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!
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.
Hearing that Small Axe truck would be closing in favor of a brick and mortar location last year was a bittersweet moment for Meredith and myself. In their first year, a Saturday morning coffee from Tandem, breakfast at Small Axe, and a trip to the farmer’s market had become our norm, and in their second year, anytime we found ourselves remotely near Congress Square Park, you could guarantee we’d be stopping by. Their shrimp & grits and fried chicken biscuits at the Portland Flea-for-All was one of our favorite meals of 2013, and it seemed as though their breakfast and rice bowls could simply do no wrong. What would happen when they closed? Would the new restaurant deviate from the tried & true offerings that garnered – and deserved – national attention?
It turns out that all of our worrying was for naught because now that we’ve tried Karl Deuben & Bill Leavy’s reincarnation of the East Ender on our favorite block of Middle Street (read: one of the most delicious blocks in all of Portland), we realized that it’s not the truck that made the meal, but the chefs behind the grill.
Meredith and I are minimalists at heart, so the clean, open, light-filled interior of the new East Ender is a welcome sight. We stopped by for lunch this week and were happy to see familiar favorites like the cold smoked burger and the rice bowl, alongside new additions like the BLT and the fried chicken sandwich. On this trip, one of what will surely be many, Meredith ordered her beloved rice bowl with bok choy and potatoes and I went with the suggestion of our waitress – the BLT. Adding a little flavor and lair, my BLT was made with two thick pieces of pork belly in lieu of bacon, and finished with avocado and a miso mayo. I’ve been heralding the BLT at Blue Spoon as my favorite in town for years, but this one definitely gives it a run for its money. Ignoring our full stomachs, we even rallied and ordered the roasted pineapple hand pies with coconut sorbet – a delightful combination of tropical flavors not typically found in Maine.
In retrospect, we realize our lamenting over Small Axe’s closing was a little ill-founded, and now that we’ve fallen for their new menu, we couldn’t be more excited to taste what Karl & Bill cook up next at the East Ender.
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
Last week Meredith and I had the amazing opportunity to attend a private dinner celebrating two of our local favorites – the staff party of Hunt & Alpine at Piccolo. When Andrew and Briana reached out to us about documenting their annual party and joining them for a custom, goat-centric menu by Damien and Ilma, the arm-twisting was minimal and we excitedly added the date to our calendar.
Although the space at Piccolo is always warm, cozy, and inviting, having the tables pulled together in one large family-style setting and watching everyone gather around the counter for drinks and conversation made it feel like we were having a dinner at the home of good friends. We’ve never had a dish from Piccolo that hasn’t been phenomenal, but Damien, Luke, and Ilma truly outdid themselves with the menu that evening. From the charred goat heart ‘tartare’, to the wild snails with black trumpet mushrooms and pancetta, and the chocolate sea salt budino with warm goats milk espuma, we found ourselves wanting more and more of every last dish.
The meal aside, the Hunt + Alpine “family” is a delightful collection of people – almost all of whom we were officially meeting for the first time, but every last one made us feel like we’d been a part of the crew forever. The conversation, laughter, and shared experience was unforgettable, and undoubtedly something we’ll remember for a very long time. Seeing one group of individuals, whose work we’ve always admired and respected, come together to celebrate around the food and drink of another outstanding team was inspiring to say the least. “Thank you” just doesn’t seem to even begin to cover our gratitude.
Earlier this week, Meredith and I had the opportunity to drop by Portland’s newest wine shop – Maine & Loire. We’ve been anxiously anticipating their opening ever since meeting the co-owners, Peter and Orenda, and having the opportunity to hear about their ideas and inspiration for the shop. Concentrating on organic and natural wines, many of which are new to Maine, just about every hand-selected bottle from their selection is unique. Bright and open, with friendly, casual branding, the shop itself feels much more relaxed than most other wine stores. Meredith and I spent plenty of time browsing the selection of bottles – many with humorous and helpful handwritten notes – and found ourselves with a handful of new French and Italian wines to try over the coming weeks. When you visit, be sure to introduce yourself to the owners for a fantastic recommendation, and check out their Instagram feed for new wines as they arrive… you can bet that we’ll be glued to it for our next bottle!
