Meredith and I often get asked by visiting Map & Menu readers, family, and friends what to eat in Portland, so inspired by the recurring ’10 Plates’ feature in Food & Wine and a delightful dinner in Kittery with a fellow food-crazed friend, we found ourselves talking about a few of our favorite dishes from around town. Sort of an “if I could have a single item off of 10 different Portland menus, what would they be?” Not surprisingly, it was pretty difficult to limit ourselves to only ten of our top menu staples, but we were somewhat aided by the fact that a number of our favorite restaurants have ever-changing menus, and we wanted people to be able to order any of these items at any time while in Portland. So without further adieu, here are 10 of our favorite bites to eat in Portland:
Fore Street Mussels
Don’t get us wrong, just about everything we’ve ever tried at Fore Street has been perfect, but for the two of us, no meal there is complete without starting with the mussels. In typical Fore Street fashion, the dish is beautifully simple (essentially garlic, butter, and mussels), but give me a loaf of Standard Bakery’s bread, and I’ll return a completely clean dish – devoid of buttery broth and all.
Otto Pizza Masher
Mashed potato, bacon, and scallion on a pizza. There’s a reason this piece of heaven is one of the few standard slice offerings whenever you visit Otto. If you’ve never tried it and you manage to walk past Otto without grabbing a slice, I commend your will power.
Blue Spoon BLT
We needed a picture of this Blue Spoon lunch time favorite to round out the post, but knew that we wouldn’t have time for a lunch in town, so I did what any reasonable bacon lover would and ordered it for breakfast. Two thick slices of sourdough are home to a plentiful amount of applewood smoked bacon, tomato, lettuce, and rosemary mayo. Pair it with a Peeper and the whole grain mustard potato salad, and you’re in for a treat.
Eventide Brown Butter Lobster Roll
We just covered Eventide’s lobster roll on our Maine Lobster Roll roundup a couple of weeks ago, but once you take a bite of the warm, savory lobster meat, there will be little doubt as to why it’s deserving of the repeat mention.
Blue Rooster Fried Brussels Sprouts
Blue Rooster knows how to do it right. I’ve never heard Meredith get excited about hot dogs lunches, but when they’re dressed like the Colombiano and served with a side of the fantastic fried Brussels sprouts with sweet chili sauce, sesame, and queso fresco, who can blame her for her excitement?
Petite Jacqueline Cheese Plate
This one is a little more loosely defined than the rest, since it’s not a particular combination of cheeses that has repeatedly won us over, but rather the fact that every time we try a few cheeses off of Petite’s menu, we immediately make sure to write the name down for future reference.
Duckfat Fries with Thai Chili Mayo
If you’ve ever experienced the fries at Duckfat, you know why this item is on our menu; but it’s time to stop playing it safe with your truffle ketchup, and dip those bad boys in the thai chili mayo – you can thank me later.
Pai Men Miyake Pai Tan Ramen
To me, this is Portland comfort food at its finest. In a city where at least 3/4 of the year can be aptly described as “chilly to frigid,” a warm, flavorful bowl of Pai Men Miyake’s pai tan ramen can warm even the coldest of Southern transplants. Did I mention the pork belly part of this equation? Winning.
El Rayo Fish Taco
Some people prefer fried fish in their fish tacos, but once you’ve tried El Rayo’s version - grilled achiote seasoned fish fillet, sliced avocado, crunchy veggie slaw, and that house chipotle mayo – I think it would sway even the most loyal of fried fish followers.
Boda Beef Panaeng
It’s hard to describe just how spot-on this meal at Boda is. Right to a fault since being the first dish I ever ordered at Boda, I’ve never seen reason to try any other part of the menu. I’ll let the menu do the talking – “braised organic Wolfe’s Neck Farm beef in a flavorful panaeng curry (salty and sweet with aromas of Thai basil and lime leaves) with coconut cream, served with jasmine rice.” It doesn’t hurt that this is quite possibly the most delicious gluten-free meal I’ve ever had in my life.
