portland (and harpswell) maine report.

here’s a summary of places i went to, mainly in old port area of portland, but also harpswell. my trip was solo, so i got some times in as a one-person where 2-4 couldn’t have been seated. i’ll post each part as i write it up.

my daytrip outside of portland was to harpswell. i had planned to go to georgetown and five islands lobster, but decided to look for some other area that had fresh lobster. i decided to go to harpswell (45 minutes awaiy from portland) for lunch. when going on this trip, make sure you use mileage estimates between streets, for a couple of the major turns had no sign markers.

i went to erica’s lobster where they had soft shell and hard shell lobster. this was the prototypical lobster shack - i went down to a barn area where you placed an order for lobsters. i believe price for soft shell was 5.25/lb, 6.25 for hardshell. you could just buy the lobsters there or, as i was doing, pay an extra $1 and they would steam it for you. my plan was to get a 1 3/4 - 2 lb soft shell, and then go to dolphin for a cup of fish chowder + blueberry muffin. but the soft shell lobster, which i’ve never had, was key.

well, the man there told me they didn’t have many soft shell (i was there around noontime), pulled out a 3 1/2 (?) lb lobster, and then found one that was a little under 3 pounds. i decided to go with that, so the total was about $17. i paid him for that, purchased soda from a vending machine, and went up to a small cabin where you would order all other items like chowder, fried foods, dessert, etc.

i had to pay 50c for a cup of butter. no worries, no biggie, at prices this cheap i had no problem with that. i gave my name and ordered the butter, 15 minutes later they called my name out and there it was - a huge lobster on a plate with a paper bowl (for shells and liquid), a plate holding the lobster, bib, wipe, pick and cracker. snapped off the claw and picked the lobster out…then i tried the larger claw meat without butter. it melted in my mouth and i didn’t need the butter at all. i wound up using the butter when the lobster wasn’t as warm, but for the claws, i went without butter and loved it. the soft shell was easy to pick apart, and i don’t know if the taste was because of the soft shell lobster or because it was just so fresh, but it was by far the best lobster i’ve ever had…and i’ve had some in portland before.

because of the size of the lobster, i knew i couldn’t go to dolphin for the chowder. i had been debating getting some at erica’s (was told it was very good) but i wasn’t going to force myself. i just wanted to enjoy the fantastic lobster.

a local couple sat at my picnic table and i talked with them. although they never had the lobster there (guy says “i sometimes help my friend on his boat and he pays me in lobster”) they had fried clam strips and fried (something else) and said they were both really good.

when i showed up at noon, i was one of a couple people there. when i left at some point after 1pm, the 6(?) tables were filled, picnic blankets were spread on the small hill, and the small outdoor parking lot area was filled. and everyone seemed to be happy with their food.

website: ericasseafood.com

lobster here:

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part 2. lunches and dinners and other comments coming later.

BAGELS: got to try out scratch bakery (scratchbakingco.com) in south portland for their bagels. went in on a thursday at 830, and i took the last 4 bagels. there was a 15 minute wait after that, and about a dozen people buying food then, so i can only imagine how crazy it gets on the weekend. so the bagels - not comparable to the nyc/northern nj great places, but a different style. i believe they had “maine salt” “plain” and something else that was empty - everything perhaps? there was not large chunks of sea salt on the outside of the salt bagel, i think it was more included in the dough, along with some other flavors i couldn’t identify. it seemed more to me to be a bread that was cooked in the style of a bagel than those i am more accustomed to. not bad, not great, but good and different.

ALCOHOL: liquid riot (liquidriot.com). resto-bar right on commercial ave. i tried the primus (belgian style) which was clear but not great. then i had heart of glass (blonde beer aged 6 months) which bowled me over, almost a wine like beer, which is my preference. i was able to get 2 32 oz. crowlers of it to go (crowler = can, they get the beer out of the tap, then a machine puts the lid on) because i liked it that much. they don’t sell it in cans, and i was really hoping to try their ichigo cream (strawberry ale with sake yeast) but it was “on nitro” so not available. however…

novare res (novareresbiercafe.com) is a beer cafe with a ton of beers on tap, and they had it listed. so off i went, a little off exchange st, and sat out on the patio (with trees as cover) and had it there. i thought it was a good beer for my liking (i don’t like heavy beers and prefer fruitier or wine-like ones that are crisp), glad i had one, and would probably buy some if it was available near me.

bissell brothers (bissellbrothers.com). they’re on thompson point, and i went on sunday to see if their beers were as good as everyone says. you can buy 4 packs there, or you can drink what they have on tap, plus there’s usually a food truck outside so you can get eats with your beer.

