A few weeks ago, Meredith came home from an assignment, raving about the restaurant she’d spent the afternoon photographing in Biddeford, and it didn’t take long (a single day in fact) before we were making the trip down I-95 to give their “northcountry kitchen” comfort food a try.
When you walk through the doors of Custom Deluxe, you’re greeted with some somewhat unfamiliar words to these parts, that still have the effect of bringing a smile to my face wherever I hear them – “Hey y’all! Come on in.” Co-owner, Megan McVey, a Virginian native, runs the front of the house with a welcoming degree of Southern hospitality, while her fiancé, Thomas Malz, works his magic in the kitchen. With big-name restaurant experience,Malz makes dishes like savory pork ribs over a refreshing vegetable ‘slaw’ or his ramen-take on chicken noodle soup with house noodles and confit chicken seem effortless. Together, they create an atmosphere and cuisine that adds yet another excellent reason to make your way to Biddeford in the near future. Meredith and I sampled a decent chunk of the menu that evening (including the aforementioned ribs and soup) and polished a delicious meal off with an outstanding raspberry angel food cake dessert. With the cooler days of fall upon us, I’m sure the chicken noodle soup and the simple pasta dish will inspire us to make many more trips down the road over the next few months.
Photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
Sometimes in Maine, great fried chicken and biscuits can be a little hard to find. Palace Diner has its delicious-but-infrequent Fried Chicken Fridays, while Tandem Bakery has its amazing loaded biscuits for breakfast, but as a good southern boy at heart, every now and then I just find myself hankering for a few pieces of fried chicken and a homemade buttermilk biscuit. Thankfully, Figgy’s has stepped in to fill that void in my stomach, and boy do they do it with style.
If good fried chicken is hard to find, good skillet-fried chicken is nearly impossible, and yet Figgy’s delivers just that, with the lightly breaded, perfectly seasoned bird that my childhood memories are made of. One bite from their takeout window off of Congress and I’m back in my grandmother’s kitchen in North Carolina – a pot of collard greens simmering on the back burner and a hot cast iron skillet popping on the front. I’d say that I’m sorry for the trip down memory lane, but I’m not, and now I’m just plain hungry again.
If you haven’t made it over to Figgy’s, I recommend that it be your next stop on takeout night. Grab a half chicken, a biscuit sandwich, or the savory korean-style wings and slaw, and make a picnic date night of it as we did last time. And Don’t forget an order of the banana pudding to help wash it down – your stomach will thank you for it later!
A few Saturdays ago we crossed off a very fun item on our Summer Bucket List when we rented paddleboards for the first time from Soposup and spent the afternoon paddling around Casco Bay. For the last few summers, we’ve had every intention of popping into our neighborhood paddleboard shop to rent a couple of boards, but time has always gotten away from us and before we know it, we’re preparing for fall and trading in our sandals for our Bean Boots. This summer, however, we moved paddleboarding to the top of our list, and strategically chose a warm day to do so, in case we took an unexpected dip in the ocean.
Having grown accustomed to the steady security of our kayaks, we were a little unsure of ourselves when we first got on our boards at Willard Beach, but after paddling down to a beach in Cape Elizabeth and crossing the wake of various boats along the way, we quickly got the hang of it. We found paddleboarding to be a welcome alternative to the sitting that is required when we kayak, but we’re still not quite sure we’d run out and sign up for a paddleboard-yoga class without mentally preparing ourselves for a fall in the water!
Photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
By far, our favorite date night in the summer involves a quick trip over to Cape Elizabeth for dinner at The Well, followed by a visit out to Kettle Cove to watch the sunset. (On nights that we don’t happen to indulge in one of the tasty desserts at The Well, we’ll even complete the evening with an ice cream cone from the Kettle Cove Ice Cream.)
As we began thinking about dinner after work one evening last week we realized that the weather was too perfect not to enjoy our little date night in Cape Elizabeth, so we ditched the quinoa salad we planned on preparing, grabbed a bottle of rose from the fridge, and jumped in the car with Orvis. Thankfully, we got to The Well just in time to snag the last available picnic table for awhile. Although we’ve been to The Well three other times this summer, this was our first visit of the season with Orvis and per usual, he settled in quite nicely and made friends with all of the other families dining outside at the picnic tables.
