Monthly Archives: April 2017

Ten things I love about you Silly’s

I’ve been to Silly’s on Washington Ave. more than any other restaurant in the greater Portland area. My wife and I absolutely love it. She took me there shortly after we first started dating and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. But you might wonder what it is exactly that makes them one of my favorites and the restaurant I go to most often. Well here is a list of ten things I love about Silly’s.

1. The quirky atmosphere

The crazy atmosphere is one of the major components that makes Silly’s what it is. Random bright colors, interesting decorations, and a downright mish-mosh of design I’ll coin “modern madness” create a feeling that you won’t find anywhere else. Once you walk into Silly’s, you feel as though you left behind the outside world and walked into a fun house of food.

2. Names of menu items

With the most interesting food names in the city, just looking at the menu is fun. Not up for The Empire Strikes Mac – a meaty Mac and cheese concoction – or WeeBee Jammin – a jerk chicken plate? Check out the specials menu where you might see alternate choices like Faux-ghetti Bout It  – a vegan spaghetti squash meal – and Turnip The Volume – turnip fries with dipping sauce.

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3. Delicious food

I’m pretty sure the menu at Silly’s was made primarily by repeatedly taking a bunch of awesome stuff, mixing it all together, and coming up with a name for it. Take the KaaNoodling for example, with peanut butter ginger scallion garlic sauce, rice noodles, peppers and char-grilled chicken topped with cilantro and lime wedges. How could that possibly be anything but awesome? It couldn’t and it’s not. Plus, they have the second best vegan/vegetarian menu in town which means they’ve got something for just about everyone.

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4. Hot sauce

Every time I ask about the hot sauce, I get a different answer as to what’s in it, but I guess it doesn’t matter. That’s because it is the best hot sauce I’ve ever had. I just can’t get enough of it and will put it on virtually anything they serve from pasta to nachos to fried chicken. The heat definitely adds up over time, so use caution when eating it if you’re sensitive to spice, but definitely try it, because it’s incredible.

5. Cake

Yes, Silly’s has awesome desserts too, but nothing quite matches up to their amazing cakes. With lots of fruit flavors, varieties of chocolate, and everything else you can think of, the list is always changing. On my most recent visit, I had the Peach Cream – peach cake with cream cheese frosting – and it was insanely great.

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6. Eat at Silly’s

It’s not just a slogan I love, it’s a command I follow. Look around and you will spot the phrase in any number of places including tons of pictures with the “Eat at Silly’s” bumper sticker in all parts of the globe. Sure, it might be a little demanding, but eating at Silly’s does sort of seem like sound advice, so why not take it?

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7. Brunch

Like the non-brunch food, the brunch menu includes all manner of crazy options with lots of delicious ingredients you never thought to put together. Including the sweet and no-so sweet, your favorite tweener meal is sure to be downright awesome at Silly’s. And with create-your-own Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s, they’ve got some of the very best brunch drinks in town.

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8. Lemonade, Limeade, Kool-aid, Tang

What do these four drinks have in common? Silly’s carries them all! Sure, lots of places have lemonade, but the other three are rarely seen around town. For me, the fact that they carry limeade is enough to merit some sort of award, but if you aren’t invigorated by a tall glass of Kool-aid or Tang, you might have forgotten what it’s like to be young. For those of you who prefer milkshakes as a reminder of your youth, they have those too.

9. Outside terrace

The outside terrace at Silly’s is definitely one-of-a-kind. With old wooden doors creating a barrier wall, toilets used as planters, and all manner of wild decorating, the terrace is the place to be when the weather is nice. The scenery is enough to keep your mind occupied while you’re out there, but add it to all the other great aspects of the restaurant and you’ve got something that makes Silly’s even more enjoyable in the warmer months.

10. Great value

Nothing at Silly’s is small. In fact, sometimes we go and only order apps like nachos or fried pickles which is often plenty. But the portions combined with with prices that are among the most reasonable in all of Portland always make me feel like I won when I leave. When you’re done, you’ll probably have enough to take home for tomorrow’s lunch too, all for a price that’s less than you’d ever expect.

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Those are ten things I love about Silly’s. I’m sure you’ve been, but if you haven’t, stop reading and head there now to experience all they have to offer. I’m never more than a short time away from going, so maybe I’ll see you there.

Stay hungry.

