Archive | July, 2010

Chicken in Blackberry Ginger Balsamic

30 Jul

Our trip through Maine brought us to Fiore, a specialty shop for balsamic vinegars and olive oils.  One vinegar we bought was the Blackberry Ginger variety that seemed to just scream “cook with me!”  So our first meal back, that’s just what we did.

We paired it with a boxed cous cous.  DELICIOUS! And sooooo easy.  One reason I love balsamic is that it packs a lot of flavor, is easy to cook with, and super low in Weight Watcher’s Points.  

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Summer 2010 NYC Restaurant Week Round-Up

28 Jul

I have a tenuous relationship with Restaurant Week.  I’ve reviewed a few places before, and still believe that Restaurant Week in NYC is a great opportunity to fill seats in a restaurant and allow people to try the food at places they ordinarily wouldn’t want to “risk” at full price.  For me, it’s great.  I do a lot of client entertaining at restaurants, and I’d much prefer to have a preview before I risk my good relationships on a bad meal.  Some restaurants, however, just put the cheapest food they can on the menu and skirt by.  I know Restaurant Week is political in NY, but I wish these restaurants just wouldn’t bother.  I try to read reviews about the best places to eat during RW and then provide my reviews so other’s can learn from my successes and mistakes.

So without further ado, here is my round-up for Restaurant Week for Summer 2010 in NYC.  And good news… they just extended the “week” through Labor Day!  So go and find a place to eat a three-course meal: Lunch for $24 and Dinner for $35.  Tell them NYC Nom Nom sent ya. (And don’t forget to tip on the original food price!)

My first RW stop of this season was lunch at Olives (note to Olives: your website sucks) with the lovely Miss Lori (of Stuff I Ate fame). Olives is the Todd English restaurant in the W Union Square.  (Side online media geek rant… Olives: your website sucks.  Todd English: your heavy breathing website is creepy.  W Union Square: Sorry I just cost you and my old Search team a few cents. /rant)

We started with a basket of way too deliciously moist bread with caramelized onions on top.

Which came with olive goo for dipping in. Mmmmm

The posted menu is here(however, ours was a bit different).  Lori and I both chose the beet salad to start. I have had a good deal of beet salads in recent years, and this was hands down the best one I have ever had.  I would eat this over pizza.  It was absolutely perfectly seasoned, sweet, and the braised pistachios were TO. DIE. FOR.  Wow.  I just want to go back for this salad.  Immediately.

I first chose two other entrees on the menu before I settled on the ravioli.  It was a sad moment, as BOTH entrees had peppers that couldn’t be taken out.  So I settled for the raviolis.

And if you get “stuck” with raviolis, these are pretty damn good ones to get stuck with.  Not the best, but quite delicious and totally satisfying.  The peas were perfectly cooked.

Lori chose the trout (which seems to NOT be on the menu that is posted) which had cherries (damn I love cherries), beans, and bacon.  This is what I REALLY wanted but it had jalapenos.  Damn.  Since I couldn’t even sneak a taste due to my allergy, her full review is here.

And then came the desserts… we decided to each get one of the pana cottas.  The first was a buttermilk custard with wild Maine blueberries and things that we kept commenting tasted just like Kix.  Turns out, that is exactly what they were!  It was pretty good… but nothing to write home about.

The second pana cotta was a bittersweet chocolate with shaved brownie, cocoa puffs, and white chocolate fudge.  What they FAILED to mention was the watermelon sorbet.  It was so damn good that we each contemplated accidentally tripping and falling (mouth first) into our neighbor’s plates as their desserts came out.  This sorbet is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Overall, I was very impressed with Olives.  I’ve had apps and drinks there before and I’ve never been dissapointed.  I hear the regular dinner menu has AMAZING pasta.  Totally worth it.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Our next restaurant of the season was Ilili.  This came as a recommendation and seemed especially enticing since they offered a free pour of Lebanese wine during the two original weeks of RW (thanks for the tip Wined and Dined!)  

Even though we got a free taste of wine, I saw a cocktail on the menu that I couldn’t resist.  It had tequila, mulberry syrup, and lime.  It was quite enjoyable.  And obvious QUITE strong… the pictures for the rest of the Ilili post are terribly out of focus.  Apologies in advance.

Their Restaurant Week menu is here.  (They also offer a Dinner special for $39 every Sunday – Wednesday that is similar to the RW menu was. It doesn’t appear that they are officially participating in the extended Restaurant Week, but this was a steal even for an extra $4!)

