Portland, Maine Dining Guide: A Foodie Paradise By the Sea #savortheroad

Several restaurants in Portland, Maine, made our 2015 Summer Road Trip Restaurant Guide, so we were thrilled that contributor Nevin Martell was able to visit this past weekend and share his personal Portland, Maine dining guide – a city he calls a foodie paradise by the sea. Read on for delicious inspiration for your trip to the Forest City this summer. 

Walking around Portland’s charming Old Port neighborhood overlooking the picturesque Casco Bay on a simmering July afternoon, I could taste the salty tang of the Atlantic on my tongue. As the sun worked up my thirst, the sea breeze whetted my appetite with every step. Luckily, there were plenty of options for satiation nearby.

In the last few years, Portland’s food scene has undergone a stunning transformation from being staid and sleepy to an electric mix of praise-worthy culinary ventures that have rightfully earned a bounty of buzz. Much of this revolution is happening by the port. Wherever you look in its crosshatch of cobblestone streets, you’ll spot someplace to sup or sip. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Exploring the seaside district is easy to do on foot. Plus, you’ll want to walk off everything you’ve eaten, so you don’t outgrow your wardrobe by the end of your trip.

Scoring a table during the high season can be tough, so I recommend making a reservation to ensure you can eat your way through your vacation’s culinary bucket list. Case in point is Fore Street, which boasted a 45-minute wait just to dine at the bar on the Wednesday night I visited. A reservation meant skipping the hang time and digging right in. Chef Sam Hayward presides over a humming open kitchen, turning out seafood every which way, thoughtful charcuterie, offal, prime cuts, and a bounty of seasonal produce in stripped down presentations that flatter the natural flavors.

 

My meal began with perfectly plump wood-fired Maine mussels in a pool of almond-rich melted butter served with plenty of bread for sopping. That was followed by a decadent tartine starring roasted tomato sitting on a throne of buttery puff pastry and coronated with a puff of goat cheese mousse. A steaming hot, small cast iron pan arrived with seared pork belly, crispy on the top and buttery smooth throughout. Summer squash sautéed in lard, more-butter-than-potatoes whipped spuds, and horseradish-zested roasted cauliflower rounded out the array. Definitely one for the record books.

To kickstart myself the next morning, I made a pilgrimage to The Holy Donut. These aren’t your average rounds. The puffy bangles are made with potatoes, which adds heft without making them as dense as cake doughnuts. One regular round came glazed with Allen’s coffee brandy – a buzz times two – while a sweet potato doughnut was dipped in a redolent ginger glaze. Though they’re not as sweet as a Krispy Kreme, it was still nice to cut through the sugar rush with an icy cold brew from nearby Coffee By Design.

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Help #86AIDS with EAT (RED) DRINK (RED) this June

OpenTable-Email-Header-600x250-white 1.54.36 PM copyYou’re invited to stand with top chefs + restaurateurs in the battle against AIDS with EAT (RED) DRINK (RED) SAVE LIVES. EAT (RED) DRINK (RED) SAVE LIVES is a one-month campaign which turns food and drink into a force to fight AIDS.

When a restaurant “eighty-sixes” a dish, it rids it from the menu. You can help by turning the dining out we all love toward the battle against this devastating disease and #86AIDS. Participating chefs + restaurants include José Andrés, Mario Batali, Michael Mina, and Nancy Silverton, among others.

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OpenTable Reviews Reveal #DinersChoice Top 100 Fit for Foodies Restaurants in America — with Slideshow

In celebration of our country’s progressive food and dining culture, we are pleased to honor the 2014 Diners’ Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Fit for Foodies Restaurants in America. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Newer eateries rule the list, with the majority of winners opening in the last three years. More than 20 were founded in 2012 alone, while 15 launched in 2013, and six debuted as recently as 2014. Also, 14 of the honorees have women as executive chefs. American fare is overwhelmingly popular, but French and Italian restaurants are common among the honorees.  Other popular cuisines include Japanese, Spanish, Middle Eastern, modern European, tapas/small plates, and vegetarian.

Showcasing restaurants with unique menus, easygoing ambience, and passionate chefs who have a “source local, cook global” approach, the complete list includes award winners in 29 states, including Aviary in Portland, Odd Duck in Austin, and Vedge in Philadelphia. Restaurants in Portland and Philadelphia collectively account for almost 25 percent of the list. California has the greatest number of winners with 14, followed closely by Oregon and Pennsylvania with 13 each. New York has eight honorees, while Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington all have five, and Illinois has four. Minnesota, Missouri, and Texas each have three winning restaurants. Arizona, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, North Carolina, and Virginia, respectively, have two award winners. Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin are also represented.

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Chef Naomi Pomeroy of Beast in Portland on Motherhood + Running a Restaurant

naomi headshot - alicia roseOn the heels of highlighting the Top 10 Mom-Owned Restaurants in America, we’re pleased to bring you a series of interviews with the talented women on the list. First up is Naomi Pomeroy, the chef-owner of Beast. Beast opened in 2007 and is one of Portland’s most acclaimed restaurants. Not surprisingly, chef Pomeroy took home a well-deserved 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef. She is mom to daughter, August, who is 13, and, two years ago, she joyfully acquired two step kids, 8 and 6. 

Which came first for you — motherhood or owning a restaurant?

I had August before I opened my first restaurant, but I had already started catering at that point, which can be similarly stressful. I never really had to choose.

Did you have any role models who inspired you to pursue both parenthood and culinary entrepreneurship?

I remember hearing about Alice Waters raising her daughter, Fanny, around the kitchen at Chez Panisse. I don’t necessarily think that was at the forefront of my thinking. Nowadays, as far as a current role model goes, Suzanne Goin of Lucques and AOC is a huge role model. She and her husband are both in the food industry and have three relatively young children. They’re always doing charity events, and I have no idea how they find the time to balance all that they do!

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in attempting to balance family life and owning a restaurant?

I don’t know, but my daughter laughed when she heard that question asked! It was hard for me when August first started going to school, specifically when she was about 5 or 6. She started needing me a little bit more at that time, which coincided with the opening of my first independent project, so the timing was the most difficult part of it all. When your kids are in school, their off-times are your busiest times, so, occasionally, it’s hard to find the time to spend together. That’s specifically why I haven’t worked brunch on Sundays for a long while now, and I’ve established certain times for us to be together.

Honestly, I was blessed with having the right kind of kid. She has a great temperament and is happy wherever she is, so it was much easier for me to get the help I needed when it was needed. I think that if I had a different kid who was more demanding, it would have been much more challenging for me.

Obviously, as all moms do, I’m sure you’ve experienced guilt and felt pulled in two directions. How did you handle those moments? Continue Reading