Monthly Archives: January 2013

Bayou Kitchen – Southern Cookin’ in Northern New England

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Lookin’ for some cookin’ – maybe southern style,
Want some food, I’m hungry dude, it’s been a while,
Well in your face, you’re in the place, so quit your bitchin’
Welcome Pete, now have a seat, in Bayou Kitchen

This weekend brought me back to a place I discovered last summer on a warm Sunday morning. I’m pretty sure I was on a different planet at the time as I don’t ever remember having warm weather here in Maine. But I digress…On the way to pick up some groceries, my wife suggested this place on Deering Ave. about which she had seen some strong reviews online. I had never even heard of it. “Bayou Kitchen”, I thought. “That’s a cool name. How bad could it be?”

Upon my first arrival at Bayou Kitchen, I was somewhat surprised to see a pretty significant wait for a table. Apparently I was the only one who had never heard of this place. Considering they don’t have a lot of space inside other than for those who are already seated, we found ourselves waiting outside with several other parties. I suspected this was a good sign that this establishment was no joke in the breakfast department.

According to their website, Bayou Kitchen has been open for 23 years. They specialize in “Cajun classics”, but they also have plenty of non-Cajun food. Bayou Kitchen’s menu consists of eggs, omelets (I didn’t know how to spell omelet before writing this…sad really…), pancakes and French toast, various Cajun staples, burgers, and a variety of other choices. Burgers are only available during the week, but don’t worry, if you’re there on the weekend, there are still plenty of options. Available Cajun foods include jambalaya, gumbo, beans and rice, crawfish, and a few types of sausage.

I was hoping that for this visit on a well-below-freezing day we’d be there early enough that there wouldn’t be a wait. We were, and I believe we snatched the last available table. It was a four-top for only two of us, but that would just mean I’d have to order extra food since we had the space. Plus, I was thinking of my readership, and as such, had to order more than just one meal so I could give you my thoughts on a more robust sampling of the food.

Once drinks were served – just water for me, coffee for my wife – I ordered my tasty treats. I started with The Smokin’ Caterpillar; an omelet with house-made hash, grilled onions, and Swiss cheese. With the omelet, you can choose from grits, “homies”, or beans and rice. Plus you get a choice of bread which includes various types of cornbread. I chose the homies and blueberry cornbread. Then, for my dear readers only, I also ordered a single of one of the specials – a peach cobbler pancake with peaches and granola and topped with whipped cream. My wife ordered Gator Eggs; a 2 egg scramble with up to 3 “fixins”.

In my experience, Bayou Kitchen always has three specials and one of them seems to be more of a dessert than a breakfast. Today it was the peach cobbler pancakes. I love peaches so much that, if I had my way, I’d eat peaches every day. I had to try it. The other specials were interesting omelets, but I had already chosen the omelet I wanted.

After ordering, I went to peruse what I like to call the “wall of hot sauce”. It’s not really a whole wall, but they have a little shelf of hot sauces on the wall. There are probably 30 or so and I like to try a new one every time I am there. They have a wide selection ranging in heat from mild to full nuclear meltdown and everywhere in between. I tried the Freaken Hot Sauce which is made in Maine. They also have Lost Woods hot sauce, which is also made in Maine, on every table.

The food always comes out fast and this weekend was no exception. The Smokin’ Caterpillar was delicious and was extra awesome when I perked it up with the hot sauce, which was medium hot – more than enough for most people, I’m sure. The homemade hash inside tasted very fresh and was clearly made very recently. Their homies and cornbread are always perfect. The home fries had just a slight spice and are cooked until crispy. The pancake turned out to be amazing with lots of peaches and granola inside. They have real maple syrup available, but I prefer the cheaper stuff. My wife loved her scramble. All-in-all, the Bayou Kitchen lived up to their consistently high standards and provided excellent food.

We finished our meals and were stuffed. The prices are reasonable and the servings are quite large. When all was said and done, the meal cost us 26 bucks and that included a pretty good tip because the service is always excellent. They do serve both breakfast and lunch seven days per week, but so far, I’ve only been there for breakfast. I’ll have to make it a point to show up for lunch one of these days. These guys are good at what they do and I can’t imagine they don’t serve a solid lunch.

My wife and I, the great Peterpeterportlandeater, agree – this is the top breakfast place in Portland. If we find a better one, we’ll let you know. But until then, you can be sure as Savannah that this is the place you should go for your first meal of the day. Every time you don’t, an alligator will eat an angel after it drowns in a swamp. Just remember that.