We went to Ilili with our friends Josh and Lillian, and what is so much fun about Ilili’s menu is that there is just SO much to choose from so we each chose 2 small plates, 1 entree, and 1 dessert and then sampled around the table.  I love friends who share their food!

First up was the green beans with date molasses garlic whip, sesame seeds, and pickled pearl onions.  Delish!

Then there was the insanely creamy hummus…

…That came with well inflated pita.

We also got artichokes (which aren’t on the current, year-long menu).  I hear they were good, but they were spicy so I had to do without.  Poo.

We tried the Mekanek, which was lamb sausage sauteed with olive oil with lemon and pine nuts.  Tasty.

And the steak tartar that came shaped like a meatball.  I prefer my tartar less reminiscent of raw meat I cook with… but at least it tasted good! (And yes… I stuck to the far side of the plate below)

I ordered the lamb meatballs with onions and pine nuts in a tomato sauce.  These were so good and lamb-y! MMmmmm

Our last “app”/small plate was the lamb ribs with burned strawberry, scallions a la plancha, cuin, and aleppo broth.  I REALY wanted to try this (burned strawberry just sounded interesting) but, turns out, the aleppo broth took me out of contention.  Lillian said it was good though!

Josh chose the braised rabbit with eggplant, romano beans, and roasted heirloom tomatoes.  (Right Josh? Man I hope that’s right…)  He liked it whatever it was!

Mike chose the Chicken Shish Taouk which was marinated in lemon and garlic on a spiced pita.  He enjoyed thoroughly.

Lillian chose the striped bass with a ragout of clams and herbs, kouzbara toast, and lemon espuma.  It was deliciously tender and juicy.

In my humble opinion, my entree was the best.  It was the lamb and plum stew with crispy vermicelli.  It helps that lamb and plums are 2 of my favorite foods.  The meat just fell apart on my fork and the tastes were effortlessly elaborate.  I loved it.  Love love loved it.

The desserts were plentiful.  First up was the Ilili Candy Bar that came with chocolate kataifi crunch, chocolate ganache, pistachio and fig caramel and finished with warm chocolate sauce (table side).  I’m not sure why it was called a candy bar, but it was delicious and decadent.

Josh chose the homemade Lebanese ice cream.  I’m not sure what kind it was… but he enjoyed it from what I could tell.

Lillian got the Ashta which is traditional Lebanese clotted cream with orange blossom simple syrup.  This was tasty, but not as rich as I like my desserts. (I’m a glutton for chocolate).

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with Ilili.  Not only was there a lot of food and a lot to choose from for a typical Restaurant Week menu, but they do a similar special all year long AND the food was spectacular.  Not a bad dish on the table.  I will do work lunches and dinners here.  It was that good.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

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After reading some reviews, Mike and I chose to do a RW dinner at Park Avenue Summer (which also doesn’t appear to be on the extended RW list).  They change the menu and decor for each season.

Our bread basket was concerning, as while the biscuits looked delicious, they also looked like they could have potential inclusion of peppers (and as we all know, jalapeno peppers ARE in fact peppers).

Luckily, they read my mind and included a descriptive card about the breads! (and the Summer Corn Roll was tasty).

 

We started with a chef’s treat of watermelon pieces on a stick.  Good… but if you are just going to serve watermelon on a stick, it had better be VERY good watermelon.  It wasn’t.  Just okay.  I’m hard to impress with watermelon though.

The restaurant was VERY dark (even leading an old lady to block the stairs as we went to our seats to allow her “eyes to adjust”) so the pictures are not great.  Sorry!

Here was the menu.

Mike started a dish that isn’t on the posted menu (my memory isn’t good enough for this!)  I have no recollection of this… hmmm…

I got the salmon tartar and this was REALLY good.  Impressive citrus flavor that perfectly balanced the fish.

Mike got the Dr. Pepper Baby Back Ribs for his entree with fresh peach slaw.  He made the right choice.

I went with the roasted chicken with peaches.  It was just… ehh.  The skin wasn’t crispy enough, there was too much sugar in the peach sauce and not enough peaches, and the chicken was a bit dry.  Very disappointing.

We also ordered off the regular menu (in addition to a bottle of wine) and got the fried artichokes.  I was SO disappointed with these.  The breading was so heavy and fried so much that you couldn’t even taste the artichokes.  They tasted like fast food.  Weird and disappointing. 

