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Maine 2017 – Eventide Oyster Co.

23 Jul

When in Maine, I seek third things food wise – lobster, oysters and clams. My seafood “trifecta” if you will. I have my personal preferences for lobster rolls and fried clams in Maine – check out the articles from my previous vacations for those but oysters not yet. For a while, I have had a certain well known spot on my list to check out for some fresh Maine oysters amongst many things. For part 2 of my 30th birthday in Portland, Maine, I finally went for Eventide Oyster Co. ready to enjoy some super fresh Maine seafood.

Eventide Oyster Co. is located ironically almost across the street from Duckfat (see the previous article in this blog). Eventide is known as the first true oyster bar in the area and as such, is very popular. They too also have the no reservation issue like Duckfat (well… sort of. They take one group reservation a night). However, thankfully, turns out they have a text message system so we were able to go have a drink at a bar nearby in the meantime. 45 minutes later, we came back to a table outside on the terrasse ready to go.

We started with some cocktails. My muddled Old Fashioned was exquisite and done with great care and balance. The standout though was my friend’s Celery Gimlet of gin, celery and lime – she spent the next 2 days lauding its praises. The level of smoothness and strong celery flavour was so surprising.

First round of food was of course some fresh oysters. Eventide offers 9 different varieties from Maine as well as a few options from PEI, New Brunswick and New Hampshire. We went with 4 different types from Maine and a couple of accoutrements – red wine mignonette and kimchi ice. The kimchi ice was very interesting – they take some of the pickling liquid of kimchi and add it to shaved ice. Loved how the strong fermented taste of the kimchi paired with the amazingly fresh oysters. Beautifully shucked and so delicious. A great start to our dinner.

Eventide, of course, offers many other dishes. First, the New England Clam Chowder with potatoes, salt pork and saltines. The chowder was not as creamy as we expected but the flavours were so wonderful. The lobster came through strongly. The large pieces of salt pork brought some saltiness and richness and then the potatoes were cooked perfectly and gave some texture. The joy of the lack of the creaminess was how the chowder wasn’t nearly as heavy as you could have expected. Just wonderful.

The fried Maine Oysters with Thai apple slaw, mint and pickled ginger was a very creative and asian inspired-style to serving oysters. The oysters were delicious with a nice crunch. The Thai slaw with the mint and ginger provided a mix of sweetness, heat and freshness that paired wonderfully with the oysters. We also ordered a side of coleslaw – very flavourful, fresh and not too creamy.

Eventide is also known for their Brown Butter Lobster roll served on a steamed bun – think Bao Pork Bun with brown butter lobster instead. Sold! For the price, not very big but simply wonderful. The nuttiness of the brown butter paired so well with the inherent fattiness of the lobster and the use of a steamed bun is an interesting decision that makes the roll seem a little lighter overall. Wonderful roll outside of the norm.

Lastly, we had dessert by ordering one of their Ice cream sandwiches – in this case, double chocolate cookies and praline ice cream. This sandwich was massive – we shared it four ways and all felt we got a good portion. The chocolate were rich and very chocolatey. The ice cream was excellent as well. A great sandwich overall.

Eventide is a great oyster bar and definitely a must-visit if you are going to Portland. Great drinks, amazing seafood and friendly service. Round 2 of my birthday tour was a big success and I was happy to finally visit. Eventide is setting the bar for seafood restaurants all around – not just in Portland.

Cheers!

Eventide Oyster Co.
86 Middle Street
207 774 8538

Eventide Oyster Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Maine 2017 – Duckfat

18 Jul

We in Quebec are very protective of our “National” dish, the Poutine. Everyone’s a critic and we all have our personal favorites. When we encounter poutine outside of Quebec, there can often be some derision and automatic negative thoughts about it. No way can this poutine be as good as back home! For a few years now, I had heard about an apparently great poutine in Portland, Maine. As I have gone to Maine every summer for the past 5 years, I had always told myself I needed to try it at some point. That some point was this summer for the first part of my 30th birthday in Portland (the other part will be the next article coming) so we sat down at Duckfat for a late lunch ready to see how their poutine stacked up.

