A couple of weekends ago, Meredith and I were at her family’s farm in Wiscasset, snowshoeing with Orvis, when we read a tweet by Primo saying that that evening would be their last night of the season. Since we were already halfway to Rockland, we took this as a sign to call it an early day and make a quick trip up the road for dinner at one of
Maine’s New England’s most highly-touted restaurants.
Since we were in the mood for something a little more relaxed and casual than their more formal dinner menu and dining room, we opted to try the walk-in “counter menu“. We felt right at home in the Counter Room upstairs – a large, open space with exposed beam ceilings, sliding barn doors, and a massive counter, behind which chefs prepared a number of the dishes we enjoyed. We cozied up to a table, and in typical Primo fashion, enjoyed a couple flavorful cocktails (The Bitter Truth and a Dutch Courage) and a number of wonderfully prepared seasonal dishes (the Meatball Trio, Brussels sprouts, cassoulet, and polenta with roasted vegetables) that had us savoring every last sip and bite. We finished our meal with the unforgettable caramelized banana creme pie, and after a little more conversation and a few more smiles, we said goodbye to Primo until April and headed back down the road to Wiscasset.
While the traditional Primo menu and dining room is definitely an experience that shouldn’t be missed, if you’re passing through town and want to be treated to an excellent impromptu dinner, take it from us, Primo’s Counter would be pretty tough to beat.
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
Contact Information - Primo
Rockland, Maine 04841
For Christmas I cheated a little and bought Meredith a stocking stuffer I knew we’d both enjoy together – a few different bottles of Royal Rose simple syrups. Meredith and I met Emily and Forrest, the couple behind Royal Rose, at one of Hunt & Alpine’s Hush, Hush events last year, and have been ecstatic to see their bottles popping up in many of our favorite shops around the state since then. With flavors like Saffron, Cardamon Clove, and Three Chili, the syrups easily add new flavor to any old cocktail recipe you might lean on, or a savory accent to many of your favorite desserts.
On the side of each bottle, Royal Rose includes a recipe to try with your syrup, and when we read the New Year’s Milkshake on the side of the Saffron syrup, we knew we needed to give it a shot. Ice cream, saffron syrup, and rum… good, good, and good. Since having “New Year’s” in the title seems unfairly limiting to those of us that love a milkshake almost any day, we dropped the holiday but kept the recipe unchanged, and after having had it on a few occasions (most recently, last weekend at the farm), we highly recommend that you find a bottle for yourself and give it a try!
Saffron Syrup Mikshake
originally published as New Year’s Milkshake in My Bombay Kitchen
Basil seeds soaked in water (optional)
3/4 oz. Royal Rose Saffron Syrup
1 cup cold milk
1 scoop vanilla ice cream (we used Maine-based Catbird Creamery)
1.5 oz. dark rum
Spoon basil seed into a tall glass. Top with milk, syrup, and ice cream. Add rum. Stir with a long spoon and enjoy!
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.3 Comments - Leave a comment
Meredith and I don’t consider ourselves food critics or traditional reviewers in any way. Map & Menu was started simply to share the places to eat, things to do, and places to visit we’ve come to love from our home in Portland and elsewhere among our travels. We share them in hopes that other people will find them approachable and useful for their own inspiration and travels. In that vein of writing about inspiring and delicious places, we thought we’d share some photos of brunch at Portland’s Piccolo - it’s quickly becoming one of our new favorites, and should probably be one of yours too.
