Posts Tagged ‘O-rama’

Beyond Portland: The Ramp, Long Grain, The Lost Kitchen, Conway & Burlington

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

As wonderful as the Portland food scene it’s not the only place in Maine to get a great meal. With heretical thought in mind, the goal for this month’s for the collaborative food blogging project was to leave our little food heaven and try out some restaurants elsewhere in Maine.

Edible Obsessions – Conway & Burlington

Apparently 3 1/2 hours of eating nothing but cheese just wasn’t enough for me because I felt compelled to order a ham and cheese crepe from The Skinny Pancake, a hip little creperie near the water. It was named ‘The Lumberjack’ and really should have tipped me off to how massive this was going to be. It was good, but it was so heavy that I got physically tired just trying to mow through it. read the full article

From Away – Long Grain

The conclusion? This is eight tables (plus bar stools) of communal space, a place I want to go every chance I can, to eat everything I can and try to plan what is essentially the unknown path of my destiny. And you should, too. read the full article

The Blueberry Files – The Ramp

Barring the miss on the fish and chips, we loved The Ramp for it’s funky atmosphere, lively bar, and creative but familiar menu. This place is worth seeking out – while you won’t necessarily avoid the crowds of Kennebunkport, the cluster of Adirondack chairs outside the busy restaurant encourage you to take a moment to have a drink and admire the harbor. read the full article

Vin et Grub – The Lost Kitchen

There been a slight delay but we’ll add Vin et Grub’s review of The Lost Kitchen as soon as it’s published

While I do spend the vast majority of my Maine eating budget here in Portland I do get of town from time to time. My favorite spot so far is Francine Bistro in Camden. Chef/owner Brian Hill plates up some excellent creative dishes in a lively atmosphere. Also I had the chance earlier this Summer to sample the menu at Chase’s Daily in Belfast and am definitely looking forward to returning for a second act.

Second Chances

Monday, August 13th, 2012

This month’s topic for the collaborative food blogging project was Second Chances. Everyone was challenged with revisiting an eatery that hadn’t exactly wowed them the first time around. We all have off days, that’s as true of restaurants as it is people, so it only seemed appropriate to give these restaurants a second chance and ourselves a second chance to like them.

As you’ll read below, the results were a partial success. Edible Obsessions was ably to cheerfully report that Grace has undergone a complete turnaround since it’s current chef took charge in the kitchen, Vrai-lean-uh and I, while not enamored with our repeat visits, could see something that people might enjoy, and unfortunately The Blueberry Files confirmed that, despite it’s popularity, Taco Escobarr is just not the place for her.

Edible Obsessions – Grace

We’ve been back a few times since then, eating and enjoying our way through Chef Sueltenfuss’ menu. For us, it’s no longer an overpriced, monolith of a restaurant whose food wouldn’t even pass in restaurants that charged one third of the price. For us, Grace is a new restaurant, completely different than the one I was disappointed with a few years ago. It’s one that we’re more than happy that we gave a second chance to. read the full article

The Blueberry Files – Taco Escobar

If you’re in the mood for crunchy Tex Mex Taco Tuesday-esque food, go to Amigo’s, where at least you know what you’re in for. If you want good tacos, with interesting fillings and salsa, head across the bridge into South Portland to Taco Trio. read the full article

Vrai-lean-uh – Sonny’s

All that said, if you’re just looking for a drink and appetizers, I would recommend Sonny’s. Their drinks are very good, the bar is lovely and very appealing. I just wouldn’t go for dinner. Read the articles on read the full article

For my part in this month’s Second Chances series, I made a return visit to The Farmer’s Table. I’ve heard from a few friends who’s culinary sensibilities I trust that they had really enjoyed meals there. That hadn’t been my experience during the restaurant’s first year but I was open to find things had changed. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the return visit did much to change my perspective. The outdoor decks overlooking Commercial Street don’t have an equal and I enjoyed my wine quite a bit but the food didn’t live up to the view and with so many other excellent eating options in town it didn’t make it into my regular rotation.

Pie-o-rama: Coffee “S’mores” Pie, Cherry Pie, Meat Pie, Ancestral Lemon Pie

Monday, July 16th, 2012

For this month’s collaborative food blogging project the group focused on that most American of desserts, the pie. Jillian at From Away has shared some memories of Girl Scouts and a recipe for Coffee “S’mores” Pie, Kate at The Blueberry Files risked permanently dyeing her fingers red to try out a recipe for cherry pie, Erika has supplied a meat pie recipe she used at the last Cloak and Dagger dinner, and Vrylena has aired her trials and tribulations in making the family crust recipe and the Ancestral Lemon Pie recipe.

From Away – Coffee “S’mores” Pie

This pie is incredibly easy and incredibly delicious. The chocolate ganache is, as you might expect, rich, dense, and decadent. The meringue is more like a grown-up fluff, if there is such a thing, and the crust is made with Nutella. What could be better than that? Bring this the next time you’re invited to a picnic, a cookout, or camping in a friend’s backyard. S’mores make us nostalgic for simpler times, childhood, summers long past. This dessert will make everyone at your party feel dreamy and content. read the full article

Instant Portland – Last Minute Pie

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things I love about Portland, but one of my least favorite things is this: it’s really hard to pick up a pie (not made at the supermarket) at 6 pm on your way home from work. Foley’s closed at 5, and Two Fat Cats is always out of pies long before I’m out of work. It’s 90 degrees, my in-laws are coming over, and I really need a pie. I’m certainly not going to bake in this weather. read the full article

The Blueberry Files – Homemade Cherry Pie

I learned that baking really takes time and commitment. If you have all of the ingredients and equipment on hand and don’t expect to come together in an hour, you’ll have a nice final product.

Explains why I’ve never mastered it. I’m the queen of substitutions and half-assery in the kitchen. But this time, this time! I really followed the recipe, took my time, and ended up with a great pie.… read the full article

Vin et Grub – Meat Pie

Its probably obvious by now how much I adore pastry, so when I was told that July’s O-Rama project was to be based around pie I was ecstatic! I love pie! Rhubarb, blackberry, keylime– you name it. But you know what I love more than fruit pie? Meat pies. Pasties, pot pies- mmm. read the full article

Vrai-lean-uh – Parker Family Pie Crust & Ancestral Lemon Pie

In any case, after a fair amount of consternation, I had a “jesus take the wheel” moment and decided to just follow the family recipe, shrinking/puddling/deflating/sweating be damned. And it seemed to go really well! I made the pie crust and lemon custard the day before, then made the meringue while the oven was pre-heating, all based on first-person accounts of what my grandmother used to do. The custard chilled overnight, and the pie crust was just loosely wrapped and left on the counter. The pie came out of the oven with lovely browning around the edges of the meringue. Read the articles on pie crust and lemon meringue pie

For those of you that just can’t get enough pie I recommend picking up a copy of the quirky but always entertaining 2012 cookbook from the Portland Pie Council, where you can learn things like:

  • first recipe was published by Cato the Censor around 200 BC
  • reveals the existence of a real recipe for a live blackbird pie published in 1549
  • a list of famous people who have been pied in the face
  • pie-try
  • and lots and lots of recipes

Book-o-rama: Texas Eats, Street Food, Apron Anxiety, People’s Pops

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

For this months collaborative food blogging project the group is once again collaborating with our good friends at Rabelais Books to do a Summer series of book reviews. Having read the groups reviews I think the book that most appeals to my reading interests in Texas Eats although that might just because it makes reference to The Federal Writers Project in the Introduction.

