Last week, the first shipment (of hopefully many many more) from the Scribe Viticultural Society arrived. Scribe was one of our favorite wineries from our recent trip to Sonoma, and although we had other bottles shipped home, the Viticultural Society was the only ‘wine club’ we joined. We loved Scribe for its setting, its story, and of course, its wine, and since it’s impossible to find their wines anywhere near home, we jumped at the opportunity to have six of their pinots, cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays, and limited production bottlings shipped quarterly to our front door. Another perk of the Viticultural Society are the pick-up parties they throw, where members are invited to the winery to enjoy an evening of food, fun, and libation (check out this cool video from a past pick-up party). Meredith has been daydreaming about a return trip out to California for one of these parties, so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we share some more Scribe pictures.
Since the weather this week has canceled our travel plans for Thanksgiving, we’re looking forward to popping open our first Scribe bottle tomorrow. Surely it will be a hit.
We hope you have a wonderful holiday with plenty of good food and drink! If you have any suggestions for your own favorite Thanksgiving bottles, we’d love to hear them.
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Back in August, Meredith and I posted about 10 of our favorite Portland plates. The post was pretty popular, with plenty of great feedback and future suggestions, and it immediately inspired us to begin thinking about our next Portland, Maine in 10 Bites post. Since a good brunch is by far my favorite meal, it seemed that a brunch post would be an easy decision, but it actually proved to be quite the opposite. In a city full of amazing brunches, we could only pick 10, so we set out to try some of the most well known dishes, revisit some of our old favorites, and find a few new ones to settle on our 10 top choices – tough work, we know. What we came up with is 10 great brunches to start any lazy Sunday in Portland or the first brunch dishes to try when you’re visiting town. These dishes are standards at each of the restaurants, and are almost always available. Since food trucks and bakeries hold a special place in our own food world, we decided to save those for a future post, so the following are meals to sit down and enjoy with friends.
Vignola Cinque Terre’s Poached Eggs
The first time we visited Vignola Cinque Terre for brunch, we simply wanted to spend a Sunday morning in the sunlit space. The next 4 or 5 times were to share the awesome food with friends! Vignola is the only place to have two dishes on the list, and for good reason. They serve some of the best poached eggs I’ve found in Portland (or anywhere else for that matter) – perfectly prepared with a savory assortment of accompanying items (ham, porky belly, tomato conserva, pesto, hollandaise, just to name a few). We’ll save the other reason for a little further down in the list.
Caiola’s Warm Lost Bread
Caiola’s was possibly one of the first brunches we had upon moving to Maine. Thanks to our friends Darcy and Carolyn, we’ve never had a brunch here that wasn’t accompanied with the warm lost bread. From our first Map & Menu visit to Caiola’s: “Simply, the Lost Bread is the Caiola’s version of pain perdu, or frech toast, but to belittle the delightfully soft chunk of bread, drizzled in butter and warm Maine maple syrup, and topped with a generous helping of fresh fruit, to a meal that anyone with a frying pan and some day-old bread can whip up is an insult that I cannot bear. Every bite will leave you wanting another, and when it’s finally gone from the plate, you’ll find yourself wondering just how silly you’d look licking your plate clean in front of the other patrons. Seriously, try it.”
Pai Men’s Okono Miyake
This savory Japanese egg pancake with plenty of Miyake flair is far from your typical butter and syrup flapjack. With farm pork, cabbage, scallions, ginger, fried egg, kewpie mayo, and tonkatsu sauce, you might feel a slight bit of hesitation before your first bite, but once you blink and your plate is clean you’ll wonder why you don’t see more pancake variations on menus around town.
Gather’s Homemade Veggie Hash
A meal that Meredith has been craving since she last tried it months ago, the Homemade Veggie Hash at Gather is one of those dishes that leaves you (very) happily satisfied without the typical guilt that accompanies such a delicious meal. So much so, that we cheated a little and expanded our brunch map radius to Yarmouth to include it on our list.