We’ve posted about dinner at Piccolo already (oh, that Wine and Cheese dessert!), but this time we wanted to share another awesome facet of this fantastic restaurant – its Sunday brunch. Twice now, we’ve had the opportunity to enjoy brunch at Piccolo, both times with good friends (obviously one of the best ways to enjoy any brunch), and both times we’ve been blown away by our meals and experiences. Although the menu changes slightly, between the eight of us we’ve tried a large portion of it, and I haven’t heard a single word of anything but praise for the dishes. Whether it be the decadent Italian Toast, the savory Modesto, or the scrumptious Zeppoli (which you should just go ahead and start with every time you visit) – the Sunday brunch at Piccolo is definitely one of the best in town, and is almost guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
Contact Information - Brunch at Piccolo
Portland, Maine 04101
The food scene in Portland outdid itself once again last year with plenty of new openings and the continued excellence of many of the city’s existing establishments. And while we tried our best to continue eating our way through town, keeping up proved to be a very tough undertaking. It’d be almost impossible to list all of our favorites, but from our meals of the past year, here are a few of the memorable ones that stood out to the two of us.
Michael & Meredith: There’s no question that our favorite place for drinks this year was Hunt & Alpine. Between Meredith’s standby, the White Noise, and mine, the Chilton County and the Toronto, I don’t know that you could find many better drinks – anywhere.
Michael: More than one person insisted we try the melanzane – roasted eggplant, sicilian oregano, and smoked ricotta – at Piccolo. If you are one of those people, thank you, it was every bit as good as you promised.
Meredith: Whitney, a reader who commented on our Portland in 10 Bites post, became our new favorite person this summer when she suggested we try the hamayaki from Pai Men Miyake. The decadent crab & scallop dish quickly became a favorite of ours, too!
Michael: The salmon I ordered early this year at Bar Lola was hands-down the best dish I had all year. It’s easy to mess salmon up by trying to get fancy and forgetting the basics, but this fillet was simple, fresh, and seared to perfection.
Meredith: The pan-seared hake on black rice with carrots in a lemon butter sauce at The Well takes the cake for me!
Michael: If you’ve talked to me at all about desserts in the past few months, you already know my answer to this one. The Wine & Cheese from Piccolo was one of the more creative and delicious sweets I’ve ever enjoyed, and I just can’t stop raving about it.
Meredith: One should always make room for a Duckfat milkshake! On a recent visit, the couple we were dining with started with one, and I think I might make that my own tradition.
Michael: When I want to start my day with an indulgence, I head over to Little Bigs, where I can’t stop myself from ordering half a dozen more donuts than I should be able to eat – and then I prove myself wrong, eating every last one.
Meredith: We count ourselves among the lucky Willard Beach residents who can smell the sweetness of Scratch Baking Co. right from our home. The croissants, bagels, almond cookies, scones, muffins – when you live across the street from a bakery, there’s not much you haven’t tried – are all on our regular rotation of morning treats.
Michael: This one is a fun selection because of how unusual it is (especially for a brunch traditionalist like myself). The Okono Miyake at Pai Men Miyake is a pancake on savory steroids – pork, cabbage, scallions, and fried egg come together to make any buttermilk fan rethink their stance.
Meredith: We were so totally committed to the Southern-inspired brunch that Small Axe served one Saturday morning, that we happily sat right out in the rain while cleaning our plates. The succotash grits made me feel as though I was back down South!
Dining with Orvis
Michael & Meredith: There are few things that make us happier than enjoying a good meal with our buddy, and sitting outside with him at The Well is possibly one of the best examples of this. Not only is there plenty of space for him to settle down, the staff loves to see him, and as I’m sure you’ll read elsewhere in this post, the meals are fantastic.
Michael: Salvage BBQ serves heaping portions of delicious Carolina pulled pork, brisket, collard greens, hushpuppies, and Cheerwine. I’ll leave it at that.
Meredith: During our first visit to Empire the kitchen unfortunately ran out of the spinach dumplings, but we had it on good authority that they were the best of the dim sum dumplings, so we were determined to try them on our next outing. As predicted, the spinach dumplings moved to the tip top of my list of Empire favorites the moment I took my first bite.
Michael & Meredith: When you’re looking for a late night bite, it’s hard to pass-up on a gourmet hot dog, tater tots, and brussels sprouts from Blue Rooster Food Co. In fact, the only part of that equation that isn’t a must is the late night – Blue Rooster is always delicious.