Edible Obsessions – Texas Eats by Robb Walsh

He starts in East Texas and the Gulf with delicious seafood recipes and traipses across the state and ends with a nod to the diverse contributions from Thai, Vietnamese and Indian cultures to the Texas food scene. He contributes even more space to the influence of Czech and German immigrants of Central Texas. Every chapter is dotted with anecdotes and first hand stories about the dishes, some by the people who created them. read the full article

From Away – Street Food by Susan Feniger

Susan Feniger is joie de vive personified. She’s a cook who seeks to introduce her audience to new worlds through food. She’s been doing this with her West Coast restaurants for decades, and with this title, cements her place in the cookbook author pantheon. It’s infectious, her love of food and life and humanity. These “irresistably crispy, creamy, crunch, spicy, sticky, sweet recipes” are bound to become part of my repertoire. I can’t wait to make my way through Street Food one page at a time. read the full article

The Blueberry Files – Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky

Apron Anxiety features the slightly troubled times in a young, upper-middle class, white woman’s life, the most challenging being her existential strife over love and work. OK, so not every memoir has to be about war, famine, or poverty, but after a while, the author’s complaints become a little grating. read the full article

Vrai-lean-uh – People’s Pops by Jordi, Carrell and Horowitz

There’s a fair argument to be made that popsicles don’t require a cookbook so much as a popsicle mold, a working freezer, and a low-to-moderate spirit of experimentation. It also has to be said that I am much less likely to give a cookbook the benefit of the doubt when they have the phrase “brooklyn’s coolest pop shop” on the cover. But I do love popsicles, and summer is approaching. read the full article

Egg-o-rama: Photo Montage, Deviled Eggs, Les Oeufs, Hard-Boiled

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

For this months collaborative food blogging project the group has broken a few eggs in celebration of National Egg Month.

Edible Obsessions – Eggtastic Photo Montage

This months installment of the “O-Rama” series is a celebration of ‘National Egg Month” and these are just a few–a very few–of some of the eggtastic dishes we’ve had over the past six months. I did make a Spanish Tortilla with kale, Chorizo, ramps, roasted red peppers and smoked cheddar, but it had a slight accident in the pan. When the recipe says you have to use a skillet, use a skillet and not a straight sided pan. It’s not as easy to flip and/or slip onto a plate. read the full article

From Away – Deviled Eggs

The deviled eggs I would make for that party were the kind my mom used to make: heavy on the mayonnaise, with a touch of dijon, maybe a spoonful of horseradish, and a sprinkle of paprika for color. They’re perfectly serviceable, picnic-style deviled eggs, good for serving with a dried-out hamburger or a few hotdogs on a Saturday afternoon where the focus of the day is not on food, but on being outside with people you love. Preparing them in such large quantities, however, left me feeling pretty turned off by the whole idea. read the full article

Vin et Grub – Les Oeufs

Eggs. I love them. I can’t get enough of them actually. When I’m stateside, it’s the only food I ever crave, as well as the only food I eat on a regular basis. Even other members of the animal kingdom covet them as much as we do. Foxes are known to steal unhatched eggs to no avail. And you know why? It’s because they’re delicious. read the full article

Vrai-lean-uh – Hard-Boiled Eggs

Back in January when I said that I needed to figure out how to feed myself lunch like a regular human being and not some crazy food-scavenging wild animal, I was imagining salads with fruits and nuts in them, sandwiches with unusual cheeses, maybe grilled. Thus far, my big lunch-related breakthrough has involved hard-boiled eggs. And not in a sandwich (although it’s an important first step for egg salad sandwiches). I mean peeled, on a plate, with some salt and pepper on the side. read the full article

Soup Reviews: Aroma, Schulte & Herr, Kamasouptra, Thanh Thanh, Duckfat

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

As a second act to last month’s chowder reviews, the O-Rama group has put their focus in April on reviewing some of the better soup options in town.

Eat Here, Go ThereAroma

Mulligatawny is a curry-flavored lentil soup. The soup at Aroma has a rich green color and is a really nice blend of spicy and salty. Everyone tasted it and agreed—it was a clear winner. I would definitely order this again. It was well-balanced and the kick after you swallow only added to the depth of its flavors. read the full article

Edible ObsessionsSchulte & Herr

I can tell you, without doubt or hesitation, that it tastes as good as it looks. You may not have a tendency to crave a warm soup on an equally warm day, but this may have you thinking a bit different. The broth, with all of its chunky, meaty goodness, is surprisingly light in both texture and flavor and a far cry from the cold weather gruel one mentally associates with Borscht. read the full article

Instant PortlandKamasouptra

soup isn’t just fall and winter food. Sure, a nice bowl of soup can warm you from your nose to your toes on a blustery day, but one of the joys of visiting Kamasouptra is that their menu changes daily. Whatever the weather outside, they offer a flavor of soup to satisfy your hunger and also (if I may be so bold) feed your soul. As the name implies, they love soup, and their love shows in their final product. read the full article

The Blueberry FilesThanh Thanh 2

Too frequently, soup at a restaurant is over salted to make up for a lack of complex flavors, and it’s rare that you find a soup that makes you stop and wonder how they got so much flavor into one spoonful. But this pho, with its layered base of stock, variety of ingredients, and hearty flavor is a soup that is beyond my culinary grasp and kept me guessing between slurps. read the full article

Vrai-lean-uhDuckfat

And their tomato fennel drizzled with basic oil is fantastic. It is the soup that makes me disappointed when I make tomato soups, because they are never as good. The roasted fennel flavor is clear but not overpowering and matches the tomato perfectly. It is wonderful. You should order it. read the full article

As for my recommendations I’d suggest you give the soup at Cobblestones a try. I had the Beef and Barley a few months ago and have been making regular trips back to sample their menu ever since.

Valentine-o-rama: FFAW, Don’t Dwell, J’s Oyster Bar, Tandoor, Bunker Brewing, Variety Pack, Enzo or Eat In

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

It’s February and the month’s key cultural holiday (no, not President’s Day) is almost upon us. Dedicated readers of this series will recall that last year the O-Rama crew was tasked with compiling suggestions on where a pair of love birds should go if there first date occured onValentine’s Day. As I seem to recall many of the bloggers pointing out at the time it was an improbable and ridiculous set of circumstances, but it was also fun to take Valentine’s Day and turned it up to a Spinal Tap level 11.

This year we decided to explore the other end of the dial. The basis for this year’s recommendations are where to go, whether your single or not, if you want to avoid the more Hallmarkian aspects of February 14th and just go out and enjoy yourself. You may be avoiding reminders on the national day of romance that your single or you might be a couple that’s trying to reclaim the day to define as you wish, either way, the options explored below should give you plenty of ideas.

Appetite Portland – Postpone to March 2

Sure I could (and certainly have been known to) throw down a wad (say $200) for a marvelous prixe fixe dinner with pre-meal cocktails, pricey wine and tip in Portland. But if you, like me, are both watching your nickels and wishing for more together time you’ll need to be more creative this year. So what’s a happily hitched couple to do? Well, Adam and I have set aside half that aforementioned dinner wad to spend for a full day of fun, gifts and noshing. Here’s our agenda: read the full article

Edible Obsessions – Don’t Dwell, Rebel

But, on the other hand, if you’re feeling a bit full of piss and vinegar, then do something dramatically different. Go out. Go out and treat yourself to a fantastic meal to spite all of those happy couples and creepy faced Cupids. Go sit at the bar of Five Fifty Five, Hugo’s, Caiola’s, Miyake or Back Bay Grill–wherever couples are gathering–and treat yourself. Do for you. And you know what? Those people that have to wait on and serve those happy couples aren’t on a date for Valentine’s Day, either. Keep them company. Tip them well. read the full article