Silly’s Egganator Scramble
This dish could dominate even the most hearty of brunch goers. An overflowing plateful of eggs mixed with tasty applewood smoked pork, cheddar cheese, tomato, jalapeños, scallions, and barbecue sauce will have you rolling out the door with a gigantic silly smile on your face. Hint: the sweet potato upgrade is totally worth it.
Blue Spoon’s Yogurt with sliced fruit
I’m a huge proponent of the heavy, extra-savory or super-sweet brunch dishes. Paired with a few cups of coffee, they’re hard to beat, but every now and then, I don’t want to put my stretchy pants on and I like to switch it up with something healthy, light, and flavorful. There are plenty of tasty brunch items on the menu at Blue Spoon (if the fiery eggs were more standard, they would’ve easily made the list), but the yogurt with fresh, seasonal sliced fruit is pretty hard to beat in terms of making you smile and leaving you guilt-free.
Vignola Cinque Terre’s Cinnamon Brioche Stuffed French Toast
Countering the savory side of Vignola’s brunch menu is the sweet, dessert-like cinnamon stuffed french toast. Meredith was fortunate enough to have it with filled with apples, but since then we’ve seen friends order a strawberry-filled version too. No matter what fruit this decadent treat is stuffed with, the results are the same – one blissfully stuffed patron with a great big smile on their face, undoubtedly wondering how they got away with eating such a guilt-inducingly sweet treat for breakfast.
Petite Jacqueline’s Croque Madame
Ham, cheese, and a fried egg would equate to winning in just about any book, but Petite Jacqueline’s Croque Madame easily crushes any ham and cheese you or I would make in the skillet at home with thick buttery toast, melted gruyere, and a savory mornay sauce. One bite and I’m instantly transported back to a cafe on the streets of Paris.
HotSuppa’s Corned Beef Hash
This was a tough one, since New Englanders are passionate about their corned beef hash. We’ve received plenty of recommendations for the best plate in town, and although my taste buds love you and your suggestions, my quickly growing belly does not. Although you might have your own go-to in town, the corned beef hash I tried at HotSuppa was my favorite, by far. Wonderfully crispy on the top side and soft underneath, this hash doesn’t need the eggs, toast, or grits to make it the best in my book, but who am I to complain?
Brand new to town, it didn’t take Piccolo long to register on our brunch favorites list. We haven’t visited enough to know our favorite entrees from the menu, but if you don’t order the zeppoli or bombolini to start or finish (or both), you’ve made a tragic mistake. Ours were served with a bowl of melted chocolate, but however they’re being served, they’d probably make our top 5 donuts list for Portland if we had one (why don’t we?).
Last time, we got some great recommendations (like Whitney’s suggestion to try Pai Men’s Hamaiyake), so please leave us some more below – not only is it helpful for us, but it’s also useful for others who come to the post looking for even more great brunch recommendations.
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Meredith and I are trying to get out and make a few more day trips to explore the many towns of New England that are within a few hours distance from Portland. So many times when we head south, we either stop in Portsmouth or Boston, but just between the two is Newburyport, MA, an awesome, historic colonial town set on the Merrimack River. Last weekend, we took Orvis along for a drive and tried to explore as much of the area as the day would allow. There was plenty of fun to be had for such a short drive, and the following are what we consider to be the highlights of Newburyport.
Just outside of Newburyport is this sprawling park on the site of an old local estate. There are miles of trails and carriage roads to hike, including the estate gardens, foundations of the razed homes, and views of the Merrimack River. Orvis loved playing fetch well off the path, and we could’ve easily spent the entire day exploring the different areas of the park, but our bellies were letting us know that there was lunch to be had!
Recently awarded Boston Magazine’s best new restaurant north of town, Brine is a delicious oyster and crudo bar (New England’s first) in downtown Newburyport. Brine’s cozy atmosphere and minimal branding make for a pretty cool setting. Some of the highlights of our meal were the tuna crudo with carrot, pistachio, burnt scallion, and mint, my oyster po boy, and of course, a few of the local Massachusetts oysters. Check out the Wine and Brine, where for $40/person you’ll be treated to a four course dinner and a bottle of wine.
Had we not just received the latest shipment of wine from our trip to Sonoma, we could’ve easily walked out of Grand Trunk Imports with a number of bottles of wine and delicious cheeses from their impressive selection.
