Monthly Archives: July 2015

White Barn Inn – A Kennebunk Restaurant for the Most Special of Occasions

image

The White Barn Inn is the place you always hear about – “It so expensive. It’s so good. It’s so everything.” I admit all the hoopla made me want to try it. I decided to create a special occasion in order to do so and made reservations in the fine dining area, but there is also a bistro area which isn’t quite as fancy or pricey. I chose the second seating of the night; there are only two per table.

It used to be that WBI required jackets, but the dress code has loosened up a bit. Though most of the male customers are still wearing jackets during their visit, I was pleased it wasn’t mandatory as I prefer to be a little looser on my nights out regardless of the food and atmosphere. Dress pants and shirt, sans necktie, fit the bill for me that night. I was comfortable and ready to get there so I could see for myself if the hype was real.

We arrived by limo – of course – and made our way up the stairs into the restaurant. We were greeted and then seated right away. The hostess took us past the bar and plopped us down just on the other side of the service area wall where she handed us both food menus and also an extensive wine menu.  As we began to peruse them, a waiter approached to ask what kind of water we wanted. “Tap, please.” We weren’t ready to order anything else quite yet.

For just a moment, I paused to take in the scenery before I really got into the specifics of the food and drink. The restaurant was beautiful – rustic barn atmosphere with giant picture windows and a view of colorful potted plants outdoors. Once I put that all in my brain, I got down to business on the drink situation. I decided to go with an Absolute cranberry to keep it simple and because they didn’t seem to have any specialty cocktails. Mrs. Portlandeater went with a Riesling. Now it was time to focus on the food.

There are two choices on the menu. Diners can either choose a four or nine course tasting menu. I immediately went with the four course since that involved picking from several options for each course while the nine course was already predetermined. My wife went with the same for the same reason. We got our drinks, a choice of bread, and ordered our food. My drink was quite strong which I liked. She enjoyed her wine. We took in the scenery and our drinks while waiting for the beginning of our meal.

Before our starters came, we received a shot glass of Mushroom Mousse with some toppers. I tried it. I must admit that it was strange. It did taste very much like mushrooms and I can best describe it as a very strong pureed mushroom soup that was whipped into the consistency of pub cheese. My wife and I didn’t love it but we didn’t hate it either. It seemed to me like it should have been a spread for bread or something along those lines, but by that time, our breads were gone. I think overall the mushroom flavor was too strong by itself. Still though, I found it interesting and ate it all.

Soon after our shot glasses were cleared, our starters came out. I had the Lobster Spring Roll with carrot, daikon radish, and snow pea in a Thai inspired spicy sweet sauce. Wifette had the Kennebunkport Lobster Bisque – crispy wonton, pernod creme, sauteed lobster mushroom. I tried mine and I absolutely loved it. It actually had quite a bit of lobster and the sauce was superb. That was pretty much everything I was looking for in the roll, so it would be tough to fail with success in those particular areas. My wife’s was also outstanding. Based on those results, I was convinced that WBI had a clear picture of lobster preparation. They really knew what they were doing in the creepy crimson crustacean category.

Next up was intermission which in food terms is apparently the course between the appetizer and the entree. I was torn during the picking phase because so many of the intermissions looked appealing. I asked the waiter for a suggestion and he seemed to like all of them, so I just ordered the first one he mentioned – Parmesan Reggiano Mousse, summer pea salad, and aged balsamic. It was delivered on a plate and in an edible cheese crisp bowl. I took a bite of the mousse by itself. It was super strong like eating a big bite of softened parmesan. It needed something to dampen the flavor, so I took a piece of the cheese crisp and scooped the mousse like dipping a chip. Boomshakalaka! It was like magic. Adding the soft cheese to the hard cheese crisp made a great double cheese combo. Whoever came up with adding cheese to more cheese for the perfect taste is a genius. My wife ate her intermission of Honeydew Melon and spearmint sorbet which I avoided due to my aversion to honeydew. We both finished our plates and waited anxiously for the main course.

