Monthly Archives: July 2014

Lolita – A New Restaurant by Experienced Restaurateurs

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Lolita is the new creation by the former owners of Bar Lola. When Bar Lola closed, owners Guy and Stella Hernandez planned on opening a new joint and Lolita is what came of it. Not having paid close attention to recent openings locally, I was surprised when my wife told me she made a reservation there as I wasn’t yet familiar with the restaurant. After brushing up on the last couple months of Portland food happenings, I got the 411 and was excited to try it.

On a Saturday evening, four of us ventured over to Munjoy Hill and found Lolita. We had reservations for 8:45. We walked in, were quickly greeted, and told our table would be ready shortly. The restaurant was very nice. There were great looking light fixtures made with iron pipes, a long bar, lots of wine on wall shelves, and an overall cool, relaxed atmosphere. A few minutes later, we were told that someone had commandeered our table and for reasons which we’re divulged to us, were hesitant to ask that person to move. It was no big deal, and a little while later, we finally were seated.

With the wait to be seated a bit longer than usual, I was ready to take a look at the food and drink menus and put in some orders. The waiter came by and gave us a quick breakdown of the restaurant which had only been open for a few weeks. The menu contained various sizes of plates which could be ordered based on the enormity of your appetite and the number of people wanting to share. The drink menu had a beer selection on the reverse side and there was a separate wine menu.

I was in the mood for a mixed drink and was strongly considering whiskey. The mixed drinks were separated into “Classic” and “Spirited”. One of the classics was a Manhattan which is always a possible go-to for me. However, right below, I laid my eyes on the De La Louisiane #2 – Bulliet Bourbon, Benedictine, Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth, Peychaud’s Bitters, and Pernod Rinse. I decided that would be my chosen drink for the night.

The waiter came by to get our drink orders and in addition to my drink, there was also more whiskey, beer, and wine ordered. He also gave a handful of specials then parted and said he’d be back to answer any questions and take our food orders. We sat waiting and partaking in a discussion about our favorite 80’s pro-wrestling characters and comparing Hulk Hogan to Hillbilly Jim. When the waiter came back, we “hulked up” and asked him a handful of questions and got ready to place our orders. I was impressed with his knowledge of the menu and we got all our answers without needing to leg drop him.

A number of food items were ordered for our table. My selections started with Consider Bardwell Farm cheese from VT. Next, I chose one of the specials – Grilled Oysters with Whiskey Mignonette. I’m not much for raw oysters, but I love them cooked and I’d never had them grilled, so I was ready to try them. The last part of my order was a special of meatballs. I’m a big meatball fan and make great ones myself, but I hoped they’d have some good ones too. Bucatini, Grilled Vegetables, and more cheeses rounded out the orders.

We were all having a great time chatting, but after a while I couldn’t help but notice that it was taking an exceptionally long time to get our drinks. Before they finally came, there were a couple grumblings at our table about the wait. Nonetheless, the drinks did eventually get to us. I tried mine right away. Boom! It was amazing. It had the strength of a gorilla and not the slightest bit of burn. It was as smooth as you could imagine – an absolutely top-notch cocktail. I was really impressed.

Sipping of drinks continued, but unfortunately, so did the waiting. It was excessive and we didn’t get much in the way of updates, though the waiter did come by to see if we needed more drinks. Some at the table were really dismayed by the food and drink delay, but of course, the food did finally arrive. The first course that came out was just cheese which is how we requested it. The cheese came with some crisp bread/crackers and a smear of honey. I’m pretty easy to please when cheese is involved and this occasion was no different. I loved it and the honey was a nice touch to add a little sweetness.

Once we devoured the cheese, we waited again. The rest of the food came after another significant delay. My grilled trio of oysters was the next starting point. I tried one. It was delicious with the mild whiskey flavor adding a nice touch to the mignonette sauce. They were really good and an excellent example of cooked oysters. With those were done, I put the meatballs in my line of fire. There were three of those little bastards and they were daring me to eat them. I forked one of them and dumped it in my mouth like taking a child’s toy and putting the circle peg in the round hole. They were outstanding – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside with a not-too-meaty, but hearty texture and a mild sweetness followed by explosive flavor. They were particularly great since they were very different than the ones I make but every bit as tasty. It didn’t hurt that they had them on a bed of cheesy sauce and other delicious accompaniments.

