A Halifax Perspective on Maine Dining

Nadine Fownes, food writer for the Halifax Chronicle Herald, visited Portland and has written about her dining experiences around the city. J’s Oyster Bar, Crema, East End Cupcakes, Two Fat Cats, Standard, Gritty’s, Shipyard, Sebago, Duckfat, Gorgeous Gelato, Five Fifty-Five, Fore Street and Emilitsa are all mentioned.

The list that follows is just a small taste of places to see and eat around Portland, and it is by no means complete. The Old Port is easily walkable, so leave your car at the hotel and slip on a comfortable pair of deck shoes. Oh, and — how to put this delicately? — shorts, skirts or trousers with loose-fitting waistbands are advisable.

Grace’s Whole Beast Feast

A number of food writers, myself included, were at Grace on Friday night at the invitation of restaurant owner Anne Verrill to experience the restaurant’s new Whole Beast Feast tasting menu prepared by chef Pete Sultenfuss. Also participating in the lambcentric meal were Phillip and Lisa Webster from North Star Sheep Farm where the lamb for our meal was raised.

Edible Obsession and Meredith Goad from the Press Herald have now published their reports on the meal. For me the most memorable parts of the meal were the lamb tartare in the first course, and later on the fresh corn polenta and tempura-fried milkweed pods.

Edible Obsessions

The amuse brought over by the Chef to start the evening was a lamb tartare, The raw lamb was blended with a smokey and spicy harissa paste, sesame seeds and cucumber. The flavor was much more assertive, both because of the harissa and inherent flavor of protein, than your average tartare and I appreciated the spice the harissa lent to the dish.  The flatbread, served to the side, added salt to the main component purposefully and the combination made for a delightful start to the evening.

Maine a la Carte

Next came smoked lamb shoulder served in an individual cast iron pan with the house rigatoni, Castelventrano olives, sungold tomatoes and a touch of ouzo. The dish was topped with a creamy goat’s milk ricotta. This course was paired with a Teira zinfandel.

Pocket Brunch #1

Along with 29 others lucky enough to buy a ticket before they sold out, I went yesterday to the kick-off of Pocket Brunch. The excellent 5-course meal by Josh Potocki and Joel Beauchamp and guest chef Rocco Salvatore Talarico consisted of:

  • Chilled corn soup/melon dots/basil ice/crispy serano
  • Broadturn tomato/sheep’s milk ricotta salata/basil/mint/fried lemon panko
  • Pork belly/black pepper custard/quail yolk/potato/turnip radish salw/toast
  • Buttermilk fried frogs legs/lavendar lemon jelly/parsley shooter/garlic chips
  • long pepper rosettes/walnut panna cotta/black and sweet caramel jellies/Korean chili sauce

Coffee was from a new Portland-based nano-roastery, Temperance Coffee Roasters which has the tagline “Coffee Roasted with Fear and Conviction”.

The next Pocket Brunch on the calendar is scheduled for September 2 when the guest chefs will be Aki and Alex from the highly regarded blog Ideas in Food. Tickets are available online.

This Week’s Events: Growler Nite, French Whites, Twilight Dinner, Bourbon Tasting, CRUX Pop-up

Tuesday — stop by Bunker Brewing on Anderson Street for Growler Nite to sample some of their beers and pick-up a growler to go.

Wednesday — French whites are the focus of a Wine Wise walk in the Old Port, and the Monument Square Farmers Market is taking place.

Thursday — Cultivating Community’s fifth Twilight Dinner of the summer is taking place at their farm in Cape Elizabeth (tickets available online).

Friday — there will be a wine tasting at the West End Deli and a bourbon tasting at The Salt Exchange. Restaurants will be especially busy due to First Friday Art Walk so the smart move is to make your reservations now.

Saturday — there will be a wine tasting at LeRoux Kitchen, CRUX is scheduled to hold a pop-up dinner, and the Deering Oaks Farmers Market is taking place.

For more information on these and other upcoming food happenings in the area, visit the event calendar.

If you are holding a food event this week that’s not listed above, publicize it by adding it as a comment to this post.

Strong Blueberry Crop

Today’s Press Herald reports on this year’s blueberry harvest.

Maine’s wild blueberry growers are expecting their biggest crop in more than a decade.

This year’s crop is projected to come in between 90 million to 95 million pounds, with the monthlong harvest kicking into gear the first week of August. If the yield reaches 90 million pounds, it would be the largest harvest since 2000, when production reached a record 110 million pounds.

Review of Walter’s

Life on Food has published a review of Walter’s.

I had the twin filets of beef.  Everything about this meal was good. The steak was nice and tender.  The taquitos were filled with cheesy, hot peppery greatness. It melted in your mouth.

Top Hat Coffee Co.

On my way to Grace for a Whole Beast Feast tasting dinner (watch the local food press for more details) I spotted the Top Hat Coffee Company cart in Monument Square. As it turns out Friday was their first day in operation. They serve cold brew iced coffee, pour overs using beans from Bard and Others, Thai Ice Tea, and more.