Friday, October 10, 2014

24 Hours in Portland, Maine: Fore Street, The Holy Donut and Eventide Oyster Co.

Portland, Maine is a foodie town.  They claim to have the most restaurants per capita in the U.S. This seaside city is not just all about seafood, although we had a lot of it, they have everything from ramen to Indian to French and everything in between.

Here's how we did it:

- Fore Street: This place is written up everywhere. It's been in business since 1996 and is perennially listed as the best in Portland and one of the best in the country.  After almost 20 years though, you can't rest on your laurels, and, unfortunately, they do. 

Fore Street is in a beautiful old warehouse with an open kitchen that gives you glimpses of their roasting spit and wood oven. The scent of bacon wafts as you walk in the front door. 

Bread from the Standard Baking Company (their bakery arm) is warm and plentiful. Wine service was slow but we finally settled on a pair of 2007 Pinot Noirs.

Our waiter immediately warned us that they were running low on a few popular dishes, one of which was the tomato tart. I placed one on reserve. 

Appetizers were average. The tomato tart arrived and I see why it's popular. There is a copious amount of goat cheese. Anything with that much goat cheese is good. I can promise you that I had a tomato tart from a Long Island farm stand this summer that was better.  Nothing else really stood out. 

Two of us ordered one of the waiter's favorites as our entree - the whole black bass in a butter merlot sauce. The sauce was incredible. The problem was the fish, which was deboned after being presented to us, was not deboned enough. Each bite was a chore to eat. 

JB's porkchop from the wood oven came out rare. Rare pork in a James Beard restaurant, you don't say. A duck two ways had no problems like being too rare or too bony, but didn't scream winner either. 

Desserts were better. An ice cream box cake was a delicious surprise. Their chocolate dessert was fine but overall Fore Street is not worth the price tag. 

288 Fore Street
Portland, ME

- The Holy Donut: I had promised big Z a trip to the famous doughnut shop to beat the crowds. The Holy Donut is open only until they run out of donuts and at 6:57am a line was already forming for the 7:00am opening. We were first. 

When they unlocked those doors, they were barely ready for customers. No signs were up to determine which flavor was which so we picked by look only. 

Big Z chose a pink glazed (pomegranate as seen below) and I chose a dark chocolate cinnamon sugar. And, wow. The donuts here are made from mashed potatoes not just potato flour and you can tell the difference. These are incredible.  

We took home an old fashioned and a vegan for JB and little D, respectively. Each one was perfection. 

A few hours later we walked passed and the line was out the door. This is a must visit.

7 Exchange Street
Portland, ME
- Eventide Oyster Company: And speaking of must visits, there is Eventide. If you like oysters, this is a command performance. 

Eventide is a small place with a smallish bar, taken up mainly by oysters with a few tables and some stool seating along the window. I'd say they can seat 25 people. Add 10 more if you count the tables outside. What they lack in space they make up for in perfection. 

We dined around 1 on a Friday and were lucky to get a table. The menu is limited mainly to seafood at lunch, but no complaints here. 

JB and I did not know where to start other than to say "oysters". We asked our server to pick 6 pairs of her favorites from Maine for our dozen. We were given a sheet to understand each oyster's provenance. We preferred the saltier ones, especially the John's River.

Of course, a dozen oysters is not enough for lunch for two. So we also had a paper thin tuna tartar with a ginger scallion sauce and radish. And since we were in Maine, a lobster roll.

They offer three varieties of their lobster roll: hollandaise, house mayo and brown butter vinaigrette. Seriously, how can one say no to a brown butter lobster roll? I was wowed twice in one day.

The lobster roll is small and packed with amazing flavors. The bun is steamed, similar to a pork bun, which makes it even more special. The waitress told us sometimes people order one of each. Smart people.

And what about the boys? Well, we aren't going to win a healthy parent of the year award here but they happen to have incredible homemade potato chips dusted with nori. And homemade biscuits that are stellar.

86 Middle Street
Portland, ME

The worst part about going to Portland is leaving. The best part is knowing there will be more great spots to explore on the next visit. We are counting the days. 

Until our next Berger 24-hour Adventure,

Portland Round Up:
- Fore Street: No Go
- The Holy Donut: Go and Go early
- Eventide Oyster Company: Go and if you don't go, I will be angry with you

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