Monthly Archives: November 2013

Nosh – Burgers and Fries, Oh My Gosh!

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“Nosh” means to snack or eat on the fly. It’s also a popular burglar joint in Portland that is usually my go-to when I have to satisfy that burger need. Presumably, like many Portlanders, I was first prompted to visit Nosh after I saw their feature on Man vs. Food some time ago. This trip to Nosh found it busy as usual when we arrived early on a Saturday evening. The long bar was lined with patrons and the tables filled. We were quickly approached and told that it would only be a couple minutes before we were seated. That was good, because I was ready to show my carnivorous side.

Like clockwork, after a short wait, we were seated at a table close to the waiting area. We were given three menus – a drink menu, a food menu, and a specials menu. Three of us – my wife, cousin, and I – looked them over. When a waitress approached, we weren’t ready for anything besides water as my underage cousin was looking at the menu for the first time and the wife and I were still deciding on drinks.

Three waters came out quickly and we were ready to order some beverages. My first choice of a Dogfish Head seasonal was a failure as I was told that they were out. In the same breath, we found out that the entire menu – minus the steady favorites – was changing the next day. I was intrigued by the thought of a new menu, but I needed to provide my alternate beer. I had a backup in mind and went with the In’finiti Headstache from Portland. I was excited to add another local beer to the beer bank in my brain. My wife, reverting back to her on-again/off-again love affair with hard cider, selected the Whiskey Cask Thistly Cross Cider – a Scottish cider matured in whiskey casks.

As we continued to consider all our options, we wondered if we’d be ordering anything that would be gone from the menu the next day. It also crossed our minds that even better options might be available if we came a day later, but we were already there and the waitress approached with drinks in hand. It was time to order. My wife went with the Falafel, cousin took the Nosh Burger – no egg, and I took the Nosh Burger – as it comes. We also placed an order for the Fried Pickles, Sea Salt and Pepper Fries, and Red Wine Vinegar Dusted Fries to share. The fries come with ketchup and one sauce. They offer many, but we went with Sweet Chili Sauce and Sriracha. The waitress accused me of liking hot-spicy food, but I had none of it. Sriracha isn’t hot, only delicious.

I took a sip of my beer and absolutely loved it. It went down smooth and had a nice light flavor. I highly recommend it. Plus it had a cool name which reminded me that I should grow a sweet ‘stache in order to fully maximize my manliness. My wife fell in love with her cider which made me feel lonely and conflicted. Should I stay with her even though she loves another or should I find myself a new love? Maybe I should begin to try my hand at finding a nice Shiraz in order to make her jealous.

While contemplating love triangles with foreign adult beverages, our waitress snuck up on us. After two trips to our table, all our food was in front of us and begging to be consumed. A pickle spear immediately called my name. “Peterpeterportlandeater, now is your chance to eat me.” I grabbed it and shook it twice for no particular reason. I would have shaken it thrice, but three shakes are generally considered too many within gentleman’s circles. I ate a bite. It was good, but it probably could have used a bit more seasoning. For this reason, I usually prefer my fried pickles as slices rather than spears. The pickles get more batter per square inch leading to a more flavorful, more seasoned pickle. Nonetheless, they weren’t bad and the Chipotle Mayo they came with was very good and kicked them up approximately one notch.

My burger was next on my hit list. The burgers are a combination of beef, pork, and herbs and spices. Mine came with blue cheese spread, bacon, fried egg, roasted-garlic balsamic sauce and a brioche bun. I was a little worried about the blue cheese spread. Last time I ordered the nosh burger, I got it without the blue cheese. But I have a love/hate relationship with blue cheese which made me want to try it this time. I hate the harsh, pungent flavor of blue cheese, but I absolutely love it in a mild version like blue cheese dressing. I took a bite. Gadzooks! It was magnificent. The blue cheese spread had the consistency of boursin cheese, but with a slightly sharper flavor as you might expect. That spread combined with the garlic-balsamic sauce gave the burger a heavenly and robust taste with added substance from the bacon and egg. It was hearty and flavorful to say the least. No one at the table was disappointed.

