Monthly Archives: March 2017

Restaurant with huge accolades lives up to the hype

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Drifter’s Wife opened last year to immediate, and almost exclusively jubilant praise. A wine bar in the Maine and Loire wine shop on Washington Ave., the concept stuck me as interesting, if a little confusing at first. I held off on a visit as the list of restaurants I must go to occasionally becomes unmanageable and even some of the best get put off until later. Add to that a menu which changes daily and doesn’t always have something that piques my interest or my wife’s.

With my main squeeze out of town on business again, it was a little easier to make sure the menu options suited only my tastes instead of having to conform to both of ours. I took a quick peek online as the daily offerings are always posted sometime around when they open. It looked like there would be enough to satisfy my hunger without having to go too far out of my comfort zone, so I headed over with high expectations and knew I had arrived when I saw a large sign which read “WINE” overhead.

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Upon entering, I was greeted by one of the owners who was waiting on another customer. Once he was done taking their order, he approached me and approved my request to sit at the small bar. As I sat, the bartender, also with other customers, physically acknowledged me, and moments later provided water and offered drinks and food. I told him I was going to be ordering both and he obliged with the relatively extensive drink menu which focused on vino and the short food list.

I was looking for a wine along the lines of my beloved shiraz. The four reds they offered were a little lighter than that, but the bartender recommended the S. Bellotti “Semplicemente”. I tried a sip and found, as the bartender had suggested, that the Italian grape joy juice was a little more floral than I was used to for a red. I still found it enjoyable though and decided to stick with a glass of that.

Even though I had definite thoughts about what I wanted for food based upon my online search, I had the bartender review the menu with me and then took a minute or two to make my final decisions. I actually did change my mind and ended up with Night Moves Sourdough – butter, sea salt; Savoy Cabbage – willoughby, bread crumbs; and Cod – fingerlings, king trumpet mushrooms, whelk butter.

The food came out as it was ready, starting with the bread. Made by a local, one-person operation, the slightly dark loaf was porous inside and crusty on the exterior. My four slices were accompanied by sea salted butter. I tried a bite, thinking that the $6 order of bread better be good for something many restaurants offer as complimentary. Indeed it was. Simple, yet pleasing in both taste and texture, it was a little different than anything I’d had, at least recently. I enjoyed it, and there was plenty to consume.

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About half way through the bread, my cabbage arrived. It was topped by the soft Willoughby cheese, caramelized onions, and very fine crumbs. It was also lightly doused in a vinaigrette. I sliced a bite and was thrilled. I love cabbage, but this was cabbage bursting out of it’s crunchy shell. The soft veg and cheese combined quite well, but the vinaigrette made it all so much better giving the dish the aura of a salad while still maintaining the sensation of cabbage and cheese simplicity.

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Once my cabbage was done, I went back and finished my sourdough. Then it took a few before I was presented with the cod. That was okay, because I was moving quickly through my meal and not in a huge rush. When I did receive the fish, it was topped with the whelk butter and partially hiding the taters and shrooms underneath.

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My first bite of cod proved to be a winner. It was perfectly cooked- seared on the outside and easily flaked. The slightly salty, buttery fish was excellent. With a bit of the whelk butter, it was even better. Whelk refers to various types of marine mollusks/snails and the butter made with them reinforced the theme of the dish. The mushrooms and potatoes also benefited from it’s outstanding flavor.

The more I ate, the more I liked it, realizing that while I don’t always swoon over cod, this was certainly the best I ever had and I did love it. The main course was not too heavy, leaving room for me to continue fitting in my clothes, even if I didn’t have space for dessert. I wrapped it up, finishing everything I had. I considered checking out the wine shop, but figured I’d do that on my next visit.

After tip, my tab came to $67. My meal wasn’t cheap, so I probably couldn’t afford to go there on a regular basis, but next time I do, I’ll be sure to bring  other people and take my time. Drifter’s Wife lived up to the hype. Chef Ben Jackson works the small kitchen next to the bar with deft and precision and the food clearly reflects that. Perfectly prepared, fresh food and plenty of wine is what you’ll find there and with a new menu every day, he’s challenged to come up with clever culinary interpretations to keep things interesting. And he does it very well.

Stay hungry.

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New burger joint mostly successful in first week

Portland’s newest burger joint has an older sister in Portsmouth, but now locals are getting the opportunity to see what has been so well-hyped for months. BRGR Bar has moved into the space on Brown St. that was previously a Margarita’s and just opened after what seemed like a very long wait. I made a solo trip to the restaurant which specializes in not only burgers, but also adult milkshakes.

