Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Portland, ME in Brief

If you're looking for a definitive account of Portland, Maine, a city that's been labeled "one of America's foodiest cities," "a foodie's paradise," and "America's Foodiest Small Town 2009," this ain't it.

Not for lack of desire, or anything. It's just that three hours is hardly enough time to get the lay of the land, let alone the lowdown on the food scene. That said, three hours is long enough to have breakfast, check out a bookstore, and pick up a snack, so, for what it's worth...

inside Rabelais fig. a: inside Rabelais

I'd read good things about Rabelais, "fine books on food & drink," but I still wasn't prepared for just how excellent this bookstore is. I wouldn't draw exact comparisons between Rabelais and New York's Kitchen Arts & Letters, or Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks and Joanne Hendricks, but these guys are definitely in the same league. Their collection leans heavily towards the second-hand and the antiquarian, but they also carry a well-chosen selection of new and recent releases. And they're friendly, too. Really friendly. I spent a good, long while perusing Rabelais' shelves and their piles of new arrivals, and had a nice conversation with the proprietor about dessert books, reissues and reprints, and food art (prompted by a fascinating and beautiful piece of Haitian folk art on raising hogs that Rabelais has on display). I also managed to find a stack of goodies for a certain special someone who was just about to celebrate her birthday.*

hash & eggs à la Becky's fig. b: corned beef hash & eggs @ Becky's

Becky's Diner is a neighborhood diner that's located on Portland's waterfront (on Hobson's Wharf, to be exact), and that specializes in fresh seafood. They also make some pretty mean breakfasts, including the eggs & corned beef hash combo you see pictured above. I was pleased when they offered me an English muffin as one of my toast options, and I was even happier when my server asked me whether I wanted that English muffin toasted or grilled on their skillet. I chose the latter option, of course.

File under "When in Rome": when I asked for hot sauce to go with my breakfast, one of the options that was presented to me was a local variety of hot sauce: Captain Mowatt's Canceaux Sauce. Spicy and sweet, Captain Mowatt's special blend was like a Northeastern sriracha sauce, but with a lot more body to it. Win-win-win: delicious on my eggs, delicious on my potatoes, and delicious on my corned beef hash, too.

whoopie! fig. c: whoopie!

Michelle tells me that whoopie pies are the new cupcakes. I'm not 100% sure what she means by that (is Manhattan now littered with boutiquey whoopie pie specialists? are whoopie pies on the verge of sweeping over Montreal?). Whatever the case, at the time that I walked into Two Fat Cats Bakery looking for a simple snack to hit the road with, I had no idea that whoopie pies were trendy. I'd heard of whoopie pies before, of course--I knew they had a following that stretched from the Mid-Atlantic to the Northeast--but I certainly wasn't on the hunt for one. When I saw that chocolate cake and marshmallow sandwich staring back at me, however, I knew I'd found what I was looking for. Tasted great with my cup of coffee, gave me a heavy-duty sugar buzz that lasted for the next 5 hours, and it made for a much more manageable roadfood than, say, a cupcake or a muffin.

Not that I needed any more sugar or chocolate in my system, but Two Fat Cats makes a pretty good chocolate chip cookie, too.

Rabelais, 86 Middle Street, Portland, ME, (207) 774-1044

Becky's Diner, 390 Commercial Street, Portland, ME, (207) 773-7070

Two Fat Cats, 47 India Street, Portland, ME, (207) 347-5144


* Among other treasures:

C. Anne Wilson's The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, its History, and its Role in the World Today...

book of marmalade fig. d: The Book of Marmalade 1

Check out the spine!

book of marmalade 2 fig. e: The Book of Marmalade 2

St. Martin's/Marek!


mikegimik said...

Shocked you did not visit Duck Fat!
Best poutine I have had outside of Quebec.

aj kinik said...

There are lots of places that I'm shocked I didn't visit (Standard, Micucci's, Hot Suppa!, Duck Fat, etc.), but, like I said, I only had 3 hours to play with, and coming off a red-eye from L.A., my needs were pretty basic: coffee + breakfast. There'll be other times...

Preservation Society said...

i want to go to there.

linda said...

Hola from Mexico. I saw your blog about MOntreal on Budget travel. Great info.. Could you share some suggestions for a not too expnesnive B&B near old town ? We wil be flying from Mexico the end of July and spneidng 3-4 days.

linda said...

We are flying to MOntreal from Mexico the end of July. Caught your blog post on Budget travel. Great input.. Looking for a suggestion of a nice B&B in Old town or any other suggestions you might have... funny we should be ending out trip in POrtland MAine so you are our book ends.

aj kinik said...

Hola, Linda,
unfortunately, we're not too up-to-date on the B&B situation in Montreal at the moment. I know of a couple of boutique hotels in Old Montreal, but I can't think of any B&Bs. I'll do some asking around and see if I come up with something.

Hola, Camilla,
you should, you should...


Todd said...

Hey Guys! St Martin/Marek! ? Whats this about.

Miss you both, and hope to see you sooner then later!

michelle said...

Dear Todd, miss you too. Tell me the raised beds are going in this spring! We'll come down and help!