Now I was ready for some fries. I grabbed a red wine vinegar dusted potato branch and ate it plain. Then I took one and dunked it in sriracha. A third got dipped in the sweet chili sauce. There was nothing bad about any of those, but I was really digging the sriracha as it was a great change of pace. Both the dusted fries and the salt and pepper fries were outstanding. The addition of the sauces was a great compliment to the flavor of the fresh and crispy delights.

We went on eating our meals. I finished mine, and then I finished the pickles and both of the fries. The two ladies could not finish their meals, but I stopped short of grabbing their remnants. When the waitress came to clear our plates, we were certain that dessert was out of the question. We asked for the bill which came to about 65 bucks.

Our meal was delicious. I was certain I was going to have a heart attack on the way out, but I knew it was going to be the happiest heart attack ever. Myocardial infarction aside, Nosh really knows their burgers and fries. They offer plenty of other options too and their new menu looks to be a bar food lover’s dream even more than the one we ordered from. The flavor they induce into a burger is certainly among the best I’ve had, and so are the fries. The little things like sauces and burger flavorings make all the difference to me and Nosh is a specialist in that department. What can I say? It’s definitely worth the trip to the Congress St. restaurant if you’re in the mood for some burger and beer goodness. Just don’t go overboard. Those things can kill you.

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. Like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter at @Portlandeater.

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The Front Room – So Many Rooms, So Little Time

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The Front Room is another in the long line of “room” restaurants – two of which I’ve reviewed previously – owned by chef/restaurateur Harding Lee Smith. Located on Munjoy Hill, the restaurant provides a relaxed atmosphere with a great bar and, according to their owner, “New American Comfort Food”. My interpretation of that phrase is that they provide a good variety of new takes on traditional American dishes. That’s exactly what The Front Room does best.

As we often do, we arrived early. Dinner wasn’t being served yet, but we wanted to get a drink first. When we walked in, we were a little disappointed that there were no seats available at the bar, but the waitress offered a couple pillows so we could sit on the bench in the waiting area. We accepted and walked to the bar to ask for a menu.

The first drink on the menu bore the restaurant’s namesake. Right below that was a drink named Portland, Manhattan. My love of Portland and Manhattans combined, it was hard to ignore. The drink included Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Angostura Orange Bitters, Absinthe, Luxardo, and Cochin Vermouth Do Torino. I considered the inclusion of Absinthe a slight flaw, but I still had to try it anyway. My wife went with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

A lot of prep work went into my drink. We watched as the bartender worked hard to put it together. I was particularly impressed by the extra-long, spiral lemon zest wrapped around his finger inside-out and wiped on the inner rim of the glass. After a few minutes, it was ready to go. We took our beverages and sat on our pillows. Mine wasn’t that much different than a typical Manhattan. I didn’t love the Absinthe addition, but it wasn’t overpowering, so it was fine.

They were soon seating for dinner and we were at our table within moments. By the time we sat down, there were enough people there to fill half the restaurant and just after that, the restaurant was full. The manager left us with menus and a waitress visited our table and left us with a list of specials. We looked and saw much of the same food choices we were used to on the menu. That wasn’t so bad as the Front Room menu offers some great options. I was happy to see old favorites and some items I had always wanted to try but never did.

When the waitress came back, we had ruled out ordering any of the specials. My Maine squeeze ordered the Ceasar Salad. I had to try the French Onion Soup. We held off on ordering entrees since we hadn’t made our final decisions yet. As we continued to consume our drinks, I started to feel the effects of mine. My brain was a-buzz with a weird whiskey whistle, but it seemed to help me pick my food.

