October 22, 2012

Zapoteca (Portland, ME)

I know what you're thinking-- I thought it, too! Mexican food in Maine? YES. I'm a risk-taker sometimes, and this time it paid off so, so deliciously.

ABF & I found parking on a drizzly, dark night in downtown Portland. You might almost miss Zapoteca--it's on the fringe of the busy downtown area, but it looked warm, welcoming, and took our walk-in immediately!

I ordered a margarita.. A habañero-watermelon margarita ($10), thankyouverymuch. It had habañero-infused tequila, watermelon purée, agave nectar, a splash of lime juice, and orange liqueur. It was smashing...without getting me smashed! I only had one, but oh, I could see having a few of these quite easily! Smooth, perfectly balanced, with the watermelon and the hot pepper both noticeable and not overpowering each other. Even ABF was impressed.

ABF ordered a pint of the Allagash White, a take on a Belgian wheat beer by Portland-based Allagash Brewing Company. ABF really, really liked this beer-- we picked some up the next day to bring home.
To start: deliciously decadent Queso Fundido Con Champiñones (melted cheese with mushrooms- $12). It was a creamy, stringy pan of local jack cheese, mushrooms, and dark Mexican beer-- wow. They melt it all up in the fire-roasted wood oven and we could not get enough of this.

My entrée, the Relleno de Puerco (roasted poblano pepper stuffed with pork- $16). This was shut-my-mouth good. A tender, fire-roasted poblano pepper bursting with chorizo, pork tinga, and queso fresco, and covered with a tomato-habañero sauce. Oh that sauce. I'd put it on cereal if I could. A nice, building, intense heat that complemented the flavors without obliterating them in heat.
It came with a simple arugula salad drizzled with a slightly hot gaujillo-chili dressing, and creamy refried black beans. Solid dish all around, and while I couldn't eat it all, I probably ate a few bites more than I should have because it just tasted so wonderful.

ABF went with his go-to dish (and one of my favorites): Enchiladas Suizas De Pollo (chicken enchiladas in a tomatillo sauce- $17). This had succulent chicken, the same cheese as in our queso fundido, with a fabulous tomatillo sauce--zomg. Wood oven roasted enchiladas filled with tender chicken breast & local artisan jack cheese. Creamy fire-roasted tomatilla sauce, black beans & a little bit of that guajillo arugula salad.

We loved just about EVERYTHING about this spot-- the amazing, perfectly-turned out food, the service, the low-key atmosphere, and the fact that we could HEAR each other across the table (no deafening sound system, their music was audible without drowning out our words), and of course, the pitch-perfect margarita! Sure, it could be lit a little better (the lighting is a bit shadowy at night and made menu reading a bit of a challenge at times), but that's a small mark compared to all the excellence. And OH the food! This will be one of our first stops when we return to Portland.


505 Fore St

Portland, ME 04101

(207) 772-8242

October 19, 2012

Scratch Bakery: Sweets

The sandwiches at Scratch (oh lawd, the SANDWICHES) were so good that it was a while before we tucked into our desserts.

The smell of fresh baked goods will deliciously envelop you at Scratch. It took a bit of self-control not to BUY ALL THE FOODZ! We managed to dial it back and just get a few bites, but there are plenty of delicious offerings from mini-cakes to cookies, blondies, brownies and more.

We'd picked up some cookies (ABF loves a good cookie): a chocolate-chocolate chip and a ginger-spice one (I can't recall the exact name) and for me, some shortbread.

I am a sucker for a buttery, flaky shortbread. They had regular shortbread and sea salt shortbread-- which is what I ordered. Just 75 cents for a dense, heavy, flaky square of goodness!

My shortbread was good, but I think the salt took away from the wonderful, sweet butteriness (is that a word? it is now), so if when I go back I'll stick to the regular shortbread. Mmmm...melty.
There's so much more to try-- I need to go back for some tart key lime squares, almond horns, chocolate-drenched anything, and of course, more shortbread!!
Scratch Baking Company

416 Preble Street

South Portland, ME 04106

(207) 799-0668

October 18, 2012

Scratch Bakery: Sandwiches (Maine)

My friend JM knows good bread when she tries it. She highly recommended Portland's Scratch Bakery, even above the more-publicized, centrally-located bakeries in the downtown areas. (The folks at Food & Wine magazine agree with her-- they named Scratch one of the country's Best Bread Bakeries!

You need a car to get to Scratch, and thankfully, we had one! ABF & I drove out on a rainy afternoon to get some sammiches, and Scratch put some outstanding food in our happy pieholes!

(sweet stuff post HERE!)