Enjoy your day. I’m off to listen to Free Bird.

Stay Hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below.

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Catbird Creamery – A kick to the face with a foot-full of ice cream

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If Andrew Warren ended up on Chopped in the dessert round and the four secret ingredients were James Earl Jones, a turd, a nickel, and a Nerf football he’d probably win by making the second best ice cream ever created. But that’s only because he’s already created the best ice cream flavor man has ever seen.

In a world where we’re surrounded by mere mortals, a small shop in the middle of Westbrook houses a wizard and his magical ice cream lair. That wizard is Andrew Warren who, along with his wife Corey Digirolamo, opened the well-hidden Catbird Creamery. Andrew, a former pastry chef at 555 on Congress St., now works as ice cream and sweets creator extraordinaire at the shop.

Last spring, upon the recommendation of my wife, who noticed a new ice cream shop on Main St. across from Bank of America, I visited Catbird Creamery for the first time. I figured, as I always do, that I’d check the place out quite simply because it was new. Little did I know, I would quickly become a regular and its biggest fan – though from what I can tell, I might have to fight some people for that title.

The first thing that struck me about the shop was the selection of ice cream itself. Not only are Catbird’s flavors highly original, but even the more standard flavors always have an unusual twist. For example, variations of the standard vanilla and chocolate include the much more delicious brown sugar vanilla and salted chocolate, among others. What was great about all these new flavors is that they offer samples and you can try as many flavors as you like. And being that I consider myself a connoisseur (those who’ve seen me eat might call me a conno-sewer), I tried a lot. After trying several of the flavors, I knew I had found something special.

Among the flavors I got to experience that day were Strawberry Balsamic and Furious George.

Furious George.

Furious George is like a Lamborghini with a jet engine. Or maybe, more appropriately, like a monkey strapped to a missile. Put simply, it’s the most amazing ice cream flavor I have ever experienced.

What is this curious (see what I did there?) creation, you ask? Furious George is hot pepper ice cream with caramelized bananas and dark chocolate chunks. All I could think about the first time I tried the furious one were the words “intense fwavor expwosion” spoken slowly in a Barbara Walters voice. And then, just a split second later, a symphony in my mouth calmed the voices in my head. It was glorious, and I knew right then and there I had to tell everyone I could about the ice cream flavor that melted my heart.

After falling in love with an ice cream named George, my first trip there yielded me an ice cream cookie sandwich – a heaping serving of ice cream sandwiched between two homemade – like everything else there – cookies. There are usually a variety of cookie flavors available and you can have more than one flavor of ice cream if you just can’t settle on one. I chose the Strawberry Balsamic and the Furious George between two sugar cookies.

Subsequent visits landed me with sundaes or cookie sandwiches more often than not. The ice cream sundaes are ridiculous. Pick one, two, or three ice creams, choose anywhere from one to all of the toppings, and get fresh homemade whipped cream with a cherry or other delicious ornament on the top. Oh, and it comes in a crumb cake dish. There are two sizes and I’ve never ordered a large. In fact, the small is so large, most normal people can’t finish it. While I am not normal, it does make me very full. And it will only set you back a measly five dollars.

Catbird Creamery also offers a number of other excellent options including homemade cones, warm cookie sundaes, just a standard dish of ice cream, and a variety of other combinations of the above. They also sell various types of delicious truffles to suit your chocolate cravings.

To get the real experience of Catbird Creamery, I strongly recommend eating your treat at one of the two tables in the shop. You will be provided with ice cold water, which unbelievably, goes incredibly well with ice cream. You’ll get to hear whatever cool music is in the shop too, and it’s always different.

Catbird’s ice cream is quite frankly the best I’ve ever had. And I don’t say that lightly. Nor am I an “ice cream guy” – or at least I didn’t used to be. If bacon is porn for your mouth, Catbird Creamery’s products are porn for your soul. You start smiling on the way into the shop and keep smiling when you leave.

While the shop is not easy to find if you don’t know it’s there, I think everyone who’s been there becomes a repeat customer. Catbird also sells wholesale to local restaurants and is available in specialty stores locally. Hopefully word about this place spreads faster than a bogus warning about Facebook privacy settings. It is definitely deserved.

I recommend experiencing Catbird Creamery right now. You won’t be disappointed.

