View into the window of the "crisper". 

They were also so friendly and invited us to come and view the kitchen close up while we were waiting for our table. It really felt like the kitchen was part of the restaurant, as opposed to being behind closed doors.

After leaving stuffed, we went to a local pub we found for drinks and chatting with locals. We rang in the New Year and walked home to fall asleep in the heavenly B&B bed. 

On our last morning we went to Local 188 for New Year's Day breakfast. It was packed, but we got a table in about 20 minutes. The atmosphere was very unique. It was like a big living room out of an Anthropology catalogue. We enjoyed delicious $5 Bloody Marys and some eggs. 

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It was sad to go, but we definitely want to go back to Portland in the near future(maybe for beautiful spring/summer weather) to explore all the good eats we didn't get to in our short trip!

Center of Portland: the ocean is at the bottom of the hill

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