Monthly Archives: June 2016

​Northern Union – Ogunquit Food and Wine in the Summertime

The celebration of a special event led my wife to decide we should take a trip to Ogunquit to enjoy the beautiful scenery and consume some food and drink while we were there. I suspected she was right and was more than happy to take the trip south where I figured it might be fun to get outside my regular stomping grounds and try some grub from a restaurant of which I’d never even heard the name. So after considering a couple different places, that’s exactly what we did, landing at Northern Union on an absolutely stunning summer Saturday.

We parked and walked in past the owners watering the flower garden out front. As we entered, my wife went to the bathroom by the entrance to adjust her make-up and I scoped out the bar, noting a few specials on the chalkboard and the room full of wine next to me. A bartender approached and offered me a drink, but I told him we were celebrating a special night together, so I would wait for her to return and we would order at the table. Mrs. Portlandeater soon came out and we walked past the wine to the host counter and were promptly seated.

Northern Union was clearly a house in its past and consisted of many separate rooms. There was a rustic feel which provided a really comfortable ambiance which had me hopeful for some top notch cuisine. We sat and took in everything around us for a moment and then moved on to looking at the menus. Several specialty cocktails were available and just a handful of beers, but NU prides itself on being a wine bar and the wine list was appropriately extensive. I gave it a brief glance, but as usual, hoped to pluck out a cocktail that met my desires that evening.

As we were deciding what to drink, we were brought complimentary glasses of prosecco for our celebration. That was really nice gesture, but before we drowned ourselves in those, we wanted to make our primary drink choices. I ordered the Pineapple Salsa Margarita – house infused cucumber tequila, charred pineapple, and jalapeno – while she went with the special White Tea and Hibiscus Sangria. “Good choices”, I thought to myself, “now let’s see what’s doing with this bubbly.”

Toasting to health, happiness, and hip-hop, we applied the sparkling liquid to our palates. With it’s light fruit flavor and barely-there bubbles, we thought it was one of the best sparkling wines we had ever consumed.  Though we’re not heavy drinkers of the stuff, we agreed that this one was an outstanding choice and after asking found out it was Carletto from Veneto, Italy. Pro tip – a quick search of the internet revealed that it sells for about 14 bucks per bottle. If you like sparkly wines, pick one up. It’s really good.

Once we sucked down the comped Carletto, we received our cocktails. A quick sip of my marg provided a beautiful pineapple base with the cucumber and jalapeno adding more freshness than fire. A cumin-ed rim added a little extra spice, but still, the refreshing element was much stronger than any heat in the drink. We were both quite pleased with what we had ordered and started to pick out a bunch of items we wanted to eat. The menu had headings of Snacks, Boards, Starters, and Mains. We decided on a few snacks and starters, after which we would decide if we wanted more. When the waitress came back, we placed our orders and asked her to bring them out as they were ready.

After just a short wait, the first of our item showed up – Spicy Mixed Nuts with cumin and cayenne. Primarily almonds and walnuts, the solidified spice coating gave a quick dose of cumin followed by the direct heat of the cayenne. They weren’t too spicy, but very flavorful and still with enough heat for a cayenne lover like myself to enjoy. We were chomping on the nuts when our Hummus and Fried Chickpeas with housemade pita bread arrived. I didn’t waste any time on that one either, taking a pita triangle between my thumb and forefinger and swiping it through the hummus, making sure to shovel up a whole chickpea with it. “Oh, what a rush!” This was seriously potent hummus, with plenty of lemon and garlic added to the mash.

Our full attention was given to the nuts and hummus until we received Shredded Maine Potato Latkes with herbed crème fraîche. I tried a bite of the little potato pancakes and dunked it in the crème with panache. The light, crispy cake was nicely seasoned and the addition of the mild dairy sauce gave them a cool, smooth ending with a little bit of chive. Once again, we had a delightful dish and felt the food was turning out to be a nice combination of small plates.

House-Smoked Meatballs with ancho BBQ glaze were the final act. As they laid in front of me, my wife commented that even though she didn’t eat beef, they smelled so good she almost wanted to try them. She was right. They smelled like a bit of magic covered in love. I sliced one of the spheres in half and shoved it into my meatball cavern. The chili smoke and sweet flavoring of the glaze was superb. Even though I felt the ball was a little too meaty – more like a round, lightly seasoned hamburger than a soft, textured meatball – the BBQ coating made up for it with just the perfect touch of tongue tingling taste.

Once we were done our orders of snacks and starters, we decided we should get something else to share. We figured it would be a good idea to try some seafood, and the Lobster Tagliatelle – housemade squid ink tagliatelle, lobster, scallops, roasted tomatoes, lobster sauce – sounded pretty damn good. We ordered that without hesitation and got ready to eat it by continuing to sip our cocktails and discussing the recent spate of celebrity deaths. After singing a rousing duet of Prince’s “Purple Rain” followed by heavy applause, our seafood and pasta dish arrived.