After our fantastic meal, we took the scenic route to Kettle Cove, where we spent the remainder of the evening on a blanket with Orvis watching the sun go down. Kettle Cove is one of the very first places we visited when we moved to Maine seven years ago and we think it’s just as beautiful and special all these years later. Living so close to places like The Well and Kettle Cove are two of the reasons we love living where we do.
All photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
Anyone who lives here or has visited before would probably agree that summer in Maine is pretty hard to beat. As part of this series, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite ways to experience this sunny season in the Pine Tree State.
You don’t have to be a frequent reader of Map & Menu to know how much we love The Well at Jordan’s Farm. Eating what is literally a farm fresh meal from a picnic table on a warm summer evening is a pretty ideal dining experience. This year is our first season dining at The Well and pairing every BYOB meal with the delicious wines from Maine & Loire. We’ve raved about Peter & Orenda’s store on the site before, but the ability to show them that night’s menu at The Well in search of a perfect pairing has become our newest summer obsession.
A bottle from Maine & Loire and a meal at The Well is a pairing that we think should be on everyone’s summer bucket list.
All photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
Meredith and I were reading that today is National Lobster Day, so in celebration of this super savory sea creature, we thought it’d be fun to highlight some of our favorite ways to enjoy lobster in Maine.
A couple of years ago we did a round-up of our favorite lobster rolls in Maine, a post we still stand by today. In addition to our list, the comments readers left were quite helpful and have guided us to many new locations up and down the coast. If you’re new to the Portland area or planning a trip to Maine, a roll at Fort Williams from Bite Into Maine is a quintessential Maine experience with views of Casco Bay behind the iconic Portland Headlight.
When friends come to town we love the tradition of going to Alewive’s Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth and picking out our own fresh lobsters from the tank. No trip to the farm is complete with our friends posing for a photo with the largest lobster in the tank, of course. Typically we cook them with a bag of steamers (clams), but we’re planning on giving this grilled split lobster recipe from Bon Appetit a try this summer.
If we’re not cooking it on our own or enjoying it to go, the following are a few lobster dishes around town that have caught our eye: the chilled Maine lobster tail with house mayonnaise at Petite Jacqueline, the lobster tartine at The Honey Paw, and the lobster dumplings at Empire. Seasonal lobster dishes at places like The Well and Vinland should also be on your radar.
If a lobster meal is on your summer bucket list, hopefully this post has given you some inspiration, and If you have any suggestions of lobster rolls, meals, or recipes that we may have missed, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below.
All photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
Every now and again, Meredith and I don’t mind having a meal that doesn’t involve bringing along the camera and thinking about every dish in regards to a blog post. Special occasion meals typically fall into this category, so when we tried The Honey Paw for the first time around my birthday, we did so without Map & Menu in mind… but ended up enjoying our meal so much that we spent the next couple of weeks thinking about a return trip with camera in tow to share it with you.
When it was announced that the trio behind perennial Portland favorites, Eventide and Hugo’s, would be adding a third establishment to their portfolio, there was quite a bit of buzz around town that The Honey Paw, a “non-denominational noodle bar”, would be a welcome new addition to one of Portland’s tastiest blocks, and after our first two meals there, we couldn’t agree more. Sharing more than just a kitchen, the restaurant pays the same attention to style, detail, and presentation that its sister restaurants are known for. The space is filled with natural light, warm honey-golden tones, and beautiful wooden accents like the large maple island and walnut Industry West stools. Similar to Eventide, the communal bars and table encourage social meals of friendly conversation with other patrons, while music pipes through the vinyl HiFi system.
As for that shared kitchen, we’ve yet to try a bite at The Honey Paw that hasn’t left us craving our next. The creative flavor combinations of dishes like the octopus poke with watermelon and cucumber are delightful, and plates and bowls of charred pork shoulder and wok fried rice noodles are savory and comforting enough that we hope they never leave the menu. On our first visit, the dolsot bibimbap, in which dry-aged beef was served over a heated stone bowl of rice that continues to fry and become crunchier long after the dish arrives, was one of those meals that will remain fresh in my memory for a very long time. In fact, the same could be said about both of our meals at The Honey Paw, and we’re certainly looking forward to adding more dishes to those memories on future trips.
All photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
A couple of weeks ago, Meredith and I had the opportunity to sit down with Palace Diner’s Chad Conley and Greg Mitchell for the first of a new interview series that we’re starting on the site. We were particularly excited to kick off the series with Chad and Greg, after they recently closed the diner for a month for some much needed rest and two pretty amazing trips. Chad spent his vacation with friends in Panama and Toronto, while Greg and his fiance Meg traveled west to southern California, Hawaii, and the other Portland. After an (always) outstanding meal at Palace, we spoke with them about their trips, their travel styles, and the community they’re building around the diner. The way that they both use food and cooking to get a better feeling for an area’s culture is something that Meredith and I can certainly appreciate, while their authentic, relaxed approach to exploring the places they visit will no doubt serve as inspiration on our own future trips.
M&M: Of your trips, do you have any that you might consider to be the most memorable?
CC: This trip (to Bastamentos) was a particularly good one for me, especially because I was visiting a friend who’s been in this totally foreign – totally foreign to me – culture, so I was able to show up in a situation that would normally be really intimidating for me and just be at home. His girlfriend’s family welcomed me, I got to meet all of her huge extended family, I got to party with them, I got to eat with them everyday, I got to get to know all of his friends there and that part of the experience is pretty rare for someone traveling to a place that’s that foreign. It made it pretty special, having access to foods and all sorts of cultural experiences that I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t visiting him.
GM: Similarly with what Chad’s saying, a lot of traveling I do at this point, it ends up working out well but it’s definitely because of financial reasons, too – you end up traveling where you have friends or family and it turns out to be a really great thing because you’re immersed in the culture. Probably the most memorable memory from my trip was visiting some friends from Los Angeles who are both botanists and they took us out to Joshua Tree National Park and gave us a botany tour of the park. We picked up a bunch of ingredients at this Mexican supermarket in Pasadena before we left and went camping in Joshua Tree and made a Mexican taco feast in the desert, camped out, and drank beers. That was probably the best food experience of the trip. In thinking about the trip, we ate a lot of really great meals out but the most memorable one was just being out in the middle of the desert and grilling.
M&M: You just returned from traveling, so you might not even have an answer right away, but are there any places you’re hoping to visit next?
CC: This part of Canada around Maine is really fascinating to me and I’d like to explore it a bit. Across the border in a few different areas, but I would love to go farther north and east. I also like the idea of going up there because there are parts of the experience that are really closely related to living here, but the differences really stand out in a fun way because of that similarity.
GM: I really want to do a Southeast Asia trip and check out Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and probably parts of Thailand. I think that part of the world is becoming more and more popular for people who like to travel and people who like to eat, and I would love to see parts of it before they’re totally destroyed by tourism. I know the north of thailand is less touched than the south, and even that’s a popular place right now. I’d love to get there before the next ten years of tourism make it less interesting. I love Asian food. I like to cook Asian food. I like to eat Asian food.
M&M: What about your perfect day off in Maine – what does that look like for you?
GM: I wake up really late and come to Palace Diner and watch everyone work… No, I had a pretty perfect day off yesterday. It usually involves two or three things – one is a great breakfast which is usually not at home – I like to cook at home, I just don’t like to cook breakfast at home because we do so much of that here. We went to Saigon and got banh mi for breakfast, took our dog for a walk in the Standish, Sebago Lake area, and then came back to town and went food shopping and made an awesome dinner. That’s the trifecta. Something outdoors like a good walk and two good meals – two of the three pillars are good meals.
CC: Sleeping in and going out to breakfast is a great start. A motorcycle ride at some point – whether it’s to get from point A to point B, or just for the hell of it. That is a great thing.
GM: Yes, when a motorcycle ride can be intertwined with your outdoor activity that’s even better. A summer evening motorcycle ride for a drink or dinner, that’s nice.
CC: Going to the beach in the summertime, going to Ferry Beach. On my days off I like to be social at least one part of the day – whether that’s going to a party or having people over for drinks. To me that’s my day off, hanging out with people.