A few weeks ago, Meredith and I found ourselves needing a good excuse to leave the house and do some last minute Christmas shopping, so we did what all food-loving Portlanders should and decided to make a brunch date out of it. We already have a number of go-to brunch spots in town, but given that every other experience we’ve had at Central Provisions – from drinks through dessert – has been outstanding, we thought we’d see if the same held true for my own favorite meal of the day, the coveted breakfast-lunch tweener spot. To be honest, it wasn’t even a contest. Warm and gooey skillet cornbread, crispy and savory scrapple, and a ham and cheese slider that absolutely blew my mind helped make our meal one of the best brunches I can remember, moving Central Provisions right to the top of our favorite Portland brunches, alongside Piccolo and a handful of others. Now, it’s only a matter of finding another flimsy excuse to return soon…
We’re finishing up our Best of 2014 posts with the most challenging to whittle down and write – our favorite food (and drinks!) from our home state of Maine. There are plenty of spots in Portland and beyond that we wish we could include on this list, these are simply the dishes and restaurants that stood out to us and kept us coming back for more in 2014. Of course, we’d love to hear about some of your Maine favorites in the comments below!
Michael: It’s going to take a lot to remove Hunt and Alpine from its seat of Maine cocktail supremacy in my mind, and when you add the Deviled Smoked Trout to snack on, competitors might as well just throw in the towel.
Meredith: Lately, I’ve been a fan of the Fancy Gin Cocktail – Bread & Butter combination at the downstairs bar at Central Provisions – a prime place for people watching on the corner of Wharf Street.
Michael: The seasonal fall Roast chicken and pureed buttercup squash from Central Provisions is one of the better dishes I can ever recall – we order it every time we’re there and it’s on the menu (and sometimes more than once in a sitting).
Meredith: I’ve never met a rice bowl variation from Long Grain that I didn’t just love.
Michael: I’m going to go ahead and double up on the Central Provisions… try the spicy beef salad, the combination of flavors, spices, and textures is hard to beat.
Meredith: I was introduced to the roasted vegetable cassoulet from Lolita during a shoot for Down East this year and after sampling a bit (job perk number one!) I made it a priority to return to Lolita for one of my very own soon thereafter.
Michael: Mmmm… donuts. The Urban Sugar food truck turns out bite-sized gourmet donuts with an assortment of creative toppings (like their Cap’n Crunch glazed, breakfast cereal variety) that are sure to impress the Homer Simpson in each of us.
Meredith: Four months later, I remember exactly how deliciously decadent the salted butter semifreddo was during our chef’s tasting menu dinner at Vinland this summer. Crunchy, sweet, amazing.
Michael & Meredith: This one’s a toss-up between our tried and true neighborhood heavyweight, Scratch Baking Co., with its amazing bagels, cookies, and coconut creme cake, and the relative newcomer, Tandem Bakery, where every bite of the savory scones or sweet cinnamon rolls is better than the previous (it doesn’t hurt that they’re paired with the best coffee around).
Michael: Taking the most classic of American dining styles and establishments, and then injecting an attention to detail and flavor completely foreign to the prefabricated diner world, it’s easy to see why Palace Diner has caught the attention of so many. Get anything on the menu, it’s all amazing.
Meredith: There’s nothing cozier than ducking inside Piccolo on a chilly day for a tasty, comforting brunch that always includes the zeppoli.
Michael & Meredith: This is one of our precious neighborhood secrets, but for the better part of two years, Scratch Baking Co. has somewhat quietly been producing some of the most consistently creative and delicious sandwiches that we can find anywhere – Maine or not.
