Tuesday, January 28, 2020

New Restaurants in South Portland, Maine

Since I moved to South Portland, there's been a flurry of new bars and restaurants in the works. I thought I'd share with you an update of what's planned where, since, unless you're also a SoPo resident, you probably aren't tracking these announcements as closely as I am. 

First up is Big Babe's Tavern, which opened Tuesday. Big Babe's is located on the spot of the Griffin Club, a storied sports bar that closed in May of 2017. Big Babe's proprietor Ginger Cote bought the property and demolished the 100-year-old building to make way for the 47-seat tavern with 5 hotel rooms on upper floors. Cote is a longtime professional drummer and already has a great lineup of local musicians like Kenya Hall and Primo Cubano booked. 

The kitchen at Big Babe's will serve bar snacks and pub fare, overseen by Dillon Houser, who most recently worked at East Ender. Big Babe's is open daily from 3pm-close at 60 Ocean Street. Happy hour runs from 3-6pm daily. 

I think the next restaurant to open in South Portland will be Judy Gibson. This restaurant from Chris Wilcox, who has worked at Eventide and the now-closed The Velveteen Habit, is going into the space formerly occupied by Teriyaki Exchange on Ocean Street in Knightville. 


Wilcox offered three pop-up dinners at Hugo's in early January to preview the menu of Judy Gibson. The night I went, there was a crab and celery root salad, sweet potatoes and housemade bratwurst, roasted hake with mushrooms, and a delicious butterscotch pudding for dessert.

Wilcox has begun hiring for Judy Gibson and estimates the restaurant will be open mid-February.

Just down the street, The Farm Stand has closed and begun its transformation into Solo Cucina. The Farm Stand was a small market and butcher shop from Penny Jordan of Jordan's Farm and butcher Ben Slayton. The new market will have the same focus on using local foods, but bring in the culinary talents Paolo and Mercedes Laboa the couple that owns Solo Italiano. The new iteration of the market will offer more prepared foods—baked pastries, handmade pasta, and panini—still using Maine meats and produce. For a farmer, butcher, and chef, it's a perfect pairing.



What will become of the old Terra Cotta Pasta Company space as been the talk of the town for months. Terra Cotta moved up Cottage Rd. to a new space next to Thai Taste. The new location offers a bigger and better space for the Italian market and café. The Portland Food Map reported Matt Moran, co-owner of Nosh and Slab, plans to open a family-friendly restaurant in the quirky, old yellow and green building.

I was a little unsure if the project was stalled because there were no signs of life on the property. But recently a dumpster appeared and I've seen men working inside. So we'll see what Moran has up his sleeve soon enough.

That's the South Portland update! If you live over here, you've probably already heard the buzz about these new restaurants. If you're a Portland city dweller, do any of these options sound tempting enough to make the trek over the bridge? 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Oxbow Beer Garden in Oxford, Maine

This past Saturday was a glorious 55-degree day in Southern Maine, so my husband and I decided to get outside and enjoy the great combination of sunshine, mild air, and snow. We headed west to Oxford, where Oxbow Brewing Company has opened its third location on a property with cross-country ski trails. Formerly Carter's XC Ski Center, there's a few miles of trails through the woods and fields here where you can ski, fat bike, and snowshoe. 

I rented skis at Gorham Bike and Ski in Portland, but the Portland Gear Hub has just opened a shop at the Oxbow Beer Garden, renting bikes, skis, and snowshoes, so you can come empty-handed. 

After we swished through the woods and worked up a sweat, we headed back to the parking lot to retire our gear and explore the pizza and beer options. The brewery has a bottle shop and restaurant on site, perfect for rewarding yourself after a woodsy workout. 


We hit up the bottle shop first, where I found a two Oxbow beers I'm excited about—Magenta, a mixed fermentation farmhouse ale refermented with Concord grape juice, and a 4-pack of Surfer Rossa, a salted grissette with blood orange. There were easily dozens of other choices. 


Next, we headed into the restaurant, which has been beautifully done with a great mix of modern and farmhouse elements. The space has two seating areas on two stories and bar stools, topped with the signature repurposed signs made by their artistic director, Will Sears. 


The menu is small, with one soup, a salad, four kinds of pizzas, and two desserts (a build your own pizza option is available too). We opted for the Caesar salad ($7) with bacon croutons and a delightfully mustardy dressing, and a cheese pizza ($13).  


The pizza was about 12" and delicious—a thin, floppy sourdough crust made with Maine grains that had tons of flavor. I don't normally eat pizza crusts, but I ate all of it here! 