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Latin food and mezcal dinner make for a great night

I was recently invited to a media dinner at Sonny’s on Exchange St. to sample some food representative of the new direction in which they will be taking their menu and also to try some Del Maguey Mezcal to go with it. With the opportunity to not only try the food and beverage, but also get some insight as to how the spirit was produced, I looked forward to learning almost as much as eating.

 

My evening started with a beverage, the Pufferfish – mezcal, cocchi rosa, dry curacao, lemon, absinthe. The drink was light pinkish in color and nicely permeated by citrus with a smokey mezcal highlight. It was an excellent drink and a particularly appropriate prelude to the meal. I sipped it and mingled for a bit before it was time to be seated for some food.

 

The meal started with Fish Chicharron. The raw fish bite wasn’t exactly what I was dying for considering that I’m not much of a connoisseur of raw seafood. However, when I finally unearthed the courage to eat it, I found it to be pretty solid and maybe an indication that I should try more raw swimmers in the future. I don’t have much to compare it to, but I felt it would be worth eating again which surprised me. This course was paired with Chichicapa mezcal.


Our second food of the evening was Moqueca Custard – coconut, chile, octopus. Not exactly a custard, the take on a Brazilian stew was delicious with a bit of heat throughout from the chile. I love octopus, and the pieces of the eight-legged sea squirmer were quite the tasty topper to the thick, creamy broth.

 

Next up was a “Chicken Caesar” Taco. The small taco was absolutely delicious with its soft shell a great holder to the bird, greens, and other flavor enhancers. I took a few bites and it was quickly gone. Then I commiserated with others at the table about how we wondered if there were more of them available.

 

Huarache with fermented salsa and epazote – or Mexican tea – was the fourth course. It was paired with Santo Domingo mezcal. Normally made with meat, the hurache was vegetarian and might have been one of the tastiest meatless dishes I’ve had. Sitting on a tortilla, the offering was teeming with flavor. A really well put together item, I was a little sad when it was done.

 

Last on our plates in the savory category was Cochinita Pibil and a taster of Minero mezcal. Marinated and wrapped in banana leaves, the hunk of Yucatan style meat was served in a large rectangular portion. Tender and very tasty, there was so much food, that I was somewhat full after eating it all, which was fine since it was essentially the entree.

 

As a pre-dessert dessert, we had the opportunity to try Tepache with meringue, canela, citrus. Tepache is a sweetened, fermented beverage made with pineapple. With fruit, flower petals, and hard crisps of meringue that were cooked at a low temperature for 18 hours, the plate was light and tasty with plenty of acid, some of which was from lime.

 

The final dish was “Mole” – almond tortilla, smoked chocolate, fruit nixtamal. There was a scoop of whipped cream next to it all. The nixtamalization of the fruit refers to soaking it in an alkaline solution – lime based in this case – to soften it. The chocolate was much better than the standard and added a great component to the combination. Chocolate and fruit is always great, but the smoke and citrus notes earned extra credit. Tobala mezcal rounded out the final course.


Sonny’s meal was a fun experience and the Latin food was truly enjoyable. The tacos and huarache are certainly worthy of menu appetizer status. The other items seem like they would do well on there too. Either way, if this is the type of menu Sonny’s is working toward, it seems to be a good choice. The food has flair, flavor, and doesn’t feel like other restaurants in Portland.

 

Del Maguey mezcal was excellent too. We had the opportunity to try four of them per above and they all had their own unique qualities. Each made by a single family in a different village in Mexico, the spirit supports producers who are competing against major corporations to sell their wares. There are significant flavor differences in each one, the result of differing agave species, growing regions, ages, roasting durations, fermentation times, and the like. Find all the details on their website at delmaguey.com.

 

If you are looking for a mezcal a bit on smoother side, you may want  to try the Chichicapa or the Minero. The Santo Domingo was a little harsher up front as was the Tobala, though a little less so. Try any of the Del Maguey mezcals and remember that if you’re drinking Del Maguey, you’re helping to support a hardworking family in Mexico. Since drinking is a philanthropic endeavor, head over to Sonny’s to have a mezcal cocktail and a bite to eat and feel good about yourself.

 

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.