From Away – Go to J’s Oyster Bar

All of this will likely cost you half what it would anywhere else in the city. The preparation is basic, but seafood this fresh requires little more. You won’t be the drunkest person there. You won’t be the only one who is lonely, raw, and bitterly sad, whose heart aches and who has lost it all and expects to lose it all again. You go to J’s not because you have no hope, but because you have too much. Love hurts. Life hurts. J’s is there to help. read the full article

Instant Portland – Go to Tandoor

It’s my husband’s birthday. As you can imagine, that poses some logistical challenges if we want to celebrate in any way that doesn’t involve eating cake at our kitchen table. In our younger days, back before every restaurant had a website, we more than once found ourselves wandering around the Old Port trying to find some place for dinner that wasn’t all wine and roses, with a hundred-dollar prix fixe menu. Tandoor has fixed that for us and has become something of a birthday tradition. read the full article

The Blueberry Files – Bunker Brewing @ Sonny’s

Valentine’s Day: a holiday that has been discussed to death in the blogosphere, for sure. If you’re looking to avoid the prix fixe affairs, but don’t want to sit at home on Tuesday night like a shunned single, come check out this first pouring of Bunker Brewing Company. read the full article

Vin et Grub – V-Day Avoidance Variety Pack

After drinking, it’s time to satiate yourself. Head to Schulte and Herr (they start serving dinner on February 1st), Tu Casa, Saigon, or Ruski’s. Personally, I’d go for Tu Casa or Saigon. Plato Montanero or Pho? Ultimate comfort food… certain to ease your pain. The reason why I picked all of these fine establishments is not necessarily because they’re inexpensive (they are though, keep that in mind), but because most couples are more than likely going to bypass these options. read the full article

Vrai-lean-uh – Go To Enzo or Eat In

If you must go out to eat, I would recommend going somewhere that does not radiate “romantic restaurant.” Go someplace brightly lit that doesn’t take reservations. Go someplace where it would feel inappropriate to hold hands across a table. I recommend Enzo. read the full article

As promised they’re all excellent suggestions for someone(s) who wants to go off script this Valentine’s Day. As for my recommendation, I plan on following Kate’s suggestion and will be at Sonny’s for the launch of Bunker Brewing. With three new beers to choose from there’s sure to be at least one I can love.

Book-o-Rama: Odd Bits, Rock Stars, Feasts, Cooks and Bitters

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

The O-Rama writing team is finishing out the year with a series of gastronomical book reviews. With the generous help of our friends Don and Samantha Lindgren at Rabelais each of the bloggers was able to select a food book to read and review. If one of the titles below tickles your fancy stop by 86 Middle Street where you’ll an extraordinary selection of books on food, drink and gardening to select from.

The group has selected a book for just about any mood. Feeling contemplative, then read Jillian’s review of The Feast Nearby at From Away, or perhaps, you’d like to add some adventure to your cooking then read Dawn’s write up of Odd Bits and about her experience cooking a pig’s head. Looking for more basic instruction? then read about the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook or up your game a bit with Cook Like a Rock Star at, respectively, the Blueberry Files or Edible Obsessions. Easily my favorite selection this month is Vreylena’s pick of Bitters: A Spirited History. I just picked up my first bottle of Angostura to mix some Airmail cocktails (stay tuned for more on that next week) but am intrigued by the potential to use bitters in savory recipes as well.

Appetite PortlandOdd Bits by Jennifer McLagan

Best of all, McLagan makes every recipe sound manageable – be they challenging, day-long adventures or quick dinners. Many re-imagine the common with odd bits. Ravoli of Brains and Morels, for example, sounds simple and succulent. While copping to it as a way to sneak brain to the unsuspecting, she insists that the recipe also plays to calf brains’ rich texture. I’ve dog-eared that page for a future meal – if I can find brain anywhere in the mad-cow fearing US! read the full review

Edible ObsessionsCook Like a Rock Star by Anne Burrell

Her book has the usual suspects: favorite tools and pantry staples, as well as a guide to her lingo (fond=”Crud”; “BTB”=bring to a boil) and a lovely forward by Mr. Batali. When you get to the heart of it her recipes are mostly, and understandably, Italian influenced and pretty decent. Without a doubt, they are definitely geared towards those looking to graduate from easier cookbooks, but aren’t quite ready to put out a Thomas Keller level dish. There’s a whole chapter on homemade pasta, one of her specialties and one which I would have enjoyed if I had a pasta maker, but the recipes can easily be made and adjusted to use dried. Her ‘Piccolini’–or, as she calls them “My little nibbles”–recipes are some of the most interesting, especially the one for the Mortadella Mousse.
read the full review

From AwayThe Feast Nearby by Robin Mather

The Feast Nearby is a valuable little book for those of us who wish to recalibrate our days with the calendar, who want to stretch an overtaxed food budget in tough economic times, and who must begin again with hope and self-reliance, after years gone by without authenticity or reflection. It’s simply written, with a pleasant tone that is neither didactic nor long-winded. Ms. Mather is a wise aunt gently guiding us back to tradition, hard word and constancy, those things that keep us truly alive amidst change, grief and bafflement. In this handbook, the practice of canning is brimming with meaning; being mindful of what we eat is quite simply the onus of all of us. It teaches us how to retreat, how to retrieve our heritage of cooking and eating, and how to enjoy the journey of our lives, however painful and surprising. read the full review

The Blueberry FilesThe Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

And this is where Cook’s Illustrated and I fail to see eye-to-eye. Developed in ‘America’s Test Kitchen’ these recipes have been deconstructed and tested from the ground up. So if they tell you to use a shallot, that means they’ve tried the recipe with yellow onions, without shallots, etc. When they say shallot, they mean shallot. read the full review

Vrai-lean-uhBitters: A Spirited History by Brad Thomas Parsons

That’s not to say I’m not fond of it. On the whole it is a very good and thorough book that left me with a deeper appreciation of bitters than I had before. It covers enormous ground: historical background, tutorials on making your own bitters, a buying guide, extensive cocktail recipes, and a small selection of cooking recipes. The writing was engaging enough that it carried me from the Carthusian monks of the 1700s brewing Chartreuse through The Great Angostura Shortage of 2009-2010 with a minimum of eye-rolling. I not only have a better grasp of bitters, but I have ideas for how to use them in drinks and cooking.read the full review

Breakfast on the Go: Standard Baking, Fit to Eat, Coffee Shops, Holy Donut, Punky’s, Mr. Bagel, Eating at Home

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

For the September edition of our collaborative O-Rama food writing project the group was challenged to write about breakfast on the go. Now we’re not talking about your Sunday morning leisurely brunch but that hard pressed, running late, on your way to work breakfast solution. As you’ll read below they’re a variety of thoughts on the best way to address the early morning need for calories and caffeine. Personally, my go-to spot for weekday breakfast is Bard Coffee. For more than a year my standing order was for a breve cappuccino and a chocolate croissant but I’ve recently switched to a cup of the House Blend and a Holy Donut.

Appetite PortlandStandard Baking Co.