Duckfat is a small spot located along Middle Street – the terrasse sits 24 or so and the inside a little bit more. This leads me to a quick tangent if you don’t mind. Duckfat doesn’t take reservations and, given its popularity and small size, thus requires you to give them your name and wait within 1.5 blocks with a pager device. Why in god’s name do Americans seem to be okay with this procedure!? At minimum, it should be your phone number and then they call you. What interest is there to stand outside and wait for 45 minutes to eat? Especially when there is nothing really interesting within the block to visit…. very frustrating to see this approach did exist. Anyway… tangent closed.

The menu is small and focused on fries, milkshakes, craft sodas and panini sandwiches. We tried two drinks: first, the Roots, Barks and Sticks soda made with sassafras, sarsaparilla root, birch bark, ceylon cinnamon and wintergreen. If you love root beer, you will love this one. Nice sweetness but not too much. Very refreshing.

The other drink was the Original Duckfat milkshake – vanilla gelato with creme anglaise and fresh Tahitian vanilla bean. Rich, smooth, creamy with lovely notes of vanilla – just a great milkshake to enjoy! Always love to see the specks of the vanilla bean within the milkshake. Easily more a dessert than a beverage but I wasn’t complaining.

We got a couple of the paninis as well. The overnight duck confit panini with spicy napa cabbage slaw, miso mayo and cilantro was lovely – the rich fatty duck with the kick from the slaw, the creamy mayo and the crunch from the bread. The house smoked brisket with vegetable chow chow, cheddar and BBQ sauce was a big hit for me, The brisket was fatty and smoky, the sweetness of the sauce paired very well with the meat and the cheddar worked also. Great sandwich.

Finally we get to the homemade Belgian fries. Of course, at a restaurant called duckfat, they are fried in duck fat. How could they not….You can either get the fries with a speciality mayo or in a poutine, served with local cheese curds, chives and a homemade duck gravy. The fries themselves are amazing…. perfect size, great crunch, tender inside and of course that amazing richness and flavour you get from the duckfat. We tried the curry mayo with the fries and it was very good. Strong curry kick but not overwhelming. As for the poutine, is it my favourite?… no but it is much closer than I expected honestly. The duck gravy is rich and yet not heavy and pairs up so well for the fries. The locally sourced cheese curds are good but they lacked that classic Quebec squeak – really the one element that holds me back from calling this the best. The chives brought some freshness and worked well. Very impressed overall.

Duckfat was a wonderful lunch spot and owns up to its name very well. Other than the service issue I stated earlier, this was an excellent experience food wise and showed that Americans can actually make a good poutine 😉 You may get annoyed by the wait time but believe me, it is worth it for those sweet sweet fries. Long live the joys of duckfat.

Cheers!

Duckfat
43 Middle St
207 774 8080

Duck Fat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maine 2016 – Earth at Hidden Pond

14 Jul

Every July, I spend a week in Maine. A nice relaxing time to simply check out mentally and enjoy the beach, the sun and the lobster of course! Every year, this week-off also coincides with my date of my birth – almost as if I planned it that way…. – so we always find a way to have a nice dinner to celebrate. This year, we made plans at a restaurant close-by in Kennebunkport at a little retreat resort called Hidden Pond. I had heard about this restaurant previously for its beautiful scenery and market cuisine and finally we planned ahead enough to be able to get a reservation, so we drove off to give Earth a visit.

Birthday Dinner at Earth in Hidden Pond

The restaurant is quite the looker – really playing with the “nature indoors” theme. The focus of the room is a tree lit up with string lights and there is constant use of wood logs for wall decor. Out back of the restaurant there is a pool with nice sitting areas and a little further you have a pond with fire torches and more seating. It is definitely a relaxing location. The downside of our visit was that it was raining which eliminated a chance to really enjoy that space. The final cool element is that Earth has a few private “shacks” along the pond for private groups. We reserved one of them and were not disappointed. The little cabin is decorated in a classic colonial look – ornate mirrors and fireplace, old artwork on the wall and ceiling, a chandelier, bookshelves filled with old books and a gorgeous varnished wooden table. There is a large window overlooking the pond as well. A very unique and intimate setting for a hopefully good meal!