My entree of Steamed Maine Lobster nestled on a bed of fettuccine with carrot, ginger, snow peas, and cognac coral butter sauce brought a pleasant surprise. With the lobster’s head and tail fan at either end of the plate, the meat of the lobster was in between them creating what essentially looked to be an entire lobster without the shell. I would learn quickly that the lobster was also cut into bite-size pieces for the easiest-eating lobster ever. The sauce was both on top of the lobster and pooled in the plate. It was utterly spectacular – another perfect lobster dish. I mixed my fett and veg in the pooled sauce, which was, in retrospect, the perfect way to consume them. While I was obsessed with my lob, my first and only wife was digging into Seared Local Halibut with peanut and mushroom tortellini, pickled daikon radish, miso broth, and crispy ginger rice paper. She loved it and I tried it to verify that it was indeed delish.

After we were finished with our entrees, we were both pretty full, but dessert was on it’s way. As with the rest of the night, the food came out pretty quickly.  Before we got our ordered sweets though, the waiter brought out what I believe was a chocolate buttercreme log and a thin mint and, at the same time, my wife ordered some coffee. We dug into the chocolate and found that they were both delicious and very sweet. I suppose that was a primer for what was to come and it was a good one. Without further adieu, we got our true desserts.

I had ordered the Peanut Butter Mousse with salted brittle, vanilla doughnut, whipped honey, and banana ice cream. The peanut butter mousse was my third mousse of the night and I was excited to try it – it had peanut butter in it after all. Who can resist the deliciously gooey, nutty, flavor of peanut butter in a dessert? Mmmmmmmmm…Oh wait, where was I? Oh right…so I dipped into the mousse which had brittle on top, which had a tiny donut on top, which had ice cream on top, which might have had something on top of that. I carefully placed the mousse in my mouth. By the fire of hell that roasts all of the peanuts on the planet! It was extraordinarily extraordinary. The peanut butter mousse was exceptionally strong like all the mousse at WBI that night, but this one I could handle all by itself. The peanut butter punch just grazed my chin and I was ready for more. The donut, honey, and ice cream only added to the legend of the peanut butter mousse. My wife had the “Smores”; brownie and godiva souffle with toasted marshmallow, smoked graham cracker sorbet. She insisted that it was like a satin sheet on the bed of Zeus. A bite of her treat confirmed that.

While we thought we were done at this point, we were delivered some mini blueberry muffins which we quickly consumed. A few minutes later, we got some sort of tiered serving stand with arms that held more sweet treats. There were 5 for each of us. They consisted of concoctions including pecan pie, marshmallow, strawberry jam, chocolate, and wrapped candies. We each had a couple – they were all top notch – and then we realized another bite would be too much, even if the treats were only wafer thin.

That was it for us. We were full and very pleased with both the quality and quantity of the food. I had a pretty good idea of how much the bill was going to be. While that WBI stays pretty full, their prices certainly aren’t for the feint of heart.  It’s safe to say without actually researching further that they are one of the most expensive restaurants in the state if not the single most expensive. We got the “inexpensive” meals at $109 each. The nine course will run you $165 each, and the various optional wine pairings cost between $58-$99. My drink was an additional $10.50 and my wife’s wine was $19 – no charge for the coffee. After tax and tip, our meal came to $320, but you could easily spend over $600 with the nine course and wine pairings for two.

Despite the exorbitant cost, I’ve got no complaints about my experience at the White Barn Inn. The food was absolutely great, the atmosphere is stunningly beautiful, and the service/staff was perfect and kept the meal flowing very well. We were overloaded on desserts – who could complain about that? – but only after a spectacular meal. I’m really set on trying everything once and I think everyone should try White Barn Inn. The menu changes weekly and features lots of great local ingredients. I’ll be going back eventually, but it will probably be about a grand larceny prison sentence before I do. I’ve got to save my duckets again or win the lottery because eating like a king can get pricey. I think I might be relegated to eating fast food for a few months after that meal…or maybe not.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

Want to be notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry? Subscribe to my blog by clicking the “Follow” button on the right side of this page. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

Tempo Dulu – Peterpeterportlandeater and the Tempo of Dulu

image

When my wife told me about a new Asian restaurant coming to Portland that would be serving dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, I wanted to go there without hesitation. The preliminary reviews had been magnificent and Asian is one of my favorites, so I thought this place might be the type of culinary awesome-bomb I always like to visit. Plus, I had every indication they would be serving up some Asian-style seafood which I could only imagine would create a supergroup of flavors akin to a Metallica/Pearl Jam combo jamming on the moon.