Meredith had read about the hand pies from Buttermilk Baking Company in Boston Magazine, so when we passed by the bakery while walking around downtown, we couldn’t help but stop in for a mid-afternoon treat. The hand pies are indeed tasty, but I’m a particular sucker for cinnamon buns, of which they make a mean one.
For Meredith, it wouldn’t be much of a roadtrip without a little bit of antiquing. Oldies Marketplace has a huge selection of antiques and collectibles, but unfortunately I couldn’t convince Mere to bring the life-size statue of a bull home with us.
After we’d finished our walk around Newburyport, we drove further down the Merrimack River to Plum Island. The drive along the marshes of the river, and crossing onto the island reminded us of the beaches back down south. Although we didn’t have time to make it to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on the southern part of the island, Orvis had plenty of fun chasing his ball down the beach and splashing through the water. If the sheer amount of sand in my backseat was any sign, this was possibly Orvis’s favorite part of our trip.
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One of the most anticipated Portland eatery openings of the year, Piccolo fills the large shoes and small space that Bresca left vacant when Kristin Desjarles opted to close shop and pursue Bresca and the Honeybee last spring. Husband and wife co-owners Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez are a wickedly talented duo, specializing in dishes inspired by the coastal and agrarian flavors of the central regions of Italy. Handmade pastas and fresh local ingredients prepared in authentic, yet original ways anchor a delicious menu and wine list. Be smart and save room for dessert, because Ilma’s master proficiency as a pastry chef shines through the wonderfully creative dishes she constructs – like the “wine and cheese”, layered red wine gelatin, vanilla and goat cheese mousse, topped with a fruit salad and red wine honey filled-puff pastries. With our first meal being so fantastic, we’re already planning to return for a Sunday brunch.
Portland, Maine 04101
Last week, Meredith and I were fortunate to be invited to attend the most recent wine tasting collaboration between Rosemont Market Productions, Tandem Coffee Roasters, and a featured wine producer – this time with Slovenian winery, Kabaj, and its winemaker, Jean-Michel Morel. In a recurring series hosted at Tandem, a vineyard selected by Rosemont’s Joe Appel is paired with regionally-inspired cuisine by chef Brad Messier and coupled with an evening of good conversation and company. If the event that we attended was a fair sampling, these pairings should be a must-try for anyone interested in wines that are slightly outside of the mainstream, great food, and a fantastic weeknight away from the Netflix queue.
The vineyard of the evening, Kabaj, has been garnering a good bit of praise from the wine-loving community recently. With mentions by the New York Times, The Art of Eating, and Wine Enthusiast, the vineyard was named one of Wine & Spirits‘ 2013 Wineries of the Year, and its complexly delicious “orange wines” have had Meredith and I popping into different Rosemont locations in search of a few bottles ever since the event. The wines get their color from the varying amounts of time that they’re left to ferment on the grape skins, creating a savory selection that age well and can be sipped over the course of an evening. I won’t pretend to be an expert, so suffice it to say that we truly enjoyed the contrast of the Kabaj wines against the Sonoma County varietals with which we recently fell in love. The winemaker, Jean-Michel was one of the most genuinely affable people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. You’d think that being a world-renowned winemaker could go to one’s head, but in a room full of interested oenophiles, he took the time to speak to each of us, sharing his winemaking passion and methodology, and his awesomely positive outlook on life – reminding us that good wine connects people and pursuing one’s passion can be wildly fulfilling.
Throughout the evening, Brad Messier was quickly serving up Slavic dishes to pair with our wines. Learning a new cuisine in the weeks leading up to the event proved to be an easy task for the talented chef, and we were fortunate to enjoy meats that he had cured himself, a regional bean, pork, and cabbage soup, potica nut rolls, and a tasty salted bread that accompanies many Slovenian meals. The night was capped off with an optional cup of the best espresso in town, and as Meredith and I made our way home that evening, we couldn’t help but think of what an enjoyable date night these pairings might make in the months to come.
