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The Maine Line

20 Oct

MainerunAh, Portland. It’s my favorite food town in New England. Not to slam Boston—I’m very grateful to live here. But Portland makes me giddy. There’s that sense of home-grown pride that you find in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Chefs can afford to take more risks and run smaller, more personal restaurants. They don’t have to turn out so much comfort food to make the rent. The farm-to-table networks are strong, the local aquaculture is abundant.

Of course, with all these treasures comes a fair amount of foodie preciousness and pretension. Behold the local rutabaga. Worship it! And I got a near-horrified response from the staff at Rabelais Books when I asked if they had any old-school microwave cookbooks. But that’s the price you pay to hang in a town with a restaurant devoted to fries cooked in duck fat. Incidentally, the fries were as perfect as always, though a salad with poached egg and duck confit was just bad. Bland meat that seemed more braised than confited. Overcooked egg, wan dressing. Stick with the sandwiches, which are excellent.

Back to the Rabelais—the local food/cookbook store. Aside from the microwave snafu, the staff was really helpful, especially when I told them that I’m obsessed with apples. Turns out the store is a drop-off spot for a CSA devoted entirely to rare and heirloom apples like the Keepsake, the Pomme Gris, and the Chestnut. Can you imagine? All apples! You know how with some dogs, when you hit that right scratch spot on their bellies, they start pumping a leg (we call it “playing the banjo”)? That’s how I felt when I heard about it.
Incidentally, I was in Maine to check out a newly renovated resort in Cape Elizabeth called Inn by the Sea. It was a press tour, which means we stayed the night for free. Take my advice in light of that information, but I really did think the place was terrific and fully plan to return on my own dime. Such a short trip from Portland, but set along a gorgeous mile-long beach on one side (the photo above was taken on my morning run) and a large pond on the other. The chef, Mitchell Kaldrovich, made one of the tastiest scallop dishes I’ve had in ages, served atop a silky parsnip puree.


The Best Lobster Roll in New England

10 Sep

That’s my assignment: To find the best one. I’m hitting the road on Thursday, heading up the coast of MA, NH, and ME. Any suggestions?

Road warrior

10 Sep
Back in 2004, Scott and I took an ill-fated foliage tour of the Maine coast in a massive luxury RV. This was back in my Yankee days, where one of the biggest challenges was thinking of new ways to cover foliage season each year. I’m happy to see that the story has finally been published in the September issue.
p.s. I finally got my car back on September 1, which is 35 days after it was dropped off at the auto body shop. And 48 days after we first shipped it from California.