The freshly-baked bread smell in Scratch is so intoxicating, you almost lose focus. When you step inside, you'll see the breads of the day to the right. Pace yourself! I wanted to lose myself in soft dinner rolls and crusty boules, but keep going around the bend to the sandwich corner!

This is clearly off the beaten path for tourists, and I had no idea how/where/when to order. (Skip the register at the front of the store and go right back to the sandwich counter to order, then pay at the register).

We figured it out eventually, and the helpful folks behind the counter were quick to help us out further. I went with the pulled pork sandwich, and ABF got the roasted turkey. They wrapped them up for us while we wandered over to the bakery area.

We also picked up some Maine sodas (root beer for me, sarsaparilla for ABF)--these were great! Not too harsh with the bubbles, a nice bite to the root beer, and a sort of vanilla/cream soda taste to the sarsaparilla.

Here's my stunning sammich: the tenderest, most melt-in-your-mouthiest, succulent pulled pork-- you could almost eat it with a spoon. Normally I'd pick off that red cabbage, but I left the sandwich untouched and ate it as is.

The crunchy cabbage, the slightly sweet pickles, and the softest, freshest bread all came together in a crazy wow tasty explosion.

There's another beauty shot of ABF's sandwich-- roasted turkey, Romaine lettuce, caramelized onions, and their 'exotic' mustard. I don't know what makes it exotic, but it was render-me-speechless good.

We had some very good food during our stay in Portland, but Scratch Bakery was hands down THE BEST. We actually tried to go back another day to get some sandwiches for dinner, but we got there 15 minutes after closing (o, the gnashing of teeth and weeping we did!) If you're staying anywhere near there, zip over for some sandwiches, sweet treats, and wicked strong coffee!

Scratch Baking Company

416 Preble Street

South Portland, ME 04106

(207) 799-0668

October 17, 2012

Back to Beach Pea (for the Sweet Stuff!)

So we knew for a fact that Beach Pea can make an amazing sandwich (that story here). Jeannie had also told me they make killer croissants and ethereal eclairs. I trust Jeannie's opinion, but I also had to verify this with my very own taste buds!

Jeannie was so intent on getting me to try the croissants that she went in to Beach Pea early to make sure she secured some (as they disappear in a flash)-- a chocolate and a raspberry. I thought the raspberry would be my favorite, but oh no--the chocolate one was just like Jeannie's husband said it would be--basically wrapped around 'a chocolate bar.' Pretty close!

Also lovely? Their plain version. People--I ate this almost a WEEK later (after preserving it in the fridge sealed in Tupperware), toasted it in the oven at 250 degrees for 10 minutes, and I'd have sworn it was fresh-baked. Hummina hummina.

I was especially excited to try the eclairs. I belive they make a full-sized version, but I only saw miniatures, which were 2-3 small bites. Not enough, and yet plenty! These looked so good that I couldn't wait, and I delicately chomped into one while we were still in ABF's car. Did you hear the harps just then? What a light, fluffy, stupendous treat! The filling is a lighter sort than the heavy custard I expected. Very close to the way my very own mother makes her (addicting) eclairs. It was a delicious bite and a reminder of home all in one fell, sugary swoop.
BPBC is also known for their cookies, especially the Cowgirl, a nutty, yummy disc filled with coconut, walnuts, and other goodness. You can buy a bag filled with regular ones (for just under 5 dollars-worth it!) or get the larger ones, which are, as you can see, about as big as my head. ABF & I demolished that baby!
Beach Pea does amazing things with bread, too. I picked up a fresh fougasse (the leaf shaped Provencal bread), flavored with fresh rosemary and sea salt. The aroma of this bread was distractingly swoon-worthy. I shared it with my colleagues next day.
The woman who packed up my (many, many) treats was very helpful--I told her I was going to serve the bread and the croissants later in the week, and she advised I wrap them in plastic. I wrapped the fougasse in plastic AND put it in the fridge (I don't like leaving food out in my kitchen).

By the time I served the chewy, savory fougasse to coworkers, it was room temperature and mouth-watering. I snapped a picture of it next to my hand to show you how big this baby is. And the taste? Ethereal! Addicting! We kept going back for 'one more bite,' because this is a craveworthy carb. Well played, Beach Pea. Well played.

Beach Pea Baking Co

53 State Street

Kittery, ME 03904


October 16, 2012

Beach Pea Baking Company (ME)

Long story short: Facebook is fab. I met my friend Jeannie via various social media, and she mentioned that we should meet up sometime near her city. It just so happened that we did that on our recent vacation up to Maine.