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The menu is a market style menu focusing of local farmers and produce. As we were a group of 6, I got to try a bunch of different items. First up was their play on a caesar salad – baby Speckled romaine, coddled duck egg dressing, reggiano and rye crisps. A nice portioned salad overall with good flavour. The use of duck egg brought some extra richness and the use of rye crisps was a nice variant on standard breadcrumbs.

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Next was wood fired meatballs with sweet and sour peppers. The meatballs were nice and tender – firm enough but still able to come apart with a fork easily. The sweet and sour peppers brought a nice balanced flavour with the fatty meatballs.

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The split pea falafel with sheep’s yogurt, watermelon and Peekytoe crab was a pleasant and unique surprise. Nice crunch on the falafel with the earthiness of the split peas. The creamy sheep’s yogurt and the crab were very nice pairings to the main item.

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The last entree was the beet and turnip green kimchee. Excellent kimchee with just enough heat however I really didn’t pick up the effect of either the beet or the turnips. It could have simply been standard cabbage and I’m not sure I would have known the difference flavour wise.

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The main dishes kept the good times rollin’. First was my dish of choice – braised pork shoulder with Maine clams, Lola sausage, grits, garlic scapes and herbs. The pork shoulder, braised in cider and beer, was so moist and fall-apart tender. The creamy grit underneath added some richness to the dish. The clams were nice and fresh and the sausage bringing some heat. The portion was plentiful and left me very happy.

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The menu also included a cheeseburger served with a mushroom escabeche, steak sauce, pepper jack and fries. The burger was nice and juicy and the bun was great. Special mention to the beautiful crispy fries.

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The pasta dishes were big hits as well. The agnolotti served with ricotta, bee balm, Black Mission figs and smoked honey was a sweet and rich mixture of heaven. The Gnudi with English peas, pistachio butter, mortadella and reggiano were nice fluffy pillows of richness. The use of pistachio butter added an interesting earthy touch.

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Finally we also had one of their homemade Pizzas. Their classic Margherita with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and basil was excellent. The crust was nice and thin with a nice crunch to it. The amount of mozzarella was generous and the tomatoes were cooked nicely over top.

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Desserts brought some lovely options as well. I went with the Brioche doughnuts with sarsaparilla and sassafras glaze and kola nut gelato. The two doughnuts were massive and the Brioche style made them wonderfully rich but light. The glaze was exquisite as well. The other dessert was equally as decadent. The peanut butter and banana ice cream sundae with salted caramel was exactly how you would imagine it except for the strength of the banana flavour in the ice cream. I didn’t expect to be as pronounced. Banana and peanut butter are great partners so no surprise that the rest of this was wonderful.

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Earth at Hidden Pond was a lovely experience. The food was excellent across the board, the service is quick and attentive and the ambience was wonderful despite the bad weather. The tab won’t be cheap but for a special occasion, it is definitely worth it. For a excellent night with family and dear friends for my birthday, I couldn’t ask for much more.

Cheers!

Earth
354 Goose Rocks Rd, Kennebunkport, ME 04046
207 967 6550

Earth Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maine 2013 – The Ramp Bar and Grill

4 Jul

If one visits Kennebunkport and take the lovely, long scenic drive past all the cottages and the waterfront inns to Cape Porpoise, you eventually get to a gravel parking lot that overlooks a bay (Goat Island Light according to Google Maps) and that has 2 restaurants: Pier 77 and The Ramp. While Pier 77 looks lovely, we turned our attention to the Ramp for this particular afternoon visit.

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When that is the view I have before entering the bar, you are rather spoiled. Anyway, The Ramp is a small bar located directly under the Pier 77 restaurant and has the look of a sports bar on steroids. Every inch of this place is covered with retro sports paraphernalia (a little too New England focused as a Montrealer but I’ll let it go this one time…). Any time a bar has an old Montreal Forum seat, a NBA backboard & hoop and autographs from Bill Russell, Bill Belicheck, Red Auerbach and Arnold Palmer in the men’s washroom, you know you’re in a sports fan’s dream. As one such sports fan, I loved every minute of this.

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Now, if this was just a simple sports bar, that would be one thing. However, this place actually rocked a great food menu on top of all that. The offerings go between typical bar food and more upscale stuff that highlights great seafood as one would expect in Maine. Spinach salad, a Greek mezze dish, Carolina style BBQ, burgers, fish and chips, a seafood stew, etc… All of that sounded great but we went for other options.