Our orders were decided when the waitress made her next appearance. She dropped off our apps and some bread and we divulged our food desires. It was Grilled Meatloaf – naturally raised beef wrapped in bacon with mashed, vegetables, and gravy – and a side of Pan-Fried Gnocchi for me. She ordered the Casco Bay Scallops – mashed, spinach & mustard sauce. I was mildly concerned about ordering the meatloaf as I’m not usually a fan of gravy, but I figured I’d give it a shot. Plus, I make an amazing meatloaf myself (see my recipe for meatloaf nachos from early in the year), so I’m always afraid I’ll be disappointed with someone else’s. Nonetheless, bacon and mashed was enough to sway me. Peterpeterportlandeater rule #72 says that mashed and meatloaf are a perfect combination under all circumstances.

I spooned with my soup. It was in a crock with a heavy cheese layer on top. Inside, hidden by the cheese blanket, were deliciously sweet onions, salty broth, and previously crusty, but now somewhat soggy bread. It was splendiferous! I moved between scraping the crusty cheese off the sides, dipping the bread in the broth, and spooning the crock contents into my craw. This was a winner. My wife’s salad was a typical Caesar – fresh and delicious.

Before long, we were done with our apps and the empty dishes were taken away to drown in a pool of bath water. Our entrees came out just after and looked scrumptious. My saucer-shaped slice of meatloaf was hugged by bacon and leaning on a mountain of mashed potatoes; both were topped with gooey gravy. On the other side of the plate was a sizable portion of colorful vegetables, including cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, and green beans. I also had half a dozen gnocchi nuggets in a small bowl which were coated in seasoning. My wife’s four large scallops were arranged on the outside of her pile of mashed and all of it was on top of the mustard sauce. Her potatoes wore a spinach fedora.

It was time to dig in and, as such, I found my fork and knife giving my meatloaf a taste of Dexter’s “dark side”. With ease, I sliced the soft meatloaf, certain to get a sizable piece of bacon. I whisked my fork away from my plate and sprinted it toward my face, making sure to avoid a forking accident and placing the meatloaf perfectly in my mouth. It turns out that any concern about the meatloaf was unwarranted. It was excellent. It was well seasoned, moist and soft, and the bacon was a very nice addition. The smooth potatoes went perfectly with the loaf of meat. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy.

With full verification that my entree was delicious, I wanted to get my teeth on the gnocchi. I stuck one, almost expecting it to deflate. It didn’t. I ate it anyway. I loved it. The seasoned coating was primarily parmesan.  The taste was great, but the texture was even better. The crisp, pan-fried outer shell hid a doughy inner shell which served as housing for the great creamy potato stuffing.  Pan-fried potato perfection with parmesan? It all makes for great gastronomic goodies and alluring alliteration.

My wife verified that her scallops were awesome. I already knew since I had had them before. We stuffed ourselves until we could stuff no more. There wasn’t a shred of meat or vegetables left on my plate. My wife had a bit left which the waitress took and boxed for us. I was extra impressed when the leftover scallops were returned labeled and dated. It was a nice touch.

We passed on dessert and received our bill. The bill holders now say “the Rooms Portland, Maine” which struck me as slightly pretentious, but in sort of a funny, light-hearted way. Altogether with drinks, the meal was around $80 before tip. It was worth it as we were well-fed and our thirst was quenched. The Front Room is a serious place for people who like to eat. With great takes on traditional fare and reasonable prices, it’s pretty obvious why they stay so busy. Plus, the service is excellent. The Front Room continues to be great option if you want to eat a wicked good meal in Maine. Stop by and tell ’em Peterpeterportlandeater sent ya.

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. Like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter at @Portlandeater.

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Portland and Rochester Public House – A Welcome Surprise

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With hundreds of restaurants in town, Portland always has some that are coming and some that are going. Portland and Rochester Public House is one of the new ones that piqued my interest. Located on Preble St. and named after a rail line that was previously in the building, they focus on local flavors and ingredients according to owner Garrett Fitzgerald. Those comments on the web site made it certain I was going to pay them a visit.