Killer cocktails and wonderful food at new Middle Eastern joint

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When the CN Shawarma food truck owners decided to turn their attention to opening a new restaurant, I was excited to have a set location to go try their goods. Because the food trucks roam and rotate about the city, it’s somewhat difficult to try specific ones without a little luck or investigation and it’s usually not convenient. Baharat finally opened on Anderson St. in the East Bayside area of Portland a few weeks ago and I couldn’t wait to get there.

We were able to grab the last table available while waiting for a friend to arrive. We viewed the food and drink menus and I walked up to the special board to take a picture because it was a little difficult to see from my angle and I didn’t want to have to keep looking up from my menu to check it out. A waiter with extraordinary sideburns approached us to inquire as to whether we wanted a drink besides water. I ordered the Return of Sumac – sumac infused tequila, mezcal, citrus, dehydrated lime rim. She wanted Fruits of the Trade – runs, apricot, citrus, spices.

The drinks showed up and our friend arrived and ordered hers, going with the A Rad Mirage – vodka, Lebanese yogurt, honey, mint, blender. While the ladies spoke, I paid attention to my beverage and gave it a slurp. Oh baby! It was magnificent, one of the better tequila/mezcal drinks I’ve had in recent memory. With a moderate smoke tempered by citrus, it was slightly strong and pleasantly lemony – a really well balanced cocktail.

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I took a sip of Mrs. Portlandeater’s drink and found it both very strong and very fruity. It was good on both counts and figured I might order that another time. When our friend received hers, I took a sip of that too. It didn’t feel like a drink because it was so insanely tasty, I could only think of it as dessert, eBen though it wasn’t overly sweet. The top portion of the drink was a light, frothy dairy treat with a hint of mint and honey. It was unbelievable.

It was time to order some food. I was hungry and ready to make the most of it. I started with the Turnip Pickles and added Za’atar Deviled Eggs – local eggs, smoked paprika. My main course was the Chicken Plate – minted rice, house salad, and Iraqi flatbread. My wife ordered the House Fries – sumac, toum – and also the chicken plate. Our friend went with the Lamb Kofta plate.

As we waited for the food, I sipped my marvelous drink and couldn’t help but notice that the crossbars on the table made it difficult for me as a tall human to pull up my chair and get close to our spread. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was mildly uncomfortable to have those against my knees. When the first food came out, I was able to forget about knee bars and turn my attention to the pickles and eggs.

Turnip pickles were my first interest and the bright sticks were quite delicious, reminding me of pickled beets. They had lots of vinegar and seasoning. The eggs were up next. Sitting in a metal tray, they had what I figured was a paprika spread underneath, a smattering of za’atar on top, and the yolks were also well appointed with similar flavorful enhancements. They were absolutely delicious with lots of Middle Eastern notes that didn’t make me forget I was still eating deviled eggs.

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Both apps were shared amongst the table. I was super pleased with how great everything tasted and looked forward to my chicken. We finished the starters and the plates weren’t far behind. Both the chicken and lamb kofta – or meatball – plates had two skewers absolutely loaded with the seasoned meat. In addition to the flesh were equally-sized piles of bread, rice, and salad. The chicken had some toum – or garlic sauce – lining it.

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My wife mentioned that she was waiting for fries and we were told that the order was going in. We started on our plates anyway. I immediately tried the chicken, of which there were at least six sizable pieces on each skewer. In what can only be described as understated brilliance, the spiced chicken and sauce didn’t hit like a truck, but more soothed like a melodious hymn. The glorious flavors were enchanting.

With a bunch of chicken eaten, I checked out the rest of what I had and felt the same as with the bird. None of them were a punch in the face, just a subtle serenade of savory sides. The only thing I felt was missing was an additional side of the toum. A little cup of that sauce would have been nice to dip into, particularly for the flatbread. But either way, it was all praiseworthy.

Half way into the meal, we got the fries. Topped with more of the toum and cut into small wedges, I tried one right away as did my wife. They were to die for. Over-the-top crispy, they were as tasty as could be and some of the best fries I’d had in recent memory. I couldn’t get enough as I ate much more than my share of the perfect potatoes and took the last bites of the wife’s chicken.

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At the end of the meal, we had an extra fry on the bill, which once fixed, put us at about $95 prior to tip. Despite my oft repeated feeling that prices are too high at new restaurants in Portland, I didn’t feel that way at all when I saw the final tab at Baharat. The amount of food we received in addition to the quality of both food and drinks made it feel like a bargain. The atmosphere was cool and casual and even though they just opened, they’re drawing quite a crowd. I’m happy to say that Baharat was so awesome that I’m already planning what to order on my next visit. Maybe that will happen tonight.