The item varies. It depends on the precise hour. Some things are best (or only available) at a certain tick of the morning clock. But the place is always the same. When someone says “breakfast on the go” in Portland – I can only picture myself strolling out of one glass door – fresh pastry in hand. It’s not original, but it is classic: Standard Baking Co..… read the full article

Chubby WerewolfFit to Eat

With a five dollar price tag, this is not the cheapest breakfast sandwich in town. But it is easily one of the best values. The English Muffin is homemade, and close to twice the size of your average “fast food” english muffin. Inside, you’ll find a scrambled egg, perfectly seasoned and topped with two—sometimes three—slices of thick, salty bacon. I’m not sure where Mike Mastronardi (owner and the guy behind the counter during most of my visits) sources his bacon from, but I can tell you that it is vastly superior to what you’ll find on the breakfast sandwiches at most other establishments. At first glance, the cheese appears to be missing, but trust me when I tell you that it is there, delicately folded in with the egg. read the full article

Edible ObsessionsThe Holy Donut

So, put the yogurt back in the fridge. Save yourself the time that you would have spent toasting a bagel and get in your car and drive down to 47 Middle Street ( from 7:30-10am, Weekdays only, kids) for a half dozen or so before you head into work or class. Just be smart and don’t tell your friends or co-workers that you have them because they’ll plot against you and try to steal your precious… err, I mean breakfast. If you do make the mistake and actually share with other people and find yourself out before you were ready to be, you can hunt down more donuts at nine different locations in and around Portland–from Bard to Lois’ Natural Marketplace. read the full article

Flavor and Zest – Coffee Shops

Ah, breakfast; the most important meal of the day. Or, when I’m in a rush, the most important beverage. While I do try to get some sustenance in the morning, the most crucial aspect of this morning routine is the cup/bowl of coffee. Yes, I am a caffeine fiend. Caffiend? read the full article

From AwayPunky’s

This isn’t the kind of breakfast that you have on the day you’re going to paint an award-winning watercolor of the cribstone bridge at Bailey Island. You’re not going to eat this bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich and suddenly be inspired to write a single stanza of an Italian sonnet. This sandwich is much more well suited for a day of hanging drywall, or spent dangling under a highway overpass, removing lead paint with a needlegun. Failing that, you could try being really, really hungover. No matter what, though, you will be impressed by the restorative, curing powers of the breakfast sandwiches at Punky’s, one of my favorite places to have a quick breakfast on the go in Portland. read the full article

The Blueberry FilesMister Bagel

There’s a lot of talk about bagels in Portland. Alls I know is I like the ones that come out of Mr. Bagel: chewy, salty, and very dense without being too bready. For an on the go breakfast, this is a good stop, but I don’t recommend eating a bagel while driving to work- it makes a royal mess! read the full article

Vrai-lean-uh – Eating at Home

So this month’s O-Rama assignment of breakfast on the go is hard for me. Not just because I work from home, but because I am secretly one of those people who thinks breakfast is an important meal that should not be scarfed on public transportation.* I don’t want to make it sound like I am condoning eating breakfast on the go. If you can swing it, just try sitting down and having breakfast at your table for a week. Just to see! It’s really nice! It puts you in a good frame of mind for the day!read the full article

Lobster Roll Reviews: Fishermen’s Grill, Porthole, Calder’s, Portland Lobster Co, Lobster Shack, Billy’s, Brunswick Diner, Maine Diner

Monday, August 8th, 2011

For the August edition of our collaborative food writing project the group is publishing a set of lobster roll reviews. Think of it like the director’s cut edition guide to Maine lobster rolls. 6 Bloggers have produced 8 reviews of establishments in 5 towns plus a lobster roll conversion of Appetite Portland, a lobster roll confession by Chubby Werewolf,  Fishermen’s Grill removed from the unreviewed list, a seal rescue, the phrase “shiny and toothsome, like a Fox News correspondent”, detailed (no, really) directions on getting to Calder’s, and an examination of the hot vs cold lobster roll debate.

Appetite Portland – Billy’s Chowder House & Brunswick Diner

It truly was a revelation. Adam (who demurred from purchasing his own roll due to “a lack of hunger” – always a dubious claim) practically arm-wrestled me for it in the end. Heavy on fresh lobster (with a healthy amount of the succulent claw) and light on the mayo, it featured a crisp lettuce leaf and a generously buttered, split-top roll toasted to perfection. A seriously awesome sandwich. Simple. A credit to it’s genre. A roll that tempered my biases and made me hanker for more..… read the full article

Chubby WerewolfFishermen’s Grill & Maine Diner

I’m just going to come right out and say it. I did not have my first lobster roll until I was 32 years old. I know, I know… its a pretty horrifying thing to hear… right up there with finding out that the guy you’ve been dating for six months murders prostitutes in his spare time. But we all have our crosses to bear, and lobster roll ignorance was mine for more than three decades. read the full article

Edible ObsessionsThe Lobster Shack

The lobster was cooked perfectly, with nary a touch of rubber in the texture. The mayo went nice–my dollop was not overwhelming. The slightly toasted roll and shredded iceberg lettuce added a nice crunch through all of the fat and richness. It isn’t high end and it doesn’t try to be. It was just honest and very satisfying. read the full article

From AwayPortland Lobster Co.

This lobster roll ($15.99), it’s peculiar. It was neither the hot-and-buttered version I grew up eating in Connecticut, nor the mixed-with-mayo type I have come to adore from my favorite seafood spot of all time, Patty’s in Edgecomb. Instead, a somewhat sparse pile of unscathed claw-and-knuckle meat, served, as the menu observes, “brushed with sweet butter,” but with none of the promised “mayonnaise on the side,” sitting within a chlorophyll-color leaf of lettuce tucked into a bun, shiny and toothsome, like a Fox News correspondent. read the full article

The Blueberry FilesThe Porthole

I didn’t find the best lobster roll in town, but I really enjoyed talking to people about their lobster roll preferences. I’ve yet to met a person who doesn’t have an opinion, and usually they suggest the best rolls are from places up and down the coast. This makes me think that eating a good lobster roll is less about the lobster and the bun and more about the scenery. read the full article

Vrai-lean-uhCalder’s Clam Shack

The lobster roll was $11.50, $13.50 with fries. The meat is sweet and tender, tossed lightly with mayonnaise, and topped with salt and pepper. It’s wedged into a toasted hotdog bun with a piece of lettuce for variety or as a gesture towards healthfulness. The lobster is cut up into small enough pieces that the whole thing doesn’t fall apart on you as you’re eating it.

It was perfect.… read the full article

Strawberry O-Rama

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

For the July edition of our collaborative food writing project the group is publishing a celebration of Maine native strawberries. Strawberries are still widely available in Portland at the Farmers Market and other locations like Rosemont. If one of the wonderful recipes below isn’t to your liking then take CW‘s advice and pick up a strawberry pie from Blackbird Baking, or just eat them raw with a little heavy cream (my dessert tonight) or give the smoothies they’re making at the Farmers Market a try. Regardless of AP has to say, don’t let the season pass you by.

Appetite PortlandAnti-Strawberry “Preference”

I grew up with a strawberry-loving mom. She would just shake her head and say, “well, more for me then” while popping a plump red berry in her mouth. It’s not that I hate strawberries. To quote my never-admit-to-not-liking-anything, farm-raised Dad, “I just really don’t prefer them.” read the full article

Chubby WerewolfReview of Memere’s Strawberry Pie

The generously sized strawberry pie—like so many of the desserts I’ve tried from the Blackbird Baking Company of Maine—is a unique and memorable experience. For starters, it is just stunning to look at. Deep red berries sit in stark contrast to the ring of golden crust that encases them. The top of the pie is dotted with huge, whole strawberries, their tiny seeds visible through the thick red glaze, reminding you that you are, in fact, about to eat a dish made with fresh, flavorful ingredients. read the full review

Edible ObsessionsSpring Panna Cotta w/Strawberry Balsamic Jam

In the land known for blueberries, for me, it is the strawberry that has come to represent summer in Maine. I think this is due to the fact that their appearance at the Farmers Markets signals the true beginning of the local produce season. The single hue of greens is finally broken by the brilliant pop of red berries at nearly every stall. read the full article

From AwayGrilled Strawberry Shortcake Kebabs

The use of wooden barbecue skewers isn’t limited to cooking sad little dried-out chunks of beef and pepper; they can also be used to make simple, delicious grilled desserts. And you don’t even have to pre-soak the wooden skewers, because they are on the grill for such a short amount of time. Our grilled “Strawberry Shortcake” kebabs completely change the character of the classic Summertime dish. read the full article

Vrai-lean-uhMemories of (not)Picking Strawberries

So when A. suggest that this month’s O-Rama posts be focused on strawberries I had the wherewithal to reject my gut inclination to go picking strawberries. In theory, I want to pick strawberries. In real life, I want to do leisure activities that do not require me to labor in unrelenting sun, stooped to the ground with sunscreen dripping into my eyes for extended periods of time. Instead, I did what people who want to pick strawberries in theory but not in practice these days do. I went to the farmer’s market. read the full article | hulling strawberries

And Portland fashion/food blogger also couldn’t resist the pull of Maine strawberries in prime season and has also posted a piece about going strawberry picking at Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth.