Walking in, I was pleasantly surprised. The bar was beautiful and the restaurant’s rustic theme was cozy and relaxing. If the rest of my time there was going to match my initial feelings, it was going to be a good night.  We walked toward the bar and someone who appeared to be grabbing drinks told us that he’d get the hostess as she knew the seating and reservation arrangements. That made sense to me and within a minute or two the hostess arrived. A couple minutes later, we were being seated.

The dining room continued the rustic theme from the bar area. Again, it was a relaxing atmosphere and featured a couple semi-private tables on a small stage. We browsed the menus which had food on the front and drinks on the back. When the waiter came, it was the same gentleman who had originally greeted us. He poured us water and we asked about the vegan course which the menu said changed weekly. He told us about the one that was available the previous night, but said he’d check if it had changed as he hadn’t spoken to the kitchen yet. We told him that it would be another minute before we were ready to order drinks.

There were a great selection of wines, beer, and hard liquor on the menu.  I generally focus on the house cocktails as I always feel that gives me a good sense of what the restaurant has to offer. Are they giving choices that are innovative? Is there something for everyone? Do they offer good, overall variety? I think all these are important and oftentimes provide some insight into the food. While the house cocktail list was small, it had some really cool options and had a great selection of spirits if you wanted to create your own.

Our server’s return timing was perfect as we had just made our decisions when he came back. I ordered the Beet.nik – house made golden beet vodka with ginger and lemon. I heard the waiter telling someone at the table behind us that the vodka was Maine Twenty2 Vodka. My wife, now on a hard cider kick, took a Magner’s Irish Cider. We were told that the vegan choice did indeed change from the night before.

Drinks came out relatively quickly and we were ready to place our food orders. We decided to share the Lobster Cakes with harissa and picked shallots. She couldn’t decide on an entree so instead went with the Manhattan Clam Chowder and an order of the Fries. I was all in for the Scallops and Bacon with pork belly and succotash. The waiter walked away and we sipped our drinks.

“Holy vodka! What the hell was in this drink? Oh yeah, pretty much just vodka.” As I looked at the drink description again, I realized that ginger and lemon probably weren’t a huge part of my drink. It was really tasty though with strong golden beet smell and flavor, but hardly a hint of lemon or ginger. And it was strong. The verdict was that I loved it. Powerful, flavorful, and refreshing, the drink had it all. My wife loved the cider.

We continued to sip our drinks until food came out. When the Lobster cakes arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of them. Much bigger than what I was used to, they were topped with the shallots and had the harissa chili sauce underneath. We each put one on our plates and I quickly took my first bite. I was really impressed with the preparation. They had a great crunch on the outside, but were tender and soft on the inside just like me. The flavors were excellent and the sauce was plentiful with a little spice and great creamy texture. There was an obvious lobster flavor that I didn’t need to search for.

At this point, I was really starting to get fired up about my entree. As meals being delivered to other parties passed us, the smells wafted over to us and I became ravenous. Fortunately, it didn’t take long and I saw our food coming from the kitchen. It smelled like magic and looked like an angel. My wife was told that the fries were seasoned with ingredients that included sage, rosemary, thyme, and fairy dust. With that, I made it my goal to try her fries first.

I reached my grubby, little paws over to my wife’s bowl of fries. There was a cup of ketchup there, but I didn’t need it. I grabbed two fries and chomped them down. They were good…very good. The combination of herbs and spices, the freshness, and the crispness made them a sure winner. I refocused on my food.

My plate had three large sea scallops on top of a pile of succotash. There were also two pieces of pork belly between the scallops. I tried a bite of the succotash – a corn and lima bean combination. I couldn’t believe it. It was extraordinary. The intense flavors from the seasoning combined with a salty bacon/pork fat flavor and the sweet corn were absolutely out of this world. It might have been the best side to come with an entree that I ever had. Yup, it was THAT good. I looked at my crispy pork belly. I’m not one for eating the clear fat by itself and I wasn’t about to start, but I was sure as hell going to eat the crispy outside. I cut the darker piece off and tossed it on my tongue.  It was another huge success. It had intense pork flavor that just didn’t quit. I cut myself a piece of scallop and it was awesome.