For dessert, Mike chose two curious flavors of ice cream: sweet corn and carmelized honey.  They were both stupendous but I LOVED the corn. Wow! Like licking cold popcorn flavored deliciousness. 

I went with the Chilled Banana Parfait with Chocolate Crumbs & Banana Butterscotch Puree.  Honestly, I hoped it was something like my insanely delicious Faux Banana Ice Cream, but it was lackluster until I hit the butterscotch, which made it better, but still not GREAT.  Bummer.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed by Park Avenue Summer.  I don’t know if it was the RW menu or if the food was just not what I expected.  Bummer.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Our last scheduled stop for Restaurant Week was dinner at Perry Street (a Jean Georges restaurant I had heard good things about.  They also seem to not be participating in the RW extension… damn.  But they do have a summer special for lunch ($26) and dinner ($38).

The day before, Mike and I checked out the RW Dinner Menu and were disappointed to see that they only had 2 apps and 2 entrees to choose from (and both entrees included scary words like “spicy” and “ratatouille”).  I called to confirm and asked if they could move us to lunch, which had a MUCH bigger menu (though even with so much selection, I had trouble finding pepperless items).

I really liked the ambiance of the restaurant. 

Even the bar just looked comfortable.

We started with an amuse bouche of cold watermelon soup.  It was tasty but a little too vinegary for me (it burned the throat).

Mikes app was the goat cheese and peach salad.  These were the best peaches I have had all season.  Hands down.  I want to know where they source them from.  This is how peaches are meant to be.  Mike enjoyed the crystallized wasabi (and wasabi nuts) but I steered clear (not a fan… reminds me too much of the scary pepper in taste).

I went with the arctic char sashimi with lemon, olive oil, and crispy skin.  It was good, but really was no comparison to the salmon tartar from the week before at Park Avenue Summer.

Mike chose the grilled yellowfin tuna burger. It came with bonito mayonnaise, shiso, and yuzu pickles.  I think it was tasty, but it was a bit hard to get past the fact that this was ground up tuna rather than a tuna steak.

I had the spinach and goat cheese omelet with crunchy potatoes. 

It was good but nothing too special.

For dessert, Mike got the “berry soup.”  It was good, but felt like a cheap alternative to a real dessert.

I went with the chocolate lava cake. 

It was disappointing… especially because the center was pretty well done.  The chocolate was SO bittersweet that even the ice cream (which was tasty) couldn’t quite make up for it.  It was also a bit dry.  It would have been well suited for a berry sauce of some kind.

Overall, I was underwhelmed by Perry Street.  For a name like Jean Georges, I expected more, especially for Restaurant Week.  I don’t know how their regular menu is, but this was just… ehhh.  Another bummer. 

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

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Restaurant Week Summer 2010 was an overall success since we had TWO great meals. 

Summary: Skip Perry Street and Park Avenue Summer, Hit up Olives and especially Ilili.

Ajisai

26 Jul

Mike mentioned that a pretty new Japanese place opened up close to our apartment on 9th Avenue (at 44th Street).   Upon first entering Ajisai, I fell in love with the ceiling (what is my obsession with ceiling decorations?)

We opted for a hot app: Chicken Lettuce wraps.  I’m used to assembling my own, but the wedge was quite different.  It didn’t work so well as a wrap, but the chicken part was absolutely delicious.  Perfectly seasoned and sauced.

For our entree, we did “Sushi for 2” which included 18 pieces of sushi plus a California Roll and a Dragon Roll.  It was SO fresh and SO delicious.  Really impressive for a random sushi restaurant.

Overall, this was a very good sushi restaurant and a welcome addition to Hell’s Kitchen.  The chicken was quite original and the sushi was fresh.  So it gets a thumbs up from me.  I just don’t know if it can replace my all-time favorite in the neighborhood… Kodama.  

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Nom Nom Nom… All the Way Home (Portsmouth, NH & Providence, RI)

23 Jul

On our roadtrip back from Maine, we made a lunch stop in Portsmouth, NH and then did an overnight in Providence, RI.  I have always loved Portsmouth, however, it started to rain heavily midway through lunch, so we didn’t have much time for sight seeing.  And then Providence, RI seemed like a good idea… about midway home, in RI, known for being a lovely town… but I just. didn’t. get it.