We also enjoyed beers from the 18 on tap—a India Pale Lager and a New England-style IPA brewed in collaboration with Brooklyn's Other Half Brewing. The bartender was friendly and our food came out quickly. 

The beer garden also has live music and has started hosting a pop-up sauna built in an Sprinter van on Sundays. There's talk of revitalizing the disc golf course to use the property in the summer. In short, there's a lot going on and it's only going to get better and better. Be sure to add Oxbow Beer Garden to your list of places to visit out of Portland. 


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Cocktail Mary, Anoche, and A&C Grocery at Night

I went out last Friday night to visit several new Washington Avenue businesses. A friend who moved away in August was visiting for the holiday and since we both used to live on Munjoy Hill, we wanted to see what's new in the old neighborhood. On our agenda: drinks at Cocktail Mary, a new cocktail bar on Congress Street, drinks at Anoche, a cider and tapas bar, and dinner at A&C Grocery, a former market turned diner. 

The first stop, Cocktail Mary, was a huge success. This space used to be Ramen Suzukiya and has been transformed by former Izakaya Minato bartender Isaac MacDougal with a hand painted mural, pastel colors and a bar running the length of the space. Despite there not being any soft materials in the decor, it never got too loud in here.


The menu is short and sweet: 7 specialty cocktails, sodas, beer, and wine. We enjoyed the Marty Washington with Hardshore gin, grapefruit kombucha, Aperol, maple, and luxardo ($14), while G. had The Orchard Rye with Jim Beam rye, Melletti, Fernet Michaud, and fresh apple juice. 

A. showed up after a while and enjoyed the tropical Scurvy Snack, made with rum, caraway, pineapple gum syrup, and lime ($10). We snacked on some delightfully over seasoned ranch-flavored oyster crackers, which is the only food available. 


Next up: Anoche. This cider and tapas bar is from Erika Colby, former bar manager of Novare Res. She has completely transformed the former Coffee By Design space, with dark walls, natural wood, and lots of houseplants (this picture came out kind of crazy, but I think it channels the vibe well!).


There's an extensive cider menu, but I'd been hearing about the gin and tonics, served in giant goblet-esque wine glasses, so I went with one of those. We intended to try out the some of the tapas menu, but were approaching closing time at A&C Grocery, and I was a little afraid of what Joe would do to us if we rolled in at 8:50pm.


So I'll be back to try out Anoche's tapas menu—the whole leg of Jamon Iberico was calling my name. 

Down the block we went to A&C Grocery, at the corner of Washington Ave. and Walnut St. Owners Joe Fournier and Ben Slattery have just started serving a French brasserie dinner menu from 6 to 9pm. The menu is small and they were out of an item, so we were able to order nearly everything: French onion soup, a frisee and 7-minute duck egg salad, and steak frites. The mussels and frites were out for the evening and we skipped the duck wings and sausage served with beans. 


Everything we had was so good—the French onion soup sweet and salty, the frisee salad mustardy and rich, and the steak and frites both perfectly cooked. I would repeat this meal in a second. 



We had a great time bar/diner crawling down Washington Ave. and judging from friends' Instagram stories, we weren't the only ones spending a Friday night checking out the new businesses that have opened in Portland's East End. Inner Washington Ave. is quickly becoming (has become?) a better place to spend a weeknight evening than the Old Port. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

First Look at CBG


CBG, the revamped Congress Bar and Grill, opens today. The longtime Portland favorite closed this summer and was purchased by Jason Loring and Mike Fraser, who have also worked together to reopen Bramall and Roma, two other Portland institutions. 

The new space has a similar feel to the former bar, with wood paneling replacing the red walls. The signature red and yellow checked linoleum remains, but has been buffed up. Retro beer signs, modern lighting, and taxidermy dot the walls, and a large portrait of the characters from The Big Lebowski looms over the dining room from the rear wall. 


Most of the booths are gone, replaced with tables, and the wall that seperated the bar from the dining room has also been removed, in its place a wide high-top table that has bar stools at both sides. 

The drink menu is similar to Bramhall's, with signature cocktails that skew towards quirky. I had the 5 Hours West of Los Angeles, with rum, applejack brandy, dry curaçao, fernet branca, pineapple, and lemon. A. tried The UFO with rum, coconut cordial, cucumber, lime, pineapple, and sesame oil. 


The food menu ranges from pubby—wings, smash-burgers, and baked mac and cheese—to global: tempeh larb salad, falafel and feta plate (perhaps a nod to Congress Bar and Grill's hummus plate), and ramen. The bar also introduces an upstate New York classic, the garbage plate, to Maine with a hearty serving of French fries and American chop suey topped with a fried egg, hot sauce, onions, and spicy aioli. 