tried the baby genius, it was smooth but not exactly what i wanted. then i tried the seed (a fruity beer) but NOT overpowering fruit. this i fell in love with , and definitely DID want to get some to go - but no chance. they had packs for sale on friday, and they were long gone. next time they were open was wednesday, with two varieties on sale - substance and reciprocal - so i decided to blindly but them.

showed up wednesday morning at about 11 am. there were 20 people already in front of me for the noon opening. a guy came out later and said there were limits of 3 (4 packs) on reciprocal and 2 (4 packs) on substance. the people behind me were from massachusetts and had a couple people in their group, texting their co-workers if they wanted to buy a full order for each of them (the answer was yes). by the time the place opened at noon, there must have been 100 people behind me online. went in, placed my order, the reciprocal was dated the day before and the substance was coming off the lines as we were being served (!), got some seed (still on tap, still delicious) and tried the beer the next day at home.

since i was buying it blindly, i was REALLY happy that they were both crazy good beers. smooth to go down, not filling, and flavorful. i preferred reciprocal, but i was happy i got them. was it worth the wait? for me, likely because i had the time and it was a one-time thing. frequently? i don’t know, unless it was with a crew of friends and we would rotate waiting. i’m not a big fan of long lines.

urban farm fermentory (fermentory.com). i had a sumac cider which blew me away, but when i went back to get a growler of it, was sold out (it was the forage-of-the-week). didn’t care as much for the other ciders, but that was because they were drier, which i usually don’t like as much. i did get some of the blueberry kombucha to take home, however.

DESSERT: two standbys: two fat cats (twofatcatsbakery.com) for blueberry pie (and other slices, depending on the morning; i had cherry) and whoopie pies.

gorgeous gelato (gorgeousgelato.com) on fore street, with absolutely amazing gelato. the other gelato place is more like really good ice cream, but gorgeous is the melt-in-your-mouth kind.

pictures are bissell brothers, gorgeous gelato and novare res patio at night


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other places i went to in portland. the worst of these places was “quite good”, so use that as a guideline.

DINNER: tempo dulu (tempodulu.restaurant) - located on the first floor of an old victorian inn. fancy southeast asian, incorporating a slew of different countries. the amuse was a strawberry and (pineapple?) shot with sriracha-like lining on it. i ordered the rijsttafel (tasting menu) $85 which is located on their website.

i believe my tasting menu was slightly different - i had the lobster spring roll and wagyu beef which were delicious. the main grouping all came out at once; i remember the chicken (yellow) curry was smooth and not overpowering, the beef cheeks were delicious, and unfortunately i’m not a big fan of squid, so i couldn’t finish that part of it. the sauce it was in was quite good. they also served a few other small tastings in between, and had shrimp chips in place of bread, with a sambal and (thick, hot) peanut sauce as dipping sauces.

i had two drinks - the wayang and a snow cone which was constructed like a soft italian ice, and a spoon to eat / drink it. came with a little bit of caviar on top. they also had an asian street cart (which would have been for cooking sates) in one of the eating rooms.

i should have written down what i was eating, i know i’ve forgotten my first course and a bunch of the in-between ones. excellent dishes and lots of food.

DINNER: miyake (miyakerestaurants.com). chose the 4 course tasting for $55, no problem getting a seat at the sushi bar as one person on a regular weeknight. i got the hamayaki (lobster, crap and scallop over sushi rice with truffle oil and spicy kewpie, in a shell), black cod marinated in miso, grilled duck breast, and a ‘lobster roll’ - sushi rice with a wrap, kewpie mayo, lobster meat and tobiko. the hamayaki was an incredible dish that i’m watering for as i type this, and the warm rice + lobster was a perfect match with the cooler mayo. the other two dishes weren’t insanely awesome, just really really good. the server said something about “good choices” and i asked if there was anything else she would have recommended, i’d be open to change…she said “not at all, you picked the ones i’d recommend”.

DINNER: central provisions (central-provisions.com). almost went for lunch, but realized a weeknight at 5pm would be no problem getting a seat. 20 minutes later would have been a problem.

it reminds me a lot of momofuku ssam in nyc, so i hadn’t been primed to go, but i didn’t want a long sit-down kind of place, but did want to get good food. i got a special (swordfish?) belly, which was skewered…the bread and butter (you can read elsewhere how it’s done, but the egg gets changed so it’s runny and similar to butter), and o-toro crudo. no complaints, but i don’t know if i’d want to go if i had to wait a long time to get in.

