Last week Meredith and I had the amazing opportunity to attend a private dinner celebrating two of our local favorites – the staff party of Hunt & Alpine at Piccolo. When Andrew and Briana reached out to us about documenting their annual party and joining them for a custom, goat-centric menu by Damien and Ilma, the arm-twisting was minimal and we excitedly added the date to our calendar.
Although the space at Piccolo is always warm, cozy, and inviting, having the tables pulled together in one large family-style setting and watching everyone gather around the counter for drinks and conversation made it feel like we were having a dinner at the home of good friends. We’ve never had a dish from Piccolo that hasn’t been phenomenal, but Damien, Luke, and Ilma truly outdid themselves with the menu that evening. From the charred goat heart ‘tartare’, to the wild snails with black trumpet mushrooms and pancetta, and the chocolate sea salt budino with warm goats milk espuma, we found ourselves wanting more and more of every last dish.
The meal aside, the Hunt + Alpine “family” is a delightful collection of people – almost all of whom we were officially meeting for the first time, but every last one made us feel like we’d been a part of the crew forever. The conversation, laughter, and shared experience was unforgettable, and undoubtedly something we’ll remember for a very long time. Seeing one group of individuals, whose work we’ve always admired and respected, come together to celebrate around the food and drink of another outstanding team was inspiring to say the least. “Thank you” just doesn’t seem to even begin to cover our gratitude.
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In the midst of a whirlwind early summer this past year, it looks as though we never got around to posting about the quick girls trip I took with my mother to New York last May – what a shame! It all works out though, because I’m happy to be reliving the warmth and colors of spring in New York during the middle of winter, aren’t you? While my mother spent a day working with a client, I was happy to wander around the Village, photographing charming stoops, popping into cute shops, and having some delicious meals. Here are a few highlights from our trip last spring!
The Marlton’s rooms, branding, and restaurant, Margaux, are all packed with a quirky personality that perfectly balances style and expression. I loved every moment of my stay there. Read more about our time at The Marlton here.
Dining at Cafe Cluny has been high on my list since reading about it on Cup of Jo ages ago. It was our first meal in the city during this trip, and easily one of the tastiest. Our meal reminded me of one of Michael’s favorite restaurant critiques – the food was simple, yet perfectly prepared. The charming atmosphere and the meandering walks we enjoyed to and from Cafe Cluny only added to our experience.
While my mother was working with a client in the city, I moseyed around the Village before I ended up at the delightful oyster bar, Jeffrey’s Grocery. The weather was just right for a glass of rose, a heaping salade Niçoise, and plenty of people watching!
I walked down to the Mermaid Oyster Bar for a snack before I had to head uptown to a client meeting of my own – the happy hour specials here are not to be missed, neither are the shrimp & avocado sliders!
A recommendation from Mackenzie’s blog, Cafe Gitane, inside The Jane Hotel, was a perfect spot for us to spend our final morning in New York. We swapped stories from the day we spent apart and watched the rain come down while feasting on the most comforting of breakfast foods – baked eggs and pain au chocolat.
What are some of your favorite spots in the West Village/Greenwich Village? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below. I have my heart set on trying Rosemary’s, Palma, Red Farm, Perla, or Claudette for our next visit. But returning to Buvette would also be a treat! Read more about our past trips down to New York here.
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Earlier this week, Meredith and I had the opportunity to drop by Portland’s newest wine shop – Maine & Loire. We’ve been anxiously anticipating their opening ever since meeting the co-owners, Peter and Orenda, and having the opportunity to hear about their ideas and inspiration for the shop. Concentrating on organic and natural wines, many of which are new to Maine, just about every hand-selected bottle from their selection is unique. Bright and open, with friendly, casual branding, the shop itself feels much more relaxed than most other wine stores. Meredith and I spent plenty of time browsing the selection of bottles – many with humorous and helpful handwritten notes – and found ourselves with a handful of new French and Italian wines to try over the coming weeks. When you visit, be sure to introduce yourself to the owners for a fantastic recommendation, and check out their Instagram feed for new wines as they arrive… you can bet that we’ll be glued to it for our next bottle!
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While seemingly the entirety of the blogging universe is in a post-New Year’s calorie-cutting frenzy, Meredith and I rocked this past weekend as we typically prefer to do – with good food and drink, and a few Orvis snuggles. After a dim sum brunch at Empire and a little wine perusing at Browne Trading Co. on Saturday, we spent a good chunk of the rest of the weekend in the kitchen, making new batches of sea salt chocolate chip cookies, buttermilk pancakes, chicken marbella, and buttermilk ice cream. With the changes we’ve been making to the kitchen and the warmth of the oven, it’s tough to drag ourselves to another room, but at least we were able to share some of our creations with friends at dinner last night.