We enjoyed wings ($12 for 6), riblets ($14 for a small order), Caesar salad ($12), steak frites ($17 for a small), and the chicken noodle paitan ($14). The crispy French fries that accompany the steak are made in-house, and I'm still regretting sending the leftover paitan with my husband for his lunch (I was feeling generous!). 




CBG will undoubtedly fill the same needs Congress Bar and Grill did—a meal before a show at the nearby State Theater, a happy hour spot, a late night nightcap, a casual date night. Open 11am to 1am every day, there's no excuse for you not to stop into the new CBG and check out the changes for yourself.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

BBF Preserves: Tomato Jam and Garlic Pear Preserves

It's the best season (in Maine) for food preservation: when summer meets fall. Late September has the best crossover between our favorite late summer foods and those early fall stars. With this extended warm streak we've been having in Maine, it's still not too late to preserve some summer foods (namely tomatoes), and this tomato jam is a really easy, quick project to throw together. 


For experienced tomato preservers, I'll say one thing to convince you to make this recipe: it doesn't involve peeling tomatoes. Those of you who know what a b*tch that step is will be sold. 

My mom sent me this recipe via her cousin, and I had to check it against a reliable canning source to make sure it was properly acidified and heat processed before I said I'd can some for her. I found the recipe nearly verbatim on Food in Jars (tomato jam), where it's apparently one of Marisa's most popular recipes. 


The jam is much sweeter than ketchup and can be used on turkey burgers, sandwiches, meatloaf, cheese boards, with roasted vegetables like sweet potatoes or served with black eyed or crowder peas (that recommendation comes from the cousin in Georgia).

Tomato Jam
Adapted from Food in Jars

5 lbs. tomatoes, finely chopped (do not peel)
3-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup bottled lime juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon red chili flakes

Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Stirring regularly, simmer the jam until it reduces to a sticky, jammy mess. This will take between 1 and 1-1/2 hours, depending on how high you keep your heat.

When jam has thickened, remove from heat and ladle hot jam into hot 4-ounce jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe rims with a clean, damp paper towel. Apply two-piece canning lids and adjust screw bands until fingertip tight. Process in boiling water canner for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

Remove from water bath and allow to cool. Check for seals, and then store jars in cool, dark place for up to one year.

Yield: 12-16 4 oz. jars


The second seasonal recipe I recently made is a roasted pear and garlic preserve. Sounds strange, is absolutely delicious. The garlic is sweetened by roasting and its savoriness offset by the roasted pears and sugar.

Of course, the primary way to eat it is alongside some sharp cheddar cheese or soft goat cheese, but it's also good on toast, according to my mother-in-law.

Roasted Pear and Garlic Preserves
Adapted from the The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving

1 garlic bulb
4 pounds ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
4 tablespoons Ball Classic Pectin
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400*F. Cut off pointy end of garlic cloves, and wrap garlic in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking oil and surround with pear pieces. Bake for 25 minutes.

Turn pear wedges over and sprinkle with 1/4-cup of sugar. Bake for 15 more minutes (or until soft) and remove from oven. Place garlic back in oven, directly on rack, and bake for 15 more minutes.

Meanwhile, place pear pieces in a large non-reactive pot and add water. When garlic is done, remove cloves from peel and add to pear-water mixture. Mash with a potato masher until coarsely chopped. Stir in vinegar, pectin, thyme, salt and pepper, and remaining 1 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring often.

Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims with a clean, damp paper towel. Apply two-piece canning lids and adjust screw bands until fingertip tight. Place in a boiling water bath canner and boil for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

Remove from water bath and allow to cool. Check for seals and then store jars in cool, dark place for up to one year.

Yield: 4 8-ounce jars

Please see USDA and National Center for Home Food Preservation for more resources on proper canning procedures.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Updates in Portland's East Bayside Neighborhood

In the last 7 or so years, the East Bayside neighborhood of Portland, Maine has developed into a home for drink-related businesses, many of them fermented. Once filled with electric supply companies and other manufacturing businesses, this neighborhood now is home to a high concentration of breweries, distilleries, wineries, and even a kombuchery. 

The transformation began with the first new wave of businesses in 2010, when Urban Farm Fermentory, cider, kombucha, mead, and beer brewer, moved into a former warehouse on Anderson Street. Then Rising Tide Brewing and Tandem Coffee's café and roasting facility opened in 2012. In the subsequent years, other breweries and food manufacturers moved in, including Coffee By Design and Baharat, creating the hub we have today. 