Michael and Meredith: We enjoy most any meal outdoors with Orvis by our side, but when the food is truly exceptional, the whole experience certainly stands out. This is why we make a point to visit The Well at Jordan’s Farm multiple times over the summer and early fall. It’s a must in our books – even if you aren’t lucky enough to dine alongside your dog – their farm-fresh ingredients and mastery of simple yet classic dishes makes The Well one of the best meals in Maine.
Michael & Meredith: Even though the truck is up for sale and they’re moving their business into a brick and mortar restaurant next year, the meals we enjoyed truckside from Small Axe – at Congress Square Park (or Tandem Coffee in the early days) – will always be some of our favorites from a food truck.
Michael: “Experience” seems like the perfect descriptor to define our Chef’s tasting menu dinner at Vinland late this past summer. Between courses and entremets, sixteen delightful dishes came together to create a truly outstanding experience.
Meredith: We dined at Nebo Lodge two nights in a row during our October trip to North Haven and both nights we could haven’t been happier with the flavor and atmosphere. To enjoy such quality food on an island thirteen miles from the mainland is truly exceptional, in my opinion. A meal at Nebo Lodge is well worth adding to your dining bucket lists!
Off the Beaten Path
Michael & Meredith: Brunch at Crissy’s in Damariscotta is part of every single weekend trip we make up to Wiscasset during the winter. We’re big fans of the huevos rancheros, the veggie hash’n’eggs, and the famous blueberry coffee cake, of course.
Michael & Meredith: Central Provisions might seem like the popular choice for this one, but never before have we, time and time again, had meals where every bite of every dish is its own fantastic experience. It’s that simple.
Before we officially welcome fall, we just couldn’t let summer go by without one last nod to our love for rosé season with our second Drinks with Orvis post.
During one of the warmest weeks this summer, we cut out of work a little early to go enjoy a drink on one of our favorite outdoor patios in Portland – Petite Jacqueline. We love taking Orvis along to meals in Longfellow Square – he’s happy as can be people watching in the square… that is until our food comes and he starts begging.
As it turns out, hot temperatures don’t stand a chance against a carafe of rosé and a tasty cheese plate on a shaded patio in the summer, and the fact that Orvis was there alongside us made the afternoon even better!
Tell us, where do you like to drink/eat with your pup? We’d love suggestions for any city!
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
There are few things that Meredith and I love more than a delicious cocktail and our best buddy, Orvis. So naturally, now that our favorite bar in town, Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, has added a little bit of outdoor seating on Market Street, it only makes sense to take Orvis along for our happy hour treats! On our most recent visit, we tried the pretzels and a couple open-faced sandwiches in addition to our normal deviled egg noshing order, and combined with a few tasty cocktails (and a bowl of water for Orvis), spent a perfect afternoon soaking up summer in the Old Port.
And if you missed it last week, it’s worth nothing that Bon Appetit selected Hunt + Alpine as one of their top five new bars in the country, complete with a photo of Meredith’s in the September issue. We clearly couldn’t agree with this assessment anymore!
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
In a town of Portland’s size, it’s rare to have an art museum that is as well curated as the Portland Museum of Art. We find ourselves continually impressed with both the exhibitions and the events the museum sponsors. In the last month alone, we’ve been wowed by the photorealist paintings of Richard Estes and even had the chance to hear Alex Katz speak in person.
Coming off the heels of last night’s fantastic midsummer party with the museum’s Contemporaries group, we thought we’d share another PMA summer highlight – Third Thursdays. We attended last month’s Third Thursday garden party and took advantage of the museum’s extended hours by roaming the galleries, which we essentially had to ourselves. Tonight’s festivities will feature bluegrass music by Darlin’ Corey and a lecture by director, Mark Bessire, on the role of the museum in the 21st century.
If you’re looking for a slight change of pace from your typical Thursday evenings, or haven’t had the opportunity to visit the museum and see its newest collections, we highly recommend that you take advantage of tonight’s event and keep an eye open for the upcoming Third Thursdays this summer!