Tempo Dulu is located in the beautiful Danforth Inn at the former site of other now defunct eateries. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation, climbed the stairs to the front door, and upon entrance, were greet by the house manager. We were immediately seated and offered water and menus, and in the process walked by the bar which was small, but absolutely beautiful. It was busy, while the rest of the restaurant was slower. We were in a room by ourselves and I took in the atmosphere which was spectacular with a great historic feel and some modern touches.

I began to peruse the food and drink menus. The drink menu was extensive with cocktails, beer, lots of wine, sake, and liquor. When the waiter came over, we weren’t ready to order drinks yet, but he offered to have the bartender/mixologist come over if we had any questions and provided us with a Mango Shooter with Sprouted Basil to cleanse our palates. I didn’t have any questions, but did want to inspect the menu further. Before finalizing our decisions, we tried the mango shooter. It was incredible and we sipped it as we came to conclusions about our drinks. My wife decided to go with the Mai Tai – Clément Rhum, Myers Dark Rum, Pierre Ferrand Orange Curacao, orgeat, lime. After some delay, I decided on the Jakarta – Knob Creek Rye, Averna Amaro, Cynar, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Coastal Root Bitters, absinthe mist, smoked with Chinese 5 spices.

After the drink orders were placed, I gathered my concentration and focused it on the menu. Tempo Dulu has three fixed price options – the three course menu where you choose the appetizer, entree, and dessert; the lobster tasting with five items including dessert; and the chef’s tasting menu which includes a number of selections with entree items served family style. After some discussion, my wife decided on the three course menu while my hunger warranted the chef’s tasting.

Our drinks arrived promptly. My wife’s looked beautiful in her very nice glassware with a tiny, tiny, tiny clothespin holding some sort of leaf to the glass. My drink came out with a really unique presentation – on a board, a small carafe held the contents of my drink while an overturned glass confined the smoking spices to add some smokey, spicy flavor to it. The waiter turned the glass right side up, poured the concoction into it, and served it to me. We then placed our food orders.

It was time to try the drinks. I actually tried the Mai Tai first. It was delicious and fruity. I then tried my Jakarta. It was an excellent take on a Manhattan. I was most intrigued by the smoked spice flavor. It worked well with the rye, giving it a bit of scotchiness. I was very happy. We sat and sipped, waiting for some food to come out and it was hardly a snap of my fat fingers before something did.

Tempo Dulu doesn’t serve bread, but rather multicolored Shrimp Crackers with both peanut and chili sauces for dipping. They were interesting to me as I usually have an aversion to shrimp for the texture, but was sure that shrimp crackers would not have the same texture as shrimp. I was right. The crackers were mild with some shrimp flavor and lots or crunch. The peanut sauce was very good and more or less what you might expect from a peanut sauce. The chili sauce was outstanding with heavy spice, a hint of sweet, and a ton of flavor. I knew right there that Tempo Dulu was not afraid to put the heat on the food and it pleased me so. After some saucementation, I discovered that mixing the sauces together made them even better!

As we ran out of crackers, we had another meal precursor delivered in the form of Pineapple with Pork Belly, Peanut, and Cilantro. I got to eat both since Mrs. Portlandeater is also Mrs. Noporkeater. They were extraordinary – pineapple sweet, po-bel rich, and a cilantro touch via a single cilantro petal. After the pineapple, we were promised the start of our meal was coming right up and, without fail, it indeed did.