Be sure to check Vrai-lean-uh’s blog later when she’ll be publishing the results of an interview with David Buchanan about his work at Origins Fruit to bring back the Marshall Strawberry.

Ice Cream: Beal’s, Bard, Gorgeous Gelato, MDI, Red’s, Smiling Hill, Willard Scoops

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Just in time for the start of Summer the food blogger review crew is putting themselves through the drudgery [wink] of taste testing out ice cream and gelato shops across the city. As you’ll see for many of them it was as much about the ice cream as it was the nostalgia for summertime childhood memories of the local ice cream stand.

Appetite PortlandMDI Ice Cream

To a scoop, MDI ice cream’s best feature is that it’s not overly saccharine. Sweet yes, but not sugary. The company creates new flavors often – I hear tell of a Danish Blue Cheese Blackberry about to hit town – and avoids the “throw in the kitchen sink” fadiness of that mass-marketed chain from Vermont read the full review

Chubby WerewolfGorgeous Gelato

The strawberry was easily my favorite. Of the four flavors, it was the most fragrant and intensely flavored gelato. When I say “intensely flavored,” I mean it in all of the best ways. In other words, distinctly strawberry but not overwhelmingly sweet or sugary. Save for the occasional, tiny seed, it was perfectly smooth with a sorbet-like consistency read the full review

Edible ObsessionsBeal’s

While I thought my plan to order simple was fool proof, it turned out not to be. ‘Maybe I needed to give myself over to one of their dozens of mixed-up flavors for a better assessment of their ice cream?’ I wondered, knowing that it wasn’t true. It was another case of feeling that maybe I just didn’t see what others loved so much about a place. But, let’s be honest, their simple vanilla was…too simple. The next time a pang for Vietnamese hits and I find myself strolling over to their shop next to Veranda Noodle bar I think I’ll stick with my old stand by: Mint Chocolate Chip read the full review

From AwayRed’s Dairy Freeze

The classic frozen treats being passed out the window at Red’s every single night are only the first part of the story, however. Sure, it’s good soft serve. But it’s the people, in this case, that make the place: Customers who have been visiting Red’s their whole lives, whose parents have been visiting for their whole lives. A staff of kids who know everyone in the neighborhood, and who grew up just down the street, saving money for their first cars and chatting quickly with the occasional friends that appear in their line each night. Owners who have been in the soft-serve business from the beginning, who have seen their business falter when disaster struck, but who rebuilt better and stronger than before. It’s the people surrounding Red’s Dairy Freeze that make it so special: a rock-solid community, as well as a neighborhood ice cream stand read the full review

The Blueberry FilesBard/Gelato Fiasco

You can see the sea salt caramel on the left in the above photo, next to Grape Nuts (bleh, that flavor is lost on me).

But the salted caramel affogato was awesome. Caramel (salted or not) can be a little cloying, but the bitter espresso flavor balanced out all the sugar. Every now and then a little salt came through after satisfyingly crunching a grain read the full review

Vrai-lean-uhSmiling Hill

The thing is, though, the ice cream wasn’t super awesome. I got the coffee flavor, because I deeply dislike too-sweet ice cream (you did not think that was a thing, but it is, and I don’t like it) and some of the flavors seemed like they’d veer into too-sweet territory. The ice cream texture was a little icy, and there was a slightly gummy/chemical aftertaste.
But you know, it was sunny out and there were grassy pastures and even really mediocre ice cream is still, ultimately, ice cream. So I was happy enough
read the full review

Where is Jenner’s MindWillard Scoops

my favorite flavor of ice cream is coffee. at willard scoop their rendition is ‘dark roasted coffee’ and it was delicious! i got it on a sugar cone, which was the freshest cone i have ever eaten (i didn’t ask if they make them there but they do make their waffle cones) and it didn’t have any paper wrapped around it so you don’t have to worry you are eating glue with your ice cream. the ice cream was dense and creamy and very coffee-y! pretty much a perfect cone of ice cream in my book. read the full review

O-Rama: The Ideal Burger

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Our group survey of Portland area burgers is drawing to a close for now. The first three months were reviews of the burgers on tap at local diners, fine dining restaurants, and pubs. This month the tables are turned and the food bloggers are dishing up their own recipes for you to try and taste at home.

Chubby WerewolfBurger with Bacon, Cheese and Mushrooms on a Brioche Bun

When it comes to your burger blend, don’t be afraid to experiment. Want a fattier burger? Try using short rib in lieu of the brisket or the chuck. Looking to hit a grand slam in the flavor department? Consider using oxtail in your blend. With a half-dozen or so cuts of meat to choose from, the possible combinations number in the thousands. And there are very few “wrong” combinations. read the full article

Edible ObsessionsMozzarella Stuffed Burger

…I have also dreamed about sitting with the Missus and enjoying a seemingly endless plate of Foie Bon Bons at Bresca (This was a few days before we were going to celebrate New Years there). There was also the dream I had of cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen in an Italian country home (Damn you Lidia Bastianich for invading my dreams!). But, I cannot recall ever dreaming about a hamburger. Ever.read the full article

From AwayThe From Away Burger

Beginning to organize your thoughts on a perfect hamburger can be more difficult than you’d think. We decided to immediately forgo more “exotic” burger toppings. While delicious, they’re not always accessible; a great burger should (hopefully) come together based on ingredients you already have in your fridge. We tend to keep things a little more classic, preferring lettuce and tomato to foie gras and black truffles. When the hamburger craving hits, it’s the meat and cheese that immediately spring to mind.read the full article

The Blueberry FilesHomemade Burger

But here is my attempt on the eve of a great late spring Sunday Funday in Portland. I sourced good ingredients: Seaside cheddar (described by the cheese guy at Whole Foods as the perfect burger cheddar), a mix of ground sirloin (Whole Foods) and local ground beef (Farmers’ Market), maple dry rub bacon (Whole Foods), and Claussen pickles.read the full article

Vrai-lean-uhGrass-fed Beef with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese

I also used my favorite burger toppings, which is sort of where I shine. Some of my fellow burger bloggers are purists. I am not. When I make burgers at home, I have them with caramelized onions and goat cheese on sourdough bread. I know, you have your tomato and your lettuce and your ketchup, but you can pry my little ball of meat with onions and chevre stuffed between two hunks of bread out of my cold, dead hands.read the full article

While this is the end of the burger series, it isn’t the end to our group reviews. Tune in next month when we’ll start a new set of Summer themed reviews. If you’re still hungry for more burger reviews then keep reading Portland’s food blogs and you won’t be disappointed. Just last week The Blueberry Files posted a short review of the burger at District, Chubby Werewolf has his ongoing Burgerwatch series, and there will be others. May is National Burger Month and the weather is looking good so get out there and grill.

