The Main(e) Attraction
As some of you know, I have kids and each summer I am able to reFIND myself when my children leave for camp in Maine. Midway through, I have the pleasure of embarking on a trip to Maine for Visiting Day and this post is my postmortem. It is a weekend filled with anticipation and excitement, but also can be quite emotionally and physically draining. We choose to make a (very) long weekend out of it given that we have a particular fondness for the beauty of New England in the Summer and the glory of the good ol' fashioned roadtrip.
To prepare for this excursion, I upgraded to the Tesla Model S 90D (everyone knows I'm Tesla obsessed & trust me I'm not an investor) to equip it with longer range (needed) and Autopilot (truly incredible). We are big proponents of the Cross Sound Ferry that goes from Orient Point to New London (saves 200 miles of driving) and planning out the stops along the way. It commences with a killer breakfast before the ferry consisting of Bloody Mary's, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, and candied bacon at Bruce's Cheese Emporium in Greenport.
If you happen to be in Portland, Maine for Visiting Day or because of its burgeoning food scene, or just well because ... this week's Find has the answers!
Tip#1 - Pre Visiting Day: Eat a good, hearty breakfast (in order to gear up for the 15,000+ steps you'll clock on your fitbit) ...
This is no ordinary diner. It is a local establishment started by Becky Rand over 20 years ago. She is slowly passing it on to the next generation, as her sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews are working the many jobs there. Let it be known that it opens at 4:00am to accommodate the fisherman coming home late or waking up early, I am not even sure. It is conveniently located in the harbor and has plenty of parking. What makes this place special is that everything that comes out of the kitchen is excellent. Everything from the eggs, bacon, muffins, and especially the hash browns are incredible. This will provide the perfect base for a long day at camp, or on the water, for that matter.
The old saying that, "it doesn't have to be old to be a classic," applies to this restaurant which only opened in 2006. Two brothers from Portland went on their own Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives odyssey across America to discover the underpinning of classic establishments ... they sound like kindred spirits of mine. Either way, they created Hot Suppa! which serves some the the best foods they discovered on their adventure. Notable breakfast items include the corned beef hash, which may be a top dish in Portland. Everything seems to be a bit Southern, which is ironic in this Northern outpost, and almost always has a creative twist; my Eggs Benedict was served on a plate of Geechie Boy grits and fried green tomatoes.
Tip #2 - Post Visiting day: Hit the bottle and grab a light dinner! Let's face it, you need a (many) drink(s) after the emotionally draining day and you don't have the energy to sit down for a gourmet, three course or more, meal.
Let's be honest, after a long hot day you need a beer, possibly a cocktail. What you don't need is a long, drawn out meal. I have been to the best of Portland and none seem satisfying ,which is a function of the day and mood, not of the food. Therefore you need easy. Eventide doesn't take reservations so you need to head over there and likely wait. Thankfully, there is plenty of room at the bar to grab a drink while you wait for a table. Their beer menu is local and varied, and a frosty mug of beer is exactly what is needed after Visiting Day. When you finally sit down you will be treated to some of the best oysters the region has to offer. Freshly shucked and offered with a variety of sauces including horseradish or kimchee shaved ice is the perfect meal to accompany your beer. The lobster roll is reportedly amazing (I have to take others words for it as I'm allergic to lobster) and the tuna was off the charts. I am having a Pavlovian reaction and salivating as I write this ...
This is another place to whet your palette and has some of the best mixologists in the country. There are two levels and I prefer the lower level because it is darker and the emphasis is on the bar. Order what you like or leave it up to the very capable bar tenders to explore the depths of their drink knowledge. I ordered a Dark & Stormy and they used their own Rhubarb infused ginger beer (not only was the ginger beer homemade but it was infused!). The menu (from the restaurant upstairs) is very good and will fill your desire for light and tasty fare before you crash (hard) at your hotel.
In Portland, there are a lot of solid places for good food and good drink. However,the Find is about what is uniquely notable. Hence, head to Duck Fat, which also doesn't take reservations (I think you can see a trend here)! The founding principle of this restaurant are Fries ... hand-cut Maine potatoes fried Belgian-style in duck fat (hence the name). Chef and Owner Rob Evans was named “Best Chef Northeast” by the James Beard Foundation in 2009 and this restaurant was named three time Food Network Chopped Champion restaurant. Start with an ice cold glass of beer from a varied list of local beers. Next order a soup or salad, you won't be disappointed. The main course will be a house special pressed panini (I went with the house smoked brisket) and of course the Belgian style fries with, get this, truffle ketchup (genius). And then, wash it all down with an inventive shake (Sea Salted Duck Fat Caramel). All the ingredients are locally sourced and can be found on the website.