March’s “spring forward” daylight saving time has become a celebration for Meredith and I in recent years. After a full winter of lunch posts and dimly-lit dinners, all at once the light returns to our suppertime, and it’s Map & Menu business as usual. In the days leading up to daylight saving time, we anxiously sift through our dining choices and make a reservation for a (still somewhat early) dinner date that we know will taste exquisite and look spectacular. This year, there was hardly a question of where that reservation would be – Portland’s Central Provisions.
Central Provisions is one of the latest in a stocked season of great openings in Portland. Piccolo, Hunt + Alpine, and Miyake Diner have already deservedly garnered rave reviews and national recognition, but after a couple of meals at Central Provisions, there is no doubt in our minds that they belong near the top of the list of Portland’s best restaurants and bars. Owners Chris and Paige Gould have done an exceptional job with both the space and the menu, and bar manager Patrick McDonald and wine director Chris Peterman have put together an amazing selection of drinks to boot. In fact, this is the one thing that stands out to Meredith and I about our experiences at Central Provisions more than anything else – how equally fantastic each part of our meals have been. The space gives credence to the historic nature of the building, the drinks – whether beer, wine, or spirit – are well chosen and deliciously crafted, and the food is simply outstanding. Try the farm fresh bread and butter, the yellowfin tuna crudo that’s a delight to both taste and see, the savory suckling pig, the perfectly seared scallops, the brussels sprouts, the croquette, the spicy fried Maine potatoes, the beet salad, the shrimp a la plancha… it’s not an exaggeration to say that you should try everything on the menu, you absolutely won’t be disappointed. Typically, when describing a restaurant’s drink menu, I use a colloquialism like “wash it all down with…”, but at Central Provision, this simply doesn’t do the libations justice. Whether it’s a cocktail from their house menu or their prohibition-era list (Meredith is obsessed with the Fancy Gin Cocktail), a pint of their great selection of beers (like the in-demand Bissell Brothers Substance IPA), or a glass of wine from their wine list, we wager you’ll be as enthusiastic about the drinks as you are the eats.
From literal top to bottom (the dining room is on the Fore Street-facing second floor, while the bar is on the Wharf Street-facing first) Central Provisions provides one of the best dining experiences in Portland, and we simply couldn’t be happier to see the city’s selection continue to grow and improve – we’re going to need those extra hours of daylight just to keep up.
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Michael and I had every intention of exploring Miami Beach on our way down to and from our friends’ wedding in the Florida Keys this weekend, but travel complications prevented us from seeing as much of the city as we’d hoped. Still, in our short evening there before our Monday morning flight back, we made the most of a city with so much to offer.
The highlight of our brief visit to Miami Beach was most definitely meeting our friend, Caro, for drinks at The Broken Shaker – the bar at the Freehand where we spent Sunday night. I haven’t come across an article on the Miami food scene in the last year or so that doesn’t include rave reviews for this James Beard nominated poolside craft cocktail bar – in fact, it’s the reason we decided to stay at the Freehand in the first place! The drinks certainly lived up to their reputation – my Guanabana Caipirinha was so tasty, it was impossible to not order two and Michael downed his London Calling.
After we finished our drinks with Caro, we took her advice and grabbed a cab down to Pubbelly for some unforgettable Asian-inspired tapas. Each plate was fantastic, but we’re still talking about the two highlights of our meal – the Miso Butter Toast & the Kimchee Fried Rice with porkbelly & pineapple – two days later. So very delicious.
Although our time at the Freehand itself was short, it was a pleasant experience with more than an abundance of visual details to photograph. The Sydell Group (the company behind Ace Hotels, The NoMad, etc.) has done an outstanding job incorporating such vibrant style & Art Deco personality into a hostel setting. If you want to be right in the middle of the fun, you definitely can’t go wrong with the Freehand.
Are you headed to Miami soon? Here are a few places we were hoping to try, mostly suggestions of our friend Caro – a girl whose culinary taste we wholeheartedly trust: My Ceviche, Khong River House, Yardbird, Panther Coffee, Charlotte Bakery, Huahua’s Taqueria, and Joe’s Stone Crab Takeaway for a picnic on the beach! What are your favorite Miami Beach spots? We’d love to hear your suggestions!
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Last week, Meredith and I had the delightful opportunity to attend Sea Glass‘s fifth annual Argentinean Wine Dinner. When Rauni from Inn by the Sea invited us, we weren’t familiar with the event, but the premise of five courses prepared by Argentinean-raised chef, Mitchell Kaldrovich, paired with wines from Ruca Malen, sounded too exciting to resist.
