Best of Food and Drink
The January 2008 issue of Down East features editors' selections of their favorite places to eat and drink.
Nearly naked fish. Just a little garlic, butter, and olive oil. A touch of seasoning. Seared, sauteed, or baked in a wood-fired oven. That's the best way to appreciate truly fresh seafood, which is a lesson Dana Street has taught Maine restaurant goers since he opened Street & Company in Portland in 1989. A clattering, crowded place with copper-topped tables, this Old Port fixture helped usher in Maine's current culinary Golden Age - another reason you need to schedule dinner. We like the grilled lobster served over linguini in a butter-garlic sauce. The calamari is the best in Maine. 33 Wharf St., Portland. 207-775-0887.
What happened to "The Chicken That Didn't Make it Across the Road"? It ended up on the menu at the Black Frog restaurant in Greenville. Along with "Fungus" (sauteed mushrooms on a burger), "Looks like steak, Smells like steak, Must be steak" (rib eye, New York strip, or filet mignon), and a slew of other items that come together on what has to be the single most humorously worded menu in Maine. (The actual fare isn't bad, either.) But if you're thinking of ordering the "Skinny Dip" that got the Black Frog so much media attention a few months back (a prime rib sandwich the menu claims you'll get gratis if you dare to leap into Moosehead Lake naked), think again, at least in winter. Nobody needs a free lunch that badly. Check out the menu at www.theblackfrog.com. 17 Pritham Ave., Greenville. 207-695-1100.
Oh, for the days when Morse's Sauerkraut in Waldoboro was our own little secret! An excellent European-style deli and cafe on a back road in the middle of nowhere would seem an unlikely candidate for overexposure. But Morse's has gotten so popular - thanks a lot, Boston Globe - it can be hard to get in the door on weekends. Still, Morse's famed 'kraut, its ten-year-old cheddar, and its energetic and upbeat owners, David Swetnam and Jacquelyn Sawyer, make this a must-visit destination.
Tip: Morse's is now serving breakfast. Danke schoen!
3856 Washington Rd., Waldoboro. 207-832-5569. www.morsessauerkraut.com
Restaurant to Save Your Diet
Vegetarian restaurants - let alone excellent vegetarian restaurants - are in criminally short supply in New England. Perhaps it's a holdover from the boil-everything era of Yankee cooking. But you only have to eat once at Chase's Daily, a combination restaurant-bakery-greengrocer in downtown Belfast, to appreciate how delicious and nutritious heirloom tomato salads and butternut squash and black bean tacos with red cabbage slaw can be. The Chase Family owns a five hundred-acre farm in nearby Freedom, from which much of their produce comes. 96 Main St., Belfast. 207-338-0555.
Restaurant to Ruin Your Diet
How's this for a decadent meal: Homemade meatloaf panini, with cheddar cheese, pickled red onions, and a horseradish emulsion, accompanied by a side order of Belgian fries cooked in duck fat and topped with cheese curds and homemade duck gravy, and finished off with a "five dollar" vanilla milk shake (with malt, of course). At chef Rob Evans' Duck Fat in Portland, your arteries will say no, but your tongue will say yes, yes, yes! 43 Middle St., Portland. 207-774-8080. www.duckfat.com
Andrew Hazen is still producing his top-notch Andrew's English Pale Ale in small batches at his barn in Lincolnville.