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Neither Michael nor I have been to Savannah since we were children, so it’s high on our list of places to visit together someday, especially with reminders like these photos from Ann Street Studio.
I look forward to the yearly book recaps our friend Abby writes each January. She read 167 books last year alone!
Always looking for an excuse to turn on the oven during a cold spell, we whipped up these Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies last night – they were just as good as they sound. I also have my eyes on preparing these sweet potatoes from the same cookbook, Date Night In.
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Escaping to a warmer climate has been on my mind all week during this horrendously cold spell here in Maine. Since many of you in similar climates have braved the same temperatures, I thought revisiting last year’s Winter Getaway Daydreaming post and coming up with another list of warm destinations might be a welcome distraction from the cold.
El Blok, the newest hotel on the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques, is high on my list of places I would love to visit with Michael, namely to sample the cuisine of the hotel restaurant headed by James Beard nominated chef, Jose Enrique. Of course, the island destination and stylish design only adds to El Blok’s draw.
Belize’s Turtle Inn, owned by Francis Ford Coppola, keeps popping up on my radar these days. I could definitely get behind the idea of showering outdoors in a private garden, couldn’t you?
I’m not quite sure I can imagine a more beautifully luxurious escape than spending a few days at the recently re-opened and rebranded stunning Cheval Blanc property on St. Barts.
I hadn’t heard of Saba, a tiny island in the Dutch Antilles, until I came across a mention of the Queen’s Gardens Resort in an AFAR article. The island itself reminds me of the lovely, seemingly untouched Nevis we visited a few years ago.
Harbour Island has been on my travel bucket list for a few years now. If we ever make it down to this charming island in the Bahamas, known for its pink sand beaches, I’d have my eyes on The Landing, The Saltbox, or the soon to open Bahama House Inn.
What warm weather destinations are on your radar? We’d love to hear some of your favorite spots or dream-worthy vacations below!Leave a comment
A few weeks ago, Meredith and I found ourselves needing a good excuse to leave the house and do some last minute Christmas shopping, so we did what all food-loving Portlanders should and decided to make a brunch date out of it. We already have a number of go-to brunch spots in town, but given that every other experience we’ve had at Central Provisions – from drinks through dessert – has been outstanding, we thought we’d see if the same held true for my own favorite meal of the day, the coveted breakfast-lunch tweener spot. To be honest, it wasn’t even a contest. Warm and gooey skillet cornbread, crispy and savory scrapple, and a ham and cheese slider that absolutely blew my mind helped make our meal one of the best brunches I can remember, moving Central Provisions right to the top of our favorite Portland brunches, alongside Piccolo and a handful of others. Now, it’s only a matter of finding another flimsy excuse to return soon…
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Our Christmas celebrations this year were just as we prefer – low key & delicious. We took the opportunity to enjoy some tasty meals and catch up with some of our favorite people, but the highlight of our week was celebrating Orvis’s 8th birthday the day after Christmas. We began the festivities with a family run that ended at the beach and then hopped in the car to head up to the birthday boy’s favorite spot – our family’s farm in Wiscasset. We spent the rest of the day walking the property with Orvis and playing fetch with him, before taking a stroll around town.
With each year that passes, we realize how absolutely amazing our time has been with Orvis, and become sadly more aware of the finite amount of time that remains. Taking a full day to celebrate him – doing the things he loves most – fills our hearts with happiness, and we have to admit that after watching him gallop around the farm, he seemed more like an 8-month old puppy than the adult dog he is.
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We unintentionally ate our way through this past weekend, but I’d like to think it was just a decent warm-up for this week’s holiday feasting.
On Friday afternoon we snuck out of work for a cozy lunch at Bao Bao – our first visit to the new(ish) dumpling house in the West End. On Saturday, we made spritz cookies in the morning and then had friends over for an old favorite, shrimp & grits, followed by a very delicious bourbon pecan pie from Two Fat Cats. If that weren’t enough, we started Sunday with an incredible brunch from Central Provisions (more about that coming soon), and then a bit of half-hearted, overly-full Christmas shopping, before returning home to make a delicious (and light) ribollita from Green Kitchen Stories for dinner.
This week, we’re looking forward to our traditional seafood and pierogi on Christmas Eve, coffee cake and ham sliders on Christmas, and plenty of sweets and deliciousness in between. Do you have any Christmas eating traditions you’d care to share?
