Monday, June 27, 2022

New Menu at Crown Jewel on Great Diamond Island, Portland, Maine

If you've spent any time at all reading this blog over the years, you know one of my favorite summertime activities in Maine is to visit Crown Jewel on Portland's Great Diamond Island. I first visited in 2018 when Chef Rocky was at the helm and then featured it the following year for Down East magazine

In 2020, we enjoyed some takeout and cocktails from then-chef Sara's menu on our friend's boat, as it was mostly serving to-go during the pandemic. Then in 2021, we tried it both as a pop-up at Little Giant and in July for our friend's 50th birthday. 

2022 brings a new chef, Chef Jef, formerly of Sur Lie, so of course I booked a reservation for my family's visit last week. We ended up going for brunch, which due to the available reservations, happened to be on a rainy Sunday, so it was a pretty chill afternoon in the restaurant. 

I started with one of their fantastic cocktails, but virgin because #aging. The Run the Jewel is typically gin, rhubarb shrub, Campari, and yuzu, but with some magic they made it into a fantastic brunch mocktail. 

There's always been great deviled eggs ($8 for 3) on the menu and this iteration is no exception—with bacon jam holding a fingerling potato chip on top.  

I really struggled not to order so many things but kept it restrained with the oysters Rockefeller, crunchy and herby with butter, green Chartreuse, and breadcrumbs ($24 for 4). 

I must insist you try the snap pea salad ($9) which I mostly ordered like "fine, a vegetable" but it was perhaps my favorite dish of the visit. It was just crispy snap peas tossed with miso and sesame and then showered with ricotta salata. So fresh, salty, and savory. 

The whitefish over corn and tomatoes with chimichurri ($24) was delicious, summery, but still great for the dreary day we had. There were so many other tempting options, from the seared scallops to the eggs and crab on the brunch menu. 

My mom and sister both had the Spanish French toast, making an excellent substitution for the Dutch baby that everyone was looking forward to. It's soaked through with a creamy custard, and then caramelized on the outside and piled high with Maine blueberries. 

We never pass up pudding for dessert, this one topped with a marshmallow fluff and some graham cracker crumbs, giving it a S'mores vibe. 

And that was another great meal at Crown Jewel! I love that owner Alex Wight mixes it up every few years. While the incredible experience that is boating to an island for a meal alone would be enough to make the trip every summer, I also love to see how Alex and the new chef work together to create the perfect island escape—even on a glum June day. 

 Crown Jewel | 255 Diamond Ave, Great Diamond Island, ME | 207.464.2829

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Portland Public Market House Update

If, like me, you haven't been into the Portland Public Market House for a while due to the pandemic, here's an update on the businesses there. 

I went a few weeks ago to check out Frying Dutchman, one of the newer business there, for one of its pop-up dinners. But before we get into that, here's a rundown of the other businesses in the building:

On the first floor, Mr. Tuna and Roll Call are the sole vendors. Mr. Tuna serves sushi and other Japanese food and has plenty of bar seating along the counter. I frequently pop in to pick up my takeout after ordering online, which I find a really easy experience. 

Roll Call, which opens today, began as a food cart serving roast beef sandwiches. It's run by the same people that own Wayside Tavern, which has great food. But it's so much more than roast beef—there's an amazing grilled cheese, kale salad, and caramelized onion dip. Plus a fantastic sounding pot de creme that I haven't tried yet. So I am very excited to experience Roll Call in its new home.

Upstairs, Kamasouptra (soup), Daily Greens (salad), and Pho Huong (Vietnamese) are joined by relative newcomer Dila's Kitchen, which serves Turkish food like kabobs and bulgar bowls. 

There's also Yardie Ting, which is always tempting me on Instagram with its tantalizing Jamaican curries and chicken. 

But this time, it was Frying Dutchman that drew me in. When it first opened, it served Dutch-style cones of French fries with toppings. But the owners took a break from fries for a while—for some R&D, I believe—and began offering other fried treats like a Korean cheese dog and a fried chicken sandwich. 

So I made the very adult decision to try both for my dinner. The fried cheese dog was a real delight, simple some breaded, fried cheese with a wasabi aioli and smoky bonito flakes. The sandwich was super crunchy with a Thai red curry mayo. 

Its Instagram now says it serves "global street tapas," so stay tuned to see what other international delights they come up with. 