They were only three days in on my visit, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. When I got there, there was a sign up high that alerted patrons to the location of the restaurant, but the actual door didn’t have any markings. I took a chance and entered and after a bunch of steps, was lucky enough to reach my intended destination.

Once I was noticed, one of the waiters saw me and asked if I wanted a table or to sit at the bar. I told him the bar was fine and pulled up a stool. Then I sat and waited for someone to approach me for quite a while, probably in the range of 3-4 minutes. It was a long time to be sitting alone without a food or drink list while multiple bartenders and waitpersons were milling about.

Eventually, I was handed a double-sided menu and asked if I wanted a drink. I hadn’t figured that out yet and requested time to decide. I finally settled on the Nutella, Marshmellow, and Graham Cracker Milkshake. It was the middle of the week, so I was avoiding the spiked shakes, but I did note a pretty thorough selection of them.

Once the beverage made it’s way to me, I had settled on an order of food. I started with the Vietnamese Fries – pork, sriracha, pickled daikon carrots and onions, jalapeno, cilantro, gochujang aioli, sesame seeds. Then I decided to go with The Mac Daddy Burger – beef patty with house made mac and cheese and BBQ short rib. I chose the house salad and gorgonzola dressing to go with it instead of the fries since I was already getting a full order of those.

I concentrated on my shake which had an ample portion of crumbs on the top. Working harder than a Hoover, I tried my best to upload the milk mocktail through a straw into the upper reaches of my brain. At my first sign of success, I was sold on the cold concoction. The sweet, Nutella-rich drink-ish was awesome. As I worked really hard to suck it down, I dreamed of a wider straw or a spoon to aid in my sprint of ingestion. It was not to be however, as the challenging shake made me toil like a dog with a Kong toy.

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The end of my dairy dream came with the satisfaction of success and a couple moments later with the loaded fries I had ordered. They certainly looked the part with the fresh, bright jalapenos standing out from the crowd of toppers. At first bite, the sauces made their mark on my mouth. The gochujang and sriracha were an instant hit of magnificence. As I got a little further in, the pulled pork and pickled veggies added more, and the jalap and cilantro capped off the perfect combo. Lots of complimentary flavors amounted to a really well put together plate, turning boring fries into a high quality creation.

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As I was making my way through the fries, a jalapeno caught me just wrong and created a coughing fit that could have been slightly embarrassing. I sipped a little water and the hack subsided allowing me to finish the rest of the dish. Happy but slightly full, I knew it would require some work to get through the remainder of my order without bringing any food home. Nonetheless, I was ready to make the attempt when my burger and salad arrived.

Some veggies were a welcome change from the food I had already eaten. My salad looked simple though super fresh and I was pleased that the lettuce was clearly coated in the gorgonzola dressing I had requested. The house made salad enhancer was impressive and donned in what I believed was the perfect amount. It was about as good as a garden salad could be, hitting all the important checkpoints.

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Moving on to my burger, I noticed my mac consisted of shells, which in my world was a significant plus. There’s something about shells which just makes them better than most any other shape. It’s true. Put them next to another pasta and tell me the shells don’t ask to be eaten first. The only issue was that most of them had fallen off the burger. I didn’t worry about it and instead just took a fork and ate them like they might run away soon. Thick, creamy, and devastatingly cheesy, the edible exteriors were so, so good.

My last bite of non-burger topping shells had a bit of BBQ pork on it and the two went together like peas and carrots…cheesy, flavorful, heart attack causing peas and carrots. It was time to grab the burger and give it a go. The patty from Maine Family Farms looked initially to be on the small side, but was actually pretty thick. Additionally, I knew that while I wasn’t eating chicken breast and broccoli, at least it was grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free beef according to the menu.

Steering my way into burgerville, I finally took a bite. All burgers were supposed to be cooked to medium, but mine was more medium rare. It wasn’t ideal, but it was still a really good sandwich. The shells and the pork added to the high quality meat definitely made for a pleasant combination that made me feel more hunter than gatherer.

It was a lot of effort, but my gluttony knows no limits and I did indeed finish my food. I was stuffed. I made a motion to indicate I was done, aggressively turned down any dessert, and offered up my credit card in a move that said “take what you want and leave the rest so I can eat tomorrow.” At $39 after tip, the meal was a little pricey – I seem to always say that lately, but it was a good meal, lots of food, and eating some better-than-average beef made me feel fine about it all.

On their third day, BRGR Bar was better than I expected though they have a few issues to work out. Waiting alone at the bar without a menu wasn’t great and my burger should have been cooked a little more. Neither is a fatal flaw and next time I’ll probably just ask for my meat well done. Also, I’m curious if there’s a way to get that mac to stay on top of the burger. Maybe put a crater in the middle to hold toppings? Either way, BRGR Bar felt good, tasted good, and came through for a place that just opened. The atmosphere is fun and I’ll be trying another patty and a shake sooner rather than later.

Stay hungry.

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Trattoria Fanny – Reincarnated Italian

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When Rossobianco closed, chef David Levi promised a new restaurant would open in its place at 3 Deering Ave. From that, Trattoria Fanny was born. Named after his grandmother and still focused on northern Italian cuisine, the promise was lower prices and more casual fare than the previous incarnation. We headed there during restaurant week for our first look at the place.

The interior of the restaurant was not noticeably different from the previous one which was good because it maintained it’s comfortable feel. We were there fairly early, so it wasn’t busy and we got our pick of the tables. We sat and were brought menus which included drinks, food, and their restaurant week options. My wife ordered a glass of Santa Guistina “Bonarda” and I stuck with water, then we got to making decisions about food.

Wine came out, the waiter offered a couple interesting specials, and then left so we could make our final selections. We both wanted something from the restaurant week menu which included an app, entree, and dessert for a set price. I went with Crostino Toscano – chicken, beef, and pork pate with crostini; Pollo al mattone – Roasted herbed chicken with potatoes; and Tiramisu. She ordered Polenta in padella con fonduta – griddled polenta with cheese sauce, the same chicken as I, and Bonet – chocolate, amaretto cake.

We got to try some lightly salted and herbed bread while we waited for our food and I enjoyed watching the open kitchen and seeing what was coming from it. The crostini and polenta apps came out before too long and we dug in immediately. My bread appeared to be more of what I had already eaten, though it was cut into a different shape. I smeared some pate on it and took a sizable bite. I enjoyed it immensely. I must admit, I didn’t know if the three different meats in it were going to represent a single pate or three varieties, but they worked together quite well as one.

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I worked on my salty, meaty app as my wife ate hers and then I took a piece of her polenta. It wasn’t so bad. The polenta was a little denser than what I was used to, which I really liked and the cheese sauce was excellent as many cheese sauces are. I finished my app and then helped with the other. Once we were done those, our plates were cleared and we relaxed in anticipation of the main course.

Others received their food around us and we saw some had ordered the same entree. When we got it, ours was only chicken – thigh and leg, but we were told that the potatoes would be out shortly. I waited before eating my bird and a few minutes later, the potatoes did indeed come out. I tried my chicken right then and found it to be tender, juicy, and overall pretty good, but it was a little run-of-the-mill – just a little too close to so many I’d had before. That didn’t make it bad, but it didn’t feel special.

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After a bite of chicken, I went straight for the potatoes. They were crispy enough and seasoned well, but they were only lukewarm which was odd, because they just had just come from the kitchen. It was especially strange since the chicken, which had been sitting for a few minutes in front of me, was still warmer. It definitely seemed like the meal could have come out all at once with a more appropriate temperature. Something went wrong somewhere.

Despite the issues with the entree, we both cleared our plates and hoped for a dessert that would add a little skip back into our step. Soon the sweets were ready to consume. Mine came in a glass with three ladyfingers and some custard on the bottom. My wife’s cake was a deep, dark chocolate log. I started by taking one of the fingers and trying to dip it as much as possible in the custard. I found the cookie a little hard which I usually don’t like, but that concern quickly passed because it went perfectly with the velvety smooth, light, pudding-like custard.

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My dessert was a winner, though I did have one concern which was that the fingers were difficult to dip in the custard due to the shape of the glass and my actual fingers being pretty large. I think a glass that opened up some at the top would have worked better. Next, I snagged a bite of hers. The cake was rich with chocolate and plenty of amaretto flavor. It was very cold or maybe frozen which wasn’t bad at all because it was good that way and, though I’m fairly sure it was made there, it didn’t really matter, because it was excellent.

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Both finales were delicious and I made a discovery that they were really good together too. I finished mine and then the last few bites of hers and we were ready to go. The meal came to $74 after tip which included the glass of wine. By the time we were done, the restaurant was very busy and it looked as though patrons might have to start waiting for a table.