Back to Portsmouth… after our fantastic tour of Maine craft beers, we decided to continue our new found tradition and stopped in at the Portsmouth Brewery for lunch.  We, of course, ordered beer and mine was quite tasty.  If we hadn’t been driving, we would have totally gone for the paddle of beer that had something like 12 small flights to try their stash.  Bummer.  We did have some good grub, however (and that’s what you’re here for anyway… isn’t it?)

Mike ordered what I thought was a cheesesteak… but I can’t find it on the menu. Hmm.  I remember him liking it very much though!

I chose a special pork dish which had a peach chutney.  DELISH! I was quite impressed that a brewery did such a good job with this dish.

Overall, it’s a great place to have a beer and the food ain’t bad!

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 7

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As soon as we pulled into Providence, I knew we were in trouble.  I had mistakenly thought it was on a lovely part of water, however, it looked like mostly highways.  We asked the concierge at the hotel where to go for a night stroll, and he sent us up in some direction that made us feel quite scared… and we live in NYC!  It was just so seedy.  We wound up going to see a movie that night… in a mall movie theater.  Pathetic I know.

On the way back from the movie theater we decided to continue our brewery themed trip and tried out the Trinity Brewhouse.  

We sat outside and it was a nice night… but the food literally took SO LONG to come out (and the restaurant was pretty much empty when we arrived) that it actually cooled up and the wind picked up outside.  Uncomfortable at best.

Mike ordered the pizza… big mistake.  It was heavy and greasy and just hardly worth eating.

Then mine came out… ugh… even worse!  Do you see the REFLECTION off those sweet potato fries?  That’s how greasy they were.  And soggy.  Ew.  The sandwich was a corned beef reuben that sounded good… but was basically flavorless.  How do you screw up a reuben and fries?  GA-ROSS

This place was crap.  Seriously.  I’m usually quite nice in my reviews, but I just can’t be.  It was utter crap.

Total Nom Points: 2 out of 10

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The next day we decided to take a recommendation from a family friend who had lived in Providence for a while.  She is a chef, so I figured she couldn’t steer us wrong.  This was when we saw the college part of town (Thayer Street).  This was much lovelier an area than where we were the night before.  

The recommendation was for a pizza place called Antonio’s on Thayer.  I was told it would be the “best pizza I’d ever have in my ginger life.”  
I chose mushroom and hawaiian. 

Mike went with a white chicken pesto slice.

And a chicken cordon bleu.

So how does this compare in my ginger life?  It was good, but not THE BEST.  I did enjoy it, however, and compared to the other place we ate in Providence, this was TOPS!

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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This sadly ended Mike and my excursion in Maine.  In a strange twist of fate, however, I AM GOING BACK NEXT WEEK with the family!  YAAY! 

Nomming Thru Maine: Mid-Coast (Lincolnville, Camden, and Rockland)

21 Jul

After Acadia, we drove back down the coast a bit to the “Midcoast” region (we were in Lincolnville, Camden, and Rockland).  This is the area I was most familiar with from family vacations growing up.

There is one main street through Camden right next to the beautiful harbor (where we later took a great kayak tour).   A must-stop in Camden is Cappy’s Chowder House.

“Good food served here” is right!

Mike got a side order of cole slaw.  It grew on me.

We started with a salad that I remember enjoying but don’t remember ordering.

Mike chose… you guessed it! A burger. He enjoyed.

I was having a tough time deciding, but when the waitress said the lobster mac and cheese was her favorite, I was sold.  And it was SO. GOOD.  Wooooey.

Overall, Cappy’s is dependably good and a very New Englandy restaurant.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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Continuing our drinking fest, we stopped at Cellardoor Winery in Lincolnville.

Turns out they are not yet planted for long enough to produce their own wine.

So they just mix their own.  And whomever is choosing this mix has a great palate. They also did a very nice job decorating their tasting room (they are building a big facility across the street).

We were especially intrigued by their chairs made from tractor seats and axe handles.  Quite comfy actually!

We enjoyed almost every single bottle we tried (and it was a healthy sampling with many to choose from).  We actually wound up buying a bottle.

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In Rockland there is a great sandwich shop called The Brown Bag that I grew up going to.

Their specials menu included a grilled trip cheese sandwich with avocado, tomato, onions, sprouts, and pesto mayo.

It was delicious!  The perfect balance of toastiness and cheesiness.

Mike chose the Brown Bag Ham Sandwich (with Grilled Ham, Havarti, Capers, Artichoke Hearts & Special Sauce)

For the road, we got a whoopie pie (which The Brown Bag is famous for).  Delicious.

Overall, The Brown Bag is just a perfect sandwich place.  Everything is delicious, fresh, and in a great atmosphere.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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We stumbled upon a specialty shop called Fiore that sells artisan olive oils and balsamic vinegar.  I LOVED going around and sampling every single thing in the store.  Wound up taking home an 18 year aged balsamic, a blackberry ginger balsamic, and an olive oil that tasted SOOOOO good but I can’t remember which one it was (WHOOPS!)

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Our final special restaurant stop of the trip was Primoin Rockland (it’s actually right before the border of Owl’s Head).  You will have to forgive this review for lacking in detail in some cases… we MAY have had a lot to drink by this time.  MAYBE 🙂

Primo is all about sourcing their food from what is fresh and local.

We sat upstairs and it was beautifully decorated.

We started with a chef tasting of asparagus cold soup shooters and a tartare that was good, but I can’t remember what it was.  D’oh!

We ordered the wild boar carpaccio.  It was delicious.

Mike had a roast chicken with bacon.  It was so tender and yummilicious.

I had the Sautéed scaloppini of Pork “Saltimbocca” served on a bed of roast garlic mashed potato layered with wilted garden spinach, prosciutto and a sage, mushroom~Madiera jus.  HOLY COW! (Or… Pig…) Nom Nom Nom

For dessert, Mike chose the artful parfait.

I went with the Warm Belgium Chocolate “Budino” ckae with mint stracicella gelato and fresh berries.  I don’t know what Budino nor stracicella is… but I’m curious why it’s Warm Belgium and not Belgian… but who cares about grammar when you’re eating delicious chocolate?

The final bite from the chef was a chocolate… thing… Man this is when the night is really fuzzy.  I remember enjoying it, but NOT the candied ginger orange peel to the left on the plate.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with Primo.  Everything was quite delicious and it was a great place to have a romantic meal.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Nomming Thru Maine: The Stops Along the Way (Moody’s Diner and Young’s Lobster Pound)

19 Jul

We made two stops on our Maine Roadtrip that don’t exactly fit into any of the town posts.  They are the stops in the middle that make driving OH SO worth it!

A “must stop” is Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro on Rt. 1 (you have to take the coastal route from Portland to Acadia, but it’s good enough to add a bit of travel time).  Moody’s Diner began in 1927 when they built a few cabins to offer cheap lodging and soon expanded to a cute little diner.  That cute little diner still looks like it belongs in 1927 but with some modern touches. 

My dad has talked about Moody’s cinnamon buns for as long as I can remember and it was a routine stop for him when he was going to college in Maine.  They are usually sold out by late morning in high season, so I had never experienced these wonders.  This time, however, we were there during the very first weekend of the “season” (before it gets busy), and we managed to secure one right around lunch time.  It was DAMN good, but it had the unfortunate experience of having to be compared to the cinnamon bun from Five Fifty Five from just a few days before.  It wasn’t quite as delicious, but it was still quite delicious.

Mike went for the turkey club.  He voted it an exceptionally good turkey club.

I went with the old fashioned Yankee Pot Roast.  I was quite concerned about this choice because good pot roast can be great but there ain’t nothing worse than bad pot roast.  This… this was FAN.FREAKING.TASTIC pot roast.  It looked so humble… but it was just so good.

Overall, Moody’s diner does home cooked comfort food right.  They don’t get too artsy with their food styling nor do they make anything trendy.  They just make great diner food.  Really great diner food.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

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Another stop on the stop was Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast (we hit this heading back south from Acadia when we were heading to Camden).  My family stumbled on Young’s years ago and I couldn’t wait to go back.  It’s a very authentic lobster pound that pulls their stash in right from the water.

(Side Note: Belfast as a town wasn’t exactly a shopping destination last time I was there, so I was excited to see that it has become a total artist destination.) 

They have their lobster in big tanks and sell a 1 & 1/4 pound lobster plus steamers and potato chips for less than $20.  Awesome.

They supply a good deal of lobster beyond just their restaurant… so they have a lot of tanks.

Mike saw Moxie in the fridge and decided to try it.  Unfortunately, neither of us knew it tasted like root beer… and neither of us like root beer.  Oh well! Now we know.  (As I’m writing this with Mike sitting next to me he saw the picture and reiterated, “Moxie is disgusting”)

It took far too much time to get our food… though any time I wait for fresh cooked lobsters and steamers while waiting on a beautiful doc is too long!