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We’re finishing up our Best of 2014 posts with the most challenging to whittle down and write – our favorite food (and drinks!) from our home state of Maine. There are plenty of spots in Portland and beyond that we wish we could include on this list, these are simply the dishes and restaurants that stood out to us and kept us coming back for more in 2014. Of course, we’d love to hear about some of your Maine favorites in the comments below!
Michael: It’s going to take a lot to remove Hunt and Alpine from its seat of Maine cocktail supremacy in my mind, and when you add the Deviled Smoked Trout to snack on, competitors might as well just throw in the towel.
Meredith: Lately, I’ve been a fan of the Fancy Gin Cocktail – Bread & Butter combination at the downstairs bar at Central Provisions – a prime place for people watching on the corner of Wharf Street.
Michael: The seasonal fall Roast chicken and pureed buttercup squash from Central Provisions is one of the better dishes I can ever recall – we order it every time we’re there and it’s on the menu (and sometimes more than once in a sitting).
Meredith: I’ve never met a rice bowl variation from Long Grain that I didn’t just love.
Michael: I’m going to go ahead and double up on the Central Provisions… try the spicy beef salad, the combination of flavors, spices, and textures is hard to beat.
Meredith: I was introduced to the roasted vegetable cassoulet from Lolita during a shoot for Down East this year and after sampling a bit (job perk number one!) I made it a priority to return to Lolita for one of my very own soon thereafter.
Michael: Mmmm… donuts. The Urban Sugar food truck turns out bite-sized gourmet donuts with an assortment of creative toppings (like their Cap’n Crunch glazed, breakfast cereal variety) that are sure to impress the Homer Simpson in each of us.
Meredith: Four months later, I remember exactly how deliciously decadent the salted butter semifreddo was during our chef’s tasting menu dinner at Vinland this summer. Crunchy, sweet, amazing.
Michael & Meredith: This one’s a toss-up between our tried and true neighborhood heavyweight, Scratch Baking Co., with its amazing bagels, cookies, and coconut creme cake, and the relative newcomer, Tandem Bakery, where every bite of the savory scones or sweet cinnamon rolls is better than the previous (it doesn’t hurt that they’re paired with the best coffee around).
Michael: Taking the most classic of American dining styles and establishments, and then injecting an attention to detail and flavor completely foreign to the prefabricated diner world, it’s easy to see why Palace Diner has caught the attention of so many. Get anything on the menu, it’s all amazing.
Meredith: There’s nothing cozier than ducking inside Piccolo on a chilly day for a tasty, comforting brunch that always includes the zeppoli.
Michael & Meredith: This is one of our precious neighborhood secrets, but for the better part of two years, Scratch Baking Co. has somewhat quietly been producing some of the most consistently creative and delicious sandwiches that we can find anywhere – Maine or not.
Michael and Meredith: We enjoy most any meal outdoors with Orvis by our side, but when the food is truly exceptional, the whole experience certainly stands out. This is why we make a point to visit The Well at Jordan’s Farm multiple times over the summer and early fall. It’s a must in our books – even if you aren’t lucky enough to dine alongside your dog – their farm-fresh ingredients and mastery of simple yet classic dishes makes The Well one of the best meals in Maine.
Michael & Meredith: Even though the truck is up for sale and they’re moving their business into a brick and mortar restaurant next year, the meals we enjoyed truckside from Small Axe – at Congress Square Park (or Tandem Coffee in the early days) – will always be some of our favorites from a food truck.
Michael: “Experience” seems like the perfect descriptor to define our Chef’s tasting menu dinner at Vinland late this past summer. Between courses and entremets, sixteen delightful dishes came together to create a truly outstanding experience.
Meredith: We dined at Nebo Lodge two nights in a row during our October trip to North Haven and both nights we could haven’t been happier with the flavor and atmosphere. To enjoy such quality food on an island thirteen miles from the mainland is truly exceptional, in my opinion. A meal at Nebo Lodge is well worth adding to your dining bucket lists!
Off the Beaten Path
Michael & Meredith: Brunch at Crissy’s in Damariscotta is part of every single weekend trip we make up to Wiscasset during the winter. We’re big fans of the huevos rancheros, the veggie hash’n’eggs, and the famous blueberry coffee cake, of course.
Michael & Meredith: Central Provisions might seem like the popular choice for this one, but never before have we, time and time again, had meals where every bite of every dish is its own fantastic experience. It’s that simple.
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