We all finished our food and drink. Everyone seemed to like it. We considered dessert, but ended up passing. Our bill came to 130 bucks pre-tip. That included seven drinks, three cheeses, and five other food orders.  I was very happy with what we consumed, but like the others at my table, was concerned about the wait. It was okay to an extent since we were having a good time, but we didn’t get an update on the status of the orders which was the bigger issue. In the future, I hope an update on an order that takes too long will be standard practice.

Despite the wait, I would definitely recommend Lolita for the food and drink. It’s entirely possible that the delays were due to the newness of the restaurant and were just a kink that hadn’t been worked out yet. I’m confident that the experience of the owners will lead to that being corrected. The strong knowledge of the wait staff, the appealing decor, and the great food will keep people walking in the door as long as the food delivery time is cleaned up a bit.

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. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @Portlandeater.

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Catbird Creamery Update – Cake Boss: Westbrook, ME

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Last year when I was writing up my first annual Eating Portland, Maine awards and choosing Catbird Creamery as my restaurant of the year, I knew they would only continue to astonish and amaze everyone who went there – including myself.  I haven’t been disappointed as I’ve literally sent dozens of people there and not one has expressed anything but complete and utter joy as a result.

Culinary creator of creamy confections Andrew Warren continues to produce the finest ice cream related products in a DaVinci-like manner, offering nothing but world-class treats. And now, like a gift from the heavens, he has begun serving up ice cream cakes. Considering my fondness for their everyday products, it didn’t seem unlikely to me that I might enjoy eating an entire cake stuffed with Catbird ice cream.

Months before my birthday, my wife and I started planning the cake I would get. This would be a birthday present to remember. My first requirement was Furious George ice cream and my second was something peanut buttery. Other than that, I was ready for whatever my wife thought of and whatever the creamery wizard concocted. My wife said she had ideas and I wasn’t worried. She’s got my back.

I anxiously awaited my birthday and when it came time to order my cake, Mrs. Portlandeater put in the call. A few days later, we headed over to pick it up. Despite my desire to see and eat it right away, it was nicely packaged in a box with ribbon around it. We flew home as fast as we could, opened the box, and the cake was well wrapped inside with plastic and paper. After taking the paper out, the plastic still prevented us from seeing it. I clenched my fist in anger and then threw it in the freezer until we were ready to eat.

After a few hours of the cake chilling, we had a couple friends come over to share it with us. We pulled it out of the freezer and finally unwrapped it. It was like a giant cookie sandwich with a chocolaty center. My wife had ordered chocolate peanut butter cake with Furious George and Strawberry Balsamic ice creams. On the outside were honey roasted peanuts and chocolate chunks. We began the process of cutting slices which wasn’t particularly easy, but I was committed to my wife getting through it so I could eat.

With four pieces of cake ready to go, we all dug in. Yowza! The cake was a dense, brownie-like, and de-lish. The ice cream combo only added to the greatness and the angry monkey left a little bit of fire in the back following the icey front-end. One party member was heard saying “This might be the best dessert I’ve ever had.” Yes, It was great, and everyone was nearly experiencing rapture through it. If we weren’t going out to dinner right after, I probably would’ve eaten half a cake myself.

Catbird’s cakes are to die for – bakery masterpieces that are worth every penny. Even if you don’t need a cake, you should just get one anyway. I can’t think of any good reason not to get one unless you have a cake allergy. I’m definitely going to be getting more in the future and probably not that far in the future. In fact, I’ve got an event coming up for which I will definitely need a Catbird Creamery cake. It’s called Tuesday.

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. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @Portlandeater.

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Fisherman’s Grill – One Fish, Two Fish…Lots and Lots of Fish

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I’m adding Fisherman’s Grill to the short list of places I’ve reviewed so far that don’t have table service. I had a full meal there and figured my readers might enjoy hearing about it, especially since it’s summertime in Maine and they have an outdoor seating area where you can enjoy the great weather and eat the seafood of your choice. If you’re not familiar with it, it might be because it’s a bit hidden on Forest Ave., but you drunkards will know approximately where it is because it’s right by RSVP Discount Beverage.