M&M: And cooking at home, you like to cook Asian food at home, Greg?
GM: I attempt to cook Asian at home. I have no background, I’ve never worked in an Asian restaurant. I have a few cookbooks.
CC: We both bought rice cookers this past fall.
GM: Chad got one. That sounded awesome to me. I really love Asian food and there’s not a ton of it around here – there’s a few places to go for certain things, but there’s not a huge variety of Asian food in Maine, and it’s very different from what we do here so I enjoy the challenge. We cook a lot of American, fun, rich foods here, and when I’m at home I want to eat spicy rice, different meats, lots of herbs, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime. I just crave those flavors all the time, so on my days off after being here and snacking on tuna and eggs for five days straight I just want to eat nothing but Asian food.
CC: I’m a much less ambitious home cook than Greg. I cook a lot of – think of it as healthy bachelor pad food. Simple vegetables, rice. If we make breakfast at home, just pancakes or eggs and toast. I like to eat very simply. When Rachel was away for a month this past fall, that’s when I bought the rice cooker. And that’s how I found myself eating brown rice and vegetables, things that came together pretty quickly and were really healthy.
GM: The other thing I like to make is pasta. I worked in Rome for a bit, so Roman pasta is cacio e pepe, alla gricia, carbonara, and for me those dishes are very homey and simple. I can whip up a simple Roman pasta in 15 minutes and that’s a good trick to have up your sleeve.
M&M: What are your go-to restaurants in Portland?
CC: The Phoenix did a thing about my go-to restaurant a couple months ago and I think many of the other people that they interviewed for this series chose more high-end places and I chose Pizza Villa which is by far my favorite restaurant. I go there at least once a week, hang out and get beers, catch up with friends, or hang out with Rachel. I love it there.
GM: My current favorite is Saigon, a super simple family-run Vietnamese restaurant. They have really great pho. After being in a restaurant, you don’t always want to have a restaurant experience. I don’t always want to be presented with a very thoughtful service. I just want to get a bowl of noodle soup and talk to my fiance or friends. We went to Huong’s the other evening on St. John’s and it’s the same thing, the service is simple and the food is tasty, and back to Asian food, it lends itself to sharing. It’s a fun cuisine to go out and share with friends.
CC: Greg & I go to meetings at Becky’s, too. We like it there.
GM: If I want a nicer meal, I tend to end up at Eventide. I like what those guys do a lot.
At this point, the conversation meandered for a little bit while we discussed favorite restaurants, keeping up with the growing Portland food scene, and and the community of regulars they’re building in Biddeford.
GM: When you get to build a sense of community in a restaurant or cafe, it’s pretty awesome. When Tandem first opened in Portland, it was a spot where we’d both grab a coffee and end up spending an hour there because all your friends were there or because you’d meet new people and make friends there. When we opened this place, we thought how cool it would be if that happened here, and to not only see that happen here but happen in Biddeford makes us really happy.
M&M: It’s even more special because people are having to drive a bit further to get here.
GM: It’s a huge compliment to be 20 miles south of a thriving food city and people are leaving it to come eat here. It shows promise.
M&M: Do you have any holdovers from the old Palace?
CC: There’s a handful of people, that it wouldn’t matter who owned it, they’d come in.
GM: There are the real holdovers, the guy who comes in and says he hasn’t been here since 1950. We had a guy who came in last weekend, pretty surly and he looked miserable, wasn’t being very friendly, and he hadn’t been in for years. We get these old timers occasionally where they see a review and they don’t get it. they don’t understand what’s happening with all the tattoos, and the young people and the music. I think, for me, the most satisfying customers are those ones that we then serve our flapjacks and they’re like “oh, this is a delicious stack of flapjacks, I don’t give a shit about anything else. I’ll be back.” That’s really satisfying. Our prices are a little higher, the quality of our ingredients is a little higher, so when an old timer can recognize that we make some damn good food and that they’ll be back even though it’s more money than the place around the corner, it’s awesome. There are a lot of people who get what we’re doing and think it’s great – that’s what keeps us going, but it’s a lot of fun when someone doesn’t get what you’re doing but they still can see that you’re doing a good job making food and making people happy.
