He arrived Thursday to a bit of rain and we went straight to Aurora Provisions for lunch. A couple turkey sandwiches, one with tangy cranberry sauce, cheddar cheese and greens, and one with greens, tomato, cilantro and southwest mayo, did the trick on this dreary day. A ginormous mocha, salted caramel brownie and coffee/chocolate shortbread cookie was also on the table. I want to eat them all again. Right now. I want to say that the cookie was the best part but really, there was no worst part of this meal. Aurora Provisions is just around the corner from my house and I'm sorry to say I've never eaten here before. Now I will go here whenever possible!
After lunch, we settled in at my small but cozy apartment and went out to walk around. Rain or shine, Portland is a lovely city to walk around. We made it down to the ferry terminal and I saw my first seal of the year off the pier. Paciarino was our dinner stop. If you haven't been, this small, everything-from-scratch Italian restaurant is right on the corner of Fore and Cross Streets. It is small and lovely place with authentic dishes with fresh bread and olive oil for a starter.
We ordered red wine (Santa Cristina Toscana 2012) and Presecco (?), which were perfect pairs to our dishes. I had "ravioli goat cheese al pomodoro," which is ravioli with goat cheese, caramelized vidalia onions and sage, finished with traditional tomato sauce and fresh Parmesan cheese. It was a copious amount (after two plates of fresh bread...) so I took half home as leftovers. Daddy went the traditional route and got "lasagne alla bolognese." This was unlike any lasagna we had ever tasted. It was incredibly creamy, due to the daily housemade Besciamella sauce. No ricotta cheese here! The whole plate was cleaned within 20 minutes...Not having any more room in our happy tummies, we slowly walked out of there and settled in for an early night.
Friday morning started bright and early, as I was lucky enough to work down at Scarborough Marsh for a couple hours. It's another Audubon property on Route 9 with canoe rentals and a beautiful salt marsh to explore. I figured visiting Little Bigs (refer to VT post) would be a great "welcome to Maine, isn't our food the freaking best!?" breakfast on our way to the marsh. I got the greatest vanilla glazed donut while Daddy found his way around a fresh and homemade jam-filled number. We split a ham and cheese puff pastry-esque pie as well, but the first two were definitely better!! Days later, Daddy had a craving for this jam donut and I constantly crave the vanilla glazed but unfortunately, donuts are reserved for special occasions, lest I keel over from diabetes 2. Work that day (a tour of the marsh field trip) was spectacular, as it was a beautiful day and the kids were great, plus my dad got to watch me work which was terribly gratifying.
After my educational tours were finished, we found our way to Bayley's ice cream, "lunch of champions!" I went the traditional route: coffee and mint chocolate chip with hot fudge, and Daddy shook it up with sea-salt caramel and chocolate raspberry truffle (which was such a great combination, I had to get this same thing on Monday, when we couldn't stay away any longer). There is a damn-tasty and famous (?) ice cream place in Austin called Amy's and, to add to my Maine pride (which is slightly more subtle than my Texas pride), Daddy deemed Bayley's better! After ice cream, we headed to Pine Point beach and enjoyed the sand and the surf for awhile. There is nothing better than a barefoot beach walk on a sunny day.
We made it back to town later and, in an effort to eat something with real sustenance, we demolished a Cape Neddick style pizza with garlic crust from Portland Pie Co. I love this place more than Otto's and every other Portland pizza place combined. Their crust is flavorful and the pizza toppings are housemde (pepperoni) and fresh. Pizza really is nature's most perfect food: carbs, dairy, protein, veggies and love. We waddled back to our sleeping quarters after this, full and ready for a long bike ride the next day.
Saturday morning was, wait for it, yet another beautiful day in paradise. We didn't get rolling too early as we just had to get breakfast at Cafe Oh No. Go there, get the #1 and eat it painfully slowly. It is truly a masterpiece with maple tinged prosciutto, Vermont cheddar, an egg and Tabasco on a grilled bagel. Daddy got a #2 which was great as well, with smoked turkey, avocado, tomato, smoked Gouda and an egg on a grilled English muffin. As our breakfast settled, we walked to my place to get ready for what turned out to be a spectacular 42 mile bike ride. I was able to borrow my exes bike, a sexy Seven (which I also used for the triathlons) and Daddy borrowed a Giant from Gorham Bike and Ski. Note: finding a bike to rent for a 6'5" man is quite difficult. Our route took us up Route 1 through Falmouth to Route 88 and up to Yarmouth, Prince's Point and Cousin's Island. I had never been to either of the latter two and was blown away by their views. We also stopped at Falmouth Foreside's Town Landing and took in the view there. The giant-ass hill you have to climb on the way out is totally worth the visually pleasing time you spend at the bottom.
Our ride was made even better by a stop at Clayton's in Yarmouth. We split a turkey BLT with sun-dried tomato pesto and lemon-dill mayo with a crunchy and salty pickle on the side. This was made EVEN BETTER by the giant chocolate and mint brownie. Imagine, if you will, a 2 inch by 2 inch by 2 inch square of love, covered with a 1/2 inch of creamy, minty, fresh, green frosting and then topped off with a thin layer of chocolate frosting. How I don't drive up to Yarmouth every day for one of these brownies is beyond me!