Pub Burgers: Dogfish, Downtown Lounge, East Ender, Gritty’s, Nosh, Rosie’s

Monday, April 11th, 2011

The ongoing burger of Portland series finds the O-Rama review group fanning out this month to try burgers at Portland’s pubs and bars with visits to 6 local establishments. For more mouth-watering burger reviews see the group’s survey of diner burgers and fine dining burgers completed earlier this year.

Chubby WerewolfRosie’s

So, will I wait another three years to visit Rosie’s Tavern? Definitely not. The delicious blue cheese stuffed burger and surprising steak fries are enough to warrant a repeat visit all on their own. Plus, there’s that Kobe beef burger that needs trying out. I’d love to see Rosie’s make some improvements to the bacon and the bun, but these shortcomings are not a deal-breaker. read the full review

Edible ObsessionsNosh

So, when I finally shut my brain off and just bit into the damn thing… well, I thought I heard those little piggy angels singing. I loved it. I loved the juiciness and the flavor of the ground pork in the patty, which was reminiscent of a garlicky Italian sausage, but the red meat was near impossible to pick out. The bacon and thick cut pork belly were crispy and fatty, though the foie and cherry jam was completely lost in the pile of pork…Luckily, all together, it reached beyond being a novelty and made for a pretty satisfying bite.read the full review

From AwayDogfish Bar & Grille

If anything, then, that is my only complaint about the burger at The Dogfish. While all of the individual components of the burger are delicious and well-prepared, that is just so MUCH of everything that it all becomes kind of indistinct. At eight ounces, the hamburger patty itself overpowers almost all of the other flavors on this sandwich; it’s one of the few burgers I’ve had where I found myself wishing for less meatread the full review

Soooo . . You Really Like Cats, Don’t YouEastEnder

But now with the phenomenal experience I had at Back Bay Grill etched into memory, I’m mildly disappointed by the Eastburger. Although satisfying overall with the house-ground beef cheek patty, the abundance of the whole grain mustard, and the somewhat amusing interjection of caraway with every other bite, the Eastburger is almost easily forgettable in the long run.read the full review

The Blueberry FilesGritty’s

Next Wednesday night: you, Gritty’s burger special. Do it. You won’t regret it. You may not come away thinking that it was the best gourmet burger you’ve ever had. But assuming they don’t overcook it (and they’ve been pretty consistent in my experience), you’ll get a great meal for under $20- that includes your beer too, of course.read the full review

Where is Jenner’s MindDowntown Lounge

so this was a good burger experience. i think the price played a roll in my review. at $4 i am more forgiving then at $12. when i go to dtl i have lower expectations and so they are usually met. if i am at a finer establishment with a higher price point i expect more…i think if you need a burger fix with a beer and you only got a few bucks in your pocket, dtl will do the trick. read the full review

Fine Dining Burger Reviews: Back Bay Grill, David’s, District, Five Fifty-Five, Frog & Turtle, The Grill Room, Walter’s

Monday, March 7th, 2011

For March the O-Rama review group returned to that emblem of American fast food, the hamburger–this time with a twist. Seven food bloggers visited a mix of Portland’s fine dining establishments to find out how well white table clothes and burgers mix.

Appetite PortlandWalter’s

Called the 2P2 Burger (no, I didn’t ask why and I’m apparently not clever enough to figure it out), this joyously constructed and luxuriously generous sandwich filled me up fast and left me happily humming. I jotted a few notes before I collapsed into a blissed-out fugue state. read the full review

Chris2ferFrog and Turtle

The burger was awesome. First off, the bun was grilled lightly brown. It was buttery and crispy and soft. The bacon was deliriously crispy. And there were 3 whole pieces! The Gruyère was melted and drippy and savory. The onions were brown and sweet. And the burger? It was cooked perfectly medium rare. Pink in the middle. Mmmm. read the full review

Edible ObsessionsDistrict

House cured bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato confit and the ever popular brioche bun combined with a huge 1 1/2 inch thick patty cooked to a beautiful–just slightly over rare–medium temperature and a whopping side of fries. I assume, because so much of what District offers on it’s menu is house made and local, that the beef was ground on site and traveled less than 100 miles to get to their door. Beautifully marbled meat made for an interesting time of trying to out pace the juices that ran down my chin. Though, I must admit, it was a bit odd to be wiping it away with a crisp linen napkin instead of a throw away paper one. But, it was worth the effort as the burger was beautifully seasoned and satisfying.read the full review

From AwayFive Fifty-Five

The first thing you notice about the burger, is the thick slice of Gruyere that positively enrobes the burger in earthy deliciousness. The brioche bun is a very soft, buttery, braided roll, almost like a slightly more dense croissant. While delicious, the bottom half tends to fall under the weight and juiciness of the burger itself, after the first few bites. It all but disappears into a gratifying wash of butter flavor and hot, running beef blood. The top half stays strong, continuing to provide structure as you keep eating.read the full review

Soooo . . You Really Like Cats, Don’t YouBack Bay Grill

The house made patty was a semi-coarse grind, just slightly crumbly as I bit in. The patty was seasoned simply, but nicely, and the most enjoyable part about the patty was the subtle sweetness of the beef that can really only be tasted if correctly cooked. The brioche bun was a wonderful, evenly proportioned pairing – the bread was deliciously buttery and crisp from the cast iron skillet. The shredded romaine offered a tangy crunch with every bite.read the full review

Vrai-lean-uhThe Grill Room

The burger is really good. It is a thick, juice-running-down-your-hand type of burger. It comes on a relatively unobtrusive, soft, squarish bun, so you’re not battling a mouthful of bread to get to the meat. The cheese was fully melted and relatively subtle. The tomato tapanade and roasted red onions enhance the burger taste without being intrusive, and the toppings and cheese are distributed evenly across the burger. My only complaint was that it was difficult to impossible to fit into my mouth in a single bite, but I also don’t think I can subtract points for a thick burger.…read the full review

Where is Jenner’s MindDavid’s

large thick angus beef patty was perfectly cooked at medium rare. the double bacon is really a double wide sliced of bacon. it was unsurprisingly delicious as bacon tends to be. it was served with cheddar cheese, ice burg lettuce, thin slices of red onions, and sad looking tomatoes. the truffle fries with truffle ketchup were each very good but together, the truffle flavor was overwhelming.
overall the burger was good.…
read the full review

I can’t claim to have tried all of the gourmet burgers in town, but among those I have Caiola’s is certainly my favorite.

Is there a fine dining restaurant in Portland who’s burger you think is especially stellar? If so, post a comment and tell us where to find it and what you like about it.

Valentine’s Day Dating Advice

Monday, February 7th, 2011

The Portland foodie blogosphere is awash with Valentine’s Day recommendations today. Part of that is intentional as the O-rama blogging crew takes a slight detour from burgers to coordinate on the topic of V-Day first date recommendations. Vrai-lean-uh and Stephen Cooks also exercised a fine tuned sense of editorial timing and posted their own Valentine’s Day thoughts today so I’ve included them in the summary below.

Appetite Portland a set of recommendations compiled by AP and her husband for a night out with 6 celebrity dates.

James Franco – to Novare Res Bier Cafe, then Sonny’s
With roles as diverse as Sean Penn’s lover in Milk, the partier in Pineapple Express, and the outdoor adventurer/survivalist in 127 Hours, sexy Franco can’t be pigeon-holed. And, as a PhD candidate, he attends poetry classes at Yale. What’s hotter than that? I’d get him a little tipsy with a few 10% beers at Novare, then spice up the evening with Sonny’s Latin-inspired entrees. We’d keep the night sizzling by sipping pepper-infused tequila at Sonny’s bar
.read the full article

Chris2fer – Chris and his partner went to The Salt Exchange for an early Valentine’s Day dinner.

