I had an amazing time in Maine and Providence particularly as a result of such great friends who made perfect recommendations. When you’re able to expect great responses from friends that you trust, you know you’re in for a great experience with great food.
My girlfriend and I jetted right up from Brooklyn to Portland for our first of many stops. Our first dinner shortly after arrival was easily in my Top 5. Hugo’s was a few blocks from our hotel and has a upscale Brooklyn foodie vibe, which can be good or bad. In this case, I’d totally recommend Hugo’s particularly if you’re in a group of more than 3. With small plates, it becomes advantageous to sample most if not all of their 11 courses. Alternatively, the whole table can get the chef’s tasting menu. The main highlights for me were the Monkfish Bouillabaisse and the Grilled Swordfish Belly.
Our days started early and we packed with a lot of walking and seeing things. For Portland, the obvious highlights were Cape Elizabeth and Allagash Brewery. I snagged a 4-pack of Black (their Belgian-style stout).
The second and final dinner in Portland was worth the wait. We couldn’t get a reservation at Street & Co until 9:30pm, so we ended up having afternoon snacks at The Lobster Shack and Duckfat (both of which I’d recommend). Street & Co. is rustic looking, dimly lit and Mediterranean-themed (Italian and Greek combined) with fish at forefront (for obvious reasons). After scarfing down oysters in the half shell and a beet terrine, we moved onto mains. The highlights were my scallops in pernot and cream as well as my sister’s grilled lobster (pictured below). Everything was so fresh that little was needed seasoning-wise to add to the dishes other than a huge helping of butter. Quality ingredients go a long way, which is why this was my FAVORITE meal of vacation.
From Portland we drove to Bar Harbor with short stops off in Freeport for the LL Bean flagship store and Harpswell for Este’s Lobster House. Our hotel had a gorgeous view of the bay and was located closer to Acadia than downtown Bar Harbor, which was for the best in my opinion.
I found downtown to be too contaminated with shops where tourists could buy the town’s namesake t-shirts, mugs, and other promotional items. However, to redeem itself, the town did have a great view of the sunset and Bar Harbor Jazz Festival was coincidentally going on while we were in town. The food we ate was solid in Bar Harbor, but lacked the creativity and uniqueness of Portland.
We spent most of the next day at Acadia National Park, which was my only reason for wanting to go to Bar Harbor. It was everything I hoped and more. A balance of traditional mountain trails and rock climbing along the ocean cliffs.
I will say that Cafe This Way was an excellent ending meal. We went there for dinner even though breakfast was recommended. The Fried Brussels Sprouts with duck confit were amazing and most definitely rival my current favorite BS dish at Tanoreen in Brooklyn. The Duck Pate which was a nice combo of salty, sweet, and creamy, but a bit heavy for me. For the main, I got the Brazilian Seafood Combo dish, which was very tasty, but misleading because it had a coconut tomato-based sauce that gave a more Thai flavor.
In addition, my sister got the Southwest Shepard’s Pie. After 4 days straight of seafood, she needed a break, so she got this vegetarian dish. It had a consistency of lasagna, but the eggplant replaced the pasta.
We woke up the next morning and drove straight to Boothbay for our laid final leg of the Maine portion of our vacation. I knew Boothbay would be more removed with less going on and less touristy. After a quick lunch at McSeagulls where I ate Blackened Tracker Shark, we went on a whale watching trip. McSeagulls is exactly what one might think: a seafood irish pub. It was my third time having shark in my life. The first two were awful: a baby shark arepa and smoked shark. The former was way too salty and latter tasted like cat food (not implying that I’ve tried cat food before). This time around, the shark steak was meaty and the blackening added a spicy and salty flavor, and crusted the outside nicely. However, this did not make the Top 5. It wasn’t until I had dinner with my roommates when I got back to Brooklyn that I realized that it was Shark Week.
After the whale watch, we had caught up to the fact that we had literally been on the go for 5 days straight, so we decided to take a break and relax before dinner. Even though I knew I’d be having Italian for dinner the next night in Providence, we thought we’d take our innkeepers recommendation to go to Ports of Italy. I prefer Northern Italian over Southern, so this made me feel like I was back in Williamsburg at Il Passatore. Their caprese salad was very imaginative. Grape tomatoes halved, small chunks of fresh mozzarella, and basil piled in a parmesan nest, and drizzled with aged balsamic and olive oil. For main, I split the rigatoni with with eggplant and squid ink linguine with mixed seafood.
But this was NOTHING compared to Al Forno in Providence the following night. To break up the drive back home and go to a city we’ve never been to before, we stopped off in Newport for mansion tours and stayed in Providence for the night. Having Johnson & Wales in the city, I was curious, for those chefs who stayed in town, what their food would look and taste like.
Al Forno was easily second on my list to Street & Co. Known for its grilled pizza, we ordered one as soon as we sat down and ate it within 5 minutes of the pie hitting the table. It was oddly shaped, perfectly charred from the grill, and thin just like I like pizza. For my main, I ordered a unique take on carbonara with duck bacon, which added deliciously sweet and salty layers to the dish. The only downside is that since all the desserts are made to order, you have to decide when ordering entrees whether or not you want one. I didn’t need the dessert, but I’m glad we got it. It was an upside mini bundt cake with blackberries and fresh whipped cream.
After dinner, it was around 9pm, which was too early to go to bed, so we grabbed a cocktail at The Dorrance as a result of some Yelp research. Very cool 1920’s vibe, but seemingly high prices for Providence.
The next morning we grabbed a quick breakfast at Nick’s On Broadway and then made our way back to Brooklyn. I gained about 6 lbs, but ate some of New England’s best seafood joints and wouldn’t regret it one bit. Huge thanks to the awesome chefs and staff at Hugo’s, Street & Co, Cafe This Way, Ports of Italy, and Al Forno for such amazing meals!
All photos were taken my iPhone. You can find additional photos on my Flickr.