From Susan: It may surprise you to learn that Portland, Maine is a food fanatics paradise. From down and dirty seafood dives like J’s Oyster Bar – where we have been known to slurp down a few dozen of our favorite bivalves – to restaurants led by James Beard award-winning chefs – Rob Evans of Hugo’s and Sam Hayward of Fore Street – this small city boasts more than its fair share of excellent eateries. As an aside, Portland continues to make the James Beard list – this year, Hayward is nominated as Outstanding Chef and Fore Street as Outstanding Restaurant. Chef Krista Kern Desjarlais of Bresca is nominated for Best Chef, Northeast.
In addition to the fantastic restaurants we visited for the Boho story, we enjoyed a terrific lunch at Blue Spoon. Saturday mid-day, Ted was on the verge of getting cranky when, thanks to a recommendation from a local merchant, we sought out this tiny storefront in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Munjoy Hill. Chef/owner David Iovino told us that he had been looking for a place in Montclair, NJ (our hometown) – when he couldn’t find one, he upped and moved to Maine, bought the building that houses the restaurant and now happily lives upstairs with a great view of Casco Bay. Ted’s mood improved vastly after wolfing a rustic BLT made with earthy local bread and thick bacon; I went lighter with a salad of greens, thinly sliced green apple, toasted nuts and goat cheese. Of course, like nearly all Portland restaurants, Blue Spoon offers a selection of local beers – Maine is also a beer lovers paradise!
We could have spent weeks eating our way through the city, but since we had to come back to earth in New Jersey, checked out a few places we’ll spend more time in next visit. Behind its deceptively simple storefront, Micucci Grocery Store is a winding, treasure-filled maze of Italian cheeses, specialty foods, groceries, baked goods and wine, with a tiny cafe in the back. We brought home homemade whoopie pies and cookies from Two Fat Cats Bakery, part of the same Portland food empire as Fore Street. And we looked longingly in the window at Duck Fat, remembering the astonishingly good French fries (yes, fried in duck fat) that we scarfed down in the car two summers ago after gorging on oysters at J’s!
No trip to Maine would be complete without a stop at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store to stock up on wine, and hooch – Mt. Gay rum and a couple varieties of gin, to be specific … summer is coming, after all. But the NHSLS does not sell beer, so thanks to a tip from our friend, Mainer Kevin Colby, we found our way to Gary’s Beverages, just a short drive off the highway in Portsmouth. Walk past the cigarette and beef jerky displays near the entrance and you will find yourself in a veritable kingdom of beer, including many hard-to-find labels – at seriously discounted prices. We think we’ve stocked in enough to last us for quite awhile!