Portland, Maine 04101
It’s hard to imagine a better place to have spent our Sunday morning than on the bank of an autumn leaf-clad lake in Maine, enjoying gourmet pastries and warming drinks beside a crackling fire. But from what we gather, this type of scene is going to be the status quo on weekends throughout the fall at Bresca and the Honey Bee.
Chef and co-owner Krista Desjarlais made quite a ripple when she decided to close up shop at Bresca in Portland last May and switch her concentration to a snack shack at Outlet Beach on Sabbathday Lake, but after just a few minutes by the lake, we began to understand the decision. The scene is idyllic, the atmosphere relaxing, and we quickly saw how easy it would be to sit back and stay a while. This is all without mentioning the food! We treated ourselves to a sampling of a few different things – apple and cranberry pie, peanut butter o’s, and a berry and almond boo cake (think pain perdu with seasonal toppings) – and quickly polished off the entire spread (I even ordered a pear tart for the road). We chased it all with Tandem coffee, tea, and apple cider, and then sat back and smiled at the scene around us. Although we didn’t have the chance to make it to the lake just outside of New Gloucester this past summer for all of the swimming, boating, and picnicking the private beach has to offer, their scaled back fall service was the perfect end to a morning hike, and their winter plan to mix in ice skating has Meredith giddy with anticipation.
If you’re in the area or looking for a delightfully Maine way to spend some time one weekend, make sure to swing by Bresca and the Honey Bee, you definitely won’t regret the decision.
New Gloucester, Maine 04260
It’s hard to believe how quickly our time in Sonoma County blew by. We’d been planning the trip, reading about the restaurants, and dreaming about the wines for months, and then in a wonderful blink of an eye, we were back home in Portland. The wine was of course amazing, greatly aided by the winery employees that helped us understand what made each wine its own, and the food was delicious, leaving us with an even longer list of places to try on future trips than the one with which we started, but the natural beauty of the region, specifically the drives along winding vineyard-lined roads, the gorgeous views of Lake Sonoma, and the awe-inspiring time we spent at Sonoma Coast State Park were what really put the trip over the top for both of us.
A recent bride of Meredith’s who spent her honeymoon in Sonoma suggested we visit Shed and it just so happened to be our very first stop in Healdsburg. We ate a delicious lunch on the patio (a pizza for me and avocado & salmon toast for Meredith) before we explored the shop’s impressive (and beautiful) selection of speciality foods and kitchen supplies. Meredith was beside herself with excitement and insisted we stop in again on our last full day in town.
When Meredith asked the girl behind the counter at Moustache if she should be embarrassed buying a few macrons for herself, the girl replied “not at all – only if you ordered a few of the cupcakes for yourself”… so I did just that, and tried a few different flavors of the delicious (and well decorated) cupcakes on the spot.
It’s hard to think of a better place to kick off our Sonoma wine tour than the in-town tasting room of Banshee Wines. The branding caught Meredith’s eye while planning the trip, but the convenience of being able to walk there from our hotel and the casual, stylish, laid-back atmosphere once we arrived is what kept us there for a few hours. Far from wine experts, we were nervous about our first California tasting, but our tasting specialist, Zack, was extremely easy to talk to and incredibly helpful walking us through the basics. Of the wines we tried, we loved the Sonoma County Pinot Noir, the single vintage Marine Layer Pinot Noir, and the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which were just delivered to our door in Maine this week!
With an appreciation for all things minimal & modern, we found our room at h2hotel to be absolutely perfect. We loved the bright, crisp interior and the warm wooden accents, not to mention the Heath Ceramics tile in the bathroom. We had a fantastic dinner at Spoonbar, the hotel’s restaurant & bar, where breakfast is also served each morning. With details like Eames-inspired bar stools and bicycles for the guests, it was hard to say goodbye when it came time to checkout.
After a long day of driving and exploring the area, we were delighted to be able to walk downstairs to Spoonbar and not feel like we were just settling for the ease of another hotel restaurant. In a similar fashion to the rest of the h2hotel, the space was really well decorated, and we were fortunate to sit at a slightly removed table for two beside the spoon ‘waterfall’ near the entrance. Our meal was delicious and we found ourselves constantly fighting the urge over the next few days to order extra servings of the smashed and crispy marbled potatoes with salsa verde through room service.