M&M: What is your favorite Palace dish to cook or eat?
GM: I think my favorite thing to eat is the Deluxe and my favorite thing to cook is flapjacks. I get a lot of satisfaction out of making perfectly round, perfectly golden flapjacks, and they smell delicious – that smell never gets old.
CC: The Deluxe is probably my favorite to eat. Our food is so simple to cook. I just enjoy that process, cooking as a whole. There’s not just one item that I look forward to cooking. I do like assembling the fried chicken sandwich, actually. That’s a fun one. Every time we put it in the window, I love looking at people’s faces when they see it. People laugh and smile. I love that we are able to create that moment for people.
Francine has been on our list of places to eat in Midcoast for ages, after years of hearing about friends’ fantastic meals there. So when I scheduled a couple of shoots in the area earlier this April, I hopped on the phone and secured a reservation that seems to have been years in the making at the charming French bistro.I promise that the wait was more than worth it though, as everything we ended up tasting that night – from the White Negroni & Moscow Fuel drinks with which we started, to the rich and creamy crab risotto we shared, right through to the final bites of my perfectly crisp chicken and Michael’s fish – was nothing short of fantastic.
Midway through devouring the pine, black butter, and sea salt mussels appetizer – a dish that has set new, very high standards for mussels for the two of us – Michael proclaimed, “it doesn’t get more Maine than these ingredients!” True. But the same could be said about the meal itself. The largely locally-sourced food, was honest, unpretentious, yet deliciously memorable, not unlike Maine itself. It’s no wonder that Chef Brian Hill is repeatedly recognized by the James Beard Foundation and featured in national publications – what he’s creating in Camden at Francine and in Rockport at Shepherd’s Pie is a delectable homage to Maine’s natural beauty and flavor.
All photos by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
When the James Beard Semifinalists were announced in February, followed by the final nominees last month, Meredith and I were thrilled to see Maine chefs and restaurants represented so well on the list. In the past, we’ve enjoyed and written about our meals from many of the nominees, so when San Pellegrino reached out to sponsor a post about their Sweet Finish Dinner Series, celebrating the Rising Star Chef of the Year category (which includes Maine’s own Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan and Bao Bao), we were very excited to share the event:
S.Pellegrino® Sweet Finish Dinner at Tao Yuan
Reflecting its passion for excellence and long-time commitment to emerging culinary talent, S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water is proud to support the Rising Star Chef of the Year for The James Beard Foundation Awards.
Event Details: On Wednesday, April 29th, S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water will be inviting diners at Tao Yuan, in Brunswick, to join them in celebrating chef Cara Stadler’s James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award Nomination. In honor of this accomplishment, the first 50 tables seated for dinner service will receive complimentary S.Pellegrino and dessert. Diners are encouraged to share their memorable dining experiences on social media, offering well wishes for chef Cara Stadler at the James Beard Foundation Awards, to be held in Chicago on May 4th.
S.Pellegrino is dedicated to supporting rising leaders in the culinary industry on a national and global level, with exciting programs, including the S.Pellegrino Young Chef and S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competitions.
S.Pellegrino is a premium sparkling natural mineral water that flows naturally from a thermal spring in Val Brembana, in the foothills of the Italian Alps, in the territory of San Pellegrino Terme, near Bergamo (Lombard).
Since opening, Tao Yuan has become one of Brunswick and Maine’s more prominent restaurants, and chef Cara Stadler, one of Maine’s more prominent chefs. When her second restaurant, Bao Bao, came to town this past year, Portland gained a delicious new dumpling option – one that Meredith required little arm twisting to visit to grab the photos for this post (the Asian slaw was a favorite dish and must-try from our last meal at Bao Bao). It’s incredible to see a chef in Brunswick garnering such national attention in a category whose nominees are almost entirely from cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, and Los Angeles. We wish Cara the absolute best of luck and can’t wait to celebrate her nomination at Tao on Wednesday. We hope you’ll spread the word and look forward to seeing you there!
This post was in partnership with S.Pellegrino, but all thoughts and opinions are our own. Be sure to check out S.Pellegrino on Facebook and Instagram, and thank you for supporting Map & Menu’s partners, who help to make this adventure of ours a possibility.