Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Maine Eats: Portland 2019

The final blog post about our trip to Maine will take you through our Portland eats. Trust me, it needed a post of its own, because that city is bursting with great local spots. We visited a couple that we knew, and stopped at a few new-to-us restaurants as well.

First, any visit to Portland must include a visit to Eventide Oyster Co. because not only do they have a robust list of raw oysters...
...but you CAN'T MISS their Brown Butter Lobster Roll on a steamed bun. Do yourself a favor and get two!
However, the rest of the menu shouldn't be overlooked as well, including the Fried Oyster Bun...
...or the daily specials posted on the chalk board.
Now it's an incredibly popular place and they don't take reservations, so we've found that the trick is to hit it for a weekday lunch and arrive prior to noon.

The next place we dined at was also a repeat for us, because it continues to rank among the top food we've ever had. And if you follow along here regularly, you know that's saying a lot. I'm talking about Central Provisions.
All small plates, you're intended to share 2-3 per person, and it's so much better that way. The flavors and techniques they use are outstanding, and you just want to try more. We enjoyed several plates between the three of us, including the Goat Pupusa (above), the Foie Gras Bahn Mi...
...Suckling Pig...
...and Halibut.
A final Central Provisions highlight was the Bone Marrow Toast, which we'll be recreating at home. But the menu is changing frequently, so just dig in. You truly can't go wrong at this spot, and there's a reason several of our Cleveland chef friends have suggested it. Just be prepared to put your name in and have the wait be up to 2-3 hours. It's worth it, and there's very few places I'd ever state that for.

I try and keep my eye on the James Beard Foundation Award finalists and winners for cities that we travel to every year, so Drifter's Wife caught my attention recently and we made a reservation as soon as they opened up a month in advance. 

The menu is extremely small and changes daily. The first thing that caught my eye was the Sourdough with dulse butter ($6). I had to look up "dulse" and it is in fact seaweed. Sure enough, the butter had a salty, ocean flavor to it. 
The second thing we had to Google was Spearings, and our serve did confirm that they were sardine-sized fish battered and fried. "Think of them as fish French fries.," she said. Get over the fact that you're eating a whole fish and sometimes you could see their little eyeballs peeking out, and they were quite delicious.
Both my mom and I ordered the Cod ($27) with blistered tomatoes, basil, and charred eggplant.
It was a nice meal, and had us trying some things we hadn't had before, but overall I was underwhelmed and it wasn't my favorite meal of the trip. I've had better in Portland.

Our last dinner was at David's Opus Ten, which is a "restaurant within a restaurant" that is only open 40 nights a year. This intimate chef's tasting only seats 18 diners, and it's nestled in the back of David's Restaurant with chef/owner David himself preparing the meal with a view of the action from your seat.
The 7-course, wine paired meal was wonderful from start to finish, including dishes like the Moulard Duck Three Ways with seared foie gras "buttered toast, tenderloin with date and goat cheese roulade, and sauterne with ginger and tamari sauce and apple-bronze fennel salad.
And Smoked Ricotta Gnudi with porcini, butter oyster and shiitake mushrooms, a madeira sauce, curly kale, Parmigiano-Reggiano and nasturtium petals.
My mom was not beneath licking her plate on several courses!
It certainly ended our Portland dinners on a high note, so if you visit between mid-June through August then I suggest you check to see if any tickets are available for Opus Ten.

My mom left very early the next morning to drive back to NY, but our afternoon flight time left Mr. H and I just enough time to squeeze in Sunday brunch. Since we love Central Provisions so much, I had been curious to try their Italian sister restaurant, Tipo.

Sadly, the quality of the food was so drastically different than Central Provisions, I would never have believed they were run by the same group. While the Scrambled Eggs Crostini ($14) with mushroom duxelle, ricotta, and fresh truffles wasn't terrible, it didn't live up to the high-end ingredient expectations.
At least it wasn't downright awful like the Spaghetti Carbonara ($15) with Romano beans, pancetta, and parmesan. The watery, bland sauce left a lot to be desired.
I wouldn't bother giving this spot another try, particularly when CP is infinitely better.