On our first full morning, we left Healdsburg early and made our way to the coast, watching the sun come up over the Russian River. We made it to the Goat Rock Beach portion of the park just as the morning fog was heading out to sea, and amazed by the sweeping views and pristine beauty, couldn’t help but pull over at one of the first trailheads. The view was amazing – dramatic cliffs over the pacific, rock formations jutting from the fields, deer waking up from their sleep – all in a massively expansive panorama in front of us. ‘Our’ section of the park was completely empty and we didn’t see another human in all the time we spent exploring the trails around the Sunset Boulders. It was a hike where we were both so in the moment that there were long periods of time where we didn’t say a word, but just smiled and took it all in.
Searching for some lighter fare, we grabbed sandwiches from the deli at Oakville Grocery one afternoon and enjoyed them beside the pool at our hotel. Reminding us of some of our favorite sandwich shop/markets back in Portland, we loved perusing their wine and cheese selections, and enjoyed our sandwiches so much that we returned on our final evening for sunset picnic fare.
We first read about Scribe from A Continuous Lean, and when we left for California, it was the only reservation, restaurant or winery, that we’d made for certain. Set on a hillside overlooking the vineyard, our tasting ‘room’ consisted of a table under a shady oak tree, with one on one attention from a very friendly winery specialist, Trey. We had an excellent time talking with Trey about the history of the land, the adventurousness and passion of the knowledgeable vineyard owners, and of course, the oh so delicious wine. It was almost impossible to pick a favorite from the amazing wines we tried that afternoon, so we did the right thing and signed up for the Scribe Viticultural Society to receive new bottles every quarter. Meredith hasn’t been ashamed to admit that the SVS pickup parties are just another reason that we’ll be needing to return to the vineyard in the future.
On our way down to Scribe we passed right by El Molino and both immediately started craving Mexican food. Since we had reservations elsewhere that evening, we were hesitant to confess our cravings to each other, but we made it only a few more blocks down the road before we’d come clean and changed our plans. The extremely casual atmosphere was a welcome change of pace and we enjoyed an excellent meal outside under the sun.
Where we were instantly taken with h2′s bright, minimal guest rooms, we were just as drawn to the beautiful, lush grounds of Hotel Healdsburg. The entire property exuded such a lovely, soothing feeling that I didn’t want our time there to end. Meredith marveled at the soft mid-afternoon light by the pool, shaded overhead by olive trees nonetheless, and could have spent hours out there reading on the chaises. Our room at Hotel Healdsburg was quite spacious, yet cozy & comforting at the same time. A tasty breakfast the next morning by the hotel’s fireplace certainly cheered us up on what was our last morning in Healdsburg.
Recommended to us by a couple of different friends and recently featured in Food & Wine, Copain rounded out our winery experience with its breathtaking view and more formal tasting setting. In preparation for the trip, we’d picked up a bottle locally of the winery’s 2010 Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir, but our preferred wine from the tasting was the 2011 Tous Ensemble Chardonnay, aged entirely in steel. A highlight of our morning at Copain was most definitely our chat with the tasting lead, Phil, who gave us some great recommendations for restaurants to visit in San Francisco and others on Nantucket where he lived for 25 years.
Another recommendation from Meredith’s bride, who after our meal at Barndiva, we felt like hugging for giving us such amazing suggestions for our trip. Our lunch at Barndiva was a meal we’ll likely never forget. Rivaling our experience at Le Jardin du Quai, one of our all-time favorites in Provence, lunch at Barndiva was nothing short of extraordinary. The outdoor garden setting was the perfect place to take in the beautiful California weather. We shared the heirloom tomato salad with watermelon, avocado & mozzarella, Meredith had the raw yellowfin tuna on sticky rice with avocado and pickled jalapeno, I had the crispy duck leg with a panzanella salad, and we split the peach panna cotta for dessert – all of which were wonderfully well prepared and left us craving a return trip.