Jeannie suggested Beach Pea Baking Co, a cozy spot in Kittery (Maine) known for their sandwiches, cookies, croissants, eclairs (oh we'll get there in another post--click here for that story!) and above all, their bread.

We met on a rainy, dreary Sunday afternoon--in fact the very first Sunday that Beach Pea was open! How fortuitous!

I ordered a dark roast drip coffee for ABF and an almond latte (vacation!) for me. They were rich, bold, and not a bit of bitterness to either brew. Ahh, perfect on a cold, rainy fall day.

Jeannie ordered their roasted veggie salad, which looked so fresh and good. It had roasted vegetables on a mix of field greens and spinach, topped with pine nuts, goat cheese, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I'll have to come back to sample that!

ABF had the curried chicken salad sandwich, which had white breast mean from Bell & Evans chickens, celery, golden raisins, curry, tomato and romaine on multigrain bread which I'm sure was made that morning. I didn't get a pic but he loved every bite.

My sandwich was the roasted turkey, topped with Vermont-raised turkey, cheddar, avocado, poached red onion (so the sting was gone), and tomato with chipotle mayo(mmmm chipotleeeeeee) on a soft but crunchy baguette. Oh that bread.
I ate the first half and let the second sit there while we talked (and my goodness did we talk! We caught up like crazy--so much fun). I figured maybe I'd save the other half for later...until I decided it was too crazy delicious and I had to eat it right now! Omnomnomnom!

In fact, it was so good, we stopped there the NEXT day on our drive home! By then they had stopped serving lunch, so ABF & I picked up some sandwiches made that morning, plus some tasty-looking potato salad.

I had the cured ham with tomato, red onion, roasted apples (!) and a mustard/mayo mix I would normally NEVER consider but ended up loving. Ok--I could have lived without the apples (texture wise), but overall, what a thoughtful, refreshing combo!

I did save the other half for dinner that night (when it was still super yum)-- you know, so I would have room for cookies.

ABF had the sliced steak with horseradish mayo. His was delicious. And I mean delicious. But I liked mine even better. Woo hoo! No order envy for either one of us---we both loved our choices.
And that potato salad? Red bliss potatoes and a few whole, real, easy-to-pronounce/recognize ingredients. Holy moley-- that was absolutely ambrosial! I could have easily put that away all by myself, but I managed to make myself share. SO. GOOD.

Everything was so fresh and delicious, the portions were satisfying but not huge, and each bite tasted like Mom just finished baking up a storm. And their desserts? Oh, honey...just you wait.....

Thanks again, Jeannie--and your fabulous husband--for being such fantastic, fun hosts (and collaborators in carb consumption)!!

Beach Pea Baking Co

53 State Street

Kittery, ME



October 15, 2012

Andy's Old Port Pub (Maine)

It rained while we were in Portland (Maine). A lot. Like, every day. All day. Until the day we left. But we didn't let that stop us from wandering around the small, manageable city.

When it's cold, wet, rainy, and/or I'm in New England, I want chowdah. ASAP.

We found ourselves walking into Andy's Old Port Pub on Commercial Street, the main drag of downtown Portland. We got a table immediately (while people were testily lining up next door at another famous chowder joint) and had friendly servers welcoming us and bringing us drinks in no time.

I ordered the DownEast Cider, with minimal bubbles (I'm not a big carbonation fan) crisp apple flavor-- winner! Goose Island Honkers Ale for ABF-- didn't taste as dark as it looked, but so not my cup of tea. He liked it, though.

The reason why we're here: Clam chowdah for the table! A bowl for ABF, a cup for me. The chowder was very thin, more like a broth than a creamy chowder. Mine had decent pieces of clam in it, but not what I normally prefer when I think chowdah.

Andy's is very adamant about not FRYING fish, so their fish in the fish & chips is breaded and grilled. Interesting. ABF is a huge fan of fish & chips. This was okay, but so different from the norm.

Nice piece of fish, good fries, just not the form he's accustomed to nomming.

I had to get a lobster roll. I just craved one. Theirs is about a dressed-down as it gets, and I loved it. Fresh, impressive-sized pieces of soft, slightly chewy lobster meat, with just a toss of butter, maybe a slight slick of mayo, and that's it. On a buttered, toasted hot dog roll, the way God & New England intended! So good. And only 13 bucks! Ahhh, the lobster surplus is a wonderful thing.

The food was good, the lobster roll was GREAT, and the service was friendly, attentive, and helpful. The chowder's not my style, but if you want a tasty, affordable lobster roll and a good drink with it, stop in here!

Andy's Old Port Pub

94 Commercial Street

Portland, ME 04101

(207) 874-2639

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