Sitting between us, the bowl of lobster and other goodies looked and smelled great. I wrapped some of the tagliatelle with the creamy lobster sauce around my fork and slipped it into my mouth. It turned out that the dish wasn’t all good looks; the tagliatelle was an absolute perfect al dente, and the cream, though slightly rich, wasn’t at all overpowering. A bite of lobster was perfectly tender, not at all rubbery as can sometimes be the case when in a pasta plate. The scallops fit the bill too with the typical fresh, delicate taste those little flavor factories provide. A couple multicolored tomatoes and some rosemary sprigs added a little extra color to the mix. Every last drop of our meal went down the tubes and we passed on dessert.

It’s fair to say that Northern Union was absolutely excellent. Our visit to Ogunquit was great, but NU was definitely the cherry on top. From the thoughtful and delicious prosecco offering, to our other drinks, and the starters and main course, everything worked together well with flavors that were powerful and filled the senses. The atmosphere, design, and service of the restaurant were also top notch, and the prices, at $101 after tip for the meal, were quite reasonable. This place has been around for two years now, but it’s not going anywhere soon because no matter what your pleasure, NU provides provides a very complete and well planned dining experience that you won’t soon forget.

Stay hungry.

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Fork Food Lab – Maine’s Most Innovative Food Business Needs Your Help

This week, I had the honor of joining a tour of the soon-to-be-finished Fork Food Lab at 72 Parris St in Portland led by CEO Neil Spillane. They’ve received a lot of press lately, but if you haven’t heard about them yet, I’m here to tell you this will be one of Maine’s premier food businesses, having already won an award for innovation. I wanted a Tour De Fork so I could share with you some pictures of their progress and get a better idea of exactly what they will be doing and how it will intermingle with Portland’s vast food and beverage culture.

A “food incubator and tasting room”, Fork will serve as a location where all things food can take place. The central part of what they offer will be table spaces – nearly 50 of them – which food creators can rent on a month to month basis to develop, test, and cook their food. Are you a food truck or cart which needs prep and testing space? Maybe you’re a caterer who needs high end equipment to prepare meals which serve 100 people. Or maybe you’re a restaurant that needs extra room to create and test new menu items. Regardless of your plight, Fork Food Lab will have a space for you and provide just about everything you need short of knives.

While the idea of offering rental food creation space to Portland’s food makers is a pretty neat concept, what makes Fork stand out as unique in the US is the addition of the tasting room which will be a store where the food being made there can be sold immediately. While you’re browsing their selection, Gelato Fiasco’s new storefront will be staring at you and calling your name. GF will be serving their product while also offering classes on how to make the chilly treat. If you’re single, you may want to consider one of those classes for your first date with that cutie you just met online.

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Spillane and his business partner Eric Holstein have left no stone unturned, with available meeting rooms, dry storage, and fridge and freezer space for clients. A dishwashing room will give everyone an area to clean up and a kitchen attendant will sanitize, organize, and accept food orders while renters aren’t there to accept the orders themselves. The floors will be loosely divided by food type with the upstairs focused on those making savory foods and downstairs will primarily include the bakers and sweet treat makers. The set-up of the building is very user friendly and renters will have access 24/7 on a full or part-time basis dependant upon which type of plan they choose.

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Food creation and a store aren’t all that will be happening at the lab. Spillane made it clear that Fork will be a location where tastings, classes, lectures, and the like will take place. His intention is to bring people from near and far and get the community to participate in what they are offering. That’s where their new Kickstarter comes in. Because the tasting room will focus heavily on bringing people together, Fork is campaigning to raise money – $30,000 to be exact – from the community to make it as awesome as they possibly can.  The more money raised, the better and more functional the room will be.  After about a week, they’re already more than half way there. Rumor has it that if they raise $1 million, there will be an area where robots will provide foot massages, though I was unable to confirm that.

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If you’re interested in donating money via their kickstarter, click on the link below. They’re offering some great rewards in exchange for a little cash and you’ll be donating to something that will contribute to Portland’s food scene growing even larger than it is now. I’m confident that some of the best and brightest chefs in Maine and likely the entire country will be making their way through Fork Food Lab at some point. And their tasting room will be an opportunity to try some of their food before it’s available anywhere else. Now that’s something to chew on!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/48135351/tasting-room-at-fork-food-lab-learn-cook-and-eat?utm_content=buffer1984a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Stay hungry.

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

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 and follow @portlandeater on Twitter.

Easy Day – Bowling, Beverages, and Bar Food

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When looking for a restaurant to try, I rarely think to myself “Hmmm…I wonder how the food is at the local bowling alley.” However, since the weather wasn’t great and we were meeting up with a couple friends, the idea to grab some food and maybe bowl a string/frame or two provided a good indoor activity to keep us occupied on a Saturday night. A quick review of the menu added a bit of intrigue to the idea, and so we planned an outing to Easy Day on Broadway in South Portland, a bowling alley/food and drink purveyor which I had yet to try even though it had been around for a of couple years.

Easy Day boasts five bowling lanes, some big screen TV’s, a square-ish bar, and a restaurant in a lively but laid back atmosphere. An initial look gave me the feeling that it was definitely a fun place to be as a party was taking place in one corner of the room and patrons were scattered throughout the rest of it – some bowling, some at the bar, and others eating at tables. Everyone seemed to be having fun and we were immediately approached by staff, both upon entering and then again when we were seated. Considering that I’m not used to bowling alleys being known for their service, it was a good start.