Again, I think it’s pretty hard to screw up steamed lobster, but the steamers at Young’s just set this one apart.  The lobster couldn’t be fresher, of course, and then you have the scenery…

Overall, Young’s is just too good to drive right past (even though it’s easy to miss the sign to show you where to turn).  A must stop.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

The Coach Stop Inn – Bar Harbor, ME

16 Jul

When I went up to Acadia with my best friend, Esther, about 5 years ago, we randomly found this little Bed and Breakfast on the main road before you enter the park.  It was called the Coach Stop Inn and we just fell in love with this simple, quaint little Bed and Breakfast. 

I knew I wanted to go back here when Mike and I were in town and had heard it was under new ownership.  I was nervous that this change of hands would change everything, but it was just as wonderful as I remembered it… now under the expert skills of Deborah and her adorable pup, Leon.

My first day I enjoyed cherry turnovers.  These were SO good.  Expertly flaky and the cherries were just sweet enough to retain their tartness.

Another day there were poppy seed muffins to start.  I couldn’t believe how good these were.  I’m usually not a huge fan, but I could not get enough of these.  Even at this moment I am drooling a little bit remembering how good these were. Love at first bite.

On almost every morning, Deborah served a martini of fresh cut fruit with a flavored balsamic vinegar.  All were delicious and beautifully presented.

Another day we had yogurt with fruit and granola and it was delicious.

Instead of fresh fruit one day, we were served delicious smoothies.

One of the first main courses were eggs and home fried potatoes.  It was delicious and tasted so fresh.

We had a hearty breakfast one morning with egg stuffed in some sort of baked good and stewed tomatoes.  I wish I remembered exactly what this was… but it was too long ago 😦

On our last day we had pistachio stuffed french toast.  OMG was this good! It was a lovely way to end our stay there.

I just love this B&B and I’m so glad I got to go back.  The food is great and it feels so homey.  Deborah is an excellent host, the rooms are comfortable, there are fresh baked cookies every evening, and the main house has a really nice main room with books, games, a piano, and a TV with DVDs.  If you are in the area, I highly recommend staying here!

Nomming thru Maine: Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor- Part 2

14 Jul

After planning so well for our restaurant stops in Portland, I really didn’t have many foodie plans for Bar Harbor.  We mostly stumbled upon places through the week.

One night we were looking for an early bite, however, most places didn’t open up until after 5:30.  One place we did find that was open was Rupununi

We started with the “empanadas” which were unlike any we had ever had before.  It was described as “Traditional Argentinian style, hand made empanadas stuffed with lobster, roast corn & cheese.”  It was like an empanada went to France and mated with a croissant.  But it was delish.

Mike ordered the Fisherman’s Fried Sampler with scallops, haddock, and Maine shrimp.  I think Mike maxed out on the fried food, however, the scallops were heavenly.  The rest was ehhhh. 

I went with the Lobster Scampi which came with fresh Maine lobster, artichokes, capers, cherry tomatoes, and spinach over linguini.  This was AMAZING!  You don’t see chunks of lobster like this outside of Maine.

Later that evening we were strolling through town and ducked into an ice cream store to buy some fudge.  I was so blown away by the following sign that I just had to try some of this ice cream flavor. (It was actually not half bad, though nothing I’d ever want as more than a taste)

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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Unfortunately, our stay was very rainy, however, we made it over the Jordan Pond House one rainy afternoon for tea.  The location was a beautiful, old building right on the lake.

Here was the menu:


I went with the tea and popovers.


These were OUTRAGEOUSLY good popovers.

Mike went with the lobstah chowdah.

It looked kinda oily, so I was concerned, however, there were solid chunks of lobster meat that were as big as the bowl’s circumference.  And the taste was just sensational.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10 (for the afternoon tea anyway)

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On one of our last evenings in Bar Harbor, Mike and I went to Reel Pizza Cinerama, which is a movie theater that serves pizza (that smelled AMAZING) and had couches and little tables in front of seats to eat from.  We just had the beer.  It was a fun experience!

For dinner, we took a TripAdvisor recommendation and tried out Cafe This Way.  

I appreciated the design aesthetic on the ceiling.

The bread came out and smelled delicious. (It was fair)

We ordered the smoked duck wrapped scallops for an appetizer.  They were pretty good, but it wasn’t quite as ducky or scallopy as I would have hoped for.

