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
Each year that we’ve lived in Maine, we’ve been fortunate to find that as fall fades to winter, there always seems be one last burst of warmer weather. We’ve come to savor these Indian Summers, and late last week turned into one of my favorites yet. In the few brief days of sun and unusual warmth, we crammed in as much time outside as possible. We enjoyed brunch in town, spent time in the yard with Orvis, grilled out, enjoyed meals on the patio, and went on numerous neighborhood walks to Orvis’s favorite secret beach. Even after the warm spell snapped, we kept the awesome weekend going with our favorite local dog-friendly race, the Bayside Trail 5k. This year, we were joined by a number of friends that bravely faced the cold wind, and afterwards, treated ourselves to some of the delicious treats served up by the Urban Sugar food truck (hopefully we’ll be returning for Map & Menu in the very near future). Now, as the colder weather begins to become standard, we’re turning our eyes toward planning winter adventures and looking forward to all of the fun yet another season will bring.
Side note: While reading about Indian Summers, I saw a reference to its British equivalent – All-Hallows Summer – which seemed fitting given that the warm air blew in this year on Halloween.
In an attempt to take advantage of the beautiful, but all too-short, fall season in Maine, we decided to take a day off from work and try a new hike with Orvis. After giving it some thought, we chose Tumbledown Mountain via the dog-friendly (and less strenuous) Brook Trail. The drive up to Franklin County during the foliage-filled first week of October was gorgeous. We drove through new towns we’d never visited and enjoyed some of the prettiest vistas of colorful, rolling mountains.
Visiting the trail on a Monday, we ended up having the whole hike to ourselves, and Orvis was as happy as could be as he ran free ahead of us. Though we didn’t stay too long at the top because of the chilly temperatures & high wind, Orvis didn’t seem to mind the cold a bit and ended up taking a dip in the picturesque Tumbledown Pond. We continued to laugh at our semi-spastic hiking partner the whole way down the mountain as we vowed to return in the warmer months of the summer when we, too, might actually want to go for a swim in the pond.
We hope your Halloween is off to a great start and that your evening is filled with all kinds of sweets and fun costumes! Here is a peek at the pumpkins we carved this year – click here to see the rest. Cheers!Leave a comment
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
A few weeks ago, we took advantage of a wedding Meredith was shooting in New Orleans, and were able to tack on a couple of extra days to explore a city that neither of us had previously visited. The town of New Orleans is filled with an unbelievable amount of character, history, good drinks, and amazing food. We logged many miles exploring the neighborhoods, parks, and even a cemetery of the French Quarter, Uptown, and Garden District, and came away from our short trip with an even longer list of things to do and places to try on a return visit.
When we first arrived in town, we’d barely set our bags down before we were hopping back into a cab and heading over to Butcher for the perfect post-flight amazing bite to eat. Butcher is an aptly named butcher and sandwich shop, attached to the James Beard winning Cochon restaurant. Serving up a tasty selection of sandwiches and small bites, our pimiento cheese sliders, cucumber salad, and pork belly sandwich were just the kind of quick and delicious introduction we needed to the New Orleans food scene before we walked back to the hotel to crash from a long day of travel.
In her list of NOLA recommendations, our friend Helen, who went to college at Tulane, wrote that Camellia Grill was the “best breakfast in New Orleans”, and after eating there (twice!) we just might have to agree. Getting out to their original Uptown location proved to be a bit of a trek since the streetcar tracks were being worked on, dumping us somewhat abruptly in the middle of a taxi-free neighborhood; but the gorgeous homes and parks along oak-lined St. Charles Ave. made for a decent setting to be stranded in, and we were eventually able to score a cab for the remainder of the trip. After arriving at Camellia Grill, we settled up to the wall-to-wall counter between locals and tourists alike, and received a quick fist-bump “Hello!” from our waiter Marvin, making us feel like we were regulars in our neighborhood diner back home. Our awesome breakfast of a stuffed veggie omelette and pancakes set us up for a day of exploring, and when we needed a late-night meal back in the french quarter, the flat-top grilled burger, basket of fries, and large chocolate freeze at their second location on Chartres St. hit the spot.
Meredith read about the Uptown Hattie Sparks boutique on one of her blogs and insisted we stop by after our breakfast at Camellia Grill. After browsing the shop’s delightful selection, we had a chance to speak with the super sweet owner, Hattie Moll, who gave us a few other great NOLA recommendations, including our next stop – Loomed. Meredith found a number of cute items in the shop, and we ended up falling for one of our favorite paintings yet - a colorful, whimsical portrayal of a donkey by Tissa Osbourne, that arrived back in Maine shortly after we did, and brings a smile to our faces whenever we pass by it.
