Author Archives: peterpeterportlandeater

About peterpeterportlandeater

Portland, ME food blogger

​What to expect when the new bar with a secret door opens tomorrow

 

Portland has been waiting with great anticipation for a bar that will finally be open to all on Friday at 4pm. Sitting quietly at 26 Exchange St., Blyth and Burrows offered media a preview of what was in store and I happily attended. Created by owner Joshua Miranda, B & B was built with the War of 1812 and two of its fallen captains – both of whose burial sites are in Portland – in mind. That war and those captains are reflected in everything about the locale.

 

Upon entering, patrons will be greeted by the bar on their left and a shelf with seating straight ahead. Past the bar and a few steps up will be another bar – where the oysters are housed – and some additional seating. But that’s only where the fun begins, because from that room, a secret door will lead down the stairs and into The Broken Dram.

 


A speakeasy is cool, but it’s also particularly noteworthy because it will have a completely different theme than its upstairs big brother. The music, food, drinks, and entire concept will be completely its own. Cool drink pairings will highlight the menu. And in case that’s not enough, there will be a secret entrance in from the alley and also another disguised door to a lounge which will be full of Victorian themed furniture.

 

The drink menu in the main bar will be separated by flavor profiles using period trade routes. I recommend Blood of the Incan – pisco, solerno, blood Orange agave, lillet rose, lemon, cranberry bitters – from The Americas column. Strong and fruity, the drink feels right when sitting at the bar. If a little adventure suits you, you might try the first drink on Silk Road – General Tso Fashioned – rittenhouse rye, dry orange curacao, teriyaki, ginger lemon, hot pepper bitters.

 


Food at the bar will focus on sea creatures with raw, cold, and hot options. One raw example, the Scallop Crudo with black garlic, dashi, cucumber, pear offers sweet and subtle flavors. More crudo, tartar, and of course oysters – by the six or twelve – will be available. Oyster lovers will enjoy the multiple accompanying condiments.

 

Cold options on the menu will include Hummus and Tapende – yuzu, castelvetrano olives, seasonal vegetables, black sesame – a light but flavorful offering. The Lobster Roll – Maine lobster, miso aioli, house bao – provides a Maine standard with a twist. The delicious Bahn Mi – marinated pork, pate, cilantro, Vietnamese pickles – seems perfect to eat with the General Tso Fashioned. Hot items will include crab cakes, oysters, ribs, and more.

 

Adding to the fun of sitting at the bar, the staff will be well versed in the history it is based upon, having been required by Miranda to read Knights of the Sea. Portland was heavily entrenched in the War of 1812 and now we have a location that remembers it. What else can you expect from Blyth and Burrows? Well, that, like much of what you’ll find there, is a secret…until you visit for 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.

Local beer pairing dinner is what you never knew you wanted

It was just recently…very recently, in fact…that I reviewed a special menu at UNION. But with the opportunity to attend a media dinner and sample their newest foray into food and beverage pairings, I thought it appropriate to let my readers know what’s in store. This time it was the first of what they plan will be monthly pairings for the restaurant, offering a set price for four courses, each with a beer from that month’s local brewery. This month’s featured brewery? Maine Beer Company.

Starting with a pre-game Lunch – that’s one of the MBC beers – we whet our appetite for dinner. Once our first beers had been finished we received a pour of the – hold the capitalization – a tiny beautiful something. With a single, uniquely flavored hop, atbs carries a distinct flavor. Within a few sips of that, we were given an app of Hamachi Crudo – olive oil, muddled cucumber, chili, mint.

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What stood out to me on the app were the cucumber and mint. Distracting me from the fact that I was eating raw fish, it provided a refreshing flavor that injected a little bit of cool summer breeze into my life. I might be getting used to uncooked seafood a bit after years of mostly avoiding it, but for now, I’ll attribute that the the excellent work of an accomplished chef.

Our next pour was Another One. Born from an experiment that involved brewing a dark and a light beer with the same hops, this light, delicately flavored liquid was the survivor. Of note, at least one local bar won’t serve it, because “I’ll have another one” is too ambiguous of an order when a beer by that name is on the menu.

With the AO, we were served some bread with sea salt and hop butter and then Braised Local Rabbit – house green curry, kaffir lime, sweet potato. The braised hopper was absolutely delicious with some some lemongrass, cilantro, and spice notes too. While the curry was nice, the transformative parts of the dish to me were the cilantro and lime. And if that seemed odd, it was even more strange that the lime went exceptionally well with the sweet potato. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that combination, but it was utterly brilliant.

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The third dinner beer was Woods and Waters. Named for the Katahdin National Monument, we were “warned” of its piney hops which it turned out were indeed a reminder of the woods. With that beer came the most beautiful plate of the evening – Roast Local Leg of Lamb – barley porridge, hops and spruce gremolata, smoked carrots.

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Obtained from North Star Farm in Windham, the lamb was brined with beer and salt. The gremolata underneath added a little garlic and the porridge was just right. The carrots lit my mouth with the sweet smile of maple. The plate felt like a full meal unto itself, though it was sized appropriately for the circumstances. I finished it and was ready for final course.

MO was the last beer of the night. Brewed to be right between the Peeper – their first beer – and Lunch, so as to be not too heavy or light, it was different than most final beer pairings which feature a thicker, heavier brew. However, this one was intended to not fill up that last bit of space in the diner, therefore saving room for dessert which for this meal was Honey Panna Cotta – caramelized bananas, vanilla bean fritter, honeycomb, toasted macadamia.

When the dessert came out, it didn’t look like much. It didn’t feel like I was looking at the love child of Gene Simmons and a proboscis monkey either, but it just didn’t have the beautiful colors the other plates had. That didn’t matter to me as I tried the panna cotta with some banana and nuts. It was good and I figured I’d follow that up with one of the two fritters. Those stopped me dead in my tracks. The fritters were undoubtedly the best I ever had with the fry-iest, most decadent, texture and rich, doughnut-like flavor. What a creation!

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After I stopped reeling from the power of the fritter, I was able to eat the rest of my food including the second fried ball of battered divinity. It was a great cap to a meal that featured foods from the light to the hearty. A little bit of rich sweetness provided just what I wanted in a final course and as I wrapped up, I felt like I had accomplished something, eating a meal that had so many pleasant flavors.

I really liked what UNION did with this meal. First of all, they put out some awesome food. Regardless of whether you order from the menu or eat a prix fixe meal, you’re sure to get something great. But the pairing with a top shelf local brewery is a long overdue endeavor. More restaurants should be doing this. As the craft beer explosion continues and Maine nears 100 breweries – yes, we’re almost there – restauraunts will only benefit from working with them. Congratulations to UNION and Maine Beer Company for both putting out great product.

To reserve your spot at the “Dinner with Maine Beer Company”, call 207-808-8700. Seating times are every future Wednesday in May at 6:00 pm. Tell them Peterpeterportlandeater sent you and let me know what you think.

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.

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.

Hungry for more? Get notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater at BDN releases a new blog post by entering your email address and clicking “subscribe” below. Keep up on all the BDN Maine blogs by liking BDN Maine Blogs on Facebook and follow @BDNMaineBlogs on Twitter.  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 to keep up with everything in my world of food.

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?

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.

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.

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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