Running one of Maine's most acclaimed restaurants for thirteen years in a town with barely one thousand residents, at the end of a peninsula, in the middle of the woods, would be a challenge for most people. But Michael Gagne, chef-owner of the Robinhood Free Meetinghouse, had a vision to bring his 72-Layer Cream Cheese Biscuits to the world, and that's what he's done. His cooks make them by hand and freeze them individually, so you can make as many as you want. In half an hour you get fluffy biscuits, two-and-a-half inches tall, that work as accompaniments to any meal. No wonder they just won the Outstanding Award in the Baked Goods category at the prestigious Fancy Food Show in New York City. 210 Robinhood Rd., Georgetown. 207-371-2188. www.robinhood-meetinghouse.com
Restaurant for Your First Anniversary
You're still newlyweds, and it seems like the wedding was just yesterday, but now here it is: your first anniversary ("paper, what kind of gift is that?"). It's time for something special. Dinner at Primo in Rockland won't guarantee the magic stays alive, but chef Melissa Kelly casts quite a spell. The menu is inspired - try the pumpkin fettuccine tossed with toscano kale, roasted squash, and a sage walnut pesto - the servers are professional yet casual, and the location is just far enough from Maine's population centers to make this a unique and auspicious evening for the two of you. 2 South Main St., Rockland. 207-596-0770. www.primorestaurant.com
Restaurant for Your Fifth Anniversary
Has it been five years already? How is that possible? We don't know either, but we do have some advice on how to make the evening special. Eat at Fore Street. This Portland restaurant was named number sixteen in Gourmet magazine's 2002 list of top fifty restaurants in the United States. And in 2004, its chef-partner Sam Hayward won the award for the Best Chef in the Northeast by the James Beard Foundation. Located in a brick-and-timber building in the Old Port, Fore Street specializes in fresh, local food cooked over an open fire. Wood-oven roasted mussels, turnspit-roasted pork loin, grilled marinated hanger steak - yum. 288 Fore St., Portland. 207-775-2717. www.forestreet.biz
Restaurant for Your Tenth Anniversary
For your tenth, may we suggest Arrows? Chef-owners Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier have made their Ogunquit restaurant a true New England dining destination and critic's favorite (Gourmet named Arrows fourteenth on its top-fifty restaurants in the United States list last year). "East meets West" is the concept here: an Asian coleslaw salad includes roasted pear and orange dressing, garden pea sprouts, cashews, and a Vietnamese crepe. "A Book of Tea" pairs hot rock-cooked smoked salmon with chrysanthemum tea and sweet orange ponzu. Bon Appetit called Arrows "one of the country's ten most romantic restaurants." We concur. 41 Berwick Rd., Ogunquit. 207-361-1100. www.arrowsrestaurant.com
Restaurant for Your Twentieth Anniversary
You've been to Paris; you've been to Rome. You know what it is to have waiters appear, as if out of nowhere, to refill your wine glass an instant before you yourself know it needs refilling. That's the sort of experience the White Barn Inn, Lower Village in Kennebunk, promises and delivers. The six-course tasting menu is the way to go here (a pan-seared venison cutlet with a Maine mushroom and venison stew, parsnip puree, and pine needle-infused sauce was the centerpiece recently). White tablecloths, fine china, sterling silver, and Relais & Chateau-level service. Nothing but the best. After twenty years you've earned it. 37 Beach Ave., Kennebunk. 207-967-2321. www.whitebarninn.com
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a tie! For a gourmet pumpkin whoopie pie filled with maple cream cheese that would wow even Martha Stewart (which it has, by the way), the Cranberry Island Kitchen in Cumberland takes the cake . . . or is it pie? But if you're a traditionalist who believes bigger is always better, then you need to go to Winslow, because nobody makes whoopie like Big G's. We're talking a chocolate-and-frosting pie the size of a dinner plate for a mere $2.50. Cranberry Island Kitchen, 7B Corey Rd., Cumberland. 207-829-5200. www.cranberryislandkitchen.com Big G's, Benton Ave., Winslow. 207-873-7808. www.big-g-s-deli.com
Place for Ployes
The Long Lake Sporting Club in Sinclair owns several distinctions. First, it is one of the only restaurants in Maine where you can literally drive, boat, fly, or snowmobile in for dinner (depending on the season, naturally). Secondly, it is one of a handful of restaurants anywhere that serves ployes as an accompaniment to every meal. If you've never eaten these traditional Acadian buckwheat pancakes, served with butter and jam, there's no better place to try them than here, just a few miles from Madawaska and the New Brunswick border. 48 Sinclair Rd., Rte. 162, Sinclair. 207-543-7584. www.longlakesportingclub.com
We hate when the New York Times goes and tells the world about our favorite brew. But don't expect this moment in the limelight to go to Andrew Hazen's head; he's still producing his top-notch Andrew's English Pale Ale in small batches at his barn in Lincolnville, and you'll be lucky to find it outside the midcoast. But can you think of a better excuse for a drive? A fireside table at the Whale's Tooth Pub in Lincolnville Beach is the perfect place to sample Andrew's brew. You can also find it in local stores. 4975 High St., Lincolnville. 207-763-3305.
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