Well, it’s impossible to say that this list covers all of Portland’s best dishes, but I think it’s a pretty fair sampling. We’d love to know, what dishes would you add to the list?
Last week, we spent an amazing day on one of the most delightful places we’ve visited in Maine – Isle of Springs. Over the past few years, Meredith has had multiple photo shoots on and around the island, but until our friends from North Carolina, John and Emily, invited us to their family home on the island, I’d never had the chance to see what all the fuss was about. Simply put, it was amazing.
The weather was gorgeous and the island was more Maine-ly picturesque than one could imagine. Our hosts were both welcoming & accommodating, taking us on a guided walk around the island and boat ride through Sheepscot Bay and into Boothbay Harbor, and spending the evening entertaining us with great stories and tasty food. By the time we pulled back into our driveway late that evening, we were completely spent from the day we’d left behind, and collapsed into bed, dreaming about future trips to the island.
A special thanks goes out to Emily, John, and the rest of the Ayer family for the unmatched memories.
Last week, after we returned from Snug Harbor Farm in Kennebunk, Michael admitted that he had incorrectly thought I was being a little melodramatic when I came home raving about my first visit to the farm last spring. I think I recall touting it as “pretty much the most amazing place ever”, to which Michael smiled but took with a grain of salt. (If you’ve read this blog for more than a few posts, you know that I can get a little excited about some of the places we visit.) I must admit though, it was exceptionally nice to hear Michael show almost the same enthusiasm after he’d had a chance to experience the farm last week on our day trip down the coast.
Snug Harbor Farm is far from your average nursery. Perhaps it’s the rows upon rows of beautiful topiaries, or the seemingly endless supply of the most gorgeous and unique succulent arrangements (a number of which can now be found around our house). Maybe it’s the delightful collection of home & garden goods in the shop, the wonderfully kept old farmhouse property, the gorgeous terra cotta pots (yes, even the pots are awesome), or even the adorable farm dogs that might just follow you around while you browse – believe me when I say that there is just something special about this farm.
Contact Information - Snug Harbor Farm
Kennebunk, Maine 04043
Inspired by this article in the latest issue of Bon Appétit, Michael and I had our own little picnic dinner by the sea last night at Fisherman’s Point. We prepared one of the recipes from the article - a quinoa salad with peaches & pickled onion – packed some cheese, crackers, and a bottle of wine, grabbed our favorite blanket and walked down to the shore.
It was the perfect evening – other couples were there with similar picnic ideas, enjoying the light, (almost chilly) salty ocean breeze. Michael and I watched the boats returning to their moorings in Simonton Cove, and lost track of time daydreaming about owning our own boat and possible adventures exploring the various islands of Casco Bay.
We visit Fisherman’s Point often throughout the year, but in our four years of living within a five minute walk of this picturesque park in South Portland, we’ve somehow never thought to, or made time to picnic there. After last night’s lovely experience, we’ll surely make time to do it again in the coming weeks.
Consider my arm twisted, but Meredith and I have spent the past couple of months compiling a list of some of our favorite lobster rolls in Maine. The task involved a number of miles in the car, a new found love for New England hotdog buns, a gracious amount of butter and mayo, and of course, plenty of pounds of that tasty red meat, but these are a few of our very favorites for the next time you’re in Vacationland.
The brown butter vinaigrette and steamed-bun style roll make this lobster roll the most unique on our list. It also happened to be my favorite tasting roll, as the vinaigrette was a perfectly subtle sweet and buttery marinade for the meat, while the roll seemed to soak up the flavor and melt in your mouth. Followed with an Oxbow Farmhouse Pale Ale, this is a hard roll to beat.
Eventide Oyster Company
86 Middle Street, Portland – 207.774.8538
Clients of Meredith’s recommended we drive out to Round Pond and get a lobster roll at Muscongus Bay, and we were so thankful to receive such a wonderful tip. I’m not sure which we enjoyed more – the bakery fresh roll itself, the lobster meat (we detected just a hint of what we thought was dill that made it both unique and different), or the experience of eating on the deck overlooking the charming Round Pond Harbor. The entire experience easily made this one Meredith’s favorite on our list.