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?

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You have one week to try the stunning new tasting menu at UNION

The new tasting menu at UNION is a re-creation of Chef Josh Berry’s very recent dinner at the James Beard House. I was fortunate to be invited to the restaurant to try it at a small media gathering so I could give my readers an idea of what to expect from the meal and how to take advantage of this awesome culinary experience.

After consuming a pre-dinner beverage and one of the hors d’oeuvres from the actual Beard House Dinner, we sat for the start of the tasting. Up first was the gorgeously presented starter of Marinated Clams – pickled mustard and green coriander seeds, chili oil, lemon pearls. The shells and driftwood presentation made me consider just looking at the dish instead of eating it.

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Our clams were absolutely delicious and the addition of cilantro pearls and ponzu to the dish made them even better. Together, the layered tastes worked brilliantly to provide both lots of flavor without any particular item hiding another. It was a great way to start a meal and made me hopeful that everything else would follow suit.

I probably could have just eaten more of the clams and been happy, but our next course of the night came before I had time to tell the chef to just keep sending those out. We now had a plate of Cellar Aged Beets – duck confit, ginger, sesame puree, petite herbs. Again beautifully presented and nine months in the making, the beets were baked only in salt. The plate also had some chioggia beet slices, frisee, and cilantro to round it out.

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My aged beets were rich and the aging process had clearly reduced them so that each bite contained more bold baked beet power per square inch. With some duck to pump up the protein, the meat and vegetable combination was one I could imagine as a full main course if it were a bit larger. This was a beet dish for the ages.

Our next dish was Chèvre Gnudi – anise cream, licorice, heirloom mint, pumpernickel, fennel pollen. Hidden by the pumpernickel on top, three pieces of pasta filled with cheese including ricotta, goat, and pecorino, sat in the dish. The semolina encasement was cured to be extra thin on the top and bottom of the cheese. Fennel cream and licorice puree created a powerful aroma that made me a bit nervous, but I wasn’t there not to eat, so I dug in.

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Despite the smell, the licorice was only a very subtle component of the pasta profile. Instead, the thin, doughy wraps hosted a marvelous cheese combination that had me burning with a fire of happiness. They were absolutely great and I felt that the other ingredients added just the right touch to what would have still been awesome all on its own.

An unusual choice of meat, the last course before dessert was Slow Cooked Lamb Belly – heirloom carrots, whole grain porridge, smoked honey, black garlic agrodolce, rosemary ash. Obviously carrying more fat than other more commonly used parts of the lamb, the belly was intended to carry much of the dish as its best, most flavor retaining piece.

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With a little fennel seed in addition to the sweet garlic and smoke, the lamb and carrot offering produced a variety of mouth sensations. I particularly enjoyed sliding the lamb through the garlic and porridge to get as much as I could in each piece. I don’t always want animal belly for dinner, but this one was well conceived and allowed me to try something different than I was used to.

As the grand finale, we had Smoked Almond Financier – whipped maple, preserved blueberries, yogurt panna cotta, spruce bud. With smoked sugar, almond, and flour, Chef Josh stated that “everything was smoked”. Fortunately, like with the other dishes, the theme wasn’t overpowering. The smoke offered a gentle touch to the dessert which also included some lemon and olive oil.

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What I found particularly appealing about our last course was that it wasn’t too sweet. I’m a sucker for panna cotta and this one won me over. It was a perfect finish to a meal that had been well though out, with a reason not only for each dish, but the experience as a whole. Each item had a connection to the one before it which made it interesting and more than just a simple meal. It was truly a work of culinary art.

In case you were wondering about wine pairings, yes, they have those too. The sommelier picked them specifically for the meal and they were all very different, but I enjoyed them thoroughly. With pours from the US, Italy, France, and Uraguay, they ranged from fruity to dry to rich. And while the dessert wasn’t so sweet, its wine pairing was and featured bold, unrepentant vanilla.

Interested in trying the Beard House Dinner for yourself? The UNION Beard Tasting Menu will be running from April 6-12. You can make reservations by calling 207-808-8700.

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.