Mrs. Portlandeater was quite happy with her meal and spooned me some chowder. It was good, though I’m a New England clam chowder type of guy. She likes it Manhattan style and this was no exception. She loved the chowder and fry combo. We ate all of our food. I couldn’t believe how good mine was. When our waiter stopped by again, we decided to order the PB and J Beignets which were dusted with peanut butter and served with house jam.

As with the rest of the meal, the beignets came out quickly. The little doughnut holes were cute and ready to be eaten, so I did just that. I cut one in half which was no easy task with the slightly hard and crunchy outside. I dipped it in the jam. It was good – sweet and doughy in the middle. The peanut butter flavor was a bit weak. The jam was similar to apple butter. It was a great ending to a great meal.

Reasonably priced, our meal came to just a notch below 70 bucks before tip. Portland and Rochester Public House is definitely onto something. I had heard mixed reviews prior to visiting, but there was no uncertainty on my part. The food was amazing, the service was right where it should be, and the scenery was among the best around. The worst criticism I have is that the beignets were a little short on peanut butter flavor. Other than that, the food was perfect right down to the last lima bean in my succotash. From what I hear, there is a separate bar menu and I haven’t eaten from that yet, but if you want an awesome dinner, go to the Portland and Rochester Public House dining room and just sit back and enjoy the first class experience.

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. Like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter at @Portlandeater.

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New England Distilling – Worth a Tour or More

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New England Distilling was founded in 2011 by Ned Wight with the intent of bringing back the 150 year old family legacy of distilling fine spirits. Focused on melding both history and technology, their distillation process is centered upon bringing out the best flavors in their products. Having never been on a distillery tour myself, I though this locale I had been hearing about provided the perfect opportunity.

We arrived for the last tour of the day on the tail end of another tour and were greeted by our guide who promptly took us around the one-room distillery located on Evergreen Dr. in Portland. He explained the distilling process in some depth and told us about the equipment used. Moments into the tour, we were climbing up a ladder to see the fermentation of some soon-to-be rum. Shortly after that, we were checking out the copper still and smelling the product from different points in the distilling process.

I enjoyed learning about the grains, molasses, and yeast that contribute to the culmination of great spirits, but after staring at the beautiful barrels of unbottled booze, I was definitely ready to try the products. New England Distilling has two products currently – Ingenium Dry Gin and Eight Bells Rum – with an as-of-yet-unnamed rye whiskey on the way this month. We proceeded to the front counter ready to try a couple sips of the rum and gin but were told we could also try the new rye before it came out in stores.

Reaching into my imaginary bag, I pulled out my imaginary drinking hat, put it on my real head, and got ready to try some unreal liquor. The first pour was rye, but that was just to let it “open up” while we tried the rest. While the rye figuratively chilled, we got to experience the rum. The Eight Bells Rum was nice – a bit sweet with the full punch you’d expect from straight rum.

After the rum was done, we got a taste of the gin. It was described as a “sipping gin”. Now I’ve heard of and tried sipping vodkas, whiskeys, and tequilas, but never a sipping gin. Frankly, I’m not a gin drinker, so the thought of sipping it brings up nightmares of being crushed under the weight of a giant pine tree and rotting in a pile of pine needles. We were assured though that this was not the case with the Ingenium.

Nervously, I put my plastic shot glass to my lips, having added the portion the missus didn’t drink from hers. “Mmmhummm…wow, not bad.” It was true. The Ingenium was a less harsh, less pine needle-ly gin. I let it sit with me for a minute. I thought to myself that I might actually be able to drink gin. It was quite a revelation, but one I was very happy to stumble upon. I prepared for the rye.

