The Journey is the Reward: Dinner at Fore Street Restaurant in Portland

 Food and Dining, travel  Comments Off on The Journey is the Reward: Dinner at Fore Street Restaurant in Portland
Jul 142013
 

As we drive north on Route 295, more and more vehicles are racked with bicycles and kayaks.  Licenses plates decorated with chickadees and pine cones, loons, moose, and lobster increase, too.  Like kids entertaining themselves in the days before “devices” did that work, we begin counting Subarus.  It’s summertime in Vacationland.  We’re in Maine.

On this trip to Mount Desert Island, we decided to break up the 493-mile drive from New York City to our house in Somesville by spending one night in Portland.  “The journey is the reward,” I said, quoting Steve Jobs to Fred, who wanted to drive through without stopping.  I finally convinced him of the beauty of my idea by reading him reviews of the sublime wood roasted mussels in garlic almond butter at Fore Street Restaurant.  He was in.

Fortunately, we were able to get in.  In July and August you’re advised to book reservations one to two months in advance, but one-third of the tables are held for walk-ins.  We were able to snag a table for two at 7:45, for which there had been a cancellation just moments before.

Fore Street Restaurant opened in a handsome brick industrial building one block from the Portland waterfront in 1996.  By 2004 Chef Sam Entrance Fore Street Restaurant Portland MaineHayward was named Best Chef/Northeast by the James Beard Foundation.  Ironically, Hayward’s personal acclaim results from his celebration of Maine farmers, fishermen, foragers, and cheese makers through straightforward cooking approaches and preparations.

The menu at Fore Street, which changes daily, reflects this.  It is organized by the general origins of the food and preparation methods—garden, raw and chilled sea food, oven roasted sea food, oven roasted and pan seared meats, chilled meats and offal on the first page of appetizers, followed by entrees and sides of pan seared sea food, wood oven roasted seafood, wood grilled meats, turnspit roasted meats, plants and fungi, vegetables.  As with so many of Maine’s most exciting farm-to-fork restaurants, the originating locale of the food is also noted.

This dedication to the elemental flavors of the foods isn’t to say that the dishes are “plain.” The chilled seafood platter, for example, included cured Sockeye salmon with English pea puree and sliced Cape Cod scallops with chili oil. The roasted halibut filet from the Gulf of Maine was accented with roasted garlic scapes and a duck egg and mustard mayonnaise.

The July evening we visited temperatures were over 90 degrees in Portland.  Even the street entertainers seemed to languish.  I ordered a gin and tonic, the most refreshing drink I know, and began to focus on the sea food.  As I studied the menu from our coppertop table, the charms of the large, wood-filled dining room begin to distract me.  The waitress said, “You can imagine how lovely it is on a snowy night,” gesturing toward the large, leaded windows.

Central to the dining room is the open kitchen.  The line of four cooks operates in unison, with high-pitched calls keeping the beat.  With a paddle one cook removes iron-clad dishes from the large, open wood stove.  Flames shoot up.  Another mans the turnspit, roasting pork, chicken, and rabbit.

Kitchen Fore Street Restaurant Portland Maine

So thoroughly has the atmosphere of the place affected me that, suddenly, when the waitress returns, I order wood oven roasted mackerel with roasted red onion sauce and grilled hanger steak!  Fred had already declared his choices of the roasted mussels and breast of Rohan duckling with pickled cherries with black pepper and juniper.  Maybe this “game time decision,” as Fred said, was in anticipation of sharing the excellent 2007 Barbera our waitress would recommend.

After our entrees, we ordered a selection of artisan cheeses as we finished our wine.  We concluded the meal with three sorbets and glasses of refreshing moscato d’asti, preparing ourselves for the reality of the heat outside.

 

Related Stories:

Attention Foodies: Take a Detour to Bartlett Winery When You Visit Acadia National Park in Maine

Fathom Opens in Bar Harbor, Pleasing Both Locals and Memorial Day Visitors to Acadia National Park

Destination Dining at its Best: Xanthus at the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor Maine

 

May 302011
 

You walk in and restaurants immediately flash clues about the experience to come.

On its opening weekend, as we entered Fathom, Bar Harbor’s newest entrant on the fine dining scene, the crisp linens against the warm glow of the walls suggested both meticulous attention to detail and comfort.  The table appointments of a single flower, sea salt with a silver spoon, and a Japanese fighting fish circling in his bowl said expect classic with creativity. 

At 8pm every table in sight was occupied and a happy buzz emanated from the various sections of what was previously Maggie’s on Summer Street.  The bar was well stocked, so that I could start with a Lillet, an aperitif that has been made since the late 1800s.  But two unusual appetizers caught our attention: a sea scallop with fresh horseradish wrapped in prosciutto served over blueberry and fennel salad and Fathom’s version of the Hong Kong classic drunken shrimp, these drowned in a tequila cream.  I hope that as time goes on chef Joshua Heikkinen won’t hold back so much on the spiciness and flavor his menu promised for these appetizers, which were both nonetheless truly succulent.  (I, admittedly, like heat more than most people.)

Dramatically presented filet mignon with wild mushroom béarnaise and duck breast with rhubarb were as pleasing to the palate as the eye. In fact, they were conversation stoppers.  