We ordered a Pinot Noir while we were there that we enjoyed so much that I took a picture.  Look out for Angeline!

I guess I was on a duck kick and I ordered the roasted duck with spiced pears and blueberry jus.  This dish was dissapointing.  First, there were only 2 little slivers of spiced pear on the plate (with that heaping portion of duck!) and the blueberry jus wasn’t very interesting and the duck just wasn’t as flavorful as I’m used to (perhaps it was the type of duck this restaurant uses?)

Mike chose the grilled lamb sirloin that was served on a goat cheese, cheddar, onion, and jalapeno quesadilla with cilantro mint chimichurri.  I’m pretty sure he declared this just average.  Nothing like the lamb from Fore Street a few nights before.  

Overall, we were pretty disappointed by this place.  Nothing was bad, just underwhelming.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10


Nomming Thru Maine: Acadia National Park/Bar Harbor- Part 1

12 Jul

One of my absolute favoritist parts of my favoritist place is Acadia National Park.  It’s on Mount Desert Island and it contains some of the most beautiful, serene vistas you can imagine.  On the island is a little town called Bar Harbor.  It is as quaint as New England towns come and is right on the beautiful harbor.  At low tide, there is a sand bar that connects it to an island, and at high tide that sand bar completely disappears.  

(The picture below is a view from Cadillac Mountain of the town of Bar Harbor)

When we first arrived in town, we strolled the streets of Bar Harbor (prounounced BAH HAH-BAH btw) and set up our tickets for a sunset cruise on the Margaret Todd for the following evening.  We asked a local where she usually eats personally, and she told us most locals go to Geddy’s, which was down the street.  And away we went…

It has a rustic pub feel with license plates used as their main decoration.  The bar seemed to have mostly local regulars while the diners appeared to be mostly tourists.

It started off well enough when we found Thunder Hole ale made by the Bar Harbor Brewing Company (which actually merged with The Atlantic Brewing Company).  (Thunder Hole is an awesome spot in Acadia where the water has dug such a deep hole in the rock that it sounds like thunder as the waves rise into it)

And I found some of my FAVORITE Blueberry Beer (also made by Bar Harbor Brewing Company).  This place even floated wild Maine blueberries in it!  (Notice the half colored in table matt below it… yes… we’re big kids at heart… always)

Mike started off with the lobster chowder.  It was good and creamy.

He then graduated to a lobster roll.  It had good chunks of meat in it but I think we both agreed that we prefer the unadulterated plain ol’ steamed lobster.  (I think this place may use frozen lobster though… it just didn’t have as much flavor and I thought it should have).

I chose the scallops.  Now I was VERY, VERY careful to inform the waitress that I was VERY allergic to peppers.  She verified with the chef that this was one meal I could eat.  The sweet potato mash was delicious, but the scallops, again, were just a bit bland.  (Frozen perhaps?)

Best of all… see that little biscuit next to the mash?  I took one bite and my mouth went on fire.  I then asked the waitress for milk (which she took her sweet ass time getting) and asked her if there were in fact peppers in the biscuit.  To which she answered “Are jalapeno peppers a pepper?”

Yes… dip shit.  Now please get me my milk.

Grrrrrrr.

Total Nom Points: FAIL

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After enjoying our beer tour so much in Portland and enjoying our Bar Harbor Brewing Co. beers so much the night before (best part of the meal!), we decided to visit the downtown “brewery” on the following (rainy) day.  Turns out the main brewery is actually on the northern part of the island and this was a store front with a tasting room.  But hey… who doesn’t like a tasting room?

We got to try a few of their beers and some sodas, however, the stand-outs we enjoyed were the Manly Men Beer Club set.  We were especially fond of the Barleywine variety.  We actually did wind up doing the full brewery tour later that same day (after a stop at a winery! We’re such lushes).  We sampled about a dozen beers and fell in absolute love with the special Honey Bragget beer.

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Asking locals about their favorite places to eat is always a favorite past time of mine when traveling.  We were at a Bed and Breakfast (full details on that to come) and a couple who were also staying there told me about this lobster house on the other side of the island that was sensational.  Beal’s Lobster Pier is in Southwest Harbor.  

They have the quintessential lobster tank where you point to (or if you’re daring… grab) your dinner.

The man behind the tank was nice enough to show off a three pounder.  Sorry big guy… I know the real good lobster is never the big ones.  1-1.5 pounds is perfect for me.