When I tried the rye, I got a hint of flavor that I thought I also got from the gin. I was happy to be reminded that they at least have some similar ingredients, so I wasn’t just imagining it. The rye was good, but I was still taken with the gin. I felt that out of all three spirits, I was most likely to buy the Ingenium. It will probably be the only gin I buy in the future.

With samples finished, we asked about the prices of merchandise. New England Distillery has some pretty cool branded items for sale including some really neat wooden barrels which hold varying amounts of your favorite spirits. They have some nice looking glasses, whiskey disks, bottles of liquor, of course, and a bunch of other items. Distribution of the liquor is spread out throughout the northeast and locally the spirits are available at Hannaford, RSVP, and local restaurants, among other places.

Before leaving, we picked up some glasses and whiskey disks which I’ve considered buying for a while. Whiskey disks are meant to be kept in the freezer and dumped in your whiskey to literally chill it without diluting it. I bet they’ll work great with the new rye product.

Overall, I had a great time at New England Distillery. I learned about the distilling process, got to try some spirits, and picked up a couple trinkets for my bar. Give them a call yourself and grab a tour. It only takes about a half hour, but it’s a pretty good time.

Stay thirsty.

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. Like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter at @Portlandeater.

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Ribollita – Italian Food to Put You in the Mood

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Ribollita has been around for a while, but it’s always been the place I just walked by and said I’d try someday. Finally, that someday came and my other half made a Saturday night reservation at the Italian food purveyor. When we walked into the restaurant the entrance left us standing next to a couple tables in a long, thin path that led to a larger section of the dining room. After waiting a couple of minutes, someone took us to our seats. The walk led us through and past a couple small sections of tables to a table by a window.

The first order of business, even before sitting down, was heading to the rest room.  I didn’t need to rest, but when I entered I found that it would be a perfect place to do that.  The relatively long, very thin bathroom sort of resembled the shape of an extra-long twin mattress.  It might have actually been a little longer and slightly thinner than that though.  I laughed as it was definitely the only bathroom I ever remembered seeing in that extreme of a shape.  I’ve seen very small lavatories, but never quite with those dimensions.

On the walk back to my seat, I continued to squeeze my shoulders in front of me to save space. The dining areas were tightly packed with tables. If I had a wider build I might have found it cramped, but I actually thought it was somewhat cozy. I considered cuddling with the woman sitting at the table next to me but I figured she might find it awkward. After ruling out a quick loving moment with a stranger in public, we looked at our menu briefly before a waitress approached us with specials and offered to take our drink orders. We needed a minute more to decide. When she returned, we asked a couple questions about the drink menu and made our decisions. I chose the Geary’s Autumn Ale and she got a full-bodied white recommend by our server. We tried to order an appetizer but the waitress suggested we wait and order with our meal since she said the apps come out very quickly.

Upon the return of our waitress, we placed our orders. The Polenta Crusted Calamari was our appetizer to share. I set my heart on the North End Linguine as an entree. There were four seafood options with it from which I was told I could choose one or all. I chose all four – scallops, clams, mussels, and calamari. I also decided on the white sauce over the red. My wife went with the Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce which was one of the specials. She ordered a side of the spinach which was the recommended pairing for the ravioli according to our server.

Our beverages showed up shortly after our order was placed along with some bread and oil for dipping. We responded to the “do you want some fresh pepper in your oil” query in the affirmative and received some cracked corns in our dipping bowl – not that I cared. We were both happy with our drink choices. After our first sips, we tried the bread which was slightly herbed and very delicious.

Somewhere in the process of chomping on bread and downing our drinks, I tried to take in a bit of the view.  There wasn’t an excessive amount of décor, but right next to me was a pumpkin and a stone rooster on the windowsill. I couldn’t figure out the purpose of the rooster. I found it to be quite an interesting decoration for an Italian restaurant. I googled Italian rooster and found some similar ones, so I’ll assume it’s some sort of traditional decoration. I think it’s a safe bet the pumpkin was there purely as a seasonal piece.