Phew, did you make it through the whole post? So.much.good.food. But, Portland is just full of it, and I know Clevelanders often travel there. I hope you find this series helpful if you ever head to Maine.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

Eventide Oyster Co.
86 Middle Street
Portland, ME 04101

Central Provisions
414 Fore Street
Portland, ME 04101

Drifter's Wife
59 Washington Avenue
Portland, ME 04101

David's Opus Ten
22 Monument Square
Portland, ME 04101

182 Ocean Avenue
Portland, ME 04103

Monday, August 19, 2019

Maine Eats- 2019

Time to catch you up on our trip to Maine and all of the fabulous eats. It's our fourth trip and we've curated quite a good list of restaurants up and down the state. But this was the first trip that took us as far North as Bar Harbor.

We flew into Bangor and headed to Bar Harbor for a four-day stay. We fell in love with Acadia National Park. You really need a minimum of 3 hours to drive through and occasionally stop, but plan on a lot more time if you want to hike.
The trails, and views, are endless and stunning.
But, to be honest, we didn't care for Bar Harbor. It was too touristy, the shops weren't the cute local boutiques found in other small towns, and the food was mostly terrible. On night two, we called it quits and cancelled our hotel room for the last night. The next morning, we scooted a day early to Camden and a Bed & Breakfast we've stayed at three times now, Blue Harbor House Inn. Under new ownership it's still just as charming, and within walking distance of the center of Camden. 
Of course, some of the best food we eat in Maine are just at roadside lobster shacks and hole-in-the-wall looking restaurants along the water. This trip was no different. Probably the best new Lobster Roll find for us was at Beal's Lobster Pier (the one redeeming meal near Bar Harbor, pictured middle-right).
Another note-worthy stop was a converted gas station, called The Shuck Station. It was recommended by Michael Nowak, chef/owner of The Black Pig here in Cleveland. He's made some excellent Maine suggestions for us before, and this one didn't disappoint either. We split the Oyster Tacos and Bao Buns.
Now that we were back in our favorite area of Maine, that meant we could stop in to our favorite find from the last trip...Glidden Point Oyster Farms. You can tour the farm at 11AM or 1PM daily, but their retail shop is open to the public and you can purchase a variety of raw oysters, take them out back to picnic tables, and shuck away.
The next fantastic meal in the Camden/Rockport/Rockland area that will be a spot we revisit in the future was at 18 Central Oyster Bar and Grill in Rockport. The flavors that this wood-grilled food was putting out were simply fabulous. Highlights were the Broiled Oysters, Scallops and Pork Belly, and Halibut.
The following night (and our last in Camden) was a special occasion. Mr. H and I celebrated 12 years of *officially* being together. For the meal, we headed to Natalie's, which we have been to before. By this point in the trip, my mom had joined us! This award-winning restaurant features a tasting menu with stunning plating and cuisine inspired by Maine. Sit on the outdoor deck for views and the best summer atmosphere.
As I wrap up this post, I can't forget the true reason we've found ourselves in Maine four times...the annual Lobster Festival!
It's soft-shelled lobster season, and you can literally rip them apart with your hands. This local festival in Rockland has been going on for 72 years, and we always enjoy ourselves. And the lobster!

That sums up our good eats prior to the last stop of the trip, Portland. That city deserves its own post, so stay tuned. 