Food Truck Meal
Michael: Meredith and I built a Saturday morning tradition around Small Axe Truck bowls and Tandem Coffee, but in my book, no matter the meal, Small Axe can do no wrong.
Meredith: Applewood smoked bacon, maple mayo, green apples, and cheddar. Really, what more is there to say about the amazing Mainah Burger from Mainely Burgers?
Michael: The open space, natural light, and details like the hanging succulents make Empire Chinese Kitchen one of the more interesting new spaces in town. As soon as I walk through the door, I feel at ease in a place where I could stay awhile.
Meredith: Andrew & Briana Volk have done an outstanding job designing the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club. A clean, modern interior with dark wood accents, Eames furnishings, and details like the stamped leather drink menus and the map-printed house menus & coasters make their space on Market Street one of the best looking spots in Portland.
Michael: For my birthday this year, Meredith took me to Eventide for cocktails and oysters. The evening was an unforgettable one, filled with great food, drinks, and laughs.
Meredith: Having a meal at The Well is a special experience. You’re eating exceptional food in a unpretentious setting at a picnic table on a farm. While drinking a favorite bottle of wine (from your own collection), you can watch the colors change in the dusk sky, and have a delightful conversation with other friendly patrons. There’s nothing else like it.
Michael: This is a bittersweet category, because when I think of my favorite meal, start to finish, from this past year, our dinner at the now-closed Bar Lola immediately comes to mind. Each course, from the pimiento cheese, to the seared salmon, to the almond tart was simply unbelievable.
Meredith: I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but until you’ve tried a meal at The Well, you’re missing out. We’ve never had a dish we didn’t thoroughly enjoy, and for not being a bakery, their bread is easily some of the best in town.
Sometimes with Portland food, it feels like a list like this can only begin scratch the surface. If you’re looking for more of our Portland favorites, we still stand by last year’s Best of 2012, and of course don’t hesitate to check out our favorite 10 dishes in Portland, Maine or our top 10 Portland brunches!
Also, a big thanks to our readers that made suggestions on posts, twitter, and facebook this year – a number of those restaurants and dishes (both in and out of Portland) found their way onto our radar, and quite a few became our favorites! If you have any suggestions for places we should visit or dishes we should try for this coming year, please leave a comment for us below!20 Comments - Leave a comment
Seeing that we’ve shared a number of memorable meals over the past year, we decided to break up our favorites of 2013 with those we ate while traveling and those we ate at home in our own hometown of Portland, Maine. While it’s nearly impossible for us to select just one dish or dining experience per category, we managed to create the following list of the best food (and drinks!) from our travels we had in 2013. Hopefully the selections below will come in handy when planning your own upcoming culinary adventures!
Michael: It’s pretty hard to beat America’s oldest cocktail from a bar named after the drink, in its own hometown. Having a Sazerac at the the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans seemed to be about as authentic as one can get.
Meredith: Our friends Samantha & Graham surprised us by calling ahead and purchasing our drinks for my birthday at Lantern in Chapel Hill. The Junebug I ordered was not only a delicious Pimm’s cocktail, it was one of the more meaningful drinks I enjoyed all year long.
Michael: The Lousiana crab with heirloom rice at Coquette turned out to be one of my favorite dishes from our entire trip to New Orleans. Simple ingredients with powerful flavor put Coquette at the top of our dinner list for any return trip to the area.
Meredith: Eating heirloom salads during the height of summer is one of our favorite patio pastimes, but doing it with the style, creativity, and flavor that SoLo Farm & Table adds to the equation made me forget the comfort of our own backyard and savor every bite.
Michael: While planning this list, it surprised me how quickly the traditional assortment of nigiri and one tekka roll from Rockland’s Suzuki Sushi came to mind. We enjoyed a number of fantastic meals this year, but sushi from Suzuki was wonderfully fresh and perfectly prepared – opening my eyes to a while new level of sushi addiction.