We’ve enjoyed a memorable meal and a cocktail hour with Orvis on the patio at Sea Glass before, but this night was a slightly different experience. With dishes like empanadas and South American crêpe-style canelones, the fare was far from your typical Maine meal regularly featured on Sea Glass’s dinner menu. Although a number of the ingredients had a Maine feel to them, this wine dinner is one of Chef Mitchell Kaldrovich’s greatest opportunities each year to show off the Argentinean style of food he was raised on, and to that end, he did an outstanding job.
The other half of the equation, the Ruca Malen wine pairings complemented a number of the dishes exceptionally well. The Chardonnay Reserva in particular, an aromatic wine that was a bit bolder than we’re used to, paired extremely well with the smoky bacon-wrapped scallops that accompanied it. Days later, we’re still talking about the two Malbecs, which were tasty enough to warrant a special order from Old Port Wine Merchants that we’re picking up tomorrow.
All in all, Meredith and I enjoyed a delicious dinner, some brand new (to us) unique wines, and some excellent conversation that evening, and will definitely be adding more of the Sea Glass wine dinners to our calendar for this coming year.
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Meredith and I have been hearing rumors of some delicious new pizza in South Portland, and it’s probably not coming from the first place you’d guess. Typically known for its breakfast bagels or lunch sandwiches, 158 Pickett Street Cafe has been serving up a mean pie on Friday and Saturday evenings since early October. Last Saturday, craving something comfortable to escape the snow, we headed around the corner to try a bite for ourselves, and now we’re faced with a new conundrum – we went from traveling over the bridge for our pizza needs to now having to decide between two delicious locations right in our own backyard.
There are more than enough options at 158 to satisfy any pizza enthusiast’s taste – like the standard cheese and sausage, or more creative flavors like the hot pink sauce, charred jalapenos, and cheese ‘Stinger’ – but regardless of your decision, everything we’ve heard and tasted has been fantastic. Meredith and I were in a classic mood on Saturday, so we ordered the sausage and feta, grabbed a seat by the fireplace, and settled into some pleasant conversation with neighbors we never knew we had, over classic blues and soul in the background.
We’re looking forward to returning, but as Meredith joked, it’s a good thing they’re only serving pizza a couple nights a week, or else we’d find ourselves at 158 all the time.
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Looking back on our recent trip to Charleston, I’m quickly blown away by the town, the history, the culture, the architecture, the drinks, and that oh-so-delicious food. Charleston is one of those cities that you could see yourself visiting often and staying for a very long time. The town holds a special place in Michael and my hearts, as it was the destination of one of our first trips as a couple, but in the 7 years since then, so much has changed that we found ourselves repeatedly saying “this definitely wasn’t here before” throughout our stay. Obviously the neighborhood South of Broad is still chock full of colorful, grand Charleston single houses (think long row houses with full-length porches to relax on in that hot Southern sun) that will make your jaw drop, and East Bay still has its fair share of tourist-packed storefronts and restaurants, but now areas like Upper King, Elliotborough, and Cannonborough are seeing an explosion in unbelievable eateries, craft bars, stylish shops, and scrumptious bakeries. Charleston has always been a town with plenty of culture, but this new-to-us side of Charleston makes us want to stay awhile.
We were there for four full days of eating, drinking, and exploration, but we feel like we only scratched the surface of what Charleston has to offer. Have a read through some of our favorite parts of Charleston, and please don’t hesitate to let us know if we missed anything that should be added to our list for our next return trip – there will definitely be one.
Simply put, staying at Zero George was an absolute delight. It is the perfect mix of classic Southern charm, style, comfort, and convenience. Our room was perfect for the two of us – just the place we couldn’t wait to return to between meals and meandering expeditions through the city. View pictures & read more about Zero George.
We came to Charleston to eat – no question about it – so we hit the ground running by trekking up to Butcher & Bee for our first meal together. I’d read about the sandwich shop in numerous publications, so there was really no question of whether or not we’d swing by for what promised to be an amazing lunch. Michael devoured his roast beef sandwich, and my carrot salad was pretty scrumptious, but the real show stopper was the bowl of curried brussels sprouts. We ate more than a dozen meals in Charleston that week, but my mind keeps coming back to those perfect brussels.
After seeing that The Rarebit made Thrillist’s list of The Best New Bars in America, I immediately put it on our dauntingly long list of places to try. Thankfully we were able to make it there on our first night. We had quite a few cocktails in Charleston, but those first two – an Aviation and a Corpse Reviver – certainly stand out as some of our favorites. Our meals that followed – the country fried steak and the vegetable rarebit – hit the spot for the casual comfort food we were craving.