Trattoria Fanny has been open for about month and there appear to be a few kinks to work out still. Overall, the meal was good, with the app and dessert the best parts. The entree wasn’t bad, but not particularly unique and the barely warm potatoes were something I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. Nonetheless, they certainly have the potential to make a positive impact on Portland food if they tighten up some of the loose ends. I hope they do. I’ll be back to check in the future.

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 after entering your email address directly above it. 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. You can now also find me at pppe.bangordailynews.com.

​Liquid Riot – Beer, spirits, and food all made right there


The wife was away again and it was time to venture out for some food. Wanting to check out a place I’d never been, I imagined Liquid Riot on Commercial St. would be a decent choice. The distillery and brewery makes a pretty large selection of their own beverages – some of which I’ve tried – and serves a full menu of bar food. I headed over to the resto-bar which is an easy find since it’s one of the first few drinking and dining options available to those coming to the waterfront area of Portland.

I quickly pulled up a seat at the bar of the busy restaurant. It was close to the entrance and one of only a few available. I was given drink and food menus and took note that it was still happy hour which meant that beers were $2 off. They also had some $5 snack options, but a cross-check of the menus seemed to indicate that those snacks were always $5, so they didn’t feel like a bargain. I figured I’d grab a beer and then work on food next.

After contemplating which of the numerous brews would be right for me, I decided on the Raspy Trouble – Sour Trouble, their sour brown ale aged on 110 lbs. of raspberries. It was a bit of a difficult choice. I’m not a huge fan of sours, but I do love a fruity beer on occasion and tend to enjoy raspberries. A quick 12 oz. pour made its way to my corner and I tried it immediately. Ooooohhhh…nice! The sour was moderate to heavy, but balanced nicely with the sweeter fruit flavors. It was the best of it’s type I’d had for sure – easy drinking and pleasant.


With a couple sips of suds under my belt, I made a concerted effort to pick something to eat. I figured I’d order a couple items and then take some home if it was necessary. I started with the Duck “Nachos” – house potato chips, duck confit, apple butter, blue cheese fondue. Then, I went for the House Burger, well done – house blend half-pound patty, stout bacon jam, aged cheddar, pickled red onion – with fries or cole slaw. I chose fries because they came with a house made sauce for which I chose hop mustard.

As I sat waiting for my grub, I was sandwiched between visitors from out of state who were enjoying beer on the left of me and spirits on the right. Everyone seemed to be quite happy with what they were drinking. I sipped a bit more and then my nachos came out looking exactly as the description stated. They were a solid layer of chips with all the other ingredients distributed in relatively equal drops.

A chip along the side of the plate with all the main ingredients on top was my first foray into the nachos. I chewed the first one and found out I everything I needed to know. The chips were gloriously crispy and salty, the perfect delivery system. The duck was tender and flavorful and the fondue was cool and not particularly pungent. The apple butter, which I thought to be an odd topping when I ordered, was a delicately sweet finish without taking away from any of the other flavors. These were much, much better than I expected.


Because I was eating at a furious pace, the nachos didn’t last very long. They were just so good. I finished those off and waited patiently for the rest of my food which came out after a few short moments. The burger and fries looked unspectacular, but I didn’t expect much artistic value from such a meal anyway. The only notable was the pickled red onion which seemed to glow on top. The food on the plate looked me in the eye and said “eat me”, so I followed its command.

First placing the upper portion of the burger bun directly on top of the sandwich, I grabbed it and sunk my teeth in. It was pretty tasty and reminded me of a burger typical of the area. It was cooked perfectly well and the jam on the bottom was particularly tasty. Next, I was up to trying a fry. It’s pretty rare that I choose to eat fries with mustard, but hop mustard sounded interesting to me. It looked like a common yellow mustard, but taste was what would truly matter.

Grabbing a few taters in my fingers, I took them to mustardville and threw them down. Hot damn! The mustard was spectacular. It was ultra flavorful and hoppy with some pretty significant nose-burning heat. I would say it was probably a top five of all time, something I could eat on pretty much anything and no doubt the star of the plate. I worked on my food until it was all done and didn’t need to take any home as I thought I might, but was quite full.


Liquid Riot was really good. The only concern I had was that the burger was 16 bucks and I think for that price, it has to be a little more spectacular. It was a solid offering, but even with the fries and awesome mustard, I didn’t quite have the feeling I got what I paid for. Either way, I’ll be back to try some of their other food. It was excellent overall and I found it a fun place to hang for a while. The total bill came to $44 after tip, mostly reasonable and worthy of a return visit, maybe just not for a burger.

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 after entering your email address directly above it. 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. You can now also find me at pppe.bangordailynews.com.