Hopefully you're inspired to check out a new Public Market House business! Each business has different hours, so be sure to check its website or social media for the latest. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

First Look at Paper Tiger

Paper Tiger, the latest from restaurateur Mike Fraser (Bramhall, Roma), chef Nace Cohen, and manager Marcus Alcantara opens today. The restaurant in on Fore Street, in the space formerly occupied by Maine Lobster Shack. The renovation changes the look from New England seafood shack to a moody cocktail bar. 

Cocktails are the focus on the bar menu here, with three pages of original drinks to choose from. Many have a tropical or tiki theme, featuring coconut, fresh juices, rum, and tiki syrups. There's also two large format choices, a scorpion bowl and party punch, meant to be shared. 

My husband had the spicy cilantro swizzle which was very tart and herbal. We also enjoyed the slushie, a delicious frozen blend of lime, ginger, and tequila. 

The menu at Paper Tiger is inspired by "traditional fast food, oyster bars, and late night Chinese restaurants." And there is a little bit of everything—wings, fries, and a burger, but also scallop crudo, roast oysters, stir-fried vegetables, and whole roast fish. 

We started with the wings and fries. The wings ($11) are coconut sambal with pineapple and cilantro and were a great combination of spicy and sweet. We also ordered the tuna crudo ($18) and the scallop crudo ($14), each thinly sliced with different vinaigrettes. 

Next, we went for a round of veggie sides, the garlic-sesame-peanut baby bok choy ($9), the Brussel sprouts with caramelized onions ($12), and the black pepper mushrooms ($10.50). The mushrooms were my favorite, as the slightly thickened sauce delivered the most unique flavors of the night, with plenty of black pepper and Szechuan peppercorns. 

To finish, we shared the classic double patty burger ($16) and the monkfish tail for two ($35). The burger was delicious, with a soft bun and crispy fries. The fish came with a great chili-crisp like sauce on top and then a plate of accoutrements (herbs, kimchi, sauces) to make lettuce wraps with. We had also ordered a side of sticky rice to go with our veggies, so I added in some rice to make a nice finish to the meal. 

Paper Tiger is a nice addition to the Old Port's restaurant scene. I will definitely be back to explore the very deep cocktail selection and enjoy some nice snacks.  

Paper Tiger | 425 Fore St, Suite 104, Portland, Maine | (207) 613-9823

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

First Look at Regards in Portland, Maine

Regards opens tonight—a new restaurant on Congress Street in Portland where Emilitsa was. The chef is Neil Zabriskie, formerly of Little Giant, and co-owned by his wife Kimberly Lund and Cameron Lewin, also formerly of Little Giant. 

The menu was described to us during the Friday night preview as "L.A.-meets-Maine" and has a strong seafood focus with a big selection of tequila and mezcal. The menu definitely belies the cold temperatures we've had in Maine lately, but still felt hearty enough to enjoy on a January evening. 

I started off with a delicious Paloma cocktail and a beautiful plate of raw Japanese yellowfin tuna, buttermilk aguachile (chili water), and onions ($18). This dish was one of my favorites, with its rich broth and silky herb oil. I loved the bite of the raw onions too. 

Next came charred cabbage, anchovy caesar, white kimchi salt ($16) followed closely by a salad of endive, brown butter & soy, bosc pear, sheep gouda, hazelnuts ($18). 

The bitter char on the cabbage was cut nicely by the Caesar dressing, and same for the classic pairing of bitter endive and rich cheese and pear. 

Crab claws with smoked butter and charred lemon ($16) were a fun diversion as we cracked and picked the meat out of the hard shells. 

The grilled king oyster mushrooms ($16) were both lightly grilled and raw with a scallop garum (like a fish sauce). The broth by itself was so salty, but where it lightly coated the mushrooms, it added great flavor. 

Lastly, we had the Hamachi collar, garlic aioli, raw lettuce, toasted nori ($24). Our server described as a take on fish tacos, as we used the lettuce and nori to enjoy the sweet-glazed fish and rich mayo. Just add a little rice and you've got an upscale version of that viral TikTok dish! 

We tried both desserts—a sheep ricotta ice cream with blackberry and lime folded in ($12) and a coconut crema catalana (custard) with a kumquat granita ($12). It was like a creamsicle dream. 

There's so much more to the menu—another 10 small plates and even a 40 oz. dry-aged ribeye that I bet is fantastic. I love seeing what Chef Neil (an L.A. native) wants to offer now that he's opened his own restaurant and the concept is certainly unlike anything else Portland has. 

Regards | 547 Congress St, Portland | 207.747.5940