Although the deck at the Lake Sonoma overlook was quite possibly one of the windiest locations we’ve ever visited, we still managed to bundle up under a JetBlue blanket with a bottle of Copain’s French Laundry Pinot and a takeout pizza from Oakville Grocery (quite a scene), and enjoyed one of the most gorgeous, laughter-filled sunset picnics ever. With the lake directly below you and surrounded by mountains in every direction, the view would be captivating no matter the time of day, just make sure to take a jacket.
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It’s that time of year when Michael and I do our best to hit (nearly) all of our favorite spots with great outdoor seating options just one more time before it gets too chilly. So when planning my evening shoot up in Rockport a couple of weeks ago, I decided to allow enough time to take advantage of Salt Water Farm’s Happy Hour and grab a drink on the deck overlooking the harbor. While several of the drink deals caught my eye, I settled on the Watermelon Negroni and a plate of locally made Lakin’s Gorges Opus 42 cheese with buckwheat honeycomb. The sweet watermelon was a welcome contrast to the Campari, slightly cutting the drink’s traditional bitter taste. Sitting on the deck, catching the last hour or two of sun as it falls on the boats in the harbor, it’s hard to imagine a better place to enjoy such a fantastic happy hour experience.
Meredith and I don’t often visit new restaurants in their first week of operation. We typically like to avoid the crowds and let the establishment work out the kinks, but after a few days of hearing and reading so many good things about the newly renovated, re-geared, and renamed Empire Chinese Kitchen, we decided that an early dim sum lunch was just a little too tempting to delay.
The new owners of Empire have done an awesome job with the renovation. Long before our meals had arrived, Meredith was happily snapping photos of all the details of the dining room and gushing about the natural light, open space, and relaxed feel of the room. We arrived right as the doors opened and were lucky to get a booth by a window before the room (and waiting list) quickly filled up.
We started with a couple of tasty cocktails (the Yellow Fever and the Dragon’s Milk) and ordered a handful of small plate and dim sum dishes which arrived in a slightly staggered fashion, leading to a leisurely tapas-style lunch. First up were the delicious peking duck buns (my personal favorite) and the har gow (one of a few of the gluten-free options on the menu). It’s a standard rule of thumb for me that pretty much anything served in a steamed bun will be awesome, and the savory peking duck didn’t disappoint – I’d highly recommend trying it. We also tried the lobster dumplings and the unique Empire egg roll, made with pastrami and asparagus and served with honey dijon. We thoroughly enjoyed each of the dishes we tried, and the three-count dumplings led to a number of small chopstick sword fighting battles.
All in all, I think we’re both glad that we ignored our recently-opened restaurant ban this time around, and can’t wait for a revisit to try the remaining items on the menu. Anyone want to join us?
Portland, Maine 04101
Updated: Unfortunately Fromviandoux has closed.
Over the past couple of weeks, whenever someone mentions that they’ll be soon be spending time in Camden (or anywhere in the mid-coast region for that matter) I all but interrupt them and insist that they treat themselves to Afternoon Tea at Fromviandoux during their trip. We owe our friend, Anestes, for putting this gem of an experience on our radar, and on a recent excursion to the area, I was able to take advantage of the suggestion and give it a try myself.
Afternoon Tea at Fromviandoux consists of a pot of tea and three scrumptious accompanying courses that are quite honestly almost too lovely to eat! I chose the Avena’s Garden blend which was first served with scones, a peach bread, housemade cream, lemon curd (my favorite!), and jam. After that what followed could be considered a meal in and of itself – eight tea sandwiches presented in pairs. Of the sandwiches, the lobster salad on a cheddar biscuit was simply divine. Up next were the petit fours! At this time I was more than just a little full from the first few courses, but I’ve never in my life turned down a plate of sweets sitting in front of me. The hazlenut chocolate truffle, the strawberry shortcake, and the date & fig “newtons” were all delightfully delicious.
The warm, inviting interior and plentiful light inside the Fromviandoux space creates a perfect environment for such a lovely experience. After such an enjoyable afternoon, I now have my sights set on returning with Michael for one of their Cocktail Wednesdays or Wine & Cheese Saturdays.
Camden, Maine 04843