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.
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.
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.
It’s that time of year when Michael and I do our best to hit (nearly) all of our favorite spots with great outdoor seating options just one more time before it gets too chilly. So when planning my evening shoot up in Rockport a couple of weeks ago, I decided to allow enough time to take advantage of Salt Water Farm’s Happy Hour and grab a drink on the deck overlooking the harbor. While several of the drink deals caught my eye, I settled on the Watermelon Negroni and a plate of locally made Lakin’s Gorges Opus 42 cheese with buckwheat honeycomb. The sweet watermelon was a welcome contrast to the Campari, slightly cutting the drink’s traditional bitter taste. Sitting on the deck, catching the last hour or two of sun as it falls on the boats in the harbor, it’s hard to imagine a better place to enjoy such a fantastic happy hour experience.
Meredith and I don’t often visit new restaurants in their first week of operation. We typically like to avoid the crowds and let the establishment work out the kinks, but after a few days of hearing and reading so many good things about the newly renovated, re-geared, and renamed Empire Chinese Kitchen, we decided that an early dim sum lunch was just a little too tempting to delay.
The new owners of Empire have done an awesome job with the renovation. Long before our meals had arrived, Meredith was happily snapping photos of all the details of the dining room and gushing about the natural light, open space, and relaxed feel of the room. We arrived right as the doors opened and were lucky to get a booth by a window before the room (and waiting list) quickly filled up.
We started with a couple of tasty cocktails (the Yellow Fever and the Dragon’s Milk) and ordered a handful of small plate and dim sum dishes which arrived in a slightly staggered fashion, leading to a leisurely tapas-style lunch. First up were the delicious peking duck buns (my personal favorite) and the har gow (one of a few of the gluten-free options on the menu). It’s a standard rule of thumb for me that pretty much anything served in a steamed bun will be awesome, and the savory peking duck didn’t disappoint – I’d highly recommend trying it. We also tried the lobster dumplings and the unique Empire egg roll, made with pastrami and asparagus and served with honey dijon. We thoroughly enjoyed each of the dishes we tried, and the three-count dumplings led to a number of small chopstick sword fighting battles.
All in all, I think we’re both glad that we ignored our recently-opened restaurant ban this time around, and can’t wait for a revisit to try the remaining items on the menu. Anyone want to join us?
Updated: Unfortunately Fromviandoux has closed.
Over the past couple of weeks, whenever someone mentions that they’ll be soon be spending time in Camden (or anywhere in the mid-coast region for that matter) I all but interrupt them and insist that they treat themselves to Afternoon Tea at Fromviandoux during their trip. We owe our friend, Anestes, for putting this gem of an experience on our radar, and on a recent excursion to the area, I was able to take advantage of the suggestion and give it a try myself.
Afternoon Tea at Fromviandoux consists of a pot of tea and three scrumptious accompanying courses that are quite honestly almost too lovely to eat! I chose the Avena’s Garden blend which was first served with scones, a peach bread, housemade cream, lemon curd (my favorite!), and jam. After that what followed could be considered a meal in and of itself – eight tea sandwiches presented in pairs. Of the sandwiches, the lobster salad on a cheddar biscuit was simply divine. Up next were the petit fours! At this time I was more than just a little full from the first few courses, but I’ve never in my life turned down a plate of sweets sitting in front of me. The hazlenut chocolate truffle, the strawberry shortcake, and the date & fig “newtons” were all delightfully delicious.
The warm, inviting interior and plentiful light inside the Fromviandoux space creates a perfect environment for such a lovely experience. After such an enjoyable afternoon, I now have my sights set on returning with Michael for one of their Cocktail Wednesdays or Wine & Cheese Saturdays.
With my family in town from Wyoming, we had a chance to partake in many of our favorite activities (read: eat at some of our favorite restaurants) this weekend! On Friday night we met friends at Hunt & Alpine for drinks and then we made our way to Flea Bites for some dinner from Small Axe and ran into even more friends. Saturday was spent working, but on Sunday we celebrated my dad’s birthday by brunching at The Good Table, hiking at Wolfe’s Neck, and dining at Local 188 + Gorgeous Gelato that evening. A wonderfully delicious, fun-filled weekend with family that we don’t see nearly enough!
On Tuesday evening, Meredith and I had the chance to do something we’ve been looking forward to for a very long time – visit Portland Hunt & Alpine Club. Tuesday night was just the soft opening leading up to Thursday’s grand opening, but after months of getting excited from Hush Hush preview events and watching construction and planning updates on their facebook and Instagram feeds, we could barely contain our excitement for what is hands-down one of Portland’s absolute best bars and sure to be a regular hang-out spot for the two of us.
Owners Andrew and Briana Volk have done an outstanding job designing their new space on Market Street. A clean, modern interior with dark wood accents, Eames and Tolix furnishings, floor to ceiling windows, and of course, a large metal-topped bar make for the kind of place that I could easily imagine spending an afternoon, evening, or multi-night stint. Details like the stamped leather drink menus, the map-printed house menus and coasters, and the lighted, mounted antlers in The Lodge are just added eye candy, and we haven’t even discussed the mouth-watering cocktails yet.
Oh, those cocktails. I’ve already spent a fair amount of time on this blog writing about how Andrew can absolutely kill it when it comes to creative, beautiful, and delicious libations, but when I say that he’s outdone himself with the menu at Hunt & Alpine, I mean it. With pretty much something for anyone, I won’t try to dictate what you order, but from the soft opening, I can personally vouch for the Old Fashioned-esque Toronto, and my favorite from the evening, the Chilton County, with bourbon, lemon, peach butter, and egg white. Meredith was a huge fan of her White Noise, made with St. Germain, Cocchi Americano, and grapefruit zest, and has barely stopped talking about it. As we watched our friends at the opening sample their own drinks, the response was pretty much a unanimous “wow” from everyone in the room. If you’re having a hard time deciding, I wholly recommend taking it to the maestro himself with a few parameters and letting Andrew make an excellent recommendation.
I’m getting a little long-winded and could probably rave about the cocktails, chef Ricky Penatzer’s small plates (like the open-faced sandwiches, “The Hunter” charcuterie plate, “The Skier” cheese selection, or the savory popcorn), the atmosphere, or how we’ve already made plans with half a dozen friends to meet here over the next couple of weeks, for another few paragraphs, but I won’t. Simply try Portland Hunt & Alpine for yourself, you definitely won’t regret the choice.
In lieu of our weekly round-up of travel & food-related links, we thought we’d share this fantastic video by my sister & brother-in-law. They traveled to Maine earlier this summer and put together a short film with some of the footage they shot that week. We love it. And we love them!
Have a wonderful holiday weekend, friends!
It seems like I’ve been waking up each morning for the past week trying to think of creative excuses to find myself in the area of Broadway and Main St. in South Portland, all for one reason – Little Bigs. It’s slightly outside of my normal route into Portland or to get onto I-95, but the delicious doughnuts and savory pies that they’re serving up are definitely worth the detour.
It’s pretty easy to see why doughnuts like the raised yeast raspberry Bismark with cream cheese or the traditional cake buttermilk glazed have my attention, but the gluten-free egg pies (like the bacon, onion, and cheddar, or the broccoli, tomato, and goat cheese) in pressed russet potato crusts have had Meredith pushing for return trips just as much as me.
So far, we haven’t stopped by for their lunchtime savory pies, but you can bet that it’ll only be a matter of time. If you find yourself starting out on an early road-trip South or just in the neighborhood for any reason, definitely drop in and try some of these ‘delicious hand foods to go’.