Praise be, I have my blog back. The country doesn't have sanity back, but a lot of folks are fighting the good fight. We in Maryland voted today. Here's hoping for a blue tsunami in November.
Anyway, Portland (Maine). After Tom and I left the boys last Friday afternoon, we drove back to Portland. Our flight home left at 2p on Saturday, so we figured we had 19 hours, including sleep time, to enjoy the city.
This limited amount of time was an excellent challenge. And, as we were childless, we had no need for schedule and every opportunity for spontaneity. Time to be spontaneous is the stuff of dreams, y'all, an all-too-rare thing for many parents.
We checked in, showered and changed, and headed out to dinner. Tom wanted to go to Eventide Oyster Co, and I wanted to try Duckfat, so we decided to go to both. We walked past Duckfat first so grabbed two seats at a communal hightop and ordered a large cone of fries with truffle ketchup and garlic mayo and two beers.
Duckfat is a casual, cozy spot with big plate glass windows facing Middle St. It seems to be a neighborhood joint, the sort you'd love to be able to stroll to on any given evening. The energy was just right, our waiter friendly and helpful, and we totally enjoyed everything.
After finishing the last fry, we settled up and headed down the street to Eventide. The wait was at least an hour, but because we had all the time in the world, we said, "Sure, put us on the list!" and headed next door to The Honey Paw, an Asian fusion restaurant run by the Eventide crew (chefs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley won Best Chef: Northeast in the James Beard Awards last year). We snagged two spots at the bar (our favorite place to perch) and ordered the charred broccolini with szechuan pepper and peanuts and the halibut crudo with rhubarb, lemon, micro greens, and fried shallots. More beer, too.
The bartender was an arse, but the broccolini was so good it prompted us to immediately begin researching woks so that I can attempt to recreate the dish asap. The crudo was delicate and utterly lovely though not the showstopper that its vegetable peer was. As we finished up, Eventide texted to let us know a table was available, but full, we declined and decided to go for lunch the next day.
Instead, we walked around and while I blissfully perused a fabulous bookstore, Sherman's, Tom got gelato. I spent a full hour just wandering the stacks, reading book jackets and blurbs in leisurely fashion, and relishing the fact that no one and nothing was hurrying me or asking for my attention. It was deeply lovely, and I feel this must absolutely be so good not only for my soul but also for my brain.
The next morning, we started with coffee at Bard. While we'd slept and lazily gotten ready, seemingly half of Portland had run a half marathon. Some of the early finishers were at Bard too, plus several parents with young kids still in jammies, and a few folks with newspapers. Like Duckfat, it felt totally local. We usually drink Hairbender espresso roasted by Stumptown. Bard's espresso was softer and a bit sweeter, but I liked it quite a bit.
After coffee it was time to mosey down to The Holy Donut, a popular spot whose donuts include mashed potatoes in the dough. True to claim, the potatoes add both moistness and a soft crumb to the handcut donuts, and I could see why the line snaked through the store and out the door. Also, more marathoners, and really, they deserved treats! We got the dark chocolate sea salt and also a fresh lemon. I am a total sucker for chocolate cake donuts, and indeed, that was my absolute favorite. Also, I love The Holy Donut's give-o-meter (see photo below).
As we still wanted to eat at Eventide before making our way to the airport, we decided to walk off some calories. There are some great art spots, shops, and vintage stores in Portland, and we also discovered a fantastic flea market, the Portland Flea-for-all. With the clock ticking and room made in our stomachs, we headed back to Eventide and, wait for it, got a spot at a bar rail (not a bar, but a bar rail where you could stand up and eat).
In short order we chose the brown butter lobster roll, the fried oysters with succotash and creole dressing (sadly I did not get a photo), a wild fermented dry cider, and one of the daily specials, a cherry tomato salad with nuoc cham, cucumbers, and shiso. HEAVEN. Utterly delicious, all of it.
Truly, I would order every single one of those dishes on a regular basis if I could. Every bite was a revelation of flavor and pleasure.
Unfortunately we did have to return our rental car and catch our flight, so we settled up and made our way to the airport.
I really liked the city. I witnessed a lot of kindness there and a wonderful sense of activism, healthful living, and pride. Mom and I are taking a road trip in August to go get the boys and bring them home, and I've dedicated a day to Portland. You can be sure we'll return to some of these spots!