Friday, September 1, 2017

Maine Eats: Portland

The second half of our Maine trip took us to Portland. We had some exciting dining plans to look forward to, and I'm happy to say that they did not disappoint!

On our first night, we headed to Grace, which was formerly a Methodist church. It's on the National Registry of Historic Places. The restaurant renovated the church, but left its character and integrity in place, honoring its history.
Simply stunning inside, and quite a unique setting to enjoy a meal in.
We had a large lobster roll lunch earlier at McLoon's Lobstah Shack (would have made our top 3 lobster rolls list if the lobster had been warmed and we had a squeeze of fresh lemon), so we just headed straight to an entree and skipped any small plates to start.

I ordered the English Pea Risotto and added the suggested Lamb Loin and Goat Gouda. It came with Tuscan mountain mint, pickled peppers, baby corn, grilled artichokes, and peanuts. I thought the plate was not only beautiful, but the food was really good too.
The next day brought us another lobster roll lunch (when in Maine, right?). This time, we headed back to an old favorite, Fishermen's Grill. They had recently moved locations, and we wanted to see if it was as good as we remembered.

This much is true...the rolls are piled HIGH and it's a very generous portion. It was still very good, but not as good as I remembered it being. The roll had gotten very soggy at the bottom, and the wet portions completely fell apart and weren't pleasurable to eat. I also don't care for lettuce with the warm buttered lobster meat, because it starts to wilt and get a little gross. But, that is one monster lobster roll and was still better than many we've tried!
We had planned a filling lunch, because our dinner plans included heading to Central Provisions. Many would say it's Portland's best restaurant, and several of my Cleveland chef friends have raved about it. So, it was on our "must dine" list this trip, but we knew they don't accept reservations. The wait was two hours, so we grabbed a drink and cheese plate at another nearby restaurant while we waited. We finally got in around 10PM. Thankfully, it was soooooo worth the wait!

We were seated at the bar, with front row seats to the action.
Everything is small, shareable plates, and they suggest 3 per person. We shared the Bluefin Tuna Crudo...
...Bone Marrow Toast, Suckling Pig, and a Foie Gras Torchon (pictured below). The foie gras was out of this world.
Instead of sharing dessert as we had planned, we just ordered another Torchon to split. One of the top dishes I've ever had in my life. I'll never not go to Central Provisions (several James Beard nominations) when in Portland again.

Our last night in Portland also brought a fun and memorable experience, the Sunday Supper,  a tailor-made, one-of-a-kind six-course meal by reservation only (only 6 spots available), at Piccolo (James Beard semi-finalist).

Sunday Supper gets you up close and personal for a chef's tasting menu, and wine pairings are optional. Our group of six all chose to add the wine pairings.
I knew the meal was off to a good start when we had this gorgeous stuffed squash blossom.
The meal was playful and creative, with our elevated Chicken and Waffles course being served in vintage lunch pails. I was pretty pumped to get one of my favorite childhood cartoons, Fraggle Rock!
We were impressed with the food, and the overall experience was special. We had a wonderful time chatting with the chef/owner after the meal about the Portland dining scene, Cleveland restaurants, and the beef currently dry-aging in our basement. Her eyes lit up!

We had to leave the next morning to head home, but not before one quick last meal in Portland. I grabbed a Bloody Mary and a Fried Clam Roll ($15) with whole-belly clams, pickled red onions, and red-eye tartar sauce at The Old Port Sea Grill & Raw Bar.
The pickled red onions and red-eye tartar sauce just kicked this classic East Coast sandwich up a notch, and I really enjoyed it.

Now completely stuffed and ready to get back to our daily routines of home, we headed back to Boston to catch our flight. It was bittersweet, since we had such a wonderful trip and I always leave Maine wanting to do more, but it was great to get home. And sleep in our own bed!

I hope you've enjoyed our Maine adventures this week, and maybe I've inspired you to take a trip to that area one day. It does seem like a lot of Clevelanders do! Til next time, Maine...

15 Chestnut Street
Portland, ME 04101

McLoon's Lobstah Shack
315 Island Road
Spruce Head Island, Maine

Fishermen's Grill
650 Main Street
Westbrook, ME 04092

Central Provisions
414 Fore Street
Portland, ME 04101

111 Middle Street
Portland, ME 04101

Old Port Sea Grill & Raw Bar
93 Commercial Street
Portland, ME 04101