I started with Crab Cakes (spicy!), moved on to Sweet Potato Soup (the highlight of the meal), had Poached Pear Salad for the first time (goat cheesy!) and finished with the Stuffed Chicken (a leg (boo)). George had Potato Croquettes (eh), Brocoli and Scallop soup (awesome!) and the “Local And Sustainable Daily Fish Preparation” (fine).read the full article

Edible Obsessions –a retelling of how she first met “the missus” and a strong recommendation for Miyake as a Valentine’s Day destination.

My brain kept going back to Miyake. I could actually picture us having our first date there. I could see us sitting at the bar, because you MUST sit at the bar, sharing a bottle of sake and enjoying ourselves immensely. There is a nice intimacy to being at that bar, sitting next to–instead of across from–the person you’re on a date with. You have the honor of watching Chef Miyake behind the bar, hands and blade moving so effortlessly and delicately, as he prepares your meal. It’s conversation. It’s beautiful.read the full article

From Away – Jillian shares how she and Malcolm first met, and recommends Caiola’s for a first date night.

The first night we went, there was a carousing group of fifty-something couples drinking copious amounts of red wine and getting boisterous. Immediately, we felt at ease. It’s like a gathering of family or a sprawling dinner party, where you can be private at a table for two, but not feel alone or stranded in a sea of stuffy white tablecloths and unpronounceable wine. I would arrive early for a first date and order a martini, and try and appear mysterious. This illusion would instantly be shattered the moment I stumbled over my high heels en route to the bathroom, but at first glad glance I might be alluring. In this familial atmosphere, one would feel at ease with the attractive person you met over a bottle of Tide at the neighborhood laundromat (is it pathetic or adorable that my imagination in this realm is as developed as a Hollywood romcom’s hackneyed meet-cute?)read the full article

Stephen Cooks – tips for planning a romantic dinner for two at home complete with a set of 9 recipes to choose from.

I like to do a meal that’s thoughtfully planned, lovingly prepared and served on a picture-perfect table. For me this this is so much more personal and meaningful a celebration than a restaurant meal, especially since so many of us have good restaurant meals on a fairly frequent basis.read the full article

The Blueberry Files – recommends Local 188 for a first date on Valentine’s Day for the casual atmosphere, good food and reasonable price point.

And that one little word, “first,” changed everything. I would NOT recommend taking your first date to an expensive, romantic restaurant! First dates should be more casual. Plus, on a first date, you’ll be nervous. And when I’m nervous, I tend to drink really fast. So, don’t risk becoming “that guy” by being all drunk and loud in a tiny restaurant!read the full article

Vrai-lean-uh – recommends going to Pai Men Miyake and saving the “real Miyake” for a second date.

I think the new Miyake would be a good option, with the following caveat: think really carefully about whether you want to order a noodle soup on a first date. Slurping noodles together could be a bonding experience: hey, we both splattered broth on our shirts! It could also be incredibly uncomfortable. If you think the noodle slurping will be uncomfortable, or that you might not be able to pull it off with the required aplomb or good humor, by all means, suggest that the two of you share a bunch of the small plates, which I think are better than the ramen anyway.read the full article

Where is Jenner’s Mind – recommends Benkay as the spot that she and Seth head to when they want a romantic dinner for two.

the thing that really makes this a romantic dinner for two is the price. all this for $70! and for those of you out there who do go out to dinner for valentine’s day, you can get it all for $60! go to benkay’s website and print out the coupon and get $10 off from february 8th to 14th. normally benkay is one of those great restaurants that always has a table open, but for valentine’s day you will likely need reservations. other spots we find to be romantical are salt exchange and bar of chocolate. read the full article

My own Valentine’s Day first date advice would be to do a multi-destination meal. Eating your way across several restaurants let’s you assemble a really varied and outstanding dining experience, tapping into the very best that each spot has to offer. The walks between one restaurant and the next would give you and your date a chance to talk and get to know each other better. I’d start off with the Winter Point oysters at Old Port Sea Grill, head on over to Fore Street for the mussels, then up Munjoy Hill for a couple small plates at Bar Lola and finish up the night at Bresca for the 3-course dessert options they have planned for Valentine’s day.

Post a comment and tell us your Valentine’s Day first date recommendations.

Burgers: Miss Portland, Becky’s, Hot Suppa, Harmon’s

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Last year a group of Portland food bloggers and I collaborated on Thai-o-rama, an effort to eat at and review every single Thai restaurant in the city, from Siam Orchid in the One City Center food court through to the ever popular Boda in Longfellow Square. We had so much fun in 2010 that we’re continuing the project into 2011.

We’re starting off the new year with that emblem of American fast food, the hamburger, and for round 1 the group focused in on the burgers to be found at diners and sandwich shops in and around Portland. (We’ll go for the gourmet burgers, pub burgers, beef alternative burgers, etc in later months.)

You can learn as much from where our band of bloggers went (or tried to) for the burgers as from the reviews themselves. The former gives a clear indication of what eateries they thought would have a good burger and the later letting you know the accuracy of their aim.

Appetite Portland initially tried to go to Marcy’s (closed for Winter break) and ended up at the Miss Portland Diner. Soooo . . You Really Like Cats was shut out at Marcy’s and Hot Suppa but landed at Becky’s. The Blueberry Files took a direct path to Becky’s. Where is Jenner’s Mind couldn’t make it to Kathy & Dave’s or Steve & Renee’s and opted for Hot Suppa.  The Miss Portland Diner was From Away’s first choice and Edible Obsessions left town entirely to visit Harmon’s Lunch in Falmouth.

Clearly from the reviews below some choices ended up being (a lot) better than others.

Appetite PortlandMiss Portland Diner

Go to Miss Portland – get that haddock reuben, the chicken pie, a hot turkey dinner – or whatever is on special. If you need a hunk of beef, I can highly recommend the meatloaf. Just don’t bother with the burgers… read the full review

Edible ObsessionsHarmon’s Lunch

I’ve only ordered a burger one way from them: Loaded. Diced, perfectly caramelized onions, mystery red relish, mustard, meat and plain hamburger bun. Simple enough and insanely inexpensive to boot. But, let’s dote a little more on the burger, shall we? All of the components make this easily one of the best balanced burgers I’ve had because Sweet+Savory+Acidic=Satisfying. You would think that the burger, a quite respectable patty–cooked medium–all on it’s own, would be lost somewhere under all of the toppings, but it’s notread the full review

From AwayMiss Portland Diner

The Miss Portland Diner deserves a visit. The antique dining car has been wonderfully preserved, the service is fast and friendly, and there are menu options that I thought existed on Maine menus only in my memory (Ham salad on rye? Liver and onions? Pot roast dinner?). Jillian’s patty melt was delicious, and a perfect place for anyone who hasn’t stepped outside of their normal hamburger configuration to get on the train to patty melt town. You’ll have a hard time finding a better version of this classic diner sandwich. The burger, unfortunately, with its sad, parched appearance and dusty, grainy grind, doesn’t show a lot of thoughtfulness or appreciation of the genre, and isn’t going to make anyone a fan of the placeread the full review

Soooo . . You Really Like Cats, Don’t YouBecky’s

But even through the seemingly endless rambling about how the soft bun couldn’t handle the 3 inches of ingredients in between, I was still happy with this burger. Certainly not wowed by any stretch of the imagination, but it still quite satisfied. A traditional, American-cheesed, 1/3-pounder hamburger with all the fixings you’d see at any barbecue. It’ll be interesting to see what I think of it 11 burgers down the line (assuming that I make it that far!). The $6.75 (plus tax and tip) sticker price makes me wince a little bit because it was so much on the traditional side, but by the time I left the diner, I was feeling fat and sassy. That’ll do for nowread the full review

The Blueberry FilesBecky’s

While I have ranted against the hype surrounding Becky’s brunch, I was impressed by their lunch effort. This place didn’t make my go-to burger spot, but with the good prices and the great club sandwich, I’d recommend it for a cheap, classic lunchread the full review

Where is Jenner’s MindHot Suppa!

simply put, the burger tasted great. this is not a fancy or gourmet burger, in fact its made with american cheese. but if you are looking for a really tasty burger, you are not gonna go wrong with this burger. all you got to do is find someone to split the burger and the cubano with you and you got yourself a fantastic dateread the full review

Is there a diner or sandwich shop in Portland who’s burger you think is especially stellar? If so, post a comment and tell us where to find it and what you like about it.