After seeing a few of their beautiful Turkish towels at Hattie Sparks, Meredith quickly rerouted our return trip to include a stop at Loomed NOLA on Prytania St. The selection and variation of gorgeous handwoven Turkish textiles, in seemingly every texture, pattern, and color was complete eye candy for the both of us and immediately had Meredith wondering how we could incorporate them into our home (these plans are still actively in the making). Meredith was delighted to pick up a new scarf before we left, and we just wouldn’t feel right without mentioning the smile that the shop dog, Alice T., brought to our faces.
Our only disappointment at this Garden District bistro was that we hadn’t timed our meals well and weren’t more hungry when we sat down for a small lunch at the bar, because after we finished up the two delicious small plates we shared (an unbelievable combination of fried gulf shrimp and Louisiana crab meat with heirloom rice), we were kicking ourselves wishing we’d saved Coquette for dinner that evening. On our next trip to New Orleans, Coquette will be near the very top of our dinner plans.
The new, seafood-centric sister establishment to the often-heralded Cochon, dinner at Pêche proved to be an excellent meal. Prepared over hardwood coals, Meredith’s baked drum with ginger, tomato, and crispy rice, and my smothered catfish and white beans and bacon were wonderfully fresh and simply, yet perfectly prepared. We spent the meal laughing and smiling, and after finishing it with the flourless madagascar chocolate cake, walked back through the Warehouse neighborhood (one of our favorites from the trip) to our hotel.
Keeping up our tradition of long breakfast treks, we decided to take a walk along the Mississippi en route to our meal at Elizabeth’s, only to have the stroll devolve into a 2.5 mile trudge in the hot New Orleans sun. You’ll have to take our word for it that the breakfast that followed was worth every step, so much so that after a scrumptious feast of bananas foster stuffed french toast and shrimp & grits, we opted to walk the entire way back (using a shaded route) to burn off a few of those calories.
In a city that welcomes almost 10 million visitors a year, we oddly enough bumped into Meredith’s aunt from North Carolina while waiting for a table for breakfast at Stanley off of Jackson Square. The odds are pretty outrageous, but we enjoyed an excellent meal catching up with family. Our meal of banana & walnut pancakes, which were topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream(!), and the Stanley Classic (eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes, and toast) was a great way to start the morning.
Although we came to New Orleans with a list of must-visit bars, our trip started to fly by too quickly, and before we knew it, we were scrambling to make sure we knocked at least one of them off the list. A sazerac from the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel across the street seemed like the perfect cocktail to try. The Sazerac Bar harks back to a different era with its elegant floor to ceiling wooden accents and murals, and bartenders wearing traditional white coats, and although they’re known for a number of drinks, the timeless sazerac they served up (by some accounts, the first American cocktail) was a delicious sampling of the non-slushy drink side of New Orleans.
It took me all the way until midnight on our last night to finally grab a plate of beignets and a cup of coffee from Café Du Monde, but that’s the beauty of a restaurant that never closes in a town that doesn’t seem to sleep. The cafe does two things, coffee and beignets, and boy do they do them well. I’m sure that any late night I face from here on out will be accompanied with a craving for those pillows of fried dough, beneath a mountain of powdered sugar.
There never seems to be enough time on our trips to cover all of the places we hope to, but with New Orleans, this held especially true. A number of friends and readers recommended an impressive list of places to try, and there just simply wasn’t enough time in the day, so for posterity’s sake, we’ll mention a few of the things that are high on our list for a return trip: drinks at Cure and the Carousel bar, and meals at Cochon, Mimi’s, and Bayona.
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
After spending most of the week catching up with work after our trip to New Orleans, Michael and I were anxious to get out and enjoy a beautiful fall day in Maine yesterday. Eager to experience some lovely fall foliage, we hopped in the car and headed up to Bradbury Mountain State Park for a short hike with Orvis. The hike, although gorgeous, was merely just an excuse for us to gorge on pastries at Bresca and the Honey Bee in nearby New Gloucester afterwards. (More on that tomorrow!) We continued our trek up the coast, visiting some antique shops in Alna & Wiscasset with my mother and running Orvis and my family’s dog, Mason, at the farm. As we returned home last night, we were both overwhelmed with gratitude for such a full, lovely day filled with so much happiness.
I keep coming back to this beautiful post by Meghan of Designtripper describing Maine as ‘her place.’ The picture above is a view from Kettle Cove, one of the scenes that makes it feel like Maine is our own special place.
Michael and I just stumbled upon Warby Barker and cannot stop giggling. The about video and ‘see these in action’ rollovers made our morning!
Michael and I visited Charleston, SC seven or eight years ago when we first started dating, but sadly we haven’t been back since. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to plan another trip soon, this time centered around the city’s amazing food scene, much like the recent trip of Lindsay at The Pursuit of Style.
It was fun to come across this local’s guide to Maine from Vogue‘s Home Editor, Mieke ten Have. An antiques-filled day trip to Wiscasset is now high on my list of things to do.Leave a comment
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.