Muscongus Bay Lobster Company
28 Town Landing Road, Round Pond - 207.529.2251
The perfect picnic roll, Bite Into Maine’s menu is little more than this one item, but man do they do it well. We opted for the traditional Maine style roll, with just the right amount of mayo and chives, and then enjoyed it and a side of the blueberry corn salad from a blanket overlooking Casco Bay at Fort Williams Park with Orvis.
Bite Into Maine
Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth – 207.420.0294
The Lobster Shack will always hold a special place in our hearts. We had our first Maine lobster rolls there the day after we moved to Cape Elizabeth from North Carolina, and we return often, both for the scenery and the delicious lobster rolls – we’re suckers for the dollop of mayo on top and the crinkle cut fries.
The Lobster Shack at Two Lights
225 Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth – 207.799.1677
Over the years, countless people have insisted we try the lobster roll at The Clam Shack in Kennebunk, but after their win at this year’s Lobster Roll Rumble, we finally made trying it a priority. The only round bun lobster roll we’ve ever had, the Clam Shack roll is an example of how simple can be perfect – just a well-balanced mix of lobster meat, butter, and bun.
The Clam Shack
2 Western Avenue, Kennebunk – 207.967.2560
One thing about traveling around to try different lobster rolls that really stuck out to me, was just how beautiful the backdrops of some of these locations can be. Five Islands has to be near the top of the “perfectly picturesque” lobster roll list, from the dock overlooking the moorings between the five islands for which the area is named. It’s hard to dislike lobster in a location like that.
Five Islands Lobster Company
1447 5 Islands Road, Georgetown – 207.371.2990
Easily the most famous on our list, be prepared to wait in line if you’re wanting to eat one of the lobster rolls from Red’s. A toasted New England-style bun and a generous helping of fresh lobster meat are just about all that make up this Maine classic, but as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The Red’s lobster roll doesn’t need any fixing.
41 Water Street, Wiscasset – 207.882.6128
When planning our time with my sister & her family while they were up in Maine on vacation last week, we knew that a meal at Gather was an absolute must! The restaurant in nearby Yarmouth, that we raved about after our first visit for brunch in April, is not only delicious and beautiful, but also very laid-back and family-friendly. There’s even a small children’s area in the back with toys and books – making it the perfect place to take a one year-old whose parents appreciate good food. Even when we were seated, the attention of our nephew, Pax, was occupied by his view of the chefs working in the open kitchen on the old stage in the center of the restaurant.
As for the adults, we all raved about our meals! Between the six of us, we enjoyed the asparagus risotto with sliced radishes & beet chips, the house ground, grass fed burger, the local pork chop atop polenta & braised greens, and the crispy salmon served with rice and an English pea puree. Unfortunately we were all a bit too full to take advantage of desserts like the brown butter gelato with walnut brittle, but we were able to cap off an already amazing evening with a walk on Sandy Point Beach on Cousins Island. When we met up with my sister for a hike the next day, she & Philip were still talking about the previous night’s dinner – confirmation that the meal at Gather was certainly a highlight of their trip to Maine.
Contact Information - Family Dinner at Gather
Yarmouth, Maine 04096
It’s insane to think that just over five years ago, Meredith and I graduated from school and started out, with our co-pilot Orvis, on this New England adventure to Maine. Since then, it’s been a total blur of weekend trips, rocky coastlines, delicious meals, beautiful summers, and snowy winters. We’ve been fortunate to set up shop in a perfect little neighborhood, outside of an amazing town, and seemingly almost everyday, we find the opportunity for new experiences or newly-aging traditions (like our yearly celebratory lobster roll on the day we arrived in Maine). We’re so lucky that we’ve found a home online to share these adventures with our friends, family, and readers, and look forward to sharing our next five years of adventure, wherever the road may take us.