First, some onion strings with a smoked tomato ketchup. The plate was huge and delicious. The onions strings were nice and thin. The coating around the strings provided a nice crunch without being overbearing. The ketchup had a wonderful smokiness which added a nice note to the dish. A wonderful appetizer all around.

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For the main, there was only one option here: the Lobster roll. My first one of the trip, it was served with some homemade chips. The chips were nice and crisp as one would expect from chips but the real star here was the lobster roll. Beautiful fresh lobster pieces with just a little mayo, some celery and some scallions into a wonderfully buttery grilled bun. The naturally great flavour of the lobster is allowed to shine here. The overuse of mayonnaise is always a bad sign in a lobster roll. There was none of that here. Just the strong desire to eat another one!

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So great food, nice quirky sport bar look and atmosphere with a killer view… pretty hard to beat that overall combination. If every you are in the Kennebunkport area of Maine, you must check this place out. I am sure you find something to enjoy. Now I just need to go back when there’s a game on….

Cheers!

The Ramp Bar and Grill
77 Pier Road Cape Porpoise Harbor
Kennebunkport, Maine 04014
207 967-8500

The Ramp on Urbanspoon

Maine 2013 – Bob’s Clam Hut

4 Jul

When one is in Maine, you can expect to spend most of your time eating amazing seafood. People who know me also known that I am a fan of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show. When the possibility arose that I would be close by one of the spots featured on the show, I couldn’t help but want to check it out. So, on our drive down to Maine from Montreal, we stopped over in Kittery to check out Bob’s Clam Hut.

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Bob’s is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a local joint that over time has become well known with travellers and tourists all while the Kittery Outlets have developed around it. It is a typical looking New England Seafood diner/ fast food joint with line-ups, loud speaker call-ups for orders, pickup windows, a huge menu and sadly high prices for what you think you are ordering. However, for me personally, if the food holds up, these are all minor complaints.

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First up, we had the clam chowder. Now, at Bob’s, the chowder does not have a rue. This gives their chowder none of the creaminess one associates with a typical chowder. It still has nice fresh clams and chopped up potatoes so you still get the taste you want. The difference comes as the richness you would get from the rue comes from the buttery broth. A little too buttery for my personal preference but a good “chowder’ nevertheless.

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My mother had the lobster roll. Didn’t try it so nothing I can say here except that I love the size of the lobster pieces they use. Thank you Maine for reminding me what a REAL lobster roll should look like.

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Bob’s Clam Hut is known for their fried clams so of course I would be having fried clams. Now, they have 2 varieties – Bob’s and Lillian’s (named after their long time employee who passed away earlier this year). Bob’s go straight into the flour mixture (3 parts corn flour, 2 parts white flour). Lillian’s gets a egg-wash before going into the flour. Anyone who was watched the Triple D episode knows the “debate” about which is better. I decided to order “the Clams 2 ways” and try them both. The order came with a side of fries that I would describe as underwhelming so let’s focus on the clams. Both varieties came in the same basket and honestly the differences between the 2 are pretty minor. Essentially Lillian’s have a crunchier texture but the taste stays the same in my opinion. Great fresh clams although they were a little oilier that I would have like. The homemade tartar sauce was quite nice as well – nice and creamy with a little crunch from the pickles. There was also cocktail sauce but I hate that stuff so we won’t talk about that here.

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I am happy that I got the chance to try out Bob’s Clam Hut. It is always nice to add a place to my “Triple D” list of visited restaurants. I enjoyed the clams but it probably didn’t necessarily hit the high notes that I had hoped for. Part of that may have been my expectations, partly the overly “commercial” feel and partly the price. I don’t usually ding restaurants on cost but 23.00$ for the basket I got seems a tad excessive. Given their level of fame, I really shouldn’t be surprised by these issues but I had hoped for otherwise. In the end, I would recommend going to try their clams but as a snack to share amongst your group and enjoy a Maine staple.

Cheers!

Bob’s Clam Hut
315 US Route 1
Kittery, Maine, USA
207 439 4233
On Facebook and Twitter @BobsClamHut

Bob's Clam Hut on Urbanspoon

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