We could lie and tell you that we only visited Brown’s Court once during our short stay in Charleston, but then you might not believe just how much we loved it. Even after visiting three (!) other bakeries in the city (go ahead and judge – we kind of deserve it.), we still managed to come back to Brown’s Court three times. Everything – the croissants, the sticky buns, the cinnamon rolls, the charming building, and the friendly staff – made Brown’s Court the perfect bakery experience.
I dare you to walk by Mac & Murphy and not stop in. It’s that adorable. Michael and I are suckers for a creative selection of paper products, and Mac & Murphy and its friendly staff does not disappoint.
While preparing for our trip, this men’s shop popped up on our radar from their mention in Kinfolk and we couldn’t wait to see their collection in person. Of course upon walking inside, I immediately wished they had an equally well put together shop for women, but I happily settled on shopping for Michael. The store showcases some of our favorite brands – General Knot, Makr, Jack Rudy, Raleigh Denim… the list goes on – and does it all in a visually beautiful setting. Michael picked up a sweatshirt from Saturdays Surf that I’ve contemplated borrowing for myself, and after a helpful conversation with the owner Brett, we headed out to try some of the suggestions on our quickly growing list.
If you’re a fan of sweet confectionery bakeries like Michael, Sugar Bakeshop should catch your eye (if the large blueberry cupcake painted on the building doesn’t). After a number of people recommended it, we stopped in to try their deliciously sweet lemon curd cupcakes and ginger molasses cookies. A new friend from our trip pointed out that their mini cupcakes make the perfect pick-and-chose party treat, and if you’re having a hard time making a selection, do as we did and ask the extremely helpful bakers behind the counter.
The few blocks encompassed by Cannon, King, Spring, and Rutledge are home to a number of very cool shops, bakeries, and restaurants that are somewhat off the beaten path. We spent a chunk of our first full morning in the area, and found ourselves returning for one thing or another each day. One of those very delicious ‘things’ was Xiao Bao Biscuit, where we met one of Michael’s coworkers for lunch one afternoon. The casual ‘Asian soul food’ restaurant struck us with its bold style and amazing dishes. My paratha and Michael’s bo bo ji were creative, flavorful, and fresh, and the cocktails we washed our meal down with left us with smiles on our faces as we walked the streets back down to our hotel.
Food Is Good. The restaurant says it in the name, and sticks to it with their cooking. While Charleston has no shortage of great restaurants, FIG was the one that seemed to always be first on the mind of every Charlestonian we spoke to. Their reputation was well-earned, as our meal here – a gracious gift from some close friends in Maine – was easily one of the best we had on our trip. Our friendly waitress pointed us in the right direction with every course selection, and between the drinks, handmade gnocchi (aptly described as pillows of heaven), and fresh local seafood, we left that evening in a flavorful stupor of smiles.
While Michael was in Charleston for work the week prior to our trip, he went to The Gin Joint with coworkers to fulfill their search for a proper southern mint julep. Michael enjoyed his drink (the Beauregard) that evening so much, that he was insistent that we return once I arrived. We enjoyed an evening of tasty drinks with family in the comfortable space on East Bay Street, and if you were wondering, Michael reports that their Julep is done right – bourbon, fresh mint, and plenty of crushed ice in a silver julep cup.
It was a great sign when we told the barista at Black Tap that we were from Maine, and he immediately asked us if we were familiar with Tandem Coffee Roasters. Unbeknownst to him, we had left our hotel that morning in search of the “Tandem of Charleston,” and we’re pretty sure we found the closest thing to them in Black Tap. The space was beautiful and lively, and although they don’t roast their own, the coffee was delicious. If we were lucky enough to live in Charleston, this spot would be in our regular rotation.
Our time at the Old Road Mercantile and its sister shop, Lily, couldn’t have been more pleasant. We spoke with the shop owner, Kevin, for quite awhile and probably could have kept the conversation up for another hour. (Charleston business owners might just be the friendliest of any city we’ve ever visited!) The shop’s tagline – The World’s Smallest Department Store – is an apt description of this awesome collection of goods. We both gravitated towards their selection of cocktail mixers (from Charleston’s own Bittermilk), and more than a few of the home goods caught my eye.
We passed goat.sheep.cow during one of our many walks south of Broad Street and admittedly decided to stop in simply because of their branding. It didn’t take us long to strike up a conversation with the sweet shop owners about cheese – something we love dearly, yet know little about. After we’d sampled a few of their favorite selections and heard about their go-to restaurants in town, we left with great big smiles on our faces and a package of the best comté we’ve ever had.