Royal River Grill House – Fast and Easy

Royal River Grill House in Yarmouth sounded like a place I would enjoy. With lots of seafood, in addition to steaks, pork, chicken, vegetarian options, interesting apps, salads, and the like, there were more than enough choices to make picking the perfect meal a challenging but enjoyable task. In addition, I was excited about the water views I was told we would have during our time there. We made reservations and then headed over that night in fog so thick it was difficult to see 20 feet in front of us. So much for those water views.

Entering the restaurant, I was quite taken by the look of the place. Apparently, it was renovated recently and it showed. The interior was stunning.  The beautiful bar backdrop, cozy lounge area, and exquisite lighting gave way to an open upper level. The place was hopping and lively and it was clear why. The look alone made it a bit of an attraction even without the ability to see its outdoor surroundings.

We were seated very quickly next to the lounge area. We had to move the table to get into our seats due to space constraints. There was no moving the chairs. They were insanely heavy. Made of lead or gold, it didn’t matter. No one could steal them without a crane to load them into a trailer. They were nice and comfortable though, so it seemed fine that they were mostly stationary.

The menu looked promising with many of the items we had seen online available that evening. We passed on drinks except for a seltzer and lime for my wife. For food, I had a hankering for fish or chicken and Mrs. Portlandeater seemed excited about ordering a sea dweller of some type. We agreed that an appetizer would be good to share.

Two appetizers seemed more appealing to us than the others – Crab Cakes and Sea Salt and Vinegar Calamari. We eventually decided on the latter with fried vegetables, sea salt, rice vinegar, parmesan & pepperoncini aioli. We put in that order and worked on making our entree choices. It didn’t take very long for us to decide. I wanted the Diver Scallop Carbonara – pan seared diver scallops, house smoked pork belly, peas, fresh fettuccini pasta, local egg & parmesan cheese sauce. My wife fancied the Grilled Salmon – crispy rice cake, julienned vegetables & wasabi-soy glaze.

Our Calimari came out extraordinarily quickly and we put in the rest of our orders. For the most part the plate looked like the usual squid app sitting on a bed of lettuce and included some zucchinI, squash, peppers, and possibly other fried veggies. The portion was relatively large, so I was mildly concerned that the aioli it came with wouldn’t be enough. I squeezed some lemon over the dish and was ready to go.

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I took in a couple pieces of the fried buggers with and without the aioli. I found the flavor to be fairly light with both the calamari and dipping sauce. The vinegar was subtle, but what transformed the dish a few bites in was the parm. The combination of cheese, salt, and vinegar enveloped the squid in a swath of flavor. It was really good. I found the aioli to be sufficiently apportioned as I didn’t eat all the calamari with it since the flavor was so good without.

As though there was some sort of magic going on in the kitchen, our other food came out very quickly again – pretty much as soon as we were done the app. My four scallops looked perfectly seared and the three-ish pork pieces sat in the center of the meal lightly covered in garnish. My wife’s plate was layered with veggies on the bottom, the large rice cake over those, and the salmon on top.

Based on the speed of the meal’s arrival, I was a little concerned that the plates were sitting in the kitchen already put together and then zapped in the microwave when the order came in. Fortunately, they didn’t taste that way at all. My scallops were fresh and my pasta delicious with the thick, heavy sauce. The pork was fantastic, though I trimmed it some according to my preference in order to get more of the meat and less of the fat.

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After a scallop and a couple bites of pasta, I went for a little of my wife’s food. The rice cake crisp and tasty and vegetables were excellent with the glaze. I passed on the salmon, but she confirmed that it was really good. I continued on with my food. It was wonderfully decadent. The flavors were super rich and delivered even better than I anticipated. It was the type of meal to eat if you’re definitely not going out after, more suited to sitting down and watching TV.

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Neither my wife nor I could finish our meals. It was a rarity for me, but I didn’t arrive overly hungry and the meal with the app was a lot of food. I took the rest of mine home. We were both quite happy with what we ate and having some left over for the next day didn’t hurt my feelings either. The meal came to a little over $90 after tip.

Royal River Grill House was very good. It was a little expensive, but the food was awesome, the portions large, and the service was incredibly fast, though not inappropriately so. The restaurant is really aesthetically pleasing and it’s quite large, but I’d still recommend a reservation since it was nearly full when we were there. Definitely check it out if you want to try something outside of Portland that’s not too difficult to get to and will serve you some marvelous food.

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 after entering your email address directly above it. 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. You can now also find me at pppe.bangordailynews.com.