My wife’s first course was Maine Crab Cake – lemongrass tomato confit, fried lemon, hot mustard coconut butter. I had Green Papaya Soup with lemongrass tomato confit. I again tried my wife’s first. The crab cake was small, but somewhere in the vicinity of 100% crab. It was glorious and the coconut butter was so incredibly flavorful I nearly dipped my face in it. Next, I folded my confit into the soup as the waiter had recommended and gave it a try. Wow! It was ultra creamy with a fairly light, but exceptionally delicious taste.  It was among the better soups I’ve had. We had no problem finishing our starters.

Our next course brought me a Fried Lobster Spring Roll – Foie Gras Satay, Indonesian peanut Sauce and my wife a scallop topped with some spicy relish. Hers was not part of the regular meal, but rather one of the interludes which we had already become accustomed to at that point. Keeping with a theme, I tried hers first. It was incredible. The perfectly cooked sweet scallops paired very well with a relish that added more of the same plus a substantial kick.  My lobster spring roll had lots of lobster and the peanut sauce for its was even better that the one I had with the crackers. It was darker and spicier. The foie gras – something I would never order off a menu – was beyond delicious. This was all adding up to quite a meal.

We only had entrees left before the dessert was to be served and I was a bit confused. My entree was to be served family style, but still, it seemed there were too many foods left from the menu to be served as a single course. The waiter showed up with some pineapple ginger sorbet before all that though. It was another great offering and the second palate cleanser of the evening. We had very clean palates at this point and were ready for our entrees. When the waiter returned once more with a miniature heating table, he said the meal does take a lot of space, so it appeared that I would indeed have many options arriving at once.

Soon, my wife’s entree of Lobster Fried Rice arrived. It had a crispy egg and crab roe relish on top and was made with seasonal vegetables and served with a side of the chili sauce. The waiter spooned some white rice onto my plate along with Chicken Satay and Egg Sambal Telur or hard boiled egg with spicy sauce.  I tried my wife’s rice and it was just magical. I could hardly wait to dig I to mine. The egg came first – even before the chicken. It was absolutely excellent, but to be honest, I’m pretty sure I would have eaten fried AA batteries if they were covered in that chili sauce. Then I tried the satay. It was even better than the foie gras satay – unquestionably the best satay I ever had.

A couple minutes after my satay, rice, and egg experience started, the rest of my meal came out, and it was absolute food madness. On the heating table were placed some medium bowls of Banana Leaf Steamed Halibut, Sumatra Lamb, and Beef Rendang Padang. Then a medium bowl of Wok Charred Squid hit the table along with a large bowl of yellow rice and small bowls of spicy eggplant, pickles, peanuts, chili sauce, green beans, and carrots. Eleven bowls of food seemed like enough, so now I had to see how much of them I could actually eat.

The bowl of lamb was my first victim. It was topped with both brown and golden rasins. It was tasty in a good sauce, but a rarer than I prefer. I ate a few pieces and moved on. Next, I sampled the halibut. The halibut was good, but very mild. It paired well with the rice which I felt added some flavor. Next I tried the beef. It was shredded, saucy, and topped with some papaya sticks. On the first bite, I fell in love. It was very strange, but the beef reminded me of cinnamon and sugar fried dough from the fair. It was sweet and so incredibly flavorful. Next I ate some of the squid. Again, these paired exceptionally with the yellow rice. There was something about the rice that just complimented both seafood dishes perfectly. All the accompanying items to my meal were delicious. The vegetables were all very fresh and crunchy, including the pickles. Even the eggplant, of which I’m not normally a fan, was pretty good. I was in food heaven.

Most of my entree was consumed and as a result, I felt like somewhat of a whale. I still anticipated the dessert anxiously though. Of course, we first got  an unexpected item – Lime Gelee with Candied Cherry Tomato. It was definitely unusual, but pretty damn good. Then we waited patiently. I probably would have happily waited a while because I was already quite full. My wife had just enough time to order some decaf coffee and our dessert made it’s way over. She got the Indonesian Spekkock – blueberry, star anise, cinnamon, coconut ice cream. My trio had some of that but also a crepe and some sort of passionfruit dessert. My favorite was the crepe, but all were good. At that point, I was pretty much ready to unbuckle my belt, but Tempo Dulu is a classy joint, so I avoided it.