Husk is a restaurant that Michael and I have wanted to visit for years – ever since they started making headlines in just about every national publication for their creative new American take on classic Southern cuisine and their ultra-local menu (essentially nothing on the menu is from further than 2 states away). Michael was lucky enough to get to visit Husk twice during his stay in Charleston, once for dinner with coworkers and once for lunch with me (dinner reservations were hard to come by and our list of restaurants was far from short). While he had plenty of good things to say about his slow cooked heritage pork dinner, we couldn’t have been happier with our lunch. My wonderfully savory and creamy shrimp and grits made for one of my favorite dishes from the week.
A Charleston-based photographer whose work I’ve followed for years, Olivia Rae James, listed The Belmont as one of her favorite spots for a good drink in town, and after passing the Carolina blue building more than dozen times during our walks up and down King Street, we knew we had to give it a shot. We stopped in for drinks before dinner one evening, and weren’t disappointed in our choice. The bar has an unbelievably cool vibe, and the bartender masterfully whipped-up two drinks for our pre-meal pleasure.
Stepping into The Ordinary is an almost surreal experience. The oyster hall on upper King St. has plenty of classic charm and many leftover details from its history as a bank (including the vault from which the raw bar is now served). With its spacious interior and timeless style, it’s no wonder that The Ordinary seems to be the place to eat in Charleston right now. Run by the same people as FIG, another Charleston icon, the food is not something to overlook. We loved our cocktails, oysters, shrimp hushpuppies, blue crab toast, and Wednesday evening lobster roll meal (eaten by the non-Mainer of course), and every few minutes, my eyes stumbled on some other unique detail to photograph. In a town full of tasty, stylish, and well-branded restaurants, The Ordinary has to be near the top of the list.
There were plenty of reasons for us to be excited about lunch at Two Boroughs, but after discovering that the owners incorporate their corgi, Walter, into their branding, we knew that this was the right restaurant for us. Michael’s Bowl-O-Noodle, served with pork conﬁt, a soft egg, and pork broth, sent him into a pleasant food coma, and thanks to a tasty kale salad with egg & boquerones, I discovered that I did, in fact, have an affinity for anchovies after all. Not only does Two Boroughs serve up deliciously flavorful food, they also feature a wall of carefully selected tableware, specialty food items, craft beers, and good wine available for purchase. And while you’re there, see if you can possibly resist picking up some of that adorable Walter paraphernalia – I know we couldn’t.
Believe it or not, by our fourth night in Charleston, we couldn’t bring ourselves to get excited about another filling, delicious meal. We had five or so restaurants we were considering for this final night of our trip, but after a sunset walk along the Battery we decided to grab a couple of tasty sandwiches from Ted’s and shared a picnic on the porch of our hotel. Made even more scrumptious by the rest of our cheese from goat.sheep.cow, this low-key dinner was the perfect ending to a food-filled few days, and one I honestly wouldn’t do over if I had the chance.
I ordered Michael a few bars of chocolate from the Charleston-based Sweeteeth for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago. Picking up a few bars of chocolate on our trip was as high on my list of things to do as sampling the shrimp & grits at Husk. We ended up grabbing more than a few bars at Ted’s and have been nibbling on them since our return last week.
Meredith and I visited a bunch of restaurants during our stay in Charleston that would typically fall under the classification of “new American, Southern-inspired” – not the vegetable plates and fried chicken that your grandparents served up in the South, but rather new takes on older dishes and flavors. Don’t get me wrong, they’re delicious, but every now and then I just want a plate of fried chicken or catfish, shrimp and grits, and some collard greens with fatback. When that urge strikes, I’d highly recommend Hominy Grill, where tradition is strong, the food is delicious, and the biscuits come with honey :).
Of course we weren’t able to make it to every place on our list in the four short days we were in Charleston. Had Drayton Hall been open, we probably would have rented a car to visit the 18th century plantation, and while we were at it, we surely would have driven out to Sullivan’s Island for a walk on the beach. We were sad to miss out on the experience of drinking a glass of wine at Bin 152 or sharing a meal at The Grocery – both recommended to us by many of the friendly shop owners we met. Next time we’ll also be sure to grab some breakfast at Martha Lou’s and enjoy an Italian dinner at either Trattoria Lucca or Indaco. Can you think of anything else we might have missed?
Photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.13 Comments - Leave a comment
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.
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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!
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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.
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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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