Stay Hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below.

Green Elephant – For when you’re already feeling just a little too meaty

Who would have ever thought that I’d go to a vegetarian restaurant? I mean, I’ve eaten vegetarian foods before, like rice, and peas, and…grass. But usually that’s not my entire meal. I always throw some chicken or fish in there and make a meaty concoction. Occasionally, I make myself a hamburger or have some pork fried rice from a restaurant of some sort. This night was different though.

After lots of suggestions over the years that there was a great restaurant in Portland that I was missing out on that just happened to not serve any meat, I had to try Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro. I found some friends that said they loved it and would be happy to go with us, so I knew the time was right to try a new place.

When we arrived, there was about a 20 minute wait for a table. They don’t take reservations, but they do give you a buzzer that alerts you when your table is ready. It works at many of the other businesses that are nearby so you can step out for a little while if you so choose. We got there first and were waiting for our friends, but once they showed up, we didn’t have to wait much longer before we were seated.

The restaurant was very nice inside, being somewhat plain, but with an earthy feel to it. It was definitely what you might expect from a vegetarian joint – no frills, calm, inviting. The waitress made sure that we were watered and gave us a couple minutes before coming back for our drink orders. I ordered a Thai beer since the cuisine is “Asian-influenced” and I wanted to keep the theme for the evening.

We were informed of the specials that night when we received our drinks. I couldn’t believe how quickly the waitress rattled off the list of vegetables in them. When I asked her if she had memorized those all that night, she informed me that they were “cold-weather” specials and it’s been cold since November, so she’s been telling everyone about them since then.

Soon, we placed our appetizer orders for the table which included vegetable dumplings, edamame, and green leaves wrap with mango and herbs. The appetizers were all very well done. In my opinion – which is what you get here on my blog – the dumplings tasted like they had pork in them. They were great even though the “meat” was vegetarian soy. The edamame was as you’d expect and very good. The leaf wraps were delicious, and while they were more of a summertime food to me, they tasted fresh and had just the right amount of sweet and herbal flavors which combined to really make them stand out from something a bit more basic.

Entrees came, like everything else, in a timely manner. Everyone at the table ordered different items. I had the steamed assorted vegetables with peanut sauce. My wife had one of the curry dishes. Everyone loved their food. My vegetables tasted very fresh and the peanut sauce was the best I’ve ever had. The problem with some peanut sauces is that they are just too weak and taste somewhat watery- not at the Green Elephant. And what was extra great, as the waitress pointed out, was that they were a little too generous with it. I got plenty of peanut sauce and I liked it. It also went perfectly with the jasmine brown rice that comes with the meal.

While the entrees were relatively filling considering that they have no meat, we did get desserts. A cookie sundae with chai sorbet and a plate of coconut sorbet with fried banana balls (my name for them, not theirs) graced the table. I didn’t eat the sundae, but the coconut sorbet and banana plate was delicious and, like all the food we had, combined flavors that went together very well.

The meal was at least as good as I expected and probably better. The service was outstanding, and the beer and wine selection was solid. We all left happy and full. My first vegetarian restaurant experience was a resounding success. By the time all was said and done, we spent just over $30 per person, but that included drink, appetizers, entrée, and dessert. I can’t say I had anything there I didn’t like, and I would be happy to try even more of their food in the future.

I would give this meal two green thumbs up. If you’re in the mood for something different and usually a meat eater, venture out and try a meal without meat. It doesn’t preclude you from having a steak in the future.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below.

Duckfat – “Bring forth your fatted duck and make fries like the world has never seen.”

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Duckfat is the 2005 creation of renowned Chef Rob Evans. Also founder of the pricier Hugo’s across the street, Chef Evans has won numerous awards for his chefery and is a past winner of Chopped. And just this past November, a tiny, little news organization called CNN recognized Duckfat as having some of the best French fries in the country. It’s no wonder sardines get claustrophobic standing inside the small restaurant while waiting for a table. This place has earned a reputation.

The food at Duckfat might be considered elegant simplicity. Milkshakes, salads, and Paninis create a good portion of the menu. That may seem run-of-the-mill at face value, but as evidenced by items like the Ratatouille Panini and house-made Orange Honey Cardamom soda, Duckfat is anything but the status quo. They also offer daily food and drink specials and a great selection of beer and wine for you thirsty travelers and drunkards (you know who you are).