After a bit of gawking at menus, a waitress came by to take our drink orders. My wife ordered a Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and I passed. It was water and driving for me that night. As our friends provided their drink orders, I started trying to figure out what I wanted to eat. A little more than just the burgers and onion rings I expected from a bowling alley, their menu was a combination of pub grub and pizza parlor favorites – all with an Easy Day spin to them.  It was an extensive menu and one that had me working hard to figure out what I would like best.

As I looked down the list of available items, sandwiches, salads, and pizza all caught my attention, but I kept refocusing on the starters/pub food. I couldn’t help but notice lots of meaty options and when I saw there were multiple varieties of both tater tots and nachos, I figured those were put on the menu with me in mind. As I sorted through them, I saw the Irish Nachos Tater Tots – bacon, corned beef, red peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, melted cheese, Russian dressing. As a fan of both tots and nachos, the combination of the two with double meats sounded like an explosion of awesome. I settled on those, and because one can never have enough nachos, also decided on the Easy Day Nachos – Italian sausage, bacon, bell peppers, red onions, tomatoes, pepperoncini, cheddar sauce, and shredded iceberg lettuce on crispy tortilla chips. Never having had sausage or bacon on my chips that I could recall, I thought those would be excellent too.

I had picked my double nacho/quadruple meat mountains to order and my wife wanted to get a Large Detroit Style Deep Dish Mushroom Pizza. The elves at Easy Day wake up early every morning to make the sauce and dough from scratch according to the menu. The team also met with a world champion pizza maker before opening the place so they could learn the best pizza making techniques on earth. Mrs. Portlandeater hoped I would eat some of the pizza and I promised that if there was any room left after I ate the my food that I would happily oblige her. A salad and another pizza rounded out the orders at our table.

We watched a bit of NESN on the TV next to us to pass the time and soon the tots came out. A medium-sized pile of the potato plugs plopped in front of me. The tots were covered in both melty and crispy cheese, the veggies, and a zigzag of dressing. I tried my first bite, stabbing a tater and grabbing as many of the toppings as I could on the fork. Unfortunately, the stabbing resulted in the potato breaking in half even though it was quite crisp. I tried again, this time scooping all the food with my fork and successfully getting a nice mouthful with almost all the toppings. It was great. The tots gave a nice crunchy base of both texture and seasoning. Cheese is always perfect with potatoes, and the Russian added a nice creamy zing. The veggies were a nice addition, but I most liked the jalapenos which threw in just a bit of fire.

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The tots became a dish to share and soon they were gone. After a little wait, the rest of our food came out. I was happy to have a plate of nachos in from of me and dug right into them. With two little cups of salsa on each side and sour cream on top, I had plenty of accompaniments in which to dip my chips. I noted a hearty helping of cheese and lots of meaty bits. I worked a chip into my hands like the crane claw at the arcade. Then I dipped the crunchy guy in a little dairy sauce and chomped on it. The cheese and sausage on this particular corn crisp were a match made in heaven as the meat produced a quality taste and acute happiness. The bacon on my other bites sent me on a trip to the smoke shop, giving the nachos an otherworldly hue of maniacal meat.

With lots of nachos down the hatch and many more remaining, I decided to go for a slice of the mushroom pizza. The pie had three lines of red sauce on top of it as opposed to the standard of sauce smear on the bottom. I grabbed a piece with plenty of the tomato topper and went to work. The crust was very bread-y – think Sicilian with about half the thickness. There was a sufficient serving of mushrooms built in and plenty of cheese. A bite warmed my heart as I was most struck by the sauce. Beautifully flavored and fresh, the sauce had smooth consistency without being runny or chunky. It added a solid flavor to the dough, but wasn’t exceptionally sweet. The Detroit style deep dish was  a winner.

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My piece of pizza went down easy and I went forward with finishing the nachos. After all the eating, the rest of the table ordered more drinks and we decided to pass on the bowling. It looked like the alleys were busy and we didn’t have the energy left to hurl 16 lbs. balls at pins congregated at the end of a waxed, wooden lane. Instead, we continued to linger longer than we expected, talking about the real meaning of the most common emojis and ordering multiple rounds of drinks with the waitress regularly coming by to check on us. Eventually, after everyone felt thoroughly watered, we called it an easy day and began to pack up.

Our final total on the food and drink after tax and tip was just under $75 for my wife and I. I’m not sure how many libations my wife consumed, but it seemed a very fair price. We were both very full and even took some pizza home. Sure, Easy Day is a bowling alley, but the restaurant holds it own among Portland area eateries with it’s bar menu type fare. They offer a wide variety of simple, inexpensive food that they take to the next level with a little culinary ingenuity and a smattering of carefree fun. While the menu does seem to be meat-heavy, there are plenty of non-meat options if that’s more your style. Also, the service was notably good from start to finish as we never felt forgotten or ignored even though we were there for a while. I’ll be back for certain, and next time I’ll attach some strings to my tots and tortillas.

Stay hungry.

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

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 and follow @portlandeater on Twitter.