We made if back from our ride and rested for a bit before venturing out on a walk. This led us again to the Old Port. Even after three years of living in or near Portland, I'm still in love with all the sights and smells (ocean front) down there. It was decided that we hadn't had our daily serving of ice cream, so a stop at Captain Sam's on Commercial was in order. This place is soooooo good with fresh ingredients and most of the flavors are so simple but very pleasing. I had salted caramel and strawberry on a cone while Daddy had caramel and blueberry. The fruit flavors tasted like the fruit themselves, smashed together with cream and frozen together, like snuggling lovers. But too much of good things lead to feelings of a need for healthier options. So that night, I made fajitas! These turned out really well, if I do say so myself. Chicken sauteed with olive oil and chili powder, coupled with onions, bell pepper and kale, also with chili powder, shredded Vermont cheddar and Trader Joe's guacamole (made with Greek yogurt) and their habanero-lime tortillas. It was a perfect way to end a physically challenging and animal-fat-filled-food day (say that five times fast).
Sunday started off with a ride over the bridge to the best bagels in the world at Scratch Bakery. We had to wait a bit but you know what? It's worth it. I sent Daddy ahead to the first lighthouse of our "lighthouse ride" and grabbed us a couple "everything" bagels with cream cheese, a raspberry/orange danish and a chocolate chunk cookie as big as my face. Ok, not quite but not far off. Breakfast in front of Spring Point light by Southern Maine Community College was beautiful and made me happy, once again, to live here. Our ride consisted of this lighthouse, Bug Light, the iconic Portland Headlight, Two Lights beach, Prouts Neck and all of Cape Elizabeth along the way. I don't know which days' ride was more visually spectacular. Though it was a clear day, the fog horn was sounding at Two lights, which added an extra pizzazz to the visit. We ate the cookie at Prouts Neck and then headed back for a much-deserved rest after 40 miles round-trip.
Eventually, we had to move again and headed down to the Old Port Festival to catch the end of the Mallet Brother's set and a little Los Lonely Boys. We ended up at Flatbread for a drink and I talked Daddy into a Peaks Organic Summer Ale as I had Downeast Cider on their outdoor dock. The cider was like drinking apple juice with a slight kick. Dangerous and perfect. We then ventured to Eventide for a late lunch. Lobster is apparently the thing to do when one visits Maine and Daddy wanted his. We ordered two brown butter lobster rolls (the same from my "one night stand" post at Allagash) and they were fresh and rich. After this meal, we did another quintessential Maine thing: rode the ferry! I don't know what it is but I just can't sit down for long on the ferry. Luckily, it wasn't too crowded and I was able roam of the boat, observing the birds, water movement and view from all sides. We sat up top with the sun and the wind and took in the sites of the lighthouses we had visited earlier that day by bike. Dinner later consisted of a more responsible, smaller version of our earlier Cape Neddick Portland Pie pizza. MMMMMMMmmm so good.
Finally, Daddy's last day in town was no less eventful. I had to go in and work a couple Spring/ponding programs in the morning, which consisted of catching frogs and tadpoles with kindergartners. Rough life...But to fuel up for these youngsters, we went to Marcy's Diner for breakfast. It was a tough decision between Hot Suppa and Marcy's. Marcy's won out because of their banana chocolate chip pancakes and the fact that I had quasi-recently been to Hot Suppa for waffles! After work at noon, I was wicked thirsty and drained from teaching on a hot dock all morning, so I collected Daddy and we headed to my neighborhood Coffee By Design on Congress. I got my usual warm-weather drink: and iced vanilla latte.
As we drank our coffee, we decided another visit to Bayley's and Pine Point beach was in order. On our way, we stopped at Portland Pottery on Washington Ave. They were having an pottery sale and I left there with a mug, two bowls and a succulent plant pot, all for $21! I also left with a need to visit again and eat at their cafe. Their menu is fantastic and their chocolate and caramel cake looks like it could kill a small child. Who wants to join me? We made our way along the Eastern Prom for a historic mansion and ocean view tour on our way south. Somehow we ended up at Standard Bakery, just for a visit but came away with a buttery and crunchy but oh so sweet and almond-y mini tart. Oh goodness was it good!
The beach was slightly chilly but heavenly as always. We did some beach combing and came away with a couple stones, crab carapaces (shells) and some sea glass. It was just one beach visit of dozens I plan to make in the coming months. It was a lot of fun to visit Ferry Beach, which is where I started my life in Maine as a teacher. We made our way back to town and decided on Empire for the last dinner. I had been talking about it the entire weekend so it seemed like the right thing to do. Duck buns, BBQ pork buns, garlic green beans (refer to TGIHH post) and peking lo mein were ordered and devoured with Maine Root Ginger beer. The duck buns were so fantastic that we ordered another round at the end of the meal. Side note #1: the lo mein was not the best thing I've ordered there (essentially spaghetti with hamburger meat and a vegetable here and there) and, note #2 if you go there and get a certain female waitress, I'm sorry (she will suck the life right out of you with her "cheery" disposition. Sense the sarcasm). The food is so mind-blowing, you won't care about anything else though!!!
And thus with the end of this dinner, our food tour of Portland was complete. We hit the three of the four best bakeries I know: Little Bigs, Standard and Scratch (missing was Two Fat Cats), ate at two fresh and rich ice cream establishments: Captain Sams and Bayley's in Scarborough) and hit numerous top-notch restaurants/cafes in the Portland vicinity: Aurora Provisions, Paciarino, Oh No, Clayton's in Yarmouth, Portland Pie, Flatbread, Eventide, Marcy's, Coffee By Design and Empire. I think we did pretty damn good.
P.S. As I wrote this loooooooong post at Local Sprouts, I had the pleasure of drinking one vegan chai (spicy and hot) and one Mexican hot chocolate (spicier and hot...), as well as eating their peanut-tofu stir fry. It was literally enough food for three large meals. It's a great spot for people-watching, rain-watching, reading, writing and everything in between.