September 10, 2021

Summer Recap: Eating Around Maine

Whew, what a summer! This time of year, I always feel like it went by too fast and that I didn't do enough. But when I look back through my pictures, I find that in fact I did do a lot—and much of it involved eating really good food! So here's a bit of a recap of my summer highlights in food.

In early July, we welcomed Cafe Louis to the Knightville neighborhood of South Portland. This cafĂ©, run by chef Evan Richardson, serves Costa Rican/Caribbean food like hand pies, fried plantains, and this delightful fried halloumi cheese with honey and nuts. 

I went for breakfast, and they serve lunch and dinner. I sadly haven't been back! I need to remedy that pronto with drinks at the cute bar. Richardson will be hosting a fundraiser for Hurricane Ida relief on Wedesday, September 15 from 5-9 p.m., serving chicken and waffles and hosting the Little Easy Snoball truck. Sounds fun! 

I also made it out to Crown Jewel for dinner on a rainy July night. We took a water taxi, which while kind of pricey, was perfect for the glum weather since we were whisked out to the island quickly and under cover. 

I enjoyed chef Sara Devereux's new menu, especially the deviled eggs, scallop crudo, and tuna poke. Lots of fresh seafood on the menu! The hospitality from the Crown Jewel crew always makes a night at this Great Diamond Island spot special. 

My role as Maine magazine's food editor has me thinking about restaurants all around the state (suggestions always welcome!). Recently I profiled Broken Arrow after I ate there in mid-June. 

I typically eat at a restaurant about 2-1/2 months before the story runs in print. I've faced some unexpected challenges during the pandemic, from a restaurant closing (temporarily, but for an unknown duration) while I was in the middle of writing a feature on it to a new and well-known chef leaving before I could even make it to the restaurant for a meal. There has been a fair amount of scrambling behind the scenes. But we make it work and the pieces look fabulous thanks to Nicole Wolf's photography and Joel Kuschke's design. 

I had a great meal at Broken Arrow and then enjoyed meeting and talking with the owners and chef. That's by far the part of this job I have enjoyed the most—talking to restaurant owners and chefs about their industry. It has been really interesting (and sad at times) to hear what these folks have gone through in the last year and a half. I am grateful for every day these people show up to work so we can come and enjoy a nice meal or a drink at their restaurants. 

In Biddeford, Magnus on Water is back in the swing of things with a new chef, Ben Jackson. I loved this charred squash and ricotta dish, as well as the great cocktails from bar manager Brian Catapang. A meal on the beautiful patio this fall would make for a great night if you haven't been yet. 

Farther out of Portland, I went to a new area in Maine last month (!!). I'd. never been down the Blue Hill peninsula, just south of Mount Desert Island. So we made a reservation at Aragosta in Stonington and planned to spend the night at a friend's place in East Blue Hill. 

We enjoyed dinner on the deck overlooking the water and then ten delightful courses. From this tomato salad with a fried tomatillo to smoked duck breast and gnocchi, everything was prepared with care and presented delightfully. 

The wine went down easy and it was a real treat to have a special night on the beautiful Maine coast with friends. 

Back in Portland, Crispy Gai, the new Thai street food restaurant from chefs Jordan Rubin (Mr. Tuna) and Cyle Reynolds, quickly became one of my favorite new restaurants. I absolutely love the lively flavors of Thai food, and everything on the menu is so well-prepared. 

The fried chicken is obviously the star of the show, but everything else on the menu is fantastic too. Especially the waterfall salad, with fresh herbs and seared flank steak. It's like my ideal dish! The tropical cocktails from Arvid Brown are so fun and creative. 

Speaking of the generous use of cilantro, another one of my Portland favorites returned—Cong Tu Bot has reopened as a breakfast and lunch spot. I went for breakfast last weekend and ordered almost one of everything on the menu. 

There's fry bread, breakfast sandwiches, pandan coffee cake, yogurt and rice pudding, and congee with tofu, veggies, and a salt-cured egg. Plus boba tea! Everything was so good, but if I had to pick a star of the show, it was the breakfast sandwich. 

The fry bread comes sliced with an egg patty, mayo, green onions, and Chinese sausage. It's so good! The perfect portion and not too heavy. Ugh, I love it. I can't wait to go back for lunch and be reunited with bun cha. 

On my radar of new places to try is Helm, Wayside Tavern, and Il Leone pizza on Peaks Island. Sounds like a fall bucket list is shaping up! Hope you're all eating well and safe and healthy.