Keeping with the promise of the quickly-served app, our calamari came out in a flash and distracted me from my rooster pondering. It was served with a substantial portion of Cherry Pepper Aioli. I tried it. I’m not generally a fan of polenta so my thoughts on the outer coating were pretty neutral. Other than that, the squid was very good – crunchy outside and tender inside. The aioli was really nicely done with a touch of spice, creamy texture, and a bit of sweetness. We munched on the calamari until it disappeared like it was the center of a David Blaine illusion. Then we waited a little while for our main course.

When our meals came out I was already drooling due to the smells flowing through the restaurant. My wife’s ravioli was relatively nondescript save for a little seasoning and green garnish. Mine was chock full of seafood, most notably mussels, as they were in the shell. I was intrigued by the white sauce which was not a cream sauce as I expected, but more of a broth. I took a bite. It was flavorful with substantial garlic and a nice seasoning combination. The linguine was a perfect al dente. My wife tried hers and loved it.

I took a couple more bites of my food and was intrigued by the ravioli which my wife liked so much. I stabbed half a piece with my fork and filed it between my lips. It was super-duper. The sweet butternut squash filling and the rich, but not heavy, brown butter sage sauce was really a winner. I went back to eating my meal wishing I could order a second and add the raviolis to my linguine.

As my wife neared the end of her ravioli plate, she offered me the last one. I ate it then finished my meal. When I was done with my pasta, there was still a small pile of garlic and seasoning left on my plate. I forked the delicious hill of yum into my mouth and realized I felt like a stuffed tomato. I wasn’t quite ready to explode but I was pretty sure I had gained a sizeable amount of heft since I arrived.

We passed on dessert even after hearing the awesome choices which were all made in-house. Our meal came to $78 including tip. We were happy with the experience. My meal was very good, but my wife’s was so good that I almost wished I had ordered hers. Ribollita isn’t going away any time soon. Their food is solid, the service is top notch, and the cozy atmosphere is warm and inviting. Except for the fact that a tight squeeze on the way out almost caused me to drag the table cloth with me, the atmosphere, ambiance, and overall experience were at a level that makes it clear why Ribollita is so busy to this day. Like the Terminator, I’ll be back.

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. Like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter at @Portlandeater.

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Portland Hunt and Alpine Club – New Joint, Fine Drinks, and a Little Taste of Scandinavia

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Portland Hunt and Alpine Club opened a couple months ago on Market Street in the Old Port. Featuring cocktails and Scandinavian food, it definitely has one of the better names for a restaurant in the Portland area.  The bar, with its large selection of spirits piled high on the wall, is definitely a focal point of the restaurant. Getting a good view of it once I sat down, I was pumped to try a fancy drink.

Upon adjusting my bar stool and settling in, a bartender provided us each with two menus. One was a leather-bound cocktail and spirit menu – rich mahogany smell excluded – and the other a large, one-sheet menu with house cocktails, glass wine, draft beer, and food on the front and a map on the back. I wasn’t the only patron that night that immediately noticed the Late Night at OOB on the list of house cocktails. It featured the fine ingredients of rum, other things, and shame – a delicious combination.

Once I was able to rid myself of OOB memories, my wife pointed out the White Noise – elderflower, cocchi americano, and grapefruit zest. She had one when she was there previously and loved it. That didn’t sound great to me, so I popped open the leather-bound book. I asked about a whiskey drink from which they were missing an ingredient and eventually settled on the Bumblebee with rum, lime, honey syrup, and egg whites.

With drink orders placed, we moved to the food. Portland Hunt and Alpine isn’t really a place you would go to for a full meal. We were just there for appetizers anyway, but the food menu is sparse with four bords/boards, eight savory items, and one sweet treat. The bords looked awesome, with combinations of cured meats, seafood, cheeses, pickles, and more, but based on the price, I figured they were on the larger side for an appetizer. The savory items also looked excellent. I went straight for the Pickle Plate while my wife ordered the Popcorn which she insisted was “the best popcorn ever”.