It was EXTREMELY cold in their little outdoor tented area, but luckily they had a heater that I stood directly under until our food came out.

Finally, I got the steamers I was so missing at J’s in Portland.  And they were good!

The lobster couldn’t have been simpler.  Just a big red delicious bastard in all his glory.  

Overall, Beal’s is worth the drive (probably no more than an hour from even the most tucked away parts of Acadia, and only about 30 minutes from our B&B).  It’s so Maine. It’s so quaint. It’s so beautiful. And it’s SO delicious!

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Nomming thru Maine: Portland Day 2

9 Jul

Our day 2 in Portland was planned to be our foodie day.  We booked at 2 restaurants that were well acclaimed across the food world.  Our first stop was for lunch at Five Fifty Five.

They obviously know their audience…


The first thing on the menu that struck my eye was their cinnamon bun.  I think there are few things so indulgent as a stick, cinnamony, fluffy cinnamon bun.  And since my Weight Watchers points were out the window… this was just perfect.

And it was SO. GOOD.

They also served delicious table breads that I believe were current biscuits and little muffins.  They were served with homemade butter. Nom Nom Nom.

Mike ordered the pork sandwich.  This was good but nothing to write home about.

My truffle eggs with a chive popover, however, were out of this world.  I never knew eggs could taste that good.  Usually truffle is just a mild essence, that is sometimes too earthy for even my tastes.  This one, however, was absolutely delightful.

And I do love me some steaming popovers!

I was pretty impressed with this place overall, though I’m not sure if it was a MUST STOP since Mike’s meal was just so-so.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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We had a bit of time to kill between lunch and dinner, so we booked ourselves a craft beer tour through the city courtesy of Maine Foodie Tours.  We started our tour at the Gritty McDuff’s Brewery.

They quickly took us behind the scenes to learn how beer is made.  I found the whole thing pretty awesome (though not quite as awesome as our tour of Mondavi where we learned SO much about how wine is made). It all starts with grain, and the toasting length determines the color and flavor (and the additives, like hops, really determine the flavor profile further).

We got to peer into the giant steel brewing vat to see what beer looks like during fermentation (maybe?)

Our next stop was at Sebago’s beer bar where we got to sample any 4 beers off the menu.  They had a nice display of grains toasted to different colors.

And I enjoyed my camera settings on this one.

Our final stop along the way was at a beer garden called Novare Res.  

The inside was quite cool and there were picnic tables for socializing outside.

They had quite the extensive draught list. I really liked how they put a flavor profile summary next to each one.

We got to sample two beers there.  One was Allagash White, which was good but one we’ve had in multiple places.  The second one was new and it blew my mind.  Marshall Wharf Deep Purple was described as “lager beer with peated malts. ‘smoke on the water.’” It tasted so smoky… almost like bacon… but in a VERY, VERY good way.

The beer tour was excellent and a lot of fun.  It really opened our eyes to how great craft beer is in Maine… we used this knowledge throughout the trip!

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Our last foodie destination scheduled for Portland was the one I was looking forward to the most.  Fore Street was the #1 restaurant that came up whenever I searched for or asked about where to eat in Portland, ME.  

Their kitchen area and ovens are pretty much in the middle of the space and fully exposed (which I love).  

They are big on the farm to table idea and their menu changes to reflect what is freshest at the time.

We were told that the wood oven roasted mussels were heavenly.  They certainly were!  The shells were so brittle that they just cracked away and they were easily the second best mussels I have ever had (after our epic mussel feast at Landmarc in NYC). 

The roast cauliflower was perfect cooked as a side.

Mike chose the two cuts of Maine Island Lamb (smoked shoulder and turnspit roasted leg) with roasted yukon potatoes.  Mmmm Mmmm this was GREAT!

I chose the pork chop with spice cherry and rhubarb sauce and pickled rhubarb.  I seriously nearly licked this plate clean.

We were epically stuffed, but not too stuffed for dessert!  I believe Mike went with the chocolate peanut butter torte.

And I chose the chocolate cake.  I couldn’t believe how good it was.

The best dessert I have ever had that I just couldn’t finish no matter how hard I tried!

I was actually so stuffed from this meal that I was nearly sick. My body just wasn’t used to eating like that after these last few weeks of dieting and 15 pounds less to stuff the food into!

The meal was sensational, however.

Total Nom points: 8.5 out of 10