The seating situation in the restaurant is somewhat unusual. It consists of one table on each side of the entrance at which multiple parties are seated, the bar, and two long bars set up along either side of the hallway leading to the restrooms on the right side of the restaurant. It definitely provides a bit of “je ne sais quoi”, but it suits the place just fine.

Upon being seated at Duckfat, you arrive to your area freshly set up with the necessities, menus laid out, and specials of the day staring you in the face. While the beer specials looked particularly tempting this weekend, I was looking for a chewable lunch only.

The first time I ever went to Duckfat, which was several months ago, it was a self-imposed requirement that I eat something with duck, so I tried a salad with duck confit. Considering that I don’t really like duck that much and didn’t know confit from coffee, I was very pleasantly surprised. But for my return trip, I was looking for something different. I started with a peanut butter chocolate milkshake, expanded to include an oven roasted turkey Panini, and finished with a small order of their famous fries. My wife ordered the cream of tomato fennel soup which she insists isn’t very fennel-y (which she appreciates) and a glass of wine.

Before I go any further, I want to explain what some might see as weakness for only ordering a small fry. I would not normally consider, or even condone, ordering a small (after all, I’m not peterpeterportlandnibbler). That said, I usually don’t order fries at all and my wife didn’t want any of the delectable little potato sticks, so I caved. The Duckfat fries are so damn good that I just couldn’t skip them altogether, but when you go, get the large because they are a much better deal.

After a short wait, the peanut butter chocolate shake arrived. I was a little concerned that it would bring all the boys to the yard, but alas, it did not. Once I was completely sure all the boys were not just delayed on their way to the yard, I drank my shake like I was at a 1950’s sock hop. It was very good, but a little light on the peanut butter which is my favorite part. I did like the fact that it wasn’t overly sweet though. Overall, it was a solid concoction, but for my tastes, I wish they had one that was just peanut butter without the chocolate. When I finished my shake, the rest of our food was delivered.

The turkey Panini came with pickled spaghetti squash, sage mayo, and Swiss. The bread was crispy, the turkey was fresh, and the melding of the flavors was superb. The fries come with one of eight dipping sauces. Upon the recommendation of the waiter, we chose the lemon-herb mayo which was very good. The local fries are twice fried in duck fat giving them the perfect crispiness and they are nicely seasoned providing that “oh delicious!” feel when you put them in your gaping maw – hence the national recognition.

In the middle of my Panini consumption, my face buried in oven roasted turkey, the person sitting next to me said “Oh, is that the turkey?!” A little scared and not completely sure if she was talking to me or not, I gave her a glance as though she was an evil clown. Upon realizing the clown was indeed talking to me, I confirmed her suspicion. She apologized for the exclamatory inquiry, confessing that she was excited for her first time eating at Duckfat. I understood. I was excited for my second time there.

The prices at Duckfat were reasonable. Our entire meal came to just about $40 including everything and we were exceptionally full. In reality, I could have easily not ordered the shake, but I wanted to be able to give my loyal readers an assessment of the Duckfat milkshake. You are welcome.

Until next time….Stay Hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below.

Meatloaf Nachos – Peterpeterportlandeater Style

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This blog entry probably won’t help me win the interwebs, but it might just help you produce a culinary bundle of joy. You see, while this blog will likely be largely about the restaurants in the Portland area, it is more generally about food and drink (in the Portland area). That means my inspiration can come from anywhere – be it a restaurant, bar, market, or otherwise. And on this day, my inspiration comes from me.

As has already been established, I am a nacho lover. I was also a cook in my college days and learned how to make a superior nacho. And when thinking about the other foods which I create and believe are top of the line, my (apartment-wide) world famous meatloaf came to mind. This isn’t something I take lightly, but I decided that my chicken nachos could potentially give way to meatloaf nachos under the right circumstances. And those circumstances involved the desire to spend time making a loaf of meat in preparation for creating my nachos. And today, I had that desire.

My food tastes aren’t simple. Some might say I have weak taste buds. I like to say that my brain is not satisfied with the mundane. I like lots of flavors in my food. I like my nachos loaded. I like my meatloaf spicy. And I like my oatmeal lumpy.

The spicy meatloaf has been adapted from a meatball recipe which I found in a cookbook. My nachos are essentially the same as I used to make as a cook in Southwest Harbor, Maine. And the combination of the two goes quite well with football and varying quantities of beer, bourbon, or any number of other beverages.