Just when I thought we were done, we were presented with a glass of complimentary Prosecco because we were celebrating a special event. Even though I had an idea of how much the meal was – and it wasn’t cheap, I almost thought I was ripping them off because we were getting so much. Okay, maybe not, but I was certainly satisfied that they were doing everything in their power to earn our business. We finished our glass of Prosecco and were ready to fly though I suspect our bellies would have gotten in the way of our wings.

With our bill came some green lollipops of a flavor I don’t recall. It didn’t surprise me because I got the feeling the presents would never end. Tempo Dulu did set a record for the most expensive meal I have ever had at $240 after tax and tip. My wife’s meal was $68, mine was $85, drinks were $15 each, and coffee was a mere 3 bucks. While not every, single item was my absolute favorite based solely on personal preference, notably the rare lamb, most were outstanding. I always think that’s sort of the fun of  a tasting menu – you get to try new foods, some of which you’ll love and some which might not be exactly to your liking. Everyone has different tastes. Think about this too – I got to try somewhere around 25 different foods which doesn’t even include the food I tried from my wife. It’s hard to argue that the price was unreasonable based on that alone.

In case the number of foods I tried wasn’t enough, add to the fact that the food was often beyond words – so very magnificent. The waiter was very knowledgeable and super friendly, but completely unpretentious and genuine. His service was top notch. The amount of silverware and plate exchanges alone were close to enough to earn his money, but the multitude of courses really required a ton of effort on his part. I can only imagine if the restaurant had been busy how much more complex it would be to provide a high level of service, but I have no doubt he still would have. The restaurant itself is beautiful. It looks and feels historic because it is.

I give Tempo Dulu my highest recommendation. I assure you that it is not just a meal, but a complete culinary experience highlighted by both eating and learning about first rate Asian cuisine using lots of local ingredients in the best and most elegant of locations. Like most Maine restaurants of any quality, there is no dress code, so you can go and relax while feeling like king for a meal. Save your money and make this place your very next special occasion go-to. You can thank me later.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

Want to be notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry? Subscribe to my blog by clicking the “Follow” button on the right side of this page. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

Davinci’s – Italian Eatery to the North

image

Davinci’s in Lewiston is a little outside of my regular restaurant path, but when I’m around, it’s one of the places I often visit. It had been a little while since I was last at the purveyor of Italian eats, so I was curious to see if it was as I remembered it or if it would throw me a curveball. There is a parking lot there which is a nice bonus compared to most Portland restaurants, but when it’s nearly full, it can get a little cramped. Nonetheless we parked without issue and made our way in.

We were with family and friends for a total party of seven but arrived earlier in the evening, so we were seated right away. There were already menus and water at the table and I started investigating the options without delay.  Davinci’s has pretty much the standard Italian fare with a few concoctions that add their own flair. The menu is typical and divided by category – starters, salads, specials, classics, seafood, meaty plates, and some good old fashioned pizza. I wanted to try something different and I went in with a bit of a hankering for pizza, but kept an open mind and tried to find the right food for the night.

Our waitress visited us to take drink orders and a variety of beer, wine, and cocktails were requested. I stuck with water because I was driving and I don’t even drive that well sober. Once libation demands were made, everyone at the table began discussing life, love, and why the name Lloyd starts with two of the same consonant, so it took us a while to make some initial decisions on food. Some at the table wanted to start with a starter, and some wanted to start with a finisher. Nonetheless, choices were made that everyone could agree upon.

The final tally on apps was one Luna Di Luna – half moons of fried provolone with marinara and pesto – and a Spinach Fonduta – artichoke hearts, roasted plum tomatoes, spinach, romano, mozzarella, and served with focaccia. I ordered an extra half moon of the cheese for good measure and so we’d have enough to share with the table. While we waited on those, I buried my head in the menu looking for my next course. As I did so, the drinks came out.