Meredith: Not only was the raw yellowfin tuna on sticky rice with avocado and pickled jalapeno I had at Barndiva my favorite entrée of the year, it was easily the best dish I ate all year long. Quite a statement given the list of places we visited, but absolutely true!
Michael: This was a toss-up between two dishes from the same lake-side location. My apple cranberry pie and the sizable portion of Meredith’s almond and berry boo cake (that I commandeered for the betterment of Map & Menu) from Bresca and the Honey Bee were two of the tastier sweets from our non-Portland travels this year.
Meredith: We stopped by The Blue Pig twice in three days – once on our way into New York City and once on our way home to Maine. The creative homemade flavors of ice cream served inside this whimsical blue cottage were a memorable discovery for the two of us!
Michael: Eating pancakes and doughnuts like a local at Camden’s Boynton-McKay harks back to a small-town simpler time that anyone in their right mind could easily get used to.
Meredith: A meal at Peels has become somewhat of a regular thing for us when we’re in New York and I couldn’t be happier about this little unintentional tradition of ours. During our most recent trip I sampled the shrimp & grits for brunch – another delicious dish at the southern-inspired favorite.
Michael: Durham sure has changed in the 5 years since we graduated from school in the area, and nowhere is that more evident than Mateo Tapas downtown. I can’t imagine that you could go wrong with any item on the menu, but a lunch of tapas including the huevo diablo spanish deviled egg was a pretty excellent meal.
Meredith: I liken our lunch experience at Barndiva to our meal at Le Jardin du Quai in Provence – there’s something so luxurious about enjoying a leisurely lunch outdoors while traveling.
Michael & Meredith: Meredith seemingly fell in love with the town of Healdsburg as soon as we drove into it, but my feelings weren’t a lock until after a tasty lunch at Shed followed by an awesome cupcake (or two) and some macarons from Moustache Baked Goods.
Off the Beaten Path
Michael: When Meredith suggested a walk along the Mississippi to breakfast, I don’t think either of us had the 2.5 mile trek in the hot New Orleans sun that it took to get to Elizabeth’s in mind. That being said, our breakfast was well-earned and delicious, and the food and quirky decor of Elizabeth’s is more than worth the visit – just take our advice and grab a cab.
Meredith: Driving in and out of Clifton, we kept passing by a darling ivy-clad little market at an intersection in the country. It immediately piqued our interest, and it wasn’t long before we stopped into the well-branded Salt Artisan Market to see what this market was all about. They had literally just opened the doors for business and we had the chance to talk to one of the owners quite a bit about her plans for the market’s future. Salt is a perfect place to grab a sandwich or salad to go, or pick up a cheese plate for a picnic on one of the many hiking trails.
Michael: On our final evening in Sonoma, Meredith and I grabbed a tasty pizza to-go from Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg and then headed to the overlook at Lake Sonoma for a picnic. Although it was a little windier than we anticipated (almost knocking us over a few times), the laughter-filled meal, gorgeous sunset, great pizza, and delicious wine easily made this my favorite meal of the year.
Meredith: Shed was so much more than a delicious lunch in an inspired setting – the people who work there seemed to genuinely love both what they do and the food they serve. I was impressed with everyone we came into contact with while there, and of course browsing the beautiful collection of specialty food items and kitchen wares after a tasty meal only added to the Shed experience.
Michael: Eating outside at Barndiva seemed like the perfect blend of California and a garden in Southern France. From a small café table under the arbor, we enjoyed a delicious meal in the perfect California climate.
Meredith: I fully expected to love everything about The Butcher’s Daughter before we even walked through the door, after seeing the branding of the juice bar & cafe all over Pinterest was what first put The Butcher’s Daughter on my radar. What’s not to love about a bright white interior accented by punchy colors and eclectic furnishings?