Beal's Lobster Pier
182 Clark Point Road
Southwest Harbor, ME 04679

The Shuck Station
68 Main Street
Newcastle, ME 04553

Glidden Point Oyster Farms
637 River Road
Edgecomb, ME 04556

18 Central Oyster Bar and Grill
18 Central Street
Rockport, ME 04856

83 Bayview Street
Camden, ME 04843

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Event Preview: Taste of the Browns 2019

The 21st annual Taste of the Browns event to benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank will take place on Monday, September 9th in the beautiful 7UP City Club Lounge at FirstEnergy Stadium. This event celebrates our city’s passion for its sports team, our appreciation of Cleveland’s acclaimed culinary cuisine, and the Food Bank's commitment to our community. Guests will mingle with Cleveland Browns celebrities while enjoying delicious tastings prepared by more than 25 restaurants and beverage purveyors.
Last year, more than $309,000 was raised to fight hunger at this event - that's enough to help provide more than 1.2 million meals!

It's always one of my favorite fall food events to attend. You can read some of my event reviews here, here and here. I've only missed one in the 12 years I've lived in Cleveland.

This year, I'm looking forward to trying food from new-to-m spots like Aurelia - Honest Food & Drink, Lindey's Lake House, Balance Grille, and Murano Modern Italian Cuisine. And of course classic favorites like Blue Point Grille, Corleone's, EDWINS, Fahrenheit, Lago, Momocho, Pier W and Zack Bruell Restaurants. This is one event where you really have to pace  yourself and you can't possibly try it all.

Tickets are still available and can be purchased online here. Can't attend? You can still bid on fantastic silent auction packages like Browns' experience packages and autographed memorabilia, restaurant gift cards, Cleveland attraction packages and more. Just register to bid, and bidding will open on September 3rd.

Disclosure: I was provided two tickets in exchange for assistance in promoting the event. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Weekend Bites

Well this past weekend certainly started off with a BANG at one of Spice Catering Co.'s Plated Landscape dinner events. This one had us dining under the stars and with stunning views of Downtown Cleveland at the Ohio City Farm.
Not only did we get to dine on a five-course, wine-paired and locally-sourced meal like the Charcuterie (pictured), Crooked Creek Rabbit Bolognese (pictured), and Mixed Berry Cheesecake, but we also got to learn more about Cleveland's largest urban Farm and their mission with Refugee Response. I encourage you to read about it. Also, if you haven't done one of Spice's Plated Landscape dinners before, what are you waiting for? We try and do at least one a year.

Since we just returned last week from 9 days away in Maine (more on that later this week!), we spent the rest of the weekend at home laying low. That also included many stops at our favorite local shops, like Ohio City Provisions, on Saturday morning to stock back up on groceries.
It can be hard to shake that relaxed vacation mode, so we did need some liquid fuel from Metropolitan Coffee too.
The weekend ended by soaking up the Sunday evening on our front porch with a cold beer and some pizza. It was perfection. I hope that you enjoyed this lovely Cleveland weekend too!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Cozumel

How have I been blogging for 10 years and not dedicated a post to my favorite Mexican joint in town? I briefly mentioned it in a Weekend Bites post, but it's never had a standalone so that changes today.

I'm talking about Cozumel in Independence.
They always start you off with (sometimes warm!) tortilla chips and a smooth, spicy salsa. Often, they'll even give you one salsa per person, as they know it goes quickly.
This particular day, I felt like ordering a frozen Watermelon Margarita. They have several flavors and sizes available (Regular pictured here) and it hit the spot.
Now, this restaurant is my favorite around because it does the best version of my favorite Mexican dish to order. Chile Relleno, which are green chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in a special batter and fried. A couple of years ago, they made a change to their preparation and it's no longer battered, but it's still a cut above the rest! They call it the Chile Poblano on the menu.

My favorite item to order is their Vegetarian Combo #5 ($9.55) with a Chile Poblano and Cheese Enchilada with rice and beans.
Do you have one Mexican dish that draws you in each time, or do you switch it up when dining? This is one dish that I must order almost every time, which is unusual for me.

But they have my favorite version, and the Independence location is close to home and work. Making it easier to get my fix!

5555 Brecksville Road
Independence, OH 44131
(216) 447-1070