We ended up at Fisherman’s Grill at the urging of my wife who insisted we try it on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. When we got there I noticed that the sign on the telephone pole out front said “Fisherman’s Net”, but the sign on the building had the correct name. I looked at my wife and questioned, “THIS is Fisherman’s Grill?” She responded with a “Yup” and suggested that it was perfect. It was perfect in all it’s dilapidated shacky glory and we were ready to experience something that was truly Maine in the form of a restaurant we’d never been to.

With four outdoor picnic tables and a shoddy exterior which reminded me of every seafood shack in the state, my spidey senses were tingling. We walked in and it was more of the same. There were about three tables, a drink cooler, and a small counter at which to order. A single soul stood behind the counter taking endless orders and two cooks appeared in a window behind her cooking like their jobs depended on it – I’m assuming their jobs actually did depend on it.

Once we briefly looked around, we grabbed some laminated menus and started browsing the unusually large number of available items. The menu was truly extensive with lobster, seafood combos and dinners, sandwiches, rolls, grill items, chowder, salads, sides, and kids items. It was a little overwhelming but I liked the choices. I noticed that many of the items were listed as “Market Price”. It turns out that most of the missing prices were on the counter for viewing which was okay by me.

My original intention when I went was to get a lobster roll, but with so many choices available, my brain was swirling about and unable to settle enough to make  a decision. There was Lobster Mac and Cheese, Lobster Reuben, Clam Cakes, Crab Melts, fried seafood, seared seafood, and lots more. There was even a specials board with a few additional items and combos. I spied the Jumbo Lobster Roll and Pint of Seared Scallops for a hefty $46.95. It was really expensive, but it was hard to ignore because it was just that type of day. I ordered that special and my wife went with the Fried Clam Dinnah which came with fries and coleslaw.

After ordering, we went outside to grab a spot at one of the picnic tables. It was hot and we knew the wait would be long based on the number of orders we saw in front of ours.  During our wait, we talked until we ran out of words, stared at each other until our eyelids became tired, and had a three round bare-knuckle boxing match. After the final bell rung, we were thirsty, so I was directed by my wife – the winner of our fisticuffs – to obtain some thirst quenching liquids. I went in and grabbed a couple waters from the cooler and waited in line to purchase them. As I got to the front of the line, I was presented with our food.  I was ready to consume.

I took our waters and box of food out to my wife. We grabbed some paper towels which were already on the table and I slid my wife’s food over to her.  Everything looked great and I took a bite of one of the scallops. They were outstanding – beautifully seared with great seasoning. They tasted incredibly fresh. They didn’t need it, but I even dipped a couple in my wife’s tartar sauce which was a perfect example of the traditional seafood dip. I ate all my scallops and absolutely loved them.

Next up was my jumbo lobster roll. The jumbo roll was made with a larger-than-life 9.5 ounces of the red crustacean flesh and put into a grilled hot dog bun. I tasted it. Hmmm…it wasn’t what I expected. The lobster meat was cold, but that’s the way most lobster rolls are made in these parts. The issue was that it was really cold – quite a bit colder than if it was refrigerated. Additionally, the roll was excessively watery. Lobsters are very watery since they live and are cooked in water, but after it’s picked, the meat should have been drier and most of the water left behind. It was pretty excessive as a watery mayo was dripping everywhere and making my roll soggy. The last issue with the lobster roll was that it just wasn’t particularly flavorful or sweet. While the menu states that the lobster is picked fresh daily, I had to wonder if what I was eating had been frozen previously.

Despite my reservations about the roll, I ate it. After I was done, my wife offered me some of her food. She loved it, so I was excited to try. Her food had sea salt on it instead of table salt which was nice. I tried a fry. It was fine but I’m very particular about my fries, so I moved onto a clam. The clams were pretty large with a coating that reminded me of a cross between a standard batter and crumbs. I juggled one right into my clam-hole. Like the scallops, it was great – probably one of the best fried clams I ever had. They were crunchy outside with delicious, salty batter and super-fresh tasting clams. I tried the coleslaw. It was a typical coleslaw offering, but done without flaws. It was excellent.

I finished my wife’s meal and after spending close to 80 bucks on lunch, we were pretty full. I was happy. The lobster roll wasn’t what I was looking for, but fortunately, that was the outlier of the meal. I really wonder what the issue was as their other food was so good. I loved the diveyness of the place and almost everything about the place was really enjoyable. I would definitely go back, but unless I found out there were some changes to it, I’d avoid the lobster and probably choose something fried.

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. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @Portlandeater.

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