Does anybody think that when the founding fathers were kicking back over a plate of whatever it is they ate back when they knew that just to the north of them culinary skills would become such a draw in these new United States?
A mere 5 hour drive north up along a winding trail through scenic New England lies Portland Maine on the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean. While Mt. Desert Island and Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park may be a more famous region to us Tri-Staters, Portland is a must see and must eat destination. What is it that sets Portland apart? Oh let us count the delicious ways.
First off Portland is a community that really supports it's arts community. A lot of towns and cities pay lip service to this aspect of city life. Portland backs up it's words with deeds. Galleries populate a lot of the town streets. From down by the waterfront to the more travelled Congress St. art is what binds Portland. A magnificent First Friday artwalk each month helps keep these galleries very much in the front of the public conscience. Last Friday Johnny and Mrs. Johnny saw hundreds and hundreds of people out and about enjoying the galleries and supporting local artists. This is all while thousands and the option of attending a local Portland Pirates AHL hockey game at the Civic Arena there. Friday night in Portland is a happening.
If you have a great art scene chances are your food selection will be a good one as art tends to draw good and yes great chefs to your area. Portland is no exception to that rule. Terrific menus abound all across town but don't expect an early bird lobster special to be the big draw. Instead think of ways to work in local produce and ingredients which yes means ocean bounty but it hardly stops there. Wonderful dishes with seafood are there of course, all while opening up the palate to Greek, Japanese and Thai as well as Italian influenced dishes make Portland's food scene international, yet well centered and local too. Johnny could go on and on about the great food he enjoyed but he'd rather give you, dear reader, a list of places to investigate and menus to read over and decide for yourself. Just know this, if they are on this All-Star list the food quality, preparation and taste is tip top.
Street and Co. -- A brilliant mix of traditional New England and Mediterranean food.
The Grill Room -- Harding Lee Smith is doing AMAZING things with all things beef, seafood and yes, woodfire pizzas (The Cheeseburger pizza here is to die for, seriously)
Vignola -- Again, traditional New England basics marvelously infused with Italian flair.
555 -- Chef Steve Corry is at the top of his game with New England fare with his own personal touches and a big helping of locally grown ingredients.
Bintliffs Cafe -- Eclectic and American grub in THE place to eat breakfast in Portland
Two Fat Cats Bakery -- Look, if you're just gonna make cupcakes, there are apps for that in NYC (and everywhere else). Why not stand out and make other tasty brilliant items, like the famed Whoopie pies at the Two Fat Cats Bakery. The reputation of this place precedes itself so Johnny stopped in to see if it indeed lived up to the fine street cred it enjoys. OMG, again, that's OMG. The Whoopie pies are like nothing else made in a bakery in Gotham. These chocolate (and they do have other delightful flavors) cakes with creme filling are out of this world. The chocolate is so perfect it both melts in your mouth and puts a smile on your face and that's even before you get to the unmatched creme filling. Did we mention they ship? If you've not had a Whoopie Pie from Two Fat Cats get out of the shoebox with holes you live in and order or get on the I-95. (Whoops, Jenna from Two Fat Cats tells us they DO NOT SHIP, pardon Johnny for the bad info. Now, go get in the car and we'll see you tomorrow)
After he got back Johnny was talking to a neighbor who said she was in Portland about 10-12 years ago and the food scene and art scene was just starting to take off. Johnny told her to go back and see what those seeds had sown. It's delicious, it's arty, it's laid back and it's happening right now. By all means foodies, put Portland Maine on your list of places to visit.
Oh, and when you're in Portland, call Joe.