My wife’s Sangria looked and smelled very fruity. My dad’s Bloody Mary was quite spectacular with it’s celery stalk, olives, pepperoni, lemon, and lots of horseradish. I tried a sip, and though I’m not a fan of Bloody Marys, I did appreciate the heavy horseradish spice. After trying the grotesquely named red concoction, I decided to settle on my final course, did so, and soon the waitress arrived to take our orders.

Pizza ended up maintaining a place in my heart and I went with the “BOB” – Brick Oven Brie Pizza – crispy prosciutto, garlic, EVOO, caramelized onions, brie, dried cranberries, blend of cheeses, topped with arugula. Mrs. Portlandeater decided on the Barbeque Chicken Pizza – BBQ Chicken, caramelized onion, cheesy goodness. We went with the small size and both ordered Caesar Salads with no anchovies – romaine, romano, parmesan, Caesar dressing, roasted red peppers. My parents went with the Renaissance Lasagna – pasta, ricotta, beef, veal, Italian sausage, asiago, marinara, blend of Italian cheese. There were also an assortment or classic and specialty dishes ordered by the rest of the table.

As we waited for the starters, we participated in some verbal jousting about which sea creature native to the eastern portion of the Pacific Ocean would make the most loyal pet. Unable to make a speedy decision, the provolone and fondue/dip made their appearance. I wasn’t concerned about the latter, but I couldn’t wait to get my paws on the cheese moons. I pulled the little semi-circles into my space and grabbed one gleefully. I also scooped some marinara, making sure not to contaminate it with the pesto.  I cut a piece of the cheese, dipped it into the red sauce, and tried it by way of my fried provolone hole. It was glorious. A bit of crunch made provolone even better and the house marinara was an excellent representation of the requisite red relish.

I ended up with a couple of half moons down the hatch with everyone else had smaller pieces and some of the fondue/focaccia combo. Salads came out shortly after. Both the wife and I had answered negatively to anchovies on the Caesar, so we avoided a salad smothered in sea succubus. The salad turned out to be a typical offering except for the addition of the red pepper garnish which I enjoyed. We scarfed those down and waited for the final countdown.

With the clock ticking on entrees, they arrived before many ticks ticked which is good, because I had been ready for an Italian feast before I even showed up. Pizza and pasta were delivered in their substantial glory. Our pizzas were as I expected them – about 12″ with good topping coverage. The other meals were of gargantuan stature. The raviolis were numerous and the pasta was plentiful. The lasagna was nearly the size of the artist currently known as Prince. He might seem tiny, but he’s huge for a lasagna.

I’m always concerned when I order pizza because I’m worried that it will be sparsely topped. Mine looked okay, but with the arugula cover and the fact that the main topping of brie was the same color as the other cheese, I didn’t know if the brie was simply camouflaged like a ninja or non-existent like the money in my pocket. I quickly bit into the crusty cheese-holder and made my assessment. The brie was surprisingly plentiful with the cranberries giving it sort of a cheese board-type sweetener accompaniment. The prosciutto was a nice touch and all the other ingredients made a superb combo. I could have lived without the arugula, but it was not excessive, so it was fine. I was still skeptical that the brie might have missed the other pieces of pizza, but they ended up fully bried, much to my delight.

All the other food went over quite well with the table. My parents certainly had multiple meals of their singer-songwriter sized layered pasta and my wife took home some pizza. We were all full and ready to hit the road even though the dessert options looked outstanding and were on display when we walked in. I just couldn’t handle consuming any more. My generous father ended up paying the tab, but Davinci’s prices are quite reasonable, especially when you figure in the size of the portions.

Davinci’s had the opportunity to disappoint me, but didn’t. I got pizza there for the first time ever and they succeeded in making it in a manner which I think would satisfy any pizza lover. The food is tasty, the portions are huge, and the service is very good too. If you’re in Lewiston and you have a craving for Italian, it’s worth stopping in for some eats. And after your meal, please have a piece of peanut butter pie for me – if you can handle it.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

Want to be notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry? Subscribe to my blog by clicking the “Follow” button on the right side of this page. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?