Waters were placed in front of us and shortly thereafter came the cocktails. My drink was aesthetically pleasing with some lines on top which I thought might have been orange syrup of some sort. It was garnished with an orange zest. The taste was a great combination of sweet and citrus. The egg white added a bit of froth. I told Mrs. Portlandeater that I really liked it and she said hers was great too. She offered to let me try her drink. I did, but as it touched my lips, it took a second and then I decided it was horrible. I immediately took a sip of mine to wash out the taste. She then tried mine and hated it. I told her we should just stick to drinking our own drinks. She agreed.

In the middle of our beverage consumption, a couple sitting by us inquired about the Jagermeister Spice they saw sitting on a shelf.  I was intrigued as I had recently seen an ad for it. The bartender showed us the bottle and gave us both a sample. I don’t mind the cough syrup taste of Jager, but for those who do, the Jager Spice has less alcohol than the regular version and a cinnamon and vanilla flavor that goes down pretty smoothly. Our food came out right after our Jager taste which is good because I was hungrier than a cannibal in an apple orchard.

My pickles appeared on a board and looked delectable. They included shallots, standard bread and butter pickles, a beet and carrot combo, and cauliflower. The popcorn looked pretty basic, through my wife continued to insist it was orgasmic. I started with a taste of the cauliflower. It was likely the best preparation of cauliflower I ever had with a good vinegar flavor and a solid bit of underlying spice. The beet and carrot mix was good but a bit heavy on the spice for a pickled option. I’m not sure exactly what it was spiced with, but it might have been cardamom or some other Indian flavor. The bread and butter pickles were sweet and delicious and the shallots tasted very much like a sweet onion as shallots often do. Overall, the pickles were a win.

I was ready to try this popcorn I had heard so much about. It was coated in green chiles, parmesan, butter, salt, and by then, probably my wife’s saliva. At my wife’s insistence, I trapped a small handful of the pan-popped kernel explosions sitting in front of her and dumped it in my mouf. A corn carousel created a carnival of carnal love on my taste buds. Butter and parmesan always work on popcorn, but apparently if you throw in just the right amount of green chile, it takes popcorn to the next level. It was delicious and unique. You might call it uni-corn.

Our food and drinks didn’t take long to finish. We put in an order for more popcorn and my wife had a second drink, sticking with a repeat of her first. I decided, after much contemplation, to have a second drink also and went with a Rye Manhattan. I tried Jim Beam Rye, but they had several varieties of rye on the shelf including Knob Creek which I will definitely be trying next time I am there. The Manhattan was made perfectly and came with a lemon zest garnish.

When our second order of popcorn came out, I think we might have eaten it faster than the first. It went great with whiskey. We took our time and sipped our drinks. When we were almost done, I looked at our tab and noticed that I was being charged for three Manhattans. I pointed it out to the bartender who quickly who quickly retorted that he was predicting the future and then corrected it. The correction also featured happy hour prices on our food. The total bill was 46 George Washingtons without tip.  I’d like to take a moment and recognize that the menu prices did include tax which is great and really simplifies calculations for the customers and my OCD.  I hope that in the future more restaurants will follow suit.

We finished up and paid. I walked out happy. Portland Hunt and Alpine Club is a great new choice in Portland for a drink after work with some apps or a pre-dinner visit any time. I believe that in a city saturated with restaurants that have bars, a bar that has a smallish restaurant but is focused on drinks is the type of place that can add something to the culture. The drinks were excellent…well, mine were anyway. The food we had was very tasty and the food everyone around us ordered looked very appetizing. The music selection featured a lot of older songs which was interesting, but I think it’s well known that pickled cauliflower and Harry Belafonte go together like shit and shingles. Stop by and get some Scandinavian food and a stiff drink for yourself. You’ll love their drinks, but if you don’t, just walk outside, pour it on the sidewalk, and declare that it’s for your lost homie Sven.

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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