I spent an afternoon touring the weedy streets of East Bayside, dodging a few groups of Millennials moving between breweries and wineries in the area. The patios of Rising Tide Brewing and Austin Street Brewery had yet to fill for the day, but I did take note of the degree to which the Rising Tide patio has expanded—when I used to frequent the brewery, it was a small area roped off area with a few barrels to rest your drink on, now the patio easily seats 100.



Down the street, another brewery cluster has formed, with Lone Pine Brewing, Goodfire Brewing, Blue Lobster Wine, and Eighteen Twenty Wines. Since launching, Lone Pine Brewing has moved its brewing operation to the former Sebago brewery in Gorham, but maintains its original location as a tasting room.


Over on neighboring Cove Street, Dean's Sweets opened a second location, with a retail shop and more space for making chocolate bars and sauces. The shop was most recently studios for artists and shares space with two interior design firms. It has a big warehouse-y feel, but has been smartly decorated up front to welcome customers.


Down the street is East Bayside's newest brewery, Brewery Extrava, brewing Belgian beers. The space was previously a metal fabrication shop and has been extensively renovated. Now it's a bright tasting room with big windows and plenty of seating.




Lastly, Three of Strong, a rum distillery, opened on Diamond Street. The space has high ceilings, smart branding, and serves cocktails and a fair amount of food for a distillery (think hummus plates, tacos, and Cuban sandwiches). 


Currently the distillery is offering two rums, a 5- and a 12-year, with the third, a silver rum, to come online soon. The aged rum is purchased from a distillery in Columbia, and the silver rum is made in-house.

The cocktail menu includes classics like the painkiller, rum punch, and daiquiris, but also unique ones like Take Two in the Morning made with cold brew, saffron, and quinine. The new distillery's grand opening is next weekend, August 16-18, so stop in and see what you think of all the new changes in East Bayside.



Thursday, June 6, 2019

First Look at Flood's

Flood's opened last weekend on Congress Street in Portland's West End, filling the space of Bolster, Snow & Co. in The Francis hotel. The new restaurant is the latest project from Palace Diner co-owner Greg Mitchell and has a sort of simple, Old World-meets-New York charm. 


If you made it into Bolster in the short time it was open, you'll notice some changes to the interior. The restaurant is no longer associated with the hotel, so there's a new entrance, a bar where the open kitchen was, and a dedicated bathroom (previously was shared with the hotel). Flood's is decorated simply, with dark wood, maroon booths, brass lamps, and frosted glass. 


The drink list is extensive, with several specialty cocktails, wines, draft and canned beers, and a wide selection of spirits. I ordered the New York Sour ($13), with bourbon, lemon, simple syrup, and a red wine float, while my friends had a diminutive martini ($10) served in the sweetest little Nick and Nora glass and a Paloma ($14). 

The short menu contains 4 snacks, 5 small plates, 3 entrees, and 4 sides. We ordered half of them to share. 


The first few dishes arrived in rapid fire, the sardines ($10) served with mayonnaise, mustard, and seasoned thin crackers. I wish there'd been a little pickled red onion on the side to cut through the richness. 

The Welsh rarebit (aka cheese toast, $9) came on a thick slab of a dark, hearty bread, while the oysters "escargot" ($13) were pleasantly warmed with butter, garlic, and a jalapeno powder.  


The Caesar salad ($12) was amazing—crunchy Romaine lettuce leaves showed with grated Parmesan, rustic, garlicky croutons, and an anchovy-heavy dressing. 


Our mains were the chicken schnitzel ($22) and the cheeseburger ($18), plus sides of creamed spinach ($8) and charred broccolini ($7). The schnitzel was crispy and moist inside, livened up with some hot sauce, salt, and lemon. The creamed spinach was my personal favorite, as it has been since childhood. 


And the burger was amazing. Palace Diner makes one of the best in the state, so my hopes were high. It was juicy, beefy, creamy with cheese, and on a light, bready dinner roll. So good. The fries could be crispier, a kink I'm sure the kitchen will work out in coming days. 

Very full by this point, we pressed on to try one of two dessert, chocolate pudding ($5), the other being a rhubarb ice cream. The pudding was amazing, classic and slightly salty from the accompanying chocolate cookies.  


Dinner at Flood's was fun—the place didn't seem to take itself too seriously, but the food was simple and solid. The old and hipster alike will love Flood's. 

Flood's | 747 Congress St, Portland | (207) 613-9031 | open Wed. to Sun. 4-10PM