Owners Tracy Pattershall Hallett and Joshua Heikkinen say their goal is to incorporate Maine products into all world cuisine styles and to have “local and fresh” dictate the menu.  An illustration of Josh Heikkinen’s approach is the Maine tapenade-crusted pork chop.  Using local Brown Family Farm pork, he doesn’t go with the classic Mediterranean tapenade flavors of olives, anchovies, and capers, but instead invents a local rendition with dilly beans, dandelion greens, and salt cod and tops it with a dill chevre.  This is exciting stuff from a chef with a great local pedigree that includes both Red Sky and Fiddlers’ Green. 

And congratulations to Tracy and Josh for assembling a staff that epitomizes both both professionalism and friendliness.

 It’s hard to “fathom” that this place will be anything other than a big success.

 To learn more about where to eat and what to do on a visit to Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA.

 

Maine Locals Share Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Vacation to Acadia National Park

 travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Maine Locals Share Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Vacation to Acadia National Park
Jul 192009
 

Where the locals eat, shop, and relax is a constant source of fascination for travelers.  And why not?  What could be a better guide for where to get off the beaten track to find value? 

That’s why I was delighted recently to see the proprietor of Sip’s and Sawyer’s Specialties in Southwest Harbor eating dinner at the bar of Red Sky.  Red Sky, with its creative cuisine and emphasis on local ingredients, has always been a personal favorite.  I felt validated by the local endorsement. 

Interesting enough, earlier that day I had visited Sawyer’s Specialties to ask Scott Winchester if he’d be willing to share some “insider secrets” about Mount Desert Island.  Here’s what he and two other Southwest Harbor locals-in-the-know told me. 

Scott Winchester
Scott Winchester

As I chatted with Scott, I eyed the delicacies in the counter at Sawyer’s Specialties.  There were “banana shooters” stuffed with provolone and prosciutto, smoked shrimp and scallops, and roasted red peppers.  He told me Sawyer’s Specialties features over 100 cheeses.  What a picnic!  All of a sudden I saw an intriguing alternative to my turkey sandwiches atop Pemetic Mountain.  My Nalgene of water morphed into a bottle of Pinot Noir as Scott talked about his philosophy: “I like to find out what customers like and then introduce them to something new in the genre they enjoy.”  So, what site would I choose for my elegant picnic?  

Scott’s Tip:  Go to Wonderland, the trail at the southern point of Mount Desert Island’s “Quietside.”  A spruce-scented gravel path, 1.4 miles out and back, leads you to the ocean where Maine’s rocky coastline offers ample seating – as well as tabletops – for you to relax and enjoy your feast from Sawyer’s Specialties.  Breathe in the salt air to complement the bouquet of the wine you’ve chosen.  Scott talked about the “stone chairs” at Wonderland.  Find the most regal for this feast.

Don Jalbert
Don Jalbert

When I was looking for a house to buy on Mount Desert Island, I stayed at the Harbour Cottage InnI still think it has one of the most appealing living rooms I’ve seen anywhere.  On my most recent visit, while I was waiting for one of the innkeepers, Don Jalbert, I mused how nice it would be to curl up on the chintz sofa  in front of the fireplace with a volume from the well-stocked bookshelves.  Instead, I maintained my decorum and enjoyed the lovely Southwest Harbor view over their rolling lawn.  When Don arrived, my first question was whether or not they were still serving their pesto eggs for breakfast, my all-time favorite egg preparation.  Having answered me in the affirmative, he surprised me with a recommendation I fully intend to pursue for myself. 

Don’s Tip:  “Not many people know about this,” he said, “Somehow it is kept very quiet. If you are on the island in June, July and August, be sure to call for a ticket to see The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. It sits atop a bluff in the village of Seal Harbor.” The garden has both a Spirit Path and English-style flowers so it is an unusual blend of Western and Eastern elements. Reservations are required and available from 9 AM to 11 AM Thursdays only. Tickets are free, but reservations are limited so you must call well in advance: 207-267-5525.  

Heather Brown
Heather Brown

If there’s a rainy day during my vacation to Acadia, I love buying baby gifts at Hatched on MDI.  For friends who have become entranced with Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, I always buy little cotton sweaters emblazoned with lobsters, which I then bestow with a lecture on why I like Mount Desert Island much better.  This year the owner, Northeast Harbor born-and-bred Heather Brown, attracted my attention with a table of marked-down “values” outside the shop.  I felt apologetic as she rung up the $10 item that my daughter had chosen strictly because of its incomparable snuggliness.  

Heather’s Tip:  I asked Heather for a suggestion for a thoughtful gift to bring home to a little one after a trip to Acadia.  She showed me a biblet (that covers not only the baby’s chest, but lap) in blue with a fiery-red lobster.  As we were talking, another great tip emerged.  If you (or your spouse) need a break from perusing the local gift shops, the Southwest Harbor Library offers a comfortable setting, variety of newspapers, and even free Wi-Fi.  And you don’t need to be a library cardholder to access the library’s three computers.  I can’t imagine abdicating on a visit to Southwest Harbor’s expanded hardware store, but I must admit that the library is an appealing alternative, especially on a rainy day.

 I’d like to thank my contributors Scott, Don, and Heather for this post.  If you have tips you’d like to share, you can contact me at info@ouracadia.com.  In the meantime, you can check out more of my favorite ways to explore, eat, and relax when visiting Acadia National Park at www.ouracadia.com.  Stay tuned for more tips from Bar Harbor!