Michael & Meredith: Driving almost an hour away from our hotel was an easy decision to make when the destination was South Londonderry’s SoLo Farm & Table. Pretty much the sole impetus for our entire overnight trip to Vermont, each course of our meal left a large smile on our faces. Fresh, local, seasonal, and prepared just-right, I think we’d both make the trip again in a heartbeat.
We’d love to hear some of your stand-out dishes or dining experiences from 2013 in the comments below. In the past, your suggestions have certainly steered us in the right direction while planning our own trips.
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Meredith and my New Year’s celebrations are typically pretty low-key. A tasty new recipe for dinner, a glass of bubbly, and a movie normally have us in bed well before the ball drops, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This year, we decided to get creative with our New Year’s Eve drink and inspired by the kumquat sparkler in The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, we made our own clementine-infused gin (kumquats are hard to come by in Maine) and are looking forward to a slightly more flavorful drink to ring in the new year.
Clementine Gin + Prosecco
For the clementine gin:
adapted from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen
3 sliced clementines + 1 wedged clementine
1 750-ml bottle of London dry gin
2 pinches of kosher salt
Put the clementine slices & wedges in a quart-size mason jar and add the salt. Pour gin into the jar – you will have about 1/2 cup leftover gin; reserve and add to the jar as the clementine gin gets depleted. Secure the top on the jar and let steep for 24 hours at room temperature before using. The gin will keep for up to 6 months at room temperature. Use the slices or wedges for garnishes.
For the clementine sparkler:
adapted from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen
3/4 oz. clementine gin
1 slice gin-steeped clementine
5 oz. sparkling white wine (we used prosecco)
1 sage leaf
Rub the sage leaf around the rim of the glass and then lightly muddle it in the bottom of the glass. Pour the gin into the glass and add the clementine slice. Top the glass with sparkling white wine and enjoy!
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This year, we were invited to our first Obscure Holiday Cocktail Party, with other past and present Portland food bloggers. To say that it was a delightful evening of fun conversation, great cocktails, and delicious cheeses (paired by one of Maine’s two American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professionals) would be a complete understatement – we had an absolutely fantastic time!
Since we’re somewhat new to the create-your-own-cocktail game, Meredith and I did a little experimenting and settled on what we’re calling a Holiday Julep. Similar to our springtime staple mint julep, it’s two parts bourbon to 1 part simple syrup, shaken over ice. To add some holiday flair, we muddled some citrus with bourbon cherries, and opted for a thyme simple syrup over the usual mint or regular simple syrups. To garnish, we candied some lemon peel, added a few more bourbon cherries (because who wouldn’t want some more of those), and a sprig of thyme. I’m pretty proud of how it turned out, but after tasting some of the other cocktails at the party, I can’t wait to start experimenting for next year’s event.
2 oz. bourbon (Woodfood Reserve is our favorite for a julep)
1 oz. thyme simple syrup (we made the syrup used in this punch)
1 lemon slice
1 candied lemon peel
3 bourbon-soaked cherries
1 sprig of thyme
Muddle a lemon slice together with the simple syrup and two of the bourbon cherries in a cocktail shaker, add ice and bourbon. Shake and serve over ice. Garnish with a candied lemon peel, a cherry, and a sprig of thyme.
As an added bonus, we highly recommend the cheese that Shannon chose to pair our cocktail with – the Oma, a washed-rind, Tomme-style cheese. After sampling these cocktails with their masterful pairings, you can count that I’ll be seeking out Shannon’s advice the next time we’re at Whole Foods.
To see the other cocktail recipes and cheeses from the evening, Kate at The Blueberry Files posted an excellent write-up and our new friend, Vrylena, shared a cute drawing & recap of the evening on her blog as well – both worth checking out!
Also, in the spirit of delicious cocktails, we wanted to mention that Thrillist named The Portland Hunt & Alpine Club one of the 33 best bars in America. If you haven’t dropped by, we have it on good authority that their winter punch, a Swedish glögg, is a wonderful, warming winter cocktail!
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