In our last post about Caiola’s, where we covered their delicious Sunday brunch (hopefully, you’ve had the chance to try the Lost Bread since then), I mentioned that there are few better ways to spend a warm summer evening than on the back patio of this West End favorite, surrounded by good friends, great music, and fantastic food. Recently, we had the opportunity to do just that, and I’ll have to admit that it turned out to be an even better time than I had originally billed.
Every Thursday night, Flight of Fancy, an all-string trio (two-thirds of which are our good friends Darcy & Carolyn), wows patrons with its amazing melodies from the back patio of Caiola’s. They claim that they are merely playing background music for you to enjoy with your dinner, but it’s a rare evening when they don’t win over and silence the crowd with their songs. We took advantage of the chance to hear Flight of Fancy play over a good meal, with a couple of friends from our neighborhood, and made reservations for the patio.
After some brief hellos and introductions, we placed an order for drinks (sangrias, Peeper, and Geary’s HSA) and starters (the delicious Polenta Fries and the Steak Bruschetta). With Flight of Fancy in the background, we devoured the appetizers and moved on to bigger things. The four of us enjoyed the Chicken Marsala (with Roasted Shallots, Mushrooms and Tomato Tubettini), the House Made Cannelloni (with Ricotta, Sweet Peppers and Spinach in a Tomato Sauce with Parmesan), and two Caiola’s burgers. The Caiola’s burger is sometimes easy to overlook as the last item on a menu stocked with tempting choices, but once you’ve had one of these juicy creations with bacon, cheddar cheese, and a few large mashed potato tator tots (they will absolutely leave you speechless), you’ll find that your eyes begin to drop to the bottom of the menu from the get-go on subsequent visits.
Somehow, we polished our plates, relaxed with some fun conversation and sensational music, and then made room for one of Mere and my favorite desserts – the Panna Cotta. It’s hard to share such a tasty delight, but we managed to part ways with a few bites, and spent the rest of the evening laughing and listening before we crossed back over the bridge and called it a night.
It’s hard to beat a dinner at Caiola’s, in Portland’s West End, but for this morning meal junkie, the Sunday brunch just might do the trick. While a meal and live music on the back patio might be a great way to spend a warm summer evening, nothing wakes you up and warms you up on a drizzly, Maine spring morning quite like a plate of the Warm Lost Bread (more about that in a minute) or any other item on the menu for that matter. To top it all off, what better way to cover this delicious location for Map & Menu, than with two of our favorite people in Portland, Carolyn and Darcy – coincidentally, the two people responsible for this Sunday morning addiction.
Brunch should be all about comfort. It’s the “I slept in, woke up slowly, want to fill my belly, and crawl back into bed or just take it easy all day” meal, and to this point, Caiola’s hits the nail on the head. The location is more “neighborly” than “downtown”, the ambiance is more “cozy” than “uptight”, the staff more “friendly” than “reserved”, and the food is never anything but spot on.
I want to start with the impossible task of describing our favorite item on the menu – the Warm Lost Bread. Knowing that I cannot possibly do this dish justice, I would highly recommend that you just ignore the rest of this paragraph, call now to make a reservation for Sunday morning, piddle away the rest of the work week, get over to Pine Street early, and try this dish for yourself. 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.
If the better part of our meal and company stopped there, my job would be too easy. Every person at our table seemed more than thrilled with their brunch selections. From the West Side staples of eggs, bacon, and home fries, or the goat cheese, spinach, and tomato omelette, to the Eggs Tostada (a dish I’ve always wanted to try), or the Crawfish and Grits (a dish I was lucky enough to try), every meal was fantastic, and every one of us was delighted. If the line hadn’t been literally out the door, I think we could have just spent the entire morning, and a good chunk of the afternoon, sharing stories and bragging about who ordered the best dish. Great friends, great food, and a great location – the perfect Sunday morning brunch.