Both parts of this recipe have lots of flavors and really pack a flavor punch that will knock you on your figurative ass. In my opinion, you should probably start making these now. What are you waiting for? Oh the recipe? Well, here it is.

Spicy meatloaf –

Ingredients – 2 lbs lean ground beef (sometimes I use more depending on how much I want to make, but I still keep all the other ingredients pretty much the same), 1 diced onion, 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs, 2 eggs, 1 cup pasta sauce, ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, about a tsp. minced garlic, some ground pepper, and optional salt (I find the recipe salty enough without adding any)
-Drop all ingredients, as though they are hot, into a bowl and mix
-Smash mixture flat into a baking pan of some sort – I usually try to make it about 1 inch in thickness
-Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 45 minutes

When complete, it is appropriate to eat some as the smell will be enticing. However, save some for the nachos.

Meatloaf nachos –

Ingredients – Blue corn chips, crumbled meatloaf that you created from the recipe above, refried beans, salsa, diced tomatoes, diced onions, sliced black olives, sliced jalapenos, Mexican blend cheese, sour cream
-Layer chips on platter
-Layer, in the quantity of your liking, the next seven ingredients on top of the chips – the refried beans and salsa can be sufficiently distributed in dollops
-Cover with generous amounts of cheese – remember, man cannot survive on cheese-less nachos
-Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees or until the cheese is golden brown
-Serve with sour cream and additional salsa on the side – for you terrorists who like guacamole, feel free to have some of that with your nachos too, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about guacamole

You now have what might be the first meatloaf nachos you will ever eat before you. Do not put this aside as though it is just another moment in your otherwise pathetic, nacholess life. This is something that you should cherish – a life altering experience. Now go grab a beer, pour yourself a pile of nachos, and enjoy life the way it was intended – with man food, alcohol, and sporting events. And ladies, feel free to be one of the guys and jump in on this greatness. Bon appetit!

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below.

The Great Lost Bear was…well…pretty damn good.

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There’s something about every good restaurant that I absolutely love. It doesn’t matter the size, the price, or what type of people go there. There’s always that one thing that just keeps me wanting to go back. At the GLB, it’s the beer. And it’s not just that they have regular beer events (like the craft beer showcase every Thursday) or that they have over 50 taps to keep your whistle wet. What makes the GLB’s beer selection special is that for a copper piece less than a modern-day stripper tip, you can get a 16 oz can of any one of five old school brews. That’s right, for a buck ninety-nine you get your choice of Schlitz, PBR, Narragansett, Ballantine, or Rolling Rock.

After deciding on a Ballantine – which I found out was my maternal grandfather’s favorite beer when he was alive – we scoured the menu for the best “I’ve had a bad week and I’m not killing it with whiskey” food. The GLB’s menu is several pages long and includes plenty of comfort food, healthier selections, and a significant collection of nachos which is sure to meet all your chipy, cheesy needs. They even have an item named after my hometown – the Lewiston Cheesesteak which is made with French herb cheese (for my millions of readers across the globe, Lewiston has a healthy population of French Canadians – including myself back in the day).

With extensive discussion and thourough perusal of the menu, my wife decided on the Dixie Chicken, a fried BBQ chicken sandwich which came with potato-slice shaped fries as an option. Since nachos are my favorite bar food, I went for the Spiro T. Nachos which are topped with tomatoes, chicken, feta, and just less than a truckload of cheddar cheese. Upon recieving our food, which looked delicious, I realized that I would undoubtedly end up as a cheese-laden mess without the proper napkins to cover myself. When the waitress walked by, I asked for, and promptly recieved a small stack of napkins. Of course, when she left again, I also realized that I had forgotten to ask for jalapenos on my nachos – the requirement to get them on there. So I caught her again and quickly recieved a sufficient bowl of those too. My unplanned service test was officially passed.

The food was very good. The meals were filling and definitely worth it for the price. Our two meals, a beer, and a soda came out to just a hair over 25 smackers. The service was solid. I’ve been to the GLB several times at least, but it makes me wonder why I don’t go more. I suppose it’s because it’s not in the Old Port which is usually where I end up. But nonetheless, it’s a solid standby for a random night outing – with or without drinks. It was a quiet night with just a quick meal and a beer, but I’ll go for wilder times on my next visit which hopefully will be sooner rather than later.

Final thoughts – You had me at eight types of nachos and five pounders under two bucks.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below.