Thai-o-rama Wrap-Up

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Thai-o-rama came to a close last week with a group dinner at and several reviews of Sengchai Thai on Forest Ave, the culmination of 10 months of eating and writing about the baker’s dozen of restaurants in Portland that serve Thai food. Hopefully you enjoyed reading as much as we did in putting it together.

There was a lot of activity in the Thai segment of Portland restaurants industry this past year. Boda opened (taking over the Bangkok Thai space), Thai Chef Buffet closed (to be replaced by Soju which is itself going to be replaced by Shanghai-Tokyo), Chaing Mai moved from Union Street (to make room for Havana South), and Nakornping Thai changed owners and names to become Sabieng.

So no doubt you’re wondering now with 13 meals and 54 reviews by 9 different food writers behind us where should you go to eat. Read what some of the project’s most active participants have to say on that score including their list of Best of’s:

Appetite Portlandread the full article

Best Pad Thai: Chiang Mai Two delivered the goods with nicely cooked noodles, succulent shrimp, snappy bean sprouts, a balanced peanut/tamarind sauce, and a juicy lime wedge. Runner-up: Veranda Thai Cuisine’s version was fragrant and peanutty with shiny, slurp-worthy noodles. Disclaimer: You must order Veranda’s Pad Thai at heat level 2 or higher or risk receiving a blanched pile of bland.

Edible Obsessionsread the full article

I wanted to follow the outline of a ‘Best of,’ but when I kept answering the questions there was only one restaurant that I felt was the best in any category you could designate…Boda

The Blueberry Filesread the full article

Best curry… Pom’s Thai Taste
Overall, I think Pom’s is the most consistent traditional Thai restaurant. There were some flops, and it is one of the more expensive Thai restaurants we visited, but it’s good.

Where is Jenner’s Mindread the full article

Best “I never expected to like it” dish: i have mixed feelings about crab rangoon and i usually just allow seth to order it. so i guess my ‘never expected to like it dish’ was the crab rangoon at chiang-mai two.

As for my part, I think Boda is ahead of the rest of the pack both in terms of the food (Miang Kum Som-oh!) and overall dining experience. That said, comparing Boda with the rest is an apples to oranges comparison, not because of qualitative difference but because while Boda is primarily a Thai small plate restaurant the other 12 are more in the standard Thai mode (pad thai-check, picture of the royal family-check, thai iced tea-check, etc). If what you’re looking for is a go to place for the standard Thai experience, then I think Veranda Thai, Chaing Mai and Saeng Thai House are your best options.

Still left unanswered is the question of why Portland has a Thai restaurant for approximately ever 5,000 men women and children who live here when other types of restaurants are missing or under-represented but that will have to wait for another day.

Many many thanks to Appetite Portland, Edible Obsessions, From Away, the Portland Daily Sun, Portland Eats, Portland Food Coma, Portland Food Heads, The Blueberry Files, Where is Jenner’s Mind for participating in the projects.

Thai-o-rama: Sengchai Thai

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

For the last round of our survey/review of Thai restaurants in Portland we visited Sengchai Thai which is located on Forest Ave in the same building as Haknuman Meanchey and just down the road from Mekhong Thai.

Appetite Portlandread the full review

I left feeling cozy and satisfied, but I think that was mostly due to the company and the odd, bubbly service. The food was pretty good. Servicable Thai.

Edible Obsessions repeated her approach from round 1 with a visual presentation of her eating notes – see the full review

From Awayread the full review

As for us, we were underwhelmed, as much as we didn’t want to be. When our delightful, aforementioned waitress brought a free round of steamy, yummy curry puffs, we were heartened. Alas, it all went downhill from there.

The Blueberry Filesread the full review

Larb Gai is described as ‘ground chicken tossed with lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, fresh lime juice, red onions, mint and Thai spices and sauce.’ And it was delicious. I ordered two stars, which was just the right amount of spice. There was crunchy toasted rice, great lemongrass flavor, and lots of fresh mint. The flavors melded together so nicely, and it was saucy, not dry. And while the menu said it would come on a bed of lettuce, my dish instead came with

Where is Jenner’s Mindread the full review

so as you can tell, this was yet another mediocre thai meal. if you are in the area and you are really craving thai, by all means stop into sengchai thai and you will get a predictable meal of thai standards. but by no means go out of your way to dine at this restaurant.

The Maine Sunday Telegram published the one prior review of Sengchai Thai and in 2004 the reviewer wrote,”It was as if we had found the Thai version of an old-fashioned, trustworthy diner where the food was remarkably inexpensive but generously served and delicious.” You can see their menu online at sengchaithai.synthasite.com.

The group plans on putting together a retrospective look back at the last year of eating Thai with some overall recommendations on where to eat Thai in Portland. Watch for it next week.

Thai-o-rama: Siam Orchid

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

For the 12th round of our survey/review of Thai restaurants in Portland we visited Siam Orchid which is located in the One City Center food court.

Appetite Portlandread the full review

A second trip confirmed the first. A Thai basil shrimp tossed with light oil in the wok – very tasty. A pre-made crab rangoon fried to a crisp and stuffed with gooey, crab-flavored paste – not so much.

From Awayread the full review

… All Malcolm wanted was satay; in this case, a sassy hunk of chicken on a stick, that he reported having some nice flavors, in spite of their sad rubbery appearance. And so it was. The peanut “satay sauce,” served in a plastic cup on the side, was rock-solid frozen. So that was too bad. Finally, my rice. Was. Also. Satisfactory. It was savory, with bits of onion, chicken, and green stuff (basil?). I was starving. And so I slowly ate every mediocre morsel. And then I was sad and bloated forever times infinity. The end.

The Blueberry Filesread the full review

My dish was steaming hot and came with carrots, broccoli, onions, and chicken in a thin, brown sauce. The broccoli was crunchy and bright green, and the chicken was not *as* overcooked as some Thai stir-fry chicken can be. The sauce was very flavorful and made me wish I had a spoon to better scoop it up with the loads of accompanying rice.

While the dish I ordered was not particularly ‘Thai,’ it’s a good quick fix for a workday lunch, as well as some great people watching.

Where is Jenner’s Mindread the full review

I thought that the spice was pretty mild, particularly as I requested a spice factor 2 out of 3. Perhaps a tad bland as well, but still passable Pad Thai with wide noodles served with scallions and mung beans. Sometimes pad Thai can be a bit on the sweet side. The Pad Thai, from the restaurant whose name shall remain a mystery, was not too sweet, and that was nice. If you need a quick and affordable Thai fix for lunch (I’m pretty sure this is a lunch only joint) that will leave you with leftovers for dinner, hit this place up. It won’t knock your proverbial socks off but it does the trick.

The Press Herald published one prior review of Siam Orchid back in 2007.

That leaves us with just one more stop before we finish up the series: Sengchai Thai. We should have the groups thoughts on that restaurant before the end of the 2010, aka the Year of Pad Thai.