LUNCH: fishermen’s grill (http://www.fishermensgrill.com/). located up on forest a couple miles before the breweries on industrial, and right before rsvp beverages. i got a 5 oz “mini” lobster roll (21.95 i think?) and a pint of seared scallops (22.95 i think?). the lobster roll was overflowing and would easily have filled a much larger bun, but not a ton of mayonnaise, which i liked. the “pint” of scallops was 5 jumbo scallops that were perfectly prepared and flavorful; not sure of current scallop price, it seemed a little high for the kind of place it was. however, lots of little complaints.

was there just past opening of 12:00, people on line, and a sign which said something like “we may not open right on time because we’re a small operation”. ok, i get that. however, one of the people who showed up 20 minutes later from the side was bringing in lettuce, paper plates, etc. not fish. and there were several other people there.

plus, my original order was “1/2 pint of seared scallops” from their blackboard, where i was told that the smallest i could order was a pint because they were jumbo scallops. fine. i then said “mini lobster roll, thai style” (there were three options for sizing on the blackboard, and underneath it were the different ways you could have the lobster roll - dry, thai, and a few other ways) and was told that he wasn’t preparing thai for the mini, so i’d have to order the next size up. i said no, i’ll get the mini size done traditional.

so the food was quite good, but little nitpicks that irritated me.

LUNCH: eventide (eventideoysterco.com). i don’t like oysters. you have to go before noon to get a seat, even for one at the window. it’s a little pricey. but i love eventide. the doughey bun wouldn’t work as well without the lobster bun and butter being absorbed by it. crudo (i had snapper) was delicious with side garments. even had a buttermilk chicken bun that was good, and i’ve eaten here several times before with happiness at every bite. their popularity is well deserved.

LUNCH: honey paw (thehoneypaw.com). haven’t had laksa in years. wanted to try honey paw, didn’t want to eat a lot. the lobster laksa had a nice kick to it - not ped-ped “thai really spicy”, for example - but something that worked well. the lobster/clam taste was a little overpowered by the laksa, so i

LUNCH: bob’s clam hut (bobsclamhut.com) , kittery. i stop there on the way home to get food for the ride. in this case, i got the jumbo lobster roll (23.99) and a crab roll (17.99). lobster roll was quite good if either 1) you’re coming from south/west to get to kittery or 2) not comparing it to the better portland-area ones. actually, you can’t compare directly, since bob’s had butter rather than mayo, but it tasted real good and had enough lobster - i think a little less than fishermen’s grill “mini” but not too much less.

the crab roll i was less impressed with. it was a small amount of crab on a bun, and i believe had lettuce on there as well, which made the actual meat seem a lot smaller. i wound up taking the lettuce off as well as some of the extra lobster and put it on the small bun. crab tasted ok, just wasn’t impressed with how it was put together / amount / price.

i stopped there on opening at 11am, no line. i’ve been by that area later in the day, and there’s always a decent size line, so go early if you want.

AND ALSO…
figgy’s (figgystakeoutandcatering.com/) been there before, wanted to get some non-seafood. i’ve had their ay ay ron before (fried chicken breast with slaw, potatoes, gravy on a biscuit) and it was good again - in fact, while i was there, i think 7 other people placed orders, and 5 were for that. and it was good. but their korean style wings (sweet and spicy) were amazing. different than the bon chon chain but the wings were perfectly coated with sauces - not too much or little - and cooked the right way. i also know that you can microwave leftovers the next day and still have them taste delicious.

duckfat (duckfat.com). again, wanted some non-seafood. i’ve had the double cooked fries at other places, these are just as good. got the crab panini special and poutine, just so good (maybe not so good FOR you). had one of the housemade sodas, so wonderful to drink. always hard to get a seat here, but i got it to go, walked around for 10 minutes, and the pager went off.

OTHER STUFF:

BREAD: before bob’s clam hut opened, i stopped up the road at when pigs fly (sendbread.com) for some bread to take home. we can get most of the varieties local to me, but their apple/cinnamon isn’t in my area, and is one of my favorites. got that (sliced up there as well) and went on my way.

SALT: the salt cellar (salt-cellar.com) has a store in portland (as well as portsmouth) and i get a couple varieties there. truffle works well with lots of dishes, and i’m partial to the ghost pepper in small doses. i tried the new ghost variety, and that was way too much of a kick for me; i only wish they had crackers or unsalted pretzels to use between salt samples. but it’s a nice little place.

thanks for the suggestions coming in. i skipped a few places i’ve enjoyed in the past (hugo’s because i didn’t want another long meal, vinland, vena’s for non alcoholic drinks) but heartily recommend those to others. i also didn’t get a chance to try blue rooster and some other places because i don’t want to eat if i’m already full and can’t enjoy what i’m eating. but that’s a food and drink report back from portland…

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Awesome report, bob_g! Really fun to read and helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

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Nice! That sounds like some hardcore eating.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold